ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  17 December 2000

GEN12-17 from Richard Wolfson + comment

ngin comment:

Doug Powell, referred to in Richard's item 1, is a well known Canadian proponent of agbiotech. He recently conducted an experiment hyped as showing how consumers will often choose GM foods in preference to pesticide contaminated produce. But the sweetcorn in question had had
multiple applications of a particularly toxic pesticide not allowed on sweetcorn in the USA, though allowed in Canada.

When pesticide expert Chuck Benbrook heard the details of the experiment, he commented:

"Sweetcorn sprayed THREE TIMES WITH CARBOFURAN -- give me a break, I can
hardly believe three applications are legal in Canada. Furdadan is one of the most toxic pesticides on the market; no way in a million years is it even close to safe to apply it to sweetcorn, especially post-emergence. I find it hard to believe three applications were made pre-plant. Did the good professor Powell provide shoppers data on the acute toxicity of carbofuran, the fact that the corn was almost certainly not safe for pregnant women or children to eat? I doubt it. Is this what "sound science" Canada style has come to? Please pardon me for the... added commentary, but I suspect some readers of the list are unaware how bad carbofuran is and how unimaginable it is that three
applications would be applied to sweetcorn intended for human consumption."

No wonder some shoppers faced with this choice thought the GM option had
something to recommend it!

*  *  *
GEN12-17 Calgary Herald - December 12, 2000, page A16

The hand that feeds

Re ``More politics than science in food-safety concerns,'' Douglas Powell, Opinion, Dec. 4.

Powell wrote, ``Certainly there have been enough incidents over the years to warrant suspicion and scientists are well advised to disclose all financial interests and supporters.''

It is curious, then, why Powell failed to disclose his own ``financial interests.'' Readers should know that Powell receives thousands of dollars in funding from the beef industry.

When not defending beef hormones, Powell keeps himself busy promoting untested, unlabelled genetically altered food and other controversial agricultural practices. It should come as no surprise then that Monsanto substantially funded Powell's education with a $40,000 grant.

Don't swallow industry propaganda. Hormone-laced beef is dangerous.

Bradford Duplisea

Bradford Duplisea is a researcher for the Canadian Health Coalition

*  *  *  *
Here is a letter to the editor that I sent in to the Ottawa Citizen. It was not published. However, I am posting it, since it gives a report on the hearings on Dr. Shiv Chopra, the Health Canada scientist who was allegedly suspended as retaliation for testifying to the Senate about
problems at Health Canada and genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. I am not sure how long it will take for the judge to make a ruling on the case.

Editor, Ottawa Citizen

Dear Sir,

I was shocked at the behaviour of senior Health Canada administration at grievance hearings that I attended in Ottawa Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 2000. These hearings, conducted by the Public Service Staff Relations Board of Canada, were in response to complaints by Health Canada scientist Dr. Shiv Chopra that Health Canada unfairly suspended him for 5 days without pay.

Health Canada says it suspended Chopra because of his speech at a 1999 Heritage Canada meeting where Chopra spoke about continuing racism at Health Canada. Irrespective of the validity of Health Canada's case, I was astonished at the testimony of Health Canada Senior Human Resources Advisor Mr. H at the grievance hearings, because H gave conflicting testimony under oath.

In the morning of Nov. 29, H testified that he had attended a July 23, 1999 disciplinary meeting with Chopra purely as a witness to take notes. H said he had no role in preparing for the disciplinary meeting and he played no role in deciding the disciplinary action against Chopra, which was the suspension.

In the afternoon of the Nov. 29 hearings, new documents surfaced that contradicted several points from H's testimony from the morning. These documents showed H had recommended the disciplinary action that was applied against Chopra. In addition, H had written the questions asked Chopra at the meeting. These documents also indicated H had altered his notes from
the July 23 meeting, in consultation with others including a colleague from the Human Resources Branch who was not even at the July 23 meeting.

During cross-examination, H admitted his testimony from the morning conflicted with the new evidence. He then altered his testimony accordingly. H said he must have forgotten the details. However, his earlier testimony conveniently hid facts indicating senior management had
conspired against Chopra.

The next day, Nov. 30, Mr. Bob Joubert (the supervisor of H) was removed from his position as Director General of the Human Resources Directorate.  Several months earlier, Dr. André Lachance had been removed from his position as Director of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs and as Chopra's supervisor. This allowed Lachance to avoid testifying about Chopra's suspension, which he himself ordered, before a Senate committee investigating the matter.

