Genetically Manipulated Food News

19 January 1998

Table of Contents

Propaganda Strategy of Gen-Multis leaked out
Referendum about gentech labeling in Bavaria
Genetic Engineering Kings have an Uneding Appetite
Unpredictable Side Effects From GE Food
Bee Deaths raising Concern
Brazil's Secret: Crazy Tobacco
Arms race on the crop fields (Spiegel 2/88)
Monsanto aims to advertise safety of gene foods
Human cloning techniques in use.
Austria Develops it own GMO label
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Index (URL)
Monsanto URLs
Follow the Money (Science & Governments)

Date: 24. Jan.98
From: Franz Beck mvi@intekom.co.za

The following article appeard in the German magazine 'Raum und Zeit' 91 (Jan.98) (Ehlers Verlag). Translated by Franz Beck. Link to Propaganda Stragegy Paper (quite long!)

Propaganda Strategy of Gen-Multis leaked out

by Ursel Fuchs, Düsseldorf

The Gen-Multis (i.e. the biggest pharma groups) prepare for the gigantic brain-washing worth several billion US dollars using the media. It is probably the greatest and most expensive propaganda battle ever fought. Purpose of the campaign: demontage and elimination of the instinktive fear of the Europeans of gen-altered food imported mainly from the USA.

This enormous drive to manipulate the public oppinion in Europe in favour of the gentech industry is the best proof of how false all claims of the harmlessnes of gen-manipulated food have been - otherwise this propaganda battle would not be necessary.

To counteract magazine 'Raum und Zeit' publishes in this issue (91, Jan/Feb 98) this strategy paper including an overview schema which shows the main directions of the propaganda. And we publish background information about the international public relations group Burson-Marsteller (B&M), which has a frightening influence on the politics in the world.

Please copy the stragey paper, overview scheme and background information on B&M and distribute to food stores and retailers, because they are the main target of the stragey. Ursel Fuchs gives the overview of the attack on the public oppinion.

The image of the gentech industry is not at all blameless. The popularity of their products, specially the food sector, is questionable. This industry in trouble uses the old art of talking the products clean, because if arguments dont work, rethorik must work. This is the task of Public Relations (PR), in this case experts like Burson-Marsteller, a Vermont based PR specialist. They manipulate the public oppinion with information placement in media and campaings. B&M is part of the Young & Rubicam PR conglomerate, third in the US advertising ranking.

Their expertise: crisis communication for politics and industry. For example to pacify the frightened consumers in the case of BSE (mad cow disease), burst silicon breast implants, chemical accidents like Union Carbide in Bophal, India. After heavy criticism of chemical giant Monsanto's soja beans, Monsanto founded the information bureau within Burson-Marsteller 'soja beans / bio technology' to pacify the storm at the consumer front.

A defensive and many times offensive reception by the consumer is the last thing the global conglomerates need to raise and establish gen-technology. This is why the consumer attitude has to be changed: the skepsis, critical attitude, well founded worry and open refusal against genetically manipulated food and the unrestricted use of genetically manipulated plants - we call it brain washing.

A public relations (PR) stragey paper of Burson-Marsteller found its way into the offices of Greenpeace e.V., Hamburg. Ursel Fuchs reports: "It will be the main focus to change the public oppinion abount the Biotech industry - from simple acceptance to absolute enthusiasm!" (Lutz Müller-Kuhrt, Analyticon AG, Berlin in "Meeting the needs of the life science industry", Ernest & Young, busines consultants)

But the enthusiasm is mediocre in Germany, specially for genfood: about 80% of Germans find that gen technology should not be used; Austria voted in a referendum in spring 1997 against the free use of transgenetic plants and no gentech food. In Bavaria a referendum has been started to lable gen-tech free food as such. It is clear that the gentech industry has some image problem.

Its not that they talk of crusaides to establish gen technolgy, but rather of not to leave the consumer an option to choose. The big ones of the gentech industry feel encouraged from getting the Novel-food regulations so perfectly dished up by the politicians of the European Parliament, which gives them unrestricted chances to market genetically manipulated living beings.

The 600 companies of the biotechnology and gen technolgy, amoungst them all chemical and pharma enterprises of rank and name plus eleven national research groups, founded EuropaBio, the european association of biotech companies. The mission of this conglomerate which has a balance sheet total of over 500 billion US $ is, according to their internet home page, "to create a favourable climate for bio - and gen technology".

"First, EuropaBio works with regional and national politicians and policy makers to create an environment of regulations and laws in which the bio industry of Europe can grow and expand" explain the biotech companies.

They present very self confident EuropaBio as the source of information: its offices sends continoulsy PR reports to all member companies and decision makers. At the same time they regard themselves as pipeline to channel information into the media to "strengthen the public oppinion about the advantages, the success and the potential of the biotech industry." Such a mission is in the gray area between paid advertisement and news publications, which the public takes quickly for the bare truth. New is here the concentration of power and the financial muscle of the giants.

EuropaBio has all companies of rank and name in the global monopoly of gen technology behind it - here only a few: Hoffmann-La Roche, Novartis (created from a merger of Ciba Geigy and Sandoz), Bayer, Rhone-Poulenc, Monsanto, Novo Nordisk, Smith Kline Beecham, Royal Gist B rocades, Hoechst, Nestle, Zeneca, Genzyme Europe .. and many more.

The B&M strategy paper which found its way to Greenpeace shows which resistance stragegies make the gen technolgy vulerable: mainly information about the danger to health and the environment and profit motivation. The experts warn the industry to avoid these "killing fields" and to circumvent them. They suggest to have the politicians represent the industry intereset very innocently.

The paper shows in detail how the acceptance of gen products by the public shall be constructed. The reader, spectator or listener must be fed with "advantage for the consumer", combined with symbols which suggest hope, satisfaction, care and self esteem. This is in line with the guideline (of B&M): "perceptions are realities"

Information for the press are to be styled carefully, specially amongst others also for privat stations, so that the media functions like a new marketing instrument. This shall prevent the media being a forum for serious discussion to shed light on the use of gen technology and its impact on the future of the society.

"To achieve the desired change in the public perception the industry should refrain to present itself as its own attorney - this may work in politics, but out of experience not in the case of public perception of the industry." warn the PR experts. "In the past the industry behaved like a 'murder with an axe who has to hide something'. This campaign should change that image." says Peter Linton, the speaker of Burson-Marsteller in Brussels in an inteview with "The Guardian" on 6. August 97.

"They belived they would bring good news, but to their surprise they realised that their products were considered contaminated." he added.

"Because deep rooted suspicion of possible risks are deadly for every product, it's important to asure first the politicians that the products are save" suggest the advertiser. This includes the knowledge that the public is typical European, which means that the public is considerably more suspicious towards official statments than the public in the USA.

