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Date:

July 8, 2001

Subject:

Food fight, Golden Rice, Philippines, India, Pusztai, UN,

 

AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Today's Topics:

* Food Fight
* Golden Rice: What Role Could It Play in Alleviation of Vitamin A
Deficiency?
* Philippine Journalist attacks Green NGO's
* Status of biotech at PAU, an insider view
* Rebut to Dr. Pusztai article
* Biotech crops may yield food to poor nations
U.N. report calls for broadening debate over gene foods
* Farmers cotton on to new crops
* UN finds crop debate on genetics snubs poor
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34018-2001Jul8.html

Food Fight

Washington Post
By Sebastian Mallaby
Monday, July 9, 2001

In the global AIDS debate, activists pummeled pharmaceutical giants until
they discounted drugs for poor countries. In the global food debate,
activists assail agribusiness giants with precisely the opposite motive.
The agribusiness folks want their genetic technology to relieve
malnutrition in the southern hemisphere. But last week activists from
Greenpeace vandalized a plantation of genetically modified corn in Brazil.
The Greenpeace Web site demands that governments ban genetically
engineered crops.

This is murderous nonsense. Over the next two decades world population is
projected to grow by between 2 billion and 2.5 billion. This increase,
together with rising incomes, means that crops will have to grow by about
a third, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute in
Washington. We could do that by chopping down forests and planting
marginal lands, which would be environmentally awful. Or we could do it by
boosting yields with new technology.

Is this technology safe? No test has suggested that genetically engineered
crops harm human health. On the other hand, a lack of plentiful cheap food
harms human health enormously. Half the children in South Asia and a third
in sub-Saharan Africa are malnourished. Among other consequences, these
children suffer iodine deficiency, which causes mental retardation, and
Vitamin A deficiency, which causes blindness.

Some anti-genetic activists, such as Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), say
the poor won't be able to afford new-fangled crops. Kucinich cites the
"so-called green revolution," which was supposed to conquer hunger and in
his view didn't. But the green revolution -- involving improved seeds,
fertilizers and pesticides -- more than doubled cereal production in South
Asia between 1970 and 1995. Despite enormous population growth, it cut the
malnutrition rate from 40 percent to 23 percent. What the green revolution
began, the gene revolution can continue.

Kucinich and like thinkers suppose that poor countries should rediscover
traditional culture and eschew inappropriate Western technologies. But a
report from the U.N. Development Program, to be published tomorrow, blows
a hole in this conceit. The threat to development is not inappropriate
technology but a lack of technology -- medicines, Internet hookups,
biotechnology. It's one thing for affluent consumers to eschew transgenic
foods. It's another for the affluent to impose their choices on poor
people. China has shown that genetically modified rice can boost yields by
15 percent in the Third World. But Greenpeace pressures developing
countries not to follow China's lead. When Kenya faced famine last year,
the antis urged the Kenyan government to refuse U.S. food aid because some
of it was genetically modified.

Last year the world's governments adopted a U.N. protocol on biosafety.
More than 100 countries have signed on, and the ratification process is
beginning. The protocol says countries (read: paranoid rich countries) can
bar some agricultural imports if they fear their biotech content -- even
if these fears are founded on a "lack of scientific certainty." Nobody
quite knows whether this provision will be trumped by the World Trade
Organization's rules. But the mere possibility that transgenic crops may
cause exclusion from rich markets dissuades many developing countries from
adopting them.

Yes, transgenic crops carry risks. The Monarch butterfly is famous because
the damage it suffered from modified corn is the closest to a smoking gun
that the antis have come up with. But damage to the Monarch has to be
weighed against the prospect that fewer forests will be cleared and fewer
children will go hungry. It also must be weighed against damage to the
Monarch from not embracing biotechnology. The alternative to
butterfly-killing corn may be corn sprayed with butterfly-killing
pesticides.

