1) Novartis to rethink its role in GM foods Guardian 16/9/99 2) 09/14 0819 Industry group to launch GM-free food labels CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- 3) Agence France Presse Genetic food fight heats up BANGKOK, Sept 14 4) Guardian (London) Wednesday September 15, 1999 Worry over GM food grows in US GM food: special report Michael Ellison 5) Monsanto fears trial sabotage The Dominion NZ 6) New Zealand GM trial site secret The Press 7) Headline: Experts Say Gene Therapy A Distant Hope In Cancer Wire Service: RTos (Reuters Online Service) Date: Wed, Sep 15, 1999 8/)Leading European dog food maker eschews GM France, September 16 9) Euro grain - EU keeps buying gm crops despite flap FRANCE: September 16, 1999 10)Novartis raises food market ambitions SWITZWERLAND: September 16, 1999 11) "Guerilla gardens and urban ecology" Carmelo Ruiz 12) ‘Transgenic’ pollution a new concern By Francesca Lyman MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR Sept. 14 — 13) Wednesday, September 15, 1999 4b21c8.jpg UK Pesticides found in supermarket food 1) Novartis to rethink its role in GM foods Guardian 16/9/99 Agribusiness division's fate hangs in the balance. GM food: special report David Teather and Julia Finch Thursday September 16, 1999 Drugs firm Novartis last night said it was considering spinning off its ailing agribusiness division which includes the company's controversial research into genetically modified foods. Novartis, which is the world's number two pharmaceuticals company and the biggest maker of crop protection products, is considering "a number of options" for the troubled agribusiness division including separating it from the main company or seeking an alliance. The Swiss company's decision to rethink its involvement in GM foods comes just one month after Britain's AstraZeneca warned that it too might sell its agrichemicals business. AstraZeneca is a high profile GM company which has already put genetically engineered products on British supermarket shelves. It has also been the target of high profile demonstrations by environmental campaigners. At the same time Monsanto, the large US company has seen its share price fall from $62 (£38) to $40 in the past 12 months ($37 dollars today). Analysts increasingly believe the GM foods research has the potential to inflict serious damage on the lucrative global pharmaceuticals business and are keen to see the controversial division put at arms length. "The market would like to see the life sciences business separate from the agribusiness," one analyst said. "There is little synergy." But they also believe that agribusinesses are unlikely to attract buyers in the current climate. The business has been hit by a slump in the price of commodities, decreasing subsidies for farmers and a drop in the number of acres under crop production worldwide. It is also suffering from the growing backlash against so-called "frankenfood". Agribusiness chief Heinz Imhof also called called on European authorities to set up a body similar to the US food and drug administration to reassure consumers that genetically modified products are safe. He also suggested that clearer labelling laws would help quell the growing controversy around the products such as modified seeds, which some critics say may be unsafe or may damage the environment. "We are convinced that GM crops in the future will bring tangible benefits to the consumer," Mr Imhof said. Earlier this year Novartis announced that 1,100 jobs were to be axed in its agricultural division after the drop in sales which make up 25% of the company's revenue. Half of the sales come from North and South America. Yesterday Mr Imhof said that the job losses would now exceed the previous estimate. GM foods have become a battleground for British supermarket companies, with each struggling to establish their GM-free credentials. Iceland and Waitrose have recently reported Sainsbury to the Advertising Standards Authority over its claims to be the first major supermarket to have eradicated all GM products from its own-label products. Marks & Spencer has become the latest to join the skirmish with its own advertising campaign. Food giants like Unilever and Nestle have now also pledged to remove GM ingredients from their products. A spokeswoman for Novartis admitted that GM foods had failed to win widespread public acceptance but insisted the decision to review the future of the agribusiness division was not connected. ==================== 2) 09/14 0819 Industry group to launch GM-free food labels CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- A new Australian consortium said Tuesday it will launch a label and certification process for foods which do not contain genetically modified products. KPMG consultant Roger Hussey is organizing the move in conjunction with U.S.