SnowBall archive


GE - catch up from the Weekend

From: "Clive Elwell" <> 

Clive Elwell
Friday 12/3/99
So the acts of "eco-terrorism" against genetically engineered crops have = 
spread to New Zealand at last. Early on Thursday the "Wild Greens" = 
pulled up a Crop and Food Research trial of genetically engineered = 
potatoes planted at Lincoln. Today Ruakura Research Station is being = 
guarded by security guards, who are stopping all cars. Security is being = 
stepped up for the transgenic sheep at Mangakino.

Such destruction has become commonplace in Britain and other European = 
countries. Also in India GE cotton crops have been torched by enraged = 
farmers. The process has even begun in the home of GE, the US. In = 
Britain it is not just extreme greenies who pull up crops; otherwise law = 
abiding, ordinary, concerned citizens have participated in what they = 
call "acts of social responsibility".

The Wild Green=92s spokesperson, Nandor Tanczos, is wrong in stating = 
that GE trial crops have not gone through a legal regulatory process. = 
But he is quite right in questioning if the NZ public can rely on this = 
process to protect them and the environment from the dangers of genetic = 
engineering. He is right in suggesting that the government regulatory = 
agency concerned, Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), has = 
not been impartial - we have seen ERMA staff appearing in public as = 
active proponents of the technology they are supposed to be assessing.. = 
And he is certainly correct when he says there has been insufficient = 
debate about allowing GE technology into NZ at all. Issues that need to = 
be debated in great detail, perhaps for years, were merely touched upon = 
(if at all) at the half- day potato hearing in Wellington. It was a = 
rushed affair, with submitters given no time to consider large amounts = 
of written technical evidence presented by the applicants.

ERMA has stated that ethical issues will not be considered in their = 
decision making process. And although a body was formed to represent = 
Maori concerns, its recommendations were completely ignored. In its = 
approval of all the trials it has so far considered ERMA has ignored the = 
advice of eminent and neutrally positioned scientists like Professor = 
Wills of Auckland University, and they have ignored the warnings of the = 
Royal NZ College of General Practitioners. Their so-called risk = 
assessment is contrary to a growing body of scientific evidence from = 
overseas that the dangers are real and are enormous and their approvals = 
are likely to have a detrimental effect on NZ agriculture. Farmers in = 
the US and Canada are finding it more and more difficult to sell their = 
GE produce, especially to Europeans increasingly concerned with the = 
question of safety of GE foods. But Australia has just sold a record = 
amount of Canola, at a record price, precisely because it is GE-free.

All the concerns expressed at the ERMA hearing on the GE potatoes have = 
been confirmed by recent disclosures. Beneficial insects are being = 
killed by GE crops. Herbicide tolerance has spread to neighbouring crops = 
and weeds. Insect pests have developed resistance to the GE crops which = 
were designed to kill them. And many commercially planted GE crops in = 
the US are showing up with completely unexpected traits. It is not the = 
precise technology we are led to believe.

Nandor is also right to point out that the GE potatoes he helped = 
destroy, like all GE crops, contain antibiotic resistance genes. A Dutch = 
scientist has just shown fairly conclusively that these can and do get = 
transferred to the bacteria normally present in the human gut - with = 
obviously huge implications for future health care. It must be = 
understood that the GE "trials" in question are in no way trials of = 
safety. They are simply preparations for commercial release and there is = 
no attempt to even monitor the above hazards.

Like all the groups who are concerned about the untested nature of GE, = 
the Wild Greens are calling for a moratorium on its use in NZ. Given the = 
government=92s unquestioning attitude towards GE technology, and its = 
apparent acceptance of the health and environmental hazards - one = 
wonders who deserves the label of eco-terrorist. It is likely we will = 
see more direct action by environmentalists. Alan Simpson, a UK Labour = 
MP who has been highly critical of his party=92s position on this = 
technology, has this to say:

"There are moments and issues in history where parliament is inadequate = 
and it falls to the people themselves to act. With the case of genetic = 
engineering and the granting of patents on life, I believe we have = 
reached one of those historic moments".

