- Today's Topics in 'AgBioView' -
* Put balance on the Mexican corn story
* Transgenes in Mexico: The Authors
* Movement of transgenes through maize in Mexico
* Greenpeace Double Standards
* Impact of Bt Cotton in China.
* More on Lomborg & Skeptical Environmentalist
* Plant Biotechnology Booming in China, Study Finds
* New Zealand: GM support up
* SCIENTISTS COMPLETE PEANUT MOLECULAR MAP
* Agricultural Biotechnology, Poverty Reduction, and Food Security
Date: 29 Nov 2001 21:16:54 -0000
From: "Theresa Klein"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Activist/scientist, Debate in the UK, GM Separation, Biotech Bean Benefits
A better question is:
Why does the scientific community allow people like Chapela to do engage in this kind of behavior, without ever calling him on it? Why not go to a news organization and say "Look, this guy is obviously in league with activist rganizations, and here are the reasons why he is wrong." ?
Why do reputable scientific organizations not take all this analysis, prepare a press release, and refute the claims in the public domain instead of on a private mailing list?
It is imperitive that memebers of the scientific community immediately contact the news media to put some balance into the reporting of this story. Activist groups such as PANNA are (as we have seen) very savvy about using the media as a way of putting their spin on the news. The media will quickly lose interest in this story, and if it is not answered immediately, there will be no further opportunity to discuss the subject, and the spin put on it by the activists will become the only public record on this
--- "AgBioView from AgBioWorld.org"
> - Today's Topics in 'AgBioView' -
> So, why would the journalists covering this story
> fail to ask Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth or
> others how they were so prepared to help spread the
> word? A good question to ask of Chapela would be
> how many weeks or months in advance did he begin to
> coordinate the release of his “report” with these
> fear-mongering activists? Or more likely, did he
> start earlier and work with them to design his
> research for this effect?
Date: 29 Nov 2001 17:26:08 -0000
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Transgenes in Mexico: The Authors
More information on the authors of the study which claims transgenes are present in Mexican maize:
Ignacio Chapela is a member of the board of directors of Pesticide Action Network North America, alongside Peter Rossett of the IATP. See http://www.panna.org/panna/about/board.html Chapela is also on a list of contacts for Environmental Media Services (EMS), a project of Fenton Communications. See http://www.ems.org/biotech/experts.html
David Quist joined up with Greenpeace to condemn biotech corporations and to demand that the Mexican government begin a bioremediation project to rid Mexican maize of transgenes. See
http://www.biodiversidadla.org/prensa2/prensa398.htm He has also been so vocal in his criticism of Novartis’ funding of biotech research at UC Berkeley that he was suspected of destroying experimental maize plants there. See http://www.uh.edu/admin/media/topstories/chron_622a.html
Quist is a graduate student in the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley and has a B.Sc. in Botany. See http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~dquist/dq.html
Chapela is an Assistant Professor of Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley and works primarily with fungi. See
Date: 29 Nov 2001 18:51:17 -0000
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Genetically Modified Material Found in Mexican Corn
Mary Murphy's comment echoes my reaction when I read the news reports.
So many of these types of apparently alarming findings are only alarming because they lack controls/perspective.
In this case, the researchers found the markers that they were looking for; what they failed to do was assess the degree to which genetic interpenetration of these local varieties with commercial, non-GM corn hybrids was occurring. Using the alarmist term "contamination" without evidence that transgenic varieties are differentially invading the genomes of these native varieties is irresponsible.
Further, they have yet to demonstrate convincingly that such gene movement might actually endanger genetic diversity.
Finally, if such a danger were demonstrated, then these genetic resources should all be guaranteed protection from foreign gene flow: ie, don't allow planting of any other varieties within pollination distance of them -- institutionalize agricultural stagnation in the (misguided) interests of preserving the illusory sanctity of biodiversity -- these folks don't believe in conservation, so much as preservation of the status quo; evolution -- or any change -- is anathema to them (ie, there is no such thing as "progress"!).
