1 December 99

Table of Contents

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (NGIN) News
NY Times on FDA Internal Disagreements on GE
CaMV promoter virus -- a recipe for disaster?
WTO petition: US biotech scientists start to panic!

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Date: 1 Dec 1999 04:46:14 -0600

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (NGIN) News

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (NGIN) website at:

Professor Bullsh*t & Associates: A Few Favourite Quotes
More on church and GMOs
WTO Could Lead to 'Soft Disasters' Say Leading Experts
URLs: Watching The WTO
US FDA Charged With GM Cover Up
Within the FDA, a dispute on food
Nineties Gardeners Beat Wartime Yields [shortened]
Precautionary approach to risk assessment

Professor Bullsh*t & Associates: A Few Favourite Quotes

These quotes have been judged 'Best Bull!' by Professor Bullsh*t and his closest associates: Dr Halftruth and Professor Wilspin FIND OUT MORE at:

More on church and GMOs

PA news 30/11/99

The Church of England was today urged to reject a move by the Ministry of Agriculture which it is claimed could lead to the use of church land for trials of genetically modified crops.

Christian Aid said it believed any steps which would allow GM trials to take place would send the wrong message during the World Trade Organisation talks currently being held in Seattle.

The charity urged the Church of England's ethical investment working group, which is due to meet tomorrow, to advise against an application from MAFF's Central Science Laboratory to lease church land, which could be used to conduct genetically modified crop trials.

The Church of England Commissioners turned down a previous application from the Central Science Laboratory in August this year - a decision welcomed by Christian Aid.

The move comes as developing countries struggle at the WTO talks to protect themselves from existing and proposed new international trade rules which environmentalists say would enable biotechnology multinationals to gain overwhelming control over those countries' agricultures, food supplies, and biological resources. We urge the Church to fulfil its global responsibility to the developing world and to the poor and avoid any risk of strengthening the aim of those who

P V Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society in India, one of Christian It is a myth to say that GM crops are an answer to hunger in the Third World. In fact, they will lead to massive destruction of rural livelihoods and

WTO Could Lead to 'Soft Disasters' Say Leading Experts

'Experiences in the UK suggest that the current [WTO] approach may lead to what can be described as 'soft disasters' – large-scale health and environmental problems that emerge slowly but at high cost to society.' -- ten leading UK environmental researchers

Economic and Science Research Council (ESRC).
Global Environmental Change Programme

24th November 1999

Trade, Science, Risk, Precaution: Issues for Seattle (WTO summit)

Has the international community failed to heed Britain's hard won experience on food safety, risk and consumer confidence? This would appear to be the case from the World Trade Organisation's current handling of risk issues. In a letter to be published this week in the prestigious science journal Nature(1), ten leading UK environmental researchers point to some serious weaknesses in the WTO's current approach to risk assessment and product safety.

The letter draws on evidence collected as part of the UK's largest ever social science research initiative n the Global Environmental Change Programme (GECP) of the independent Economic and Science Research Council (ESRC).

'The WTO's current approach to risk issues means that new technologies are effectively assumed safe until proven otherwise. This places excessive faith in our limited knowledge about their safety' said Alister Scott, Assistant Director of the GECP and coordinator of the letter. 'The opposite is needed: better testing of new products and more thorough monitoring of their effects on the environment and peopleis health once in use.'

'Experiences in the UK suggest that the current approach may lead to what can be described as 'soft disasters' - large-scale health and environmental problems that emerge slowly but at high cost to society. The WTO needs to change its approach to prevent 'soft dosasters' and to avoid undermining public confidence in its decisionsi.

The researchers will be available for media comment and analysis during the Seattle conference.

For more details or to arrange interviews with any of the researchers, please contact:

Alister Scott
Assistant Director, ESRC Global Environmental Change Programme:

Tel: (day) 01273 678986/678935    Fax: 604483     Email:


'Precautionary approach to risk assessment', p.348, Nature, vol. 402, 25th November 1999.

The letter is available for Nature Subscribers on the web site Non-subscribers will need to find a paper copy of the journal, available in most University libraries and larger public libraries. Unfortunately for reasons of copyright we are unable to reproduce a copy here.



URLs: Watching The WTO

Watch the WTO Ministerial Live at

The WTO itself is supposedly streaming the plenary sessions through their website.

