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Date:

November 16, 2001

Subject:

Fringe Group's Misrepresents; Risk & Ethics; US Public

 

- Today's Topics in 'AgBioView' -

* Fringe Catholic Group Misrepresents Biotechnology
* Bioethics and Precautionary Principle
* Most Americans can Articulate Benefits of Food Biotech
* U.S. Public Uninformed, Unconcerned About Bioengineered Food
* Biotech for a Hungry World
* Biotech Has a Role to Play in Feeding the Hungry of the Developing World
* Biotech: Not a Solution for World Hunger
* American Bakers Association Position Paper on Biotechnology
* Seeds of Health: Improving Micronutrient Nutrition
* Funding for Visits by U.S. and Egyptian Scientists
* Cow's Urine for Anthrax Protection (!)
* Protest Group Softens Tone at WTO Talks

Fringe Catholic Group Misrepresents Biotechnology
Africa Benefits from and Needs New Agricultural Tools

- Dr. Michael Mbwille,
Editor, Food Security Network http://foodsecurity.net,

Recent ill-informed statements by Father Efrem Tresoldi of the Southern African Catholic Bishop's Justice, Peace & Environment Desk would have served the African Catholic community better had his small group taken the time to review their own Vatican's thoughtful and extensively researched position on agricultural biotechnology. Instead, they have apparently torn pages from various Greenpeace and related activist manifestos suggesting non-existent ills associated with this important food security issue.

The Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life stated: "Research in the biotechnological field could resolve enormous problems as, for example, the adaptation of agriculture to arid land, thus conquering hunger..." Releasing this official statement of support for agricultural biotechnology Bishop Giuseppe Bertoni criticized the very same claims made in Father Tresoldi's statement as "atastrophic sensationalism" and rejected the "idea of conceiving of scientific progress as something that should be feared. Bishop Berton noted, "Above all the reality of biotechnology must be known. Because of this I say: If you know biotechnology, you don't fear it."

Numerous ethical and religious organizations, ranging from the Vatican to the Jewish Orthodox Union, have reviewed the safety, environmental impact, economic potential and ethical concerns associated with using biotechnology to enhance agriculture. None suggest the "terrifying and irreversible consequences" implied by Father Tresoldi's missive.In fact, all of Father Tresoldi's claims, evidently taken verbatim from various European activist group propaganda sheets, have been debunked by numerous independent scientific and religious organizations.

For example, extensive research has shown that crops, improved with biotechnology to resist pests (including those improved to resist herbicides), reduce the use of chemical pesticides. Cotton, improved with the Bt gene for example, has reduced the use of chemical insecticides in that crop in the United States by over 8 million pounds. Numerous studies conduct in the U.S. and Europe show that crops, such as sugar beets, soya or canola, altered to resist glyphosate herbicides to protect crops more efficiently from invasive weeds, reduce the overall amount of herbicides otherwise used by 9 to as much as 60 percent.

None of the biotechnology crops approved for commercial use have ever been demonstrated to cause as much as a headache, let alone the range of ills claimed by Father Tresoldi's Peace & Environment Desk statement. In deed, regulatory and scientific bodies ranging from the World Health Organization of the United Nations to the recent exhaustive research conducted by the European Commission show these crops to be as safe or safer than conventional and organic crops.

According to the European Commission, their research has not 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." Sadly Father Tresoldi's statements ignore these facts.

Father Tresoldi's intentions have been clearly corrupted by non-African activists dedicated to destroying a life-saving technology for what-ever political purposes that drive them. Attempting to falsely link these views as the position of the Catholic Church is shameful.

Thankfully, African scientists and government leaders are working together with respected groups like the United Nations Development Program and World Health Organization to bring the benefits of agricultural biotechnology to more of Africa. Today we are already benefiting from insect-resistant cotton in South Africa helping reduce our burden on foreign-supplied chemicals, and we are benefiting from disease-resistant cassava in Kenya helping protect us from hunger and famine.

