AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org; Archived at http://agbioview.listbot.com
Free Multimedia CD-ROM and Video on Human Genome and Genetics
Visit http://www.nhgri.nih.gov/educationkit/ to request this multimedia
kit which includes a CD-ROM, video, poster and a brochure. On the
website, you can view some exciting instructional material with excellent
graphics and flash 3D animation on many molecular biology topics including
"How to Sequence a Genome". Very useful for teachers and students.
"The Human Genome Project (HGP) began in 1990 as an effort by researchers
from around the world to map and sequence the human genome - the totality
of human DNA - as well as the genomes of important experimental organisms,
like yeast, the nematode worm, and mouse. In 2000, the collaborators in
the HGP announced the completion of a draft revealing the sequence of 90%
of human DNA. In February 2001, the initial analysis of the genome
sequence was published in the scientific literature.
To mark this occasion, the Human Genome Project has released a free,
multimedia educational kit for high school students and the interested
public. The kit, called The Human Genome Project: Exploring our Molecular
* a CD-ROM with seven varied segments * an award-winning video
documentary, The Secret of Our Lives * a commemorative poster * an
informational brochure, Genetics: The Future of Medicine
* Video Documentary: The Human Genome Project - Exploring Our Molecular
Selves " This narrated 3D-computer animation illustrates the basics of
molecular biology. The animation progresses from cells to the nucleus,
chromosome to DNA, depicting the process of converting genetics
instructions into active proteins.
* The Secret of Our Lives: Told through the leaders of the Human Genome
Project, this award winning video documentary, traces the development,
evolution and impact of the Human Genome Project and genomics research.
* Interactive Presentation-How to Sequence a Genome
Genetics - The Future of Medicine
Basic Genetics- a glossary of genetic terms ; The Human Genome Project -
Exploring Our Molecular Selves. Goals of the Human Genome Project ;
Unlocking the Mysteries of Health and Disease : Gene Discovery
Understanding Biological Function; Genetic Testing and Gene-based Medicine
; Development of Genetic Medicine "
Business as Usual
From: Andrew Apel
Colleagues, It is high time that biotech companies such as Monsanto and
Aventis reconsider how they do business. The GM potato is dead. The GM
sugar beet is dead. StarLink maize is dead. The prognosis for GM wheat is
guarded, and the outlook for maize designed to combat the rootworm is not
hopeful. Each new product will be a new controversy, and the industry has
agreed not to release a new product without an available test to detect
it. With tests for GM becoming better and cheaper and identity
preservation maturing, food companies are equipped to kill new products
more easily than ever.
Food companies are neither friends nor natural allies of the seed
companies. Food companies killed the GM potato and the GM beet, and will
shed no tears over the demise of GM wheat or any other GM product (1).
Still, the biotech companies remain firmly convinced of the safety and
value of their products. If they think their products are so great,
obviously the existing food companies are missing something 'creating a
potentially huge marketing opportunity'. If the biotech companies started
their own food companies, they could offer GM foods directly to the
consumers and advertise their benefits, and go head to head with the
existing food giants who don't seem to be getting the biotech message.
Personally, I think it would be great to be able to buy Monsanto corn dogs
or tofu or potato chips.
That is not going to happen, though. Ag biotech companies don't understand
consumers, so there is no way they could run food companies. Food
companies understand consumers extremely well, and the fact that they
don't care about biotech and mostly don't care for it also says a lot.
Contributing to the problem is the fact that the GM products out there are
designed to appeal to the market for GM seed farmers. Agronomic traits
don't appeal to consumers, and aren't meant to. At the same time,
consumers simply don't care about farmers. Consumers in developing
countries don't care about farmers, either. A GM sweet potato that iís
more productive and easier to cultivate might appeal to farmers, but the
consumer just wants to eat.
Same with GM crops that are better for the environment. Except for the
tiny minority who think they are saving the environment by purchasing
'organic' food, consumers seldom give more than lip service to how eating
decisions affect the environment. Bottom line, consumers eat for personal
reasons. They eat because they're hungry, not because they're trying to
help farmers or save butterflies.
In affluent nations, consumers have the luxury of choosing between food
products on the basis of things that have nothing to do with nutrition or
safety, but it is going to be a long time before we see someone touting
the modern agronomic traits of their corn chips. Sure, there are companies
that tout the antique agronomic ('organic') traits of their corn chips,
but thatís a distinctly small market that mostly caters to upscale
eco-reactionaries and food paranoiacs.
