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July 9, 2001


UN report, Thai papayas, Globalization, Limits of Growth


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Today's Topics:

* Human Development Report 2001 will spotlight technologies' role in
reducing poverty
* Book Review
* Complex Politics
* The GM way to help mankind
* U.N. Agency Backs Biotech Crops
* GM fears are hurting developing world: UN
* Leading Rice Scientist Says Biotechnology Vital For Developing World
* Thai Researchers Striving To Save The Papaya
* British Deputy PM Defends Genetically Modified Crops
* Developing countries will suffer without continued globalisation
* The Limits of Growth and its implications for agricultural biotechnology
* Re: AGBIOVIEW: Limit to growth


Human Development Report 2001 will spotlight technologies' role in
reducing poverty

United Nations Development Programme
Monday, 9 July 2001

This year's Human Development Report examines the great potential that new
technologies hold for reducing poverty. Mexico's President Vicente Fox
will join UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, in launching the report,
entitled Making New Technologies Work for Development, tomorrow in Mexico

In addition to the international launch, local launches of the report are
planned in more than 70 capitals around the world. The report is being
published in 13 languages.

The Human Development Report 2001 offers timely analyses of ways that
biotechnology and information and communications technology can transform
lives in developing countries. It also takes a fresh look at such
controversial issues as genetically-modified foods ("frankenfoods"),
intellectual property rights (including rights to AIDS drugs) and the
brain drain.

For the first time, the Human Development Report 2001 provides a
"technology achievement index", ranking 72 nations in this crucial sector.
The index is a gauge of countries' ability to create and use technology.

As in previous years, the report ranks 162 countries according to their
level of human development, based on life expectancy, achievement in
education and standard of living. The report also analyses global progress
towards the goals for development and poverty eradication agreed on by
world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit last year.

Following the launch, two policy roundtables will be held in Mexico City
on Wednesday 11 July. Dr. José Sarhukán, Commissioner for Social and Human
Development of the Mexican Presidency, will moderate the first, on
"information technologies and global economic and social transformations."

Panelists include Fernando Flores, President, Business Design Associates
(Chile), Fred Frank, Vice Chairman, Lehman Brothers (New York), John Gage,
Director, Science Department, Sun Microsystems (California), Fred
Moavenzadeh, Director, Center for Technology Policy and Industrial
Development, MIT (Massachusetts), and Nancy Birdsall, Special Advisor to
the UNDP Administrator.

The second roundtable, on "biotechnology challenges and opportunities for
social and economic development," will assess the potential of biotech in
the Mexican context.

The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México will Webcast the launch on
Tuesday between 3:00 pm and 4:30 pm GMT, and the two roundtables on
Wednesday between 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm GMT. The Webcast will be available
on the UNDP Website.

For more details and to access the report for free, please visit the UNDP
Website on or after Tuesday, 10 July 2001, 10:00 am GMT. For more
information, contact Omar Gharzeddine , UNDP
Communications Office.

Date: Jul 09 2001 19:21:10 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Book Review


I am sure all of us have asked ourselves, at least once, "Why do the
activists oppose progress in agriculture?" and then found the answer,
"Because they get paid to" not entirely satisfying. So the question
recurs: "Really, I mean for real, why are they against improving
agriculture?" One can, of course, consult the press
releases of activist groups in search of the answer, and find lies and
distortions of such magnitude that the activists themselves have to be
aware that their balderdash is rich enough to significantly boost the
output of organic farming around the world.

So then the question again recurs: "Really, why?" Well, the answer
is at hand. Technological progress, especially in agriculture, has been
the target of phobics and elites for a long, long time... and if you want
to understand the historic roots and modern rhetoric of those who oppose
progress, I recommend reading the book: "Agriculture and Modern
Technology: a Defense," DeGregori, Thomas R. Iowa
State University Press, Ames, 2001. 268 pp., $54.95. Visit

Now that the Codex Commission has endorsed the doctrine of substantial
equivalence, and the UN Development Program has condemned anti-biotech
activists as starving the needy, there is no more timely book in print.

