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Date:

January 25, 2001

Subject:

CEQ Report; CNN Poll; Unraveling Rice Genome; Pig Genes

 

You may recall that I had posted information on U.S. Whitehouse document
on biotech regulation which included six case studies examining the
coordinated regulatory framework and the solicitation of public comments
by the white house. As the document was pulled off from the web because of
the change in the administration, many of you wrote to me about your
inability to download it. Fortunately, I had my copy of this document by
then, and have now placed it on the
http://www.agbioworld.org/ site. You can access it directly at:

http://agbioworld.org/pdf/CEQ.pdf

- Prakash
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From: Susan Smith
Subject: Vote for biotech!

Attention: CNN.com is running a Quickvote on its Web site right now
-- biotech pro/con.

Click on http://cnn.com to cast your vote for biotech!

Susan
-------
Scroll down the page. It is just below the 'World' and 'U.S. news'
sections on CNN main page.

*Poll Results so far*

Are you worried about increased use of genetically modified foods?
No, it's the answer to food shortages: 41% 12964 votes
Yes, we need to know more about possible adverse reactions: 59% 18283
votes
Total: 31247 votes
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From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Pig genes in tomatoes

Well, I guess it depends on what you call a "pig" gene. I read recently
that about half of a banana's genes are also found in humans. If this is
true of tomato genes, then does this mean that humans have tomato genes or
that tomatoes (already) have human genes? Does it really matter if a
percentage is changed via GE from 50% to 50.001% shared genome?

BOB
--------

Bob: You are right in saying that much of the genome among organisms is so
similar. Nevertheless, pig gene is still a pig gene, and if one puts a pig
gene into a plant you have a plant with a pig gene. While scientifically
it may be nonsensical to even talk about the significance of the source of
the miniscule 0.001% of the total DNA from a new gene in transgenic
plants, it is important that we recognize and respect the public
sentiments and beliefs on this issue.

This is being exploited by the opponents of biotechnology in leading them
to believe that genes from fish, scorpion, rat and pig are being put into
their food, and this can only further undermine the public acceptance of
biotech food. Just look at the new page on the site by Union of
Concerned Scientists on 'Transgenic Cafe' at
http://www.ucsusa.org/?food/tcmenu.html Point your mouse to Potato Leek
Soup!

For all I know, FDA does permit a few insect body parts per pound of the
food we eat any way! Further, genomic advances may make much of the
current foreign gene transfers unnecessary in the future.
- Prakash

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From: Andrew Apel

Craig, I seldom dabble in vitriol, but your diatribe has veered sharply
from bare sense into deep nonsense (I here refrain from using the more
obvious metaphor). Apparently, you envision the hypothetical Iowa farmer,
deprived of his subsidies, sitting idly on thousands of acres of land
while his wife and children starve, as though scattering their dessicated
bones on the prairie would amount to some kind of protest. Apparently, you
see the starving impoverished in developing nations doing something
similar, refusing to buy cheap food imports and refusing to feed
themselves, in order to protest the agricultural subsidies of the
foreigners.

This much I know: nobody is voluntarily hungry or penniless. You mean to
say that these people who are "far away who talk and act different" are
prevented by US agricultural subsidies from feeding themselves? Is the US
perhaps paying them to starve? Ag subsidies may depress prices on export
markets, but when you can't even feed yourself, the export market is a
mere abstraction and ag subsidies are irrelevant. Your next meal is what's
relevant. Craig, if you were suddenly stuck in a developing country and
given the chance to starve, you, too, would be sweeping the streets for
precious bits of stray dung for your organic garden, planted in
unforgiving soil, and praying for rain. And you'd be mourning the fact
that affluent Westerners were not lining up to pay huge markups for the
meager bits of shriveled produce that you must, by necessity, eat yourself.

And you'd perhaps eventually conclude: "Hey, this is a developing nation.
Maybe they should develop more and do things like what the developed
nations do." And then you'd demand Bt cotton and Bt maize so that you
wouldn't have to borrow money to pay the chemical companies for they bug
sprays they make... and all sorts of things. Or perhaps you imagine that
your wisdom regarding organic production vastly supersedes anything known
in developing countries and that it would allow you to live in the
relative luxury to which you are accustomed. Go try it. It doesn' work for
them.
-----

Craig Sams wrote:

Andrew Apel asks me: What I do not understand is: if these people suffer
poverty and starvation, why don't they at least grow enough to feed
themselves? If you were an unsubsidised farmer in Nebraska with the fat
cat subsidy-guzzling Iowa farmers selling all their corn and beans to your
erstwhile customers in Nebraska, how would you feel if somebody told you
to just grow enough to feed yourself? Yeah, sell the combine harvester for
ten bucks and burn the barn board by board to keep warm in winter. It only
makes sense because it's about people far away who talk and act different.

