Today in AgBioView - Weekend
* Can Maize Hybridize with Teosinte?
* Transgenes and Mexican Corn Landraces
* Court Hands French Activist Jail Term for GM Strike
* Verdict on Militant French Farmer Bove Delayed as Supporters Storm
* Farmers Turn To Biotechnology
* Europe Losing Faith In Science
* Ag Groups Push Biotech in Farm Bill
* Dinner at the New Gene Cafe - Review
* An Educational CD-ROM on Genetics
* 6 Billion and Counting; Reducing Vitamin A & Iron Deficiencies -
* To Dr. Bjorn Lomborg....
* Green No More: The Education of an Environmentalist
Can Maize Hybridize with Teosinte?
From: John Doebley
This is not true. Some types of teosinte produce 100% fully fertile
seeds, other types have reduced seed set but the crosses are still
>From: "Alain F.Corcos"
>Subject: Teosinte Barrier
>Referring to Andrew Apel e-mail of Nov 30 reminding us that teosinte
>produced sterile seeds when pollinated by any type of maize, I am
>asking the following question: how did George Beadle do his
>teosinte-maize crosses? I reread his famous article, Scientific
>American Jan, 1980. But he does not mention if he used pollen from
>teosinte or from maize. He must have used pollen from teosinte, Does
>anyone knows? - Alain Corcos
From: Norman Ellstrand
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this question.
It is simply NOT true that teosinte pollinated by maize produces
sterile seeds. While there is a strong incompatibility barrier
between maize and some kinds of teosinte, the barrier is weaker
between maize and other varieties of teosinte. Indeed, crosses made
recently by Doebley that demonstrate the QTLs for maize-teosinte
differences came from such crosses. I can, of course, provide
references to papers by maize experts to back this up. (Al;so, I have
viable seeds from maize-teosinte crosses right now, some of which
have been progeny tested and have grown into plants with the
From: "Wayne Parrott"
Actually, most teosintes will not produce seed when pollinated with
corn pollen. In contrast, corn will produce fertile seed if
pollinated with teosinte pollen (and the teosinte pollen does not
have to compete against corn pollen). Thus, the ability of teosinte
to contaminate corn is much greater than the ability of corn to
contaminate teosinte. Nevertheless, finding F1, F2 or BC generations
of maize-teosinte crosses around corn fields is not common. One main
reason appears to be the presence of incompatibility genes in
teosinte. Another reason is that maize and teosinte don't always
flower at the same time.
For a great review, see:
M. M. S. Evans, J. L. Kermicle. 2001. Teosinte crossing barrier1, a
locus governing hybridization of teosinte with maize. TAG
Transgenes and Mexican Corn Landraces
- Excerpts from from Klaus Ammann 's Debate
>NATURE, VOL 414 , 29 NOVEMBER 2001, Transgenic DNA introgressed into
> maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico David Quist & Ignacio H. Chapela
My comments and citations: There might one day pop up some transgenes
in landraces - it should not be considered 'contamination' but we
should evaluate the situation and most probably we would come the the
conclusion that these are improvements welcomed by the Mexican
farmers, - unless they have surrendered to the fear-mongering of
activist groups - which - according to eye witnesses, seems
unfortunately to be the case already. These activists have already
done a perfect job.
Previous data show, that gene flow has always happened and landraces
have survived nevertheless with their identity quite nicely.
Landraces in Mexico are subject to century old improvement selection
strategies of the farmers and are certainly nothing natural. There
are also data showing that the even the wild maize species, the
Teosinthes, may be subject to gene flow for already a long time, see
: Jerry Kermicle 1999 Cross Compatibility within the genus Zea,
Laboratory of Genetics University of Wisconsin
'Experienced investigators often spot maize-teosinte hybrids in maize
fields infested with teosinte. Most reports suggest that they are
infrequent. Most often they are rare relative to expectations, based
on random crossing between maize and teosinte. For example, if random
mating with no selection or migration occurred in a population
comprising 90% maize and 10% teosinte plants, the ratio of hybrids to
teosinte plants in the next generation should be 18:1.
But hybrids have always been a minority class. Many factors,
including human agency, contribute to the isolation of maize and
teosinte. The presence of barriers to dent maize within mexicana
teosintes, which typically grow in close association with maize,
together with the absence of barriers in parviglumis teosintes, which
typically grow in dense strands outside of maize fields, sets up the
presumption of a role for these barriers in isolation.'
