Today in AgBioView:
* Former Greenpeace chief joins Monsanto's PR firm
* Ex-Greenpeace chief `joins Monsanto firm'
* Anti-GM warrior Melchett joins PR firm that advised Monsanto
* Unhappy Meals: Questions for Jose Bove
* PART III: Seeds of discord -- The battle over golden rice
* Textile units want early clearance to Bt cotton
* Chinese ruling ends chaos over modified soybean
* USDA, soybean groups study new China GMO rules
* Bugs dress salad: harmful bugs may lurk within leaves
* An end of a innocence
* Agriculture leads the way in biotechnology revolution
Former Greenpeace chief joins Monsanto's PR firm
January 08, 2002
By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent
LORD MELCHETT, the former head of Greenpeace, who led its campaign against genetically modified crops, has accepted a salaried job with a public relations firm whose clients include Monsanto, the GM giant.
The leading environmentalist, who stood down as executive director of the campaigning charity last year, starts work next week as a consultant with Burson-Marsteller, which has represented some of the world's most notorious polluters, including the Exxon Corporation, Union Carbide, and the US company Babcock and Wilcox.
Lord Melchett will head a committee advising companies on how to deal with controversial issues such as GM food, toxic waste and child labour in the developing world. The company said he may also give them advice on how to cope with environmental protests. His acceptance of the contract has caused unease among his former colleagues at Greenpeace, even though the Eton-educated peer, who was once arrested for destroying a field of GM crops, asked the permission of the organisation's new head before accepting the job. Stephen Tindale, who took over from Lord Melchett as Greenpeace's executive director, said he was certain that Lord Melchett would not compromise his ideals.
The American-owned PR firm represented Union Carbide, the US company which in 1984 leaked more than 40 tonnes of toxic gas in Bhopal, India, killing 2,000 people and injuring hundreds of thousands.
It also advised Babcock and Wilcox after the company's nuclear reactor failed at Three Mile Island in 1979, the United States' worst nuclear accident.
Lord Melchett said he would be prepared to engage with his old adversary Monsanto, but he insisted: I am not going to change my stance. GM food is a technology that has no future. The environmental villains are the people we want to change or stop.
Burson-Marsteller's is one of the world's leading PR companies. Its website boasts of its unrivalled track record of helping corporate management handle major crises, including protests from campaigning groups such as Greenpeace.
Ex-Greenpeace chief `joins Monsanto firm'
The Daily Telegraph
January 08, 2002
By Andrew Hibberd
LORD MELCHETT, the former head of Greenpeace UK who led its campaign against genetically modified crops, has joined the payroll of a public relations company that worked for Monsanto, the firm behind the trials, it was reported last night.
The former Labour minister, who is still a member of Greenpeace International, is said to have become a consultant to Burson-Marsteller, one of the world's biggest communications companies.
His appointment, for an undisclosed annual retainer, has provoked scorn among Greenpeace campaigners, who regard him as a turncoat. Burson-Marsteller was employed to shed a favourable light on the Argentine junta despite the disappearance of 35,000 civilians.
Another job was to work on the image of the Indonesian government after the East Timor massacres. The late Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was another client.
Lord Melchett was said to have denied that he had changed sides or that his environmental values would suffer. He said he would continue to speak out against companies with unsound environmental records.
Burson-Marsteller could not confirm the appointment.
Anti-GM warrior Melchett joins PR firm that advised Monsanto
The Guardian (London)
By John Vidal
January 8, 2002
Lord Melchett, the former head of Greenpeace UK who was arrested two years ago after leading an attack on a genetically modified crop, startled former colleagues yesterday by announcing he had taken a job at a PR company which has represented Monsanto and the European biotech industry.
In a move that has provoked scorn from anti-GM activists, the former Labour minister and farmer, who is on the board of Greenpeace International, is to become a consultant for Burson-Marsteller, the world's largest corporate communications company. He will be paid an undisclosed annual retainer and has a brief to talk to whoever he likes.
