Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


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16 October 99

Table of Contents

South Africa: GM on SABC-TV2 THIS FRI 29th 8am.
Website for Debate on GE food
Time Mag. doing GM public acceptance poll ...please log on and vote!!
GM: A viewpoint and news; Some good, some bad.
GM firms are sued for millions
Monsanto's Business Practice -- Percy Schmeiser speaks out
GMO-Free Livestock Feed May Be Next Biotech Issue
US: Contact your Representative about GE Labeling
It is Britain's Pre-eminent Medical Journal. Now Its Reputation Hangs on a Single Issue
Gene-Altered Food Study Fuels a Fire
FDA Suspends Gene Experiments
GM controversy intensifies
Ten Reasons why farmers should think twice before growing GE crops

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Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 08:11:41 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za

South Africa: GM on SABC-TV2 THIS FRI 29th 8am.

Dear Friends

Please note this FRIDAY morning, 29th October,

8.00am on SABC-TV, Channel 2,

AGRIFORUM 2000 will be on the topic
GENETIC ENGINEERING...thanks to Huib de Boer for passing on this info.

Videotape it if you're unable to watch it at the time... (eg those going to the Consumer Institute of South Africa's conference "Gene Technology- Food for Thought" at which Prof John Fagan author of "Genetic Enginering - the Dangers" will be speaking...011 4330152 to book)

Cheers
Glenda


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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 07:45:50 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za
From: owner-biowatch@sunsite.wits.ac.za
On Behalf Of ekogaia@iafrica.com

Website for Debate on GE food

biowatch@sunsite.wits.ac.za,

Hello Biowatch listserver

You have received a message from Glenn Ashton regarding an article on Intellectualcapital.com:

For any of you who are interested in the debate for and against GE food and Bioengineering ( and who is'nt? ) here is an excellent site to check out for the whole range of views. Compulsory viewing for scientists and industry insiders. Enjoy.

Read the full text of the article at: http://intellectualcapital.com/issues/issue312/item6924.asp

Brought to you by Intellectualcapital.com http://www.intellectualcapital.com


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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 17:21:35 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za
From: Kathleen Hiltsley khiltsley@iatp.org

Time Mag. doing GM public acceptance poll ...please log on and vote!!

Dear Friends,

Time Magazine is doing a poll on the public's acceptance of GMO foods. Please take a second to send in your vote – all it takes is two clicks!

Best wishes, Kristin Dawkins

Subject: Time poll http://www.pathfinder.com/time/daily/poll/0,2637,foodpoll,00.html

Kristin Dawkins
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy(IATP)
2105 First Avenue SouthMinneapolis, MN 55404 USA
Central tel: (612) 870-0453Direct tel: (612) 870-3410
Fax: (612) 870-4846 kdawkins@iatp.org
URL: http://www.iatp.org


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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 22:19:32 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za
From: Glenn Ashton ekogaia@iafrica.com or ecogaia@iafrica.com

GM: A viewpoint and news; Some good, some bad.

By Glenn Ashton, Green Party of South Africa

The challenges to GE in food continue around the world. However here in South Africa we see one of the major supermarkets issuing a misleading set of pamphlets on GE and food, information advised by FACS or the food advisory consumer service. They are sponsored by the Grocery Manufacturers Association or some such food group with close industry ties. The pamphlets have Unifoods and Nestle logos on the back.

The objectiveness of their reports can be openly questioned. Now a similar group of players with a closer alliance around the issue of GE is being formed in South Africa. It is to be called Africabio and comes from members of the feed and fibre associations. Their blurb goes;"The promotion and use of biotechnology and genetic engineering to increase the yield and quality of food production on a global scale, is fast becoming the topic of choice in South Africa.

It is vital that South Africans understand the current information and are fully informed about the benefits of biotechnology. To achieve this goal and to facilitate informed choice, ... . . this assoc has been formed." This all sounds like more industry support for itself. Not to mention that the USA is moving away from GE this year after the rejection of it by the EU, Japan and others. Now there will be a massive glut of GE seed to get rid of. No doubt SA is seen as a soft choice.

It also baffles that FACS is sending information to small town newspapers which is so far out of line as to be laughable. To quote from the South Western District News of17/9/99 "GM foods are a must" and then going on to say " one wonders why there is resistance to foods which provide protective factors against cancer, improve diets to enhance lower levels of cholesterol and provide good nutrition to all..........."

Maybe there is resistance because there is nothing of the sort available and even if it were it should require tests similar to those done on the medicines that can offer similar advantages. But of course no such tests are required because the foods are "substantially equivalent" to natural foods. Substantially different more like.

This above claims are also completely irresponsible because they imply that GE food already offer these advantages and that it is superior to the existing food, which is of course aberrant nonsense. Claims like this are no contribution whatsoever to the debate on the issues surrounding GE and only muddy the water.

It is high time for industry to embark in some transparent negotiation on the issue of genetic engineering in South Africa and not continue in the one sided manner that it has as above.

It has been proven time and time again that consumers who understand the issues around GE choose to be informed about GE in their food. Because most South African consumers are unable to access the information that European or Japanese consumers have, is even more reason not to simply dump such food on the people of this country. That would be socially irresponsible and morally and ethically negligent.

GE goes way beyond mere health issues and it would be morally repugnant to ignore the ramifications of promoting an untested technology on an unsuspecting populace. We cannot be allowed to become guinea pigs in this huge experiment without our consent.

It may come to the fact that we shall have to join groups such as in the story below. We have started negotiation on such matters. That we live in one of the freest countries in the world points to the fact that we can sort out the issues surrounding GE by local consensus and not have to go the litigation route. It cannot continue to be a one sided debate however and hopefully it shall soon broaden.

