Fumo luoco, rBGH (Genetic Engineering)


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,   Dec. 28! 

Two more items on genetic engineering, and in particular, how it is being
used for ends completely at odds with the public interest, follow below.

As the fumo louco article shows, our legal systems are not able to keep up
with the TNCs (transnational corporations).
all the best, Jan
Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1998 21:23:51 -0200
From: •••@••.••• (R. Magellan)
Subject:  "Fumo louco" (crazy tobacco)


Genetic Engineering 

Brazil's Secret: Crazy Tobacco 

December 12, 1997
by Todd Lewan 
AP National Writer

SANTA CRUZ DO SUL, Brazil (AP) -- Freakish tobacco plants that explode from 
the soil in this remote river valley grow huge leaves on stalks as thick as 
Louisville Sluggers. The growers here call it fumo louco -Crazy tobacco. 

Crazy not just because it grows so big and so fast. Crazy because it has 
been genetically altered by one of the world's largest tobacco companies to 
pack twice the nicotine of other commercially grown leaf. 

The farmers of Brazil's southernmost state are growing it by the ton for the 
world market, The Associated Press has found, though it could not be learned 
for certain which countries are importing the nicotine-rich leaf. 

Fumo louco -- the farmers' generic term for several related strains of high- 
nicotine tobacco -- is the offspring of a genetically altered plant created 
in U.S. laboratories for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the third largest 
U.S. cigarette maker. The seed was then secretly shipped to Brazil in 
violation of U.S. export law. 

Fumo louco blends give cigarette makers a new tool for adjusting nicotine 
levels in their products. They may also provide the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration with a new argument for the assertion that the tobacco 
industry intentionally manipulates nicotine levels to "hook" smokers. At 
stake is the question of whether the FDA should have the power to regulate 
nicotine as a drug. 

The FDA has been aware that a high-nicotine tobacco had been developed but 
did not know that it is being cultivated in large commercial quantities, 
said Mitch Zeller, an FDA deputy associate commissioner. 

However, 18 Brazilian farmers openly acknowledged they are growing the high- 
nicotine leaf by the ton, and many said they have been growing it for more 
than five years. 

"It's weird stuff," Oliveira said in his native Portuguese. The nicotine 
content is so high that "just the crazy smell of it gets you dizzy. But sir, 
it comes up like nothing you've ever seen." 

Farmers estimated that half of the roughly 40,000 acres under tobacco 
cultivation in the region are devoted to the high-nicotine leaf. That means 
an area about one-and-a-half times the size of the island of Manhattan is 
covered in fumo louco. 

The farmers said they sell their high-nicotine tobacco to Souza Cruz, a 
Brazilian company owned by B.A.T. Industries, the same British conglomerate 
that controls Brown & Williamson. 

Souza Cruz did not respond to questions. Brown & Williamson spokesman Mark 
Smith said that "it would be inappropriate for us to comment" because of 
pending government investigations. The U.S. Justice Department has convened 
grand juries in Washington, D.C., and New York state to investigate whether 
tobacco companies and their officials lied to the government about 
manipulating nicotine levels in their products. 

After farmers sell their fumo louco to Souza Cruz, it goes to the company's 
processing plant in Santa Cruz do Sul. Souza Cruz boasts it is the world's 
biggest. About a third of the tobacco processed at the plant is 
high-nicotine leaf, according to Louis Radaelli, a company genetics 
researcher, and several former Souza Cruz technical experts. 

Once the leaf enters the plant, it is difficult to learn where it goes. 
Souza Cruz mixes it with other tobaccos to form some of its blends, and the 
recipes are trade secrets. 

Souza Cruz is among the world's biggest exporters of tobacco, and about a 
fifth of its production goes to cigarette makers in the United States. 
Britain, Japan and Germany are also major customers. The company does not 
use high- nicotine leaf in cigarettes marketed in Brazil, but declined to 
explain why. 


Months after the FDA's Y-1 [the code name for a nicotine-rich tabacco]
disclosure to Congress, growers and Souza Cruz agronomists said, the company
ordered farmers to stop cultivating high-nicotine strains. 

But the growers have kept planting it and, they say, Souza Cruz keeps buying 
it, praising its quality and paying top prices. 

The commercial production of genetically altered, nicotine-enhanced tobacco 
may have implications for the pending $368.5 billion tobacco settlement 
between cigarette makers and attorneys general of 40 states. 

The biggest stumbling block to the settlement is whether the FDA should 
regulate tobacco as a drug. Tobacco companies contend that nicotine isn't 
addictive and insist that they vary nicotine levels in cigarettes solely for 
taste. The FDA views nicotine-enhanced tobacco as a tool for deliberately 
controlling the dosages of an addictive substance. 

