AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
Regarding the CSPI Site Disclosing Scientists' Links to Industry
- From: Alan McHughen
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) should be commended
for embarking on its list of academic scientists with links to industry
http://www.integrityinscience.org . All consumers should be able to know,
when seeking expert advice and guidance, what other interests may be
influencing various authorities. A prudent consumer will not find a
scientist's linkage to industry sufficient grounds for dismissing the
expertise, but rather will take the nature of the linkage and the degree
of influence into account in evaluating the information or advice
provided. Those who reject any information from an academic scientist
'tainted' by industry connections, no matter how tenuous, may be rejecting
access to the best information, leading to poor, if not erroneous,
+In my experience, most academic scientists are dedicated to serving the
public good, regardless of the sources of their research funds. Rejecting
these experts outright is a gross insult to their integrity and a grave
disservice to the quality of the public debate. Many consumers (and
university administrators) view industry collaboration as a benchmark of
authority, because industry is unlikely to support incompetents. The CSPI
list is a good starting point for open disclosure of potential conflicts
of interest. The following recommendations will improve the overall
credibility of the CSPI list.
1. Is industry the only source of potential conflict? What about academic
scientists who receive funding from NGOs? Surely they might be unduly
influenced as well. Of course, a good many capable academic scientists
collaborate with both industry *and* NGOs. With complete knowledge of
*all* sources of potential conflict, consumers will more correctly
allocate trust and credibility and be better able to make true informed
2. Due to the nature of the specific research program, some scientists
have links to several external agencies, but the amount of influence may
be very small. To avoid misimpressions, CSPI should provide the amount (or
proportion) of the scientist's salary from the external agency (whether
industry, NGO or other) as well as the proportion of total research
funding comes from external agencies. I'll start the ball rolling by
volunteering my own details (which I've never hesitated to disclose and
are already public knowledge): Percentage of my salary from industry, NGOs
etc: Zero. Percentage of research and other funds from industry, NGOs etc.
(vs. taxpayer supported funds): less than 10%.
3. What are the qualifications of the 'scientist'? Especially prevalent in
the age of the internet, too many 'experts' have appeared with too little
knowledge, thrusting misinformation into an already confusing discourse of
complicated issues. CSPI could provide a valuable public service by
providing the academic and technical qualifications of 'internet experts'.
Society demands and requires access to accurate information in order to
conduct legitimate debate. This includes information germane to the
credibility of authorities and experts. Academic scientists (and others
providing expert advice or opinion) should have no qualms about listing
their authority and any potential conflicts of interest. I commend CSPI
for initiating their list, and urge them to adopt the above suggestions in
the best interest of society. Without the recommended inclusions, the list
will lose credibility as being incomplete, misleading and biased. Hardly a
desired objective of a Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Alan McHughen DPhil CBiol MIBiol ; Professor and Senior Research Scientist
University of Saskatchewan ; Saskatoon, Sk S7N 5A8; Canada
White House Story is Fake
- From: Mary Murphy
The story you posted "White House to Serve Genetically Modified Foods! by
Jennifer C. Berkshire, AlterNet May 14, 2001" is an obvious hoax. The
names are fake, and there's no way they could serve Starlink corn and
genetically altered salmon that hasn't been approved. The "author" even
misspells "Star Link" and "Franken Food" (both should be one word).
This "article" is listed on the Alternet web site
Alternet.org says they want to "Bring high-quality journalism to broad
audiences" among other claims. They should also know that the state
dinner are hosted for heads-of-state, and French premier is not a head of
state. Either their claims are not genuine, or they are just plain
idiots. It's bad enough when fake articles circulate via random emails,
but when a supposedly legitimate news web site publishes something like
this they should be ashamed.
On a side note, I would gladly eat the "Super salmon" or the "Texas style
corn pudding" if it were served to me at the White House.
Outrageous: Biotech Rice To Feed Landfill, Not The Hungry
- From: Tom DeGregori
The Houston Chronicle had a front page story this morning on the plans for
"nearly 5 million pounds of genetically modified rice -- the first of its
kind -- ... to be buried in a landfill next week." Aventis, "the company
won't release the rice for famine relief even though the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration has approved it" because of fear of lawsuits by the
anti-GMO NGOs. Five million pounds of rice is enough 40 million people.
The farmer who grew the rice has also " formed the nonprofit Share The
Harvest foundation, through which Texas farmers donate rice to the needy."
He "is frustrated that the food won't be given away."
What has been done here by the actions of the NGOs is evil and something
must be done to stop them. Unfortunately, I too am frustrated and don't
know what to do even though it is happening just outside my own city. Over
the decades, I have spent (and continue to spend) much time working in the
field in agriculture around the world (including the rice paddies of Asia
and the maize fields of Africa) as well as a policy adviser to donor
organizations and third world countries. I have seen the worst poverty
that this planet has to offer and I get extremely angry when a bunch of
spoiled ill-informed privileged groups and individuals work in opposition
to the needs of these vulnerable human beings and claim some kind of moral
superiority for doing so. And pardon my being cynical, but working against
the poor in the name of saving the planet has turned out to be a very
effective way of raising money by groups that have never done anything to
raise food or help anyone else to do so.