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From: Milton Gordon

According to today's paper,there are 50,000,000 cases of food poisoning a
year in the U.S.and 5000 deaths.

Milton Gordon, Ph.D
Department of Biochemistry University of Washington Seattle, WA
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From: http://scope.educ.washington.edu/mailman/listinfo/gmf-news

British Committee: No Evidence Organic Food has Health Benefits New
Scientist 1/25/01
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns9999356

Excerpt: Despite the explosive growth in demand for organic food, there is
no proof that it is any better for you, says a select committee of British
MPs. "It's time to move from faith to science," said David Curry, chairman
of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee that produced the report.
"We think there should be proper research upon which the consumer can make
a proper judgement of organic farming," he said. "The argument that
organic farming can deliver environmentally friendly farming is true but
the argument for health has no scientific substance as things stand." To
put the record straight, the MPs demand more money for research on organic
farming. "The key is to bring more scientific rigour to the claims made...
END excerpt.

OUTGOING SECRETARY SAYS AGENCY'S TOP ISSUE IS GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1/25/01) www.postnet.com news & ProFarmer AgWeb:
http://www.agweb.com/news_general_news.asp?id=19. Excerpt: BY Bill
Lambrecht; Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau

Ann Veneman, the new secretary of agriculture, faces various problems as
she takes office, including what to do about genetically modified food.
Veneman served on the board of Calgene, a company owned by Monsanto Co. *
Bill Clinton's agriculture secretary, Dan Glickman, warned his
replacement, Ann Veneman, that biotechnology policy may become her most
difficult problem. But in her speedy confirmation, Veneman revealed almost
nothing about her views. Along with the keys to his office, the departing
U.S. secretary of agriculture, Dan Glickman, gave advice about
biotechnology to Ann Veneman, the Californian who replaced him. Get ready,
he said, for a full-throated debate about genetically modified food that
awaits you when you walk in the door... END excerpt.

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Companies Unravel Rice Genome, Providing Model for Grains

January 26, 2001 By ANDREW POLLACK
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/26/science/26GENE.html

Two companies are expected to announce today that they have unraveled the
genetic code of rice, the first commercially important crop to have its
genome sequenced.

The accomplishment is expected to pave the way for efforts to improve
rice, which serves as a staple food for a large part of the world's
population. Rice is also expected to serve as a genetic model for other
crops like wheat and corn, which have much larger genomes that defy easy
sequencing.The two companies are Syngenta of Basel, Switzerland, which was
recently formed by the merger of the agricultural units of Novartis and
Astra-Zeneca, and Myriad Genetics, a biotechnology company in Utah.

"It's a monumental achievement and certainly great news for developing
countries," said Sudhir Sahasrabudhe, executive vice president for
research at Myriad. But the accomplishment could also raise concerns that
corporate control of the plant's genome could prevent the information from
being used to develop better varieties of the crop.

Myriad executives said Syngenta and Myriad planned to sell access to their
rice genome database to commercial customers, like seed companies or
agricultural biotechnology companies. To encourage development of improved
crops for poor farmers, the officials said that the companies would
provide free access to some data to academic researchers who meet certain
requirements.

There is also an international project under way to sequence rice, but it
was not expected to be finished for a couple of years. In addition,
Monsanto announced last year that it had completed a working draft of the
rice genome, which it said would be made available to the international
effort, which was based in Japan.

But Syngenta and Myriad said they had the first complete sequence, which
would make rice the second plant to have its genome sequenced. An
international consortium of scientists announced recently that it had
essentially completed the sequence of arabidopsis, a mustard-like weed
that is the laboratory mouse of the plant world. That genome is publicly
available. But arabidopsis is in a different branch of the plant world
from rice, wheat and corn, so the rice genome is expected to be more
relevant to developing a model for genetic sequencing of these crops.

With the rice sequence, scientists were expected to look for genes that
could help improve yields or make the food more nutritious. Such genes
could be genetically engineered into crops or the information could be
used to help guide conventional breeding.The rice genetic code consists of
about 430 million base pairs, the units of the genetic code that are
represented by the letters A, C, G and T. Arabidopsis had about 125
million base pairs, which was one reason it was used as a model plant. The
human genome is about 3.1 billion letters long.

