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October 15, 2001


APS Statement; Syngenta Foundation; Public Plant Breeeding;


Today's Topics in AgBioView.

* Vive La Biotech
* Plant Health Scientists Issue Statement in Support of Biotechnology
* John W. Cross: Comparing Toxins
* Syngenta Launches Foundation For Sustainable Agriculture
* No to GMO Labelling - Canadian Member of Parliament
* Former 'Greenpeace' Activist Now Says Earth Healthier than Ever
* Ratcheting Down the Debate Over Biotechnology
* Agricultural Botechnology - USDA/ERS Site
* Future of Public Plant Breeding: Principles and Roles for the 21st Century
* Encyclopedia of Life Sciences
* Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
* Harnessing Genomics and Biotechnology to Improve Global Health Equity

Vive La Biotech

- The Wall Street Journal, 12 Oct 2001

And now for some good news. Turns out genetically modified foods are
actually safer than Mother Nature's version. Says who? The biotech
squeamish Europeans, no less. Over the past 15 years the EU spent $64
million on 81 research projects to examine the risks involved in
genetically modified crops and products. Not a single study found
"any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual
uncertainties of conventional plant breeding. . . . Indeed, the use
of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny
probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods." We
hope the French don't have a collective nervous breakdown.


Plant Health Scientists Issue Statement in Support of Biotechnology

St. Paul, MN (October 12, 2001)--The American Phytopathological
Society (APS), the world's largest organization of plant health
scientists, has issued a formal statement in support of
biotechnology. Citing the enormous potential benefits to humanity
possible through biotechnology, while advocating responsible and
science-based oversight and regulation, the APS members hope to call
attention to the importance of biotechnology in their work.

"Virtually all aspects of plant pathology are affected by
biotechnology," states Sue Tolin, a plant pathologist with Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University and a member of the APS
Public Policy Board. "Advances in this area have played a critical
role in our ability to identify and control plant pathogens that
cause billions of dollars of crop losses each year, particularly in
developing countries where diseases routinely destroy important food

Among the benefits outlined in the APS statement are the
environmental positives promised through biotechnology. Plant
pathologists point out that biotechnology is an important tool for
reducing dependence of growers on synthetic pesticides for
controlling plant diseases, and minimizing adverse environmental
impacts of modern agriculture practices. The statement also calls for
placing consideration of risks associated with plant disease
management through biotechnology in perspective with other disease
management approaches, including social, economic, and environmental
issues and concerns.

"Biotechnology must be practiced in a responsible way, respectful of
human, economic and environmental impacts," states Noel Keen, current
APS President. "We believe it would be an enormous setback if we were
unable to continue the progress we've already made." APS, he says,
created and issued their statement at this time to underscore the
substantial contribution biotechnology has made to the understanding
and control of plant diseases, and to stress the important role it
can play in future advancements.

The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a non-profit,
professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and
control of plant disease with 5,000 members worldwide. The APS
Statement on Biotechnology and its Application to Plant Pathology is
available for your review in its entirety at

Contact Molly Cerny or 651.454.7250) for a copy

APS Statement

The American Phytopathological Society's (APS) governing Council
approved on August 29, 2001 a statement expressing its position on
biotechnology. The APS Public Policy Board recommended an initial
draft of this statement to Council. The approved statement
acknowledges the many benefits of using biotechnology for plant
pathogen and plant research and for disease management. It also
expresses support for responsible and science-based oversight and
regulation of biotechnology. Further, it calls for placing
consideration of risks associated with managing plant diseases
through biotechnology in perspective with other disease management
approaches, including social, economic, and environmental issues and
concerns. The following is the approved statement.

APS Statement on Biotechnology and its Application to Plant Pathology
The American Phytopathological Society (APS), which represents
approximately 5,000 scientists who work with plant pathogens, the
diseases they cause, and ways of controlling them, supports
biotechnology as a means for improving plant health, food safety, and
sustainable growth in plant productivity. Virtually all aspects of
plant pathology are affected by biotechnology, a term which includes
recombinant DNA technology and other new genetic technologies. Early
fundamental research in plant pathology provided the foundation from
which plant biotechnology emerged. Genome segments from plant
pathogenic viruses and bacteria are widely used as vectors into which
genes are inserted to make transgenic plants. Insertion of viral
sequences into the plant genome causes the plant to resist virus
infection through a process akin to immunization, providing an
effective new genetic approach for managing plant viruses.
Biotechnology and genomic approaches have enhanced the process of
identifying plant pathogens with greater accuracy, a prerequisite for
managing the diseases they cause.

