June 2, 1999

Subject: FWD Monsanto Vilified in Europe + Spain's Largest Retailer Blocks Biotech Foods + GM items a threat to organic farming + GM "suicide seeds" will force the world into famine + Monsanto in Closed Negotiations with the US Department of Agriculture to Finalize Control of Terminator Technology + PRESS RELEASE FROM GARDENER'S SUPPLY + Health risks of genetically modified foods + WILL GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS MEAN INFECTED FOOD, BODIES, AND ECOSYSTEMS? + SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION + Gene-Altered Corn Pollen Threatens Monarchs

X-URL: http://www.egroups.com/list/graffis-l/
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.vip.vi>
Subject: [graffis-l] Monsanto Vilified in Europe

EarthVision Reports

LONDON, May 12, 1999 Monsanto Co. has become a hated institution in
Europe, where it has come to symbolize the biotechnology movement. An
article appearing in the Wall Street Journal points out that Prince
Charles, Paul McCartney and Member of Parliament Norman Baker have all
singled the company out for public criticism. Moreover, United Kingdom
newspapers commonly refer to it as the "Frankenstein food giant" or
the "biotech bully boy."

All this animosity directed towards genetically engineered foods is
beginning to have an affect on trade between the US and Europe because
a significant percentage of American crops, particularly soybeans, are
now grown from genetically-engineered seed.

According to the report, Monsanto is being singled out for abuse
because it is not proceeding slowly and quietly, as are European
biotechnology companies, such as the Zeneca Group PLC and Novartis AG.
"Monsanto has just made things a lot worse," complains Michael
Pragnell, the head of the agrochemicals division at Zeneca. Monsanto
tried to get these European companies to work with it on a public
relations campaign aimed at convincing European consumers that
biotechnology is safe but Zenaca and Novartis declined to participate.

Julie Shepherd, director of the watchdog group the Consumers
Association, says, "In the States, PR works. Over here, it's seen as a
species of corporate lying."

Monsanto decided to go ahead with the campaign on its own, running a
series of ads in newspapers. The campaign backfired, leading wary
consumers and critics of biotechnology to associate Monsanto's name
with the entire movement.

"Monsanto has helped us enormously with their blundering," said Neal
Verlander of the activist group Friends of the Earth.

However, some in the European press admire Monsanto's up-front way of
addressing the issues. "Zeneca and Novartis have just kept quiet -
that's the European way," said John Vidal of London's Guardian. "I far
prefer the Monsanto way. Their up-frontness is a rather wonderful
thing. The fact that their vision might be warped is another thing,
but it creates a public debate, which we need."



X-URL: http://www.egroups.com/list/graffis-l/
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.vip.vi>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Subject: [graffis-l] Spain's Largest Retailer Blocks Biotech Foods

Environment [19]ENS -- Environment News Service=20

MADRID, Spain, May 11, 1999 (ENS) - Spain's largest supermarket chain,
Pryca, announced Monday that it is phasing out the use of genetically
modified (GM) ingredients in own-brand food products sold in its 58

Genetically modified foodstuffs include some varieties of soy beans,
canola oil, corn, cottonseed oil, potatoes, squash and tomatoes.

Describing the decision as "a response to public fears," a Pryca
spokesperson said that the company had instructed suppliers to stop
using GM ingredients in products which carry the company trademark by
the end of this year.

Carrefour, the supermarket giant which owns the largest shareholding
in Pryca, has already introduced a similar measure in its French

Pryca's decision was described by the Spanish Consumers' Union as "a
marketing exercise" and "ineffective because GM ingredients are so
widespread and difficult to identify."

However, Diego Herranz of the environmental group Ecologists in Action
welcomed the move and said his organisation expected the decision to
cause "a chain reaction against GM ingredients." The group has been
pressing for a similar undertaking from other major Spanish food

Marks and Spencer EspaF1a and Nestlé EspaF1a said that their companies'
policy was neither to sell nor produce foods containing
genetically-modified ingredients.

Spain is the biggest importer of GM soya and the European Union's only
significant producer of GM maize.

Some 19,000 hectares of GM maize (corn) were planted last year,
according to government figures. The upper house of the Spanish
parliament today begins debating a new law on the production and sale
of foods which will include the issue of genetically modified

{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice
for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London.
Email: [21]envdaily@ends.co.uk}

[22]Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.=20
32. http://www.hartcons.com/

Date: Wed, 12 May 1999
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>
Subject: GM items a threat to organic farming

INDEPENDENT (London) May 9

Stop GM Foods - Genetic threat to organic food

By MARIE WOOLF, Political Correspondent

GENETIC contamination of various kinds is inevitable if GM crops are grown
here commercially, according to unpublished research commissioned by

And organic farmers could face ruin if GM crops are allowed to be grown on
a commercial scale in Britain, says the report, now being studied in
Whitehall. It warns that organic crops are certain to be contaminated by
GM plants because their pollen can spread far beyond the boundaries of

The conclusions of the report, written by biotechnology and agriculture
experts at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, have severe implications for
Britain's burgeoning organic food sector.

Organic food is defined as being "pesticide and additive free" in Britain
and any kind of genetic engineering is banned by the Soil Association,
which regulates organic farming.

The report says organic farmers should set standards for acceptable levels
of pollution by GM plants and that a system for checking for contamination
should be put in place.

"Neither source of contamination, either pollen or seed, can be entirely
eliminated, so acceptable levels have to be decided on," says the report.