-based food testing company Genetic ID and food industry representatives. "Our idea was to get together a group of companies who had a strong interest in preserving the food chain," Hussey said. "We decided, with their agreement, to form the certified food consortium." The group hopes to launch a certification and testing process, whereby members use an industry-backed mark of quality on their products, within the next two months. "It is like a badge of integrity," Hussey said. He refused to reveal the names of the 10 to 12 companies involved, but said they include retail, distribution, fresh food producers, processed food representatives and large-scale exporters. "The consortium will be an open consortium and will attempt to gain wide membership from right across the food industry," Hussey said. He said the group would consult farmers, consumer groups and other key players. "It is the launching pad for GM-free food in Australia, because without it you can't have GM-free food." ==================== 3) Agence France Presse Genetic food fight heats up BANGKOK, Sept 14 Commercial food giant Monsanto hit out Tuesday at non- governmental and traditional farming organisations over their reluctance to embrace genetically modified crops and other biotechnology advances. Monsanto Asia-Pacific research director Paul Teng warned of "dangerous anti-science elements emerging in Asia," at a crop development conference here. Non-governmental groups have warned not enough research has been carried out into the environmental and health impact of genetically modified crops. Large foreign agriculture firms are at the forefront of genetically modified crop development and are reportedly pioneering seed that becomes sterile after its first growing season. Critics have labelled it the "Terminator seed" and warned it will increase reliance on commercial agriculture firms and wipe out small farmers who use seed from one crop to plant another. While there are testing provisions for food already in place in Australia, the availability of GM-tested products is minimal, Hussey said. Figures for the amount of genetically altered food sold in Australia were not immediately available. Executive News Svc. ====================== 4) Guardian (London) Wednesday September 15, 1999 Worry over GM food grows in US GM food: special report Michael Ellison Americans are catching up with Europeans in their anxiety about genetically modified foods but still lag behind, according to a survey published yesterday. The telephone poll of 1,017 people aged 18 and above shows that 37% are aware of genetically modified foods and that 40% believed more regulation was needed. The survey was conducted by Edelman PR, the world's biggest independent public relations company. =============================== 5) Monsanto fears trial sabotage The Dominion AGRICULTURE and chemical company [ Monsanto ] is worried about the risk of "sabotage or terrorism" in a planned field test of genetically engineered bread wheat. The company has applied to evaluate 11 new strains of engineered wheat -- the first altered wheat to be grown in New Zealand -- in "contained" field trials on a 10,000-square-metre site at Lincoln, in Canterbury. Though it has revealed the field trial will be in conjunction with the Crop and Food Research Institute, Monsanto has asked that field test locations and dates not be made public "in order to minimise the risk of sabotage or terrorism". In its application to the Government's watchdog on new organisms, the Environmental Risk Management Authority, issued yesterday, Monsanto said it would provide details of security and a site map later. Signs around the test plots will make no reference to Monsanto, Roundup Ready wheat, or genetic engineering trials, and security measures at the "research farm" will limit public access. The tighter security is the first evidence of applicants taking up an authority offer to allow applicants seeking permission for genetically engineered crop trials to be less specific about their location. The authority made the offer after the Wild Greens -- described as the direct action wing of the Green Party -- destroyed a crop of genetically modified potatoes grown by Crop and Food at Lincoln in March. Since then, Pioneer New Zealand has applied to grow genetically engineered maize in Waikato, but did not seek to keep the site secret. It told a public hearing the maize would be grown at a leased Glenbrook Beach Rd site, and provided a map of the test site. Authority chief executive Bas Walker has said people farming next to a genetically engineered crop trial have a right to know what is going on but they can be told informally. -- NZPA Supplied by New Zealand Press Association (Copyright 1999) _____via IntellX_____ ========================== 6) New Zealand GM trial site secret The Press The location of a genetically modified wheat trial planned for Canterbury will not be made public, the Environmental Risk Management Authority says. Authority operations manager Kevin Currie said an application by multi-national food company [ Monsanto ] to grow Roundup-ready wheat in Canterbury would be notified today. The application, to test 11 genetically engineered strains of bread wheat in "contained" field trials, did not specify site location, he said. They would be tested at a 10,000sqm test site. "The location of the trials is indicated in the application with a degree of generality so you won't be able to find out exactly where the trials are to take place, but it will be in