Tuesday, January 11, 2011
OPEN LETTER TO RAJIV SHAH - USAID ADMINISTRATOR -REGARDING THE SAFETY OF GMO (so-called) "FOOD" SHIPPED AS (so-called) "FOOD AID" IN AFRICA and WORLDWIDE
I am writing to you regarding the scientifically documented health and environmental hazards associated with genetic contamination of GM maize and other GM “food” crops shipped to Africa and worldwide as “food aid” by pharma and industrial GM crops grown in the US.
HIV linked to maize consumption in Africa
I recently came across a USAID-funded scientific research paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which was undertaken to “ test the hypotheses that consumption of mycotoxin-prone staple foods is related to the incidence of HIV infection in Africa.”
The author writes: “fumonisin has been proposed as a positive factor in HIV pathology. Fumonisin is predominantly a contaminant of maize (11) resulting from fungal growth (Fusarium verticillioides) after damage by pests such as the cornstalk borer (Busseola fusca)"
Alarmingly, the lead researcher & author of the paper - Jonathan H William - found that “ HIV transmission frequency is positively associated with maize consumption in Africa.”
Link to the study: http://www.ajcn.org/content/92/1/154.abstract
However, there is not an iota of scientific evidence in the literature that correlates fumonisin-contaminated maize with HIV transmission. The author himself writes “ there is no evidence in the literature of some property of normal maize that could influence the susceptibility of humans to HIV infection.” “The basis for the relation between maize and HIV needs careful consideration. Clearly, these are preliminary findings that need further research."
I am naturally alarmed and extremely worried about the findings of this study since maize is a staple food for over 300 million Africans across the continent who consume it daily.
ProdiGene & HIV "edible" maize vaccine
While doing further research on this subject, I came across an investigative article written by Robert Wingfield (1) which carried out further research into this issue and found a disturbing link between the conclusions of this study, USAID and a US biotech company called Prodigene that developed a GM 'pharma" maize containing a key protein found on the surface of the monkey form of HIV (gp120) to be used as an “edible vaccine” against the HIV virus…
An article published in the New Scientist 3 on 12 April 2002 titled - Edible HIV vaccine breakthrough – states:
“Maize genetically modified to contain a key protein found on the surface of the monkey form of HIV has been created by US company ProdiGene. This development brings an edible, more effective, HIV vaccine for people a step closer, says the US National Institutes of Health."
The Journal of Drug Targeting also published an article 4 on the same subject in January 2003 titled - Advantageous Features of Plant-based Systems for the Development of HIV Vaccines relating to the development of genetically modified maize to express “the SIV major surface glycoprotein gp130 (analogous to HIV gp120).”
ProdiGene & USAID...
Furthermore, during the course of his investigative research, Robert Wingfield found that the CEO of Prodigene –Anthony G Leos - was appointed on the Board of USAID in 2002 by President George Bush...
An article published online states:
Anthony G. Laos Appointed to Board for International Food and Agriculture Development by President Bush
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- ProdiGene, Inc., a leader in the development and manufacturing of recombinant proteins from transgenic-plant systems, announced today that Anthony G. Laos, President and CEO of ProdiGene was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a member of the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD).
USAID & GM Food Aid
USAID, as you know, has been distributing millions of tons of GM maize and other GMO crops as (so-called) “food aid” across Africa over the last 15 years & is aggressively & fraudulently promoting GM food crops in African agriculture to "fight hunger and poverty..." USAID itself clearly states that among other things its role is to "integrate GM into local food systems" and "spread agricultural technology through regions of Africa."
As Greenpeace writes in its report titled "USAID and GM Food Aid":
" The problem of GM maize in US food aid is partly due to the fact that the US
government provides a considerable proportion of its food aid in the form of maize from US farms, which is then shipped to areas of need. The simple fact is that USAID has chosen to supply GM maize as food aid."
" It is clear that the current program of food aid donation is the latest twist in a crude 10-year marketing campaign, led by USAID, designed to facilitate the introduction of US-developed GM crops into Africa. USAID clearly states, however, that among other things its role is to "integrate GM into local food systems" and "spread agricultural technology through regions of Africa."
As Robert Wingfield writes :
" In summary, we have the president of a company producing HIV tainted strains of corn on the board of an organization ( USAID) that is involved in providing genetically modified crops to sub Saharan Africa, where corn consumption is now being linked to HIV infection rates."
Disturbing fact and link...
Robert Wingfield further writes:
" More information has come to light about Prodigene since this article was originally published. The following two articles explain what happened to Prodigene and establish a link between Prodigene and the Obama administration.
Rajiv Shah, Obamas Top USAID appointee, was working under a man named Tom Vilsack at the USDA. Tom Vilsask was involved with Prodigene and the push for limited regulation on biopharma crop growers.
ProdiGene eventually went out of business, but not before it received a $6 million investment from the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, chaired by Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack, currently Shah’s boss at the USDA.
Vilsack didn’t want any restrictions placed on experimental pharma crops. In reaction to suggestions that pharma crops should be kept away from food crops, Vilsack argued that ‘we should not overreact and hamstring this industry.’”
