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SUPPRESSED INFORMATION ABOUT THE REAL HAZARDS OF
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
Konformist: SUPPRESSED INFORMATION ABOUT THE REAL HAZARDS OF GENETICALLY
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 15:15:01 -0000
From: "Robert Sterling" <email@example.com>
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STARLINK IS NOT THE PROBLEM! SUPPRESSED INFORMATION ABOUT THE REAL
HAZARDS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
Barbara Keeler and Robert Sterling
It took Starlink biocorn to get the media's attention on genetically
engineered foods. Dragging their footsteps, our government agencies
gradually followed in the media's wake. Starlink only made the news
because the form of corn involved had not yet been approved for use in human
food. Not that it had been disapproved. The EPA had said only that it
needed more and better scientific information.
And who discovered the widespread presence of the unapproved corn
product? Not the people we pay to protect his or safeguard the food supply,
but a band of underfunded, underrespected, and at times scorned food safety
In spite of its high media profile, Starlink is not the major problem.
Government agencies are tracking it down, and food companies are way
ahead of them, recalling their products. Most significant, everybody knows
about Starlink. The problem lies with the more serious issues and hazards
For example, what was the response when Monsanto researchers notified
FDA that the most widely used genetically engineered product, Roundup
Ready soybeans, contained a surprise package-some unintended and
unsuspected gene fragments? Apparently when Monsanto enabled soybean
plants to survive spraying with their weed killer, Roundup, by splicing a gene
into the bean's DNA, they tossed in a little extra.
FDA's response: a big yawn. Media response: UK papers carried the
story. A newswire service reported it in the US. Maybe some newspapers
and news stations picked it up, but we did not see it anywhere except in the
July News column of Whole Life Times.
Although this story should have smeared egg on the faces of biotech
cheerleaders who claim that genetic engineering is more precise than
conventional breeding techniques, scientist to this day publish
high-profile opinion pieces making this now-disproved assertion.
What might explain the absence of the spotlight on these genetic
hitchhikers in soy that pervades a majority of processed foods on the
market? In soy on the market with FDA blessing? Possibly apathy.
However, a document posted on GeneWatch UK website: www.genewatch.org,
offers another possible explanation. In what Genewatch says is a leaked internal
document from Monsanto, the writer brags that "The [Monsanto] Scientific
Outreach network and the Technology Issues Team averted attacks on recently
emerging biotechnology issues. The team developed rapid responses to avoid
over-reaction to claims regarding...the characterization of additional
non-functional DNA in Roundup Ready soybeans."
Not to worry, says Monsanto's letter to the UK government. According
to Monsanto spokesman Jeff Bergau the gene fragments were in RR beans
when they passed safety assessments by US authorities in 1994. What else
was in the beans when they passed safety assessments? Well, not Roundup.
Unlike the beans on the market and in the food supply, the beans Monsanto
researchers analyzed had not been treated with weed killer.
Monsanto tried valiantly to silence one of the first critics to point
out this discrepancy, Dr. Marc Lappe, Formerly head of the State of
California's Hazard Evaluation System and a former tenured professor
in Health Policy & Ethics at the Univ of Illinois at Chicago College of
Medicine. His book, AGAINST THE GRAIN, was the topic of a threatening
letter from Monsanto to its original publisher in 1998. After the
first publisher backed down, Common Courage Press published the book.
If not Roundup, what DID the Roundup Ready soybeans contain when they
were reviewed by FDA in 1994? For starters, higher levels of a known
allergen. Apparently, Monsanto managed to keep some troubling information from
becoming an issue. They just didn't report the data in their published
study or the report they sent to the EPA. What information the
published study and FDA report did reveal was camouflaged in a place readers
were least likely to look for it. Sandwiched between lists of
macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, etc.) were levels of trypsin-inhibiter, an
allergen which inhibits protein digestion and has been associated with
enlarge cells in rat pancreases. Table 9 shows trypsin-inhibiter,
levels that are 26.7 percent higher in the untoasted RR soybeans than in the
The authors' discussion of table 9 did not mention trypsin-inhibiter
levels, which meant no mention was made in the online text version,
sans tables, available in most libraries. In fact, we missed it the first
few times through the tables, and we were looking for it.