In his final statement on Dec. 1, Chopra's lawyer, Mr. David Yazbeck, argued that H had lied under oath. Yazbeck recommended that the whole case against Chopra be dropped. Mr. Yazbeck also questioned why Mr. Joubert and Dr. Lachance, who were most responsible for Dr. Chopra's suspension, did not testify at the grievance hearings.

Dr. Shiv Chopra, who is well known as a Health Canada scientist for safeguarding the health of Canadians, should be commended for standing up for the rights of Canadians.

Richard Wolfson, PhD
December 11, 2000 - The Oregonian by Amy Martinez Starke

Responding to consumers, Oregon potato growers have, according to this story, turned their backs on Monsanto's genetically modified NewLeaf potatoes. Oregon state and commodity spokesmen say they don't know of any Oregon growers who planted them this year after big potato processors refused them. Processors in other states are shunning them as well. Oscar Gutbrod of the state's Oregon Seed Certification Services, an agriculture professor at Oregon State University, was quoted as saying, "Nobody in the United States is admitting they grow them." Will Wise, president of the Oregon Potato Commission, was quoted as saying, "There is no known
commercial interest in them. There may be some growing here and there, but I don't know of any. It's all over." Mark Buckingham, a Monsanto spokesman, was cited as saying that some small commercial plots were in southeastern Oregon, adding, "The market for them" nationwide, "is very small."
*  *  *
Greenpeace UK Press Release

Central Soya, a subsidiary of Eridania-Beghin-Say, and one of the largest commodity processors and food producers in the world have confirmed to Greenpeace that they will convert their soybean facility in Bordeaux to exclusively GM-free production.
*  *  *
The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) by Paul Hanley C3

Organic food production is, according to this story, exploding in Saskatchewan. In 1996, there were 380 certified organic growers in the province and 241,000 certified organic acres. Three years later there were 590 fully certified producers and 240 in the process of transition. It is
expected that organic acreage will top 700,000 next year, which would give Saskatchewan the highest percentage of organic cultivated acres anywhere in the world.

Mary Beckie, who presented an overview of the Saskatchewan industry to 200 plus farmers attending the sustainable agriculture conference last weekend in Humboldt, was cited as saying the province has the fastest rate of adoption of organic farming in Canada, and based on the number of inquiries they are receiving, most organic certification agencies expect their membership to double this year.

Beckie, who recently completed a dissertation on organic and zero-till farming in Saskatchewan, outlined the economic reasons for the rapid expansion of the organic sector at a time when agriculture is in decline: organic farmer's input costs are about 20-60 per cent lower than those on
conventional farms.

* Organic farmers receive prices 30 per cent to 300 per cent above those received by conventional farmers. A big market is the European Union, where organic food represents four per cent of the total food market.

* Organic farming is ``scale-neutral,'' meaning it can be done on a large or small scale. Beckie says that a smaller-scale organic farm growing high-value specialty crops, and with additional diversification in processing and marketing, can generate the same or a higher gross income
than a large-scale conventional grain farm.

* Organic farms usually support greater income stability than other farms, reducing risks associated with crop failure or rapid shifts in market trends.

And organic farmers can utilize their time in ways that allow them to diversify into processing and marketing. But Beckie points out that as important as the economic benefits of the organic approach are the social and environmental benefits are probably more important.

*  *  *
Monsanto Contracts: To Sign or Not to Sign by Eva Ann Dorris
Mississippi Farmer, a Farm Progress publication 12-01-2000

Growers who want to plant varieties containing Monsanto's biotechnology traits in 2001 have some decisions to make.

Planting varieties with Roundup Ready or Bollgard traits comes at a price and not just a price that can be paid with dollars. Under the 2001 Technology Agreement, growers have to decide if they believe strongly enough in transgenic varieties to sign away their choice of legal recourse should the technology or the variety fail to perform.

On the heels of new seed laws enacted or in the works in some states, Monsanto has chosen to address the issue of seed and technology liability through its technology agreement rather than through the courts.

By signing the agreement, growers agree to binding arbitration as the sole method of settling any disputes that might arise involving performance of the seed or the technology traits within that seed. Taking Monsanto or the owner of the seed variety to court is no longer an option.
*  *  *
December 11, 2000 - New York Times byDavid Barboza

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - At the Archer Daniels Midland Company's plant these days, the arriving truckloads of No. 2 yellow corn all, according to this story, need to pass the same test: they are checked for odor, damage, moisture, and something called Cry9C.

