"Only a fascist
society would deny consumers the right to know what they eat and farmers the right to
replant what they have grown."
A leading zoologist has found evidence that genes used to modify crops can jump the
species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate, prompting fears that GM technology could
pose serious health risks. A four-year study by Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a respected
German zoologist, found that the alien gene used to modify oilseed rape had transferred to
bacteria living inside the guts of honey bees.
March 1, 2000
Hidden risks of grafting genes into foodstuffs
Paul Brown .
Food allergies which can kill pose a risk when genes from other plants and animals are grafted into foodstuffs without the consumer knowing, Carston Bindslev-Jensen told the conference. He said if a fish or nut gene was grafted into a tomato it would not affect the look of the salad but it might kill a person with a serious allergy to fish or nuts.
March 1, 2000
February 29, 2000
February 28, 2000
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February 28, 2000
February 25, 2000
Februariy 11, 2000
January 31, 2000
No reliable test for GM-free food
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse
Science must play a leading role in restoring public confidence on food safety, says a new report issued by the UK Government Chemist Dr Richard Worswick. And on the controversial subject of genetically-modified (GM) food, he says that it is impossible to prove that any processed food is free of GM material.
January 29, 2000
GM deal finds favour all round
There has been a broad international welcome to an agreement by a United Nations conference on rules governing the trade in genetically-modified food products. The conference in Montreal agreed that countries will have the right to restrict imports of such foods because of health and environmental concerns.
January 28, 2000
Monsanto's name radically modified
By Julia Finch
The Monsanto company name, which has become synonymous with the genetically modified food business, is to be ditched, the company revealed last night. The beleaguered American biotech company is merging with the US-Swiss drugs group Pharmacia & Upjohn and the $50bn corporation will in future be known as Pharmacia. http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/Print/0,3858,3955977,00.html
January, 22, 2000
US threatens GM deal
A new clash over plans for an international treaty on the import of genetically-modified (GM) foods is looming, with the United States expected to block the proposals again.
January 23, 2000
January 23, 2000
January 18, 2000
January 17, 2000
December 25, 1999
December 22, 1999
December 21, 1999
Monsanto pays GM price
Controversial foods division to be spun off as pharmaceuticals groups merge
Jane Martinson in New York
Monsanto, the US biotechnology company, bowed to consumer and shareholder pressure yesterday and announced it would spin off its controversial agricultural chemical business as part of a merger with Pharmacia & Upjohn, the drugs company. But such is the deep concern over the genetically modified foods business that the intention to keep a controlling stake in the division saw shares in both Monsanto and Pharmacia fall more than 10% following the announcement.
Visionary heads for oblivion
Robert Shapiro appeared as a humbled man when he addressed Wall Street analysts yesterday. The tough-talking Monsanto chief executive, who championed genetically modified foods, has seen his company's share price - and his hi-tech vision of biotechnology - crumble.
December 18, 1999
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December 1 1999
1 December, 1999,
November 22, 1999
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October 29, 1999
October 27, 1999
Human gene patents defended
Celera Genomics Group has filed preliminary patents on 6,500 whole or partial human genes, but will take only a few of them through the full patent process, its president, Craig Venter, has said.
October 26, 1999
October 25, 1999
October 22, 1999
- Faced with staunch resistance by some European and Asian consumers to genetically
modified (GM) foods, the Clinton Administration is scrambling to develop a recipe that
will maintain overseas sales while giving customers what they want.
October 21, 1999
October 21, 1999
October 17, 1999
October 16, 1999
October 16, 1999
October 15, 1999
Lancet defends GM publication
The scientific research that was largely responsible for sparking the whole debate in the UK over the safety of genetically-modified (GM) foods has finally been published.
The leading medical journal The Lancet has gone ahead and printed details of the experiments conducted by Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Stanley Ewen, despite objections from some of its own advisers who say the work is flawed.
October 15, 1999
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September 26, 1999
The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, Prime Minister
The Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher, Minister for the Environment
September 26, 1999
September 18, 1999
September 16, 1999
September 15, 1999
September 14, 1999
September 12, 1999
September 11, 1999
September 10, 1999
September 6, 1999
September 6, 1999
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September 4, 1999
GM foods overtake BSE as top safety concern, says survey
By Linus Gregoriadis
Genetically modified foods have overtaken BSE as the public's biggest food safety concern, according to a survey published yesterday. A poll by Mintel has found that the number of British people who see it as the top priority has increased from 36% to 47% in the last eight months.
September 3, 1999
September 3, 1999
September 3, 1999
August 29, 1999
August 25, 1999
August 23, 1999
Environment group taking UK to court on GM trial
By Susan Cornwell
LONDON - Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth said it was taking the British government to court over the "rushed" approval of an expansion of genetically modified (GM) crop trials.
August 23, 1999
Organic products seen becoming mainstream in UK
By Helen Jones
LONDON - Organic products are shaking off their minority appeal in Britain and becoming increasingly mainstream, industry experts told Reuters.
August 21, 1999
The Independent (Sunday)
Whitehall's top GM man quits
By Marie Woolf
Ministers have suffered a setback to the controversial farm trials of genetically-modified crops with the unexpected resignation of the senior civil servant responsible for the experiments. Dr Bill Parish, a senior ecologist in the Department of the Environment, was the scientific brain behind the GM farm scale trials and was in charge of administering them.
August 19, 1999
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Brazilian Judge Rules Against Monsanto Company
Can't market its soybean technology until study is completed
A Brazilian judge has delivered a sharp setback to (Monsanto Co.)'s effort to convince that nation, the second-largest producer of soybeans, to use Monsanto's gene-altering technology.
August 18, 1999
Letter to Clinton from Sierra Club
The Sierra Club, the largest grassroots conservation group in the United States, is joining the many environmental, consumer, religious, and community groups concerned with the safety of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), particularly in regards to their use in agriculture. Our purpose is to protect the ecosystem and we believe that the rate of application of this technology far exceeds our ability to understand the environmental and public health risks and to avoid potentially serious impacts...
August 19, 1999
M&S to remove GM products from animal feed
Marks & Spencer says it has become the first food retailer to remove genetically modified (GM) soya and maize ingredients from animal feed, a move that could force food prices higher by 15%. Prices of meat, milk and eggs could rise by 10% to 15% from October, a move which will test public demand for non-GM food.
August 17, 1999
UK risks fresh trouble with GM crop sites
By Lyndsay Griffiths
LONDON - British farmers growing what environmental campaigners call "Frankenstein foods" braced yesterday for fresh trouble as the government unveiled four new sites to be planted with genetically modified (GM) crops.
August 16, 1999
August 15, 1999
August 15, 1999
The Washington Post
Biotech Food Raises a Crop of Questions
By Rick Weiss
Steve Taylor practically yawned when researchers at Pioneer Hi-Bred, the giant agricultural seed company, asked him in 1995 to study a new soybean they had invented. "I didn't think we'd find anything interesting," the University of Nebraska scientist recently recalled...
August 12, 1999
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July 28, 1999
U.S. warns Japan against making GMO labels mandatory
TOKYO - The United States warned Japan yesterday that if Tokyo implements mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) it could mislead consumers about food safety and disrupt trade.
July 26, 1999
July 21, 1999
July 16, 1999
July 14, 1999
US farmers fear GM crop fallout
BBC Newsnight's science correspondent Susan Watts reports on how American farmers feel they have been let down by GM agribusiness.
July 11, 1999
MIT Technology Review
Biotech Goes Wild
By Charles C. Mann
Genetic engineering will be essential to feed the worlds billions. But could it unleash a race of "superweeds"? No one seems to know. And nobodys in charge of finding out.
July 5, 1999
June 25, 1999
EU Environment Ministers Virtually Ban Biotech Crops
Luxembourg. The quarterly meeting of EU environment ministers currently under way in Luxembourg is proving to be one of the most dramatic for years. Ministers agreed that the presidency should draft a joint statement that is likely to institute a virtual ban on any new authorisation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the European Union's deliberate
June 24, 1999
EURO MP calls for legal liability over GMOS
BRUSSELS - Biotechnology companies should be made legally responsible for any problems caused by products they put on the market, a leading member of the European Parliament said yesterday.
June 21, 1999
June 20, 1999
May 31, 1999
May 18, 1999
Pusztai attacks his critics
Dr Pusztai responds to the Royal Society criticism
Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist at the centre of the row over the safety of genetically-modified (GM) foods, says he has been unfairly treated by a Royal Society (RS) review of his research.
May 18, 1999
May 9, 1999
GM crops 'bad for the poor'
A prominent British development agency, Christian Aid, has warned that biotechnology companies' efforts to sell genetically-modified (GM) seeds to Third World farmers will do little to allay world hunger.
May 7, 1999
April 27, 1999
Opinion - Perils of genetically engineered crops
By Benny Haerlin, Campaign Coordinator at Greenpeace International, Amsterdam.
AMSTERDAM - Genetic engineering is changing agriculture more fundamentally than any new technology introduced in food production since the first Neolithic farmers developed the art of breeding. By transferring genes of unrelated species into an organism, for example, genes from a frog to a sugar beet, the technology creates new life forms that could not evolve in nature.
April 22, 1999
April 20, 1999
Oilseed gene leak 'unsurprising'
UK Government scientists have cross-pollinated oilseed rape with a species of wild turnip, regarded as a weed by many farmers.
March 31, 1999
March 25, 1999
Test will trace GM ingredients in processed foods
By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
A test to detect minute traces of genetically modified soya and maize in highly processed foods - a feat previously thought impossible - has been developed by British researchers.
March 11, 1999
Scientists alert MPs to ban genetically engineered foods
A special all-party briefing for MPs of the British parliament was held on 8 March in London in a House of Commons committee room, given by scientists concerned about the introduction of genetically modified foods.
March 10, 1999
Humans as GM guinea pigs was EC plan to test safety
Stephen Breen and Severin Carrel Item: News
PEOPLE should be used as unwitting guinea pigs in the mass testing of potentially dangerous genetically modified foods, according to official European Commission recommendations that have never been publicised, The Scotsman can reveal.
March 2, 1999
By John Gray
Boxed in by 'free trade' agreements, the Government is powerless to stop biotech giants putting GM foods on the market
March 2, 1999
February 20, 1999
February 18, 1999
February 12, 1999
The Monsanto Files
August 12, 1998
August 7, 1998
June 8, 1998
The Daily Telegraph
Seeds of Disaster
HRH the Prince of Wales, who farms organically, says the genetic modification of crops is taking mankind into realms that belong to God, and God alone.
Press Release April 6, 1998 fromprofessor Mae-Wan Ho
March 20, 1998
'Leading lab says tests cannot guarantee 'GM free' food'
LGC, the UKs largest independent chemical analysis and DNA testing laboratory, warned that food manufacturers and retailers would be misleading consumers by claiming their products were 100% free of genetically modified ingredients based on testing alone, because no test currently exists to prove it to that degree of certainty.
April 19, 1997
Europeans hungry for more natural food - survey
The Difference Between Traditional Breeding Methods and
Importation of Ciba-Geigy's Bt maize (Novartis) is scientifically
John Fagan, Ph. D.
The European Commission is considering whether or not to allow Ciba-Geigy's genetically engineered maize to be imported into the European Community from the US for human and animal consumption.
Sowing diseases, new and old
Genetic engineering and the world health crisis
The world is heading for a major crisis in public health as outbreaks of new and re-emerging infectious diseases continue to occur with increasing frequency. The current strains of many pathogens are resistant to known treatments, some to nearly all known drugs and antibiotics. There can be little doubt that it is the transfer of genes across unrelated species of animals and plants (i.e., horizontal gene transfer) that is responsble for the development of drug and antibiotic resistances
No Patents on Life!
The Council for Responsible Genetics
DNA patents create corporate monopolies on living organisms
over de gevaren van genetisch gemanipuleerd voedsel
Dr. George Wald, professor emeritus biologie, Harvard universiteit, Nobelprijs geneeskunde, verklaart: 'Recombinant-DNA-technologie confronteert onze samenleving met problemen die niet alleen in de geschiedenis van de wetenschap, maar ook van het leven op aarde zonder precedent zijn. Het legt de mens het vermogen in de hand om levende wezens, die het product zijn van drie miljard jaar evolutie, te herontwerpen. Dergelijke interventie mag niet verward worden met ingrepen in de natuurlijke orde van levende wezens uit het verleden, zoals veredelen van dieren en planten [...]...
'Tot nu toe hebben levende organismen zich zeer traag ontwikkeld, en nieuwe levensvormen hadden ruim de tijd om zich in te nestelen. Nu echter worden in een oogwenk volledige eiwitten overgebracht in compleet nieuwe omgevingen. De gevolgen daarvan voor het gastorganisme en voor andere organismen uit zijn omgeving, zijn door niemand te voorspellen. Het is allemaal te omvangrijk en het gebeurt te snel. Hierover, het centrale probleem dus, wordt nauwelijks nagedacht. Dis is wellicht het grootste ethische probleem waarmee de wetenschap ooit werd geconfronteerd. Tot hiertoe was onze instelling alles te leren over de natuur wat we konden, zonder enige beperking. Ombouwen van de natuur was daar echter niet bij. Voortgaan in deze richting is wellicht niet enkel dwaas, het is ook gevaarlijk. Het zou nieuwe dieren- en plantenziekten kunnen teweegbrengen, nieuwe oorzaken van kanker, nieuwe epidemieën'.
Lacey, microbioloog, arts en professor in voedselveiligheid aan
de universiteit van Leeds
is een van de bekendste figuren op het gebied van voedingswetenschappen sinds hij meer dan
zeven jaar geleden de BSE-crisis (gekke-koeienziekte) voorspelde. Onlangs heeft professor
Lacey zich krachtig uitgesproken tegen de invoering van genetisch gemanipuleerde
voedingsmiddelen, vanwege de in wezen onbeperkte gezondheidsrisico's.
' Het is in feite vrijwel onmogelijk zich ook maar een voorstelling te vormen van een testprocedure om de effecten van genetisch gemanipuleerde voedingsmiddelen op de gezondheid te meten wanneer ze in de voedselketen worden geïntroduceerd. Er is ten andere geen enkele geldige reden voor hun introductie, niet op het vlak van de voeding zelf en evenmin vanuit het oogpunt van de verbruiker.'
Ho, van het biologiedepartement van de Open Universiteit van
het Verenigd Koninkrijk zegt:
'Genetische manipulatie verschilt van de conventionele teeltmethoden door kunstmatig opgebouwde parasitaire genetische elementen, waaronder virussen, te gebruiken als dragers (vectoren) om genen te vervoeren en in cellen binnen te smokkelen. Eenmaal in de cel, passen deze dragers zichzelf in het genoom van de gastheer in. Het is reeds lang bekend dat het invoegen van vreemde genen in het genoom van de gastheer vele schadelijke en fatale effecten heeft waaronder kanker bij het betreffende organisme.'
Professor Dennis Parke van
de School voor Biologische Wetenschappen van de Universiteit van Surrey,
voormalig hoofdadviseur inzake voedselveiligheid bij de Unilever Corporation en Brits
adviseur bij de FDA in de V.S. inzake de veiligheidsaspecten van biotechnologie, schrijft:
'In 1983 zijn in Spanje honderden mensen overleden na het gebruik van vervalste koolzaadolie. Deze vervalste koolzaadolie was niet giftig voor ratten.'
Prof. Parke waarschuwt dat de huidige testprocedures voor genetisch veranderde voedingsmiddelen, evenals de proeven op knaagdieren, geen bewijs leveren voor de veiligheid van het voedsel voor mensen. Hij stelt een moratorium voor het vrijgeven van genetisch gemanipuleerde organismen, voedingsmiddelen en medicijnen voor.
