- Today's Topics in 'AgBioView' -
* Reaching The Inner Ear of the European Commission
* Food Revolutionary
* EC-Research on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms
* Biotech Can Reach the African Farmer, Say Rockefeller Authors
* Media Has Key Role In African Biosafety
* Biotechnology Policies For A Better World - Meet
* The Economic Solution
* Policy Controversy in Biotechnology
* Paul Ehrlich Bashes Lomborg
or their interests at the European Commission
- Andrew Moore, EMBO Reports vol. 2 | no. 11 | pp 974-977 | 2001 © 2001 European Molecular Biology Organizatio; http://www.embo-reports.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/short/2/11/974
In 1999, one US university alone spent US$ 760, 000 on lobbying politicians for funding to improve its science facilities. Boston University was criticised when it contracted a professional lobbying agency, Cassidy & Associates, to do the ‘dirty’ work. And that is how it would be considered in the medieval world of European science politics. Welcome to the arcane, unintuitive and dimly lit labyrinth of the European Commission (EC). While some wander the narrow passageways with no more than a tallow torch to light their way, eventually joining the dusty skeletons, others seem to be friends with its keepers, and know the passwords to the secret rooms.
Many scientists lament their lack of influence in the EC, and spend years knocking on closed doors; others have rapid success. Two factors appear to play a critical role: how big you are, and who your friends are. Size is important; a scientific organisation that represents a large number of members is more attractive to the EC than an individual voice. But to be effective it must speak with a single voice. Furthermore, basic researchers must become immersed in the economic and social implications of their research, and, most importantly, follow the tracks laid out by the EC. This is one side to the Commission. The other is a culture shrouded in mystery, and completely impenetrable to all but the initiated; a world that works on long established, trusted contacts, and a code of respect and honour. It has even been likened to the honour-bound way of the Samurai.
But let us start with size. Where academic organisations have fallen far behind in the race to the EC’s ears, relative newcomers, such as industry platforms and umbrella organisations, have overtaken them. Prominent among these are the Animal Cell Technology Industrial Platform (ACTIP) and the European Federation for Pharmaceutical Sciences (EUFEPS). As Hans van den Berg from Akzo Nobel, and Chairman of ACTIP, explained, two channels work particularly well in influencing the policy makers. One is including EC representatives in plenary meetings, at which they are invited to present a status update on the Framework Programme (FP). This provides an opportunity to ‘feed people with our opinions’, as van den Berg put it. The other is writing letters and position papers, which is very effective provided one knows one’s correspondent personally and maintains a dialogue with meetings, visits to Brussels, position papers and a continuous information flow in bite-sized chunks. The support of the European Parliament
It is no accident that industry platforms are listened to by the EC. They span the twilight zone that no one really understands—but takes for granted—between a spark of genius in a scientist’s mind, and a development of socio-economic importance. EUFEPS recently hit the jackpot with its position paper ‘New Safe Medicines Faster’, published and submitted to the EC in August 1999. Its title is mirrored almost word for word in the draft of FP 6, which reads ‘Research will focus on rapid development of safer more effective drugs’. As Ole Bjerrum, Vice President of EUFEPS, and Research Counsellor at Novo Nordisk, Denmark, pointed out, ‘We wanted to collect bottom-up information that could be useful in the drafting of the 6th Framework Programme’. But what the EUFEPS experience really shows is that if scientists want to sell their advice to the EC directly, they will have to use the right words, and according to Bjerrum, give something in return, i.e. ‘part of their working capacity; their brain’.
Those who have had success have clearly promoted the ‘right’ topic, caught the right person at the right time, and were too big to be ignored. Contrast the success of EUFEPS with a smaller academic player such as the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), which has found it harder to find fertile ground for its suggestions. Having co-organised three EC-sponsored meetings in France in 2000 and 2001, EPSO failed to see a single reference to plant sciences in the most recent draft of FP 6—despite its inclusion in previous drafts. This seemingly glaring omission—accompanied by the omission of animal and microbial genomics—was likely due to political unwillingness by the EC to support research on GMOs during public health scares. EPSO followed the FP 6 proposal with a response sent to the EC, EP and Council of Ministers, and plant genomics has duly been raised as an amendment. Comprehensiveness pays dividends.