What do the biotech companies need to do in a market structured like this?
Simple. Produce things that food companies will actually want to slap a
'New And Improved' label on. Or try something else. Anything. Because
business as usual is definitely not working.
(1) To a certain extent, the biotech companies can force products on food
companies. The GM potato died because the french fry market is controlled
almost entirely by three companies. This concentration of power also made
it possible to kill the GM sugar beet. There may be a similar
concentration of power in the hands of exporters with regard to GM wheat.
However, when it comes to users of maize and soybeans, power is much less
concentrated, meaning that biotech companies may be able to introduce new
versions of them to farmers and 'dare' the industry to either complain,
and absorb the cost of testing and segregation, or to shut up. This isn't
a great way to make new friends, though.
Response to 'GM Safety Tests'
From: Andrew Apel To: Robert Vint
Dear Mr. Vint,
I cannot see Dr. Prakash saying that no independent long-term feeding
tests on animals of GM products have been conducted, because they have, in
the US, India and Japan at least.
You may wish to insist that the tests were not 'independent' as they were
carried out by scientists who, for example, received their training at
universities which accept corporate donations. Until you uncover evidence
that, e.g., the scientists are paid to lie, it is best to leave such
heinous accusations against the scientific community unmade.
You may wish to insist that the tests were not 'long term' but they were
long enough to demonstrate, within the limits of human knowledge, that the
products were as safe as their non-GM counterparts. If you believe the
term of such testing must be long enough to ensure that all 'unknown
consequences' emerge, you are merely saying that such tests must be,
literally, eternal˜since unknown consequences will always be unknown, by
definition. Eternal testing of all new products is an unreasonable demand.
All products you use or consume have been evaluated by their
manufacturers, from pharmaceuticals to food. The cars, elevators and
bicycles you ride have been evaluated by their makers; ditto for cold
remedies and everything else. All the government asks is that the products
comply with certain standards, and, sometimes, that the makers of the
products prove they comply. If you were consistent in avoiding all
products which had been evaluated in this way, your life would be both
empty and isolated.
Assuming that the quote you attribute to Phil Angell at Monsanto is
accurate and not taken out of context, you should not be alarmed Phil
appears to be agreeing with you. After all, why should the makers of
products be required to evaluate them, when the results of company
evaluations are deemed useless?
Given your concerns, perhaps you should, in your capacity as GFA National
Coordinator, publicly call on Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to
conduct 'independent, long-term tests' of GM foods. You won't, though, and
they wouldn't, even if you did, for the same reason that the organic
industry won't conduct any independent tests to validate the outrageous
and slanderous claims it makes about agriculture. The results of such
tests would void their rhetoric.
P.S. I am not aware that many contributors to AgBioView appear to campaign
against the Kyoto Treaty, or work for corporate lobby groups. I would be
interested in knowing who they are. I would add, however, that all
available scientific data indicates that the Earth's climate is merely
re-stabilizing after the Little Ice Age, and that fears of global warming
driven by greenhouse gases are based entirely on wild speculation and bad
Robert Vint wrote:
> In your letter to Marcus Williamson (AgBioView 30 Apr 2001) you say:
>"Responsible testing in animals is the only way to make sure drugs or
> foods are safe" yet you have already admitted to me that no independent
> long-term feeding tests on animals have taken place. In the light of
Malcolm Livingstone's >reassuring comments, in the same edition, that
such independent safety
>tests are not worth doing because "all food is food" and because "I
don't believe there is any difference between GM and non-GM, there is
not even a small difference" do you think
>such tests should take place? Or do you, like Phil Angell
>(Director of Corporate Communications at Monsanto) believe that
>should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is
>selling as much of it as possible" and do you, like Mr Livingstone,
>that consumers should shut up and eat their GM food unless they are
prepared to pay for the safety tests themselves? Indeed do you feel that
Mr Livingstone's 'reverse precautionary principle' should be applied to
all food and drugs, that they should all be assumed safe, on the basis of
their manufacturers' opinion, until consumers,
>through their own illnesses or their own privately-funded research,
prove that there are problems? With best wishes,- Robert Vint
>PS. I have had no response to my letter asking why so many contributors
to AgBioView appear to campaign against the Kyoto Treaty as part of their
work for corporate lobby groups.
