AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
* 'American' Corn Growers Association?
* In the Wake of the BIO Convention
* Greenpeace Employs Theatrics to Make a Point
* Good, Bad or Both, Biotechnology Is Redefining Our Future
* Agbiotech Offers Hope for Poor and Hungry in Developing World
* NPR Story on Indian AgBiotech Wins RFK Journalism Award
* Bush, On Videotape, Promises Broad-based Biotech Support
* Enlightened Support
* Ag Biotech?s Uncertain Future
* International Rice Congress - Beijing, September 2002
* Meeting: Mutated Genes In Crop Improvement and Genomics
* Kids! "Food of the Future": Chance to win a $10,000 Scholarship!
From: "Gregory L. Guenther"
Re: Corn Growers Assocation
Just to keep the record straight on the American Corn Growers
Association. I thought you might like to know that Gary Goldberg is no
longer the CEO of the ACGA. He was removed from that post several
months ago for receiving child pornography through the mail. Why he is
in Australia claiming to represent U.S. corn growers is beyond me. The
ACGA is and always has been a lackey for special interests groups such
as petroleum and environmental activists whose interests have little
or nothing to do with food safety and security. They have less than
1000 actual paid members and receive most of their funding from
corporate and foundation grants. They certainly do NOT represent
mainstream agriculture in the U.S. Several years ago, I attended their
annual meeting in St. Louis MO. I was shocked to find out that the
total number of people there was less than fifty and many were not
farmers. Their "trade show" was a small room made up of table top
displays and all were oil companies. Their major push for ethanol was
ethanol from bio-mass. That doesn't seem to do much for corn now does it?
To wrap this up and not take a lot of everyone's valuable time, I
would discount anything that ACGA and especially Mr. Goldberg has to
say. Their agenda is not improved conditions for American corn
growers, food safety and security but rather they are a front
organization for the enviro's and other NGO's who need a "farm
organization" front to lend some credence to their message by implying
that they have the support of farmers.
If you want the straight facts on what U.S. corn growers really want
and think I urge you to contact the National Corn Growers Association
headquartered in St. Louis MO. or visit our website at
http://www.ncga.com. We won't lie to you.
Greg Guenther - Director, National Corn Growers Association
From: "Terrance Hurley"
Subject: American Corn Growers Association
Hi All, There has been a fair amount of traffic regarding Gary
Goldberg and the American Corn Growers Associations (ACGA). I think
some clarification is in order.
I have run across two national groups claiming to represent the
interest of U.S. corn growers. The ACGA for which Gary Goldberg
presumably speaks and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
Note that these are two distinct and unaffiliated groups. The views of
the ACGA are spelled out on their website: www.acga.org. More about
the NCGA can be found at www.ncga.com.
Note that the NCGA has over 30,000 dues paying members from 48 states
and receives checkoff money from some 300,000 corn growers in 19
states. It is affiliated with many of the state level associations
that also serve to represent the interest of U.S. corn growers. I
invite you to judge for yourself which organization represents the
majority voice among U.S. corn farmers.
Terrance M. Hurley, Department of Applied Economics. University of
Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: In the Wake of the BIO Convention
Colleagues, Recently, international business and political conventions
dealing with agriculture, trade or biotechnology have been beleaguered
by activists whose "non-violent direct actions" leave smoking ruins in
their wake. The activists have consistently complained that press
coverage of activist riots has overshadowed the "message" they want to
The relative peace which reigned during the BIO convention in San
Diego dealt them their wish, in spades. Bereft of editorial focus on
mayhem, the press turned its attention to the activist "message," and
with near unanimity, they found the "message" ridiculous. In article
after article, (and I don't mean 'opinion pieces'), the mainstream
press stressed the ludicrous nature of activist opinions and
motivations, in lieu of stressing the extreme nature of their
From San Diego, the activists learned a lesson: get the "message"
across through violence, or be peaceful, and see the "message"
ridiculed. As we prepare for violence in Genoa, Italy during the G8
World Summit in the wake of destructive rioting by eco-reactionaries
in Gothenburg, Sweden, the activists are after the weak showing in San
Diego likely reassessing their efforts.
