AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Henry Miller asserts that EPA has no business regulating genetically
engineered herbicide resistant rice. It is unclear what regulatory process
he is referring to, but this issue needs some clarification. While EPA did
regulate genetically engineered herbicide resistant plants in the first
couple of instances, it generally no longer does so, since the plants
themselves do not produce a pesticidal trait. The latter property is the
regulatory hook used by EPA for genetically engineered plants.
However, EPA still regulates the herbicide applied to those plants, as
with any other crop, and has had this jurisdiction under FIFRA for
decades. As with any proposed new or increased use of a pesticide, it is
clearly EPA's responsibility to determine that this use will not cause the
tolerance set for that pesticide to be exceeded (the tolerance is an
amount of the pesticide that can be safely consumed, as determined by
toxicity testing). There may also be environmental impacts due to a new or
increased use of a pesticide that should be considered.
On the other hand, maybe Henry wants us to abandon this aspect of
pesticide regulation also!
Surveying the Damage in Seattle
(-Forwarded by "Cindy Lynn Richard, CIH" )
SEATTLE, May 23, 2001 AP (CBS) Federal investigators Wednesday continued
to probe two fires in the Pacific Northwest that might be linked to the
radical ecoterrorist group Earth Liberation Front, reports CBS News
Correspondent Sandra Hughes. A fire at the University of Washington's
urban horticulture center in Seattle early Monday destroyed the offices of
scientists who did research into the genetic modification of trees to make
them larger and more useful to the timber industry.
Not far away and at about the same time, two buildings on an Oregon tree
farm were also destroyed by a firebomb. There, scrawled on a wall, police
found the signature of the ELF, as well as the message: "You Cannot
Control What is Wild."
The Seattle fire caused about $2 million in building damage and botanists
said they also lost years of research on topics ranging from wetland
restoration to endangered species protection. "I'm just appalled at this
type of terrorism," said Dr. H.D. Bradshaw, a member of the university
faculty. No one was injured in either blaze. Both sites have been hit by
vandals before, including graffiti and destruction of trees labeled
"bioengineered" by activists. Police and fire officials declared the fires
in Washington state and Oregon the result of arson, noting the presence of
sophisticated timing devices. However, authorities says they are not sure
whether ELF is involved in one or both incidents.
ELF spokesperson Craig Rosebraugh, who went out to the site Tuesday but
has yet to receive word from ELF members, also could not say for sure. But
another person claiming to be an ELF spokesman said a link was likely. "It
looks like the type of action the Earth Liberation Front would engage in.
It's similar tactics, possible targets," said Leslie Pickering, who
identified himself as a spokesman for the group. "But so far there has
been no official claim of responsibility. That could take up to a week."
"The risk of genetic pollution getting released into the environment is
potentially devastating," Pickering said, adding that any wildlife
conservation data lost in the Seattle fire would be a minor concern.
"Whatever was lost in that particular building is microscopic compared to
what could happen if genetic pollution gets released into the natural
environment," Pickering said. The fires have all the earmarks of others
set by ELF, whose members have taken responsibility for an increasing
number of blazes set across the country.
CBS News has learned more FBI agents have recently been assigned to
investigate and attempt to infiltrate the ELF and similar ecoterrorist
organizations. Recently, the ELF has been linked to an arson campaign in
Phoenix, tree spiking in Indiana, an attack on facilities at Michigan
State University, several bombings on New York's Long Island, and an
attempt last month to burn down a Nike Inc. outlet store in Minnesota to
protest use of "sweatshop" labor. In testimony to Congress this year, FBI
director Louis Freeh said that eight terrorist incidents in 1999 were
conducted either by ELF or a related group, the Animal Liberation Network,
with several other incidents under investigation.
ELF opposes everything from genetic engineering to urban sprawl. Its
costliest terrorist act to date was the $12 million fire set at the Vail
ski resort in Colorado in 1998. According to the FBI, the ELF set the fire
to block the resort from expanding and destroying the last lynx habitat in
Colorado. "Eventually people may be injured in these fires or be killed,"
said Stephen Peifer, the assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon. "It's similar
to groups that are dedicated to shutting down abortion clinics by
violence. It's the same type of technique and the same type of objective"
- © MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved.
- Globe and Mail, Canada
Maurice Moloney, professor and chair, Department of Biological Sciences,
University of Calgary writes that once again, the Globe features a
front-page article (Buyers Distrust Modified Wheat -- May 21) on genetic
modification of crops that is simply propaganda masquerading as journalism.
You repeat the canards of allergenic Brazil nut protein (a story that
actually illustrates how much rigorous testing occurs before a commercial
product is even envisaged) and the potential for "superweeds," an idea GM
Propaganda clearly contradicted by many studies. What happened to
journalistic research and fact-checking? GMOs are often created to
eliminate pesticide use or at least to allow the use of environmentally
safe ones such as Roundup. If there truly is no market for these crops
then they will not be sold. So what's to worry about? Let the market
Useful Biotech Background Material
Subject: No Till
> From: email@example.com
>The prairies have only been farmed for just over 100 years (my
> great-grandfather busted some of that sod) and already they have lost,
> 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.
Obviously you haven't seen no till in action. It does reverse soil loss on
reasonably flat land as long as it is practiced. The organic matter that
builds up on top of the ground is very much the same as the organic matter
that built up on the prarries. It certainly conserves the loss of soil and
organic matter at a much greater rate than organic agriculture that uses
tillage to control weeds. Every trip through the field with a tillage tool
oxidizes a great deal of organic material in the soil and leaves it open
to erosion from wind and water. The type of tillage operation has a great
deal to do with how much damage is done to the organic content of the
soil. The mold board plow being the worst and the 5 foot sweep probably
being the least.