"Tell good stories instead of dishing up facts", because fact based arguments have not the desired news value. On the other hand a good story goes around the world in minutes.

"Use symbols instead of logic!" is a further tip, which shows how they rate the grown-up consumer. B&M advises strongly to speak about the products and its advantages instead of technologies, using product stories with the people profiting in the foreground instead of the advantage: the advantage must be shown in persons profiting.

"Recent studies show that Europeans are generally more open to information that new, genetically altered plants need less chemicals ... so it is essential and perfectly realisable that these new breeds are presented to the European public as environment friendly and therefore more wanted than the conventional field products."

With such stragegies shall EuropaBio according to the plans of their ghost writers become the most reliable, best and most competent source of information for the journalists. "who can source practical, friendly to the editor stories, timely and fitting for the readership, and not propaganda for the industry."

For the first EuropaBio conference end of June 97 in Amsterdam the media presence had to be avoided: this would give the gentech opponents the opportunity to be screened on TV and would mean that "We would prepare the meal and Greenpeace would eat it..."

Greenpeace is apparently a feared opponent of the gentech industry with its shopping basket campaign (Einkaufskorb-Kampagne: http://www.greenpeace.de)

National campaigns to advance the gentech acceptance plan ambitious public information campaigns. "Greenpeace people must be called to order" demands Harry Walter (68), advertising manager from Krefeld, who planned for decades the political campaigns of the SPD (Socialist Party of Germany). This campaign should be started with the assistance of seven professors from Germany, Switzerland and Austria; amongst them Hans-Günter Gassen (Biotechnologiezentrum Darmstadt), Klaus-Dieter Jany (Bundesforschungsanstalt fnr Ernährung, Karlsruhe) Volker Pudel (Göttingen) and many more. The campaign shall be financed by the state, province and industry.

And where are the the worst opposing Europeans? The prioriy list of Burson-Marsteller ranks first France, then Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark. They have to be convinced first of the advantages of genetically altered plants and food, according to the calculations of the strategy paper.

What will be implemented the European public will know in the comming months. Nobody should be surprised if not all is about stories in printed media, radio and TV, because "in the american PR business is established", writes the Züricher Wochenzeitung, "that the public action groups who are pro-industry oriented, achieve things which the industry itself would never have achieved. But top priority: It must not leak out that the 'Wise Use' groups are sponsored by the industry.." The Propaganda Stragegy Paper


Referendum about gentech labeling in Bavaria

'Raum und Zeit' 91 (Jan/Feb 98), Infos, p.53

A referendum was started end of October in Bavaria, southern Germany to label genetically altered food. It was started by 'Bündnis 90' and 'Die Grünen', the institute of environment of Munich and several church groups.

In order to start the referendum, an initiative group called 'Gentechnik-frei aus Bayern' had to collect 25000 signatures until Dec.5 97.

The aim of the referendum is to introduce labeling for the gentech-free food, so that people have a reliable indicator for the quality of the food. The producer has to apply for the label. He has to proof that the food produced by him has not been genetically manipulated or come into contact with genetically manipulated substances, and has not been produced by genetcially altered organisms, additives, aromas and other ingredients.

The purpose of the initiative is to do away with the insecurity created by the Novel-Food regulation passed by the European Union, which does virtually not require any labeling.

The collection of signatures created great enthusiasm in the Bavarian population already in the first weeks and has great future, similar to Austria.


Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 19:10:27 -0700
From: pmligotti@earthlink.net (Peter M. Ligotti)
Subject: Monsanto Dominating Food Chain

Genetic Engineering Kings have an Uneding Appetite

January 3, 1998, The Age Melbourne, George Monbiot, John Harvey, Mark Milner, John Vidal

A feature about Monsanto, described here as the chemical giant leading the global push to genetically engineered foods and the Microsoft of genetic engineering. The story says that the speed and scale of Monsanto's push for new-tech foods is awesome. Over two years, the biggest herbicide producer in the world has spent $US2.5 billion ($3.83 billion) to consolidate its position as the leading biotech company. It has bought up key companies associated with genetically engineered crops, crop breeding and molecular biology.

The story also notes that Monsanto is now hinting that it will start buying into the food processing industry. The story describes Monsanto as a hero on Wall Street, saying that in the three years since Bob Shapiro took over as chief executive and started launching its products on a US agriculture market estimated to be worth $US100 billion a year, its share price has soared from $US11.50 to a high of more than $US45 three weeks ago. The story concludes that Monsanto's growing domination of the food chain and the implications for health, the environment, competition and accountability are increasingly controversial.


Date: Sun, 4 Jan 1998 17:34:27 -0700
From: pmligotti@earthlink.net (Peter M. Ligotti)
Subject: Unpredictable Side Effects From GE Food

Unpredictable Side Effects From GE Food

The following story regarding bee deaths might be caused by GE corn or other GE crops. We do not know if these crops were planted nearby. Also, there are many possible causes and many possible chains of causation leading to their mysterious demise.

There was already concern and reports of bees having problems in Europe, losing their ability to differentiate between different scents from GE crops. Although no proof has been forthcoming yet, the problem is that the crops are going onto people's dinner plates and into the environment first, before we know what results to expect for our own personal health and the health of the environment. We are witnessing testing via the global food chain--making the human race into guinea pigs.

The strategy of the GE food industry: Serve GE food to people now. Put GE food into the food chain now. Take the profits and run. Ask questions later.

We will find out about all the risks later, after they manifest. The GE food industry wants to make any problems untraceable. Fortunately, there are enough good scientists out there willing to do the research to test the entirely logical and reasonable theory that these new life forms (GE crops) will have debiliating and maybe devastating unpredictable side effects.

Now they want to allow these foods into the organic market. Tell me how you feel about this. I want to know what people are thinking and feeling. Don't give up hope. I have not yet begun to fight.

Peter


Bee Deaths raising Concern

January 4, 1998, UPI

DENVER -- The Denver Post was cited as reporting that a mysterious epidemic has left thousands of Colorado honeybees dead and crippled hundreds of colonies, probably due to either a vicious infestation of parasitic mites or an old chemical given new life as a corn pesticide. Beekeepers were cited as suspecting that the biggest problem is a pesticide called Penncap- M, an offshoot of World War II's nerve-gas research that was used on some crops in the 1970s and then fell out of favor. By the early 1990s, however, it began to make a comeback for controlling the Russian wheat aphid and more recently, the corn rootworm. However, a Colorado Department of Agriculture spokeswoman was quoted as saying, "We need a little more evidence. We need some sort of proof."


