Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 07:30:15 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson <email@example.com>
Subject: GE News
Thanks to Wainwright Churchill" <firstname.lastname@example.org> for forwarding
the next 2 articles:
Evening Standard (UK) 10-10-98
All sides turn on Meacher in genetic food ban row
Government proposals for a three-year ban on the commercial planting of
genetically modified crops - outlined by Environment Minister Michael
Meacher - are under fire from all sides.
Mr Meacher acknowledged the widespread public opposition to the so-called
"Frankenstein foods" as he confirmed that the Government was considering
But environmentalists campaigning against the introduction of GM crops said
proper testing will take more than three years - while food manufacturers
developing the new strains continued to opposed any ban.
Mr Meacher said: "There can be no question of commercial growing even if we
did nothing before next spring. But of course we have to look at the case
for a moratorium.
"First, we have to respond to the widespread public concern. Secondly,
English Nature are very concerned about the impact on biodiversity. But
thirdly, there is a need for more time for research to be completed."
No licences have yet been granted for the commercial planting of GM crops,
but there are a number of field trials around the country, which have
prompted angry protests from environmentalists.
Pete Rilly, of Friends of the Earth, insisted a three-year ban would not
give scientists long enough to study the effects of the new strains. And he
accused the Government of misrepresenting English Nature's views, saying it
wanted a five-year moratorium rather than the three-year band being
discussed by ministers.
"Much of the research currently on-going will not be completed for three
years and that may well raise other questions," he said.
From:The Independent (UK) 11-10-98
Gene watchdog under fire
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
MINISTERS are considering reforming the committee that grants permission
for the planting of genetically-modified crops amid concerns about its
remit and impartiality.
The plantings, which have been carried out on a trial basis all over the
country, will continue even if ministers succeed in their attempts
(revealed in yesterday's Independent) to persuade biotechnology companies
to agree to a voluntary three-year moratorium on full-scale commercial
cultivation of the crops.
The official Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment has given
permission for some 200 sites across Britain to be planted with
genetically-modified seeds. The sites have become the centre of heated
controversy this summer as ecological campaigners have uprooted the crops
Ministers cannot override the decisions of the committee without severe
risk of being taken to judicial review.
Environmentalists and government sources say a majority of committee
members have links to the food industry and that an application for a trial
planting has never been refused. Friends of the Earth has called for the
committee to be disbanded.
Julie Hill, the only environmental representative on the committee,
suggested that it is "the wrong group of people doing the wrong job".
Montreal Gazette Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Final News A16
1) Gene food improving on nature?: It's been called a nutritional time
and the greatest thing since sliced bread
BY SCOTT EDMONDS
Some call it ``Frankenfood.'' Others say it's the greatest thing since
sliced bread - in fact, one day it might even be bread that slices itself.
``It'' is genetically engineered food that has already found its way into a
lot more stomachs around the world than many people suspect. Soybeans,
tomatoes, corn, potatoes - the list grows daily. Genetic engineering
differs from the domestic plant or animal breeding used for centuries to
create new varieties. It recombines genetic material in the laboratory
between species that do not interbreed in nature.
Promoters of the technology say it can increase food production, create
organisms resistant to disease or increase shelf life.
Critics say it's a time bomb giant multinational corporations like Monsanto
that could cause unpredictable changes and mutations throughout the food
The Canadian government has jumped on the bandwagon in a big way, although
it uses the more consumer-friendly term ``biotechnology.''
This summer Ottawa made public a new policy designed to ``position Canada
as a responsible world leader in biotechnology.''
The University of Calgary is planning a conference in March to see how
Canadians feel about all this science in the frying pan.
``It's an issue that affects everyone. Everyone eats,'' said communications
Prof. Edna Einsiedel. ``Most people are not really aware that there are
products on the market.''
Einsiedel insists conference organizers aren't taking sides. They just want
to find out what average Canadians think, after presenting them with a
range of information on the subject.
``Our interest is in the process. What kinds of conclusions do they come up
with? What kinds of questions do they raise?'' She says that a wide
spectrum of views, not just those from the pro-side of genetic engineering,
will be presented.
A citizens' panel will then write a report that will be widely distributed.
Einsiedel points to the public consultation process in Europe over the last
decade, but that's a process critics of genetic engineering have said is
more PR than genuine consultation.
British scientist Mae-wan Ho has suggested the public was lulled into a
false sense of security in the belief that the best scientists and
bioethicists were busy considering the risks associated with the new
Writing in The Ecologist last year, she suggested nothing could have been
farther from the truth.
