Friday, October 26, 2007

Biotech Giants Move Once Again to Force Controversial Genetically Engineered Wheat on the Market

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The time is right for a renewed push for biotech wheat, leading US wheat industry players said this week, as tight world wheat supplies and high prices underscore strong global demand for the key food crop.

"We in the wheat industry are wanting to re-engage. We sure see the need for that technology," said Joseph Kejr, chairman of the joint biotechnology committee of the National Association of Wheat Growers and US Wheat Associates, which markets US wheat to the world.

"The technology has been good for other commodities, cheapening production and increasing yields," Kejr said. "We need to be able to hurry up the process for wheat."

US wheat prices have soared to historic high levels in the past few weeks, with futures prices nearing US$10 a bushel, up from about US$4.50 a year ago. The price hike is tied to crop shortfalls in many key producing nations, which has triggered a scramble around the world for adequate supplies of the bread-making grain.

Wheat industry players say they have warned for years that wheat acres were in decline because a lack of technology to deal with troubling weather, weeds and disease. And years of reluctance by wheat buyers to embrace genetically modified wheat has made any immediate help impossible, say technology providers.

There are still many hurdles to acceptance of biotech wheat, but industry leaders expressed fresh hope that the current squeeze can generate acceptance for gene technology that could make wheat more profitable for farmers to grow and thus more plentiful.

"Maybe the world will be more accepting of biotech wheat now," said Darrell Hanavan, executive director of the Colorado Wheat Growers Association and past chairman of the biotech wheat committee. "The world situation is very tight."

The US Agriculture Department on Oct. 12 projected that global wheat stocks would fall to 32-year lows by the end of the 2007/08 marketing year, at 107 million tonnes. US wheat ending stocks for 2007/08 were projected at 307 million bushels, the lowest since 1948/49.

"The market is getting what it had coming," said Allan Skogen, a North Dakota farmer and biotech proponent.

The US wheat industry was sharply divided five years ago over Monsanto Co's efforts to commercialize a GMO wheat that tolerated treatments of its Roundup herbicide.

Key foreign wheat trading partners and many domestic food companies warned they would not buy biotech wheat because of consumer health and safety concerns, and Monsanto ultimately shelved its biotech wheat plans in 2004.

Since then any advancement in biotech wheat has been sluggish at best. Monsanto competitor Syngenta has in its pipeline a spring wheat that is resistant to fusarium disease.

But Syngenta spokeswoman Anne Burt said the wheat was "not on a commercial path" at this point and Syngenta was focused on achieving market acceptance.

Many wheat players were looking toward Australia, where BASF was in the early stages of researching drought-resistant wheat varieties. But that project is likely several years from commercialization as well.

"It's moving forward, but we're not in a position where anything is at the point where we're talking about commercialization," said BASF spokeswoman Fran Castle.

Indeed, it will likely take cooperation between Australia, Canada and the United States, all major world wheat suppliers, to achieve biotech wheat acceptance and commercialization, said National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Daren Coppock.

"I think we're getting closer," he said.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

ALERT: USDA Says Foods Labeled as 'Raw' Can Be Pasteurized


Despite a negative backlash from almond producers, retailers and consumers, the USDA has implemented its ruling to require that all raw almonds sold in stores must be pasteurized. The rule went into effect on September 1st, and since then, all retail outlets have been forced to remove true raw almonds from store shelves. Consumers will be misled by this action as there will still be almonds on store shelves labeled as "raw", but they will actually be pasteurized.

One of the FDA-recommended pasteurization methods requires the use of propylene oxide, which is classified as a "possible human carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and is banned in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.

Since the decision about the rule was made, Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, has stepped down. He is temporarily replaced by Chuck Conner. This may provide a new opportunity for reversal.

Please contact Conner today to ask that the rule be suspended for 6 months while the public comment period is re-opened.

Take action here

Saturday, October 13, 2007

GM Corn May Affect Aquatic Ecosystems, Indiana University Study Says

http://72.32.142.180/news_story.php?id=5048

Press Release -- October 8, 2007 -- BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A study by an Indiana University environmental science professor and several colleagues suggests a widely planted variety of genetically engineered corn has the potential to harm aquatic ecosystems. The study is being published online this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Researchers, including Todd V. Royer, an assistant professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, established that pollen and other plant parts containing toxins from genetically engineered Bt corn are washing into streams near cornfields.

They also conducted laboratory trials that found consumption of Bt corn byproducts produced increased mortality and reduced growth in caddisflies, aquatic insects that are related to the pests targeted by the toxin in Bt corn.

Caddisflies, Royer said, 'are a food resource for higher organisms like fish and amphibians. And, if our goal is to have healthy, functioning ecosystems, we need to protect all the parts. Water resources are something we depend on greatly.'

