BioDemocracy News #28 Son of Frankenfoods, July 2000
Son of Frankenfoods: GE Trees, Fish, and Functional Foods

News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, & Organics
by: Ronnie Cummins
BioDemocracy News is a publication of the Organic Consumers Association

In this issue:

Quotes of the Month:

"Those of us in industry can take comfort of a sort from such obvious
Luddism. After all, we're the technical experts. We know we're right. The
'antis' obviously don't really understand the science, and are just as
obviously pushing a hidden agenda - probably to destroy capitalism." Robert
Shapiro, CEO of Monsanto. "The welcome tension of technology: The need for
dialogue about agricultural biotechnology." Center for the Study of
American Business, CEO Series, no 37, February 2000.

"E. Berry Summerour, an agricultural analyst with investment bankers Stephens
Inc., said he expected consumer suspicion of GMOs to fade in the next few
years as the industry markets more consumer-friendly products such as rice
with higher vitamin A content or edible vaccines. 'It's going to take a lot
more communication, and it's going to take some of these products to get to
the market without fumbling,' Summerour said. But it (biotechnology) is
going to be here, it's going to be a fact of life.' '' "U.S. Food Industry
Targets Biotech Education" by Julie Ingwersen, Reuters news story July 6,

The Frankenfoods 15: OCA's Corporate Target of the Month: Kellogg's (USA)

Call, fax, e-mail, or mail a letter to Kellogg's. Tell them you'll boycott
their brand-name products unless they can guarantee you in writing that
they will ban genetically engineered corn and other ingredients from their
breakfast cereals and other products.

Telephone 1-800-962-1413 Fax 616-961-2871
e-mail (via their website) <>
Mail: Kellogg's Company
Attention: Carlos M. Gutierrez, CEO
One Kellogg Square, P.O. Box 3599
Battle Creek, MI 49016
Frankenfight Round Two: Get Ready for the Next Generation of GE Foods and Crops

Evidence continues to mount that the First Wave of genetically engineered
(GE) foods and crops (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone,
herbicide-resistant, virus-spliced, and Bt-spliced crops) are in serious
trouble. Although the Gene Giants are struggling harder than ever to keep
up appearances, mounting global opposition to Frankenfoods--and adverse
reports from the lab and fields--signal the beginning of the end for the
first generation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Although critics
and campaigners still find ourselves fully occupied in slowing down and
reversing the First Wave of mutant crops, the international balance of
forces are starting to tip in our favor. Among the favorable signs are the

* Increasing global opposition to GE foods and crops, including now North
America. Almost 90% of gene-crops are currently produced in the US and
Canada. While major foreign export markets for GE-tainted foods and seeds
continue, slowly but surely, to close down (Europe, Japan, South Korea,
Brazil) consumer opposition in Canada and the US increases month by
month--in spite of, or perhaps even partly because of, the multi million
dollar PR campaign being waged by agbiotech interests. Latest
industry-funded polls show 59% of Canadians flatly opposed to GE foods,
while 51% in the US say the same thing--with the overwhelming majority in
both countries expressing mounting concern over the lack of safety-testing
and labeling. In Europe up to 70% adamantly oppose GMOs, while 82% of
Japanese are opposed. In response North American farmers are already
starting to cut back on major GE crops--corn, soybeans, and canola. Latest
July USDA estimates show a 20% drop in GE corn acreage and a 6% drop in
soybeans, while Canada analysts predict a 10% reduction in GE canola.

* Leading food companies and supermarket chains all over the world, fearing
the growing consumer backlash, are removing, or else preparing to remove,
GE ingredients from their brand-name products. As soon as giant supermarket
chains and global meat and fish companies ban GE grains and animal feeds--a
basically irreversible process already well underway--the global market for
American corn and soya will collapse. Although there was only a 6% drop
in US farmers planting Roundup Ready soybeans this year, by next year we
can expect major reductions.

* Adverse reports from the lab and fields. As predicted for years by
biotech critics: canola superweeds have appeared in Canada; Bt crops are
damaging beneficial insects and soil microorganisms, promoting pest
resistance, and disrupting ecological balances so that previous minor pests
like Stink Bugs on cotton are proliferating; increased IGF-1 levels in
rBGH-derived milk is posing higher cancer risks; herbicide-resistant
soybeans are decreasing yields and causing farmers to use 2-5 times more
herbicides than conventional farmers; antibiotic-resistant genes (found in
all GE foods) are transferring "horizontally" from Frankenfoods into the
bacteria of the digestive tract, so that animals and humans ingesting GMOs
are likely incubating ever more virulent pathogens; and Cauliflower Mosaic
Viral Promoters (found in almost all GE foods) are likely setting off
hazardous biochemical reactions in our bodies. For more information on GE
hazards see the Organic Consumers Association website <>
and its links.

