Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

26 April 99

Table of Contents

No Biotech-corn In Switzerland
Rogue genes cross to weeds
Change Of Modified Foods Deadline Opposed
Full hearing on GM hazards
Scientific Paper: Foreign DNA can enter the body
We Modify Their Genes at Our Peril
The monster within Monsanto
Risk: Virus Resistant Crops
Euro stores cash in on "Frankenstein food" fears
Consumer Concerns Pose Risk for Gene Crops
Novartis urges U.S. caution on GMO sales
European fears may harm biotech industry
Iberia Food Industry Steers Clear of GM Ingredients
USDA regulation on genetic engineering
Monsanto Will Wait for Studies of Disputed New Gene Technology
GM food bosses face roasting
Brazil Govt Destroys Agrevo Transgenic Rice Crop
Scientists Warn of GM Crops Link to Meningitis
Brit. stores Tesco and Unilever ban Genetically Manipulated products
India: Stop Playing God in the Farm
Goats Cloned, Scientists Report

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Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:28:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

Thanks to Apfeiffer@boone.net (Alfred Pfeiffer) for translating and posting. Published in FAZ - Germany (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). 17th of April 1999, No.89/page 9

No Biotech-corn In Switzerland

Bern, 16. April, dpa (i.e. Deutsche Presse Agentur).

Release forbidden

Genetically engineered plants are forbidden to be released in Switzerland. A corresponding decision was passed Friday by the Federal Office for Environment in Bern. Two release requests for corn and potatoes were declined.

According to the opinion of the Federal Office for Environment in Bern, complete harmlessness for man and environment is not guaranteed with the release of genetically modified plants. Besides, the genetic material that is introduced into potatoes, involves antibiotic resistance genes which are also used partially in medications for humans. Any step that could contribute to the development of resistance against antibiotics is strictly rejected.

The Environmental Office informed that the main problem with regard to the planed corn experiment is cross-pollination. If cross-pollination of the T25 corn-plants takes places with a conventional field, genetically modified corn seeds could arise in turn. This would harm farmers who are explicitly trying to produce without genetically modified organisms. Swiss agriculture is thriving, because its products are considered pure and close to nature. This image is strained by these genetic experiments.


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Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:28:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

Rogue genes cross to weeds

By Marie Woolf, Independent on Sunday (UK), 18th April 1999

Scientists have discovered the first genetically modified superweeds in Britain, following the spread of pollen from a GM trial crop to wild turnip plants.

The hybrids were produced after plants in a field of wild turnip crossed with a nearby test-site of genetically engineered oilseed rape. Some of the "Frankenstein" plants, which had inherited their GM parent's herbicide resistance genes, were able to breed. The discovery has been seized on by environmentalists as "groundbreaking" because it proves for the first time that GM crops can pass on their engineered traits to indigenous British species growing nearby.

"This is the first field evidence of the spread of weedkiller-resistant genes to wild relatives," said Pete Riley, food and biotechnology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "The Government should act quickly as the French have done to ban the planting of crops with wild relatives to prevent cross-breeding."

The find was made by the scientists employed by the Government to monitor GM test crops at a field-scale trial site in Cambridgeshire. The scientists from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany found that although the parent plants were indigenous wild turnips, the smaller plants looks more like "hairy oilseed rape plants". Seeds from the plants produced turnip-GM-rape hybrids, some of which, when sprayed by the scientists, proved to be resistant to weedkiller. Some of the hybrid plants were sterile, but about half were able to breed and pass on their GM traits.

The institute now intends to do more extensive trials to discover the rate that transgenic oilseed rape can create hybrid GM "oilseed-turnips".

Wild turnips are regarded as weeds by many farmers and grow naturally in and around oilseed rape plots. NIAB believes that the incidences of cross-breeding between such weeds will be very small but it has warned that the imminent farm-scale trials involving GM crops would increase the likelihood of hybridisation occurring. "We had a plot of turnips growing alongside the oilseed rape four metres apart,' said a spokesman for NIAB. "We took seed from the wild turnips and found that pollen had dispersed from the neighbouring oilseed rape.The larger the release the more pollen is produced and the greater the likelihood that more hybridisation can occur." English Nature, the Government's official wildlife adviser, says the discovery proves its predictions that planting GM crops will lead to the creation of new hybrid varieties.


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Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:28:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

Change Of Modified Foods Deadline Opposed

The Dominion (Wellington, New Zealand) April 16, 1999

CONSUMER groups applied yesterday to the High Court at Wellington to quash a Government decision giving food and biotechnology companies more time to meet food safety standards for their genetically modified food products. The application for a judicial review was made by Greenpeace, Revolt Against Genetic Engineering, and the Safe Food Campaign.

Their move is in response to a decision by Health Minister Wyatt Creech to extend till June next year the deadline for required safety assessments by the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority.


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Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:28:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

posted by jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Full hearing on GM hazards

By Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday April 21, 1999

Monsanto, the giant US biotech company, failed in the High Court yesterday to silence campaigners who pulled up the company's genetically modified plants, and now faces a high-profile trial in which the defendants will claim they were acting lawfully to protect society against the dangers posed by GM crops.

The company had asked for a permanent and sweeping injunction banning six named defendants and anyone associated with their organisation, GenetiX Snowball, from interfering with any of their crops again. This would have effectively prevented them explaining in court why they dug up the crops.

Mr Justice Klavan continued the existing temporary injunction but said the issue had to go to full trial because the defendants had an arguable case that they were acting in the public interest.

The defendants cheered the decision as the judge left the court. They will now be able to call scientists and other expert witnesses to explain why they believe they were justified in breaking the law for the greater good of society effectively putting genetically modified crops and Monsanto on trial.


