19 May 99

Table of Contents

Brit Doctors' Association (BMA) sounds alarm on GM food
Ashcroft is among senators who want biotechnology on G-8 summit agenda
20 Years Later, Stolen Gene Haunts a Biotech Pioneer
GE mustard on the horizon, from Monsanto
UK Farmers 'jeopardising GM crop trials'
Exported Corn Chips Tainted With GMOs
EPA Sued Over GMOs
Will GE Crops Mean Infected Food, Bodies, And Ecosystems?
British Report: Label Gene-Modified Food
Designer Foods Take Off
Designer Foods on the Drawing Board
Refuge: A Defenders Claims Refuge Prevents Spread of Dominant Mutants!
Prof. J.Cummins' letter to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
Scientists doubt GM food research
UK Royal Society: Review of Data on Possible Toxicity of GM Potatoes

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Date: 17 May 1999 06:56:07 -0500
From: "Craig Winters"
Subject: British Medical Association Report on GE Foods

Dear Health Freedom Fighters,

This week the British Medical Association will release an important report critical of genetically engineered foods. (See first article below.) This is a significant development and further damages the reputation of these controversial foods. European consumers have revolted against genetically engineered foods and this report should do further damage to the effort to promote these products worldwide.

Because Europeans are rejecting genetically engineered foods, American farmers are very concerned that they will suffer an estimated $200 million dollar lost in exports. As a result, Senate leaders on Thursday delivered a letter to President Clinton urging him to pressure European leaders to accepted American genetically engineered crops. (See second article below.) However, the Clinton administration seems to be aware that the climate in Europe and Japan is not favorable to such pressure. This week's report from the British Medical Association, which represents 115,000 doctors, should further erode such efforts to pressure other countries to accept genetically engineered foods.

If you have not yet sent letters to President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, your two Senators and your House Representative requesting labeling legislation, please visit the web site of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. From our web site you can print out form letters and mail them to your elected officials. We need to let American politicians know that it is not just Europeans who are insisting that these foods be labeled.

Craig Winters
Executive Director
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

The Campaign
6920 Roosevelt Way NE #277, Seattle, WA 98115
Tel: 425-771-4049    Fax: 603-825-5841
E-mail:    Web Site:

The Campaign's Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States."


Brit Doctors' Association (BMA) sounds alarm on GM food

By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (London) May 16

Doctors will tell the Government this week that too little is known about the long-term risks of eating genetically modified food to guarantee its safety. They will warn that GM crops pose a potential threat to human health and the environment.

The British Medical Association, which represents 115,000 doctors, will say the crops should not be grown commercially in Britain until more trials are carried out, arguing that the benefits must be clearly shown before biotechnology companies are allowed to go ahead.

The BMA report, The Impact of Genetic Modification on Agriculture, Food and Health, marks the first official opinion by a British medical body on GM crops. It will call for more testing by independent scientists and for the results to be freely available to the public.

The report, to be published on Tuesday, will say detailed research is needed into possible toxicity of GM food and whether eating it could lead to the development of new allergies and antibiotic resistance in humans.

It will reinforce pressure for a government-backed moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops in Britain.

The doctors will also cast doubt on the use of data from the United States, where commercial GM crops are already grown, to predict consequences for Britain. The threat of cross-pollination of GM plants could be greater here because the country is smaller and fields are closer together, the report says.

The findings of the BMA's board of science and education will stress that consumers have a right to clear labelling. Its report will call for more comprehensive labelling than the Government has proposed.

The most serious reservations concern lack of knowledge about health implications. The doctors will express doubts about using antibiotic resistance marker genes in GM plants, a common practice. They will call for more rigorous investigations of the dangers of antibiotic resistance and whether that could increase vulnerability to diseases such as meningitis.

Two weeks ago, the Independent on Sunday revealed that the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, and the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Robert May, had recommended that ministers set up a panel to see if eating GM food could cause birth defects, the creation of new cancers and damage to the immune system.

But their conclusions, which have been read by members of the ministerial committee on genetic engineering, known as MISC6, are being amended by the Government before the report is published.

This has infuriated MPs, who will this week urge Jack Cunningham, Cabinet Office Minister, to publish the report in its original form. They accuse ministers of a cover-up. "The original advice must not be sanitised, it must be published without changes immediately," said Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat environment spokesman.

Ministers fear the report could raise doubts about the Government's handling of the safety issue. A cabinet document, seen by the Independent on Sunday, warned as long ago as February that its conclusions on the effects of GM foods on human health could be serious.

"At its last meeting, MISC6 requested a paper by the CMO/CSA [Chief Medical Officer/Chief Scientific Adviser] on human health implications of GM foods. Will we publish this when it is ready (c April) and use it as a means to explain that GM foods on the market are safe?," the memo asks.

The paper, marked "Restricted - Policy", warns: "What if it shows up any doubts? What can we do? We will be pressured to ban them immediately. What if it says that we need evidence of long term effects? This will look like we are not sure about their safety - we do not monitor consumption of other foods."

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 17 May 1999 06:56:07 -0500
From: "Craig Winters"

Ashcroft is among senators who want biotechnology on G-8 summit agenda

By Bill Lambrecht, Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
St. Louis Post Dispatch, Thursday, May 13, 1999 Front Page

WASHINGTON -- With wariness of genetic engineering growing abroad, Sen. John Ashcroft and Senate leaders are pressing a reluctant Clinton administration to make biotechnology a top issue when world leaders gather for a summit meeting in Germany next month.

In a letter scheduled to be delivered today to President Bill Clinton, Ashcroft, R-Mo., and some of the Senate's most powerful members urge the president to force the issue among heads of state because ongoing European restrictions pose "a substantial, immediate threat" to U.S. farm exports.

"It is essential that we build a consensus at the highest political levels with our major trading partners to prevent unjustified barriers to trade in agricultural biotechnology products," a draft of the letter reads.

In an interview, Ashcroft noted that St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. and farmers in Missouri and throughout the Midwest stand to lose big unless current European bars are lifted. "America is the leader here, and Missouri happens to be at the front of the parade," he said.

Among those signing Ashcroft's letter are Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D.; Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Agriculture Committee; and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

The G-8 Summit of industrialized nations will take place June 18-20 in Cologne, Germany, and is expected to focus heavily on issues related to war in the Balkans. The eight nations are the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Canada and Russia.

Members of Congress have joined farm leaders and representatives from industry in pressing to elevate genetic engineering issues at the global meeting. So far, the White House has not agreed. In their letter, Ashcroft and the senators also request that Clinton ask each country in next month's summit meeting to appoint senior officials to take up the issue of genetically modified crops.

The letter suggests the disputes could lead to complaints to the World Trade Organization, which adjudicates allegations of unfair trade barriers. An administration official said he believed that the summit "may not be the forum for making progress." Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official observed that the G-8 conference includes countries where genetic engineering debates are heated. In Japan, for instance, government officials are demanding labeling and even separation of genetically modified products.

"We're looking for areas for opportunities to advance more constructive, science-based review processes," the official said. "It's our view that this particular forum comes at the wrong time with the wrong participants."

Monsanto Co. is the leader in applying genetic technologies to farming. In the United States, the modified products of Monsanto and its rivals are winning acceptance among farmers and getting little negative attention from consumers. But the situation is different in Europe and Asia. In many nations, people see genetic engineering as an unproven technology that could have consequences for the environment and consumers. People also fear the growing power of a handful of companies to exert control over what farmers grow and what people eat.

In Europe, those concerns have added up to costly delays in winning approval for growing most gene-altered products and for importing varieties of modified corn grown in the Midwest. Seven varieties of modified corn available for planting in the United States this season have not been approved for import into Europe, which could translate to $200 million worth of lost exports, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington.

The situation has grown especially troubling for Monsanto in Britain. The company has been buffeted by setbacks and denounced by public figures that include Prince Charles and Paul McCartney. Last month, Unilever and Nestle, two of Europe's largest food retailers, announced that their outlets in the United Kingdom would not sell genetically modified foods.

With no end in sight to the foreign problems, Lugar's spokesman, Andrew Fisher, said he sees more farm-state senators getting motivated about a perplexing issue. "The Europeans are fine with biotechnology when it comes to pharmaceuticals or growing new livers and things like that. But if it has to do with corn and soybeans, they go ballistic," he said.

Ashcroft said Congress must play a stronger role in finding solutions and that he will be working to build a coalition to keep up the pressure. "I intend not only to fight hard but to get other senators totally aware of this," Ashcroft said.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 17 May 1999 07:44:30 -0500
From: Colleen Robison-Spencer

Hi, I like the quote "It was dishonest...I regret it, but that's the way we did it 20 years ago." I have included two websites of interest here.


Tularik Inc.



