Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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October 22, 2003

GMO for profit - not a runner

The Co-op supermarket group, Britain's biggest farmer and the owner of the Co-operative Bank, imposed a ban on genetically modified ingredients across its businesses yesterday, 21 October, according to a report in The Guardian.

"We have listened to the experts on both sides of the debate. We have consulted our customers and members and evaluated available evidence," the Co-op said in a statement, "but, on the strength of current scientific knowledge, and the overwhelming opposition of our members, the Co-op is saying no to the commercial growing of GM crops in the UK."

This announcement comes just a few days after "British Scientists delivered a massive blow to the case for genetically modified crops when they showed in a trail-blazing study that growing them could harm the environment. Their findings, which will spark controversy around the world, are likely to present a serious obstacle to Tony Blair in his desire to bring GM technology to Britain," according to Michael McCarthy, The Independent's Environment Editor.

Monsanto, the principal proponent of GM seeds for growing food and other crops, seems to suffer from their insistence on this technology, which more and more appears to have been an economic faux pas. The company posted a US$ 188 million loss for the three months period ending August 31. Citing a "tough European seed market", Monsanto said it would close its European cereal business headquarters employing 125 people in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, in the UK.

Maybe Monsanto, instead of developing GM seeds as a sales aid for their toxic weedkillers, should have heeded the example of the Chinese, who seem to be developing GM varieties of common food plants, but more with a view to creating better food crops such as disease- or drought-resistant rice, wheat and potatoes.

Too late, no one wants GM at this stage, at least not the variety that is on offer. Some of the reasons for GM's apparent failure are pointed out in an article - Should we fear GE? - written by Dr. Robert Anderson of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics in New Zealand.

Activists in New Zealand will be presenting a petition - more than 50,000 signatures - to keep the country GE free, to Jeanette Fitzsimons, MP on 23 October. For information on the NZ situation, you can contact Susan Grimsdell.

Should we fear GE?

One thing is for sure, apart from the fear of terrorism the world's media is brimming with news of the latest biotech squabbles. Never a day goes by without some outcry, either from industry supporting or campaigners decrying an aspect of this formidable technology. The advances of biotechnology have been, for the most part, shrouded in secrecy punctuated by occasional media outbursts proclaiming such bizarre developments as "Dolly" the sheep. If 'sound science' is always touted as the yardstick for biotechnology then 'junk science' is relegated to their detractors.

"Environmentally friendly" has now become the avante-garde phrase used whether you are flaunting GE food or otherwise. How on earth can any plant, however genetically engineered, be "environmentally friendly?" Perhaps our creator overlooked that. What is environmentally friendly about "Terminator Seeds?" Seeds that are purposefully created to fail to reproduce their own kind after one season’s growth. Technologically brilliant but morally reprehensible. For thousands of years third world farmers - and indeed many in the West - have saved and shared their seeds with neighbours, perhaps this will herald in the "Rogernomics of farming?"

As the American export of GE crops collapses and consumers become more suspicious of GE foods their cry for labelling intensifies. Informed public discussion of the issues of labelling has been astutely avoided. Efforts to label these products here in New Zealand have been thwarted at every opportunity by the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA). Much the same pressures are being exerted in the UK and Europe. The UK Independent newspaper recently reported, "A leaked record of discussions at the highest level of the Bush administration shows that the proposals for an EU directive on labelling GM food are causing concern in the President's inner circle of most trusted advisers."

The leaked memo indicated that the US wanted Britain “to make the US case in the EU,” speculating that the US intended Britain to play “its usual role as a Trojan horse for US interests inside the EU.” As expected, Tony Blair rejected European plans to introduce labelling rules which would restrict the sale of GE foods. These must be the only products in the history of marketing over which there is a reluctance to label or advertise them.

The public, meanwhile, are assured they can look forward to all manner of fruit and veggies to deliver edible vaccines and medicines, cows milk to generate base myelin protein for MS sufferers and sheep producing proteins against cystic fibrosis. Quite apart from the fact that, in all the ‘Pharm’ animals so far, there is no prospect of curing these conditions(1), these fantasies continue unabated, as they have for the last 20 years, ramping up research finance and driving a rag-and-tag army of dissenters to distraction.

We have sufficient errors with standard medicine(2). How much more would accrue from using edible ones? A small overdose of the “edible vaccine” (generally not tested on babies) might easily have a fatal result. Thus handing out magic veggies to poor villages is not very sensible. No matter how advanced GE science becomes, there will always be a dose/response relationship, and the possibility of unintended consequences. Several biotech blunders should have served as salutary reminders of the experimental nature of this primitive science, calming the enthusiasm of these scientists playing god in a lab coat, but apparently to no avail.

