Biased Panel formed to conduct an urgent study regarding regulation
of genetically modified crops containing pesticide genes


provided by:
CITIZENS FOR HEALTH OF THE INLAND EMPIRE, AND THE GREAT BOYCOTT

URGENT ACTION ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
sample letter

Good News!
On May 10, The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) web site announced changes in the
membership of a panel formed to conduct an urgent study regarding regulation of genetically
modified crops containing pesticide genes, such as crops producing bacillicus thuringiensis
(Bt) toxins in their tissues. The Academy asked for public comment on the previously
proposed panel membership. Thanks to comment letters, one member with strong biotech
industry has stepped down, and Rebecca Goldburg, of the Environmental Defense Fund, is
added. A new 20-day comment period ends May 29.

Bad News!
Another added member receives funds from a biotech industry that contracts with Novartis,
Rhone Poulenc, two Dow subsidiaries, and a host of other producers of genetically
engineered seeds. We need new comment letters that pertain to the new proposed
membership. As proposed, the panel is still weighted in favor of biotech companies such as
Monsanto, Du Pont, and Dow. Of 12 members, seven have past or present financial ties to
the biotech or pesticide industry. For example, an attorney and a scientist have represented
Monsanto and the biotech industry against federal regulators, four additional members who
receive direct or indirect funding from companies that produce genetically modified seeds,
and another serves as a consultant for the pesticide industry. Other scientists have past or
present ties to government agencies that have taken a regulatory stance that favors producers
of genetically engineered foods. Tell the NAS a panel with one representative of the public
sector--in other words, everyone--and many representatives of the biotech industry--a narrow
vested interest group--is unbalanced. Public interest activists want attorneys and scientists
who represent the public interest, as well as health, consumer, or environmental
organizations. Typically, the biotech companies are telling NAS that the panel needs more
representation of biotech interests!

Members' bios are posted on the NAS website. Some bios disclose biotech connections.
During the initial comment period, some biotech connections were not disclosed. To view
committee membership and to send comments online, go to the National Academy
website:http://www4.nas.edu/webcr.nsf/CommitteeDisplay/ and click on BANR-0-99-02-A
Cite the project identification number: BANR-O-99-02-A.
You can call Jennifer Kuzna, at 202/334-2396, or send written comments to
Michael Phillips, National Academy of Sciences,
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources,
Harris Bldg., Room 394,
Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20418
Re: 2101 BANR-O-99-02-A.

Use the form letter below if you wish. Please copy Congressional reps. Mailed letters are
best, but if the deadline is close you can FAX 202/334-1978, email mphillip@nas.edu Michael Phillips (please bcc:laboca@mr.net), National Academy of Sciences,
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources,
Harris Bldg., Room 394, 2101
Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20418

Dear Mr. Phillips,

In light of the $25 million dollar contract between his department and Novartis, Dr.
Staskawicz took the right action in stepping down from the committee on genetically
modified crops containing pesticide genes. I commend the NAS as well for disclosing
funding sources on the bios of proposed members.

I also appreciate the addition of Rebecca Goldburg. However, NAS also added a new
member with funding from a biotech company that contracts with many of the biggest
suppliers of genetically modified plants. A panel comprising one representative of the public
sector--in other words, everyone--and many members with ties to the biotech industry--a
narrow vested interest group--is unbalanced. A balanced panel would have a
PREPONDERANCE OF SCIENTISTS WITH TIES TO GROUPS THAT REPRESENT
THE INTERESTS OF CONSUMERS AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

The panel should be modified to reflect a full range of views of biotechnology. Industry is
too heavily represented by individuals who work indirectly for or receive money from the
companies. The proposed panel still includes an attorney and a scientist who have
represented Monsanto and the biotech industry against federal regulators, four additional
members who receive direct or indirect funding from companies that produce genetically
modified seeds, and another who serves as a consultant for the pesticide industry--a total of
seven with professional or financial ties to companies that could be affected by this
regulation. It includes other scientists with past or present ties to government agencies that
have taken a regulatory stance favorable to producers of genetically engineered crops.

The panel should be balanced with attorneys who represent consumer, health, or
environmental organizations such as The Union of Concerned Scientists, Organic Trade
Association, Consumer Right To Know, Greenpeace, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, or
Citizens for Health.

The issues surrounding the future of biotechnology are of enormous importance to farmers
and consumers, who express justified concerns about ecological and food safety risks from
genetically engineered crops. Moreover, biotechnology in farming impacts the structure of
rural and agricultural economies. Given the extent of public concern, the committee must
include broader representation in the following areas:

* As it is the committee's responsibility to "review data which addresses the hypothesized
risks and benefits of these crops," it should include more scientists well-versed in the risks of
these crops. It needs more scientists from the environmental, consumer and sustainable
agriculture communities who have detailed these risks in the past.

* As it is the committee's responsibility to "examine the domestic regulatory framework in
light of the identified scientific risks and benefits," it needs regulatory experts from the
environmental and public interest community. Currently, the Committee members who are
knowledgeable about federal regulations work directly for the biotechnology industry or work
to promote the biotechnology industry.

Many scientists in the US, Europe and Asia are questioning the long-term environmental
impact of this technology.

- Ornithologists and entomologists cite destruction of beneficial insects (through Bt ingestion)
and mass death of birds that prey on these (and pest) insects.
- Ecologists cite about horizontal gene transfer to similar species of plants (through
cross-pollination), recombination of plant viruses used as the DNA transfer mechanism, and
genetic pollution of the biosphere.
- Agronomists cite the massive transformation of the biodiversity of food plant species to
monocultures.
- Economists note the transformation of entire rural economies from subsistence horticulture
to cash commodity agriculture.
- Physicians speculate that the enzymes and proteins expressed by the inserted or modified
genes may have adverse health effects, such as the increase in allergy to RRS soybeans found
in Europe.

More of the many scientifically credentialed critics of agricultural genetic engineering should
be included on the committee destined to provide a review of this technology in the name of
the National Academy of Sciences. I strongly urge you to reconsider the membership of the
committee to include serious critics of the technology, so as to make them at least 50% of
the membership of the committee. Such members on the committee, and an unrestricted open
debate about the full range of issues, is vital to the credibility of any report the committee
issues.

I believe the Environmental Protection Agency should continue to regulate Bt producing
plants as pesticides. They are engineered specifically to kill pests, and are therefore
pesticides.

Sincerely,


Address:

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