Document Directory

20 Oct 99 - GMO - Europe says GM-free food labels need not tell truth
20 Oct 99 - GMO - Firms agree to extend GM crop ban
19 Oct 99 - GMO - Experts call for 'instinct' in GM debate
18 Oct 99 - GMO - Why GM safety is such a hot potato
18 Oct 99 - GMO - Scientists chide government over GM food policy
17 Oct 99 - GMO - Why Britain's scientific establishment got so ratty with a gentle boffin
16 Oct 99 - GMO - GM row scientists test new cancer treatment
15 Oct 99 - GMO - GM Safety Scientist Elated At Publication
11 Oct 99 - GMO - Monsanto Weedkiller `Wipes Out Beneficial Insects'
11 Oct 99 - GMO - 60-field target for GM crop trials
10 Oct 99 - GMO - US alarm grows over GM foods
10 Oct 99 - GMO - Scientists Revolt At Publication Of `Flawed' GM Study
07 Oct 99 - GMO - GM plant firm admits it used 'bully tactics'
06 Oct 99 - GMO - Genetically modified food comparable to nuclear power plant -- Wall Street
06 Oct 99 - GMO - Monsanto accused of GM 'bullying'
06 Oct 99 - GMO - Journal to publish GM food hazards research



20 Oct 99 - GMO - Europe says GM-free food labels need not tell truth

By Stephen Castle in Brussels

Independent ... Wednesday 20 October 1999


Europe agreed yesterday to allow food to contain up to 1 per cent of genetically modified material while still being labelled as GM-free.

The deal, agreed by a majority in an EU committee last night, came despite objections from two countries which argued that the threshold should be set much lower, perhaps at a level of 0.1 per cent.

The EU's standing committee on foodstuffs also agreed to apply the measures on GM-free food labelling to suppliers.

However moves to extend the same regulations and a similar labelling regime to foods marketed as additive or flavour-free were provoking more opposition last night.

Yesterday's decision was taken despite the fact that some big retailers, including Marks & Spencer, have already adopted a much lower threshold.

Environmental and consumer groups in the UK had been converging around the idea of a threshold of 0.1 per cent. But at yesterday's discussion Britain backed the 1 per cent ceiling, although it was in favour of reviewing the situation after a given period.

The European Commission argued that it already keeps the situation under review and, when the vote was taken, only Spain abstained although Portugal had earlier voiced doubts.

Under the agreed procedures the Commission can now bring forward a regulation bringing the measure into force without referring the issue back to the Council of Ministers.

The decision on additives and flavourings proved more divisive, with Ireland, Spain and France opposing.

Harry Hadaway, GM campaigner with the Soil Association, condemned the decision as a "licence to pollute " and said that the Government had gone against the public's wishes.

"This will not be good enough for consumers who want GM-free to mean what it says," he said. "The market will demand 100 per cent GM-free no matter what the EU decides. Retailers have realised this and their approach of starting at 0.1 per cent and trying to go to zero is much more more sensible."

Doug Parr, the campaigns director of Greenpeace, said no account had been taken of GM crops in animal feeds. "If consumers are concerned about the environment they should demand only animal products that have been fed on GM-free foodstuffs. Since the EU is not meeting consumer aspirations it is up to the supermarkets to fill the gap."

But a spokesman for the Government's GM Unit insisted that the 1 per cent limit applied to each ingredient, which would equate to a lower level in a finished product except in cases of single ingredient foods such as whole soya beans or popcorn.

"This is to protect restaurateurs and others required to label products, so that if they have made every effort to be GM-free but if there has been some accident, a GM content of up to 1 per cent in an ingredient will be tolerated."



20 Oct 99 - GMO - Firms agree to extend GM crop ban

By Marie Woolf, Political Correspondent

Telegraph ... Wednesday 20 October 1999


The voluntary ban on growing genetically modified crops in Britain is to be extended until 2002 in a deal struck between the Government and leading agro-chemical companies.

The deal, expected to be announced this week, will mean that no GM crops will be grown commercially in Britain until after the current field-scale trials are completed. Environmental groups, which have demanded a freeze on commercial GM planting in Britain, have cautiously welcomed the move, but say that they want to ensure that there is no loophole that will allow biotechnology companies to break the voluntary moratorium.

Peter Riley of Friends of the Earth said: "Any agreement between the biotechnology industry and Government has to be published so we can see the small print."

Opposition politicians have welcomed the deal but said that the moratorium represents a "climbdown " for the Government, and accused it of ignoring consumer doubts about GM food.

Tim Yeo, the Conservative agriculture spokesman, said: "The Government has finally recognised the weight of public opinion on this issue. They have recently been talking about commercial planting as early as next year. This is an important climbdown and shows that at last they are recognising that the environmental risks of GM crops are sufficiently serious to justify a three-year delay ."

Last year ministers persuaded biotechnology companies to agree not to go ahead with commercial planting for a year. But this one-year freeze is due to expire this month.

Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, has been negotiating with companies such as Agr-Evo and Monsanto for months to allow the Government to complete its programme of farm-scale trials before commercial planting starts. Whitehall sources said that some firms have been reluctant to back a three-year voluntary moratorium for fear of losing the commercial edge. But ministers have now persuaded industry that a voluntary ban is the best way to reassure consumers.



19 Oct 99 - GMO - Experts call for 'instinct' in GM debate

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Telegraph ... Tuesday 19 October 1999


Social scientists are calling on the Government to reassess its advisory system on genetically modified food, and stop blaming public fears on irrational ignorance .

The Politics of GM Food, a report based on the work of 11 "original and incisive" thinkers involved in Britain's largest social science research initiatives, says: "If anything, the public are ahead of many scientists and policy advisers in their instinctive feeling for a need to act in a precautionary way."

It attacks the Government for adopting a pro-GM position, urging it to take a neutral stance.

One of the report's contributors, Robin Grove-White of the University of Lancaster, said: "The regulatory system focuses on a narrow range of scientific problems, but public concerns cover a much broader range of issues. Many involve concerns about where we're heading, who's in charge and whether we can trust who's in charge."

The report says that "science cannot always provide definitive answers, so the policy of relying on claims of sound science may be unsound". Ethical, legal and political matters also have to be addressed.

Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, said the Government had already encouraged informal debate and increased openness.



18 Oct 99 - GMO - Why GM safety is such a hot potato

Roger Highfield and Aisling Irwin

Telegraph ... Monday 18 October 1999


Two leading journals have come under fire for sloppy contributions to the GM food debate

Take one GM potato. Subject it to a half-baked study, stir in a dollop of media overkill, spice with BSE angst and overripe comments from environmentalists.

No wonder that, when faced with a steaming plate of GM food, the public demands more than glib reassurances that it is safe . In the past few days, unease may have deepened with the publication of a critical comment article in the prestigious journal Nature.