Dr. John Fagan, een
onderscheiden microbioloog en kankeronderzoeker, professor in de microbiologie aan Maharishi University of
Management (Fairfield, Iowa, USA), weigerde een onderzoekstoelage van de regering ter
waarde van 3.000.000 dollar (NZ) om zo publiekelijk aandacht te vragen voor de gevaren van
misbruik van biotechnologie. Hij pleit voor een wetenschappelijke aanpak gebaseerd op het
voorzorgsbeginsel en eist algemene vermelding op de verpakking van alle genetisch
Hij zegt: 'zonder vermelding op de verpakking zal het voor wetenschappers zeer moeilijk zijn om de oorsprong te achterhalen van nieuwe ziekten die door genetisch gemanipuleerd voedsel worden veroorzaakt'. Dr. Fagan betoogt dat het gangbare risico-onderzoek 'niet eens een begin maakt met het onderzoeken van een zeer wezenlijke categorie van risico's die inherent zijn aan genetisch gemanipuleerde voedingsmiddelen. Deze categorie bestaat uit de gezondheidsrisico's die het gevolg zijn van onvoorziene neveneffecten van de genetische manipulatie. Met de huidige testprocedures is het compleet onmogelijk onvermoede of onvoorziene gezondheidsrisico's te ontdekken die teweeggebracht zijn door het proces van genetische manipulatie zelf.'
Dr. Peter Wills,
theoretisch bioloog aan de universiteit van Auckland schrijft:
'Genen coderen voor eiwitten die betrokken zijn bij de regulering van vrijwel alle biologische processen. Door het overbrengen van genen voorbij soortgrenzen die aeonenlang bestaan hebben tussen soorten als de mens en het schaap, nemen we het risico de natuurlijke drempels tegen onverwachte biologische processen weg te nemen. Bijvoorbeeld een niet correct gevouwen vorm van een gewoon celeiwit kan onder bepaalde omstandigheden zichzelf gaan repliceren en de oorzaak zijn van een besmettelijke ziekte van het zenuwstelsel.'
Dr. ir. Eric Goewie, hoogleraar Ecologische Landbouw aan de Landbouw-universiteit van Wageningen is van oordeel dat 'herbicideresistente gewassen niet passen in een maatschappelijk aanvaardbare landbouw.' Hij wijst er op dat 'steeds blijkt dat genetisch gemanipuleerde organismen hun stabiliteit slechts behouden wanneer hun de juiste om-standigheden worden aangeboden.' Hij waarschuwt ook voor ernstige problemen in de landbouw: 'Herbicideresistentie kan de predispositie voor ziekten en plagen van gemanipuleerde gewassen negatief beïnvloeden. Of en in welke mate dat verschijnsel optreedt bij maïs, biet, etc. is een kwestie van tijd en ervaring. Maar gerust ben ik er niet op. Als het fenomeen zich pas na lange tijd voordoet, wordt in één klap de wetenschappelijke onderbouwing onder alle fytosanitaire regelgeving onderuit gehaald.'
Dr. Joseph Cummins,
professor em. in de genetica aan de universiteit van West-Ontario waarschuwt:
'Waarschijnlijk gaat op het gebied van genetisch gemanipuleerde gewassen de grootste dreiging uit van de invoeging van gemanipuleerde virus- en insectengenen in gewassen. In het laboratorium is aangetoond dat genetische manipulatie zeer virulente nieuwe virussen uit zulke bouwsels schept. Het veelvuldig gebruikte bloemkoolmozaïekvirus is in ieder geval een potentieel gevaarlijk gen. Het is een pararetrovirus hetgeen betekent dat het zich vermenigvuldigt door DNA te maken van RNA-boodschappen. Het lijkt heel veel op het hepatitis-B-virus en is verwant aan HIV. Veranderde virussen kunnen mogelijk hongersnood veroorzaken door oogsten te verwoesten of zeer ernstige ziekten bij mens en dier teweegbrengen.'
Ellstrand, professor in de genetica aan de universiteit van Californië,
is een wereldautoriteit op het gebied van
gentechnologie. Hij geeft zijn mening over de economische gevolgen voor de boeren van
gen-uitwisseling tussen teeltgewassen en hun wilde verwanten.
'Dit zien wij als een multi-miljoen-dollar-probleem. In Europa bestaat er al een groot probleem met de genenuitwisseling tussen wilde en gekweekte bieten. Ook koolzaad heeft nauwe verwanten en zal in de toekomst problemen gaan geven. Het is te verwachten dat de soort genen die men nu manipuleert de genen zullen zijn die een hogere kans op problemen geven.'
Antoniou, hoofddocent in de moleculaire pathologie aan een universiteitsziekenhuis in
'Voor het voortbrengen van genetisch gemanipuleerde planten en dieren introduceert men op willekeurige wijze kunstmatige combinaties van genetisch materiaal van niet verwante soorten in het DNA van het gastheer-organisme. Het gevolg van deze procedure is de verbreking van de genetische blauwdruk van het organisme; iets waarvan de gevolgen totaal onvoorspelbaar zijn. De onvoorziene productie van giftige stoffen is nu al waargenomen in genetisch gemanipuleerde bacteriën, gist, planten en dieren, terwijl dit probleem pas aan het licht kwam wanneer er reeds sprake was van ernstige schade voor de gezondheid. Bovendien kunnen genetisch gemanipuleerde voedingsmiddelen of enzymen gebruikt bij de productie van voedsel een acuut effect hebben, maar het kan ook jaren duren voordat de volledige giftigheid aan het licht komt.' Aangezien genetisch gemanipuleerde voedingsgewassen zich vermenigvuldigen en nooit meer uit het milieu kunnen worden teruggehaald, waarschuwt Dr. Antoniou voor een ongekend gezondheidsrisico voor de mensheid.
April, 27, 1999OPINION - PERILS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS
By Benny Haerlin, Campaign Coordinator at Greenpeace International, Amsterdam
AMSTERDAM - Genetic engineering is changing agriculture more fundamentally than any new technology introduced in food production since the first Neolithic farmers developed the art of breeding.
By transferring genes of unrelated species into an organism, for example, genes from a frog to a sugar beet, the technology creates new life forms that could not evolve in nature.
There is little knowledge of such organisms or their environmental risks. But one thing is certain: as we are dealing with living organisms they will replicate, interbreed with relatives, mutate, adapt to new environmental conditions and struggle for their survival as do all living creatures.
Once released into the environment they cannot be recalled any more.
The combination of these two qualities - very little knowledge but potentially irreversible ecological impact - demands the most rigid precaution. Greenpeace concludes that at the present state of knowledge no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be released into the environment.
One way to estimate the potential environmental impact of GMOs is to look at the introduction of so-called exotic species, i.e. plants or animals introduced into a new environment by humans or human activities. The most famous example is probably the introduction of rabbits to Australia.
A rough rule says that out of 1000 exotic species 100 will spread in the new environment, 10 will establish there and one will become a pest. The United States Agricultural Department recently estimated that the losses caused by these species amount to $123 billion per year in the U.S. alone. And the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) names the introduction of exotic species as a prime cause for extinction of other species.
Apart from the unacceptable environmental risk any benefits of genetically engineered crops are at best debatable. Engineering crops to tolerate herbicides will boost the sale of these herbicides, which are usually produced by the same companies. But it is definitely not the way out of the abuse of chemicals in agriculture. Nor is the engineering of plants to produce insecticides a promising strategy to control pests, since pests will develop resistance to these crops just as they develop resistance to chemicals.
Furthermore genetic engineering will not contribute in any major way to the two major challenges of future food production: how to reduce its huge and growing environmental impact and how to achieve a distribution system which would allow all people on earth to feed themselves. When 800 million people today are hungry despite a global over-production of food, simply increasing yield will not solve this problem.
In fact it is more likely that the "gene revolution" in agriculture could result in the opposite. Four major transnational agro-chemical and pharmaceutical companies, Monsanto, Novartis, DuPont/Pioneer and Hoechst/Rhone Poulenc, already dominate the market for seeds and agricultural chemicals. And they will continue to further integrate food and fodder production.
As GMOs and even individual genes are subject to industrial patenting, genetic engineering is the technological route to converting seeds and ultimately all forms of life into industrial commodities, exclusively controlled by their owners.
For example, Monsanto not only prevents farmers from re-using their genetically altered seeds but also obliges them to use its pesticides on these crops. As a result an increasing number of farmers essentially become industrial sub-contractors.
Keeping in mind that diversity is the key to innovative and sustainable agricultural development, Greenpeace believes that a brave new world of a few agro-chemical companies holds no hope for this planet. The future belongs to organic farming and less environmentally damaging patters of consumption. Genetic engineering is instead distracting resources from an urgently needed greening of world agriculture.
The opinions expressed in the above article are the author's alone and should not be viewed as expressing the views of Reuters.////.
(C) Reuters Limited 1999.
Humans as GM guinea pigs was EC plan to test safety
STEPHEN BREEN and SEVERIN CARRELL Item: News /Date: 10 March 1999
PEOPLE should be used as unwitting guinea pigs in the mass testing of potentially dangerous genetically modified foods, according to official European Commission recommendations that have never been publicised, The Scotsman can reveal. Dr Richard North, the respected independent food scientist who discovered the EC document, said millions of consumers would now have to be tested before the GM foods could be declared safe. Opposition parties were unaware of the recommendation and yesterday expressed outrage. Dr North, who gives evidence to the Commons select committee on food today, said the recommendation recognised that traditional toxicological tests on GM foods would not detect problems because not enough people would take part. The solution, in a report in July 1997 from the EC scientific committee for food, in consultation with the standing committee for foodstuffs, is that GM products need to be released on the market so that large numbers of people can eat them and be monitored over time todiscover any health problems. Tim Yeo, the shadow agriculture secretary, said yesterday: "It is quite wrong for anyone other than a volunteer to be used for this kind of purpose. "If there is a general sample of the population, many of whom don't want to consume GM foods, that would be absolutely outrageous and almost fraudulent on the part of the authorities to attempt to carry out research that way. "If there is enough anxiety about GM food, then more information is needed and it is absolutely outrageous to force the public unwillingly to take part in this type of experiment." Alex Neil, the consumer affairs spokesman for the Scottish National Party, said: "It is frightening to find out that is the official EU policy. "It reinforces the need for a moratorium on GM foods and a major inquiry by the Scottish parliament because clearly we cannot have the mass of the population used as guinea pigs on GM foods that may or may not damage their health." Dr North, who prepared a report for the Lanarkshire E coli victims, said the last two meetings of the Government's advisory committee on novel foods and processes had been unable to agree on a strategy to monitor the effects of GM foods on the population. The EC report on testing of new foods is signed by the industry commissioner, Martin Bangemann. It states: "Conventional toxicological evaluation methods cannot be applied to foods because foods present particular difficulties not encountered with the testing of food additives and contaminants in vivo [in animals] and in vitro [in the test tube]. It considered that the "ultimate strategy will extend from initial tests in animal models to studies in humans if necessary". The document continues: "To compensate for the inability of employing reasonably adequate safety factors, any subchronic animal feeding studies require supplementation by absorption and metabolism studies in animals and eventually in humans". It adds: "Appropriate information should be derived by combined nutritional and safety post-market surveillance". Dr North said: "What this is saying is that, given the inability to carry out initial safety testing, the only way safety can beassessed is to release the product for general sale and then monitor the population to see if anyone gets ill. "That means exposing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to a product before they can confirm it is safe. The system requires that the British population becomes an experimental group of guinea pigs. "The British Government is clearly aware of this because the last two meetings of its advisory committee on novel foods and processes have been unable to agree a protocol. We have not got a monitoring system and have no likelihood of having one in the nearfuture. "If the public became aware that it is official policy that they should be guinea pigs this would be the death knell of GM foods. I don't think anyone would tolerate the system using them consciously to experiment on." A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said the EC report was discussed informally by the food committee on 10 December but no decision was taken. Meanwhile, scientists from the influential Rowett Institute in Aberdeen have warned that powerful food companies in the United States could use international free trade rules to defeat moves to block the sale of potentially unsafe GM foods in Britain. In a memo to MPs, Professor Philip James, the institute's director, suggests a bias in international trade rules means that US agriculture giants, and other food companies, can overcome attempts by British or European safety authorities to block the sale of GM foods on the grounds of risks to human health or to the environment. Five Cabinet ministers signed an open letter to all MPs last month which insisted that human health concerns would be paramount.
By Lisa Jucca
February 23, 1999
LONDON - Most Europeans choose to stuff their shopping basket with fresh and organic foods and avoiding genetically modified produce, a survey of consumer trends in 1998 showed on Monday.
From France to Hungary 61 percent of shoppers said they were trying to avoid products containing genetically engineered ingredients, international consultant Healey and Baker said in a study conducted in 11 European countries last September/October.
An overwhelming 80 percent of the 6,758 shoppers interviewed said they would select fresh rather than frozen products, with most support in Poland and Italy.
Around 57 percent said they would buy organic fruit and vegetables where available, but the study said the organic food concept was still poorly understood in central Europe.
"Consumers are becoming more aware of how their food is produced, they want safe and environmentally-friendly food and the demand is increasing all round", Robert Haward, Ortocultural Development Officer at Britain's organic farming promotor The Soil Association told Reuters.
According to Harvey's "Where People Shop" survey the Italians and Spanish felt most strongly about GM food, with 79 percent and 71 percent respectively voicing their concern.
Britain was slightly below the European average with 57 percent saying they would not buy GM products, while in the Netherlands the figure was only 49 percent.
Healey and Baker said the percentage of Britons preferring organically grown food had almost doubled to around 40 percent in 1998 from a mere 23 percent last year, when a similar survey of British habits was conducted.
The increased awareness among consumers was reflected by higher sales in the British organic food market.
The Soil Association estimated sales in 1998 were worth 350 million pounds in 1998, up from 260 million pounds in 1997 and 100 million pounds in 1993.
British supermarket chain Sainsbury said in January its organic food revenues had reached one million pounds a week.
The number of organic products available on Sainsbury's food counters had mushroomed to over 400 from a mere 40 since 1996.
Ten years ago only 200,000 hectars of soil were devoted to organic produce in Europe. This figure had increased tenfold to two million hectars in 1998, the Soil Association said.
But organic farming still only accounted for 1.33 percent of total agricultural land use in Europe.
This figure was expected to reach five percent of total farmland by 2000 and 10 percent by 2007, the charity said.
Howard said consumers were increasingly prepared to bear the extra cost of organic food, which is representative of a 20/30 percent reduced yield for crops harvested on organic soil.
"Price will go down in the future as infrastructures and expertise develop," he added.
The association estimated that by the year 2002, seven to eight percent of all food sold in Britain would be organically produced with a potential retail value of one billion pounds.
(C) Reuters Limited 1999.
January 4, 1997 *
Can DNA in food find its way into cells?
The adage that "you are what you eat" has taken on a whole new meaning. Researchers in Germany claim that DNA fed to a mouse can survive digestion and invade cells throughout its body. Because food contains DNA, this may be a way for species to acquire genes, they argue.
The surprising results were anounced by Walter Dörfler of the University of Cologne at the International Congress on Cell Biology in San Francisco last month. "We're taking in DNA in food every day,"he says. "In my mind, the question became: why isn't DNA incorporated all the time in animals?"
Textbooks say that DNA in food should be digested and destroyed. But Dörfler and his student Rainer Schubbert found that when they fed a bacterial virus called M13 to a mouse, sections of its genetic material about 700 DNA "letters" long - large enough to contain a gene - survived to emerge in faeces.
The researchers wondered whether a few of these genetic snippets had managed to penetrate the mouse's cells. They took cells from the mice and probed them with a dye molecule that lights up when it binds to the M13 DNA. The probe lit up inside cells not only from the intestine, but the spleen, white blood cells and liver. "They weren't hard to find,"says Dörfler. "In some cases as much as one cell in a thousand had viral DNA."
Usually the DNA does not stay long inside the cells. After 18 hours, most cells had somehow ejected the viral intruders. But Dörfler speculates that occasionally some foreign DNA may remain.
Other researchers are sceptical. "It's amazing that this DNA could
gett all the way into the blood," says Rudolf Jaenisch, a geneticist at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He warns that the German team's results are
"very preliminary", and that they have not been able to determine how much DNA
is absorbed by the cells. Jaenisch suspects that the amounts would be so small that any
effect on a cell is minimal.