A recent Wall Street report showed little enthusiasm on the part of
investors for purchasing Monsanto's stock. Leading life science
corporations like Pharmacia & Upjohn, Novartis, Dupont, and Aventis are
either decreasing planned agbiotech investments or else spinning off their
agbiotech divisions. In short prospects have dimmed for the Biotech
Century. But don't worry the gene engineers tell us, even if you haven't
liked the Cafe Biotech menu thus far, you'll just love the second
generation of GMOs currently being cooked up in our labs, test plots, fish
tanks, and tree farms.

A look at the propaganda and activities of the Gene Giants reveal a simple
yet sinister five-year plan

* Distract consumers from worrying about the ever more obvious hazards of
the first generation of GE foods and crops by dazzling them with tales of
how the next generation of GMOs will (1) feed the starving masses; (2)
nourish and vaccinate the poor; (3) make foods, even junk foods, more
nutritious; and (4) solve the problems created by the unsustainable
practices of the global timber, paper, and fishing industries.

* Delay or derail strict national and international regulation of GMOs
based upon the precautionary principle by cutting "backdoor deals" among
the bureaucrats of the largest G-8 and OECD nations. Create further delays
by prolonging endless debate at World Trade Organization meetings or the
Codex Alimentarius.

* By the time the Gene Giants delay regulations and distract the public
for 3-5 years, GMOs and GMO contamination in the environment will be so
pervasive that the public will become fatalistic. By then the second
generation of GMOs will be on the market and the Luddites and
anti-globalization campaigners will have been divided, coopted, or defeated.

The only way we can stop this diabolical plan from succeeding is by waging
a protracted battle on two fronts. While stepping up our resistance to the
First Wave of Frankenfoods and crops and literally driving them off the
market, we must simultaneously start to educate and mobilize the global
grassroots against the forthcoming Second Wave of GMOs. For a start let's
take a critical look at GE functional foods, trees, and fish.

Gene-Altered "Functional Foods" --Dubious Benefits and Human Health Risks

One of the central myths propagated by agbiotech over the past few years is
that GE crops will increase farm productivity and feed the world's 800
million hungry people. But as respected anti-hunger organizations like
Oxfam, Christian Aid, and Food First, and experts like Vandana Shiva have
revealed, this claim is nothing more than a lie
<> and
<>. The world already produces twice
as much food as necessary to provide all six billion of us with a
nutritious and adequate diet now. Sensing that many people are no longer
swallowing the "GE Will Feed the World" myth, the Gene Giants have had to
modify their tune. Now they say that new gene-altered "functional foods"
being readied for market will be fortified with vitamins, spliced with
disease-fighting capabilities, or altered so as to be less fatty and

The flagship product of GE functional foods is the so-called vitamin A
enhanced "Golden Rice,'' bankrolled to the tune of $100 million by the
Rockefeller Foundation and offered by the GE Giants as a "gift" to the
developing world. Unfortunately this miracle rice is a hoax, and likely a
dangerous hoax as well.

First of all poor people have vitamin A or Beta-Carotene deficiencies, not
because there's something wrong with the non-genetically engineered rice
they're eating, but because they don't have the money or resources to eat a
well-rounded diet with lots of green and yellow vegetables, fruits, and
fish. Even if Golden Rice will actually grow in the real world in diverse
terrain and climates (an open question since so far it's only been grown in
the lab), for poverty-stricken people unable to afford much more than rice
it's not going to solve their nutritional problems. The insidious
consequence of Golden Rice and related myths of other GE functional foods
is that it may delay or indefinitely distract the world community from
getting to the root of the problem-- i.e. poverty and injustice. Wasting
billions of dollars subsidizing research on GE crops is worse than
misguided, it's literally criminal. Land reform, poverty reduction, and
sustainable/organic agriculture are the solution to world hunger, not
genetic engineering.

Second of all genetically engineered rice (and other functional foods) will
still contain potentially hazardous GE constructs such as viral promoters
(derived from the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus) and, most likely,
antibiotic-resistant marker genes as well. And of course similar hazards arise when you look
at other vitamin-enhanced GE foods in the pipeline such as soybeans and
other grains or vegetables. Even scarier is the notion of dosing people
with indeterminant amounts of live vaccines or medicines gene-spliced into
their food. Not to mention the ecological consequences of drug or
vaccine-spliced plants spreading their mutant characterists into non-GE
crop varieties or related species via genetic pollution.

