Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

7 May 99

Table of Contents

Genetically Modified Coffee seen Hard to Swallow
Subject: TRYPTOPHAN DEATHS
Monsanto claims organic lobby stirs GM fears to protect market
NAS to Add Environmentalist to Panel Investingation GE
Is the NZ Dairy Industry Getting Ready to Commit Suicide?
Facts about Monsanto's milk hormone Posilac
UK Environment Agency GMO workshop paper
"The Millennium Choice - Genetic Engineering or Natural Law?"
Biotech Money Guys
Suddenly, A Healthy Craze for Soy
Calif. Company to Buy Unit that Cloned Dolly
Codex Report: CCFL, Ottawa 4/99

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Date: 3 May 1999 12:32:23 -0500
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Genetically Modified Coffee seen Hard to Swallow

Sunday May 2, 3:31 pm Eastern Time

PHILADELPHIA, PA, May 2 (Reuters) - Researchers may eventually be able to genetically modify coffee plants to resist insects or produce caffeine-free coffee beans, but public resistance could delay such developments for at least 10 years, a Monsanto Co (MTC - news). specialist said on Sunday.

James Zarndt, a commercial team leader within Monsanto's specialty crops group, said the company was concerned about the public's understanding of what genetic modification of plants really means. He said until people were with the idea, Monsanto would move moderately slowly into the area.

He told Reuters it was not feasible to suppose there could be any approvals for genetically modified coffee until at least the end of the next decade because of current public uncertainty and the perception of the industry. Processors and growers are telling us what their challenges are. Whether it is in the area of producing naturally decaffeinated coffee or insect-control issues, the scientists need to identify the genes that are responsible for controlling Zarndt said.

He said the process to remove caffeine from coffee hurt flavor and taste, so researchers would aim to produce trees decaffeinated beans. They (scientists) believe the proper genes have been identified in certain laboratories around the world but it has not Zarndt added.

While there had been very little research into genetically modified coffee yet, he said Monsanto was researching possible opportunities. According to Zarndt, Monsanto has not conducted any coffee-related consumer research but he believed U.S. coffee drinkers have shown less concern over accepting plant modifications than Europeans.

He cited many obstacles facing coffee growers, particularly pressures from disease and insect control. At the present time they are using pretty significant chemical solutions such as fungicides and insecticides but one has to wonder if those are sustainable practices. There are potential solutions in the area of insect control in particular that Zarndt said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a four-day Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) annual meeting and exhibition, Zarndt said Monsanto was currently looking at the opportunities which existed for coffee biotechnology but had not yet engaged in any genetic modification trials.


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Date: 4 May 1999 12:54:12 -0500
From: i4crob@idt.net

Subject: TRYPTOPHAN DEATHS

Peter M. Ligotti wrote

Are you sure about the figure of 50 deaths. The data on PubMed says 37, but by now some of the crippled people must have died of it. Not too much of a worry, but I think it's better if we make sure that our literature is accurate.

Yes, more people have died from it. I have one of the few who have known that. Some people and organizations are still saying 37, but now it is 50 to the best of my knowledge.

Dear Peter,

Please do not try to make a case against genetic engineering based upon the TRYPTOPHAN case. I have reviewed a very serious and significant paper, not yet published, and having reviewed the evidence agree that genetic engineering had nothing to do with the TRYPTOPHAN injuries or deaths.

I am bound not to reveal the cause until that paper is published. Suffice it to say that I am totally AGAINST any and all genetically engineered foods.

My work supports my position.

My warning to you is to not make a case by citing the TRYPTOPHAN problem because that might one day be used to cite the overaction made by anti-GEF people.

Regards,

Robert Cohen
http://www.notmilk.com


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Date: 4 May 1999 13:46:13 -0500
From: jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty)

Monsanto claims organic lobby stirs GM fears to protect market

The Irish Times May 04, 1999
© (Copyright 1999) _____via IntellX_____

Fears about GM foods are being unnecessarily increased by the organic farming and organic wholefood lobbies who feel their niche markets may be threatened, the Irish head of [ Monsanto ] , Dr Patrick O'Reilly, has said.

Responding to criticism in Ireland recently about GM foods, Dr O'Reilly of Monsanto, a multinational chemical and biotechnology company, said the potential benefits from the GM revolution were "far too great simply to put aside based on fear of the new technologies".

The benefits of GM foods, he said, included

On the environmental side, benefits included a reduction of about 40 per cent in herbicide use - "which has to be good for everybody, farmer and consumer alike". GM crops would replace the need to use many chemicals and facilitate reduced application of others, said the firm's business manager for Ireland.

He added: "While I'm confident of the safety of the technology, strict controls and monitoring must continue to be maintained. If this is done then the development of genetically engineered food will continue to take place with the full confidence of the consumer."

An increase in information and awareness among the public of the facts and benefits which could be derived from GM foods would dispel many consumer concerns.

Monsanto believed genetic engineering could be a major tool to ensure increased food quality and quantity in the 21st century.

"We will see new strains of crops producing higher yields, adaptable to unkind soil conditions, resistant to yet-uncontrolled pests and diseases."

In the meantime, Dr O'Reilly said, there was a need for updated legislation, "whatever adequate labelling the consumer and Oireachtas require" and "more factual programmes and less scare-mongering".

If all this was done, he believed the understandable fears that people have would be assuaged and "the GM revolution can become one of the most significant and beneficial in the history of mankind".


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Date: 4 May 1999 14:09:23 -0500
From: "Renu Namjoshi" renu.namjoshi@cwix.com

NAS to Add Environmentalist to Panel Investingation GE

In this article the NAS (National Academy of Sciences) admits how effective the letters of protest about the panel composition were which came from public interest groups. Maybe they should get a few hundred more! For those of you who have not yet done so the NAS website is still accepting comments.

Please note that there will be a public workshop in DC on May 24th to "allow the public to comment' on the NAS project.

The best part is that at the end of the article Peter Raven of the NAS admits that acceptance of biotechnology in the world is controlled by Europe, not the U.S. Congratulations and thanks to our European colleagues, who are on the front lines!

Renu Namjoshi
(filling in as list coordinator for Judy Kew while she is on vacation)


Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News

by Kathleen Hart, April 15, 1999

Sections:
NAS (National Academy of Sciences) expected to add environmentalist to panel investigating plant pesticide rule
NAS to hold public workshop in May
Panel urged to consider European perspective on GMO foods

NAS (National Academy of Sciences) expected to add environmentalist to panel investigating plant pesticide rule

Responding to hundreds of letters from public interest groups and concerned citizens, the National Academy of Sciences is planning to expand its recently formed panel on "Genetically Modified Crops Containing Pesticide Genes" to include a member of an environmental group, Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News has learned.

NAS has asked Rebecca Goldburg, a scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund in New York, to participate in the biotechnology panel's investigation into the risks and benefits of crops genetically engineered to resist insect pests, sources said this week. NAS officials declined to confirm the invitation to Goldburg, but National Research Council staffers conceded that changes will likely be made in the composition of the panel.