20 Years Later, Stolen Gene Haunts a Biotech Pioneer

By Justin Gillis, Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, May 17, 1999; Page A01

Gentech's laboratory
Courtroom Showdown
Commercial Possibilities
Midnight Raid on New Year's Eve
Bitter Battle Over a Breakthrough
Genentech Inc.: The Dawn of the Biotech Era
Gentech's Profits

Gentech's laboratory

SAN FRANCISCO - The men with foreign accents trod carefully through desolate hallways. They weren't supposed to be there, but the University of California at San Francisco had something they wanted, and they knew just where to find it.

It was an hour before midnight on New Year's Eve and nobody was around to see the deed unfold. The men took the elevator to a ninth-floor laboratory. They retrieved vials and beakers, hauled the material downstairs, put it in their car and raced south toward the offices of a tiny new company not far from the azure waters of San Francisco Bay.

A police officer pulled them over as they got to the doors of that company, Genentech Inc. They waved their employee badges and got past him. By the time the clock struck midnight on that evening two decades ago, Genentech's laboratory was freshly stocked with genetic material from the university.

A few months later Genentech announced it had pulled off one of the most dazzling feats of modern science -- inserting human genes into harmless germs and getting them to produce a precious and much-needed substance, human growth hormone. Genentech was the first biotechnology company, founder of an industry, and this feat more than any other demonstrated the potential of the new science. Yet if testimony unfolding in federal court here is true, that early milestone was tainted from the outset and the biotechnology industry was born amid thievery and scientific fraud.

The university is suing Genentech for patent infringement in a case that has taken nine years to come to trial. In a coup, the university's lawyers persuaded one of the scientists involved in the "midnight raid" -- Peter Seeburg, one of the world's most eminent molecular biologists -- to testify on their behalf.

Not only did he and a colleague swipe material from the university, Seeburg testified, but Genentech later used that material to achieve its big breakthrough while pretending in scientific presentations and patent applications to have done the work on its own.

"It was dishonest," Seeburg said recently on the witness stand. "I regret it, but that's the way we did it 20 years ago. I really am sorry."

No one is bothering to contest that material was lifted from the university in a New Year's Eve raid. Genentech does deny making use of that material, however, claiming its scientists, Seeburg among them, independently isolated the gene for human growth hormone.

Seeburg's account, backed by the testimony of colleagues and a pile of circumstantial evidence, is that Genentech tried to do that and failed, then resorted to using a purloined gene from the university's stocks.

Given the importance of this early achievement in spurring the growth of an industry now poised, 20 years later, to transform the worlds of medicine and agriculture, Seeburg has outlined what amounts to a scientific version of original sin.

Seeburg's account is flatly denied by another eminent scientist, David V. Goeddel, chief executive of Tularik Inc. Goeddel worked with Seeburg at Genentech, served as chief scientist on the growth-hormone project, and still is closely allied with his former employer. His account, too, is backed by the testimony of former colleagues.

Thanks mostly to his pioneering work at Genentech, Goeddel was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, an honor roll of the nation's brightest researchers, becoming the first biotechnologist so honored. When he was inducted in 1995, the academy said his early experiments, including those with growth hormone, "revolutionized protein therapeutics and ushered in the age of biotechnology and molecular medicine."

According to Seeburg, he and Goeddel made a secret pact two decades ago never to tell anyone outside Genentech about using the stolen genes in their research, a pact Seeburg now has broken in the courtroom.

According to Goeddel, Seeburg is fantasizing. "I think after I figured out it wasn't just a quick practical joke," Goeddel said on the witness stand, "I couldn't believe that he could come up with such a story."

Courtroom Showdown

The events of two decades ago are coming to light in a case in federal court here. The university, which owns a patent for its work on growth hormone, is suing Genentech, claiming that company's product infringes on the university's discovery.

That discovery -- the precise order of genetic building blocks for human growth hormone -- was made by none other than Peter Seeburg himself, while he was a university researcher. By leaving the university in late 1978 to join Genentech, he gave up rights to his materials. But by his own account, he went back and retrieved them in the midnight raid and handed them over to Genentech.

Genentech fought for years to keep the case, filed in 1990, from coming to trial. But U.S. District Judge Charles A. Legge pushed forward. A jury of nine Californians has been hearing arguments and testimony since April 13. The case could wrap up as early as this week.

The stakes are enormous. The university has claimed damages of $400 million, and if the jury finds that Genentech willfully infringed the university's patent, the judge could triple that amount to as much as $1.2 billion. That would be nearly seven times Genentech's 1998 earnings of $182 million. If everything were to go against Genentech, the case could conceivably cripple the company.

On top of that, testimony coming out in the case has cast serious doubt on important sections of a key paper in Nature, the world's leading scientific journal, and on eight Genentech patents. Applications for those patents were submitted under oath to the U.S. patent office by, among other scientists, David Goeddel.

The outcome of the case is far from certain. It turns on the complex details of patent law. Even if the jury finds Seeburg credible -- and Genentech's attorneys argue that he has motives to lie, money among them -- it could well decide that his testimony is of no legal relevance.

Conversely, the university's lawyers have suggested that Goeddel's continuing ties to Genentech give him a motive to lie, too. Genentech's founder is chairman of Goeddel's new company, among other links. And Goeddel's reputation as a scientist is on the line.

In the courtroom, Goeddel has labored to explain why his meticulous laboratory notebooks grow vague at a crucial point in the growth-hormone research. That happens to be the very point at which Seeburg says theft was committed.

Genentech has admitted in court that work Goeddel described at length in Nature and in his patent applications was never performed. Goeddel claimed on the witness stand that it was performed, but acknowledged he could not back that up with written evidence.

However the case turns out, it's clear that some strange goings-on happened by the waters of San Francisco Bay at the dawn of a modern scientific revolution.

Commercial Possibilities

The world of biology entered a state of turmoil in the mid-1970s. Scientists were closing in on new techniques for manipulating deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, the substance the regulates all life. They were learning to slice and dice DNA at will and to stick genes from one organism into others.

This "recombinant DNA" technology offered breathtaking possibilities, including potentially unlimited supplies of substances important to human health.

Nowhere was the ferment greater than in the first-rate universities scattered around San Francisco Bay. The heart of the action was the University of California at San Francisco, a huge teaching hospital and research institution where a biologist named Herbert Boyer had pioneered genetic techniques. A venture capitalist, Robert Swanson, saw the commercial potential of the new technology and convinced Boyer to join him in 1976 in founding a new company in South San Francisco. They named it Genentech.

At the time, there wasn't much precedent for doing biology of that sort in commercial settings, and many of the most talented scientists stayed at university laboratories. These included a group of young hotshots who had been lured to San Francisco from as far away as Germany and Australia to work on the new biology.

One of those men was Peter Seeburg, a German who worked in a lab at UCSF. In early 1978, he and several colleagues pulled off a huge coup. They isolated the gene for human growth hormone, the substance that turns children into adults and that, at lower levels, remains vital to the body's functioning throughout life. They also published the complete genetic sequence -- in effect, a sketchy recipe -- for this substance.

Up until then, human growth hormone could be made for use as a drug only by extracting it from the pituitary glands of dead people. There wasn't enough to treat all the children suffering from dwarfism, much less to try it for other ailments. And the product was prone to contamination by germs.

Seeburg's coup offered another possibility: The chance that the gene for human growth hormone could be inserted into harmless bacteria, tricking them into making huge supplies of the stuff. People at Genentech were working on doing this for small proteins like insulin, needed by diabetics, but nobody had yet tackled a protein as large and complex as human growth hormone.

The importance of Seeburg's work was not lost on the people at Genentech. They began recruiting him heavily. He hesitated, but finally left the university and joined the company in late 1978. Under an agreement he had signed when he joined UCSF, all rights to his prior research remained with the university. Indeed, UCSF had already applied for a patent on the growth-hormone work.

By Seeburg's account, a series of frustrations attended his first months at Genentech. All attempts to duplicate the UCSF work -- in effect, to re-isolate and re-sequence the growth hormone gene -- ended in failure, he said. The technology at the time was finicky at best, and according to court testimony and documents, Genentech's scientists couldn't get it to work.

On top of this, Seeburg by his own account had developed a serious addiction to cocaine and liquor. Goeddel was brought into the project, some witnesses testified, in part because Seeburg was dysfunctional much of the time. "I wasn't in top form," Seeburg testified.

Midnight Raid on New Year's Eve

Genentech was then a young, thinly capitalized company, and a Swedish firm with an interest in growth hormone was paying for much of its research. Deadlines loomed -- unless it made progress, the university's lawyers have argued, Genentech faced the threat of losing funds.

It was in this environment, Seeburg testified, that he decided to go back to UCSF with a colleague, Axel Ullrich, on New Year's Eve and retrieve samples of his growth-hormone gene and other materials. Thus occurred the midnight raid.