*( page 14 )
Thursday June 17, 1999
Official data reveals GM crop risks
By Paul Waugh, Political Correspondent
THE GOVERNMENT will be forced into an embarrassing retreat on genetically modified crops today when its own research concludes that there is a "real risk" of contamination of other plants.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will publish a long-awaited report that will produce evidence of "transgenic pollution" from GM crops to neighbouring fields. The report, commissioned by Maff from the highly respected John Innes Centre, represents the most convincing research to date modified plants can cross-pollinate.
Organic farmers have complained bitterly that their crops are at risk of contamination from pollen carried by the wind or by bees.
Ministers will announce an overhaul of guidelines issued to the biotechnology industry on safe planting distances from GM crops.
The Government will have "no option" but to increase the distances, currently set at 200 metres, ministerial sources have told The Independent.
Maff will invite organic groups and environmentalists, as well as biotech firms involved in farm-scale trials across the country, into talks to reset the guidelines in the light of the research.
The farm-scale plantings are covered by voluntary guidelines issued by the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (Scimac), a body that regulates the industry.
Pressure on the Government will increase this week when the Soil Association issues strict new guidelines on planting distances to its own organic farmers. The Association will tell its members that it intends to withdraw its certification if regular checks on crops find evidence of cross-contamination.
Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, gave a cautious welcome last night to the suggestion that ministers were preparing to revise the guidelines. "We are pleased that the Government is prepared to have an open mind. If they want to increase the distances, we are very happy to talk to them," he said. "It's not too late to stop genetic pollution, but the Government has so far shown a massive abdication of responsibility on the issue and left us to police this. That has to change."
One organic farmer who had taken part in the farm-scale GM trials decided to burn the crops after the Soil Association threatened to withdraw certification. His organic beans had been just six metres away from GM crops.
The Government was yesterday forced on to the defensive when it emerged that there had been more than 100 meetings between ministries and biotech firms since it took power in 1997.
The John Innes Centre in Norwich is Europe's leading academic establishment examining GM foods. Its report accepts the premise that pollen from GM crops will be spread long distances by the wind and insects. Its results represent the first official backing for an earlier study by the National Pollen Research Unit on the threat of GM pollen and seeds contaminating organic farms many miles away.
Research by the Soil Association earlier this year showed that more than 80 per cent of rape seed pollen is carried by bees and bees can travel more than three miles. Wind can transport it by much further.
Both Michael Meacher, the Environment minister, and Elliot Morley, the Countryside minister, are understood to be in favour of giving greater support to organic farmers.
Tony Blair has repeatedly warned against "media hysteria" over the issue, but ministers unveiled new advisory bodies on GM last month in an attempt to calm public fears about the technology.
The Government will rule out as impractical calls for a six-mile "buffer
zone" around every GM trial, but the organic lobby insists that it wants the
Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to warn all organic farmers
within the distance before any licence for trials is granted.
The John Innes report is understood to have found that one per cent of organic plants in any field could become GM hybrids because of the pollen spread. It concludes that contamination by either seed or pollen cannot be "entirely eliminated".
The Soil Association's tough certification procedures mean that scores of farmers could be put out of business if they fail to clear themselves as GM-free.
One senior government adviser said last night: "If this research shows that there is a risk, then ministers will have to respond positively to it."
Seeds of Disaster
HRH the Prince of Wales, who farms organically, says the genetic modification of crops is taking mankind into realms that belong to God, and God alone.
I have always believed that agriculture should proceed in harmony with nature, recognising that there are natural limits to our ambitions. That is why, some 12 years ago, I decided to farm organically - without artificial pesticides or fertilisers. From my own experience I am clear that the organic system can be economically viable, that it provides a wide range of environmental and social benefits, and, most important, that it enables consumers to make a choice about the food they eat.
But at a time when sales of organic food are soaring, a development in intensive agriculture is actually removing a fundamental choice about the food we eat, and raising crucial questions about the future of our food and of our environment which are still to be answered. Genetically modified ( GM ) crops are presented as an essentially straightforward development that will increase yields through techniques which are merely an extension of traditional methods of plant breeding. I am afraid I cannot accept this.
The fundamental difference between traditional and genetically modified plant breeding is that, in the latter, genetic material from one species of plant, bacteria, virus, animal or fish is literally inserted into another species, with which they could never naturally breed. The use of these techniques raises, it seems to me, crucial ethical and practical considerations.
I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God, and to God alone. Apart from certain highly beneficial and specific medical applications, do we have the right to experiment with, and commercialise the building blocks of live? We live in an age of rights - it seems to me that it is time our Creator had some rights too.
We simply do not know the long-term consequences for human health and the wider environment of releasing plants bred in this way. We are assured that these new plants are vigorously tested and regulated, but the evaluation procedure seems to presume that unless a GM crop can be shown to be unsafe, there is no raison to stop its use. The lesson of BSE and other entirely manmade disasters in the cause of "cheap food" is surely that it is the unforeseen consequences which present the greatest cause for concern.
We are told that GM crops will require less use of agro-chemicals. Even if this is true, it is certainly not the whole story. What it fails to take into account is the total ecological and social impact of the farming system. For example, most of the GM plants marketed so far contain genes from bacteria which make them resistent to a broad-spectrum weedkiller available from the same manufacturer. When the crop is sprayed with this weedkiller, every other plant in the field is killed. The result is an essentially sterile field providing neither food nor habitat for worldlife. These GM crop plants are capable of interbreeding with their wild relatives, creating new weeds with built-in resistance to weedkiller, and of contaminating other crops. Modified genes from a crop of GM rape were found to have spread into a conventional crop grown more than a mile away. The result is that both conventional and organic crops are under threat, and the treath is one way.
GM crop plants are also being developed to produce their own pesticide. This is predicted to cause the rapid appearance of resistant insects. Worse still, such pesticide-producing plants have already been shown to kill some beneficial predator insects as well as pests. To give just two examples, inserting a gene from a snowdrop into a potato made the potato resistant to greenfly, but also killed the ladybirds feeding on the greenfly. And lacewings, a natural predator of the cornborer and food for farmland birds, died when fed on pest insects raised on GM maize.
Despite the vast acreages which are likely to be involved, there is no official requirement to monitor genetically modified commercial crops to see exactly what is happening. Think of the agriculteral disasters of the past wich have stemmed from over-reliance on a single variety of a crop, yet this is what genetic modification will encourage. It is entirely possible that within 10 years virtually all of the world's production of staple crops such as soya, maize, wheat and rice, will be from a few GM varieties, unless consumer pressure dictates otherwise. English Nature and other official bodies have sounded warnings about the potentially damaging consequences for the environment of introducing GM crops on a wide scale. They have called for a moratorium on the use of at least one of this crops.
Once genetic material has been released into the environment, it cannot be recalled. The likelihood of a major problem may, as some people suggest, be slight, but if something does go badly wrong we will be faced with the problem of clearing up a kind of pollution which is self-perpetuating. I am not convinced that anyone has the first idea of how this could be done, or indeed who would have to pay.
We are also told that GM techniques will help to "feed the world". This is a fundamental concern to all of us. But will the companies controlling these techniques ever be able to achieve what they would regard as sufficient return from selling their products to the world's poorest people? Nor do I believe that the basic problem is always so simple. Where the problem is lack of food, rather than lack of money to buy food, there may be better ways of achieving the same ends. Recent research has shown, for example, that yields from some traditional farming systems can be doubled, and even trebled, through techniques that conserve natural resources while making the best use of labour and management skills.
Do we need to use GM techniques at all? Technology has brought massive benefits to mankind, but there is a danger, especially in areas as sensitive as food, health and the long term future of our environment, in putting all our efforts into establishing what is technically possible without first stopping to ask wether this is something we should be doing. I believe we should stop and ask that question, through a wide public debate of the issues of principle which cannot be addressed effectively through science and regulation alone. Is it not better to examine first what we actually want from agriculture in terms of food supply and security, rural employment, environmental protection and landscape, before we go on to look at the part genetic modification might, perhaps, play in achieving those aims?
Obviously, we all have to make up our own minds about these important issues. I personally have no wish to eat anything produced by genetic modification, nor do I knowingly offer this sort of produce to my family or guests. There is increasing evidence that a great many people feel the same way. But if this is becoming a widely-held view, we cannot put our principles into practice until there is effective segregation of genetically modified products, backed by a comprehensive labelling scheme based on progress through the food chain.
Arguments that this is either impossible or irrelevant are simply not credible. When consumers can make an informed choice about whether or not they eat products containing genetically modified ingredients they will be able to send a direct and unmistakable message about their preferences. I hope that manufacturers, retailers and regulators will be ready to take on the responsibility to ensure that this can happen.
July 21, 1999
NEW EURO 'GM-FREE' LAWS TO LEAVE LOOPHOLE
New European laws could mean that food marked "GM free" contained up to 3 per cent genetically modified ingredients, a consumer watchdog warns today.
A report published by the Food Commission, an independent consumer body, said that many super-markets, which claimed to be aiming for GM-free products, were looking for a "tolerance level" which, while lying within legal limits, would still contain "unacceptable" levels of GM content.
The watchdog said that although "GM free should mean zero GM", realistically it was more likely that the permissible levels would be made as low as could be tested for, using current laboratory technology. That was equivalent to a maximum of 0.1 per cent. "We feel it is important to make this point now to alert people," said Sue Dibb, co-director of the commission.
"This aspect of GM food is one that most people probably aren't aware of.
"If the EC decides that 'GM free' can mean '2 to 3 per cent GM', that's not going to be acceptable to consumers," she added.
Laboratory tests can detect GM ingredients more readily if a food is not highly processed. The more an ingredient is processed the more the identifiable DNA is broken up and tracing becomes difficult. Manufacturing processes can lead to "cross contamination" between GM and non-GM lines.
European food laws allow for tiny amounts of materials to appear in foods without being labelled. But sources within the European Parliament suggested that new laws, to be debated this autumn, could mean that food producers could include far more in their products.
In a report in Food Magazine published today, the commission asked main supermarkets what their limits were. Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Budgen said they required zero content. Asda, Iceland - the first chain to have said it had eliminated GM from own-brand products - the Co-op, Somerfield and Waitrose said they were allowing a higher tolerance limit, or waiting for an EU level to be set.
Ms Dibb added: "We are saying that the legal statutory requirement to label something as 'GM free' should be that it contains no detectable GM ingredients above the 0.1 per cent level. The laboratory tests now have a limit of detection going down to 0.01 per cent but no lab would verify that; they refuse to verify figures below 0.1 per cent."
GM-FREE Vol. 1 no. 3 August/September 1999
WHY I CANNOT REMAIN SILENT
Dr Pusztai talks to GM-FREE
Dr Pusztai kindly agreed to interrupt his summer vacation to give us an exclusive interview. Here are his views on his suppressed research and the dubious science driving the introduction of GM technology.
On why GM is not safe, predictable or precise
GM-FREE: The rats in your experiment who ate potatoes genetically engineered to produce GNA lectin suffered reduced organ weights and immune damage. Why do you think this was'?
Dr Pusztai: I think the reason is not the GNA lectin itself, but the technique. Probably the CaMV (Cauliflower Mosaic Virus, a promoter used to switch on the introduced gene) had a part in it. It's a problematic thing.
The other problem is the positioning of the inserted gene. Our experiment showed up how imprecise the technique is, because we had two GM potatoes, both contained GNA lectin, and both came from the same pot. They were both grown in greenhouses or in fields in tunnels under identical conditions and at the same time. Yet they came out different. The only explanation is that the incorporation of the transgene [inserted gene] into the host genome happened at two different places. And the effect on the genome was different.
These positioning effects are not simple to predict. Think of William Tell shooting an arrow at a target. Now put a blindfold on the man doing the shooting and that's the reality of the genetic engineer when he's doing a gene insertion. He has no idea where the transgene will land in the recipient genome.
Meanwhile, while we are all arguing in Britain, scientists in other countries are getting on with the job. There are two new papers by Japanese scientists, on GM rice and GM soya. They say that the positioning effect has to be taken into consideration because we don't know which genes in the host organism the inserted genes will make silent or reactivate. It is clear from their evidence that some of the changes cannot be predicted on the basis of the gene insertion.
On substantial equivalence
Dr Pusztai: The idea of "substantial equivalence" is that there is no need for biological safety tests because the plants must be of similar composition as the parent line. This is the basis on which GM crops are being released. However, they cannot be substantially equivalent to the parent because you've introduced new genes. That's why I don't give tuppence for substantial equivalence.
We had two transgenic lines of potato produced from the same gene insertion and the same growing conditions; we grew them together along with the parent plant. With our two lines of potato, which should have been substantially equivalent to each other, we found that one of the lines contained 20% less protein than the other. So the two lines were not substantially equivalent to each other. But we also found that these two lines were not substantially equivalent to their parent. This could not be predicted. It demonstrates that the unpredictability is inherent in the GM process on a case by case basis and also at the level of every single GM plant created.
Our project should have ended right there, in my opinion, but we had to develop new testing techniques useful for all GM plants.
In genetic engineering, a lot of GM plants never see the daylight, because for one reason or another they don't grow or they have an unpleasant colour like the GM salmon which turned green. Where unpredictable effects show up, you throw them out. But from the point of view of science, these are important. Because if GM is such a predictable, precise science, then you should be able to produce the same thing again and again. But you can't.
Regarding our potatoes, even after many lines were thrown out, the ones which we retained were still all different from each other. Even though they all came from the same pot, using the same genetic construct, and were grown in identical conditions. So this is my challenge: if it is so predictable, so precise, they should not be any different. They must not be different. Causative logic says that they ought to be the same. That is for me the most worrying aspect.
On the allergy threat
GM-FREE: This lack of predictability is worrying for people with food allergies. These people can only live their lives on the basis that they know which foods to avoid. Biotech companies claim they test for "known allergens" like peanuts. But there are thousands of other foods that can cause serious allergies but which are not classed as known allergens. On top of this, there may be new toxins or allergens in GM foods that are not spotted because they are not looked for.
But what you are saying means that even if you test three potatoes and find that they do not cause an allergic reaction, a fourth potato of the same kind, produced by the same technique, could cause a toxic or allergic reaction.
Dr Pusztai: You are quite right. The only thing you could do is find a stable GM organism, which has been put through tens of generations and still comes out the same, and which is not crossed with any other potato. You keep the purity of the line.
GM-FREE: In the real world, this is impossible.
Dr Pusztai: I totally agree. We are storing up problems for the future.
On the "sound science" behind the GM push
Dr Pusztai: GM foods have been introduced on the back of just one published paper. Just one, in fifteen years of GM. It was written by a Monsanto scientist and published in 1996. The study was a feeding trial of Roundup Ready soya on rats, catfish, chicken and cows. I don't want to say anything about it because it's a published paper, but I could take it apart in 10 seconds.
GM-FREE: Ah, go on.
Dr Pusztai: Well, the main problem is that the researchers appear to have done their utmost to find no problem. They were using mature animals which are not forming body tissues and organs. Adults only need a small amount of protein because their bodies are in equilibrium, in homeostasis. But a young growing animal needs a great deal more protein because it's laying down muscle and tissues, and forming its organs.
With a nutritional study on mature animals, you would never see any difference in organ weights even if the food turned out to be anti-nutritional. The animals would have to be emaciated or poisoned to show anything. In this study, they gave the rats a commercial feed that contained 20% protein, of which only one-tenth was replaced by GM soya protein. Most of this high overall dietary protein was used by the rats for energy, thus masking any possible effect of the GM soya protein. You need to stress the animals if you want to see the effects of a feeding trial in a short enough time. This is my field, so you can take it for granted that if I had had the chance of refereeing that paper, it wouldnever have passed.