T. Angel Kato Y. 1999 Review of Introgression Between Maize and
Genetics Program, Genetic Resources and Productivity Institute
(IREGEP), Colegio de Postgraduados, Montecillo, Mexico
These are two of the articles of the Proceedings of a Forum: Gene
Flow Among Maize Landraces, Improved Maize Varieties, and Teosinte:
Implications for Transgenic Maize © CIMMYT February 2001
See CIMMYT-Publications catalogue
1153. Manual. 1999. 141 pp. Paperback. ISBN: 970-648-041-2. ($7.00,
$3.00) Gene Flow Among Maize landraces, Improved Maize Varieties, and
Teosinte: Implications for Transgenic Maize (PDF format) Serratos,
J.A., M.C. Willcox, and F. Castillo-González (eds.) Proceedings of a
forum jointly organized by the Mexican research and biosafety
agencies and CIMMYT in 1995, this publication compiles presentations
and discussions on the distribution of teosinte in Mexico, the
frequency and intensity of gene flow between maize and teosinte, the
flow of genes from improved maize to landraces, and regulation and
risk assessment for the testing and release of transgenic maize in
the center of origin for this crop and for teosinte.
The authors also hint to the difficulties demonstrating gene flow
properly, they also cite a statement by Smith and Goodman (1981)
which says: “Attempts to estimate levels of gene flow and the extent
of genetic erosion will have limitations, regardless of the character
used, since it is impossible to demarcate clearly the contributions
of ancestry, selection and gene flow.” Therefore, future data with
clear transgene and other markers will reveal with more clarity what
is going on since centuries, thats just about all.
And if you haven't had enough reading, go to the rich literature list
of maize diversity at:
Court Hands French Activist Jail Term for GM Strike
- Reuters, December 21, 2001
Bove, dubbed the French "Robin Hood", had been appealing a 10-month
suspended jail sentence he received for the raid at a first trial in
March. The Montpellier appeals court handed out an immediate jail
sentence instead. Bove was able to walk free from court, however,
because he elected to challenge the ruling in France's highest
appeals court, the Cour de Cassation.
Bove, best known for trashing a McDonald's restaurant in 1999, was
convicted for leading an assault on a publicly funded centre in the
southern city of Montpellier weeks earlier in June that year. "If the
judges think they are going to stop my struggle, our struggle, by
handing down ever tougher sentences, they are wrong," the
walrus-moustachioed sheep farmer said.
"I am not afraid of prison, I never have been," he added. Two of
Bove's fellow protesters, Rene Riesel and Dominique Soullie were
handed six months in jail and a six month suspended sentence
respectively. Bove's radical farmers' union Confederation Paysanne
and other groups have waged a campaign for years to destroy GM
fields. In September, they clashed with police in anti-riot gear who
stopped them from ransacking a site in the southwest. Confederation
Paysanne has accused the government of underestimating the
possibility of cross-pollination between natural crops and what Bove
called GM "seeds of death".
Bove has lashed out at "junk food" and the intensive farming
practices he says are a root cause of problems like mad cow disease.
He has also widened his cause to targets as varied as Jewish
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and the symbols of global
capitalism. He has been a star participant in anti-globalisation
demonstrations around the world. While GM crops are common in the
United States, France and other European countries remain highly
suspicious of using the new genetic technology in agriculture.
France grows experimental GM crops on around 100 sites, all of which
have been approved by the farm ministry. Supporters say the crops
will help develop hardier strains to help feed the world's poor.
Opponents say they could trigger an uncontrolled spread of modified
genes, harm insects and humans.
Verdict on Militant French Farmer Bove Delayed as Supporters Storm
- AP, December 20, 2001
MONTPELLIER, France (AP) _ A court decision about whether militant
French farmer Jose Bove will spend the holidays behind bars was
delayed on Thursday after nearly 100 of his supporters stormed a
courtroom in southern France, causing a judge to delay vje
The anti-globalization activist is waiting for an appeals court to
rule whether he should spend time in jail for his role in destroying
a field of genetically modified rice in southern France in 1999.
Judge Patrick Brossier delayed the verdict after about 100 members of
Peasant's Confederation, a group of some 40,000 French farmers led by
Bove, occupied the courtroom. Brossier had the room evacuated.
Bove and two others were convicted in March for destroying more than
1,000 rice plants in a greenhouse operated by Cirad, a research firm
near Montpellier, in southern France. Last month, Bove admitted that
he destroyed the crops in June 1999, but said he did so "because
farmers, the people, and politicians all oppose genetically modified
foods." A state prosecutor has requested an eight-month prison term
The mustachioed activist rose to prominence in the anti-globalization
movement two years ago after he led the ransacking of a McDonald's
rervaurant in the southern French city of Millau. In the March
ruling, a Montpellier court handed Bove a 10-month suspended sentence
and ordered him and two other defendants to pay a fine of 600,000
francs (dlrs 83,232) to the company. Fellow defendant Rene Riesel
received a 10-month suspended sentence, while defendant Dominique
Soullier was given an eight-month suspended sentence.
