Codex Hijacked by Biotech Industry Warn Leading Scientists Consumers safety sacrificed for sake of biotech profit

April 9, 1997

Distinguished scientists Dr. John Fagan and Dr. Joe Cummins warn that the Codex Committee meeting in Ottawa April 15-18 to decide about food labelling has been hijacked by the biotech industry. "The safety of consumers is being sacrificed for biotech profit," states Dr. Fagan.

Codex has been designated by the World Trade Organization as the officially recognized rule -- making body for international trade issues related to food. Under GATT, Codex decisions have the clout of international law.

"The decisions of Codex have great impact on the import and export of food and thus on the health of Canadians and consumers worldwide," he said. "Yet, the representatives that Canada and other nations send to Codex to make these decisions are unanswerable to consumers. At the Codex meetings themselves, these government representatives are highly vulnerable to influence peddling by biotech or other industry representatives. These manipulations result in decisions that benefit profit and production, not health and nutrition."

For instance, according to Joe Cummins, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario, Canada is represented at Codex by the Agriculture Canada, which has taken at least $36 million from multinational companies to do research in Canada that would benefit the companies.

"In reality the research is of little importance and the money is paid to facilitate acceptance by the Canadian government of genetically engineered crops and unsafe chemical pesticides," states Dr. Cummins. "The Ministry of Agriculture is required to regulate gene tinkered crops and chemical pesticides yet it is taking substantive money to promote these same products. It is no wonder that the Canadian government is allowing these genetically engineered crops on the market."

Dr. Cummins also explained that Agriculture Canada has initiated a program termed "Agri-Food R&D Matching Investment Initiative," which is called "A Collaborative Project." This scheme allows Agriculture Canada to accept matching funds from industry for government research designed to facilitate use of new pesticides and genetically engineered crops developed by multinational companies. "As Agriculture Canada is responsible for regulating pesticides and genetically engineered crops, this is an another obvious conflict of interest," said Dr. Cummins.

In the area of genetic engineering, Dr. Fagan explained that at its meeting in Ottawa, Codex is formulating regulations that will allow thousands of genetically engineered foods on the world market, unlabelled and mixed in with other foods. However, scientists and doctors worldwide are concerned about the unknown and untested long-term side-effects of these foods. "New toxins, allergies, and diseases are already being seen from genetically engineered products, and more such side-effects are predicted," said Dr. Fagan "Moreover, polls carried out by the biotech industry itself indicates that 93% of North Americans want genetically engineered foods to be labelled."

Yet, once Codex approves these regulations, these experimental products will enter the food market unlabelled. In fact, the WTO will apply trade sanctions that severely penalize any nation that decides to require higher standards for importation. "Impending Codex decisions concerning genetically engineered foods could put the health of the entire world population at stake," cautions Dr. Fagan.

John Fagan, PhD, a Cornell-trained molecular biologist, has 23 years experience in leading edge genetic engineering research, including 7 years at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC. He is currently on an international tour sponsored by the Natural Law Party, speaking about the dangers of genetically engineered foods. Dr. Fagan was featured last month on CNN and in USA Today. He is in Ottawa to attend the Codex meetings.

Joe Cummins, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Genetic University of Western Ontario. He has taught advanced genetics, human genetics , microbial genetics and molecular genetics for over 23 years. Dr. Cummins had published over one hundred refereed scientific papers and over 100 popular articles in genetics. He has also participated in reviews of Canadian regulations in biotechnology and has previously been a delegate to the Codex Committee on Food Labeling. Contact: Wayne Foster Tel. (613) 235-2181 or Ruby Finkelstein Tel. (613) 565-1596 or 565-8517


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