If the skeptics would embrace the new technology, they could get on with
the other half of their agenda. The critics are right that agribusiness
giants have patented a disturbing chunk of this new field -- not just the
new seeds, but the methods used to make them. That could mean that the
techniques of biotechnology are used predominantly to develop seeds for
rich consumers who can pay, rather than for poor farmers whose need is
most urgent.

For the moment, the industry is offering more high-tech seeds to the Third
World than browbeaten governments feel able to accept. But one day,
African scientists who succeed in modifying cassava -- a crop that
agribusiness has all but ignored -- may be sued for using patented
gene-transfer techniques. There's something for activists to worry about.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Thanks to thank Duncan Macintosh of IRRI for kindly forwarding this paper
to Agbioview:

http://www.agbioworld.org/articles/goldenrice.html

Golden Rice: What Role Could It Play in Alleviation of Vitamin A
Deficiency?
By Richard Robertson(UIUC), Laurian Unnevehr (UIUC) and David Dawe (IRRI)
[1]

Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) is an important nutritional problem in the
developing world (World Bank, 1993).[2] Vitamin A?s primary physiologic
role is in vision and maintenance of the general health of the eye, with a
myriad of secondary roles, such as maintenance of the immune system.
Supplementation or increased consumption of carotenoids in deficient
populations has been found to substantially reduce morbidity and mortality
for children (Sommer, 1997). VAD is prevalent among the poor in Asia,
because their diets are dependent on rice, which does not contain Vitamin
A precursors (FAO, 1993).

http://www.agbioworld.org/articles/goldenrice.html
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Philippine Journalist attacks Green NGO's

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

Monday, June 18, 2001
Press Release: PCIJ

PRESS RELEASE: The highly respected corruption fighter Sheila
Coronel and her Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
have recently completed a provocative look at the billion-dollar business
of multinational NGO's and the foreign-interest advocacy they represent
at the expense of Philippine national interests.

Often shrouded in feigned support for noble causes like environmental
protection, water-borne diseases and pesticide control, multinational NGO's
are all too often money-laundering conduits for big business interests
attempting to thwart technological advances in scientific mining techniques
that dramatically reduce toxic spillovers into rural aquifers or the
adoption of satellite imagery designed to smartly cull forests for
building materials and paper products without unduly impacting on the
surrounding ecosystem.

The PCIJ investigation has shown further that savvy multinational
NGO's are equally adroit at hoodwinking leftist Church elements into
believing their hidden protectionist goals will benefit the impoverished
people of developing societies like the Philippines.

In the Philippines the multinational NGO story most frequently plays
itself out in opposition to the spectacular success GMO's have contributed
to the latest Green Revolution. This canard is secretly sponsored by
grain middlemen, millers as well as poultry and pork producers with a
vested stake in keeping corn supplies volatile and cheap through sales of
traditional grain varieties. These exploitive business elements and
pesticide retailers fear the dramatic 40-60% gains in crop yields, reduced
pesticide requirements and heightened farmer incomes that will debase
their heretofore lucrative businesses that have traditionally exploited
poor and dependent farmers.

A number of local NGO's such as SEARICE, the Pesticide Action Council and
Masipag have begun to draw away from the multinational NGO herd to support
environmentally friendly GMO's given their obvious advantage to poor
farmers. As SEARICE now grudgingly admits it is often easy to lose sight
of traditional goals when an organization is swept up by the hidden
agendas of multinational NGO's. These hidden multinational NGO interests
provide the bulk of the financial support for local institutions
representing efforts to improve the lot of the masa. PCIJ has likewise
documented the emerging split in the NGO ranks as local advocates begin to
see their foreign benefactors often pushing them in directions that run
contrary to the goal of agriculture modernization and poverty eradication.
The PCIJ report
further suggests that LGU's closely examine the activities of
multinational NGO's lobbying at the grass roots level."
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dr. Balwant Singh, a retired Extension Specialist from the Punjab
Agricultural University , India writes here about the sad state of
biotech in his university.

