Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


 News

23 September 99

Table of Contents

Genetically Modified Confusion
UK Fast food chains ban GM
Study Finds Rapid Reduction In Crop Diversity
Biotechnology companies face new foe: the Internet
Canada: Voluntary Labelling
Voluntary Labelling Project Announced for Foods Derived From Biotechnology
Frankenfish or Salmon Saviour?
CBC: Billions at Stake in Genetically Modified Food Debate
Seed varieties disappearing
Biotech battle opens way for test-makers.
North Dakota farmers warn biotechnology hurting agriculture
Transgenic cattle farm opposed
Pesticide safety limit raised by 200 times 'to suit GM industry'
UK Liberals look to hurt Blair with GM attack
Blowin' in the Wind...
Mexico: Seed Companies Hauled Into Court
New Book: "Beyond Evolution"
New Book: "Hazard Identification of Agriculture Biotechnology"

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Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:13:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-19

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-09/17/066r-091799-idx.html

Genetically Modified Confusion

Washington Post, Friday, September 17, 1999; Page A24

THE HULLABALLOO in Europe about genetically engineered foods is starting to spill over into American markets – not in consumer opinion but in strategic choices being made by American producers. The giant commodity buyer Archer Daniels Midland, faced with the combined resistance of fervid European consumer activists and protectionist European governments, has signaled it will switch, not fight: It has asked farmers to segregate modified and non-modified products so that the latter can be sold to Europe. Down the production chain, such companies as Gerber have pledged to look for non-genetically engineered sources of corn and soybeans so they can market their food as free of such elements.

All this properly miffs U.S. farmers, who complain they are being asked to absorb heavy costs and left hanging after investing in the new modified crops.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:13:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-19

UK Fast food chains ban GM

BBC News - 18 September 1999
http://news2.thls.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid%5F450000/450979.stm

Britain's biggest fast-food chains, including McDonald's and Burger King, say they have removed genetically-modified (GM) ingredients from their menus in time for the introduction of new labelling laws.

Friends of the Earth surveyed 11 leading chains and found all said they did not use GM soya or maize.

The government has ordered all food containing GM ingredients to be labelled from Sunday following implementation of a European Union directive last September.

Caterers, shops, food-makers and restaurants must all comply or face fines.


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Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:13:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-19

Study Finds Rapid Reduction In Crop Diversity

By Randy Fabi, Sept. 18/99, Reuters

WASHINGTON - The environmental group WorldWatch Institute was cited as saying on Saturday the world is rapidly losing genetic diversity in crops, some of which might hold the key to plant-based medicines.

While biotechnology is adding pest resistance traits to selected types of corn, soybeans and other crops, WorldWatch said other varieties are dying away because of over harvesting, environmental threats and scarce government funding for plant gene banks.

John Tuxill, author of the WorldWatch genetic diversity study was quoted as saying, "Biotechnology is no solution to this loss of genetic diversity. We are increasingly skilful at moving genes around, but only nature can create them. If a plant bearing a unique genetic trait disappears, there is no way to get it back."

The story cites the study as saying that with development of transgenic crops like Bt corn and "New Leaf" potatoes that produce a natural insecticide, traditional varieties may dwindle as farmers grow a less diverse pool of crops to obtain the highest yield for commercial production.

China is thought to have lost nearly 90 percent of its traditional wheat varieties since the Second World War, according Tuxill's report. That kind of decline alarms some scientists, who say one in four drugs prescribed in the United States is based on a chemical compound originally discovered in plants.

Loren Wiesner, research leader for the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado was quoted as saying, "This is about the future. We have no idea of what insect, disease or other problem we might be facing. If we don't have the genetic materials to combat these future concerns, we could be in some serious trouble." The U.S. Agriculture Department laboratory is the world's largest seed bank.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:13:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-19

Biotechnology companies face new foe: the Internet

By Bill Lambrecht, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau, September 19, 1999

WASHINGTON - Analysts at Deutsche Bank in Germany came up with some grim conclusions this summer about the financial prospects for genetically modified crops, saying companies such as Monsanto were losing battle after battle.

A few years ago, the German report never would have traveled outside the rarefied air of global investors. But that was before the World Wide Web.

This month, a consultant in Idaho arranged for the bank analysis to be posted on the Web, and in three days, thousands of people had downloaded the 25-page report and further disseminated it around the globe. Critics, farmers and people still making up their minds about the new technology had a new piece of information.

The Internet is enabling mobilization like never before and, in the process, giving biotechnology companies fits.

In recent months, St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. and its rivals in the new science of genetically engineering food have watched in dismay as pockets of protest have mushroomed. Europe and Japan are demanding the labeling of modified foods. A trade war is brewing between the United States and Europe. American farmers are wondering whether to continue sowing tens of millions of acres with gene-altered seeds.

