Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

2 August 99

Table of Contents

Brazilian Scientists Cautious toward GE Crops
CBS Interviews Prof. John Fagan
UK Sainsbury says own-brand ingredients GM-free
UK Minister tells GM firms -- public comes first
Genetically modified food poses risks
The Curse of Frankenfood: Genetically Modified Crops Stir up Controversy at Home and Abroad
GM Food Information Dismissed as Propaganda in New Zealand
US Group Hires Ex-trade Rep to Lobby on Biotech
Consumers Mop up in Milk War
GM pants and socks next on protesters' list
U.S. researchers find way to change plant genes
"Chimeraplasty: A Major Invention for Genetic Engineering"
Switzerland Refuses Licence for GE trials
Another prime time story on GE in the US- Peter Jennings
Researcher Questions Nutritional Value of Genetically Altered Crops
Canada: Sierra Club's Food Scare Ignores the Real Risks
MAFF Reveals New Scientific Findings Confirming Fears Over Health Hazards of GMOs
Genetically-Altered Baby Foods Are Being Rejected -- by Adults
Baby Food Maker Cautious on Grain
Giant salmon are part of latest nightmare in food manipulation
India accuses US of stealing ancient cures
France willing to spend 10 million francs on GE risk research
GM killer bugs developed as defence against germ warfare
GM Soya Milk Gives Children Herpes, Senior Surgeon Tells the Government
Japan Drafts Law on Labeling Gene-Altered Food
MONSANTO: The seeds of dispute

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Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 12:49:50 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-20

Brazilian Scientists Cautious toward GE Crops

Rio De Janeiro, Jul.15 IPS

Brazil's scientific community is recommending a cautious approach to the issue of genetically modified crops, although some government ministries have already given the green light for limited use of bio-engineered seeds.

Genetically altered grains have become a central focus – and the most controversial issue – of the annual meeting of the Brazilian Society for Scientific Progress (SBPC) this week in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil. The SBPC defended before Brazil's National Congress a five-year moratorium on the commercial production of genetically modified foods in order to better evaluate their effects on the environment and human health. This time period is necessary because the country is not yet ready to control and ensure safe consumption of these products, said Glaci Zancan, the newly elected SBPC president.

The time would be used to carry out tests and risk analyses using the most recent scientific advances, maintained Zancan, who is also a professor of bio-chemistry at the Federal University of Parana.

** 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: Wed, 21 Jul 1999 05:55:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-21

Natural Law Party News Flash!

CBS Interviews Prof. John Fagan

CBS's Dan Rather Interviews Molecular Biologist Dr. John Fagan about the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods

CBS-TV has just informed us that Dan Rather of CBS Evening News will interview John Fagan, Ph.D., a molecular biologist who is an eloquent international spokesperson concerning the hazards of genetically engineered foods, on Wednesday, July 21, and Thursday, July 22, during the 5:30 p.m. (Central time) national broadcast of CBS Evening News. Please tune in according to your time zone.


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Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1999 05:55:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-21

UK Sainsbury says own-brand ingredients GM-free

http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=2242

UK: July 20, 1999

LONDON – British supermarket chain J. Sainsbury Plc said yesterday it had won the race between UK supermarkets to eliminate genetically modified ingredients from its own-brand products.

Consumer fears about unknowingly eating "Frankenstein foods" have risen dramatically in Britain this year, leading major chains to clearly indicate the presence of GM ingredients until they are replaced by natural substitutes.

"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," Sainsbury group Chief Executive Dino Adriano said.

Sainsbury said it had whittled down the number of products containing GM soya protein – the main source of public concern – from 45 to zero since January.

All its suppliers are now required to certify that soya and related ingredients come from verified non-GM crops.


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Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1999 05:55:43 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-21

UK Minister tells GM firms – public comes first

http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=2170

UK: July 19, 1999

British Environment Minister Michael Meacher warned genetic food manufacturers on Saturday he would not be pressured into "riding rough-shod" over safety procedures designed to protect the public interest.

His latest comments came against growing public calls for tighter controls on the development of GM crops, dubbed "Frankenstein foods" by the British media.

"I am not prepared to ride rough-shod over the regulatory and scientific procedures in order to please Monsanto ," he told a conference on the future of the ruling Labour Party, referring to the U.S. company which has borne the brunt of the media backlash.

Meacher said the interests of the public and business did not always coincide.

"The job of government ...is to protect the public interest. We do not believe what is good for Monsanto is good for the world," said the minister.

** 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, 22 Jul 1999 22:06:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-22

Genetically modified food poses risks

The Gazette (Montreal), Tue 20 Jul 1999, PAGE B2

Though taking on the appearance of balance and suggesting the voice of reason, Dr. Joe Schwarcz's article on genetically modified or -engineered ) is problematic.

While it is true that various plants and animals have been modified over the centuries through crossbreeding, it should be noted that this occurs between related species and, indeed, can occur without any human involvement. For example, blue and fin whales can mate to produce hybrid offspring. The process that brings about the aforementioned whales, or seedless grapes, strikes me as a vastly different one from, say, the human insertion of fish genetic material into tomatoes.


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Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 22:06:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-22

The Curse of Frankenfood: Genetically Modified Crops Stir up Controversy at Home and Abroad

By Phillip J. Longman, US News, July 26, 1999

Another feature about genetically engineered foods, which begins by saying that in speeches and on his Web site, the Prince of Wales warns that he would never eat the stuff and proclaims that he won't stand for it being grown on his land. Former Beatle Paul McCartney, when he learned that traces could be found in his late wife Linda's vegetarian food line, reacted with the same fear and revulsion as do most Britons: He ordered the offending ingredient removed immediately. British newspapers now publish advice columns on how to avoid feeding the stuff accidentally to your pets, and protesters regularly vandalize farm fields where it is grown.


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Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 22:06:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-22

GM Food Information Dismissed as Propaganda in New Zealand

AgBiotech Net http://agbio.cabweb.org/news/Public.htm

A plan by supermarkets in New Zealand to distribute over a million copies of a pamphlet about the genetic modification (GM) of food have been criticized as an effort to distribute propaganda by safe food activists.

One of the campaigners, Sue Kedgley from the Safe Food Campaign, commented, "I can only hope consumers will see this leaflet for what it is – biased, undisguised propaganda. It's as though they have declared war ... and the first casualty has been truth." The pamphlet was produced by the New Zealand Grocery Industry Council. The executive director of the Grocery Marketers' Association, Brenda Cutress, commented that food manufacturers wanted to ensure that people were better informed about genetically engineered foods.

Ms Kedgley has criticised the pamphlet as she believes that it ignores the environmental and health risks in the technology, and focuses instead on possible future benefits. She refuted a claim in the pamphlet that GM foods were among the most extensively tested foods sold. She claimed that it overlooked the fact that GM foods had never undergone long-term testing to see if they damaged the human immune system, caused cancer, or caused allergies. She suggested that claims of nutritional advantages in GM foods did not apply to any of the 52 GM foods currently available on the New Zealand market.


