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Date:

July 30, 2001

Subject:

Salt-Tolearnt Breakthrough; Bioinformatics; Dawkins; GM

 

AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Today's Topics

* Salt-tolerant Tomato Represents Breakthrough
* Green movement's half-truths and untruths
* Free Bioinformatics Web Lectures
* What Is Science Good For?: - Richard Dawkins
* Potatoes To Power Cars, Make Soft Drinks!
* Most New Zealanders Support Biotech
* Food for Thought on the GMO Debate
* Jury Out on Environmental Impact of GM Soy
* Rifkin: Common Ground In Opposition To a Utilitarian View Of Life
* Perspectives on Genetically Engineered Crops
* Vandana Shiva Charges UNDP as Biotech Salesman
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Salt-tolerant Tomato Represents Breakthrough

July 30, 2001 Reuters/Agence France Presse English

WASHINGTON - In a breakthrough that could boost food production in
many parts of the world, plant biologist Eduardo Blumwald, of the
University of California at Davis and Hong-Xia Zhang of the University
of Toronto were cited as reporting in the August issue of Nature
Biotechnology they had inserted a single gene from a relative of the
cabbage into a tomato plant to create the first crop able to grow in
salty water and soil.

The stories explain that the researchers introduced into a tomato
plant a gene from the plant Arabidopsis that controls a protein able
to corral excess salt before it inflicts damage on a plant. The
genetically engineered tomato imprisons the salt in compartments
within its cells, and also removes salt from the soil. The leaves of
the genetically engineered tomato plants contained very high
concentrations of sodium, but the fruit produced by the plants was not
tainted by salt. Blumwald was cited as saying that commercially useful
salt-tolerant tomato plants could be available within three years.

The researchers said the tomatoes offer hope that other crops also can
be genetically modified for use in parts of the world that have salty
irrigation water and salt-damaged soils. The stories say that the
creation of the first salt-tolerant crop addresses one of
agriculture's key problems. Irrigated land represents only 15 percent
of global cropland but generates 40 percent of the crops. But salt is
toxic to crops, and water used for irrigation leaves behind salt that
eventually ruins the soil.

Crop production is limited by salinity on up to 40 percent of the
world's irrigated land, including 25 percent of irrigated land in the
United States, according to estimates. Stanley Wood, a scientist with
the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, which
studies global agricultural issues, was quoted as saying, "It is a
problem that does seem to be getting worse. Anything that increases
the productivity of those lands obviously would be a major breakthrough."

About 24.7 million acres -- one-fifth the area of California -- of
once-productive land is being lost annually worldwide because of
irrigation-induced salinity, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. Scientists have failed to develop salt-tolerant crop
varieties using selective breeding techniques. Tomatoes bearing the
AtNHX1 gene and normal tomatoes were grown in water containing high
concentrations of salt. The non-transgenic tomatoes either died or
were severely stunted, but the modified plants flourished and their
fruit was not tainted by salt.

++++++++++++

Transgenic Salt-tolerant Tomato Plants Accumulate Salt In Foliage But
Not In Fruit

Hong-Xia Zhang1 & Eduardo Blumwald (eblumwald@ucdavis.edu)
Nature Biotechnology, August 2001 Volume 19 Number 8 pp 765 - 768
Department of Botany, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks St.,
Toronto, ON M5S 3B2, Canada; Department of Pomology, University of
California, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616.

Transgenic tomato plants overexpressing a vacuolar Na+/H+ antiport
were able to grow, flower, and produce fruit in the presence of 200 mM
sodium chloride. Although the leaves accumulated high sodium
concentrations, the tomato fruit displayed very low sodium content.
Contrary to the notion that multiple traits introduced by breeding
into crop plants are needed to obtain salt-tolerant plants, the
modification of a single trait significantly improved the salinity
tolerance of this crop plant. These results demonstrate that with a
combination of breeding and transgenic plants it could be possible to
produce salt-tolerant crops with far fewer target traits than had been
anticipated. The accumulation of sodium in the leaves and not in the
fruit demonstrates the utility of such a modification in preserving
the quality of the fruit.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: Ferdinand Engelbeen
Re: A Report on Genetically Engineered Crops - Charles Rader of MIT

I could not agree more with Dr. Rader. As a former chemical
engineer, currently working as process automation engineer for
chlorine and VCM/PVC factories, I have been confronted with the
actions of the "green" movement, especially Greenpeace, against the
products I help to make.

The same exaggerations, the same half-truths and untruths, despite
evidence of the opposite provided by many scientific works, as can be
seen against GMO's.

PVC and other plastics can be labeled and in many cases are labeled to
make recognising and separating for recycling purposes easier. This is
indeed abused by Greenpeace to condemn PVC with skull & crossbones,
and promote alternatives which are proven to be twenty times more
polluting in their total life cycle... See:
http://www.greenpeace.org/%7Etoxics/pvcdatabase/bad.html

Thus, if the labeling is on transgenic food, not the opposite, fight
it as long as possible, it surely will be abused by GMO opponents...

Sincerely,

Ferdinand Engelbeen; Chairman Chlorophiles, B-2940 Stabroek Belgium
(the Chlorophiles is an independent action group of workers in the
chlorine and PVC industry,reacting against the false allegations
about the products they help to make).
----
>AgBioView forwarded the text of Dr. Charles M. Rader:
>I agree people who want to avoid transgenic food should be able to
>make that choice. But labeling can take two forms. One could label
>food which is not transgenic, or one could label food which is
>transgenic. I can't imagine anyone objecting to labeling foods which
>are transgenic-free. But the anti-transgenic demand is adamant for the
>other choice. We can say that the difference is between those who
>would label the non-transgenic food with a smiley face and those who
>would label transgenic food with a skull & crossbones.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Free Bioinformatics Web Lectures

http://s-star.org

A new free online bioinformatics education now available at
http://s-star.org is intended to help the drastically increasing
number of researchers who need some bioinformatics training, as well
as computer programmers and business people who lack basic science
knowledge, says S-Star Alliance coordinator Phyllis Gardner of
Stanford: "Now more than ever there is a tremendous need for
researchers to obtain some working knowledge of bioinformatics, but
there is a dearth of faculty to train them, and that's being seen all
over the world." The site's 15 lectures do not currently include
computer programming, but Gardner says that S-Star will tailor the
courses according to feedback. AB (Nature Biotechnology August 2001)

----
The S-Star group of teaching institutions have formed a global
alliance to provide a global, unified bioinformatics learning
environment (GLOBULE) made up of modular courses in the disciplines of
genomics, bioinformatics, and medical informatics.

