Genetically Manipulated Food News

22 June 1998

Table of Contents

Fox In The Cow Barn
Scientists Warn GE Risks May Outweigh Benefits
The Swiss Referendum Outcome
Swiss Referendum On Genetic Engineering
Bavarian Referendum On Positive Labelling Failed
Experiment Crop Fed To Animals
GE Crops Jeopardize Organic Farm
Prince of Wales enters GE debate
Genetic Food Warning  by Price Charles praised
Prince Is Backed In Attack On Modified Foodstuffs
A few Aspects and Thoughts about GE
Companies Get Tough On "seed Piracy"
Farm Group In Canada Demands Clarification On Rbgh Review
Awareness Campaign: Your Food -- Your Choice!
US Doubles Gene Crop Use As Row Heats Up
Poll: Majority Want Genetic Crops Ban
Do You Want Your Vaccine To Be Boiled Or Mashed?
Monsanto Canada bying up Seed Company
Monsanto Cuts Australian INGARD Cotton Price
Monsanto Cited in Crop Losses
A Critique Of The Monsanto Briefing Notes on Roundup Ready Soya
Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer
Austrian GE Maize Ban
Seventy Five Percent Of British Oppose GE Crops
Japan Co-ops Take Biofood Labeling In Own Hands
France May Decide To Block Gene-changed Crops
Fears that GE crop impasse could spark agri-trade war.
Warning About Food That Is Genetically Engineered
Scientific Facts about GE

Back to Index


All reports in this issue are thanks to
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months See website for details. 


Prince of Wales enters GE debate

The BBC in inviting internet users to comment on whether Genetic Engineering should be stopped using a special internet page. This is an international poll. Anyone can vote.

Send them your view by visiting the site at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/talking_point/newsid_107000/107322.asp

You can vote and write a short motivation why GE shold be stopped. - 47% had voted YES and 53 % NO at 9 pm GMT+1!!

============================================================

Prince speaks out on genetic foods

London Times June 8 1998 BRITAIN Line
By Saba Salman

THE Prince of Wales today urges scientists to stop playing God by tinkering with food. He says there is no way of knowing the long-term consequences of producing and eating genetically modified crops, and points to the "man-made" BSE disaster as an example of the dangers of the quest for cheap food.

The Prince says that genetic engineering "takes mankind into realms that belong to God and to God alone", and raises ethical and practical considerations. "Apart from certain highly beneficial and specific medical applications, do we have the right to experiment with and commercialise the building blocks of life? We live in an age of rights - and it seems to me that it is time that our Creator had some rights too."

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, he continues: "We simply do not know the long-term consequences for human health and the wider environment of releasing plants bred in this way...The lesson of BSE and other entirely man-made disasters on the road to 'cheap food' is surely that it is the unforseen consequences which present the greatest cause for concern. Even the best scicence cannot predict the unpredictable."

Genetically modified foods are not at present grown in Britain, although some are imported from North and South America. Approval is, however, being sought for a handful of crops, including maize and sugar beet. English Nature, concerned that the growing of pest-resistant crops could destroy wildlife, wants a five-year moratorium and is believed to have the backing of Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister.

However, there are suggestions that Tony Blair is under pressure from President Clinton and food companies to allow the introduction of genetic technology. 


Here is an article posted by Rick Welsh and forwarded by Patricia Dines involving genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, which is injected into cows to increase milk production:

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

Fox In The Cow Barn

by Steve Wilson
From the June 8, 1998 (p. 20) issue of The Nation

It was supposed to be unlike anything at any local station anywhere. A "dream team" of investigative reporters to tackle hometown issues with the backing of Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television, which now owns and operates more TV stations that any other company in America. Instead, my investigative reporting partner Jane Akre and I, with more than forty-two years of award winning journalism experience between us, found our year at WTVT in Tampa to be a journalist's worst nightmare.

Shortly after starting in December 1996, Jane discovered important new unknown to the vast majority of viewers: virtually all milk sold in Florida now comes, to one degree or another, from cows injected with an artificial hormone banned in several countries, in large part because of suspected links to human cancer and increased bacterial and antibiotic residue in milk.

Everyone agreed it was an important story. And in a two-month investigation, she and a photographer docoumented hormone injections at all seven local dairy farms selected at random, where dairymen [sic] had been promised by Monsanto up to 30% more milk from each cow. Florida grocers admitted they had quietly broken their pledge not to buy milk from hormone-treated cows. They had made those public promises when the F.D.A. legalized the drug but protesting consumers made it clear that any health risk from additional hormones in milk was unacceptable.

We learned that routine tests for drug residue in milk do not screen for a wide variety of antibiotics. We confirmed that two Canadian govt. regulators have charged that Monsanto offered a $1-2 million bribe in exchange for approval of the drug without further testing. We documented a revolving door between Monsanto and the F.D.A. We followed the money trail to the University of Florida, where Monsanto sent millions in gifts and research grants that led to FDA approval of the hormone while the school promoted its use. Meanwhile, we found farmers who said the company wasn't properly reporting the drug's adverse effects on animals, a charge Monsanto eventually acknowledged. And we also documented how Monsanto was using its legal and political muscle to stifle labeling efforts that would have helped consumers make a choice at the dairycase.

WTVT was so excited abour our findings that it bought thousands of dollars in radio ads to promote the reports. But on the virtual eve of the broadcast, Monsanto hired a New York lawyer to pressure Roger Ailes, the former Republican operative who is now head of the Fox News Network in New York, and our stories were pulled "for further review." When the station's general manager- himself a former investigative reporter- found no error or lack of balance in our reports, he set another airdate. Ailes immediately received another, sharper letter from the Monsanto lawyer. Soon Fox lawyers were rewriting our story, and we got a new G.M. and news director. "We paid $3 billion for these television stations," we were told by David Boyland, the manager Fox moved in "We'll decide what the news is. The news is what we say its is."

After failing to follow through on a threat to fire us in forty-eight hours for refusing to broadcast information that we documented to be false and misleading, he offered us both large cash settlements. The cornerstone of the deal was that we would never talk about the hormone or how Fox handled the news. When we declined, we were ordered to write and rewrite the story more than 70 times over the course of the next seven months. We were suspended and unsuspended, locked out of the station and its newsroom computer, and eventually fired in December for "no cause" during a contract window. Now the station has finally decided to broadcast a version of our story, apparently in response to reporters' questions about why it wasn't being aired.

It's been nearly thirty years since the FCC last looked into a complaint that a broadcaster was rigging or slanting the news (in the CBS documentary "Hunger In America"). In that case. the commission said, "if it is asserted by a newman [sic] that he was directed by the licensee to slant the news, that would raise serious questions as to the character qualifications of the licensee." That is exactly the allegation at the heart of a civil whistleblower complaint we filed in Florida this April. Fox responded with a news release denying any wrongdoing and then ran to court with a motion to dismiss, claiming the 1st Amendment should shield news organizations from civil suits like ours. Monsanto reasserted the safety of its artificial hormone and denied exerting any undue pressure.

We believe what happended to us should raise concern not only about the rapidly decreasing number of companies that control our media but also about the true character and motivation of those who seek to use the public airwaves to enhance their corporate bottom llines.

----

For more information see: www.foxBGHsuit.com
Rick Welsh, Director
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program, Southern Region
University of Georgia, Georgia Station
1109 Experiment St.
Griffin, GA 30223
P:770-412-4788, F:770-412-4789
e-mail: rwelsh@gaes.griffin.peachnet.edu 


Thanks to Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com (Judy Kew) for posting this:

Scientists Warn GE Risks May Outweigh Benefits

Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News
(published by CRC Press in Washington D.C. Available for $957/year)
May 14, 1998

Scientists at AAAS forum question whether risks of genetically engineered crops outweigh benefits.

Scientists warned last week that the potential risks of agricultural genetic engineering may outweigh any benefits to consumers - unlike biomedical applications of recombinant DNA technology, which appear to have clear benefits and lower risks.

"I've come to believe that the potential power of genetic engineering dwarfs that of nuclear power," Liebe Cavalieri, Professor of Environmental Science at State University of New York - Purchase, said at a public forum on genetically modified organisms sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the British Embassy.