Watch for the activist/collective WEBCAST at

For up to the minute reports of protests via the internet: Independent Media Center's internet sites which will provide print, audio and video content on a daily basis

other sites:

Also, this site has a selection of 'remote activism' measures you can take, whether you're coming to seattle or not.


US FDA Charged With GM Cover Up

*Please Distribute Widely*

Executive Director of Alliance For Bio-integrity to Challenge U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Officials at November 30th Meeting on Genetically Engineered Foods in Washington, D.C.

Will Confront Agency with Evidence it Covered-up Memoranda from FDA Experts Warning about Unique Health Risks of Biotech Foods Photocopies of these Internal FDA Documents Now Published On Alliance's Website:

[C-Span Cable Television will broadcast live during some or all of the hearing]

FDA Commissioner Dr. Jane Henney and her top officials will receive strong criticism of the agency's policy on genetically engineered foods from a public interest attorney at the open meeting to be held by the agency in Washington, D.C. on November 30. Steven M. Druker, executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, will fault the FDA for ignoring scientifically justified safety concerns in approving genetically engineered foods.

He has been invited to present his views as a member of the panel on Scientific, Safety, and Regulatory Issues.

His criticisms will be aired on the day the World Trade Organization conference starts in Seattle, with the U.S. delegation insisting that FDA policy on genetically engineered foods is science-based and that widespread concerns in Europe and Asia are unscientific and irrational.

Mr. Druker will specifically critique the FDA for turning its back to repeated warnings from its own scientists about the unique risks of genetically engineered foods and for then proclaiming itself "...not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way."

These warnings recently came to light when the FDA was required to disclose its internal files during the course of a lawsuit headed by Druker's organization, Alliance for Bio-Integrity, et al. v. Shalala et al.

The suit, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., demands that the FDA institute mandatory safety testing and labeling of all genetically engineered foods. Mr. Druker organized an unprecedented coalition of eminent scientists and religious leaders to stand as plaintiffs, and he is also serving as one of the attorneys.

After Druker and co-panelists have made their statements, Commissioner Henney and other FDA officials will have an opportunity to dialogue with them.

The panel discussion will occur during the morning session, which runs from 10:00 A.M. until 1 P.M at the Cohen Auditorium in the Wilbur J. Cohen Building, 330 Independence Ave S.W., Washington, D.C.

Note: Exact copies of several FDA documents expressing concern about risks of bioengineered foods are now on the Alliance for Bio-Integrity website:


Within the FDA, a dispute on food

Some scientists disagreed with the agency's stance that genetically modified food need not be tested.

By Andrea Knox, Inquirer Staff Writer

Government documents unearthed in a lawsuit over genetically modified food show that some Food and Drug Administration scientists disagreed with the agency's official stance that the modified foods do not need special testing.

Steven Drucker, who filed the suit last year, will tell an FDA hearing today that the agency ignored questions from its own staff when it issued a policy statement in 1992 saying it had no information that genetically modified foods differed in any meaningful way from conventional foods.

The FDA has maintained this stance in the face of growing criticism of its policy of requiring minimal testing and no labeling of genetically modified foods. In court filings, the agency has characterized the dissenters as "low-level FDA employees" and said their comments were not part of the formal record on which the agency based its decision. An FDA spokeswoman said she could not comment further.

Today's hearing in Washington is one of three that the FDA has scheduled to explain its testing and labeling policies, and to gather public comment on whether those policies should be changed.

Genetic modification is a laboratory technique for transferring genes between species that would not normally mate, such as a bacterium and a corn plant. An estimated 60 percent of food processed in the United States contains ingredients from genetically modified plants, primarily oil, flour, protein or sweeteners made from either soy or corn.

"The only basis on which the FDA was able to get around the need to test the safety of each [genetically modified] food was to claim overwhelming consensus within the scientific community," which it did, despite the fact that "scientist after scientist" on the FDA staff had raised concerns, Drucker said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Drucker, a former faculty member at Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Washington under the aegis of an organization he founded, the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, in Iowa City. It seeks to force labeling and stricter testing of genetically modified food.

The alliance's site on the World Wide Web has posted the responses of 10 FDA staff scientists to the agency's draft policy on biotech foods, which was circulated for comment within the agency in 1991 and 1992.

One of the strongest was signed by Louis J. Pribyl, whom the alliance identifies as a member of the FDA's Microbiology Group.