``The large-scale release of transgenic organisms is much worse than
nuclear weapons or radioactive nuclear wastes, as genes can replicate
indefinitely, spread and recombine.
``There may yet be time enough to stop the industry's dreams turning into
nightmares if we act now, before the critical genetic `meltdown' is
Canada has yet to approve one of the most controversial substances to come
out of Monsanto's food labs - a hormone to help dairy cattle produce more
milk. It was approved in the United States five years ago.
A report last month said Health Canada has been ignoring the concerns of
some of its own scientists about the need for more testing before a
decision is made on bovine somatotropin.
Canada also has no specific labeling requirements for genetically
engineered food, but Marnadian Food Inspection Agency says the existing
legislation is adequate.
Health Canada decides whether there are any food-safety concerns,
nutritional changes, alngs that should be mentioned on food labeling. That
applies to all foods, genetically engineered or otherwise.
Jeff Wilson, chairman of the National Agriculture Environment Committee,
says for the most part his members believe Canada has one of the best
regulatory systems in the world.
But Wilson, a potato-grower near Guelph, Ont., says farmers need to have
all the facts before they make any decisions about using genetically
He decided not to seed potatoes genetically modified to resist the Colorado
potato beetle, for example, simply because they cost more and the insect
isn't a big problem in his area.
``Farmers are certainly putting a sharp pencil to any decision made these
days,'' he said.
``Our concern lies in ensuring farmers know what to ask a salesman across
the kitchen table who may be selling a product that may include a variety
that has some modified traits.''
Thanks to email@example.com (jim mcnulty) for forwarding this
SRI LANKA: BIOPIRATES PATENT TRADITIONAL WISDOM
OTC 09.10.98 01:12
COLOMBO, (Oct. 8) IPS - Long before the arrival of Western drugs,
indigenous doctors pounded and prepared medicine from wild plants and
flowers gathered from Sri Lanka's thick tropical forests to treat a variety
The ancient formulations of the "ayurveda" system of medicine were
zealously guarded and passed on from one generation to the next in families
that could trace back their ancestry for many centuries. In the
northcentral town of Polonnaruwa an indigenous doctor treats patients with
heart problems who would otherwise require bypass surgery for a fraction of
the cost of surgery which is at least $4,500 in hospitals in the country.
Now giant global pharmaceutical drug companies, aware of the therapeu tical
qualities of medicinal plants, are virtually stealing this ancient wisdom
by extracting chemicals from local plants and patenting it abroad,
particularly in the United States.
Upali Pilapitiya, director of the Bandaranaike Memorial Ayurveda Research
Institute, says that the tremendous interest in the West about natural
Ayurvedic remedies, has led to a growing interest in Asia's indigenous
Studies have revealed that more than 40 percent of western pharmaceutical
Asian plant extracts but these Asian countries including Sri Lanka have
earned very little in return.
Export of medicinal plants or their extracts is banned in Sri Lanka.
However bio-piracy is flourishing, quite often with the assistance of Sri
Lankans who have no qualms of selling indigenous knowledge and innovation.
Last month, a university professor and another wealthy Sri Lankan, whose
wife is a social activist, were detained for bio-piracy by security
"Loopholes in existing law s and other legal snags are robbing the country
of millions of dollars that is rightfully ours," asserts Sirimal
Premakumara, a scientist at the Ceylon Institute of Scientific and
He said that since the country does not have the hi-tech scientific
equipment to analyze chemical components of indigenous plants or the
capacity to pay the international patent fee of $60,000, wealthy countries
are taking advantage.
For instance Salacil Reticulata, the scientific name for the loc ally grown
Kothalahimbutu plant, has been recognized abroad for its ability to control
diabetes. Ayurveda physicians in Sri Lanka have always advised patients to
drink water left overnight in a hand-carved Kothalahimbutu mug or jug,
whose production has become a cottage industry in the island. Newspapers
here report that a Japanese drug company patented a product based on this
herb through the American Chemical Society last year.
Many other patents, like from the plant Weniwalgeta -- used effec tively as
a herbal remedy for fever, coughs and colds -- have been registered by
Japanese, European and U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardene says, "although the law requires
that a patent can be obtained only if it is an economically valuable
invention created through a methodology, most multinationals have somehow
obtained patents for products used in our country for thousands of years."
Scientists say that the normal ruse adopted by drug transnationals is to
befriend an indigenous doctor, learn the curative properties of plants and
sometimes offer him a trip abroad. The process of extraction of the
chemical and export of the product which is often in the form of a powder,
chemical solvent or the bark of trees, follows.