But organic farmers say that the report supports their view that GM crops
pose a serious threat to their livelihoods. They argue that consumer
confidence in organic food would inevitably be undermined if even limited
contamination was tolerated.

The report, Organic Farming and Gene Transfer from Genetically Modified
Crops, examined data from trials of GM crops to see whether the proposed
"buffer zones" between fields of GM and organic crops would protect them
from contamination.

It asserts that the proposed barriers around ordinary crops could result
in up to one per cent of organic plants becoming GM hybrids.

The Soil Association has said that a six-mile barrier is the minimum
guarantee that organic crops are not tainted.

"We are determined to maintain the purity of organic crops in the UK and
this is why we have set ourselves against GM," said Richard Young of the
Soil Association. "The boundaries between GM crops are totally inadequate
to protect organic farmers from GM crops. We are about sustainable
agriculture working in harmony with nature - not altering it for a
quick-fix solution."

GM pollen can travel large distances on the wind, and is also carried by
bees. GM seeds can also fall off trucks and farm machinery during
transport or be left in the ground, leading to the growth of stray plants.

Ministers have promised to protect Britain's growing organic farming
sector from the threat from GM crops. But environmentalists say that
organic farmers are being betrayed.

"The Government seems to be about to renege on its promise to protect the
organic farmer from genetic pollution," said Pete Riley of Friends of the
Earth. "Non-organic farmers hoping to get into the expanding GM free
market are also vulnerable to this type of contamination. with organic
produce no level of GM contamination is acceptable."

X-URL: http://www.egroups.com/list/graffis-l/
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 14:22:14 -0400 (AST)
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.vip.vi>
Subject: [graffis-l] GM "suicide seeds" will force the world into famine

Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 10:30:47 -0500 (CDT)
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>

Christian Aid demands a five-year freeze on technology and calls for block
on 'suicide seeds'


GUARDIAN (London) Monday May 10, 1999

Genetically modified food: recent reports, links and background The
introduction of genetically modified crops to the world's poorest
countries could lead to famine instead of feeding more than 800m hungry
people worldwide, says Christian Aid.

In a major report today the charity argues that GM crops are 'irrelevant'
to ending world hunger, will concentrate power in too few hands and will
strip small farmers of their independence.

It also condemns 'suicide seeds' that contain a terminator gene which
makes the next generation of seeds sterile, forcing farmers to buy new
seed every year. Currently, 80% of crops in the developing world are from
saved seed. Christian Aid says the consequences of such massive influence
on the world food supply could be one of the most serious developments in

It says: 'GM crops are . . . creating classic preconditions for hunger and
famine. A food supply based on too few varieties of patented crops are the
worst option for food security. More dependence and marginalisation loom
for the poorest.'

The report, which used research in Brazil, India and Ethiopia, is a major
challenge to the life sciences industry, led by a handful of giant
chemical and agri-business firms.

Companies like Monsanto, Novartis and the British corporation Zeneca argue
that GM technology will play a major role in ending hunger. None was
available for comment yesterday.

GM crops of soya, maize, tobacco and cotton are grown widely in the US,
China, Argentina and Canada. But the report says the market will move
south where more than 50 other crops are being tested in more than 30
developing countries.

Predictions by the Rural Advancement Foundation International, a Canadian
agricultural research group, says GM crops will jump from less than 20m
hectares (50m acres) today to more 800m hectares by 2002. More than 600m
hectares will be in poor countries.

The report says the major corporations are moving swiftly into developing
countries. In Brazil, Monsanto has spent more than $1bn in buying seed
companies and plans a $550m factory to produce pesticide compatible with
its GM soya crops.

In India it has big holdings in the country's largest seed company and
invested more than $20m in the country's leading science institution. It
has also paid more than $1bn for the international seed operations of
Cargill, the world's largest private grain sales company.

The big five GM corporations have patents in more than 90 countries on
different versions of terminator technology. The US department of
agriculture has a 5% share in one version of the terminator gene, and
predicts that 'it will be so widely adopted that farmers will only be able
to buy seeds that cannot be re-germinated'. There have been riots and crop
burnings in Brazil and India.

Christian Aid says that large farmers are the only ones to benefit from GM
technology. Indian research showed that land reform and simple irrigation
can boost crops by 50%, against 10% increases from GM crops. Christian Aid
called for a five-year freeze on GM crops and for new resources to be put
into sustainable and organic farming.

MONSANTO Terminator Seeds
Monsanto in Closed Negotiations with the US Department of Agriculture to
Finalize Control of Terminator Technology

Monsanto is moving swiftly to finalize its control over the Terminator
technology. The company may extract an exclusive license from the US
Department of Agriculture (USDA) within weeks. RAFI is initiating an
urgent internet-based international campaign to stop the USDA - Monsanto
negotiations before it's too late. A special WWW page has been set up at
http://www.rafi.org/usda.html to enable anyone with internet access to send
a customized message to the USDA asking it to cease negotiations and bury
this anti-farmer, anti-biodiversity technology. Additional contact details are
provided below.

A Monsanto subsidiary, Delta & Pine Land (D&PL), is currently negotiating
with the USDA to exclusively license the US Government's interest in the
controversial Terminator technology patent, a genetic technique that
renders farm-saved seed sterile. The seed-sterilizing technology - developed with US taxpayer dollars - will prevent farmers from saving seed from their
harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial seed market every year.

