19 July 99

Table of Contents

US farmers fear GM crop fallout
Gourmet Genetics: 'Frankenfood' horror or just a pea under the mattress?
Most Powerful Evidence Yet: GM Crops Failing
Monsanto lost again in BRAZIL
World may go Non-GM Says Campaigner
Companies hang fire with GM seed in face of 'antis'
Ban genetically-produced food
Top BSE expert will highlight risks over GM foods
Glickman Announces Steps to Address Biotech Crop Concerns
Venture plans to develop ways to detect GM foods
World Scientists' Statement
First Update of Concerns -- July 15th 1999
Grocers Look for Guidance on Biotech Food Labels
US to label GM foods
UK Supermarket goes GM-free
6 Reasons why Biotechnology and Food Security can never be compatible

Top NextFront Page

Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 12:16:54 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-15

There is an excellent article in today's BBC website on ge foods:

Here is how the article starts:

US farmers fear GM crop fallout

BBC website Wednesday, July 14, 1999

US farmers are worried about consumer opposition to GM crops

BBC Newsnight's science correspondent Susan Watts reports on how American farmers feel they have been let down by GM agribusiness.

In the rural idyll of America's agricultural states farmers are getting to know the genetically altered crops they have been told will help them make the most of their land. Their fields are providing the evidence that will tell the world if the ambitious claims for biotechnology in agriculture are coming true.

The whole point of the crops is that they are supposed to help farmers farm more cheaply. Suddenly they are under the spotlight. Consumers outside the US have turned against GM food. The export market is disappearing fast – US corn sales to Europe shrank from 70 million bushels in 1997 to just 3 million last year. ....

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 12:16:54 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-15

Gourmet Genetics: 'Frankenfood' horror or just a pea under the mattress?

By Judy Schultz, The Edmonton Journal, Wed 14 Jul 1999 Page G1

The Right To Choose?
To Label, Or Not To Label
But shouldn't we be told?
A Scientist Answers
Modified Plants

As the '90s wind down, Canadian consumers are asking questions they've never asked before. Questions like how much trust should we place in our food system and in the people responsible for it?

Consumer trust is fragile, as the food industry in the European Union is finding out. In the wake of the recent Belgian scandal involving dioxin-contaminated animal feeds, health ministers throughout the EU grave concern about the loss of trust among

Canadians have traditionally been more trusting than either Europeans or Asians, but there are signs that blind trust is no longer a given -- especially when it comes to the food that contains genetically modified ingredients.

The development and classification of foods containing genetically modified ingredients – such as canola, corn and soybeans – have raised a caution flag among concerned consumers.

The process of genetic modification involves removing a desirable gene from one source, either plant or animal, and transferring it to a plant that would benefit from the modification. While the transplanted genes instruct the plant to manufacture a modified protein, it is the protein itself that gives the plant the desirable new trait, whether it's a higher yield, a resistance to herbicides or a different type of oil.

In Europe, several supermarket chains have banned any product that might contain ingredients from genetically modified sources. Canadian supermarkets have not, to this point, reacted to the possibility of genetically modified products being on their shelves. But that position may not last much longer.

Last week, the Sierra Club of Canada held a day of action, establishing information pickets outside selected grocery stores across Canada and asking consumers to write to the president of Loblaws, demanding the all genetically engineered products ... or, at the very least, We want the grocery chains to take some responsibility for what they sell. Industry argues that there's been no public response (to genetically says Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the club's Safe Foods, Sustainable Agriculture Campaign.

She is concerned about soy, canola, corn and potato products being most likely to contain genetically modified ingredients.

Indeed there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of such products on the market already, involving everything from baby food to spaghetti sauce to the genetically modified potato now being used by some french fry companies.

The Right To Choose?

In Canada, where many of the genetically modified crops are actually grown, consumers aren't told which products contain the altered ingredients. Nobody knows exactly how many genetically modified products are on our grocery shelves.

Why? Because we lose track of the seeds before they get to the factory.

When genetically modified canola or other oilseeds arrive at the mills, they're dumped into the same hopper as traditional seeds. The process is known in the industry as co-mingling. Industry officials insist that segregating genetically engineered seeds from traditional crops would be unnecessarily complicated and that the cost of segregating and labelling products containing them would be passed on to the consumer.

Winnipeg author and broadcaster Ingeborg Boyens doesn't buy that argument. It's absolute arrogance on the part of the industry to say they can't says Boyens, author of Unnatural Harvest: How Corporate Science is Secretly Altering Our Food.

In 1996, the first Canadian genetically modified crop was harvested. It happened to be canola, an oilseed crop that ends up in hundreds of prepared foods. Because of concern about how the modified canola would be accepted in Japan and Europe, and the possibility that consumers there might object to it, the seed was segregated that year. Consumers might wonder, for example, about long-term side effects, about toxicology studies – none of which have been done in human beings.

