"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.|
Tuesday November 21, 5:09 pm Eastern Time
Farm groups want Aventis held liable for bio-corn
By Julie Vorman
WASHINGTON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A grassroots coalition of farmers worried about the costs of StarLink corn contamination said Tuesday it wants state attorneys general to push for legislation to make seed companies liable for any financial losses from gene-altered crops.
The newly formed Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering said it also wanted state officials to investigate whether Aventis SA (NYSE:AVE - news) and other seed companies have adequate segregation procedures in place for biotech crops as they move from farm fields to grain elevators to rail or barge cars.
The coalition includes the American Corn Growers Association, the National Family Farm Coalition, the Institute for Agricultural Trade Policy and two dozen other groups which oppose biotech crops.
Nov 21, 2000 EST
Legal issues of biotech questioned
Selected by Pro Farmer Editors
November 21, 2000
WASHINGTON -- Family farm groups participating in the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering are calling on their state Attorneys General, who are on the front line of the GE debate, to fill a policy vacuum caused by national inaction. Farmers point to StarLink as a prime example of how our current regulatory segregation and marketing systems are not able to deal with the complex issues that genetic engineering pose.
"While USDA has aggressively promoted biotechnology in agriculture, they have done virtually nothing to address farmer liability issues or to ensure that farmers are adequately protected under current industry contracts" said Bill Christison, a Missouri farmer and president of the National Family Farm Coalition. "Farmers are rapidly losing valuable export markets because of the challenges imposed on farmers by the entire biotech industry." Speaking for the Farmer to Farmer Campaign, Christison said Attorneys General need to move beyond responding to crises such as the Starlink debacle and initiate long- term actions to create farmer protection for liability.
Participating grassroots organizations in eight key farm states are calling on their Attorneys General to promote possible legislation to place liability on companies that develop and patent genetically engineered seeds. Farmers will also ask the Attorneys General to investigate the marketing of genetically engineered seeds and the rapid corporate concentration of seed companies and suppliers.
"The full extent of farmers' legal liability resulting from growing and marketing GMO crops is unclear. What is clear is that farmers may face substantial liability for violations of GMO contracts, contamination of neighbors' crops, or infringement of the companies' patents," said Lynn Hayes, an attorney with the Farmers Legal Action Group. "Before planting GMO crops farmers should fully understand their responsibilities and evaluate the risks of potential liability."
Organizations working in collaboration on the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign are asking state Attorneys General to:
* Issue Attorneys General Opinions on the extent to which farmers and/or seed companies are liable for damages caused by GMO contamination of non-GMO crops; failure to segregate GMO crops; GMO contract violations; and patent, licensing, and registration infringements.
* To support legislation that places liability on companies who develop and manufacture GMO seeds for all economic and environmental damages caused by these products.
* To investigate GMO marketing practices in their states to determine whether farmers are properly advised of the liability risks and their responsibilities associated with growing GMO crops, and the adequacy of segregation procedures at all stages of the marketing chain to ensure compliance with requirements for the various domestic and export markets.
* To participate in meetings with farmers to inform them of the legal issues related to production and marketing of GMO crops.
* To investigate whether companies developing, manufacturing, and marketing GMOs are violating antitrust laws and issue a legal analysis of the impacts of concentration.
Farm groups participating in this multi-state strategy are members of the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture, a collaborative effort among family farm organizations to promote the farmer perspective on genetic engineering. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the Farmer's Declaration on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture. For the past year, farm groups have been expanding the farmer voice on genetic engineering.
CONTACT: Ariane Kissam, 202-543-5675 or Mark Smith, 617-354-2922, both of the Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering
El Salvador bans import of Star Link corn products
SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador has prohibited the import and sale of some 75 products containing genetically altered corn and related to the Star Link brand, government spokesman Antonio Mendez said Saturday.
According Mendez, who is in charge of the government's consumer protection unit, the products have already been prohibited in the United States following studies that they could be harmful to humans.
The Economist, 18 November, 2000, P125
Life Sciences: Green and Dying
The latest trend in genetic engineering is to 'abandon ship', so to speak.
This week Aventis, a Franco-German drug company responsible for the Starlink debacle and extensive mismanaged canola releases in Australia, announced it will sell its agricultural business by the end of next year. Its seed business shrank by 1.4% to Ecus 3.5 billion this year. A contributing factor was the European backlash against genetically engineered foods.
Other nervous companies include AstraZeneca and Novartis, which agreed to merge their agribusiness last year. Their bio-tech baby Syngenta was a stockmarket flop, capitalising at just over half of the expected $10 billion when it was floated on November 13.
GE drug company Pharmacia bought the infamous bio-tech food group Monsanto, and is now expected to sell it within two years. Smaller company DuPont is also expected to sell its GE drug-making business, as is German company BASF who's drug division is small and unsuccessful.
Bayer is the only company soldiering on with both GE agricultural and drug divisions, as the farm side is more profitable than its pharmaceuticals.
