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Date:

April 27, 2001

Subject:

Label & Curtail the Technology?; Starlink Data; Utopia;

 

AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org; Archived at http://agbioview.listbot.com

Response to an Anti-GE Food Site.

From: Theresa Klein

- Please see below for my response to the common arguments against GE
foods listen on one of the anti-GE sites at http://www.safe-food.org which
posts

"Mandatory Labeling, Safety Testing and Moratorium for Genetically
Engineered Foods Submitted to the President of the United States,
Congress, USDA and FDA PETITION: A large and growing number of scientists
and physicians throughout the world are voicing serious concerns over the
health and environmental risks of genetically engineered foods and the
irreversible genetic pollution of our natural food supply. Therefore, we
the undersigned, as citizens of the United States of America, strongly
urge the passage of legislation and policies to mandate an immediate
minimum 5-year moratorium on the release of all genetically engineered
organisms into any and all levels of the food chain—from seed to table—to
ensure the establishment of rigorous pre-market safety testing protocols
and the continued viability of an uncontaminated food source for America.
Furthermore, we demand full disclosure to the American consumer through
the clear and accurate labeling of all foods already on the market,
derived from, processed with, containing or consisting of genetically
engineered organisms, and accountability from the manufacturers of these
organisms for any and all harm. "

------------
Response from Theresa Klein:

Alan claims that he is only in favor of labelling, yet this site states:
"We the undersigned, .... strongly urge the passage of legislation and
policies to mandate an immediate minimum 5-year moratorium on the release
of all genetically engineered organisms into any and all levels of the
food chain"

What was that about just wanting labels??????

More:
-Imprecise Technology÷A genetic engineer moves genes from one organism to
another. A gene can be cut precisely from the DNA of an organism, but the
insertion into the DNA of the target organism is basically random. As a
consequence, there is a risk that it may disrupt the functioning of other
genes essential to the life of that organism.

*Not so. Genetic engineering is more precise than traditional
crossbreeding. The exact sequence of the DNA is known, and after inserting
it, it can be determined exactly where in the genome it was incorporated.
The exact changes in the chemical composition of the organism can be
measured, and the chemical structure of the protein produced by the gene
is known. If the gene lands in a spot that disrupts the life of the
organism, it won't survive, and therefore cannot be used to grow more
plants. Only plants where the gene is functioning as expected will be used.

-Side Effects÷Genetic engineering is like performing heart surgery with a
shovel. Scientists do not yet understand living systems completely enough
to perform DNA surgery without creating mutations which could be harmful
to the environment and our health. They are experimenting with very
delicate, yet powerful forces of nature, without full knowledge of the
repercussions.

*Also false. Genetic engineering is like using a fine scalpel to make
precise changes to the genome. Crossbreeding is like using a shovel. The
nature of the mutations is known. The exact base-pair nucleotide sequence
is known. Unknown mutations can be identified through exactly the same
analysis techniques that scientists use to decode the genome.

-Widespread Crop Failure÷Genetic engineers intend to profit by patenting
genetically engineered seeds. This means that, when a farmer plants
genetically engineered seeds, all the seeds have identical genetic
structure. As a result, if a fungus, a virus, or a pest develops which can
attack this particular crop, there could be widespread crop failure.

*Not true. There are likely to be many different varieties of genetically
engineered seeds on the market, tuned to different soil and climate
conditions. Furthermore, widespread use of single crops has been around
for a long time, and no widespread crop failures have occurred. The
similarity of genomes has nothing to do if they were genetically
engineered or not. A fungus virus or disease is just as likely to kill
non-GM crops as GM crops. There is no relationship.

-Threatens Our Entire Food Supply÷Insects, birds, and wind can carry
genetically altered seeds into neighboring fields and beyond. Pollen from
transgenic plants can cross-pollinate with genetically natural crops and
wild relatives. All crops, organic and non-organic, are vulnerable to
contamination from cross-pollinatation.