Written by three social scientists, it says efforts to judge the safety of GM foods rest on shaky foundations. They claim that a "pseudo-scientific" concept - called substantial equivalence - is used by the biotechnology industry to excuse it from having to conduct wide-ranging safety tests of the kind routinely used for drugs.

Not surprisingly, the criticisms have stung the Paris-based OECD, which unveiled that concept in 1993, after two years of discussions by 60 experts from 19 countries. The Nature paper is, says Dr Peter Kearns, the OECD's Administrator for Biotechnology, based on erroneous assumptions and reaches misleading conclusions.

That leaves the Big Question, one facing all new foods: are they safe? Although clear-cut answers will prove elusive, the issue is worth airing for the light it sheds on how the Frankenfood furore is driven by a clash between "biofundamentalists" and "biopragmatists."

The fundamentalists see genetic modification as unnatural, while the pragmatists regard it as a refinement of traditional breeding methods. The former demand an absolute test of safety, the latter a relative test of safety (after all, no human activity is without risk). The former want evidence of no risk, the latter point out that science can only offer no evidence of risk.

The fundamentalists will find the public receptive to the seductive logic of a simple challenge to prove that GM food is safe. The pragmatists will find that the reasons food presents tricky problems for traditional toxicology are a PR liability. Nor are they helped by the fact that first-generation GM foods offer real benefits to farmer and food processor but little benefit to the consumer to offset any risk.

So why is there so much concern about this process? In GM, changes are made to the genetic blueprint of an organism, which consists of genes, each of which spells out the instructions to make a protein. By using genetic modification to turn off genes, or introduce genes from another organism, ripening can be delayed and traits added, such as herbicide resistance or enhanced nutritional benefit.

The catch is that the positioning of each new gene is essentially random, so that it may turn off or disrupt an existing gene. Fundamentalists say that, as a result, the overall effects of GM are more than adding a gene. They are unpredictable and could have subtle consequences, altering a plant's metabolism to create toxins or suppress nutrients.

Pragmatists point out that conventional plant breeding is a matter of combining sets of thousands of genes from parent plants, also with unknown effects. Breeders already check new potato varieties to see if they produce higher levels of toxic substances, such as glycoalkaloids.

The Nature paper attacks a pragmatic idea central to the current regulatory process used to assess GM food safety, a concept called "substantial equivalence" developed in response to the challenge of how to test novel foods.

The principle means that if a GM food can be characterised as substantially equivalent to the organism on which genetic modification was carried out, then it can be assumed to pose no new health risks. So sugar made from GM sugar beet is substantially equivalent to that made from conventional sugar beet because they are both absolutely pure chemical compounds. In the case of the GM potato, only if it could be identical to "normal potatoes" would it be regarded as "substantially equivalent" and as safe (remember that even the most "organic" potato contains glycoalkaloids).

But Dr Erik Millstone of Sussex University, Dr Eric Brunner of University College London and Dr Sue Mayer of GeneWatch say the concept of substantial equivalence has never been properly defined . "It is exactly this vagueness that makes the concept useful to industry but unacceptable to the consumer."

Dr Millstone said there were parallels with the experience of BSE, when it was claimed in the Eighties that beef was safe because the population had been exposed for many years to the equivalent sheep disease, scrapie, with no ill effects. "The BSE problem turned into a crisis in part because officials and ministers kept insisting that BSE was just like scrapie and therefore could pose no hazard. Once again we are being told that GM foods are just like non-GM foods ."

In short, he and his colleagues argue that substantial equivalence should not be used to justify the introduction of GM foods until the concept itself has been subject to scrutiny. "I am not arguing that all GM foods must always and indefinitely be tested to exhaustion, but I am arguing that if you start by assuming that known genetic and compositional differences are toxicologically insignificant you risk making serious mistakes," he said.

One of the rare attempts to test substantial equivalence was conducted by Dr Arpad Pusztai in his controversial potato experiments, he said. The significance of Dr Pusztai's studies remains in doubt and Dr Millstone called for more work. "Only after some toxicological and immunological studies have been conducted might it become possible for us to assess whether the hypothesised 'substantial equivalence' was justified."

Ideally, however, he said that substantial equivalence should be replaced "with a practical approach that would actively investigate the safety and toxicity of GM foods, rather than merely taking them for granted ".

This approach is costly. As Dr Millstone points out, treating each novel food like a new drug, pesticide or additive would have delayed its introduction to the marketplace by five years, cost around $25 million and limited intake to one per cent of the diet.

The reason for the latter restriction comes from the idea of acceptable daily intake, or ADI, applied to novel chemical compounds. An ADI is defined as one hundredth of the highest dose shown to be harmless. Thus, even if lab animals show no adverse effects when given GM food, the intake could never exceed one per cent - highly restrictive when biotechnology companies hope to use GM to boost yields of the world's staple foods.

GM food pragmatists are less worried by the above considerations than fundamental difficulties with this approach: save for the most blatantly toxic GM food, it is difficult to feed animals enough to highlight its effects. Even if you did, their diet would be so abnormal that they would be malnourished and the conclusions would be unlikely to be meaningful.

The effects of GM can be small, altering trace levels of proteins in a tomato, for example. To test the toxic threshold of the GM fruit could require scientists to feed a rat hundreds of tomatoes. "It became clear that the results of traditional toxicological testing on whole foods could often lead to misleading results," said Dr Peter Kearns of the OECD.

Fundamentalists would then argue that by failing to do this, the tomato had not been adequately tested. Pragmatists would reply that if large amounts are OK, the food cannot reasonably be called toxic.

Why not ask for toxicological tests just to be on the safe side? Regulators resist this because it means boosting the number of animal experiments, an unpopular move that could be afforded only by larger corporations.

Instead, regulators settled on the idea of substantial equivalence. Dr Kearns stressed that it "is not in itself a substitute for safety assessment. It is a guiding principle, or concept, which is intended to be a useful tool."

This point was echoed by one of the scientists who has used the concept, Prof Derek Burke, former chairman of the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods. He is furious that the Nature paper presents the idea of substantial equivalence as a cop-out for the biotechnology industry. The paper provides an inaccurate caricature of substantial equivalence, which is merely a tool to help regulators to ask appropriate questions. The Nature paper is over the top, out of date and wrong on specific points, he claimed.

A spokesman from the Cabinet Office also dismissed the paper, pointing out that its authors were not experts in the GM field and "do not seem to have understood how our very strict safety assessment process works". Britain has one of the toughest regulatory systems. "No GM food is approved unless our top scientific advisers are 100 per cent certain that it is as safe as its conventional counterpart. Years of research and up to 60 experts have to be completely satisfied before approval can be granted."

The pragmatists add that people across the planet eat a vast range of foods that have never been subject to safety tests. Indeed, consumers are sanguine about the dangers of undercooked kidney beans and green potatoes. Unlike GM food, the risks of conventional food are all too easy to quantify: GPs see about 100,000 cases of food poisoning each year, and the actual toll is considerably greater.