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Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 22:06:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-22

US Group Hires Ex-trade Rep to Lobby on Biotech

By Doug Palmer, Reuters, July 20/99

BOSTON – The board of directors of the U.S. Grains Council was cited as taking action on Tuesday to battle growing international opposition to genetically modified crops by hiring former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills to lobby world leaders on their behalf.


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Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 22:06:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-22

Consumers Mop up in Milk War

By George Monbiot, The Guardian, Thursday July 22, 1999

An amazing U-turn has repelled American hormone-treated milk Links, reports and background on the food crisis

Slowly, very slowly, consumers are regaining control over the food chain. The destruction of a farm-scale trial of genetically engineered rape by protesters on Sunday could prove to be the final straw for the biotechnology companies already wondering whether their products have a future in this country.

Just 10 miles from the trial site, Britain's newest farmers' market, offering local, organic produce, opened for the first time a fortnight ago, and sold out within two hours.

But something else has happened, far more significant than either of these events. Three weeks ago, the European Union routed an American attempt to force us to accept one of the most unpleasant technologies food scientists have ever devised. Its victory, a critically important blow for consumer rights, was greeted with a deluge of absolutely no coverage at all.

Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a growth hormone, manufactured by Monsanto. Injected into dairy cows, it raises their milk yields by 10 to 15 per cent. According to European scientists, it also increases udder infections, foot diseases and reproductive disorders in the cows which receive it, and boosts the level of insulin growth factor 1 in their milk.

This chemical passes intact into the human bloodstream and is associated with both breast and prostate cancers. Five years ago, the European Union banned the use of the hormone here, and forbade imports of hormone-treated milk from the United States. The US insisted that if the ban were not lifted by the end of this year, it would ask the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to force us to start drinking its poisoned milk.

The United States had every expectation of success. It has already used the WTO to impose punitive sanctions on the European Union for refusing to compel us to eat hormone-treated beef, and insisting that we should not have to buy all our bananas from the company which funds the Democratic Party.

America has found in our own scab state an indispensable ally: the British government has consistently sought to undermine the European position on beef hormones, in order to prove to Mr Clinton that it places the interests of US corporations ahead of the health of its own citizens.

The milk dispute threatened to become far bigger than the beef and banana wars. The United States has already demonstrated that it will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Monsanto gets what it wants.

In 1989, a researcher employed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned tests to discover whether or not BST is safe. He was immediately sacked for "slowing down the approval process", and the tests were stopped.

When the FDA discovered that Monsanto's own tests were grossly inadequate, it established a new safety category, approving BST as a "manageable risk". Last year, the FDA admitted that it had allowed the sale of the hormone without having seen any safety data. It had relied instead on a summary provided by Monsanto.

Exposure of this kind of collusion has seldom prevented the United States from forcibly exporting its revolting habits. The World Trade Organisation has to decide whether a country or a group of countries is excluding a product for genuine health and safety reasons, or doing so merely in order to protect its own manufacturers.

It relies on the assessment of Codex Alimentarius, the United Nations food standards agency. Codex is stuffed with corporate scientists and US government officials. It has ruled in favour of American corporations even when the evidence against their products is overwhelming.

But three weeks ago, Codex did something almost unprecedented. It made a decision on the basis of science, rather than politics. Safety concerns about BST, it ruled, could not be ignored. The United States was forced to drop its suit.

The decision not to poison the 370m members of the European Union, though ignored by every newspaper and broadcaster in Britain, could prove to be one of the defining moments of the end of the 20th century. The credibility of the coercive trade regime which has threatened the sovereignty of every democratic state on earth has already been seriously challenged.

Last year, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, a crude attempt to enable big business to overthrow national legislation, was defeated by campaigners. This week, the World Trade Organisation failed to resolve the furious internal dispute over its next director-general, and was forced to appoint both leading candidates.

Europe's victory sets the tone for a new round of trade talks, opening in Seattle in November. They promise to be so contentious that they could break the World Trade Organisation apart. I hope so. The WTO, established to protect weak nations from the strong, has been reduced to an oppressive instrument of American foreign policy.

Copyright Guardian Media Group plc. 1999

** 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: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 22:13:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-26

GM pants and socks next on protesters' list

By Robin Young, The Times (London), July 19, 1999

Are your pants politically correct and environmentally acceptable? That is the question that clothing retailers and department stores are going to dread in coming weeks as attention turns from genetically modified foods to genetically modified underwear.

To date, the fury of the public debate about genetically modified crops has concentrated on maize and soya, ingredients used in almost two thirds of manufactured foods.

Supermarkets have been falling over themselves to clear their own-brand foodstuffs of genetically modified ingredients. Now they are going to have to scrutinise the clothing racks too.

For there is a third genetically modified crop which, in the view of the environmentalists campaigning against the practice, is just as important as maize and soya. That crop is cotton and in America, which is the world's biggest exporter of cotton, genetically modified cotton forms almost half this year's crop. As was the case with soya and maize, the Americans have not segregated the crops from genetically modified cottonfields and those from conventional plants.


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Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 22:13:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-26

U.S. researchers find way to change plant genes

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON, July 20 (Reuters) – Researchers said on Tuesday they developed a new way to genetically engineer plants – one in which no foreign gene is inserted. Their method might be an answer to objections by groups which object to genetically engineered plants and fear they might be dangerous to people and the environment.


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Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 22:13:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-26

Here are comments from Dr. Joe Cummins, Professor Emeritus of Genetics at University of Western Ontaria, regarding the above 'new technology' which is called chimeraplasty

"Chimeraplasty: A Major Invention for Genetic Engineering"

Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail: jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

This year a novel invention was introduced into gene therapy (JAMA 281,119-21, 1999). The method involves the use of a genetic phenomenon called gene conversion to edit the genetic code in the living cell. A short piece of DNA called an oligonucleotide is coated with interspersed complementary fragments of RNA and the structure is taken up by living cells.

In gene therapy defective genes are corrected when the code in the injected DNA "converts" the mutant DNA to the code of a normal gene. Gene conversion is a form of DNA repair in living organisms. In genetic engineering of plants or animals the coding features of target genes can be altered so that the genes take on new functions such as herbicide tolerance or insect killing. The new genetic engineering has been used to develop gene therapy and crops created by chimeraplasty have begun to appear. The term "chimeraplasty" reflects the mixed DNA-RNA of the molecules used to edit the DNA in the living cell.

Chimeraplasty is proving effective from a technical standpoint but its impact on families of related genes (most genes involved in metabolism) has not been discussed. Non-target genes related genes may be converted with untoward consequences. Furthermore, the very technique shows that exposure to naked DNA or DNA mixed with RNA fragments may provoke unexpected changes in the cells of those exposed in the laboratory or in the field.