Absent the negative influence of Father Tresoldi and his European activist colleagues we may soon have an edible AIDS vaccine and safe, plant-based sources of family planning contraceptives. Biotechnology in agriculture can provide Africans with much needed food and health security. Baseless fear campaigns will doom us to the current cycles of poverty and suffering.
--
Dr. Michael Mbwille is the Africa editor of the non-profit Food Security Network. Dr. Mbwille speaks and writes on issues of hunger, nutrition, food safety and food security, drawing from his experience practicing pediatric medicine in Tanzania and other parts of Africa for more than a decade.

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From: Indur Goklany
Re: Comments on Strohman's 'The complexity of Bioethics'

Professor Strohman's commentary contains some useful nuggets and although, as your anonymous friend notes, it seems somewhat disjointed, a number of points that he makes deserve a response. So the following is a less-than-comprehensive response.

First, Professor Strohman is indeed correct in noting that it is difficult to have a "coherent discussion of ethical principles that might serve to guide us in the use of new and potentially dangerous technologies." But its not impossible. In the book, "The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal of Environmental Risk Assessment" (Cato Institute, 2001; available from <http://www.bn.com/>). I have attempted to develop a framework, based fundamentally on ethical considerations, that would help us make policy choices related to the use (or non-use) of such 'potentially dangerous technologies." It then applies this framework to answer the question whether 'potentially dangerous technologies' such as DDT, GM crops and fossil fuel combustion ought to be banned or severely curtailed. In this book, I frame these questions in terms of the precautionary principle.

With respect to DDT and GM crops, for instance, I specifically ask: "would the precautionary principle support global bans on DDT or on GM crops?" This question could identically have been posed as: "is it ethical to have global bans on DDT or on GM crops?" Thus, while one may not agree with either my analyses or its results, I believe the framework I've developed is coherent, incorporates ethics, and it can serve as a guide to making policy choices related to the use of potentially dangerous technologies (or, for that matter, potentially beneficial technologies). Not least, in order to implement the framework, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the state-of-science in a variety of disciplines so that one can look at the whole problem rather than only some of its parts (see below).

I would also be remiss if I did not mention that Gary L. Comstock has addressed the ethics of GM foods quite explicitly, and comprehensively, in his book, "Vexing Nature?: On the Ethical Case against Agricultural Biotechnology" (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000, also available from <http://www.bn/>). And unlike me, he is indeed an ethicist, rather than a policy analyst.

Second, Professor Strohman is also right in noting that the public discourse on science is fractured with discussions focusing on parts rather than the whole. Yes, because different groups have different (and unstated) assumptions - and, more importantly, what Strohman doesn't spotlight, different world views - it is possible that their's is a dialogue of the deaf. But the major reason for this fracturing is that generally policy discussions are dominated -- and this might be a surprise for Professor Strohman - not by scientists but advocacy groups whose objective is to win the argument (for the greater glory of their cause, whatever that might be). And it is easier to win an argument if one can frame the argument and define its terms, and this is most easily done by limiting the discussion to only those aspects where one has a strong hand. It is honorable for advocacy groups - just like it is for lawyers - to present only their side of the argument while denigrating the opposition's arguments (and sometime

On the other hand, scientists at least pay lip service to the notion that an inconvenient fact should not be ignored (although in practice some prevailing paradigms have persisted long after substantial evidence to the contrary). So when Strohman talks about "social responsibility of science," that is only part of the solution. It is just as important that non-scientists, including advocacy groups, also observe their responsibility to society (and not just to their cause/client).

As a concrete example of what I am talking about, consider the case of DDT. Many groups advocating a global ban on that chemical emphasized its negative environmental impacts while ignoring or downplaying, for the longest time, its positive contributions to public health. In my judgment, they only relented when in the last months leading to the POPS accord, groups of scientists and doctors organized themselves, got a sympathetic ear from the press, and had clearly gained the moral high ground.