Promoting Healthier Junk Foods

While 800 million people in the world suffer severe health problems from
being malnourished, another 800 million people, mainly in the
industrialized North, suffer from obesity--closely related to the public
over consumption of junk foods, meat, and animal products. Here again the
Gene Giants tell us they've got a solution, namely genetically engineered
junk foods and factory-farmed meat (french fries, cooking oil, beef, pork,
margarine) which are lower in fats or calories. But as food activists from
<> in Britain point out, the next generation of
Frankenfoods are mainly "about making basically unhealthy food (such as
chips and crisps) a little bit healthier... But even if they were to work
as is claimed in the corporate PR, these foods are in reality completely
unnecessary when judged against the benefits of a truly healthy and
balanced diet. Instead, by convincing consumers that unhealthy, fatty foods
are nutritious, these new crops might instead lead to a deterioration in
people's health."

Genetically Engineered Tree Farms: The "Final Solution" to Global Deforestation

Forestry and pulp paper production is now one of the largest and most
lucrative industries in the world, with an estimated value of the world's
timber harvest annually of $400 billion. Unfortunately for the planet and
its living creatures, corporate greed and unsustainable forestry practices
have caused massive deforestation and devastation to the planet's
biodiversity and carrying capacity. Confronted with rapidly accelerating
environmental damage and species extinction, and now undeniable global
climate disruption, a growing segment of the public have become alarmed and
concerned. As a consequence the large transnational timber and paper
corporations, such as International Paper, Weyerhauser, Boise-Cascade,
UPM-Kymmene (formerly Champion International), and Mitsubishi, along with
the oil, auto, and utilities industries, find themselves under increasing
public scrutiny and pressure.

Sensing a major business opportunity, Monsanto and the Gene Giants have sat
down and begun negotiating with the world's largest timber and paper
companies (as well as the other major greenhouse gas/climate disruption
culprits, the oil, auto, and utilities companies) and have come up with a
"final solution"--plant billions of fast growing, herbicide-resistant,
fiber-altered GE trees on tree plantations all over the globe. This way
transnational corporations will be able to produce more timber and paper
for the voracious global market (without changing current forestry or paper
industry practices), soak up some of the climate-disrupting CO2 greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere (faster-growing trees on vast tree plantations will
soak up more CO2), and reduce toxic pollution in the paper industry. Down
the road the biotech lobby also promise us pest-resistant fruit trees and
even tastier and more nutritious fruit.

All this may sound rather nifty at first, until you start to think about
some of the downsides of gambling with the future of our trees, of
tampering with the genetic structure and life cycle of the world's forests.
For example:

* GE tree plantations will replace biologically diverse forests with
fast-growing, herbicide-resistant identical trees planted in even rows with
no "competing" plants growing underneath them. Native forests will be
logged and replaced by corporate tree plantations even faster than they are
now, since GE trees will grow much faster and will be able to be sprayed
with world record amounts of toxic herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup.

* Trees produce enormous amounts of pollen, which can travel up to hundreds
of miles. Trees also distribute their genetic material through seed
dispersal, regeneration from roots, runners and suckers--not to mention
horizontal gene transfer to fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Normal trees will
inevitably cross with GE mutants (herbicide resistant, fiber-altered, or
Bt-spliced trees), creating "supertrees" which will crowd out natural
forests. This in turn will kill off beneficial insects, decrease the food
available for wildlife, and force tree pests into adjacent natural forest
areas where they will wreak havoc.

* Fast-growing GE trees (which can grow more than three feet a month and
can be harvested in four years) use up tremendous quantities of water and
will kill off other trees and plants by depleting the water table. In
addition the leaves from Bt-spliced trees will create toxic soil
conditions, undermining the entire soil food web and natural systems of
composting on the forest floor.

* Scientists warn that the enormous quantities of pollen generated by
Bt-spliced and other GE trees will likely cause major allergic reactions in

* GE trees patented by Dow, Novartis, and other companies altered to
produce less lignin (the substance in the cell walls of trees and plants
that makes them strong and stiff) will cross-pollinate will trees and other
organisms and cause major alterations in the forest ecosystem.

* Timber and paper corporations promoting low-lignin trees say that pulp
paper processing will be able to use less chlorine and toxic chemicals in
dealing with GE trees--obscuring the fact that there are already
commercially viable non-timber low-lignin plants that we should be using to
produce paper products (hemp, kenap, and residues from food crops) instead
of trees. Turning to low-lignin GE trees will also cover up the fact that
pulp and paper companies are deliberating poisoning the environment by
refusing to upgrade their mills with new technology that could enable them
to avoid using chlorine and other toxic chemicals and then discharging
their dioxin-laden wastes into the air and water.

