various from AGNET JUNE 28, 2001 -- II (some shortened). The original AGNET bulletin is archived at: http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/safefood/archives/agnet-archives.htm [AGNET is a pro-GM Canadian news list, based at Guelph and sponsored by various organisations including Ag-West Biotech, Pioneer Hi-Bred, and Monsanto Canada]
*GE edible vaccines [incl. Cummins, Hansen comments]
*Bush promises BIO broad-based biotech support
*Texan 'doctors group' to study altered foods
*Indian Government scared of personable green lobby!
*John Stossel challenges the truthsayers on GE
*Greenpeace hits Milan Nestle plant in GM protest
*Anti-biotech activists faced with fading public interest
*From 'plantibodies' to profits?
*Foodsafe's New Spanish and biotech food safety songs, including "Still Seems Like Food to Me"!
SCIENTISTS BEGIN TO PRODUCE GENETICALLY ENGINEERED EDIBLE VACCINES
June 27, 2001
According to this story, at least 350 genetically engineered pharmaceutical products are currently in clinical development in the United States and Canada, and scientists believe that potent drugs and vaccines will soon be harvested just like wheat and corn.
Welcome to the new world of molecular farming.
The story says that molecular farming uses the science of genetic engineering to turn ordinary plants into factories that produce inexpensive drugs and vaccines.
Researchers at the London Health Sciences Center in London, Ontario, Canada, are growing potatoes that have been genetically altered to produce a special diabetes-related protein. When the potatoes were fed to diabetic mice, scientists found that most don't develop Type I diabetes, also known as juvenile-onset diabetes.
Scientists believe that the low-cost production of this protein may help the 100 million people worldwide affected by diabetes.
In the lab, the new transgenic potatoes produce large amounts of a human protein that suppresses the destructive immune response and prevents diabetes from developing. Molecular biologist Shengwu Ma of the London Health Sciences Center was cited as saying his team's research has similar potential to combate other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and even transplant rejection, adding, "Plants are ideal because they can synthesize and assemble proteins to provide huge quantities of soluble proteins at relatively low cost."
The story says that not everyone is convinced that transgenic medicine delivered through food is a smart alternative. Though these edible vaccines seem beneficial, the spread of these novel genes into the environment could be a disaster, says biotech critic and retired professor of genetics, Joe Cummins, who was cited as saying he worries that, with current methods, transgenic plants produce human proteins in every cell of the plant, including the roots. Some of the plant matter is bound to get into the soil and ultimately into ground or surface water.
Even if only minute quantities of these biochemically active proteins escape into the natural environment, the consequences could be great, he says. Michael Hansen, a researcher for the Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, was cited as saying that other concerns include the spread of transgenic material through pollen movement, insects and wildlife feeding on the plants, and accidental mixups of seeds, adding, "Will the transgenes be picked up by soil bacteria or viruses? No one knows yet."
Cummins says many scientists in this field are "true believers" in the technology and often make assumptions about safety. In this case, assumptions can be "more threatening than terrorists," he says.
BUSH, ON VIDEOTAPE, PROMISES BROAD-BASED BIOTECH SUPPORT
June 26, 2001
SAN DIEGO - President George Bush signaled strong support for biotechnology during a videotaped address shown Monday at the BIO 2001 conference.In his first speech to the industry since taking office in January, Bush promised a transparent, science-based regulatory system, confirmed continuation of R&D tax credits, announced new funding for the National Institutes of Health and stressed the role of the industry in the new U.S. energy policy.
DOCTORS' GROUP TO STUDY ALTERED FOODS
THE TEXAS MEDICAL ASSOCIATION HOPES TO ASSEMBLE INFORMATION ABOUT GENETIC ALTERATIONS
[sounds unbiased! "It will include representatives from the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute."]
June 27, 2001
The Texas Medical Association is, according to this story, launching a yearlong study of genetically altered foods to better understand the health effects of the controversial modifications. The story says that the organization, which represents physicians across the state, has appointed a task force to investigate the issues surrounding genetic alterations and write a report, which is tentatively planned for release in May 2002. The study was the brainchild of TMA President Tom Hancher, a physician who practices in Columbus, in the heart of agriculture- rich Colorado County. Hancher was cited as saying that in recent years, the number of questions from patients and doctors about the safety of genetically engineered crops has grown, adding, "There seems to be an increasing concern about the health effects of these crops, and I've also heard from a lot of farmers who want some questions answered."
