To our readers
(Published April 22, 2001)
Today, on the 31st anniversary of Earth Day, the environmental movement
is at a crossroads. No one can deny its many successes in preserving
precious natural resources, but they have come with a price. In fact, some
say the environmental movement is fighting for its very soul.
In this five-part series, Tom Knudson, The Bee's Pulitzer Prize-winning
environmental reporter, examines the high-powered fund raising, the
litigation and the public relations machine that has come to characterize
much of the movement today. His stories are based on exhaustive research
conducted over 16 months with travel to 12 states and northern Mexico. And
what he has found is that the movement established, in part, to combat the
influence of the powerful has itself become big business.
-- Rick Rodriguez Executive Editor
Sunday, April 22: Price of power A century after John Muir served as the
Sierra Club's first president, environmental groups have successfully
traded on his legacy, becoming bigger and richer than ever before. But in
their quest for power and money, have they cashed in their tradition?
Monday, April 23: Cause or commerce? When you give $20 to an
environmental organization, you expect it to go toward protecting the
environment. But creative accounting hides the myriad ways groups can fold
a hefty chunk of that donation back into their fund raising and
Tuesday, April 24: Strongest suit Suing the government has long been one
of the environmental movement's most important tools. But today, the
targets and proliferation of environmental lawsuits are yielding an
uncertain bounty for the land.
Wednesday, April 25: Apocalypse now Scientists say Western forests are
gigantic tinderboxes inviting disaster, badly in need of thinning. But
many environmental organizations are ignoring -- and sometimes
manipulating -- that message.
Thursday, April 26: Hope, not hype A new kind of conservation is
blossoming at the grass roots that focuses on results, not rhetoric. Its
goals include buying, protecting and restoring land, and making commerce
and conservation work together -- without crying wolf.
Philanthropic Report Card for Greenpeace and Other Organizations
Date: 8 May 2001 14:50:04 -0000
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Backyard Biotech;
Dear folks, one more comment on "Backyard Biotech" (posting 5 May
As a fanatic gardener I find the idea very pleasing and an attractive
mean to spread the good news. If there is a problem with commercial
development, is there a problem with a lab doing it on his own and
sending the seeds to interested individuals? Are there any laws that
would oppose that? This would mean no commercial enterprise, no tax, no
applications to EPA or whatever. In Italy (thanks be given to our big
green minister) one could be fine up to 100,000 $ just for planting
transgenic seeds (and some months inprisonment I suspect), so I am not yet
ready for financial collapse, but may be in other more developed countries
that could not be a problem.
Once that the good news spread (hey, this stuff grows gorgeously and
insects do not damage it) it will be more difficult to convince the
people of the contrary.
Date: 8 May 2001 14:00:35 -0000
Subject: Home grown
The comment about regulation on growing GMP in people gardens. Are the
regulations different for non-commercial applications from
In the UK at least there are occasions that it would be illegal for
companies to do things but not for individuals to do the same. It might
rely on the wording of the law as opposed to the spirit of it
but it is a possibility.
Date: May 08 2001 02:36:22 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Food Fight
Colleagues, the latest news signals a giant rift in US food production:
the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has asked the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to require that there be a test to detect a new GM
product before it is released to farmers. Sure, that seems like a
reasonable request, but the fact that the food industry is pushing the
notion once again shows that the industry doesn't care a whit for farmers
or seed companies or the environment. The food companies just take inputs
and add a margin of profit.
Activists are on the verge of achieving the goal they have sought for
years: driving a wedge between food companies and farmers. In answer to
this development, Monsanto managed to dredge up a response to this
development, saying that a requirement like the GMA suggests might be
relevant for export markets.
With this development, where the US food industry demands the tools to
kill new biotech products, the biotech industry faces an absolute crisis.
Monsanto offered a weak reply.
BIO and the CBI are silent. So is ASTA. Perhaps, with their profitable
sinecures, they don't feel like working for a living. When things get bad
enough, though, they might dig in and do some work. Who knows?
Sub: Follow up on L- Tryptophan
From: Tom DeGregori
Thank you for your very rapid and informative response. In a previous
posting I noted that the FDA had been trying to gain oversight over
trytophan and other amino acids that were grandfathered in as GRAS in
the Delaney Amendment of 1958. Both by successful lawsuit and then
by legislation (in both circa 1974 and circa 1994), the industry
successfully was able to exempt themselves from any FDA regulation or
oversight. They have nobody else to blame but themselves and it is
hypocritical to keep blaming the genetically modified bacterium.
Somewhere in my files, I have the circa 1996 FDA report which I
believe includes the items noted by you below. As I recall, it was
done jointly with the Mayo Clinic and the Departments of Public
Health of Oregon, Minnesota and New Mexico.
At 03:10 PM 5/7/01 -0500, Bruce Chassy wrote:
I read your post on AgBioview just now and like you don't have time
to spell out a lot of details or provide much evidence which is why
this isn't being posted. I just wanted to offer some other thoughts
and observations about L-tryptophan.
1. EMS appeared before Showa Denko tryptophan made by the new
process hit the market. Think about that statement.
