31 December 99

Table of Contents

As Biotech Frankenfoods' Are Stuffed Down Their Throats, Consumers Rebel.
Commenting on the Hazards of GM Crops
Canadian Food Producers In Disarray
GM Crop Research: The food-shortage Myth
Canada: Developments re Dr. Shiv Chopra
First South African retailer bans GM foods
Portugal Green Groups Urge Wider Gene Maize Ban
Whole Foods, Wild Oats Chains to Ban Gene-Altered Ingredients
GMO crop use may boost food costs
Biotech Beer Turns Off Brewing Ind.
Report on Organic Farming
Brazil's Farmers Dispute Ban on Genetically Modified Food
"E"-number nasties (in UK products)
Clinton's Gene Project Quotes
The Wall Street Transcript Publishes Ag Biotech Report
CaMV recombination when and where?

Top NextFront Page

Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 10:00:27 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN12-27

Maria Margaronis is a Nation contributing editor living in London. Thanks to D.D. Guttenplan for additional reporting on this piece.

The Politics of Food

As Biotech Frankenfoods' Are Stuffed Down Their Throats, Consumers Rebel.

by MARIA MARGARONIS, London, The Nation (UK), December 27, 1999

A year ago, Monsanto chairman Robert Shapiro had the future in his pocket. His vast "life sciences" corporation was at the cutting edge of the new agricultural revolution, genetic modification; the spread of GM seeds throughout the United States, he told his shareholders, was the most "successful launch of any technology ever, including the plow." The little matter of European distaste for the new crops would, he felt sure, be resolved by the right kind of PR and some careful scientific reassurance. As Ann Foster, the company's personable British flack, patiently explained to anti-GM campaigners here, "people will have Roundup Ready soya, whether they like it or not."

So far, things have not gone according to plan. The European Union has a de facto moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops, pending further discussion (the only exception is the Swiss company Novartis's Bt corn, currently being grown in Spain). Austria, Luxembourg, Italy and Greece have total or partial bans on the technology. Even the Blair government, in love with the sleek promises of high-tech business and keen to keep Clinton sweet, has bowed to public pressure and put off the commercial planting of GM seeds in Britain for at least three years. (Environment Minister Michael Meacher, whose views on the subject are carefully tracked by the CIA, has reportedly said in private that GM crops will never be grown commercially here.)

Shoppers have rejected GM food in droves, prompting a breathless race among the supermarket chains to go GM-free. As a report by the British government's Science and Technology Committee put it, "At the current rate at which food manufacturers are withdrawing GM ingredients...from their products, there will be no market for GM food in this country."

US soy exports to Europe are down from $2.1 billion in 1996 to $1.1 billion in 1999, and anxiety about GM crops (or genetically engineered crops, as they're generally known in the United States) is blowing across the prairies. Last spring and summer a series of reports by the influential Deutsche Bank urged investors to pull out of agricultural biotechnology altogether: "The term GMO [genetically modified organism] has become a liability. We predict that GMOs, once perceived as the driver of the bull case for this sector, will now be perceived as a pariah."

In October a chastened Shapiro apologized to Greenpeace for his "enthusiasm," which, he acknowledged, could be read as "condescension or indeed arrogance." Monsanto's stock has gone seriously pear-shaped, and the board has reportedly considered a company breakup.

What happened? How did a loose assemblage of European environmental activists, development charities, food retailers and supermarket shoppers stop a huge multinational industry, temporarily at least, in its tracks?

* * *

The first protests against genetic modification took place in America in the late seventies, when activists from a group called Science for the People destroyed frost-resistant strawberries and delayed the construction of Princeton's molecular-biology building. Then they fizzled out. Americans, by and large, trust the FDA to keep the levels of toxicity in their daily bread down to a psychologically manageable level and don't worry too much about the source of the goodies that fill their horn of plenty.

The great grain factories of the Midwest work their magic far from the places most people visit to enjoy nature. In much of Europe, though, nature and agriculture go hand in glove, occupying the same physical and social space. Europe's layered patchwork of farming and culinary landscapes has taken shape over 2,500 years, altered by small and large migrations, the conquest and loss of colonies, wars and revolutions. Europeans feel strongly about what they eat: Food is a matter of identity as well as economy, culture as well as nurture.

The most dramatic changes in European farming in this century came about partly as a result of the experience of famine during World War II: The much-reviled Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union has its origins in the determination that Europe should never again see mass starvation. By protecting and supporting their farmers against the vagaries of trade while simultaneously investing in intensive agriculture (a contradiction in terms, you might say, since roughly 80 percent of Europe's farm subsidies go to 20 percent of its farmers), European governments hoped to insure long-term food security for their people. But, as they usually do, the contradictions eventually came home to roost.

"The fourth agricultural revolution," says Tim Lang, professor of food policy at Thames Valley University and one of the new food movement's intellectual lights, "is beginning just as the third one – agrochemicals and intensive farming – is unraveling." The unraveling has made itself felt both in the economic crisis that affects many of Europe's farmers and in a series of food-safety scandals caused by deregulation and overintensive production.

The outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Britain's cattle in the eighties and its appearance in humans as the fatal new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the nineties was the most powerful catalyst for the public's loss of faith in governments and food producers. In one terrifying package, BSE tied together the new "economical" farming practices (in this case the feeding of ground-up cow carcasses to cattle), the easing of health and safety standards, and government's willingness to lie for the food industry even at the cost of human lives.

So far, new-variant CJD has killed forty-three people in Britain; the chief medical officer recently warned that millions may still contract it from beef they ate fifteen years ago. By some estimates, the whole affair has cost about $6.5 billion, much of it put up by the European Union. Elsewhere in Europe, similar stories break with depressing regularity. Last summer, for instance, a cover-up of dioxin contamination in animal feed brought down the Belgian government and part of the Dutch Cabinet and had worried gourmets across the continent throwing out chickens, eggs and Belgian chocolate to the tune of $800 million. (The Coca-Cola crisis that followed, in which 30 million cans and bottles of the elixir of life were poured down the drain after a number of people reportedly fell ill, turned out to be a genuine case of mass hysteria.)

The anxiety is only partly contained by sideshows like the Anglo-French beef war, in which the British agriculture minister decided to boycott French food in retaliation for France's refusal to lift its ban on British beef with the rest of the European Union – simultaneously publicizing an EU report that found sewage sludge processed into French animal feed. The happy tabloid trumpeting that ensued momentarily restored the beef of Old England to its rightful place as a bulwark against the filthy Frogs, allowing the Daily Mail to boost its circulation with pictures of cows in berets and toilet-paper necklaces amid cries of "Just say Non!"

* * *

The biotech companies danced into this minefield with all the grace of an elephant in jackboots.

Ten years ago, agricultural biotechnology was debated only by what Labor MP Joan Ruddock (former leader of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) calls "men in white coats and men in gray suits," with environmental NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth reporting on their activities but mounting no large-scale protests. In 1990 the first GM additive approved for use in British food, a GM baker's yeast, was swallowed without qualms; so was the GM tomato paste sold by Sainsbury's supermarket in 1996, at a lower price than its conventional equivalent.

