GM Problems: Contaminated Organic Crops, Canadian Wheat Crop at Risk,
"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
Cancer is a political problem more than it is a medical problem.
"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food," said Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications. "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job."
"What the FDA is doing and what the public thinks it's doing are as different as night and day." - Dr. Herbert Ley, Former FDA Commissioner
"The FDA serves as the pharmaceutical industry's watchdog, which can be called upon to attack and destroy a potential competitor under the guise of protecting the public." - Dr. James P. Carter
GM crop trial halted near organic research center
May 22, 2001
LONDON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -
The government Monday canceled trials of genetically modified crops at a site near an organic research center.
Following a week of protests, Environment Minister Michael Meacher announced that trials of GM herbicide-tolerant maize at Wolston, England, would not go ahead.
Environmental groups feared pollen from the site would be carried by the wind or transported by birds and insects into neighboring fields and contaminate the Henry Doubleday Research Association Ryton Organic Garden, near Coventry.
Campaigners welcomed the decision to withdraw the trials.
``We are delighted. This is a great victory for common sense over contamination,'' said Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, which promotes organic farming.
Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK GM crop trial abandoned
A genetically modified crop trial in the UK that campaigners said would threaten a nearby organic research centre has been abandoned.
Environmental groups welcomed reports that the agricultural industry body which chooses trial sites had decided to withdraw a maize crop trial planned for Wolston, near the Henry Doubleday Research Association Ryton Organic Garden, in Warwickshire. .....
Call for public say over GM trial sites
by Joe Taylor
Tuesday 22 May 2001
COUNCILLORS in Weymouth are demanding more power to tackle trials of genetically - modified crops, as the campaign against them intensifies.
They want to join forces with other authorities to press the Government to make a change in the law, which would give local people a greater say in whether GM trials should be allowed near their homes.
Tuesday May 22 1:37 PM ET
'Gene Giants' Criticized at World Ag Forum
By Carey Gillam
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Too much power in the hands of just a few biotech giants is undermining the ability of farmers to fight hunger and poverty in developing countries, an agricultural research expert said on Tuesday.
``A steadily shrinking number of companies are gaining unprecedented control over all aspects of commercial food, farming and health,'' said Rural Advancement Foundation International research director Hope Shand, referring to companies including St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Co., which she said dominated the genetically modified (GM) seed market.
Monsanto GM seeds account for 94 percent of the total area planted in commercial transgenic crops, or crops that have been genetically modified, worldwide, she said.
Rounding out Shand's list of so-called gene giants are DuPont Co., Syngenta Crop Protection Inc., Aventis CropScience and Dow AgroSciences LLC .
Shand spoke to agricultural leaders on the third day of the World Agricultural Forum's World Congress in St. Louis.
She said a push by the big biotech agricultural firms for greater control of their GM seed creations must be combated if world hunger and poverty problems are to be addressed.
The seeds of revolt Citizens' jury delivers 'no' verdict to GM crops in Brazil
Jamie Wilson / The Guardian 23may01
Antonio Lopez runs the community seedbank, a collection of five oil drums stored in a ramshackle outbuilding of the one-room house where he lives with his wife and seven children. Antonio cultivates 40 hectares of arid outback land in the state of Ceara in north-east Brazil. For the farmers and their families who live in the remote community, the seeds he stores - safe from mice and damp - mean life. Without them, they cannot plant crops, there will be no harvest, they will have no food to eat and nothing to sell at the local market.
It is hardly surprising that he and the other peasant farmers of the region take the subject of seeds seriously. And seeds - particularly the genetically modified variety - are a hot issue right now throughout the country.
Brazil is Europe's last major source of GM-free soya; supermarkets in Britain, including Tesco and Asda, rely on it to supply increasingly GM-sceptical consumers in the UK.
The US and Argentina, the two other main soya exporters to the EU, have switched much of their production to GM crops, and Brazil is now a key target for the powerful GM companies who are seeking to dominate the world soya market. If they have their way, Brazil will soon join the GM club and European importers seeking GM-free products will have nowhere left to turn.
But for the subsistence farmers of Brazil, it is about more than food choices on the supermarket shelf. If they cannot afford GM seeds they will be outstripped by bigger producers, putting at risk traditions passed on through generations for saving and exchanging seeds, choosing pesticides and harvesting methods.