What is behind the recent developments? More people, especially Europeans, are raising questions about environmental safety, potential health effects and the power of the companies to determine the nature of food.


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Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:13:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-19
Via: ramshorn@jetstream.net

CONTACT: Brewster Kneen
ramshorn@ramshorn.bc.ca    phone: 250-675-4866

Canada: Voluntary Labelling

PRESS RELEASE – from The Ram's Horn Sept 18, 1999, Sorrento, B.C.

Sections:
Background 1
The Project
Background 2

In response to mounting public anger at the lack of labels identifying foods derived from genetic engineering, the biotech industry has succeeded in arranging for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors along with the Canadian General Standards Board to develop a voluntary system of labelling GE foods. The announcement was welcomed by Agriculture Minster Lyle Vanclief, (whose department is paying the bill) but was greeted with skepticism by Canadian activists concerned about the health and environmental effects of genetic engineering in the food supply.

At least they re consistent, said Brewster Kneen, well-known activist and author of the recent book, Farmageddon. First they depend on the biotech industry's word that their products are safe, and now they re going to let the industry decide what kind of information - if any - Canadians will get about what they are eating.

The Canadian Biotech Action Network along with the Council of Canadians, the Sierra Club, the Canadian Health Coalition and Greenpeace, have called for mandatory labelling of all food products derived from genetic engineering. This will enable the public to boycott all such food products.

Background

Voluntary Labelling Project For Foods Derived From Biotechnology Announced "Are our food labels honest and accurate? ... This - and much more - is the business of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency." - CFIA brochure

The following information was posted in the form of a press release on the website of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Sept. 17, 1999. www.cfia-acia.agr.ca The CFIA is an autonomous federal government agency accountable to the Minister of Agriculture.

The Project

"The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors (CCGD) and the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) are launching a project to develop a Canadian standard for the voluntary labelling of foods derived from biotechnology. The CGSB, an accredited standards development organization within Public Works and Government Services Canada (Alfonso Gagliano, minister) will manage the development of the standard on behalf of the CCGD."

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lyle Vanclief is providing "support" for this project through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Agri-Food Trade 2000 program. According to Vanclief, "The Government of Canada believes in the right of consumers to have access to information as it relates to biotechnology and food. This is a complex issue and any labelling has to be meaningful to consumers. Consistent codes of practices for voluntary labelling of foods derived from biotechnology will give consumers information to make choices. The voluntary labelling standard will be developed with participation from consumer groups, food companies, producers, interest groups and government, through the formation of a standards committee expected to meet next month."

Jeanne Cruikshank, vice-president of the Atlantic region for the CCGD, said, " We are supportive of the federal regulatory system and this project will help to give us a consistent approach to labelling policy."

The Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada (FCPMC) has endorsed the project. "Canadian consumers want more information about the advantages of food from biotechnology. We have listened very closely to the said Laurie Curry, Vice President, Public Policy and Scientific Affairs for the FCPMC. "Our organization - which represents the food and beverage manufacturing industry - wants consumers to make an informed choice about foods derived from biotechnology."

The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) also fell in line: "Our organization represents the front line of grocery retailers in cities and small towns across the country who hear the questions of consumers every day. We want our customers to get information about this issue so

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture welcomed "the initiatives" of the CCGD and the CGSB "as a positive step towards offering consumers the reliable information on foods from biotechnology they need to exercise their right to choose."

Background 2

Faced with a growing public demand for the proper identification of genetically engineered foods but committed to a biotech industry fearful of an informed public, the Government of Canada has worked with the biotech industry and its lobbyists to devise a strategy which will enable the government to privatize its legal responsibility for the health and welfare of Canadians. Its solution: voluntary labelling of "foods derived from biotechnology" under standards formulated by the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors (CCGD) on behalf of the biotech industry and given ‘authority' by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB).

In keeping with current government efforts to emasculate all forms of public protection from corporate profiteering - as in the new Canadian Environmental Protection Act (C-32) and the Health Protection Act (C-80) - Agriculture Canada, instead of instructing its agency responsible for the proper labelling of food to to get on with the job, has decided to further weaken the regulatory apparatus by contracting out the work and responsibility of the regulator to the industry supposedly being regulated.

Over the past year or so the CCGD has become the lobbyist of choice for Monsanto and others in the biotech industry, so it is not surprising that it was designated to take on this job. What is surprising is that the grocery retailers are allowing their organization to act against their interests in this way.