Mar 12, 1999 (6:23 PM ET) - The Motley Fool Evening News
Chemicals giant DuPont (NYSE:DD - news) continued to stir up news today, as 
shares of seed producer Pioneer 
Hi-Bred International (NYSE:PHB - news) moved up $9 13/16 to $34 5/16 after 
Pioneer issued a statement 
confirming talks about "a possible business combination transaction" 
between the companies. DuPont already owns 
20% of the company, bought in 1997 for $1.7 billion. To buy the balance of 
Pioneer would cost DuPont at least $4.69 
billion based on yesterday's $24 1/2 per share closing price. The 
announcement comes on the heels of resurgent rumors 
that DuPont was looking to take out life sciences megalith Monsanto 
(NYSE:MTC - news) , a deal that would dwarf 
an offer for Pioneer. Whatever happens, DuPont -- which earlier this week 
announced plans to issue a tracking stock 
for its life sciences businesses -- is evidently quite dedicated to the 
expansion of that division.
PA NewsSonntag, 14. März 1999 11:16:00

Copyright 1999 PA News. Copying, storing, redistribution, retransmission, 
publication, transfer or commerical 
exploitation of this information is expressly forbidden.

By Michael Clarke, Deputy Political Editor, PA News 
Genetically modified foods do carry a risk - but the potential benefits 
outweigh the possible dangers, Science Minister Lord Sainsbury said today. 
The minister - who has been embroiled in continuing controversy over his
with the GM food industry - told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost - that all
carried risks. 
But science had brought immense advances and there were strict controls on
development of so-called Frankenstein foods, he said. 
"There's no field of science or indeed economic or technological change where 
there are not risks," he said. 
"If you said we will never do anything where there's any risk at all you 
would never do anything in life. 
"There are risks but if you look at science overall the extraordinary thing 
is the impact it's had for good on our lives." 
Life expectancy, for instance, had soared over the century as a result of 
scientific development. 
"So there are huge benefits that have come that we have always got to put 
against no risk." 
Lord Sainsbury sits on a key Cabinet committee on biotechnology and genetic 
modification but has to leave the room when it considers GM foods, because of 
his immense fortune which was until recently tied up in the family
chain which has an interest in developing GM food. 
Although his shares in Sainsbury's were put into a "blind trust" when he 
became a Minister last year, he accepts the massive size of the holding means
must assume he still has a stake in the firm. 
Today he insisted: "I don't have anything to do with GM foods." 
He admitted the public was concerned about them, but added: "It's important 
that they can be absolutely confident that there are the proper regulations
place to control this, and that all aspects of this are taken into account - 
ethics, environment, safety." 
He welcomed reports that companies developing GM products were considering a 
voluntary ban on GM crops for three years. 
"The prime requirement for Government is safety and the impact on the 
"If this voluntary arrangement gives even more time before commercial 
planting takes place so there's more time to assess the environmental impact 
that has to be good."
> Sydney Morning Herald 
> Saturday, March 13, 1999 
> Label gene food, says jury 
>After deliberating through the night until dawn, a citizen's 
>jury at Australia's inaugural consensus conference brought 
>down a unanimous report yesterday recommending that all 
>genetically modified (GM) foods be labelled. 
>The 14-member lay panel also called, in effect, for a short 
>moratorium on any new commercial releases of GM foods 
>in Australia, or the importation of unlabelled ones, until a 
>better regulatory system was in place. 
>It criticised the present regulatory bodies, including the 
>Australia and New Zealand Food Authority which assesses 
>the safety of new GM foods, for not serving community 
>interests. It said: "The decision-making process is currently 
>inaccessible and open to bias." It recommended a new 
>statutory authority be established to oversee the introduction 
>of gene technology, and that its deliberations be public. 
>"The speed at which GM organisms have been developed 
>and introduced by multinational companies and the 
>scientific community has left many people completely 
>unaware of and uninvolved in the process," the panel said. 
>The conference, convened by the Australian Museum, is a 
>method used increasingly overseas for citizens to influence 
>government policy on contentious technologies. 
>After cross-examining 13 expert witnesses, the lay jury 
>concluded that the possible benefits of gene technology in 
>the food chain ranged from longer shelf life for produce to 
>reducing world hunger. "But the potential hazards are 
>largely unknown in the long term," it said. 
>It rejected as too narrow the scientific definition of a GM 
>food as substantially equivalent to conventional foods if it 
>was indistinguishable in chemical composition, flavour and 
