Genetic Modification is a simple extension of conventional breeding
Syamal Krishna Ghosh and Chitore Kr. Guha Sarkar
NARDI, 61, Nagarjuna Hills, Hyderabad – 500 082, India
Forwarded by the author: email@example.com
Since long, breeders have modified the genetic make up of plants and
animals through conventional breeding methods. Breeders have developed new
crop varieties using the existing genetic variability or by creating new
variability, which is the prerequisite for any breeding programme.
Conventional breeding methods have the disadvantage of a thousands of
genes getting transferred in each cross, which may or may not be of use
along with the desired ones in the target species. Another major
limitation in conventional breeding includes the barriers for gene
transfer through incompatibility and species differences.
The genetic engineering (GE) technology has made possible the insertion of
desired foreign gene(s) to overcome problems of sexual incompatibility and
species barriers between organisms. This technology helps the breeders and
molecular biologists to introduce only the gene of interest with more
selective modification and represents a significant advance. It is nothing
but the mere extension of conventional breeding methods. The primary aim
of the modern biotechnology is to make a living cell to perform a specific
useful task in a predictable and controllable way. The outcome of GE
technology is a transgenic / genetically modified (GM) product. The
transgenics have many advantages, of which some include the potential to
resist biotic and abiotic stresses, adds nutritional quality to the
product, etc., resulting in productivity increase. Biotechnology has been
identified as a promising research area with widespread applications in
diverse fields of agriculture (1,2). The hue and cry regarding the impact
of GM crops on biodiversity has created hypes regarding economic, social
and ethical concerns. However, several workers contradicted the fears
expressed regarding the risks and hazards of GM crops but still concerns
on the safety of GM foods creating controversies.
The impact of GM crops in developing countries has not been studied
extensively and concerns regarding the possible effect of transgenics on
biodiversity are probably raised because of lack of understandings of
modern commercialized agriculture. GM crops may affect the diversity but
it is the trait or acquired property that interacts with the environment
and not the transgenic plant per se. In transgenics the new gene is
introduced irrespective of the boundaries, whereas, in conventional
breeding it adds variants of a given gene (new alleles). In both cases
equal chances are there that the introduced gene may probably result in
any side effects because it finds itself in different genetic context or
background and expresses differentially (position effects) in the present
Gene flow- the flip side
Fears are expressed sometimes that the transgenic plant itself may become
a weed and the introduced gene may be sexually transmitted into wild
relatives and traditional varieties. The concerns that GM crops themselves
becoming weeds and leading wild weed populations to become ‘superweeds’ is
contradicted by Crawley and coworkers (3) who concluded from their
experiments that GM crops are less persistent than their conventional
counterparts and are less invasive. In the past, several exotic species
like Triticale (a cross between durum wheat and rye), Trithordeum (a
cross between wheat and oat), released for cultivation and where these
risks also prevailed, did not result in such controversies. The main
component of gene flow is the out crossing rate. But the reports says that
even in highly self pollinated crop intraspecies, out crossing takes place
to limited extent 4 and Langevin (5) reported 1-52 % hybrid seed set in
weedy red rice growing sympartically with the cultivated rice in
Louisiana. Therefore, the chance of gene flow can not be ruled out for
conventional breeding methods also. The risks poised regarding the fear of
gene flow are of equal concern in both conventional breeding and GM crops.
The escape of transgene providing pest resistance to wild relatives may
not have serious environmental problem as genes for resistance are often
found in wild relatives. Weediness could be a matter of concern when the
herbicide resistance genes flow and get introgressed into wild relatives
of the crop. As the gene flow from herbicide resistant GM crops have
serious implications on wild populations there is need to search ways 6 to
reduce its escape from GM to wild weedy species. Interspecies gene flow
(3) is extremely low and depends on the presence of a large population of
related species in the center of diversity. The gene flow from a GM crop
would depend on the mode of reproduction, rate of out crossing, sexual
compatibility, proximity with wild relatives and relative fitness of
If, the horizontal gene transfer is so simple and if new genes could swap
with so much ease between species we would all have been lost in one big
evolutionary melange a long time ago. But because of the possibility of
gene flow, GM crops should be planted according to the local flora, with
specific restrictions. Assessment of realistic risks for gene transfer
through pollen is available for many regions (7) and agriculturally sound
procedures need to be developed for different regions. The debate could
end with a case to case study of GM crops and it would not be wise to
denigrate the technology itself. According to Watson - "Never postpone
experiments that have clearly defined future benefits for fear of dangers
that can't be quantified".
