AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
* SWAMINOMICS - The threat of green fascism
* Anti-Biotech Crowd Blind To Benefits
* Use Of Genetically Modified Seed By U.S. Farmers Increases 18%
* India: Debate Over GM Cotton Heats Up
* Cardinal cites benefits of genetic engineering
* Livestock Performance: Feeding Biotech Crops
* Plant Gene Could Make Crops More Drought Resistant
* Survey Finds More Accept GM Food
* New USDA web site
SWAMINOMICS - The threat of green fascism
Times of India
By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar
July 1, 2001
Humans love horror stories, which is why R.L. Stine is a best-selling
author. So I am not surprised by the popularity of horror stories being
invented about genetically modified (GM) foods and cotton.
A recent news item says, in apocalyptic tones, that unknowing Indians may
already have consumed some GM foods. Surprise surprise, no Indians have
suddenly sprouted horns or 11 toes. Nor have Americans who have eaten GM
foods for a decade.
But horror stories attract large audiences, and R.L. Stine today has
rivals in Greenpeace, various Indian organisations, and green
fundamentalists in general. They have succeeded in blocking the release of
bio-engineered cotton in India.
Many Indian scientists and farmers have pointed out that biotechnology
holds the key to greater agricultural prosperity, freedom from hunger, and
reduced pollution from pesticides and fertilisers. Yet green horror books
say that genetically modified (GM) foods and cotton are potential
monsters. Don't be impressed by the long list of technical arguments they
put forward. These are based on fundamentalist notions of genetic
correctness which are almost fascist.
Nothing is commoner in agriculture than cross breeding. The green
revolution was created by genetic engineering. Ah, say the
fundamentalists, but that is cross-breeding within certain racial limits,
which is okay. But GM foods represent the mixing of genes across different
genomes akin to different races--and we must oppose that since it could
The argument is eerily Hitlerian. Green fundamentalists are whipping up
public hysteria against a particular set of plants just as Hitler whipped
up hysteria against Jews. Hitler approved of the crossing of genes between
white races, but was absolutely horrified at the prospect of Aryan genes
being polluted by Jewish or negroid genes.
Similarly, the green fascists approve of conventional cross-breeding
within a genome, but are horrified by crosses across genomes. Hitler
demonised breeding across races as a genetic threat to pure Aryans, whom
he regarded as obviously superior and so ordained by god. Green
fundamentalists demonise GM foods as genetic threats to what they claim to
be superior, God-given varieties.
Prince Charles of England, a prominent green fundamentalist, says genetic
engineering amounts to disturbing Gods rules. I am not aware that Prince
Charles has special access to God, any more than Hitler did. Scientists
who are atheists must find hilarious the accusation that they want to play
God. Price Charles does not inform us whether he is in touch with a
Christian, Muslim, Hindu or some other God. As a scion of an empire on
which, in colonial times, the sun never set, he possibly believes that he
can claim sovereignty over all Gods.
Fundamentalists protest that crosses across genomes are very different
from crosses between human races. Some liken GM foods to crossing a human
being with a pig to produce a monster. Really? Does genetically engineered
corn or cotton look like a donkey-human cross?
Hitler looked on a cross with Jews as no better than a cross with pigs.
Hindu fundamentalists regard miscegenation with Muslims with the same
horror. Green genetic prejudice is simply a new form of such age-old
The fundamentalist argument, that plants created by God are distinct from
plants created by man, is bogus. If God did not want humans to make
crosses across genomes, he would have arranged accordingly. The very fact
that he made it possible surely proves that it part of his Great Plan. If
indeed there is a God, and if indeed there is a Great Plan.
As for those who swear by nature rather than God, the fact is that man is
part and parcel of nature, not an alien from outer space. Anything
animals, bacteria or birds do is part of nature. So is anything done by
In any case, crosses across genomes are part and parcel of nature. The
whole history of evolution is full of crosses across genomes. The horror
of fundamentalists that genetic engineering will create unprecedented
crosses is rather like the horror some dinosaurs might have felt a million
years ago if told that they would evolve into human beings.