the Lincoln area. "The authority will want to know where the trial is but that information is being given to us in confidence," he said. This year, a crop of genetically modified potatoes at Lincoln was destroyed by activists after its location was made public in an application to the authority by the Institute of Crop and Food Research. Monsanto New Zealand country manager Michael Summons said no sites had been chosen yet but that Canterbury was the logical place to grow the crop because that was where most of New Zealand's wheat was grown. Farmers growing the crop would be able to spray Roundup while the wheat was growing. With traditional wheat they could only spray before planting the crop, he said. The modified wheat had already been tested in the US and Britain. Wheat is expected to be the next big US biotech crop. More than half the US soybean crop and a third of corn planted in the northern hemisphere summer was genetically engineered. Scientists are trying to get wheat to similar levels. New Zealand wheat trials are expected to test the attitudes of local arable farmers. North Canterbury Federated Farmers' grain section chairman John McGloin said last week that introducing genetically engineered crops to New Zealand too soon could endanger export marketing. "About a year ago, when we had our grains section conference in Christchurch, most farmers thought we should be full steam ahead on genetically modified organisms. "At this year's conference everyone had the hand-brake on," he said. Public opinion had played a big part in the about-face. (Copyright 1999) _____via IntellX_____ Publication Date: September 15, 1999 ================================ 7) Headline: Experts Say Gene Therapy A Distant Hope In Cancer Wire Service: RTos (Reuters Online Service) Date: Wed, Sep 15, 1999 > > Copyright 1999 Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. > The following news report may not be republished or redistributed, in > whole > or in part, without the prior written consent of Reuters Ltd. > > By Jonathan Birt, European pharmaceuticals correspondent > VIENNA (Reuters) - Hundreds of millions of dollars are being > spent on > cracking the human genetic code, and as much again by biotechnologists > attempting to devise dramatic new ways of treating conditions ranging > from > cancer to dementia. > But the message from the European Cancer Conference is "don't > hold > your breath." > A treatment revolution driven by the ability to break into the > computer program that directs our individual cells and alter it to > cure or > avert disease is still a long way off. > "Gene therapy is a very young but very noisy baby which has been > very > promising but already controversial," said Professor Thomas Tursz, > director > of the Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France. > "Making the summary of gene therapy now is like claiming in 1910 > that > Madame Curie was absolutely useless because she didn't cure any cancer > in > 1910... Maybe oncologists promise too much ...it is a very difficult > process, technologically as complicated as sending a man to the moon." > Oncology focuses on genes which drive the proliferation of cells > but > can lead to uncontrolled cell growth if they malfunction. > GENE THERAPY HOLDS PROMISE > But many of the 9,000 medical experts and researchers attending > the > conference, the largest of its kind outside the U.S., are convinced > genetics and gene therapy hold at least as much promise as radiation > or > cancer-killing drugs. > All drugs and therapeutic approaches including radiotherapy, > surgery > and chemotherapy try to get rid of the cancer cells or kill them from > the > outside, without recognizing a tumor cell from a normal cell, said > Tursz. > "The idea of gene therapy is really to enter into the program of > the > computer of a cancer cell and try to modify this program," he said. > Cancer is caused by genetic alterations -- defects in genes which > affect the lives of cells. The loss by a cell of is natural ability to > die > can also cause it to become cancerous. > Professor Klaus-Michael Debatin of the German Cancer Research > Center > in Heidelberg said much current work was focused on oncogenes. > "From this aspect of basic research there has been a lot of > understanding about what a cancer cell really is...(but) this > knowledge has > not yet really been transformed into ...the development of new > therapies," > he said. > RESEARCHERS EYE IMMUNOTHERAPY > Immunotherapy -- triggering an immune response by the body to > defeat > cancerous cells -- is another popular research target. > Harmless viruses -- which have a proven track record of > entering host cells, protecting their own genes and fixing them > to the > nuclei of the host -- are currently the preferred way of carrying a > therapeutic "payload" into a cancerous cell. > But while gene therapy itself may still be on the scientific > drawing > board, genetic understanding is already helping doctors to work out > why > some patients are resistant to treatment. > Dr Stephen Friend of Rosetta Inpharmatics and the Fred Hutchinson > Cancer Research Center in Seattle said the fruits of the human