Burson-Marsteller is the company that governments with poor human rights records and corporations in trouble with environmentalists have turned to when in crisis. The world's biggest PR company was employed by the Nigerian government to discredit reports of genocide during the Biafran war, the Argentinian junta after the disappearance of 35,000 civilians, and the Indonesian government after the massacres in East Timor. It also worked to improve the image of the late Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and the Saudi royal family.
Its corporate clients have included the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, which suffered a partial meltdown in 1979, Union Carbide after the Bhopal gas leak killed up to 15,000 people in India, BP after the sinking of the Torrey Canyon oil tanker in 1967 and the British government after BSE emerged.
In the past few years it has acted for big tobacco companies and the European biotechnology industry to challenge the green lobby and counter Greenpeace arguments on GM food.
Yesterday Lord Melchett said he would be an adviser in Burson-Marsteller's corporate social responsibility unit, and would work only with the companies he chose to.
“I will be more selective than when I worked at Greenpeace,” he said.
“My values have not changed at all and if I think a company should close down I shall tell them. I shall tell them the truth.”
Stephen Tisdale, the director of Greenpeace UK, said he did not foresee any conflict of interest. “Anyone who knows Peter will know that he hasn't changed his agenda at all,” he said. “He sees Burson-Marsteller as a conduit to some very influential companies who would not normally talk to environmentalists. In some ways Greenpeace held him back, and he has become more radical after leaving last year.”
An internal document from Greenpeace to its staff suggested that Lord Melchett would not have to compromise his beliefs: “Peters advice to companies will be 'go organic, do the right thing, rather than help bad companies avoid the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
“Peter will only take on the briefs that he chooses, there is no question of him working for BAT (British American Tobacco) or the Burmese junta.”
But others said he was effectively now on Monsanto's and other corporations' payrolls. “How can you have a man who is on the board of Greenpeace International and a policy adviser to the Soil Association taking money from the GM industry and companies with some of the worst records imaginable?” said Kate Jones, a former anti-GM campaigner.
Other well known environmentalists who have left high-profile campaigning to work for people who might be considered their opponents include Tom Burke, a former Friends of the Earth director now with the mining company Rio Tinto, and Jonathon Porritt, another former head of Friends of the Earth who now works for the government. They say they can effect change better from within the corporate fold, but have been widely criticised and accused of selling out.
Lord Melchett, whose grandfather helped to found ICI, joins at Burson-Marsteller Richard Aylard, a former head of the Soil Association, and Gavin Grant, a former head of communications for the Body Shop.
QUESTIONS FOR JOSÉ BOVÉ
By EMILY EAKIN
January 6, 2002
Your activism -- against a local McDonald's, most famously -- has made you a national hero in France. But it has also gotten you in trouble. Last month you were sentenced to six months in jail for helping to destroy genetically modified rice plants. What are you trying to accomplish?
Bove: Listen, the best answer I can give you is that when the future of the human race is in jeopardy due to bad decisions -- like the decision to develop genetically modified plants -- and when debate doesn't solve the problem, you're obliged to disobey the law. The example I follow is that of Henry David Thoreau, one of the first to apply the principle of civil disobedience.
In your new book, ''The World Is Not for Sale: Farmers Against Junk Food,'' you call genetic modification a ''technique of tyranny.'' What do you mean by that?
Bove: The moment you have G.M. seeds in a field, the other fields around it are inevitably going to be contaminated. You can't grow conventional corn next to the genetically modified stuff. The same with soybeans. This imposes on all farmers a single kind of agriculture that is contrary to the natural biodiversity. So the technique itself is totalitarian.
The press has portrayed your attack on McDonald's as a kind of anti-Americanism. But you dispute that claim.
Bove: Of course. The same thing that is happening in the United States is happening in France and everywhere else: big conglomerates are trying to standardize food production and consumption to their exclusive advantage. It's not at all a question of the company's national origins.