18 Oct 99 - GMO - Scientists chide government over GM food policy

Mark Tran

Guardian ... Monday 18 October 1999


The government should not treat the public as stupid and ignorant on the issue of genetically modified foods , a group of scientists said today in a report critical of the way Labour handles the GM food issue.

The economic and social research council, a team of government-funded scientists, said the government had underestimated the intelligence of the public over GM foods and that many people now believed it was biased in GM's favour.

The council said the public understood the issues surrounding GM technology - both the benefits and the risks - and it was time for the government to assess the "big questions" of GM, not just the narrow technological issues.

"Science can't answer all the questions," the council said. "People have very sophisticated and sensible attitudes towards these kind of risks. You shouldn't assume they are ignorant or ill-informed, " said the scientists. "We just believe that policy-makers, regulators, should treat what the public are saying seriously and tread cautiously. Carefully weigh up all of these risks and do it sensibly."

Research shows, the report said, that individuals do not have one opinion about biotechnology, but conflicting and variable views about different uses for GM technology. However, in the light of BSE, people are unwilling to accept familiar-sounding reassurances about safety.

"If anything, the public are ahead of many scientists and policy advisors in their instinctive feeling for the need to act in a precautionary way," said Alistair Scott, assistant director of the council's global environmental change programme.

The report urges the government to broaden their initial tentative steps to be more inclusive in decision making on issues like GM food by using conferences, citizens' juries, focus groups and deliberative polls. "Only then is public acceptance of any risks involved likely to be much greater and subsequent backlashes avoided."

Environment minister Michael Meacher defended the government's GM policy in the face of the report's criticisms.

"I certainly very strongly support openness, transparency, involving the public, bringing them into our confidence, telling them what we are doing, why we are doing it and asking them their opinion," he said. "But that of course is what we are trying to do: we have encouraged informal debate, we have increased the openness of the government's advisory committee... We do realise there are uncertainties, particularly about the effect of genetic modification on bio-diversity, on wildlife in the countryside. That is exactly why we have set up the farm scale evaluations, a four-year programme to find out the facts and the truth."



17 Oct 99 - GMO - Why Britain's scientific establishment got so ratty with a gentle boffin

Robin McKie

Observer ... Sunday 17 October 1999


Arpad Pusztai has been vilified and ridiculed for his research on GM foods. It has all the hallmarks of a cover-up. Big business, research chiefs and politicians quietly co-operate on a major scientific programme but ignore the dangers to the public. Then a brave, solo whistle-blower sounds a warning blast. For his pains, he is sacked and vilified. Only later is he vindicated .

It could be a script for a Hollywood biopic - at least, if you believed the standard version of events surrounding the Lancet 's publication last week of Arpad Pusztai's paper on the dangers of genetically modified foods.

Life is never that neat, however. A fusillade of qualifications, reservations and criticisms from the nation's foremost scientists have also accompanied Pusztai's revelations on the effects of feeding genetically modified potatoes to rats (largely ignored or played down by our anti-GM press). Professor Ray Baker, head of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council denounced the Lancet for being 'irresponsible' for publishing an 'unworthy' paper, and the Nobel laureate Sir Aaron Klug, president of the Royal Society, attacked the journal for giving Pusztai's paper an 'authenticity it does not deserve'.

One of the scientists who refereed the study, Professor John Pickett, of the Institute of Arable Crop Research, lashed out at the Lancet for publishing despite his rating the paper as an inadequate shambles.

Character attacks of such ferocity do not normally feature in popular heroic fiction, and show that the story of Arpad Pusztai defies easy attempts to pigeon-hole him. The 69-year-old scientist, who worked for 36 years had at the highly regarded Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, is both the most vilified and the most lionised scientist of recent history. The real question is: how did this mild-mannered, gifted researcher end up at the centre of one of the most extraordinary scientific furores of our time? As he puts it himself: 'I have ended up in no man's land. It is not a comfortable place to be.'

Pusztai is a small, intense individual with an attractive, self-deprecating sense of humour. (His website sports a photograph of him taking revenge on a potato - by peeling it.) The son of a Hungarian resistance hero, he fled to Britain in 1956 when the uprising against the Soviet Union failed. He had already begun to make a name for himself as a plant biologist, however, and was given a Ford Fellowship. He could have studied anywhere in the world, but chose Britain, ironically because he thought the country was a tolerant place to live.

He was recruited to the Rowett Institute by the Nobel chemistry prize winner Richard Synge and steadily built up a reputation as an expert on naturally occurring chemicals called lectins. He published 270 papers and three books. Then, as he was preparing to wind up a distinguished career, Pusztai's group of researchers - which included his wife Dr Susan Bardocz - decided to bid for a Scottish Office contract to study the effects of GM foods. In the face of strong competition from other research groups, his team won. The victory has haunted him ever since.

Pusztai and his colleagues began putting a special type of lectin, made by snowdrops to deter sap-sucking insects, into potatoes. This was done either by persuading the potato, through genetic engineering, to make lectin on its own, or by simply adding the lectin directly to the potato. The end result was then fed to rats.

Pusztai believed his experiments showed that the genetically modified versions were more harmful to rodents than standard lectin-doped potatoes. In other words, that something in the process of genetic modification itself was causing damage. However, by 1998 the group's funds were running out and so Pusztai agreed to appear on an ITN's World in Action to help attract funds.

It was during this programme that Pusztai dropped his bombshell: GM foods were harming his rats, he said, and this indicated that the public was being used as 'unwitting guinea pigs' by the food industry . The outburst made headlines round the country. The first GM foods were then appearing in our stores.

Rowett chiefs were furious and Pusztai was suspended and forced to retire early to his modest semi-detached house in an Aberdeen suburb before his work was reviewed by a panel of institute scientists and denounced as 'unpublishable'.

Since then, Pusztai's work has been ridiculed by the Royal Society, derided by the government chief scientist Sir Robert May, and now - following its publication - given a second round of abuse.

Part of his problem lies with the nature of his work. While virtually all other campaigners have stressed the environmental dangers of growing 'Frankenstein' foodstuffs, Pusztai was the first senior scientist to question their safety and to challenge the assertion that GM and non-GM foods were 'substantially equivalent' . In doing so, he became invaluable to green groups to whom GM foods have become anathema. He has been used, in other words.

But has Pusztai actually proved GM foods are dangerous? Most researchers think not. As May pointed out: 'If you mix cyanide with vermouth in a cocktail and find that it is not good for you, I don't draw sweeping conclusions that you should ban all mixed drinks.'

In other words, lectins - which are toxic - will always show up badly when given to animals. They were not the ideal compound to use when trying to expose the limitations of genetic modification techniques.