Furthermore, Roger Beachy, director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, now diector of the newly-formed National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-the institute Rajiv Shah helped to establish when he got to the USDA - joined Vilsack in support of ProdiGene and against regulation of pharma crops when he was still the director of the Danforth Center. He said in 2004 that scientists must be free to experiment in open fields: A ban would significantly halt the technology of producing drugs more cheaply in plants" than through current methods, Beachy said. And if work on biopharming to grow industrial chemicals were halted, "then you have stopped another kind of advance that we're looking for to give an economic advantage to our farmers.
After a short stint at USDA, Rajiv Shah has been picked by the Obama Administration to head up the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)."
Furthermore, another article published online titled - Who is Rajiv Shah, What are Haiti concerns about Shah/USAID: USAID-supported Bio tech firm develop HIV tainted GM corn: HIV Infection Rates Increase with eating US Corn in Sub Sahara Africa – states :
" Rajiv Shah, Obama's head of USAID, worked for USDA, is connected to Monsanto and the spread of GMOs and has connection with the defunct Prodigene and their pharm-seeds and may be promoting the interests of Monsanto and Prodigene as USAID's head.
Monsanto has given corn seeds to Black Haiti under USAD's Rajiv Shah reign, his connections to Monsanto and Prodigene, spermicidal-corn is relevant to know. Also relevant to know, in light of US food aid and US food dumping in Haiti and especially in light of Monsanto's gift of corn and other hybrid seeds to Haiti is the connection of US corn in Black Africa to increased HIV rate. That US corn consumption is now being linked to HIV infection rates in Black Africa."
Link to the (highly disturbing) bio article on Rajiv Shah:
My questions to you :
How do you – as Administrator of USAID - justify and explain the troubling link between ProdiGene, Anthony G Leos and USAID…?
And what were/are your own personal connections, interests and relations with ProdiGene...?
Gp120 HIV maize vaccine…promotes HIV!
Furthermore, a study done by HIV researcher Dr Veljko Veljkovic - virologist in the Laboratory for Multidisciplinary Research, Institute of Nuclear Sciences in Belgrade,Yugoslavia - showed that any Aids vaccine containing the gp120 glycoprotein or the gene coding for it could strongly interfere with the immune system and make the host more vulnerable to the virus.
As Dr. Veljko Veljkovic explains:
“The envelope glycoprotein, gp120 of HIV-1, is similar to the region of human immunoglobulins that binds antigen, a crucial feature of the immune response. Thus, any AIDS vaccine containing the gp120 could interfere with the immune system and make people more vulnerable to the virus. There is evidence suggesting that gp120 can interfere with and undermine the immune system and can readily recombine with viruses and bacteria (used as vectors) to generate new pathogens. In the longer term, this could accelerate disease progression in HIV patients that do not yet have symptoms.”
And as Dr. Mae-Wan Ho from the London-based Institute on Science in Society (ISIS) further writes:
“Most AIDS vaccines are based on the HIV glycoprotein gp120, that a number of virologists have warned, not only undermines the immune system of individuals but is also likely to create deadly viruses and bacteria that can spread through entire populations.
But A company in Texas, ProdiGene, is now putting gp120 into GM maize as a ‘cheap, edible oral vaccine’ against HIV. This will surely lead to widespread contamination of our food crops with disastrous consequences, as Vejkovic and I have written in a correspondence now published in the journal. Not only is this extremely hazardous for human beings. It will affect all organisms in the food chain and multiply the opportunities for this gene to recombine with bacteria and viruses in the environment, of which 99% cannot be cultured and are hence completely unknown.”
source : http://www.i-sis.org.uk/gmbiopost.php
ProfiGene & genetic contamination
Furthermore, as you already know, in 2002 ProdiGene was involved in two genetic contamination incidents in which two strains of its GM pharma corn contaminated maize and soya crops in the US.
As Dr. Mae-Wan Ho further writes :
" Worries about food crop contamination, which have dogged the industry from its inception, were confirmed in fall 2002 when the USDA discovered that ProdiGene, a pharma/industrial crop company, had allowed corn plants engineered to produce a veterinary drug (vaccine for pig diarrhea) to emerge as volunteers in a Nebraska soybean field. The company harvested the pharma corn along with the soybeans, and subsequently transported the contaminated soybeans to a grain elevator where thousands of bushels of commodity soybeans were contaminated."
" ProdiGene was also responsible for a separate incident that same fall, in which pharma corn in Iowa genetically modified to contain the glycoprotein gene gp120 of the Aids virus HIV-1 that has been built into GM maize as a “cheap, edible oral vaccine” was suspected of having cross-pollinated with feed corn in adjacent fields."
A plant geneticist at the University of California commented that the government were lucky to find the Prodigene pharm crops, and he said,
“What if the GM corn had come up inside a corn field? It could have crosspollinated and you’d have no idea where it was” (Cohen 2002).
And the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote:
“Considering all the potential routes for contamination of food with pharm crops, it is a frightening possibility that the Union of Concerned Scientists believe that contamination of the food system may already have occurred."