He commented that it is "industry's pet idea" that genetically modified food would not produce unintended effects that would be of concern. "But time and time again, there is no data to back up their contention, while the scientific literature does contain many examples of naturally occurring [unexpected] effects." It would be "premature" for the FDA to "summarily dismiss" such effects," he added.

Pribyl and several others noted that the unintended effects of genetic modification might be no more dangerous than the unintended effects of traditional breeding techniques. However, they said that was no reason not to evaluate them.

Linda Kahl, a compliance officer, wrote that "for all we know, the risks may be lower for genetically engineered foods," but that no data were presented to address the relative magnitude of risk. She was struck, she said, that the team of technical experts who drafted the agency's position on biotechnology did not include anyone whose primary expertise was risk analysis.

The first FDA hearing was in Chicago Nov. 18, and the third will be in Oakland, Calif., on Friday.


Nineties Gardeners Beat Wartime Yields [shortened]

By Jo Knowsley, Electronic Telegraph, November. 28 /99

Fears of chemicals and genetically modified crops have, according to this story, created the biggest boom in home-grown vegetables since the Second World War.

Membership of the National Vegetable Society has increased more than 18 per cent in the past 12 months. Suttons Seeds, one of the country's largest flower and vegetable seed companies, has reported a 38 per cent rise in sales of vegetable seeds over the past nine months. Surveys by the company also show that vegetable growers are getting younger.

Tom Sharples of Sutton Seeds said: "In the past, a typical customer would be 50 plus.

But now we are getting younger people, particularly women who want to know more about what they feed their children."

The renewed interest in vegetable patches is reminiscent of the wartime Dig for Victory campaign, which urged people to grow whatever they could, wherever they could, to combat food shortages. By the end of the war back gardens and allotments in British towns and villages were producing 1.3 million tons of fruit and vegetables a year. Gardening groups believe that this figure is now being exceeded.

Len Cox, of the society, said: "Home-grown fruit and vegetables are not monitored in the same way as they were at the end of the war. But if you look at the growth in vegetable seed sales, the growth in demand for allotments and increase in interest in home-growing it is obvious that the war-time figure will be superseded now."

The arrival of supermarkets and convenience food in the Fifties saw the trend taper off but, modern consumers have entirely different reasons for growing their own food.


Precautionary approach to risk assessment

From Nature 25 November 1999, Correspondence


The meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which opens on 29 November in Seattle, Washington, will be a focal point for discussions about the social, economic and environmental implications of trade. Science has been given a central role in mediating disputes about the safety and environmental impact of new technologies. Our research indicates that the WTO will need to be both more rigorous and more precautionary in its use of regulatory science if it is adequately to address issues of sustainability.

First, there is the issue of product safety. Conventional probabilistic risk assessments play an important role in WTO rulings about the safety of new products, such as genetically modified (GM) foods and hormones used in animal production [see Briefing in this issue, pages 341-345]. In contrast, 'precautionary approaches' are often thought of as deviating from sound science.

Yet current risk assessments can only characterize some of the potential outcomes of the use of new products. Precautionary approaches, by acknowledging our incomplete knowledge of possible outcomes, and addressing the huge variation in the results of risk assessments, may actually enhance the rigour of scientific assessment. We developed this argument in The Politics of GM Food: Risk, Science and Public Trust (see

Second, there is the question of burdens of proof. WTO regulations and other international trade rules increasingly assume that new products are safe until proven otherwise: the burden of proof falls heavily on those who are worried about unforeseen or untested safety and environmental issues.

The debate about the safety of the bovine somatotropin (BST) growth hormone is a recent example. It has fallen to the European Union (EU) to provide evidence to support its doubts, rather than the producer of BST to demonstrate its safety. So the burden of proof falls on the regulator rather than the proponent of the technology. We believe that the burden of proof should be re-balanced through enhanced and transparent testing of new products, similar to the current method for testing and approving drugs. Likewise, there is a need for better scientific monitoring of the effects of new technologies once in use. Hormone-disrupting chemicals exemplify the issue of inadequate monitoring.

Assuming that products are safe until proven otherwise may lead to what can be described as 'soft disasters' – large-scale health and environmental problems that emerge slowly but at high cost to society. Such disasters mostly occur because excessive faith has been placed upon limited data about the safety of a product or process, ignoring many possible eventualities where there is little or no information.

