"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."
- Thomas Edison
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."
- New York Times, October 25, 1998
"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
|The following information courtesy of Richard Wolfson, PhD, Consumer Right to Know Campaign for Mandatory labeling and long-term testing of genetically engineered food.|
'Luddites' get some ammunition
by Ann Clark
Mar. 12, 2001
Until recently, people tended to identify most of the concern about GM agriculture with groups such as the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth.
Industry proponents wasted little time in painting these people as misinformed, hysterical greenies.
But thanks to those groups, informed citizen opposition has slowed adoption of GM crops to a crawl, providing much-needed breathing space for senior scientists, lawyers, and physicians to reflect upon the issues and begin to speak out.
Proponent efforts to paint the opposition as ill-informed malcontents and Luddites sound increasingly silly in the face of the significant doubts now reaching the public media from prestigious scientific analysts.
One common criticism in many such studies is the near absence of credible scientific evidence upon which to assess environmental and food safety risks.
Last June, the prestigious journal Science reported a detailed database search by Jose Domingo, who could find a grand total of just eight refereed journal articles dealing with any aspect of the safety of GM foods. The eight included only four actual feeding trials, of which three were from Monsanto teams.
The final report of the elite, hand-picked EU-U.S. Biotechnology Consultative Forum, which came out in December, 2000, stated, "There is a lack of substantial scientific data and evidence, often (presented) more as personal interpretations disguised as scientifically validated statements." The full report is available at http://www.rsc.ca/
In another recent issue of Science, U.S. government scientists LaReesa Wolfenbarger and Paul Phifer noted that ``key experiments on both the environmental risks and benefits are lacking.''
They identified numerous critical deficiencies in the evidence that would need to be rectified before determining whether GM crops are indeed safe for the environment.
Each of these studies calls for substantially increased research to figure out whether any risk exists, let alone how to test for such risk or what to do about it.
In effect, governments have authorized the commercial release of almost 50 GM crops, which were sown over 100 million acres in 1999 (71per cent in the U.S., 17 per cent in Argentina, and 10 per cent in Canada), and yet we still don't know enough to even identify the food safety and environmental risks, let alone test for them.
In a nutshell, we don't know enough about basic gene function, the complexity of metabolic pathways, and the ecological implications of even modest genetic modifications to be doing what we are doing, commercially.
As stated colloquially by Craig Venter, head of the Celera team that recently decoded the human genome, ``We don't know s--t about biology.''
With a virtual absence of refereed support for their beliefs, industry proponents insist there is still ample evidence of the safety of GM crops, pointing to voluminous internal industry and government reports.
But how credible are these reports if they are not of a sufficient calibre to be published in a refereed journal?
The requirement for publishing in a refereed journal is universally accepted in the scientific community. Authors are required to submit their work to review and critical comment from peers in the field to ensure the quality and integrity of the research.
This is neither academic trivia nor overblown rhetoric, but is deadly earnest.
Careers have been destroyed by this very issue, strange though it may seem.
Two years ago, Arpad Pusztai - a world-renowned authority on plant proteins and nutrition, with nearly 300 refereed publications to his credit - was fired and treated disgracefully by his own colleagues for committing the unforgivable sin of speaking publicly about his concerns about GM food safety prior to publishing his findings in a refereed journal.
Pusztai had conducted meticulous studies that found organ size and intestinal integrity were hurt in rats fed potatoes that had been genetically modified to include genes from snowdrop lectin.
Worse yet, rats fed plain potatoes sprinkled with snowdrop lectin did not show these effects. The study suggested that the problem related to the transgenic process, not the product.
Does it seem odd to fire a scientist for expressing his concerns? Incomprehensible? Bizarre? There's more.
The same Canadian proponents who just two years ago loudly affirmed Pusztai's firing because he had not published his work in a refereed journal are now loudly proclaiming the legitimacy of unpublished internal documents promoting GM safety.
You can't have it both ways.
Either research must be published in refereed journals to have scientific credibility, as was Pusztai's eventually, or not.
And if not -- if unpublished internal reports are to be accepted as credible and authoritative scientific information -- one must conclude that the shameless destruction of Pusztai's career and the termination of his entire research program had little to do with refereed journal publishing, and everything to do with what he found.
Ann Clark is an associate professor of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph.