Glenn Ashton

Green Party of South Africa


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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 22:19:32 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za
From: Glenn Ashton ekogaia@iafrica.com or ecogaia@iafrica.com

GM firms are sued for millions

By Oliver Tickell, INDEPENDENT (London) 25 October 1999

Top laws firms in the United States and Britain are to launch a series of class actions next month in which they will demand "hundreds of millions of dollars" in damages from the principal companies involved in the production of genetically modified (GM) seeds and food crops.

Targets of the actions, which are to be taken on behalf of farmers in the United States, the European Union, Central America and India, are likely to include Monsanto, Du Pont, AstraZeneca, Novartis and Agr-Evo.

In a private meeting in London this week, American lawyers and senior partners at the British law firm Mishcon de Reya discussed the action with representatives of the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Christian Aid, the Confederation of European Small Farmers (CPE), individual farmers and farmers' organisations from the US, Panama, and India.

The first of the actions will be launched in US courts in mid-November. They will allege "anti-competitive behaviour" in the seed market, which is dominated by a small number of companies, in violation of "anti-trust" or monopoly laws. They will also cite "questionable corporate behaviour" in pushing forward the rapid introduction of GM foods in the absence of clear data to prove their safety.

"There is the question of whether there is a collusive aspect of the behaviour of the companies to co-ordinate a joint control of over the entirety of food production," said Michael Hausfeld of the Washington DC-based lawyers Cohen, Millstein, Hausfeld and Toll (CMHT), who was at the meeting.

"And there is the question of whether or not there was a concerted effort to knowingly but prematurely force the commercialisation of GM foods when there was information that the companies knew, or should have known, that the safety of the foods was inconclusive. This would include charges of possible undue influence on legislators and regulators," Mr Hausfeld said.

As well as seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation, Mr Hausfeld indicated, his clients also wished to put the deployment of GM foods on hold until their safety was scientifically proven, and to establish legal liability where farmers were burdened with unmarketable crops that were either grown from GM seed or contaminated with GM material from neighbouring fields.

One key issue will be the principle, backed by the US government, that GM foods are "substantially equivalent" to non-GM foods and consequently do not need to be tested for their safety. The idea has now been challenged by numerous scientists who say that experiments that would justify the "substantial equivalence" of GM foods have not been done.


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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 22:19:32 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za
From: Glenn Ashton ekogaia@iafrica.com or ecogaia@iafrica.com

Monsanto's Business Practice – Percy Schmeiser speaks out

by Joanne Stephenson joanne@inetex.com http://www.inetex.com/joanne

Who's Our "Man of the Hour" ? Percy Schmeiser - The Gutsy Canadian Farmer Who Dares Take on Monsanto

Speaking in an overflowing auditorium October 21, Percy Schmeiser, a farmer and Mayor of Bruno, Saskatchewan, had the attention and sympathies of 250 concerned citizens at the Harbour Towers Hotel in Victoria. Accompanied by Lynn Hunter, ex-MP for the British Columbia New Democratic Party and presently a fish aquaculture specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation, he spoke to a hushed crowd of citizens brought together by C.A.S.E.S (the Citizens Action to Save the Environment Society). CASES is the one of the best known environmental groups in Victoria, headed by veteran activists Derek and Gwen Mallard.

Mr. Schmeiser's talk was at most revealing, shocking, and anything but comical as he described measures taken by Monsanto to bring legal action against him for allegedly growing a genetically modified canola crop without ever having purchased seed, nor signing a contract. A proud farmer of 40 years whose expertise grew out of life experience while picking up tips from the customers/farmers who frequented his day job as a farm equipment dealer, Percy was darned proud of his seed.

As he tells it, in 1948, Monsanto reps came out with DDT to control wild mustard weed abundantly growing on the Prairies. The reps said that it would kill all the weeds and that's the same line being used now. Monsanto adverts suggest to "Spray 'Roundup' just before harvest" to sell more wheat, peas, and barley. By spraying on low-lying areas and hills, Roundup causes the field to evenly ripen, but also kills the germination of next year's crop.

This year, Percy had to buy new seed to replace his contaminated 1400 hundred acres.

This fall, the Barley Grower's Association refused to buy barley sprayed with Roundup. Over 1/2 the countries world-wide won't buy genetically engineered Canola. Since the Canadian Government has allowed the growing of these crops, Schmeiser asks, "Why should these (other) farmers be penalized?" for the mistakes being made on neighbouring land.

And then there's the issue of the lawsuit. He states that not only did he never attend a meeting for the purpose of purchasing seeds from Monsanto, he never purchased seed, nor signed a contract (which would have occurred at the time of purchase). He hasn't even spoken to any of their reps.

Since the big M could not bring forth a hard-copy contract as proof, they have since abandoned the claim that Schmeiser signed a contract. What they are saying, however, is that anyone caught with their seed in their crop is guilty of infringing upon their patent. And this is how they're trying to get Schmeiser.

Monsanto advertizes that genetically altered canola can be sprayed. Mr. Schmeiser says that while it may be cheaper the first year, cross-pollination from the crop increases by 30% a year, meaning four to five times as much pesticide is needed to control weeds on subsequent crops. In the end, GE crops are no bargain for farmers, many of whom now fear for their livelihood, and some, like Schmeiser, fear for their lives. (He takes an armed guard with him while traveling in his truck.)

What takes place to encourage well-meaning farmers throughout North America to consider planting such a environmentally questionable crop in the first place? Farmers are first invited to a meeting attended by an array of high-pressure salesmen. They are then told something along the lines of, "We'll sell you the seed, you sign our contract, but you must sell the seed back to us and buy it again next year."

There is a $15 "technology charge" to accompany the spiel, and for every year thereafter. After the farmer succumbs to purchase, the farmer must sign a contract stating that Monsanto has the right to tread upon their land for 3 years following to check on whether or not their seed is growing. This is done to avoid infractions and doesn't take into consideration occurances of cross-pollination.