Date: Jul 09 2001 19:21:10 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Complex Politics


A lot has been made here and elsewhere of India's decision to delay
commercialization of Bt cotton for another round of field trials, and
efforts to lay blame or take credit for this decision abounds. Some point
to weak bureaucrats, others to powerful multinational activist groups. The
truth may be... well, somewhere there, but not quite.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is racing to develop
its own version of Bt cotton to compete with cotton that uses
Monsanto technology.... the ICAR is also in charge of India's "new field
trials." Thailand has banned the import of GM papaya that resists papaya
ringspot virus... even after field trials of papaya using imported
technology proved it effective. Thai researchers are at the same time
racing to develop their own version of GM virus-resistant papaya which,
they say, will not be subject to import restrictions and save plantations
which are devastated by the disease. China has banned the
commercialization of GM crops... even as its scientists are awash in
funding to develop GM technology which will, they hope, compete with
imported technology which will be on their doorstep if granted membership
in the WTO. In these bans and
restrictions on GM crops, Greenpeace and others might claim victories,
others may blame weak ministers, but there is another factor, an important

The developing nations hungry for GM technology are also eager to have
their own science and their own intellectual property rights, and are
willing to let their farmers and citizens suffer from the lack of progress
while their scientists play catch-up. The
anti-GM and anti-globalization movements play neatly into the hands of
those play politics with progress this way. We will eventually see if the
international activists, who now conveniently serve as excuses for delays
and "precaution," will later manage to escape the vilification which could
ensue when they are exposed as merchants of poverty and death, just to
help politicians give "breathing room" for
local technological progress. And the politicians who league with the
activists could fare poorly indeed.


Letter to the Sunday Times

The GM way to help mankind

July 8 2001

I MUST live in a different world from John Humphrys (Comment, last week).
According to him some of the most distinguished scientists prophesy doom
and destruction from GM crops.

However, the world's leading scientists from the academies of sciences in
Brazil, China, India and Mexico as well as America and the Royal Society,
London, did band together to issue a joint document to contradict
ill-informed, incorrect and usually ideologically motivated suppositions
about GM crops.

They recognise that a step-by-step cautious and regulated approach is
advisable but unlike Humphrys they listed the benefits for mankind.

For example, helping to control devastating crop viruses and pests which
destroy worldwide an estimated 40% of the harvest; to improve use of
marginalised land and save genuine wilderness from the plough; to improve
the nutritional quality of food to reduce blindness, child death and
reduce the incidence of spina bifida; to reduce the environmental impact
of man upon the planet; to produce vaccines in food and pharmaceuticals in
abundance, which should see the end of diseases such as cholera, hepatitis
B and eventually malaria; to improve cancer treatment and diagnosis; to
help maintain and increase an abundance of food production and continue
the reduction in food prices which dropped fourfold in real terms in the
last century.

It is the poorest of the world who benefit most from low prices and food
abundance, which is the simplest way to mitigate the problems associated
with the extra 2.3 billion expected by 2025, an additional problem ignored
by Humphrys.

Professor Anthony Trewavas
Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology,
Edinburgh University

U.N. Agency Backs Biotech Crops

USA Today
July 10, 2001

UNITED NATIONS -- Formally joining the international debate over
genetically modified food, a U.N. agency says in a report that regulated
planting of biotech crops could reduce malnutrition and starvation in
developing nations.

Industry and governments should increase biotech investment to develop
hardier strains of millet, sorghum, soybeans and other crops that feed
much of the world's population, according to the annual Human Development
Report to be released today by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP).

The report acknowledges worries about allergies and other safety issues
that have prompted the European Union and Japan to restrict biotech crops,
labeled "Frankenstein foods" by critics. UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch
Brown says those concerns are trumped by "850 million people going hungry
every day."

"That is a much bigger threat to life than genetically modified
organisms," he says.

Brown cites a rice program the agency helped sponsor as an example of the
science vs. safety balance that can be achieved. New Rice for Africa, a
cross-breed of African and Asian species, can yield crops up to 50% larger
than common varieties, without fertilizer, Brown says. The variety also
matures 30 to 50 days earlier and is higher in protein and more resistant
to drought and disease, tests show.

Seven types of the new variety are being grown in the Ivory Coast and
Guinea. Planting is scheduled in Nigeria, Togo and Benin.

The program is one of several efforts to engineer "super-rice" varieties.