Farmers Turn To Biotechnology
- Karen L Lema, BusinessWorld, Dec 21, 2001
Millions of farmers worldwide are not dissuaded by the opposition
against biotechnology as they continue to increase their planting of
transgenic crops, commonly referred to as genetically modified
organisms (GMOs). A global survey by the International Service for
the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) showed an
increase in the number of farmers to 3.2 million in 2000 from two
million in 1999 who have adopted biotechnology.
Biotechnology is the application of scientific techniques in biology.
One of its tools is genetic engineering. Through genetic engineering,
it is now possible to develop, in a short span, hybrid plant species
that can grow bigger, better and faster. Plants can now have built-in
resistance against disease and harmful insects, dramatically increase
production and reduce the use of chemicals and pesticides. This is
done by inserting a gene known to control a particular trait (such as
resistance to a harmful virus) into the cells of a plant. This
beneficial trait will be "expressed" in the regenerated plant. The
results of the survey, Dr. Clive James, ISAAA chairman, said,
"reflects the fact that multiple benefits and significant benefits
are being delivered to farmers with biotechnology."
Since 1996, when the first commercial GM crops were grown, the global
GM crop area has increased to 25- fold, with particularly strong
growth in the developing nations of the south. Approximately 15
million hectares of GM crops have been planted cumulatively by
farmers in 15 countries in 1996-2000, Mr. James said in a recent
teleconference in Makati. In 2000 alone, worldwide commercial
plantings of GM crops reached 44.2 million hectares, 11% up from 39.9
million hectares in 1999. Eighty-four percent of the total GM crop
area recorded this year, Mr. James said, was in the south.
Among the benefits of biotechnology are:
* sustainable and resource-efficient crop management practices that
require less energy/fuel and conserve natural resources
* control of insect pests and weeds
* reduction in the overall amount of pesticides in crop production
* less dependency on conventional insecticides
* reduced levels of toxin and results in healthier food and feed
* greater operational flexibility in timing of herbicide and
insecticide applications; and,
* conservation of soil moisture, structure, nutrients and control of
soil erosion through no - or low- tillage practices a well as
improved quality of ground and surface water with less pesticide
These benefits, aside from resulting in higher crop productivity, can
also be translated to economic advantages. In 1999, China, for
example benefited $140 million from its Bt cotton. This is part of
the $700 million derived from planting transgenic crops recorded in
the same year. Southern Africa, Mr. James said, also experienced
gross economic margin advantages equal to $25/hectare and a 36%
reduction in pesticide costs compared with conventional varieties.
Apart from these developments, Mr. James noted an increasing
consensus among academes, scientists and government leaders
biotechnology's contribution to food security. A United National
Development Program publication in 2001, Mr. James said, "annotated
technology from the alleviation of poverty, identifying that
information technology and biotechnology as a very powerful tool that
will allow us to address the issue of poverty."
A similar report had been released by the Asian Development Bank that
encourages countries to put more investments on biotechnology, he
added. Mr. James said this is nowhere important than in Asia given
the recent forecast on the world's population, which is expected to
reach nine billion in 2050, majority of which is expected to reside
in Asia. "Asia's food needs in the future will be greater than any
other region in the world," he said.
Critics, however, contend GM crops may be harmful not only to humans
by causing allergic reactions, but also to the environment. Observers
say these crops may destroy the natural ecological balance by wiping
out even the beneficial insects. They may even cross-breed with
non-GM species and create new and totally unpredictable properties in
plants. Mr. James, for his part, said all tests must comply with
biosafety regulations, and ISAAA provides for capacity building in
certain countries where there are none. Several of these projects,
ISAAA noted, have catalyzed national efforts to form biosafety
committees and formulate safe, effective policies and procedures.
Europe Losing Faith In Science
- John Mason, Financial Times, Dec 21, 2001
Almost 400 years since Galileo clashed with the Vatican over the
movements of the earth and sun, many Europeans want to put less trust
in science and more in faith, a European Union poll has revealed.
Europeans have become increasingly sceptical about the contribution
science and technology make towards society, Eurobarometer, the
European Commission's polling organisation, has concluded.
A poll of 16,000 people throughout all 15 EU member states revealed
deeply mixed feelings towards the work of scientists. Most - 80.5 per
cent - think science will help cure diseases such as Aids and cancer.
