Date: 25 May 1999 05:38:21 -0500
From: Jon firstname.lastname@example.org
NORFOLK GENETIC INFORMATION NETWORK (ngin)
An editorial in the Independent on Sunday (London) May 23 1999 - a paper which is running a campaign against the introduction of GM food crops into the UK - concedes that GM systems for soya are a plus for American farmers. they are it says "boosting yields enormously." A pro-GM editorial in The Times not so long ago made reference to the fact that soya yields are up by 5% in the US thanks to GM crops.
The 'fact' that GM crops are good news in terms of food production (in quantative terms at least) is constantly repeated in the media and elsewhere. It appears an entirely sensible assumption given the apparent enthusiasm of so many farmers for growing them. The reality, as independent research increasingly demonstrates, is very different (eg see http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/wisconsinRRsoyatrials98.htm
Recently we posted an important article (The Emperoris Transgenic New Clothes) by UK land agent Mark Grifiths email@example.com which detailed the agronomic problems, particularly as regards yield, with transgenic crops and explained how these problems are being successfully hidden in the US. As the article was quite long, we thought we would provide a simple summary which also draws on additional evidence (available on the Farming News page of the ngin website). Any inaccuracies are, of course, entirely are own (see Mark's original article on the ngin website: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin .
For more information see the Farming News page on the ngin website: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin
For detailed information and great links on the poor agronomic performance of GM crops visit: http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/gmagric.htm
Date: 25 May 1999 09:29:59 -0500
Subject: Labels in our future?
This may be an indication that the wise and honorable US regulatory agencies will find a way to "regulate" GE crops and food into the market. We must be careful what we ask for.
I can see them establishing a "safe level of exposure" or determining a level of GMOs that fall just below the labeling requirement.
I say...."BAN GE CROPS and FOOD!"
Greens St. Louis
By Robert Steyer , St. Louis Post Dispatch, Tuesday, May 25, 1999, Front Page
A federal task force is expected to report by the end of July on whether the nation's food labeling laws should be revised to reflect generally engineered crops, top U.S. agriculture officials said Monday in St. Louis.
The task force's deliberations come at a time when opposition to genetically altered foods - among consumers, food companies and politicians - is accelerating overseas, especially in Europe. Monsanto Co. has been a leader in genetically engineered crops.
The food label task force, which was activated six weeks ago, includes representatives from the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration, State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative's office, said Isi A. Siddiqui, special assistant for trade to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.
Siddiqui and Glickman told the Post-Dispatch on Monday that there has been no change in the government's position that food should be labeled only if ingredients change the nutritional content or could cause allergies.
Domestic critics say biotech foods should be labeled to give consumers a choice. The food and biotechnology industries criticize that proposal as expensive and unnecessary.
But several European and Asian nations are implementing or proposing labeling laws that would distinguish modified ingredients. Some food companies overseas, especially in Great Britain say they won't sell food with bioengineered ingredients.
"It's clear that labeling can be a sensible way of providing information, but we have to make sure that the labeling is responsible," Glickman said.
Labeling is only one of the disputes between the United States and a growing number of countries, especially the 15-nation European Union, that threaten to erupt into an agricultural trade war.
Glickman repeated his willingness to impose tariffs on European Union goods worth $202 million, replying to the EU's refusal to accept imports of U.S. hormone-treated beef. Glickman said he is moving to seek World Trade Organization approval for the tariffs, which could be in place by July.
But as nasty as this fight has become, Glickman warned that disputes over bioengineered crops "could make beef hormones look like the minor leagues."
In a related development, Glickman said that next month he will select a 25-member committee to counsel his department on how biotechnology affects issues ranging from trade to small farms. This permanent committee, whose formation was announced in March, will include consumer advocates, environmentalists, scientists, corporate executives and farmers.
Glickman was the keynote speaker Monday at the first World Congress, organized by the World Agricultural Forum, a St. Louis-based organization created by scientists, educators and executives. He told the audience that companies must temper the wonders of science with the concerns of consumers.
"My confidence in biotechnology and the industry's confidence in biotechnology are ultimately irrelevant if the consumers aren't buying," Glickman said. "We can't force-feed GMOs [genetically modified organisms] to reluctant consumers. We have to bring them along. The public opinion poll is as important as the test tube."
He added that a greater embrace of consumers doesn't weaken the federal government's demand for strict scientific standards in evaluating food for domestic and foreign use. "Nations can't mask protectionism with unevaluated, secret studies," he said. "We have to have rules-based trade."