Recombinant DNA techniques applied to medical advances carry less risk and uncertainty than do agricultural applications of genetic engineering, said Cavalieri, a member of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and author of the book, The Double-Edged Helix: Genetic Engineering in the Real World.

Cavalieri warned participants at the May 8 meeting in Washington, D.C., that society "shouldn't be carried away with fantasies" promised by scientists and companies engaged in biotechnology research. The potential harm from misbegotten genetic engineering of our basic foods is so great that scientists should ask themselves fundamental questions: "What is it that we want? Do we need it? We have about 20,000 plants that can be used as foods, and we are using maybe about a dozen of them --- they're all there [in nature]," he said. ...

Margaret Mellon, director of agriculture & biotechnology for the Union of Concerned Scientists, cautioned that agricultural biotechnology is "not a miracle technology. It's had lots of mistakes. It's an expensive technology that's problematic."

Mellon said that there are "alternatives to biotechnology for feeding the world and achieving a truly sustainable agriculture, which are worthy goals, but the hype of biotechnology is obscuring the path." ...

U.S. regulation of biotech crops not rigorous, UCS scientist charges

Federal agencies charged with regulating genetically engineered crops in the United States - the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the EPA - have not been rigorous in testing requirements, Mellon charged. "The notion that products on the market have been rigorously tested" is not true, she said. "Overall, it's not a strong regulatory system."

Mellon pointed to the problem of unexpected boll drop in Monsanto's Roundup Ready cotton, which many farmers int he Mississippi Delta experienced last summer. Scientists who have studied the abnormal boll development in the genetically engineered cotton plants do not know why the problem occurred - and USDA, which approved Monsanto's field tests of the product for commercial requirement, did not predict the possibility of boll drops.

"About one-to-two percent of the acreage planted last year in the U.S. in Roundup Ready cotton produced misshapen bolls that fell off," Mellon noted. "Monsanto is paying off all the farmers for the loss of the crops and the extra chemical treatements required," she said, adding that neither the company nor USDA picked up the potential problem in their tests.

"My issue is that if the testing isn't rigorous enough to pick up agronomic traits, that, if they fail, is going to cost the company millions of dollars, how is it going to pick up subtle environmental risks?" Mellon said. ...

Mellon warned that the concentration of the multinational chemical companies driving the revolution in biotech agriculture is taking the power of choice away from both farmers and consumers. "Things are changing in agriculture so fast, my head is spinning," Mellon said. "A lot of you might think that farmers are central players, that there's a lot of competition, that USDA provides extensive breeding laboratories..." However, she said, "There are virtually no [independent] seed companies left. ...They've all been bought out by, or are entangled in alliances with, multinational chemical companies."

In addition, there's "enormous consolidation under way vertically," with companies moving to production "from farm to fork," Mellon added. One example of this consolidation and vertical integration can be seen in the cotton industry she said. "Monsanto owns the retail cotton industry. There are no competing seed companies, except very small ones." With the new "terminator" patent recently issued by the U.S. government, which will render the cotton seed sterile so that it can't be replanted, "it's a choke hold on cotton. ...There isn't really a vigorous effort in the public sector to do cotton breeding, because we are moving the research and sources of innovation out of the public sector." ...

Many Europeans see no benefit of ag biotech for consumers

George Gaskell, Professor of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, said that many people in the European Union oppose the potential risks of biotech agriculture because they see no benefits to consumers.

"There are a lot of people in Europe in favor of biotechnology, who are prepared to take risks, but a considerable number are resistant and see no benefits," Gaskell said. "Many people see biotech taking us into the realm of unknown dangers. ...This is a Pandora's box and a lot of people wonder whether it's worth opening it." 


The Swiss Referendum Outcome

Wed, 10 Jun 1998 11:03:11 -0500

In the June 6 national referendum on genetic engineering in Switzerland, voters rejected the proposal to outlaw genetic engineering. A "Yes" vote would have outlawed the use of genetic engineering for both food and medical uses. The restriction to medical research and medical uses of genetic engineering was seen as a major concern motivating voters to reject the referendum. The loss of jobs in the pharmaceutical industry from a Yes vote was another factor.

If the vote had been on stopping genetic engineering purely for food production, there is speculation that they vote would have gone the other way.

..........

Swiss Genetic Studies Survives Vote

By Irene Harnischberg Associated Press Writer

BERN, Switzerland (AP) -- Afraid of surrendering Swiss leadership in biotechnology, voters Sunday decisively rejected a proposal to outlaw the production and patenting of genetically modified plants and animals. Some 67 percent of the voters struck down the initiative, which government and business leaders had argued would force a "draconian" end to research in Switzerland and send highly paid jobs to other countries. 


'Terminator' Technology

'Terminator' Technology

by Prof. Joe Cummins jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

The chemical used to restore fertility in the 'terminator' technology is an antibiotic, tetracycline.

On May 29,1998 I wrote about the 'terminator' technology patented by Delta and Pineland Corporation and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The genetic technology involves inserting 'blocker' genes into cotton to prevent the crop from setting fertile seed. The fertility of the plants is restored by spraying them with a chemical that turns on the genes for producing seed. My communication expressed concern that my efforts to obtain the identity of the chemical spray were fruitless.

On June1 Britt Bailey of the Center for Toxics (cetos@cetos.org) told me that she had been told the chemical used to restore fertility in terminator cotton was the antibiotic tetracycline by researchers from Delta Pine. On June 2 Dr. Bruce Kinzel of USDA (BMK@ars.usda.gov) confirmed that the antibiotic tetracycline was indeed the chemical used to restore fertility in cotton but 'other chemicals may be used'.

When I first learned of the novel use of the antibiotic tetracycline I was very skeptical because the antibiotic acts by interacting with bacterial ribosomes. In nature, the chemical does not regulate genes or cell functions in higher plants and animals. However, a very recent publication (T. Harding et al Nature Biotechnology 16 June 1998) describes an adenovirus transfection system that places genes in the brain that are regulated by a form of tetracycline in the drinking water. Regulation of a eukaryote promoter by tetracycline is novel but feasible.

The antibiotic tetracycline is used in medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine and dentistry. Its use in crop agriculture is very unwise because that field use will select tetracycline resistant bacteria which can readily transfer the genes to pathogens. The chemical is allergenic and there is one animal study suggesting that the antibiotic may be oncogenic.

The purpose of terminator technology is to prevent farmers from collecting seed from patented crops. However, farmers can easily obtain tetracycline using veterinary prescriptions or the antibiotic has been sold 'over the counter' in developing countries. Thus farmers can collect seed as easily as the company that patents the seeds.

Further comments from Dr. Joe Cummins regarding the Terminator Project:

The terminator project is a patented process jointly developed by Delta and Pineland Corporation and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The patent is US patent 5,723,765 which is a system, applied first to cotton, which introduces genes that causes the commercial crop to produce sterile seeds thus preventing farmers from collecting seeds. Fertility can be restored to the crop by treating it with a chemical that restores fertility.

The project was met with approval by financial advisors who put themselves forward as authorities and experts in biotechnology. It was widely publicized in popular news media and stimulated investment. The main objections to the project that were allowed to be publicized were mainly centered around moral objections to withholding seed from the crop and its impact on poor farmers. Such comments mainly seemed to stimulate the greed and lust for quick money of investors.

In reality, the chemical used to restore fertile seeds to the crop was a common antibiotic, tetracycline, which is readily available to farmers who could treat cotton and collect seed as easily as the Delta and Pineland company. The antibiotic should not be used for crop treatments because that use will rapidly select antibiotic resistant pathogens and the drug is used a great deal in medicine, dentistry and veterinary practice. However, it is clear that the project seems to be remarkably silly because it does not seem to achieve practical control of seed production by a company. What seems to have been achieved is a fairly sleazy effort to promote sale of stock that was underwritten by the USDA and cabinet secretary Glickman.

However, US patent 5,723,765 seems like a very crafty document. The basic process dealt with is control of gene activity by site specific genetic recombination rather than by conventional regulation. The tetracycline treatment triggers recombination that removes fertility blocking genes from the chromosome. The treated plants do not require further chemical treatment to remain fertile for as long as the strain is propagated.

