* Greenpeace and Children's Health
* Monbiot article making the rounds
* UN Report
* Agbiotech directory
* Response to Barry Commoner's article
* Putting A Spin On Bioengineered Foods
* GERMANY SEES GM-RESEARCH EXODUS
* U.K. Looks Into Benefits of Organic Food
* Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee Issues Interim Report on Improving the Regulation of Genetically Modified Foods and Other Novel Foods in Canada
* Biotech Seed Approval Welcomed in U.S.
Date: 23 Aug 2001 16:08:57 -0000
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Testing and Timing
Please read the article below. If Greenpeace really believes that GMOs
pose a health risk to children, why would they wait FIVE MONTHS to
reveal their test results? Quite obviously, there is something more
important to them than children’s health, and that’s the timing. The
Philippine government has recently announced a pro-biotech policy and is moving
ahead with plans to approve GM corn. A similar thing happened with the
StarLink fiasco. The activists got their test results, and then waited
until the US harvest was under way before making the results public, in
order to maximize the resulting confusion.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 22, 2001, Page 3
‘MODIFIED’ BABY FOOD SOLD HERE, GROUP SAYS
A number of baby food products being sold in the country, including
those manufactured by a leading multinational company, have been found to
contain “transgenic” DNA or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
This was revealed by Greenpeace, the environmental activist group which
in December 2000 had commissioned the internationally certified Hong
Kong laboratory, DNA Chips, to analyze the baby food products. The test
results were released by DNA Chips last March but made public by
Greenpeace only yesterday.
In a press conference, Greenpeace said the test results showed massive
levelsof between 34 to 66 percent of genetically engineered soya in the
soya ingredient in three Novartis/Gerber baby food products being sold
in the Philippines. These products are Gerber’s Mixed Fruits, Cream of
Brown Rice and Green Mongo.
More on the latest Greenpeace shenanigans, with photo:
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 09:59:30 -0500
From: Gale west
Subject: Coercion Tactics of Biotech firms
Dear AgBio readers,
What's this about the ''farming family in Indiana'' being ''warned'' by Monsanto?
The story appears to have escaped the news here.
Biotech firms found persuasion didn't work, so they are using a new
By George Monbiot
Tuesday August 21, 2001
From: "Carl Heckel"
Subject: Re:UN's Human Development 2001 Report
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 08:23:38 -0400
>The debate in the West "mostly ignores the needs and >concerns of the developing world."
Wrong. The emotional attacks of the "Greens" and the "anti-globalist", and members of the world (and especially European) community who do not challenge the terrorist techniques of these organizations, ignore "the needs and concerns of the developing world". For the UN to lay the negatives of the debate at the feet of the "West", rather than at the feet of the self-serving and/or ignorant individuals who use emotionalism to generate unfounded fears in the general public, is a reflection of why some in the "West" are fed up with the UN. This negative attitude towards the UN carries over into many of their activities, including the European efforts in CODEX and its negative impact on developing nations.
Chemist in the food industry.
Date: 23 Aug 2001 00:05:09 -0000
From: Malcolm Livingstone
Wayne Parrott's comments about Barry Commoner's article are absolutely correct. However Commoner also claims that;
"The likelihood, in genetically engineered crops, of some instances of even exceedingly rare, disruptive effects of gene transfer is greatly amplified by the billions of individual transgenic plants that are already being grown in the United States."
Barry Commoner makes the fairly important mistake here of thinking that all the transgenic crops grown are individual transformation events. It is true that somaclonal variation is a common consequence of extended periods of tissue culture and that many transformants will have lethal or
detrimental mutations. However the final transformed LINE is one that is free of silencing etc. From this line all the billions are derived. In other words they are CLONES. So if there is a very slim chance of creating a mutant that is harmful in some way (and I don't know what this could be) it is in no way enhanced by the huge numbers of crops being grown.
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 03:08:54 -0700
From: "David Hemming
Subject: Agbiotech directory
For your information: apologies if you're already aware of this:
There's now a free directory of agricultural biotechnology
Feel free to browse or add your organization.
You are also welcome to link to the site which includes news, reviews, book chapters, reports, abstracts and conference material on agricultural biotech. It's at http://www.agbiotechnet.com
There's also a free jobs site, and hot topics on many issues such as GM food, animal cloning, Bt plants, developing countries and more.
If anyone at your organization would be interested in a free trial of theAgBiotechNet site (for details see
<http://www.agbiotechnet.com/Trial/index.asp> ), please forward them this email.