Genetically engineered food offers no market advantage to a retailer. In fact, it can only be a liability at the checkout. Nevertheless, the CCGD initiative is being supported by the Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada (FCPMC), the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

There is now less reason than ever for the Canadian people to have any confidence in the agencies responsible for the regulation and safety -- human and environmental - of genetically engineered crops and foods. Caveat emptor - buyer beware.

Brewster Kneen, S-6, C-27, RR.1, Sorrento, B.C. V0E 2W0, Canada, ph/fx: 250-675-4866, www.ramshorn.bc.ca


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:13:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-19

Voluntary Labelling Project Announced for Foods Derived From Biotechnology

http://www.cfia-acia.agr.ca/english/corpaffr/newsrelease/990917e.html

OTTAWA, Sept. 17, 1999 – The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors (CCGD) and the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) are launching a project to develop a Canadian standard for the voluntary labelling of foods derived from biotechnology.


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Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:13:17 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-19

Thanks to Nancy Oden cleanmaine@nemaine.com for posting this

Frankenfish or Salmon Saviour?

By Sarah Schmidt, National Post (Canada), Sept. 4, 1999.

Canada has a lot at stake in the debate over whether transgenic salmon should come to market

Sections:
Protected Development
Fish Manipulation
A nightmare, perhaps. But it's also lucrative.
Expected Collision with EU

Protected Development

Behind the chain link fence, electronic alarm system, security guard and yet another lock, the caged fish live out their lives in double-screened tanks, custom-made to keep them from slipping down the drain and wreaking environmental havoc in the wild waters.

Fish don't usually warrant such tight security, but the ones at the federal Department of Ocean and Fisheries laboratory in West Vancouver aren't like other fish that wind up on the dinner table – yet. The silver-bodied coho, hand-feed as often as 20 times a day to satiated their extraordinary appetites, may not be able to swim as well as their siblings in the wild.

Their value lies elsewhere. The designer salmon, or super salmon, are genetically programmed to grow about eight times faster - and as much as 37 times larger - than normal during the first year of their lives.

The thousands of transgenic fish quietly tucked away for nearly a decade in Canada's own Fort-Knox for fish could soon swim into the public spotlight, as commercial interests are on the brink of taking their own superfish to market. By year's end, A/F Protein Canada Inc. of St. John's, Newfoundland, plans to seek Health Canada permission to provide local kitchens with its own trademarked AquAdvantage fish, rearranged bits of flounder and salmon genes designed to speed up salmon growth by 400 per cent.

The stamp of approval could come as early as 2001, according to the company, a subsidiary of A/F Protein Inc. of Waltham, Massachusetts and headed by fish biologist Garth Fletcher, affiliated with Memorial University.

Talk of a "blue revolution" sweeping the fishing industry – the commercial quest to conquer the last wild frontier in the food chain – couldn't come at a more explosive time. Nor could mention of a genetically modified "saviour" to dwindling wild salmon stocks, as mounting controversy over genetic tinkering with the food supply sweeps across Canada and abroad.

At home, scientist Robert Devlin, creator of the genetically modified fish at the government lab in West Vancouver, is anxious about industry's push to commercialize the technology. The world authority on breeding super salmon wants to see exhaustive environmental risk-assessment research before Health Canada considers health risks associated with science's latest aquacreation.

Cautious and independent, Dr. Devlin has refused multiple offers to work with industry on his transgenic fish project. He prefers not to have deal with the pressures of making a profit.

"There's a real life pressure when you take the commercial route," says Dr. Devlin. "I'm not here to make money."

At home, salmon farmers, the net beneficiaries from any technology that shortens the long production cycles, are already on the defensive. Local fishermen and environmentalists, including the well-respected David Suzuki Foundation, blame fish farms for financial and environmental ruin.

Mix genetically modified salmon into the toxic pot and the result would be an unmitigated environmental disaster, they say.

"They'd be Ben Johnson fish. The effects could be untoward," says Joe Cummins, genetics professor of emeritus at the University of Western Ontario. "They'll invade the natural population and pollute the gene pool."

Research shows that transgenic fish are much more aggressive and and out-eat wild stocks. "They've got a revved-up metabolism. They're hungry all the time,' says Dr. Devlin.

If placed in fish farms today, "they'd escape. There's no doubt about that," he admits. Regulators currently prohibit open-water tests of transgenic fish.

Already, farmed-raised Atlantic salmon, referred to "fugitive fish," have escaped in B.C. waters and spawned in the wild, raising questions about the impacts on the runs of wild Pacific salmon. The B.C. government has refused to lift its moratorium on fish farming.

In the United States, foreign marine life invading waters where it is not usually found costs government and industry $123-billion (US) a year. Exotic species, bacteria and viruses can alter the food chain and change whole ecosystems.

