***** Happy Thanksgiving ******
- Today's Topics in 'AgBioView' -
* Defeatism Lurks Behind The Sloganeering
* Francis Wevers on New Zealand Metaphors
* OECD - Biotechnology Contributes To Industrial Sustainability
* Golden Rice: What Role Could It Play in Alleviation of Vit A
* Agricultural Biotechnology, Poverty Reduction, and Food Security
* Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture - FAO
* Tropics of Poverty
* Indian Govt Sends High Level Team To Gujarat Over Bt Cotton
* India's Vision Document on Biotechnology
* Allay Fears Over Genetically-modified Food
* Biotechnology Will Empower Farmers
* Greenpeace Howler: Let Greenpeace Know That They've Been Bad
* The Virtue of Unselfishness
Defeatism Lurks Behind The Sloganeering
- Thomas Barlow, Financial Times, November 17, 2001
It is amusing that the white-coated nerds of the genomic revolution,
self-anointed lords over the codes of life, are frequently accused of
"playing God". For in our current enlightened age, as I am not the
first to point out, God is deemed to have ceased to exist; and to
play his role with any measure of authenticity presumably requires
little more than a pretence of absence.
How apt then that last month the US Department of Agriculture should
issue its first permit for the field trial of a genetically modified
insect (a pink bollworm moth, modified to contain the standard
fluorescent jellyfish gene) and that at the same time it should
refuse to disclose the location of the experiment.
It was apparently the fear of vandalism by bullying activists that
led to this. How exquisite to imagine that those who have chosen to
see every transgenic creation as a desecration, and whose wilful
ritualistic destruction of GM crop field trials, and whose strident
rhetoric about the dangers of "playing God", should have caused a
concomitant God-like shroud of invisibility. You have to wonder,
since the expressions are used so frequently, why it is that "playing
God" and "messing with nature" have become such resonant motifs in
contemporary criticisms of scientific and technological development?
One possibility is that they simply ring true for a culture that has
grown too avaricious - especially one grown greedy for change and
eager to take whatever it can of nature`s bounty, thoughtless as to
cost. This cannot be the whole story, though. Interfering with the
natural world is by no means a unique attribute of modernity: even
hunter-gatherer societies have been known to transform their
environments in profound ways.
Aboriginal Australians, for example, transformed the ecology of their
continent through systematic burning. And indigenous people in
different parts of the world have messed about quite enough at
various times to wipe out who knows how many species of fauna.
Another related possibility is that the slogans are pertinent because
they serve as warnings (or as antidotes) in a world where science
provides the tools to interfere with things on a scale and at a speed
never before imagined.
There are few more haunting illustrations of this than the boat
carcasses left rusting in the desert as the Aral Sea retreats. Now
shrunk to a fifth of its previous volume by an irrigation scheme that
has relentlessly drained the great rivers Amudar'ya and Syrdar'ya for
the cotton fields in Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea has dropped in depth by
nearly a metre a year for 20 years - an extraordinary change by any
Yet for every example like the Aral Sea, how many others are there
that tell a wholly different tale? The history of water management
has had its triumphs as well as its failures. Dams provide 20 per
cent of the world`s power and 15 per cent of the world`s food. There
are whole cities that could scarcely exist without grand-scale water
engineering projects. Arid southern California, including Los
Angeles, for example, could support only a third of its existing
population without the blessing of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado
The real problem perhaps lies not so much with the supernatural scale
of our desires or even with the colossal impact we might have on our
world, but hinges rather around individual beliefs about the
unpredictability of nature. If all goes well in the first field
experiment with transgenic pink bollworm moths, the scientists
involved plan to embark on a programme genetically to engineer
variants of that little monster that are sterile but sexually active.
The hope is that such sterilised creatures might be used, at least in
some areas, to drive bollworm moth populations to extinction. (In its
unaltered state the critter is a scourge to cotton farmers.)
At the same time, there are 16 other species of insects in which
stable genetic transformations have already been demonstrated in the
laboratory, and plans have long since begun to be hatched to create
Anopheles mosquitoes genetically incapable of transmitting the
parasite that causes malaria, and Aedes mosquitoes similarly unable
to convey yellow fever or dengue.