Heavy application of pesticides to protect crops in order to increase
yield have ultimately boomeranged and given birth to the major concerns
like the persistence of pesticide residues in foodstuffs 8, development of
resistance among pests (9) and harm to non target organisms 10. This is of
special importance in developing countries, where, at least 2 billion
people that are living and working in farming areas are exposed to
pesticides. The continuous and injudicious use of pesticides has resulted
in development of resistance in pests and currently, more than 500 species
of insects (9) show resistance to one or more chemicals and a few serious
pests resist nearly all poisonous pesticides.
In case of GM crops the evolution of new insect biotypes is another area
of concern. However, experiences from the commercial host plant resistance
breeding has shown that there is no direct relationship between the
deployment of insect resistant cultivars and the evolution of new insect
biotypes (11). Plant breeders incorporate new resistance genes while
insects and pathogens simultaneously evolve mechanisms to overcome them
for their survival. So in this case also the chance can not be avoided and
this does not mean that resistant varieties will not be bred for, accepted
or cultivated. Another major concern of GM crops is their effect on
non-target organisms. Bt proteins affect the stomachs of vertebrates and
chances of affecting beneficial insects however remains. Although such
effects are less severe 11 than those of broad-spectrum insecticides are.
The incidence and dynamics of natural enemies in Bt and non-Bt fields have
been observed to be almost the same (12). Even the GM crops with trypsin
inhibitor13 did not show toxicity to honey bees but soybean trypsin
inhibitor was found to be toxic 14 to adult honeybees. Therefore, it will
be doing injustice to conclusively generalize all GM crops to be harmful
but the final decision has to be taken after studying the aspect case
wise, not universally. Field experiments showed that the performance of
transgenic ‘Bt’ cotton varieties was the same as other cotton varieties
except for The desired high resistance to bollworm and bud worm and with
an average of 70 % 15 less chemical insecticide used than conventional
According to Dr. C. S. Prakash (16) gene revolution is far more
environment friendly compared to its predecessors “Green revolution”.
Scientists have argued that if GM crops are risky, then conventionally
bred cultivars are even more risky as thousands of new genes are
introduced by crossing distant relatives and since conventionally bred
varieties cause no harm then very few genes introduction (through GE)
should not cause irreversible damage. The risks of modern GE have also
been studied by technical expert at the National Academy of Sciences and
World Bank and according to them the environmental effects can be
predicted by reviewing past experiences with those plants and animals
produced through selective breeding. None of these products of selective
breeding has harmed either the environment or the biodiversity.
If common public is focused that the development of this technology will
only benefit industries and not the farmers and consumers then the
acceptance of the technology and product will be very low. The need lies
in the effective communication of the pursued risks and benefits among the
consumer and farming communities to have its rapid acceptance. There is
also need to understand its impact on human health and environment so that
this technology can be used without exacerbating genetic erosion. The
social issues are complex in a developing world where the so-called
environmentalists are highlighting GM crops to be the monopoly of
multinational companies (MNC). But the fact is that in the WTO regime, the
farmers have to be globally competitive and for that due importance is to
be given to the reduction in production cost and quality of the product. A
report from IRRI (17) stated that in the long run the cost of molecular
breeding is only $ 2 per plant while that of traditional breeding is $ 30.
If this is considered, breeding with biotechnological tool is still only a
fraction of the cost of traditional plant breeding. There will have to be
much greater transparency in the system, and data on GM products must be
publicly available and debates on risks and benefits should be conducted
To adopt GM crops and their products, awareness has to be created among
the farming and consumer communities regarding their benefits and effects
on human life by the scientific community and leaders. NRC (18) reported
that crops modified by molecular and cellular methods pose risks no
different from those modified by classical genetic methods for similar
traits. OECD already pointed out that GE is nothing more than a simple
extension of traditional breeding. GM crops and the techniques of
biotechnology offer huge benefits which if realized in an open and fair
way, without suspicion of bullying big business, they have the potential
to sustain the security for food and nutrition for human well being in the
near future. So GE cannot be considered as universally accepted technology
but the assessment should be done on a case by case basis. Only time will
tell whether the introduction of GM crops today is really harmful for the
environment or the developing world. In the mean time serious research has
to be carried out to provide support on the effect of GM crops.