>other physical properties. 
>"Comprehensive labelling is the only way to ensure that 
>health, religious, moral and ethical food choices are placed 
>solely in the hands of each individual consumer," the jury 
>In December, health ministers voted six to four in favour of 
>labelling all genetically engineered foods, but there is 
>pressure from ANZFA for some refined GM foods, such as 
>vegetable oils, to be exempt from labelling. 
>The Government, which has said it will establish a gene 
>technology office, is considering the best way to regulate 
>gene technology. 
>The panel recommended that to ensure the highest standards 
>of public health, regulation of GM issues should not be 
>moved to the agriculture portfolio. 
>A spokesman for the Australian Conservation Foundation, 
>Mr Bob Phelps, director of the Gene-Ethic Network, said 
>the lay panel had done a fabulous job. "It was democracy in 
>action," he said. 
>The executive director of the Australian Food and Grocery 
>Council, Mr Mitchell Hooke, said the report highlighted the 
>Government's failure to inform consumers about the uses 
>and benefits of gene technology, and the regulatory regime 
>governing its safe commercialisation. 
>"Whilst the Government dithers, scope for misinformation is 
>rife," he said. Mr Mitchell said any labelling of GM foods 
>had to be done in a meaningful, practical and, if required by 
>law, enforceable way.
>From: Dan Goodman <> 
>Subject: Dyed in the Silkworm 
>Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 12:26:41 -0600 (CST) 
> Contact: Hajime Mori 
> Department of Applied Biology 
> Kyoto Institute of Technology 
> [1] 
> 81-75-724-7776 
> Fax: 81-75-724-7760 
> [2]Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory 
> Dyed In The Silkworm: Researchers Develop Novel Way To Produce 
> Colored Silk 
> In the March 1 issue of Genes & Development, Hajime Mori and 
> colleagues at the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Kyoto, Japan 
> report that they have developed a technique to produce genetically 
> altered, green fluorescent silk fibers that are spun by the 
> silkworm. The development of an insect system to produce foreign 
> proteins has significant potential applications for silk or other 
> economically important proteins. 
> Silkworms, or more precisely, the larvae of the moth Bombyx mori, 
> spin silk to form a cocoon in which they will develop into moths. 
> Mori's group took an approach in which they infected the silkworm 
> larvae with a genetically engineered insect virus that carried an 
> altered version of a silk protein. They fused the gene encoding the 
> light chain of the fibroin protein -- a major protein component of 
> silk -- to the gene encoding the green fluorescent protein from 
> jellyfish. After the virus infects the larval cells, the virus 
> embeds itself into the silkworm's DNA. Through a process called 
> homologous recombination, the silkworm's natural fibroin gene was 
> replaced with the new altered version. Remarkably, when ultraviolet 
> light is shone on the silk glands of these invected larvae, the 
> glands glow with an eerie green color! The development of this 
> technique opens the door for genetic researchers to engineer silk 
> proteins and reintroduce them into moths that can, in turn, produce 
> genetically altered silk. This approach also has potential economic 
> applications. 
> Theoretically, such a protein-producing insect could be used to 
> produce important proteins, such as the spider silk protein 
> spidroin, which has potential industrial uses ranging from the 
> fibers in bullet-proof vests to parachutes. 
> This work was supported by Enhancement of Center of Excellence 
> Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology, 
> Science and Technology Agency, Japan.The first author Masafumi 
> Yamao was supported by the Research Fellowships of the Japan 
> Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists. 
> Genes & Development is a top-ranked primary research journal 
> published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. The journal 
> publishes research papers and review articles that cover the 
> spectrum of topics in the life sciences. Genes & Development is on 
> the Web and offers full-text access at
> Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a private, nonprofit basic 
> research and educational institution with programs focusing on 
> cancer, neurobiology and plant genetics. Located on the north shore 
> of Long Island, 35 miles from Manhattan, the Laboratory was founded 
> in 1890 as a field station for the study of evolution. It has since 
> developed into a world leader in cancer and molecular biology 
> research. Further information about the Laboratory can be found at 
> <> 
> The reference for the paper is: Masafumi Yamao, Nagakuzu Katayama, 
> Hiroshi Nakazawa, Minoru Yamakawa, Yoshiyuki Hayashi, Saburo Hara, 
> Kaeko Kamei, and Hajime Mori. Gene targeting in the silkworm by use 
> of a baculovirus. Genes & Dev. 13: 511-516. 
> ### 
>Dan Goodman 
>Whatever you wish for me, may you have twice as much.
Outrage over Monsanto's 
underhand tactics in EU
By Gregory Palast 
Sunday March 14, 1999

