Today's Topics in AgBioView at http://www.agbioworld.org/
* Poor Nations Oppose Anti-Trade Efforts
* Middle Class Stupidity in the UK
* Organic Food - Who Is Right?
* Technology Exchange - Biotech For Developing Countries
* Biotecnología Habana
* GMOs May Backfire On Companies
* America's Best in Science and Medicine
* Journal of New Seeds on "Transgenic Seeds"
* Europe Buying Beans Despite Biotech
* Organic Myths Busted In New Report
* Vitamin A consumption in Indonesia
* Apel and Porphyry's Survey Project
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Poor Nations Oppose Anti-Trade Efforts
- Kay Henderson, Reuters August 13, 2001
Des Moines, Iowa (Reuters) - U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, fresh from a trip to India and Indonesia, said on Monday he has not detected support in developing countries for anti-globalization demonstrators who have tried to shut down international trade talks.
"I don't find a lot of sympathy in developing countries for the protesters," Zoellick told reporters during a pause in two days of meetings with farmers here. Referring to developing countries that are crucial to the success of a new World Trade Organization negotiating round, Zoellick added, "These are people who want to grow. They want to have the ability to sell products to us. They want lower priced goods that we can actually sell to them."
The Bush administration is hoping a new WTO negotiating round will be launched in November in Doha, Qatar, aimed at eliminating trade barriers, especially in the farm sector. The last time such an undertaking was attempted, in 1999 in Seattle, it ended in failure. Then, the combination of anti-globalization protesters and developing countries' anger at demands from developed countries doomed what was supposed to have been called the "Seattle Round" negotiations.
Nearly two years later, that anger was still apparent. India's commerce minister, Murasoli Maran, on Monday accused rich countries of trying to dictate the agenda for trade talks. "Nothing should be forced down the throat of developing countries," Maran warned.
In other remarks to reporters, Zoellick criticized European Union agricultural export subsidies and new EU rules governing labeling and traceability of foods containing genetically modified organisms. He linked the GMO rules to Europe's recent problems with mad cow disease and foot and mouth disease. "Now, people in Europe frankly are scared...they're scared because they had problems with their own food supplies," Zoellick said.
The U.S. trade official said that Europeans "need to solve those problems on their own without putting it on the back of American farmers and producers."
From: Chris Gliddon
Subject: Middle Class stupidity in the UK
I was very excited to see a headline in the well-known UK broadsheet 'The Guardian' on Saturday 11th August proclaiming ' Co-op bans GM pork'. I rushed to read about this new foodstuff, only to discover that this UK food retailer had actually banned sales of fresh pork that had been reared on GM feed.
Sadly, this so-called 'news item' illustrates two major problems with the affluent classes of the UK: first, they are willing to believe that eating GM feed somehow makes pigs become GM while failing to notice that the act of eating fish and fungi has failed to make them less human; second, the food retailers fail to note their hypocrisy in calling for a ban on feed that has been eaten by humans and animals for over 5 years with no ill effects, while in the past condoning the use of 'pigswill' that was demonstrably harmful to both animals and humans.
Yours in frustration,
- Chris Gliddon, University of Wales, Bangor, UK
Organic Food - Who Is Right?
August 12, 2001 Sunday Times (Via Agnet)
Sir John Krebs, UK chairman of the Food Standards Agency, has, according to this story, criticised organic produce for being poor value, saying there is no evidence to support the claim it is any healthier The Advertising Standards Authority has repeatedly challenged claims by organic producers Last week the Soil Association published a report to counter negative publicity. While admitting more studies were needed, they claimed the benefits of organic produce included improved levels of minerals and vitamin C and reduced exposure to synthetic pesticide residues and food additives Professor Anthony Trewavas's response to the Soil Association report is: "propaganda". He claims:
1. There is less water in organic foods so if you measure the concentrations everything is up, not just minerals and vitamin C. Citing studies that show we have an excess of vitamins in our diet he says: "The supposition that it does you good if you get more is not true."
2. We should forget the idea that food, organic or non-organic, is pristine. In an average meal, he says, we consume about 10,000 chemicals. For instance bread has a naturally occurring carcinogen called furfural, just as present in organic loaves, and potatoes contain two fat-soluble nerve toxins, solamin and chaconine. But our consumption levels are low enough that these chemicals do not cause us any harm
3. More worrying is our intake of pesticide residue. In non-organic food we consume about one twenty thousandth of a teaspoon of synthetic pesticide residues a day. The government has worked out a safe level of pesticide residue consumption, then ruled that the maximum consumable level must be one hundredth of that safe level to give an extra safety margin. While conventionally produced food has to "go through hoops" to prove it is safe, says Trewavas, organic produce is not subjected to anything like the same scrutiny with its use of "natural pesticides".