Opportunities are still untapped in developing countries until a consensus
comes up among all its possible benefactress to allow the technology to
run its race.
1. Heming, D. Molecular farming :using transgenic plants to produce novel
proteins and other chemicals. Ag. Biotech. News and Information, 1995, 7,
2. Griffiths, W. Pesticide Outlook, 1998, 9, 6-8.
3. Crawley, M.J., Halis, R.S., Rees, M., Kohn, D. and Bukton, J. Ecology
of transgenic rape in natural habitats. Nature, 1993, 363, 620-623.
4. Bhatia, C. R. and Mitra, R. Biosafety of Transgenics crop plants. PINSA
– B, 1998, 64, 293-318.
5. Langevin, S., Clay, K. and Grace, J. The incidence and effects of
hybridization between cultivated rice and its related weed red rice.
Evolution, 1990, 44, 1000-1008.
6. Gray, A.J. and Raybould, A.F. Reducing transgenic escape routes.
Nature, 1998, 292, 653-654.
7. Raybould, A.F. and Gray, A.J.C. Genetically modified crops and
hybridization with wild relatives: A UK perspective. J. Appl. Ecol., 1993,
8. Gupta , Y.P. Polluting pesticides – is there a safe alternative.
Science Reporter, 2001, 38(1), 14-15.
9. Sankaram, A. Curr. Sci., 1999, 77(1), 26-32.
10. Edward George, P.J. and Ambrose, D. P. Biochemical changes by
insecticides in a non target Harpactorive Redwiid (Rhynocoris marginatus,
Fabricius). Indian J Environ. & Toxicol., 1999, (2), 78-80.
11. Sharma, H.C. and Ortiz, R. Transgenics, pest management and the
environment. Curr. Sci., 2000, 79(4), 421-437.
12. Wang, C.Y. and Xia, J.Y., China Cottons, 1997, 24, 13-15.
13. Belzunces, L.P., Lenfant, C. , Pasquale, S. Di., Colin, M.E. and
Pasquale, Di., In vivo and in vitro effects of wheat germ aglutanin and
Bowman-Birk soyabean trypsin inhibitor, two potential transgene products,
on midgut esterases and proteinase activities from Apis mellifera. Comp.
Biochem. Physiol., 1994, 109, 63-69
14. Malone, L.A., Giacon, H.A., Burgess, E.P.J., Maxwell, J.Z.,
Christeller, J.T. and Laing, W.A., J. Econ. Entomol., 1995, 88, 46-50.
15. Zhang, B.H. and Zhang, L.H., Pest resistant cotton and its
cultivation, Shangdong Science and Technology Press, Jinan, 1998.
15A. Roy Chowdhary, A. GM seeds beckon a new era in agriculture. Agril.
Today, 2000, III (II), 30-32; 16. Prakash, C. S. (1999) Huge Potential
of Genetically Improved Plants
Outweighs Hypothetical Risks May 31, 1999. Financial Express (India)
17. Mc Gaw, E.M. A Temple of Rice, The Rockefeller Foundation, Mc Gaw
Associates, Hyderabad, India, 2001, pp 54.
18. NRC, 1989, Field testing Genetically Modified Organisms- Framework for
decisions, National Academy Press, Washington.
* The views expressed by the authors in the article are personal and not
that of the organization.
"Appeasing Extremists Brings No Peace"
(Forwarded by Ferdinand Engelbeen : With
several large multinationals bowing for extreme activists to use no GM
materials, there is a very interesting article in the New York Post:
"Appeasing Extremists Brings No Peace")
New York Post, 3/30/01
SURRENDER has never been a winning strategy for nations or corporations,
but a growing number of American companies are embracing the "raise the
white flag" strategy in a futile effort to make peace with attackers who
live to make war.