As far as I can determine, while the scientists' and doctors' intervention and articulation of what is at stake was absolutely essential to the positive outcome with respect to DDT, they didn't really bring any new information to the table. So what prompted the change in the views of the advocates of a ban? Perhaps it was the recognition of the poor public relations resulting from continuing to press for it. Of course, only time will tell whether the advocates’ retreat was tactical or motivated by a genuine "Eureka!" moment coupled with compassion for the plight of the millions affected by malaria. Given that nothing new had emerged except well-crafted rhetoric, how could the advocates' quest for a global DDT ban have been justified before, but not after? Perhaps the answer lies with their weltanschauung, but was that socially responsible? A similar dynamic (as for DDT) seems to be operating with respect to GM crops, except that GM crop supporters have apparently not (yet) managed to seize the moral high g

Third, I do object to Strohman's characterization of the necessity of preventing food shortages and starvation as a "perceived urgency." This need is indeed quite real and very urgent, especially for the over-800 million who are chronically malnourished and the few millions who die prematurely from it each year. Given that we have some experience with and understanding of genetic engineering (and its effects, both positive and negative) and we know something about the magnitude of the numbers at risk from chronic malnourishment (and its effects, almost entirely negative), would it be ethical to postpone its use until we have a deeper and more complete understanding of genetic engineering, as suggested by Strohman? How much longer should we wait B and how much deeper should our understanding be -- before we use the tools at our disposal to help accelerate the reduction in the suffering of the hundreds of millions currently malnourished? (Would this not be akin to the doctor who refuses to give penicillin to

Fourth, I don’t know if biologists failed to communicate to each other the possibility of organisms evolving to become resistant to antibiotics, drugs and various forms of pesticides. It seems to me that the possibility of resistance has been around for quite some time (at least since I was a kid over thirty years ago in India). In any case, while the scope of the problem might have been smaller had there been better communication, it would not have solved it. Indeed these substances have been misused and overused, but much of that is probably due to human nature rather than lack of scientific knowledge. For one thing, the behavior of most people suggests that many subscribe to the notion that if a little bit is good, more must be better. (And just to make sure, some even throw in an extra safety factor.) For another thing, when people (or someone they love) gets sick, sometimes the "perceived urgency" of their present circumstance leads them to greater use of these drugs/antibiotics because they crave quic

Finally, I think the actors playing in the policy debates surrounding the use/deployment of technology can usefully be classified into more than the three groups identified by Strohman, i.e., scientists, individuals who apply the technology, and end-users. I would also include, as separate sets of actors, the government agencies, professional advocacy groups, the media, and, possibly, politicians. Each of these groups has a different world view, and different takes and perceptions of what is fundamentally at risk.

----
>The Complexity of Bioethics

>Richard C. Strohman, Nature Biotechnology, Nov 2001 Vol 19 No 11 p 1007;
> Like it or not, the biological sciences of today are embedded as never
> before in a world of fractured social, economic, and political concerns.
>In this world, it becomes increasingly difficult to discuss all the
>relationships.......
+++++++++

More Bioethics!

http://www.biotech.iastate.edu/Bioethics/news_items/fbn11_01.html

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Most Americans can Articulate Expected Benefits of Food Biotechnology

- IFIC Background, November 2001; http://ific.org

A survey conducted for the International Food Information Council (IFIC) found that most Americans (61%) believe and can state how biotechnology will benefit them or their families in the next five years.

Consumers anticipate benefits including: improved health and nutrition (39%); improved quality, taste, and variety of foods (33%); reduced chemical and pesticide use on plants (21%); reduced cost of food (9%); and improved crops and crop yields (9%).

Support for these benefits is also seen in the total number of Americans (65%) who would be likely to purchase a variety of produce- such as tomatoes or potatoes- that have been modified through biotechnology to be protected from insect damage and require fewer pesticide applications. In addition, 52% of consumers are likely to purchase the same produce if it has been modified through biotechnology to "taste better or fresher"

The ability to foresee and support benefits of biotechnology may be in large part related to the amount of information consumers are receiving concerning the issue. Consumer awareness remains stable, with 74% of respondents saying they have read or heard "a lot," "some," or "a little" about biotechnology.

