AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
Aventis Had No Say in Donating LibertyLink Rice
by Julianne Johnston
The AgBioWorld Foundation was petitioning biotech supporters to sign a
petition appealing to Aventis CropScience to donate 5 million pounds of
experimental rice to the needy rather than destroy it. The group has
withdrawn their petition, on word that Aventis had no say in the matter,
noting they followed rules set by the EPA.
Biotech supporters were hoping that LibertyLink Rice ? still under
development in the U.S. ? would be shipped to hungry, developing countries
rather than stored or destroyed. However, a letter to the foundation from
Aventis explains their position.
Margaret Gadsby, Aventis public affairs director of biotechnology, sent
the group a letter, stating EPA guidelines prohibit the company from
distributing such experimental grain. ?Aventis CropScience has chosen to
destroy this production in accordance with its normal policy,? she states.
?Recent discussions in the press have suggested that this rice might be
used to feed hungry people in the US or overseas,? states Gadsby?s letter.
?While it is understandable that many would like to share the abundant
food of the United States with others in need, this rice is not suitable
for such a purpose. All clearances must be in place before this rice could
be used in the US. Additional international clearances would be necessary
before this rice could be exported.?
C.S. Prakash, AgBioWorld founder, stated on their Web site
(www.agbioworld.com), the group was ?sorry about the misunderstanding and
would like to express our apologies to Aventis.? He added, ?At the same
time we would convey our disapproval of those who, in the past, have used
situations similar to this one to block approved food aid to victims of
cyclones, floods and other disasters in order to further their own
political (namely, anti-biotechnology) agendas.?
Date: 23 May 2001 17:37:46 -0000
Subject: RE: AGBIOVIEW: AGBIOWORLD TO WITHDRAW AVENTIS PETITION
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT
The unfortunate situation that is capsulized by the recent AgBioWorld
postings about Liberty Link illustrate yet again that flawed public policy
has a wide, negative and highly disruptive ripple effect; as they say in
the computer industry, "garbage in, garbage out."
As I have long argued, this rice variety should not be subject to EPA's
pesticide statute in the first place (it does so only because recombinant
DNA techniques have been used in its manufacture). It is only this
inappropriate approach to regulatory jurisdiction that leads to outcomes
like those we have seen with Liberty Link and StarLink. Flawed public
policy GUARANTEES more such debacles.
As stated in the official US government's "coordinated framework" for
biotechnology regulation (1986) and announcement of the "scope" of what
should be subject to federal regulation ("scope
announcement," 1992), regulatory triggers should be factors related to
RISK, not the use of one or another techique.
Date: 23 May 2001 17:07:56 -0000
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Book
Subject: RE: AGBIOVIEW: AGBIOWORLD TO WITHDRAW AVENTIS PETITION
Some questions remain unanswered.
I still believe it shows what a crazy world we live in where we bury
food because of beurocratic red tape while people starve. EPA has already
said they expect to approve the rice soon (according to the news article).
The herbicide (liberty) used to grow the crop is used widely on other
cropswhich we consume everyday, it just has not been specifically approved
for use on rice (yet). So I don't understand how this effects the saftey
of the food which has been approved by the FDA and USDA for human
The role in approving the rice/herbicide combination is to make sure that
release of the rice to be grown commercially will not cause herbicide
resistant weeds to become more prevelant because of the technology. The
rice has already been grown, so I don't see how shipping the rice to
hunger victims matters? Aventis even says that they did have the choice
to destroy the rice or safely store the rice until EPA approval. I am not
trying to give grief to Aventis, it's just that I don't see the big
Date: May 23 2001 14:09:07 EDT
From: "Dan Manternach"
Subject: RE: AGBIOVIEW: Dumping Rice, Organics, EU Chat, BBC, Britain,
Arson, World Ag Forum
I would like to see Robet Vint's documentation for his claim that
Ethiopian farmers exported cereal crops to the United States during the
Ethiopian famine. USDA tracks agricultural imports meticulously and there
is no record of imported cereals from Ethiopia at any time in recent
history. And among this country's poor I observe obesity to be the most
common form of malnutrition and that has far more to do with terrible
eating habits than lack of access to affordable, nutritious food as he
implies. Vint makes later statements regarding the distribution of wealth
that are worthy of thoughtful discussion on this site. But when they are
preceded by such off-the-wall allegations without any documentation, I
won't waste my time in dialogue with such a person.
SPARKS COMPANIES, INC.
(901) 766-4695 fax
SCI Website: http://www.sparksco.com
Date: 23 May 2001 18:56:19 -0000
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Land redistribution
Malcolm's response to Robert Vint was pretty much right-on. I wanted to
add a comment about the effectiveness of land redistribution. Land
redistribution is just one way of wealth redistribution. Such schemes very
quickly gravitate back toward the 80/20 rule, where 80 percent of the
output is produced by 20 percent of the producers. In developing
countries, this process is the same as elsewhere, the more efficient
producers are better-able to buy out the others. In the case where
someone already has an advantage (eg a bankrole) and, perhaps, an export
market superior to some domestic market, then the land will gravitate back
into consolidated holdings producing whatever yields the greatest return
-- too often, this is not from vegetables or cereals for the local market.
Note that the 80/20 "rule" is surprisingly widespread across countries
where much of the output is marketed; it is not (yet?) so much the case
where a lot of the output is still for subsistance or local barter.
Finally, I think Malcolm is right to say that developed countries have the
most to fear from free trade. Free trade opens up the world to resource
flow, which in turn helps equilibrate returns to the factors of production
(land, labour, capital). Unfortunately, the developed-world negotiators
(eg US and EU) want to have their cake and eat it too, by selectively
opening foreign markets while simultaneously protecting their own from
competition. This is not free trade and maintains a serious distortion
in wealth distribution and an impediment to its eventual equilibration.
However it isn't surprising that developed countries would want to do
this. After all, stating world income in US dollars, consider how
much less North Americans and Europeans would have to give up if all the
world's income were evenly distributed!
