Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

18 August 99

Table of Contents

"Long-term effect of GM crops serves up food for thought"
GM police to guard crop trials
Biotech Food Raises a Crop of Questions
Next Food Fight Brewing is over Listing Genes on Labels
Foes Urge Curb On Planting Of Altered Corn
GM poppy crop to be grown in Tassie (Australia)
GE Website for children
Consumers fear deception over GM food safety
Fears rise about genetically altered food
GM trade war threat U.S. envoy singles out Britain for attack
UK biotech chief issues threat [to take testing out of UK] over GM crop trials
Brazil: One Year test before GE sales
Health Canada Whistle-Blower Suspended Without Pay
Edmonds Institute Website
Motley Group Pushes For FDA Labels On Biofoods
GM trials -- Food for the future?
Saskatchewan Farmer Battles Monsanto, Sues Them Back

Top NextFront Page

Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:52:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-15

"Long-term effect of GM crops serves up food for thought"

By Declan Butler and Tony Reichhardt
Nature, Volume 398:651, April 22, 1999

The media has inflamed public fears about the risks of genetically modified crops for human health and biodiversity. But many responsible scientists agree on the need for more research to identify potential long-term problems.

The declared position of the world's major regulatory and scientific agencies is that, in principle, genetically modified (GM) crops pose no greater threat to human health than those produced by traditional breeding.

"I don't see any problems at all for genetically modified plants in terms of human health. Researchers are being asked to prove negatives," says Robert McKinney, director of the division of safety at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

But this view is being seen increasingly as an oversimplification by critics of gene technology – and by some of its supporters. They argue that it could stifle serious consideration of the 'remote but real risks' potentially associated with the acceleration and broadening of plant breeding brought about by the development of genetically modified plants.

Most scientists believe that such risks are largely hypothetical, and that current safeguards are adequate. Even among ardent supporters of GM foods, however, calls are being increasingly heard for more research on health risks, and for the introduction of monitoring systems that would allow the early detection of any long-term problems.

For example, although the question of whether to label GM foods is usually considered to be an issue of consumer choice rather than public health, several scientists say there is also a strong argument for labelling to facilitate epidemiological studies to detect any increases in allergies or diseases that might be linked to GM foods.

The need for careful monitoring is urgent, given that the introduction of thousands of GM foods on a global scale appears imminent, says Suzanne Wuerthele, a risk assessor at the US Environmental Protection Agency, speaking in a personal capacity.

This view is supported by Ben Miflin, former director of the Institute of Arable Crops at Rothamsted, near London, who is a proponent of the potential benefits of genetic modification of crops. He argues that, under current monitoring conditions, any unanticipated health impact of such foods would need to be a "monumental disaster" to be detectable.

Miflin points out that a general increase in gastrointestinal disorders, for example, would be difficult to attribute to a particular food, given the diverse possible origins of such symptoms. "So, yes, there is an advantage for going slowly."

Some researchers have proposed specific monitoring strategies. Hans-Jörg Buhk, director of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, has called for the creation of a 'gene register' to track which genes and constructs have been introduced into the crop gene pool. This precautionary measure, he argues, would improve the ability of researchers to predict interactions between genetic modifications.

Whereas the genetic traits currently being introduced tend to be relatively simple, monogenic ones, the next generation of GM crops may require a rethink, says Buhk. These could include 'functional foods', such as plants with increased vitamin levels, or pharmaceutical-producing plants. He predicts that, before the full-scale introduction of such plants, additional safety trials may be needed, perhaps analogous to the clinical trials used to assess the safety of drugs.

Scientists "do not know everything in advance," says Buhk, adding that unexpected events cannot be ruled out. He points to a tomato developed by the British company Zeneca that was designed to have an increased shelf life, using antisense technology directed against the polygalacturonase gene that causes ripening. According to Buhk, the best performing line was in fact caused by an unpredicted 'sense' event (gene activation). "This was a rare event, either a contamination or a chance turnaround [in the genome]," he says.

In a similar way, virus-resistant plants have been genetically engineered using an approach where expression of a viral coat protein confers a virus-resistant phenotype on the plant. This strategy has been demonstrated against many viruses. But it has been occasionally observed that expression of the viral coat protein is unnecessary, and that translation of parts of the gene alone can confer the desired protection. "This is gene silencing," says Buhk. "There is interaction going on at the RNA level that we do not understand."

The likelihood and impact of such unexpected occurrences seem to be the major area of uncertainty among scientists working on the potential health impacts of GM foods.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:52:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-15

GM police to guard crop trials

By MARIE WOOLF and GEOFFREY LEAN
The Independent on Sunday (UK), 15 August, 1999

Ministers are secretly planning specialist round-the-clock police squads to guard genetically modified crop trials from environmental protesters.

The Government fears that existing security arrangements are not sufficient to protect a new phase of GM trials to be announced this week. It fears environmentalists could destroy the crops.

