Genetically
 Manipulated 


 

 
 
 Food


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19 October 99

Table of Contents

Government wants to keep BST Moratorium.
Australia shrinks from GM crops
GM free feed cannot meet rising demand.
Japan: Furor Over Gene-altered Food Products
The Hazards of Genetically-engineered Foods
Scientist is calling for a moratorium on GE foods
Cosmetic Change: Campaign For GMOs To Be Removed;
US Grain Group Urges Firms to Create GM-crop Tests
Thailand to Declare GMO-free Zones
Rules on Genetically Modified Products Adopted in Russia
GE Driven By Investors
Is This Why Pusztai's Research Had To Be Suppressed?
Substantial Equivalence
Thailand To Ban Altered Seeds
GM Safety Scientist Elated At Publication
Genetically altered food gets `free ride':
Prices of U.S.-grown soybean futures plunging
How safe is safe ?
Monsanto: Peace offering
Playing with food could kill us
SoyaWorld launches program to certify use of non-genetically modified soy
Mr. Suzuki Warns Of "frankenstein Foods"
Lectin Research - Pusztai And Others
FDA seeks comments on biotech foods
Unlabeled, Untestedi And You're Eating It.

Top NextFront Page

Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 22:03:26 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Government wants to keep BST Moratorium.

Farmer's Guardian. (UK), Oct 15th 99.

The government has asked for the EU moratorium on ther milk booster BST to be extended beyond the end of this year.

The Government to the step following advice from the Veterinary Products Committee on the latest scientific information relating to BST.

It was asked in May to consider the latest scientific information on both the human and animal safety aspects of BST and advise the government in preparation for the review of the EU's moratorium in Brussels in December.

The VPC had concluded that the treatment of dairy cows with BST, which is widely used in the US and Canada to boost milk production, was associated with with welfare problems, notably decreased decresed body condition, an incresed instance of mastitis, lameness and injection site lesions.

It also concluded the risk to human health from drinking milk from BST treated cows, although extremely small, could not be ruled out entirely in further studies.

The UK carried out 10 herd trials in 1986, which lasted up to a year, before the Conservative Government imposed a moratorium in 1993. Agriculture Minister of State Baroness Hayman said she had accepted the VPC'S advice. Tome Hind, NFU's assistant dairy advisor, said the union's milk committee had voted unanimously against the lifting of the moratorium in Feb 99 and had since lobbied Government on the issue.

Mr Hind welcomed the move saying that there was evidence that use of BST led to increased examples of mastitis and a rise in antibiotic resistance among dairy cows, a weakening in bone structure and an overall decrease in animal health.

All 15 member states are likely to vote against the lifting of the moratorium, which will be a further blow to Monsanto, which wants to market the product in Europe. It is used in about thirty percent of herds in the US, but there are signs of increasing resistance to it's use among US consumers.

"Consumer's perception of BST is nil and the dairy industry could ill afford another food scare; added Mr Hind.

The Union held talks with Monsanto in June, at which the life science company admitted it was unlikely the moratorium would be lifted in the light of increasing consumer mistrust. Anita Bourne, National Dairy Council spokeswoman, said the Dairy industry has been campaigning to keep the ban on animal welfare grounds."Dairy cows have to work hard enough as it is without BST.

Eiffion Evans, British Vet Association president, said there was considerable evidence that BST led to animal welfare problems in dairy cows


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 22:03:26 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Australia shrinks from GM crops

By Michael Byrnes

SYDNEY, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Australia's A$22 billion ($14.3 billion) farm export industry, which serves up a big helping of the world's traded food, is wary of rushing into genetically modified (GM) crops and risking a consumer backlash. Items declared off the GM list for now are ingredients for a wide range of foodstuffs from bread to beer to cooking oil – and include sugar, wheat, barley and canola.


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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 22:03:26 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

GM free feed cannot meet rising demand.

The Farmer's Guardian Oct 15th 99.

There is insufficient non-genetically modified soya or derived products available on the international market to met growing demand for GM free animal feed, according to NFU's Dr Vernon Barber.


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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 22:03:26 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Japan: Furor Over Gene-altered Food Products

OTC 14.10.99 20:04

TOKYO, (Oct. 14) IPS - The humble soybean, a staple in the Japanese diet, is at the center of a ferocious debate on the safety of genetically modified (GM) food and is turning out to be the catalyst for a much-needed attitude change in Japan. As more and more people join a movement to reject GM soy beans, mostly imports from the United States, activists say Japanese companies are beginning to acknowledge consumer needs over business profits.

A telling illustration of this important change is the setting up of separate sections at supermarkets, despite not being required by government, that segregates soy products, such as tofu and sauces, made with imported GM soybeans, and those that claim to use only the local variety. It is an important development for Japan's consumer organizations that have spearheaded opposition to imports of bio-engineered foods and have been calling for better food safety and increased food self-sufficiency in Japan.


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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 1999 22:03:26 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

The following is an edited text of a talk presented to The National Council of Women of Great Britain Symposium on Food: Facts, Fallacies and Fears, 22 March 1996, Darlington.

Dr Mae-Wan Ho is a Professor and Director , Bioelectrodynamics Laboratory, Department of Biology, Open University, United Kingdom.

The Hazards of Genetically-engineered Foods

Here is an article by Dr Mae-Wan Ho which is at the website
http://www.twnside.org.sg/souths/twn/title/mae-cn.htm

Sections:
New source of diseases
Built-into hazards
Vectors, the real danger
Antibiotic resistance
A potentially greater danger
Are transgenic foods safe to eat?
Summary of Hazards of transgenic foods

New source of diseases

With the release of genetically-engineered food on to the world market, a new source of diseases has emerged. Dr Mae-Wan Ho explains why such foods are unsafe.

