John Horvath on Tue, 24 Sep 2002 22:24:06 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> three docs on GMOs

[These three documents can be found on the CORDIS web site
<>. Although they try to put on a brave face, it's
obvious that even the EC is having trouble keeping the bad news at bay.
-- John]

Document 1. Commission rejects allegations of deliberate GM report 

The European Commission has rejected allegations from environmental
campaigners Greenpeace that it was holding back publication of a new
report on GMO (genetically modified organism) contamination because it
showed GM infiltration of conventional crops could be costly and
difficult to avoid.

The report, produced by the Joint Research Centre's Institute for
Technological Studies for the Commission's Agriculture DG, has just been
officially released, although it was compiled in January.

Greenpeace says the report was not released earlier due to the nature of
its contents. Greenpeace policy advisor Lorenzo Consoli is reported as
saying: 'The Commission has tried to keep this study secret because it
was afraid of its political implications.'

The report found that the one per cent limit on GM content in
traditional crops required under EU rules will be extremely difficult to
meet. Even with significant changes in farming practice, the cultivation
of GM and non-GM crops will be unrealistic even on large farms, states
the report.

It predicts that to comply with a one or three per cent maximum
threshold of GMOs, the costs of changes to farming practice and the
introduction of insurance and monitoring systems would add between one
and 10 per cent to current production prices. For some crops, including
oil seed rape, the costs could be as high as 41 per cent.

'The question is, if the introduction of commercial crops on a
commercial scale in Europe increases the costs of production for all
farmers, makes them more dependent on the big seed companies, and
require complicated and costly measures to avoid contamination, why
should we accept GMO cultivation in the first place?' said Mr Consoli.

But a spokeswoman for DG Agriculture strongly refuted the group's
claims. 'There is nothing secret about it at all,' she said. She
explained that the version of the report mentioned in the Greenpeace
press release on the issue was a draft that had yet to be passed to the
Health and Consumer Protection and Agriculture DGs for their comments.
'This is the normal procedure,' she stated.

Now that all the relevant feedback has been obtained, the report has
been made available (at the site below).

The spokeswoman also emphasised that the study is a computer model
designed to predict future scenarios, rather than field research.

Copies of the report can be found at the following web address:

Document 2. GMOs contain greater theoretical risk of extinction, say
            US scientists

The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into wild
animal populations has a greater theoretical risk of extinction of
natural species than previously thought, according to two scientists
working at a US university.

The warning from William Muir and Richard Howard, both professors at the
USA's Purdue University, will add to the current debate in Europe about
genetic modification technology.

They used computer modelling and statistical analysis to research the
hypothetical risk of mixing GMOs with wild populations. Their work,
which identifies three new scenarios in which the introduction of GMOs
could lead to the death of a natural species, shows the risk is higher
than was previously thought.

Mr Muir, a professor of animal sciences, said: 'In the broadest sense,
this research tells one how to do risk assessment and what GMOs need
further containment.'

In one scenario, researchers found that a release of larger fish, which
had a higher mating success but shorter life-spans, could drive a wild
population to extinction in less than 40 generations.

Another scenario examined genetic modification which increases the size
of male fish, with the result that they find more mates and live longer,
but also become less fertile. The predicted result of this is that the
wild population would become extinct in less than 20 generations.

The researchers also found scenarios in which the introduced gene could
spread through the population but not reduce the overall population
size. Mr Howard, who is professor of biology, said: 'This invasion risk
is an unknown in assessing the overall risk. Given the biology, all we
can say is that the gene would increase in the population. We don't know
if that would cause a problem or not.'

The Purdue University research is part of an ongoing effort by the
university and the US department of agriculture's Biotechnology Risk
Assessment programme to assess the risks of biotechnology.

'Consumer confidence in the use of transgenic technology will only
happen if there is a thorough, unbiased examination of the risks,' said
Professor Muir.

Document 3. GM fears raised by UK research

New research carried out by the University of Newcastle in the UK has
shown that genetically modified (GM) genes can find their way into human
gut bacteria, the first time that this has been proven.

The consequences could be far reaching, as many GM crops have marker
genes inserted into them which make them resistant to common
antibiotics. The new findings indicate that antibiotics could have
little or reduced effect on humans who have consumed these GM products.

Response to the research was divided. While the body which commissioned
the research, the UK food standards agency, emphasised that that 'the
likelihood of functioning DNA being taken up by bacteria in the human or
animal gut is extremely low', the environmental group Friends of the
Earth described the results as 'dynamite'. It also called for an
immediate end to the use of marker genes in GM crops.

The research is the first trial of GM foods on human volunteers. It
compared the results of two groups eating a GM meal, one group who all
had colostomy bags and one group with complete stomachs. They found that
a relatively large proportion of genetically modified DNA survived the
passage through the small bowel of the colostomy bag group, but not in
the other group. They also found that almost half the stool samples
provided by the colostomy bag group showed that bacteria had taken up
the herbicide resistant gene from GM food at very low levels.

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