It is now generally accepted that the assessment of risk in different social contexts can produce different – but equally valid – results based in science. Alternative assumptions, for example, are often adopted in different countries, partly as a result of varying social, economic and institutional conditions. But this calls into question the WTO's apparent assumption that the application of 'sound science' will lead to a single 'scientific' answer to complex questions of risk and safety. Further, to expect a uniform pattern of associated regulatory decisions is inconsistent with the well-established insights from risk assessment.

Such a desire for single, definitive answers is likely to generate increasing tension in the WTO, and undermine public confidence in its decisions. Public confidence will be vital if the advantages of liberalized global trade are to be sustained. A more effective way forward would be to pursue these issues through a precautionary approach within multilateral environmental agreements. Liability regimes also need to be strengthened as a safety net for those affected by 'soft disasters'. In this respect, the EU's recent extension of its strict liability laws to include agricultural products is to be welcomed.

These comments are based on research carried out within the Global Environmental Change Programme of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Alister Scott*, Andy Stirling, Nick Mabey, Frans Berkhout, Chris Williams, Chris Rose, Michael Jacobs, Robin Grove-White, Ian Scoones, Melissa Leach *Corresponding author: ESRC Global Environmental Change Programme, Mantell Building, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RF, UK

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Date: 1 Dec 1999 05:19:34 -0600
From: David Shapiro

Dear friends,

Here is an article published in NY Times December 1.which discusses Federal Food and Drug Administration's internal debate over potential dangers of the use of GE organisms used as food.



NY Times on FDA Internal Disagreements on GE

By MARIAN BURROS, New York Times, December 1, 1999

Documents Show Officials Disagreed on Altered Food

WASHINGTON – Several Food and Drug Administration officials have disagreed with the agency's conclusion that genetically engineered foods can be regulated in the same way as conventional food varieties, according to internal agency memorandums read Tuesday at a public hearing.

One of the memorandums, which were written in the early 1990s,accuses the agency of siding with industry and giving short shrift to consumers. An advocate of labels on genetically modified food, Steven M. . Druker, obtained the documents in a lawsuit and read them at a hearing about the safety and labeling of such foods.

The agency says there is no difference between foods modified by genetics engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices. But it organized a series of three hearings to listen to the public and a range of panelists on the subject.

Druker made public a 1992 memorandum from Dr. Linda Kahl, a compliance officer, to Dr. James Maryanski, the agency's Biotechnology Coordinator, that shows the range of views that existed within the agency itself.

"The process of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks," Dr. Kahl wrote. "There is no data that addresses the relative magnitude of risk – for all we know, the risks may be lower for genetically engineered foods than for foods produced by traditional breeding. But the acknowledgment that the risks are different is lost in the attempt to hold to the doctrine that the product and not the process is regulated."

In a separate memorandum, Dr. Louis Pribyl, an F.D.A. microbiologist,commenting on the draft of the Federal Register notice on bioengineered foods, reiterated Dr. Kahl's point and added that an agency document"read very pro- industry, especially in the area of unintended effects." It is"industry's pet idea," he said that "there are no unintended effects that will raise the F.D.A.'s level of concern." But time and again, he said, "there is no data to back up their contention."

Pribyl also said the document "contains very little input from consumers and only a few answers for their concerns."

Maryanski said in an interview that the concerns of agency scientists were old news and that the comments the scientists made were in response to an agency request for them. "Those views were taken into account," he said.

The internal documents came to light because of a lawsuit filed against the agency by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, founded by Druker, a lawyer who is the organization's executive director. Druker is conducting a one-man campaign to force the agency to institute mandatory, rigorous safety testing of all genetically engineered food and require labeling.Safety testing and labeling are now voluntary.

Druker, a panelist at the hearing Tuesday, was joined by Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Policy Institute of Consumer Federation of America, and Dr. Rebecca Goldberg, a senior scientist with transcendental Defense Fund, in calling for labeling and testing.

Dr. Goldberg said "the agency has not squarely placed the burden of proof on industry to demonstrate the safety of new food, which had historically been required in the past."

Despite rising public sentiment for more information about bioengineered foods, which prompted the public hearings, Maryanski said there was no reason to change the rules covering them. He maintained that as long as developers of these foods "follow the agency's guidelines and do the testing that is recommended," though not required, genetically engineered foods were "as safe as any food on the market."

