Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





July 19, 2001


Third World, India, GE Trees, Soil Association,


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Today's Topics:

* Biotech In The Third World: A Hostage Of Eco-Propaganda
* A Gene Revolution: The Radical Environmental Movement Is Fighting
Biotechnology - And Underdeveloped Asia Could Be The Loser
* India: A Khush Turn For GM Foods
* GE trees
* Soil Association
* Plants Are Not Pesticides

Biotech In The Third World: A Hostage Of Eco-Propaganda

Agence France-Presse
July 20, 2001

The United Nations' recent intervention in the great debate over
genetically-modified foods has provided a welcome boost to the embattled
advocates of the technology.

Just a few weeks before the UN Development Program came out touting the
benefits of GM crops for the developing world, biotech supporters had been
pounding out the same message at an industry gathering in San Diego,

But where UN officials argued that Western-generated fears about biotech
should not prevent the developing world from capitalizing on the
technology, industry advocates say that this opposition has already put a
crimp in research funding and closed borders to exported GMO products.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, they
charged, are standing in the way of scientific advances which could help
meet the food needs of 1.3 billion people who live on less than one dollar
a day.

"It's what's putting the brakes on further development of the technology
in developing countries," said C. S. Prakash, director of the Center for
Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

The groups are part of "a protest industry," whose main product is "fear,"
added Prakash, a speaker at BIO 2001 in June in San Diego.

Those fears have turned consumers in the West, notably in Europe, against
foods which contain even the slightest trace of GMOs making some nations
reluctant to allow the cultivation of GMO crops for fear of jeopardizing
their export markets.

Thailand, the world's number one rice-exporting nation, banned commercial
cultivation of GMO crops in 1999, but that was because of the uncertainty
over the safety of GMO foods, Thai officials insist -- not worries about
losing their lucrative export markets.

The UN's Development Program went so far as to say that GMO crops could be
a useful tool in dealing with the malnutrition that affects 800 million
people worldwide, in a report issued July 9.

The debate about GMOs should not be driven by conservationists in the rich
countries alone, it warned.

The GMO lobby, however, claims that is precisely what has happened in
spite of a lack of any hard scientific evidence demonstrating that foods
containing GMOs are dangerous to humans, according to the GMO lobby.

"There are 44 million hectares of GM crops under cultivation, up to 10,000
field trials of GM crops are carried out every year and yet there is no
scientific evidence to show GMO products present a threat to humans," said
Florence Wambugo, head of ISAAA, Cornell University's agri-biotech
research center.

"All we have is hearsay."

GMO critics respond that the onus to prove these foods are safe lies with
the producers and the Monsanto's of this world, not consumers.

"Where are the long-term studies on the impact of GM crops on human health
or the environment?" queried Greenpeace spokesman Craig Culp.

"There is no mandatory labeling of foods containing GM products, so there
is no way to identify the effect of those GMOs on humans."

GMO critics also worry about the manufacturers of GM seeds monopolizing
the market in these agricultural inputs.

But scientists such as Prakash point out that public-sector institutions
in countries such as the Philippines and Kenya are working on high-yield
rice, virus-resistant sweet potato and more nutritious strains of cassava
-- crops that are staples in developing countries.

Genetically-enhanced crops that are easier to cultivate (insect and
pesticide-resistant), deliver higher yields and are less perishable, are
an obvious way to boost local and regional agriculture in order to meet
local food needs, he said.

A Gene Revolution: The Radical Environmental Movement Is Fighting
Biotechnology - And Underdeveloped Asia Could Be The Loser

Asia Week
July 20, 2001
By C.S. Prakash

The Asian economic resurgence of the last several years has improved the
lives of millions. Yet the region is home to 70% of the world's 1.3
billion desperately poor people. As most impoverished and hungry people
depend on locally grown crops for food, Asian countries need to boost
their food production using the latest in technologies. Innovative
biotechnology can continue to transform Asia's agrarian economies to
produce more food with less land, water, labor and chemicals, while
maintaining their natural biodiversity. Increasing productivity per unit
of land -not converting more forest to farming
- is the only solution to meeting food requirements for Asia. Locally
grown food makes it affordable for both urban and rural poor, while
generating more jobs and income.

Though China has become a global leader in biotechnology, elsewhere in
Asia, the brakes are being put on this technology. Nongovernment agencies
from developed countries - those not in need - are spreading groundless
fears about biotechnology. The task of producing more food on the farm is
daunting, given the challenges of insects, disease, dwindling water supply
and steadily degrading soils. It is an urgent challenge. Asia can't
afford to ignore scientific innovations used increasingly by the rest of
the world. Let us not forget the "Green Revolution" and the resistance
that it spurred 30 years ago. The gallant leadership in India paved the
way for this miracle by importing 18,000 tons of Mexican wheat seeds
despite massive criticism at the time. Wheat production since then has
increased several fold in India. Asian farmers have increased rice yields
by 2.5% each year since 1965, enabling more than 1 billion more people to
be fed.