The Terminator patent (US # 5,723,765) is jointly owned by D&PL and the
USDA. Under US law, since D&PL worked with USDA to develop the technology, the
company has the option to negotiate an exclusive license. Hoping to find a
gullible international public, Monsanto's PR machine in Brussels, New
Delhi, Harare, St. Louis, and points in between, are massaging jittery governments and publicly trying to distance the company from the Terminator technology by referring to it as "conceptual" and "not yet proven." But the company's move to negotiate an exclusive license with USDA confirms that Monsanto is eager to commercialize Terminator seeds.

Despite international controversy boiling over in at least two UN agencies,
rather than engage in public dialog, a leaked internal memo by Deputy
Administrator K. Darwin Murrell reveals that USDA hopes to quietly manage
controversy over the patent. The memo warns USDA employees that
Terminator research is "a sensitive issue that requires an extra level of review" to help "avoid potential political and legal pitfalls." But the USDA insists that the Terminator is a beneficial technology and confirms that its
scientists are themselves interested in developing the seed sterilizing
technique as platform to host a package of "stacked" traits in genetically
engineered plants.


RAFI invites you to join an international e-mail campaign being initiated
today to protest the licensing and commercial development of the Terminator
technology. RAFI has set up a special web page

http://www.rafi.org/usda.html) that automatically sends a customized e-mail
to US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (also see address information
below). We urge you to write to US Department of Agriculture officials to
demand that USDA cease licensing negotiations and abandon all international
patent applications on a dangerous and immoral technology that should never
see the commercial light of day.

RAFI is urging government institutions to hold public inquiries on the
alarming rate of seed industry consolidation, and to take steps to
safeguard, not eliminate - the fundamental right of farmers to save seed and breed crops.

RAFI is also calling for protest over the fact that public research funds
were used to develop a technology that will bring no agronomic benefit to
farmers, and no benefits to consumers. The Terminator technology is
designed simply to increase seed industry profits by forcing farmers to return to the commercial seed market every year.

Global Issue

The potential impact of the Terminator technology goes far beyond US
borders. It is an international issue, with global implications. Delta & Pine Land says that it will target the use of Terminator seeds in the South, where
over 1.4 billion people - primarily poor farmers - depend on farm-saved seed as
their primary seed source. Monsanto, which recently merged with American
Home Products, is the world's second largest seed corporation and the number one
agrochemical corporation.

The owners of the Terminator patent have indicated that they will apply for
patents in 87 countries worldwide. The patent is pending at the European
Patent Office, in Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa. USDA should be
asked to abandon all international patent applications, and to revoke
Terminator patents that have already issued, on the basis of public
morality as provided in Article 27(2) of GATT TRIPS.

The Terminator technology is the subject of controversy and debate
worldwide. For example:

In May, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological
Diversity (COP IV) recommended that the precautionary principle be applied
to the Terminator technology. COP IV also directed its scientific body to
examine the technology's impact on farmers and biodiversity. In light of
the Biodiversity Convention's ongoing assessment, USDA should cease
negotiations that will lead to its commercial development.

India's agriculture minister Som Pal told the Indian parliament in August
that he has banned the import of seeds containing the terminator gene
because of the potential harm to Indian agriculture.

By majority vote, the Dutch Parliament recently moved to oppose the
European Patent Directive by appealing to the European Court of Justice.
The Terminator patent is one of the key issues that prompted the Dutch to renew
objections to the Patent Directive that was passed by the European
Parliament earlier this year.

Negotiations between USDA and Monsanto are now underway, it is important to
act now! Stop Monsanto's bid to license and control the dangerous
Terminator technology. E-mail messages and/or faxes should be sent to the following USDA officials and members of Congress. To see sample letters and automatic sending options, go to RAFI's web site: http://www.rafi.org/usda.html

The Honorable Dan Glickman,
Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
200-A Whitten Bldg.
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington DC 20250
mailto: agsec@usda.gov
tel: 202 720-3631 fax: 202 720-2166

Dr. Floyd P. Horn, Administrator
USDA Agricultural Research Service
302-A Whitten Building
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington DC 20250
mailto: admars@ars.usda.gov
Tel: 202 720-3656 Fax: 202 720-5427

The Honorable Robert F. Smith, Chair
House Agriculture Committee
1126 Longworth Bldg.
Washington DC 20515-3702
mailto: Bob.smith@mail.house.gov
Tel: 202 225-6730 Fax: 202 225-0917

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar, Chair
Senate Agriculture Committee
306 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington DC 20510-1401
mailto: senator_lugar@lugar.senate.gov
Tel: 202 224-4814 Fax: 202 224-1725

For more information on the terminator technology, there are several
sources, including Gardener's Supply website at www.gardeners.com. Additional
sources cited include the Rural Advancement Foundation International (they coined the phrase Terminator technology) at http://www.rafi.org ; the Union of
Concerned Scientists at http://www.ucsusa.org ; and Greenpeace at
http://www.greenpeace.org .

January 8, 1999
Meg Smith (802) 660-3500
email: megs@gardeners.com

BURLINGTON, VT ? It starts with a simple seed and ends with an endangered
food supply. The latest in the wave of bioengineering is the "terminator
technology" that selectively programs a plant's DNA to kill its own
embryos, thus rendering the seed sterile. This bioengineering process interferes
with a plant's natural biology, and prevents farmers from saving seeds to start next year's crops, forcing them to buy new seed annually.

