So why all the fuss over GE Foods?
by Jill Davies - - March 16, 1999
>From the Sanders County Ledger, Thompson Falls, Montana
March 18, 1999
Why are foreign countries ready to start trade wars with the U.S. over the
import of genetically engineered (GE) foods?
First, it is because of what goes in to the creation of a GE variety.
Plants have elaborate defense mechanisms for dealing with foreign
compounds, including foreign DNA. To overcome these defense mechanisms in
order to insert a gene into the germ cell of a host plant, which will then
grow into a plant with the desired trait, biologists have to construct
what are called "vectors" which will carry the chosen gene into the host
The vectors are constructed using pieces of DNA taken from virulent
pathological organisms (virus, bacteria) because these organisms have the
ability to overcome a cell's defense mechanisms. Generally, there are
three parts to a vector: genes which carry the package into the cell and
invade the DNA, genes called promoters which assure that the package is
'turned on', and genes for antibiotic resistance that are used as markers
to help the biologist find the plant cells in which the insertion has been
successful (a small percentage).
The concern is that these sections of DNA from pathological organisms will
recombine to form active pathogens once again, either new ones, or old ones
with renewed virulence, or with new (broader) host specificity; and that
antibiotic resistance will continue to spread throughout the microbial
world. This process, called "horizontal gene transfer" is already known
to be the cause of the widespread antibiotic resistance in disease
organisms that has emerged in the past decade, facilitated by the over-use
Second, it is because the insertion of this gene package - a
complex vector with the trait gene attached - into the DNA of the host
plant can disrupt the functioning of the host's DNA. This can and does
lead to 'freak' plants which supposedly are weeded out by the biotech
company, but subtle chemical changes would be very difficult to detect, and
the testing that is currently required is inadequate.
What ignited the controversy last month in Britain, was the disclosure of a
study (after it had been suppressed for 6 months) which tested GE potatoes
that were engineered to express an insect toxin. This study was the
first to carefully examine the chemical composition of the GE potatoes as
compared to the regular potatoes. They found significant differences in
levels of protein (20% less), starch, sugar, other enzymes.
Then they fed the potatoes to young rats for a time and examined the
development of organs. They found impaired development in the intestine,
pancreas, kidneys, liver, lungs and brain; an enlarged thymus, and a
depressed immune response with evidence of intestinal infection.
Third, it is because people don't want to eat a plant that expresses an
insecticide in every cell, or a plant that can resist an herbicide so that
more of the herbicide is sprayed on the field while the plant is growing,
and these are what are now being widely grown. Corn, cotton and potatoes
are engineered to express the Bt insecticide and soy is resistant to
contact info: Jill Davies ~~~ River Care <email@example.com>
Thu, Mar 18, 1999
Monsanto Dairy Hormone May Be Carcinogenic -EU Vet Committee
LONDON (Dow Jones)--Milk from cows treated with a synthetic hormone
produced by U.S.-based firms Monsanto Corp. (MTC) and Eli-Lily & Co. (LLY)
may cause cancer, a key European Union veterinary committee has said.
Use of the hormone in dairy cows could also foster resistance to
antibiotics and induce allergic reactions in humans, according to the E.U.
Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health. The
doubt cast upon the safety of synthetic bovine somatotropin (BST) by the
E.U.-appointed scientists could mean the E.U. Commission will not lift the
ban on sale of the product later this year. The ban on synthetic BST was
imposed by the E.U. Commission some years ago due to similar health
The E.U. scientists made their statement in a summary of a report obtained
by Dow Jones Newswires Thursday. The full report is due to be published
within the next few days.
The E.U. Commission will debate the report and use it as a basis for its
decision on whether to renew the E.U. ban on synthetic BST. The deadline
for renewal of the ban is Dec. 31, 1999.