Here is an article posted by Paul Davis devatalk@mcmail.com , of the US Natural Law Party via the rts@gn.apc.org genetic engineering news newsgroup:

© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of the Associated Press.

APO 20.12.97 17:14

Brazil's Secret: Crazy Tobacco

By ODD LEWAN, AP National Writer

SANTA CRUZ DO SUL, Brazil (AP) -- Freakish tobacco plants that explode from the soil in this remote river valley grow huge leaves on stalks as thick as Louisville Sluggers. The growers here call it fumo louco. Crazy tobacco.

Crazy not just because it grows so big and so fast. Crazy because it has been genetically altered by one of the world's largest tobacco companies to pack twice the nicotine of other commercially grown leaf. The farmers of Brazil's southernmost state are growing it by the ton for the world market, The Associated Press has found, though it could not be learned for certain which countries are importing the nicotine-rich leaf. Fumo louco -- the farmers' generic term for several related strains of high-nicotine tobacco -- is the offspring of a genetically altered plant created in U.S. laboratories for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the third largest U.S. cigarette maker. The seed was then secretly shipped to Brazil in violation of U.S. export law.

Over the past year, the AP has observed its cultivation and harvest on small farms all over the state of Rio Grande do Sul, from Paulo Berganthal's 10-acre, table-flat plantation, to Neury de Oliveira's 20 mist-shrouded acres in the high country. Some of these varieties are so high in nicotine that smokers might get sick smoking them in their pure form, but they can be blended with cheaper, weaker tobaccos to make cigarettes with nicotine levels that satisfy smokers.

Fumo louco blends give cigarette makers a new tool for adjusting nicotine levels in their products. They may also provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with a new argument for the assertion that the tobacco industry intentionally manipulates nicotine levels to "hook" smokers. At stake is the question of whether the FDA should have the power to regulate nicotine as a drug.

The FDA has been aware that a high-nicotine tobacco had been developed but did not know that it is being cultivated in large commercial quantities, said Mitch Zeller, an FDA deputy associate commissioner. However, 18 Brazilian farmers openly acknowledged they are growing the high-nicotine leaf by the ton, and many said they have been growing it for more than five years. "It's weird stuff," Oliveira said in his native Portuguese. The nicotine content is so high that "just the crazy smell of it gets you dizzy. But sir, it comes up like nothing you've ever seen." Farmers estimated that half of the roughly 40,000 acres under tobacco cultivation in the region are devoted to the high-nicotine leaf. That means an area about one-and-a-half times the size of the island of Manhattan is covered in fumo louco.

The farmers said they sell their high-nicotine tobacco to Souza Cruz, a Brazilian company owned by B.A.T. Industries, the same British conglomerate that controls Brown & Williamson. Souza Cruz did not respond to questions. Brown & Williamson spokesman Mark Smith said that "it would be inappropriate for us to comment" because of pending government investigations. The U.S. Justice Department has convened grand juries in Washington, D.C., and New York state to investigate whether tobacco companies and their officials lied to the government about manipulating nicotine levels in their products. After farmers sell their fumo louco to Souza Cruz, it goes to the company's processing plant in Santa Cruz do Sul. Souza Cruz boasts it is the world's biggest. About a third of the tobacco processed at the plant is high-nicotine leaf, according to Louis Radaelli, a company genetics researcher, and several former Souza Cruz technical experts.

Once the leaf enters the plant, it is difficult to learn where it goes. Souza Cruz mixes it with other tobaccos to form some of its blends, and the recipes are trade secrets. Souza Cruz is among the world's biggest exporters of tobacco, and about a fifth of its production goes to cigarette makers in the United States. Britain, Japan and Germany are also major customers. The company does not use high-nicotine leaf in cigarettes marketed in Brazil, but declined to explain why. The FDA learned in 1994 that Brown & Williamson had developed a nicotine-rich plant code-named Y-1 and that limited quantities had been grown in Brazil in the early 1990s. Some of it was imported by Brown & Williamson, which used it as an ingredient in five cigarette brands sold in the United States in 1993 and 1994.

Although this was legal, the FDA was concerned enough about the implications to disclose its findings to Congress in July of 1994. Brown & Williamson executives responded by assuring the agency that they had dropped the project and stopped using Y-1 in their Raleigh Lights, Richland Lights King Size, Viceroy King Size, Viceroy Lights King Size and Richland King Size cigarettes.

That appeared to be the end of the story. It wasn't. The AP has learned:

Months after the FDA's Y-1 disclosure to Congress, growers and Souza Cruz agronomists said, the company ordered farmers to stop cultivating high-nicotine strains. But the growers have kept planting it and, they say, Souza Cruz keeps buying it, praising its quality and paying top prices. The commercial production of genetically altered, nicotine-enhanced tobacco may have implications for the pending $368.5 billion tobacco settlement between cigarette makers and attorneys general of 40 states.

The biggest stumbling block to the settlement is whether the FDA should regulate tobacco as a drug. Tobacco companies contend that nicotine isn't addictive and insist that they vary nicotine levels in cigarettes solely for taste. The FDA views nicotine-enhanced tobacco as a tool for deliberately controlling the dosages of an addictive substance. The story of how fumo louco leaped from a laboratory experiment in the United States to a cash crop in Brazil also raises questions about government efforts to regulate the biotech industry's use of genetically altered material.

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

It began in, of all places, a U.S. government lab. It was 1976, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture was trying to develop a "safer" cigarette. Specifically, the USDA wanted to create a tobacco that would be low in tar, a sticky residue linked to cancer. Cigarette companies knew how to reduce tar by chemically treating the tobacco, but this also removed much of the nicotine, the substance smokers crave.

Dr. James F. Chaplin, a breeder at the USDA's Tobacco Research Laboratory in Oxford, N.C., thought the answer was to create a strain abnormally high in nicotine. That way, he said in a 1977 paper, the removal of the tar would still leave plenty of nicotine behind.

At a cost of about $2 million in USDA money, Chaplin crossbred several wild and commercial tobacco varieties in an effort to boost nicotine levels. He developed five new varieties, field-testing them at the Wilson, N.C., farm of Hubert Hardison, who worked for an affiliate of Brown & Williamson. Hardison said his only involvement was to plant the seed. "I was the farm boy, I guess. Somebody to do the work. You send me some tobacco seed and I grow them."

After the field testing, Chaplin discarded all but two varieties, code named Y-1 and Y-2, said Dr. Vernon Sisson, a longtime colleague of Chaplin's at the USDA in Oxford. "They had the best aroma, and the highest nicotine -- between 4 and 5 percent," he said. "That's what they were looking for." According to Sisson, Hardison brought Y-1 and Y-2 seed to Brown & Williamson. Chaplin, who resigned from the USDA in 1986 to work for Brown & Williamson, declined to comment.