In 1997, Japan agreed to accept genetically modified canola, but European markets were not so easily persuaded. With a history of having been let down by their governments and their food industries, disgruntled European consumers resorted to name-calling (genetically modified products were ), boycotts and even vandalism.

It had an effect in the North American market. Archer Daniels Midland, the largest export handling agent for cereal grains and oilseeds in North America, no longer accepts varieties of genetically modified corn not approved by their European customers. or traditional soybeans for the European market.

To Label, Or Not To Label

In Canada, genetically modified products fall under Health Canada's novel foods umbrella, so labelling is mandatory only if the product is not

These so-called `novel foods' containing genetically modified ingredients, so they aren't subjected to the Boyens said in an

Substantial equivalence refers to the likeness the modified product bears to the traditional food item, when measured for nutrition, allergens and toxins.

So unless a known allergen such as peanut oil has been introduced, Canadian consumers are none the wiser.

But shouldn't we be told?

Scientists and industry officials do admit there's a hair-splitting difference between substantial equivalence and exact equivalence, but it's apparently close enough for Health Canada. (When contacted with questions about the issue, Health Canada officials referred me to their Web site.)

Boyens's concern is that not enough research has been done on the potential impact and potential toxicology of genetically engineered foods. Canadian consumers have the right to know what's in their food. I can't So is it

A Scientist Answers

Wilf Keller, director of the Plant Biotechnical Research Institute in Saskatoon, is well aware of consumers' misgivings. He's heard them all before, but unlike some people in his field, he doesn't dismiss these people as hysterical alarmists.

As the father of an allergic child, he understands the concerns regarding labelling and substantial equivalence. Think of the difference in the amount of sugar contained in a pea grown in one field or in another. The food value and the protein of the pea in

But if a scientist inserts a peanut gene in the pea – which might, for example, pump up its nutrient value – a new protein is

suddenly involved – peanut protein. While the pea might be more nutritious, the added protein would be significant because it would contain peanut properties. In this example, the peanut insertion would have to be noted on the label.

In fact, it's not so much the process of gene transplanting that raises the ire of consumers. Rather, it's the source, and the possibility of genes from frogs, fish, leaches and even humans being inserted into plants as science and technology advance into new areas.

For reasons that involve health, religion or the simple right to make a personal choice, some people object.

Keller feels that mountains are often made of molehills. There are many research projects being done at any one time that have absolutely no commercial intent. They may provide important information about disease or possible cures, for example, or for higher crop yields in countries where people are starving. The results of these experiments are published in scientific journals, but they are experiments. Urban myth to the contrary, no tomato you can buy Plants containing animal genes have never been, are not now nor will they be appearing on anybody's

Both producers and the scientific community in North America are somewhat bewildered by a growing resistance among North American consumers to genetically engineered foods.

Dale Adolphe, president of the Canola Council of Canada, acknowledges the problem.

Where consumers once might have asked for recipes, they now demand scientific information. said They've only recently begun asking questions, especially in the

He points out that while the mad cow scare and the Belgian food scandal were totally unrelated to what's happening in the Canadian canola industry, there's been some fallout from Europe, where trust in the scientific community has been seriously eroded. I think that's why we (North American industries using genetic engineering technology) have been slow to develop a co-ordinated communication and educational response. But we are all becoming concerned

Recognizing a growing lack of public trust in genetic engineering, his council has recently added a question-and-response feature to their Web site at

Two organizations, the Canadian Food Information Council and the Food and Biotechnology Communications Network, have also been established to educate Canadian consumers about the role of biotechnology in the food system. The FBCN now has a toll-free number for consumers. 1-877-FOODBIO (366-3246). The number will be advertised in supermarkets across the country.

But Boyens wants more. She feels that consumers need to be much better informed and industry must be prepared to educate them. These companies and their related industries will claim that they already do, with 1-800 numbers and the occasional brochure. That's simply not enough. Most people would be surprised to discover the low level of

Boyens points out that only cursory reviews are done, mostly by the companies who manufacture the product and have a vested interest in doing field tests. There's no independent monitoring. Some people would say it's like asking the fox to look after the chickens.

Meanwhile, no toxicological tests are being done on novel foods – no pre-market human tests, as there would be with drugs. Questions of possible long-term risk to human beings remain unanswered. Substantial equivalence is an assumption, involving what the industry Boyens asks, reminding us that when DDT first appeared on the market, nobody thought it would pose a health hazzard.

As an example, she points to the impact that pest-resistant corn has had in tests with monarch butterflies, which traditionally lay their eggs on milkweed plants. Through cross-pollination, milkweed growing near the genetically engineered corn can acquire the deliberately implanted pest-resistance and the monarch butterflies suffer the same fate as the insect pests. These discoveries are only made when somebody sets out to assess the says Boyens. Last year, the Canadian government spent millions on research and promotion of biotechnology. How much did they spend on assessing the risks There's nothing wrong or inherently evil about the science of biotechnology. The problem is that the ability to move DNA from one species to another is

Modified Plants

Some facts and figures on canola and other genetically modified plants:

Also genetically modified:

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 16:32:04 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-16

Here is a more detailed version of the report by Dr. Charles Benbrook

Most Powerful Evidence Yet: GM Crops Failing

by Dr. Charles Benbrook

Biotech is being sold around the world on the basis of a myriad of claims and promises, almost all unproven.