In Canada, fish farming disasters alone are costly. For example, Ottawa provided New Brunswick with a $13-million grant last December for the management and control of Infectious Salmon Anemia disease in the salmon aquaculture industry in the Bay of Fundy.

"The real doomsayers are the DFO and industry aquaculturalists that tell us that wild salmon are doomed and should be preserved only in DNA banks while they transform the oceans into a giant cultivation zone," says Howard Breen of the Georgia Strait Alliance.

Fish Manipulation

Although nearly every other food group has already undergone genetic manipulation, fish stocks remain the last frontier with which to tinker. And playing with fish evolution is proving difficult for many to swallow.

"Canada was and still is a leader. Technically, we're ready. We can produce transgenic fish. The problem now is the public acceptance," says Shao Jun Du, a geneticist who undertook revolutionary transgenic fish research with world-renown scientist Choy Hew at the University of Toronto in the first half of the decade. Today, he is stationed at University of Maryland's Center for Marine Biotechnology, where the first successful transgenic fish in the United States was created.

Chris Baker, a vice-president with Environics Research Group, says any talk of the intertransfer of genes still stirs up negative emotions among Canadians.

"That's when the red flags are raised," says Mr. Baker, who conducted an attitudinal survey last November for the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy Take Force.

In the case of transgenic fish, even natural allies – members the aquaculture industry, the commercial target of the trials – are busy distancing itself from the technology that could send their profits into the stratosphere.

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, for example, identifies reducing production cost as one of its top priorities. Yet, the association is officially opposed to the fast-growing superfish.

"Scientists are always at the forefront of research. It's up to the public, the market, to determine whether they want it," says executive director Anne McMullin.

The association certainly doesn't want to be caught in a situation akin to their New Zealand colleagues. The local Green Party wrecked havoc in April when it released documents from Communications Trumps, a public relations firm hired by New Zealand King Salmon, currently conducting trials on transgenic fish.

"Issues such as deformities, lumps on heads etc. should not be mentioned at any point to anyone outside – comments about those would create ghastly Frankenstein images and would be whipped up into a frenzy by Greenpeace," reads the document.

Says David Conley, spokesman for Canada's Office of the Commission of Aquaculture, created in December to facilitate industry development, including transgenics: "It's just such a pit, a public relations nightmare."

A nightmare, perhaps. But it's also lucrative.

In 1997, for example, farmed salmon became the dominant force in the world market for the first time, supplying more than half of the world production. And according to the International Salmon Farmers Association, increases in Atlantic salmon production among the seven largest producers (including Canada) is expected to increase more than three-fold between 1997 to 2010.

In British Columbia, where dwindling wild salmon stocks continue to devastate coastal communities, the landed value of farmed salmon production totalled $229.2-million in 1998, compared to $55-million worth of wild production. These numbers represent a reversal of roles from 10 years prior, when wild production of salmon equalled $410.4 million, compared to $52.1-million in farmed production.

The East Coast is even a step ahead. Six Prince Edward Island fish farmers recently formed OvaTech, a company to distribute A/F Protein's genetically modified fish as soon as they are available.

Meanwhile, Ottawa funds transgenic research through the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy and the National Science Engineering Research Council.

"There is the recognition that other people are doing this kind of work and Canada needs to be ready," says Don Noakes, director of DFO's Pacific Biological Station and head of the Aquaculture Division.

Already, numerous applications for international patents for growth acceleration in fish and other aquatic organisms have been made to the Canadian government, including the Crown itself (its patent applications in Canada, the U.S., Britain, Chile and Norway are for the growth factor genes and gene construct for the salmon developed by Dr. Devlin in the West Vancouver lab).

"We're not licensing it, at least not at the moment," says Ialo Price of DFO's Aquaculture and Oceans Science Branch.

Approximately a dozen industry players have approached the federal government for rights to the technology. The commercialization of biotechnology discoveries and products now in the pipeline is a key to boosting industry revenues by a factor of five (from $1.1-billion to $5-billion) between 1998 and 2005, a goal of Industry Canada's National Biotechnology Advisory Committee.

At the same time, Ottawa is currently in negotiations with the private sector and aquaculture agencies over its West Vancouver lab. One of the options being considered is handing over operations to the private sector.

Expected Collision with EU

Environmentalists, who argue that Canada is leading the international charge on the transgenic fish front, say that Ottawa's behaviour could result in a nasty showdown abroad.

Canada, the third largest producer of genetically modified crops, is already on a collision course over GMOs with the European Union, where any reference to transgenic fish usually includes a highly charged quip about "Frankenfish."