The European Life Sciences Forum (ELSF) offers a platform to all life scientists to advise the EC in a united fashion. Its manager, Luc van Dyck, however, is sceptical about the EC’s desire to include more open-ended academic research in FP 6. Quoting from the FP 6 proposal in Research priorities under Fundamental knowledge and basic tools for functional genomics, which reads ‘Research will focus on developing high-throughput tools...’ he remarked, ‘I don’t see how they can build networks of excellence around these themes’. Van Dyck recognises the merits of the EC: ‘they are taking the right line in infrastructures, targeting major diseases and making opportunities for mobility’, he said. However, if he has one message it is that scientists must stop expecting the EC to fund long-term basic research: ‘there should be an independent research agency in the EC, because it’s obviously not the goal of the EC to fund basic research’, he asserted. Indeed, in Title II of the Maastricht Treaty it is clear that the m
The elliptical orbit of the EC has taken its science policy from one end of the spectrum to the other; having concentrated on basic research up until FP 4, it then started a relentless assault on technologies, hence the emphasis on application-driven research in FPs 4 and 5. The path of the EC does not appear to be converging with planet basic research in FP 6, but we will have to wait for the final version—conjunctions with politics and public pressure will influence its horoscope in the meantime.
The political tool of influence presently offered by the EC is the ‘stakeholder meeting’. The first of the stakeholder meetings, ‘Genetics and the future of Europe’, took place in November 2000 in Brussels (Moore and Breithaupt, EMBO reports, 2000). It was planned by some of the most respected names in molecular biology, the Life Sciences High Level Group (HLG) of Commissioner Philippe Busquin. Prompted by the growing public resistance to biotechnology, Busquin assembled the HLG specifically to improve the way in which the EC interacts with its stakeholders.
The EC is quite open about the brief of the HLG. As Kurt Vandenberghe, a Member of the Cabinet of Philippe Busquin, put it, ‘The high level group was formed because Mr Busquin thought there was too little attention from scientists to dialogue with the public; it is not a scientific committee’. Its mandate was to advise him on emerging topics and how scientists should communicate with the public. However, he continued, ‘What they tell the commissioner will trickle down in the FP and influence policy’. The EC under Busquin should certainly be credited with initiatives to involve consumers in the scientific debate. ‘The Commissioner engages a lot in dialogue; he is personally very committed to talking with stakeholders’, noted Vandenberghe. The stakeholder meetings do, indeed, offer scientists the opportunity to communicate the importance of their often esoteric research to the public that ultimately funds it, and that is no small accomplishment.
However, to its members it is clear that the HLG is not a means for influencing scientific policy. One of these, all of whom were appointed by invitation, is Victor de Lorenzo, from the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología in Madrid. He discovered the extent of his influence with a paper he submitted to Busquin and his staff, emphasising the importance of microbial genetics, among many other suggestions to improve FP 6. The initial response was one of great enthusiasm: ‘very timely and interesting document...we’ll keep these suggestions in mind’, according to de Lorenzo, who concluded ‘nothing has happened since that I am aware of’. He is baffled by a decision-making process that is quite impenetrable to scientists. Hence one would be naïve to think that the HLG had been asked for input to FP 6; it was not. In fact, according to Derek Burke from Cambridge, another member, it had no influence on policy at all.
On the other hand, Burke noted that the group had had moderate success in changing the traditional style of EC meetings. These hitherto consisted of many people talking, and little time for discussion. Finally a paper would be produced, which rather reflected the prepared talks than the views of the stakeholders. But Burke is doubtful of the efficacy of a group that has only convened in its entirety once in five meetings; Busquin chose ‘very busy people who are often too busy to come’, he reflected. He senses from the diminishing scope for free discussion that control is slowly seeping back to Brussels.
