Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

8 July 99

Table of Contents

Are Genetically Modified Crops Safe? NO!
Food Gains for the World's Poor are Being Threatened by Furor Over Genetically Modified (GM) Foods
Foundation Chief Urges Monsanto To Go Slow On Gene-altered Foods
Codex Alimentarius: No Standard Adopted for BST
Marks & Spencer (M&S) first to go GM-free
Excellent Press Reports on NLP's Genetic Engineering Summit
Food Fight
Group lobbies for labeling genetically altered foods
FDA under pressure on GM foods
Genetically Altered Food Debated
U.S. and Europe Agree to Disagree on Safety of Dairy Hormone
GE Soyabeans are different from Non-GE beans: Substantial Equivalence good bye!
U.S. Considering Filing Complaint with WTO Over EU Barriers to GMO Imports, Aide Says
Call for Restrictions on Terminator Seeds
Lawsuit Uncovers Disagreement Within FDA Over Safety of Biotech Foods
Biotech Corn -- Rejected
Companies Ban Genetically Manipulated Food
Rogue Genes Cross to Weeds
Infectious Diseases from Crops
Codex Committee Moves Towards Labelling
Terminator Put on Hold
Virus-Resistance Genes Could Backfire
Entomologists Warn of Danger to Insects
National Trust refuses GE crops

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Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 16:08:16 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN6-30

Are Genetically Modified Crops Safe? NO!

By Prof. Joe Cummins, The London Free Press
Monday, June 28, 1999, PAGE A13

Genetically modified crops should be presumed to be unsafe for human consumption, and the health of the environment, until they are proven to be safe.

Despite much rhetoric on the subject, there is no such proof.

The burden of proof that crops are safe should reside with the developers of the crop, usually multinational chemical companies. Government regulators assume the crops are safe based on the presumption they are substantially equivalent to crops that have not been genetically modified. Genetically modified crops are crops whose fundamental genetic makeup has been modified in the laboratory frequently by introducing genes into the crop from viruses, bacteria or animals.

Governments in Canada and the United States agree with the chemical companies assuming that since modified crops are substantially equivalent they need not be tested to levels required by pharmaceutical drugs and pesticides and that altered crops need not be labelled in the market. The decision that such food need not be labelled not only deprives the consumer of free choice but also prevents the identification of those injured by eating modified crops. Essentially all processed foods contain soy, corn, canola or cotton seed, all of which have mixed and unlabelled genetically modified components.

Only certified organic foods can be assumed to be free of modified components. In the European Union (EU) the population has real concern over the safety of modified crops and have required that such crops and their processed products be labelled in the market or restricted. This action has had a strong impact on imports. Grain handlers in the U.S. have begun to pay a premium to producers of crops that have not been genetically modified. In Canada, farmers seem to have been encouraged to plant modified crops that required costly premiums while the export market was ignored. Promoters of such crops seem fanatic in the belief that everybody should be forced to consume it regardless of their concerns.

Concerns about the safety of modified crops include:

Such crop modifications are achieved using terribly dangerous viruses that should not be released to the environment. The dangers of modified crops offset the benefits. Modified foods should be labelled in the market to allow detection of ill effects from eating them.

Claims by industry that crops are needed to forestall impending world famine are groundless. Starving people simply cannot afford the technology. Even worse, fanatical efforts to force other countries to market unlabelled modified crops or hormone-laden dairy products or meat by the United States government should be resisted.


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Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 16:08:16 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN6-30

Food Gains for the World's Poor are Being Threatened by Furor Over Genetically Modified (GM) Foods

Jun 25, 1999

WASHINGTON, June 25 /PRNewswire/ – Promising advances that may help improve the food supply to poor people in developing countries are under threat from the increasingly passionate rhetoric over genetically modified (GM) crops, according to Professor Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

However, many concerns from consumers and environmental groups are legitimate and need to be properly addressed and monitored.

There also needs to be a change in policy by the Monsanto Company, the largest player in commercial plant biotechnology, to enter into an open and honest dialogue over the issues – including a commitment to drop the idea of "terminator" seeds and to invest more in strengthening plant science research in developing countries.

Conway also came out in favor of labeling food products not because GM foods are inherently dangerous, but rather because consumers have a "right to know" what they purchase and consume.

Conway, in a speech to Monsanto's board of directors in Washington, D.C. said a more responsible approach to the introduction of GM technology is needed.


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Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 16:08:16 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN6-30

Foundation Chief Urges Monsanto To Go Slow On Gene-altered Foods

By Bill Lambrecht, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
Wednesday, June 30, 1999 | 5:33 a.m.

