Noms et prénoms: Sanda Ljubicic et Jérôme Gauthey.
Lieu de l'enquête: Vevey.
Date de l'enquête: 10 février 1999.
Sujet : les aliments transgéniques.
" Nous n'utilisons pas de produits génétiquement modifiés."
" Le génie génétique est un bon outil. Néanmoins,il ne résoudra pas tous nos problèmes." " Qu'est-ce que la nature? Une utopie, un idéal. Elle n'existe plus depuis que l'homme s'est mêlé d'y toucher."
What does the modern world look like, M. Nestlé?
We personally asked this question to a member of the enterprise of Nestlé, in Vevey, M. Toet, who permitted us to understand more clearly the situation and the position of the enterprise. This one is rational and he shows a deep confidence towards the future of these techniques without to be unaware of the relative dangers that this technique brings. During the interview, we felt their desire to share their knowledge on the matter. He tried to move away, as for even, of the official opinion. For details, read the following.
Dirk Toet: " We don't use the genetically modified organisms. What we use are products coming from the modified soy and of the modified corn. It is especially flour of soy and corn, maltodextrin, food additives coming from soy and corn as well, lecithin. Interviewer: - In which there isn't any risk at all? D.T.: - Yes."
The agriculture is the starting point of our analysis and the topic the more controversial. Although Nestlé is not specialised in this domain, M. Toet told us that the biotechnology is an intermediate stage in the evolution of the agriculture. In spite of all, there aren't any big differences with the selection made by the man. It permits an improvement of rightly agricultural processes, in the sense where it permits to solve a certain number of difficulties, notably of technical order. The genetic engineering is a means to accelerate the natural process and to make it more precise, because one knows what one precisely changes and the consequences of the change before making it (many years ago, one tried to observe the result).
D.T.: " Studies that we made on the soy and the corn represent a pile of 1m50. There aren't any better products on the market to study than the soy and the corn GM."
This technique permits us a better output of cultures. Let's mention an example: by the introduction of a gene carrier of the resistance against the pyrale, which is a small worm eater of corn and destroyer of culture, in plantations of corn, we avoid a lot of losses that are owing to those destructions. While he was speaking about soy and corn, which are the products used by Nestlé, we asked M. Toet, if there was a transmission risk of the resistance of derivatives to the other plants, in particular to the micro-organisms that eat them.
D.T.: " If one takes the example of the BT corn, where one put a resistance against an antibiotic as well, one can realise that, at the point of scientific view, there isn't any problem with this gene, because it doesn't express itself. One can also observe that the transmission of this gene is very difficult: the gene must first travel from the plant to this micro-organism and it is then necessary to express the gene (it need a promoter and a final sequence). The probability of such a transmission is identical to win three following times the lotto. - But, all fighting products (insecticides and herbicides) provoke the formation of a resistance; the life span of a plant is completely independent of it. The resistance is therefore a normal thing. It seems logical, that a living form, like a pyrale, will flee, when it'll feel menaced. It will find an exit to adapt itself to his environment.
The resistance is the result of the evolution.
- If we observe now the mankind's case, we can notice that there is a big number of micro-organisms in our own intestine; about 50% of these-ones have already developed a resistance to fight against the antibiotic. - The resistance against an antibiotic in genes of BT corn is minimal facing the number of resistances already developed by bacteria in our organism."
Concerning the soy and the corn, M. Toet also said that there wasn't any risk of the transformed gene being transmitted to another plants, because the soy and the corn are not indigenous plants in Europe. For the other cultivated plants in Europe, there is a transmission risk. Those products aren't more allergens than their classic forebears. Therefore there won't be any new allergies. Besides, all these plants and their derivatives have been tested on the chances that they have of provoking an allergy (to provoke an allergy, it is not necessary for a food to be digested and be allergen). For those products, no allergy has been detected; but if allergies had been found, the producer would withdraw the products or something would be marked on the packing. M. Toet also showed us to what point the danger of a disappearance of the diversity was very relative. Sixty to seventy varieties of soy exist (the French soy isn't the same as its Spanish counterpart) and only about thirty varieties has been transformed. What ever happens is that several varieties will still remain. Consequences for men when they ingest GMO are the same as for the "natural" products.
D.T.: " All our products contain DNA. If one begins to eat, one begins to eat DNA as well and all the changes that one has made until today with the genetically modified products contain genes already known and eaten. There is nothing new; there isn't synthetic or artificial DNA, there aren't any genes coding for a toxin. Interviewer: - But, in that case, one is taking something belonging to a cow and putting it in a plant? D.T.: - We all eat meat and plant. For the moment there isn't anything shocking with our techniques."