Another problem was the way they did the post-mortem. They never weighed the organs; they just looked at them what they call "eyeballing". I must have done thousands of post-mortems so I know that even if there is a difference in organ weights of as much as 25%, you wouldn't see it. In my lectures I used to put up two identical computer-drawn rats side by side and put two different sized organs in them, and I asked the audience which rat was bigger, and they always got it wrong. You have to weigh them.
On the British Medical Association's call for a GM moratorium
Dr Pusztai: It stands to reason that they would take a strong line. If there is any problem, the doctors will have to deal with it. It's easy for a gene-basher to say, "I've got some fantastic product," because he doesn't have to see the consequences. He can only see that this or that insect is killed and as far as he is concerned that's the end of the story.
But this is a very unfair and unscientific attitude. It is close to being irresponsible, because we are playing God. You can call it God, evolution, natural selection, natural law, whatever but this is what it is.
On the scientific and political establishment's tactics
GM-FREE: In May this year, four major reports, all trumpeting the safety of GM foods and all condemning your work, were released within two days of each other. They were the Donaldson/May report; the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report; the Royal Society review; and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' report. What's your view on the timing of these reports?
Dr Pusztai: Can you believe that four major reports could come out, all condemning me, within two days? That is stretching belief.
It's clear that there was a concerted effort to discredit me. The only body that.invited me for discussions, the Environmental Toxicology Committee, gave me just eleven days' notice. I explained that on that day I would be on a plane, so could they please suggest an alternative day. They obviously were not interested, because they did not come back to me. The Royal Society, despite the fact that I offered my full cooperation, refused it; they just wanted to have pieces of paper which they could shred to bits to condemn me.
In 1956, when I was living in Hungary, I got a Ford Foundation Scholarship and they said I could go wherever I wanted. I chose England because I thought the British were fair, and that they would tolerate even an oddball like me. But then I found out about these machinations and duplicity.
On the Royal Society review of his research
Dr Pusztai: The Royal Society report was totally negative and unhelpful, and obviously made to cut me down, to give the political masters the backing they required from an august body.
You see, if you submit a paper to a journal, in 7 out of 10 instances, the reviewers are helpful. For example, they say, "I don't think you have done this well; could it not have been done this way instead?" Then there is a dialogue. The point is not to steam-hammer some poor soul, but, as I said in a letter to the Royal Society, to arrive together at the truth. But in this case, there has been no attempt whatever to discover the truth.
The Royal Society, instead of going back to last August and all that history, should be concentrating on how to make the experiments better. There is not a single word in their review that addresses this, apart from saying it should be better designed. My PhD students would have laughed at me if I said anything like that. Sanctimonious phrases are not enoughif you criticise an experiment, you have to say how you would go about doing it better.
I have published everything in my life. I make a solemn promise that I shall try my best to publish my research. If I fail, I shall put it on the internet. I owe it to the people who have been supporting me that they should know all the facts. No matter how the Royal Society or whoever else machinates against me, I will do it.
On his decision to go public with his findings before peer review and publication
Dr Pusztai: The British tax payer has spent [pounds]1.6m for this Rowett-based research. You have paid for it. Yet if I had not spoken out, the information would have stopped at the Rowett.
Other scientists often ask me why I went against the code of practice and spoke out before publication in a peer reviewed journal. I made my 150-second testimony on TV's World in Action because I had facts that indicated to me there were serious problems with transgenic food. It can take two to three years to get science papers published and these foods were already on the shelves without rigorous biological testing similar to that of our GM potato work. I did indicate my concern and it cost me my job but I would do it again. If I had not done it, we would now be eating these potatoes and not discussing the safety of GM food.
August 19, 1999
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Brazilian Judge Rules Against Monsanto Company
Can't Market Its Soybean Technology Until Study Is Completed;
A Brazilian judge has delivered a sharp setback to (Monsanto Co.)''s effort to convince that nation, the second-largest producer of soybeans, to use Monsanto's gene-altering technology.
Judge Antonio Souza Prudente ruled Thursday that Monsanto cannot market its soybean technology until it prepares a study showing that its biotech beans have no negative impact on the environment.
His decision lessens the chance that Brazilian farmers will be able to plant bioengineered seeds during the planting season, which starts in October and ends in November. Brazil is a foundation for Monsanto's international soybean strategy, as the company tries to expand sales of its Roundup herbicide and beans that tolerate the weed killer.
Last year, Brazil produced 31 million metric tons of soybeans, or 20 percent of the world's total. U.S. farmers produced 75 million metric tons, or 48 percent, according to the American Soybean Association.
Brazil exported 9.7 million metric tons of soybeans, accounting for one-fourth of the world's exports. The U.S. exported 21 million metric tons, or 55 percent of all exports.
Monsanto already has made a strong showing in Argentina -- the world's third-largest soybean producer -- where farmers planted 10 million acres of Roundup Ready beans last year. Canadian farmers also have planted some Roundup Ready soybeans.
But these biotech beans have been vigorously contested in Brazil, where the international environmental organization Greenpeace and a national consumers' group have led the opposition.
Judge Prudente was acting on a suit filed by the consumers' group. He had issued a temporary injunction against Monsanto in June; his latest ruling makes the injunction permanent.
Monsanto, which vowed in June to appeal the judge's ruling, said it will continue its efforts. "We plan to pursue whatever activities are needed to overturn the decision," said Lori Fisher, a Monsanto spokeswoman.
Last September, Monsanto won support for Roundup Ready beans from a Brazilian government agency that oversees products developed through biotechnology. The agency said Monsanto didn't have to file an environmental impact report, a decision overruled by Judge Prudente.
Monsanto has gathered most of the data needed for an environmental impact report. Fisher said, "It is difficult to ascertain" when the report would be completed or when the government would review it.
Roundup Ready beans have won strong and rapid support among U.S. farmers, who planted 37 million acres of the biotech beans this year. That represents about half the U.S. soybean acreage planted this year.
Monsanto is hoping for similar success in Brazil and Argentina, where soybean production has soared since the mid-1970s. Measured in metric tons, Brazil's production has tripled in 25 years, while Argentina's soybean crop has increased by 38-fold. During the same period, U.S. soybean production nearly doubled.
Letter to Clinton from Sierra Club
This letter can be widely distributed.
Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club Biotechnology Task Force Chair
Dear President Clinton, 8/18/99
The Sierra Club, the largest grassroots conservation group in the United States, is joining the many environmental, consumer, religious, and community groups concerned with the safety of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), particularly in regards to their use in agriculture. Our purpose is to protect the ecosystem and we believe that the rate of application of this technology far exceeds our ability to understand the environmental and public health risks and to avoid potentially serious impacts.
The biotechnology industry makes the misleading claim that genetic engineering is a simple extension of the traditional crossbreeding that nature and farmers have been using for thousands of years. However, there is a drastic difference. While conventional breeders face natural barriers that prevent unrestricted gene transfer between unrelated species, genetic engineers bypass this protective barrier by combining genes from totally unrelated species. Furthermore, the technology involved in transferring foreign genes is imprecise, unstable, and unpredictable, so that engineers have no way of predicting how GEOs will behave once released into the environment.
The Sierra Club calls for:
* Extensive, rigorous research on the potential long term environmental and health impacts of GEOs before they are released into the environment.
* Use of the precautionary principle, whereby: (1) harm is avoided before scientific certainty has been established, and (2) the burden of proof is shifted to those with the power and resources to prevent harm.
* Mandatory environmental impact statements to be made for every ecosystem into which any new GEO is to be introduced. These should be based on rigorous science and open public debate.
* An end to the concept of "substantial equivalence" by our regulatory agencies as a ploy to sidestep safety studies and oversight responsibilities. For example, toxins meant to kill insects are being genetically engineered into plants, yet the consequences of these toxins in the diets of humans, livestock, beneficial insects, and wildlife are unknown.
* Mandatory labeling of genetically altered products after full safety assessment is completed and doing so in a manner that is easily discernible. All consumers, both citizen and corporate, should be given the right to chose what they buy.
* Removal of antibiotic resistance genes from all food crops, which are routinely placed in genetically engineered crops. It is recognized that such extensive use of antibiotic marker genes is unnecessary and will likely hasten the development of antibiotic resistant pathogens, depriving us of one of the most profound accomplishments of 20th century medicine.
* U.S. commitment not to use trade negotiations or agreements to override the rights of countries to regulate GEOs. The launch of new talks on biotechnology at the upcoming Seattle Summit of the World Trade Organization should not take place without thorough, open, and participatory environmental assessments conducted parallel to the negotiations.
* Full U.S. ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity, already ratified by 175 other nations, and forceful leadership to support its goal of protecting the diversity of life on Earth. Recognition that biodiversity is not a luxury but a foundation of life on our planet.
We contend that the risks posed by the current trajectory of genetic engineering in the field of agriculture are profound. We note that:
* Pollen blowing in the wind or carried by pollinator species can transfer genetically engineered traits, such as herbicide resistance and pest resistance, to wild plants. This outward gene flow into nature has the potential to significantly alter ecosystems and create scenarios that would pose enormous dilemmas for farmers.
* Pollinator species, such as bees, may themselves be harmed, with disastrous consequences to the food supply. The killing of Monarch butterfly larvae by corn pollen genetically engineered to express a bacterial toxin was discovered after millions of acres of such corn were planted. This is a dramatic example of adverse secondary effects from a technology that is inadequately understood.
* The use of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin engineered into plants will inevitably hasten the evolution of insect resistance, thus rendering the Bt bacterium useless to organic farmers as a natural insecticide.
The Sierra Club calls for the expansion of research into the risks that recombinant DNA technology and its products pose to the natural environment. In the meantime, in the absence of scientific knowledge, the Sierra Club asks that we take a precautionary approach. Until rigorous research is conducted to discern and address the long term impacts of GEOs, particularly in regards to their use in agriculture, such organisms should not be released into the environment.
CC: Jane Henney, FDA; Carol Browner, EPA; Dan Glickman, USDA; Jamie Rappaport Clark,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Al Gore, VP of the U.S.; representatives to Congress and
The Independent (Sunday)
Whitehall's top GM man quits
By Marie Woolf
Ministers have suffered a setback to the controversial farm trials of genetically-modified crops with the unexpected resignation of the senior civil servant responsible for the experiments.
Dr Bill Parish, a senior ecologist in the Department of the Environment, was the scientific brain behind the GM farm scale trials and was in charge of administering them.
The ecologist wrote the seminal research paper that changed the course of thinking about the effects of growing GM crops on the environment and was the man who first alerted the Government to their potential effects on wildlife. He was also one of the small group of experts assessing whether GM crops should be grown commercially in the UK.
Dr Parish is one of only a handful of civil servants ever to be named by ministers as a research author and his decision to leave has shocked the Government.
The scientist is regarded as "a right-hand man" to ministers and has helped shape GM policy in the European Union.
"He has an absolutely crucial job in directing policy on the GM trials and is relied on for his advice," said one government source. "He is one of the few experts we have in his field. This is a big blow to us to lose him."
Dr Parish, who has left to "pursue research", was head of the ecology branch of the Department of the Environment's biotechnology safety unit. Civil servants in the unit, which shapes policy on GM crops, have come under severe pressure in recent months because of the controversy surrounding the GM trials.
The civil servants have had to deal with the demands of biotechnology companies, which have been trying to persuade government to allow them to go ahead with commercial planting.
They have also have been responsible for liaising with farmers whose experimental crops have been destroyed or damaged by protesters who fear that they are harming the environment.
Most supermarkets have now declared their own-brand products GM-free because of pressure from consumers.
The Government recently set up a special spin-doctoring unit in the Cabinet Office to try to deflect criticism from GM foods.
August 22, 1999
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau
Magazine reveals food-makers' secret
By Bill Lambrecht
The stakes in the debate over labeling genetically altered foods will rise this week when Consumer Reports magazine lists the products that contain bioengineered ingredients. It comes at a time when calls are being heard in Congress to label food and let consumers make informed decisions.
When Consumer Reports' new issue hits the stands this week, the magazine will identify for its 4.7 million readers which of their favorite tortilla chips, muffin mixes and even baby foods contains genetically modified ingredients. Naming these foods by brands will add fuel to an emerging debate in the United States over policies that allow Americans to routinely eat genetically modified food without knowing it.
The 15-country European Union, as well as Australia and New Zealand, has ordered the labeling of foods with modified DNA. The Japanese government has just published a list of 30 modified foods, including tofu, that soon must carry labels.
Government attitudes abroad contrast starkly with those in the United States. Here, people consume an array of modified whole foods and processed foods derived from 50 gene-altered crops approved by the Department of Agriculture. At least 60 percent of processed foods from soup to nuts -- contains gene-altered ingredients.
In the United States, roughly half of this year's soybean crop and one-third of the corn crop has been genetically modified either to kill pests or to help the plants withstand weed killers. As Consumer Reports found in its testing, grocery shelves are increasingly stocked with genetically modified products because so much soy protein and so many corn derivatives such as high-fructose sweetener are used these days in processing.
U.S. policy against labels hinges on a decree by the FDA in 1992. The FDA said that food from new plant varieties is "generally recognized as safe" and that it is no different than conventionally bred food in nutrition or in requirements for storage and handling. Therefore, no special labeling is needed.
That ruling came four years before farmers, pushed by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. and others in the biotechnology trade, began sowing millions of acres with gene-altered soybeans and corn. Neither the FDA nor American food distributors anticipated the resistance abroad to genetic change. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, with a strong debate over the adequacy of American food labeling.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, disclosed last week that he is finishing legislation to allow labels on packaging that indicate whether food is free of genetically modified ingredients. That form of labeling is restricted.
"At this point, which I think is very early in the discussion of this technology, it seems the most rational and safe thing to do is to label something free of genetic modification and let consumers make up their minds if it concerns them or not," said Kucinich, a two-term House member and a former mayor of Cleveland.
The prospect of a Democrat overcoming likely opposition from the farming and food lobbies and doing so in a Republican-held Congress would seem to be slim. But Kucinich argued that those industries might not wish to "create a battle" if they see support for labeling mushrooming in the United States.
"Bioengineering is producing changes in food that are coming so fast that they've overtaken the regulatory structures," he said. "Until such time that we can make a complete and independent determination as to the safety of genetically modified food, the public has a right to know whether food has been modified or not."
Meanwhile, forces that spearheaded the successful drive in the early 1990s for a labeling law covering dietary supplements have trained their sights on genetic engineering. Craig Winters, executive director of the newly formed Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, said last week that he intends to "open the floodgates of information to Congress."
In addition, the Sierra Club declared with a flourish last week that it is joining the debate on modified food. In a letter to President Bill Clinton, the group's president, Carl Pope, said that his 550,000-member organization wants mandatory labeling of genetically altered products.
The government itself ratcheted up the debate. In a speech last month at the National Press Club, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman asked American companies to consider labeling as a means to head off the foreign tempests taking a toll on U.S. farm exports.
Since then, many companies have been looking at labeling, said the Biotechnology Industrial Organization's Mike Phillips.
"If they come to the decision that this is truly what consumers want, they will find a way to provide it," he said. "But they want to do it on a voluntary basis and let the market drive it and not let there be heavy-handed regulation."
Glickman's words did not alter Monsanto's noncommittal approach. The company defends existing FDA policies but adds that it supports discussions to give consumers what they want and need. The company is steering clear of the front lines of this debate and others, in keeping with its recent low-profile public relations strategy.
Spokeswoman Lisa Watson said that food companies that sell the branded products "will need to be at the forefront of discussions."
For the food industry, labeling may be the touchiest issue to come along in years. On one hand, consumers tell pollsters that they overwhelmingly support labeling of modified foods. On the other hand, the melding of genetic engineering and farming has occurred so swiftly and so broadly that changing course would be a challenge.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association's Gene Grabowski said he worries that labeling "would imply that there's something wrong with food, and there isn't."
He said that changing the science-based labeling system now in use could let "any special interest group agitate and create monstrous encyclopedias and attach them to products."
Participants in the labeling must wade through a thicket of questions. Should labeling be mandatory or voluntary? Should it be "positive" or "negative" -- that is, should food packaging declare that the contents contain genetically modified ingredients, or that they do not?