The trouble started that same year when the American Soybean Association, Monsanto and the US trade associations told British food retailers that they could not – would not – segregate American GM soybeans from the conventional kind, undermining the golden rule of consumer-friendly capitalism: Let them have choice. Around the same time, media and public awareness of the issue reached critical mass, and the supermarkets started getting worried letters from their customers asking them not to use GM ingredients.

The arrogance with which the American biotech firms approached the European food industry is the stuff of legend. Bill Wadsworth, technical manager of the frozen-food chain Iceland, recalls a meeting in September 1997 at which a biotech executive actually said, "You are a backward European who doesn't like change. You should just accept this is right for your customers."

A few weeks later Wadsworth was on a plane to Brazil, where he found a grower and processor of non-GM soybeans and began to set up a vertically integrated supply chain for Iceland's processed foods. Iceland began to raise the issue's profile with its customers, pointing out that while Iceland's foods were GM free, those of the other supermarkets were contaminated. Before long every supermarket chain in the country was inundated with mail and phone calls about GM food and had begun to follow suit. In June 1998 a poll showed that 95 percent of British shoppers thought that all food containing GM ingredients should be labeled.

* * *

Meanwhile, the field testing of GM crops in Britain by Monsanto, AgrEvo, Novartis and other companies gave a dramatic focus to the environmental arguments against genetic modification. Media-savvy eco-activists in decontamination suits or grim reaper outfits began to pull up trial plantings and leaflet supermarkets; by the summer of 1998, hardly a week went by without reports of some new, inventive, nonviolent protest.

English Nature, the government's own environmental watchdog, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds both added their authoritative voices to calls for a moratorium on planting, citing the unpredictable and uncontainable dangers of releasing the new organisms into the ecosystem. Gene transfers could produce herbicide-resistant "superweeds"; crops genetically engineered to be toxic to insects might well affect the whole food chain, further damaging the biodiversity of a landscape already impoverished by intensive farming.

In a country where the membership of environmental and conservation groups outstrips the membership of political parties by four to one, the disappearance of cornflowers and skylarks from fields and hedgerows is a political issue. Prince Charles's entry into the fray on the side of the green campaigners did much to enhance the post-Diana credibility of a man who not so long ago was widely ridiculed for talking to his plants.

By the time Monsanto launched its too-clever-by-half ad campaign to sell biotechnology to the British public in the summer of 1998, the bonfire had been prepared. The united front of environmentalists, shoppers and food retailers, animated in part by fury at the hubris of multinationals' trying to pull the wool over their eyes, was joined by an army of development NGOs outraged by Monsanto's efforts to corner Third World seed markets with a technology that could destroy farmers' livelihoods while pretending to "feed the world."

The spark that lit the flames was the broadcast that August of a television documentary about the work of Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a researcher at a government-funded institute who claimed that feeding GM potatoes to laboratory rats had slowed their growth and damaged their immune systems. Dr. Pusztai rapidly lost his job amid assertions that his work was flawed and incomplete, but the whole affair catapulted GMOs into the tabloid firmament. With its usual brash enthusiasm The Express launched a populist crusade against "Frankenfoods," and pretty soon not a man, woman or child in Britain was left in the dark. The GM controversy even made The Archers, BBC radio's venerable daily soap about an English farming family: To the relief of fans everywhere, young Tommy Archer was recently found not guilty of criminal damage after destroying a test crop of GM oilseed rape in one of his uncle's fields.

Downing Street has remained largely unmoved by all this protest, allowing Tory leader William Hague (who has himself been caricatured as a genetically modified vegetable) to make political hay out of Labor's urban unconcern for the environment and dazzled obeisance to the biotech firms. To Tony Blair, pro-business to his toenails, the GM revolution is part of the white heat of new technology that will carry the British economy through the next century. In the words of the government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Robert May, "We have played a hugely disproportionate part in creating the underlying science: are we going to lose it like we lost things in the past?" Dolly the sheep, after all, was cloned here.

If we do "lose it" in the long run, it will be in part because of the government's serious misreading of the public mood. Had they proceeded from the start in an open and careful manner, acknowledging all the unanswered questions about genetic modification and treating the population as intelligent citizens instead of superstitious children, the eventual outcome might have been different. But even if – in some parallel universe – that had been New Labor's way, the biotech firms and the American growers in their thrall would never have allowed such caution. Blair may be predisposed to favor all kinds of high-tech business; he is also, as the environmentalist and writer George Monbiot puts it, "having his balls bust by Clinton."

For the United States, Britain is the gateway to Europe – and Europe is, if anything, even less enamored of biotechnology, despite the efforts of homegrown firms like Novartis and Zeneca. In Britain, Germany and elsewhere, resistance to GMOs has been led by green activists and consumers. In France, it has also involved the Confidiration Paysanne, the country's second-largest farmers' union and political home of Josi Bovi, famous for taking apart a new "McDo" in Millau to protest American food imperialism.

Last year Bovi was one of 120 farmers who destroyed silos-full of Bt corn – a GM variety that has been shown to affect lacewings, bees, ladybugs and monarch butterflies – then being grown in France. At his trial Bovi made a passionate speech explaining his actions: "When were farmers and consumers asked what they think about this? Never. The decisions have been taken at the level of the World Trade Organization, and state machinery complies with the law of market forces.... Genetically modified maize is...the symbol of a system of agriculture and a type of society that I refuse to accept. Genetically modified maize is purely the product of technology, where the means become the end. Political choices are swept aside by the power of money."

* * *

Since then France has reversed its decision to grow the corn, for environmental and health-related reasons, and – after a timely intervention by Greenpeace and activist Jeremy Rifkin with the prime minister's advisers – has argued for an EU moratorium on further approvals of GM crops. In spite of stubborn British opposition, the moratorium is effectively if not officially in place: France, Italy, Denmark, Greece and Luxembourg have declared that they will block the issue of any new licenses until new regulations have been agreed.

In addition, all foods sold in Europe that contain a significant percentage of GM ingredients now have to be labeled – a decision that immediately rebounded on US agribusiness, pushing giant grain traders like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland to segregate their silos.

* * *

In the war over the fourth agricultural revolution, the first round seems to have gone to the citizens. But this is only the beginning. The global food economy is regulated by the awkwardly interlocking gears of bodies like the EU and the WTO, themselves dominated by transnational corporations with budgets larger than those of many small countries. The patterns of competing interests and overlapping jurisdictions are dizzying.

The Anglo-French beef war was partly a tempest in a teapot over market share, partly a struggle to determine whether the European Union or France's own freshly minted food-safety authority gets to vet what French people eat. The Clinton Administration has used the WTO to declare Europe's exclusion of American hormone-fed beef illegal (allowing the United States to levy $117 million in sanctions), and unless the great salon des refusis that gathered in Seattle wins some significant victories, it will almost certainly do the same with Europe's attempts to restrict GMOs. The loyal Blair government has already challenged Europe's de facto moratorium as a violation of WTO trade rules.