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Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 22:13:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-26

Switzerland Refuses Licence for GE trials

By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent
Sunday Independent (London) July 25

GENETICALLY modified maize undergoing trials in Britain has been banned in Switzerland because of concerns that it could lead to super-weeds and contaminate honey with genetically engineered pollen.

The maize refused a licence by the Swiss government is currently being grown in the UK countryside in "farm scale trials" in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire and near Reading.

Yesterday, environmental groups welcomed the Swiss decision and claimed it raised serious doubts about its cultivation in the UK.

"The Swiss seem to be taking the precautionary approach more seriously than us," said Dr Sue Mayer, director of GeneWatch, the genetic engineering watchdog. "If the Swiss have realised new concerns that have not been taken into account, then that throws the whole future of these trials here into question."

The Swiss ban follows a report by the country's Federal Bureau for the Environment, Forests and Landscape. The Bureau concluded that neighbouring farmers' fields could be contaminated by GM pollen.

The Bureau concluded: "The hybridisation of genetically modified inherited material must therefore be prevented. This could be greatly reduced by removing male blossoms from T25 maize prior to blooming. Even this process cannot guarantee that the pollen will not end up in a neighbouring maize field or be gathered by bees and emerge in honey."

It concluded that "harmlessness to humans and the environment has not been adequately proven and the risk cannot be sufficiently reduced by taking technical measures".


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Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 22:13:38 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-26

Another prime time story on GE in the US- Peter Jennings

By Sheila MacVicar, ABCNEWS.com, July 26

The United States and the European Union are engaged in a high-priced food fight involving genetically altered food and two dramatically different ways of thinking about it.

Last year, about 26 million cows in the United States received hormones to produce more meat and less fat, and nearly 60 million acres of crops in North America are genetically altered to make them resistant to disease and pests.

Horrified by "Frankenfood"

In Europe, high technology and food just do not mix. They call it "Frankenfood," as in Frankenstein. Many Europeans believe these foods are not safe, and European governments have banned some of them. American producers say they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars as a result.

In the United States, where many people don't think twice about eating genetically altered foods, the secretary of agriculture says a war over food could ruin America's relationship with Europe.

Europe is still a continent where people take their food very seriously. Here, many families still shop daily for the freshest food.

** 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, 29 Jul 1999 10:31:41 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-28

http://www.sfgate.com

Researcher Questions Nutritional Value of Genetically Altered Crops

TOM ABATE, Monday, July 26, 1999
©1999 San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/07/26/BU107010.DTL

In the fight over genetically engineered foods, the biotech industry has criticized its foes for not basing their objections on science. But when Mendocino County researcher Mark Lappe published an article in a scientific journal questioning the nutritional value of genetically modified soybeans, an industry association debunked his study before it appeared in print.

The preventive strike against Lappe's study, published in July by the Journal of Medicinal Foods, exemplifies the take-no-prisoners attitude in the biofoods fight.

Lappe, a former health-policy professor, tested one of the assumptions regarding bioengineered crops: namely, that genetically altered foods have the same nutritional value as unaltered crops. To test this assumption, Lappe planted four experimental soybean plots. In two, he planted normal soybeans. In the other two, he planted seeds genetically altered to make them resistant to herbicides.

Such herbicide-resistant soybeans are popular with farmers, who can spray an entire field to kill weeds and trust that when the dust clears, only their genetically strengthened soybeans will remain standing. But when Lappe harvested his four crops and ground up the beans to study their nutritional content, he discovered that the genetically altered soybeans had measurably lower amounts of certain isoflavones. Isoflavones are a family of chemicals that seem to have beneficial effects in humans, from lowering cholesterol to relieving the symptoms of menopause.

Thus, his research suggested that genetically modified soybeans may be less healthful than their natural counterparts. Lappe thinks that the modified soybeans put so much energy into defending themselves against the herbicide, the plants are too pooped to produce sufficient isoflavones. he said in an interview.

But a few days before Lappe's journal article appeared in print, the American Soybean Association mustered an impressive array of scientists to critique Lappe's findings on two basic counts. First, the ASA's scientists said all soybeans exhibit isoflavone variability, influenced by factors as simple as rainfall. Second, they said Lappe only studied two of many soybean varieties, not enough to make generalizations.

The critique appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, hometown paper of the ASA and Monsanto Co., which sells genetically modified soybeans. The article also scolded Lappe for posting a synopsis of his findings on the Web before the journal appeared in print, generally a scientific no-no. Lappe said he had permission to make the early Web posting of what the journal editor realized would be an explosive bit of science. In any case, he said, it's not as if Monsanto or the ASA first got wind of the research We shared our data with Monsanto before he said.

Lappe countered the argument that isoflavone content varies in all soybeans by noting that of the five different isoflavones he studied, one remained constant among all four samples. Finally, he noted a Catch-22 in the criticism that he didn't study enough Monsanto, which controls all these seeds, told our he said.

Monsanto spokeswoman Lisa Drake said her company will refute Lappe's contentions in the appropriate forum – the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry – which is evaluating a study that, she says, will show the nutritional equivalence of soybeans, regardless of genetic modification. So the debate over genetic foods continues.

The question is in what spirit. When the argument first arose in Europe, industry characterized its critics as irresponsible and treated their concerns as a contagion to be quarantined. I heard this sentiment voiced at a recent biotech conference in Berkeley, when an industry lobbyist noted in the U.S. media reports. Now, I don't mind if the industry rags on Europe. And I'd be willing to admit that some Bay Area folks may be influenced by an excess of free radicals in their bloodstreams. But in recent weeks, even sober characters like Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman have suggested that genetically modified foods should be labeled – something critics have demanded and industry has resisted.

In short, it's time for industry to stop dissing its critics and to mount an honest effort to prove whether the fruits of science are indeed as good as the nutritional bounty of Mother Nature.


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Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 10:31:41 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-28

Canada: Sierra Club's Food Scare Ignores the Real Risks

By: Lucy Sharratt
National Post (Canada) July 27, 1999, Pg. C07

The primary focus of the Sierra Club of Canada's Safe Food,Sustainable Agriculture campaign is the environmental and human health risks of food produced through genetic engineering – foods that Canadians are already, unknowingly, eating. What Douglas Powell calls the latest rantings of the Sierra Club are in fact genuine and well-founded concerns about the risks of genetic engineering for the environment and human health.

The use of new technologies in food production makes the connection between the treatment of the environment and human health stronger than ever.

There are many scientists who critique genetic engineering as unstable and unpredictable science (Ricarda Steinbrecher, 1996, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, 1998) and there is much scientific evidence emerging about the risks of genetic engineering (Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, 1998, Scottish Crop Research Institute, 1998, Cornell University, 1999).

The trouble with Mr. Powell's suggestion that we 'vigorously minimize known risks based on the best available science' is the unfortunate reality that the best available science is by no means adequate to assess even the known risks of genetic engineering; the question of unknown risks remains unanswered. Douglas Powell acknowledges the possibility of unexpected consequences with genetic engineering, but expresses a faith in science and the Canadian regulatory system that many Canadians do not share.

