GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Major Canadian article on genetic food from John Fagan's tour



This article appeared in the Friday, Nov 15 issue of The Globe and Mail,
Canada's main national daily newspaper.  It was put out by Canadian Press,
which is Canada's major newswire.

.................................

"Scientists fear humans used as guinea pigs

Genetically engineered food approved in Canada is being questioned in
Europe." Corinna Schuler, Canadian Press

TORONTO -- Shipments of genetically engineered soybeans prompted protesters
in Europe to occupy offices and chain themselves to gates this week. In
Canada, the food was approved months ago.

In the past two years, Agriculture Canada has also granted farmers
permission to grow tomatoes, potatoes and canola that have been genetically
alterated to improve shelf life or increase resistance to herbicides.

Some of the foods are already in grocery stores. But shoppers wouldn't
know, since none of it is labelled.

Agriculture and health department officials said yesterday these so-called
"novel foods" have undergone "stringent" tests and are safe.

But two scientists are ringing the alarm bells as they travel across the
country this month, warning that genetically altered foods could harm human
health.

"It's very risky because those genes have never been part of the human food
supply before," said John Fagan, a biochemist from Cornell University in
New York State. We don't know if they are allergenic or toxic. ... They
should test them as rigorously as they test a new a new drug. They aren't
doing that."

Dr. Fagan and Dr. Joe Cummins, a professor emeritus who taught genetics for
more than 20 years at the University of Western Ontario, are on a speaking
tour that will also take them to Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria.

Their campaign is funded by the Natural Law Party -- a fringe political
group that became the butt of jokes by advocating better government through
meditation.

Still Dr. Fagan and Dr. Cummins have the support of other scientists,
environmentalists, consumers and, in Europe, grocery chain officials who
fear people are being used as human guinea pigs.

The controversy in Europe is over a new soybean produced by the giant U.S.
herbicide manufacturer, Monsanto. Known as Round-up Ready, these soybeans
have been injected with a gene to make them resistant to a widely used
weedkiller.

Margaret Kenny of Agriculture Canada's bio-technology office said tests
showed "there is no safety risk and no change in the nutritional
composition."

The genetically altered bean was approved in Canada last April, but wasn't
grown by farmers this year. American farmers, however, have produced their
first crop and an estimated 50,000 tonnes of U.S. soybean will be imported
to Canada this year.

The genetically treated crop is dumped into the same bins as naturally
grown soybeans, so there is no way to label the altered product.

It could end up in everything from cooking oil to chocolate bars and ice
cream, since soybeans products are a common element of processed foods.

Dr. Fagan and Dr. Cummins said the companies have learned to introduce
genetically  altered produce quietly to prevent the kind of outcry that
followed news that dairy cows could be injected with a growth hormone to
increase milk production. Agriculture Canada is still testing that product.

In Europe, the first imports of U.S. soybeans this week have created a
furor. Greenpeace activists have collected 120,000 signatures on a consumer
petition and, on Tuesday, chained themselves to the gates at a soybean firm
that decided to import the beans.

Politicians in the German Green Party and the British Genetics Forum have all
protested against the arrival of the soybeans. In one port, activists used
huge slide projectors to emblazon the hull of a cargo ship with slogans
such as "we are not your guinea pigs."