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August 15, 2001


Halting Misleading Claims; Targeting Wrong Sites;


Today's Topics in AgBioView at http://www.agbioworld.org/

* CSPI Urges FDA to Halt Misleading 'Non-GE' Food-label Claims
* Anti-GM Crop Protesters Target Wrong Sites
* Nutritionists Question Study Of Organic Food
* Conference on Public Perception of Biotech in Africa
* Roles of Agriculture Project Goes Online at FAO
* Mystery DNA is Discovered in Soybeans by Scientists
* Greenpeace Appeals To Scientists (In an Effort to Profit from the Mystery)
* Biotechnology For The Classroom
* More on Pro-biotech and Infotainment

Email your response to

CSPI Urges FDA to Halt Misleading 'Non-genetically Engineered' Food-label Claims

- CSPI Press Release: Phone 202/332-9110

Washington (August 14, 2001). The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take enforcement action against seven food manufacturers whose product labels deceive consumers with false or misleading claims about the absence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

CSPI's complaint concerns Polaner's All Fruit Spreads, Earth's Best Baby Foods, Healthy Times Oatmeal with Banana Cereal, Van's Organic Waffles, Spectrum Canola Oil, Bearitos Tortilla Chips, and Erewhon Wheat Flakes. CSPI is not concerned about the quality or safety of the products, but charges that their labels violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA's guidance about labeling foods for GE content. Some examples include: * Earth's Best Apples and Apricots baby food implies that it is superior to competing, similar products by stating at least seven different times on the package that it contains "NO GMO's" (genetically modified organisms). Although technically accurate, that claim is misleading because no baby food contains "organisms," and no brand of apples and apricot baby foods, not just Earth's Best, contains GE ingredients.

* Erewhon Wheat Flakes implies that it is superior to competing products by stating that it is "100% Natural" and does not contain "Genetically Engineered Ingredients." In fact, no GE wheat is present in any food.

* Polaner's All Fruit Strawberry states that it is "NOW GMO FREE," yet this jam-like product made primarily with strawberries and fruit juices does not, and never did, contain "organisms."

"Consumers want information about GE ingredients in their foods, but that information should be presented in an accurate and non-disparaging manner," said Gregory Jaffe, co-director of CSPI's Biotechnology Project. "These labels bear false or misleading statements such as 'No GMO's' that take unfair advantage of consumer concerns and lack of knowledge about GE crops. The labels imply that the absence of GE ingredients makes the products superior, when that is not the case." FDA, the American Medical Association, and many other health organizations have determined that GE crops are as safe to eat as traditionally bred crops. In fact, traditionally bred crops may be treated with more pesticides, or more dangerous pesticides than their bioengineered counterparts.

"Although CSPI favors labeling of GE ingredients, these seven products show that manufacturers are taking advantage of consumers with false and misleading label statements," added Jaffe.

CSPI recently conducted a national opinion poll that found that labels stating "GE"or "non-GE" would influence many consumers' perceptions and preferences. About 31% of consumers said that products labeled GE were not as safe as non-GE foods. A similar percentage said that foods labeled "does not contain genetically engineered ingredients" were better than unlabeled foods. Only about 10% said that the GE-labeled product was safer or better. (33% to 42% said that GE and non-GE foods were just as safe or good). Given many consumers' innate skepticism of any new technology, CSPI said that manufacturers must be careful not to mislead consumers. "FDA needs to send a clear message to manufacturers that label statements need to be both accurate and not imply superiority," added Jaffe. Anticipating the day when biotechnology is used to provide consumer benefits, CSPI's letter also urged the FDA to guard against deceptive claims about such benefits. "The FDA should nip this growing problem in the bud."


Anti-GM Crop Protesters Target Wrong Sites

Le Figaro, August 15, 2001

Jose Bove, leader of militant French farmers' organisation Confederation Paysanne, has issued a call for the destruction of genetically modified (GM) crops, a call which risks becoming rapidly unpopular. The "Lime a grains" group, which on Monday claimed responsibility for action on three plots, did not chose their targets well.

