Genetic Manipulators Try Also to Manipulate Science
Recent News on Genetically Modified Foods
ONEOn June 24, European Union environment ministers moved closer to a moratorium on authorising new genetically modified organisms, at least until new rules can be agreed to reassure consumers of their safety.
"Until new rules are in place, we don't want any new products to be released," German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin told a press conference. "It will be a de facto moratorium, though legally-speaking we can't call it that," he said.
Ministers met in Luxembourg with the aim of agreeing revised rules for approving new GMOs amid growing public concern about the safety of gene technology following a number of food scares.
Environmental pressure group Greenpeace immediately welcomed the move towards a moratorium."GMOs are an environmental threat and an unjustified experiment with food," it said in a statement, adding it hoped the temporary halt to approvals was a step to a "consistent ban".
FDA Documents Show They Ignored GMO Safety Warnings From Their Own Scientists
Lawsuit in U.S.A. Uncovers Disagreement Within FDA Over Safety of Biotech Foods
Agency Contradicted Own Experts in Approving Genetically Engineered Foods -- Misrepresented Facts in Order to Promote U.S. Biotech Industry
Statement by Steven M. Druker, J.D., executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, coordinator of the lawsuit against the FDA to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of gene-spliced foods, and an attorney on the case (in collaboration with the Legal Department of the Center for Technology Assessment in Washington, D.C.).
In May 1998, a coalition of public interest groups, scientists, and religious leaders filed a landmark lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of all genetically engineered foods (Alliance for Bio-Integrity, et. al. v. Shalala). Nine eminent life scientists joined the coalition in order to emphasize the degree to which they think FDA policy is scientifically unsound and morally irresponsible. Now, the FDA's own files confirm how well-founded are their concerns. The FDA was required to deliver copies of these files--totalling over 44,000 pages--to the plaintiffs' attorneys.
The FDA's records reveal it declared genetically engineered foods to be safe in the face of disagreement from its own experts--all the while claiming a broad scientific consensus supported its stance. Internal reports and memoranda disclose:
(1) agency scientists repeatedly cautioned that foods produced through recombinant DNA technology entail different risks than do their conventionally produced counterparts and
(2) that this input was consistently disregarded by the bureaucrats who crafted the agency's current policy, which treats bioengineered foods the same as natural ones.
Besides contradicting the FDA's claim that its policy is science-based, this evidence shows the agency violated the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in allowing genetically engineered foods to be marketed without testing on the premise that they are generally recognized as safe by qualified experts.
FDA Scientists Protest Attempt to Equate Genetic Engineering with Conventional Breeding
The FDA admits it is operating under a bias, "to foster" the U.S. biotech industry; and this directive advocates the premise that bioengineered foods are essentially the same as others. However, the agency's attempts to bend its policy to conform with this premise met strong resistance from its own scientists, who repeatedly warned that genetic engineering differs from conventional practices and entails a unique set of risks. Numerous agency experts protested that drafts of the Statement of Policy were ignoring the recognized potential for bioengineering to produce unexpected toxins and allergens in a different manner and to a different degree than do conventional methods.
According to Dr. Louis Priybl of the FDA Microbiology Group, "There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering which is just glanced over in this document." He added that several aspects of gene splicing "...may be more hazardous."
Dr. Linda Kahl, an FDA compliance officer, objected that the agency was "...trying to fit a square peg into a round hole ... [by] trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices." She said: "The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks."
THREEA recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson of Sweden, has revealed clear links between one of the world's biggest selling herbicides, Monsanto Roundup, to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer.
In the study published in the 15 March 1999 Journal of American Cancer Society, the researchers also maintain that exposure to glyphosate 'yielded increased risks for NHL.' They stress that with the rapidly increasing use of glyphosate since the time the study was carried out, 'glyphosate deserves further epidemiologic studies.'
Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is the world's most widely used herbicide. It is estimated that for 1998, over a 112,000 tonnes of glyphosate was used world-wide. It indiscriminately kills off a wide variety of weeds after application and is primarily used to control annual and perennial plants.
According to Sadhbh O' Neill of Genetic Concern, 'this study reinforces concerns by environmentalists and health professionals that far from reducing herbicide use, glyphosate resistant crops may result in increased residues to which we as consumers will be exposed in our food.'
'Increased residues of glyphosate and its metabolites are already on sale via genetically engineered soya, common in processed foods. However no studies of the effects of GE soya sprayed with Roundup on health have been carried out either on animals or humans to date,' she continued.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics from 1997 show that expanded plantings of Roundup Ready soybeans (i.e. soybeans genetically engineered to be used with the herbicide) resulted in a 72% increase in the use of glyphosate. According to the Pesticides Action Network, scientists estimate that plants genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant will actually triple the amount of herbicides used. Farmers, knowing that their crop can tolerate or resist being killed off by the herbicides, will tend to use them more liberally.
O' Neill concluded: 'The EPA when authorising Monsanto's field trials for Roundup-ready sugar beet did not consider the issue. They considered this to be the job of the Pesticides Control Service of the Department of Agriculture. Thus nobody has included the effects of increasing the use of glyphosate in the risk/benefit analysis carried out. It is yet another example of how regulatory authorities supposedly protecting public health have failed to implement the 'precautionary principle' with respect to genetic manipulations.'
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