New Terminator Patent Goes to Syngenta
Wake-Up Call for CBD's Scientific Body Meeting in Montreal
New Terminator Patent Goes to Syngenta
World's Largest agrichemical and Seed Enterprise Holds Growing Arsenal of Terminator and Traitor Technologies
Wake-Up Call for CBD's Scientific Body Meeting in Montreal
Syngenta, the world's largest agribusiness firm, was formed on 13 November 2000 with the merger of AstraZeneca and Novartis. The next day the company won its newest Terminator patent, US Patent 6,147,282, 'Method of controlling the fertility of a plant.' (The patent was issued to Novartis - but the company's intellectual property goes to Syngenta.) With pro forma 1999 sales of US $7 billion, Syngenta is the world's largest agrichemical enterprise, and the third largest seed corporation.
'Syngenta's newest Terminator patent should set off alarm bells for governments concerned about biodiversity and Farmers' Rights,' said Julie Delahanty of RAFI. 'Some governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) mistakenly assume that the threat of Terminator is diminished. The reality is that the Gene Giants are winning new patents, and Terminator seeds are moving closer to commercialization,' warns Delahanty.
'Terminator technology' refers to plants that have been genetically modified to produce sterile seed; it is designed to prevent farmers from saving and re-planting their seed, forcing them to buy new seeds every year. Terminator has been widely condemned as an immoral technology that threatens global food security, especially for 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seed.
Farm News from Cropchoice
An alternative news service for American farmers
3/12/01 Farmer calls Monsanto threat a bluff
(March 12, 2001 --Cropchoice news)-- Monsanto is threatening to pull the plug on its wheat research in North Dakota if the legislature approves a moratorium on transgenic wheat. One farmer regards this threat as "hollow."
Japan, Europe and the Middle East, all big U.S. wheat customers, have said they'll take their business elsewhere if Monsanto proceeds with commercialization of its transgenic Roundup Ready wheat. The biotechnology giant designed the variety to resist the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate).
"Their threat that they would not do research in North Dakota is hollow and ridiculous," [North Dakota farmer Todd] Leake says. "What they're (Monsanto) trying to do is bluff the legislature, which is not appreciated." ...
So far, rejection, not acceptance, abounds.
Jef Smidts of Andre & CIE Antwerp, a European importer and trader of U.S. wheat, wrote in a letter: "We are absolutely convinced that the European miller will abandon GMO (genetically modified organism) hard red spring wheat...GMO wheat for sure will be a market destructor."
Another letter came from Julian Watson of Rank Hovis, one of the largest EU millers. It said:
"So that you are completely clear on Rank Hovis's policy toward GM wheat. We do not want any level of such grain in our supplies from you. ...
Please advise us of what steps you have taken to ensure that GM wheat is prevented from entering or commingling with wheat in the entire spring wheat supply chain.
You should treat this issue with the utmost gravity and priority given that the alarm generated by even the perception that spring wheat may contain GM traits, could be enough to jeopardize the entire export programme to the EU."
ROCK'S EX-AIDE NOW A LOBBYIST FOR BIOTECH FIRM
March 12, 2001
The Globe and Mail, p. A6
OTTAWA -- A former top aide to Canadian Health Minister Allan Rock has been hired as biotech giant Monsanto's chief lobbyist in Ottawa -- less than two years after he was connected publicly to a controversial decision to approve Monsanto's genetically modified potatoes for sale in Canada.
John Dossetor resigned his position as senior policy adviser to Mr. Rock in late January. Within weeks, he was snapped up by Monsanto to "be responsible for the development and implementation of Monsanto's government affairs strategies in Canada," according to an advertisement the company took out in several newspapers.
The coincidence has health watchdogs wondering about the role he played in 1999, when Monsanto struck the private deal with federal health regulators to ensure swift approval for the sale of two types of its New Leaf potatoes.
March 15, 2001
Scientists: More Research Is Needed
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Scientists advising the government on genetically engineered corn say more research is needed to determine its impact on the environment and assess the health risks of new varieties of the grain.
The corn, known as Bt for a bacterium gene it contains, is genetically altered to produce its own pesticide to kill an insect pest. Some research has suggested the corn could be harming an unintended target, Monarch butterflies, in farmers' fields.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which released a report Thursday by the scientific advisers, is considering whether to renew registrations for gene-altered varieties of corn and cotton....
In a section of the report that could pose problems for companies developing new varieties of biotech corn, the scientists said there was ``no data or criteria'' to make ``absolute'' assessments of the potential of new corn proteins to cause allergic reactions in people.
CANADA CONFISCATES GM CORN AT BORDER
March 15, 2001 Reuters
OTTAWA - Canada, according to this story, quickly confiscated two corn shipments from the United States that were found to contain the Starlink gene -- which is not registered for human or animal consumption in Canada.
Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief was quoted as telling reporters on Thursday "It did not go into the food system," and that Canadian authorities sought out the genetically modified corn after it was discovered in food in the United States this week.
That genetically modified corn brand has not been registered for use in Canada. Starlink was engineered by life sciences firm Aventis SA . Vanclief was further cited as saying that one shipment was removed immediately while the other had to be traced and then withdrawn. He did not specify the sizes of the shipments.
Friday March 16, 1:01 pm Eastern Time
The minister, who said there was a "slim chance'' the corn had entered the human food chain, has provided few details about the quantity of corn, or how or where it entered Canada.
Canada says banned GM corn mistakenly fed to animals
OTTAWA, March 16 (Reuters) - Canada's agriculture minister, already under pressure from protesting cash-strapped farmers and worried about foot-and-mouth disease spreading from Europe, admitted on Friday that genetically modified corn containing the Starlink gene -- not approved for use in Canada -- was accidentally fed to animals.
"Some of it did get into the animal feed system,'' Lyle Vanclief told the House of Commons in response to questions from opposition members about how two shipments of the corn entered Canada from the United States this week.
Vanclief's admission was a reversal of previous statements that one shipment was removed immediately and the second was traced and withdrawn.
The minister, who said there was a "slim chance'' the corn had entered the human food chain, has provided few details about the quantity of corn, or how or where it entered Canada. But an opposition member said the corn entered Canada at the port of Montreal.
Saturday, Mar. 17, 2001
"That's a whole series of steps that were violated which shows the controls of the (Canadian Food Inspection) Agency don't work," said Bigras. "It cannot guarantee that the law... is respected. It's very worrisome."
March 16, 2001
Illegal biotech corn slipped across border at Montreal, minister admits
OTTAWA (CP) -- A day after saying federal inspectors recalled an illegal shipment of
genetically modified corn, the agriculture minister admitted Friday some infiltrated the Canadian feed supply, though not human food. ...
Concern about the case centres mainly on the fact that a genetically altered product not approved for use in Canada went undetected until alarms were sounded in the United States.
"How can you explain that contaminated grain including pesticide should enter the port of Montreal, be delivered to a Canadian enterprise and eaten by livestock?" Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras asked outside the House. The shipment actually went through Quebec City. "That's a whole series of steps that were violated which shows the controls of the (Canadian Food Inspection) Agency don't work," said Bigras. "It cannot guarantee that the law ... is respected. It's very worrisome."
Starbucks Day of Action March 20th, in a city near you!
Please forward, Please Distribute.
Organic Consumers Association along with other Fair Trade, environmental, and food safety activists are gearing up for a worldwide campaign focused on Starbucks. On Tuesday March 20, 2001 (the date of Starbucks annual shareholder meeting in Seattle), activists will be organizing leafleting and media events in front of Starbucks in over 100 cities.
Sunday March 18, 1:17 am Eastern Time
Starlink bio-corn said to be in 430 mln bushels
WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) - More than 430 million bushels of corn in storage nationwide contain some of the genetically engineered Starlink variety that prompted a massive recall of corn products last fall, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, quoting the company that made Starlink.
The paper said John Wichtrich, general manager for Aventis Cropscience, a unit of the Franco-German pharmaceutical group Aventis SA, would make the announcement in a speech to the North American Millers Association in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday.
Wichtrich's estimate greatly increases estimates of the amount of corn that was inadvertently mixed with the engineered variety, which is not approved for human consumption.
The affected corn -- more than 4 percent of the 1999 U.S. corn production -- will have to be routed to animal feed and ethanol production, the Post said.
AGENCY MAY BE TOO COSY WITH INDUSTRY IT MONITORS
March 13, 2001
The Ottawa Citizen p. A12
The latest auditor general's report hints the Canadian Food Inspection Agency may be a bit too cosy with the industry it's supposed to be watching over.
... In January, an expert panel on the future of biotechnology from the Royal Society of Canada, a national body of senior Canadian scientists and scholars, recommended "Canadian regulatory agencies and officials exercise great care to maintain an objective and neutral stance with respect to the public debate about the risks and benefits of biotechnology in their public statements and interpretations of the regulatory process.'' A member of the panel said the fact that the agency -- and Health Canada -- is both regulating and promoting the industry is a conflict of interest, giving the appearance of being "more closely allied with the industry interest than with the public good.'