Organic farming is the most dangerous method of farming from an soil
erosion stand point because it relies on tillage for so much of it's weed
control. It is becoming tiresome you use of this forum to tout the
superiority of organic agriculture when you can't produce any proof of
your claims. I have no question of the safety of your product and you are
doing a good job marketing it to a growing niche market in a affluent
world. Trashing the rest of agriculture to make points for your product
shows that like the rest of the greens you are not above using fear as a
Bizarre New Weapon Against Pollution
- The Straits Times 23-May-2001
GUELPH (Canada) - Scientists have succeeded in developing a bizarre new
weapon in the fight against pollution: pigs that have been genetically
engineered to make perfect manure. The super porkers produce excrement
that is low in phosphate and sodoes not cause the contamination of water
supplies and the destruction of wildlife, The Observer has reported. From
now on, the pigs' reputation should be green and sweet-smelling, say the
super-pork creators - although it is likely to get amixed reception from
ecologists who view gene modification as anathema.
"People think transgenic animals are evil, but our work shows that what
really matters is how you use this kind of technology," said one of the
pigs' creators, Dr Serguei Golovan of Guelph University in Ontario. Dr
Golovan and his colleagues revealed details of their success in Nature
Biotechnology magazine. Scientists have worried for years about the
problem of phosphate pollution. The chemical is present in many
fertilisers and is washed from fields and crops by rain. It contaminates
streams and eventually produces harmful algal blooms in lakes. A major
source of phosphate pollution is pig manure, a popular form of "natural"
fertiliser. Phosphates are given to pigs in their food in order to boost
their growth. However, most of it simply passes through their digestive
system and into the soil. In many parts of the world, the result is
serious pollution. Dr Golovan and his colleagues believe they have come up
with the solution: a breed of pigs that excretes phosphate-low manure.
Craig Sams wrote:
>Alex Avery is softcore memos about growing GM squash and spreading the
>good word at his local farmers' market!
Perhaps Mr. Sams didn't know that free markets are a core message at the
Hudson Institute and the Center for Global Food Issues; that we have
testified to the U.S. Congress on numerous occasions supporting an end to
market-distorting goverment farm subsidies; that Center Director Dennis
Avery was the lead-off witness at the Senate Ag Committee's hearings on
the 1996 Farm Bill resulting in the Freedom to Farm Act that was supposed
to phase out subsidies over 7 years; that we have written extensively
advocating an end to farm subsidies and free markets.
In fact, I have peeped several times in this forum to agree with Mr. Sams
about the market distorting effects of the US and EU subsidy systems
(they're undeniable). I'll say it again: Mr. Sams is correct about the
price-depressive impacts on world markets of farm subsidies. However, Mr.
Sams' copatriots on the Left and in the organic movement are
overwhelmingly against globalization through the WTO, which would phase
out such market-distorting payouts and subsidies. They take this position
because it also requires the elimination of price-distorting protective
domestic tariffs. According to an OECD analysis, under a more open market,
world market commodity prices would likely increase an average of 20%.
This is partially due to the elimination of excess subsidized production
and EQUALLY the elimination of domestic protective tarriff barriers--which
artificitially increase domestic retail prices and thereby suppress demand.
> The fact is that organic farming chooses
>from ..options for farming and does not reject technology
Please. Organic is all about technology rejection. Organic is by
definition a menu of limited options--that's why every organic
certification scheme, including the USDA's has a menu of "allowable"
inputs. Modern, "chemical" farmers use the whole menu without
stereotype--there is no prescibed menu. If it's safe, it's in! For
example, modern farmers use both organic nutrients AND sustainable
synthetic N (which is produced without robbing land from wildlife!).
>great-grandfather busted ..sod) and already they have lost, and
>continue to lose, massive amounts of topsoil.
Please, again! Chemical farmers using "bad" herbicides have saved that
soil and are now building soil on that land. They also have more
earthworms and better soil structure by far than your bare-earth organic
farmers. But the myth that modern, NON-no-till farming rapes the land is
dead. Stanley Trimble's research (published in Science, no less!) shows
only 6% the erosion of the Dust Bowl days in a highly erodible basin in
Wisconsin where there isn't much no-till farming. His figures are 1/3 the
USDA's NRCS estimate and his research is unimpeachable--he went out and
did real spade work and found out what was actually happening in the real
world whereas USDA guys tweeked a computer model.
>'No till' farming may reduce the rate of loss,
>but it doesn't reverse it.
Mr. Sams, you're dead wrong on this--they're building soil. Moreover, what
would your organic farmers do about the erosion with their bare-earth weed
control methods, other than steal more land from nature to graze cows for
their manure? Every option you can reply with (contour plowing,
green-manuring, good stewardship, etc.) is allowed and practiced by modern
non-organic farmers. Vaclav Smil estimates it would take another 6 billion
cows to produce enough manure to replace current synthetic N fertilizer
use. Where would you park those extra 6 billion cows Mr. Sams, Amazonia?
Broad Training And A Broad Mind Are Needed For The Future
John Vidal The Guardian 22-May-2001
Floods. Foot and mouth. Global warming. BSE. Pollution. GM foods. Soil
degradation. If you want to be in at the sharp end of scientific and
social debate in the next 10 years then agriculture and environment are
bound to be among the hottest subjects.
In a rapidly changing world which will force us all to adapt to new
societal and ecological pressures, these are some of the issues that are
most going to affect how we live and how we view the world. It seems
extraordinary, but just 30 years ago, neither subject was taken very
seriously, even at university. The "environment" mostly came under the old
broad subject area of physical geography. Man's place in, and impact on it
was seen in a new light as the first images of earth were beamed down from
space right at the death of the industrial revolution, and as books like
Silent Spring were published.
