Greenpeace claim to have "prevented" GM rice is erroneous
- Vicki Brower, BioMedNet News 20 April 2001
The environmental lobby Greenpeace has not, as it claims, "prevented"
release of genetically modified rice in the Philippines, BioMedNet News
confirmed today. Rice researchers there say it would take that long to
complete their research in the first place.
The claim followed Greenpeace's 19 March visit to the public International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. The headline of
Greenpeace's press release marking its visit stated that the release of GE
[genetically engineered] Golden Rice is "prevented for next 5 years."
Not so. "We remain committed to the continued safe and sustainable
development of Golden Rice, and there will be no change to our plans as a
result of the Greenpeace visit," IRRI Director General Ronald P. Cantrell
confirmed, the day after Greenpeace's meeting, in an information bulletin.
Golden rice is being developed to contain high levels of beta carotene to
help fight rampant vitamin A deficiency and resulting blindness in
developing nations. According to the United Nations, one million children
die each year worldwide, and a half-million develop blindness, due to
vitamin A deficiency.
The IRRI received the Philippines' first research samples of Golden Rice
in January, at which time IRRI said it would be starting an "investigation
into its use as a potential solution to vitamin A deficiency," predicting
that three to four years of research would take place before field trials
could begin and at least another two before it could reach farmers. Thus
Greenpeace's "victory" is no more than IRRI's research forecast.
Greenpeace's recent visit to the IRRI represents part of its escalating
campaign in Asia to block the development and use of genetically modified
food. Greenpeace's Von Hernandez calls Golden Rice "fool's gold," "an
empty promise," and "a quick fix." It stresses that it only produces "very
low levels of beta carotene" - less than is needed to fight vitamin A
The group maintains that the rice is being developed irresponsibly in the
interests of big business, whereas "there are cheap and proven solutions
and technologies available to fight against vitamin A deficiency," said
Hernandez, who is Greenpeace's Southeast Asia campaign director. "The main
problem is lack of political will to see these solutions through and the
inadequacy of resources to enforce them."
"These activists are afraid that Golden Rice is a part of biotechnology
that will be successful," commented C.S. Prakash, director of Center for
Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University in Alabama, and the
president of the AgBio World Foundation.
Golden Rice was developed by two European scientists, Ingo Potrykus of the
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Peter Beyer of the
University of Freiburg, Germany, in a public- and charity-funded research
program focused on addressing malnutrition in developing nations.
The agbiotech giant Syngenta, which held some patents on rice genome
technology, has made it available to subsistence farmers without royalties
or technology fees, as have Potrykus and Beyer, said Cantrell. In an
article in Science on 13 October 2000, IRRI scientists noted that because
most rice farmers are poor, rice production has been greatly ignored by
the private sector and remains relatively underdeveloped. Cantrell and
associates called for a public-private model of rice development similar
to that seen with the Human Genome Project.
Golden Rice is at the "proof of concept" stage, said its two creators,
Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer
of the University of Freyburg Germany, as part of a public- and
charity-funded research program focused on addressing malnutrition in
"Golden Rice is not supposed to provide 100% of the vitamin A supply, but
to help cross the borderline between malnutrition and sufficient vitamin A
supply by complementing other dietary components," said Potrykus.
"According to a rough estimate, it should supply 50% of the daily intake."
One of IRRI's priorities is to work toward endowing golden rice with a
higher vitamin A content. "It must also be safety-tested because of its
antibiotic marker genes, and because of potential allergenicity," Prakash
told Biomednet News. Other foods can also be modified to increase vitamin
A, such as sweet potatoes, a project on which Prakash said he is working
at Tuskegee. (Note from CSP: This is in error. My work is not on
pro-vitamin A in sweetpotato, but on increasing the protein content)
Vitamin A deficiency is such a serious problem worldwide that no one
claims one technology or food capable of fixing it, Prakash emphasized.
"But the development of Golden Rice has brought the world's attention to
this problem," he noted. "What is Greenpeace doing to distribute such
supplements?" he added.
In the meantime, Greenpeace is continuing its offensive in Asia. The
organization stated in early April that the Thai government has stopped
growing all GE crops. Contrary to that press release, Dow Jones reported a
week later that Thailand (the world's largest rice exporter, according to
Prakash) has no policy for prohibiting imports of raw material and goods
containing GMOs, according to the Thai director-general of the Commerce
Ministry, Boontipa Simaskul. While it is considering manditory labeling of
all edible goods, and does not permit GMO seeds to be imported
commercially or grown, Thailand does permit them to be imported for
research. IRRI has already done so in Thailand.
THE RISKS OF GOING NON-GMO
Drew L. Kershen, Oklahoma L. Rev. 53:4 (Winter 2000), pp. 631-652;
Available with slight differences on the Internet at <
http://www.SoyGrowers.com Information Center; Information Series;
Biotechnology >. (The publication date of the Oklahoma Law Review issue is
approximately May 20, 2001.)
