AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
* UN Official Urges Rich Nations Not To Block Life-Saving Modified Crops
* UNDP Report: Making new technologies work for human development
* Public Attitudes towards Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing
Countries: A Comparison between Mexico and the Philippines
* Editorial: Making War on the Hungry
* Tech's promise
* No Starlink Found in Allergy Samples
* Organic Pesticide Flunks the Rat Tests
* Limits of Growth
* China Forges Ahead With Biotech Research Despite Safety Fears
* New Technology Adjusts Gene Expression
* Today's celebrity chefs are serving up a menu of global doom and
politically twisted snobbery
* Biotech plantings soar despite debate
* AG Biotech: Developing countries turn to genetically modified crops.
* Philippine Draft on Biotech Policy
* Shane Morris' Sad but True Experience with German Potato Huggers
UN Official Urges Rich Nations Not To Block Life-Saving Modified Crops
July 10, 2001
MEXICO CITY, July 10 (AFP) - A top UN official on Tuesday urged rich
nations not to block the development of genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) which he said could save the lives of millions who would otherwise
die of starvation.
"While the risks are as yet unproven, there is a very proven risk from
malnutrition: 850 million people in the world go to bed every night
hungry," said Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the UN Development Programme
(UNDP). "Unproven scientific fears should not lead to the unnecessary loss
of tens of millions of lives to hunger," he said at a news conference in
Mexico City, after presenting a UN report that urges rich countries to put
aside their fears of GMOs.
At a ceremony to present the report, Malloch Brown said "it would be wrong
for rich Northern consumers, faced with overflowing supermarket shelves,
to block development of these technologies that hold so much promise to
help feed the poor."
He said there was a huge potential to create more nutritious, drought-and
disease-resistant crops, which could also help reverse desertification in
many developing countries.
"The developing world has for far too long been victimized by creeping
double standard by which rich nations, having benefited from revolutions
in pharmaceuticals, agriculture and information and communications
technologies, are questioning their utility for the poor," the UN official
The UNDP's annual Human Development Report said the potential of
biotechnology, which accelerates the process of cross-breeding by
transferring genes from one plant species to another, has barely been
The report acknowledged that fears about risks to human health and the
environment had fuelled mistrust of new technologies in rich countries,
particularly in Europe.
Malloch Brown stressed the report did not suggest glossing over concerns
about the potential risks of GMOs.
"We are as rigorous as groups such as Greenpeace in saying there must be
the highest level of regulation in terms of food safety and environmental
protection," he said.
But the environmental group Greenpeace harshly criticized UNDP for
"Rather than advocate the export of unsafe and risky genetic technology
toward countries of the South, agencies like UNDP should concentrate on
promoting and disseminating proven and sustainable methods to improve
agricultural practices," said Greenpeace Mexico activist Raul Benet,
interrupting the formal ceremony.
The UNDP report also states that inadequate public funding, market
distortions and unfair intellectual property rights deny the benefits of
high-tech advances to Third World countries.
It called for greater international funding for research and development,
and differential pricing of medicines and other high- tech products
between rich and poor nations.
"It is past time to put to rest the sterile debate over whether new
technologies are a luxury or a necessity for the poor," said Malloch Brown.
Mexican President Fox, who attended the ceremony at the presidential
palace in Mexico City, praised the report.
"It invites us to ensure that science, technology and research be
available to confront the challenges posed by poverty, marginalization,
exclusion and the lack of opportunities," he said.
Read the Full Report:
Making new technologies work for human development
United Nations Development Programme
Technology networks are transforming the traditional map of development,
expanding people's horizons and creating the potential to realize in a
decade progress that required generations in the past. Download the
complete Human Development Report in one big file (3.3MB) or by chapter.
Public Attitudes towards Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing
Countries: A Comparison between Mexico and the Philippines
Center for International Development at Harvard University via Debate 2001
Summary: Though the public debate on the potential risks and benefits of
agricultural biotechnology is discussed globally, it is often reduced to a
transatlantic debate with the United States as the main producer of
bioengineered crops and Europe as the main opponent to such crops.
Developing countries often find themselves in an uncomfortable position in
The aim of this paper is to portray the views on agricultural
biotechnology expressed by the political stakeholders involved in the
public debates in developing countries. The empirical part is based on two
surveys conducted in Mexico and the Philippines.