Under a contract signed in 1999, Novartis, the predecessor of Syngenta,
agreed to pay $33.5 million over two years to have Myriad determine the
genetic structures of cereal crops.The two companies plan to jointly offer
commercial access to the database and share the proceeds.A scientist from
the Syngenta research institute in La Jolla, Calif., will discuss the rice
genome on Saturday at a plant biology conference in Montana.

*******

Rice genome seen bringing seeds revenues in 5 years

ZURICH, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Syngenta International AG and Myriad
Genetics Inc , announcing on Friday they had finished mapping the
rice genome, said they expected the findings to bring revenues from new
seeds in about five years.

"We expect plant breeders to use this information, to have an impact on
new varieties, in the next approximately five years," Steve Briggs,
President of the Torry Mesa Research Institute where the research was
done, told journalists in a conference call.

Syngenta was formed last year by merging the agribusiness activities of
Novartis AG and AstraZeneca Plc .Syngenta is the world's
largest crop protection company and number three in the market for
important commercial seeds. The findings unveiled on Friday are expected
to create new seeds which could increase plant yields and allow certain
plants to grow more easily in hostile climates.They will also help to
develop new pesticides for specific problems in plants.

David Evans, head of Syngenta's research and technology, said that while
revenues from new seeds were possible in five years, revenues from
"chemicals" like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, derived from
findings may take seven years or more.Evans said that "revenues from new
seeds (are possible in) five years (and) revenues from chemicals, from
this particular discovery (in) seven years plus."

He said much of the time needed to approve chemicals used in crop
protection were taken up with testing their safety. The completion of the
rice map will make it easier for researchers to pinpoint targets for
chemical products, including those which could be safer to use."What it
does do, is produce better targets, enabling us to 'navigate' our
chemistry into important areas," Evans said. Revenues are also expected to
come from new ventures "based on plants but outside conventional
agribusiness," as well as from licencing the findings from all of these
activities to other companies, Evans said, without giving any time frame.

Regarding patents, Briggs said that the companies would not seek to patent
the rice genome. "However, based on our functional studies, we will seek
to protect inventions which we believe could be useful and marketable," he
said.
08:11 01-26-01 Copyright 2001 Reuters Limited.
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Tewolde Berhan Egziabher interview

New Scientist January 20, 2001 BYLINE: Ehsan Masood

HIGHLIGHT: As Africa's spokesman on biotech issues at the UN, Tewolde
Berhan Egziabher has taken on the West and won. He has convinced
developing countries to hold off licensing genetically modified crops
until more is known about the risks. He has also managed to get member
states of the Organisation of African Unity to consider adopting a law
that will ban patents on genes. The influence wielded by Egziabher, who
heads Ethiopia's environmental protection authority, has got biotech
companies and the US government worried. The US in particular fears that
his ideas could isolate Africa further, but Egziabher doesn't see it that
way. Ehsan Masood spoke to a past master of diplomacy and deal-making

BODY:

Ethiopia has a rich history but in the West it's known chiefly for war and
famine . . . The question is, why famine ? That has never been asked and
that's also the heart of the problem now when we think about new
technologies such as GM. We had those famines not because the country
cannot produce food. In 1984 to 1985, the years of the worst famine,
northwestern Ethiopia had heaps of grain, rotting, waiting for lorries to
take them to areas where it was needed. Moreover, 85 per cent of the
population is still rural with no access to financial resources other than
crops grown by families. If a bad season turns up, families have no grain,
and therefore no income. So, when there is food, they can't buy it.

Why is Ethiopia so poor ? Ethiopia kept the world out for centuries until
the Second World War, when the Italians tried to colonise in a five-year
effort that didn't succeed. But it did help to challenge Ethiopia to mix
with the outside world. The country has had to accommodate huge changes in
two generations, when many other countries have taken two centuries to
deal with them. It is a country that is in a mess trying to come to terms
with its past, and at the same time emerging into the present.

What would you say is Ethopia's most pressing environmental problem ? Land
degradation, loss of vegetation, trees, soil erosion and increased
destruction of hydrological resources.

Would it help if you introduced crops that are genetically modified to
grow in less than ideal conditions ? I don't believe that there can be
crops that would withstand continuing land degradation. Such crops will
need some water. But there is no water. You can't manage a crop that grows
on bare rock.