Will they (a) increase the level of violence in order to eclipse the
benighted claims of the motley "street party" groups who proclaim
imaginary dangers of modern life, (b) try to make their hysterical
claims sensible and increase their efforts and work for a benign
portrayal of their "message" from a sensationalistic press, (c) make
their claims even more hysterical to gain press attention or (d) all
of the above?
My vote is on (d). San Diego taught the activists that they need to
keep the violence level high and work harder on rhetoric and media
relations. Good luck Genoa!
Greenpeace Employs Theatrics to Make a Point
Toronto Star June 29, 2001 http://www.thestar.com/
Re To label, or not to label, Opinion, June 27.
Dr. Douglas Powell, Assistant Professor, Department of Plant
Agriculture, University of Guelph writes that Michael Khoo's polemic
is characteristic of Greenpeace Canada's participation in the public
discussion of genetically engineered foods in Canada: deceitful,
erroneous and just plain wrong. Khoo's piece is the latest in a
strategy to profit based on fear. To that end, Greenpeace has launched
a petition calling on Health Minister Allan Rock to support a terribly
flawed private member's bill to label all genetically engineered foods.
The petition is on a Web site filled with erroneous and slanted
information, including the claim that I, Doug Powell, was the 25th
person to sign it. (Mr. Rock, I am all for informed choice and have
devoted my career to enhancing the safety of the food supply;
mandatory labelling of genetically engineered ingredients fails on
both counts, but that's an old discussion.) To further eliminate any
shred of credibility, Greenpeace calls its new Web site, Fishtomato.
You know, those pesky fish genes in tomatoes. Every piece of activist
literature on genetically modified foods asks, "Do you want fish genes
in your tomatoes?" even though the actual experiment was conducted
only once, in the early 1990s when researchers at DNA Plant Technology
Corporation (Oakland, Calif.), located a flounder gene sequence that
coded for an antifreeze protein - a substance that protects the fish
in very cold temperatures by preventing ice crystals from forming in
the fish's blood.
They produced DNA based on the gene sequence, changed it to perform
more efficiently in plant cells, and transferred it to tomato plants.
It was hoped that transgenic tomatoes containing this protein could be
used to produce products with better freezing quality - tomatoes that
could be frozen and thawed without getting mushy.
According to researchers who worked on the initial project, the
experiments were stopped because they just didn't work. The antifreeze
proteins were present in the tomato but they didn't improve the
texture of the tomato fruit following freezing. Their results were
published in 1991, in the scientific journal Plant Molecular Biology.
But why not recycle an 11-year-old metaphor if it meets the desired
end: profit through fear.
After all, Greenpeace Canada, on this issue, is expected to engage in
the overly theatrical to make a point, to further erode whatever
remains of its credibility.
Good, Bad or Both, Biotechnology Is Redefining Our Future
- By Scott LaFee, San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE June 27, 2001
When the Flavr Savr tomato -- genetically modified to stay ripe longer
on store shelves -- debuted in 1994, it provoked immediate reaction.
Supporters lauded the wintertime fruit as the first in what would
surely be a parade of edibles made more nutritious, tastier and
abundant through biotechnology.
Opponents decried the Flavr Savr as a genetic monstrosity, the first
-- and hopefully last -- Frankenfood. When Dolly the cloned sheep
said hello two years later, responses were, not surprisingly, quicker
and louder. In Chicago, a physicist named Richard Seed announced plans
to open a clinic for human cloning. In Washington, D.C., then-House
Majority Leader Dick Armey declared his plans to seek an immediate ban
on human cloning. "I for one don't want to live in a Brave New World
of sidewalk cloning clinics. Congress should pass a human cloning ban
quickly and stop this risky experimentation before it starts. Human
cloning should remain the province of the mad scientists of science
fiction," Armey said.
In the end, sluggish sales doomed the Flavr Savr tomato, which was
pulled from the market, though other genetically modified foods (some
identified as such, some not) have followed with more success. Seed's
clinic has yet to materialize, but the same can be said of Armey's
total ban on human cloning.
And so it goes: Each week, somewhere in the world, critics of
biotechnology call for a new ban, funding cuts or some sort of
restrictive legislation. They organize and protest, as they have done
this week at the Bio2001 convention in San Diego.