AgBiotechNet http://www.agbiotechnet.com <http://www.agbiotechnet.com>
The online service for agricultural biotechnology
CAB INTERNATIONAL, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8DE, UK,
Tel. (44) 1491 829428;
Fax (44) 1491 833508
AgBiotechNet is supported by the ABSP:
Date: 23 Aug 2001 01:40:50 -0000
From: Hector Quemada
Subject: Central Dogma
From: Hector Quemada
Re: Central Dogma
With respect to Barry Commoner's discussion about the central dogma: The discussion is flawed from the start, because it starts out with a fundamental misunderstanding of what that "dogma" is. Simply, the "dogma" simply expresses the notion that DNA sequence determines RNA
sequence, which in turn determines amino acid sequence. It doesn't imply one gene-one trait. So Dr. Commoner attacks a notion that is of his own making, not anything that anyone learned in introductory molecular biology
Crop Technology Consulting, Inc.
2524 East G Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49004
616 387 5869
Putting A Spin On Bioengineered Foods
By John Elvin
Aug 20, 2001
As the public becomes more familiar with genetically modified food,
it seems possible that some of the hysteria/paranoia will fade. If we
take the word of Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Jane
Henney, "biotech products have produced no evidence of food-safety
risks; not one rash, not one sore throat, not one headache." In a
column on the NannyCulture Website, Richard Berman says many of us
are comfortable munching on bioengineered edibles already, whether we
know it or not. "About 60 percent of processed foods already contain
some genetically improved component," he notes.
If the public loses its fear of so-called "Frankenfoods," where will
the scaremongers go with their campaign? A clue is provided by
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet. About 30
years ago, Lappe's popular book attacked the "expert" notion that
humans were approaching the limit of the planet's ability to provide
food. Unfortunately, this laudable observation was followed by
Lappe's contention that modern farming and ranching methods, driven
by market demands created by huge agribusinesses, were to blame for
hunger in the world. The latest spin, it would seem, is that it
doesn't matter whether biotech foods are safe. In the Los Angeles
Times, Lappe wrote: "Hunger is not caused by scarcity of food but by
a scarcity of democracy. Thus it can never be solved by new
technologies, even if they were to be proved `safe.' It can only be
solved as citizens build democracies in which government is
accountable to them, not private corporate entities."
"We still are asking the wrong question," Lappe continued. "Not only
is there already enough food in the world but, as long as we are only
talking about food - how best to produce it - we'll never end hunger
or create the communities and food safety we want. We must ask
instead: How do we build communities in time with nature's wisdom, in
which no one anywhere has to worry about putting food - safe, healthy
food - on the table? Asking this question takes us far beyond food.
It takes us to the heart of democracy itself, whose voices are heard
in matters of land, seeds, credit, employment, trade and food policy."
Lappe says the question takes us to "the heart of democracy," but a
careful reading would seem to indicate we are heading more into the
heart of ecosocialism. Surprise! Well, it wouldn't be a surprise to
anyone familiar with a quote from Judy Wicks, passed along by Berman.
Wicks is a member of the board of the antibiotech Chefs
Collaborative. "We like to say we use good food to lure innocent
customers into social activism," Wicks revealed. Oh, and just as an
aside: If you happen to be among the world's hungry and want to chow
down at a restaurant presided over by the more elite members of Chefs
Collaborative, expect a tab of more than $100 per meal beverages and
GERMANY SEES GM-RESEARCH EXODUS
German Handelsblatt (Via Financial Times)
August 23, 2001
BERLIN. Legal uncertainties surrounding genetically modified crops in
Germany are increasingly leading the country’s biotechnology and seed
companies to shift their research in this area to North America,
Handelsblatt has learned.
“We’ve we won’t be carrying out any more field trials in Germany for
this year,” said seed company Norddeutsche Pflanzenzucht (NPZ). This
sentiment is echoed by other leading seed producers such as KWS, the
world’s leading producer of seeds for sugar beet crops.
And the story’s the same when it comes to small biotechnology firms
such as MPB Cologne, which is working on the extraction of proteins from
potatoes for use in production of pharmaceuticals. “In Canada we’ll find
that the legal framework conditions are simply more secure,” said MPB
managing director Klaus Duehring.
Some biotech and seed firms are still in talks with German universities
on research cooperations. But most of these are limited to the
laboratory-based early stages of research. The number of field plantation
trials has fallen from a good 400 in 1998 to what will be a very small
number this year. Germany is quickly losing its position as a leading
researcher into genetically modified crops, according to Jens Katzek,
managing director at biotech industry association Deutsche
Industrievereinigung Biotechnologie (DIB).