An international consumer group is calling for world trade authorities to 
withdraw a key endorsement of Monsanto's controversial growth hormone for 
cows in the wake of Observer revelations that the company had obtained 
access to 
confidential EU documents. In a letter to the Joint Expert Committee on Food 
Additives (Jecfa), London-based Consumers' International demanded the 
agency void its approval of the bovine growth hormone BST.
The consumer watchdog, which participates on the scientific committee, 
charges that Monsanto's privileged access to restricted documents 'damaged 
the objectivity and credibility' of the investigation of the hormone. Jecfa 
reports to the Codex Commission, the world's food safety arbitrator. In 
June this commission will vote on approving Monsanto's drug for 
international trade. Last week CI's director, Julian Edward, accused a US 
Food and Drug Administration official on the panel, Dr Nick Weber, of 
professional misconduct and 'breach of trust' in passing copies of 
sensitive papers to Monsanto.
The Observer identified Dr Weber as the source of the leak to Monsanto. 
Weber has not responded to phone calls to his office, but the Jecfa panel's 
chairman, Dr John Hermann, stated that, following the Observer story, Weber 
had admitted passing the confidential documents to Monsanto prior to a 
crucial meeting last February in Paris. Herrman defended Weber, as he did 
another US Food and Drug Administration official in the controversy, Dr 
Margaret Miller.
The Observer reported that Miller, a former Monsanto BST analyst, took part 
in the Jecfa review of the hormone.Herrman concedes that Miller 
participated in the talks and drafted the committee's report, but she 
excused herself from the actual vote approving the hormone as safe. Before 
heading Jecfa, Herrman, too, worked for the FDA.
A spokesman for the Consumer Policy Institute of New York decried 'the 
disturbingly close relationship between FDA and Monsanto'. The Institute's 
BST expert, Dr Michael Hansen, a Jecfa adviser, said there were indications 
from test data that milk from cows injected with the hormone may promote 
cancers in humans. In Canada, the Senate Agriculture Committee last week 
demanded that Ottawa withdraw its seal of approval for BST following the 
Observer' disclosure that a scientist representing Canada on the Jecfa 
panel had been suggested by Monsanto. Senator Mira Spivak of Manitoba said 
senators were stunned to find in their own investigation that 'a registered 
Monsanto lobbyist was part of Canada's delegation to Codex'. The 
committee's report recommended conducting new studies of BST. The senator 
said her committee'learned that BST files were stolen at Health Canada' and 
that government scientists who expressed doubts about Monsanto's safety 
tests had been 'muzzled after they began to talk publicly about the drug 
The Observer also reported that Monsanto had sued several hundred US 
farmers for 'seed piracy' - planting seeds taken from crops originally 
grown from Monsanto's copyrighted genetically modified seeds.
Now a rival seed company has accused Monsanto of the same offence. 
Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International has just filed a suit in the US 
Federal Court accusing Monsanto of 'genetic misappropriation'. A Hi-Bred 
spokesman told The 
Observer that Monsanto 'buys our seeds' and hunt for rare copies of 
proprietary genetic codes. Monsanto denies that it has done anything 
illegal. Analysts say the suit by Hi-Bred, the leading US supplier of farm 
genetics, has major implications for Monsanto.
In India, meanwhile, Monsanto lost a key legal battle in its ongoing 
conflict with the subcontinent's cotton farmers when India's Supreme Court 
barred Monsanto from new test plantings until it completes a judicial 
review of 
human rights claims against Monsanto. Farmers fear that the GM cotton, which 
incorporates an insecticide within its genetic code, could lead to the 
evolution of insects resistant to natural insecticides.
Genetically altered food safe, says minister 
MELBOURNE, March 10 
The failure of companies to register foods containing genetically 
modified organisms (GMOs) did not pose a health risk, Victorian Health 
Minister Rob Knowles said today. About 50 foods with genetically 
engineered material, mainly imported from North America, were ingredients 
in about 500 products on Australian supermarket shelves, Mr Knowles said. 
Under new rules by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), such 
foodstuffs have to be registered and appropriately labelled by May 13. 
But Mr Knowles said only two foods had so far been registered. We suspect 
there are in the order of 50 other foodstuffs that have been imported 
primarily from North America but (the required) ... registration has not 
been applied for," he told reporters. "Those 50 foods we think have gone 
into something like 500 products."
Mr Knowles said the reasons for non-compliance included the industry not 
taking the regulations seriously and companies not being aware the food 
they are using in their products contained GMOs. He stressed the 50 
products involved had been through scientific testing and had been 
approved for use. "There are no public health issues. This is more an 
issue of us knowing that they contain GMOs and then we, of course, have 
the labelling issue that is being grappled with," he said. His confidence 
was not shared by doctors across the Tasman. Today The Royal New Zealand 
College of General Practitioners warned its government to take 
"exceptional caution" with regard to genetically modified food because 
much of the research on it raised serious health and environmental safety 
concerns. "Much of the information available is from the proponents of 
the technology - who stand to make a lot of money if it's widely approved 
- but we're now hearing more from independent scientists whose research 
points to significant risks," said college chair, Dr Ralph Wiles.
Meanwhile Mr Knowles said there was concern that trade wars could develop 
if a global approach was not taken to the complex issue. In North America 
food that was significantly modified must be labelled as such, whereas in 
Europe all foods containing GMOs must be labelled. "The Americans have 
made it very clear that if Australia and New Zealand required greater 
labelling requirements than their own that that would constitute a trade 
barrier and therefore we could very quickly get caught up in a trade 
war," he said. "So both the Australian government and the New Zealand 
government are very keen to try and get a worldwide approach to these 
issues so we can in fact avoid those trade implications."