Plant genes and gene products that interact with pathogens have been
identified and either inserted into plants or used as specific
molecular markers to enhance plant breeding for resistance. Reduced
insect feeding on Bt-corn, produced through biotechnology, has also
been found to result in fewer fungal infections and less toxin
production. Thus the information learned from applying biotechnology
to plant pathogens and to plant-pathogen interactions is providing
new knowledge and new approaches to improve plant health and increase
the yield and quality of plants contributing to food, feed and fiber.
Future environmental benefits of biotechnology for improved
management of plant diseases are enormous, particularly the potential
to reduce the dependency of commercial and non-commercial growers on
synthetic pesticides, and enhance approaches that minimize adverse
effects on the environment.

The concerns that are being raised of environmental and food safety
risks of biotechnology through gene exchange and evolution of new
pathogens, or from putative increased or unexpected allergenicity are
legitimate risks that will be addressed as have similar potential
risks with any new plant or plant product. Assessment and management
of these and other risks of new technologies in a formal process is
appropriate, and must be conducted in a science-based manner and also
include economic, human and animal health, and ecological
consequences. However, these risks and concerns are not limited to
plants and plant products produced through biotechnology and thus
must be placed in perspective. The consequences of foregoing the use
of biotechnology for improving plant health and sustainable plant
productivity must also be considered.


From: "John W. Cross"
Subject: Comparing Toxins

Mr. Craig Sams makes the following comments about "organic"
agriculture and its choice of pesticides:

>I hope that the above will appeal to those who seek rationality rather
>than fanaticism in the organics vs GM debate that has emerged. It surely
>shows that, while organic supporters are cautious and apply more rigorous
>standards that apply in conventional agriculture and food processing, they
>are not rigid fanatics who are totally paranoid about moderate use of an
>extremely limited selection of chemicals.

My problem with this is that the general public are unaware that
"organic" producers use ANY pesticides, and the producers are happy
to keep it that way. Furthermore, the pesticides that they allow (1)
do not fit into any chemical category of which I am aware. What are
the chemical similarities of rotenone, copper sulfate, cryolite
(Na3AlF6, sodium aluminum fluoride), inorganic sulfur, azadirachtin,
pyrethrum, sabadilla, and ryanodine (active agent in ryania, LD50 in
dogs = 150 mg/kg, (2))?

Perhaps Mr. Sams would like to attempt an answer to that question! If
he can answer that, then he should go on explain how those substances
are fundamentally less hazardous than a maize plant engineered to
produce B.t. protein.

John Cross

DISEASE CONTROL." from "Georgia Pest Control Handbook." The Univ of
Georgia, Dept of Entomology,
(2) Oregon State University, Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide
Information Profiles,


Syngenta Launches Foundation For Sustainable Agriculture

12 Oct 2001 PR Newswire

BASEL, Switzerland, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Syngenta today announced
the creation of its Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The
Foundation aims to contribute to the improvement of world food
security and quality. It will do so by supporting development
initiatives and scientific analyses and publications.

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture supports research
projects on sustainable food security in the poorest regions of the
world. It performs scientific work to promote public discussion of
nutritional problems, and makes contributions on sustainable
agriculture in developing and industrialized countries. The
Foundation will network closely with organizations and research
establishments around the world. It will continue the agricultural
projects run up to now by the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable
Development. It has a first-year budget of about 4 million Swiss
francs. The members of the Board of Trustees are Heinz Imhof
(Chairman), Pierre Landolt, and Professors Christian Bonte-Friedheim
and Klaus M. Leisinger. Heinz Imhof, Chairman of Syngenta and
President of the Syngenta Foundation, said: "Our Foundation aims
above all to intervene wherever it can take direct action against
poverty and misery. The concept of `sustainable agriculture' is our
Foundation's raison d'etre. Agriculture is sustainable if it makes
economic and intelligent use of its resources. That is only possible
when people openly discuss their local problems, and can develop and
implement their own appropriate local solutions."

Providing support for agriculture in developing countries not only
involves stabilizing locally sustainable production, or increasing it
whenever possible. It also means investing in people's knowledge and
in their ability to help themselves. Professor Klaus M. Leisinger,
Acting Director of the Syngenta Foundation, noted: "The aim of our
work is to help develop and support people's existing efforts,
enabling them longer term to carry out such initiatives on their own."

In his presentation at the founding ceremony, Dr. David Evans, Head
of Research & Technology at Syngenta, underscored the role of modern
technology in agriculture: "With sustainable agriculture as the
framework, research and development can help developing countries
control pests and fight plant diseases while increasing yields and
improving crops. In addition to selling its products, Syngenta is
making available at no cost a number of innovative technologies to
subsistence farmers."

Three African projects underway: The Syngenta Foundation is currently
promoting three projects in Sub- Saharan Africa. These share the
basic aim of contributing to the sustainable security of food
supplies grown by small farmers.

In Eritrea, the Foundation is working with Swiss and international
development organizations to support a program for the sustainable
use of soil and water. Initial results of this research were
presented at a conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) of the United Nations, and thus made available to other
interested parties. In Mali, the Foundation is working with the
government to support the Cinzana Research Station. It raises local
varieties of millet and sorghum, develops cultivation techniques
adapted to the needs of the different agro- ecological zones of the
Sahel, and trains small farmers in their use. In Kenya, the
Foundation is helping the International Maize and Wheat Research
Institute (CIMMYT) and the National Research Establishment (KARI) to
develop new varieties of maize resistant to stem borers.