Until this past year, Americans – if they thought about genetically engineered food at all, and most did not -- seemed willing to leave these judgments to the agency. But all around the globe, particularly in the European Union, consumers and activists have opposed genetically modified food with such force that American farmers have found those crops banned from some countries.

Now many British supermarkets require labeling of genetically modified products. The furious activity has finally had an effect in this country and many of the questions that were not asked in 1992 are being asked now.

The original decisions on how to regulate genetically altered foods were made by the Bush White House. Vice President Dan Quayle announced details of a government policy for steamlining regulation of food produced through genetic engineering, saying that because the United States "was the world leader in biotechnology," the government wanted "to keep it that way."

Ms. Foreman said in her remarks that the process of regulating bio-engineered food "began under a cloud of political influence peddling and managerial bean counting and the F.D.A. has done nothing to dispel that cloud." She said that both labeling and a mandatory pre-approval process are essential. Several food trade associations have told the agency the same thing. The Food Marketing Institute and the Grocer Manufacturers of America said they "believe a mandatory consultation process would help ensure continued consumer confidence in the F.D.A.regulatory policy" and that the agency should set up criteria for labeling.

© Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company

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Date: 30 Nov 1999 10:26:17 -0600
From: joe cummins

CaMV promoter virus – a recipe for disaster?

Angela Ryan, Molecular Biologist Open University - 27th Nov 1999

Rebuttal to responses about our paper as posted on Agnet - Nov 22nd 1999.

RE: "CaMV promoter - a recipe for disaster? See for full text.

Our paper is written in the context of an ecological impact assessment and it was well placed in the scientific journal - Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease. The recombination hotspot of the CaMV promoter must be considered in this sense and also in relation to the potential effects from the dispersal of naked DNA in the environment. The recombination hotspot in the CaMV 35S promoter has been repeatedly described and it has been shown that highly conserved molecular systems involved in recombination and horizontal gene transfer act upon it independently. The promoter is used in almost all GM crop plants, where it can be found in a variety of copy numbers within a variety of transgenic constructs, which are chimeric in design and essentially invasive in nature. This is not the naturally occurring genetic situation for this promoter in the wild.

The location of released genes on mobile genetic elements or in close association with insertion sequence elements, transposons, gene cassettes or hot-spots for recombination such as the one described in the CaMV promoter and elsewhere, can all increase the probability of horizontal gene transfer.

Proof exists for natural horizontal transfer of genomic sequences which are not normally mobile and also for sequences originating from transposable or mobile genetic elements. In addition, the frequency of transfer is only marginally important compared with the selection forces acting on the outcome.

The time scales to consider when assessing the ecological impact and potential health risks are not of months or years, but of at least ten to hundreds of years. Previous investigations of potential damaging effects are few and the methods and approaches used were only capable of disclosing short-term effects, whereas in ecological contexts it is long-term impacts that are most important and most serious - as highlighted by our paper.

In order to detect recombination and gene transfer events from transgenic constructs used in biotechnology, molecular analysis over many generations is needed. Such data is not required by the regulatory bodies governing the environmental impact assessment of GMOs and therefore such investigations are either not conducted and/or not presented in applications for license of GM plants. Furthermore, very little research has been done in this area.

A great deal remains to be learnt before we can claim more than a very rudimentary understanding of the phenomenon of illegitimate recombination, and still more before we can hope to control it. Genomic rearrangements are often found to modify, in undesirable places, gene constructs that are meant to be for biotechnological use and this in itself, should give grounds for warning signals about what may happen if such processes take place after GM constructs have established themselves in an ecosystem.

Most importantly, in nature there is a balance between genetic variation and genetic stability and evolution favors those organisms which have a suitable balance. We do not know how such a balance is established and maintained, and consequently have no idea about how it can be upset. Host/ pathogen co-evolution is apparent but the present state of our knowledge does not allow a pre-assessment of either the probability for, or the consequences of, horizontal gene transfer from any given construct or GMO which is released, or escapes to the environment.

Hence, satisfactory risk assessments are impossible at the moment and only through extensive research on the mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer and ecosystem interconnections can we hope to change this situation and find conclusive answers to the very important questions raised by our paper.