The move follows pleas for government help from biotechnology companies and farmers running the trials. They say they are unable to protect the crops from protesters' organised raids.

Local police forces have said they do not have the manpower or money to stop protesters attacking the crops.

The special GM forces will be trained in restraint techniques and in ways of protecting the fields from "eco-warriors". There will be patrols on each site and the Government has also considered installing CCTV cameras around the fields. The plans have been discussed in secret meetings in recent weeks.

Next year the Government plans to step up the tests with 75 trials of about 25 acres each, to assess the effects of the crops on wildlife and the environment. Ministers are understood to be furious about the direct-action campaign, which is jeopardising their assessment of whether to grow GM crops commercially in Britain.

Earlier this summer police arrested Lord Melchett, the Labour peer who heads Greenpeace in the UK, following a raid on a GM crop site. Among the protesters arrested with him was a former senior police officer who until recently was responsible for policing at the House of Commons.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:52:09 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-15

Thanks to Colleen Robison-Spencer crobison@mnsinc.com for posting this excellent article:

Biotech Food Raises a Crop of Questions

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 1999; Page A1 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/health/daily/aug99/gmfood15.htm

Steve Taylor practically yawned when researchers at Pioneer Hi-Bred, the giant agricultural seed company, asked him in 1995 to study a new soybean they had invented. "I didn't think we'd find anything interesting," the University of Nebraska scientist recently recalled.

Little did Taylor know that his findings would help trigger a wave of anxiety over the safety of genetically engineered food in Europe, a wave that, years later, now threatens to engulf the United States as well.

Pioneer had spliced a Brazil nut gene into soybeans, creating a soybean that boasted a nutritious nut protein. Taylor's task was to find out whether the new soybean would cause allergies in people allergic to Brazil nuts, a potential danger because people with allergies to nuts wouldn't think to avoid soy.

The company had put just one of the Brazil nut's thousands of proteins into its new soybean, and the odds of that one causing the nut's allergies were incredibly low, Taylor said. So he could hardly believe it when first one test, then another, and finally a third indicated that the transferred protein was indeed a major cause of Brazil nut allergies.

In trying to build a better soybean, the company had made a potentially deadly one.

Pioneer immediately halted the soybean project. But Taylor's study lives on today as a symbol of everything that is both frightening and reassuring about genetically altered food, which has quietly made its way into nearly every American kitchen.

Frightening because the study proved that a gene-altered food could cause an unexpected and potentially fatal reaction.

Reassuring because the problem was detected before the product was marketed.

And symbolic above all because it was, and still is, one of the very few studies ever to look directly for any harm from an engineered food or crop.

That dearth of studies is the legacy of a U.S. policy that considers gene-altered plants and food to be fundamentally the same as conventional ones, a policy some Americans are starting to question.

It is also the legacy of the sheer scientific difficulty of conducting the kinds of tests that might assure people that engineered crops and food are safe.

And it is the legacy of broken promises by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which have said for the past five years that they intend to write rules to minimize the chances that gene-altered food will cause allergies or damage the environment.

"Americans are starting to realize that this process is not as all wrapped up as they thought it was," said Carol Tucker Foreman, a food safety specialist at the Consumer Federation in Washington.

Genetically engineered food, which is endowed with bacterial, viral and other genes not native to human food, has been widely, if mostly unknowingly, consumed in the United States since 1996. As far as scientists can tell, no one has ever been harmed.

But with evidence accumulating that the crops may be less environmentally benign than biotech companies had predicted-most recently, gene-altered corn was found capable of killing monarch butterflies-some Americans are reconsidering the technology's overall safety.

"I've had more calls about this allergy research in the past three months than I've had in the three years since we published it," Taylor said.

In Europe, that crisis of confidence already runs deep. Activists regularly vandalize newly planted plots of gene-altered crops. Major grocery chains have refused to carry engineered food. And food processors have begun to hire DNA fingerprinting labs to verify that their products are free of foreign genes.

The British Medical Association has warned that the technology may lead to the emergence of new allergies and speed the evolution of microbes resistant to antibiotics. Other groups worry that gene-altered crops may lead to the growth of insecticide-resistant bugs, or "superweeds" unfazed by herbicides.

In this country, gene-altered food is virtually unavoidable. About one-third of the corn growing in the United States is genetically engineered, mostly to exude its own insecticide, as is about half of the cotton crop (including some grown for edible cottonseed oil) and a smaller percentage of potatoes. Half of all U.S. soybeans are genetically modified as well, mostly to produce a chemical that makes the plants impervious to weed-killing sprays.

So with the exception of explicitly organic food, which flows through independent "identity-preserved" food streams, nearly everything made with soy, corn or cotton in this country ends up containing at least some gene-altered ingredients.

That's a lot of different foods. Soy protein can be found in about 60 percent of all processed food, including frozen meals, baby food, yogurt and other products. And corn, in addition to being the main ingredient in tortilla chips and corn starch, provides the high-fructose sweeteners found in many "natural" sodas, fruit drinks and other products.