The study shows that most of the respondents to the surveys consider
biotechnology a powerful new tool to address problems in agriculture,
nutrition and the environment, and they do not seem to share Europe’s fear
of potential health risks for consumers. In turn, they are concerned about
corporate control of the technology, and the potential impact of such
crops on their countries’ rich biological diversity.
Instead of simply importing bioengineered crops from industrialized
countries, they would prefer to create their own domestic research
capacities. This would enable them to design varieties that are most
appropriate to their problems in agriculture. However, this would require
a strong commitment of industrialized countries to support these efforts.
In general, the surveys indicate that existing expectations and concerns
regarding agricultural biotechnology in developing countries differ
significantly from those expressed in the transatlantic debate. At the
same time, there are also different perceptions among developing
countries. For example, a majority of the Filipino stakeholders consider a
domestically developed form of organic farming a better alternative to
agricultural biotechnology for resource-poor farmers to ensure their own
food security, whereas this is not the case in Mexico. While both
countries consider marketing and infrastructure problems to be very
important, Mexico considers drought to be the most serious problem in
agriculture and genetic engineering is expected to make a significant
contribution towards solving this problem. In both countries, agricultural
biotechnology is considered to help solving other important problems such
as plant infestation, plant disease, and high use of pesticides.
Our conclusions indicate that a global system of governance of
agricultural biotechnology cannot just rely on Western views, if it is to
minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of this technology. Such a
system needs to consider the perspective of the stakeholders in developing
countries to a much greater extent.
From: Klaus Ammann
Subject: Debate 2001'0710 a: Philippe Aerni: Public Attitudes towards
Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing Countries
This is really a thing: Philippe Aerni's analysis with all the graphs. Its
giving a deep insight in the debate on genetic engineering.
And the author does it with the instrument of an intelligent
comparison between Mexico and the Philipines.
Just look at the illustration No. 12 in the ppt file: its still
the academia with a leading influence - this should encourage you all,
But it also means to realize the burden of a great responsability
academics have to face - particularly those still highly respected
living in developing countries....
Overall: A pleasure to read and important to understand.
His most important conclusion:
Our conclusions indicate that a global system of governance of agricultural
biotechnology cannot just rely on Western views, if it is to minimize the
risks and maximize the benefits of this technology. Such a system needs to
consider the perspective of the stakeholders in developing countries to a
much greater extent.
And another crucially important conclusion related to developing countries:
The study shows that most of the respondents to the surveys consider
biotechnology a powerful new tool to address problems in agriculture,
nutrition and the environment, and they do not seem to share Europe's fear
of potential health risks for consumers. In turn, they are concerned about
corporate control of the technology, and the potential impact of such crops
on their countries' rich biological diversity.
Editorial: Making War on the Hungry
Omaha World Herald
July 10, 2001
A new United Nations report contains a warning for a particular group of
America's pampered protesters.
Destroy the biotech industry, the report says in effect, and you will be
harming the poor of the world. This isn't the type of information the foes
of genetically engineered crops and livestock seem to want to hear, at
least those who ally themselves with the larger anti-globalism movement
that blames the industrial West for many of the Third World's woes. But
consider the source: The United Nations, dominated by Third World
interests, has produced a mountain of reports, studies and resolutions in
recent years that take a similar caustic look at the industrial West. Its
environmentalism tends toward exaggeration. The fact that the new report
stresses human needs over alleged environmental concerns is well worth
The report includes sensible precautions. Genetically engineered materials
ought to be thoroughly tested before being released for general use, it
Of course they should. Undue risks in the name of development could not be
justified. Undue risks, however, are more likely the province of the foes
of development, the U.N. report indicates.
"The current debate in Europe and the United States over genetically
modified crops mostly ignores the concerns and needs of the developing
world," its authors wrote.
"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,' but farming communities in
developing countries are more likely to focus on potentially higher yields
and greater nutritional value," the report said.
People in developing countries also place a higher value on crops that can
survive with fewer pesticides that, the report said, "can damage the soil
and sicken farmers." For field workers, a crop that genetically resists
insect damage, for example, would be vastly preferable to working in
clouds of sprayed poison. For parents, a strain of rice that contains
Vitamin A can go much further to secure their children's healthy survival
than the strains now under
cultivation in much of the Third World.
But the poor of the world will have these advantages only if the
developers hold out against an increasingly strident campaign, in both
Europe and America, to halt the research and remove the products from
Nobody is saying biotechnology should be dumped willy-nilly on the Third
World. But certainly when an adequately tested product has the promise of
enhancing health, cutting pollution or combating hunger, it ought to be
made available as promptly as possible.
