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Date:

December 4, 2000

Subject:

EPA Reports on Starlink; A Case Against Panic; Tires and

 

EPA released the Science Advisory Panel review on StarLink today. The full
report is available on their webpage at
http://www.epa.gov/scipoly/sap/2000/november/one.pdf

A copy of the EPA press release on the subject follows. Note that "the
Scientific Advisory Panel found, based on available information, that
there is a „medium likelihood‰ that StarLink protein is a potential
allergen and that given the low levels of StarLink in the U.S. diet, there
is a „low probability‰ of allergenicity in the population exposed to the
corn." EPA continues to review the data in order to determine the
appropriate regulatory action.

United States Communications, Education,And Media Relations Environmental
Protection Agency (1703A) Note to Correspondents FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY,
DEC. 5, 2000 ADVISORY PANEL REPORT ASSESSES SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION
CONCERNING STARLINK CORN Dave Deegan 202-564-7839

Today, EPA made public a report from its Scientific Advisory Panel on the
potential allergenicity of StarLink corn. EPA asked the expert panel to
provide an independent scientific assessment on the potential
allergenicity, sensitization and possible exposure to StarLink corn.
StarLink presently is not licensed for use in food consumed by humans.
Aventis, the manufacturer, has asked for a time-limited exemption to allow
StarLink corn in food products, which EPA is currently reviewing.

Both the Panel's recommendations and the public comments that were
submitted will be used to guide the EPA during the scientific evaluation
of StarLink,‰ said Stephen Johnson, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator.
„EPA will continue its evaluation of the scientific information, and
develop the appropriate regulatory approach in response to the StarLink
situation to ensure protection of public health and continued consumer
confidence in the safety and integrity of the food supply.‰

EPA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture are working together closely on the StarLink situation, and
have already begun to take the following steps recommended by the Panel to
continue a thorough assessment: * Follow-up investigation of incidents
reported by individuals to evaluate whether StarLink residues may have
caused allergic reactions. * Evaluate new data to determine what extent
processing has on StarLink protein residues in processed food. * Review
new and existing analytical methods for measuring levels of StarLink
protein in processed foods. * Continue focused monitoring of the food
supply to determine whether residues of StarLink corn are present. In
summary, the Scientific Advisory Panel found, based on available
information, that there is a „medium likelihood‰ that StarLink protein is
a potential allergen and that given the low levels of StarLink in the U.S.
diet, there is a „low probability‰ of allergenicity in the population
exposed to the corn. While the Panel declined to speculate on the
sensitization to StarLink, the Panel did note that children may be more
sensitive than adults and study of infant diets should be given high
priority. The Panel recommended as its highest priority that individuals
who claim to have experienced adverse effects from StarLink corn
consumption be studied as soon as possible to determine whether StarLink
was the source of the reactions.

The Scientific Advisory Panel is an independent peer review body which
provides scientific advice to EPA, with the members selected on the basis
of their professional qualifications. The panel report is available at
http://www.epa.gov/scipoly/sap/. R-178 # # #

Message via biotechcomm@lists.cast-science.org. Send address changes to
lists@cast-science.org, or call 515-292-2125. Council for Agricultural
Science and Technology web site: http://www.cast-science.org.
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Check this site that lampoons Friends of the Earth:

http://www.earthfiends.org
----------

"We wish we didn't have environmental problems, we'd rather do something
else. But we are very scared." -- Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth
president Investor's Business Daily, April 21, 1995

Friends of the Earth is the largest international network of environmental
groups in the world, represented in 63 countries. Over the years we have
won many environmental battles.

Unemployment: But the elation we felt from these victories was quickly
replaced by a completely new specter -- unemployment. After the battles
were won, our usefulness declined and donations dropped off. The thought
of leaving our cushy office jobs scared the hell out of us.

Fear-mongering: There was only one thing to do -- Scare the hell out of
others in order to start brand new campaigns. This, we thought, would
bring in new donations and save us from standing in welfare lines -- or
worse, getting real jobs!

It worked! For example, donations from the Organic Food Industry gave us
money to buy mutant-plant costumes and organize protests against
genetically modified foods. Now their sales are soaring and they're giving
us even more dough! Other causes have proven equally as lucrative.

$200 million US dollars!! In 1998, the combined number of members and
supporters of Friends of the Earth groups was close to one million, and
the FOE umbrella united almost 5,000 activists groups. The combined annual
budget of FOE groups was close to US$200 million, and together we employed
close to 700 full-time staff members, not to mention countless naive
volunteers.