If you indicate that food has genetically modified ingredients, how do you say it in a way that imparts useful information, given that such a label would be in wide use? And if you tell consumers that food doesn't come from genetic engineering, as Kucinich wants, how do you avoid leaving the impression that it is safer?
With European protests fresh in their minds, biotechnology companies made a plea to the U.S. government recently: Defend American rules that keep genetically modified foods unlabeled or risk a consumer backlash at home.
"We said to them that we really needed their voice because we don't want this to spread to the United States," said Phillips of the Biotechnology Industrial Organization.
The FDA may or may not take that advice. But last week, the agency said it had none of its experts available to talk about the labeling of genetically modified food.
The Problem with the Safety of Roundup Ready Soybeans
By Judy Carman, MPH, PhD Flinders University.
The following is a critique of the methods used by Monsanto in their assessment that
their product, Roundup Ready soybeans, also known as glyphosate-tolerant soybean line
40-3-2, is safe for human and animal consumption. The methods critiqued are those that
appear in the Full Assessment Report and Regulatory Impact Assessment(by
Monsanto) to ANZFA
(The Australian and New Zealand Food Authority).
The pesticide Roundup works by inhibiting an enzyme that is necessary for the plant to synthesise certain aromatic amino acids, killing the plant. The targeted enzyme is called 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3-phosphate synthetase, or EPSPS. The genetic modification in Roundup Ready soybeans involves incorporating a bacterial version of this enzyme, (from Agrobacterium species, strain CP4) into the soybean plant, giving the soybean protection from Roundup. In this way, the soybeans and any weeds can be sprayed with Roundup, killing the weeds and leaving the soybeans.
Because of the way that this gene was incorporated into soybeans, several other genes are also present. They are: the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter, the EPSPS chloroplast transit protein (CTP) sequence from petunias and the 3 untranslated region of the nopaline synthetase gene (NOS3). The ANZFA document completely omits discussion of the first and last of these genes and their proteins. For the petunia CTP, the applicant document states: ...it is generally accepted that the chloroplast transit peptides are rapidly degraded after cleavage in vivo by cellular proteases. That is, results from other general experiments are relied-upon and no evidence is provided that they have measured this to be the case in Roundup Ready soybeans.
The application states that the only new protein in these soybeans would be the EPSPS enzyme. They determined the ability of this EPSPS to be digested by setting-up an in vitro mammalian gastric and intestinal mixture. It was not stated how this was done. It could involve something as primitive as a beaker on a laboratory bench with substances in it and stirred occasionally, not something that approaches a live gut. In vitro experiments should be repeated using at least a chemostat. In vivo experiments should also be done, to determine the digestibility of this enzyme and other proteins expressed in this plant, their effects on intestinal structure and function and any ability of this enzyme to cross the gut wall.
The document also states that as people cook soybeans before consumption, this would deactivate the enzyme and thus people would not consume it. However, raw soybeans will be fed to cattle. Steak is often served medium rare to rare. Therefore, there is a possibility that people will consume this new still-functional enzyme in their diet. As this does not seem to have been considered by the applicant company, there seem to have been no studies measuring quantities of this enzyme in cattle tissue, the ability of the enzyme to persist during moderate cooking or the effect that the enzyme would have on animals including humans.
A common soybean product in the peoples diets is lecithin, used as an emulsifier in food. The application classed lecithin as a food additive and so it was not even considered in the assessment.
Soon after the application for GM soybeans was submitted, an application was also submitted to ANZFA to permit the allowable limit of glyphosate in soybeans to be increased 200-fold. It appears that Monsanto may be expecting much higher levels of glyphosate to be in Roundup Ready soybeans. However, the soybeans assessed in the application were not treated with Roundup. They are therefore not equivalent to the soybeans that will come out of paddocks for human consumption. Experiments should be repeated with soybeans harvested from farms.
The applicant company compared Roundup Ready soybeans to ordinary soybeans for: moisture, fibre, ash, protein, amino acids, fatty acids, seed storage, trypsin inhibitor, lectin, isoflavone, raffinose and stachyose. They found no significant differences but the sample sizes used are not given in the ANZFA document. Nor are sample size calculations to justify the sample sizes that were used. If too small a sample size is used, any differences that may exist between Roundup Ready soybeans and ordinary soybeans will not be found. This is called the Type I error, and is a serious scientific fault. For the amino acid analyses, they also stated that no difference would be expected between Roundup Ready soybeans sprayed and not sprayed with Roundup, without apparently measuring whether this would be the case. Yet, Roundup is designed to interrupt the biochemical pathway that makes some amino acids.
A similar, and potentially more serious sample size problem occurs in the animal experiments. Here, 10 rats per sex per group (presumably this means 20 rats per group) were fed soy meal ad libitum from ordinary soybeans and Roundup Ready soybeans at various soy meal concentrations. Twenty rats per group is a very small number of rats with which to try and find statistical significance. They measured total body weight, and at the end of the experiments, the weights of some organs. They appear to have done no biochemistry, immunology, full autopsy, histology (except on pancreas), etc. They only fed animals for 4 weeks. The document did not report any trends from the low-level consumption groups to the higher-consumption groups of rats.
Similar studies were done on chickens and cows, presumably to reassure farmers that Roundup Ready soybeans would not reduce the quality of their animal-derived end product. A reasonable number of chickens (60 birds/sex) were fed for about a month, but only breast muscles and abdominal fat pads seem to have been removed and weighed at the end of the study. Similarly, groups of 5-6 Holstein dairy cows were fed uncooked soybeans. This is a totally inadequate sample size and would not be expected to show any differences between the groups. Yet a difference was found. Roundup Ready soybean-fed cows produced more fat-corrected milk, explained as being due to a slight increase in food intake. This mirrored a similar result in the chickens, where a slight increase in food consumption was found. They also found some minor differences between treated groups and the negative controls with regard to body weight gains and food consumption which may be related to palatability for rats fed processed soy beans. Although such differences may have become significant with larger sample sizes, this does not appear to have been done and these results were not further investigated by the company.
Monsanto also investigated what was described as immunological effects of the soybeans. These were basically allergenic effects. Their experiments were done on pooled blood samples, found Roundup Ready soybeans to be as allergenic as ordinary soybeans, and stated that as known allergens tend to be glysolated, and as the EPSPS was not found to be glysolated, there should be no extra allergenic effects from this soybean. They appear to have done no human trials, however, to test this hypothesis.
At least the following studies should be done by independent researchers:
1. Chemical analyses of Roundup Ready soybeans from farmers fields to determine the range of glyphosate levels in such soybeans and how they compare to non genetically-modified soybeans.
2. Long-term feeding studies using laboratory animals of different doses of glyphosate to quite high levels, if they have not already been done.
3. Long-term feeding studies on laboratory animals, with (1) ordinary soybeans (control group), (2) Roundup Ready soybeans without Roundup applied and (3) Roundup Ready soybeans from farmers fields (ie with Roundup applied). This would differentiate any health effects due to genetic modification vs glyphosate. For these animal studies (ie, 2. and 3.), at least the following tests should be done: food intake, body weight, full biochemistry, full immunology, liver function, kidney function, tumour investigation, the rate of death in each group, and a full autopsy on the animals at death, including intestinal section and histology. Animals should also be allowed to breed to determine any effects in their offspring.
4. Randomised, double-blind feeding trials should be done with human volunteers over at least several months. They should be randomly assigned to one of the 3 feeding groups as in point 3., above. At least the following should be measured: body weight, full biochemistry, full immunology, liver function, kidney function, allergenic potential and general health.
5. In countries where Roundup Ready soybeans are permitted, cohort studies containing low-level through to high-level consumers of this product should be established to follow people over many years to check for long-term health effects.
In summary, I believe that the scientific basis, provided by the applicant company for considering that Roundup Ready soybeans are safe for animal and human consumption, is seriously flawed. No other, independent investigations seem to have been done. It could be expected that the safety assessments of other genetically modified foods may be as flawed.
Independent testing of these foods is urgently required, incorporating long-term animal and human experiments. As these will take years, it would be wise to place on a moratorium on these foods for 5 years, as suggested by European groups, while these investigations are done. To do otherwise could be likened to permitting a giant feeding experiment on millions of people.
Furthermore, the description that oils and other products derived from genetically-modified foods contain no genetically modified material is also flawed. It could not be expected that such products would be so pure that they would contain nil plant tissue or genetic material or protein. To expect this would be to expect the equivalent of analytical-reagent grade chemical purity from a food-stuff. These products also need rigorous testing, as described above.
Finally, the applicant companies appear to be resisting the labelling of genetically-modified foods or their derived products, such as oils. In countries where these foods and their derivatives are permitted, they should be labelled so that consumers can make their own decision about whether to buy them or not, and so that consumers can reassess their decision as information is provided about the relative safety of these products over the next few years.
Dr. Judy Carman, PhD MPH, Epidemiologist and Senior Lecturer, at the Research Centre for Injury Studies, Flinders University, in Southern Australia. E-mail: judy.carman @ nisu.flinders.edu.au
Campaign for Food Safety (formerly Pure Food Campaign) 6114 Hwy 61, Little Marais,
Activist or Media Inquiries: (218) 226-4164, Fax: (218) 226-4157
Ronnie Cummins E-mail: email@example.com http://www.purefood.org
September 1, 1999
(Reuters World Report)
Japan food maker to drop gene-altered soybeans
TOKYO, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Japans largest maker of soybean protein food products, Fuji Oil Co Ltd, said on Wednesday the group will stop using genetically modified (GM) soybeans by next April due to consumer concern over the safety of bioengineered crops.
Fuji Oil will start switching to non-GM soybeans in the October-March period, a company spokesman said. Until now Fuji Oil has not distinguished between GM and non-GM soybeans when placing orders.
The Fuji Oil group uses 80,000-100,000 tonnes of soybeans annually, most of which is imported from the United States.
Fuji Oil plans to buy non-GM soybeans imported from the United States by the Japanese trading house Itochu Corp. Fuji Oil is a member of the Itochu group of companies.
Japan imported 2.85 million tonnes of soybeans in the first seven months of 1999. Traders expect 75-80 percent will be used for oil production and the rest for other food products, such as tofu.
Last month several of Japans largest breweries announced plans to stop using genetically altered corn, and ingredients made from such corn, in their operations.
Japan has approved 22 varieties of six GM cropssoybeans, corn, rapeseed, potatoes, cotton and tomatoesunder its food safety guidelines for import and sale.
The government last month decided to impose labelling requirements on these crops and food products made from them, in order to allow consumers to make an informed choice. Foods made from soybean protein are subject to the label requirement.
The government has exempted some processed food products, such as vegetable oil, because existing technology cannot determine whether they were made using genetically altered ingredients.
The instruction by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), based in the farming heartland of Illinois, was made after food producers using the company's raw soya flour and oils threatened to take their business to suppliers that could guarantee GM-free soya.
The effect could be to discourage farmers from buying GM seeds. It also casts doubt on a claim repeatedly made by the farmers since GM soya was introduced in 1996 - that it would be too difficult to separate the GM and conventional strains after harvest.
ADM, which has revenues of $14.2bn (pounds 9bn), told farmers the move was in response to food manufacturers that are "requesting and making purchases based on the genetic origin of the crops".
Some operators of the grain "elevators", which prepare the crop for processing, said that segregation could significantly slow this year's harvest.
In the UK, Sue Davis of the Consumers' Association said: "We have always called for segregation of GM and conventional crops. Now it seems like we are moving towards consumers getting choice on GM foods. It also shows that consumer concern about GM is having an impact all the way through the food chain."
The use of soya, which appears in about 40 per cent of processed foods, has led to growing consumer protest in the UK over the lack of labelling of GM soya. About 40 per cent of the US soya harvest will be GM this year. In the UK, supermarkets have vied to eliminate GM soya from their products, and to label brands containing it.
Earlier this year, ADM told farmers it would no longer accept GM crops that are not approved for import in Europe, even if they can be grown in the US.
September 5, 1999
GM bosses want to pull out of UK
Top executives of Monsanto, the worlds leading biotechnology firm, are pressing the board to pull out of genetically modified crop trials in Britain, because public hostility is damaging its business.
Senior company sources have told the Independent on Sunday that a powerful group within management is arguing that the trial plantings should cease entirely. Although the Monsanto chairman, Bob Shapiro, is insisting that the trials must continue, the company has already drastically scaled back its planting in Britain. Senior managers are deeply frustrated by the success of anti-GM campaigners in disrupting them.
The Independent on Sunday has also learned that the Clinton administration is so concerned at Monsantos troubles in Britain that it is putting heavy pressure on ministers to allow a new GM maize, developed by the company, into British shops and supermarkets.
Monsantos withdrawal would be a devastating blow, both to the GM industry and to Tony Blair who has made support for biotechnology an integral part of the New Labour "project" for Britain.
The Prime Minister is facing a revolt within his own party - expected to surface at this months Labour party conference - over the pro-GM stance on which he has staked much of his authority. Shortly afterwards, Mr Shapiro will fly to Britain to plead his case at a Greenpeace conference.
Investors have been deserting Monsanto and other biotechnology companies as opposition to their GM products has grown; Monsanto shares have fallen by more than 10 per cent over the past six months. Deutsche Bank, Europes largest, predicts that GM organisms will become a "pariah" for shareholders and a "liability" to farmers and warns of "an earnings nightmare" for Monsanto.
Statistics collected by Friends of the Earth from government documents show that Monsanto has cut its trials by three-quarters over the past 12 months. This year it has only about 30 sites around the country, compared with 110 in 1998.
Pete Riley, the pressure groups GM campaigner, said: "Monsanto are drastically scaling down their operations in the face of overwhelming public opposition to their activities in the UK. It is time they packed up and went home altogether."
Monsanto officially denies that there have been discussions about ending the UK trials and says that the reduction is not evidence of an impending withdrawal. A spokeswoman at its headquarters in Missouri said: "There have been no such discussions. We think its important that people get the information that comes out of these trials."
But senior sources in the UK privately admit that some directors are indeed advocating a withdrawal. Peter Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, says that this would be a disaster for the company. "If they cannot make it in England, where they have the most sympathetic government in Europe, it is hard to see how they could make it anywhere," he said.
Garden writers gang up on GMThey have advised us on the herbaceous border, told us which flowers are "in", and which are definitely out. They have convinced us that a back yard is really a "town garden" and now they have found a new cause. Britains top gardening writers have discovered genetically modified crops - and they do not like them.
A Whos Who of the gardening literati has joined forces to warn that new technology will devastate the gardens of millions of households.
They include the veterans Beth Chatto and Penelope Hobhouse, garden architect John Brookes, organic gardening expert the Marchioness of Salisbury, Valerie Finnis, Monty Don, Sue Phillips and The Independents gardening expert Anna Pavord.
They believe cross-pollination from genetically modified wheat and oilseed rape poses as grave a threat to popular garden plants, such as roses and carnations, as they do to other crops and wildlife.
The writers, who have called themselves the Gardeners GMO Group, are also concerned that genetic modification of common garden plants and shrubs - to produce unusual colours and increase growth - will dramatically reduce consumer choice and ultimately raise prices.
They argue the countryside and gardens are so interwoven that it will be impossible for GM crops to be grown in isolation. They are worried that many species of garden plants, such as wallflowers, may easily cross-pollinate with GM crops while genetically modified grass seeds for the back garden which are lemon scented or herbicide resistant, will prove just as destructive.
"We want the trials of GM crops halted and taken back to the laboratory," said Nori Pope, who runs the Hadspen Gardens in Dorset. "These trials wont just affect fields around where they take place but local gardens as well.
"There are plenty of plants which will cross-pollinate very nicely indeed with oilseed rape and once its happened there will be no stopping it."
Penelope Hobhouse, the gardening writer and designer, feels more information about GM products must be known before they could be used in the garden. "Like many people Im not well qualified to be certain. Id be unhappy about such products being used before we know more about them."
Anna Pavord first raised concerns about the implications of genetic engineering for gardeners nine years ago.