Biotech science developed by Monsanto, the agribusiness giant based in St.
Louis, was used to engineer Golden Rice, genetically modified to contain
beta carotene. That variety is expected to help combat vitamin A
deficiencies responsible for blindness among thousands across Asia.

The report recommends increased government and other public investment in
biotech research and development, along with consumer labeling of the
products that result.


GM fears are hurting developing world: UN

The Independent online (South Africa)
July 8, 2001

New York - The United Nations has urged rich countries to put aside their
fears of genetically modified organisms and help developing nations unlock
the potential of biotechnology, in a report to be officially presented on

"Biotechnology offers the only or the best 'tool of choice' for marginal
ecological zones, left behind by the green revolution but home to more
than half the world's poorest people," it said in its Human Development
Report 2001.

New crops, genetically enhanced to resist drought, pests and disease,
could help to reduce the malnutrition that affects 800-million people
worldwide, it said.

A top priority was to develop "new varieties of sorghum, cassava, maize
and other staple foods of sub-Saharan Africa", said the report.

Technological advances in plant breeding, fertilisers and pesticides had
already doubled world cereal yields in the past four decades, the report

But it said the potential of biotechnology, which accelerates the process
of cross-breeding by transferring genes from one plant species to another,
had barely been exploited.

The area under transgenic crops increased from 2 million hectares in 1996
to 44 million hectares last year, but 98 percent of that was in three
countries: the United States, Canada and Argentina.

The director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),
Jacques Diouf, said he was opposed to the use of transgenic crops in
developing countries, even while warning that the Aids epidemic is
"jeopardising the basic human right to food for millions of people".

The FAO estimates that Aids has killed seven million farmworkers since
1985 in the 25 hardest-hit countries in Africa and that 16 million more
could die before 2020, cutting the agricultural workforce in some
countries by a quarter.

But "there has not been a single proven death from genetically modified
foods", the administrator of the UN Development Programme, Mark
Malloch-Brown, said at a press briefing to launch the Human Development

He noted efforts by the UNDP and the Japanese government to develop a new
strain of rice, crossing Asian higher yields with the tougher, African
types resistant to drought, insects and weeds.

The new variety had "a huge potential transformation for small farmers and
for the whole region", he said.

The report recognised that there were unanswered questions about the
impact of transgenic crops on the environment.

But, it said, the debate should not be driven by conservationists in the
rich countries alone.

Rich countries could help by sharing the fruits of their research, it
said, noting that the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety set up a
clearing-house for countries to exchange information on genetically
modified organisms.

The protocol has so far been signed by 103 countries and received five of
the 50 ratifications it requires to enter force. - Sapa-AFP

Leading Rice Scientist Says Biotechnology Vital For Developing World

Agence France-Presse
July 10 2000

BANGKOK - One of the world's top rice experts said Tuesday that
biotechnology is a critical weapon in the developing world's battle
against hunger and malnutrition.

Gurdev Khush of the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute
defended genetically modified (GM) crops at a Bangkok conference sponsored
by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). "We
have to use all the tools at our disposal to develop new plant varieties,"
he told the audience
of some 200 scientists and industry leaders.

Khush said biotechnology could be used to develop plant varieties that
would boost yields and nutrition, and transform the lives of the world's

The International Rice Research Institute has recently begun research on
so-called Golden rice, a variety that would produce high levels of vitamin

Khush said such a rice could save the sight of nearly one million
malnourished children who go blind every year due to vitamin A

Despite rising public fears over the safety of "Frankenfoods", Khush said
transgenic or genetically modified crops are not inherently more risky
than traditionally developed crops.

"Over 70,000 hectares of GM crops are currently under production and there
have been no reported cases of disease or illness from these crops," he

The actual needs of the hungry far outweighed the potential risks of
transgenic crops, he argued.

At the opening of the conference Tuesday, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister
John Prescott defended genetically engineered food and crops and slammed
"violent" protest tactics which were hampering development of the

"Biotechnology has the potential to bring tremendous benefits, and I think
that is widely agreed," he told the meeting which will debate the safety
of GM products over the next three days.

"But the process of international negotiations has been disrupted in
recent years by violent protests at big international meetings," he said.

"I reject the violence, intimidation and 'burn the books' mentality of
some of the demonstrators."