Like British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who proudly announced in
1938 that his appeasement of Adolf Hitler brought "peace for our time" a
year before Hitler started World War II, corporate appeasers buy only
In California and New York, governments and utilities appeased radical
environmentalists by agreeing to stop building new power plants. As a
result, power shortages have brought brownouts and blackouts to
California, and threaten New York. California utility regulators voted
Tuesday to raise consumer electricity rates by up to 46 percent, and New
York families were hit earlier with devastating rate increases. All this
could have been avoided if utilities and governments had fought
environmental extremists a lot harder years ago.
In another failure of appeasement, People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals - dedicated to ending the use of animals for food - called on
McDonald's to buy eggs only from farmers who give chickens better living
conditions. McDonald's made changes last August, but PETA then demanded
that the restaurant chain take far more drastic action to improve
treatment of chickens, cows and pigs. PETA warns on its website that if
McDonald's fails to make significant progress by September 1, "PETA will
relaunch its campaign blitz against McDonald's." PETA's Web site
(http://www.meatstinks.com) continues to attack meat eating as cruel,
unhealthy, and a cause of impotence.
Unfortunately, corporate surrender is growing more common. Too many
corporations are heeding the advice of public relations capitulation
counselors and are going to extraordinary lengths to please attackers who
do not want to be pleased. In the end, appeasement usually fails to stop
attacks. It simply encourages new ones.
Attackers assume that corporations won't fight back. Because they wrap
themselves in a mantle of virtue, many attackers believe that almost every
tactic is OK for them — but that lawful self-defense is outrageous for
their corporate opponents. Remarkably, many people tolerate lying, spying,
stealing and vandalizing by the "good guy" attackers - just as we accept
that "good guy" James Bond has a license to kill.
Corporations guarantee their defeat when they let attackers scare them
into not fighting back. Without exception, corporations must obey the law
and never engage in the illegal tactics of some of their attackers. But
there is no reason for corporations to fear a good counterattack if they
tell the truth and use legal means. In fact, corporations perform a public
service when they make people aware that attackers are advocating costly,
unrealistic and harmful positions.
History teaches us that you don't win by surrendering. You win by winning.
Instead of trying to turn their enemies into friends, corporations should
find genuine friends and form strategic alliances. Appeasement and
surrender today will only bring more appeasement and surrender tomorrow.
Eric Dezenhall, President of Washington crisis management firm
Nichols-Dezenhall, is the author of "Nail 'Em: Confronting High-Profile
Attacks on Celebrities and Businesses," and served in President Reagan's
White House Office of Communications.
From: "Henry I. Miller"
Has any one seen the article below? If so, have you any idea
where it's from, and might you have the endnotes? I would appreciate it
if anyone knows the source and/or can supply the endnotes? - Thanks, Henry
The price of precaution
by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick; Article 4 April 2001
'The importance of precautionary measures should not be played down on the
grounds that the risk is unproved.'
The prompt official endorsement of The Report of the BSE Inquiry (also
known as the Phillips report) marked the acceptance of the precautionary
principle as a central tenet of New Labour's new style of government. The
public responses to the foot-and-mouth epidemic and other recent events
reveal the high cost of this principle - a cost that far exceeds that
which can be calculated in monetary terms.
Though there are many definitions of the precautionary principle, it can
be reduced to two basic propositions:
-- 'Always look on the dark side of life': those in a position of
authority in government, science or business should always anticipate the
worst possible outcome of their actions, and proceed with appropriate
caution and responsibility.
-- 'The fearful customer/voter is always right': whether or not there is a
rational basis for popular anxieties, the public should be involved in the
process of deciding the appropriate precautionary measures. It is not
surprising that the BSE epidemic has acquired such a central significance
in the institutionalisation of risk awareness in British society. This
epidemic was a case in which the nightmare scenario (or at least an
approximation to it) actually happened.
First, a new and deadly disease emerged in cattle; then it - apparently -
jumped the species barrier to cause variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
in humans. Fortunately, the condition was rapidly identified in cattle and
effective measures taken to curtail it; it is also fortunate that the
disease, though devastating in its effects, has (so far) affected very few
In the history of the relationship between mankind and nature, the BSE/CJD
story is unlikely to merit more than a footnote. Ever since neolithic man
began domesticating animals, these have been a potent source of infectious
diseases. Measles, mumps, whooping cough, smallpox and tuberculosis all
crossed the species barrier at some stage, with intermittently
catastrophic consequences (2). In the history of the relationship between
mankind and nature, BSE/CJD is unlikely to merit more than a footnote .