Glickman said U.S. food and biotech companies must recognize that American consumers "are more willing to accept science as a force for progress" than are other consumers - a theme echoed by several speakers.
"European consumers are more interested in traditional foods," said W. Guy Walker, a British food consultant and former executive at Unilever. He recommended that food companies agree to labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.
Walker cited the example of a British company that offers a tomato paste, labeled as containing bioengineered tomatoes, next to a traditional tomato paste. "There has been virtually no dispute," he said.
Displaying a list of European nations where opposition far exceeded support for food biotechnology, Walker said consumers rebel because they lack a choice.
Labeling and separating genetically modified food from traditional food is the best way to offer a choice and to neutralize opposition and suspicion. "Once consumers are scared, especially on safety grounds, it takes a long time to win their confidence to try new things," he said.
Date: 25 May 1999 09:46:29 -0500
By Bill Lambrecht , Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 1999, St. louis Post Diapatch
WASHINGTON Under the "chaos theory" of events, a butterfly flapping its wings in one place could generate a hurricane somewhere else.
A recent scientific report that certain genetically modified corn threatens the popular monarch butterfly hasn't brought a hurricane, but it produced more than a few ripples Monday at a National Academy of Sciences gathering to consider risks of genetic engineering.
In its only public hearing before writing a potentially important report, a panel of academy scientists was warned that more problems like monarch fatalities will occur unless the government does a better job regulating biotechnology.
At the hearing, Robert Harness, director of government affairs for St. Louis-based Monsanto Co., said the government's current regulatory structure works well.
"I suspect that it sounds like I've stood up here and given a ringing endorsement to the federal agencies," he said. "In part, that was my intent."
Margaret Mellon, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was among those arguing that the government's oversight has gaps. Mellon recommended that more biotechnology regulation be placed with the Environmental Protection Agency instead of split between three government agencies. "If they didn't predict that corn pollen kills monarchs, what else have they missed?" she asked.
Harold Coble, a professor and Department of Agriculture scientist, said that government agencies need to be more alert. In the butterfly study, Cornell University scientists writing in Nature Magazine reported last week that pollen from corn that is genetically modified to produce a toxin that kills pests killed about half the monarch caterpillars that consumed it on milkweed leaves. The government had not required monarch studies before approving commercial plantings.
Monsanto and rivals who engineer the popular new corn hybrids don't dismiss the study but contend that the threat to butterflies is overblown because laboratories differ from cornfields. The debate is important because the Bt corn in question - which is engineered with a bacterium called bacillus thuringiensis - will be planted on as much as 25 million acres in the United States this year.
The butterfly debate also could be important to the National Academy of Sciences, which had begun its review of government regulations before the Cornell study was published. When the review started, scientists appointed by the academy had planned a broader study that also looked at the social and economic effects of genetic engineering.
The scope of the study by the 12-member panel has been narrowed only to the risks and benefits of Bt crops with an eye toward recommending how the government can do a better job regulating. The National Academy of Sciences hasn't examined genetic engineering for more than a decade, so the findings will carry weight in the United States and abroad.
Besides the current review, which is due out this fall, the academy may begin a study that looks at broader issues surrounding genetically modified seeds. Mike Phillips, a project manager for academy studies, said that academy scientists will meet Friday to discuss a new study that looks at seed patenting and related topics.
The issue of controlling seed stocks gained prominence as Monsanto and its rivals acquire seed companies and take out patents on genetic materials. Perhaps the most controversial seed issue concerns control of a genetic technology called "the Terminator" because it renders the second generation of seeds sterile. Companies do not have this technology yet, but they are continuing research as a means to control the expression of genetic traits and to prevent farmers from saving genetically modified seeds.
Date: 25 May 1999 12:56:20 -0500
From: "Campbell, Jon" Campbell@Rational.Com
People who call themselves "genetic engineers" and their industry "genetic engineering" are stretching the definition of the word "engineering". Typically, engineers are involved in the use of a well-known science (mechanics, physics, chemistry) to put together structures based on that science (buildings, automobiles, satellites, organic and inorganic chemicals). The bounds of understanding are fairly well-defined, and even the undesirable consequences of their work is fairly predictable (e.g., nuclear power plants produce hazardous but well-understood toxic materials which react with the environment). When mistakes are made, they are generally due to someone not paying attention to the published papers written about it (meltdown of nuclear plants, pesticide poisoning, etc.) or not paying attention to the blueprints (bridges that collapse, etc.)