Seeburg apparently intended to hold his materials in reserve, hoping not to have to use them. But through the early months of 1979, according to testimony and laboratory notebooks, Goeddel, Seeburg and their Genentech colleagues kept running into roadblocks in their efforts to isolate the gene for growth hormone.

At the end of their rope, Seeburg testified, he and Goeddel secretly agreed to use the gene from the university's stocks and never tell anyone. According to Seeburg, they pretended to isolate a new version of the gene at Genentech, gave it a new name and put together a chart showing the order of genetic units -- the sequence -- of the gene. In reality, Seeburg testified, they were using the university's material and copying work he already had done a year earlier at the UCSF lab.

It is here that Goeddel's account differs markedly from Seeburg's. Far from using purloined material, he said, he and his colleagues managed to isolate their own version of the gene from human pituitary tissue, and then they unraveled the genetic sequence.

Genentech pointed in the courtroom to some references in laboratory notebooks as supporting Goeddel's claim about isolating the gene, but these were cryptic and their meaning much disputed. The second step, determining the exact sequence of the gene, has become a particular bone of contention, since no record of it can be found in any Genentech laboratory notebook. This is striking, given that this step was reported in detail in Nature and in many Genentech patents over the years. Genentech has admitted in court that the sequencing work was never done, though Goeddel has continued to dispute the point.

However they got the gene, Goeddel, Seeburg and their colleagues subsequently managed to insert it into a sort of genetic container, stuck it into the bacterium Escherichia coli, and induced that germ to produce large quantities of human growth hormone.

These were by no means trivial steps. They had never been done before for such a complex gene. The researchers' triumph complete, they reported their success to the world on Oct. 18, 1979, in the pages of Nature.

That paper proved the new biology could achieve its most ambitious goals in a commercial setting. More than any single piece of research, it can be said to have launched the biotechnology revolution now sweeping the world.

Bitter Battle Over a Breakthrough

As this work was unfolding, university officials got word of the midnight raid. They began to suspect Genentech was making unauthorized use of their property. Acrimonious negotiations ensued. Eventually, Genentech paid the university $2 million to make the theft accusations go away.

But that deal explicitly excluded any patent royalties the university might be due if Genentech turned growth hormone into a commercial product. In 1985 the Food and Drug Administration approved Protropin, Genentech's formulation of growth hormone, for sale in the United States. As time passed, the drug turned into a blockbuster and it became clearer that the university had missed out on significant royalties.

The university sued in 1990 and the case turned into a blood feud. Proud of their role in creating a new industry, Genentech's scientists did not take well to the suggestion they did it by thievery and fraud.

At Genentech's request, the case was moved from San Francisco to Indianapolis. The university eventually got it moved back to San Francisco. The combatants appealed various rulings to higher courts on at least four occasions. Legal bills in the case are conservatively estimated to exceed $20 million. A law firm working for the university has dedicated an entire floor of a downtown San Francisco office building to maintaining records in the case.

Perhaps the biggest coup for Gerald P. Dodson, the aggressive litigator heading up the university's legal team, was to convince Seeburg to testify on the school's behalf. Seeburg, now an accomplished researcher in Germany, explained that he had made mistakes in his youth and could not continue lying about them.

Genentech's attorneys have given no quarter. They pointed out that Seeburg stands to benefit if the university wins patent royalties from Genentech -- as an inventor on the UCSF patent, he would be entitled to somewhat less than 10 percent of the total, potentially a large sum. Seeburg also was forced to acknowledge that he had shaded the truth about growth hormone in various sworn statements over the years, but insisted he is telling the truth now.

In principle, the university does not need to prove a direct theft of materials to prove a patent violation. It may be enough to show that university researchers came up with a fundamental idea -- namely, the genetic sequence for growth hormone -- and that Genentech swiped it.

Genentech doesn't deny that Seeburg made important breakthroughs while at UCSF, but claims it did so much additional, creative work to turn growth hormone into a commercial product that there was no patent violation.

If the university were to prove a violation, however, the theft of materials could then become a crucial exhibit. The judge and jury would have to decide whether the violation was willful, meriting triple damages.

In that event, a surreptitious raid on the university's laboratories late on a New Year's Eve might have some bearing on their judgment.


Genentech Inc.: The Dawn of the Biotech Era

Genentech Inc. was founded in 1976 to take advantage of new genetic techniques developed in university laboratories. It was the first biotechnology company and its success spurred the creation of an industry. One of the company's earliest achievements was the development of Protropin, or human growth hormone. Now Genentech is in court defending itself from charges that it stole that invention from the University of California at San Francisco.

SOURCE: Genentech company reports; court documents


Gentech's Profits

A chart not in the paper version:

"Genetech's focus on turning cutting-edge science into marketable products has been profitable."

1992 20 million
1998 180 million

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 17 May 1999 16:27:19 -0500
From: "Campbell, Jon" Campbell@Rational.Com

GE mustard on the horizon, from Monsanto

I just saw this, from Jeremy Rifkin, in a media intro to Biotech Century. Scary.



In 1993, Dr. Chris Sommerville, the director of plant biology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, inserted a plastic-making gene into a mustard plant. The gene transforms the plant into a plastics factory. Monsanto hopes to have the plastic-producing plant on the market by the year 2003.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 17 May 1999 16:34:15 -0500
From: "Paul & Katrin"


just catching up on all the messages - I have not had an e-mail connection for weeks - so thanks everyone for all the good news. I am in Dubrovnik, not far from Kosovo, working on a peace project for the Natural Law Party http://www.dubrovnik-peace-project if you are interested!!!!!) also working with the people here to ensure the Croatian Government ban GM!!!! Picked up this item from the BBC website (no english newspapers here!!!) love to you all

Paul Davis

UK Farmers 'jeopardising GM crop trials'

BBC report, Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 03:26 GMT 04:26 UK

GM foods have sparked protests by environmental groups
'BMA advice overruled'
'Nothing is risk-free'

GM foods have sparked protests by environmental groups

Trials of genetically-modified crops could be put at risk by the lack of farmers willing to take part, the BBC has learned.

Worries about the possible environmental impact associated with the trials are also highlighted in BBC One's Panorama programme, to be screened on Monday.

Professor Mike Roberts, from the Natural Environment Research Council which is in charge of running GM crop trials for the government, told the programme: "If we can't find enough farmers willing to participate that would certainly jeopardise the trials.

"If they are going to come under the sort of pressure that we are seeing at the moment, clearly many of them will think twice about it.

'BMA (Brit. Med. Association) advice overruled'

"The consequences would be that we would not have a fully validated field study.

"We would not be able to answer the questions which the public and the government are asking of the scientific community on this issue."

Evidence is also presented suggesting that advice from the British Medical Association (BMA) on the labeling of GM foods, as long ago as 1993, was overruled by a government appointed committee looking at the issue.

BMA spokesperson Dr Vivian Nathanson told the BBC: "We were extremely concerned.

'Nothing is risk-free'

"We felt that it was essential that food be labelled so that the public could choose whether or not to eat these products and know what they were eating."

Jack Cunningham, the government's cabinet enforcer, accepts there are risks associated with GM crop trials from things like cross-pollination by bees.

Dr Cunningham told the programme: "Well nothing is risk-free in life is it? We don't live in a risk-free world.

"The potential for the bio-sciences in the British economy is enormous, and it would be foolish for us, for this government, to cut ourselves off from that potential."

Panorama will be shown on BBC One at 2205 BST.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 18 May 1999 03:26:47 -0500
From: "Craig Winters"
Subject: GMO Contaminated Organic Corn

Dear Health Freedom Fighters,

The article below is from the April issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser, the leading trade magazine of the natural products industry. I am not sure if it was posted to this list before, but it is of such significant that even if is was, it is worth reading again.

Genetically engineered corn has contaminated organic corn. It is amazing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed genetically engineered foods to come to market with no environmental impact studies. It is great that Greenpeace, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, the Center for Food Safety and farmers from 21 states are suing the EPA. But it is a sad state of affairs that such a law suit is necessary in order to try and force that agency to act in a responsible manner.

Craig Winters
Executive Director
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

The Campaign
6920 Roosevelt Way NE #277, Seattle, WA 98115
Tel: 425-771-4049    Fax: 603-825-5841
E-mail:    Web Site:

The Campaign's Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States."


Exported Corn Chips Tainted With GMOs

Scott C. Yates, April issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser

Terra Prima destroys batch, will now test for cross-pollination problems

The exact thing that many activists on the genetic modified organism issue had feared has now happened: The GMO genie is out of the bottle and is in the organic production system.

"Our warnings about potential contamination have come true," said Lindsay Keenan, of Wholefood Trade, a British GMO watchdog group.