U.S. regulators and industry representatives argue that engineered food is, if anything, safer than conventional food. Old-fashioned plant breeding involves the random and uncontrolled reassortment of thousands of genes with every mating, they note. By contrast, biotechnology allows the precise transfer of a single well-understood gene into a plant, leaving little to chance.

Moreover, they say, since 1992 the FDA has required allergy tests like the ones Taylor did for all new food made with genes taken from milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, legumes or nuts, foods that account for perhaps 90 percent of American food allergies. The agency also insists that gene-altered food be nutritionally equivalent to its conventional counterparts.

Most important, advocates say, the FDA can demand extensive safety testing if the new gene "differs substantially" from those generally found in other food. But critics call that a hollow promise. They note that all 44 crops that so far have gained FDA marketing approval have avoided that scrutiny because the agency has accepted the industry's claims that they are "substantially equivalent" to conventional food.

That is, they claim, because the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act demands safety testing on all new additives not "generally recognized as safe." Now activists are suing the FDA in federal court to force such testing on the bacterial and other genes being added to food crops.

Safety testing can be difficult, as researchers found with the Flavr Savr tomato, which was given a gene to make it ripen more slowly. When Calgene and Zeneca Plant Science developed that tomato in the early 1990s, no FDA rules were in place. So the companies voluntarily agreed to conduct a full range of tests.

When scientists tried to feed rodents the tomatoes, however, the animals wouldn't eat them, recalled Roger Salquist, one of the scientists involved in creating the Flavr Savr. "I gotta tell you, you can be Chef Boyardee and mice are still not going to like them."

The researchers went so far as to force-feed the tomatoes to rodents through gastric tubes and stomach washes. The procedure made the rodents sick, of course, and revealed nothing about the food's safety. The tomato ultimately won approval from the FDA but failed in the market in part because it was so expensive.

Safety testing is also difficult because there's no widely accepted way to predict a new food's potential to cause an allergy. The FDA is now five years behind in its promise to develop guidelines for doing so. With no formal guidelines in place, it's largely up to the industry to decide whether and how to test for the allergy potential of new food not already on the FDA's "must test" list.

That means there is a small chance that someone will suffer an allergic reaction, and perhaps a serious one, but science can never assure safety with 100 percent certainty, said University of Wisconsin professor Robert Bush, chief of allergies at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Madison. And when deciding how much effort and expense should be rallied to minimize that risk, Bush said, people should remember that new foods are introduced all the time from other parts of the world without regulators demanding studies on their allergy potential.

"I don't think there was a hue and cry about introducing kiwis onto the U.S. market," Bush said, even though many Americans have proven allergic to them.

The effects of gene-altered crops on the environment are at least as complicated as those on the human body. The EPA requires companies to conduct limited ecological impact tests before marketing gene-altered crops. But while the agency has promised to spell out in detail what crop developers should do to ensure that their gene-altered plants won't damage the environment, it has failed to do so for the past five years.

Meanwhile, several recent scientific studies have highlighted a range of potential problems that may be arising from engineered crops.

The most publicized of those was the recent finding that pollen from corn that has been engineered to produce an insecticide called Bt is toxic not only to the caterpillar pest it is aimed at, but also to the monarch butterfly. The laboratory study leaves unresolved whether monarchs are actually being harmed around cornfields. But it inspired a coalition of national environmental groups, including several that had not weighed in on agricultural biotechnology before, to ask the EPA to stop its registration of new varieties of Bt corn until the agency comes up with a more complete ecological safety plan.

At the same time, recent studies have pointed to a variety of other problems that seem to be emerging from Bt corn. One report, for example, suggests that the EPA's primary strategy for preventing the emergence of Bt-resistant insects-a plan that calls for planting "refuges" of conventional corn in nearby fields-may be doomed to fail because Bt resistance genes in insects behave differently than scientists had thought.

Another study showed that Bt can alter the time it takes an insect to reach adulthood. That could dash the EPA's hopes that Bt-resistant insects will mate with Bt-susceptible ones and give birth to offspring still vulnerable to the chemical.

Still other studies suggest that Bt corn may be inadvertently killing beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings, which eat insect pests. If true, then the insecticidal crops may be giving reprieves to as many insect pests as they are killing.

And scientists are finding that some engineered crops, such as herbicide-resistant canola in Canada, are cross-pollinating with wild relatives more widely than had been predicted, creating hardy weeds that can survive herbicidal sprays.

Now, the EPA faces a potentially larger problem: whether to approve a new kind of Bt corn called Bt cry9C. It's a decision that many observers see as a test case of just where the agency will draw the line on the degree of risk it is willing to accept.

While other versions of Bt break down harmlessly in the human digestive tract, the cry9C protein remains stable in the human stomach. And because the protein can survive digestion, it has increased potential to cause allergies.