In Monsegur-sur-Lauzon, anti-GM crop militants devastated a plot which in fact had no genetically modified crops. A few kilometres away, in the commune of Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux, they destroyed crops grown for therapeutic purposes, in the struggle against cystic fibrosis. "Unfortunately we have a young girl who suffers from this terrible disease in the commune, she is appalled", says the deputy mayor Michel Seux.


Nutritionists Question Study Of Organic Food

David Adam, Nature, 16 August 2001

Value for money? Organic food is gaining popularity, but researchers question its touted benefits.

Some food researchers may find the concept hard to swallow, but the British government has pledged to investigate more closely the supposed nutritional benefits of eating organically grown food. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) says it will host a seminar later this year to consider "how consumer choice between organic and conventional food could be further informed by research". Political pressure has been growing in Britain for some definitive information on differences between the two.

But some food experts have already questioned the value of the exercise, fearing that it will only serve to highlight 'differences' of no real significance to human health. "It seems to me to be quite unlikely that one could do anything reasonably sensible in that area without spending an enormous amount of money," says Eileen Rubery, a public-health specialist formerly with the Department of Health and now at the University of Cambridge.

Sceptics say that direct, comparative studies of organic and non-organic produce are difficult to construct because of extraneous variables such as climate and soil conditions. They also point out that epidemiological studies of people who consume organic and non-organic produce would be expensive and prone to influence by factors such as other lifestyle differences between the two population groups.

The FSA's decision to consider research into the question followed the publication on 6 August of a report by the Bristol-based Soil Association, which was billed by its authors as showing significant differences in the mineral and vitamin contents of organic and non-organic food. The Soil Association is a non-profit organization that promotes organically grown food, which is produced without recourse to synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

Fresh growth: the amount of British farmland under organic cultivation has risen dramatically.

The FSA says the new report does not make a convincing case that organic food is safer or more nutritious, but adds that there is enough public interest in the matter to merit further research. Demand for organically grown fruit, vegetables and meat has soared in Britain (and elsewhere in Europe) in the past few years: the UK organic food market is now worth some 600 million (US$854 million) per year, and the amount of British farmland dedicated to organic farming has risen tenfold since 1996 (see graph).

The image of organic food as a healthy alternative has been boosted in Britain by public scepticism about genetically modified crops, and by the mad cow disease epidemic, which has undermined faith in modern, intensive farming techniques.

The FSA will not elaborate on the kind of research it has in mind, saying only that "a very wide range of options" was being discussed. "It's not possible at this stage to say exactly what that research should be, but it will have to be something that can establish whether there is or isn't a difference," says a spokesperson for the agency. Some supporters of organic agriculture would like to see long-term human trials, perhaps involving prison populations or people in care homes for the elderly to minimize the effects of environmental factors.

The Soil Association commissioned its report in response to comments made last August by John Krebs, a zoologist and chairman of the FSA. Krebs said of consumers who buy organic produce: "They're not getting value for money, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Food Standards Agency, if they think they're buying food with extra nutritional quality or extra safety." Soil Association director Patrick Holden claims that the report proves Krebs wrong. "It asserts that there is indicative evidence suggesting nutritional differences between organic and non-organic food," he says.

Holden says the report, prepared by nutritionist Shane Heaton, an independent consultant, is the clearest picture yet of the research carried out so far. Heaton reviewed some 400 previous papers that considered or compared organic and conventional foods, in areas such as mineral and vitamin content, food safety and observed health effects in animals or people. Such reviews have been carried out before, but Heaton says that his study breaks new ground because it excludes many trials that failed to compare the two properly.

For example, of 99 studies that compared the nutrient contents of organic and non-organic foods, Heaton says that only 29 were valid. The rest looked at food that had not been grown according to the strict guidelines laid down by organic groups. Of the legitimate studies, a handful showed significantly higher amounts of minerals, vitamins and dry matter in organic food.