Like all victories, however partial, this one offers valuable pointers for the future. The opposition to GMOs in Europe has been informed and led by environmental organizations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – part of the tidal wave of campaigning groups that filled the vacuum left by government in the neoliberal eighties. But the foot soldiers who really blocked the biotech firms' confident advance are the women and men who refused to buy their products – consumers, or citizens of global capitalism, voting in the only way they can. In the European movement against GM food, Ralph Nader's old strategy of organizing consumers at the point of consumption has found its best vindication yet.

Consumer politics, though, has its limitations. Transnational corporations are many-headed hydras, with the capacity to sprout new body parts in the blink of an eye. Once it had seen the writing on the wall, Monsanto immediately set about regrouping; at a series of closed meetings with environmental organizations earlier this year, it offered to use its gene databases to help farmers create new varieties of crops through traditional crossbreeding methods.

Not surprisingly, Monsanto has also tried to push forward into countries where it believes people have more pressing worries than the possible risks of eating GMOs. In Georgia, for example, it held illegal trials of GM potatoes for two years before being exposed by Greenpeace and Elkana, a Georgian organic-farming group.

The challenge facing the great Internet-linked coalition of activists that makes up the new food movement is to keep on thinking globally while acting locally. In Europe, the GM debate has brought people's concern about the safety of what they eat to critical mass: British shoppers' demand for organic food has increased by 40 percent in the last year, as evidenced by the advance of pricey, rustically packaged organic produce – 70 percent of it imported – along the shelves of Sainsbury's and Safeway.

Farmers are slower to catch up, although some are trying. The government's program for organic conversion had exhausted its budget for 1999-2000 by March of this year, in spite of a $17 million top-up; Labor MP Ruddock has introduced a bill to increase the amount of land under organic cultivation over the next ten years. The Iceland chain, ever at the cutting edge, has begun a drive to provide affordable organic food by buying ingredients from places where conditions allow intensive cultivation with a minimum of chemical assistance – for instance, wheat from western Canada.

Bill Wadsworth's strategy for the future is based on extending the principle of vertically integrated supply – "Grow me my soybeans that will go into my beefburger." But what will this mean for producers in poorer countries? Are we looking at a new United Fruit scenario, in which tropical islands grow wall-to-wall organic pineapples for Northern supermarkets while their people eat genetically engineered mush peddled by Monsanto's subsidiaries?

In November nine Indian farmers visited Britain, sponsored by Iceland and an international exchange group called Farmers' Link. Crammed into a small meeting room in Westminster, they told Ruddock about their intense frustration at being shut out of the WTO discussions that will determine their future. In India, where 75 percent of the population is directly involved in agriculture, trade liberalization has had a devastating effect: Importing cheap food means importing unemployment. "Your people have rejected GM food," said Vivek Cariappa, an organic farmer from southern India who is active in his country's thriving anti-GM movement. "Where will it go? It won't go into the sea. It will go to countries like ours."

With careful honesty, Ruddock explained to the farmers that their British colleagues, on the whole, don't share their concerns: "Britain has been run as multinational farming enterprises with subsidies from the CAP. It is mostly people in urban areas, pressure groups, pushing for change in agricultural practice, except for a small organic minority." When Juli Cariappa asked if Britain really wants to leave its food basket in the hands of the multinationals, Ruddock paused, looked her in the eye, and said, reluctantly, "Yes."

* * *

If the biotech companies have their way we could soon be on course for William Gibson's nightmare future, in which the rich eat real food grown by artisan farmers and the poor eat genetically engineered "vat stuff" when they eat at all. As long as food is treated as a commodity like any other and traded to maximize profits, there is little chance of a reduction in world hunger or of a significantly safer diet for the fortunate few. As Tim Lang puts it, "We have to see that it is the production of food that matters, not just its consumption."

Or, in the crisp words of Josi Bovi, "We are faced with a real choice for society. Either we accept intensive production and the huge reduction in the number of farmers in the sole interests of the World Market, or we create a farmer's agriculture for the benefit of everyone." The shape-shifting global coalition that tripped the advance of genetically modified crops in Europe and staged the carnival of protest in Seattle has its work cut out for it. But the genie is out of the bottle. Food – which in its progress from seed to stomach links ecology, labor, poverty, trade, culture and health – will be a key item on the menu of the next century's struggles for democracy against the arbitrary power of the giant corporations.

** 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: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 20:16:35 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN12-28

Commenting on the Hazards of GM Crops

from Dr. Joe Cummins, Professor Emeritus of Genetics, University of Western Ontario:

The article below is useful for those commenting on the hazards of GM crops. The CaMV promoter is related to Hepatitis B and interchanges sequences with HIV in the laboratory. Exchange between plant and animal viruses should be an important part of the risk evaluation of GM crops. Some of the pompous and academically well healed advocates of biotechnology have claimed that this had never happened nor never will.

Luckily , those fanatics seemed not to have been able to prevent publication of the article to maintain their fiction about genetics. Of course, I expect to hear from the goof from US EPA who takes such findings to be a form of abusing him.



Title:Evidence that a plant virus switched hosts to infect a vertebrate and then recombined with a vertebrate-infecting virus.
Author:Gibbs MJ; Weiller GF
Address:Bioinformatics, Research School of Biological Sciences, The Australian National University, G.P.O. Box 475, Canberra 2601, Australia.
Source:Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 96(14):8022-7 1999 Jul 6 Abstract

There are several similarities between the small, circular, single-stranded-DNA genomes of circoviruses that infect vertebrates and the nanoviruses that infect plants. We analyzed circovirus and nanovirus replication initiator protein (Rep) sequences and confirmed that an N-terminal region in circovirus Reps is similar to an equivalent region in nanovirus Reps.

However, we found that the remaining C-terminal region is related to an RNA-binding protein (protein 2C), encoded by picorna-like viruses, and we concluded that the sequence encoding this region of Rep was acquired from one of these single-stranded RNA viruses, probably a calicivirus, by recombination. This is clear evidence that a DNA virus has incorporated a gene from an RNA virus, and the fact that none of these viruses code for a reverse transcriptase suggests that another agent with this capacity was involved.

Circoviruses were thought to be a sister-group of nanoviruses, but our phylogenetic analyses, which take account of the recombination, indicate that circoviruses evolved from a nanovirus. A nanovirus DNA was transferred from a plant to a vertebrate. This transferred DNA included the viral origin of replication; the sequence conservation clearly indicates that it maintained the ability to replicate.

In view of these properties, we conclude that the transferred DNA was a kind of virus and the transfer was a host-switch. We speculate that this host-switch occurred when a vertebrate was exposed to sap from an infected plant. All characterized caliciviruses infect vertebrates, suggesting that the host-switch happened first and that the recombination took place in a vertebrate.

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Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 14:30:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN12-31

You may not hear anything more from me for a week Have a happy new year


Canadian Food Producers In Disarray

By John Greenwood, Financial Post, December 27, 1999, National Post, B1

The battle over genetically modified food has, according to this story, crossed the Atlantic.

Any doubt about that was put to rest last week after Tesco Stores Ltd., Britain's largest supermarket chain, warned suppliers of meat and dairy products, including, the story says, some Canadian firms, not to use genetically modified grain in their animal feed. While that hardly amounts to a consumer revolt against "frankenfood," it is a shot across the bows for Canadian food producers.

Alarmingly, the industry appears, the story says, to have been taken by surprise and is in disarray as to how to handle the issue.

