Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

26 August 99

Table of Contents

Brazilian Judge Rules Against Monsanto
UK: Marks & Spencer to remove GM products from animal feed
Organic, high-tech growers square off
South Africa: Call For Ban On 'Illegal' GM Crops
UK: GM crop court challenge
UK: 'Rules bent' to rush through GM licences
Magazine reveals food-makers' secret
GMO Labeling Updates from IATP
Australia sets up watchdog to scrutinise GMOs
GM Investors Told To Sell Their Shares
Monsanto Is Trying To Move Out Of The Line Of Fire
Genetically engineered foods on US supermarket shelves
US Consumer Union calls on Government to Label GE Food
GM Industry Faces Collapse, Says Bank
Corn Growers Call on Farmers to Consider Alternatives to GMO's
Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops: Why We Need A Global Moratorium

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Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 10:43:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-22

Brazilian Judge Rules Against Monsanto

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug 19, 1999

Company Can't Market Its Soybean Technology Until Study Is Completed

A Brazilian judge has delivered a sharp setback to [ Monsanto Co. ] 's effort to convince that nation, the second-largest producer of soybeans, to use Monsanto's gene-altering technology.

Judge Antonio Souza Prudente ruled Thursday that Monsanto cannot market its soybean technology until it prepares a study showing that its biotech beans have no negative impact on the environment.


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Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 10:43:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-22

UK: Marks & Spencer to remove GM products from animal feed

BBC News, Thursday, August 19, 1999
http://news2.thls.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_424000/424521.stm

Marks & Spencer says it is responding to pressure from customers

Marks & Spencer says it has become the first food retailer to remove genetically modified (GM) soya and maize ingredients from animal feed ...


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Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 10:43:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-22

Organic, high-tech growers square off

Chicago Sun-Times, August 15, 1999

HUDSON, WIS. - Organic food maker Terra Prima Inc. got a sour taste of modern food technology late last year.

After a test by an importer in the Netherlands found a trace of genetically engineered corn in Terra tortilla chips, company officials destroyed 87,000 bags of the product because they couldn't sell it as organic. The farmer who sold Terra the corn said he was unaware of the problem, explaining wind probably blew corn pollen from a neighboring farm onto his field.

The explanation is plausible, though most corn pollen doesn't travel more than 60 feet, said Bob Nielsen, an agronomist with Purdue University. The possibility of migrating pollen troubles not just organic producers but also farmers who don't want to be penalized for growing genetically modified food.

"You bet it raises concern," Nielsen said. "But it's going to depend on how well or how thoroughly grain will be tested for contaminants at the point of sale."

That means more trouble for DuPont Co., [ Monsanto Co. ] and Novartis SA, which have staked part of their futures on genetically engineered food and are treading carefully to promote the technology without contributing to consumer fears.

Organic food companies such as Terra, along with grain processors such as [ Archer Daniels Midland Co. ] and even a Novartis subsidiary, baby food maker Gerber, have responded to consumer concerns by demanding that farmers provide corn that's not genetically engineered.

European consumers, shaken by food safety scares such as the 1996 outbreak of mad-cow disease in the United Kingdom and more recently dioxin-tainted chicken in Belgium, are especially distrustful of the technology. It involves altering genetic traits of corn, soybeans and other crops so they can resist pests or greater doses of weed killer.

The Terra chips tested in Europe contained genetically modified corn that included the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a toxin that kills the destructive European corn borer.

Wisconsin-based Terra lost $147,000 on the destroyed bags of chips, a sizable sum for a company with about $2.5 million in sales, said Melodi Nelson, vice president of the closely held food maker.

She doesn't blame the organic farmer who sold Terra the corn and said the source of the contamination wasn't clear.

"I'd like to see a moratorium on genetically modified crops until they can reassure us that we won't have cross-pollination," Nelson said.

Bt corn moved into the spotlight in May, when a [ Cornell University ] researcher found that monarch butterfly larvae that feed on its pollen could die. The findings contributed to investor fears about Monsanto, which borrowed heavily to acquire seed companies to market its genetically modified crop technology.

"This is really indicative of how this biotechnology is going to change how we grow food in the U.S.," said Scott McFarland, director of industry relations for the National Corn Growers Association. "There's a lot more risk than farmers have taken on in the past."


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Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 10:43:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-22

South Africa: Call For Ban On 'Illegal' GM Crops

By Fiona Macleod, Africa News Service, August 20, 1999

South Africa is growing a variety of genetically modified (GM) crops, despite the fact that no one really knows what impact they will have on the environment.

Environmentalists are calling for a halt to the release of GM crops, which are created by altering gene structures. There is evidence they may have a serious effect on other plant species. Concerns have also been expressed about their impact on human and animal health.


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Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 10:43:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-22

UK: GM crop court challenge

BBC News Friday August 20 1999

There have been protests against GM crop trial farms

Friends of the Earth is challenging a government decision to allow more land to be planted with genetically-modified crops.

The environmental pressure group presented papers to the High Court in London on Friday calling for a judicial review of the government's policy.

FoE says the decision also allows agrochemical firm AgrEvo to change the GM crop being tested without submitting a new application to an advisory committee monitoring the crops.