Until then, the forces affecting climate or health, the oceans and
landscapes were little understood. They still are, but we now know enough
to respect nature more and to appreciate there are limits beyond which we
should not go. Equally, agriculture in Britain was taken for granted.
Mostly, it just happened as it always had: production was all; income was
mostly guaranteed; cheap food was needed and there was an orthodox way of
teaching and practising how to produce it. It seemed that beyond scaling
up and learning to use chemicals and accountants more efficiently, nothing
could, or needed, to change.
Both vast areas are now in flux and neither scientists nor farmers are the
guaranteed heroes and harbingers of a better future that they once were.
Too many mistakes have been made and trust lost, and, it needs to be said,
neither group has responded fully to the new agendas being set by the
public. There is widespread disgust at the way some food has been produced.
Equally, scientists have been called to account for going too far, too
fast. What used to be two of the most unchanging things in the world -
food and life itself - are now seen to be changing fast. In the
environmental field, there is great ongoing scientific and political
debate as we learn more about the effects of global warming, man-made
pollutants and habitat loss.
And as the gene revolution unfolds, we find the whole relationship between
mankind and nature changing. Farmers and scientists are having to learn
fast, and unless they take the public with them, and learn to address
social and political issues, technological advances will be rejected and
they will be called to account. The future is ever more uncertain.
Agriculture on a small island in a globalised economy may be
unrecognisable in just a few years. Quality of life, conservation and
former "alternatives" like organic farming are now serious issues for
potential new-century farmers.
Food production may play only a small part in the way the land is used.
Future farmers may have to learn to farm water to prevent flooding 100
miles away, or to grow crops for energy or aesthetic reasons. They may be
paid to conserve landscapes, maintain communities or provide specifically
for local produc tion. They may only survive by combining many farming
methods - some traditional, some futuristic.
On the other hand, the future farmer may be an even smaller cog in the
giant agribusiness or supermarket machine, with economic survival
depending only on the scale of production. Genetic farming may yet flower,
opening the chance for crops to be grown for health reasons. The debate is
open and fierce and the farmer of the future will need to be more
adaptable than ever before.
The new challenge for universities is to reflect the multifarious changes
taking place outside and to educate broadly. The most successful have
learned that the interdisciplinary approach across the sciences is now
essential and increasingly that the social factors must be addressed. The
best know that changes are coming thick and fast and are adapting.
Worryingly, some are linking themselves ever more closely to companies
whose agenda may be narrow. The open mind will be as essential a tool in
the next 20 years as the Massey Ferguson or test tube were 20 years ago.
-John Vidal studied English, geography and economics at Birmingham
University and is now the Guardian's environment editor.
California Biotech Companies Grow Plants with Human Proteins
Paul JacobsSan Jose Mercury News 23-May-2001
A handful of biotech companies are genetically engineering plants to
produce human proteins, turning farms into factories for medications aimed
at a host of human diseases.
Large Scale Biology in Vacaville uses genes from lymphoma patients at
Stanford to grow a customized cancer vaccine in leafy plants that are
close cousins to tobacco. Epicyte in San Diego uses corn to make human
antibodies against herpes and human sperm for gels that can block sexually
transmitted disease and prevent conception. These and other companies are
betting that transgenic crops, which can produce as much as 40 pounds of a
human protein per acre, will replace more expensive fermentation systems
that are the industry standard for brewing up human proteins by the vat.
"Plants are the most efficient producers of proteins on the planet," said
Epicyte President Mich B. Hein. "They get their energy from the sun and
all their nutrients from the soil. They make proteins essentially for free
once they are up and going." Cost, however, isn't the only reason for
choosing plants over the animal cells widely used by biotechnology
companies to produce human proteins. Or for choosing plants over cows and
goats that have been genetically transformed to produce human proteins in
Some worry that cattle are vulnerable to hoof and mouth disease, which
could quickly wipe out any herd genetically altered to produce therapeutic
proteins. And there is concern that animal cells may harbor viruses or
other contagions that could infect humans. "Proteins in plants don't have
issues with mad cow disease or hoof and mouth," said John McClellan,
director of marketing for ProdiGene in College Station, Texas.
The theory behind producing human proteins in plants -- or in animal
cells, bacteria or yeast -- is simple: Pluck the gene, a bit of DNA that
carries the instructions for making the protein, out of a human cell and
insert it into the other species. Now, 25 years after the birth of the
biotechnology industry, there are hundreds of human proteins -- many of
them antibodies -- in various stages of testing for treating disease. But,
for the moment, there are not enough government-approved manufacturing
facilities for the expected flood of biotech drugs.
In 1998, Immunex in Seattle launched Enbrel, a modified human protein
grown in animal cells for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The drug
has been such a huge success -- with sales of $650 million last year --
that new patients must now sign up and wait their turn before starting on
the drug. The waiting should disappear next year when the company opens a
manufacturing facility in Rhode Island, but not every firm with a
promising protein will be able to find the production capacity it needs.
"The people who come out on top will be the people who secure
manufacturing," said Immunex spokeswoman Robin Shapiro. Immunex scientists
are considering plants as an alternative way of producing future protein
products, but, says Shapiro, "that's a very long way off."
The capacity problem is a reason why companies working with genetically
modified plants are so hopeful these days, although no plant-grown human
or animal protein has yet won Food and Drug Administration approval,
although a few are in the early stages of testing in patients. "We won't
really know the answer until we get the first one through," said Kurt
Hoeprich, director of market development for plant-grown biotech drugs at
Dow Chemical. Dow is working with Epicyte to grow corn with antibodies
against herpes and human sperm.
