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May 16, 2001


Stone Age Fanatics?; Tony Blair; Label 'em All; Codex Plea;


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Source Fanatics

- From: a0felan3@hotmail.com

We seem now to be in the grip of folk, more occupied with the source, that
is to say, GM, Commercial farming, or Organic, than the safety of food and
agricultural products. These must be defined as source fanatics . I feel
sure that each of the three sources have their fanatics but to date I have
had viruses sent to my post address every time I have dared to mention any
risk involved with ORGANIC FOOD! and from what I can gather from others
this is pretty normal practice. For love or money, no one is allowed to
say that organic is not synonymous with safe. One wonders why?

One wonders why the slightest hint of a chance of a speculation about
safety in GM or Commercial farming products etc. is taken as gospel whilst
reasonable doubts about certain aspects of Organic products is greeted
with , must be proved by scientific peers, or your trying to damage the
organic food movement. What I do know is that in my lifetime organic milk
had killed more people by infecting them with TB than any other commercial
product has done to date, and that it was only by opposing pressures from
outside, that herds were tested and inoculated etc., milk became safe and
the slaughter of my co-evils ceased.

Perhaps it is therefore I demand safe food not pretty labels - Terry


Re: Organic-Industrial Complex; Sleight of Hand;....
- From: cs@csams.demon.co.uk

I find it deeply challenging to watch how Andrew Apel simply refuses to
get the point about organic food (or he is being incredibly humorous and I
don't get his joke). First he imagines the organic food industry as a
bunch of back-to-the-Stone Age fantasists who eschew all technology and
science and criticises it for being so backward, then he turns the tables
and blasts it for using good science as part of its offering. As his
points are remarkable for someone who claims to support good science I
would like to comment on them.

1. He says check out 'natural' vs 'synthetic' pyrethroids in an attempt so
suggest that organic farming is more toxic than conventional. Perhaps he
should check out the total use of pesticides and herbicides rather than
focusing on a single comparison. Even pyrethroids are rare in organic
farming (not used at all in the UK) and their use requires prior
permission from the certifying authority. Conventional farmers spray as a
matter of routine, consulting nobody. Far more copper sulphate is used,
pro rata to farm area, by non organic producers than is ever used by
organic ones and the organic producers have all agreed to phase it out by
2003. What will Andrew Apel say then about the wine producers and cacao
growers who will use it, along with synthetic fungicides, to combat the
fungal diseases that are so common when nitrogen fertilizers are used?

2. The organic industry has helped pioneer modern packaging techniques
that preserve food quality without using preservatives. It has also
supported the development of packaging that doesn't leach plasticisers
into food. Is that so terrible? It has also helped pioneer mycotoxin
testing techniques and there is no evidence that it has ever opposed
effective and science-based controls on mycotoxins. However, it would
conform to Andrew Apel's peculiar perspective on organics to assume that
they do.

3. He writes: "Wouldn't it be great to eat something made with
old-fashioned "organic" ground beef, guaranteed to possibly contain
all-natural E.coli?" We've been here before. All natural E.coli is pretty
harmless. It's the E.coli O147:H7 which is commonplace in non-organic
hamburgers from feedlot beef that is the problem. It has never been found
in organic beef, but there are hundreds of deaths and many more
disabilities every year from E.coli O147:H7 poisoning arising from the
intensive feedlot and large scale beef slaughtering procedures that
organic farming has consistently opposed. There is also no recorded
instance of organic bread being high in ergot (I suspect he is talking
about rye, not wheat, but there is still no scientific basis for his

4. The organic food industry is, in many ways, far more advanced in its
understanding of science and nature than the conventional. This is because
we are not dominated by a handful of agrichemical companies with a vested
interest in selling us their chemicals or seeds dependent on those
chemicals. We can look at the entire menu and choose the best dishes, not
eat what we're served. Organic producers and processors observe the
restrictions on use of dangerous materials, but also creatively apply
advanced understanding of the issues relating to soil fertility, food
quality, processing and packaging technology and nutritional science to
produce products. Everything we do is done to satisfy the demand of
educated and affluent consumers for foods that satisfy their high
expectations about the processes that bring food from the fields to their
mouths. The growth of the organic industry is rooted in the fact that
every year the demographic profile of the organic consumer is coming
closer to the age, education and income profile of the average consumer
and this is why the market is growing so rapidly and attracting investment
from major food companies and big retailers.