'Genetically Engineered Sleaze'
From: Tom DeGregori
In a delightful recent AgBioView posting about the Safe Food webpage of
Mothers for Natural Law - http://www.safe-food.org/ -, there was a
point-by-point refutation of a number of fallacies posted there. What was
overlooked was a potentially new tactic of the anti-GM, namely, telling
the truth. Well, sort of telling the truth or more accurately, putting
forward something that is technically true but deliberately structured in
order to mislead. This is a tactic that has been honed to perfection by
Ralph Nader, particularly in his performance following the WTO meeting in
In a section titled, Genetically Engineered Enzymes -
http://www.safe-food.org/-consumer/enzymes.html, - the following paragraph
appears: "Enzymes are usually found in minuscule quantities in the final
food product. The toxin found in genetically engineered tryptophan was
less than 0.1 percent of the total weight of the product, yet it was
enough to kill people. The use of enzymes is pervasive in the food
industry. Nothing is known about the long-term effects of genetically
No one could quarrel with the first sentence but the second sentence is a
cleverly worded killer. Read carefully, one cannot argue with it. But how
would different people read it?
1) Those drawn to the site because of concerns over transgenic foods,
would likely interpret the fact that tryptophan was "genetically
engineered" was the causal factor in the creation of the toxin that killed
people. 2) And of course, those who have been subjected to the ongoing
plethora of luddite lies that continue to claim that the tryptophan
tragedy was caused by the "genetically engineered" bacterium that created
it, will find further re-enforcement of their beliefs. 3) Those of us who
happen to know the story of the tryptophan tragedy, really cannot directly
quarrel with the sentence, since it is very carefully worded so as to
avoid any direct statement of causality.
The third sentence stating that "the use of enzymes is pervasive in the
food industry" is also true but if completely understood provides evidence
to refute the oft repeated claim that it was Genetic Engineering that
caused the tryptophan tragedy. This entire claim rests on a single news
story (repeat news story and not peer reviewed article) in Science in
1991, in the early phases of the investigation of the tragedy, that
indicated that some investigators were considering the possibility that
the use of a GM bacterium may have been the cause of the tragedy. This
passing thought simply drops out of the scientific literature and I cannot
find any reputable reference repeating the possibility after that date.
Certainly in the investigations and reports carried out by the FDA, Mayo
Clinic and the public health departments of Minnesota, New Mexico and
Oregon, the focus was on a contaminant that was not removed because of
unreported changes in the filtration system. This was also the focus of
the peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject. Never-the-less, the
GM bacterium theory was carried forward in non-peer reviewed Internet
postings by Natural Law proponents and has become an accepted truth to the
luddite true believers.
At the time of the Science news story, not only had there been GM
pharmaceuticals - insulin - in use for almost a decade, GM versions of the
various enzymes discussed on the webpage had been (and continue to be) in
use almost as long in the production of cheeses and other dairy products,
sugars or sweeteners of all kinds, oils, baked goods, a variety of drinks
- fruit juices, beers and wines and even in soaps. The very fact of the
admitted widespread use of GM enzymes (as well as the use of engineered
bacterium to produce a variety of other items, such as the amino acids
like tryptophan, slurped by our health food devotees), would seem to
indicate that, in nearly two decades, no evidence of harm has emerged.
This leads us to the last sentence -"Nothing is known about the long-term
effects of genetically engineered enzymes." Once again, whose is to argue,
as none of us really knows for certain what the "long-term effects" of any
novelty in our lives. But alas, clever wording allows multiple
interpretations. For the believers, the implication is that we have some
scientific reason to believe that genetically engineered products have
some uniquely greater possibility of long-term unexpected adverse
consequences than does any other novelty. And for that we have no evidence.
We do have evidence that the FDA had tried for well over two decades to
remove the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) designation for various
products such as tryptophan that originally were grandfathered in under
the Delaney amendment to the FDA act. It was the "health food" industry
itself and its legion of loyal followers who used action in the courts and
legislation (before and after the tragedy) to keep tryptophan and other
similar products from the oversight of FDA. These actions are compounded
and furthered by sets of beliefs about the presumed efficacy of slurping
amino acids for which there is neither evidence of benefit and terms of
the movements own criteria, no evidence about possible "long-term" adverse
effects. Where is the "precautionary principle" when we really needed it?