One of the most successful pieces of hype is that GE crops are producing "bumper crops". Another assumption is that GE crops are being rapidly taken up by American farmers because they're helping them compete economically. Greatly reduced use of agrochemicals (and hence environmental benefits) is a third major claim made for GE crops by the biotech industry.

A very important new 28-page report, released 13th July, provides the most powerful evidence to date of the full extent to which none of this is true of Monsanto's flagship GE crop Roundup Ready soya.

The report is by Dr Charles Benbrook, author of the book "Pest Management at the Crossroads" and former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture for the US National Academy of Sciences.

The report is: Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal Trials in 1998

It is accessible on the AgBioTech InfoNet website at

Unlike the recent USDA report which fails to directly compare yields and chemical use in comparable circumstances, thus leaving many important variables uncontrolled, this report reviews the results of a very large number of carefully controlled university-based soybean varietal trials, together with other data.

Benbrook clearly shows that the problems with this technology are greater than previously understood, as regards

  1. the extent of the yield drag is averaging nearly 7% – even larger than emerged from the University of Wisconsin study

  2. the increase in chemical use is far from RR soybeans reducing chemical use, farmers have been using 2 to 5 times more herbicide a degree of tolerance to Roundup is emerging in several key weed species, contributing to chemical usage.

  3. the cost to the famer of the yield drag plus technology fee are bad news for profitability imposing "a sizable indirect tax" (can be over 12 percent of gross income per acre)

There are many other important points in this report which needs to be read in full. But here's a little more detail on the above:


Under most conditions extensive evidence shows that RR (GE) soybeans produce lower yields than could be produced if farmers planted comparable but non-GE varieties.

The report reviews the results of over 8,200 university-based soybean varietal trials in 1998 and reaches these conclusions, among others, regarding the magnitude of the RR soybean yield drag:


Regarding the often repeated claims that RR soybean systems are reducing pesticide use and increasing grower profits, Benbrook's analysis shows that RR soybean systems are "largely dependent on herbicides and hence are not likely to reduce herbicide use or reliance. Claims otherwise are based on incomplete information or analytically flawed comparisons that do not tell the whole story."

Benbrook notes the following, and we quote:

[Elsewhere Benbrook has noted that many weed scientists expect such resistance and the accompanying increased chemical use to keep on growing for some time, aided by the recent extraordinary US price reductions in pesticides, till growing RR soybeans finally becomes completely uneconomic]

[Elsewhere Benbrook has written that GE soybeans are proving “the most expensive soybean seed and weed management system in modern history"]

It's interesting that independent research is finally starting to catch up with GE crops in the US

(For how these problems have been successfully hidden from US growers, see:

In the UK independent trials are already underway. Reports of last year's crop trials from the UK's National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) show yields from GM winter oilseed rape and sugar beet were between 5-8% less than high yielding conventional varieties (reported Farmers Weekly (UK) for the 4th December 1998) A recent report of Institute of Arable Crop Research (IACR) trials in the UK with GM beet, where Roundup was applied late to try and reduce the damage to biodiversity from the use of a total herbicide, gave a yield loss of "at least" 24%!

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 16:32:04 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-16

posted by Gaia -Tanya Green

Monsanto lost again in BRAZIL

By Angela Cordiero- Biodiversity Consultant Rio Grande do Sul Brazil

It was anounced yesterday that the Presidente of The Federal Court from 1st Region (Brasilia) of Brasil, Mr. Plauto Afonso da Silva Ribeiro said NO to Monsanto's petition to anull the previous decision of Mr. Justice Antonio Souza Prudente, who had refused permission for planting of Roundup Ready Soybean in Brazil before Environment Impact Assessments had been carried out.

Monsanto presented its petition on 7 July. On Friday, 9 July the President of TRF said NO, arguing that the relevance of this matter requires more time to judge it carefully.

However, the Courts and Judges in Brasil do not work in July. It means that any further legal decisions will not be made before August. As indicated by the Minister of Agriculture on his recent visit to the UK, it will be impossible for Monsanto to sell Roundup Ready Seeds before the next planting season.

The Government Lawyers Service have not yet presented a petition to challenge the Judge's decision . They will do so in August .

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 16:32:04 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-16

World may go Non-GM Says Campaigner

By Christopher Lyddon
Wire Service: RTos (Reuters Online Service), Fri, Jul 16, 1999

LONDON (Reuters) – World agriculture could still turn its back on biotechnology according to one of the leaders of the organic movement. "We're still saying we can have global agriculture without genetic modification," Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The Association promotes organic farming methods in Britain as well as providing certification for organic products.