Gardener's Supply, an environmental leader in the home gardening industry,
believes gardeners and growers should oppose this technology and is
launching a public awareness campaign to help mobilize its customers and others. Will Raap, founder and president of the Vermont-based catalog company believes
that "The Terminator technology has the potential to devastate world food
supplies, and it's certain to bankrupt poorer countries whose farmers will
be forced to buy new seed every year." Raap is well known as a passionate
advocate for organic gardening and sustainable agriculture.

The terminator technology, a patented process now owned by Monsanto and the
USDA, eradicates a critical element of the growing process by genetically
altering plants to prohibit reproduction. The patent, known as "Control of
Plant Gene Expression," (US patent number 5,723,765) was granted to the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Delta and Pine Land
Company of Mississippi in March of 1998. Nine weeks later, Monsanto, one of
the world's largest multinational seed and pesticide corporations,
purchased the Delta and Pine Land Co., and with it, the complete control of the
terminator technology.

The USDA, a government agency supported by taxpayer dollars and a joint
patent-holder, will earn royalties on the sale of bioengineered seeds.
Opponents of the terminator technology question its ecological wisdom as
well as the ethics of a governmental regulating agency reaping profits side by
side with a corporate giant such as Monsanto. Monsanto is applying for
similar patents in 78 other countries - a fearsome thought when one
considers the necessity of harvesting seeds in third world countries.

"It's time for home gardeners and farmers to speak up." Raap believes.
"Last year we ran a column in our catalog about our concerns with the proposed
USDA Organic Standards Act. Our customers responded to the call for public
comment and the USDA heard from over 200,000 individuals. Public response
ultimately put the brakes on the whole program. We need this type of action again."

"It's too risky to be tampering with the fundamental biological process of
natural selection." Raap continues. "We don't want bioengineering to
dictate the future of our food supply. We're calling for a federal ban on seed
terminator technology until its full impact is understood by all."

The spring '99 issue of the Gardener's Supply catalog and the message about
the terminator technology will reach nearly one million customers. The
company urges people to write their local members of Congress and the
Senate, and includes mail and e-mail addresses. The Gardener's Supply website,
http://www.gardeners.com provides additional information on this issue and
links to other websites.

Raap continues, "People, and especially gardeners,- really do care about
the quality and health of the food they eat. They also understand that there's
no fooling Mother Nature - there's bound to be a ripple effect we can't

We must halt the terminator seed now, so we can properly assess the
implications of its use."

Raap's stance echoes biotechnology information issued by The Ark Institute
(http://www.arkinstitute.com) entitled Seed Insanity.

"The terminator technology thwarts the very essence of plant reproduction
with no thought towards future repercussions." Will Raap continues, "It's
important for people to learn about these issues - and quickly. The
terminator technology could have catastrophic, far-reaching impacts and
important decisions are being made that could affect us for generations."

The Lancet has an editorial rather critic toward FDA and proponents of
GMO. The first lines are strong in such a journal.

Volume 353, Number 9167, 29 May 1999

Health risks of genetically modified foods

Crops genetically modified to have reduced susceptibility to pests are
promoted as a solution to low food yields in developing countries. The
motive of these promoters is profit, not altruism. Monsanto, one of
the largest developers of genetically modified crops, has developed a
grain that gives an improved crop and is sterile, so instead of
keeping back some seeds for the next year's sowing, farmers must
return to the supplier for more.

In view of this unbridled commercial approach to genetic modification,
it is perhaps not surprising that companies have paid little evident
attention to the potential hazards to health of genetically modified
foods. But it is astounding that the US Food and Drug Administration
has not changed their stance on genetically modified food adopted in
1992 (http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/fr92529b.html ). They announced in
January this year, "FDA has not found it necessary to conduct
comprehensive scientific reviews of foods derived from bioengineered
plants . . . consistent with its 1992 policy". The policy is that
genetically modified crops will receive the same consideration for
potential health risks as any other new crop plant. This stance is
taken despite good reasons to believe that specific risks may exist.

For instance, antibiotic-resistance genes are used in some genetically
modified plants as a marker of genetic transformation. Despite
repeated assurances that the resistance genes cannot spread from the
plant, many commentators believe this could happen. Of greater concern
is the effect of the genetic modification itself on the food. Potatoes
have been engineered with a gene from the snowdrop to produce an
agglutinin which may reduce susceptibility to insects. In April last
year, a scientist, Arpad Pusztai, from the Rowett Research Institute
in Aberdeen, UK, unwisely announced on television that experiments had
shown intestinal changes in rats caused by eating genetically
engineered potatoes. He said he would not eat such modified foods
himself and that it was "very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens
as guineapigs".

A storm of publicity overtook Pusztai. He was removed from his job, a
sacrifice that did not quell public alarm in the UK or in Europe. Last
week (May 22, p1769 ) we reported that the Royal Society had reviewed
what it could of Pusztai and colleagues' evidence and found it flawed,
a gesture of breathtaking impertinence to the Rowett Institute
scientists who should be judged only on the full and final publication
of their work. The British Medical Association called for a moratorium
on planting genetically modified crops. The UK Government, in
accordance with national tradition, vacillated. Finally, on May 21 the
Government came out with proposals for research into possible health
risks of genetically modified foods.

Shoppers across Europe had already voted with their feet. By the end
of the first week in May, seven European supermarket chains had
announced they would not sell genetically modified foods. Three large
food multinationals, Unilever, Nestlé, and Cadburys-Schweppes followed
suit. The Supreme Court in India has upheld a ban on testing
genetically modified crops. Activists in India have set fire to fields
of crops suspected of being used for testing. The population of the
USA, where up to 60% of processed foods have genetically modified
ingredients, seem, as yet, unconcerned.

