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Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 10:18:06 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: GE News
forwarded from: Judy Kew, Judy_Kew@greenbuilder.com
The First "No GE Ingredients" Labeled Product In the US
Hain's Bearitos Corn Chips bears a white circle saying "NO Genetically
A red ring around it says "PURE FOOD" at the top of the ring and at the
bottom. The label is at the bottom right of the front of the package. A
bear with a red kerchief and a cup appears to be pointing out the label.
On the back is a smaller version along with more information: "WHAT OUR
PURE FOOD SYMBOL MEANS TO YOU
This is our assurance to you that Bearitos Tortilla Chips do not contain
ingredients that have been genetically engineered. Although GEOs,
genetically engineered organisms, may have been part of our meals for the
past 20 years, we believe that those food products need to be labeled so
that consumers may make a choice. For a pamphlet about GEOs, please send a
SASE to: Hain GEO Info, P.O. Box 48006, Gardena, CA 90248
from allsorts <email@example.com>
Subject: GE - GMO News 07/24& 26
Canadian Business July 24, 1998
Pg. 18 HEADLINE: Incredible edibles BYLINE: ANDREW NIKIFORUK
When more than 30 federally approved, genetically engineered goodies
--including bug-proof corn and even herbicide-resistant soybeans -- hit
Canadian supermarket shelves in record quantities this fall, you'd think
they would come with clear biotech labels. Choice, after all, is the
lifeblood of a free market, and corn and soybeans just happen to appear in
nearly 60% of all foodstuffs.
Well, think again. The Canadian government and most biotech firms
apparently fear choice as much as they do plain labels that read: "This
product may contain genetically modified organisms." Engineered crops,
they argue, taste the same as stuff that hasn't been tampered with. And
it's impossible, they contend, to segregate engineered from nonengineered
crops. So consumers be damned.
Fortunately, markets have their ways. In Europe, choice- conscious
retailers have simply taken labelling into their own hands, while an
increasing number of North Americans are opting for organic veggies. If
irradiated food can have an honest label -- the Radura -- then why not
AGRICULTURE-INDIA: BIOTECH FIRMS SOW SEEDS OF DISCORD OTC 16.07.98
NEW DELHI, Jul 15 IPS - India's agriculture scientists are hunting for the
'Terminator,' a gene developed by U.S biotechnologists, which they say
threatens the livelihood of 400 million farmers and food security in this
"We will not allow the Terminator to enter this country," Dr. R.S. Paroda,
director-general of the prestigious Indian Council of Agricultural Research
(ICAR) told IPS. But Dr. Paroda admitted that there is no reliable way of
ensuring that the gene which 'self-destructs' does not sneak past the
National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources which is charged with the job of
analyzing seed samples that enter the country.
Scientists here fear that if it infiltrates the porous quarantine system,
uncontrolled cross-pollination could kill off India's famed millennia-old
cereal varieties such as the long- grained, aromatic 'Basmati' rice,
already under attack by biopirates. Plant biotechnology project-director at
ICAR, Dr. R.P. Sharma said there is no telling what havoc Terminator can
wreak as yet. "We will have to estimate its dispersal by studying pollen
characteristics -- meanwhile this country should not accept this technology
or allow it past the borders," he said.
Developed and patented by the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly
with one of the world's largest seed transnationals (TNCs), Delta and Pine
Land Inc., Terminator will ensure that farmers buy seed afresh rather than
set part of their harvest aside for sowing.
"The seeds may give a good crop in the first year of sowing but farmers who
try to store crops for replanting will find that they are sterile -- and
this will make them completely dependent on seed companies," Sharma said.
Such a development spells doom for Indian farmers who mostly cultivate
small plots of land averaging one acre in size. Also the thousands of crop
varieties they have developed with their genius will give way to
monocultures promoted by U.S seed giants.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune Wednesday, July 22, 1998
Geneticists are using patents to own the mark they make
Sharon Schmickle / Mpls Star Tribune
The blueprint for the future of food and medicine is taking shape at the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where rights have been claimed to more
than 1,800 genes and a veritable zoo of genetically altered animals: 85
mice, three rats, three rabbits, a sheep, a nematode, a bird, a fish, a
pig, a guinea pig, an abalone and a cow.
Few scientific discoveries have provoked debate as deep as the
soul-searching over patenting the genetic basis of life and the forms that
emerge from genetic combinations.
Scientists cast their genetic creations as the latest example of medical
and agricultural enterprise that Congress intended to encourage when it
created the patent office in 1802. Their detractors argue that shattering
nature's genetic barriers is so profoundly different from previous
inventions that it calls for rethinking the rights a patent conveys.