Researchers at Large Scale Biology have already shown they can make large
quantities of human proteins in tobacco-like plants (Nicotiana
benthamiana) grown in greenhouses in Vacaville and Kentucky. One of the
proteins grown and extracted with a high degree of purity is
alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme missing in patients with Fabry's disease, a
rare inherited disorder that can lead to heart and kidney failure. The
company has no plans to market the human protein; two other companies are
racing to do that. "We're using it as a model for the process," said the
company's CEO, Robert L. Erwin.
The plant-based companies are aware of the growing protest movement
directed against genetically engineered crops, although the plants
targeted in those protests were ones altered to deliver their own
pesticides. Last year, the agricultural biotech industry was shaken by the
news that a pesticide-containing corn called Starlink -- approved for
animal feed but not human consumption -- had entered the food supply.
Environmentalists are concerned the same thing might happen with plants
containing pharmaceuticals. "Who wants to have a taco that gives you a
drug you don't absolutely need?" asks Rebecca Goldburg, a senior scientist
with Environmental Defense. Large Scale Biology's Erwin says that using
tobacco-like plants that aren't like any crop intended for human use and
that don't have the human protein genes in pollen or seeds is the best
The companies that are transforming corn say they are being very careful
to keep the pharmaceutical crops far removed from fields where corn is
grown for human or animal consumption. Says Epicyte's Hein: "The bottom
line is to produce in areas where the pollen can't spread to other crops."
New Study Shows Tragic Human Consequences Of Environmentalists? Campaign
To Ban DDT
- From: "FightingMalaria.org"
Next week, government officials from around the world will meet in
Stockholm to sign the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs),
an international treaty that bans or greatly restricts the use of 12
chemicals. Included in the list of chemicals to be restricted is DDT,
which has saved millions of lives and remains the most cost-effective way
to prevent malaria, a disease that kills up to 3 million people every
The new study, by Roger Bate and Richard Tren , documents the attempt by
environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and WWF, and the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP) to ban the so-called 'Dirty Dozen' chemicals.
A ban on DDT use would have had an enormous human cost. However, due to
fierce lobbying by humanitarian NGOs, DDT was given a partial exemption.
"The DDT exemption from the POPs treaty comes at the great relief of
public health doctors in poor countries and humanitarians everywhere",
says Dr Bate. Yet, even as it stands, the agreement will adversely affect
poor countries. Bate notes that, "While the POPs treaty allows signatory
countries a DDT exemption for vector control, UNEP's strict reporting
requirements will burden poor countries instead of allowing them the
choice to use the chemical in their public health programmes".
Bate says, "Negative perceptions from wealthy countries frustrate the use
of DDT in disease control. Millions of people suffer and die from malaria
every year. Unfortunately, the POPs treaty will only hamper poor
countries? ability to effectively address and control the disease."
Malaria and the DDT Story provides an insight into the history of DDT's
use to control malaria and the politics surrounding its use. Key points
are: Malaria has long plagued mankind, and was only brought under control
with the development of medical and chemical technologies in the 20th
A worldwide campaign to eradicate malaria with DDT spraying programmes
after World War II nearly eliminated the disease in many poor countries.
· Environmental fears lead to the banning of DDT in wealthy countries.
· Donor agencies and environmental groups from wealthy countries then
pressured poor country governments to stop using DDT for malaria control.
· When used to control malarial mosquitoes, DDT has no observable
effects on human health and its effects on the environment are negligible.
· Partly because of restrictions on the use of DDT, malaria rates are
now increasing in poor countries.
· DDT spraying remains the most cost-effective solution for poor
countries to prevent malaria.
For more information, including copies of Malaria and the DDT Story, or to
arrange an interview with Dr Bate, please contact Kendra Okonski: Phone:
020-7799-8921 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Copies will also be
available for download at www.fightingmalaria.org
Global poverty and inequality in the 20th century: turning the corner?
http://www.treasury.gov.au/ (Excerpts below. click on 'What's New' and
then on'Economic Roundup' to download the complete document with graphs)
(Thanks to Ian Castles of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
for alert on this and the next document)
Living standards increased markedly during the 20th century. Moreover,
recent studies have shown that over about the last thirty years, the
majority of the world's poor have achieved income growth faster than in
developed countries for the first time in two centuries. But because
income differences had become very wide and the developed countries'
incomes are still growing, absolute (dollar) income gaps will continue to
widen for some time yet.
The continued improvements in living standards and the recent reduction of
inequality follow the return in the second half of the 20th century to
widespread peace, sustained global economic growth, and freer global
markets in trade and investment. This provided a favourable global setting
for domestic economic reforms in very populous poor countries including
China, India and Indonesia, which triggered their strong economic growth.
Wider public understanding of this recent progress would benefit from
better international statistics, and better statistical practices.
Continuing progress against persistent extreme poverty requires the
maintenance and improvement of the globalised international environment of
the late 20th century (including through further trade liberalisation,
especially of rich countries' barriers against poor countries' exports),
and peace and economic reform in those countries whose share of global
trade has been declining.
Summary: Nations achieved large advances in life expectancy, nutrition,
and education in the 20th century, and in the more equal distribution of
them. Less widely noted is that over the last thirty years or so, the
majority of the world's poor have begun slowly to catch up with living
standards in developed countries for the first time in over two centuries.
So far, the convergence is only relative (that is, the average person in a
poor country has faster income growth than the average person in a rich
country). Absolute (dollar) income gaps are still widening. But catch-up
is clearly apparent when correctly measured in terms of the purchasing
power of average national income per head.
