AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
* Livestock Performance: Feeding Biotech Crops
* Congratulations to Prof. Potrykus
* Hooray for the Politically Incorrect U.N. - Biotech gains an unlikely
* Anti-GM forces guilty of "scientific apartheid"
* Research into GM crops Persistent obstruction is nonsensical and
* GM food delay 'ignores third world poor'; Fears over crop hazard costing
lives, says UN
* UN backs transgenic crops for poorer nations
* Report Cites Benefits of Biotechnology for Developing Countries
* Postbag: Scare-mongering about GM food
* Mirabile Dictu
* Third world needs GM aid
* UN agency backs GM food crops: Grassroots groups angered by conclusion
that the poor and the hungry will benefit
* China Announces Seawater Irrigation of GM Crops
* Biotech conference urges adoption of international protocol on GM food
* Brand New Weapons in Fight Against Malnutrition
* Re: Limits of Growth
* Professor Kohl Response to critics of his "GM Foods--Another View" in
* Passing Lane - Left-wing attacks help boost John Stossel's and Brit
* Nature worship is as unreasoned, authoritarian and dangerous as any
other form of religious fundamentalism
* Hope for the future
* FDA Clones Misguided Regulatory Policy
* Agricultural priorities - Plant Biology V Soil Biology
I thank Dr. Jimmy Clark of Univ of Illinois, the author of this paper for
making this valuable review available to Agbioview readers.
Livestock Performance: Feeding Biotech Crops
J. Dairy Sci. 84(E. Suppl.):E9-E18
©The American Dairy Science Association, 2001.
By J. H. Clark and I. R. Ipharraguerre
Department of Animal Sciences
University of Illinois, Urbana 61801
To date, genetically enhanced plants in the marketplace that are used as
feeds for livestock are based on producing in-secticidal compounds or
developing herbicide tolerance. Corn grain, whole plant green chop corn,
corn silage, corn residue, soybeans, and soybean meal from the current
genetically en-hanced plants have been fed to chickens, sheep, beef
cattle, and dairy cows and compared with feeds produced from isoli-nes of
nongenetically enhanced plants. Results from 23 re-search trials indicate
that genetically enhanced corn and soy-beans
that are currently available in the marketplace are sub-stantially
equivalent in composition, are similar in digestibil-ity, and have a
similar feeding value for livestock.
Congratulations to Prof. Potrykus, inventor of the 'Golden Rice' for
being among the finalists of the World Technology Award. The agricultural
research community feels very proud of Prof. Potrykus' recognition and we
feel that it is a honor he richly deserves.
The World Technology Award for Biotechnology is for work related to
purposeful genetic analysis and manipulation. As there is also an
award in the category of 'Health & Medicine', this Award encompasses
the general field of genetics, and not specifically the area of
Dr. Craig Venter
President & CEO Celera Genomics Inc., USA
Prof. Makoto Asashima
Professor, Department of Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan
Dr. Francis Collins
Director, Human Genome Project, National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA
Dr. Steve Fodor
CEO, Affymetrix, USA
Prof. Andreas Pluckthun
Professor, Biochemisches Institut, Universität Zürich, Switzerland
Prof. Ingo Potrykus
Formerly, Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
Hooray for the Politically Incorrect U.N.
Biotech gains an unlikely ally.
Wall Street Journal
Thursday, July 12,
We read that Bill Gates and his foundation are keen on stepping up the war
against malaria, that perennial scourge of less developed nations. We
applaud him, and wish the Gates Foundation the best of luck. The
mosquito-borne disease still claims a million lives each year, mostly
children and pregnant women. We hope as well that the Gates Foundation
will show as much courage as the United Nations did this week in
denouncing the technophobia that still stops the fruits of the First World
from reaching the Third World.
Yes, of all things, the U.N. has blown the whistle on the nutty fears over
genetically modified foods, saying that the developing world can ill
afford such self-indulgent hysteria.
Just issued this week, the U.N. report, titled "Making New Technologies
Work for Human Development," says Western-based environmental groups are
impeding efforts to address hunger in Third World nations by blocking the
development of bioengineered foods.
"The developing world needs these technologies as soon as possible, and
European countries and campaigners are slowing everything up," Sakiko
Fukuda-Parr, the report's lead author, told reporters. The full text is
available here. Ms. Fukuda-Parr challenges biotech's opponents to produce
evidence that modified foods threaten the environment or public health.
"The first thing to remember," she says, "is that the scientific evidence
for health and environmental harm is quite limited and very weak."
Mark Malloch Brown of the United Nations Development Program, which issued
the survey, insists on the need to plant genetically modified staple
crops--rice, millet, cassava--throughout the developing world to stave off
malnutrition for upward of 800 million people. "These varieties have 50%
higher yields, mature 30 to 50 days earlier, are substantially richer in
protein, are far more disease- and drought-tolerant, resist insect pests
and can even outcompete weeds," says Mr. Malloch Brown. "This initiative
shows the enormous potential of biotech to improve food security in
Africa, Asia and Latin America."
In an almost breathtaking display of political incorrectness, the U.N.
report even mocks one of First World environmentalism's holiest
shrines--the ban on DDT. Bill Gates should read this report.
Anti-GM forces guilty of "scientific apartheid"
by Bea Perks
11 July 2001
Bangkok - Hundreds of lives are being saved thanks to commercial
production of genetically modified (GM) crops, claimed a leading Chinese
plant biotechnologist today at the major UN conference here on food
safety. "In China, 400 to 500 people die every year from pesticide use,"
Jikun Huang told delegates at the meeting, New Biotechnology Food and
Crops: Science, Safety and Society. But the toll is dropping as more
farmers switch to GM crops and reduce the volume of pesticides they use,
noted Huang, founding director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural
Policy (CCAP) in Beijing, and part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"Could you show me any case where you see more than 400 to 500 deaths a
year from GM?" asked Huang, who is also an associate professor of plant
biotechnology. "A number of people have said 'we don't need this
technology,' [but] we need to think 'who are we talking about?'"