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Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:28:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

This technical article is relevant because it shows that foreign DNA when eaten can be incorporated into the host own body tissues:

Mol Gen Genet 1998 Oct;259(6):569-76

Scientific Paper: Foreign DNA can enter the body

On the fate of orally ingested foreign DNA in mice: chromosomal association and placental transmission to the fetus.

By Schubbert R, Hohlweg U, Renz D, Doerfler W
Institute of Genetics, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany.

We have previously shown that, when administered orally to mice, bacteriophage M13 DNA, as a paradigm foreign DNA without homology to the mouse genome, can persist in fragmented form in the gastrointestinal tract, penetrate the intestinal wall, and reach the nuclei of leukocytes, spleen and liver cells. Similar results were obtained when a plasmid containing the gene for the green fluorescent protein (pEGFP-C1) was fed to mice.

In spleen, the foreign DNA was detected in covalent linkage to DNA with a high degree of homology to mouse genes, perhaps pseudogenes, or to authentic E. coli DNA. We have now extended these studies to the offspring of mice that were fed regularly during pregnancy with a daily dose of 50 microg of M13 or pEGFP-C1 DNA. Using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or the fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) method, foreign DNA, orally ingested by pregnant mice, can be discovered in various organs of fetuses and of newborn animals.

The M13 DNA fragments have a length of about 830 bp. In various organs of the mouse fetus, clusters of cells contain foreign DNA as revealed by FISH. The foreign DNA is invariably located in the nuclei. We have never found all cells of the fetus to be transgenic for the foreign DNA. This distribution pattern argues for a transplacental pathway rather than for germline transmission which might be expected only after long-time feeding regimens. In rare cells of three different fetuses, whose mothers have been fed with M 13 DNA during gestation, the foreign DNA was detected by FISH in association with both chromatids. Is maternally ingested foreign DNA a potential mutagen for the developing fetus?

PMID: 9819049, UI: 99034358


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Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:28:05 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

We Modify Their Genes at Our Peril

by Colin Tudge, The Times (London) April 17, 1999

This week the Government appoints a committee to examine genetically modified organisms.

Colin Tudge hopes they will consider ethics as a priority

Imagine any creature you like: strawberries that clamber like ivy over the house and bear their fruit in the snow; hedgerows that send out siren pheromones, luring insects from the growing crops; all the caprices of mythology: griffins, winged horses; creatures of commercial nightmare; the cow reduced to an udder; extinct animals brought back to life; children endowed with an extra genetic edge in IQ or athleticism; new life forms, that may or may not be constructed from the present earthly trinity of DNA, RNA, and protein. All can reasonably be envisaged and all could be made real - if not in the next 100 years, then surely in the next 500 or 1000.

The science and technology of genetic engineering are taking the human species into an age in which our control over biological processes will become effectively absolute, and this transition is as significant as any in human history: the creation of tools, the invention of farming or the birth of science.

Entrepreneurs and scientists have been apt to understate the significance of this, even claiming that it is "irresponsible" to exercise the imagination. But when the issues are serious and unprecedented, it is reprehensible, if not downright wicked, to be bland. We must try to predict, and for this we must fantasise; and must then explore the moral implications, not simply case by case, but by probing the ethical precepts to their roots.

The Government this week announced that it was replacing 10 of the 13 members of the committee that looks at genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) on the proper grounds that most of them are proteges of the biotech industry, or "too closely linked" to it. .

** 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: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 13:58:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

The monster within Monsanto

The Independent - London, Publication Date: April 21, 1999

The monster within Monsanto survived its association with Agent Orange and chemical warfare in Vietnam. It was even forgiven for foisting Astrotruf and Nutrasweet upon the world. But when Robert Shapiro chose to apply the science of genetics to improving crops, his company became demonised as the dark force behind `Frankenstein Foods'. On Friday he faces his shareholders at the AGM. Can he convince them he can put the lid back on this can of genetically modified worms ?

Pity Robert Shapiro, the chief executive of [ Monsanto ] . His vision of transforming the once faceless chemicals combine into a modern "life sciences" powerhouse that will exploit advances in biotechnology to increase crop yields and fill dinner bowls worldwide seems to be roughly on target. And yet when shareholders converge on the company headquarters in St Louis, Missouri, for its AGM on Friday he will have much explaining to do.

The past 12 months have not been kind to Monsanto. The worst came last October when a much-touted merger with rival American Home Products of New Jersey foundered, apparently because of unbridgeable differences of view between the management teams of the two prospective partners. The deal's collapse sent Monsanto shares into a tailspin from which they have yet fully to recover. Earnings in 1998, meanwhile, slumped 28 per cent. Shapiro will also be asked about continuing speculation that an alternative marriage could be in the offing, this time with chemicals leviathan [ DuPont ] .

Shapiro, 60, is unlikely, moreover, to escape questions about the incident in a San Francisco hotel last autumn, when, after addressing a convention, he had an untimely encounter with a cream pie, which caught him square in the face. Of greater concern to shareholders, however, is the fact that Monsanto has earned itself the image of Public Enemy Number One, if not in the US, then in a myriad of other countries, including Britain.

Answers may not be forthcoming. By all the evidence, Monsanto is entirely baffled, hurt even, by the groundswell of protests that have been directed against it. All, of course, have to do with the leading role that Monsanto has taken in developing and selling - with notable success - genetically engineered seed products to the agricultural industry. In so doing, however, Monsanto has set itself up as the prime target for the growing movement against GM (genetically modified) foods. And, so far, the company has failed effectively to counter the opposition. Its efforts have included, for instance, the launching late last year of an estimated $5m (pounds 3m) PR and advertising campaign in Britain that was meant to promote genetically modified foods as safe and beneficial to consumers and the environment, and to dispel the fears fanned by groups such as Greenpeace. "Greenpeace and so on are doing a much better job than we are," company president Hendrik Verfaillie recently conceded.