The initial aims of GLOBULE are to:
* Make a jointly provided globally accessible online course for
training in bioinformatics and genomics.
* Provide accessibility to the highest possible quality of online
courseware available in the world today
* Provide high quality assessment, grading and courseware that has
been approved by the educators from the host institutions.
* Develop an integrated modular learning environment that allows a
student to select from both pre-requisite modules and advanced modules
in order to build a comprehensive program in genomics and bioinformatics.

Our primary objective is to provide anyone with an introductory course
in bioinformatics. We hope this collection of s-star bioinformatics
lectures will be available to students anywhere through the internet ,
regardless of whether our classes are attended by individuals or in
groups.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What Is Science Good For?: A Conversation with Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, Oxford Univ.
Harvard Business Review, December, 2000 / January, 2001 Pg. 159
(Only the introduction and concluding section posted below here)

There's no doubt about it: getting inspiration from different fields
of study can be immensely fruitful. A nonbusiness discipline -- be it
history or anthropology -- can provide a useful framework for thinking
about old problems in new ways. Indeed, cross-fertilization between
fields has been going on a long while. People who study management,
for instance, freely borrow from all fields of science to theorize
about organizational behavior and business strategy. Evolutionary
psychology and biology are especially popular sources of inspiration.
But should they be?

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has spent much of his career
explaining science to the public. More than 20 years ago, his book The
Selfish Gene shattered the popular belief that evolution necessarily
favors altruism and self-sacrifice. Returning to the first principles
of Darwinism, Dawkins asked what was being selected in evolution. His
answer? Not the species, but the most basic element of information --
our selfish genes. Today, Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of
the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, England, and
he has written numerous books on evolutionary biology. In this
conversation with HBR senior editor Diane Coutu, held in his Oxford
home, Dawkins talks about the role of science in our lives, and he
identifies some of the more glaring public misperceptions of
scientific theories. In particular, he disentangles the current notion
that certain behaviors are in some way preprogrammed into people by
what happened in our very distant past. He also explodes some
contemporary myths about the Human Genome Project. A staunch defender
of science as a haven of rational thought, Dawkins counsels
businesspeople to recognize the limitations -- as well as the beauty
-- of science.

Nowadays, managers like to talk of people's behavior as being
"hardwired." Is it right to think of loyalty, for example, as an
evolutionary characteristic? It's not hard to see why people like to
think that way. It's easy to imagine the benefits of loyalty half a
million years ago when we were hunting and gathering in bands and
dependent upon one another for survival. You would have survived
better if you were loyal to other members of your band. But people
shouldn't be too simplistic. Science is more complicated than that.

--cut--

In any event, much of the popular fear that surrounds genetic
manipulation is entirely misplaced. Humans have been practicing it for
thousands of years, to no obvious ill effect. Consider corn. We have
been breeding corn by artificial selection for over a thousand years
now, and corncobs have gone from being half an inch to a foot long --
which is a far more dramatic change than any genetic modification that
anyone is doing now. But of course it took thousands of years to do
this, so people are not afraid of these cobs, which are, actually,
quite Frankenstein-like compared to their progenitors.

Are you saying that Monsanto's corn struck terror into some people's
hearts because they misunderstood science? Part of the reason for
Monsanto's troubles is that the company came up against an
extraordinary amount of unfortunate, even malevolent, media hype. And
people were more or less misled, by one scare story after another,
into stampeding. There are, of course, grave dangers in the misuse of
science. But in the mad rush to oppose certain things, the public
often ignores other bad things that are happening -- like the overuse
of antibiotics. This has been going on for decades now and is
extremely serious. If only some activists had set their sights on the
overuse of antibiotics, that would have been a thoroughly good thing.
But they ignore that problem altogether; they are too busy screaming
about genetic modification. The reason, I think, is largely emotional.
In some way, genetic engineering is perceived as a threat while abuse
of antibiotics is not. The truth is, during all the centuries that
we've been breeding corn and cows to be radically different from their
wild ancestors, we could have been doing the same things to humans --
and we haven't. We could have produced humans who are one foot tall
and as different from us as a Pekingese is from a wolf. But for
whatever reason, we haven't. So why should we start now?

Some businesses have invested billions of dollars to diminish people's
fears of genetic engineering. Is there no danger associated with it?
There are very real dangers associated with the overenthusiastic
application of science, but they are often not the dangers that are
alleged by the media-fanned hysteria. And there is an extra risk of
crying wolf: when the hyped dangers turn out to be illusory, people
may be lulled into ignoring the real dangers.

May I add an academic point that intrigues me as an evolutionary
biologist? It is not widely appreciated that genetic manipulation
could move evolution into a whole new game, which is no longer quite
Darwinian. Natural selection, you see, does not anticipate the future.
It has produced beautiful, elegantly "designed" organisms that fly and
swim and do all sorts of terrific things. But it remains in essence a
response to a current environment. By contrast, humans are accustomed
to planning ahead. A company, for example, puts up with five years of
loss because it is gambling on getting a new share of the market in
five years' time. Nature never does that. Natural selection is totally
blind to the future.

Modern genetic engineering raises the possibility that humans might be
able to change the course of evolution in a direction that is governed
by future expectations. We could say, for instance, "Let's breed a
race of flying turtles, because there's a strong possibility that we
shall need such an animal in a million years."

If you had one message for the managers of companies today, what would
it be? I could argue that science has become so important nowadays
that managers need it even in the day-to-day running of their
businesses. But I am not going to make that case. In today's world, I
believe the most important fact is that whether you're a CEO or a
chimney sweep, you're brain-dead if you don't want to know where you
came from and why you exist.

My main message to laypeople, therefore, is: Think for yourselves.
Don't rely on the scientists to interpret everything for you. Try to
understand the issues for yourselves. Scientific literacy is its own
reward. It will take you to places you have never gone before -- and
in the process, it will help you to lead a better, fuller -- dare I
say it? -- happier life.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Potatoes To Power Cars, Make Soft Drinks!

Business Line (India) 30 July 2001 M. Somasekhar

DESIGNER potatoes that can produce large amounts of fructose, a key
ingredient in soft drinks and sweeteners and in future possibly
produce ethanol to power automobiles?

