Immediate Global Ban of GM Food - 'A Call For Wisdom in World Agriculture' (17/4/2004)

Mark Griffiths of nlpwessex has over the years provided some of the most cogent comment and criticism on this technology. As well as his comments, there are many interesting links below and others that can be accessed by the links provided.

Immediate Global Ban of GM Food - 'A Call For Wisdom in World Agriculture' www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/wisdomworldagriculture.htm

"Almost everything we grow, everything we eat is the root result of human intervention, human breeding and so on. But this [genetic modification through recombinant DNA technology] is unnatural in a different sort of way from the kinds of breeding programs that have characterized humanity for ten thousand years.... So the question which people have, I believe, not only a right but a duty to ask, is how wisely will we use these unprecedented new powers? What are the risks associated with doing something this new and this profound at the very wellsprings of life?... Certainly, humanity's record for using technology wisely, sensitive to its potential effects on society, on people, on environment is, at best, mixed and hardly encouraging.... We have not yet identified, yet alone cloned, the gene for wisdom, and some skepticism about our ability to manage powerful new technologies is appropriate."
Robert Shapiro, Chief Executive of Monsanto
Speech on genetically modified food, State of the World Forum, San Francisco, October 27, 1998

[Paper below as hosted on the Mindfully.org web site April 2004, reproduced from earlier conference paper. For additional developments click here.] http://mindfully.org/GE/2004/Ban-GM-Food-NLP5apr04.htm

Immediate Global Ban of GM Food
"A Call For Wisdom in World Agriculture"
Confronting the Unavoidable Hazards of Genetically Modified Food
A campaign for a global ban of GM food and the creation of a safe, sustainable strategy for nourishing humanity
Word Events Show GM Contamination Unavoidable

Organisms genetically modified (GM) through recombinant DNA technology are uniquely unnatural (as clearly acknowledged even by the chief executive of Monsanto, see quote at end). There is now ample evidence that as long as a significant portion of the world's food is produced through this powerful and unnatural technology, we cannot maintain an alternative food supply free from its novel effects.

First, the genetically modified DNA in these crops will inevitably invade conventional crops through cross-pollination. As the UK Environment Minister has stated: "It is false to pretend that there is any distance [between the two types of crops] which is going to prevent some contamination." Second, genetically altered seed will sometimes get mixed with conventional seed, as has already affected large tracts of land in many nations. Third, products of genetically modified organisms will frequently get mixed with conventional food during storage, shipping, or processing. Not only will the contamination often go undetected, even if detected, it will not always be properly identified through labelling.

Consequently, it is time to choose between a food supply that has had its genetic blueprints radically restructured through invasive laboratory techniques or one that preserves the natural sequence and integrity of those blueprints. It is not possible to adequately maintain the latter while proceeding with the former.

An Immediate Global Ban - the Only Solution

This is a choice which cannot be made simply by individuals or individual nation-states. It must be made by the whole of humanity. Strong support from developing countries for the Cartagena biosafety protocol signed in Nairobi in May, 2000 demonstrates this is a matter of concern to all, not simply to health conscious consumers in affluent countries.

Accordingly Natural Law Parties around the world appeal to the global community -- its nation states, their citizens, and the representatives of those nations and citizens in the world's governmental and non-governmental organisations -- to institute an immediate and permanent global ban on the growing and sale of foods derived from organisms produced through recombinant DNA techniques.

How the Public and their Representatives have been Deceived

The need for such a ban is more fully evident in the light of the following facts

1. Numerous scientific experts assert that GM foods entail unique hazards to human and environmental health, and hundreds have signed open letters calling for their removal from the world's fields and markets.

2. Although many individuals with scientific credentials (a large percentage of whom are either employed or funded by the biotechnology industry) claim that GM foods are safe, there is no reliable evidence to support this claim while there is substantial evidence that raises reasonable doubt.

3. GM foods could not have come to market if the facts about their unique risks had been acknowledged and if national laws had been honoured. Their introduction depended on systematic deception by both the biotech industry and the United States government, and their continued presence depends on continuation of the deception.