In the case of "genetic engineering" little is known about anything, except that they have stumbled upon a mechanism for punching through the natural barrier to gene insertion, and experimented with finding random sites in the genetic makeup of plants or animals in which the inserted gene exhibits the behavior they think they want, with no understanding whatever of what is really going on. That is not engineering, it is tinkering. Unfortunately, they are tinkering with the essence of life on earth. The language that we use about them should aptly describe what it is they are doing.
When the sewage plants and the EPA wanted to promote agricultural use of sewage sludge in the US, they renamed it "biosolids". During the last 25 years, genetic tinkerers and (and now tamperers) have become "engineers", giving them linguistic respectability.
If in our literature and discussions we refer to it as the "genetic tampering industry" or "genetic tinkering industry" we get our point across in 3 words.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 1999 10:10 AM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: B-GE: Update: BIOTECH, and other Euphemisms, MORE Power Words
Update: BIOTECH, and other Euphemisms, MORE Power Words
Thanks to those who wrote with constructive suggestions for additional terms to add. We now have a growing list of euphemisms and more accurate power words.
The GE industry quite naturally wants to define genetic engineering issues in terms that are vague and obfuscatory and therefore favorable to their profitability. This helps minimize GE awareness among themselves (as adulterators of food) AND among those problematic consumers.
As I've said before, the best example is that the GE industry wants to lump pharmaceuticals, conventional crossbreeding, and GE all together and call all these things "Biotech." It's also the best example because even some of the most ardent oponents of GE have fallen into line and regularly use this term.
I'm not telling activists/journalists what to do. I want to make them a bit more aware of this aspect of the strategy of the GE industry.
|Please use these words:||Please avoid these words:|
|Genetic Engineering Industry||Biotech Industry|
|Chemical Industry||Biotech Companies|
|Genetic Engineering/Chemical Industry||Biotech Multi-nationals|
|Genetic Engineering Companies||Biotechnology|
|Genetic Engineering Multi-nationals||Biotechnologists|
|Frankenstein Food Industry||Biotech food scientists|
|Frankenfood Industry||Food scientists|
|Genetic engineering||Gene Protection|
|Genetic manipulation||Gene Control|
|Genetically engineered food|
|Genetically manipulated food|
|Genetically tampered food|
|Test-tube created food|
Date: 25 May 1999 23:30:38 -0500
From: Jason Boehk firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for helping us to get our terminology straight. I agree that the words we use are critical to our success. With this in mind, I would like to state my objections to the term "genetic engineering". We are being far too charitable when we link together the words "genetic" and "engineering". I believe that the esteemed scientists among us might agree with me on this. Molecular biologists, professors of genetics, geneticists, OK. "Genetic Engineers", no go.
Who said, "Having learned to play the kazoo does not entitle one to compose orchestral symphonies"?
Some genetic "engineers" may not have learned how to play the kazoo yet.
The following is an excerpt from something I posted a while back. Some of the words are really strong, but when we have the clarity of thought to really perceive what is involved with intentionally mutating genes and then RELEASING them into the environment, I think we may soberly conclude that these are not hyperbolic.
Anyway, my main point is that we should use almost anything other than genetic ENGINEER. Of course there will be times when we must use the term as a referent. But let's automatically introduce our objection to this term based on valid philosophical and scientific grounds, and then introduce our preferred term, whatever that may be.
Right now I favor "genetically altered" "genetically tampered" or "genetically modified" as terms that are rhetorically conservative yet a bit more honest than "engineered". I guess that leaves me with "genetic alterer, tamperer, and modifier"... Genetic alteration, modification, tampering.
-------------- previous posting ------------------------
... In my opinion, the use of the term Genetic Engineering to describe the creation and release of mutant organisms into the environment is intellectually dishonest. Genetic Experimentation, Manipulation, Alteration, Manhandling, Contortion, Distortion, Ransacking, Conquest, Piracy, Molestation, Bastardization, Genetic Turn Nature Inside-Out, perhaps. But not Genetic "Engineering."
The word "engineering" is associated with predictability, guarantees, responsibility, improvement, infallibility, the onward march of scientific progress.
It's a disservice to engineers to use the word "engineering" in reference to the genetic ransacking of nature's DNA. Engineers build bridges that don't fall down, and design mechanical pumps and valves that operate with predictable, almost guaranteed results. When the thing they build metaphorically falls down, they get fired, or, in some cases, (if injury or death results) they live with a fractured career and a legacy of embarrassment.
