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April 5, 2000


Greenpeace comments


- http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

I was quite impressed with Benedikt Haerlin's presentations at the Agbiotech 99 conference held November 14-16 in London. In particular, I believe he said that Greenpeace's concerns were expressly not about food safety but specifically about the environmental risks of intentional release of gene-spliced crops released into the environment. I also believe he emphasized that he was ultimately responsible for Greenpeace's worldwide messages on biotech & food.

In the US we have an expectation that claims made on food labels must be both truthful and not misleading. The double-pronged policy means the writer of the claim is not only responsible for what the label may imply, but also for what a reader might reasonably infer from the label.

But Greenpeace's recent transmogrification of Tony the Tiger and their accompanying slogans would lead many a reasonable reader to conclude that cornflakes from Bt corn are unsafe. Since cornflakes are rarely an environmental threat, one can only reasonably infer that the cornflakes are unsafe to eat.

How interesting that transgenesis transmogrifies cartoons but not corn.

In this debate we all must choose between offering incite or insight to the public. So in addition to smarter science and smarter scientists, all sides could always use smarter claims and smarter claim-writers.

Thomas M. Zinnen, PhD
BioTrek: A Science Outreach Program
of The Biotechnology Center &
of The Environmental Health Sciences Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension
425 Henry Mall
Madison, WI 53706
zinnen@macc.wisc.edu, www.biotech.wisc.edu
608/265-2420, fax 608/262-6748
Tollfree 1-877-BioTrek (1-877-246-8735)

On Friday, March 31, 2000, BYRNEJAY@aol.com wrote:
AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

Here is the relevant quote:

"Mr. Haerlin of the Greenpeace campaign made a strongly worded speech at
conference here. To an audience of scientists, he said that many scientists
were liars and that "smarter science and smarter scientists" were needed to
improve organic farming.

He was criticized by an African official of the United Nations Food and
Agricultural Organization, who said, "Organic farming is practiced by 800
million poor people in the world because they can't afford pesticides and
fertilizers -- and it's not working."

In remarks to reporters afterward, Mr. Haerlin dismissed the importance of
saving African or Asian lives at the risk of spreading a new science that he
considered untested. The Greenpeace position, he said, was that research
could continue as long as no seeds or animals were ever released."