Around 50,000 Chinese farmers have suffered serious illness attributed to
pesticides since 1987, he said. Cases increased steadily up to 1995, when
a marked increase in their use following a plague of boll weevils led to
an unprecedented 700 deaths among the cotton-farming community that year,
according to the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.
Huang presented results from a case study comparing farmers in China who
cultivate GM crops with those who cultivate traditional varieties. The
study, due to be published in the September issue of The Plant Journal,
was compiled with co-author Carl Pray from the Department of Agricultural,
Food and Resource Economics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
The number of researchers in plant biotechnology in China has doubled
since the mid-1980s to about 1,200 today, said Huang. More than 50
different GM crops have now been approved for production, which represents
about 70% of all the submissions made, and 0.7 million hectares are now
given over to their cultivation, of which the majority is farmed with
Huang, and an army of students, interviewed 450 households to monitor the
use of fertilizers, irrigation, machinery, and costs on farms cultivating
either GM or non-GM cotton. Farmers cultivate several GM cotton varieties
carrying the Bt gene, the bacterial gene that confers resistance against
major cotton pests, including the boll weevil.
The researchers recorded a striking decrease in the volume of pesticides
used among GM farmers, from 50 kilograms per hectare when they grew non-Bt
crops to an average of 18 kilograms per hectare with Bt varieties.
Huang noted that farmers cultivating only Bt cotton suffered significantly
less pesticide poisoning than those farming only traditional crops.
Farmers who grew both varieties suffered an intermediate level of
Support for Huang's findings came from several quarters.
"I guess the real question is, can we afford not to avail ourselves of
these technologies?" responded Rob Bertram, chief of policy and
multilateral programs in the Office of Agriculture and Food Security of
the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
"The anti-GM forces are ignoring the needs of the poor," said Bertram.
Keeping the technology from the developing world amounted to "a scientific
form of apartheid," he claimed. But farmers should not be forced to use GM
crops if they don't want to, he added.
Similar successes were presented from Argentina, the world's second
biggest producer of GM crops after the US. Costs of agrochemical
treatments in the country have dropped from $950 million at the beginning
of the 1990s to $600 million today, reported Esteban Hopp, professor of
genetics and plant biotechnology at the University of Buenos Aires.
Hopp added that between 1990 and 1995, 48 soybean varieties were farmed;
from 1996 to 2000, there were 50 varieties. "So you can see the number of
varieties are more-or-less the same, and the biodiversity is the same," he
Not everyone was convinced, however.
"Farmers in developing countries, especially in sub-saharan Africa, are
easily seduced by patented seed because it is high yielding, resistant to
disease and pests, thrives on marginal soils, and requires little water,"
said Chebet Maikut, president of the Uganda National Farmers' Association.
But now large multinational companies are buying up local seed companies
and reducing the choice of seeds available to farmers, he said.
"There is an absence of technology development and transfer in developing
countries to foster equality, equity, and mutual partnership in new
biotechnology crops and seeds," he concluded. "Farmers and society need
the benefits of new biotechnology advances to meet their food production
[requirements] ... scientists should not be the only arbitrators in this
Research into GM crops Persistent obstruction is nonsensical and arrogant
The Herald (Glasgow)
July 11, 2001
The debate over genetically modified crops in Britain and in most
developed countries has been emotive but largely one-sided. Activists who
fear the effect of GM crops in possibly damaging environmental diversity
may or may not have a point. But they have managed to make the greatest
noise, and their unthinking supporters in sections of the media have been
only too glad to use headlines about so-called "Frankenstein" foods
without in the slightest degree understanding the issues. Luddite
activists have taken to the fields, trampling and breaking crops which are
part of controlled scientific research into the potential of GM, and in
this they have been applauded by the fearful and the unthinking.
The truth is not known, but it is knowable. GM crops may present a danger
to biodiversity, or they may turn out to be of the greatest benefit to
mankind. While those in the rich, well-fed, developed nations concentrate
on the dangers, those in the poor, underfed, and least developed nations
in the world are anxious to know whether GM crops will fill their
stomachs. The United Nations has waded into the issue with its latest
human development report and is firmly on the side of the hungry. It
points out that GM varieties have 50% higher yields; mature 30-50 days
earlier; are much richer in protein; and are resistant to disease,
drought, and insects, and therefore need little or no spraying with
chemicals that pose dangers to farmers. In many parts of the
underdeveloped world a specification list of this sort is more than any
poor farmer could expect. Yet that farmer's concerns are not shared by
environmental activists, who continue to protest against trials of GM
It is insulting to claim, as one environmentalist did yesterday, that the
UN report appears to have been written by someone sympathetic to the
biotech industry. Rather, the author or authors appear sympathetic to the
notion of helping dirt-poor farmers in huge areas of Africa, Asia, and
Latin America. To hold out hopes that their lives may be transformed is
neither poodling to the technocrats, nor is it irresponsibly dangerous. Of
course, research must be done in a controlled and secure manner. It must
meet the best tests and match the best models of agricultural science, and
even then its outworking should be monitored by knowledgeable and
independent observers. But the science must be done, and the claims of
both sides of the argument must be heard and judged. The only way we can
find answers to the safety question is to investigate it. To persist in
obstructing such investigations is both nonsensical and arrogant.
GM food delay 'ignores third world poor'; Fears over crop hazard costing
lives, says UN
The Herald (Glasgow)
By James Freeman
July 11, 2001
THE opponents of genetically modified crops are holding back efforts to
feed the starving and malnourished, a UN survey of the quality of life in
countries around the world suggests.
Offering the prospect that GM crops could bring higher yields and better
pest control, leading to more effective ways of feeding the hungry, the
report argues that the risks can be managed. For three years, it states,
sales in Europe of GM corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and cotton - often
described in the media as Frankenstein foods - have been put on hold
because of fears over potential health and environmental hazards.
The debate in Europe and America mostly ignores the concerns and needs of
the developing world, it says.
"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.
"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
The report compares efforts to ban GM foods with the banning of the
pesticide DDT, which caused serious environmental damage and was a danger
to humans but was effective in killing malaria-spreading mosquitoes.