Synthetic BST, which stimulates milk production in dairy cows, is produced
by inserting genes from cows into microscopic organisms, which then
reproduce the hormone. It is widely used in U.S. dairy herds. Injection of
the synthetic hormone into cows could mean consumers are exposed to "an
increased relative risk of breast and prostate cancer" it was stated in the
The E.U. scientists said also that the increased use of antibiotics in cows
treated with synthetic BST could lead to those antibiotics finding their
way into milk and could foster the development of antibiotic-resistant
As the use of synthetic BST increases the risk of cows developing mastitis,
a disease which causes the deterioration of cows' udders, cows treated with
the hormone are typically given extra doses of antibiotics. An E.U.
Commission agriculture official declined to comment on what impact the
report could have on E.U. policy but he did say the summary of the report
was 'vague' in its conclusions.
* By Daniel Balint-Kurti 44-171-832-9561;
firstname.lastname@example.org (END) DOW JONES NEWS 03-18-99 12:05 PM
Sunday Independent 21 March 99
Super-viruses threat to farms
By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent
Genetically engineered crops, altered to be resistant to common plant
viruses, risk creating new mutant strains of "super-viruses" which could
wipe out entire farms, a damning research report commissioned by the
Government has warned.
The report, ordered under the Government's Genetically Modified Organisms
Research Programme, has found that plants engineered to be resistant to
common viruses could in fact lead to the creation of more virulent strains
which could spread throughout the British countryside. The report, prepared
for the Department of the Environment by the Scottish Crop Institute, has
been seized on by ecological campaigners as evidence that the countryside
could be irrevocably damaged by introducing GM crops.
The report says that there is insufficient research to determine the
long-term effects of introducing viral resistance. Environmentalists fear
that indigenous plants could be wiped out by the new viruses created by
International Scientific Committee Warns of Serious Risks of Breast and
Prostate Cancer from Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk
March 22, 1999
CHICAGO, March 21 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- The following
was released today by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor Environmental
Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chairman of
The Cancer Prevention Coalition:
The European Commission (EC) has just released a report by its
authoritative international 16-member scientific committee, based on
meticulous scientific documentation, confirming excess levels of the
naturally occurring Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) in milk of cows
injected with Monsanto's biotech hormone (rBGH).
The report concludes that the excess levels of IGF-1 pose serious risks of
breast and prostate cancer. "Experimental evidence for an association
between IGF-1 and breast and prostate cancer is supported by
epidemiological -- evidence arising from recently published cohort studies
-- . "
The report also warns that excess levels of IGF-1 may promote the growth
and invasiveness of any cancer by inhibiting programmed self-destruction of
cancer cells (apoptosis), and that contamination of milk with residues of
antibiotics used to treat mastitis in rBGH cows is likely to spread
antibiotic resistant infections in the general population.
The EC human health report finally emphasized the need for additional
investigation of several other potential risks of rBGH milk. A parallel EC
report also warns of serious veterinary risks of rBGH.
It may be noted that FDA has ignored such evidence reported in detail by
the author in peer reviewed scientific publications over the last decade.
The EC warnings are in sharp conflict with the policies of the Food and
Drug Administration, largely based on unpublished and confidential Monsanto
claims, that hormonal milk is safe.
As seriously, the report raises serious questions on the competence and
conflicts of interest of Codex, the WHO organization responsible for
setting international food safety standards, which has given an unqualified
clean bill of health to rBGH milk.
It should further be emphasized that senior FDA officials and industry
consultants are members of Codex, which meets in secrecy and relies on
unpublished industry assurances of safety. Interlocking relationships
between U.S. and Canadian regulatory officials and Codex are matters of
critical concern to U.S. consumers and global food safety.
Faced with escalating rates of >breast and prostate cancers, besides
other avoidable public health hazards, FDA should immediately withdraw its
approval of rBGH milk whose sale benefits only Monsanto while posing major
public health risks for the entire U.S. population. A Congressional
investigation of FDA's abdication of >responsibility and of its reliance on
Codex authority for food safety, analogous to that recently conducted on
rBGH milk by the Canadian Parliament, is well overdue.
SOURCE Dr. Samuel S. Epstein
CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.,
Professor of Environmental Medicine,
University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago,
and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, 312-996-2297/
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
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