As we all know, Genetically "Engineered" plants and animals have already "fallen down" big time (with few repercussions for the "engineers", at least as far as we know), and will continue to do so.
There are no second chances to re-"engineer" nature.
Date: 25 May 1999 13:08:14 -0500
From: John/Laurel Hopwood email@example.com
In response to dealing with val giddings, the front man for the biotech industry, and other PR people hired to protect the biotech industry: I'd like to offer my opinion. I think the objective is to hear what they're saying and then be prepared to debate.
One of his most influencial points is that agricultural biotechnology reduces the need for toxic agrichemicals. In some ways, this is true. Atrazine, alachlor, simazene, etc, used in corn production are very toxic chemicals; some of which get stored in fat tissue and, for instance, can get passed on in breast milk.
The rebuttal is that genetically engineered crops are just another technofix in a chemically-dependent and corporate controlled agrisystem. The solution is not another technofix, which only creates new problems, but rather, ORGANIC AND HUMANE agriculture.
The industry tries to convince government agencies and Congress that pesticides are needed to feed a growing world. The rebuttal is that studies show that pesticide use can be grossly minimized or eliminated without any significant crop loss or price increase to the consumer.
The industry says they have the solution to feeding a hungry world. The rebuttal is that genetic engineering can lead to reduced biodiversity, monopolistic control of the seed of life, reduced viability of beneficial insects, etc and that actually there will probably be significant crop loss with genetic engineering. The solution is multifaceted and includes factors such as fair distribution, growing regionally, etc, and Frances Lappe Moore is a good resource.
Also, in response to Judy Kew's message about Genisoy's advertisement "labeling" their new Ultra Soy powders as "Non GMO Soybeans" . . . it will be interesting to see if Genisoy hears from Monsanto's attorneys.
Date: 25 May 1999 14:15:10 -0500
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Peter M. Ligotti)
Aspartame is not only genetically engineered, but it's a genetically engineered chemical/drug being marketed as a food additive. Like John Fagan recently explained, it's created using GE bacteria.
It's the only genetically engineered product for which we have virtual proof, clear record, and case histories showing massive epidemic of human disease, death and destruction. Betty Martini has accumulated literally thousands of these case histories.
As far as I know, it's the ONLY genetically engineered food product on the market now that's clearly labelled in the U.S.A. AND documented as a public health debacle.
Labelling of course means that when bad effects are caused by Aspartame, we can convincingly show correlation and possibly causation, and therefore empirically demonstrate those bad health effects of Aspartame.
Because Aspartame is so bad, we logically and theoretically therefore cannot fully trust any other GE products.
We have no seeds for Aspartame, we cannot grow it in the ground, it does not reproduce. (thank goodness) But please never think it off topic in the slightest, and please do not complain about long posts about the dangers of Aspartame.
Aspartame is a MAJOR Achilles' heel for the GE Industry, and a MAJOR weapon for those opposed to GE food.
Date: 25 May 1999 18:29:31 -0500
From: wytze email@example.com
Today, may 25, the InterContinental Caravan (ICC) has officially started! The ICC is a project of Indian Farmers who took the initiative to come to Europe to make known their views on agriculture, the WTO, patents on living organisms and genetic engineering. A group of 500 farmer-representatives will visit many European countries. Today a group of 50 of them was in Holland. In the morning a demonstration took place at Cargills headquarters for the Benelux (Beligium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). Waving their beautiful green shawls, the farmers shouted "Down, Down, Cargill and Down Down Genetic engineering". The only reply the Cargill representative could give was that it is not forbidden to grow GE crops.
Tonight I had the honour to give a workshop on the effects of GE on agriculture for the farmers. It was a very inspirational experience to talk with them and share our thoughts on this issue. GE is a particular threat to farmers in the south. Farmercommunities in southern countries still have the custom of sharing seeds in order to create new varieties. Hence, plant breeder's "rights" or patents are meaningless and threatening to them. Since this way of farming is still very, very important for the foodsecurity of a large part of the worldpopulation, it becomes clear that patented GEseeds is of no help whatsoever for these farmers and is rather a threat than a help for foodsecurity. This unique visit of the farmers will be a tremendous stimulating experience for all those campaigning against GE.
Date: 26 May 1999 10:15:39 -0500
Please Distribute Widely!