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Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 14:30:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN12-31 From:
Originated:: (Biotech Activists)

GM Crop Research: The food-shortage Myth

The Times (UK), December 28, 1999

Craig Sams, (President), Whole Earth Ltd,, writes that Professor Beringer (report, December 23) says that opponents of GM food are consigning billions to hunger and starvation and calls for more government funding for GM crop research. The main cause of starvation in the world is poverty. Concentrating power in the hands of agrichemical and seed companies will not, says Sams, alleviate this problem.

There is too much food in the world, more than enough to feed everyone, even allowing for increasing levels of consumption of land-hungry foods such as meat and dairy products. The reality of how we dispose of food surpluses is unsettling for those who are truly concerned about hunger.

Sams says that the American Corn Growers' Association is lobbying hard to get other US states to emulate Minnesota, where it is now a legal requirement for gasoline companies to add 2.5 per cent ethanol (corn alcohol) to fuel in an attempt to use up American grain surpluses. Edible corn is grown using fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides produced from fossil fuels, using farm machines that run on fossil fuels, then fermented and distilled using fossil fuels to produce a substitute for fossil fuels. There is as yet no evidence, says Sams, that GM crops deliver higher yields.

Professor Beringer's call for more government funding for GM crop research should not be heeded. The US Agricultural Research Service funded and part-owns the much-hated "Terminator" gene and the British Government has poured taxpayers' money into GM crop research. This has been money wasted. If there is a genuine market demand for GM technology then let it stand on its own commercial feet.

This Government has recently held back the growth of organic farming in the UK by restricting funding for farmers who want to get off the agrichemical treadmill and to practise environmentally sustainable agriculture.

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Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 14:30:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN12-31

Canada: Developments re Dr. Shiv Chopra

Dr. Shiv Chopra is a scientific evaluator working in the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs at Health Canada. He is one of the main scientists in Canada who brought to the attention of the press and the public the potential hazards of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone and other drugs of questionable safety. Dr. Chopra and the other scientists testified before the Canadian Senate Agriculture Committee that were being pressured to approve BGH and these other drugs despite serious safety concerns.

Several months after Dr. Chopra's testimony before the Agriculture Committee, he was suspended for five days without pay from Health Canada. The Senate Standing Committee on Privileges is currently investigating whether Dr. Chopra's suspension was a result of his earlier testimony before the Senate, and whether this constitutes a contempt of Parliament by Health Canada since witnesses before parliamentary committees by law are entitled to freedom of speech and protection from outside interference and retaliation for their testimonies.

Several other scientists have been asked to report on whether they received any threats or retaliatory actions by Health Canada or whether they were witness to any such actions against Dr. Chopra.

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Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 14:30:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN12-31

First South African retailer bans GM foods

CAPE TOWN, Dec 21 (Reuters)

South African retail chain Woolworths said on Tuesday it had decided to remove all known genetically modified (GM) foods from its shelves until they were proven safe. The decision, taken after a meeting between company management and members of the South African Federation Against Genetic Engineering (SAFEAGE), makes Woolworths the first South African retailer to take that stance. "The current situation with regard to GE (genetically engineered) food in South Africa is unsatisfactory," Woolworths said in a statement. "Woolworths have stated their intention to remove genetically engineered food from their shelves."

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Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 14:30:20 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN12-31

Portugal Green Groups Urge Wider Gene Maize Ban

LISBON, Reuters) via NewsEdge Corporation, December 30, 1999

Portuguese environmental groups on Wednesday hailed a government move to halt production of two genetically modified (GM) strains of maize and called for 15 other strains on trial to be denied official approval.

The agriculture ministry on Tuesday suspended approval of the Elgina and Compa Cb strains due to concern over the possible long-term impact of extensive cultivation.

"This is a courageous measure," a joint statement by eight environmental groups said. "This measure equally implies the suspension of 15 pending new authorisations of GMO maize.

"Organic agriculture will also be spared the inevitable contamination entailed by cross-pollination with GMO maize," the statement added.

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Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999 12:55:15 -0500

Whole Foods, Wild Oats Chains to Ban Gene-Altered Ingredients

12/30/99 12:40 (New York)

Austin, Texas, Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) – Whole Foods Market Inc. and Wild Oats Markets Inc., the two largest natural-food store chains in the U.S., plan to ban genetically modified ingredients from their hundreds of private-label products.

The two grocers would be the largest U.S. food retailers to ban genetically modified ingredients. The Austin-based Whole Foods operates 103 stores in 22 states and Washington, D.C., and has more than 600 products carrying its brand name. Boulder, Colorado-based Wild Oats operates 110 stores in 22 states and British Columbia. It has about 700 products under its own brand.

The move follows similar bans by major European supermarket chains, reacting to consumer concerns over the foods' safety. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed genetically modified foods to be safe and essentially no different than conventionally grown foods, the grocers' decision could influence public opinion, an analyst said. said Frank Mitsch, an market

Concerns about Monsanto's agriculture business have contributed to a 25 percent decline in the price of its shares this year.

Brett Chase in Chicago (312) 692-3728 /mfr/tab

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Date: 28 Dec 1999 03:58:53 U

GMO crop use may boost food costs

CHICAGO, Dec 27 (Reuters) via NewsEdge Corporation -

Use of genetically modified (GMO) crops in the food system will likely increase handling and processing costs and retail food prices to some extent, a Federal Reserve Bank economist said on Monday.

In a quarterly letter on the farm economy, Chicago Fed agricultural economist Mike Singer said biotechnology and GMO crops hold great promise to improve the environment and better human health.

"However, concerns over the safety of these foods and the environmental impact of genetically enhanced crops have risen dramatically in recent months," Singer said.

"Though it seems highly unlikely that the continued development and use of these products will be banned, labelling and perhaps additional regulation may increase costs in the food system and, ultimately, affect retail food prices."

GMO crops, which in recent years caught on widely with U.S. farmers, usually contain genes inserted into seeds to help the plant withstand herbicide applications, diseases or serious crop pests such as the European corn borer.

More than a third of U.S. corn and more than half U.S. soybeans were planted to GMO seeds this year, before a firestorm of consumer protests led many food processors and distributors in Europe and Asia to call for GMO segregation, further testing and labelling.

Disputes over the safety and evaluation of GMO crops contributed to the breakdown of the latest World Trade Organization talks in Seattle earlier this month.

Singer said that given the level of consumer concerns and their effects this year on food processors, it was likely that next year's GMO crops in the U.S. will have to be segregated, tested, labelled and further regulated – all adding to costs that would be pushed further down the food chain.

"The problem today is one of infrastructure, i.e. most farmers, handlers and processors are not prepared to segregate grain," he said, noting that segregation will demand either considerable downtime during harvest or purchase of additional equipment and storage devoted to keeping GMO identity intact.

"Either approach entails a significant additional cost," Singer said. "Complete segregation may be all but impossible," he added.

Singer said that by next year's harvest testing procedures and standards must be developed, "perhaps similar to standards already in existence for levels of foreign matter allowed in various commodities."

Singer said it would be no surprise to see a reduction in plantings of GMO crops next year by U.S. farmers.