The issue of genetically modified foods has been badly mishandled by
everyone involved. Governments should never have allowed these
products into the food chain without insisting on rigorous testing for
effects on health. The companies should have paid greater attention to
the possible risks to health and of the public's perception of this
risk; they are now paying the price of this neglect. And scientists
involved in research into the risks of genetically modified foods
should have published the results in the scientific press, not through
the popular media; their colleagues, meanwhile, should also have
avoided passing judgments on the issue without the full facts before

The Lancet

Britain caught out by leaked genetic food report

LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) - The British government scrambled on
Wednesday to deal with a leaked report which said commercial growing
of genetically modified crops would contaminate other foodstuffs over
large distances.

A Ministry of Agriculture official said the report had not yet gone to
ministers while the John Innes research centre, whose experts compiled
the study, said it had been leaked.

Neither would comment on it before publication, due late this month or
early in June after the government has digested its contents. But
organic farmers were outraged.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher tried to quell the latest fears
about GM foods which have become a headache for the government. Public
opinion is largely against them but Prime Minister Tony Blair
determined that Britain should remain at the forefront of the

``The government is very concerned to preserve the integrity of
organic farming,'' Meacher told BBC radio. ``We want to see an
increase in organic farming. We want to see proper separation
distances. Exactly what they should be is a matter that we are now
looking at extremely closely.''

The Daily Mail said the John Innes Centre will tell the government
that pollen from GM crops can be spread across wide distances by winds
and insects.

The paper said the report -- ``Organic Farming and Gene Transfer from
Genetically Modified Crops'' -- concluded that contamination could not
be entirely stopped so acceptable levels would have to be decided

Official GM crop trials operate with only a 200-yard buffer zone. The
Soil Association, which regulates organic farming, says a six-mile
barrier is the minimum needed to guarantee organic crops are not

``We are determined to maintain the purity of organic crops in the UK
and this is why we have set ourselves against GM,'' said the
association's Richard Young. ``The boundaries between GM crops are
totally inadequate to protect organic farmers.''

Meacher said the question of whether consumers wanted foods labelled
as GM-free to be just that, or whether they may accept a residual
amount of modified ingredients amounting to one or two percent, was

``If the answer is that people expect it to be virtually nil, that
does require considerably greater separation distances,'' he said.
``It is perfectly true that...there are no 'no-fly' zones for bees and
they can travel long distances.''

English Nature, a government advisory body, has called for a five-year
ban on the commercial release of GM crops to allow more research on
their environmental impact. But Cabinet Office minister Jack
Cunningham has said if all regulatory hurdles were cleared, commercial
planting of GM crops could begin next year.

Mad cow disease, the human equivalent of which has claimed about 30
British lives, has made people deeply conscious of food safety and
sensitive to stories about ``Frankenstein foods.'' Most supermarkets
have already banned GM foods from their stores or, at the very least,
clearly labelled them.


by Dr. Michael W. Fox, Senior Scholar/Bioethics The Humane Society of the United States 2100 L Street, NW Washington, DC 20037

To regard genetically engineered GE crops and food as being infected or adulterated and therefore posing potential risks to human and other consumers (including insects, birds, and wild and domesticated mammals) and to the environment is not unreasonable considering the following scientifically documented findings:

1. There is evidence that foreign DNA can enter the body via the gastrointestinal tract and cross the placenta (1,2).

2. Genetically modified organisms can produce unanticipated toxins (3,4) or allergens (5).

3. Gene transfer can occur between transgenic plants and bacteria, the ecological consequences of which could be catastrophic (6).

4. Milk from cows injected with rBGH, which is not analogous to normal BGH, has elevated insulin-like growth factor that is implicated as a risk factor in human breast cancer (8,9).

5. Considering the documented evidence that horizontal gene transfer between species is a natural phenomenon (10-16), the precautionary principle must be applied in creating transgenic organisms that could transfer novel genes and viral vectors to other species (17-19). The ecological, evolutionary, and public health consequences of such transfers we will only know after the fact. Horizontal gene transfer is even likely to take place in the digestive systems of protozoa, nematodes, insect larvae, and other soil macro-organisms (12).

6. That genes, like viruses, can infect the body (20,21), should serve as a warning to us all of the potential risks of transgenic organisms serving as a resevoir for new diseases, and as a medium for the evolution of new pathogens because of their altered physiology and biochemistry. Viral ìpromotersî and ìenhancersî that boost expression of transgenes could result in the production of high levels of Bt. toxin and other chemicals in transgenic crops.

7. Unanticipated multiple side effects of of gene insertion (called pleotropic effects) have been well documented. Genetic alterations in crops like soybeans to make them resistent to herbicides may result in unpredictable, unnatural genetic recombinations and change the biochemistry and nutritive value. Higher levels of phyto-estrogens are produced in beans grown in the presence of the herbicide glyphosate which may be of particular risk to children (22).

8. Some 99 percent of commercial transgenic crops incorporate virus genes, either as promoters or to control virus infections. These virus genes can recombine with other viruses and may result in new diseases and more invasive pathogens (23-27). With the inclusion of antibiotic-resistance markers, transgenic crops could therefore increase the probability of new viral and bacterial pathogens and the spread of antibiotic and drug resistance genes. DNA released from living and dead cells can persist in the environment and be transferred to other organisms. An organism may be dead, but its "naked" DNA released from decaying cells may remain biologically active for potentially thousands of years, especially in certain soils and marine sediments. (28,29). Naked DNA (nucleic acids) ingested by mice can be transferred to offspring and be voided and spread in animals' feces (2).