In the early 1980s, Brown & Williamson took Y-1 to DNA Plant Technology, a biotechnology company founded that year in Cinnaminson, N.J. At DNAP, the company later told the FDA, scientists used state-of-the-art breeding techniques, including processes known as protoplast fusion and hybrid sorting, to genetically alter the Y-1 strain.

David Evans, DNAP's project manager, did not respond to requests for interviews. The company did not respond to a list of questions. When Y-1 emerged from DNAP's laboratory, it had a nicotine level of 6.2 percent -- double the amount of any tobacco commercially grown in America. "What they had done was unheard of," said the FDA's Zeller. "All of a sudden, you had tobacco that was twice as powerful as anything out there." Nothing in U.S. law would have prohibited Brown & Williamson from growing this new tobacco in America. However, a quality-control agreement between growers, cigarette makers and the government stipulates that tobacco with nicotine levels lower than 2 percent or greater than 4 percent is not eligible for federal price support. That means American farmers would have little interest in growing it.

Besides, Brown & Williamson CEO Thomas Sandefur would say in 1994, growing Y-1 in the United States would make it too easy for competitors to get the seed. But in a remote region of Brazil, Brown & Williamson had a corporate sister.

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

Y-1 and Y-2 seed first arrived in Brazil in 1983, according to Arcangelo Mondardo, a former Souza Cruz soil expert and tobacco researcher who worked on the project from 1983 to 1992. Mondardo is now a professor of agronomy at Unisul, a university in Santa Rosa do Sul, Brazil. Seed was shipped to Souza Cruz in boxes marked "samples." More was stuffed in plain envelopes and sent by air mail, said Mondardo and two other Souza Cruz agronomists who worked on the project. According to Zeller, Janis Bravo, a former DNAP scientist, told FDA investigators that she personally shipped more than 10 pounds of Y-1 seed to Brazil in one calendar year prior to 1991. Bravo declined to comment.

Jefferey S. Wigand, a former Brown & Williamson vice president for research (and the highest-ranking executive to turn against the industry), has testified that Phil Fisher, who was in charge of tobacco blending and testing for Brown & Williamson in Louisville, Ky., flew to Brazil "several times" with Y-1 seed hidden in cigarette packs. Fisher -- now retired, though he continues to work as a part-time consultant for the company -- declined to comment.

At the time, U.S. law prohibited export of tobacco seed, pollen or live plants without a special USDA permit. Permits could be granted only for quantities of a half-gram or less, and only for experimental use. Neither Brown & Williamson nor DNAP ever sought such permits, said William Coats, an administrator at the USDA's tobacco division. The permit requirement was eliminated by legislation signed on Dec. 13, 1991, after tobacco companies lobbied for the change.

In late 1983, the growing began in Brazil. That first year, Souza Cruz distributed Y-1 and Y-2 seed to 100 plantations and harvested more than a ton of the leaf, Mondardo said. Over the next several years, Souza Cruz distributed seed to hundreds more farms, most of them in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Production increased steadily, Mondardo said. One former company official, who asked not to be identified, said production reached 4.5 million pounds by 1990. Since it takes a pound of tobacco to make 20 cartons of cigarettes, 4.5 million pounds of high nicotine leaf, blended with weaker tobaccos in a 1-to-5 ratio, would be enough to make 450 million cartons. By 1987, the company dropped Y-2 in favor of Y-1, according to Mondardo. Y-1, he said, "had a stronger stalk and lost fewer leaves in the wind and rain. It matured better, had a better aroma. Most important, it was higher in nicotine."

In the early years of production, Brown & Williamson employees came to Brazil to observe the progress, Mondardo said. "I test-smoked Y-1. Phil Fisher smoked it, too," in cigarettes blended with other tobaccos, Mondardo said. "It not only satisfied you, it gave you, well, a sort of pleasant high." But there were bugs to be worked out.

Y-1 was too susceptible to some plant diseases. Worse, it produced fertile seeds that could be easily stolen and used by competitors. The company couldn't get patent protection for the plant because U.S. law permitted patents only for species altered by recombinant DNA -- a technique that had not been used to develop Y-1.

Souza Cruz and DNAP, the biotechnology company in New Jersey, both went to work on the problems.

In Brazil, Souza Cruz used crossbreeding on plantations to create hardier versions of Y-1, and created hundreds of new lines of tobacco from the breed. "Each one had a secret code number," said the source who worked on the project for about 10 years.

"We weren't just working for Brown & Williamson," said Volnei B. Sens, the agricultural operations manager for Souza Cruz in Rio Negro from 1987 to 1990. "An objective was to improve our own lines." Mondardo said that by the time he left the company in 1992, "they had created about 1,000 new lines, and selected the best for commercial purposes."

Eloy Roque Sterz, a Souza Cruz field technician from 1991 to 1993, said he saw company reports showing the nicotine level of one hybrid at 8 percent -- nearly three times pre-Y-1 levels. "The way it looked, grew, smelled," he said, "you couldn't NOT see Y-1's blood in it."

In the early 1990s, world demand for quality tobacco outpaced production. Souza Cruz saw the hybrids as an answer, said Adelar Fochezatto, a supervisor in Souza Cruz's tobacco experimentation department from 1986 to 1990. Cigarette companies could buy cheaper, weaker tobacco and blend it with the hybrids "to keep nicotine levels up where they needed them," he said.

By 1990, both farmers and former Souza Cruz agronomists said, the company was handing out seed from some of these new hybrids for farmers to grow in their fields. The following year, both Souza Cruz and DNAP had succeeded in producing sterile varieties of Y-1 -- plants that could not reproduce without the artificial addition of special pollen. That September, Brown & Williamson applied for a U.S. patent. A basis for the patent, as stated in the application papers, was that DNAP had used recombinant DNA techniques to map the genes of Y-1.

Pollen and seed for the sterile Y-1 created at DNAP were soon shipped to Brazil. Seventy grams of pollen were sent in three shipments in 1990, according to export certificates obtained by the AP. Fifty pounds of seed were legally shipped in 1993, another export certificate showed. "With all of that pollen and seed, you could blanket all of Europe in tobacco," said Dr. Sebastiao Pinheiro, a leading Brazilian agronomist at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. A 1981 Brazilian law forbids growing of foreign plants capable of "causing irreversible damage to genetic banks, ecosystems or humans." A 1995 law prohibits the cultivation of imported, genetically altered plants or hybrids made from them without government permission.

Growing large quantities of Y-1 and its hybrid cousins may have violated those laws, said Paulo Afonso Leme Machado, a law professor and President of the Brazilian Society of Environmental Law, and Dr. Eliana Fontes, a member of Brazil's biosafety commission.