More information about the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable
Agriculture will shortly be available at


GMO Labelling

Broadcast News, 11 Oct 2001

WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's largest farm lobby group wants MP's to vote
against a bill requiring labelling for genetically modified foods.
Don Dewar, of Keystone Agricultural Producers, says the bill does
nothing to improve the safety of Canada's food supply. He says
support for the legislation would result in a number of things,
including a 10 per cent price increase for Canadian produced and
processed food.

He also says it will cause undue hurt to Canadian farmers, and a bill
that doesn't serve the interests of consumers or farmers. Dewar says
Canada's food supply is already one of the safest in the world and
the bill would do nothing to change that.

He adds if genetically modified foods are not safe they should be
taken off the market. Dewar says if they contain allergens they have
to be labelled by existing law. Keystone supports voluntary labelling
for genetically modified foods.


Former 'Greenpeace' Activist Now Says Earth Healthier than Ever

- Marc Morano, October 09, 2001, Crosswalk http://news.crosswalk.com

www.CNSNews.com - (CNSNews.com) - Danish Professor Bjorn Lomborg was
a former Greenpeace member who truly believed the earth was in dire
condition and that humans were ruining the environment until he was
challenged to check the facts for himself. "I never doubted the
environmental myths. I used to be a very concerned Greenpeace kind of
leftie," he said.

In 1987, he read an article by Economist Julian Simon who said the
earth's environment was getting healthier. "I said no, no. That's got
to be right-wing American propaganda," he stated. Lomborg then set
out with some of his students from the University of Aarthus to
debunk Simon's contention. But it was Lomborg who was in for a
surprise. "As it turned out, we were the ones getting debunked.
Things are actually getting better and better on pretty much all
accounts. We are actually leaving our kids a better world," he said.

Lomborg is in the U.S., promoting his new book the Skeptical
Environmentalist. At a Cooler Heads Coalition luncheon on Capitol
Hill, sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI),
Lomborg said that since he began criticizing the green movement, he
has been accused of being a "right winger" or at least a "messenger
boy for the right." But an excerpt read from his book clearly refutes
any ties to the conservative movement. On page 32, Lomborg writes
that his criticism of environmentalists "does not mean I am a demonic
little free market individualist. I believe there are many
circumstances [upon] which environmental intervention is necessary."

In his book, he details his transformation on environmental thinking
and uses statistical information from respected research institutions
to debunk what he sees as the major environmental myths of today.
Lomborg, who speaks with the zeal of a convert, explained that the
air in London is cleaner today than it was in 1585. He also insisted
that world hunger is a rapidly declining problem, dropping in half
since 1970 and projected to drop dramatically lower in the next 30

He criticized the alarmism and misinformation with regard to most
environmental issues and suggested that myths are designed to force
immediate action. "If you feel you painted yourself into a corner,
you are willing to do pretty much anything," he asserted. Lomborg
noted that since the 1920s, the world has been told how there is only
a "10 year supply of oil" left in the world. He quoted an old
professor who said, "We have been running out of oil ever since I was
a kid. "It's like going home and looking into your fridge and saying
'whoa, you only have food for three days, you are going to die in
four,'" he joked.

Lomborg explained that we continue to consume more oil while at the
same time producing greater quantities of the fuel. He quoted the
former head of OPEC, who once said, "The oil age is not going to come
to an end because of a lack of oil, just like the stone age did not
come to an end because of a lack of stone." He believes that solar
energy will emerge as a primary energy source over fossil fuels by
the close of this century. Lomborg asserted that the Kyoto global
warming treaty would be an economic disaster for the world while
having only minimal effects on climate change.

"The cure is more costly than the disease," he said. According to
Lomborg, even if the Kyoto Protocol were fully enacted, the world
would have "simply postponed the problem [of climate change] for six
years. We will basically say the temperature we would have reached in
2094, we have no postponed until 2100." He believes the money Kyoto
would cost the world's economy would be better spent investing in
cleaner drinking water and improved sanitation for the developing
world. "We do not fix all problems. Some problems we simply say we
would rather spend our resources elsewhere."


Ratcheting Down the Debate Over Biotechnology

- Michael Rodemeyer, This op-ed was printed in the Newark Star-Ledger
on June 24, 2001 and the Akron Beacon-Journal on June 24, 2001.

This week, some 15,000 biotech executives and researchers will clash
with 5,000 protesters at a major biotechnology conference in San
Diego. Many of the activists are graduates of a training course,
sponsored by the Ruckus Society, that met in the hills above San
Diego last month to learn the ABCs of social activism - from
blockading to scaling buildings to training for potential lawbreakers.