*So? Hybrid crops cross-pollinate with wild crops, transferring disease
resistance to wild crops. They are susceptible to cross pollination from
each other too. The genes added to GM crops have been identified and are
known to not pose any health threats, so there is nothing that makes them
special or different from any other unique genes carried by hybrid crops,
or by any other plant. In addition a 5 year study in nature showed that GM
crops, along with other human-created hybrid crops did not survive in the
wild, in competition with their wild relatives.

-No Long-Term Safety Testing÷Genetic engineering uses material from
organisms that have never been part of the human food supply to change the
fundamental nature of the food we eat. Without long-term testing no one
knows if these foods are safe

*Not true. The same tests that tell us if a non-GM food is safe to eat can
tell us if a GM food is safe to eat.

-Toxins÷Genetic engineering can cause unexpected mutations in an organism,
which can create new and higher levels of toxins in foods

*Once again, the food is analyzed to determine what are the chemical
differences between the GM strain and the parent line. If there are any
new proteins, these are sequenced and analyzed to determine if they are
toxic to humans or animals. Any new mutations in the organism are
identified by the genetic engineers in the process of genetic engineering.
Furthermore, the probability of a GM plant having a dangerous new mutation
is exactly the same as the probability of a random mutation in a non-GM
plant being dangerous.

-Allergic Reactions÷Genetic engineering can also produce unforeseen and
unknown allergens in foods.

*So can crossbreeding. And GE foods are screened for this possibility,
while crossbred crops are not.

Decreased Nutritional Value÷Transgenic foods may mislead consumers with
counterfeit freshness. A luscious-looking, bright red genetically
engineered tomato could be several weeks old and of little nutritional
worth.

*Transgenic crops have the same nutritional value as the parent strains
from which they were bred. The reason for inhibiting softening enzymes in
tomatoes is to allow them to ripen on the vine, thus increasing
nutritional value.

-Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria÷Genetic engineers use antibiotic-resistance
genes to mark genetically engineered cells. This means that genetically
engineered crops contain genes which confer resistance to antibiotics.
These genes may be picked up by bacteria which may infect us.

*While theoretical mechanisms for this to happen have been postulated, the
probability of this happening is EXTREMELY low. Furthermore, the
antibiotic resistance genes used are not ones that are commonly used in
medicine. In general , they are ones that have already outlived thier
usefulness. In any case, techniques are underway to use phophoresent genes
as markers (i.e. plants that have taken up the gene will glow under
blacklight.).

-Problems Cannot Be Traced÷Without labels, our public health agencies are
powerless to trace problems of any kind back to their source. The
potential for tragedy is staggering.

*False. Labels would do little to trace problems. Testing of food sources
is a far more likely method. Also, the same issue applies to everyday
foods already on the market. We already know there are many, many, ways in
which the foods we eat (non-GM foods) may contribute to health problems.
Isolating the source of health problems to dietary intake is far more
complex than looking on the label, since there are many ingredients in
food and many varieties of crops.

-Side Effects can Kill÷37 people died, 1500 were partially paralyzed, and
5000 more were temporarily disabled by a syndrome that was finally linked
to tryptophan made by genetically-engineered bacteria.

*And millions of peoples lives are saved every year by medicines made from
GE bacteria. Including millions of diabetics who rely on GE bacteria to
produce human insulin. Furthermore, the process of using GE bacteria to
produce medicine was not the source of the problem in the l-tryptophan
case. Anti-GE activists simply seized on this piece of information to
claim that there was something wrong with genetic engineering. Any process
used to produce medicine is susceptible to contamination.

-Increased use of Herbicides÷Scientists estimate that plants genetically
engineered to be herbicide-resistant will greatly increase the amount of
herbicide use.

*No, they will switch to herbicides like Roundup. They neglect to point
out that Roundup (Glyphosate) is far safer than the herbicides soybean
farmers were using previously. Those other herbicides required special
protective clothing to use, and also remained in the soil and ran off into
the water. They were also much more expensive, in part because of the
handling difficulties. Roundup can be handled safely without protective
gear and breaks down rapidly into harmless components.