The specific recombination genes tied down by the patent include the site specific recombination regulators CRE and LOX, along with flippase, resolvase, FLP.SSV1-encoded integrase and transposase. These recombination genes have been studied in bacteria and yeast but their impact on crop plants and their predators( including people) have not been studied at all. The patent seems to have tied down all the major site specific recombination genes which can be used to precisely regulate a range of plant responses from salt tolerance , exposure to heavy metals, to heat and cold tolerance. Both chemical and physical triggers can be used to regulate the recombination.

It seems to me USDA has used the prestige and power of the United States Government to engage in shaky stock promotion. Even more significantly, the genetic systems for site specific recombination are very powerful and also potentially very dangerous and their impact on higher forms is untested. Finally, the financial 'experts' in biotechnology seem devoid of rudimentary knowledge of the matters that they advise investors about. They seem to be clones of the promoters of Boosang gold. 


There is a lot of genetic engineering news. Here is a selection, starting with news from UK and Europe, and Prince Charles:

Experiment Crop Fed To Animals

Herald Express (Torquay) June 9, 1998

Tests stupid says MP

GENETICALLY modified maize - the so-called Frankenstein food being grown on a South Devon farm - is likely to be fed to farm animals after harvesting, a Minister revealed.

Environment Minister Angela Eagle said it had been cleared for use as animal feed and it was normal practice for such crops to be used as fodder. The experimental crop is one of 64 in England involving trials of oilseed rape, sugar beet, potatoes, wheat, chicory and barley. More than 800 acres of farmland is being used in the tests. 


GE Crops Jeopardize Organic Farm

The experiment at Staverton has caused outrage because the crop had been planted alongside the area's largest organic farm which could lose its licence because of fears of contamination by the trial.

Totnes MP Anthony Steen claimed that the experiment was "crass stupidity" and added that whoever gave approval for tests close to an organic farm, needed their brains examining. 


Praise For Genetic Food Warning By Prince

By Christopher Cairns, Environment Correspondent, The Scotsman June 9, 1998,

CONSUMER campaigners last night welcomed the intervention by the Prince of Wales in the debate on genetically modified foods.

The prince urged geneticists to stop "playing God" with nature, and said that consumers should have a choice between organic and genetically modified (GM) foods.

His call for better safeguards coincided with the launch of a publicity drive by the world's largest agrochemical company, Monsanto, which is lobbying for permission to begin growing GM crops in Britain.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Prince Charles, who farms organically on his own agricultural properties, rejected any comparison between new genetic techniques and traditional crop and animal husbandry.

We were now, he said, using genes directly to mix animals, bacteria and plants with species with which they would not naturally be able to cross breed. "I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind into the realms that belong to God, and to God alone," he said. " a do we have the right to experiment with, and commercialise, the building blocks of life? "We live in an age of rights - it seems to me that it is time our Creator had some rights too." He went on to express concerns over herbicide-resistant crops encouraging more chemical use and resulting in "sterile fields" with no wild plant or insect life.

He warned: "We simply do not know the long-term consequences for human health and the wider environment of releasing plants bred in this way." Although only a handful of GM foods have been approved for use and sale in the United Kingdom, almost all processed foods now on sale contain soya, most of which comes from the United States, which does not segregate GM and natural crops.

Prince Charles called for more consumer choice. "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," he said.

The prince's comments were welcomed by the Church of Scotland. Dr Donald Bruce, the director of the Church's society, religion and technology project, said that they did not believe genetics per se was necessarily playing God, but there had to be a line drawn somewhere. "It is ethical, for example, to ask who are the winners and losers are likely to be before charging ahead with this new science," he said.

"The winners, are going to be big multinational companies who will improve their profits. The most obvious immediate loser is someone who does not want to eat GM foods but cannot avoid doing so."

Last night, Monsanto said it welcomed the prince's intervention and said it was generating exactly the kind of informed debate it wants in the country. "We are perfectly happy with his contribution. We knew he was going to do this and we decided to press ahead with our launch anyway," said Ann Foster, a Monsanto company spokeswoman.

"On the ethical questions he raises, there has been cross- breeding going on for some time, we are not doing anything new, we have simply learned how to do it better than before.

We welcome moves to improve labelling and offer consumers more choice." Campaigners said the prince's call for urgent action to ensure people could tell whether they were eating the new foods reflected the concerns of millions of people worried about the implications of eating GM ingredients.

The National Consumer Council (NCC) said the prince was more in tune with consumer concerns than European Union policy makers, who had failed to insist GM foods and normal crops are kept separate and clearly labelled. The NCC's director, Ruth Evans, said: "Consumers want to know how their food has been produced because, for a variety of reasons, many do not wish to eat foods from GM sources."

In ruling last month, the EU stated that all foods sold in the community in which GM material can be detected should be clearly labelled as such. Environmentalists, however, argue that because the new rule does not cover ingredients which themselves have been derived from GM plants - such as soya and certain oils which have DNA and proteins processed out of them - consumers have been betrayed.

In an ICM poll published last week, 85 per cent of respondents said they wanted GM foods to be separated from normal crops at source. The poll also found that 95 per cent wanted foods derived from GM crops to be labelled. 


Prince Is Backed In Attack On Modified Foodstuffs

By: Michael Hornsby, Agriculture Correspondent, The Times June 9, 1998

MILLIONS of people in Britain are eating products derived from genetically engineered crops and have little choice about it, consumer and environmental groups said yesterday.

They praised the Prince of Wales for calling for segregation of such crops at source and for clear and comprehensive labelling of products made from them. 


Flavour - It's All In The Genes;

By: Ken Oxley, Daily Record June 9, 1998

Scientists who genetically modify food have been accused of playing God.

Scientists who are now genetically modifying food have been accused of playing God - and it's easy to see why.

By combining genes, they can create a crop with new properties which improve its commercial viability.

======#======

Are We Digging Our Own Grave

Daily Record June 9, 1998

'Frankenstein Food' is being served up to us all every day; Genetically engineered food is probably served up to Prince Charles at public engagements.

======#======

Charles, The Caring Royal

By: Bob Houston, Daily Record June 9, 1998
Prince Charles condemns scientists abilities to tinker with our food.

The world may have been jolted into action by Charles's condemnation of scientists' ability and willingness to tinker with our food. His supporters, still in a minority when it comes to the Charles versus Diana debate, will say this is yet another example of why, when future historians look back on his reign, they may decide to call him "Charles The Good".

======#======
The Daily Telegraph June 9, 1998,

THE ISSUE of genetically altered foods has served as a lightning rod for a wide range of concerns to do with food safety, modern agriculture, and biotech's "yuk factor".

Scientists, says the Prince, play God because genetic material from one species is inserted into another "with which they could never naturally breed".

======#======

Pressure On Ministers Over Genetic Food Curbs Crop Manipulation

By: By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
The Daily Telegraph June 9, 1998,

THE Government was under pressure yesterday to resolve a row over whether controls on genetically -engineered crops, attacked by the Prince of Wales yesterday, are sufficient to prevent a BSE-style crisis some time in the future. The Prince criticised regulators for failing to take an ethical view, rather than a simply scientific one, of whether there was a public need for genetically modified crops, which could be shown to have risks of causing new forms of pollution and damage to wildlife. 


Monsanto Canada bying up Seed Company

June 2, 1998

Monsanto Canada Acquires Majority Equity Position in First Line Seeds Relationship with Asgrow Key to Agreement for Guelph-Based Seed Company

GUELPH/MISSISSAUGA, Ont., June 1 /CNW-PRN/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- Monsanto Canada Inc. and First Line Seeds Ltd. announced today that Monsanto Canada has acquired a majority equity position in the Guelph-based seed company. The agreement, effective immediately, significantly expands both companies' capabilities to service the Canadian soybean market. 


LEGAL NOTES

Companies Get Tough On "seed Piracy"

Extracted from THE AGBIOTECH BULLETIN
Volume 6, Issue 6 June, 1998
Published by AG-WEST BIOTECH INC.