Moreover, policy advice will, in future, be solicited from the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB), inaugurated this October. Its 45 members, half from industry, and only three from the life sciences, will advise the EC on horizontal policy issues such as career structures, mobility and the evaluation of projects—but not science. For that the EC prefers contributions from European agencies and organisations, and the bigger the better. A central umbrella organisation, such as the ELSF, ‘would make our life easier’ according to Vandenberghe, who added that ‘anything that contributes to more European coherence we welcome and encourage’.
The EC may, indeed, listen to large umbrella organisations representing applied research, but the brutal truth is that basic researchers must mingle with politicians, not shelter under an umbrella. And mingling with politicians does not inspire admiration among fellow scientists. So discovered Gottfried Schatz on leaving his research institute at the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, to take up office as President of the Swiss Science and Technology Council. ‘A colleague remarked "Jeff, you have become a politician" as if I had developed cancer’, he reflected, adding ‘this is shocking and sad’. Schatz is chipping away at the political monolith by understanding the intricacies of the political connections and contacts both nationally and in the EC. But he takes the daring view that politicians who fight for science should be recognised by scientists. When the American Society of Cell Biology awards prizes for science, it always gives medals to congressmen and politicians for their services to science. I
Up to the end of the 19th Century, science, business, commerce and trade were as one. Lavoisier, for instance, was a scientist, industrial chemist and economist. He was dispatched with the words ‘La republique n’a pas besoin de savants’. Now the call may be ‘Technology doesn’t need scientists’. Turning back the clock to Lavoisier’s time is a little utopian—if we dispense with the guillotine—so how can scientists be re-established in politics? According to de Lorenzo, there is but one solution: ‘we have no choice but to organise a professional lobby’. To engage with politics, the academic side of science must change. Schatz is working on a three-pronged attack on Swiss science funding: reforming the creaky academic system, opening dialogue with the public and finally pushing for more investment in research. Politics, according to Schatz, is all about emotions, and this may be hard for scientists to come to terms with: ‘Scientific logic works in the forebrain; political logic works in the lymbic system—the pr
Making A Difference - The Futurists: Food Revolutionary
- Susan V. Lawrence, Far Eastern Economic Review, 22 Nov 2001
Peking University biologist Chen Zhangliang, 40, is China's most passionate proponent of genetically modified foods and plants and a leading scientist in the field. His work promises to transform the way Asians grow their food.
Chen argues that GM technology will save farmers the cost of pesticides and fertilizers, increase yields and improve quality. When China issued six licences in 1997 for the commercial production of GM organisms, Chen's laboratory won three. Fear of European sanctions against Chinese food exports then prompted the government to halt new licensing. Chen is pressing ahead anyway with field-testing of a GM rice resistant to fungal disease. With $1 million in government funding, he is also working to uncover the role of every gene in a fast-growing weed - Alabidopsis. The project aims to allow scientists to control variables like height, rooting and germination in major grain crops.
Chen predicts European squeamishness will ease within five years, opening the way to commercial planting of GM rice, wheat, soya and maize in China. "We cannot take 60 years,"to license GM crops, he says. "Farmers are waiting."
EC-Sponsored Research on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms - A Review of Results
- From: Klaus Ammann , Debate 2001'1115 a:" EUR 19884
Its a good thing, this orange EU bible, it should be sent to all those who still pretend that practically nothing (or by far not enough) has been achieved in risk assessment of transgenic crops. It contains a review of successive framework programmes with 81 projects, involving over 400 research teams and hundreads of publication references. It is certainly worthwile to check it out in all fields of risk assessment. You will find excellent material.
Go directly to the EU website and have a look at all details
(Note from Prakash: I agree with Klaus. This is very comprehensive document, well written and with much information. Please download or ask for this free book from
I would like to draw your attention to a new publication of ours, which I think subscribers to your mail list would be interested in and which you might like to mention in a future issue. The publication is: "EC-sponsored Research on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms - A Review of Results" EUR 19884
This publication provides a comprehensive review of the results of EC-supported research into the safety of Genetically Modified Organisms. It presents research carried out under successive EC Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development from 1985 (Biotechnology Action Programme) to 2000 (Fifth Framework Programme). During this period, 81 projects, involving over 400 research teams, have been supported with a combined Community financial contribution of about EUR70 million.