Yes. Using gene fusion technology, a Group of French scientists, led
by Prof Rajbir Sangwan, has produced a genetically-modified (GM)
potato that churns out 19 times more fructose than the normal ones.
Annually millions of tonnes of fructose - the sweetest of all natural
carbohydrates - are produced through industrial processes that use
starch from maize. The starch is converted into fructose in a chemical
plant using bacterial enzymes.

What Prof Rajbir Sangwan and team have done is injecte the two genes
coding enzymes that convert the starch stored in potatoes into
fructose in the plant itself. When the potato is heated and mashed,
the fructose is released, in effect turning the potato into a mini
chemical factory.

It is well known that potatoes are storehouses of starch. "Converting
the 40-60 per cent starch into fructose was a big challenge posed to
us during 1996-97, when the French farmers produced a record output
and a glut situation arose," explained Prof Sangwan. In fact, the
European Union had been urging farmers not to grow potatoes due to the
glut. "We stepped in and chanced on the new discovery of applying gene
fusion technology to engineer and boost direct production of fructose
in processed potato tubers, which has higher industrial use," Prof
Sangwan told Business Line .

The team modified the potato by inserting the genes coded enzymes
called 'alpha amylase' and 'glucose isomerase'. While the first enzyme
breaks down starch to glucose, the second converts glucose to
fructose. With the entire conversion mechanism firmly placed, the
potato becomes a one-step pilot plant to directly produce fructose. To
scale up the plant, all that is needed is to grow more GM potatoes.

The technology, which helped in making GM potatoes, demonstrated at
the end of 2000, had potential agro-food industrial applications for
both developed and developing countries, especially in India where
potato production was high, Prof Sangwan, Director of the
Bio-technology lab at the University of Picardie Jules Verne, France,
said.

The professor, who was in Hyderabad recently participating in a
bio-technology meeting, said by using gene fusion technology it would
be possible to enhance nutrition levels of poor, diabetics, children
and women through appropriate agro food processing strategies. Already
multinational soft drink companies and producers of artificial
sweeteners had evinced interest.

Having successfully fused two genes, the French scientist's team was
now close to trying the technique to fuse three in a bid to get still
higher yields of fructose, Prof Sangwan, a consultant to UNIDO and
IAEA, said, an interesting challenge was posed by a Boston-based
entrepreneur, who wanted to use the GM potatoes to produce low cost
ethanol to fuel automobiles.

"We are convinced that the gene fusion technology can be used in
fermentation and to make low cost ethanol. For the raw material we
need an industry crop as growing potatoes on large scale." At the
moment, the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues need to be
thrashed out before a possible collaborative work can be started with
the Boston entrepreneur, he said.

What about the opposition to GM foods evident in European countries?
Dr Sangwan feels, "there is a sobering down of the opposition and as
far as GM potato was concerned the bigger problem was IPR. We did not
patent in the beginning, because I wanted the technology to be freely
available to every country."

The gene fusion technology could find beneficial applications in
processing of agro foods, fruits and also in cutting down post-harvest
losses, which were very high in countries as India, Prof. Sangwan
said. He, however felt the problem solving research approach was
lacking in India, which was resulting in wastages and continued agony
to farmers.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Most New Zealanders Support Biotech

NZ rural website Fencepost.com is running a poll on the genetic
modification of plants and animals which is currently running at close
to 70% in favor of biotech. To check the poll go to the link below.
It is down on the left hand side of the page and once you record your
vote you get the latest result. (Thanks to Francis Wevers
for the alert)

http://www.fencepost.com/

Results so far.....

Do you support genetic engineering experiments on plants and animals?

Yes: 68.9%
No: 31.1%

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Food for Thought on the GMO Debate

Book Review by Kimberly Brooks
Nature Biotechnology August 2001 Volume 19 Number 8 p711
Book: Genetically Modified Organisms in Agriculture: Economics and
Politics by Gerald C. Nelson Academic Press; $69.95, 344 pp, hardcover
ISBN 0125154224, 2001

Brave is the editor who is up to the challenge of producing a textbook
that covers the many complex and controversial social, political, and
economic issues generated by the current "hot potato"?agricultural
biotechnology. Tackling the dearth of economic and scientific
certainties associated with the field in a form that is accessible to
novice and expert alike is no easy task. However, Gerald Nelson has
managed admirably to achieve this in Genetically Modified Organisms in
Agriculture: Economics and Politics, a collection of papers prepared
by leading voices in the ongoing debate about genetically modified
organisms (GMO).

Nelson sets the scene by focusing on something the GMO debate
desperately needs?hard facts. Opening with cogent economic analyses,
Nelson and several colleagues from the University of Illinois-Urbana
provide preliminary thoughts on the tough questions that have gone
unanswered since the early 1990s: Who are the winners and the losers
from adoption of this technology? Will farmers really experience a
fiscal benefit when they use GM crops? And how much do firms actually
stand to gain from current patent and intellectual property laws?

The first half of Part I provides the beginnings of a quantitative
analysis of the market for GMOs, whereas subsequent chapters provide a
more qualitative picture of non-market effects such as regulatory
concerns, the potential environmental impact of GMOs, and how markets
respond to consumer demand. However, although the later chapters of
Part I attempt to provide an objective look at the risks and benefits
of agricultural biotechnology, the reader is left with the impression
that the benefits far outweigh the risks?a conclusion which several
players in the debate might dispute.

Veterans of the global debate about GMOs know that credible research
into its economics and long-term environmental impact are vital for
the future of the technology. However, they also know that whichever
stakeholder first ventures into such contentious arenas will likely
inspire disgruntled opponents to conduct comparable studies and derive
results to support their own ideology or agenda. By presenting
economic analyses that are more supportive than critical of the
technology, Nelson throws down a gauntlet for all stakeholders,
inspiring them to fill the void of economic fact on this issue.

After providing food for thought about the supply and demand of GMOs,
Nelson next turns to the overarching issue of politics in Part II.
Rather than showcase all viewpoints, Nelson has sought to illuminate
the polarization between the global and US domestic debate. A paper by
Julie Babinard of the International Food Policy Research Institute
(IFPRI; Washington, DC) and Timothy Josling from the Institute for
International Studies, Stanford University (Stanford, CA) provides
readers the political "lay of the land" before representatives from
key organizations in the United States and abroad?including Consumers
Union, Grocery Manufacturers of America, several academic
institutions, the European Commission, the US Congress, and
Monsanto?present their particular perspectives.

