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March 28, 2001


Organics, Starbucks, NCGA, IFPRI, Scotland, India


Mr. Apel has a good point. Regards "organic" agriculture, its
promoters have for years depended on the inference that since herbicides
are toxic at high concentrations, herbicide-treated crops may be toxic
unless proven otherwise. However, until now no one has taken them on
their own terms:

If "organic" crops contain residues of toxic copper salts, pathogens
from manures, B.t. spores, etc., then perhaps they should also be regarded
as unsafe until their safety has been established.

The argument of "organic" promoters that even trace levels of pesticide
residues are toxic should apply equally well to low levels of copper,
manure pathogens, B.t. spores etc.

What peer reviewed studies have demonstrated the safety of "organic"
produce? This is not a frivolous argument, since many thousands of
people are paying extra money for food because they think "organic"
produce is safer.

John Cross


Organized organic crime

Washington Times
By Steven Milloy
March 27, 2001

Starbucks surrendered this week to extortion by some of the very same
anti-technology extremists who supported the multimillion-dollar vandalism
of the gourmet coffee retailer's hometown and several of its storefronts
during the 1999 Seattle WTO riots.

You might call it "Battered Socially Responsible Company Syndrome."
Starbucks brags about its record of "environmental leadership," yet is now
a punching bag for the groups it tries to appease.

But something more sinister is occurring.

The Organic Consumers Association threatened to damage Starbuck's
"worldwide reputation and profitability" unless the company stopped using
milk from cows supplemented with synthetic bovine growth hormone.

The action is part of OCA's campaign to drive off the market
non-organic foods and beverages, especially those produced through genetic
engineering and other modern technologies.

OCA claims hormone supplementation damages the health of dairy cows
and that milk from supplemented cows increases cancer risk in humans.
According to experts, both claims are untrue.

CEO Orin Smith said he was more concerned about public perception
than health concerns and announced Starbucks would stop serving milk from
supplemented cows five days ahead of OCA's scheduled attack.

OCA launched its scheduled attack against "Frankenbucks" anyway,
staging protests in more than 100 cities where Starbucks has retail
outlets. Not only does Starbucks' cave-in encourage the organic thugs to
strong-arm other businesses, but also it harms consumers and the

Bovine growth hormones are present in all cows, even those on organic
farms. Milk from supplemented cows is chemically indistinguishable from
milk produced by non-supplemented cows, according to the Food and Drug
Administration. This is no surprise. Supplementation only helps cows
produce more, not different milk.

Recent research indicated supplemented cows are as healthy as
non-supplemented cows.

Dairy producers who use these supplements produce as much as 15
percent more milk with the same number of cows. In addition to higher
productivity for dairy farmers, use of bovine growth hormone means less
water, land and fuel will be used.

The dairy industry estimates that producing 10 percent more milk with
the same number of cows (based on the 1996 milk supply of 19 billion
gallons) saves: 180 billion gallons per year of water, the annual usage of
700,000 U.S. homes; 1.7 million acres of land, an area one-third the size
of new Jersey; and 150 million gallons per year of fuel, the annual
consumption of 240,000 U.S. homes.

The same increase in milk productivity also reduces: annual manure
production by 0.9 metric tons; soil loss by 5.3 million tons per year, one
percent of U.S. soil loss, and (for global warming worry-worts) greenhouse
gas emissions by 4.9 million tons per year, about 0.2 percent of total
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Milk production isn't the only area where organic farming comes up
short against new technology.

Modern high-yielding farming is the subject of an article titled
"Urban myths of organic farming," published in this week's edition of the
science journal Nature. University of Edinburgh biologist Anthony Trewavas
points out, for example, that organic farmers' frequent mechanical weeding
of their fields damages nesting birds, worms and invertebrates and
increases pollution through added fossil fuel use.

In contrast, Mr. Trewavas points out, "A single treatment with
innocuous herbicide, coupled with no-till conventional farming avoids this
damage and retains organic material in the soil surface. Mr. Trewavas
concludes "organic agriculture was originally formulated as an ideology"
but for today's global problems we "need agricultural pragmatism and
flexibility, not ideology."

Adding insult to injury, organic foods cost an average of 57 percent
more than conventional foods, according to Consumer Reports. These higher
costs could amount to $4,000 annually for a family of four, according to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The organic agriculture industry cannot make a compelling case.
Organic farming is an ecological, agricultural and economic bust. It's no
wonder the organic industry relies on extortion and terrorism.