We are fully justified and right to call for the immediate withdrawal of GM plants containing constructs that carry recombination hotspots. The consequences of using these sequences can not be shown to be ecologically safe or sustainable, considering the limits of our knowledge about horizontal gene transfer and it's role and regulation in nature. Our call is fully in line with the precautionary principle which clearly states " In order to obtain sustainable development, politics should be based on the precautionary principle.

Environmental and health policies must be aimed at predicting, preventing and attacking the causes of environmental or health hazards. When there is reason to suspect treats of serious, irreversible damage, lack of scientific evidence should not be used as a basis for postponement of preventive measures" (revised after Cameron & Abouchar, 1991).

It is very important to remember that never before have organisms been invaded genetically by such highly chimeric invasive genetic constructs as those used in GM. Natural genetic barriers to wild type horizontal gene transfer and the molecular systems involved in regulating these events is poorly understood. The efficiency with which transgenic vectors overcome natural genetic barriers to horizontal gene transfer maybe a factor which in turn renders them highly dangerous ecologically.

The propensity with which GE vectors overcome genetic barriers to gene transfer may be the reason why Prof. Pusztai found symptoms of viral infection in the intestine of rats fed with GM potatoes. These experiments are the most comprehensive feeding studies so far conducted and were commissioned by MAFF and paid for by the British tax payer, I might add. The fact that some people care to discredit Prof. Pusztai does not remove the science that is published in the Lancet. The background research demonstrates clearly that snowdrop lectins are not toxic - it was concluded that it maybe due to the transgenic construct that these effects were found. Furthermore, the potatoes were shown to be substantially equivalent as identified by existing safety assessment processes.

James Astwood from Monsanto has suggested the results may be due to the engineered potatoes being non-substantially equivalent - does he realize what he is saying about the principle of substantial equivalence with this remark? I agree with him in this sense and a major review of the existing safety assessment processes of Sub. Equivalence is warranted and should be supported.

Moreover, why are these studies not being repeated? Comprehensive feeding trails should be paramount on the agenda of safety assessment research programs, considering the level of GM material currently entering the food chain.

The long term ecological impact and potential health risks from the use of transgenic constructs bearing recombination hotspots include the reactivation of dormant viruses or the creation of new viruses both of which may have broadening host ranges. The spread of antibiotic resistance genes.

Cancer cannot be ruled out considering a fifth of all cancers are caused by insertion mutagenesis. Largescale genomic rearrangements and epigenetic effects may also cause major compositional changes in cells that include the production of new allergens and toxins.

The precautionary principle must be invoked immediately in this area and all GM plants bearing recombination hotspots in their transgenic constructs should be withdrawn from commercial use.

We must demonstrate the utmost respect for the integrity of nature and remain forever open minded and free from the constraints of dogma in order to deliver a safe, sustainable future for coming generations. It is hoped that the use of gene technology will bring about a historical turning point – let it be the first example of mankind's feeling of responsibility for life in the future being stronger than the urge for short-term advantages.

I trust this rebuttal will be posted on Agnet and furthermore we will focus in more detail, on the recombination hotspot in the CaMV promoter in the next update on the World Scientists' Statement. Thanking you in advance for your careful consideration.

Angela Ryan

NB.: Johannes Fuetterer states that we are not justified to conclude that the CaMV promoter will recombine 'wildly' with other genomic sequences. I would care to know where he thinks 'the wild' is exactly?

Dear Angela, thank you for sending me your rebuttal to our comments on your paper. Actually I would like to know from you, why you consider transgenes containing the 35S promoter motre dangerous that CaMV virus sequences containing the promoter.

About 10% of brassica species, i.e. cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, oil seed, turnips, brussel sprouts, etc. are infected with CaMV and a rough estimate can be made that every infected cell contains at least 100.000 copies of the viral genome, at least 10.000 more than transgenic plants.

Yours truly,

Thomas HOHN
Friedrich Miescher Institut
POBox 2543, CH 4002 Basel, Schweiz
Tel: +4161 697 7266, 697 6684(lab) 701 7502(p)    Fax +4161 697 3976

Dear Thomas

Thank you for you message and I would like you to know that I fully support open dialogue.

The gist of my concern is removing the promoter from it's natural molecular niche (CaMV/host- where it appears to be domesticated at the molecular level by systems we don't fully understand yet) and placing it into a chimeric transgenic construct/vector, which then integrates into chromosomal DNA in GM plants. It is the molecular structure and function of the promoter in these new molecular situations in the wild that I am very worried about, in terms of evolution.