The research projects cover plants, plant microbes, biocontrol, food, bioremediation, tools, fish and vaccines. These represent chapters in the book, which contain summaries of each project and an introduction written by a scientist prominent in the field and providing an overview of results, trends and issues.
In his introduction to the review, Phillipe Busquin, EU Research Commissioner, states "In today's debate on the use of GM technology in agriculture, food and the environment, it is sometimes suggested that we lack knowledge on possible impacts and how to handle them. The primary objective of this review is to demonstrate how the EC has tackled this need; to show that it has made a sustained effort, building up a sizeable community of researchers and contributing to the world's fast-accumulating knowledge and experience in the field."
The publication is available online at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/quality-of-life/gmo/index.html Hard copies can be obtained on request from Nathalie Feyaerts
- Best wishes, Charles Kessler, European Commission, Research Directorate-General, Brussels
Biotech Can Reach the African Farmer, Say Rockefeller Authors
- From: David Hemming , http://www.agbiotechnet.com
There is now a real opportunity for biotechnology to help farmers in all of Africa, if their needs are considered from the start, say two authors based at the Rockefeller Foundation. However, more investment in publicly based breeding programmes is crucial, say Joe DeVries and Gary Toeniessen in their book: "Securing the Harvest: Biotechnology, Breeding and Seed Systems for African Crops".
DeVries and Toenniessen ask in their book how we can reach "the woman on the hill", a typical farmer working unimproved land. Ten years or so ago, the major obstacle in helping her was probably still the lack of accurate information on how crop improvement could help her, they say. "We now know, by and large, what the priorities are in each location and how they can be approached. The two largest remaining obstacles are probably the creation of a critical mass of African scientists trained in the new methods of crop genetic improvement and intellectual property rights."
IPR does put public research groups in developing countries in a difficult position. "Although IPR regulations may not prevent African researchers from using IP protected technologies, a combination of trade secrets, restrictive material transfer agreements and the threat of sanctions against exports do keep research from going ahead" say DeVries and Toenniessen. This is despite the fact that the IPR holders are not distributing products in Africa, either because they don't see the economic incentive or they're simply not in a position to carry out the work. "So, whether we like it or not, IPR is holding back the implementation of new strategies." They argue each biotech research strategy must develop an IPR strategy from the beginning.
Experience over recent years in Africa has made clear that projects must focus on traits that are relevant to farmers' needs, those at the top of their priority lists. "If scientists and donor agencies depend solely on what they find attractive or what is doable, the resulting crop varieties are likely to miss the mark. So, as is the case for plant breeding, the aims of biotech projects have to start with and extend from farmers' interests," say DeVries and Toenniessen. They also emphasise that because consumer acceptance and environmental safety are so critical, "national scientists must be at the core of the research strategies being implemented", as they are best positioned to communicate with farmers, policy makers and those responsible for technology diffusion.
While it's difficult to predict which biotech crops will help Africa most, DeVries and Toenissen say that in the short and medium terms, those that represent stand-alone improvements to productivity, that substitute for input purchases or labour will help farmers most. "For example, stem borers significantly reduce harvests of maize, rice, millet, and sorghum in wide areas of Africa, but very few farmers apply the insecticides that could control them. So stem borer-resistant cereals are likely to make a big difference, even in the absence of other inputs or additional labour."