The bad news for Starbucks is that organized organic crime isn't
through yet. The OCA is also after Starbucks to pledge never to use
genetically modified coffee or other GM ingredients in its products and to
more heavily promote organic coffee. "One hundred percent organic" is
OCA's goal.

The OCA is affiliated with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy, another anti-technology group. Mark Ritchie, the president of
IATP, operates Peace Coffee, an organic coffee company.

Should Starbucks not cave in to OCA's demands, Starbucks might
reasonably worry about a visit from yet another group that shares
facilities with IATP — Earth First, The eco-sabotage group is under
investigation by the FBI for acts property destruction costing tens of
millions of dollars.

Starbucks should wake up and smell its own coffee before it gets an
offer it can't refuse.

NCGA Requests $50 Million for Plant Biotechnology/Genomics Research at

WASHINGTON, March 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Corn Growers Association
(NCGA) today requested that a House subcommittee allocate $50 million for
research on plant genomics and plant biotechnology in the FY 2002 budget.

Delaware, Ohio, farmer Gary Davis, DVM, Ph.D., -- who is a member
of the NCGA's Customer and Business Development Action Team -- told the
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing
and Related Programs that this investment could help alleviate human

Citing statistics showing that two billion people worldwide suffer from
malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, Davis said, "Much of this human
suffering can be alleviated in a sustainable manner if we were to (1)
increase U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding for
plant genomics and plant biotechnology research to increase yields,
enhance micronutrients in food, and create 'edible vaccines,' and (2) if
we were to target funding for the training of scientists and plant
breeders from developing countries in

Davis pointed to current methods of delivering vaccines and vitamins to
those in developing countries, that require ongoing, annual expenditures
from the industrialized world. Storing and administering vaccines in
remote, impoverished rural areas are problematic; for example, requiring
refrigeration, sterile environments and equipment that are simply not
available or are prohibitively expensive.

"We have opportunities with plant biotechnology to deliver 'edible
vaccines' without the need for any of these complicated handling
procedures, without the need for refrigeration or sterile equipment, and
we can deliver them in a sustainable manner through the regeneration of
plants," Davis said. He cited an example where plant biotechnology has
made significant advances in delivering the Hepatitis B vaccine in corn
and bananas and the cholera vaccine
in potatoes.

This research has other benefits, such as the development of crops that
can endure droughts, pests and plant diseases that can devastate crops,
leading often to population-wide starvation. And Davis said that the
fruit of this research is not entirely altruistic. "When scientists solve
these problems in poor countries, they not only help people feed
themselves and move up from poverty, they help ensure safe harvests across
our own country."

avis concluded by again encouraging Congress to provide $50 million for a
comprehensive initiative on plant genomics and plant biotechnology
research at USAID. "By helping farmers grow bigger, more nutritious
crops, not only do we combat famine, malnutrition, blindness, and
childhood disease and death, we help developing countries take important
steps toward becoming important and
reliable trading partners for the U.S. The USAID should enhance,
significantly, its role in ensuring that the developing countries have
access to and reap the full benefit of plant biotechnology."

The Davis testimony was also made on behalf of the American Farm Bureau
Federation and the American Society of Plant Physiologists.

For more information about NCGA and the full text of the testimony visit

An international conference
Bonn, Germany, September 4-6, 2001

With 800 million people lacking enough food to lead healthy, productive
lives, food insecurity remains a global threat and a humanitarian tragedy.
This conference will focus on why hunger persists, what emerging forces
are influencing the prospects for food security in the next two decades,
and how we need to realign priorities to eliminate hunger once and for

Please join key decisionmakers and other leaders from government,
nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and the research
community to share state-of-the-art knowledge, exchange information and
ideas, and forge new partnerships. The conference is organized by IFPRI's
2020 Vision initiative with cosponsors from the public sector, civil
society, and the private sector.

For conference details, to register online, and more:

2. Writing competition: HOW CAN WE END HUNGER IN THE WORLD?

IFPRI's 2020 Vision initiative is inviting young people around the world
to share their thoughts on how to feed all the world’s citizens. Students
15 to 18 years old may submit an essay, poem, short story, or other text
written in English on some aspect of world hunger and the best way to
eliminate it.

Please help us publicize this contest as widely as possible.

Submissions are due by June 1, 2001. Click link for additional details.



More GM trials on way

The Scotsman
By David Montgomery and John Ross
March 29, 2001

A NEW round of farm-scale trials of genetically modified oilseed rape were
yesterday given the go-ahead by the Scottish executive.

