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Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 16:27:33 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson <email@example.com>
Subject: GE News
On Thursday October 22, several Health Canada Scientists met before the
Senate Standing Committee on Health, and presented concerns regarding
Bovine Growth Hormone and the politics of the approval process.
The official transcript of the meeting is temporarily posted at the website:
Please feel free to download this file, as it may not be posted there
Thanks to: Bradford Duplisea of Sierra Club <firstname.lastname@example.org> for
forwarding the following article which discusses many of the points that
were brought up at the hearings:
The Ottawa Citizen Fri 23 Oct 1998 Page A1
By James Baxter
Scientists `pressured' to approve cattle drug: Health Canada researchers
accuse firm of bribery in bid to OK `questionable' product
Veterinary scientists from Health Canada's Human Safety Division testified
yesterday that they are being pressured to approve a controversial hormone
intended to boost milk production in dairy cattle.
``We have been pressured and coerced to pass drugs of questionable safety,
including rBST,'' Dr. Shiv Chopra told the Senate Standing Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry.
Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin is an artificial growth hormone that is
estimated to increase milk production in cows by 10 to 15 per cent. The
drug has been widely used in the United States since 1993, but remains
unapproved in Canada and much of Europe. The Senate has been investigating
rBST for nearly a year and decided to call in the five scientists after
they filed a grievance with a government internal labour board that they
were being pressured to sign off on a drug they felt had yet to be
The senators sat dumbfounded as Dr. Margaret Haydon told of being in a
meeting when officials from Monsanto Inc., the drug's manufacturer, made an
offer of between $1 million and $2 million to the scientists from Health
Canada -- an offer that she told the senators could only have been
interpreted as a bribe.
Ray Mowling, vice-president of Monsanto Canada Inc., who attended the
hearings yesterday, said Monsanto does give money to Health Canada to
oversee studies, but denied that company officials ever tried to bribe the
Mr. Mowling said his company was eager to get rBST approved for what could
bring the company up to $50 million a year in sales, but only when it has
been deemed safe by Canadian authorities. He said it was Monsanto's job to
provide whatever data and studies are necessary to assist Health Canada.
Dr. Haydon also recounted how notes and files critical of scientific data
provided by Monsanto were stolen from a locked filing cabinet in her
office. Dr. Chopra said that all files pertaining to rBST are now
controlled by one senior bureaucrat and can only be viewed by gaining
``I can't even believe I'm in Canada when I hear that your files have been
stolen and that all the files are now in the hands of one person,'' said
Senator Eugene Whelan. ``What the hell kind of a system have we got here?''
Mr. Whelan was strongly critical of Health Canada's willingness to accept
data and money from companies seeking approval to market drugs in Canada.
He said Canadian scientists are not free to conduct independent research
and are at the mercy of corporations on which they depend for raw data.
Reading from a prepared text, Bureau of Veterinary Drugs scientist Thea
Mueller said ``It was not the mandate of the (Health Canada scientists) to
make any recommendation regarding human safety ... only whether or not the
data upon which the (department's) conclusions would be based are
Dr. Chopra said that without meaningful long-term studies on animals and
then on humans, it would be unsafe to release a hormone of this sort into
the basic food system.
``These are chemical switches, which triggers another one, which triggers
another one, which triggers another one,'' he said.
At the heart of the scientists' fears is not the effects of rBST, but an
insulin-like bi-product called IGF-1 that is found in the milk of cows
injected with the hormone.
High levels of IGF-1 have been found in humans suffering from cancer,
particularly breast and prostate cancer. It is still unknown whether it is
a causal factor in the cancers or the body's reaction to the tumour. While
scientists generally believe IGF-1 would be broken down in the digestive
process, Dr. Chopra said there are too many questions that need to be
answered before the IGF-1 issue can be overlooked.
Dr. Chopra also raised questions about the ethics of making cows sick to
produce more milk. In its packaging, Dr. Chopra says Monsanto list 20 side
effects, including swollen and ulcerated udders, skin rashes, hoof
disorders, and reduced hemoglobin. Most veterinarians said that cows
suffering these conditions would be in some discomfort if not considerable
These conditions are usually treated with antibiotics, which, in turn, can
make their way into the milk. Over time, scientists fear humans will build
up tolerances to many of the strongest antibiotics, rendering them useless
against infection. Another concern is that most dairy cattle eventually are
slaughtered for meat, and no studies have been done on the effects of
eating beef from rBST-injected cows.
The Ottawa Citizen
INDEPENDENT October 22
A POWERFUL government committee is to investigate genetically modified
foods because of growing consumer fears about their safety. The
Ministerial Group on Biotechnology and Genetic Modification will be
chaired by the Cabinet "enforcer", Jack Cunningham, in an attempt to
monitor commercial development of the crops.
As Downing Street unveiled the committee yesterday, the Environment
minister, Michael Meacher, confirmed to Parliament that much tougher
checks would be carried out on GM products under a voluntary agreement
with the industry.
However, Friends of the Earth said it was disappointed the Government had
not taken up English Nature's proposal to impose a five-year moratorium on
the commercial growing of such crops. Mr Meacher told a Lords select
committee that no insect-resistant crops will be introduced to the UK for
three years and pledged to provide much more information about the
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--
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