Likewise, cowpea, a crop of particular importance to poor farmers and women farmers in Africa, is heavily affected by insects of various types. Maruca pod borers destroy green pods while the crop is in the field and bruchids further damage the harvested crop. Genes that can control these types of crop loss and "are likely to make a major difference in the lives of the poor in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world if the genes can be transferred into adapted varieties," say the Rockefeller writers. Small-scale cotton growers in Africa currently apply insecticides to their cotton crops upward of eight to ten times per season, making their production costs higher than the world price for cotton. "If they had Bt-cotton, they could probably get by with one application of insecticide." DeVries and Toenniessen point out that transgenic crops reducing dependence of purchased inputs have been rapidly adopted in other parts of the world and are likely to be the most popular with African farmers, as well. "The
Despite the obstacles, DeVries and Toenniessen are optimistic that the will is there to ensure biotech does make a difference in Africa. "Our optimism is based on the belief that this is the right time to consecrate a major effort on assisting poor farmers in Africa through crop improvement. The world realizes that major breakthroughs have been achieved in the science of genetics over the past decades and that Africa is not benefiting from these advances." Better news coverage of Africa's food problems has revealed Africa to be perhaps the last world region where hunger haunts a large portion of the population and frustrates efforts at economic development. "We believe there is a growing recognition that hunger and generalized poverty in Africa represents one problem that we should be able to solve through the relatively straightforward approach of getting better technology to farmers and achieving better integration of Africa's markets," they comment.
DeVries and Toenniessen say that plant biotech could make a difference more rapidly than anticipated. "Investment in publicly based crop improvement has declined over the past decade as donor agencies have shied away from crop improvement, viewing it as a long-term measure for poverty alleviation. We are now realizing, however, that practical, publicly based breeding strategies don't have to take that long. Breeders can develop entirely new products within three years or less."
They also argue that "there is no reason to assume that any given country in Africa could not participate in the biotechnology, breeding or seed revolution that we believe is possible." The research capacity such countries lack can be developed quite quickly and at reasonable cost compared to other potential areas of investment. The international agricultural research centres and donor agency support can also help achieve this. However, "unless African countries consciously prioritize these areas, they may be left behind."
Some countries have decided they will not be left behind, such as Kenya and Uganda, which have trained appreciable numbers of scientists in biotechnology and breeding. Kenya, in particular, already has several very functional biotech labs operating in the country. Zimbabwe also made some key investment decisions early on, and is gaining an impressive level of capability in biotech and breeding. "It is important to note, however, that biotech, breeding, and seed need to go together in Africa," point out DeVries and Toenniessen. "You can't just develop capacity in one of these areas and still get the benefit of the others."
Finding out what farmers really want is crucial to the process. In the past low adoption of "improved varieties" was often blamed on farmers being resistant to change or being disinterested in higher crop yields. "Through taking the time to talk extensively with poor African farmers, researchers now understand that they are just as interested as any other group of farmers in raising their productivity - and probably more so," say DeVries and Toenniessen. However, many improved varieties simply weren't appropriate for low input use or for feeding the farm household, which is the reality on many farms. "One of the points we have strived to make in the book is that a lot of the crop varieties that are believed to be already available and "on-the-shelf", waiting for a major push from extension agents or seed companies, will never reach farmers because they are the wrong products." "Securing the Harvest: Biotechnology, Breeding and Seed Systems for African Crops
http://www.cabi-publishing.org/Bookshop/book_detail.asp?isbn=0851995640 by J deVries and G. Toenniessen, is published by CABI Publishing. Contact: CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8DE, UK Email: email@example.com ; http://www.cabi-publishing.org
Media Has Key Role In African Biosafety
The media has a critical role to play in the introduction of new technology such as biotechnology into Southern African countries. This was the conclusion of a Southern African Regional Biosafety network meeting on Information Dissemination.
"The region is flooded with misinformation about biotechnology and strong reservations exist at most levels" says Muffy Koch of SARB. However, the press and government want to know about practical effects. "The media and regulators/policy makers are very interested in examples of how the technology is impacting on small farmers in Africa and we need many more examples, like cotton in the Makhatini, to illustrate the potential of the technology," she says.