Forwarded by "D. P. S. Verma" to PBASIO
Subject: status of biotech at PAU, an insider view

The biotechnolgy R&D activites in India were initiated with the
establishment of the Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of
Science and Technology in 1985. Several other organisations such as
ICAR, CSIR, DST etc. are also supporting biotech R&D activities in
their laboratories and institutins, traditional universities and SAUs
in the country. Several industrial houses in India also established
their biotech labs for micropropagation of disease-free plants to
cater to the domestic and foreign markets and produce vaccines and
diagnostics. Biotechnology Consortium of India (BCIL) and All India
Biotech Association (AIBA) were also established for promotion of
industrial -institution linkages for R&D support, transfer of
technology, venture capital, project formulation and
commercialization of biotech products. AIBA has applied for $100
million World Bank loan for establishment of Biotech Parks in Punjab
and Andhra Pradesh. A few multinational corporations, such as,
Monsanto, AgroEvo and Avantis have also launched joint ventures with
Indian companies for transfer of their advanced technology and its
commercialization in India.


To meet the HRD requirements for the developing biotech industry in
India, postgraduate programmes at M.Sc. and Ph. D. levels have been
initiated in more than 40 Universities and institutions in India,
including several agricultural and veterinary universities. A number
of products and processes have been developed with these concerted
efforts, some of which are being patented and commercialized.
Unfortunately no GMO has been approved for commercialization in India
so far while the total global area under various GMOs exceeds 40
million hectares. The current Indian biotechnology market is
estimated at US$ 2.5 billion including animal and human health care
with very little share of agricultural biotechnology. In India most
of the technology is either imported or copied from abroad. China and
othee pacific rim countries are coming up in biotechnology in a big
way and are flooding the global market with cheaper products.

The Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana took a lead among the
SAUs in transforming a small biotech laboratory in the Department of
Plant Breeding to a full-fledged Biotechnology Centre in 1992 with a
strong support of the Punjab Government. This Centre was further
strengthened through the support of several national and
international organisations including DBT, USDA, Rockefeller
Foundation, IAEA, ADB, etc. It had a strength of about 25
internationally trained scientists with the state of the art
equipment and strong contingent support. The achievements of the
Centre in applied and fundamental research in biotechnolgoy have been
widely acknowledged at the international levels. Protocols for
micropropagation of several vegetatively propagated plants have been
developed of which some sugarcane, potato and strawberry have been
taken up by private industry for commercial purposes. Three genes for
resistances to bacterial leaf blight disease of rice have been
pyramided into an elite rice variety, namely, PR106 through molecular
marker assisted selection for durable resistance. More than 20 genes
for resistance to various diseases of wheat have been introgressed
from the wild related species, which are ready for use by the wheat
breeders around the world. Both wheat and rice have been successfully
transformed for resistance to herbicide and stem borer, respectively.
A number of genes for quality traits have been tagged with molecular
markers under a DBT sponsored network project. New strains of
Bacillus thuringiensis have been isoalted from Punjab soils with
superior biopesticide potential against cotton bollworm to the
commercial formulations. The Punjab State Council of Science and
Technology, Chandigarh is also in the process of establishing Centre
of Excellence in Biotechnolgy and a Biotechnology Park near
Chandigarh with the support of DBT and World Bank for application of
biotechnolgy in agriculture, environment and medicine in the state.
The availability of funds for the purpose is however slow and
uncertain.

Unfortunately the PAU Biotechnology Centre established and
strengthened at a total cost exceeding ten crores rupees, has been
systematically dismantled. To start with the administrative and
financial powers of the Founder Director of the Centre, equivalent to
those of the Deans/ Directors of the PAU were reduced to the level of
those of the Heads of the Department in 1994. Then in 1999, the
Centre was made Department of Biotechnology under the College of
Basic Sciences & Humanities. This was done with the commitment of the
Academic Council of th PAU to initiate the much-needed post graduate
programme in plant, microbial and animal biotechnolgy to cater to the
HRD needs of biotech R&D and industry in the state.