2. EMS was observed in subjects who did not consume S-D tryptophan,
albeit at a lower rate--although some epidemiologists claim that S-D
had 80% of the market and 80% of the cases. And what should we
conclude from this?
3. there are some toxicologists who aren't convinced that peak E has
anything whatever to do with EMB-- the cause and effect hasn't been
proven. It remains inferential at best. The correlation with
tryptophan consumption is probably better--but that isn't even proven.
4. There is a publication that shows that Peak E can be produced
non-enzymatically (abiotically if you prefer) on the purification
column used to purify tryptophan from fermentation broths. That is
to say, if you get the pH wrong during purification of any kind of
tryptophan from any source, you make peak E.
5. The stated reason the FDA is after 5-HT and tryptophan and the
real reasons may be quite different. There are those that believe
that EMS is caused by high doses of tryptophan per se. What was new
in 1980 wasn't only peak E, it was that 10s of thousands of Americans
were eating humongous quantities of tryptophan for the first time.
Could it be that in the pressure to have an answer, FDA leaped
prematurely on peak E and now can't let go? And now they realize
that tryptophan, its analogs like 5-HT OR peak E may be the
culprit(s) so they want consumption of all of them to be curtailed.
And, a final note of irony. How can people who don't want
"chemicals" put in their food by the food industry, who won't eat
biotech foods, who eat organic to be safer, --how can they consume
unnatural quantities of a largely untested and potentially highly
bioreactive purified concentrated chemical like tryptophan? Am I
missing some logic here?
Bruce M. Chassy
Assistant Dean for Biotechnology Outreach, Office of Research
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
and Executive Associate Director, Biotechnology Center
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Date: 7 May 2001 20:17:15 -0000
Subject: re: L-tryptophan
I received the following note from Luke Anderson at the same time that I
received the AgBioView posting of our previous exchange:
thank you very much for your reply to my email, your comments were very
helpful. When I have time I'll reply properly. With regards to your
P.S. I find nothing in the Raphals news report to justify your
statement - Although some contaminants have been discovered, albeit at
much lower concentrations, one of the toxins (Peak E-also called Peak 97
and EBT) has never been found in brands produced with non-GE bacteria -
for which you cite him as the source.
I'm embarrassed to say that the book actually has the wrong reference
for that statement, and I'll email you the correct one as soon as I've
searched it out.
Date: Tue, 08 May 2001 09:12:23 +0100
From: Meredith Lloyd Evans - BioBridge
Please see following the text of a letter sent to a number of daily and
Sunday papers ref the soon-to-start trial of GM maize. I read the article
in the Independent on Sunday, by Geoffrey Lean.
It was reported over the weekend that a trial of GM maize is to begin
within two miles of the Ryton organic seed bank, part of the Henry
Doubleday Research Association. While it is possible to appreciate the
concern that there might be a risk of pollen transfer, the problem is
caused not by any inherent nastiness of GM maize but by the 'racial
purity' attitude of the organic movement that amounts to agricultural
apartheid, based more on faith and deep-seated belief than on agricultural
reality. The so-called 'foreign' genes in GM maize come from bacteria that
are natural organisms in the wild anyway, indeed organic farmers are
allowed to spray plants with the bacteria containing the pesticide gene.
If the maize at the Ryton site needs to be protected, the answer is to get
Aventis to pay for it to be housed and grown on a protected site
elsewhere, then returned when all the fuss is over. That way, both
objectives could be achieved - protected organic maize seed and more
information on behaviour of GM maize under real conditions.
Mr Meredith Lloyd-Evans, Managing Partner Arcadia International eeig; 45
St Barnabas Road, Cambridge CB1 2BX tel +44 1223 566850, fax +44 1223
Whether this is published or not remains to be seen.
Note from Prakash:
Despite the nice name, 'Meredith' is a He and not a She. Andrew, please
Anti-globalisation denunciation overdone
The Canberra Times
May 3, 2001
By IAN CASTLES
GEOFF DAVIES berates your journalists for failing to report information
about the damage that he attributes to 'globalisation' (Letters, April
28). He repeats a series of statements made by Vandana Shiva of India in
her BBC Reith Lecture in May 2000, and cites a website on which the
lecture is reproduced.
Regrettably, Shiva's denunciation of the supposed effects of globalisation
is supported neither by evidence nor any understanding of the need for
Wild claims that 'Research done by FAO has shown that small biodiverse
farms can produce thousands of times more food than large, industrial
monocultures', or that 'People are being perceived as parasites, to be
exterminated for the health of the global economy' reveal more about their
author than their subject.
Economist David Henderson (Reith lecturer 1985) argues that Shiva's
lecture 'probably represents the lowest level that the Reith lectures have
fallen to during their 50 years of existence'. And her compatriot C. S.
Prakash, Ph.D (ANU), an agricultural geneticist whose Declaration in
Support of Agricultural Biotechnology has received endorsements from 3000
scientists, wrote that he was 'sickened' by the lecture.
If India had stuck to traditional methods since the 1960s, Prakash
believes that it would now be seeing 'millions of deaths from starvation
every year and it would have ploughed all wild land'.