"There will possibly be changes, nothing is settled yet," an NAS spokesperson said April 14. "There are things in the works."

Even before the proposed panel on genetically modified plant pesticides met for the first time April 8 in Washington, D.C., NAS had received 196 letters and e-mails complaining about its composition. As of April 14, the number of letters had grown to 220. A majority of the comments, according to one NAS staff member, charged that the academy's failure to include viewpoints of environmentalists and public interest groups who are skeptical of agricultural biotechnology would undermine the credibility of the study.

"It is our belief that the NAS committee, as currently constituted, cannot offer a balanced, unbiased examination of the issues assigned. We strongly urge you to act immediately in providing more balance for the very important scientific and economic analysis to be done," a letter to the NAS signed by 26 organizations, including the Campaign for Food Safety and Greenpeace, USA, insisted.

"Scientific risks of biotechnology are predominantly related to ecological and human health impacts," said the April 5 letter signed by the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) and five other organizations. "The current panel is weighted with molecular and agricultural scientists, and needs to have specialists with expertise in other critical areas, including food allergens, genetic outcrossing to wild and weedy relatives, and soil microbiology."

An addition, the panel "is clearly constituted in favor of the biotechnology industry. University research today is increasingly entangled with private sector interests," the letter from Cambridge, Mass.-based CRG continues. "Conflicts of interest may arise from a variety of financial connections between academic scientists and the biotechnology industry."

CRG said one member of the panel is signatory to a $25 million research collaboration with Novartis, a leading biotechnology company. Three of the four regulatory experts on the panel - Stanley Abramson, Fred Betz and Morris Levin - are former EPA staff who are now in jobs "that stand to benefit from the good graces of the biotechnology industry," the letter notes.

Abramson, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C. firm of Arent Fox Kinter & Kahn, assists clients with obtaining regulatory approvals for agricultural, industrial and consumer products, including products of genetic engineering. Betz directs the biotechnology and biopesticides practice of the Arlington, Va.-based consulting firm Jellinek, Schwartz & Connolly. Levin is a professor at the University of Maryland and Biotechnology Institute's Center for Public Issues in Biotechnology.

Other members of the committee include:

NAS to hold public workshop in May

The NAS committee members decided to hold a public workshop to provide members of the public with a forum to express their views on the controversial study. The workshop is slated to take place May 24 in Washington.

The panel spent a great deal of time trying to define, refine and narrow the scope of its charge, which is extremely broad given the short, eight-month time frame established for the completion of the study.

NAS officials told the panel that the idea for the study initially came about "when so many members of the academy were upset" with EPA's proposed Plant Pesticide Rule, which was proposed in 1994. When pressed by panelists to explain in greater detail who was upset by the proposed rule, NAS officials said that two reports in particular, provided the main impetus for the study: a report issued by 11 professional societies, and another report written by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). Members of the two groups expressed concerns that even though EPA claimed to be "process-neutral" in reviewing plant pesticides, the agency actually was regulating the process of genetic engineering, and not the end-product.

However, the academy subsequently decided to broaden the scope of the study to include the overall U.S. regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology as well as EPA's proposed rule. The panel on April 9 revised its initial statement of task slightly, to read as follows:

The committee will investigate the kinds of risks and benefits of genetically modified pest protected (GMPP) plants, and the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology (Coordinated Framework) affecting the development and use of these plants. The study will

  1. review the principles in the NAS Council's white paper, "Introduction of rDNA-Engineered Organisms into the Environment" (1987), for their scientific validity and assess their appropriateness for current decisions regarding GMPP plants,

  2. review scientific data which address the risks and benefits of GMPP plants,

  3. examine the existing and proposed regulations in light of the identified risks and benefits,

  4. examine existing and proposed regulations to qualitatively assess their impacts on research, development, and marketing of GMPP plants, and

  5. provide recommendations needed to address the identified risks/benefits, and, if warranted, the existing and proposed regulation of these GMPP plants.

In coining the phrase "genetically modified pest protected plants" to describe plants genetically engineered to kill or resist insect pests, the committee rejected both EPA's well worn phrase, "plant pesticide," and "plant-expressed protectants," a relatively new phrase agreed to by scientists at a CAST meeting March 16.

EPA's term "plant pesticides" has long bothered many scientists and members of the food industry who say that by calling foods pesticides, the agency is giving biotech crops a negative connotation.

EPA officials have said they are willing to change the terminology, but they want to change it only once. Janet Anderson, director of EPA's Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, told the committee the agency is "looking to late summer of fall" for coming out with the final rule. Within the next month, the agency plans to puts out a rule on proposed name changes for "plant pesticides".

Semantics aside, there appears to be little actual disagreement among major agricultural biotechnology companies, EPA, and many environmental groups over the need for a predictable federal rule to regulate Bt-corn, Bt-cotton, Bt-potatoes and other crops which are genetically engineered to express the toxin Bacillus thuringiensis, and to review new, proposed plant pesticide applications. Since 1995, EPA has registered eight plant pesticide products, Anderson said, paving the way for commercial U.S. planting of millions of acres of Bt corn, Bt cotton and Bt potato.

Despite the fact that the Plant Pesticide rule is just a proposal, Abramson pointed out, EPA has been implementing the program for several years. "In fact, the only thing that would change if EPA were to issue its final rule tomorrow, is there would be a number of exemptions issued on the books, " he said.

"We think it's important to get the rule finalized to provide clarity," said Alan Goldhammer, executive director of technical affairs for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. He noted that the potential development of resistance to Bt crops by insect pests is "a major concern of our members." Bt resistance is also a key concern of environmental groups and organic farmers.

Panel urged to consider European perspective on GMO foods

Jane Rissler, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, urged the committee to recommend a strengthening of the EPA plant pesticide rule. Given the real concerns about the impact on agricultural trade that have grown out of the current U.S. regulatory scheme, which does not require the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), "this is not the time to see the further weakening of U.S. regulation" of biotechnology," she said.

While the Food and Drug Administration has allowed genetically engineered foods to enter the U.S. food supply unlabeled since 1966, citizens in European countries have insisted that foods containing GMOs be labeled as such. Last year, U.S. corn growers lost $200 million worth of corn exports to Europe because the American crop contained a small percentage of GM varieties not cleared for entry into the European Union.

"For many reasons, people around the world have concluded that genetically engineered food is different," Rissler said. "The debate is over. It's been overtaken by events." Genetically engineered crops "now receive a higher level of scrutiny simply because they are genetically engineered."

Peter Raven, National Academy of Science Home Secretary, also urged committee members to consider 'the reality of the European situation" during the course of their study. Consumer protests against GMO foods are widespread in England, where the public has demanded that GMO products be labeled in grocery stores and restaurants.

Acceptance of biotechnology in the world, "is being driven by Europe, not the United States," Raven said, noting that a key issue among Europeans is consumer choice.