The decision to approve further trials in the Highlands angered
environmentalists and organic farmers, who claimed their livelihoods will
be affected.

Among the sites approved is a field at New Craig Farm, near Daviot,
Aberdeenshire, where the first GM trial in Scotland was harvested last

Two more trials are to be planted at Daviot, while the other two sites are
at Park Farm, Auldearn, near Nairn, and Seafield Farm, Smithton, near

Park Farm and Seafield Farm, are run by Stephen Barclay, who intends to
start planting GM oilseed rape on both by the end of April.

His neighbour, Peter Muskus, said yesterday he was concerned that GM
contamination could lead to his organic certification being take away.

The former manager at Park Farm, who now grows organic vegetables, said it
could also dissuade people from using self-catering accommodation he runs.

"I am very unhappy. I did think when Tony Blair said recently that he was
taking a completely new look at the way agriculture is carried out in the
light of foot and mouth that there was a real chance that the government
might hold back and think about this," he said.

"I can’t understand why they want to push ahead and take a chance on
digging another big hole for themselves." Anti-GM campaigners recently
criticised Ross Finnie, the rural affairs minister, for not holding
consultative meetings on the latest applications for trials because of the
foot and mouth crisis. Instead he took part in a one-hour radio phone-in
on the subject.

An executive spokesman said yesterday that all the sites had been cleared
as safe for the environment by experts and posed no risk to people living

Local communities have also been informed of the trials, which will be
planted by agrochemical company Aventis.

The trials are part of a three-year evaluation by the executive to test
the effects on other farm wildlife of herbicides associated with the GM

The executive spokesman said that the science behind the trials had been
carefully considered.

FOOD TARGET: Biotechnology Holds The Key

March 27, 2001

TODAY India produces enough food (a record 206 million tonnes) to feed her
population of one billion. The battle is, however, not yet won and it is
the right time to ponder on two pertinent issues - accessibility to food
and nutritional security. The daunting task is to double our food
production in the next decade - a call given recently by the Prime
Minister. Most of the world's greatest thinkers, including the father of
the green revolution, the Noble Laureate, Norman E Borlaug, now believe
that this cannot be achieved simply by conventional breeding. Classical
breeding has to be supplemented with some innovative technologies.
Biotechnology holds the promise.

Brewers and bakers have been using biotechnology since time immemorial.
However, its immense power grabbed the public imagination only after the
perfection of "genetic engineering" tools in the 80s. The genetic
blueprint of all living things, ranging from a sub-microscopic cirus
particle to huge elephants, is written using only four alphabets (A,T,G,C
which stand for the nitrogenous bases adenine, thymine, guanine and
cytosine). The basic apparatus used for decoding this message into
functional proteins and ultimately a visible phenotype through a messenger
molecule (RNA; ribonucleic acid) is more or less similar in all living


It immediately struck our imagination that since the genetic code and its
decoding devices are similar in all living things it might be possible to
augment the phenotype of a particular organism by inserting genes from
other organisms. Well-perfected tools are now available for isolating
gene(s) from one organism and their incorporation and expression in
others, including crop plants. It is this technology (called genetic
engineering) which holds the key to our future food and nutritional

Genetic engineering has two distinct advantages over classical breeding.
The first is selectivity. In classical breeding the entire genome of
parent plants is recombined, thereby needing several cycles of
backcrossing and selection to eliminate undesirable traits. On the other
hand, genetic transfor-mation can introduce a single gene for a desired
trait without disturbing the plant's genetic make-up. Secondly, classical
breeding is confined to only cross-fertile plants and thus uses limited
variability. This barrier has been overcome by genetic engineering, which
has brought the entire genetic diversity of the living world together. It
was unthinkable 20 years ago.

Transgenic crops are now being cultivated in as many as 13 countries,
including five developing nations with a total area of 44.2 million
hectares. During the first wave of the transgenic revolution, emphasis was
laid on the so-called "input traits" that confer agronomic advantages like
resistance to pests and diseases and tolerance against herbicides. About
30 per cent of the total yield is lost every year due to weeds, diseases
and pests. More food would be available for human consumption if the
extent of this damage could be minimised. In fact, the development of pest
resistant cultivars has been a major thrust area in our classical breeding