The two recent cases of biopiracy last month involving a university
botanist and a wealthy Sri Lankan got wide publicity and led to a sudden
interest in the issue by environmentalists and scientists here.
The botanist was intercepted by customs at Colombo airport trying to
smuggle some plant extracts in his suitcase. In the same month, customs
officials discovered a container load of Kothalahimbutu -- 1,512 cups
weighing some 4 tons -- being shipped to Japan through a firm owned by the
wealthy Sri Lankan. Gunawardene feels that the laws should be strengthened
to prevent the smuggling of Sri Lanka's indigenous plants and ayurvedic
Normally, product patents are given only if they fulfill the criteria of
being=20 new, specify the process and must necessarily have commercial
value. If there are discrepancies in this process, the patent can be
contested in court. Like in the case of the U.S patent for turmeric which
was successfully challenged by India on the grounds that its medicinal
properties are well known since ancient times. However, because India has
no worthwhile law to protect its rich biodiversity or intellectual property
rights another U.S company earlier this year took out patents on long-grai
n basmati rice grown for centuries by farmers in India and Pakistan.
Developing countries, rich in indigenous resources, need to tighten
biodiversity laws to stop the usurpation of the resources and knowledge of
its people, Sri Lankan scientists say. Copyright 1998
Here are some articles on the controversy brewing over the proposed
moratorium in Europe:
Dow Jones Commodities Service
UK Biotech/Moratorium May Render Varieties Obsolete
10/13/98 (Copyright (c) 1998, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
D'Souza fears that the moratorium will render many varieties of genetically
modified crops in development obsolete. It has taken 15 years for the
technology that surrounds these crops to be developed because of the strict
regulatory hurdles," said D'Souza. AgrEvo plans to have a herbicide
resistant variety of spring oilseed rape registered for growing in the
spring of 1999. AgrEvo is also awaiting the registration of herbicide
resistant winter oil seed rape. The company expects to introduce gene
modified sugar beet and corn within the next two to three years.
"If the moratorium is imposed, there will be an immediate impact
financially. It could render the varieties outdated and could hold up our
market access for five to ten years," he added.
AgrEvo has conducted between 30 and 40 trials of gene modified crops across
the U.K. over the past year.
Of the estimated 300 trials of gene modified crops in the U.K., around 150
are run by the U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co (MTC). The issue of
commercially introducing gene modified crops in the U.K. has been fraught
Environmental groups fear gene modified crops could contaminate
conventional crops leading to a possible BSE-type food scare. Activists
have destroyed test sites containing the new crops.
The Soil Association, a U.K.-based environmental group which awards the
nationally recognized organic status to farmers, welcomed the government
move to consider a moratorium.
(MORE) Dow Jones Newswires 13-10-98
Euro-deputies call for moratorium on gene crops
BRUSSELS, Oct 13 (Reuters)
The European Parliament's environment committee is due on Tuesday to urge
the European Commission to impose a moratorium on all new authorisations
for the marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The move
follows a vote in committee late on Monday, when Euro-MPs also urged the
EU's executive not to force Austria and Luxembourg to lift their unilateral
bans on a gene-altered maize developed by the Swiss company Novartis
(NOVZn.S). The so-called Bt maize is engineered to poison the European corn
borer as well as being antibiotic- and herbicide-resistant.
Committee chairman Ken Collins is expected to write to European Environment
Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard recommending that all new approvals be
postponed until a review of the EU's current legislation on GMOs -- seen by
some as inadequate, inconsistent and out of date -- has been completed, a
process Collins predicted could take two years.
"We're not saying ban them (GMOs) for ever but there are doubts about the
science and we need that checked," Collins told Reuters.
The Green group in the European Parliament and the environmental pressure
group Greenpeace both welcomed the decision, which coincided with the
publication by Greenpeace of what it said was new evidence from Germany
that the Bt maize had cross-pollinated an adjacent field of conventional
corn. "The current GMO legislation is very unclear and produces
contradictory decisions," Greenpeace spokesman Thomas Schweiger told
Reuters. European Commission officials were not immediately available for
comment but Novartis' Sheena Bethell said the company did not believe a
moratorium was necessary.
"We have concerns about the way (EU gene law) operates but in the end, the
bottom line is that it does look very thoroughly at the crops and plants it
approves," she told Reuters.
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
Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months
See website for details.
--Dan in Sunny Puerto Rico--
To Unsubscribe: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email email@example.com with the command