However, 52 per cent now doubt scientists can help solve world
hunger. While most support better funding of scientific research,
they believe this should not be done by scientists working in
isolation, the report showed.
Eurobarometer concluded: "Yes, science and technology are crucial to
the functioning of society, but their contribution should not be
taken for granted. "Interaction with those outside the scientific
sphere is something which should be encouraged, along with a better
structural organisation of research."
According to the survey, more than 45 per cent of people think too
much reliance is placed on science and too little on faith. Only 36.6
per cent disagreed with this suggestion. Further evidence of public
uncertainty was the 61.3 per cent of people believing science and
technology change life too quickly. This is reflected in Europeans'
continued rejection of scientific claims that genetically modified
foods are safe to eat: 56.5 per cent think GM food is dangerous and
94.6 per cent want the right to choose whether to eat it.
However, scientists attracted less of the blame for Europe's BSE (mad
cow disease) crisis, which 78.3 per cent of people believe poses a
risk to mankind. Most Europeans (74.3 per cent) blame the agri-food
industry for the emergence of BSE. Next in the line of fire come
politicians (68.6 per cent), farmers (59.1 per cent) with scientists
bottom of the list on 50.6 per cent. Europe's youth is also being
turned off science at school, the report showed.
Ag Groups Push Biotech in Farm Bill
- GrainNet, Dec. 20, 2001
Ag industry groups have contacted the Senate to push Section 333 of
the Senate farm bill, which authorizes a biotechnology and
agricultural trade program.
Text of the letter follows:
December 18, 2001
The undersigned organizations and the AgBiotech Planning Committee
(ABPC) urge your strong support for Section 333 of the S. 1731: "The
Agriculture, Conservation and Rural Enhancement Act of 2001."
The Biotechnology and Agricultural Trade Program authorized by this
section is a necessary and critical tool to ensure the acceptance and
adoption of important agricultural biotechnologies in world markets.
The ABPC is a coalition representing farmers, merchandisers, food
manufacturers, and processors and technology providers that support
the continued availability and marketability of agriculture and food
As you know, prohibitions and trade barriers related to commodities
and food products produced through biotechnology have harmed U.S.
farmers and food companies over the past two years. The European
Union's moratorium on approval of new biotech varieties has resulted
in an estimated reduction of U.S. corn exports valued at more than
$200 million since 1998.
New traceability and labeling proposals for genetically modified food
and feed subject to approval in the European Union this year could
further erode exports to this important market. In Japan, our largest
US agricultural product export market, consumer and regulatory
reluctance to accept foods derived from biotechnology potentially
impacts U.S. exports. Many growing and developing markets, like
China, are also struggling to develop the capacity to include the new
technology in their food systems.
Evolving multilateral agreements like the Cartagena Protocol on
Biosafety to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and even Codex
Alimentarious have potential to broaden the source of trade
impediments related to biotechnology.
Section 333 of S. 1736 establishes a mechanism to direct the
Secretary of Agriculture to enhance foreign acceptance of
agricultural biotechnology through education and outreach to our
foreign customers and directs that the Secretary assist exporters of
U.S. commodities who are harmed by unwarranted and arbitrary barriers
to trade related to the sale of biotechnology products. Additionally,
the program will allow USDA to assist important emerging markets in
developing countries to rapidly and safely adopt these important
tools that will help feed and sustain millions of the world's poorest
We are very supportive of this measure and urge that it be retained
in the final version of the Senate passed Farm Bill.
American Crop Protection Association American Soybean Association
Biotechnology Industry Organization Corn Refiners Association, Inc.
Grocery Manufacturers of America National Association of Wheat
Growers National Corn Growers Association National Cotton Council
National Food Processors Association National Grain and Feed
Association National Oilseed Processors Association North American
Millers Association North American Export Grain Association Wheat
Export Trade Education Committee.
Book Review: Dinner at the New Gene Cafe
How Genetic Engineering Is Changing What We Eat, How We Live, and the
Global Politics of Food by Bill Lambrecht St. Martin's Press, 2001 -
Reviewed by Ed Voves, HMS Beagle December 21, 2001 · Issue 117
Ever since Adam and Eve first sampled fruit from the tree of
knowledge of good and evil, human beings have been experiencing some
type of aftertaste. Bill Lambrecht's Dinner at the New Gene Cafe
chronicles a recent manifestation of this aftereffect in the field of
biotechnology. Its subject is the quest for knowledge that would help
vanquish world hunger and at the same time make a profit by
developing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Unfortunately,
what should have been a saga of scientific prowess became instead a
cautionary tale of corporate arrogance and public fear.
