SnowBall archive


GE - news March 1st part 2

1)  Starlings and snails that speak nothing but trouble 
2) 'Take GM food off our menus' Council exercises caution and authorises
3) EU closed to modified food 
4)  D-day  looms on GM foods 'Frankenstein' food could be off school menus
5) Newsweek International March 1, 1999 - FOOD The Realm of the Senses
6) Genetic Crop Axed - Farmer Digs Up Field As Food Fears Spark Demo 

The Ottawa Citizen March 01, 1999, 
1)  Starlings and snails that speak nothing but trouble 
Dan Gardner 
In the 1870s, New York theatre afficionado Eugene Schieffelin 
> had  the romantic thought of collecting all the birds mentioned in 
> Shakespeare's plays and releasing them into the New World. 
> Schieffelin assiduously scanned the Bard's work and found a single line 
> mentioning the  starling (''I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak
nothing but 
> 'Mortimer'''). With that, starlings came to America and became a 
> continent-wide plague that devastated native species like bluebirds 
> and  martins. 
> Eugene Schieffelin may seem a quaint and foolish relic of the 
> 19th century but he has his modern disciples: The scientists and 
> businessmen of the biotechnology industry. In the last 20 
> years, biotech's ability to snip genes from one species and 
> splice them into others has exploded, creating countless life 
> forms as novel as tomatoes with fish genes. By some estimates, 
> as much as 40 per cent of all crops grown in the United States 
> are genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) . In Canada, more 
> than 40 per cent of canola is genetically modified, as is one 
> quarter of the soy beans and corn. It may not be so romantic as 
> Schieffelin's Shakespearean project, but the biotech industry 
> is introducing its own exotic menagerie to the world. Despite 
> the environmental dangers in this, the only tough public 
> questioning the industry has faced is over the issue of human 
> health -- and even that concern has mainly been restricted to 
> Europe. Certainly health concerns have to be taken seriously, 
> but there is, so far, only the weakest evidence that foods made 
> with GMOs may put human health at risk. What's more, those 
> risks can be readily studied and determined. Human biology may 
> be complex, but we are, after all, only one life form. The more 
> intimidating question is what happens when GMOs are released 
> into the environment to interact with millions of life forms? 
> First, we do know that GMOs in the field can ''escape'' into 
> the wider environment any number of ways. For one, a 
> genetically modified crop can cross-pollinate with its wild 
> cousins, passing on some of its engineered traits. A plant 
> created to be resistant to herbicide could pass on that 
> resistance, spawning weeds that cannot be controlled by 
> conventional herbicides. Nor is reproduction the only way 
> genes can be passed. ''Horizontal gene transfer'' passes genes 
> between unrelated organisms, a fairly common process at the 
> microbial level. Some scientists believe GMOs, because of the 
> way they are created, are especially likely to transfer genes 
> horizontally. The biotech industry protests that GMOs are 
> not just unleashed on the environment, they're controlled and 
> tested for safety. But the extent to which GMOs can be 
> contained and their risks determined depends on how well we 
> understand the environment. The problem is, we've learned only 
> enough about the environment to know how little we know. Recent 
> history bears this out. In the early 1980s, a century after 
> starlings came to New York, the golden-apple snail was brought 
> to south-east Asia from South America as a food crop. With all 
> our science and experience, it had to be safe, right? What harm 
> can a snail do? Plenty. The snail spread through irrigation 
> systems into rice paddies, where it devoured rice seedlings and 
> thrived. Today, it devastates rice all over the region, and also 
> acts as a carrier of a lungworm which can infect and kill 
> humans. Oops. 
> There are hundreds of similar examples. Often it takes years 
> to realize an invader is expanding and even longer to understand 
> the full extent of the damage done. Who could possibly have 
> anticipated that an alien grass in Idaho would set in motion a 
> chain reaction which threatens the region's golden eagles? And 
> once invaders are established, they are all but impossible to 
> stop. Not even DDT could touch the gypsy moth. Purple 
> loosestrife, as wetland owners across Ontario are discovering, 
> is all but indestructible. 