"Huge mistakes have been made" by U.S. industry and government regulators "in minimizing" the significance of those choices early on, Raven added. "U.S. regulation cannot be divorced from the world market," he warned.


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Date: 4 May 1999 21:40:35 -0500
From: Betty Martini Mission-Possible-USA@altavista.net
Subject: Re: Chris Wheeler's rBGH story for NZ SOIL & HEALTH mag

Chris, you're such an incredible writer! I'll forward it on. Have you changed your email address.? have you been getting mail from me?

All my best,
Betty

At 01:16 PM 5/5/99 +1200, you wrote:

Date sent: Wed 5 May 1999
To: Betty Martini Mission-Possible-USA@altavista.net

Is the NZ Dairy Industry Getting Ready to Commit Suicide?

Chris Wheeler's rBGH story for NZ SOIL & HEALTH mag

Sections:
Good-bye tradition
Bovine growth hormone (rBGH)
rBGH & Our Dairy Industry

Good-bye tradition

Monsanto is trying to get its unpopular bovine growth hormone into the NZ dairy industry. If it succeeds, says Chris Wheeler, you can kiss goodbye to the NZ export dairy trade and the image of Clean & Green New Zealand.

(Auckland 21.4.99) What's the best way to sabotage a traditional food product and guarantee its producers go bankrupt and out of business?

Yup! That's right -- let even just a faint suspicion get around that the product either poisons you or contributes to a terminal disease.

Now wait on a minute, I'm not suggesting anything even a wee bit subversive. Actually quite the opposite.

What I'm pondering on is the way pretty pragmatic, practical people like farmers, substantially less practical people like scientists and experts, and clearly impractical people like regulators and bureaucrats troop down some common, often 'scientific', dead end and commit ritual suicide in the consumer market place by poisoning a common and popular item of food.

The Americans were the first in recent times with the Alar apples, organophosphated grapes and aldicarb-poisoned bananas in the early 90s. The Poms followed in the mid-90s with the Mad Cow Disease beef scare, in which -- leaving aside the brain prion damage as a red herring issue - the most likely cause has since been shown to be organophosphate poisoning induced by Britain's crazy but compulsory heavy pesticide dosing of cattle (no purely organic cattle were ever affected).

As anyone associated with beef farming will tell you, the Mad Cow Disease scare is still affecting beef prices and more particularly in the countries most concerned -- Great Britain, of course, and most of the rest of the beef-consuming European Union.

Bovine growth hormone (rBGH)

It's not surprising, therefore, that the Europeans, the Canadians and the Brits are so far refusing to have a bar of what is commonly called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or -- the title Monsanto prefer because it doesn't give the show away that it's another GE product - bovine somatotropin (BST).

Monsanto sell this hormone cow poison under the trade name Posilac and right at this moment they are trying to get the NZ National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to give their approval for the product to be released in this country. Under the new Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act, which took effect in April, a 30-day public consultation process will be required before Posilac can be registered.

All the current research unsponsored by Monsanto or those owing Monsanto a favour (which probably cuts out all the "scientific evidence' in favour of Posilac presently sitting on the Advisory Committee's desk), indicates that rBGH/Posilac loads cow milk down with varying degrees of poisonous pus (it causes mastitis and a lowered immune system), hauls calcium out of the cowis skeleton leading to bone breakages and shortens the life of the cow by some years.

RBGH/Posilac DOES increase 'milk' (or, more correctly, pus) production, however, and for lazy, incompetent dairy farmers it offers a definite plus n PROVIDING, that is, the dairy company they supply ignores the extra pus and antibiotic load in the milk, which, in the United States at any rate, a large number of dairy companies seem prepared to do.

As a consequence, Americans are turning away from all the common milk products in increasing numbers, just as the Europeans have turned away from beef and many Americans dropped Alar apples from the menu. A profound disquiet, egged on by the blanket approval of GE food in North America, is now beginning to build up in the US fuelled by a suspicion that the last thing the food industry can be trusted with is our daily diet.

The mood is reflected in the dramatic rise in the consumption of organic dairy products, which, as everyone knows, are the only ones guaranteed to be free of hormones and antibiotics. Sales of organic milk in the USA nearly doubled to almost $62 billion in 1997, from about $32 million in 1996, according to dairy industry figures.

With this mood spreading, it's not surprising that books like Robert Cohen's Milk -- The Deadly Poison are becoming Internet bestsellers (check out http://www.NOTMILK.com the Internet) with leading statements like 'Your glass of milk, even low fat, is awash in fat (the equivalent of three slices of bacon), cholesterol, antibiotics, bacteria, and -- the most distasteful -- pus.' Cohen and a growing health lobby are in fact pointing out that ALL milk is bad for you and not just GE-tampered milk and, what is more, as Cohen's Website indicates, the evidence is all there to back his fears.

rBGH & Our Dairy Industry

It doesn't take much commonsense to work out that if NZ allows rBGH/BST into the dairy industry it could not only help destroy our export dairy trade n which relies very much on our Clean & Green image -- but help accelerate the growing disquiet with all GE food with a consequent general decline in the conventional/chemical food market. With over 95 percent of the NZ dairy industry at the conventional/chemical end that could well put the skids under the whole dairy industry, our biggest agricultural product earner.

So far Food Minister John Luxton seems to be woefully ignorant of rBGH's disastrous history, although the NZ Dairy Board, when approached by the Soil & Health Association over its policy towards the hormone's use in the NZ dairy herd, has consistently taken the position that use of the hormone is presently off the Board's agenda. A Board spokesman told me last March that "We have a position that we wouldn't touch the stuff. We won't use it because consumers elsewhere are uncomfortable with its use."

Presently moves are afoot for the two heavyweights of the NZ dairy industry, NZ Dairy Group and Kiwi Co-op Dairies, to join forces in an aggressive overseas marketing campaign and there is already talk that the new combine needs to get on board with GE technology which would inevitably put rBGH in the frame.

Despite the Dairy Board's present position, it is a fact of life that the NZ dairy industry's naivity over the whole genetic engineering issue makes it extraordinarily vulnerable to a bad decision over the use of bovine growth hormones.

What we could be on the brink of is the mass suicide of a major player in this country's agricultural export trade.


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Date: 4 May 1999 21:40:35 -0500
From: Betty Martini Mission-Possible-USA@altavista.net
Subject: Re: Chris Wheeler's rBGH story for NZ SOIL & HEALTH mag

Facts about Monsanto's milk hormone Posilac

Monsanto's "Posilac" is widely used in the U.S. About 13,000 U.S. dairy farmers inject their herds with it to increase the cow's milk production, generating about $400 million in annual sales for the St. Louis biotechnology and pharmaceutical concern. Approved in 1993 by the FDA on the basis of shonky data from the company itself, Monsanto was given clearance to market rBGH throughout the US. Monsanto even succeeded in making it an offence for milk companies to declare on labels that their milk was 'rBGH/BST-free'. However, Canada's government scientists challenged the scientific validity of FDA's 1993 safety decision on grounds that approval for rBGH had been based only on a biassed summary of Monsantois own data, not on the data itself.

