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May 17, 2001


Bush White House Supports Biotech; Coffee Politics; African


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

White House Proclamation on Biotechnology Week

U.S. Newswire 17 May
(Forwarded by "Frances B. Smith" )

National Biotechnology Week: By The President Of The United States Of
America A Proclamation

For thousands of years, man has been utilizing and modifying biological
processes to improve man's quality of life. Scientific advances have
enabled biotechnology to play an increasingly large role in the
development of new products that enhance all areas of our lives.

In the battle against disease, our ever-increasing knowledge of cellular
and genetic processes continues to improve the quality of our health care.
Biotechnology has contributed to the development of vaccines, antibiotics,
and other drugs that have saved or prolonged the lives of millions of
people. Insulin, which is vital in the treatment of diabetes, can now be
produced inexpensively and in large quantities through the use of
genetically engineered bacteria. In addition, exciting gains in the
understanding of the human body's genetic code show significant promise in
finding treatments and eventually a cure for many diseases. This
technology is now central to the research being conducted on diseases such
as cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, heart and lung disease,
Alzheimer's disease, and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Consumers enjoy continual improvements to the quality and quantity of our
Nation's food supply. Genetic engineering will enable farmers to modify
crops so that they will grow on land that was previously considered
infertile. In addition, it will enable farmers to grow produce with
enhanced nutritional value. We also are benefiting from crops that resist
plant diseases and insects, thus reducing the use of pesticides.

The environmental benefits of biotechnology can be realized through the
increased ability of manufacturers to produce their products with less
energy, pollution, and waste. In addition, the development of new
biotechnology promises to improve our ability to clean up toxic substances
from soil and water and improve waste management techniques.

Our Nation stands as a global leader in research and development, in large
part because of our successes in understanding and utilizing the
biological processes of life. The field of biotechnology is important to
the quality of our lives, the protection of our environment, and the
strength of our economy. We must continue to be leaders in the pursuit of
knowledge and technology, and we must be vigilant to ensure that new
technologies are regulated and used responsibly towards achieving noble

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of
America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and
laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 13 through May 19, 2001,
as National Biotechnology Week. I call upon the people of the United
States to observe this week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of May,
in the year of our Lord two thousand one, and of the Independence of the
United States of America the two hundred and twenty-fifth.  



White House to Serve Genetically Modified Foods!

- Jennifer C. Berkshire, AlterNet May 14, 2001

The White House announced today that it plans to begin serving some
genetically modified foods at official government functions. The move is
intended to head off criticism by environmental and consumer groups that
the altered foods are unsafe.

"You really can't tell the difference," said White House chef Daniel
Arreido, the former executive chef at Laylo in Austin, Texas, who recently
replaced long-time Clinton cook Walter Scheib III. "It may be genetically
altered but it tastes just the same," said Arreido, noting that the first
family already consumes milk containing bovine growth hormone.

The White House plans to debut the new food items at a state dinner next
month for French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. According to Arreido, the
menu for the dinner will include such delicacies as pan-seared genetically
altered super salmon and Texas-style corn pudding made with Star Link
corn. "These are traditional Texas recipes," said Arreido, "but with a
special twist."

A spokesman for the French Embassy claimed to be unaware of the changes to
the White House meal plan. Naomi Jurgen-Stoors, a spokeswoman for the
activist group Healthy Planet, which supports mandatory labeling on all
products containing genetically modified ingredients, said that the White
House announcement had come as a surprise. "Our main problem with GM food,
what we call 'franken food,' is that its long-term impact on humans has
never been tested," said Jurgen-Stoors. "Now I guess we'll just have to
wait and see what happens to the first family."

Not everyone in the Bush administration supports the new policy, which is
said to have been the idea of Vice President Dick Cheney. Just last
weekend, Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman
voiced concern about the safety of the altered foods while appearing on
the weekly political talk show Meet the Press. "This administration plans
to keep a watchful eye on these products," said Whitman. For the first
family, that "watchful eye" may be on the lookout for seconds in the world.