The continued improvements in living standards and the recent reduction of
inequality follow the return in the second half of the 20th century to
widespread peace, sustained global economic growth, and freer global
markets in trade and investment. Other influences include the decline
since the late 1970s in the application of central planning and other
statist development models.
China and India together account for almost 40 per cent of the world's
population and both were formerly extremely poor. While they remain very
poor, their rapid recent economic progress, consequent on their policy
reforms of the last two decades, bulks large in today's improved global
inequality statistics. Moreover, many other populous economies including
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the other Asian 'tigers' have all
experienced strong real per capita GDP growth over the last few decades,
notwithstanding the Asian crisis of the late 1990s.
The proportion of the world's population in extreme poverty has declined
from about three-quarters in 1820 to one-fifth today, and despite some
setbacks, that proportion continued to fall slowly over the 1990s. However
economic growth in the poorest countries over the 1990s was insufficient,
relative to the decade's population increase of 690 million, to reduce the
estimated number in extreme poverty, which remains at about 1.2 billion.
While there are some reasons to suspect the global poverty count may be
too high, and by an increasing margin over time, extreme poverty remains
the main international economic challenge for the 21st century.
The continuation of outward-looking economic policies can ensure living
standards in the developing world continue to grow faster than in the
developed world, but good policies are not assured. Moreover, arithmetic
dictates that absolute (dollar) differences between average incomes in the
rich and poor countries will continue to widen for some time, because the
starting point differences are so wide, and because the rich countries
will themselves keep growing. Australians concerned with development and
poverty issues need to understand that arithmetic reality, and not be
discouraged by it, or diverted by it from the support for successful
Globalisation's critics frequently attribute to it economic problems that
in fact arise from the presence of ethnic and religious fragmentation,
civil war, poor governance and corruption; and the absence of social
trust, modern institutions, and outward-looking economic policies. These
problems have to be remedied principally by the peoples affected. The
international diffusion of modern ideas, ideals and institutions are not
the problem; they are part of the solution.
But recent studies have shown that over the last 30 or so years, the
majority of the world's poor have begun slowly to catch up with living
standards in developed countries for the first time in two centuries. In
international economics, the most important unfinished business of the
20th century is to build the national policies and institutions that will
lift the living standards of the one billion people still suffering
persistent, extreme poverty.
In developing countries, this will require political support for peace,
for sound economic policies and institutions, and for the far-reaching
social and economic transformations associated with achieving higher
levels of productivity, the key to improved living standards.
In developed countries, it requires political support for trade and
investment liberalisation to open their markets to developing economies,
and to provide bilateral and multilateral aid and technical assistance.
And in all countries, it requires political support for the multilateral,
rules-based international institutions that provided the economic
framework within which much was achieved in the second half of the 20th
Instead of this necessary political support, it seems to be popularly
believed that the return to greater international economic integration in
the second half of the 20th century (after the economic dis-integration
arising from the Great Depression and the two World Wars) has failed the
poor; that they are falling further behind the world's richest countries;
and that in some sense, 'globalisation' is to blame. It seems to be
believed by many that both across countries and within countries, the rich
are getting richer, and the poor, poorer (Box 1). Critics point both to
the perception of widening income inequality (a relative concept), and the
apparent stagnancy of the numbers in extreme poverty (an absolute concept
usually measured against a US$1-a-day poverty line). --cut---
................See website for complete document
False Perspective: The UNDP View of the World
- David Henderson , Perspectives On Global Economic Progress And Human
See http://www.assa.edu.au/occpap1_2000_2.html for complete document
"Why growth rates have differed: the impact of policies
- Let me begin with some of the low-growth countries, and then turn to
the success stories. Among the many countries that have fallen behind or
even gone backwards, there are two groups at any rate in which internal
factors have overshadowed external, even over this past decade or so in
which, according to the UNDP, globalisation has dominated the world scene.
*Group 1 comprises countries which have been seriously affected by war,
civil war or endemic internal disorder. These include Afghanistan,
Tajikistan, Georgia, Lebanon, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Eritrea, Gambia,
Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, as well as Albania and most of the countries which made up the
former Yugoslavia. I would say that there are at least 20 countries in
*Group 2 makes up a longer and more diverse list. It comprises countries
that have been subject to one or both of two handicaps. The first is
chronic misgovernment, through maladministration, corruption or
repression. The second is a greatly over-regulated economy. One sub-group
here is the unregenerate communist countries: North Korea, Cuba, and
arguably Belarus. Apart from these, I would be inclined to list a
substantial number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, among them the
important case of Nigeria, along with Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, Guyana,
Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and a good many former communist
countries including Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and the Ukraine.
For both these groups, it is absurd to say that globalisation has
inflicted low growth rates on them. Not only are other explanations to
hand, but many if not most of these countries have in fact maintained
relatively closed and controlled trade and investment regimes: their
governments have by their own choice rejected closer integration with the
world economy. It might be said, if that vacuous term has to be used, that
in such cases governments have marginalised their own people.
"The fact is that, not surprisingly, the performance of many of these
low-growth countries has been affected by the choice of policies"
"In a word, much of the improvement in Chinese economic performance can be
attributed to liberalisation: the economy has become less regulated and
controlled, more market-oriented, and more open to - more integrated with
- the rest of the world. A similar story can be told, though with many
variations, about other high-growth economies."