The author, a Washington-based correspondent for the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch , began covering the GMO story in the 1980s, his
interest having been stimulated by the pioneering experiments of the
St. Louis-based chemical giant Monsanto . Lambrecht quickly became
aware of the problems, as well as the potential, of genetically
engineered food. His first story on biotechnology in 1986 profiled
U.S. government experiments with pigs whose DNA had been manipulated
to produce leaner meat. Some of the pigs' offspring were born with
birth defects, while others failed to develop normally.
The following year, events in the private sector offered greater
promise of success. Two firms, Advanced Genetic Sciences and
Monsanto, conducted successful agricultural experiments. Monsanto's
outdoor test of genetically engineered tomatoes represented a
particularly impressive advance. Monsanto held patents on genetically
The company's stake in the GMO field, observes Lambrecht, went beyond
humanitarian concern to feed the hungry. Monsanto marketed a hugely
successful pesticide called Roundup. By creating seed varieties
impervious to Roundup, Monsanto could offer farmers the means to
control weeds while reducing the risk to their crops by planting the
pesticide-resistant seeds dubbed Roundup Ready. And Monsanto would
hold the patent rights on the genetically engineered seeds, giving it
During the 1990s the biotech industry made impressive strides in both
research and development of GMOs. Monsanto scientists created
genetically engineered corn and soybeans intended for livestock feed.
Swiss scientist Ingo Potrykus made a comparable breakthrough,
developing "golden rice," a genetically engineered variety rich in
beta carotene, a nutrient desperately needed by children suffering
from vitamin A deficiency. By 1999, nearly 100 million acres around
the world were planted with genetically modified crops, with the
United States leading by a wide margin.
Then things began to go sour. Monsanto found itself reviled as
"Mutanto" or "Monsatan." Genetically engineered crops were derided as
"Frankenfood" in Europe, the epicenter of resistance to
biotechnology, and doubts began to surface in the United States and
in developing nations.
What went wrong? Lambrecht astutely recognizes a complex set of
factors. Monsanto's advertising campaign, which was directed toward
farmers rather than consumers, certainly deserves a share of the
blame. Human error in handling genetically engineered crops generated
further controversy, particularly the incident in 2000 when StarLink
corn, which was supposed to be restricted to animal feed, was
mistakenly mixed with corn used in making taco shells.
But two other factors, unrelated to corporate strategy or scientific
safeguards, significantly affected the debate on biotechnology. As
Lambrecht shows, by the late 1980s popular opinion on the ethics of
scientific research was being adversely influenced by decades of
technological abuse and dissembling of its consequences. The
cumulative effect of the Bhopal and Chernobyl disasters, "mad cow"
disease in Britain, and Monsanto's damaged reputation stemming from
its production of the controversial Agent Orange defoliant during the
Vietnam War set the stage for worldwide resistance to GMOs.
Despite the fact that no harm to humans has yet been traced to
genetically engineered food, biotech companies like Monsanto are at a
disadvantage in the public relations wars. Interestingly, the
greatest weapon they face appears to be the Internet. Lambrecht notes
perceptively that before 1998 the U.S. Department of Agriculture had
never received more than 8,000 public responses on a given policy
issue. But that year the department was inundated by 275,000
responses, an overwhelming number of them opposed to a proposal to
confer consumer-friendly organic status on genetically engineered
food. The vast majority of these communications were email messages.
The Internet has rewritten the rules of engagement between biotech
companies and environmental activist groups such as Greenpeace and GE
Food Alert . But the newest communication technology may not benefit
both parties equally. The author is skeptical of attempts by biotech
companies to utilize the Internet to their advantage. "I can't see
how the companies' elaborate sites move people who haven't made up
their minds," Lambrecht writes. "Nor, because they sermonize to the
choir, do I view them as an effective organizing tool."
Lambrecht's insights into corporate policy are based on many years of
reporting the GMO story. He has built a vast store of information and
an amazing network of contacts, which help give readers a sense of
insider knowledge. The vivid descriptions of protests in England, the
anti-World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, and tense
negotiations over rules governing GMOs infuse his narrative with a
similar "on the scene" realism.
The author gives both sides a forum.