Beware of notions of genetic correctness. All are fundamentalist. Bal
Thackerays gut horror of Muslims is not dissimilar. During the Babri
Masjid agitation, Hindu fundamentalists sneered that Muslims were Babar ke
aulad (children of Babar). For green fundamentalists, GM foods and cotton
are the aulad of another Babar. Its genetic communalism in another guise.
What then should we call the struggle of green fundamentalists against
bio-engineering? Mein Kampf? Towards a Green Ram mandir?
It is with some reluctance that I find myself using the expression green
fascism. Greenpeace and various Indian organisations have done lots of
good work in improving environmental awareness. But their attitude to
biotechnology is too Hitlerian for comfort.
They will protest that they are not asking for gas chambers, they are
merely asking for extensive testing of GM varieties to ensure that there
are no dangers. This is mendacity. Most of them simply do not want GM
foods, and so have hit on the ploy of demanding ever-new tests about
ever-new dangers. They will be happy to keep enunciating new possible
dangers and keep demanding additional tests forever. One of the tests they
have demanded for bio-engineered cotton could take 20 years. This amounts
to ensuring genetic purity through never-ending tests rather than gas
chambers. An improvement in procedure, no doubt, but not in philosophy.
I once read a piece by David Melchett of Greenpeace protesting about even
field tests of GM varieties. Do you realise, he said, that winds could
carry pollen from the GM test sites to others, polluting ordinary plants?
It did not bother him that the winds could equally well carry pollen from
ordinary plants to GM ones, polluting them.
He implicitly believed his preferred varieties to be genetically superior,
and so worried only about the pollution of what he considered superior by
what he considered inferior.
This reminded me of the British Raj, when whites were horrified at the
prospect of any white woman bearing a black child, but had no qualms about
fathering children by fornicating with Indian women. Some actually
believed that they were infusing Indian women with superior genes. The Raj
is dead but Greenpeace lives on.
Anti-Biotech Crowd Blind To Benefits
June 29, 2001
Food is "hazardous" to your health. Or so argued Greenpeace activists
protesting the Bio 2001 biotechnology convention in San Diego as they
stormed a grocery store this weekend and stuck "hazardous" labels on foods
that may contain genetically modified (GM) corn, soy or cottonseed.
They call them Frankenfoods. They warn that GM foods are dangerous to
human health, even though there is not one documented case of someone
being hurt by eating Frankenfood. They complain that GM foods will result
in "monocultures" -- or a world with a single variety of crop. They
apparently don't know or care about seed banks, which exist to ensure
biodiversity of food crops. The anti-biotech crowd boasts that it is pro
"biodiversity." The antis' biggest beef with GM foods is that
corporations develop them. "The real violence being done here is being
done every day by these corporations up in their ivory towers," said Adam
Hurtler, a spokesman for the anti-Bio 2001 protest, Bio
Funny, Hurtler talking about ivory towers. He also told The Washington
"We have enough food. We have enough medicine. The real roots of the
global health crisis are inequality and injustice, and that's what the
biotech industry is perpetuating."
Some 150 million children suffer from malnutrition each year; yet Hurtler
said there is enough food. According to UNICEF, in 1990, 12 million
children died of preventable diseases; yet Hurtler said there is enough
One protest sign read, "Biotech Perverts Get Out of Our Genes." Which
explains the opposition to biotechnology perfectly. The anti- biotech
crowd is so afraid that they might get a gene they don't like in their
cornflakes that they would try to stop companies from putting Vitamin A in
rice. It matters not whether Golden Rice (as the enriched grain is known)
could save millions of lives in the Third World. They've got their wheels,
their laptops and their frequent-
flier miles, and they'll use them to make sure some starving kid in
Calcutta is never tainted with Golden Rice.
"The trouble is that if they admit there's one good genetically modified
product, then they would have to admit there might be others, and they
would be reduced to a rational discussion on the subject, like the rest of
us," said Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace who became disillusioned
with the movement's misanthropic extremism.