In this pursuit, however, we face a paradoxical situation. Classical
breeding usually takes 10-12 years to breed a pest resistant cultivar.
During this long period, population structures of the target pathogens or
insect pests undergo natural evolutionary changes and by the time the
cultivar is ready for cultivation, we may have a pathogen population which
is no longer manageable through the newly bred resistant cultivars.
Contrary to classical breeding, genetic engineering can specifically add a
resistant gene in the genetic background of agronomically superior
cultivars very quickly. Genetically engineered soyabean, maize, cotton,
canola, potato, tobacco and tomato, with improved tolerance/resistance to
herbicides, insect pests and diseases are now available in the market and
have been accepted by the consumers. Refinements in the strategies for
improving the plant's defence towards biotic and abiotic stresses are
being reported almost every day. We now have technologies that can take
care of most of the fungal, bacterial and viral diseases and insect pests
afflicting our major crops.


The field of genetic engineering is now witnessing a second wave where the
emphasis is on improving the quality of plant produce (output traits).
Encouraging successes have been reported in the improvement of
carbohydrate, protein and the oil quality of food crops. Efforts are also
under way to enhance the crucial vitamin and mineral composition of staple
foods. Golden rice with enhanced vitamin and mineral content is a reality
now. Scientists at the Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla, in
collaboration with the National Centre on Plant Genome Research, JNU
campus, New Delhi, and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai are
trying to develop transgenic potatoes containing a higher amount of
essential amino acids, insect resistance and tolerance to viral diseases
respectively. This will go a long way in making potato farming more
economical and environmentally safe in our country.

Transgenic crops expressing antigenic epitopes of major life-threatening
diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, hepatitis, foot and mouth disease, etc.
have been developed which do not require an elaborate storage and
distribution infrastructure. Consumption of such genetically modified food
will immunise the people/livestock of poor nations. It is also possible to
produce biodegradable plastics from transgenic plants, ensuring a better
environment. Transgenic plants can also be used as bioreactors for the
production of industrial molecules. If this technology succeeds, it is
likely to reduce the evils of industrial pollution, now choking our

Recently a breakthrough technology developed at Cornell University, USA,
revealed that the yield potential of our crops can be enhanced manifold by
utilising genes from inferior wild species through marker assisted
selection. As much as 50 per cent more yield was recorded in the hybrids
of an Asian rice (Oryza sativa) cultivar after incorporating genes from a
weedy, unpromising, wild Malaysian rice (Oryza rufipogon). Transgenic
wheat giving 29 per cent more yield than the present day cultivar with the
same amount of fertiliser has also been reportedly developed. This is
unthinkable for conventional breeding, which usually achieves a one per
cent yield increase per annum in a long-term perspective.

Minimal risk

It is thus clear that today we have technologies that produce enough good
quality food from the same natural resources, to sustain a 10 billion
world population. The most unfortunate development during the last decade,
however, is the emergence of a lobby against biotechnology.

Support for this lobby comes largely from imperialistic countries. People
of these industrial countries have already checked their population growth
and can afford to produce less from more land using so-called "green
technologies". To halt the progress of biotechnology, these elitist
thinkers calculate the amount of risk involved in ingesting food developed
by biotechnological means. This risk is often as little as that of an
alien object hitting our earth.

No food is totally free of risk. For example, a similar risk is also
associated with cultivars developed by classical breeding. In fact a
potato variety called Lenape was withdrawn from the US market in the 1960s
when it was found to contain high levels of a potato toxin called
solanadine glycosides.

For us in India, where population growth is alarmingly high, food is still
a matter of life and death. We cannot waste time in pondering over such
imaginary ideas and fall back in our pursuit of the food production

Golden rice for the masses

The Hindu
March 29, 2001

HYDERABAD, MARCH 28.The Department of Biotechnology(DBT) along with the
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is negotiating with Swiss
and German scientists and their Governments for transfer of "Gold Rice
Technology" to India.

With this technology, India hopes to develop "our own Vitamin-A rice for
masses in the next five to six years", Dr. Manju Sharma, Secretary of DBT
said in a lecture she delivered on "Biotechnology for Sustained Food and
Nutrition Security with special focus on rural population" here on

The world over, 230 million children are suffering from Vitamin A
deficiency (VAD). Lack of this vitamin leads to learning disability and
each year over 3.5 lakh pre-school children go partially or totally blind.
Over one million VAD associated deaths occur annually.

It is reported that one half of the population that suffer worldwide from
micro-nutrient (including VAD) deficiencies live in India, Dr.Manju Sharma
said underlining the significance of the Department's efforts to secure
golden rice technology.