AgrEvo has planted crops in farm-scale trials to study their effect on wildlife, neighbouring crops and the environment.

'Caught red-handed'

The environmental group says the government's decision allows for the amount of land undergoing trials to be quadrupled to an area the size of Southampton. This would mean an increase from 1,250 hectares to 5,000 hectares.

FoE policy director Tony Juniper said: "We have caught the government red-handed. They have tried to bend the law to suit a giant GM company in a hurry to get its crops into the UK market."


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Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 10:43:33 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-22

UK: 'Rules bent' to rush through GM licences

By Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent
Saturday August 21, 1999, The Guardian

Civil servants were yesterday accused of bending the rules on the safety of GM crops by using an administrative shortcut to rush through licences for large new releases of modified oilseed rape.

Instead of issuing new licences for GM trials, the department of environment simply amended old ones to allow a quadrupling of the size of the trials and the planting of new crops. These were slipped through in June, 18 days before the new independent committee on the safety of GM crops - set up as part of the government's new monitoring and surveillance system to "shore up public confidence" - met for the first time.

It was four days later that Jack Cunningham, the cabinet enforcer, began a government campaign to reassure the public that "Britain has the most stringent controls in the world".

Now the government is to be challenged in the high court by Friends of the Earth for allegedly circumventing its own committee.

** 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, 24 Aug 1999 20:16:30 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-23

Magazine reveals food-makers' secret

By Bill Lambrecht, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
Sunday, August 22, 1999

The stakes in the debate over labeling genetically altered foods will rise this week when Consumer Reports magazine lists the products that contain bioengineered ingredients. It comes at a time when calls are being heard in Congress to label food and let consumers make informed decisions.

When Consumer Reports' new issue hits the stands this week, the magazine will identify for its 4.7 million readers which of their favorite tortilla chips, muffin mixes and even baby foods contains genetically modified ingredients.

Naming these foods by brands will add fuel to an emerging debate in the United States over policies that allow Americans to routinely eat genetically modified food without knowing it.

The 15-country European Union, as well as Australia and New Zealand, has ordered the labeling of foods with modified DNA. The Japanese government has just published a list of 30 modified foods, including tofu, that soon must carry labels.

Government attitudes abroad contrast starkly with those in the United States. Here, people consume an array of modified whole foods and processed foods derived from 50 gene-altered crops approved by the Department of Agriculture. At least 60 percent of processed foods – from soup to nuts -- contains gene-altered ingredients.

In the United States, roughly half of this year's soybean crop and one-third of the corn crop has been genetically modified either to kill pests or to help the plants withstand weed killers. As Consumer Reports found in its testing, grocery shelves are increasingly stocked with genetically modified products because so much soy protein and so many corn derivatives such as high-fructose sweetener are used these days in processing.


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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 20:16:30 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-23

GMO Labeling Updates from IATP

from Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
http://www.iatp.org/iatp

Sections:
Australia / New Zealand
Japan

Australia / New Zealand

After arduous discussion, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council (ANZFSC) on August 3 approved the mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods and products containing GM ingredients.

Some details remain undecided, including rules for refined foods and the interpretation of the decision by international trade rule-making bodies. The Health Ministers of the ANZFSC will remain in conversation every two weeks while sorting out the final details of the labeling rules and will meet in October to take up remaining unresolved issues surrounding the decision.

The New Zealand Minister of Health, Wyatt Creech, noted that 5500 public submissions on the issue influenced New Zealand's vote. The majority of the comments favored labeling. Food industry lobby groups warn that the labeling might be costly and result in a hike in food prices.

"Health Ministers Agree to Extend Labelling of Genetically Modified Food in Australia and New Zealand," COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA, August 3, 1999.

Japan

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has intensified discussion over its autumn proposal for mandatory labeling of GM products. A sub-committee of experts is working on the issue. The group released a statement last month recommending that Japan exclude certain products from the mandatory labeling guidelines since it is impossible to verify if the products are GM-free. The Ministry has indicated that they want manufacturers to clearly label GM substances.

The details of the proposal are expected to be worked out by the end of August. MAFF would then send the proposal to the Japanese Diet for approval and the creation of a labeling law.

"Japan Farm Min Wants Labeling of Genetically Altered Food," DOW JONES, July 14, 1999; "Japan May Exclude Some Foods from GMO Labelling," REUTERS, July 13, 1999.


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Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 20:16:30 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-23

Australia sets up watchdog to scrutinise GMOs

CANBERRA, Aug 23 (Reuters)

Australian and international firms researching genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will soon come under scrutiny from a new government watchdog set up to protect public health and safety.

The new body, the Interim Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, will have powers to freeze GMO research if it is thought to pose a potential threat to public health, safety or the environment.

The regulator will also determine whether foreign-developed GMOs can be released in Australia.

** 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, 25 Aug 1999 10:52:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-25

GM Investors Told To Sell Their Shares

By Paul Brown and John Vidal
GUARDIAN (London), Wednesday August 25, 1999

Europe's biggest bank has advised the world's largest investors to sell their shares in leading companies involved in the development of genetically modified organisms because consumers do not want to buy their products.