The concerns the environmentalists have raised are both scientific and emotional: what will be nature's wrath for tampering with its genetic codes? Will pollens from genetically engineered plants, for instance, waft across to other plants, wreaking unforeseen changes in their make- up? Will Monsanto seeds spawn triffid-like superweeds?

Earlier this year, anti-Monsanto agitators dumped four tonnes of soybeans outside 10 Downing Street. In India, in "Operation Cremation Monsanto", protesters have systematically burnt fields planted with genetically modified Monsanto seeds. And across the European Union, rhetoric from environmental groups such as Greenpeace about so-called "Frankenstein Foods" is stirring important political opposition to imports from America of any foods derived from genetically engineered crops.

It is a PR nightmare that no one back in St Louis saw coming. Founded in 1901 by a St Louis chemicals company executive named John Queeny (Monsanto was his wife's maiden name), Monsanto was for decades associated only with chemicals. It first found popular fame - or infamy - with the savage defoliant used by the US military in Vietnam, Agent Orange. Monsanto also invented Astroturf, the synthetic green stuff that masquerades as grass in indoor sports arenas around the world. From its food division came perhaps its most famous product of all, the artificial sweetener, NutraSweet.

It was in 1981, that Monsanto first began to dedicate funds to exploring the potential of biotech and molecular genetics. The purpose was to see whether useful attributes, like resistance to pests or types of herbicides, could be stitched on to plant types through gene splicing. By the mid- 1990s, with Shapiro newly at the helm and the research beginning to produce exciting results, Monsanto had decided that biotech would be its future and the chemical components were gradually sold off.

The "life sciences" label that Monsanto attaches to itself today is meant to denote the converging of four formerly distinct industries: food, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The company's $9bn (pounds 5.4bn) in annual revenues are now divided three ways. About half are generated by the agriculture division, with Monsanto's long-serving herbicide Roundup acting as a reliable and hugely generous cash cow; about 30 per cent flows from its pharmaceuticals, with products that include Ambien, Arthrotec and, more recently, the hugely promising pain-killer, Celebrex; foods, meanwhile, provide the last 20 per cent.

For Shapiro, at least, there is painful irony in the bogeyman status that Monsanto seems to have earned itself. The company's success in biotech research was meant precisely to win friends among those concerned with the environment. Monsanto sees genetic engineering as the best hope for saving Earth from ecological disaster rather than the other way around. The logic seems reasonable: by inventing new strains of crops that produce magically higher yields, adapt to unkind soil conditions, resist herbicides and pests, Monsanto will enable producers around the world, including in developing nations, to redouble their output. As the population of Earth climbs, more mouths will be fed, the argument goes, while less topsoil is polluted and eroded away.

Thus, Monsanto's corporate mantras are "Food-Health-Hope" and "Doing Well by Doing Good". The first breakthrough for Monsanto came with soybean seeds that were so-called Roundup Ready. Eagerly adopted by the US farm industry, these seeds allow farmers to give their fields one heavy douse of Roundup when the soy plants are seedlings. Because of the genetic fiddling that has happened in the plants, they will not be hurt by the spray while all weeds around them will wither. This means fewer doses of the herbicide and often means there is no need even to till the soil, offering obvious ecological advantages and potential savings of $1bn (pounds 600m) a year for US farmers. Since then, the company has come up with Roundup Ready cotton and corn, as well as cotton that is resistant to pests. Other products in development include a seed that will produce coloured cotton, doing away with the need to use chemical dyes. Monsanto also produces a hormone that boosts milk production in cows.

"We all know the effects of starvation," Shapiro wrote in this month's Futurist. "How can we double or triple food output in a sustainable manner without destroying large parts of the living systems and soil on which we depend? We don't have 100 years to figure this out; at best, we have decades. In that time frame, I know of only two viable candidates: biotechnology and information technology".

And while Monsanto is often depicted, abroad especially, as the modern- day version of an American imperialist machine bent on seizing control of farm production on every continent and playing God in nature's food chain, the culture that Shapiro has established in St Louis is of a different flavour altogether. Indeed, Shapiro, who has been CEO since 1995, is frequently accused of attempting a flaky, almost New Age style of management. He likes to be addressed as "Bob", rarely wears suit or tie and is fiercely committed to democracy in the ranks. He urged the creation, for example, of a website that encourages employees to write in whatever grouses they have about company policy without the requirement of adding their names.

Most famously, Shapiro introduced his so-called "two-in-a-box" management model. After his arrival, all executive suites were knocked down in St Louis. Instead, directors of the various company divisions must work in cubicles like everyone else. Moreover, they are coupled into pairs, where one member will provide scientific brains and the other the non-scientific expertise, for instance in marketing or PR. This quirky style of running the company was cited as one of the reasons that the buttoned-down American Home Products took fright after initially agreeing to merge with Monsanto

In various ways, however, Monsanto has not helped itself. It demands that farmers using its modified seeds resist the temptation to recycle from their crops for planting the next year. That, according to Monsanto, would be in breach of its patents. Indeed, the company asks farmers to snitch on each other if they see anyone breaking the rule, and it employs detectives to investigate possible cases of re-seeding. It is not shy about pursuing transgressors in the courts. Moreover, Monsanto has become associated with so-called "terminator" or "suicide" seeds, which, again through genetic manipulation, are infertile on the stalk and cannot be replanted. In truth, terminator seeds were developed by the US government in collaboration with another seed company that Monsanto is now in the process of acquiring.