This alarmist reporting of preliminary, incomplete research is just another example of the nutty illogic of the anti-GE luddites.
Movement of transgenes through maize in Mexico
CropGen response to the study by the University of California in Berkeley, published 29th November 2001, Nature
London, 29th November, 2001 - The study simply demonstrates what farmers and scientists have known for many years - that movement of genes through cross-pollination is a natural phenomenon. As such it is key to evolution and in fact is often important in generating diversity.
Where necessary, farmers across the world have traditionally aimed to reduce cross-pollination by introducing agricultural management systems (e.g. buffer zones, not planting susceptible crops next to one another). Whether GM or conventional crops are being planted, the same principles apply - in fact in the UK, GM trials have a buffer zone around them for that very purpose.
The fact that transgenes have been traced in this instance highlights the transparency of GM - 'marked' genes can be traced much more clearly than genes from conventional crops, thus furthering our knowledge of gene flow through a plant population - which is of tremendous benefit to scientific understanding.
Dr Guy Poppy, member of CropGen, offers reassurance to farmers concerned about cross-pollination and reminds us that this is a call from nature:
"This is a good piece of research but there is no real surprise that gene flow has occurred. This is how plants have evolved over millions of years. Some dispersal of pollen on the wind and by insects is inevitable. Nothing can be isolated totally from the rest of the world. It's better to acknowledge that a minimum of cross-pollination
cannot be avoided and not to panic: after all, nowhere in the world has a GM product been found to be unhealthy and no adverse environmental effect has ever been substantiated.
"While it's worthwhile understanding how frequently gene flow occurs, it's also important to understand the impact or consequence of such events have. This is something which further studies will need to evaluate and emphasises the need for case by case analysis. However, let's not forget that the benefit from GM is already being felt around the world. In Mexico, they've used GM technology to address
the problem of high levels of aluminium in the soil which, in the developing world reduces yields by as much as 80%. By transferring a gene from a bacterium called Pseudomonas into maize, the crop can be made resistant to this toxic metal.
GM technology offers a number of clear benefits for farmers? Protection of crops, reduction of herbicide use and increased yields. Ultimately genetic modification helps farmers to be more efficient."
For interviews with Dr Guy Poppy, please contact Emily-Jane
Orton on 020 7853 2393 or 07720 277143.
CropGen is an information initiative designed to make the case for crop biotechnology. It is funded by industry but operates independently of it.
Date: 29 Nov 2001 19:54:16 -0000
From: "Andura Smetacek"
Subject: Greenpeace Double Standards
Double standard bearer and Greenpeace spokesman Eric Darier is reported by Food Chemical News [Canada Panel Proposes 5% GM Labeling Threshold] as stating, "How can something be GE-free if 5% of it is genetically engineered..."
Yet, organic certification standards supported by Greenpeace and used by Greenpeace in their for-profit organic arm which sells certified organic produce from Latin America, allows for the same percentage (or in some cases even higher) of non-organic materials in foods they label as organic and marketed as "pesticide-free" (even though organic pesticides are liberally used and up to 5% or more of the foods contained are allowed to be grown using non-organic chemical pesticides)....
Eric, how can something be "pesticide-free" if 5% of it has been sprayed with chemical pesticides and if 100% may have been sprayed with such so-called organic or "natural" pesticides as copper sulfates (toxic to most forms of life and known to cause liver damage in people) or pyrethrum (a known human carcinogen)?
Hmmm, tough question. Perhaps your organic "experiment" needs a little more time in the laboratory before it creates more damage to an unsuspecting public.
From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Subject: Request for assistance
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 12:29:08 -0600
I would appreciate learning where and how I might obtain a copy of
Pray, Carl E. 2000. Impact of Bt Cotton in China. Working Paper Series No. WP00E18, Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy,
Chinese Academcy of Sciences.
Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-5081 U.S.A.