> So what can be done to ensure the mistakes made with 
> starlings, snails, and countless other species aren't repeated 
> with GMOs? For starters, we need an international agreement 
> that allows countries to block the import of a GMO, without 
> fear of trade sanctions, until it is proven safe to local 
> ecosystems - -which may well be never. Just such an agreement 
> was nearly reached last week at ''Biosafety Protocol'' talks in 
> Colombia, but the implacable opposition of six countries 
> scuttled it at the last minute. One of the six was Canada. So 
> biotech companies will continue to spread GMOs, risking 
> ecosystems in ways we cannot imagine. At least that romantic 
> fool Eugene Schieffelin could say he didn't know any better. 
> Dan Gardner is a member of the Citizen's editorial board. E- 
> mail: 
> Read previous Dan Gardner columns at 

> ======#====== 
> Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph March 1, 1999 
SECTION: Local  Government: North Lincs, 
2) 'Take GM food off our menus' Council exercises caution and authorises
RESEARCH will take  place  to see how much Genetically Modified (GM) food is
served by North  Lincolnshire Council. The move was agreed by the ruling
> in  the face of Conservative efforts to get GM food removed from social 
> services and schools menus. Tories said this was the only way forward 
> until such time as GM foods could be judged as safe. Speaking at 
> Pittwood 
> House, Scunthorpe, Conservative leader Don 
> Stewart, himself a farmer, tabled a motion asking that the 
> council agree with Food Safety Minister Jeffrey Rooker that GM 
> could pose a "really serious problem." Research 
> And, that until best practice is established and research can 
> prove beyond doubt that there are no environmental risks, the 
> council make clear no GM foods be permitted for the foreseeable 
> future in respect of meals served for clients in social services 
> and schools. 
> "I think it's very important we take heed that GM foods could 
> pose a serious problem," said Coun Stewart who said the Local 
> Government Association (LGA) believed Genetically Modified 
> food should be removed from menus in schools, hospitals and old 
> people's homes. 
> The Tory leader said what was the point of paying GBP 39,000 
> a year to belong to the LGA if North Lincs Council was not going 
> to listen to it. However, Labour councillors said they were 
> listening to the debate and taking action. 
> An amendment was tabled by council leader Nic Dakin saying: "The 
> council will continue to work with the Government and the LGA to 
> ensure that food served in its establishments is prepared to the 
> highest food safety standards. "It will undertake to assess 
> the extent to which GM food is within its food supply chains and 
> take steps to ensure that only food that is judged to be safe is 
> served within its establishments. 
> Standards 
> "This council is committed to the highest possible standards 
> of food safety and takes its responsibilities extremely 
> seriously." 
> The amendment won universal support among Labour councillors 
> and was passed. Tories opposed it. 
> Education chairman Coun Ian Barkley said the council was 
> taking pro-active steps over GM food - last year suppliers were 
> asked to supply non-GM food wherever possible. 
> Social Services chairman Coun John Waldron said the council 
> always did its best to protect the people it served. 
> ======#====== 
> The Western Producer (Saskatchewan, Canada) Feb 25, 1999 
3) EU closed to modified food - Anyone betting that Canadian canola will soon
be allowed into  Europe just saw their odds worsen. Because some Canadian
canola is 
> genetically modified to be herbicide resistant, all of it has been 
> banned 
> from the European Union for some years. In the last six months the EU, 
> particularly Britain, appeared to be warming slightly to genetically 
> modified, or GM, crops as governments began to worry they were falling 
> behind in a major new economic field. However, the direction was 
> reversed dramatically two weeks ago. 
> That is when 21 international scientists announced they supported the 
> findings of Arpad Pusztai, who was forced to retire last year after he 
> said his experiments indicated GM food can damage rats' vital organs and 
> weaken the immune system. 
> "Dr. Pusztai's results, at the very least, raise the suspicion that 
> genetically modified food may damage the immune system," Dr. Ronald 
> Finn, a past-president of the British Society of Allergy and Environmental 
> Medicine, said in a story carried by Reuters news service. 
> Pusztai, a world authority on plant proteins, was forced to leave the 
> Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, two days after revealing 
> preliminary findings in a television documentary. The institute said his
> could not be substantiated. 