Does anyone have any idea what can be done to stop this madness?
'Biotech Rice To Feed Landfill, Not The Hungry' : Company fears liability
if crop shipped abroad
- STEVE OLAFSON, Houston Chronicle, May 17, 2001
DANBURY -- Nearly 5 million pounds of genetically modified rice -- the
first of its kind -- is to be buried in a landfill next week under orders
from the company that had it grown in Brazoria County.
Aventis, which took a public relations hit when its bioengineered StarLink
corn was mistakenly released to consumers, apparently has decided to
destroy its first crop of genetically altered rice rather than risk its
being shipped outside the United States, where it has not been approved.
The company won't release the rice for famine relief even though the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration has approved it, said Jacko Garrett, the
farmer who grew the rice under contract with Aventis. Garrett, who formed
the nonprofit Share The Harvest foundation, through which Texas farmers
donate rice to the needy, is frustrated that the food won't be given away.
Trucks will start hauling the rice to a landfill near Alvin on Monday, he
"It just bothers me so bad when I'm sitting here trying to find food to
feed people and I've got to go bury 5 million pounds of rice when we know
it won't hurt a soul," Garrett said Thursday. "That's 40 million people
you can feed with that 5 million pounds of rice."
Aventis officials have said they don't want to risk the liability that
could result if some of the rice should reach markets outside the United
States, he said.
"If it does, it's going to bring them more negative publicity than they
would want to handle," said Garrett, who said he understands the company's
legal concerns. Because he grew the rice under contract to Aventis, he
said, he is obligated to follow the company's wishes to dump it. Officials
at Aventis CropScience in Research Triangle Park, N.C., did not return
calls for comment.
Aventis, a publicly traded company with headquarters in Strasbourg,
France, has been caught in the middle of the debate over biotech food .
The company was sued last year after its genetically engineered StarLink
corn was discovered in taco shells by a coalition of environmental and
consumer groups. Government regulators had approved StarLink only for
animal feed and industrial uses because of unresolved questions about
whether it can cause allergic reactions.
The corn has not been proven to cause allergic reactions, but Aventis has
not been able to track where all of it was sent. Known by the trade name
Liberty rice, the grain that was grown in Brazoria County for the company
marked the first time that conventional rice had been genetically modified
and grown for commercial use.
Because it is resistant to one particular herbicide, farmers can eliminate
the use of others that usually are needed to control weeds and grasses. At
Garrett Farms, between Alvin and Angleton, Liberty rice was the
highest-yielding, most-weed-free rice that was planted last year, Garrett
said. "I had no expectation that it would do the way it did," he said.
Genetically altered corn, soybeans and cotton have been grown in the
United States for more than five years and the Grocery Manufacturers of
America estimate that 60 to 70 percent of all processed foods may contain
biotech soy or corn. While Americans do not have strong opinions about
genetically modified food, according to a recent poll, opposition is
strong in Europe and Japan.
Aventis, formed in 1999 by a merger between French and German companies,
announced in November that it intends to divest itself of its agricultural
interests and focus on pharmaceuticals. The company had $22.3 billion in
sales last year.
Unless the company changes its mind, Garrett said, it will take 95
truckloads to take all of the Liberty rice from seven bins at his farm to
"And here I could be sending it to USA food banks or foreign countries in
famine," he said. "They're dying because there's no food and here we are
burying food, simply because it's genetically modified. "I have to wonder
when people will accept these technologies for the good they bring and
allow us to better feed the world and reduce exposure to pesticides and
Better Food, Not Dangerous Food
- GUSTAAF A. de ZOETEN
Detroit Free Press, May 17, 2001
The past year saw a dizzying series of headlines about biotechnology, many
of which may have left consumers confused about how to judge the safety of
their food. As a scientist who has long followed and delighted in the
development of biotechnology, particularly crop biotechnology, it is
troubling to observe the widening gap between the reality of food safety
oversight in the United States and the seemingly growing public
misperception that biotechnology poses an inherent health risk.
Food biotechnology benefits from an extraordinary level of scrutiny that
virtually guarantees that any food product approved for human consumption
will be just as safe as any conventional food. Often, those who would ban
this very promising technology argue, albeit earnestly, with an obvious
lack of scientific understanding. It is disquieting to realize how easily
knowledge and facts and the other products of scientific discovery are so
readily discarded in a largely emotional debate.