The survey also found that 78% of consumers could not think of any information „not currently included on food labels‰ that they would like to see added and only 1% of consumers named 'genetically altered' as an item they would like to see added to a food label. Additionally, 65% of consumers surveyed either support or do not oppose the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy on the labeling of foods produced through biotechnology; with a 2.5 to 1 ratio of people who "strongly support" the policy compared to those who "strongly oppose" it.

The survey was conducted in September 2001 by Cogent Research and is the sixth consumer survey on food biotechnology IFIC has commissioned since 1997. Approximately 1,000 telephone interviews were conducted among a nationally projectable sample of adults 18 and older in the continental United States

++++++++++++++++++

Rutgers Study: U.S. Public Uninformed, Unconcerned About Bioengineered Food

- AP, November 16, 2001

New Brunswick, N.J. (AP) - Most Americans believe they lack information about genetically engineered food, but they are not overly concerned about it, according to a new study.

Bill Hallman, a Rutgers University psychologist and lead author of the study, said few respondents had heard of or read a great deal about biotechnology and most have never discussed the topic. "They don't think about where their dachshund came from; they don't think about where the food they eat is from," Hallman told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Friday's editions. "As far as they're concerned, it came from the supermarket."

Researchers with the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers surveyed 1,203 randomly selected American adults as part of a larger program paid for with a $2.5 million federal grant. Most respondents did not know that much of the food they eat - from tacos to baby food - already has genetically engineered ingredients.

For example, half of those surveyed did not know that the statement "ordinary tomatoes do not contain genes" is false, and nearly a third thought that eating a genetically modified fruit might alter their own genes. The study also found that how the technology was described made a big difference to respondents. The word "biotechnology," had positive connotations for most, while the words "genetic engineering" and "genetic modification" were mostly viewed as negative.

Craig Culp, a spokesman for Greenpeace U.S.A., which wants to ban gene-modified foods because of safety and environmental concerns, said the study shows Americans want and need more information on the topic. Lisa Dry, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization, said bioengineered foods are not a major concern for most consumers because they have confidence in the U.S. regulatory system.

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Biotech for a Hungry World

http://pewagbiotech.org/buzz/display.php3?StoryID=26

Heralded as a technology that could help alleviate world hunger, agricultural biotechnology has yet to reach this goal. Nevertheless, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released last July concluded the technology still holds great potential benefit for developing nations attempting to feed their people.

The UNDP Human Development Report 2001 noted that while the technology raises questions about environmental and health risks, it also stresses the unique potential of genetic engineering techniques for creating virus-resistant, drought-tolerant and nutrient-enhanced crops. As a result, the report urged greater public investment into research and development to ensure biotechnology meets the agricultural needs of the world's poor.

The global hunger problem is indeed immense. About 15 to 20 percent of the world's population lack access to sufficient food to lead a healthy and productive life and 160 million pre-school children suffer from malnutrition worldwide.

These staggering numbers highlight the urgent need to find a solution, and biotech looks like a good one to some. Using the tools of genetic engineering, crops could be developed to increase yield, tolerate drought and poor soils, resist pests, and provide enhanced nutrients. "Many people are encouraged by the potential that biotech has to help alleviate these problems that plague developing nations around the world," said Paul Davies, a professor of agricultural systems at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, England.

Chronic hunger and malnutrition also lead to blindness in many developing countries, among other ailments. Vitamin A deficiency permanently blinds half a million children and causes between one and two million deaths each year. The root problem of this deficiency is the dependence on nutrient-poor starchy foods such as rice and cassava which are staples in the developing world.

Biotechnology might provide a solution to this particular problem. For example, using biotechnology, an international group of researchers is developing "Golden Rice", which produces beta carotene that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Ingo Potrykus, professor emeritus at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and one of the developers of the enriched rice, finds ag biotech vital in the battle against world hunger. "I have not seen a single case where anyone has suffered any harm from biotechnology, but I know that each and every day 40,000 people die from the effects of malnutrition," Potrykus says.

