The Observer (UK)
Sunday March 14, 1999
Outrage over Monsanto's underhand tactics in EU
By Gregory Palast
An international consumer group is calling for world trade authorities to
withdraw a key endorsement of Monsanto's controversial growth hormone for
cows in the wake of Observer revelations that the company had obtained
access to confidential EU documents. In a letter to the Joint Expert
Committee on Food Additives (Jecfa), London-based Consumers' International
demanded the agency void its approval of the bovine growth hormone BST.
The consumer watchdog, which participates on the scientific committee,
charges that Monsanto's privileged access to restricted documents 'damaged
the objectivity and credibility' of the investigation of the hormone. Jecfa
reports to the Codex Commission, the world's food safety arbitrator. In
June this commission will vote on approving Monsanto's drug for
international trade. Last week CI's director, Julian Edward, accused a US
Food and Drug Administration official on the panel, Dr Nick Weber, of
professional misconduct and 'breach of trust' in passing copies of
sensitive papers to Monsanto.
The Observer identified Dr Weber as the source of the leak to Monsanto.
Weber has not responded to phone calls to his office, but the Jecfa panel's
chairman, Dr John Hermann, stated that, following the Observer story, Weber
had admitted passing the confidential documents to Monsanto prior to a
crucial meeting last February in Paris. Herrman defended Weber, as he did
another US Food and Drug Administration official in the controversy, Dr
The Observer reported that Miller, a former Monsanto BST analyst, took part
in the Jecfa review of the hormone.Herrman concedes that Miller
participated in the talks and drafted the committee's report, but she
excused herself from the actual vote approving the hormone as safe. Before
heading Jecfa, Herrman, too, worked for the FDA.
A spokesman for the Consumer Policy Institute of New York decried 'the
disturbingly close relationship between FDA and Monsanto'. The Institute's
BST expert, Dr Michael Hansen, a Jecfa adviser, said there were indications
from test data that milk from cows injected with the hormone may promote
cancers in humans. In Canada, the Senate Agriculture Committee last week
demanded that Ottawa withdraw its seal of approval for BST following the
Observer' disclosure that a scientist representing Canada on the Jecfa
panel had been suggested by Monsanto.
Senator Mira Spivak of Manitoba said senators were stunned to find in their
own investigation that 'a registered Monsanto lobbyist was part of Canada's
delegation to Codex'. The committee's report recommended conducting new
studies of BST. The senator said her committee'learned that BST files were
stolen at Health Canada' and that government scientists who expressed
doubts about Monsanto's safety tests had been 'muzzled after they began to
talk publicly about the drug review'.
The Observer also reported that Monsanto had sued several hundred US
farmers for 'seed piracy' - planting seeds taken from crops originally
grown from Monsanto's copyrighted genetically modified seeds.
Now a rival seed company has accused Monsanto of the same offence.
Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International has just filed a suit in the US
Federal Court accusing Monsanto of 'genetic misappropriation'. A Hi-Bred
spokesman told The Observer that Monsanto 'buys our seeds' and hunt for
rare copies of proprietary genetic codes. Monsanto denies that it has done
anything illegal. Analysts say the suit by Hi-Bred, the leading US supplier
of farm genetics, has major implications for Monsanto.
In India, meanwhile, Monsanto lost a key legal battle in its ongoing
conflict with the subcontinent's cotton farmers when India's Supreme Court
barred Monsanto from new test plantings until it completes a judicial
review of human rights claims against Monsanto. Farmers fear that the GM
cotton, which incorporates an insecticide within its genetic code, could
lead to the evolution of insects resistant to natural insecticides.
posted by: firstname.lastname@example.org (jim mcnulty)
Daily Express 12 March 99
Why soya is a hidden destroyer
Exclusive by Mark Townsend
Fresh fears over the safety of genetically modified foods surfaced faced
yesterday after new research revealed that food allergies relating to soya
Increased by 50 per cent last year
A study by Europe's leading specialists on food sensitivity found health
complaints caused by soya - the ingredient most associated with GM foods -
have increased from 10 in 100 patients to 15 in 100 over the past year.
