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Dateline 6/29/99


The Natural Law Party's National Summit on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods held on June 17 in Washington, D.C. was "a grand success," according to summit organizer Laura Ticciati, who heads up the NLP's Mothers for Natural Law.

A distinguished panel of scientists, physicians, farmers, clergy, food industry leaders, and consumers presented the health, environmental, and ethical risks of the unchecked genetic manipulation of the world's food supply. More than 150 people attended, including top government leaders and over 25 members of the Washington press corps.

NLP presidential candidate Dr. John Hagelin presented drafts of two pieces of legislation that would mandate labeling of all genetically engineered foods as well as mandate proper safety testing of these GE food products. The NLP is working with members of Congress to pass this legislation. Ms. Ticciati submitted nearly 500,000 petition signatures from citizens across the United States in support of the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Similar NLP-sponsored Summits on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods will be held in 50 cities leading up to the year 2000 election.

Excerpts from some of the many press reports that came out of the Summit: | Boston Globe | Financial Times | Washington Post Thursady, June 17, 1999

Food Fight

The effects of eating genetically engineered food are as unknown to scientists as the ingredients in a consumer's shopping basket. On Thursday, scientists and wary consumers will gather in Washington for the National Summit on the Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods. They hope to pressure Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into calling for the testing of engineered foods, and to ensure that all foods containing any of these products are labelled. The event sponsors, Mothers for Natural Law, will also present a petition of half a million names collected from across the US. "This is a right to know issue," Laura Ticciati, the group's executive director, told "At the moment we are all part of the largest food experiment ever."

Experts from fields as varied as nuclear physics, environmental science, and molecular biology who have put their names to the document claim engineered food could result in either a toxic or allergic reaction in humans. "There has been no human testing of these foods, and the effects of eating them are unknown," said Dr. John Hagelin, Director of the Institute of Science, Technology & Public Policy, who will be moderating the event. At the moment there is no legislation requiring for engineered food to be labeled. "Soy used in infant formula has genetic material and bacteria never before ingested by the human race," Hagelin told . . . "We are rewriting the genetic library of the earth in only three to five years."

- Louise Rosen



Group lobbies for labeling genetically altered foods
By Scott Allen, Globe Staff, 06/18/99

WASHINGTON - American consumers become unwitting guinea pigs in a poorly understood experiment every time they go food shopping, a diverse group of scientists, activists, and a British supermarket executive warned yesterday, because increasing amounts of corn, soy beans, and other crops are grown from genetically altered seeds.

The group, gathered for a forum called the National Summit on the Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods, presented petitions with 500,000 signatures to Congress and the Food and Drug Administration calling on the government to require genetically modified foods to carry labels so that consumers will know if a tomato has been treated with fish genes or corn chips contain genes from bacteria.

Yesterday's demonstration was the first sign that a deep distrust of genetically altered foods that has swept Europe could catch on in the United States.

"Don't I have a right to know what's in the food I select for my children so I can decide for myself what I feed them?" asked Laura Ticciati, executive director of the Iowa-based Mothers for Natural Law that headed the petition drive.

But FDA officials, as well as seed company and grocery industry executives, said labeling would only stigmatize the foods, without providing real information. They said the foods are just as nutritious and safe as crops grown from conventional agriculture techniques.

"It's not a safety issue," said Lisa Katic, science and nutrition policy director at the Grocery Manufacturers of America. Federal researchers, she added "reviewed this for the past 20 years. . . . They felt comfortable that it was one step further than the selective breeding that scientists have done for years."

Scientists at the conference, however, questioned how well anyone understands the long-term impact of genetically modified foods. They pointed to a new study showing that pollen from genetically modified corn kills monarch butterflies as proof that these crops have not been studied enough. . . .

Yet American farmers are unquestionably embracing genetically modified seeds, which have been commercially available for a few years. A quarter of the US corn crop, 35 percent of soy beans, and smaller percentages of everything from potatoes to sugar beets have been genetically modified to increase pest resistance, to improve yields, or to change taste.

Because regulators do not require that the foods be labeled, conventional and genetically altered crops are freely mixed, making it impossible to say definitively what consumer goods contain altered genes.