genome > project -- which has already decoded between one third and half of the > human genetic make-up -- are also being used to iron out > inefficiencies in > drug discovery. > This should speed up discovery process, reduce side effects and > allow > drugs to be given to patients who will best respond to them. > THE SEARCH FOR HEREDITARY GENES IS ON > Another major advance in treatment whose potential has yet to be > fully > realized is the discovery of hereditary genes which put some > individuals at > high risk of developing conditions like breast or colon cancer. > Professor Albert de la Chapelle, director of the human cancer > genetics > program at Ohio State University, said in a country of 10 million > people, > there would be 5,000 new cases of colon cancer a year, but only 250 > would > be caused by predisposing genes. > "...the challenge today is to go out and find people with these > gene > mutations so they can benefit from prevention and early treatment, > which > have extraordinarily good results," he said. ================================ <http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=3681>http://WWW.PLANETA RK.ORG/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=3681 8/)Leading European dog food maker eschews GM France, September 16 PARIS - Europe's leading dry dog food producer, Royal Canin, vowed yesterday not to include genetically modified (GM) ingredients in any of its pet food lines. The decision by the Paris-based firm comes after British pet food producer Pascoe's Group Plc launched the country's first wholly organic, non-GM dog food line last month. It also comes amid a looming trade war as European consumers, concerned about the safety of foods derived from GM crops, reject genetically modified products many of which are imported from the United States. "While we await authoritative scientific clarification, and while faithful to our values of respect for dogs and cats, Royal Canin wishes to guarantee the highest level of quality and security for its product range," the company said in a statement. It said the policy, long implemented in its most nutritious pet food lines, would be applied to production at its three European plants. The company is also weighing extending it as soon as possible to its factories in Brazil, Argentina and the United States. ============================ 9) Euro grain - EU keeps buying gm crops despite flap FRANCE: September 16, 1999 PARIS - Even as European activists decry genetically modified (GM) crops and demand GM-free groceries, the European Union still imports millions of tonnes of GM crops each year. Moreover, millions of European consumers each day eat food - from chicken breasts and chocolate bars to cheese - produced using these commodities. Those closely involved with the issue say this is a quirk that has emerged in Europe's debate over GM crops, and they agree consumers may not realise it. "I'm afraid many consumers are not fully aware of how their chicken, for example, is produced using GM material. We'll be working on changing that by the end of the year," Benedikt Haerlin, international coordinator of Greenpeace's GM crop campaign, told Reuters. Trade sources said it was ironic that given the tremendous outcry over GM crops and the EU's proven record of shutting its doors to controversial food products - North American hormone-treated beef, for example - EU policymakers have not halted imports of commodities which could contain GM material. "The simple answer is that Europe needs them," a source close to the debate over GM crops said. The EU particularly needs soybeans, which are mostly used in feeding chicken, hogs and dairy cows, because they are an excellent source of protein. Soy is also used to produce lecithin, which turns up in chocolate and other products. "Soybeans play a very important role in feeding livestock," the source said. "Europe needs that protein and soybeans have been the answer to that for a long time." "I think the reliance of Europe on soybeans is something that has kept policy-makers from putting a ban on them," a grain trade source said. According to industry newsletter Oil World, the EU imported an estimated 16 million tonnes of soybeans between September 1998 and August 1999. Almost all of the soy comes from Brazil, Argentina and the United States, and the latter two suppliers have made no distinction between GM and non-GM soy. In the United States, for example, more than 35 percent of all corn and 55 percent of all soybeans produced are now genetically engineered. CHANGES AHEAD? Greenpeace's Haerlin said the environmental group "deplored" the lack of an EU ban on GM crops and planned to begin raising awareness about what goes into the meat and animal products that end up on European consumers' dinner tables. "The question of whether you can use GM products in animal feed is the next big issue to face Europe," Haerlin predicted. Indeed, the EU is said to be readying a law that would define the maximum allowable level of GM content in animal feed. This could well resemble an EU regulation that came into force in September 1998 requiring all foods containing detectable GM material to be clearly