The president of the biotechnology-friendly Rockefeller Foundation has some pointed advice for Monsanto Co.: Disavow "terminator" technology, support labeling of genetically modified foods and promote an open, honest debate around the world.

Gordon Conway, president of the New York-based foundation, declared Tuesday in an interview that the potential benefits of biotechnology are threatened by the opposition that has sprung up.

"I think the biggest debate is really over the issue of the rush to market. My view is that the industry as a whole has put things on the market very quickly without a full evaluation of what the effects might be," Conway said, following up on advice he gave to St. Louis-based Monsanto's board of directors last week.

Conway's message to Monsanto was striking in its frankness considering that the Rockefeller Foundation, like Monsanto, is committed to genetically modified foods. The foundation has invested more than $100 million to develop new varieties of modified rice.

Monsanto had invited Conway to speak about how the company "can better address the challenges that accompany the use of biotechnology among farmers in the developing world," the company said in a release. Conway may have gone further than Monsanto anticipated, bringing along a list of suggestions to a closed meeting in a Washington hotel and challenging the company's public relations strategy and its unwillingness to embrace labeling of modified foods in the United States.

"Admit that you do not have all the answers . . . and commit to prompt, full and honest sharing of data as you get it," Conway told Monsanto. "This is not the time for a new issues management program or a new offensive by a PR agency. It is the time for a new relationship based on honesty, full disclosure and a very uncertain shared future."

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


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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 05:48:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-1

Consumers International Press Release on rbGH/rbST 30.6.99

Posted by: hansmi@consumer.org

Codex Alimentarius: No Standard Adopted for BST

PRESS RELEASE 30th June 1999

Consumer Representatives Applaud a Decision today (30 June) which could Severely Limit the Use of the Genetically Engineered Hormone Bst around the World

Governments attending the biennial Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Rome failed to agree on an international standard on BST (Bovine Somatotropin) which is used to increase cows' milk production. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is the main United Nations body that sets international food standards.

Failure to agree to what is known as a Maximum Residue Level (MRL) for BST means that governments will have much more leeway at the national level to decide whether to allow the use of BST in their countries. Already, the European Union has a moratorium on its use in the EU and Canadian regulators have rejected Monsanto's request for its approval. However it is widely used in the United States.

The discussion at Codex today was unexpectedly brief with the United States immediately proposing, in view of the lack of consensus, that no standard be adopted. This was supported by the European Union and then adopted by the meeting. A long debate had been expected between the EU and the US. The US proposal took the meeting by surprise, as in previous discussions on this issue they had argued strongly for Codex to adopt a standard .

Consumers International, the federation of 245 consumer organisations in 110 countries, welcomes this decision and sees it as a victory for the health and safety of consumers. "With this decision Codex has taken an important step in listening to the concerns of consumers. Consumers International applauds this result and the fact that national governments will be able to act to ensure that their citizens are not forced to consume products produced with the use of BST" said Julian Edwards, Director General of Consumers International.

The hormone has been widely criticised for its detrimental effects on animal welfare and could pose possible health hazards to those who drink the milk. Consumers International believes the hormones have not been proven to be safe. The adoption of a standard would have asserted that the hormone was safe to use and countries refusing to import dairy products from countries where BST is used could be brought before the World Trade Organisation on the grounds they are creating a barrier to trade.

-END-

For further information, visit Consumers International's website, http://www.consumersinternational.org/campaigns/food


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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 05:48:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-1

Marks & Spencer (M&S) first to go GM-free

UK BBC Wednesday, June 30, 1999, Published at 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK

Marks has been reviewing its food range

Marks & Spencer says it has become the first High Street retailer to go completely genetically-modified food free.

The troubled company's move was announced by Dr Tom Clayton, the firm's head of food technology, who said that from 1 July all M&S foods will be produced without GM ingredients or derivatives.

The chain's entire 3,500-strong food range has been under review since March.

Customer concerns

More than 5,000 ingredients made from soya and maize were checked and changes were made to 1,800 recipes to strip all products of GM ingredients or derivatives.

"Working with our suppliers, guaranteed sources of non-GM ingredients have been secured," Mr Clayton said.

"These have been checked by our technologists, visiting sources in the Far East, South America, USA, Canada and Europe."

He said the move had been prompted by customer concerns about GM foods. Supermarkets have been working to ease customer fears over GM foods as debate about its safety goes on.


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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 05:48:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-1

The following news flash reviews the results of the June 17th Summit against GE (Genetic Engineered foods) in Washington, DC and the submittal of around 500,000 signatures on a petition requesting mandatory labeling of all GE foods. A few more of the resultant newspaper articles follows.