Currently, there are restrictions on tryptophan but they are being
cleverly evaded. Those who so wantonly exploit a tragedy, should examine
their own beliefs as the more likely source of the problem.
- Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D., Professor of Economics University of
Houston, 204 McElhinney Hall, Houston, Texas 77204-5019
Marc Saner's Viewpoint: Real and metaphorical moral limits in the
From: Klaus Ammann
This is an interesting statement of Marc Saner, you also can get the text
from the following website of the Center for International Development at
Have also a look at: http://www.cid.harvard.edu/ciddata/stats.html
If ever you look out for study data on population development I often
stumble over mixed statements such as the ones cited by Marc, and it it
good to follow his anatomical approach to separate moral and risk
statements, they are too often intermingled.
The crucial sentence in his viewpoint is: The process vs. product view is
important to the ethical analysis, because the two views neatly map onto
the distinction between consequentialist and non-consequentialist ethics.
Simply put, consequentialists consider consequences in ethical
decision-making, while non-consequentialists formulate ethical
prescriptions, which stand no matter the consequences.
A critical remark about this viewpoint text as a whole: It is good to
balance out consequentialist against non-consequentialist thinking and
ethics, but there is no reason to restrict this anatomy to risk, we should
also include the benefits.
What about the consequences of a prohibition of this technology ? Or: One
could argue for instance, that some of the 'classic' breeding methods such
as enhancing mutation rate by applying chemicals or radiation, are
challenging the dignity of living beings more than elegant gene splicing.
What have we done to the slender corn plants of our ancestors - we have
turned them centuries ago into veritable monstrosities... Not to speak
about the future benefits of this new breeding methods, based on
dramatically enhanced genomic knowledge etc. etc.
And a not so serious remark: I would like to warn to take Marc's examples
too serious, they are meant as allegorical exemplifications, otherwise all
proponents of GE would say yes to the death penalty and the opponents
would be against.... - Klaus
'Real and metaphorical moral limits in the biotechnology debate'
- Marc Saner, Ph.D. mailto:email@example.com; Ethics and Policy Issues
Centre; Department of Philosophy, Carleton University; Ottawa, Canada
From the beginning, the regulatory and public debate over biotechnology
has been closely tied to the question: does the process used to develop a
product matter, or does it not?Generally speaking, critics of genetic
engineering argue that, yes, it does matter, while proponents argue that,
no, only the features of the product matter.
I argue here that this question is at the root of the ethical debate over
modern biotechnology. I argue further that fully understanding this
question is of critical importance in moving the ethical debate
surrounding modern biotechnology ahead.
The process vs. product view is important to the ethical analysis, because
the two views neatly map onto the distinction between consequentialist and
non-consequentialist ethics. Simply put, consequentialists consider
consequences in ethical decision-making, while non-consequentialists
formulate ethical prescriptions, which stand no matter the consequences.
For example, a non-consequentialist may hold that killing an innocent
human being is wrong under all circumstances. In contrast, a
consequentialist would not prohibit such killing absolutely, but would
attempt to judge it in the context of predicted consequences (e.g., one
can imagine a life-boat situation where the choice is either a single act
of murder or predicted death of all passengers).
The critical point is that non-consequentialists may formulate absolute
moral limits, while consequentialists will prefer to formulate ethical
prescriptions contingent on the forecasting of consequences. Within this
classification, the process-view is non-consequentialist, and the
product-view is consequentialist. Non-consequentialists may argue that
some or all types of genetic engineering are wrong, because these methods
lie beyond a moral limit. An expression of this view would be, for
example, 'the genetic engineering of humans violates the basic dignity
that all humans possess.' In support of this line of argument one can
point out that metaphysical concepts, such as 'dignity' and the
prescription of moral limits, are common ingredients of existing and
widely accepted legal and moral frameworks (e.g., human rights).
This line of argument can be extended by arguing that some or all
non-human animals have 'dignity' that could be violated, or by arguing
that all of nature has 'intrinsic value,' as it is implied in the U.N.
World Charter for Nature of 1982. I call this line of argument 'the
prescription of a real‚ moral limit.' In contrast, consequentialists would
argue that no method is intrinsically wrong, morally speaking. What really
matters is the harm that may result and such harm should be forecasted
with risk assessment methodology.