The people who are breaking into labs and ripping the seedlings out of
test plots are not only making war on the big biotech companies - they are
also taking food from the mouths of hungry people. In the name of all that
is decent, it ought to stop.
July 11, 2001
The United Nations' human development report is known for preaching
sermons about the injustice of poverty and offering solutions that
advocate moving forward rapidly into the past. But this year it hits an
important target. It should be mandatory reading for every self-appointed
representative of "civil society" who rails against globalisation.
The report scotches one of the protesters' favourite arguments: that the
fruits of scientific and technological advances, such as genetically
modified crops, are suspect and are foisted on defenceless countries by
rapacious multinational companies. On the contrary, the authors say, bold
innovation and freer technology flows are developing countries' salvation
and they need more of them, not less. They point out that scientific
breakthroughs in rich countries have been the key to improving health,
nutrition, life expectancy and
living standards in much of the developing world. These have sometimes
occurred faster than they did in earlier periods in rich countries.
The report is particularly enthusiastic about the internet and computing.
Rather than worrying that poor countries will be marginalised further by a
"digital divide", it hails these innovations and the new knowledge
diffusion patterns associated with them as ways to spread prosperity more
widely. So much for claims that intermediate technologies are the answer.
Nonetheless, for all the report's breathless excitement about the advent
of borderless networked societies, the promise of technology remains
largely unfulfilled in developing countries. As it points out, they are
handicapped by serious barriers to take-up. They include high product
prices, lack of skills and proper regulation, inadequate research efforts
and "global market failure" - companies' refusal to invest in new
technologies for markets that cannot
The solutions proposed include a bigger effort and more effective reforms
by developing countries that are lagging behind; more investment in
training and research financed by refocused aid programmes; lower spending
on arms; more international support for technology transfer; cheaper drugs
and less stringent patent rules.
If such prescriptions are scarcely novel - and some are debatable - never
mind. The report beams a much-needed ray of hope on the future by showing
that science, technology and globalisation are essential development
tools, not threatening ogres. In doing so, it deals some well deserved
blows at muddle-headed activists - mostly in rich countries - who urge
developing nations to put up the barriers and cut themselves off from the
global mainstream. Doing so would only make them even poorer.
No Altered Corn Found in Allergy Samples
New York Times
July 11, 2001
Virtually all the food samples collected from consumers who complained of
allergic reactions to StarLink corn did not contain the genetically
modified corn at all, government tests have found. The results could
further allay concerns that StarLink had caused the reactions.
StarLink contains a bacterial gene that produces a protein in corn that
kills pests. It was approved for animal feed but not human consumption
because of concerns that the protein, known as Cry9C, could cause
allergies. But the corn has spread widely through the human food supply,
forcing the food industry to undergo costly recalls and testing. The
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said last month that they could not find evidence of allergic
reactions to StarLink in any of the 17 people who had complained of health
problems from StarLink and had agreed to donate blood for an allergy test.
The additional findings suggest that the consumers who complained had not
even eaten StarLink corn. These results are in a report prepared by the
Food and Drug Administration last month but were not included in the
Centers for Disease Control's report on the allergy testing. The F.D.A.
report was sent to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has
described the results in a document prepared for a public meeting it is
holding next week on StarLink.
The F.D.A. tested 11 food samples from 10 of the consumers. In most cases,
the samples were left over from the food the consumers had thought caused
their reactions. But it appears that in a couple of cases, an identical
item was bought from a grocery store. The foods included corn flakes, taco
shells and tortilla chips.
The gene for Cry9C was not detected in 10 of the 11 products. The protein
itself -- which is what would cause an allergic reaction -- was absent in
nine of the samples, including the one in which the gene was found.
Testing for the protein was inconclusive in a 10th case, while the 11th
food was not tested for protein because there was not enough of the sample
The food in which the StarLink gene was detected was Kash n' Karry white
corn tortilla chips. Keith Finger, an optometrist in Sebastian, Fla., said
he experienced itching, hives and a swelling of the lips after eating the
chips. The chips tested by the F.D.A. were not from the same bag eaten by
Dr. Finger, but from a different lot of the same product obtained from a
grocery store, according to the E.P.A. Kash n' Karry, a Florida retailer,
said last week that it had recalled the chips.