In addition, his study contains no indication, despite his remarks on TV, that his GM potatoes actually caused harm to rats. It is merely noted in the Lancet paper that some changes in the lining of their guts occurred.

Many scientists say these could have been caused by the potatoes - which produce sometimes harmful glycoalkaloids - or could have been influenced by the fact that the rats in the study were undernourished. 'This study is certainly not a vindication of Pusztai,' says Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet. 'However, it was important to get it into the public arena.' It is a point backed by the Cabinet Office, where May is based. It also noted - rather triumphantly - that the work most certainly does not prove the Hungarian researcher was right all along. So how did Pusztai end up embroiled in such controversy? Yes, he has been manipulated by interested parties, but he is also the victim of another major problem that besets modern science. He was persuaded to appear on television to attract funding and so spilt the beans about a project that had not been 'peer reviewed', in other words had not been checked with his counterparts.

Had this been done, Pusztai might not have been in the position he now finds himself. His study's flaws would have been quietly, not loudly, pointed out to him.

'This sort of thing has happened before,' said Baker. 'Cold fusion, in which energy was supposed to be obtained from a glass of water, was promoted 10 years ago in the same rushed way and it has come to nothing as well.

'Again, the scientists involved have suffered. In the case of Pusztai, he was running out of grant, and was facing retirement, but he didn't want to leave, so he rushed to get publicity. Now he is paying the price.'



16 Oct 99 - GMO - GM row scientists test new cancer treatment

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent

Independent ... Saturday 16 October 1999


The two scientists at the heart of the row over the safety of genetically modified food now claim they are developing a treatment for cancer .

Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Stanley Ewen, whose paper suggesting that eating GM potatoes damaged rats' stomachs was published in The Lancet on Friday, are involved in a project at Bergen University in Norway which is looking into the possibility of treating cancer with a protein derived from mistletoe. The substance, lectin, is also used in genetic modification.

Dr Pusztai, who has published some 270 scientific papers, is acknowledged as the world's leading authority on lectins . The Bergen research is examining whether lectin from mistletoe will effectively attack tumours if fed orally to rats. Lectin is already injected to treat leukaemia in Germany.

The Roman historian Pliny, writing in the first century AD, noted that the Druids used mistletoe "to disperse tumours".

Dr Ewen said that the team had already published one paper on their work and was now in the middle of a new three-year study. Dr Pusztai was working on it, at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, when he was forced into retirement last year after briefly mentioning his work on GM foods on television, with the institute's permission.

Publication of the paper caused a row between The Lancet, the world's oldest medical journal, and the Royal Society, Britain's most august scientific institution.

A commentary by the journal's editor, Richard Horton, concluded: "Berating critics rather than engaging them and criticising reports of research, as the Royal Society did with the Pusztai data, before those data were reviewed and published in the proper way will only intensify public scepticism about science and scientists."



15 Oct 99 - GMO - GM Safety Scientist Elated At Publication

By Patricia Reaney

Reuters ... Friday 15 October 1999


The scientist at the center of an international uproar for raising safety concerns about genetically modified (GM) food said he hoped the publication of his work in a leading medical journal would lead to more research and tests.

Dr Arpad Pusztai stood by his claims that the effects of GM potatoes need to be looked at more closely and said the decision by The Lancet to publicize the data Friday added respectability to his research. "I wouldn't be human if I said I didn't feel elated," he told BBC radio, adding that he felt he had been wronged by the scientific community. "What is important is that we are talking about the issue. I hope it will be a sort of push in the right direction. These things need to be tested."

Pusztai was sacked from his job at Scotland's Rowett Institute and ostracized by many other scientists more than a year ago for publicly voicing his concerns about GM foods before his research was published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In a research letter in The Lancet, Pusztai and Stanley Ewen, a pathologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said the studies of rats fed GM potatoes containing a protein called lectin -- which is found in the snowdrop and increases the plant's resistance to pests -- had harmful effects on the animals' internal organs.

EXPERT ADVISERS

Six expert advisers reviewed the research before it was accepted by The Lancet. The majority agreed it deserved to be published but two criticized the study, saying it was incomplete, lacked adequate controls and did not support the conclusions reached by Pusztai and Ewen. Harry Kuiper and his colleagues at the Netherlands State Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products reached a similar conclusion. "The results are difficult to interpret and do not allow the conclusion that the genetic modification of potatoes accounts for adverse effects in animals," they said in a commentary on the research.

Lancet editor Richard Horton defended the decision to publish but said it was "absolutely not a vindication" of Pusztai's earlier claims, which were discredited by Britain's prestigious science academy, the Royal Society.

"In fact we've seen already in the past 24 hours that his earlier claim that GM foods could stunt the growth of rats has had to be withdrawn and I think this is one very important beneficial effect of putting this paper through careful peer-review publication," he told the BBC.

Horton said there was genuine scientific difference of opinion and more research needs to be done to confirm or refute what he called very preliminary and findings that could not be generalized.

"We are at the bottom of a very steep learning curve of research. We're only in the foothills," Horton added.

The Royal Society stood by its earlier criticism of the research and slammed The Lancet's decision to publish it.

"The Royal Society would not have published this paper...since it confirms the society's original judgement that the experiments on which this paper is based were flawed," its president Sir Aaron Klug said in a statement.">

15 Oct 99 - GMO - Claims of unsafe GM potatoes contested

By Nigel Hawkes, Science Editor

Times ... Friday 15 October 1999


A new dispute over genetically modified food has erupted over a decision by The Lancet to publish a paper claiming that they are unsafe.

The research, by Dr Arpad Pusztai, at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, claims to show that rats fed on modified potatoes suffered intestine damage , and that the segment of genetic material responsible is present in genetically modified foods already on sale .

The Royal Society restated its view that the Pusztai experiments were flawed and did not bear the interpretation that he and a colleague, Dr Stanley Ewen, of Aberdeen University, had put on them.

Several reviewers used by The Lancet to check the paper in the normal "peer review" process reached the same conclusion, as does a commentary in the journal by a team from Wageningen University in The Netherlands, a leading centre of agricultural research. Dr Harry Kuiper and colleagues conclude that the results "do not allow the conclusion that the genetic modification of potatoes accounts for adverse effects in animals".

The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, said that by publishing the results they are open to criticism and debate.



11 Oct 99 - GMO - Monsanto Weedkiller `Wipes Out Beneficial Insects'

Staff Reported

Independent ... Monday 11 October 1999


The world's biggest-selling weedkiller, the chemical glyphosate, is facing a European ban after a confidential European Union report showed that it also kills beneficial insects and spiders .

A ban would be a blow to the US group Monsanto, which produces most of the world's supply, usually under the name Roundup . It is central to the group's production of genetically engineered seeds, as Roundup- ready seeds are able to withstand the weedkiller.

Research at Orebro hospital in Sweden also suggests a higher risk of a cancer called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in those exposed to glyphosate.

