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July 22, 2000


GM Foods and the Consumer; Have Scientists been Silent?; Monarch


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Check the following two documents as both are extremely informative and
useful. One is from Europe on their new policy on biotech crops and the
other is an informative brochure from Australia.

1. DG Health and Consumer Protection (ex DG XXIV) giving detailed
explanations about GMOs, the legislation covering them and derived
products as well as tables on approved products. This document is an
excellent overview of the regulation of GMO's in the EU.

Facts on GMO's in the EU

2. "GM Foods and the Consumer" published by the Australia New Zealand Food
Authority. This report has considerable information on the background on
biotechnology, definition of commonly used terms, information on key
issues, discussion on safety and how they assess safety from a
nutritional, toxicological specific and how they have applied these
standards to a case study. One of the better and most easily understood
reports on the topic. http://www.anzfa.gov.au/Documents/pub02_00.pdf
Do you really know these foods are safe?

Crops and foods improved through biotechnology have been modified with
incredible precision. They have also been examined in advance in more
depth and detail than any other crops and foods in human history. they are
routinely analyzed for their environmental performance and food safety,
including toxicity and allergenicity studies. Each and every food allowed
on the market has been found to be at least as safe as the foods already
available to consumers.

Here are more resources for information on foods improved through

<http://www.usda.gov/agencies/biotech/index.html>http://www.usda.gov/agencies/biotech/index.html United States Department of Agriculture

<http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biotechm.html>http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biotechm.html Food and Drug Administration

<http://www.betterfoods.org/>www.betterfoods.org Alliance for Better Foods

<http://www.whybiotech.com/>www.whybiotech.com Council for Biotechnology
July 21, 2000
Volume 289, Number 5478, Issue of 21 Jul 2000, pp. 392-393. Joyce A.
Nettleton, 7 Manchester Lane, Elmhurst, IL 60126-3969, USA.

E-mail: sciencevoice@mindspring.com, writes that in his Editorial
"Opportunity for agricultural biotechnology" (28 Apr., p. 615), Richard J.
Mahoney accuses the scientific community of being "missing in action" on
the agricultural biotechnology public debate. Few would disagree that more
needs to be heard from agricultural and food scientists in both public and
private sectors. They have not been silent, however. Nettleton says that
in 1996, 11 scientific societies representing some 80,000 scientists
united their efforts to articulate the scientific concerns about
regulatory policy for agricultural biotechnology. The consortium decried
regulation based on process rather than product and declared it
"scientifically indefensible to regulate the inherited traits of plants
for pest and disease resistance under statutes developed specifically for
chemical pesticides applied externally to plants" (1). Process-based
regulation remains the cornerstone of the Environmental Protection
Agency’s (EPA) policy.

Repeatedly, in testimonies to Congress, editorials, and letters,
scientists have elaborated on the science and safety of modern
biotechnology techniques. Mahoney describes the "disappointment" of
industry and government biotechnology supporters at the absence of the
greater scientific community in the debate, yet I see little evidence of
support for the scientific issues by the biotechnology industry, or, for
the most part, by government scientists who, while upholding the Food and
Drug Administration’s product-based approach, acceded to EPA’s emphasis on
process. Such divisiveness over fundamental science -- indeed, outright
support for such nonsense as "genes are pesticides" -- has provided
opportunity for the recent National Academy of Sciences’ panel to call for
greater regulatory oversight of agricultural biotechnology and to
equivocate about the science. In contrast, the recent report from the
House Subcommittee on Basic Research (3), under the chairmanship of
Representative Nick Smith (R-MI), provides ringing endorsement of the
science, warns against the hindrance of suffocating regulations, and
points out that there has been no evidence to support the laundry list of
fears promulgated by opponents.