The arguments presented in Part II clearly highlight that the opinions
of the different stakeholders are not diametrically opposed, but
differ often by subtle shades. Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Marc Cohen,
both of the IFPRI, argue that agricultural biotechnology is essential
to food security, allowing developing countries to meet their own
supply needs, and become self-sustaining. Dennis Avery of the Hudson
Institute (Indianapolis, IN) argues that biotechnology is needed to
feed the expected population boom, and for its potential benefits for
other plant life such as trees. However, Vandava Shiva from the
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in New Delhi,
India, calls for a 5-year moratorium on all field testing of GMOs on
the grounds that industry has erroneously sped-up adoption of GMOs
before their environmental impacts have been assessed. Richard Caplan
from US Public Interest Research Group insists that the regulatory
framework for GM crops is too unpredictable and risky for their
widespread use. Collectively, the papers capture the complexity of the
arguments so frequently aired in favor or opposition of agricultural
biotechnology.

The final section of the book examines the issues fundamental to the
debate?but perhaps in too little extent. Indeed, only 30 pages of this
300-page book examine the "nuts and bolts"?the history of agricultural
biotechnology, the intricacies of genetic engineering, the scientific
studies of the effects of GMOs (e.g., the impact of Bt corn on monarch
butterflies). This gap is unfortunate because an in-depth discussion
of topics, such as regulatory gaps and reform possibilities, would
certainly be valued by sophisticated readers looking for more in-depth
coverage of the key issues.

To date, most discussions about agricultural biotechnology in the
United States have taken place among an elite circle of stakeholders,
scientists, academics, and policymakers. However, most consumers do
not know enough about the issue to evaluate genetic engineering and
make informed decisions. Although some basic topics might have
benefited from more in-depth coverage, Nelson should be commended for
bringing together the many voices in the debate. Genetically Modified
Organisms in Agriculture: Economics and Politics is a useful guide for
novices to the field and perhaps could be used as a general reference
for those already familiar with the intricacies of this topic
-
Kimberly Brooks is Assistant Director of Communications at the Pew
Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (Washington, DC; e-mail:
kbrooks@pewagbiotech.org).

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jury Out on Environmental Impact of GM Soy

Marianne Heselmans, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Nature Biotechnology August 2001 Volume 19 Number 8 pp 700 - 701

Two independent studies were published in May and June on the
environmental effects?particularly herbicide use?associated with the
Roundup Ready (RR) soybean, the first large-scale transgenic crop to
hit the market. Both reports are analyses of other data sources and
studies conducted during the five years since its introduction.
However, they draw conflicting conclusions, and thus do little to
clarify the debate on the environmental effects of genetically
modified crops. But what they both highlight is the need for
definitive, well-documented, large-scale monitoring studies, and an
education program for farmers to promote sustainable agriculture.

RR soybeans have been genetically modified by Monsanto (St. Louis, MO)
to be resistant to glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide sold by
Monsanto as Roundup. This allows farmers to spray while the crop is
growing?when weeds are a more serious threat?without harming it.
Monsanto claimed this would reduce herbicide use by up to 30%, but
environmental groups argued the GM crop would encourage farmers to
douse fields with herbicides, increasing their use by up to 200%.

The first report, Troubled Times Amid Commercial Success for Roundup
Ready Soybean, was written by biotechnology advisor Charles Benbrook
at the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center in Sandpoint
Idaho in the US. "RR soybeans clearly require more herbicides than
conventional soybeans," concludes Benbrook. He also claims the yield
of RR soybeans can be up to 10% less than the yield of conventional
soybeans.

The second study, Environmental and Agronomic Effects of Glyphosate
Tolerant Soybean in the USA, (http://www.clm.nl/pdf/496.pdf ) was
conducted by biotech consultant Piet Schenkelaars and the Dutch Centre
for Agriculture and the Environment (CLM). It was financed by the
Dutch Product Board for Margarines, Oils and Fats (the marketing board
for the processing industry), and supervised by a remarkably broad
committee, including representatives from the NIABA (Dutch
biotechnology industry association), Greenpeace, and the Netherlands
Society for Nature and Environment. RR soy cultivation across the US
has led to "a modest reduction in herbicide-use," conclude the Dutch
researchers. They also say that an increase use of glyphosate over
other herbicides is having a positive effect on the environment, but
that studies available about the impacts on biodiversity and yield are
too small to be useful.

Both reports have, in the main, analyzed the US Department of
Agriculture's (USDA) Agriculture Chemical Usage Survey, a US-wide
study that looked at herbicide use between 1995 and 1998, based on
interviews with 8800 farmers. According to that study, the total
amount of herbicide used on all soybeans?transgenic and
conventional?was 1 lb per acre in 1995, 1.18 in 1997, and 1.06 in
1998. More recent figures show 1 lb per acre for 1999. USDA
researchers said no distinction was made between transgenic and
traditional soybeans in part because the differences would be
statistically insignificantly small in many cases. Benbrook and
Schenkelaars have interpreted USDA data in different ways.

Benbrook notes the increase in herbicide use in 1998 compared to 1995,
arguing that the 1996 introduction of RR soy is responsible. But he
has also taken the raw data from the 1998 interviews to show that an
average of 1.22 lbs per acre was used on GM soybean in 1998 compared
with 1.08 lb per acre for conventional soybean?11% more. He also notes
that in six US states, including Minnesota, total herbicide use on RR
soybeans in 1998 was as much as 30% greater than that for conventional
varieties.

Meanwhile the Dutch researchers focus on the 10% drop of total
herbicide use between 1997 and 1998. Although several factors?such as
different weather conditions, a switch to the 'low-dose' herbicides,
fewer weeds, the adoption of precision weed management,and the new RR
soybean?could influence herbicide use, they estimate that the
introduction of RR soybean is responsible for a "reduction in
herbicide-use of somewhere between 0 and 10%."

Unsurprisingly, both groups are critical of the other. For instance,
Benbrook says that the 10% decrease between 1997 and 1998 is
misleading: to compete with RR soybeans, he says, chemical firms
drastically reduced the price of more concentrated herbicides (0.1 lb
per spray compared with 0.75 lb of glyphosate), and that the 10%
decrease recorded between 1997 and 1998 is actually due to farmers
adopting these low-dose herbicides. Meanwhile, the Dutch group says
Benbrook's report "doesn't provide insight into the statistical
approaches applied, nor in their limitation," and they agree with USDA
that using raw data to draw conclusions at the level of states and
even fields does not hold up statistically. But Benbrook claims the
USDA chose not to distinguish between transgenic and traditional soy
because the result could pose problems for industry.