The story of how fumo louco leaped from a laboratory experiment in the 
United States to a cash crop in Brazil also raises questions about 
government efforts to regulate the biotech industry's use of genetically 
altered material. 

It began in, of all places, a U.S. government lab. 

It was 1976, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture was trying to develop a 
"safer" cigarette. 

Specifically, the USDA wanted to create a tobacco that would be low in tar, 
a sticky residue linked to cancer. Cigarette companies knew how to reduce 
tar by chemically treating the tobacco, but this also removed much of the 
nicotine, the substance smokers crave. 

Dr. James F. Chaplin, a breeder at the USDA's Tobacco Research Laboratory in 
Oxford, N.C., thought the answer was to create a strain abnormally high in 
nicotine. That way, he said in a 1977 paper, the removal of the tar would 
still leave plenty of nicotine behind. 

At a cost of about $2 million in USDA money, Chaplin crossbred several wild 
and commercial tobacco varieties in an effort to boost nicotine levels. He 
developed five new varieties, field-testing them at the Wilson, N.C., farm 
of Hubert Hardison, who worked for an affiliate of Brown & Williamson. 

In the early 1980s, Brown & Williamson took Y-1 to DNA Plant Technology, a 
biotechnology company founded that year in Cinnaminson, N.J. At DNAP, the 
company later told the FDA, scientists used state-of-the-art breeding 
techniques, including processes known as protoplast fusion and hybrid 
sorting, to genetically alter the Y-1 strain. 

David Evans, DNAP's project manager, did not respond to requests for 
interviews. The company did not respond to a list of questions. 

When Y-1 emerged from DNAP's laboratory, it had a nicotine level of 6.2 
percent -- double the amount of any tobacco commercially grown in America. 

"What they had done was unheard of," said the FDA's Zeller. "All of a 
sudden, you had tobacco that was twice as powerful as anything out there." 

Nothing in U.S. law would have prohibited Brown & Williamson from growing 
this new tobacco in America. However, a quality-control agreement between 
growers, cigarette makers and the government stipulates that tobacco with 
nicotine levels lower than 2 percent or greater than 4 percent is not 
eligible for federal price support. That means American farmers would have 
little interest in growing it. 

Besides, Brown & Williamson CEO Thomas Sandefur would say in 1994, growing 
Y- 1 in the United States would make it too easy for competitors to get the 

But in a remote region of Brazil, Brown & Williamson had a corporate sister. 

Y-1 and Y-2 seed first arrived in Brazil in 1983, according to Arcangelo 
Mondardo, a former Souza Cruz soil expert and tobacco researcher who worked 
on the project from 1983 to 1992. Mondardo is now a professor of agronomy at 
Unisul, a university in Santa Rosa do Sul, Brazil. 

Seed was shipped to Souza Cruz in boxes marked "samples." More was stuffed 
in plain envelopes and sent by air mail, said Mondardo and two other Souza 
Cruz agronomists who worked on the project. 

According to Zeller, Janis Bravo, a former DNAP scientist, told FDA 
investigators that she personally shipped more than 10 pounds of Y-1 seed to 
Brazil in one calendar year prior to 1991. Bravo declined to comment. 

Jefferey S. Wigand, a former Brown & Williamson vice president for research 
(and the highest-ranking executive to turn against the industry), has 
testified that Phil Fisher, who was in charge of tobacco blending and 
testing for Brown & Williamson in Louisville, Ky., flew to Brazil "several 
times" with Y-1 seed hidden in cigarette packs. Fisher -- now retired, 
though he continues to work as a part-time consultant for the company -- 
declined to comment. 

At the time, U.S. law prohibited export of tobacco seed, pollen or live 
plants without a special USDA permit. Permits could be granted only for 
quantities of a half-gram or less, and only for experimental use. 

Neither Brown & Williamson nor DNAP ever sought such permits, said William 
Coats, an administrator at the USDA's tobacco division. The permit 
requirement was eliminated by legislation signed on Dec. 13, 1991, after 
tobacco companies lobbied for the change. 

But there were bugs to be worked out. 

Y-1 was too susceptible to some plant diseases. Worse, it produced fertile 
seeds that could be easily stolen and used by competitors. The company 
couldn't get patent protection for the plant because U.S. law permitted 
patents only for species altered by recombinant DNA -- a technique that had 
not been used to develop Y-1. 

Souza Cruz and DNAP, the biotechnology company in New Jersey, both went to 
work on the problems. 