The organic industry does not rely on stock market hype or coercing
massive government support out of politicians who don't understand much
about science. We have got where we are under our own steam and this is
our deep underlying strength. The unfulfilled promises of biotech are
getting a bit embarassing. It's all about Golden Rice and what might be
because what has actually happened is notably unimpressive. No cure for
cancer, no increased yields, no significant reductions in herbicide use,
no crops that will grow in saline (i.e. dead from too much fertilizer use)
soil, just a catalogue of disasters and failures and repeated pleas to
Wall Street and Washington to give us more money so we don't get left
behind in the great technological boom that is just around the corner.

There's an old saying "If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?"
Nobody is making any real money out of biotechnology and it looks
unlikely, to this sceptic, that anyone ever will. Investment managers who
don't understand the science have swallowed the hype and have poured
people's savings into biotech, but no returns have materialised.
Governments may support biotech, but since when were they the experts on
food production? The history of their involvement in farming is just a
list of disasters, most of which would have been avoided if they'd stayed
out of it in the first place and not introduced market-distorting
subsidies that encourage overproduction and over intensificiation. The US
should declare its highly compromising conflict of interest, as owner of
the Terminator gene, whenever biotech issues are discussed at world trade
forums, and butt out of conversations about genetic engineering for as
long as it stands to gain most from the demolition of the growing market
for organic food and the forcing through of unlabelled GM food on an
unwilling world. And Andrew Apel should consider why biotechnology in food
production has been such a dud and stop trying to blame organic food, the
most successful event in modern food production, for his problems.

- Regards, Craig Sams, President, Whole Earth Foods Ltd, London, SE1 8QH,


Britain's Tony Blair remains GMO enthusiast

- Paul Brown, Europe Intelligence Wire via NewsEdge Corporation


One of the biggest failures of Tony Blair's first term was missing the
public mood on genetically modified food and crops. Quite simply,
following BSE, the public did not want their food mucked about with, and
when they thought about it, their countryside either.

Despite this unprecedented revolt by consumers, Tony Blair, while avoiding
mention of the issue at all, remains a GM enthusiast. The fact that during
his first term every supermarket chain has withdrawn genetically modified
foods from its shelves and gone to extensive lengths to insist suppliers
are GM free seems to have passed the prime minister by.
Currently there is no market in Britain for GM food and most chains are
also banning GM crops from animal feed. Even Coca Cola is saying it does
not want sugar from GM sugar beet in its drinks.
Despite all this, full scale trials of genetically modified crops are
under way, even though there is serious public opposition.

Even the food standards agency, one body set up to restore confidence in
British food, seems happy to endorse GM products on the basis that they
cannot find any danger to the public.
The only question still left in the government's mind is whether GM crops
might damage the environment, and that answer will not be known until
2003, even if the current trials do manage to produce a result. None of
this grapples with the central problem that there is no gain in the
technology for the consumer and only perceived threats.

Why they should be talking about it? GM as an issue is not going away.
Britain has a lot of expertise and money invested in the biotech industry,
and potentially a lot of jobs. The future of British farming, whether
organic agriculture has a future, and the shape of the countryside are all
tied up in the the debate. The perception that the prime minister is a
pushover for big business interests is partly tied up with his perceived
lack of interest in genuine public concerns about the consequences of
embracing this technology. So far multi-national companies controlling GM
patents appear to be the only winners from the GM revolution, at least as
far as the farmer and consumer are concerned. If politicians believe that
GM food and crops are the future they should be prepared to discuss the
issues with environment groups and allay public fears.

What could be done? The government claims the technology is safe but there
is no liability regime in place if anything goes wrong. GM companies
should be required to provide insurance to indemnify farmers against
successful claims from organic producers and beekeepers if they lose their
markets because of GM crops. Shops also need cover if genetically modified
foods cause allergies or other ailments. If, as some claim, GM crops and
organic farming cannot exist side by side in such a small country, then
the government should enter a genuine debate on which the public wants.


Poll Shows Broad But Limited Support For Labeling Of Bioengineered Foods:
Many people would reject foods labeled ?genetically engineered?

WASHINGTON - A new in-depth survey has found broad consumer support for
the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, but only a modest
percentage of respondents indicated a strong desire for such labeling. The
national poll also found that three out of ten consumers would perceive
GE-labeled foods to be less safe than conventional foods.

CSPI?s survey shows that many consumers would like labels to provide
information about how foods were produced. About-thirds (62%-70%) wanted
GE foods to be labeled. Even more people, 76%, wanted labeling of foods
made from crops sprayed with pesticides. The survey also found that 53% of
respondents wanted labels to disclose if farmers used practices that
caused soil erosion, and 40% wanted labels on foods that contained
cross-bred (hybrid) corn.