Date: 24 May 2001 14:13:52 -0000
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Dumping Rice, Organics, EU Chat, BBC, Britain,
Arson, World Ag Forum
I am so tired of the same non-vision for the developing world offered
by Leftists and environmentalists. These people have not even the most
remote understanding of economics and development nor of the lives that
most poor people in developing countries live. They think that most
people WANT to live in primitive housing and to spend their days
scratching out a minimal, subsistence existence. I have the following
comments on Mr. Vint's recent posting.
Robert Vint wrote:
>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.
Actually, the "expensive seeds and inputs" are more than covered by the
increased productivity--otherwise no farmer (poor or wealthy) would bother
paying for them. (or do you think "wealthy" farmer got wealthy by losing
money on inputs that weren't productive or profitable, Mr. Vint?) What is
lacking is almost always a stable government and institutions that enable
investment. Lend many poor farmers a few dollars in a country where food
prices aren't capped artificially low (to appease the masses of poor urban
consumers) and they'll buy inputs, increase production and turn a profit.
In many countries, this just isn't an option because of food price caps or
a near-complete lack of capital because of government instability or
corruption. Look what's happening in Zimbabwe, which for a while was a
shining star of Africa. Now because of the reckless lawlessness of the
land reform movement lethally persecuted by war veterans, investment and
capital have fled the country. No capital, no investments, no inputs, low
productivity and wildlife habitat degradation due to "smallholders" trying
to compensate for the lack of purchased inputs through destructive
intensification without inputs, or shortening of bush-fallow to
>Crops that enable the replacement of farm labourers by machinery
>cause mass rural unemployment and destitution.
Quick, let's bring back the buggy whip industry. After all, how many
people were put out of a job by the automobile and other efficient
transport. Reality: this is only true if there is no other sector to
an economy other than the ag sector--an absurd contention. Every developed
and wealthy nation has vastly increased it's ag productivity first, which
then freed up workers to work in other sectors of the economy. It's called
"economic development" Mr. Vint. But key to successful development is a
stable-enough government and clear laws that enable successful
investment.Instead of focusing on these critical needs, leftists demand
Robert Vint wrote:
>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
>expensive chemicals that these farmers cannot afford.
Dream on Mr. Vint. We've been searching for centuries for ways to
increase productivity without inputs and it isn't realistic. In the
process, we learned that proper fertilization with synthetic and mined
inputs can overcome the inherent limits on natural fertility. We learned
that pesticides work, starting with natural pesticides like nicotine and
pyrethrum, then progressing on to cheaper and more abundant synthetic
analogs of these natural toxins. We've learned that the panacea's you
recommend work only to a very limited extent. Extensive, complex
polyculture's work as long as you have an abundant supply of cheap labor
to tend to them and only in a few climates. But as soon as better jobs
are available, such farm workers choose easier, better-paying jobs.
Moreover, modern farming incorporates all of the techniques mentioned
(integrated pest management, polyculture or crop rotation, etc.).
But the belief that Third Worlders dream of working 4 acres merely to
feed their families a semi-adequate diet is just that--a belief. These
people want more for their families than just a patch of dirt and a
subsistence diet. They want the same amenities that we share in the
developed world: good educations, lifestyle options, career opportunities
and choices, clean water, better housing, TVs, phones, internet,
entertainment. In short, these people want to improve their living
standards as all humans have wanted since the dawn of mankind.
They want inputs because inputs improve their fields and crops and save
time for other things in life. They see the true choice between
stooping over a hoe all day to stop weeds (with their husbands/wives and
children stooped over a hoe all day along side them), and spraying an
herbicide and doing something else with their families and valuable time
(when you're poor, time is the most valuable thing you have). Small
holders in Africa are overjoyed when they see that a biotech corn or
sorghum seed engineered to be herbicide resistent and seed-treated with a
systemic herbicide can kill the devastating parasitic straiga that steals
their harvest yearly in the Sudan. They'll gladly pay the modest costs of
such an imput if it
means a bigger, more assured harvest at the end of the growing season.
They know what investment and smart money spent means.
Mr. Vint, you and your kind are some of the most arrogant folk I meet. You
don't trust farmers to make good decisions. You think poor farmers = dumb
farmers who will be snookered into buying biotech fools gold from the
biotech companies. They may be poor and relatively uneducated, but they
are much smarter than you give them credit.
Date: 24 May 2001 11:35:20 -0000
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Dumping Rice, Organics, EU Chat, BBC, Britain,
Arson, World Ag Forum
Dear Andrew Apel (and others who have written about my position on
subsidies and my 'map of the world' responding to the challenge to name
areas of high health and welfare where organic farming is widespread).
I named the countries. They're mostly in Europe. Now I stand accused of
not giving a damn about the developing countries. Jeez, guys,
doesn't anybody get it?
Developing countries have a few pockets of sustainable agriculture and
they are success stories. Erosion is stopped, communities are stabilised,
incomes from farming go up. I did mention organic cacao and coffee
projects because these are beacons of excellence in many developing
countries. I also mentioned China. Our own company's organic cacao
project in Belize since 1993 has recently led to the formation of the
Belize Organic Producers' Association, dedicated
to bringing the same benefits the cacao growers have enjoyed to the citrus
producing sector. Secondary school education among the Maya cacao growers
of Southern Belize has gone from 10% to 90% and the destruction of rain
forests has not just been stopped but reversed. Tree nurseries producing
mahogany and red cedar seedlings provide the shade trees of the future for
cacao farmers who have benefited hugely from growing appropriate local
cacao varieties with well managed shade from maturing forest canopies.
But the real problem is that, all the time, all over the developing world,
farmers using chemicals and farmers using more sustainable methods are up
against impossibly low food prices. This is what I consider to be
If the US and the EU through their respective subsidy systems ensure that
the world prices of commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat are
artificially low then farmers in other parts of the world who do not
receive subsidies are forced to compete with artificially low world
prices. This significantly reduces their incomes, so they either abandon
farming or carry on farming in great poverty. The value of their land is
also depressed, because its capital value is undermined by artificially
low food prices. So, at bottom, the farmers of developing countries are
being robbed of income and capital by the US and EU subsidy system.
This is supply and demand economics 1A. I keep waiting for a peep out of
the Hudson Institute on this subject, as they are the libertarian
economists who have so much to say about organic farming and E.coli and
plowing up the last remaining forests of the planet, but all we get from
Alex Avery is softcore memos about growing GM squash and spreading the
good word at his local farmers' market!