In Channel 4 News tonight it is revealed that a confidential EU report says glyphosate should not be approved for use in Europe. EU advisers believe more research is needed.

At the moment each European state can decide which weedkillers it approves, and all have approved glyphosate. But with EU harmonisation on pesticide and herbicide expected in the next two years, advisers have begun evaluating which should be prohibited.

The report, one of several that will form the basis of harmonisation, reviewed evidence and concluded that after glyphosate is used on crops, "harmful effects" on arthropods " cannot be excluded". Itsays the chemical should not be included on a list of approved substances pending more study.

David Buffin of the Pesticides Trust, which campaigns against pesticide use, said glyphosate presented a high risk to certain insects and spiders considered beneficialbecause they kill harmful crop pests. "If you are knocking off the beneficials, it may result in an increase in the insect pests and you have to go in with a fairly invasive insecticide," said Mr Buffin.

Monsanto said it would be "improper" to comment, but the company said that the World Health Organisation had said glyphosate was not carcinogenic.



11 Oct 99 - GMO - 60-field target for GM crop trials

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Monday 11 October 1999


A sharp rise in the number of fields to be planted with experimental genetically modified crops next year will be agreed by scientists today, but the number will be far smaller than activists have claimed. No more than 60 large fields are needed to prove whether GM crops harm wildlife, scientists have decided.

The Government has insisted, despite attacks by anti-GM campaigners, that it is committed to an expansion of its farm-scale trials. The trials are aimed at studying the environmental impact of GM plants.

Some green campaigners have alleged that each of the crops - spring-sown oil seed rape, winter oil seed rape and forage maize - is to have between 50 and 80 fields. But Chris Pollock, of the Institute of Grassland and Environ-mental Research and chairman of the Scientific Steering Committee for Farm Scale Evaluations, dismissed such high figures as nonsense.



10 Oct 99 - GMO - US alarm grows over GM foods

By David Wastell in Washington

Telegraph ... Sunday 10 October 1999


American consumers are finally waking up to the international controversy over genetically modified food, with members of Congress joining a growing clamour for compulsory labelling and leading companies searching for alternative ingredients for some products.

In a country where 70 per cent of the items on supermarket shelves have some kind of GM content, there are signs that American shoppers are gradually taking up the concerns over GM food that have swept Britain and Europe.

With half of American corn and one third of its soya beans containing transplanted genes, most of the country's best-known household products would be at risk if a consumer backlash took hold - from Coca-Cola to tomato ketchup, breakfast cereals to cake mixes.

Until recently, most American consumers were oblivious to the fact that they routinely eat and drink artificially-altered combinations of genes. But recent publicity, including last week's high-profile climbdown by the American company Monsanto on plans to insert a so-called "terminator gene" into its cornseed, is leading to a sharp increase in awareness.

It has led to farmers across America's corn-growing heartlands wondering whether the bumper crops they are harvesting - at least half of them from genetically-engineered seed - will be worth growing in the same form again. A Gallup poll published in America last week surprised many in the food industry by finding that 68 per cent of adults surveyed wanted labelling of food that contained GM ingredients.

Tom Hoban, sociology professor at North Carolina State University, who has been tracking public opinion on the subject for the past 10 years, said the survey showed awareness had risen sharply over the past six months - from one third of Americans saying they had heard either "some" or "a great deal" about it earlier this year, to 50 per cent being aware of the issues last month.

Environmentalists in America have been encouraged by the fact that 27 per cent said that they believed that foods produced using bio-technology posed "a serious hazard" to consumers, although it is a figure that is well short of concern in Europe.

A flurry of articles in American newspapers and magazines, from Time to the Wall Street Journal, has contributed to the changing climate. Criticism has been heightened since earlier this year when a laboratory study at Cornell University found evidence that pollen from GM corn can kill the larvae of the popular monarch butterfly.

Mark Whiteis-Helm, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said: "Most Americans don't know that they are eating GM foods. They are the subject of a massive experiment and they are not aware of it. We are making it our business to let them know about it."

Greenpeace revealed on Friday that two products made and sold in America by Quaker Oats contained ingredients from GM crops, although most Americans said in a survey that they did not believe that such a food manufacturer would do so. In the same survey, 41 per cent of consumers said they would not buy labelled GM foods.

A small but growing number of companies are taking steps to avoid using GM ingredients . Heinz, which took action in Europe to exclude GM ingredients from all its foods before the recent scares, is eliminating them from baby foods sold in America, following a rival baby food manufacturer, Gerber.

In America, GM crops are regarded as identical to conventional crops unless their composition has been substantially changed. But a cross-party group of Congressmen, led by David Bonior, a Democratic party whip from Michigan, wrote to the US Food and Drugs Administration on Friday urging compulsory labelling .

Mr Bonior said: "It is particularly disconcerting that the effect of recombining the DNA for nearly 70 per cent of all foods in US stores is essentially unknown." Charles Margulis, a Greenpeace spokesman, said: "It is a myth that attitudes in the US are different. The biggest difference is awareness, and that is changing. The more people know, the less they want to buy it ."



10 Oct 99 - GMO - Scientists Revolt At Publication Of `Flawed' GM Study

Staff reporter

Independent ... Sunday 10 October 1999


The study that sparked the furore over genetically modified food has failed the ultimate test of scientific credibility.

Research purporting to show that rats suffer ill-health when fed GM potatoes has been judged as seriously flawed and unworthy of being published by a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Referees used by The Lancet, one of Britain's leading medical journals, to review the research have found that it has failed to prove a link between GM potatoes and intestinal disorders in the rats.

The referees - all experts in their own fields who judged the work independently of each other - found the study to be defective in design, execution and interpretation.

Despite their assessments, however, The Lancet has decided to go ahead and publish the study this week, on the grounds that publication of even flawed research could be in the public interest.

However its editor, Richard Horton, faces a revolt by his own referees - who usually remain anonymous - if he does not make it clear that the results of the study by Dr Arpad Pusztai and Professor Stanley Ewen was deemed to be deeply flawed and its conclusions highly speculative and unsubstantiated.

One referee, Professor John Pickett, an authority on plant chemistry, is so outraged by the journal that he has decided to voice his concerns in public.

"It is a very sad day when a very distinguished journal of this kind sees fit to go against senior reviewers," said Professor Pickett, the head of biological and ecological chemistry at the government's Institute of Arable Crops Research at Rothamsted near Harpenden in Hertfordshire.

Another Lancet referee, who wished to remain anonymous, said it would be wrong to publish the conclusions of Dr Pusztai and Professor Ewen because they amount to "wild speculation" which cannot be supported by the data.

Professor Ewen, a pathologist at the University of Aberdeen, and Dr Pusztai, who worked on plant toxins at the nearby Rowett Research Institute before retiring last year, claim that the intestinal linings of rats fed GM potatoes become thickened and inflamed , which they did not observe in control rats fed ordinary potatoes.