The story explains that a sevenmember crew divides, sifts, weighs, grinds and even sniffs the corn samples - a practice that grew more complicated  a few weeks ago, after Kraft Foods recalled millions of taco shells possibly containing StarLink, a genetically engineered variety of corn that
produces the Cry9C protein.

The corn is not supposed to be in the human food supply because of concerns it might trigger allergic reactions. Now, after a series of recalls, nearly every major food and agriculture company is frantically testing for Cry9C.

The result has been, the story says, a costly disruption to the nation's grainhandling system.
Scores of trucks, rail cars and river barges are being turned away daily by inspectors who say that a splotch of red dye has turned up on what looks like a home pregnancy test, meaning their corn is not fit for food.
*  *  *
by Don Lajoie, Star Staff Reporter - December 11, 2000 - The Windsor Star
With files from Sarah Sacheli

According to this story, John Omstead has nothing against genetically modified corn, but
the owner of Family Tradition Foods refuses to sell it to his customers, whether in North America, Europe or in Asia, adding, "In our business, canned vegetables, I think we're on the threshold of having GMO foods introduced in a really big way. But that doesn't matter. What our market is
telling us is don't go there. So we're going to back off, for now."

Omstead, whose markets for such products as canned creamed corn include Japan, is one local trader forced to make a tough choice: sell GM foods or back away from an important agricultural breakthrough. Omstead was quoted as saying, "I'm as global as anyone. I've sold in Europe, sold peaches and creamed corn, GMO free, in Germany. But if Japan says no to GMO foods, I'm
happy to comply."

Therein lies the biggest hurdle facing traders as they hope to pry open international markets for the nation's burgeoning, biotech agriculture industry. Consumers in some of the world's richest and most populous markets don't want them.
*  *  *
Thanks to Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI,, for the following:


Biotech's "Generation One" - Travails of a Misspent Youth

The RAFI Revue ("tongue-in-cheek") of the scientific, political and media disasters that struck the Agbiotech industry since the BioSafety Protocol was adopted in January.

January, 2000

- Soiled reputation: As delegations readied for the Montreal biosafety meeting, US and Venezuelan researchers confirmed that the Bt toxin in transgenic maize could (contrary to industry  expectations) escape into the soil killing larvae up to 25 days after the break-out.(1)

February, 2000

- Hard to resist: Canadian scientists acknowledged that Monsanto's Roundup, Cyanamid's Pursuit, and Aventis's Liberty herbicides lost their effectiveness against weeds only 2 to 3 years after an Alberta farmer planted the companies' GM canola seeds. (2)

March, 2000

- Vowel language: A long-suppressed U.S. Government memo dating to 1993 revealed an experiment in which 4 of 20 female rodents fed the FlavrSavr (a GM tomato now owned by Monsanto) suffered gross stomach lesions.(3)

- "Play possum" plot: New Zealand scientists proposed to develop GM carrots engineered to sterilize possums when eaten. Possums are threatening the country's crops.(4) Scientists pooh-poohed concern that the carrots might have the same effect on people, and insisted the carrots could be kept separate from the human food chain if necessary.

- The "Which Blair Project": Tony Blair reversed his position of a year earlier ("the Prime Minister is very strongly minded that these [GM] products are safe.") and told readers of The Independent that "there is no doubt that there is potential for harm from GM food."(5) Further flip flops
are widely predicted.

April, 2000

- Weevil wars: It was found that GM cotton that "volunteered" in GM soybean fields may be bringing the dreaded cotton boll weevil back into the USA as a major pest.(6)

- A-maize-ing pace:, American maize growers were shunning GM seeds because their 1998/99 exports to Europe had dropped to 137,000 tonnes from 2 million tonnes one year earlier.(7) The announcement came on the heels of media reports that major potato processors and fast-food chains were warning growers to avoid GM potatoes.

May, 2000

- "Safe" wherever they are? GM seeds were routinely - though accidentally - shipped to Europe by U.S. and Canadian seed companies who couldn't seem to keep their conventional seeds separate from their GM lines.(8) In the following days, the sloppy inventory management problem spread throughout Western Europe as country after country found their fields contaminated with illegal and unwanted GM crops. (New Zealanders were assured that such stock management problems could never occur with carrots.)