I am surprised that Mark Rose, from Syngenta, is unaware of the realities
of organic farming in the world as his company supplies a lot of the
inputs and seeds to farmers in developing countries. Organic farming is
not, and should not be confused with, pre-industrial unmechanised farming.
This is what triggered this latest flurry, my objection to this simplistic
stereotyping of organic farming. The fact is that organic farming chooses
from the whole menu of options for farming and does not reject technology
per se, accepts marker-assisted breeding (which is probably where the real
successes of biotechnology in agriculture will be realised), uses all
sorts of biological, computerised and GPS technologies, but always
governed by the principle that soil health and quality should not be
compromised. This respects the fact that we have inherited land, in the
Old World, that has been farmed for millenia, and we owe a duty
to our ancestors to pass it on to our children in as good or better
condition than we inherited it. This is good old fashioned common sense,
not 'neo-Fascism' or 'eco-fascism' as some would like to make out. As a
Nebraska farm boy, I have seen the devastation and erosion from modern
farming. The prairies have only been farmed for just over 100 years (my
great-grandfather busted some of that sod) and already they have lost, and
continue to lose, massive amounts of
topsoil. This must stop and GM crops simply perpetuate the monoculture
that is the root cause. 'No till' farming may reduce the rate of loss,
but it doesn't reverse it.
It is also bizarre to see scientists, most of whom are salaried employees,
defending the transfer via subsidies of taxes from working people to large
landowners ($79bn in the US last year). Wouldn't you rather have that
money to spend on yourself instead of on people whose net worth and annual
income greatly exceeds your own?
Hope this helps
Date: 23 May 2001 21:24:25 -0000
Subject: Organic Bashing
There has been a lot of criticism of organic agriculture in this
newsgroup. I have to say that I have not found much of it to be
terribly constructive or useful. Postings on organic agriculture have
frequently been as biased and unscientific as those I see coming from the
extreme critics of ag biotech.
I myself do not buy or eat organically grown food for a number of
1. I don't believe it to be safer or better for the environment.
2. My own analysis is that there is no way we can feed the
growing population, or even the existing population, through organic
agriculture. Having spent considerable time in countries where food
itlacking, I personally find the approach to be elitist.
3. I am a native New Englander. Consequently, I am cheap. I
don't feel organic food offers me any additional value for the
I don't share the same values or beliefs as organic growers or
consumers. However I do feel inclined to respect their values and
beliefs just as I would the spiritual beliefs of other religions or
cultural practices of another country.
The vast majority of organic growers I speak with could really care
less what other farmers do, so long as they don't impact negatively on
their practices or their markets. They do have concerns with with gene
flow which might "contaminate" their crops (according to their value
system). I think this is a potentially valid concern and warrants
additional investigation and discussion and, depending on the results of
the investigation and discussion, possibly research and policy.
I do believe there is a portion of the organic industry which is
attempting to spread fear amongst consumers in an attempt to boost
their own markets. These people/organizations should exposed for what
they are attempting to do through reason and facts. However we should
at all costs avoid casting aspersions on the organic community as a
whole. It is unfair to characterize the actions of a few as
representing the entire organic industry and farming community. This is
analagous to those who point to the actions of the few who abuse
pesticides as the representing the entire agricultural community.
The issue of fecal contamination of organically grown food is one that I
would argue should never have been brought up. I have seen little
convincing evidence that fecal contamination of organic food is higher
than non-organic food. I think it is very clear that most food poisonings
are a result of post-harvest processing activities. Besides, organic
growers are not the only ones who use manure. I know many non-organic
farmers who also spread manure as a nutrient. This is a typical practice
where the grower has easy and cheap access to manure. Furthermore, the
National Organic Program rules, which goes into place next year (In the
US), has fairly strict requirements on the use of manure. These include
pre-harvest interbals, composting requirements, and the prohibitions on
certain practices. If I followed the logic previously presented in this
newsgroup, a year from now I would be able to make a strong argument that
organic food is actually safer than non-organic food in relation to fecal
I would further argue that there is great potential for a symbiotic
relationship beetween organic agriculture and agricultural
biotechnology. Legislation and public policy do not rely solely on
science. Like it or not, values and perception play strong roles in our
laws. The argument that people have a right to choose is a strong one that
is unlikely to be ignored by elected officials. Organic
agriculture is in a good position to offer this choice to the benefit of
the consumer, the organic industry and the ag biotech industry. To create
a food system that offers this choice, dialogue will be necessary between
the organic community and the ag biotech community. "Organic Bashing" is
certainly not going to facilitate this dialogue.
Date: 23 May 2001 18:42:55 -0000
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Dumping Rice, Organics, EU Chat, BBC, Britain,
Arson, World Ag Forum
The statements of Robert Vint on his comment about ?Dumping GM
Rice? (and many others in this group discussion), to help food supply to
the poor brought me to the case of cassava crop, specially because of his
concern about land use and farmer income. I believe that any approach is
valid because the undernourishment of population in poor regions is too
serious to ignore any particular approach.
For the case of cassava I believe there is not better crop for
marginal agricultural areas in the world than cassava. The Low-input
dependable productivity of cassava makes this plant potentially the
most important staple food crop. Cassava is also a versatile crop for
modern economies. It has uses in growing industries such as foods,
pharmaceuticals, animal feeds, textiles, and paper. However, for
historical reasons, cassava has not benefited from development research in
the same way as other crops. As a result, markets for cassava are erratic,
and most cassava farmers have few ways to increase the level or stability
of their income because this plant has been grown only for the production
of farina (cassava flour) and tapioca.
In Brazil we have made an initial breakthrough with our search for
germplasm to diversify the uses of cassava storage root to help food
supply in hunger areas of the world. Diversified products associated with
carbohydrate and carotene accumulation have been found. Our approach is
completely grounded on the diversity of clones found in the center of
origin and domestication of this crop in the Amazon region. We isolated
several mutated clones of cassava in the accumulation of carotenoid, free
sugar (glucose) and novel starch. Cassava clone storage root showing a
variety of colors were identified and found to contain very high levels of
constituents such as??-carotene, lycopene and lutein. These values are
equivalent or superior to the values found in carrot and tomato. Others
with high free sugar (glucose) content in comparison to commercial cassava
cultivars have been identified. Although previously unknown within
cassava, varieties cultivated in the Amazon have become adapted
to accumulate free sugars within the storage root in addition to starch.