Today we continue to fight for our jobs and for the causes of paranoid
maniacs the world over.

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH Changing the World Because We Scare
----------------
Genetically Modified Food - We're Paid Not to Like it

Imagine how much cleaner the environment would be if we could farm without
pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer.

Imagine how much more land we could set aside as nature reserves if our
farming methods were more efficient and higher yielding.

Imagine how many starving people could be fed if we developed better crops
which were resistant to salt, heat and drought?

Sounds like an environmentalist's dream, doesn't it? Well, it's not ours.

We really don't give a damn about the environment. If we did, we would
embrace the potential of genetically-modified plants. And as for starving
people, we care even less. Let them rot.

Money, Money, Money!

After we scared people away from good, cheap, conventionally-grown food,
they started to buy organic, and the Organic Food Industry became a big
business. But then scientists discovered that they could alter plants to
allow farmers to decrease their chemical use. In the future they may even
develop plants which need no chemicals whatsoever.

But we can't let that happen, can we? If we did the Organic Food Industry
would lose its monopoly on environmentally friendly foods. And, since
genetically-modified crops are cheaper than organic crops, nobody would
buy organic anymore. That would mean no money for the Organic Food
Industry, and, consequently, no fat checks from them to Friends of the
Earth.

Scare Stories

Scientists are discovering ways of making crops more nutritious, which
could eventually save millions of lives in the Developing World. But we
are doing our best to make sure that never happens by spreading stories
about "Frankenfoods." Have you ever had a strawberry with a fish gene in
it? Of course not, because they don't exist. But that won't stop us from
selling scary T-shirts or from spreading rumors.


FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
Changing the World Because We Scare
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Gene Altered Foods: A Case Against Panic

By JANE E. BRODY http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/05/science/05BROD.html
December 5, 2000

Ask American consumers whether they support the use of biotechnology in
food and agriculture and nearly 70 percent say they do. But ask the
question another way, "Do you approve of genetically engineered (or
genetically modified) foods?" and two- thirds say they do not.

Yet there is no difference between them. The techniques involved and the
products that result are identical. Rather, the words "genetic" and
"engineer" seem to provoke alarm among millions of consumers.

The situation recalls the introduction of the M.R.I. (for magnetic
resonance imaging), which was originally called an N.M.R., for nuclear
magnetic resonance. The word nuclear, which in this case referred only to
the nucleus of cells, caused such public concern, it threatened to stymie
the growth of this valuable medical tool.

The idea of genetically modified foods, known as G.M. foods, is
particularly frightening to those who know little about how foods are now
produced and how modern genetic technology, if properly regulated, could
result in significant improvements by reducing environmental hazards,
improving the nutritional value of foods, enhancing agricultural
productivity and fostering the survival worldwide of small farms and the
rural landscape.

Without G.M. foods, Dr. Alan McHughen, a biotechnologist at the University
of Saskatchewan, told a recent conference on agricultural biotechnology at
Cornell, the earth will not be able to feed the ever-growing billions of
people who inhabit it.

Still, there are good reasons for concern about a powerful technology that
is currently imperfectly regulated and could, if inadequately tested or
misapplied, bring on both nutritional and environmental havoc. To render a
rational opinion on the subject and make reasoned choices in the
marketplace, it is essential to understand what genetic engineering of
foods and crops involves and its potential benefits and risks.

Genetics in Agriculture

People have been genetically modifying foods and crops for tens of
thousands of years. The most commonly used method has involved crossing
two parents with different desirable characteristics in an effort to
produce offspring that express the best of both of them. That and another
approach, inducing mutations, are time-consuming and hit-or-miss and can
result in good and bad characteristics.

Genetic engineering, on the other hand, involves the introduction into a
plant or animal or micro-organism of a single gene or group of genes that
are known quantities, genes that dictate the production of one or more
desired elements, for example, the ability to resist the attack of
insects, withstand herbicide treatments or produce foods with higher
levels of essential nutrients.

Since all organisms use the same genetic material (DNA), the power of the
technique includes the ability to transfer genes between organisms that
normally would never interbreed.

Thus, an antifreeze gene from Arctic flounder has been introduced into
strawberries to extend their growing season in northern climates. But
contrary to what many people think, this does not make the strawberries
"fishy" any more than the use of porcine insulin turned people into pigs.

Dr. Steven Kresovich, a plant breeder at Cornell, said, "Genes should be
characterized by function, not origin. It's not a flounder gene but a cold
tolerance gene that was introduced into strawberries."