Although two-thirds of those polled supported labeling of GE foods, a
smaller percentage of those people feel strongly about such labeling. Half
the people who said they wanted GE labeling also said they would pay
nothing or just $10 per year for that labeling. (Segregating GE from
non-GE crops likely would increase costs.) Also, there was considerably
less support for labeling if only a minor ingredient in a food came from a
GE crop.

A small core of people strongly favored GE labeling. Seventeen percent
chose genetic engineering out of four possible choices as their top
priority for labeling. In contrast, 31% chose use of pesticides. About 12%
of those surveyed said they would pay $250 or more per year for labeling.

The CSPI survey found that labels stating ?GE? or ?non-GE? would influence
many consumers? perceptions and preferences. About 31% of consumers said
that products labeled GE were not as safe as non-GE foods. A similar
percentage said that foods labeled ?does not contain genetically
engineered ingredients? were better than unlabeled foods. Only about 10%
said that the GE-labeled product was safer or better. (33% to 42% said
that GE and non-GE foods were just as safe or good).

Perhaps most importantly, only about 40% of those polled said they would
buy foods made with engineered ingredients. But the poll also found that
only about the same percentage would buy foods with labels disclosing that
they contained cross-bred corn, which Americans have been eating for

When asked to choose between two otherwise identical foods but where one
is labeled that it contains and the other that it does not contain GE
ingredients, 52% of consumers said they would choose the non-GE food,
whereas only 7% would choose the GE labeled food (37% did not care which
food they bought).

Most scientists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agree that
currently marketed bioengineered foods are just as safe as other foods.
CSPI said that consumer concerns may reflect campaigns decrying
?Frankenfoods,? caution concerning unfamiliar new processes, and
industry?s failure to convince the public that its new technology is safe
and beneficial.

?While CSPI?s and previous polls show broad support for labeling of GE
foods, we have found that that support comes with a lot of caveats,? said
Greg Jaffe, co-director of CSPI?s project on biotechnology. ?That points
to the need to proceed with caution.

?Those of us who favor labeling of engineered foods will have to work hard
to design a system that will not only be accurate, but also
non-disparaging and value-free,? added Jaffe. ?Many consumers would
interpret GE food labels as casting doubt on the safety of foods even
though, to date, scientists have found no problems. A GE label should not
be seen as a black mark, especially when GE crops appear to be having such
environmental benefits as reduced use of chemical pesticides and likely
reduced soil erosion.?

?One important way to increase confidence in engineered foods,? said Doug
Gurian-Sherman, the other co-director of CSPI?s biotechnology project,
?would be for the FDA to establish an approval process to verify that
every engineered food is safe before it is marketed.?

CSPI will be submitting a report summarizing the survey results to the FDA
in response to its request for comments about the labeling of
bioengineered foods.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest?s (CSPI) poll of 1,017
nationally representative adults was conducted by Bruskin Research of
Edison, New Jersey. The results are accurate to within (+/-) 3%.


From: Patrick Moore
Subject: Re: Response to NGIN attack.

Please note I spelled Ingo Potrykus's name incorrectly as Igor in my
earlier response to NGIN. and I regret the error.


Avoiding A Misunderstanding In The Safety Of Biotechnology


To Whom It May Concern:
As you know, during the years since biotechnology derived crops were
commercially introduced in 1996, they have been the subject of much
controversy. Some nations chose to mandate special labeling of food
products that contain such ingredients. At the upcoming Codex meetings, it
is possible that some may even suggest that the Codex mandate special
labeling of food / feed products that contain such ingredients.

However, the truth is that biotechnology derived commodities have been
proven to be safer than traditional crop varieties; and requests for any
country?s feed ingredient supply to convert back to ?GMO free? are both
ill-advised and even potentially dangerous. In similar manner, experience
has shown that such ?GMO labeling? often causes consumers to avoid
products containing biotech ingredients?for no good reason.

As you can imagine, the 28,000 farmer members of my association feels
strongly that we cannot ignore the threat of such a step backward in
food/feed safety. Therefore, the American Soybean Association has written
the following paper to explain why any such mandatory ?GMO labeling? would
result in a decrease in food safety.