Perhaps Americans just get defensive, because the French always seem to think their culture is so, well, superior.
Bove: That's one of the problems with the United States. Criticism directed at a particular issue is automatically taken as a global criticism of the United States and its population. There's this impulse to justify and defend everything without realizing that it's through debate that people begin to understand each other.
Do you ever eat fast food yourself? Have you ever had a Big Mac?
Bove: No. It's not the kind of food I like.
How do you know it's so bad if you've never had it?
Bove: I know how the hamburgers are made. I know where the meat comes from. I know what kind of vegetables are used and how they're cultivated. I know how everything is formatted and industrialized. This kind of food has absolutely no relation to what I consider food to be. Food is something that's different every time, that varies from place to place.
So you avoid fast food not on political principle but because you don't like the way it tastes?
Bove: It's everything: the desire of these multinationals to impose this kind of food on the entire planet, their social organization in which employees are treated like pawns, their way of destroying local agriculture. Taste is one reason but not the only one.
How do you explain the fact that millions of people all over the world seem to love the stuff?
Bove: The paradox is that in the United States, more and more people are trying other options. In some countries where fast food is taking off, I think there's a sense of buying into the American dream. People don't realize that in the United States, fast food is nobody's dream anymore.
Don't you have a weakness for any kind of junk food? I eat quite well, but I do have a weakness for French fries.
Bove: French fries are not necessarily bad for you. It depends on the kind of potatoes you use.
What do you do when you're stuck for hours in an airport?
Bove: Even in airports, there are places where you can eat more or less properly.
McDonald's just announced it has bought the rights to use the French cartoon figure Asterix in ads in France. You've often been compared to Asterix, a symbol of Gallic independence who also happens to have a handlebar moustache. Did you take McDonald's action personally?
Bove: Well, I don't think it's an accident that they did this.
Any truth to the rumors that you were planning to run for president?
Bove: No. Those were false rumors put out by people who thought I could present an alternative. But I'd rather devote my energy to developing political opposition than to trying to unite the votes of the disaffected.
Before we go, one last question: It's lunch time in France. What are you going to eat?
PART III: Seeds of discord -- The battle over golden rice
BY KITTA MacPHERSON
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- To Andrew Kimbrell, golden rice is a poison and a prison sentence rolled into one.
For Linda Thrane, the yellow grain is more like manna from heaven, capable of saving a generation of poor children -- and the biotechnology industry that employs her.
Kimbrell is a politically active attorney who heads the International Center for Technology Assessment, a nonprofit advocacy organization seeking to limit the growth of destructive technologies. He sees today's genetic revolution in crops -- symbolized by golden rice, the experimental grain that promises extra vitamin A -- as another step toward a troubling future in which corporations control all aspects of life.
Those who own the rights to the world's genetic resources will wield decisive power over the world economy in the coming decades, he fears. As he sees it, this drive to engineer life forms represents an extraordinary threat to the Earth's fragile ecosystems.
Thrane, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information, is equally convinced of the power of agricultural technology. Genetically engineered crops will save the world from massive food shortages in the future, she argues. Since many of these products will require less in the way of pesticides, they will be more environmentally sustainable than present varieties.
If there is a speakers' corner for the argument over golden rice, it is America's capital city. Washington is where the forces of agricultural commerce are confronted daily by environmentalists and opponents of big, multinational companies. It's a bumper crop of rhetoric continually harvested by the legions of lobbyists, activists and nongovernmental organizations based here.
To those fighting "globalization," golden rice is the wedge that could allow a handful of companies to own ultimate rights to the world's food supply. They want to prevent the critical next step -- blending the prototype grain with regular strains of rice to see if the hybrid will survive in the real world.
To companies engaged in the business of genetically engineering crops, golden rice is the best news to come along in a while for an industrial technology battered by stories of tainted tacos and poisoned butterflies.