©2000 Independent Media Institute. Allrights reserved.


Subject: "Might have been" biotech?
From: porphyry@vnet.net 

Craig Sams wrote the following:
>It's all about Golden Rice and what might be
>because what has actually happened is notably
This reminds me of a story I read in the local newspaper several years ago
about a biotech scientist's wedding. It seems that a biotech scientist got
married. The wedding night passed but the marriage, well, wasn't
consummated. Apparently, the biotech scientist spent the entire night
sitting at the foot of the bed telling his new spouse how good it was
going to be "someday". :-)

>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, ..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.

There's a lot of truth to what you say, although generally speaking, the
biotech entrepreneurs themselves (though not the actual investors) usually
have set things up so that they, at least, are able to safely parachute
out of the burning biotech startup before it crashes. In my opinion, this
is largely an unintended consequence of the passage by the U.S. Congress
in 1980 of something called the Bayh-Dole Act. It was supposed to
encourage the licensing of technological inventions from universities by
private industry in order to commercialize them. It has succeeded in this
goal, but in the process has turned the bulk of university scientists into
handmaidens of industrial corporations, a role most of them aren't
particularly well suited for, either by temperment or, more importantly,

This is because the overwhelming majority of research conducted by
university scientists, worthy as it may be, has absolutely no business
being supported by private capital, not even high risk venture capital.
One of the consequences of the Bayh-Dole Act, though, is that such
research, once fundable by government or foundation grants, can now only
be funded with high-risk private capital. Hyping a particular line of
research to the moon is often the only way to obtain such capital. When
the actual research results appear, they are inevitably disappointing to
the investors and to the public at large. But making the investors and the
public happy never was really the point. The real point was to obtain
funding for doing the research. The public expects such behavior of
marketers and salesmen, but not scientists. So it shouldn't be surprising
that when scientists have to (try to) behave like marketers and salesmen
in order to get their research funded, the public, sooner or later, starts
to view them as "slicksters", "lining their pockets", "common tradesmen",
and generally not to be taken seriously anymore. That's the price that
comes with hollowing out publicly supported research institutions in the
U.S. As long as scientists are willing to pay that price, the situation
will just keep moving in the same direction.

-- Red


Subject: The Good the Bad and the Evil
From: a0felan3@hotmail.com 

Now it seems that we have the GOOD food industry which of course is;-
guess;- organic and the BAD food industry dominated by the EVIL chemical

- Terry Hopkin


Subject: Re: Stone Age Fanatics?;
From: jonathan@molbiol.uct.ac.za 

The whole point of finding E coli in food is that it is indicator of
feacal contamination. While most E coli is quite harmless the presence of
it suggests that the food may be contaminated with other feacal nasties.
Besides who wants to eat shit?

> 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.


Subject: Point missed.... to Craig Sams
From: Bob Goldberg

Dear Craig:

I think that you miss the point. It's not about ONE technology or approach
or direction in agriculture. It's about using solid science and the best
technologies to

1) yield the most food, 2) provide the most environmentally-sound
agricultural practices, 3) produce the most nutritious food, and, most
importantly, 4) help stop the suffering of people from hunger and

Biotech will, can, and has played an important role because it is based on
good science.

On the other hand, the organic pioneers also play a role. It's not about
one or the other -- it's about taking the best from all systems and
technologies and moving humanity forward.

All the best, Bob G


Worldwide Initiatives Against GMOs

Third World Network Information Service On Biosafety 16 May 2001

Dear friends and colleagues, Below is a list of different initiatives in
countries worldwide to restrict or regulate the import, distribution,
sale, utilization, field trials, or commercial planting of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). Information for this list was compiled from
various sources. This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are
certainly other initiatives of which we are not yet aware. Most of the
listed initiatives have been launched only within the last six months.