labelled as such. Because the previous European Commission never decided what the term "detectable" equates to in percentage terms before it resigned last March, it will be up to the new 19-member Commission due to be confirmed on Wednesday to define this threshold. Dominique Taeymans, director of science and regulation for Brussels-based food and drink producers' group CIAA, said he thought the Commission should set a maximum allowable level in the next few weeks. ================================ 10)Novartis raises food market ambitions SWITZWERLAND: September 16, 1999 BASLE - Swiss life sciences giant Novartis AG unveiled a sweeping new strategy for its beleaguered agribusiness yesterday that shifts its focus away from farms and towards smart foods for consumers. Novartis officials said it was well positioned to tap the genetic engineering skills shared by its crop protection and seeds businesses to develop new products that will help Novartis prosper in what will likely remain a difficult market. Some day, officials told a news conference, Novartis may be able to produce vegetables that fight disease, improve the intellect or slow the ageing process - provided consumers accept such foods. This is not inevitable given the problem Novartis's genetically modified Bt corn and other companies' products have had winning regulatory approval and a share of consumers' stomachs. NOVARTIS CONFIDENT GENETIC FOODS WILL SUCCEED But officials said they were confident they would eventually get their message across that genetically engineered foods were no more dangerous and actually healthier in many cases than traditonal foods. "The technology is so promising that that we think over time it will be accepted," said Heinz Imhof, head of the Novartis agribusiness and seeds units. The idea, Imhof said, is to create value along the length of the food chain from farmer to final consumer rather than focus on selling seeds and chemicals to farmers, where Novartis has traditonally devoted. Seeds research head Wallace Beversdorf explained that vegetables, for instance, already have a healthy image among consumers. "In the next stage we would like to improve specific nutritional characteristics of vegetables to improve their ability to maintain health," he said. AIM TO PRODUCE FOODS WHICH FIGHT DISEASE "After that we would like to go one step further and add real health-maintenance characteristics, anti-carcinogens, which are available in some vegetables, anti-oxidants for health nutrition, even some components that we are starting to know are improving cognitive reasoning," he said. The last stage is to develop hard clinical claims for ingredients that could help manage common diseases like diabetes or Alzheimer's disease, he added, although this remained some years away. John Atkin, head of the Novartis crop protection division, said the new focus would be on crops rather than individual products. Novartis's agribusiness has been struggling amid a global downturn fuelled by the trend towards larger farms, lower price supports and fewer unmet food needs for farmers to fill. First-half sales fell 10 percent to 4.78 billion Swiss francs ($3.07 billion), while operating profit fell 41 percent to 867 million, prompting it to announce in June it would cut 1,100 agribusiness jobs over two years, a target Imhof said would probably be surpassed. =========================== 11) "Guerilla gardens and urban ecology" Carmelo Ruiz > >In the minds of many people, the terms "ecology" and "environment" >evoke images of rural landscapes and wilderness, of lands that haven't >been touched by human hands. But, are cities spaces all but lost to >ecology? Does the environmental movement have anything to do with the >big cities? > > "Avant Gardening: Ecological struggle in the city and the world" is >an anthology of essays edited by Peter Wilson and Bill Weinberg >containing writings about the cultural, social and political aspects of >ecology, with particular emphasis on the ecological struggles currently >taking place in New York City. In this megapolis, which for many >ecologists represents everything planet Earth shouldn't be, thousands >of citizens have taken the initiative of rescuing empty lots and >turning them into community gardens. In their essays, contributors John >Wright, Bernardette Crozart and Sarah Ferguson (probably not the >British duchess, but a New Yorker namesake) describe the efforts and >accomplishments of activists that have created these guerrilla gardens >in the midst of the concrete. > >In New York there are right now some eleven thousand vacant lots in the >city's possession. Just in Harlem, the city owns 1500 such lots and >1800 abandoned buildings. These spaces are a danger to nearby >residents, particularly children, since they're used for illegal trash >dumping, with roaming crack addicts and rats the size of cats. > >Faced with this situation, groups of citizens undertook the task of >rescuing some of this land to transform it into green zones. Today, New >York has about 700 community gardens comprising 200 acres, which is >four times the size of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It sounds like