He names three commonly used "natural pesticides" which cause him alarm: Copper sulphate, which can cause liver disease, and is to be banned next year Rotenone, which has been implicated in Parkinson's disease Bt spores which can result in lung problems
- Biotechnology Issues For Developing Countries
EJB Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, © 2001 by Universidad Católica de Valparaíso , Chile
- Boru Douthwaite and Rodomiro Ortiz, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Oyo Road, PMB 5320, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. E-mail: email@example.com
Agriculture in developing countries faces a huge challenge. In the next 50 years the number of people living in the world’s poorer countries will increase from 5 billion to 8 billion. To feed these people farmers in 2050 will need to produce at least 50% more food, which for the 2000–2001 World Resources Report, could have devastating implications for human development and the welfare of all species.
Paul Ehrlich, one of the most influential ecologists in the USA and author of the book The Population Bomb, developed an equation in the 1970s to describe the impact of human population on the environment. A version of this equation, called the population–resource equation, helps put the challenge facing agriculture into stark perspective. The equation says that:
(Natural resource use) x (technology) = (population) x (per capita consumption).i
Given that populations are growing, per capita consumption needs to increase to feed the 830 million underfed people in the world, and our natural resource base is already seriously damaged, the only option would appear to be very rapid technological change. Is this really the only option? And if so, where are these technology gains going to come from?
In our opinion the debate has become polarised and the result is ‘two-value thinking’—the assumption, frequently unexamined, that every question has two sides, and only two sides, and that organisations and individuals are either on one side or the other. In this article we examine the issues on both sides of the debate and suggest a way through the middle that, while not seeing biotechnology as the new panacea, does not dismiss it as a false and dangerous dawn.
Technology change that biotechnology may or may not bring is at the heart of both people’s hopes and people’s fears. Some have found it useful to think of technology change as an evolutionary process. People, as a result of the pressures they face and the opportunities they see, learn and then generate new ideas, things, and ways of organising themselves. If these novelties work well then others adopt them and they spread. Agricultural change is built up of many replications of this novelty generation, selection and diffusion process, just as we have evolved through countless natural selection iterations. Unlike natural selection though, this ‘learning selection’ process is not blind. Who benefits depends on who generates the novelties, how selection decisions are made, and how innovations are promulgated.
The main role of science in agriculture has been to propel this evolutionary process by generating novelties that allow us to produce more with less land and less effort. Results have been spectacular. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a grouping of 16 international agricultural research institutes, is best known for starting the Green Revolution of rice and wheat in Asia. In the 30 years from 1971 to 2000 the improved crop varieties produced by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT) have helped raise average rice and wheat yields by 2.3 and 1.65 times respectively, helping to feed an Asian population that grew by almost 70% in the same period. Data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that from 1961 to 1991 the Asian population doubled from 1.6 to 3.4 billion (Article published by IRRI). In the same period, rice production grew from 199 million tonnes in 1961 to 540 milli
Conclusions: Whether biotech helps balance Ehrlich’s equation depends on how it is used, and by whom. Nearly everything points to policy. Clear, strong and equitable policy is needed in both developed (innovative incentive and funding structures) and developing countries (biosafety regulations, intellectual property right arrangements). There is no global framework for supporting biotech research and development that addresses the common needs of poor people in many countries and regions. The CGIAR system could be it!
Cuba, November 24-29, 2002
"Agro-Biotech in the new millennium"
Devoted to the application of the Biotech to plants and animals. The five-day conference
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GMOs May Backfire On Companies
The Leader-Post (Regina) August 14, 2001 (Via Agnet)
SASKATOON -- Martin Phillipson, a U of S law professor, was cited as telling a panel discussion on the ethics of new technologies at the Canadian Bar Association's annual conference that, while it seems the legal system has determined that corporations such as Monsanto have a right to ownership and control of the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) they create, that may not be the end of their legal battles, adding, "Does Monsanto have any liability for this technology?