In DIB’s view, the main reason for the research exodus is to be found
in the legal uncertainties surrounding field plantation trials. The bone
of contention is whether it’s acceptable for minimal traces of
genetically modified crops to be transferred onto neighboring crops grown from
conventional seeds. Germany’s Agricultural Minister Renate Kuehnast of
the environmentalist Greens is insisting that transfer levels should
not exceed zero. This line is also taken by a number of federal states
governed by the Social Democrats (SPD), the senior party in Germany’s
But the center-right opposition parties are arguing that upper limits
should be imposed, since there’s no way of stopping some seed transfer
via pollination. They point out that before approval is granted for
field trials, they have to be examined for likely effects by scientific
research agency Robert Koch Institute.
The government in the north-east German state of Brandenburg has just
ordered the destruction of conventional crops because genetically
modified particles were found among the seeds from which they were grown.
This follows a similar incident in the north German state of
The company involved, NPZ, said separate analyses had shown no sign of
contamination at all. It said instead of compensating the farmers, it’s
considering taking legal action against Brandenburg state. But it also
said to be made liable for damages in cases such as this one would
present such a threat to its existence that it will no longer be making
transgenetic seeds available for research in Germany.
The German government is making DM36.4 million available from its
annual research budget for research into phytogenetic safety. But according
to Handelsblatt information, applications for plantation trials
involving sugar beet and rape have dried up completely.
Agricultural Minister Kuehnast faces a dilemma over genetically
modified crops. On the one hand, the laissez-faire attitude shown by
governments in some parts of the world mean that it’s no longer possible to
guarantee that all crops are free from genetic modification.
On the other hand, she wants to secure the maximum freedom of choice
for consumers. For this reason, she intervened at the last minute to
block the commercial planting in Germany of “Artuis,” the first genetically
modified maize variety.
U.K. Looks Into Benefits of Organic Food --- Industry Experts Doubt Research Will Have Real Significance to Human Health --- Government Agency Bases Decision on Report Showing Differing Mineral, Vitamin Contents
Wall St. Journal
August 23, 2001
LONDON -- Although some food researchers might find the concept hard to
swallow, the British government has pledged to more closely investigate the
supposed nutritional benefits of eating organically grown food.
The Food Standards Agency says it will host a seminar later this year to
consider "how consumer choice between organic and conventional food could be
further informed by research." Political pressure has been growing in Britain
for some definitive information on the differences between the two. But some
food experts have already questioned the value of the research, fearing that it
will only serve to highlight `differences' of no real significance to human
health. "It seems to me to be quite unlikely that one could do anything
reasonably sensible in that area without spending an enormous amount of money,"
said Eileen Rubery, a public-health specialist formerly with the Department of
Health and now at the University of Cambridge.
Skeptics say that direct, comparative studies of organic and nonorganic produce
are difficult to construct because of extraneous variables such as climate and
soil conditions. They also point out that epidemiological studies of people who
consume organic and nonorganic produce would be expensive and prone to
influence by factors such as other lifestyle differences between the two
The FSA's decision to consider research into the question followed the
publication on Aug. 6 of a report by the Bristol-based Soil Association, which
was billed by its authors as showing significant differences in the mineral and
vitamin contents of organic and nonorganic food. The Soil Association is a
nonprofit organization that promotes organically grown food, which is produced
without recourse to synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
The FSA says the new report does not make a convincing case that organic food
is safer or more nutritious but adds that there is enough public interest in
the matter to merit further research. Demand for organically grown fruit,
vegetables and meat has soared in Britain (and elsewhere in Europe) in the past
few years. The U.K. organic food market is now worth some GBP 600 million (953
million euros) per year, and the amount of British farmland dedicated to
organic farming has risen tenfold since 1996.
The image of organic food as a healthy alternative has been boosted in Britain
by public skepticism about genetically modified crops, and by the
mad-cow-disease epidemic, which has undermined faith in modern, intensive
The FSA will not elaborate on the kind of research it has in mind, saying only
that "a very wide range of options" was being discussed. "It's not possible at
this stage to say exactly what that research should be, but it will have to be
something that can establish whether there is or isn't a difference," says a
spokesperson for the agency. Some supporters of organic agriculture would like
to see long-term human trials, perhaps involving prison populations or people
in care homes for the elderly to minimize the effects of external-environmental
The Soil Association commissioned its report in response to comments made last
August by John Krebs, a zoologist and chairman of the FSA. "They're not getting
value for money, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Food Standards Agency,
if they think they're buying food with extra nutritional quality or extra
safety," Mr. Krebs said of consumers who buy organic produce.
Soil Association Director Patrick Holden claims that the report proves Mr.
Krebs wrong. "It asserts that there is indicative evidence suggesting
nutritional differences between organic and nonorganic food," he said.