We must think hard and wide about this in view of the paradigm shift that is taking place within molecular biology pertaining to the role and molecular regulation of horizontal gene transfer. A great deal of further research is needed and that's going to take some time. The same concern can also be applied to other sequences employed in the construction of transgenic vectors and of the vectors themselves. In the mean time please consider the below very carefully.

Yours truly


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Date: 30 Nov 1999 11:08:38 -0600
From: Jonathan
From: NLP Wessex

Note below - "Many biotechnology detractors gain public support for their cause through the use of misinformation and emotional appeals." This is followed by an emotional appeal for biotech to proceed because of all its many promises (without any admission of any limitations whatsoever!). This is definitely one for a Professor Bullsh*t 'Best Bull' award! - see


WTO petition: US biotech scientists start to panic!

WTO Document
Statement On World Trade Organization Objectives,
Biotech 'experts' - incompetence or fraud?

As is clear from the WTO petition letter below (forwarded to us by a US University Professor) the American biotechnology scientific community is becoming seriously rattled by the rising tide of public concern over GM crops and food.

The tremors are now being felt and panic is setting in.

As we anticipated in one of our recent mailouts:

"A tactic about to be copied in the US, the UK government has long since been urging its citizens to engage in a 'rational' scientific debate about GM food and crops."

This tactic is now clearly being launched in the US (for more details on the implications of this see our original mailout at the end of this message) and is being touted at the WTO talks in Seattle courtesy of Senator Kit Bond (R-MO). Clearly a man to look out for!

In the meantime you can read extensive quotations from scientists who give an entirely different view of this technology at

These quotations include the following words about GM food from the man who has the double distinction of beingnot only principal adviser to Tony Blair on the setting up of the UK Food Standards Agency (hardly therefore a fringe food safety figure) but also the man who sacked Professor Pusztai from the Rowett Research Institute (hardly therefore a man on the fringes of the GM food safety debate):

"The perception that everything is totally straightforward and safe is utterly naive. I don't think we fully understand the dimensions of what we're getting into."

With the scientific community clearly divided on this subject what can be the political justification for proceding with such technology given that most governments these days claim (!) to be committed to sustainable development and the 'precautionary principle' enshrined within it?



WTO Document


November 24, 1999

Dear Division C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, C-5, C-6, C-7, C-8, S-1, S-2, S-3, S-4, S-6, S-7, S-8, S-10, S-11, A-1, A-3, A-4, A-5, A-6, and A-8 Members:

Genetic engineering/biotechnology and genetically modified crops (GMOs) are under an ever-increasing attack from certain environmental and consumer groups. Many biotechnology detractors gain public support for their cause through the use of misinformation and emotional appeals. Rarely is sound science included in the often widely publicized debate on the pros and cons of GMOs and their products. In short, biotechnology, this incredibly powerful and valuable tool with seemingly limitless potential to resolve health problems, increase crop yields, and treat diseases, is at risk of serious setbacks.

In an effort to dispel much of the fear being generated regarding GMOs and their products, the Tri-Societies are circulating the attached Biotechnology Support Letter (Letter) to our membership, asking that you please review and endorse the Letter, if you are in agreement with its message. Note: those endorsing the Letter will be identified, individually and not as representatives of the Tri-Societies, as signatories and their affiliation, e.g. Professor of Molecular Genetics, University of Minnesota, will be included.

As this process will be carried out through electronic means, please reply to our Director of Science Policy, Karl M. Glasener no later than noon (est) on Wednesday, November 24, 1999 by email at making sure to give him permission to add your endorsement.

The Biotechnology Support Letter with your accompanying endorsement will be carried by Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) to the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle, WA at the end of November, 1999. Senator Bond will use the Letter to demonstrate to the public and WTO delegates from around the world the overwhelming support for biotechnology voiced by our nation's top scientists. Senator Bond will also use the letter to emphasize that sound science, not emotions and ill-founded fears, be used when debating the value and risks of GMOs.

Thank you for your consideration of and quick response to this request.


Vernon Cardwell Ronald Phillips Donald Sparks
ASA President CSSA President SSSA President


"Crops modified by molecular and cellular methods should pose risks no different from those modified by classical genetic methods for similar traits. As the molecular methods are more specific, users of these methods will be more certain about the traits they introduce into plants."