The FDA demands extra allergy testing for new food that contains such stable proteins. And AgrEvo, the German company that is seeking approval for cry9C corn, has conducted some additional tests, including a comparison of cry9C's molecular structure with known allergy-causing proteins. Reassuringly no similarities exist.

But as the agency considers whether to approve the corn for human ingestion, it is up against the reality that there is no surefire way of testing a new protein like cry9C for its potential to cause allergies in people.

"We all wish there was a test where you plug in a protein and out pops a 'yes' or 'no' answer," said Sue MacIntosh, a protein chemist with AgrEvo.

But there is no such test, short of giving it to a lot of people and seeing what happens.

The EPA is considering the company's application and hopes to make a decision by fall.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

** 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, 15 Aug 1999 10:52:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-15 pt2

Next Food Fight Brewing is over Listing Genes on Labels

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 1999; Page A17

Food is more thoroughly labeled than ever. When shoppers go to the grocery store, they can tell at a glance how much salt, sugar, fiber, fat and selected nutrients each item contains. But labels do not disclose perhaps the most controversial change in the nature of food these days: the addition of genes from unrelated organisms through genetic engineering.

Now, spurred by a debate over possible health and environmental risks from gene-altered foods in Europe, where labeling rules are already in force, some Americans are starting to call for such labels here as well.

It is a demand that the food industry desperately hopes will go away. But many experts believe that the labeling issue will be the battleground on which the war over engineered food will be fought.

"Labeling is absolutely a critical acid test issue for the U.S. biotech food industry," said Charles Benbrook, a consultant on biotechnology for Consumers Union and a former executive director of the National Research Council's board on agriculture, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Until recently, no one in the United States seemed to care whether gene-modified food was labeled. But that's changing.

Last summer, two consumer groups sued the Food and Drug Administration, claiming that the agency's failure to institute a labeling regimen for gene-altered food is in violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The law demands that food additives not "generally recognized as safe" be labeled. This spring, activists gathered a half-million signatures calling for labeling of gene-altered food and submitted them to Congress and other officials.

Most food processors and retailers are opposed. They note that U.S. regulators have deemed gene-altered food safe, and they warn that labels could cost consumers millions of dollars.

Most important, they say, mandatory labels would wrongly imply that safety or nutritional value has been compromised in these foods, undermining confidence in the high-tech varieties that producers claim will ultimately help feed the world's growing population.

"The concern," said Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, "is that a label would be seen as a stigma, like a skull and crossbones."

The industry is also wary of labels saying "free of genetically engineered ingredients," because such labels might imply superiority, as in "fat free." The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) recently announced that it and other groups would initiate a $1 million advertising and educational campaign to counter the nascent U.S. anti-biotech and pro-labeling movements.

"We are trying to effectively reach out so what has happened in certain European countries does not happen here," said GMA spokesman Gene Grabowski. "In our view a lot of clamor and misinformation and hysteria has been allowed to overwhelm reasonable debate on this issue."

The industry's position raises the difficult question of whether there are appropriate limits to the amount of information that should be made available to consumers and, if so, who should decide them. The FDA and the food industry say labels should be reserved for relevant, "science-based" information. But a number of consumers believe that science should not be the sole criterion.

Some orthodox rabbis, for example, say their strict dietary laws require them to know when a foreign gene – say, a pig gene – has been spliced into their food. (No pig genes have been put into crops, but one has been experimentally engineered into salmon to accelerate growth.)

Other shoppers are concerned about the ecological risks that some scientists have said gene-altered agriculture poses. They don't want their purchasing dollars to support biotech agriculture, but they find the "organic" niche too limited.

Biotech labeling is not unprecedented in this country. In 1993, Ben & Jerry's triggered a three-year legal battle by labeling its products as containing milk only from cows raised free of a genetically engineered hormone that boosts milk production.

"People can say 'dolphin-free tuna' and 'stone-ground wheat,' " said Liz Bankowski, a senior director for the company in South Burlington, Vt. "We felt strongly that people have the right to know how their milk is produced."

After tangling with federal and state regulators over the issue, Ben & Jerry's won the right to keep the label as long as it is accompanied by a disclaimer saying the FDA considers the milk equivalent to conventional milk, and that in any case there is no known way of testing milk to confirm whether it is really free of the offending hormone.

That problem of being able to back up a claim that a food either contains or does not contain genetically engineered ingredients has plagued regulators in the European Union, where a law went into effect in September saying all gene-modified foods must be labeled.

The European law did not specify how much gene-altered material must be present to trigger a label. Now EU ministers are having to negotiate whether a food can avoid the label if it has less than, say, 1 percent engineered ingredients. They must also decide whether "1 percent" means 1 percent of the whole product or 1 percent of the ingredient in question.

Complicating the issue, altered DNA or proteins can disappear during processing, so products can test negative despite their gene-altered origins. At the same time, even a sprinkling of engineered cornmeal or soy flour from a previous shipment can make an entire grain silo or rail car of otherwise unengineered food test falsely positive as engineered.

