ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  29 November 2000


1.    More on GM cotton
2.    Pope calls for activism on biotech
3.    Human Genetics Commission launches consultation
4.    Compulsory DNA databanking
5.    Biotech consultant raises concerns
6.    Greens worse than Hitler - More bigotry from Prakash’s ABiasedView!
7.    New Standards Sought on GM Seeds
8.    Monsanto’s GE Corn Is Delayed
9.    Benbrook comments on Monsanto announcement
10.  Soil Association to Avery
11.  Hoban the survey-fixer’s at it again!
12.  Japan: StarLink GM corn find bares food safety flaws

1.    More on GM cotton

Further to the GM cotton info from WWF we put out yesterday, Marcus Williamson has pointed out a mistranslation in the text of the final paragraph of the update which reads:

“Expectations that genetic engineering can contribute to a less environmentally burdening cotton cultivation have not been fulfilled.  Therefore a broader approach to alternative cultivation strategies must be more intensively researched and promoted, for example by controlled biological cultivation, instead of concentrating on genetic engineering.

Marcus has forwarded us the following clarification from one of the authors:

Dear Marcus
Thank you very much for your comments. The meaning is as you expected.  Please replace the words biological cultivation by organic farming or organic cultivation, then the meaning would be correct.  Please note that we put the word “for example” in between. Thus, the meaning is a kind of a suggestion or recommendation. I hope this helps.  If you have any further questions concerning the report please do not hesitate to contact me.
Best regards
Philipp Thalmann

No Reduction of Pesticide Use with Genetically Engineered Cotton,
Updated summary of WWF International report, Fall, 2000
*  *  *
2.    Pope calls for activism on biotech

(FarmPowerNews, 26 November)  ABC News, New York, along with the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) reported at 6-PM Eastern Time Sunday, 26 November, that the Pope’s Mass that day called on the world’s 500-million Catholics to become “activists” in challenges faced by biotechnologies.   This message from the Vatican comes two weeks after the Pope warned world audiences against developments in the field of biotechnologies.

Pope John Paul calls on the world’s 500-million Catholics to be activists in social issues like biotechnologies.   (BBC and ABC News carry story as does Associated Press)
Washington Post -  26 November 2000
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II Sunday urged lay Catholics to play active roles in meeting modern challenges such as those posed by genetic advances and economic progress.
*  *  *
3.    Human Genetics Commission launches consultation

Thanks to Jeremy for forwarding this:

The Human Genetics Commission has just launched a consultation concerning  the use of personal genetic information (see below). Are any SGR members  interested in replying? (The deadline is the end of February).,  The consultation paper is available from their web-site:  I also have an electronic copy (pdf format).  There’s  a summary version (9 pages) or the full version (56 pages)
*  *  *
4.    Compulsory DNA databanking  -The Nation, 27 November 2000

Just a Needle-Stick Away By Jonathan Kimmelman [shortened]

In New Mexico, communists who fail to register their party affiliation with the state commit a felony.  Under New Mexico’s DNA databanking law, if they are caught they are required to submit a DNA sample to the department of public safety.

In Idaho, consensual sodomy with a partner other than your spouse constitutes a sex-crime felony. Those unfortunate enough to be caught in the act are similarly required by law to submit a tissue sample to the state’s DNA databank for the purposes of preventing future sex crimes.

And if Governor George Pataki is successful in the next legislative session, New York will begin collecting genetic material from any person convicted of a misdemeanor, such as resisting arrest or disorderly conduct as a result of peaceful civil disobedience.
*  *  *
5. Biotech consultant raises concerns

GM corn protein spreads to other corn seeds:  biotech expert reveals

An American agricultural biotechnology expert has raised concerns following revelations that the protein found in a type of genetically modified corn has spread to other varieties of corn seed.

GM StarLink corn was genetically engineered to produce a more pest-resistant plant. But because the StarLink protein could cause an allergic reaction in some people the crop has not been approved for human consumption.

Biotechnology industry consultant Chris Klose says the big biotechnology companies are not treating consumer concerns about genetic modification seriously enough.  “It is basically tampering with the very essence of life itself,” he said.

“I mean this is a serious issue and the idea of escape is a very real concern to me, it may not be to a lot of people.”
*  *  *
6. More bigotry from Prakash’s ABiasedView

More bigotry from Prakash’s ABiasedView. This is the same pro-GMer who recently alledged Greenpeace had murdered a sailor to forward their whaling campaign!!!