The story says that the task force won't conduct research. However, Hancher said, several members are scientists who study genetic engineering. "We'll have some cutting-edge unpublished information we'll be able to provide to doctors and to the public," he said. The task force will include physicians, scientists, researchers, lawmakers and consumers. It will include representatives from the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute.
The TMA is tackling the issue amid increasing public awareness - and concern - about genetically modified food.
GOVERNMENT SCARED OF FASHIONABLE GREEN LOBBY
June 27, 2001
The recent India visit by personable Greenpeace activists protesting genetically modified (GM) crops inevitably, according to this story, attracted some media attention. It seemed to have caught official attention, too. For, the story says, nearly coinciding with the visit was the environment ministry decision to postpone commercial clearance for a GM crop - trans-genic Bt cotton. The ministry committee on genetic engineering has asked for one more year of field trials, to be held under the guidance of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. ---
JOHN STOSSEL CHALLENGES THE DOOMSAYERS' WARNINGS ON GENETIC ENGINEERING, HUMAN CLONING AND GLOBAL WARMING, IN A ONE-HOUR SPECIAL, TAMPERING WITH NATURE WITH JOHN STOSSEL, AIRING FRIDAY, JUNE 29
June 27, 2001
ABC News Media Relations:
Adam Pockriss and Todd Polkes
In a one-hour special, ABC News Correspondent John Stossel investigates the outcry over genetic engineering and human cloning and challenges the dire warnings surrounding environmental threats like global warming. Why have recent advances in science been met with fear, protests, even acts of terrorism? Why is the industrial society that helped make our comfortable lives possible treated with suspicion and contempt? Stossel challenges the activists who say we're destroying the earth's ecosystem with everything from genetic engineering to greenhouse gases.
Tampering with Nature airs FRIDAY, June 29, 10-11 p.m. ET on the ABC Television Network. Former Greenpeace director Patrick Moore, who has quit Greenpeace, says the environmental movement has been hijacked by political activists. "They're using environmental rhetoric to cloak agendas like class warfare and anti-corporatism that, in fact, have almost nothing to do with ecology," Moore tells Stossel.
Lately, the greenhouse effect and global warming have been all over the news. But Stossel interviews climatologists who say there is no consensus that global warming is harming the planet. They point to the often-overlooked fact that huge piles of funding are at stake. Says Pat Michaels of the University of Virginia: "Let's imagine there's a senate hearing, and the senator who disburses the funds goes to the administrator of NASA and says, 'I've heard global warming is the most serious problem confronting mankind. Can your agency use another $2 billion a year to study this thing?' What's he gonna say? No?" Moreover, Stossel points out that even if greenhouse gases were restricted, at a potential cost of trillions of dollars to U.S. taxpayers, it is estimated that this would prevent a rise in temperature of only a fraction of a degree.
Stossel then turns to cloning and interviews Dr. Panos Zavos, who hopes to clone human beings soon with new technology. "It's a marvelous thing," says Zavos, a reproductive specialist who wants to help infertile couples have babies. "We have more than 1,000 couples that want to be cloned," he says. Anti-cloning activist Rev. Patrick Mahoney disagrees, asking what will become of deformed children created by this new technique. "Who takes care of that child?"
Stossel reports that genetic engineering is already saving lives through cutting-edge medical treatments, despite activists' fears. Biotech is also helping to make food more plentiful, as with bovine growth hormone that increases milk production. But as Stossel finds out, even though the World Health Organization, the FDA and the AMA all say milk from cows given bovine growth hormone is perfectly safe, activists condemn it, one New York protester even likening it to "crack for cows."
Many of us romanticize the simple life of groups like the Pilgrims, but life without modern technology is tough-often fatal. Half the Pilgrims died. That's something to keep in mind when people insist that we should never "tamper with nature." Stossel concludes that we alter our environment not to destroy but "to make our lives better in a hundred ways."
Victor Neufeld is the senior executive producer of Tampering with Nature, Martin Phillips the executive producer, and Deborah Colloton, Mark Golden and Brian Ellis the producers.
ANTI-BIOTECH ACTIVISTS ARE FACED WITH FADING PUBLIC INTEREST AND A CLEAN ENVIRONMENTAL BILL OF HEALTH FOR GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROP
June 28, 2001
NORWICH, England--While the genetically modified crop war is being waged with intensity elsewhere in the world, the front in Britain has, according to this story, been relatively quiet in the past few months. This is surprising, considering that Britain has just has a general election. The greatest challenge for the anti-biotech activists is the government's science-based policy and the election seemed an ideal ambush opportunity.