An 1996 article describing Monsanto's research was published in the
JOURNAL OF NUTRITION. It's title is "The composition of glyphosate-tolerant
soybean seeds is equivalent to that of conventional soybeans," but
statistically significant differences were measured in content of ash, fat
carbohydrate and some fatty acids. The brain-boosting vitamin choline was 29%
lower in Roundup Ready lecithin. Go figure.
In the text, the authors acknowledge "higher than expected" levels of
trypsin inhibitor in Experiment 1, which was conducted on
conventional and RR beans grown in Puerto Rico. The authors contend
that the processing caused the elevated levels, but they noted elsewhere in
the study that "processing soybean protein significantly inactivates TI." Moreover,
processing was identical for Roundup ready beans and controls.
The did not report the data about the Puerto Rico beans in their
published tables, calculations, or discussion. Their rationale: the beans were
grown in a single Puerto Rico site, and the beans in Experiment 2 and 3,
from several US sites, were "more representative of the wide geographical
area in which soybeans are grown." They did not explain why they grew the
Puerto Rico beans for the study in the first place. Nor did they explain why
a comparison between batches of beans grown at the same site under
identical conditions is less valid than comparisons among beans grown in
different geographical areas under widely varying conditions.
A footnote in the journal said that supplementary information on the
Puerto Rico beans had been deposited with American Society for Information
Science, National Auxiliary Publication Service under Doc. 04949. For
a price, the data could be ordered.
Contrary to the authors' statement, the data filed under Doc. 04949
pertains to an unrelated study be a different author. The National
Auxiliary Publication Service confirmed that the data was never
The JOURNAL OF NUTRITION supplied the missing information. What did it
reveal? It does indeed show higher levels of the allergen trypsin
inhibitor in toasted RR soy meal thaN in the controls. In fact, by one measure
the levels of trypsin inhibitor in toasted Roundup Ready meal were over
the top of the literature range--the highest and lowest levels measured
for soybeans by other researchers.
Roundup Ready beans were also significantly lower in protein and the
aromatic amino acid phenylalanine. Drops in aromatic amino acid
levels are of particular importance, because Roundup kills weeds by inhibiting an
enzyme that helps the body make the aromatic amino acids. There were
also significantly different levels of the amino acid cysteine and one
Data omitted from the published study also show that after a second
toasting, the levels of an allergen called lectin in Roundup Ready
meal nearly doubled the levels of the conventional control beans.
Besides possible allergic reactions, what might be expected from
higher levels of trypsin-inhibitor and lectin? Well, animals would be
expected to grow more slowly and gain less weight, and that is exactly what
happened to male rats fed unprocessed meal from Roundup Ready soybeans.
Cows fed the RR soya meal showed higher levels of fat in their milk.
Yet the title of the study is "The feeding value of soybeans fed to rats,
chickens, catfish and dairy cattle is not altered by genetic
incorporation of glyphosate tolerance," and the abstract makes no mention of the
data that challenges their conclusion.
Don't research findings such as these point to the need for more
testing, rather than immediate FDA blessing? EPA busted the suppliers of
Starlink for similar shoddy research, and that is the reason Starlink is not
approved for human consumption. EPA said, essentially, that the data
in these studies did not support the authors conclusion and invited them
to submit better studies. Ironically, the safety studies for foods now ubiquitous in the food
supply also fail to support the authors' conclusions, according to Dr. Lappe
and Dr. Joe Cummins. As Dr. Cummins puts it, "The concept of substantial
equivalence has been introduced to commercialize genetically modified
(GM) crops without extensive testing or labeling in the marketplace. The
concept assumes that GM crops are equivalent seems to be being used as a
license to distribute GM crops which are unsubstantially equivalent."
