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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  April 2007

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE April 2007

Subject:

PetFood Disaster -- Genetically engineered toxins???

From:

Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 7 Apr 2007 19:14:49 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (122 lines)

04/05/07

LARGEST PET FOOD RECALL EVER

A Genetic Engineered Food Disaster?

By Dr. Michael W. Fox

I have received several letters from dog and cat owners thanking me 
for 'saving their animal's lives' because they were feeding them the 
kind of home-made diet that I have been advocating as a veterinarian 
for some years. These letters came after the largest pet food recall 
in the pet food industry's history.

On March 23, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets 
announced that rat poison in contaminated wheat gluten imported from 
China was responsible for the suffering and deaths of an as yet 
uncounted numbers of cats and dogs across North America. The poison 
is a chemical compound called aminopterin.

Veterinary toxicologists with the ASPCA and American College of 
Internal Veterinary Medicine shared my concern that there may be some 
other food contaminant(s) in addition to the aminopterin that was 
sickening and killing many pets. Experts were not convinced that the 
finding of rat poison contamination was the end of the story.

On March 30, the FDA reported finding a widely used compound called 
melamine (formed by dehydration of urea and used in the manufacture 
of plastics, as a wood resin adhesive, and in slow-release urea 
fertilizer), in the suspect pet foods. The FDA claims the melamine 
was the cause of an as yet uncounted number of cat and dog poisonings 
and deaths. The FDA could not find the rat poison, aminopterin, in 
the samples it analyzed; however a lab in Canada, at the University 
of Guelph, has confirmed the presence of rat poison. There may be 
other substances of a hazardous nature not yet discovered in these 
manufactured pet foods that include other ingredients considered 
unfit for human consumption, and from around the world.

The Associated Press cited the Environmental Protection Agency as 
having identified melamine as a contaminant and byproduct of several 
pesticides, including cryomazine. People began to question if there 
is also pesticide contamination of the wheat gluten. Is there a 
possibility of deliberate contamination, or is it the result of gross 
mismanagement and lack of effective food-safety and quality controls 
that accounts for levels of melamine reported to be as high as 6.6% 
by the FDA in samples of the wheat gluten?

A brief internet search quickly reveals that the widely used insect 
growth regulator cryomazine is not only made from melamine, but it 
also breaks down into melamine after ingestion by an animal. Wheat 
gluten is wheat gluten, fit for human consumption, so the question 
remains, what was wrong with this gluten that it was only bought for 
use in pet food?

On April 3 Associated Press named the US importer as ChemNutra of Las 
Vegas, reporting that the company had recalled 873 tons of wheat 
gluten that had been shipped to three pet food makers and a single 
distributor who in turn supplies the pet food industry.

What of the uncounted number of people whose cats and dogs became 
sick, and even died? Several letters that I have received indicate 
costs of in the thousands of $ per animal; and what of long-term care 
costs for animals suffering from chronic kidney disease?

While Congressional hearings are now being called for by grieving pet 
owners, and class action suits put together, this debacle could have 
catastrophic consequences not only for conventional agribusiness, of 
which the pet food industry is a lucrative subsidiary, but also for 
the agricultural biotechnology industry, with its millions of acres 
of genetically engineered crops around the world.

I reach this conclusion, until there is evidence to the contrary, for 
the following reasons:

1. The wheat gluten imported from China was not for human 
consumption, because, I believe, it had been genetically engineered. 
The FDA has a wholly cavalier attitude toward feeding animals such 
'frankenfoods' but places some restrictions when human consumption is 
involved (yet refuses appropriate food labeling).

2. The 'rat poison' aminopterin is used in molecular biology as an 
anti-metabolite, folate antagonist, and in genetic engineering 
biotechnology as a genetic marker. This could account for its 
presence in this imported wheat gluten.

3. The 'plastic', 'wood preservative', contaminant melamine, the 
parent chemical for a potent insecticide cyromazine, could well have 
been manufactured WITHIN the wheat plants themselves as a genetically 
engineered pesticide. This is much like the Bt. insecticidal poison 
present in most US commodity crops that go into animal feed.

4. So called 'overexpression' can occur when spliced genes that 
synthesize such chemicals become hyperactive inside the plant and 
result in potentially toxic plant tissues, lethal not just to meal 
worms and other crop pests, but to cats, dogs, birds, butterflies and 
other wildlife; and to their creators. (For details, see my book 
Killer Foods: What Scientists Do to Make Food Better is Not Always 
Best. Lyon's Press, 2004).

How else can one account for samples of pet food containing as much 
as 6% melamine? It was surely not mixed in such amounts when the 
wheat gluten was being processed, but rather was already in the 
wheat, along with the aminopterin genetic marker. My suspicion is 
that the FDA was aware that the gluten came from genetically 
engineered wheat that was considered safe for animal consumption.

I could be wrong. But a greater wrong is surely for the pet food 
industry to use food ingredients and food and beverage industry 
by-products considered unfit for human consumption; to continue to do 
business without any adequate government oversight and inspection; 
and for government to give greater priority to agricultural 
biotechnology and the patenting of genetically engineered crops and 
animals, and not to organic, humane, ecologically sound and safe food 
production.

I believe that there is evidence of gross negligence, not simply on 
the part of the pet food industry, but by all who are responsible for 
food quality and safety in the global market that is clearly 
dysfunctional. The Pet Food Institute should start an emergency fund 
to compensate all veterinary expenses incurred as a result of this -- 
and any future -- mass poisonings of people's beloved animal companions.

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