Melodi Nelson has a good sense of what that can mean. Last fall, testers in Europe detected traces of genetically engineered corn in organic corn chips made by her company, Prima Terra Inc. of Hudson, Wis. Some of the corn supplied to Prima Terra from a certified organic supplier was contaminated, it turned out, with minuscule amounts of gene-altered corn, perhaps because a few grains of engineered pollen blew into the organic grower's fields from a neighboring farm. The positive test forced Prima Terra to recall 87,000 bags of chips valued at $147,000. "It broke my heart," she said.

What do consumers really want? Consumer groups cite studies indicating that 80 to 90 percent of Americans think gene-altered food ought to be marked, and 50 to 60 percent say they would choose nonengineered food if they could. But other studies have found that those numbers drop precipitously when people are given additional information, such as that the FDA has deemed the food safe and nutritious.

"In focus groups, consumers say, 'Tell us if there is something meaningful or different or good or bad,' " said Tom Hoban, a professor of sociology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who has done research on biotech labels. "Consumers are saying, 'I have enough food anxiety, and phew, I don't want to worry about something else unless I have to.' "

Consumers have also balked when told labeling may significantly increase the cost of the food. Grocery groups have not made specific cost estimates but argue that labeling would entail creating expensive separate transportation and processing streams for engineered and nonengineered foods.

Yet quietly, some of America's largest agricultural corporations have begun to do just that. In June, Archer Daniels Midland Co., the giant commodities processor and merchandiser, said it would separate U.S.-grown nonengineered crops for export to European countries. Several large American growers have begun using gene-testing companies to certify food as free of foreign DNA.

And as confident as American companies say they are about the safety of gene-altered food, fear of public rejection has them on the defensive. Last month, when Greenpeace announced that one kind of Gerber baby food contained gene-altered ingredients, the company quickly announced it would find a supplier that could guarantee nonengineered ingredients.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company


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Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:52:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-15 pt2

Foes Urge Curb On Planting Of Altered Corn

St. Louis Post-Dispatch August 12, 1999

Ask For Proof That Butterflies, Moths Are Not In Danger

Several environmental organizations have asked the federal government to restrict planting of insect-fighting, genetically engineered corn until tests prove the corn doesn't harm butterflies and moths.

Until then, the groups say the Environmental Protection Agency should stop renewing approvals for biotech crops developed by St. Louis-based [ Monsanto Co. ] and other biotechnology firms.

Approvals for these crops designed to fight a major pest – the European corn borer – expire in 2000 and 2001.

"The EPA is practicing a policy of 'Ready. Shoot. Aim,'" said Jane Rissler, a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of six groups that sent a letter Aug. 10 to EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

The groups were responding to a study, published May 20 in Nature magazine, showing that pollen from genetically engineered corn increased the death rate and cut the growth rate of Monarch butterfly larvae.

These laboratory tests were conducted by John E. Losey, an assistant professor of entomology at [ Cornell University ] . The tests involved dusting milkweed leaves, the exclusive diet for the larvae, with pollen from biotech corn and pollen from standard corn.

Losey said field tests would be necessary to determine the true impact of the pollen on butterflies. He said risks linked to the pollen must be matched against the risks of treating corn fields with pesticides.

But his research provoked an uproar among biotechnology critics, politicians and consumers – feeding anti-biotechnology sentiments overseas and in the United States.

"Our biggest concern is that EPA did not identify or resolve this problem before this corn crop was commercialized," said Rissler, of the Concerned Scientists.

The environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, say EPA should test the bioengineered corn to make sure it doesn't harm the Monarch butterfly or other "non-target" insects.


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Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:52:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-15 pt2

GM poppy crop to be grown in Tassie (Australia)

By MICHAEL MCKINNON, The Mercury 14 Aug 99 (Australia)

AUSTRALIAN scientists have created a potential "Frankenstein drug", using genetic manipulation to make a "super" opium poppy. In a world first, Australia will grow a new poppy plant capable of yielding twice the amount of opiate-producing alkaloids, an investigation by The Mercury and other News Ltd papers has revealed.

Australia produces about 25 per cent of the world's legal opiates in Tasmania, with the industry's planting increasing from 3000ha to 16,000ha last year. Security at opium-producing poppy farms has been breached a number of times in recent years and senior police sources fear drug gangs could target seeds from the new super poppy for production in the Golden Triangle. In January, thieves stole more than 50,000 poppy heads from a property in Tasmania - equal to the average total of poppies stolen each year. Yesterday, senior Canberra-based police sources expressed concern about the poppy plant.

"Does the world really need poppy plants producing twice as much of the lethal ingredient in heroin?" a source said.

"It will be very attractive to the organised criminal gangs controlling much of the opium production in the Golden Triangle and I suspect they will attempt to gain some of the seed stock."

The company developing the new plant, Glaxo Wellcome Australia Ltd, yesterday said 500 of the genetically modified plants would be grown at Sassafras on the North-West Coast, with planting to start in September or October.