Yet science marches on. Even discounting the persistent hype, the
promise of biotechnology is breathtaking. To wit:
In the next decades, scientists reasonably expect to begin applying
knowledge gleaned from the Human Genome Project -- the mapping of our
DNA -- to real-world problems, such as uncovering the genetic bases of
various diseases and traits and developing potent medicines that would
be "personalized" to an individual's genetic makeup. Genetic advances
in medicine could eventually conquer cancer, allow doctors to grow new
organs from stem cells or induce ailing organs to repair themselves.
Science may even learn to reset the coding that causes cells -- and
ourselves -- to age.
The next green revolution, say others, will be biotechnical. Phil
Pardey, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy
Research Institute, a non-partisan think tank, said new studies
estimate the world will need 35 percent more cereal grains, 60 percent
more meat and 40 percent more root and tuber crops to accommodate
global population growth over the next 20 years.
"Biotech opponents say world hunger is an issue of food distribution
and to a degree, it is right now. But the fact is, the world has very
little room left to move. In most places, particularly in the
developing world where most population growth occurs, all of the good
agricultural land is already being used, so any food increase has to
come in terms of boosted crop yields. The collective wisdom around
here is that biotechnology is a promising avenue, one that we would be
foolish not to pursue."
Even the staunchest opponents of genetic engineering concede that
something profound is happening. "Our way of life is likely to be more
fundamentally transformed in the next several decades than in the
previous one thousand years," wrote Jeremy Rifkin in "The Biotech
Century." Rifkin believes biotechnology is dangerous and
short-sighted. He thinks it should be stopped, that society should
step back. Others say it's too late.
"Biotechnology is inevitable. That horse is out of the barn," said
David Weir, director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute at the
University of Delaware. "I mean, how do you stop people from trying to
improve something -- whether it's a medical procedure or a food -- if
they have the technology to do so? You can't. You can't go backward.
"So the better question is, How do you manage inevitable change? How
do you minimize the risks of biotechnology while maximizing the
potential? That's what many people don't understand, mostly because
science has done a really poor job of educating them about the issues
Fear factor: It's hard to say exactly what people think about
biotechnology. When asked their general opinion of cloning, embryonic
stem cell research or genetically engineered food, most polls show a
strong majority in opposition. But asked specifically if they support
the elimination of fatal birth defects through gene therapy or
genetically modified foods that prevent disease, most people answer yes.
"The reason isn't hard to figure out," said Greg Pence, a professor of
philosophy and author of "Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?" "People
tend to fear anything new and unknown. Technologies like (the prenatal
test) amniocentesis and in vitro fertilization (IVF) were hugely
opposed when they first appeared. Most people get their science from
Hollywood, so in the case of IVF, everybody imagined that test-tube
babies meant kids actually coming out of test tubes, popping out like
little scaly monsters. Biotechnology has always had this tremendous
Advocates of biotechnology say these false or imperfect notions play
into the hands of critics, who portray science, particularly
commercial science, as moving too quickly and irresponsibly toward new
technologies without adequate safeguards, long-term health data or
proper respect for existing cultural and moral values.
"We consider genetically engineered food to be unnecessary and a form
of living pollution," said Jeanie Merrill, a spokeswoman for the
environmental group Greenpeace. "People want safe, sustainable food,
not a system that produces toxins and can't predict exactly where or
what will happen next."
But are such predictions even possible? No, responds Greg Stock,
director of the Program on Medicine, Technology and Society at UCLA.
"When people talk about banning something, it lulls people into
thinking that something isn't going to happen. But calling for a ban
on genetically engineered foods won't work. There are too many people
working on it. There's too much promise. I think what you'd really
want to do is explore the situation as best you can, to identify any
risks as early as possible.
"We should pursue genetic research carefully but diligently, as far as
it will take us. There are two principal risks in biotechnology. The
first is that there will be some kind of mistake. That's what
everybody focuses on, the potential for disaster. The second risk is
that by implementing bans or restrictive funding, you slow down the
advance of technology and any resulting benefit. How many people, for
example, will die of cancer or some other disease because a treatment
is not being pursued as aggressively as it could be? The danger is
nebulous, hard to imagine, but the consequences, I think, are greater."