Special note should be made of the bans implemented by Algeria, Sri Lanka,
Thailand, and China. Since December 2000, Algeria has banned the import,
distribution, commercialization and utilization of GE plant material. Sri
Lanka has banned the import of all GE foods from May 2001. In April 2001,
Thailand banned all GE crops trials, and continues to ban all commercial
planting of GE crops. Also in April, the Chinese government banned the
commercial planting of GE rice, wheat, corn and soybean.

We hope this list provides a sense of the various actions being taken by
governments, local authorities, and communities worldwide to protect their
health and environment from the potential hazards of GMOs. Proper
restriction and regulation of GMOs, by keeping the country GE free or by
implementing and enforcing bans or moratoria on GMOs, is the only way a
country can effectively exercise the precautionary principle.

-With best wishes, Lim Li Lin and Pauline Fan; Third World Network; 228
Macalister Road; 10400 Penang; Malaysia

- (See the website for complete list) -


New Web Site Discloses Scientists' Links to Industry


WASHINGTON, May 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The nonprofit Center for Science in
the Public Interest (CSPI) today launched an Internet site to provide
information about the links between hundreds of scientists -- mostly in
the fields of nutrition, environment, toxicology, and medicine -- and
corporations. The site is freely available at

This site also provides information about some of the corporate support
received by dozens of professional, health, and nonprofit organizations,
including such organizations as the International Life Sciences Institute,
American Council on Science and Health, and American Dietetic Association.

CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said: "Corporations
increasingly are funding academic scientists to conduct research, speak at
press conferences, and provide advice. Too frequently, neither the
scientists nor the corporations disclose that funding. Today, we have
begun to lift that veil of secrecy by providing journalists, activists,
policy makers, and the public with information about the links between
more than 1,100 scientists and industry. The list will be expanded in the
coming months.

"Important health and environmental policies can be distorted by
scientists who assert objectivity, but who receive funding from affected
industries. The result could be more pollution, unsafe food additives, and
dangerous consumer products," said Jacobson.

Concern about scientific conflicts of interest has soared in recent years,
thanks in part to controversies such as the New England Journal of
Medicine's failure to enforce its disclosure guidelines and the University
of Pennsylvania's failure to adequately disclose its conflicts to a
patient who died during a clinical drug trial. More recently, a
controversy has swirled around John Graham, who directs the Harvard Center
for Risk Analysis, which receives substantial funding from over 100
companies and trade associations.

This week, a Senate committee will consider Graham's nomination to an
important position in the Office of Management and Budget. Ronald Collins,
director of CSPI's Integrity in Science project, said: "We hope that this
Web site will encourage journalists to report on scientists' funding from
industry. All too often reporters quote scientists without providing the
public with needed information about their ties to industry, thus giving
the impression that they have no such affiliations.

"Of course, just because a scientist receives industry funding does not
necessarily mean that he or she is biased or wrong. Rather, receipt of
such funding is one of many factors that need to be considered in
evaluating a scientist's statements," added Collins. "Helping reporters
spot possible corporate puppets masquerading as independent scientists is
an important advance for democracy," said Morton Mintz, former Washington
Post reporter and former chair of the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
"CSPI," he added "deserves profound thanks from the press and public."

"Since no laws make public the financial conflicts of interest that exist
among academic scientists," noted Professor Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts
University, "CSPI's data base provides a valuable way for citizens and the
media to gain a better understanding of an important source of bias in
science and policy."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest encourages the use of
science for the betterment of the public health and the environment. CSPI
is well-known for winning passage of legislation requiring "Nutrition
Facts" food labels and for its studies of the nutritional quality of
restaurant foods. It also has projects on antibiotic resistance and
alcohol problems. It is supported by the more than 800,000 subscribers to
its Nutrition Action Healthletter and by charitable foundations; CSPI does
not accept funding from industry or government.


GM coffee seen as threat to poorer farmers

- By John Madeley, Financila Times, May 16 2001 http://news.ft.com/

Millions of small-holding coffee farmers could see their livelihoods
destroyed by a genetically modified coffee being developed, a report
published today claims. The warning comes in the report, "Robbing coffee's
cradle - GM coffee and its threat to poor farmers", released by Action
Aid, the development organisation. Genetically engineered coffee is
"poised fundamentally to change the way coffee is grown", says the report.