The latest flap is over an application filed in December to patent a
process for making chimeras that are part human, part animal. It was filed
by biotechnology critics in an attempt to block the technology or to force
changes in patent procedures.
The chimera application crystallizes many of the conflicts embedded in the
patent debate. First, it requests a patent for something that blurs the
lines between species. And in doing so, it challenges the very notion of
patenting life forms.
The patent office, which has yet to rule on the application, responded in
April with an advisory saying that it can't issue a patent for an invention
"of incredible or specious utility," or one deemed to flout the "good
morals" of society.
"There are people who want to try to sensationalize this work and give the
impression that we are about to commercialize technologies that most people
would find very frightening: That we are going to see monsters walking
around on the streets of Minneapolis that will be owned by some giant
corporation like something out of a science fiction story, the Frankenstein
kind of a thing," Bruce Lehman, commissioner of patents and trademarks,
said in an interview this month.
Whether or not the application is found to be valid, it does push the
question of what constitutes a modern-day monster and what meets a "good
The patent office already has approved animal inventions with at least
minuscule human parts -- for example, mice given genes related to human
diseases for research purposes. Now, researchers in Minnesota and elsewhere
talk routinely about plans to tailor pigs, sheep and cows to make organs
and medicine for humans.
As the notion of intermingling species has become more acceptable, the
debate has moved beyond Frankenstein fears. Animal-rights advocates, for
example, argue that it's immoral to create and patent genetically diseased
animals for research.
Another argument revolves around the right to hold a patent on the
fundamental elements of life. It's one thing to learn that scientists have
identified genes that play a role in breast cancer and may use that
information to save lives. It's quite another to see companies battling in
court over the right to commercially exploit the genes.
Under U.S. law, once genes with known functions are isolated, they can be
patented if they have potential applications such as treating diseases or
creating products. A patent holder can exclude others from using the
invention for 20 years unless permission is granted, often in exchange for
Speculators aren't supposed to be able to stake patent claims on genes
without a specific purpose, but the intended application can be theoretical
rather than immediately practical. And if a different use arises in the
future, the patent covers that as well.
University of Minnesota bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn offers this advice for
sorting through the debate: The patent system was intended to encourage
invention that serves the common good. So the basic questions are whether
the inventions of biotechnology will improve life and at what cost. And the
next question is whether granting patents truly encourages invention or
instead empowers a few patent holders to block others from researching
potentially beneficial technology.
While biotechnology patenting has moved apace in the United States during
the 1990s, the European Parliament did not allow such patenting until May.
And rules in Europe are more restrictive than those in the United States.
The intensity of Europe's debate was reflected in a recent article that
Prince Charles wrote for London's Daily Telegraph. He said genetic
engineering "takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone."
He expressed concern over potential unknown consequences for human health
and the environment: "If something does go badly wrong, we will be faced
with the problem of clearing up a kind of pollution which is
self-perpetuating. I am not convinced that anyone has the first idea of how
this could be done."
> The Economist
July 25, 1998 Pg. 77
Gone is the forest primeval Trees are the next target of genetic
engineers IF YOU go down to the woods today, you could be in for a big
surprise. But not because of a mere teddy bears' picnic. Instead, you may
meet high-tech trees genetically modified to speed their growth or
improve the quality of their wood that are at last coming out of
greenhouses and into forests around the world. Genetically -engineered
food crops such as soya have become increasingly common, albeit
controversial, over the past ten years. But genetic tweaking of trees
has lagged behind.
Part of the reason is technical. Understanding, and then altering, the
genes of a big pine tree is more complex than creating a better tomato.
While tomatoes sprout happily, and rapidly, in the laboratory, growing a
whole tree from a single, genetically altered cell in a test tube is a
tricky process that takes years, not months. Moreover, little is known
about tree genes. Some trees, such as pine, have a lot of DNAxroughly ten
times as much as humans. And, whereas the Human Genome Project is more than
half-way through its task of isolating and sequencing the estimated 100,000
genes in human cells, similar efforts to analyse tree genes are still just
But genetic engineering of trees has been slow to grow for another
reason: money. Ron Sederoff, director of the Forest Biotechnology group
at North Carolina State University and head of a research consortium
supported by a dozen firms interested in genetically -engineered trees,
points out that, so long as logging companies still had plenty of rich
pickings in the world's forests, investing in expensive technology to
improve tree quality was a luxury. Now the rich pickings are gone.
International demand for wood has grown 36% in the past 25 years and is now
a $400 billion business, according to a report on the world's forests
published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation last
year. This puts pressure on commercial tree plantations; and there are
fewer virgin forests left to cut. Hence a new enthusiasm for manipulating
the genetics of trees, especially of commercially valuable species.
Given the large number of tree genes and the little that is known about
them, tree engineers are starting where other gene wizards have started
before them: with a search for genetic "markers". The first step is to
isolate DNA from trees with desirable properties such as insect resistance.