Excellent Press Reports on NLP's Genetic Engineering Summit

Natural Law Party News Flash!

The Natural Law Party's National Summit on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods held on June 17 in Washington, D.C. was "a grand success," according to summit organizer Laura Ticciati, who heads up the NLP's Mothers for Natural Law.

A distinguished panel of scientists, physicians, farmers, clergy, food industry leaders, and consumers presented the health, environmental, and ethical risks of the unchecked genetic manipulation of the world's food supply. More than 150 people attended, including top government leaders and over 25 members of the Washington press corps.

NLP presidential candidate Dr. John Hagelin presented drafts of two pieces of legislation that would mandate labeling of all genetically engineered foods as well as mandate proper safety testing of these GE food products. The NLP is working with members of Congress to pass this legislation. Ms. Ticciati submitted nearly 500,000 petition signatures from citizens across the United States in support of the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Similar NLP-sponsored Summits on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods will be held in 50 cities leading up to the year 2000 election.

The following are excerpts from some of the many press reports that came out of the Washington Summit:


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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 05:48:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-1

Food Fight

By Louise Rosen, Newsweek.com, THURSDAY, June 17, 1999

The effects of eating genetically engineered food are as unknown to scientists as the ingredients in a consumer's shopping basket. On Thursday, scientists and wary consumers will gather in Washington for the National Summit on the Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods. They hope to pressure Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into calling for the testing of engineered foods, and to ensure that all foods containing any of these products are labelled. The event sponsors, Mothers for Natural Law, will also present a petition of half a million names collected from across the US. "This is a right to know issue," Laura Ticciati, the group's executive director, told Newsweek.com. "At the moment we are all part of the largest food experiment ever."

Experts from fields as varied as nuclear physics, environmental science, and molecular biology who have put their names to the document claim engineered food could result in either a toxic or allergic reaction in humans. "There has been no human testing of these foods, and the effects of eating them are unknown," said Dr. John Hagelin, Director of the Institute of Science, Technology & Public Policy, who will be moderating the event. At the moment there is no legislation requiring for engineered food to be labeled. "Soy used in infant formula has genetic material and bacteria never before ingested by the human race," Hagelin told Newsweek.com. . . . "We are rewriting the genetic library of the earth in only three to five years."


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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 05:48:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-1

Group lobbies for labeling genetically altered foods

By Scott Allen, Globe Staff, 06/18/99, BOSTON GLOBE

WASHINGTON - American consumers become unwitting guinea pigs in a poorly understood experiment every time they go food shopping, a diverse group of scientists, activists, and a British supermarket executive warned yesterday, because increasing amounts of corn, soy beans, and other crops are grown from genetically altered seeds.

The group, gathered for a forum called the National Summit on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods, presented petitions with 500,000 signatures to Congress and the Food and Drug Administration calling on the government to require genetically modified foods to carry labels so that consumers will know if a tomato has been treated with fish genes or corn chips contain genes from bacteria.

Yesterday's demonstration was the first sign that a deep distrust of genetically altered foods that has swept Europe could catch on in the United States.

"Don't I have a right to know what's in the food I select for my children so I can decide for myself what I feed them?" asked Laura Ticciati, executive director of the Iowa-based Mothers for Natural Law that headed the petition drive.

But FDA officials, as well as seed company and grocery industry executives, said labeling would only stigmatize the foods, without providing real information. They said the foods are just as nutritious and safe as crops grown from conventional agriculture techniques.

"It's not a safety issue," said Lisa Katic, science and nutrition policy director at the Grocery Manufacturers of America. Federal researchers, she added "reviewed this for the past 20 years. . . . They felt comfortable that it was one step further than the selective breeding that scientists have done for years."

Scientists at the conference, however, questioned how well anyone understands the long-term impact of genetically modified foods. They pointed to a new study showing that pollen from genetically modified corn kills monarch butterflies as proof that these crops have not been studied enough. . . .

Yet American farmers are unquestionably embracing genetically modified seeds, which have been commercially available for a few years. A quarter of the US corn crop, 35 percent of soy beans, and smaller percentages of everything from potatoes to sugar beets have been genetically modified to increase pest resistance, to improve yields, or to change taste.

Because regulators do not require that the foods be labeled, conventional and genetically altered crops are freely mixed, making it impossible to say definitively what consumer goods contain altered genes.