"Many may decide to reduce the amount of GMO seed planted because of concern over price discounts and demand uncertainty," Singer said.

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Date: 28 Dec 1999 15:16:23 U

Biotech Beer Turns Off Brewing Ind.

By BLAKE NICHOLSON Associated Press Writer

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Charles Ottem would love to see the barley in his fields be immune to disease, but brewing companies worry that beer drinkers might be turned off if genetic engineering made that possible. It's something we can't shove down people's throats. We all have to said Rick Ward, a wheat The consumer is king, and they

In North Dakota, which leads the nation in barley production, this year's crop was the smallest in more than a decade. A fungal disease called scab has cost farmers in the Northern Plains an estimated $2.6 billion in lost crops from 1991 through 1997 alone. Scab, for all practical purposes, has devastated the barley industry said Ottem, a North Dakota farmer and chairman of the state's That's the only way we're going to find the solution to all

Barley is used to make beer, but scab-infested barley can affect the taste and cause the beer to gush out of the bottle.

Genetic engineering involves manipulating the genes of a plant. With the growing controversy over biotech food, some overseas brewers already are refusing to buy grain genetically designed to kill pests or withstand herbicides or disease.

In the United States, the brewing industry is still pinning its hopes on a more conventional solution to scab. The majority of (research) funds being expended are for traditional said Mike Davis, president of the American Malting Barley Association, a trade group for major malting and brewing Our general thoughts are that (biotech) research should be

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service facility in Madison, Wis., molecular biologist Ronald Skadsen is trying to create a barley that has antifungal genes in the right place to ward off the scab fungus.

At the ARS facility in Fargo, N.D., geneticist Lynn Dahleen is trying to insert genes into barley that will reduce the toxins caused by scab.

Both say a biotech solution to scab could be as much as a decade away. We don't have a single gene we can breed in that will give

Ward, the wheat breeder, said it's too early to tell whether the efforts of Dahleen, Skadsen and others will produce a barley immune to scab. We would be remiss to ignore the opportunity to interrogate these he said.

Brewers have come to rely more on barley from Canada and the western United States, Davis said. But even if a biotech solution to scab could be found, brewers probably would not rush to embrace it, he said. If one was commercially developed, at that time it would have to be thoroughly tested, and a decision made as to whether it could be For any companies selling a food product, they always weigh

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 28 Dec 1999 17:11:05 U
From: "j.e. cummins"

Report on Organic Farming

By Prof. Joe Cummins, e-mail: , 28 December 1999

Brief Comment on Part 1 Organic Farming and Gene Transfer from Genetically Modified Crops The report Part 1 Organic Farming and gene Transfer from Genetically Modified Crops by C. Moyes and P.Dale of John Innes , Norwich was circulated Dec. 28 1999 and is available on the John Innes web site

My comment is that the report on pollen transfer from transgenic potato did not include the report by Io Skogsmyr Gene dispersal from transgenic potatoes to conspecies: a field trial Theor Appl Genetics 88, 770-774,1994. Skogsmyr found that transgenic pollen was transmitted for at least one kilometer from the transgenic test plot. That dispersal is much greater than the dispersal favored by the authors of the organic farming report. Even if the authors disagreed with the Skogsmyr study they should have included its data in the report. Such selective reporting is not acceptable. Interestingly, a related theoretical study by Skogsmyr was included in the John Innes presentation on organic farming.

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Date: 29 Dec 1999 06:05:37 U
Forwarded by:

Write to Steve Stecklow at and Matt Moffett at

Brazil's Farmers Dispute Ban on Genetically Modified Food

Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, December 28, 1999

It's Soybeans
Favored Fowl
No Guarantees
A Cost Issue
Surprise Inspections
Bean Bust
Conspiracy Theories

It's Soybeans

JULIO DE CASTILHOS, Brazil – Along Brazil's remote southern border with Argentina, a battle over contraband is raging.

Government inspectors raid storage sheds and conduct on-the-spot lab tests. Tipsters have a toll-free hotline to rat on smugglers. Police burn fields and seize sacks of seeds.

The target isn't cocaine or heroin. It's soybeans.

In one of the strangest twists in the dispute over genetically modified food, the government of a Brazilian state has gone to war with its farmers over their use of soybeans altered to permit use of a certain herbicide. And while the dispute is rooted in local politics, it touches on international business: the efforts by multinational food companies to meet demand, especially in Europe, for food free of "GM" ingredients.

That's because unlike the U.S. and Argentina -- the two other top soybean producers – Brazil hasn't yet approved the planting of bioengineered beans, and thus has emerged as the world's premier source of the regular kind. So food companies, which use soybean oil or soybean meal in everything from chocolate to tofu, have been turning to Brazil's beans for their non-GM product lines.

Favored Fowl

Indeed, European supermarkets cite their use of Brazilian soybeans as evidence that their product lines are "non-GM." One British chain, Iceland Group, even says it imports its frozen chickens all the way from Brazil because there they can peck at feed made of conventional soybean meal.

But a visit to the big soybean-growing state of Rio Grande do Sul suggests that Brazil's soybean supply isn't quite as claimed by marketers. Many farmers here openly plant genetically modified soybeans, with or without federal sanction.

The European Union, which requires labeling of GM foods, plans a limit of just 1% bioengineered residue in any ingredient for foods to avoid the label. But agriculture officials in this Brazilian state estimate that 13% of its 7.5 million acres of soybean fields are growing a genetically modified crop this season. Farmers put the percentage higher still, and they note that these GM soybeans are routinely mixed with conventional soybeans before shipment abroad.

No Guarantees

European importers who've traveled to the region recognize there's a problem. "It is obviously something that concerns me," says Sonny Arora, managing director of Soya International Ltd. in Manchester, England, which imports more than 15,000 tons of Brazilian soy a year and supplies it to supermarket chains for their private-label goods. He says lab tests on Brazilian soybeans in the past year have found "some contaminated product." And a spokesman for Cargill Inc., which sells Brazilian soybean oil and meal, says, "We have been aware for some time that there are no GM-free guarantees, if you like, on Brazilian soya."

Braulio Dias, a specialist on the issue at Brazil's federal environmental-protection agency, says national officials are confident that "the great bulk of the harvest isn't transgenic." Some experts say GM soybeans have made few inroads in the farm lands of western Brazil. But the agriculture secretary of Rio Grande do Sul, whose office has become a kind of clearinghouse on the issue in Brazil, says he has reliable information that GM is being used in other states besides his. In fact, the secretary, Jose Hermeto Hoffmann, says his state may have less transgenic soybean than the others, which aren't enforcing the law.

The gulf between Brazilian farmers and their European customers is wide. Farmers here shrug when asked about the GM controversy. They don't seem to believe that consumer demand for non-GM food is rising as a result of environmental groups' warnings that GM crops could have unintended effects. Mention the anti-GM group Friends of the Earth, and they think of a local farmers' organization by the same name -- one that advises farmers on the advantages of GM seeds.