- National Research Council

"America leads the world in agricultural products developed with biotechnology. These products hold great promise and will unlock benefits for consumers, producers and the environment at home and around the world. We are committed to ensuring the safety of our food and environment through strong and transparent science-based domestic regulatory systems."

- President William J. Clinton


Statement On World Trade Organization Objectives,

October 13, 1999

November 24, 1999

Dear Senator Bond:

The undersigned scientists support the use of biotechnology as a research tool in the development and production of agricultural and food products. We also strongly advocate the use of sound science as the basis for regulatory and political decisions pertaining to biotechnology.

Biotechnology for agriculture and the food industry is offering remarkable innovations - providing new tools for growth and development. Biotechnology has a long history of development. Its early applications produced better-quality medicines and improved industrial products. Recently, products have been developed that allow farmers to reduce their input costs and increase yields while providing environmental benefits. In the near future, an ever-increasing number and variety of crops with traits beneficial to consumers will reach the market. Such traits will include improved nutritional values, healthier oils, increased vitamin content, better flavor, and longer shelf life.

The ultimate beneficiaries of technological innovation have always been consumers, both in the United States and abroad. In developing countries, biotechnological advances will provide means to overcome vitamin deficiencies, to supply vaccines for killer diseases like cholera and malaria, to increase production and protect fragile natural resources, and to grow crops under normally unfavorable conditions.

We recognize that no technology is without risks. At the same time, we have confidence in the current U.S. regulatory system provided by the USDA, EPA, and FDA. The U.S. system has worked well and continues to evolve as scientific advancements are achieved.

Considering the tremendous potential of this technology, we urge policy makers to base their decisions on sound scientific evidence.


NAME, TITLE/CREDENTIALS, INSTITUTION ============================================================================

Biotech 'experts' - incompetence or fraud?

Earlier NLP Wessex mailout: 22 November 1999 23:27

A tactic about to be copied in the US, the UK government has long since been urging its citizens to engage in a 'rational' scientific debate about GM food and crops. The patronising implication of this stance is that the public are ignorant and ill-informed on the subject. This is leading them to draw, in the UK government's view, inappropriately negative conclusions about the wisdom of adopting this technology.

By contrast biotechnology 'experts' on the other hand are well informed honourable people in whose 'wisdom-with-hindsight' approach we should always trust . Certainly this is preferable, so the thinking goes, to paying credence to the 'smell-a-rat' instincts of the wider population. These are unreasonably influenced by prior 'emotional' experiences of DDT, thalidomide, asbestos, radiation and other reassuringly safe technologies previously defended by the scientific community.

So just how well informed and trustworthy are some of these members of the scientific community who have taken it upon themselves to defend the GM agenda?

If the meticulously referenced revelations in the article below by Jonathan Mathews of Norfolk Genetic Information Network (NGIN) are anything to go by, objective rational science has long since beat a retreat from a number of scientific corners where the biotech flag is now flying high.

Items on the menu include:

Are we looking at scientific incompetence or fraud here? You decide.

Unlike Dr Pusztai (whose public flagellation many have of them have orchestrated) these scientific Pharisees remain in charge of their laboratories and departments, sitting comfortably unchallenged by the scientific and governmental establishments.

The fundamental difference here between the flogged and the floggers is that Dr Pusztai's original brief public comments (which many still regard as having a valid basis in his now published research but which lead precipitously to his appalling treatment by many of his scientific peers) raised concerns about GM and caused discomfiture to large corporations and their powerful supporters.

By contrast, the extravagant statements of the pro-GM scientists examined in the NGIN article below, which seem to have been demonstrably falsely made, were intended to persuade the public of the benefits of the same technology promoted by those corporations and their supporters.

The touchstone of "sound science" and "genuine scientific evidence", when it comes to the GM debate, would therefore seem to be: whose interests is this debate intended to serve?

As the article concludes: "At the very least, the examples we have looked at raise questions about the extent to which the public and the government can rely on scientific experts to be suitably cautious, properly dispassionate and even fully honest in informing them about the GM issue."

NGIN's follow-on article on the pressures that are driving independent scientists to act like hired guns for the biotech industry should indeed make interesting reading when it is released in due course.