The gains from such increases are now slowing. Population growth is
outstripping yields from traditional technologies. Clearly, the once
revolutionary technologies of the Green Revolution now have to incorporate
new technologies of the "Gene Revolution." Trials with
biotechnology-enhanced rice in China show that the crop can be protected
against loss from pests while minimizing the use of pesticides. The
much-heralded "Golden Rice" with increased vitamin A can reduce the
problems of blindness and disease in hundreds of thousands of Asian
children. The International Rice Research
Institute has developed rice that can tolerate submergence, a common
source of crop loss due to river overflows in Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Hundreds of university labs across Asia are using biotechnology to improve
food crops, such as chickpeas with disease resistance and papayas that
don't rot easily.

Biotechnology also helps protect the environment. Thanks to technology,
cotton farmers in the United States have eliminated the use of more than 4
million kg of pesticides, while production increased by 100 million kg per
year. Soybean farmers have embraced reduced tillage, saving valuable
topsoil from erosion. It is not just rich farmers who have adopted these
new technologies; more than a
million small-scale Chinese farmers have profited from pest-resistant
cotton cutting down costs and the use of pesticides. The value from
biotechnology is delivered through improved seeds. No new machines or
chemicals are needed; just the availability of improved seed at affordable
cost for farmers.

Globally, more than 40 million hectares of land are planted with these
crops. Farmers in 15 countries grew a trillion plants enhanced by
biotechnology in the past year, feeding hundreds of millions of people. To
date, not a single piece of scientifically proven evidence of harm or
injury has been reported.

Asians must be on guard against the luxuries of the radical environmental
movement - an unwanted export from its former colonial rulers. Romantic
notions of less intensive farming are naive at best and dangerous at
worst, if the expectation is that low productivity will feed increasing
populations. Asian nations and their leaders must distinguish between
reliable, credible people (those who have actually done something about a
problem) and those who are
merely talking. As Asian countries surge ahead, they must embrace the best
available technology to help feed their people, while protecting the
environment. Otherwise, the dream of the "Asian Century" may remain just
that - a dream.

Channapatna S. Prakash, a native of India, is a professor of biotechnology
at Tuskegee University, Alabama and president of the Agbioworld Foundation.

India: A Khush Turn For GM Foods

Hindu Business Line
July 19, 2001

NEW DELHI, July 19. GENETICALLY-MODIFIED (GM) foods has received support
from an unexpected quarter - Dr Gurudev S.Khush, respected in the
scientific community as being one of the brains behind the 'golden rice'.

Even as the scientific community sounded a note of caution on the effects
of GM foods, particularly on its long-term repercussions, Dr Khush told
Business Line: "There has not been any evidence till date that transgenic
engineering is harmful, given that the products are introduced only after
it has adhered to all the bio-safety protocols. These protocols ensure
that GM foods have been evaluated for any such adverse effects on human
health before they are
introduced into commercial production."

Drawing a parallel between the introduction of drugs, insecticides and GM
foods, he said: "Remedial measures have been undertaken when drugs that
were believed to be benign turned out being otherwise.

Similarly, at one point of time DDT was believed to be the panacea for
insect control. Likewise, the long-term effects of GM foods will have to
be studied over a period of time and if there are adverse effects, the
scientific community will then have to work on it."

Dr Khush, who is with the Manila-based International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI), is also a member of the scientific advisory committee of
the Department of Bio- Technology.

Citing the 'Comprehensive review of bio-technology', undertaken by the
Institute of Food Technologists, he said, "their study was to address
scientific issues and consumer concerns. And their conclusion was that GM
foods and food products do not inherently present any unintended toxic
properties than those already presented by conventional breeding
practices, which have an impressive safety record."

About 70 hectares of transgenic crops have been grown and no human health
problems associated specifically with the ingestion of transgenic crops or
their products have been identified, he said.

Further more, it should be kept in mind that many of the crop plants in
use already contain natural toxins and allergens. "Decisions regarding
food safety should be based on the nature of the product rather than on
the method by which it was modified. In other words, the breeding process
should not be an issue, safety of the food should be," he concluded.

