ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
 4 November 2000


url for pants on fire details:

More good news for AVENTIS!

1. DO NOT FEED THE HUMANS - St. Louis Post-Dispatch, editorial
3. New biotech releases could fall victim to StarLink

1. Posted: 11/03/2000  By Bill

‘You can bet the Post Dispatch would be singing a different tune if StarLink were Monsanto’s, but hey, we’ll take it.  Highly recommended for tabling.
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 27 October 2000


Biotechnology memo to the Environmental Protection Agency, regarding Aventis’ request that the PA temporarily approve its runaway StarLink genetically modified, animal-feed corn for consumption by humans:

The following are NOT good reasons to approve a genetically modified crop for people to eat:
-    We have lost track of 9 million bushels of the stuff.
-     It is made for animals.
-    We at Aventis didn’t do a good enough job ensuring that farmers keep StarLink separate from
      corn grown for humans.
-    It has been tested only for animals.
-    OOPS! The stuff is in taco shells.
-    Not a single animal has complained.
-    Since humans are not vegetables or minerals, they must be animals.
-    Kraft is not happy with us.
-    StarLink has shown up in food in Japan.
-    Japan is not happy with us.
-    Farmers who depend on foreign exports are really not happy with us.
-    Nine million bushels—that’s not so much.
-    There is only a “remote” chance it will cause allergic reactions.
-    There is an even more remote chance we will ever find those 9 million bushels.
-    We are a big corporation and used to getting our way.
-    C’mon! Just for a little while?
-    This way, the whole problem goes away and maybe nobody will sue us.
-    Nobody’s perfect.
-    We promise we won’t do it again.

Here some good reasons to approve a genetically modified crop for humans:
-    It has been thoroughly tested and found to pose no risk to human health.
-    It has been thoroughly tested and found to pose no risk to the environment.
-    There is some compelling reason it exists.
-    It is safe.
-    It is made for human consumption.
*  *  *


Scientific research backing an application for GM maize to be commercially sold to farmers is  “inadequate” a public hearing was told today.   Scientists from the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Science told the national seed list hearing that nutrition tests on chickens, presented by biotech company Aventis, “is inadequate in terms of providing any evidence or conclusions.  It is not of a standard that would be acceptable for publication in a scientific journal”.

Concerns were also raised about “ suspicious “ higher death rates among chickens that ate the GM maize during the study.

Aventis research compared broiler chickens fed GM maize with those fed on conventional maize.  Friends of the Earth approached Dr Steve Kestin and Dr Toby Knowles, scientists working on chicken studies for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to peer- review it.  Their conclusions included:

-     A failure to investigate “ suspicious “ trends in the death of chickens fed the GM maize (10 died) compared with those fed conventional maize (5 died).  This, they said “suggests either a fault in the study or a real direct effect of diet...and should act as a spur for further investigation “;

-     That there were “ far too few “ replicates used in the study.  Only 4 replicates were used, as opposed to the minimum of 14 recommended by the independent scientists.  Using such a small number would be “one of the best show no effect”;

-    The absence of a positive control (feeding maize to 3, instead of 2, groups of chickens) was a “major flaw in the design of the study “.

-    During the hearing, leading experts have already questioned Aventis’ scientific evidence for the marketing of this GM forage maize.  In particular, they have expressed concern over the
failure to test the GM maize on cows (for whom it’s being produced).

Tony Juniper, Policy and Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth said: “Once again the ‘sound science’ of the biotech industry has been found sadly wanting.  This shoddy study should never have been submitted to support the case for this GM maize to be granted a commercial licence.  The fact that it was, and the Government did nothing about it, is a scandal.  When will we learn the lessons of BSE?

“It’s high time the cosy and unquestioning relationship between the biotech industry and Government was ended.  The well-being of the public, health and environment must be put above vested interest and profit.  Aventis can start today by withdrawing this GM application.”

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Kestin commented: “It’s astonishing that this study has not been assessed and found wanting by the Government, and that it’s been left to Friends of the Earth to have it properly reviewed”.

Earlier this week the continuation of the hearing was put in severe doubt when the Government revealed that official basic tests on Chardon LL, carried out by the French authorities, had only been conducted for one year rather than the two required under EU law.

In April, the Government announced its intention to allow Chardon LL, which has been genetically modified to be resistant to Aventis’ own herbicide, on to the national seed list.  This is the final legal barrier before a GM seed can be sold to farmers.  This would have been the first GM crop to have been added to the list.  However, FOE discovered a little-known law which gave the public the right to appeal against the decision.

Sixty seven groups and individuals have paid £60 to have their objections heard in public, with hundreds more filing written objections (which cost £30).  The National Seed List hearing started on 2 October and is scheduled to last about 9 weeks.  Aventis is refusing to produce any evidence at the hearing.

Friends of the Earth E-mail:
26-28 Underwood Street London N1 7JQ,  URL:
Tel: 0171 490 1555  Fax: 0171 490 0881
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3.  2 November 2000 6:08 PM EDT

New biotech releases could fall victim to StarLink - by Marcia Taylor,

The StarLink controversy is already having ripple effects on agriculture research, scientists and farm leaders say, and could delay the expected release of millions of dollars worth of new products.
The National Corn Growers Association’s board recently clarified its policy asking U.S. regulators to deny domestic registration of biotech products that have not been cleared by Japan and other major U.S. trading partners.

“Although growers are very supportive of new technologies, we can’t jeopardize our export markets,” National Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman says.

Clearance for Monsanto’s rootworm-resistant corn, which had been scheduled for release next year, might need to be postponed, Tolman added.  Waiting for international clearances could pose a defacto moratorium on new biotech releases here, Elmo Beyer, president of Agricultural Research Laboratories for DuPont, said in remarks to the Philadelphia Society for the Promotion of Agriculture today.

“The StarLink situation shows that it doesn’t make sense for regulators to clear products here without full approval for food uses,” says Beyer. “But until the European Union issues its new directives, I doubt any new products will be approved [for import there] for several years.”
Agribusiness giants like Monsanto and DuPont have staked millions of dollars to develop new biotechnologies.  Companies are spending $15 million to $30 million to develop the next generation of biotech seeds, Beyer notes.  Delays can have significant impacts on revenues, he says, and ultimately, corporate support for ag research budgets.

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