In a report sent to several thousand of the world's large institutional investors, including British pension funds, Deutsche Bank says that "growing negative sentiment" is creating problems for the leading companies, including Monsanto and Novartis.

"We note that Monsanto has spent more than $1.5m (#1m) to persuade English consumers of the rectitude of their position, but alas, to no avail. Monsanto is little match for Prince Charles, an anti-GMO advocate, when it comes to sensitivity for the English people's desires," says the report.

"More broadly speaking, it appears the food companies, retailers, grain processors, and governments are sending a signal to the seed producers that 'we are not ready for GMOs'."

Since the report was circulated to investors, shares in companies named have fallen against a rising trend in stock markets generally and the frenzy to takeover seed companies has stopped. In the six months to yesterday Monsanto's stocks had fallen 11%, and Delta & Pine, a seed company that owns the terminator gene, which Monsanto is taking over, has lost 18% of its value.

The Deutsche Bank's Washington analysts, Frank Mitsch and Jennifer Mitchell, say it is nine months since they first voiced their concerns that the biotech industry was "going the way of the nuclear industry in this country, but we count ourselves surprised at how rapidly this forecast appears to be playing out.

"Domestic concerns regarding ag-biotechnology are clearly on the rise. For the most part, though, it has not gotten the attention of the ordinary US citizen, but when it does - look out."

Deutsche Bank's first research report, dated May 21 and entitled GMOs Are Dead, said: "We predict that GMOs, once perceived as a bull case for this sector, will now be perceived as a pariah.

"The message is a scary one - increasingly, GMOs are, or in our opinion, becoming a liability to farmers," it adds. Non-GMO grains were already gaining a premium price which would, if the trend continued, far outweigh any economic benefit in growing GMOs.

The latest report, published last month under the heading Ag Biotech: Thanks, But No Thanks, says: "GMOs are being demonised by their opponents. What food manufacturer will 'take a bullet' for GMO corn in the face of such controversy?"

GM grains would have to be sold at a discount. "Farmers who planted (Monsanto's) Roundup Ready soya could end up regretting it."

It could become an "earnings nightmare" for Pioneer Hi-Bred (a company due to be taken over by the chemicals giant DuPont) and for Monsanto which is buying Delta & Pine, a stock, the bank says, not worth holding on to.

The concerns of European consumers are real, concludes the report. "European consumers have recently been through the mad cow crisis, the French Aids-tainted blood crisis, the Dutch pig plague crisis, the Belgium chicken dioxin crisis, the Belgian Coca-Cola crisis, etc. Therefore hearing from unsophisticated Americans that their fears are unfounded may not be the best way of proceeding."

The report is a serious embarrassment to the Labour party because its pension fund has large investments in two leading GM companies, AstraZeneca and Novartis, both of which are reportedly considering selling their GM divisions after years of heavy investments but few returns.

Following European uproar over the crops, there has been a significant official cooling in the US. The US government and the biotech industry are preparing for a consumer and media backlash and the agriculture secretary, Dan Glickman, has told companies not to take consumers for granted.

The report coincides with growing official unease about claims made for GM crops. With the market for GM in Europe contracting as food processors turn their back on the products, Mr Glickman warned farmers they could be left with unwanted crops, and that small farmers could become "serfs on the land".

Recent US government research has shown that GM crops of maize, soya and cotton do not automatically produce greater yields or lower use of pesticides.

Sue Mayer of Genewatch said: "This shows the global impact of the concerns of pressure groups on this issue."


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Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 10:52:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-25

Monsanto Is Trying To Move Out Of The Line Of Fire

St. Louis Post-Dispatch July 25, 1999

But Keeping Quiet Doesn't Mean That It's Backing Off

A cartoon in a British magazine plays on lyrics of an old song. A businessman says to a farmer: "You say tomato, I say Monsanto."

Combining a new, low profile with an aggressive legal strategy, St. Louis-based [ Monsanto Co. ] hopes that its explosive dealings in Europe can avoid the lyrics that follow: "Let's call the whole thing off."

The name Monsanto has become synonymous with genetic engineering across Europe even though it is just one of a half-dozen corporations investing in genetic engineering and acquiring seed companies.

Stung by Europe's rejection of genetic engineering, Monsanto has orchestrated an about-face in its public relations strategy.

A year ago, the company carried out a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Britain and France inviting a dialogue on genetic engineering. These days, seldom do you hear a peep from Monsanto. Instead, company spokespeople typically defer to trade associations and direct people to Web sites.

"It doesn't do a lot of good to always be on the firing line," said one company official, referring to the company's old role of acting as a global emissary for genetic engineering.

Meanwhile, Monsanto is fighting in court to keep protesters away from its genetic engineering test sites. Unlike in the United States, British laws permit the public to know the locations of field trials with genetically engineered crops.

The company has experienced mixed results in court but won a legal skirmish this month when a British judge said it could appeal an earlier, unfavorable ruling.

Monsanto's broader success rests less with the courts than with the European Union, which is considering applications to approve the company's Roundup Ready corn, cotton and delayed-ripening tomatoes. The 15-member European governing body has not approved a new gene- altered crop for 16 months.

