Friday, October 22, 1999, 10:55:37 AM, you wrote:
WD> ... Mainly what I want from you is a biological model of how you
WD> think this could occur. I don't think it is plausible, at least
WD> for most GMO crops.
The following is a reference that objectively points to a number of
specific problems that have been focused on but not sufficiently
researched, regarding GMO's in food. One of the many points is where
the burden of proof lies. (It's a little long, but I feel, worthy of
reproduction). The ** were added by me to provide further emphasis:
Updated: 25 Jul 1999
Genetic Engineering and Food Safety: The Consumer Interests
18 December 1996
Where to Go from Here?
Consumers International supports the principle that genetically
engineered foods must be as safe as their traditional counterparts.
However, Consumers International recommends that great caution be
taken in declaring that a given foodstuff is substantially equivalent
to an existing food or food component. The process of declaring
something substantially equivalent should be transparent and
accessible to consumer experts. Furthermore, proteins that are 'almost
the same' as a traditional protein should not be regarded as
substantially equivalent. Further safety testing is necessary in such
** Given the many scientific questions in the fields of molecular
biology and genetic engineering, Consumers International advises
against the marketing of any GEFs without an appropriate and extensive
As concerns the criteria for assessing safety of GEFs, Consumers
International strongly urges that digestibility tests not be the final
criterion. An extensive safety assessment may include ethically
acceptable testing in animals and, if appropriate, in human
volunteers. In case of a foodstuff produced with processing aids made
by GMOs, but no longer present in the resulting foodstuff, testing in
animals or human volunteers is unnecessary.
** Because of the lack of sufficient analytical tests and databases,
Consumers International stresses the need for the development of new
tests and databases containing information on the natural range of
nutrients and toxicants in commercial food plants.
** Because of the repercussions genetic engineering can have on toxins
in foodstuffs, Consumers International strongly urges that priority be
given to the development of new test systems to test for toxicity of
GEFs, such as in vitro tests, new ethically acceptable animal tests or
ethically acceptable human volunteer tests.
** Consumers International recommends the use of protein degradability
tests as part of the toxicity testing, only if these tests cover
modified gastric and gastro-intestinal conditions.
** Considering that the problem of food allergies could be amplified
by genetic engineering of foodstuffs, Consumers International
recommends that organisms that cause common allergies should not be
used as a source of genetic material to be inserted in other food
organisms unless human testing (including skin-prick tests and use of
sera from allergic individuals) shows that the transferred protein is
not the allergen.
** All GEFs still containing expressions products of the transferred
gene(s) must be labelled in order to enable tracking the source of
possible new food allergies. Additional measures must be taken in
circumstances where labelling does not fully reach consumers, for
example, for products sold in bulk and for consumers that can not read
** The use of antibiotic marker genes poses health concerns.
Therefore, Consumers International calls for a ban on the use of
antibiotic resistance genes in microorganisms that are marketed and/or
consumed in a viable state. Preferably, these genes should also not be
used in microorganisms whose products are used but that are themselves
not part of the foodstuff.
** Consumers International also calls for a ban on the use of
antibiotic resistance genes in commercial food crops and for the
development and use of alternatives to antibiotic resistance marker
genes for the transformation of plants.
Safety and labelling regulations
Consumers International calls for well-enforced safety and labelling
regulations on GEFs, at the national as well as the international
** GEF regulations should have a broad scope, including genetically
engineered organisms, viable and non-viable; food crops with agronomic
traits; ingredients and additives derived from genetically engineered
organisms; processing aids, such as enzymes, derived from genetically
engineered organisms; foodstuffs that have been processed, using the
processing aids mentioned above. Any GEF safety regulation should
cover post-marketing monitoring requirements, including monitoring of
possible public health repercussions.
** In particular, GEF regulations should include the following: The
establishment of case-by-case authorization procedures for all GEFs,
which include assessing allergenicity, toxicity, nutritional content
and marker genes.
** The setting up of expert advisory committees at both the national
and international level. These committees should be made up of experts
representing different interests and disciplines, including consumer
** Implementation of the safety assessment of GEFs by independent
** The establishment of strict requirements for publication of safety
data and official decisions. Data should be available in clear and
The enactment of strict requirements for labelling.
** The requirement that the manufacturer be liable for any negative
health effects. In addition, genetic engineering for food purposes and
the production of GEFs should comply with environmental safety and
quality standards, including: Good Manufacturing Practices, Good
Industrial Large Scale Practice and ISO-standards.
An Overview of Consumer Concerns
**Conclusion** [presented here]
Endnotes and References
** This paper focuses on the food safety aspects only. However, this
does not imply that Consumers International disregards issues such as
the vast environmental impact of genetic engineering or the impact it
has on developing countries.
For more information, please contact Consumers International's Global
Policy and Campaigns Unit (GPCU).
Researched and written by:
Frans van Dam, M.Sc., Stichting Consument & Biotechnologie, The
Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Consumer Policy Institute, Consumers' Union,
Leen Petré, Global Policy and Campaigns Unit, Consumers International,
WD> ...Those European consumers who care so much about this are simply
Shame on you.
WD> But we can, and will provide genuinely GMO-free seed.
WD> PS: We would stand on our head and recite poetry to the seed if our
WD> customers wanted that.
We know, Dale. Anything to make a dollar.
Lastly, while you may claim you were discussing a more specific
scenario, that is exactly the problem: Excess selectivity and a
deficient sense of integrity, both biological and ethical. (That's not
to say the defect can't be corrected, though. Make an effort).
Douglas Hinds - CeDeCoR, A.C.
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