Mr. Holden said the report, prepared by nutritionist Shane Heaton, an
independent consultant, is the clearest picture yet of the research carried out
so far. Mr. Heaton reviewed some 400 previous papers that considered or
compared organic and conventional foods, in areas such as mineral and vitamin
content, food safety and observed health effects in animals or people. Such
reviews have been carried out before, but Mr. Heaton says that his study breaks
new ground because it excludes many trials that failed to compare the two
For example, of 99 studies that compared the nutrient contents of organic and
nonorganic foods, Mr. Heaton says that only 29 were valid. The rest looked at
food that had not been grown according to the strict guidelines laid down by
organic groups. Of the legitimate studies, a handful showed significantly
higher amounts of minerals, vitamins and dry matter in organic food.
But this is not enough evidence to satisfy other nutritionists. "It's very
silly to make claims when so many different factors like the weather, soil and
season could result in these changes," said retired food scientist and
consultant Ralph Blanchfield. "The old saying that two peas in a pod are alike
just doesn't apply; two peas in a pod can still analyze differently."
Some supporters of organic farming also played down the significance of the
study, saying that typical consumers of organic food were more likely to
benefit from their general eating habits than from extra nutrition in
particular foods. "As much as anything, it's a question of diet, rather than
the individual food items," said Martin Wolfe, an organic farming researcher at
Wakelyns Agroforestry, a research farm in Suffolk, U.K.
Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee Issues Interim Report on Improving the Regulation of Genetically Modified Foods and Other Novel Foods in Canada
OTTAWA, Aug. 23 /CNW/ - The Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee
(CBAC), an independent group of experts representing a broad range of
disciplines, released today an interim report on improving the regulation of
genetically modified (GM) foods and other novel foods in Canada. The report,
which will form the basis for a final round of input from Canadians, makes
five main and 24 supplementary draft recommendations aimed at improving the
federal regulatory system for GM and other novel foods. It also addresses key
challenges related to public information, informed choice and environmental
"We need to be aware of what lies ahead when it comes to GM and novel
foods," said Dr. Naimark, Chair of CBAC. "We also need to be sure that the
Government of Canada is ready and has all the right structures and processes
in place that will allow us to reap the benefits and avoid possible harm."
The interim report recommends a more clear-cut regulatory oversight of GM
and other novel foods, including an integrated, transparent and accountable
management structure. The report also calls for better research and for
monitoring and data collection about the potential long-term health and
environment impacts of GM products.
CBAC recognizes that Canadians need better access to reliable information
on food products derived through biotechnology. Toward that end, the Committee
recommends the development of GM product labelling standards to be initially
implemented on a voluntary basis to test their adequacy and effectiveness.
CBAC also urges the establishment of a centralized information service which
would generate and channel comprehensive and objective information on GM and
other novel foods to consumers.
CBAC is seeking input from Canadians on its draft recommendations and on
an appropriate mechanism to address the broader social and ethical factors. In
order for CBAC to take comments into consideration in developing its final
report, they should be received on or before January 31, 2002. Comments can be
forwarded through the CBAC Web site, by facsimile at (613) 946-2847, and by
mail at 240 Sparks Street, Room 570E - 5 West, Ottawa ON, K1A 0H5.
CBAC's final report and formal recommendations on GM foods will be
provided to the Government of Canada and released to the public in early 2002.
The interim report is available through CBAC's Web site at
http://www.cbac-cccb.ca/gmfood_interim_english.htm, and can be obtained by
contacting the toll free number at 1-866-748-2222 and TTY: 1-866-835-5830.
Biotech Seed Approval Welcomed in U.S.
23 Aug 2001
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) says it welcomes the report that a subcommittee within Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF) approved a draft proposal setting a one percent tolerance for unapproved biotech hybrids in livestock feed.
"Although this is just the first step in a long process and applies to feed, not food, corn growers are encouraged that this action sets the stage for addressing the problems created by the unintentional commingling of StarLink in U.S. corn," said Rick Tolman, executive vice president and CEO of NCGA.
Tolman has worked on this issue for almost a year. In September, one of Tolman's first duties as NCGA CEO was to visit Japan with U.S. Grains Council President Ken Hobbie to address the issue directly with Japanese customers.
The draft proposal, approved by the Safety Assessment Subcommittee of MAFF's Feed Committee, is expected to be open for comments from the public and from World Trade Organization member countries. Then the proposal will be submitted to the full MAFF Feed Committee for approval. The biotech hybrids must have approval in at least one of the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"If all goes smoothly, we estimate that the new law would take effect in early 2002," said Hobbie. Tolman and Hobbie said the development indicates that MAFF understands what an impossible task it is to guarantee a zero tolerance, and it offers an option for corn that tests positive for StarLink to be used for feed in Japan.