Science cannot answer the legitimate social and economic questions
embroiled in the controversy about agricultural biotechnology, of which
there are several, but it can answer the compelling health and safety
questions that are the surrogates for substance in the current
controversy. By speaking out, scientists from all quarters can strengthen
public policy, add perspective to controversial food issues, and restore
public confidence in the truly stunning achievements that science has
contributed to agriculture. On the other hand, by appearing to support
even greater regulation for a technology that already has more oversight
than all traditional foods and plants and an unblemished track record, the
biotechnology industry and policy-makers signal their mistrust of
biotechnology. What more could the opponents want?

1.Appropriate Oversight for Plants with Inherited Traits for Resistance to
Pests (Institute of Food Technologists, Chicago, IL, 1996). 2.Genetically
Modified Pest-Protected Plants; Science and Regulation (National Academy
of Sciences, Washington, DC, 5 April 2000). 3.N. Smith, "Seeds of
opportunity: An assessment of the benefits, safety, and oversight of plant
genomics and agricultural biotechnology" (Subcommittee on Basic Research,
Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives, 13 April 2000).

R. J. Mahoney, Center for the Study of American Business, Washington
University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA., former chairman and CEO of Monsanto
Company responds that Nettleton properly points out that a coalition of
food scientists was active in challenging certain aspects of biotechnology
regulation by the EPA and had testified before Congress on the safety of
the technology. However, the vast majority of potentially interested
scientists has been largely silent -- so that the public stage has been
taken over by the constant drumbeat of skilled publicists not troubled by
the uncomfortable requirements of rigorous science.

Unfortunately, discussion of regulatory procedures gets buried -- if
recorded at all -- in the Congressional Record, whereas the "frankenfood"
charges of the biotechnology critics make the 6 o’clock news. As I said in
my Editorial, the scientific community can and should now enter the debate
fully and make a significant difference using real science -- wherever it
From: SKHARLAND@aol.com
Sub: Campbell Soups

I had trouble accessing the website provided, but was able to send a
message from the Campbell Soup webpage at www.campbellsoup.com. Try this
if you have trouble with the other one. Susan Harlander
(From Agnet; Douglas A Powell )

July 18, 2000; Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 97, Issue 15, 8198-8199
David S. Pimentel*, and Peter H. Raven*, Department of Entomology, Cornell
University, 5126 Comstock Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-0901; and Missouri
Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299

Pimentel and Raven write that the demonstrations by Losey et al. (1) and
Hansen and Obrycki (www.ent.iastate.edu/entsoc/nch 99/prog/abs/D81.html)
that milkweed leaves dusted with heavy concentrations of Bt corn pollen
are toxic to Monarch butterfly larvae (Danaus plexippus) feeding on them
were consistent with the known toxicity of Bt endotoxin to Lepidoptera in
general and the expression of Bt endotoxins in the pollen of the strains
of corn they studied. Much speculation and some investigations followed,
concerning the extent to which the poisoning of Monarch butterflies and
other nontarget Lepidoptera might be significant contributors to the
mortality of these insects in nature. For example, Shelton and Roush (2)
were critical of the two earlier findings, but did not provide any data
from nature, despite the fact that Losey et al. (1), in the original
report, stated "it would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions about
the risk to Monarch populations in the field based solely on these initial

In a recent issue of PNAS, Wraight et al. (3) reported their experiments
with populations of black swallowtail larvae (Papilio polyxenes) under
field conditions. The food plants were located at varying distances from
plantings of Bt corn; the authors found no effects on the mortality of the
larvae. These results demonstrated that Bt corn pollen from this corn
strain is not toxic to this species of butterfly at levels observed in the
field no matter how close the larval food plants were to the
pollen-shedding corn plants.

