|Open letter - Genetic contamination of the food chain (30/9/2006)|
Dear GM WATCHers,
[Below] you may find the English version of the letter which is currently delivered (in Spanish and French) to the Food and Press Agencies of the concerned countries.
EXTRACTS: Since last January, at least 140,000 tonnes of this contaminated rice has been exported to Europe, and may now be present in the food chain and consumed by millions of people, including babies.
- The Riceland cooperative discovered the contamination in January, but did not notify the public nor the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Bayer knew about this in June, but did not inform the USDA until July 31.
- The USDA hid the contamination for three more weeks, anticipating that foreign rice importers might reject the product.
[And as late as September the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) GMO Panel still couldn't carry out a full risk assessment because "the available (US) data are not sufficient" and no satisfactory plans have been put in place yet to recall contaminated food.]
September 29 2006
Open letter to Food Administrations representatives
Dear Madam, Dear Sir,
This summer, in several world locations, traces of artificial genetic constructions (AGC) were found in food which was not supposed to have been genetically modified.
In the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and France, GM-free long-grain rice imported from the USA unexpectedly contained a molecule (PAT protein) making it tolerant to the herbicide Liberty® . In France, the UK and Germany, noodles and rice sticks imported from China, on sale on supermarkets, contained a pesticide (Bt protein) with significant potential allergenicity. In Nicaragua, almost all samples of maize flour and cereals provided by the United Nations World Food Programme have been found to host AGCs. In China, in 2005, the GeneScan independent laboratory had already discovered Bt traces in baby food.
Thus, the genetic contamination will have reached a global scale in 2006.
This would not be so worrying if these transferred genetic constructions had at least been approved for human consumption and clearly shown on their host food label, after truly independent scientific assessment had been carried out.
This would not be so worrying if Health & Food Administrations of the concerned countries had been alerted soon enough to avoid the food chain to be touched.
In every country, the approval procedure of a GM product is based on documents provided by the applicant itself. For instance, a recent statement of the American Food & Drug Administration (FDA) concerning the LLRICE601, resistant to an herbicide, relies on information provided by its promoter (Bayer) . This declaration is based upon the wrong assumption that the safe natural gene which expresses the PAT protein is equivalent to the artificial construction AGC which is inserted into the host organism. As a matter of fact, serious health problems encountered by laboratory animals fed with GM food can be attributed to an AGC, whereas the natural version of the gene it contains is definitely safe . Furthermore, the accused GM rice has been discontinued in 2001. Given the recognized high instability of an AGC , there is no evidence that the molecular characteristics studied years ago have been preserved.
Therefore, the contaminant GM products, as well as the contaminated ones, can be considered as unfit for human consumption until unequivocal evidence to the contrary is provided by independent scientific assessment.
With respect to the time-delayed and insufficient reactions of the Food Standards Agencies, the US rice case is also illustrative:
- The Riceland cooperative discovered the contamination in January, but did not notify the public nor the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Bayer knew about this in June, but did not inform the USDA until July 31.
- The USDA hid the contamination during three more weeks, anticipating that foreign rice importers might reject the product.
- September 15, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) GMO Panel issued a Statement which says that "the available (US) data are not sufficient to allow the safety of LLRICE601 to be assessed in accordance with EFSA guidance for risk assessment and EFSA is unable to carry out a full risk assessment". Notably based upon the assumed low inadvertent presence of LLRICE601, as well as on the debatable equivalence between the natural gene and its AGC, the contaminated rice consumption "is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals".
Since last January, at least 140,000 tonnes of this contaminated rice has been exported to Europe, and may now be present in the food chain and consumed by millions of people, including babies.
Although rice imports were stopped late August by Japan , and then by the European Commission, no satisfactory plans have been put in place yet to recall contaminated food; European national authorities have only been reminded of their duty to make sure contaminated products are destroyed. In the case of the US rice, Bayer is trying to escape lawsuits instead, by inducing the deregulation of the status of the contaminant LLRICE601.
This is why we call on you to act so that current contaminated products be immediately recalled and that the related assessment tools be used in the future for preventing other contaminations of the food-chain, a measure that would notably improve your credibility in the sight of the citizens. Despite the known strong influence of the industrial lobby, we hope that you still have the power to decide what the main priorities are in placing health and safety considerations above economical ones.
Thank you very much in advance for urgently taking that path.