Winning approvals won't be easy in the present climate. Industry sources in Europe say Monsanto might improve its fortunes by taking several steps:

Ann Foster, Monsanto's director of regulatory affairs in Britain, said her company will "work to try to regain the trust of consumers. We have to answer some of the questions, particularly about the effects of our crops on biodiversity."


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Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 10:52:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-25

Genetically engineered foods on US supermarket shelves

August 25, 1999 NEW YORK, Reuters [HD] via NewsEdge Corporation

Only a third of Americans surveyed recently were aware that US supermarkets now carry a wide range of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, according to the September issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Unlike Europe, the United States does not require labeling for genetically engineered foods and ingredients. And unlike Europeans, Americans generally do not appear to be concerned by the foods. This lack of concern may be justified – Consumer Reports notes that there is no scientific evidence that casts doubt on the safety of genetically engineered foods.

In genetic engineering, scientists add genetic material from one source -- such as a plant, animal, or virus – to the DNA of another living organism. Some crops, such as corn, have been genetically engineered to resist pests and diseases. Proponents of genetically engineered crops argue that the products could create higher quality crops, cut down on the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, and increase crop yields.

But the technology has caused some scientists to worry about possible negative effects of this gene splicing on other plants and animals. Opponents – spearheaded by environmentalists and organic farmers -- caution that some insects could become resistant to the natural pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis, which organic farmers use on their crops.

In addition, some scientists have speculated that genetic engineering could potentially increase natural toxins or decrease nutrients in some foods. Among environmentalists' concerns are reports that genetically engineered corn might imperil the monarch butterfly and harm other beneficial insects.

In their study, Consumer Reports' investigators purchased a variety of products from supermarkets this past winter and spring and found that many of them contained genetically engineered ingredients, although none of them were labeled as genetically engineered. Among the products that they found had genetically engineered ingredients were certain soy-based infant formulas, soy burger products, Ovaltine Malt powdered beverage mix, Bac-Os Bacon Flavor bits, Bravos Tortilla Chips Nacho Nacho!, Old El Paso 12 Taco Shells, and Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix.

Consumer Reports also notes that genetically engineered crops are grown on more than one quarter of US cropland, according to recent industry estimates. More than 35% of all corn, 55% of all soybeans, and almost half of all cotton are now genetically engineered. If US consumers want to avoid (genetically engineered) food, their only according to a press release issued by the magazine.


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Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 10:52:55 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-25

US Consumer Union calls on Government to Label GE Food

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Reuters [BR] via NewsEdge Corporation August 25, 1999

A leading U.S. consumer group called Tuesday for the U.S. government to require labels on food products containing ingredients made from genetically modified crops.

Consumers Union said it was making the recommendation after a survey published in the September issue of its Consumer Reports magazine found that many common food products contain genetically modified ingredients.

Despite the group's recommendation, the article in Consumer Reports noted there is no evidence that genetically engineered foods on market are The U.S. requires labeling orange juice 'from concentrate' and vegetables ' said Jean Halloran, director of the Consumer Policy Ignoring 'genetically engineered' threatens to undermine public trust in a labeling system

** 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, 25 Aug 1999 10:52:58 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-25 pt 2

GM Industry Faces Collapse, Says Bank

Daily Mail via NewsEdge Corporation, August 25, 1999

THE City has turned against 'Frankenstein Foods' with a warning from a leading investment bank that genetically modified crops have no future.

Deutsche Bank has produced a report for investors advising them to steer clear of companies associated with GM crops.

The influential report is a major blow to an enormously powerful industry which has previously tried to bully governments and consumers into accepting the tainted technology. The bank's report concludes simply that 'GM organisms are dead' because consumers are suspicious about their impact on human health and the environment.

It warns that farmers who plant GM crops could lose money, that the stock market value of GM companies could collapse and that food companies will not risk using such ingredients. The report admits that GM-free crops are already being sold at a higher price than their GM equivalent, which will encourage farmers to steer clear of the technology. ...

The report points out the saying they can be found in everything from soft drinks - with GM corn syrup used in some products - through to salads, with GM soya oil in the dressing. [Image] But the report warns this could be about to change: 'Perhaps we don't yet fully realise it, but genetically modified organisms have just crossed the line. Today the term GM has become a liability.

'We predict that GM, once perceived as the driver of the bull case for this sector, will now be perceived as a pariah.'

It adds: 'The message is a scary one - increasingly, GM organisms are, in our opinion, becoming a liability to farmers.'

Biotech companies and farmers who plant GM crops could be faced with expensive long-running court cases and 'a legal mess' if their pollen pollutes neighbouring fields, says the report.

More than 34 GM crops have so far been approved in the US, around 30 in Canada, more than 20 in Japan and around nine in the EU. But retailers and food manufacturers in Britain ranging from Marks & Spencer to Sainsbury's, Unilever and Nestle have all turned their backs on GM ingredients in response to consumer fears.

The Deutsche Bank report, written by Tim Ramey, who is based in the US, says companies around the world are expected to take the same path.

'Expect virtually all others to follow, because the anti-GM crowd will threaten to stigmatise, demonise and boycott those that don't fall into line,' it says.