9. The instability of transgenic crops is a major concern. ìThere is, in fact, no data documenting the stability of any transgenic line in gene expression, or in structure and location of the insert in the genome. Such data must include the level of gene expression, as well as a genetic map and DNA base sequence of the insert and its site of insertion in the host genome in each successive generation. No such information has ever been provided by industry, nor requested by regulatory authorities.î (28).

10. One must consider not only the ìfateî of transgenic organisms but also the genes and viruses or parts thereof, that have been inserted into them. Such ìnaked DNAî, in the form of recombinant and modified nucleic acids, has been found capable of surviving and remaining functional longer after organisms' death than was assumed previously. (6, 29) Furthermore, xenobiotics, especially dioxins and various agrichemicals, can act as mutagens (30), altering the structure and sequence of DNA and also increasing the permeability of cells and the incorporation of foreign DNA into living organisms.

Contamination of the ìlife streamî by naked recombinant DNA, by transgenic viral vectors, and antibiotic resistant genes is already taking place. Since a recall is impossible, our best hope, if it is not already too late to control genetic pollution, is a five-year worldwide moratorium on the creation and release of all genetically engineered living entities and products, from new vaccines to transgenic crops, so that science-based risk assessments can be properly completed.



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Every once in a while the NEW YORK TIMES knocks your socks off
showing how the world got the way it is. This past Sunday the
TIMES ran "Playing God in the Garden" by Michael Pollan --the
cover story in the magazine section.[1] It explains why many of
us are already eating genetically engineered foods like corn and
potatoes without knowing it, and why there is a lot more
genetically engineered food in our future whether we like it or
not. It's the story of a powerful corporation on a dangerous
mission and a huge government too feeble to intercede. The TIMES
story makes these points:

** Genetically engineered food crops have been on the market in
the U.S. for four years now. Some brands of corn, potatoes and
soybeans are now genetically engineered.

** The nation's food safety authority --the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) --does not require genetically engineered
food crops to be labeled as such, so none of us can know whether
the food we are eating is genetically engineered or not. Chances
are pretty good that if you eat french fries at McDonald's, or if
you eat Frito-Lay potato chips, you've eaten a
genetically-engineered potato patented by Monsanto, the St. Louis
chemical giant. The TIMES story focuses on Monsanto's New Leaf
Superior potato, a thin-skinned white spud found fresh in your

** Monsanto's New Leaf Superior potato is, itself, legally
registered as a pesticide with U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency [EPA] because it has been genetically engineered to poison
any Colorado potato beetle that might eat even a tiny portion of
it. Every cell of Monsanto's New Leaf Superior contains a gene
snipped from a bacteria called BACILLUS THURIENGENSIS, or Bt for
short, which produces a protein that is highly toxic to Colorado
potato beetles. The Bt gene is present in every cell of a
Monsanto New Leaf Superior, which is why the potato itself is
registered as a pesticide.

** U.S. EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has responsibility
for licensing new pesticides. EPA pesticide officials believe
that the New Leaf Superior potato is reasonably safe for humans.
As a test, EPA fed pure Bt to mice without harming them. Because
humans have eaten old-style New Leaf potatoes for a long time,
and because mice are not visibly harmed by eating pure Bt,
potatoes containing Bt genes must be safe for humans, EPA
reasoned. The TIMES reported, "Some geneticists believe this
reasoning is flawed" because inserting foreign genes into plants
may cause subtle changes that are difficult to recognize. Only
time will tell.

** The label on a bag of Monsanto's pesticidal potatoes in the
supermarket lists all of the nutrients and micronutrients in the
potato, but fails to mention that the potatoes have been
genetically engineered or that they are legally a pesticide.
Food labeling is ordinarily the responsibility of FDA.

** An FDA official told the NEW YORK TIMES that FDA does not
regulate Monsanto's potato because FDA does not have the
authority to regulate pesticides. That is EPA's job.

** EPA-approved pesticides normally carry an EPA-approved warning
label. For example, a bottle of Bt bears a label that warns
people to avoid inhaling Bt and to avoid getting Bt in an open
wound. However, in the case of Monsanto's pesticidal potato, EPA
says FDA has responsibility for requiring a label because the
potato is a food. However, FDA told the TIMES that it only
requires genetically-engineered foods to be labeled if they
contain allergens or have been "materially changed" and FDA has
determined that Monsanto did not "materially change" the New Leaf
potato by turning it into a pesticide. Therefore no FDA label is
required. Furthermore, the law that empowers the FDA (the Food,
Drug and Cosmetic Act) forbids FDA from including any information
about pesticides on food labels. Pesticide labels are EPA's
responsibility, says FDA, and we come full circle.

** Some genetically-engineered food crops are NOT registered as
pesticides, and FDA DOES have the authority to regulate those.
However, according to the TIMES, FDA maintains a list of foods
that need no regulation because they are "generally recognized as
safe" (or "GRAS"). Since 1992 FDA has allowed companies like
Monsanto to decide for themselves whether their new
genetically-engineered foods should be added to the GRAS list and
thus escape regulation. In other words, FDA regulation of
genetically engineered foods is voluntary, not mandatory.