Janet Carpenter from the US National Center for Food and Agricultural
Policy (Washington, DC) has also, independently, analyzed the same
USDA study. According to Carpenter, the introduction of RR soybean has
had little change on the total amount of herbicides used: an average
of one pound per acre of herbicide was used both in 1995, before the
introduction of RR soybeans, and in 1999. While there was a reduction
in 1998?which the Dutch researchers stressed?there was an increase in
1996 and 1997. "For soybean growers who have adopted
herbicide-tolerant varieties, the impact has been to switch from using
three or four different herbicides to using one or two," she wrote in
Science (292, 5517, 2001).

In any event, what's more important for the environment, says
Carpenter, isn't the amount but the toxicity of the herbicide used.
Glyphosate, she points out, is less toxic than other herbicides. And
this is where she agrees with the Dutch group, which cites the
Environmental Yardstick, a CLM comparison of the toxic effects of
compounds on water and animals. Even Benbrook verbally acknowledges
that glyphosate is a relatively safe herbicide, although he does not
mention it in his report. Notably, he concedes, "Once biotech PR
people move the message to 'RR crops allow a switch to a safer
herbicide that is applied at a relatively higher rate per acre,' I
will stop debating this issue."

Both reports note the lack of well documented large-scale studies on
the positive and negative environmental effects of GM crops. "Our
recommendation is wider-scale monitoring," says CLM's Gé Pak. And what
is clear from both reports is that the claims of environmental groups
and Monsanto are unfounded, but farmers are being more liberal with RR
than is necessary. "Monsanto based its claims on the assumption that
farmers growing the RR soybean would only spray once instead of the
two or three times needed for conventional soy," explains Gé Pak. "But
that's an illusion. Most of them spray two or three times, just to be
sure." To promote sustainable agriculture and prevent glyphosate
resistance, he says, Monsanto must invest in research and education in
the field of integrated weed management.

However, Guido Boeken, Monsanto's director of public relations, is
dismissive, saying that economical concerns prevent farmers from using
more herbicide than is necessary. Although he agrees that monitoring
weed resistance is important, he points out that, in the 20 years of
glyphosate use, few weeds have developed resistance.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Re: Sams on Organic

> Sams: Organic agriculture could feed the world. It has not been
> abandoned by farmers, it is growing at an extraordinary rate.

The best published estimates predict that organic agriculture can feed
less than 2/3's the current world's population.

> themselves, like all other industries. The ultimate result of
> subsidies is that MacDonalds can sell a hamburger for 99 when its
> real cost should be $2.49

The beef industry has virtually no subsidy. The only thing in a
hamburger subsidized is the wheat in the bun and if wheat was $10 a
bushel it wouldn't raise the price of the bun 2 cents. You need a
better example. If subsides are such a bad thing why is organic
agriculture so heavily subsidized in Great Britain?

> Sams; I stated that organic farmers have 'accepted with reluctance'
> the problem of pesticide spray drift. If an organic farmer claims his
> product is 'pesticide-free' Professor Anthony Trewavas will report
> them to the Advertising Standards Authority on the basis that
> pesticides are everywhere. Nobody wants to see the same thing happen
> with GM contamination.

You have no right to dictate what your neighbors plant as long as it
is legal. You have no super legal standing because you have
arbitrarily decide you don't want something you call contamination
blowing on you fields. If organic agriculture used rational thought
they would be the first to embrace BT crops because they have the
potential to make organic agriculture productive enough to be practical.

> Sams; I was referring to the demand for GM food labeling in the U.S.,
> a bill for which is now heading for a vote in Congress. The statistics
> I've seen indicate the demand for GM food labeling has increased
> steadily, mainly as a result of 'don't knows' coming down in favor of
> labeling.

When properly explained the US consumer is satisfied with things the
way they are. If they want labeling where were the demonstrators at
San Diego?

> Organic food never contains fumigants or post-harvest processing
> chemicals. There's more, but you can't call such fundamental
> differences 'sleight of hand.'

So organic products are not protected from post harvest damage that
promotes molds that produce potent mytotoxins. The large majority of
those 1000 chemicals are things beneficial to man not harmful. Things
like vitamin A, D and C are in that list. You paint with a broad
brush. How about some facts not propaganda.

Fifty years of experience and research show no problems with hormone
in meat. Even the EU can't find anything wrong with it to use as a
trade barrier.

> Soviets found to their dismay. The safety of food always has to be
> balanced against other factors such as yields, environmental impact,
> sustainability, food security and rural economics. Organic production
> weights some of these factors more heavily, sometimes at the expense
> of yields, which can be a very narrow measure.

There is 50 years of research on irradiation that shows exactly the
changes caused by radiation and at the level use for cold
pasteurization they are less than cooking. All cattle everywhere in
the world have e. coli:157:H7 to some degree or another. The so called
organic methods are the same methods we have used for the last 100
years we never quit using crop rotation, spreading manure and legumes
the are not the exclusive property of organic farming.

If intensive agriculture is not safe why does the US have a better
record on food safety than the EU that has much smaller operations? -
Gordon Couger

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This Is The Age Of Biology: Left And Right Are Finding Common Ground
In Opposition To A Utilitarian View Of Life

Jeremy Rifkin, The Guardian, 28 July 2001

It is a rare occurrence in history when political groups, formerly at
odds with one another on very basic public policy issues, suddenly
realign and come together in pursuit of shared goals. The current
debate over embryo stem cell research, as well as the debates over
patents on life, genetically modified foods, designer babies, and
other biotech issues, is beginning to reshape the whole political
landscape in ways no one could have imagined just a few years ago.

Although reluctant to acknowledge it, both social conservatives and
left activists are beginning to find common ground on a range of
biotech-related concerns. If the convergence continues to pick up
momentum, conventional politics could be torn asunder in the biotech
era. The threads that unite these two groups are their belief in and
commitment to the intrinsic value of life and their growing opposition
to what they perceive as a purely utilitarian perspective on biotech
matters being extolled by scientists, politicians and market libertarians.

To be sure, the social conservatives and left activists differ in the
"life issues" they embrace and champion. The former crusade for what
they regard as the rights of the unborn, and rail against infanticide,
child abuse and euthanasia. The latter speak out on behalf of the
poor, women, our fellow creatures and the global environment.