Some developing nations are also looking to biotechnology to provide food security and sustainability. Kenya, for example, is developing biotech crops. "In Kenya, we believe that biotechnology offers great hope and promise to help our agricultural system become more productive," said Florence Wambugu from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications in Kenya. "It is a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. But, despite all the big talk, farmers need access to the products from the lab to the fields if they are to be successful in reaping the rewards of the technology."

Wambugu's concern about accessibility is one of the key criticisms of the technology as a tool for alleviating world hunger. As promising as higher-yield, more-nutritious, genetically modified (GM) crops appear, the technology needs to be accessible, affordable and relevant to developing nations before it can have an impact.

Others disagree that answers to feeding the hungry lie in the use of biotechnology. Hope Shand, research director of ETC Group (formerly the Rural Advancement Foundation International or RAFI), notes the current practice of ag biotech simply is not meeting the needs of farmers in developing nations on a number of fronts. One of the problems, Shand says, is the rapid consolidation of agricultural resources in a group of multinational corporate entities she refers to as "Gene Giants".

Shand points out,"the top 10 global seed companies control almost one-third of the $24.4 billion commercial seed trade [much of which is protected by patents creating] legal barriers which make it difficult or impossible for small companies or public sector researchers to compete or gain access to new agricultural technologies." And, Shand maintains, these "Gene Giants" have shown little interest in developing crops most often grown by subsistence farmers such as millet, sorghum and rice. Instead, she noted, the current biotech crops include four main crop commodities-soybean, maize, cotton and canola-with one of two genetic traits-herbicide tolerance and pest resistance.

"Uniformity, industrial agriculture and corporate concentration are words that would best describe the introduction of GM crops over the past five years-not diversity, food security, sustainability or competitive markets," Shand said. Joan Gussow, professor emeritus of nutrition at the Columbia University, Teachers College, notes that even during this time of worldwide hunger, the world's farmers produce enough food to adequately feed everyone. The bigger problem is poverty.

"Everyone admits there is just way too much food in the world for farmers to make a living," Gussow says. "The hungry people are the people without resources." Others are concerned about potential environmental risks such as genetic drift that could threaten native biodiversity and the capacity of countries to deal with some of those issues. One thing both critics and proponents agree upon is that biotechnology alone isn't enough to alleviate world hunger.

"Agricultural biotechnology is not a panacea. It won't solve all of the problems of poverty and malnutrition in Africa; however, it cannot be underestimated as to the benefits it will provide," Wambugu says. "Traditional crops will still have a place in farming methods throughout the continent. Ag biotech techniques can assist those farmers using traditional methods by providing new techniques and answers to challenges that have faced farmers in Africa."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Can Biotechnology Be A Practical Tool for Subsistence Farmers? .....Pro and Con

http://pewagbiotech.org/buzz/display.php3?StoryID=27

Biotech Has a Role to Play in Feeding the Hungry of the Developing World

"When you look at it from the hungry person's point of view, from somebody who comes from the Third World and you have a technology that can increase yield, the choice is clear, you want that technology," Frank Kiriswa, a Kenyan diplomat says.

Biotechnology certainly isn't going to single-handedly solve the hunger problems of the developing world. Of that much, Kiriswa can be certain. But, he is equally certain that it would be foolish to dismiss the technology out of hand.

In Kiriswa's country, hunger is real and visible and the land and climate can be harsh. Over the past decade, rainy seasons in Africa have become unpredictable and less abundant, which is devastating when one considers that 98 percent of African agricultural land is rain fed. In addition, Kenya's natural abundance of metals such as aluminum, copper and iron in the soil proves toxic to many plants. "Even if we wanted to use conventional breeding to create a maize variety that could stand up to soil toxicities, we couldn't do it," Kiriswa says. "We need to go to native Kenyan plants that won't cross with maize to find such tolerances. We need biotechnology to do it."