However, say Pimentel and Raven, it has not been demonstrated that Monarch
butterflies and black swallowtails are equally susceptible to Bt
endotoxins. Further, the pollen of the corn strain 176 used by Hansen and
Obrycki (www.ent.iastate.edu/entsoc/nch 99/prog/abs/D81.html) in their
experiments with Monarch butterflies was demonstrated by Wraight et al.
(3) to be lethal to black swallowtail larvae in the laboratory, whereas
the pollen of the strain they used in their field experiments, with 1/40
of the Bt endotoxin level of strain 176, was not. Studies of the effects
of corn strain 176 pollen on both black swallowtails and Monarch
butterflies in the field are underway in the summer of 2000. For their
original report, Losey et al. (1) used still a different corn strain,
N4640. At any event, the level of Bt endotoxin in the pollen of the
particular corn strain, as expected, has a direct effect on the survival
of black swallowtail larvae in the laboratory and presumably on the larvae
of other butterfly species as well. It has not been demonstrated whether
different species of butterflies have varying levels of tolerance to Bt
toxin, but they probably do, as demonstrated with other toxins.

Taking the overall picture into account, Pimentel and Raven say the effect
on the survival of butterfly populations of Bt corn pollen dusting their
larval food plants appears to be relatively insignificant compared with
other factors. For example, the high productivity of U.S. agriculture is
made possible by the application of insecticides, herbicides, and
fungicides. Despite the yearly application of about 115 million kilograms
of pesticides to control insect pests, other plant pathogens, and weeds on
corn, these pests continue to reduce potential corn yields by nearly
one-third (4). Consequently, corn receives more pesticide treatments than
any other U.S. crop. If untreated, corn rootworm can reduce corn yields by
45% and the European corn borer by as much as 20%. The corn rootworm can
be controlled with insecticides by rotating corn with non-corn crops, or
by newly developed genetically modified strains of corn that have not yet
reached the market. The corn borer, however, is a difficult pest to
control with contact insecticides, because once the larvae have burrowed
into the corn stalks, they are impossible to kill by conventional spraying
techniques (5), the basic reason that Bt corn has so rapidly become
popular in the U.S. and to a limited extent elsewhere. Using Bt corn makes
it possible for farmers to avoid the critical timing of the insecticide
applications that is necessary to control corn borers (5).

Pimentel and Raven state that in evaluating the use of Bt corn and its
possible environmental damage, it is important to take into account the
serious public health and environmental damage caused by the use of
pesticides in U.S. agriculture generally.

Human pesticide poisonings are a major health concern, with a reported
110,000 nonfatal pesticide poisonings reported each year (6), together
with an estimated 10,000 cases of cancer and numerous other public health
problems (7). Although 97-99% of the foods sampled in supermarkets in the
U.S. have acceptable or tolerable pesticide residue levels that for the
most part do not constitute health hazards, approximately 35% of such
foods do have detectable pesticide residues (7), a condition that most of
us would wish to avoid. In addition to the demonstrated and potential
health problems associated with their use, pesticides cause widespread and
serious environmental effects. An estimated 70 million birds are killed
each year in the U.S. alone as a result of pesticide use (7), and billions
of insects, beneficial and harmful, are also killed. These include
incalculable numbers of insects that are vital to our fruit and vegetable
pollination, useful biological control agents, and many others. It has
been estimated that such environmental losses cost the public about $1
billion each year; they are without doubt a major factor in determining
the population levels of the insects concerned.

Considering the enormous damage caused to human health and to biodiversity
through the application of pesticides, it is clear that all efforts should
continue to improve crop productivity while reducing the amounts of
pesticides applied. In this connection, plants genetically modified to
produce Bt endotoxin or other toxins clearly have an important role to
play. The environmental effects of Bt endotoxin, freely sprayed or
produced by genetically modified corn and other crops, have been assessed
for many years, should continue to be evaluated. Many steps can be taken
to ameliorate the potential problems reported by Losey et al. (1) and
Hansen and Obrycki (www.ent.iastate.edu/entsoc/nch 99/prog/abs/D81.html);
for example, corn strains can be selected in which the Bt endotoxin is not
expressed in the pollen, or that produce nonlethal concentrations of these
toxins. In any case, the careful evaluation of foods produced as a result
of gene splicing or any other method that alters their genetic
constitution should continue; and the possibility of labeling certain food
products should continue to be considered in the light of consumer
preference (8).

