1-rBST/hormones: Monsanto got access to restricted EU rBST documents
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- Date: Tue, 16 Mar 99 14:18:35 -0000
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Outrage over Monsanto's underhand tactics in EU
Sunday March 14, 1999
The Observer (UK)
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
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 Margaret Miller.
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
-| Hartmut Meyer
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
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