The next step is to find stretches of DNAxnot necessarily in the genes
themselves, since this is such a time-consuming process, but in
surrogatesxthat show the presence of a particular gene. Then, when you mate
two trees with different desirable properties, it is simple to check which
offspring contain them all by looking for the genetic markers.
One firm putting this to use is ForBio, based in Brisbane, Australia. So
far, its scientists have identified 600 genetic markers in ten species of
eucalyptus, acacia and melaleuca, a temperate tree prized for its oils. The
company then breeds trees together to combine such things as salt tolerance
and wood quality in a single plant. ForBio hopes to have 10m of its
enhanced trees growing around the world within two years; it already has
fast-growing eucalyptus in Indonesian plantations and hopes to get approval
to plant its first crop of salt- tolerant trees in Australia's Murray
Darling Basin, once rich agricultural land that is "salting up" due to a
rising water table.
Henry Amerson, also at North Carolina State University, is using genetic
markers too, this time to breed fungal resistance into southern pines such
as the loblolly. Billions of these are grown across America for pulp and
paper, and outbreaks of disease are expensive. One common nasty is fusiform
rust disease, which causes branches to break in the wind; but not all
individual trees are susceptible. Dr Amerson's group has found markers that
distinguish fungus-resistant stock from disease- prone trees. Using
traditional breeding techniques, they are introducing the resistance genes
into pines on test sites in America.
The main advantage of using genetic markers is that it speeds up
old-fashioned breeding methods, because you no longer have to wait for the
tree to grow up to see if it has the desired traits. But it is not really
genetic engineering; it is more a sophisticated form of selective breeding.
Now, however, interest in genetic tinkering is also gaining ground. To
this end, Dr Amerson and his colleagues are taking part in the Pine Gene
Discovery Project, an initiative to identify and sequence the 50,000-odd
genes in the pine tree's genome. (Trees generally have fewer genes, but
more DNA than humans.) Knowing which gene does what should make it easier
to know what to alter. Enough is already known for some fiddling to
start. Royal Dutch/Shell has genetically engineered eucalyptus to produce
a different type of lignin, the molecular glue that holds wood fibres
together. The oil multinational hopes its improved trees, now growing in
test sites in Uruguay and Chile, will prove a boon to the pulp and paper
industry. Removing lignin is one of the messiest bits of pulp production.
At the Canadian Forest Service's Laurentian Forestry Centre in Sainte
Foy, in Quebec, Armand Seguin and his colleagues are trying genetic
engineering to improve pest resistance in trees. Dr Seguin is introducing
modified insect genes into white pine cells in the laboratory. The genes in
question make anti- microbial proteinsxand so far, the cells seem to be
shielded from some natural fungal predators. The Quebec group is now
waiting to see if the fully grown trees will be equally protected.
As with the introduction of any exotic organism into a new environment,
there are worries about the impact on the rest of the ecosystem. Some
conservationists are cautiously enthusiastic about the new trees, reckoning
that it is better that they be cultivated than that the last stands of
virgin forest be felled. Moreover, companies such as ForBio are working
on ways to ensure that their new trees will be sterile and unable to spread
their new genes to the natives. Yet there have been huge arguments,
notably between America and the European Union, over other genetically
modified organisms. So the Laurentian Forestry Centre is also developing
methods to test for the transfer of DNA from modified trees into other
species, especially to useful bacteria and fungi in the surrounding soil.
Trees are in the ground for years, rather than farm crops' months. That
makes it more vital for local residents to keep to themselves. But teddies
are less likely to protest about trees than Europeans are about
genetically modified food.
Thanks to MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org> for posting this:
Guardian (London) July 29, 1998
Organic-food prices look set to tumble as supplies increase and farmers
queue to join the government scheme to turn green.
Bibi van der Zee reports
The price of organic food looks set to drop as the number of farmers
applying to go green hits record levels.
Organic food is finally becoming big business, after 50 years in the
crank club. Nearly 140 applications have been received so far this year by
the Ministry of Agriculture from farmers wanting to join the Organic Aid
Scheme. There are 445 organic farmers in England and Wales.
Prices for organic food have been higher than for non-organic food
partly because demand far outstrips supply, according to Dr Younie, the
organic specialist at the Scottish Agricultural College.
Production costs and the expense of converting to organic farming will
play a less significant part in the pricing as more produce comes on the
market. He reports a fourfold increase in the number of inquiries from
Scottish farmers wanting to go organic. "As the supply increases prices are
bound to come down," he says.
The rapidly growing demand for organically grown fruit, veg, meat and
dairy products has been noticed by supermarkets.
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
previous genetic engineering news items
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