An E.P.A. science advisory panel will meet for two days next week in
Washington to discuss a request by Aventis CropScience, the developer of
StarLink, to allow small amounts of the corn in human food to ease the
burden of testing and recalls on the food industry. The environmental
agency's decision on that request is expected to rest largely on an
assessment of the risks to public health. Critics of genetically modified
foods are expected to challenge the validity
and scope of the government's allergy tests.
Organic Pesticide Flunks the Rat Tests
By Dennis T. Avery and Alex Avery
July 7, 2001
Those annoying neighbors who are always bragging about their "toxic-free"
organic food will have to come up with a new brag. One of the most widely
used organic pesticides, pyrethrum, has been declared a "likely human
carcinogen" by a scientific advisory committee of the Environmental
The scientific panel reached this conclusion two years ago, after
pyrethrum caused excess tumors in rats and mice, but the decision was
never announced to the public. It has only now come to light because of a
Another organic-approved pesticide, rotenone, was recently proven to cause
the symptoms of Parkinson's disease when administered to rats.
Does this mean none of our food is safe, including organic?
On the contrary, it means all of America's food is safer than you dared to
hope. For almost thirty years, organic farmers and the environmental
movement have lied about the dangers from man-made pesticides, based on a
foolish set of government high-dose rat tests that are guaranteed to
create the illusion of food risks.
Now one of the organic farmers' own organic pesticides has been caught in
the regulatory rat trap, and it's the biggest embarrassment ever for
organic food in decades.
Fortunately, the fact that pyrethrum has been classified as a "likely
human carcinogen" doesn't mean the chemical is a threat to consumers.
Pyrethrum is a potent botanical nerve toxin, but it has relatively low
toxicity for people, it's applied at low rates, it degrades quickly in
sunlight, and it leaves little residue.
African women and children handpick pyrethrum flowers by the billions to
supply the politically correct poison to wealthy nations, without
suffering any notable health effects. In the 19th century, people used
ground-up pyrethrum flowers as a body powder to kill lice -- without
setting off a cancer epidemic.
But the regulatory test for "human carcinogens" is not whether the
pesticide causes cancer in people at realistic exposure levels. Only one
approved pesticide has ever flunked that test: lead arsenate, the
multi-dangered "natural" pest poison that the man-made pesticides replaced
40 years ago.
The official test for a "likely human carcinogen" is whether or not giving
the rats 100,000 times or 200,000 times the expected human exposure can
cause extra rat tumors. Thousands of chemicals, both natural and man-made,
have been given this test and about half in both categories have caused
That's due in large part to the high doses. Toxicology's first rule is
"the dose makes the poison." Many poisons are actually beneficial to
people in small doses (like iodine). But at high doses, nearly everything
(including salt) is dangerous. In short, the high-dose rodent tests are
guaranteed to give our foods the illusion of cancer risk. That's why the
rat tests have been so beloved by the environmental activists and organic
farmers who've been protesting modern high-yield farming all these years.
Since the 1930s, organic activists have claimed that organic food was
healthier and kinder to the environment than "chemically farmed" food. The
most seductive argument was that organic foods were free of "chemical
pesticides." What most people don't realize -- and activists try to hide
-- is that organic farmers are allowed to use a wide array of natural
chemicals as pest killers. They're natural, but they're poisonous too, and
often more toxic to people, birds, and fish than the synthetics.
Copper sulfate, an approved organic fungicide, is corrosive and toxic to
humans, and very toxic to fish and earthworms. The EPA says its synthetic
competitor, mancozeb, is "practically non-toxic" to humans, moderately
toxic to birds and has "moderate to low" toxicity to earthworms. Worse,
the copper becomes a permanent soil contaminant. Mancozeb degrades in
about two weeks.
Nicotine was once an approved organic pesticide. It's a natural nerve
toxin, used by farmers for 300 years. There's enough nicotine in a pack of
cigarettes to kill several adults, although most nicotine is destroyed
during smoking. Nicotine was deemed too toxic for use on food crops
decades ago. Modern science now gives us a synthetic version of nicotine
(imidicloprid) safe enough to use on food crops and even directly on pets
in once-a-month flea control. It has quietly become one of the most widely
used pesticides in the world because of its effectiveness and safety.
We could make the rat tests more useful as an indicator of human safety by
testing at some reasonable safety factor -- giving the rats 1000 times the
highest expected human exposure, or even 10,000 times that level, to see
if they get tumors. Instead, testing labs are forced by law to raise the
dose until the rats are on the verge of death. They call it the "maximum
Will we make such a good-sense change in the rat tests? It's unlikely. Not
only would the eco-activists take to the streets in protest, but the news
media would campaign against sensible rat tests almost as urgently. The
food/cancer scares sell lots of newspapers. Who would turn on the TV to
learn that six more pesticides had been found totally safe?
