GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Novartis To Label?



    BOSTON, Feb 24 (Reuter) - Novartis <NOVZn.S>, one of the world's largest
biotechnology firms, is expected to announce Monday that labels on its grains
will indicate that the products have been genetically altered. 

    The head of agribusiness for Novartis, Dr. Wolfgang Samo, in remarks
prepared for delivery to an international gathering of scientists here today,
said, "Genetically enhanced products are superior to conventional ones;
industry should have many reasons to label them. Novartis for one is doing
just this." 

    He added, "If we believe in the 'right to chose' for consumers, the
industry cannot reasonably argue against labels facilitating this choice." 

    A copy of his prepared text was obtained by Reuters. 

    Novartis commissioned a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults on the bioengineering
of food. It found that only one-third of those surveyed claimed to know
nothing about bioengineering of food. 

    By 73 percent to 11 percent, those surveyed preferred the use of
bioengineering over the use of pesticides to increase crop production and
protection. 

    Genetically engineered products are now used on U.S. farms to increase
milk production and cut the amount of pesticides used on corn, soybeans,
cotton, potatoes and tomatoes. 

    But controvery over the practice continues, especially in many European
countries. 

    Samo is expected to tell his audience at Tufts University  that
scientists and company managers must "get more actively involved (in the
debate) than they have been before." 

    "I believe, for instance, that the present controversy in many EU
(European Union) countries about the use of biotechnology is due in part to
key scientists' and managers' lack of a public voice, and to a
misunderstanding of their role in the debate," Samo said in his prepared
remarks. 

    Swiss-based Novartis was formed in December by the merger of Ciba-Geigy
and Sandoz. It has a market capitalization of $100 billion. 

12:16 02-24-97