It especially rankles Moore that the "anti" activists don't see how
biotechnology can improve biodiversity. Moore sees three advantages.
First, increased farm productivity reduces "the way forests are converted
into crop production, which is in itself the biggest cause of biodiversity
Second, GM seeds with greater crop yields can ease the need for tillage,
which reduces soil loss. Third, GM seeds that target hostile insects allow
farmers to use pesticides more discriminately.
"I use less pesticide on my crops, and I am getting more food out of my
fields," Iowa soybean farmer Reg Clause said in a pro-biotech "Truth
Squad" statement. "If I had any doubts about the safety of these crops, I
wouldn't grow them, and I wouldn't let my family work in the fields with
Moore believes that the anti-biotech movement will be short-lived because
his erstwhile colleagues are "against all genetic modification. That
completely goes against the grain of evolution, human history, basic logic
and the urge to discover."
The turnout for Bio Devastation 2001 suggests he is right. Activists
predicted as many as 8,000. Newspaper estimates range from 500 to 1,000.
It seems as if the number of angry demonstrators anxious to protest more
food and medicine has a limit.
Why was the Bio Devastation turnout so low?
Click here to find out:
Use Of Genetically Modified Seed By U.S. Farmers Increases 18%
Wall Street Journal
By Scott Kilman
July 2, 2001
U.S. farmers, resuming their stampede into crop biotechnology, used
genetically modified seed to plant 82.3 million acres this spring, 18%
more than last year, according to a government survey.
The size of the jump is surprising to Wall Street analysts and even to
crop biotech firms. The debate over the safety of insect-resistant and
herbicide-tolerant soybean, corn and cotton plants was widely expected to
discourage a lot of farmers from greatly expanding their use of seeds
containing a transplanted gene or two. Guided by spring surveys of
farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others, the agriculture
industry had expected overall sales of transgenic seed to grow a modest
10% this year.
"This is a really positive result, given all the noise of late," said
Richard L. McConnell, president of DuPont Co.'s crop biotechnology
unit, Pioneer Hi-Bred International.
The crop biotech boom that started in 1996 suddenly stalled in late
1999. The renewed sales growth will help companies such as DuPont begin to
recoup the billions of dollars spent on research.
According to a June survey of farmers released Friday by the USDA, 68% of
all the soybeans planted in the U.S. this spring contained a Monsanto Co.
gene, compared with 54% of the soybeans planted last year. Soybeans, the
nation's second-biggest crop, are used to make everything from vegetarian
entrees to baby food and cooking oil.
The gene, transplanted from a micro-organism, gives the plant immunity to
Monsanto's all-purpose herbicide Roundup. The seed, called Roundup Ready,
is popular with farmers because it allows them to chemically weed their
soybeans without damaging their crops.
At some grain elevators in certain markets, however, genetically
modified corn and soybean yield a lower price than do conventional crops.
Monsanto, a St. Louis company that is 85%-owned by Pharmacia Corp.,
Peapack, N.J., sells the seed to farmers and licenses rivals to use the
gene. According to the USDA's June survey, U.S. farmers planted Roundup
Ready soybean seed on 51.3 million acres this spring, up 27.5% from the
40.2 million acres planted last year.
The U.S. cotton industry also is switching to transgenic plants.
According to the latest USDA survey, cotton farmers planted genetically
modified seed on 11.2 million acres this year, 69% of total cotton acreage
and 18% more acres than last year.
According to the USDA survey, U.S. corn farmers planted genetically
modified seeds on 19.8 million acres this spring, just 26% of total corn
acreage, and essentially flat compared with last year.
The biotech industry has yet to introduce a plant that appeals to
farmers all across the corn belt. Roundup Ready corn is stymied because
the European Union, a major customer of U.S. farmers and food companies,
hasn't approved it for human consumption.
Many corn farmers were made leery of biotechnology by the debacle last
year with Aventis SA's line of pest-resistant corn, which is called
StarLink. The crop was approved only for feeding to U.S. livestock, yet it
leaked into hundreds of food products and sparked huge recalls.