You again: Nowhere is the future of biotechnology more divisive than
in the debate over human cloning. In the years since Dolly debuted in
1996, scientists have cloned mice, cows, goats, pigs with mixed
results. Others are attempting to clone cats, dogs and primates. In
this context, human cloning appears inevitable. Indeed, it may already
"A lot of people besides Richard Seed have publicly said they are
interested in human cloning, particularly as a way to help infertile
couples," said Randy Wicker, co-founder of the Human Cloning
Foundation, an advocacy group. "There may be a clinic or lab out
there, somewhere in the world, that has already cloned a human. For
obvious reasons, they haven't publicized it."
Wicker vociferously believes that opposition to biotechnology, whether
cloning or gene therapy, is wrong-headed. "How can you stop or outlaw
knowledge? How do you stop progress?" he asks. "Is it right for some
people to decide others cannot use science to have a child or replace
a dead loved one? Is it right for them to tell farmers in some
destitute Third World country that they cannot use a genetically
modified rice that would feed them and maybe eliminate a chronic
disease like river blindness?"
Wicker's answer is obvious, but some biotech critics say it's also
didactic and simplistic -- charges that are often directed against them.
"I don't think we're against biotechnology per se," said Rebecca
Goldburg, a senior scientist with Environmental Defense, an
environmental group. "We've been critical over the years, at least
concerning agriculture. We believe there are some risks that haven't
received enough consideration from governing agencies and industry."
For example, Monsanto has produced a variety of food crops genetically
modified to resist the effects of the powerful herbicide, Roundup.
Such crops, says the agrichemical giant, are more environmentally
friendly because farmers can employ a single dose of Roundup to kill
unwanted weeds rather than resort to multiple sprayings of multiple
herbicides over the course of a growing season. Critics counter,
however, that there is evidence that farmers do just the opposite,
spraying Roundup more frequently because they do not have to worry
about inadvertently killing their crop.
Then there are those foods, such as corn or soybeans, that have been
modified to incorporate the genes of bacteria that are deadly to crop
pests. Skeptics wonder whether the same bacterial genes might not
eventually prove harmful to humans as well.
"Science has not adequately answered these questions and existing laws
have not been up to snuff," said Goldburg. "We've tended to promote
industry at the expense of consumers. We need to look harder."
Food for thought: And so it comes back to consumers. If science, as
Weir at the University of Delaware says, has failed to adequately
provide answers, the public has failed to ask enough questions, said
Greg Fowler, executive director of Gene Forum, a non-profit
organization based in Portland, Ore. that promotes discussion of
"Obviously there's no way for society to keep up with what science is
doing. There's always going to be a lag between discovery and the
law," said Fowler. "But it's imperative that we talk about this more
and better than we are now.
"We need to know what roads exist so that we can decide which one to
go down. Some people argue that biotechnology is like playing God.
Some people say we're already in God's hands, that we should simply
proceed and see where he leads us. What I know is that we need a
better dialogue about not whether we will change, but how. We should
ask ourselves what the next generation would like."
Agbiotech Offers Hope for Poor and Hungry in Developing World
SAN DIEGO (BW HealthWire) - Dismissing the claims of biotech critics,
a leading Kenyan scientist says agbiotech will help poor countries
learn to feed themselves.
Florence Wambugu, Ph.D., director of Kenya's AfriCenter of the
International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotechnology
Applications, told attendees of the Biotechnology Industry
Organization's annual conference in San Diego that the benefits of
agbiotech far outweigh any potential harm. "No one can say there are
no risks. Every new technology is a double-edged sword, and you must
manage the risks to obtain the benefits," she said. "But there is not
a shred of evidence that eating genetically modified food will be bad
for anyone's health."
Tissue-culture and genetic-modification methods have applications in
improving yields and fighting plant diseases in key crops like sweet
potato, banana, and cassava. Biotechnology will not only help fight
hunger but will allow poor countries eventually to develop markets for
these kinds of products. The problem, Dr. Wambugu points out, is that
the media focus on biotech opponents, and this creates a climate of fear.
