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6-Genetech §§: BIOSAFETY - Critical Canadian GE report published



-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  A) Independent group of scientists releases study
           disputing fegeral claims that genetically engineered
           foods are safe
        B) Politics, not food safety, behind new study on GE
           foods, say farmers and scientists
        C) University dismisses modified food study; but author
           finds Health Canada research wanting
SOURCE: A) GE Alert / Council of Canadians, Press Release
        B) AGCare Canada, Press Release
        C) Toronto Star, Canada
        all edited/sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE:   A) + B) January 18, 2000
        C) January 19, 2000

----------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ ------------------


Dear GENET-news readers,
since May 1997 four rounds of the biosafety protocol negotiations
have been hosted by the CBD in Montreal - with a minimal impact
on the Canadian public and media. After the failure of the
negotiations in Cartagena in January 1999, the worldwide GE
crops/food crisis and the WTO-flop in Seattle in December 1999
things have changed dramatically. Canada experiences an open
battle on GE-crops/food. The debate was fueled by the uproar of
Canadian pro-GE lobbyists in response to a recently published
critical report of Dr. Ann Clark. She is located at the
University of Guelph, an university deeply involved in AgBiotech
reseach and heavily funded by the GE-industry. Letıs hope that
Dr. Clark will not become a "Canadian Pusztai".

You can read an excellent article by Dr. Clark on the myth of GE
feeding-the-world with elaborated scientific and political
analyses at:

http://www.oac.uoguelph.ca/www/CRSC/faculty/eac/myths.htm

And check the GENET-archive to read:

6-Genetech §§: Canadian scientists call GE food risk assessment
"assumption based", August 15, 1999

Yours,

Hartmut Meyer

                             *****

Independent group of scientists releases study disputing fegeral
claims that genetically engineered foods are safe

OTTAWA - An independent group of scientists and academics today
released a study disputing federal government claims that
genetically engineered (GE) foods are safe to eat. Dr. E. Ann
Clark, a member of the newly formed group GE Alert who is a
professor at the University of Guelph, released the study at a
press conference with The Council of Canadians this morning. (The
Council is donating space on its Web site for members of the
group to present their findings.)

The paper, entitled "Food Safety of GM Crops in Canada: Toxicity
and Allergenicity," was written by Dr. Clark and examines the
process by which Health Canada assesses the toxicity and
allergenicity of GE crops. The study found that toxicity was not
actually tested or measured on 70% of the 42 GE crops approved in
Canada. Moreover, said Dr. Clark, "Allergenicity was not
assessed through lab or feeding trial measurements on any of the
42 GE crops. All conclusions of safety regarding toxicity and
from allergenic responses were based entirely on inferences and
assumptions." "The analysis presented," said Dr. Clark,
"supports the need for a fundamental reassessment of the process
by which the safety of GE food is tested in Canada."

GE Alert is an independent group of scientists, academics and
agricultural professionals committed to informing Canadians about
the implications of agricultural genetic engineering. Members
have no ties to the life science industry and are therefore free
of potential conflicts of interest. A complete description of the
group, along with a list of members and copies of scientific
papers as they become available can be found on the Council of
Canadians' Web site: www.canadians.org/ge-alert The Council of
Canadians is calling on the federal government to introduce
mandatory labelling of GE foods and is currently campaigning to
hav grocery stores remove GE foods from their shelves until they
are proven safe.

                             *****


Politics, not food safety, behind new study on GE foods, say
farmers and scientists

Guelph, Ontario -- Ontario farmers, along with federal regulators
and scientists, have reaffirmed that genetically-engineered foods
are safe, and attempts by groups such as the Council of Canadians
(CoC) to cast doubts are based in politics more than food safety.
The so-called paper, a term usually reserved for publications
appearing in peer-reviewed journals, released earlier today by
CoC is nothing more than a superficial examination of decision
documents, meant to alarm rather than inform.

"We're very concerned about the deliberate attempts groups such
as this make to undermine Canadian's confidence in the safety of
their food," said Jim Fischer, a Walkerton, Ontario farmer and
chairman of AGCare (Agricultural Groups Concerned about Resources
and the Environment). "As farmers, we are committed to providing
abundant supplies of safe, high quality food to Canadians at
reasonable costs."