India: Debate Over GM Cotton Heats Up
Inter Press Service
July 1, 2001
BANGALORE, India, Jul. 1 (IPS) -- As the world debates over the safety of
genetically modified crops, India's southern state of Karnataka is anxious
to reap the advantages of new technology and thus wants quick approval for
the agrochemical giant Monsanto's Bt cotton.
Indeed, the Karnataka government reacted with strong criticism last week
after green activists forced India's federal Ministry of Environment and
Forests to defer by a year a decision on the commercial planting of
Monsanto's Bollgard variety of Bt cotton. With Greenpeace International
and other activist groups breathing down its neck, the ministry ordered
yet another year of trials for
Bollgard, which has been field tested in India since 1998 by the
Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (MAHYCO). Monsanto has a substantial stake
in this firm.
The final round of tests will be conducted under strict supervision by
scientists from the federal government's Indian Council of Agriculture
Research (ICAR) which, in the past, has expressed doubts about the
scientific soundness of MAHYCO's tests.
Green groups like Greenpeace, the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology
and Food Security and the Pune-based Kalpavriksh praised the
"precautionary approach" adopted by the ministry's Genetic Engineering
Approval Council (GEAC).
But Karnataka Agriculture Minister T.B. Jayachandra viewed the approval
council's decision as an unnecessary hurdle between the laboratory and the
farmer. "Tests are over, and it is time to implement technology,"
Karnataka expects investments worth millions of dollars in emerging
biotechnology, funds that it hopes would partly make up for diminishing
trade and job prospects in the state's once booming information technology
sector hit by the economic slowdown in the United States.
Karnataka accounts for 30 percent of software exports from India. About 90
percent of software from Karnataka -- produced mainly in the state's city
and global information technology hub of Bangalore -- is exported to the
The GM cotton variety Bollgard is integral to the biotechnology boom that
Karnataka expects to reap after advertising tax concessions, quick
clearances, low-tariff energy and floor space for companies involved in
drug research, bio-informatics and genetic engineering.
Bollgard, the result of biotechnology innovation by Monsanto, involves the
insertion of a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
into the germplasm of a native variety of cotton, making it resistant to
Through this process, the quality of the bacterium's natural resistance is
passed on to cotton to some extent.
Karnataka is also pinning its hopes on biotechnology because of what its
officials believe may be the potential that Bt cotton has from easing its
farmers from the heavy reliance use of pesticides in cotton cultivation to
prevent pest infestation.
Karnataka is already the fourth largest cotton-producing state in India.
Likewise, cotton is a crop that accounts for more than half of the
pesticides used in the entire in the agriculture sector.
Indian farmers frequently fall into debt traps due to the spiraling cost
of pesticides, and GM cotton is being promoted by MAHYCO-Monsanto and a
section of biotechnologists as an eco-friendly, farmer-friendly, option.
S.P. Singh, chief of ICAR's directorate of biological control,
acknowledges the questions that remain about GM crops. He cites published
research in the United States that showed GM crops' adverse impact on
certain butterflies species by entering their food chain.
At the same time, he points out the potential merits of GM crops. "If
pesticide use can be brought down, that alone will be a major benefit to
farmers and the environment," Singh added.
But MAHYCO-Monsanto's field trials were marked by protests from local
farmers and the environmental lobby. A group of protesting farmers set
ablaze GM cotton fields in the Haveri and Raichur areas of Karnataka early
Farmers' leader Prof M.D. Nanjundaswamy is cautious about the government's
decision last week to extend GM trials. "That is not the final solution --
we want a ban on GM technology."
Nanjundaswamy argues that GM crops kill non-target organisms, including
natural predators of pests, cross-pollinate other species and contribute
to pesticide resistance.
Monsanto scientists, for their part, have denied such claims with regard
to their GM cotton. Earlier, they presented their own research data at a
seminar at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science here.
But MAHYCO-Monsanto has been silent about the Ministry of Environment and
Forests' recognition of the possibility of "gene flow" through pollen from
GM cotton fertilizing non-target plants.