What the greens are doing to biotech is the same as what Georing and Hitler did to the world only the greens have the potential to kill more people if they win.
Gordon Couger
Retired Farmer
*  *  *
7.    New Standards Sought on Genetically Modified Seeds
Andrew Pollack New York Times Service, 29 November 2000 [shortened]

Companies Want More Biotech Material to Be Allowed

WASHINGTON U.S. seed companies are renewing a push to establish standards that would allow a small amount of genetically engineered material in bags of seeds and still have those seeds considered free of modification.

The American Seed Trade Association maintains that with genetically modified crops now widely grown, it is virtually impossible to ensure that a bag of nonmodified seeds does not have a few genetically modified ones mixed in.  Insisting on absolute purity, it says, would bog down the world seed trade.

“Ultimately, we’re looking to prevent potential disruption in seed trade as a result of the presence of genetically enhanced material,” Angela Dansby, a spokeswoman for the trade group, which represents seed producers and distributors, said Monday.
*  *  *
8.  [Monsanto’s]Genetically Engineered Corn Is Delayed
Bloomberg News [shortened] 28November 2000

Monsanto Co. said it will delay the launch of its rootworm-killing genetically engineered corn for a year to ensure that it gets full U.S. and Japanese government approval.

St. Louis-based Monsanto is trying to avoid the problems competitor Aventis faces with its StarLink corn, which is at the center of a 300-product food recall in the U.S. In a speech to farmers and farm industry officials in Washington, Monsanto Chief Executive Hendrik Verfaillie pledged to address consumer and environmentalist fears over biotech crops.
*  *  *
9.    COMMENT on Monsanto announcement
According to a 11/28/2000 AP story, Monsanto announced yesterday it is delaying the commercial release of two new corn varieties—one RR, the second, Bt-corn for corn rootworms (see<> for extensive comments on Bt corn for rootworms).  This action is taken because of StarLink lessons learned.  The Monsanto announcement says the later variety will not be released until 2002 because it is not yet approved in Japan or Europe.  Monsanto, and the AP story, fails to point out that Bt-corn for rootworms is not approved in the U.S. either; guess they are just taking that for granted.  That was the mistake with StarLink.
*  *  *
10.     Soil Association to Avery

Subj: The uses of the pesticide Rotenone
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2000 12:34:36 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: “Michele Burton” <>

Dear Mr Avery,
In response to your email received this morning I would like to clear up your query in the matter of the synthetic pesticides that work in a similar way to Rotenone.

The Soil Association fact sheet that you refer to states that some synthetic chemicals could be linked to the onset of Parkinson’s Disease.  The basis for this assertion comes from the  research published in Nature Neuroscience which  concludes that; “our results highlight the possibility that environmental toxins, including pesticides that inhibit mitochondrial function, may contribute to the pathogenesis of PD.  Many other naturally occurring compounds and synthetic pesticides are potent inhibitors of complex I.  Individuals are likely to be variably exposed to numerous natural or synthetic complex I inhibitors through diet, drinking water or other environmental factors” (Nature Neuroscience, p 1305, vol 3, no. 12 Dec 2000).

If you still unsure about what Nature Neuroscience have concluded, I suggest that you take it up with the authors of the report at Nature Neuroscience.

There are a number of acaricides that function like Rotenone, these are fenpyroximate, fenazaquin, tebufenpyrad and pyridaben (Hollingworth and Ahammadsahib, Rev. Pestic. Toxicol. 3:277-302 (1995)).  The UK Government’s Pesticide Usage Survey Group has informed us that the first three are licensed for use in the UK, of these tebufenpyrad was the most widely used with 1707 kilos used over 5915 hectares in 1999.  Alternatively you could contact Mr Roush as he has stated that there are 6 fungicides which could have a similar mitochondrial function to Rotenone, he has not specified what these are but I am sure he would be willing to help you.