Other principal investigators for the study, titled 'Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems,' were Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University Chicago, Jennifer Tank of the University of Notre Dame and Matt Whiles of Southern Illinois University. It was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Bt corn is engineered to include a gene from the micro-organism Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a toxin that protects the crop from pests, in particular the European corn borer. It was licensed for use in 1996 and quickly gained popularity. In 2006, around 35 percent of corn acreage planted in the U.S. was genetically modified, the study says, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Before licensing Bt corn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted trials to test its impact on water biota. But it used Daphnia, a crustacean commonly used for toxicity tests, and not insects that are more closely related to the target pests, Royer said.

Royer emphasized that, if there are unintended consequences of planting genetically engineered crops, farmers shouldn't be held responsible. In a competitive agricultural economy, producers have to use the best technologies they can get.

'Every new technology comes with some benefits and some risks,' he said. 'I think probably the risks associated with widespread planting of Bt corn were not fully assessed.'

There was a public flap over the growing use of Bt corn in 1999, when a report indicated it might harm monarch butterflies. But studies coordinated by the government's Agriculture Research Service and published in PNAS concluded there was not a significant threat to monarchs. Around that time, Royer said, he and his colleagues wondered whether the toxin from Bt corn was getting into streams near cornfields; and, if so, whether it could have an impact on aquatic insects.

Their research, conducted in 2005 and 2006 in an intensely farmed region of northern Indiana, measured inputs of Bt corn pollen and corn byproducts (e.g., leaves and cobs) in 12 headwater streams, using litter traps to collect the materials. They also found corn pollen in the guts of certain caddisflies, showing they were feeding on corn pollen.

In laboratory trials, the researchers found caddisflies that were fed leaves from Bt corn had growth rates that were less than half those of caddisflies fed non-Bt corn litter. They also found that a different type of caddisfly had significantly increased mortality rates when exposed to Bt corn pollen at concentrations between two and three times the maximum found in the test sites.

Royer said there was considerable variation in the amount of corn pollen and byproducts found at study locations. And there is likely also to be significant geographical variation; farmers in Iowa and Illinois, for example, are planting more Bt corn than those in Indiana. The level of Bt corn pollen associated with increased mortality in caddisflies, he said, 'could potentially represent conditions in streams of the western Corn Belt.'

Once published, the paper will be available at
www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0707177104v1 . Reporters can obtain a copy of this article prior to its publication by contacting the PNAS News Office at 202-334-1310 or PNASnews@nas.edu . Reporters registered with PNAS's EurekAlert! can obtain the article through that service.

To speak with with Todd Royer, contact Jana Wilson, IU SPEA, at 812-856-5490 or wilsonjs@indiana.edu; or Steve Hinnefeld, University Communications, at 812-856-3488 or
slhinnef@indiana.edu.
Contact: Steve Hinnefeld, slhinnef@indiana.edu, 812-856-3488, Indiana University

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How Corporations Engineered the Non-Regulation of Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods

Government officials around the globe have been coerced, infiltrated, and paid off by the agricultural biotech giants. In Indonesia, Monsanto gave bribes and questionable payments to at least 140 officials, attempting to get their genetically modified (GM) cotton approved.[1] On the basis of this manufactured and false notion of no meaningful differences, the FDA does not require GM food safety testing.

To further justify their lack of oversight, they claimed that GM crops were "substantially equivalent" to their natural counterparts. But this concept does not hold up to scrutiny. The Royal Society of Canada described substantial equivalence as "scientifically unjustifiable and inconsistent with precautionary regulation of the technology." In sharp contrast to the FDA's position, the Royal Society of Canada said that "the default prediction" for GM crops would include "a range of collateral changes in expression of other genes, changes in the pattern of proteins produced and/or changes in metabolic activities."[11]

Fake safety assessments Biotech companies do participate in a voluntary consultation process with the FDA, but it is derided by critics as a meaningless exercise. Companies can submit whatever information they choose, and the FDA does not conduct or commission any studies of their own. Former EPA scientist Doug Gurian-Sherman, who analyzed FDA review records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, states flatly, "It is clear that FDA's current voluntary notification process (even if made mandatory) is not up to the task of ensuring the safety of future GE [genetically engineered] crops." He says, "The FDA consultation process does not allow the agency to require submission of data, misses obvious errors in company-submitted data summaries, provides insufficient testing guidance, and does not require sufficiently detailed data to enable the FDA to assure that GE crops are safe to eat."[12] Similarly, a Friends of the Earth review of company and FDA documents concluded:

"If industry chooses to submit faulty, unpublishable studies, it does so without consequence. If it should respond to an agency request with deficient data, it does so without reprimand or follow-up. . . . If a company finds it disadvantageous to characterize its product, then its properties remain uncertain or unknown. If a corporation chooses to ignore scientifically sound testing standards . . . then faulty tests are conducted instead, and the results are considered legitimate. In the area of genetically engineered food regulation, the 'competent' agencies rarely if ever (know how to) conduct independent research to verify or supplement industry findings."[13]

At the end of the consultation, the FDA doesn't actually approve the crops. Rather, they issue a letter including a statement such as the following:

"Based on the safety and nutritional assessment you have conducted, it is our understanding that Monsanto has concluded that corn products derived from this new variety are not materially different in composition, safety, and other relevant parameters from corn currently on the market, and that the genetically modified corn does not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA. . . . As you are aware, it is Monsanto's responsibility to ensure that foods marketed by the firm are safe, wholesome and in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements."[14]