It should also be mentioned that Monsanto has the right not only to its patented seed technology, but legally owns the plants and profits from that crop. "It doesn't matter how genetically modified seed got on anybody's land," say Schmeiser, "...they say they have the gene. They have a patent on the gene. Now, they're trying to come in the back door. They have complete control over that plant, that seed. Monsanto says, 'It's ours...' We don't have rights left!"

In Saskatchewan and Alberta, if chemical spray from a neighbouring crop pollutes adjacent land, the farmer has the right to sue. But you can't sue for genetic pollution from a genetically engineered crop.

What if a farmer is caught with patented seed? If the farmer has the unlucky experience of getting caught, he or she is fined the dollar value of the crop, plus has to sign a trade non-disclosure agreement regarding the incident. Farmers are then told to keep quiet about the infraction.

But that deal works only one way: Monsanto's way. Having been caught with his seeds in the soil, one innocent and unsuspecting farmer was caught mixing leftover GM soybean seeds with next year's crop. Someone squealed on him. It cost him his $37,000 crop. After signing the trade non-disclosure agreement and being told to keep it quiet, he was more than a little surprised to hear his name mentioned two days later in a Monsanto radio ad threatening other farmers. The company had broadcast news of the infraction for the world to hear, although he was legally bound to keep his mouth shut. At this point, the farmer's hands are tied, but Monsanto can very publicly say what they like about him.

How are these rogue farmers caught, you ask? For a time there, Monsanto had a 1-800 number in place to take calls from neighbouring farmers. Since an uproar occurred about that, they have since changed to encouraging farmers attending prospect meetings to tell on their neighbours, instead. In exchange for their telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth on their acquaintances, neighbours, and friends, Monsanto has sweetened the pot with a shiny, new, black-leather jacket. The line that accompanies the ploy goes something like, "he hasn't paid his $15 technology fee, so, you see, we're not playing on a level playing field..." Upon exchange of the info, the reward is handed out.

How do others get caught? Monsanto is said to have sent investigators onto farmers' land (without their knowledge or consent) to take a sample of the crop. One woman was surprised to see investigators at her door claiming she had stolen Monsanto's genetically altered canola seed. They desired to take a sample from her land. After being ordered off her property, a large flying entity is said to have come back a week later in the form of a helicopter tanker distributing genetically polluted seed on her land. She didn't speak out.

What of cross-pollination? Mr. Schmeiser calls GE seeds genetic pollution and weeds that destroy other crops. "GE crops are a major, major weed we will never get rid of..." he says, "How do we get rid of it? How will we get rid of it?"

When Monsanto allows rightful use of their seed by farmers, their tactics seem anything but fair. In 1996-97, the canola really flew when Roundup Ready Canola that contained a rogue seed was sown on 65,000 acres of land. Although a massive recall took place, some farmers had already seeded. A dangerous gene can get out, but did it? Monsanto found out that one farmer had 1000's of bushels of this seed still in his possession, although a good amount had already been sown. They refuse to reveal what type of gene it contained, or why they were so concerned. "They've been very secretive about it."

And now for the kicker. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has had its funding dollars cut so they don't have the necessary resources to test GE seeds, or their potential affect on natural crops. Their decisions are being based solely upon data provided by the company.

If having chemically polluted food placed in your mouth against your will is not enough, ponder this: Says Schmeiser, "They want control of the seed supply ... they get control of the food supply ... you got control of the country." Now, Monsanto is moving into water. It's time we told our politicians that enough is enough and spoke out with our own financial voice. God knows they don't need any more of our dollars.

This last post is close to home. I was enquiring about the local feed as I farm a few chickens. And yes folks most of the maize feed here is GM, imported from South America and USA. It is evidently marked when bagged but I have never seen any sign of this on my bird food. I now have to source GE free local maize. This is my choice. I am presently not able to excersise my right. Also something I would like to know is if some of my GE maize spills or is not eaten and grows what about the risks and contamination to my crops which are growing in the area? Refer above to the Canadian story. The whole issue takes on a new light. So what about GE feed for livestock? I would not choose it because my customers would not want it. GA


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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 22:19:32 +0200
From: Glenda Lindsay glenda@global.co.za
From: Glenn Ashton ekogaia@iafrica.com

GMO-Free Livestock Feed May Be Next Biotech Issue

By Emily Kaiser, October 22, 1999, Reuters

CHICAGO – As European consumers balk at food made from genetically modified crops, industry analysts were cited as saying livestock feed may be the next flash point in the debate over whether such products are safe for the environment and human consumption.

Whilst all articles are reproduced in good faith we cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or misrepresentations. Take up such issues with the originator of the article. All articles are circulated for information and 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, 15 Oct 1999 12:53:58 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Please feel free to forward this message to friends in America

US: Contact your Representative about GE Labeling

By Natural Law Party, USA

Support Federal Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods: Contact your US. Representative and Senators Today!

U.S. Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.), who was a featured speaker at the Natural Law Party's Genetic Engineering Summit in Detroit, and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) are currently circulating a very important letter among members of the U.S. House of Representatives. (A similar letter will soon reach members of the U.S. Senate.) This sign-on letter calls on the Food and Drug Administration to enforce the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by requiring mandatory labeling and safety testing of genetically engineered foods.

Rep. Bonior, the Democratic Whip in the U.S. House, is working in conjuction with 45 national organizations to support this crucial initiative. He is the only Member of Congress who was willing to accept the 500,000 petition signatures demanding mandatory labeling that were submitted to Congress earlier this year by Mothers for Natural Law of the Natural Law Party.