Biotechnology firms have even charged fees from farmers for the accidental
fertilization of crops on their fields by GM crops in neighboring areas.
In other parts of the world, there is no mechanism to compensate farmers
for genetic pollution.
Thus, activists say, the country is better off going slow on GM crops.
"At a time when the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO) is at a
nascent stage in the country, there should be no haste in taking a
decision to commercialize them," Devinder Sharma of the Forum for
Biotechnology and Food Security said in a widely circulated statement.
Green groups have also challenged the idea that Bt cotton is the best
solution to pests and note that organic cotton farmers in western
Maharashtra state have evolved farming methods that have completely
eliminated the use of pesticides.
Meantime, while the decision on Bt cotton hangs in the balance, "there
should be more public participation and transparency in the processes,
including more non-official members in committees that screen GMO
releases," the green groups said.
Cardinal cites benefits of genetic engineering
By Robert R.Requintina
Sunday, 1 July 2001
Jaime Cardinal Sin, archbishop of Manila, has cited the benefits of the
application of genetic engineering on agricultural products ''provided
this is done under the principles of morality.''
Msgr. Socrates Villegas, spokesman of the cardinal, said that the church
has set conditions for the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in
agriculture. "These conditions," he said, "are in the context of
In a pastoral letter, Cardinal Sin stated that "genetic engineering is
acceptable only if all risks are minimized."
While the church has always valued progress, Sin said, necessary
precautions must be considered "so as not to lose sight of the true
context in which it is situated."
"Otherwise, one may easily succumb to temptations of productivity and
profit at the expense of the people and the environment," Sin said.
He pointed out that "if foreseeable dangers are not fully identified,
studied, and avoided, safe alternative procedures should be used, or if
none, testing and development of the technology should be delayed
Sin said that the quest for knowledge and dominion always brings with it
certain ethical questions such as "If it can be done, should it be done?
The answer can only be in the affirmative if what is being contemplated is
truly for the good of the human person," he said.
"Along with the noble desire to combat hunger, poverty and diseases in
developing and applying such technology, scientists have the task of
protecting the rest of creation from all possible harms that ensue," he
Livestock Performance: Feeding Biotech Crops
Abstract: To date, genetically enhanced plants in the marketplace that are
used as feeds for livestock are based on producing insecticidal compounds
or developing herbicide tolerance. Corn grain, whole plant green chop
corn, corn silage, corn residue, soybeans, and soybean meal from the
current genetically enhanced plants have been fed to chickens, sheep, beef
cattle, and dairy cows and compared with feeds produced from isolines of
nongenetically enhanced plants. Results from 23 research trials indicate
that genetically enhanced corn and soybeans that are currently available
in the marketplace are substantially equivalent in composition, are
similar in digestibility, and have a similar feeding value for livestock.
To view Livestock Performance: Feeding Biotech Crops in PDF format, go to
J. H. Clark and I. R. Ipharraguerre
Plant Gene Could Make Crops More Drought Resistant
July 2, 2001
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A team of scientists has identified a gene that
controls water retention in plants - a discovery that could lead to more
drought resistant crops to feed arid Third World countries, researchers
"It's a significant contribution," said David Oliver, chairman of Iowa
State University's botany department. "The biggest environmental stress in
the world is water availability." The results, announced by researchers
at the University of North Carolina and Penn State University, were
published in the journal Science on June 15.
Agronomists have tried for decades to breed drought-hardy crop varieties,
"If it's possible to make plants less sensitive to mild drought, then you
could expect the same amount of land to produce more corn and soybeans,"
he said. "This is the kind of technology that the Third World is
Oliver said such engineered crops could become a reality in five to 10
The scientists created a mutation in a gene from a common laboratory
plant. When the gene was knocked out of action, the plant wilted, said
Jin-Gui Chen, a University of North Carolina research associate on the
The UNC scientists suspected the gene encoded an important molecule called
a G-protein that controls plant development. Since the plant wilted, they
concluded the gene also controls water retention, Chen said.