The Bangkok conference, sponsored by the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the British government, has been
boycotted by an environmental alliance led by Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Thai Researchers Striving To Save The Papaya

July 10, 2001

BANGKOK, July 10 (Reuters) - Thai scientists are developing a genetically
modified strain of papaya in a bid to halt the spread of a disease that
threatens to wipe out the fruit.

"This is the last chance for the papaya in Thailand. Without this
technology the fruit will die out," Assistant Professor Sunee Kertbundit,
leader of the project at Bangkok's Mahidol University, told Reuters. The
Mahidol University team is aiming to create a strain of papaya that is
immune to the ringspot virus, which Sunee said was "threatening the very
survival of the papaya".

If field trials are successful, Sunee anticipates that the seeds of the
new strain will be distributed to farmers across Thailand.

Sunee said she hoped opposition to genetically modified organism (GMO)
foods, and government restrictions on GMO products, would not scupper the

"It is our aim to help struggling farmers. The project has been sponsored
by government grants, rather than multi-national corporations," she said.

"I understand the concerns of environmental organisations but research has
been and will continue to be thorough. Greenpeace International have been
involved and it has also been supervised by the National Biosafety

British Deputy PM Defends Genetically Modified Crops

Agence France-Presse
July 10, 2001

BANGKOK, July 10 (AFP) - Britain's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
Tuesday defended genetically modified (GM) food and crops and slammed
"violent" protest tactics which were hampering development of the

"Biotechnology has the potential to bring tremendous benefits, and I think
that is widely agreed," Prescott told an international conference which
began debating the safety of GM products in the Thai capital Tuesday.
"But the process of international negotiations has been disrupted in
recent years by violent protests at big international meetings," he said.

"I reject the violence, intimidation and 'burn the books' mentality of
some of the demonstrators."

The Bangkok conference, sponsored by the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the British government, has been
boycotted by an environmental alliance led by Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The protesters mounted a march on the opening of the meeting at the United
Nations building Tuesday, deriding the forum as an attempt by rich
countries to force their technology on the developing world.

"They are more keen to protect the corporations and their investments
while asking the countries of the South to accept the violation of the
laws of nature and religious ethics in return for GM crops," the alliance

About 30 demonstrators, including villagers from Thailand's provinces,
dumped garbage bins full of genetically modified papayas, tomatoes and
corn on the steps of the UN building.

Greenpeace International representative Jan van Aken backed the protests
and said it was no coincidence the forum was being held in the capital of
a developing nation.

"I think they have a point. Why are they holding the meeting here. To use
it as a propaganda show?"

"I'm curious to see if there is one single critical word in the final
report. Our experience with the OECD is that they are an organisation for
industrialised countries," he told AFP.

In his opening speech, Prescott acknowledged the protest, and urged the
200 government officials and industry leaders attending the biotechnology
meeting to "move ahead responsibly and not store up trouble for the

He said that despite the potential risks they introduced, genetically
engineered food and crops had the capacity to help humanity.

Prescott acknowledged deep public suspicion towards GM technology, partly
due to a lack of transparency in research work and a widely held belief
that the biotech industry has tried to force products on an unwilling

"The public's real concerns must be addressed and there must be greater
transparency of information in the labelling of GM foods to allow genuine
consumer choice," he said.

The conclusions of the Bangkok meeting entitled "New Biotechnology Food
and Crops: Science, Safety and Society" will be presented at the Group of
Eight summit of industrialised nations in Genoa from July 20 to 22.

Organisations co-sponsoring the conference, including the World Health
Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations
Environment Program, plan to launch discussions on the results.

Developing countries will suffer without continued globalisation

The Times of London
By Anatole Kaletsky
July 10, 2001

AS THE anti-globalisation movement prepares for its next carnival of
anarchy, to accompany the G7 summit in Genoa later this month, it is time
for the silent sympathisers of global economic sabotage to re-examine
their consciences. Organisations such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and Save the
Children Fund, which claim to represent the interests of the world's
poorest people, should be passionate campaigners in favour of agricultural
and medical research. If their mission is to alleviate poverty and hunger,
how can they hope to be taken seriously as long as they side with pampered
middle-class opponents of genetically modified agriculture, make common
cause with "environmentalist" technological saboteurs or support
animal-rights fanatics who are trying to stamp out medical research?