Pinheiro and Machado said that large-scale growing of the genetically altered plants "could change the gene pool of our native tobacco species," and might pose unknown health risks to farmers. Fontes said Souza Cruz never applied for permission to grow those varieties. Souza Cruz declined to comment. Once Y-1 was made sterile, several farmers said, Souza Cruz attempted to destroy all fertile, high-nicotine varieties to protect itself from competitors. But it was too late; the company had lost control of the varieties.

Farmers, who had taken a liking to Y-1 and its offspring because they brought high prices and cut about six weeks off the growing season, already had begun producing their own Y-1 seed and were swapping it among themselves.

They are still doing that today.

"Souza told us to stop planting louco," said Laury de Oliveira, 33, who owns a 10-acre farm. "But I don't listen. Look at it. In just two months it's up over your head. Now why am I going to stop? Nicotine?"

Enoir Mueller, a former Souza Cruz field instructor who grows fumo louco on an 8-acre farm, said: "The company line is that what we're planting today is different tobacco, but anyone who works with the stuff knows that's just a story." Fumo louco brings the best price from the company's buyers, said David Moraes, another small farmer.

He led a reporter to his sorting barn. Lighting a match, he threw open the door.

Bitter air buffeted the senses. A sting in the back of the throat tightened into a knot. Lips tightened. Eyes tingled, itched, watered. A queasiness spread from the pit of the stomach up through the chest. "That," said Moraes, turning up a kerosene lamp, "is the bite of fumo louco."

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EDITOR'S NOTE -- Randy Herschaft, AP investigative researcher, contributed to this report.

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Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
email: rwolfson@concentric.net
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering.

To receive regular news on genetic engineering and this campaign, please send an email message with 'subscribe GE' to rwolfson@concentric.net for details. To unsubscribe, send the message "unsubscribe"

...........................................................................

Two articles from: Genetic Resources Action International grain@bcn.servicom.es (by way of Reclaim the streets rts@gn.apc.org )


From: "Michael Hansen" hansmi@consumer.org

This article appeared in the largest German magazine "Der Spiegel" (similar to Newsweek or Time Magazine in the US. I've tried to do the translation as literal as possible.

Arms race on the crop fields

Spiegel 2/88

New observations proof: the biotechnologists have underestimated the problems in controlling gentechnological plants. Inserted genes jump more easily onto other species than thought. Some of the manipulated crops develop unexpected characteristics.

Mr. Friedrich Magge fears for his cabbage. Two kilometers away from the vegetabel fields of the organic farmer, in the village Gehrden (state of Niedersachsen), the Hoechst-Schering partner AgrEvo is experimenting with rapeseed, that was made immune agaisnt the plant herbicide "Basta" by means of gene that doesn't come from the same species. Maage fears that his crops could be polluted by these foreign genes.

Also his clients are afraid. When the experiments in open air started in April 1995, Maage's sales dropped by 20%. In case of the worst the farmer has to abandon his seal of organic growing - the European Union law for organic agriculture only permits products that are guuaranteed free of gentechnology.

That's why Maage took, together with 3 other farmers, the Robert-Koch- Institut Berlin, the agency responsible for having given permission, to court. "We have to protect ourselves against this gen-smog."

That his fear from gentech seeds is not completely off, show now research results by the Institute of Ecology of the Government of the state of Niedersachsen: 200 m from the experimental field in Gehrden were discovered anti-Basta genes in normal rapeseed. The researchers drew the conclusion: "We have to conclude that with future large scale planting of gentechnologically manipulated rapeseed transgenic seeds will spread on large scale as well." One cannot exclude that farmer Maage's cabbage, belonging to the same family Brassica like rapeseed, will be fertilized.

The spreading of genes in Gehrden is only one of the cases that gives new ammunition to the enemies of gentechnology. The consumers are still fearing mainly health damages through gene soja or tomatoes. More and more becomes clear, that the main danger is not on the eating plates but on the fields - thru spreading of manipulated genes into the environment.

The gentechnologists' belief that they could control the consequencies of their doing, seems to be damaged. Much easier than expected do inserted genes escape from the field into the environment and not too seldom do creations from the laboraties surprise with unexpected side effects:

Not only in Gehrden, but also in the states of Schleswig-Holstein, Bavaria, Sachsen and Rheinland-Pfalz managed the artificially inserted genes to escape into non-manipulated rapeseed in its neighbourhood.

French researchers proved that transgenic rapeseed carries its characteristics onto related weeds, like "Hederich". The crossing is partly fertile, that's why the foreign genes will be passed onto several generations.

Potatoes, with a smuggled-in gene of the "Schneegloeckchen" reduced the lady birds in a not-calculated way. The plants produce a egg white that kills plant lousese. But also the useful lady birds suffered: after eating poisoned plant louses, female lady birds had upto 30% less eggs and died with a longevity reduced by 50%.

A Canadian researcher has proven that virus' are stealing gene sequencies from virus resistent plants and thus acquire new abilities.

Farmers in the US state of Mississippi had to watch last summer how their poison-resistent gentech cotton lost its seeds.

"In the last time we had a whole flood of bad news" admits David Bennett of the European Biotechnology Association. But inspite of all bad news are crops from the gen labs conquering the fields world wide.

Already 12% of the american soja harvest contains the poison resistent gene. Spraying the pesticide means it only stays a very short time in the environment, but manipulated plants can prouuceit during the whole season. But with this the world of insects also has more time to develop anti-strategies. With this the only pesticideenvironmentally friendly pesticide would loose its effectiveness.

The chemistry multis include this effect already in their calculations, fears Beatrix Tappeser: "They are acting with the policy: after us a deluge". For companies like Novartis the investment was already worth doing, if the Bt- plants can stay on the market for only a few years.

With this several promising creations from gen laboratories could soon proof to not sell anymore, like the famous anti-deteriorating-tomato of the company Calgene. This long lasting fruit disappeared in april last year from the shelves of the american supermarkets. The customers didn't like its metallic taste.


Monsanto aims to advertise safety of gene foods

By Leslie Adler

LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - As the advent of genetically modified foods raises health concerns about a brave new world of food from the laboratory, U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto wants to tell European consumers they have nothing to fear.

Monsanto, developer of a seed technology that uses gene modification to grow a new strain of soybean plants, decided last year that its usual public relations approach -- which worked well in the United States -- would be insufficient in Europe.

Since then it has retained advertising agencies in Britain and France and expects to launch an effort in Germany jointly with other companies. Although advertising new products is hardly a new idea, Monsanto says it is unprecedented for a company like itself that is several steps removed from the consumer product to take the initiative to talk to shoppers.