The first known instance of GMO contamination of organic products came recently when a European importer found certified organic chips from the United States with traces of GMOs. The importer destroyed the entire shipment of 87,000 bags.

The certified organic corn came from a farm in Texas and was processed by a facility that also was certified organic. But when the chips got to Europe, the Dutch importers did genetic testing and found some contamination. The manufacturer, Terra Prima Inc. of Hudson, Wis., agreed to have the entire shipment destroyed.

"All of us have assumed that there wouldn't be genetic contamination in organic products," said Melodi Nelson, vice president of Terra Prima. Nelson investigated and said cross-pollination was to blame, not fraud or audit-trail problems.

"We'll never be able to accurately say for sure what happened," Nelson said. "We do know that pollen can travel more than a mile." The corn that cross-pollinated was modified at the genetic level with Bt, which is used to kill corn earworms. Either by the wind, or by bees, the organic corn picked up levels of genetic contamination strong enough to be detected after routine testing by DO-IT, the Dutch importer.

Genetic testing, however, is not currently a part of most organic certification, and certification agencies say the reality is that there may be other organic products out there now with some genetic contamination. This poses no known food safety threat, but the fact that so little testing has been done on the safety of GMOs is why many consumers are switching to organic products.

While this was the first known case of GMO contamination of organic products, others may have gone undetected because the expensive genetic testing is rarely done in the United States.

Now Nelson and others are saying that because at least 25 percent of corn planted in the United States is genetically modified--with companies such as Monsanto and DuPont pushing to see that percentage grow--organic rules must define how much contamination is acceptable. Most organic regulations allow some pesticide contamination; now the next question for organic rules may be how much genetic contamination to allow. "I'm sure that question is going to be coming onto the table," said Pat Kane, administrator of Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York and a member of the Organic Certifiers Council. "I think it's something we'll all be grappling with."

The USDA is also concerned. "We are certainly aware of the issue," said Keith Jones, director of the National Organic Program, adding that he didn't know if GMO contamination would make it into the organic rules. "The question is so new that, like everyone else, we are trying to figure out what to do," Jones said.

For its part, Terra Prima announced that it would do the expensive genetic testing on all batches of corn before processing. It will refuse corn with genetic contamination of more than one part per thousand by weight.

Nelson said the flap cost the company $147,000 to pull the product, and it cost her one German distributor. But after checking out the company's testing plans, a different German distributor agreed to carry the line. "Most of our customers have been very supportive," Nelson said.

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Date: 18 May 1999 03:26:47 -0500
From: "Craig Winters"

EPA Sued Over GMOs

Terra Prima Inc. wasn't the only company hurt by the EPA's decision to allow Bt, a natural pesticide, to be genetically woven into plants. Some claim the move could hurt organic farmers when the genetically engineered Bt gets out in the environment. Environmentalists fear that the pests the toxin is designed to kill will become resistant, rendering the organic pesticides useless.

So Terra Prima, organic farmers from 21 states, Greenpeace and the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements joined the Center for Food Safety in filing suit against the EPA in an effort to stop the Bt genetic engineering.

Among other claims, Greenpeace said that the EPA was supposed to measure the hit on small businesses such as organic farmers. "Either they did an inadequate job of checking or, as I believe, they didn't check at all," said Charles Margulis of Greenpeace.

That's just one of five major claims made in the suit filed recently against the EPA. The suit also claims that the EPA decision violates safe insecticide rules and sidestepped writing an environmental impact statement. The EPA has not responded in court, although a spokesman said he expected the genetic engineering would continue.

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Date: 18 May 1999 08:15:26 -0500
From: John/Laurel Hopwood

The following is an article written by Dr Michael W. Fox of the Humane Society of the United States. His book, Superpigs and Wondercorn, on the biotech issue was published in 1992. His book, Beyond Evolution, is expected to be in print this fall. (sent by Laurel Hopwood)

Will GE Crops Mean Infected Food, Bodies, And Ecosystems?

by Dr. Michael W. Fox, Senior Scholar/Bioethics
The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037

To regard genetically engineered GE crops and food as being infected or adulterated and therefore posing potential risks to human and other consumers (including insects, birds, and wild and domesticated mammals) and to the environment is not unreasonable considering the following scientifically documented findings:

  1. There is evidence that foreign DNA can enter the body via the gastrointestinal tract and cross the placenta (1,2).

  2. Genetically modified organisms can produce unanticipated toxins (3,4) or allergens (5).

  3. Gene transfer can occur between transgenic plants and bacteria, the ecological consequences of which could be catastrophic (6).

  4. Milk from cows injected with rBGH, which is not analogous to normal BGH, has elevated insulin-like growth factor that is implicated as a risk factor in human breast cancer (8,9).

  5. Considering the documented evidence that horizontal gene transfer between species is a natural phenomenon (10-16), the precautionary principle must be applied in creating transgenic organisms that could transfer novel genes and viral vectors to other species (17-19). The ecological, evolutionary, and public health consequences of such transfers we will only know after the fact. Horizontal gene transfer is even likely to take place in the digestive systems of protozoa, nematodes, insect larvae, and other soil macro-organisms (12).

  6. That genes, like viruses, can infect the body (20,21), should serve as a warning to us all of the potential risks of transgenic organisms serving as a resevoir for new diseases, and as a medium for the evolution of new pathogens because of their altered physiology and biochemistry. Viral ipromotersi and ienhancersi that boost expression of transgenes could result in the production of high levels of Bt. toxin and other chemicals in transgenic crops.

  7. Unanticipated multiple side effects of of gene insertion (called pleotropic effects) have been well documented. Genetic alterations in crops like soybeans to make them resistent to herbicides may result in unpredictable, unnatural genetic recombinations and change the biochemistry and nutritive value. Higher levels of phyto-estrogens are produced in beans grown in the presence of the herbicide glyphosate which may be of particular risk to children (22).

  8. Some 99 percent of commercial transgenic crops incorporate virus genes, either as promoters or to control virus infections. These virus genes can recombine with other viruses and may result in new diseases and more invasive pathogens (23-27). With the inclusion of antibiotic-resistance markers, transgenic crops could therefore increase the probability of new viral and bacterial pathogens and the spread of antibiotic and drug resistance genes. DNA released from living and dead cells can persist in the environment and be transferred to other organisms. An organism may be dead, but its "naked" DNA released from decaying cells may remain biologically active for potentially thousands of years, especially in certain soils and marine sediments. (28,29). Naked DNA (nucleic acids) ingested by mice can be transferred to offspring and be voided and spread in animals' feces (2).

  9. The instability of transgenic crops is a major concern. iThere is, in fact, no data documenting the stability of any transgenic line in gene expression, or in structure and location of the insert in the genome. Such data must include the level of gene expression, as well as a genetic map and DNA base sequence of the insert and its site of insertion in the host genome in each successive generation. No such information has ever been provided by industry, nor requested by regulatory authorities.i (28).

  10. One must consider not only the ifatei of transgenic organisms but also the genes and viruses or parts thereof, that have been inserted into them. Such inaked DNAi, in the form of recombinant and modified nucleic acids, has been found capable of surviving and remaining functional longer after organisms' death than was assumed previously. (6, 29) Furthermore, xenobiotics, especially dioxins and various agrichemicals, can act as mutagens (30), altering the structure and sequence of DNA and also increasing the permeability of cells and the incorporation of foreign DNA into living organisms.

Contamination of the ilife streami by naked recombinant DNA, by transgenic viral vectors, and antibiotic resistant genes is already taking place. Since a recall is impossible, our best hope, if it is not already too late to control genetic pollution, is a five-year worldwide moratorium on the creation and release of all genetically engineered living entities and products, from new vaccines to transgenic crops, so that science-based risk assessments can be properly completed.


  1. Doerfler, W. & Schubbert, R. 1998. Uptake of foreign DNA from the environment: the gastrointestinal tract and the placenta as portals of entry. Wien Klin. Wochenschr. 110:40-4

  2. Schubbert, R. et al. 1997. Foreign (M13) DNA ingested by mice reaches peripheral leukocytes, spleen, and liver via intestinal wall mucosa and can be covalently linked to mouse DNA. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94:961-966. See also Schubbert, R. et al 1998. On the fate of orally ingested foreign DNA in mice: chromosomal association and placental transmission to the fetus. Mol. Gen. Genet. 259(6) 569-576.

  3. Inose, T. & Muruta, K. 1995. Enhanced accumulation of toxic compound in yeast cells having high glycolytic activity: a case study on the safety of genetically engineered yeast. Int. J. Food Science Tech. 30:141-146

  4. Reddy, S.A. & Thomas, T.L. 1996. Expression of a cyanobacteria delta 6-desaturase gene results in gamma-linolenic acid production in transgenic plants. Nature Biotechnol. 14: 629-42

  5. Nordlee, J.A. et al. 1996. Identification of a Brazil-nut allergen in transgenic soybeans. New Engl. J. Med. 14: 688-728

  6. Nielsen, K.M. et al. 1998. Horizontal gene transfer from transgenic plants to terrestrial bacteria-- a rare event? FEMS Microbiological Reviews 22: 79-103.