PLEASE URGE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND SENATORS TO SIGN ON TO THIS IMPORTANT LETTER. Just call the national Capitol switchboard toll-free at 1-888-449-3511 and ask to speak to your Representative or Senators. You can also email your Representative directly from http://www.house.gov/writerep. To obtain email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers for your Senators, just go to http://www.senate.gov and select the name of your state; you will then be able to link to your Senators' websites. (Your

Senators may not have seen the letter yet, but you can alert them to support it when it arrives.)


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Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 12:53:58 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

A lot of controversy is still brewing with respect to the research by Dr Arpad Pusztai about GE potatoes harming rats, biotech scientists opposing the conclusions and others agreeing with the conclusions. Here is one article:

It is Britain's Pre-eminent Medical Journal. Now Its Reputation Hangs on a Single Issue

INDEPENDENT (London) October 15

BRITAIN'S OLDEST medical journal faces public condemnation from the nation's most eminent body of scientists in a row about the quality of GM research in a report to be published today.

The conflict began with an experiment involving raw potatoes and laboratory rats, developed into a public scare about the safety of genetically modified food and has continued in a public slanging match between Britain's Royal Society and The Lancet journal.

The Royal Society, which was accused by The Lancet of taking a "breathtakingly arrogant" approach to GM food research, has now condemned the medical journal for publishing flawed research on GM potatoes.

Today, The Lancet finally publishes part of the experiments on GM potatoes carried out by Dr Arpad Pusztai, a scientist who was suspended last year from his position at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen for making unsupported claims about GM safety in a television documentary.

Even before the journal is officially published, a wave of disapproval from the scientific establishment has washed over its editor, Dr Richard Horton. The biggest complaint of all came from Sir Aaron Klug, a Nobel laureate, distinguished molecular biologist and president of the Royal Society. "I think it is not a good idea [to publish the study]. It gives it an authority that this paper should not have," Sir Aaron said yesterday.

Publication of the paper, written by Dr Pusztai in association with Professor Stanley Ewen of Aberdeen University, gives the study "an authenticity it does not deserve, because it will be judged by the standing and reputation of The Lancet", said Sir Aaron.

"The Royal Society would not have published this paper ... since it confirms the society's original judgement that the experiments on which the paper is based were flawed," Sir Aaron added.

Other eminent scientists and august bodies have sided with the Royal Society - Britain's de facto national academy of sciences. Professor Ray Baker, the head of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said The Lancet's decision to publish flawed research ran counter to the internationally accepted "gold standard" for presenting research results.

"At a time when the public are looking for clear and authoritative guidance from scientists on genetic modification, it is irresponsible for The Lancet to publish a paper which has been deemed unworthy of publication by referees," said Professor Baker.

"At the very least, The Lancet should make clear the views and reservations of the referees alongside the paper."

In fact, Dr Horton has written a commentary explaining that the paper has been extensively revised three times over a period of many months on the insistence of a panel of six specialist referees - a nutritionist, a human pathologist, a veterinary pathologist, an agricultural geneticist, a plant molecular biologist and a statistician.

Dr Horton says that three of the six referees recommended publication. One, the statistician, pointed out flaws that were corrected, one objected outright to publication and the other argued for publication on the grounds that not to do so would lead to accusations of a conspiracy to suppress information. This referee, however, strongly dissented from the study's conclusion, saying it was wild speculation.

Despite this referee's concerns, The Lancet has allowed Professor Ewen and Dr Pusztai to conclude that the damage they witnessed to the intestinal linings of rats fed GM potatoes might be due to the process of genetic modification. They say that other GM plants, including GM soya eaten by humans, could have a similar effect.


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Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 12:53:58 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Gene-Altered Food Study Fuels a Fire

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 1999; Page A03

The emotional debate over whether genetically engineered food is safe to eat escalated yesterday with the publication of a controversial study showing possible health problems in rats that ate gene-altered potatoes. Preliminary results of the study, which were leaked more than a year ago, have been a rallying cry for opponents of biotechnology in Europe, where there is widespread fear that gene-altered crops pose serious medical and environmental risks. This is the first time the results have been described in detail in a scientific journal.

But in a highly unusual twist, the editor of the journal has written a commentary revealing that several of the journal's own scientific reviewers considered the report to be unworthy of publication. They ultimately acquiesced, he writes, in part out of fear that biotech critics would accuse the journal of covering up a public health threat.

That confession has launched scientists into a heated discussion not only about the study results, but also about the decision to publish them.

The data are imperfect, writes Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, the London-based medical journal in which the study appears, "but at least they are now out in the open for debate. Only by welcoming that debate will the standard of public conversation about science be raised."

On the contrary, said Charles Arntzen, president of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University. "There is general scientific outrage at the Lancet for publishing data that its own reviewers rejected as unscientific. If it was anything else, like a way to prevent heart disease or cancer, they would never publish shoddy work."

The research, led by Arpad Pusztai, then at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, involved rats that were fed potatoes genetically engineered to produce an insect-repelling chemical. Pusztai and Stanley Ewen of the University of Aberdeen fed raw and boiled versions of the gene-altered potatoes to some rats; others dined on conventional potatoes that had been mixed together with the same insect-repelling compound.

Compared with the rats that were fed ordinary potatoes, those fed engineered ones for 10 days had significantly thicker intestinal walls, thinning of tissues in the large intestine and an increase in white blood cells in intestinal linings.

The researchers conclude that the gene-altering process somehow made the engineered potatoes toxic, because the insect repellent caused few problems when added to ordinary potatoes. They suspect that the rats' intestinal changes--the medical significance of which remains uncertain--may have been caused by the viruses that scientists used to get the new genes into the potatoes, or by normal potato genes that may have been disrupted when the repellent's genes were inserted.