It's an obscenity that, after years of controversy, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is still being used in the United States. The genetically engineered drug, made by the Monsanto Company, is injected into cows to artificially boost milk production. It has been shown to increase the incidence of mastitis (udder infections) in cows, which then give milk containing high somatic cell counts - that is, pus. Antibiotics are administered to control the infections, worsening the epidemic of veterinary antibiotic use which is rendering dangerous bacteria drug-resistant.
Milk from cows shot up with rBGH also contains elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which has been implicated as a risk factor in human breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. Both Canada and the European Union have banned rBGH, and both have issued scathing reports about it in recent months.
During the course of the unsuccessful attempt to gain approval for the drug in Canada, irregularities in the U.S. approval process have been newly revealed. In secret Monsanto tests, rats which were fed milk from rBGH-treated cows developed abnormalities of the thyroid and prostate glands. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims that it never was given the original data from these tests, only a summary which did not mention the physiological changes. The drug was approved in 1993 without the further testing that should have been required. Several FDA officials involved in rBGH decisions had close ties to Monsanto.
Despite the FDA's failure to protect us, all is not lost. There is now a bill in the New York State legislature that would require dairy products sold in the state which are produced with rBGH to be so labeled. This bill would finally empower consumers to choose whether to support the use of this unhealthy product. The New York State Greens have been leading the fight for the bill. We have now convinced State Senator Vincent Leibell (R-Brewster) to sponsor it, giving it bipartisan backing in both the Senate and the Assembly.
Monsanto today is a company in trouble. It is losing its huge bet on biotech agriculture. Worldwide resistance to genetically engineered food is mounting, with the European corn market now all but closed to American farmers. Monsanto is becoming a corporate pariah, its attempted mergers with American Home Products and DuPont having collapsed. It has been laying off employees and selling off divisions.
The last thing Monsanto needs is a new hullabaloo about rBGH. The company desperately wants genetically engineered food to be seen as "sustainable." But it knows that there's no way to paint rBGH as good for the world. And the product has never been a huge money-spinner - farmers don't like the health problems it causes for their dairy herds. It is conceivable that, if we keep up the pressure, the company will finally do the right thing and pull the plug on rBGH.
What You Can Do
Biotech Working Group
New York State Greens
Date: 26 May 1999 13:21:19 -0500
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Peter M. Ligotti)
RE: The Strategy of Intentional Vagueness of the word "Biotech" by the Genetic Engineering Industry
Very sorry if you were confused. I sincerely hope you don't also confuse too many others. That's exactly what the genetic engineering industry wants to do: confuse others so that they perceive as little differentiation as possible between drugs, traditional crossbreeding, and genetic engineering.
Peter Michael Ligotti
Being confused by the purpose of your list I showed it to 9 friends who are all food safty activists. None of them understood the point either. Most felt that the alternatives you selected connoted the exact same things - with the exception of the two "Franken"terms which have been effective against GM foods in Europe but have actually helped the GM industry in North America.
Date: 26 May 1999 14:07:48 -0500
From: MichaelP email@example.com
From: LOKA INSTITUTE firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Citizens Panel on Gene-Modified Food (Loka Alert 6:2)
By Dick Sclove, Research Director, The Loka Institute
Friends & Colleagues:
This is one in an occasional series on the democratic politics of research, science, and technology issued free of charge by the nonprofit Loka Institute. To be added to the Loka Alert E-mail list, or to reply to this post, please send a message to Loka@amherst.edu. To be removed from the list, just send an E-mail with no subject or message text to email@example.com. IF YOU SEND US A SUBSTANTIVE REPLY, LET US KNOW IF WE MAY REPOST YOUR NOTE to one of Loka's online discussion forums. And if you enjoy Loka Alerts, please invite interested friends & colleagues to subscribe too. Thank you!
IN THIS LOKA ALERT: Science and technology policy in the United States is customarily decided without input from everyday citizens who will be affected. In contrast, a number of other nations have pioneered processes for empowering representative lay citizens to participate constructively in such policy deliberations. This Loka Alert presents excerpts from a first-hand account, prepared by Loka advisory board member Phil Bereano, of a recent Danish "Citizen Consensus Conference" on the topic of genetically engineered foods. Phil's fascinating report represents the first blow-by-blow description available in the English language of a participatory Danish consensus conference.
Cheers to all,
Dick Sclove, Research Director, The Loka Institute
E-mail Loka@amherst.edu, Web http://www.loka.org
P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA
Date: 26 May 1999 14:07:48 -0500
From: MichaelP firstname.lastname@example.org
From: LOKA INSTITUTE email@example.com
In September 1998 the House Science Committee of the U.S. Congress issued a document, entitled "Unlocking Our Future," that proposes a post- Cold War U.S. science and technology policy. Loka Institute Research Director, Dr. Richard Sclove, sharply criticized the House document in an October 1998 Chronicle of Higher Education essay (available on the Web at http://www.loka.org/pubs/chronicle102398.htm).