Instituto Para la Produccion e InvestigaciOn de la Agricultura Tropical - IPIAT (Venezuela) Plataforma Transgènics Fora ! (Spain) Red "Bolivia Libre de Transgenicos" (Bolivia) Uniterre syndicate, member of Via Campesina and Coordination Paysanne Europeenne CPE (Switzerland) Tierra Viva (Bolivia) Friends of the Earth - France Fédération Nationale dAgriculture Biologique des régions de France FNAB (France) Collectif des Faucheurs Volontaires de la Region Centre (France) Comite Local d'ATTAC-Pays d'Aubagne (France)
Dr. Masaharu Kawata, Yokkaichi University, Yokkaichi (Japan) Dr. Erzsebet Barat, Central European University, Budapest (Hungary) Dr. Michel Somville, Biologist, Conseiller en genetique et bioethique du Groupe des Verts au Parlement europeen, Brussels (Belgium) Dr. CS Pawar, Advisor, Shree Vivekanand Research and Training Institute, Kutch, Gujarat (India) Dr. Pablo Achard, Neuroscientist, Anvers (Belgium) Dr. Brian Tokar, Biotechnology Project Director, Institute for Social Ecology, Vermont (USA) Dr. Yamama Naciri, Unité de Phylogénie et Génétique Moléculaires, Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève (Switzerland) Dr. Jeremy Thompson, Slought (UK) Dr. Miroslaw Szulczynski, Environmental biotechnology, frankfurt (Germany) Dr. Christian Velot, Scientific board of the Comité de Recherche et d'Informations Indépendantes sur le Genie Genetique (CRII GEN) ; Inst. of Genetics and Microbiology (France) Dr. Claude Seureau, Biologist (France) Dr. Lilian Ceballos, Pharmacologist (France) Dr. Jacques Testart, Biologist, Senior Researcher, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale INSERM (France) Dr. Didier Collumeau, Agronomist, Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Agronomie de Rennes (France) Dr. Yannick Comenge, Microbiologist, Paris (France) Dr. François M. Catzeflis, biologist, (France) Dr. Jean-Pierre Berlan, Research Director, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - INRA (France) Dr. Dominique Cellier, Conseil Scientifique du CRIIGEN, Universite de Rouen (France) Dr. Yves Chilliard, Nutritionnist, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - INRA (France) Dr Paul Lannoye, Depute europeen honoraire, Membre du CRIIGEN (France) Dr. Dominique Béroule, Computer Scientist, Chevreuse (France) Organisations representatives:
Mrs Ryoko Shimizu, Policy Research Institute for the Civil Sector - PRICS, Tokyo (Japan) Mrs Maria Hamlin Zuniga, MPH, Centro de Informacion y Servicios de Asesoría en Salud, Managua (Nicaragua) Mrs Annick Ferauge, Collectif dAction GènEthique - CAGE ; Attac-Wallonie, (Belgium) Mrs Catherine Marielle, Coordinadora Programa Sistemas Alimentarios Sustentables, Grupo de Estudios Ambientales (GEA) AC, Mexico (Mexico) Mrs Georgina Catacora, Red para una América Libre de Trangénicos RALLT (Bolivia) Mrs Géraldine Savary, president, Stop OGM, conseillère nationale vaudoise (Switzerland) Mrs Corinne Lepage, former Minister, President of CAP 21 (France) Mrs Monique Marquet, Vice Présidente à l'environnement, Mouvement Ecologiste Indépendant (France) Mrs Anna Massina, President, Coord de l'Action Non-Violente de l'Arche de Lanza del Vasto - CANVA (France) Mrs Marie-Hélène Thuillier, Attac-Vosges (France) Mrs Martine Bonnet, President, Regain Nature (France) Mr Keisuke Amagasa, President, Citizen's Biotechnology Information Center, Tokyo (Japan) Mr Miguel Angel Núñez, Mr Pedro Reyes Millan, Mr Enrique Gonzales, Mrs Gidalsy Jimenez, Mr Alejandro Maldonado, Mr Ignacio Birriel, Mrs Jimena Sosa, Mr Leonardo Verraes, Mr Aldo Gonzales, Mr Luis Belran Núñez, Mr Cesar Alejandro Gonzales, Mr Eduardo LaPadula, Mr Carlos Palacios, Mr Jose Guerrero, Mrs Itzamana Núñez, Mrs Karibay Núñez, Mr Vladimir Aguilar, Mr Luis Aguilar, Mr Jess Montilla, Mr Andres Avellaneda, Mr William Goitía, Mr Juan Ferreira, Mr Pedro Urbina, Mr Felix Dirinot, Mr Freddy Eizaga, Mr Leoner Medina : Instituto Para la Produccion e Investigación de la Agricultura Tropical - IPIAT, Barinas (Venezuela) Mr Gerald Miles, GM Free Cymru, Genetic Engineering Network - GEN UK; GM Freeze, Wales (UK) Mr Sylvain Fattebert, StopOGM Coordination romande sur le genie genetique, (Switzerland) Mr Eric Delhaye, Spokeman of CAP21 (France) Mr Christophe de Varine, Porte-parole du Collectif Pour une Franche-Comte sans OGM (France) Mr Dietrich Taussig, Federal Union of Consumers "Que Choisir", Aix-en-Provence (France) Mr André Lefebvre, Ingenieur agrobiologiste, Directeur du Service d'EcoDéveloppement Agricole et Rural de Bourgogne (France) Mr Aurelien Bernier, head of the Attac "GMO Committee" (France) Mr Didier Vallet, president, Syndicat d'Agriculture Bio-Dynamique, Colmar (France) Individual signatories:
Mrs Yannick Phillips, California (USA), Mrs Marisela Yábar Larios, Ing. , Lima (Peru) Mrs Geneviève Perret, Genève (Switzerland) Mrs Ute Sprenger, consultant in environmental issues, Berlin (Germany) Mrs Michèle Bufferne Khamtache, Fontaines sur Saône (France) Mr Ángeles Leonardo, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Argentina) Mr Dominique Schoeni, Ethnologist, Genève (Switzerland) Mr Henri Deprez, Brussels (Belgium) Mr Pascal Peduzzi, Environmental sciences (Switzerland) Mr Daniel Evain, Agronomist, former Researcher at Monsanto (France) Mr Serge Raynaud, Le Revest (France) Mr Jean-Claude Lacour, Epinal (France) Mr Patrick Monnet, Lyon (France) Mr Franck Loiseau, teacher, Cholet (France)