The report likens GM crops to nuclear power, in that environmental arguments can be made for both but there is little chance that either will win consumer support.

Attempts to force GM crops on to Europe seem certain to founder because of the arrival of cheap and easy tests which will allow buyers to identify and refuse them, it suggests. ...

British GM critic Jonathan Matthews, who has campaigned against the technology, said: 'This is a hugely significant contribution.

'The fact that a powerful City institution has realised that GM has no future because it has been rejected by consumers will send a loud message to the biotech industry.

'Without the support of shareholders, this industry has no future.'


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Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 10:52:58 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN8-25 pt 2

next article posted by "Maynard S. Clark" vrc@tiac.net

Corn Growers Call on Farmers to Consider Alternatives to GMO's

SOURCE American Corn Growers Association, WASHINGTON, August 25 /PRNewswire/

To ease the dilemma over the uncertainly caused by genetically modified organisms (GMO), the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) is proposing that farmers should look at the option of planting non-GMO crops if certain questions are not answered.

This is not an issue over the health or scientific effects of GMOs. It's an issue over production agriculture's inability to answer the many questions that surround this controversial issue.

"GMOs have become the albatross around the neck of farmers on issues of trade, labeling, testing, certification, segregation, market availability and agribusiness concentration. Until all these issues are answered, it is best for production agriculture to examine alternatives to planting GMOs," said Gary Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer of the ACGA.

There are many uncertainties facing farmers. Historically low prices brought about by overproduction have made the future unclear. Adding to this uncertainty is unfair to producers. Therefore, the ACGA is calling on the following questions to be addressed:

"Farmers are caught in the middle of this dispute between grain exporters, foreign buyers, seed companies, local grain elevators and different governments. The ACGA feels it is best for producers to consider alternatives for this upcoming planting season until these many questions are answered," concluded Goldberg.

The ACGA calls on seed companies to make sure that an adequate supply of GMO free seed is available to farmers for the 2000 planting season and that no undue pressure to plant GMOs is placed upon a producer by his or her seed company.

** 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, 26 Aug 1999 21:29:07 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN-Campaign for Food Safety News #21 August 24, 1999

Here is an excellent summary of the hazards of genetic engineering

Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops: Why We Need A Global Moratorium

by: Ronnie Cummins, Campaign for Food Safety
Organic Consumers Association alliance@mr.net

Ronnie Cummins, Director
Campaign for Food Safety
Organic Consumers Association
6114 Hwy 61 Little Marais, Minnesota 55614
Telephone: 218-226-4164
Fax: 218-226-4157
email: alliance@mr.net
URL: http://www.purefood.org

Sections:
Genetic Engineering (GE)
Toxins & Poisons
Increased Cancer Risks
Food Allergies
Damage to Food Quality & Nutrition
Antibiotic Resistance
Increased Pesticide Residues in the Soil and on Crops
Genetic Pollution
Damage to Beneficial Insects and Soil Fertility
Creation of GE "Superweeds" and "Superpests"
Creation of New Viruses and Bacteria
Genetic "Bio-Invasion"
Socioeconomic Hazards
Ethical Hazards
Guidelines for Local GE Grassroots Action Networks

Genetic Engineering (GE)

The technology of genetic engineering (GE), wielded by transnational "life science" corporations such as Monsanto and Novartis, is the practice of altering or disrupting the genetic blueprints of living organisms – plants, animals, humans, microorganisms – patenting them, and then selling the resulting gene-foods, seeds, or other products for profit. Life science corporations proclaim, with great fanfare, that their new products will make agriculture sustainable, eliminate world hunger, cure disease, and vastly improve public health. In reality, through their business practices and political lobbying, the gene engineers have made it clear that they intend to use GE to dominate and monopolize the global market for seeds, foods, fiber, and medical products.

GE is a revolutionary new technology still in its early experimental stages of development. This technology has the power to break down fundamental genetic barriers – not only between species – but between humans, animals, and plants. By randomly inserting together the genes of non-related species – utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes, and bacteria as vectors, markers, and promoters – and permanently altering their genetic codes, gene-altered organisms are created that pass these genetic changes onto their offspring through heredity. Gene engineers all over the world are now snipping, inserting, recombining, rearranging, editing, and programming genetic material. Animal genes and even human genes are randomly inserted into the chromosomes of plants, fish, and animals, creating heretofore unimaginable transgenic life forms. For the first time in history, transnational biotechnology corporations are becoming the architects and "owners" of life.

With little or no regulatory restraints, labeling requirements, or scientific protocol, bio-engineers have begun creating hundreds of new GE "Frankenfoods" and crops, oblivious to human and environmental hazards, or negative socioeconomic impacts on the world's several billion farmers and rural villagers. Despite an increasing number of scientists warning that current gene-splicing techniques are crude, inexact, and unpredictable – and therefore inherently dangerous – pro-biotech governments and regulatory agencies, led by the US, maintain that GE foods and crops are "substantially equivalent" to conventional foods, and therefore require neither mandatory labeling nor pre-market safety-testing. This Brave New World of Frankenfoods is frightening.