Should we be concerned about this? Certainly. Should we be worried
about genetically modified disease vectors or about shifting the
genetic balance within a wild insect population? Certainly. But
should we call it "playing God"?
To accuse someone of "playing God" or "messing with nature" in
circumstances such as these is to imply that they are over-reaching
themselves while under a delusion of omniscience. Our world views
certainly modify the extent to which we see the consequences of human
actions as predictable. One worry is that we do not know how much
someone else knows. Or, more challenging still, how do we know how
much they know about what they know? It is always possible to
project our own ignorance on to others. For instance, with more than
half the soy beans and nearly two-thirds of the cotton grown in the
US now consisting of genetically modified varieties, it probably
seems somewhat terrifying for most people to recall what they know
about the history of biological introductions.
Everybody will be familiar with the failures: the infamous cane toad,
introduced to north-east Australia to eat the cane beetle, but which
today devours almost anything but its intended target; or the New
World predatory snail, Euglandina rosea, introduced to Hawaii to
control the imported giant African snail, and whose voracious
appetite led to the extinction of several Hawaiian snail species.
Few people, on the other hand, would be so aware of the many hundreds
of success stories - or indeed of the demonstrable evidence that the
mistakes such as the cane toad are largely accumulations of the early
20th century, when species introductions were not always properly
Of course, there can be no such thing as absolute certainty. The
first rule of 21st century life is that even the most confident
scientific assurances of safety can never provide a guarantee;
remember how inert CFCs were thought to be before we figured out that
they were depleting the ozone layer? Obviously, technology sometimes
effects more change than anyone can realise.
Sometimes there are grave limitations in our ability to foresee
outcomes. But does that mean that the limitless complexity of life is
necessarily insurmountable to the human imagination?
"Playing God" and "messing with nature" are defeatist slogans. They
don't just attack the examples at which they are directed; they are
an attempt to undermine the tree of our society at its root - for
they are not just a criticism, they are an exhortation not to try to
From: Francis Wevers
RE: Malevolent Metaphors and the New Zealand Situation
While I agree it may be desirable to develop our own positive
metaphors to redress the balance in the GE debate I do not agree with
the portrayal of the New Zealand debate. I suspect this article may
have been written in the depths of the despair which followed the
Auckland march. Fortunately time, and events, have moved on and we
now know there is a much less despairing picture for New Zealand
biotechnology to face.
There will always be those who oppose GE for reasons of fundamental
belief (and we will never persuade them whatever visual metaphors we
use) but the substantial majority of the public is pragmatic and will
be persuaded, over time, by their personal experience.
There will always be journalists and publications who seek to take a
counterview to current wisdom. They can be persuaded and the debate
involved is healthy for our democracy. The inevitable tendency in
our news media is towards the views and values of the centre. In
that light it's relevant to note that in the latest issue of North &
South magazine the Editor has run stories for organics and for GM
derived medical treatments. Both treatments are much more moderate
than they would have been only three or four months ago.
The New Zealand science community responded, somewhat belatedly, to
the political challenges posed by the Government's consideration of
the Report of the Royal Commission but respond it did. The fact we
have arrived at a very sustainable position is due to the work done
by scientists and their representative organisations in conjunction
with industry and end-users of the research (mainly farmers).
I like to think of the present position as being comparable with
half-time in a game of football. We are ahead on points but if we
rest on our laurels during the second half we will lose the match.
>Malevolent Metaphors. The Misrepresentation of Genetically Modified
>- Bev France, , Australasian Biotechnology,
>Oct/Nov 2001; Vol 11, No. 5,
>The biotechnology community has found it difficult to communicate
>images of biotechnology to the public. This article analyses the
>causes for the rejection of GM food by the public and suggests
>how this situation might be remedied.
Can anyone help this student?
I'm currently in a graduate level plant biotechnologyclass at Cornell
University. Dr. Kershen's article, "Risks of Going Non-GMO" was the
topic of one of our recent class discussions. I'm wondering if you
could steer me toward sources regarding how consumers that reject
agricultural biotechnology products accept pharmaceutical
biotechnology. Thank you for your time.
- Phillip Baldauf [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Does anyone have a world wide list of pharmaceuticals derived from GE?