The National Academy of Sciences and even the pro-GM Royal Society of London[15] describe the US system as inadequate and flawed. The editor of the prestigious journal Lancet said, "It is astounding that the US Food and Drug Administration has not changed their stance on genetically modified food adopted in 1992. . . . The policy is that genetically modified crops will receive the same consideration for potential health risks as any other new crop plant. This stance is taken despite good reasons to believe that specific risks may exist. . . . Governments should never have allowed these products into the food chain without insisting on rigorous testing for effects on health."[16]

Promoting and regulating don't mix The FDA and other regulatory agencies are officially charged with both regulating biotech products and promoting them-a clear conflict. Suzanne Wuerthele, a US EPA toxicologist, says, "This technology is being promoted, in the face of concerns by respectable scientists and in the face of data to the contrary, by the very agencies which are supposed to be protecting human health and the environment. The bottom line in my view is that we are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences." Canadian regulators are similarly conflicted. The Royal Society of Canada reported that, "In meetings with senior managers from the various Canadian regulatory departments . . . their responses uniformly stressed the importance of maintaining a favorable climate for the biotechnology industry to develop new products and submit them for approval on the Canadian market. . . . The conflict of interest involved in both promoting and regulating an industry or technology . . . is also a factor in the issue of maintaining the transparency, and therefore the scientific integrity, of the regulatory process. In effect, the public interest in a regulatory system that is 'science based'-that meets scientific standards of objectivity, a major aspect of which is full openness to scientific peer review-is significantly compromised when that openness is negotiated away by regulators in exchange for cordial and supportive relationships with the industries being regulated."[17]

The conflict of interest among scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) GMO Panel is quite explicit. According to Friends of the Earth, "One member has direct financial links with the biotech industry and others have indirect links, such as close involvement with major conferences organized by the biotech industry. Two members have even appeared in promotional videos produced by the biotech industry. . . . Several members of the Panel, including the chair Professor Kuiper, have been involved with the EU-funded ENTRANSFOOD project. The aim of this project was to agree [to] safety assessment, risk management and risk communication procedures that would 'facilitate market introduction of GMOs in Europe, and therefore bring the European industry in a competitive position.' Professor Kuiper, who coordinated the ENTRANSFOOD project, sat on a working group that also included staff from Monsanto, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta." The report concludes that EFSA is "being used to create a false impression of scientific agreement when the real situation is one of intense and continuing debate and uncertainty."[18] This parallels the deceptive façade at the FDA. The pro-GM European Commission repeats the same ruse. According to leaked documents obtained by Friends of the Earth, while they privately appreciate "the uncertainties and gaps in knowledge that exist in relation to the safety of GM crops . . . the Commission normally keeps this uncertainty concealed from the public whilst presenting its decisions about the safety of GM crops and foods as being certain and scientifically based." Further, in private "they frequently criticize the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and its assessments of the safety of GM foods and crops, even though the Commission relies on these evaluations to make recommendations to member states. . . [and] to justify its decisions to approve new GM foods."[19] For example, the Commission privately condemned the submission information for one crop as "mixed, scarce, delivered consecutively all over years, and not convincing." They said there is "No sufficient experimental evidence to assess the safety."[20]

Evaluations miss most health problems Although the body of safety studies on GM foods is quite small, it has verified the concerns expressed by FDA scientists and others. The gene inserted into plant DNA may produce a protein that is inherently unhealthy. The inserted gene has been found to transfer into human gut bacteria and may even end up in human cellular DNA, where it might produce its protein over the long-term. Toxic substances in GM animal feed might bioaccumulate into milk and meat products. Farmer and medical reports link GM feed to thousands of sick, sterile, and dead animals. But there is not a single government safety assessment program in the world that is competent to even identify most of these potential health problems, let alone protect its citizens from the effects.[21]

A review of approved GM crops in Canada by professor E. Ann Clark, for example, reveals that 70% (28 of 40) "of the currently available GM crops . . . have not been subjected to any actual lab or animal toxicity testing, either as refined oils for direct human consumption or indirectly as feedstuffs for livestock. The same finding pertains to all three GM tomato Decisions, the only GM flax, and to five GM corn crops." In the remaining 30% (12) of the other crops tested, animals were not fed the whole GM feed. They were given just the isolated GM protein that the plant was engineered to produce. But even this protein was not extracted from the actual GM plant. Rather, it was manufactured in genetically engineered bacteria. This method of testing would never identify problems associated with collateral damage to GM plant DNA, unpredicted changes in the GM protein, transfer of genes to bacteria or human cells, excessive herbicide residues, or accumulation of toxins in the food chain, among others. Clark asks, "Where are the trials showing lack of harm to fed livestock, or that meat and milk from livestock fed on GM feedstuffs are safe?"[22]