There are currently more than four dozen genetically engineered foods and crops being grown or sold in the US. These foods and crops are widely dispersed into the food chain and the environment. Over 70 million acres of GE crops are presently under cultivation in the US, while up to 500,000 dairy cows are being injected regularly with Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Most supermarket processed food items now "test positive" for the presence of GE ingredients. In addition several dozen more GE crops are in the final stages of development and will soon be released into the environment and sold in the marketplace. According to the biotechnology industry almost 100% of US food and fiber will be genetically engineered within 5-10 years. The "hidden menu" of these unlabeled genetically engineered foods and food ingredients in the US now includes soybeans, soy oil, corn, potatoes, squash, canola oil, cotton seed oil, papaya, tomatoes, and dairy products.

Genetic engineering of food and fiber products is inherently unpredictable and dangerous – for humans, for animals, the environment, and for the future of sustainable and organic agriculture. As Dr. Michael Antoniou, a British molecular scientist points out, gene-splicing has already resulted in the "unexpected production of toxic substances... in genetically engineered bacteria, yeast, plants, and animals with the problem remaining undetected until a major health hazard has arisen." The hazards of GE foods and crops fall basically into three categories: human health hazards, environmental hazards, and socioeconomic hazards. A brief look at the already-proven and likely hazards of GE products provides a convincing argument for why we need a global moratorium on all GE foods and crops.

Toxins & Poisons

Genetically engineered products clearly have the potential to be toxic and a threat to human health. In 1989 a genetically engineered brand of L-tryptophan, a common dietary supplement, killed 37 Americans and permanently disabled or afflicted more than 5,000 others with a potentially fatal and painful blood disorder, eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS), before it was recalled by the Food and Drug Administration. The manufacturer, Showa Denko, Japan's third largest chemical company, had for the first time in 1988-89 used GE bacteria to produce the over-the-counter supplement. It is believed that the bacteria somehow became contaminated during the recombinant DNA process. Showa Denko has already paid out over $2 billion in damages to EMS victims.

In 1999, front-page headline stories in the British press revealed Rowett Institute scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai's explosive research findings that GE potatoes, spliced with DNA from the snowdrop plant and a commonly used viral promoter, the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMv), are poisonous to mammals. GE-snowdrop potatoes, found to be significantly different in chemical composition from regular potatoes, damaged the vital organs and immune systems of lab rats fed the GE potatoes. Most alarming of all, damage to the rats' stomach linings – apparently a severe viral infection – most likely was caused by the CaMv viral promoter, a promoter spliced into nearly all GE foods and crops.

Dr. Pusztai's pathbreaking research work unfortunately remains incomplete (government funding was cut off and he was fired after he spoke to the media). But more and more scientists around the world are warning that genetic manipulation can increase the levels of natural plant toxins in foods (or create entirely new toxins) in unexpected ways by switching on genes that produce poisons. And since regulatory agencies do not currently require the kind of thorough chemical and feeding tests that Dr. Pusztai was conducting, consumers have now become involuntary guinea pigs in a vast genetic experiment. As Dr. Pusztai warns, "Think of William Tell shooting an arrow at a target. Now put a blindfold on the man doing the shooting and that's the reality of the genetic engineer doing a gene insertion."

Increased Cancer Risks

In 1994, the FDA approved the sale of Monsanto's controversial GE recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) – injected into dairy cows to force them to produce more milk – even though scientists warned that significantly higher levels (400-500% or more) of a potent chemical hormone, Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF-1), in the milk and dairy products of injected cows, could pose serious hazards for human breast, prostate, and colon cancer. A number of studies have shown that humans with elevated levels of IGF-1 in their bodies are much more likely to get cancer. In addition the US Congressional watchdog agency, the GAO, told the FDA not to approve rBGH, arguing that increased antibiotic residues in the milk of rBGH-injected cows (resulting from higher rates of udder infections requiring antibiotic treatment) posed an unacceptable risk for public health.

In 1998, heretofore undisclosed Monsanto/FDA documents were released by government scientists in Canada, showing damage to laboratory rats fed dosages of rBGH. Significant infiltration of rBGH into the prostate of the rats as well as thyroid cysts indicated potential cancer hazards from the drug. Subsequently the government of Canada banned rBGH in early 1999. The European Union has had a ban in place since 1994. Although rBGH continues to be injected into 4-5% of all US dairy cows, no other industrialized country has legalized its use. Even the GATT Codex Alimentarius, a United Nations food standards body, has refused to certify that rBGH is safe.

Food Allergies

In 1996 a major GE food disaster was narrowly averted when Nebraska researchers learned that a Brazil nut gene spliced into soybeans could induce potentially fatal allergies in people sensitive to Brazil nuts. Animal tests of these Brazil nut-spliced soybeans had turned up negative. People with food allergies (which currently afflicts 8% of all American children), whose symptoms can range from mild unpleasantness to sudden death, may likely be harmed by exposure to foreign proteins spliced into common food products.

Since humans have never before eaten most of the foreign proteins now being gene-spliced into foods, stringent pre-market safety-testing (including long-term animal feeding and volunteer human feeding studies) is necessary in order to prevent a future public health disaster. Mandatory labeling is also necessary so that those suffering from food allergies can avoid hazardous GE foods and so that public health officials can trace allergens back to their source when GE-induced food allergies break out.