The American debate over the subject has been remarkably low key. Most politicians and the Clinton administration, back the industry's use of genetically altered seeds as the way of the future for agriculture, boosting agricultural output to match a growing population. Only one member of Congress, David Bonior of Michigan, sent a representative to yesterday's meeting at the Capitol Hilton Hotel.

Europeans, meanwhile, have been far more nervous about the trend, especially the British, where tabloids call the products "Frankenfoods."

The differences have fueled growing trade tensions between the United States and Europe as the European Union slows its approvals of genetically engineered products, virtually all of which are coming from American fields. Last month, 36 senators wrote a letter to Clinton warning of a "looming trade conflict" if Europeans don't ease restrictions on genetically modified foods.


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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 05:48:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-1

FDA under pressure on GM foods

By Rebecca Christie in Washington
Financial Times, Friday June 18 1999, World News / International

The US Food and Drug Administration is facing mounting pressure for stronger controls on genetically engineered foods and to require labelling of GM food.

A lawyer for a coalition of scientists, consumer groups and religious leaders said there was new evidence that the FDA had ignored warnings >from its own scientists when it designed its policies. The group filed a lawsuit against the FDA in 1998 asking for labelling and research on the long-term health effects of genetically modified foods such as corn, soyabeans and tomatoes.

Also yesterday, a non-profit organisation associated with the Natural Law party - a liberal, grassroots-oriented US political party - announced a petition to the FDA, Congress and President Clinton asking for the same measures. The group, Mothers for Natural Law, said it had gathered 500,000 signatures. . . .

Steven Druker, a lawyer for the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, said his group had obtained FDA records showing that some FDA scientists were concerned about the safety of genetically engineered foods. The Alliance for Bio-Integrity is an Iowa-based group that filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in Washington, along with the Washington-based International Centre for Technology Assessment.

Mr. Druker said some FDA scientists agreed there were different risks associated with genetically altered plants than with traditional crops. He cited comments on the 1992 policy by Jim Maryanski, FDA biotechnology co-ordinator, and Linda S. Kahl of the FDA's Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. These comments contradicted the official FDA position, he said.

The FDA declined to comment on the case because litigation is pending.


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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 05:48:13 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-1

Genetically Altered Food Debated

By Janelle Carter, Associated Press Writer
Washington Post, Saturday, June 19, 1999; 11:22 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) – A group of consumer advocates wants labels required for genetically altered foods, continuing a biotechnology debate that has already swept across Europe.

The Natural Law Party, with consumer groups, scientists and farmers, announced last week it had gathered 500,000 signatures of Americans in support of government labeling of genetically engineered foods.

They plan to submit the signatures to the White House, members of Congress and several federal agencies in hopes of forcing legislation. "We say why rush it onto the market before we know it's safe," said Bob Roth, a spokesman for the Natural Law Party. "Why not give consumers a choice?"

Added Sheldon Krimsky, a professor of urban and environmental policy at Tufts University, "Until we are satisfied that we know what questions to ask and that we are fully empowered to test the products of biotechnology, industry and regulators will be operating by seat-of-the-pants assessment."

Organizers also were behind the campaign last year in which the Agriculture Department received more than 250,000 letters urging that national standards for organic products bar genetic engineering. The agency agreed to the standards.

While critics say labels on biotech foods will give consumers a choice, the food and biotechnology industries say the proposal is expensive and unnecessary.

"The products of ag biotechnology have been subjected to more scrutiny than any other products in humanity," said Val Giddings, vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, adding that the products have been tested extensively.

"There is no scientific basis for putting that on. If you put that on a label, the implication will unavoidably be that this has some health significance, and it does not."

A federal task force of representatives from the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration, State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative's office is reviewing the labeling issue. . . .

In February, the United States managed to avert labeling demands by several countries as part of a U.N.-initiated Biosafety Protocol. Last month, American scientists revealed they had discovered that pollen from a widely planted laboratory-designed strain of corn can kill monarch butterflies--a finding noted by opponents of genetic engineering though refuted by the industry.

"It's just another piece of news that has eroded the consumers confidence in the whole process of genetic engineering," Roth said. "The American people ... are not going to sit back anymore and take food being forced on them by the biotech industry."

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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


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Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 16:35:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-6

Here are some catch-up news items

Richard

U.S. and Europe Agree to Disagree on Safety of Dairy Hormone

Action by U.N. Food Body Means Disputes About Safety of Hormone in Milk Will Linger

YONKERS, NY, June 30, 1999: Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, praised a decision today by the U.N.'s main food safety body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, not to endorse the safety of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH), a genetically-engineered hormone produced by Monsanto that is designed to increase dairy cows' milk output.