Holden predicted a sharp rise in opposition to biotechnology among the American public. "The informed minority of American public opinion is strongly against GMOs," he said. "You don't get concerned about genetic modification until you have the knowledge."

The fact that European opposition had been so vocal was in itself making American consumers question biotechnology, he said. "My prediction is that the American public will reject GMO's, with massive opposition within a year."

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 16:32:04 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-16

next article posted by

(this is just an excerp. For full article, see

Companies hang fire with GM seed in face of 'antis'

By Jonathan Riley, Farmers Weekly 16 July 1999

BIOTECH companies are not Inputting new genetically modified seed varieties into the UK approval procedure pipeline because of the ongoing anti-GM campaign, according to representa- tives from the biotechnology industry. ...

Monsanto's technical manager Colin Merritt added: "It is getting to the stage where we cannot carry out the research in this country and it may mean that research will have to be carried out elsewhere in the EU."

** 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: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 15:04:28 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-17

Ban genetically-produced food

Business Times (Malaysia)
July 13, 1999, SECTION: Nation; Pg. 2

THE National Consumer Protection Council has called for the ban on imports and sale of all genetically- engineered food products until it has been proven safe for consumption by an independent body. Chairman Datuk Moehamad Izat Emir said, recent reports from scientists have alerted the danger of such products. The council has suggested proper labelling of all the genetically-engineered food.

"All the health food and health products need to be labelled accordingly to safeguard the rights and safety of consumers," he said in a statement released to announce the resolution of the council meeting attended by 18 members in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 15:04:28 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-17

Top BSE expert will highlight risks over GM foods

The Journal (Newcastle, UK), July 13, 1999,

ONE of the country's top BSE experts is to hold a food-safety forum in the Houses of Parliament next week to voice his fears over so-called "Frankenstein Foods". Dr Harash Narang has been a consistent critic of the government's handing of BSE, and its human variation CJD, and has given expert evidence to Lord Justice Philips' inquiry into their outbreaks in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Newcastle-based microbiologist believes genetically-modified foods are "a recipe for disaster" and that government scientists are repeating the mistakes made with infected cattle in the early 1990s.

Now Dr Narang believes GM crops may neutralise antibiotics in humans, and is set to lobby politicians over his claims.

And he has booked Committee Room 18 in the House of Commons to give a talk about remaining problems with CJD/BSE and also the "Looming Cloud of Genetically Modified Food".

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 15:04:28 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-17

Glickman Announces Steps to Address Biotech Crop Concerns

July 13, 1999 Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP)--Mindful of the growing controversy over genetically engineered crops, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced plans Tuesday to study their long-term impact on the environment. Glickman stopped short of proposing that genetically altered food be labeled as such and said distrust of the crops, which is especially strong in Europe, is "scientifically unfounded." But "with all that biotechnology has to offer, it is nothing if it's not accepted" by consumers, he told a National Press Club audience.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 15:04:28 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-17

Venture plans to develop ways to detect GM foods

TOKYO, July 13 (Kyodo) --

Mitsubishi Corp. and Takara Shuzo Co. will form a joint venture to detect genetically modified (GM) material in food so as to label food products as free of genetic engineering, company officials said Tuesday. The joint venture will be set up by the end of this month with a capitalization of 50 million yen, with each company's equity stake to be decided by that time, they said.

(.. has been developed alread by

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 15:04:28 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-17

Jane Rissler of Union of Concerned Scientists on the recent USDA report:

"Keep in mind that the USDA is a promotional, rather than regulatory agency when it comes to genetic engineering of food."

Comment at Technology Review Forum

World Scientists' Statement

Calling on all Governments to:

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 15:04:28 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-17

First Update of Concerns – July 15th 1999

Prepared by Dr Mae-Wan Ho & Angela Ryan, Open University, UK

Signatories on the World Scientists' Statement


The article on TRIPS is now under review at the WTO. It is an opportunity to exclude the new biotech patents from TRIPS. A scientific briefing was produced for the Third World Network and circulated at WTO, by two of our signatories, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Dr. Terje Traavik. The full document can be found on our website: It provides a glossary and detailed analysis of the relevant article in TRIPS as well as corresponding articles in the EU Directive. The briefing conludes :

All classes of the new biotech patents should be rejected from inclusion in TRIPS on the following grounds:

All involve biological processes not under the direct control of the scientist. They cannot be regarded as inventions but expropriations from life.

The hit or mis technologies associated with many of the inventions are inherently hasardous to health and biodiversity.

There is no scientific basis to support the patenting of genes and genomes, which are discoveries at best.

Many patents are unethical ; they destroy livelihoods, contravene basic human rights, create unnecessary suffering in animals or are otherwise contrary to public order and morality.

Many patents involve acts of plagiarism of indigenous knowledge and biopiracy of plants (and animals) bred and used by local communities for millenia.