Within these high content free sugar clones, two types of starch are
deposited, an amylose free starch and a polyglucan of molecular
structure similar to glycogen. Thus, clones collected in Amazon show
remarkable biochemical biodiversity of a type previously unknown in
cassava or to our knowledge in any other storage root crop.
This simple and straight forward approach could tremendously help
the food supply in marginal agricultural areas of the world by bringing a
high nutritive value agriculture product of high caloric value and high
functional molecules of health importance in a staple food.
Recently we put all this together in a proposal and submitted to
The McKnight Foundation for funds in a partnership with Africa and The
My dream is to see cassava being looked in a new way rather than a
crop for the exclusive supply of farina (cassava flour) and tapioca
Date: May 23 2001 13:18:53 EDT
From: "Frances B. Smith"
Subject: Re: Agricultural Subsidies and the Developing World
Dear AgBioView readers:
On-going discussions about agricultural subsidies in the US have noted
that large-scale domestic support programs can result in the inability of
developing countries -- sans such subsidies -- to compete in world
markets. That is correct.
The US, however, is not alone in supporting domestic agriculture through
those means and through export subsidies and restrictions on market access
through high tariffs on agricultural products. The European Union and
Japan are particularly noteworthy for their extremely high levels of
domestic support for agriculture as well as restrictions on market access
for many agricultural products. For example, according to a recent OECD
report ("The Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture," April 2001), the
European Union accounts for 90 percent of all export subsidies accorded by
OECD countries. The EU's Common Agricultural Policy, according to the
Financial Times (April 25, 2001, p. 2), accounts for almost half of the
total EU budget. A major sticking point to reform of the EU's farm policy
is insistence by most ag ministers that the heavily subsidized sugar
program be maintained; otherwise, the EU market would face "stiff
competition from Latin American sugar exporters who can produce sugar far
more cheaply than the EU" (FT).
The US, the EU, and Japan have announced plans for greater market access
to 37 Sub-Saharan African countries. A recent World Bank report
("Unrestricted Market Access for Sub-Saharan Africa: How Much Is It Worth
and Who Pays?" no date noted) noted that the poorest countries would gain
principally "from preferential access to the highly protected Japanese and
European agricultural markets" and not as much from the US, because "the
US market is quite open already," except for areas where the SSA countries
have "limited export interest."
Agricultural reform remains one of the thorniest issues among the rich
countries of the world, and could hamper future trade negotiations. If
that is the case, developing countries will indeed be the ones to continue
Frances B. Smith
1001 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 1128
Washington, DC 20036
Date: May 23 2001 18:55:41 EDT
From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Subject: Transgenic potato
B.S. Ahloowalia asked about the status of the Monsanto transgenic potato.
From news accounts that I have read (from several different news
reports during the last two months), Monsanto has withdrawn its transgenic
potato from further commercialization. I do not believe that Monsanto has
ceased research on transgenic potatos.
As for why Monsanto did this, I point to the Anti-Biotech campaign
against McDonalds and other fast food chains that are the major purchasers
of potatos for french fries similar to the Anti-Biotech campaign against
Starbucks. Monsanto withdrew the potato because no market existed for the
sale of the potato by the farmers to potato processors once McDonalds, et.
al said they would not use transgenic potatos regardless of the
environmental benefits of transgenic potatos.
As for the farmers' reactions to this, several news stories report
the consternation of farmers because transgenic potatos had tremendous
evironmental benefits (reduction of organophosphate pesticides) for human
field workers and for wildlife, especially fish that die when the
pesticide reaches streams through rainfall runoff. I have read at least
three stories about this sitauation -- one in the Seattle Times in
April/May 2000 and the other two were in Canadian newspapers reporting on
potato growing on St. Edward's Island.
Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-5081 U.S.A.
Date: May 24 2001 08:25:37 EDT
From: "terry hopkin"
Subject: knowledge dwarfs
we seem also not just to be plagued by source fanatics but by people
suffering from knowledge dwarfisem. Not so long ago we were warned in
Norway about eating to much off or on a too regularly certain oat
products because of a FUNGUS INFECTION in the crops. It's not deadly but
it is not advised to eat toomuch too often. COOKING it or even to BAKE it
doesn't help. If one leaves one's one track knowledge dwarfistic world and
reads history one finds that in fact there have been repeated cases of
grains being infected with funguses, LSD like trips being the least of
Glad that no one who works in any of the hospitals or food protection
agencies around here is knowledge dwarf that thinks that e-coli exists
only in shit, well I honestly hope for all our healths that they dont!
terry hopkin email@example.com
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 12:17:04 +1000
From: Malcolm Livingstone
I would like to respond to your attack on Dr. CS Prakash. First of all
Prakash is a real gentleman who, like all plant scientists, only has the
best of intentions. He is genuinely concerned with helping humanity - ALL
I will respond below to some of your comments.
1. Aren't these the usual pronouncements of the potentials of
biotechnology? And I am sure you know better than me about the term "green
DML Biotechnology holds enormous potential and to state so is completely
1) It WILL increase yields by reducing disease and concentrating nutrients
2) It will reduce pesticide use (already down by 80% on US cotton),
3) It will probably eradicate most viral diseases of crops thereby
increasing yeilds and saving on pesticides to control vectors,
4) It will help conserve soils and allow subsistance farmers to spend time
doing other things (like getting educated or learning a trade) rather than
weeding for 10 hours a day.
5) It will of course eventually give even greater benefits, like corn that
has a protein profile equivalent to meat, that contains vitamins, that can
grow on poor or marginal soils and that resist drought. Many of these
projects are already under way and some well advanced. This is not science
fiction and if you don't believe me come over and visit some of our labs
and I'll show you.