With this policy still intact and the three-year program of farm scale trials well into its second year, the activists are faced with fading public interest and a clean environmental bill of health for genetically modified crops.
The usual range of interest groups (from the football association looking for funding for a national stadium, to the London underground operatives opposing privatization) were craving attention during the election campaign.
The foot-and-mouth outbreak meant that countryside pursuits, including electioneering and eco-terrorism, became politically incorrect for a while. But, the story says, as with the American and Canadian elections last year, the genetic engineering of crops never developed into much during the delayed British election campaign.
The activists soundly rounded both major parties for their environmental policies. The field was therefore open to the Green Party, which fielded candidates in about a quarter of the constituencies. It did manage to win over 3 percent of the vote in areas where other environmental concerns, such as new roads, were the local issue. It seems that, while biotech issues sell newspapers, they do not buy votes.
The story goes on to say that the next phase will be to demonstrate this specific biotechnology, like most others, has health and environmental benefits. As soon as this occurs, the Soils Association must surely adopt genetically modified crops as an organic option.
Such a U-turn in a strongly held conviction may seem improbable. The reality is, however, that the organic food movement is operating in a commercial environment. As soon as its clientele begins to doubt the benefits of organic food, demand will evaporate.
To continue to succeed in this style of niche market, the organic movement will need to be nimble. If organic agriculture continues to expand, it will almost certainly be with the help of genetic engineering. GM-free zones around organic production will not be a long-term issue, and even the Welsh may be won over.
GREENPEACE HITS MILAN NESTLE PLANT IN GM PROTEST
June 28, 2001
MILAN - Greenpeace activists were cited as chaining themselves to the gates of a Italian distribution centre owned by food giant Nestle on Thursday to protest at the alleged use of genetically modified ingredients in baby food. The story says that as 10 protesters -- wearing white masks with black crosses -- chained themselves to the building in Albairate, south of Milan, another three climbed on the roof and unfurled a yellow banner that read: "No GM in babies' bottles."
A Greenpeace spokesman was cited as telling Reuters the protest was to draw attention to what it claimed were genetically modified ingredients in soya milk Nestle produced for babies, sold under the name of "Alsoy" adding, "We want assurances from Nestle that they are pulling the product." Nestle denied in a statement that "Alsoy" milk sold in Italy contained genetically modified ingredients.
FROM 'PLANTIBODIES' TO PROFITS?
June 27, 2001
SAN DIEGO, California -- According to this story, a recent study by Accenture, a research and consulting firm, found that in order to maintain double-digit growth in earnings, revenue and shareholder value -- which various companies have promised -- companies will have to cut the $500 million to $600 million it takes to bring a drug from research to market by at least half.
Pradeep Banerjee, a partner at Accenture who focuses on biotech research, was cited as telling the Bio2001 conference in San Diego Tuesday that it can be done, but it won't be easy, adding, "The key theme is convergence of science and information technology."
The story says that one company presenting its technology at the conference said it has a unique way to cut costs. Instead of building expensive manufacturing plants, Epicyte's plan is to engineer corn crops that can manufacture antibodies against humandiseases into the seeds. As the plants grow, they will produce the antibodies. Unlike other companies creating hardier seeds with genetic engineering, the corn that Epicyte grows will be ground up and then distilled from the kernels to go into topical treatments.
[FOODSAFE] NEW SPANISH AND BIOTECH FOOD SAFETY SONGS
June 28, 2001
University of California, Department of Food Science and Technology
I'm pleased to announce the availability of two new food safety songs available for download from the Food Safety Music website at http://foodsafe.ucdavis.edu/music.html
One is "Mantenga Bien La Comida", recorded in Spanish to the music of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba". This song provides basic food safety information. The second new song is "Still Seems Like Food to Me", derived from Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me". This song takes a humorous look at contemporary food biotechnology issues such as Starlink corn, Roundup Ready soybeans, and consumer benefits.
You can download the RealPlayer audio files directly from the music website as well as lyrics and PowerPoint slide presentations containing the lyrics. RealPlayer software is free and easy to use and can be obtained directly from a link on the webpage.
In addition to these new additions, the website contains twenty other food safety songs covering topics such as microbial food safety, pesticides, biotechnology, mad cow disease, and government regulation. These songs are also available for RealPlayer download and include lyric and PowerPoint slide presentations.
You can also receive information about how to receive your personal versions of the "Stayin' Alive" and "Sanitized for Your Consumption" music CDs on the website as well as media reviews of the music and my performance schedule. Enjoy the music!