"I believe that there is a common element here. Generalising broadly,
these more successful countries have either remained, or have increasingly
moved towards becoming, market economies with relatively liberal regimes
governing external trade and investment. Not for the first time in
history, a contributory factor to good performance - not the only factor,
not always or necessarily a predominant factor, but a generally positive
influence - has been economic freedom. This is in fact recognised by the
UNDP Administrator, Mark Malloch Brown, who says in his Foreword (p v)
that 'the unleashing of competition within countries and between countries
has ushered in for many an era of prosperity and liberty' - a statement
that goes beyond anything to be found in the body of the Report."
"To sum up under this heading, the UNDP diagnosis is false. The conception
of a world in which globalisation has divided developing and transition
countries into winners and losers, bearing down inexorably on the latter,
is detached from reality. It does nothing to explain the wide differences
in the economic performance of these countries, for which other
explanations are to hand; and it simply disregards the fact that, as I
noted above in the illustrative case of Australia, the freeing of trade
and investment flows by governments across the world, which has been a
leading element in globalisation, does not prejudice the interests of poor
"In this anti-market, anti-capitalist orientation, the Report is
symptomatic. It gives expression to ideas and beliefs that are to be found
all over the world. The UNDP, along with some other elements in the UN
system, forms one of the many strongholds of present-day anti-liberalism.
I conclude with some variations on this theme, setting the UNDP view of
events and relationships in a wider context."
"the many NGOs across the world are strongly anti-liberal. As topical
evidence, let me quote the leading article that appeared in the Australian
Financial Review for Friday 5 November. This made the point that 'more
than 870 labour, environmental and activist groups' have launched a
campaign against a new world trade round, charging that the WTO's
processes are 'undemocratic and untransparent and have operated to
marginalise the majority of the world's people'. "
"To repeat, the rise of the NGOs is one aspect only, albeit now a leading
one, of present-day anti-liberalism. In face of these various influences,
and of the NGOs in particular, international business, for a variety of
reasons some of which seem to make better sense than others, has largely
moved into a mode of accommodation and appeasement. The Australian scene
is not peculiar in this."
"In view of (1) the obvious and chronic weakness of economic liberalism
today and (2) the evidence that liberalisation has helped to bring better
economic performance in many countries, including some of the poorest
among them, while failure to move in this direction has held back economic
progress in others, it is perhaps surprising that so many economists
appear to think of doctrinaire liberalism as a pervasive and dominant
threat to their subject and to the world. It is more surprising, however,
that some of them should take this supposed threat as condoning the
excesses, deficiencies and misrepresentations of the UNDP."
Conclusion: The Human Development Report 1999 is a badly flawed document.
The perspective that it offers on world affairs is false, and its overall
program for change has little bearing on the problems of poor countries.
Its anti-liberal orientation is based on a distorted view of economic
relationships, and points in the direction of policies that would do more
harm than good. In so far as its defenders rest their case on the idea
that doctrinaire 'neo-liberalism' has triumphed across the world, whether
in the realm of ideas or in the evolution of actual policies, they are on
weak ground. It is not 'globalisation' that represents a threat to
economic progress and human development, but the systematic restriction of
economic and political freedom.
See Website for complete document including notes
'Golden Rice' : National Public Radio
- Steve Curwood, host: Living on Earth, NPR Transcript May 19, 2001
Golden Rice is the Vitamin A-enriched and bioengineered grain that comes
with a claim that could save millions of lives in poor nations. But some
worry that it's the Trojan horse of biotech foods.
* * *
Curwood: Just ahead--the bioengineered rice that promises to save
millions of lives.
* * *
Curwood: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Genetically modified
food crops are controversial. The European Union only recently lifted a
ban on genetically modified foods. The ban had come in response to
concerns about health and environmental consequences even though makers of
these products say they are safe and needed in a world where one out of
five people goes to bed hungry each night. The latest genetically modified
food is called Golden Rice. It's a form of the grain that contains genetic
material taken from plants, including daffodils and peas. The process adds
a form of Vitamin A to the rice and gives it its golden color. Bob Carty
covers science and the environment for the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation, and he joins me now. Hi, Bob.
Bob Carty (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation): Hi, Steve.
Curwood: So why do this to rice? What need could this satisfy?
Carty: Well, the fundamental goal is to deal with the problem--a global
problem--of Vitamin A deficiency. All of us, or most of us, get our
Vitamin A, of course, in things like carrots or milk or cod liver oil. Did
you ever have cod liver oil when you were a kid?
Curwood: Oh, yes.
Carty: OK. Distasteful--but it's very effective in delivering beta
carotene, and beta carotene is what the body then converts into Vitamin A,
and you need Vitamin A to survive. If not, it can cause blindness; it can
cause death. And around the world, there are millions of kids who don't
have enough Vitamin A; between one and two million children die a year
from lack of sufficient Vitamin A; another five hundred thousand go blind.
So the inventors of this thing called Golden Rice wanted to put beta
carotene into a rice that didn't have it before to solve this problem of
Vitamin A deficiency.
Curwood: Now who's pushing this genetic modification?
Carty: Well, this is interesting. It's not the private sector in this
case. The biotech revolution we've had over the last half dozen years or
so has been led by companies like Monsanto, but they've been concerned
with putting pesticides into things like potatoes and cotton so they
resist the pests themselves; things like making soya and corn resistant to
herbicides so herbicides can be used more efficiently. Now this is very
fine for the pesticide makers, I suppose, and perhaps for farmers; there's
a debate about that. But it certainly doesn't deliver anything to the
Golden Rice, though, was on a totally different research path. It started
about ten years ago, cost about a hundred million dollars, and much of the
funding came from the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States. Much of
the research was done in public research institutions in Germany and
Switzerland. And they did it, of course, not to increase the profits for
pesticide companies but to fight Vitamin A deficiency. Because, though,
there are patents on a lot of this processing, at the end of the day this
publicly financed research is actually owned by a private company,
AstraZeneca, who has agreed to provide the eventual Golden Rice product
free of royalties.