She said: "I dont think gardeners in this country need to have anything to do with genetic modification. On the gardening front it is clear there is no need for it."
Mr Pope said the horticultural market is worth around £1bn a year and the GM companies would be linked to every variety of plant where they thought they could get a cut. "That means a reduction in choice," he said.
Ms Pavord agrees. "This is dangerous. We dont know what sort of creatures this is going to create. We already know that some butterflies are dying because of something in the nectar of GM crops.
"Once the butterflies are taken out of the chain something else will get out of kilter. In the 1960s these companies went berserk with breeding dud roses that couldnt stand up by themselves without needing supplements."
Monday September 13 1999
The Financial Times
GM foods groups face huge lawsuit
By Jean Eaglesham, Legal Correspondent
The world's biggest life science companies and grain processors will face a multi-billion dollar antitrust action to be launched in up to 30 countries later this year.
The unprecedented lawsuits will claim that companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Novartis are exploiting bioengineering techniques to gain a stranglehold on agricultural markets.
The action is being brought jointly by the Foundation on Economic Trends, run by Washington-based biotech activist Jeremy Rifkin, and the US-based National Family Farm Coalition, together with individual farmers across Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America.
It will be the biggest antitrust suit ever brought, with the possible exception of that against Microsoft.
"It has literally global implications," said Michael Hausfeld of Cohen Milstein Hausfeld and Toll, one of the 20 US law firms that have agreed to take the cases on a "no-win no-fee" basis.
The move represents the first global challenge to controversial techniques for exploiting genetically modified crops commercially.
Companies take out patents on GM seeds and then lease, rather than sell, them to farmers to be used for one season only. In the US, where GM crops are rapidly becoming the norm, farmers have been sued for replanting GM seeds.
Companies have also developed "terminator" genes that cause GM crops to produce sterile seeds.
Concerns about the potential control this gives life science companies over food, particularly in the developing world, have been exacerbated by a bout of takeovers and mergers within the sector.
Ten companies now own 30 per cent of the $23bn annual commercial seed trade, according to recent estimates, and five of those - Monsanto, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Aventis and DuPont - control virtually all GM crops.
"By the early part of the next century, less than a handful of corporations will possess control over the entire agricultural foundation for every society. You can see the potential for market abuse and manipulation," said Mr Hausfeld.
The legal action comes at a sensitive time for the biotech industry, which is facing growing consumer and political resistance to GM crops in Europe and in developing countries such as India.
The issue seems likely to be raised at November's World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle.
The companies can be expected to fight the lawsuit tooth and nail. They reject any charge of market control.
"There is fierce competition around the world. We have a 42 per cent market share [of the $20bn corn crop] in the US and we've had to work hard for it," said Pioneer Hibred International, the US seed company which is about to be bought by DuPont.
"We've had to prove to farmers that our hybrid is better than any other."
Pioneer added that farmers retained the choice of whether to buy GM or conventional seeds.
September 29, 1999
Friends Of The Earth Press Release
GM Crops: Genetic Pollution Proved. GM Pollen Found Miles From Trial Site
Government policy on GM food and crops suffered another shattering blow today after GM oilseed rape pollen was found by scientists four and a half kilometres from an official farm scale trial site . The Government's rules for the farm scale trials require only a 50 metre separation distance between GM crops and other fields . These are the first monitoring results of GM pollen from a farm scale trial. They show GM pollen at distances further than ever previously detected and shows the scale of the threat the trials pose to non-GM crops, beekeepers and the wider environment .
The errant GM pollen was found during a GM monitoring and analysis programme organised by Friends of the Earth and Newsnight, around Model Farm, near Watlington, Oxfordshire. The monitoring was carried out by the National Pollen Research Unit and a bee specialist, and the GM analysis was carried out by the Federal Environment Agency in Austria. These disturbing results will severely embarrass the Government on the day of the environment debate at the Labour Party conference. Earlier this month the Government was forced to admit that trials of winter oilseed
rape are illegal, after a Court challenge by Friends of the Earth showed that the rules governing consent for such trials had been broken to suit the convenience of biotech giant AgrEvo. The study, which looked at pollen carried by bees and in the air showed that:
Charles Secrett, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, said: "This study
shows that genetic pollution from the farm scale trials is already happening. Earlier this
month we forced the Government to admit that the new farm scale trials are illegal. This
week, we have shown that all the current GM trials threaten local farmers, beekeepers and
the environment. This must be the death blow for the whole GM trials programme. Let Tony
Blair use the Labour Party conference to announce that it will now be stopped. Nothing
less will reassure the public that the Government gives a hoot about the environmental
safety of GM food and crops."
Notes To Editors
 Friends of the Earth contracted the National Pollen Research Unit at University College, Worcester to monitor airborne pollen on roads and public rights of way around the farm scale trial for spring oilseed rape at Model Farm, Pirton, Near Watlington, Oxfordshire in June and July 1999. Access problems (the farmer owned most of the land in the vicinity) meant that permanent monitoring sites could not be set up and therefore spot samples were used. See attached summary.
Pollen traps were placed on six bee hives sited in the area of the farm scale trial in June and July 1999. Two were 500 metres from the crop, two were 2.75 kilometres from the crop and two were 4.5 km. The pollen was collected and analysed by a bee and honey consultant , Sarah Brookes, of Evesham, Worcestershire.
Newsnight sent six samples of airborne pollen and 6 of beehive pollen were sent to the laboratory of the Federal Environment Agency in Austria for DNA analysis. All six beehive samples were found to contain GM oilseed rape pollen from an AgrEvo variety and 2 out of 6 airborne samples.
 The Supply Chain Initiative on the Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC) code of practice for growing GM herbicide resistant crops has been endorsed by the UK Government. The maximum separation distance for GM oilseed crops and conventional crops is 50m. For seed crops and organic crops the recommended distance is 200m.
 Research by the Scottish Crop Research Institute reported at the Gene Flow in Agriculture: Revelence for Transgeneic Crops Conference, Keele University April 1999 (British Crop Protection Council Symposium Proceedings No 72) reported oilseed rape pollen at 4km from a field of oilseed rape.
Copyright © Friends of the Earth /
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September 29, 1999
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Online
Driving east from Saskatoon, heading to the Manitoba border, the sign on Highway 5 said "Bruno, 6K." That was the road to Percy Schmeisers place, but I decided thell with it, Percys been done.
Watched the documentary on him on CBC-TVs The National. Soon hell be on CBC-TVs The Fifth Estate. And television crews are coming to Bruno from Japan, Germany, and England. Even the Bloc Quebecois is sending a representative from Quebec to meet with Percy Schmeiser and discuss his quixotic battle with Monsanto, a David and Goliath affair if ever there was one.
A year ago, Monsanto put the squeeze on Percy for illegally growing Monsantos
special, genetically modified canola,
called "Roundup Ready." Monsanto launched a lawsuit against the 68-year-old farmer, who has been farming in this part of Saskatchewan for 40 years. Now Percys fighting back, having launched his own $10 million lawsuit against Monsanto, accusing the biochemical giant of contaminating his farm. (Canola = oilseed rape)
It works this way. Monsanto sells its special genetically modified canola seeds to farmers, but the farmers are not allowed to use the Monsanto seeds from one crop to grow another crop, which is what farmers traditionally do. They must buy new seeds from Monsanto every year.
The selling point for Monsantos canola is that it can survive Monsantos Roundup herbicide, which kills other plants without killing Monsantos genetically modified canola. Monsanto now has a new breed of canola called "Terminator," which produces sterile seeds that cant reproduce.
Somehow, Monsanto discovered there was Monsanto canola growing on Percys 1,400-acre spread, so they decided to get tough and make an example of him. Boy, did the folks at Monsanto pick the wrong guy. They probably didnt know much about him, like his having been a popular local mayor and an MLA in the Saskatchewan legislature. Im sure they didnt know about Percys three attempts to climb Mount Everest, getting "only" 23,000 feet up.
Fifteen kilometres beyond the road to Bruno, I did a U-turn on Highway 5 and headed back. I had to at least say hello to Percy Schmeiser. When would I be in the neighbourhood again? Stopped at a farm implement dealership on the edge of town to ask directions.
"Hullo!" I shouted inside the open but empty dealership. "Hullo!" came a distant reply, whereupon a tall man in jeans appeared from a corner office. "Where would I find Percy Schmeiser?" I asked.
"Im Percy Schmeiser," said Percy Schmeiser. When I told him what I knew about Roundup Ready genetically modified canola, he ushered me outside his dealership, walked to a hydro line, knelt down and showed me a growth of canary-yellow canola. "This is it," he said, then he took me to the north side of the building where another shoot of Roundup Ready genetically modified canola was growing next to the building in the shade.
"All over the place," he said. "It blows in the wind, cross-pollinates." He knelt down and pulled off one of the flowers, popping open a pod of canola, displaying the freckle-sized, black seeds. "Little plant like this makes a minimum 4,000 seeds...maybe 10,000 seeds," he said.
"Now theyre not saying I stole their seed," Percy said. "Now theyre saying it doesnt matter how the (Monsanto canola) gets into a farmers field. Doesnt matter if its blown onto the field or if its by cross-pollination. They say its their patent and if they find it on your field theyll take your crop, theyll sue you, theyll fine you."
He looks out the window of his cluttered office, across to the railway tracks, deep in thought - looking for a metaphor, as I soon learn.
"What if a farmer has a scrub bull?" Percy asked. "And his neighbours got a herd of purebred registered cows? Through negligence, the bull gets over the fence and impregnates his neighbours cows. Now the guy with the scrub bull says those calves are his. The cows too! Same thing, eh?" Percy says he has spent $35,000 in legal fees going up against Monsanto. There was a mediation hearing on the case in August but it didnt resolve anything, so Percy and Monsanto are due to meet in court next June 6. Now a multi-billion antitrust suit has been filed in a U.S.
Federal Court against Monsanto and other agribusiness companies.
Monsanto dearly would love to extricate itself from this mess. The David that is Percy Schmeiser has become a royal pain in the ass to the Goliath that is Monsanto.
October 3, 1999
The Independent on Sunday
Expert on GM danger vindicated
By Geoffrey Lean
The scientist who suggested that genetically modified foods could damage health - and was comprehensively rubbished by Government ministers and the scientic establishment as a result - is to have his reputation dramatically vindicated..
Britain's top medical journal, The Lancet is shortly to publish Arpad Puzstai's research showing changes in the guts of rats fed with GM potatoes. This will reignite fears that eating GM foods may endanger human health.
The Government has sought to discredit Dr Puzstai's work on the grounds that it has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Other scientists have made similar claims and attacked it as "flawed" and unpublishable.
Publication of the article will encourage other scientists to try to repeat the experiments, kickstarting further scientific investigation into whether GM foods pose a threat to health or not.
Galley proofs of the article have already been sent to Dr Puzstai, and his co-author Dr Stanley Ewen, SeniorLecturer in Pathology at Aberdeen University. Late last week David McNamee, the journal's Executive Editor, said that it will be published "soon."
The research is important because few papers have so far been published on the health effects of GM foods, despite the rapidity with which they spread onto supermarket shelves. Indeed Dr Puzstai - who was travelling in europe last week and unable to comment on the news - began his experiments becuise he could find only one previous peer-reviewed study, led by a scientist from Monsanto, the GM food giant, which had found no ill-effects.
He started three years research - funded by the Scottish Office to the tune of £1.6 million - at Aberdeen's Rowett Research Institute as a self-confessed "very enthusiastic supporter" of GM technology, who fully expected his experiments to give it "a clean bill of health."
The 68 year-old scientist, who has published 270 sceintific papers and is acknowledged as the leading authority in his field, fed rats on three strains of genetically engineered potatoes and one ordinary one. In his first full interview, after being gagged by his institute, he told the Independent on Sunday last March; " I was absolutely confident I wouldn't find anything. But the longer I spent on the experiments, the more uneasy I became."
His findings sparked public concern, and ignited a furious row about GM foods, after he briefly mentioned them, with the Institute's permission, on a television programme last year. They contradicted repaeted assurances from the Prime Minister down, that GM food is safe, and undermined the assumption behind the regulation of genetically altered crops that there is no substantial difference between them and their conventional equivalents.
Despite his eminence, Dr Puztai - who came to Britain after the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian rising beacuse of the country's "tolerance" - underwent one of the most extraodinary treatments ever meeted out to a reputable scientist.
He was suspended from his work on the experiments, his computers were sealed, his data confiscated and he found himself "sent to Coventry" by his colleagues. He was forced into retirement and forbidden to talk about his work.
He came under comprehensive attack from ministers and the scientific establishment. Sir Robert May, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, accused him of violating "every canon of scientific rectitude". The Royal Society claimed that his work was "flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis" and said that "no conclusions could be drawn from it." And Professor Tom Sanders, of Kings College, London. said that none of the major scientific journals would publish the research.
Ministers enthusiastically joined in. Cabinet enforcer Dr Jack Cunningham, who is in charge of the Government's GM strategy, said Dr Pusztai's work had been "comprehensively discredited" , and top Downing Street advisers consistently stressed it should be disregarded because it had not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr Pusztai retorted that he was eager to publish, and pointed out that the scientific criticism was based on incomplete information that he had put on the internet at the Institute's request, while being denied full access to his data, which was only released to him this spring.
October 12, 1999
Monsanto Weedkiller `Wipes Out Beneficial Insects'
THE WORLD'S biggest-selling weedkiller, the chemical glyphosate, is facing a European ban after a confidential European Union report showed that it also kills beneficial insects and spiders.
A ban would be a blow to the US group Monsanto, which produces most of the world's supply, usually under the name Roundup. It is central to the group's production of genetically engineered seeds, as Roundup- ready seeds are able to withstand the weedkiller.
Research at Orebro hospital in Sweden also suggests a higher risk of a cancer called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in those exposed to glyphosate.
In Channel 4 News tonight it is revealed that a confidential EU report says glyphosate should not be approved for use in Europe. EU advisers believe more research is needed.
At the moment each European state can decide which weedkillers it approves, and all have approved glyphosate. But with EU harmonisation on pesticide and herbicide expected in the next two years, advisers have begun evaluating which should be prohibited.
The report, one of several that will form the basis of harmonisation, reviewed evidence and concluded that after glyphosate is used on crops, "harmful effects" on arthropods "cannot be excluded". Itsays the chemical should not be included on a list of approved substances pending more study.
David Buffin of the Pesticides Trust, which campaigns against pesticide use, said glyphosate presented a high risk to certain insects and spiders considered beneficialbecause they kill harmful crop pests. "If you are knocking off the beneficials, it may result in an increase in the insect pests and you have to go in with a fairly invasive insecticide," said Mr Buffin.
Monsanto said it would be "improper" to comment, but the company said that the World Health Organisation had said glyphosate was not carcinogenic.
NIH Not Told Of Deaths in Gene Studies
Researchers, Companies Kept Agency in the Dark
By Deborah Nelson and Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writers
Scientists and drug companies have failed to notify the National Institutes of Health about six deaths that occurred in gene therapy experiments in the past 19 months, keeping details of the deaths from becoming public, according to interviews with researchers and federal officials.
The deaths are the first in gene therapy to come to light that were purposely withheld from the NIH, one of two federal agencies charged with overseeing the safety of the controversial field of medical research, which seeks to cure diseases by giving patients new genes.
The lack of disclosure provides new evidence of a shift toward secrecy in gene therapy, traditionally one of the more open fields of medical research, and reflects escalating efforts by gene therapy companies to weaken federal reporting regulations.
Confirmation of the six deaths follows revelations last week of a death and two serious illnesses in gene therapy patients that were reported to the NIH with the unprecedented insistence that they be kept confidential, in defiance of a long-standing agency policy of public disclosure.
The six deaths occurred in heart studies headed by two leading gene researchers--Ronald Crystal of the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan and Jeffrey Isner of Tufts University in Boston. The two are racing to be the first to grow new blood vessels around blocked ones as an alternative to bypass surgery.