If you do please reply to Chloe Thyne
OECD Finds That Biotechnology Contributes To Industrial Sustainability
- OECD, November 19, 2001 (Via Agnet)
Biotechnology has long held out the promise of providing alternative
methods of industrial production that are both environmentally
friendly and economically efficient, thus breaking the seemingly
inevitable circle of industrial growth fuelling environmental damage.
Until now, however, there was little in the way of hard evidence to
support the assumption of such potential. A new OECD report, The
Application of Biotechnology to Industrial Sustainability, cites
actual case studies as proof that economic gains and respect for the
environment can go hand in hand. The report draws on 21 case studies
from a wide range of industrial sectors: pharmaceuticals, fine
chemicals, bulk chemicals, food and feed, textiles, pulp and paper,
minerals and energy. The case studies also cover a wide range of
countries: Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the
United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa.
The case studies show how governments and the private sector apply
biotechnology in industrial development, how they make decisions
about adopting or rejecting the use of this technology, how they
acquire the necessary skills to use it and how biotechnology
contributes to reduced cost and improved sustainability.
Two major areas of biotechnology covered in the report are the use of
renewable resources ("biomass") and the use of bio-processes
(bio-catalysts, enzymes) in industrial production. While the report
points out that biotechnology applications may need to be used in
tandem with other tools or integrated into other processes in order
to be most effective, it also finds that their use invariably leads
to reduction in operating costs or capital costs or both.
The report concludes that it is in the interests of both developed
and developing countries for governments to promote the appropriate
use of biotechnology. New "bio-processes" can substantially reduce
emissions and the use of hazardous raw materials. They result in
fewer by-products, generate fewer waste materials and consume less
energy. Journalists may obtain this report from the OECD Media
Relations Division (request by fax:  1 45 24 80 03 or
For further information, journalists are invited to contact Iain
Gillespie, Head of Biotechnology Unit of the Directorate for Science,
Technology and Industry (tel.  1 45 24 93 02 -
mailto:email@example.com) or Meggan Dissly, OECD's Media
Relations Division (tel.  1 45 24 80 94 -
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org). "The Application of Biotechnology to
Industrial Sustainability" 148 pages, OECD, Paris 2001 Electronic
version available (pdf) EUR30; FF196.79; US$27; DM58.67 ISBN
92-64-19546-7 (93 2001 06 1)
Golden Rice: What Role Could It Play in Alleviation of Vitamin A
- Richard Robertson, Laurian Unnevehr (University of Illinois), and
David Dawe (IRRI).
Fifth International Conf on the Economics of Biotech, Ravello, Italy
, June 2001.
Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) is an important nutritional problem in the
developing world. Vitamin A's primary physiologic role is in vision
and maintenance of the general health of the eye, with a myriad of
secondary roles, such as maintenance of the immune system.
Supplementation or increased consumption of carotenoids in deficient
populations has been found to substantially reduce morbidity and
mortality for children (Sommer, 1997). VAD is prevalent among the
poor in Asia, because their diets are dependent on rice, which does
not contain Vitamin A precursors (FAO, 1993).
Golden Rice (GR) was developed to provide a new, alternative
intervention to combat VAD by genetically engineering rice to contain
beta-carotene (the vitamin A precursor found in plants) in the
endosperm of the grain (Toenniessen, 2000). GR's genetic engineering
heritage has inspired conflicting opinions concerning its possible
effectiveness and desirability. This paper examines the potential
benefits from golden rice in two ways. First, if GR can be developed
into a viable field crop, can it deliver significant amounts of
beta-carotene into the diets of high-VAD-risk children? Secondly,
how would GR compare to existing interventions in terms of monetary
cost, effectiveness of delivery, and coverage throughout the
Cebu has been identified as a region with widespread VAD among
children and pregnant women. The 1994 Cebu Longitudinal Health and
Nutrition Survey reports food intake for 1,839 children aged 10 to 12
years. In this region, both rice and white maize are consumed as
staples; dark green leafy vegetables (DGLV) and animal products are
significant sources of VA. Rice and animal product consumption are
higher among wealthier households; maize and DGLV are inferior
foods. Substitution of GR for for current rice consumption could
significantly boost VA intake over current levels, but the magnitude
of the contribution varies with the presumed degree of substitution
and with variations in diets across household income levels. It
would be relatively more important for the poor, who consume few
animal products. Cebu is atypical in that corn products are almost
as important as rice as a staple food. Thus, if GR can provide
improvement in children's vitamin A intake in Cebu, its effect will
likely be greater elsewhere in Asia.