But, as we make the great transformation from the age of physics and
chemistry to the age of biology, we are more and more likely to see a
coming together - on specific issues - of these two historically
antagonistic groups. That is because, while the industrial age divided
people from right to left based on beliefs of how best to control the
means of production and ensure that the fruits of industry are broadly
shared, the biotech age separates people along a different spectrum,
with those who champion the intrinsic value of life on one pole and
those who favour a purely utilitarian approach to life issues on the
other.

The former say it is wrong to reduce biology to the lowly status of
coded information and assign a mere commercial value to all the life
processes that make up the living world. They would argue that life is
not just a resource. The latter say that any "vitalistic" notion of
life is a throwback to religious mysticism or romantic yearnings.

Now that the processes of life are amenable to design, customisation
and mass production, they should be made part of the commercial arena
and available to customers as products and services. Increasingly, in
the years ahead, individuals, families, communities and nations will
make decisions on the various applications and uses of biotech
therapies, products and services based on where they position
themselves ideologically on the intrinsic versus utility value spectrum.

The emerging connection between social conservatives and left
activists is already apparent, despite the fact that neither group is
really comfortable sharing a common agenda. For example, the social
conservatives disapprove of using embryos to harvest stem cells for
medical research, arguing that it is tantamount to taking a human
life. Left activists, on the other hand, are more ambiguous about the
status of the embryo because of their commitment to a woman's right to
choose whether to bring a baby to term. Still, they would argue, for
the most part, that an embryo has some inherent status and should not
be regarded as a mere utility or commodity.

Both sides come together in their opposition to the cloning of human
embryos for research and for the purpose of producing spare human body
parts, and are united in their opposition to commercial control over
the process. Similarly, social conservatives and progressive activists
both oppose the granting of patents on genes, cells, tissues, organs
and organisms. The former argue that life is God's creation, not a
human invention, and therefore not patentable. The latter argue that
the building blocks of life are "discoveries of nature" and therefore
a common legacy and not the private preserve of giant life science
companies.

The genetic foods issue has also brought together social conservatives
wary about tampering with God's handiwork and left activists worried
about destabilising ecosystems and spreading genetic pollution. The
social conservatives see genetic foods as a threat to traditional
rural ways of life, while the activists fear that GM foods will
undermine cultural diversity.

Finally, on the subject of designer babies, social conservatives
believe that designing our offspring is playing God and therefore
unethical, while anti-biotech activists see designer babies as the
first step into a brave new world divided by biological castes. Both
oppose the emergence of a commercial eugenics civilisation. The point
is that, although social conservatives and left activists view the
world in different ways, their perspectives are often mutually
compatible at the end of the day.

This is not to suggest that there are not fundamental differences
between the groups on several issues. There are and will continue to
be so. What is equally true, however, is that on some of the most
important questions facing society at the dawn of the age of biology,
it is likely that both these groups will increasingly break ranks with
their traditional political affiliations - the social conservatives
with their alliances with neo-conservative market-libertarian parties,
and the left activists with their alliances with social democratic
parties.

Of course, it is also worth noting that the traditional animosities
between neo-conservatives and neo-liberals are likewise diminishing as
both find they have more in common than not, including their shared
belief in utilitarian values and market forces.

Of this much we can be sure: the biotech era will bring with it a very
different constellation of political visions and social forces -just
as the industrial era did. The current debate about embryo and stem
cell research, patents on life, GM foods and designer babies is
already loosening the old political allegiances and categories. It is
just the beginning of the new politics of biology.

Jeremy Rifkin is author of The Biotech Century (Penguin).

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Perspectives on Genetically Engineered Crops

CSARE - Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture Research and
Education, a consortium of land grant universities and non-profit
research organizations working for long term agricultural sustainability.

- Opinion Pieces on Biotechnology http://www.csare.org/pubs/biotech.html

Using Political Philosophy to Evaluate Recombinant Crop Engineering :
Elizabeth Ann R. Bird, Ph.D.
A Geneticist's Opinion about Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: R.H.
Richardson, Ph.D.
Risk and Precaution in Agricultural Biotechnology: A Role for Science
and Scientists: Katherine Barrett
Environmental and Institutional Risks of Genetic Engineering:
Stanislaus J. Dundon

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Vandana Shiva on UNDP as Biotech Salesman

The Seed and The Spinning Wheel: The UNDP as Biotech Salesman
(Reflections on the Human Development Report - 2001)
by Dr. Vandana Shiva 25 Jul 01

(Posted by Robert Vint To:
gmf-news@scope.educ.washington.edu)

T he Human Development Reports were pathbreaking because they broke
free of ruling orthodoxies and dominant paradigms of development and
growth. They challenged the indicators of human progress and well
being and evolved deeper more reliable measures. They literally turned
development on its head.

The Human Development Report 2001 focussing on "Making New
Technologies work for Human Development" is however a regression. It
reverses the search for new perspectives and paradigms, especially for
assessing technologies. It slips into promoting the most outmoded
development paradigms and crude forms of technology myths and
technological determinism, sacrificing the rich insights and
experiences gained over the past two centuries of technology change in
agriculture and health care. These experiences have five decades of
maldevelopment and forced us to assess the impact of technologies in
the larger social, ecological and ethical context, from the
perspectives of those it robs of poor, resources and relevance - not
just from the privileged perspective of the powerful who gain.

In the dominant paradigm, technology is seen as being above society
both in its structure and its evolution, in its offering technological
fixes, and in its technological determinism. It is seen as a source of
solution to problems that lie in society, and is rarely perceived as a
source of new social problems. Its course is viewed as being
self-determined. In periods of rapid technological transformation, it
is assumed that society and people must adjust to that change, instead
of technological change adjusting to the social values of equity,
sustainability and participation.

There is, however, another perspective which treats technological
change as a process that is shaped by and serves the priorities of
whomever controls it. In this perspective, a narrow social base of
technological choice excludes human concerns and public participation.
The interests of that base are protected in the name of sustaining an
inherently progressive and socially neutral technology. On the other
hand, a broader social base protects human rights and the environment
by widening the circle of control beyond the current small group.

The UNDP report reinforces the myth of technology as politically
neutral. It reinforces the old development paradigm based on
technological determinism which perceives development as based
primarily on technological development, in spite of the earlier human
development reports having shown that industrialised societies can
often be low in the human development indices.