SARB was launched in 2000 and is administered by the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project <http://www.iia.msu.edu/absp/> (ABSP) at Michigan State University, USA, but managed by the Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute <http://www.arc.agric.za/institutes/roodeplaat/main/intro.htm> (VOPI), Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. The programme aims to build regional policy and technical capacity to support science-based regulation of the development, commercial application, and trade in agricultural products derived from modern biotechnology. Regional co-operation and the harmonization of biosafety implementation in the region are also key to the project.
While the UNEP biosafety project will probably result in a degree of similarity between regulations, there are variations in the level of caution required from country to country, says Koch. However, she is critical of The African Model Law developed by the OAU (now the AU), saying that this is "a poor working model, designed to impede rather than promote safe and useful technology. Countries choosing this model will end up with regulations that cannot be implemented and will effectively ban the use of all existing products of GM, e.g. medicines, food ingredients and industrial enzymes, and contravene the terms of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety."
Muffy Koch works in South Africa, one of the three SARB countries, also including Mozambique and Zimbabwe which are developing GM crops in-country. "Malawi is setting up GM facilities, but Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique have no GM capacity", she says. There is also a range of development of biosafety capacity, varying from no regulations (Mozambique) to draft regulations (Mauritius, Namibia, Malawi) to completed GM legislation (South Africa and Zimbabwe). "Most other African countries have no regulations, but Uganda, Kenya and Egypt have interim guidelines" she says. It will be some time before commercial approvals are given outside of South Africa, says Koch. "Egypt is the closest technically. The other countries are 3 to 5 years away from this."
SARB has planned a series of in-country biosafety capacity building events, starting in 2001 and continuing into 2003. At the end of 2001 a detailed risk assessment-training course will be run for 35 regional scientists who will join a critical mass of biosafety review expertise in the region. "This expertise will be accessible to all countries in the region to ensure that sufficient capacity is available to assist governments in national decision-making" says Koch.
A risk assessment field trial to collect biosafety data on GM sorghum is scheduled for 2002-2003 and SARB will also focus on raising awareness about the role to biotechnology in government departments in the region. This will include a trip to China for government officials to investigate how relevant the technology is for small scale farming in the Southern African region. Contact Information From The AgBiotechNet, Institute of International Agriculture, Michigan State University, East Lansing , MI, 48824-1039, United States; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://www.iia.msu.edu/absp/
For more on developing country issues, visit our hot topic at
Biotechnology Policies For A Better World: National Policy Association Conference
(Posted by: email@example.com)
The public debate about biotechnology has become increasingly polarized and divisive. The National Policy Association's Food and Agriculture Committee (FAC) is committed to advancing the debate and working toward finding common ground on these controversial issues surrounding biotechnology and genetically modified agricultural products. Please join the FAC on Wednesday, November 28 for a conference on "Biotechnology Policies for a Better World." The conference will examine regulatory and trade policies for biotechnology and will focus on building consumer confidence, spurring new research, and forging common ground on agricultural policy. To register for the event, please go to http://www.npa1.org/aid/biotech.asp to download the registration form and return the completed form to NPA at 202/797-5516. Please RSVP by Friday, November 23. The conference will be held at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill. For more information, contact Kaylin Bailey, Director of the FAC at National Policy Association, at
Congressman Cal Dooley (D-CA)
Doug Gurian-Sherman- Co-Director,Center for Science in the Public Interest
Val Giddings, Biotechnology Industry Organization
Eric Flamm - Senior Policy Advisor, Food and Drug Administration
Kyd Brenner - Biotechnology Consultant, DTB Associates, LLP
David Hegwood - International Trade Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture,
Tony Van der Haegen - Minister Counselor, European Commission Delegation
Charles Riemenschneider, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations
Ron Meeusen - Biotechnology Research and Development, Dow AgroSciences
Jay P. Kesan - Professor of Law, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
The Economic Solution
- MIchael Fairbanks and Stace Lindsay, Silicon India, Nov 2001; www.siliconindia.com
(Thanks to my student Ron Cui for typing this article.....CSP)
What does it take to successfully build up the poorest nations economically? Can the disenfranchised throughout the world really hope to achieve their economic freedom?