Sincerely, Steve Censky, CEO, American Soybean Association

'A Codex Standard Mandating GMO Labeling Of Food Products Containing
Genetically Modified Ingredients Would Decrease Global Food Safety'

In the years since biotechnology derived soybeans and some grains were
commercially introduced in 1996, they have been the subjects of
international controversy. Opponents have noted theoretical potential
drawbacks. The controversy has reached such a level that the CCFL (Codex
Committee on Food Labeling) of the Codex Alimentarius is examining a draft
standard calling for special labeling of food products containing biotech
commodities that the OECD has defined since 1991 to be substantially

This paper will attempt to summarize the known and likely future adverse
nutritional impacts that would result from such an ill-advised Codex
Biotechnology Crops Enhance Food Safety
An examination of current agricultural production practices reveals that
foods produced prior to the advent of the new biotechnology had
significant risk inherent in their creation and production.

According to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25%
of the worlds food grain crops are infested with mycotoxins each year, and
an annual loss of millions of tons of foodstuffs is a direct result. That
echoed a similar finding by Mannon and Johnson in 1985. 2 Mycotoxins are a
group of toxins (metabolites) naturally produced by certain fungi that can
infect some crop plants (primarily corn), and cause cancer in humans that
consume them. 2,3 Chief among those mycotoxins is aflatoxin B1, the most
potent cancer-causing agent known to mankind. Aflatoxin swiftly appears in
milk after a cow ingests it, so humans can consume aflatoxin in both milk
and grains. 4 According to a 1993 World Bank report entitled, INVESTING IN
HEALTH, approximately 40% of disability-adjusted life years (premature
death and disability) in developing countries are lost due to diseases
linked to mycotoxin consumption (e.g., liver cancer). 5

Biotechnology-derived Bt corn has been repeatedly shown to dramatically
reduce the production of mycotoxins in corn in the field. 6.7,8 Because
the primary vectors for carrying into corn plants the particular fungi
that produce aflatoxin and other relevant mycotoxins in corn are the very
insects (e.g., corn borer/Ostrinia nubilalis, Bt corn and other Bt crops
hold the potential to reduce or even eliminate mycotoxins in the food
supply. 7 According to the head of the World Health Organizations (Codex)
Food Safety Program, Bt corn (maize) which reduces insect damage and in
turn the amount of mycotoxins in food raw materials can have a direct
impact on the reduction of (the world populations) liver cancer. 9

According to a 1999 Iowa State University report, 26% of U.S. farmers who
planted biotech-derived Bt corn in 1998 reduced their chemical insecticide
use (versus traditional corn hybrids). 10 According to a researcher at
Englands University of Reading, herbicide/insecticide use in biotech
soybean and cotton production in North America was decreased by 20 and 80
percent, respectively. 11 The magazine of the agricultural chemical
manufacturers & dealers reported that in 1999, as a direct result of the
increase in planting of biotech crops, total world sales of agricultural
pesticides declined for the first time in decades. 12 Research also shows
that the insect control achieved via Bt corn is significantly better than
chemical insecticide control of those insects.

Similarly, the new biotech herbicide-resistant crops allow far more
effective control of weeds. 13 For example, several biotech canola
varieties now enable farmers to effectively control toxic weeds (e.g.,
wild mustard/Brassica juncea) that are closely related to the canola plant
(Brassica napus or Brassica campestris), for the first time. Prior to the
1996 introduction of herbicide-resistant canola in Canada, herbicides
utilized by Canadian farmers to try to control wild mustard also harmed
the closely-related canola plants and-- due to the presence of
naturally-occurring glucosinolate toxins in those wild mustard weed seeds,
Canadian law prohibits the sale of canola meal for even animal feed use,
if that canola meal contains any significant amount of those weed seeds. 14

The final item within the category of food safety enhancement via
biotechnology is that of biodegradable food packaging. To minimize the
adverse environmental impact of their products, food manufacturers are
increasingly trying to minimize the amount of packaging utilized to
protect their food products. 15 If taken too far, that environmental
driven reduction could compromise the food product safety currently
ensured by plastic packaging. Compostable (biodegradable)
soy-protein-based plastic packaging is being developed to solve both
concerns, and its food-safety performance will be enhanced by coming
biotechnology innovations. 15

A Codex Standard That Mandated Food GMO Labeling For Substantially
Equivalent Commodities Would Reduce Usage of Biotech Crops, And Thereby
Decrease Safety of the Food Supply While the coming value added biotech
crops (i.e., not substantially equivalent) should be labeled because they
will differ in composition or nutrition from conventional commodities,
mandatory labeling of substantially equivalent biotech crops has already
been shown to cause reduction in the consumption of current biotech crops
which are substantially equivalent (and safer than traditional, as
detailed above).