ABSTRACT: In light of the StarLink episode in the United States, where
food companies recalled products containing DNA fragments from StarLink
corn (a Bt-corn with a Cry9C gene), food companies may decide to use only
non-GMO food products. In this article, Professor Kershen discusses three
risks that food companies should consider when deciding to go non-GMO.
Those three risks are:
The Risk of Legal Liability for Damages for ...
* Product Liability through design defect for having chosen a non-GMO
ingredient that carries greater risks to human health than ingredients
from genetically improved crops; and
* The Contribution and Indemnity exposure for injuries or environmental
harms caused by production methods affiliated with non-GMO crops when
these production methods would not have been used to produce genetically
The Risk of Environmental Compliance Liability through * The Concept of
Co-Permitting for food processors who exercise substantial operational
control over the production decisions of growers of crops; and
* Accountability for Total Maximum Daily Loads under the Clean Water Act
when food processors make growers use a technology (non-GMO crops) that is
not the best available technology (GMO-crops) for addressing environmental
The Risk of Scientific Ignorance as
* creating legal liability by choosing unfounded food scares as the basis
for decisions rather than scientific consensus about genetically improved
* creating societal risk of the suppression of scientific inquiry and
* creating the moral risk for society of harming vulnerable members of
society who could benefit from the use of genetically improved crops.
Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation
The Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation dedicates itself to sponsor and
coordinate education and community programs and projects which promote or
reflect the lifetime achievements and philosophy of Dr. Norman Borlaug.
For over a half century, the scientific and humanitarian achievements of
Dr. Norman Borlaug (Nobel Peace Prize winner, Medal Of Freedom Winner and
recipient of over 35 honorary Doctorate Degrees) has kept starvation at
bay for millions of people in third world countries. Dr. Borlaug, " Father
of the Green Revolution" is waging his final battle against starvation in
Africa. Gregg Easterbrook writes of Borlaug "Though barely known in the
country of his birth, elsewhere in the world Norman Borlaug is widely
considered to be among the leading Americans of our age. (See Foundation
Web Page Link: Atlantic Monthly Article "Forgotten Benefactor", author:
Do you want the latest information on crop biotechnology? Would you like
to share information that could help people make crucial decisions about
using certain technologies? If so, then this site is for you.This site
allows you to gain and share knowledge on crop biotechnology by providing
you with information about products and issues, regular news,
communication materials, links to other information sources, and a venue
for interaction. Global Network, this site's main feature, provides a
status of the field in the developing countries of Asia, South America,
and Africa - countries that comprise the Global Knowledge Center on Crop
The Alliance for Better Foods
Biotechnology is a safe way to produce healthier food in greater
quantities, ensure a cleaner environment and aid in the fight against
world hunger. Modern biotechnology provides farmers and food producers
with the latest tools in the search for better, more healthful foods, as
well as foods that are enhanced with nutritional benefits, resistant to
certain pests and tolerant to environmental stresses such as drought. With
biotechnology, producers can provide a more abundant, better quality and
more nutritious food supply to consumers.
Please read on to learn more about this fascinating science and the
benefits it brings to our lives everyday. (Sections: Overview, Promise of
Biotechnology, News, US Regulations, and Exper Views)
Emulating The Sound Eating Habits Of The Stone Age
* Stone Age Farmers On Plant Diets May Have Lacked Vitamins. Tomorrow's
Challenge Is Ensuring Livestock Diets For The Developing World; By Dennis
T. Avery of the Hudson Institute
CHURCHVILLE, Va.--"It's easy to tell from the skeletons of our ancestors
whether they were agriculturists or hunter-gatherers," says Arthur de Vany
of California State University, an expert on Stone Age diets. "The
agriculturists have bad teeth, bone lesions, small and underdeveloped
skeletons and small craniums, compared to hunter- gatherers."
Experts now believe humans spent 2 million years as hunters and
scavengers, eating meat-oriented diets that were about 65 percent
livestock calories and 35 percent plant calories. After people learned to
farm, just 10,000 years ago, they could feed larger populations--but
plant-only diets produced poorer health, de Vany says. The early farmers
who ate mainly plants lacked key vitamins, minerals and amino acids,
according to Loren Cordain of Colorado State University, another expert on
ancient diet. This led to higher infant mortality, shorter life-spans,
more infectious diseases, widespread iron deficiency anemia and bone
The animal-plant balance in the American diet today is 38 percent
livestock calories and 62 percent plant calories. Worldwide, only 17
percent of the calories coming from livestock. No wonder the world is in
the biggest. No wonder that Indonesia has been clearing tropical forest to
grow corn and soybeans for chicken feed. Looking at the modern end of
history, the U.S. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology agrees
with the meat-health argument, reporting that "where intakes of animal
products are low, increases in meat (in particular), milk and eggs in the
diets of toddlers and school children have resulted in marked improvement
in growth, cognitive development and health."