Kellogg Unit Recalling Tainted Corn Dogs
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON, March 13 - A vegetarian-foods subsidiary of the Kellogg Company recalled its meatless corn dogs today after its tests confirmed that some products contained a genetically engineered corn that is not approved for human consumption.
THINK GLOBAL, EAT LOCAL, SAYS GERMAN FARM MINISTER
March 15, 2001
HAMBURG - German farm minister Renate Kuenast was cited as saying in a newspaper article on the World Consumer Rights Day on Thursday that Europe must protect itself from the threat of genetically modified crops coming from the United States, adding, "While the U.S. grows genetically modified crops on near 30 million hectares, uses artificial hormones in cattle feed and performance-boosters in milk output, we in Europe oppose these on grounds of preventive consumer protection."
THAILAND MULLS GMO LABELING TO PROTECT CONSUMERS - REPORT March 15, 2001
Dow Jones Newswires
BANGKOK -- Thailand`s Commerce Ministry plans, according to this story, to introduce compulsory labeling of all edible goods sold in the domestic market having contents linked to genetically modified organisms, a local Thai-language newspaper, the Manager, said in its Thursday edition.
BRAZIL TO EXPORT CORN
By Randy Fabi
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Agriculture Department was cited as saying on Friday Brazil was expected to become a net corn exporter for the first time since 1982 as foreign buyers turn their backs on the United States amid the StarLink bio-corn controversy.
The Western Producer
March 1, 2001
Funding creates bias, warns scientist
By Barry Wilson
Michelle Brill-Edwards, a senior Health Canada scientist who quit because of what she saw as growing corporate influence, likes to tell the story of a former government boss who resisted temptation.
One year, just before Christmas, this senior drug regulator received a case of scotch from a company that regularly submitted products to be evaluated.
His staff expected an angry explosion, since the boss was a teetotaling bishop in the Mormon church. Instead, he sent out the order to send the case back with a note.
"As a gift, this is far too much," it said. "As a bribe, it is far too little."
Brill-Edwards used the anecdote Feb. 16 to warn a conference on genetically engineered foods that increasing corporate funding of research can compromise scientific inquiry.
"Funding skews the questions scientists ask," she said. Also, government regulators know that industries are partners or clients, rather than arms-length business interests.
"We have demoralized our regulators," she said. "Rules put in place to protect people now are denounced as red tape."
Speakers at the conference noted that in recent years, the federal government has tied public research funds to corporate funds through the Matching Investment Initiative. And increasingly, corporations also fund university research and purchase equipment.
Critics say this allows companies with a stake in the commercial success of their products to set the research agenda. Corporate co-funding means few scientists will receive money to pursue investigations that could undermine the market credibility of products.
Brill-Edwards said she was not suggesting that scientists or regulators are corrupt, but money and favors can create a bias.
"I am not talking about conscious dishonesty," she said. "We are talking about bias and it is often unconscious."
Arpad Pusztai is a respected Scottish researcher who lost a job and faced attacks on his credibility after a study raised questions about genetically modified foods.
He told the conference he suffered for breaking the veil of secrecy. He said he had no choice, when rats fed GM potatoes appeared to have a different reaction than did rats fed traditional potatoes.
"I said we should not use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs. Guinea pigs should be confined to cages."
He said scientists have an obligation to educate the public and to conduct independent research that is funded by public money with no ties.
"We must release scientists from the servitude to big business and state interests."
March 3, 2001
This story asks, is the biotech industry trying to silence one of its outspoken critics?
Supporters of the biotech industry have accused an American scientist of misconduct after she testified to the New Zealand government that a genetically modified bacterium could wreak havoc if released.
The New Zealand Life Sciences Network, an association of proGM scientists and organisations, was cited as saying the view expressed by Elaine Ingham, a soil biologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, was exaggerated and irresponsible. It has asked her university to discipline her.
But Ingham was cited as saying she stands by her comments and says the complaints are an attempt to silence her, adding, "They're trying to cause trouble with my university and get me fired."
The controversy began on 1st February when Ingham testified before New Zealand's Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which will determine how to regulate GM organisms. Ingham claimed that a GM version of a common soil bacterium called Klebsiella planticola could spread and devastate plants if released into the wild. Other researchers had previously modified the bacterium to produce alcohol form organic waste.
But Ingham says that when she put it in soil with wheat plants, all of the plants died within a week, telling the commission that, "We could lose terrestrial plants this is an organism that is potentially lethal to the continued survival of human beings."
Richard Wolfson, PhD
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