2) The tragedy is that agricultural scientists DO NOT want to go into the
farmers fields. They globe-trot at the slightest pretext, stay in five star
comforts, work in air-conditioned labs, but when it comes to going into
farmers fields, they don't want to soil their hands.
DML Well I am an agricultural scientist and I do spend a lot of time in the
lab but many others spend a lot of time in the field. Days at a time in
fact. I have travelled to Indonesia to see how their peanut is grown and I
got into plenty of fields. Agricultural scientists are very well aware of
what's needed in agriculture. It is our job to do so. How do you think we
design viable projects? We go and visit farmers and ask them what their
biggest problems are. Then we try our best to solve it
3) President Suharto had, by a Presidential decree, banned 57
pesticides on rice in one go. At the same time, he launched the IPM
[Integrated Pest Management] on rice. The USAID, the US Embassy and the
MNCs had then also made a lot of noise, telling the President that such an
action will push his country into a hunger trap. After all, rice is the
staple food of Indonesia.
DML First of all agricultural scientists discovered and developed IPM. Why
would we want to abandon it? We are the scientists who for years have been
advocating better, more sustainable farming practices based on decades of
agricultural science. It just so happens that during all those years we
noticed that somethings just couldn't be fixed by any means then available.
Virus disease is one of those. If there is no resistance in the world
germplasm to a particular virus then we can do nothing but rely on frequent
spraying for insects. In the case of peanut we screened over 8000
accessions to find any natural resistance to peanut stripe virus and
couldn't find any. We then chose a genetic engineering approach which
vaccinates the plant by introducing a gene which expresses part of the
virus coat protein. What possible harm can there be from this? The virus is
ubiquitous and many peanuts we eat (especially Asian ones) contain this
4) But somehow, the President stood his ground. In two years, rice
production increased by 18 per cent and the usage of pesticides came down
by 65 per cent. Why can't we replicate the model elsewhere?
DML Why can't we use both methods and decrease pesticide use even further
in Indonesia? However if you think that low input agriculture is a panacea
for world agriculture you need to some more reading. The vast wheat belts
of the US, Canada and Australia
need competely different approaches. You can't farm wheat in these areas
without large farms and mechanisation. These farms stretch form one horizon
to the other and cover vast areas.
5) To say that biotechnology will help increase the income of farmers so
that he can buy other things, I think is completely incorrect. By using
such environmentally-harmful genetic engineering technologies, farmers will
actually be getting into a still worse debt-trap, a trap that will
certainly force many of them to resort to suicides. Who will be held
accountable if the cotton farmers in India start committing suicide
following the failure of Bt cotton on account of insect-resistance that is
sure to develop in the years to come? Will Monsanto take responsibility for
this? Will those, who blindly support genetic engineering, take
responsibility for this?
DML How can getting Bt seed get farmers in more debt? Once they have
purchased their seed they don't need to purchase pesticides. Experience in
Canada, US and Austrlalia show that farmers are making more money than
before they took up GM crops because of less spraying of pesticides, less
tilling of the soil (petrol savings in the West, labour saving in the
developing world). They gain time and time is money. Time to educate their
children, time to get a job in a town or city, time to learn a trade that
might bring in cash. As a scientist who has helped develop this technology
I am extremely proud of my efforts to help feed the world. I am not
responsible for one single suicide in India and neither is GM technology
which hasn't even been used in India yet. I sleep well but with your
spurious allegations I'm not sure how you can.
6) Oh, yes. I have a number of 'constructive suggestions' on how
access and distribution. Let me cite just one of these approaches. In the
heart of the infamous hunger and starvation belt of India, called Kalahandi
(in Orissa), a cluster of 20 villages have never faced hunger for over 20
years now. They resort to a traditional community-based system of
"foodgrain banks". They do not get any support from the government. The
community manages this grain bank. But because there are no possible
kickbacks from this approach, no government or the private initiative is
willing to take this further.
DML Great for the residents of that village. Do you seriously think that
this one example is representative of the situation in all other countries?
We should encourage such initiatives but again I ask why not both? Why
discard GM technology? Why is GM technology incompatible with better
storage facilities? Don't they make storage facilities for GM crops?
7) I think the biotechnology industry DOES give an impression as if it is
going to help solve all such problems. You have yourself said earlier that
the technology will help in the production of efficient crop varieties,
bring stability to production and ultimately help increase the farmers
income. Aren't these far-fetched claims? And as far as my understanding of
the biotechnology industry goes, biotechnology is also part of the
'misguided policies'. It proliferates because bureaucrats are keen to push
it (howsoever we may blame them for other things). Look at the United
States. Haven't the bureaucrats in the FDA tried to ensure that the
scientists concern about the technology are
kept under wraps? Haven't the FDA and USDA used its diplomatic skills,
funding mechanisms and even bullying tactics to push the technology onto
the developing countries?
DML Biotechnology will not solve all problems and NO scientist has said so.
But it has great potential to help, as I said above. Does IPM solve all
problems? I don't think so, but so what. Should we abandon IPM because it
hasn't saved the World? No. The same goes for biotechnology.
8) Please tell me where in the world are farmers not 'dependent' upon the
Farmers in Australia are not dependent on the state.
9) Why don't you and your colleagues 'advise' the USDA to do away with all
kinds of hidden and not-so-hidden subsidies? Why must we have the US,
Canada, European Union, Japan, Austraila and New Zealand produce farm
products by indulging in 'highly unsustainable' agriculture farming systems
and that too at such a prohibitive cost, and then dump the produce onto
DML Why do you think that our farmers are indulging in highly unsustainable
production systems? Western farmers have been producing a lot of food on
the same land for a long time and they are still going. What is the point
of using low input, subsistance farming if all you get are famines and no
chance of a better life for the subsistance farmer? You should be careful
that you are not suggesting that Indian farmers have no right to a better
standard of living. That they must continue in their poor and ignorant
lives because America is doomed. My wish is that all citizens of the planet
can all live as well as Americans and that we can do it sustainably. After
all few people want to live an unsustainable existance.
10) Why do we need these surpluses in the west when resource-poor farmers
in the developing countries can do it much cheaply and effectively? And
that too by following more sustainable farming systems.