But the company, which candidly admitted that it has a lot riding on its investment in agricultural biotechnology, said the unique nature of the European market made an advertising campaign necessary.

Monsanto has hired London agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty on a consultancy basis and the Paris office of French agency Euro RSCG to help formulate strategies. Decisions on exactly how to proceed have not yet been made, but the general focus is already clear.

"This effort is going to be about informing and educating people, not motivating people to buy," Tom McDermott, head of European public relations for Monsanto, told Reuters in an interview. "This isn't like selling soapflakes or blue jeans."

EUROPEAN MARKET IS DIFFERENT FROM U.S.

Consumer fear in the wake of mad cow disease, a lack of trust in government regulators, and organised opposition to genetically modified foods all have set the European market apart from the United States, where such products have been introduced and accepted with little fanfare.

"We are on the heels of a major, European-wide food scare, and it has undermined the authority of the government to protect people from food danger," said McDermott. "The mad cow crisis is probably the most significant factor."

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has been linked to the human brain-wasting illness Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). A worldwide ban on British beef was imposed 21 months ago following evidence of a link between BSE-infected cattle and CJD.

EUROPEAN CONSUMERS NEED PERSUASION ON SAFETY

In addition, sharp differences between the regulatory environments in Europe and the United States also mean that European consumers need further persuasion about product safety.

"When the European Commission issues an authorisation for the importation of something like our soybean it doesn't have the resonance that the FDA and EPA do in the U.S.," McDermott said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

A spokesman for British grocery chain Safeway Plc, which has successfully introduced in its stores a private-label tomato puree made from genetically- modified tomatoes, agreed.

"In the United States people have faith in the Food and Drug Administration," said Safeway spokesman Tony Combs. "Unlike here where people don't believe in MAFF (the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food). They don't believe in MAFF due to BSE."

Monsanto wants to tell consumers that soybeans grown from its genetically modified seeds are no different than any other soybeans, and that products using the soybeans are entirely safe.

Some 60 percent of all foods contain soya. Soybeans, unlike most other agricultural products, are generally consumed as part of processed foods, rather than eaten on their own.

The lack of clear directives on labelling in Europe adds to consumer lack of confidence, McDermott said.

LABELLING A HOT ISSUE IN EUROPE

Labelling has been a hot issue in Europe, with concerns about a lack of labelling clearly identifying products that contain modified soybeans. The European Commission has recommended that foods containing or derived from genetically engineered maize or soya be labelled.

But it is unclear whether manufacturers will be required to label a product if one or more of its ingredients contains genetically modified organisms -- such as cornflakes.

Monsanto wants to stress to consumers that no government in the world has required any special handling of its genetically modified soybean seeds. "Farmer basically buy these seeds, and once the crop is up and harvested ... it's a simple soybean," said McDermott.

He acknowledged that an inability by consumers to distinguish between the soybean plant and the actual soybeans makes them uncomfortable about genetically modified foods. But Monsanto said it wants to tell consumers that they have nothing to fear.

Not everyone agrees.

GREENPEACE A VOCAL OPPONENT OF GENE FOODS

Greenpeace, the environmental group, has been the most vocal opponent in Europe of genetically modified foods. An extensive Web site on the Internet by Greenpeace on genetic engineering ( http:/www.greenpeace.org/-comms/cbio/geneng.html ) discusses Monsanto at length.

The Greenpeace Web site says genetically engineered soya beans are "not real food." "We have never eaten these 'ingredients' in the human diet," says Greenpeace. "Yet the makers assure us it is safe. How do they know?"

Monsanto dismisses Greenpeace's statements as rhetoric and said questions about genetically modified foods are not at the top of shoppers' list of concerns.

But not all players in the field agree.

Safeway's Combs said the grocery chain's success with its genetically modified tomato puree reflected, at least in part, the company's decision to clearly label the products.

The genetically modified tomato puree was first introduced in 60 of Safeway's 398 stores in February 1996. "We put out consumer notices in these 60 stores. We put out shelf-edge signs to say 'genetically modified' tomato puree, and if you require further information please enquire at customer assistance," said Combs.

Customer assistance in each store had leaflets on display explaining the new tomato puree and how the genetically modified tomatoes were developed.

Safeway reported in November that it had achieved sales of 750,000 170-gram cans of the tomato puree since the launch, exceeding expectations. Combs said the clear labelling on the product has been key to its success. "Along comes Monsanto's soya and suddenly people haven't got a choice," he said.


Human cloning techniques in use.

Charles Arthur, The Independant 15th Jan 1998

Scientists investigating genetic problems are already experimenting on adult human cells with techniques that could pave the way to human cloning, according to new reports. Experts in the field warned that while those people might not be interested in using their skills for cloning, others who followed them would - and that that would make the arrival of the first human clones inevitable. Following the heavily-hyped claims by Richard Seed, a Chicago-based physicist, that he intends to open a cloning clinic, American scientists have begun to reveal the parrallel work they are doing which could one day lead to cloning.

According to New Scientist magazine, a team led by Zev Rosenwaks at the Cornell Medical Centre in New York, is already transferring nuclei from cells with chromosomal damage into healthy egg cells to see how they develop. "If the real problem lies outside the nucleus, we might be able to to fix those defects," he told the magazine. Mr Rosenwaks said the same technique could be used to grow eggs in culture for women with damaged ovaries. Dolly the sheep, the first cloned adult mammal, was produced at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh by taking the nucleus from a healthy cell and transplanting it into an egg cell which had had its nucleus removed.

The Cornell team's work is a variation on that, and reflects a possible useful applications of cloning mentioned by Ruth Deech, head of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to Parliament last year. Don Wolf, of the Oregon Regional Primate Centre in Beaverton, commented: "I understand there's already a bit of a race among cutting edge IVF clinics to get into this technology".


Thanks to Beth von Gunten colibri@west.net for reposting the following article from Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: iatp@iatp.org or http://www.sustain.org/bulletins

Austria Develops it own GMO label

Labeling debated heavily throughout EU

Austrian environmentalists, farmers, food producers, and grocery stores have banded together to create the first European nation-wide seal guaranteeing that foodstuffs do not contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The coalition includes Greenpeace, Global 2000, farmers, and the major grocery chains Billa, Spar, and Adeg. Florian Faber, managing director for the Working Group for Foods Produced Without Genetic Engineering, said the European Commission (EC) has requested that the working group compile documentation of similar initiatives developing in other European Union (EU) countries. To obtain a seal from the organization, producers must be able to prove that no GM materials have been used in any step of the process and must be open to outside monitoring.