The PG proramme was, however, never initiated due to stubborn
opposition of the present Vice-Chancellor, Dr. K. S.Aulakh, who was
Director of Research at that time. Subsequently the Department of
Biotechnolgy was merged with the Department of Genetics thus a new
Department of Genetics and Biotechnology emerged in 2000. As many as
14 scientists from Genetics without any training or projects on
biotechnology have moved with their obsolete equipment and have
occupied the building of Biotechnolgy Centre. About a dozen of
foreign-trained scientists of the erstwhile centre have either
resigned or shifted to other departments on untenable grounds, or
have proceeded on foreign assignments. Equipment worth lacs of rupees
is lying unused. A few remaining biotechnologists are being forced to
quit under the direction of the VC through the imposed Head of the
Department. Almost all the universities in northern India except the
PAU have their PG programme in Biotechnology. The famous Biotech
Centre has been reduced to a mere nonentity. Similarly, the
Department of Veterinary Immunology that was responsible for the
development of vaccines and diagnostics kits for livestock diseases
has been closed down and its trained staff shifted to other
departments.

Due to lack of vision and vindictive attitude of the Vice-Chancellor,
the Punjab Agriculture, farmers and agricultural-based biotech
industry have been deprived of the benefits of biotechnolgy. The
Punjab State, the bread basket of India rather needs strong biotech
support during the era of globalization and liberalisation for
competitive agriculture, improvement of quality, reducing input costs
and pesticide use, value addition etc. Andhra Pradesh, Karanatka,
Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and even Himachal Pradesh and Haryana have
taken lead and have stregthened their Biotech R&D activities and
industries. Punjab has miserably failed to support and promote
agricultural biotechnology in the state. This could be largely
attributed to a single person Dr. K. S. Aulakh who has been
vehemently opposing it during his tenures as Director of Research,
Pro Vice-Chancellor and even now as Vice-Chancellor.

There is need to probe into the anti-biotech activities of Dr. Aulakh
in the PAU by a high level committee constituted by the Chancellor to
restore the original status, activities and contributions of the
Biotechnology Centre to the agricultural biotechnology in the State.

--
The author Dr. Balwant Singh is retired Extension Specialist (Youth
Programme) from the Punjab Agricultural University , Ludhiana and at
present is the Convenor, Kisan Cell, Punjab of The Nationalist
Congress Party of India
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: Robert Wager
posted to To: "'gmf-news@scope.educ.washington.edu'"
Date: Wed, 4 Jul 2001 08:48:03 -0700
Subject: [SCOPE:GMF-news] Rebut to Dr. Pusztai article

I would like to rebut the lengthy article by Dr. Pusztai

The first point about the complexity of food does not mean that the
analysis
is not done. Techniques such as mass spectroscopy, 2-D gel electrophoresis,
FPLC and HPLC are all used to analyze the complex nature of food. Many
people agree that there needs to be more open peer-reviewed data available.
However the lack of publications does not mean the research has not been
done. An excellent example of the scope of research needed prior to
commercialization of a product can be found at the following EPA web page,
http//:www.ostp.gov/html/ceq_ostp_study3.pdf This site shows 70 pages of
criteria that must be met by the producer of a variety of Bt Maize. I
encourage anyone interested in the real regulatory process to look up this
site.

The use of "Substantial Equivalence" is accepted by OECD in 1993 as the
cornerstone of health hazard assessment of GM foods. Further , The Royal
Society of Canada Panel on The Future of Food Biotechnology stated " In the
panels view, when substantial equivalence is invoked as an unambiguous
safety standard (not as a decision threshold for risk assessment) it
stipulates a reasonably conservative standard of safety consistent with the
precautionary approach to the regulation of risk associated with GM Foods".
Virtually every bite of food we eat contains DNA, get use to it. The study
quoted fed mice huge amounts of virus DNA for a month and then found small
fragments of the DNA in the mouse cells. This is in no way comparable to
consuming minute quantities of transgenes in food. Antibiotic resistance in
bacteria is a real problem but the real culprits are improper use of
antibiotics and the use of antibiotic "growth enhancers" in agriculture,
not
the kanamycin resistance gene in most first generation GM plasmids.
Kanamycin is not used to treat human infections.