Genetic changes could threaten agriculture exports 
Melissa Langerman 
CANBERRA, March 10 
Agricultural exports could be threatened if the federal government did 
not impose rigorous safeguards on gene technology and labelling of 
genetically modified products, the Australian Consumers Association 
warned today. The warning, by ACA policy manager Mara Bun, came at the 
start of a three day conference on the benefits and risks of genetically 
modified (GM) foods in Canberra. Some speakers - including scientists, 
food industry representatives and ethics experts - urged great caution on 
the use of GM, warning potential hazards were still poorly understood. 
But others stressed gene technology would increase crop production, 
reduce pest and disease threats to crops, reduce spoilage and reduce 
risks from use of existing pesticides.
Agriculture Minister Mark Vaile said GM had great potential benefits for 
Australia. "Managed properly, gene technology promises enormous gains for 
agriculture and our rural environment," Mr Vaile said. But Ms Bun said 
Australia risked damaging its export markets and high food quality image 
unless the regulatory system was watertight. "If we have the wrong 
regulatory system in place and the wrong culture in public accountability 
and if something goes wrong it could be catastrophic," she told AAP. 
Australia should also investigate export opportunities following the 
export to Europe of $26 million worth of Australian canola on the basis 
it was not genetically modified.
Ms Bun said the industry argument that detailed labelling was too hard 
was disproved by the fact that some companies were now promising detailed 
labelling or GM free products. But Australian Food and Grocery Council 
food specialist Lana Malero told AAP that GM that changed production of a 
food, but not the end product, would be hard to monitor. "From all the 
information we are getting from the scientists, increasingly it is a 
challenge for people to give any guarantees if the food is being produced 
using this technology," she said. She said consumers were being misled by 
scaremongering ahead of new regulations in May which will enforce 
labelling standards. Consumers could have absolute confidence in the 
products on shelves, she said. But the Australian Democrats called for 
Australia to follow the lead of three UK supermarkets which refused to 
stock genetically modified foods. "The regulatory regime in place is 
certainly not sufficient to protect the consumer interest," Democrats 
consumer affairs spokeswoman Natasha Stott Despoja said.
brit menu on manipulated genes, March 12 