"The public mistrust that feeds on such one-sided coverage could, if
Europe's recent experience is anything to go by, seriously jeopardize
Kenya's ability to benefit from biotechnology, especially GM crop
varieties," she writes in her recently released book, "Modifying
Africa." "The mistrust is stoked by a campaign of misinformation on
the part of Greenpeace and other environmental pressure groups, which
have become adept at playing on the media's appetite for controversy,
to draw attention to their case." Scientists must take a cue from the
critics and begin to communicate to the public about their work,
according to Dr. Wambugu.
"Florence Wambugu is a voice of reason and logic in the agbiotech
controversy," comments John Sterling, managing editor of Genetic
Engineering News (www.genengnews.com). "No one is arguing against a
healthy debate on agbiotech or biotechnology in general. But Dr.
Wambugu is right in making the point that those of us in the
industrial world, where food supplies are plentiful, really should
think twice before making decisions that might deny Developing
Countries access to technologies they might want to help feed their
NPR Story on Indian AgBiotech Wins RFK Journalism Award
The RFK Journalism Award winners are honored for their reporting on
people living at the margins of society: victims of war crimes,
domestic abuse and environmental pollution, asylum seekers, people
with disabilities and those living in some of the toughest
neighborhoods, cities and countries around the world. "These awards
are given to those men and women who cast new light on problems of
those living in the shadows," says Diane Rehm of WAMU/NPR and chair of
the RFK Journalism Awards Committee, "Journalists hold a special
responsibility to identify these problems and move the public towards
action where injustice exists".
Among Honorees : First Prize, International Radio: "Engineering Crops
in a Needy World," John Biewen and Deborah George, Minnesota Public
Radio / NPR
In Europe and the United States, the debate over genetically modified
(GM) crops has focused on questions about environment and food safety.
But in developing countries, the questions are different and the
stakes are higher. For farm families who are barely surviving, the
possibility that GM crops could make things better?or worse?is a
question of life or death. To illustrate the high stakes in this
debate, John Biewan tells the story of a destitute 38 year cotton and
chili farmer in the South of India who sold his kidney to pay his
debts after crops failed. Both sides of the argument for and against
GM crops claim to speak on behalf of farmers, but Beiwan discovered
that most of the farmers he spoke with had never even heard of
gene-spliced crops. The report shows how the controversy has been
subsumed in a broader debate among Indian elites over their nation's
place in a changing world. Some see GM seeds as a way to make India
and agricultural superpower; others want to keep the West at arm's
length and maintain India's quasi-socialist economic system.
"Engineering Crops in a Needy World" finds that the ideological zeal
of the most vocal GM opponents prompts them to dismiss even
non-corporate, humanitarian uses of the technology.
Listen to this radio segment and more at:
The story was also a finalist for a Loeb Award, given for business
reporting by the Anderson School of Business at UCLA.
Bush, On Videotape, Promises Broad-based Biotech Support
June 26, 2001 BioWorld SAN DIEGO (Via Agnet June 28)
President George Bush signaled strong support for biotechnology during
a videotaped address shown Monday at the BIO 2001 conference. In his
first speech to the industry since taking office in January, Bush
promised a transparent, science-based regulatory system, confirmed
continuation of R&D tax credits, announced new funding for the
National Institutes of Health and stressed the role of the industry in
the new U.S. energy policy. The government will promote basic research
by increasing the budget for the Bethesda, Md.-based NIH in 2002, and
will take steps to ensure that people can get access to biotech
products by working to strengthen Medicare, he said. Agricultural
biotechnology is a critical tool for helping farmers in developing
countries to produce more food from less land, and will also enhance
the sustainability of U.S. farm land, Bush noted. In addition, he
said, development of enzymes to convert biomass to fuel will be an
important element of the government's new energy policy.
The president said that with completion of the Human Genome Project,
it is now an "exciting time for biotechnology." However, he added that
important ethical questions will arise and the industry must develop
technologies responsibly so that science advances in the public
interest. The level of support for biotechnology was underlined by
Dylan Coburn Glenn, special assistant to the president for economic
policy, who said that biotechnology is the most important aspect of
his job. "Biotechnology more than any other industry is providing a
set of tools that are crucial in many fields," he said.