But this is not enough evidence to satisfy other nutritionists. "It's very silly to make claims when so many different factors like the weather, soil and season could result in these changes," says retired food scientist and consultant Ralph Blanchfield. "The old saying that two peas in a pod are alike just doesn't apply; two peas in a pod can still analyse differently."

Some supporters of organic farming also played down the significance of the study, saying that typical consumers of organic food were more likely to benefit from their general eating habits than from extra nutrition in particular foods. "As much as anything it's a question of diet, rather than the individual food items," says Martin Wolfe, an organic farming researcher at Wakelyns Agroforestry, a research farm in Suffolk, UK.

http://www.soilassociation.org http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk


Regional Conference on Public Perception of Biotech in Africa

From: "Mugabe, John"

Organized by the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS)
Nairobi, Kenya, 28-29 January 2002

Modern biotechnology is under increasing public security and intense policy and political debate. The debate is transatlantic and dominated by European and American perceptions of risks and benefits of genetically modified foods. It is to a large measure informed by subjective assessments of how these two cultures perceive of and manage technology risks in the face of increasing social and economic uncertainty. Recently there have been attempts to involve African countries in the debate. Very often, this stayed at the level of simply inviting some African scientists and environmental activities to conferences whose agenda is tightly set to reflect predetermined views and interests. Those European and American groups that are opposed to biotechnology and its genetically modified products tend to invite African environmental activists to articulate Western anti-biotechnology sentiments while purporting to speak for African countries as a whole. Pro-biotechnology groups often look out for African scientists to

The Regional Conference on Public Perceptions of Biotechnology in Africa is being organized to create a forum for the African public-through representatives of a diverse group of environment and development NGOs, scientists, religious leaders, opinion leaders, policy-makers and politicians-to speak on its expectations of modern biotechnology. It will lay a good basis for launching objective studies and assessments of how Africans from different social, economic, ecological and political contexts perceive of genetically modified products. This conference may also enlarge public understanding of the nature of biotechnology. Its specific objectives are to:

(a) identify and promote a better understanding of salient factors that influence African public views of genetically modified products; (b) erect appropriate conceptual pillars for analyzing public perception of and responses to biotechnology, its benefits and risks; and to (c) shape regulatory measures being developed by African governments.

The Conference shall be organized around focused group and panel discussions conducted with members of the public, opinion leaders and scientists. Few commissioned papers on methodological approaches for assessing public perception of technology will be presented to guide the conference. Those interested in participating should contact:

Ms Anna Ogalo or Mr. Harrison Maganga
African Centre for Technology Studies; P.O. Box 45917, Nairobi, Kenya; Tel. 254-2-524700/6 Fax: 254-2-524701; E-mail: acts@cgiar.org or A.Ogalo@cgiar.org


Roles of Agriculture Project Goes Online at FAO


FAO recently launched a new Web site highlighting its Roles of Agriculture project. The three-year project, which began in August 2000, aims to analyse the various impacts of agriculture on the environment, society and culture, beyond its traditionally known contributions to economic growth and food security.

Over the next two years, the project will conduct 12 case studies in four regions -- Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Near East and North Africa. It will pay greater attention to Asia and Africa due to the severity of the poverty and food insecurity situations there. The objective of the project is to provide policy-makers with tools to examine the roles of agriculture in their countries and pursue sustainable agricultural and rural development policies.

The new Web site (http://www.fao.org/es/esa/roa/) provides updated information on the project's activities, access to key documents and major research findings. The Web site also offers background and contact information as well as useful links. The site is available in English, French and Spanish.


Mystery DNA Is Discovered in Soybeans by Scientists

- ANDREW POLLACK, The New York Times

The world's most widely grown genetically engineered crop contains some unexpected DNA next to its inserted gene, casting some doubts on the biotechnology industry's assertions that its technology is precise and predictable.