Date: 19 Jul 2001 19:56:30 -0000
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: GE trees

Some list members might find the following of interest. I haven't
reviewed the report myself, but have suspicions about the claim of
"peer reviewed". Also, the quote near the end claiming "Genetically
engineering trees would vastly worsen the already well-documented
environmental hazards that are caused by today's biotech food crops"
raised red flags for me since I wasn't aware of these "well-documented
environmental hazards" of GE crops, unless they are counting output from
Ho, Cummins, Ryan, Shiva, and even Losey, Puztai and Altieri. For the
most part, I would consider this to be speculation on (or hypothesizing
about) what might be biologically possible, without any statement about
likelihood, much less evidence that these are real risks.



For Immediate Release July 17, 2001

Contact: Anne Petermann/Brian Tokar/Jason Ford
(802) 863-0571

Major Report Released on Global Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees

Burlington, VT--The Native Forest Network (NFN) announced today the
release of their 24 page report, "From Native Forests to Franken-Trees,
The Global Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees." The NFN is considered
one of the leading authorities on GE trees in the environmental movement.

"The genetic engineering of trees demonstrates the collusion between
multinational timber, chemical and biotechnology industries in league
with universities and government agencies to promote a technology that
will bring billions in profits at the expense of native forests and native
peoples," said NFN's Anne Petermann, report co-author. Petermann adds,
"GE trees are the greatest threat to the world's forests and
forest-dwelling indigenous peoples since the invention of the chainsaw."

This peer reviewed report is the most up-to-date and comprehensive look at
the threats posed by the genetic engineering of trees yet produced,
covering such issues as:

* GE trees and global warming: A look at carbon offset forestry
* GE trees impacts on native peoples in the Global South
* The science of GE trees
* Debunking alleged environmental benefits of GE trees
* An examination of the main players in the GE trees industry around
* GE trees and "free trade" agreements
* The Global Alliance Against GE Trees
* A listing of GE tree field trials in the U.S.

Brian Tokar, co-author of this report and editor of "Redesigning Life? The
Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering," (Zed Books, London & New
York) states, "Biotechnology seeks to turn all of life on earth into
materials to be controlled, manipulated and harvested for profit." Tokar
continues, "Genetically engineering trees would vastly worsen the already
well-documented environmental hazards that are caused by today's biotech
food crops."

The Native Forest Network coordinates an international educational
campaign to alert people to the dangers of GE trees. In the past year,
NFN has set up a global alliance of organizations to oppose this
technology. Some of the other groups involved in this educational
campaign are ACERCA, Dogwood Alliance, Econexus (England), Rainforest
Action Network and the World Rainforest Movement (Uruguay).

To receive a copy of this report, please call (802) 863-0571.

Date: 19 Jul 2001 17:29:05 -0000
From: craig sams
To: AgBioView
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Fading Interest, NGO Complex, Growth Limits,
Banana Genome, Potrykus

The article from the Grand Forks Herald quotes 'Walker' as saying: "The
Soil Association, which promotes organic agriculture in Britain has a
policy of not licensing organic production within three kilometers of GM
crops. It actively champions the non-GM status of organic food. Industry
guidelines for siting the trial have respected this, although there seems
more promotional than scientific justification for the distance policy."
A few facts may help illuminate his comments.

The policy on GM crops was incorporated into the EU organic regulations
back in 1992, so it was not a Soil Association reaction to GM plantings or
a cynical ploy to scare consumers with the GM spectre. Organic producers
have to obey a law that was passed in 1992 and there is a conflict between
that law and the uncontrolled planting of GM crops. In the US no such
respect for organic producers or non GM producers was shown, with damaging
impacts on both groups. The consumer reaction owes more to the
arrogant and unsympathetic way that GM foods were introduced, with no
willingness to concede on segregation or labelling. What would you expect?

The Soil Association commissioned and paid for research from the
National Pollen Research Unit, a UK Govt-funded body, to ascertain
pollination distances for canola and maize. It was on the basis of their
science-based advice that the separation distances were established, to
ensure the non-GM integrity of organic food. The Department of the
Environment were a little surprised that nobody in the GM industry was
able to provide information and that the Soil Association was the only
reliable source on pollination distances, with data taking into account
the distances, wind speeds and
relative elevations that are all factors in pollination risk.
Considering that GM crops are the most heavily researched and tested crops
in all history, it's worrying that their proponents never did this
elementary research and that a small ngo like the Soil Association had to.
If they had done, perhaps the Starlink fiasco would not have been so bad.