> But a later review of Pusztai's research by Stanley Ewen, a pathologist at 
> Aberdeen University Medical School, supported the conclusions. 
> The scientists said not enough is known about the effects of GM food 
> and more research is needed. They want better labeling and suggested GM 
> foods should undergo the same stringent trials as drugs before they are 
> approved. 
> The news set off a media storm and outrageous talk of "Frankenfood." 
> In British parliament, the opposition demanded labeling for GM foods. 
> A consortium of consumer, world development and environmental groups 
> demanded a five-year moratorium on the growing of GM crops in Britain. 
> Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney vowed to eliminate GM ingredients from his 
> late wife Linda's range of vegetarian foods. 
> A national newspaper poll said a strong majority of Britons are worried 
> about eating the food and 96 percent want GM food labeling. 
> Canada cannot dismiss this as hysteria. For our own health, Pusztai's 
> findings must be investigated further. 
> Farm groups encouraging research into GM crops must be cautious and 
> watchful of how other major markets react to these latest developments. 
> We don't want to wind up with crops that are easy to grow, but which 
> have no markets. 
> ======#====== 
Rutland Times (Isle of Wight indpendent paper) 
February 26, 1999 
4)  D-day  looms on GM foods 'Frankenstein' food could be off school menus
after the  Local Government Association recommended a five-year ban on its use
> council schools, residential homes and meals on wheels services. 
> Members of 
> the association approved the recommendation when they met on 
> Wednesday. It 
> will now have dramatic consequences for local authorities nationwide 
> and 
> Rutland County Council is just one that could be forced into action. 
> LGA 
> committee chairman Coun John Ryan warned: "As major buyers and 
> suppliers of 
> food councils should be very cautious on behalf of the public, many of 
> whom 
> are vulnerable such as 
> children and the elderly. 
> The public's confidence in GM food is so low at the moment 
> that councils would be well advised to follow our 
> recommendations. As community leaders, local authorities have a 
> responsibility to listen to people's worries and take measures 
> to restore their confidence at all costs." 
> The council - which has no official policy on GM foods - has 
> said that the issue is not a top priority. 
> And in a letter to the Rutland Times last week Director of 
> Education Keith Bartley defended its position by saying he 
> wanted to "put the record straight". 
> He said: "The reason that no policy has yet been established 
> in Rutland is because I do not believe in formulating policies 
> which are not capable of enforcement. As soon as we have 
> sufficient, valid information to act on we will. Until then I 
> see little point in banning something that we cannot detect and 
> which we do not even know is capable of being defined." 
> He said that no-one knew for sure whether they were eating 
> genetically modified food or not, "Even home-grown produce is 
> grown from seeds and we have to take the supplier's word that 
> our seeds are not from genetically modified stock. 
> I can give the assurance that the food served in our schools 
> does not knowingly contain any genetically modified products." 

> ======#====== 

5) Newsweek International March 1, 1999 - FOOD The Realm of the Senses  
Once  upon a time in Britain, food was just something you ate. Now it's a 
national  obsession. 
By Carla Power 
London's borough market doesn't seem to be the reality. On a gray  winter 
> day, the wind from the Thames wafts the smell of rotting cabbage 
> through the 
> arcades. Worn Victorian signs advertise wholesale potatoes. But 
> nearby, 
> hedonism reigns. At the Cook & Konditor bakery, a queue of hungry 
> office 
> workers on lunch break waits for takeout Thai noodle salad and curried 
> parsnip soup. They contemplate the Parmesan shortbread and jars of 
> figs 
> ranged along the counters. Around the corner, at the Neal's Yard 
> Dairy, 
> some civil servants are eying fat wheels of succulent Cooleas and 
> creamy 
> "New Wave" cheeses like T'yn Grug. "I come here every weekend with my 
> son," 
> says one man in hushed tones. "We walk down here together, just to 
> look." 