Ever since the E.U. enacted its mandatory food GMO labeling law, food
retailers and food product manufacturers have reduced their inclusion of
products containing the relevant (substantially equivalent) biotech
commodity ingredients. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22,23, 24, 25, 26, 27 For
example, Englands sixth-largest food retail chain (Iceland Plc) took out
all biotech soya fromits entire line of private brand foods. Group Danone
SA, Europes third- largest banished genetically modified ingredients from
all its products in Europe. Britains two largest food retailers, plus
McDonalds restaurant subsidiaries (in seven European countries) have
demanded that their poultry and pork suppliers guarantee that genetically
modified feed ingredients have not been used in theanimal feed used in
their own-brand meat production.

Similar dramatic reductions have occurred in Japan, since the Japanese
government first began debate/creation of Japans GMO labeling law (not
implemented yet). 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 For example, Japans largest maker of
soybean protein food products, plus Japans three largest beer brewers
publicly declared they would halt using any genetically modified

While it may be hoped that food manufacturer fears of putting a biotech
message on a foodstuff will subside, there is no evidence to date to give
one such hope . And as long as anti-biotech activists continue efforts to
raise fears among consumers about the safety of biotech crops, food
manufacturers are likely to continue to want to avoid biotech labeling
through reformulation of ingredients or by seeking out non-biotech
supplies. The perverse result, from a food safety standpoint, is that food
manufacturers and consumers will be driven to less safe options as a
result of a mandatory GMO labeling Codex standard. Such a result would
undermine Codexs goals to improve food safety.

Adoption of a mandatory biotech labeling standard not only likely would
drive manufacturers and consumers to less-safe alternatives, but it also
would increase consumer costs. Numerous studies show that segregating the
non-biotech commodities out of the (naturally mixed) commercial mainstream
is impractical and costly. 33, 34, 35, 36,37.For example, a Canadian food
industry study recently estimated that the seg. handling and labeling
alone would increase Canadian retail food costs by 9-10%; and that
estimate did not include the costs for inevitable mis-labeling product
recalls (estimated to be approx. 100 annually). 38 A similar study, funded
by the European Commission, estimated that European retail food costs
would increase by 6-17%. 39

A Codex Standard That Mandated Food GMO Labeling Would Slow or Halt The
Development Of Future Biotech Crops Possessing Even Greater Food Safety
Improvement Properties

According to the January, 2001 issue of Meat Processing journal, One of
the biggest challenges facing the meat industry is achieving control of
pathogenic microorganisms such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 (which can live
within the digestive system of cattle, among other animals). 40 That
report reflected the status of the U.S. meat industry following its
installation of state-of-the-art HACCP in all U.S. slaughter plants during
the 1990s. Nor is the use of pre-slaughter antibiotics in livestock a
viable alternative; due to laws against meat antibiotic residues, and
increasing concern about antibiotic-resistant pathogens. 41

In January of 2001, Dow Chemical Company signed a research and licensing
agreement with EPIcyte Pharmaceutical Inc. to develop and produce
monoclonal antibodies in plants directed at emerging opportunities for
disease prevention and the safety of the animal-derived human food supply.
42 Private conversations with applicable industry participants have
identified one goal of that partnership to be genetic engineering of crop
plants containing antibodies directed against meat-borne pathogens such as
Escherichia coli O157:H7. 43 The concept of eliminating all pathogenic
Escherichia coli strains from a living animals digestive system via the
feeding of antibodies had already been proven earlier, via feeding of such
antibodies in egg-whites to baby piglets (prior to development of their
digestive systems). 44 However, the feeding of such egg-white-antibodies
to adult livestock (e.g., during the two days prior to slaughter) is not
feasible, because their digestive system would destroy the antibodies
before they reached the pathogenic bacteria (i.e. E. coli O157:H7) in
their intestines.

Soybean-based feeds designed to remain undigested until after they reach
the intestines of cattle, have long been commercially available. If not
deterred by the threat of future mandatory food GMO labeling (e.g., the
extension of GMO labeling laws to include meat from animals that were once
fed biotech commodities which some nations are already discussing), it is
very likely that Dow-EPIcyte Pharmaceutical will soon develop a biotech
antibody-containing soybean that can be fed just prior to slaughter of
livestock that will enable us to eliminate outbreaks of meat-borne
diseases such as Escherichia coli O157:H7.