"We are choosing GE technology because it works," said Fischer.
"It helps us to reduce pesticide use and crop input costs while
maintaining the crop yield and quality our customers have come to
expect." Farmers chose to grow genetically modified crops in
record numbers in 1999, citing both increased efficiency and
environmental benefits as reasons for their choice. 35% of the
corn, 20% of the soybeans and 60% of the canola grown in Ontario
were produced from GE varieties.

"I care passionately about the safety of the Canadian food
supply," said Dr. Douglas Powell, an associate professor in the
department of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph, who
has developed and implemented several on-farm food safety
programs with Ontario farmers. "The assertions of Dr. Clark, a
specialist in cattle pasture grazing, have nothing to do with
food safety and everything to do with political opportunism. Such
statements absolutely trivialize the efforts of farmers,
processors, consumers and others to enhance the safety of the
food supply."

AGCare is a coalition of 16 farm groups representing Ontario's
45,000 field and horticultural crop growers on crop
biotechnology, crop protection, and related environmental issues.
A backgrounder on the evaluation and approval system for
genetically modified foods is available at http:/
www.plant.uoguelph.ca/riskcomm/plant-ag/se-response.htm


                            *****

University dismisses modified food study; but author finds Health
Canada research wanting

Ann Clark, a University of Guelph scientist challenging the
safety of genetically modified foods is, according to these
stories, being criticized as "unethical" by her boss and
"silly" by a colleague. The stories say that Clark published a
report on the Council of Canadians web site saying that research
posted on the Health Canada Web site into the safety of
genetically engineered crops grown in Canada is based on
unfounded assumptions and inadequate research the safety
research. Clark said she volunteered to research and write the
report on her own time, and did not receive any funding from the
Council of Canadians, which set up a Web site to post the report.

Her study, Food Safety of GM crops in Canada, says that because
the proteins found in 17 genetically modified crops do not share
characteristics with proteins known to be toxic, those crops are
assumed by Health Canada not to be toxic. The same assumptions
are made for allergens.

The report calls into question the substantial equivalence test
used by governments around the world to approve genetically
modified foods. Under that test, if a genetically modified food
is deemed more or less similar to that of unmodified food, it is
assumed to be safe and is approved for sale without further
testing. Clark said she is not saying the food is unsafe, just
that further study is needed. Clark was quoted as saying that
"The risk assessment system ... in Canada is based largely on
assumptions and inference rather than on any sort of actual
testing," and that no laboratory or animal-feeding test is
presented in 17 of the 27 decisions. Test results are given for
10 crops, but none of these attempted to measure the results of
long-term exposure.

Health Department spokeswoman Lynn LeSage was cited as defending
the current process for assessing GM crops, saying it is clear
and rigorous, adding, "We consider toxicity and allergenicity
with every single item that goes our pre-market review. If there
is the potential (for adverse health effects) it is tested. If
there is no potential, it's not tested." Rob McLaughlin, dean of
the agriculture college at the University of Guelph, was cited as
saying Clark is a specialist on pasture management for livestock
and she should not comment on genetically modified foods, adding,
"The University of Guelph hires her and pays her to do research
in pasture management and she's very good at it, but at the end
of the day we do not hire her, and she is not considered by us,
to be an expert in this area. I think her behaviour is
unethical."

James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of
University Teachers, was cited as saying it is "ludicrous" for
the university to suggest that Clark should only comment on a
narrow area of expertise, adding, "In a democratic society, one
of the purposes of universities is to be a place where things can
be discussed openly and criticized. One of the ways in which
there have been attempts to deny people freedom of expression and
to cut back on academic freedom is to say, 'Well, academics
should only be able to comment on the area in which they're
experts.' If one took that seriously, it would muzzle most
academics speaking about most subjects in this country if you
define their areas of expertise narrowly enough."

Doug Powell, described as a food safety expert at the
University of Guelph, was cited as immediately challenged the
report, adding that "If she actually had a report of any
substantive nature, she would have submitted it to a journal.
This is silly. It's just a superficial examination worthy of high
school." Powell said he has seen studies conducted by seed
companies that are much more in depth than those posted on the
Health Canada Web site. He would like to see companies making
their studies more widely available. "That's a communication
problem, not a scientific problem," he said. 


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