Andrew Kimbrell remembers reading about golden rice in the summer of 1999, when its inventors presented it at a scientific conference in St. Louis. As soon as he heard about the new grain, he knew it was going to be trouble. He would come to call it "fool's gold."
>From an airy third-story office in the Capitol District, Kimbrell wages his campaign against genetic engineering and the patenting of life forms. The bizarre logic of international trade agreements, he says, has transformed the stuff of life into intellectual property.
"We've entered a new industrial age where biotech companies are prospecting for the new gold -- living material like seeds, plants and human genes," he declares. "I'd like to see something good come out of this gold rush -- a new corporate ethic where companies work with local communities to see what the best way is for everyone to benefit from what is often valuable native resources."
Anti-globalization organizations such as Kimbrell's have joined with environmental groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to wage an Internet-based international campaign against golden rice.
Kimbrell's main contact in Asia, an enigmatic physicist-environmentalist named Vandana Shiva, has nearly single-handedly held off the advent of genetically engineered crops in India for years. Her rousing speeches have driven Indian protesters to burn crops, and she writes scathing Internet essays that receive wide circulation through the network of nongovernmental organizations.
"The seed, for the farmer, is not merely the source of future plants and food; it is the storage place of culture and history," she wrote in her recent book, "Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply."
In the United States, Kimbrell's organization has led legal challenges to the rights of corporations to patent life forms, especially plants.
The group has accused biotech companies of forming an international cartel that fixes prices for biotech seeds. It has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration for compulsory labeling and safety testing of genetically engineered foods and sought to block the ocean release of a genetically engineered salmon that grows three times faster than normal.
The group, funded by private donations, has defended farmers accused by agricultural technology giants such as Monsanto of stealing their patented seeds and planting them. The farmers named in these suits have insisted that genetically engineered seeds wafted over their fields from neighboring farms and took root, unbeknownst to them. They call it "genetic drift."
The arguments against golden rice made by Kimbrell and his colleagues boil down to these: The rice does not have enough vitamin A to significantly address world health problems, and its "magic bullet" approach is simplistic. They also take strong exception to what they view as an unholy alliance between developers of the rice and the big corporations that hold the patents.
The patent on golden rice was assigned exclusively by its inventors, Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, to Syngenta, the world's leading agribusiness. The company says it will make golden rice available free for humanitarian uses in any developing nation, subject to further research and local regulations.
Kimbrell contends that the inventors of golden rice surrendered a decade of publicly funded research to commercial control and -- worse -- strengthened the developed world's hammerlock on valuable patents.
Golden rice is an industry come-on, Kimbrell argues. It will tempt poor farmers into unknowingly accepting a new system under which they pay for seeds, rather than keeping their own, thus rendering themselves dependent on the seed suppliers. When Monsanto finishes suing U.S. farmers, he maintains, the company will have a legion of new genetic drift victims to harass worldwide.
SERVING THE SHAREHOLDERS
Virtually all genetically engineered seeds are subject to patent protection, which restricts the number of suppliers to a handful of multinational corporations. Between 1995 and 1998, approximately 68 seed companies were acquired by, or entered into joint ventures with, large multinational biotechnology corporations such as Monsanto, Aventis, Dow, Syngenta and DuPont.
Ultimately, the interests of these companies rest in returns provided to their shareholders and not in feeding the world, Kimbrell says.
While the inventors of golden rice say they have arranged to have the seeds distributed for free in the developing world to anyone making less than $10,000 a year, Kimbrell is skeptical.
Syngenta may own the patent rights, Kimbrell argues, but who will actually be giving out the seeds? Won't they be charging something? Also, if the rice is accepted, will it pave the way for other varieties -- those that will not be given away?
"We're 10 years into this novel where we've been hearing about the golden age of genetically engineered foods, and we still don't have anything real to help the consumer," said Kimbrell, a child prodigy pianist who, enlivened by anti- war protests in college, became a public interest lawyer.