DML Are you serious that farmers in the developing world can produce wheat
cheaper than Canadians or Americans? Better do your homework there.
11) In any case, the overflowing stocks are there because people cannot buy
foodgrains. If in India, for instance, we were to distribute food at the
minimum calorie intake of 2500 cal a day, we would need another 50 million
tonnes besides the 45 million tonnes surplus that we have today. In
reality, therefore, the present surplus is what I call as a 'hunger
surplus'. Can biotechnology in any way help solve this crisis?
Biotechnology will only worsen the situation.
DML Our objective is to engineer plants that will allow Indian farmers to
grow enough food to so that they do not need to rely on Western handouts.
Biotechnology can certainly help there. Recent results from China and
Africa have shown that farmers can double their output and still have time
to educate themselves or to earn money working at other trades.
12) There is no such thing as free trade. At a time when massive subsidies
are being doled out to farmers on either side of the Atlantic, any talk of
open trade is futile and fraught with dangers. In the west, for instance, a
cow receives more subsidy than what a farm family earns in a year in India
How can we be competitive in such a distorted situation?
DML There are agricultural subsidies in the the West. A great deal in
Europe and some in the USA. The whole point of free trade is that it will
produce a global marketplace and favour those who are best at doing a
particular job. If the USA grows cheaper wheat then let it. If India
produces cheaper legumes then let it. There are great problems with free
trade but in the end it will favour poorer countries at the expense of
Most of the opposition to globalization comes from the West. Why? Because
they have the most to lose. Mexico is a good case study in what happens
with free trade. Their economy is booming because American companies locate
their manufacturing in Mexico where the labour is cheaper. American towns
lose out with increasing unemployment but Mexicans gain. Even though their
wages are lower than their American counterparts they are still many times
higher than what was available before free trade (NAFTA). In every country
some will suffer and some will gain. Change is painful but, in this case, I
fear unavoidable. National borders are slowly dissolving and it high time
all the world shared in the Earth's bounty. Free trade and globalisation
will assist this change.
13) Biotechnology will only make farmers DEPENDENT on a comparatively
unproductive technology, whose entire aim would be to garner more profits
(terminator and traitor technologies?). It will push a large number of
farmers out of agriculture to join the growing number of labourers
thronging to the cities. Since we have no provisions to give them alternate
employment, what will we do with this mass?
DML First of forget the terminator technology bit. This is no more than an
efficient way for the producers of the transgenic seed to ensure they are
paid for their produce. All businesses do this from the lowliest stall
holder to the biggest multinational. Nobody gives away there wares and why
14) With the farmers number presently exceeding 550 million, the task
before the nation is on how to make agriculture remunerative and attractive
enough to restore the farmers' confidence. But instead of providing these,
the Indian government is busy dismantling the 'institutional mechanism'
leaving the farmers with no option but to face the flood of cheap imports
(under WTO). In turn, biotechnology (which is a part of the globalised
system) will only exacerbate the crisis that confronts contemporary
agriculture. It has already been estimated that the number of people
migrating from the villages of India to the cities (by the year 2010) will
exceed twice the combined population of Germany, France and UK.
DML Biotechnology will not force farmers from their land but it will
contribute to an industrial revolution in places like India. Do you
seriously think that Indian subsistance farmers like their jobs? Do you
think that they might want a wage in a good job instead? Of course they do.
You say that there are not enough jobs for them in the cities. True.
Unemployment is a possible consequence, not of biotechnology, but of modern
farming practices. The Industrial Revolution of Europe and America was a
painful time for the citizens of those continents. Where there is a
plentiful supply of labour, and genuine free trade, factories will begin to
open and employ these displaced farmers. The same thing happened in Europe
last century. It was painful but necessary. India need not suffer such
hardship because the rest of the world can help. By the way biotechnology
does not contribute to globalisation (a good thing for India anyway) it is
just a scientific technique. It isn't any different than vaccinations,
antibiotics, cars, higher yeilding crops, pesticides or any other
Malcolm Livingstone PhD
Date: 24 May 2001 07:55:26 -0000
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Book
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Burried Rice, Superweed Kit, Eco-fascism, Organic
I have a close friend in the UK who is well educated (BA in
English and American Lit) and very intelligent. I recently had to
explain to her the the earth moved round the sun and not vice versa.
This is an indication of the scientific literacy of people in the
first world and shows that they can have NO "grasp of what
consistutes a good and healthy diet".
The fact that the first world is healthier is because they do not
languish in crushing poverty and are able to afford adequate
nutrition and health care, it also has something to with the fact
that most of thier food is NOT organic!
> I think you'll agree that these countries have relatively high
> standards of health and welfare and that consumers in them have a
> good grasp of what constitutes a healthy diet and society.
Forget Organic: Just Eat Those Veggies
Los Angeles Times
By GREG CRITSER
May 20, 2001
One of the more unglamorous, but important, public health victories
of our time is the rapidity with which one particular prescription for
better living has won almost universal consensus. It is this: People
--particularly kids --should consume two to four servings of fruits and
three to five portions of vegetables a day.
But lately, this healthful prescription arrives with a mixed, and
potentially self-defeating, message. The carrier of that message is the
$7-billion organic-foods industry, which routinely denigrates as "unsafe"
or "environmentally unfriendly" any food that is not grown locally,
seasonally and without pesticides. By doing so, as one school nutrition
director puts it, kids --and the rest of us for that matter --end up with
the false notion "that the only vegetables and fruits that are truly safe
and conscionable to eat are organic." Faced with the high cost--and just
plain weirdness--of a $2 tomato, what kid wouldn't rather go on a Doritos
Yet the truth about today's non-organic produce is bright.
Science--if not Whole Foods--tells us that mainstream fruits and veggies
are safer than ever.
Once upon a time they weren't, of course. Throughout much of the
postwar period, farmers sprayed pesticides as liberally as they used water
sucked out of the Owens Valley. Not now. One reason is the rise in
popularity of sophisticated integrated pest management (IPM) systems,
which minimize but don't eliminate the use of costly chemicals. Using such
practices, farmers here and abroad have cut back dramatically on pesticide
and herbicide use. Many have found, to the frank consternation of chemical
companies, that a quarter cup of the herbicide Roundup per acre, applied
at just the right time, achieves what a quart per acre does when applied
Consequently, the produce that ends up in your local Ralphs--organic
or not--likely won't have any significant chemical residues. And foreign
produce, that other great bugaboo of organic types, looks increasingly
clean as well. The most recent report from the USDA's Pesticide Data
Program, for example, shows that imports have quickly reached the low
pesticide levels now found on U.S. produce.