This past December Sclove was one of five plenary speakers invited to address 150 participants in a day-long symposium on the House science policy study. The symposium was organized in Washington, DC by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS has now issued a report summarizing "the sense of the discussions at the symposium."
One of the six recommendations in the AAAS report essentially endorses two of the Loka Institute's key recommendations for democratizing U.S. science and technology policies. This is an important endorsement from an audience composed primarily of mainstream science-and-technology policy practitioners. Quoting from p. 19 of the AAAS report:
"Congress should Strengthen Mechanisms for Involving those whose Lives
are Affected by the Results of Research in Shaping S&T Policies."
"The House Science Committee is to be commended for its attempts to reach
out beyond its boundaries for views on the issues under consideration.
Nevertheless, it heard public testimony mainly from `the ususal suspects,'
traditional science policy constituencies who represent the performers for
R&D. Congress should seek input from a broader segment of the general
public on science and science policy matters, to better reflect our
nation's democratic process."
"The House Science Committee is to be commended for its attempts to reach out beyond its boundaries for views on the issues under consideration. Nevertheless, it heard public testimony mainly from `the ususal suspects,' traditional science policy constituencies who represent the performers for R&D. Congress should seek input from a broader segment of the general public on science and science policy matters, to better reflect our nation's democratic process."
. The full title of the AAAS Symposium report is Science & Technology for the Nation: Issues and Priorities for the 106th Congress: Views from the Science & Technology Community on the House Science Committee's Report "Unlocking Our Future" (Washington, DC: AAAS, March 1999). This report is available from the Directorate for Science & Policy Programs, AAAS, 1200 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20005, USA; tel. +1-202-326-6600; fax +1-202-289-4950; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
. On European processes for involving everyday citizens in science and technology policy decisions, see the Bereano essay in this Loka Alert (below).
. On community-based research, see the Loka Institute's Community Research Network Web page at http://www.loka.org/crn/index.htm.
Date: 26 May 1999 14:07:48 -0500
From: MichaelP email@example.com
From: LOKA INSTITUTE firstname.lastname@example.org
by Phil Bereano
Editor's Introduction: In April 1997 the Loka Institute and several institutional partners organized the first participatory Citizen's Panel ever held in the United States for deliberating on complex, controversial issues in science and technology policy. Modeled on a Danish-style "consensus conference," the topic of our Citizens Panel was "Telecommunications and the Future of Democracy" (see: http://www.loka.org/pages/panel.htm).
Citizens Panels have now been organized about 35 times in 12 different nations, and the process continues to make headway. (For a new, comprehensive list of consensus conferences organized worldwide, see http://www.loka.org/pages/worldpanels.html.)
Below we reproduce excerpts from a first-hand account of a recent Danish "Citizen Consensus Conference" on the topic of genetically engineered foods. This report represents the first blow-by-blow description and evaluation in the English language of a participatory Danish consensus conference. THE UNABRIDGED, 10-PAGE REPORT BY PHIL BEREANO IS AVAILABLE ON THE LOKA INSTITUTE WEB SITE AT http://www.loka.org/pages/DanishGeneFood.html.
The lucidity, detail, and nuance of the lay panel judgments summarized in Bereano's report, below, demonstrate convincingly yet again that well-structured participatory processes eliminate any rational justification for continuing the primitive practice of excluding everyday citizens from publically significant science and technology decisions.
Author Phil Bereano (E-mail email@example.com; Web http://www.uwtc.washington.edu/faculty/bereano/default.htm) is a professor in the Department of Technical Communication at the University of Washington in Seattle and a noted biotechnology critic. He is a member of the Loka Institute's National Advisor Board, and serves on the board of directors of the Council for Responsible Genetics and of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Date: 26 May 1999 14:07:48 -0500
From: MichaelP firstname.lastname@example.org
From: LOKA INSTITUTE email@example.com
by Phil Bereano
Production of the Lay Panel's Report
The Danish Board of Technology, a quasi-independent agency of the State, and the originator of the "consensus conference" concept, held such a process this spring to produce a citizen-based assessment of genetically engineered foods. The agency has held 18 of these events in the past 12 years. (The process is described in Richard Sclove, "Town Meetings on Technology," published originally in the journal Technology Review and posted at http://www.loka.org/pubs/techrev.htm. See also the Danish Board of Technology's web page at http://www.tekno.dk/eng/index.htm). The following report is based on my observations as an attendee, utilizing informal translation services supplied by a number of gracious Danish colleagues.