No one expects serious fireworks on Friday, however, and Shapiro seems certain to keep his job. In recognition of Monsanto's difficulties, he took a 17 per cent pay cut last year. Moreover, he will tell shareholders of good reasons for the profits slow-down. One is the roughly $8bn (pounds 4.8bn) that he has spent on acquiring other seed companies in the US to reinforce Monsanto's market position. He will also cite the still very high costs of genetic engineering research.

Shapiro, meanwhile, has one trump card: the pain-killing drug, Celebrex. The drug, which is marketed through an unusual partnership with Pfizer, has taken off in spectacular fashion since it was introduced last January, prompting analysts to predict a profits turnaround for Monsanto this year and in 2000. In its first 12 weeks on the US market, Celebrex notched up 2.44 million prescriptions, putting it in the same league for a newcomer as Viagra, the potency pill developed by Pfizer. The attraction of the drug is its apparent kindness to the stomach while tackling pain, especially among arthritis sufferers.

The future for Monsanto, therefore, is a puzzle. Some believe it must still find a buyer to correct its balance book, burdened by debt that equalled a whopping 59 per cent of market capitalisation at the end of 1998. But with Roudup and Celebrex, it seems to have two deep wells of easy revenue. And the outlook for its GM business, if the Shapiro analysis is correct, is still full of potential. This year about half of all cotton, soy and corn crops planted in the US will be with genetically altered seeds. Moreover, in the American market at least, the notion of GM foods seems to have left the public unfazed. But Monsanto still has this one, not insignificant problem: persuading the folks in the rest of the world, in Europe especially, that its genetic tamperings will not one day backfire on us, unleashing who knows what kind of punishment from an enraged Mother Nature.

(Copyright 1999 Newspaper Publishing PLC)

_____via IntellX_____


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Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 13:58:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21
From: Dick Hamilton rhamilto@direct.ca
Source: Independent on Sunday, Sun 21 Mar 1999

Risk: Virus Resistant Crops

A ProMED-mail post http://www.healthnet.org/programs/promed.html

A report, ordered under the [British] Government's Genetically Modified Organisms Research Programme, has found that plants engineered to be resistant to common viruses could in fact lead to the creation of more virulent strains which could spread throughout the British countryside.

The report says that there is insufficient research to determine the long-term effects of introducing viral resistance. Environmentalists fear that indigenous plants could be wiped out by the new viruses created by genetic engineering. "This report indicates that we are playing with science we simply do not understand," said Pete Riley, food and biotechnology campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

The report was seen by officials at the Department of the Environment two years ago, but has remained secret until now. Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, ordered the report to be published earlier this month.

Genetically engineered viral resistance is designed to give crops protection against common scourges which can scar or kill a plant. Several varieties of virus-resistant plants, including potatoes and sugar beet, have already been grown in "test" fields in Britain.

The report also warns that within years the very plants engineered to be resistant to viruses could develop a greater susceptibility to the viruses against which they are supposed to be protected. They could then pass on this new susceptibility to ordinary crops and wild plants.

The scientists advise that detailed studies of plant life in the areas where such GM crops are grown are vital before they are sown. It says that the bigger the fields the greater the risks of unknown side effects.

The GM plants are made resistant to viruses by inserting, like an inoculation, part of the virus's genetic make-up.

Scientists warn that genetic engineering will make viruses more prevalent in the countryside. "The likelihood of plants being exposed to a virus is a billion times more likely," said Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, a genetic biologist advising the Women's Environmental Network. "At the moment viruses are confined to a few plants and a few cells in that plant. But, because every cell of every plant in a field will be genetically engineered, the potential for spreading the virus will be far greater than ever. This report re-emphasises the lack of research. It is very revealing and worrying."


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Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 13:58:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

Euro stores cash in on "Frankenstein food" fears

By Jane Merriman

Sections:
Supermarket Stores
Hot Topic After "mad Cow"
Customer Surveys

Supermarket Stores

LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - Gene-altered crops may produce designer tomatoes and bug-resistant maize, but are they safe to eat? Consumers in Europe don't seem to think so.

A spate of health scares about genetically modified (GM) produce have spooked shoppers and sent big supermarket groups scrambling to ban so-called "Frankenstein foods" from own-brand products. Stores are effectively taking the law into their own hands, producing "GM-free" merchandise to tap growing demand from health-conscious customers for natural or organic groceries. The

British chain J. Sainsbury Plc (SBRY.L) has formed a consortium with six other European supermarkets to scour the world for non-modified supplies for own-brand ranges. The other five are Britain's Marks and Spencer Plc (MKS.L), France's Carrefour (CARR.PA) Delhaize (DELBt.BR) of Belgium, Italy's Effelunga, Swiss Migros and Superquinn of Ireland. Tesco Plc (TSCO.L), Britain's leading supermarket, has pledged to label products containing modified ingredients and rival ASDA Group Plc (ASSD.L) has pledged that its own-label products will be GM free.

But one of Britain's smaller food stores Iceland (ICE.L) has stolen a march on its bigger rivals by banning GM food from its own label products in May last year.

Chairman Malcolm Walker, who takes credit for coining the phrase Frankenstein foods, says this strategy had helped boost sales. He acknowledged an undoubted impact from the anti-GM stand, with sales up 12 percent last year and 10 percent so far this year, way ahead of the industry average.

Walker, a member of the pro-environment lobby Greenpeace, said the removal of modified ingredients from own-label ranges had helped bring in thousands of new customers.

Hot Topic After "mad Cow"

Genetic modification has become a hot political topic in Britain, where consumers are refusing to swallow government assurances about its safety. People are sceptical following similar assurances before the "mad cow" contaminated beef scandal broke a few years ago.

Britain's anti-GM fever was also fuelled by Prince Charles, a long-time supporter of organic farming, who revealed his misgivings on his Internet website.