References: (Please visit
http://www.soygrowers.com/file_depot/0-10000000/0-10000/735/folder/8258/CODEX+Standard.htm for references)

- Mr. Kim Nill, kimn@soy.org, Biotechnology & Technical Issues Director
American Soybean Association, St Louis, Missouri, USA


Institute of Public Affairs (Australia) - Biotechnology


IPA's Biotechnology section offers a non-commercially motivated site to
combat the misinformation put out by radical groups who oppose the

Genetically enhanced crops have been the lifeblood of civilisation,
enabling mankind to clothe and feed billions where the natural world could
have accommodated only a few million. Biotechnology takes genetic
modification of crops a stage further by allowing genes to be introduced
and modified in the laboratory instead of with the traditional random
processes of cross-breading. This new technology is safer since only the
required genetic characteristics are introduced and unlike any previous
foods, it is subjected to rigorous testing prior to release. It is also
cheaper and more environmentally friendly since it allows crops to be
grown that use fewer chemicals and less water.

Visit the website for downloadable IPA materials on biotechnology,
Biotechnology Backgrounders (see abstracts below), Speeches and
submissions, IPA Review articles/Other articles, Newspaper articles and
letters to the press

Biotechnology and Food: Ten Thousand Years of Sowing Seeds, One Hundred
Years of Harvesting Genes
- by David Tribe

There are two great success stories of biological technologies in the
twentieth century: the taming of infectious disease by antibiotics and
vaccines, and the harnessing of genetic improvement in crops, epitomized
by the Green Revolution. Both have allowed the impact of devastating
hardships around the world to be significantly reduced. In both cases, the
very success of technology has lulled us into a false sense of security.
Most people are no longer preoccupied with the danger signals of death and
starvation that drove many of the original technological achievements on
which these advances were based.

It is the theme of this Backgrounder that the argument that current food
production methods are adequate, and that all that is needed to solve
hunger problems is a more perfect distribution system, is a dangerously
complacent one. Such policies will fail to ensure that adequate cheap
supplies of food are generally available---especially given an expected
world population increase of some 3 billion people by 2050.

Four main aspects of this topic will be explored in this paper. First, the
driving forces behind innovative crop gene modification will be
presented---that is, why this research is taking place. Second, the paper
will explain the role already played by gene technology in crop
improvement, and will point out why better methods are needed. Third, some
of the specific details of the new gene technology and some explanation of
how it is used by breeders will be given, and finally there is a
discussion of the risks posed by innovation in crop breeding using gene

Regulating Biotechnology: Some Questions and Some Answers
- by John Hyde

Forty years ago James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the molecular
structure of DNA and, from the early seventies, biotechnologists
progressively learned more precise ways of introducing genes into plants
and animals. Although by cross-breeding and selection most domesticated
and cultivated species have been changed radically from their wild
forebears, technology which became referred to as 'genetic engineering' or
'recombinant DNA (r-DNA) technology' allowed the incorporation of novel
characteristics which traditional breeding cannot achieve. The term
'genetically modified' came to refer to matter that carries genes
introduced by 'gene splicing'.

Australian governments currently face considerable pressure to regulate
further the use of r-DNA technology and its products. If the Federal
Government should err in one direction, Australians could consume
dangerous substances and the environment could be degraded---including
being invaded by varieties of weeds that are particularly pestiferous.

If it were to get it wrong in the other direction, it would cause a
decline in our industries' competitiveness thereby reducing Australian
living standards, prevent the production of cheaper food and fibre, deny
effective treatment to ill people, and encourage our scientists to take
their skills elsewhere.

Therefore, before assuming the best or the worst, Australians should learn
what genetic modification is and put its rewards and dangers in context.

Risk Assessment and Decision-Making for Genetically Modified Foods
- by Aynsley Kellow

The introduction of genetically modified foods has been accompanied by a
level of concern in Europe which was not seen in the United States. This
is seen as reflecting both a different cultural appraisal of risk,
sensitised by the 'mad cow' experience in the United Kingdom, and a desire
by European farmers to protect the advantages they enjoy under the Common
Agriculture Policy. The level of concern over GM foods is much greater
than for GM medicines, where the benefits of the technology are more
readily defended.

This Backgrounder, while arguing that risk management must build on the
best possible science, draws attention to the social, economic and
political aspects of the risk management process. It draws attention to
the use of exaggerated claims and the misuse of the precautionary
principle by the opponents of GM foods, and argues that many of the
concerns about the technology reflect such factors as a sense of unease
about the power of the corporations which employ it.