During the last several weeks, we have all become aware of the pain stemming from the horrors of terrorist activities. The poverty and war in the region of the world called the "arc of crisis" by Zbigniew Brzezinski could hardly have produced a different result. Our mission, at all levels, should be to resolve the root causes of these issues and provide the capability to create more material prosperity in remote parts of the world.
Prosperity is more than just income or even purchasing power. It is also the enabling environment that produces productivity. When examined in this broader context, we can list seven kinds of stock or capital that are intended, as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen suggests, "to give us a better idea of a nation's ability to produce things in the future." OF the seven forms, the last four constitute social capital. And while they are the most difficult to measure. improving these also has the greatest impact on fighting poverty:
1. Natural endowments such as location, subsoil assets, forests, beaches and climate. 2. Financial resources of a nation, such as savings and international reserves. 3. Man-made capital, such as buildings, bridges roads and telecommunications assets. 4. Institutional capital, such al legal protections of tangible and intangible property, efficient government departments and firms that maximizes value to shareholders and compensate and train workers. 5. Knowledge resources, such as international patents, and university and think-tank capabilities. 6. Human capital, such as skills, insights and capabilities 7. Cultural capital - more than articulations of culture, such as language, music and ritual - includes attitudes and values linked to innovation, productivity and prosperity.
These higher forms of capital create the environment for firms to succeed. They provide jobs, high salaries, and returns to managers and investors who innovate. Firms will need to focus less on acquiring government favors and access to natural resources, and protected markets. They will need to focus on improving their strategies and operational efficiency. As Michael Porter has noted, "A stable political context and sound macroeconomic policies are necessary, but not sufficient, to ensure a prosperous economy. As important or even more so are the microeconomic foundations of economic development, rooted in firm operating practices and strategies." The focus of these microeconomic foundations includes best practice operations and services, effective distribution channels, effective market learning procedures, innovative clusters of related and supporting institutions that include universities, associations and private sector firms.
The challenges faced in creating stable, democratically-elected governments, stable macroeconomics and the microeconomic foundations for competitive economies are immense, and often beyond the control of individual business leaders. One major challenge, is the fact that different segments of each society hold different beliefs of what prosperity is and how it is created. These "mental models" which act as a map of how the world works and inform a nation's agenda for creating prosperity, can be changed. Fundamental to enabling peace and prosperity, they highlight an agenda for business leaders throughout the developing world: to foster rational risk-taking, to encourage trust and collaboration, to embrace competition, and to relentlessly focus on how customers define value.
We now understand that the core of prosperity development is enabling firms to compete. More material prosperity is created by private companies every day than in the history of any government or religious institution. More so than any international or national agenda, this is where change is required. Prosperity in the past was a macro-issue, a top-down approach that was measured by national economic aggregates. Prosperity in the future will be a locally-constructed change process, with the following characteristics:
- Decode the current strategy for prosperity: Do regions believe in simple advantages, such as natural resources, or difficult-to-imitate advantages that are embedded in the higher forms of capital? - Create a sense of urgency: Apparent when there is a gap between expectations and reality, and informed by knowledge and a sense of purpose. - Generate and communicate the vision: Create an action plan that is based on informed micro and macro choices, and diffuse the plan details into the private and public sectors. - Create now networks of relationships: Develop a collaborative environment between firms with "co-opetition" and among a wider group of industry players and associations that is enabled and not subsidized by the government. - Institutionalize the changes: Focus on improving the existing institutions of schools, firms and organizations, and allowing for introspection and self-correction.
In light of recent events, it is apparent to us that now is the moment for a locally-focused process for change - thoughtfully integrated, well guided and productively discussed - that begins to put nations and peoples on the path to prosperity. So far, the world has not seen anything like it. But it needs to see it now.
Policy Controversy in Biotechnology
- "Henry I. Miller"
Landes Bioscience/Eurekah.com has just re-released our previously-published volume, "Policy Controversy in Biotechnology: An Insider's View," by Henry I. Miller, MD, online at http://www.eurekah.com. Click the Biotechnology category under "Select a Topic."
