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July 3, 2001


Limit to growth, IFPRI, Monsanto Pledge, New Zealand


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Today's Topics:

* Limits to growth
* Monsanto Pledge
* New Zealand way behind in biotechnology

AgBioWorld Declaration in Italian

The AgBioWorld Declaration of support for agricultural biotechnology,
which has been signed by over 3,000 scientists, is now available in
Italian and can be viewed at:


Date: 3 Jul 2001 16:46:36 -0000
From: "Bob MacGregor" To:
Subject: Re: Limits to growth

I was a bit surprised not to have seen any response to on AgBioView to Red
Porphyry's comments about the incompatibility of anti-biotech and
pro-biotech worldviews with respect to sustainability. Red said,"When
those who oppose ag biotech speak of "sustainable agriculture", what they
mean is this: agriculture that ideally is free of dependence on petroleum.
No *petroleum-based* fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, planting,
plowing, or harvesting. Why is opposing petroleum-based agriculture
fundamental to the anti-ag-biotech worldview? For the simple reason that
anti-ag-biotechers view agriculture through the lens of the "Limits to
Growth" paradigm." and, later, "The anti-ag-biotech claim, ultimately, is
that ag biotech can't solve the problem because it's not sustainable, and
it's not sustainable because it's dependent physically on petroleum (a
nonrenewable resource) and philosophically on a growth paradigm that fails
to recognize resource limits."

I get the impression that Red subscribes to that latter claim. However, it
is far, far off base. For example, agricultural biotechnology is expected
to lead in providing key improvements in ethanol production and biodiesel
improvements. RR soybeans and other crops have already helped farmers
reduce their tillage, thereby conserving soil and cutting back on the
number of tractor-passes through the fields (and associated fuel and
chemical consumption).

In contrast (and contrary to Red's claim), many anti-biotech folks,
particularly the organic zealots, do NOT just oppose agricultural inputs
that are based on petroleum; the organic folks will oppose these same
inputs just as vigourously when they are produced by synthesis from
biological sources, simply because they are synthesized. Furthermore, I
doubt that many opponents of agbiotech have given the slightest thought
about petroleum and sustainability; there are a lot of reasons for people
to be "anti" but I'd be surprised if the goal of moving away from the
petroleum economy is prominent among them. Agbiotech has great potential
to ease the way to sustainability by helping replace-- or displace--
petroleum-based farm inputs and by making it possible to produce chemical
industry feedstocks from biological sources that heretofore have come from
fossil fuels. Indeed, this is beyond just "potential"; it is happening
right now.

There will always be limits to growth; it doesn't make sense to reject the
very tools that may enable us to ease our way into a sustainable future;
the alternative seems to be to accept, fatalistically, that population
crash is inevitable. I'm not ready to concede that yet.


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Date: Jul 03 2001 18:54:10 EDT
From: "NLP Wessex"
Subject: Study Questions Widespread Use of Bt Corn

AgWeb News

Study Questions Widespread Use of Bt Corn
by Julianne Johnston

A study published in the May 2001 Journal, BioScience, questions the
widespread use of Bt corn, saying it has not reduced pesticide use or
significantly increased yields.......

Full article at:

Date: Jul 03 2001 23:12:38 EDT
From: "SACHS, ERIC S [AG/1005]"
Subject: Fulfilling Our Pledge

Monsanto is a new company, solely devoted to agriculture. And -- as a
leader in the field of agricultural biotechnology -- we recognize that
people in all arenas look to us to lead through our policies and
behaviors. Last fall, Monsanto's CEO Hendrik Verfaillie outlined our
commitment, called the Monsanto Pledge, to help us fulfill our promise for
sustainable agriculture. This new Monsanto Pledge includes five elements
-- dialogue, transparency, respect, sharing and delivering benefits ? that
reflect the requests and concerns frequently shared with us and that help
reach a common ground we hope will allow the benefits of this technology
to be carried forward.