It argues that, like any technology, GM food carries with it both
advantages and risks, and that the costs of forgoing GM plants includes
environmental costs such as the greater use of pesticides. It argues for
careful assessment of the risks, which (if it is to address the public
concerns) must be conducted in a transparent and credible manner which
builds public trust. The acceptability of risks, it concludes, depends on
this as much as science, since the prevailing 'culture of fear' thrives on
secrecy and attempts to manipulate public opinion.


Rutgers researchers developing technology to help New Jersey farmers
"grow" pharmaceuticals


NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. In research that could turn Garden State
farmers into highly profitable manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and other
therapeutic agents, Rutgers University scientists have developed a way to
use living plants to reliably and inexpensively manufacture biologically
active compounds ranging from human insulin to cancer-fighting supplements.

A research group led by Rutgers Professor of Biology Ilya Raskin plans to
partner with New Jersey farmers through Phytomedics, Inc., a Middlesex
County company he founded in 1996, to grow plants for their therapeutic
benefits rather than their food value. Dayton-based Phytomedics (phyto
means "plant" in Greek) is currently training selected New Jersey farmers
to use the new technology. Raskin expects his patented technology to
economically revive New Jersey farmers since they will be able to move
from producing low-value food commodities to high-value therapeutic
agents. "Traditional agriculture is aimed at increasing plant yields,
something that's important in third world nations but no longer as
important here," he notes.
While stressing technology offers promise, the greatest medical revolution
may result from using plants to manufacture proteins the first time
proteins have been produced via plant secretion, says Raskin. Plants
constantly take in chemicals or nutrients and secrete or release other
chemicals or wastes into the environment. The scientist has "piggy-banked"
on the secretion part of this continuous exchange to cause plants to
produce proteins.

Raskin believes it will lead to inexpensive production of recombinant
human proteins to combat diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's
disease and other life-threatening ailments. He notes that a number of
researchers are making proteins from plants, but the technology is
expensive because it requires growing the plant, harvesting it, and
grinding it up to extract the protein. "With our method, getting proteins
from a plant is just like milking a cow," says Raskin. "You don't have to
kill the cow, grind it up, and then extract the milk to get it -- you get
it by ėmilking' the plant. And you get it continuously, over and over
again." To speed up the process of bioprospecting for promising compounds
in plants from all over the world, the Rutgers/Phytomedics team has
developed patented technology that uses the numbers-crunching power of
computers employing so-called bioinformatics and data-mining techniques.
The technology allows the research team to rapidly compare the molecular
structures of newly discovered plant compounds to known compounds in order
to uncover those with therapeutic potential. This approach has reduced the
time needed for identifying promising compounds from years to a few days,
Raskin says. As a result, the "hit" rate has become at least a hundred
times greater than that of conventional bioprospecting, the scientist

The new technology also permits his team to access close to 80 percent of
the chemical diversity overlooked by conventional methods. "But we still
have a long way to go," asserts Raskin, "since only a tiny percentage of
the estimated 250,000 plant species in the world have been assayed."


"Biotechnology, Science and Modern Agriculture: a New Industry at the Dawn
of the Century"
- Ravello (Italy) from June 15 to 18, 200

The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research
(ICABR) in cooperation with
CEIS Tor Vergata University Rome, Center of Sustainable Resource
Development, University of California at Berkeley, Economic Growth Center,
Yale University, Sichelgaita ? Institute for Economic and Social Studies
organize the 5th International Conference on

"Biotechnology, Science and Modern Agriculture: a New Industry at the Dawn
of the Century"

The Conference will take place at: Ravello (Italy) from June 15 to 18,
2001 and will focus on the following topics: Impact of agricultural
biotechnology; Industrial organization; Public acceptance; Impact of
science Intellectual property rights; Biotechnology & developing
countries; Regulation of biotechnology; Biomasses and new products
Biotechnology; trade and development

Conference Secretariat: Benedetta Braccini, E-Mail:
braccini@economia.uniroma2.it Fax: ++39 06 72595721 Phone: ++39 06 72595843
*Complete program, reg details and abstracts at:


Agriculture and the Environment: Searching for Greener Pastures
- Edited by Terry L. Anderson and Bruce Yandle

STANFORD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 16, 2001 via NewsEdge Corporation -
U.S. agriculture is the envy of the world. Although output from U.S. farms
is high, there is a growing gap between what is being produced and what
could be produced, partly because innovation and production are
constrained by a growing maze of environmental regulations.