However, The Lancet's referees strongly dissented from these conclusions. "The only thing they have shown is that rats fed raw potatoes do not do very well . It has nothing to do with GM, it is simply that raw potatoes are not very nutritious," said one.

Professor Pickett agreed: "I had seen the data and how inadequate it was in terms of tackling the question in hand. I was very critical of the work because it is a shambles really. Rats don't eat raw potatoes very well and half way through they realised this and decided to boil the potatoes."

Another reviewer found that the statistics used by Professor Ewen and Dr Pusztai were inadequate, that their methodology was flawed and their analysis incorrect. "If this was a PhD thesis, I'd reject it," he said.

The fact that The Lancet intends to publish the research has been hailed by environmentalists as dramatic vindication of Dr Pusztai's claims about the health effects of GM food. However, the Royal Society, the eminent body of scientists, is preparing this week to counter the claims that publication in The Lancet confers respectability.

"If they publish without any disclaimer or without making clear the reservations of the reviewers then we would take a very serious view of it," said Steven Cox, the Royal Society's executive secretary.

John Gatehouse, a scientist at Durham University who once worked with Dr Pusztai on the rat experiments, has written to The Lancet expressing his concerns about the "unsupported assertions" and "anecdotal" nature of the results. He says the conclusion that GM plants cause some undefined health problem is "simply unscientific; it is the attitude of the medieval witchcraft trials".

Another scientist who has seen the research, Professor Martin Chrispeels of the University of California at San Diego, said: "This isn't science. It wouldn't be published in a serious plant biology journal. Their conclusion is not correct."

Professor Ewen said that if his paper has been accepted for publication then it must mean that the referees' criticisms have been addressed. "Before a paper is published you will have to have satisfied the referees, that's a prerequisite." Professor Ewen said. "It is a matter for the editor of The Lancet. Why is he publishing it if he thinks that it hasn't satisfied the referees?"

Dr Horton was unavailable for comment.



07 Oct 99 - GMO - GM plant firm admits it used 'bully tactics'

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Thursday 7 October 1999


The head of Monsanto admitted frankly for the first time yesterday that his company had been using bully-boy tactics, high-handedness and "arrogance" in the way it had been promoting GM crops and foods across the world.

During a debate, Lord Melchett, the head of Greenpeace, accused Robert Shapiro, chief executive of the biotechnology company, of being a "bully".

Mr Shapiro conceded that his company had "irritated and antagonised more people than we have persuaded" . He said his company's confidence in GM crops had come across as "condescending and arrogant" .

Mr Shapiro, speaking to an audience in London organised by Greenpeace, signalled a more conciliatory approach in which dialogue with farmers and green groups in the west and the developing world rather than a bunker mentality would now rule at his corporation.

"If I am a bully I do not feel a very successful bully," he said on a live video link from America.

Lord Melchett said just as the countryside and its wildlife were starting to recover from years of intensive agriculture, companies like Monsanto were poised to wreck this renaissance with a technology that no one wanted but them.

He threw down the gauntlet to Mr Shapiro to join Greenpeace in creating a "true life science company" where organic agriculture rather than GM ruled.

But Mr Shapiro, in a less than conciliatory response, cited the findings from a Gallup poll in America this week which he said shows that well-informed, college graduates familiar with the benefits of GM were in favour of its use.

And said that it was only among the ill-educated, manual workers, that there was suspicion and opposition.

However he did signal a change in direction for Monsanto where GM technology may take second place to a new form of science called genomics.

Genomics, a form of molecular rather than genetic engineering, attempts to encourage desirable traits in plants by manipulating the plant itself rather than by transferring in genes from other life forms. Monsanto has held talks on genomics with the Soil Association

A scathing attack on the way governments are approving GM foods was made yesterday by scientists who say that the public was being used as guinea-pigs to prove whether the foods are safe .

British scientists claimed that current safety stamps were almost meaningless and should be abandoned in favour of rigorous toxicological studies such as those used to approve drugs and pesticides.

Until these are carried out, no one can safely say that GM foods are not harming peoples' health, the scientists claim. They say the Government is sacrificing public health to the interests of the biotechnology industry.

At the heart of the scientists' concerns is a system known as "substantial equivalence". Governments, under pressure from the biotechnology companies in the early 1990s to give the foods the green light, chose this method for approving GM foods as safe to eat. The system is based on the notion that GM crops are scarcely different from traditional crops and that the proteins produced will also be similar.



06 Oct 99 - GMO - Genetically modified food comparable to nuclear power plant -- Wall Street

Paul Jacobs

Los Angeles Times ... Wednesday 6 October 1999


A storm of protest against genetically engineered foods by foreign governments and consumers has reached U.S. shores , leading some experts to predict that agricultural biotechnology could go the way of nuclear energy--falling out of favor because of public fears and unfavorable economics.

Critics say the industry erred by rushing products with unknown health or environmental side effects to market before the public was ready and harnessing the technology to help farmers and food distributors rather than creating obvious benefits for consumers. Even industry leaders acknowledge that a protest movement launched in Europe and Asia is having a telling effect in the U.S., bringing threats of a global trade war and stalling the introduction of a new wave of genetically altered crops with improved nutritional benefits.

Agricultural biotech has been a victim of its own success. Five years after the first genetically engineered crop won federal approval, transformed foods are everywhere--more than half the soybeans planted in the U.S. this year and 30% of the corn are from biotech seeds. Oils and sweeteners derived from these crops are ingredients in a host of processed foods such as soft drinks, tortilla chips and French fries.

But the protests may even lead to a rollback of what's already been done: The American Corn Growers Assn. has urged its members to consider using non-genetically modified seeds next year. "Agriculture has been sold a bill of goods about how great genetically modified seeds would be," said the association's chief executive, Gary Goldberg. "We're sure as hell not going to grow a product the customer doesn't want."

The backlash has been noticed on Wall Street too, where doubts are being raised about the viability of ag biotech .

For months, analysts Timothy Ramey and Frank J. Mitsch at Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown have been arguing that "GMOs genetically modified organisms are dead ."

In May, Ramey correctly identified the emergence of a two-tier market for grain in which improved grains would sell for less than traditional hybrids. Two months later, he asked, "Are GMOs safe, good for the environment and necessary to support the inevitable growth in the world's population? Yes, but the same arguments can be made for advancing nuclear power. Despite the support of the scientific community, it is unlikely that we will add any new nuclear power plants any time soon."

Other analysts also see problems ahead. "We like biotech genetic engineering long-term because it is a very useful tool and eventually science will win out," said Paine-Webber's Andrew Cash. "But in the immediate future, the only thing investors care about is perception..... There is a big, dark cloud over those stocks right now."

The heart of the argument against genetically altered crops is that too little is known about them.