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


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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 10:32:34 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-17

GE Website for children

http://www.oneworld.org/penguin/genetics/home.html

is a website for children about about genetic engineering. It has lots of cartoons and nothing is copyright. According to Tiki tiki.the.penguin@virgin.net, who designed the site, " you are welcome to use any of my stuff if you find it useful. Print it out. Send it to friends and family. Whatever you like. Please just acknowledge where it came from. It's already being used in New Zealand for sending out to schools."


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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 10:32:34 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-17

Consumers fear deception over GM food safety

By Sue Quinn and David Hencke , The Guardian (UK) – Monday August 16, 1999

Consumers believe they are being deliberately misled by the government about a range of products including genetically modified food, according to a new survey published days before the expected announcement of a fresh round of GM crop trials.

The survey, by the National Consumer Council, found many consumers believe GM foods are inadequately labelled and that crucial information is being concealed from them.

It said 85% of those questioned think ministers are denying them vital information about goods ranging from digital television to GM food. "GM foods are one of the big concerns at the moment because food is not labelled clearly enough and the government is not acting promptly on this issue," said NCC director Anna Bradley.


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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 10:32:34 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-17

Fears rise about genetically altered food

By Rachel Furey, Canadian Press Newswire, Sunday, August 15, 1999

TORONTO (CP) - As European activists lobby restaurants and raid farms to protest the rise of genetically modified foods, the new wave of crops is quietly seeping into Canada's farming industry and onto the dinner tables of the country's consumers.

England's chief medical officer and its chief scientific adviser have urged their government to set up a panel to study whether eating genetically modified food could cause birth defects, the creation of new cancers and damage to the immune system.

Few Canadian scientists have examined the long-term health effects of what but overseas preliminary studies have suggested the foods could generate toxins and allergens.

Health Canada says the products approved in Canada are tested for toxic and allergenic effects and are perfectly safe. All of the foods are subjected to very stringent and comprehensive safety said Karen McIntyre of the Health Protection Branch.

But Jennifer Story, health protection campaigner for the Council of Canadians, says there's not enough evidence to draw such conclusions. she said.

She says Canada's recent brush with the bovine growth hormone, a genetically engineered drug injected into cows to increase milk production, should make Ottawa think twice before quickly approving genetically modified foods. Canada was on track to approve the drug, which has been sold in the United States since 1994, when a leaked internal study revealed the health risks were too great. It's the same pattern. Exactly the same thing has happened and is We didn't need

Genetically modified seeds, being grown in record numbers in the fields of Canadian farmers, are meant to make crops hardier and insect-resistant. They're particularly common for plants like canola, soy bean and corn.

There are few labels to indicate which foods are altered and which ones aren't. The phenomenon is now so common that up to 70 per cent of what Canadians buy in supermarkets is genetically modified.

The fact that most of the altered foods are used as ingredients means genetically altered products can now be found in everything from toothpaste to cherry pie.

A group of more than 90 scientists from 20 different countries concerned about the health and environmental risks have signed a statement urging a five-year moratorium on the new food.


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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 10:32:34 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-17

GM trade war threat U.S. envoy singles out Britain for attack

Daily Mail (UK) August 13, 1999

THE new U.S. ambassador to the EU has threatened a billion-dollar trade war over attempts by European governments to stop the spread of Frankenstein food.

Richard Morningstar has said that the conflict could dwarf recent rows over beef and bananas threatening jobs and the future of entire industries.

His warning will fuel claims that the U.S.dominated biotech industry is using its close ties with the American government to bully countries who do not want genetically modified foods.

The Americans are keen to exploit a loophole in the rules of the World Trade Organisation, which means ethical concerns and fears about health and the environment cannot be used to stop the spread of GM foods to Europe.

They blame Britain for leading the battle against the foods, despite the British Government's support for GM technology.

It is British consumers who have used the power of their purses to convince food manufacturers and stores to ban GM ingredients.

It seems likely, however, that any trade sanctions used by the U.S.government to steamroller over the EU's objections would be targeted against British business.

Mr Morningstar - a former special adviser to the U.S. president - claimed that the reputation of American GM crops and food had been tainted by unjustified scare stories not based on science.

Yet only this week, the world's largest GM food company, Missouri- based [ Monsanto ] , was criticised for misleading the public in a GBP 1million advertising campaign.

There is also a growing anti-GM campaign in the U.S., particularly among children alarmed at research showing that Monarch butterflies can be killed by the pollen of GM corn. ...

Charles Secrett of Friends of the Earth commented: 'The U.S. is using the World Trade Organisation to try to force GM food down the throats of European consumers.'


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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 10:32:34 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-17

UK biotech chief issues threat [to take testing out of UK] over GM crop trials

Monday August 16 LONDON, Aug 17 (Reuters)

A representative of Britain's biotechnology sector was quoted on Tuesday as saying genetically modified crop trials may be switched to other parts of Europe if the government does not offer protection against activists.