- "Safe" whoever they are: Monsanto advised U.S. officials that it had detected an unidentified strand of DNA making "mystery guest" appearances in its GM soybeans, Monsanto assured officials that the unknown DNA was perfectly safe (and was not a virus playing "possum").

- German Bee Bellies: A researcher in Saxony found that a gene had transferred from genetically engineered rapeseed to bacteria and fungi discovered in the gut of honeybees. Industry had previously claimed such a transfer was highly unlikely or impossible.

June, 2000

- Spider man: A "jumping gene" being used in genetic engineering has crossed the species barrier at least seven times, including one jump between flies and humans. If organisms modified using this footloose gene are released, there is risk of further unexpected jumps.(9) (New Zealanders
were assured the gene would not be used in developing transgenic carrots).

- "Safe" whatever they are: The New Zealand Government admitted that there were at least 100 illicit GM crop experiments underway in the country.(10) After checking on half the experiments, the Government announced that (as with Monsanto) everything was okay (and that none of the experiments could possibly involve either possums or carrots).

July, 2000

- No safe refuge: Non-GM maize "refuges" planted by farmers near their GM maize fields in order to slow resistance to the bacterial toxin in the GM fields just don't work. The vulnerable insects in the refuge plots refuse to breed with the resistant insects from the larger GM fields. (Possums,
however, are understood to find the corporate designed plots to be ideal breeding grounds.)

- Wander-lust? A large-scale study of the UK's oilseed rape crop and indigenous weedy relatives proved that crosses can occur and that traits such as GM herbicide-tolerance could leap to weeds. (11)

- Still mad: UK authorities reported a new case of Mad Cow disease in one cow born after stringent new controls were established in 1996. (12) Public distrust of government and scientists over GM crops in Europe began with their failures in handling Mad Cows.

August, 2000

- And madder still: Human deaths from Mad Cow Disease in the UK were reported to have increased markedly in the first half of 2000 compared to 1999. There were 15 deaths to August 2000 compared to only 18 in all of 1999.(13)

- The real Golden Rice: A U.S. university study of "sticky" rice varieties in China and the Philippines showed that planting a number of diverse varieties increased yields by 89% while reducing disease by 98%. Their conclusion: diversity outperforms genetically uniform GM varieties.(14)

- Better flee butterfly! - Researchers in Iowa (USA) confirmed a controversial Cornell study proving that GM maize is a threat to Monarch butterflies. Industry had disputed the earlier Cornell findings.(15)

- Possum labels? - Bowing to public pressure, both New Zealand and Australia announced they would require labeling for almost all GM foods. This brought the two countries close to Europe and further isolated Canada and the USA who still oppose labeling. (16)

September, 2000

- Taco bulls: A GM maize variety ("Starlink") banned in the USA for human consumption (because of fears of allergic reactions) but permitted as a livestock feed, showed up in taco shells served at Taco Bell restaurants. The Aventis variety raised new concerns about industry's and government's
capacity to regulate and manage GM products.

- Golden fleeced: The May surrender of the public sector's Golden Rice technology to AstraZeneca due to fears that the Vitamin A enhanced GM cereal contravened up to 105 intellectual property arrangements was shown to be false. At most 11 patents could be implicated and all would likely be surrendered upon request.

- "Safe" whatever part it is? U.S. researchers warned of a loophole in biosafety regulations for GM crops such as tomatoes and potatoes where the rule of "substantial equivalence" applies only to the edible portion of the plant and neglects changes that might occur in roots or leaves. Failure to
test for significant genetic alteration of the inedible parts could risk the environment they warned. (17)

October, 2000

- Power Ranger epi-needles: The Taco Bell scandal spread to Kellogg's corn flakes as the giant cereal company closed down one plant for fear that the illicit GM StarLink maize had infected breakfast cereals. (StarLink was approved for animal feed but not for human consumption.) In a panic, the White House sent emissaries to Japan and Europe to try to calm concerns that Aventis's "Starlink" had illegally entered their countries. Consumers joked that breakfast cereal makers would have to give away epi-needles or epi-pens (injections to treat anaphylactic shock) in cereal boxes instead of Power Rangers or StarWars toys, for fear of allergic reactions in children.(18)

- Super sugarweeds: German researchers reported that a GM sugarbeet designed to resist one herbicide accidentally acquired resistance to a second herbicide. EU biosafety rules do not permit double-resistance because of the increased possibility of gene diffusion into weeds and the
creation of superweeds.(19)