The paper about GM-potatoes being toxic to mice states the following data
as
significant: "in the group of mice fed on the 'delta-endotoxin', several
villi appeared abnormal (151.8 in the control group verses 155.8 in the
transgenic treated group and 197 for the endotoxin group) If he was arguing
that Bt-potatoes are the same as regular potatoes then the data supports
that conclusion not his assertion of the toxic nature of Bt-potatoes. As
for
quoting his own paper that was soundly dismissed by peer-review as "deeply
flawed" or "meaningless", what more need I say.
No one has demonstrated an allergic reaction to the Bt toxin itself. The
report he quotes states seroconversion to the whole bacteria not the toxin
which is the only thing engineered into the plants. If the bacteria were so
bad then why have organic growers been using it for 30-40 years with out
incident.

An antibody is made to recognize a short sequence of amino acids ( usually
6-8 aa in length) this is the epitope of the antibody. So please explain to
me why comparisons to known allergenic amino acid sequences is bad science.
Known allergens can be stable in acid conditions so again why is acid
stability tests of proteins bad science?

I agree with Dr. Pusztai that our future depends to some extent on the
development of GM foods and that effective regulations should be in place
but considering that approximately 3,500,000,000,000 transgenic plants have
been grown in the US alone and there have been NO confirmed cases of GM
food
harming any individual. I would say that the present system works well. As
science learns more, better questions can be addressed. One such advance is
the use of micro-arrays to truly determine the extent of transgene
expression in a whole plant.
Robert Wager
Malaspina University College
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++=

http://www.msnbc.com/news/598057.asp

Biotech crops may yield food to poor nations
U.N. report calls for broadening debate over gene foods

MSNBC NEWS SERVICES
July 9 ?

Genetically modified crops, under attack in the West, may help reduce
malnutrition in poor nations, according to a new U.N. report that calls
for a more ?balanced approach? to the concerns of the developing world.

DESPITE SOMEWHAT unpredictable results, the report ? to be released
Tuesday by the U.N. Development Program ? argues against a blanket
rejection of genetically altered crops, saying they could produce a higher
yield in countries with poor soil and where populations are desperate for
food.
The so-called ?Frankenstein foods? have been put on hold in
European countries, and are under attack in the United States and Canada
because of fears over potential health and environmental hazards that
genetic engineering could produce.
?The current debate in Europe and the United States over
genetically modified crops mostly ignores the concerns of the developing
world,? said the annual 265-page Human Development Report 2001, to be
officially released in Mexico City by UNDP.
The successful Western campaign to ban the pesticide DDT, for
example, has produced a new breed of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in many
tropical countries.


?Instead of changing the environment to fit the seed, the seed
could be changed to drought-resistant crops,? said Kate Raworth, co-author
of the report.
Mark Malloch Brown, head of UNDP, pointed to an effort by Japan to
develop new varieties of rice in West Africa that have 50 percent higher
yields, are more tolerant of drought and richer in protein.
Yet UNDP is cautious, with Raworth saying research into potential
health hazards, biosafety measures and labeling has to be part of the
technological revolution. Australia, Brazil, Japan and Britain require
such labels and 80 percent of the consumers in the United States want them
as well.

BIOTECH CROPS SOAR IN U.S.

Despite concerns, genetically engineered crops are soaring in
popularity with U.S. farmers, exceeding levels the government predicted
earlier this year.
More than 51 million acres, or 68 percent, of the soybeans farmers
are growing this year are genetically engineered, compared with 54 percent
a year ago, according to an Agriculture Department survey.
The department had predicted in March that 63 percent of this
year?s soybean crop would be genetically engineered.

Sixty-nine percent, or 11 million acres, of this year?s cotton crop is
genetically engineered, compared with 61 percent last year.
Plantings of biotech corn are up slightly ? 26 percent of this
year?s total acreage, compared with 25 percent last year.
?We?ve got a product that?s safe, it?s good for the environment,
and it allows us to be even more efficient on the farm,? said Tony
Anderson, a farmer from Mount Sterling, Ohio, who is president of the
American Soybean Association.
The biotech soybeans contain a bacterium gene that makes them
immune to a powerful weedkiller, known by the trade name Roundup. In some
cases, one application of the herbicide is all that is needed for an
entire growing season, farmers say. Fields seeded for conventionally bred
varieties can require many sprayings with different types of chemicals.