Unfortunately the FDA and other global regulatory agencies do not routinely require pre-market animal and human studies to ascertain whether new allergens or toxins, or increased levels of human allergens or toxins we already know about, are present in genetically engineered foods. As British scientist Dr. Mae-Wan Ho points out "There is no known way to predict the allergenic potential of GE foods. Allergic reactions typically occur only some time after the subject is sensitized by initial exposure to the allergen."

Damage to Food Quality & Nutrition

A 1999 study by Dr. Marc Lappe published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that concentrations of beneficial phytoestrogen compounds thought to protect against heart disease and cancer were lower in genetically modified soybeans than in traditional strains. These and other studies, including Dr. Pusztai's, indicate that genetically engineering food will likely result in foods lower in quality and nutrition. For example the milk from cows injected with rBGH contains higher levels of pus, bacteria, and fat.

Antibiotic Resistance

When gene engineers splice a foreign gene into a plant or microbe, they often link it to another gene, called an antibiotic resistance marker gene (ARM), that helps determine if the first gene was successfully spliced into the host organism. Some researchers warn that these ARM genes might unexpectedly recombine with disease-causing bacteria or microbes in the environment or in the guts of animals or people who eat GE food, contributing to the growing public health danger of antibiotic resistance – of infections that cannot be cured with traditional antibiotics, for example new strains of salmonella, e-coli, campylobacter, and enterococci. EU authorities are currently considering a ban on all GE foods containing antibiotic resistant marker genes.

Increased Pesticide Residues in the Soil and on Crops

Contrary to biotech industry propaganda, recent studies have found that US farmers growing GE crops are using just as many toxic pesticides and herbicides as conventional farmers, and in some cases are using more. Crops genetically engineered to be herbicide-resistant account for 70% of all GE crops planted in 1998. The so-called "benefits" of these herbicide-resistant crops are that farmers can spray as much of a particular herbicide on their crops as they want – killing the weeds without damaging their crop.

Scientists estimate that herbicide-resistant crops planted around the globe will triple the amount of toxic broad-spectrum herbicides used in agriculture. These broad-spectrum herbicides are designed to literally kill everything green.The leaders in biotechnology are the same giant chemical companies – Monsanto, DuPont, AgrEvo, Novartis, and Rhone-Poulenc – that sell toxic pesticides. These companies are genetically engineering plants to be resistant to herbicides that they manufacture so they can sell more herbicides to farmers who, in turn, can apply more poisonous herbicides to crops to kill weeds.

Genetic Pollution

"Genetic pollution" and collateral damage from GE field crops already have begun to wreak environmental havoc. Wind, rain, birds, bees, and insect pollinators have begun carrying genetically-altered pollen into adjoining fields, polluting the DNA of crops of organic and non-GE farmers. An organic farm in Texas has been contaminated with genetic drift from GE crops on a nearby farm and EU regulators are considering setting an "allowable limit" for gentic contamination of non-GE foods, because they don't believe genetic pollution can be controlled. Because they are alive, gene-altered crops are inherently more unpredictable than chemical pollutants – they can reproduce, migrate, and mutate. Once released, it is virtually impossible to recall genetically engineered organisms back to the laboratory or the field.

Damage to Beneficial Insects and Soil Fertility

Earlier this year, Cornell University researchers made a startling discovery. They found that pollen from genetically engineered Bt corn was poisonous to Monarch butterflies. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that GE crops are adversely affecting a number of beneficial insects, including ladybugs and lacewings, as well as beneficial soil microorganisms, bees, and possibly birds.

Creation of GE "Superweeds" and "Superpests"

Genetically engineering crops to be herbicide-resistant or to produce their own pesticide presents dangerous problems. Pests and weeds will inevitably emerge that are pesticide or herbicide-resistant, which means that stronger, more toxic chemicals will be needed to get rid of the pests. We are already seeing the emergence of the first "superweeds" as GE herbicide-resistant crops such as rapeseed (canola) spread their herbicide-resistance traits to related weeds such as wild mustard plants.

Lab and field tests also indicate that common plant pests such as cotton boll worms, living under constant pressure from GE crops, will soon evolve into "superpests" completely immune to Bt sprays and other environmentally sustainable biopesticides. This will present a serious danger for organic and sustainable farmers whose biological pest management practices will be unable to cope with increasing numbers of superpests and superweeds.

Creation of New Viruses and Bacteria

Gene-splicing will inevitably result in unanticipated outcomes and dangerous surprises that damage plants and the environment. Researchers conducting experiments at Michigan State University several years ago found that genetically-altering plants to resist viruses can cause the viruses to mutate into new, more virulent forms. Scientists in Oregon found that a genetically engineered soil microorganism, Klebsiella planticola, completely killed essential soil nutrients. Environmental Protection Agency whistle blowers issued similar warnings in 1997 protesting government approval of a GE soil bacteria called Rhizobium melitoli.