  7. Violand, B.N., et al. 1994. Isolation of Escherichia coli synthesized recombinant eukaryocyte proteins that contain epsilon-N-acetyllysine. Protein Sci. 3:1089-97

  8. Outwater, J.L. et al. 1997. Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF-1, estrogen and BGH hypothesis. Med. Hypotheses 48: 453-61. See also: Chan, J.M., et al. 1998. Plasma insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and prostate cancer risk: A prospective study. Science 279:23

  9. Hawkinson, S.E. et al. 1998. Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor 1 and risk of breast cancer. Lancet 352: 1393-6. See also: Gebauer, G., et al. 1998. mRNA expression of components of the insulin-like growth factor system in breast cancer cell lines, tissues, and metastatic breast cancer cells. Anti-cancer Res. 18:2A 1191-5; and Prosser, C.G., et al. 1989. Increased secretion of insulin-like growth factor-1 into milk of cows treated with recombinantly derived bovine growth hormone. J. Dairy Sci. 56:17-26

  10. Wostemayer, J. et al. 1997. Horizontal gene transfer in the rhizosphere: a curiosity or a driving force in evolution? Adv. Bot. Res. Incorp. Adv. Plant Pathol. 24: 399-429

  11. Stachel, S.E. & Zambryski, P.C. 1989. Generic trans-kingdom sex? Nature 340: 190-191

  12. Lorenz, M.G. & Wackernagel, W. 1994. Bacterial gene transfer by natural genetic transformation in the environment. Microbiol. 156: 319-326

  13. Kidwell, M.G. 1993. Lateral transfer in natural populations of eukaryotes. Annu. Rev. Genet. 27: 235-256

  14. Heinemann, J.A. 1991. Genetics of gene transfer between species. Trends Genet. 7:181-185.

  15. Mikkelson, T.R. et al. 1996. The risk of crop transgene spread. Nature 380:31

  16. Chevre, A.M. et al. 1997. Gene flow from transgene crops. Nature 389:924. See also Coghlan, A. 1999. Gone with the wind. New Scientist April 17. p. 25.

  17. Dreiseikelmann, B. 1994. Translocation of DNA across bacterial membranes. Microbiol. Rev. 58: 293-316

  18. Green, A.E. & Allison, R.F. 1994. Viruses and transgenic crops. Science 263:1423-1424

  19. Harding, K. 1996. The potential for horizontal gene transfer within the environment. Agro Food Ind. Hi-Tech. 7:31-35

  20. Canonico, A. E. et al. 1994. Aerosol and intravenous transfection of human alpha 1 - -antitrypsin gene to lungs of rabbits. Am. J. Respir. Cell. Mol. Biol. 10:24-29

  21. Wolff, J.A. et al. 1990. Direct gene transfer into mouse muscle in vivo. Science 247:1465-1468

  22. Steinbrecher, R. 1998. Gene debate: What is wrong with Nature? Resurgence No. 188. 17-19.

  23. Greene, A.E. & Allison, R.F. 1994. Recombination between viral RNA and transgenic plant transcripts. Science 263, 1423-5.

  24. Wintermantel, W.M. & Schoelz, J.E. 1996. 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.

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

  26. Gal, S., Pisan, B., Hohn, T., Grimsley, N., & Hohn, B. 1992. iAgroinfection of transgenic plants leads to viable cauliflower mosaic virus by intramolecular recombinationi Virology 187, 525-33.

  27. Gebhard, E. & Smalla, K. 1998 Transformation of Actinobacter sp. strain BD 413 by transgenic sugar beet DNA. Applied Envir. Microbiol. 64: 1550-1554.

  28. Ho, Mae-Wan 1999. Dangerous Liason - Deadly Gamble p 105-120 in Agricultural Biotechnology and Environmental Quality: Gene Escape and Pest Resistance. National Agricultural Biotechnology Council Report #10. Ithaca NY.

  29. Traavik, T. 1999. Too early may be too late: Ecological risks associated with the use of naked DNA as a biological tool for research, production, and therapy. Research report for DN 1999. Trondheim, Norway. Directorate for Nature Management. For further discussion see: Fox, M.W. 1999. Beyond Evolution: The Genetically Altered Future of Plants, Animals, the Earth...and Humans. New York: Lyons Press

  30. Colborn, T., et al. 1994. Developmental effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in wildlife and humans. Envir. Impact. Assess. Rev. 14:469-89

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Date: 18 May 1999 10:40:52 -0500
From: Colleen Robison-Spencer

British Report: Label Gene-Modified Food

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, May 18, 1999; Page A02

Call by U.K. Doctors Group Adds to Trade Tensions With U.S., Brings Strong Reaction on Hill

Britain's premier medical association yesterday joined the European fracas over genetically engineered foods by saying that foods harboring new genes should be labeled as such so consumers can choose to avoid them until they're proven safe.

In a strongly worded report that immediately increased trade tensions with the United States, the British Medical Association also called for gene-altered crops to be processed separately from conventional crops, rather than mixed together as is done today in the United States, so that any health effects that may eventually turn up will be traceable to the products that caused them.

If growers in the United States or other countries continue to refuse to segregate gene-modified products, the association concluded, then Britain should consider banning imports of those foods.

The recommendations prompted a quick negative reaction on Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders have been growing increasingly irritated with Europe's resistance to agricultural biotechnology, a lucrative field dominated by the United States.

Just four days ago a bipartisan group of 36 senators sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to stand up for American agricultural biotechnology at the World Trade Organization and other international forums, including the upcoming G8 summit, to avoid "a looming trade conflict" with Europe.

Sen. John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.), who with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) wrote and circulated the letter, fumed yesterday when he learned of the British report.

"It is characteristic of the European Union to hide behind studies such as this in order to maintain its protectionist trade policies," said Ashcroft, whose home state houses Monsanto Co., the global leader in agricultural biotechnology.

"Studies such as this . . . demonstrate with absolute clarity why progress must begin with action by the president to address biotech trade at the head-of-state level at the upcoming G8 summit," Ashcroft said.

The 119,000-member British Medical Association represents more than 80 percent of Britain's doctors. It has weighed in before on the issue of genetically engineered crops and foods, but yesterday's report--based on an analysis of current scientific knowledge--contains the strongest warnings yet as to what remains unknown about their environmental and health effects.

The crops contain genes from bacteria and other organisms to make them resistant to weed-killing chemicals and insects. They are being grown on millions of acres in the United States, where regulatory agencies have deemed them safe, but they remain heavily restricted in Europe, where public acceptance has been low.

Concerns about genetically engineered corn have already halted virtually all corn exports from the United States to Europe, costing U.S. farmers about $200 million a year. Exports of American engineered soy worth additional hundreds of millions of dollars are so far being accepted by Europe.

The British report does not assert that engineered foods are dangerous. But it counsels that without proof of safety, the wise course is to proceed more slowly. For example, the new report says, no one knows yet whether the antibiotic resistance genes used to create engineered crops might get passed to bacteria in people's internal organs, leading to the growth of drug-resistant pathogens. Just in case, the group calls upon companies to abandon use of those genes.

That conservative approach contrasts sharply with the Food and Drug Administration's, which has allowed companies to use such genes after a review of the scientific literature concluded that it was unlikely--albeit not impossible--for such problematic gene transfers to occur.

The FDA and other U.S. agencies have made it their policy not to regulate engineered crops or foods differently than conventionally bred products. "We do not have any information that the use of recombinant DNA techniques creates a class of products different in quality or safety," said Jim Maryanski, the FDA's biotechnology coordinator.

Jay Byrne, a spokesman for Monsanto, said labeling of engineered foods only makes sense if it's "science-based and provides meaningful information." He said segregation of engineered products from harvest to the table would create "an arbitrary two-tier system that would only serve to increase food costs for consumers."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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Date: 18 May 1999 11:18:39 -0500
From: Colleen Robison-Spencer
Subject: Wash. Post 5/18 Health Supplement "Designer Foods..."

I have typed one of the sidebars that went with the story. Find it below the computerized article.

This is a colorful, four page article in the Health supplement. There are colorful graphics of the following:

1917-1920Iodized salt, cod live oil
1932Vitamin D --picture Coverdale milk and carton
1943Vit B./Vit A. fortified foods -pic. of bread/margarine
1945Floridated water
1980Live cultures of lactobacillus, a benign bacteria picture --Columbo yogurt
1986Calcium fortified orange juice--picture of Minute maid container & orange.
1998Soluble oat psyllium fiber line-- pic. of 5 Kellogg's Ensemble products.