It was in this confrontational atmosphere that a groundbreaking citizens' jury - during which GM crops were put on trial - took place in the north-eastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza last month. The aim of the exercise, run by the charity ActionAid, was to bring to the GM debate the voice of the poor and marginalised farmers who are likely to bear the brunt
of the change.
Citizens' juries are not a new concept; they can be traced back at least as far as Gloucestershire and Worcestershire during the 18th century, when bread was regularly put on trial if the price in the market climbed too high. But if ActionAid has its way, they will be at the forefront of a campaign to galvanize the peasants of Brazil into becoming involved in the GM debate.
Eleven farmers and urban consumers, all of whom were unaware of the GM debate, were randomly selected to hear arguments for and against transgenic crops from a host of experts, including some of the country's leading biotech scientists. During two days of combative argument, the farmers heard six witnesses tell them of the benefits they would see from GM seeds and six witnesses explaining the potential downside. The result was unanimous: a resounding 'no' to GM.
GM Wheat Tests Making Farmers Nervous
Canadian CBS News, 25 May 2001.
There's a wheat experiment happening in the Prairie provinces that some growers believe could ruin their crops and put Canada's entire wheat industry at risk. `
"Most people are unaware that genetic engineering of wheat testing is even happening," said agronomist Sharon Rempel. Genetically modified wheat is still in the research stage. It is being planted in test sites across the Prairies. So far, Ottawa has approved more than 50 sites in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It's the third year for trials. And the Canadian Wheat Board is nervous. "I think there is a state of nervousness. Our customers hear about the research plots and they are concerned about contamination of the product that we're selling them," says Greg Arason, the CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board. The fear is of accidental contamination. Seeds spilled, or pollen drifting from the test sites to ordinary wheat fields. Then crossing with native wheat and spreading artificial genes.
17 May 2001
The unexplained health problems of cloned animals makes cloning for milk and meat unacceptable, says leading expert
Exclusive from New Scientist magazine
.. US cloning companies are busy making multiple copies of prize breeding cows and claim cloning could soon become an economic way to routinely produce dairy and meat animals.
Cloning currently costs between $15,000 and $25,000 per cow. But prize animals can fetch $40,000 or more, making cloning economic, according to Ron Gillespie of the Massachusetts company Cyagra. "Push the price down to $10,000 and there would be 100,000 animals that it would be economic to clone, and in the $5000 range, millions."
But Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the sheep, says it is vital that large-scale, controlled farm trials of cattle cloning are carried out before any commercial production of cloned meat and dairy food is allowed. "If companies start marketing this food and there are problems it will bring the whole technology into disrepute," he told New Scientist.
The warning comes as cattle cloners continue to uncover evidence of severe pregnancy complications and defects caused by cloning. The current list includes dramatically oversized calves, enlarged tongues, squashed faces, intestinal blockages, immune deficiences and diabetes, says Jim Robl of the Massachusetts company Hematech.
Even cloned animals that look healthy often have subtle defects or weird physiologies that defy the textbooks. Herds of identical cloned animals would be a "welfare disaster", says Joyce D'Silva of Compassion in World Farming. "There would be a huge loss of genetic diversity with unforeseeable results in terms of animal illness."
Of Mice & Men
By Conn Hallinan
San Francisco Examiner
May 11, 2001
This is a story of mice and men, and how the latter turned the former into something that should be keeping us all up at night.
The tale begins three years ago with a group of Australian gene engineers trying to devise a way to protect food supplies by making mice and rats infertile. So they did this very fancy thing: they inserted a mouse gene into a mousepox virus. The idea was that the gene would stimulate an overproduction of interleukin-4, an essential ingredient in mouse immune systems. That, in turn, would prevent the implantation of an egg in the uteru of a female mouse. Presto, infertile mice.
But something terrible happened between the drawing board and the mouse, and instead of making the mice infertile, the mousepox turned lethal, killing even those mice vaccinated against the disease. So why stay up nights worrying about dead mice? Because interkeukin-4 is an essential ingredient in our own immune systems, and what can be done to mice, can be done to men. As one Department of Defense scientist told the New York Times, "It demonstrates a frightening message. Maybe it is easier to do these things than we think."
The Australian killer would never have happened if the world had paid attention to a group of scientists, and Nobel laureates, who met in Asilomar, Ca. back in 1975 to try to establish guidelines for the newly minted field of genetic engineering. That conference pledged, in the words of Caltech microbial geneticist Robert Sinsheimer, "to take every possible precaution to keep these creations out of our biosphere."