Non-chemical alternatives for pest control have great importance, and
should be pursued actively, and used in combination with environmentally
relatively benign strategies. For example, if Bt corn, crop rotations,
monitoring pest populations, and other known alternatives were used in
corn production, insecticide use in corn production could be reduced by
more than 50% (4). Such a development would be of great environmental and
economic benefit to farmers while providing consumers with corn with fewer
pesticide residues. Reductions in off-site environmental damage and in
public health hazards would follow from reduced pesticide use (7).

Finally, additional research should be focused on the overall status of
Monarch butterflies and other species of concern. From 1996-97 to 1998-99,
for example, the overwintering Monarch butterfly populations in Mexico
declined from 170-204 million to only 56-67 million (8). Major factors in
this decrease apparently include both habitat destruction in Mexico and in
the United States and the widespread application of insecticides on crops
throughout both countries. Compared with the threats posed to Monarch
butterflies by these factors, and considering the gains obviously achieved
in the level of survival of populations of Monarch butterflies and other
insects by eliminating a large proportion of the pesticides applied to the
same crops, the widespread cultivation of Bt corn may have huge benefits
for Monarch butterfly survival.

In conclusion, Pimentel and Raven state that the introduction of
resistance factors in corn through the application of genetic engineering
technology is an effective strategy to reduce the extensive crop damage
caused by corn rootworm and European corn borer populations. Yet, the
diverse reactions of the different Lepidoptera to corn genotypes with
varying levels of Bt endotoxin in their pollen signal that additional
testing and development is required to limit or entirely prevent damage to
nontarget butterfly and other beneficial insect species. Although Bt corn
pollen under certain circumstances has the potential of adversely
affecting the population levels of Monarch butterflies and other nontarget
Lepidoptera, we consider these impacts to be minimal when compared with
habitat loss and the widespread use of pesticides throughout the
ecosystem. Broad agricultural investigations should focus on improving
pest-management strategies in the context of sustainability and
productivity to reduce the use of pesticides and make agriculture more
environmentally and economically sound. In addition, broadly based
research should continue to be conducted on the reasons for the decline of
populations of Monarch butterflies and other species, and remedial steps
should be directed to the more important of these factors as they are

1. Losey, J. E., Rayor, L. S. & Carter, M. E. (1999) Nature (London) 399,
2. Shelton, A. M. & Roush, R. T. (1999) Nat. Biotechnol. 17, 832[Medline].
3. Wraight, C. L., Zangerl, A. R., Carroll, M. J. & Berenbaum, M. R.
(2000) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97,
7700-7703[Abstract/Full Text].
4. Pimentel, D., McLaughlin, L., Zepp, A., Kakitan, B., Kraus, T.,
Kleinman, P., Vancini, F., Roach, W. J.,
Graap, E., Keeton, W. S. & Selig, G. (1993) Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 46,
5. Rice, M. E. & Pilscher, C. D. (1998) Am. Entomol. 44, 75-78. 6.
Benbrook, C. M., Groth, E., Hoaaloran, J. M., Hansen, M. K. & Marquardt,
S. (1996) Pest Management at the Crossroads (Consumers Union, Yonkers,
NY). 7. Pimentel, D., Acquay, H., Biltonen, M., Rice, P., Silva, M.,
Nelson, J., Lipner, V., Giordano, S., Horowitz, A. & D’Amore, M. (1993) in
The Pesticide Question: Environment, Economics and Ethics, eds. Pimentel,
& Lehman, H. (Chapman & Hall, New York), pp. 47-84. 8.Monsanto (1999)
Butterflies and Bt Corn Pollen: Lab Research & Field Realities (Monsanto,
St. Louis).