Kiriswa says in order for biotechnology to play a useful role in Africa and other developing countries, all parties - private companies, governments, non-governmental organizations, scientists and farmers - are going to have to come together and develop an appropriate program with biosafety and regulatory structures. In Kenya, such a program has resulted in the production of a biotech sweet potato resistant to a viral plague-a scourge that otherwise can decimate up to 80 percent of a farmer's crop.

Still, Kiriswa acknowledges there are challenges to widespread use of biotechnology in the developing world. These countries typically lack a regulatory structure to ensure the technology employed is safe for humans and the environment. And, there is the basic issue of seed and getting seed companies to do the research on the necessary crops.

"The companies will have to recoup their investment in the development of biotech crops," he says. "Otherwise, there will be no research. But, we need to find a way for farmers to afford the seeds." The economic, scientific and regulatory challenges of developing agricultural biotechnology for subsistence farming is great; but the potential to improve the germplasm to deal with draught and soil toxicity as well as perhaps increase yield and pest resistance is compelling enough for Kiriswa to want to try.

"It is unwise to deny the developing world the opportunity to use biotechnology," Kiriswa says. "The opportunity for us to try this technology should be available."

- Frank Kiriswa is a former agricultural scientist and the First Secretary Economic/Political Section at the U.S. Embassy of the Republic of Kenya.

+++++++++++++

Biotech: Not a Solution for World Hunger

As Peter Rosset of Food First sees it, in a world where one quarter of its inhabitants don't get enough food, genetic engineering has little role to help address the problem of global hunger. It's not because the technology can't potentially increase yields of crops. It's because the problem isn't one of having enough food, but one of pervasive injustices in the access to resources.

"The subsistence farmer today isn't principally constrained by technology [so] any technological fix is likely to be inadequate," Rosset says. "Per capita food production increases over the past four decades have far outstripped human population growth. The world today produces more food per inhabitant than ever before."

"And, that overproduction on a global scale undercuts the small farmer," Rosset says. "They can't make a living farming and more production isn't going to solve that problem. The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access. Too many people are too poor to buy the food that is available (but often poorly distributed) or lack the land and resources to grow it themselves. They can't become self-sufficient."

Rosset acknowledges that the crops some subsistence farmers plant are less productive; however, he says those inadequacies aren't the result of needing highly engineered seeds. Instead they are the result of having been displaced into marginal zones characterized by broken terrain, slopes, irregular rainfall, little irrigation, and/or low soil fertility. It is also "because [these farmers] are poor and are victimized by pervasive anti-poor and anti-small farmer biases in national and global economic policies," he added. "Their agriculture is best characterized as complex, diverse and risk prone."

For Rosset, one of the more troubling issues of ag biotech in relation to the subsistence farmer is the fact that the technology is a top-down approach to solving food security problems in the developing world. He says the most effective farming programs result from participatory methods where the farmers who will use the techniques or technologies are active participants in the development of the technologies. Because biotechnology requires extensive education and resources, subsistence farmers are unlikely to play a role.

Finally, Rosset is concerned that developing nations will bear more of the brunt of any risks from biotechnology such as genetic drift to wild species and the development of pesticide resistance.

"Most of the discussion of the risks of this technology are centered around the risks to the consumers and the environment in Northern Countries," Rosset says. "But, each of those risks are amplified in the Southern Countries because there are more opportunities for genetic drift and the development of new crop diseases. And, resource-poor farmers can't tolerate losses from such risks."

- Peter Rosset is a former agricultural scientist serving as co-director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as FoodFirst.

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American Bakers Association's Position Paper on Biotechnology

The American Baker's Association's (ABA) Biotechnology Subcommittee and Food Technical Regulatory Affairs Committee (FTRAC) issued a policy position paper, which outlines ABA's role in food biotechnology and the industry's proposed plan to influence or direct the future development and release of biotech crops and ingredients. The position statement covers ABA's position on the technology, marketing and trade, and ways to increase knowledge building and consumer information.