High in an office tower a few blocks from Kimbrell's operations, Linda Thrane runs a $250 million information campaign to promote genetically engineered food. For Thrane, golden rice represents the best of what genetic engineering has to offer.
Beginning in April 2000, an industry-sponsored campaign has made golden rice its poster child for the wonders of biotech food. Print and television ads feature a beautiful and seemingly well-nourished Asian child eating from a rice bowl as a beaming mother looks on.
"When mothers and their children eat an adequate amount of vitamin A in a daily meal, it could help alleviate more suffering and illness than any single medicine has done," the ad reads.
The ad goes on to explain how golden rice could alleviate a global vitamin A deficiency that now causes blindness and infection in millions of the world's children.
Anti-biotech groups have lambasted the ads for presenting an experimental product as a finished one. The inventors of golden rice, Potrykus and Beyer, also scoff, saying they were not consulted about the ad copy and were in no way involved. Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, has criticized the campaign as "going too far."
When Norman Borlaug, the Nobel-winning father of the Green Revolution, complains that golden rice has been overly "hyped," he is speaking mostly of the ad campaign.
Thrane defends the effort, which she has directed. "This is a powerful technology, one with the potential to do a lot of good," she said. "We want to inform people so that they can make their own choices."
The reputation of genetically engineered crops has suffered from adverse publicity, she counters.
Reports late last year that the U.S. food supply had become contaminated with "Starlink," a genetically engineered corn used in animal feed, raised questions in consumers' minds about whether companies had adequate controls over the technology, Thrane says. Fears also stemmed from even earlier lab studies suggesting that monarch butterflies might die from pollen drifting from genetically engineered corn, though those effects have not been repeated in larger studies.
"I believe that ignorance is the enemy on this issue," says Thrane, a former executive at Cargill, the giant food concern. "The more people learn about it, the more they are in support of it."
Thrane says she wonders what environmental concerns anti-biotech activists could have with golden rice. No one has come up with an example of an insect or plant that could be harmed or dangerously transformed by the technology, she points out. As for the safety of eating golden rice, she says, those tests will have to be conducted before it is distributed.
The world will need nearly three times as much farm output by 2050 to provide high-quality diets for a peak population of 9 billion people, she says. Much of the world's land that can be used for farming is in use, and higher-yielding farm technology is the only answer, Thrane argues.
Thrane's vision of the future is a simple one -- happy farmers smile at their healthy children and watch their fields of genetically engineered golden rice sprout, yielding their slow magic.
For Kimbrell, that dream is a nightmare, with everyone in it a vassal of a vast corporate empire. He imagines a different day, one in which independent farmers employ traditional sustainable methods with minimal harm to the environment.
"That sounds nice," Thrane said. "But you can't feed the world that way."
Tomorrow: A future at stake
Textile units want early clearance to Bt cotton
Hindu Business Line
January 08, 2002
By G. Gurumurthy
COIMBATORE, Jan. 7. THE cotton textile industry wants the Government to end the controversy on genetically modified (GM) cotton and take steps for early clearance to commercial cultivation of the Bt cotton in the interest of the domestic industry.
The fluctuating trend of the local cotton crop size and its high degree of susceptibility to pests attacks apart, the rise in India's cotton imports in recent times are sure pointers that a decision on this issue can no longer be postponed as major cotton producing nations have already moved towards GM cotton cultivation, according to Mr V S Velayutham, Chairman of the Southern India Mills Association (SIMA).
Mr Velayutham feels the Indian cotton yarn suppliers would increasingly come under pressure from the foreign buyers on quality aspects of cotton used. The importers insist on contamination-free cotton to be used for their yarn supplies and, to stress the point, they even specify on the cotton of country-origin that should go into production, he says.
As for the current cotton season, the SIMA chief holds the view that with the prices of indigenous cotton and that of imported one being on par, the cotton import may slow down this year and only the exporting units may go for imports. This factor may also favour the indigenous cotton consumption going up this year. In any case, the industry has asked the Government not to increase the customs duty on cotton.