Ron Cummings, head of the Organic Consumer's Association is more than
willing to sacrifice pyrethrum to the rodent gods. "If pyrethrum is as
dangerous as it sounds, then it shouldn't be allowed [for organic farms],"
he told us recently. The problem is that Cummings and his eco-allies are
backing humanity into a tighter and tighter corner on food production and
wildlife habitat preservation without -- giving us safer food.
One poor organic farmer in Michigan is trying to produce organic
vegetables by trundling a shop vacuum and a portable generator up and down
the rows in a wheelbarrow! He can suck up the adult insects, but not the
eggs. And no matter how hard he works, the shop vac is useless against
fungi and diseases.
The yields from organic farming are little more than half as high as the
yields from modern conventional farms -- and more vulnerable to pest
epidemics. One of the biggest organic farming operations in Europe says it
gets 44 percent less wheat per acre from its organic fields than from its
conventional ones. A Danish government committee says vegetable crop
yields would fall by half if only organic pesticides were used.
Those low yields are bad news for the environment. We're already farming
37 percent of the earth, and it looks as though 9 billion affluent humans
in 2050 will demand nearly three times today's farm output to ensure
high-quality diets for their kids and pets. (Pets would be an intolerable
burden for an organically fed world.)
The biggest environmental problem with organic farmers is their refusal to
use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen is the most important plant
nutrient. Synthetic nitrogen is cleanly and sustainably manufactured by
extracting it from the atmosphere, which is 78 percent nitrogen. Dr.
Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba estimates it would take the
manure from 6 billion cattle to replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.
That would force us to convert 8-9 million square miles of forest to
cattle pasture. That would be a bad trade for wildlife.
Organic farmers instead promise to promote more biodiversity on the farms.
That really means a few more spiders and butterflies in the fields, along
with a more generous supply of weeds (some of them even with flowers). But
a global organic farming mandate might cost the world about half of its
wildlife species as low-yield farming claimed more land from nature.
Finally, there's the ethical question. For decades, the organic movement
accused the chemical companies of being literally careless about
consumers, and especially children. They've claimed that marketing
"carcinogenic" pesticides shows the companies are irresponsible at best
and evil at worst.
So what happened when one of the organic movement's pesticides was caught
in the same phony rat trap? They kept it a secret for two years. The
secret was blown only when a pyrethrum supply company sued to get the EPA
to ignore its own scientific conclusions. They justified both actions on
the basis that" pyrethrum isn't really dangerous."
Neither are the conventional pesticides. It's time to ignore the organic
hype, and start trusting the food safety professionals at the Food and
Drug Administration. All the approved pest controls are safe.
d Fiber. Alex Avery, a
biologist, is Research Director for the Center, and is writing a book on
organic food myths.
Date: 10 Jul 2001 17:14:31 -0000
From: Alex Avery
Subject: Limits of Growth
Drew Kershen recently wrote "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."
His is, of course, dead on. But just to make clear--high-yield
agriculture does not mean more people. High birth rates and large
families are norms in poor, low-yield ag economies and countries. It is
only in high-income, high-productivity countries where birth rates fall
and population growth stops.
It may sound counterintuitive, but just look at the World Bank
development reports and you'll see this is true. Food security means
Date: Jul 10 2001 15:01:38 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Limits to Growth
This "Limits to Growth" discussion is interesting in several ways. One of
its more interesting facets is the assumption that the notion of a limit
to growth makes sense, just sitting by itself. The universe is a very big
place, so the notion of a limit to growing in
it is somewhat boggling.
On Earth, growth has typically been limited by technology - by the
ingenuity displayed by plants, animals and humans in finding and
exploiting new resources. The notion of a limit to this kind of growth is
also boggling. Does ingenuity somehow foresee its own limit? Does the
advance of technology imply that progress will end? I think not.
So, on two counts, the notion of Limits to Growth is not sensible. Of
course, technological progress is not guaranteed either, that's up to us.
China Forges Ahead With Biotech Research Despite Safety Fears
July 11, 2001
BANGKOK, July 11 (AFP) - China, already the first Asian nation to grow a
genetically modified crop on a commercial scale, has made biotechnology a
major research priority, a leading agriculture policy expert said
Huang Jikun, director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, told
an international conference in the Thai capital that China had 700,000
hectares of transgenic cotton under production. The strain has been
genetically modified to produce a toxin which deters cotton pests and
reduces the need for harmful pesticides.