Today we took a major step forward in the area of Transparency. Responding
to the need to have product safety information more publicly available and
accessible, we have posted to the Monsanto Company website a series of
detailed food, feed and environmental safety summaries for Roundup Ready
soybean, YieldGard corn, Roundup Ready corn and Roundup Ready cotton.
These summaries include an introduction, molecular characterization,
protein characterization, composition and safety assessments, a summary,
and list of references for each product. The complete summaries and other
Monsanto Pledge information can be found at

Also, we have posted a list of published information on benefits of
biotechnology, benefits associated with Monsanto's products, and a list of
scientific publications authored by Monsanto scientists last year.

We are pleased to be able to share this information. We are committed to
transparency and will make additional published scientific data and data
summaries on product safety and benefits publicly available and
accessible. Likewise, we hope this information is of broad benefit to the
scientific community and to all those who are interested in this

Roy Fuchs
Eric Sachs
Marcia Vincent

Monsanto Scientific Outreach

Editorial: We're way behind in biotechnology

New Zealand Herald

The contrast is as ironic as it is stark. Singapore, a state as devoid of
agricultural research expertise as it is of farm animals, is spending
lavishly to become a world leader in biotechnology. New Zealand, a leader
in agricultural research as befits a country with far more farm animals
than humans, is stalled. Biotechnology is on hold while the Royal
Commission on Genetic Modification deliberates. If, as some insist,
genetic engineering is the third technological revolution, after the steam
engine and the computer, New Zealand is falling well off the pace in a
race it should relish.

While we debate ethical issues, the seven successful economies studied in
the Herald's Our Turn series have been far more pragmatic. They have seen
the logic in the view that genetic engineering will transform the way we
live, and have embraced it. In each country, hundred of millions of
dollars of government funds and private investment have been poured into
genetic research.

Contrast that with the situation encapsulated by the contrived crisis over
Ruakura research aimed at producing proteins that could improve the
treatment of multiple sclerosis. The Greens zeroed in when the High Court
ruled, on a technicality, against the implanting of a human gene into
cattle foetuses. They called for the cows impregnated with the genetically
modified foetuses to be slaughtered. Multiple sclerosis sufferers were
justifiably outraged. Here was a graphic illustration of how far the
Greens are out of step with international sentiment. And how an important
plank in our future prosperity has fallen hostage, even if temporarily, to
their ability to initiate a moratorium and a largely unnecessary royal

Obviously, genetic engineering has inherent risks. Experiments involving
the transplanting of genetic material, especially across different
species, must be tightly controlled. But the Greens' policy of not letting
genetically modified organisms outside the laboratory is unrealistically
restrictive. Effectively, they maintain that unless they are convinced
that nothing can go wrong, nothing should be done. Such thinking precludes
risks; it also precludes any meaningful progress.

The Greens worry that genetic research could lead to natural species being
infected, and the loss of our clean, green image. In particular, the
country's organic crops would lose their credibility. This, they argue,
would undermine our ability to benefit from growing consumer demand for
organic food.

Such thinking is hardly unique. Denmark, similarly, has an important
dairying industry, and popular opinion there has a strong greenish tinge.
But it has recognised the potential rewards of genetic research,
especially in farm production and medicine. It sees the chance to improve
people's lives worldwide while enriching itself. The benefits of a
thriving organic food industry are small beer in comparison.

The approach of the Danish corporate sector has helped. Most companies
involved in genetic research, such as pharmaceuticals giant Novo Nordisk,
have been open about what they are doing. Contrast that with AgResearch's
reticence over its Ruakura research. Secrecy merely provides ammunition
for the opponents of biotechnology.

AgResearch's lapse, however, pales into relative insignificance alongside
the continuing frustration for scientists involved in genetic research
here. That frustration has claimed Dr Phil L'Huillier, the team leader of
the Ruakura research. He has left to work overseas for a private
biotechnology company. Such is the money being poured into genetic
research in successful economies, and such is New Zealand's tradition in
agricultural science, that Dr L'Huillier's expertise was doubtless much

To become a significant force in genetic research, we will have to make
other adjustments. Our biotechnology industry is too fragmented and there
is not enough collaboration between crown research institutes and local
companies. But, most immediately, the royal commission must deliver
rational guidelines when it reports on July 27. These will acknowledge the
risk but, more importantly, recognise the rewards being captured by
successful economies. New Zealand once rang the bells of agricultural
research. It is time for Green-tinged dampers to be removed from those