I was, for some time, a molecular geneticist and taught the subject for the Open University until seven years ago when I changed my field of research, just as commercial gene biotechnology was taking over the subject. I began to review the literature again in 1994 as a member of an international group of scientists helping the non-government organisation, Third World Network, assess UN policy on gene biotechology. We produced a Scientists' Statement on what we perceived to be the ecological, socio-economic and health hazards of gene biotechnology, calling for a moratorium on commercial releases of transgenic organisms and immediate action on establishing legally binding international biosafety regulation.

A number of us also put together an independent experts' report on biosafety last year after we lost confidence in the official UN experts' report. Apart from the hazards, there are also many global ethical issues, including the patenting of life and the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples, which are dealt with elsewhere.

Today, I shall concentrate on genetically engineered foods. By that, I include both food produced with genetically-engineered additives, and transgenic food plants and animals such as the Flavr Savr tomato and Zeneca's tomato puree which is now on the shelves in Safeway and Sainsbury, and animals such as the transgenic salmon produced in Canada and now reared in Scotland. I am particularly concerned about transgenic foods though genetically- engineered food additives are already problems by themselves, like Bovine somstotropin (Bst) milk featured in the last issue of The Splice of Life.

Built-into hazards

My thesis is that the hazards of transgenic foods are built into the technology, and that new evidence confirms this, suggesting that transgenic foods are neither safe to grow nor safe to eat. Therefore, there is no case for relaxing existing, already inadequate, guidelines for environmental releases of transgenic organisms, and for marketing transgenic foods. On the contrary, a moratorium on both environmental releases of transgenic organisms and marketing of transgenic foods should be imposed as a precautionary measure until the evidence can be fully assessed, and appropriate legally binding biosafety regulations firmly established.

Genetic engineering bypasses conventional breeding by using artificially constructed parasitic genetic elements as vectors to carry and smuggle genes into cells. Once inside cells, these vector slot themselves into the host genome. In this way, transgenic organisms are made carrying the desired transgenes. The most common vectors are a mosaic recombination of natural genetic parasites from different sources, including viruses causing cancers and other diseases in animals and plants, and tagged with one or more antibiotic resistance 'marker' genes.

Unlike natural parasitic genetic elements which have various degrees of host specificity, vectors used in genetic engineering are designed to overcome species barriers, and can therefore infect a wide range of species. Critics have warned that these vectors in the transgenic organisms constitute major sources of genetic pollution with drastic ecological and public health hazards that cannot be contained, once the transgenic organisms are released into the environment.

Genetic engineering is also known as recombinant DNA or rDNA technology, as it uses enzymes to cut and join, and therefore recombine genetic material from different sources. Let me summarise why rDNA technology differs radically from conventional breeding methods.

  1. rDNA technology recombines genetic material in the laboratory between species that have very little probability of exchanging genes otherwise.

  2. While conventional breeding methods shuffle different forms (alleles) of the same genes, rDNA technology enables completely new (exotic) genes to be introduced with unpredictable effects on the physiology and biochemistry of the transgenic organism. The insertion of foreign genes into the host genome is known to have many harmful and fatal effects including cancer.

  3. Gene transfers are mediated by vectors which have three undesirable characteristics:

    1. they are derived from disease-causing viruses, plasmids and mobile genetic elements - parasitic DNA that have the ability to invade cells and insert themselves into the cell's genome. In plant genetic engineering, the vector most widely used is derived from a tumour-inducing plasmid carried by the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. In animals, the most common vectors are constructed from retroviruses which are known to cause cancers and other diseases.

    2. they are designed to breakdown species barriers so that they can shuttle genes between a wide range of species. Their wide host range means that they can infect many animals and in the process pick up genes from viruses of all these species to create new pathogens. Thus, a vector currently used in fish has a framework from the Moloney murine leukaemic virus, which causes leukaemia in mice, but can infect all mammalian cells. It has bits from The Rous Sarcoma virus, causing sarcomas in chickens, and from the vesicular stomatitis virus, causing oral lesions in cattle, horses, pigs and humans.

    3. they carry genes for antibiotic resistance. This will speed up the evolution of antibiotic resistance which is already a big public health problem.

Vectors, the real danger

The vectors for gene transfer are where most of the dangers lie. Unlike ordinary pieces of DNA, they are resistant to enzymic degradation, and can survive indefinitely and independently in the environment where they infect cells, multiply in them, and jump in and out of their genomes.

Much of the current concern regarding the health hazard of transgenic foods centres on toxicity or allergies from the exotic gene, while the ecological hazards are focussed on the secondary gene transfer by conventional hybridisation of transgenic plants with weedy relatives. The role of vector-mediated horizontal gene transfer by infection has been down-played or ignored in current guidelines, and is not generally monitored in field releases. This is most unfortunate in view of the rapid advances in genetics within the past 20 years, which so radically alters the subject that it is legitimate to contrast the old, pre-rDNA genetics with the new post-rDNA genetics.

I shall focus on the last feature, horizontal gene transfer, which was known to be widespread among bacteria and viruses for at least 20 years. Microbes are completely promiscuous in their mating (conjugation). Moreover, a host of parasitic DNA can ferry genes across during the mating process, or independently by transduction, and bits of DNA can also be directly taken up from the environment by transformation. The parasitic genetic elements can jump between cells, slot in and out of the genome, multiply in cells, and exist in a dormant state almost indefinitely in the environment. As they slot in and out of genomes, they disrupt gene function and also take with them genes of the cell or leave other previously acquired genes behind.

There are three kinds of parasitic elements - viruses, plasmids and mobile genetic elements - mosaics of all of them currently employed to transfer genes in transgenic technology. Viruses are probably the most infectious as they do not require cell-to-cell contact for infection and can persist in the environment indefinitely. Plasmids and mobile genetic elements are generally exchanged by cell-to- cell contact during conjugation or when one cell ingests (or phagocytoses) another.