As Dr. McHughen points out in his new book, "Pandora's Picnic Basket: The
Potential and Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods" (Oxford, $25), people
share about 7,000 genes with a worm called C. elegans. The main difference
between organisms lies in the total number of genes their cells contain,
how the genes are arranged and which ones are turned on or off in
different cells at different times.

Current and Potential Benefits

An insecticidal toxin from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
has been genetically introduced into two major field crops, corn and
cotton, resulting in increased productivity and decreased use of
pesticides, which means less environmental contamination and greater
profits for farmers. For example, by growing Bt cotton, farmers could
reduce spraying for bollworm and budworm from seven times a season to
none. Bt corn also contains much lower levels of fungal toxins, which are
potentially carcinogenic.

The genetic introduction of herbicide tolerance into soybeans is saving
farmers about $200 million a year by reducing the number of applications
of herbicide needed to control weed growth, said Leonard Gianessi, a
pesticide analyst at the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy,
a research organization in Washington.

Genetically engineered pharmaceuticals are already widely used, with more
than 150 products on the market. Since 1978, genetically modified bacteria
have been producing human insulin, which is used by 3.3 million people
with diabetes.

Future food benefits are likely to accrue directly to the consumer. For
example, genetic engineers have developed golden rice, a yellow rice rich
in beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A) and iron.

If farmers in developing countries accept this crop and if the millions of
people who suffer from nutrient deficiencies will eat it, golden rice
could prevent widespread anemia and blindness in half a million children a
year and the deaths of one million to two million children who succumb
each year to the consequences of vitamin A deficiency.

Future possibilities include peanuts or shrimp lacking proteins that can
cause life- threatening food allergies, fruits and vegetables with longer
shelf lives, foods with fewer toxicants and antinutrients, meat and dairy
products and oils with heart-healthier fats and foods that deliver
vaccines.

Real and Potential Risks

G.M. foods and crops arrived without adequate mechanisms in place to
regulate them. Three agencies are responsible for monitoring their safety
for consumers, farmers and the environment: the Food and Drug
Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental
Protection Agency. But the drug agency says its law does not allow it to
require premarket testing of G.M. foods unless they contain a new
substance that is not "generally recognized as safe."

For most products, safety tests are done voluntarily by producers. The
recent recall of taco shells containing G.M. corn that had not been
approved for human consumption was done voluntarily by the producer. The
agency is now formulating new guidelines to test G.M. products and to
label foods as "G.M.-free" but says it lacks a legal basis to require
labeling of G.M. foods.

"In the current environment, such a label would be almost a kiss of death
on a product," said Dr. Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for
Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer group. "But it may be
that the public is simply not going to have confidence in transgenic
ingredients if their presence is kept secret."

The introduction of possible food allergens through genetic engineering is
a major concern. If the most common sources of food allergens — peanuts,
shellfish, celery, nuts, milk or eggs — had to pass through an approval
process today, they would never make it to market.

But consumers could be taken unaware if an otherwise safe food was
genetically endowed with an allergen, as almost happened with an
allergenic protein from Brazil nuts. Even if known allergenic proteins are
avoided in G.M. foods, it is hard to predict allergenicity of new
proteins.

A potentially serious environmental risk involves the "escape" of G.M.
genes from crops into the environment, where they may harm innocent
organisms or contaminate crops that are meant to be G.M.-free.

Dr. Jacobson concluded, "Now is the time, while agricultural biotechnology
is still young, for Congress and regulatory agencies to create the
framework that will maximize the safe use of these products, bolster
public confidence in them and allow all of humankind to benefit from their
enormous potential." Two Congressional bills now under discussion can do
much to assure safer use of agricultural biotechnology, he said.
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From: miller@hoover.stanford.edu
Subject: Worrying about risks of tires, tacos

Worrying about risks of tires, tacos

Saturday, November 4, 2000; Taco-shell recalls ought to worry us more than
tire recalls.
http://www.oregonlive.com/oped/index.ssf?/oped/00/11/ed_71rml1104.frame

Tread separations and blowouts have forced the government to order that
millions of Firestone tires be replaced. Flaws in design, materials or
assembly will be corrected. This is a blip on the radar screen of our
lives.

Not so with the taco-shell recall. The underlying issue extends beyond
corn to dozens of Northwest crops and products -- from Oregon's wheat to
its milk and cheeses -- and bears on our region's long-term food safety,
environmental health and prosperity.

Several taco shell brands were recalled after traces of a type of
gene-spliced insect-resistant corn, StarLink, were found in the product.
The corn has been approved only for animal feed. Restrictions have been
imposed solely because the corn was developed by use of the gene-splicing
technique, not because of any real expectation of elevated risk for
humans.