Biotech applications in health have been extremely well received by
the public, while acceptance in food is strong and will get stronger
as the public becomes more aware of the benefits, such as more
nutritious and flavorful foods and reduced use of pesticides, he
added. "Golden Rice is just the beginning." Glenn noted that with
rapid movements in stock prices, investors need "nerves of steel" to
invest in biotech stocks. Most companies are still in the red and will
be for some time to come, he said, and the industry could not survive
without the support of venture capitalists. This makes the industry
particularly dependent on government policy, and the government will
give consideration to industry wish lists of initiatives to strengthen
the environment for biotechnology, he added.
In particular, biotechnology is very sensitive to the regulatory
regime. "The Bush administration recognizes the need for rational,
science-based regulation," Glenn said. On the food side, it will
effectively engage with trading partners to win acceptance of GM
crops, and on the domestic front will focus on food safety based on
sound science, he said. The government will take steps to ensure that
the systems for protecting intellectual property keep pace with the
challenges presented by biotechnology, Glenn said. This will include
ensuring that U.S. Patent and Trademark Office staff has the training
and access to information to keep up with advances.
Benigno D. Peczon, BusinessWorld (Manila) 29 June 2001
Dear Editor: We value views expressed by opinion makers of
BusinessWorld. They serve as a clarion call to alert the public on
significant topics of the day. We therefore appreciate the concerns
expressed by Mr. Bernardo V. Lopez in his column on genetically
engineered (GE) crops last May 17, as it affords us the opportunity to
discuss freely and openly the benefits and risks of biotechnology.
Please allow us to respond to the point raised by Mr. Lopez:
* Transnational corporations (TNCs) hope to control global agriculture
by inducing dependence on these through monopoly of GE seed production*.
Seed companies have indeed sought to control their product by limiting
farmers from saving seeds for future planting. In the late '90s, the
US government granted a patent to an invention that allowed GE plants
to produce sterile seeds. The technology was later used by Monsanto to
develop bio-engineered corn carrying these so-called terminator genes
for distribution and sale. But the strong backlash from the public,
including farmer and consumer groups and the science community, forced
Monsanto to drop the use of this technology.
It should be noted that TNCs, by the fact that they are
profit-oriented entities, will always seek to achieve a position where
profits can be maximized and costs minimized. All business entities,
down to the sari-sari store, strive to do the same. We, the members of
the Biotechnology Conference of the Philippines (BCP), realize and
accept this reality. However, we are also aware that biotechnology
provider opportunities for improved food security, environment and
health, and that any risks it may entail must be scientifically
identified and then managed. It is for this reason that we urge, among
other actions, increased government and private sector support for
biotechnology research by Filipino scientists, since ownership and
control of technologies by Filipinos provide better access for
Filipinos to such technologies. We might get our cue from China. China
has adopted full government support for biotechnology precisely to
prevent control of GE technology by TNCs. It invested massively in
genetically modified organism (GMO) R&D. Today, Chinese farmers have a
choice of buying seeds from TNCs or from their own seed companies.
* TNCs use Third World nations as guinea pigs to test the viability of
GE crops. They first targeted Europe and the US as the prime GE
market, but found strong resistance from their consumers who are
The first field trials of transgenic crops were performed in the USA
and France in 1986. Since then, more than 7,000 field trials have been
conducted on more than 30,000 individual sites in about 40 countries,
initially in North America and the European Union, but with Latin
America and Asia making headway. The US approved commercial production
of GE tomatoes on Oct. 19, 1992. Commercial production of Bt corn was
approved in that country on May 17, 1995. As of April 15, 2001, the US
Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspections
Service has approved 55 petitions for crops to be commercially
produced after these went through stringent testing. In the year 2000,
20% of the corn grown in the US was genetically modified. It is
therefore inaccurate to claim that Third World countries are guinea
pigs for GMOs. If there are people to be labeled as "guinea pigs" for
GMOs, the facts indicate that these are Americans. It is likewise
misleading to claim that there is strong resistance against GMOs among
Americans. Market research has found that the average US consumer is
not bothered with the issue of GE products for food so long as these
pass stringent government regulatory standards.
As far as Europe is concerned, it should be pointed out that although
the most active resistance from GMOs can be observed among Europeans,
dynamic and fast-growing firms which are engaged in research and the
field testing of various GMOs are also located in the continent.