A Cost Issue

What the farmers know for sure is that their competitors across the border in Argentina are permitted to use the new seeds – and thereby reduce their production costs – while they aren't. With world soybean prices at unprofitable, 25-year lows, "we have to lower costs because we're at the end of our rope economically," complains Hilario Ceolin, mayor of the town of Estrela Velha. His is one of several communities that have passed measures defying the federal and state governments and declaring legal the bioengineered crops, known here as transgenicos.

Brazil's soybean squabble arose earlier this year after the federal Agriculture Ministry approved use of Monsanto Co.'s "Roundup Ready" soybeans. These beans, thanks to a bacterium gene inserted by Monsanto, can survive a dousing by Roundup herbicide, also made by Monsanto. Farmers say that by using Roundup, they can avoid more-expensive weed-killing chemicals and cut their overall herbicide costs by 20%.

But environmental activists fear that these soybeans' resistance to Roundup could somehow spread to neighboring plants, leading to out-of-control "superweeds." Brazil's chapter of Greenpeace, along with a consumer group and Brazil's environmental-protection agency, won a court ruling in August that halted use of the seeds pending an environmental-impact study, which is expected to take at least a year. An appeal by Monsanto has yet to be heard.

In Rio Grande do Sul, many farmers aren't waiting. They've been growing genetically modified soybeans for two or three seasons, from seed originally smuggled across the border from Argentina. They won't say who supplies the seed. "Bags of it just fall from trucks and people plant it," jokes farmer Fabiano Scapin. He says he doesn't use it but knows plenty of people who do.

The farmers might have gone on this way with impunity but for a political shift. Thirteen months ago, the state narrowly elected as governor Olivo Dutra, from the leftist Workers Party. Although GM soybeans hadn't been a campaign issue, the party's new agriculture secretary, Mr. Hoffmann, soon got a briefing on them from Greenpeace. Told of the GM backlash in Europe, he went to France and Britain to gauge its force, and says he returned convinced that bioengineered soybeans were a dead-end street for Brazilian growers.

Few listened to him. "We were ridiculed in the media for talking about transgenics," Mr. Hoffmann says. "It sounded like a crazy thing."

Surprise Inspections

With the seeds' status in limbo as the planting season began last month, the state government moved to halt their use. It launched an informational campaign with thousands of colorful posters that say, "Transgenicos. Don't Plant This Idea." They list a hotline to report violators.

The most controversial part of the program has been its inspections. Teams from the state Agriculture Ministry began showing up on farms with test kits designed to determine within minutes whether soybeans have had a gene added. Under federal law, a farmer could face one to three years in jail for possessing such seeds.

Farmers, who largely voted against the Workers Party, see this as Big Brother behavior. "The government acts as though it's worse than planting marijuana," says Paulo Pigatto, a farmer from the town of Julio de Castilhos, who says he planted a little more than 100 of his 1,800 acres with GM seeds.

But Marta Elena Angelo Levien, head of the inspection program, says ensuring that regular soybeans are planted is a "matter of national security." She adds: "It's a technology that is dominated by a few big businesses forming a cartel. By adopting transgenicos, Brazil would become dependent on an oligarchy for food technology."

Authorities burned soybean seeds that had been seized in a farm-supply shop late last year. They also destroyed some plants grown during the prior gubernatorial administration at a state-run experimental farm. When state inspectors first visited Julio de Castilhos, they found transgenic soybean seeds on six of the first seven farms they checked, says Elgart Egon Renner, a farmer and agrarian consultant who says he uses them, too.

Bean Bust

Then one morning last month, a federal police cruiser and three cars from the state agriculture ministry's office appeared in front of Forgiarini Barbecue, a restaurant in the shadow of local grain elevators.

Word that a soybean bust was coming down traveled fast in this dusty town, where farmers walk about with cell phones clipped to their jeans, and tractors bump up and down the cobblestone streets. Soon about 100 producers had gathered near the restaurant parking lot. Forming a convoy of pickups, they tailed the authorities as they started their inspections.

About six miles from the town center, the soybean sleuths decided to abort their mission. They made a U-turn and headed back, with the convoy of farmers still dogging them. The officials finally pulled over at the edge of town and engaged in a tense, hourlong standoff with farmers.

"We asked them to read to us the warrant to search lands, and they wouldn't," says Mr. Renner, the farmer.

It wasn't the only such incident. For 30 hours, angry farmers in the town of Tupancireta practically held inspectors hostage. "We did let them go to the drugstore and to the supermarket, but we wouldn't let them step on our land," says farmer Jorge Moraes. Soybeans, he says, "are our great weapons for the future. The inspectors are risking their life going on people's property."

The fight has spilled into the state assembly, which is still controlled by a conservative party. "We are at an impasse, a showdown between farmers and the government," says Elvino Bohn Gass, a Workers Party legislator whose office walls are emblazoned with anti-GM fliers and a big Che Guevara banner.

Two weeks ago, busloads of angry farmers poured into Porto Alegre, the state capital, to protest against the inspections. For hours, they milled around outside the assembly building while, across the street, a dozen Greenpeace activists stood in front of a yellow placard listing the names of pro-GM legislators beneath the words: "Congressmen who could make you a guinea pig for transgenicos."

Conspiracy Theories

One farmer, Rudinei Cherubini, was convinced the GM opponents were part of an international conspiracy to keep Brazil from getting the new seeds. "Europe doesn't want us to use trangenicos because European companies that produce herbicides will lose market here," he said.

In contrast, the opponents suspect that the pro-GM farmers are secretly financed by Monsanto, although they, like Mr. Cherubini, offer no proof. They say they find it strange that the company, which has sued some U.S. farmers for planting beans they had grown from Monsanto seed instead of buying new seed each season, hasn't taken any legal action in Brazil. A Monsanto spokeswoman says the company has asked Brazilian authorities "to take appropriate legal measures to stop" such practices here and will wait for the results of an investigation to know whether there is any infringement of its patent on the soybeans.

On Dec. 8, state legislators voted 28 to 13 to halt the farm inspections. The bill said they could be carried out only by the federal government, which has shown little interest in doing so. But the Workers Party governor has vowed to veto the bill. He also has announced a $5 million subsidy program for farmers who swap their GM seeds for conventional ones.

So the soybean saga in Brazil rolls on. Mr. Renner, the pro-GM farmer and consultant, argues that ignorance of science is behind much of the fear of transgenicos. "All of us are transgenic," he says at a table at the Forgiarini Barbecue. "After we are born, we receive vaccines to make us resistant to disease, so we ourselves become transgenic."

But Maria Guazzelli, an agronomist who favors organic farming and opposes GM seeds, sees things differently. The arguments, she says sadly, have "become too emotional to be anything connected to science."

Write to Steve Stecklow at and Matt Moffett at

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 29 Dec 1999 06:08:00 U
Originated: (ASN(UK))

"E"-number nasties (in UK products)

 **  Please distribute  ** 

Here follows a list I recently compiled of the common E Numbered ingredients and what we suspect they are responsible for.

I now carry this list around with me when shopping and seem to spend hours peering at condensed writing on labels in amazement at just how many products contain the nasties.