Furthermore, the original Monsanto data (not just the summary used for the FDA's approval) when finally accessed by Canadian scientists, showed strong evidence of potentially serious health problems to anyone consuming rBGH milk. Professor Samuel Epstein of the University of Illinois has also presented substantial evidence that rBGH milk contains a growth factor indicated as a trigger in cancer, particularly breast and prostate cancers.

No other countries other than the US, Mexico, Brazil and a few other Mickey Mouse economies obligated to the US have approved rBGH for use, although Monsanto has sought, or is seeking, approval in Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and Canada.

*****************************************************************************

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  2. Tell your doctor and all of your friends!

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

VISIT http://www.dorway.com Get links to over 30 sites on aspartame
VISIT http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame ..FAQs & Cases
VISIT http://www.notmilk.com Exposing Bovine Growth Hormone

Disability and Death are not acceptable costs of business!


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Date: 5 May 1999 07:38:29 -0500
From: Jon mail@icsenglish.com

UK Environment Agency GMO workshop paper

Norfolk Genetic Information Network: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin

On 28 April 1999 a GMO workshop was held on behalf of the Environment Agency (EA) for England and Wales at the Royal Horticultural Society's Horticultural Halls Conference Centre, London.

The EA http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk is an executive government agency responsible for various aspects of environmental protection. It's board is directly responsible to the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Below is a briefing paper for workshop delegates prepared by Mark Griffiths, Environment spokesman for the UK Natural Law Party, who was one of the formal speakers during the day.

Other speakers included representatives from the EA itself, The Department of the Environment, Tranport and the Regions (DETR), English Nature (the government's own statutory adviser on England's ecology), the Centre for Exploitation of Science and Technology (a public-private sector partnership founded by the British government), and the Universities of Lancaster and Surrey.

Invited participants in the workshop comprised personnel from a range of governmental and NGO bodies.

The workshop was entitled "Genetic Modification and Sustainability: Working Towards Consensus."

At its board meeting in March the EA strongly endorsed a precautionary approach to the use of GMOs and emphasised the need to ensure that the environment was at the centre of the debate http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/modules/MOD46.12.html.

NATURAL LAW PARTY WESSEX
nlpwessex@bigfoot.com     http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex


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Date: 5 May 1999 07:38:29 -0500
From: Jon mail@icsenglish.com

"The Millennium Choice - Genetic Engineering or Natural Law?"

Mark Griffiths BSc FRICS FAAV
Environment Spokesman Natural Law Party (UK)

(This article is posted at
http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/eagmconf.htm
if you wish to provide web site links to it.)

The development of human civilisation in recent centuries has been shaped to a large degree through the discoveries of modern science. Science has provided an objective, systematic means to understand the laws of nature and to apply the knowledge it provides for the benefit of both individuals and communities.

Agriculture and food production have been major participants in this process. Up until now two key technologies which have produced profound agricultural revolutions have been the mechanisation of farming which began in the 19th century and the chemical based paradigm which developed chiefly after the second world war.

Both technologies represent interventions by man in the 'natural order of things', but do so at quite different levels of natural law. The chemical approach acts at a level which is considerably more complex than the mechanical, and as a result requires a much more extensive breadth of knowledge for it to be applied without creating unintentional life-damaging effects.

Few people question the value of the mechanisation of agriculture. However, over the years hindsight has required the withdrawal of various agro-chemical products from use because of their damage to health or the environment, and even now the true effect of those that remain in use is not fully understood. These difficulties arise because the technology is applied at a level of nature's functioning in respect of which science's own knowledge base is inadequate. Additionally errors made at the chemical level are much more pervasive and insidious than those made at a mechanical level.

Now, as we arrive at the beginning of the third millennium, we find sections of the scientific community (in conjunction with powerful commercial interests) presenting genetic engineering as the next and most desirable step in our ability to transform our systems of agricultural production. Higher yields, production from otherwise unproductive land, reduced chemical usage, improved nutritional content of food and many other hoped for benefits are the goal of this new technology.

But genetic engineering operates on the basis of manipulating and controlling the DNA of living organisms. This involves intervention at a level of natural law infinitely more complex than any previous technology applied in the field of food and agriculture, and in respect of which there are few reliable science-based predictive models.

By contrast after three hundred years or more of theoretical and empirical progress physics is a highly developed science. It is able to tell us almost everything there is to know about the nature of non-living matter from sub-atomic particles through to the behaviour of stars. It even reveals that the behaviour of such diverse microscopic and macroscopic systems are related and connected - something which would have been inconceivable at the time of Newton and certainly before the development of the unified field theories of the twentieth century.

Above all what the new physics has told us is that to understand the functioning of any natural system it is not sufficient to have knowledge of its components, it is also necessary to understand relationships within the system. And so we have found that at nearly the most profound level of physical functioning - the nuclear level - powerful forces are involved which man does not have the capacity to contain with any degree of long term reliability.

As with genetic engineering today, nuclear technology was presented by its proponents as having the potential to solve vital world resource problems. Nuclear energy would be so cheap and efficient that it would not be necessary to meter electricity supplies. That was the promise, but today we know better. The German government now has a commitment, however vague, to phase out nuclear power and in the UK the nuclear energy industry is the only public utility the government is unable to privatise because no one is willing to take on the costs of its long term liabilities.

In relative terms the science underpinning genetic engineering finds itself where physics sat three hundred years ago. Certainly the vast majority of genetic components and relationships are nowhere near being identified, let alone understood.

Physics is already highly developed because it has had the task of integrating only a handful of fundamental components and forces, all of which ultimately are derived from a common source. In genetic engineering the number of components and relationships is almost infinite.

Even in simple biological organisms like bacteria, the total potential interactions between genetic components run into many millions. These relationships have until now been managed by the intelligence of the organism's own DNA. It is now proposed that these relationships should be 'controlled' by the same species whose own limited intelligence has mistakenly and irretrievably peppered the globe with unmanageable nuclear waste - man.

In traditional plant breeding it is the highly sophisticated discriminatory intelligence of the plant which ultimately determines which genes may be accepted as part of the newly created organism, and it is that same intelligence which determines their placement and functioning within it. This process is driven by the information and knowledge contained within the DNA of the plant itself and exercised as an integral part of the natural sexual breeding process.

With genetic engineering this process is completely bypassed. Single genes are selected by the 'scientist' and randomly inserted into the genome of the host organism. The scientist has no control over their placement. In fact the plant geneticist has little or no knowledge as to where the new genes should be placed in any case; and usually he does not know where they have actually lodged even after his work has been completed. He simply "hopes for the best." Furthermore the inserted genes will frequently be taken from totally unrelated species.

Because of the limitations of the technology, in most cases the process will also necessarily involve the insertion of genetic material from at least one foreign pathogen, the most common of which (the 35S promoter) is taken from a virus which is very similar to Hepatitis B and related to HIV. The consequences of using such elements have even been questioned by researchers at the John Innes Institute, one of the UK's premier research establishments in the field of agricultural genetic engineering. Despite this, routine use of such pathogen-derived elements continues.