Codex officially agreed to shelve any further discussion of a U.S.-backed proposal to set a Maximum Residue Level for rbGH--known as bovine somatropin (BST) in Europe--in milk in light of vigorous opposition from other nations that still question the hormone's safety. By indefinitely shelving the proposal, Codex acknowledged the deep division between countries such as the U.S., that insist rbGH is safe and countries like those of the European Union, where rbGH has not been approved due to nagging safety concerns.

"By refusing to set a standard today, Codex has recognized that there is no consensus on rbGH safety in the international scientific community, and that national governments should be able to decide whether rbGH should be permitted in their milk supply," said Jean Halloran, Director of the Consumer Policy Institute at Consumers Union.

The U.S. has pushed Codex to adopt a standard to ensure the continued export of its dairy products from cows treated with the rbGH drug. However, U.S.-driven efforts to persuade the international community that rbGH is safe have been blocked twice before at Codex, in 1995 and again in 1997, primarily by opposition from European governments.

Today's action by Codex leaves the door open for countries to exclude dairy imports treated with the hormone. While rbGH is not yet the subject of a trade dispute like the one currently pending on hormones used on beef cattle, it could erupt as a future trade issue.

In countries where rbGH is legal, including the U.S., Mexico, and South Africa, the hormone is injected into dairy cows to raise milk production. In the U.S., where rbGH use has been approved since 1993, the government has repeatedly argued that the hormone's use poses no significant risks to public health, and that its risks to the health of dairy cattle are "manageable."

However the controversial hormone has been banned in Canada and its use is subject to a moratorium the European Union. The EU has already issued two detailed scientific reports raising questions about human and animal health issues that arise when the hormone is used, and will decide at the end of 1999 whether to continue its current moratorium. Canada banned the hormone in January on grounds of its effects on the health of dairy cows, because cows treated with rbGH are more likely to contract udder infections which are treated with antibiotics.

Consumers Union advocates labeling dairy products from rbGH-treated cows. Today at the Codex meeting, the U.S. acknowledged that consumers in many countries oppose rbGH use because of possible public health impacts, animal welfare concerns, or both. The U.S. has argued in written comments to Codex that milk and dairy products can be labeled at the national level to address these consumer concerns.

"We are gratified that the international food safety process has held out for a higher degree of consumer protection than the U.S. thinks is necessary," said CU's Jean Halloran. She added, "Consumers around the world should thank the Codex Commission for its common sense. And Consumers in the U.S. will most likely want to start a dialogue with our government to explore labeling as one way to address consumer concerns about rbGH."


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CETOS News Release

GE Soyabeans are different from Non-GE beans: Substantial Equivalence good bye!

Gualala, California, July 1, 1999:

Independent non-profit group discovers differences in Roundup Ready Soybeans. A study published today in the Journal of Medicinal Food (Vol. 1, no.4, 1999) presents new information about biologically active components in soybeans which are genetically modified to withstand Monsanto's Roundup® herbicide.

Dr. Marc Lappé, Director of the Center for Ethics and Toxics (CETOS) and principal investigator says, "Based on corporate representations, the phytoestrogen concentrations of Monsanto's Roundup Ready and conventional soybeans were supposed to be equivalent. But the initial industry studies were performed on unsprayed soybeans. We found significant differences when we examined herbicide-sprayed soybeans analogous to those used in foods.

The study shows an overall reduction in phytoestrogen levels of 12-14 percent in the genetically altered soybean strains. Most of this reduction was attributable to reductions in genistin and to a lesser extent daidzin levels, which were significantly lower in modified compared to conventional soybeans in both strains. The apparent differences found may be an important discovery because consumers tend to buy soy products for their naturally occurring phytoestrogens which are thought to protect against breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. As genetically engineered strains replace conventional ones, any differences in phytoestrogen levels becomes increasingly important.

In 1992, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a policy statement for foods derived from new plant varieties, including plants developed by recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques. In the policy, the FDA states it "will require special labeling if the composition of a food differs significantly from its conventional counterpart." But, to date, there are no labels on foods which contain genetically engineered byproducts in the United States. The new data suggest the FDA may have to review its current labeling policy.

The study , Alterations in Clinically Important Phytoestrogens in Genetically Modified, Herbicide-Tolerant Soybeans (© Maryanne Liebert Publishers, J. of Med. Food), comes on the heels of considerable European opposition to bioengineered foods. Until now, those resisting bioengineered foods have not little scientific support for concerns about bioengineered foods. As Dr. Lappé states, "Now they do. I think it is ironic a small non-profit in Gualala, California is conducting research which should have been conducted by the agency which is supposed to be protecting human health, the Food and Drug Administration. We hope our work is repeated and expanded by other groups."

