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October 28, 2001





AgBioWorld - Agricultural biotechnology can help prevent malnutrition in the Developing World - biotech,gmo,gm food,transgenic,genetic engineering,prakash,green,hunger,starvation,plants,crops,science,rice,corn,organic,gene,vitamina,yield,grain


Rumors of anthrax-like dangers from organic pesticides and biotech plants
are unfounded

Contact: C.S. Prakash at 334-727-8023 or 334-663-1511 or prakash@agbioworld.org

Tuskegee, AL, Oct. 29 -- As letters containing anthrax have terrorized
the U.S. in recent weeks, many assertions have been made comparing the
anthrax bacterium Bacillus anthracis (Ba) to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt),
a bacterium popular with farmers who use it as an organic spray to kill
insects. However, scientists at the Agbioworld Foundation have recently
discredited these rumors, stressing that there is nothing to fear from
organic farming or other agricultural applications of Bt, such as biotech
plants that contain a single gene from Bt.

Recent misleading quotes on the alleged dangers involving bioterrorism
and agriculture which have appeared in newspaper articles, web sites and
electronic newsletters include:

  • An October 2 article published in the Los Angeles Times and other
    newspapers by Jeremy Rifkin, who wrote “Even more troubling is the fact
    that the genetic engineering technology being used commercially in the
    fields of agriculture, animal husbandry and medicine today is potentially
    convertible to the development of a wide range of pathogens that can
    attack plant, animal and human populations.”

  • An article by Vandana Shiva, published by The Hindu immediately after
    the first anthrax case in Florida, which stated that bacterial agents
    are "invented in defence or corporate labs,” even though the anthrax
    bacterium is found in nature. Shiva went on to say that “anthrax has
    been part of the ascent of biological warfare of the very states which
    are today worried about bioterrorism. And genetic engineering of biological
    organisms, both for warfare and food and agriculture, is creating new

  • Two recent posts from University of Western Ontario Professor Joe
    Cummins to the Institute of Science in Society web site which said although
    there is “no reason to discourage the use of Bt bacteria in conventional
    and organic agriculture… it would be wise to ensure that Bt and Ba do
    not come into contact with each other by hazardous aerial spray programs.
    Apart from the above considerations, accumulating evidence that Bt-toxins
    are actual and potential allergens should make the protection of farm
    workers and sprayers a matter of primary concern.”

  • A message to all Victorian [Australian State] MPs from the director
    of the Australian GenEthics network, Bob Phelps, titled "Bt GM crop
    toxin is from anthrax family."

However, according to experts in public health and agriculture these
statements are misleading and should not be interpreted to mean that Bt
can infect human beings as anthrax does. Bt is a naturally occurring soil
bacterium which has been safely used in organic and conventional agriculture
for over 30 years. In fact, testing of microbial Bt preparations and Bt
biotechnology applications over the past 35 years has provided an extensive
body of scientific data that supports their safe use. U.S. federal regulators
have concluded this vast body of scientific research "clearly argues for
the human safety of these active microbial pesticide ingredients." (McClintock
et al. 1995; A Comparative review of the mammalian toxicity of Bacillus
thuriengiensis-based pesticides. Pestic. Sci., 45:95-105.)

Statements about anthrax crossing with insect-resistant crops which
have been engineered to contain Bt proteins are equally – if not more
– misleading, as Rick Roush, Professor at the University of Adelaide in
Australia, explained: "Bt crops produce only one or two insect-specific
proteins from Bt and thus eliminate the potential for accidental contamination
with anthrax toxins or bacteria."

Dr. C.S. Prakash, President of the AgBioWorld Foundation, said that
this latest misinformation campaign is “nothing but an insidious exploitation
of fear among the public to advance their anti-progress vested agenda.
Americans have been burdened enough by the anthrax scare. The last thing
they need is for their fears to be compounded by misinformation and lies.”


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