Can the world provide livestock calories for everybody? That is truly the
farming challenge of the 21st century. CAST expects world meat demand to
rise about two-thirds in the next 20 years, with 90 percent of the
increased consumption in the Third World. Sheep, goats, dairy cattle and
beef cattle in the Third World produce more than a kilogram of human food
for each kilogram of grain consumed.
But much of that Third World livestock production exploits the world's
limited supplies of grassland. Most of those grasslands have limited
potential to produce more, due to poor rainfall or soil quality. In the
First World, it takes about three kilos of grain to produce a kilo of
meat, and a bit less than one kilo of grain to produce a kilo of milk or
eggs.CAST says claims that First World farmers need 10-12 kilos of grain
and huge amounts of water to produce meat are clearly inaccurate. Such
claims extrapolate the high-grain rations and feedlot lifestyle of a
steer's final weeks to his whole life, and assume all of the animal's feed
is irrigated when most of it is not.
Moreover, says CAST, the First World has worked hard to raise its grain
and forage yields, so fewer acres produce more livestock feed. Using
moisture-conserving conservation tillage, U.S. farmers can now produce 70
bushels of sorghum an acre on land that was previously too dry for crops.
On better land, they produce 200 bushels of corn an acre, where their
grandfathers grew only 25 bushels. The higher grain yields also produce
larger tonnages of crop stalks, which are excellent feed for ruminant
animals such as cattle.
The First World has also radically improved feed rations and veterinary
medications, raising the world's livestock feed efficiency by 15 percent
just in the period 1983-93. More of the world's hogs and poultry have been
moved indoors, where they suffer less stress from heat, cold, rain and
snow, and fight less among themselves. This raises their feed efficiency
about 20 percent. In the years ahead, CAST expects research, including
biotechnology, to help breed animals more resistant to disease, create
more effective vaccines and further improve the nutritional value of
CAST thinks the milk output per cow could be doubled. Better understanding
of animal nutrition will also permit reduced pollution from odors and
wastes. "A primary requirement for feeding a growing world population is
thus to increase crop yield per hectare," says CAST, "because there is
limited opportunity to increase the area of land cultivated without
adverse environmental impact." That makes agricultural research the
biggest factor in providing high-quality diets for the world's children.
- DENNIS T. AVERY is based in Churchville, Va., and is director of global
food issues for the Hudson Institute of Indianapolis. His views are not
necessarily those of BridgeNews, whose ventures include the Internet site
From: Julian Morris
Subject: RE: Philippine U Turn
Wouldn't a 360 degree turn mean Macapagal-Arroyo was still against GM
crops? A reversal would have been 180 degrees .. J
> Philippine President Reverses Course On Transgenics > The president of
the Philippines made a 360-degree turn on transgenic > foods. Cropchoice
reported two weeks ago that the Crop Protection
From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Response to WSJ Agbiotech Article
To the editor of Wall Street Journal:
Three important issues were ignored in the rambling and repetitive article
by Patricia Callahan and Scott Kilman ("Laboratory Tests Belie Promises Of
Some ėGMO-Free' Food Labels," April 5) (Note: See the story archived at
http://agbioview.listbot.com/cgi-bin/subscriber?Act=view_archive&list_id=agbioview ) about foods obtained from "GMOs," or genetically-modified
First, the matter of terminology. The term GMO is vague and meaningless
with respect to pivotal issues such as the safety or risk of foods. It was
coined in the 1980's by those who advocated singling out for negative,
discriminatory treatment organisms crafted with then-new gene-splicing
techniques, that are much more precise and predictable than previous
methods. Genetic improvement has a long and venerable history, and with
the exception of wild game, wild berries, fish and shellfish, virtually
all the foods in our diet are obtained from organisms that have been
Scientists worldwide agree that adding genes to plants does not make them
less safe either to the environment or for humans to eat. Dozens of new
plant varieties produced through hybridization and other traditional
methods of genetic improvement enter the marketplace each year without
scientific review or special labeling. Many such products are from "wide
crosses," hybridizations in which genes are moved from one species or one
genus to another to create a plant variety that does not and cannot exist
in nature. For example, Triticum agropyrotriticum [[italics]] is a new
man-made "species" which resulted from combining genes from bread wheat
and a grass sometimes called quackgrass or couchgrass. Possessing all the
chromosomes of wheat and one extra whole genome from the quackgrass, T.
agropyrotriticum [[italics]] has been independently produced in the former
Soviet Union, Canada, United States, France, Germany and China, and is
grown for both forage and grain. Why no movement to label such products?