The study is one of very few that have looked with such detail at the effects of eating genetically engineered food, but it comes with a lot of troubling baggage.

Pusztai first announced the results in August 1998 in an interview with British television--a move that made him a hero among anti-biotechnology activists but left him scorned by scientific colleagues, because the work had not been reviewed or accepted for publication. Pusztai was fired soon after.

Since then he has become something of a martyr among anti-biotech activists.

The insect repellent engineered into Pusztai's potatoes is a plant-derived compound called the snowdrop lectin. It has not been engineered into any of the approximately 40 commercial varieties of gene-altered crops that have been approved for marketing. And it is not related to the bacterially derived insect toxin that has been spliced into several approved varieties of genetically engineered corn and soybeans marketed and consumed in the United States since 1996.

In a critical commentary appearing in the same journal, Dutch researchers write that the Pusztai study involved too few rats, lacked proper controls and does not show that the intestinal changes were caused by the genetic modifications.

Even if the changes are worrisome, that's not a reason to reject the technology overall, said Libby Mikesell of the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington. "If something like this were to come through the U.S. regulatory system, . . . it would be subject to all kinds of toxicity tests and would go no further," she said.

1999 The Washington Post Company


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Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 12:53:58 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thanks to "Brian McDonald" modmac@home.com for posting this:

FDA Suspends Gene Experiments

by Kristen Philipkoski, WIRED NEWS 3:30 p.m. 11.Oct.99.PDT

In response to the death of a young man undergoing gene therapy in September, the Food and Drug Administration has ordered the suspension of two similar experiments on humans.

Researchers at genetic research company Schering-Plough in Madison, New Jersey, were told by the FDA to temporarily stop two experiments on colorectal and liver cancer patients because the tests had similarities to the therapy test that resulted in the death of 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger.

Read ongoing Med-Tech coverage

Gelsinger died suddenly of liver and other organ failure at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School four days after receiving the injection of genes. The prime suspect in Gelsinger's death is the adenovirus vector, a virus that carries a therapeutic gene into the body.

** 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: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 21:51:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

GM controversy intensifies

BBC Friday, October 15, 1999

The scientific research that was largely responsible for sparking the intense debate in the UK over the safety of genetically-modified (GM) foods has finally been published, alongside new work showing possible effects on human health.

The leading medical journal The Lancet has gone ahead and printed details of the experiments conducted by Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Stanley Ewen, despite objections from some of its own advisers who say the work is deeply flawed.

But the journal's editor, Dr Richard Horton, has justified the publication. He argues that, after the BSE crisis, the public is suspicious of the safety reassurances they get from scientists and are demanding a more open debate on GM technology.

Dr Pusztai told the BBC: "For me the important thing is that it makes the whole thing respectable again. I hope it will be a push in the right direction. We are still just talking, but [GM foods] need to be tested."

But Dr Horton insisted: "This absolutely not a vindication of Dr Pusztai's claims. But we can now draw a line under the phoney debate we have had for the last year."


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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 21:51:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Ten Reasons why farmers should think twice before growing GE crops

by E. Ann Clark, Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph aclark@plant.uoguelph.ca
http://www.oac.uoguelph.ca/www/CRSC/faculty/eac/10reasons.htm

Sections:
10 Points
Conclusions
References:

10 Points

The tide appears to be turning against GE crops, but farmers may well be the last ones to know. Many citizen and professional groups are now on record, urging everything from an outright moratorium to a slower, more reasoned approach. For example, on 2 June 99, the National Federation of Women's Institutes voted 7055 in favor vs. 368 against a 5-year ban on the growing of GE crops in the UK.

My goal today is to give you some of the agronomic reasons why farmers should think twice about growing genetically engineered crops.

  1. Do you really need what they offer in the first place? For example, Are European cornborers (Ostrinia nubilalis (Hubner) sufficiently predictable on your farm as to justify the extra expense of growing Bt hybrids as insurance? Sears and Schaafsma (1998) reported that infestations had to be high enough to cut yields by at least 5-8 bu/ac before Bt-corn was economically competitive. They further noted that conventionally-bred cornborer-resistant hybrids performed as well as Bt-hybrids under low-to-moderate cornborer infestations. Thus, unless cornborer infestation is high, you have other, less costly, options besides Bt-corn.

    Table 1. When does it pay to grow Bt-corn? (adapted from Sears and Schaafsma, 1998)
    Cornborer Infestation
    Yield Protection by Bt-Corn
    Bt-Corn Economically Justified?
    Conventionally-Bred Cornborer Resistance Sufficient?
    Low
    3-5 bu/ac
    no
    yes
    Moderate
    5-8 bu/ac
    yes
    yes
    High
    10-15 bu/ac
    yes
    no

    Transgenic solutions come with a price tag that is high, both in terms of dollars and in indirect costs (see below). Whether Bt or herbicide-resistance, be sure you can justify it economically before trying it out.

  2. How much of a yield loss can you experience and still make enough money to justify growing GE crops? And keep in mind, that if cornborer risk is high enough to justify using a Bt hybrid, then you'll also need to factor in yield loss on the 20% or more of unsprayed "refugia" set-aside that you are expected to plant to a non-Bt hybrid - without insecticidal protection..

    Contrary to what has been promised, GE crops often do not yield more and not infrequently yield less than the best available conventionally bred cultivars and hybrids. Why? Because not all genetic backgrounds within a given crop will tolerate a transgene (Particularly in corn; in soybeans, only some constructs are able to regenerate from tissue culture ), and those that will are not necessarily the highest yielding ones. Further, there is a metabolic cost to expressing herbicide-resistance or the Bt-endotoxin. So, if you were expecting a yield gain - as promised, if we are going to "feed the world" - then you may well have been disappointed. And the fault was not necessarily yours, no matter what they told you.