It took 10 years for Canadians to uncover that Canada's 'strict approval process' was, in the case of bovine growth hormone, heavily influenced by industry such that critical science was suppressed. Further, it is disingenuous of Mr. Powell not to disclose that his PhD study on genetic engineering and consumer perceptions was partially funded (about 20%) by Monsanto, a major manufacturer of genetically engineered crops, and that the Internet information service he edits is sponsored by Monsanto, among other manufacturers.

Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator, Safe Food, Sustainable Agriculture campaign, Sierra Club of Canada.

** 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: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 10:18:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-30

Press Release July 27, 1999

MAFF Reveals New Scientific Findings Confirming Fears Over Health Hazards of GMOs

Contact: Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. Tel: 44-01908-653113/44-0171-272-5636
e-mail: m.w.ho@open.ac.uk, Institute of Science in Society

The following warnings come from a letter from N. Tomlinson of UK MAFF's Joint Food Safety and Standards Group dated 4 December 1998 to the US FDA, commenting on its draft document, "Guidance for Industry: Use of Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes in Transgenic Plants".

The letter from MAFF cites new findings from the University of Leeds showing "the relative difficulty with which plant DNA is degraded during processing"(p.4).

It mentions other new research showing that bacteria in the mouth can take up foreign DNA and express the gene(s); and transformable bacteria are also present in the respiratory tract.

MAFF warns that "there is a case to be concerned about the problem of gene transfer to environmental organisms" and that bacteria that have taken up the antibiotic resistance genes "could also act as a gene pool that may interact with human pathogens." (p.4).

"The widespread use of transgenics carrying antibiotic resistance marker genes will involve a massive amplification of these genes in the biosphere. Whether or not these genes are expressed, amplification on the scale that will occur when transgenic crops are planted in large fields means that arguments about the rarity of possible transfer events will become less significant." (p.5).

MAFF cites recent publications showing that transgenic DNA may gain access into mammalian cells by being carried in pathogenic bacteria that invade cells.

The ampicillin-resistance marker gene encodes a beta-lactamase which inactivates penicillin and other penicillin-like antibiotics. This gene is highly mutable, and hence capable of extending its spectrum of resistence to many other similar antibiotics.

"Human respiratory flora contains notable potential pathogens including Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae. These bacteria do not currently exhibit high-level, beta-lactamase mediated resistance to penicillins." (p.5)

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho , a scientists who has been warning of these possibilities of horizontal gene transfer to unrelated species for several years, says,"It is irresponsible for the Government to continue with the massive farm-scale field trials in view of the evidence its own scientists are taking into account." She points out that transgenic pollen can travel for miles. Not only farm workers and food processors, but the general public will also be exposed to transgenic DNA, while bees will certainly take it up and contaminate the honey.

There is no provision to monitor for horizontal gene transfer or impacts on health in the current farm-scale trials.

The current farm-scale field trials involve herbicide-tolerant transgenic maize and canola. The transgenic maize carries a 'disrupted' ampicilllin-resistance gene, which is not expressed. However, given the mutability of that gene, it may become re-activated in bacteria.


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Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 10:18:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-30

Genetically-Altered Baby Foods Are Being Rejected – by Adults

By LUCETTE LAGNADO Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
page one, Wall St Journal, July 30, 1999

Sections:
Growing Concern
Europe's Ways
Infant Formula
Collecting Samples
Headquarters Debate
New Suppliers

Growing Concern

The letter scrolling out of a fax machine at the Gerber baby-food company in Michigan May 28 was just one of many arriving that day and didn't even name the person it was meant for, but it sure got attention. Within days, it had found its way to Gerber's parent company in Switzerland, Novartis AG, and come to the attention of its chief executive officer. There, executives soon were taking steps to overhaul a decades-old product that generates $1 billion in annual sales.

The letter came from Charles Margulis, a New York man who addressed it simply "to the CEO" because he didn't know the chief executive's name. The return address was his small apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But the letter also carried the logo of his employer, Greenpeace, the activist European environmental group.

"As you know, there is growing concern around the world about genetically engineered food," it said. Greenpeace is "concerned that the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment and food supply may have irreversible consequences." Does Gerber use genetically engineered products in its baby food, the letter wanted to know. If so, which products? And "what steps have you taken [if any] to ensure you are not using" genetically modified ingredients?

Mr. Margulis asked for a reply within five business days.

Europe's Ways

These are tense times for U.S. food and agricultural industries: European opposition to importing corn and soybeans grown from genetically modified seeds, or beef from hormone-fed cattle, has led to an ugly trade dispute and taken a big bite out of U.S. agricultural exports. American consumers, however, have so far greeted the hubbub roiling Europe with a big yawn. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified foods "are as safe as other foods in the grocery store."

But the concern at Novartis is that all this could turn on a dime – that because of Greenpeace's efforts, European worries about the safety of genetically modified crops could leap across the Atlantic and damage Gerber, the largest baby-food producer in the U.S. Novartis officials had been hoping Gerber was immune to the anti-bioengineered-food passions that have whipped through Europe in recent years. The letter from Mr. Margulis made them stop hoping and start planning.

The company firmly believes that the bioengineered foods are safe to consume. Indeed, another unit of Novartis sells genetically altered crop seeds with which to produce such foods. But this summer, Novartis is moving rapidly to make preemptive changes at Gerber: At some cost and considerable inconvenience, Gerber is dropping some of its existing corn and soybean suppliers in favor of ones that can produce crops that aren't genetically altered. That is to say, it will no longer buy corn grown from seeds modified so that the plants are resistant to corn borers, or soybeans from seeds altered so the crop can tolerate being sprayed with a potent weedkiller.

It is an issue that is suddenly confronting all the U.S. baby-food producers. H.J. Heinz Co., the maker of the Earth's Best line, says it has just decided that this line and all other baby food it produces will be manufactured without using genetically modified crops. A private manufacturer in Poway, Calif., called Healthy Times Natural Foods has switched from Canola oil, which sometimes is genetically altered, to safflower oil after facing questions from Greenpeace. As for BeechNut Nutrition Corp., it says it probably doesn't have much of a problem with this because it uses no soy and little corn.

Gerber, going even further than what Greenpeace demands, plans to use corn flour and soy flour that are "organic" – that is, the crops not only aren't genetically altered, but they also were grown without the use of any insecticides or herbicides. Then, if the technicalities can be worked out, it plans to change ingredient labels on certain baby-food boxes and jars to include the word "organic." The company will still use some corn that isn't organic, but it will be corn that hasn't been genetically altered. Gerber, however, is cautious about offering any guarantees that its products can be made totally free of such ingredients.

"I want our mothers to be comfortable," says Al Piergallini, president and chief executive officer of Novartis's U.S. consumer health operation, which oversees Gerber. "I have got to listen to my customers. So, if there is an issue, or even an inkling of an issue, I am going to make amends. We have to act pre-emptively."