FDA Clears a Medicinal Margarine

Designer Foods Take Off

By Sally Squires, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, May 18, 1999; Page H15

"Take Control" margarine is the first of upcoming "designer foods."
A Bold Frontier for Food
No Clear Definition
If a Little Is Good, Is a Lot Better?

"Take Control" margarine is the first of upcoming "designer foods."

Craig Herndon -- The Post

More than 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates advised, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food." His words took on added meaning earlier this month when the Food and Drug Administration gave the go-ahead to a new margarine that can help lower blood cholesterol levels by as much as 10 percent.

Take Control margarine from Lipton/Unilever, which is now moving into grocery stores throughout the country following the FDA acceptance, is part of a bold new generation of designer foods that in many ways act like drugs.

Another designer margarine, Benecol, is also under review by the FDA. Made by Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare division and sold widely in Europe, Benecol is reported to cut blood cholesterol levels by about 10 percent.

The new products join a long line of foods that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals for decades, from iodized salt to prevent goiter to cereals fortified with folic acid to help avoid neural tube birth defects. But unlike their simpler cousins, the new breed of designer foods, such as Take Control, do more than just prevent deficiencies: They are geared to actually treat disease.

"We're not as concerned today with diet deficiency diseases," said Clare Hasler, executive director of the Functional Foods for Health program at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. "We're targeting [things to eat] because they can help reduce chronic disease risk."

For now, nearly all the new products are aimed against heart disease. This leading killer is the first to be addressed because researchers can study a food's effect on a recognized marker for heart disease – the level of blood cholesterol.

For example, Take Control is already sharing grocery shelves in the Midwest with a new line of Kellogg's Ensemble pastas, frozen entrees, baked potato crisps and cookies that contain soluble oat and psyllium fiber and are also designed to help lower cholesterol.

In Finland, where heart disease rates have been among the highest in Europe, public health campaigns advise consumers to make the designer margarine Benecol part of a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising, maintaining an ideal body weight, reducing consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol and eliminating smoking.

"We've had more than four years of experience with Benecol on the market now," said Pekka Puska, director of the Division of Coronary Disease at Finland's National Public Health Institute. "It's been well received by people here, and as a whole in Finland we see a very big reduction in people's cholesterol levels, although it's not just due to Benecol. People are more and more health conscious. They're choosing heart healthy foods." The hope is that this combination approach may make similar strides in the United States. In theory, regular exercise and a strict, low fat, low cholesterol diet can lower blood cholesterol levels by as much as 20 percent, according to Ernst Schaefer, chief of the lipid metabolism branch at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center on Aging at Tufts University.

But the reality is far different. "We only see about a 5 percent reduction in lipid levels in clinic patients because compliance [with diet and exercise] is so low," Schaefer said. For this reason, many people with high cholesterol wind up taking drugs to cut the level of this fatty substance in the blood. The addition of such designer foods to the diet "could markedly decrease the number of people you would have to put on medication," said Schaefer, who consults with various food companies including Lipton, the maker of Take Control.

A Bold Frontier for Food

It's no surprise that the food industry views the move toward designer foods with great anticipation. Also known as functional foods, products in this emerging field have been projected by Decision Resources, Inc., of Waltham, Mass., could grow into a $28 billion annual market. And that figure does not take into account the "potential of functional foods to mitigate disease, promote health and reduce health care costs," noted the University of Illinois' Hasler in the November issue of Food Technology. The concept of designer foods also "appeals to middle class, affluent Americans who want to live longer and are willing to pay more for that possibility," said David Schardt, associate nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based consumer group. "And they will pay more for the privilege of using these products, which is one reason why the food companies are so excited about it."

All in all, functional foods represent an important psychological shift in eating. "The '70s were all about prevention or cure," said David Blanchard, vice president of research and development with Lipton. "The '80s were all about taking bad things out of the diet, but oftentimes, we also took out taste, so people rejected the products. Now people want the benefit of both: They want great tasting foods with nutritional benefit, which is why you will see the launch of products like Take Control."

Surveys suggest that consumers want less guilt, which also seems to help set the stage for designer foods. In recent years, strong health messages have advised what should not be eaten but have often left out what could be savored. The growth of functional foods represents a more positive message that "plays very well," said David B. Schmidt, senior vice president of food safety for the International Food Information Council. "It tells people, `What you do eat may be more important than what you don't eat.'"

No Clear Definition

What exactly is a functional food?

In Japan, the only country where a legal definition exists, foods that have specified health uses (FOSHU) can be certified with a seal of approval from the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare. In the United States, the nature of functional or designer foods is far less clear.

"Most people would agree that a legal definition doesn't exist," said Christine Lewis, special assistant in the Office of Special Nutritionals at the FDA's Center for Food Safety.

In 1994, the National Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board took a crack at defining the term functional foods and came up with "any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains."

There are 52 known ingredients-vitamins, minerals, amino acids, sugars and fatty acids-that are essential to life. Scientists are just beginning to appreciate and document the wide range of other substances that may be important to avoiding disease and maintaining health. "An additional 1,000 or more other compounds exist in the plant world that could open all kinds of doors to preventing disease," said Paul A. Lachance, executive director of the Nutraceuticals Institute at Rutgers University. "We're just skimming the surface of the compounds that we know exist."

It was by studying some of these plant compounds that researchers stumbled upon phytosterols, the ingredient added to margarine to make both Take Control and Benecol.

Phytosterols are forms of cholesterol that occur in plants. For Take Control, the compound is extracted from soybeans. Benecol's comes from pine. Both work to lower blood cholesterol levels by competing with dietary cholesterol to be absorbed in the intestine. Once absorbed, the phytosterols do not create the same sort of blockages in blood vessels as does cholesterol. Both of the phytosterols in Take Control and Benecol have undergone extensive study for nearly 40 years.

"We eat phytosterols already, although in much smaller amounts," said Schardt of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "What food companies are doing is increasing the amount and making the substances more soluble and active in the intestinal tract."

If a Little Is Good, Is a Lot Better?

The advantage of this new generation of designer foods is that they are easily incorporated into the daily diet. Switching to a pasta with added soluble fiber or choosing a margarine that tastes pretty much the same but lowers cholesterol significantly requires a lot less sacrifice than giving up a favorite food or embarking on a rigorous exercise schedule. "That's very powerful," Blanchard said. " ... With functional foods, you can maintain your regular diet and still get the benefit of that food."

Neither food industry executives nor health professionals advise that simply adding a functional food to the diet is the best way to make significant health changes. "This is not a panacea," Blanchard said. "It's something that needs to be used in conjunction with the normal guidelines for healthy living."

But could there be too much of a good thing? Schardt and other consumer advocates worry about possible side effects of functional foods. The recommended dosage of Take Control is two to three grams per day, about the equivalent of using a couple of pats of margarine at each meal of the day.

"People are expected to take these products for the rest of their lives," Schardt said. "We don't have any smoking gun, we're not claiming to know that something is wrong, but the safety questions have to be addressed."

Does it matter if someone goes overboard and eats half a tub of designer margarine? "If your pregnant wife eats it, is it okay?" Schardt asked. "We're hoping that the FDA is seeking the answers to those questions."

What also concerns some experts is the possibility of interactions between designer foods and drugs, a new twist on what is known as polypharmacy. Under the best conditions, this synergy can be helpful. European studies show, for example, that people who take the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins and consume Benecol regularly can lower their blood cholesterol by as much as 24 percent.

But the growing use of designer foods may also set the stage for some overdoses or harmful interactions between foods, dietary supplements and prescription drugs, especially as such additions become more common. For example, one variety of Hains Chicken soup contains St. John's Wort, an herb recommended for some people as a remedy for mild depression. Another variety contains eichanicea, often promoted as a treatment for the common cold.

"If you're supplementing that soup with pills, how do you keep track of how much St. John's Wort you are eating from soup and how much you are taking from pills?" asked Schardt." ... One of the problems with functional foods is that you can't keep track of how much you are taking as easily if you are taking a drug or even a dietary supplement."

For others, designer foods may provide a false sense of security. Eggs fortified with vitamin E still provide only a fraction of the recommended daily dosage. "If you were relying on your eggs for vitamin E, you'd have to eat an awful lot of them and that would pose another problem" with consumption of fat and cholesterol, Schardt said.

Moderation in all things may solve the various concerns about functional foods. "Some people look at this as a magic bullet approach," said Schmidt of the International Food Information Council. "We don't think it's good to focus on one food as the key to health. You need a variety of foods, a balanced diet. If you're incorporating some of these foods into a well balanced diet, you will probably do no harm and you may do a lot of good."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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Date: 18 May 1999 11:18:39 -0500
From: Colleen Robison-Spencer
Subject: Wash. Post 5/18 Health Supplement "Designer Foods..."

