10 February 2003
RESEARCH PIGLETS SOLD AS FOOD HARD TO FIND
from item 1: 'The FDA Notice of Inspectional Observations submitted to the university states, "The university has repeatedly failed to adequately monitor related research to assure the investigator complied with government regulation."
A second handwritten form, dated Jan. 29, says, "If there is any question about disposition of an animal then the animal should be INCINERATED." '
Thanks to nlpwessex for the collection of other GM/pig contamination stories below. As they comment, these are just the ones we've found out about! Meanwhile, another article on the current GM-pig-to-market scandal suggests that other animals involved in GM research may have entered the food chain via the University of Illinois, "the school said it also temporarily halted the sale of chickens, goats and cows to be sure it is complying with regulations" !!!
U.$. food anyone?
1.Research piglets sold as food hard to find
2.Alarm as GM pig vaccine taints US crops
3.WSJ Authorities Probe Case Of Missing GM Bacteria Fatal to Pigs
4.Tainted pigs show up in sausage at funeral
1.Research piglets sold as food hard to find
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
As many as 386 offspring of genetically modified pigs may already be in the nation's food supply. Critics charge this proves the Food and Drug Administration is not adequately regulating the potentially dangerous new realm of biotechnology.
The FDA is investigating the unauthorized sale since 2001 of piglets raised by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But it is unlikely that the animals will be found because tracing pigs through the slaughter process over two years is difficult at best.
The FDA and the university say consumers are not at risk, but the university faces possible fines and sanctions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has had a team of investigators in place since Monday. The USDA oversees food adulteration, so it would track what happened to the meat. Thus far the agency has no answers.
"The mishmash nature of (the system) leads almost inevitably to these kinds of ... mistakes," says Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It undercuts what ought to be the primary work of the agency: to create public confidence."
University researchers added two genes to the pigs in its project, hoping to make piglets grow faster. The genes are not always passed on to piglets.
The university says it tested each piglet to see if it had inherited the genetic engineering of its mother. Those that did were put back into the study. Those that didn't were sold to the pig broker.
However, the research was being conducted under the FDA approval process for new animal drugs, and the FDA says the university neglected to tell the agency what it was doing.
The FDA Notice of Inspectional Observations submitted to the university states, "The university has repeatedly failed to adequately monitor related research to assure the investigator complied with government regulation."
A second handwritten form, dated Jan. 29, says, "If there is any question about disposition of an animal then the animal should be INCINERATED. "
Charles Zukoski, Illinois vice chancellor for research, says the university filed documents with the FDA stating that "those animals shown to be non-transgenic would be sold at market."
But Gregory Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says it appears the technology may be moving forward faster than federal agencies are able to come up with systems to regulate it. For example, if a transgenic pig has a piglet that's not transgenic, how do you prove it?
"The researchers say they have proof and the FDA doesn't even know if it's good enough," Jaffe says.
Alarm as GM pig vaccine taints US crops
Strict new guidelines planned after contamination
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Tuesday December 24, 2002
US authorities, shaken by a case in which food crops were contaminated with an experimental pig vaccine, are preparing to impose stringent guidelines on a new generation of experimental GM crops.
The department of agriculture and the environmental protection agency are encountering growing disquiet from a coalition of farmers and food manufacturers about the potential dangers of the next phase of GM products - "biopharming", or the implanting of genes in food crops to grow drugs and industrial chemicals.
The idea of tightening regulations on GM products represents something of a revolution in thinking in the US, where about 70% of the processed food on supermarket shelves contains genetically engineered ingredients.
But concerns have arisen after a small biotech firm in Texas was fined $3m (GBP2m) for tainting half a million bushels of soya bean with a trial vaccine used to prevent stomach upsets in piglets.
Under a settlement reached this month, the first of its kind against any biotech company in the US, a firm called Prodigene agreed to pay a fine of $250,000 and to repay the government for the cost of incinerating the soya bean that had been contaminated with genetically altered corn.
US authorities said the corn did not reach food crops or animal feed. But the episode has drawn unwelcome attention to an as yet experimental area of GM farming.
The premise behind biopharming, or "pharming" for short, is that genetic tinkering can turn an ordinary-looking corn or barley field into a potential drug factory, producing insulin, chemotherapy drugs, and other products for much less than it would cost to set up an industrial plant.
At present, two dozen trials of the experimental GM drugs are under way across the US.
The biotech firms argue that the new technique can revolutionise health care, especially in the developing world where hospitals short on syringes can dispense edible drugs. But in the wake of the Texas case, questions are being asked.
The latest incident was the worst violation so far of regulations intended to keep biopharming out of the food supply. It was also seen as the most serious setback to date to the next generation of GM farming.