    A recent review of 40 soybean varietal trials in the north central region of the US by Oplinger et al. (1999) found a mean 4% yield drag in RR soybeans. Even comparing the top 5 varieties from each, RR still yielded 5% less than conventional soybeans. In Ontario, most recent data show a 1-3% mean yield drag in RR soybeans (Table 2), and keep in mind that this is relative to the trial mean - not to the highest yielding cultivars. However, the soybean breeder advises that the yield gap is closing. Nonetheless, there is a cost to the crop from expressing the genes for Roundup resistance, and it manifests itself in lower yields.

    Table 2. Two-year mean yields of Roundup Ready soybean cultivars (n=8) (% of trial mean yield, n=57 cultivars) adapted to the 2900-3300 heat unit zone (from 1999 Report Ontario Soybean Variety Trials, Table 4)
    Variety Designation
    Clay Soil
    Loam Soil
    Proprietor
    Dutton
    Inwood
    Ridgetown
    Talbotville
    AG1901
    100
    99
    96
    102
    Cargill
    AG2101
    102
    99
    100
    104
    First Line
    PS86RR
    102
    98
    96
    99
    Pride
    S20-B9
    91
    94
    93
    90
    Novartis
    RR Renown
    99
    98
    95
    102
    Hyland
    AG2301
    95
    100
    100
    95
    First Line
    3101R
    93
    96
    103
    99
    First Line
    MEAN
    97
    98
    98
    99
    bu/ac
    52.3
    54.3
    62.9
    62.1

  3. When are they going to get it right? The evolution of pest resistance to Bt is a foregone conclusion, as virtually everybody will admit. Pesticidal plants like Bt-corn are no different than DDT or atrazine - insects and diseases, and to a lesser extent weeds, are extremely well adapted to evolve resistance whenever faced with a powerful and efficient "screen" - like tens of millions of hectares of cropland all expressing the same toxin.

    The only source of contention among scientists is "when" and how to delay resistance. The high dose/refugia model which has been widely promoted by both industry and government proponents was supposed to be the best available strategy to forestall resistance, but you may have noticed that the size of the recommended set-aside has increased just about every year. When Bt hybrids first came out, producers were told to hold back a 5% refugia (to plant to a non-Bt hybrid). Then it was 10%, and now it is most commonly recommended as 20% (plan submitted to the US EPA by Monsanto, Mycogen, Dow Agrosciences, Novartis, and Pioneer Hi-Bred; AgNews, 23 Apr 99; also by the Bt Corn Coalition to the Plant Biotechnology Office of the CFIA in October 1998), although some are calling for 40%. Why the confusion? Why is the figure changing - and always upwards?

    The confusion is caused because those promoting refugia as the best solution have not done their homework. This is a clear example of a general and pervasive problem with agricultural biotechnology - namely, technology has preceded science. Ag biotech has been released prematurely, for reasons of profit, before the scientific evidence has been developed. Proponents, and the researchers in their employ, did not take the time to answer some of the key questions regarding the effectiveness of refugia in restricting evolution of cornborer resistance.

    And unfortunately for proponents of this model, many of these untested assumptions have now been challenged by recent research published in the most prestigious journals. What we now know is that the high dose/refugia model is unlikely to work, at least for cornborer.

    Table 3. Key assumptions of the "high dose-refugia" model of resistance management.
    No.
    Assumption
    Evidence to the Contrary
    1 Major resistance genes must be very rare In diamondback moth, one of eight species that have already evolved resistance to Bt, Tabashnik et al. (1997) showed that resistance is not rare - its actually 10X higher than the highest previous estimate
    2. Resistance genes must be nearly recessive According to Huang et al. (1999), resistance in ECB is dominant, while in other pest lepidopteran species, resistance varies from recessive to incompletely dominant. Furthermore, resistance varies not only among species, but also among types of Bt endotoxins, e.g. CryIAc, CryIAb, CryIIA
    3. Non-Bt refuges must provide susceptible pests to mate with resistant ones; requires random mating and suitable dispersal distances Cornborers consuming Bt (and living) typically suffer delayed development, which causes them to reach reproductive maturity out of phase with their neighbors in the refugia. They won't be able to mate anyway.

  4. Do the GE crops, in fact, do what is promised? Reduce production costs? Reduce pesticide applications? Increase yield? Increase profit?

    Costs and profits are a hard issue to address in the abstract, as much varies with weed and insect pest pressure and other farm-specific issues. Yield is already known to be lower - or at best, no better - than conventionally bred crops. But what about insecticide use? If you use Bt, then you don't need to use insecticides, right? And that protects both you and the environment, and that's good, right?

    Indeed, Monsanto made just such a claim in a press release dated 21 May 99, in response to recent research showing an adverse effect of Bt pollen on Monarch butterflies (see below). Monsanto stated:

    "In 1998 use of Bt insect-protected corn reduced or eliminated the use of broad spectrum chemical insecticides on some 15 million acres of US farmland".

    Now, that would be a pretty impressive achievement, if it were true. So, let's see - some 71.4 million acres of corn were grown in the US in 1998, and data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service http://www.usda.gov/nass/pubs/rptscal.htm courtesy Chuck Benbrook, personal communication) shows

    First, only a tiny fraction of corn acreage is treated with insecticides at all (Table 4).

    Second, most insecticides are used for rootworms and soil insects, not European cornborer (ECB, the target of Bt-corn).

    Thus, based on the known target organism of the applied insecticides (Table 4), at best Bt-corn could have reduced insecticide usage on 1-2% of the acreage sown to corn in 1998 in the US - e.g. 0.7 to 1.4 million acres not the 15 million acres trumpeted by Monsanto). And finally, given that the purpose of the Monsanto claim was to debunk the notion that Bt pollen affected Monarch butterflies more than insecticides, note that the rootworm/soil insect insecticides are applied at planting - well before Monarch butterflies could possibly be at risk.