Sidebar, not on the computer version. Any mistakes are probably mine. C.

Designer Foods on the Drawing Board

A host of other designer foods ar e poised to follow Take Control margarine into the marketplace in the next several years.

The Food and Drug Administration is now considering a health claim for soy products. If approved, tofu, frozen soy burgers and other soy foods could carry a label touting their health benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease.

A group of scientists led by Paul A. Lachance, executive director of the Nutraceuticals Institute at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has also petitioned the FDA to grant a health claim to calcium for its purported benefits in lowering blood pressure.

At the University of California School of Medicine at Davis, Kent Erickson, chair of cell biology and human anatomy, is studying conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This group of 20 to 30 compounds is found in a variety of foods, including dairy products, although it is removed from milk when making skim milk products.

Animal studies suggest that CLA may help thwart malignant tumors from spreading throughout the body. Two types of CLA under investigation also seem "to have some beneficial effects for heart disease and may be associated with weight loss," Erickson said.

But the experience with CLA also illustrates how long it takes for a functional food to reach the market. Studies on CLA hsve been underway for more than a decade in animals. Only this year have Erickson and his colleagues tried the compound on humans. Results are pending.

"We haven't seen any detrimental effects or anything unusal, but we are now trying to sort out the hormonal and immunology factors in human," Erickson said.

Food industry experts are also closely watching the development of probiotics, bacteria that are helpful rather than harmful to humans. Yogurt already contains lactobacillus, which also helps digest the lactose sugar that can cause painful gas and other distress in people with lactose intolerance. Investigators are researching whether the bacteria may be helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease.

Bifidobacteria are also under study. Like lactobacillus, bifidobacteria may help selectively thwart bacteria and viruses that cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal infections.

Two other compounds also getting a closer look from researchers are butyric acid and oleic acid.

Butyric acid "is a short-chain fatty acid that may be very beneficial in the protection of colon tumors," Erickson said. "The question is, will it remain in the intestine to get to the sites where most colon tumors occur?"

If so, it could be a new ingredient in salad dressings and other sauces.

Oleic acid is a mono-unsaturated fat that is found in fairly high concentrations in Mediterranean diest. It may have beneficial effects for both heart disease and cancer. "It's one of the compounds that look really interesting," Erickson said.

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Date: 18 May 1999 15:32:13 -0500
From: joe cummins
Subject: advocate of refuge

Refuge: A Defenders Claims Refuge Prevents Spread of Dominant Mutants!

Prof. Joe Cummins, e-mail:, May 18, 1999

Refuge is the strategy used to prevent rapid spread and establishment of mutant insects that have become resistant to genetically engineered crops containing genes for pesticides such as corn with Bt resistance. Refuge is setting aside blocks of crops within the main crop that lack Bt gene and thus allow insect pests such as corn borer to proliferate within the block. Refuge is based on the theory that mutants to Bt resistance are recessive.

Mutant insects must mate with other mutants to produce resistant off-springs. Any mutant insect that arises in the crop is most likely to be stimulated by pheromones emanating from the wild type insects in the refuge blocks and mate exclusively with wild type insects in the blocks. All of the off-springs from mating between recessive mutants and wild type insects will be sensitive thus killed by munching on Bt crop. However, dominant Bt mutants have been identified in the corn borer insect pest. Such dominant mutants will produce half or more resistant mutant type off-springs after mating with wild sensitive insects in the refuge blocks. The refuge will provide a large population of sensitive breeders to spread the dominant Bt resistant insects. When dominant mutants appear refuge provides a breeding ground to spread the Bt resistant insects.

Millions of acres of corn have planted with refuge blocks this season and companies and government bureaucrats are slow to recognize that the dominant Bt mutants make refuge husbandry a way to rapidly eliminate the usefulness of Bt modified crops.

Recently Prof. Rick Roush of Adelaide University (one of the founders and promoter of the refuge strategy) provided me with his theory that dominant Bt mutants will be controlled by refuge. He believes resistant males will probably spread faster in the absence of a refuge because they will search further for mates.

Nobody has accused Prof. Roush of having a sense of humor, rightly so. However, one of his comments made me laugh . That comment was I have published about it (refuge) in prestigious places eg Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London ..and you haven't I say whoopee to that!

In conclusion, advocates of the refuge strategy continue to promote it in the face of evidence that it may be harmful. Such advocates include companies, government bureaucrats and even some environment groups. It seems unlikely that the refuge strategy will be re-evaluated in the face of discovery of dominant mutants and the advocates of genetic engineering will continue to maintain that their dogma is the only true science.

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Date: 18 May 1999 16:11:00 -0500
From: joe cummins

Prof. J.Cummins' letter to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

The letter below was not acknowledged by CBC;
Subject:Genetically Modified Food
Date: Fri, 07 May 1999 20:56:44 -0400
From: joe cummins

Today's comments by the Minister of Agriculture truly exposed the problems with Genetically Modified (GM) foods in Canada.Two of his comments tell a frightening story about the political mind-set on GM foods. First, the Minister was unwilling to divulge the acreage of GM crops or even the proportion of production they represent.

The Minister's office Biotechnology Canada also refuses to divulge such fundamental information. Clearly the Minister and his ministry are hiding GM food production which is marketed in Canada without labels to avoid public confrontation. It is dangerous to try to hide such information from countries importing Canadian crops. It is also unwise because the GM crops are easily detected in importing countries who employ genetic fingerprinting of the crops. Second, the Ministers comment on the Pusztai discovery that GM potatoes are toxic to mammals is that the discovery shows the "system works".

Frankly, Arpad Pusztai was persecuted, wrongly accused and retired summarily for truthfully reporting his results to the public. I take it that the Minister approves of abuse of power and bureaucratic misrepresentation as was employed about the brave researcher.At any rate, the toxin (lextin) studied in potato is being developed for release in a number of crops other than potato.

In conclusion, the Minister of Agriculture failed to grasp the threat to Canada's ability to export food crops and the public distrust of GM food. The government will have to learn how to deal truthfully with exporters and the public to correct the damage caused by arrogant and secretive distribution of GM foods.

Professor Joe Cummins, Emeritus Professor of Genetics,
University of Western Ontario.,

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Date: 18 May 1999 23:56:43 -0500
From: MichaelP

Here's the Guardian story about the Royal Soc. report on Pusztai experiments, FOLLOWED BY the report itself.

I see nothing in the report to suggest that genetically manipulated products don't need testing. The anonymous reviewers say:

"Although we have no evidence of harmful effects from genetic modification, this of course does not mean that harmful effects can be categorically ruled out. This issue can be resolved only by the necessary research carried out to a high standard and by full use of the regulatory mechanisms for dealing with safety of food."



Scientists doubt GM food research

By Tim Radford, Science Editor, GUARDIAN (London)Wednesday May 19, 1999

The row over genetically modified crops took a twist last night as Britain's leading scientists dismissed the findings which sparked the latest furore.

A specially convened Royal Society group maintained that the experiments of Arpad Pusztai who said last August that genetically-modified potatoes stunted the growth of his laboratory rats were 'flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis.'

But, they said, that did not prove that GM foods were safe. And as a Commons select committee called for a code of practice to ensure that scientific news reporting should be 'factually accurate', environmental campaigners accused them of making recommendations 'brewed up in the basement of a corporate lobbying firm.' Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party called for an end to testing of GM crops north of the border.

Dr Pusztai, the Hungarian-born expert on plant toxins called lectins, said last night he had been treated unfairly. Its six anonymous investigators had given him too little time to consider their findings, and had not taken up his offer to discuss results, which were still confidential.

'Obviously I don't agree with them. Why should we trust these six unnamed referees?' he asked. 'Who the hell are they? As far as I am concerned they could be anything.'

Dr Pusztai, at the age of 68, was bundled out of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen last year, a few days after he had described in a World In Action TV programme his attempts to devise new ways of testing the safety of GM foods and the disturbing turn of his research.

He said rats fed potatoes modified with a insecticide gene from snowdrops suffered damage to their organs and their immune systems.

An internal audit at the Rowett found his conclusions unjustified. But in February an international group of scientists rallied to his support, and reopened the row, to even wider public alarm.

The Royal Society, founded in 1660 as an independent scientific academy, began its own investigation, and its conclusions had to be faxed to Dr Pusztai late last week in Norway 'which is where I have to go now if I want to do experimental work,' he said.

He added: 'The affair cost me my health. I thought it had gone away and was quietly doing some work in some other part of the European continent.'

The Royal Society is a science elite: some of its members helped to found the new world of genetic research. It has already declared GM research as important for farming, health and nutrition. But its latest report called for more safety research. 'Each GM food must be assessed individually,' it declared.