And as Canada prepares to walk into World Trade Organization talks in Seattle this fall with an aggressive plan to push for the removal of trade barriers for these high-tech crops, any overzealous public cheerleading for transgenic fish will raise international eye brows, says Jo Dufay, campaigns coordinator for the Council of Canadians.

Adds Mark Ritchie, president of the U.S.-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "Canada is blowing it's image as a bottle of pure water."

The most powerful reservations, however, may come from the creator of the West Vancouver creatures. Dr. Devlin, internationally renown for his work on risk-assessment of superfish, has much respect for the East Coast geneticists and fish biologists working to bring their transgenic AquAdvantage fish to market.

The pioneers of transgenic fish promise to introduce precautions to prevent genetically altered fish from upsetting the biosystem, including neutering the fish.

Like A/F Protein Inc., Dr. Devlin is working on sterilization solutions to solve the potential gene-pollution problem. However, he says even more risk-assessment work needs to undertaken.

Unaffected by commercial pressures, Dr. Devlin is the first to admit that the thousands of transgenic fish (10 strains) tucked away in his secured tanks look much better than they did a few years back, when the first batch of growth enhanced fish were "quite deformed."

"Commercial people don't like when I show the ugly fish [at conferences]," he says.

Today, after tweaking with the growth stimulation, the fish look normal. However, Dr. Devlin is now observing some abnormal behaviour in his genetically modified coho salmon (he used to work with chinook salmon).

"It's much much more aggressive. It was one of the things that made me wake up," he says.

"How do you take all that data, multiply it and come up with a risk statistic? I can't do that now."

And until he can, Dr. Devlin wants to keep his fish under lock and key while Health Canada wrestles with its first transgenic fish application.

Canadians, meanwhile, will have to decide whether they want to eat designer salmon.

** 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: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 21:15:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-21

CBC: Billions at Stake in Genetically Modified Food Debate

CBC Newsworld online, Sept 20, 99

Countries trying to develop rules for importing and exporting genetically modified food have concluded another series of meetings without reaching a deal.

FULL STORY:
http://newsworld.cbc.ca/cgi-bin/go.pl?1999/09/20/food990920


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Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 21:15:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-21

Seed varieties disappearing

By DAVID BRISCOE
Associated Press Sunday, September 19, 1999

Farmers find agricultural options limited

WASHINGTON – With thousands of plant species nearing extinction, the world's farmers are losing valuable crop alternatives. In the United States, more than 80 percent of seed varieties sold a century ago no longer are available, according to a report released Saturday.

Even crops that may not be producing or seem undesirable could one day help fight against human disease, develop more resistant varieties or respond to future conditions, said Worldwatch Institute researcher John Tuxill, the report's author.

The report says more plant species are threatened in the United States than any other country – 4,669, or 29 percent of all varieties. Next is Australia with 2,245 species threatened, followed by South Africa with 2,215.

Worldwide, more than 30,000 plant species are threatened.

The report echoes long-held concerns about dwindling plants in nature and says a decline in cultivated varieties is a serious loss for agriculture.

While genetic engineering in agriculture is on the rise, with farmers around the globe planting three times as much land in "transgenic" crops this year as last, some natural varieties have disappeared forever, Tuxill said.

"Although we have achieved unprecedented skill in moving genes around, only nature can manufacture them," he said in the report, "Nature's Cornucopia: Our Stake in Plant Diversity."

"If a plant bearing a unique genetic trait disappears, there is no way to get it back," Tuxill said in an interview. "And you never know what's going to be useful down the road."

The genetic resistance of some U.S. high-yield wheat, for example, came from a seed collected in Turkey that was being rejected by local farmers in favor of more attractive varieties, Tuxill said.

It is not just obscure plant types that are disappearing, the report says in describing problems around the globe. Varieties of common crops also are on the decline:

Less than 20 percent of vegetable seed varieties listed in a 1904 U.S. national inventory are available commercially today.

China has lost nearly 90 percent of its traditional wheat varieties since World War II.

Mexican farmers are raising only 20 percent of the corn varieties cultivated in the 1930s.

Heavy commercial demand in various regions is depleting varieties of wild plants used for medicinal and other purposes.

Many governments and organizations are addressing the problem, Tuxill said.

One grass-roots approach is the Seed Bank Exchange of Decorah, Iowa, which has 12,000 farmer and gardener members around the United States who share seeds.

Since the nonprofit association published its first catalog of seeds available commercially nationwide in 1987, it has seen 1,059 disappear, said Aaron Whealy, who runs part of the operation.

But with effort by its members to share heirloom varieties and private collections, in the same period it added 1,889 varieties, he said.