Traditional cotton varieties require more pesticides than almost any other
agricultural crop, and are often sprayed as many as fifty times during a
single growing season.
Huang acknowledged the controversy and potential risks surrounding
transgenic plants, but said genetically modified (GM) cotton had benefited
Chinese farmers by reducing their needs for pesticide and labour.
"I haven't seen anyone die of GM crops so far, but every year nearly 500
people in China die of pesticide poisoning used with traditional crops,"
he told some 200 scientists and government officials attending the forum.
"I think we need to look carefully to see how China can benefit from
Other experts at the OECD-sponsored conference have urged Asian nations to
take a gamble on GM food and crops, saying that otherwise they risk not
being able to feed their huge populations in the decades ahead.
The controversy over transgenic crops is a luxury only rich and well-fed
countries can afford, said Robert Bertram of the US Agency for
"In the next 20 years food production will need to increase by 40 percent
in order to keep pace with population growth and the largest increases
will need to take place in Asia," he said.
Much of the transgenic cotton seed grown in China is developed and sold by
American agribusiness giant Monsanto.
But according to Andrew Powell, a biotechnology specialist with
Singapore-based ARB Consultants, the remainder is grown from seed
varieties developed by the Chinese themselves.
"Transgenic cotton has produced tremendous benefits in China," he said.
China is poised to become the leading light in Asia in terms of
biotechnology research and development.
Huang said there were more than 2,000 Chinese scientists specializing in
biotechnology work at more than 20 institutes across the country,
supported by huge government investments.
"It is the fastest-growing area of scientific research in China and one of
the major research priorities," he said.
India also has a growing expertise and investment in agricultural
Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines are
involved in biotechnology research as well, though on a smaller scale.
Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2001 14:12:08 -0500
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Hot Technology
New Technology Adjusts Gene Expression
July 6, 2001 Two scientists with the University of Queensland, Australia
have developed and patented technology which can adjust the expression of
a gene, either in the direction of silencing or amplification, the
Canberra Times reports. The GeneDimmer technology, discovered by Joseph
Rothnagel and Xue-Qing Wang from the university’s School of Molecular and
Microbial Sciences, is to be marketed in kit form to scientists throughout
GeneDimmer can either dim down the performance of gene expression by 85
percent or amplify it by up to 300 percent, Rothnagel said. He said that
possible applications include increasing yield and pest resistance in
transgenic crops, increasing production in industrial enzymes and
pharmaceutical yields, calibrating gene therapy dosages and probes for
detecting cancer and other diseases in clinical trials, as well as in
GeneDimmer Pty., Ltd. was formed to commercialize the technology with
$480,000 from Uniseed, a $20 million venture capital fund established last
year by the commercial arms of the University of Queensland and Melbourne
University. The company expects substantial global sales of the technology
Mean Cuisine: Gone is the Joy of Cooking
Today's celebrity chefs are serving up a menu of global doom and
politically twisted snobbery
The Washington Monthly
By Greg Critser
Chefs have always preached. But historically they did it to other chefs.
Later on, when chefs did preach to the diner, theirs was a message of
middle-class joy. To Julia Child and Betty Crocker, for example, great
food was that which the average consumer could buy at the supermarket,
take home, and cook.
But today's chefs, particularly today's celebrity chefs, cleave to a
different hortatory, one directed not at each other but almost entirely at
the diner, the ultimate vessel of their commerce. And a big and
politically influential commerce that is.
In their worldview, food is no longer something to be enjoyed; it is
something to be feared and understood through a complicated set of new
rules that acknowledge the global implications of every plate of pâté.
Biotech plantings soar despite debate
July 9, 2001
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Genetically engineered crops are soaring in popularity
with U.S. farmers, exceeding levels the government predicted earlier this
year. The growth comes despite the lingering international resistance to
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
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.
More than three-fourths of the soybean crop in four states is biotech this
year: Kansas, South Dakota, Indiana and Nebraska.
In Louisiana, more than 90 percent of the cotton crop this year is
The popular varieties of biotech cotton are either Roundup-immune or else
produce their own pesticide. Most of the biotech corn that farmers plant
makes its own pesticide.
"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 sugar beets, 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.
There also has been strong resistance to biotech food in Europe and Japan.