The Prince of Wales caused a stir by highlighting the potential risks to human health and the environment and criticised the process of genetic modification for playing God.

Monsanto (MTC.N), the U.S. company behind modified soya, mounted a huge advertising campaign in Europe to explain the benefits of its products. But consumers apparently have not been won over.

Germany and Sweden seemed to be the first to latch on to the GM debate, with modification becoming a key consumer issue about 18 months ago. Food manufacturing giant Unilever (ULVR.L) has already gone GM free in these two countries. A spokesman said the firm had yet to decide whether to follow food stores in Britain and use non-GM ingredients. But he said its general policy was to try to follow consumer preferences.

Customer Surveys

Consumer surveys provide more evidence that high percentages of people reject modified products. A recent poll by international consultant Healey and Baker found that 61 percent of Europe's shoppers were trying to avoid it.

And Sainsbury, Britain's second biggest food retailer, has been inundated with calls on a special GM help line, logging at one stage up to 500 enquiries a day.

Helen Lo at Sainsbury said the retailer expected a sales boost from its non-GM stance. "The call from our customers was so strong we felt we had to source from non-GM suppliers." She said sales of organic food had also increased since the controversy about gene-modification.

Soya and derivatives such as oil and lecithin are used in wide range of everyday foods, including bread, pasta, yoghurt, chocolate and ice cream. But European Union labelling laws do not cover some of the derivatives, even though they may come from a genetically modified source.

A poll by the Consumers' Association found that 92 percent of consumers felt that all processed derivatives of genetically modified ingredients, even those that could be detected in the final product, should be clearly labelled on food packaging.


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Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 13:58:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

Consumer Concerns Pose Risk for Gene Crops

OECD PARIS, April 20 (Reuters)

Consumer resistance is a key obstacle to the development of gene-modified crops and exporters who do not separate such varieties from conventional crops face significant risks, the OECD said in a report on Tuesday.

Gene crops are gaining rapid acceptance in the United States, Canada, Australia and Argentina, but in Europe consumer fears have led some governments to ban their import or to introduce moratoriums on the introduction of certain crops.

"The proliferation of such actions has the potential to become a significant market risk for exporting countries which do not segregate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from conventional cereal varieties in their handling and storage systems," it said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development made the comments in its annual Agricultural Outlook.


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Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 13:58:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

Novartis urges U.S. caution on GMO sales

By Irene Marushko

WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) A top executive of Swiss life sciences giant Novartis AG warned on Monday that attempts by the United States to force European borders open to genetically modified food products were doomed to failure because of European public resistance.


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Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 13:58:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

European fears may harm biotech industry

survey By Arindam Nag

AMSTERDAM, April 20 (Reuters) - Biotechnology might promise to eradicate some deadly diseases and prolong life but public concern over some projects could slow the industry's progress in Europe, a report said on Tuesday.

"The rapid development of molecular biology and its impact on human values have created ethical problems which are particularly difficult to resolve in the European arena," business consultants Ernst & Young said in an annual snapshot of the continent's industry.


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Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 13:58:11 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-21

Iberia Food Industry Steers Clear of GM Ingredients

By David Brough, Reuters 04/19/99

LISBON - Spanish and Portuguese food processors are trying to avoid using genetically modified (GM) ingredients amid growing consumer concerns over possible health risks, grain traders said. Because of the demands of processors, including millers and starch companies, grain merchants have shunned imports of U.S. corn for months over concerns it might include unapproved GM varieties

** 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: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 10:05:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-24

USDA regulation on genetic engineering

By Prof. Joe Cummins, e-mail: jcummins@julian.uwo.ca April 23, 1999

I was resently asked to comment on USDA comments supporting their rules on transgenic crops. At least 99% of the commercial transgenic crops incorporate viral genes, either as promoters or to control virus. My comments on USDA rules on virus genes in transgenic crops are below.

The USDA regulations on crop genetic engineering seems to be based on views of genetic recombination that utterly misrepresent the evidence available and the science of genetics. Their comments on viral recombination totally ignore a wide body of literature on recombination involving virus genes incorporated into crop plants.

Turning to the USDA comments:

  1. USDA claims "there has been no report of such a recombination" . I find that comment strange because there is a huge body of studies in that area.Not only is there good evidence but the evidence shows that the recombination is very frequent as many as one in five transgenic plants showing such recombination I list a few pertinent references below:

    1)Schoez,J. and Wintermantel,W. "Expansion of viral host range through complementation and recombination in transgenic plants" The Plant Cell 5,1669-79,1993.

    2)Gal,S.,Pisan,B.,Hohn,T.,Grimsley,N. and Hohn,B. "Genomic homologous recombination in planta" EMBO Journal 10,1571-78,1991.

    3)Gal,S.,Pisan,B.,Hohn,T.,Grimsley,N. and Hohn, B. "Agroinfection of transgenic plants leads to viable cauliflower mosaic virus by intramolecualr recombination" Virology 187,525-33,1992.

    4)Wintermantel,W. and Schoeelz,J. "Isolation of recombinant viruses between cauliflower mosaic virus and a viral gene in transgenic plants under conditions of moderate selection pressure" Virology 223,156-64,1996

    5)Swoboda,P.,Hohn,B. and Gal,S. "Somatic homologous recombination in planta" Mol.Gen.Genet 237,33-40,1993.

    6)Borja,M, Rubio,T,Scholtof,H. and Jackson,A. "Restoration of wild-type virus by double recombination of tomusvirus mutants with a host transgene" Mol.Plant MicrobeInteract 12,153-62,1999.

  2. USDA claims " that although recombination could theoretically occur, it would have to be between two 2 viruses which already affect the host plant (the virus providing the engineered gene and another virus which would infect the engineered plant in the field)".