The bank maintains 20,000 vegetable seed varieties and actually grows 2,000 of those each year for seed production and sale. But just saving seeds is not enough, Tuxill said. Some plants, including potatoes and bananas, have to be continuously propagated to survive or require that tissue samples be preserved.


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Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 21:15:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-21

Biotech battle opens way for test-makers.

By Robert Steyer, Of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19,1999

As those who produce and store gene-altered crops struggle to ease public concerns and find a way to move forward, a new market is beginning to emerge for companies that can offer tools that tell consumers where their food is coming from.

Starting next month, when the grain shipping season heats up, more than 300 trucks filled with soybeans, corn and other crops will rumble through the streets of St. Louis each day, bringing their bounty to the ADM Growmark grain elevator.

But this busy season will get busier, as more U.S. elevators start separating genetically modified grains from standard ones, a response to growing concerns about biotechnology, most notably in Europe. For elevators like the ADM Growmark facility here, which serves export markets, that means the conga line of trucks will deposit some grain at separate storage areas for shipment on special barges.

Segregating crops is causing uncertainty in the U.S. farm and food industries. But one thing is clear: The battle over biotech means more companies will test their products more often.

Although this uproar is becoming a burden for grain elevators and a bane for gene giants such as Monsanto Co., it's a boon for genetic testing companies.

Some tests resemble over-the-counter pregnancy tests. Others are akin to DNA fingerprinting used by law enforcement. Their common goal: to make sure genetically altered grains aren't mixed with conventional ones.

Unless U.S. food companies segregate their produce and prove they can offer biotech-free grains, they run the risk of having food shipments rejected, especially at foreign ports.


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Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 21:15:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-21

North Dakota farmers warn biotechnology hurting agriculture

Nebraska Star-Herald, June 8, 1999

LINCOLN (AP) – Biotechnology is hurting farmers because they give up control over their product and are pressed to operate larger farms with fewer people working them, an organic farmer from North Dakota warned Monday.

"Corporations developing the technologies, and their investors, will likely benefit," Fred Kirschenmann told about 50 people gathered at a national conference on agriculture biotechnology. "The question that farmers must ask is whether or not the technology will benefit farmers."

Kirschenmann spoke on a panel that included James Tobin, co-president of Monsanto Global Seed Co., who touted the benefits of genetic engineering.

Manipulating genes in crops like corn, wheat and soybeans can produce higher yields with specific traits to help combat world hunger, Tobin said.

"By providing high quality seed to farmers we give them a better chance to produce a high quality crop," Tobin said.

But Kirschenmann warned that genetic engineering is speeding up consolidation in agriculture. He predicted that farmers will become contract workers for large companies controlling the entire process.

"The farmer's only role will be to grow out the firm's seed, into the firm's crop, for the firm's market," Kirschenmann said.


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Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 21:15:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-21

Transgenic cattle farm opposed

By Rex Bowman, Times-Dispatch Staff Writer, Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Some in Craig fear impact on environment

Worried that genetically altered cows will produce genetically altered manure, some residents of Craig County fear a proposed transgenic cattle farm will pollute their groundwater with mutant cow dung.

They oppose Pharming Healthcare Inc.'s plan to bring to Craig a herd of 200 cows capable of producing human proteins in milk. If the proteins – used to make medicines – are in the cows' milk, they could end up in the cows' urine and manure as well, said Patricia Smith, a resident of the western Virginia county who opposes Pharming's plan.

"This is a very beautiful place, and it's an uncontaminated environment," Smith said. "It's very troubling to us to think what could happen if a human genetic component contaminated our streams and creeks and groundwater."


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Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 21:15:00 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-21

Pesticide safety limit raised by 200 times 'to suit GM industry'

Genetic Food Watch, Daily Mail (UK) September 21, 1999

THE limits on pesticide residues allowed in soya have been increased 200-fold to help the GM industry, according to one of the country's leading food safety experts.

Malcolm Kane, who has just taken early retirement as head of food safety at Sainsbury's, warned that higher levels of pesticide residues could appear in a range of foods from breakfast cereals to biscuits.

He raised concerns that although the toxin levels are low, there may be dangers associated with long-term consumption.

The claims were rejected by the Government's GM spin unit but are bound to fuel hostility to the tainted technology.

The fact that the warning comes from such a respected source is highly embarrassing for the Government and biotech firms.

Previously, UK and European rules stated that residues of the pesticide glyphosate left on a crop of soya beans should not be higher than 0.1 parts per million.

But according to Mr Kane, the Government has increased this figure by 200 times to 20 parts per million specifically to smooth the path of GM soya into the national diet.

The soya has been modified to withstand spraying by glyphosate which is sold by the giant U.S. biotech firm [ Monsanto ] under the brand name Roundup.