Geoff Brewer

Co-ordinator for the Aspartame Survivors' Network (UK)
(Affiliated to the Green Network Charitable Trust)

UK Spokesperson for Mission Possible International


E NumberNamePurposeReason for concern
E122Azorabine CarmosineColour.Asthma, rhinitis and urticaria.
E123AmaranthBlue/red dye.Asthma, rhinitis and urticaria and cancer concern.
E127ErythosineColour (mainly in cocktail cherries).Thyroid tumours.
E131PatentBlue Colour.Cancer concern.
E133BrilliantBlue Colour.Cancer concern.
E142Green Colour.Ongoing research into acceptable intake levels.
E150cAmmoniacaramel Colour.Questions about toxicity toward circulatory systems.
E151Brilliant Black BNColour.Asthma, rhinitis and urticaria and cysts.
E153Vegetable carbon Colour.Cancer concern.
E154Brown FK Colour.(used in kippers) pigment deposits and tumours.
E171Titanium dioxideColour.Cancer concern.
E210Benzoic AcidPreservative.Asthma, rhinitis and urticaria
E220Sulphur dioxidePreservative.Interferes with the absorption of many nutrients. Triggers: anaphylaxis, bronchorestriction/spasam, flushing, hypertension, damage to DNA, irritates conjunctivitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma and cardiovascular conditions.
E223Sodium metabisulphidePreservative. Bleaching agent.Danger of severe asthma reaction.
E232Sodium othopenhenal phenolPreservative used on fruits.Ongoing research.
E249Potassium nitritePreservative. Colour fixative.Lowers oxygen capacity of blood, along with other substances cancer concern, interferes with the adrenal gland and concerns over it's effect on DNA.
E284Boric acidPreservative.Only permitted in caviar but can be found in mouthwashes. This is a Poison. Symptoms: menstrual disorders, anorexia, asthenia, confusion and hair loss.
E285Sodium tetra borate (Borax)preservativetoxic.
E320BHAAntioxidant.Cancer concern.
E321BHTAntioxidant.Often in low fat processed foods and jet fuel! Has an anti vitamin K effect may cause haemorrhaging.
E308Phosphoric acidFood additive various functions.Excessive consumption could lead to loss of bone calcium and calcification of soft tissue - especially the kidneys.
E407CarrageenanThickening agent.Cancer concern.
E472bLactic acid estersEmulsifier.Cancer concern
E472cCitric acid esters.Emulsifier.Cancer concern.
E473Sucrose esters.Emulsifier.Laxative, bloater and cancer concern.
E512Stannous chloride.Antioxidant.Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches and fatigue.
E553bTalc.Anticaking agent.Respiratory distress.
E621MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)Flavour Enhancerfound in a huge range of products from crisps, sauces, soups, stock cubes etc. Excitotoxin (can excite brain cells to death). Seizures, facial burning sensations, chest pains, stomach bloating, headaches, nausea.
E626Guanylic acidFlavour enhancer.50 to 100 times more powerful than MSG which it is often teamed up with. Ongoing research.
E942Nitrous oxide.Propellant.Suspected of being able to impair DNA and cause neurological, kidney and liver disorders, cancer and spontaneous abortion.
E951AspartameSweetener.Major health concerns. Ongoing research into suspected cancer links. Many other problems including behavioural problems in children, siezures. Suspected of producing symptoms including those that mimmic ME, Alzheimer's. Parkinson's MS.
E954Saccharin.Sweetener.Long suspected as cancer causing.
E1440Hydroxy propyl starch.Thickening agent.Ongoing research.

Yet more reasons to "go organic!"


- --------------

"Science is not bad, but there is bad science. Genetic Engineering is bad science working with big business for quick profit against the public good."

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, geneticist,
and scientific adviser to the Third World Network.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 29 Dec 1999 12:43:11 U

Clinton's Gene Project Quotes

Superscientist Clinton On The Human Genome!
Other reports say Clinton's audiences are falling asleep.

© The Associated Press

Excerpts from some of President Clinton's speeches in which he mentions the human genome project:

  1. June 12 at University of Chicago convocation ceremony:

    We live in a world where, near as I can tell, the number of Web pages on the Internet is growing by about 1 million a day, where soon the mysteries of the human genome will be unlocked, and many of you, when you have your first children, will be able to get a road map to your child's health....

  2. Dec. 9 at Democratic National Committee's presidential gala in Washington:

    When we're about to decode the whole mystery of the human genome, when some people think we'll find out what's in the black holes in space in a few years – it is unconscionable that the biggest problem society faces is the oldest problem of society, which is that we're afraid of, prone to hate, prone to dehumanize and prone to brutalize people who are

  3. Dec. 11 at Florida State Democratic Convention in Orlando, Fla.:

    Whenever you read something about the new millennium, they talk about the wonders of the human computer, the wonders of the human genome.

  4. April 27 at National Medal of Science and Technology Awards Ceremony in Washington:

    Soon we will have mapped the entire human genome, unveiling the very blueprint of human life.

Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 30 Dec 1999 03:53:04 U

The Wall Street Transcript Publishes Ag Biotech Report

NEW YORK, Dec. 29 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation

Sano Shimoda, President and Founder of BioScience Securities Inc., examines the outlook for Monsanto & the Future of Ag Biotech in this timely and deeply informative 4,200-word interview from The Wall Street Transcript (212-952-7433) or

In a vital review of this evolving sector for investors and industry professionals, this Ag Biotech Report features an in-depth analysis of the sector by leading expert Sano Shimoda, President and Founder of BioScience Securities Inc.

Ag Biotech companies are at a crucial juncture; with the sector either poised for explosive growth or to fall prey to hysteria from activists.

Shimoda discusses the recent lawsuit filed in federal district court in Washington against Monsanto, that also cites DuPont, Novartis and others, GMO food controversies, the outlook for Ag Biotech stocks and sets price targets for Monsanto.

Shimoda states that the lawsuit against Monsanto (NYSE: MTC), "appears to be more 'ambulance chasing' than anything else."

Shimoda declares, "It appears that this lawsuit is being driven by environmental activists who, as the antagonists, are opposed to the commercialization of this technology base. Their indictment of ag biotech is based on perceptions, not reality, in terms of science-based facts. While Wall Street typically ignores lawsuits, unless adverse decisions are imminent, it's better for investor psychology, let alone companies, to not be burdened with this lawsuit. Is it meaningful? Ultimately, I don't think so."

Shimoda says, "Companies have invested billions of dollars to bring this technology platform to the marketplace. In fact, many companies, of which Monsanto was one of the leaders, invested hundreds of millions, if not more than a billion dollars, before they made one dollar in profit. A small group of companies; AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), Novartis (OTC Bulletin Board: NVTSY), DuPont (NYSE: DD), and Pioneer Hi-Bred, now a wholly owned subsidiary, have been investing large sums of money in agricultural biotechnology since the early 1980s. 1996 was the first year that genetically enhanced traits were commercialized in corn, cotton, and soybeans. That's a long time to wait for returns on an investment."

Shimoda states, "The other part of the lawsuit is the very fact that this technology is in the hands of a small number of companies. I call the major ag biotech players the global six; AstraZeneca, Aventis (AgrEvo) and Rhone-Poulenc (NYSE: RP), Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW), DuPont, Monsanto, and Novartis. With the announced consolidation of the ag businesses of AstraZeneca and Novartis, to form Syngenta, it will be the global five."