In doing this they could find no better starting point than the UN
Development Programme's Human Development Report published this week. The
report offers a powerful and convincing case in favour of globalisation,
presented from the point of view of the developing countries and the
world's poor. These arguments, backed up by abundant analysis and
statistics, are too often neglected in the debate about globalisation and
international capitalism's human effects.

The report shows that significant improvements in health, nutrition and
living standards for the world's poorest people have actually been
achieved in the past 30 years, largely as a result of technology,
globalisation and market forces. In terms of life expectancy, infant
mortality, malnutrition, literacy, female equality and even political
freedom, the lot of the world's poorest people is vastly better today than
it was 30 years ago. A child born in a developing country today can, on
average, expect to live nine years longer than one born in the early

But despite these advances in most people's absolute welfare and
life-chances, there is a widespread belief among the campaigners against
global capitalism that market forces have widened the relative gap between
rich and poor. Is this really true?

In relation to the advanced capitalist world, the average per capita
income in developing countries has risen only very slightly since 1960, as
shown in the top chart. What is most striking, however, is the regional
divergence. In 1960, most developing countries had average incomes
equivalent to between 9 and 12 per cent of the income level in rich OECD
countries. Today this average relative income is 13.5 per cent. Thus there
has been a modest improvement in the relative standing of the developing
countries over the last 40 years.

However, the absolute gap between rich and poor countries has widened,
since a 2 per cent real annual growth rate in the rich Northern countries,
(which have an average income of $ 26,000) produces a bigger rise in
spending power than a growth rate of 3, 4 or even 5 per cent in the South
(with an average income of $ 3,500). This apparent widening in inequality
is, however, an arithmetical curiosity. As the proportional gap between
the North and South narrows, the extra wealth produced by the South's high
growth rates will quickly compound.

Take China. China has had a very high growth rate for 20 years, but it
started out so poor that it has only recently begun to catch up with the
North in terms of absolute income. But having got to where it is today,
China could completely eliminate its present sevenfold income disadvantage
in another 45 years, if it could continue growing 4 per cent faster than
the North.

This example points to history's main lesson with regard to the income
gaps between rich and poor countries. Instead of a single pattern of poor
countries getting either richer or poorer, there has been a diverse
experience, with performance depending on the economic policies pursued by
individual countries and their involvement in global markets. People in
Asia have enjoyed a big improvement in living standards, especially since
the 1980s, when China and India began to adopt market reforms. Africa, by
contrast, has suffered a precipitous decline in relative income and Latin
America has made very little progress.

On balance it seems clear, therefore, that a globalised capitalist economy
can provide opportunities for developing countries provided the right
policies are adopted. But what should these policies be? It is to this
crucial question that the UNDP offers some challenging answers. The sound
macroeconomics and market liberalisation proposed by the World Bank and
the IMF are all very well, but a lot more can be done to maximise the
benefits of globalisation for the world's poor.

The UNDP's central argument is that much more can be done to harness the
power of technological progress to the needs of the poor. Technology can
actually do more for poor countries than for rich ones -and in many
circumstances technological progress can produce results faster than
economic progress. The UNDP observes life expectancy doubled between 1930
and 1970 in most of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In Europe, it took 150
years to produce the same gains. Europe's health gains were achieved
through economic and social changes, such as sanitation and diets. The
gains in the South were mostly a result of medical technology, especially
advances in antibiotics and vaccines.

A similar story can be told about malnutrition. Since 1970 the threat of
famine has been almost eliminated in Asia, despite the rapid growth of the
population. This was made possible by the doubling of cereal yields that
resulted from technological breakthroughs in plant breeding, pesticides
and fertilisers. It took England almost 1,000 years to achieve similar
gains in yields before the Industrial Revolution.

Such examples suggest that enormous gains in human welfare could be
achieved if technological progress could be directed towards the social
and economic problems faced by developing countries.

If the rich people of the North really wanted to help the poor of the
South they would not just pour money into debt relief, structural
adjustment or dam-building projects. And they would not try to stamp out
GM foods or attack medical research efforts. Those who seriously want to
help the world's poor should be campaigning for more research on malaria,
Aids and TB. They should support genetic engineering with a focus on
tropical crops and animals. And they should demand energy policies,
including emissions trading, that would encourage commercial development
of cheap renewable energy sources.