Very broad categories of goods and harm may be considered within this
approach. As a result, risks assessment may have to be conducted not just
with human health and the economy in mind but also to assess
environmental, aesthetic, social, and political change. Still, what
matters is the risk of harm – all decisions are contingent on the
prediction and consideration of risk. This line of argument does not
support the view that a research project is intrinsically immoral. The
differentiation between non-consequentialists and consequentialists
suitably characterizes two extreme approaches to the evaluation of a new
technology. In practice, however, advocates and opponents of modern
biotechnology often combine consequentialist and non-consequentialist
For example, Greenpeace slogan 'no genetic manipulation of nature' (on
their website) appears to describe a moral limit. In reality, however,
Greenpeace debates the issue using science and (consequentialist) risk
language. Greenpeace is not alone. In the public debate, all opponents
are pressed to provide a whole list of arguments that often have the
structure (1) genetic engineering is fundamentally wrong and (2) the risks
are too high. This poses the question: Why do we need to add a risk
argument after stating the moral argument? The absolutist,
non-consequentialist moral prescription would trump the contingent risk
argument in any case - even if the balance of benefits and risk would call
for the use of biotechnology on consequentialist moral grounds, as the
industry keeps arguing.
Perhaps the moral language is just a metaphor to strongly suggest a
conclusion reached on the basis of (consequentialist) risk. I would call
this position 'the prescription of a metaphorical moral limit.' The
problem with this approach is that it lacks clarity. Is a metaphorical
moral limit specified to illustrate that the consequences are thought to
be so severe that only an absolute prohibition will do? Or, is risk
language used to convince science-minded individuals who may not be
inclined to accept the true reason, the real moral limit specified first?
Lack of clarity on this point fuels the rhetoric in the debate.
It is perhaps helpful here to consider an ethical prescription of the
second order - a prescription for the way ethical prescriptions should be
used in this debate. I believe it is, in principle, defensible to argue
for the prohibition of a technological method on moral grounds, based on
an extension of the moral limits that we are already using (e.g., an
extension from a human-centered to a non-human centered approach). I also
note in this context that religious freedom is a human right.
I further believe it is defensible to closely scrutinize the control
structure over vital resources, such as food, and to closely scrutinize
the conditions for release of persistent products that are hard to trace
or manage, and where it is difficult to assign liabilities. However, I do
not believe it to be defensible to say 'prohibition' when the primary goal
is 'tight regulation,' or to argue 'tight regulation' when one really
wants 'prohibition.' Similarly, if the primary goal is profit, then one
should not reduce one's argument to 'we have to feed the world.' In a
nutshell, a second-order viewpoint of the ethical debate leads to a
straightforward prescription. If we want fairness, respect and progress in
this debate, then we all have to be straight with each other.
Review of PBS Harvest of Fear
On Tuesday, April 24th, PBS featured a Nova/Frontline special presentation
on genetically engineered foods called Harvest of Fear.
This two-hour documentary was the most in-depth coverage the issue of
genetically engineered foods has ever received in the United States. The
show attempted to present both sides of the controversy over genetically
From our point of view, the biggest objection to the show may have been
the portrayal of anti-genetic engineering activists as somehow causing
people in Africa to starve because of a lack of genetically engineered
Harvest of Fear explained that there are three types of farming: 1)
Chemical Farming 2) Biotech Farming (genetic engineering) 3) Organic
Organic farming is the type of farming that has always been done in
Africa. Harvest of Fear stated that organic farming simply is not
producing enough food to feed everyone in Africa. The show failed to
mention that the type of organic farming practiced in Africa is rather
primitive. There is little irrigation in many parts of Africa and they
often lack the scientific knowledge that can be applied to organic farming
to increase production.
Harvest of Fear implied that organic farming will not feed the world's
growing population and that genetic engineering holds the only answer to
world hunger. Before proceeding further, it may be a good idea to review
the alarming facts about world population.
It took from the beginning of time until the year 1800 to put
approximately 1 billion people on the planet. It took until around 1920 to
put 2 billion on the planet. In 1960 we hit the 3 billion mark, 4 billion
in 1973, and 5 billion in 1986. We have 6,144,575,383 people on Earth as
of 05:49 EDT May 01, 2001. http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/
In other words, it took thousands of years to put one billion people on
the planet, 120 years for the second billion, 40 years to put the third
billion, 13 years for the fourth, 13 years for the fifth, and 13 for the
sixth. The projection is for this rate of growth to slow slightly in the
new millennium. But, by the year 2050 we will have well over 9 billion
people on planet earth.
