Articles on Genetically Modified Food received from Richard Wolfson, Ph.D. November 26, 2000.




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"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.

Biotech News
By Richard Wolfson, PhD

Reprinted with permission from the December 2000 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition

Triffids- From Fiction to Fact

Alan McHughen, professor and senior research scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, has developed a genetically engineered (GE) flax seed that is almost impossible to kill with herbicides. He has named his creation "the triffid," in reference to John Wyndham's 1953 novel, "The Day of the Triffids."

In the book, the triffid was a terrifying flesh eating plant that was almost impossible to kill.  Prairie farmers have already reported that herbicide resistant plants are spreading like wildfire, creating problems for farmers.

No Frankenfries Please

Cavendish Farms, which manufactures French fries on PEI, is no longer accepting genetically engineered potatoes. The company, owned by the Irving family of New Brunswick, is responding to concerns by the public and retail food chains. McCain's, PEI's other large processing plant, is also not accepting GE potatoes.

Contamination in Australia

Monsanto recently admitted that many tonnes of GE cotton seed had inadvertently been mixed with non-GM seed and released on the Australian market. The company said they had no way of know where it had ended up, and conjectured that it could have entered the food chain as cattle feed.

FOX-TV Loses Lawsuit

A Tampa jury recently returned a verdict on the lawsuit against FOX-TX for firing reporters after they refused to alter a story on genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH). The jury awarded investigative reporter Jane Akre $450,000 in damages. The jury concluded that she was fired from her job at FOX affiliate WTVT in Tampa for threatening to report to the Federal Communications Commission that the station wanted her to broadcast a false and misleading news report about Monsanto's rBGH.

Monarch Research Replicated

Iowa State University scientists recently replicated research showing that monarch butterflies die after eating pollen from genetically engineered Bt corn. Cornell scientists who came to the same finding several months ago were criticized by biotech advocates.

However, both sets of researchers have now shown that the Bt corn, which is genetically engineered to contain a toxin to kill insect pests, can also kill monarch butterflies.

In the fields, pollen from the Bt crops would naturally spread to adjoining milkweed plants, which the monarch larvae eat. More than half of the larvae died after eating Bt pollen.

Bunnies Impervious to Disease

Researchers in Spain have created a genetically modified virus that acts on rabbits like a vaccine. The virus can spread from rabbit to rabbit, making the rabbits immune to two major diseases. Some scientists are concerned, since in areas where rabbits are spreading wildly, diseases are one of the only factors limiting the population size. In the UK, rabbits cause up to 100 million worth of damage annually.

Biotech Crops Threaten Skylarks

A recent study in UK, published in Science, reports that genetically engineered herbicide-resistant crops could reduce the skylark population by up to 90 percent.

Herbicide resistant GE crops allow farmers to use more powerful herbicides and increased quantities of the chemicals to eliminate weeds. As a result, the skylark would lose its main food source, seeds from weeds.

"Eliminate Terminator" Outcry

Eleven members of the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have sent a strong letter to the government asking it to pull out of "Terminator  Technology."

The USDA and industry together own the patent on terminator, a genetic technology that causes plants to produce sterile seeds, so that farmers are forced to buy new seeds every year.

"Terminator technology has only one primary purpose - to allow private companies to exert greater control over the seed markets and extract more income from farmers forced to buy their products on an annual basis," wrote the eleven members of the 38 member panel.

Check Your Seed Pack

When legume seeds are sold to farmers, the seeds can come pre-inoculated with bacteria (Rhizobium ) that are meant to help nitrogen uptake in the soil. Farmers should be wary of these inoculants, because some of them are genetically engineered. Some organic farmers have  lost certification on fields planted with seed that came pre-inoculated with GE bacteria.

Manipulated Vitamin C

A large percentage vitamin C in North America is derived from GE Corn. Consumers are encouraged to contact manufactures and tell them this is not acceptable.

Promoter Gene Problem

Most genetically engineered crops on the market contain a "promoter gene." The promoter gene is used to "switch on" the herbicide-tolerance gene, the Bt gene, or other foreign genes inserted into the plant. The promoter gene (technically called the 355 promoter gene) is derived from the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), a plant virus.

Biotech advocates have claimed that the inserted 355 promoter gene had been 'tamed' from the original CaMV virus, and would not interfere with activity in the cell. However, new research in Britain shows that infection by an external cauliflower mosaic virus can confuse the 355 promoter gene, so that it interferes with the functioning of other cellular genes.