a >lot, but it's not even a tenth of the area occupied by the vacant lots >of the city. > >The creation and maintenance of these gardens has unleashed an >extremely positive social dynamic. Neighbors get to know each other, >and Puerto Ricans, Anglo-Saxons, Dominicans, Colombians, Poles and >immigrants of other nationalities work together planting trees and >edible vegetables, painting impressive murals, investing millions of >dollars in materials and labor, soliciting grants from foundations, >lobbying politicians to obtain their support, organizing poetry >recitals and jazz concerts. In short, everything in order to maintain >and care for these gardens which have turned out to be vehicles for >social organizing, cultural renaissance, ecological recovery and >spiritual regeneration. > >One of the better known gardens was the Chico Mendes Garden, on the >corner of 10th St. and Avenue B in Manhattan, in an area known as >Little Puerto Rico. In the decade of the 80's it was nothing but a >horrible wasteland, and the community cleaned out the garbage, the >rubbish and the junkies (the latter after pitched street fights). After >the clean-up, they planted tomatoes, cauliflower, beans, garlic and >cilantro, built a wooden shed and a chapel to Santa Clara, set on >bushes of mint and roses. Also, a pond with fish surrounded by >religious icons, including a Buddha, the Virgin Mary, a statue of a >native American Indian and an African idol carved on wood. > >Why do I speak of the Chico Mendes Garden in the past tense? Because in >1997 the city's bulldozed it. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has set out to put >an end to all community gardens as if it were a campaign promise. >Giuliani and his political allies, who are basically the developers, >the landlords and the speculators, have a vision of New York's future >in which there's no room for the poor (who are predominantly African >American and Puerto Ricans) and even less for their bothersome little >gardens that interfere with "progress". Giuliani's favorite color is >gentrified white. > >Sarah Ferguson writes the following in her essay "The Death of Little >Puerto Rico": > >"At the very least (the movement to preserve the community gardens) >should open people's eyes to the quiet, yet fundamental role that >gardens play in humanizing an otherwise overcrowded city of strangers. >More than green spaces, New York's gardens are microcosms of democracy, > where people establish a sense of community and belonging to the land. > Like the antic shrines and altars they construct in their flower beds, > these eclectic havens are in a very real sense churches, where people >find faith- both in themselves and in their neighbors. When I first >moved into my building in 1994, I resented the all-night salsa and >merengue that the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans on my block blasted from > boomboxes on my front stoop. By the end of one summer gardening with >them, I'd come to love them as an extended family." > >Avant Gardening provides not only an account of these social and >environmental struggles, but also examines the different aspects- >cultural, economic, political and ecological- of gardening and the >production of food stuffs, discussed in articles written by Lyx Ish and >Miekal And. It also contains an extensive critique of the new genetic >engineering technologies written by this author. > >The book is dedicated to the memory of fellow Puerto Rican Armando >PHrez, who was brutally murdered this past April. Armando, whom I had >the pleasure to meet a couple of times when I was living in New York, >was one of the founders of the Puerto Rican social center Charas, >located in Manhattan's 9th St., in the middle of Loisaida. Against the >attempts by the Giuliani administration and the speculators to evict >Charas, he said that they would have to kill him before they could >evict the social center from the building where it was. He was >assassinated a few days after uttering these words. > >All social and ecological struggles are interconnected on a global >level, whether it is the struggle against the U.S. Navy in Vieques >island, against suburban sprawl and WalMart-ization in Puerto Rico and >North America, for the preservation of the Amazon rain forest, or for >the community gardens in New York City. Avant Gardening illustrates >these connections. > > >Carmelo Ruiz is a Puerto Rican journalist and a research associate at >the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont, USA. His articles have >appeared in NACLA Report on the Americas, Against the Current, the >Earth Island Journal, The Ecologist, High Times and other publications. > > >Avant Gardening: Ecological struggle in the city and the world. Peter >Wilson and Bill Weinberg, editors. Autonomedia, 1999. 165 pages. > >To buy the book, contact Autonomedia, P.O. Box 568, Williamsburg >Station, Brooklyn, NY 11211. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: >www.autonomedia.org > ================ 12) ‘Transgenic’ pollution a new concern By Francesca Lyman MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR Sept. 14 — It has the ring of a sci-fi thriller — “transgenic” foods illegally traded on the international market, detected and rejected by border police - a kind of food version of “Bladerunner”. Wasn’t Rachel (Sean Young), hunted down by Rick (Harrison Ford) for being a replicant? Hardly science fiction, it’s a real problem for some food producers who have found to their surprise that their products can be rejected for being contaminated by genetically modified organisms. In an ad for Apache Tortilla chips, a slice of succulent red pepper grins out at you over a line of plump, yellow ears of sweet corn ? the promotion for an organic line of corn chips, available in “five delicious flavors ? yellow, blue corn, nacho, sesame, and red.” But far from being welcomed at their distribution point, the chips — made by Terra Prima, a certified organic producer in Hudson, Wisc. — were discovered by an independent tester to contain traces of genetically modified corn, and their Netherlands importer was notified. A BIG BITE It was a devastating blow to Terra Prima, a small producer that prides itself on a superior product free of chemicals or other substances. The company chose to destroy 87,000 bags of their corn chips and essentially swallow $147,000 when they couldn’t sell their product as organic — a big bite out of a company with only about $4 million in total sales, says Chuck Walker, its president. Walker didn’t blame the Texas organic farmer who sold them the corn, which was grown using rotational methods, minimal pesticides and no genetically modified, or GM, seed varieties. But he did blame the contamination on pollen from GM corn that was blown over from another farm and whose patented gene was the same one picked up in the test. That apparent cross-pollination is what environmentalists and organic farmers are calling “transgenic” pollution. LAWSUIT AGAINST EPA Last February Terra Prima joined environmentalists and consumer groups in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, charging the EPA with registering genetically engineered crops without adequately considering their health and environmental impacts. The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Food Safety, asked the EPA to withdraw all current registrations and deny future approvals of crops engineered with the Bt (Bacillus thuriengensis) insecticide — a natural bacterial toxin used for years as a spray by organic farmers who grow crops without using industrial pesticides. It was this toxin that was detected on the Terra chips. The lawsuit charges that the EPA did not properly assess three major environmental risks: the development of insects resistant to Bt, the transfer of Bt genes to other plants, and effects of Bt crops on beneficial, nontarget insects. Included among the more than 70 plaintiffs are Greenpeace, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (with 650 member groups in 100 countries) and environmental organizations. ORGANICS AT RISK Walker says he’d like to see a moratorium on GM crops until farmers can be assured they won’t cross-pollinate. “More than that,” says Walker, “I’d like to see an open public dialog on the whole issue of genetically modified foods. Does the public even want the foods already being served to us, as well as others waiting in the back pantry?” The issue is particularly poignant to organic farmers because once organic crops are pollinated with biotech genes, their crops can lose their organic status, which takes three years to accomplish, and cause them to suffer financially. In Canada, for example, the National Farmers Union has said it wants Ottawa to make agricultural biotech firms liable for the “genetic pollution” of organic and traditional crops. In the United States, organic farmers are equally militant. “Organic growers are very clear that they don’t want contamination of their crops and will hold owners of these licenses responsible,” says Robert Scowcraft of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. OTHER QUESTIONS But the Terra chip incident in winter 1999 continues to have other ripple effects on farming, food and environmental policy questions. What happens with genetic pollution from “transgenic” produce — when pollen from genetically engineered crops drifts to neighboring fields? Will crops modified for pest resistance pass those genes on to weedier species, making them harder to eradicate, lead to more virulent pests, and decimate other species in their path? And a recent study published in the science journal Nature found that pollen from GM corn can kill monarch butterflies if they ingest it. In the wake of the study, several environmental groups — including the Union of Concerned Scientists, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council — wrote to the EPA in August asking the agency to restrict the planting of Bt corn. “Monarch butterflies are already under pressure as a result of changes in their overwintering habitats,” they wrote. “Additional threats to monarch populations feeding on toxic corn pollen as they migrate through the Midwest are of serious concern.” CONVENTIONAL FEARS The furor over GM products has also struck fear into conventional farmers who have invested in GM