?I sense a greater optimism regarding the future of
biotechnology,? said Konstantinos Giannakas, an agricultural economist at
the University of Nebraska who believes farmers are less concerned about
consumer resistance to genetically engineered food.
An industry-funded study due out this fall is expected to warn that
commercialization of other genetically engineered crops has been slowed by
the controversy over agricultural biotechnology.
Farmers have shunned biotech versions of sugarbeets, potatoes and
sweet corn because major processors, packers and food companies have told
growers they are unwilling to buy the genetically engineered product,
according to a preliminary summary of the study by the National Center for
Food and Agricultural Policy.
The biotech industry was embarrassed last year when a gene-altered
variety of corn, known as StarLink, was found in the food supply without
being cleared for human consumption. StarLink, which has been withdrawn
from the market, was the only biotech crop available for commercial use
that was not approved for human food.
Future growth of biotechnology in farming will depend on the
development of crops that provide benefits to consumers, such as added
nutrients, Giannakas said.
Virtually all of the gene-altered crops that have been developed
are either resistant to pests or immune to the Roundup herbicide.
?In order to have growth in this sector, what needs to be done is
to boost the demand. This will happen only if the consumers see benefits
from these crops,? Giannakas said.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.agbios.com/_NewsItem.asp?parm=neIDXCode&data=1998

Farmers cotton on to new crops

Asia Times
M M Paniyil
Monday -- July 2, 2001

BANGALORE - As the world debates 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 Kartanaka 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. However, 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,`` Jayachandra said.

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 United
States.

The GM cotton variety Bollgard is integral to the biotechnology boom
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 dreaded
bollworms. 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 Bt cotton has to wean farmers from
their heavy reliance on 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 agricultural sector.

Indian farmers frequently fall into debt 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
this year.

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` grudging 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 [GMOs] 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.

In the 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.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/article/0,2669,SAV-0107080385,FF.html

UN finds crop debate on genetics snubs poor

Chicago Tribune
July 8, 2001

Opposition in wealthier countries to genetically modified crops may set
back the ability of the poorest nations to feed growing populations,
according to a United Nations survey to be release this week.

Supporters of genetically modified food have said manipulating plants can
make them more resistant to diseases and can reduce the use of pesticides
that can harm the environment.

Opponents say too little is known about the health effects on consumers.

"The current debate in Europe and the United States over genetically
modified crops mostly ignores the concerns and needs of the developing
world," noted the Human Development Report 2001. The survey, published by
the UN Development Program, is scheduled for release Tuesday in Mexico
City.

"Western consumers who do not face food shortages or nutritional
deficiencies or work in the fields are more likely to focus on food safety
and the potential loss of biodiversity," the report states, but "farming
communities in developing countries are more likely to focus on
potentially higher yields and greater nutritional value, and on the
reduced need to spray pesticides that can damage the soil and sicken
farmers."

The report draws a comparison with successful Western-led efforts to ban
the use of the industrial pesticide DDT worldwide, which has allowed a
resurgent population of mosquitoes to devastate tropical countries with
several virulent strains of malaria.

Still, the United Nations remains concerned about the consequences of
genetic advancements.

On Friday, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture
Organization, meeting in Geneva, recommended that governments test all
genetically modified organisms before they enter the food market, looking
especially for the potential to cause allergic reactions.

"International agreement on how to perform risk assessment of genetically
modified foods will help all countries, especially developing countries,"
said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of WHO.

Some countries, especially in Europe, strongly favor measures making it
possible to trace all foods and their components to their point of origin.
Others, including the United States, argue such a system would be
unworkable.

The UN Codex Alimentarius Commission is looking into setting guidelines
for such foods.