-More Pesticides÷GE crops often manufacture their own pesticides and may
be classified as pesticides by the EPA. This strategy will put more
pesticides into our food and fields than ever before.

*Totally egregiously WRONG. Many plants are tolerant to various pests.
Eating them does not mean we are eating pesticides. The EPA "classifies"
these genes as pesticides only when they are introduced by genetic
engineering (great example of excessive government regulation), despite
the fact that they are fundamentally different in nature from chemical
pesticides. All pest resistance traits introduced by genetic engineering
are thoroughly tested. The genes used are completely sequenced. The exact
proteins produced are known, and are tested for toxicity by both the EPA
and the FDA.

-Ecology may be damaged÷The influence of a genetically engineered organism
on the food chain may damage the local ecology. The new organism may
compete successfully with wild relatives, causing unforeseen changes in
the environment.

*A 5 year study in Nature found that GE crop plants did not compete
successfully with wild relatives. However, this is something that is
reasonable to watch for (one of the only intelligent arguments that
anti-GE folks have). It does not, however mean that genetic engineering is
inherently dangerous. Hybrid crop plants are just as likely to have
enhanced survival traits as GE crop plants.

-Gene Pollution Cannot Be Cleaned Up÷Once genetically engineered
organisms, bacteria and viruses are released into the environment it is
impossible to contain or recall them.

*GE bacteria are bred in the lab and cannot survive in the wild. This has
been established through 25 years of experience working with them. GE
viruses have the same problem. Unless you are TRYING to create a harmful
pathogen, you are not likely to create one by random accident.

---- More Anti-Biotech Sites Below:

http://netspeed.com.au/cogs/coggene.htm
http://online.sfsu.edu/%7Erone/GE%20Essays/gedanger.htm
http://www.dhushara.com/book/genes/genes.htm
http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0206-03.htm

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Metals in the soil and mad cows
From: "terry hopkin"

Perhaps someone can explain why the research done by John Mark Purdy on
Magnesium and it's relationship to Mad Cow disease has not been taken up
in AgBioView, there seems to links between soil metal profiles and Mad Cow
Disease, as well as other spongeiform diseases including those in humans.
There seems to be a relationship between also pesticides and rate of
"infection" in area's of poor soil profiles.

It would seem logical that the use of locally produced manures in such an
area as with ORGANIC FOODS would increase drastically your chance,through
the enhancement of a poor soil profile by the manures, to get Cruets
Jacobs Disease, though little research has been done on this so far. So
perhaps the risks with Organic foods are as great as those with GM foods
or greater!

- Terry Hopkin

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

New Starlink™ Corn Data Submitted by Aventis CropSciences 4/23/01

http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/biopesticides/otherdocs/stlink/stlinkdata.htm

In this document, the reader will find the report of a new study conducted
by Aventis CropSciences, the registrant of StarLink corn. Aventis
conducted this study in part to provide additional information for the
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) scientific assessment of the
potential allergenicity of StarLink corn protein in finished food
products. On December 5, 2000, the Scientific Advisory Panel, a group of
independent scientific experts, expressed the need for additional data to
more accurately assess the potential allergenicity of StarLink corn
protein. Specifically, the Panel indicated that it would need more data on
the precise amount of StarLink corn protein in processed foods, such as
taco shells, corn muffins and grits.

When the Panel considered these issues, analytical methods were not
available to detect levels of StarLink corn protein in processed foods.
The validated procedures available at the time only had the capability of
detecting StarLink corn protein in raw corn, and of detecting the DNA that
encodes for the StarLink corn protein in processed foods. A private
laboratory has developed a new analytical method that, reportedly is more
sensitive than the protein strip test being used for corn grain.