Farmers in this province are spending tens of thousands of dollars trying to get rid of this canola that they didn't plant. They have to use more and more powerful pesticides to get rid of this technology, and Monsanto seems to have no liability." Phillipson was further cited as saying that those who take the view that GM crops are a form of pollutant are starting to explore the idea that the corporations who own the technology should be left holding the bag if contamination by a GM crop causes property damage to others, adding, "That's a significant issue for this country. We have to find out what the legal ramifications are. If something goes wrong, who is going to pay for it? One of the big issues that is coming to a head right now is, what are the obligations of the owners?'' Phillipson pointed to a decision by organic farmers in Australia not to guarantee that organic canola grown in North America is pure because the seed supply is so contaminated.
Alan McHughen, senior research scientist at the U of S Crop Development Centre, was cited as countering Phillipson with a warning that the legal community should make sure it has solid information about genetic modification before debating the issue, adding, "Contamination is a very emotional term and I would encourage you to look beyond that and say how does it relate to the status quo. I mean seeds get mixed up all the time. Ever since we started agriculture, the seeds get blown across a field and so on."
McHughen was further cited as saying it is wrong to ask the scientists to prove that genetically modified crops are not harmful, adding, "The scientific community cannot prove negatives. We cannot prove that something is absolutely safe and will never cause harm. All we can say is, 'This is as safe as what you're currently eating.' ''
America's Best in Science and Medicine
- Michael D. Lemonick, Time Magazine
'Who says there are no Einsteins anymore? When it comes to science and medicine, the U.S. is blessed with galaxies of brilliant researchers who are the envy of the world'
(TIME) -- Cells and souls and science and promises. How does a politician balance such volatile substances? George W. Bush tried as he pondered the research spearheaded by one of America's pioneering scientists. Biologist James Thomson's wizardry with embryonic stem cells had not only raised hopes for a medical panacea but also set off the national debate on whether that potential public good provided the moral justification for the infusion of massive amounts of public money. Already, Thomson's own personal balancing act - juggling scientific imperative and ethical caution, technical brilliance and moral quandary - had made him one of our choices for Time's list of America's Best in science and medicine, the second of our series on Americans at the top of their fields.
A century ago, the list would have been a short one, limited to names like Einstein and Pasteur and the Curies. Science was then a cottage industry practiced by a small group of men (and a few women) working mostly in isolation. Today, the scientific universe consists of interconnected microcosms of expertise. Apart from Thomson, our list of America's Best includes pioneers in a wide range of fields. Although few of these areas are as controversial as stem-cell research, they are all just as important to the way we live our daily lives. Among them: Lonnie Thompson, a climatologist who scales mountaintops to better understand global warming; Elizabeth Spelke, a developmental psychologist who has shown that babies are smarter than we thought.
Naming the best is a lot tougher now than it would have been 100 years ago. Science and medicine are enormous enterprises, requiring billions of dollars to support tens of thousands of researchers in universities, government labs and industry. Dozens or even hundreds of Ph.D.s might labor together to tackle a single problem - finding an elusive particle, say, or deconstructing a genome. On a project like that, it is hard to single out one researcher. Thus you will find very few household names among scientists today.
There is a reason for that. The questions scientists are tackling now are a lot narrower than those that were being asked 100 years ago. As John Horgan pointed out in his controversial 1997 best seller The End of Science, we've already made most of the fundamental discoveries - that the blueprint for most living things is carried in a molecule called DNA; that the universe began with a Big Bang; that atoms are made of protons, electrons and neutrons; that evolution proceeds by natural selection. Though today's problems are less sweeping, they are no less important. The diseases scientists are trying to cure still cause human misery and death; the answers they are seeking still stem from the central questions of human existence: Where did we come from? Where are we going?
So to select the best in science and medicine today, we focused on the most exciting fields of research and then looked for the men and women who are doing the most cutting-edge work within those fields. Along the way we learned that at least one thing hasn't changed: what it takes to be great in science or medicine. Although few researchers work alone anymore, and most have to spend at least part of their day worrying about how to keep large quantities of cash flowing into their labs, the greatest breakthroughs still come from brilliant individuals with a passion for understanding the world and the ability to concentrate obsessively on a problem until they have solved it. Here are 18 at the forefront of asking the crucial questions and finding the breathtaking answers.....(See http://www.time.com/time/americasbest/ for profiles of these scientists)
From: "Amarjit S. Basra"
A forthcoming special issue of the "Journal of New Seeds" on "Transgenic Seeds" will deal with the cutting-edge developments in the field covering both fundamental and applied research. Original research papers, reviews, opinion articles and critical commentaries are welcome for consideration. The timeline for manuscript submission is December 15, 2001.