By 1990, both farmers and former Souza Cruz agronomists said, the company 
was handing out seed from some of these new hybrids for farmers to grow in 
their fields. 

The following year, both Souza Cruz and DNAP had succeeded in producing 
sterile varieties of Y-1 -- plants that could not reproduce without the 
artificial addition of special pollen. That September, Brown & Williamson 
applied for a U.S. patent. A basis for the patent, as stated in the 
application papers, was that DNAP had used recombinant DNA techniques to map 
the genes of Y- 1. 

Pollen and seed for the sterile Y-1 created at DNAP were soon shipped to 
Brazil. Seventy grams of pollen were sent in three shipments in 1990, 
according to export certificates obtained by the AP. Fifty pounds of seed 
were legally shipped in 1993, another export certificate showed. 

"With all of that pollen and seed, you could blanket all of Europe in 
tobacco," said Dr. Sebastiao Pinheiro, a leading Brazilian agronomist at the 
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. 

A 1981 Brazilian law forbids growing of foreign plants capable of "causing 
irreversible damage to genetic banks, ecosystems or humans." A 1995 law 
prohibits the cultivation of imported, genetically altered plants or hybrids 
made from them without government permission. 

Growing large quantities of Y-1 and its hybrid cousins may have violated 
those laws, said Paulo Afonso Leme Machado, a law professor and President of 
the Brazilian Society of Environmental Law, and Dr. Eliana Fontes, a member 
of Brazil's biosafety commission. 

EDITOR'S NOTE -- Randy Herschaft, AP investigative researcher, contributed 
to this report. 

sent to MAI-not list:
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 15:39:36 +0000
From: "Janet M. Eaton" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re BGH- Hormones in Milk-No Right to Know -1994 Paper!! 

This March 1994 Article
from Rachel's Hazardous Waste News 
provides background and insight into the current Challenge
by the Washington-based Center for Food Safety 
referred to in the earlier postings today.
It is worth a read !! 
The final comments of the article may tempt you to read on!  

"In return for accepting increased pus, more antibiotics, and a
tumor-promoting chemical in their glass of milk, what benefits will
consumer's get?  None whatsoever. Zero. Even FDA says there are no 
consumer benefits. In fact, because the U.S. already produces a 
surplus of milk, which is purchased by Uncle Sam, increasing milk 
production with rBGH will COST the taxpayer an additional $200 
million or more each year, estimates Consumers Union. That's family 
money pumped into some chemical company's pocket. That's who 
benefits. !" 


=====================Electronic Edition========================

                              RACHEL'S HAZARDOUS WASTE NEWS #381
                                        ---March 17, 1994---
                               News and resources for environmental
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                       HORMONES IN MILK: NO RIGHT TO KNOW

The David and Goliath battle of the century is shaping up over a
synthetic hormone called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) that
was approved by federal officials last month for use in milk cows in
the U.S. 

David is a handful of farm and consumer organizations, and Goliath is
a coalition of agrichemical companies backed by top officials of the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA). At issue is the safety of milk, and the right of
consumers to know what chemicals and drugs have been added to the milk
they buy in the grocery store. Consumer advocates say the public has a
right to know. The agrichemical industry and the Clinton
administration say not. 

Last November 5 [1993] the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared
rBGH "safe" for use in milk cows, and last month Monsanto, the
chemical company, began selling its version of the drug to dairy
farmers. [1]Other companies hoping to get into the business are Eli
Lilly, UpJohn, and American Cyanamid. Monsanto's version of the drug
is intended to be injected into milk cows every two weeks, to
stimulate milk production by 5% to 20%. Consumer and farm
organizations, including Consumers Union, publisher of CONSUMER
REPORTS magazine, have presented evidence that byproducts of the
hormone treatment are measurable in milk and are not safe for humans
or for cows; they also say approval of rBGH clearly violated FDA's own
regulations. [2] They want the product withdrawn from the market, and,
until that happens, they want hormone-containing milk labeled so that
consumers can make an informed choice about the milk they buy. 

In eleven different surveys, American consumers have indicated
overwhelmingly that they do not want milk that contains
genetically-engineered hormones, and that they want milk labeled so
they can make an informed choice in the grocery store. [3] For
example, in a survey of 1000 people in Wisconsin (a leading
milk-producing state), 75% of respondents said they would pay as much
as 44 cents extra per gallon to avoid genetically-engineered hormones
in their milk. This attitude was consistent regardless of income
levels, educational background, or residence in rural or urban areas. 