The complete ABA position paper (7 pages plus appendix of biotech web sites) is available at: http://www.americanbakers.org/pubs/biotech_paper_2001_for_web.pdf

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Seeds of Health: A Newsletter for Practitioners in Agriculture and Human Nutrition

Presents scientific findings and issues relevant to agricultural strategies, and in particular plant breeding, for improving micronutrient nutrition in developing countries.

Download Or Order: http://www.ifpri.org/themes/grp06.htm#seeds

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Funding for Visits by U.S. and Egyptian Scientists

United States-Egypt Science and Technology Joint Board; Primary Sponsor: Department of State Deadline: 12/13/2001; United States-Egypt Science and Technology Joint Board Public Announcement of a Science and Technology Program for Competitive Grants To Support Junior Scientist Development Visits by U.S. and Egyptian Scientists.

For Further Information Contact: Vickie Alexander, Program Administrator, U.S.-Egypt Science and Technology Grants Program, U.S. Embassy, Cairo/ECPO, Unit 64900, Box 6, APO AE 09839-4900; phone: 011- (20-2) 797-2925; fax: 011-(20-2) 797-3150; E-mail: alexanderva@state.gov. The 2001 Program guidelines for Junior Scientist Development visits will be available starting November 1, 2001 on the Joint Board web site: http://www.usembassy.egnet.net

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Cow's Urine for Anthrax Protection

Letter to the Editor, Times of India, Nov 16, 2001

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articlelist.asp?catkey=1803578002&DaysActive=1

Sir, Those bearing faith and confidence in medicinal properties of the mother cow's products namely, milk, curd (yoghurt), ghee (clarified butter) (must be churned out of curd, and not directly from milk or milk-cream), urine and dung may follow following routine, in addition to the suggestions from the modern science, for protection from possible infection due to unexpected contact with the anthrax virus (sic). 1) Drink 25 ml of cow urine (gomootra) daily in the morning, empty stomach or avoid taking anything 30 minutes prior or subsequent of drinking the gomootra.
-----

Note from Prakash: This person must be a follower of Vandana Shiva who never gets tired of extolling the virtues of indigenous knowledge and bemoaning how that is 'threatened' by the corrupt modern science.

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Protest Group Softens Tone at WTO Talks

- Paul Blustein, Washington Post, November 12, 2001 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12542-2001Nov11.html

DOHA, Qatar, Nov. 11 -- The way the plan was originally conceived, six boats loaded with anti-globalization activists were to sail into the port of this Persian Gulf sheikdom to protest the World Trade Organization meeting here. "We were organizing everybody in our movement," said Jose Bove, the French farmer renowned for vandalizing a McDonald's restaurant.

The scheme was scrapped, however, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Bove, one of a few dozen activists roaming the halls at the conference center where the WTO meeting is being held through Tuesday, instead has joined in staging occasional demonstrations.

Profound changes have buffeted the anti-globalization movement since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In an era of suicide hijackings, war and anthrax in the mail, the movement's leaders are finding it difficult to generate much indignation about problems like sweatshop wages or food impurities. And as events at the WTO meeting here illustrate, many of the movement's adherents are feeling heightened discomfort about engaging in the sort of militant activity that once brought them attention because they are loath to risk being associated in the public mind with Osama bin Laden and his followers.

The movement leapt into prominence at the WTO meeting two years ago in Seattle, where a loosely allied throng of left-wing students, labor union members, environmentalists and anarchists disrupted the gathering amid violent clashes with police. In Seattle, and in protests at international meetings in Prague, Washington, Quebec and Genoa, the activists forced the press and elements of the power elite to confront myriad concerns about the clout of multinational corporations and the increasingly free flow of goods and money across national borders, which the activists blamed for adversely affecting workers' livelihoods and the environment.