> Once upon a time in Britain, food was simply something you 
> ate. Industrialized early, Britain became a country of cities 
> and factories well before the Continent, and Britons got used to 
> eating from tins. In the '40s and '50s, 15 years of war rations 
> locked in the tradition: food was consumed, but it wasn't 
> consuming. "I would never have dreamt of discussing a dish at 
> the table with my parents," says cookbook writer Nigel Slater. 
> "Food was just something you wouldn't talk about." 
> Now Britons won't shut up about it. Last week the debate over 
> "Frankenstein foods," as the tabs christened genetically 
> modified crops, reached fever pitch in the papers and 
> Parliament. Resisting calls for a moratorium on genetically 
> modified crops, Tony Blair's Labour government tried to convince 
> a frightened public that GM foods were safe to eat. But, then, 
> the British nation is used to reading about food: every week 
> newspapers and magazines publish roughly 40,000 words on food. 
> Books on eating and drinking now account for more than 10 
> percent of all nonfiction sales. The 43 food programs on British 
> television range from the elegant exoticism of "Ken Hom's 
> Chinese Cookery" to the slapstick of "Ready, Steady, Cook" or 
> "Two Fat Ladies." 
> It's not just that Britons have discovered good food. It's 
> that the stuff has suddenly become a national obsession, 
> nestling squarely between New Labour and football as topic A at 
> dinner parties and gyms. People who used to think about God, 
> Bosnia and fringe theater have shifted their focus to pancetta 
> and salsa verde. With articles like "What Is the World's 
> Greatest Caramel?" Sainsbury's Magazine-sold at the supermarket 
> chain's checkout counters-has a readership of 2.8 million, 
> nearly three times that of The Times. Sunday magazines feature 
> spread after sexy spread of juicy roast peppers, melting goat 
> cheese or steaming tamarind curries. If Diana's death revealed 
> a willingness for Britons to emote, the new gastronomic 
> revolution is revealing their willingness to eat. Observes 
> Nigella Lawson, author of "How to Eat": "We are all Tuscans 
> now." 
> What produced this infatuation? Start with Britain's sea change 
> from a largely Anglo-Saxon nation to a multicultural European 
> one. Mix in the new ease of travel, which broadens gastronomic 
> horizons. Add the power of television, newly chic supermarkets 
> and a new sensitivity to what one ingests brought on by a series 
> of food scares. And voilą: food is hot. "Ten years ago at a 
> club, you'd tell people you were a fashion designer," says Eric 
> Treuillé, a French chef who moved to London in the mid-'80s. 
> "Now all the designers are telling people they're chefs." In the 
> 1980s, small cults formed around handsome chefs who launched 
> high-profile restaurants in Britain's capital. "In the '80s, it 
> was restaurant as temple," says Lawson. "You venerated the chef. 
> You were reverential towards the food. It was designer meal as 
> sacrament. But as in most religions, people were made to feel 
> like unworthy sinners. Diners felt like unworthy eaters." 
> Or nervous ones. While the celebrity chefs were busy feeding 
> royals and rock stars, Britain was traumatized by a series of 
> food scares. In 1988 the junior Health Minister Edwina Currie 
> announced that most of Britain's eggs were infected with 
> salmonella. In the decade that followed, the British public 
> learned that some of their beef was infected with BSE, or mad- 
> cow disease, and E. coli, and that some of their soft cheeses 
> carried Listeria. Food suddenly became dangerous-and politically 
> charged. The Tory party's inept handling of the mad-cow crisis 
> helped lose it the 1997 election. Memories of the BSE crisis no 
> doubt haunted Tony Blair and his ministers last week, as they 
> wrestled with a food scandal of their own. The genetically- 
> modified-food hysteria is one sign of Britons' fierce new 
> interest in food. Other indications: with funding from unions 
> and city councils, communities have started farmers markets. And 
> over the past four years, organic-food sales have shot up from 
> £100 million to £260 million. 
> Some people look elsewhere for reassurance. For a quarter 
> century, Delia Smith has helped Britons navigate the kitchen, 
> coaxing them to cook with sensible titles like "Frugal Food" and 
> "One Is Fun." Her followers love the petite 57-year-old because 
> her dishes are dependable and unassuming. "Delia might possibly 
> come across as boring," concedes Padma Moorjani, a Nottingham 
> scientist who took up cooking five years ago. "But she 
> demystifies cooking. All her recipes work." Her loyal readers 
> (10 million in the U.K.) and television viewers see to that. 