This technique is a very good tool, as he explained it to us. But we mustn't believe that it will solve all our problems. It can also have its inconveniences.
D.T.: " The palette of products that we eat is so varied, it is incredible. We have eaten so much new DNA during these last forty years, in comparison, the new DNA brought by the soy and the corn doesn't represent anything. The fear of genetic engineering is indeed a psychological problem. But I'm not saying that this technology is without dangers. That doesn't exist. There is no technology without danger. It is indeed a technology about which it is really necessary to think about what one makes and what one doesn't make. The situation today is very simple. If we are going to continue in this direction, it is necessary to think about the problems of resistance, one cannot continue to think that there will be a resistance against everything. It is indispensable to have a balance. But, for the moment, with only two-three products on the market, there is not a big risk. Anyway, a life without risk doesn't exist."
In the same way, as the nuclear power, there is a very troubling potential.
DT: " There is a possibility for this technique of constructing an individual pathogen, but we have the legislation to avoid that. In the same way, there is a possibility of destroying the world with nuclear power and so many other possibilities. But we have a legislation to avoid this kind of things as well as our common sense. Who would have interest in producing such a disaster or such a person? Nobody. It only exists in the James Bond. It is also quite unrealistic that the genetic engineering will solve all our problems. It's just a very useful tool."
For the moment, the care is required. Manufacturers are limited to merchandise. With regard at the consumption of these products, the society is in a "funny situation". The people are informed of the progress of the biotechnology, thanks to the advertisement. In England, more than two thousands GMO products are labelled in supermarkets. In Holland, there are two hundred labelled products. Despite negative advertisement about these products, their sale hasn't undergone any decrease. As he explained it to us, he mentioned an example:
DT: " Everybody said that it is because the consumer doesn't read the label, but we have had an experience in France: we introduced a produce, a cannelloni, containing proteins of soy, coming from GM soy, and at the same moment, one had the conference of the citizens in France. The Findus Cannelloni have been treated on the French TV, and in all national and regional French newspapers. Everybody saw it. Nevertheless people bought it."
They develop products, but eventually, only the consumer decides. The future products and their futures are dependent of the consumers.
D.T.: " We are not as Greenpeace wants to make it believe. We cannot force people to eat a product that they don't want. ( ) We will use the new created product, if they answer to a desire of the consumers."
We can hope for a decrease of prices of these products besides in 5 to 6 years thanks to the best output of the cultures. This reduction won't be seen on all the products. For example, the chocolate: when the price of the soy will have lowered, the price of the chocolate won't lower since there are 0,2% to 0,3% of lecithin in that product. Nestlé is an enterprise that doesn't use any genetically modified products. It uses derivatives of soy and transgenetical corn where has been transformed only one gene.
Interviewer: " Imports of GMO plants in Switzerland include difficulties, because plants are brewed and all in the same boat, don't they? DT: - Soy and corn are gathered in two, three harbours in the United States and they are transported in huge ships (70'000 to 80'000 tons) to extract oil, to produce the proteins of the soy or lecithin. It is made in Europe for a biggest percentage. It is possible to have a certain separation, but not 100%. And now, in Switzerland, a proposition of legislation allows a threshold of 1%. That means that one has one for hundred GM by ton, one considers this soy as no GM. ( ). Interviewer: - Do you manage to guarantee one for hundred? D.T.: - We don't guarantee them, the suppliers do it. Interviewer: - Are the tests you make to verify this percentage? D.T.: - Yes. ( ). As for all the other aspects of our products."
He finally showed us to what point the idea that one shocks the nature with this technique is passed; one shocks the nature since a long time.
D.T.: - What is the nature today? In our regions, I see soy, corn, hemp and artificial forests (planted). The nature is the fact of all human actions on the nature that is not the nature about which one dreams. It is a utopia, but not for all the people. The conception of the nature as something that one hasn't touched doesn't exist anymore.
Where must these manipulations stop? Where is the legislation? Are we capable to have a universal legislation (an agreement between all countries)? Will there be any tentative of creations of very pathogen individuals? We still are in the fuzzy, in spite of the nearly blind confidence of M. Toet in the clairvoyance and in the good intentions of the mankind. But is necessary to recognise that his exposition showed the problematic well (advantages /dangers) of this technique at an enough rational point of view.
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