The label issue is trickier, first because of the difficulty of avoiding trace amounts of genetically modified foods in the U.S., and second because the FDA has strict rules about what a food producer can claim about its product on its label. Yet one of Greenpeace's central demands is that Gerber and other baby-food makers label all their products to say whether they contain genetically modified ingredients. To sort out this ticklish issue, Gerber is assembling an advisory panel of outside experts from several U.S. environmental and consumer groups.

The whole undertaking is a dicey matter, because by shunning ingredients it has used for years, Gerber risks confusing or frightening its core customers, as well as appearing to endorse food fears that the company itself proclaims to be invalid. And who is to say more Greenpeace demands won't follow if this one is met? In Europe, the organization has recently started demanding that even dog food be free of genetically modified organisms. But Gerber officials want to get out in front of the competition on the issue.

And they can't take a chance, says Gerber's vice president for research, Jan Relford. "The parents trust us; if they don't trust us, we are out of business," he says. So he supports the supplier changes even though he says the scientific evidence so far supporting the safety of genetically altered crops is "2,000-to-nothing."

Although the FDA says it "has no information of any health effects with foods derived from genetic engineering," Greenpeace's point is that their long-term effects – on health and the environment – simply aren't known. The organization cites various scientists and institutions, including the British Medical Association, which has publicly expressed concern about bioengineered foods. "Some of the effects may be subtle," says Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist in Boston who supports Greenpeace's campaign. "The problem with studying this is that the effects may be long-term."

In the U.S., Greenpeace is by no means the potent force it is in Europe. There, armies of staffers and volunteers can target large corporations in a flash, hooking up with numerous well-connected political allies to form what some regard as an environmental fear brigade.

In the U.S., Greenpeace has only several dozen staffers and is typically on the fringe of political discourse; its reputation was grist for an episode of the TV comedy "Seinfeld" a few years ago. Greenpeace made little headway in a previous effort to call attention to genetically modified crops, when activists went to Iowa in 1996, donned biohazard suits and spray-painted pink a field of soybeans.

Infant Formula

Mr. Margulis has had better luck, by shrewdly homing in on the potentially emotional issue of baby-food safety, as his Greenpeace colleagues did earlier in Europe. "I am not going to be disingenuous," says Mr. Margulis, who recently moved his base of operations to Baltimore. Baby food "pressed so many buttons. We picked it because people are going to be concerned about what they are feeding their kids." Figuring the time is ripe to import Europe's concerns to the U.S., he says, "I have no qualms in saying, yes, I hope people do get very upset."

In Europe, Greenpeace has had considerable success on this front. Last summer, it confronted executives of Novartis's Swiss baby-food line, Galactina, asking them point blank if it contained any genetically modified ingredients. Within 24 hours, Novartis blinked, saying it would yank certain products off Swiss grocery-store shelves. In recent months, it has made Greenpeace a firm promise that new Galactina products would be free of genetically altered ingredients.

But Galactina is tiny. It sells only three million jars of baby food a year. Gerber produces 5.5 million per day in the U.S. and has U.S. sales of $700 million annually, plus $300 million abroad.

Buoyed by this success, Greenpeace launched a similar campaign in the U.S. late last year. To run it, the group hired Mr. Margulis, a peace-studies graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. Unlike some more-radical Greenpeace veterans, he has had only two arrests growing out of environmental protests. His most flamboyant act to date: In Colombia, to protest against strawberries modified with the gene of a flounder (for its cold tolerance), he dressed up as a berry with fishy eyes.

Collecting Samples

The campaign started slowly. The owner of Savoy, a restaurant in the SoHo section of New York, hosted a lunchtime news conference to denounce genetically modified food, attended by a group of star chefs, some of them French. The event was largely unnoticed, but Mr. Margulis, a former pastry chef himself, formed a useful bond with the chefs.

Then one day this spring, Mr. Margulis went to New York-area supermarkets and bought $5 to $10 worth of baby foods, from Gerber, Beech-Nut and Heinz's Earth's Best. Elsewhere he picked up two kinds of liquid feeding formula for the elderly and disabled, one of them made by a different unit of Novartis. He shipped some of the samples to Britain for testing by RHM Technology, a laboratory experienced at detecting minute amounts of genetically modified material.

Within a couple of weeks, the results came back. The lab found no genetically modified ingredients in the jars of baby food. But Gerber's dry cereal for babies contained modified corn and soy, and the formulas for the elderly also had bioengineered soy, Greenpeace said.

Rather than confronting companies right away, Mr. Margulis faxed letters to several U.S. baby-food makers posing questions and seeking quick responses. He later called Gerber's Mr. Relford in Fremont, Mich., where Gerber is based, and left a voice message.

Although Gerber appeared to be ignoring Mr. Margulis, it wasn't. His "to the CEO" letter was making its way up the corporate hierarchy, ultimately sparking debate at the highest levels of Novartis, a $21 billion corporation whose largest business is pharmaceuticals. For its CEO, Daniel Vasella, who is a veteran observer of Greenpeace tactics in Europe as well as a physician, the letter was a sign that Greenpeace would try to strike in his lucrative U.S. market.

It did. On June 18, Mr. Margulis disclosed the British lab report. Venerable Gerber was guilty of using genetically engineered food in its dry baby cereal, he told reporters. The news conference took place at another trendy New York restaurant, Avenue, whose owners had begun marketing their own brand of organic baby food – at $2.95 a jar, five times Gerber's price. Some star chefs were again in attendance.

Greenpeace's report accused Gerber of using "altered corn" in its cereal, which it said "produces a bacterial toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)." The report said that when "genetically altered Bt plants grow, they produce the toxin, which is an insecticide farmers use to ward off certain pests." It also said that soybeans in Gerber baby food were grown with "a toxic weed killer."

Gerber doesn't dispute Greenpeace's essential finding about the presence of ingredients from genetically modified crops in some of its products. But Novartis's Mr. Piergallini, a former boss of Gerber, angrily dismisses the notion that genetically modified corn produces dangerous toxins, calling this "ludicrous and inflammatory."

Headquarters Debate

While maintaining a cool outward stance, Novartis and Gerber soon were abuzz with debate. Mr. Relford, a scientist and Midwesterner, believed customers wouldn't be swayed by Greenpeace – that sound science and Gerber's reputation would prevail. At the same time, he wanted the company to be ready to act in case circumstances suddenly changed. Mr. Piergallini also doubted that European food attitudes would catch on in the U.S., but he thought that to be safe, Gerber should quickly take pre-emptive action.

Dr. Vasella, the Novartis CEO – having been through the Galactina affair and having witnessed Greenpeace's publicity-grabbing tactics for years in Europe – pushed to find an immediate solution at Gerber. And three weeks ago, the board of Novartis's U.S. arm agreed that Gerber should move aggressively to deal with the problem. One key thing on the table: possibly relabeling products to indicate when any of them may still contain tiny amounts of genetically modified crops. Some ingredients come from suppliers that handle both organic and genetically modified crops, so that minute traces of the bioengineered stuff may show up in even the "purest" foods.