For Westsiders who worry that any residue level is unhealthful,
particularly for their children, it pays to repeat a single
epidemiological fact. As the esteemed journal Regulatory Toxicology and
Pharmacology recently put it: "During the past 50 years of regulating
thousands of substances, there is no known case of toxicity in children
from the ingestion of food additives or pesticides that were used in
conformity with established tolerances. Accidental exposures, intentional
abuse, illegal use, and exposure to applicators or to farm workers explain
the entire inventory of cases of human toxicity to pesticides." And in the
April 2000 issue of NeuroToxicology, researchers documented the effects of
low-level exposures of young animals to organophosphorous (OP) and
pyrethroid insecticides. The scientists found that "young animals are not
more sensitive than adults to lower doses of OP or pyrethroid
One reason for that comes from the frontiers of neurology.
Toxicologists studying 16 cancer drugs in use by children and adults in
phase-one clinical trials found, for example, that "the maximum tolerable
dose for children was higher than for adults for 13 of the compounds."
This, the researchers concluded, "may be attributable to higher rates of
metabolic or renal clearance." Kids, it seems, can shed many toxins faster
The news is similarly encouraging regarding a number of other organic
health scares, which have had the cumulative effect of encouraging parents
to make bad nutrition decisions. The notion, for example, that hormones in
beef and milk will make little Jenny hit puberty by the time she hits her
9th birthday is no longer taken seriously by many of those who first
tendered the notion. Moreover, of all the consensus research (wherein
scientists of differing persuasions agreed) surveyed by the liberal
environmental-toxins scholar Sheldon Krimsky in his new book on the
estrogenic effect of chemicals, dietary residues ranked as a nonissue.
On another front, this past March, a comprehensive study by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which analyzed the blood and
urine of 3,800 kids, found that levels of mercury were so low as to cause
many environmental pediatricians to reverse long-held fears about feeding
kids fish and seafood.
If trepidation is less warranted in respect to the traditional
boogeymen of the food world, what should one think of its heroic organic
Though there is little disagreement that organic growers often
produce a tastier fruit--and that their field workers are safer--there is
growing doubt from a public health perspective that its extra culinary and
moral kick warrants its three-to fourfold price premium.
For one thing, much of the organic produce currently available is
farmed using the same water-intensive, soil-eroding methods long
criticized for damaging the environment. (The concern has even erupted
among small organic farmers, who protested the trend at a recent meeting
of the influential Chef's Collaborative)
The insistence that organic represents the be-all and end-all
eclipses a much more serious public-health threat: food poisoning. The
U.S. suffers more than 76 million cases of it every year, an increasingly
large percentage of which derive from fresh fruits and vegetables.
Instructively, two recent high-publicity food poisonings both came out of
the organic trade--one from an Arizona distributor of "natural"
unpasteurized orange juice, the other from a Northern California grower of
unwashed bean sprouts. Even many liberal food scientists now agree that
the organic industry's focus on dietary residues has diverted far too many
USDA inspectors from spotting this real threat to food safety.
What would happen if cheap produce imports were curtailed because of
more stringent pesticide regulations? In April 2000, George M. Gray, the
deputy director of the Center for Risk Analysis at Harvard University's
School of Public Health, published a state-of-the-art econometric modeling
of the issue. Looking at a scenario wherein regulators eliminate all
organophosphate pesticides, thereby sending everyone to more expensive
organic options, Gray concluded: "Price changes [would] cause food
substitutions, less consumption of fruits and vegetables, with a
concomitant increase in cancer risk. A nutritional deficiency spread
across a large population has serious effects . . ." With this last
sentiment, even the ever-vigilant Center for Science in the Public
Interest now concurs.
It may seem unfair to beat up on an industry that still plays a small
role in the nation's total food supply. Yet anyone who covers food and
public health--or, for that matter, any savvy TV viewer--knows that the
organics industry plays a disproportionately powerful role as an
instigator of media-born trepidation. Food scares sell.
But they do nothing to get our kids to eat those important five
servings a day.
- - -
Greg Critser Writes About the Politics of Health for Harper's and Worth
Magazines. His Book About the Modern Obesity Epidemic Will Be Published
Next Year by Houghton Mifflin
Raising a ruckus
Protests to greet biotech convention here
Sand Diegoe Union Tribune
May 23, 2001
What was the Berkeley-based Ruckus Society doing in Jamul last week? It
was training some 150 activists to disrupt the Biotechnology Industry
Organization's annual convention, which will be held in San Diego next
The Ruckus Society has acquired a rather notorious reputation by provoking
unrest at global trade meetings and political conventions. At its
so-called Biojustice Action Camp in Jamul, activists were taught how to
form blockades, how to hang protest banners from buildings without the
authorization of the buildings' owners, and how to deal with the
inevitable tear gas fumes.
The San Diego Police Department will be on full alert during the four-day
BIO convention. Officers are preparing for the worst-case scenario: A
repeat of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, where
demonstrators violently clashed with police and caused millions of dollars
in local property damage.
The Ruckus Society maintains it had nothing to do with the mayhem in
Seattle (or similar incidents that have occurred in other cities hosting
global economic meetings). The Berkeley activists say they only want to
get their message across. And that is: that profit-driven biotech
companies are exposing the unsuspecting public to potentially harmful
As it is now, most Americans do not have strong opinions about
biotechnology, according to a recent poll by the Pew Initiative for
"Essentially, public opinion is up for grabs," said Mike Rodemeyer, the
spokesman for Pew, "because this new technology has moved faster than the
public's ability to fully understand it and its implications."
Which is why the Ruckus Society activists are taking to the streets of San
Diego next month. They hope to frighten the American people into believing
-- erroneously -- that biotech products pose a danger to public health and
That is why the 12,000 biotech industry leaders and executives expected to
attend the BIO convention next month need to reassure the public that
biotech products are quite safe and that these products offer tremendous
benefits to society.