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,
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.
Anderson, the Ohio farmer, can grow his own soybean seeds for half what it
costs him to buy genetically engineered seed. But like farmers across the
country, he cannot resist planting more of the biotech varieties. He is
growing 1,100 acres of soybeans this year, about 60 percent of which is
Roundup-tolerant. Last year, about half his crop was biotech.
In Ohio, 64 percent of the soybeans are genetically engineered this year,
compared with 48 percent in 2000.
The biotech seeds cost Anderson about $12 to $13 a bushel, compared with
the $5 or so it costs to raise his own conventionally bred seeds. Farmers
are not allowed to grow their own seed from genetically engineered
varieties because of patent protection claims by the seed companies.
Anderson plants the gene-altered seeds in fields where he expects the most
problems with weeds.
"After planting every year I wish I was 100 percent" biotech. "It's just
that much easier," he said.
Read the full USDA report:
New Markets for Biotech
AG Biotech: Developing countries turn to genetically modified crops.
By Alexandra Stikeman
Much of the push to commercialize the first generation of genetically
engineered crops has come from large companies in the United States and
Western Europe. But the next big producers of biotech crops could very
well be nations in the developing world. While battles over genetically
modified foods have slowed the technology's progress in Europe and North
America, countries such as China and India are now gearing up to
commercialize dozens of genetically modified plants in the next few years
(see "Eating the Genes").
PHILIPPINE DEPT OF AGRICULTURE ISSUES DRAFT ON BIOTECH POLICY
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has issued a draft of a policy
statement, which is expected to promote biotechnology and, at the same
time, give protection to human and environmental safety.
A top DA official said that Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Q. Montemayor
had already signed the draft, which has been endorsed with President
Arroyo for further review.
We shall promote the safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology and
its products as one of several means to achieve and sustain food security,
equitable access to health services, sustainable and safe environment, and
industry development, the draft policy said.
Montemayor said that The policy statement should be a general statement
that is neither restrictive nor permissive; neutral and objective so as to
balance the interests and concerns of all stakeholders, and instructive so
as to guide government agencies in their work.
While promoting biotechnology, the DA official said that the policy
statement does not readily ensure the commercialization of
insect-protected (Bt) corn once this has been proven to be adaptable to
the Philippine environment. Bt corn is currently being field tested in
various areas in the country.
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2001 13:29:21 -0400
From: Shane Morris
Just wanted to share an experience with you.....sadly a true one....
With the cold wind of the Irish rejection of the European Nice Treaty
still swirling in the letters pages of the web version of the Irish Times
which I read here on the other side of the world, a strange experience
yesterday brought the question of Europe, that my fellow Irish men and
women recently vexed over, crashing onto my Canadian door step.
The experience started with a colleague telling me as I returned from yet
another Canadian coffee that "some Germans called, they are going to visit
the farm and they want to met the Irish guy, which I suppose is you!".
Good I thought, some Europeans would be interesting. It turned out that
the Germans were a group filming an EU commission sponsored documentary on
biotechnology food and the public. They were interested in seeing the
research that we do on a family run farm in Ontario with GM crops. As a
critic of both sides of the debate on GM food my first thought was what a
good idea a specific documentary would be. Also I thought what a fantastic
opportunity it would be for my Canadian colleagues to meet with some
Europeans who have an interest in GM food so they could judge for
themselves the opinions and concerns of my fellow EU citizens.
The day arrived and on a sunny Sunday morning we headed out to the farm.
As a long time EU supporter I resisted the urge to don my European Peoples
Party t-shirt or to wear my little EU pin which I received as a school kid
when I visited the EU parliament to speak. Figuring I had more in common
with Berlin than Boston I looked forward to hearing of the home land that
I call Europe and talking about the interest that the EU commission has in
the GM debate. Maybe we'd discuss what the opinions of the German
agriculture commissioner Frans Fishler were and how Europe is moving the
GM food debate along with a collection of new regulations. As a dedicated
Europhile I was
particularly proud that the EU commission was taking a proactive role in
attempting to inform Europeans on GM food. I expected a few questions on
Irelands recent rejection of the EU Nice Treaty but I was prepared.