Date: 29 Nov 2001 17:31:28 -0000
From: "Red Porphyry"
Subject: More on Lomborg & Skeptical Environmentalist
Bjorn Lomborg's new book received an extremely negative review in the
November 8, 2001 issue of Nature (p.149). Very, very harsh. I encourage
everyone on the list to read it. There's also now a entire web site
devoted to debunking his book "the Skeptical Environmentalist", at
While I plan to wait until I've at least had a chance to look at the
book before making any definitive Redster comments :-), the impression I'm
getting here and elsewhere is that (1) it's basically a restatement of
Julian Simon's techno-optimism, and (2) like most techno-optimists,
Lomborg never bothered to take the time to actually read either "the Limits to
Growth" (1968) or "Beyond the Limits" (1990)--before commenting on
[Note: Lomborg addresses these reviews at his web site. Go to http://www.lomborg.com,
then click The Skeptical Environmentalist, and then click "critiques and replies"
Some quotes from other reviewers:
"... probably the most important book on the environment ever written."
--Matt Ridley, review in The Daily Telegraph, UK, 27-8-01
"This is one of the most valuable books on public policy—not merely on environmental policy—to have been written for the intelligent general reader in the past ten years. ... The Skeptical Environmentalist is a triumph.
--review in The Economist, 6-9-01
"The Skeptical Environmentalist is the most significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, in 1962. It's a magnificent achievement."
--Denis Dutton, review in Washington Post, 21-10-01]
Plant Biotechnology Booming in China, Study Finds
Nov. 28, 2001
DAVIS, Calif. -- Research and development on plant biotechnology is flourishing in China, which now accounts for half of the developing world's expenditures on plant biotechnology, according to a recent study by researchers at University of California, Davis and in China. (ref.2167)
"In the past decade, China has been accelerating its investments in agricultural biotechnology research and is making breakthroughs on commodities that have been mostly ignored in the laboratories of industrialized countries," says Scott Rozelle, a professor in the agricultural and resource economics department at UC Davis. "If China's success with genetically modified cotton is any predictor of future achievements, we can expect that plant biotechnology in China will have a significant impact on world production, consumption, nutrition and trade."
In the late 1980s, China's scientists began research aimed at developing a genetically modified cotton plant that would produce a natural pesticide against the destructive bollworm. A gene was synthesized and inserted into cotton plants that mimicked a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which is well known as a naturally occurring pesticide. The result was China's own version of "Bt cotton," which by the year 2000 was planted on 20 percent of China's cotton acreage. Thanks to the genetically modified, pest-resistant cotton, China's farmers report that they have significantly reduced labor and the amount of pesticides applied in their cotton fields.
In an attempt to assess the current status and likely future of plant biotechnology in China, Rozelle and colleagues surveyed 29 of China's plant biotechnology research institutes and interviewed research directors of the major plant biotechnology programs. The study was conducted in collaboration with Fangbin Qiao, a graduate student in the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and Jikun Huang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
New Zealand: GM support up
The National Business Journal
November 30, 2001
Support for GM is up, according to the new NBR/Compaq poll, released Friday.(ref.2171)
According to the poll, 26 per cent of people surveyed "generally support" genetic modification, up 10 per cent on October, with the number opposed reducing to 23 per cent, down 13 per cent on last month.
The poll also found that a large majority of people agreed with the Government's policy decision on GM, with 67 per cent of those surveyed in support, 26 per cent opposed and 7 per cent unsure.
Numbers surveyed over whether the benefits of GM outweighed the risks came out at 33 per cent, while the percentage of people who felt the risks outweighed benefits had dropped from 46 per cent in October to 38 per cent, with 29 per cent said it depended or were unsure.
The number of people who wanted to know more about GM before making up their minds had also increased, to 46 per cent from 39 per cent after the release of the Royal Commission's report.
SCIENTISTS COMPLETE PEANUT MOLECULAR MAP
November 29, 2001
University of Georgia
University of Georgia researchers have completed the first comprehensive molecular map of the peanut plant. Like a roadmap, the research will give scientists the directions they need to develop better varieties for farmers and better products for consumers, experts say.
Unlike a roadmap, the UGA map identifies plant genes and where they're located.
