For your info - P. Dines
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From: Mark Graffis, INTERNET:email@example.com
To: Patricia Dines, 73652,1202
Date: Sat, Dec 7, 1996, 4:35 PM
Subject: US 'Genetic' Corn Could Compromise Public Health
Copyright © 1996 Agence France-Presse
LONDON (Dec 5, 1996 7:36 p.m. EST) - Genetically-altered corn from the
United States, which could soon be imported into Europe, could cause a
potential risk to both animal and human health, Britain has warned.
In an unusual move, the British Department of the Environment, which
is responsible for vetting new genetically-modified food products,
expressed concerns that disease treatment in humans could be
compromised by the U.S. corn.
The new corn, developed by Swiss drug company Ciba-Geigy, contains a
gene that is resistant to antibiotics. If it is fed raw to animals,
they would no longer respond to antibiotic treatment, and in turn, a
human eating the meat would also become resistant to penicillin and
other such drugs.
"The health concern... is that at some time, there could be a transfer
of the antibiotically-immune bacteria from animals to humans," said a
spokesman for the DoE, David Prior.
"When you go to the doctor for treatment you would not respond to an
antibiotic," he explained.
Public health concerns are already high in the wake of the "mad cow"
crisis, sparked off by the British government's admission in March
that bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle might have been passed
on to humans who ate infected meat.
Britain is one of a number of European countries concerned about the
modified corn, which has been developed to resist a crop-eating insect.
The United States has been pressuring Europe to allow the imports. The
European Commission -- the executive arm of the European Union -- has
delayed approval while three scientific committees investigated the
effects of the modified corn.
But British Environment Secretary John Gummer warned the Americans
this week not to force their genetically-altered corn into Britain's
"We decide what we want in our food chain and not the Americans," he
told BBC Radio.
Gummer added: "It is true that the Americans are trying to force this
on to Europe without us making our own minds up about it. Britain,
with her European partners, is now strong enough to make our own
decisions about our own future and not be told by other people what to
European environment ministers meeting in Brussels this coming Monday
will consult with scientists, who are due to report on the corn, known
as Genetech Corn, by the end of December.
The concern is that there will be no way to distinguish
genetically-modified corn from ordinary corn, since it would arrive in
Europe as a bulk commodity.
The international environmental pressure group, Greenpeace, which is
conducting a campaign against recently-begun imports of
genetically-modified soya beans from the United States, warned that
these kinds of products are likely to become increasingly common.
"The soya bean is the first of these commercially-grown crops, on a
large-scale, and going into an awful lot of food. If this is accepted
without protest, then we can expect it to be much easier for other
crops to be put into our food," said Liz Pratt from Greenpeace.
The modified soya bean, approved by the European Commission as safe,
is not labelled or segregated. Soya beans are used in 60 percent of
processed foods, such as oils, spreads, cakes and biscuits.
Greepeace says no one will know if the processed food they are buying
is made from the new soya beans, which have genes from bacteria,
viruses and the petunia plant to make them resistant to herbicides.
The British government, however, which said that it will abide by the
European Commission's decision on the import of modified U.S. corn,
said other genetically-altered food was perfectly safe. [PD NOTE: This
is also debatable...]
"Properly controlled, properly scientifically investigated, there is
no problem with genetically modified organisms," Prior at the DoE said.