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News Updates--March through August 2000

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August 2000: Monsanto grants free use of golden rice technology

July 2000: Coalition launches campaign against GM food

July 2000: Colorado petition drive for labeling GM food

July 2000: Scientific groups urge support for biotech crops

June 2000: Bt pollen safe for black swallowtails

May 2000: U.S. government announces plans for regulation

May 2000: "Golden rice" will be available in three years

April 2000: Environmental groups try to quash transgenic squash

April 2000: Science panel says GM food is safe

March 2000: Coalition asks FDA for mandatory labeling and safety tests

March 2000: Antibiotic resistance genes pose less problem than believed

August 2000: Monsanto allows free use of transgenic technology for golden rice

The Monsanto Company announced on August 3 that it will not charge licensing fees for the use of its patented transgenic technology for producing "golden rice." Golden rice is modified to produce beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, and may benefit Vitamin A deficient consumers in developing countries. Source: New York Times, Aug. 4, 2000.


July 2000: Consumer and environmental groups launch new campaign against GM food

A coalition of consumer and environmental groups announced plans to pressure food companies to stop using genetically modified ingredients in their food products. The coalition will seek consumer letters, phone calls, and petitions to convince companies, starting with the Campbell Soup Company, to abandon GM crops. Source: New York Times, July 19, 2000.


July 2000: Colorado petition drive to require GM food labeling begins

A Colorado petition drive to require the labeling of genetically modified food began collecting signatures July 7. If 62,500 valid signatures are submitted by Aug. 7, the initiative will appear on the November ballot. Meanwhile, two bills have been introduced in Congress to require labeling at the national level: H.R. 3377 in the House of Representatives and S. 2080 in the Senate. Both are known as the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act. Labeling of GM foods is a complex issue; extensive information on labeling is provided at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Office of Biotechnology, http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/sci/biotech/tech/labetie.shtml.

Postscript: Sufficient signatures for the Colorado ballot initiative were not submitted by the August 7 deadline.


July 2000: Academies of Science urge crop biotechnology for developing countries

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences together with six academies of science from other countries called for increased government and industry support for crop biotechnologies that benefit developing countries. The report cited the potential of transgenic crops to address plant pest and disease problems and to improve human nutrition, and urged increased research funding and freer use of patented technology.
Source: New York Times, July 11, 2000


June 2000: Bt corn pollen not toxic to black swallowtail butterflies

Results of an Illinois field study showed no harmful effects of Bt corn pollen on black swallowtail butterfly larvae. Researchers placed potted plants that were infested with first instar larvae at intervals from the edge of a Bt corn field, and monitored mortality rates and amount of pollen deposition on the leaves. No relationship was seen between larval mortality and distance from the field or amount of pollen on the plants. Source: Wraight et al., 2000


May 2000: Clinton Administration announces initiatives on ag biotech regulation

A series of steps to strengthen science-based regulation of ag biotech products was announced by the Clinton Administration on May 3. These initiatives include:

  1. A 6-month assessment of federal environmental regulations pertaining to agricultural biotechnology, to be conducted by the Council on Environmental quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
  2. A proposed requirement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it be informed at least 120 days before GM crops or products are placed on the market. This will replace the current voluntary consultation process.
  3. Development of FDA guidelines for voluntary labeling of foods containing or not containing transgenic ingredients.
  4. An expanded competitive grants program by USDA and FDA on health and safety issues.
  5. Improved public education activities on the nature of the US regulatory process.
The text of the initiative is available at http://www.useu.be/ISSUES/biotech0503.html.

May 2000: AstraZeneca will sell transgenic "golden rice" in three years

AstraZeneca, a multinational agricultural/pharmaceutical company, announced that it will sell a strain of "golden rice" in developing countries within three years. Golden rice is transgenically enhanced to produce beta carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A. The crop may benefit millions of people in rice-eating countries who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, and is viewed as a symbol of the benefits offered by biotechnology.
Source: New York Times, May 16, 2000.


April 2000: Environmental groups petition USDA to withdraw approval of transgenic squash

USDA was asked to withdraw its approval for two transgenic virus-resistant squash varieties developed by Asgrow Seed Co. The petition by the National Resources Defense Council and several other environmental groups questioned whether USDA had adequately evaluated the potential risk of transgene spread through cross-pollination to weedy squash relatives. If the new gene made the wild relatives more vigorous, it might increase weed control problems for Southern farmers.


April 2000: NAS panel considers GM food safe, but calls for regulatory changes

In a long-awaited report, a U.S. National Academy of Sciences panel concluded that foods from transgenic crops currently on the market are safe for human consumption. At the same time, the report called for more coordinated regulation among the three federal agencies that have responsibility for approving transgenic crops, and the collection of more data prior to and following approval. The report, "Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation", was authored by the Committee on Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants, National Research Council (http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9795.html). For more information, see the Evaluation and Regulation section of this web site.


March 2000: Organizations petition FDA for testing and labeling

A coalition of 54 consumer, farmer, and environmental groups petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to require safety testing and labeling of transgenic crops. Currently, neither of those measures is mandatory, although plant developers do consult with FDA to review safety and nutritional data and to determine if additional testing is required. FDA has 180 days to respond to the petition, after which the petitioners may proceed to court.


March 2000: Risk of antibiotic resistance transfer less than thought

At the annual meeting of the British Society of Animal Science this month scientists from the University of Leeds, UK, reported that they had tried and failed to get bacteria to pick up an antibiotic resistance gene used in transgenic crops. The gene bla, which confers resistance to ampicillin, is used as a marker in transgenic maize, leading to concerns that it could be accidentally transferred to pathogenic bacteria which would then become resistant to the antibiotic. However, John Heritage and his colleagues reported that so far they have been unable to detect bla in the gut bacteria of chickens or cattle fed on transgenic corn. Further tests are planned, but British scientists are now saying that the risk of antibiotic resistance transfer from transgenic crops may be less than previously feared.
Source: New Scientist, 25 March 2000.


Archive: News Updates for July through December 2002

Archive: News Updates for January through June 2002

Archive: News Updates for April through December 2001

Archive: News Updates for January through March 2001

Archive: News Updates for September through December 2000

Page last updated : January 10, 2006

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