Questions of safety and public health are best answered in terms of
studies, tests, results, facts and accumulated knowledge. On this basis,
approved biotech foods are shown to be quite safe. It might surprise many
to learn that it takes on average approximately 8-10 years to receive Food
and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S.
Department of Agriculture approval for new biotech crops. And of the
hundreds of candidate crops that are reviewed and tested every year, only
a few are approved. In fact, only 40 biotech crop varieties have ever been
approved for human consumption in the United States.
One strain of biotech soybean, for example, was subjected to 1,800
analyses comparing its fatty acids, proteins and hundreds of other
components to its conventional counterparts. The methodology and logic of
this exhaustive testing is not always easy to explain in sound bites, but
the end result is that the people who understand the science, within
academia, industry and regulatory agencies, are ultimately assured that
potential health consequences are nonexistent when a new crop is approved.
Biotechnology has been widely embraced in the United States; more than 60
million acres of biotechnology crops were planted in 1999. To date there
has not been a single verified case of an adverse health effect due to a
biotech food or food ingredient.
Perhaps the most disconcerting concept to arise in this public dialog, and
perhaps as well the source of some public apprehension, is the notion that
agricultural biotechnology is something new. The reality is that
biotechnology is a highly efficient, logical extension of traditional
cross-breeding techniques. It's as old as agriculture. The first farmers
were practicing a form of biotechnology when they began selectively
improving the genetic characteristics of the crops they were growing.
Today, modern biotechnology enables scientists to improve single genetic
characteristics without carrying forward the unwanted characteristics that
standard breeding methods often introduce.
But why is crop biotechnology important? Biotechnology offers a wide range
of current and future benefits, from foods that are more nutritious and
taste better, to crops that can grow in poor soils, survive drought,
insects and weeds. The Golden Rice that may someday deliver needed
beta-carotene to millions of the world's undernourished children is just
one example among the many potential benefits to a world that requires
better food production and nutrition. While these benefits are at stake in
the debate over the safety of biotechnology foods -- as Europe's virtual
ban on biotechnology evidences -- an equally momentous question lingers
about whether objective science will endure as a standard for food safety.
Although there is currently no scientific evidence for food safety
concerns in our genetically modified organisms, vigilance against possible
environmental impacts of the release of genetically modified organisms
should remain important.
Let us hope that 2001 sees a dispassionate and knowledgeable debate about
the safety of food biotechnology. The United States has providently built
a stringent food-safety system on the sturdy foundation of science and
common sense. From these standards, confidence in biotechnology should
arise, not another year of headline-borne confusion.
GUSTAAF A. de ZOETEN is professor emeritus of botany and plant pathology
at Michigan State University. He has advised the USDA and EPA on biotech
regulations and the marketing of bioengineered food.
Biotechnology: A New Genetically Modified Strain Is Changing Life For
Small Farmers In Makhatini
- Marc Mennessier. Translation of an article appearing in Le Figaro (one
of the main French dailies) of May ?, 2001.
For three years, small farmers in the Makhatini plains, a difficult region
in the northeast of South Africa, have given over their crops to
genetically modified, insect resistant, cotton. From this up-to-now unique
experience, they have drawn very positive conclusions: the amount of
insecticide used has been divided by four, time has been gained by
eliminating of thankless tasks, and substantial improvements in yields and
revenue per acre achieved. And the environmental and health risks so
feared in Europe? ?In the West, people have the luxury of being afraid of
biotechnology, but for us it?s a question of life or death? replies one of
Main article ? When he sprays his cotton field against insects,
AbsalumTumedi has to go three kilometers on foot to the nearest watering
hole to fill up his small backpack spraying device and walk the same
distance back. ?I end up going dozens of hard kilometers this way and have
to spend several days to cover my two hectare plot? he tells us, pointing
to his tired back.
But since he has been using the genetically modified Bollgard seed this
tough chore is only a memory. ?I only do two sprayings a year now, instead
of eight, on average, with the traditional seeds, the yield is better and
I earn more money to feed and raise my family?. Bollgard is the name of
the strain launched by the Monsanto corporation in a variety of cotton
marketed in South Africa, since 1998, by the seed companies Delta and Pine
Land. Based on the Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) bacteria, it allows plants
to ?naturally? secrete an insect killing protein which protects them from
a great number of parasites (over twenty have been counted!), especially
Absalum Tumedi is one of 600 small farmers in the Makhatini plains, a hard
region in the northeast of the country, who have chosen to plant GM
cotton, some of them for the third year running. This experiment is, up to
now, unique in the world. Who would ever have thought that a genetically
modified plant would interest Zulu peasants? People who only have a couple
of acres of red soil under a tropical sun. And, for whom cotton, in
addition to tradition staple crops (corn, vegetables, beans, fruit ?) to
live on, is their only source of income. Is it not said that this kind of
technology is made for wealthy farmers in developed countries?
?Where we are, there aren?t any factories, we only have farming to keep us
going? explains Thembitsha Joseph Buthelezi, the chairman of the Ubongwa
association, which represents several thousand small farmers in Makhatini.
?In the beginning, most of us were skeptical. The first year, only five of
us tried the experiment. But last year, in the area, half the cotton
surface (around 1 250 hectares) was seeded with Bollgard?.
The reasons for this craze are numerous. First of all there is the drastic
reduction in the number of insecticide applications and its economic,
ecological and health benefits. The insecticides used ? organophosphoates
? are particularly bad for the environments, and also for growers who
handle them as well as for their family members. Because of the hot, humid
Makhatimi climate, overalls and masks which could reduce risks of
contamination during spraying are not used very often. Then there are the
empty insecticide containers, still often used to carry drinking water.
Another advantage is, as the plains of Makhatini are completely without
infrastructure, it takes a day to go buy the insecticides at the nearest
retail outlet, located twenty odd kilometers away.
Saving time, but also saving money. The effect of reducing spraying from
eight to only two times a year cuts production costs. And that, in spite
of the fact that Bollgard seeds cost around twice as much as traditional
kinds, because of the royalties that Delta and Pine Land pay to Monsanto.
To all this, a significant rise in yield has to be added; around 33% on
average, but which can reach 80% on some plots. ?The Bollgard strain makes
it possible for a crop to express all its genetic potential?, explains
Johan van Jaarsveld, an agronomist at Delta and Pine Land. ?Hence the
spectacular results recorded with small scale farmers who don?t know how
to use agchem protection well. On the other hand, the effect is much less
clear for large scale growers who use airplanes or good disk harrows for
their spraying. Their crops already yielding maximum productivity,
Bollgard mainly makes it possible to cut down on using insecticides.?
The production of these 300 farms with hundreds of hectares of cotton each
(totaling 80 000 hectares nationally) should not rise appreciably, even if
a good many of them have already adopted GM seeds. As South Africa imports
around half of the ?white gold? (???) it uses, the price paid to growers,
presently 2.70 rands a kilo (around 2.55 FF), should, all things being
equal, stay stable for some time to come.
This is a crucial point for the farmers of Makhatini, whose net earnings
have gone up by 1 100 rands a hectare (about 1 170 FF) and who are
counting on this increased revenue to get them out of their current state
of underdevelopment. A lot needs to be done; to start with by improving
the habitat, buying agricultural equipment or educating children,
compulsory but expensive. Locally, officials have just launched an
ambitious program to bring in water and electricity, which today are not
available, but will have to be paid for when they are.
?If you come back in five years, you won?t recognize this place any more.
Bollgard is going to help Africa get back on its feet,? predicts Johan van
Jaarsveld, not without lyricism.
And the ecological and health risks of GM crops, so feared in
industrialized countries, especially in Europe? As cotton fiber is not
eaten and Bt protein comes under the umbrella of organic farmers, the main
unknown is the risk of resistant breeds of insects appearing.
To guard against that eventuality, the Makhatini farmers will scrupulously
put in place ?set aside zones?, as required by South African authorities
when Bollgard was approved in 1997. Each farmer has the choice between two
options; grow non-GM cotton on a minimum of 20% of his land or 5% if he
does not use any insecticide. This was done in order to maintain a
sufficient proportion of responsive insects. ?In the West, people have the
luxury of being afraid of biotechnology, but for us it?s a question of
life or death? asserts Thembitsha Joseph, Buthelezi. ?Those who are
against it, don?t want us to succeed?.
Insert ? 90 000 hectares of GM crops
South Africa is the only country on the continent to have put into place
rules (since 1998) for the commercial growing of genetically modified
crops. For now, two strains have been officially approved for marketing:
Monsanto?s Bollgard cotton (12 000 hectares last year) and Yieldgard corn
(75 000 hectares, or about 5% of the total surfaces), both of which are
genetically resistant to insects. Others are being studied or under
consideration for filing, in particular, strawberries, corn and sorghum
resistant to certain kinds of fungus, virus resistant potatoes, and sugar
cane which resists the ravaging Eldana bugs. Now only two insecticide
treatments a year instead of eight and yields up by an average of 30%.
Side piece ? A second life for Monsanto
The least you can say is that, in public opinion, Monsanto has become in
few years the archetype of multinationals. A company whose only goal is
take over the biological resources of the planet. It is true that, from
misstep to misstep, the St. Louis (Missouri) corporation has largely
contributed to building its own media tomb.
By creating, at the beginning of the 90s, plants which were genetically
resistant to its flagship herbicide, Round Up, at a time when it was going
to come into public domain. Adversaries first reproached the company for
wanting to subject growers, by selling them, at a high price, seed and the
products to go with it.
At the end of 1998, Terminator had even more disastrous effects. Jointly
perfected by the American seed companies, Delta and Pine Land, and the
Department of Agriculture, this strain makes seeds sterile; officially, to
avoid spreading genetically modified plants in the environment. But, when
Monsanto planned to acquire Delta and Pine Land, and to obtain exclusive
rights to this fabulous gene, the environmentalist lobbies accused it of
wanting to sell ?dead seeds? in order to make growers buy more every year.
The deal fell through, but as far as the public was concerned, the damage
had already been done.
?Today, Monsanto is looking for a second life after its death? emphasizes
the head of a leading agrochemical group. From this point of view, the
idea of inviting a group of French and African journalists to visit GM
cotton fields in the Makhatini plains was not loaded with second thoughts.
Even this public relations exercise does not take anything away from the
fact that hundreds of small farmers met there have freely opted for a
technology which was nonetheless thought to be reserved for big growers in
By reducing to a fourth the use of particularly harmful insecticides and
considerably increasing the earnings per surface unit, cotton with the
gene patented by Monsanto has actually greatly improved the living
conditions of small peasants who only have a few acres to live on.
Even if time has still not been long enough to make a final judgment, this
experiment, launched three years ago, suggests that genetic engineering ?
in so far as it is under control ? could give tremendous leverage in
developing the entire African continent in years to come (further reading
in our issue of April 17, 2001). The fact that the Monsanto ?monster?,
according to the expression of an anti-GM militant, is at the origin, does
not stop us from making the point.
Photo caption ? Parallel to traditional vegetable crops, genetically
modified, insect resistant, cotton is the single source of earnings the
Makhatini farmers, who have an average of two or three hectares of land to
make a living on.
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Activists Destroy GE Crops at Research Facility in Brentwood, CA
- Genetix Alert News Release; Frontline Information Service - News
For Immediate Release Contact: Denny Henke; Cell: 901.438.9907 Office:
901.458.9907; Date: May 17, 2001
Brentwood, CA - On May 16th, 2001 anti-biotech direct actionists destroyed
transgenic strawberry, tomato, and onion plants were uprooted and
destroyed. According to the communique "a group dedicated to the right to
good food, untainted by genetic engineering, occupied and acted against
one DNA Plant Technology research facility."
The communique continues "DNA Plant Technology Holdings was recently
acquired by ELM, a multinational bioengineering corporation that also owns
Seminis Vegetable Seeds, the largest distributor of fruit and vegetable
seeds in the world. DNAP is currently growing more than 15,000 acres of
genetically engineered field crops crops under in Mexico and the US,
mostly without the public's knowledge. DNAP has more than 50 patents for
such technologies as promoters, gene introduction, selectable markers
This action, the 3rd of 2001, comes nearly 2 months after an action by OSU
students in Corvallis, OR. Since November 1998 there have been over 40
anti-genetic direct actions in North America. The direct actionists
continue to maintain that biotechnology is completely unnecessary and is
being developed at the expense of human and ecological health solely to
increase the profits of large multinational corporations. With the North
American growing season at hand it is likely that direct actions against
facilities producing and testing genetically engineered organisms will
The activists link the direct action movement against biotechnology to the
developing movement against global capitalism stating that "In recent
years, more and more Americans are becoming fed up with corporate secrecy
and lack of accountability for the changes they make in communities, human
health, and the environment. The backlash against the WTO was one sign of
this dissatisfaction, and ongoing anti-biotechnology test plot sabotage
actions are another. Upset by what we were learning of the health and
environmental ramifications of Roundup Ready technology and of the
business practices of Seminis and DNAP in particular, we rounded up our
favorite animal friends and decided to take action in spite of their
boasted security measures."
The communique concludes "Safely outside on DNAP's poisoned earth, we
turned our attention to a half acre test plot of mature onion plants that
deserved to share the tomatoes' and strawberries' fate. Our frenzy of
uprooting took down another experiment in 5 minutes. A good nights work
lying in shreds behind us, we melted into the night the way we had come."
*Attached is copy of the communique. --- Begin communique ---
In the early morning of May 16th, 2001 a group dedicated to the right to
good food, untainted by genetic engineering, occupied and acted against
one DNA Plant Technology research facility. This research location is
located outside of Brentwood CA on Balfour Road, 1/2 mile east of Highway
4. We prevented further steps in transgenic crop experiments, within this
entity, from occurring this season. Transgenic strawberry, tomato, and
onion plants were uprooted and destroyed.
This is not the first time that people have taken direct action against
transgenic strawberry experiments: the first anti-GE action in the US took
place less than a mile from the DNAP facility. Nighttime gardeners
targeted GenTech's Frostban strawberry, setting the stage for more than 50
anti-GE actions to date.
DNA Plant Technology Holdings was recently acquired by ELM, a
multinational bioengineering corporation that also owns Seminis Vegetable
Seeds, the largest distributor of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world.
DNAP is currently growing more than 15,000 acres of genetically engineered
field crops crops under in Mexico and the US, mostly without the public's
knowledge. DNAP has more than 50 patents for such technologies as
promoters, gene introduction, selectable markers plant regeneration. One
gene silencing technology, trademarked Transwitch, allows agribusinessmen
to switch genes on and off at will, for example the gene responsible for
ethylene production in tomatoes. The Flavr Savr tomato utilizes this
technology to create a tomato with a shelf life of two to three weeks.
Like most applications of genetic engineering, this trait benefits neither
the workers who grow the tomato nor the people who buy these pale-pink,
plastic-wrapped, nutritionally zapped tomatoes.
In 1999, DNAP entered into a "technology collaboration agreement" with
Monsanto in order to adapt Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology to
strawberries. Faced with the phase-out of methyl bromide (a highly-toxic
herbicide/ soil fumigant) in 2003, DNAP hopes to force chemical-dependent
farmers to adopt this new weed control technology. Meanwhile, the "fruits
of such manipulations are filling up the shelves of our supermarkets. They
come with a cheap price per pound, but hold the least nutritional value.
DNAP has pushed the EPA to change its standards for allowable worker
exposure to Roundup. Since workers enter the fields two times per week to
pick the berries, their exposure to this toxic and carcinogenic herbicide
would be greatly increased by the implementation of this technology. In
addition, Roundup Ready technology results in the fields being literally
saturated with poison, with dire effects on the health of the soil. Once
again, the giants of genetic modification are sacrificing the health of
the people and the land for a pure profit motive.
Now DNAP is moving into so-called "second wave" research which is trying
to incorporate drugs into the tissues of food plants. But our resistance
is rooted deep in the land, and as long as they attempt to develop these
alter our food, our resistance will continue.
Researching this company and it's facilities, we discovered an unusual
level of secrecy surrounding it's operations. DNA Plant Holdings was
conspicuously absent from tax assessors listings, had no posted signs of
any sort in this otherwise neighborly agricultural community, and
otherwise went to great lengths to conceal the nefarious nature of their
business. We unearthed a report for DNAP stockholders that boasted of the
site's remoteness and inaccessibility to public view. Seminis, also owned
by ELM, has been a frequent target of anti-biotechnology actions, and the
DNAP report reflected this paranoia. They even reassured the stockholders
that the test plots were protected by security guards against 'fauna
In recent years, more and more Americans are becoming fed up with
corporate secrecy and lack of accountability for the changes they make in
communities, human health, and the environment. The backlash against the
WTO was one sign of this dissatisfaction, and ongoing anti-biotechnology
test plot sabotage actions are another. Upset by what we were learning of
the health and environmental ramifications of Roundup Ready technology and
of the business practices of Seminis and DNAP in particular, we rounded up
our favorite animal friends and decided to take action in spite of their
boasted security measures.
On a dark night we slipped through the open field surrounding the
experimental facility. Working less than 50 feet from a brightly-lit house
equipped with motion sensor/security light apparently aimed at the DNAP
fields, we entered the 1-acre strawberry test plot. True to Roundup Ready
test protocol, the plants were enveloped in a dense carpet of weeds, ready
for application of the poisonous herbicide. We removed an acre of the
enormous, leathery Frankenplants to a short new life- in plastic bags full
of bleach to prevent any possibility of survival and replanting.
We next proceeded to one of the two greenhouses of DNAP's tomato
experiments. We took a walk right through the walls, found a 1/4 acre of
4-foot tall fruiting tomatoes and dispatched them to their rightful
dwelling place in hell. We invalidated the year's experiment in less than
10 minutes, and caused some uncounted amount of economic damage.
Safely outside on DNAP's poisoned earth, we turned our attention to a half
acre test plot of mature onion plants that deserved to share the tomatoes'
and strawberries' fate. Our frenzy of uprooting took down another
experiment in 5 minutes. A good nights work lying in shreds behind us, we
melted into the night the way we had come.
Sufficient Testing of GM
- From: Meredith Lloyd Evans - BioBridge
To: The Editor Guardian
Friends of the Earth (letter A Bebb) again raises the spurious issue that,
somehow, both the Government and industry are in cahoots over
'insufficient testing' of GM crops. GM crops are the most severely tested
plants in the whole world. We should ask whether there has ever been
sufficient testing of organic foods, to ensure that there is no long-term
damage from the bacteria and fungi present on them, the fungal toxins that
are known poisons and carcinogens, and the heavy metals from organic
Are we sufficiently worried over the facts that organic crops may
genetically pollute the environment, or that the insecticidal Bt spores
sprayed on organic crops may kill non-target insects? Are we sufficiently
concerned that, in most cases, GM crops are the only safe and humanitarian
way to maintain and increase yields for increasing populations without
dramatically increasing land use and ecological pressure? Are we
insufficiently interested in the true potential of GM techniques to
improve the life of small farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America and
too concerned about the propaganda eco-groups spout at us? These
organisations have painted themselves into a corner. Their challenge is to
get out without losing face, or their income from doom-mongering.
Mr Meredith Lloyd-Evans, Managing Partner Arcadia International
Monsanto wheat yield increases to double with MAB
From: "NLP Wessex"
A report in the UK's 'Farming News' 10 May on developments in marker
assisted breeding (MAB) at Monsanto adds further support to the UN Food
and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) positive prognosis on the world's
ability to feed its growing population until at least 2030 without
reliance on the use of genetically engineered crops and animals.
In a news release 24 July 2000 on its latest report on global food needs
and provision the FAO commented: "Can the world produce enough food to
meet global demands? The answer is yes, according to a new report from
FAO's Global Perspectives Studies Unit....[which] forecasts trends in
food, nutrition and agriculture over the next 30 years."
Although including a brief discussion on their potential benefits and
risks, significantly the quantitative analysis carried out by the FAO
report did not include any contribution to global food output from GM
crops due to ongoing uncertainties regarding agronomic performance,
biosafety and consumer acceptance. The positive prognosis of the FAO
report is based on anticipated conventional crop trends.
In 'Farming News' Monsanto now predicts that its MAB programme could
generate annual growth rates in wheat yields which are in fact more than
double those used in the encouraging FAO projections. Moreover, it seems
increasingly likely that these developments will simultaneously provide
spin-off applications for conventional breeding programmes in other major
These advances represent an application of modern biotechnology which is
likely to achieve public acceptability in a way which those promoting
methods which incorporate recombinant DNA into farm plants and animals are
finding increasingly difficult to emulate.
For more information on the FAO report and MAB developments at Monsanto
and Syngenta see:
Reefer Madness: Writer Challenges Efficacy Of War On Drugs
- RINKER BUCK; The Hartford Courant, May 17, 2001
During the course of researching his latest book, "The Botany of Desire,"
Michael Pollan spent a delightful evening smoking pot in an Amsterdam cafe
and made an important discovery about himself and America's $20 billion
war on drugs: Marijuana didn't make him feel "stupid or paranoid" anymore.
The improvements in America's favorite controlled substance -- a vast
change from Pollan's hippie days at Bennington College in Vermont in the
early 1970s -- have come about, he concludes, for an important reason.
"Operating in the shadow of a ferocious drug war," global pot growers have
literally been forced underground into modern, scientifically managed
marijuana cellars, where cross-breeding and improved growing methods have
turned pot into a more potent, benign high while removing the noxious side
effects of old.
The result? Cannabis has been transformed into "what is today the most
prized and expensive flower in the world."
"The drug war is great politics," Pollan said during an interview at his
mountaintop home in Cornwall, an elaborate, 7-acre warren of gardens,
ponds and elegant stone walls reclaimed from the site of a former dairy.
"Declaring a war on drugs explains away a lot of crime and why we have
problems with our kids. But like all societies, we're torn both by a
desire to alter consciousness and then to control the consequences of
that, and it's really the ambiguities of that behavior that drew me toward
understanding the culture of growing marijuana."
The disappointing results of America's drug war are but one of many
ironies in "The Botany of Desire," a whimsical, literary romp through
man's perpetually frustrating and always unpredictable relationship with
Pollan didn't set out to become a New Age critic of America's drug laws,
and he seems an unlikely candidate for that kind of attention. In 1994,
Pollan abandoned a successful career as an editor in New York to devote
himself full time to writing. As the founding editor of the Harper's
Magazine "Index" and later the magazine's executive editor, he was
regarded as an up-and-coming star capable of taking over any number of
high-profile editorial posts. But Pollan found himself increasingly drawn
to the pleasures of gardening and writing about his experiences in nature.
"I found that nothing was more pleasurable than devoting a long evening to
gardening after a day spent writing or guest-editing in New York," says
Pollan, who had floodlights installed so he could garden after dark.
Pollan, 46, is often surprised by the impact of his quirky, discursive
essays. In 1998, a long article Pollan published in The New York Times
Sunday Magazine, "Playing God in the Garden," described how Monsanto had
introduced a genetically engineered potato to kill off the Colorado
beetle, largely without public notice. The article's appearance led to a
wholesale review of genetically engineered potatos by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. This spring, Monsanto quietly dropped the product.
Pollan's two earlier books -- "Second Nature," a critically acclaimed
meditation on gardening, and "A Place of My Own," his lyrical account of
spending a year designing and building a writer's cabin behind his home --
established him as a sort of Emerson of the contemporary gardening and
In his new book, Pollan chose four common, commercially successful plants
-- the apple, the tulip, the potato and marijuana -- to explore the
connection between man's desire to alter nature and how the plant world
responds. But Pollan's probing and at times hilarious journey through
America's marijuana culture will provoke the most notice as he makes the
rounds of television shows and a six-city book tour.
"The big lesson I took away from 'Second Nature' was that the garden is
the place where we look to to answer our questions about nature," Pollan
says. "But in the end, I was interested in us, people. By looking at
plants that have evolved to gratify the desires, maybe I could understand
the nature of those desires themselves."
Modern society's official taboo on marijuana has led to contrarian
results, Pollan concludes. He became interested in marijuana because it
symbolizes every generation's tendency to select a single "forbidden
plant" while ignoring others just as threatening or intoxicating. In the
1920s, as Pollan points out, alcoholic beverages were prohibited, but
opium and marijuana could be bought over the counter at drug stores. Today
the situation is exactly reversed, but government prohibition efforts have
proved just as ineffective.
"Americans just don't seem to realize that the $20 billion war on drugs is
essentially a war on pot, a drug whose real threat to society is as best
debatable," Pollan says. "If you take away all the people using pot, what
do you have left? A couple of million users of hard-core drugs. I'm not
sure most Americans would agree to spend this much money for a threat that
Few Americans, as well, realize the threat to basic freedoms raised by the
war on drugs. "You can go down through the Bill of Rights -- all 10 of
them -- and easily determine that freedoms have been eroded by decisions
on drug cases, and most of these are pot cases," Pollan says. "The Sixth
Amendment right to confront your accuser, the Fourth Amendment right to
unreasonable searches have all been curtailed as a result of drug cases."
Pollan, however, refuses to become a moral sourpuss about what he
considers to be America's overzealous war on pot, and his journey through
the marijuana culture reveals several fascinating nuggets of trivia and
hilarious personal events. Pollan discovers, for example, that astronomer
Karl Sagan avidly experimented with pot and even anonymously published an
essay on the subject. Pollan's own brief career as a marijuana farmer
almost ended in disaster when he accepted delivery of a cord of firewood
from a man who turned out to be the chief of police from New Milford.
Pollan's odyssey through the world of marijuana reveals one final, perhaps
critical, irony. The rapid spread of pot in the 1960s "and the attendant
official worries" freed up generous government resources to study how
marijuana affects the brain, and Israeli and American researchers soon
discovered both the "psychoactive" agent and the receptor in the brain
that creates a pot high. The resulting research has revolutionized
science's understanding of how the brain works.
"People always thought that if they took mind-altering drugs, maybe they'd
understand consciousness more," Pollan says. "Now we're realizing that
studying pot and its effects are changing what we know about the brain,
everything from memory, emotion, appetite and so forth. Scientifically,
pot has literally unlocked the secrets of the brain."
(Note from Prakash: Pollan was the author of the March 5 article in New
York Times Magazine damning the Golden Rice)
Should We Be Worried About Plant Products 'Derived Through Radiation'
- A response from Genetic Food Alert UK
Genetic Food Alert UK campaigns for a complete ban on the use of
TRANSGENIC organisms in food and crops. Transgenic organisms are created
by inserting genes or gene sequences from one or more species into the DNA
of another species. This is a process that cannot occur in nature and is
not substantially equivalent to natural evolution. It can program plants
to attempt advanced and exotic biochemical process to which they have had
no opportunity to adapt. The process is like inserting chunks of one
computer program into an unrelated one - unexpected biochemical
incompatabilities and hazards (such as allergies) are likely to result.
The normal process of evolution is incremental random mutation,
principally caused by changes to genes through background radiation,
followed by natural selection of the best adapted progeny.
Mutagenesis through radiation (a process that I believe is little used
now) accelerates this process and, whilst the acceleration of the process
might cause some problems because the plant has less opportunity to
undergo thorough natural selection, it remains substantially equivalent to
the natural process of evolution.
Our position is that the potential food safety hazards of gene transfer
far exceed any resulting from exposure to increased radiation levels. We
believe that transgenic crops should never be treated as substantially
equivalent to conventional crops, unlike crops developed through
In response to the questions posted earlier:
1. Do you or do you not oppose plants derived through radiation techniques?
**GFA has no specific objections to the process of mutagenesis**
2. Are they less safe than GM plants, more safe or the same?
**Almost certainly far less risky**
3. Should the precautionary principle be applied to these plants?
**The Precautionary Principle should be applied whenever a potentially
hazardous technology or technological process with little natural or
historic precedent is introduced. However, the degree of proof of safety
required for novel transgenic crops should be much higher than that
required for crops developed through the relatively natural process of
irradiation. I understand that mutagenesis is rarely used nowdays so the
question may be irrelevant**
And for that matter, what does Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth say
about these questions?
**I don't know**
I assume the purpose of the fake article is to persuade us that transgenic
foods and relatively conventional foods require similar safety tests. This
is clearly nonsense.
ROBERT VINT, National Co-ordinator GENETIC FOOD ALERT.