Key outcomes of scholarly research into the complex issues of
globalisation and poverty are well represented on Prakash's website
(www.agbioworld.org) and in the contributions of David Henderson and ANU
demographer John Caldwell to the Academy of the Social Sciences Occasional
Paper 1/2000 (on www.assa.edu.au/occpap.html).
IAN CASTLES, Vice president, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
Biotechnology: An Essay On The Academy, Cultural Attitudes And Public
Drew L. Kershen
University of Oklahoma
Biotechnology is the latest historical example of a scientific discipline
creating enormous cultural, social, and public policy controversies. By
comparing biotechnology to these past controversies, and by comparing
biotechnology to present-day computer technology, Professor Kershen argues
that acceptance or rejection of biotechnology will ultimately occur as a
result of ideological and political beliefs and pressures. He argues that
the debate about biotechnology will not be resolved primarily based on
expanded knowledge and understanding of biotechnology as a science.
UN Explores Ethical Issues of Bioengineered Organisms
Environment News Service
May 7, 2001
ROME, Italy, May 7, 2001 (ENS) - Genetically modified organisms such as
foods and vaccines are not inherently good or bad, but can be used for
good or ill, says Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO).
"The benefits deriving from genetically modified organisms should be
shared more fairly with developing countries and with resource poor
farmers. Above all, ways must be found to guarantee that increased
production benefits accrue to the poor and food insecure," he said.
Biotechnology Role In Food Security Cited
Business World (Philippines)
May 7, 2001
DAVAO CITY - Biotechnology is the key to food security, the country's
former science and technology secretary said over the weekend. William
Padolina, former secretary of the Department of Science and Technology
currently serving as deputy director of the International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI), said politicians should admit that biotechnology is the
most practical way of addressing the growing demand for food.
IRRI is a pioneer in plant genetics research and is chiefly responsible
for developing the so-called miracle rice varieties in the 1960s and '70s.
Dr. Padolina was in this city last weekend as guest speaker in the
Consultation-Dialogue on Possible Direction of Biotechnology Research and
Development in Mindanao.
During the last few years, Mindanao has been used as site for experiments
for genetically altered plant species, specifically for grains and
Multinational companies have been testing several new species of corn in
South Cotabato. These tests have resulted in debates between local
executives and environmental groups.
But in his speech here, Dr. Padolina said a long-term food security
program should have a biotechnology component since food crop importation
is just a "short-term" solution. For decades, the country has been a
perennial importer of "political commodities" namely rice, corn and sugar.
"At the end of the day, when there will be no longer any fish to import,
rice to import (and) by the time you decide on biotechnology, you already
have a social volcano," he said.
Dr. Padolina also advised researchers to keep watch on proposed policies
filed in the Senate, considering "field-testing" of biotechnology
organisms as a crime. "How will you expect people to take a career in
science if politicians consider research a crime?" he asked.
He noted that biotechnology has become a political issue due to the wave
of environmentalism in the '90s but he said imposing stiff sanction
against scientists specifically those engaged in field-testing new
technologies only puts Filipino scientists and researchers at a loss.
But there is a need for wider dissemination of information on
biotechnology for the public to understand its role in medium-and
long-term economic development.
I hope you all haven't made your summer vacation plans yet...CSP :)
From: Milton Takei
To: Ecopolitics Discussion List
Sent: 5/5/01 5:03 PM
Subject: Student activist training course
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Farmers lobbied at GM trial sites
May 7, 2001
Organic farmers and others opposed to genetically modified crops have been
staging demonstrations at Wales's three trial sites.
More than 100 people - many driving tractors or riding bicycles - staged a
slow drive around the two fields at the proposed site in Mathry,
Pembrokeshire, west Wales, which have been ploughed ready for planting.
Some were dressed as the 19th century Rebecca Rioters - complete with
Welsh costume with blackened faces - to show their concern for what they
described as a social injustice.
The land is owned by former Conservative MP Tony Marlow, who has listened
to their worries, but remains determined to continue with the trials.
Protester Tom Latter said: "It was a very peaceful demonstration that
showed the strength of feeling in the area."
The demonstrators are now proposing to take legal action in a bid to stop
the crops being planted, and have been staging fundraising events to pay
for a barrister.
Plaid Cymru MEP Eurig Wyn has said he may raise the issue of trials in the
Petitions Committee of the European Parliament.
He said: "I share the concern of many other people at the non-democratic
nature of this imposition on the people of Pembrokeshire of trials to
which so many people are opposed.
"Many other matters of this nature have been the subject of appeals to the
committee in the past and I shall certainly make every effort to represent
the people of Pembrokeshire if it is their wish to proceed."
Meanwhile, at Sealand in Flintshire, a protest meeting was held at the
land where farmer John Cottle planted GM maize seed on Saturday.
Between 30 and 40 placard-waving villagers staged a peaceful protest
outside Birchenfield Farm.
They had the chance to put their points to farmer John Cottle, but they
failed to persuade him to change his mind.
He was standing firm on his belief that the trials were necessary and
would prove harmless.