Until now, genetic engineering has been used mainly to make crops such as corn and soya bean resistant to insects and disease, and the US food industry has been solidly on side.
The Texas alarm has begun to change that. "The incident overall just reaffirms our concerns that something could go wrong," Stephanie Childs of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, which represents food companies such as Kellogg and General Mills, told the Los Angeles Times.
Analysts in Washington said yesterday that they expected the department of agriculture to impose more stringent guidelines next year. Published reports said yesterday that guidelines under consideration by the authorities include moving experimental farms away from America's grain belt in the mid-west, or requiring growers to dye the leaves of the altered crops.
The agriculture department's disciplinary measures against the small Texas firm have crystallised concerns among farmers, environmentalists and industry about the risks of experimental vaccine crops getting into the food supply.
"The department of agriculture wanted to send a signal that the companies need to take the obligation to protect the food supply very seriously," Michael Rodemeyer, the director of Washington's Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, said yesterday.
"The whole issue of growing pharmaceuticals in food crops has certainly raised concern within the food industry, as well as among environmentalists and others, about genes from these crops getting into the food supply."
Subject: WSJ Authorities Probe Case Of Missing Bacteria
Authorities Probe Case Of Missing Bacteria
By GARY FIELDS
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
WASHINGTON -- Federal authorities are investigating the disappearance of genetically altered bacteria fatal to pigs that appear to have been stolen from a research laboratory at Michigan State University.
Investigators said that while the bacteria apparently are harmless to humans, they could devastate the pork industry if replicated and released, and they are treating the case as a potential terrorist threat.
"If this had happened 13 or 14 months ago, we wouldn't have thought twice about it," said Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for veterinary services for the Department of Agriculture. But in the current environment, "we have to think the worst and hope for the best."
Two vials of the material, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, also known as APP, were reported missing Friday, along with notes on swine-vaccine research. Authorities said someone with knowledge of bacteria could replicate it.
The theft, which authorities say stemmed from an unauthorized entry into the East Lansing, Mich., lab sometime late last week, comes at a time when lab security has been questioned around the country, primarily because of the anthrax mailings last year that killed five people.
Lonnie King, dean of Michigan State's College of Veterinary Medicine, said the bacteria normally attack the respiratory system of young pigs. The genetically modified version, however, spreads into the brain, and the animals can die of complications from encephalitis. The researcher was attempting to make a "nonpathogenic" strain to use as a vaccine but ended up with a deadlier version instead, Dr. King said.
"Our concern is because if it manifested itself as encephalitis rather than pneumonia, it would look different" to veterinarians and farmers who might encounter the symptoms, Dr. King said. Infected pigs can be treated with normal antibiotics if people realize the problems are caused by APP.
Mr. DeHaven said one noticeable symptom is convulsions. Death can occur in six to 24 hours.
School officials and the Department of Agriculture have spent the past two days alerting state veterinarians, pork producers, veterinary facilities, schools and labs around the country about the theft and what to look for. "We're taking this very seriously," said Detroit-based Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Terry Booth. "It could wipe out a lot of swine."
The implications of that would be serious from both an economic and dietary standpoint. "Look at the mad-cow disease," Mr. Booth said, referring to the human deaths and the devastation done to Britain's beef industry by that outbreak.
Updated September 19, 2002
The Associated Press.
June 3, 2001
Tainted pigs show up in sausage at funeral
DATELINE: GAINESVILLE, Fla.
Tainted pork from genetically altered pigs stolen from the University of Florida showed up in sausage served at a funeral in High Springs, university police said.
For months, university officials said they had recovered and incinerated all of the meat from the experimental pigs stolen in January.
But police said the meat from the pigs, which had been genetically altered and injected with enough barbiturates and chemicals to kill a 500-pound pig, was ground up and made into sausage by a butcher in High Springs, finally making its way to a funeral service there.
Kenny Atkins was fired from his position as an animal technician there after admitting to stealing three of six dead pigs that were to be incinerated.
Atkins gave two of the pigs to Norman Blake of Alachua and sold one for $65 to Joe Darling of High Springs. Dave Washington, the butcher who dressed Blake's pigs, told university police he made sausage from the meat, kept some and brought some to a funeral dinner. He said he and his brother sampled the sausage but threw it away because "it didn't taste right."
The stolen pigs were genetically engineered to develop a disorder similar to diabetic blindness in humans. University officials do not know what effect, if any, the treated meat could have on people who eat it.
The pig incident is one in a series of missteps at the university's Animal Resources department which oversees the treatment of biomedical research animals.
Last June, the director of Animal Resources, Jerry Davis, was fired after the unit was put on probation in the wake of an annual inspection that found problems with routine care of research animals and the oversight of the program.
Federal regulators are currently investigating complaints about the facility's animal care procedures.