** A Monsanto official told the NEW YORK TIMES that the
corporation should not have to take responsibility for the safety
of its food products. "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," Angell

In sum, biotech is an industry in the grip of a frontier
mentality. Anything goes. Government is a willing and servile
participant. If it turns out worse than the chemical debacles of
the last 50 years, will anyone be surprised?

** Monsanto's New Leaf Superior potatoes will have major effects
on U.S. agriculture, regardless of their human health
consequences (if any).

** Organic farmers --those who try to avoid synthetic chemical
pesticides and fertilizers to the extent possible --apply
powdered Bt sparingly to their crops from time to time, a natural
pesticide of last resort. In this powdered form, Bt is neither
present in high concentrations nor for very long because it
degrades in sunlight. Therefore, insects have not developed
"resistance" to Bt.

** But now that Bt is continuously present in whole fields of
Monsanto potatoes, the insects in those field will be
continuously exposed to Bt. Therefore it is only a matter of
time before they develop "resistance" and become immune to Bt's
toxic effects.

The mechanism of resistance is well understood because over 500
insects have become resistant to one pesticide or another since
1945. Not every potato beetle will be killed by eating
Monsanto's pesticidal potatoes. A few hardy beetles will
survive. When those few resistant beetles mate with other
resistant beetles, a new variety of potato beetle will spring
into being and it will thrive by eating Monsanto's potatoes. At
that point, Bt will have lost its effectiveness as a pesticide.
Then Monsanto will start marketing some new "silver bullet" to
control the Colorado potato beetle. But what will the nation's
organic farmers do? For private gain, Monsanto will have
destroyed a public good --the natural pesticidal properties of
Bt. Monsanto scientists acknowledged to the NEW YORK TIMES that
the Bt-containing potato will create Bt-resistant potato beetles.
They know exactly what they are trying to do. They are hoping
to make a mint selling Bt-laced potatoes and, in the process,
depriving their competitors (organic farmers) of an essential,
time-honored tool. The strategy is brilliant, and utterly

** For decades, Monsanto and other agrichemical companies have
relentlessly promoted farming systems aimed at making farmers
dependent on synthetic chemicals. With the enthusiastic support
and complicity of USDA, the plan worked beautifully. In the
U.S., the use of chemical pesticides grew 33-fold from 1945,
peaking at 1.1 billion pounds (about 4.4 pounds per year for each
man, woman and child) in 1995.1 Now with growing numbers of
pesticide-resistant insects, and consumers better-informed about
the dangers of pesticide residues on food, Monsanto acknowledges
that "current agricultural technology is not sustainable," as
their most recent annual report puts it. Now Monsanto is
planning to shift American farmers from the pesticide treadmill
to a biotech treadmill.

** For thousands of years, farmers have saved a portion of this
year's crop to provide seeds for next year's crop. Monsanto
intends to end that age-old practice by requiring farmers to come
back to them each year to purchase new seeds. Potatoes are not
grown from seeds --they are grown by planting "eyes" of other
potatoes. Before you buy a bag of Monsanto's pesticidal potatoes
you must sign a contract promising that you will not retain any
of your potatoes toward next year's crop. This will force you to
purchase more potatoes from Monsanto next year. According to the
TIMES, Monsanto is using informants and Pinkertons, and has
brought legal action against hundreds of farmers, to enforce its
contract rights.

To tighten the noose on farmers, Monsanto has a new technology in
the pipeline, called "the Terminator."[3] Terminator technology
was developed with public funds by U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) and a seed company that Monsanto is in the process of
buying. The Terminator is a group of genes that can be spliced
into any crop plant, sterilizing all of the plant's seeds. Once
Terminator technology has been widely adopted, control of seed
production will move from the farmer's field to corporate
headquarters and farmers will become wholly dependent upon
corporations for seeds. As the TIMES summarized it, "The
Terminator will allow companies like Monsanto to privatize one of
the last great commons in nature --the genetics of the crop
plants that civilization has developed over the past 10,000
years." Brilliant and ruthless.

** In a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign in Europe,
Africa and the United States, Monsanto claims that its new
emphasis on genetic engineering is aimed at feeding the world's
hungry and saving the environment from pesticides of the kind it
has produced in megaton quantities for the past 40 years.[2]
However, the TIMES offered insights into genetic engineering that
make Monsanto's new path seem at least as destructive as its old
path, and perhaps considerably worse.

** Monsanto says that its genetic manipulations are providing the
"operating system" for running a new generation of plants. But
the analogy breaks down quickly. A computer operating system,
like DOS or Windows or Unix, is fully understandable by the
programmers who wrote the code. On the other hand, the genetic
code was written by the Creator and no human --or group of humans
--understands even a small fraction of it. Putting
genetically-engineered plants and animals into the natural
environment is nothing more than a crap shoot --one with
potential consequences far greater than Monsanto's previous
calamitous experiments, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and
Agent Orange.[3]

** The TIMES says that, to create its New Leaf Superior
pesticidal potatoes, Monsanto has had to introduce the Bt gene
into thousands of potatoes to get it right because often the
introduced gene ends up in an unexpected place in the potato's
DNA, creating a plant that doesn't have the right pesticidal
properties, or one that is an outright freak. "There's still a
lot we don't understand about gene expression," says David Stark,
co-director of Naturemark, Monsanto's potato subsidiary, in a
monumental understatement.