The mysterious DNA was found in the Monsanto Company's Roundup Ready soybeans by Belgian government and university scientists, who described their findings in a paper published yesterday in the journal European Food Research and Technology. Greenpeace called yesterday for countries to re-evaluate the regulatory approvals of the soybeans, saying that Monsanto did not know as much as it should about its product. The unknown DNA could possibly affect the safety of the beans, the group said.

"I don't think you can come out and say it's unsafe," said Dr. Janet Cotter-Howells, a scientist for Greenpeace in Britain. "You can just say it's unknown whether it's unsafe or not."
Monsanto acknowledged that the extra DNA was there, but it said it was confident that the soybean was safe and that the unknown DNA had no effect on the plant. Dr. Jerry J. Hjelle, the company's vice president for regulatory affairs, said the DNA segment had been in the crop since the beginning as it went through testing to prove its safety.

Products made from Roundup Ready soybeans have been eaten by people and animals for five years with no reports of health problems. Still, the findings could cause some embarrassment for Monsanto and the agricultural biotech industry because they raise questions about how well the molecular makeup of the products is characterized. Roundup Ready soybeans contain a gene from a bacterium that allows the plants to withstand Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Farmers can thus spray their fields with Roundup throughout the growing season to kill weeds without harming the crop. More than half the soybeans grown in the United States are now Roundup Ready. In Europe and Japan the beans are approved for use but not for planting.

This is the second time that scientists have found something in Roundup Ready soybeans that Monsanto did not seem to know was there and had not cited at the time of the product's approval.
Last year the Belgian scientists and Monsanto, working independently, found that the soybeans contained not only one complete copy of the bacterial gene, as intended, but two fragments of that gene. Monsanto filed reports with regulators around the world offering data to show that the fragments were not active genes and had no effect on the plant.

The paper now being published contains another revelation. Adjacent to one of those gene fragments is another stretch of DNA that Monsanto, in its report to regulators last year, had assumed was the soybean's native DNA. But the Belgian scientists, led by Dr. Marc De Loose of the Center for Agricultural Research in Melle, said they could not find this stretch of DNA in the soybean that had not been genetically engineered.

They suggested that this unknown DNA is probably the plant's own DNA but that it was somehow rearranged, or scrambled, at the time the bacterial gene was inserted. Another possibility, they said, is that a portion of the plant's DNA was deleted, leaving other DNA in that position.
Dr. Hjelle, of Monsanto, said that the new paper by the Belgian scientists had been available online for some time and that Monsanto had already discussed the information with regulators. He said the unexpected DNA had been found because more sensitive techniques had made it practical for the first time to determine the sequence of the DNA flanking the inserted gene. "As methods improve," he said, "we can find things from a detailed perspective that we couldn't 10 years ago."
Dr. Hjelle said the unknown sequence was only 534 letters long out of a soybean genome of about 1.5 billion letters and was not meaningful. He also said that the jumbling up of DNA near the spot where a new gene was inserted was "expected by people who understand the science."

Dr. David Ow, a senior scientist at the Department of Agriculture's Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, Calif., said that an inserted gene did not always integrate itself into a plant in a neat way.
"It's not so much that rearrangements occur, but what are the consequences of it?" he said. Dr. Ow said he did not think that this would pose a public safety issue, but he said it would pose a public perception problem for the industry. "If one is submitting a product it has to be characterized to the extent required by the regulatory bodies," he said.


Greenpeace Appeals To Scientists For Help To Identify The Origin Of Unknown DNA in Roundup Ready Soybean
Exeter, United Kingdom, August 15, 2001

Dear scientist,

The recent publication of the character of the DNA insert in the genetically modified soya developed by Monsanto (Windels et al., 2001. Characterisation of the Roundup Ready soybean insert. European Food Research and Technology, 213, 107-112) (See below for Abstract..CS) has raised serious ambiguities regarding the nature of the NOS3 junction region.