This means it can be sprayed more heavily without any of the soya plants being harmed. But one negative result could be that higher residues of the chemical are left on the plant when it is harvested.

Mr Kane believes that rather than force the industry and farmers to meet the existing safety levels, officials have instead relaxed the rules to ensure GM crops remain legal.

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


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Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 15:47:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-23

UK Liberals look to hurt Blair with GM attack

By Mike Peacock, HARROGATE, England, Sept 22 (Reuters)

Opposition Liberal Democrats on Wednesday pressed the government to ban trials of genetically modified crops, knowing they are more in tune with the public over "Frankenstein Foods" than Tony Blair. Environment spokesman Norman Baker called for a five-year halt to crop trials until proper research had been carried out into the effects on the environment. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his cabinet strong man, Jack Cunningham, havs been accused of being blindly in favour of the technology while the British public, stung by the "mad cow" scare, remains deeply distrustful.


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Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 15:47:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-23

Blowin' in the Wind...

CBC: The National Online http://www.tv.cbc.ca/national/pgminfo/canola/index.html

Percy Schmeiser has spent fifty years farming his land near Bruno, Saskatchewan. Now suddenly, Schmeiser is fighting what may be the strangest battle in the history of agriculture.

"My grandfather and my father homesteaded here," Schmeiser says. "There was no such thing as chemical companies, or even seed companies. They were free and independent."

Schmeiser learned a long time ago that the wind is often a farmer's worst enemy. Wind blows the seeds and pollen of weeds into farm fields, choking out crops.

But now the wind may have brought a new threat to Schmeiser's farm, forcing him to fight for control of the seeds planted in his field.

Schmeiser has picked a fight with the biggest boy on the block; he's battling the world's largest agrochemical company, Monsanto.

Monsanto makes the weedkiller called Roundup. Spray it onto a field and it kills everything growing there. But now Monsanto has genetically engineered a canola seed so that Roundup doesn't hurt it. That means a farmer can spray Roundup herbicide over an entire field, kill all the weeds growing there, and not hurt the canola crops, as long as it comes from Monsanto's special seed.

Many Canadian farmers want the special canola seeds containing Monsanto's DNA. But while farmers can buy the special seed, Monsanto keeps the rights to the DNA itself. That's what makes the seed special and that's where Monsanto makes its money.

Farmers traditionally plant their fields using seeds saved from their previous year's crop.

Just like in human beings, the DNA of seeds is passed along from generation to generation. A farmer could buy Monsanto's special seed once, then never have to pay for it again; all the benefits, without the cost.

So the problem for Monsanto is protecting its investment. In the brave new world of agriculture, it's Monsanto versus the farmer.

Farmers buying Monsanto's seed must sign a contract promising to buy fresh seed every year.

Then, they must let Monsanto inspect their fields for cheating.

Monsanto's regional director in Western Canada is Randy Christenson. He says the company has to be tough.

"We've put years, years and years of research and time into developing this technology. So for us to be able to recoup our investment, we have to be able to be paid for that, Christenson says.

Percy Schmeiser says he's never used Monsanto's seed. He saves the seeds from his own crops, then replants them in the spring.

But Monsanto investigators say they've found Monsanto DNA in Schmeiser's crops. Monsanto says Schmeiser never paid for the rights to use its DNA. Now they're suing Schmeiser for the money.

"I've been farming for fifty years, and all of the sudden I have this," Schmeisser says, "It's very upsetting and nerve wracking to have a multi-giant corporation come after you. I don't have the resources to fight this."

...

Monsanto ordered its investigators to trespass into Schmeiser's fields and collect samples.

Then Monsanto agents paid a secret visit to the company that processes Schmeiser's seeds for planting.

...

The problem is, Mother Nature has been moving DNA around for thousands of years. Monsanto's is just the latest.

"It will blow in the wind. you can't control it. you can't just say, put a fence around it and say that's where it stops. It might end up 10 miles, 20 miles," Schmeiser says.

Schmeiser is backed up by some impressive research. scientists from Agriculture Canada say wind can blow seeds or pollen between field, meaning the DNA of crops in one field often mixes with another.

Seeds or pollen can also be blown off uncovered trucks and off farm equipment.

But Monsanto seems to be saying it's up to farmers to dig out any Monsanto crops blowing into their fields. ...

But the real question is this, can Monsanto or anybody put a patent on a piece of nature?