In sum, it seems clear that the potential gains for humanity as a whole
from technological advances affecting the South could dwarf anything that
is likely to be achieved by the computer, Internet and biotechnology
revolutions in the North. That is the good news. The bad news, however, is
that the market structures and economic policies that govern the world
economy today are unlikely to create the necessary incentives to redirect
technological progress in the direction of developing countries and poor

Under the incentives created by the present global system of patenting,
copyright and intellectual property protection, pharmaceutical companies
will make more profit from baldness cures than they would from developing
malaria or TB vaccines. Microsoft will spend far more money on tweaking
its Windows and Word programs than all the poor countries of the world
will spend on buying cheap computers. Genetic engineering laboratories
will improve crops for American, not for African, farmers.

Can market mechanisms ever create incentives to develop technology
primarily for the benefit of very poor people? In my view the answer is
probably not, although the UNDP understandably prevaricates on this
question, calling for more "global partnerships" and trade negotiations.

But a starker conclusion may well be justified: Intellectual property
rights may well be a genuine case of market failure, justifying subsidies,
government intervention, suspension of patents and copyrights and direct
public spending. Here, then, could be a cause to rally opponents of global
capitalism. The protesters in Genoa could start demanding cheaper GM
crops, more medical experiments on animals, free licensing of software and
diversion of aid funds from debt relief to energy research. If those were
their demands, I might join them.

Date: Thu, 05 Jul 2001 16:07:25 -0500
From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Re: The Limits of Growth and its implications for agricultural

A recent exchange between Red Porphyry and Bob MacGregor has been very
informative. Red Porphyry has argued that no reconciliation or
accommodation can exist between supporters of agricultural biotechnology
and its opponents because of fundamental differences of view about the
"Limits of Growth." Bob MacGregor responded to Red by arguing that Red's
points about the limits of growth, based on concern about petroleum
resources, are factually ill-founded and that therefore the crisis Red
predicts will not occur. Bob says he is optimistic that human beings will
have the resources to survive as human beings.

I agree with Bob MacGregor that we have the resources now and in the
future to improve the lot of humankind. However, I agree with Red
Porphyry that the supporters and opponents of agribiotech hold
irreconcilable positions. I can agree with both Bob and Red because the
issue is not petroleum (i.e. resources); the issue ultimately for Limits
of Growth proponents is population. In other words for Limits of Growth
proponents, human beings are the problem but they (Limits of Growth
proponents) cannot say that too straightforwardly because they must then
answer the following two questions:
1. Which specific human beings are the problem? and
2. How did the Limits of Growth proponents identify those specific human
beings as the problem? (Or to put the questions more bluntly, who must
starve and who determines who must starve?)

Agricultural biotechnology brings these issues into sharp and
irreconcilable focus. To give an example, let us take Golden Rice.
Opponents of Golden Rice argue publicly that Golden Rice will not work.
Proponents respond that Golden Rice will work. However, if you read
carefully the arguments of opponents, including Red Porphyry's arguments,
you will understand that the opponents true worry is not that Golden Rice
will not work but, just the opposite, that Golden Rice will work
alleviating hunger and death. Opponents of Golden Rice and agribiotech
are fundamentally worried that agricultural biotechnology will feed more
people. As people are the problem, opponents of agricultural
biotechnology cannot compromise because they (Limits of Growth proponents)
know that agricultural biotechnology will be successful. For Limits of
Growth proponents, Bob MacGregor's optimism at feeding more people is
precisely the problem because more people are the problem.

When the points that I have made above are clearly understood, many
implications flow from this recognition that for Limits of Growth
proponents people are the problem. Let me briefly list several:
1. Limits of Growth proponents know that 40% of the present population,
which automatically excludes any additional population increase, cannot
survive on the nitrogen cycle for plant growth from the use of recycled
green manures and other sources of non-synthetic fertilizers. As LoG
proponents believe that population is the problem, their support for
organic agriculture with its self-imposed, in-built nitrogen-cycle
limitation is in fact a purposefully chosen way to limit population.
People will simply starve.