The ban on DDT has led to a resurgence of the disease in a series of
developing countries. The report suggests a ban on GM foods would have a
similar effect of protecting rich consumers from harm while ignoring the
pressing needs of the poor.
The claims are part of the UN's Human Development Report 2001, which
measures the quality of life in each country.
Kevin Dunion, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland - who formerly
researched for Oxfam in India, Central America, and Zimbabwe - said
yesterday the report appeared to have been written by someone sympathetic
to the biotech industry.
"The report calls for vast public investment but to my mind the problem is
that the multinational companies involved are highly unlikely to bring
these benefits about," he said.
The report names Norway as the nation with the best quality of life,
followed by Australia, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, and the United States.
Sierra Leone is named as the least developed country among the 162
Meanwhile, deputy premier John Prescott yesterday called for an
international consensus on the use of biotechnology. He was speaking at a
conference of scientists and politicians that has been condemned by
activists as a way of lobbying developing countries to accept
"It is important to respect each other's values," Mr Prescott said in his
opening address to the conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
Representatives from 58 countries have gathered at the UN's Asia-Pacific
headquarters for the three-day conference, New Biotechnology Food and
Crops: Science, Safety and Society, organised by Britain and the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
UN backs transgenic crops for poorer nations
Nature 412, 109 (2001)
By MARK SCHROPE
12 July 2001
Rich countries' doubts about genetically modified (GM) crops are damaging
to poor countries that urgently need the crops, claims the United Nations'
annual report on the status of humankind.
The benefits of GM crops to developing countries are likely to outweigh
their risks if their use is properly controlled, says the United Nations
(UN) Human Development Report 2001, due out this week. The UN Development
Programme has released such reports annually since 1990, but this year's,
Making New Technologies Work for Human Development, is the first to
concentrate on the value of science and technology.
It states that genetic modification and other emerging technologies should
be more widely applied to alleviate poverty and malnutrition in poor
The report is not a blanket endorsement of transgenic crops, however.
Rather, it recommends that developed countries consider their expanded use
on a case-by-case basis. And it says that the risks of GM crops would be
best managed if there was more interaction between rich and poor nations,
and also if developing countries with experience of GM crops —
particularly China — were to share their information more widely.
Omar Noman, deputy director of the office responsible for the report, says
the debate on GM crops has been distorted by "scare stories" from
environmentalists. The report says the debate has largely ignored their
potential to transform the agriculture of poor countries. But it also
notes that the corporations selling the crops have downplayed the
difficulties these countries may face in properly monitoring how they are
The report highlights the need for rapid development of transgenic crops
such as drought- and virus-resistant varieties of the sub-Saharan staple
crops sorghum and cassava. But it recommends the mandatory labelling of GM
foods so that consumers and nations can make informed decisions. This has
been steadfastly opposed by the corporations that own the technology.
The UN's decision to focus this year's report on technology reflects a
growing consensus among experts that economic and human development are
underpinned not only by basic needs such as adequate health care and clean
water, but also by access to science and technology.
Elsewhere the report recommends eliminating costly government monopolies
in telecommunications as well as increasing resources for non-primary
education. It also backs the development of "appropriate technologies"
such as low-literacy touch-screen computers and low-maintenance fuel
cells. And it advocates more efforts to develop vaccines for malaria and
AIDS and for less-publicized scourges such as river blindness.
Report Cites Benefits of Biotechnology for Developing Countries
Environment News Service
By Cat Lazaroff
MEXICO CITY, Mexico, July 11, 2001 (ENS) - Many developing countries might
reap great benefits from genetically modified foods, crops and other
organisms, concludes the Human Development Report 2001, commissioned by
the United Nations Development Program and released Tuesday. These crops
could significantly reduce malnutrition and help poor farmers working
marginal lands, the report says.
The report analyzes the potential of biotech and information technologies
for developing countries, assesses the technology achievements of 72
countries, and ranks 162 countries according to their level of human
Genetically modified agricultural techniques could create virus resistant,
drought tolerant and nutrient enhanced crops that have enormous potential
for improving food security in Africa, Asia and Latin America, concludes
the report. These crops could significantly reduce malnutrition, which
still affects more than 800 million people worldwide, the report argues.
While acknowledging that environmental and health risks need to be
addressed, the report argues that these risks can be managed.
Far greater public investment in research and development is needed to
ensure that biotechnology meets the agricultural needs of the world's
poor, says Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, lead author of the report.
"We can't count on the private sector alone to do the job," Fukuda-Parr
said, noting that for profit research mostly caters to the needs of high
income consumers, rather than those in developing countries who have
little purchasing power.
The report points out in particular that there is an urgent need to
develop modern varieties of millet, sorghum and cassava, which are staple
foods for poor people in many developing countries.
Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of UNDP, agrees, noting that such
public investments are already producing impressive results. He points to
a recent successful effort by UNDP, the Japanese Government and other
international partners to develop new varieties of rice.
"These varieties have 50 percent higher yields, mature 30 to 50 days
earlier, are substantially richer in protein; are far more disease and
drought tolerant, resist insect pests and can even out-compete weeds,"
noted Brown. "And they will be especially useful because they can be grown
without fertilizer or herbicides, which many poor farmers can't afford
anyway. This initiative shows the enormous potential of biotech to improve
food security in Africa, Asia and Latin America."
For three years, sales in Europe of genetically modified corn, tomatoes,
potatoes and cotton - often described in the media as "Frankenstein foods"
- have been put on hold because of fears over potential health and
environmental hazards. The Human Development Report argues that the risks
of genetic modification can be managed, but that most developing countries
will need help in doing so.
It points out that problems with biotechnology and food safety are often
the result of poor policies, inadequate regulation and lack of
transparency. For instance, poor management by European regulators led to
the spread of mad cow disease, notes the UNDP.
These challenges can be especially great in developing countries where
resources are scarce and expertise is often lacking. The report points to
Argentina and Egypt as examples of developing countries that are moving
forward in creating national guidelines, approval procedures and research
institutes to evaluate the risks of genetically modified crops.
According to the report, current debates in Europe and the United States
over new biotechnologies mostly ignore the concerns and needs of the
developing world. Western consumers naturally focus on potential allergic
reactions and other food safety issues.