The American debate over the subject has been remarkably low key. Most politicians and the Clinton administration, back the industry's use of genetically altered seeds as the way of the future for agriculture, boosting agricultural output to match a growing population. Only one member of Congress, David Bonior of Michigan, sent a representative to yesterday's meeting at the Capitol Hilton Hotel.

Europeans, meanwhile, have been far more nervous about the trend, especially the British, where tabloids call the products "Frankenfoods."

The differences have fueled growing trade tensions between the United States and Europe as the European Union slows its approvals of genetically engineered products, virtually all of which are coming from American fields. Last month, 36 senators wrote a letter to Clinton warning of a "looming trade conflict" if Europeans don't ease restrictions on genetically modified foods.


Financial Times Friday, June 18, 1999

World News / International

FDA under pressure on GM foods
By Rebecca Christie in Washington

The US Food and Drug Administration is facing mounting pressure for stronger controls on genetically engineered foods and to require labelling of GM food.

A lawyer for a coalition of scientists, consumer groups and religious leaders said there was new evidence that the FDA had ignored warnings from its own scientists when it designed its policies. The group filed a lawsuit against the FDA in 1998 asking for labelling and research on the long-term health effects of genetically modified foods such as corn, soyabeans and tomatoes.

Also yesterday, a non-profit organisation associated with the Natural Law party - a liberal, grassroots-oriented US political party - announced a petition to the FDA, Congress and President Clinton asking for the same measures. The group, Mothers for Natural Law, said it had gathered 500,000 signatures. . . .

Steven Druker, a lawyer for the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, said his group had obtained FDA records showing that some FDA scientists were concerned about the safety of genetically engineered foods. The Alliance for Bio-Integrity is an Iowa-based group that filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in Washington, along with the Washington-based International Centre for Technology Assessment.

Mr. Druker said some FDA scientists agreed there were different risks associated with genetically altered plants than with traditional crops. He cited comments on the 1992 policy by Jim Maryanski, FDA biotechnology co-ordinator, and Linda S. Kahl of the FDA's Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. These comments contradicted the official FDA position, he said.

The FDA declined to comment on the case because litigation is pending.


Genetically Altered Food Debated

Washington Post

By Janelle Carter
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, June 19, 1999; 11:22 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A group of consumer advocates wants labels required for genetically altered foods, continuing a biotechnology debate that has already swept across Europe.

The Natural Law Party, with consumer groups, scientists and farmers, announced last week it had gathered 500,000 signatures of Americans in support of government labeling of genetically engineered foods.

They plan to submit the signatures to the White House, members of Congress and several federal agencies in hopes of forcing legislation. "We say why rush it onto the market before we know it's safe," said Bob Roth, a spokesman for the Natural Law Party. "Why not give consumers a choice?"

Added Sheldon Krimsky, a professor of urban and environmental policy at Tufts University, "Until we are satisfied that we know what questions to ask and that we are fully empowered to test the products of biotechnology, industry and regulators will be operating by seat-of-the-pants assessment."

Organizers also were behind the campaign last year in which the Agriculture Department received more than 250,000 letters urging that national standards for organic products bar genetic engineering. The agency agreed to the standards.

While critics say labels on biotech foods will give consumers a choice, the food and biotechnology industries say the proposal is expensive and unnecessary.

"The products of ag biotechnology have been subjected to more scrutiny than any other products in humanity," said Val Giddings, vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, adding that the products have been tested extensively.

"There is no scientific basis for putting that on. If you put that on a label, the implication will unavoidably be that this has some health significance, and it does not."

A federal task force of representatives from the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration, State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative's office is reviewing the labeling issue. . . .

In February, the United States managed to avert labeling demands by several countries as part of a U.N.-initiated Biosafety Protocol. Last month, American scientists revealed they had discovered that pollen from a widely planted laboratory-designed strain of corn can kill monarch butterflies--a finding noted by opponents of genetic engineering though refuted by the industry.

"It's just another piece of news that has eroded the consumers confidence in the whole process of genetic engineering," Roth said. "The American people ... are not going to sit back anymore and take food being forced on them by the biotech industry."

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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