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PANUPS: Monsanto Biotech Error

                         P A N U P S
                   Pesticide Action Network 
                        North America
                       Updates Service
                   EMAIL: panna@panna.org

June 23, 1997

Monsanto: Genetic Engineering Error in Canada

In mid-April, Monsanto announced that it was recalling 
genetically engineered canola seed containing an unapproved 
gene that had gotten into the product by mistake. Canola is a 
crop grown for livestock feed and for oil consumed by humans. 
Canola oil is used in low-fat foods, pharmaceuticals, 
nutritional supplements, confectionery products, margarine 
and shortening, personal care products, lubricants, soaps and 

The recall was reportedly initiated by Monsanto Canada Ltd., 
and by Limagrain Canada Seeds, Inc., of Saskatoon, 
Saskatchewan, which was selling the seed under license from 
Monsanto. The canola seed had been genetically engineered to 
be resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide marketed by Monsanto 
under the brand name Roundup. 

According to "The Ram's Horn," a Canadian newsletter devoted 
to analysis of the food system, Monsanto reported to the 
Evaluation Branch of the Biotechnology Strategies and 
Coordination Office of the Canadian government that it was 
recalling 60,000 bag units (enough seed to plant 600,000 to 
750,000 acres) of two types of canola seeds because one or 
both types contained the wrong gene. Under Canadian law, 
there are three levels of approval for genetically engineered 
crops: environmental (meaning the crop can be planted), 
livestock (the resulting crop can be fed to livestock), and 
human (the resulting crop can be fed to humans). Two Roundup-
resistant canola genes, RT-73 and RT-200, had been approved 
for planting, but only RT-73 was approved for livestock and 
humans. It was the unapproved RT-200 that somehow ended up in 
the seed that had to be recalled. 

Limagrain's Gary Bauman said his company will try to discover 
how the mistake occurred. However, he said it will be 
difficult to trace exactly where in the process it happened 
because the seeds available for testing now are progeny of 
the original seeds. "We may never know how it happened," he 

"Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly," the weekly 
publication of the Environmental Research Foundation, states 
"The presence of the unapproved canola gene in a commercial 
product reveals, at a minimum, that Monsanto's quality-
assurance programs failed in this instance, and that the 
biotechnology regulatory system in Canada is ineffective."

Monsanto stated that only two farms had planted the withdrawn 
varieties on approximately 150 acres. Last year Monsanto made 
a limited introduction of Roundup Ready canola in Canada on 
about 50,000 acres. The company would not state the amount of 
acreage that had been targeted for the 1997 season.

Recently, Monsanto reported that the company's agrochemical 
sales had increased by over 29% during the first quarter of 
1997 to US$1,067 million -- due in large part to increased 
sales of Roundup worldwide. Roundup is Monsanto's best-
selling and most profitable product, bringing Monsanto about 
US$1.5 billion per year. "Roundup is the engine that's 
driving Monsanto," said Paul Raman, a chemical industry 
analyst for the investment banking firm S.G. Warburg & Co. 
"In five to 10 years Roundup could be a US$4 billion 
product," Raman said. That extra money would come chiefly 
from expanding sales of crops that are genetically engineered 
to resist the weed killer.

AgrEvo also markets herbicide-tolerant canola in Canada, but 
stated that it does not expect to profit from the withdrawal 
of Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola. AgrEvo's seed suppliers 
had already sold out of glufosinate-tolerant "Liberty Link" 
canola before the recall occurred. AgrEvo will not disclose 
how much Liberty Link canola was planted this season. Two 
open-pollinated varieties and two hybrids of Liberty Link 
canola were sold in Canada this year. During the first two 
years that the crop was planted, only one variety was sold 
and seed was crushed for domestic use only; this year there 
will be no restrictions on subsequent sales. AgrEvo's 
glufosinate canola was the first transgenic herbicide-
tolerant crop to be grown commercially.

In related news, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on May 
17, 1997, that Monsanto's vice-president, Virginia Weldon, is 
a "top candidate" for the job of chief of the U.S. Food and 
Drug Administration (FDA).

Sources: Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly #549, June 5, 
1997. The Rams Horn: A Monthly Newsletter of Food System 
Analysis, April 1997. Agrow: World Crop Protection News, May 
2, May 16 and May 30, 1997. 
Contact: PANNA.

For a free subscription to Rachel's Environment & Health 
Weekly send an email to rachel-weekly-request@world.std.com 
with the single word SUBSCRIBE in the message. 

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