Curwood: Now the critics of Golden Rice say that this technology is a
Trojan horse. Why do they say that, Bob?
Carty: I suppose because it looks so good on the outside and may have a
few dangers within, and the suspicion of it being a Trojan horse is
because of the way it was presented. In the last couple of months across
North America there have been a number of television advertisements using
Golden Rice as an illustration that genetically modified foods can be good
for you, and not just good for you but good for human kind--good for the
poor and the starving of the world. Now remember that this is being
presented--these ads are being presented in a certain context, and the
context is quite a serious market meltdown for genetically modified
foods--you know, the images of protesters outside of supermarkets and
people tearing up test plots in Britain and the United States and Canada.
So in that context, these ads appear that are promoted by the Council for
Biotechnology Information. It's a representative of the biotech industry.
The pictures are quite lovely, Steve. They have mothers with rice bowls
feeding their children; they have doctors in lab coats and children
happily skipping and running. And what you hear in the Golden Rice
commercial by the Council for Biotechnology Information is this message:
*Audio Clip from Council for Biotechnology Information Ad*: Around the
world, mothers want to protect and nourish their children. The
biotechnology researchers have developed Golden Rice. It will contain beta
carotene, a source of Vitamin A. Golden Rice could help prevent blindness
and infection in millions of children. From medicine to agriculture,
biotechnology is providing solutions for improving lives today and could
improve our world tomorrow.
Curwood: Oh, my. Well, if that was a feel-good ad, boy, Bob, I feel great.
It sounds like everything is wonderful with Golden Rice.
Carty: Absolutely. And I think there's a very convincing argument here.
That is, it takes the moral high ground; this is feeding the poor and the
hungry. And if you had some qualms, as many people do, or some doubts
about genetically modified foods, surely feeding the poor is a greater
good, and people could put those qualms and objections aside.
Curwood: But not everybody seems to like this ad, I take it.
Carty: Not even some of the supporters of this technology. The Rockefeller
Foundation itself has tried to distance itself from these ads. They say
they're too much hype. And those are the supporters. The critics say
there's a number of problems here. One is that this Golden Rice is not
going to be available for five or six years. The ad makes it sound like
it's available right now and it's out there doing its job helping the
poor. But it takes five or six years in field tests and very rigorous
science to look and see if this rice will have possible new allergies in
it that people will react to, possible toxins that could be dangerous to
health. They have to find out whether it's safe for the environment. And
above all, people have questions about whether or not this really solves
Vitamin A deficiencies. And one of the people with that question is Pat
Mooney. He's the executive director of the Rural Advancement Foundation
International. Here's his take on Golden Rice.
Pat Mooney (Executive Director, Rural Advancement Foundation
International): The argument that Golden Rice of itself will cure, as the
industry has said, a half a million people a year--children a year--of
blindness, I think, is nonsense, absolute nonsense. And even the inventors
themselves, I think, now say that's the case. For kids to actually consume
enough rice to meet their Vitamin A deficiency requirements in Southeast
Asia, for example, or in Africa, they'd have to be eating about eight or
ten pounds of rice a day.
Carty: And that's Pat Mooney, of the Rural Advancement Foundation
Curwood: How do the inventors of Golden Rice respond to his math, that
this is not enough to fix the problem?
Carty: Basically they say give it a chance. They point out that yes, the
first-invented Golden Rice is very low in levels of beta carotene, but
it'll improve over the years. And this rice does not have to meet, they
would argue, all of the Vitamin A needs of children a hundred percent; it
would only have to meet maybe twenty-five percent or fifty percent that is
deficient. So give the technology a chance, they would argue. And one of
the inventors is particularly quite forceful in arguing back. He's Ingo
Potrykus, and he lives in Switzerland, and apparently he experienced some
hunger and malnutrition right after the Second World War, Steve, and so he
has a very personal motivation for working on this vitamin and food
problem with genetic engineering. Last fall he was in Des Moines, Iowa,
won an International World Food prize (sic) , and on that occasion, he
took on his critics, and so here's a bit of Ingo Potrykus.
Ingo Potrykus (Inventor of Golden Rice): We are really acting criminal,
because we have here a technology which has the potential to help many,
many poor people, to prevent deaths and blindness. Every delay of the
exportation of this technology leads to unnecessary blindness of millions
of children and to unnecessary deaths of mothers.
Carty: And that's Ingo Potrykus, one of the inventors of Golden Rice.
Curwood: Boy, he sounds quite sincere.
Carty: Yeah, and people who've met him say he really is. He's quite
committed to this technology and to what it can do for poor people. On the
other hand, development experts also say he's quite naive. They point out
a number of things. One is that the world currently produces enough food
for everybody on it. It just is terribly maldistributed, and there's a lot
of economic injustice. They also point out another fundamental problem,
and that is that people who lack enough Vitamin A in their diet are also
likely to lack the fats and the proteins in their bodies that actually are
necessary to extract from the beta carotene the Vitamin A.
Curwood: Well, what are the less controversial ways to provide Vitamin A
to poor people that these critics suggest?
Carty: Well, there as simple as a half a teaspoon of red palm oil a day,
much like the cod liver oil that you and I had when we were young. In the
tropics, this could be a very, very easy and simple and accessible
solution. Pat Mooney of the Rural Advancement Foundation International
also argues that there are simple and traditional alternatives available
in many cases. Here's Pat Mooney.