Researchers at the York Nutritional Laboratory said their findings provide
real evidence that GM food could have a tangible, harmful impact on the
The findings were sent to Health Secretary Frank Dobson last night as
scientists urged the Government to act on the information and impose an
instant ban on GM food, while further safety tests are carried out. Dr
Michael Antoniou, senior lecturer in molecular pathology at Guy's Hospital,
Central London,, said: "This is a very interesting if slightly worrying,
development. "It points to the fact that far more work is needed to assess
their safety. At the moment no allergy tests are carried out before GM
foods are marketed and that also needs to be looked at."
John Graham, spokesman for the York laboratory, said: "We believe this
raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods because it is
impossible to guarantee that the soya used in the tests was GM-free." It is
the first time in 17 years of testing that soya has crept into the
laboratory's top 10 foods to cause an allergic reaction in consumers. The
vegetable has moved up four places to ninth end now sits alongside
foodstuffs with a long history of causing allergies, such as yeast,
sunflower seeds and nuts
CBC Internet news Mar 16, 1999
Fear grows over 'Frankenstein foods'
LONDON - There's a new type of food that people around the world are
having a hard time swallowing -- genetically modified products.
Such food is becoming more and more common around the world. In Britain, so
is the public outcry. There, memories of mad cow disease are still fresh on
people's minds, and the issue is being described as another food crisis.
To bio-technology companies, their ability to genetically alter fruits and
vegetables is the dawn of a brave new world. It provides agriculture with
the means to grow cheaper, healthier foods.
Tomato plants, for instance, have been modified to produce fruit that
doesn't ripen too quickly. By inserting genes from one plant into another,
scientists can also improve a crop's resistance to insects or weeds.
"We believe that bio-technology and genetically modified foods is an
important component and an important future," says Nigel Poole of Zeneca
Food Sciences. "This is only just the first 10 metres in a marathon race."
Zeneca sell more than a half-million tins of their genetically modified
tomato paste every year -- and they're not alone. Nearly 60 per cent of
Britain's processed foods contain some genetically modified ingredients.
But environmental and consumer groups are trying to turn back the tide of
so-called GM foods.
Their message is blunt -- altering the genetic code of grains and
vegetables is creating "Frankenstein foods" that threaten human health and
The groups are demanding more research and a moratorium on growing
"We've asked (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair to conduct a
root-and-branch reform of the regulatory system immediately," says Julie
Sheperd of Britain's consumers association, "and until that's done, not to
allow new GM food products onto the market."
Environmental activists recently ripped up a field of genetically modified
canola in the British countryside, saying that even growing such plants for
research could lead to contamination of other farmers fields.
The refrain of worry is being picked up by retailers across the United
A growing number of fast food outlets and major supermarkets say they
don't want genetically modified ingredients in their products.
Burger King and Domino's Pizza are the latest to join the movement. And
Iceland Frozen Foods is producing its own line of products using unmodified
Canadian soya flour.
Iceland Foods' Bill Wadsworth says genetic modification provides a
scientific shortcut to food production, but the alteration may be toxic --
now or in the future.
"What we're concerned about is the fact that ... nobody can tell us what
the risk is," Wadsworth tells CBC News.
But some scientists say public fear over genetically modified foods is
getting way out of hand.
"People seem to be ignoring the real scientific basis of what is being
done in respect of genetic modification. And I think there's very little
understanding of the true issues," plant physiologist Mike Black tells CBC
Ultimately, the battle over genetically modified ingredients will be won
or lost in supermarkets, with consumer's choices on the store shelves.
The British government is about to bring in new regulations for labelling,
requiring anyone who sells food, whether in a restaurant or in a
supermarket, to warn customers if it contains genetically modified
ingredients. That way, it would be consumers who cast the final vote on the
future of GM food.
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, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above
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