In the attached study, Aventis examined how two types of corn processing
affected the amount of StarLink protein in processed foods. Wet-milling
renders corn into corn oil, corn syrup, alcohol, and corn starch. Aventis
reports that it has found that the wet-milling process reduces the
residues of the StarLink corn protein in finished food products to a level
that is below the limit of detection for its analytical method. This
finding is consistent with scientific literature, as well as the findings
of EPA's recent assessment of wet-milling. Dry-milling renders corn into
corn grits, corn flour and masa. According to Aventis' findings using test
products made from 100% StarLink corn, the dry-milling and subsequent
processing appear to denature, but not completely eliminate, the presence
of the StarLink corn protein in the finished food products. Aventis
reports that its new data indicate lower exposure estimates than what the
Agency had estimated in its assessment last Fall.

EPA is now reviewing this study, and will solicit scientific peer review
from independent scientists known for their expertise in this field.

Acrobat Files for downloading: 1. Administrative Materials 2. Estimated
Potential Dietary Intake of Cry9C Protein Based on Measurements of Cry9C
In Processed Foods Made From 100% StarLink Corn 3. Development of ELISA
Assays to Detect Cry9C-Specific IgG and IgE Antibodies in Human Serum 4.
Letter from Aventis to Administrator Whitman, Secretary Veneman and Dr.
Schwetz 5. Aventis Position on Follow Up with Individuals Alleging
Allergic Reactions to Corn Ingestion 5 Detection of Cry9C Protein in Dry
Milled, Wet Milled and Masa Processed Fractions and Processed Foods Made
From 100% StarLink Grain 6 StarLink Corn Containment Program 7. The
Aventis CropScience StarLink Quality Plan for Corn Dry Mills

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Age of Aquarius

Presentation to the IOC International Business Advisory Committee Meeting,
April 26, 2001
- Michael fumento

Remember the hit song about the dawning of the age of Aquarius? Well, I've
got news for you. Aquarius never dawned. It never will. Utopias are for
fanatics or fools.

But there are tools here and on the horizon that can make the world a
better place for all of us, yet especially for those who currently have
the least. I've just finished writing a book about that tool,
bioevolution: how biotechnology is changing our world. Three-fourths of it
covers such things as medicines, gene testing, biomining, and
bioremediation.

But I want to spend my time talking about the most controversial aspect of
this exploding new area of science. Agbiotech.

One of the beauties of Agbiotech is something called "gene stacking." No,
it has nothing to do with Dolly Parton's DNA. It means combining genes to
add several new traits, instead of just one. Such was the case with the
"golden rice," developed by Swiss scientist Ingo Potrykus. Potrykus
borrowed three genes from the daffodil to give the grain beta-carotene,
which the body converts to vitamin a.

Vitamin a deficiency is a public health problem in over 100 countries.
Lack of the vitamin contributes to approximately 2 million deaths
annually. It's also the leading cause of preventable blindness in
children. Most of the world's population also gets too little iron,
because their staple is rice. So rice doesn’t contain much iron, right?
Wrong. It has plenty of iron. But it also contains a molecule that keeps
humans from absorbing it.

So Potrykus inserted a fungus gene that makes the iron absorbable, then
added yet another to make the grain produce more iron. Others have added
genes from wild rice relatives to hybrids to get 20% to 40% higher yields.
One way this is done is to make the stalks shorter, thereby diverting
growth to the grain itself. Yet all this marvelous engineering would be
for naught if pests consumed the rice first. It's biotech to the rescue
there, too.

A new transgenic modification of African lowland rice developed in part by
Florence Wambugu makes the plant resistant to a virus that can wipe out an
entire crop. Thus ultimately into one plant we'll have inserted genes for
added beta-carotene and iron, for digestibility of iron, for higher
yields, and for pest resistance.

These same improvements can and eventually will be made with any type of
crop. No single one of these traits is going to make a huge world impact.
For example, some critics of golden rice have claimed that you'd basically
have to eat like a Washington Redskins fullback to get the RDA of vitamin
a from golden rice alone.