For a long time, geneticists supposed that horizontal gene transfers did not involve higher organisms, and certainly not organisms like ourselves, because there are genetic barriers between species and viruses and other genetic parasites are species-specific. After all, genetic engineering involves constructing mosaic vectors to overcome those barriers so that genes can be ferried across kingdoms of organisms.

Within the past two years, however, the full scope of horizontal gene transfer is slowly coming to light. I have done a computer search under 'horizontal gene transfer' and came up with 68 references published in prestigious journals between 1993 and 1996, all but one giving direct or indirect evidence of horizontal gene transfers.

Transfers occur between very different bacteria, between fungi, between bacteria and protozoa, between bacteria and higher plants and animals, between fungi and plants, between insects... in short, as one paper states,'The threat of horizontal gene transfer from recombinant organisms to indigenous ones is..very real and mechanisms exist whereby, at least theoretically, any genetically engineered trait can be transferred to any prokaryotic organism and many eukaryotic ones.' If you follow those arrows, you will realise how a gene transferred to any species in a vector can reach every other species on earth, the microbial/viral pool providing the main genetic thoroughfare.

It must be stressed that although horizontal gene transfers have occurred in our evolutionary past, they were relatively rare events among multicellular plants and animals. However, horizontal gene transfer is now made much more likely because the vectors constructed for genetic engineering are designed to infect a wide range of host cells.

Antibiotic resistance

Among those 68 references are documentations for the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance genes carried on plasmids among bacterial populations. As you know, multi-drug antibiotic resistance is already endemic in many UK hospitals. The transgenic tomatoes currently marketed here and the US both carry genes for kanamycin resistance. Kanamycin is widely used to treat tuberculosis which is coming back all over the world including Europe. The single reference which dismisses horizontal gene transfer is a review produced by the staff of Calgene, assuring us that the kanamycin resistance gene used in the Calgene transgenic tomato is completely safe.

As pathogens become antibiotic resistant they also exchange and recombine virulence genes by horizontal gene transfer thereby generating new virulent strains of bacteria and mycoplasm. This has been shown for Vibrio cholerae involved in the new pandemic cholera outbreak in India, Streptococcus involved in the world-wide increase in frequency of severe infections including the epidemic in Tayside Scotland in 1993, and Mycoplasma-genitalium , implicated in urethritis, pneumonia, arthritis, and AIDS progression.

Horizontal gene transfers have been directly demonstrated between bacteria in the marine environment , in the freshwater environment and in the soil. The aquatic environments are known to contain some 108 or more virus particles per millilitre, all capable of transferring genes, of helping endogenous 'crippled' vectors move and recombining with them to generate new viruses. Transfer of transgenes have been experimentally demonstrated from potato to a bacterial pathogen, and between transgenic plants and soil fungi.

Transgenic organisms now include all major crop-plants, engineered to be resistant to herbicides, or to insect pests with transgenes producing a bacterial poison, the Bt toxin, which unfortunately, also attacks many non-pest species. Field trials have shown that herbicide resistance transgenes can spread to weedy relatives within a single growing season, while Bt resistance evolved rapidly among major insect pests due to the continuous presence of Bt toxin in the transgenic plants. Ecologists such as Jane Rissler and Margaret Mellon who have opposed the release of transgenic organisms since the 1980s, have predicted those ecological effects .

A potentially greater danger

A potentially even greater danger lies in the vector-mediated gene transfer, as recent evidence suggests. An obvious route for the vectors to spread - which is not adequately taken into account in existing guidelines - is by infecting the teeming microbial populations in the soil, where transgenic plants are grown, and in aquatic environments, where transgenic fish and shellfish are currently being developed for marketing. These microbial populations form large reservoirs supporting the multiplication of the vectors, enabling them to spread to all other species. There will also be ample opportunity for the genetic elements to recombine with other viruses and bacteria to generate new genetic elements and pathogenic strains of bacteria and viruses, which will, at the same time, be antibiotic resistant.

Another major class of transgenic plants is now engineered for resistance to viral diseases by incorporating the gene for the virus' coat protein. Viruses are notoriously rapid in their mutation rate. They play a large role in horizontal gene transfer between bacteria and also exchange genes among themselves thus increasing their host range. Molecular geneticists have expressed concerns that transgenic crops engineered to be resistant to viral diseases might generate new diseases by recombination. In a study to test this possibility, Nicotiana benthamiana plants expressing a segment of a cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) gene were inoculated with a mutant CCMV missing that gene. The infectious virus was indeed regenerated by recombination. As plant cells are frequently infected with several viruses, recombination events will occur and new and more virulent strains can be generated.

Are transgenic foods safe to eat?

In the light of our new knowledge, one must also ask whether transgenic foods are safe to eat. Although natural viruses and other parasitic genetic elements are to varying degrees specific in the range of host cells they will infect or multiply in, current transgenic vectors are designed to overcome species barriers so that they are much more likely to infect a wide range of hosts. In a study to test for the ability of bacterial viruses and plasmids to infect mammalian cells, it was found that plasmids of E. coli carrying the complete poliovirus can be transferred to mammalian cells and the polioviruses recovered from the cells, even though no eukaryotic signals for reading the genes are contained in the plasmid.

In the same paper, the authors review experimental observations made since the 1970s that the lambda phage of bacteria, and the baculovirus, supposedly specific for insect cells, are also efficiently taken up by mammalian cells; and in the case of the baculovirus, transported to the cell nucleus. Similarly, E.coli plasmids carrying the complete Simian virus (SV40) genome were also taken up simply by exposing the cell culture to a bacterial suspension. Mammalian cells accept these foreign DNA parasites so well because they phagocytose bacteria and viral particles directly.