    The USDA view here describes the situation in the many experiments they seem unaware of. However, the plant virus nucleic acid such as the DNA of many plant pararetrovirus may be propagated in insect baculovirus. Recombination involving insect virus , or for that matter the viruses of higher animals ingesting plant material engineered to contain virus genes should not be ignored.

  3. USDA claims "such recombination could or would have already occurred in the field naturally". All recombination taking place in the field is natural while gene cutting and splicing in the laboratory is unnatural. Certainly "such" recombination already occurred in the field. However, it is clear that the frequency of recombination to create new genetic variations leading to enhanced virulence of the virus is increased by orders of magnitude when virus genes are present in every cell of every plant in a crop planted to millions of acres.

  4. USDA finally claims "but such recombination is so rare (occuring on an "evolutionary" time scale) that the event is of vanishingly low probability" The last USDA comment suggest the agency may be part of a bureaucratic never never land run by people who believe that nature must follow the rules of USDA. The USDA comment is truly bizarre , it ignores the many studies showing high rates of recombination of viral genes in transgenic crops.

Clearly the USDA regulations should be changed to reflect true scientific facts not the desires of agricultural bureaucrats.


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Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 10:05:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-24

next article posted by Jim McNulty:

Monsanto Will Wait for Studies of Disputed New Gene Technology

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publication Date: April 23, 1999

Monsanto's "terminator technology" may not be terminated, but neither will it be germinated soon because of the global furor it has caused.

St. Louis-based [ Monsanto Co. ] announced Thursday that it would not market the controversial new gene technology until the completion of studies that examine the environmental, economic and social effects.

"We believe that the concerns about gene protection technologies should be heard and carefully considered before any decisions are made to commercialize them," the company said in a statement.

So-called terminator technology is one of the seed-sterilization methods being developed to prevent genetically modified seeds from being used for free. If crops produce sterile seeds, farmers must buy new seeds at the next planting.

For Monsanto, Thursday's announcement amounts to a retreat from its spirited defense of the technology. Philip Angell, Monsanto's director of communications, said the company had taken its new position "because the reaction to terminator in a lot of different quarters in many countries was clearly becoming the dominant discussion about biotechnology."


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Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 10:05:12 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-24

next article posted by Brad Duplisea

GM food bosses face roasting

BBC World News, Friday, April 23, 1999
Published at 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK, Business: The Company File

Despite the healthy look UK consumers have doubts about GM food

The bosses of one of the world's leading biotechnology companies, Monsanto, are facing a rough ride from their shareholders.

The Chief executive of the US-based group, Robert Shapiro, is likely to face criticism at his company's annual general meeting for mishandling the debate over genetically modified (GM) foods in Europe.

Missouri-based Monsanto spent heavily on publicity in the UK but appears to have lost the battle for the hearts and minds of consumers wary of genetically altered foods.

In February Monsanto was fined 17,000 and ordered to pay 6,159 costs for failing to control an experimental field of GM crops.

This UK charge arose because it was deemed not to have taken the necessary steps to stop pollen from GM crops pollenating neighbouring fields.

A one year ban has been imposed on the commercial growing of GM food in the UK with environmental groups calling for it to be extended until more is known of its effects.

The backlash from consumers in Europe has led to a number of retailers, including supermarket chain Iceland, banning GM foods. ...

Alan Gubert, an agricultural journalist from the American Mid-West, says that shareholders are most concerned about the $20 fall in the stock during the past nine months.

He said: "I think Mr Shapiro will keep his job but there are a lot of questions to be asked."

** 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, 28 Apr 1999 14:34:19 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-26

posted by jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Brazil Govt Destroys Agrevo Transgenic Rice Crop

By Phil Stewart

SAO PAULO, April 22 (Reuters) - Brazil's government said on Thursday it started destroying a test plot of genetically modified rice operated by the local unit of AgrEvo, the agrochemical joint venture between Germany's Hoechst AG (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: HOEG.F) and Schering AG (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: SCHG.F).

Government officials said they took action after AgrEvo failed to comply with federal safety codes governing the test crop, located in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The whole rice crop will be destroyed. The secretary is already on site said a spokeswoman for the state's Agriculture Secretary Jose Hermeto Hoffamann.

Authorities began ripping the crop out of the ground at 11:00 local time (1400 GMT), she said. The crop would later be burned.

AgrEvo officials did not immediately return phone calls. But in a previous interview, Andre Abreu, who head's AgrEvo's local biotechnology program, said the test plot was a key step in the company's long-term plan to sell LibertyLink rice in Brazil.

Brazil's Commission for Biological Security (CTNBio) broke the country's historic ban on transgenic crops last year by approving the safety of Monsanto Co.'s (MTC - news) transgenic Roundup Ready soybeans.

But the action opened a floodgate on controversy in Latin America's agricultural giant, where environmental groups led by Greenpeace have teamed up with farmers worried about losing business to transgenic-wary European consumers. in Europe.

CTNBio, which has been criticized for being too friendly to multinationals, this week gave its first-ever authorization to destroy a transgenic test crop. It argued AgrEvo did not provide the necessary covering or buffer zone to prevent contamination of nearby non-genetically modified crops.


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Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 14:34:19 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-26

Scientists Warn of GM Crops Link to Meningitis

Daily Mail (UK) Publication Date: April 26, 1999

THE nightmare possibility of GM food experiments producing untreatable killer diseases has been underscored by senior Government scientists.

They fear new strains of meningitis and other infections could be created by crops which may already be in the food chain.

Experts on the Government's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes have issued a warning about plants being grown in the U.S. and parts of Europe which contain a gene resistant to antibiotics.

They are concerned that, if workers breathe in dust as the crops are processed, the resistance could be transferred to bacteria in their throats.