Journal of New Seeds is published by the Haworth's Food Products Press, New York: http://www.haworthpressinc.com
- Amarjit S. Basra, Editor-in-Chief, JNS
Europe Buying Beans Despite Biotech
Tracy Sayler , ISB News Report, August 2001 http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2001/news01.aug.html#aug0107
Despite concerns over biotechnology in Europe, US soy exports to Europe have been increasing, in part due to demand for soybean meal to feed to livestock in place of bone meal and animal products, according to John Baize, a Virginia-based international grain marketing consultant. The largest supplier to the EU is Argentina—which plants about 90% biotech (RR) soybeans. Growers in Brazil are not legally allowed to grow biotech beans, but they are anyway, particularly in southern Brazil, according to Baize. "EU processors say they are receiving beans from Brazil with 1.5 to 60% biotech content, and it is illegal to grow," he says. Don Nickel, a Mountain Lake, Minnesota soybean producer who also serves on the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council says Brazil does not systematically test its soybeans for biotech content. This makes enforcing non-biotech production difficult and results in a product that is more uncertain for soybean importers.
Baize says the EU will soon have regulations on biotech labeling of feed ingredients and a system to trace feed and food ingredients "from the farm to the fork." This will result in more hassles in shipping soybeans to Europe, but it also may create greater marketing opportunities for the US than South America, he points out, since the US is best equipped for grain testing and traceability.
There is some evidence that the anti-biotech sentiment in the EU may be waning, says Baize. "Nobody is dropping dead because of it. Greenpeace's argument is not holding water," he says. Nickel, who was in Europe meeting with prospective soybean buyers this spring, says biotech opposition in the EU is "completely media driven." The European public and even the media there are more willing to accept the technology when they learn more about it. "All they have heard about biotech was from the Greenpeace side," he says. Adds Baize: "Worrying about biotech is a rich man's game. Poor people don't worry about where their food is coming from."
Nickel notes a conversation with an animal nutritionist in Italy who wished he could get 100% Bt corn for chickens produced there, since no other pesticide applications are needed, resulting in a healthier feed product. He believes that it's just a matter of time before biotech beans are officially approved for production in Brazil; and further, that the Europeans will come to the conclusion that it won't be easy to have non-biotech beans, and if they do insist on non-biotech beans, then they will cost much more.
Subject: Re: Organic Food Isn't Good For You, and He Can Prove It
Organic and Conventional food proponents alike, will be able to show whatever they like. The diversity of food stuffs, environmental conditions, end use and agricultural systems used to produce our food, precludes any meaningful or objective comparison!
- Yours sincerely, Ken Cunliffe
Organic Myths Busted In New Report
Soil Association/Sustain PRESS RELEASE Aaug 13, 2001
A new report which aims to counter the myths spread by the opponents of organic food and farming is published today by the Soil Association, the leading organic campaigning and certification body and Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming. The report is endorsed by 36 public interest groups ranging from the National Federation of Women's Institutes to WWF-UK.
Produced as a resource for journalists, decision-makers commentators and campaigners Organic food and farming: myth and reality takes up the challenge of answering critics of the organic movement with factual, robust and well referenced information.
In particular it examines and refutes the claims that:
· Organic foods are no healthier than non-organic foods;
· Organic farming increases the risk of food poisoning;
· Organic farming uses pesticides that damage the environment;
· Consumers are paying too much for organic food;
· Organic food cannot feed a hungry world;
· Organic farming is unkind to animals.
The report also takes a look at the origins of a number of the organic myths and the organisations and individuals that peddle them.
Adrian Long, Soil Association Head of Communications says, 'Myth and Reality exposes the misleading and erroneous statements made against organic food and provides the facts that prove our critics wrong. These myths are not conjured out of thin air, nor do they arrive at the media's doorstep by chance. Many of our critics have a vested interest in trying to destroy the trust that the public rightly have in organic food. We hope that our report will help journalists and others to find their way through the myth and reality of organic food and farming.'
Catherine Fookes, report author from the Organic Targets Campaign at Sustain says, 'People are increasingly confused by the claims and counter-claims made about organic food and farming. We wanted to clear up this confusion by looking at the evidence and coming up with the facts on organics. For instance, our research found that organic farming practices can reduce the risk of bacteria such as E.coli in food. Those critics who slam organic food for being high risk and more likely to cause food poisoning are wrong.'
'With UK farming in crisis many groups in Sustain's membership also wanted to ensure that the great opportunity that organic farming represents for UK farmers to diversify is not destroyed by unsubstantiated myths.'