Tuesday November 21, 5:59 pm Eastern Time
StarLink protein appears in new corn seed
NEW YORK, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Aventis CropScience on Tuesday said the protein Cry9C has turned up in corn other than StarLink, indicating that the bio-engineered corn seed may have spread further than previously reported.
The presence of the protein was thought to have been limited to Starlink, which has sparked concern since its appearance in food for human consumption.
Aventis CropScience, a unit of the French Aventis SA (NYSE:AVE - news), said in a statement the corn seed showing a presence of Cry9C was produced by Garst Seed Co., of Iowa.
Garst confirmed the finding in a separate statement, saying the protein appeared in a corn hybrid produced in 1998. Tests of the hybrid produced in 1999 and 2000 have yet to show traces of Cry9C.
Aventis said it does not know how the protein came to be present in a variety other than StarLink.
STARLINK: Japan, US finalize protocol on US food corn shipment
November 22, 2000
By Yuji Okada, BridgeNews
Tokyo--Nov. 21--Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday finalized the protocol to inspect all Japan-bound food-grade corn shipment for the presence of genetically-modified StarLink corn, a U.S. embassy official told a briefing. This follows a "general" agreement both governments reached two weeks ago after the discovery of StarLink traces in a locally-made cornmeal baking mix slowed Japanese buying of U.S. corn.
* * *
"All the details (of the food corn test protocol) have been worked out," said the agriculture official with the U.S. embassy, adding that the discussion had continued for two weeks between the Japanese health ministry and USDA.
According to the final protocol, three sub-sample test portions of no fewer than 400 kernels each will be taken during barge and railcar loading at interior shipping points in the United States.
The samples will then be tested using lateral flow methodology, which is capable of detecting the Cry9C protein found in StarLink at a level of 0.25%, or 1 kernel in 400, he said.
These interior samplings and testing services will be conducted either by USDA or in accordance with procedures laid down by USDA.
Under the final agreement, USDA will randomly select samples to be sent to Japan's health ministry in order to confirm the consistency of test results provided by the U.S. government.
Here is a biopiracy article posted by RBBAX@aol.com:
11/22/00 AUSTRALIA: BIOTECH FIRM BUYS TONGA'S GENE POOL.
By VANESSA WILLIAMS in Melbourne.
AN AUSTRALIAN biotech company headed by Melbourne Football Club president Joseph Gutnick has secured exclusive rights to the entire gene pool of the people of Tonga. Autogen Limited will use the genetically unique DNA of Tongans in its hunt for drugs to treat diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancers and ulcers.
The research, based on finding links between diseases and particular genes, could make the company hundreds of millions of dollars if it led to drugs being commercialised.
The collaboration is the second of its kind in the world, following the licensing of the genes of Iceland's population to an international consortium including German pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche. Autogen is also negotiating the same deal with other Pacific nations in a move that could make it the only company allowed to perform genetic studies on the entire Polynesian race.
But it is claimed the Tongans, who number 110,000, have not been told of the deal which was signed last week. Mr Gutnick is Autogen's chairman and managing director.
Wednesday November 22, 10:49 am Eastern Time
Corn leaving bad taste in world markets as GMO worries build
By Steve James
NEW YORK, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Corn, as American as apple pie, is leaving a bad taste in many countries and opening up a new front in the war over so-called Frankenstein food.
The discovery in September that many brands of taco shells and chips contained StarLink, a biotech variety of corn, or maize, that had not been approved for human consumption, is hurting U.S. corn exports to big buyers like Japan and South Korea. The announcement Tuesday that StarLink's genetically modified protein had turned up in another variety of corn has heightened concern that bioengineered corn is spreading.
While Midwest farmers may rejoice that corn chips and tortillas are becoming the snack of choice in many countries, they are also concerned that corn is at the heart of an uproar in Europe and Asia over genetically modified food.
"It's an issue that has caused concern among some of our importers,'' U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said last week. But he declined to say if Washington will have to trim corn exports this year due to the StarLink controversy.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Japanese Health Ministry finalized an agreement for testing American corn shipped to Japan as food, to ensure it does not contain the StarLink strain of grain.
But traders in Tokyo said on Wednesday the discovery that StarLink's Cry9C protein had spread to another variety of corn only deepened doubts that U.S. corn can be kept free of genetic modification. ...
The biological makeup of corn also carries a higher risk of accidental cross-pollination and lack of storage control makes it easier for GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, to find their way into the human food chain, the experts say.
Wednesday November 22, 3:24 pm Eastern Time
Disaster Of The Day: Aventis Corn Monster By Matthew Herper
Take or leave previous comparisons between genetically-modified foods and Frankenstein. But Aventis CropScience certainly must feel like it accidentally created a monster with its insect-resistant biotech corn, StarLink. The StarLink corn, like any good monster, seems impossible to control.
Now the gene that makes the corn insect-resistant is turning up in non-StarLink seeds. This after parent company Aventis (NYSE: AVE - news), based in France, announced last week that it wants cast off the Research Triangle Park, N.C., Cropscience division.