Canadian agriculture companies have launched ad campaigns warning farmers off the practice of reusing or selling seeds covered by Plant Breeders Rights. Until recently, companies covered by PBR took a soft approach dealing with farmers violating these rights, but more recently there have been a few cases where farmers were forced to pay fines, plow down crops and turn over proceeds from proprietary crops grown from bin run seeds. 


Farm Group In Canada Demands Clarification on rBGH Review

Wire Service: OTC (COMTEX Newswire)
Winnipeg, MB, Canada, Jun. 1, 1998, (Resource News International)

A prominent farm group in Canada is calling for a report written by scientists at Health Canada on a genetically-engineered hormone injected into dairy cows to be made public.

The Saskatchewan-based National Farmers Union said that a report written by scientists at Health Canada condemns the Department's review process for the synthetic drug rBGH.

"The National Farmers Union strongly urges Health Canada to make its internal report on rBGH public. Further, the four scientists who authored the report must be called to testify at the upcoming Senate Agriculture Committee hearings on rBGH, scheduled to begin June 4," NFU President Nettie Wiebe said in a prepared statement today.

Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a genetically-engineered hormone injected into dairy cows to boost milk production. The hormone is not currently licensed in Canada. NFU stressed that recent scientific studies identify a link between rBGH and prostate and breast cancers. A May 29 Toronto Star article stated that the Health Canaa report identifies several shortcomings in the science and data used by Health Canada drug reviewers, including the failure to request long-term toxicology tests.

The NFU said it has documents containing several statements made by officials from Health Canada's Bureau of Veterinary Drugs, going back as far as 1987, that state there are no human health problems associated with the use of rBGH.

"It appears that Health Canada officials are reluctant to contradict their previous statements despite recent reports that raise very serious doubts about the safety of rBGH," said NFU Region 3 (Ontario) Coordinator and dairy farmer Peter Dowling. 


(Forwarded by Natural Law Party Wessex)

The following press report confirms that cotton growers in Australia have been getting "mixed results" from Monsanto's GM cotton. The fact that Monsanto has now heavily dropped its price for the GM cotton seed, as well as its "value guarantee", suggests there could be a problem here with the success of this crop compared with non-GM varieties. ...

As usual hope in biotechnology is often different to reality. The profound risks of biotechnology are generally being sold to the world on the basis of unsubstantiated hope. Is this how Monsanto proposes to feed and cloth the world? (NLP Wessex)

-------

Monsanto Cuts Australian INGARD Cotton Price

Wednesday June 10, 5:05 am Eastern Time

SYDNEY, June 10 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co unit Monsanto Australia Ltd has bowed to pressure from the Australian cotton industry and has cut its price for transgenic INGARD Cotton.

Monsanto had reduced INGARD Cotton's price to A$155 a hectare from the A$210 charged in 1997/98, the Australian Cotton Industry Council (ACIC) said on Wednesday. 


Awareness Campaign:

Your Food -- Your Choice!

Genetic Concern Launches Awareness Campaign
Press Release - 11th June 1998

Genetic Concern today launched a national campaign to increase consumer awareness on the use of genetically engineered ingredients in foods and to call on producers to provide a clear choice and proper labelling.

"As a mother and a consumer I am very concerned about the way in which this technology is being foisted on the public without our consent. Those of us who are worried about genetic engineering must be given the opportunity to avoid such foods" said Mary O'Donnell, campaign co-ordinator. "Independent surveys have shown that in Europe, 84% of people want these foods properly labelled. We are encouraging people to take a stance on the issue and to lobby for proper choice". 


Monsanto Cited in Crop Losses.

New York Times, 16 June 98, D4.

An arbitration council of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce ruled that Monsanto Company, Delta and Pine Land Company, and Paymaster Technology Company should pay more than $1.9 million to three Mississippi cotton farmers who planted Roundup Ready cotton seed and lost their crop.

The seed was genetically engineered by Monsanto to allow the cotton to be sprayed with a herbicide to control weeds without damaging the crop. Fifty-five Mississippi farmers complained to the arbitration council that the seed led to lower yields, and most of those cases were settled privately. 


US Doubles Gene Crop Use As Row Heats Up

Wednesday June 17, 5:28 pm Eastern Time

LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday cranked up pressure on Europe to allow in genetically modified corn and soybeans, saying up to 30 percent of those U.S. crops now came from gene-altered seeds.

U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture Gus Schumacher said American farmers were losing $200 million a year from French indecision over whether to import the crops pending a public debate over the "gene-bean" impact on health. 


 UK Poll: Majority Want Genetic Crops Ban

By Jeanette Pearson, PA News, Press Association Newsfile June 14, 1998,

The majority of Britons believe there should be a ban on growing genetically -engineered crops in this country, a survey showed today. Results of a Mori poll found that 77% want a block on growing such products until their impact has been more fully assessed. And 73% said they were concerned that the genetically -changed plants could interbreed with natural, wild ones causing genetic pollution.

The poll, commissioned by GeneWatch an independent organisation which monitors developments in genetic engineering, also found that 61% of the public do not want to eat genetically -modified foods - an increase of 8% since a similar poll conducted in December 1996.

More than half of the British public (58%) oppose the use of genetic engineering in the development of food - a 7% increase on 1996. Dr Sue Mayer, director of GeneWatch said: "How much more evidence does the government need that the public do not want genetically -engineered foods and that this opposition is increasing?

"Until now, the government has taken little account of public opinion and has been complacent about the risks of introducing genetically -engineered crops." From next year, herbicide resistant oilseed rape could be the first genetically -engineered crop to be grown commercially in Britain, said GeneWatch.

Public rejection of the genetic crops could have serious consequences for food producers and retailers, who would be forced into an increasingly difficult search for products which could be guaranteed to be non genetically engineered, said a spokesman. Farmers could face major problems from genetic pollution and uncontrollable herbicide resistant weeds. "In fact, the only people who are likely to benefit are the huge multinational companies which are developing the crops," said Dr Mayer. "The government should not be rushed into introducing this new technology but should listen to its electorate and declare an immediate halt to the commercial exploitation of genetically -engineered crops until the whole issue has been properly evaluated." GeneWatch interviewed 950 adults aged over 15 for the survey published today. 


Do You Want Your Vaccine To Be Boiled Or Mashed?

By Christopher Cairns Environment Correspondent
The Scotsman June 15, 1998, Monday

The potato that offers the world's first vaccine against diarrhoea is the goal of a multi-million pound transatlantic genetic engineering deal to be signed today.

The link-up between a British pharmaceutical company and a research laboratory in the United States aims to pave the way for revolutionary treatments to tackle a number of diseases without the use of needles.

Edible vaccines, as they are known, are at early stages of development but have already been criticised strongly by some scientists and campaigners against genetic engineering who believe the technology could lead to widespread infection or immune system failure.

Axis Genetics, of Cambridge, is teaming up with the Boyce Thompson Institute, at Cornell University, New York, in a $ 6 million (GBP 3.68 million), three -year deal that will initially target two diseases for which vaccines do not exist: traveller's diarrhoea and Norwalk virus, an infection which also leads to diarrhoea.

It is also hoped the technology can be developed to tackle hepatitis B. Under the agreement, BTI will be given 15 per cent of Axis's stock and will fund research on the vaccines which the British company will then have royalty -free licences to develop.

"We are not talking about foods you can buy off the supermarket shelf," said the chief executive of Axis, Dr Iain Cubitt. "These will more likely be in tablet form and taken like any other oral treatment and only available on prescription."

To develop the vaccines, plants such as potato, tobacco or banana trees are genetically modified to carry vaccines created from the original pathogens, such as the E coli bacterium.

Potato plants have traditionally been easy for geneticists to work with. The first human clinical trial of an edible vaccine, carried out by BTI and reported last month, involved subjects eating raw potatoes and subsequently developing antibodies to the E coli protein which the tubers had contained. Dr Cubitt said the eventual vaccines could be anything from potatoes processed into tablet form or simply slices of dried banana. The World Health Organisation has said that more oral vaccines are needed because of the problems, particularly in the Third World, of contamination and storage associated with needles.