4. The extent of this deception is documented by internal records of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) divulged through a lawsuit brought by public interest groups and eminent scientists to force a change in FDA policy. These records demonstrate that the predominant opinion of the FDA's own scientific experts was that GM foods pose a unique set of hazards, including the potential for generating essentially unpredictable new toxins, carcinogens and allergens. Consequently, they warned that each GM food needs to be established safe through rigorous testing. Yet, the FDA's official policy statement claims (a) that there are no reasonable grounds to doubt the safety of GM foods, and (b) that scientists overwhelmingly agree they are safe. Accordingly, the FDA allowed all GM foods on the market without requiring any testing. (Thorough documentation of the extent of the FDA's misbehaviour is provided at www.biointegrity.org  ).

5. If the truth had been told and U.S. law obeyed, each GM food would still be undergoing long-term testing. None would yet be sold in the U.S., nor would other nations have permitted them after the U.S. had barred them.

6. World-renowned scientific experts have submitted declarations to the U.S. federal court that GM foods could be dangerous and that there is no reliable evidence showing any have been demonstrated safe through appropriate tests. The tests currently relied on in the EU are inadequate to screen for the range of potential negative side effects identified by these and many other experts (including those at the FDA).

7. Consequently, the marketing of GM foods in Europe is contrary to the guiding principle of the EU's food law, which, according to the European Parliament, is "based on the preventive protection of consumer health ...founded on a scientifically-based risk analysis supplemented, where necessary, by appropriate risk management based on the precautionary principle...." - Resolution of 10 March 1998 on the Green Paper: General Principles of Food Law in the EU. In this Green Paper of 30 April 1997, the European Commission states it "...will be guided in its risk analysis by the precautionary principle, in cases where the scientific basis is insufficient or some uncertainty exists."

8. Further, large quantities of foods derived from GM crops are currently sold throughout the EU and other countries without any requirement for testing or labelling. These are the meat, milk and eggs from animals raised on GM feed. The experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated these products could be hazardous to human health, but their warnings were covered up and the tests they called for have not been conducted.

9. Besides their unique risks to consumers, GM foods pose unique risks to the environment: creation of super weeds and super viruses, destruction of biodiversity, pollution of the soil, and many others. These risks are intensified by the fact they are essentially irreversible. Biological pollution has a life of its own, propagating and migrating despite human efforts at containment.

10. The claimed benefits of GM crops have not materialised as predicted. Extensive research data indicates GM seeds do not generally out-produce their conventional counterparts and in fact frequently yield less. The evidence also shows that GM crops often fail to reduce pesticide use as intended and that the amount of pesticide applied to them is on the rise. The World Wildlife Fund has concluded that GM crops impede the transition to integrated pest management and are not an appropriate technology for reducing reliance on the use of pesticides.

11. Meanwhile there is clear evidence that major progress in traditional plant breeding can be made without incorporation of recombinant DNA, thereby avoiding its inherent risks.

12. Moreover, genetic endowment is not the key limiting factor to the creation of sustainable systems of agriculture capable of feeding the world's growing population. Changes in land management practices and socio-economic structures are already transforming agricultural production in some of the poorest parts of the world far beyond the hoped for, but unrealised, performance of GM crops.

13. The venture to genetically restructure our food with recombinant DNA requires vast sums of money. Moreover, as vast as the expenditures have been, far more are required to do the kinds of tests for food and environmental safety that are needed but ignored. If a small fraction of this money were directed to sustainable methods of agriculture that preserve rather than disrupt the integrity of natural biological functioning, great progress can result without negative side effects. Yet, private and public investment in agriculture is largely being committed to the artificial and inherently hazardous methods of recombinant DNA technology.

Violation of Scientific Principles and National Laws

Therefore, the use of GM crops and foods is contrary to sound science and the laws of numerous nations, and it relies on systematic deception of the public and their political representatives. It poses unacceptable hazards to both consumers and the environment while draining financial resources. Only through a complete and permanent ban of GM foods (not just a moratorium) will the hazards be adequately curtailed and the world's precious resources be re-directed from a high-risk, low-benefit technology to technologies that are safe, sustainable and life supporting on all levels.

Immediate Global Ban of GM Food

Accordingly Natural Law Parties around the world have declared their 'Immediate Global Ban of GM Food' campaign to achieve:

The institution of an immediate global ban on the use of foods and food additives derived from organisms that contain recombinant DNA ('GM foods'). The development of a strategy to fulfil the world's food requirements through safe and sustainable methods that function in harmony with Natural Law.