People in developing countries, however, may be more interested in better
crop yields, nutrition, or the reduced need to spray pesticides that can
sicken farmers. Meanwhile, multinational biotechnology companies, eager
for sales, tend to play down the difficulties that developing countries
may have in managing the environmental risks posed by genetically modified
"The voices of people in poor countries, who stand to gain or lose the
most from these new technologies, have not yet been heard," said
The report calls for more research into the long term impacts of
genetically modified organisms and advocates labeling genetically modified
products so that consumers make informed choices. Australia, Brazil, Japan
and the United Kingdom already require such labels, and surveys show that
more than 80 percent of consumers in the United States want them as well.
Not everyone embraces biotechnology as the best solution to the
nutritional needs of the world's poor. Dr. Miguel Altieri of the
University of California - Berkeley, who has worked for 20 years with
non-governmental organizations in Latin America, suggests a different
Agroecology, a mixture of different approaches to agriculture that do not
rely on pesticides or genetically engineered crops, could make a
substantial contribution to world food production and is an alternative to
biotechnology and the use of fertilizers, he says.
"There are methods that are much more environmentally sound, socially and
culturally acceptable, that can raise yields and at the same time conserve
the natural resource base, increase income and also empower farmers,"
Altieri told ENS.
In agroecology, different crops are mixed to increase the number of
natural predators that will control the pests.
"We have created pest problems with pesticides, now we're going to create
even more pest problems with transgenic crops," said Altieri. The
development of pests resistant to toxins genetically engineered into
plants is just a matter of time, Altieri warned. "You can delay it, but
it's going to happen."
"The key to the whole thing is to activate soil biology, because the
organisms in the soil are decomposing organic matter and mineralizing the
nutrients, so you have to add soils that are biologically active," Altieri
Agroecology is based on local resources, so farmers do not become
dependent on corporations or governments, avoiding one risk posed by
patented engineered crops. Altieri questions how farmers could gain access
to patented technologies.
"Knowledge is proprietary. It belongs to corporations and is not
accessible to farmers," he said. Altieri feels that biotechnology has
emerged through the quest for profit, not to solve the problems of small
"Scientists are defending biotechnology ... but at the same time there's a
lot of money from corporations going into universities, influencing the
researchers in those universities in the wrong direction," Altieri said.
The full text of the Human Development Report 2001 is available at:
Postbag: Scare-mongering about GM food
July 11, 2001
136 Na Ranong Road, Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110, Thailand - fax:2403666 -
I support the view of Khun Wasant Techawongtham on questionable tactics
used by NGOs in campaigning against genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
in Thailand (Commentary, July 6).
Now these non-government organisations are using the conference on
biotechnology organised by Britain and the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development, as an occasion to show their opposition to
The conference is being accused by the NGOs as an attempt to use the focus
on scientific aspects of biotechnology to divert public attention away
from socio-economic, religious and ethical aspects of the issue.
Why are the NGOs so concerned about a scientific forum on GMOs? NGOs, the
public and scientific community have all recognised that we do not have
sufficient knowledge on GMOs and thus have been struggling in debate on
whether GM plants or animals are safe for both human health and the
An objective and scientifically sound discussion on GMOs, like the one
being held at the OECD conference, should thus advance our deliberations
on the technology.
In addition, I have found most GMO arguments put forward by Biothai,
Greenpeace and other bandwagon NGOs to be lacking any incorporation of new
scientific findings. What you hear on GMOs from these NGOs is mostly what
you've perhaps heard repeatedly in the last 3-4 years. During this period,
scientific insight into the possible impact of GMOs has improved
significantly, leaving several NGO arguments out of touch and obsolete.
For example, the threat of antibiotic resistance-making gene, feverishly
highlighted by the NGOs, has been found to be a manageable risk.
In March 2000, Nature magazine reported that a technique developed by
researchers at Leeds University, UK, can remove the gene from GMOs even
before they are allowed to leave the laboratory.
Some other findings are also useful in enlightening public discussion on
An April 1999 report on biotechnology in Nature reveals that the
possibility of genetic transfer or trans-gene escape of rape seed in
experiment plots is negligible, while another report in the same magazine
in February 2000 indicated that after 10 years of experiment, genetically
modified crops like maize and sugarcane did not become self-seeding and
self-sustaining, nor did they spread to neighbouring unplanted areas.
If the NGOs' intention is to widen public awareness and understanding of
GMOs, why have they not explicated such information to the public even
though such information is easily accessible through the Internet? More
importantly, such information is often crucial in directing attention to
the real issues.
In fact, some NGOs' views can easily be seen as irrational. For example,
by labelling all food derived from GM plants as risky, do the NGOs mean
those from conventional varieties are more safe, even though current
cultivation of such varieties may include heavy use of pesticides? Thus,
on several occasions I can't help but wonder whether these NGOs prefer
that the public only hear and take into account their points of view while
hiding what really could increase public understanding of the issue. Come
to think of it, the NGOs may eventually become just what they hate most: a
Wall Street Journal
July 12, 2001
According to the script of "Lara Croft: Tombraider," every 5,000 years
there occurs a unique planetary alignment during which the possessor of a
magic key can alter time and space, raise the dead and shape the destiny
of mankind. At the United Nations, such things happen only slightly more
often. Happily, Tuesday was such a day.
What we have in mind is the release of a U.N. Development Program report
called "Making New Technologies Work For Human Development." The title
alone marks a welcome about- face for an organization that usually does
little more than reflect the fashionable prejudices -- on the environment,
arms control, economic development, human rights and so on -- of the NGO
set. Last year's "Cartagena Protocol" typified this tilt when it enshrined
the so-called "precautionary principle" in international law, establishing
cumbersome regulatory procedures for genetically modified foods. But,
as we said, on
Tuesday all eight and a half planets were aligned. The UNDP report was
unequivocal in insisting on the need to plant GM staple crops such as
rice, millet, sorghum and cassava throughout the developing world to stave
off malnutrition for upward of 800 million people.