Craig Sams

Editorial: Plants Are Not Pesticides: A New US EPA Rule That Says
Pest-Resistant GM Plants Should Be Regulated Like Pesticides Is
Anti-Consumer And Anti-Environment

Financial Post
July 20, 2001

A persistent criticism of the Bush administration, according to polls, is
that federal policies too often favour the interests of big business over
those of consumers. These criticisms of "deregulatory" policies usually
have been ill-founded, but yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) issued a regulation that is genuinely anti-consumer,
anti-environment and anti-farmer. The only beneficiaries will be big
agribusiness and the regulators

Ironically, the usual critics of the Bush administration will love it.
The practice at issue -- the use of gene-splicing, or genetic modification
(GM), techniques to enhance the intrinsic pest-resistance of crop and
garden plants -- offers a safe, viable alternative to chemical pesticides,
but the testing and commercialization of these plants have been
systematically obstructed since 1994, when EPA first proposed to regulate
them as though they were dangerous chemical pesticides. These innovative
new varieties have already demonstrated their commercial, environmental
and public health benefits. An example is GM Bt-cotton, which differs from
other varieties by the presence of a single bacterial protein. The
protein, made by a gene transferred to the cotton plant by GM techniques,
is toxic to certain insects but not to humans or other mammals. The
approach is not new: For decades, preparations of live Bt bacteria
have been sprayed onto plants by home gardeners and commercial farmers,
with an admirable record of both safety and effectiveness.

The Bt-cotton is used to control several major pests that account for a
quarter of all losses due to pest infestations and cost U.S. farmers more
than US$150-million annually. In 1999, states that had a high rate of
adoption of Bt-cotton showed a reduction in the need to treat fields with
chemical pesticides, from an average of three treatments per acre to about
one and a half. Bt-cotton has eliminated the need for more than 2 million
pounds of chemical pesticides since it was introduced in 1996.

In purely economic terms, the aggregate advantage to cotton farmers
nationally -- the net value of crops not lost to pests, savings in
pesticides and so on -- is in the range of US$100- to 150-million per
year, but these benefits pale beside the environmental advantages. Three
of the chemicals that must be used in much greater amounts on
conventional, non-Bt-cotton -- endosulfan, methyl parathion and profenos
-- are thought to have negative effects on birds, fish
and other aquatic organisms.

The adoption of Bt-cotton and the resulting lessened need for chemical
pesticides also reduces occupational exposures to the toxic chemicals by
workers who mix, load and apply the pesticides, and who perform other
activities that require their presence in the field. Moreover, the smaller
the amounts of pesticides that are applied, the less runoff into waterways.

Another agricultural threat amenable to these genetic approaches is the
growing infestation of California's grapevines by Pierce's disease, a
bacterial infection spread by a leaf-hopping insect, the glassy-winged
sharpshooter. The introduction of new vines with enhanced genetic
resistance to either the bacterium or the insect would be a promising
strategy, but attempts to use highly precise and efficient GM techniques
have run afoul of the EPA's regulatory policy.

The EPA holds the new technology to an inappropriate standard, requiring
hugely expensive testing of GM crop and garden plants, such as cotton,
corn, tomatoes and grapes, as though they were chemical pesticides -- a
policy that has been repeatedly condemned by the scientific community. The
agency has imposed requirements that could not possibly be met for
products of conventionally bred crop plants, and its policies fail to
recognize that there are important
differences between spraying synthetic, toxic chemicals, and genetic
approaches to enhancing plants' natural pest resistance.

Scientists worldwide agree that adding genes to plants does not make them
less safe, either to the environment or for humans to eat. Dozens of new
plant varieties produced through hybridization and other traditional
methods of genetic improvement enter the marketplace each year without
scientific review or special labelling. Many such products are from "wide
crosses," hybridizations in which genes are moved from one species or one
genus to another to create a plant variety that does not and cannot exist
in nature.

EPA's policy is so potentially damaging and outside scientific norms that
it has galvanized the scientific community, which has repeatedly and
unequivocally attacked the agency's approach. Dozens of major scientific
societies representing more than 100,000 biologists and food professionals
have warned that the EPA policy discourages the development of new
pest-resistant crops, prolongs and increases the use of synthetic chemical
pesticides, limits the use of biotechnology to larger developers who can
pay the inflated regulatory costs, and handicaps those who overregulate in
competition for international

EPA's policy acts as a market-entry barrier to seed and biotech companies
undertaking gene-splicing research, so big agribusiness has lobbied hard
for it. The final regulation emerges at a time when the Bush
administration is operating with a skeleton crew, one that includes a
completely clueless EPA chief, and deputy Linda Fisher, a former Monsanto
senior executive who continues to advance the company's interests.

The now final EPA policy ensures that the potential of biotechnology
applied to agriculture and food production is tarnished. So is the health
of the environment. And so is the reputation of the Bush White House.