"There need to be long-term studies of the environmental and health effects, which there haven't been," said Charles Margulis, who heads Greenpeace's U.S. efforts to ban genetically modified crops.

Activists from around the country, after a meeting in Bolinas in Northern California in July, have now drafted a list of demands: the labeling of all products derived from genetically engineered crops or animals, an improved system for assessing health hazards , an end to the patenting of plants and animals, and strict corporate liability for damages caused by these products.

The activists aren't alone in their criticism of the industry. Among the most prominent critics of the big companies is Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, the nonprofit organization that helped bring about the so-called Green Revolution by promoting high-yield hybrid seeds and improved growing methods to feed the developing world.

Conway fears a growing mistrust of biotechnology, and he faults the corporations that introduced the first altered crops for failing to respond. "As a result of the reaction against what they are doing and the way they are doing it, we may lose the benefits of the technology," Conway said.

This summer, he took his complaints to the board of directors of Monsanto, a major supplier of genetically engineered crops. "The rush to get products to market," he told board members, who had invited him to speak, "has led to mistakes, misunderstanding and a backlash against plant technology."

EUROPEAN PROTESTS SPREAD TO U.S.

"We think these foods are perfectly safe, but European consumers don't get it yet and we are going to lose sales," conceded Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which is beefing up its public relations and lobbying efforts to defend its ag biotech members. The backlash "is not going to kill the industry," he said. "It is going to slow it down."

Even though no ill effects from modified foods have been reported, protests overseas are having an impact in the U.S.:

* Exporters are asking farmers to separate their genetically modified grains when they reach the silo to satisfy overseas customers who reject biotech crops.

* Like their counterparts in Europe, environmental extremists have been mowing down and uprooting test crops . In recent weeks these self-styled green vigilantes have struck fields at UC campuses in Berkeley and Davis.

* U.S. trade officials are bracing for a fight with Europe over biotech crops in what could become a replay of an earlier battle over a European ban on American beef from hormone-treated cattle.

The Clinton administration has been fighting to remove what it regards as arbitrary trade barriers that block access to overseas markets, including attempts to banish genetically modified crops. When World Trade Organization negotiations open in Seattle next month, the U.S. will back rules "that allow for the use of these technologies," said U.S. trade ambassador Peter L. Scher.

The U.S. does not oppose labeling of genetically modified products, said Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, as long as "whatever labeling is scientifically based and would not arbitrarily close doors to our products."

American consumers, unaware of how quickly genetically modified commodities have slipped into the food supply, may well wonder why the fuss.

Company officials and federal regulators admit that there are potential hazards in manipulating plant genes, but nothing like the claims of "Frankenstein foods" that make daily headlines in Britain.

"There's a real lack of understanding of the extent of analysis we do to establish safety," said Roy Fuchs, Monsanto's director of regulatory science for plant biotechnology. Before introducing a product, the company subjects the altered crop to a battery of tests to ensure that the new traits are not toxic and are unlikely to cause allergic reactions, he said.

But environmentalists point out that the system essentially leaves safety in the hands of a few major seed companies, subsidiaries of multinational corporations such as Monsanto, Novartis and Du Pont.

After researchers at Cornell this spring reported that the pollen from genetically engineered corn could kill Monarch butterfly larvae, the Monarch became the symbol for the movement to outlaw all biotech crops.

The industry has launched a counteroffensive, citing scientists who believe the Cornell experiments were conducted under conditions never seen in the field. They argue that the insect-killing proteins in the corn, taken from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, or "Bt," are less harmful than the chemical pesticides they have replaced.

As proof that the food safety system works, seed producers everywhere point to the same example--an experimental soybean, developed at Pioneer Hi-Bred International--that boosted the value of soybeans as livestock feed by borrowing a gene from the Brazil nut.

Because a small percentage of the public is allergic to Brazil nuts, Pioneer checked out samples of the genetically engineered soybeans, using a standard skin-prick test in allergic volunteers. The transformed soybeans triggered allergic reactions, and Pioneer abandoned the soybeans, concerned that they could accidentally enter human food supplies.

The incident, said Pioneer spokesman Doyle Karr, illustrates the company's "careful, thoughtful approach to things."

But those opposed to genetically modified foods point to the incident as proof of the perils of transferring genes from one species to another. "This can be a life-and-death matter," said Rebecca Goldburg, a scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Brazil nuts were known to cause allergies, and patients with allergies were available for testing, she said. But there is no easy way to determine which proteins are likely to produce allergic reactions in all cases.

This summer, Greenpeace and Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, separately announced that they had detected the presence of genetically modified ingredients in baby foods, infant formula, nutritional supplements for the elderly and other products.

In response, both Gerber and H.J. Heinz announced they would shun genetically modified ingredients in their baby foods , while denying any danger. Some pet food manufacturers are doing the same.

The revolt against these products began in Europe, where confidence in government regulators had been rattled by an outbreak of mad cow disease in British cattle and other instances of food contamination.

As the movement picked up momentum, European supermarket chains promised to yank genetically modified products off their shelves. In Britain and Japan, the governments called for labeling.

Humans began experimenting with crops at least 7,000 years ago with the discovery of bread wheat. Scientific plant breeding was born in the 19th century, when farmers began crossing plants systematically in the search for improved characteristics.

Using these conventional breeding techniques--including radiation and chemical treatment to increase mutations--the seed companies each year offer growers new hybrids promising higher yields or pest resistance or improved flavor.

THE PROCESS IS LARGELY UNREGULATED

Still, one new variety of potato was withdrawn from the market several decades ago because of high levels of solanine, a natural chemical that can cause intestinal distress. A new celery variety was pulled when food handlers developed allergic rashes.

In fact, many common foods naturally contain low levels of toxic chemicals, with no known impact on health.

"Two of the best carcinogens are present in edible mushrooms that many people enjoy with their steaks and gravies," said Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for developing high-yield wheat varieties that became staples of the Green Revolution. [This is dishonest. Aflatoxin is a fungal disease of stored peanuts, it is not a compound found in commercial mushrooms. Alpha-amanitin also does not occur in edible mushrooms. -- webmaster]

In the mid-1970s, scientists discovered ways to snip useful genes from one species and splice them into another. The revolution in genetic engineering promised a new era in which crops with improved nutritional value would feed the world.

But the first genetically engineered crops directly benefited growers and seed companies, not consumers, by adding characteristics such as resistance to weedkillers.

In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration decided--over the objections of environmental and consumer groups --to treat genetically engineered crops just like other foods. As long as the transferred genes produced proteins already in the food supply, the agency would not require pre-market approval or special labeling.

The first test under the FDA's voluntary review system came in 1994, when the agency approved the Flavr Savr tomato, a fruit genetically altered to stay firm during shipping. It proved a flop in the marketplace.

At the same time, Monsanto developed a genetically modified soybean that could resist the company's best selling weedkiller--Roundup. The herbicide destroyed weeds but spared the genetically altered crop--reducing the need for hoeing while boosting Roundup sales.