It has long been assumed that our gut is full of enzymes which can digest DNA. However, genes carried by vectors are especially resistant to enzyme action, and are much more infectious than ordinary bits of DNA. In a study designed to test the survival of viral DNA in the gut, mice were fed DNA from a bacterial virus, and large fragments were found to survive passage through the gut and to enter the bloodstream. Within the gut, vectors carrying antibiotic resistance will be taken up by the gut bacteria, which would then serve as a reservoir of antibiotic resistance for invading pathogenic bacteria.

The rapid spread of antibiotic resistance markers has been documented in a long-term study carried out in Eastern Germany. In 1982, streptothricin was administered to pigs. By 1983, plasmids encoding streptothricin resistance were found in the pig gut bacteria. This has spread to the gut bacteria of farmworkers and their family members by 1984, and to the general public and pathological strains of bacteria the following year. The antibiotic was withdrawn in 1990. Yet the prevalence of the resistance plasmid has remained high when monitored in 1993, confirming the ability of microbial populations to serve as stable reservoirs for horizontral gene transfer and recombination.

Bacteria and viruses are also known to survive indefinitely in dormant form as biofilms in the body and in the environment, when they accumulate new mutations to come back with a vengeance.

Let me end by summarising the hazards from transgenic foods.

Summary of Hazards of transgenic foods

  1. Toxic or allergenic effects due to transgene products or products from interactions with host genes. I just got news via the network that a study published in the latest New England J. of Medicine found that genes transplanted from Brazil nuts to soybeans include the allergenic protein, and the biotech company involved had to drop the project.

  2. Spread of transgenes to related weed species, creating superweeds (e.g. herbicide resistance.)

  3. Vector-mediated horizontal gene transfer to unrelated species, creating many weed species.

  4. Vector-mediated horizontal gene transfer and recombination to create new pathogenic bacteria.

  5. Vector recombination to generate new virulent strains of viruses, especially in transgenic plants engineered for viral resistance with viral genes.

  6. Vector-mediated spread of antibiotic resistance to bacteria in the environment, greatly exacerbating an already existing public health problem.

  7. Vector-mediated spread of antibiotic resistance to gut bacteria and to pathogens.

  8. Vector-mediated infection of cells after ingestion of transgenic foods. The vector can regenerate disease viruses or insert itself into the cell's genome, disrupting gene function and causing cancer.

  9. The vectors carrying the transgene, unlike chemical pollution, are self-perpetuating, and self-amplifying. Once let loose, they are impossible to control or recall.

I hope this helps to convince you that there is no case for relaxing existing, already inadequate, guidelines for environmental releases of transgenic organisms, and for marketing transgenic foods. On the contrary, a moratorium on both environmental releases of transgenic organisms and marketing of transgenic foods should be imposed on the precautionary principle, until the possibility of vector-mediated horizontal gene transfer and its consequence on biodiversity, agriculture and human health can be fully assessed, and appropriate legally binding biosafety regulations firmly established.

The above is an edited text of a talk presented to The National Council of Women of Great Britain Symposium on Food: Facts, Fallacies and Fears, 22 March 1996, Darlington.

Dr Mae-Wan Ho is a Professor and Director , Bioelectrodynamics Laboratory, Department of Biology, Open University, United Kingdom.

For reasons of space the endnotes supplied with the above article have been omitted. Readers interested in the complete article can contact the editor of Third World Resurgence for a copy.

Southside TWN CAP PAN

** 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: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Scientist is calling for a moratorium on GE foods

CBC Newsworld Online, WebPosted Sun Oct 17 1999

TORONTO - Scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki is calling for a moratorium on genetically altered foods, saying Canadians have become unwitting guinea pigs in a countrywide study.

At the Canadian Health Food Association conference in Toronto on Sunday, Suzuki also said there should be mandatory labelling on products so consumers know what they're eating. Some studies suggest that 70 per cent of food sold in Canadian supermarkets is genetically altered. But there are few rules about the way the products are produced and packaged.

Politicians and scientists who tell you genetically altered food is safe are either lying or very stupid, Suzuki said.

He said it will be decades before conclusions can be made about whether the products are harmful, and by then millions of Canadians will have been exposed.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Cosmetic Change: Campaign For GMOs To Be Removed;

By Margaret Mallon
Scottish Daily Record & Sunday Mail Ltd. Daily Record
October 13, 1999, Wednesday

CONSUMER fears over genetically-modified crops have already forced many food suppliers to ban so-called Frankenstein foods. Now concerns over GM crops have reached the lucrative cosmetics industry. Soya and maize - the main mutant plants licensed for use in food - are also used in a huge number of beauty products. Derivatives are included in expensive moisturisers, powder compacts, eye shadow, anti- ageing cream and lipsticks.

One of the key concerns is the routine inclusion of antibiotic genes in genetically-altered crops, which might get into cosmetics. Doctors have warned that it becomes more difficult to treat infections in people who are routinely exposed to antibiotics and there are also concerns about unforeseen allergic reactions. The European Commission is currently investigating the use of GM derived ingredients in all products - food and cosmetics.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

US Grain Group Urges Firms to Create GM-crop Tests

WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - The National Grain and Feed Association on Wednesday said seed companies should develop efficient, low-cost tests to enable grain handlers and processors to detect genetically modified (GM) commodities.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thailand to Declare GMO-free Zones

Japan Economic Newswire, BANGKOK, Sept. 27 Kyodo

Thailand will establish agricultural zones declared free of genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) in a bid to promote exports, a senior government official said Monday.