"These varieties have 50% higher yields, mature 30 to 50 days earlier, are
substantially richer in protein, are far more disease- and
drought-tolerant, resist insect pests and can even outcompete weeds," said
UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown. "They will be especially useful
because they can be grown without fertilizer or herbicides, which many
poor farmers can't afford anyway. This initiative shows the enormous
potential of biotech to improve food
security in Africa, Asia and Latin America."
To which we can only add, Hallelujah! Left stuttering in a corner were
groups such as Oxfam, Greenpeace and Genetic Food Alert, the last of which
found in the report "frightening echoes of biotechnology industry
propaganda." This is true, though only in the sense that the industry has
consistently been acquitted of all charges leveled against it, from
killing butterflies to causing allergies.
One expects that with the U.N.'s seal of approval, Luddite opposition to
GM foods will begin to diminish. But maybe that's hoping for too much.
Recently, America's Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to a
Florida doctor warning him not to eat genetically modified corn at a
government hearing because it could not "be responsible for ensuring your
safety." "Notwithstanding your intent to use an antidote," wrote the EPA,
"there is no guarantee that its use would adequately protect you" from an
Folks, this only happens once every 5,000 years, so savor the moment: A
Wall Street Journal editorial that praises the United Nations at the
expense of the United States. Now where's Lara?
Third world needs GM aid
David Montgomery Science (email@example.com)
July 12, 2001
GENETICALLY modified crops could be the breakthrough needed to lift
millions of the world’s poor out of poverty, according to the United
But a UN human development report said a radical rethink of global
development policy and attitudes to new technologies was needed if poor
countries were to develop.
Currently, around 30,000 children under five die every day and 1.2 billion
people worldwide live on less than 70p a day, the report said.
And unless action is taken soon, most countries will miss their targets
for reducing infant mortality and income poverty by 2015.
The UN called for more international funding for research into GM
varieties of staple crops such as millet, sorghum and cassava, and for
treatments for HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
GM crops could raise income for poor farmers and cut malnutrition in the
developing world, which currently affects 800 million people, the report
But the UN stressed that such potential benefits of GM crops must not be
overshadowed by fears in the west over possible risks to health and the
Mark Malloch Brown, the UN development programme administrator, said:
"These varieties have 50 per cent higher yields, mature 30 to 50 days
earlier, are substantially richer in protein, are far more disease and
drought tolerant, resist insect pests and can even out-compete weeds.
"And they will be especially useful because they can be grown without
fertiliser or herbicides, which many poor farmers can’t afford anyway.
"This initiative shows the enormous potential of biotech to improve food
security in Africa, Asia and Latin America."
Intellectual property rights can go too far and lead to "the silent theft
of centuries of developing country knowledge and assets" - as with the US
patent on the Mexican enola bean, the report said.
Intellectual property rights agreements must be made to work, so
developing countries can have access to vital new drugs and information
technology. New information and communications technology can help to
overcome geographic and economic barriers, but the "brain drain" of
skilled workers to the west is costing poorer countries billions of
dollars a year.
UN agency backs GM food crops: Grassroots groups angered by conclusion
that the poor and the hungry will benefit
The Guardian (London)
By John Vidal, and John Aglionby
July 11, 2001
The United Nations Development Programme angered environmentalists
yesterday when it said that many developing countries may reap great
benefits from genetically modified foodstuffs, that the technology can
significantly reduce the malnutrition which affects 800m people, and that
it will be especially valuable to poor farmers working marginal land in
The report is one of the agency's most provocative, and grassroots groups,
development charities and environmentalists in more than 50 countries
described it as "simplistic", "pandering to the GM industry" and "failing
to take into account the views of the poor".
It says there is an urgent need to develop "modern" varieties of millet,
sorghum and cassava, the staple foods of millions in developing countries.
But it says that commercial research mostly caters for the needs of high
earners, and it urges greater public investment in GM research and
development to ensure that it meets the needs of the poor.
Mark Malloch Brown, the agency's administrator, said that recently
developed new varieties of rice had 50% higher yields, matured 30-50 days
earlier, were substantially richer in protein, and were far more disease
and drought resistant.
"They will will be especially useful because they can be grown without
fertiliser or herbicides, which many poor farmers cannot afford," he said.
The report said that GM risks could be managed, but most developing
countries would need help to do so.
Biotechnology and food safety problems were often the result of poor
policies and inadequate regulations, it said.
Oxfam, Greenpeace International, Actionaid, the Intermediate Technology
Development Group and more than 290 grassroots groups around the world
objected strongly to the report's conclusions.
"It diverts attention from other technologies and farming practices that
could also raise productivity," said Kevin Watkins, policy director of
"It ignores the fact that most hungry people live in countries with food
surpluses rather than deficits, and overlooks the fact that companies like
DuPont and Monsanto have sought to discover transgenic manipulations
designed solely to enhance the value of their own patents."
"Complex problems of hunger and agricultural development will not be
solved by technological silver bullets," Von Hernandez of Greenpeace
South-east Asia said.
"The real crisis is the neglect of research and investment in the
development of sustainable and ecological agriculture technologies. The
UNDP has reduced its support for traditional agriculture and is now
insisting on GM crops as a means of 'helping humanity'."
Robert Vint of Genetic Food Alert, speaking on behalf of the 290 groups in
54 developing countries which disagree with the report and do not want to
see GM crops in their countries, said: "It contains frightening echoes of
recent biotechnology industry propaganda."
But Klaus Leisinger of the Novartis Foundation, which was set up by the GM
company Novartis, described Greenpeace as "Luddites" and urged reliance on
"Let's support public research and not prevent field trials," he said.
"This is an ideology with people on both sides trying to prove their
The main author of the report, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, defended her work. "I
think the first-world environmentalists should put on the shoes of a
farmer in Mali faced with crop failures every other year and think what
technological development could do for his harvest," she said.
Meanwhile in Bangkok, Britain's deputy prime minister, John Prescott, told
an international biotech meeting organised by the British government and
the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that the world
would eventually support GM crop production because it was "widely agreed
that it has tremendous benefits".