Around one in five people are carriers of the meningitis bacteria, even though they are not affected by the disease. Microbiologist Dr John Heritage, a member of the committee, has written to American authorities to express his worries. 'It's a huge concern to me,' he said. 'While the risk is small, the consequences of an untreatable, life-threatening infection spreading within the population are enormous.' ...

The concerns about new strains of diseases centre on maize containing an antibiotic-resistant gene called BLA, which can affect meningitis bacteria, and cotton containing a gene called AAD, which can affect the sexually-transmitted disease gonorrhea.

The BLA gene could make meningitis immune to penicillin - one of the normal treatments - and possibily mutate further, making the killer disease resistant to other cures.

The genes are added to the plants as a 'marker' to help biotech scientists monitor how well they take up the modified genes they are given.

Breathing in dust from the crops is not the only potential transfer mechanism. There are also fears that antibiotic resistance could 'jump' to bacteria in the gut of an animal or person who ate the food.

Experts believed until recently that the genes break down too quickly for this to happen. But a study by a Dutch team, reported in New Scientist magazine earlier this year, suggested that DNA from food lingers in the large intestine for several minutes. Strands of genetic code could have time to transfer from food to bacteria, potentially passing on key characteristics.

In a report on Monsanto's U.S. cotton crop, being used primarily for animal feed, the Government advisory committee says: 'The clinical consequences of such an evolutionary step would be grave.'


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 14:34:19 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-26

Brit. stores Tesco and Unilever ban Genetically Manipulated products

By Paul Waugh, Political Correspondent INDEPENDENT (London) April 28

GOVERNMENT reassurances about the safety of genetically modified foods were further undermined yesterday when both Tesco and Unilever announced they were banning GM ingredients from their products.

Britain's biggest supermarket chain and the world's largest food manufacturer unveiled their new policy just hours after Jack Cunningham, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, made a staunch defence of the benefits of GM crops and foods.

Tesco revealed it was working with Greenpeace to remove modified ingredients from its own meals and would label clearly all other products that contained them.

The company's decision follows pressure from customers and criticism from environmentalists that it was the only one of the big chains to refuse to respond to public concern.

Tesco, the market leader with a turnover of #18.5bn, joins Safeway, Sainsbury's, Iceland, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose in seeking GM-free products and boosting its organic range.

More than 150 of Tesco's its 20,000 own-label products contain modified soya and maize and the chain has agreed to work with Greenpeace in a task force to find reliable sources of GM-free ingredients.

John Longworth, Tesco trading law and technical director, said customers believed GM products offered no new benefits. "We will remove GM ingredients where we can and label where we can't. In the short and medium term I expect the number of products containing GM ingredients to decline steadily, quite possibly to zero."


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Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 14:34:19 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-26

India: Stop Playing God in the Farm

The author, a Senior Humboldt Fellow, is a Kozhikkode-based writer.
© Copyright 1999 Business Line, April 23, 1999

The Green Revolution only benefitted the big farmers who, through lobbies of their own, dictated the country's agricultural policy. Similarly, technologies such as Monsanto's Bt cotton will most likely fall into the hands of a corporate farm lobby, with no benefit accruing to the poor and marginalised farmer, says K. P. Prabhakaran Nair

CONSIDERABLE heat has been generated by Monsanto's thrust into Indian agriculture. The controversy essentially revolves around the Bollgard cotton variety, which is said to be resistant to the devastating cotton bollworm.

The strain is sold by the Monsanto- Mahyco combine (in which the former has considerable - 26 per cent, to be precise - stake) Monsanto, in a recent "interaction" with the media to justify the research, said that increased food productivity was necessary to meet the demands of the growing populations of India and China as also Africa.

However, it is not known how the transgenic cotton (Bollgard) will "increase" food productivity. Sure enough, it will take away more land from food crops to commercial crops, such as cotton, and will, eventually, and bring huge profits to the seed company, Monsanto. More such genetically -modified crops could soon follow.

This would be just the beginning of a "new era" in agricultural technology, rooted in biotechnology, and it is possible to see a parallel between this and the so-called 'Green Revolution' almost three decades ago, which saw heavy inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides to boost output, with the attendant fallout of soil, groundwater and air pollution, about which so many environmentalists now lament. The return to organic farming and sustainable agricultural practices was the outcome.

Monsanto recently came out with a new genetically - engineered potato, New Leaf Superior, which has the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene incorporated in its cells. The Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces the organic toxin, Bt, and organic farmers in the US spray it to control insects that feed on plants.

The Monsanto molecular biologists incorporated the Bt gene into the potato so that the sprouted potato plant carries its own insecticide; when the unwelcome insects feed on the leaves, they fall dead. In conventional agriculture only a chemical spray can accomplish this. The introduction into a plant of a gene not only across species (in this case between a plant and a bacterium), but whole phyla (a major group of related species in the classification of plants and animals), means that the wall of the plant's identity - the irreducible wildness, one might say - has been breached.

Now, the more disturbing question. Bollgard cotton and the New Leaf Superior potato are 'first cousins' or twins, one might say - as they tend to behave alike.

What the former does to cotton bollworm in Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka, the latter does to the 'Colorado potato beetle' in American soil. Curiously, the New Leaf Superior is also labelled as a ' pesticide' (on the 'Grower Guide' that Monsanto supplies with the potato seed bag - in small print - and that it is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the US).

Now, if an enterprising farmer from Himachal Pradesh - where potato is grown in plenty - decides to go in for large- scale cultivation of the New Leaf Superior, which Monsanto will, of course, be delighted about, everything will be fine until the harvest. And if the farmer decides to save even one potato to plant the next season, he will be breaking the Federal Law in the US and become liable for punishment. This is because the genes in the potato are registered under various patents by Monsanto and are the MNC's intellectual property.