For more information contact:

Marc Lappé, Ph.D.
The Center for Ethics and Toxics
PO Box 673, Gualala, CA 95445 USA.
Http://www.cetos.org. Email: cetos@cetos.org,
Telephone/Fax : 707-884-1846

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


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Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:54 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-7

U.S. Considering Filing Complaint with WTO Over EU Barriers to GMO Imports, Aide Says

International Trade Reporter
Volume 16 Number 26 Wednesday, June 30, 1999 Page 1089 ISSN 1523-2816
Europe In Brief Agriculture

The United States is considering filing a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization, leading to possible U.S. retaliation, over the European Union's continuing failure to approve imports of U.S. genetically modified agricultural products, or GMOs, the chief U.S. trade negotiator said June 24.


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Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:54 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-7

Call for Restrictions on Terminator Seeds

Environment ENS – Environment News Service

WASHINGTON, DC, July 6, 1999 (ENS) - An international convention on biodiversity has declined to call for substantial restrictions on the use of bioengineered sterile seeds, often called terminator seeds. This lack of strong action is leading some critics to warn that the seeds could cripple small farmers and jeopardize the ability of developing countries to ensure reliable food supplies.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a resolution at a Montreal meeting ending June 25 calling for a cautious approach to the use of the seeds, which experts say will not be on the market for several years.

But the CBD also noted that countries that refuse to buy the seeds run the risk of economic sanctions from countries selling the seeds.

There are 175 countries that have ratified the treaty, but the United States is not one of them, Although it signed in 1993, the U.S. is not a Party to the treaty and had only observer status at the Montreal meeting. Still, the United States has a strong interest in keeping this sterile seed biotechnology free of restrictions because U.S. companies, such as Delta Pine & Lands of Mississippi, hold patents on the technique.

Representatives of the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), an international civil society organization headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada, say economic sanctions could force developing countries into dependence on genetically engineered crops, thus reducing worldwide biodiversity.

The CBDs scientific arm, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) met in Montreal from June 21 to June 25 to discuss a number of issues, including new technology that can control the expression of a plants genes.

The new bioscience, called genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs), allows companies to create plants that grow to maturity but produce sterile seeds. Seed companies could therefore prevent farmers from gathering seeds from mature crops and planting them the following season. Instead, farmers would be forced to buy new seeds each year.

The companies say the GURTs, popularly known as terminator seeds, will protect their research and development investments in genetically modified (GM) crops. Biotechnology companies such as Monsanto are making modifications to crops to add resistance to herbicides, increased shelf life or better nutritional value. These modifications can be linked to GURTs, preventing farmers from buying modified crops once and using the seeds for future plantings.

The United States representative to the Montreal meeting noted for the report that the U.S. could not associate itself with any implicit call for a moratorium on testing or commercialization of GURTs.

Terminator seeds could have unpleasant side effects, both commercial and biological. Pat Mooney, executive director of RAFI, says his group has uncovered 31 patents on terminator genes that cause seed sterilization in the final stages of plant growth. Nearly every large agricultural and biotechnology company has a patent he says, raising the possibility that every seed sold could someday come with a terminator tag.

"Only three companies were marketing GM seeds last year," Mooney told ENS. "This year, the global market for GM seeds will be dominated by six or seven companies that will all have patents for terminator technology."

When asked if farmers were likely to accept terminator seeds, Mooney said, "I think it's unavoidable. Farmers are not stupid, but farmers will not have choices." Competition in the marketplace will force farmers to choose seeds that promise the highest crop yields, which are often GM varieties.

Farmers could become dependent on the biotechnology companies for an ongoing supply of the terminator seeds. "What happens if a company decides one area is not a profitable marketplace?" asks Mooney. Moving away from crops with viable seeds could threaten developing countries ability to insure a reliable food supply from one year to the next, he says.

Biologically, using new seeds each year will reduce the diversity of the crops. If farmers are planting only a small variety of modified seeds, and these seeds cannot exchange genes with nearby fields through cross pollination, eventually the gene pool for the crops could be severely restricted. A restricted, inbred gene pool can be wiped out by the arrival of a new disease or predator.

There is also no guarantee that the modified genes would not spread to related plants. Though experts do not consider the scenario likely, the specter looms that other plants could take up the terminator genes and go extinct in a single season.