But there are questions as to what Gerber's labels can say about genetically modified ingredients – either their presence or their absence. That's because the FDA doesn't see any health risk in these ingredients. James Maryanski, the FDA's biotechnology coordinator, says that companies are free to include optional information if it is truthful and doesn't mislead the consumer. But "if someone wants to say that a product was or was not developed by genetic engineering, and if that information implies to consumers that a competing product ... wasn't as safe, that would be a misleading label." He adds that the FDA hasn't developed specific guidelines regarding label mentions of genetically modified foods.

To figure out what to do, Gerber will consult a pool of non-Greenpeace environmentalists who are concerned about the long-term effects of bioengineered foods, and of consumer groups concerned about food safety.

New Suppliers

In the past two weeks, meanwhile, Gerber has moved to rid its products of genetically modified corn used in various cereals and other foods. Mr. Piergallini says it is will use mostly organic corn. While the new supply will probably cost twice as much – raising corn without weed killer or insecticide is labor intensive and tends to produce lower per-acre yields – corn is used in relatively small quantities, so the move will add only several hundred thousand dollars a year of expense. Once the switch is made, the labels will probably say "organic corn" or "organic corn flour."

The company is also switching soybean suppliers. Soon, its baby products will use mostly organic soy, even though these aren't easy to find in large quantities. Novartis's objective is to take the lead in the baby-food industry in moving away from genetically modified ingredients and set the "gold standard" for measuring and labeling these ingredients, Mr. Piergallini says.

Will the bioengineered-food issue take hold in the U.S. as it has in Europe? "I can't bet – I plan," Gerber's Mr. Relford says. "If this becomes an issue, we will be ready."

Copyright c 1999 Dow Jones Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***


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Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 16:13:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-31

Baby Food Maker Cautious on Grain

Wire Service: APO (AP Online), Date: Fri, Jul 30, 1999

SUMMIT, N.J. (AP) – The maker of Gerber baby food is dropping suppliers who use genetic engineering in their corn and soybean products, the company's chief executive officer confirmed today.

The move by Novartis follows a request from the environmental group Greenpeace for information on the company's use of bioengineered products.. The company was evaluating their use before then, said Al Piergallini, president and CEO of its North American consumer health division, based in Summit.

Novartis plans to drop some of the company's grain suppliers this summer in favor of producers who do not use gene alteration to make corn and soybeans resistant to pests and weedkilling chemicals.

Those ingredients account for less than 2 percent of Gerber's products, mainly dry cereal, Piergallini said.

Greenpeace fears possible health risks associated with genetically engineered foods, though Novartis officials said they still believe their existing Gerber products are safe.

Novartis said it was turning to other suppliers anyway, and is taking its changes a step further by adding a new promise to try to use only organic – pesticide- and herbicide-free – ingredients in Gerber products.

"We want a mother to buy our product and have no concerns," Piergallini said. "We've always tried to figure out if there were any concerns that troubled those people."

Two other baby-food makers, H.J. Heinz Co. of Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif.-based Healthy Time Natural Foods, have made similar product changes in response to the Greenpeace concerns.

The move by Novartis was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that, so far, it has found no particular health problems with genetically modified agricultural products, concluding that they "are as safe as other foods in the grocery store."

The British Medical Association has expressed concerns about possible ill health effects from bioengineered ingredients. European fears of genetic engineering have led to a trade dispute over importing of U.S. agricultural products.

Greenpeace makes no particular claims that genetically modified foods are dangerous to humans or the environment, arguing simply that the health risks are unknown.

"Some of the effects may be subtle," a supporter of the Greenpeace campaign, Boston pediatric neurologist Martha Herbert, told the Journal. "The problem with studying this is that the effects may be long-term."

Greenpeace activists also demand label information about such content. Gerber is exploring its labeling options for its new organic products.

Gerber is the nation's largest maker of baby food, producing 5.5 million jars per day and annual worldwide sales of $1 billion.


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Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 16:13:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-31

Giant salmon are part of latest nightmare in food manipulation

By STEVE CONNOR Science Editor, INDEPENDENT (London) July 30

SALMON that grow four times as fast as nature intended, pigs with oversized hams and cows with giant udders are all part of the nightmare scenario where animal welfare comes second to food production.

Early attempts at genetically modifying and cloning domestic livestock resulted in the sort of gross deformities and public outrage that has tainted the entire field of farm-animal research.

The most notorious example is the Beltsville pig, named after a town in Maryland where the US Department of Agriculture attempted to produce faster-growing, bigger and leaner animals by inserting the gene for human growth hormone into pig embryos.

The results, however, were catastrophic. The animals developed a number of deformities, suffered severe arthritis and were evidently in great distress. It went down in the annals of animal experimentation as a public relations disaster.

Another research project in the 1980s attempted to produce cattle clones using the technique of embryo splitting – rather than the later technique of nuclear transfer used to create Dolly the cloned sheep.

An American biotechnology company attempted to commercialise the process but it had to be abandoned because the pregnant cows developed oversized foetuses.

Donald Bruce, an ethicist from the Church of Scotland's Society, Religion and Technology Project, said: "The increase of growth in animals has been a welfare issue for many years where selective breeding may lead to physiological abnormalities."

Attempts at producing genetically modified salmon, which can grow four times faster than normal, were carried out in a series of well-publicised experiments between 1996 and 1997.

Growth genes added to the fish enabled them to reach a weight of about 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) – and a length of (23 centimetres (9 inches) – within their first year, but environmental concerns rather than worries about animal welfare led to the project being abandoned.

"To be commercially viable they would have had to be grown in cages out at sea and there would be no guarantee that they could not escape," said Alastair Barge, managing director of Otter Ferry Seafish on Loch Fyne where the research took place.

Because of the increasingly hostile attitude towards GM food, especially when mixed with concerns over animal welfare, it is unlikely that companies in Britain will be able to convince the public of the need to boost meat and animal production using genetic technology.

However, there are serious attempts at trying to improve resistance to animal disease by altering certain genes that can boost the immune defences against infectious diseases.

John Webb, a geneticist at the Cotswold Pig Breeding company, said this sort of genetic enhancement could benefit both animals and farmers.

Pigs have already been selectively bred with a proven capacity to resist disease.

"We may get lucky and find some major genes here," Dr Webb said.

"It's very speculative and we'd have to be 100 per cent sure it would be in the animals qualified best interests before going ahead."

However, in the current climate of public mistrust, trying to prove that genetic modification is in an animal's interest may be difficult.


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Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 16:13:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN7-31

India accuses US of stealing ancient cures

By David Orr In Delhi, The Times (London) 31 July 1999

INDIA'S scientists and ecology experts are furious at the raiding of their country's storehouse of ancient knowledge. In the latest incident, an American firm has been granted a patent on a combination of three herbs which Indians have long known to have anti-diabetic properties.