The most valuable feature of Dinner at the New Gene Cafe is
Lambrecht's interviews with both proponents and opponents of GMOs and
the generous amount of space he gives them to articulate their
conflicting views. The worldwide list of his protagonists ranges from
biotechnology pioneers such as Ernest Jaworski to "the first
international rock star of the environmental movement" and a strident
critic of "bio-imperialism" by Western corporations like Monsanto,
Lamrecht's book, however, is not without defects. While it reads like
a fast-paced newspaper series, New Gene Cafe lacks the charts,
diagrams, timelines, and sidebars that normally accompany such
investigative efforts. These supplementary features help keep
wide-ranging reportage in focus. Lambrecht's book would have
benefited greatly by their inclusion, especially since he does not
provide a final summation of the many insights scattered throughout
Dinner at the New Gene Cafe is a very good book that could have been
an even better one. To be fair, the final chapter in the impassioned
debate over genetically engineered food is a long way from being
written, and Bill Lambrecht may well need to serve a second or third
course before it's done.
Ed Voves is a news researcher for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.,
publishers of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. For the past
12 years, he has written book reviews, author interviews, and other
news articles for both papers.
Excerpt "Genetic engineers insist that their manipulations in the
waning years of the twentieth century merely extend the age-old
tradition of painstaking improvement in the traits of food. Here is
the crux of the debate. By moving genetic material between organisms
and species, are scientists merely hastening the evolution of our
vegetables and fruits, our fibers and oily seeds? Or are they
redirecting evolution in ways whose outcomes are, at the least,
unpredictable, and perhaps, problematic?"
An Educational CD-ROM on Genetics
Email Requests for CD:
The Roche Genetics Education Program is an interactive CD-ROM
developed to promote basic awareness of genetics in the general
public, and offer an interactive tool to learn basic principles of
genetics. The CD-ROM is targeted to a broad audience with an interest
in human genetics and its applications in drug discovery and
The program includes the following topics: Introduction to Genetics;
Finding Genes Associated with Diseases; Pharmacogenetics; Ethical,
Legal and Social Issues
If you want to order the Roche Genetics CD-ROM, send an email at
(From CSP: Make sure you get this CD; It is good for teaching and
has splendid graphics to keep your students' attention. The current
issue of Nature journal (Dec 13, 2001) carries this CD-ROM as an
Recent Publications from the International Food Policy Research
1. Population and food security in the 21st century
2. The status of agricultural economics in Africa
3. Strategies to reduce vitamin A and iron deficiencies
1. SIX BILLION AND COUNTING: Population Growth and Food Security in the
Century By Klaus M. Leisinger, Karin Schmitt, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch.
Forthcoming in January 2002. Distributed for IFPRI by the Johns
Hopkins University Press (155 pages)
Examines the consequences of continuing population growth for the
world's resource systems and for national and global food security.
ORDER soon http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/jhu/sixbillion.htm
2. STATUS OF AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS IN SELECTED COUNTRIES IN EASTERN
AND SOUTHERN AFRICA (2020 Vision document) (154 pages): Discusses the
consequences for regional development of the widening demand and
supply of agricultural economists and proposes solutions to the
problem. DOWNLOAD or ORDER
3. CAN FOOD-BASED STRATEGIES HELP REDUCE VITAMIN A AND IRON
DEFICIENCIES? A REVIEW OF RECENT EVIDENCE By Marie T. Ruel, Food
Policy Review 5 (54 pages)
Almost one-third of the children in developing countries are affected
to some degree by vitamin A and iron deficiencies. Food-based
approaches are an essential part of the long-term global strategy to
alleviate micronutrient deficiencies. DOWNLOAD or ORDER
To Dr. Bjorn Lomborg....
From: Alex Avery
Re: Attacks on you and your book
Dr. Lomborg, I met you briefly in Washington DC this fall when you
presented in the U.S. Capitol. I gave you a copy of our book "Saving
the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic" written by my father and
co-worker, Dennis Avery.
After having read several recent reviews of your book, and the
page-proofs of the upcoming Scientific American reviews, I just
wanted to write you to encourage you personally to keep meeting these
shallow, non-scientific character assassinations with the same well
documented, reasonable responses you've published via your website.
There is simply no better way to confront these attacks than with
honesty, integrity, reason and facts. Your book has rocked their
fragile, political world like none in recent years, and it's clear
that they cannot afford to have their doom-and-gloom house of cards
toppled by reality ($$$$, power, control, etc.)
What is so distressing to me is the lengths that seemingly honest,
legitimate journals have gone to in attempting to discredit you. I'm
not at all surprised at Scientific American--the only reason I
subscribe is to keep up with the latest scientific clap-trap they are
peddling. But the horrible review in Nature and shallow review in
Science are particularly distressing to me (my training is in plant
physiology, so scientific integrity is important to me)
I warn you that the environmental activists and their academic allies
will not stop until you and your reputation are completely destroyed.