The Norwalk virus is particularly virulent in confined spaces and has been known to spread quickly through hospitals, schools and workplaces. The armed forces are likely to be among those interested in using any vaccine. During the Gulf war, one US warship was taken out of the action because 20 per cent of its crew had fallen victim to the virus.

Oral vaccines are considered more effective than injected ones since they target the body's mucosal entry points, such as the mouth and nose, which produce 75 per cent of immune responses.

However, critics say this easy access to such a large part of the body's immune system that is the main reason why the new technology should be treated with extreme caution.

"This is still in its infancy and it can cause problems," said Dr Michael Antoniou, a senior lecturer in molecular biology at Guy's Hospital, London. "We are talking about playing around with people's immune systems, which throws up the possibility of complications such as allergy development or even immune failure.

"The body will be experiencing vaccines in a context in which it has never been seen before and that worries me.

These trials they are about to carry out must involve testing hundreds of individuals because immune responses are so variable."

Dr Antoniou also doubted whether a regulation system could be devised which would keep the eventual products of the research in doctors' surgeries and chemists rather than accessible on the retail market.

"The idea of these edible vaccines seems logical but, as with other ventures into genetic engineering, I wonder if we are going to create more problems than we solve."

A leading opponent of genetic engineering, Dr Mae Wan Ho, of the Open University, has warned of the danger that plants with altered DNA to provide vaccines may mutate and cause widespread infection of the disease they were being grown to combat. 


Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998 11:13:20 -0400
From: Gill Lacroix 100717.1155@compuserve.com

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH EUROPE BIOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAMME MAILOUT
VOLUME 4, ISSUE 4, 15 June 1998

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH BIOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAMME
29, rue Blanche, B-1060 Brussels, Belgium,
T. 32-2-542.01.80, F. 32-2-537.55.96, E-mail 100717.1155@compuserve.com

This Mailout and other information including the Proceedings of the Workshop on International Biosafety, organized by FoEE in September 1996, is available on our webpage : www.foeeurope.org/programmes/biotechnology/about.htm

(PART 2)

A Critique Of The Monsanto Briefing Notes:
"Roundup Ready Soyabean System: Sustainability And Herbicide Use"

Contents:
Monsanto's Claims
Friends of the Earth's position
Monsanto's advertisement
Monsanto - What's New?

In April 1998, as part of its huge European propaganda exercise, Monsanto published "background briefing notes" entitled "The Roundup Ready Soyabean System : Sustainability and Herbicide Use". Friends of the Earth England/Wales/N. Ireland's critique of this paper is given below.

Monsanto's report is seriously misleading. It relies on arguments between different farming methods instead of the environmental and food safety concerns of genetically engineered soya. This could be interpreted as an attempt to confuse the issue and divert attention away from the performance of the soybeans which, as the report indicates, do not perform as well as could have been expected.

Independent studies?

Instead of publishing the "independent" research, Monsanto have provided their own interpretation of the studies. The study is based on "academic literature and industry information" rather then any independent monitoring or studies. The research was paid for by Monsanto.

Better Weed Control?

The report highlights only a 9% increase in weed control. Considering the hype made over the past years this is quite surprising. Monsanto's own market research shows that just under half of the farmers questioned didn't note any better control of weeds. Hardly a resounding vote of confidence.

Improved farm efficiency through...Optimizing yield?

The yield figures are not only disappointing but also misleading. Monsanto claim a yield increase of 5%, however this increase is only a comparison of their own Roundup Ready (RR) beans using conventional herbicides and RR beans using Roundup herbicides. A better analysis would be to compare the yield of the RR soybeans with conventional high yielding varieties. As it stands the 5% figure is meaningless. What is the yield difference between RR beans and conventional varieties?

...Using arable land more efficiently?

Hungry people in developing countries don't need RR soya but political and economic stability, access to land and money to buy food. Most soya (around 80%) is used to feed animals in the Western world. Later in the report (page 8) farmers are said to be using RR on marginal land, i.e. land that hasn't been fit for agriculture in the past. These areas are often environmentally interesting as they may not have been exposed to the intensive farming methods that have destroyed wildlife in farmed areas. This destroys the argument that the current land is being used more efficiently.

...Reducing herbicide use in-season?

Reduction figures averaging 26% and 22% are quite disappointing considering all the previously mentioned hype (there were only 9% reductions in some areas). The report states that farmers are already reducing herbicide use anyway but they didn't take this into account. So in effect they have admitted that their own figures are an overestimate.

Interestingly, research in the UK (Institute of Arable Crop Research) shows that if you apply herbicides only where you have weeds then herbicide use can be reduced from between 20 and 97%. In this context, Monsanto's figures for reducing herbicides are therefore very disappointing. Monsanto rightly mentioned later in their report (page 8) that the amount of herbicide used is an inadequate measure of environmental impact.

Changing from specific herbicides (designed to kill specific weeds) to broad spectrum herbicides (such as Roundup which kill all plants) has raised serious concerns about wildlife. Removing all "weeds" (i.e. wild plants) from a field removes a vital source of food and habitat for many species. This could have a serious knock-on effect on farmland birds, plants and insects. The UK Government's wildlife advisors, English Nature, have called for a 5 year ban on herbicide-resistant crops whilst Government studies are completed on the wildlife and farming implications. Monsanto's report mentions nothing about use of insecticide or fungicide on RR crops.

Encourages the adoption of conservation tillage, especially no-till?

Because of the intensive nature of farming in the US there are serious soil erosion problems. Unless farming is changed to more sustainable methods which protect and enhance the top soil then problems will continue to occur. Monsanto argue that a no-till system based on using herbicide tolerant crops will have many environmental benefits.

However there are other soil protecting tillage systems that don't rely on Monsanto's chemicals, notably ridge till tillage. More importantly there are many safer methods of controlling soil erosion such as cover-crops, contour farming, terracing, strip cropping and crop rotation.

Many of the environmental benefits that are associated with no-till systems are not based upon studies using the Roundup Ready system. It is possible that these benefits will actually be compromised by using Monsanto's Roundup. Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) has been found to be toxic to earthworms (which Monsanto say benefit from no-till) as well as beneficial insects such as ladybirds, lacewing and some beetles.

Improving Wildlife habitat?

"Improved weed control" i.e. removing wild plants from crop fields, removes habitats and food supplies for many forms of wildlife. This loss of wildlife through intensive farming has been well documented over the last decades. Monsanto's claim that Roundup is "of particular value from the point of view of wildlife quality" is therefore clearly misleading.

They also state that Roundup has no "deleterious effect on micro-organisms" whereas research shows that it has an effect on nitrogen fixing bacteria and also bacteria which help plants absorb nutrients.

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH'S POSITION:

FOE believes that there are many questions unanswered with genetically engineered foods and crops. Much research is incomplete (including UK government-funded projects) and these novel foods have been introduced into the food chain with inadequate long term health or environmental studies. It is quite possible applications such as herbicide-tolerant crops will lead to a further intensification of farming and will threaten not only wildlife but also the world's food supply. FoE England/Wales/Northern Ireland is campaigning for a 5 year moratorium on genetically engineered foods. (Friends of the Earth EWNI)

Green Party Complains To Uk Advertising Standards Committee

Following the launch of Monsanto's £1M advertising campaign in the UK, the British Green Party sent the following letter to the Advertising Standards Committee (an official body which regulates inaccurate and misleading advertisements).

Monsanto's advertisement

Independent Saturday Magazine (ISM) and other outlets - 6th June 1998
By Peter Barnett, UK Green Party

Concerning the second page of this advertisement (page 37 in the ISM): a conversation by one of our members with Monsanto scientists on their freephone helpline has revealed that the illustrated insect resistant tomato is not available, the advertisement is therefore untruthful. The alleged environmental advantages attributed to this tomato are therefore unproved and hence to state "the farmer can spray substantially less insecticide onto his fields" is dishonest.

The advertisement is misleading in that it chooses to imply that approval by various national governments is a guarantee of the safety of the techniques whilst failing to give any detail of the nature of those approvals, the restrictions on their scope and the legal actions which have, in at least one case, followed such approvals.

For example, last September petitioners in the United States including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have charged the US Environmental Protection Agency with gross negligence in its approvals of transgenic plants and demanded that approval is withdrawn for transgenic plants carrying the genetic code for the Bt gene (quite possibly the gene to which Monsanto refer in their advertisement).