The meeting was boycotted by many grassroots groups, and Mr Prescott's
views were not shared by the Thai deputy prime minister, Suwit Khunkitti,
who said that Thailand would not embrace agricultural biotechnology until
it was scientifically proved that it could benefit all people.
"I insist that Thailand stays neutral," he said. "Scientists must prove
that genetically altered foods increase yields and are safe to humans and
the environment in the long run."
Two hundred members of five organisations, grouped under the Thai People's
Network against GMO, demonstrated outside the venue and distributed GM
China Announces Seawater Irrigation of GM Crops
by Tom Hargrove
July 11, 2001
Chinese scientists have announced using seawater to successfully irrigate
and grow genetically modified crops of tomato, eggplant, and hot pepper on
beaches--the world's first ocean-water irrigation, the China Daily
reported on June 25.
Rice and rape are the next target crops for the research group at Hainan
University, on Hainan Island in southern China.
PlanetRice learned of the breakthrough last January, but did not report
it, because we could not verify its authenticity.
The Hainan scientists claim to have transferred genes from plants that can
survive a salt-saturated environment into the fresh-water crops, said Lin
Qifeng, the project's chief scientist.
Mangrove is probably the salt-tolerant plant in the project, foreign
scientists have told PlanetRice.
A panel has approved large-scale promotion of the technology across the
country, the China Daily reported.
China has 20% of the world's population, but only 7% of the world's arable
land. China's per capita access to fresh water is only about 20% of the
world's average. Agriculture accounts for 70% of the nation's water use,
and 60% of the cultivated land is short of water.
Some scientists that PlanetRice contacted are skeptical of the seawater
irrigation report. Others believe the report, but aren't sure that plants
will tolerate salt water for a long period.
The China Daily stated that "biological molecules" of salt-resistant
plants were transferred "through a pollen tube" into the susceptible
Dr. Ray Wu, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Cornell
University, USA, explained the "pollen tube method," a biotechnology
technique developed in China, that was apparently used to transfer foreign
DNA into the tomato, eggplant, and pepper.
"During normal fertilization, a pollen tube is formed through which pollen
travels to the ovary, or egg," Wu told PlanetRice.
With the pollen tube method, scientists transfer the total DNA from
salt-resistant plants such as mangrove through the tube to the ovary, thus
producing a transgenic plant.
"But it's not certain that the transgenic plants will be truly stable and
useful," Wu said. "The introduction of foreign DNA adds thousands of new
genes, so the plants may continue to segregate for many generations.
"But it is possible that some offspring may be stable."
The Hainan group claims that transgenic progeny have survived, irrigated
with seawater, for four generations.
Some fertilizer is necessary to grow these crops in seawater, Lin said.
The yield and nutritional levels are about the same as normally grown
"The taste is even better," Lin added.
Zhou Guanyu, a biologist who has developed improved varieties for decades,
said the Hainan research is of great significance because of the worldwide
shortage of fresh water and decrease in cultivated land.
"It's a giant step forward in technological terms," she observed.
The cultivation of salt-resistant crops has been a goal for international
biologists for years. Scientists in Japan and the United States are
reportedly conducting similar research, but Lin's team is ahead, the China
Saline soils comprise 20% of China's total cultivated land, according to
government statistics. Salinity is on the rise, because of inappropriate
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture estimates that 13 million hectares of
coastal land of China, if cultivated, can produce enough to feed 150
Yu Dannian, director of the appraisal panel, said the central government
will soon promote the technology China-wide.
Earlier reports of seawater irrigation
In January, PlanetRice found two obscure stories from China that
scientists were experimenting on irrigating crops with seawater in vast
areas of coastal provinces. We didn't publish the breakthrough news
because of difficulties in verifying it.
One January article stated that, "With crossbreeding and genetic
manipulation, Chinese scientists have cultivated a group of halophytes
capable of living in a saline environment.
"A special species of wheat developed by Professor Xia [Xia Guangmin of
Shandong University], for example, reported nearly 400 kilograms of yield
per mu [1 hectare equals 15 mu] and tastes exactly the same as wheat grown
using fresh water...
"The experiment [with saltwater irrigation] is moving forward smoothly
from the Yellow River Delta in east China to the Pearl River Delta in
south China, where wheat and rice are growing in abundance.
"Dongying and Binzhou counties, where seawater was first introduced for
irrigation, reported an annual increase of millions of kilograms in
In the January reports, Professor Xia estimated that saltwater-resistant
crops could bring 40 million hectares of new land into
cultivation--producing 150 million metric tons of agricultural products,
about 30% of China's yearly output.
Prof. Xu Zhibin of Zhanjiang Oceanic University said that use of seawater
for irrigation could save as much as 300 billion metric tons of fresh
water--at 1/30th the cost of converting seawater to fresh water.
Biotech conference urges adoption of international protocol on GM food
Agence France Presse
July 12, 2001
Top scientists, industry leaders and government officials Thursday wrapped
up a biotechnology conference here by urging the implementation of the
first international law on GM food and crops.
Delegates at the forum, sponsored by the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the British government, said that
despite its faults the protocol was crucial to the development of the
"There was a feeling among many of the participants that countries should
sign and ratify the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol as soon as possible,"
said conference chair Lord John Selbourne.
The protocol is the first international law governing the international
trade and movement of transgenic or genetically modified (GM) foods and
So far, at least 100 countries have signed the document, but only five
have gone on to ratify it, a step which must be taken before the measures
can be implemented.
The law is especially important for developing countries, said Chee Yoke
Ling of the Malaysia based non-governmental group Third World Network.
"It took a lot of work (to negotiate this protocol). There was so much
resistance to regulation from developed countries," he said.
"Even though it is not the best, for the first time we have an
international law that recognizes that GMOs (genetically modified
organisms) raise safety and environmental concerns that require a separate
The protocol was intensely negotiated over several years before countries
were able to come up with a formulation they could all agree upon.
The United States, Canada and Argentina wanted very little regulation of
the trade in GM crops and seeds, but developing countries preferred strict
regulation to protect their environments, farmers and biological
European countries pushed for labeling and information of transgenic
crops, to appease consumer groups in their countries.
Compromises were eventually made on all sides, and many observers from
developing countries feel the protocol has been watered down.