"It has become increasingly clear that markets are the best system for
improving resource allocation, prosperity, and environmental quality, and
this is especially true for agriculture," write Hoover senior fellow Terry
L. Anderson and coeditor Bruce Yandle in the prologue to Agriculture and
the Environment (Hoover Press, 2001). They point out that "the federal
government, responding to many interest group pressures, has implemented
programs that disrupt the efficiency of the market and reduce
environmental quality."

To address this problem, the Political Economy Research Center (PERC) and
the Hoover Institution "brought together a group of scholars to explore
how more reliance on market forces can improve both land-use efficiency
and environmental quality," explain the editors. Agriculture and the
Environment, "addressing the key areas in which agriculture and the
environment intersect," is the result of these scholars' work.

The chapters, authored by leading experts in their fields, focus on the
major environmental constraints that limit U.S. food production without
necessarily improving environmental quality. In challenging these
constraints, the authors address the most difficult questions facing
agriculture today: How is urban sprawl affecting agricultural lands? Is
the use of agricultural chemicals harmful to the environment? Are
genetically modified crops dangerous to human health? How do taxes affect
land use? Are we really running out of prime farmland?

"In spite of the vast array of environmental and other constraints that
affect productivity, U.S. agriculture is still the envy of the world,"
write Anderson and Yandle. "By eliminating the constraints of governmental
regulations and harnessing market incentives, agricultural productivity
can be improved even more and scarce environmental resources can be made
more productive."

Terry L. Anderson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the
Hoover Institution, the executive director of the Political Economy
Research Center, a think-tank focusing on market solutions to
environmental problems, and professor emeritus at Montana State
University. He is the author or editor of 20 books, including Breaking
the Environmental Policy Gridlock (Hoover Institution Press, 1997), which
he edited, and Enviro-Capitalists: Doing Good While Doing Well (Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997), coauthored with Donald R. Leal.

The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert
Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is
an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic and
international affairs. CONTACT: Hoover Institution Stanford University;
Caleb Offley, 650/723-1454; Offley@Hoover.Stanford.edu


Hands-on Biotech Leads To Understanding 

- ISU Biotechnology Outreach Education Center helps lay public understand
the science underlying biotechnology developments and the associated
economic, ethical and social issues.
- By Susan Thompson

(Posted by "Cindy Lynn Richard, CIH" )
A new facility devoted to educating people about the mysteries of
biotechnology opened its doors 18 months ago at Iowa State University.
Since then, there has been a steady stream of educators, students,
industry personnel and other public audiences visiting the Biotechnology
Outreach Education Center, with more than 1,600 people doing some sort of
hands-on biotech activity. Center activities help Iowans understand the
science underlying biotechnology developments and the associated economic,
ethical and social issues. The center consists of two adjacent
state-of-the-art laboratories with 40 lab stations and a preparation room.
It's fully stocked with the laboratory supplies needed for a number of
biotechnology experiments.

Mike Zeller coordinates the center's activities. "Our goal is to
de-mystify the technology. Then we show participants how they can relate
the technology to things they do every day. And we talk about how industry
uses this technology to speed up discovery," he says. Four workshops
geared to K-12 teachers, extension professionals and other educators will
be held this summer. "These workshops give them a chance to do the same
experiments they will be teaching, plus practice the lab preparation
that's necessary," Zeller says. During the school year, students from
kindergarten through high school visit the center to participate in
laboratory experiments. In one, students extract DNA from a banana. "Many
don't understand all the foods they eat contain DNA, not just ones that
are genetically modified,"

Zeller says. "We show the students that DNA is present in the cells of all
living organisms." In another experiment, the students are told the story
of a farmer who owns four dogs. One of the dogs chews up a new pair of
boots, and the farmer wants to discover which dog did the deed. A hair
sample from the chewed boot and hair samples from all four dogs are
collected. Students compare the DNA of the hair samples to determine the
culprit. Customized educational programs are planned for agricultural
producers and organizations, consumer groups, industry employees and
others who want to experience first-hand the science behind new products
developed using biotechnology. Zeller also takes his show on the road, and
has reached about 1,200 people with presentations delivered across Iowa
and the Midwest.

For more information about the Biotechnology Outreach Education Center,
visit Iowa State's Office of Biotechnology web page at:
www.biotech.iastate.edu. (Susan Thompson is a communications specialist
with the Iowa State University College of Agriculture.) -- Susan Thompson
Communications Specialist ISU College of Agriculture 304 Curtiss Hall
Ames, IA 50011-1050 Ph: 515/294-0705 Fax: 515/294-8662 Web: