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Date:

May 22, 2001

Subject:

Dumping Rice, Organics, EU Chat, BBC, Britain, Arson,

 

AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Date: 22 May 2001 16:42:36 -0000
From: rjvint@globalnet.co.uk
To: agbioview-owner@listbot.com
Subject: Dumping GM Rice

Malcolm Livingstone and Tom DeGregori [AgBioView 21 May] express concern
that 5 million pounds of experimental GM rice is being dumped instead of
being fed to the poor. Admirable though these sentiments might seem they
betray ignorance about the reality of the global food situation.
Throughout the western world millions of tons of cereals are regularly
destroyed in order to regulate prices. If the USA wanted to feed the poor
it has lots of surplus non-GM crops at hand so the destruction of this
tiny quantity of experimental rice is irrelevant to the global food
situation. For many years the world has produced a surplus of food which
has been dumped or used as animal feed whilst starvation continues amongst
the poor. Wealthy(ier) Ethiopian farmers continued to export cereal crops
to the USA during the Ethiopian famine for use as animal feed in
accordance with the logic of the free market. Even in the USA thousands
suffer malnutrition each year because they have less money for food than
farmers have for cattle feed. This is why increases in food production in
themselves will do nothing to help the poor.

To obtain food the poor need either an income or land. Half the world's
poor are farmers - either smallholders or landless farm labourers. Crops
that increase the productivity only of farmers who can afford expensive
agrochemicals, seeds or contracts increase the maldistribution of land and
money and so cause further landlessness and unemployment amongst the poor.
Crops that enable the replacement of farm labourers by machinery likewise
cause mass rural unemployment and destitution. The outcome? Even if such
crops increased overall global productivity of food they would
simultaneously deny an increasing percentage of the poor access to either
income or land and so deny them access to this food. So we end up with
increased starvation in a world of plenty, with more food being fed to
animals whilst more children suffer malnutrition and more famines whilst
landfills overflow with dumped food.

The most effective solution to world poverty is to specifically design
agricultural systems that will increase the productivity of the
smallholdings of the poorest farmers and that will yield well without the
expensive chemicals that these farmers cannot afford. The cheapest methods
include integrated pest management systems, polyculture (where several
different crops are grown simultaneously in the same field) and (as
revealed by IRRI research) growing a mixture of many varieties of a single
crop in the same field to control the spread of pests and diseases. Even
the most equitable forms of crop improvement (which would not profit the
biotech companies) are almost totally irrelevant. A more effective a
solution, though it is generally seen as politically unacceptable, is land
reform - returning to the poor the land taken from them in the colonial
era.

This is why peasant farmers unions and development charities such as
Christian Aid, ActionAid, Equal Exchange and the World Development
Movement see GM crops not only as a distraction from the real causes of
poverty and malnutrition but as a major threat to food security and the
livelihoods of the poor.

Robert Vint.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 22 2001 23:43:23 EDT
From: Malcolm Livingstone
Subject: Robert Vint

Robert,

You make a fair and reasonable argument concerning the Aventis rice if the
only reason for burying it was economic. However the reason was because it
was transgenic. I don't like the destruction of food mountains for economic
reasons but at least I can see why it is done. It is a consequence, not of
excess food production, but of global economics. Why should farmers give
away their produce to those expected to buy it?

I am not an economist so I'm treading of thin ice here but I'll give you my
thoughts on what I think can be done to alleviate hunger and malnutrition.
If any economists are reading this please feel free to knock me off my
pedestal.

First your suggestion that land should be given back to the poor. I am not
against this idea if it is practical to do so. Can subsistance farming
truly eliminate poverty? I don't think so. Is it your suggestion to give
back small holdings to peasant farmers and expect them to work the land as
their ancestors did? If so then we are surely heading for disaster. What
will happen in a locust plague if we don't use pesticides? All the
intercropping in the world will not work.

How much land do we give to the poor? One acre, 10 acres, a 100 acres? Do
you have some figures on how much land is available and how much each
person would get? Zimbabwe would be a good start as there are many
ex-freedom fighters calling for land distribution. I wonder how much is
available and how well these people could farm them?

I don't think going back to a mythical Garden of Eden will be much help.
Populations have soared since pre-colonial times in both Africa and Asia.
Originally these populations were a mixture of farming and hunter-gatherer
societies and their standard of living was not exactly sterling. Some, like
the Masai, still live much as their ancenstors did but most of Africa does
not. OK I hear you say what about using the best of modern technology to
provide cheap tools for agriculture. Things like cheap water pumps are
available and I applaud their use. However fertilisers, insecticides and
herbicides are always going to give an edge to those with access to them
and I don't think we can reasonably restrict the sale of these useful
chemicals.

I think we should use all the technology we have to help people - including
GM. What is wrong about using Bt maize or sorghum? The farmers have no
other cost save the initial purchase of seed. This technology is scale
neutral. It doesn't matter whether you are a large farming conglomerate or
a peasant on 1 acre - you both get the same benefit. If you think that this
is an expensive option why not give the farmers a chance to try it for
themselves and make their OWN mind up? Nobody is suggesting that poor
farmers be FORCED to use any technology. Believe it or not those that are
already farmers will quickly make a decision that is in their best
interests. Those that are not farmers have got a long hard road ahead of
them whatever they do. In fact there is little chance that an ex-soldier
from Zimbabwe, who has never known anything else but being a soldier, can
ever farm using IPM techniques. Education is a start and let's hope
somebody who knows these agricultural practices, like yourself, bothers to
go there and teach them.

Secondly I don't actually think the problem of starvation is anything to do
with how much food is produced. You are correct when you say the World
already has enough food - although I'm not sure for how much longer.

Some suggest that it is a distribution problem. I don't agree that
distribution is the problem and neither do you, I believe. I think your
suggestion is to give back land and encourage local production of staple
crops. This is fine where possible but it is important not to treat poor
people as if they are monkeys. Ethiopian farmers have the right to grow
whatever crop they wish. Why do they choose cash crops over staple crops?
For money. Why is money preferable to yams? I don't really have to explain
this to you I'm sure but I'll tell you anyway. Money buys freedom,
education, security, any food you want from wherever you want - it gives
the promise of escape from subsistance farming. When you grow yams, you
only eat yams.

These people are individuals with individual aspirations just like you or
me. They have a right to want a standard of living like you and I have. How
might the world's poor get a standard of living like ours? Well not by
growing a staple crop on a small holding that's for sure. You and I
wouldn't last a week in those conditions.

It is interesting to see that biotechnology is often mentioned in the same
breath as globalisation. Biotechnology is seen as the greedy face of
corporate capitalism. Well biotechnology is just another technology. In
fact transformation of crops is not that technically difficult or costly
and many African and Asian scientists are right now producing their own
transgenic crops without help from multinational companies. Back to
globalisation.

Again I must reiterate that I am not an economist but it seems to me that
the end product of globalisation is the removal of tariff barriers between
countries. This would create a true global marketplace where everybody can
ply their wares on a level playing field. If my simple analysis is correct
then those that will suffer the most from globalisation will be the
developed nations. The recent agreement between Mexico and the US is an
example of what a tariff free world might look like.

Mexico has gained increased capital from US companies prefering to use the
cheaper Mexican labour. The losers are American workers and the winners are
the Mexican workers. Some of those Mexican workers were once peasant
farmers who now have a chance to earn a living. The money they earn is a
far cry from what US workers would earn doing the same job. However it is
much better than being a peasant working a small impoverished plot of land.
Eventually labour costs will to and fro across borders until all the world
pays much the same for a particular task wherever you come from. The only
economic edge will be through such things as natural resources and
inventiveness. This is the only fair outcome and, I believe, the only one
that will be sustainable without constant famine and war.

Poverty and malnutrition are brought about by many factors. The solution
will difficult and complex. It is my belief that we in the developed World
should help where we can - even if it is painful for our own societies. We
should use all the expertise we can to help including biotechnology and
IPM. We should be aspiring to raise the standard of living in the World not
to lower it to a pre-industrial level. A return to 19th century agriculture
is not a reasonable option except as amusement for those with more money
than sense. However, eventually it may not be agricultural technology which
prevents starvation but industrialisation. In the meantime lets keep trying
to improve things any way we can including the use of biotechnology.

Malcolm Livingstone

PS By the way I think that Western farmers who make so much produce they
can't sell it are pretty efficient, at least in terms of production. The
World's food surplus would be a huge deficit if we were relying on
traditional agriculture.

Malcolm Livingstone
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 22 2001 19:26:42 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Reply to Vint

Dear Mr. Vint,

Let us objectively consider your remarks. You claim, ?The suggestion that
it is the responsibility of the public rather than biotech companies to
prove the safety of their products and to pay for the tests is clearly
asinine.?

1. I never suggested that ?the public? has a responsibility to prove the
safety of biotech products.

2. ?The public? in democratic nations is elected by the people and
accountable to them. To that extent, in democratic nations, scientists
employed by ?the public? have determined nonetheless that GM crops are as
safe as their unmodified counterparts.

a. In this manner, ?the public? in democratic nations has nonetheless,
through scientists employed by them, determined that GM crops are as safe
as their unmodified counterparts.

b. Corporations are also citizens, and their scientists have determined
that GM crops are as safe as their unmodified counterparts.

c. If other citizen groups, i.e., ?civil society? activists, wish to make
claims which contradict the determinations of democratic governments and
the producers of GM crops, it behooves them to come up with facts, which
requires research rather than imagination.

3. Your remarks suggest that the testing burden should rest on biotech
companies. In concert with ?the public,? through the public?s duly elected
and appointed representatives, the biotech companies have met this burden.
Yet activists reject company research out of hand, and in Britain, they
physically attack and destroy public research. If activists reject both
public and private research, it appears up to them to conduct their own.

4. My remarks suggested that activist groups, if they wish to disagree
with research results approved by the public?s duly elected and appointed
representatives, should conduct their own research and generate facts (as
opposed to speculations) which differ from what is widely recognized as
true.

5. Your statement rejecting (4) above and construing it as a demand that
research be ?the responsibility of the public? implies that you represent
the public. You do not represent the public. If you wish to, run for
office.

6. By extension of (5) above, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth do not
represent the public. They are neither elected, nor appointed by elected
officials, nor accountable to the public in any way, unless one wants
prefers a fascist to a democratic model of representation.

Mr. Vint, you write:

?This kind of arrogance has led to almost universal contempt for the
biotech industry from civil society.?

7. ?Civil society? is merely a catchphrase for activist groups who eschew
the models of democracy and free trade in favor of fascism, which is
neither civil, nor representative of society. That so-called ?civil
society? groups hold democracy and science in ?universal contempt? is
becoming an increasing embarrassment for such groups.

Mr. Vint, you write:

?Please keep churning out such statements - they are valuable to my work.?

8. Mr. Vint, your statements are instructive to us all.

In conclusion, Mr. Vint, I recommend you issue the following statement, in
your capacity as Genetic Food Alert (GFA) National Coordinator: ?Civil
society groups reject all scientific findings by government bodies and
corporations regarding the safety of genetically modified crops. Taking
upon ourselves the role of representing the public interest, the GFA calls
upon Greenpeace and
Friends of the Earth, who together have substantial funds available, to
conduct long-term, independent research into the safety of these crops.?

By the way, when you issue the statement, please add a line about how it
would be nice if people wouldn?t attack the experiments.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 22 May 2001 15:48:12 -0000
From: mark.rose@syngenta.com
To: agbioview-owner@listbot.com
Subject: RE: AGBIOVIEW: Burried Rice, Superweed Kit, Eco-fascism, Organics
, Fearing Fiction, Doom and Gloom

Noticably absent from Craig Sams "map of the world" of organic food
producers were virtually all countries of the developing world. There
organic agriculture is widespread and largely a matter of necessity,
not choice.

How would you rate their health and welfare Mr Sams?
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 22 2001 20:29:23 EDT
From: Malcolm Livingstone
Subject: scientists

Dear All,

Some of us on this list have occasionally been subjected to abuse in
various forms for standing up for science, reason and logic. What follows
is a passage of text from William Burroughs that describes a scientist from
Burroughs point of view. This description might give us an idea what
anti-technology groups really think of us.

"Too may scientists seem to be ingnorant of the most rudimentary spiritual
concepts. They tend to be suspicious, bristly, paranoid-type people with
huge egos they push around like some elephantiasis victim with his
distended testicles in a wheelbarrow terrified no doubt that some skulking
ingrate of a clone student will sneak into his very brain and steal his
genius work."

William Burroughs, The Adding Machine, 1986, p.132


Now I feel better.

Malcolm Livingstone
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 23 2001 02:08:23 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Reply to Sams

Dear Mr. Sams,

I?ll overlook for now your extremely biased figures regarding the
prevalence of ``organic`` farming which disregards areas so impoverished
that they can barely feed themselves, let alone bear the entry costs to
using modern agricultural technology or the cost of gaining organic
certification from arrogant affluent ``first-world`` groups and are by
necessity ``organic.``

Meanwhile, let us assume that your figures about grain subsidies are
correct, i.e., that a ``Kenyan or Indian grain trader can pick up the
phone and buy US Govt subsidised corn for 3¢ a pound when it cost a US
farmer 6¢ a pound to produce it...`` You claim that as a result, ``farmers
in Kenya and India (who can produce corn at a cost of 4-5¢ a pound) will
be poor and those developing economies will never get off the ground.``

To Kenyans, the cost in the US of producing grain is irrelevant. Only the
purchase price is relevant. You say that price is three cents a pound for
corn, and compare that to four or five cents a pound for local production.
(That means in some places, it is cheaper to import than to produce
locally, which is common in global commerce.)

Are you suggesting that US subsidies for grain exports are still not high
enough for hungry Kenyans? Or do you suggest that Kenya should produce
grain at a cost of four to five cents a pound when hungry Kenyans can
barely afford to pay three cents a pound? Or are you suggesting that
modern technology (such as GM crops) will bring down the cost of
production in Kenya to the point where they can undercut the cost of
imports? Or maybe that Kenya should subsidize their farmers to produce
corn at four to five cents a pound and sell it at less than three cents a
pound?

Mr. Sams, you introduced subsidies into this discussion, so you may now
give us the answer.

From: Craig To: Bob Goldberg
My response was motivated by Andrew Apel?s extremely unbalanced fantasy
about LSD trips from organic bread and E.coli from organic hamburgers.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 22 May 2001 15:18:29 -0000
From: bahloowalia@kinsealy.teagasc.ie Subject: Research on transgenic
potato varieties
To: agbioview-owner@listbot.com

Can someone confirm the news/rumour that Monsanto has dropped research and
product development on GM potato varieties. If true any
reasons behind this move?

B.S. Ahloowalia
Agriculture and Food Development Authority
Kinsealy Research Centre, Dublin 17
Ireland
Tel.: 353-1-846 0644 ext.130
Fax: 353-1-846 0524
E-mail: bahloowalia@kinsealy.teagasc.ie
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: May 23 2001 00:20:34 EDT
From: Malcolm Livingstone
Subject: Eating DNA

Dear All,

Hohlweg and Doerfler (1) have just published an article in MGG that looks
at the fate of ingested plant DNA. Although more stable than naked DNA the
plant DNA was not expressed in any tissues tested. Fragments of plant DNA
can persist in the caecum for up to 121 hours after ingestion. However
after 8 generations of mice were fed plant material containing the gfp gene
there was no evidence of the expression of the ingested transgene. Hohlweg
and Doerfler state in their abstract, "The results have been uniformly
negative and argue against the germline transfer of orally administered
DNA".

I personally never doubted that this would be the case but at least
somebody has gone ahead and done the work.

Following on from my previous posting in reply to Robert Vint: I would just
like to point out to Robert that we don't have equitable distribution of
land in the West either. His organic-loving mate, Prince Charles, is
probably aware of that.

1 Hohlweg U and Doerfler W: On the fate of plant or other foreign genes
upon the uptake in food or after intramuscular injection in mice. MGG
(2001), 265: 225-233.

Malcolm Livingstone
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 23 May 2001 02:05:35 -0000
To: agbioview-owner@listbot.com
From: jwcross@erols.com
Subject: Polarization Over Biotech Food

There is a worthwhile "Insights" article in the Government and
Policy section of Chem. & Eng. News this week, "Polarization Over Biotech
Food" by Bette Hileman. (Volume 79, Number 21 pp. 59)

"Recently, many experts have offered suggestions about how to overcome the
extreme polarization of opinions surrounding agricultural biotechnology.
To understand the roots of these opinions, they often analyze the
differences between the European
attitude "intense hostility" and the U.S. attitude much milder but growing
concerns."

The article comments on an interesting viewpoint recently presented
by Willy de Greef, head of regulatory affairs at Syngenta Seeds in a
lecture sponsored by the Pew Foundation.

John Cross


The Charms of Duckweed
http://www.mobot.org/jwcross/duckweed

Phytoremediation
http://www.mobot.org/jwcross/phytoremediation
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 22 May 2001 19:03:24 -0000
From: e.c.apling@btinternet.com
To: agbioview-owner@listbot.com
Subject: RE: AGBIOVIEW:Eco-fascism

In this connection you may be interested in the epistle loaded to my
web-site at <http://apling.freeservers.com/Foods/AnimalRights.htm> in
January this year. {unfortunately the link to an article inthe Guardian
newspaper now fails).

Regards

Paddy
NFHS Member #5594
Mailto:E.C.Apling@btinternet.com
http://apling.freeservers.com/index.htm
or http://www.e.c.apling.btinternet.co.uk


Edward C. ("Paddy") APLING
BSc, CChem, MChemA, FRSC, FIFST, MRSH
Professional Member, American Association of Cereal Chemists
Professional Member, Institute of Food Technologists (USA)
Member, Society of Chemical Industry.
Lecturer in Food Science, University of Reading, 1962-1986
email: E.C.Apling@btinternet.com
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: 22 May 2001 21:05:43 -0000
To: agbioview-owner@listbot.com
From: kmarsh@iol.ie
Subject: Food quality in Europe

Dear colleagues,

Please note that Commissioners David Byrne and Franz Fischler will do an
Internet chat on "Food Quality in Europe" on 6 June 2001
from 18.00 to 20.00h. This information has been published on Europa and
the Sanco Internet and Intranet websites and is being forwarded to the
on-linepress.

For a further and more targeted promotion we would like to ask for your
cooperation in forwarding the attached announcement of the
chat to those of your contacts who might be interested.

Notably the contacts of Scientific Committees (to reach the scientific
sector) and of Standing Committees (to reach the National authorities)
could be of great help. The same goes for personal contacts and lists you
may have of stakeholders (industry, consumer organisations
etc.).

We'd like to thank you for your cooperation!

Kind regards,
Johanna Schmidt

Please find the links to the announcement of the chat in 11 languages
below:

English:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_en.pdf

French:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_fr.pdf

German:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_de.pdf

Italian:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_it.pdf

Spanish:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_es.pdf

Dutch:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_nl.pdf

Swedish:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_sv.pdf

Danish:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_da.pdf

Finnish:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_fi.pdf

Greek:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/health_consumer/events/chat_el.pdf
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some GM Surveys:

http://www.biotechnology.gov.au/global_support_for_GM_foods_10_May_2001.doc

http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/pdf_files/consumer.pdf

http://ific.org/proactive/newsroom/release.vtml?id=19241

http://www.biotechnology.gov.au/FOSS_Lorne_web_May_2001.ppt
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

FARMER: BBC DID HELP ME NOBBLE BLAIR

The Mirror
May 23, 2001

AN election campaign protester admitted yesterday that a BBC TV crew
helped him try to ambush Tony Blair.

Farmer Brian Baxter said staff even picked him up at home and drove him to
confront the Prime Minister.

Mr Baxter, 68, who wanted to raise his concerns about testing of
genetically modified crops, was fitted with a microphone for the protest
at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

The BBC yesterday dismissed claims by Labour Party General Secretary
Margaret McDonagh that TV stations had been colluding with protesters.

But Mr Baxter, of Swaffham, said: "Yes, I was driven by the BBC to protest
against Mr Blair."

He said he was angry at Labour's reaction. "What Labour is trying to say
is that we do not want the BBC or anybody else to help anybody who is
likely to say something that is against the policy of people in power
today. I think that is tragic," he said.

The BBC denied stage managing the meeting. It said: "This was an attempt
to see how easy it would be for an ordinary person to get near Tony Blair
- to actually talk to him."

Mr Blair yesterday cleared TV stations of colluding over the egg throwing
protest against John Prescott, and his confrontation with Sharron Storer,
whose partner has cancer.

But the PM is now looking at ditching the media pack which is following
his election campaign trial around the country.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Opinion: In Britain, A Show Of Confidence For Biotech Foods

The Government's Science-Based Policy On Genetically Modified Food Seems
Likely To Eliminate Serious Environmental Objections

Bridge News
By David Walker
May 22, 2001

NORWICH, England--The British general election has for some time been seen
as a make or break event for the future of genetically modified crops in
Britain. The Labour government has held a well-defined science-based
policy since genetically modified crops became an issue about two years
ago.

But with considerable uncertainty and concern among the British population
on this issue, the question has increasingly been whether the government
might abandon the policy to squeeze extra votes during an election
campaign, rather than the science itself.

Although the issue has tended to slip on political agendas, the activists
have been able to generate at least one headline item recently. This
involved the proximity of a genetically modified crop trial to a research
center for organic crops.

The environment minister, Michael Meacher, asked the scientific steering
committee overseeing the trials to have the trial moved. It's significant
that the committee has been slow to accept the request, as it believes the
risks to the organic crops is minimal.

This indicates an increasing confidence in the technology, provides
evidence that the political battle is about to be won and shows the
scientific communities' increased confidence in itself.

A three-year program of farm-scale environmental trails was set up in 1999
to address concerns of environmentalists and others who oppose the
technology.

A series of government reports published in the spring of 1999 found
little if any fault with the technology, but this failed to inspire public
confidence.

Accepting that environmental aspects of genetically modified crops had not
been tested in farm-scale trials in Britain, the government obtained a
voluntary agreement with the industry to undertake a three-year program of
testing before full-scale commercial production. This arrangement had the
added advantage of delaying major decisions during a cooling-off period.

No major challenges appear to have arisen in the first full year of
testing in the British country side. Only minor adjustments for this
year's trials have been made including small increases in separation
distances from conventional commercial crops.

While the trials will run the full three years before commercial release,
a generally clean bill of health at this stage must provide the scientific
community with a degree of confidence over the eventual outcome.

Although these trials were accepted by mainstream environmental groups,
they were an immediate target for activists seeking to keep the issue in
front of the public.

In addition to creating publicity by targeting the crops themselves, the
activists took aim at the farmers hosting the trials to discourage
participation, so that the trials would have to be abandoned. If the
claims of the activists are to be believed, they came close to succeeding
a year ago.

This spring, however, has been much quieter. In truth, the British
foot-and-mouth outbreak has conspired against the activists.

With the country genuinely supportive of attempts to limit rural traffic
with the risk of spreading the disease, the eco-warriors may have feared
adverse publicity if they actively demonstrated at the trials sites. The
issue of genetically modified crops was also unceremoniously relegated
from the front page news league by the outbreak.

Furthermore, the activists may have had, and still have, specific plans
for the election campaign period recognizing it as a particularly
promising ambush opportunity. That the election was deferred from the date
widely anticipated may have left a hole in the activists' program.

Having lost their momentum, however, the activists have a much greater
challenge ahead of them. With opinion polls suggesting at least a
comfortable victory for Labour, the need to accommodate this popular cause
will not be great even if they can reignite interest.

If the government's science-based policy survives the election, which now
seems most probable, the trials are unlikely to be abandoned before the
results are published. And it seems increasingly likely they will
eliminate serious environmental objections.

The election campaign will certainly be critical for the future of
genetically modified crops. While the foot-and-mouth outbreak may have
added to the activists' challenge of keeping the issue alive, the tide of
interest really began to turn last summer.

Until then the supermarkets had been exploiting, and indeed creating,
public concern in their promotional activity. As early as March 2000 the
British Food Standards Agency was reported to have plans to test retail
products that claimed to be GM-free--in other words, not containing
genetically modified content.

In July a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority on promotion of
organic food was a further caution. While exceptionally the ruling allowed
the claim GM-free status, no specific benefit was attached to the claim.
Other claims, including taste, health, environmental and animal welfare
benefits were found to be without basis.

Implicitly cut off from unsupportable claims against genetically
engineered food, the supermarkets have moved onto the safer ground of
nutrition for their advertising focus.

But the most refreshing element of the decision by the steering committee
was its faith in its science. The issue at stake was that of the possible
cross-contamination through pollen drift of crops at the organic crops
research center. It's the most contentious of all issues raised by
environmentalists.

Since the height of the mad-cow disease epidemic five and 10 years ago,
the stock of the scientific community has been low. The first step in the
reestablishment of confidence in scientific evidence has to be a show of
confidence of scientists in their information.

It was a considerable act of courage and confidence for a committee of
scientists, independent as they might be on paper, not to yield their
ground to a minister of the crown during a general election on such a
politically sensitive issue.

DAVID WALKER, an agricultural economist, lives on his family's farm
outside Norwich, England. He recently served as senior economist in London
for the Home-Grown Cereals Authority and previously was executive director
of the Alberta Grain Commission in Canada. He also maintains a Web site at
www.openi.co.uk. His views are not necessarily those of BridgeNews, whose
ventures include the Internet site www.bridge.com.
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http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/23/science/23TREE.html

Fires Believed Set as Protest Against Genetic Engineering

The New York Times
By SAM HOWE VERHOVEK with CAROL KAESUK YOON
May 23, 2001

SEATTLE, May 22 ? One fire gutted a research laboratory at the University
of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture here, while the other
destroyed two buildings and several vehicles at a poplar tree nursery in
the northwestern corner of Oregon. Both were reported shortly after 3 a.m.
Monday.

Today, federal authorities were combing both sites for clues, acting on
what they described as strong indications that both fires had been set by
a loosely knit group of radical environmentalists adamantly opposed to
research on the genetic modification of trees.

At the Seattle site, some research was conducted into modification that,
as with altered foods, could potentially make trees more commerically
productive. Researchers, for example, are studying a gene that could alter
how often a tree grows branches. The more branches, the more wood that
could be turned into pulp for paper. The fewer branches, the fewer knots
on the trunk and the more valuable the wood.

Such genetic manipulation has raised concerns for some people for a
variety of reasons, including the possibility of harm to the environment.
Others are opposed on principle to what they see as unacceptable tampering
with nature.

Managers of the 7,300-acre Oregon tree farm said they did not create or
grow genetically engineered trees there, but a company that once owned the
property was affiliated with a university-based group, the Poplar
Molecular Genetics Cooperative.

At the Oregon site, Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, the words "You
cannot control what is wild" and "ELF" were spray-painted on the sides of
one of the remaining buildings, an F.B.I. spokeswoman, Beth Anne Steele,
said today.

The initials stand for Earth Liberation Front, a movement that has claimed
responsibility for arson and vandalism against commercial properties in
recent years, including a ski resort in Colorado, a lumber yard in
southern Oregon, and housing sites on Long Island and elsewhere. Four
teenagers were charged in the Long Island arsons earlier this year.

F.B.I. officials said that the timing of the fires and other factors made
them almost certainly related.

A man who identified himself as a spokesman for the North American Earth
Liberation Front media office, in Portland, Ore., said in a phone
interview today that such acts were a justifiable response to the "genetic
engineering of our forests" that he said corporations were carrying out.

"These companies are rolling the dice with the biodiversity of the natural
environment," said the man, who gave his name as Leslie James Pickering.

He said members of the media office ? including himself ? "speak
ideologically" in support of acts like the fires, but were not directly
responsible for them.

Some professors at the horticulture center here in Seattle said they found
a particularly unfortunate irony in the damage. Much of the center's
research is geared toward protecting or restoring the environment, and the
fire may have killed a good portion of one rare species.

At the center, Dr. Sarah Reichard, a conservation biologist, studies showy
stickseed, a rare plant in the Cascade Mountains of Washington; only 300
individuals are left in the wild. Dr. Reichard said she feared that the
fire might have killed the 100 individuals of the species that had been
painstakingly raised in the laboratory after a year's work, using a
technique known as tissue culture.

"That's one quarter of the world's population," she said. "They clearly
did not do their homework."

At the center's laboratory, Prof. H. D. Bradshaw, a plant geneticist in
whose office the fire began, expressed bafflement as to why his place of
work was the focus of attacks, both now and in a separate incident in 1999.

At that time, a few days before the World Trade Organization protests
here, a group calling itself the Washington Tree Improvement Association
hacked down nearly 200 trees in a nearby nursery.

"I've personally never genetically engineered a tree," Dr. Bradshaw said
today as he gazed at the rubble of the site, which destroyed his office
and much of the laboratory.

Dr. Tom Hinckley, the center's director, said he lost more than 30 years
of research files, as well as slides that meticulously document the
regrowth of vegetation around Mount St. Helens in the years since it
erupted in May 1980.

Dr. Bradshaw's research includes the study of genetically engineered
poplars kept in a nearby greenhouse; none of those trees were damaged in
the fire. He said that his own basic research was geared toward
identifying the genes that affect plant growth and form, rather than the
creation of a marketable product.

And some of the work done there has been supported by the Department of
Energy as well as giant timber companies like Weyerhaeuser and Boise
Cascade.

If the fires were the work of the ELF or a similar group, they are acts
virtually no mainstream environmental group has countenanced.

Indeed, some have supported genetic research into trees, saying that the
greater mass and other properties such work produces for commercial tree
farms could actually help alleviate the commercial pressures to log in
native and old-growth sites.

Kevin Favreau, the F.B.I.'s supervisory special agent for the Portland
office's joint terrorism task force, said in a telephone interview tonight
that no arrests had been made in either case, nor in a rash of other acts
against timber companies and other businesses in the Northwest.

Generally, he said, fires had been set in remote places, leaving little
chance that the arsonists would be caught. "The people committing these
acts and getting away with them so far are very good at what they do. They
do pre-raid surveillances, they know what the security situation is like,"
he said.

The fact that the arsonists were willing to attack an urban campus may be
an indication that they have become further emboldened, Mr. Favreau said.
In any event, he added, the F.B.I. believed that the two fires were
related and were the work of those with "some message to spread about what
they view as how to protect the environment."

Speaking of the Earth Liberation Front, Mr. Favreau said, "what we'll get
is, a couple of days to a week later, their press office will receive a
communiqué whereby they will explain why this act was committed."

Mr. Pickering, the group spokesman, said it would have "no concrete
comment until and even if we get a communiqué."

But, he said, some members of the group support interfering because the
research "is taking a risk, a real shot in the dark" with alterations
members believe could eventually harm native species of trees. Other
critics have raised the specter of "Frankenforests" that could take over
wild ones.

Scientists involved in the type of work done by Dr. Bradshaw and others
here expressed anger today at the fires. "What's really scary is that
they're attacking people like Toby and his colleagues doing top notch
scientific work," said Dr. Steve Strauss, plant geneticist at Oregon State
University, whose own research was vandalized in March. "I don't call them
ecoterrorists anymore. They don't deserve the `eco.' They're terrorists
against science."

In the attack at Dr. Strauss's laboratory, 900 trees were cut or girdled,
only some of which were genetically engineered. Many were traditionally
bred, "standard old hybrid poplars that have been grown for hundreds of
years," he said, adding that the vandals knew the trees had not been
genetically modified.

Dr. Strauss said he planned to cut back on research on genetically
engineered trees, in part because of the attacks. "If we can't protect our
academic institutions to do the kind of work that scientists think make
sense, do we do what's dictated by these terrorists? That's a really scary
prospect," he said.
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Iowa State U. Prof Lectures In Israel On Genetically Modified Food

U-Wire
May 22, 2001

AMES, Iowa -- Gary Comstock, coordinator of the bioethics program at Iowa
State University, discussed the benefits of genetically modified foods at
the Manna Institute for Plant Sciences 2001 Symposium at Tel Aviv
University in Israel. Comstock, professor of philosophy and religious
studies, spoke in Tel Aviv earlier this month to a crowd of 250 people
about how Jewish law affects the perception of genetically modified food.

Currently, Israel does not accept genetically modified food technology,
which mixes different types of genes together, Comstock said. For example,
he said, Israelites do not believe in cross-breeding oxen and horses.

"The purpose was to encourage discussion of moral values surrounding
(this) new technology in agriculture," Comstock said. Another purpose was
to represent Iowa State in an international forum, he said.

In his speech, titled "Vexing Nature Concerning the Ethical Case Against
Agricultural Biotechnology," Comstock distinguished between intrinsic and
extrinsic objections to this new technology.

Comstock introduced research by Dermot Hayes, professor of economics, in
his speech.

"We were interested in what descriptions cause people to like technology,"
Hayes said.

The results of Hayes' research suggests that when consumers are presented
with positive information about irradiated foods they accept the
technology. When presented with negative information, consumers reject the
technology, he said.

An ethical dilemma results as a result of these types of experiments,
Hayes said.

"When you use the wrong words to describe genetically modified foods, you
kill the technology and don't get the benefits from scientific advances,"
he said.

Hayes said that people give a lot of weight to word choice.

Comstock also said that telling people both positive and negative
information can lead to the rejection of the technology, which can hurt
developing countries.

According to Comstock, Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of
blindness and malnutrition in the world.

"The potential for producing Vitamin A could save hundreds of thousands of
children," he said.

Hayes agrees with Comstock on the potential benefits of this technology,
which can be potentially enormous despite the risks.

"We all know that a danger exists when driving cars, but we do it because
of the benefits," he said.
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World Ag Leaders Seek Solutions To Food Concerns

Reuters
May 21, 2001

ST. LOUIS, Mo., May 21 (Reuters) - Advancing food technologies are
critical to meeting the needs of a growing world population, but the
agricultural industry must overcome a host of obstacles before it can
globalize new developments, several agricultural industry leaders said on
Monday.

Distrust of biotechnology advancements is a chief concern, as is a lack of
country-to-country agreements on safety standards for biotech foods.

"Clearly technology will have a major impact on the future of the ag
industry, " said Charles Fischer, President of Dow AgroSciences, on Monday
during a presentation to the World Agricultural Forum's World Congress in
St. Louis.

"Technology will make a difference as to whether the future is bright or
bleak," Fischer said.

Fischer was one of a group of agricultural industry players from around
the world who were attending the forum in St. Louis to discuss a range of
issues, including economic trends in agriculture, global trading systems
and the role of developing nations in world trade.

But food safety and biotech advancements took center stage on Monday, as
some leaders blamed anti-biotech activists as well as the media for
inflaming negative sentiments about biotech foods.

They said the industry must band together, pooling money and resources to
win over consumer acceptance in key markets such as Europe, Japan and
elsewhere.

"We've done a pretty poor job of educating people about the food supply,"
said Purina Mills CEO Brad Kerbs. "A better apple or a better crop of
wheat is not that exciting. But we have an obligation to make it
exciting... to consumers."

Advancements in foods that would appeal to people through specific
medicinal or targeted nutritional benefits are coming in the future, said
Merisant CEO Arnold Donald, who is helping start a venture capital fund to
invest in biotech companies developing just such types of consumer
benefits in food.

But a range of environmental benefits are already being realized through
biotech advancements, such as redued pesticide use, he said.

Another of the top issues the agriculture industry must address is
protection of intellectual property rights, and enforcement of patent
laws, the leaders said.

Biotech companies are unwilling to share their technologies with poor
countries most in need of food production assistance because they fear the
technology will be exported from the poor nation to other countries where
the biotech companies are trying to sell their products for a profit,
congress participants said.
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http://home.post-dispatch.com/channel/pdweb.nsf/pd/86256A0E0068FE5086256A540023A2F4?OpenDocument&PubWrapper=Business

Agricultural Biotechnology's Future Rests With The Consumer

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
By Tina Hesman
May 22, 2001

The future of U.S. agricultural biotechnology is in the hands of consumers
around the world, participants at the World Agriculture Congress in St.
Louis said Monday.

Biotechnology faces one major hurdle that other new agricultural
technologies don't -- public perception, said Hendrik Verfaillie,
president and chief Executive of Monsanto Co.

"I believe the solution for the biotech industry is that we gain the
consumer's trust," Verfaillie said.

That may not be easy with the confusing jumble of regulatory policies
governing genetically engineered crops, said international trade lawyer
David Johansen.

Differences in consumer attitudes toward biotech foods also make it
difficult to predict the future of biotechnology, he said.

Plant biotechnology has the power to help developing countries meet their
food needs and secure those countries a stable place in the world
marketplace, Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., told reporters at a
news conference Monday.

"Biotechnology is the next great step forward," Bond said.

Before that step can be made a number of trade and regulatory issues must
be hammered out, conference attendees said.

"The policies of many countries make feeding the world more difficult,"
said James B. Bolger, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and that
nation's current ambassador to the United States. A new round of talks of
the World Trade Organization scheduled for November may ease current trade
restrictions, he said.

Part of the difficulty in establishing successful transfers of
biotechnology is that biotech doesn't fit neatly into regulatory
structures that are often decades old, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Dan Glickman said. No one is sure what to do with the new technology.

Participants at the three-day conference held at the Hyatt Regency at
Union Station called for the establishment of science-based global
regulatory policies and more cooperation in sharing technology between
industrial and developing countries.

Developments in biotechnology have already belied predictions that human
population growth would outstrip food production, said Ango Abdullahi,
special adviser on food security to the president of Nigeria.

But international collaborative efforts haven't done enough to address the
needs of developing countries, he said. American scientists sometimes
overlook the fact that technology appropriate for farmers in Missouri may
not address the needs of farmers in the tropics, Abdullahi said.

Also speaking Monday at the conference was Brad Kerbs, the president and
chief executive of Purina Mills Inc. of Brentwood.

Kerbs accused the news media of creating public hysteria over food safety
by sensationalizing the recent outbreak of mad cow disease in Europe.

"Speculation, not science, is what attracts readers and viewers," Kerbs
said. "It seems the media will not run stories that do not take into
account the 3 Cs: conflict, collapse, and crisis."

Kerbs specifically referred to an incident earlier this year when Purina
Mills discovered animal feed produced at a Texas plant contained a
prohibited ingredient, ruminant bone meal. Animal parts from ruminants, or
cud-chewing animals, are banned from use in cattle feed because that is a
way mad cow disease can spread.

Kerbs noted there has not been a confirmed case of mad cow disease in the
United States.
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