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6-Regulation: Codex Alimentarius Commission discusses GE foodguidelines



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  DEFICIENCIES IN CODEX'S DRAFT GUIDELINES
SOURCE: Third World Network, Malaysia, Biosafety Information Service
DATE:   Jun 30, 2003

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Dear Friends and colleagues,

RE: DEFICIENCIES IN CODEX'S DRAFT GUIDELINES

The Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods derived from
Biotechnology has advanced the following documents, among others, to the
26th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, beginning 30 June, for
adoption:

1. Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods
Derived from Recombinant-DNA Plants (ALINORM 03/34; Appendix III)

2. Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment on Foods
Produced Using Recombinant-DNA Microorganisms (ALINORM 03/34A; Appendix II)

While both Draft Guidelines are comprehensive and a step forward, there
are still, however, deficiencies remaining. Among these, as the TWN
Briefing highlights, is the lack of explicit requirement for animal
testing and continued reliance on 'substantial equivalence'. Furthermore,
they lack mandatory requirements for the phase out of antibiotic
resistance marker genes, for labelling and traceability and for adoption
of the Precautionary Principle.

The Draft Guideline related to foods derived from r-DNA plants is narrow
in scope, excluding animal feed and animals fed on such feed, as well as
environmental impacts. Additionally, it fails to explicitly require
event-specific characterisation of the transgenic line or documentation
of genetic stability with molecular data.

Because of the lack of knowledge on endogenous microoragnisms in the
human gut, there are many uncertainties associated with foods produced
using recombinant-DNA microorganisms. The concerns raised include that of
horizontal gene transfer between r-DNA microbes (even if dead) and
microbes in the human gut, as well as interaction with resident microbes
and the human immune system.

The Draft Guidelines and information on the 26th Session of the Codex
Alimentarius Commission can be found at: http://
www.codexalimentarius.net/codex/codex-e.htm



With best wishes,
Lim Li Ching and Chee Yoke Heong

Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
10450 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twnet@po.jaring.my
Website: www.twnside.org.sg



REF: Doc.TWN/Biosafety/2003/C

Third World Network1 
Briefing for Codex Alimentarius Commission (26th Session, 30 June-7 July
2003, Rome)2


The Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods derived from
Biotechnology has advanced the following documents, among others, to the
26th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission for adoption:

1. Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods
Derived from Recombinant-DNA Plants (ALINORM 03/34; Appendix III, para(s) 61)

2. Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment on Foods
Produced Using Recombinant-DNA Microorganisms (ALINORM 03/34A; Appendix II)


While both Draft Guidelines are comprehensive, they however remain
deficient, in that:


1. No animal testing is explicitly recommended or required, and no
clinical tests either, because food is said to be too complex. This
reasoning is fallacious. Animal testing has been, and should be, part of
a science-based protocol that assesses the safety or otherwise of foods
derived from modern biotechnology.

2. The highly questionable principle of 'substantial equivalence' is
still used to justify reductionist risk assessment, i.e., to focus on
perceived differences only, thereby potentially ignoring unintended,
unpredictable, systemic effects.

3. There is no mandatory requirement to phase out antibiotic resistance
marker genes.

4. There are no mandatory requirements for labelling and traceability.

5. There is no requirement to adopt the Precautionary Principle.


Specifically, the Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety
Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Plants is still lacking,
in that:


1. Its narrow scope does not include animal feed and animals fed on such
feed, or environmental impacts. The possibility cannot be excluded that
feeding recombinant-DNA plants or plant products to animals also carries
risks, not just for the animals but also for human beings consuming the
animal products.

 2. No event-specific characterisation of the transgenic line or
documentation of genetic stability with molecular data is explicitly required.


 The Draft Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment on Foods
Produced Using Recombinant-DNA Microorganisms remains inadequate, in that:


 1. It is premature, particularly if viable or even non-viable
recombinant-DNA microorganisms are contained in the food, because of the
ease with which such microorganisms can exchange genes horizontally with
microbes in the human gut and interact with the resident microbes and
with the human immune system. There is a large area of ignorance
concerning endogenous microbes, most of which cannot be isolated.

2. There is no requirement to characterise foods produced using
recombinant-DNA microorganisms for transgenic DNA, when even dead
recombinant-DNA microorganisms contain transgenic DNA that can be
transferred horizontally to microorganisms inhabiting the gut of human beings.

More details on the hazards of genetic engineering and recombinant-DNA
plants can be found in the recently released Independent Science Panel
Report, The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World www.indsp.org


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1 Third World Network, www.twnside.org.sg 
2 Written by Dr Mae-Wan Ho, Director, Institute of Science in Society,
www.i-sis.org.uk


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  GM body debates new rules
SOURCE: British Broadcasting Corporation, by Richard Black
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3031306.stm
DATE:   Jun 30, 2003

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GM body debates new rules

The organisation responsible for setting global food safety guidelines is
expected to adopt new standards on assessing genetically modified foods
at a meeting in Rome.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint body of the World Health
Organisation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, will also set
new guidelines on issues such as food irradiation, maximum levels of
pesticides and the cocoa content of chocolate.

Currently, companies who want to market GM products have to prove they
are "substantially equivalent" to non-GM varieties.

But what substantially equivalent really means has never been defined.

The draft documents due to be adopted at this Codex meeting attempt a
definition.

Many delegates from poorer countries complain they can rarely afford to
go to meetings, and say the technical complexity of Codex documents
favours nations able to employ a swarm of analysts

Several paragraphs are likely to arouse the anger of the pro-biotech lobby.

These include, in particular, those which say direct testing of GM foods
for toxicity may be necessary, and that procedures for assessing the risk
of these foods must be open and transparent to the public.

However, anti-GM campaigners would prefer to see substantial equivalence
abandoned altogether in favour of a far more rigorous testing system.

'Vote-buying' claims

Codex is supposed to be a representative and democratic body with equal
representation from every nation which chooses to attend.

However, many delegates from poorer countries complain they can rarely
afford to go to meetings, and say the technical complexity of Codex
documents favours nations able to employ a swarm of analysts.

To rectify this, the commission has established a scheme where richer
nations sponsor delegates from poorer countries.

But this scheme is also under review this week, as some observers believe
it will effectively lead to vote-buying by the West.




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GENET
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