  1. Researchers at Cornell University published a study in Nature which found that pollen from GM Bt corn could have lethal effects on the larvae of monarch butterflies if it lands on milkweed, the plant upon which they feed. Forty-four percent of the larvae were killed after 4 days, whereas no mortality occurred in larvae fed nontransgenic pollen. The Cornell University researchers say their results "have potentially İprofound implications for the conservation of monarch butterflies" and believe more research on the environmental risks of biotechnology in agriculture is essential.

    Reference: Losey, J.E. et al (1999). Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae. Nature 399, 214.

  2. A recent study on transgenic rice carried out at the John Innes Institute supports previous evidence that there is a recombination hotspot in the CaMV 35S promoter. Furthermore, most of the recombination events analyzed were 'illegitimate' or nonhomologous and do not require substantial similarity in nucleic acid base sequence. The recombination events were also found to occur independently, in the absence of other viral genes.

    Our comment: Transgenic lines containing the CaMV promoter, which includes practically all that have been released, are therefore prone to instability due to rearrangements, and also have the potential to create new viruses or other invasive genetic elements. The continued release of such transgenic lines is unwarranted in light of the new findings.

    Reference; Kohli, A. et al 1999. Molecular characterization of transforming plasmid rearrangement in transgenic rice reveals a recombination hotspot in the CaMV promoter and confirms the predominance of microhomology mediated recombination. The Plant Journal 17(6), pp 591-601.

  3. A new study reviews 8,200 university based trials of transgenic soya varieties. It reveals that Roundup Ready Soybeans produce lower yields compared to their non GM counterparts. The average yield drag in RR soybeans was 6.7% and in some areas of the midwest the average yeild in conventional varieties was 10% higher compared to Roundup Ready varieties. Furthermore the analysis shows that farmers use 2 to 5 times more herbicide measured in pounds applied per acre on RR soybeans compared with other weed management systems. RR herbicide use exceeds the levels on many farms using multi-tactic weed management systems by a factor of 10 or more.

    Reference: Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal Trials in 1998 by U.S. agronomist Dr. Charles Benbrook, author of Pest Management at the Crossroads and former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture for the US National Academy of Sciences. İAg Biotech Infonet Technical Paper Number 1 July 13 1999. website

  4. A recent population-based study conducted in Sweden between 1987-1990 and including follow-up interviews clearly links exposure to Roundup Ready herbicide (glyphosate) to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and strongly suggests glyphosate deserves further epidemiological studies.

    Reference: Hardell, H. & Eriksson, M. (1999). A Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides. Cancer 5, No 6.

  5. A new paper reports chaotic gene silencing in GM plants and reveals that each transformed plant expressed a different and specific instability profile. Both transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene silencing mechanisms were operating in a chaotic manner and demonstrates that epigenetic (position) effects are responsible for transgene instability in GM plants. These results indicate that transgene silencing and instability will continue to hinder the economic exploitation of GM plants.

    Reference; Dr Neve M et al. (1999) Gene Silencing results in instability of antibody production in transgenic plants. Molecular and General Genetics 260:580-592.

  6. Successful transfers of a kanamycin resistance marker gene to the soil bacterium Acinetobacter were obtained using DNA extracted from homogenized plant leaf from a range of transgenic plants: Solanum tuberosum (potato), Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco), Beta vulgaris (sugar beet), Brassica napus (oil-seed rape) and Lycopersicon esculentum (tomato). It is estimated that about 2500 copies of the kanamycin resistance genes (from the same number of plant cells) is sufficient to successfully transform one bacterium, despite the fact that there is six million-fold excess of plant DNA present.

    Our comment: A single plant with say, 2.5 trillion cells, would be sufficient to transform one billion bacteria.

    Reference: De Vries, J. and Wackernagel, W. (1998). Detection of nptII (kanamycin resistance) genes in genomes of transgenic plants by marker-rescue transformation. Mol. Gen. Genet. 257, 606-13.

  7. Horizontal gene transfer between bacteria can occur in the gut at high frequencies. This has been demonstrated in the gut of germ-free mice. The 'germ-free' gut-environment can result from taking antibiotics. In one experiment, tetracycline increases the frequency of horizontal gene transfer by 20-fold. And vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium is found to colonise the gut when the mice were treated with antibiotic.

    Our comments: Antibiotic resistance marker genes can spread from GMOs to bacteria and between bacteria, including those associated with infectious diseases. Furthermore, the use of antibiotics will make resistance spread more readily.


  8. Pathogenic bacteria capable of invading cells can act as vectors for transferring genes into mammalian cells.

    Our comment: Dangerous transgenic DNA can end up in the genome of our cells, with the potential of causing a lot of genetic disturbance including cancer.

    Reference: Grillot-Courvalin, et al. (1998). Functional gene transfer from intracellular bacteria to mammalian cells. Nature Biotechnology 16, 1-5.