After only 20 years or so of development genetic engineering still involves processes which are random and 'trial and error' in nature, and in that sense they are imprecise and unscientific. The biotechnologist has little or no prior predictive power as to how a new gene will behave in the host organism. Without demonstrable predictive power it is inappropriate to refer to any process as 'engineering' or 'science-based'. As Einstein himself once said: "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?".

Let us be absolutely clear about this - genetic engineering is only just at the most basic and primitive stage of its own research.

If this somewhat alarming analysis is correct, then given the rapid introduction of genetically engineered crops and related technologies in the United States and elsewhere, we would expect things to be going wrong already - and indeed they are. Things are going badly wrong even after supposedly rigorous statutory testing and approval procedures. Here are some examples of the 'successes' of post-approval genetic engineering to date:

What these experiences tell us is that with genetic engineering we are moving from so-called 'science' to applied technology in a way which is invasive almost beyond imagination, and with only a tiny fragment of the knowledge necessary to predict the results. The chief executive of Monsanto has himself described the effects of genetic engineering as "unknown, and to some degree unknowable"; and yet we are proposing to use this technology to irrevocably change the fundamental molecular structure of the world's food supply utilising un-recallable, self-replicating organisms.

What little science there is already tells us that gene placement and inter-chromosomal relationships between genes are important, and yet even many of the genes themselves within the plants that we are currently modifying have yet to be identified. There is not a single agricultural plant which has had its gene map completed.

Even before properly establishing this elementary information, we are then proceeding to randomly insert into our food foreign genetic material from viruses and bacteria which have never been an integral part of the human diet. In the words of Professor Philip James, the principal advisor to the UK government on the establishment of the proposed Food Standards Agency: "The perception that everything is totally straightforward and safe is utterly naive. I don't think we fully understand the dimensions of what we're getting into."

This scenario is far from encouraging. The scale and penetration of what is proposed is almost beyond belief. It is estimated by some that the majority of the world's food supply will be genetically engineered within 5-10 years if what currently sits in the corporate pipeline is allowed to go ahead.

What this astonishing situation reveals is not simply a problem concerning the 'science' of genetic engineering itself, or even of the health of the relationship between science, commercial interests, regulatory authorities, and government. What it demonstrates is a problem of our own consciousness. It is essentially a problem of the way we think, both as individuals and collectively as a society. And what it particularly demonstrates is our inability to learn from experience and to think and act holistically.

As such the debate about genetic engineering raises questions not simply about the use of the technology itself, but about the very nature of the society that we are trying to create at the end of the twentieth century. Do we wish to build a society which harnesses natural law, or one that violates it; one that nurtures life (including our own) or one that destroys it?

These are questions of immense importance, and they are ones not to be considered on an exclusive basis solely by senior scientific, commercial and political professionals. These are questions to be considered by every man and every woman, and particularly by those who are most directly responsible for the thought processes and values of our society as we enter the new millennium - our teachers and educators.

---------------------------------

Mark Griffiths BSc FRICS FAAV Environment Spokesman Natural Law Party (UK)

January 1999 (Copyright Reserved)

(The Natural Law Party does not consider the risks posed by genetically engineered crops and food to be realistically containable, and is active in over 80 countries in seeking a permanent global ban. More information on these risks is available at http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex .)

Footnotes:

  1. For more information on the 35S viral promoter visit http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/jccamvir.htm (Joseph E. Cummins Professor Emeritus (Genetics) Dept. of Plant Sciences University of Western Ontario)

  2. Bob Shapiro, Chief Executive of Monsanto, admitting that the effects of genetic engineering are unknown and "to some degree" unknowable (SWF News interview, San Francisco, 27 October 1998):

    "But we realize that with any new and powerful technology with unknown, and to some degree unknowable - by definition - effects, then there necessarily will be an appropriate level at least, and maybe even more than that, of public debate and public interest."


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Date: 5 May 1999 13:22:34 -0500
From: joe cummins jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

Biotech Money Guys

May 5, 1999, Prof. Joe Cummins, e-mail: jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

The April issue of Genetic Engineering News lists the molecular millionaires, the top hundred individuals harvesting money from genetic engineering. The list shows that 89 of the hundred have PhD, MD or MD plus PhD degrees.

The list of money harvesters come from medical applications except Shapiro (54 million) nine from top of the list, Mahoney (42 million) and Dr. Needleman PhD (9.9 million) from Monsanto Co. The top money guy is Bowes Jr (286 million). from Amgen. Third on the list Bill Rutter Phd ($61.5 million) Chiron with whom I and a few others worked to set up a program in molecular developmental biology at the University of Washington in the late 1960is. Bill moved to University of California San Fransico and cooperated with the first patenteeis of genetic engineering. There was one woman Dr. Sharon Mates PhD( $2.3 million) of North American vaccine on the list.


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Date: 5 May 1999 14:56:09 -0500
From: Colleen Robison-Spencer crobison@mnsinc.com

Subject: WASH.POST 5/05/99 The Joy of Soy

I wonder who suggested this article?

Colleen

Suddenly, A Healthy Craze for Soy

By Carole Sugarman, sugarmanc@washpost.com
Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, May 4, 1999; Page F8

At Zuki Moon, the Asian noodle restaurant in Foggy Bottom, chef Mary Richter is working on a tofu-tasting menu. Every course will contain the soybean curd that people either love or loathe.

At Starbucks, as at other other chain coffee bars, you can get your latte made with soy milk. "Enough people asked for it so we decided to offer it as an option," says Starbucks spokesman Chris Gimbl.

Soy, the latest hero of the health-conscious, is infiltrating America, and the evidence is everywhere, from coffee houses to noodle houses, from natural food stores to mainstream supermarkets.

Scientists, intrigued by the possibility that soy may have a positive effect on everything from menopausal symptoms to cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease, are flocking to their laboratories, and the results of their research are being eagerly heeded by baby boomers wanting to stave off diseases and live longer.

Vegetarianism continues to gain adherents, particularly among teenagers. Soy provides the kind of protein that they might otherwise get only from animal products. Add all that to the double-digit growth in the Asian population in the U.S. and it's no wonder that soy foods keep popping up.

Of all the studies of the potential health benefits of soy, its ability to lower cholesterol is the most well documented. So far, the research on everything else is "encouraging but still speculative," says Mark Messina, an adjunct professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University and co-author of "The Simple Soybean and Your Health" (Avery Publishing, 1994).

Studies have shown, however, that 25 grams of soy protein per day have a cholesterol-lowering effect, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That's the equivalent of about four cups of some soy milks, a very tall order for most Americans.

As for the sales of those soy milks as well as other soy products, "the growth has been dramatic," says Peter Golbitz, president of Soyatech Inc., a publishing and consulting firm for the soybean industry. Sales of soy foods totaled an estimated $1 billion in 1998, a 400 percent increase from 1980, according to Golbitz. Much of that growth is recent; in the past two years, certain categories have jumped by 30 percent, some individual products experienced 100 percent growth and some companies have doubled in size, says Golbitz.