Mooney: In India, for example, there are literally hundreds of food plants
throughout India that have an abundance of Vitamin A in them. They
historically have been used by people to meet their Vitamin A
requirements. They've been pushed out of the marketplace by the Western
approach to food and the heavy emphasis on cereal consumption in these
regions. Frankly, it would probably be much cheaper, definitely safer and
much better for the environment to reintroduce those plants that are
already there that are naturally in the environment, to have them back in
Curwood: So where do things stand now?
Carty: Well, Golden Rice samples have been handed over to a third-world
research institute, the International Institute for Rice Research in the
Philippines, and they're going to do some of the major testing on this.
They say it will take five or six years. In the end of the day, I think
the questions are about who has the burden of proof here. I think
consumers in the North are thinking that the burden of proof still lies
with the inventors to show that this is safe. And the perspective in the
South that's increasing is that the best solution, as the Philippines
Institute says, to Vitamin A deficiency, is really a simple, diverse diet.
Curwood: Bob Carty reports on environmental issues for the CBC. Hey, Bob,
thanks for joining us today.
Carty: OK, Steve.
A Global Appeal To Help Distribute 40 Million Tonnes Of Surplus Food In
India To 360 Million Hungry Indians
- From: Devinder Sharma
I am rather amused to read that hundreds of people signed an AgBioWorld
Foundation petition appealing to Aventis CropScience to donate 5 million
pounds of genetically-engineered experimental rice to the needy rather
than destroy it. And at the same time, I am glad to know that the appeal
did not motivate the FDA and the USDA to listen to the mischievous
proposal in the name of "humanitarian intentions".
Aventis has expressed concern about the hungry in the world, stating that
it is "working hard to ensure that US farmers can grow abundant,
nutritious crops and we hope that by contributing to that abundance all
mankind will prosper". And AgBioWorld Foundation, at the same time conveys
its "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,
I do not have to go into the reasons why AgBioWorld Foundation feels
agitated over the actions of those "who block APPROVED food aid to victims
of cyclones, floods and other disasters." The world knows that there is a
strong lobby of scientists who are blind to the real cause behind the
growing hunger. Their only interest is to ensure that some private
companies can make increasing profits in the name of hunger and
starvation. Their only interest is to ensure that the corporatisation of
agriculture, ably assisted by an unsound science of biotechnology, helps
in further marginalising millions of farmers in the developing countries.
Aventis, Syngenta, Monsanto, and Cargill's are to be world's food-giver.
And everyone in the majority world must queue up before them with a
begging bowl. Isn't this similar to what Shylock used to do in William
Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice? Remember, Shylock looking always for an
opportunity to extract his "pound of flesh?"
Well, if the AgBioWorld Foundation and Aventis are IN REALITY keen to
eradicate hunger, please join the efforts that we intend to make in India
to make available food to those who cannot afford it. It is my appeal, on
behalf of the New Delhi-based Ecological Foundation, to all those who feel
moved by the pictures of malnourished people on the television screens, to
all those who feel agitated over the growing disaparities leading to
hunger and dispair, to come forward, be a partcipant, and contribute for
the cause of hunger and malnutrition. Together we can make a difference.
If your heart bleeds at the millions who die of starvation and hunger,
here is an opportunity to do your little bit. And I am not talking of five
million pounds (or about two and half million kilos) for the sake of
public relations and propaganda. I am talking of 40 MILLION TONNES of
foodgrains that is lying surplus in India !
More than 40 MILLION TONNES of foodgrains (in addition to the requirement
of about 20 million tonnes for the food buffer) are stock piled in the
open. This, when the government figures itself declare that out of the 360
million people officially living below the poverty line, as many as fifty
million are victims of starvation. It is an ironic illustration of that
cliche, a problem of plenty. While surplus food stocks rot in the open,
thousands die of starvation and hunger. And as if this is not enough, the
government has allowed the sale of foodgrains at a throwaway price to
traders and merchants for export when people in the country are waiting
endlessly for two square meals a day!
The IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, which lead the
modern-day Shylocks, have instead asked the Indian government to redefine
the 'beneficiaries" of the publicly-funded distribution system. As a
result, the government has excluded millions of people, earning more than
Indian Rs 1,500 (US $ 40) a month, from purchasing subsidised foodgrains.
The situation is such that in Dharvi, Asia's largest slum in the heart of
Mumbai, only 150 families have been classified as living below the poverty
With the Indian government refusing to provide food to the needy and
helpless, and with the IMF, World Bank and the WTO asserting that the
hungry be left at the mercy of the market forces, there is no hope for
these millions. These are not the children of a lesser god. They too are
made of the same blood and flesh as you and me. They too need food to eat,
to survive and to live in this wonderful planet. They DO NOT need your
sympathies. They DO NOT need genetically modified food that you and me are
not willing to accept as part of our daily diet. They need the normal food
which is being eaten away by rats and insect pests. They need the
foodgrains that is being damaged by rain and moisture. They need the food
that has been essentially grown by them but which they cannot afford to
Let us together make that abundant and rotting food available to these
hapless millions. They need your support and not your publicity stints.
They don't need your signatures for an appeal to the Indian government.
They need you to come forward and make that dream possible.
Here is an humanitarian opportunity for the AgBioWorld Foundations' and
the Aventis CropSciences' of the world to demonstrate their REAL concern
for the poor and hungry. Every contribution that you make to the
Ecological Foundation will be used for MAKING FOOD AVAILABLE to the hungry
millions. And believe me, the food that lies openly stacked in India is
not genetically manipulated. It is fit for human consumption.
In the name of the poor and hungry, - Devinder Sharma, The Ecological
Foundation, New Delhi-110 063, India.