Jan van Aken of Greenpeace International told the forum that because
genetically modified crops can reproduce themselves, they are not like
other crops or products that are traded internationally.
"Irreversability distinguishes the release of GMO's from other
technologies. Once they are in the environment, they can not be recalled,"
Van Aken said the protocol could help prevent environmental problems
because it is "an important tool to allow countries to make their own
decisions about the import of genetically modified crops."
Under World Trade Organization rules, a country banning the import of
genetically modified crops could be seen as using discriminatory trade
practices, not allowed by the powerful international organization.
But the biosafety protocol allows countries to outlaw the import of such
foods and crops based on risks to human health, food safety or the
Alexander Golikov, director of the Russian Federation's Biotechnology
Information Center, said he was strongly in favour of the protocol but
warned against early ratification.
"Urging the immediate ratification of the protocol is no good, because
many countries still have to take the first step of adjusting their own
national legislation to be in line with the protocol before they can
ratify it," he said.
Even after ratification, giving the law some teeth may still be difficult,
especially in developing countries that lack expert scientists and
"It will be critical that a country have the capacity in these areas in
order to implement the protocol," said Gabrielle Persley of the
International Council of Scientific Unions.
Brand New Weapons in Fight Against Malnutrition
The Nation (Kenya)
July 11, 2001
After years of studious silence, the United Nations Development Programme
has finally recommended genetically modified foods to fight famine and
malnutrition. The twin calamities threaten millions Third World lives.
In its report, Human Development Report 2001, the organisation says many
developing countries could reap great benefits from GMOs, whose use has
remained as controversial as their invention. The report stresses the GM
techniques' "unique potential" for creating virus-resistant,
drought-tolerant and nutrient-enhanced crops. "Malnutrition affects more
than 800 million people worldwide. GMOs would be valuable to poor farmers
working in marginal
lands in black Africa," the report says. While many scientists consider
GMOs the panacea to the world's unstable food situation, environmental
groups, led by Green Peace, see them as a threat to nature and human life.
In Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture has thrown its weight behind their
use to resolve the food deficit bedevilling the country.
Now the UNDP urges public investment in research and development to ensure
biotechnology meets the agricultural needs of the poor. "We can't count on
the private sector alone to do the job," says Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, the
report's leading author.
Kenya has entered a biotechnology research plan with multinational
companies such as the controverted Monsanto, headquartered in the US.
Recently, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute said it had developed
a superior-quality, disease-resistant sweet potato Monsanto's help.
What continues to worry environmentalists, however, is the question of
biosafety. Kenya introduced tight biosafety legislation only in 1998.
Date: 11 Jul 2001 17:13:00 -0000
From: "Bob MacGregor" To:
Subject: Re: Limits of Growth
I have no doubts that the world supplies of fossil fuels are finite.
That doesn't mean that human population and economies are doomed to
collapse as the limits of these resources are reached. Despite a lot
of talk about limiting greenhouse gas emissions, I expect that all
economically-recoverable reserves of oil, gas, coal, etc. will eventually
be burned or used in manufacturing. What will we do then? I am hopeful
that bio-based technologies can help substitute for fossil fuels while
engineering technolgies help find more efficient uses and alternative,
less-polluting uses of fossil fuels and their substitutes.
I'd be delighted if world population were a lot smaller, but I agree
with ZPG that everyone has a right to have children-- and grandchildren--
if they so choose. We love to focus on growing population in Asia and
Africa and say what a problem that is; it is really a big problem for
those of us who live a relatively rich lifestyle that demands a big share
of world resources. If those Asians and Africans lived (with the same
technologies) as luxuriously as we do, those fossil fuel limits would
arrive so fast it would make your head spin. I can see how threatening
it is to realise that this lifestyle seems to be exactly the direction
these economies are headed (or, at least, striving) for.
Drew Kershen didn't mention the demographic transition; I am hopeful
that we can use our ingenuity in science and engineering to help get the
whole world through this transition-- maybe then we will have a bit more
breathing room to develop a more sustainable world lifestyle without a
dramatic dieoff of a big part of humanity.
Drew is right to focus on the alternatives. We can take draconian
action to limit population growth (and how China was vilified for its
policies in this regard!). We can sit back and wait for some critical
"limit" to be exceeded, then watch the economic and social ripples as
human population adjusts to a sustainable (carrying capacity) level. We
can accelerate the process of the above by adopting farming techniques
that result in less output and more land destruction. Or, we can keep on
trying to make small improvements in production technologies to fend off
The fossil fuels part of Red's test belies a defeatist mindset; there
is no reason that declining fossil fuel reserves and/or extraction rates
will necessarily result in either declining agricultural output or more
pollution. Just because cheap fossil fuels have given us a (nearly)
free ride since the beginning of the industrial revolution, it doesn't
mean that we have to just give up when the end of the free ride approaches.
Unless you get a big thrill out of contemplating disaster (or
foolishly expect that this one won't touch you or your descendents),
seeking to slow down the development of energy and food technologies is
incomprehensible-- how can anyone, in good conscience, take a stance that
makes things worse, when the opportunity is there to at least try to make
Professor Kohl Response to critics of his "GM Foods--Another View" in The
We knew that Danny Kohl's "GM Foods--Another View" [April 16], on
genetically modified organism (GMO) technology used in food production,
would provoke controversy, and we weren't disappointed. Below are edited
versions of some of the letters that flooded in.
(Only the reply from the author is reproduced here for brevity..CSP)
Since a point-by-point response isn't possible in this limited space, I'll
try to respond to some themes. For a point-by-point response, visit:
Then click on the link, GM Food The Nation/April 21, 2001.
Clearly, there is more than one reasonable opinion about the potential for
golden rice to make a significant contribution to improving vitamin A
nutrition. Some of the reasons the jury is still out were included in my
Brian Tokar is correct that for people with no other source of vitamin A,
satisfying the Recommended Daily Allowance would require consumption of
impossible amounts of rice. (Benefits to vision occur far short of RDA, by
the way.) But benefits are not "all or none." Peter Rosset of Food First
is, of course, correct. Golden rice is not the solution. The empirical
question is whether it can make a significant contribution to improving
public health. While many find vitamin A supplements an attractive
alternative, it is not inexpensive. In 1994 the World Bank estimated the
cost to be 50 cents per person per year (two doses, including
administration costs). South Asia might have 1.25 billion people. If only
1 of every 12.5 people (children and adult women) requires supplements,
that's $50 million per year.