So long as the prices of local cotton do not fall below the minimum support price fixed, there is no justification for raising the import duty on cotton, according to Mr Velayutham.
The biggest worry now for the Indian textile industry, however, is the cost competitiveness as the interest rate charged to the industry by the lending institutions is high. World over the textile industry is undergoing restructuring with the active collaboration with the respective Governments in individual nations. China has been offering credit to its textile industry at 6 per cent to make them export competitive. In India, the packing credit at 9-10 per cent range is high. Even the concessional lending rate for term loans offered under TUFS works out 8 per cent.
Added to this, the cost of power is higher. These factors would make India's textile manufacture costlier, according to the SIMA chief.
Chinese ruling ends chaos over modified soybean
January 08, 2002
New certification process is aimed at clearing up confusion which has almost halted US soybean imports, writes Carly Fields
CHINA has released the details of its controversial genetically modified organisms ruling, marking an end to the confusion that has dogged the nation&'s soybean imports for the past year.
As of March 20, overseas firms exporting GMO products to China must apply for certifi- cates from the ministry of agriculture stating that the goods are harmless to humans, animals or the environment.
The certificates will be decided on within 270 days and have to be granted before supply contracts are signed.
The new proposals should put an end to the ongoing debate on China&'s answer to controlling GMO imports, which has disrupted the US soybeans trade for the past six months.
Beijing&'s initial regulations — requiring all production, sales and imports of GMO foods to be approved by the government — were unclear and brought US soybean imports to a virtual standstill at the end of last year.
However the new forward deadline announced yesterday gives traders time to digest the new regulations. Dalian soybean futures surged Yuan55 ($6.65) yesterday on the back of the news, ending the trading day at Yuan2,039 per tonne.
However some eastern traders expressed concern on the timing of the new regulations, claiming that it purposely coincided with the beginning of the South American crop.
The last announcement in June coincided with the changeover from the US beans to the South American crop, known for its high percentage of GM crop.
It&'s just delaying tactics, one said, claiming that the Chin- ese were just putting off the changeover. Another described the whole situation as clear as mud, saying that there were still many questions left unanswered.
Despite all the confusion, Chinese customs data showed a 32% year on year increase in soybean imports for the first 11 months of 2002.
USDA, soybean groups study new China GMO rules
January 8, 2002
WASHINGTON - Top U.S. Agriculture Department officials and industry experts on Monday reviewed details of China's long-awaited rules for biotech soybeans and other genetically modified crops, which will take effect on March 20.
Earlier on Monday, China's Ministry of Agriculture said overseas firms exporting biotech products to China must apply for certificates from the ministry stating that the goods were harmless to humans, animals and the environment. China is the largest export market for U.S. soybeans. The U.S. industry is hoping to ship $1 billion worth in the coming year.
Beijing first announced rules on genetically modified organisms (GMO) products last June and initially required government approval for all production, sale and imports of GMO foods.
Confusion over the rules brought a virtual halt to new orders of U.S.cargoes of soybeans - 70 percent of which are bioengineered - as buyers worried cargoes might not be approved.
The issue also grabbed the attention of President George W. Bush, who discussed the problem with Chinese leaders during a meeting in Shanghai last October.
The United States and China reached a formal agreement in September on GMO products and U.S. soybean sales have since resumed.
USDA and industry officials declined to comment on the rules, saying they had yet to study the details.
USDA spokeswoman Alisa Harrison said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and other top USDA officials were still translating the new rules into English. Industry officials said an official U.S. translation would probably not be completed until Wednesday or Thursday.
Gil Griffis, director of Asian sales for the American Soybean Association, said he hoped the new rules would "apply equally to everyone."
China's announcement helped boost U.S. soybean futures on Monday. The Chicago Board of Trade contract for March delivery jumped 6-1/4 cents a bushel to close at $4.31 a bushel.