    Table 4. Exposing the myth of "reduced insecticide use" from growing Bt corn
    Insecticide % of 71.4 million ac treated in the US Target Pest
    bifenthrin
    2
    rootworms, soil insects
    carbofuran
    1
    ditto
    chlorethoxyfos
    1
    ditto
    cyfluthrin
    3
    ditto
    dimethoate
    1
    possibly European cornborer (ECB)
    fipronil
    1
    rootworms, soil insects
    fonofos
    1
    ditto
    lamba-cyhalothrin
    2
    some for ECB; mostly soil insects
    methyl parathion
    1
    rootworms, soil insects
    permethrin 
    2
    possibly partly for ECB
    tebupirimiphos
    3
    rootworms, soil insects
    tefluthrin
    5
    ditto
    terbufos
    6
    ditto

    Further detracting from Monsanto's claims, insecticide usage in the US agriculture has not diminished despite the increasingly prominent role of Bt-crops in the last several years. Allocating 30-50% of US crop acreage to Bt crops has not reduced use of insecticides.

    So, if GE crops don't increase yield, lower costs, increase profits, or reduce risks of insecticide use - just what is it that GE crops DO do?!

  5. How will genetic pollution, from your fields and from your neighbors' fields, compromise your ability to control weeds on your own land? The term "genetic pollution" refers to the fact that pollen moves - sometimes great distances. And when transgenic pollen moves, it carries with it transgenic traits - like herbicide resistance. Pollen of canola can move 8 km, while that of both corn and potato can move about 1 km. Gary Stringam, a professor at the University of Alberta has found that canola could out cross and produce 5-6% contaminated plants up to 400 m from the original source (MacArthur, 1998b). All of this makes it difficult to imagine how Monsanto and others can hold onto their precious genes - or for you as a farmer to avoid genetic pollution of unwanted genes - either moving to your fields from your neighbors, or to your neighbors fields from your land.

    Consider the case of Tony Huethers, who farms near Sexsmith, Alberta. In 1997, he planted two fields, separated by 30 m, to canola. On the west side, he planted Quest, a Roundup(glyphosate)-resistant cultivar, while on the east side, he planted 20 acres of Innovator, a Liberty (glufosinate)-resistant cultivar, and the rest of his 140 ac field to 45A71, a cultivar that is resistant to Pursuit (imazethapyr, an ALS inhibitor) and Odyssey.

    In spring of 1998, two applications of Roundup to the east field - the one sown in 97 to Innovator and 45A71 - killed all his weeds, except for a healthy population of blooming canola! It was apparently, and predictably, Roundup resistant canola, and was thickest near the road.

    The biotech manager for Monsanto in Saskatoon - Aaron Mitchell - said "We always expected a level of natural out cross would occur within the species", and that the source was likely native pollinators. He stated that the potential for cross pollination was already well known to seed companies and researchers, and that "farmers need to talk to their neighbors about the canola they grow" (MacArthur, 1998a).

  6. Will genetic pollution expose you to lawsuits or other legal actions by neighbors, analogous to spray drift? The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS; with a membership of 100,000) surveyed 100 chartered surveyors out of the 6,000 who specialize in rural properties (Table 5).

    Rural land managers in the UK are uneasy about the implications of growing GMO's, in such areas as land value (74%) and risk of future lawsuit (71%). More than 70% of the chartered surveyors would advise neither land owners nor tenants to grow GMO's. Almost 60% believe that growing GMO's on land would lessen its future value, and 64% think it would make it harder to sell the land in the future. A whopping 76% support a register of all land where GM crops have been grown, with 68% concluding that the register should be open to the public.

    Have we in Canada even begun to think in these terms?

    Table 5. Survey of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors specializing in rural practice, regarding attitudes toward GMO's and land valuation (June 1999)
    Issues Concerning Clients............... YES NO Undecided
    Neighbors growing GM products?
    77
    6
    17
    Effects on land values?
    74
    12
    14
    Legal implications?
    71
    14
    14
    Should there be a clause obliging tenants to notify landlords if they intend to grow GM crops?
    90
    4
    6
    Would you advise landlords to allow tenants to grow GM crops on their land?
    11
    75
    14
    Would you advise tenants to grow GM crops on their land?
    11
    73
    17
    In your opinion would the growing of GM crops affect the value of land?
    58
    16
    26
    In your opinion would the growing of GM crops on neighboring land affect the value of client land?
    43
    32
    24
    In your opinion would the previous or present growing of GM crops make land more difficult to sell?
    64
    24
    11
    Would you support the maintenance of a register of all land where GM crops have been grown?
    76
    19
    5
    Do you think such a register should be publicly available?
    68
    27
    5
    Will you ask about the GM history of a site when carrying out a valuation?
    89
    7
    4

    An article in the UK Farming News (18 June 99) notes that farmers are increasingly unwilling to grow GMO trials on their farms, specifically because of fears of legal damage claims from neighbors. One underwriting manager, Sid Gibson, reportedly advised that

    "The big unknown is where there is a risk of cross-contamination. Farmers considering growing GM crops should get their legal advisers to look at the contract very carefully. Responsibility should be with the biotech company or institution carrying out the trials."

  7. Who is responsible/liable for GE risks? In Spain, those who produce or plant GMO's are being obliged to contribute to a US $100 million insurance fund to cover environmental accidents. In other countries, disaster plans are being drawn up, complete with sterilization of large tracts of land in the event something gets out of hand.

    Did you know that the life science companies are reportedly running without catastrophic or long-term disaster insurance - partly because it cannot be calculated, but mostly because no one will insure them?

    So, where does that leave you?