> After Delia featured eggs in her fall series "How to Cook," 
> Britain went out and bought an extra 54 million eggs in the six 
> weeks that followed the show. When Delia mentioned that a 
> particular omelet pan was "a little gem," sales of the item shot 
> up by 44,900 percent. 
> Pleasure has crept into parts of Britain where it wasn't welcome 
> before. A hard-left member of Parliament, Ken Livingstone, 
> writes a weekly restaurant column in The Evening Standard under 
> the jaunty title "Ken Livingstone, I Presume." "It used to be 
> there was an embarrassment if you were a socialist if you were 
> seen to eat well," says food columnist Craig Brown. "Now it's 
> the reverse." Indeed, the revamped attitude to food echoes the 
> refurbishment of the Labour Party. If the old left wanted a 
> redistribution of wealth, the new left wants to give more people 
> the chance to make it. And if there's a unifying cry for both 
> Tony Blair's New Labour and the food evangelists, it's that 
> Britain's ever-expanding middle classes should have the chance 
> to live well. 
> To be sure, every revolution has its limits. Britons still 
> spend less of their incomes on food than other Europeans, and 
> organic farmers say business is briskest among childless Yuppies 
> in the prosperous south. Basil Hughes, a retired dairy farmer in 
> north Yorkshire, reckons he's had only three Chinese meals in 
> his life. His wife, Margaret, says their trip to Italy last year 
> might mean they drizzle a little more olive oil on salads, "but 
> we're still 'meat and two veg' kinds of people deep down." But 
> mangoes, fresh tagliatelle and sun-dried-tomato chutney are at 
> the local supermarket, just in case the Hugheses get a craving. 
Fri, 19 February, 1999 
6) Genetic Crop Axed - Farmer Digs Up Field As Food Fears Spark Demo 
ByLine : 
A FARMER has stopped a genetically modified food 
experiment on his land after being targeted by eco warriors.
Peter Jackson allowed bio-technology giants Monsanto to 
use his North East farm to grow so-called Frankenstein crops.
But after being targeted by campaigners from the green 
group Geneno he has ordered Monsanto scientists off his land.
Mr Jackson, 40, whose family has farmed Edge House Farm 
at Ponteland, on the outskirts of Newcastle, for decades, 
said: "I stopped the trials because of the hassle.
"We had the police out several times because of the 
protesters and it just wasn't worth it - I wasn't gaining anything.
"The protesters caused a lot of damage to crops and 
machinery and I never got a penny in compensation 
from Monsanto in return. And from a commercial point of view 
the only people who are going to benefit are the large 
companies and not the farmers themselves.
"I can see why people are concerned and it is only right 
that there should be a public debate - but these trials 
are well-regulated."
Mr Jackson was the only farmer in the region to allow 
Monsanto scientists to use his land free of charge to 
grow oil seed rape.
And activists said today they were delighted to have 
stopped GM food experiments in the North East.
Campaigner Phil Capon said: "This is a major victory for 
those who care about this issue. It justifies the actions 
of those who uprooted the plants if it means there are no 
GM food trials in the North East.
"Ordinary people and other farmers will welcome this 
decision and now at last the Government is taking the 
issue seriously."
Their victory comes as the Government is accused of being 
in a "blind panic" after five Cabinet Ministers united in 
a bid to end growing public concerns over GM food.
Nick Brown, Stephen Byers, Jack Cunningham, John 
Prescott, and Frank Dobson wrote to every MP explaining 
why such foods should not be banned.
In the five page letter they said: "The Government's 
first priorities are to protect people and the 
environment. But we must do so in ways that do not deny 
to our people the healthcare, environmental, economic and 
other benefits that flow from technological advances."
But Liberal Democrat food spokesman Paul Tyler said: "In 
one short week they have moved from arrogant 
over-confidence to blind panic."

Picture File :

Picture Caption :
protester dressed as the 
grim reaper in the farmer's