When these diseases first appeared in man, they produced epidemics with a
mortality rate of around 90 percent. William McNeill, author of Plagues
and People reckons that it took human society between 90 and 150 years to
adjust to each new lethal disease, as its virulence slowly abated (3).
Some of these infections became familiar and relatively mild conditions of
childhood. Yet in the current climate of social and political malaise, the
emergence of a highly localised and small-scale disease like BSE has
reinforced a fatalistic and despairing mood.
In recent years there has been a ready audience for promoters of doomsday
scenarios resulting from global warming, nuclear radiation,
antibiotic-resistant bacteria, AIDS and numerous other environmental
dangers. Whereas the most trivial incident - like the UK floods in autumn
2000 - can be readily incorporated into wider visions of apocalyptic
gloom, no amount of scientific evidence that contradicts perceptions of
imminent disaster has much impact on public opinion. In recent months, the
free-floating anxieties catalysed by the mad cow panic have found new
attachments in scares about mobile phones, electricity pylons, and the MMR
The most immediate consequence of the ratification of the precautionary
principle is that it encourages a tendency to overreact to events that
trigger popular anxieties. This was already apparent in the numerous
spin-off scares arising from the mad cow panic: the ban on beef on the
bone, the fear of contaminated polio vaccines or blood transfusions, the
suspension of surgery on tonsils until disposable instruments are
One train derailment led to the prolonged paralysis of the whole rail
network. An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has resulted in the
paralysis of much of the country, and has now led to the postponement of
the general election. If the economic cost of the precautionary measures
far exceeds that of the problems that they are responding to, the cost in
terms of the demoralisation of society is even higher. A more insidious
result of the precautionary principle is the way it elevates public
opinion over professional expertise and subordinates science to prejudice.
One of the distinctive features of the BSE inquiry was the prominent role
it gave to the relatives of victims of variant CJD.
Though this innovation attracted little comment and less criticism, it was
a significant development, reflecting the now familiar New Labour
preference for sentiment over rationality. It is not at all clear how the
experience of losing a relative, however close, to CJD, yields a
privileged insight into the nature of the disease, or any greater wisdom
about how to prevent or treat it than any member of the public. Though
relatives have been caring for sufferers from motor neurone disease and
multiple sclerosis for many years, they have never been regarded as a
source of specialist knowledge on the epidemiology, pathology or
therapeutics of these conditions.
While official recognition of the families of victims reflects public
acknowledgement of the particularly distressing effects of CJD, their
involvement in the wider aspects of the inquiry implicitly devalues
scientific, clinical - and even political - expertise.
Yet the involvement of families of victims or sufferers themselves, not
only in public inquiries, but in the formulation of public policy and
decisions over research priorities, has become a key theme of government
policy. So relatives' groups have played a major role in the inquiries
into the Bristol children's heart surgery unit and the scandal over
retained organs at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. In all of these cases,
the government presents public involvement as a democratic and empowering
development. But how democratic is this much-vaunted process of dialogue
The object of medical research is to discover something about the cause of
a disease, not to feel the pain of disease sufferers
The chairs of these inquiries, and the other key members, are all
appointed by the government. The representatives of the relatives or
patients appear to be largely self-appointed and it is unclear how
accurately they reflect the views of others. What is striking in all the
big inquiries mentioned is the convergence between the views of the
officials presiding over the inquires and those of the relatives' groups.
At the time of the publication of the Alder Hey report, for example, the
government's chief medical officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, was happy to
appear at a press conference with representatives of the parents' group.
The prominent figures in these groups often appear to have closer links
with the key players in the medical and political establishments - and the
media - than they have with other relatives or patients.
No doubt there is an element of manipulation in the relationship between
the government and groups of relatives and sufferers of particular
conditions. But there is also a real abdication of responsibility in the
official promotion of popular participation in policymaking. This is
particularly apparent in the proposal to give patients' groups a prominent
role in deciding on priorities for medical research. No medical
conference, no matter how esoteric the subject, can now be considered
complete without the presence of groups of patients or their relatives.
For example, plans for a major programme of research into autism,
organised jointly by the Department of Health and the Medical Research
Council, insist on the involvement of groups of parents and sufferers (4).