The biggest boost has been for soy milk n sales of $201 million in 1998 represent a growth rate of 160 percent over the two previous years. Why this spurt? Milk is the "easiest, most familiar food to people," says Nancy Chapman, executive director of the Soyfoods Association of North America, adding that people find it easy to pour soy milk on their cereal every morning.

Burgers are certainly familiar food too. McDonald's is test-marketing the McVeggie, a soy-based burger, in 12 Manhattan restaurants. The '50s-style diner, Johnny Rockets, has a loyal following for its soy-based Streamliner burger. A frozen soy-based burger was recently formulated for Hard Rock Cafes; it's also being sold in supermarkets. And for the Marriott Corp., which supplies food to close to 900 colleges and universities, meatless burgers are now commonplace. In fact, a study conducted by food-processing giant Archer Daniels Midland found that 97 percent of colleges and universities now offer meatless entrees on their menus, at least some of which are soy-based. There are even efforts underway to get more soy into the school lunch program.

But the biggest bounce is coming from natural food companies, which are rolling out a wide range of products made from soybeans: dairy foods, deli meats, breakfast meats, hot dogs, nut butters and beverages. Veggie burgers, which have been around for some time, are just "the tip of the iceberg," says Randy Wollert, senior brand manager for the Ohio-based Worthington Foods, which recently introduced soy-based buffalo wings, corn dogs and a product called Tuno, a substitute for tuna.

At Whole Foods Fresh Fields markets, which have long carried soy-based products, soy nuts have become one of the top 30 selling items in the grocery department. Giant has expanded its selection, offering more varieties of tofu and meat alternatives in produce sections. Safeway is being approached by companies "almost every day" to carry new soy-based items, according to spokesman Craig Muckle.

Small natural-food firms, many of which had been slogging along with soy-based products for years, learned something from the big guys: Make it quick and convenient and they will come. Time-strapped Americans aren't willing to save the planet n or their arteries n unless it's easy to do.

So Yves Veggie Cuisine of Vancouver, British Columbia, has just introduced the first two entrees of a new line of soy-based meals for the microwave. Veggie Country Stew (with soy protein meatballs) and Veggie Chili (with soy protein ground round) are "instant meals ready to eat in three minutes," says Gerry MacKinnon, the company's U.S. marketing manager.

"One of the missions of our company is to incorporate [soy] into the American lifestyle," say James Terman, a vice president for White Wave Inc., a Boulder, Colo., company that makes Silk brand soy yogurt, milk and flavored tofus and will be bringing out a new soy-based coffee creamer in June. "To do that, we need to make foods that are friendly and familiar to people."

So three years ago White Wave introduced soy milk in refrigerated cardboard cartons, rather than aseptic boxes, to make it look more like regular milk. It flavors its baked tofu with Italian, Thai or Mexican spices and its refrigerated tempeh entree n a fermented soybean cake n with marinara sauce.

Advances in processing and flavorings have also helped the soy food cause. Wollert says Worthington Foods' new processing equipment has allowed the company to shorten cooking times and improve texture, and that new flavorings are being used to mask the sometimes sharp flavor of soybeans.

Genille Biotech has been trying to make soy foods taste more like the products they are mimicking. For example, while vanilla has historically been used to cover up the beany taste of soy milk, Genille Biotech has come up with natural flavorings to make it taste "more and more like cows' milk," says Stephen Beaver, sales manager for the Milwaukee-based company.

Similarly, Worthington Foods sells a soy burger called Quarter Prime with a texture that mimics a real hamburger, made to attract meat eaters, says Wollert. Still, the soy food industry has a long way to go. An informal tasting of a sampling of soy-based cheeses and meats showed that rubbery texture is still a major problem, to put it politely. Plus, those natural food colorings used for deli meats and hot dogs are far too unnatural-looking, even for the most casual carnivore. And in the case of a soy yogurt, whether vanilla or fruit-flavored, that beany, barny soybean flavor was hard to ignore.

"There's still an image problem to overcome," says Karen Kafer, spokeswoman for Kellogg's, which is one of many major food manufacturers that are closely watching the soy bandwagon but are not ready to jump on it. From 1945 to 1959, Kellogg's sold a cold cereal called Corn Soya, a mixture of corn and soy flakes. Kafer said the company has been getting requests from consumers but has no plans to bring it back.

Yet for soy to really reach the masses, it will take a company like Kellogg's, says Messina, the nutrition professor. "I'm not sure that some of those smaller companies can get a breakfast cereal on the shelves next to Count Chocula," he said.

Big companies may be more apt to promote the joy of soy come October, when the FDA makes a final decision about whether it will allow food processors to make a health claim on their products. In November, the agency proposed that the labels of soy-based foods containing at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving could state that the product may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

That's a lot of soy, even for Tandy Dickerson, a regular customer at Zuki Moon who watches her diet like a hawk. For Dickerson, whose apartment at Watergate South is a six-minute walk from the New Hampshire Avenue restaurant, the urge comes a few times a month, usually at 6:30 at night. That's when she leans over to her husband and says, "Let's go. I'm in the tofu mood."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company


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Date: 5 May 1999 17:46:57 -0500
From: Colleen Robison-Spencer crobison@mnsinc.com

Any errors in this article are probably mine. I could not find it in the websites.

C.

-----------------------------------------

Calif. Company to Buy Unit that Cloned Dolly

Washington Post 05 May, 1999 P.E2 Businees Section

California biotechnology company Geron Corp. said it will buy Roslin Bio-Med, a research unit of the nonprofit Roslin Institute in Scotland that was responsible for cloning Dolly the sheep. The price will be about $25.9 million in Geron stock.

Geron agreed to buy the research unit in exchange for 2.1 million of its shares, based on the stock's closing price of $12.37 1/2 on Monday, company officials said. The unit will be called Geron Bio-Med.

Roslin Institute and Geron also agreed to let the unit use Roslin's facilities; Geron will provide about $20 million in research funding over six years.

The two companies plan to engineer and clone a special type of universal human cell, and then steer those cells into becoming heart, liver or brain cells. If the technology being tested in laboratory dishes and ainmal experiments is successful, it could provide ways to transplant human tissue without fear of rejection and postpone tissue degeneration.

"It's a bold step, with very broad applications," said Geron chief executive Ronald Eastman.

Geron reported the news before the start of trading on U.S. markets yesterday. Shares fell 12 1/2 cents to close at $12.25.

In November, Geron's rocketed when the company said company-funded research succeeded in cloning "pleuripotent stem cells" from human embryos. The undeveloped embryonic cells can be molded into becoming any type of human cell. Geron is also developing technology aimed at slowing the cellular-aging process.

Since then, other companies have found a different kind of stem cell in adult bone marrow that while less malleable than the embryo stem cells- can be coaxed into becoming muscle, fat or cartilage. Still, researchers have not learned how to steer the development of the stem cells int a particular type of mature cell, Eastman said.