The technology, which is being developed by the Hawaii-based Integrated
Coffee Technologies Inc, works by modifying the berries of coffee trees so
that they all ripen at the same time, but only after being sprayed by
chemicals. Designed for large plantations, the technology would cut labour
costs by enabling strip harvesting. This would make plantations more
productive but would force out smaller farmers who hand-pick the berries
as they ripen at a natural and uneven rate, Action Aid says. The
technology is unsuitable for small farmers, who inter-crop coffee with
other food crops to provide shade and diversity.

The Action Aid report has been published to coincide with the beginning of
a two-day World Coffee Conference in London that will be attended by
coffee producers, buyers and consumers from 63 countries. Included in the
discussions will be ways of correcting the imbalance between supply and
demand, which has led to steep falls in world coffee prices. Seventy per
cent of the world's coffee is produced by small farmers, mostly in
developing countries, says the report, and it is often their only source
of income. Most of this coffee is grown under traditional,
"environmentally friendly" methods, it says. Millions also work as coffee
pickers on smallholder farms and coffee plantations.

"Small farmers will be squeezed out of the market with GM coffee. It is a
shift from a labour-intensive to a capital-intensive system, from small
farmers to large farmers," said Dr Tewolde Egziabler, Ethiopia's
spokesperson at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Coffee exports
account for nearly 70 per cent of Ethiopia's foreign earnings.

Action Aid is launching a nationwide campaign in the UK today calling on
retailers and consumers to say "no" to genetically engineered coffee.
"This technology would bring no significant benefits to coffee drinkers,"
said Eve Mitchell of Action Aid. "We consumers have a simple choice. While
GM coffee is still in the pipeline, we can send a strong message to the
industry that we don't want it. This could make a difference as to whether
the technology is developed or not," she said.


GM Beans Threaten Farmers' Meagre Livelihoods

- Saeed Shah, The Independent 17-May-2001

MILLIONS OF coffee farmers in the developing world who are already
struggling in a market of dwindling returns face a new threat - that of
genetically modified beans.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii have created the means to
industrialise coffee production to an extent that until now has been
impossible. Coffee production is labour-intensive, even on large
plantations, because the berries ripen at different times and require
hand-picking at just the right moment. Mechanical harvesting produces poor
quality coffee, a mixture of ripe and unripe berries.

The researchers have genetically engineered coffee so that the berries'
growth stops just short of the point of maturity. When all the berries in
a field have reached this stage, they are ripened by a chemical sprayed
onto the plants - allowing all the berries to be harvested at once,
mechanically. In 1999, the University of Hawaii was granted a US patent on
GM coffee. A private company, Integrated Coffee Technologies Inc (ICTI),
has been established to develop the product. Today, the development
agency ActionAid will launch a campaign against what it describes as
"unnecessary" technology. The charity's message is that the development of
GM coffee is at an early stage and could be stopped if consumers put
pressure on supermarkets.

Tewolde Egziabler, the general manager of the Environmental Protection
Authority in Ethiopia, one of the world's main coffee producers, told The
Independent: "There is no shortage of coffee. There's no need for GM
coffee. It will come about because it gives big companies royalties and
complete control of the production process." And the big agro-chemical
businesses and large-scale farmers are most likely to benefit. Western
coffee companies, such as Nestle, and retailers will gain from cheaper
beans, while the consumers are unlikely to benefit.

About 70 per cent of coffee is grown by seven million poor farmers in
plots ranging from small backyards to five-hectare farms. ActionAid says
they will not be able to afford to the expensive GM seeds and chemicals,
and large farms will reduce their labour, driving yet more people into
poverty. ICTI is looking for a partner to fine tune and market the
process. A deal with Monsanto, the GM company, is said to have fallen
through, so it is casting around for other partners. ICTI is also behind
the creation of plants engineered to produce coffee without caffeine.