What they miss – in addition to using incorrect figures – is that the
purpose of this early stage golden rice was never to provide the RDA
established for the west. t was intended to provide enough vitamin a to
keep millions of people from getting sick and going blind.

It's not utopia; it's a tool. It isn't the goal; it's a step in the right
direction. How dare we in the west deny them this tool? How dare we tell
them what’s best for them? How can the world's most powerful
environmentalist group, Greenpeace, threaten to tear up golden rice plots?

A recent report called "selling suicide," from a British group calling
itself (ahem!) "Christian Charity" declared that biotech
herbicide-resistant crops shouldn't be used in India.

Why not?

Because a product that so efficiently kills weeds will "remove one of the
few cash-earning employment opportunities for women," namely walking down
crop rows in 100 degree heat stooped over to yank weeds. Not that the
authors would want their wives or sisters or daughters to be locked into
such a menial, back-breaking task. Thank god those were ugly Europeans,
not ugly Americans.

There's no room for either.

Kenyan scientist James Chanda notes that the anti-biotech lobby attacks
recombinant DNA used in making foods, "but the same processes are used to
develop pharmaceutical products for human beings and animals," he says.
Why, he asks, is a process that we trust to be injected into our bodies
inherently suspect when put into our stomachs?" Our insulin is now 100%
recombinant, grown by gene-spliced bacteria.

Yet in food stores, that which is less than one percent recombinant is
maligned as "Frankenfood." Why does no one ever speak of "Frankeninsulin?"
We live in a world of hunger and chronic sickness. We live with the
injustice that somebody born into one country is statistically-speaking
probably obese and one born into another is probably malnourished and
doomed to a life of disease followed by early death.

I don’t believe there will ever be a world with no such injustice. I’m no
fanatic and I’d like to think I’m no fool.

But I do know that biotechnology can be – if it’s allowed – a powerful
weapon to fight it.

Thank you.
- Michael Fumento; http://www.fumento.com

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Hearts and Heads

- Paul Krugman; New York Times; April 23, 2001

There is an old European saying: anyone who is not a socialist before he
is 30 has no heart; anyone who is still a socialist after he is 30 has no
head. Suitably updated, this applies perfectly to the movement against
globalization ˜ the movement that made its big splash in Seattle back in
1999 and is doing its best to disrupt the Summit of the Americas in Quebec
City this weekend.

The facts of globalization are not always pretty. If you buy a product
made in a third-world country, it was produced by workers who are paid
incredibly little by Western standards and probably work under awful
conditions. Anyone who is not bothered by those facts, at least some of
the time, has no heart.

But that doesn't mean the demonstrators are right. On the contrary: anyone
who thinks that the answer to world poverty is simple outrage against
global trade has no head ˜ or chooses not to use it. The
anti-globalization movement already has a remarkable track record of
hurting the very people and causes it claims to champion.

The most spectacular example was last year's election. You might say that
because people with no heads indulged their idealism by voting for Ralph
Nader, people with no hearts are running the world's most powerful nation.

Even when political action doesn't backfire, when the movement gets what
it wants, the effects are often startlingly malign. For example, could
anything be worse than having children work in sweatshops? Alas, yes. In
1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for
Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from
countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that
Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the
children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according
to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even
worse jobs, or on the streets ˜ and that a significant number were forced
into prostitution.

The point is that third-world countries aren't poor because their export
workers earn low wages; it's the other way around. Because the countries
are poor, even what look to us like bad jobs at bad wages are almost
always much better than the alternatives: millions of Mexicans are
migrating to the north of the country to take the low-wage export jobs
that outrage opponents of Nafta. And those jobs wouldn't exist if the
wages were much higher: the same factors that make poor countries poor ˜
low productivity, bad infrastructure, general social disorganization ˜
mean that such countries can compete on world markets only if they pay
wages much lower than those paid in the West.