seed varieties and other technologies and who don’t want to be hurt either. Today, only three years after the first large-scale commercial harvest, genetically modified crops now cover more than 90 million acres, according to the latest estimates ? nearly a quarter of America’s croplands. But many countries, including Brazil, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union, have moratoria or restrictions in place against GM foods. As a result U.S. corn exports alone have dropped precipitously — and experts are estimating as much as $1 billion in export trade losses for this year’s crops. The international scene is forcing food shippers such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill to segregate their grain supplies. “There’s definitely concern about this,” says Warren Pufahl, managing editor for Agrinews, an agriculture newsletter. Farmers are worried that “they’ve invested a lot of money in these seed varieties and that here’s a good product they may not be able to use ? or maybe not as much.” BT DEBATE Most of the GM seeds on the market have been engineered to make crops more tolerant of pesticides or to carry their own pesticide. In the case of Bt, Walker says that whereas Bt spray as used by organic farmers degrades easily in the soil, in Bt corn the pesticide is in the food and doesn’t wash off. “It does not degrade. It is at its full potency all the time,” he adds. “We don’t even know what the health effects of eating it are ? at what doses. What if you eat Bt potatoes, Bt tomatoes, and Bt corn together all the time ? what’s the effect of that?” Organic farmers are also concerned because use of Bt crops could create a class of insects resistant to it, rendering their most effective weapon and last line of defense ? Bt as a spray — useless. COSTS, BENEFITS Seed companies like Monsanto, Novartis and Pioneer Hi-Bred International maintain that altering crops to contain the Bt will ultimately decrease the need for chemical pesticides and therefore benefit the environment. However, the Biotechnology Industry Organization has reported that the introduction of Bt corn reduced insecticide use on only 2.5 percent of the total U.S. corn acreage in 1998. And new studies from the Department of Agriculture show that engineering crops genetically does not necessarily guarantee pesticide reductions, and might do the opposite. Data for the Heartland region show that insecticides were reduced only minimally in 1997 for corn borers using Bt compared to non-Bt corn, and showed no difference in insecticide use for other corn pests. Charles Benbrook, a biotechnology consultant for Consumers Union and former head of the National Research Council’s board on agriculture, argues that “while Bt corn might work for a few years, those gains would be offset by big problems long term. “The real problem,” he believes, “is that saturating the soil with these novel organisms will shift the competitive balance in the soil and stimulate other pests moving in. And by taking away farmers’ use of Bt as a spray, genetic engineers are robbing them of a most valuable tool.” ================================= 13) Wednesday, September 15, 1999 UK Pesticides found in supermarket food All the major supermarkets have sold food contaminated with residues Fruit, vegetables and groceries have been sold in British supermarkets with residues of pesticides over the acceptable limit, a government report has revealed. Traces of chemicals, some suspected of causing cancer, were found in a small percentage of food stuffs, the annual report of the Working Party on Pesticide Residues reveals. Yet another food scare hits the supermarket aisles The report will heap more pressure on agriculture minister Nick Brown, who has been struggling to restore consumer confidence since the BSE and GM scares. A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said: "Of the foods tested, 73% had no detectable residues, 26% had residues below the maximum residue limits (MRL) and 1.3% were found to have levels above the MRL." She stressed the MRL was "not a safety limit" but reflected the "approved usage of the pesticide". But the results are bound to cause concern because of the perceived danger of the chemicals involved, some of which are not approved for use in this country. 'No cause for concern' The BBC's Nicola Carslaw: "Any risk to health is minimal" Pears were found to contain chlormequat, a growth regulator used in Holland and Belgium while there was evidence of the illegal use of the fungicide iprodione in lettuce and in some cases up to 11 other chemicals as well. Round lettuce was found to contain excessive levels of the organophosphate Malathion. Corned beef was found to contains traces of some of the most dangerous pesticides including DDT, a suspected carcinogen. Another probable cancer causing agent, Lindane, appeared in chocolate. The MAFF spokeswoman said: "None of the residues which exceeded the MRL were high enough to cause concern for customer safety." The report will be launched at MAFF headquarters later on Thursday. Researchers subjected about 3,000 samples of food from retailers across the UK to 90,000 tests for 100 pesticides.