Roger Turner, chairman of Scimac – an industry-wide body set up to support the introduction of GM crops in Britain, was reported by the Financial Times to have said some of next year's trials might be moved to France, the Netherlands or Denmark, where information on the location of trials was less precise. ... braced on Monday for fresh trouble as the government unveiled four new sites to be planted with GM crops.

The experimental technology has stirred health and environmental fears, leading protesters to destroy crops that are undergoing full-scale field trials across the country.


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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 10:32:34 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-17

Brazil: One Year test before GE sales

August 17, 1999

SAO PAULO, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : A Brazilian judge said on Monday he upheld a ruling against Monsanto Co (MTC.N) that could shelve plans to launch sales of genetically modified (GM) soybeans this year.

Federal judge Antonio Souza Prudente said the U.S. biotechnology giant's local unit must perform a one-year environmental impact study before selling its transgenic crop in Brazil. Whenever there is a potential threat to the environment, an environmental impact study is required. That is in the constitution and Monsanto is not Prudente said.

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


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Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 22:01:22 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-17

While the following Press Release is not just about GE, it is an update on the actions of Health Canada to silence Dr. Shiv Chopra, who is a major hero responsible for exposing the hazards on BGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone) to the public.

Those concerned about the action of Health Canada can email the Minister of Health, Hon. Allen Rock, at rocka@parl.gc.ca

..............

Sections:
Press Release August 16, 1999
Update on Shiv Chopra

Press Release August 16, 1999

Health Canada Whistle-Blower Suspended Without Pay

Shiv Chopra, PhD, a Drug Evaluator at Health Canada, was just suspended for speaking at the Heritage Canada Employment Equity Annual Meeting on March 26, 1999. Dr. Chopra was invited to speak at the Heritage Canada meeting of his experiences of racial discrimination at Health Canada.

On August 11, 1999, Dr. Chopra received a letter of reprimand from Dr. Andre Lachance, Director of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs of the Health Protection Branch, advising Dr. Chopra that he is not allowed to speak at conferences without the authorization of his supervisor at Health Canada. Dr. Lachance described Dr. Chopra's comments on racial discrimination at Health Canada as public denunciation of Health Canada and inappropriate. Dr. Chopra was suspended for 5 days without pay for voicing his concerns in public.

Dr. Chopra is a well known human rights and public safety advocate. In 1998, he received the Award for Human Rights in the Workplace from the Professional Institute of the Pubic Service of Canada, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. He is President of the Federation of Race Relations Organizations of Ontario, and Board Member and immediate past President of the National Capital Alliance on Race Relations. Dr. Chopra has received numerous other awards for outstanding community service, including a Governor-General's award, an Ottawa Police Board Award, and a Gloucester Police Board Award.

Dr. Chopra has also been a key figure in exposing the pressure on Health Canada evaluators to approve drugs of questionable safety, including bovine growth hormone. Dr. Chopra has voiced his concerns to all levels of government, up to the Prime Minister's office, concerning both racial discrimination and the safety of Canadians being sacrificed for the sake of industry profit. He testified before the Senate, who praised him as a great hero, and has also received the support of numerous community organizations.

For further information, contact the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (Blair Stannard, 228-6310) or the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The following organizations, who have intervened in federal court challenge on a gag order imposed on Dr. Chopra, can also be contacted:

............................................

Update on Shiv Chopra

Regarding the current suspension of Shiv Chopra without pay, Senator Noel Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition Senate) has sent a letter to David Dodge (who I think is Asst Deputy Minister), saying that the suspension should be put into abeyance until it can be decided whether the suspension is legal, based on the assurance at the Senate hearings that there be no retaliation on Shiv Chopra or the other scientists.

Press can contact Senator Noel Kinsella's office in Ottawa for a copy of the letter.

Press could also contact John Hucker, the Secretary-General of the Human Rights Commission and ask him questions such as: 1. How many human rights complaints have been filed by Health Canada employees 2. How old are the complaints 3. What are they going to do about it, and when

** 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, 18 Aug 1999 21:53:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-18

Edmonds Institute Website

http://www.edmonds-institute.org

The Edmonds Institute is pleased to announce a website: featuring downloadable versions of the Institute's Manual for Assessing Ecological and Human Health Effects of Genetically Engineered Organisms.

Later this year, an interactive version of the Manual will be made available at the same site.

In addition to the Manual, our website offers some of the Institute's most frequently requested materials.

Info: beb@igc.org Beth Burrows, President/Director, Edmonds Institute


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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 21:53:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-18

Motley Group Pushes For FDA Labels On Biofoods

By Robert S. Greenberger
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal, Tue, Aug 17, 1999

WASHINGTON – What do three rabbis, a Roman Catholic priest, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, an Eastern Orthodox cleric and a Buddhist who converted from Judaism have in common?

The answer: They all are part of a lawsuit in federal court here against the Food and Drug Administration.