Further, such culturally ' biotech' plants, different from the conventional ones, could pose a threat to the natural equilibrium of the environment because their consequences are still not known fully. In fact, even Monsanto, the EPA or the FDA (Food Drug Administration) may not have the right answer.

In hindsight, none could predict the disastrous fallout of the Green Revolution on the soil and environment almost three decades ago. But not to wake up now to contain a problem that could get out of hand is courting disaster again.

According to an American molecular biologist and lawyer, Dr. Margaret Mellon, who is a leading critic of biotechnology in agriculture and is affiliated to the Union of Concerned Scientists, nobody knows the effect of Bt on human diet - directly, through potato consumption, or indirectly, through the cotton seed (which is pressed to make animal feed, and is, therefore, present in milk, and then in the human gut). Add to this the very disturbing recent findings of Dr. Arpad Pusztai of the Rowan Research Institute, UK, which showed that rats fed on genetically -modified potato suffered damage to their vital organs and immune systems.

Though Dr. Pusztai's employer fired him for going public on his research, Dr. Vyvyan Howard of Liverpool University vindicated the findings. A royal touch to the concern was given by Price Charles when he went online using his private website to abstain from genetically -modified food, though the Labour Government of Mr. Tony Blair, lent full support to the corporate effort.

With the advent of biotechnology, agriculture is entering the information age of the coming millennium and, more than any other company, Monsanto is positioning itself as its 'Microsoft', supplying the 'proprietary operating systems' to run the new-generation plants. The question is not so much one of the Bt technology per se, but about the Bt technology in the hands of a giant MNC which can dictate Indian farmer vis-a-vis the Indian government.

The manner in which the Monsanto and Mahyco trials were carried out in some parts of the country speaks volumes for the lack of vigilance. We cannot wish away the fact that the Bt technology originated in an American laboratory and not an Indian one, and neither can one be oblivious to the fact that despite more than two decades of biotechnology research in India, coupled with comparatively colossal monetary inputs, we are nowhere near the Dolly phenomenon.

This is not to suggest that we immediately rush into an Indian variety of Bt technology. Far from it. The national objectives in agriculture must be prioritised. Indian agriculture is still far from the "industrial agriculture" of the West. Often, a farmer cannot produce even enough for his family to eat. Neither does he have the purchasing power to buy the food required.

The so-called Green Revolution only benefited the big farmers who, through lobbies of their own, dictated the country's agricultural policy. In such an ambience, technologies such as Bt will most likely fall into the hands of this "corporate farm lobby", with no benefit accruing to the poor and marginalised farmer.

Inasmuch as rural India is concerned, we have far more important issues to address, and it can unequivocally be said that Bt technology is not the subject that should engage the planners' attention now. A detailed study by the International Food Policy Research Institute, involving a number of developing countries in south Asia and Africa clearly shows that it is the lack of micro-credit that is at the root of much rural poverty.

What have we done in the last 500 years to address this problem? The 'market liberalisation period' (1990-97) resulted in a quantum jump in food prices at 114 per cent (wholesale price index - WPI), and last November, while the WPI for all commodities stood at a high 8.8 per cent, it was 22.4 per cent for food items - a quantum jump of more than 250 per cent on a relative basis. This price escalation was triggered by inadequate supply caused by a shift from food crops to cash crops - from wheat to oilseeds - at the rate of 1.2 per cent per annum.

In such a situation, it would be foolish to encourage, even tacitly, an agricultural policy that de- emphasises enhanced food production. And for that matter, neither Monsanto nor any other agency involved with our agriculture has anything worthwhile to offer in terms of food crops. It is worth remembering that the annual rate of foodgrains production in the market liberalisation period was less than 1.5 per cent - lower than the population growth rate, and implying a lower per capita availability of foodgrains.

Among the crops with food value that Monsanto markets, primarily in the US, are a genetically -engineered soybean strain and a herbicide that the soybean is resistant to. One can clearly see the commercial interests involved, which have nothing to do with the widely bandied "feed-the-world" slogan of the giant corporation.

It is vital to realise that while biotechnology depends on its power to move genes freely from among species and phyla, its environmental safety depends on the very opposite phenomenon - the integrity of species in nature and their rejection of foreign material. A recent study, reported in Nature , found that plant traits introduced by genetic engineering were more likely to escape into the wild than the same traits introduced through conventional plant breeding, which Indian agricultural scientists have been resorting to for many decades to improve crops.

In fact, Dr. Andrew Kimbrell, Director of the Centre for Technology Assessment, Washington, says that "biological pollution will be the environmental nightmare of the 21st century". This brings to mind a metaphoric statement made by Albert Einstein during a heated and inconclusive debate in Copenhagen, attended also by Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and Rutherford, when Einstein's relativity theory was challenged by Heisenberg, with his "uncertainty principle".

The discussion went on till late into the night and, finally, when it seemed that it was leading nowhere, Einstein said in exasperation, "God does not play dice". Nature is god, and there is order in the universe. Do we need to play God in our farms, on behalf of Monsanto, and let corporate America put one more noose around the neck of the unsuspecting Indian farmer?


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Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 14:34:19 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN4-26

Goats Cloned, Scientists Report

From LA Times Wire Reports, Tuesday, April 27, 1999

Researchers said they succeeded in genetically engineering goats to produce a human protein used to affect blood clotting, then cloned the goats.

The researchers from Framingham, Mass.-based Genzyme Transgenics Corp., Tufts University and Louisiana State University said three cloned female goats were born last fall. It is the first report of a goat being cloned, although goats commonly are genetically engineered to produce human proteins in their milk.

© Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

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


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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