U.S. traders said they hoped the new rules would translate into increased Chinese business.
Bugs dress salad: harmful bugs may lurk within leaves
Nature Science Update
January 7, 2002
By Tom Clarke
Healthy salad greens could be contaminated with bacteria that cause food poisoning, despite thorough rinsing. New research shows that harmful bugs can enter lettuce plants through its roots and end up in the edible leaves1.(ref.2325)
Although uncommon, food poisoning caused by eating plants can occur. Vegetables that are fertilized with animal manure, which can contain pathogens, pose the biggest threat. Raw salad vegetables are now washed after harvesting to reduce the risk of contamination.
After an outbreak of poisoning by the potentially fatal O157:H7 strain of Escherichia coli that was connected with prewashed letuce2, food microbiologist Karl Matthews and colleagues at Rutgers University in New Jersey investigated whether bacteria were getting inside the lettuce, rather than just sitting on the leaves. The team grew lettuce in manure inoculated with E. coli O157:H7.
After sterilizing the plants' surface with bleach, the researchers still found bacteria within the internal tissues that are used for water transport. Lettuce leaves could be infected by simply irrigating plants with bacteria-inoculated water, despite the fact that foliage did not come into direct contact with the water. Small gaps in growing roots are a known port of entry for plant pathogens, and may allow E. coli to get in, the researchers suspect.
Water used to irrigate fields could pose an infection risk, warns Matthews. Although the use of composting manure is regulated, "if you're using surface irrigation there's still a chance that the edible portion of the plant can be contaminated", he says.
"No one has checked to see whether [bacteria] are on the surface of the plant or within," agrees William Waites, a food microbiologist at the University of Nottingham, UK. His group's research reveals a similar uptake of E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria bacteria by spinach. Bacteria also accumulate in the plants over time, the group found. "Levels increased up to 30 days, around the time the plants would be harvested," says Waites.
The concentrations of bacteria used in the lab experiments are probably far higher than those that occur on farms, Matthews points out - after all, poisoning by salad is not common. The team is now working to establish whether salad vegetables grown on farms are also contaminated by E. coli O157:H7 or by other bugs.
"If it is found in saleable plants, it presents us with a new vehicle for E. coli O157:H7," says Tom Cheasty, who directs E. coli O157:H7 surveillance at the UK Public Health Laboratory Service in London. But he adds that, for the moment, there is no compelling reason to treat salad with suspicion.
1. Solomon, E. B., Yaron, S. & Matthews, K. R. Transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7 from contaminated manure and irrigation water to lettuce plant tissue and its subsequent internalisation. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 68, 397 - 400, (2002).
2. Hillborn, E. D. et al. A multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections associated with consumption of mesclun lettuce. Archives of Internal Medicine, 159, 1758 - 1764, (1999).
From: "terry hopkin"
Subject: Fwd: an end of a innocence
Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2002 09:27:54 +0000
It is interesting to see that much of what has been discussed durring the last year or so about Organic food and the Green movement has begun to
happen. Organic food may well be better if produced by caring hands, with controls at every stage, but unfortunately that has not been so in every
case. We have the unfortunate figures in Europe that more Organic food was sold than produced. The use of copper sulfate as an insecticide to name just
one cause for concern, (copper lays around in the soil, as a poison, for about 125 years), dented an already tarnished image. Then of course the
various health gain tests showed little or no health gain from the consumption of Organic food.
Perhaps the two things which may doom Organic food more than anything else, are it's insistence on strict controls on all other
food products but little on it's own, other than those which Organic food organizations wished to apply to themselves; and strange enough "Frankenfood
throwing dirt at your opponent often results in a splash back effect on yourself. Organic food is often now seen as "Freak Food" on par with
Frankenfood" by a public who don't listen that closely to the arguments. One can visualize two people discussing wether to buy Organic food the first
saying "Isn't Organic that new food with all the gene things in it?" and the other replying "Don't know but it ends with ic, look there's some
ordinary carrots over there, we'll buy them, best to be on the safe side, eh?"