Conventional techniques of gene manipulation like hybridization involve
moving more genes with less control, but do not face the same regulatory
reviews.

Gene-spliced plants face field trials 10 to 20 times more costly than
those for almost-identical, conventionally crafted plants, Henry I.
Miller, former head of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of
Biotechnology, told me. When a gene-spliced plant gets through field
testing, the FDA evaluates it on a case-by-case basis and imposes higher
standards of precaution than for conventional plants.

The irony, says Miller, is that gene splicing improves plants more
precisely and ultimately more predictably than older techniques because it
enables plant breeders to move only one gene, or at most a handful of
them. The older techniques, by contrast, move hundreds or thousands of
genes -- even whole chromosomes.

Gene-spliced foods are being regulated "in a discriminatory, unnecessarily
burdensome way," the senior researcher at Stanford's Hoover Institution
declares. Regulators "have imposed requirements that could not possibly be
met by conventionally bred crop plants." Farmers, traders and consumers
are all hurt.

Excessive regulation -- scrutiny far beyond risks -- makes many plants too
expensive to bring to market. It feeds alarmists' fears, fosters unfair
protectionism against U.S. products and throttles exports. It stifles
innovation and suppresses several advantages of gene-spliced crops.

Take the StarLink corn as an example. The bacterial gene spliced into the
corn produces a protein that kills the larvae of crop-destroying insects.
This reduces insect predation of StarLink corn. With fewer corn-borers
attacking, the crop is less likely to be infected by a toxic fungus that
the insects carry.

Miller: "That, in turn, significantly reduces the levels of the fungal
toxin fumonisin, which is known to cause fatal diseases in horses and
swine that eat infected corn, and esophageal cancer in humans."

The gene-spliced resistance to pests and diseases allows farmers to use
fewer and less environmentally toxic chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Farmers can put less land into cultivation when crop plants produce higher
yields. Environmental benefits range from reduced erosion to less runoff
of harmful chemicals into river systems.

Chickens fed genetically improved grains excrete less phosphate, an
environmental advantage. A gene-spliced protein helps cows produce more
milk per pound of feed but less manure.

Our regulators are punishing a technology whose use per se, according to
the scientific consensus, does not introduce new hazards.

Regulation should focus on products of high risk and not irrationally on
the newest, most precise and most predictable processes. In the new
biotechnology of agricultural gene-splicing the government is doing just
the opposite.

The effects are to boost developments costs, stifle innovation, excite
fears, reduce consumer choice, promote protectionism against new
agricultural exports and retard environmental and economic advances at
home and abroad. Our regulatory energies are aimed in the wrong direction.

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From: Katie Thrasher

GM ACTIVISTS GUILTY OF CRIMINAL DAMAGE
December 4, 2000 British Times
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,46024,00.html

Five people were, acording to this story, today found guilty of criminal
damage after destroying genetically-modified crops, but a judge at
Liverpool Magistrates' Court said that he accepted they honestly believed
they had a "positive purpose". The story says that a four-day trial at
Darlington Magistrates' Court last month heard how the three women and two
men pulled up £2,000 of oilseed rape which had been planted for research
purposes at a farm in Hutton Magna, Co Durham, by AgrEvo UK in October
last year. Stephen Gordon, 26, Hugh Baker, 26, and Zoey Exley, 23, all of
Manchester, Miss Exley's mother Lorraine, 51, of Poole, Dorset, and Emma
Henry, 22, of York, all admitted destroying the crops but denied causing
criminal damage. They said removing the GM plants was necessary to prevent
gene pollution, which they claimed could damage crops, farmland, the
environment and public health. Today, District Judge Paul Firth, who heard
the case at Darlington, conditionally discharged the five for 12 months
and ordered them to pay a total of £1,500 in costs.

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From: sandra.romanoanthony@utoronto.ca

We're considering a forum, symposium or some type of educational event
around GM foods (next spring). One thought has been to focus on what we
stand to lose by not embracing GM foods/ biotechnology. What do you think
of this? Have you a site where I can peruse scientific arguments - pros
and cons - about this topic? With thanks, SPA.
---------------
Sandra Patricia Romano Anthony, MSc., PhD
Manager University-Industry Affiliates Office Program in Food Safety,
Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs Department of Nutritional Sciences,
Faculty of Medicine
University of Toronto sandra.romanoanthony@utoronto.ca Ph. (416) 978-0799
Fax (416) 978-5882