Of course, opponents of globalization have heard this argument, and they
have answers. At a conference last week I heard paeans to the superiority
of traditional rural lifestyles over modern, urban life ˜ a claim that not
only flies in the face of the clear fact that many peasants flee to urban
jobs as soon as they can, but that (it seems to me) has a disagreeable
element of cultural condescension, especially given the overwhelming
preponderance of white faces in the crowds of demonstrators. (Would you
want to live in a pre-industrial village?) I also heard claims that rural
poverty in the third world is mainly the fault of multinational
corporations ˜ which is just plain wrong, but is a convenient belief if
you want to think of globalization as an unmitigated evil.

The most sophisticated answer was that the movement doesn't want to stop
exports ˜ it just wants better working conditions and higher wages.

But it's not a serious position. Third-world countries desperately need
their export industries ˜ they cannot retreat to an imaginary rural
Arcadia. They can't have those export industries unless they are allowed
to sell goods produced under conditions that Westerners find appalling, by
workers who receive very low wages. And that's a fact the anti-
globalization activists refuse to accept.

So who are the bad guys? The activists are getting the images they wanted
from Quebec City: leaders sitting inside their fortified enclosure, with
thousands of police protecting them from the outraged masses outside. But
images can deceive. Many of the people inside that chain-link fence are
sincerely trying to help the world's poor. And the people outside the
fence, whatever their intentions, are doing their best to make the poor
even poorer.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

GM Crops And Patterns Of Pesticide Use

Science; April 27, 2001 Vol. 292, No. 5517, pp. 637-638. (From Agnet)

Janet Carpenter of the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy,
Washington, DC, writes that in their Review "The ecological risks and
benefits of genetically engineered plants" (Science's Compass, 15 Dec., p.
2088), L. L. Wolfenbarger and P. R. Phifer provide an informative overview
of a complicated set of issues. However, says Carpenter, their discussion
of changes in pesticide use includes little of the evidence available on
pesticide use trends, and thus they underestimate reductions in pesticide
use. In particular, the authors cite analyses of trends in corn and
soybeans, but do not discuss cotton, the crop for which the most dramatic
reductions in pesticide use have been observed. Further, the authors
mischaracterize the need for additional studies on changes in pesticide
use and the impact of these changes on the environment.

Carpenter says that using U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, the
National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy has analyzed changes in
pesticide use since the introduction of genetically modified (GM) corn,
cotton, and soybeans (1). Since the introduction of Bt cotton varieties
with engineered insect resistance, U.S. cotton farmers have reduced the
amount of insecticides used by ~2.7 million pounds (~1.2 million
kilograms) per year. Corn farmers have achieved more modest reductions
through the planting of insect-resistant varieties, because most growers
had previously not been treating for the difficult-to-control target pest,
the European corn borer. For soybean growers who have adopted
herbicide-tolerant varieties, the impact has been to switch from using
three or four different herbicides to using one or two, with little change
in the total amount of herbicides being used.

Regarding future studies, Wolfenbarger and Phifer call for "[c]arefully
designed experiments...to ascertain what effect individual transgenic
crops have on agrochemical use, independent of other important variables."
Although precisely measuring changes in pesticide use attributable solely
to the adoption of GM crops remains a challenge, it is survey, not
experimental, data that will address this question. As for changing
patterns in pesticide use, the authors are correct that this depends on
the toxicity of the chemicals. However, in calling for experiments to
assess toxicity, Carpenter says the authors appear to be unaware of the
large number of studies that have been conducted on the ecological impacts
of pesticides, both before and after commercialization.

For example, a compendium of references on the nontarget impacts of the
herbicide glyphosate lists several hundred studies (2). Furthermore,
although the benefits of reductions in pesticide use may be clear,
assessing potential benefits of substituting one chemical for another
raises complex issues surrounding relative toxicity. Glyophosate has
replaced the use of other herbicides in soybeans and is considered by many
to be environmentally benign (3).