The paper concludes that beyond the 250 bp additional fragment of the herbicide tolerance gene, CP4 EPSPS, there is a 534 bp region of unidentified DNA (see ANNEX). This DNA could not be identified using BLAST searches and therefore its origin is, as yet, unknown. At present, it is thought that the DNA may be rearranged soya genomic DNA or part of a large deletion of soya genomic DNA. It is also possible that this may be DNA from another organism, perhaps from an organism used in part of the genetic engineering process.

I am writing to enlist your help in identifying the origin of this unknown DNA. Can you think of any methodologies other than BLAST searches that may shed light on the origin of this DNA? Could a Southern blot of genomic DNA from a variety of organisms (including soya) followed by hybridization onto a probe specific to the unidentified DNA help identify the source of the DNA? Which organisms would be most likely to examine? How could this DNA be identified as rearranged soya DNA?

The 534 bp region of unidentified DNA can also be downloaded from the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, NCBI, Genebank, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/, accession no. AJ308515 (the unidentified DNA starts at base no. 295 and ends at 829). I would greatly appreciate your help in this matter. I am sure you will agree it is important that the origin of this unidentified DNA is determined with the utmost urgency.

I await your response.

Yours, Dr. Janet Cotter H, Greenpeace International, Science Unit, Exeter, UK. Tel: +44.1392.26 37 82


Characterisation of The Roundup Ready Soybean Insert

European Food Research and Technology 213:107-112 (2001)

P. Windels I. Taverniers E. Van Bockstaele M. De Loose
Department for Plant Genetics and Breeding, Centre for Agricultural Research, Caritasstraat 21,
9090 Melle, Belgium, e-mail: m.deloose@clo.fgov.be

In this article we describe the isolation and characterisation of the junction between insert DNA and plant DNA in the transgenic Roundup Ready soybean line event 40-3-2. Our results establish that during integration of the insert DNA several rearrangements occurred at the 3NOS junction and that the genomic plant DNA at the pre-integration site may have been rear-ranged. These findings highlight the utility of characterising junction regions to fulfill the request for information regarding which DNA sequences have been incorporated in commercialised transgenic lines. Furthermore, the characterisation of junction regions is, in our opinion, the method of choice to support method develop-ment for detection and identification of plant biotechnology- derived products.

Since labelling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients is mandatory in all European member states [1], the demand for reliable and easy to perform detection and identification methods for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is high. As a governmental research institute involved in the development of strategies to de-tect and identify GMOs we analyse DNA sequences which flank the insert DNA in order to develop GMO event specific identification methods.

Up to now most qualitative as well as quantitative GMO analysis methods make use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify and detect regulatory sequences that are frequently used in transgenic constructs, for example promoters, terminators and so on [26]. As a consequence, methods that amplify a unique sequence within the in-serted DNA only allow detection of the presence of GMOs. Other methods are required for the identification of GMOs in food. It is clear that a primer pair that covers the junction between the insert DNA and the plant DNA will enable us to discriminate between different GMOs containing the same insert and to identify different GMOs containing different copy numbers of the same insert.

As such, event specific primer pairs are the primers of choice in quantitative GMO analysis [7]. In Europe as well as in the United States a technical dossier containing all the information available and of importance to allow experts to judge the safety of a GMO has to be submitted in order to obtain authorisation to market a GMO[1, 8, 9].

Any new and relevant in-formation that becomes available with regard to the technical dossier or to the risk assessment study has to be brought to the attention of the competent authorities. Here we show that the information obtained by characterising the junction region between plant DNA and insert DNA can be used to check the accuracy of the technical dossier or to complete already existing information. Padgette et al. [10] described earlier that the Roundup Ready (RR) single genetic insert, that was introduced in-to soybeans by the particle acceleration method, contains a portion of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter, the Petunia hybrida 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3- phosphate synthase (EPSPS) chloroplast transit peptide (CTP), the CP4 EPSPS coding sequence and a portion of the 3non-translated region of the nopaline synthase gene terminator. ---cut


Activists Cite Science Only if It's Convenient

- Barry A. Palevitz, The Atlanta Journal Constitution June 24, 2001

Remember last fall's taco fiasco? An Iowa laboratory found a genetically modified variety of corn called StarLink in tacos distributed by Kraft Foods. The corn, which the Environmental Protection Agency had approved only for animal use, somehow found its way into the human food stream.