The EC did not win approval from member states on December 18, 1997, for their proposed rules of mandatory labeling of all foods containing or derived from GM corn or soybean. The EC favors analysis for the presence of modified DNA, but where traces have been destroyed by processing, food would not be labeled. Food experts from 15 EU member countries have begun dissecting the EC plans following complaints from consumer groups, environmental lobbies, the European Parliament and some EU governments that consumers would not be properly informed under this plan.

European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) director Jim Murray criticized the EC suggestion for a label indicating that a product "may contain" GM products if it is unclear whether GM products are present in bulk or unsegregated deliveries. "If every product on the supermarket shelf was labeled 'may contain,' there would be no consumer choice at all." Food manufacturers and some EU governments, however, say the EC proposal is too stringent.

Fears about the safety of current authorization procedures have already led both Luxembourg and Austria to ban imports of Novartis corn. This month, EU governments again delayed the decision whether or not to repeal the ban, an EC official said. National experts put off the vote until March.

The U.S. is firmly against the EC GM label proposal. "We strongly oppose efforts to have mandatory labeling and or segregation of genetically engineered products," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman commented in early December. Glickman said he hopes the labeling proposal is dropped because it could become a trade barrier. Canada does not share the U.S. criticism of the EC proposal. "From our point of view, this is a labeling issue," said Agriculture Canada trade specialist Charles Craddock, "We decide what labels to use here and they can do the same."


CORRECTION

On a previous email, genetic engineering was described as "the most powerful technology the world has ever known". One of our subscribers pointed out that this claim is not possible to justify, as there is no accepted way to rank different technologies (genetic engineering, nuclear technology, computer technology, etc) according to their level of power. We therefore replace the description of genetic engineering as "one of the most powerful technologies the world has ever known".

...........................................................................

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
email: rwolfson@concentric.net
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering.

To receive regular news on genetic engineering and this campaign, please send an email message with 'subscribe GE' to rwolfson@concentric.net for details. To unsubscribe, send the message "unsubscribe"

...........................................................................


Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Index

of approved GMOs in Europe is available at: http://www.shef.ac.uk/uni/projects/doe/market.html
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 02:09:08 EST
From: FSHealth FSHealth@aol.com
Subject: Monsanto

Monsanto URLs

Dear BanGenFood People,

Monsanto web site addresses of interest:

http://www.monsanto.com

http://www.monsanto.com/MonPub/NewMonsanto/SmallAndConnected.html

http://www.monsanto.com/MonPub/BusinessSectors/secAgriculture.html

http://www.roundupready.com/Soybeans/

It is a good idea to know the game plan Monsanto has for the future.

Craig Winters
fshealth@aol.com or http://www.craigwinters.com


Date: Sun, 18 Jan 1998 23:35:08 -0800 (PST)
From: MichaelP papadop@PEAK.ORG
Subject: Rachel #581: Follow the Money (fwd)

Many subscribers to this list are probably familiar both with this Rachel weekly and with the contents of this issue.

I believe the subject matter has to do with the way in which global corporate bodies direct and attempt to control the outcome of "democratic" decision-making especially with regard to the making of decisions based on scientific determinations.

[On this line I intend to put out my analysis of what I think the WTO appellate panel decided with respect to the Euro hormone-treated beef ban; the issue has to do with HOW the scientific question of consumer health has been downplayed in favor of the hormone-treated beef business - also I'll try to see if it remains possible for health questions to be effectively raised somewhere. The original WTO decision was over 100 pages long, the appellate decision is another 65. I wish someone could help in this analysis.__ I'm positive it all has to do with the issues that give reason to oppose the MAI.]

--------------------------------.----------------------------------------
RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #581
---January 15, 1998---
HEADLINES
FOLLOW THE MONEY
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Follow the Money (Science & Governments)

As government has been "downsized" in recent years, corporations have found opportunities to fund scientific research and education that the government used to fund. Will this give corporations the chance to influence scientific and medical opinions? Put another way, are scientific and medical experts able to take corporate money without subtly altering their scientific and medical views?

A recent article in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE1 (NEJM) - --the first research of its kind --shows pretty clearly that scientific and medical experts who take corporate money hold opinions that differ significantly from experts who don't take corporate money.[1]

Researchers in Toronto, Canada examined a medical controversy to see which scientists held what sorts of views. The controversy they studied was the use of calcium-channel blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. In 1995 the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute warned doctors that one such channel-blocker increased the risk of heart attack deaths.[2] Other channel-blockers fell under suspicion of being dangerous.

The Toronto researchers examined 70 articles on channel-blockers, classified the authors into three categories (supporters, neutral, and critical), then mailed surveys to the authors, asking about their financial ties to drug corporations. The 70 articles had a total of 86 authors, and 71 of those returned the surveys. The surveys were intended to answer 3 questions:

  1. Whether supporters of calcium-channel blockers were more likely than other authors to have financial ties to manufacturers of calcium-channel blockers. The answer was yes. Ninety-six percent of the supportive authors had financial relationships with manufacturers, as compared with 60 percent of the neutral authors, and 37 percent of the critical authors.

  2. Were critics of calcium channel-blockers more likely than other authors to have financial ties to manufacturers of competing products (beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, diuretics, and nitrates). The answer was no. In fact, supportive and neutral authors were more likely than critical authors to have financial ties to manufacturers of competing products (88% and 53% respectively, vs. 37%).

  3. Were supporters of calcium-channel blockers more likely than other authors to have financial ties with ANY pharmaceutical manufacturers? The answer was yes. One hundred percent of the supportive authors, compared with 67% of the neutral authors, and 43% of the critical authors, had financial ties to at least one pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Financial ties are defined as any of these five: funds for travel expenses; honorariums for speeches; support for educational programs; research grants; and employment or consulting compensation.

The researchers noted that their study relied on self-reported data and therefore probably underestimated the actual ties between scientists and corporate funders.

The authors noted that in only 2 of the 70 articles did authors divulge their connections to corporations. They concluded, "The medical profession has failed to develop and enforce strict guidelines for disclosing conflicts of interest." And, "Full disclosure of relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers is necessary to affirm the integrity of the medical profession and maintain public confidence."

Unfortunately, even the columns of the most prestigious medical journal in the U.S. --thE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE (NEJM) - --have been infiltrated by corporate shills posing as objective medical experts.

Last November 20th, the NEJM printed a scathing review of Sandra Steingraber's book, LIVING DOWNSTREAM: AN ECOLOGIST LOOKS AT CANCER --a book that, in our opinion, outshines Rachel Carson's SILENT SPRING. (See REHW #565). The review was signed "Jerry H. Berke, M.D., M.P.H., 49 Windsor Ave., Acton, MA 01720" --just the way any unaffiliated medical practitioner would sign such a review.[3]

Berke's review began with an attack on all environmentalists: "An older colleague of mine once suggested that the work product of an environmentalist is controversy. Fear and the threat of unseen, unchosen hazards enhance fund-raising for environmental political organizations and fund environmental research, he suggested." Berke's review went on to say that Steingraber's book is "biased" and "obsessed with environmental pollution." Berke ends, "The objective of LIVING DOWNSTREAM appears ultimately to be controversy."