Why no mention of them by Callahan and Kilman?
Second, while Callahan and Kilman described interminably food producers'
and retailers' agonizing over labeling food "GMO-free" -- meaning free of
material from gene-spliced plant varieties -- they begged the question of
food safety. The scientific consensus is unequivocal: Gene-splicing is
more precise, circumscribed and predictable than other techniques.
Therefore, new, insect-resistant varieties of grain crafted with
gene-splicing techniques have lower levels of contamination with toxic
fungi and insect parts than conventional grains. Thus, gene-spliced grain
is not only cheaper to produce but is a potential boon to public health.
Moreover, by reducing the need for spraying chemical pesticides on crops,
it is environmentally friendly.
Finally, as argued by University of Oklahoma law professor Drew L.
Kershen, food producers and others in the distribution pathway who
purposefully eschew products derived by a superior technology place
themselves in legal jeopardy: "Choosing a design that causes harm when the
company could have chosen a different, less risky design gives rise to
products liability based on design defects."
Henry I. Miller, MD; Hoover Institution; Stanford, CA 94305-6010
Benefits of Biotechnology for Consumers
"Biotech Bears Fruit for Farmers, Not Consumers" [April 8] drastically
understates the benefits of today's biotech products and the promise for
tomorrow. Crops developed through biotechnology are dramatically reducing
the amount of pesticides sprayed on crops. If America's farmers are not
spraying millions of pounds of synthetic chemicals, that means there is
less of those chemicals in the environment and used to produce the food we
buy--which is a very real and profound benefit for consumers. When
consumers are surveyed about food, concern about pesticide residue is
second only to fat- and cholesterol-content concerns. Biotechnology is
already providing an alternative to the intensive use of pesticides for
food production. It also is important to understand that the products
we're seeing today are the very first steps we are taking down a much
Biotechnology today is where the computer industry was in the 1950s, and
the coming decades are poised to bring us biotech products as
revolutionary and important to us as computers are today. As scientists
continue to make technological breakthroughs, we will see truly
revolutionary products, including foods that are more healthful and help
fight disease. The reality is that the benefits of biotechnology are real
and are already making our lives better by reducing pesticides used in
farming. And the work being done today is setting the stage for a better
tomorrow. It is imperative that we don't lose sight of the proven benefits
and the vast potential.
ROBERT T. FRALEY Chief Technology Officer Monsanto Co. St. Louis
From: "Mark Murray"
Posted To: "GMFemail@example.com"
(2) GMO's -- Religion and Ethics News Weekly (PBS Television, Sunday, 22
April 2001, Earth Day. Excellent Program. Web Transcripts)
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week434/cover.html (Full Txt)
(1) The major corporate players -- companies like Monsanto, Dupont,
Syngenta, and Aventis -- all have elaborate Web sites in which they boast
of their safety precautions. But given the recent rash of negative
publicity, they are now declining most requests for media interviews,
including ours. It's no secret that some companies are backing off from
the new technology until the controversy subsides.
(2) Dr. KEITH FINGER (Optometrist): I had hives covering probably 90% of
my body except for my face. That big - like raspberries. Raised, red,
bloody-looking raspberries. My throat was constricting so that my
breathing was becoming labored. O'BRIEN: Could it have been the tortillas
he had for dinner? Or the black beans and rice? Nobody knows yet, but the
Food and Drug Administration is looking into whether corn products in both
the tortillas and the black bean dinner may have been the same genetically
modified Starlink corn which, although only approved as animal feed,
recently found its way into the human food chain.
(3) More than 40 states are considering new restrictions on genetically
modified foods. North Dakota wants to impose a two-year moratorium on
growing genetically modified wheat -- backed by farmers concerned about
their ability to market their produce in Europe and Japan, where
opposition is intense. Exports have dropped to a trickle. In an industry
with such exceptional promise, what on earth has gone so wrong?
(4) DR. RISSLER: There is the possibility that genetic engineering
introduces new proteins in the food that people could be allergic to. If
you became ill, would you say, 'Oh my gosh, it's because of genetically
engineered food?' No. How would you know? You don't know whether you're
eating it or not.
O'BRIEN: Religious groups, concerned about dietary restrictions, have
demanded genetically modified foods be labeled as such. The industry has
resisted, fearing labeling might be unduly alarming. To some, the mere
idea of tampering with the gene pool -- even of vegetables -- violates
RABBI FRED DOBB: The major text that applies here is from Leviticus,
Chapter 19, verse 19. "So you should not let your cattle mate with a
different kind, you should not sow your seed of a mixed kind and you
should not put on cloth that is from mixed material, wool and linen."
--cut- (continued, see above web links)