Shimoda explains, "This technology was always in the hands of a small number of companies. Now, the question is, when you have a small number of companies, is it anti-competitive? I would look at the competitive issue in agricultural biotechnology very differently. When you have a small number of companies, especially given the capabilities of the global five competing on product innovation, in my opinion, you are creating an environment in which competition will increase, not decrease. The global five represent some of the best of the best agricultural technology companies in the world. These companies are going to compete head-to-head to constantly bring out new products to take market position from their competitors."

To read a free interview excerpt in which Shimoda says Monsanto has been unfairly demonized by the GMO situation see

Shimoda asserts, "Both AstraZeneca's and Novartis' stock have been hurt by the shortfall in earnings from their ag businesses. DuPont's stock has also been impacted, following the depreciation in perceived value of their acquisition of Pioneer Hi-Bred, as well as a shortfall in their agchemical earnings. Monsanto's stock price has been like a yo-yo in the past year and a half, reflecting a number of both positive and negative factors, as well as the news or rumors of the day."

On the Monsanto/Pharmacia & Upjohn deal, Shimoda declares, "Investors on both sides of the aisle are going to be disappointed by this deal. Many investors in Monsanto had expected a deal at a big premium. On the other hand, I suspect shareholders in Pharmacia & Upjohn (NYSE: PNU) will be chagrined because of the continued ownership of a majority interest in Monsanto's ag business. If this was the only deal Monsanto could do, I think they did the right thing for their ag business."

Shimoda says, "Investors have largely written off the life science strategy due to the decision by Novartis and Zeneca to spin off their ag businesses to form Syngenta. Investors are having real difficulty with the life science concept because of the problems in the ag-chemical business, as well as the impact of the GMO situation. Interestingly enough, the payoff from a life science strategy should never have been expected in the short term."

To obtain a copy of this insightful 4,200 word report call 212-952-7433 or see http://www/twst/com/info21.htm.

This report is included in the NATURAL RESOURCES Sector of TWST Online at

The Wall Street Transcript is a premier weekly investment publication interviewing market professionals for serious investors for over 35 years. Available at

TWST Online provides hundreds of free Interview excerpts. For recent recommendations by analysts and money managers visit

Do a free search of the TWST Archives at

The Wall Street Transcript does not endorse the views of any interviewee nor does it make stock recommendations.

SOURCE The Wall Street Transcript

CONTACT: Peter McLaughlin of The Wall Street Transcript, 212-952-7433

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Date: 31 Dec 1999 00:25:31 U
From: "j.e. cummins"

CaMV recombination when and where?

By Prof. Joe Cummins e-mail: December 30, 1999 Cauliflower mosaic virus recombination , when and where?

Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter gene is used in essentially all of the commercially released genetically modified (GM) crops. The gene is needed because it drives the production of gene messages from the genes inserted to provide herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, antibiotic resistance or a range of functions deemed to improve the commercial quality of the crop.

In the absence of the promoter gene the inserted genes remain inactive, while in its presence the gene activity is maintained at a high level in all of the plant tissues, with little interference from changing environmental conditions that effect the activity of promoters native to the crop plant. The CaMV promoter gene has been found to be a hot spot for recombination leading to exchange of gene sequences at elevated frequency (Ho et al Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease (no.4,1999)..

Such exchanges may include sequences from neighboring genes on the crop plant chromosome or genes on other chromosomes. The latter exchanges produce translocations and deletions in the chromosomes. Recombination can produce unpredictable and potentially devastating gene arrangements. For example, a growing body of evidence shows that plant DNA viruses may recombine to produce virus that attack animals or plant virus may be acquired from bacteria. It is not yet clearly established as to the extent and frequency of such exchanges in contemporary time, however, it is clear that the specific virus diseases have only recently been described.

For example, a pig wasting disease of growing concern has been found to have been caused by a virus that originated from clover, coconut or banana (Meehan, J. Gen. Virol. 78,221-7,1997). Presently it is yet unclear when the virus jumped from plant to pig or whether or not the plant virus may continue to generate recombinants infecting animals. In this regard, it is worth pointing out that HIV sequences function rather well in the CaMV promoter (Noad et al John lnnes Centre & Sainsbury Laboratory Annual Report 1998/99).

Many advocates of GM crops claim that safety of the CaMV promoter is assured by the presence of CaMV in cabbage and other crucifers is assured by the fact that animals including humans have consumed virus infected plants for a long time. However, such =91authorities=92 fail to note that plant and animal pararetrovirus have a common origin and little effort has been made to find plant pararetrovirus DNA sequences of contemporary origin in animal pararetrovirus or in endogenous retrotransposon sequences. Even with those limitations it is very clear, as discussed below, that recombination has significantly different features in CaMV replication than it does in CaMV genes integrated into the chromosome.

The CaMV gene integrated into chromosome is influenced by both meiotic recombination and by mitotic recombination and by meotic and mitotic gene conversion. Localization of those genes in the nucleus provides a rich source of DNA for exchange and that DNA is highly variable in sequence. When CaMV (the infecting virus) infects the plant cell it forms a circular minichromosome in the plant cell nucleus. That minichromosme transcribes many RNA copies of one of its DNA strands driven by the CaMV promoter.

The RNA strands are transported to the cytoplasm were they construct enzymes and structural proteins for their replication. The replication of each RNA strand to make the circular DNA chromosome of the virus includes reverse transcription of the RNA strand to make a DNA chromosome strand, as the reverse transcription proceeds RNase H removes the newly copied RNA strand while DNA polymerase replaces the RNA strand to make the finished circular chromosome. Recombination is very active , particularly near the origin of replication, but so long as only identical copies of the viral minichromosome are available for recombination the recombinants are also identical. Recombination does not yield variability in this progeny.

However, co-infection with different virus strains will yield recombinants, but such co-infection is not commonplace outside the laboratory. What I am saying is that viral genes introduced into the host chromosome are subject to high level recombination and gene conversion while the normal cytoplasmic replication of virus is from a uniform group of molecules whose exchange ( recombination) does not yield variability. The most significant risks of genetic engineering remains the recombination of genes to create new and unpredictable variants that can spread rapidly, as in the virus, because the biological system is ill prepared to cope with the recombinant. What seems to have happened is that the 'experts' who dwell upon the consumption of virus in crops that are not genetically engineered have neglected the fact that the recombinants from genetically engineered crops are entirely different from virus replicated in GM free crops.

Somewhat shockingly, the bureaucratic risk evaluators in the United States based their evaluations on that rather elementary error. Sadly, those evaluators also seem to have turned a blind eye to the risk of recombination leading to infection of animals with virus of plant origin or for that matter infection of plants with virus of bacterial origin. These phenomena are well described in the literature of science.

I have not been shocked by the experts who glibly ridicule those who deal with the serious issues of genetic recombination, they seem interested only , in winning, at any cost. However, I am very shocked at the 'authorities' who try to prevent publication of articles that disagree with their mistaken views. The groundless and intemperate threats of such 'experts' makes me think that they may very well be sliding the slippery slope that the geneticist, Dr.Dr. Josef Mengele fell.

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:

Our website, 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.