It also reinforces the technology myth that the Third World is a
"technology follower", and the west is a source of all technology,
even though modern organic agriculture was transferred to the west
from Indian peasants by Sir Albert Howard, even though one in three US
citizens use Indian or Chinese medicine today and in spite of the
blaring bio piracy of indigenous knowledge as in the case of neem,
turmeric, basmati, tamarind etc. The Report has totally blocked out
the existence and spread of technologies and innovations of the South,
and the technology transfer from South to North so well documented in
Dharampal's historical work "Indian Science and Technology in the
Eighteenth Century".1

Worse, it even justifies richness and poverty of the North and South
which has been created by political and economic processes transforms
as based on an "ecological divide" between ecologically rich temperate
and ecologically poor tropical regions, even though in terms of
biodiversity biological richness, and biological productivity, the
tropical rainforests and tropical farming systems are much richer than
the monoculture forests and farms in the temperate zones. Processes
that create and aggravate political and economic inequality are thus
being turned into facts of nature.

The interesting question to have raised and answered was why in spite
of being ecologically rich the South has become economically poor, why
in spite of being the source of agrobiodiversity and medicinal plant
biodiversity, the agricultural and health systems of Third World
countries are in crisis, why hunger and disease is growing. The
relationships between technology and trade would then have thrown up
interesting new perspectives for human development.

A central tenet of technological determinism is that technology shapes
society and technological change is always positive and progressive.
The UNDP report repeats the assumption that "New technologies improve
on the ones they replace". Large dams were supposed to improve on
indigenous water harvesting structures but they have displaced
millions of people and destroyed millions of acres of fertile land.
Chemical pesticides were supposed to have been an improvement on
natural pesticides, but they have led to increase in pests through
build up of resistance. Plastics were supposed to be an improvement on
cloth bags. Today getting rid of plastic bags is a big campaign
everywhere. The "new" is not always better, the old need not always
disappear. In fact, ecological concern is bringing back technologies
which were considered obsolete.

Climate change and sustainable energy concerns has made the bicycle a
better technology than the car, health concerns have made natural
foods a preferred alternative to industrially processed food and
concern for quality has made "slow food" preferable to fast food and
sustainability has put organic farming as superior to chemical
agriculture which was introduced to the Third World as the Green
Revolution. The debate about technology today is about ecology,
ethics, culture, livelihoods and justice. It is about cultural
diversity and cross cultural fertilization of innovation. It is no
longer about the west as the only source of technology, and North to
South as the only direction of technology flows. It is about bringing
ecology and culture to the heart of technology. It is about
reevaluating illusions about the efficiency of mega scale technologies
which externalise social and ecological costs. It is about recognising
the innovative capacity of peasants and crafts people. It is not about
the management of "trust in technology" as the Human Development
Report assumes. It is not about putting a "human face" to technologies
people are rejecting, because they threaten livelihoods and our
collective ecological survival. The debate is about the political and
ecological content of technology. It is a debate about substance, not
form. Technology needs an ethical and the ecological core, not a mere
face lift. The technology report misses the core of contemporary
technology debates. It is triply outmoded. It promotes outmoded
technology myths and technology paradigms, it ignores social and
cultural trends in the current society - technology debates and it is
out of date on current technology trends.

For example, it talks of 100,000 Indian software professionals from
India going to U.S. annually when 50,000 jobless Indian professionals
from the U.S. IT sector are returning to India because of the collapse
of IT firms and the economic slow down.

It talks of "trust in technology" and adoption to risks in the age of
the Mad Cow and Food and Mouth epidemics It talks of reduction in
undernutrition in South Asia and end of chronic famine at a time when
starvation deaths and famines are making a come back due to a decade
of trade liberalisation policies and unregulated introduction of
inappreciative capital intensive technologies in agriculture. It talks
of industrialisation of the textile sector allowing employment and
incomes to increase at a time when thousands of Indian weavers are
being pushed to starvation and suicides because of unemployment caused
by dismantling the policies that protected the handloom sector and
handloom weavers.

The Spinning Wheel: A Symbol of Inertia or Liberation ? For us in
India, breaking free of mills of Manchester and Lancashire was
necessary for one freedom and survival. Ignoring the entire experience
of India's freedom struggle through the spinning wheel (charkha), the
UNDP report states in a section on "costs of inertia versus costs of
change" -

If the Luddites had succeeded in prohibiting the adoption of spinning
jennies, Britain would have foregone the productivity growth that
allowed employment and incomes to increase so dramatically.

The policies to promote hand spinning and hand weaving of cloth
(khadi) and boycotting mill made cloth were at the heart of India's
independence movement. The crisis of unemployment and fall in incomes
faced by weavers today was a crisis also generated a century and half
ago by the mechanisation of the textile industry in Britain.

There was also a devastating impact of the new textile mills opened in
India on the handloom weavers. The growth of the industry began to
impinge on the handloom industryS.This incursion of mills into areas
hitherto considered the special reserves of the handloom industry had
a many sided effectSand led to unprecedented worsening of the
conditions of the handlooms weaversS..Actual unemployment was seen as
in the statistics of idle handlooms; this was estimated at 13% in 1940
by the fact finding committee (of Handlooms and mills).2

Gandhi's critique of the industrialisation of India on the western
model was based on his perception of the poverty, dispossession and
destruction of livelihoods which resulted from it. 'Why must India
become industrial in the western sense?', Gandhi has asked 'what is
good for one nation situated in one condition is not necessarily good
for another differently situated. One man's food is often another
man's poisonS.Mechanisation is good when hands are too few for the
work intended to be accomplished. It is an evil where there are more
hands than required for the work as is the case in India.'3

It was to regenerate livelihoods in India that Gandhi thought of the
spinning wheel as a symbol of liberation and a tool for development.
Power driven mills were the model of development in that period of
early industrialisation. However, the hunger of mills for raw-material
and markets was the reason for a new poverty, created by the
destruction of livelihoods either by diverting land and biomass from
local subsistence to the factory, or by displacing local production
through the market. Gandhi had said that 'anything that millions can
do together, becomes charged with unique power'. The spinning wheel
had become a symbol of such power. 'The wheel as such is lifeless, but
when I invest it with symbolism, it becomes a living thing for me.'

India got her freedom through the symbol of the spinning wheel and
policies that recognised that technology is political and
social-cultural construct. It must adopt to people and diverse
socio-economic and environmental contexts if it has to serve human
development. People cannot be forced and coerced to adopt to
technology as an end. With a totally one sided view of the history of
technology, the UNDP Technology report refers only to Britain's
experience of machanisation of textiles and describes defense of
alternatives as "inertia".