** Richard Lewontin, a Harvard geneticist, told the NEW YORK
TIMES that Monsanto's comparison of genetically engineered plants
to an "operating system" isn't the right comparison. Instead,
Lewontin said, the genetic code is more like an ecosystem. "You
can always intervene and change something in it, but there's no
way of knowing what all the downstream effects will be or how it
might affect the environment. We have such a miserably poor
understanding of how the organism develops from its DNA that I
would be surprised if we don't get one rude shock after another,"
Lewontin said.
--Peter Montague
(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

[1] Michael Pollan, "Playing God in the Garden," NEW YORK TIMES
October 25, 1998, pgs. 44-51, 62-63, 82, 92-93.

[2] David Pimentel and others, "Ecology of Increasing Disease,"
BIOSCIENCE Vol. 48, No. 10 (October 1998), pgs. 817-826.

[3] THE ECOLOGIST magazine devoted its most recent issue to
Monsanto; see "The Monsanto Files; Can We Survive Genetic
Engineering?" THE ECOLOGIST Vol. 28, No. 5 (Sept./Oct., 1998),
pgs. 249-324. E-mail: ecologist@gn.apc.org.

Descriptor terms: genetic engineering; biotechnology;
agriculture; farming; potatoes; corn; potatoes; pesticides; bt;
organic farming; fda; epa; terminator technology;

Gene-Altered Corn Pollen Threatens Monarchs

May 28, 1999

Entomologists at Cornell University in the U.S. have found significant
adverse effects in monarch butterfly caterpillars that were fed pollen
from genetically engineered corn. Since about half of the summer
monarch population migrates through the U.S. Corn Belt, where
millions of acres of genetically engineered insect-resistant Bt corn now
grow, the monarch butterfly may be imperiled.

Pesticide Action Network North America is calling on groups and
concerned individuals to write the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and demand that the agency:

-- Deny any further approvals and renewals of Bt corn.

-- Immediately institute a moratorium on further planting of Bt crops
until independent and comprehensive studies can be conducted on the
short and long-term ecological effects of large scale release of
organisms engineered to contain Bt toxins.

-- Convene a panel of respected independent ecologists, soil scientists,
butterfly specialists and others to begin developing a program to detect
and address ecological risks of engineered crops.

Bt corn produces a specific toxin, originally derived from a soil
microorganism, Bacillus thuringiensis. In its natural form, the Bt toxin
activated when consumed by caterpillars of moths and butterflies and
kills them. Several agrochemical companies including Monsanto and
Novartis have engineered corn varieties to produce Bt toxin to kill
insects that feed on corn plants.

In many Bt-corn varieties, the Bt toxin is produced in most of the
plant's tissues, including its pollen. Toxic corn pollen is then blown by the
wind onto milkweed and other plants in the vicinity of Bt-corn fields. The
Cornell laboratory study, published this week in the journal Nature,
found that monarch caterpillars eating Bt-corn pollen had significantly
higher death rates and stunted growth compared with those eating
normal pollen. Nearly half the caterpillars that consumed the toxic
pollen died after four days; none of those eating normal pollen died.

In one field study, Iowa State University scientists have confirmed the
toxicity of Bt corn pollen to monarch caterpillars. Nearly 20% of the
caterpillars fed milkweed leaves taken from Bt corn fields and adjacent
areas died, compared to no deaths of those exposed to normal corn
pollen. In addition to monarchs, some of the 19 species of butterflies
and moths on the U.S. Endangered Species List may also be at risk from the
toxic pollen if they eat plants near Bt-corn fields.

Monsanto has stated that an important advantage of the crop is reduction
or elimination of spraying of broad-spectrum insecticides to control the
European corn borer. However, according to the Union of Concerned
Scientists and other experts, based on figures from the National
Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S. field corn is not often sprayed for
European corn borer or any other insect, especially in the heart of the
cornbelt. Therefore, little if any reduction in insecticide use can be
expected as a result of planting Bt-corn.

The Cornell study is not the only one to suggest that Bt crops are far
from benign. Swiss scientists last year showed detrimental effects on
beneficial insects that ate corn pests that had been fed Bt corn. Other
scientists have shown that Bt toxins accumulate in the soil and may
adversely affect soil ecosystems. And there is near universal scientific
consensus that widespread use of Bt corn and other Bt crops will
accelerate the evolution of resistance to Bt toxins in insect pests. Once
pests are resistant to Bt, organic growers and everyone else who relies
on Bt to control pests will lose an effective, natural biocontrol agent.

Pesticide Action Network North America urges all those concerned to write
Carol Browner, U.S. EPA Administrator, and demand that EPA deny any further approvals and renewals of Bt corn and institute a moratorium on further planting of Bt crops until independent and comprehensive studies can be conducted on
the short and long-term ecological effects of large scale release of
organisms engineered to contain Bt toxins. Send letters to:

Carol Browner, U.S. EPA Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency (Mail code 1101)
401 M St., SW, Washington DC 20460
Fax (202) 260-0279; email browner.carol@epa.gov

Sources: Union of Concerned Scientists press release, May 20, 1999;
UCS Fact Sheet: Monarch Butterflies, Bt Corn and Toxic Pollen, May
19, 1999; Monsanto Statement on Bt Corn: Environment and a Recent
Report on the Monarch Butterfly, May 20, 1999; L. Hansen and J.
Obrycki, "Non-target effects of Bt corn pollen on the Monarch butterfly
(Lepidoptera: Danaidae)," abstract of a poster presented at the North
Central Branch meeting of the Entomological Society of America,
March 29, 1999, available at http://

Note: There is also an extremely well done article in this week's Time Magazine (May 31 issue) under the title "Of Corn and Butterflies". Search with this title at www.pathfinder.com to find it