Comparing the meeting here with Seattle is unfair in many ways, though, because Qatar offers a poor environment for mass demonstrations, not to mention civil disobedience or "direct action" against fast-food outlets and other corporate targets. The meeting of trade ministers from the organizations 142 member countries is aimed at striking an accord on an agenda for multiyear negotiations to lower trade barriers worldwide. The last meeting to set such an agenda was in Seattle, where trade ministers failed to achieve their goal.

Because of limited hotel space, fewer than 200 representatives of labor, environmental and other groups opposed to free trade were granted visas by the government of this oil-rich nation, which lies on a peninsula off the East coast of Saudi Arabia. Although the government of Qatar allows peaceful protests, it is a monarchy that has only recently begun democratizing. Thousands of Qatari police and military personnel maintain rigid security at the meeting site and hotels to prevent any terrorist assault during the meetings.

Even so, for the anti-globalizers the need to soften tactics "would have been an issue even if this meeting had taken place in a western city," said Jamie Love, the head of a Ralph Nader-affiliated group who is here seeking to relax WTO rules that protect the patents of pharmaceutical companies on AIDS drugs and other medicines. "Given the unbelievable atmosphere of patriotism, being critical of government is touchy for people." That is a source of frustration for many activists, who contend that their analysis concerning the evils of multinational corporate capitalism is no less valid now than it was before Sept. 11. This analysis, they contend, may help account for the anti-western sentiment in Muslim countries. Some voice hope that opposition to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan would help them overcome their recent public-relations troubles.

"We felt we needed to respect the mood after Sept. 11" by refraining from major protests, said Walden Bello, a prominent Filipino critic of globalization who is executive director of the group Focus on the Global South. "But ever since the bombing started in Afghanistan, I think the mood has changed. I think there's greater sympathy for our views to be heard." The meeting in Qatar also has underlined some of the awkward divisions between the anti-globalization forces and the governments of poor nations whose interests the activists purport to champion. Although the activists and the developing countries take the same position on some issues, such as the desirability of easing international drug patent rules, they differ sharply on others.

Food safety is one example. Bove, like many Europeans, favors changing WTO rules so that countries can more aggressively restrict imports of meat, grain, fruit and vegetables for health reasons. The restrictions would stem from products having been genetically modified or treated with hormones. "The people who want to put a product on the market ought to have to show that the product is safe," Bove said. "For the moment, it's the country refusing to import a product that must show the product is bad. We have to reverse that."

Bove's view, which is supported to some extent by the European Union at the meeting here, draws vehement criticism from officials of developing nations. The EU, the officials fear, would use health concerns as an excuse to keep their farm products out of Europe as a way of protecting the region's farmers. For that reason, developing countries are rejecting proposals to start negotiating changes in WTO food-safety rules. On similar grounds, the developing nations oppose initiatives favored by U.S. labor and environmental groups that would impose trade sanctions on countries that fail to observe sufficiently high standards for workers rights and the environment. Those standards, too, might provide a pretext for blocking imports from the developing world.

The activists' "hearts are in the right place; their premise that the global trading system has inequities is something that we share," said Munir Akram, Pakistan's ambassador to the WTO. "But we think they get deflected by misinformation about things like food safety and labor standards, which could be used for protectionist purposes, and could defeat the very goals they seek of helping developing countries. The movement from their premises to their conclusions-that's where we think they sometimes go wrong."

Even so, Akram said, the protesters generally aid the cause of developing countries in trade meetings such as the one in Qatar. One such illustration came Saturday when, just outside a press briefing being given by a U.S. delegation, a group of activists began chanting and waving signs to protest the way the WTO meeting is being run. The protesters focused on the creation of six committees of trade ministers that are meeting privately to debate the issues still dividing the WTO's 142 member nations over the agenda for a new round of trade talks

"What goes on behind closed doors? Arm twisting! Arm twisting!" the protesters chanted, a reference to the fear that rich nations would use their economic clout to force less-wealthy countries into making concessions. Qatari security guards rushed to the scene. The activists briefly considered trying to confront U.S. officials inside the meeting, but thought better of it and dispersed.