"This gene was found about 10 years ago, but no one knew what it did," he
Max Smith, a Knoxville farmer who grows corn and soybeans, said plants
engineered to be more drought resistant could help farmers in dry areas of
southern Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.
"The two main problems in the fringe areas of the corn belt are drought
and shortness of season, and drought is probably the bigger of the two,"
he said. "It would make a heck of a difference to a farmer's bottom line."
Consumers fearful of genetically modified organisms might not be as
grateful, said Erin Irish, an associate professor of biological sciences
at the University of Iowa.
"I can imagine no reason why the USDA wouldn't be overjoyed to have such a
plant," she said. "But the people who want GMO-free corn flakes would
probably reject this even though it's an agricultural boost."
Researchers still are investigating how the gene interacts in the plant,
Survey Finds More Accept GM Food
By Graham Cooke
July 2, 2001
There is an Australian trend towards greater acceptance of genetically
modified foods with some important qualifications, a leading figure in the
debate said yesterday. On the eve of his speech at the Australian
Institute for Food Science and Technology conference in Adelaide, the
manager of public awareness at Biotechnology Australia, Craig Cormick,
said a survey had found that people were becoming more sophisticated in
their attitudes. Fewer were taking up positions of either direct
opposition or unconditional support.
'For instance, we are getting increasing acceptance of plants with
additional plant genes, but not with animal genes,' he said. At first
glance, the survey results seem contradictory. For instance, the number of
people who said they would eat genetically modified foods had risen from
25 per cent in 1999 to 49 percent now. Yet there was a decrease of 9 per
cent in the number of people who thought such foods were useful to
society, and an increase of 6 per cent among those who believed they were
a risk. 'Consumers are more discerning . .. for instance, there has been a
drop from 51 per cent to 43 per cent in people who said they would eat GM
food if it
were modified to taste better. By comparison, 60 per cent said they
would eat the food if it had been modified to be healthier.'
A prime example was cotton plants genetically modified by the CSIRO to
produce healthier cooking oils and margarines. There would also be
greater acceptance if genetically modified foods were labelled which will
happen from December. While understanding of genetically modified food was
increasing, there was still misinformation: 64 per cent of people surveyed
believed genetically modified fresh fruit and vegetables were sold in
supermarkets, which was incorrect.
Mr Cormick said genetically modified food manufacturers had made poor
decisions about which crops should go on to the market first. 'They
should have begun with those which had an obvious health benefit.'
USDA LAUNCHES NEW INFORMATION-BASED WEB SITE ON FOOD SAFETY RESEARCH
WASHINGTON, July 2, 2001? The U.S. Department of Agriculture today
launched a new Web site ( http://www.nal.usda.gov/fsrio ) aimed at
providing a database of food safety research projects to the research
community and the general public. The Web site provides detailed
information on food safety research projects, spending, and
accomplishments by U.S. Federal agencies, along with links to other
important food safety research information.
?This Web site is a tool that researchers and policy makers can use to
examine research needs and priorities in food safety,? said Agriculture
Secretary Ann M. Veneman. ?The goal is to measure the progress of our
food safety research and continue efforts to educate the public about
these important issues.?
The searchable database provides information on nearly 500 food safety
research projects dating from 1998 to the present including research done
or funded by: USDA Agricultural Research Service; USDA Cooperative State
Research, Education, and Extension Service; the Food Safety Consortium
(researchers from the University of Arkansas, Iowa State University, and
Kansas State University); and the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services? Food and Drug Administration.
Also on the Web site are:
1. program and planning information, as well as various food safety
2. food safety news and information,
3. and more than 100 links to Web-based food safety research information
provided by U.S. and foreign governments, and educational and
The new Web site was created by the Food Safety Research Information
Office at USDA?s National Agricultural Library with information from
related government food safety agencies. The National Agricultural
Library, part of the Agricultural Research Service, is the world?s largest
and most accessible agricultural research library, and the principal
resource in the United States for information about food, agriculture, and