'Agricultural products from GMO-free zones exported to foreign markets will be guaranteed by Thai authorities as GMO-free,' said Newin Chidchob, deputy agriculture minister... 'We have no policy of allowing trading in modified food in Thailand. GMO plants are banned from import, except for study and research, and we never produce and export such food,' Newin said. The authorities will announce certain agricultural areas where the whole process of agricultural production – from seed to harvest – is controlled, he said, noting the zone will be expanded until the entire nation is declared GMO-free.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Rules on Genetically Modified Products Adopted in Russia

By Anna Bazhenova, ITAR-TASS News Agency TASS
Moscow, October 5, 1999, Tuesday -07:01 Eastern Time

A new document on control over the sale of products, obtained on the basis of genetically modified sources, has been signed by Russian Chief Health Officer Gennadi Onishchenko. Under the document, all the legal entities and natural persons purchasing and selling genetically modified farm produce and medicinal preparations will have to include information on genetically modified sources in the transportation documents, starting from January 1, 2000. The sale to the population of foodstuffs and medicinal preparations, obtained from genetically modified sources, without special marking on the package will be banned, starting from July 1, 2000.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

thanks to Luke Anderson for this

GE Driven By Investors

The Editor of the Lancet (Richard Horton) from Channel 4 news, Friday 15th October

"There are extreme forces at play in this debate. There is agreat deal of potential research investment in the UK that could come from food technology industries and any concerns about the safety of these foods could jeapordise this huge investment. So I can understand why scientists would be very anxious about jeapordising that investment. But we need to listen to what the public are saying. And the public are saying please, take it slow."


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Is This Why Pusztai's Research Had To Be Suppressed?

(Thanks to Jonathan mail@icsenglish.com for this summary):

The Lancet has finally published the experiments conducted by Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Stanley Ewen which found rats fed on GM potatoes suffered stomach and intestine damage.

The final paragraph alone may explain why there has been such desperation to prevent publication:

"The possibility that a plant vector in common use in some GM plants can affect the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract and exert powerful biological effects may also apply to GM plants containing similar constructs, particularly those containing lectins, such as soya beans or any plants expressing lectin genes or transgenes."

The 2 main GE crops for human consumption are Bt-corn and soya. Bt is a lectin and soya contains lectins. In other words Pusztai identify the 2 main GM crops as being of particular concern in the light of their research.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

[shortened - thanks to Caroline Clarke for transcribing this and to to Jonathan mail@icsenglish.com for posting this:

Substantial Equivalence

Channel 4 News - Thursday 7 October 1999

Andrew Veitch reported that the soya beans being shown had been engineered by Monsanto to survive spraying with the company's weedkiller Roundup. They are planted on millions of acres in the States, and they have to be sprayed with Roundup under an agreement with Monsanto.

Yet the British Government1s safety advisers never evaluated beans sprayed with Roundup. They approved (GM) soya beans which had not been sprayed. Scientists claim that the system is fundamentally flawed and fails to protect the consumer.

Dr. Erik Millstone (Sussex University):
'The beans that are being introduced into the British food supply are not the ones that have been evaluated, are chemically different from the ones that have been evaluated, and may have significant impact on human consumers.'

He says consumers cannot be confident of the safety of foods containing GM soya - like bread and margarine - until scientists have tested them on laboratory animals. They look for damage to the immune system and symptoms that might lead to cancer.

"The issues have simply not been addressed and I think that's what is profoundly unsatisfactory. The fundamental problem of the way in which GM foods have been approved is that they haven't really been tested properly at all. All that's happened is something which I would characterise as an exercise in wishful thinking."


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Thailand To Ban Altered Seeds

The Associated Press Monday, Oct. 18, 1999; 10:20 a.m. EDT BANGKOK, Thailand
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/19991018/aponline102040_000.htm

Thailand will ban imports of seeds derived from genetically modified organisms pending clear scientific proof they are safe, Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi said Monday.

Thailand, the world's number-one rice exporter and a major producer of other foods for export, has become increasingly edgy over mounting concernsabout the safety of genetically modified foods.

Fears reached new levels last week when a shipment of genetically modified wheat believed to be from the United States was reported to have arrived in Thailand without authorization.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

GM Safety Scientist Elated At Publication

By Patricia Reaney, 10/17/99

LONDON (Reuters) - The scientist at the center of an international uproar for raising safety concerns about genetically modified (GM) food said he hoped the publication of his work in a leading medical journal would lead to more research and tests.

Dr Arpad Pusztai stood by his claims that the effects of GM potatoes need to be looked at more closely and said the decision by The Lancet to publicize the data Friday added respectability to his research. "I wouldn't be human if I said I didn't feel elated," he told BBC radio, adding that he felt he had been wronged by the scientific community. "What is important is that we are talking about the issue. I hope it will be a sort of push in the right direction. These things need to be tested."

Pusztai was sacked from his job at Scotland's Rowett Institute and ostracized by many other scientists more than a year ago for publicly voicing his concerns about GM foods before his research was published in a peer-reviewed journal.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Genetically altered food gets `free ride':

BY Norma Greenaway, The Ottawa Citizen, October 17, 1999

Health coalition urges proposed food-safety bill take tougher stand on modified foods

Public health critics have slammed proposed new food safety legislation as a free ride for genetically engineered food that could endanger both human health and the environment. Michele Brill-Edwards, a former Health Canada regulator, accused the government of turning a blind eye to existing laws governing the treatment of genetically modified foods and said the new legislation must be tougher. Backed by a coalition of public health activists, she called for an amendment that would ensure no genetically altered food is given federal approval without being tested over the short- and long-term for its impact on human health and the environment. We want specific recognition that genetic alterations constitute a significant change in the safety profile of the food, and as such require said Ms. Brill-Edwards, who has become a major critic of the government's approach to food and drug regulation since she left Health Canada in 1996. The hotbutton issue of genetically modified foods surfaced during a day-long forum sponsored by the Canadian Health Coalition, an umbrella organization of health, environmental and union activists.

The group, which includes federal food-safety inspectors, is trying to mount a major lobby against the legislation which is expected to be re-introduced in the Commons within the next month or so. The proposed bill, introduced during the last parliamentary session, died on the order paper when the Liberals decided to prorogue the session.