"We have developed landmarks and determined how the landmarks are arranged with respect to one another (within the peanut plant)," said Andrew Paterson, a plant geneticist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "The landmarks enable us to determine what important genes, instead of cities, are nearby."
Mapping the genes of plants has revolutionized crop breeding over the past decade, Paterson said.
"Most major crops already have genetic maps, but the peanut was especially difficult," said Paterson, who began looking into the peanut genome five years ago.
This map is the beginning of a framework for a physical map and sequence for the peanut genome.
"The molecular map is like putting mileposts along the highways. The physical map is like driving along the highways from milepost to milepost," Paterson said. "The sequence is having total and immediate recall of everything that lies along every highway."
That kind of information can help plant breeders develop better plants.
"One of the important uses of the map is to transfer desirable genes from wild relatives and exclude undesirable genes. This is badly needed in peanut," Paterson said.
Agricultural Biotechnology, Poverty Reduction, and Food Security
Asian Development Bank
Nangju D; Persley G; Brenner C
The working paper of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provides information on the effective and safe use of agricultural biotechnology, and examines the opportunities and risks of using biotechnology in reducing poverty and achieving food security in Asia. Policies and strategies in managing biotechnology for the benefit of small farmers in Asia are discussed. The reports main conclusion is that governments and funding agencies should continue and increase their investment in biotechnology as a means of achieving their goals of poverty reduction and food security in Asia over the next 25 years.
Agricultural Biotechnology, Poverty Reduction, and Food Security. ADB working paper.
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.
The complete report is available in English (pdf file, 1050 Kb) at:
In October 1999, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a strategy to reduce poverty through pro-poor, sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Given the advances in bio-technology during the last decade, the importance of managing the Bio-technology Revolution in agriculture emerged as one of the principal challenges facing Asia in the future. In late 2000, ADB, in cooperation with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) under-took a study on agricultural biotechnology in Asia. The objectives were to: (i) examine the risks and benefits of biotechnology in relation to human health, the environment, and agriculture; (ii) identify measures to mini-mize adverse impacts; (iii) explore the use of biotechnology to reduce poverty and achieve food security in Asia; and (iv) develop policies and strategies for ADB to support biotechnology in developing countries in Asia. The results of the s
Past Success in Reducing Poverty and Improving Food Security About 900 million people or 75 percent of the world's poor live in Asia. They live on less than $1 a day. About 536 million of them, including 160 million children, are undernourished. These families lack access not only to sufficient money to buy food and other essentials, but also access to adequate schooling, housing, and medical care. For those in rural areas, the environments in which they live are often short of water, fuel, and firewood. Fertile land and water for farming are increasingly scarce. For the poor people in cities, lack of money is the major constraint to obtaining nutritious food.
Although the absolute numbers of people living in poverty in Asia today are unacceptable, the situation could be much worse. In 1970, 60 percent of all Asians lived in poverty; today that figure has been cut to 30 percent. Also, countries such as Bangladesh, the People's Republic of China (PRC), and India have moved from periodic famines to virtual self-sufficiency in food production.
The report deals with the following topics:
Past Success in Reducing Poverty and Improving Food Security
Modern Scientific Developments
Current Status of Agricultural Biotechnology in Asia
Potential Contribution of Biotechnology Toward
Poverty Reduction and Food Security
Potential Risks of Biotechnology
Economic Concentration in Agricultural Biotechnology
Need for Increased Public-Private Sector Collaboration
Policy and Priority Setting
The major conclusion of this study is that the governments and funding agencies should continue and increase their investments in bio-technology as a means of achieving their goals of poverty reduction and food security in Asia over the next 25 years. Achieving these goals with presently available technologies will be difficult, given the present trends and challenges facing the rural sector in Asian environments. Accordingly, it is recommended that different measures including support for small scale farmers shall be considered by ADB and the governments in the region.
 Nangju D, Persley G and Brenner C (2001) Agricultural Biotechnology, Poverty Reduction, and Food Security. A working paper, Asian Development Bank