While the industry and researchers listen to presentations inside the
convention center, the activists are planning a counter-event called
Biodevastation 2001 in an effort to draw attention to the "corporate
colonization" of agriculture that is "foisting untested, unregulated
'frankenfoods' upon an unwitting public."

These protests, intended to be peaceful, will hopefully contrast with
the recent arson attacks at the University of Washington and a tree
farm in northwest Oregon perpetrated by the Earth Liberation Front
(ELF), a terrorist group. The Washington fire, with damages estimated
at $2 million, destroyed genetic research on how poplars grow. The
Oregon tree farm was not undertaking any genetic modification
research, but was attacked due to past research that had been done in
that location. ELF is thought to have done some $40 million worth of
damage since 1995, and they have even published a primer on
conducting arson activities.

Although these types of protests and attacks are not yet as common as
they have become in Europe, they are starting to increase in
frequency. We have the opportunity to avoid the chaos and
overreaction that has happened in Europe by tackling the issue head
on, before scientists become scared and stop their research entirely.
In fact, universities that have recently been attacked are already
being forced to pump money into tighter security, which is taking
those dollars away from scientific discovery.

In response to the attacks, Congressman George Nethercutt (R-Wash.)
introduced legislation to enhance penalties for terrorism directed
against the agricultural biotechnology research community. Current
law extends protection to animal lab research but not to plant labs
like the UW center; Nethercutt's bill would put both types of
research on the same level of protection.

Clearly, the target of these protests and attacks - genetic
modification of food and other agricultural products -- elicits
strong reactions in people, ranging from hostility to fear on one
side to excitement about the possibilities on the other. In fact,
most Americans do not have strong or well-informed opinions about
this new technology, according to polling we recently conducted.
Americans know little about genetically modified foods, perhaps
because agricultural biotech has moved faster than the public's
ability to fully understand it and its implications. Americans are
also uncertain about its safety but change their views about safety
when more information about the widespread use of genetically
modified foods is revealed, our survey found (some 70 percent of all
foods found on today's supermarket shelves are genetically modified,
according to industry estimates).

Because the debate about genetic modification is really at an early
stage and will only become more complicated as the technology
advances, we are faced with a very tough question: How do we ratchet
down the debate over this technology so it can be discussed in a
constructive and sustainable manner? All parties bring different and
valid viewpoints to the table -- environmentalists question the
safety of the technology and whether it will have unforeseen
consequences on the environment, while the industry and researchers
point out the promise of improving crop yields, improving quality and
nutrition of food, and meeting human needs for fiber, fuel and other

The real truth usually lies somewhere between the two poles of
American debate, and the same can be said for agricultural
biotechnology: there are benefits as well as risks. The benefits,
such as foods that can be used to grow vaccines or treatments for
incurable diseases, must be weighed against the potential risks to
the environment and human misuse.

Aside from the political, economic and ethical questions that genetic
engineering raises, an equally important issue is whether our own
regulatory system can ensure food safety while safeguarding the
environment. Today, under rules set forth over 15 years ago - long
before GM technology was widely utilized -- three separate federal
agencies are responsible for approval and oversight for genetically
modified products. So far, so good: this patchwork of a system is
working. But as we move from genetically modified plants to
genetically modified animals we must take steps to ensure that our
regulatory system can deal with all the new biotech products created
from genetic engineering technologies.

Fortunately, unlike in Europe, our government has done a good job in
protecting the food supply from such scourges as mad cow and
foot-and-mouth disease. As a result, Americans still trust the
government to safeguard food. But we must work to ensure that the
regulatory system is up to the task of regulating the products of
biotechnology, sooner rather than later.
Michael Rodemeyer is the executive director of the Pew Initiative on
Food and Biotechnology, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research project
whose goal is to inform the public and policymakers on issues about
genetically modified food and agricultural biotechnology, including
its importance, as well as concerns about it and its regulation. He
is a speaker at the Biotechnology Industry Organization conference in
San Diego.


Agricultural Botechnology - USDA/ERS


"Biotechnology's been around almost since the beginning of time. It's
cavemen saving seeds of a high-yielding plant. It's Gregor Mendel,
the father of genetics, cross-pollinating his garden peas. It's a
diabetic's insulin, and the enzymes in your yogurt." -Former U.S.
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, March 13, 1997

The rate of biotechnology development and adoption continues to
accelerate, with colored cotton, anti-cancer tomatoes, and bananas
with diarrhea vaccine all in the pipeline. These products are
complemented by other commodities bred to withstand disease, insects,
and herbicides, thereby increasing yields to keep pace with a
burgeoning and increasingly prosperous world population.

But with growth spurts come growing pains, and a food marketing
system already struggling to keep up with niche and value-added
products now faces demand for systems and processes that
differentiate biotech from nonbiotech products. Farmers must weigh
the immediate prospects of higher yields and reduced input costs
against uncertain world acceptance of biotech products. And a
research community used to incremental advances in technology must
recast intellectual property rights to capture profit without
preempting collaboration.