This was the first negative review Steingraber's book had received. The book is now in its second printing and has been widely praised. Steingraber herself was recently named an "outstanding women of the year" by MS. magazine.

In early December, Bill Ravanesi, a Boston-based film producer, and Paul Brodeur, the well-known author of books on asbestos and electromagnetic radiation, revealed that Jerry H. Berke is director of toxicology for W.R. Grace, one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers and a notorious polluter. Grace is best-known as the company that polluted the drinking water of the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, and later paid $8 million to a group of children (or their surviving parents) who contracted leukemia. During the Woburn investigation, Grace was caught in two felony lies to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for which they paid a slap-on-the-wrist $10,000 fine.[4]

The Woburn story has been told in the best-selling book A CIVIL ACTION and will soon be re-told in a movie starring John Travolta as a hard-working attorney playing David against the Grace Goliath.

For its part, the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE seems flustered and unable to get its story straight. In an interview, Sandra Steingraber said when she first phoned the office of NEJM's book review editor, Robert S. Schwartz, she spoke to Schwartz's assistant, Lisa Lum, who denied that Berke was currently employed by Grace. Lum told Steingraber that Berke was an independent consultant.

When Steingraber phoned back and spoke to Dr. Schwartz himself, Schwartz insisted that he did not know that Berke worked for Grace. Schwartz told Steingraber that reviewers must fill out statements saying they have no conflict of interest, but NEJM does no "background checks" on reviewers.

Schwartz told Steingraber that reviewers are selected from a database of names of people who have expressed an interest in writing book reviews for NEJM. Lisa Lum told me (1/14/98) that the database DOES contain the affiliations of potential reviewers. "Oh, yes," she said, "affiliations are in there." How then did they miss Berke's affiliation? Ms. Lum would not say.

According to Steingraber, recently NEJM has changed its story once again, saying they knew Berke was affiliated with W.R. Grace, but they thought W.R. Grace was a hospital.

Jerry Berke told Michele Landsberg, a columnist for the TORONTO STAR, that (1) the conflict-of-interest form he signed for NEJM clearly identified his Grace connection; (2) all his correspondence from Schwartz was addressed to him at W.R. Grace.[5] Furthermore, Berke was identified as a Grace employee in another book review he published in NEJM in 1995.[6] Nevertheless, Schwartz insists he knew nothing of Berke's connection to Grace and wouldn't have asked him to review Steingraber's book if he HAD known.

Berke says Grace officials decided at the last minute to make him remove his affiliation from the NEJM review.[7] Grace evidently wanted to avoid fueling the anti-Grace flames that will probably erupt when the Travolta movie is released later this year. However, having admitted that his superiors at Grace made him remove Grace's name to avoid obvious controversy, Berke still insists he had no conflict of interest. Berke told columnist Michele Landsberg he is "shocked" that his statement of a "personal vision" should be construed as a conflict of interest.[5]

The editor-in-chief of NEJM, Jerome P. Kassirer, told the Associated Press, "It's laughable that Berke would think that he could write an objective review of the book given that he was an employee of W.R. Grace."[7] Unfortunately, Kassirer himself doesn't always recognize a conflict-of-interest when he sees one. In late 1997, Kassirer turned over the editorial columns of NEJM to Stephen Safe, a researcher who during 1997 was receiving $150,000 (20% of Safe's research budget) from the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA).[8] Safe's editorial --like Jerry Berke's review --began with an irrational attack against environmentalism: "Chemophobia, the unreasonable fear of chemicals, is a common public reaction to scientific or media reports suggesting that exposure to various environmental contaminants may pose a threat to health."

Surely this is an odd message from a scientist. He is saying, if you fear chemicals because scientific reports indicate that they might harm your health, you are suffering from an irrational phobia. Perhaps Dr. Safe did not write the editorial in his capacity as a scientist. Perhaps he wrote it as an acolyte of the CMA. (See REHW #574.)

In any case Safe himself told BOSTON GLOBE reporter Larry Tye, "I felt a little twinge" about the potential for a conflict of interest when writing the editorial, "but it was not much of a twinge," he said. However, "I can see why people would bring it up," he said. Safe defended himself saying, "There's hardly any life scientist in the country who hasn't had funding from the industry" --the old "Everybody's doing it" defense.

Unfortunately, just about everybody IS doing it. In modern times, it pays to be alert when you are receiving opinions from "unbiased" scientific and medical investigators. As George Annas, professor of health law at the Boston University School of Public Health points out, "Almost all experts in the field at some point have taken grant money or an honorarium from someone." In other words, if you want to understand "objectivity" in the science and medicine of environment-and-health these days, the same advice applies as it does in politics: follow the money. Increased corporate funding of science and medicine has the potential to corrupt almost anyone.

Peter Montague
(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

References

[1] Henry Thomas Stelfox and others, "Conflict of Interest in the Debate over Calcium-Channel Antagonists," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Vol. 338, No. 2 (January 8, 1998), pgs. 101-106.

[2] Richard A. Knox, "Study finds conflict in medical reports," BOSTON GLOBE January 8, 1998, A12.

[3] Jerry H. Berke, "Book Review: Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Vol. 337, No. 21 (November 20, 1997), pg. 1562.

[4] Peter B. Lord, "How Important is One Negative Book Review?" PROVIDENCE [Rhode Island] JOURNAL-BULLETIN December 24, 1997, pg. A-1.

[5] Michele Landsberg, "Famed journal's objectivity gets a black eye," TORONTO STAR December 21, 1997, pg. A2.

[6] Jerry H. Berke, "[Book Review] Textbook of Clinical Occupational and Environmental Medicine," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Vol. 332, No. 5 (February 2, 1995), pgs. 340-341. This review is signed, "Jerry H. Berke, M.D., M.P.H., Lexington, MA 02173 W.R. Grace & Co."

[7] Associated Press, "Medical Journal Apologizes for Ethics Blunder," WASHINGTON POST December 28, 1997, pg. A3..

[8] Larry Tye, "Journal fuels conflict-of-interest debate," BOSTON GLOBE January 6, 1998, pgs. B1, B8.

Descriptor terms: new england journal of medicine; conflict of interest; science; jerry berke; stephen safe; chemical manufacturers association; cma; corporations; sandra steingraber; living downstream; bill ravanesi; paul brodeur; woburn, ma; a civil action;

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