Other relevant papers on our website:

Special Safety Concerns of Transgenic Agriculture and Related Issues Briefing Paper for Minister of State for the Environment, The Rt Hon Michael Meacher. (Prepared 7.4.99) Report on meeting of scientists in Michael Meacher's Office (Prepared 10.4.99) One-bird ten thousand treasures – How ducklings in the paddy-field can feed the world. Principle of substantial equivalence – excerpt from a full critique of the FAO/WHO joint report on safety of GM foods.

Sign on at our website:

Signatories on the World Scientists' Statement

July 15th 1999 (Total = 85)

  1. Dr. Ted Steele, Molecular Immunologist, U. Wollengong, Australia
  2. Angela Fehringer, Antropology Student, Austria
  3. Prof. David Suzuki, Geneticist, U.B.C., Canada
  4. Prof. Joe Cummins, Geneticist, University of Western Ontario, Canada
  5. Dr Ruth Goseth, Dermatologist, ISDE, China
  6. Dr. Tewolde Egziabher, Agronomist, Min. of the Environment, Ethiopia
  7. Dr. Christine von Weisaeker, Ecoropa, Germany
  8. Prof. Ervin Laszlo, President, The Club of Buddapest, Hungary
  9. Dr. Vandana Shiva, Research Institute for Science and Ecology, India
  10. Dr Muhua Achary, Environmentalist, St Josephs College, Bangalore, India
  11. Dr. Bruno D'Udine, Behaviour Ecologist, University of Udine, Italy
  12. Dr Giorgio Cingolani, Agricultural Economist, Italy
  13. Prof. Atuhiro Sibatani, Molecular Biologist, Osaka, Japan
  14. Dr Shiron Sugita, Plant Geneticist, Nagoya U. Japan
  15. Dr Noeoru Tagishita, Plant Geneticist, Japanese Assoc. of Agro-Nature, Tokyo, Japan
  16. Dr Shing Shibata, Biosafty and Environmental Sociologist, The Civil Rights Against Japan, Japan
  17. Dr Farhad Mazhar, Ecologist, New Agricultural Movement, Japan
  18. Dr Robert Mann, Physician, New Zealand
  19. Prof. Terje Traavik, Virologist, University of Tromso, Norway
  20. Prof Oscar B. Zamora, Agronomist, U. of Philippines Los Banos, Philippines
  21. Dr Gregorio Alvar, Biotechnologist, Molecular Biology Dept. Computense U. Madrid, Spain
  22. Dr. Javier Blasco, Aragonese Ctr Rural European Information, Spain
  23. Dr. Katarina Leppanen, History of Ideas, Gothenburg Uni, Sweden
  24. Dr. Florianne Koechlin, Biologist, World Wildlife Fund, Switzerland
  25. Verena Soldati Biotechnologist, Basler Appell, Switzerland.
  26. Daniel Amman, Cell Biologist, Tech. Switzerland
  27. Yves Schatzle, Agronomist and Economist, Switzerland
  28. Prof. Arpad Pusztai, Biochemist, Formerly from Rowett Institute, UK
  29. Dr. Susan Bardocz, Geneticist, Aberdeen, UK
  30. Prof. Richard Lacey, Microbiologist, Leeds, UK
  31. Dr. Michael Antoniou, Molecular Geneticist, Guy's Hospital, UK
  32. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Geneticist and Biophysicist, Open University, UK
  33. Dr J. M. Kerr, Bioethics, Winchester College: Oxford U. UK
  34. Dr Tom Wakeford, Biologist, U. of East London, UK
  35. Prof. Brian Goodwin, Biologist, Schumacher College, UK
  36. Dr. Patrick Holden Director Soil Association, UK
  37. Dr Eva Novotny, U. of Cambridge (Retired), UK
  38. Prof. Ian Stuart, Biomathematics, U. Warwick, UK
  39. Dr. Vyvyan Howard, Toxipathologist, U. Liverpool, UK
  40. Prof. Peter Saunders, Biomathematician, U. London, UK
  41. Prof. Tim Ingold, Anthropologist, U. Manchester, UK
  42. Dr. Robert C. Poller, Organic Chemist, U. London, UK
  43. Gordon Daly P.hD student, Gene Therapist, Kennedy Inst. London, UK
  44. Stuart Daly P.hD student, Transgenic group, Charing Cross Hosp. UK
  45. Peter Preston-Jones, M.Sc. Environmentalist, UK
  46. Dr. John E. Hammond, Engineer, Highfeild, UK
  47. Dr. Philip Kilner, Cardiologist, Royal Brompton & Harefield, UK
  48. Dani Kaye M.Sc. Scientists for Global Responsibility London, UK
  49. David Kaye M.Sc. Scientists for Global Responsibility, London, UK
  50. Angela Ryan, Molecular biologist, Open Univ. UK
  51. Prof. David Packham, Material Scientist, U. Bath, UK
  52. Dr. David J Heaf, Biochemist, Wales, UK
  53. Dr Alan Currier, Taxonomist, IRBV, UK
  54. Dr Gesa Staats de Yanes, Veterinarian Toxicologist, U. of Liverpool, UK
  55. Barbara Wood-Kaczmar M.Sc. Science Writer, UK
  56. Dr Gene S. Thomas, Agriculturalist, UK
  57. Prof. Martha Crouch, Biologist, Indiana University, USA
  58. Prof. Ruth Hubbard, Biologist, Harvard University, USA
  59. Prof. Phil Bereano, Union of Concerned Scientists, U. Washington USA
  60. Prof. Martha Herbert , Pediatric Neurologist, Mass. Gen. Hosp. USA
  61. Prof. David Schartzman, Biologist, Howard U. Washington DC USA
  62. Prof. John Garderineer, Biologist, U. Michigan USA
  63. Dr Walter Bortz, Physician, Palo Alto, USA
  64. Dr. Mahua Acharya, Biologist, USA
  65. Dr. Catherine Badley, Biologist, University of Michigan USA
  66. Dr. Gerald Smith, Zoologist, U. Michigan, USA
  67. Vuejuin McKersen M.Sc, Natural Resource Manager U. Michigan, USA
  68. Dr. John Soluri, Historian of Science, Carnegie Mellon U USA
  69. Juiet S Erazo PhD student U. of Michigan USA
  70. Dr. Juette Peufecto, Biologist, U of Michigan USA
  71. U.V. Kutzli Ph.D. Candidate, U of Michigan USA
  72. Kristin Cobelius M.Sc. Student, U. Michigan USA
  73. Lena S Nicolai PhD Student University of Michigan USA
  74. Marial Peelle, Biol./Anthropologist Undergrad. Swarthmors College USA
  75. Dr. Ty Fitzmorris, Ecologist, Hampshire College USA
  76. Dr. Caros R Ramirez, Biologist, St Lawrance University USA
  77. Rosa Vazquez Student in Biology, Ohio State University USA
  78. Sean Lyman Student Gettysbury College USA
  79. Ryan White Student St Lawrence University USA
  80. Dr. Nancy A Schult, Entomologist, U of Wisconsin-Madison USA
  81. Dr. Brian Schultz, Ecologist, Hampshire College USA
  82. Dr. Douglas H Boucher, Ecologist, Hood College USA
  83. Dr. Timothy Mann, Geographer, Hampshire College, USA
  84. Chris Picone M.Sc. Soil Microbiologist, U. Michigan USA
  85. Dr. Peter M. Rosset, Ins. for Food and Development Policy, USA