  8. How will you control mosquitos when the bats are gone? The balance of nature is more than just a teaching tool for grade school students. It is reality - even in today's highly artificial agricultural environment. It has been said that the only really effective control of insects is that provided by nature, by the competition, predation, and parasitism of one organism on another. Just as killing off the wolves unleashes deer populations and allows them to skyrocket beyond the carrying capacity of their environment, so too our efforts at pest control can often have unintended side effects on other insects or microbes.

    For example, bats are an important vehicle for mosquito control in our area, but when they can't get mosquitos, they eat moths and butterflies. Now, moths and butterflies are important because they are the class or insects targeted by Bt corn - so, one unsavory side effect of Bt corn could be fewer moths and butterflies, including Monarch butterflies (Losey et al., 1999), fewer bats, and........... more mosquitos?

    Another example of an adverse effect of Bt radiating out into the wider environmental community has been reported from Switzerland and Scotland. One of the insects which normally feeds on cornborer is a beneficial called the green lacewing, which favors soft-bodied insects such as cornborer and aphids. Unfortunately, green lacewings are harmed (killed or suffer delayed development) by Bt, whether they ate it directly or after eating cornborers which had been reared on Bt corn. The same thing happened with ladybugs eating aphids which had been raised on transgenic (snowdrop lectin) potatoes.

    So - the adverse effect of these plant pesticides affects not just the target organism but beneficials, such as ladybugs and green lacewings too. And of course, this could have additional effects on natural pest control for other crop and garden pests.

  9. Is it safe to eat GE foodstuffs? The government says so, but is that enough? Consider what professionals working in the field have to say:

    1. On 17 May 99, the mainstream British Medical Association, representing 115,000 doctors, published a statement calling for an open-ended moratorium on the planting of GM crops, a ban on releasing GMOs into the environment, and a review of the World Trade Agreement to ensure that human health and safety take precedence over global trade in foodstuffs and seed (Frith and Murphy, 1999). Their specific concerns included the use of antibiotic resistant marker genes, which were regarded as posing a slight but "completely unacceptable risk" of enhancing drug-resistant bacteria. Their general call was for much greater scientific certainty about risks of GMOs.

    2. A survey of Canadian dieticians shows a pronounced unwillingness to trust biotech proponents to provide unbiased information on food safety issues (Sheeshka, 1999)

    3. Transgenic DNA can survive long enough in the gut to transfer genes into intestinal microflora. Because almost all commercial GE crops are bred using antibiotic resistance genes as a marker (this is unrelated to the agricultural use, just part of the breeding process), this means that consuming GE foodstuffs can allow genes for antibiotic resistance to move into the E. coli and other microbes that are naturally present in your stomach, or that of your child.

    Plasmids, which are a special kind of vector commonly used to insert transgenes into chromosomes, have been tracked not just in the stomach of rats, but across the intestinal wall and into the nuclei of rat cells. Even more alarming, these same plasmids have been followed across the placental barrier and into the nuclei of embryonic rats in utero. This gives new meaning to the phrase that "you are what you eat"!

    Do we actually know enough to be able to state with confidence that the food is safe? Are we asking the right questions?

  10. Who is going to buy your grain, and how confident are you of demand for GE grains(or meat or milk) this fall?

    Even locally, concern is growing among consumers about the implications of growing GE foodstuffs. For example, in an 18 June 1999 Corner Post commentary, Elbert van Donkersgoed questioned the use of some kinds of biotechnology on the farm. While noting the potentials, he emphasized also the risks, even going so far as to state that "disaster is possible".

    He contrasted Integrated Pest Management with biotechnology, noting that IPM requires monitoring of pest populations before deciding to spray - essentially, "knowing what we are doing" before we do it. Conversely, the biotech equivalent is Bt-crops which synthesize a plant pesticide in every cell of every plant, throughout the season, irregardless of pest populations. He states that IPM is "essential to the overall credibility of the use of pesticides in agriculture. Some biotechnology is eroding that credibility."

    And then, there is the export risk. Did you know that Canadian canola growers lost $30 million in export sales to Europe in 1998 alone, because consumers refused to accept GE canola oil? Japan is not far behind.

    This spring (Reuters, 20 April99), Cargill and ADM announced that they would not buy unapproved GMO corn, that is corn hybrids that are acceptable to European buyers. Roundup Ready and Liberty Link corn hybrids are disallowed. I'm told that some elevators in Ontario are already declining to accept any GMO grain, because they won't be able to sell it in Europe.

    Just this week, major supermarket chains in the UK have begun to pull off the shelves meat products that could have been produced from GMO grains.

    In short, demand for GMO grain and products, or livestock produced from GMO grains, is rapidly drying up. The high-handed behavior of the US, Canada, Australia, and three South American nations in refusing to sign the Biosafety Protocol at Cartagena, Colombia this winter is beginning to look short-sighted. As acknowledged even by Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture in the US, you cannot force people to eat something they don't want to eat.

Conclusions

So, when deciding whether or not to grow GE crops next year, I'd encourage you to consider:

  1. Do you really need what they offer, and is GE the best way to deal with it, given the likelihood of higher costs and lower yields?

  2. Be very aware of insurance/liability risks from neighboring farmers (for genetic pollution), environmentalists (for Monarch butterflies and other issues), and consumers (for food safety).

  3. Don't assume that because it is in the marketplace, that it is "safe", has been tested for "environmental risk" (a la Monarch butterflies), or is necessarily in your best interests. Government is not asking the right questions. Trade interests are taking precedence over the interests of producers, consumers, or the environment. The world doesn't want our grain. Don't get caught in the middle.

  4. Only industry data stands between you and potential risks from genetically engineered crops. Are you willing to entrust these companies with this responsibility?

References:

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


Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.