In response to consumer concerns, the FDA and Monsanto have spoken
with a single voice: the FDA has warned grocery stores not to label
milk as free of the hormone, [4] and on Feb. 18 Monsanto sued two milk
processors that labeled milk as free of the hormone. [5] 

It is no accident that the FDA and Monsanto are speaking with one
voice on this issue. The FDA official responsible for the agency's
labeling policy, Michael R. Taylor, is a former partner of King &
Spaulding, the Washington, D.C. law firm that has brought the lawsuits
on behalf of Monsanto. Taylor, a lawyer, is a classic product of the
revolving door. Starting in 1980, he worked for FDA for 4 years as
executive assistant to the commissioner. In 1984 he joined King &
Spaulding and remained there until 1991; during that time the law firm
represented Monsanto while the company was seeking FDA approval of
rBGH. In 1991, President Bush's FDA Commissioner, David A. Kessler,
Jr., revolved Taylor back into FDA as assistant commissioner for
policy. [6] Kessler himself was retained by President Clinton, as was
Taylor. Last month Taylor signed the FEDERAL REGISTER notice warning
grocery stores not to label milk as free of rBGH, thus giving Monsanto
a powerful boost in its fight to prevent consumers from knowing
whether rBGH produced their milk. 

Monsanto has a lot at stake. The company has been hurt in recent years
by lawsuits and publicity over several of its chemical products that
it insisted were safe, such as the herbicide 2,4,5-T used in Agent
Orange in Vietnam, and PCBs, which Congress banned in 1976. Some Wall
Street analysts believe that Monsanto has bet its future on
genetically-engineered farm and food products, and that failure of
rBGH could damage the company significantly. Monsanto has reportedly
spent $300 million since 1984 developing the rBGH hormone. According
to Consumers Union, rBGH should earn Monsanto $300 to $500 million
annually in the U.S., and $1 billion each year worldwide. [8] 

Both the food and pharmaceuticals industries are reportedly very
worried that consumer rejection of rBGH in milk would dim the future
for all genetically engineered foods. [9] According to industry
analysts, some 60 genetically-engineered food products are scheduled
for approval by FDA in the next few years. For its part, the Clinton
administration is counting on genetic engineering to give America a
competitive advantage in the global marketplace and thus boost the
President's flagging prospects for re-election. 

Monsanto is clearly aware of the Clinton Administration's enthusiasm
for genetically-engineered foods to boost the economy. An internal
company memo [7] dated Sept. 21, 1993, suggests that, to persuade the
Administration to allow rBGH onto the market, a Monsanto lobbyist
should "Let [USDA] Secretary Espy know that companies like Monsanto
will likely pull out of the agriculture biotech area if the 
Administration will not stand up to persons like Senator Feingold [of 
Wisconsin, an opponent of rBGH use]." Espy is now solidly on board 
promoting rBGH. 

FDA Commissioner Kessler has also proven himself to be a loyal soldier
in the consumer wars. He has consistently opposed giving consumers a
choice by labeling milk. He says things such as, "The public can be
confident that milk and meat from BST-treated cows is safe to
consume." (BST is Monsanto's name for rBGH.) And, "There is virtually
no difference in milk from treated and untreated cows." [10] 

Unfortunately, a considerable body of scientific evidence from the
U.S., England and Europe indicates that Commissioner Kessler is simply
not telling the whole truth. Substantial evidence indicates that milk
from rBGH-treated cows is very likely to feature: 

** more pus from infected cows' udders; 

** more antibiotics given to cows to treat those infections; 

** an "off" taste and shortened shelf life, because of the pus; 

** perhaps higher fat content and lower protein content; 

** more of a tumor-promoting chemical called IGF-I, which has been
implicated in cancers of the colon, smooth muscle, and breast. 

In return for accepting increased pus, more antibiotics, and a
tumor-promoting chemical in their glass of milk, what benefits will
consumer's get? 

None whatsoever. Zero. Even FDA says there are no consumer benefits.
In fact, because the U.S. already produces a surplus of milk, which is
purchased by Uncle Sam, increasing milk production with rBGH will COST
the taxpayer an additional $200 million or more each year, estimates
Consumers Union. That's family money pumped into some chemical
company's pocket. That's who benefits. 

[More on this developing scandal next week.] 

To keep abreast of the growing anti-rBGH campaign and boycott, stay in
touch with the Pure Food Campaign [1130 17th Street, N.W., Suite 630,
Washington, DC 20036; telephone (202) 775-1132] and with Food & Water
[Rural Route 1, Box 114, Marshfield, VT 05658; telephone (802)
                                   --Peter Montague, Ph.D.
<Notes and descriptor terms snipped>
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