Ms. Brill-Edwards said in an interview it would be folly to ignore the We are making massive biological changes without discovering what those changes mean in terms of We are making changes on a scale we've never

Ken Rubin, a public-interest researcher, said the legislation makes no distinction between foods that are natural, or altered through things such In other words, it's the bill that would legitimize allowing genetically engineered foods to be placed permanently said Mr. Rubin, an organic farmer and expert on the federal Access to Information Act. Mr. Rubin said more than 40 genetically engineered foods have already been approved for sale in Canada, ranging from potatoes to corn and canola. He maintains the new bill if it is allowed to stand.

Ms. Brill-Edwards and other members of a roundtable panel argued the new legislation, known as the Canada Food Safety and Inspection Act, is more than existing legislation and softens key consumer protections. In particular, they objected to provisions they say call for proof a product is causing harm before it has to be recalled. The current law allows a government-ordered recall if there is reasonable evidence of a problem.

Reminding her audience of the agony of Canada's tainted-blood tragedy, Ms. Brill-Edwards made a passionate appeal for Canadians to join in the effort to stop passage of the legislation. She argued it does not adequately The food supply is no We need regulation. We need


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 11:02:29 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Prices of U.S.-grown soybean futures plunging

Japan Economic Newswire October 12, 1999, - TOKYO, Oct. 12 Kyodo

Futures prices of U.S.-grown soybeans are falling sharply, reflecting Japanese consumers' strong resistance to genetically modified food products, industry officials said Tuesday. On the Tokyo Grain Exchange, the October contract has been on a steep decline over the past two months. Last week, it finished at 17,500 yen per kilogram, about half the all-time high price the market set in November last year.

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


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

How safe is safe ?

BY Andy Coghlan, New Scientist October 16, 1999 SECTION: This Week, Pg. 7

Seemingly innocuous vegetables can contain a toxic surprise BODY: EVEN if Arpad Pusztai's research says little about the safety of genetically modified foods, the controversy surrounding it serves as a reminder that even such familiar plants as potatoes have the potential to produce fairly noxious chemicals.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Monsanto: Peace offering

New Scientist October 16, 1999, Pg. 7

Bob Shapiro, the chairman of Monsanto, last week held out an olive branch to his critics. Speaking by satellite link to a meeting in London organised by Greenpeace, which has attacked the company's stance on genetically modified crops, Shapiro said: "We've irritated and antagonised more people than we've persuaded, and our confidence and enthusiasm for this technology has been seen as condescension or arrogance."


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Playing with food could kill us

BY Allan Benner, The Standard (St. Catharines), Friday, October 15, 1999 A4 *

Playing with food could kill us: Genetic engineering could lead to Armageddon, Brewster Kneen tells Brock University audience

While it may not be the end of the world, the author of Farmageddon painted a bleak picture of the possible consequences of genetic engineering at is certainly a possibility with genetic engineering. We don't know what we're doing. said Brewster Kneen during a World Food Day lecture sponsored by Brock University's Campus Ministries and Ontario Public Interest Research Group. What we see in (genetic engineering) is the restructuring of life for corporate control and profit.'


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

SoyaWorld launches program to certify use of non-genetically modified soy

Canada News-wire Friday, October 15, 1999 General News

.. in So Good soy beverage Certified Identity Preservation Program Controls Seed Selection, Planting, Harvesting, Transportation, Processing

VANCOUVER, Oct. 15 /CNW/ - SoyaWorld Inc., Canada's leading soy beverage company, which certifies that no genetically modified (GM) soybeans are used in the manufacture of So Good, Canada's number one selling soy beverage. The program, which went into effect in September, enables SoyaWorld to deliver non-GM product by controlling each step of the manufacture process, from seed selection to planting, harvesting, transportation and processing.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Mr. Suzuki Warns Of "frankenstein Foods"

By Andrea Baillie, Monday, October 18, 1999, CP Wire

TORONTO – Canada's pre-eminent pop scientist says Canadians have become unwitting guinea pigs in a nationwide study on the effects of genetically modified foods.

"We are performing a massive experiment," Dr. David Suzuki said Sunday. "The results will only be known after millions of people have been exposed to (these foods) for decades."

Suzuki's cautionary words wrapped up a four-day meeting of the Canadian Health Food Association, where the regulation of genetically modified foods has been a pressing concern.

It is estimated that 70 per cent of food currently sold in Canadian supermarkets is genetically modified. Despite this, there are few labels to identify which foods have been altered.

"Any politician or scientist who tells you these products are safe is either very stupid or lying," said Suzuki. "The experiments have simply not been done."

In recent months, the potential ill-effects of genetically altered foods has become a hot potato for health officials around the world. In Europe, protesters have raided farms and lobbied restaurants, labelling the altered products "Frankenstein foods."

In England, medical officials are demanding a government study to determine whether the modified foods could cause new cancers, birth defects or danger to the immune system. Health Canada has insisted that the products approved in this country are thoroughly tested for allergenic and toxic effects, but Suzuki says there is simply not enough evidence to back that claim. "The hazards of (these foods) are uncertain," he said. "In view of our enormous ignorance, the premature application of biotechnology is downright dangerous."

At issue, he said, are fundamental laws of genetics. Those rules are based on "vertical inheritance." With genetically modified foods, scientists are assuming that when they transfer genes to different species horizontally, the behaviour of those genes will be the same as when they follow them vertically.

"It is simply bad science to make that assumption," said Suzuki. "You have changed the context within which this new gene finds itself. Therefore what the behaviour of the new gene will be, we simply cannot say." A Saskatchewan researcher told a bio-tech conference in Saskatoon that corporate greed, not society's needs, is driving the push towards genetically modified foods.