In two earlier weekends, the panel of 14 citizens, selected to be reflective of the Danish population (gender, age, rural/urban, occupation, etc.), met for preparatory stages of the process. A planning committee established by the Board selected readings and other educational materials for the citizens, in order to begin to educate them on the subject matter and the issues. This planning group also selected a group of experts and stakeholders, representing different points of view on the issues. In this conference experts represented the biotech industry, several research organizations (with expertise in socio-economic impact analysis as well as those with expertise in biotechnology), government agencies (environmental, consumer affairs, etc.), Greenpeace, and NOAH (an organization of Danish scientists committed to social responsibility). The citizen panel, interacting with the planning group, had opportunities to augment both the selection of experts and the education materials. The moderator for the lay panel was from a consulting firm and is also a well-known writer and theater director.
This weekend began Friday with sessions in which each of the experts made a 15-20 minute presentation to the citizens' panel. The setting was extremely pleasant a converted warehouse facility, light and airy, with visually interesting spaces for meeting and social interaction. A audience of perhaps 150 people was present; coffee breaks, a luncheon and the like provided numerous opportunities for informal exchanges.
The citizens, working with the planing group, had come up beforehand with 10 major questions (each subdivided into more detailed inquiries) for the experts to address; each expert was asked specifically to focus on 1 or 2 of these....
[Editor's note: Here Phil Bereano's unabridged report summarizes the participating experts' diverse responses to the questions posed by the Danish lay panel. See http://www.loka.org/pages/DanishGeneFood.html]
On Monday morning the 15th the written report, prepared the preceding day by the lay panel members, was presented and read section by section by the lay panelists themselves. (Their report has been published in English on the Danish Board of Technology's Website at http://www.tekno.dk/eng/publicat/genfoods.htm)
In sum, it was fairly balanced, but critical of the technology. One of the things of interest to me was the ability of the lay people to go beyond what was, in my opinion [(Editor's note): as Phil Bereano indicates in his unabridged report], in some respects an unbalanced expert presentation and discussion.
While falling short of calling for a moratorium, the lay panel did advocate strict regulation and control of the genetic engineering of foodstuffs. Within this overall position, they called specifically for broad labeling requirements so that consumer choices are guaranteed, and also for public regulation over monopolies in the field. This latter point relates to their concerns about the patenting of genetic technologies.
In particular, the lay panel called for an international convention to allow the Third World to use patented plants and plant materials and a legal rule which would categorize unworked patents as abandoned. While declaring that the current genetic engineering of food offers no consumer benefits, the panel could not reject the possibility that the technology might develop in this direction. It called for the clear separation and the protection of organic farming from farming that uses genetically engineered plants, as well as the maintenance of seed banks which would preserve diverse food plants.
Calling for more public funding which would increase the competence of government authorities to oversee this technology, the panel also supported the establishment of an insurance fund, supported by industry contributions, which would assure that liability for accidents, etc. would result in compensation.
The lay panel understood that the disagreements among experts were ideological as well as technical. Locating the technology within a real social milieu, the panel asked for the establishment of an ethical committee whose deliberations would receive weight equal to that given to technical considerations. (In this context it is important to note that the Danish notion of social ethics is not what exists in the U.S. private religiosity and the summing up of individualized ethical decisions but is, instead, an independent concept which includes explicit group or community values, such as social solidarity, social equity, and the like. It is a true appreciation of the fact that society is more than the algebraic summation of the individuals which comprise it.)
On some particular technical issues, the report expressed a concern about "horizontal gene flow" (that is, the transfer of genetic modifications into nearby plants), and wanted "refugia" to keep resistance from developing. ("Refugia" are pockets of genetically unmodified plants that are used to preserve a population of insects that will remain unadapted to genetic modifications introduced into a surrounding plant crop). It opposed the use of antibiotic markers and also the Terminator gene ("Terminator" is a genetic modification that renders a plant sterile so that its seeds can't be used to produce another crop). In addressing health risks, the citizens recognized that there is large measure of uncertainty in our assessments; they were particularly concerned about issues of nutrition, allergies, antibiotic resistance, and fertility.