With human beings being the problem, human beings who invent new
agricultural technologies to feed more people (such as the industrial
synthesis of ammonia, the Haber-Bosch process) are doubly the problem
because they used their human ingenuity to violate the LoG movement's
fundamental moral and philosophical commitment to the Limits of Growth.
In the most recent terminology of organic agriculture, people like Fritz
Haber and Carl Bosch (who invented and engineered ammonia synthesis for
nitrogen fertilizer and were awarded Nobel Prizes in chemistry ) are
called "Monsatan" -- the evil empire of industrial agriculture. Read the
wonderful history of science, Vaclav Smil, ENRICHING THE EARTH: Fritz
Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production (MIT
Press, 2001).

2. Proponents of Limits of Growth (almost to a person from wealthy,
educated strata of their respective societies) are very interested in
their personal existence but not interested in additional population.
Hence, they have only weakly and intermittently argued against medical or
pharmaceutical biotechnology because they want to live longer, quality
lives. They attack agribiotech vigorously and continuously because
agricultural biotechnology will increase the quantity of lives while
making all of us face the moral and ethical dilemma of how to insure that
we share quality of life with these additional (and presently existing,
starving and ill-nourished ) fellow human beings. Read any of several
recent books by Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize economist, to engage the
issues about sharing food with our fellow human beings.

3. Limits of Growth proponents (the Club of Rome, Donella Meadows, Barry
Commoner, Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown) are primarily doomsday-scenario
people in the apocalyptic tradition of any religion. (The LoG religion is
Mother Gaia.). They will predict the apocalypse while simultaneously
explaining how the "enlightened" will be saved. The enlightened become
enlightened by ceasing to think (i.e. abandon all ingenuity ye who enter
here; condemn the unenlightened who value ingenuity) and by following the
doomsday prophet. The Boston University Center that studies apocalyptic
movements has recently published several studies about how some
environmental leaders are within this tradition and how the environmental
movement (for educated, wealthy persons in the world) is a major source of
apocalyptic longings and belonging.

Bob and Red are on fundamentally antagonistic sides of the River Styx over
which no bridge exists. Bob believes we ought to feed people using our
ingenuity; Red believes we ought to starve people by suppressing
ingenuity. I am with Bob.

Drew Kershen

Date: 9 Jul 2001 22:07:40 -0000
From: "Red Porphyry"
To: AgBioView-owner@listbot.com
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Limit to growth

Bob MacGregor, in his AgBioView submission "Re: Limits to Growth"
(AgBioView msg #1118), wishes to know whether or not I believe that
physical limits to economic growth exist, limits that ultimately cannot be
overcome by technology. My answer is that the jury is still out on the
"Limits to Growth" paradigm. While I do believe that this paradigm is
essentially the "common sense" position, I'm also open-minded enough to
give the deus ex machina known as Technology until 2010 to definitively
prove whether or not "Limits to Growth" is fundamentally flawed
conceptually. Fortunately, the fact that government, business and
scientific leaders worldwide firmly
decided to put the world economy on the path that the "Limits to
Growth" authors called Scenario 2 (200 years worth of finite resources at
1990 resource consumption levels, with everything (resources, goods,
services, education, science) allocated in accordance with market-based

I say "fortunately" because, by putting the world irrevocably onto the
Scenario 2 path, the "Limits to Growth" paradigm can be definitively
tested and either validated or debunked.

By the end of 2010, if we see the following:

(1) worldwide annual oil production is either in definitive decline or has
been stagnant since at least 2005,

(2) worldwide annual oil discovery, averaged for the period 2000-2010, is
less than 5 billion barrels, with a falling trend line,

(3) worldwide annual food production has either started to decline or
has been stagnant since at least 2005,

(4) worldwide annual generation of industrial and agricultural
pollution is rising at a rapid exponential rate,

it means that the "Limits to Growth" paradigm has real strength behind it.
By contrast, if by the end of 2010, we see the following:

(5) worldwide annual oil production is rising steadily,

(6) worldwide annual oil discovery, averaged for the period 2000-2010, is
more than 5 billion barrels, with a rising trend line,

(7) worldwide annual food production is increasing at a strong clip,

(8) worldwide annual generation of industrial and agricultural
pollution either stagnant or in definitive decline,

it means that the "Limits to Growth" paradigm can be trumped by the
deus ex machina of Technology.

The next ten years will be an interesting ride!