For the time being, access to eurekah.com is free. Users can go to the site and perform a brief registration, receive a password and login and view the full content of the book chapters. They can print rough copies, and order chapter reprints and books.
From: "Piero Morandini"
Subject: Ehrlich on Lomborg
I found this review on Lomborg's book by Paul Ehrlich on BioMedNet (Issue 114, November 9 - 22, 2001 http://news.bmn.com/hmsbeagle).
Since Ehrlich doesn't seem to have a great record of accurate prediction (to my knowledge), it seems strange to me that he keeps arguing. May be more informed readers on the issue would like to comment.
Best regards, Piero M.
The Brownlash Rides Again
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World -by Bjorn Lomborg
Book review by Paul Ehrlich
The Skeptical Environmentalist (TSE) is basically a rehash of the old "brownlash" literature, which was authored by Julian Simon, Charles Mann, Gregg Easterbrook, and others . Indeed, Lomborg, a statistician, is inspired by Simon. Who isn't? Simon asserted that the human population could grow for another seven billion years! If Lomborg had done some arithmetic, he could have evaluated Simon's science and spared us a book as thick as a brick and almost as intelligent.
TSE is packed with nonsense, old and new.
* Extinctions don't follow deforestation, because the eastern USA once had only 1-2% forest cover and yet lost only one forest bird. This is typical of Lomborg's "facts" on extinction; forest cover only fell to ~50% in the 1870s and 15% of the species endemic to the region became extinct as a consequence. None of the key papers on the subject by Stuart Pimm and his colleagues  are cited. * Global warming climate models are undependable but economic models are sound. This is why economists forecast market trends so accurately. * We have unprecedented prosperity because the proportion of "starving" people has dropped. That will be great consolation to the world's poverty-stricken. There are more of them now than there were people living in 1930.
The book is full of distortions, and demolitions of straw men, often "documented" by repeated references to dubious secondary sources. Ed Wilson and I are "enthusiastic supporters of an ambitious plan, the Wildlands Project, to move the entire population of the U.S. so as to recreate a natural wilderness in most of the North American continent." We do not support such a "plan"; it does not exist. By failing to go to the original source, Lomborg misrepresents an estimate that Anne Ehrlich and I discussed (along with a complete statement of assumptions) of possible losses of rainforest biodiversity as a loss of total diversity ; a partial quote allows him to utterly distort our point that habitat destruction is a good indicator of extinctions . On climate change, he supplies selective quotes from a tiny fraction of the literature that he likes and there is no balanced discussion of the wide range of available studies.
TSE can also be judged by what it omits (e.g., ecosystem services). Lomborg apparently has not seen Gretchen Daily's Nature's Services , one of the most cited environmental volumes of the 1990s. TSE contains nothing on the negative impacts of climate change on biodiversity (but lots on CO2 fertilization of crops), or on the deterioration of freshwater ecosystems. There is no discussion of the degradation of coral reef habitats in the last 20 years, degradation that is a graphic example of a major anthropogenic transformation of a marine ecosystem that is sweeping large parts of the world.
Cambridge University Press (CUP) obviously undertook no serious scientific review of the TSE manuscript and printed a decomposers' dream that it claims explodes "the widely propagated [sic] myth that the state of the environment continues to spiral downwards beyond our control." CUP should be ashamed of abandoning academic standards and should be worried about whether competent scientists will now publish with them. It is supporting powerful economic interests that are anxious to convince us that business as usual is not wrecking human life-support systems. TSE might help to boost their short-term profits - and make the "myth" reality.
In response, environmental scientists must redouble efforts to inform the public about crucial issues, such as the decay of ecosystem services, and of the epidemiological environment and expansion of key drivers, such as population size and overconsumption. Debate should not be suppressed - I have learned much from it and have tried to correct errors. Yes, environmental scientists make mistakes, and Lomborg reports some of them. But useful debate occurs only among those who have demonstrated that they understand the situations about which they are writing.