The intensity of the attacks on you make it clear their intentions.
Be aware that the only success they care about at this point is the
media success (ie. popular press--they really couldn't care less if
you are vindicated in the scientific or policy arena). As long as
they have the public's opinion, they win. These reviews in scientific
journals will give them ammo to intensify and justify their attacks
on you. You must continue to document why their critiques are wrong
or misleading in ways available to the public such as your website.
Your book mirrors much of the work my father and I have conducted for
the past decade--especially the debunking of Lester Brown and Paul
Erhlich and such. (Lester Brown long ago refused to ever debate my
father again, after getting thoroughly defeated by the facts in a
You did a superb job with these critiques and I admire your work,
energy, and courage in confronting the environmental leviathan. Keep
it up because the success of humanity in conserving biodiversity, a
healthy environment and improving the lot of humanity depend on the
type of solid analysis and immunity to polemics that you so admirably
Hang in there and don't back down.
Alex Avery, Dir Research, Hudson Inst, Ctr for Global Food Issues;
Re: Lomborg Calls for Help
Maybe we should all threaten to council our subscriptions until
Scientific American decides whether it is promoting science or
religion. For one thing "Science" does not defend itself. Scientists
do and scientists have diverse opinions. We are used to the idea that
Marxism defends itself or the the Creationism defends itself but
"science" defending itself is a contradiction in terms.
These critics and reviewers no more represent "Science" than I do. In
fact, in making this claim they indicate that they do not belong
within the scientific tradition.
>Subject: Critique of Lomborg in Scientific American
>For one reason or another I have e-mailed with you on my book the
>Skeptical Environmentalist. It has taken quite a beating in some
>media, though the critique seems rather non-scientifically motivated
Green No More: The Education of an Environmentalist
- Charles T.Rubin, The Weekly Standard, Vol. 7, No. 15; Pg. 33.
(Forwarded by Michael Fumento )
In 1997, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish professor of statistics and a
self-professed "old left-wing Greenpeace member," came across a book
by Julian Simon, one of the great critics of contemporary
Lomborg set up a study group with ten of his "sharpest students" to
refute Simon. But it turned out "a surprisingly large" number of
Simon's points "stood up to scrutiny." Lomborg became convinced that
"the Litany" -- the cliched collection of beliefs that the world is
subject to ever increasing environmental degradation and poised on
the brink of destruction -- has it wrong. Most global trends are
improving and can be expected to continue improving as the world
grows wealthier. Fears of environmental disaster are exaggerated and
have little scientific basis. While there is no reason to think the
world is already good enough, there is every reason to expect human
ingenuity will continue the improving trend. So Lomborg sat down and
produced The Skeptical Environmentalist, a critical examination of
many of the key issues of contemporary environmentalism, which he
hopes will "lead to an appreciable change in attitude about
environmental problems." If we "forget our fear of imminent
breakdown," we may be able to achieve a "reasonable prioritization"
of the measures necessary to improve the well-being of man and nature.
Lomborg deserves the impact for which he hopes, but if past
experience is any indication, he won't obtain it. You can catch a
hint of that in the publicity which has swirled around The Skeptical
Environmentalist so far -- all of it less concerned with the message
than with the messenger's betrayal of his old environmentalist faith.
In eighteen careful chapters, Lomborg covers most of the issues
environmentalists use to foment panic. Food production is increasing,
and a smaller percentage of the globe faces starvation than ever
before. Life expectancy is growing in most of the world. More people
are prosperous and secure. Water and air pollution trends are
improving; indeed, urban air in the developed nations may be cleaner
now than it has been in centuries. Our fears of chemicals are greatly
exaggerated. In short, we are in a period of "unprecedented human
But isn't this prosperity built on an orgy of consumption that
sacrifices future generations? Aren't we successful only by
undercutting the integrity of nature itself? Lomborg excels in
dissecting such examples of the environmentalists' Litany. He
demonstrates that statements like "The world is losing 109 species a
day" have no basis in empirical research; indeed, the scientists most
likely to put forward such claims have the least interest in doing
the necessary research. Similarly, in three and a half well-crafted
pages, he demolishes the idea that we are running out of room for
landfill and points out the link between rising prosperity and
improved air quality. Whether he is hunting down the source of claims
that provoke environmental alarm or providing the context that was
left out in order to heighten fears and grab headlines, Lomborg shows
how to evaluate claims about environmental degradation and danger.