If GM crops aren't the answer, how else could Ethiopia use Western aid and
expertise ? Number one, Westerners in developing countries should not
interfere with what we're doing. Very often they come with simplified
recipes that cause more problems than solutions. I think they should stop
prescribing solutions. If they want to help, they should go into
partnership based on genuine dialogue. Then they could provide technical
help when they are asked for specific technical inputs.

Are you against genetic engineering ? No. I am definitely not. I am
neither anti nor pro any technology. A technology is as good as the
combination of our needs and its promise. I don't idolise any particular
technology. Genetic engineering is just one technology.

Why do you think the US is so gung-ho about GM crops ? When the UN
Biosafety Protocol was being negotiated, countries led by the US were
feeling on top of the world. They felt that the public was behind them.
They controlled exports of major crop commodities, and thought they could
dictate to the world. But that has now been undermined as the American
public follows the path of the Europeans as it begins to realise that
there could be serious risks with genetically engineered products.

You argue that we shouldn't use GM products until scientists are sure
they're safe - possibly for another 10 years. This logic has never applied
to other technologies, such as mobile phones. Why is GM different ? Just
because we have been committing mistakes in the past doesn't mean that we
must continue to make them. We need to learn from previous mistakes. DDT
wasn't immediately seen to be poisonous to humans but it turns out to have
a very insidious impact. If mobile phones are useful for only 10 years,
then they might as well be scrapped. But if they continue to be useful, a
delay of 10 years to make sure that they're safe wouldn't be such a major
hurdle for humanity.

In fact, we've had GM food in some form for almost a decade and there's
been no apparent serious harm to human health or the environment. Doesn't
that meet your time limit ? Well, that would assume all GM organisms and
their products are the same. One genetically engineered product that is
consumed and hasn't shown any demonstrable problems so far doesn't mean
the next one will be the same.

On that basis, then, how could GM technology ever be commercialised ? I
wouldn't go to the extent of saying we don't want the technology. I would
agree that any technology should be tried, but discontinued if it creates
more problems than advantages. Nuclear technology is an example of this.
It came with big promise but tremendous problems, and is now being scaled
down. In comparison, the problems created by other forms of power
generation seem to be easier to deal with. If we turn out to be wrong
about nuclear power, I'm happy to go back and expand it. All I'm saying is
we must be vigilant and we must observe. In the case of genetic
engineering, we are changing the nature of individual organisms, so our
period of observation must be long and extensive.

Realistically, isn't it too late to call a halt to GM food ? The horse has
bolted . . . There are many horses. If one horse has bolted and you allow
a thousand others to bolt, you would be making the same mistake a thousand
times. What I'm saying is that if one particular horse has bolted, let's
observe it and learn from it. Now that we're wiser, let's not allow the
others to bolt equally.

You're also opposed to the current system of patents on genes. What's your
alternative ? I am not pushing for an alternative patenting system. I want
a system that minimises the destruction of the existing system. As things
are, an American company could hold the rights to a crop or plant variety
that originates in Ethiopia - and claim royalties from Ethiopians who use
it. If this happens, it would be tragic. It could make a mockery of the
patenting system. It could also cause a lot of hardship. It is in our
interest to prevent this from happening. This is why countries in Africa
are being encouraged to adopt laws that would prohibit the patenting of
living things, and which would give farmers access to - and the rights to
- replanting crops they use without paying royalties.

Such laws would be a direct challenge to the World Trade Organization,
which requires its members to sign up to the world's current system. If an
African country wants to benefit from free trade, won't it have to ignore
your advice ? We believe that the model law (with a clause banning patents
on genes) is compatible with existing WTO rules. But even within the WTO,
the issue of patenting life is in disarray. Remember what happened at the
last WTO meeting in Seattle . . .

What is wrong with current laws on gene patenting ? How else should
scientists protect their inventions from piracy ? That's my problem. It's
a contradiction to say "living thing" and "invention". As far as I know,
there isn't one living thing that has been invented. This means that it
cannot be patented either. Secondly, even if you assume that an individual
organism has been invented, the next generation, the offspring of that
individual, is created through a natural process of reproduction. It is
not invented. And it is not the same as its parent. How, then, could it be
covered by the same patent as its parent ?

