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[Duurzaamlijst] Canada's Royal Society report on GE including url for full report

On 6 Feb 2001, at 9:01, ngin@icsenglish.com wrote:

1. The Royal Society of Canada's full report - url
2.Expert Study Major Setback for Biotech Industry
1. The Royal Society of Canada's Expert Panel on the Future of
- Element of Precaution: Recommendations for the Regulation of 
Food Biotechnology in Canada -- Download the Full Report as a pdf
http://www.rsc.ca/foodbiotechnology/GMreportEN.pdf  (775k) 
--- 2. GM Food Report: Ottawa Rapped, Expert Study Considered 
Major Setback for Biotech Industry Peter Calamai Toronto Star 
February 5, 2001

Canadians aren't being adequately protected by government from 
the risks of genetically modified foods and other biotech products, 
says a highly critical scientific report commissioned by the federal

The expert report, formally released here today by the Royal 
Society of Canada, condemned the basic approach of federal 
regulation of biotech agricultural products as "scientifically 

The experts say this approach contradicts the government's 
promise to err on the side of caution in adopting new technologies.

Also under attack in the 264-page report is excessive government
secrecy about biotech safety and the cozy relationship between
government regulators and the biotech industry.

Federal regulators barred even the Royal Society panel from seeing
evidence that safety tests had actually been done on genetically
modified foods.

"The public interest in a regulatory system that is science-based is
significantly compromised when that openness is negotiated away 
regulators in exchange for cordial and supportive relationships with
the industries being regulated," says the report.

"The report is definitely a caution. They're saying this is a powerful
technology; let's make sure we get it right," commented Doug Powell, a
University of Guelph professor [& GM zealot!] who specializes in food

The scientific experts also said the government had no proven way to
determine whether genetically modified foods were safe in their
entirely, rather than just looking at individual components. They
urged a crash research program to fill this gap.

The report will likely be seen as a major victory for activists who
have been urging a slowdown on development of new biotech products and
a setback for the biotech industry. But anti-biotech groups will be
disappointed that the experts stopped short of endorsing mandatory
labelling for all genetically modified food products.

But Powell said industry was already ahead of government regulators in
responding to some of the specific concerns of the 15 experts
assembled by the Royal Society, the country's national academy of

Canada is the third-largest producer of genetically modified crops in
the world and the federal government has approved more than 40
varieties of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, squash and other plants. Most
provide benefits to growers like lower pesticide use rather than any
direct improvement for consumers, the report notes.

These plants are genetically engineered by inserting DNA from
bacteria, viruses or insects.

The 50-plus recommendations from the scientific experts add up to an
overhaul of the current system of regulating biotech products,

Independent, outside science auditors to double-check every step of
federal regulation.

More openness throughout the process, with companies no longer allowed
to hide documents behind claims of commercial confidentiality.

Compulsory registration for all transgenic animals, such as pigs with
human genes already being tested in Toronto hospitals for possible
transplant use.

A moratorium on the raising of genetically modified fish in pens in
lakes and oceans from which they escape to interbreed with wild fish.

A ban on the common practice of using antibiotic resistant genes as
markers in transgenic plants because this resistance might be
transferred to microbes.

The Royal Society was asked in November, 1999 by the federal
government to investigate potential risks to humans, animals and the
environment by current and future biotech products.

The society tapped its membership and outsiders to come up with 15
experts covering the scientific, legal and social aspects of
biotechnology. Similar Royal Society panels have reported on cell
phone safety, the treatment of lab monkeys by the federal health
department and other scientific controversies.

In the report, the Royal Society experts emphasize that the
government's terms of reference ruled out dealing with such questions
as the objection by vegetarians over animal genes inserted into plants
and the broader issue of humanity playing God by creating whole new
forms of life.

The report also does not deal with the claim by industry and
government that benefits from biotechnology outweigh the risks.

But the experts do tackle the failings in their own backyard,
bemoaning the co-opting of biotechnology science in universities by
commercial interests and the emphasis on secrecy to squeeze dollars
out of research by patenting discoveries.

This co-opting, says the report, ``contributes to the general erosion
of public confidence in the objectivity and independence of the
science behind the regulation of food technology.''

The most potentially damaging part of the report is the assault on the
approach that federal regulators have used to approve most biotech
crops so far, something called ``substantial equivalence.''

If a transgenic plant appears to be no more different than plants
produced by conventional breeding techniques, then federal regulators
often approve it without a full risk assessment, say the experts.
Federal regulators contended they were more rigorous but the expert
panel rejected their claims.

The experts make this analogy. "It looks like a duck and it quacks
like a duck, therefore we assume that it must be a duck - or at least
we will treat it like a duck."

The experts say this approach is fatally flawed for genetically
modified, or GM, crops and exposes Canadians to several potential
health risks, including toxicity and allergic reactions.

The decision to exempt plants from a full safety assessment is often
based upon unsubstantiated assumptions, the report says. --- 3.

OTTAWA - The Royal Society of Canada is condemning the way the federal
government regulates genetically-modified foods, saying consumers
aren't being well-protected.

The scientific report talks about government secrecy and the close
relationship the government has with biotech industries. "The public
interest is...significantly compromised," says the report. The Royal
Society is Canada's national academy of science. It gathered 15
experts to compile the report. Canada is the third-largest producer of
GM crops and the government has approved more than 40 varieties of
corn, tomatoes, potatoes and other plants.

The report came up with 50 recommendations, among them: companies can
no longer hide behind commercial confidentiality and must open up
their processes an independent auditor to watch every step of federal
regulation compulsory regsitration for transgenic animals, such as
pigs with human genes a ban on using antibiotic resistant genes in
transgenic plants

The report also criticizes what it calls the "co-opting" of
biotechnology science in universities by commercial interests. It
concludes federal regulators have approved transgenic plants without a
full assessment of its risks to consumers.

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