Interventions to address VAD include home garden promotion, nutrition
education, supplementation, and fortification of existing foods.
Each intervention has strengths and weaknesses in terms of costs,
effectiveness, and coverage of at-risk populations. Home garden
promotion and nutrition education, while clearly worthwhile, cannot
fully address household constraints that prevent changes in diets.
Supplementation is inexpensive when it utilizes existing rural
institutions but may not reach all of those at risk for VAD.
Fortification does not address VAD effectively in Asia, because the
foods that can be fortified (e.g., margarine and wheat) are not
consumed in sufficient quantities by those at greatest risk.
Furthermore, fortification can be costly.
It appears that GR has the potential to be a low-cost, wide-coverage
intervention. While it can deliver substantial amounts of VA, it is
unlikely to meet all requirements and thus would be an ineffective
stand-alone strategy. GR is best viewed as a possible addition to
the menu of options for combating this public health problem and a
possible complement to existing interventions.
Agricultural Biotechnology, Poverty Reduction, and Food Security
- Asian Development Bank, 2001 (Via Agnet)
The complete document of the following can be downloaded in pdf from:
This working paper prepared by ADB staff is based on the study
conducted by international experts under the joint financing of ADB,
the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and
the Australian Agency for International Development. It provides
information on the effective and safe use of agricultural
biotechnology examines the opportunities and risks of using
biotechnology in reducing poverty and achieving food security in Asia
looks at the policies and strategies for ADB, and its developing
member countries in managing biotechnology for the benefit of small
farmers in Asia
Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture - FAO
Biotechnology provides a set of tools that, if appropriately
integrated with other technologies, can be applied for the
sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as
well as the food industry. Biotechnology includes a wide array of
techniques and applications. Examples include micropropagation,
allowing for multiplication of virus-free plants; marker-assisted
selection applied to conventional breeding, or genetic engineering,
for the production of genetically modified organisms with new,
improved traits. The impact of modern biotechnology on the
environment and human and animal health needs careful assessment on a
case by case basis. FAO may provide advice and assistance to
countries on this matter. However, final decisions on the use of
biotechnology remain a national responsibility.
This website contains a range of features that may be of value to
anyone interested in the role and impact of biotechnology in food and
agriculture. These features include:
* FAO Statement on Biotechnology.
* An overview of FAO's activities in this area, which include
providing advice and assistance to Member Countries, disseminating
information and monitoring new developments.
* An overview of biotechnology in the agro-industry, crop, fisheries,
forestry and livestock sectors.
* The FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture,
which operates a series of moderated e-mail conferences.
Tropics of Poverty
- Gene Koretz, Businessweek, Sept 3, 2001
A common view is that the best way to reduce the wide gap in living
standards between the world's rich and poor nations is for the latter
to implement market reforms fostering economic growth. While he
doesn't reject such advice, economist Jeffrey Sachs of Harvard
University thinks it ignores a pertinent fact: the pervasive impact
of climate on economic development.
As Sachs stresses in a new study, tropical economies are almost all
poor, while those in temperate zones are generally rich. Of 30
nations classified by the World Bank as high-income, only two--Hong
Kong and Singapore--are located in steamy climates. In 1992, output
per capita in temperate nations averaged more than four times the
level in tropical ones.
The economic gap wasn't always so large. Back in 1820, notes Sachs,
per capita output in tropical regions lagged output in temperate
zones by only 30%. The sluggish growth of tropical economies since
then is what has created the current disparity. The critical question
is: What has held these countries back?
Claims that colonialism is mainly responsible or that modern growth
is linked to a capitalism rooted in European culture are belied by
the woes of tropical countries that escaped colonization and by the
rise of Asian powerhouses such as Japan and Korea, argues Sachs. The
one explanation that holds up best is the impact of climate, which is
found even in large nations where temperate regions are invariably
wealthier than warmer ones. As Sachs sees it, tropical regions face
two related major ecological handicaps: low agricultural productivity
and a high burden of disease. Tropical soils are typically depleted
by the effects of heavy rainfall, for example, and tropical crops are
beset by pests and parasites that thrive in hot climates without
winter frosts. Similarly, warm climates favor the transmission of
many tropical diseases that are borne by insects and bacteria.