The prompt establishment of research, educational, and applied programmes to implement this strategy globally as soon as possible.

"Almost everything we grow, everything we eat is the root result of human intervention, human breeding and so on. But this [genetic modification through recombinant DNA technology] is unnatural in a different sort of way from the kinds of breeding programs that have characterized humanity for ten thousand years.... So the question which people have, I believe, not only a right but a duty to ask, is how wisely will we use these unprecedented new powers? What are the risks associated with doing something this new and this profound at the very wellsprings of life?... Certainly, humanity's record for using technology wisely, sensitive to its potential effects on society, on people, on environment is, at best, mixed and hardly encouraging.... We have not yet identified, yet alone cloned, the gene for wisdom, and some skepticism about our ability to manage powerful new technologies is appropriate."

Robert Shapiro, Chief Executive of Monsanto - speech on genetically modified food, State of the World Forum, San Francisco, October 27, 1998 (emphasis added)

"... it is my considered judgement that the evidence to date, in its entirety, indicates there are scientifically justified concerns about the safety of genetically engineered foods and that some of them could be quite dangerous. Further, in the absence of reliable toxicological tests, it is not possible to determine which of these new foods are dangerous and which are not."

Philip J. Regal, Ph.D. Professor in the College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, USA; internationally renowned expert on the genetics of plants. From a declaration submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 28 May, 1999, Alliance for Bio-Integrity, et al. versus Shalala, et al.

"If you look at the simple principle of genetic modification it spells ecological disaster. There are no ways of quantifying the risks. ... The solution is simply to ban the use of genetic modification in food."

Harash Narang, Ph.D., microbiologist and senior research associate at the University of Leeds, UK. Dr. Narang caused a scientific and political storm by warning of a link between mad cow disease and CJD in humans years before it was acknowledged by the British Government. On 20 July, 1999, he spoke at the House of Commons about the environmental and human health hazards of GM foods.

"The future will need people who understand that sustainable development is not merely about a series of technical fixes, about redesigning humanity or re-engineering Nature in an extension of globalised industrialisation - but about a reconnection with Nature and a profound understanding of the concepts of care that underpin long-term stewardship."
HRH, the Prince of Wales, BBC Reith Lecture, 17 May 2000


(This document and its internet links may be accessed on-line at www.natural-law-party.org/key_issues/ )


Fundamental scientific conceptual errors in the development of recombinant DNA technology

With the arrival of recombinant DNA technology many of the world's biologists have failed to grasp the overwhelming significance of making fundamental changes to the genomes of animals and plants in a way which completely ignores the contextual basis by which all evolutionary mechanisms are driven. These mechanisms have guided the development of species since the moment life began on earth.

In the context of the vast time horizons of evolution's past and future development the transgenic (or 'genetically modified') organisms that have been developed to date using this technology represent just the merest few milliseconds at the start of what is proposed to be a continual process of radical change to the planet's biology. This is a process which already recognises few if any boundaries.

It is naive to believe that the scientific and commercial interests promoting this technology will encourage substantial limitations on this range in anything other than the short term. Transgenic technology is specifically designed to break biological boundaries that have been robustly established and maintained over enormous periods of time.

It is certainly true to state that all genes, irrespective of organism, consist of the same fundamental components - the nucleotide 'bases' of which there are only four. However, much conceptual thinking in recombinant DNA technology is erroneously based around the assumption that because this universal commonality is shared by all genes and genomes it is reasonable to 'cut and splice' genes out of context from one organism into another without the inconvenience of 'in-principle' technical, ethical and political restrictions.

DNA is a biological language specific to each organism and responsible for generating all its functions and characteristics through the generation of proteins. The particular language or 'dialect' is unique to that organism even though some or many elements of that language may be found in other organisms, especially related ones.