Tobacco plants, engineered to produce gamma-linolenic acid, started producing a poisonous organic acid(3), or brewers yeast engineered to increase alcohol production gave rise to toxic methyl glyoxal (30 times higher than in none-GE’d variety) And we should not forget the famous L-Tryptophan debacle, which killed 37 people, left 1535 permanently crippled and another 5000 disabled.(4) These hazards clearly illustrate the danger of toxic side-products and untoward effects from these GE plants and organisms. Even stoic farmers are looking suspiciously at the vagaries of the technology. When thousands of acres of GE cotton un-expectedly dropped their bolls the farmers, understandably, were not impressed or when crops, designed to be herbicide resistant, died on being sprayed - not exactly the idea of the technology.

This genetic tinkering must be seen against the backdrop of the history of the biotech industry. It would be naïve to assume their concern is solely altruistic. Edible vaccines, cheap to produce will be touted as “essential for the poor of the third world.” The same spurious and tiresome claim as that spread for GE foods “to feed the starving millions.” If the IMF and World Bank, released the third world from its savage debt system they would be able to afford most medicines at present beyond their reach in any case. As Dr Egziabher, spokesman for Africa’s Biosafety Protocol negotiations, when asked about GE fighting hunger said: “It’s naive to imagine that plants and their highly efficient genepools, which have evolved over millions of years, can be improved by replacing or adding a new gene. Which is why so many genetic experiments go wrong.”

What people find the most intriguing is the fact that almost every aspect of the industry is wrapped in secrecy. Unlike other products that have come on to the consumer stage heralded with a fanfare of trumpets and advertising slogans these are surreptitiously slid under the consumers door - albeit with a smile and leaflet proclaiming their dubious benefits. Their constant cry that GE is more precise than breeding is becoming a distinctly doubtful claim.

Dr Robert Anderson
Member Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology

1. Steinmann L., Professor of neurology Stanford University "Human MBP can easily be made in bacteria by fermentation. There is no need to produce it in cows.." Also from Prof. Dick Wilkins at Waikato University, "Scientists find this experiment potentially embarrassing and damaging as the basic science behind the work simply would not stand up to review."

2. According to Canadian researchers, approximately 32,000 hospitalised patients (and possibly as many as 106,000) in the USA die each year because of adverse reactions to their prescribed medications. Source: Lazarou, J, Pomeranz, BH, Corey, PN, "Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalised patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies," Journal of the American Medical Association (Chicago, IL: American Medical Association, 1998), 1998;279:1200-1205, also letters column, "Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalised Patients,", JAMA (Chicago, IL: AMA, 1998), Nov. 25, 1998, Vol. 280, No. 20.

3. Octadectetratraenic acid.

4. Mayeno AN., and Gleich GJ., "Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome and tryptophan production: a cautionary tale" Tibtech, vol 12 1994. pp346-352

See also other articles on this site

Genetically Modified Organisms - Open Letter from World Scientists
PLANETNEWS broadcast... Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) The Open Letter from World Scientists is still growing; now up to 603 scientists from 72 different countries, . If you are a Scientist who...

US General Accounting Office says GMOs safe
The Life Sciences Network, a pro-GM, industry sponsored group, reports that the US General Accounting Office "has concluded that the health risks associated with genetically modified foods are equivalent to those posed by organic crops". This singular pronouncement, in stark...

Independent Science Panel on GM
Dozens of prominent scientists from seven countries, spanning the disciplines of agroecology, agronomy, biomathematics, botany, chemical medicine, ecology, histopathology, microbial ecology, molecular genetics, nutritional biochemistry, physiology, toxicology and virology, joined forces to launch themselves as an Independent Science Panel on...

Treaty on Trade in Biotech Organisms
The Treaty on Trade in Biotech Organisms, also known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty that protects the variety of life on Earth. The Cartagena Protocol just...

Are superweeds going to kill Monsanto?
After the Killer Tomatoes, now come Superweeds. As a matter of fact, it appears that pollen from genetically modified plants are spreading to the "poor cousins" of the plants being modified, the lowly weeds which were at the origin of...

Schmeiser's Battle for the Seed
Biotechnology giant Monsanto has been aggressively pursuing legal action against Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser for allegedly using its GM canola seeds without paying a $37-per-hectare fee for the privilege. Schmeiser says he never bought Monsanto's GM canola and has sued...

Biotech giants exploiting child labour
A recent report from India charges that cottonseed producers in India, including subsidiaries of the multinationals Unilever, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Advanta and Emergent Genetics, are employing child labour. Dr. Davuluri Venkateswarlu of Glocal Research and Consultancy Services says that up...

GMO - no thanks, say British
Britain has had its public consultation over the introduction of genetically modified foods and the growing of GM crops to produce them. The response was overwhelming as reported by The Independent's environment editor Michael McCarthy today. 85% of the...

GM crops like thalidomide say insurance companies
Major agricultural insurance companies are refusing to underwrite risks of genetically modified crops in what appears to be a prescient way of avoiding future losses. Comments from the insurers liken the hidden liabilities of genetic modification with the desaster of...

Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto

GM giant abandons bid to grow crops in Britain


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Wednesday October 22 2003
updated on Sunday November 21 2010

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