The suit charges that the lack of labeling of genetically engineered foods makes it impossible for religious people to observe dietary laws and customs. The religious plaintiffs are demanding mandatory safety testing and labeling. The lawsuit, filed in May 1998, adds a new and unusual twist to the debate over biofoods.

Almost since such products started appearing on supermarket shelves a half-dozen years ago, critics worried that such experiments as splicing flounder genes into beets to make them resistant to cold could produce unpredictable results. In Europe, too, memories of mad-cow disease, along with old-fashioned protectionism, have stoked antipathy toward U.S. biofoods.

But the lawsuit filed by the religious officials charges, among other things, that genetically altered foods are sinful, unethical - and maybe not kosher. "The religious groups add a vital aspect," says Andrew Kimbrell, who heads the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit group that is litigating the action. "It brings in a lot of the ethical questions that allow the public to better understand this."


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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 21:53:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-18

GM trials – Food for the future?

Guardian (UK), Wednesday August 18, 1999

Is this a harvest fit for the world? How safe are GM herbicide tolerant crops?

Sue Mayer claims that farm-scale trials, due to begin next year, may get no nearer to the truth

Can the farm-scale trials provide the "truth" about the safety of using genetically modified herbicide tolerant crops? Government, industry and some scientists would have us believe that these experiments are the crucial ones upon which a judgment of safety rests. Critics are cast off as frightened of the truth and intent on denying the public the facts.

But even a quick look at the design of the trials shows that the expectations being placed on them are unrealistic and unscientific. These farm-scale experiments are designed to consider how the use of herbicide tolerant GM crops may affect farmland wildlife. The herbicides used to kill the weeds amongst the crop are toxic to all green plants except the GM crop and one concern is that there will be less food for insects and birds.

This is an important issue to address, but although the trials may last for four years, the GM crop will only be grown for one season in any one field, so small, incremental impacts of repeated growing cannot be detected. Since this is how the crops would be grown commercially, this is a worrying omission. What's more, the farmers conducting the experiments are instructed to follow particular rules when growing the GM crops which are bound to be broken in the practical farming situation but no effort is being made to investigate the consequences of such predictable variation in human behaviour.

Even so, some conservation groups and ecologists are enthusiastic about the prospect of the trials. Research into the ecological impacts of agriculture has been neglected for decades and there is understandable approval that agricultural systems are now under scrutiny.

However, these experiments are impoverished versions of the research that is needed to identify the best options for agriculture which take account of environmental protection. The comparison is between intensive agriculture, which is profoundly damaging to farmland wildlife, and a GM system which is inextricably tied into the use of chemical weedkillers. No organic or low-input systems are included in the comparison so, at best, the lesser of two evils will be identified.

There are also other matters which the farm-scale trials will not address. The issue of gene flow from GM crops to non-GM or organic crops and native flora has not yet been resolved. If, as is now agreed, contamination is inevitable, how do we restrict its impact?

More fundamentally, has this consequence of growing GM crops ever been justified adequately? By characterising the farm-scale trials as providing the central evidence on safety, such issues are marginalised. Even more neglected are issues of justification, choice, whether there will be a market for the products that £3.3m of taxpayers' money is being spent testing - something which should be a matter for the company involved.

Unfortunately, and to make matters worse, there is also the lurking suspicion that this is commercialisation by the back door since it allows the industry to demonstrate and scale up the production of its GM crops under the guise of scientific inquiry.


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Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 21:53:44 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-18

Saskatchewan Farmer Battles Monsanto, Sues Them Back

by Dave Margoshes, Vancouver Sun
Page B01, Saturday, August 14, 1999

Saskatchewan farmer battles agro-chemical giant: Percy Schmeiser is being sued for having patented canola seeds growing on his land. He says he's done nothing wrong, and is fighting back.

Regina – Percy Schmeiser was mad as hell, and decided he wasn't going to take it. Schmeiser has been growing canola – the yellow-blossomed oilseed that used to be known as rapeseed – for 40 years, and he knows his stuff. He's been experimenting, developing his own varieties, using his own seed and generally prospering with canola, reaping the benefits derived from growing an increasingly popular crop.

So when Monsanto, the giant multinational agro-chemical company that is at the forefront of developing genetically modified foods, accused him of patent infringement and demanded restitution for its seeds, his pride was hurt. He chose to fight rather than roll over and take it. This week, following a failed mediation effort and fed up with Monsanto's "high-handed and arrogant actions," Schmeiser had his lawyer launch a $10-million plus countersuit against the company, claiming defamation of character, trespass and ecological havoc.

Schmeiser's not convinced the seed in his fields last year was Monsanto's, and argues that, if it was, it got there through courtesy of wind or cross-pollination, forces of nature farmers know lots about but, he complains, Monsanto seems to have forgotten. No way, says Monsanto, and it has filed an affidavit from an independent agricultural expert to back up its claim that Schmeiser was in unlawful possession of its seeds.


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.