Had Gandhi not resurrected the spinning wheel and handlooms, India
would have been trapped in colonised inertia. We would have destroyed
our rich and diverse textiles. We would have failed to protect the
livelihoods and welfare our weavers which is once again threatened by
globalisation.

The Seed and Genetic Engineering
While the technology report is written from a totally colonial
Eurocentric bias, it claims, instead to be correcting a European and
U.S. bias in the debate on technology and genetic engineering. As it
states, Debates on emerging technologies tend to mirror the concerns
of the rich countries and the current debate in Europe and the Unites
States over genetically modified crops mostly ignores the concerns and
needs of the developing world. Western consumers who do not face food
shortages or nutritional deficiencies or work in fields are more
likely to focus on food safety and the potential loss of biodiversity,
while 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 soil and
sicken farmers.

This is a very distorted and misleading caricature of the history of
debates, negotiations and controversies on genetic engineering.

Firstly, western consumers rejected GM foods long after Third World
farmers in India have burnt the trial crops of Monsanto's genetically
engineered Bt. Cotton. Half a million farmers in India marched against
corporate control over seeds through genetic engineering as early as
1993. The courts and regulatory agencies have not yet allowed the
commercialisation of Bt. Cotton.

Secondly, the movement for Biosafety, has not been led by western
consumers but by Third World governments. Ever since the Earth Summit,
it is the governments of the South who have been fighting to put in
place the Biosafety Protocol to implement Article 19.3 of the
Convention on Biological Diversity. To erase the concerns of the South
for safety and ecological risks of genetic engineering and reduce
these to luxury concerns of western consumers alone is a distortion of
the history of the Biosafety debate. That UNDP should be playing a
lead role in erasing the leadership of the South in shaping the
Biosafety debate is indeed tragic.

Much of the false promise of genetic engineering upheld by the Biotech
industry and the UNDP report is based on earlier myths about the Green
Revolution.

As the report states in the Section on Food production and Nutrition,
"Technological Progress has played a similar role in accelerating food
production. Starting in 1960 a green revolution of plant breeding
fertiliser use, better seeds and water control transformed land and
labour productivity around the world. This had dynamic effects on
human development. Increased food production and reduced food prices
eliminated much of the under-nutrition and chronic famine in Asia,
Latin America and the Arab States. Because, the poorest families rely
on agriculture for their livelihood and spend half their incomes on
food, this also contributed to huge declines in income poverty.4"

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Firstly, the Green Revolution
focussed only on labour productivity, not resource productivity. In
terms of ecological efficiency and conservation of soil, water,
biodiversity and energy and the Green Revolution led to a sixty six
fold productivity decline from 20 to 0.33.5 This has led to a severe
ecological crisis in agriculture threatening the future of food
production and creating resource poverty even in resource rich regions
like Punjab.

Secondly, repeated reference to doubling of cereal yields ignores the
fact that this gain in yields of rice and wheat was at the cost of
decline in pulses, oilseeds, millets and greens. In Punjab alone, the
area under pulses went down from 13.38% to 3.48%, a four fold decline
and the area under oilseeds went down from 6.24% to 2.95% during 1966
- 1986. Malnutrition and deficiencies of protein, iron and vit. A have
been a direct result of these rice and wheat monocultures. Genetic
engineering of "golden rice" is now being offered as a new miracle in
the same reductionist, one dimensional paradigm of technology. While
100 gms of greens give upto 14,000 Mg of vit.A, golden rice will
produce only 30Mg of vit.A per 100 gm of rice. "Golden rice" is being
offered as increasing vit.A availability and preventing blindness in
the Third World. This is the jugglery of figures through which
ecologically, economically and socially inappropriate technologies
have repeatedly been sold to the Third World as "miracles".

In terms of nutrition per acre, both the Green Revolution and genetic
engineering are inefficient and wasteful technologies and create
nutritional poverty.

Both Green Revolution and genetic engineering technologies are also
creating income poverty as more and more of the scare incomes of
farmers are drained to buy costly seeds and chemicals. The shift from
open pollinated to hybrid seeds has led to such an escalation of costs
that farmers are getting into deep debt. In India new seed
technologies have forced farmers into selling kidneys and even
committing suicide. 20,000 farmers have committed suicide over 3 years
in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh.6

The violence unleashed by the Green Revolution and new agricultural
technologies is also evident in the emergence and growth of female
foeticide in the Green Revolution state of Punjab.7 Gender equality
and discrimination was an important human development indicator used
by the human development report. It has evaporated in this technology
report.

Genetic engineering and seed patents go hand in hand. Patents and
technology fees will further escalate the drain of farmers income. In
the U.S., new technologies and new intellectual property rights on
seed are already transforming agriculture into a police state as
illustrated by Percy Schmeiser case in Canada and 400 other cases in
the U.S.

That is why in India, we have started Navdanya, a movement for saving
farmers seeds, sharing seeds freely and promoting low cost organic
farming which protects biodiversity, increases farmers incomes
threefold and farm productivity many fold compared to the industrial
agricultural technologies. Diversity as a pattern of production, not
merely of conservation, ensures pluralism and decentralisation. It
prevents the dichotomising of biological systems into `primitive' and
`advanced'. Like Gandhi challenged the false concepts of obsolescence
and productivity in the production of textiles by his search for the
spinning wheel, groups across the Third World are challenging the
false concepts of obsolescence in agricultural production by searching
for seeds used by farmers over centuries and making them the basis of
a futuristic self-reliant and sustainable agriculture.

Biodiversity based, resource efficient non-violent farming
technologies rather than capital intensive, external input based
violent industrial monocultures are the best way forward for the poor
and fragile ecosystems.

The UNDP report exposes its blind faith in genetic engineering by
totally negating experiences with sustainable ecological agriculture.
It states that "Biotechnology offers the only or best `tool of choice'
for marginal ecological zones."

This rejection of technological diversity and alternatives is the most
fundamental flaw of the UNDP Technology Report. It ends up promoting
technological totalitarianism. It is more of a sermon than an
analysis. It is more about technology as an end of human development
than a means to human development. As a means, technologies will
always be pluralistic, since they must adopt to diverse social,
economic and ecological contexts. As an end, technology is a coercive
monolith to which people and ecosystems must adopt no matter what the
costs, no matter what the alternatives.

UNDP seems to have forgotten that human development must put human
beings at the centre of concern instead of picking the latest
technological tools and fads that some humans have shaped for their
political purposes and putting them at the centre of the human enterprise.

In the fin