Speaking from Ethiopia, Dr Tewolde, one of Africa's most respected voices
on environmental issues, said that countries such as his, which are
dependent on coffee as the main cash crop, might be excluded from a coffee
industry dependent on GM crops. He also said that the introduction of GM
plants to Ethiopia could contaminate the country's indigenous varieties.
Ethiopia is home to most of the world's natural varieties of arabica
coffee, the most popular and highly prized coffee.

ActionAid has contacted big supermarkets, including Sainsbury's and
Safeway, as well as the coffee bar chains, such as Starbucks, asking for
pledges that they will never offer GM coffee. So far, none has replied.
Critics say that genetically modified coffee is likely to be inferior to
that produced on smallholdings, where the trees are tended to on shady
plots that suit the plant, and chemicals are not used.

Eve Mitchell, a senior campaigner at ActionAid, said: "Our experience
shows that getting something withdrawn is much more difficult than
stopping it in the first place. Once GM coffee gets to supermarket
shelves, it will be too late. These smallholders cannot afford to lose
even one season."


First African Seed Congress Gains Strong Support From Seedsmen

Forwarded by DR W J VAN DER WALT of South African National Seed
Organisation (only select excerpts here below)


The first congress of the African Seed Trade Association held in Cairo,
Egypt, on March 24-26, 2001, was a resounding success, as was evident from
participation by some 262 delegates and guests from 40 countries. The
event brought together seedsmen from Africa, Europe, USA, Australia, Asia
and the Middle East The following are excerpts of presentations by keynote

_ ?Egypt is part of Africa. Better agricultural production depends upon
the provision of improved seed? (Prof. Dr. Mamdoh Sharf El-Den, Technical
Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture). _ ?The African continent has not
really played its role. It is important to be competitive in agricultural
production. Development in the seed trade is increasing rapidly. The
importance of cooperation between African countries in seed industry
matters cannot be over-emphasized?. (Eng. Farouk Affifi, Chairman:
Egyptian Agricultural Engineers Syndicate).

_ ?Seed progress equals agricultural progress, including animal
production. Egypt has had substantial success in increasing production of
sugar cane and rice. Secondary crops which used less water are wheat,
maize and sorghum and despite significant yield increases, more progress
is still required in this area. Regional organizations have an important
role to play in removing trade barriers between member countries?. (Eng.
M. Sayed Abou El-Omsan, First Under-Secretary: Ministry of Economy).

In his opening speech, read by Dr. Saad Nassar, Chairman of the ARC,
Minister Waly states: ?Egypt has increased its crop production threefold
since the early 1980s. Cereal production increased from 8 to 18.5 million
MT, with wheat increasing from 2 to 6.7 million MT, raising
self-sufficiency for the country from 25 to 55 per cent. Africa needs more
seed production and the private sector is expected to contribute strongly.
Egypt has put privatization into place for seed production, although some
crops are still managed by Government. "

Dr. Bernard Le Buanec, FIS Secretary-General, says: ?The good attendance
is a positive indicator for the success of AFSTA. Although the association
is only one year old, it has already made amazing progress. It now needs
to become active in dealing with the main factors which constrain trade in
seed in Africa. African countries need to develop adapted seed legislation
for its conditions.?

?Africa fell behind despite donor funding and the continent remains
vulnerable and isolated. A competitive, efficient seed sector is a
pre-requisite. Countries can benefit by synergism generated through
public-private collaboration?, says Mark Condon, Vice-President, ASTA.
?Africa has been marginalized commercially, institutionally and
internally. Development of the private sector had been neglected in the
past and should now be supported.?, Francois Burgaud of GNIS says.

Dr. Michael Larinde of the FAO states: ?Food security is determined by
seed security. The FAO has had a focus on a global system for safeguarding
plant genetic resources for agriculture in order to ensure sustainable
food production. The new thrust focuses on quality seed and planting
material. The four areas under this thrust include establishing seed
programmes, seed production, seed quality certification, and the
establishment of a seed security consultative group.?