While scientists continue to debate risks such as the effect of
genetically engineered corn pollen on butterfly populations, dramatic
reductions in pesticide use achieved since the introduction of GM crops
remain largely ignored. By focusing solely on potential ecological
benefits, the authors overlook the other reasons U.S. farmers have planted
GM crops on millions of acres: decreased costs, increased yields, and ease
of management.

References and Notes 1.Agricultural Chemical Usage: Field Crops Summary
(U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service,
Washington, DC, various years).; 2.Non-target Impacts of Herbicide
Glyophosate: A Compendium of References and Abstracts (Applied Mammal
Research Institute, Summerland, British Columbia, Canada, ed. 4, 1997).
3.J. P. Giesy, S. Dobson, K. R. Solomon, Rev. Environ. Contam. Toxicol.
167, 35 (2000).
-----
L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger, and Paul R. Phifer respond that two
straightforward, although not necessarily simple, questions need to be
addressed before we can understand how GM crops affect pesticide use and
the subsequent ecological effects. First, what effect does adoption of GM
crops have on pesticide use? For example, does use increase or decrease,
or is one pesticide substituted for another? Second, how does any
resulting change in pesticide use impact ecological systems? The authors
say they agree that carefully designed surveys will address the first
question. However, surveys are not sufficient to answer the second
question.

In reviewing the literature on ecological effects of reduced pesticide use
associated with GM crops, the authors say they found, but did not include
in their Science Review, a few studies addressing pesticide use in Bt
cotton, choosing instead to cite a report by USDA's Economic Research
Service (ERS) that parallels the conclusions and extends the analyses of
these individual studies by using a multivariate approach. Even though the
USDA report represented the most comprehensive survey to date, the study
might both underestimate and overestimate pesticide use associated with
the adoption of GM soybeans, cotton, and corn. For example, Bt cotton
targets primary pests, but increasing populations of secondary pests have
been reported for Bt cotton and might require additional pesticide input
(1). Analyses of changes in pesticide use with adoption of GM crops have
focused on those insecticides that act on Bt target insects and not
necessarily those used on secondary pests. Such omissions would
overestimate reductions in pesticide use. The ERS analyses could also
underestimate reductions in pesticide use if growers adopting Bt crops
would have used an above-average amount of pesticides on conventional
crops (2).

Carefully designed field experiments can address the impacts of changes in
pesticide exposure due to GM crops on ecological systems, and it is this
latter question the authors say they addressed in their Review. If
researchers and analysts wish to infer ecological effects from pesticide
use patterns, then the toxicity of the chemicals used needs to be
incorporated into the analysis and the effect on ecosystems assessed.
Although the authors say they are aware of the large amount of data,
published and unpublished, available on toxicity to laboratory animals
(such as mice, rats, and other model organisms) these data are not always
easily translatable to effects on natural ecosystems. Large-scale
comparisons among transgenic, conventional, and alternative agricultural
practices provide the most direct approach to understanding the ecological
risks and benefits and the variability of their magnitude.

References and Notes: . L. P. Gianessi, J. E. Carpenter, Agricutural
Biotechnology: Insect Control Benefits (National Center for Food and
Agricultural Policy, Washington, DC, 1999), available at
http://www.bio.org/food&ag/ncfap/ag_bio.htm 2.G. A. Carlson, M. C. Marra,
B. J. Hubbell, Proc. Beltwide Cotton Conf. 2, 973 (1998).

----
Risk Assessment Data For Gm Crops

Science; April 27, 2001 Vol 292, No 5517, pp. 638-639.

Peter Gregory, Novigen Sciences, Inc., Washington, DC, Klaus von Grebmer,
International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC, and Orlo
Ehart, Next Wave Enterprises, Silver Spring, MD, write that the potential
environmental risks and benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops "vary
spatially, temporally, and according to the trait and cultivar modified,"
L. L. Wolfenbarger and P. R. Phifer emphasize in their Review (Science's
Compass, 15 Dec., p. 2088). The same is true for conventionally derived
cultivars. The authors say that biotechnology crops are not inherently
less safe than their conventional counterparts. Formal scrutiny and
regulation before and after commercialization should ensure that these
crops maintain their status of "as safe as" or safer than conventional
crops. With the vast array of potential risks of all new cultivars,
priorities must be set to identify those cultivar-trait combinations that
require supplemental data to facilitate the decision-making process.