Epidemiologist and GM safety expert Judy Carman shows that assessments by Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) similarly overlook serious potential problems, including cancer, birth defects, or long-term effects of nutritional deficiencies. [23]

"A review of twelve reports covering twenty-eight GM crops - four soy, three corn, ten potatoes, eight canola, one sugar beet and two cotton - revealed no feeding trials on people. In addition, one of the GM corn varieties had gone untested on animals. Some seventeen foods involved testing with only a single oral gavage (a type of forced-feeding), with observation for seven to fourteen days, and only of the substance that had been genetically engineered to appear [the GM protein], not the whole food. Such testing assumes that the only new substance that will appear in the food is the one genetically engineered to appear, that the GM plant-produced substance will act in the same manner as the tested substance that was obtained from another source [GM bacteria], and that the substance will create disease within a few days. All are untested hypotheses and make a mockery of GM proponents' claims that the risk assessment of GM foods is based on sound science. Furthermore, where the whole food was given to animals to eat, sample sizes were often very low - for example, five to six cows per group for Roundup Ready soy - and they were fed for only four weeks."[24]

Hidden information, lack of standards, and breaking laws Companies claim that their submissions to government regulators are "confidential business information" so they are kept secret. Some industry studies that have been forced into the public domain through Freedom of Information requests or lawsuits have been appalling in design and execution. This is due in part to the lack of meaningful and consistent standards required for assessments. Gurian-Sherman says of the FDA's voluntary consultation, "Some submissions are hundreds of pages long while others are only 10 or 20."[25] A Friends of the Earth report on US regulation and corporate testing practices states, "Without standardization, companies can and do design test procedures to get the results they want." [26] Regulators also reference international standards as it suits them. According to the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, for example, FSANZ "relaxed adherence to international standards for safety testing when that better suited the Applicant's submitted work, and imposed international standards whenever that was a lower standard than we recommended."[27]

Regulators also break laws. The declaration of GRAS status by the FDA deviated from the Food and Cosmetic Act and years of legal precedent. In Europe, the law requires that when EFSA and member states have different opinions, they "are obliged to co-operate with a view to either resolving the divergence or preparing a joint document clarifying the contentious scientific issues and identifying the relevant uncertainties in the data."[28] According to FOE, in the case of all GM crop reviews, none of these legal obligations were followed.[29]

Humans as guinea pigs Since GM foods are not properly tested before they enter the market, consumers are the guinea pigs. But this doesn't even qualify as an experiment. There are no controls and no monitoring. Without post-marketing surveillance, the chances of tracing health problems to GM food are low. The incidence of a disease would have to increase dramatically before it was noticed, meaning that millions may have to get sick before a change is investigated. Tracking the impact of GM foods is even more difficult in North America, where the foods are not labeled. Regulators at Health Canada announced in 2002 that they would monitor Canadians for health problems from eating GM foods. A spokesperson said, "I think it's just prudent and what the public expects, that we will keep a careful eye on the health of Canadians." But according to CBC TV news, Health Canada "abandoned that research less than a year later saying it was 'too difficult to put an effective surveillance system in place.'" The news anchor added, "So at this point, there is little research into the health effects of genetically modified food. So will we ever know for sure if it's safe?"[30]

Not with the biotech companies in charge. Consider the following statement in a report submitted to county officials in California by pro-GM members of a task force. "[It is] generally agreed that long-term monitoring of the human health risks of GM food through epidemiological studies is not necessary because there is no scientific evidence suggesting any long-term harm from these foods."[31] Note the circular logic: Because no long-term epidemiological studies are in place, we have no evidence showing long-term harm. And since we don't have any evidence of long-term harm, we don't need studies to look for it. What are these people thinking? Insight into the pro-GM mindset was provided by Dan Glickman, the US Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton. "What I saw generically on the pro-biotech side was the attitude that the technology was good, and that it was almost immoral to say that it wasn't good, because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed the hungry and clothe the naked. . . . And there was a lot of money that had been invested in this, and if you're against it, you're Luddites, you're stupid. That, frankly, was the side our government was on. Without thinking, we had basically taken this issue as a trade issue and they, whoever 'they' were, wanted to keep our product out of their market. And they were foolish, or stupid, and didn't have an effective regulatory system. There was rhetoric like that even here in this department. You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view on some of the issues being raised. So I pretty much spouted the rhetoric that everybody else around here spouted; it was written into my speeches."[32]

Fortunately, not everyone feels that questioning GM foods is disloyal. On the contrary, millions of people around the world are unwilling to participate in this uncontrolled experiment. They refuse to eat GM foods. Manufacturers in Europe and Japan have committed to avoid using GM ingredients. And the US natural foods industry, not waiting for the government to test or label GMOs, is now engaged in removing all remaining GM ingredients from their sector using a third party verification system. The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America will circulate non-GMO shopping guides in stores nationwide so that consumers have clear, healthy non-GMO choices. With no governmental regulation of biotech corporations, it is left to consumers to protect themselves. To learn how to opt-out of the eating GMOs and to find non-GM alternative brands, visit www.responsibletechnology.org http://www.responsibletechnology.org/ .

New Book Genetic Roulette Documents Serious Health Dangers The sourcebook for the Campaign is the newly released Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods. With input from more than 30 scientists over two years, it presents 65 health risks of GM foods and why current safety assessments are not competent to protect us from most of them. The book documents lab animals with damage to virtually every system and organ studied; thousands of sick, sterile, or dead livestock; and people around the world who have traced toxic or allergic reactions to eating GM products, breathing GM pollen, or touching GM crops at harvest. It also exposes many incorrect assumptions that were used to support GM approvals. Organizations worldwide are presenting the book to policy makers as evidence that GM foods are unsafe and need to be removed immediately. But we don't need to wait for governments to step in. We can make healthier choices for ourselves, our families, and our schools now, and together we can inspire the tipping point for healthier, non-GM eating in America. We believe that this can be achieved within the next 24 months. *******

The GM crops sold in the US include soy (including soy lecithin used in chocolate and thousands of other products as an emulsifier), corn (including high fructose corn syrup), cottonseed and canola (both used in vegetable oil), Hawaiian papaya, and a small amount of zucchini and crook-neck squash. There is also alfalfa for cattle (the sale of which was halted by a federal judge on March 13, 2007), GM additives such as aspartame, and milk from cows treated with GM bovine growth hormone. There is not yet any GM popcorn, white corn or blue corn. And the industry is threatening to introduce GM sugar from sugar beets next year. To learn more, for online shopping guides and to find out how to get involved, go to www.ResponsibleTechnology.org http://www.responsibletechnology.org/ .

The Institute for Responsible Technology's plans to achieve the tipping point on GMOs through consumer education has inspired the Mercola.com Foundation to match donations and membership fees to the Institute at this time. Please help end the genetic engineering of our food supply by contributing to the implementation of this important project. Click here http://www.seedsofdeception.com/utility/showPage/index.cfm?objectID=gmfree, 5112 .

Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of the newly released book, Genetic Roulette: The documented health risks of genetically engineered foods. He is the director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, the international bestselling author of Seeds of Deception, and the producer of the DVD Hidden Dangers in Kids' Meals.

[1] "Monsanto Bribery Charges in Indonesia by DoJ and USSEC," Third World Network, Malaysia, Jan 27, 2005, http://www.mindfully.org/GE/2005/Monsanto-Indonesia-Bribery27jan05.htm

[2] "Greenpeace exposes Government-Monsanto nexus to cheat Indian farmers: calls on GEAC to revoke BT cotton permission," Press release, March 3, 2005, http://www.greenpeace.org/india_en/news/details?item_id=771071

[3] Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception, (Iowa: Yes! Books, 2003), 224.

[4] See Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)

[5] Dan Quayle, "Speech in the Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building," May 26, 1992.

[6] See Smith, Seeds of Deception; and for copies of FDA memos, see The Alliance for Bio-Integrity, www.biointegrity.org http://www.biointegrity.org/

[7] Steven M. Druker, "How the US Food and Drug Administration approved genetically engineered foods despite the deaths one had caused and the warnings of its own scientists about their unique risks," Alliance for Bio-Integrity, http://www.biointegrity.org/ext-summary.html

[8] Louis J. Pribyl, "Biotechnology Draft Document, 2/27/92," March 6, 1992, www.biointegrity.org http://www.biointegrity.org/ http://www.biointegrity.org/FDAdocs/04/view1.html

[9] Linda Kahl, Memo to James Maryanski about Federal Register Document "Statement of Policy: Foods from Genetically Modified Plants," Alliance for Bio-Integrity(January 8, 1992) http://www.biointegrity.org http://www.biointegrity.org/

[10] "Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties," Federal Register 57, no. 104 (May 29, 1992): 22991.

[11] "Elements of Precaution: Recommendations for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology in Canada; An Expert Panel Report on the Future of Food Biotechnology prepared by The Royal Society of Canada at the request of Health Canada Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Environment Canada" The Royal Society of Canada, January 2001.

[12] Doug Gurian-Sherman, "Holes in the Biotech Safety Net, FDA Policy Does Not Assure the Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods," Center for Science in the Public Interest, http://www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/fda_report__final.pdf

[13] Bill Freese, "The StarLink Affair, Submission by Friends of the Earth to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel considering Assessment of Additional Scientific Information Concerning StarLink Corn," July 17­19, 2001.

[14] FDA Letter, Letter from Alan M. Rulis, Office of Premarket Approval, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA to Dr. Kent Croon, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Monsanto Company, Sept 25, 1996. See Letter for BNF No. 34 at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biocon.html

[15] See for example, "Good Enough To Eat?" New Scientist (February 9, 2002), 7.

[16] "Health risks of genetically modified foods," editorial, Lancet, 29 May 1999.

[17] "Elements of Precaution," The Royal Society of Canada, January 2001.

[18] Friends of the Earth Europe, "Throwing Caution to the Wind: A review of the European Food Safety Authority and its work on genetically modified foods and crops," November 2004.

[19] Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace, "Hidden Uncertainties What the European Commission doesn't want us to know about the risks of GMOs," April 2006.

[20] European Communities submission to World Trade Organization dispute panel, 28 January 2005.

[21] Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007

[22] E. Ann Clark, "Food Safety of GM Crops in Canada: toxicity and allergenicity," GE Alert, 2000.

[23] FLRAG of the PHAA of behalf of the PHAA, "Comments to ANZFA about Applications A372, A375, A378 and A379."

[24] Judy Carman, "Is GM Food Safe to Eat?" in R. Hindmarsh, G. Lawrence, eds., Recoding Nature Critical Perspectives on Genetic Engineering (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2004): 82­93.

[25] Doug Gurian-Sherman, "Holes in the Biotech Safety Net, FDA Policy Does Not Assure the Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods," Center for Science in the Public Interest, http://www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/fda_report__final.pdf

[26] William Freese, "Genetically Engineered Crop Health Impacts Evaluation: A Critique of U.S. Regulation of Genetically Engineered Crops and Corporate Testing Practices, with a Case Study of Bt Corn," Friends of the Earth U.S., http://www.foe.org/camps/comm/safefood/gefood/index.html

[27] M. Cretenet, J. Goven, J. A. Heinemann, B. Moore, and C. Rodriguez-Beltran, "Submission on the DAR for Application A549 Food Derived from High-Lysine Corn LY038: to permit the use in food of high-lysine corn, 2006, www.inbi.canterbury.ac.nz

[28] EU Regulation 178/2002 (Article 30)

[29] Friends of the Earth Europe, "Throwing Caution to the Wind: A review of the European Food Safety Authority and its work on genetically modified foods and crops," November 2004.

[30] "Genetically modified foods, who knows how safe they are?" CBC News and Current Affairs, September 25, 2006.

[31] Mike Zelina, et al., The Health Effects of Genetically Engineered Crops on San Luis Obispo County," A Citizen Response to the SLO Health Commission GMO Task Force Report, 2006.

[32] Bill Lambrecht, Dinner at the New Gene Café, St. Martin's Press, September 2001, pg 139.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Codex proposes guidelines for non-approved GMOs

FoodNavigator, 5 October 2007
http://www.foodnavigator.com/news/ng.asp?n=80340-odex-gm

05/10/2007 - The Codex Alimentarius Commission is to create guidelines for assessing the risk of imported food made with non-approved genetically modified plant material, which would help relax trade barriers.

The EU currently applies a zero-tolerance policy for non-approved genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and feed imports. According to the Commission report, most of these GMOs have suffered delays in the approval system but have received regulatory approval in countries outside the EU or have a positive safety assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Because of the differences in the GMO authorisation regimes between the EU and exporting countries, conflicting authorisations of GMOs have occurred. Codex said these could become more frequent and affect a greater range of crops in the future.

Codex establishes food standards, ensures fair trade practices in the food trade and promotes the coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international organisations on behalf of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation.

It has decided to advance a proposal that addresses the risk assessment of low-level presence of biotech plant materials, found in food or feed, which have been authorised in one or more countries but not yet in the importing country. This decision followed negotiations by members of the Codex ad hoc Task Force last week in Chilba, Japan.

Codex's proposal will be submitted to the Codex Commission next July for approval, and will subsequently be incorporated in the Codex Plant Guidelines as an annex including information-sharing mechanisms.

This system would not substitute the full food safety assessments under the Codex Guidelines for products to be marketed in an importing country. It will also not address risk management measures, so individual countries will need to decide when and how to use the guidelines within the context of their regulatory systems. No country would be obliged to adopt the document.

Codex's decision has been welcomed by European industry representatives, according to EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries.

"The delays in approval of biotech products in Europe compared to the rest of the world as well the absence of a science-based approach to address low level presence is already leading to trade disruption and seriously impacting the supply of feedstuffs," said Johan Vanhemelrijck, secretary general of EuropaBio.

"Moreover, this unresolved issue that bears no relationship with safety is having a damaging effect on public confidence towards biotech products. In light of the Codex decisions, we hope that the EU will revisit its zero tolerance policy towards low level presence, speed up its approval process and define the appropriate science-based approach so that European food and feed supplies are secured."

Europabio says this issue should be addressed in a globally consistent way to ensure that all countries have an equal opportunity to trade food and feed materials freely with one another.

However, some have criticised Codex's proposals, disagreeing with only applying regulations to new foods merely because a certain technique has been used.

Henry Miller, a delegate to the task force in Japan, wrote in The Washington Times: "It is one thing to regulate new foods with traits that are of potential concern, but quite another to regulate new foods merely because a certain technique has been used, especially when that technique is state-of-the-art and superior to its predecessors… Virtually everything in our diets has been genetically improved by one technique or another."
[Miller profile:
http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=84 ]

Organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are entirely against genetic modification. Clare Oxborrow from Friends of the Earth told FoodNavigator: "We are concerned by attempts to legalise contamination of unapproved GM ingredients through Codex. The GM industry has failed to control contamination of the food chain, as last years GM rice contamination incident highlighted.

"It is outrageous that instead of tightening up controls to prevent this contamination happening in the first place, the US is attempting to legalise such contamination. Governments must uphold European legislation which has a zero tolerance approach to unauthorised GMOs to ensure that consumers and the environment are protected."

GM crops are increasingly cultivated in major crop exporting countries. The adoption rate of cultivating GM crops has seen double-digit annual growth since 1996. In 2006, 10.3m farmers in 22 countries cultivated biotech crops on 102m hectares. Ninety per cent of farmers who benefited from these crops were from developing countries, according to the commission's study.
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Friday, October 5, 2007

Percy & Louise Schmeiser, Canadian Farm Couple Who Took on Monsanto Win 'Alternative Nobel' in Sweden

  • Canadian farm couple who took on Monsanto win 'alternative Nobel' in Sweden
    Canadian Press, October 2, 2007
    Straight to the Source

A Saskatchewan farming couple embroiled in legal battles with the U.S. food giant Monsanto are winners of a Swedish award considered an "alternative Nobel" for defending biodiversity and farmer's rights.

Percy and Louise Schmeiser of Bruno, Sask., have won the 2007 Right Livelihood Award, founded by a Swedish-German philanthropist to recognize work he felt was being ignored by the prestigious Nobel prizes.

The award recognizes those who promote peace, biodiversity and renewable energy. Other winners announced Tuesday by the Stockholm-based foundation are from Sri Lanka, Kenya and Bangladesh.

The Schmeisers were recognized for taking on Monsanto Co., the U.S. agribusiness giant, over the company's genetically engineered seeds.

"We raised crops long before the Monsantos of the world came on the scene," a defiant Percy Schmeiser told The Canadian Press by telephone from his farm 85 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

"I believe farmers should have the right to be free of genetic contamination and free to seed what they want and not be controlled by a corporation," said the 76-year-old farmer.

In 1998, Monsanto took the couple to court for using its genetically modified patented canola seeds without a licence, seeking damages totalling $400,000.

The farmers denied they had used the seeds, saying they could have been blown over from a neighbour's farm or passing trucks.

Monsanto had previously offered to withdraw the lawsuit if the Schmeisers signed a contract to buy their seeds from Monsanto and to pay the technology-use fee, the Swedish foundation said on its website.

But the Schmeisers turned down the offer and the case was taken to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Schmeisers lost the case as well as the right to use seed varieties they had painstakingly adapted to their local environment for years. The ruling said the couple did not have to pay the damages sought.

Percy Schmeiser, who served as the mayor of his hometown between 1963 and 1982, has become a folk hero for defenders of organic farming.

The couple admit the dispute with the U.S. company has changed their lives.

Since the lawsuit, Percy Schmeiser has campaigned across Canada and internationally against genetic engineering in agriculture.

But he admits that support for his cause in his own community of 571 people has been mixed.

"Some farmers feel they need all these chemicals to raise crops," he said.

"We call that a chemical addiction now ... and with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) comes the increased use of chemicals."

Monsanto says on its website that "more than 30,000 Canadian farmers have chosen our technology because of the economic and environmental benefits it brings."

The Schmeisers' legal battles with Monsanto are not over.

They are suing Monsanto, claiming the company's modified seeds should be considered contamination after the company's canola seeds continued to grow on their land even after they had switched to other crops.

Monsanto, based in St. Louis, Mo., agreed to remove the unwanted plants from their land if the Schmeisers signed a document with a non-disclosure statement and an assurance that they would never take the company to court, the Swedish foundation said.

The Schmeisers refused to sign and paid some workers to remove the plants. They sent Monsanto the bill of $600.

When Monsanto did not pay, the Schmeisers sued them in a provincial court. A trial is set to begin on Jan. 23, 2008.

Winners of the Right Livelihood Award share the $310,000 prize.

Nonprofit company Grameen Shakti was honoured for its work to promote solar energy among rural households in Bangladesh.

The company was created in 1996 under the Grameen Bank, which was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize together with its leader Muhammad Yunus for efforts to help the poor through tiny loans called microcredits.

Sri Lankan legal scholar Christopher Weermantry, a former vice-president of the International Court of Justice, was cited for his efforts to "strengthen and expand the rule of international law," the award citation said.

The prize also honoured Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, a Muslim peace activist from Kenya, for her work to bridge religious and cultural differences.

Prize founder Jakob von Uexkull said Abdi and Weeramantry "demonstrate how war and terror can be overcome by peace-building and the rule of international law," while "the Schmeisers and Grameen Shakti show us how to protect two essential services of our global ecosystem: our agricultural resources and our global climate."

The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish Parliament on Dec. 7.

The Schmeisers, who will attend, said the timing couldn't have been better.

"The award came on our 55th wedding anniversary," said Percy Schmeiser.

"What more of a gift could you receive?"

Should Organics be Tested for GMOs?

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A recent disturbing incident of GMO contamination of organic soybeans raises the question of whether organic foods should be tested for genetically modified material. The US National Organic Program rules prohibit GMOs in organics but don't require methods to prohibit GMO contamination or establish thresholds for adventitious GM presence. The Organic & Non-GMO Report surveyed organic industry experts to obtain their thoughts on the question of testing.

According to Billy Hunter, an Iowa-based organic inspector, many organic food companies are ignoring the genetically modified food threat. "Many companies have their heads in the sand about the issue," says Hunter, who conducts organic inspections for certifiers such as Quality Assurance International and Oregon Tilth, as well as audits for a non-GMO certification firm.

"Heads in the sand doesn't solve the problem"

Hunter says very little GMO testing is being done on organic crops and foods that could contain adventitious GM material, such as corn and soy and processed products.

Companies don't want to test because there is no pressure for them to do so."They don't want to take on an expense when it isn't mandated by consumer or regulatory pressure," he says.

As a result, no one knows the extent of GMO contamination of organics. "As long as we don't do genetic testing, we won't know," says Hunter. "Having our heads in the sand doesn't solve the problem. We are selling foodstuffs to the market that have GMO contamination."

Michael Potter, president of Eden Foods, an organic food manufacturer, agrees with Hunter. "If you don't test, you don't know (how much GMOs are a problem in organics)," he says. Eden Foods is one of a few organic food companies that require GMO testing.

The question of testing

Many organic food experts say GMO testing should not be required in organic certification. They say organic is a process-based certification, and a testing requirement would move organic to an end-product-based certification, not to mention adding costs to farmers and processors.

"We do not certify a product as chemical-free, so why would we try and certify the impossible standard of GMO-free? We certify the process," says Brad Brummond, county extension agent and organic contact at North Dakota State University.

"There is no statutory basis for a testing requirement, and the 'excluded methods' provision of the (National Organic Program) regulation does not allow for penalizing a producer in the case of inadvertent contamination. Producers would, however, be penalized in the marketplace, regardless of how the contamination occurred," says Mark Lipson, policy program director, Organic Farming Research Foundation.

As Lipson indicated, organic grains are sometimes tested for GMOs by buyers and rejected if they test positive for GMOs. That should be the main role of GMO testing in organics, says Kathleen Delate, associate professor and organic crop specialist at Iowa State University. "GMO testing is a function of private contracts and not of the NOP, so it would be very difficult to have any testing mandated by the government, let alone have sufficient resources to police the testing," she says.

Francis Thicke, an organic farmer based in Fairfield, Iowa, says the question of whether GMO testing should be required in organics leads to other questions about the need for a GMO tolerance in organics. "To establish a GMO-contamination threshold for certified organic products would literally require an act of Congress, and would certainly bring on a raucous debate," he says.

Former National Organic Standards Board chairman Jim Riddle says a GMO threshold in organics is needed to help organic farmers seek legal remedies for losses suffered due to GMO contamination (see The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February 2007).

Tool for detecting contamination levels

The issue of GMO testing in organic is complex, says Dag Falck, organic program manager at Nature's Path Foods, another organic food company that tests for GMOs. "It would not be congruent to simply add a requirement for GMO testing to organic standards," says Falck.

However, Falck believes that testing should be mandated in organic standards as a tool for detecting GMO contamination levels. "The only responsible 'practice' when it comes to effective elimination or significant reduction of GMOs includes the utilization of testing to determine where the contamination is present, and find out where it enters the organic systems. Without testing we cannot 'see' the contamination, and are left guessing if our efforts to remain GMO free are effective or not," he says.

Still, Falck believes adding a testing requirement to organic standards may be too much to ask since organic farmers and processors already face challenges with complex organic issues.

Seed contamination a problem

Shawn Matteson, certification coordinator for a Montana chapter of Organic Crop Improvement Association, says seed grown as organic should be tested to confirm it is non-GMO. "I don't think a non-GMO affidavit (stating that seed is non-GMO) is worth much unless the seed has been tested," she says.

Mary-Howell Martens, an organic farmer and grain buyer in Penn Yan, New York, also sees GMO problems emerging from seed grown as organic. According to the NOP, organic farmers can buy conventional seed if "commercial quantities" of organic seed are not available. "Growing organic corn from such seed will probably result in a crop that will have over 2% contamination," says Martens. Add this to later contamination that can easily result from pollen drift or commingling in grain handling, and the result is an organic crop containing a lot of GMOs.

"No idea where we stand"

Hunter believes GMO testing is "absolutely essential," but says farmers shouldn't bear the cost. "The cost has to be figured out without being on the backs of farmers. Perhaps some type of cost share," he says.

A good first step, says Hunter, would be to test representative samples using protein-based lateral flow strip tests, which are fast and inexpensive. "They can give you some idea of what you have with GMO levels," he says.

If positive results show, other methods such as DNAbased polymerase chain reaction (PCR) could be used to quantify contamination levels.

"At this point we have no idea where we stand. Without testing, something that is organic could be contaminated," says Hunter.

Ultimately, he says consumer demand could dictate the need for testing. "If consumers started demanding no GMOs, we would test no matter the inconvenience."