Crystal and Isner said that, unlike the widely reported death of a teenage patient at the University of Pennsylvania in September, they believe that the fatalities in their studies were not directly caused by the gene therapy but by complications stemming from the patients' underlying illnesses.
Because they decided the deaths weren't caused by gene therapy, they argued, federal regulations don't require them to notify the NIH--a new interpretation of those regulations that stands in sharp contrast to the one held by NIH officials and a decade of practice.
The researchers said they reported the deaths to the Food and Drug Administration, which keeps such information secret.
But NIH officials in the federal office that oversees gene therapy are adamant that even deaths not initially believed to have been caused by the therapy must be reported to the NIH and made public, because often it is not clear until later whether the therapy actually caused the deaths.
"It may take five, six, seven patients ill, or 20 patients, before you find out, 'Hey, this is also happening in other people's trials,' " said Amy Patterson, who heads the NIH Office of Recombinant DNA Activities (ORDA), which oversees gene therapy studies. "And if you don't know what's going on in other people's trials, then you can't put two and two together."
The FDA can suspend a study if it determines that the therapy being tested is dangerous, but the agency only makes such information public if the therapy eventually is approved or with the permission of the study's sponsor.
Most of the new deaths are coming to light only because federal officials put out a plea for gene researchers across the country to report any undisclosed deaths or illnesses, after the death of the teenager at the University of Pennsylvania. His death is thought to be the first directly caused by gene therapy, and NIH officials are looking for indications of similar problems in other studies that may not have been attributed to the treatments themselves.
Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for Parke-Davis, which is sponsoring Crystal's study, said the company had forwarded details of the deaths to ORDA on Oct. 20. She said the deaths had previously been reported to the FDA, but she refused to say whether that agency had agreed with the company's determination that the deaths were not caused by the therapy. The FDA has not decided whether to fulfill a Washington Post request to release information about deaths and illnesses in gene therapy trials.
Federal regulations have long held genetic treatments to a higher level of public scrutiny than conventional new therapies because of public discomfort with the idea of manipulating people's genetic makeup.
For example, federal regulations require researchers to report the deaths and serious illnesses of patients enrolled in gene therapy experiments not only to the FDA, but also to the NIH for public review by a special advisory board.
But as the field has become increasingly dominated by private industry, drug companies and scientists with a financial stake in their research are challenging the historically broad interpretation of that rule. They are filing reports with demands for confidentiality or maintaining that they don't have to file them with the NIH at all.
Isner and Crystal helped found competing gene therapy companies--Vascular Genetics of Durham, N.C., and GenVec of Rockville, respectively.
Asked why he hadn't reported his deaths to the NIH, Isner said yesterday that it was an oversight and, in any case, it was not clear that he had to.
Crystal said Parke-Davis has assumed responsibility for reporting deaths to the appropriate agencies. However, he added that while he supported the reporting of deaths and illnesses to the NIH, he did not consider it a legal requirement. He also said he believed that the NIH should keep some reports confidential, particularly to protect patient privacy.
Both researchers said they have discussed some of the deaths at scientific meetings and in professional journals.
Crystal was among the first to request confidentiality from the NIH for a patient death report, in May 1998, just two weeks after GenVec announced plans for an initial public offering of stock. NIH staff said yesterday that, at the time, Crystal cited concerns about the impact on his business if the death were made public. In the past week, Crystal has said the public offering, later canceled, had no bearing on his confidentiality request and has offered varying reasons for that request--including a need to study the death further and concerns about patient confidentiality.
The issue of confidentiality requests surfaced at the September meeting of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC), the NIH group that reviews gene therapy experiments and collects reports of serious side-effects and deaths.
Schering-Plough also had demanded confidentiality for three recently filed reports of serious patient illness during gene therapy trials. The lead scientists in two of those studies determined that the complications "probably" were caused by the gene therapy; Schering-Plough officials had downgraded those assessments, saying they were "possibly related" to the therapy.
In the third case, the researchers and the company agreed that the complications "possibly" were related to the therapy.
This week, Schering-Plough, of Madison, N.J., issued a statement defending its recent requests that the NIH keep the illnesses of three patients confidential. Company officials and others are expected to make their case for more confidentiality at a December RAC meeting, where the NIH will seek to clarify its reporting guidelines.© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
Biotechnology Industry Organization President Carl Feldbaum objects to The Post's exposing the use of bacterial and viral genes in engineered food [letters, Aug. 31]. But Mr. Feldbaum does not deny that such genes are used. Instead, he states that "merely" genes for specific traits are inserted in the engineering process.
In fact, the use of powerful viral promoters is currently required for the production of genetically altered crops, and the biotech industry continues to rely on potentially harmful "marker" genes despite widespread medical opposition.
Genes for antibiotic resistance, for example, are widely used in the production of engineered crops. In Germany, more than 2,000 doctors and health professionals have signed a statement calling on the biotech firm Novartis to withdraw its engineered corn from the market, based on the use of a gene for resistance to ampicillin, a widely prescribed antibiotic. The British Medical Association has also made a similar call for a ban on this technique.
The biotech industry aggressively fights consumer demands for labeling its genetically engineered foods. If consumers question industry assertions that biotech foods are safe, perhaps it is because of the unfortunate rhetoric that industry uses to evade the facts about genetically altered food.
The writer is a genetic engineering specialist for Greenpeace.© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
August 15, 1999
Biotech Food Raises a Crop of Questions
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Steve Taylor practically yawned when researchers at Pioneer Hi-Bred, the giant agricultural seed company, asked him in 1995 to study a new soybean they had invented. "I didn't think we'd find anything interesting," the University of Nebraska scientist recently recalled.
Little did Taylor know that his findings would help trigger a wave of anxiety over the safety of genetically engineered food in Europe, a wave that, years later, now threatens to engulf the United States as well.
Pioneer had spliced a Brazil nut gene into soybeans, creating a soybean that boasted a nutritious nut protein. Taylor's task was to find out whether the new soybean would cause allergies in people allergic to Brazil nuts, a potential danger because people with allergies to nuts wouldn't think to avoid soy.
The company had put just one of the Brazil nut's thousands of proteins into its new soybean, and the odds of that one causing the nut's allergies were incredibly low, Taylor said. So he could hardly believe it when first one test, then another, and finally a third indicated that the transferred protein was indeed a major cause of Brazil nut allergies.
In trying to build a better soybean, the company had made a potentially deadly one.
Pioneer immediately halted the soybean project. But Taylor's study lives on today as a symbol of everything that is both frightening and reassuring about genetically altered food, which has quietly made its way into nearly every American kitchen.
Frightening because the study proved that a gene-altered food could cause an unexpected and potentially fatal reaction.
Reassuring because the problem was detected before the product was marketed.
And symbolic above all because it was, and still is, one of the very few studies ever to look directly for any harm from an engineered food or crop.
That dearth of studies is the legacy of a U.S. policy that considers gene-altered plants and food to be fundamentally the same as conventional ones, a policy some Americans are starting to question.
It is also the legacy of the sheer scientific difficulty of conducting the kinds of tests that might assure people that engineered crops and food are safe.
And it is the legacy of broken promises by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which have said for the past five years that they intend to write rules to minimize the chances that gene-altered food will cause allergies or damage the environment.
"Americans are starting to realize that this process is not as all wrapped up as they thought it was," said Carol Tucker Foreman, a food safety specialist at the Consumer Federation in Washington.
Genetically engineered food, which is endowed with bacterial, viral and other genes not native to human food, has been widely, if mostly unknowingly, consumed in the United States since 1996. As far as scientists can tell, no one has ever been harmed.
But with evidence accumulating that the crops may be less environmentally benign than biotech companies had predicted-most recently, gene-altered corn was found capable of killing monarch butterflies-some Americans are reconsidering the technology's overall safety.
"I've had more calls about this allergy research in the past three months than I've had in the three years since we published it," Taylor said.
In Europe, that crisis of confidence already runs deep. Activists regularly vandalize newly planted plots of gene-altered crops. Major grocery chains have refused to carry engineered food. And food processors have begun to hire DNA fingerprinting labs to verify that their products are free of foreign genes.
The British Medical Association has warned that the technology may lead to the emergence of new allergies and speed the evolution of microbes resistant to antibiotics. Other groups worry that gene-altered crops may lead to the growth of insecticide-resistant bugs, or "superweeds" unfazed by herbicides.
In this country, gene-altered food is virtually unavoidable. About one-third of the corn growing in the United States is genetically engineered, mostly to exude its own insecticide, as is about half of the cotton crop (including some grown for edible cottonseed oil) and a smaller percentage of potatoes. Half of all U.S. soybeans are genetically modified as well, mostly to produce a chemical that makes the plants impervious to weed-killing sprays.
So with the exception of explicitly organic food, which flows through independent "identity-preserved" food streams, nearly everything made with soy, corn or cotton in this country ends up containing at least some gene-altered ingredients.
That's a lot of different foods. Soy protein can be found in about 60 percent of all processed food, including frozen meals, baby food, yogurt and other products. And corn, in addition to being the main ingredient in tortilla chips and corn starch, provides the high-fructose sweeteners found in many "natural" sodas, fruit drinks and other products.
U.S. regulators and industry representatives argue that engineered food is, if anything, safer than conventional food. Old-fashioned plant breeding involves the random and uncontrolled reassortment of thousands of genes with every mating, they note. By contrast, biotechnology allows the precise transfer of a single well-understood gene into a plant, leaving little to chance.
Moreover, they say, since 1992 the FDA has required allergy tests like the ones Taylor did for all new food made with genes taken from milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, legumes or nuts, foods that account for perhaps 90 percent of American food allergies. The agency also insists that gene-altered food be nutritionally equivalent to its conventional counterparts.
Most important, advocates say, the FDA can demand extensive safety testing if the new gene "differs substantially" from those generally found in other food. But critics call that a hollow promise. They note that all 44 crops that so far have gained FDA marketing approval have avoided that scrutiny because the agency has accepted the industry's claims that they are "substantially equivalent" to conventional food.
That is, they claim, because the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act demands safety testing on all new additives not "generally recognized as safe." Now activists are suing the FDA in federal court to force such testing on the bacterial and other genes being added to food crops.
Safety testing can be difficult, as researchers found with the Flavr Savr tomato, which was given a gene to make it ripen more slowly. When Calgene and Zeneca Plant Science developed that tomato in the early 1990s, no FDA rules were in place. So the companies voluntarily agreed to conduct a full range of tests.
When scientists tried to feed rodents the tomatoes, however, the animals wouldn't eat them, recalled Roger Salquist, one of the scientists involved in creating the Flavr Savr. "I gotta tell you, you can be Chef Boyardee and mice are still not going to like them."
The researchers went so far as to force-feed the tomatoes to rodents through gastric tubes and stomach washes. The procedure made the rodents sick, of course, and revealed nothing about the food's safety. The tomato ultimately won approval from the FDA but failed in the market in part because it was so expensive.
Safety testing is also difficult because there's no widely accepted way to predict a new food's potential to cause an allergy. The FDA is now five years behind in its promise to develop guidelines for doing so. With no formal guidelines in place, it's largely up to the industry to decide whether and how to test for the allergy potential of new food not already on the FDA's "must test" list.
That means there is a small chance that someone will suffer an allergic reaction, and perhaps a serious one, but science can never assure safety with 100 percent certainty, said University of Wisconsin professor Robert Bush, chief of allergies at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Madison. And when deciding how much effort and expense should be rallied to minimize that risk, Bush said, people should remember that new foods are introduced all the time from other parts of the world without regulators demanding studies on their allergy potential.
"I don't think there was a hue and cry about introducing kiwis onto the U.S. market," Bush said, even though many Americans have proven allergic to them.
The effects of gene-altered crops on the environment are at least as complicated as those on the human body. The EPA requires companies to conduct limited ecological impact tests before marketing gene-altered crops. But while the agency has promised to spell out in detail what crop developers should do to ensure that their gene-altered plants won't damage the environment, it has failed to do so for the past five years.
Meanwhile, several recent scientific studies have highlighted a range of potential problems that may be arising from engineered crops.
The most publicized of those was the recent finding that pollen from corn that has been engineered to produce an insecticide called Bt is toxic not only to the caterpillar pest it is aimed at, but also to the monarch butterfly. The laboratory study leaves unresolved whether monarchs are actually being harmed around cornfields. But it inspired a coalition of national environmental groups, including several that had not weighed in on agricultural biotechnology before, to ask the EPA to stop its registration of new varieties of Bt corn until the agency comes up with a more complete ecological safety plan.
At the same time, recent studies have pointed to a variety of other problems that seem to be emerging from Bt corn. One report, for example, suggests that the EPA's primary strategy for preventing the emergence of Bt-resistant insects-a plan that calls for planting "refuges" of conventional corn in nearby fields-may be doomed to fail because Bt resistance genes in insects behave differently than scientists had thought.
Another study showed that Bt can alter the time it takes an insect to reach adulthood. That could dash the EPA's hopes that Bt-resistant insects will mate with Bt-susceptible ones and give birth to offspring still vulnerable to the chemical.
Still other studies suggest that Bt corn may be inadvertently killing beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings, which eat insect pests. If true, then the insecticidal crops may be giving reprieves to as many insect pests as they are killing.
And scientists are finding that some engineered crops, such as herbicide-resistant canola in Canada, are cross-pollinating with wild relatives more widely than had been predicted, creating hardy weeds that can survive herbicidal sprays.
Now, the EPA faces a potentially larger problem: whether to approve a new kind of Bt corn called Bt cry9C. It's a decision that many observers see as a test case of just where the agency will draw the line on the degree of risk it is willing to accept.
While other versions of Bt break down harmlessly in the human digestive tract, the cry9C protein remains stable in the human stomach. And because the protein can survive digestion, it has increased potential to cause allergies.
The FDA demands extra allergy testing for new food that contains such stable proteins. And AgrEvo, the German company that is seeking approval for cry9C corn, has conducted some additional tests, including a comparison of cry9C's molecular structure with known allergy-causing proteins. Reassuringly no similarities exist.
But as the agency considers whether to approve the corn for human ingestion, it is up against the reality that there is no surefire way of testing a new protein like cry9C for its potential to cause allergies in people.
"We all wish there was a test where you plug in a protein and out pops a 'yes' or 'no' answer," said Sue MacIntosh, a protein chemist with AgrEvo.
But there is no such test, short of giving it to a lot of people and seeing what happens.
The EPA is considering the company's application and hopes to make a decision by fall.
© 1999 The Washington Post Company
September 11, 1999
By Philip Brasher AP Farm Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Already battered by low corn and soybean prices, farmers now fear the loss of overseas markets for the genetically altered crops that now make up a hefty percentage of U.S. production.
Europeans were the first to balk at buying biotech crops, which wary Britons have dubbed ``Frankenfoods.'' Now the baby-food makers Gerber and H.J. Heinz are turning them down, as are two Japanese brewers. In Mexico, a major tortilla maker is avoiding altered corn.
One U.S. processor has announced plans to pay a premium for conventional grain, while another company has told its suppliers to start separately storing conventional and biotech grain. Some growers and analysts fear the moves will lead to price cuts on biotech grain, if not this fall then next year, and a shortage of conventional seed next spring.
``Farmers are in real despair right now,'' said Nebraska farmer Keith Dittrich, who grows 1,300 acres of soybean, most of them genetically modified. ``Issues like this can just infuriate them.''
Half the soybeans that U.S. farmers are growing this year were engineered to withstand a popular weedkiller, and a third of the corn crop is biotech, having been altered to produce its own pesticide. There are also genetically modified tomatoes, melons and potatoes, though in much smaller amounts.
Biotech ingredients are all over the grocery store, in everything from tortilla chips to baby formula and drink mixes, according to a study in this month's issue of Consumer Reports.
For farmers, the crops mean higher yields, which are badly needed at a time when profit margins are thin or nonexistent. Dittrich figures the high-tech soybeans save him $10 an acre.