"It's outrageous", said Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, set up to protect genetic resources and farmers' rights. "This amounts to theft, a violation of our indigenous knowledge. The Americans are stealing from us with impunity and dispossessing Indians of what is rightfully theirs. It's like someone stealing Coca-Cola's formula and getting away with it."

The patent has been taken out by Cromak Research on a composition of bitter gourd, eggplant and jamun, the fruit of the rose-apple tree, which is abundant all over India at this time of year. The use of these substances in the treatment of diabetes dates back many centuries in India and is mentioned in several ancient texts on healing.

Although plants themselves cannot be patented, the American application has been granted on edible compositions made from the herbs. Nevertheless, the Indian Government is contesting it, buoyed by its success in having revoked an American patent on turmeric two years ago. It was able to prove the long-standing use of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory and wound-healing agent.

There was less success when India tried to have blocked a patent on basmati rice granted to an American company called Ricetec. The company successfully argued that it was not patenting basmati rice per se but had invented a new variety of basmati rice grain that would produce better quality and higher yields.

Ecological groups such as Gene Campaign and Down to Earth, both based in Delhi, contend that peoples have sovereign rights over their natural wealth. Alerted to the increasingly rapacious interests of First World conglomerates, the Third World is starting to fight back. While most leading Western nations, including Britain, have ratified the 1992 Biodiversity Convention, which ascribes to states sovereign rights over their biodiversity, the United States has refused to sign.

Other indigenous substances on which patents have been taken out include: mustard seeds (used for bronchial and rheumatic complaints); Indian gooseberry (coughs, asthma, jaundice and wounds); and neem (known for pesticidal, dermatological, anti-bacterial and other properties).

Dozens of patents have been taken out on neem, probably the most celebrated medicinal tree in India. Two years ago, in a groundbreaking case, a patent on neem oil owned by the multinational W.R. Grace was disallowed on the ground that the plant's anti-fungal property was "known for centuries and commonly prepared in Indian rural areas".

The interest of the international pharmaceutical industry in indigenous plants is twofold: developing new chemical products is extremely expensive and the drugs, once on the market, are too often found to produce damaging side-effects and allergies.

Dr Sahai said: "Theft of our knowledge has economic implications. A patent granted on turmeric, for example, could eventually operate here, preventing Indian companies from making wound-healing preparations from it." Others say that it will be difficult to stop the plunder of traditional medicines without new biodiversity legislation and a database of medicinal herbs.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***


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Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999 22:22:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-2

France willing to spend 10 million francs on GE risk research

PARIS, Reuters [WN] via NewsEdge Corporation : July 30, 1999

France this week said it was willing to pay up to 10 million francs for research on the possible impact and risks of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Announcing a request for proposals, France's Education Ministry said it was looking for studies geared toward transgenic plants used in agriculture and their eventual impact on both the environment and human and animal health.

The ministry said the goal of the research was to produce specifications on which genetically modified crops were acceptable in terms of security and also a "code of conduct" setting forth rules on usage of GM crops.

The ministry said it wanted the research to focus not just on the direct effects of GM crops but also the indirect effects, such as changes in farming practices or industry organisation tied to the introduction of one or more GM crops.


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Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999 22:22:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-2

GM killer bugs developed as defence against germ warfare

By Joe Murphy, Political Editor, Sunday Telegraph Sunday 1 August 1999

Porton Down faces criminal inquiry into airman's death

THE Ministry of Defence has disclosed that it is creating lethal genetically modified organisms in a secret programme to prepare defences against a new era of germ warfare.

Tests of the potential of "GM supergerms" are being conducted at Porton Down, the headquarters of the Government's chemical and biological defence establishment. The research uses similar genetic engineering techniques to those that to create GM foods sold in supermarkets. It was launched to study the implications should such technology be developed for weapons of mass destruction by an enemy power.

The theoretical threat posed by GM germs has alarmed the MoD. Genetic techniques can make biological weapons more dangerous to humans and less easy to detect or counter It is already feasible to use genetic engineering to introduce a lethal toxin into a pathogen – an organism that attacks humans – to increase its killing potential. Organisms can also be modified to resist antidotes.

In future it may be possible to wipe out an army with mutant germs that would then be made benign by a genetic flaw, enabling an enemy force to invade in safety. An enemy may be more ready to deploy such "controllable" GM weapons than existing organisms such as anthrax. Ultimately, it may be possible to develop an "ethnic destruction" germ, that is, an organism that would attack the genes of a particular race.

In January a study by the British Medical Association warned that a plague or toxin designed to kill specific racial groups could be only five to 10 years away. Britain has signed treaties prohibiting the creation of biological weapons for military purposes. The sole reason for the research at Porton Down is to develop protection measures against any threat posed to the population or Servicemen.

An MoD spokesman said: "To perform this task our scientists have to be at the cutting edge of biological scientific knowledge, including the techniques of genetics." The Government has kept the experimental research secret but The Telegraph has learned that it has been going on for at least five years


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Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999 22:22:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-2

GM Soya Milk Gives Children Herpes, Senior Surgeon Tells the Government

By Rajeev Syal, Sunday Telegraph Sunday 1 August 1999

A LEADING British surgeon is to give evidence to the Government that genetically modified soya milk triggered a herpes-related virus in her daughter.

The surgeon, from south-west London, will explain that cold sores repeatedly erupted on her two-year-old's face when she regularly drank the GM product and immediately cleared when she stopped.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said last week that it would investigate her claims. The revelations coincide with worries expressed by the Prince of Wales earlier this year and a number of leading geneticists who believe that some GM products can trigger viruses in humans.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter said she wants to make sure that a similar situation is not repeated with other children. She said: "I want the Government to look into this because I saw the change in my daughter – as soon as she was taken off the GM milk, her health dramatically improved. I, and my GP, have not found any other reasons why she became ill. My family previously ate GM products without worrying – but now we do not."

Tests have showed that the child is not allergic to soya milk, which her mother began feeding her in February 1998, when she was just a year old because she had developed an allergy to dairy products. The girl immediately began developing large cold sores which did not respond to treatment. She was drinking about four pints of the milk every day – and the sores were getting worse.

Her mother, a 38-year-old plastic surgeon in a London hospital, said: "I became aware that she was not getting better. There seemed to be three large, weeping sores on her face at any one time." So she spoke to a friend – who is also a hospital-based geneticist – who warned her that critics of GM products are worried that they could provoke viral infections.

She cut the amount of soya milk her daughter was drinking to half a pint a day and the sores cleared up overnight. She said: "The circumstantial evidence was there for all to see." Critics of GM foods believe that "virus promoters" – pieces of DNA in plants that can control activity in its genes – could be responsible for triggering the herpes virus. But other experts disagreed.