Dr. Jean-Marie DeBois, Head of the OECD Seed Schemes reports: ?African
countries presently participating in OECD seed certification schemes
include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt. There
has been a strong increase in the number of varieties listed under these
schemes and by early 2001 there were 24 953 varieties.?

Dr. Rolf Jördens, Vice Secretary-General of UPOV, states: ?With the world
population continuing to increase, land and resources becoming more
scarce, increased efficiency in plant varieties is required to increase
productivity. PVP is an effective tool for promoting agriculture. The
advantages are that germplasm becomes available to plant breeders, variety
improvement is stimulated, benefits are shared, and general plant breeding
is encouraged. Article 15 of the Convention provides for flexible
solutions at national level.?

Dr. Seiler explained the requirements under the TRIPS provisions.
Intellectual property rights protection for plant varieties needs to
develop strategic options at national level in terms of combining the
provisions for plant patent rights and plant variety protection. A new
development is intellectual property rights for communities.

Although the private sector industry in Africa is still relatively
underdeveloped, a number of leading companies are already making important
contributions in many African countries. These contributions include the
transfer of technology and management know-how, including new hybrids and
varieties, new systems for internal quality control, packaging and
storage. As the private sector develops, these advantages will multiply
and spread to seed companies of all sizes. However, constraints persist,
particularly as regards: (a) outdated laws and regulations, (b) unfair
government competition, (c) and inadequate infrastructure. National seed
associations, with the support of AFSTA, can work to address these
concerns through information-sharing and policy advocacy activities.


Science, Religion and Development: Some Initial Considerations

(posted by sbrumbley@bses.org.au) Prepared by the Institute for Studies in
Global Prosperity - See full text at

The profound changes now shaping human affairs suggest that new models of
life-far reaching in their capacity to release human potential-are within
the grasp of a rapidly evolving global community. Advances in knowledge
across an ever-expanding range of disciplines, the emergence of
international mechanisms that promote collective decision-making and
action, and the increasing ability of the masses of humankind to
articulate their aspirations and needs, portend a great surge forward in
the social evolution of the planet. To realize the promise offered by such
changes, however, will require a searching reexamination of the prevailing
patterns of social and economic development.

Conditions of justice and equity that foster both individual and
collective well-being remain an elusive goal. At one extreme, deprivation
and despair afflict vast numbers of the world's peoples, while, at the
other, a limited segment of the human race is enjoying a conspicuous and
unrestrained affluence. Entrenched patterns of dependency and poverty are
accompanied by great disillusionment with the modern ethos. As a vision of
society, the relentless pursuit of wealth in an impersonal marketplace and
the frenetic experimentation with various forms of self-indulgence are
being rejected as irrelevant to the awakening hopes and energies of
individuals in all parts of the planet. It is no longer possible to
maintain the belief that the approach to social and economic progress to
which the materialistic conception of life has given rise is capable of
leading humanity to the tranquility and prosperity which it seeks. --cut--

Looking Ahead

At this moment in history, when hitherto isolated peoples and cultures
are interacting for the first time, and when the earth itself has been
contracted in a mere neighborhood, development activity must of necessity
be a global enterprise whose purpose is to bring both material and
spiritual well-being to all the planet's inhabitants. To acknowledge that
humanity is a single people with a common destiny is to understand that
development must cease to be something one does for others. The task of
erecting a peaceful and just global society must involve all members of
the human family.

If the capacities of the world's peoples are to reach the levels needed
to address the complex requirements of the present hour, the resources of
both reason and faith will have to be tapped. Development initiatives will
not lead to tangible and lasting improvements in physical well-being
without drawing on those universal spiritual postulates that give
direction and meaning to life. While science can offer the methods and
tools for promoting social and economic advancement, it alone cannot set
direction; the goal of development cannot come from within the process
itself. A vision is needed, and the proper vision will never take shape if
the spiritual heritage of the human race continues to be regarded as
tangential to development policy and programs.