by Jill Davies - - March 16, 1999
From the Sanders County Ledger, Thompson Falls, Montana March 18, 1999

Why are foreign countries ready to start trade wars with the U.S. over the import of genetically engineered (GE) foods?

First, it is because of what goes in to the creation of a GE variety. Plants have elaborate defense mechanisms for dealing with foreign compounds, including foreign DNA. To overcome these defense mechanisms in order to insert a gene into the germ cell of a host plant, which will then grow into a plant with the desired trait, biologists have to construct what are called "vectors" which will carry the chosen gene into the host cell.

The vectors are constructed using pieces of DNA taken from virulent pathological organisms (virus, bacteria) because these organisms have the ability to overcome a cell's defense mechanisms. Generally, there are three parts to a vector: genes which carry the package into the cell and invade the DNA, genes called promoters which assure that the package is 'turned on', and genes for antibiotic resistance that are used as markers to help the biologist find the plant cells in which the insertion has been successful (a small percentage).

The concern is that these sections of DNA from pathological organisms will recombine to form active pathogens once again, either new ones, or old ones with renewed virulence, or with new (broader) host specificity; and that antibiotic resistance will continue to spread throughout the microbial world. This process, called "horizontal gene transfer" is already known to be the cause of the widespread antibiotic resistance in disease organisms that has emerged in the past decade, facilitated by the over-use of antibiotics.

Second, it is because the insertion of this gene package - a complex vector with the trait gene attached - into the DNA of the host plant can disrupt the functioning of the host's DNA. This can and does lead to 'freak' plants which supposedly are weeded out by the biotech company, but subtle chemical changes would be very difficult to detect, and the testing that is currently required is inadequate. What ignited the controversy last month in Britain, was the disclosure of a study (after it had been suppressed for 6 months) which tested GE potatoes that were engineered to express an insect toxin. This study was the first to carefully examine the chemical composition of the GE potatoes as compared to the regular potatoes. They found significant differences in levels of protein (20% less), starch, sugar, other enzymes.

Then they fed the potatoes to young rats for a time and examined the development of organs. They found impaired development in the intestine, pancreas, kidneys, liver, lungs and brain; an enlarged thymus, and a depressed immune response with evidence of intestinal infection. Third, it is because people don't want to eat a plant that expresses an insecticide in every cell, or a plant that can resist an herbicide so that more of the herbicide is sprayed on the field while the plant is growing, and these are what are now being widely grown. Corn, cotton and potatoes are engineered to express the Bt insecticide and soy is resistant to Monsanto's Roundup. - For More Information, contact Jill Davies. (

Thu, Mar 18, 1999

Monsanto Dairy Hormone May Be Carcinogenic - EU Vet

Committee LONDON (Dow Jones)--Milk from cows treated with a synthetic hormone produced by U.S.-based firms Monsanto Corp. (MTC) and Eli-Lily & Co. (LLY) may cause cancer, a key European Union veterinary committee has said.

Use of the hormone in dairy cows could also foster resistance to antibiotics and induce allergic reactions in humans, according to the E.U. Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health. The doubt cast upon the safety of synthetic bovine somatotropin (BST) by the E.U.-appointed scientists could mean the E.U. Commission will not lift the ban on sale of the product later this year. The ban on synthetic BST was imposed by the E.U. Commission some years ago due to similar health concerns. The E.U. scientists made their statement in a summary of a report obtained by Dow Jones Newswires Thursday. The full report is due to be published within the next few days.

The E.U. Commission will debate the report and use it as a basis for its decision on whether to renew the E.U. ban on synthetic BST. The deadline for renewal of the ban is Dec. 31, 1999.

Synthetic BST, which stimulates milk production in dairy cows, is produced by inserting genes >from cows into microscopic organisms, which then reproduce the hormone. It is widely used in U.S. dairy herds. Injection of the synthetic hormone into cows could mean consumers are exposed to "an increased relative risk of breast and prostate cancer" it was stated in the summary report.

The E.U. scientists said also that the increased use of antibiotics in cows treated with synthetic BST could lead to those antibiotics finding their way into milk and could foster the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

As the use of synthetic BST increases the risk of cows developing mastitis, a disease which causes the deterioration of cows' udders, cows treated with the hormone are typically given extra doses of antibiotics. An E.U. Commission agriculture official declined to comment on what impact the report could have on E.U. policy but he did say the summary of the report was 'vague' in its conclusions. * By Daniel Balint-Kurti 44-171-832-9561; (END)
DOW JONES NEWS 03-18-99 12:05 PM .......

Sunday Independent 21 March 99

Super-Viruses Threat To Farms
By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent

Genetically engineered crops, altered to be resistant to common plant viruses, risk creating new mutant strains of "super-viruses" which could wipe out entire farms, a damning research report commissioned by the Government has warned.

The report, ordered under the Government's Genetically Modified Organisms Research Programme, has found that plants engineered to be resistant to common viruses could in fact lead to the creation of more virulent strains which could spread throughout the British countryside. The report, prepared for the Department of the Environment by the Scottish Crop Institute, has been seized on by ecological campaigners as evidence that the countryside could be irrevocably damaged by introducing GM crops.

The report says that there is insufficient research to determine the long-term effects of introducing viral resistance. Environmentalists fear that indigenous plants could be wiped out by the new viruses created by genetic engineering. ......


International Scientific Committee Warns of Serious Risks of Breast and Prostate Cancer from Monsanto`s Hormonal Milk

March 22, 1999 CHICAGO, March 21 /PRNewswire/ via NewsEdge Corporation -- The following was released today by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chairman of The Cancer Prevention Coalition:

The European Commission (EC) has just released a report by its authoritative international 16-member scientific committee, based on meticulous scientific documentation, confirming excess levels of the naturally occurring Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) in milk of cows injected with Monsanto's biotech hormone (rBGH).

The report concludes that the excess levels of IGF-1 pose serious risks of breast and prostate cancer. "Experimental evidence for an association between IGF-1 and breast and prostate cancer is supported by epidemiological -- evidence arising from recently published cohort studies -- . "

The report also warns that excess levels of IGF-1 may promote the growth and invasiveness of any cancer by inhibiting programmed self-destruction of cancer cells (apoptosis), and that contamination of milk with residues of antibiotics used to treat mastitis in rBGH cows is likely to spread antibiotic resistant infections in the general population. The EC human health report finally emphasized the need for additional investigation of several other potential risks of rBGH milk. A parallel EC report also warns of serious veterinary risks of rBGH.

It may be noted that FDA has ignored such evidence reported in detail by the author in peer reviewed scientific publications over the last decade. The EC warnings are in sharp conflict with the policies of the Food and Drug Administration, largely based on unpublished and confidential Monsanto claims, that hormonal milk is safe.

As seriously, the report raises serious questions on the competence and conflicts of interest of Codex, the WHO organization responsible for setting international food safety standards, which has given an unqualified clean bill of health to rBGH milk. It should further be emphasized that senior FDA officials and industry consultants are members of Codex, which meets in secrecy and relies on unpublished industry assurances of safety. Interlocking relationships between U.S. and Canadian regulatory officials and Codex are matters of critical concern to U.S. consumers and global food safety.

Faced with escalating rates of breast and prostate cancers, besides other avoidable public health hazards, FDA should immediately withdraw its approval of rBGH milk whose sale benefits only Monsanto while posing major public health risks for the entire U.S. population. A Congressional investigation of FDA's abdication of responsibility and of its reliance on Codex authority for food safety, analogous to that recently conducted on rBGH milk by the Canadian Parliament, is well overdue.

SOURCE Dr. Samuel S. Epstein

CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, 312-996-2297/

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
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