But the golden rice project is important beyond its possible contribution
to alleviating suffering. It suggests one model for allowing scientists to
escape the iron grip of profit potential that determines which crops and
diseases are addressed. And escaping industry's demand for profit is the
task I consider to be the most important. In the case of golden rice,
public sector (Swiss and EU science agencies) and philanthropic
(Rockefeller Foundation) funds allowed scientists to pursue a product that
did not have sufficient profit potential to interest a biotech
It is true, as Charles Margulis and Rosset say, that a multinational was
granted the rights to market golden rice in the developed world in
exchange for work done on obtaining waivers of the seventy intellectual
property rights agreements that otherwise would have restricted free
distribution of seed. I'm comfortable with this trade-off, since it will
allow seeds to be distributed without royalties in the Third World. This
collaboration with industry after the hard, basic science has been done
does not change the fact that there was not enough profit potential to
induce any corporation to attempt to develop the product from scratch.
Other aspects of the venture worth emulating are the role assigned to
public agencies, like the Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology, and
the commitment to cross the trait into local varieties, among others.
If, as Margulis writes, in the past the lead scientist (I assume he means
Ingo Potrykus) held patents along with a multinational, then I'm surprised
Margulis doesn't welcome Potrykus into the light of public interest from
the darkness of corporate co-patent-holder. Or does Margulis consider
Potrykus to be beyond redemption? I could not agree more with Margulis's
assessment that the biotech industry has shamelessly tried to turn golden
rice into the poster child for the industry, especially since, contrary to
the claim of Tokar, no industry money was spent to support its
development. But I am puzzled by the apparent conviction that the golden
rice project is somehow compromised by the industry offensive. Surely, we
should denounce industry's shameless attempt, but why should their
unprincipled effort to co-opt this publicly financed effort reflect badly
on the product?
The product should be evaluated for what it is. Many predict it will fall
far short of making a contribution to improved public health. If it turns
out that way, so be it. But the logic of "my enemies' friends are my
enemies" leads to strange places. One small indication that the biotech
industry has succeeded in focusing attention on golden rice is that none
of the letter writers mentioned my claim that science might contribute to
I admit to also being puzzled by the "either/or" paradigm presented in
comments by Beth Champagne, Tokar, Rossett and Darel Paul. I think it's
great that 3 million people in India are improving their lives with home
gardens, even if (and I do not mean this sarcastically) that is only about
0.25 percent of the people at risk for vitamin A deficiency. I think we
should vigorously support any strategy with promise for improving life for
poor people, even if it is only an incremental improvement, recognizing
that for the most part such projects do not compete for the same funds,
such as money made available for science from the European Biotech
Program. I absolutely agree that vitamin A deficiency, like hunger, is the
result of poverty. GM foods will not cure poverty. The empirical question
is whether they can make any contribution to human welfare without major
changes in the social structure.
Clearly, Martin Teitel is correct that "all science occurs in a context."
There can be no better example than the influence corporations have on the
science agenda. What I had in mind when I mentioned "empirical, not
ideological" questions were questions like those I asked in my essay;
e.g., would golden rice be accepted by consumers, would the yield be less
than the parental varieties into which it was crossed, etc. An extreme
example of an ideological stance is the statement by Champagne that
"contempt for life...is at the basis of science and capitalism." If this
leads Champagne to reject all products of science, then we simply
disagree. I, for one, am glad that my grandchildren have been immunized
against disease, even if some corporation made a profit from it.
(Immunization raises issues of benefit/cost ratio, but that's another
story.) I'm glad that biotechnology techniques have resulted in bacteria
that produce adequate insulin with consistent properties, a far better
medicine than that isolated from pig and cow pancreas.
In my editorial, I called for increasing the stringency of the regulatory
environment, including requiring multinationals to do the hard scientific
work of making it virtually impossible for engineered genes to escape from
the GM crop, a problem raised by Jim Rose and Signe Waller's letter. I did
realize that this put at risk my status as a "hero of Monsanto," which a
number of letter writers assigned to me. So it goes.
Left-wing attacks help boost John Stossel's and Brit Hume's audiences.
Wall Street Journal
Monday, July 9, 2001
Sometimes the best measure of a reporter's effectiveness is the virulence
of the attacks against him. Case in point: Last month, left-wing groups
ganged up on two dissenters from the liberal media orthodoxy: ABC's
contrarian reporter John Stossel and a former ABC colleague of his, Brit
Hume, who is now Fox News's Washington bureau chief.
Environmental groups have been furious for years with Mr. Stossel, a
former consumer-affairs reporter who is now a skeptic about ecological
doomsayers. Last year, they finally caught him in an error. They extracted
an on-air apology from Mr. Stossel after he mistakenly reported that a
test had shown organic food was no more healthy than processed food. In
fact, the tests had not been conducted; the error originated with an ABC
producer. Ever since then, every one of Mr. Stossel's broadcasts has been
subjected to microscopic analysis by advocates who hope to discredit his
When the Washington-based Environmental Working Group heard that Mr.
Stossel was filming a special called "Tampering With Nature," challenging
horror stories about global warming and genetic engineering of food, they
sprang into action. After Mr. Stossel interviewed several young children
about what they were learning in school at a California Earth Day seminar,
one of the teachers conducting the seminar became concerned. She had one
of the parents contact the Environmental Working Group to express concern
about Mr. Stossel's "confrontational" approach. Mike Casey of the
Environmental Working Group then contacted several other parents whose
kids had been interviewed by ABC. Those parents then wrote ABC to revoke
their permission for airing of the interviews. Mr. Stossel noted that
several of the parents were present for the interviews and had been
pleased with the results. But he and ABC agreed to respect the wishes of
When the special aired on June 29, Mr. Stos