Environmentalists were not impressed. Doug Parr, of Greenpeace, said: 'People should still be worried. This changes nothing and the questions that Dr Pusztai's research raised, remain unanswered.'

Save British Science, a lobby of professional scientists, welcomed yesterday's Commons select committee report on the scientific advisory system, and the problems of GM food. The report suggested that scientists should respond competently to media pressure, that the media should be obliged to report scientific matters accurately, that the benefits of GM technology would be lost to Britain unless there was rational debate, and that scientists serving the biotechnology industry should not be barred from the government's scientific advisory system.

The committee also heard evidence from Dr Pusztai, and said yesterday: 'The press continues to give credibility to Dr Pusztai's claim despite it being contradicted by his own evidence.'

Adrian Bebb, of Friends of the Earth, said: 'The report smells as if it was brewed up in the basement of some corporate lobbying firm. It has no credibility whatever.'

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Date: 18 May 1999 23:56:43 -0500
From: MichaelP

UK Royal Society: Review of Data on Possible Toxicity of GM Potatoes

Main Conclusions
1 Background
2 Methodology
3 Did the GM Potatoes Tested have a Specific Effect on Organ Development and Metabolism of the Rats?
4 Did the GM Potatoes Tested have a Specific Effect on the Immune System of the Rats?
5 Conclusions of Review of Data
6 Future Research
7 Recommendations

Main Conclusions

The Royal Society published a review of what was known scientifically about the suitability of GM plants for food use in September 1998. Because of the current controversy, we are looking again at several issues, and in particular we have reviewed all available data related to work at the Rowett Research Institute on the possible toxicity of genetically modified potatoes. Our main conclusions are as follows.

  1. The safety of GM plants is an important and complex area of scientific research and demands rigorous standards. However, on the basis of the information available to us, it appears that the reported work from the Rowett is flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and that no conclusions should be drawn from it.

  2. We found no convincing evidence of adverse effects from GM potatoes. Where the data seemed to show slight differences between rats fed predominantly on GM and on non-GM potatoes, the differences were uninterpretable because of the technical limitations of the experiments and the incorrect use of statistical tests.

  3. The work concerned one particular species of animal, when fed with one particular product modified by the insertion of one particular gene by one particular method. However skilfully the experiments were done, it would be unjustifiable to draw from them general conclusions about whether genetically modified foods are harmful to human beings or not. Each GM food must be assessed individually.

  4. The whole episode underlines how important it is that research scientists should expose new research results to others able to offer informed criticism before releasing them into the public arena.

1 Background

In April 1999 the Royal Society convened a Working Group to examine whether newly publicised research required changes to our September 1998 statement GM plants for food use. This report deals with the apparent evidence that genetically modified potatoes adversely affected the health and growth of rats. The report has been endorsed by the Council of the Society, and was prepared by a group chaired by Professor Noreen Murray FRS, FRSE (University of Edinburgh). The other members were Professor Brian Heap FRS (Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society), Professor William Hill FRS, FRSE (University of Edinburgh), Dr Jim Smith FRS (National Institute for Medical Research), Professor Michael Waterfield FRS (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and University College London) and Dr Rebecca Bowden (Secretary).

2 Methodology

We sought information from all possible sources about the work at the Rowett Research Institute and obtained the following:

Dr Pusztai indicated to us that further information existed, but did not provide it.

We sent the available information to six independent, impartial reviewers whose expertise included statistics, clinical trials, physiology, nutrition, quantitative genetics, growth and development, and immunology. Their remit was to examine the data that we gave them and advise us, in the usual way of referees, about the scientific merit of the work described. They were not asked to give an opinion on the actions of any individuals involved in this work.

This report is based on the responses from the six reviewers. The responses were copied to Dr Arpad Pusztai, who was given the opportunity to comment. In accordance with normal scientific practice, the reviewers remained anonymous.

Dr Pusztai suggested to us that his reports were internal Institute documents and that it was therefore not appropriate to peer review them. However, since they were released into the public domain, both through the media and on the Internet, it seems to us entirely appropriate that they should also be subjected to expert scientific scrutiny - all the more so because of the importance of this area.

We now examine two specific claims that have been made as a result of the Rowett work.

3 Did the GM Potatoes Tested have a Specific Effect on Organ Development and Metabolism of the Rats?

The experiments set out to investigate whether potatoes genetically modified to contain a lectin gene from a snowdrop affected the development of organs or the metabolism of the rats to which they were fed, in the short (10 days) or long (110 days) term. The structure of the experiments was changed as they progressed, which made comparisons between rats fed on modified potatoes and those fed on unmodified potatoes more difficult. Some results showed differences in the overall body weights and in the weights of individual organs in the two groups of rats. However, such results as were statistically significant did not fall into a readily discernible pattern.

A particular difficulty is that the experiments were not well designed. For example, there is very little information about how the GM and control diets differed in their detailed composition, and in particular about differences other than those attributable to the inserted gene. These differences should have been fully analysed, and addressed by using several distinct strains of GM potato in the feeding trials. Second, the GM potatoes used contained almost 20% less protein than unmodified potatoes. Therefore, in the long-term feeding study, rats being given GM potatoes were also given additional protein to meet Home Office requirements intended to avoid starvation: observed effects could have been caused by this supplementary diet being inadequate or incomplete. Third, when a rat is underfed many organs are likely to be affected, so that separate measurements on the same specimen will turn out to be interrelated.

An added deficiency of the study was that, as far as we can tell, the measurements were not conducted 'blind' as is normal practice for trials of this kind (a protocol in which the scientists making the measurements are not aware of how the animals have been treated). Unconscious bias is well known to be a source of invalid results.

Because of the poor experimental design, it is simply not possible to be sure about the causes of the small effects obtained in the study.

4 Did the GM Potatoes Tested have a Specific Effect on the Immune System of the Rats?

It had been claimed that the consumption of GM potatoes had significant effects on the immune system of rats in the feeding trials, because of some effect of the genetic modification itself rather than because of the particular gene inserted. Reviewers were asked to consider if this conclusion was valid.

One of the immune reactions in the body can be mimicked in the laboratory. Antigen-reactive white blood cells (lymphocytes) are transformed into dividing lymphoblasts when they are stimulated by specific antigens. This provides a means of testing for effects on the immune system.

The claim that the Rowett data show evidence that the inserted gene had a different immune effect from simply adding lectins to unmodified potatoes does not stand up. Inappropriate statistical tests had been applied to the data and, when the appropriate comparisons are made , there are no interpretable differences. Moreover, the experimental data in this area are beset by the same sources of inconsistency noted in section 3 above.

5 Conclusions of Review of Data

The work on feeding trials with GM and non-GM potatoes attempted to cover too much ground with the resources available.

In the form currently available, the data reviewed provide no reliable or convincing evidence of adverse (or beneficial) effects, either of lectins added to unmodified potatoes or of potatoes genetically modified to contain a lectin gene, on the growth of rats or on their immunological function.

In summary, the data presented to the reviewers and Working Group are inadequate for the following reasons:

The uncertainty and ambiguity of the data urge great caution in the interpretation of the results presented. A much improved experimental design, with stringent controls, would have been needed if the claims made for the study were to be convincing. Even if the results of the particular study had supported the claims that have been made for them, it would have been unwise to use them for making statements about the safety or otherwise of all GM foods.

Although we have no evidence of harmful effects from genetic modification, this of course does not mean that harmful effects can be categorically ruled out. This issue can be resolved only by the necessary research carried out to a high standard and by full use of the regulatory mechanisms for dealing with safety of food.

6 Future Research

Reviewers were asked to give advice on the necessity of future research arising from the data presented.

The only way to clarify the current situation would be to refine the experimental design of the research done to date and to use this as the basis for further studies in which clearly defined hypotheses were tested, focused on the specific differences already claimed. It would be necessary to carry out a large number of extremely complex tests on many different strains of GM and non-GM potatoes. It would be important to ensure that these studies had sufficient statistical power (in the sense that numbers in each experimental group were sufficient to deal with the variability in individual response) to come to a clear conclusion. It would also be important to take adequate account of the age and the susceptibility of the animals and the wholesomeness, completeness and adequacy of the entire diet. Careful thought would have to be given to the specific targets for any hypothesised damage.

7 Recommendations

In view of the public interest in this case we recommend that the results of any future studies on testing GM food safety, when completed, should be peer reviewed and then published. This would provide an opportunity for the international scientific community and the public at large to have access to the information.

The Royal Society has recommended in its September 1998 statement GM plants for food use that any over-arching body analyse the current regulations, giving particular consideration to whether long-term animal feeding studies are necessary to provide greater information on allergenicity or toxicity. We now reiterate this recommendation.

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