Those statistics are startling. Population is a major issue and feeding
all these hungry people will be a great challenge in the coming years. But
there are other answers that are a lot safer and more logical than
genetically engineering our foods.
The show failed to mention safe high-tech methods of growing food such as
hydroponic gardens using organic methods of pest control. The development
of multi-acre hydroponic gardens using sea vegetation for fertilizer
offers the potential to grow enormous amounts of food in a limited amount
Naturally, hydroponic gardens can be done on a much smaller scale. Home
hydroponic gardens are likely to become quite popular in the coming
decades. Using modern computer technology to control the water cycles,
hydroponic gardening is a technology that should be developed to its full
One of the biggest problems that hydroponic gardening currently faces is
that there is not much research and development money being spent on it by
large agricultural companies. Why not? Because it does not offer the
enormous profit potential that genetic engineering does. Using hydroponic
gardening to grow food is kind of like using nutrition to treat cancer -
there isn't a lot of money to be made in that approach. The big money is
in drugs to treat cancer and genetic engineering to grow foods. Great
profits can be obtained by owning the patent rights to drugs and biotech
crops. It is interesting to note that a lot of the same companies involved
in drug manufacturing are deeply involved in agricultural biotechnology.
Harvest of Fear also failed to mention that 70-80% of the grains and
legumes grown in America are fed to farm animals. If Americans ate more of
the grains and legumes ourselves and reduced our consumption of meat, it
would free up enormous amounts of grain that could be used to help feed
starving people in other third world countries. (It would probably also
reduce the amount of heart disease and cancer in our country since these
diseases have been linked to a diet too high in saturated fats and
cholesterol which are found abundantly in most meats.)
Harvest of Fear did a fairly good job of explaining why genetically
engineered foods are an assault on organic agriculture. In particular, it
explained why the Bt corn and Bt cotton crops could undermine the organic
farmers use of Bt as a spray by overexposing insects to the genetically
engineered Bt crops. Harvest of Fear failed to mention rBGH, otherwise
known as genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. The United States
is the only industrialized nation in the world injecting dairy cows with
rBGH to increase milk production.
Genetically engineered bovine growth hormone has been shown to increase
levels of IGF-1, otherwise known as Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1.
Increased levels of IGF-1 have been shown to increase risk of both
prostate and breast cancer. Harvest of Fear neglected to mention
"terminator seed" technology. Nor did it go into detail about the
potential of superweeds being created by the accidental crossbreeding of
genetically engineered soy and canola plants with weeds.
In spite of these shortcomings, we still recommend that as many people as
possible watch Harvest of Fear or read the text of the show. It contains
lots of good information. Even the parts we disagree with are worth
reviewing so you can better understand the point of view of the
pro-biotech people. The text of the show will be posted later this week
and we will add a link here as soon as it is available.
(comments from CSP: Critics of biotech have been glorifying traditional
farming systems; now they say it is "primitive". Further, while promoting
organic farms, they now propose hydroponic system (which is as close to a
chemical farm as you can get)! Of course, despite the lack of any
published or scientific evidence, scare mongering of 'cancer' from IGF-1
in milk continues........See below a letter sent to J National Cancer
Institute by Dr. Collier and Dr. Dale Bauman of Cornell, a recognized
international expert on rBGH and a pioneer in this field
Regarding the Role of the Insulin-Like Growth Factors in Cancer
Development and Progression
Robert J. Collier, University of Arizona and Dale E. Bauman, Cornell
We write to correct several misrepresentations and serious factual errors
in the Correspondence by Samuel E. Epstein (1). Among these are the
statements that “the nation’s milk supply has been contaminated with
excess IGF levels;” “IGF…is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal
tract, and has growth promoting effects;” and “confirmation of these
concerns by an international expert committee prompted the January 2000
European ban on the marketing and sale of rBGH milk.”
The insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I content of milk from cattle treated
with bovine somatotropin (rBST or rBGH) has been extensively reviewed by
the United States Food and Drug Administration (2), the European Union
(3), and the World Health Organization (WHO) (4). Comparisons of marketed
milk indicate there are no differences in the IGF-I concentrations between
milk certified as derived from cows not treated with rBST as compared to
milk derived from cows receiving rBST (4). There is thus no evidence that
milk marketed from herds treated with rBST has “excess IGF levels.” In
addition, studies investigating the biological activity of orally
delivered IGF-I have uniformly demonstrated no change in serum IGF-I
concentrations, even at oral doses greatly exceeding physiological levels
of IGF-I present in the digestive tract (5,6). Furthermore, the Joint
Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the United Nations Food and
Agricultural Organization (FAO), concluded that “any increase in the
concentration of IGF-I in milk from rbST-treated cows is orders of
magnitude lower than the physiological amounts produced in the
gastrointestinal tract and in other parts of the body (4)”.
Finally, the European Union decision not to approve rBST for sale in
member countries was based not on human health concerns but rather on
animal issues (7). Milk and milk products from cattle treated with rBST
are recognized as safe and may be marketed in European Union member
(1) Epstein SS. Re: Role of the insulin-like growth factors in cancer
development and progression. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001;93:238. (2) Food and
Drug Administration. Update on BST. FDA Veterinarian Newsletter 1996. Vol.
XI. No. III. pp. 1-21. (3) Haligaard P, Gaspard I, Avraam D. No need for
maximum residue limit for risk-free BST, says commission. Informacion A La
Prensa 1999. 954 (4) Ungemach FR, Weber NE. Forty-first report of the
Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Evaluation of Certain
Veterinary Drug Residues in Food. Recombinant bovine somatotropins
(addendum). Rome. February 1998. (5) Burrin, DG, Wester TJ, Davis TA,
Amick S, Heath JP. Orally administered IGF-I increases intestinal mucosal
growth in formula-fed neonatal pigs. Am J Physiol 1996;270:R1085. (6)
Burrin DG, Fiorotto ML, Hadsell DL. Transgenic hypersecretion of human
insulin-like growth factor I in mouse milk has limited effects on the
gastrointestinal tract in suckling pups. J Nutr 1999:129:51. Council
Decision of 17 December 1999. Concerning the placing on the market and
administration of bovine somatotropin (BST) and repealing Decision
90/218/EC. Official Journal of the European Communities. 1999/879/EC --
Animal research: a scientist's defence (Excerpts)
- Stuart Derbyshire 28 March 2001
- Animal research has played a major part in the development of medicine,
and will continue to do so. - Yet scientists are becoming increasingly
apologetic about their work. - Regulations brought in to protect animals'
welfare are hindering vital research. - There is no 'middle ground'
between animal research and a broader concern with animal welfare. -
Scientists who research with animals have made a moral choice - to put
human life first. They should mount a robust defence of their work.
Animal research has been an integral part of the development of modern
medicine, has saved an incalculable number of lives, and prevents
tremendous human suffering. Yet it continues to be an issue of major
political controversy: most recently, in the UK, over the protests
surrounding the Cambridgeshire-based company Huntington Life Sciences
(HLS) (1). But where are the scientists in this debate? A strong case for
more animal research could easily be made. Yet scientists appear
increasingly apologetic about their actions. I would argue that scientists
have made a series of disastrous tactical errors in dealing with the
animal rights movement, and they continue to do so. Most of the errors
have to do with trying to accommodate to the animal rights movement, or to
reason with it and make compromises.
Scientists on the defensive: The most widespread accommodation is the
adoption of 'the three Rs', first proposed in 1959 following a report for
the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) (2). The three Rs
are 'refinement', 'reduction' and 'replacement'. Scientists pledge to
refine their techniques so as to induce the minimum amount of suffering;
reduce the number of animals used; and replace animals with other
techniques wherever possible. At first blush the three Rs appear
reasonable, if somewhat patronising. All animal experimenters know to
reduce the amount of stress an animal is subjected to (refinement) so as
to not hinder discovery - a stressed animal will be less likely to behave
or respond normally. Equally, all researchers will naturally tend to use
fewer or less-costly animals or techniques (reduction and replacement) so
as to get quicker results for fewer resources.