The advertisement states "We believe biotechnology is one way to cut down on the amount of pesticides used in agriculture." This is dishonest and ignores the rapid development of insect resistance by the target insects which will lead to increased demand for other insecticides. The technique is also a threat to organic farmers who use naturally derived insecticides based on a similar material. The advertisement also misleads in that it ignores the increasing evidence that some genetically engineered plants are actually toxic to beneficial insects.

The advertisement is misleading, dishonest and untruthful, it should be withdrawn with earliest effect.

MONSANTO - WHAT'S NEW ?

NEW TACTICS

Too much has probably already been written about Monsanto in this Mailout but the company does seem anxious to invite the glare of publicity at the moment, bearing in mind the huge public relations exercise which it is conducting in the UK, France, Germany and other European countries (as announced in Volume 4, Issue 3, 1.05.98).

Whether this expensive advertising campaign will pay off for the company in the long term remains to be seen. But, as mentioned in other articles in this Mailout, it has sparked off fierce criticism in many (including royal) circles and it could, in fact, ultimately backfire. After announcing that it was sorry for the way it forced genetically modified soya onto an unwilling European market (see Mailout Volume 4, Issue 2, 15.03.98),

Monsanto has apparently done a « volte face » and now is trying a new tactic of targeting consumers (well, at least telling them what it wants them to know). Advertising campaigns by the company have landed them in trouble in the past : there have been at least half a dozen complaints to the courts in the Netherlands concerning advertisements for Roundup, and there was a recent case in which the State of New York told Monsanto that its advertising were misleading.

The issue of food safety and labeling, of course, falls more into the realm of consumer affairs rather than environmental concerns. But EU legislation to label - however inadequately - foods derived from genetically modified crops (see separate article in this Mailout) does nothing to alter the fact that GM soya, maize et al pose a well-documented threat to the environment.

Agro-chemical companies, however, are profit-driven to promote the sale of their GM seeds and the associated chemicals. Roundup is a huge profit-making product for Monsanto; it is by far the world's biggest selling total herbicide and global sales reportedly increased by 20% last year alone.

NEW STUDY

In addition to the many statements which have already been made concerning the acute toxicity of Roundup, a new study (*) recently published in the journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis (31 :55-59 (1998)) reports that "Roundup is able to induce a dose-dependent formation of DNA adducts in the kidneys and liver of mice"*.

In other words, the study found that components of Roundup could be found to be linked to the DNA of these laboratory animals. Interestingly, the results concluded that these effects were "not related to the active ingredient" of Roundup (glyphosate) "but to another, unknown component of the herbicide mixture". The inert ingredients of chemicals such as Roundup are clouded in mystery : pesticide administration bodies hardly look at them since they focus more on the active ingredient, and chemical companies go to great lengths to keep their formulas secret.

The report concludes that the findings of the study "may help to protect agricultural workers from health hazards". It has already been claimed by a leading French scientist (see Mailout Volume 4, Issue 2, 15.03.98) that some 20,000 people a year die in the United States alone due to cancers resulting from neo-pesticides. But agricultural workers in the US and the EU, are (in theory) at least better informed and trained in the use of dangerous chemicals than the general public, whereas Roundup is readily available to the general public throughout garden centers in many European countries.

NEW NAME?

Monsanto, which has been buying up parts or controlling interests in a plethora of other seed/food companies over the past several years, is itself now the object of a mega-acquisition. The company will reportedly merge with American Home Products (AHP) later this year. AHP is a pharmaceutical company mainly producing over-the-counter drugs and apparently has a different (better) corporate image than Monsanto.

The future merger with AHP stands to benefit Monsanto in its quest for a better image - pharmaceutical companies generally have much better respect from the public on the basis that such companies benefit mankind. A name change would also appear to be on the cards after the merger. That too can only be in Monsanto's interests - to dump a name which has become synonymous with the infamous "Terminator" seed patent and association with a certain Agent Orange. (GL)

(*) 32P-POSTLABELING DETECTION OF DNA ADDUCTS IN MICE TREATED WITH THE HERBICIDE ROUNDUP : MARCO PELUSO ET AL. 


Swiss Referendum On Genetic Engineering

by GL/Miriam Behrens, Pro Natura/FoE Switzerland
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH EUROPE BIOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAMME MAILOUT
VOLUME 4, ISSUE 4, 15 June 1998 (FOE)

In the referendum held on 7 June, the Swiss population was invited to vote in a referendum as to whether they wanted a nation-wide ban on : - the release of genetically modified organisms, - trangenic animals, - patents on life forms.

The referendum was made necessary under Swiss law by a petition which gained more than 100,000 signatures.

They voted by 66.6% to 33.4% in favor of dismissing the proposal, although there was only an approximate 40% turnout for the referendum. This result is disappointing for environmentalists and many feel that the issues at stake in the referendum were clouded in the minds of voters by the fact that the medical and agricultural applications of genetic engineering were not differentiated.

The main problem, however, was not just the differentiation between the medical and agricultural but more specifically the ban of transgenic animals which is not just a problem for pharmaceutical and medical industry but for biological, medical and chemical research in general.

Nevertheless, it is still uncertain though whether the referendum could have been won even leaving out the issue of transgenic animals. Industry and science would have lobbied strongly for patents in that case, using the same arguments as they did this time. Since it would appear that the proposed ban on transgenic animals was certainly a major factor in the failure of the referendum, it is important to understand the background which lead to the situation.

When the initiative was launched around 8 years ago, the famous cancer-developing onco-mouse was the number one issue in biotechnology. It was not apparent at that time that transgenic animals would so quickly become so important in research and industry. By the time that became clear, it was too late. The text of an initiative, which is a change in the national constitution, cannot not be altered after it is launched.

Furthermore, initiatives always tend to always take very strong positions. This is because, in general, the parliament makes a counter proposition which is weaker, in which case, the initiative may be dropped. This time, however, the parliament was unable to make a counter proposition. Industry-related parliamentarians set the stakes very high - they thought the initiative would fail and that, as a result, no regulation would stand in their way. In light of the outcome of the referendum, it seems that they were right.

A third reasoning to include transgenic animals in the text of the referendum was that the animal-welfare organizations were extremely strong within the working group for the initiative. This is also true from a financial perspective and an initiative is an extremely expensive political exercise. All in all, it is estimated to have cost more than 5 million SFr. 


Bavarian Referendum On Positive Labelling Failed

German Federal Government Sticks To Its Positive Labelling Regulation

by FOE

The Bavarian referendum initiative on the voluntary label "genetech-free from Bavaria" failed in its second phase. While in the first stage where at least 25,000 signatures have to be collected in order to initiate the referendum procedure, more than 260,000 signatures had been collected, the minimum of 10% of all persons entitled to vote could not be achieved in the second phase. Therefore, a referendum which would have been held during this summer will not take place.

One of the reasons for the failure might have been that the German federal government decided to go for a federal regulation which will regulate at federal level the requirements for using the voluntary label "without genetic engineering" (see Mailout Vol. 4 (1998), Issue 3) . This regulation will, in any case, supercede any conflicting state legislation. The federal government's regulation is supposed to be voted on by the Bundesrat in its last session before the federal elections on 10 July 1998. (DL) 


Austrian GE Maize Ban

by FOE

Hardly an FoEE Biotech Mailout appears without an update on Austria's and Luxembourg's bans on genetically modified maize. As previously reported in Volume 4, Issue 3 of 1st May 1998, the Regulatory Committee under Directive 90/220/EEC failed to reach a position by qualified majority in April, after which the issue passed to the Council of Ministers which was expected to reach a decision within three months. It had, therefore, been anticipated that the dossier would be on the table of the Environment Council meeting in Luxembourg on 16th June.