Genetic "Bio-Invasion"

By virtue of their "superior" genes, some genetically engineered plants and animals will inevitably run amok, overpowering wild species in the same way that introduced exotic species, such as kudzu vine and Dutch elm disease, which have created problems in North America. What will happen to wild fish and marine species, for example, when scientists release into the environment carp, salmon, and trout that are twice as large, and eat twice as much food, as their wild counterparts?

Socioeconomic Hazards

The patenting of genetically engineered foods and widespread biotech food production threatens to eliminate farming as it has been practiced for 12,000 years. GE patents such as the Terminator Technology will render seeds infertile and force hundreds of millions of farmers who now save and share their seeds to purchase evermore expensive GE seeds and chemical inputs from a handful of global biotech/seed monopolies. If the trend is not stopped, the patenting of transgenic plants and food-producing animals will soon lead to universal "bioserfdom" in which farmers will lease their plants and animals from biotech conglomerates such as Monsanto and pay royalties on seeds and offspring. Family and indigenous farmers will be driven off the land and consumers' food choices will be dictated by a cartel of transnational corporations. Rural communities will be devastated.Hundreds of millions of farmers and agricultural workers worldwide will lose their livelihoods.

Ethical Hazards

The genetic engineering and patenting of animals reduces living beings to the status of manufactured products and will result in much suffering. In January 1994, the USDA announced that scientists had completed genetic "road maps" for cattle and pigs, a precursor to evermore experimentation on live animals. In addition to the cruelty inherent in such experimentation (the "mistakes" are born with painful deformities, crippled, blind, and so on), these "manufactured" creatures have no greater value to their "creators" than mechanical inventions. Animals genetically engineered for use in laboratories, such as the infamous "Harvard mouse" which contains a human cancer-causing gene that will be passed down to all succeeding generations, were created to suffer.

A purely reductionist science, biotechnology reduces all life to bits of information (genetic code) that can be arranged and rearranged at whim. Stripped of their integrity and sacred qualities, animals who are merely objects to their "inventors" will be treated as such. Currently, hundreds of genetically engineered "freak" animals are awaiting patent approval from the federal government. One can only wonder, after the wholesale gene-altering and patenting of animals, will GE "designer babies" be next?

For further information on the hazards of GE foods & crops, see our web site and its links: http://www.purefood.org To volunteer to help form an anti-GE Grassroots Action Network in your community call 218-726-1443 or email safefood@cp.duluth.mn.us

What Can You Do?

Guidelines for Local GE Grassroots Action Networks

Campaign Goals

As the anti-genetic engineering campaign in Europe has shown, mass grassroots action is the key to stopping this technology and moving agriculture in an organic and sustainable direction. The Campaign for Food Safety and the Organic Consumers Association – along with allied organizations and networks worldwide – endorse the following Food Agenda 2000 as the foundation for our local-to-global campaign work:

  1. A Global Moratorium on all Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops;

  2. Stop Factory Farming. Begin the Phase-out of industrial agriculture and factory farming – with a goal of significantly reducing the use of toxic chemicals and animal drugs on conventional farms by the year 2010. This phase-out will include a ban on the most dangerous farm chemicals and animal feed additives (antibiotics, hormones, and rendered animal protein) as well as the implementation of intensive Integrated Pest Management Practices (reduce use of chemical fertilizers through natural composting, crop rotation, cover crops, use of beneficial insects, etc.)

  3. 30% Organic by the Year 2010. We demand government funding and implementation of transition to organic programs so that at least 30% of US (and global) agriculture is organic by the Year 2010 – with a strong emphasis on production for local and regional markets by small and medium-sized organic farmers.

Campaign Tactics:

Six Actions You Can Take In Your Local Community

In the US, the implementation of this Food Agenda 2000 will require the development of mass-based Grassroots Action Networks nationwide. We ask volunteers willing to help build these Networks to take the following steps:

  1. Contact our Campaign Field Organizers by email, telephone, fax, or regular mail and volunteer to coordinate or participate in a GE Grassroots Action Network in your community. Send emails to safefood@cp.duluth.mn.us Call 218-726-1443 Fax 218-726-1446 Write: CFS/OCA 6114 Highway 61 Little Marais, MN 55614

  2. Help us circulate our Food Agenda 2000 petition to identify as many people as possible in your area who oppose GE foods and factory farming and support organic agriculture. After these petition names are collected we will set up local data bases for two-way communication and mobilization. Help us find retail stores and coops that will circulate our petitions and Action Alerts. Make copies of these materials and circulate them widely.

  3. Help us find subscribers for our free electronic newsletters (Campaign for Food Safety News and Organic View) and donors and supporters for our work.

  4. Tune in to our CFS/OCA web sites http://www.purefood.org and http://www.organicconsumers.org for regular news, updates, and Action Alerts.

  5. Help organize forums, protests, and news-making events in your local community.

  6. Help us put pressure on elected public officials and regulatory agencies to demand either an outright GE moratorium or (a) comprehensive mandatory labeling of all GE food and fiber products; (b) mandatory, stringent pre-market safety-testing of all GE products; and © mandatory long-term liability insurance for GE corporations and labs.

##End of Campaign for Food Safety News #21

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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.