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Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:25:28 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: GE News- Alive, Nov 98, Biotech News
Reprinted with permission from the November 1998 issue of Alive: Canadian
Journal of Health and Nutrition, 7436 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby, BC V5J
Biotech News, by Richard Wolfson, PhD
UK Parliament Bans Biotech Foods
The UK government banned genetically engineered foods from restaurants and
bars in the House of Commons. The Parliament has been accused of double
standards, as these biotech foods are still allowed in the public food
According to Hugh Warwick of the Genetics Forum : "This shows hypocrisy at
the heart of government. MPs have decided they want nothing to do with
genetically modified food while ministers are denying the public this
Biotech Crops Producing Superweeds
American and Danish scientists produced new evidence that herbicide
resistance genes from genetically engineered crops can spread to wild
relatives, producing herbicide resistant superweeds.
Because these weeds are immune to herbicides, they would be very difficult
to control and would wreak ecological havoc. Dr. Allison Snow of Ohio
State University explained that by spraying with herbicides, the only weeds
to survive would be the herbicide resistant varieties, which would cause
them to then spread even faster.
Monsanto Ad Blitz
In August, the US based biotech giant Monsanto began a multi-billion dollar
media campaign in Europe to promote genetic engineered foods. Monsanto's
ads, entitled "Let the Harvest Begin," presented biotechnology to protect
the environment and feed the starving. A few African leaders are being used
by Monsanto to promote their campaign.
However, other leading African politicians, scientists and agriculturists
stated, "We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our
countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a
technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically
beneficial to us." They added "Its [Monsanto's] major focus is not to
protect the environment, but to develop crops that can resist higher doses
of its best-selling chemical weed killer "Roundup."
Monsanto is gaining increasing control of every stage of food production,
from the farmer to the market place. In addition to Roundup and related
products, recent acquisitions of Monsanto include American Home Products,
one of the world's largest pharmaceutical and healthcare product companies,
Dekalb Genetics Corp., a major corn-seed producer, Cargill, the giant grain
trader and food processor, and the crop-breeding unit of Unilever.
Monsanto Found Libel
The Mississippi Seed Arbitration Council recently ruled that Monsanto has
to pay nearly $2 million to three cotton farmers who suffered severe
losses, due to the failure of Monsanto's Roundup Ready cotton. Cotton bolls
were deformed and fell off the plants prematurely, causing millions of
dollars of damage.
Last fall, 54 cotton growers filed for arbitration with the Council over
failure of the biotech cotton. Monsanto had begun settling directly with
farmers--reportedly paying out millions of dollars. The $2 million ruling
affects three growers who refused the company's offers and argued for
higher compensation. The Roundup Ready cotton failure is an example of the
unpredicted side-effects of genetic engineering.
British University Accused of Biopiracy
British scientists working for the Thai Government accused Portsmouth
University (UK) of breaking wildlife rules enshrined at the Rio Convention
on Biodiversity, by refusing to return up to 200 strains of marine fungi
collected in Thailand.
Genes isolated from the fungi could be used to create pharmaceuticals for
treating everything from AIDS to cancer and be worth millions of pounds.
Under agreements signed by John Major and other world leaders at Rio de
Janeiro in 1992, taking wild plants, animals and other life forms without
permission is forbidden.
GE Pig Organs Could Carry Deadly Virus
Pigs are being genetically engineered with human genes to provide organs
for human transplants. However, according the UK medical journal, Lancet,
organs from pigs could infect humans with porcine endogenous retrovirus
(PERV), a new, possibly deadly virus.
Potatoes that Produce Human Milk
Scientists in Loma Linda, CA, USA have successfully inserted human genes
that code for human milk into potatoes. The researchers are seeking to
create potatoes that generate human milk. Patenting of this process, if
successful, could lead to huge financial gain. The potential side effects
of the milk are clearly unknown at this stage.
Limited Mandatory Labelling in EU
Beginning Sept 1, 1998, genetically engineered whole foods in Europe need
to be labelled. However, the mandatory labelling does not apply to
derivatives of biotech foods that do not themselves contain measurable
amounts of genetically modified protein or DNA. For instance, while
genetically engineered soy beans need to be labelled, soy oil and lecithin
derived from these beans do not require labelling.
Environmentalists and consumer groups are very concerned because the
majority of genetically engineered foods may only contain genetically
modified derivatives that do not require labelling.
BGH Hazards Uncovered
Genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), which is injected into
cows to increase milk production, was approved in the US on the basis of
studies on rats.
However, studies recently uncovered though access to information channels
found that rats injected with BGH showed cysts of the thyroid, elevated
antibody levels, and inflammation of the prostate- all strong warning
signals. The Health Canada report that includes these findings was
suppressed, clearly due to pressure from industry .
At recent grievance hearings in Ottawa, Health Canada scientists say they
are being pressured to approve BGH and other products of questionable
safety. More details will be reported in the next Biotech News column.
For further information on biotechnology and its hazards, see the website:
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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