Indeed, biotech researchers are developing effective new treatments for
heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and other maladies afflicting millions
Meanwhile, a 1997 report by the World Bank and Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research estimated that biotech can help
increase food production in the developing world (where tens of millions
are undernourished) by 25 percent.
An especially welcome new crop is "golden rice," a genetically modified
food that may prevent millions of cases of human disease in the developing
world that are attributable to vitamin A deficiency.
The protesters who plan to descend on San Diego next month profess to have
the public's interest at heart. But it is hard to see how the public is
well served by a misguided crusade against an industry that is developing
promising new medicines and crops.
GM Crops Safe
The Nation (Nairobi)
By Mwingirwa Kithure
May 24, 2001
A new research has confirmed that genetically modified crops survive no
better that their traditional counterparts.
The 10 - year study on the performance of modified crops conducted by the
Imperial College in England allays fears that the genetically altered
crops could stray from the farm fields and invade other natural
inhabitants where they are not grown.
The research sampled four generically modified crops: maize, potato,
oilseed rape and sugar beet. The researchers say they modified these four
crops to equip them with the ability to resist or withstand insects and
The trial seedlings were planted in 12 habitats in Britain, ranging from
woodlands to Coastal areas. The study found out that neither the
traditional nor the modified plants increased in numbers beyond their
first plantings and the modified plants never lasted significantly longer
that the traditional ones.
According to a Monsanto-Kenya publication, Kuza: "All the genetically
engineered corn, oilseed, rape and sugar beet died out within four years.
The modified sweet potato died too." says the publication.
The research also published in the authoritative scientific journal,
NATURE says that the research was financed by a consortium of
biotechnology multinationals including Monsanto Co. and Zeneca Ag products
Inc, to find out: -
Whether the genetically engineered plants would crowd out natural species,
cause health risk in humans and pass on traits such as herbicide
resistance to weeds.
The research conducted by ecologist Michael J. Crawley also investigated
the possibility of genetically engineered crops killing beneficial insects.
Crawley, the head of the team is quoted in the journal as saying "problem
plants have attributes that are totally different from Crop plants. No
matter what you do, an oilseed rape or wheat plant, it won't become a
"This research, although concentrated more on the co-existence of
genetically modified crops with the traditional plants, paying little
attention to effects on human health, will be a milestone towards
re-assuring countries skeptical of the safety of G.M crops that all is
okay," says Dr. Hezron Kimani, an Agrobiologist.
"What is needed is further research on effects of G.M. to human health and
African natural habitat. Again. The scientists modifying crops should work
more on strengthening the survival of G.M.crops and more yields, because
if the results from their study is anything to go by: "They survive no
better than their traditional counterparts" adds Dr. Kimani.
Kenya is also trying G.M. crops. Last year, Kenya Agriculture Research
Institute (KARI) collaborating with Monsanto launched the first ever
genetically modified sweet Potato.
The transgenic sweet potato is said to have a protein coat that boasts its
resistance to diseases and virus. If the trial goes on well, the virus
resistant tubers are scheduled for distribution to farmers as soon as
bio-safety is guaranteed.
Death of a Butterfly
From the Summer 2001 Patagonia Catalog
By Mark Ritchie
One early morning last spring, my half-asleep eyes caught the opening
lines of a letter in my local newspaper.
"I am a farmer. I knew that since I was 5. I grow crops. The land I
farm also grows butterflies, birds, earthworms and wildflowers, or at
least I think it is supposed to. Right now I am having trouble figuring
out what kind of farmer I am or should be. This question is not just for
me but for you. I am concerned that there is no room for bluebirds and
butterflies in big, precision, genetically-modified agriculture."
The letter, from a family farmer named Michael Klingelhutz, went on to
describe one of the many destructive aspects of industrial
biotechnological agriculture: the destruction of vital habitat for
wildlife. He wrote about the importance of milkweed as the sole habitat
for monarch butterfly caterpillars and about how, before the advent of new
biotech soybean and corn crops, he had "raised a good crop of monarchs" as
part of his farming. But in the late 1990s, "Roundup Ready genetically
engineered soybeans became widely available. Roundup herbicide kills
everything green except the soybeans with the genetic alteration."
The farmer eventually realized that more than just his milkweeds had
disappeared ? so had the monarchs.
"My milkweeds are gone. My neighbor?s milkweeds are gone. Farmers using
Roundup Ready genetics in soybeans, cotton, corn and sugar beets are
eradicating milkweed from their fields nationwide, forcing the monarch
butterflies to lay their eggs on milkweed in field borders and ditches."
The purpose of most biotechnology in crop farming is to kill all plants
and insects except the single, genetically-engineered crop the
biotechnology is designed to protect. The major biotech crops in use
today, accounting for most of the genetically engineered acres in the
United States, are Roundup
Ready crops (like soybeans), mentioned in farmer Klingelhutz?s letter, and
Bt crops, short for Bacillus thuringiensis, like Bt corn.
Monsanto Corporation?s Roundup Ready crops have been manipulated to
contain a special gene that makes them immune to damage from very high
doses of Monsanto?s Roundup herbicide. Roundup kills essentially every
growing plant in its path except crops injected with the special gene.
Monsanto advertises that its products will maximize crop yield and reduce
costs, yet monarchs and other organisms exposed to Roundup Ready crops
suffer a two-fisted biotech assault: First, the destruction of natural
habitat by Monsanto?s plant killers. Second, poisoning from the herbicides
that are being spread over millions of acres of land and running off into
our waterways and estuaries.
In an article in Science magazine, British researchers predicted that
common weeds might be reduced to low levels or practically eradicated,
which could have a severe impact on skylarks (and most likely other bird
species as well), if Roundup Ready sugar beets are widely adopted in
England. The near total destruction of all plants except sugar beets could
eliminate the major sources of seeds that are the chief nutrition source
for these beautiful
Biotechnology and genetic engineering are an assault on the wild unlike
any other. Genetic engineering alters nature at the genetic level. When
companies alter the genetic makeup of a plan