GE - NLP GMO PARLIAMENTARY BRIEFING
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Date: 09 March 1999 23:15
Subject: NLP GMO PARLIAMENTARY BRIEFING
>Natural Law Party news bulletin
>PARLIAMENTARY BRIEFING: SUMMMARY FOR THE PRESS
>Scientists alert MPs to the many risks
>of genetically engineered foods
>Tuesday, 9 March 1999:
>A special all-party briefing for MPs was held last night in a House of
>Commons committee room, given by scientists concerned about the
>introduction of genetically modified foods.
>Professor John Fagan, an eminent molecular biologist with 23 years'
>experience at the cutting edge of molecular genetics techniques in cancer
>research, called for greater caution in the introduction of genetically
>"If genetic engineering is to be used in agriculture and food production,
>its implementation should be guided by the same kind of rigorous science
>and testing that is now used to assess new pharmaceuticals and food
>additives. Stringent short-term and long-term safety testing and
>environmental assessment are essential," Dr Fagan told MPs.
>"In addition, all genetically engineered foods should be clearly labelled
>as such. No testing regimen can guarantee 100% safety, and therefore
>consumers should have the ability to choose for themselves whether or not
>to accept the risk associated with genetically modified foods."
>An imprecise and uncontrolled process
>Using detailed charts to explain the process of genetic engineering, Dr
>Fagan showed how the insertion of specific new genes into an organism is an
>imprecise and uncontrolled process that may impact biological functioning
>in unpredictable ways. "There is always the risk that genetically
>engineered foods may contain unintended allergens and toxins, and may be
>reduced in nutritional value. Furthermore, genetically engineered crops may
>disrupt the ecosystem by reducing bio-diversity, damaging soil fertility,
>inducing the development of new pathogens, pests, and weeds, and increasing
>the use of toxic and carcinogenic agrochemicals."
>Dr Fagan is Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Maharishi
>University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, USA. He initiated world-wide
>debate on genetics research in 1994 when he returned almost $2m grants from
>the US National Institutes of Health because of concerns about the dangers
>of genetic engineering and the hazards of releasing GM organisms into the
>Dr Fagan is also chief scientific adviser to Genetic I.D., a company that
>provides genetic testing services to food, nutritional, and agricultural
>industries throughout the world, including supermarket chains in the UK.
>The tests Dr Fagan has devised are significantly more sensitive than any
>currently utilised by British authorities and can detect the minutest trace
>of any GMO.
>Medical and agricultural applications of genetic engineering
>Dr Michael Antoniou, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pathology and head of a
>research group at one of London's leading teaching hospitals, said that
>this is an issue that concerns him very deeply. He explained the difference
>between clinical and agricultural applications of genetic engineering.
>"Genetic engineering in medicine tries to correct a genetic defect that is
>either inherited, as in muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis, or acquired,
>as in cancer. Strict regulations quite rightly demand that the use of
>genetic modification (GM) in medicine does not result in the intentional
>release of viable GM organisms (GMOs) into the environment," Dr Antoniou
>said. "In marked contrast, the use of GM in agriculture tries to 'repair'
>plants that have nothing inherently wrong with them. In agriculture, GMOs
>are produced specifically for their intentional release into the
>"In medicine a new drug or therapy produced using GM must undergo
>pre-clinical and, more importantly, clinical trials to assess not only
>efficacy but also to detect any unexpected, undesirable side-effects.
>However, for GM food no tests with human volunteers are required by law for
>either toxicity or allergic reactions prior to marketing.
>"Medicines are clearly labelled, and they are taken voluntarily, and the
>effects are carefully monitored. None of this applies to GM foods. Under
>current EU regulations most foods (90%) containing GMO-derived ingredients
>need not be labelled. The lack of effective segregation means the public
>has no choice as to whether to eat GM foods or not, and finally
>post-release monitoring is non-existent. Any problem that subsequently
>arises would therefore be virtually impossible to trace," he said.
>Respecting natural boundaries
>"If BSE has taught us anything it is that we should think twice about using
>a technology in a manner that violates well established natural boundaries.
>Nature works according to the principle of 'least action' (maximum economy)
>suggesting that everything exists for a purpose. Natural boundaries or laws
>can be seen as the means by which the evolutionary direction and integrity
>of life is maintained.
>"We should not lull ourselves into a false sense of security: we should not
>think that by regulating something which is inherently unpredictable and
>uncontainable it automatically becomes safe," he said.
>Dr Antoniou is the author/co-author of more than 50 publications and is
>biotechnology adviser to many organisations including the Soil Association
>and the Society for the Promotion of Nutritional Therapy.
>Dr Geoffrey Clements, leader of the Natural Law Party and a physicist by
>training, emphasised that the scientific knowledge behind the so-called
>technology is totally inadequate to guarantee that the GMOs now being
>produced are free from hazards.
>"It is like expecting a physicist trained under Newton to operate a nuclear
>reactor," Dr Clements said. "The actual methods employed are intrinsically
>dangerous and highly unnatural," he said, referring to the fact that
>genetic modification can involve pieces of DNA from scorpions, fish
>viruses, bacteria and other species being implanted in the DNA of cereals,
>vegetables, fruits and animals.
>"Contrary to the arguments being put forward, these are mutations of the
>DNA that could never occur in Nature. They are being made to occur in
>isolated species over a time scale of one or two years. In Nature,
>evolution of the DNA usually takes place over millions of years, in a
>natural environment of all species living together in balance.
>"This means that we have no way at all of predicting any adverse results
>that may happen. When the methods of genetic modification are understood -
>that they involve pieces of virus and bacterial DNA, for example - it is
>clear that we are unleashing potential disaster for all life forms.
>"The only safe way forward is a total ban on all new GM crops and foods,
>and a recall of all crops and products already being grown and prepared."
>The Natural Law Party was the first political party to declare itself
>opposed to GM foods, and it is now actively campaigning on the issue in 80
>Current policy punishes the food producers and retailers
>Dr Clements highlighted the fact that current policy is jeopardising the
>economic health of our food producers. "Ironically, the hardest hit are
>those who care about keeping food GM free. The main responsibility for
>maintaining standards is being placed on food producers and retailers, who
>will inevitably suffer when any negative effects of GM foods are
>discovered. The government must take action now, and not demonstrate yet
>again that it is ultimately governed by policies from the White House.
>"Unless we are 100% certain that there is no risk to health and
>environmental safety, there is no reason at all to allow GM foods on our
>shelves or for crops to be grown on any scale."
>To arrange interviews with the speakers, please telephone 01296 662866
>NATURAL LAW PARTY
>Mentmore Towers, Mentmore, Buckinghamshire LU7 0QH
>Tel: 01296 662211 Fax: 01296 662486 Press Office: 01296 662866