Compounding these problems, many technical advances in farming and
health care developed for application in temperate regions are not
readily transferable to tropical areas. Over time, the rapid pace of
temperate-region innovation and the lack of such innovation in the
tropics has widened the zone's lead, so that temperate-zone grain
productivity per acre today is 50% higher than in the tropics, while
infant mortality adjusted for income levels is 52% lower. The upshot:
Most tropical nations remain mired in poverty. Poor agricultural
productivity results in poor nutrition--which compounds medical and
social ills. Many couples have lots of children in the hopes that
some will survive. High fertility, in turn, strains resources and
lowers per-child investments. Is there a way out? Sachs points to
such success stories as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, which acted
forcefully to control disease and which diversified their economies
away from agriculture toward export-oriented manufacturing.
But he notes that many tropical nations, especially in sub-Saharan
Africa, lack resources to tackle their massive agricultural and
health woes. What such nations desperately need, he says, is
assistance in developing and applying technologies aimed at solving
these ecologically based problems.
Indian Government Sends High Level Team To Gujarat Over Bt Cotton
- Press Trust of India, November 21, 2001
New Delhi- Perturbed over the controversial Bt cotton flooding
western Indian state of Gujarat markets, the Federal Government on
Tuesday sent a high-level team to the state to prevent further flow
of Genetically Engineered crop into commercial centres and ensure its
"A two-member team has been sent to assess the situation and hold
talks with Gujarat officials to impress upon them the need to
accelerate field procurement of Bt cotton as also its retrieval from
market", Chairman of the High-Powered Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) A M Gokhale said. He told PTI that the team would
try to ascertain the volume of Bt cotton that has already made it to
the markets though unconfirmed reports indicate that about 1200
quintals of the controversial crop have so far been obtained from
farmers through middlemen.
The officials would also take follow up measures in connection with
the complaint filed in an Ahmedabad court by Federal Environment
Ministry against the company which allegedly sold GM cotton seeds to
some 500 farmers who grew them in about 10,000 acres of land, he said.
Gokhale said the State Government is to retrieve the Bt crop to the
extent possible, either through Cotton Corporation or Gujarat Cotton
Growers Association or any other agency of its choice. "While the
lint has to be quarantined and preserved for testing, seeds are
required to be destroyed".
Asked if Bt cotton, whose commercial cultivation is yet to be
approved by GEAC, could be distinguished from other varieties, he
said traditional Gujarat crop has striking features and experts from
state's textile department are also assisting in isolating GM crop.
India's Vision Document on Biotechnology
- Nirupa Sen , Current Science, Vol. 81, No. 9, p 1157; 10 November
The Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee released the document
'Biotechnology - A vision', on 7 September 2001 at New Delhi. The
document contains a tenyear perspective of the Department of
Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government
of India. Vajpayee, on this occasion said that hopes had been pinned
on new biotechnological products increasing agricultural production,
fighting disease, combating nutritional deficiencies and protecting
Some of the milestones laid out in the Vision Document are as follows:
Basic research in modern biology and biotechnology would henceforth
be driven by time and utility. Garnering longterm support are stem
cell research, and tissue engineering for the development of
biological substitutes, and metabolic engineering that uses
recombinant DNA technology for enhancing potential of organisms,
producing antibiotics. Support will also be provided for microassay
systems, design of biosensors used in applications such as detection
of antigen/ antibodies in body fluids and monitoring food additives.
Research into developing therapeutics from small peptides/proteins
and carbohydrates found in animals/ humans will also be given
support, as also research into enzymemediated synthesis of drugs,
processes in pollution control and for bioinstrumentation. 'GenNet
India' for assisting study of genetic disorders in the country will
be established. Research on pathogenic organisms and parasites
relevant to India would be encouraged.
Strengthening the bioinformatics network in the country would be
completed by 2005. Dedicated network centres involved in 'developing
data warehouses, data design and data mining from single and multiple
databases and mirror sites, to decipher the international data
available in the public domain and to correlate them to the function
of individual sequences' will be set up. Partnership with software
companies would be encouraged. This partnership would help in the
understanding of the genetic basis of diseases, by aiding
identification of useful genes and correlating available
epidemiological data for locating missing links.