In summary, we call upon our Governments to:

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 06:53:04 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-19

Full story posted at :

Grocers Look for Guidance on Biotech Food Labels

CBC story 1999/07/19

A lobby group for Canadian grocery stores wants to study ways of introducing labelling for biotech foods.

Right now there's no law that forces stores to provide labels that indicate food products contain genetically modified vegetables. But there's mounting evidence that Canadians want the labels.

Two weeks ago the environmental group Sierra Club of Canada circulated petitions, demanding stores label their genetically modified products.

In response, the Canadian Council of Grocery Store Distributors says its members are unsure what information people want to see on those labels, so it's advocating a study into the matter.

It says if retailers and producers take on the expense of labelling they want to make sure the labels will do the job.

Over the past few years people have told researchers they want labels they can understand. In studies checking the appropriate language for the labels, phrases such as "genetically enhanced" meant little to consumers.

Bart Bilmer from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says, "The types of messages that would work for consumers would be ones that were in more simple terms."

The grocery store distributors will work with the food inspection agency, advocacy groups, farmers and biotech companies to develop standards.

The issue of genetically modified foods has been most strongly debated in Britain. On Sunday it came up again with a protest staged by the Genetic Engineering Network. They raided a field planted with oilseed rape and began tearing up plants.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 06:53:04 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-19

US to label GM foods

BBC: Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK Sci/Tech

US farmers have taken to GM crops in a big way

The US Government has said that it will probably agree to label genetically-modified (GM) food.

At the moment, American law does not require this. However, European governments have threatened to continue their ban on the import of certain US GM products if the Americans do not accept such labelling.

Up to now, the Clinton administration has opposed GM labelling, agreeing with the American food industry that it unfairly stigmatises what they regard as perfectly safe products.

But the US Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, said that relations with Europe on the GM issue could deteriorate into an all-out trade war and labelling was a way in which such a crisis might be avoided.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

UK Supermarket goes GM-free

BBC News,

Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK

Suppliers had to use non-genetically modified ingredients

Sainsbury's says it is the first major UK supermarket chain to have eliminated genetically modified ingredients from its own-brand products.

The company said it had worked with more than 1,000 suppliers to review its whole range of products.

It had clearly labelled all relevant items from its 12,000-plus range until it could secure GM-free alternatives.

It has now successfully reformulated all affected products with non-GM ingredients.