I hope that this has helped to clear things up.  Again I must stress that if you have any further problems with the facts and findings you should contact the research authors at Nature Neurosceince.
Your sincerely
Michele Burton
Campaigns Officer
*  *  *
11.    Hoban the survey fixer’s at it again

Yesterday we posted part of PRWatch’s exposé of how biotech zealot Tom Hoban fixes his consumer surveys.  James Beniger, a communications professor at the University of Southern California and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, reviewed tone of Hoban’s surveys and said it was so biased with leading questions favoring the responses Hoban wanted that any results were meaningless - see:
Here’s Hoban’s latest :
Survey: U.S. Food Consumption Unaffected by StarLink Fiasco - by Julianne Johnston

A new survey conducted by a North Carolina State University sociologist concludes the StarLink corn fiasco including numerous food recalls   has done little to change the way Americans choose their food. In fact, the author of the study says the more the public becomes aware of ag biotechnology, the fewer concerns they have.

Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they are more aware.  Fifty-three percent of those surveyed say they were aware of the of ag biotechnology.

Sociologist Dr. Tom Hoban says people who had heard or read more about biotechnology were more positive about its use in agriculture and food production. recall of food products containing StarLink corn, but no one interviewed said they had avoided any foods that contained genetically modified ingredients. Only 5% had taken any action as a result of concerns over genetically modified foods.

“Biotechnology is simply not an issue of concern for the vast majority of U.S. consumers,” said Hoban. “In fact, most U.S. consumers are looking forward to the benefits that biotechnology will provide in the future.”

Of the 500 participants surveyed, 67% said they would buy produce such as potatoes or tomatoes that have been genetically modified to require fewer pesticides.  The same number said they would buy GM produce with nutritional benefits.  In addition, 66% said they have little or no concern about the safety of the food supply, while only 10% reported that they worry a great deal about food safety.  Consumers’ major concerns related to food spoilage or bacterial contamination, said Hoban.
*  *  *
12.    Japan: StarLink GM corn find bares food safety flaws Hirotake Sonobe Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

To ensure the safety of GMOs in Japan, private companies first have to apply for government permission to sell such products. The government then conducts a safety inspection of the products based on the standards set out in relevant guidelines. However, the guidelines are not legally binding.

Part of the reason StarLink corn reached Japan was because the Health and Welfare Ministry, which is in charge of food safety, had not developed an inspection system to detect the corn. In addition, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, which controls the safety of livestock feed, did not conduct an inspection because, in the words of an official of the ministry, it did not receive an application from a company to sell the GM corn.

In the United States, the government is still trying to determine the safety of StarLink corn for human consumption. However, it has already approved the corn for use in livestock feed, deeming it to have no adverse effect on the meat of animals that consume it, and therefore no adverse effect on humans.

This stance reveals an inherent contradiction in the Japanese government’s regulations, whereby Japan imports U.S. meat that has consumed StarLink corn, but does not permit the corn to be used in livestock feed.

Although the U.S. government was instructed not to export StarLink corn to Japan, for unknown reasons some of the corn slipped through its inspection system.

Following the discovery of the corn, the U.S. government said it would review its system of inspecting corn bound for Japan.

Tests conducted by a private organization in Japan that opposes GM food repeatedly detected unapproved GMOs in several types of snack and livestock feed on the market here.

The group reported the results of the tests to both ministries, urging them to conduct proper inspections of GM food.

According to the civic group’s leader, Keisuke Amagasa, it is no wonder that produced in the United States have appeared on the Japanese market.  Amagasa said it happens because inspections of GM food conducted overseas before it is shipped to Japan are inadequate.
The unapproved GMOs have in fact caused major problems for domestic trading companies and beer manufacturers.

From April next year, revisions to the Food Sanitation Law are scheduled to be made that would make it illegal to both sell and import GM food that has not been properly inspected.

However, the current safety guidelines do not allow the government to take legal action or issue orders to recall products, according to a Health and Welfare Ministry official.

An Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry official said it will be difficult to create regulations over livestock feed containing GMOs.

Currently, GMOs are not produced in Japan. But many unapproved GMOs from overseas, including rapeseeds and pumpkins, have made it to the local market. Japan responds to violations of its standards by each country on a case-by-case basis because there is no unified law governing the import of the GMOs.

As Japan depends heavily on imported crops, it needs to create unified regulations that can be applied to imports from all countries as quickly as possible.

It urgently needs to strengthen its inspection system. Furthermore, the country also needs to set up a system to prevent unapproved GM crops from entering the country.

Even if the inspection system is strengthened, unapproved GM food may still end up appearing on the domestic market if the food is not properly checked before arriving in Japan.

ngin bulletin archive