"It's just more negative news regarding the whole genetically-modified crop situation,'' says Chase H&Q analyst Frank Mitsch. "It's not terribly surprising that you would see some cross-pollination going on between seeds. That's how you end up with hybrids in the first place.''
The StarLink corn, which is genetically engineered to produce a natural insecticide called Bt, led to a spate of food recalls when it wound up in corn supplies earlier this year. Unlike other Bt corn, StarLink is not approved for human consumption by the government because there is a slight chance that some people may be allergic to the insect-killing protein it contains, called CRY9C.
The CRY9C protein is showing up in foods that it wasn't supposed to be in and in seeds that never bore the StarLink name. Aventis' own tests found the protein in seeds made by Iowa's Garst Seed Company. This not only means that the StarLink brand corn is mixing with human food, but that the genes that make the corn insect resistant spread into another variety of corn seed at least once.
Corn seed distributors like Garst were supposed to follow stringent standards to ensure that only StarLink corn would contain the gene. It is not known how the gene wound up in non-StarLink Garst seed. "We're not speculating at this point,'' says Jeff Lacina, public relations manager at Garst Seed.
Part of the problem, according to Margaret Smith, an associate professor of plant genetics at Cornell University, is that small amounts of genetic contamination that wouldn't normally matter are suddenly considered very important when the contaminant is genetically modified. Current buffers between fields, she says, could not ensure that there would be absolutely no contamination.
"If there's one plant that's got a slightly different pollen that blew in,'' says Smith, ``that's normally not going to be very detectible. Our ability to detect contamination with a genetically-engineered gene has outstripped our ability to know what that contamination means.''
Mitsch believes that agricultural companies like Aventis are capable of controlling the genes they sell. "Clearly,'' Mitsch says, "the industry will work toward policing themselves if they are not policed by regulatory agencies. And clearly the public will have something to say about this if they don't want genetically-modified foods in the food chain.''
The biggest losers might not be large agricultural companies but small organic farmers. If pollen carrying genetically-modified genes mixes with an organic farmer's crop, his corn can no longer be sold to organic distributors. "We've been extremely concerned about pollen drift and unintended contamination,'' says Robert Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
Aventis CropScience declined comment.
REGULATIONS INADEQUATE FOR FRANKENFOOD: CRITIC November 22, 2000
The Standard (St. Catharines Niagara)
Local News A7
E. Ann Clark of the University of Guelph was cited as saying during a presentation at St. Catharines Centennial Library Tuesday that government regulation of genetically engineered crops is inadequate and urges consumers to demand organic food. Clark was cited as saying there has never been a full accounting of the harmful side effects to humans, or even a study on genetic pollution in the environment.
Clark was further cited as saying some 65 per cent of the food available on Canadian supermarket shelves has been altered genetically and most consumers aren't aware of it, and that a push by consumer and environmental groups to label foods has been repeatedly thwarted, adding, "We are playing with fire. We are doing stuff that we shouldn't be doing and we haven't got away with it yet.''
Clark relayed the story of StarLink, a genetically altered variety of cow corn. This fall, the corn became an embarrassment to the biotech industry and food manufacturers. Clark was quoted as saying, "It was really a blessing in disguise. It showed what could happen in the future.''
New York Times
November 22, 2000
Baking Items Added to Recall
By DAVID BARBOZA
The Aventis Corporation said yesterday that a genetically altered protein unapproved for human consumption had been discovered in a variety of corn that could be headed toward the nation's food supply.
The announcement came just two months after Aventis acknowledged that StarLink, a variety of corn that contained the same genetically altered protein, had turned up in taco shells on grocery store shelves.
That discovery led Kraft Foods, a division of Philip Morris, to recall millions of taco shells and led to a number of smaller recalls and serious disruptions in the nation's grain supply system.
Aventis, the biotechnology giant that produced the protein, and the Garst Seed Company, which markets the seeds, said yesterday that they did not know why traces of the genetically altered protein had been found in a traditional variety of corn sold by Garst.
The companies also said they did not know whether corn made from those seeds had reached consumers.
But the discovery of the protein in a traditional variety of corn is certain to heighten concerns about the safety of genetically altered crops and the agriculture industry's ability to track the complicated mix of traditional and biotechnology crops from the field to the grocery store.
Tuesday November 21, 9:29 pm Eastern Time
USDA doesn't know how StarLink tainted
(UPDATE: new throughout)
By Julie Vorman
WASHINGTON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - The discovery that StarLink bio-corn contaminated another variety of corn in 1998 may be due to either drifting pollen in the field or careless handling of the seed, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Tuesday.
The worrisome new incident prompted the USDA to call a special meeting on Monday with department scientists, economists, policymakers as well as representatives of the U.S. food and grain industries.
GM Crops Spawn Farmers Coalition
2:00 p.m. Nov. 21, 2000 PST
WASHINGTON -- A grassroots coalition of farmers worried about the costs of StarLink corn contamination said Tuesday it wants state attorneys general to push for legislation to make seed companies liable for any financial losses from gene-altered crops.
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign
for Mandatory labelling and long-term
testing of genetically engineered food
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