The nucleotide 'bases' comprise the alphabet of the language of each organism. The same four bases are used in the genome of all organisms (whether of the same species or not). In that limited sense every organism is the same. But we know that all organisms are not the same and that there is huge diversity amongst them. Those differences are generated not by the use of different components or alphabets, but by the structure of the different 'languages' or 'dialects' which go to make up the different relationships which exist within them. By analogy most European written languages are similarly built from a common (Roman) alphabet. Although in some rare cases it may be possible to 'cut and splice' a word from the French language into an English sentence  and conserve or enhance its meaningfulness, usually meaning will become distorted. In other words in any language context is paramount. So also in the languages of genetics - the same gene operating in a different genetic context may have radically different effects, not all of which will be readily apparent or easily understood irrespective of the diligence of risk assessment procedures.

In the field of genetics biotechnology has to date succeeded in learning the genetic 'alphabet' common to all organisms. It has also learnt some of the words that exist in the language of particular genomes. But not much more. To extend the analogy further genetic engineers know little about genetic punctuation, syntax, grammar, paragraph construction and so on. In other words biotechnology holds some basic knowledge about genetic components but very little about genetic relationships. Without knowledge of such relationships, adequate fluency in genetic language is not obtainable. Without this fluency reliable assessment of risk is nothing more than a goal based on wishful thinking and corporate optimism.

Not surprisingly, therefore, we find ourselves in a situation where we are at least two generations of scientists away from having a broad enough understanding of the genetic functioning of higher organisms sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of assessing the consequences of incorporating recombinant DNA into global agriculture.

Scientific misconceptions - for more information see:

Sources of risk at the molecular, organism and ecosystem levels These conceptual errors relating to the nature and functioning of the genome ultimately translate themselves into specific risk generating technical problems with the use of recombinant DNA technology. These problems are already well documented in the scientific literature. They include: position effects arising from the insertion of foreign gene sequences (often from viruses or bacteria) into random locations, inter-loci interactions modifying the action of other genes, gene silencing where transgenes or native genes become switched off by mistake, recombination events creating unintended genetic rearrangements, and heteroencapsidation of viral sequences facilitating movement of or interaction between viruses of higher organisms. Transgenes can also become 'lost', exhibit abnormal inheritance, or vary in expression according to background phenotype or environmental conditions.

These phenomena can lead to transgene instability, variation in transgene expression, unexpected interactions with resident genes and other transgenes, and variations in organism characteristics apparently unrelated to the function of the particular transgene.

These interactions at the molecular level translate themselves into knock-on effects at the level of the organism and eventually the wider biosystem macro-environment. They include the additional possibility of 'horizontal' transgene transfer between organisms. The ultimate implications for human health and the integrity and stability of our environment are profound and largely unknown.

Whilst some may like to think that such phenomena can be filtered out in the regulatory approval process, practical experience to date with approved crops of genetically modified tomatoes, soya and cotton have already demonstrated that not all such effects are identified during the pre-commercialisation testing process.

Evidence is also now forthcoming of interaction between novel transgenic viral sequences in genetically modified crops and existing environmental viruses, with the prospect of creating new or more powerful viruses. -3-

The scientific literature specifically warns that events of these and other types may have insignificant consequences when transgenic crops are grown on a small experimental scale, but become more important when they are grown over thousands of hectares. The literature warns that monitoring of such phenomena for large scale releases may prove impossible.

Special risks - for more information see:

Institutionalised deception

It is obvious there is a systematic agenda within the biotechnology community to underplay and even to misrepresent the radical character of recombinant DNA technology and its inherent risks -- undoubtedly because of the massive financial and intellectual capital at stake.

The most glaring example of such deception comes from internal records of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently divulged through a lawsuit challenging that agency's policy on GM foods. These records clearly reveal that, based on extensive analysis, the predominant conclusion of the FDA's scientific experts was that GM foods entail a unique set of hazards to human health and that each must be thoroughly tested prior to marketing.

These concerns were clearly articulated in a series of memos sent to those in charge of policy formation. Yet, the decision-makers ignored these warnings, covered them up, and issued a policy statement which falsely claims (a) that there is an overwhelming consensus among experts that GM foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts and (b) that the FDA is not aware of any information showing they differ in any meaningful way.

This shameful fraud presumably stems from the FDA's acknowledged agenda to "foster" the US biotechnology industry, an agenda it has consistently been directed to follow by the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.