The resulting brouhaha lasted for months as the Food and Drug Administration recalled hundreds of products; the company that developed the corn, Aventis Seeds, added up a $1 billion cleanup bill; and activist groups such as Greenpeace and Environmental Defense went on the warpath.



From: Malcolm Livingstone
Subject: Greenpeace "Unknown DNA" story

I'm not sure what to make of this "discovery" by Greenpeace as I am not in the least surprised. We already know that rearrangements are common in transgenic plants. There are thousands of sequences present in soybean that we know absolutely nothing about. There are thousands of sequences in the human genome that we know nothing about. There are about 30% of genes in E.coli we know nothing about (I think). This is another beat up. I expect that the sequence may be picked up as coming from such and such a gene or control sequence but it may equally not be. I certainly will not be "wasting" my time trying to find out .

- Malcolm

Biotechnology For The Classroom


Canberra Times 15 August 2001; Christopher Bantick reviews a new resource tool designed to promote the science of the future in schools.

It would be a mistake to think that biotechnology is just the preserve of science in the school curriculum. As much as science is the basis for biotechnology, the ethical and social concerns which spin off rapidly changing biotechnological initiatives need to be carefully assessed. This is the thinking behind a new and outstanding online resource for teachers and students. Simply called Biotechnology Online, the resource is aimed at exploring in the classroom issues such as genetically modified foods and cloning. Biotechnology Online was launched earlier this month by Senator Nick Minchin, Minister for Industry, Science and Resources and Chair of the Biotechnology Council. The appearance of a resource which is specifically pitched at teachers and students going about their daily lessons has had the contributions of several major stakeholders. These have included the multi-departmental Government agency, Biotechnology Australia, working with the Australian Science Teachers Association and curriculum developm

The general philosophy behind Biotechnology Online as a classroom tool Senator Minchin puts this way: 'It is important that all members of our society have a better understanding of the science to better enable them to make more informed decisions about applications of biotechnology. 'This resource will help teachers impart a basic understanding of biotechnology and gene technology to students. It will help them contribute to the debates on the ethical, legal and social questions thrown up by this rapidly advancing field.' The essential feature of Biotechnology Online is that it is an Internet site designed for teacher and student use. It aims to 'improve scientific literacy on biotechnology and stimulate informed discussions about related issues.' The thinking behind the preparation and development of the resources available on the Biotechnology Online site have reflected the deliberations of a national reference group. The group was established with the assistance of the Australian Science Teachers Associ

The group includes representatives from the Conference Education System, Australian Curriculum Assessment and Certification Authorities, National Catholic Education Commission, National Council of Independent Schools' Association and the Australian Science Teachers Association. The thrust of the group has been to assist Biotechnology Australia in defining what should be included in the web-based resource which will also be available on CD. Where Biotechnology Online has a potentially wide-reaching impact is in its design to fit with state and territory science curricula. There are also extension activities which are focused on facilitating a cross-over into studies of society and the environment. This is for the purpose of allowing for broader discussion of the issues. Sharon Ding is assistant manager, communications and public awareness, with Biotechnology Australia.