Lynn Oliphant, of the Prairie Institute for Human Ecology, also accused multinational companies of forcing farmers to use modified seeds. "Saskatchewan farmers will be duped into thinking that they should go for genetically modified crops and then find out there is no one else in the world willing to buy them," Oliphant said.

Suzuki called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods until more is known about the long-term health effects. In the meantime, he wants Canadians to demand mandatory labelling for altered foods. "I am astounded at the reluctance of the Canadian public to show its outrage at what we're doing to our air, water and food," said Suzuki. "What we are acquiring is the brute technological power to bludgeon nature.

"Each new insight reminds us of how ignorant we remain. We need a bit more perspective."


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

Lectin Research - Pusztai And Others

CHANNEL 4 News (Uk) Friday 15 October 1999

Andrew Veitch reported that biotech companies have invested millions in trying to engineer potatoes, maize and grapes to carry their own insecticides called lectins. That1s one reason for the alarm when Dr.Arpad Pusztai, a world expert on lectins, warned the crops might be dangerous, this before any of them had come to market. His research, based on feeding potatoes with lectin to rats, was published in the medical journal the Lancet today, after being rubbished by much of the scientific establishment.It is still highly controversial. The experts chosen to referee the work were divided. But work at Dundee University and the Scottish Crop Research Institute, also published in the Lancet today, also raised potentially more serious concerns. They tested lectins not on rats but on human blood cells.

Dr.Caroline Bolton-Smith (Dundee University):
I think what it's saying to companies, industry, out there, who may be considering putting lectins into foods, that it1s certainly not something that should be done at the moment, until we have a firm idea of what those lectins are doing to human cells and human health.

Andrew Veitch:
Snowdrops, like most plants, produce poisonous proteins called lectins, to defend themselves against those who would eat them, from bugs to humans. They work by disrupting the organisation of cells, or communication between them. They affect the immune system and the development of cells; that is why they are being tested as natural pesticides. The gene for the lectin has been inserted into potatoes and maize.

Now it was thought that the snowdrop lectin would not harm humans, but amazingly no one had tested it on human cells. That is what the scientists in Dundee have now done, and they found the lectin binds to white blood cells. That suggests,they say,that it could damage the human immune system. They don't know that,the work now needs to be done, but at this stage they say it's a red flag for the companies developing GM crops with snowdrop lectins.

The biotech firm Novartis, which is developing snowdrop lectin in maize said:"We are taking notice of the red flag and we will make sure it's evaluated before we go any further."

While the work of the Dundee teams only applies to lectins, they are concerned about GM foods already on the market.

Dr.Caroline Bolton-Smith (Dundee University):
If there are going to be any health effects they may only come out in the next 10 or 20 years. We still have time to say, ok - there is some slight evidence there may be some detrimental effects, and to do something about it. So to ignore the possibility of risk I think is probably not wise.

Andrew Veitch:
The problem, as the Lancet found when it decided to publish Dr.Pusztai's paper, is that pressure to push ahead with the technology is intense.

Dr.Richard Horton (Editor the Lancet):
There are extreme forces at play in this debate. There is a great deal of potential research investment in the UK that could come from food technology industries, and any concerns about the safety of these foods could jeopardise this huge investment. So I can understand why scientists would be very anxious about jeopardising that investment. But we need to listen to what the public are saying. And the public are saying, please take it slow.

Andrew Veitch:
Which is why scientists at Sussex University will next week launch a plan to dismantle the barricades between government, scientists and consumers.

Andy Stirling (Sussex University):
Many of the issues of greatest concern to the public aren't being addressed generally, as there is this, as I described it, something of a siege mentality. (It) obstructs good communication between a scientific community who are doing their best to reveal the full scope of the effects of these technologies, and trying to reassure the public as much as they can. But the communication is really not working as it should.

Andrew Veitch:
After Northern Ireland, the new minister in charge of GM foods is no stranger to the siege mentality. There are hopes that under Mo Mowlem's leadership communication might improve.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

FDA seeks comments on biotech foods

Oct. 18, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) - The federal agency that ensures genetically engineered foods are safe will hold unusual meetings around the country this fall to hear what Americans think about bioengineered food.

U.S. scientists have been surprised by growing public resistance abroad to ; Thailand on Monday banned importation of genetically engineered food seeds; parts of Europe demand bioengineered foods be labeled as such so consumers can choose to avoid them.


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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 22:20:37 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson

{Monday's NYTimes contains a full page ad.which is available for downloading both in Acrobat and in text form at http://www.turnpoint.org]

Unlabeled, Untestedi And You're Eating It.

New York Times, 18. Oct

Sections:
There is Silence
Public Opinion
Toxicity.
Allergic Reaction.
ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE.
Cancer.
Immuno-suppression.
Other Concerns
What You Can Do
Partial List Of Genetically Engineered Foods

There is Silence

In secret, genetically engineered foods are showing up on American grocery shelves. Though other countries now label biotech foods, the U.S. FDA still does not require labels or safety tests. Don't you have the right to know what's in your food? And if it's safe for your family?

You have the right to know if your baked potato contains bacteria genes...or if the tomato in your salad has genes of viruses spliced in. But at the very place where you encounter genetically engineered (GE) products - your local grocery store - there is silence.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the biotechnology industry have prevented the labeling of GE foods, effectively subverting your right to know! And so, every day, millions of American infants, children and adults eat genetically engineered foods without their knowledge.

Are these unlabeled foods dangerous? Nobody knows. The FDA refuses to require any safety testing of genetically engineered foods. This, despite the fact that there is significant scientific evidence that inserting novel genes into foods can sometimes create dangerous toxins. For example, this is the possible cause of the thousands of illnesses, and deaths from the GE food supplement L-tryptophan several years ago. Failure to require testing or labeling of GE foods has made millions of consumers into guinea pigs, unknowingly testing the safety of dozens of gene altered products.