And Ciba-Geigy, now part of Novartis, produced a corn with an insecticide from Bt bacteria built into every leaf and kernel to kill the European corn borer.

One concern about such products was that antibiotic resistance genes, now standard in genetically engineered plants, could be taken up by bacteria, creating antibiotic resistant microbes . Highly unlikely, concluded the FDA.

Other researchers believe that the widespread use of Bt crops might create superbugs--pests no longer susceptible to Bt insecticides.

Federal law places the burden on the seed companies and food manufacturers to make sure that their products are safe, said George H. Pauli, the FDA's director of product policy. But he notes: "For every commercially developed product for sale in the U.S. the producer has come in to consult with us." And the agency retains the power to recall unwholesome products.

The FDA shares responsibility with the Environmental Protection Agency, which looks at the potential dangers of the genetically engineered pesticides, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reviews impacts on agriculture.

Activists charge that the result is a fragmented system of review that ignores potential hazards .

The Alliance for Bio-Integrity filed suit last year, charging that the FDA ignored the objections of its own scientists in deciding not to require a special review of genetically engineered crops.

A second suit, filed last year by Greenpeace and others, charges that the EPA ignored the possibility that Bt plants might harm beneficial insects and engender resistance in target pests.

"This is not like an oil slick, which you can contain or mitigate," said Joseph Mendelson, an attorney for the plaintiffs in both of the suits. "These plants reproduce and cross-pollinate. They put their traits into the environment, and there is no way you can remove them.



06 Oct 99 - GMO - Monsanto accused of GM 'bullying'

Staff Reporter

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 6 October 1999


The chief executive of one of the world's leading genetically modified crop technology companies was today accused of "bullying" the public into accepting its products.

Bob Shapiro, chairman of Monsanto, was challenged to halt the multi-national's controversial GM technology by Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace UK - at a conference in London.

The clash came only days after Mr Shapiro pledged not to commercialise the "terminator", or sterile seed technology, and amid growing consumer alarm at so called "Frankenstein food".

But Lord Melchett, a Labour hereditary Peer, told the Greenpeace business conference: "Monsanto are bullies trying to force their products on us" .

"If Monsanto will stop developing GM crops, get out of producing pesticides and reject the idea of patenting of life forms, Greenpeace will work to produce new Monsanto.

"We could create the world's first life sciences company, swords into sustainable plough shares.

"Think about it."

Lord Melchett said the big biotech companies like Monsanto now threatened to reverse the recovery among once common wildlife species, like the skylark which had been devastated by farming methods in the last 50 years.

He said the potential of organic farming was immense and GM food "is taking us in the wrong direction" .

He told Mr Shapiro: "It goes against the grain of what people want and Bob, you are blocking that progress."

However Mr Shapiro rejected the claim, telling the conference, via a video link from America: "If I'm a bully, I don't feel I'm very successful.

"I don't think Peter (Melchett) and I are going to bully or stampede the public over this."

But he conceded that Monsanto had "irritated and antagonised" more people than it had persuaded over the wisdom of GM technology.

The company's enthusiasm had been interpreted as "condescension of arrogance because we thought it was our job to persuade, but we had forgotten to listen".

Mr Shapiro said that in future there would be a "dialogue" with the public on the technology.

He said people had concerns and wanted to know if GM food was safe to eat and safe for the environment.

"Are we playing God? These concerns are valid," added Mr Shapiro.



06 Oct 99 - GMO - Journal to publish GM food hazards research

James Meikle

Guardian ... Wednesday 6 October 1999


The research that did most to raise public alarm over potential health hazards from genetically modified foods is finally to be published, vindicating work that the scientific establishment and government tried to discredit and reigniting the row over the safety of GM technology.

The Lancet, the influential international medical research journal, will next Friday contain a paper showing changes in the guts of rats fed GM potatoes, raising questions as to why these may have occured. Publication comes 14 months after the scientist Arpad Pusztai first suggested that the food may stunt the rats' growth and sparked concerted attempts by the government and scientific opponents to discredit him.

Dr Pusztai, who last year was forced out of his job at the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, after he voiced his concerns on a television programme, and Stanley Ewen, a senior pathologist at Aberdeen University, offered their evidence to the Lancet late last year. It was reviewed three times by other scientists before being accepted for publication by the journal, which said that all its papers "went through the mill" first.

Dr Pusztai, who had always said the work would be published by an independent scientific journal, yesterday admitted to being "only human" in his satisfaction at the news after being "kicked left, right and centre" by the government and senior scientists . "One of the major mistakes the scientific establishment made was to pick on the wrong man. There will be a lot of people with egg on their faces."

He declined to give details of the Lancet paper, but said: "If they consider it important to publish, it must be an important piece of information." His work had sought to establish whether the effects of GM materials and non-GM materials were "substantially equivalent" in every respect. "Up to now, people have said they are the same. That is not true with GM potatoes. They are compositionally different."

The Royal Society has attacked Dr Pusztai's work as flawed "in many aspects of design, execution and analysis", while Jack Cunningham, the cabinet enforcer in charge of GM policy, said his research had been comprehensively discredited and should not be an excuse for the biotechnology industry to grind to a halt.

Professor William Hill, a member of the Royal Society working group that published its assessment in May, yesterday reiterated his belief that there was no convincing evidence of adverse effects from GM potatoes.

The cabinet office said: "We see no reason to retract what was said earlier this year."

But anti-GM campaigners were delighted by news of publication. Those who had tried to rubbish Dr Pusztai and his work owed him a public apology", said Friends of the Earth's food campaigner, Pete Riley. "Scientific concerns about the safety of GM foods are clearly real." Greenpeace said: "The fact the work is of sufficient quality to be published raises questions about the safety of GM food."

Dr Pusztai's work involved feeding rats with potatoes modified with an insecticide gene from snowdrops. He said they suffered damage to their organs and immune systems . Dr Ewen then examined the animals and found enlarged stomach linings in those fed GM potatoes, extra evidence revealed by the Guardian in February, months after the Rowett Institute had forced Dr Pusztai out of his job.

Dr Ewen said at that time that the researchers had expected no differences between those fed GM food and non-GM food. "But there are differences which cause me con cern. We need to know what happens in the mammalian gut with GM food."

Dr Pusztai, 69, said the Royal Society's judgment had been based on "half-cocked selected pieces of information from the Rowett". He had been offered new scientific posts in Europe and planned to publish more information on his work and conduct new research . "For the last 14 months while people have been talking they have been doing nothing. I know of no other work on similar lines. I will be doing it, make no mistake."

His quarrel had been with scientific administrators, not other scientists. "My reputation is higher than ever."

By contrast, he said, the politicians and administrators who had expected the story to go away had made a "ghastly miscalculation".

The Rowett Institute declined to comment.