 November 24, 2000    New York Times

Company Says Tracing Problem Corn May Take Weeks


I t might take weeks to figure out how the insect-killing trait in genetically altered StarLink corn migrated into a variety of corn that was not supposed to be genetically modified, according to the Garst Seed Company, the producer of the corn.

Garst, which announced on Tuesday that it had encountered the biological mystery while testing samples of corn seed marketed as early as 1998, said it might also take weeks to sort out how widespread the problem was and whether any of the corn had made it into the food chain.


November 22, 2000
Cowichan Valley Citizen, p.14

According to this story, Ruth Fenner, Barbara Wallace and Bev Cartwright, members of the South Vancouver Island Women's Institute Committee on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), attended "big money Bad Science, a citizen's response to biotechnology and genetic engineering,'' Nov. 10 at Vancouver's Vogue Theatre. The story says that the conference was a teachin to provide balanced information about the threats posed by biotechnology and genetic engineering to the environment, public health and sustainability. This is their report on the conference. Speakers for the evening included such noted personages as: Dr. David Suzuki; Dr. Ann Clark, Associate Professor with the University of Guelph; geneticist Dr. Mae Wan Ho; Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians. Presenters and attendees included people from New York, Tennessee, California, Great Britain, Switzerland, Japan and all points in British Columbia.


1. "Frankenfood''
Speakers stressed the hazards connected with genetically engineered (GE) food production: Nothing in GE food for consumers, except the risks there are marketing problems for farmers' as more countries choose not to buy them. GE crops produce lower dollar returns than do conventional crops. A quote from these speakers was: "We need to get back to the way things were without going back to the way things were.''

2. "The Patenting of Life''
There is great concern about the ethics of taking DNA from indigenous people without their consent and with no controls, no feed back. An American indigenous woman speaking on this subject said, "Scientists working on this project want to tell us who we are, where we can from, who we are related to, and at the same time ignore our customs, religion and culture.'' Much debate is underway concerning Plant Breeders Rights vs GE patents.

3. "For Whose Benefit? Bio Medical Research:'' Our future holds the production of designer babies through gene bank materials. A Professor of Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland, and an expert in diabetes spoke on the hazards of the new "human'' (GE) insulin which is rapidly replacing the  beef/porcine insulin. The new insulin has been proven to be deadly for some patients.

4. "Science and the Public Interest:''
A scientist with a PhD in genetics, speaking on GE food concerns: Human foods containing vaccines could lead to overdoses. The serious threat to our food supply through monocultures (ie: the Irish Potato famine) Quote: "GE crops should never have been let out of the labs!'' A plant geneticist from California stressed the need to implement the Precautionary Principle (We sent a copy of this to each District last year). A Canadian doctor spoke on the history and current application of patenting. There is now a way of splicing genes without using a antibiotic resistance marker gene; but corporations are not using it, since it is more costly to change from the current method.

5. "Tricks of the Trade.''
Representatives from seven areas of the Canadian Federal Government, including CIDA, Agriculture Canada, Health Canada and Environment Canada are involved with Biotech Canada to the tune of $6 million of our tax dollars. One speaker showed us how the media is distorting the GE information and indicated we should not believe anything related to GE that is printed in Canadian Living magazine. Simon Fraser University Professor Donald Gutstein told us the world's single largest financer of biotech is the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The major corporations are now working surreptitiously in various countries including India, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan to gain control of their water supply. What is happening in Canada?

6. "Genetically Engineering Democracy:'' An American speaker commented on the Bio Safety Protocol which was drafted last fall in Montreal. He says it is well done, and was only so because people got out and demonstrated and demanded stronger measures. 43 countries have signed, but Canada has not. There will be an opportunity for a Canadian signature in December 2000, hopefully our citizens will pressure their MPs on this issue.

7. "Sowing the Seeds of Empowerment:''
Everyone is involved in the problem  and should be involved in the solution. Take direct action: ie: hand out leaflets at local stores.  Take political action: ie: contact your local MP, phone retail head offices 1800 numbers Retail action: Ask "does this have GE components?'' If the answer is `yes' or `I/we don't know', say "Then I don't want it!'' And put it back on the shelf!


There has been a lot of coverage of European concern over Canadian meat products, because they are laced with hormones linked to cancer, and other problems. This is not just a genetic issue, but I am including this article because there is so much press on this right now.  Richard


Montreal Gazette
Friday 24 November 2000

Something to chew on Monday
Liberals might have endangered our health with lax meat inspections


Some groups of young anarchists across the country advocate eating your ballot on Monday. I'm skeptical of the nutritional value our votes might have, but they might be safer than the meat products the Canadian government has been approving for our consumption.