INDEPENDENT (London) March 12
Land planted with GM crops may fall 
in value
By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor
Surveyors warned yesterday that farmers who plant genetically modified 
(GM) crops could see their land values fall, and that tenants of such land 
might face bills to make up the shortfall.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) called for the creation 
of a land register through which potential buyers, and banks, could find 
out if and when GM crops had been planted or grown on a particular 
In a separate move, the Government announced that the independent advisory 
group on planting of GM crops will investigate the effects on British 
wildlife and biodiversity of commercial growing.
Lord Whitty, the environment minister, said that the remit of the Advisory 
Committee on Releases to the Environment (Acre) has been expanded, and a 
subgroup set up to examine biodiversity issues. "With these regulations in 
force, British wildlife species should be protected against effects from 
the commercial use of GM crops," he said in a Lords' written reply.
However, the RICS report, sent to the Government's Office of Science and 
Technology and other departments, warned that growing such crops might 
lower the value of the land. In the case of tenant farmers, a landlord 
could, in effect, sue for any shortfall in land value caused by the tenant 
growing GM crops.
Michael Chambers, director of the RICS's policy unit, said that if 
commercial growing goes ahead, it would require a permanent register of 
sites where GM crops were or had been. "It's very hard to see how it could 
be controlled once you grow on a widespread scale in the countryside," he 
Lord Sainsbury to head biotech team
By Fran Abrams, Westminster Correspondent
LORD Sainsbury, the minister at the centre of the recent controversy over 
genetically modified (GM) food, is to head a government team to promote GM 
food companies, The Independent has learned.
The Science minister will be joined by representatives of food and medical 
biotechnology companies, whose names have not yet been made public.
The initiative aims to boost "clusters" of biotechnology companies that 
have sprung up in Oxford, Cambridge and Dundee.
Lord Sainsbury has major interests in companies developing the technology 
for GM foods. These interests are now in a blind trust and he has promised 
not to get involved in policy-making on GM food. But he has already been 
criticised for leading a biotechnology trade mission to Korea and for 
sitting on a cabinet sub-committee dealing with the issue.
News of the initiative drew an angry reaction from environmental 
campaigners, including the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, MP for Lewes.
Mr Baker said that the Government had given assurances that Lord Sainsbury 
would not be involved in decisions or discussions on the subject. "Either 
he is involved and we have been lied to, or he is a lame duck chairman 
because he can't talk about these things. He should be replaced," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry said that the group 
would only deal "very remotely" with GM food issues. "The policy issues 
here are about promoting industry within the cluster arrangement. It isn't 
about promoting GM foods," she said.
The group is to visit Cambridge, Oxford, Scotland and two US-based 
biotechnology clusters. It will also hold brainstorming meetings with 
industry, planning authorities, science park managers and universities. 
Officials from the Department of Trade and Industry will make 
information-gathering visits, and the team will publish a report.
Among the companies in the Cambridge biotechnology cluster is Axis 
Genetics, which is developing vaccines from plants. Its chief executive, 
Iain Cubitt, sat on the board of the Sainsbury Laboratory, which is 
financed by the Science minister's charity, the Gatsby Foundation.
Other firms that could be involved include Plant Breeding International in 
Cambridge, which runs a number of test sites for GM crops, and the 
Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee.
The Science minister has been looking increasingly embattled as 
revelations about his role appear to contradict his statements on the 
issue. Lord Sainsbury, whose shareholding in the supermarket is in a blind 
trust, has also taken charge of another government consultation to which 
the issue of GM food and crops is central.
The Government has asked the pollsters Mori to run a series of focus 
groups to canvas public opinion on GM crops, genetic testing and cloning.
Lord Sainsbury chaired a conference on the consultation in December and 
took part in a discussion on it in a cabinet committee earlier this month.