Project coordinator Professor Eve Johnson says that 'consumer input is
vital so that lay people can contribute to the process and feel that the
review has taken account of their concerns'. But the object of medical
research is to discover something about the cause of a disease and how to
prevent or treat it - not to feel the pain of disease sufferers and their
families or to patronise or indulge them by pretending that the experience
of disease confers special insights into it.
It is precisely because the appearances of nature are deceptive that we
need the methods of science - which commonly yield findings which
contradict popular impressions and established traditions. Indeed, we owe
much of the scientific development of the past three centuries to the fact
that scientists were prepared to take a stand against 'consumer input' and
challenge prevailing prejudices. These cherished principles of science are
jeopardised by the philistinism of the contemporary political elite, a
trend towards which many scientific and medial authorities are,
Another problem here is that there are numerous groups in the field of
autism, some of which staunchly advocate theories, such as the link with
the MMR vaccine, or treatments, such as secretin, and other drugs and
dietary regimes for which there is not a shred of scientific evidence.
Though these groups may include some parents of autistic children, they
are not representative of people with autism or their families, or
accountable in any way to them. Some have a commercial interest in
promoting their particular approach (lawyers pursuing MMR compensation
claims, private doctors peddling secretin and other unproven remedies to
The logic of the government's populist policy is that resources will be
diverted from potentially fruitful avenues into pursuing crackpot theories
and folk remedies. In this way, research based on scientific judgement
gives way to research driven by popular prejudice. The only beneficiaries
of such an approach will be cranks, ambulance-chasing lawyers and quack
The real threat to human health and welfare comes, not from any of the
familiar candidates for bringing the world to a premature end, but from
the precautionary measures resulting from the popular acceptance of these
doomsday scenarios and from the mind-numbing impact of the psychology of
risk awareness on society.
International Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Congress
The Xth IAPTC&B Congress will be jointly hosted by the U.S. and Canadian
chapters of the IAPTC&B, the Plant Division of the Society for In Vitro
Biology, and the University of Florida. The congress will be held June
23-28, 2002 at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida, USA.
The facility has excellent guest rooms and modern convention facilities.
Orlando is easily reached by air from all parts of the world, and is one
of the most popular international tourist sites. It is home to the Walt
Disney World, the EPCOT Center and many other attractions. The famed
Kennedy Space Center is a short distance away.
The Xth IAPTC&B Congress will celebrate and showcase, in partnership with
the industry, the science, technology and products of plant tissue culture
and biotechnology. In addition to plenary sessions, concurrent symposia
and workshops, and poster sessions, the congress program will include
science and technology exhibits. More details at
Communicating the benefits of biotechnology can increase its acceptance by
Communicating the benefits of biotechnology can increase its acceptance by
the public. This was the take home message to communicators from Janet
Masci of Environics International, one of several invited speakers at the
conference “The Convergence of Regulatory Global Affairs – Its Potential
Impact on International Trade and Public Perception” that was hosted by
Ag-West Biotech Inc. March 19-20 in Saskatoon. Masci’s data was hot off
the press –- compiled during the week prior to her presentation, and was
accumulated from interviews conducted with representative samples of 1,000
citizens in ten countries. The study set out to determine general
awareness of genetically modified foods, the level of support for various
biotech applications, and the effect of different benefit messages.
It comes as no surprise that there are large differences between countries
in the responses to various questions. More than 70 per cent of those
surveyed in Germany, Japan, and Great Britain reported knowing ‘something’
or ‘a lot’ about genetically modified foods. Mexico, China and India all
had less than 50 per cent of respondents in these categories. When asked
whether the benefits of biotechnology for food crops are greater than the
risks, more than 60 per cent of citizens in China, India, USA and Mexico
agreed either ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly.’ At the other extreme, only one
third of Japanese respondents agreed. This line of questioning showed that
perceptions have shifted between the 1999 survey and the 2000 survey
results. Mexico and Great Britain had increased agreement (from 50 to 62
and 25 to 42 per cent respectively) over the two survey years. On the
other hand, India, Canada, and Japan declined in their agreement (from 76
to 69; 60 to 55; and 47 to 33 per cent respectively).
Acceptance of biotech applications varied between a high of 86 per cent
for new medicines and a low of 33 per cent for applications to improve
farm animal productivity. Pest-resistant crops, which had overall
acceptance of 66 per cent, ranged between a low of 59 per cent acceptance
in Japan and Germany to a high of 91 per cent acceptance in China. USA,
Canada, and Japan have declined in their support of pest-resistant crops
between 1999 and 2000, while Germany, Great Britain, and Mexico have
strengthened their support for this technology.
Twenty per cent of people across the ten countries surveyed claim that
they will change their habits to avoid purchasing foods labeled GM. If
surveyors presented no benefit of the technology, significantly fewer
respondents were ‘not willing to buy GM food.’ However, if people were
told that the technology helped protect the environment or required fewer
pesticides to grow it or produced a more nutritious food, a significant
number indicated that they would ‘continue to purchase the food.’
People around the globe are divided in their acceptance of food
biotechnology but they tend to be more accepting of it if they understand
Watch for the May issue of the AgBiotech Bulletin for coverage of what
European experts consider to be the best ways to educate the European
public about biotechnology. Data presented is from the presentation by
Janet Masci, Environics International at the conference “The Convergence
of Global Regulatory Affairs- Its Potential Impact on International Trade
and Public Perception.”
"Vexing Nature? On the Ethical Case Against Agricultural Biotechnology"
- a collection of philosophical essays by Dr. Gary Comstock, Professor of
Philosophy and Religious Studies at Iowa State University (Kluwer, 2000) .
In this fascinating narrative account of a journey that began in 1988 and
ended twelve years later, Professor Comstock tells the story of how he, an
early and somewhat vocal critic of agricultural biotechnology, changed his
mind about the ethical acceptability of genetically modified (GM) foods.
Once tempted to oppose all uses of genetic engineering in agriculture,
Comstock came to believe that many uses are morally justifiable, and even
required. Vexing Nature? explains his early, anti-GM, position; the
ethical, environmental, economic, social justice and animal rights
arguments that led him to reverse himself; and the implications of his new
position for public policy.
The ethical issues Comstock discusses are diverse and complex. They
include concerns such as the possibility of genetic engineering producing
unanticipated allergens in previously safe foods, unexpectedly toxic
health supplements, novel GM diseases, environmental catastrophe, bizarre
new lines of animals possessing genes taken from humans, exceedingly
wealthy corporations more powerful than the nations trying to regulate
them, bankrupted family farmers in the US and Europe, exploited peasant
farmers in developing countries, inhumanely treated animals in our labs
and on our farms, and corrupted attitudes to nature among our children.
Comstock's reasons for changing his mind are detailed in two lengthy
chapters at the end of the book, concluding with a plea for cautious
advance in genetic modification of foods and crops.
For more information and an order form, go to:
`Vexing Nature? is an intriguing intellectual adventure in the ethical
assessment of technology. Whereas Comstock was once almost a 'global
opponent' of GM foods, he has since changed his mind, and is now a
cautious champion. The book contains several surprising twists, and much
rich philosophical analysis. It will clearly help to advance the
international discussion of this subject. Should be required reading for
anyone interested in the GM controversy.' Donald N. Duvick, Senior
Vice-president Research, Pioneer Hi-Bred (retired), author of How much
caution in the fields? (Science)
`This work is almost unprecedented in applied philosophy: a book that
presents pro and con arguments by a man who has honestly and deeply felt
the pull of the arguments on both sides. Comstock's struggle with the
issues will enlighten them for all of us.' Paul B. Thompson, Joyce and
Edward E. Brewer Professor of Applied Ethics, Purdue University, author of
Food Biotechnology in Ethical Perspective
`Gary Comstock has woven these timely essays into an important narrative
that will be of interest to everyone who recognizes the ethical challenges
posed by biotechnology. There is much to be learned from these pages. I
hope the book enjoys the wide readership it deserves.' Tom Regan, North
Carolina State University, author of The Case for Animal Rights (1983) and
Defending Animal Rights (2001)
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston; Hardbound, ISBN 0-7923-7987-X October
2000, 312 pp. EUR 115.50 / USD 99.95 / GBP 70.00; Available in North
American markets at a reduced price for course adoption when ordering six
copies or more. Please contact Customer Services (Kluwer@wkap.com) for