Sainsbury's took a lead among UK retailers when it set up its own helpline to inform and gain feedback from consumers on the contentious issue and in March announced it would eliminate all GM ingredients from own-brand products.

It also set up an international consortium of food retailers and industry experts to establish verified sources of non-GM crops and products.

Listening to customers

Dino Adriano, Sainsbury's chief executive, said: "GM has been one of the most important issues for our customers over the past few months and we wanted to make a clear statement.

"We have made this a priority and have been working flat out to address customer's concerns. It has been a mammoth task. Sainsbury's has one of the widest ranges of own-brand products in the food retailing industry catering for nine million customers every week."

Mr Adriano said the company had begun to identify, reformulate and label products containing GMs three years ago and by January had reduced the number of GM products to 45.

By June this had been reduced to just six items and the task had now been completed.

Bowing to pressure

All of the other big supermarkets have bowed to customer pressure and are in the process of withdrawing GM produce from their own-brand ranges of food.

One of the UK food industry's leading manufacturers and distributors, Northern Foods, has also stopped using genetically-modified ingredients.

Lord Haskins, Chairman of Northern Foods and an adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, said his company had also been forced to withdraw GM ingredients in the face of the public outcry at "Frankenstein food".

Top PreviousFront Page

Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 06:53:04 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-19

There are some excellent articles at the MIT technology Review Forum website

These articles are comments in response to a previous article "Biotechnology Goes Wild"

6 Reasons why Biotechnology and Food Security can never be compatible

Here is an excellent response by: Roger Pelizzari

The author assumes biotechnology is needed to feed the world, but it will more than likely reduce food and livelihood security for the world’s poor. Here are six reasons why biotechnology and food security can never be compatible:

(Adapted from Tom Campbell, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, Development Studies Centre, Kimmage Manor, Dublin, Republic of Ireland)

  1. Biotechnology can never be a cure for hunger – Famines are not caused by lack of food but by lack of access to food and alternative sources of income in times of crisis. There are ample reserves of food in the world today yet the numbers of malnourished run into hundreds of millions. Increasing agricultural production (even assuming that this is possible through biotechnology) whilst leaving the structural causes of poverty and hunger unaddressed is a recipe not for feeding the world but for continuing to starve sizeable numbers within it.

  2. Biotechnology creates dependency – Biotechnology goes hand in hand with intensive agriculture, with single crops in large fields. The majority of Third World farmers are small-scale, farming a variety of crops. By switching to genetically engineered seeds they have to change their practices and become dependent on the companies which provide the 'package' of seeds, herbicides, fertilisers, irrigation systems, etc. In India, farmers using Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds pay an extra $50 - $65 per acre as a technical fee over and above the price of seed. Farmers who do business with Monsanto must sign a contract stating that they will not buy chemicals from any one else.

  3. Biotech Companies can not be trusted – There is nothing in the environmental record of Corporations like Du Pont or Monsanto, who are leading proponents of biotechnology, to suggest that they should be trusted now. These same companies have always promoted non-sustainable, industrial, socially inequitable agriculture. Monsanto remains one of the largest polluters in the United States. The company was responsible for 5% of the 5.7 billion pounds of toxic chemicals released in to the US environment in 1992

  4. Biotechnology reduces diversity – Biotechnology reduces diversity by promoting certain species over others, so reducing the genetic pool even further. We are already massively over-dependent on a handful of food crop varieties. Genuine sustainable agriculture on the other hand promotes multi-cropping and companion planting as the best resistance to pests, viruses and changes in climate. Traditional varieties of subsistence food crops are often more nutritious than the high-yield varieties promoted by the agro-chemical and seed companies.

  5. Biotechnology encourages Biopiracy – Business interests and chemical companies use research into unusual genes from plant, animal and even human genes, as a means of getting control over local genetic resources – once they have manipulated that gene they reinforce control, and earn massive profits, by 'patenting'. Many developing countries were opposed to this at GATT/World Trade Organisation negotiations and continue to express concern at the way trade related intellectual property rights' (TRIPS) work in favour of >the industrialised countries. The creation of monopoly rights to biodiversity utilisation can have serious implications for erosion of national and community rights to biodiversity and devalue indigenous knowledge systems . Sustainable food and livelihood security in the Third World is likely to be weakened rather than strengthened as a result .

  6. The world's starving do not make good customers – What evidence is there to show that 20 years of biotechnology research, a billion dollars of expenditure and countless hours of scientific labour has benefited the worlds hungry or resource poor farmers in the South? Science-based biotechnology research has so far tended to benefit the high external input agriculture of the North. Most biotech products have been aimed at consumer niche markets in the North – Calgene's $25 million Flavr Savr tomatoes for example, whose only advantage over competitors is three – five days extra shelf life. A fraction of the money that has been poured into biotechnology research could have a far greater impact if it was invested in strengthening and promoting the huge variety of sustainable and alternative agriculture possibilities that already exist in the world.

** 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:

Our website, 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.