But two years later, an unholy alliance of biotech industries and the U.S. military, led by former Nobel winner James Watson, a discoverer of DNA, called for wide-open research and a no-holds barred application of genetic engineering. Calling the Asilomar guidelines "an exercise in the theater of the absurd," Watson called efforts to control DNA research "a massive miscalculation in which we cried wolf without ever having seen or even heard one."
Well, the wolf is at the door - a door, according to Feb. 8, 2001 report by the U.S. Energy Department, which is hardly locked and bolted. The Department found that eight biological weapons labs lacked required oversight and control, and that experiments involving anthrax, plague, and botulism raised "the potential for greater risk to workers and possibly others." Three of those labs, Sandia, and Lawrence in Livermore and Berkeley, are in Northern California.
Most people assume that biological warfare was eliminated by the 1972 Biological Weapons Treaty and the only people out there with bad bugs are the so-called "rogue states" like Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. But bioweapons research is permitted under the Treaty as long as it is "defensive," not "offensive." The difference, however, is hardly obvious. "The Pentagon says everything is defensive when a lot of things are offensive," said now- Senator Barbara Boxer when she was in the House. "The research is the same. You have the same organisms present to do the test."
A lot of the things being looked at in those labs are not things you would want to encounter, and if they ever got out into the biosphere, we are talking major trouble. The National Institute of Health Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee approved a proposal that inserted a diphtheria toxin gene into the E. coli bacteria commonly found in the human intestine. According to Sinsheimer, the test "probably contravened the 1972 Treaty and was certainly a dangerous thing to do." Just how dangerous was underlined by a Rand Corporation report discussing the "weaponization" of E. coli by inserting the toxin for botulism in it, one of the deadliest poisons known. The report suggested that "liberally added to water supplies and various food," E. coli could "eliminate large numbers of people."
Over the past few months, organizations ranging from the CIA to the National Homeland Defense Agency have warned about "bio-terrorism." Americans have indeed been the targets of biological weapons, but from our own government. In 1950, the U.S. Navy pumped Serratia marcescens into the fog rolling in through San Francisco Bay to test the vulnerability of the Bay Area to biowarfare. While the bacteria are generally benign, they aren't always. The "experiment" likely killed Edward Nevins, a San Francisco pipefitter, whose autopsy revealed heart valves clogged with the pathogen. Bacteria were also sprayed on Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News in Virginia.
The Army admits to 339 open-air tests of biological weapons in the U.S., including the release of Hemophilus pertussis (Whooping cough) in Sebring and Palmetto, Florida. Whooping cough cases increased 12 fold, and deaths increased three-fold in Florida that year. Anthrax and Q Fever were released at high altitudes over Utah and Nevada to study dispersal patterns, and rodents infected with plague, tularemia, and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis were released in the Dugway Proving Grounds near Salt Lake City.
The Army even tested a so-called "ethnic weapon" using coccidiomycosis or "Valley Fever", a fungus to which African-Americans and Asians are particularly susceptible. A variety of the fungus was released in the Naval Depot at Mechanicsberg, Penn, which had a mostly African-American civilian workforce. In testimony before Congress on the Mechanicsberg operation, a Department of Defense official said, "Since Negroes are more susceptible to coccidiodies than whites, this fungus disease was simulated by using" a mutant of Valley Fever.
The recent DOE report on slack procedures should hardly come as a surprise. In the past 40 years there have been over 5,000 laboratory-acquired infections among researchers. And 15 years ago a Governmental Affairs Committee's Oversight Subcommittee found "serious deficiencies" exist in the safety procedures on biowar research. The danger from biological warfare is less likely to come from a terrorist organization than some government-run lab.
At this moment, more than 50 countries are meeting in Geneva in an effort to tighten up loopholes in the 1972 Treaty. Neither the Clinton nor Bush Administrations have been very helpful in this effort. The U.S. has consistently raised objections to on-site inspections of private industry (where much of the bioresearch in the U.S. takes place) and refuses to open the issue of "defensive" biological weapons. The Fifth Review Conference for the Treaty is scheduled for November, and a number of countries are trying to stiffen the Treaty's provisions, particularly those relating to cheating.
If those efforts fail, then countries will begin to "research" what happened in Australia, only this time around it won't be mice they'll target. Let someone gene splice a pathogen to a Rhinovirus, or common cold, and global warming will only concern whatever species replaces us.
For more information on this subject, contact the Council for Responsible Genetics and its publication, Gene Watch <http://www.gene-watch.org>
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