The leaked Monsanto document also credits its response team for
developing "rapid responses to avoid over-reaction to claims regarding...gene
transfer by honey bees" referring to gene transfer from genetically engineered
rapeseed to bacteria and fungi in the gut of honey bees detected by
Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz from the Institut für Bienenkunde
(Institute for bee research) at the University of Jena. The story made its way
into the Whole Life Times news column, but for the most part, the
suppression was successful in the US. The document brags "Two op-eds on the
honeybee issue by notable scientists were triggered to help avoid additional
high profile press coverage."
Monsanto and other producers of GE seeds fund plenty of research at
universities around the world, making it easy to recruit "notable
scientists" as mouthpieces. They also fund think tanks and similar
organizations to spread their misleading messages.
An example of a widely published mouthpiece for big agribusiness is
Dennis Avery, the author of SAVING THE PLANET WITH PESTICIDES AND PLASTICS,
and currently is director of the Center for Global Food Issues for the
Hudson Institute, a pro-corporate think tank with major funders such as
Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, Dow, and ConAgra. The biotech industry's PR firm,
Burson-Marsteller, allegedly involved in a massive PR campaign to
counteract the escalating global anti-GE movement in the US and
abroad, is represented on Hudson Institute's board.
Herb London, President of the Hudson Institute, is a John M. Olin
Professor of Humanities at New York University, a position funded by the John
M. Olin Foundation. The Olin Foundation was created and is still controlled
by the Olin Corporation, a leading North American chemical giant and top
producer of agricultural chemicals, including sulfuric acid, fertilizers and
Herb London also sits on the Board of Associates for the Palmer R.
Chitester Fund--a right-wing foundation which sells educational
materials based on John Stossel's 20/20 reports on ABC, giving ABC a cut of the
profits. Remember Stossel's 20/20 hatchet job on organic foods?
Another major contributor to the Palmer R. Chitester Fund is the Olin
Foundation. Is a picture beginning to emerge?
The corruptive inbreeding of interests does not end with the
connections between agribusiness, a conservative foundation, a conservative think
tank, a widely published media mouthpiece for agrigusniees, and a supposed
independent journalist. We won't even start in on the well documented
revolving door between Monsanto and FDA, or other US agencies that
develop and implement biotech policy.
Is it any wonder that the American public does not hear about the real
troubling issues in genetic engineering of foods, or that the
pervasiveness of Starlink would be unsuspected but for the persistence of GE
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Healthy Poultry = Sick Humans?
The FDA Wants To Ban Drug That Keeps Chickens, Turkeys Healthy
FDA Worried About Drug's Effect On People Who Eat Chickens
Drug Makers Say They Will Protest Because They Don't See A Problem
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2000
(CBS) What's good for poultry is not so good for people.
That's the Food and Drug Administration's conclusion Friday as it calls for a ban on antibiotics widely used to keep
the nation's chickens and turkeys
Government Proposes a Ban on Two Antibiotics Used in Poultry
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASHINGTON, Oct. 28 — The government proposes to ban two antibiotics given to poultry, citing evidence that their use is causing
people to become ill from drug-resistant bacteria.
Abbott Laboratories of North Chicago, Ill., one maker, will withdraw its drug, but the Bayer Corporation of Pittsburgh, which dominates the
market, says it may challenge the ban.
The Food and Drug Administration says the drugs, known as fluoroquinolones, are a "significant cause" of human infections by resistant
camplyobacter bacteria, contracted primarily by eating chicken.
Camplyobacter causes about 1.8 million illnesses a year, 190,000 of them treated with antibiotics. About 11,000 of those this year will involve
drug-resistant bacteria, up from 9,000 last year, Steve Sunlof, director of the F.D.A.'s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said on Friday.