The Germans uncharacteristically turned up late, three men looking as
typically touristy as an American tourist sight seeing in Clifden in
Connemara (in Ireland). Nevertheless greetings were exchanged and the farm
owner, my Canadian colleague, a visiting Irish student from Letrim (who
was a fluent German speaker) and myself eagerly welcomed them to the
humble medium sized fruit and vegetable farm. A farm tour then commenced,
strawberries were consumed without washing by our German friends who were
already expressing concerns over the safety of GM food. By the time we got
to the first potato field I knew something was not right when one of the
Germans expressed the feeling that maybe genetic modification changed the
soul or life force of the plant. Having spent many years dealing with
questions on GM food I understand that every concern is very real to the
person who holds it. As a result all concerns should be dealt with in a
serious and honest manner. I expressed the opinion that yes many people do
believe that genetic modification can change a soul of a plant. However, I
personally was of the opinion it did not change the plant's soul anymore
than that of hybrid breeding and forced mutation breeding carried out by
man for the last number of decades.
Things seemed a little weird when I heard that they were going to visiting
organic food advocates to discuss genetic modification. Why this seemed
odd is because many policy makers see as a unhelpful problem the growing
rift between the pro-organic lobby group and the pro-biotech group. This
rift makes the Sinn Fein and DUP discourse in Northern Ireland look like a
lovers tiff that can be easily fixed with a kiss and a hug. Like most
discourses there is an element of self interest on both sides. The
pro-biotech side wants its technology to be accepted while the pro-organic
side claim to have
just humanities interest at heart. However, it has become obvious to
policy makers world over that the pro-organic movement has a large
financial interest in seeing the distrust in modern farming grow. Even the
Irish government in a 2000 reported stated:
"Representatives of the organic farming and food sector have also been
prominent in the campaign against GM crops and foods.. We appreciate also
that the debate about genetic modification has given organic producers an
opportunity to draw attention to the merits of their own produce" (pg.
103). The Irish Government concludes that, even if they accept the
concerns of organic farmers regarding possible gene transfer, they "see no
reason why [approved GM crops] cannot form part, with organic farming, of
a broad mix of crop types and farming practices" (pg. 103-104).
So the question that remained was, why would the European Commission fund
a documentary specifically on biotechnology that would fan the flames of
argument? It would be like doing a documentary on the Protestant Orange
order in Northern Ireland and asking representatives of NorAid in Boston
what the solution to peace is?
Well fair enough, I thought, it maybe an attempt to be inclusive. However,
things still got stranger when the Germans started to express their
opinion on the a specific matter of certain genes inserted into some GM
crops. The issue was related to a hypothetical supposed danger of these
genes leading to greater antibiotic resistance. The matter was dealt with
by both Belgium and France in two national reports saying there was not
direct danger and was described as a purely political issue by the EU
commissioner on the
Environment Marget Wallstrom when said addressed the EU parliament in
April 2000 with the words:
"At the moment there is no scientific evidence that all GMO's of this type
(i.e. containing antibiotic resistance marker genes) present adverse
effects to human health and the environment..........
but she also stated:
"I am also fully aware of the political importance of certain other
aspects raised by the proposed amendments (referring to the use of the
Things got stranger still, when after the tour our EU sponsored Germans
actually attempted to demonstrate that by some strange manner a GM potato
could weaken you by holding it to your chest while pressure was applied to
your arms. The so-called experiment also attempted to prove that the
conventional potato did not have this mysterious weakening effect when you
held it close to your body...............at this point my colleagues were
just managing to contain the giggles while a German pulled at one arm and
we held spuds close to our hearts with the other. The strange had now
into the surreal but that was okay because the EU commission was paying.
Pinching myself in the hope to get a handle on this situation I asked if
David Byrne the Irish EU commissioner who has responsibly for health and
consumer protection had a role in approving the massive budget that these
Germans were given (which was to include helicopter rides and the shipping
of tonnes of filming equipment). To my surprise I was informed that no,
David Byrne's office had nothing to do with project. This was surprise as
Commissioner Byrne has a large responsibly for EU policy on the issue of
With a heavy heart from disappointment (and not from holding GM spuds to
my chest!) I headed home thinking maybe the No to Nice vote was not as
misjudged as I believed but a good decision to step back and to consider
if Berlin is the correct direction to face or maybe we should reconsider
having a look over our shoulder to Boston. If the EU Commission has
decided to dump thousands of Euros of taxpayers money into a 52 minute
documentary about agri-biotechnology that will do more to fuel the fire
than to shed light on the topic, then maybe this was a sign to me similar
to that those who had voted No to Nice in Ireland had seen. Those crazy
p.s. the funding for this film is from what used to be known as DG12, now
known as the research DG.