ERS has been monitoring the advance of agricultural biotechnology
since 1991, and now collects its findings in a new briefing room
devoted to the subject. Here you can access a wealth of information
* main Biotechnology briefing room
* Adoption of biotechnology and its production impacts
* Marketing, labeling, and trade
* Biotechnology research and the input industry

Also with ä
* Links to nearly two dozen publications and articles
* Discussions of recent related symposia and meetings
* Glossary of agricultural biotech terms

And just releasedä
Economic Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology-This report explores
some implications for grades and standards for genetically engineered
products, as well as the extent of biotechnology adoption by U.S.
farmers and some of the farm-level effects. Other topics include
important advances in biological science, the roles of public and
private research, and recent changes in input industry structure.

Concentration and Technology in Agricultural Input Industries-Recent
data on mergers, acquisitions, and strategic collaborations in the
agricultural biotechnology industry, as well as the emergence of
"life science" conglomerates, indicate some level of consolidation.
However, the move by some companies to divest their seed operations
calls into question the long-term viability of these conglomerates


The Future of Public Plant Breeding Programs: Principles and Roles
for the 21st Century

by USDA's Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology

Full Report at

Preamble: This report has been prepared by the USDA Advisory
Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology (ACAB) to help USDA define
the principles and roles for public plant breeding programs (PPBPs),
including the roles for these programs in appropriate biotechnology
applications. For the reasons outlined below, the ACAB is in
unanimous agreement that PPBPs must be preserved and enhanced.

Since the advent of hybrid corn in the mid-20th Century, the role of
the private sector in plant breeding has steadily increased while
that of the public sector has declined. Currently, the USDA's
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Land Grant Universities
(LGUs), once major developers of new crop varieties, release
relatively few new varieties as compared with the private sector.

The development of new tools of biotechnology, and the means to
protect both genes and methods for genetic modification as
intellectual property, has further attracted private-sector
investments in the development of seeds for farmers relative to the
public sector. Much of this new emphasis is on the addition of
transgenic (genetically engineered) traits, e.g., resistance to
herbicides and insects, to traditionally bred cultivars and hybrids
of U.S. crops.

Despite the broad adoption of privately held transgenic and
conventionally bred crop varieties, the public sector retains major
responsibilities for several important aspects of plant breeding.
These responsibilities include: basic or fundamental discovery
research; training of new plant breeders; maintaining germplasm
banks; addressing public-good issues such as biodiversity,
environmental safety, and a diversity of production and marketing
systems; and release of new varieties of crops for which there may be
inadequate economic incentives for private sector research and
development investments. Private companies also benefit from the
availability of new varieties, developed by PPBPs, which are adapted
to a wide diversity of local growing conditions and markets.

American agriculture is a diverse enterprise involving a vast array
of crops produced in a wide range of climatic, economic, and cultural
environments on widely diverse farms. New niche market opportunities
such as for ethnic and organically grown foods are increasing. For
many reasons, it is in the nation's interest to ensure a broad
availability of crops and crop varieties for farmers and choices for
American consumers.

The ACAB supports a renewed and reinvigorated commitment by USDA to
PPBPs of the ARS, and of the LGUs funded through the Cooperative
State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). Further,
this commitment must involve a balanced and complementary
relationship between public and private research efforts. While each
sector has unique strengths and inherent limitations, USDA should
assure that its public programs are complementary to private-sector
investments in crop variety research and development while avoiding
duplicative efforts. To these ends, this document attempts to assist
in efforts to meet this challenge by:

* Outlining principles that should serve as goals for the PPBPs;
* Identifying specific roles of PPBPs; and
* Making specific recommendations for effective implementation of these roles.

Full Report at


Encyclopedia of Life Sciences


The most ambitious reference work ever to be published in the
biological sciences; a unique and dynamic resource for the new
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Provides regularly updated reference content for students and
professionals, written by outstanding scientists, within subject
portals that link to many other valuable data resources.

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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

- Jared Diamond, Paperback, W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393317552;
Amazon.com price $12.76,

Life isn't fair--here's why: Since 1500, Europeans have, for better
and worse, called the tune that the world has danced to. In Guns,
Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond explains the reasons why things
worked out that way. It is an elemental question, and Diamond is not
nearly the first to ask it. However, he performs a singular service
by relying on scientific fact rather than specious theories of
European genetic superiority. Diamond, a professor of physiology at
UCLA, suggests that the geography of Eurasia was best suited to
farming, the domestication of animals, and the free flow of
information. The more populous cultures that developed as a result
had more complex forms of government and communication--and increased
resistance to disease. Finally, fragmented Europe harnessed the power
of competitive innovation in ways that China did not. (For example,
the Europeans used the Chinese invention of gunpowder to create guns
and subjugate the New World.) Diamond's book is complex and a bit
overwhelming. But the thesis he methodically puts forth--examining
the "positive feedback loop" of farming, then domestication, then
population density, then innovation, and on and on--makes sense.
Written without favor, Guns, Germs, and Steel is good global history.

Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has
become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns,
Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer:
geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond
evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice
Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples
and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather
distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other
eye--and his heart--belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has
done field work for more than 30 years.

Guns, Germs, and Steel is his answer to a question proffered by his
New Guinean friend, Yali: "Why is it that you white people developed
so much cargo [steel axes, umbrellas, matches, soft drinks, etc.- the
material stuff of civilization], but we black people had little cargo
of our own?" It is an obvious and important question, and one to
which professional historians, including myself, tend to react as if
we'd discovered a coral snake in the shower...we shy away from Yali's
question because the easiest answer is one that many bray and bray
about and others would rather die than utter. Race...

Jared Diamond had done us all a great favor by supplying a rock-solid
alternative to the racist answer... ...This is a wonderfully
interesting book, especially for historians of the usual liberal arts
background, who will find the final chapter, "The Future of Hisotry
as a Science," alone worth the price of admission. In it, Diamond
argues that students of humanity- while they cannot be as precise as
physicists and chemists with their laboratory experiments, nor can
they run history over again to see if this change can produce that
result- have examples and "natural experiments" with which they can
fashion informative comparisons.

Why did Christendom enthusiastically and permanently adopt the wheel,
the key element in most machinery, while the Islamic societies
largely discarded it? What happened when syphilis first appeared, as
compared to what is happening today with the appearance of AIDS? What
is happening to society in the highlands of Diamond's
home-away-from-home, Paupa New Guinea, where people have hurtled from
the technology of the stone ax to that of the computer within a
lifetime? Diamond's lesson is this: Think big like our astronomers,
who begin their training not by trying to understand the nervous
gyrations of the members of the asteroid belt but the simple and
stately movements of the major planets over the years, decades and
centuries. Think big. "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is a provocative start.

>From Kirkus Reviews : MacArthur fellow and UCLA evolutionary
biologist Diamond (The Third Chimpanzee, 1992, etc.) takes as his
theme no less than the rise of human civilizations. On the whole this
is an impressive achievement, with nods to the historians,
anthropologists, and others who have laid the groundwork. Diamond
tells us that the impetus for the book came from a native New Guinea
friend, Yali, who asked him, "Why is it that you white people
developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black
people had little cargo of our own?"' The long and short of it, says
Diamond, is biogeography. It just so happened that 13,000 years ago,
with the ending of the last Ice Age, there was an area of the world
better endowed with the flora and fauna that would lead to the
take-off toward civilization: that valley of the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers we now call the Fertile Crescent. There were found the wild
stocks that became domesticated crops of wheat and barley. Flax was
available for the development of cloth. There was an abundance of
large mammals that could be domesticated: sheep, goats, cattle.

Once agriculture is born and animals domesticated, a kind of positive
feedback drives the growth toward civilization. People settle down;
food surpluses can be stored so population grows. And with it comes a
division of labor, the rise of an elite class, the codification of
rules, and language. It happened, too, in China, and later in
Mesoamerica. But the New World was not nearly as abundant in the good
stuff. And like Africa, it is oriented North and South, resulting in
different climates, which make the diffusion of agriculture and
animals problematic. While you have heard many of these arguments
before, Diamond has brought them together convincingly. The prose is
not brilliant and there are apologies and redundancies that we could
do without. But a fair answer to Yali's question this surely is, and
gratifyingly, it makes clear that race has nothing to do with who
does or does not develop cargo.

Paul R. Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford
University : This is a brilliantly written, passionate, whirlwind
tour through 13,000 years of history on all the continents--a short
history of everything about everybody. The origins of empires,
religion, writing, crops, and guns are all here. By at last providing
a convincing explanation for the differing developments of human
societies on different continents, the book demolishes the grounds
for racist theories of history. Its account of how the modern world
was formed is full of lessons for our own future. After reading the
first two pages, you won't be able to put it down.


Harnessing Genomics and Biotechnology to Improve Global Health Equity

- Peter A. Singer* and Abdallah S. Daar; Science, October 5, 2001; v
294 p 87-89

With decisive and timely action, genome-related biotechnology can be
harnessed to improve global health equity. In June 2002 in
Kananaskis, Canada, leaders of the G8 industrial nations will develop
an action plan to support implementation of the New African
Initiative. By extending their discussion of health issues raised in
the New African Initiative to include genomics, G8 leaders could
signal their intention to increase global health equity by preventing
a health genomics divide from developing. There are already some
early and growing examples of genome-related biotechnology being
applied successfully to health problems in developing countries. But
how can genomics be systematically harnessed to benefit health in
developing countries? We propose a five-point strategy, including
research, capacity strengthening, consensus building, public
engagement, and an investment fund.