In agriculture, a complete field assessment of largescale seed
production of transgenics, for enhancing the nutritional content of
major crops and vegetables would be undertaken by 2005. In a couple
of years, farmers are likely to be able to grow transgenic wheat with
improved protein and lysine content, through marker assisted breeding
programmes. Edible vaccines for combating diseases like cholera,
rabies and hepatitis B are expected to be ready for clinical trials
in 2-3 years. For improving crop yields, biofertilizers and botanical
biopesticides would be fieldt ested. In the Tenth Plan period, there
would be emphasis on development of crops as sources of biofuel.
Encouragement will be given for studies on diseases affecting
livestock, domestic animals and marine resources leading to vaccines,
diagnostic kits and establishment of cell lines. Mouse genetics and
mouse as a model in study of human genetics will receive support.
Marine resources will be tapped for conversion into useful products.
An environmental action plan is also envisaged for the protection of
important ecosystems such as coastal belts and mangroves. A
systematic documentation of biodiversity in the country would get
Medical biotechnological products like diagnostic kits for major
infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), malaria, HIV/AIDS,
dengue, hepatitis, etc. are all set to hit the market next year.
Target dates have been set by DBT for the following. In 2-3 years,
DNA vaccines for rabies in dogs would be ready for manufacture. Gene
therapy trials against cancer would be initiated in 2001-2002.
Rotoviral diarrhoea vaccine would enter Phase I trial in 2001 and is
expected to obtain approval in 2 years. A vaccine for hepatitis C
would enter Phase I clinical trials by 2003. By 2004-2005, the
cholera vaccine would complete its trial and by that time vaccines
for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria are expected to enter Phase I and Phase
II trials. Also, manufacturing units for recombinant biologicals, DNA
chips and related materials would be setup in the next five years. A
molecular medicine approach would be adopted for research in cancer
and cardiovascular diseases. Support is also promised for
neurosciences and neuroinformatics, a discipline new to India.
There would be an increased accent on private-public partnership for
bringing research products into the market place. A singlewindow
facility is mooted for speeding up the process in obtaining
clearances for biotechnology products. Vital policy matters in the
realm of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), patenting and ethical
issues in biotechnology will get due attention. Guideline procedures
for clinical trials, genetically modified foods and recombinant
vaccines would be implemented.
In human resource development, central to achieving the goals set,
the DBT proposes to train at least fifty teachers and about hundred
students on a yearly basis. This would result in the country having a
substantial number of trained personnel to carry out India's
aspirations in biotechnology. Finally, necessary steps would be taken
for a better public understanding of biotechnology research.
Nirupa Sen, 1333, Poorvanchal Complex, JNU New Campus, New Delhi 110
067, India (email: email@example.com).
Allay Fears Over Genetically-modified Food
- The Hindu, November 22, 2001
The Chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan, Research Foundation, Prof. M.S.
Swaminathan, has suggested the setting up a national commission on
genetic modification for food and health security without further
delay for an objective and speedy risk- benefit to inspire public
trust in the genetically modified (GM) food varieties.
Participating in a workshop on the current status of GM foods and
crops in India, organised by the Foundation here today, Prof.
Swaminathan said that unless research and development efforts on GM
foods were based on the principles of bio-ethics, bio-safety,
bio-diversity conservation and bio- partnerships, there would be
serious public concern about the social, ecological and economic
consequences of replacing numerous local varieties with a few GM
Mr. Shashi Kumar, Media Development Foundation, Chennai, who was the
moderator, said there must be widespread discussions on the pros and
cons of GM foods as there was a "sense of fear of unknown'' about it.
If GM seeds would help increase productivity, reduce the cost of
cultivation and the use of pesticides why should there be resistance
against them even in developed countries like the U.S. and the U.K,
Dr.Raju Barwale, Mahyco Research Foundation, Mumbai, said the best
way to improve productivity at a lesser cost was to adopt GM seeds.
Dr.T.M. Manjunath, Director, R and D, Monsanto, said many countries,
including developing ones, had adopted transgenic crops. The total
area under the GM crop which was just 1.7 million hectares in 1996
had increased to 44.2 million hectares in 2000. Dr. Gurumurthy
Natarajan, president, Green Thumb, said there had been a
misconception about Bt. cotton in India though it had been widely
cultivated in other countries.