Of course the Greens other great stick to beat the world with "Global Warming" is coming under attack. Rightly or wrongly
folk are asking questions. The biggest question being; if we've never had Global Warming" before how did we come out of the last Ice Age? If that
warming up was motivated by other means than man, why are they seen as irrelevant now? Why is axle wobble not considered? Why is variations in
tetonic gas emissions not included in your calculations? One cannot say that the increase in carbon gasses is not relavant, but one at the same time
cannot ignore other reasons for "Global Warming", one of which must have been the reason for the rapid warming up at the end of the last Ice Age, and
for that matter all other Ice Ages before that one. If we don't begin to study what is happening in a more adult scientific way, we may well be to
late to do anything when we find out that the simplistic answers were wrong!
Agriculture leads the way in biotechnology revolution
Intertec Publishing Corporation
January 8, 2002
Southeast Farm Press via NewsEdge Corporation : For an industry that routinely is accused of resisting change, agriculture has been at the forefront in recent years in embracing new technology and promptly applying it to the farm. The genetic revolution -- still a theoretical concept to many -- is being carried out on a daily basis in fields throughout the rural Southeast.
As a result, farmers, for the most part, have a far greater knowledge of subjects such as biotechnology and genetic engineering than the average American. Much attention was focused this past year on the completion of human genome mapping. But at the same time, a majority of the general public probably was unaware of the advances already made in the genetic mapping of other animal and plant species.
American farmers have readily adopted the technology based on these advances to help increase crop yields and make significant reductions in the use of insecticides and herbicides. Genetically altered crop varieties -- unheard of just 10 years ago -- now are the norm in most cotton and soybean fields.
In some cases, insect- and herbicide-resistant crops have been used as additional tools to help farmers reduce operating costs while reaping environmental benefits. In other cases, such as in north Alabama's Tennessee Valley in 1996, genetically altered crops such as Bt cotton have been instrumental in allowing some farmers to stay in business.
What's truly exciting about all of this new technology is that the products we're using today are just the beginning. As researchers make further advances in this ever-evolving science, the insect- and herbicide-resistant crops of today will become the T-Models of tomorrow.
One noteworthy advance in the Southeast was the recent announcement that a group of University of Georgia researchers have completed the first comprehensive molecular map of the peanut plant. Like a roadmap, this research will give scientists the directions they need to develop better varieties for farmers and better products for consumers.
Mapping plant genes has revolutionized crop breeding over the past decade, says Andrew Paterson, a plant geneticist. And, while most major crops already have genetic maps, the peanut was especially difficult, he says.
"We have developed landmarks and determined how the landmarks are arranged with respect to one another (within the peanut plant)," says Paterson. "The landmarks enable us to determine what important genes are nearby."
The map, he continues, 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," says Paterson. "The sequence is having total and immediate recall of everything that lies along every highway."
This kind of information, he says, can help plant breeders develop better peanut 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 peanuts," says the scientist.
By understanding genes, scientists can develop plants with good traits, such as better quality and yields, says John Beasley, Extension peanut specialist. In South America -- where the peanut originated -- many wild peanut species still grow that have immunity or resistance to pest problems found in the Southeast, says Beasley.
Researchers could take those traits and place them into a peanut that a Georgia farmer can grow, he adds. "Farmers would benefit because any improvement in yield and quality will provide an economic benefit to the grower. And a more drought-tolerant cultivar would require less water."
Genetic technology has become central in the development of many crops, says Paterson, and it will continue to grow in importance as the cost of the technology becomes cheaper.
Paterson's lab in Athens, Ga., also has developed the world's leading genetic maps for cotton, sorghum, sugarcane and buffel grass. His future plans include mapping Bermuda grass and cactus.