* GE companies are planning to use Terminator or Terminator-like
technologies to produce GE trees which are sterile, thereby not only making
the trees grow faster but also giving them a monopoly over their patented
gene-altered tree varieties. Given the imprecision of gene-splicing, the
intricate, little understood, and long-term evolution of trees in relation
to changing climatic conditions, and the inherent instability of the genome
of genetically engineered trees these Terminator traits will inevitable
contaminate "normal" trees all over the world. As one British newspaper,
the Daily Telegraph put it:

"Terminator trees, genetically engineered never to flower, could ensure a
silent spring in the forests of the future. Such trees will grow faster
than before, but will be devoid of the bees, butterflies, moths, birds, and
squirrels which depend on pollen, seed, and nectar."

If all this sounds less than reassuring, how about herbicide-resistant
genetically enginered grass for lawns and golf courses, a new product line
being readied for mass commercialization in the United States? See

Frankenfish: How to Make the Global Fish and Marine Life Crisis Even Worse

Industrial-style commercial fishing and environmental pollution are slowly
but surely killing off all of the fish and other marine life in our oceans
and surface waters. Rather than make the transnational fish corporations
change their practices (almost a third of all fish caught by factory
fishing boats are killed and then tossed overboard for example), and stop
factory farms and industry from polluting our waterways, the Gene Engineers
and factory-style fish farms have a "better idea"--genetically engineered
Frankenfish. Building upon the bottom line unsustainable practices of
industrial fish and shrimp farms (feeding antibiotics and rendered animal
protein to fish, allowing caged fish to escape and kill off native wild
species, polluting delicate wetlands and fish breeding areas, using up more
fish protein to feed captive fish than is produced by the full-grown fish,
etc.), the proponents of GE fish tell us they'll help feed the world by
producing faster-growing, disease-resistant mutants in gigantic tanks and
fish nets.
Like GE trees, Frankenfish are being highly touted and promoted.

For consumers, restaurants, and fish farmers the idea of a GE Atlantic
salmon which grows twice as fast or six times faster than a normal salmon
might sound like a good idea. But this GE blue revolution in aquaculture,
which Canadian and US officials may possibly approve for commercialization
as soon as next year, has its downside. Consider these hazards:

* GE fish will inevitably escape from confinement, just as millions of
fish from commercial fish farms already do every year. Once out of
confinement fast-growing GE fish eat more and will will consume food needed
by native species. GE fish will carry viruses or other diseases that can
ravage native populations.

* As the New York Times (May 1, 2000) reports, recent studies ( A Purdue
University Study published in the Nov. 1999 Proceedings of the National
Academy of Science) show that native fish will more readily breed with
giant Frankenfish than they will with their own native breed. Over the
short run this means that Frankenfish will breed and multiply while native
species will die out. Of course over time these mutant breeds will likely
be unable to adapt to changing environmental conditions and then they too
will die out. "In addition," the Times points out, "there is the
possibility of unpredictable environmental disruptions, like those that
occur when non-native species invade ecosystems, as the zebra mussels have
the Hudson River." GE fish companies argue that their new Frankenfish will
be sterile, so you don't have to worry about them interbreeding with wild
relatives. But even the proponents of GE fish admit there's no way that
companies can guarantee 100% sterility in their Frankenfish, not to mention
the frightening possibility that these sterility traits could be
inadvertently transferred to native species.

* Scientists warn that increased levels of growth hormones in GE fish could
be hazardous to humans. Certainly fish whose altered genetic structure
makes them constantly pump out unnatural levels of growth hormones will be
genetically weakened and more susceptible to disease. To protect and
maximize their investments in these fast-growing but sickly mutants, fish
farmers will need to feed these fish more antibiotics and rendered animal
protein in their feed. This in turn will mean more antibiotic residues in
fish that consumers eat, as well as more antibiotics in our surface waters
and waste systems. Some scientists warn that since fish, like mammals,
produce prion proteins, feeding hormone-supercharged GE fish additional
rendered animal protein could conceivably cause fish to produced malformed
prion proteins--thereby causing a Mad Cow-like disease to emerge in fish.

* Green salmon. Genetically engineering fish is inherently unpredictable.
GE fish have been born with grotesquely deformed heads and gill flaps, with
descendants of some GE fish showing deformities, even if the parent fish
had appeared to be normal. One batch of young GE salmon were pale green
instead of the normal brown color of young salmon and rather than turning
pink as they matured remained green.

The Second Wave of genetically modified organisms--so-called functional
foods, GE trees, and GE fish--promise to be just as bad as the First Wave
of agbiotech Frankenfoods and crops that consumers and campaigners
worldwide are trying to drive off the market now. So as we step up the
attack on the First Wave of GE foods and crops we must simultaneously begin
to launch a preemptive strike against the Second Wave which is rapidly
bearing down on us. Stay tuned to our website <> and
BioDemocracy News for the latest developments.

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