Isn't Dolly, the cloned sheep, an invention ? She is still a sheep. All
that has happened is that she contains the same cells as one of her
parents. I don't think the makers claim they have invented it. They have
only made it possible for the natural process of cellular division to
start all over again.

Patents on life aren't really patents on genes. Often they are patents on
the process used to discover a particular gene sequence... I have no
problem with the patenting of processes. And there are many achievements
that I recognise. If society feels these deserve recognition, then those
who contributed to engineering or modifying things that do not occur in
nature should be compensated in some way. But it isn't just processes that
are being patented, but also constructs. A construct is a combination of
one particular gene and other genes together. That's not a process.

But both the European Patent Office and the US Patent Office insist they
will not grant a patent on a raw gene sequence. It has to be novel, not
exist in nature, and it should represent an inventive step . . . Yes. Why
do you say "inventive step" ? Why not "invention" ? The word has been
modified so that the difference between a discovery and an invention is
now blurred. If you discover one thing, then discover something else,
bring the two together, and then patent the process of bringing them
together, I would have no problem. But the pieces that have been brought
together cannot be patented, because they still are living things.

Monsanto is reported to have said that it was wrong to evangelise about
the benefits of GM food without talking of the risks, and in future
promises not to use human or animal genes in food . . .

I'm glad to hear that.

But aren't large multinational corporations too unwieldy to change
years-old practices overnight ? I don't know. I have never been involved
with multinational companies. I've never been rich in my life - I've
always worried about the last 5 cents. This is a world beyond me. I
certainly feel very uncomfortable when a vast multinational company based
in St Louis or Washington DC, or London, controls the agricultural
production system in a small village in my country. Certainly, the further
this control extends, the less sensitive the system becomes to local needs
and the more problematic agricultural production becomes. I don't have to
believe or disbelieve what Monsanto says or does. Assuming they do what
they say, it is good.

If the head of Monsanto phoned you tomorrow and said let's talk, would you
accept ? Yes, I would talk to him with pleasure.

Would there be any preconditions ? I am not sure I would call them
preconditions. I would say that he is not to use the might of his money to
destroy what I say and turn it into propaganda. The only condition would
be that there is an assurance of honesty.
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COMMERCIALIZATION AGREEMENT REACHED ON THE POLLEN TRANSFORMATION SYSTEM

SCOTT, MS; January 25, 2001 – Delta and Pine Land Company (NYSE: DLP)
announced today that it has finalized a commercialization agreement with
the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service covering ARS’ pollen
transformation system (PTS). The USDA patent (issued in July 1999) was the
result of research conducted through a CRADA (Cooperative Research and
Development Agreement) D&PL signed with the agency in 1996. This agreement
provides the company exclusive licensing rights to the technology on a
wide range of crops. D&PL intends to sublicense the technology as broadly
as possible. “We are very pleased that we have now finalized an agreement
with the USDA to open the door on initiating development of this
technology to further genetic improvements in a broad range of species,”
said Murray Robinson, CEO and Vice Chairman. “By terms of our agreement
with USDA, Delta and Pine Land will also spearhead efforts to broadly
license this technology to a wide range of interested users.”

This laboratory system may be used for inserting transgenic traits into
varieties of many species, according to Dr. Harry Collins, D&PL’s Vice
President of technology transfer. “PTS will enable more efficient
transformation of varieties and species, allowing researchers to reduce
costs and development time due to a less complicated transformation
mechanism. Currently, gene insertion is most often done through methods
requiring regeneration of whole plants from single cells, a relatively
slow and complicated process not suitable for all crop species and
varieties. PTS is very similar to conventional breeding. The transgene is
inserted into pollen cultured on a solid medium and the transformed pollen
is then used to pollinate the flower(s) on a target plant that will
produce seed carrying the transgenic trait.

“Because this system is much more efficient, we believe it will encourage
production of transgenic cultivars in all types of economically-important
crops including cereals, legumes, forages, citrus trees, vegetables and
staple food plants and fruits,” Collins continues. “Many of those crops
are not currently in transgenic development due to cost concerns and
technological barriers.” Robinson explained that this technology holds
promise worldwide. “Developing biotech crops has been so cost-intensive
that companies have launched their products only in those countries best
able to repay the research and development costs,” Robinson said. “PTS
will make gene insertion more economical, helping ensure all farmers a
future opportunity to benefit from biotechnology. As a result, we believe
that both developed and developing countries can benefit from this
breakthrough.”