Genetic contamination of food crops by pharma & industrial crops
In the spring of 2003, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) convened an expert workshop on protecting the U.S. food and feed supply from contamination by crops genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals.
The experts who participated in that workshop wrote the technical report A Growing
Concern: Protecting the Food Supply in an Era of Pharmaceutical and Industrial Crops independently of UCS, which developed policy recommendations based on its own analysis of this report.
Excerpts from the report
" Food crops, primarily corn, are currently being genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals. These crops are referred to as “pharma” crops when they produce drugs, hormones, and other therapeutic agents,and industrial crops when they produce compounds such as plastics for use in industry. Many of these substances are being produced in corn and other food crops visually indistinguishable from their non-industrial counterparts.”
There are two major routes by which pharmaceutical and industrial transgenes can inadvertently contaminate commodity crops and, therefore, the food and feed supply. One of these is the physical mixing of seed—pharma seed can be inadvertently spilled or mixed during seed production, harvest, storage, transport, and handling.
Contamination can occur by direct mixing of the crops in the growing year or potential future contamination from volunteer plants the following year.
The other route is pollen, which contains the male reproductive cells necessary for the fertilization of plants and the production of seed.
Pollen containing genes for the pharma product can pollinate commodity crops, leading to contamination during the growing year.
The potential contamination of food crops with the hundreds, if not thousands, of drugs or industrial compounds promised by this industry poses new and serious risks to the safety of the food system.
The U.S. commodity corn and soybean production systems are structured to mix grain
from many sources before it is ultimately used. Without substantial modification, such a system cannot protect the human food and animal feed supply systems from contamination by pharma crops."
UCS observations & conclusions based on the report
" After careful analysis, we have concluded that current U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations governing such crops, although stronger than they have been in the past, are still insufficiently stringent to assure the complete protection of the food supply in the United States."
" Our report concludes that the current production process and production areas for corn and soybean cannot be used without substantial modification to ensure virtually zero contamination of the human food and animal feed supplies."
" Moreover, the routes of contamination in existing commodity crop production systems are so numerous that even very strong regulatory systems may not be sufficient to prevent the contamination of the food system with crops genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical and industrial compounds."
" The problem of pharma crop seeds being mixed with normal seed after harvesting is also a real possibility. Mistakes have already been made with other GE crops. For example, a variety of GE corn meant only for animals feed known as Starlink, turned up in foods across the U.S."
" Considering all the potential routes for contamination of food with pharm crops, it is a frightening possibility that the Union of Concerned Scientists believe that contamination of the food system may already have occurred."
The entire report can de downloaded at the following link :
Furthermore, many other scientists have expressed the same concerns and fears about genetic contamination of food crops by pharma crops. The US National Academy of Scientists warn that ‘it is possible that crops transformed to produce pharmaceutical or other industrial compounds might mate with plantations grown for human consumption, with the unanticipated result of novel chemicals in the human food supply’. 
Dr Norman Ellstrand, a professor of genetics at the University of California, Riverside, and a leading expert on corn genetics, says that ‘if just 1 percent of [American] experimental pollen escaped into Mexico, that means those landraces could potentially be making medicines or industrial chemicals or things that are not so good for people to eat. Right now, we just don’t know what’s in there’. 
Even pro-GMO industry representatives have expressed concern about this grave issue: ‘Most people are assuming that plants being used for these purposes [bio-pharming] will not enter the food supply, but if you assume that you need to have controls in place to make sure that does not happen,’ says Michael Taylor, ex Vice-President of Monsanto.
‘Just one mistake by a biotech company and we’ll be eating other people’s prescription drugs in our corn flakes’, argues Larry Bohlen, from Friends of the Earth in the USA. 
My question to you regarding the safety of GM maize and other GMO "food" crops shipped and distributed in Africa and worldwide as "food aid":
In view of the above documented scientific and empirical evidence regarding the inevitable genetic contamination of maize and other food crops by pharma and/or industrial GM crops in the US:
a) How can you guarantee & prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the GM maize and other GMO (so-called) “food” crops shipped & distributed in Africa and worldwide by USAID as (so-called) “food aid” has not been inadvertently contaminated by pharma and/or industrial GM crops – such as ProdiGene’s “edible maize vaccine” containing the gp120 HIV virus - and is therefore safe for human and animal consumption, for the natural environment and the ecosystem as a whole?
b) What regulatory, safety, precautionary and preventive measures has USAID developed, put in place and implemented to prevent genetic contamination of GM maize and other GMO “food” crops distributed in Africa and worldwide as “food aid” by pharma and/or industrial GM crops?
I thank you for shedding light into these interrogations and I look forward to your response.
A concerned Human Being and a seeker of Truth.
97 Committee on Environmental Impacts Associated with Commercialization of Transgenic Plants of the National Academy of Sciences (2002) Environmental Effects of Transgenic Plants: The Scope and Adequacy of Regulation, National Academy Press, p68.
98 Schapiro, M (2002) ‘Sowing Disaster?’, The Nation, 10 October.
99 Friends of the Earth (2002) Drugs And Chemicals Will Contaminate Food Supply Concludes New Report, Press Release, Washington, 11 July.