Regulatory oversight should be established for seven years and then reviewed to see whether it should continue. A case-by-case evaluation should occur in order to sort out which information is relevant. Public control of the technology requires adequate resources, and that the regulators be truly independent from the interested parties. The citizens advocated that both the companies and the independent state authorities would make risk assessments and that the companies would have to pay fees for the acceptance of their products, the money going to support pubic research and education. There were some feelings of consternation that European Union (EU) regulations limit what many in Denmark would like to see as more stringent liability and sanctions. Therefore the panel called upon the EU to allow national rules in regard to this technology.
The government should issue new rules on pesticides and genetically modified organisms, to truly insure that the levels of agrochemicals used are lower. And the growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should not hinder other modes of agricultural production (specifically organic) which suggests serious concern about Bt resistance and the use of antibiotic markers. ("Bt" is a natural, bacterially produced insecticide that is harmless to higher animals and humans.) While calling for GMO research to include a focus on the needs of the Third World, the panel specifically acknowledged that a larger production of food stuffs will not solve the problems of the Third World. A number of these recommendations were couched in awkward language to the effect that the lay panel "can't foreclose the possibility that" something beneficial might eventuate.
There were strong calls for labeling and adequate public information. All genetically engineered food products should be labeled as such, and the panel recognized that there was a big difference between the demands of consumers and the European Union (EU) Directive. Similarly, the lay panel issued recommendations to stop technical monopolies (for example that the patents on lifeforms should only exist for 5 years), similarly at variance with EU law.
As mentioned above, the lay panel noted that only very few benefits for consumers are currently in the pipeline, but it could not reject the possibility that such products would eventually be developed. Hence it did not call for a moratorium.
There was considerable concern about protecting biodiversity, centers of diversity, and local ecosystems. Genetic modification must be balanced with conservation. The genetic modification of animals, especially, gives rise to ethical issues (for example, regarding reproduction). The lay panel insisted that ethics and consumer perspectives must be folded into decisionmaking about this technology. Currently, ethics are not included and are not given enough weight. This concern should be reflected on all levels of legal procedures, in a broad and continuous debate. Thus, the panel suggested the establishment of a genetics ethics committee which would be proactive and take the initiative to assure that this debate occurs (i.e., dialogue between companies and consumers), and that the process would be part of the development of broad Danish food policies.
The citizens accepted the position that the industry should have the burden of proof to prove usefulness, and in this regard they favored a utilitarian argument. (But this was coupled with their desire to stimulate ethical discussions.)
The experts then had a chance to comment on the report in order to eliminate ambiguities and assist the panel in reducing any possible misunderstandings. Some experts actually suggested ways in which the panel could make its points more strongly. [Note added by Phil Bereano: The possibility of actual distortion of a lay panel's recommendations has been raised in commentary on the Canadian Citizen's Conference held on genetically engineered food at the same time. Lay panelists there felt that the media distorted their language, which suggests that not enough attention was actually given to the drafting process. (On the Canadian conference, see http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~pubconf/index.html).]
A response to the report was offered by parliamentarian Jorgenson, a Social Democrat who chairs the Danish Parliament's Committee on Food. He agreed that the broader social values, going beyond just objective risk measures, should be considered. And he understood that there were specific problems, such as the use of antibiotic markers, which needed attention. He agreed with the panel that genetically modified foods should be particularly regulated, and was very supportive of labeling. As he pointed out, choice is not limited just to the product one wishes to buy but rightfully includes the process by which products are produced. Unlike the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he understood that the role of being a consumer is not necessarily devoid of ethical content (as the phenomenon of consumer boycotts so obviously reminds us.)
Parliamentarian Jorgenson was also very interested in the category of animal feed, wondering whether meat could be sold as organic (free of genetic modification) if the feed had been modified. He also agreed that research should be de-linked from the companies and be independent. He quickly disposed of claims that genetic engineering would automatically be beneficial to the Third World by noting that as long as countries of the North dumped their excesses, it is not clear that stimulating production will benefit the countries of the South....
[Editor's note: Here Phil Bereano's full report summarizes a diverse and interesting range of audience reaction to the Danish lay panel report, and offers Bereano's concluding reflections. Phil's complete, 10-page report is available on the Loka Institute Web site at http://www.loka.org/pages/DanishGeneFood.html.]
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Date: 26 May 1999 14:27:31 -0500
From: "Campbell, Jon" Campbell@Rational.Com
Stevia is apparently the safe non-sugar sweetener, grown in South America. It was apparently stopped from use in the US by FDA on behalf of Monsanto.