The answer could determine who controls the future of world farming.

http://www.cbcnews.cbc.ca/cgi-bin/templates/view.cgi?/news/1999/08/12/monsanto


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Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 15:47:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-23

Mexico: Seed Companies Hauled Into Court

By Mario Osava and Gumisai Mutume

MEXICO CITY (IPS), Sep 24 - Activists from 30 countries have taken action against the world's biggest life science companies by taking them to court over the question of genetically-modified food which, they say, represents an attempt to free agriculture from the control of a few.

"The action reflects humanity's growing pre-occupation with its future," says professor Sebastian Pinheiro of the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil. "Genetically-modified crops represent an economic threat to agriculture and put humanity's survival at risk."

Spearheading the drive against big business is US biotechnology activist and head of the Foundation on Economic Trends, Jeremy Rifkin. He is leading a campaign that will see activists and farmers from Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America challenge the power of the world's most dominant genetic food engines later this year.

"Transnational companies such as Monsanto and Dupont are not worried by world hunger or the quality of life of the rest of humanity. They want power, to dominate the politics of food and are merely driven by commercial interests," says Pinheiro.

"When the lawsuit gets underway either in the United States or a foreign court it is billed to become the biggest anti-trust action in the world with the exception of the Microsoft case."

The activists claim that the likes of Monsanto, DuPont, Pioneer Hi-Bred, and Novartis are exploiting bio-technology unfairly and in such a way that they gain control of global agricultural markets.

Modified crops are protected by patents and contracts. Farmers who plant them must promise not to keep seeds for future use.

Using new bio-technologies the big corporations are attempting to extend control to the 45 percent of the world economy that is based on biological products by using a patent system designed for machines and making it work with plants and animals, activists say.


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Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 15:47:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-23

New Book: "Beyond Evolution"

BEYOND EVOLUTION, by Dr. Michael W. Fox, has just been published. (Lyons Press, 212-620-9580, ext. 33)

Dr. Michael W. Fox is a professor, bioethicist, and veterinarian who has spearheaded the movement to foster the ethical treatment of animals since 1976. Dr. Fox was born in Bolton, England, earning his degree in veterinary medicine from the Royal Veterinary College and his PhD from the University of London. He has authored and published over 40 books. Besides writing and lecturing worldwide, Dr. Fox has appeared on television The Tonight Show, and he has spoken about bioethics and conscious food choices on National Public Radio, The Today Show, and National Geographic Society specials. Dr. Fox says that he wrote Beyond Evolution because "concerned consumers need to be more informed about their food sources, support public interest groups pushing for better government oversight, and above all support organic farmers and purchase organically certified food." He currently resides in Washington, DC.

This book presents the full picture of genetic engineering. Dr Fox has an incredible talent for synchronizing how this radical technology has the potential to effect the health and spirit of the ecology and her creatures. This book needs to be on the best seller list!! Laurel Hopwood

The Publishers Weekly wrote this starred review: "From bioiethicist and animal-rights activist Dr. Michael W. Fox comes an eloquent and scathing indictment of the biotechnology industry that could trigger a national debate. Whereas biotech's supporters welcome pigs bioengineered to produce human hemoglobin, transgenic plants that secrete their own insecticides and 'supercrops' that presumably will feed the world's hungry, Fox views the creation of these transgenic animals and plants (made by inserting a gene from a dissimilar organism) as fundamentally unethical and unnecessary...Blasting the FDA for its failure to implement labeling requirements, Fox warns that 'genetic pollution' is inevitable as bioengineered crops, bacteria, fish, and other organisms spread their anomalous transgenes into the Earth's life-stream. Fox's succinct book is the most cogent and persuasive to date on a global issue that, if he is right, has already reached nightmarish proportions."


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Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 15:47:48 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN9-23

Here is a review on another recent GE book

New Book: "Hazard Identification of Agriculture Biotechnology"

This book is more technical, and aimed at those wishing to analyze in detail the arguments and fallacies being used to promote GE, and analyze the potential hazards. Hazard Identification of Agriculture Biotechnology: Finding Relevant Questions by Ad van Dommelen, International Books (ISBN 90-5727-034-x)

Book Review by P. Leggat:

"This book is a must for biosafety advocates who wish to discover, and amend, the weaknesses in their arguments – in order to strengthen their position in the transgenic food controversy – and who wish to expose and counter the fallacies and disinformation that characterize the spokesbabble of the GE multinationals.

"To be fair to the intention of the book's author, Ad van Dommelen , it should be pointed out that he analyzes the context of the biosafety debate in order to move it away from misleading "artificial" controversies towards more meaningful "fundamental" controversies. At present arguments from both sides of the debate generally address different sets of questions. Therefore, Ad van Dommelen's analysis results in the formulation of "Sets of Required Questions" meant to return the debate to a more scientific framework that is necessary if policy-makers are to make properly informed decisions on bio-safety issues."


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.