Biotechnology Will Empower Farmers
- Business Line (Hindu), November 22
Biotechnology has the capacity to give Indian farmers competitive
edge in the international market, according to Mr Raju Barwale,
Managing Director, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co Ltd (Mahyco). India
imported over 15 lakh (1.5 million) bales of cotton last year because
it was available at a lower price when compared to the domestic
The key was to increase production and productivity in a
cost-effective manner. Biotechnology offers an opportunity to empower
farmers to face this competition, he said. Mahyco was in the process
of conducting field trials in 400 locations for Bt cotton that is
resistant to the major pest, the cotton bollworm.
Development and commercialisation of transgenic crop is an elaborate
and long-term project. The results of the safety issues and
socio-economic impact studies have been submitted to the appropriate
agencies, he said. Mr Barwale was addressing a media workshop at the
M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) organised by The Hindu
Media Resource Centre for Ecotechnology and Sustainable Development
here on Wednesday.
Dr E.A. Siddiq, National Professor, Directorate of Rice Research,
Hyderabad, said that during the last decade, population increase had
exceeded the growth in foodgrain production. While at the beginning
of the decade there had been claims of the country achieving
self-sufficiency in oilseed production, edible oil imports were now
around Rs 3,000 crore ($750 Million). There was a negative growth in
cotton production against a required increase of 7.5 per cent.
Dr T.M. Manjunath, Director, Monsanto Research Centre, a division of
Monsanto Holdings Pvt Ltd, said that transgenic crops have helped
reduce insecticide usage by 44 per cent in Australia. In India Rs
3,000 crore ($750 million) was being spent on agri-chemicals with Rs
1,800 crore ($400 million) spent on cotton crop alone, but more than
30 per cent of crops are lost to pests, diseases and weed infestation.
Greenpeace Howler: Let Greenpeace Know That They've Been Bad
"Howler - A letter, in a red envelope, when opened emits an explosive
roar of sound. The voice of the person who sent it can be heard
piercing the air. Usually sent by parents when they have a complaint
to their children. After delivery of a Howler, the red envelope
bursts into flames." - page 87 of second Harry Potter book
Students at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books receive Howler's when
they are bad. As an organization, Greenpeace has been very, very bad.
If you feel the same way, send a Howler to Greenpeace and let them
know how you feel. (At http://greenpiece.org/howler/howlerframe.html)
In order to teach Greenpeace a lesson about what real activism is,
for every Howler email sent from this site, a dollar will be donated
to organizations dedicated to helping feed the homeless.
The Howler email sent to Greenpeace will include an audio attachment
(listen) and will include the text listed below: "In the world of
Harry Potter, when students at Hogwarts are bad they receive a Howler
which lets the whole world know what they've done wrong.
GREENPEACE - It is about time you got a Howler of your own. You
deserve a Howler for proliferating junk science, for creating phony
scare campaigns, for ignoring truth to further your political agenda
and for abandoning your original mission. You are truly the worst
student at Hogwarts.
As a reminder of what real activism is all about, for every Howler we
send you we will donate $1 to organizations devoted to helping the
homeless. Since you have lost your way, I would recommend you
immediately donate your entire budget to similar organizations.
Quotes and Tough Questions
...Greenpeace has assumed some of the trappings of the global
corporations that it attacks. Recently it hired an Italian hilltop
village and flew in the heads of its national operations for a
week-long meeting on policies and campaigns." -Sunday Times, July 30,
"Greenpeace is a para-political force, and one cannot expect that its
activists will appreciate the inherent value system of the scientific
enterprise. It is hardly qualified to advise on how to restore public
trust in science." -H. Mohr, University of Freiburg, Sch”nzlestrasse
1, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany
"Greenpeace has no credibility when it comes to evaluating science.
Many of its activities and campaigns are based on propaganda rather
than facts." -Ketil Haarstad Jordforsk, Norwegian Centre for Soil and
Environmental Research, N-1432 ‰s, Norway
The Tough Questions:
Is Greenpeace really dedicated to protecting the environment... or to
lining the pockets of its friends, allies, and leadership?-
- In 1998, Greenpeace spent more than $70 million -- fully 62% of its
budget -- on finance and administration (read: fat salaries and
bloated perks) and other boondoggles not associated with any actual
- The real reason Greenpeace always claims there's a new reason for
alarm is to cause public panic so people will give the organization
more money to finance its employees' overinflated salaries.