U.S. regulators say there is no scientific evidence that the crops pose any danger to humans or livestock, and American consumers have so far indicated little concern about them. In Europe, however, the crops have become a symbol of globalization and growing American dominance in food production.
In Great Britain, some supermarkets are refusing to carry food with biotech ingredients, and activists repeatedly have destroyed seed test plots. The European Union's approval process for new hybrids has come to a virtual standstill this year, according to industry officials, and labeling requirements for food are under consideration.
``There's no question we're more cautious than the United States,'' said EU spokeswoman Ella Krukoff.
Gerber and Heinz announced this summer they would rid their baby food of genetically modified ingredients, though they believe they are safe, and then Japanese brewers Kirin and Sapporo said they would switch to traditional corn.
Japan also is requiring labels on biotech foods, and U.S. farmers are signing contracts with Japanese buyers to guarantee them a supply of conventional soybeans. Japan is expected to purchase 700,000 metric tons of conventional American soybeans this year, twice as much as in 1998 and about 17 percent of its total U.S. soybean imports.
The anti-biotech momentum forced Archer Daniels Midland Inc. to announce Aug. 31 that its suppliers needed to start separating conventional and genetically modified crops. A day later Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. announced that it would start paying premium prices for traditional crops.
``Clearly the firestorm of controversy in Europe has spread around the world,'' said biotech analyst Sano Shimoda, president of BioScience Securities Inc. of Orinda, Calif. ``The sparks of the firestorm have landed in the U.S. The problem is that the production of major crops is a global business.''
Farmers eventually could be forced to sell biotech crops at a discount, he said.
Industry optimists play down the impact of the developments in Euope and Japan and say it is going to mean higher prices for farmers who grew conventional crops this year. The American Soybean Association expects traditional soybeans to fetch as much as 40 cents a bushel more than the biotech variety.
A key question is whether the Europeans, who buy a fourth of the U.S. soybean crop each year, can be induced to pay more for the conventional variety. ``We don't want to give up that market,'' said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for the soybean group.
At best, the recent developments have introduced new uncertainty into the farm economy.
The American Corn Growers Association, in an informal survey of 250 grain elevators, found few planned to heed ADM's suggestion for separate storage of conventional and biotech crops, primarily because they are not equipped to do it. At least one Illinois elevator is advising farmers not to plant genetically engineered crops at all next year.
Iowa farmer Ed Wiederstein, who grows both altered corn and soybeans, says he is not concerned about finding a place to sell them -- this year, at least -- but he is watching the markets.
``If nobody wants it, I'll definitely change. There is going to be a real scramble for
seed if that does occur,'' he said.
September 14, 1999
The Washington Post
Anti-Biotech Activists Plan Lawsuits
By Philip Brasher AP Farm Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Opponents of genetic engineering have come up with a new tactic to stop the spread of altered crops: antitrust lawsuits against the companies responsible for the technology.
The lawsuits, to be filed in 30 countries later this year, will accuse the companies of using the technology to gain control of world agriculture, said antibiotech activist Jeremy Rifkin, director of the Foundation on Economic Trends.
Major grain traders and processors also will be named in the lawsuits.
Until now, biotech opponents have focused their efforts on persuading food manufacturers not to buy genetically modified crops and getting governments to require the labeling of altered foods.
The antitrust actions will force governments to consider curbing the power of a shrinking number of giant agribusiness companies, Rifkin predicted Monday.
Eight major antitrust law firms have agreed so far to handle the lawsuits, he said. In addition to Rifkin, the plaintiffs will include individual farmers and the National Family Farm Coalition.
Biotech companies are genetically manipulating plants to make fruits and vegetables more attractive, speed the growth of crops or make them resistant to insects, disease and weedkillers.
The companies control the spread of the technology by patenting the seeds and then leasing them to growers, rather than selling them, to prevent the farmers from reproducing the seeds.
While the crops have grown quickly in popularity with American farmers, the technology has had trouble getting accepted by consumers in Asia and Europe.
Defenders of the technology say it can increase yields while reducing the need for pesticides and eventually will lead to nutritionally enhanced crops.
``Biotechnology is being adopted at an unprecedented rate by American farmers because it's giving them more choices than ever before in how they grow their crops. It's producing benefits for them in terms of higher yields and less use of pesticides,'' said Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
But critics say the technology raises a number of environmental concerns in addition to giving giant agribusiness companies, such as St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. and Novartis AG of Switzerland, new power over farmers.
``In less than five, six years from now virtually no farmer in the world will own any seed again,'' Rifkin said.
A third of the nation's corn crop and about 55 percent of the soybeans U.S. farmers are growing this year have been genetically engineered. The soybean seeds are sold by Monsanto for use with its popular Roundup weedkiller.
Rifkin said the lawsuits would be filed before the next round of
negotiations by the World Trade Organization starts in November. Biotechnology is expected
to be a major issue of the global trade talks.
September 12, 1999
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
As the crucial fall harvest season approaches, many U.S. farmers and other agricultural workers are in a near panic because of escalating uncertainty over genetically engineered crops.
Farmers planted millions of acres of the high-tech crops this year. But foreign buyers are rejecting them in droves, despite aggressive U.S. marketing efforts and assurances of their safety.
In the past month alone, Japan's two biggest breweries and a major Mexican corn tortilla maker said they would no longer use U.S. gene-altered corn in their products, adding to troubles caused by the European Union's previous large-scale rejection of such crops.
Even Iams Co., the Ohio-based pet food maker, recently told its grain suppliers it would no longer accept genetically engineered corn for use in its premium dog and cat chows unless the corn varieties were among the few approved by the European Union.
Twelve days ago those developments hit home for many farmers, when Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), the big Illinois-based buyer and exporter of farm commodities, made the ominous recommendation that U.S. farmers segregate their gene-altered and non-altered crops at harvest because of heightened demand for conventional varieties both domestically and abroad.
The announcement left many farmers feeling angry and betrayed.
"American farmers planted [gene-altered crops] in good faith, with the belief that the product is safe and that they would be rewarded for their efforts," the American Corn Growers Association said in a statement last week. "Instead they find themselves misled by multinational seed and chemical companies and other commodity associations who only encouraged them to plant increased acres of [these crops] without any warning to farmers of the dangers associated with planting a crop that didn't have consumer acceptance."
More than 40 genetically modified crops have been given the green light by U.S. regulators as safe to eat and environmentally friendly. And most farmers express satisfaction with the varieties. The crops contain genes from bacteria and viruses to make them resistant to insects and weed killers, promising farmers a better deal.
Agricultural biotechnology companies promoted the gene-altered varieties heavily during the past two years, and farmers planted them in record numbers this year. But a wave of consumer distrust that started in England two years ago has swept around the globe and in recent months has shown signs of taking hold in the United States -- especially since the widely reported discovery this summer that pollen from corn engineered to produce an insecticide could kill Monarch butterflies.
The result has been an unexpected twist: Many farmers who did not plant the new varieties are resting easier than their progressive counterparts because much of the world is clamoring for their ordinary harvest. Some of these farmers are even being promised they'll be paid a premium for their old-fashioned corn and soybeans.
The reverse economics, in which farmers who paid premium prices for high-tech seeds are being shunned and may have to sell their harvest at a discount, is cultivating a high level of frustration.
"I've been in this business for 30 years and this indecision about genetically engineered seeds and what the future holds for farmers is the worst I've seen," said Chuck Simmons, president of Bio-Plant Research in Camp Point, Ill., a marketer of gene-altered soy and other seeds. "This is the Y2K of agriculture."
Until recently, the debate over gene-altered food had its impact almost entirely on Washington agencies and big-city corporate offices. Under pressure from foreign buyers, for example, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman this summer called for an independent assessment of whether the U.S. biotech crop approval process is adequate. The National Academy of Sciences is preparing a report on the environmental implications of the new crops. And the American Medical Association said last week it would revisit and rewrite its nine-year-old unflinchingly positive policy statement on the safety of biotech foods.
This summer, however, the issue started to affect biotechnology companies directly. Sales abroad came to a near halt. And mimicking the protests that last year paralyzed biotech agriculture in Europe, U.S. activists started uprooting fields of gene-altered plants during midnight raids on company test plots in California, Maine and Minnesota. In the latest raid, protesters in Vermont planted placards with pictures of Monarch butterflies in a field of engineered corn they had ruined.
But it was the announcement from Archer Daniels Midland that really brought the debate home to the American farmer.
"Some of our customers are requesting and making their purchases based upon the genetic origin of the crops used to manufacture their products," the statement said. "If we are unable to satisfy their requests, they do have alternative sources for their ingredients. We encourage you as our supplier to segregate non-genetically enhanced crops to preserve their identity."
The most immediate problem raised by the new announcement is how to accomplish that segregation. More than half of the nation's soybeans and about a third of this summer's corn were genetically engineered. But many of the grain elevators and other storage depots that farmers bring their harvests to don't have multiple bins or the capacity needed to keep engineered and non-engineered varieties apart, said Randy Sexton, of Niantic Farmers Grain Co. in Niantic, Ill.
"We do 75 percent of our volume within 30 days after harvest," Sexton said. "We unload one truck right after another, and we're not well suited to switch from one load to another."
Moreover, Sexton said, elevator operators would have to clean their equipment between batches to prevent any carryover of engineered varieties into conventional ones -- a difficult job that would cost the company time and wages. And what if some contamination occurred? Who would be responsible?
"We hire temporary helpers and farmers hire temporary drivers and it would be very easy to get a truck mixed up," Sexton said. "And if you contaminate ADM's supply, there's a potential for liability."
For farmers too, segregation is a problem. If their local elevator decides to take only one kind of crop or the other, because of an inability to keep them separate, farmers may have to drive many miles farther than before to unload their harvest, again costing time and money.
With farmers facing record low commodity prices, and grain elevator operators also working on very narrow profit margins, both groups are asking who will pay for the added expenses of segregation.
"Growers are not in any position to absorb that cost," said Gary Bradley, a spokesman for the National Corn Growers Association.
In deciding what seed to buy next year farmers will rely on a calculation of how much the engineered seeds cost relative to conventional seeds, how much money they may save if the new seeds keep their promise of higher yields and lower pesticide costs, and how much they may lose next fall if engineered crops sell for less than conventional ones.
Some agricultural economists wonder whether farmers will retreat to conventional seeds, thus saving them the trouble of having to segregate and possibly buying themselves a premium next fall.
Gary Goldberg, chief executive officer of the American Corn Growers Association, said initial projections for next year's planting of engineered corn called for an increase of about 20 percent or more over this year's acreage. "We now think there may be a 20 to 25 percent reduction in [engineered] acres next year because of this uncertainty issue."
Seed suppliers say demand may not increase as it has, but they also don't expect a big downturn."We have genetically enhanced seeds as well as traditional varieties and we will continue to supply growers with whatever they want and need," said Lori Fisher, a spokeswoman for Monsanto in St. Louis. "We do expect to see a growth in bags of genetically enhanced seeds sold. We believe farmers will continue to adopt the technology."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
February 11, 2000
Source: The Daily Mail
Fraud behind GM food safety claims
Secret Papers Show Scientists Are At Odds Over Risks
THE release of Frankenstein foods into the worlds supermarkets was based on flawed experiments which failed to confirm their safety, official U.S. government papers have revealed.
Scientists on the American Food & Drug Administration could not agree that key tests involving feeding genetically modified tomatoes to rats proved they were harmless, it emerged yesterday.
Yet these tests were effectively used to give the green light for the release across the world, including Britain, of a whole range of GM foods, including soya and corn. The documents have emerged following the launch of a lawsuit in the U.S. by farmers and GM critics against Monsanto and other biotech companies and were presented to Environment Minister Michael Meacher at a private briefing this week.
Details were revealed yesterday at a news conference at the House of Commons, where a leading scientist called for a ban all GM foods on the market saying the technology was inherently dangerous.
Professor Terje Traavik, a Norwegian government adviser, claimed there were potential risks that could result in new disease-causing viruses, bacteria, mutations and even cancers.
Critics seized on the claims to demand an immediate ban on GM foods and the launch of proper tests to assess their impact on human health. U.S. lawyer Steven Druker, who is leading the action against Monsanto, accused the FDA of deliberate deception.
The FDAs misrepresentations are not innocent, they are fraudulent, he said. The agencys behaviour is not only illegal and irresponsible, it is unconscionable.
The safety of the worlds food supply is at stake. He said the government documents proved that claims from the FDA that all GM foods had been well tested and all safety issues had been resolved were unequivocally false.
Files handed over had revealed memorandum after memorandum from the FDAs technical experts warning about the potential risks of genetically engineered foods. Biotech companies and the authorities in Britain and America insisted that human feeding trials were unnecessary because GM foods are substantially equivalent to natural products.
But Mr Druker said the papers clearly state they cannot be presumed to be substantially equivalent to conventional foods and that they entail a unique set of risks.
He added: It could lead to the generation of unintended and unpredicted toxins, cancer causing agents, allergens and other substances. The FDA had approved GM tomatoes later sold as paste in the UK despite tests showing that rats fed on them had developed erosions in their intestines, he said.
Professor Traavik said: The first generation of GM organisms are inherently unstable and unpredictable and carry a number of potential risks and hazards, both environmental and for health. The only way to escape the current miserable position is to ban the first generation of GM organisms.
Adrian Bebb, of Friends of the Earth, said: It is quite clear the public has been kept in the dark about the safety of GM foods. People are being kept in the dark
February 27, 2000
covered up GM food fears
Exclusive By Joanna Blythman, Rob Edwards and Pennie Taylor
GENETICALLY modified foods should be withdrawn until rigorous safety testing is conducted, an American lawyer will tell a meeting in Edinburgh tomorrow as the worlds richest nations gather to discuss the safety of GM foods.
Steven Druker, an attorney from Iowa, has begun a law suit that could lead to the recall of all GM foods on the market. He has accused the US Food and Drug Administration of ignoring the advice of its own scientists and covering up their concerns before approving GM products for consumption.
Two years ago he successfully sued the FDA to force the release of its internal scientific papers which prove that FDA scientists had serious concerns about the safety of GMs. One of the FDAs papers describes a 1993 study of rats fed with the first GM product, Flavr Savr tomatoes. It showed problems with gastric erosion, an effect similar to that found by Dr Arpad Pusztai, the Aberdeen-based scientist who was sacked from his research post at the Rowett Research Institute when he went public with his concerns about the safety of GM foods.
Drukers allegations come as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) meet to discuss issues surrounding GM food and agree recommendations for international regulation. The £400,000 bill for the three-day event is being met by the British government.
But the British government is criticised in research released today by the Centre for Food Policy which shows only 10% of its research projects on GM foods are investigating whether or not it is safe. The rest are studying the best ways to commercially exploit GM technology.
One of the centres survey authors, Dr David Barling, said: "When you are dealing with a new technology with safety implications, is that not worrying?"
The OECD conference will be attended by politicians, 400 experts from the worlds richest nations, and representatives from the powerful companies that produce GM foods.
It is being chaired by Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the UKs new Food Standards Agency, who will be responsible for reporting the results to the G8 summit of industrialised nations in Japan in July.
Although Druker is appearing at an unofficial fringe event to the OECD conference, what he has to say should attract the attention of the world leaders. He claims the US FDA was acting illegally by approving GM foods as safe and decreeing that they were "substantially equivalent" to conventional foods, a ruling that has eased their introduction across the world.
Pusztai will be attending the OECD conference, where he hopes to have the opportunity to call for a proper research programme into the effects of eating GM foods. His stance is backed by the findings of the research survey, which was conducted last year by the Centre for Food Policy at Thames Valley University in London for the environmental group, Greenpeace. All the GM research projects funded by the governments Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council were divided into those which looked at commercial development and those that examined safety.
Of the 179 projects, only 10% (17) were studying health or environmental implications. The remaining 90% (162) were all investigating aspects of food and crop development, enhancement and protection. Out of the total of £52 million spent on agricultural biotechnology in 1998-99, only about £3m (6%) went on safety research.
The revelation has shocked environmental campaigners, who accuse the government of
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