Patronising or not, the three Rs were not developed from the perspective
of good scientific practice. They were developed from the perspective of
animal welfare. This makes the three Rs disastrous, reinforcing a lowlife
opinion of animal researchers and encouraging the notion that animal
experiments are problematic. Once the 'perspective' of the animal is
adopted it is inevitable that all experimentation will be seen negatively,
as no animal experiments are in the interests of the animal. Adoption of
the three Rs comes across as a confession of guilt. The impression is that
research animals are a 'necessary evil', when in fact they are necessary,
period. The defensiveness of scientists indicates that we have lost the
collective nerve to make our case. Scientists have retreated from the
public platform, preferring to keep their laboratory doors closed and
their research techniques a secret. Experiments are performed under
conditions of security matched only at military institutions.
When scientists are occasionally forced into the spotlight of debate, they
speak in euphemism to hide the unpleasant details of their work. One
example is the way medical researchers talk about animals' deaths. Animals
may be 'sacrificed' or 'euthanised', but never 'killed'. This strategy is
painfully shortsighted because it insulates the public from the realities
of science, and hands animal activists an easy propaganda weapon. The
activists show the reality - gruesome pictures and films of animals in
their death throes - and in the process highlight that biomedical science
is covering up, hiding a gruesome scene, implying shame of their own
activities. The concessions to animal rights, made by the adoption of the
three Rs and the shroud of secrecy covering animal research, belittle the
history of the medical breakthroughs made possible by such research.
Worse, these concessions limit the potential for further research and
ultimately make the principle of continuing animal research impossible to
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It makes no sense for animal researchers to engage in a discussion of
animal welfare beyond ensuring that the animals will be properly housed,
fed and exercised, and that they will be generally physically and
behaviorally nourished as much as possible to benefit their performance as
an experimental subject. The idea that we should - or even can - be any
more concerned about their welfare stretches credibility. Giving animals
AIDS and other diseases, carrying out experimental surgeries and infusing
untested drugs hardly sound like procedures aimed at protecting the
animals' welfare. Mistreating animals is unacceptable because it ruins
experiments - but any further concern for the animals' wellbeing is beside
Animal researchers and their advocates cannot have it both ways. Professed
concern for the welfare of laboratory animals is simply inconsistent with
the reality of laboratory experiments that almost invariably result in
distress and death for the animal. The fact is that medical research is
not concerned with the welfare of animals, and nor should it be. The aim
of medical research is to get answers about diseases and problems that
afflict humanity. Taking a course that retards that progress is an affront
to humanity in general and a particularly acute blow to those individuals
whose very lives depend on that progress. Defending the welfare of animals
means placing the life of a mouse, rat, cat, dog, monkey or whatever above
that of the seriously ill.
Those of us who research with animals, or support the benefits of such
work, have made a moral choice. We place human wellbeing and health above
that of animals and we unequivocally believe that human life comes first.
We must be willing to come out of our high-security research bunkers, stop
hiding behind euphemisms and niceties, forgo attempts to make peace with
our detractors, and stand by our decision. - Stuart Derbyshire is an
assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.
Dr. Johan Brink Joins the ABSP Team
It is with great pleasure that I inform you that Dr. Johan Brink has
accepted the position of Co-Director of the Agricultural Biotechnology
Support Project (ABSP). Dr. Brink was hired after an extensive
international search. Presently the Assistant Director of Biotechnology at
the Agriculture Research Council's Vegetable and Ornamental Plant
Institute in South Africa, Johan brings a wealth of technical and
management experience to the project. Johan's background in horticulture,
and his commitment to international development, will add immeasurably to
the ABSP's reputation as a premier program in international agricultural
Johan will begin his position on June 1, 2001. At the end of June, I will
reduce my effort as Director of the ABSP to approximately 50% for the
period of July 1, 2001 June 30, 2002. I will also be re-locating to Boston
at the end of June 2001, due to personal commitments. However, I will
still be working closely with Johan and the rest of the ABSP team to
ensure a smooth transition period. Johan will become Director of the ABSP
upon my termination of employment with MSU. He will have the primary daily
management responsibilities for the project, and will provide leadership
to future efforts in international biotechnology projects.
USAID is committed to continuing support for agricultural biotechnology,
and I believe that resources will increase for this type of activity from
a number of sources within the Agency. I believe that, with Johan's
leadership, MSU's long-standing commitment to international development,
and the continued dedication of our partners in the US and abroad, the
ABSP will continue to be regarded as THE premier agricultural
biotechnology assistance program.
Please join with me in welcoming Johan to the ABSP.
Catherine L. Ives Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project