Delta and Pine Land Company is a commercial breeder, producer and marketer
of cotton planting seed, as well as soybean seed in the Cotton Belt. For
more than 80 years, the Mississippi-based company has used its extensive
plant breeding programs drawing from a diverse germplasm base to develop
superior varieties. Delta and Pine Land has offices in eight states and
facilities in several foreign countries.

CONTACT: Janice Person 800.321.8989
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Report Finds Biotech Foods Safe ... So Far

By Cat Lazaroff http://ens.lycos.com/ens/jan2001/2001L-01-25-06.html

WASHINGTON, DC, January 25, 2001 (ENS) - No long term health effects have
been detected from the use of transgenic crops and genetically modified
foods, says a report by the scientific council of the American Medical
Association. The report also concludes that bioengineered foods are
"substantially equivalent" to their conventional counterparts.

The report concludes that the risk of gene transfer from engineered foods
to animals or to human cells "is generally acknowledged to be negligible,
but one that cannot be completely discounted." Tests of potato genetic
material, or DNA, loaded onto an agarose gel, reveal the presence of an
experimental gene (Photo by Ken Hackman, two photos courtesy Agricultural
Research Service)

The American Medical Association (AMA) council set out to review the
technology used to produce transgenic crops, the current regulatory
framework for managing these new crops, possible human health effects and
potential environmental impacts. More than 40 varieties of transgenic
crops have been approved for use in the U.S. during the last decade, most
of them genetically modified to produce a pesticide called Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt). The Bt toxin attacks pests like the European corn
borer, but laboratory studies suggest it may also be dangerous to the
larvae of the monarch butterfly and other butterflies and moths.

The AMA report concludes that the harmful effects of Bt containing plants
on species like the monarch butterfly have not been observed in the field.
"Nevertheless, these and other possible environmental effects remain areas
of concern," the report says. Among the potential problems the report
identifies is the possibility that insects and disease pathogens will
develop resistance to the pesticides carried by engineered plants, like Bt
crops. This "has not occurred to date," the report notes, but is still a
risk.

"Genetic modification of plants could potentially lead to detrimental
consequences to the environment," the report warns. "Therefore, a broad
based plan to study environmental issues should be instituted." The
council reviewed 11 reports on genetically modified (GM) crops issued over
the last two years by various scientific and governmental bodies, as well
as dozens of individual scientific articles.

"Crops and foods produced using recombinant DNA techniques have been
available for fewer than 10 years and no long term effects have been
detected to date," the council reported. "These foods are substantially
equivalent to their conventional counterparts." Critics of GM crops warn
that in transferring traits from one plant to another, biotechnology could
transfer allergy risks as well. Someone with a peanut allergy could have a
fatal reaction to a plant engineered to carry a peanut protein, doctors
warn.

The AMA council said that risk is real, but is not unique to GM crops.

"Genetic engineering is capable of introducing allergens into recipient
plants, but the overall risks of introducing an allergen into the food
supply are believed to be similar to or less than that associated with
conventional breeding methods," the council concluded. Problems could
also arise if biotech companies transferred traits from antibiotics into
crops, a practice the AMA report said "should be avoided if possible."

The AMA recommended that federal regulatory oversight of agricultural
biotechnology continue to be science based and guided by the
characteristics of the plant, its intended use and the environment into
which it is to be introduced. The methods used to produce a crop - whether
biotechnology or conventional means - should not guide regulatory
decision, the AMA said. The AMA concluded that special labeling of
genetically modified foods is not scientifically justified, and that
voluntary labeling, as proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,
is without value unless it is accompanied by consumer education.

But the group recommends the development of a standardized system for
assessing the safety of genetically modified foods. Other recommendations
include the development of additional techniques for detecting and
assessing unintended effects of GM crops, and continued research to detect
any substantial changes in the nutrient content or possibility toxicity of
GM foods.

Priority should be given to basic research in food allergies to help
develop improved methods for identifying potential allergens, the AMA
said. Environmental research needs include field research into the
impacts of pesticide carrying crops like Bt corn, to confirm or refute
prior laboratory studies, the council said. More information is needed
about the potential for engineered genes to cross over into other plant
species including wild weed populations, and the impacts of these genes of
the ability of weeds to resist herbicides. Monitoring programs need to be
developed to assess other potential ecological programs and the
effectiveness of efforts to keep insects from developing resistance to
pesticides, the council concluded.

A summary of the AMA's report is available at:
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/article/2036-3604.html