- Slow learners: Mad Cow disease = the food crisis that sparked distrust of scientific judgement and government regulatory competence, appeared to be taking hold in France with new reports of diseased animals. (20)

- Possum patent policy: A policy change that would have allowed the world's largest agricultural research network devoted to Third World food security to patent genes and gene sequences was turned down when the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) met in Washington. The move would also have encouraged a shift toward GM crops. (21)

November, 2000

- Unethical monopolies: The first meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Ethics Panel (a group of world-renowned agronomists and ethicists) concluded that GM crops are risky, Terminator technology is immoral; and that patenting genes and other genetic material leads to crop
genetic erosion and unacceptable monopoly. (22)

- Biotech's billion dollar mistake: With the Aventis "Starlink" scandal spreading to hundreds of food products and companies, the company estimated that its clean-up costs would be less than $1 billion. Then the GM maize turned up in Japan and Korea(23)

December, 2000

- Montpellier's Monsanto rescue: The world's "biocrats" gathered in France to debate biosafety rules and rescue Monsanto. Never before have so many gathered to debate biosafety for so few! In essence, the $2.5 billion GM seed market involves 4 major industrial crops (soybean, maize, cotton and canola) grown in 3 countries (the US, Argentina, and Canada accounted for
98% of the total GM area in 2000). In 1999, Monsanto's GM seed traits accounted for over four-fifths of the total world area devoted to GM crops.(24) Demand for GM seeds almost flattened in 2000 with an increase of only 8% after years of doubling and redoubling. Analysts predicted that, at least until 2003, demand would remain flat or decline. In other words, the purpose of Montpellier was to rescue Monsanto, the USA, Canada and Argentina from their GM blunder! - Possums' "pay"-TV: Australian researchers may have found the answer to New Zealand's possum problems. Reports earlier in the year that Aussie possums! were dropping like flies from above-ground cable TV wiring has stirred speculation in the island country that a similar emphasis on overhead wires could eliminate the need for GM carrots.

Watch for RAFI's "Generation 3" Communique!


1. 'Toxic Leak', New Scientist, 4 December 1999, p. 7.
2. 'Resistance is useless', New Scientist, 19 February 2000, p. .21.
3. Edwards, Rob, 'Is it or isnt it?', New Scientist, 4 March 2000, p. 5.
4. Graham-Rowe, Duncan, 'Possums on the Pill', New Scientist, 4 March 2000,p. 18.
5. Editorial, 'Just give us the facts', New Scientist, 4 March 2000, p. 3.
6. Coghlan, Andy, 'Pocket of resistance', New Scientist, 15 April 2000,p. 17.
7. 'Maize malaise', New Scientist, 15 April 2000, p. 17.
8. Coghlan, Andy, 'Sowing dissent', New Scientist, 27 May 2000, p. 4.
9. Edwards, Rob, 'Look before it leaps', New Scientist, 24 June 2000,p. 5.
10. 'Red faces all round', New Scientist, 10 June 2000, p. 5.
11. Sample, Ian, "Modified crops could corrupt weedy cousins", New Scientist, 15 July 2000, p.6.
12. New Scientist, "Young, nut Mad", July 8, 2000, p.5.
13. New Scientist, "CJD creeps up", 12 August 2000, .p.19.
14. New Scientist, "Triumph for Diversity", 19 August 2000, p.21
15. Kilman, Scott, "Modified Corn a Threat to Butterfly, Study Says", Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2000.
16. New Scientist, "Stick a Label on it", 5 August 2000, p.5.
17. Coghlan, Andy, "Killer Tomatoes", New Scientist, 23 September 2000, p.9.
18. New Scientist, "Shells off the Shelves", September 30 2000, p.5.Noelle Mennella, PARIS, Nov 9 (Reuters) .
19.MacKenzie, Debora, "Stray genes highlight superweed danger". New Scientist, 21 October 2000, p.6.
20. MacKenzie, Debora, "La folie francaise". New Scientist, 28 October 2000, p.6.
21. RAFI attended the CGIAR meeting in Washington October 23-27 and participated actively in opposing the draft "New IPR Guiding Principles".
22. FAO, Panel of Eminent Experts on Ethics in Food and Agriculture, First Session, Rome, 26-28 September 2000.
23. Noelle Mennella, PARIS, Nov 9 (Reuters.
24. Monsanto Press Release, Feb. 10, 2000.

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign for Mandatory labelling and long-term testing of genetically engineered food 500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
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