Another example is a petition launched in 1999 and signed by over 2000 scientists from around the world. The petition is entitled: "Scientists in support of Agricultural Biotechnology". In spite of its less than specific title the petition is in fact a statement specifically in support of crops and foods produced from 'recombinant DNA', otherwise more commonly described as 'genetically engineered' or 'genetic modified'.

Despite the fact that such technology has only become available in the laboratory in the last twenty years or so, the petition claims that: "The responsible genetic modification of plants is neither new nor dangerous." In reality material from genetically modified crops only entered the global food chain in the 1990s, as everyone knows. To say that this is not new is a profound untruth which brings the scientific reputation of the biotechnology community into disrepute.

The petition also states: "The addition of new or different genes into an organism by recombinant DNA techniques does not inherently pose new or heightened risks relative to the modification of organisms by more traditional methods...". In the light of the published scientific literature this statement comprises either ignorance, a serious misrepresentation of the scientific facts, or a deliberate attempt to deceive.

This situation further coincides with the release of a survey in the UK (Daily Telegraph 14 February 2000) revealing that: "One in three scientists working for Government quangos or newly privatised laboratories says he has been asked to adjust his conclusions to suit his sponsor". Amongst these some scientists had been asked to do so to obtain further contracts and some claimed they had been asked to make changes to discourage publication.  The newspaper report also highlighted potentially compromised research emanating from industry and quoted the editor of the British Medical Journal as saying: "These competing interests are very important. It has quite a profound influence on the conclusions and we deceive ourselves if we think science is wholly impartial."

Institutionalised scientific deception - for more information see:

Bogus benefits

A report published in March 2000 by the World Wildlife fund comprised one of the most extensive reviews of scientific research relating to transgenic crops carried out to date. It came to the conclusion that: "The technology has been misrepresented in ways that suggest genetic improvement can take the place of management and skill in solving pest problems. This may explain, in part, why farmers have so readily adopted the technology to the degree they have." Identified problems from this and other studies include low crop yields, development of pest resistance and steadily increasing levels of pesticide applications.

Part of the problem in the United States is the unusual way in which the crops have been allowed to be introduced. The normal system for assessing the agronomic performance of new varieties has been largely by-passed in order to facilitate the fast introduction of the new transgenic crops. Consequently farmers have not had access to independent data on their performance and have often adopted them on the basis of 'faith'. One University study in Iowa found that the majority of farmers who did so had adopted genetically modified soya because they believed it provided higher yields; but when the data was analysed it was clear that the same farmers were getting lower yields from these crops compared to conventional varieties.

Poor GM crop performance - for more information see:

A divided scientific community

Science always wishes to explore new territory. But increasingly science is forced to rely on commercial applications to fund its basic research. Without clear prospects of practical deployment such funding is often hard to secure. It is a brave scientist, therefore, who is these days prepared to stand in the way of the deployment of any technology on the grounds of caution where he knows that this may ultimately lead to the closure of his department, his laboratory or his own personal position. It is hardly surprising then that many scientists feel forced to resist calls for restrictions on the deployment of recombinant DNA technology.  And yet there are growing numbers of scientists who are starting to openly express their concerns about the wisdom of deploying recombinant DNA in world agriculture, despite the real threat to them of academic or political ostracism in doing so.

Science is concerned with what can be done. Wisdom is concerned with what should be done. How wise is it to proceed with the deployment of recombinant DNA technology in global agriculture (on which the security and well-being of all humanity depends) when substantial elements of the scientific community are expressing major reservations? There cannot be unanimity in the scientific community at this point because the science has demonstrably not been done.

How wise is it to proceed (particularly when we are dealing with self-replicating and migrating novel organisms) knowing that if mistakes are made they are likely to be irreversible? How wise is it to do this when better alternatives based on a more appropriate vision for world agriculture are available?

Concerned scientists - for more information see:

An alternative vision for world agriculture

In April 2000 the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations completed its forecast for global trends in food, nutrition and agriculture over the next 30 years. The report concluded that the world will be able to feed itself in 2030 despite an increased global population. It projects that crop production in developing countries will be 70 percent higher than the levels achieved in the 1990s.

In carrying out its analysis FAO does not provide for any contribution to production from postulated developments in genetically modified organisms. It avoids doing so specifically because FAO recognises the ongoing uncertainties regarding the technical performance, safety and consumer acceptance of GM technology. In short FAO acknowledges that a much larger world population can be successfully fed in the future without the use of genetically modified organisms in global agriculture.