It is 2010. The World Bank has just released a depressing report on
The Health Genomics Divide. The report laments that the promise of
genome-related biotechnology in the area of health, heralded a decade
earlier by the sequencing of the human genome, has been denied those
in the developing world. The unfolding revolution resulted in
designer pharmacogenomics in rich countries and lost opportunities
for advancing the health of those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

However, this future is not inevitable. Imagine what could happen if
political leaders seized the opportunity to put this matter on the
agenda of the world community. In June 2002 in Kananaskis, Canada,
leaders of the G8 industrial nations will develop an action plan to
support implementation of the New African Initiative (2). By
extending their discussion of health issues raised in the New African
Initiative to genomics, G8 leaders could signal their intention to
prevent a health genomics divide from developing in the first place.
This opportunity was lost in information technology (3) and
agricultural biotechnology (4); it must not be lost in the area of
human health.

Life expectancy in many developed countries is 80 years and rising;
in some sub-Saharan African countries, mainly as a result of human
immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS),
it is 40 years and falling. These and many other inequities in global
health are major ethical challenges in the world today. With decisive
and timely action, genome-related biotechnology can be harnessed to
improve global health equity.

There are already some early and growing examples of this
biotechnology being applied successfully to health problems in
developing countries.

1) Diagnosis of leishmaniasis and dengue fever in some Latin American
countries has already been improved by the use of polymerase chain
reaction techniques. The pioneering work of Eva Harris of the
Sustainable Sciences Institute (San Francisco, California) has
documented that when appropriately implemented in Nicaragua, Ecuador,
and Guatemala, techniques such as PCR and nonradioactive DNA probes
are more rapid, sensitive, specific, versatile, safer, and less
costly than prevailing methods for detection of pathogenic organisms
(5, 6).

2) Despite its embargo against Cuba, the United States has made a
specific exemption and is willing to import the only meningitis B
vaccine developed by the Carlos J. Finlay Institute in Cuba (7),
attesting to the potential of biotechnology in developing countries.
This vaccine is being tested in the United Kingdom and has been
exported and licensed to at least a dozen other countries (8).
Biotechnology now ranks third, behind only sugar and tourism, among
Cuban industries. Cuba holds over 400 biotechnology patents. Brazil,
which has its own rapidly evolving genomics and biotechnology
industry, has imported several million doses of the Cuban meningitis

3) Clinical trials have begun in Nairobi and Oxford of an AIDS
vaccine candidate designed specifically for use in Africa (9). The
DNA-based vaccine was developed through productive collaboration
between the Universities of Nairobi and Oxford and the International
AIDS Vaccine Initiative. The vaccine was derived from the observation
that some prostitutes in Nairobi develop strong cellular immune
responses and do not develop HIV infection despite repeated exposure.

4) Hepatitis B has infected 2 billion people worldwide and is
associated with hepatocellular carcinoma, which is among the top
three causes of cancer-related death in men in sub-Saharan Africa,
most of Asia, and the Pacific. A promising approach for prevention is
to produce hepatitis B surface antigen in transgenic plants for oral
immunization (10). A human trial of a recombinant hepatitis B vaccine
that has been incorporated into potatoes has begun (11). Similar
vaccines are being developed against cholera, measles, and human
papilloma virus (associated with cervical cancer, a common malignancy
in women in sub-Saharan Africa). Because they do not require
refrigeration, plant-based edible vaccines are cheaper than
conventional vaccines and could be grown or freeze-dried and shipped

5) In a recent collaborative effort between Indian researchers at the
International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in
Delhi and the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, a candidate vaccine for
Plasmodium vivax, the main type of malaria in India, has been
identified. The research was partly funded by the Gates Foundation
through the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health. The vaccine
will be developed by Bharat Biotech International of Hyderabad, India
(12). India is increasingly investing in genomics and biotechnology:
The Indian Department of Biotechnology (13) recently announced that
it would spend $85 million on genomics over the next 5 years, mainly
in medical research, and the renowned Indian Institute of Technology
has just established a new School of Bioscience and Bioengineering

6) Parasite DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, and data mining have
already led to the rapid identification of a class of antimalarial
drugs (15) that have the potential to be effective against
multi-drug-resistant parasites, inexpensive, and stable.

7) Pharmacogenetics may save lives and valuable health care resources
in developing countries by identifying populations who will respond
favorably to therapeutics; there is preliminary evidence for this in
relation to certain anti-HIV drugs in West Africa (16). If confirmed,
this finding could save money and lives through proper drug selection.

We have often encountered people whose first response to discussing
health genomics and biotechnology involves questions about
genetically modified organisms, especially their release into the
environment. But that is only part of the story. Many of the new
technologies with potential to improve health care, such as
polymerase chain reaction techniques, microarrays, bioinformatics,
pharmacogenomics, functional genomics, and proteomics do not involve
genetic modification of organisms.