Public Opinion

There is no doubt of the public's views. Opinion polls consistently show that more than 90% of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. A 1999 Time poll revealed that close to 60% would avoid such foods if they were labeled. And last year more than 280,000 angry consumers protested the Clinton administration's proposal on organic food standards that would have allowed genetically engineered foods to be certified as "organic." Little wonder that the biotechnology industry is fighting to stop labeling.

If consumers knew what was in these foods, there's a good chance they wouldn't buy them. By its policy of "no labeling" of GE foods, the U.S. has become a rogue nation. The European Union has passed a law that requires labeling of genetically engineered foods. Meanwhile, Canada and the European Union have banned the use of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in the production of milk and dairy products. But the Clinton administration, the FDA, and the biotech food companies continue to stonewall the American public. * * *

To help overcome the government's irresponsible policy, we are publishing on this page a partial list of foods that have been genetically modified. Should you be concerned about genetically engineered foods? Yes, you should. According to documents recently released after a court order, even scientists from the Food and Drug Administration have known of some potential hazards from the genetic engineering of foods, dating as far back as 1991.

The following is a list of several potential dangers from the genetic engineering of foods. While there have been no tests so far conclusively establishing that genetically engineered foods are harmful to humans, the potential dangers are significant enough to mandate long-term independent testing of GE food products before release into supermarkets.

TOXICITY.

According to some FDA scientists, the genetic engineering of food may bring "some undesirable effects such as increased levels of known naturally occurring toxicants, appearance of new, not previously identified toxicants, increased capability of concentrating toxic substances from the environment (e.g., pesticides or heavy metals), and undesirable alterations in the levels of nutrients." In other words, scientists from the FDA itself suspect that genetic engineering could make foods toxic.

ALLERGIC REACTION.

FDA scientists also warn that genetically engineered foods could "produce a new protein allergen" or "enhance the synthesis of existing plant food allergens." And a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when a gene from a Brazil nut was engineered into soybeans, people allergic to nuts had serious reactions. Without labeling, people with certain food allergies will not be able to know if they might be harmed by the food they're eating.

ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE.

Many GE foods are modified with antibiotic resistant genes; people who eat them may become more susceptible to bacterial infections. Commenting on this problem, the British Medical Association said that antibiotic resistance is "one of the major public human health threats that will be faced in the 21st century."

CANCER.

European scientists have also found that dairy products from animals treated with bovine growth hormone (rBGH) contain an insulin-like growth factor that may increase the risk of breast cancer, as well as prostate and colon cancer.

IMMUNO-SUPPRESSION.

Twenty two leading scientists recently declared that animal test results linking genetically engineered foods to immuno-suppression are valid.

OTHER CONCERNS

Unlabeled genetically engineered foods pose more than just health threats. For millions of people, the consumption of GE foods may violate their religious and ethical principles. For example, vegetarians try to avoid all animal food; but without labeling they can't be sure that animal genes have not been inserted into their vegetables. Jews and Muslims have rigid dietary laws against eating certain animals, yet their tomatoes or lettuce may one day contain pig genes. Don't they have the right to know?

And what of the suffering of genetically altered animals? One GE "super pig" was unable to walk or stand. A GE "super salmon" had a monster head and couldn't swim, eat, or breathe properly. There are hundreds of such outcomes.

There are still broader ethical concerns. More than two dozen genes from human beings have already been engineered into various animals. If we eat them, can we call it cannibalism?

Despite all these concerns, and many more, the government has decided it doesn't want you to know what's in the food you're eating. Clearly, the reason is the constant pressure from the biotech food industry. The Clinton administration seems incapable of resisting this pressure. But you can resist it. Don't let your children continue to be the guinea pigs in this experiment. Here are some things you can do.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

First, clip out the list of GE foods, take it with you to your supermarket and discuss it with the management. Second, buy certified organic foods, whenever possible. Third, support the movement demanding long-term independent safety testing and labeling of genetically engineered foods. Inquire with the organizations below about participating in legal actions, petitioning of public officials, and public protests. For more information, please call us at the number below.

PARTIAL LIST OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS

This is a list of processed foods that tested positive for genetically engineered ingredients (September 1999). These tests were not "safety" tests; they were only to establish the presence of unlabeled genetically engineered ingredients.

Sources: Genetic ID (an independent testing firm) and Consumer Reports (September 1999).

By December 1998, the U.S. government had approved the commercial sale of genetically engineered varieties of the following whole foods. No labeling or long-term safety tests were required. (According to The New York Times, about half of all soybeans and a third of all corn planted this year in the U.S. were genetically engineered.)

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

A high percentage of the following ingredients have been made from genetically engineered plants, and are commonly found in processed foods.

Signers of NYTimes full page ad October 18, 1999:

  1. Center for Food Safety
  2. Foundation on Economic Trends
  3. Food First / Institute for Food & Development Policy Greenpeace USA
  4. Friends of the Earth
  5. Council for Responsible Genetics
  6. International Center for Technology Assessment Organic Consumers Association
  7. Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy
  8. Mothers for Natural Law
  9. Sierra Club
  10. Consumer's Choice Council
  11. Edmonds Institute
  12. Food & Water
  13. International Forum on Food and Agriculture Pesticide Action Network
  14. Rural Vermont
  15. U.S. Public Interest Research Group
  16. Center for Ethics and Toxics
  17. Council of Canadians
  18. Mothers & Others for a Livable planet
  19. International Society for Ecology and Culture

Signers are all part of a coalition of more than 60 non-profit organizations that favor democratic, localized, ecologically sound alternatives to current practices and policies. This advertisement is #2 in the Genetic Engineering series. Other ad series discuss the extinction crisis, economic globalization, industrial agriculture and megatechnology.

For more information, please contact: Turning Point Project, 310 D St. NE, Washington, DC 20002 1-800-249-8712 * www.turnpoint.org * email: info@turnpoint.org

** 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.