With clear and exceptional risks associated with it, as well as a track record of failing to meet expectations in practice, the prospect of deploying recombinant DNA technology in global agriculture cannot be considered a wise decision when there are other options available with a more favourable risk-benefit profile. Even scientists from within the biotechnology industry itself are now starting to acknowledge that considerable progress with conventional plant breeding can be made without the need to incorporate recombinant DNA in new crop varieties.

But plant breeding of any kind can at best only be a marginal part of an overall strategy for creating sustainable systems of agriculture capable of feeding a growing global population. Already more intelligent changes in agricultural land management practices in some of the poorest parts of the world are dramatically increasing farm output without increasing reliance on non-renewable resources.

We hear little about these approaches because they are farmer and education driven. They do not require large amounts of off-farm inputs purchased from commercial interests who seek to publicise their technology at every opportunity; and who do so ultimately for the principal benefit of their shareholders irrespective of any seemingly altruistic gestures they may simultaneously seek to make.

These quiet but profoundly progressive changes in farming practice are starting to produce the sorts of results across millions of hectares which demonstrably increase farmer and community self-sufficiency - vital goals which by contrast the use of genetically modified plants, and the intellectual property rights that attach to them, serve to undermine.

These changes are starting to produce improvements in production which frequently make even the most ambitious unrealised goals of genetically modified crops appear feeble. These advances are coming largely from educational and development programmes which enable farmers to manage their land in more effective and genuinely sustainable ways.

The capacity for increased production through these more intelligent land management practices is immense, and new plant genetics are not a principal factor driving this progress. By contrast the research priorities often given elsewhere to the currently fashionable pursuit of 'better' genetics through recombinant DNA technology, is a conceptually misplaced strategy. It is a strategy which spends the greatest amount of money in pursuit of 'solutions' to problems which are solvable through more appropriate and cost effective means.

It is therefore time to adopt a wiser approach to sustainable global agricultural production. It is time to stop the dangerous seduction of the farming and political communities by the charms of the sometimes superficially plausible, but ultimately deeply illusory, promises made by those promoting the incorporation of recombinant DNA into global food supplies.

Feeding the world - for more information see:

'GM' as a symptom of a deeper social malaise

What this misplaced consideration of the use of recombinant DNA technology in global agriculture reveals is not simply a problem concerning the 'science' of genetic engineering itself, or even the health of the relationship between science, commercial interests, regulatory authorities, and government. What it demonstrates is a deeper problem of our own consciousness. It is essentially a problem of the way we have learnt to think, both as individuals and collectively as a society. And what it particularly demonstrates is our inability to learn from experience and to think and act holistically.

As such the debate about genetic engineering or 'modification' raises questions not simply about the use of the technology itself, but about the very nature of the society that we are trying to create at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Do we wish to build a society which harnesses Natural Law, or one that violates it; one that nurtures life (including our own) or one that destroys it?

These are questions of immense importance, and they are ones not to be considered on an exclusive basis solely by senior scientific, commercial and political professionals. These are questions to be considered by every man and every woman, and particularly by those who are most directly responsible for the thought processes and values of our society at the beginning of the new millennium - our teachers and educators.

It is time for our educational systems to recognise the significance of the most important discoveries of modern science - not the fragmented discoveries of 'genetic engineering', but rather the holistic discoveries of the 'unified field' theories of quantum physics and their profound relationship to the most advanced developments in educational and cognitive science.

These are discoveries that recognise that we live in an integrated and intelligent universe, and that everyone may access and draw upon the immense resources of that intelligence for the purpose of their own personal growth and development. This is an approach which is both self-sustaining for the individual whilst being simultaneously nurturing to the society and natural environment which surrounds us.

In stark contrast to the current ill-considered fascination with genetic engineering in many quarters, these well documented discoveries offer a route to the creation of a society which promotes the development of a truly progressive and nourishing life for both individual and community alike without imposing the danger of irrecoverable damage to the very basis of life itself. By their very nature these discoveries offer the prospect of creating a civilisation worthy of the name - a civilisation which harnesses the full integrating dynamics of Natural Law.

For more information: (A revolution in science and education)


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