According to information received by the FoEE Biotech Programme, the dossier will indeed be on the table but for discussion only - there will be no vote by Ministers. This results from the fact that the Commission was extremely slow to deliver its formal proposal (in all the EU languages) to the Council and, in fact, only did so on 11th June. The three month period therefore now runs until 11th September. In the meantime, the European Parliament's Environment Committee is expected to deliver its opinion (under the so-called « modus vivendi » procedure) on the Commission's proposal to force Austria and Luxembourg to lift their bans sometime by 14th July. (GL)

==================

LUXEMBOURG, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : Austria could lift its two-year ban on gene-altered Novartis maize if the European Commission ruled in September the ban must be repealed, an Austrian diplomat told reporters on Wednesday.

But Vienna would then contest that ruling in court, on the grounds that the Commission -- the European Union's executive -- had not taken Austrian concerns about the crop's risks to health and the environment into account properly, the diplomat said,.

"The Vienna authorities would rather lift the ban and take action against the Commission than wait for the Commission to take action against them and have legal uncertainty," he said.

Austria and Luxembourg introduced domestic bans on a genetically modified strain of maize produced by Swiss pharmaceuticals group Novartis, after the 15-nation EU decided controversially in December 1996 to approve use of the crop. 


Seventy Five Percent Of British Oppose GE Crops

by FOE

77% of the public believe there should be a ban on growing genetically engineered crops and food in Britain. The conclusive results of a new MORI poll (1) indicate that the vast majority of the British public are currently opposed to the growing of genetically engineered crops in this country.

Commissioned by GeneWatch, the independent organisation which monitors developments in genetic engineering, the MORI poll shows that 77% want a ban on the growing of such crops until their impacts have been more fully assessed. A similar number (73%) are concerned that genetically engineered crops could interbreed with natural, wild plants and cause genetic pollution.

The MORI poll also reveals that 61% of the public do not want to eat genetically modified foods (an 8% increase since a similar MORI poll was conducted in December 1996) and 58% of the public oppose the use of genetic engineering in the development of food (a 7% increase on 1996) (2).

"How much more evidence does the Government need that the public do not want genetically engineered foods and that this opposition is increasing?" said GeneWatch Director, Dr Sue Mayer. "Until now, the Government has taken little account of public opinion and has been complacent about the risks of introducing genetically engineered crops."

From next year, herbicide resistant oilseed rape could be the first genetically engineered crop to be grown commercially in Britain. A GeneWatch report, "Genetically Engineered Oilseed Rape: Agricultural Saviour or New Form of Pollution?", to be published tomorrow, concludes that new research casts doubts on previous safety assessments and that serious damage could be done to the environment and farming.

Public rejection of genetically engineered foods could have serious consequences for food producers and retailers, who would be forced into an increasingly difficult search for products which could be guaranteed to be non genetically engineered. Farmers could be faced with major problems from genetic pollution and uncontrollable herbicide resistant weeds.

"In fact, the only people who are likely to benefit are the huge multinational companies which are developing the crops," says Dr Mayer. "The Government should not be rushed into introducing this new technology but should listen to its electorate and declare an immediate halt to the commercial exploitation of genetically engineered crops until the whole issue has been properly evaluated." (Genewatch Press Release, 14.06.98)

  1. Interviews conducted with 950 adults aged 15+. Interviewed face-to-face, in-home, using CAPI (computer assisted personal interviewing) technology between 6-8 June 1998 in 84 sampling points throughout Great Britain. Data have been weighted to reflect the national profile.
  2. Trend information has been included from a MORI/Greenpeace poll: 1,003 interviews among adults aged 15+ were conducted by telephone between 13-15 December 1996. Data have been weighted to reflect the national profile.
This Mailout is produced by Friends of the Earth Biotechnology Programme. Responsibility within Friends of the Earth for the Biotechnology Programme lies with Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND). Editor : Gill Lacroix, Contributors: Gill Lacroix (GL), Dan Leskien (DL) and guest authors as named. Authors are responsible for their articles. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the FoEE Biotechnology Programme, unless this is explicitly stated.

You are welcome to redistribute this mailout and copy articles on condition that the author of the article and the source are acknowledged (please send us copies of any publications which reprint these articles). 


Japan Co-ops Take Biofood Labeling In Own Hands

From Asia Pulse Analysis

TOKYO, June 18: The public debate on the safety of genetically engineering foods is far from over in Japan, even as imports wash ashore and begin showing up in some of the most basic staples of the diet.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has determined that there is no safety problem regarding crops like soybeans and corn which have been genetically modified to fight insects or to show some other beneficial trait.

But the fact is that no one has any experience with these plants yet, and many consumers here are worried about the safety of bioengineered food products, notwithstanding the assurances of government authorities. Against this much-publicized backdrop of consumer wariness, more and more food retailers and food makers have begun labeling their goods as "biofood free."

For example, the U Co-op Consumer Cooperative Federation, an group of seven affiliated consumer cooperatives including Co-op Kanagawa Co., is using specific "biofood free" labels on the packages of margarine made from domestic rice oil it began selling this month. And the Green Co-op Consumer Cooperative Federation in Fukuoka has begun switching over to the use of biofood-free animal feed for chickens and pigs.

As these two examples suggest, the cooperative associations are leading the way in the renunciation of bioengineered foods in Japan. Of the approximately 180 cooperatives nationwide, 28 have begun promoting biofood-free products. Joining the bandwagon, some food makers have also begun to clearly label that their food products are free of genetically manipulated ingredients. 


France May Decide To Block Gene-changed Crops

June 19, 1998

BRUSSELS, Reuters [WS] via NewsEdge Corporation : France could face a court challenge from the European Commission if it decides to block the use of gene-changed crops after this weekend's public debate on the issue, a European Union source said on Thursday.

France has been blamed by the United States, a major producer of genetically-modified soybean and corn, for delaying EU-wide approval of new U.S. crop strains. France has said it will await the outcome of the June 20-21 "citizen's conference" before deciding whether to approve gene crops. 


Fears that GM crop impasse could spark agri-trade war.

By Tony Mc Dougal, Farmers Guardian. Friday June 19th. 98

Fears of an agri-trade war were raised at this week's International Grains Council conference as United States farm under-secretary Gus Schumaker criticized the European resistance to genetically modified crops, claiming it was costing American Farmers up to $200m in lost maize exports to the E/U. 


___________________________________________________________________
PHYSICIANS AND SCIENTISTS AGAINST GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD
- A Global Network -
___________________________________________________________________

Warning About Food That Is Genetically Engineered

The world is on the verge of being exposed to a huge avalanche of Genetically Engineered Foods (GEF). These artificially altered foods constitute a potentially serious risk to the health of consumers and to the environment. They will soon become a substantial part of what you eat if this proceeding is not immediately stopped.

With this message that is being spread all over the world in major world languages, we want to alert people, media and governments to the need for an immediate moratorium on the release and sale of these products. The collected signatures on our Declaration below will be presented to national governments, to the Commission and Parliament of the European Union and to the organs of the United Nations including FAO and WHO. The presentation will be accompanied by press releases to all major media.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. You can sign the Declaration quoted below by filling out a form or sending an e-mail to us at PSAGEF.
  2. You can spread this message to as many people as possible.
  3. You can make a valuable contribution to our global campaign by joining our network. It is open to everyone who is concerned about this issue (not only physicians or scientists). No membership fee.
After the Declaration, you will find detailed instructions on how to perform these steps.

If you want to read the Declaration presented below in another language, you will find a number of translations at URL: http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/translat.htm

______________________________________________________________________

DECLARATION

THEREFORE, we demand a GLOBAL MORATORIUM on the release into the environment of genetically engineered organisms and on the use of Genetically Engineered (GE) foods until sufficient knowledge has been acquired to make it possible to judge if it is justifiable and safe for our Health and the Environment to exploit this technology. This is most urgent as there are reasons to expect potentially serious hazards from the products of Gene Technology.

No so far released products have been properly assessed for safety. Therefore they should be withdrawn with shortest possible delay. Until production and trade will be stopped, we demand MANDATORY LABELING of all foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

At the end of this message you will find a SUMMARY OF SCIENTIFIC FACTS underlying our Declaration.

______________________________________________________________________

    SIGN THE DECLARATION

    You can sign the declaration in two ways:

    "NFI": After you have signed the declaration, you may obtain one or two follow up letters from our organization, informing about the campaign result etc. If you don't want any further information, please write "NFI" before your surname when signing. You can ask to be removed from the mail-list at any time by sending a us an e-mail with just the letters NFI in the subject heading.