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Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:54 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-7

Recent Revelations About Problems with Bioengineerred Foods

Contact: Steven Druker (515) 472-5554,
or Bob Roth (515) 469-5081

Lawsuit Uncovers Disagreement Within FDA Over Safety of Biotech Foods

From: Alliance For Bio-integrity
P.O. Box 110, Iowa City, IA 52244-0110
Tel: (515) 472-5554; Fax: (515) 472-6431 http://www.bio-integrity.org

Agency Contradicted Own Experts in Approving Genetically Engineered Foods

Sections:
Misrepresented Facts in Order to Promote U.S. Biotech Industry
Prying Out the Facts Through Litigation
False Claims and a Policy at Odds with the Law
FDA Scientists Protest Attempt to Equate Genetic Engineering with Conventional Breeding
Misrepresenting the Facts in Order to Approve the Foods
Violating Federal Law

Misrepresented Facts in Order to Promote U.S. Biotech Industry

Statement by Steven M. Druker, JD, executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, coordinator of the lawsuit against the FDA to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of genetically engineered foods, and an attorney on the case (in collaboration with the legal department of the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C.)

Prying Out the Facts Through Litigation

In May 1998, a coalition of public interest groups, scientists, and religious leaders filed a landmark lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of all genetically engineered foods (Alliance for Bio-Integrity, et. al. v. Shalala). Nine eminent life scientists joined the coalition in order to emphasize the degree to which they think FDA policy is scientifically unsound and morally irresponsible. Now, the FDA's own files confirm how well-founded are their concerns. The FDA was required to deliver copies of these files--totalling over 44,000 pages--to the plaintiffs' attorneys.

False Claims and a Policy at Odds with the Law

The FDA's records reveal it declared genetically engineered foods to be safe in the face of broad disagreement from its own experts – all the while claiming a broad scientific consensus supported its stance. Internal reports and memoranda disclose: (1) agency scientists repeatedly cautioned that foods produced through recombinant DNA technology entail different risks than do their conventionally produced counterparts and (2) that this input was consistently disregarded by the bureaucrats who crafted the agency's current policy, which treats bioengineered foods the same as natural ones.

Besides contradicting the FDA's claim that its policy is science-based, this evidence shows the agency violated the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in allowing genetically engineered foods to be marketed without testing on the premise that they are generally recognized as safe by qualified experts.

FDA Scientists Protest Attempt to Equate Genetic Engineering with Conventional Breeding

The FDA admits it is operating under a directive "to foster" the U.S. biotech industry; and this directive advocates the premise that bioengineered foods are essentially the same as others. However, the agency's attempts to bend its policy to conform with this premise met strong resistance from its own scientists, who repeatedly warned that genetic engineering differs from conventional practices and entails a unique set of risks. Numerous agency experts protested that drafts of the Statement of Policy were ignoring the recognized potential for bioengineering to produce unexpected toxins and allergens in a different manner and to a different degree than do conventional methods.

For instance, Dr. Louis Priybl of the FDA Microbiology Group wrote, "There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering which is just glanced over in this document." He added that several aspects of gene splicing "...may be more hazardous."

Dr. Linda Kahl, an FDA compliance officer, objected that the agency was "...trying to fit a square peg into a round hole ... [by] trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices." She stated: "The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks."

Moreover, Dr. Jim Maryanski, the FDA Biotechnology Coordinator, acknowledged there is no consensus about the safety of genetically engineered foods in the scientific community at large, and FDA scientists advised they should undergo special testing, including toxicological tests.

Misrepresenting the Facts in Order to Approve the Foods

Nonetheless, so strong was the FDA's motivation to promote the biotech industry that it not only disregarded the warnings of its own scientists about the unique risks of gene-spliced foods, it dismissed them and took a public position that was the opposite. Its official policy asserts: "The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way...." Thus, although agency experts advised that genetically engineered foods should be subjected to special testing, the bureaucrats in charge of the policy proclaimed these foods require no testing at all.

Violating Federal Law

Besides violating basic canons of ethics, the FDA's behavior flagrantly violates the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which mandates that new food additives be established safe through testing prior to marketing. While the FDA admits that bioengineered organisms fall under this provision, it claims they are exempt from testing because they are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), even though it knows they are not recognized as safe even by its own scientists let alone by a consensus in the scientific community.

Further, the statute prescribes that additives like those in bioengineered foods can only be recognized as safe on the basis of tests that have established their harmlessness. But no such tests exist for gene-spliced foods. So, although the GRAS exemption was intended to permit marketing of substances whose safety has already been demonstrated through testing, the FDA is using it to circumvent testing and to approve substances based largely on conjecture--conjecture that is dubious in the eyes of its own and many other experts.