Prof Jim Dunwell, a plant biotechnologist from the University of Reading, who has been involved in producing GM plants, said it is highly unlikely that plant viruses could provoke reactions in human beings. He said: "It sounds highly unlikely that this child has had her herpes provoked by soya milk. It is more likely to be an allergic reaction."


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Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999 22:22:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-2

Japan Drafts Law on Labeling Gene-Altered Food

July 30, 1999

TOKYO (Nikkei) – Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries settled Friday on a draft version of a law governing the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Saturday reported in its morning edition, citing ministry sources.

Soybeans, corn or potatoes grown with gene-altering technology and processed products using them will have to be labeled as such. The same rule will be applied if the presence of GMOs or altered protein can be detected. Under the law, which is scheduled to take effect in April 2000, the majority of foods containing plant protein, including tofu and corn snacks, will have to bear such labels.

Concerns over mandatory labeling have been expressed by food producers, which are worried that costs will rise, and by the U.S., a major exporter of gene-altered crops. The aim of the law is to protect consumer choice, however, according to the Nikkei story. Under the draft version, the requirements will be limited to genetically altered soybeans, corn and potatoes because those three now account for the bulk of gene-altered crops. Japan relies on U.S. imports of soybeans and corn.

Food companies using soybeans, corn or potatoes imported from the U.S. will have to test their products for genetic modifications and label the goods if necessary. If a product's makeup cannot easily be determined because it contains unmodified foods mixed with GMO ingredients, the producer may have to label it as unable to be classified, suggesting it contains GMOs. Highly processed products such as soy sauce and soybean oil are not expected to require labeling. The ministry will issue a list of any companies lax in meeting the labeling requirements and will give them instructions on how to revise their practices.


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Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999 22:22:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-2

MONSANTO: The seeds of dispute

Financial Times Tuesday July 13 1999

A landmark trial in Canada will set a precedent for Monsanto's ability to protect its patents on genetically modified crops, says Scott Morrison

Monsanto, the US life sciences group, has been having a trying time of late. Efforts to promote genetically modified foods in Europe have backfired. In England, environmentalists have sabotaged a test site. French farmers have staged protests against the import of GM crops.

Back in North America, where the use of GM seeds is more widespread, Monsanto is battling an altogether different threat: how to prevent farmers from obtaining its patented seeds illegally. The company says that unless patent protection laws are enforced, it will have thrown billions of dollars of investment down the drain.

In a landmark case, due to be heard by a Canadian judge next month, Monsanto is taking a 68-year-old farmer to court after he was discovered to be growing a variety of Monsanto's genetically modified canola (rapeseed) without its consent.

The last thing Percy Schmeiser expected after a lifetime of farming was to be caught in a legal battle with one of the world's leading proponents of agricultural biotechnology. To hear Mr Schmeiser tell it, the case is about privacy and a farmer's right to choose.

He says the wind blew Monsanto seed into his fields, which are planted with conventional canola. Because it is impossible – other than by genetic testing – to tell the difference between a normal and a GM canola plant, Mr Schmeiser says he was not even aware that GM canola was growing in his property. He does not see why he should be penalised for an accident of "mother nature".

The Canadian press has been largely sympathetic to Mr Schmeiser's defence, often portraying him as an ageing David battling a Goliath of the agribusiness industry. And while Monsanto may be big, it is vulnerable. The trial could set a precedent for the degree of control Monsanto and other biotechnology companies exercise over how their products are used by customers and others.

Monsanto says the dispute is a simple case of patent infringement, although the stakes are extraordinarily high. The company says it must maintain strict control over the use of its technology in order to recoup its multi-billion dollar research and development budget.

Monsanto also argues it must level the playing field for farmers who pay the company's technology fee when they purchase GM seeds from licensed dealers. These farmers sign a "Technology Use Agreement" that requires them to pay a fee to Monsanto based on the acreage they have planted.

Moreover, farmers cannot save seed in order to plant the following year's crop. In order to ensure compliance, the agreement gives Monsanto the right to audit farmers' fields, or take samples, for three years after the seeds are bought.

Mr Schmeiser is one of about 600 farmers in Canada and the US accused by Monsanto of infringing the agreement. Most of these farmers purchased Monsanto's seeds and signed the agreement, but Mr Schmeiser's case is different because he never bought Monsanto's GM seeds and says the company has no right to his property.

The Schmeiser dispute is therefore an important test of whether Monsanto will be able to secure patent protection for its seeds beyond its immediate circle of agricultural customers.

Mr Schmeiser says the seeds of the dispute were blown into his field in 1997. As farmers customarily do, Mr Schmeiser saved a portion of his 1997 crop to use as seed in 1998. He argues that if he was in fact growing genetically modified GM canola in 1998, it was accidentally recycled.

A key part of the trial, therefore, will hinge on how much of Mr Schmeiser's crop was genetically modified, and whether that proportion could be explained by wind-borne contamination or cross-pollination.

Monsanto acknowledges that cross-pollination does occur, but it alleges Mr Schmeiser "obtained" seeds. The company is demanding that Mr Schmeiser give up all GM seeds or crops in his possession. Monsanto also wants a federal judge in Canada to impose unspecified punitive and exemplary damages.

But with billions of dollars in research and development at stake, Monsanto has also been prepared to employ some tough tactics to track down farmers who violate its agreement.

A lot of controversy has focused on the company's toll-free "tip line" set up to enable farmers to report on others who violate Monsanto's usage terms. Mr Schmeiser also alleges that investigators working for Monsanto trespassed in his field to collect samples of his crop. "Monsanto has put the fear of the Lord into people here," he says.

Monsanto acknowledges that "some questions exist around one incident," but maintains that it does not condone any illegal practices and that all evidence collected to support its case against Mr Schmeiser was obtained legally.

Monsanto could do without the adverse publicity. Already, it is under fire for requiring farmers to buy their seed from the company every year. Farmers around the world have traditionally saved a portion of their harvest in order to plant the following year's crop – and an estimated three quarters of the world's farmers still do so. Mr Schmeiser accuses Monsanto of wanting nothing less than to dominate farmers and the industry. "They want control of the seed supply," he says.

Ray Mowling, a vice-president for Monsanto Canada, acknowledges that his firm's practices have introduced a change in farming culture, but he says the company must recoup its investment and that farmers are free to choose whether they want to abide by Monsanto's terms.

An estimated 70 per cent of the canola grown in Canada this year will be genetically modified, as will some 50 per cent of the soybean and cotton crops grown in the US. Mr Schmeiser's case, however, raises concern that farmers might not always have those options, either because their crops could be cross-pollinated or because there could eventually be fewer seed suppliers.

"There is growing nervousness that there may not always be a choice," says Sally Rutherford, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which represents more than 200,000 Canadian farmers.

At Monsanto, Mr Mowling says the company is working harder to demonstrate that its technology works, resulting in better crops and better food. But unless it can defend its patents, it will be out of business. However unpopular, the case against Mr Schmeiser is seen as critical to the company's future.

** 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.