Gro H. Bruntland, the director general of the World Health
Organization (WHO), recognized the huge potential of advances in
genomics and other critical areas of biotechnology for improving
human health in her opening address to the World Health Assembly in
May 2001 (17). She has asked WHO's highest scientific body, the
Advisory Committee on Health Research, to prepare a Special Report on
Genomics and World Health by the end of 2001. This report will
highlight the importance of genomics for the health of people in
developing countries and prepare WHO to be an advocate for improving
the health of the disadvantaged and underprivileged.

The WHO report will also address the challenge of managing the risks
of genomics. It builds on an earlier WHO report (18), which
identified draft guiding principles to help manage these risks. The
guiding principles are wide-ranging, covering areas such as public
debate, benefit sharing, access and control over specimens and
genetic information, discrimination, individual versus group
interests, intellectual property, academia-industry research
relationships, databases, gene therapy, and cloning.

But how can genomics be systematically harnessed to benefit health in
developing countries? Progress will require research to identify the
most promising technologies and the barriers to their application. We
need to understand, for example, why Cuba, China, and India have such
strong biotechnology industries whereas neighboring countries do not.
The lessons learned can be applied to build successful genomics and
biotechnology industries in developing countries and to change the
concept of genomics "for" developing countries to one of genomics
"by" developing countries. We need to look at past history in the
multinational corporate community to understand how to shape business
strategies that reward innovation while making technologies available
to developing countries.

Developing countries need to generate their own expertise in
addressing the scientific, ethical, legal, social, and policy aspects
of genomics and biotechnology (19). The formation of science advice
capacity in the U.S. Department of State exemplifies the importance
that governments are giving science and technology in international
diplomacy, provides opportunities for capacity-building regarding
science diplomacy in African countries, and offers prospects for
improved dialogue between the United States and Africa (20).
Leadership development programs are needed to create a constituency
on genomics policy in developing countries and strengthen the
capacity to participate in international negotiations; for example,
on trade-related intellectual property rights. Individuals such as
those trained through the bioethics program established by the
Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of
Health will be needed to address ethical aspects of genomics
research. Building scientific and policy capacity also involves
forming productive and mutually enhancing partnerships with centers
of excellence wherever these may be; existing centers should be
identified and supported and new centers established (21).

Building consensus among the public, international organizations,
academics, industry, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and
the media will be difficult but essential to address different value
orientations and develop wise public policy. It is possible that a
commission on genomics and global health could serve as a platform to
raise awareness, mobilize resources, and bring stakeholders together
to focus on their common interest in the health of people in
developing countries and close gaps in health equity. Commissions can
occasionally be effective. The Commission on Health Research for
Development (the Evans Commission) galvanized the health research
community (22) with the concept of the "10/90 gap": that 90% of
research expenditure is dedicated to the health problems of 10% of
the world's population. An early consensus-building effort is now
underway on a regional basis. On 8 August 2001 in Nairobi, Kenya, the
First Roundtable on Africa, Science, and Technology in the Age of
Globalization (Fig. 1) resolved to establish a regional process to
develop science and technology strategies aimed at closing the
digital and genome-related biotechnology gaps with the rest of the
world. The Roundtable appointed John Mugabe, Director of the African
Centre for Technology Studies, as interim secretary. Participants
included 38 leading policy-makers and scientists, including permanent
secretaries and directors of science and technology policy bodies,
from 11 African countries. This process provides an opportunity to
pursue biotechnological advances in the context of the New African
Initiative, which is on the G8 agenda next year.

The voices of those in developing countries must be heard as the
health biotechnology revolution unfolds. Those protesting in Genoa
are not the ones who are sick in Africa. We need to develop a
mechanism to tap the views of opinion leaders in developing countries
on important policy questions and in real time.

Finally, it will be necessary to create innovative financing
mechanisms to channel large investments into promising scientific
ideas targeted on health problems of developing countries. One major
project established this year by the United Nations, the Global
Health Fund, set a goal of raising $7 billion to $10 billion, but
only about $1.4 billion had been pledged by early August 2001 (23).
The fund is an important development, but this result may indicate
fatigue on the part of developed-country governments for donations. A
possible investment model is the one developed by Globalegacy (24), a
United Kingdom-based organization working to create long-term social
and economic growth through commercial ventures with deprived urban
communities. An investment fund based on similar principles but
focusing on health genomics and biotechnology in developing countries
could channel needed investment to undercapitalized scientific ideas.
The business model would optimize health improvement in developing
countries but would also provide economic return on investment. If
one or more developed-country government invested just 10% of the
0.7% of gross domestic product target for official development
assistance to such a fund for only 1 year, and this investment was
matched by the private sector, the fund would have sufficient capital
to pursue its work.

We will know that these efforts are successful when the G8 take up
this challenge in Kananaskis, when we see more examples like the
Cuban meningitis vaccine, and when we ultimately see decreased
inequities in life expectancy and other indicators of global health
equity. Perhaps the best indicator of success will be if there is no
World Bank report in 2010 on the health genomics divide!