From: "NLP Wessex"
Subject: Vitamin A consumption in Indonesia
Impact Data - Social Marketing of Vitamin A in West Sumatra - Indonesia
Government and HKI with USAID funding1985- 1989
Role of Communication for Behavior Change
Promotion of increased consumption of specific dark green leafy
vegetable and vitamin A- rich fruits via:
* market promotion
Measured Impact: Daily consumption of DGLVs increased:
19% to 32% among pregnant mothers
14% to 33% among nursing mothers
10% to 21% among 5- 12 month olds
17% to 27% among 13- 60 month olds
Even greater improvements in key knowledge and attitudes
from The Manoff Group; Presentation to USAID Communication Meeting - December 14, 2000; Contact Marcia Griffiths - email@example.com
From: Andrew Apel
Red, Red, Red. Whether or not Hannity & Colmes supply "infotainment" is beside the point; and if they have their facts wrong, you have an issue with them, not with me.
For the sake of discussion, let us assume that the story of the dead firefighters is purely a work of fiction. What might the author(s) be trying to say in this short story? The implication seems to be that there are people who are willing to see others die in order to prevent an imagined environmental risk. Do such callous people exist?
Yes. There are people starving, facing death. And there are those who say no, you should not receive food aid (remember Shiva at Orissa?) because it has "unknown risks." And those who say no, you should not have more productive seed for your crops, because there are "unknown risks."
Like the firefighters in the story, they die, and the hand-wringers who stand by when they could help instead are culpable.
> From: "Red Porphyry"
> Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. I *know* you can do better than this "Human
> Sacrifice" article. The FOX news channel openly admits that the show
From: "Red Porphyry"
Subject: Re: Survey
Andrew Apel, in an AgBioView article from 8/9/2001 entitled "Survey?",
suggests a possible survey for ascertaining opinions about genetic
modification. With a little further definition, it could be an
interesting survey. Here are my suggested additions (Nos. 0 and 4 ):
(0) If It Were Technologically Feasible, Would You Be Willing To
Undergo Artificial Genetic Modification (Yes Or No)?
>(1) If I were genetically modified (YOU ANSWERED "YES" TO QUESTION 0),
> I would prefer to be: (Yes or No)
>- Last longer
>- More productive
>- Resistant to chemicals
>- Resistant to insect pests
>- Resistant to disease
>(2) If you replied 'yes' to any of the above TRAITS GIVEN IN QUESTION
>would you prefer to pass on the same trait(s) to your children? (Yes or No)
>(3) If you replied 'yes' to any of the above TRAITS GIVEN IN QUESTIONS
>AND 2, do you have any objection to crops having the same trait(s)?
(4) If You Replied "Yes" To Question 3, Your Objections Are Based On (Yes Or No):
- Short-term Safety Concerns For Humans
- Long-term Safety Concerns For Humans
- Short-term Safety Concerns For The Environment
- Long-term Safety Concerns For The Environment
- Bad Short-term Religious/Spiritual Consequences For Humans
- Bad Long-term Religious/Spiritual Consequences For Humans
- Bad Short-term Religious/Spiritual Consequences For The Environment
- Bad Long-term Religious/Spiritual Consequences For The Environment
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Re: More Red
Red and all,
I do believe we have an excellent project going, and with some collective effort could wind up with a truly valuable survey which someone might wish to undertake in a serious way. Red's suggestions are meritorious. So let us amend the survey as follows (using more neutral language) and expand it more in the direction Red Porphyry suggested:
1. If it were technologically feasible, would you be willing
to be genetically modified? (Yes or No)
2. If you answered yes, would you prefer to be: (choose
- Last longer
- More productive
- Resistant to chemicals
- Resistant to insect pests
- Resistant to disease
- Other _________________
3. If you replied 'yes' to any of the above, would you prefer to pass on the same trait(s) to your children? (Yes or No)
4. If you replied yes‚ to any of the above, do you have any objection to crops having the same trait(s)? (Yes or No)
5. If you replied no‚ to any of questions 1-3, do you believe that if you were genetically modified, you would: (Choose any)
-Threaten other persons
-Threaten the environment
-Threaten people's religions or spiritual beliefs
-Become out of control
-Spread your genes to other species
-Poison people who use dietary supplements
-Become a slave of a giant corporation
-Become dependent on chemical inputs
-Be less nutritious if eaten
-Create powerful microbes
-Contribute to malnutrition in developing countries
-Be hacked to death, stuffed in a bag, and tossed in front of a government building by Friends of the Earth
-Emerge like an unwelcome weed in a farmer's field
-Disrupt global trade