The Rosling Institute made headlines in February 1997 when it announced that, along with British biotechnology company PPL Therapeutice PLC, it had created Dolly, the first sheep to be cloned from an adult mammal cell.


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Date: 5 May 1999 21:40:36 -0500
From: Sprinkraft@aol.com


ACRES,USA:
A Journal of Regenerative Agriculture

T R A N S I T I O N S
by Steven Sprinkel

26 April 1999

Codex Report: CCFL, Ottawa 4/99

by Steven Sprinkel, 26 April 1999

Sections:
Codex Report
Labeling Genetically Modified Organisms
The Market: Four Years Ahead of Regulators
GMO Crop Insurance Initiative for Organic Farmers

Codex Report

At the end of April, the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) met in Ottawa, Canada. The most important issues on the Codex agenda this year were the guidelines for mandatory Labeling of Foods Obtained through Biotechnology and guidelines for Organically Produced Foods.

The CCFL is one regulatory branch of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. An organization that uses Latin to describe itself may need a bit of explanation, although ACRES has been reporting since 1995 on the work of this international commission empowered through the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization to develop trade harmonization for peculiar and not so extraordinary things we eat. As food continues to be more industrially specialized and processed, even milk, fish sticks, and organic apples need clarification.

In trade negotiation we observe that occasionally apples are not always apples because politics is capable of the slight-of-hand required to turn them into oranges. Or even bananas. Some of the discussions were mind-numbingly, sometimes purposefully, obscure. What will it all mean? The World Trade Organization will increasingly use Codex as its baseline in settling trade disputes. The WTO operates under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs ( GATT), AKA, The Uruguay Round.

The Codex Committee is composed of member countries, represented formally by government officials, for example, the US Food and Drug Administration, the USDA National Organic Program and the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service. In addition to the US representatives, among the most outspoken authorities at the Ottawa organic meeting were the European Community, Sweden, France, Argentina, and Canada. In this unusual regulatory framework non-governmental organizations like the Rural Advancement Foundation International ( RAFI), Consumers International and the International Federation of Organic Farming Movements (IFOAM) also were authorized to speak and affect outcomes.

The US delegation also includes private sector representatives, chosen because of their expertise in the given field under discussion. This year the Organic Farmers Marketing Association, The Organic Trade Association, and Coleman Natural Products advised the official US delegation. Consensus is the goal, and is achieved by much discussion. The meeting brings together a fascinating mix of parties, exposing the representative from the International Food Additives Council and the International Dairy Federation to the perspectives raised by the Consumeris Union, the Japan Offspring Fund and organic farmers from coastal France like IFOAM President Herve La Prairie. Much education and networking occurs outside the cavernous Government Conference Centre.

The specific details of some organic standards proved difficult to harmonize to the satisfaction of all the participants. The ironies are literally amazing. The United Statesi general trade position usually tends to support the laissez-faire needs of multinational corporations, but in the organic realm it is the USDA requesting a more absolutist definition for organic livestock production. Some European countries, for example, prefer exemptions on the requirement for 100% organic livestock feeds and seek five-year conversion periods.

Meanwhile, in the general Codex background, the specter of the politically powerful US-based biotechnology industry looms, insisting that there be no guidelines whatsoever for labeling genetically engineered foods. Therefore, the US position on organic production was the more consumer-friendly perspective.

USDA National Organic Program Director Keith Jones and Jim Riddle, representing IFOAMis International Accreditation Services as well as the Independent Organic Inspectors Association, debated the livestock section with some success, using the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 as precedent for their arguments.

Much improvement was made on the general materials criteria for organic production, and though the livestock standards were not moved forward towards authorization, harmonization was advanced by the Organic Working Group, which deliberated for three full days before the official meeting, drafting and redrafting texts. However, aquaculture and apiculture were not included in the Codex organic livestock document. Concomitantly, these same production sectors have yet to be fully addressed by the National Organic Standards Board, which meets again in June.

Some may ask: " What sort of work is called progress ?" One answer would be that it seems now that the term " nature identical" may not be used in the final text of the Codex organic production guidelines. "Nature identical" is the term used to identify a manufactured product or production in-put that has an analog in nature: it could be isolated artificially by humans, for example, carbon dioxide. Eventually, "nature identical" fell out of favor to some who thought that it is absurd to imply that something is identical to nature, that it opened the door to the use of synthetics in organic production, and that in the era of genetic engineering, "nature identical" seems to have too much in common with "substantially equivalent", the terminology upon which anti-labeling forces base their arguments. Therefore, few organic adherents want much to do with "nature identical" any further.

Deciphering the multiwoven texts ( I brought back around 15 pounds of new paper from Ottawa) can be awesomely stupifying; there is no logical entry point except at the beginning, but there is not enough space here to preamble the discussion. Form doesn't count as much as substance/content, but without it every brilliance would get dusted by the machine. Halloo Monsanto dot com!

At times, the Codex organic participants seemed to be writing an International Extension Service Organic Production Manual. Frank Massong, representing Food Canada, repeatedly voiced concern that the proposed language was " prescriptive and paternalistic" in its approach. One tough nut that is at least half-cracked will be the assurance that organic livestock production does not imitate the factory-farming model, characterized by feedlots filled with cattle miles from where their feed is grown.. This standard of production will be among the most difficult to employ in the National Organic Program as well as internationally. Perhaps the most vexing aspect has more to do with taste and marketability than holistic production. Will consumers eat grass-fed beef because it is organic, although their taste buds are accustomed to a product finished on grain for 3-4 months prior to slaughter?

The enforcement and trade aspects of Codex that are of utmost importance to producers and consumers: " What will it mean for domestic production and marketing? Does a weak international standard drag down a strong national standard?"

Yes, international standards will have a negative affect on imports if Italian-made pasta includes eggs from chickens not fed 100% organic feed, and 100% organic feed is mandated in the US. It will also have a negative affect on exports, if European countries, or Korea and Japan, allow conventional grain in livestock production when Canada, the US and Australia might benefit from shipping organic livestock feeds in order to fulfill a stricter standard.

A better answer than that can be found by asking the ultimate question: Should organic production be considered a Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary ( SPS) concern or an issue that should be dealt with as a Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT)? This questionis answer guides sovereign nations as well as the World Trade Organization.

You may logically believe that organic farming has everything to do with health and the environment, which falls under the heading of a Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary measure, but organic production standards have been designed so that Organic is perceived as a system of production. Organic is a system that is self-defined, and while keyed to parallel testing systems ( EPA Class 3 inerts for example) Organic exists outside the realm of measures such as the US Food Quality Protection Act.

At this point we have to defer to the politics involved: regulators donit want to authorize products that indicate something is wrong with the rest of the food supply. Long ago governments refused to treat organic farming and its products as a health issue, prompting the creation of laws and standards which infer health and environmental protection only as a standard for this production system.