The authors focus exclusively on peer-reviewed data in the scientific
literature and ignore the majority of data--that data reviewed by
regulatory agencies and their independent advisors. Wolfenbarger and
Phifer's suggestion as to the quantity and quality of information that
should be generated not only ignores the need to set priorities but also
does not acknowledge a successful history of reliance on risk assessments
that use representative populations and added conservative assumptions to
address uncertainties.

The authors say that cooperation among a range of public and private
institutions in agricultural biotechnology will be needed to fill gaps in
data that are necessary to the decision-making process. Such a pact would
alleviate two major constraints to progress: inadequate resources to
support research, and a public lack of trust in agricultural biotechnology
and those who develop and regulate it. To better deal with these issues in
the public arena, an independent, multi-stakeholder, peer-review process
should be created in countries where it is not already in place; where it
does exist, such as in the United States and Canada, additional mechanisms
to increase public understanding and awareness are needed. Our most
important lesson from global discussions on new technologies is that while
data alone cannot address cultural, economic, and ideological differences,
we can ill afford to ignore valid data when assessing the impact of such
technologies.

L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger and Paul R. Phifer respond that they conducted a
thorough review of published literature and unpublished reports on
transgenic organisms in the public domain during their research, compiling
between 300 to 400 freely available papers and reports. The small number
of unpublished studies included in the review were chosen because they
both augmented areas of research lacking extensive published data and
described their methods in sufficient detail as to make them repeatable.
Most of the unpublished studies the authors reviewed did not contain
significant data or did not describe their methods in detail. However, the
authors say they did not request unpublished data submitted to regulatory
agencies; thus, they are unable to comment on the quality or quantity of
these data. Publication of any applicable data in the scientific,
peer-reviewed literature would facilitate their entrance into the public
dialogue concerning the benefits and risks of GM plants.

The authors say they did identify in their Science Review gaps in research
that will require a large quantity of high-quality data, and, admittedly,
significant resources to address. Furthermore, the authors say they do not
disagree that representative populations and conservative assumptions are
an important component of risk assessments; however, they might differ in
what they would define as an appropriate representative population. The
authors say they would stress ecologically relevant populations because
ecological comparisons between a GM crop and its alternatives will provide
the key evidence for understanding relative environmental risks and
benefits. Given the differences among ecosystems, not all ecological risk
assessment data can be applied to all countries, yet we can provide a
model of what data will best address these issues.

The authors say they support Gregory et al.'s advocacy for science-based
assessments of the potential benefits and risks of GM products and agree
that scientific data alone cannot address a public's concern over
biotechnology. They also believe that it is important the public is given
valid, comprehensive, and understandable summaries or analyses of complex
scientific issues, which is what they have attempted to provide.

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GMO Poll Results, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/exist/

From: "Mark Murray"
Posted To: "GMF-news@scope.educ.washington.edu"

65-Percent Said We Should Not Grow GM Crops. The US-Based Public
Broadcasting Service (PBS) web site (above) has had over 18,600 responses
as of Saturday morning (1025-Hours).

Of 18,608 readers who responded so far: 33% said we should grow GM crops
65% said we should NOT grow GM crops 1% are undecided. Final results
pending. 500 new votes were received in the past 12 hours.

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New references in the SCOPE: GMF-news database

From: Allen Olson
Posted To: gmf-news@scope.educ.washington.edu

There are many new references in the SCOPE database. Many of the items
have been mentioned in this list, but there are some that have come from
other sources, especially some curriculum items. See
http://scope.educ.washington.edu/gmfood/library/
for a quick list of the items added in the past month.