- Are alarmist Greenpeace consumer campaigns, such as "buy organic"
and "boycott Shell," intended to truly save the world or do they have
a more sinister purpose that is part of a Greenpeace campaign to keep
its allies and justify its own existence?
The Virtue of Unselfishness
- Dinesh D'Souza, Red Herring,
Capitalism has won the economic debate, but it has not yet won the
moral debate. Virtually everyone now acknowledges that capitalism is
the best way to create wealth. But is the capitalist a good person,
worthy of praise and emulation?
A whole segment of society indignantly answers no. In the view of
many politicians, preachers, pundits, and activists, the entrepreneur
is a greedy, selfish bastard.
So how do capitalists respond to this accusation? By agreeing with
it! One group of entrepreneurs-call them the Ted Turner
School-basically grovel before the critics, pointing to their
philanthropy as evidence that they are not complete scoundrels. Many
businessmen speak of their charitable donations in terms of "giving
back" to the community. There's nothing wrong with writing a check to
the American Cancer Society, but the clear implication is that these
fellows have been taking from the community and are now trying to
atone for the sin of moneymaking.
A second group of capitalists-call them the Larry Ellison
School-react in macho style to the charge of greed and selfishness.
The heroine of this school is the author Ayn Rand, who wrote The
Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (Mass Market
Paperback, 1989). Her strategy was to confound the critics of
capitalism by converting their proclaimed vices to virtues. Sure, the
entrepreneur is selfish, she seems to say, but what's wrong with
that? It is such people, Ms. Rand insists, who invent and build the
things that make everyone better off.
The problem with offering an adequate moral justification for
entrepreneurship is not a new one. Even Adam Smith, in The Wealth of
Nations (Modern Library, 2000), first published in 1776, portrayed
businessmen as greedy and self-centered. Smith argued that only
accidentally-through the invisible hand of competition-does the
entrepreneur improve the material welfare of society. While Smith's
book provided an eloquent defense of capitalism as a system, it did
not even attempt a moral defense of capitalists as people.
However ancient and widely shared this perception-that capitalism is
rooted in the base motives of greed and selfishness-it is mistaken.
It is based on a limited perception of what motivates entrepreneurs,
as well as a total misunderstanding of their actual behavior.
Let's begin with motivation. The capitalist wants to make a profit,
but money does not seem an adequate explanation for what drives the
most successful entrepreneurs. What possible difference can another
$10 million or even $100 million make to Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell,
or Ted Turner? It seems that something other than the prospect of
further gain explains why these men show up for work each day.
Now let's look at what entrepreneurs actually do. Contrary to all the
rhetoric about capitalism, which focuses on self-interest, the
reality is that entrepreneurs spend the bulk of their time meeting
the desires of others. Their predominant concern is, How can I better
satisfy my customers? It is attentiveness not to self, but to the
other, that determines which entrepreneurs succeed and which don't.
Michael Dell is a billionaire because he has focused obsessively on
serving his customers.
Indeed, the most successful entrepreneurs don't merely satisfy
others' wants, they anticipate those wants, even before people have
them. Ted Turner came up with the idea of a 24-hour news channel when
there was no documented demand for such a product. Think about the
guy who invented and marketed the cell phone; before he did that, who
among us knew that we couldn't live without one?
What these examples show is that capitalism civilizes greed, just as
marriage civilizes lust. Greed and lust are human emotions. As such,
they cannot be eradicated. At the same time, we all know that these
inclinations can have corrupting and destructive effects. So they
have to be regulated and channeled to serve us, and society, best.
Just as the institution of marriage is designed to channel lust in
such a way that it promotes mutual love and the raising of children,
so also capitalism steers greed in such a way that it is placed at
the service of the wants of others.
It follows that entrepreneurial capitalism is not merely efficient,
it is also moral. Entrepreneurs don't have to feel bad-or good-about
being greedy, selfish bastards, because they are not greedy, selfish
bastards. Indeed, their profits are merely the register of how
effectively they have improved the lives of their fellow human beings.
Dinesh D'Souza is the Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His
most recent book is The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an
Age of Techno-Affluence. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.