Therefore, if Organic is going to be discussed within the context of Technical Barriers to Trade, it is important that international production standards be equivalent to the National Organic Program or one can be sure that there will be barriers to trade when cheese from French cows or goats not fed 100% organic feed hits the dock in New York City.

Labeling Genetically Modified Organisms

Twenty-three member countries and a number of International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) were named in Ottawa, Canada to a Working Group on Biotechnology by Codex Committee Chair Anne MacKenzie of Canada. MacKenzie originally asked for the Working Group to be chaired by either representatives of the US, the European Community, or Canada. Robert Lake, the US Delegate, deferred the chairmanship to Canada in a gesture demonstrating that the leadership of the Working Group should be held by a more neutral Codex member. This was also agreed to by the EC representative.

The "Proposed Draft Recommendations for the Labeling of Foods Obtained Through Biotechnology" remains at Step 3 in the Codex Committee procedure. Final implementation of labeling requirements are at least 4 years away, since Step 8 is regarded as the final authoritative action. Limited activity by INGO supporters of comprehensive labeling focused on moving the procedure immediately to Step 6 to emphasize the severity of the issues raised by consumers regarding ethics, the environment and allergenicity. However, this initiative was not brought to the floor.

The Biotechnology Working Group will labor more intensively on developing labeling criteria for foods derived from Biotechnology. One of its first tasks will be determining the appropriate definition of foods derived from this production and processing technology. The April 28 morning meeting, with hundreds of delegates in attendance, identified that " foods derived from genetic engineering" may be a more appropriate term to employ than " foods derived from Biotechnology". Other proposed terms included " modern Biotechnology" and " Genetically modified foods". More comprehensive definitions and real-market descriptions of the products need to be created.

According to a number of INGO attendees, the statements from member countries demonstrated an increased awareness of the concerns of consumers and the scientific community in comparison to the conceptualizations made at last year's Codex Committee meeting. It was also noted by Chairperson MacKenzie that, whereas 25% of members showed significant interest in comprehensive labeling in 1998, this year a clear majority of member countries now support labeling of one sort or another.

One significant differentiation concerns those countries who have altered their position and now support labeling, but asked that pre-processed products such as sugar and oils be excluded from the labeling provisions. Owing to the fact that the greatest acreage planted to genetically modified foods is in oil products such as canola, soy and corn, and to a certain extent cotton these exclusions will therefore be ineffective in providing comprehensive labeling. The sugar angle primes the pump for GMO cane as well as beet sugar.

Another issue that remained unclear in the realm of definitions is whether it would be more effective to alter the Codex title so that the labeling initiative would include "foods derived from, containing, or processed with genetically modified organisms". The formation of a Working Group potentially allows for more rapid development of labeling criteria and more intensive communication between the membership.

The Market: Four Years Ahead of Regulators

While the world-wide food regulatory establishment agreed to work more intensively in the coming year, the Market has been dropping one bombshell after another on the Biotech sector in response to consumer demands. When the big retailers in Europe agree to use GE-free products in their own store-branded products the effects are felt on the other side of the Atlantic. Archer Daniels Midland decreed that their corn handling facilities would be GE-free and the news sent seed suppliers and corn growers looking for alternatives.

After Unilever, the world's largest food manufacturing company announced it was phasing out GE/GMO products, Nestle, another of the world's biggest food companies, announced that it was phasing out GM products as fast as possible. Thereafter it was Cadbury who followed suit.

Meanwhile,Tesco, Britain's largest supermarket chain, said it would remove GM ingredients from its store- brand foods, joining Sainsbury, Safeway ( UK), Asda and Somerfield.

Marketing gurus may be fond of saying that "consumers design the product" in our current era, but they may not know how far reaching that notion has become. Delivering authenticity is not as easy as merely slapping a sticker on the bag of "shade-grown coffee" or claiming that " no animal testing used" on a bottle of foreign-made shampoo. Layers of private as well as public oversight mean to maintain a measure of respectability, if not legitimacy, when producers place products before consumers that are calculated to satisfy environmental, social and health concerns, even when those concerns are not mandated by legislation. One concern that some regulators voice is that each new regulatory mandate seeks to provide oversight on aspects that are already being looked after.

Of course, its obvious that the whole world is dancing around one big delusion: the way we live is wrecking the planet, not to mention our own health. If the EPA and the FDA were protecting the environment and human health up to the standards that consumers expect, there would be little reason for products making claims that infer that the rest of the competition is substandard. Politically we ignore the reality of corporate dominance and stand ready with plenty of Band-Aids and pain-killers, unwilling to pull the plug on chemicals. All the chemicals, no matter if they are herbicides, fuels, food processing aids, manufacturing derivatives and by-products or nuclear waste, should be called out for broadly public, responsible review-with changes brought forth..

By coincidence, the cutting edge of consumer protection now identifies that it isnit individual chemicals like BHA or Lindane that are of most grievous concern, but instead the evil soup we are exposed to when numerous pollutants are combined in the blood stream.

GMO Crop Insurance Initiative for Organic Farmers

As reported in March, I wrote a tidy letter to USDA Farm Service Agencyis Risk Management division. Here is their reply. To cope with the lack of italics for this email the duplicate text serves to highlight.

Dear Mr. Sprinkel:

This is in further response to your March 11th e-mail inquiry to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) which is administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA).

In your message, you expressed concern about the contamination of certified organically produced crops by accidental pollination from genetically modified organism (GMO) crops. You asked for assistance in determining how organic producers may obtain Federal crop insurance for GMO contamination.

You stated that a valuable shipment of organically produced corn chips was refused in the marketplace in the European community after genetic analysis identified that the product contained GMO. In addition, you mention the importance of this issue and timing of the Department of Agriculture's authorization for an interim certified organic meat label.

RMA program specialists have carefully reviewed your request. Unfortunately, however, RMA is unable to provide insurance coverage for the risk that you present, as FCIC is authorized under section 508(a)(1) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act only to insure against "... drought, flood, or other natural disaster ..."

In essence, the situation that you describe with GMO contamination is akin to pollution damage, where one person permits a noxious substance to be discharged at one location and this substance does harm to a person or property at another location. Thus, this type of damage is not covered by FCIC as it is man-made rather than a natural disaster.

In essence, the situation that you describe with GMO contamination is akin to pollution damage, where one person permits a noxious substance to be discharged at one location and this substance does harm to a person or property at another location. Thus, this type of damage is not covered by FCIC as it is man-made rather than a natural disaster.

We regret we could not provide you with a more favorable response. Thank you again for your interest in the Federal crop insurance program. If you need further information, please let us know."

Well, I guess at least one branch of USDA is willing to say that " GMO contamination is akin to pollution damage." As reported in last monthis issue: a "manageable risk is an insurable risk", and if GE proponents continue to say that GE agriculture is a manageable risk we should ask to see copies of their insurance policies. By the way, the next GMO issue observed lifting from the fog is a proposed ban on conventional livestock products from animals that consume GMO feeds.

Next? Manure.