The Skeptical Environmentalist is particularly good at
recontextualizing environmental problems -- the main focus of its
introductory and concluding chapters. Lomborg skillfully uncovers the
source of the bias towards bad environmental news in the scientific
community, environmental interest groups, and the media. Drawing
valuable lessons about tradeoffs and priorities, he makes clear why
environmental goods cannot be treated as uniquely privileged -- and
he suggests how pernicious it is that over half of America's voters
think we cannot do too much to protect the environment. "The
expressed dislike of prioritization does not mean that we will not
end up prioritizing, only that our choices will be worse."
Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist has so many virtues (to say
nothing of its 2,930 endnotes), it seems unfair to predict that the
book will not succeed at creating the "appreciable change in attitude
about environmental problems" its author desires. But think for a
moment about the fate of Julian Simon -- and the parallel fates of
Judd Alexander, William Baarschers, John Baden, Ronald Bailey, Robert
Balling Jr., Joe Bast, Ben Bloch, Karen Bolander, Alston Chase,
George Claus, Leonard Cole, Edith Efron, Gregg Easterbrook, Alan
Fitzsimmons, Bernard Frieden, Michael Fumento, Jay Lehr, Marc Landy,
Bernard Lewis, Harold Lyons, William Rathje, Dixy Lee Ray, Marc
Roberts, Michael Sanera, Jane Shaw, Fred Singer, Stephen Thomas,
Elizabeth Whelan, Aaron Wildavsky, and others.
At various times over the past four decades, each of these writers
has produced works that attempt to show the shortcomings of
contemporary environmentalism. They have not all been as
comprehensive as Lomborg's, but taken as a whole they have covered
much the same territory. Other than providing valuable updates, The
Skeptical Environmentalist breaks little new ground in environmental
Lomborg's work is no less necessary for being the latest in a string
of such works. Still, that leaves the question of environmentalism's
extraordinary persistence. Why don't the facts seem to count for much
in environmental matters?
The answer needs to go beyond Lomborg's analysis of the Litany. The
state of the world as Lomborg sees it depends on a powerful sense of
progress -- a justified sense, but one that must remain, in all
honesty, uncertain. Past results do not guarantee future performance,
as advertisements for investment funds always note, and it is always
difficult to see clearly the fragile components of the foundations
upon which one lives. Environmentalists exploit this uncertainty,
promising in its place complete certainty if only we remake the world
as they desire. Lomborg believes things will get better, which seems
rather likely. Environmentalists believe things can be made the best,
which seems extremely unlikely. You'd think the possibility of
Lomborg's vision would easily vanquish the impossibility of the
environmentalists' -- but the magic of claiming "the best" always
trumps the dullness of claiming "the better."
Similarly, Lomborg sees present problems as opportunities for human
ingenuity as capable of achieving increasing security for increasing
numbers of people, while environmentalists turn them into apocalyptic
presentiments. Here again, Lomborg has only common sense on his side.
The environmentalists have the universal human imagination of the end
of the world: If things appear to be going well, they are only going
well so far, and this or that environmental indicator is a bellwether
of future disaster.
As we accumulate experience of disasters not happening, this kind of
argument ought to lose its power. But the persistent ability of
environmentalists to conjure up the world's end is based on shifting
the burden of proof. Somehow, critics of environmentalism have been
put in a position of having to prove definitively that something will
never happen. This maneuver represents a tremendous rhetorical
triumph. When critics are forced -- as they must be -- to admit that
proving a negative is impossible, they seem to concede that there is
something genuine about the environmental fears.
The real issue in dispute, as Lomborg recognizes in his discussion of
global climate change, is what we want the future to look like.
Lomborg does not develop this insight into the essentially political
nature of the environmentalist program as much as he could have.
Reasonable people may disagree about whether the environmental vision
stems from "secularized" religious belief, from self-interested
behavior within liberal democratic institutions, or from a utopian
mindset. But there is little question environmentalism is driven
primarily by a vision of the way the world ought to be -- a vision
that puts the environment above liberty, self-government, human
diversity, and material well-being.
Science is a weapon in advancing this vision, but its use among
devoted environmentalists is purely tactical. In The Skeptical
Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, like his many predecessors, has
performed a valuable service in attempting to block the misuse of
science for political ends. But until more people understand that the
world promised by contemporary environmentalism is not a world in
which they would want to live, there will be little change in our
arguments about the environment.
A professor of politics at Duquesne University, Charles T. Rubin is
the author of The Green Crusade: Rethinking the Roots of
Environmentalism . (The Skeptical Environmentalist, Measuring the
Real State of the World, by Bjorn Lomborg, Cambridge University
Press, 540 pp., $ 69.95)