Consequently, every genetically engineered food in the U.S. is on the market illegally and should be recalled for rigorous safety testing. The FDA has deliberately unleashed a host of potentially harmful foods onto American dinner tables in blatant violation of U.S. law.

For more information about the lawsuit and the risks of genetically engineered foods, see the website of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity http://www.bio-integrity.org

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


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD

Reprinted with permission from the July 1999 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition, 7436 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby, BC V5J 5B9

Biotech Corn – Rejected

Two of the world's largest corn processors, A.E. Staley Mfg. Co. and Archer Daniels Midland Co., announced they are rejecting genetically modified corn that is not accepted in European markets. This decision affects both roundup ready (herbicide tolerant) corn and Bt (insect resistant) biotech corn varieties that are not approved in Europe. Staley and ADM represent nearly half of the U.S. corn-processing market. The announcements came one week after the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to recommend an end to the sale of genetically altered corn in the 15-nation European Union.


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Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Companies Ban Genetically Manipulated Food

The world's two largest food production companies, Unilever and Nestle, are withdrawing all genetically modified foodstuffs from their foods in UK. The announcement by Nestle UK has major international implications, as its centralized production facilities produce for the entire European market.

In addition, Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket chain, has joined other major UK chains and banned GM ingredients from their own products in Britain. These decisions follow continuing pressure from consumers who are concerned about the hazards of biotech foods.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Rogue Genes Cross to Weeds

Government scientists in UK recently discovered superweeds created by the spread of pollen from genetically modified crops. Through cross-pollination, biotech canola passed on its herbicide resistance gene to wild relatives (turnips) in a neighboring field. The result was herbicide resistant superweeds that may wreak ecological havoc.

In another experiment, researchers at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, England found that pollen from genetically engineered herbicide resistant canola traveled up to 400 meters away to cross pollinate with unmodified canola. This experiment shows that the current requirement that transgenic canola must be grown at least 200 meters from unmodified crops is not sufficient to prevent the spread of the biotech genes to unmodified crops.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Infectious Diseases from Crops

The UK Government's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes fears that GE crops, which commonly carry an antibiotic resistance gene, could transfer this gene to bacteria in the environment, resulting in antibiotic resistant diseases that spread wildly and threaten human and animal life.

Antibiotic resistant meningitis is a major concern. According to microbiologist Dr John Heritage in commenting on this point: "The consequences of an untreatable, life-threatening infection spreading within the population are enormous."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Codex Committee Moves Towards Labelling

The international Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL), which met in Ottawa April 27-30, 1999, feels increasing consumer pressure worldwide for mandatory labelling of genetically engineered food. Consequently, the US proposal, which rejected mandatory labelling, lost support from several countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, who had supported the USA position at previous meetings.

An alternative proposal for mandatory labelling, which is supported by many countries, particularly in Europe, is also under debate. Canada, Brazil, and Argentina continued to support the USA position, which was also favored by industry.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Terminator Put on Hold

Monsanto recently announced that because of the global furor over its "terminator technology," the technology would not be marketed until it can be evaluated further. The genetically engineered terminator gene, when inserted into plants, results in crops that produce sterile seeds, forcing farmers to buy new seeds every year.


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Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Virus-Resistance Genes Could Backfire

A report by the UK Government found that plants genetically engineered to be resistant to common viruses may over time result in more virulent plant strains that could spread throughout the British countryside, and wipe out indigenous plants.

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


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

Entomologists Warn of Danger to Insects

At an international meeting of entomologists (scientists who study insects) in Switzerland, experts warned that genetically engineered (GE) Bt crops are exuding 10-20 times the amount of toxins contained in conventional (non-GE) Bt sprays. The scientists said the Bt crops are harming beneficial insects (such as ladybugs and lacewings) and soil microorganisms, and may likely be harming insect-eating bird populations. The scientists called for a moratorium on commercial planting of Bt crops. Worldwide in 1998 there were 19.3 million acres of Bt crops under cultivation (representing 28% of all GE crops), including 45% of the US cotton crop, 25% of the corn, and 3.5% of the potatoes.


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 11:45:59 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-8 Alive July 99

National Trust refuses GE crops

The National Trust (UK), which owns 575,000 acres of land in England and Wales, is refusing to allow its several hundred tenant farmers to grow genetically modified crops. The trust also removed all foods containing GM ingredients from sale in its 136 tearooms and restaurants and 127 shops.

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


Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.