She is also project officer for Biotechnology Online. This has put her in a good position to comment on not only the development of the Internet site and CD but also the overall philosophy behind the resource. She says that the time is right in classrooms around the country to be thinking about biotechnology. Considering the ongoing public debate over GM foods and the ethical concerns over cloning and DNA applications in research, Biotechnology Online sets out to respond to the needs of teachers and the wider community. 'The resource fills what we have identified as an information gap,' Ding says. 'Biotechnology is an emerging science which is only now coming into schools. There are limited resources available for teachers to use. A lot of text books and materials don't provide for biotechnology. The foundation is the science behind biotechnology but with the issues section, it is up to the teachers to pick what they want.' It was not only the need identified by Biotechnology Australia for updated curriculu

One of the strongest aspects of the kit is its diversity. The ethical, legal and social implications have not been relegated to secondary status. It is in this area that Biotechnology Online may have its greatest and most diverse application. 'All market research tells us,' Ding says, 'that the general awareness level of biotechnology is very low. There is not a lot known about the science. With Biotechnology Online, this can be picked up by the general public. We want to give the public information so they can make informed decisions. It is a unique resource. We piloted it in schools in Melbourne, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. We have also tried out some workshop ideas in Western Australia.' With Biotechnology Online attempting to address the current needs in Australian secondary schools, in a format suitable for classroom use, the diverse range of materials and activities is impressive. These include text case studies, experiments, interactive activities, student worksheets and teacher not

Besides the specific online materials, students can participate in various classroom activities such as role plays, debates and discussion. The focus is to give the flexibility to learn about the current regulation in Australia together with the ethical and moral questions that form part of the biotechnology debate. The four main sections of the resource are: What is Bioterchnology?, Human Uses, Environmental Applications and Applications for Food and Agriculture. With special emphasis on each state and territory science curricula the links to the ACT are clear with specific content, focus, context or activities mentioned in the science curriculum framework. This is included under the heading of 'Working Scientifically' and notes: 'An examination of the ways in which science ... involves explaining natural and technological phenomena in terms of scientific concepts, using scientific concepts to understand the operation of tools and appliances, farms and gardens, industrial processes, health and hygiene, app


More on Pro-biotech and Infotainment

From: Red Porphyry

>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.

Actually, Andrew, the infotainers Hannity & Colmes didn't get their facts wrong about the firemen who burned to death in the Okananga National Forest. They made the facts up. Making things up is all part of the infotainer act, as Rush Limbaugh freely admits. Now, Rush Limbaugh happens to be a very funny man. But I've never made the mistake of using his comedy routines as factual sources, for biotech or anything else.

>For the sake of discussion, let us assume that the story of the dead
>firefighters is purely a work of fiction.

But the firemen burning to death isn't a work of fiction, Andrew. They really did die. What *is* a work of fiction is the claim that their deaths were due to a group of government bureaucrats, stumbling around like the Three Stooges, worrying about the Endangered Species Act. Supporting such a claim as fact is the wrong tack for the pro-biotech side to take, given that (1) the claim is fiction, and (2) American support for biotech is due to Americans trusting the government bureaucracies in charge of its regulation.

>What might the author(s) be trying to say in this short story?

Nothing at all. They're just spinning a yarn to get a few laughs. Hannity & Colmes is nothing more than a post-modern version of that great American tradion known as the minstrel act. Think Laurel & Hardy, Andrew. Or better yet, Amos 'n Andy.

>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?

NOOOOOOOOOO! The only implication to be drawn from the H & C comedy skit is that it's "Showtime at the FOX".

>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."

You're seeing something that isn't there, Andrew. H & C couldn't care less about biotech or Shiva at Orissa. Their skit isn't meant to be analyzed for hidden meanings about biotech or science-based public policy and such. It's a *yarn*, spun together from fact and fiction for the sole purpose of making their audience split their sides with laughter. Pure blackface ("Wheel about and turn about and do just so, Every time I wheel about I jump Government Bureaucrat"). Nothing more.

>Like the firefighters in the story, they die, and the hand-wringers
>stand by when they could help instead are culpable.

Nobody stood by and let the firemen die. They died because their fireproof shelters were tried, measured, and found wanting. Government bureaucrats and the Endangered Species Act had nothing to do with it.