* Pro-GE advocates mostly argue in terms of economics - maximizing
yield and minimizing cost - sacrificing health and environment
On the contrary, advocates of biotechnology believe that the benefits
from this new science transcend mere economics. Many in fact argue
solely in terms of health and environment considerations. Health
benefits include the development of more nutritional food (e.g., crops
carrying additional vitamins), fruits containing vaccines and the
production of more effective, specialized medicines. Environmental
benefits may accrue indirectly, for example, through the introduction
of pest-resistant crops that allow farmers to use smaller quantities
of pesticides, or directly, for example, through the use of
bio-engineered bacteria for decontamination of industrial and
* TNC modus operandi in the Philippines is to get the support of NGOs
and farmer associations as the backbone of their advocacy campaign.
Another style is to put up their own association or NGOs. Some pro-GE
groups retaliate by labeling anti-GE farm associations and NGOs as
"communists," or alleging that they are funded by environment and
anti-GE groups in Europe*.
We would like to believe in the good faith and sincerity of every
individual or group advocating for particular causes and concerns. As
a member of the larger community, each and every one of us endeavors
to build a better society for ourselves and for our children. We find
the use of labels unproductive, as these tend to reduce issues into
non-arguments and debase rational thinking into knee-jerk reactions.
More often than not, labels polarize protagonists as helpless captives
of extreme positions. What we should encourage are consensus building,
dialogue and open communication with all stakeholders including those
with opposing views. After all, it is best to work for open covenants
openly arrived at.
We at the Biotechnology Conference of the Philippines (BCP) believe
that the potential of biotechnology to fully contribute to national
development efforts can only be achieved through "a dynamic and
unfettered and yet objective exchange of information and ideals from
within and among the State, science community and the general public"
(BCP Statement of Principles). We ask for enlightened support for this
worthwhile science and technology, one that is founded on and spurred
by the pursuit of truth and the public good.
- BENIGNO D. PECZON, Ph.D., Head Convenor, BCP,
c/o Biotechnology Assoc of the Philippines, 66 United St., Mandaluyong
Ag Biotech's Uncertain Future
- David Filmore, Today's Chemist at Work, June 2001
The industry has shown both growth and promise, but setbacks have hurt
The agricultural biotechnology industry has grown rapidly as a result
of the tremendous advancements in gene and protein manipulation
technologies. According to a study carried out for the Biotechnology
Industry Organization (http://www.bio.org/news/ernstyoung.pdf), in
1999 the sector generated 21,900 jobs and $2.3 billion in revenue.
This was only 13 years after the first field tests were initiated for
genetically engineered plants (tobacco).
However, the industry is still undergoing significant growing pains.
There are major public concerns over the safety and environmental
effects of using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and with the
manner in which companies and governments are dealing with these
issues. Although the cultivation of several GM varieties, such as
corn, cotton, and soybeans, has become reasonably significant in the
United States (in terms of percent acreage), other crops, like
potatoes, have yet to really catch on (Figure 1).Moreover, incidents
that put economic strains on many farmers, such as last year?s recall
of products that were believed to contain GM StarLink corn (with the
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene, which expresses Cry9C, a pesticidal
protein), indicate the possibilities of a decline in usage of GM
crops. To create a more stable market, public confidence must be
improved. For more on the public controversy of GM foods and
regulatory responses, see ?Genetically Modified Foods? in Today?s
Chemist at Work [May 2001, p 49].
Despite these concerns, positive results have already been reaped from
GM crops. For instance, the National Center for Food and Agricultural
* 66 million bushels of corn were saved from the corn borer in 1999
through the use of Bt (insect-resistant) GM corn,
* A decrease of about 2.7 million pounds of insecticide has been
achieved annually since the introduction of Bt cotton, and
* Weed control costs were cut by $216 million in 1999 through the use
of herbicide-tolerant soybeans.
Only time will tell how far biotechnology will take the world, in
terms of food production improvements. Companies certainly are pushing
ahead in the development of new products that will likely shape the
future of the industry. For example, from January through March 2001,
560 requests for field test permits were submitted to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, more than half the number submitted in the
whole year of 2000 (http://gophisb.biochem.vt.edu/cfdocs/ISBtables.cfm).