A potentially explosive European Union audit that surfaced this week concludes "that at present, Canada does not meet core elements of the EU food safety requirements." The report, based on laboratory and farm inspections in September, might lead to a ban on Canadian meat products in Europe because we can't guarantee the meat to be hormone free, despite our promises after an earlier audit in 1998. More importantly, it calls into question our own safety since the Liberals began the wholesale offloading of monitoring responsibilities to the meat industry.

It's a complicated issue, not given to the facile demagoguery displayed by all parties over the last month. But it goes to the heart of the neoliberal philosophy that has captured the federal government and compromised the independence and credibility of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

As the EU audit notes, Canada has no legal provision for mandatory drug residue testing of food animals. CFIA laboratories don't even test on a voluntary basis for 90 per cent of the substances listed in the Codex Alimentarius. We also allow the sale of many carcinogenic hormones that are banned in the EU.

Said the report: "Taking into account the free availability of veterinary drugs and medicating feed ingredients, including those having a carcinogenic and/or mutagenic potential and being banned in the EU for use in food producing animals, there is a clear potential for adverse effects on human health arising from the presence of residues of these substances in Canadian food commodities of animal origin."

The federal response was to bury its head in the sand. "There has never been any scientific proof of any danger," Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief said Monday.

Vanclief is obviously not listening to the government's own scientists. "That makes no sense to me at all," says Shiv Chopra, a scientist with Health Canada for 32 years, the last 13 in the Human Safety Division of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs. "If we're not looking for (any dangers), how can he say there is no problem?"

Chopra has long criticized the widespread use of hormones and antibiotics in the livestock industry. Deputy Health Minister David Dodge even imposed a gag on Chopra last year, forbidding him from speaking on health and testing matters. Chopra fought and won  in Federal Court for his right to free speech in what amounted to a disturbing coverup of the government's failure to properly monitor and protect our food supply.

In a phone interview from his Ottawa home, Chopra said the uncontrolled use of growth hormones is "dangerous because they can produce cancer. They produce other hormones. They produce tissue growths. One thing leads to another."

The drugs are strongly suspected of causing the early onset of puberty, he said. "Girls mature too fast and develop breasts earlier. The sperm count in boys is dropping. There is endocrine disruption in people. All these things are happening in the ecosystem. It's a whole, interdependent organism. You can't be a vegetarian and say, 'I'm safe.' You're not, because it's now coming via the ecosystem into the plants."

Chopra himself refuses to establish standards for acceptable hormone levels as his superiors have been demanding because he can't say there is any safe level.

The use of antibiotics is equally chilling. Drugs such as carbadox are fed to animals in such quantities that bacterial organisms in their digestive tract have become resistant and are being passed on to people, Chopra said.

"You have a situation of uncontrollable infections. You go to the hospital to have your appendix out but catch an infection that is resistant to antibiotics and you die. Once the organisms become resistant, because they interbreed, they transfer that resistance to other organisms."

It's a nightmare scenario that might be easily dismissed if it wasn't coming from many of our government's top scientists. In the past, they have repeatedly complained about pressure by upper management to approve drugs, particularly RevalorH, a hormone compound that was okayed in 1997 over their warnings.

Chopra blames corporate pressure. "These multinational companies work on big governments," he said bluntly. "Governments have been listening to their lobby that they are going to control all of the world's business through the WTO. The sovereign food and drug regulations don't matter."

Indeed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency now functions as a marketing tool for huge biotech and agriculture companies. But as the EU audit reported, CFIA labs show "serious deficiencies" in their drugresidue control program, which "is more or less nonoperational since December 1999."

It's part of the Liberal food deregulation policy that inconveniently contravenes the Canadian Food Safety and Inspection Act. The Liberals let Bill C80, which would enshrine the policy, die when the election was called. But they likely will resurrect the legislation if they win a majority.

I know the vast majority of The Gazette's readers intend to vote Liberal on Monday, but this issue should give them pause in their reflection on whether a Liberal majority is a desirable result. The longterm health of Canadians is far more important than Jean Chretien's egomaniacal desire for a third consecutive majority, or, dare I say it, the threat of separation. And in this case, eating your ballot could lead to serious indigestion.

Lyle Stewart is a Montreal writer. His Email is


European Commission Audit of the CFIA

European Commission Scientific Assessment of Potential Risk to Humans

CHC letter to the Party Leaders:

Globe and Mail Lead Editorial (Nov.22)

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign
for Mandatory labelling and long-term
testing of genetically engineered food
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.




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