    We would appreciate if you also collect signatures from people without an Internet connection, or who cannot access it presently. For your convenience, we have made a list for collecting signatures that can be downloaded at http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/signlist.htm

    SPREAD THE MESSAGE

    Please make this message known to as many people as possible. Alternatives:
      Please send this message only to private persons. Don't send it to governmental officials, politicians and media people. If you want to help us inform these people or to contribute to our campaign otherwise, you are most welcome as a member or helper of our global network.

    If you want to send this message in another language, you can find some translations at URL: http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/ecpdownl.htm. (The number of languages translated will increase.)

    Technical reminder: You may send a message to many people in one stroke by separating their e-mail addresses by a comma. You can place the addresses in the "To:" field, in the "Cc:" field (carbon copy, visible to all receivers) or in the "Bcc:" field (blind carbon copy, invisible to all receivers). You will find more technical hints in URL http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/ecptech.htm .
     

  1. JOIN OUR NETWORK
  2. Everyone, not only scientists and physicians, can become a member or helper. You don't need to have any qualified knowledge about scientific GE issues to be able to make a valuable contribution. If you are concerned about GEF and feel that you might engage in some practical commission, please consider joining us. Your participation is important, even if you can only devote a few hours a month to this. NO MEMBERSHIP FEE.

    To SCIENTISTS: Anyone with a scientific background can make a valuable contribution, not only those dealing with GE-related issues.

    STUDENTS are invited to join our Student's division.

    To join our Network, please go to URL: http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/lmgreg.htm . There you will find more information and a link to our registration form.

______________________________________________________________________

APPENDIX

SCIENTIFIC FACTS

(You can find the same text, but with links to references in addition at URL: http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/decl.htm#scifacts )

  1. GENETIC ENGINEERING IS FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT FROM BREEDING. The artificial insertion of foreign genes represents a traumatic disturbance of the close genetic control in normal cells. It is completely different in nature from the combination of maternal and paternal chromosomes brought about by natural mating mechanisms.
  2. GENETIC ENGINEERING OF TODAY IS TECHNICALLY PRIMITIVE as it is impossible to guide the insertion of a new gene. Therefore it is impossible to foresee the effects of an inserted gene. But even if the position of a gene can be localized afterwards, the knowledge of DNA is far too incomplete to make it possible to predict the result.
  3. HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES MAY BE GENERATED UNPREDICTABLY because of the artificial insertion of a foreign gene. These may, in the worst case, be toxic, allergenic or otherwise damaging to Health. The knowledge of these risks is very incomplete.
  4. NO SAFETY ASSESSMENT METHODS ARE FULLY RELIABLE. Over 10 percent of serious side effects have not been possible to detect in the case of new drugs in spite of rigorous safety assessment. The risk of not detecting a hazardous property of a new GE food is probably considerably greater than in the case of drugs.
  5. THE PRESENT RULES FOR SAFETY ASSESSMENT ARE SERIOUSLY INADEQUATE. They have been explicitly designed so as to simplify approval procedures. They accept very insensitive safety testing. Therefore there is a considerable risk that foods harmful to Health may pass undetected.
  6. THE GE-FOODS SO FAR DEVELOPED ARE OF NO SIGNIFICANT VALUE FOR MANKIND. The products mainly satisfy purely commercial interests.
  7. THE KNOWLEDGE IS VERY INCOMPLETE ABOUT THE ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS of releasing genetically engineered organisms. It has not been positively proven that GE organisms may not cause environmental harm. Various potential ecological complications have been anticipated by ecological experts. For example, there are many routes for uncontrolled spread of engineered and potentially hazardous genes, including gene transfer by bacteria and viruses. Environmental complications will probably mostly be impossible to repair as the released genes cannot be retrieved.
  8. NEW AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS VIRUSES MAY EMERGE. It has been experimentally demonstrated that inserted virus genes may unite with genes from infecting viruses (so called recombination). Such new viruses may be more aggressive than the original virus. Viruses may also become less species-specific. For example, a plant virus might become harmful to valuable insects, animals and to man.
  9. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEREDITARY SUBSTANCE, DNA, IS VERY LIMITED. Only the function of about 3 percent of the DNA is known. It is risky to manipulate complicated systems that are incompletely known. Extensive experience from biology, ecology and medicine shows that this may cause serious unexpected problems and disturbances.
  10. GENETIC ENGINEERING WILL NOT HELP SOLVE THE WORLD HUNGER PROBLEM. The claim that genetic engineering may contribute importantly to reduced world hunger is a scientifically unsubstantiated myth.

______________________________________________________________________

For more information about these facts, please look up the URL: http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/decl.htm#scifacts and follow the links.

You may also want to read "What to believe? - A personal letter to you who are confused about the GE-food issue" at:
http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/whatobel.htm

To register as a member and sign the declaration in one stroke go to: http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/lmgreg.htm

To only sign the declaration, go to http://www.flashbase.com/forms/signdecl or copy the form above and e-mail to us. To distribute this message to others, either forward this one, or preferably, download a fresh copy at: http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-18472/ecpdownl.htm

PLEASE SPREAD THIS MESSAGE TO AS MANY PRIVATE PERSONS AS POSSIBLE

_________________________________________________________________
PHYSICIANS AND SCIENTISTS AGAINST GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD
- A Global Network -
E-mail address for signatures: decl@mbox301.swipnet.se
E-mail address for correspondence: psagef@swipnet.se

Thanks to jim@niall7.demon.co.uk (jim mcnulty) for posting this:

Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer, Besides Other Cancers, Warns Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health

Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer

SOURCE: Cancer Prevention Coalition
©Copyright 1998, PR Newswire

CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, 312-996-2297

CHICAGO, June 21 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- The following was released today by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chairman of Cancer Prevention Coalition:

As reported in a May 9 article in The Lancet, women with a relatively small increase in blood levels of the naturally occurring growth hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IGF-1) are up to seven times more likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer than women with lower levels. Based on those results, the report concluded that the risks of elevated IGF-1 blood levels are among the leading known risk factors for breast cancer, and are exceeded only by a strong family history or unusual mammographic abnormalities. Apart from breast cancer, an accompanying editorial warned that elevated IGF-1 levels are also associated with greater than any known risk factors for other major cancers, particularly colon and prostate.

This latest evidence is not unexpected. Higher rates of breast, besides colon, cancer have been reported in patients with gigantism (acromegaly) who have high IGF-1 blood levels. Other studies have also shown that administration of IGF-1 to elderly female primates causes marked breast enlargement and proliferation of breast tissue, that IGF-1 is a potent stimulator of human breast cells in tissue culture, that it blocks the programmed self-destruction of breast cancer cells, and enhances their growth and invasiveness.

These various reports, however, appear surprisingly unaware of the fact that the entire U.S. population is now exposed to high levels of IGF-1 in dairy products. In February 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of unlabelled milk from cows injected with Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, rBGH, to increase milk production. As detailed in a January 1996 report in the prestigious International Journal of Health Services, rBGH milk differs from natural milk chemically, nutritionally, pharmacologically and immunologically, besides being contaminated with pus and antibiotics resulting from mastitis induced by the biotech hormone. More critically, rBGH milk is supercharged with high levels of abnormally potent IGF-1, up 10 times the levels in natural milk and over 10 times more potent.

IGF-1 resists pasteurization, digestion by stomach enzymes, and is well absorbed across the intestinal wall. Still unpublished 1987 Monsanto tests, disclosed by FDA in summary form in 1990, revealed that statistically significant growth stimulating effects were induced in organs of adult rats by feeding IGF-1 at low dose levels for only two weeks. Drinking rBGH milk would thus be expected to significantly increase IGF-1 blood levels and consequently to increase risks of developing breast cancer and promoting its invasiveness.

Faced with escalating rates of breast, besides colon, prostate and other avoidable cancers, FDA should withdraw its approval of rBGH milk, whose sale benefits only Monsanto while posing major public health risks for the entire U.S. population. A Congressional investigation of FDA's abdication of responsibility is well overdue. 

Back to Index