1. Information Systems for Biotechnology,
2. Biotechnology Industry Organization, http://www.bio.org.
3. C&RL NewsNet 1997, 8 (11); http://www.ala.org/acrl/resdec97.html.
International Rice Congress - Beijing, September 2002
The first comprehensive event for the world's most important crop
Innovation, Impact, and Livelihood; 16-20 September 2002 Beijing, China
The inaugural International Rice Congress will take place in 2002 to
address issues related to rice research, production, processing, trade
and consumption, as well as the sustainable improvement of the
livelihood of rice farmers and consumers. During the Congress, there
will be simultaneous conferences and exhibitions based on the
interconnected themes of "Innovation, Impact, and Livelihood."
The Congress--being jointly organized by the Chinese Academy of
Engineering (CAE), the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
(CAAS), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)--will be
held in Beijing, China, 16-20 September 2002.
Scientific Conference: Themes
* Application of genomics, bioinformatics, and modern plant breeding
approaches in rice improvement
* Integrated pest and weed management for yield stability and
* Sustaining the natural resource base under intensified rice cropping
* Mechanization and postharvest technology for maximum profitability
* Impact of rice research on food security and poverty alleviation
* Future of information technology and systems networks for enhanced
Use Of Mutated Genes In Crop Improvement and Functional Genomics
- International FAO/IAEA Symposium; 3-7 June 2002 Vienna, Austria
The application of gamma rays and other physical and chemical mutagens
for crop improvment in the past 70 years has increased crop
biodiversity and productivity in different parts of the world. The
number of officially released crop mutant varieties has already
exceeded 2200. A large number of these varieties are food crops
released in developing countries. Some of them were obtained as
infrequent mutation of specific genes responsible for agronomically
important plant characters. This has resulted in the widespread use of
these mutated genes in plant breeding programs throughout the world
and has brought about an enormous economic impact, e.g. in barley,
sunflower, soybean, rice and many other crops. The Symposium would
inventory the use and economic impact of "super mutations" in
improvement of crop production and address this message to plant
Moreover, induced mutations have recently become the subject of
molecular investigations leading to descriptions of the structure and
function of related genes. Mutated genes have therefore become
valuable material to plant molecular biologists for the analysis of
fine structure and organization of genetic material in crop species.
They will play a critical role in understanding of function,
isolating and incorporating genes responsible for plant productivity
and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and in this way
significantly influence crop production, especially in developing
countries. The Symposium will establish working linkages between
molecular geneticists and plant breeders applying mutation techniques
to accelerate work on functional genomics of staple food crops,
develop strategies for rapid application of molecular genetics
technologies in breeding programmes and on development of crop mutant
http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Meetings/next_year.shtml or write to
Kids! Create the "Food of the Future" for a chance to win a $10,000
It's easy - here's how:
1. Start by learning about biotechnology with your parents by visiting
http://www.whybiotech.com. That may help give you some ideas for your
"Food of the Future."
2. Print out an official entry form by clicking here. Or, you can
call 202.467.6565 and request that an entry form be sent to your home.
3. Draw a picture of your "Food of the Future" in the space provided.
Here are some questions to get you thinking:
* If you could grow a food that would help the environment, what would
it do? For example, would it clean up pollution?
* If you could grow a food that would cure a disease, what would it be?
* Is there a food you wish would stay fresh longer?
* If you could change a food so it would grow anywhere, what would it
be? Where could it grow?
* If you could make a food taste better, what would it be and how
would it taste?
4. Tell us about your "Food of the Future" in 50 - 100 words in the
space provided. Tell us what it's called, how it would help people,
how it looks and tastes, and why it's better.
5. For the complete, official contest rules, click here.
6. Ask for your parent or guardian's permission to enter the contest
and have them sign the bottom of the entry form. Sorry, but we can't
accept entries without the signature of your parent or guardian.
7. Mail your completed entry form before September 25, 2001 to: "Food
of the Future" Contest, 676 N. St. Clair, #1000, Chicago, IL 60611
After we receive your entry, we'll send you a FREE copy of "Look
Closer at Biotechnology" filled with fun educational activities for
you to learn more about the future of food!
(Contest begins May 31, 2001. Entries must be postmarked by 9/25/01
and received by 9/30/01; Open to U.S. residents, 8-12 years old as of
May 31, 2001)