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January 9, 2002


Melchett & Greenwashing, US and Global GM Area Grows,


Today in AgBioView:

* Lord Melchett and Greenwashing
* Melchett's deal with the devil: Unpopular. Foolish. Let's make Birt archbishop
* ICABR Conference call for paper
* EU document
* ISB News Report
* USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum 2002
* Agriculture in Brazil and Argentina: Developments and Prospects for Major Field Crops
* UCR Extension Co-Hosting Public Conference On Food Biotechnology
* Global GM Crop Area Continues to Grow and Exceeds 50 Million Hectares for First Time in 2001
* Biotech Crop Plantings Jump 20 Pct.
* Food and Agriculture Committee Sees Potential in Biotechnology
* Reuters survey: US bio-corn plantings to soar in 2002
* China Implementing New Rules on Genetically Modified Imports
* Almost Half of All State Legislatures Passed Bills Relating to Agricultural Biotechnology in 2001
* Naturally Dangerous: Surprising Facts about Food, Health, and the Environment
* Killer Klebsiella
* The Green's Ear-ie Ad - Groups Use Scare Tactics to Fight Technology

Date: 9 Jan 2002 20:35:15 -0000
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Greenwashing

The word ‘greenwashing’ has been hurled about with abandon for years, and now that Burson-Marsteller has hired Lord Melchett, let’s hurl it around some more and see if it sticks.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘greenwash’ is “Disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.”(From http://www.corpwatch.org/campaigns/PCC.jsp?topicid=102)

We know from experience that Greenpeace is accomplished at disseminating disinformation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image. Melchett performed this function for Greenpeace and Britain’s organic foods industry, making him an excellent candidate for any company interested in greenwashing.

There’s another definition of ‘greenwashing.’ The activist group CorpWatch would define ‘greenwash’ as “The phenomenon of socially and environmentally destructive corporations attempting to preserve and expand their markets by posing as friends of the environment and leaders in the struggle to eradicate poverty. 2) Environmental whitewash. 3) Hogwash.”

Is Greenpeace a socially and environmentally destructive corporation? It’s socially destructive, as one of its founding members noted upon departing the group. Is it environmentally destructive? Actually, the group does nothing ‘environmental.’ It focuses on disinformation and grandstanding in front of the press instead. This means the group is “posing as a friend of the environment” rather than doing something about it--another hallmark of greenwashing.

Burson-Marsteller has long been accused of engaging in greenwashing.
(See, e.g., http://www.oneworld.org/ni/issue314/facts.htm)

If the accusation is true, has Burson-Marsteller hired the right person for the job?

Melchett's deal with the devil: Unpopular. Foolish. Let's make Birt archbishop

The Guardian (London)
January 10, 2002

Has Lord Peter Melchett been genetically modified? Implausible it may be, but as Sherlock Holmes's old maxim had it, "When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." And what other explanation can there possibly be for the decision of Lord Melchett, quondam destroyer of GM crops, to join Burson-Marsteller, a PR company that makes money from, among other things, advising the growers of GM crops? Once you have excluded the possibility that the famously principled and talented Melchett is, in fact, as venal or dimwitted as the next man, what reason, other than some malign tampering with his lordship's essential nature, can there be?

Anyone who believes Lord Melchett's insistence that there is nothing contradictory about his appointment - "I am happy to tell people, just as I did for 15 years with Greenpeace, what I think is right for the environment" - fails to appreciate Burson-Marsteller's fabulous coup in signing him up. To find Lord Melchett, who remains a board-member of Greenpeace International, now a peon, sorry, "consultant" for the "social responsibility" branch of the PR advisers to Monsanto, Shell, Union Carbide, Scottish Nuclear, Exxon, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer (to say nothing of Saudi Arabia, Ceaucescu, the Indonesian government and the Argentina junta), is no less startling a reversal than if, say, Naomi Klein were suddenly to be adopted as the new face of Nike, Susie Orbach appointed the CEO of Slim-Fast, or Germaine Greer made the model for Mattel's new Eunuch Barbie. True, as my colleague John Vidal pointed out this week, there are precedents for such a conversion, in which, in an updating of the biblical format, prominen

But the conversion of these activists, scarcely household names, had no discernible impact on the causes they had formerly espoused; indeed it caused less comment than the rather more consistent decision of various superannuated Tory politicians to take up jobs in the City. No one, after all, could accuse John Major, Douglas Hurd or Kenneth Clarke of attempting to subvert the world of commerce before they took its money. Even Anji Hunter, whose decision to promote BP instead of Tony Blair recently caused brief outrage, had never expressed a desire to sail away on the Rainbow Warrior before she quit. You might conclude, in fact, that BP has been sold a pup.

Lord Melchett, on the other hand, is infinitely valuable to Burson-Marsteller, because since 1986, he has been a figurehead in campaigns against its corporate clients, past, present and potential. Look down the current list of Greenpeace campaigns and in almost every case, you can see how they might adversely affect the reputation of a company advised by Burson-Marsteller, from its clients in the nuclear and petroleum industry, to loggers, drug manufacturers and, of course, biotechnology companies. B-M has advised both Monsanto and Europabio on their public image. Back in 1997, in a leaked document, it urged Europabio, a lobby group representing big biotech companies, to focus not on arguments but on symbols. "Adversaries of biotechnology," B-M wrote, "are highly skilled in the cultivation of symbols . . . Bioindustries need to respond in similar terms - with symbols eliciting hope, satisfaction, caring and self-esteem." The famous symbol of Lord Melchett in his white decontamination suit, being led away be

Lord Melchett has explained that he cannot personally be compromised at B-M because he will only work with the companies he wants to work with. "If I think a company should close down, I shall tell them." But this sort of ugly scene is not, surely, what Burson-Marsteller is anticipating. As the company suggests on its website, corporate social responsibility ("CSR") is something no forward-thinking company can afford to be without: "Social responsibility has become as much of a corporate imperative as good customer service, high-quality management or healthy market share."

That is why it set up the corporate responsibility unit, whose principal task, as I understand it, is to help companies find ways of mollifying critics of their environmental or social practices. It is run by Richard Aylard, formerly better known as private secretary to the Prince of Wales (a fervent believer in CSR, whose Business Leaders Forum has collaborated with B-M.)

Aylard, alas, will not supply any examples of his unit's CSR achievements so it remains unclear whether his latest recruit, Lord Melchett, will ever achieve his ambition of saving the planet through public relations, rather than direct action. While it is pleasant to imagine a lively argument at the B-M head office which concludes with Monsanto renouncing GM, or Scottish Nuclear agreeing to drop the "nuclear", or Union Carbide excoriating the release of toxic waste, the arrival of Lord Melchett seems likely to represent a more conventional PR exercise in controversy management, whereby, through apparent "dialogue" and "consultation", radical criticism gives way to a compromise that benefits only the corporate side of the argument.

Just a few years ago, when he still cut a heroic figure, Lord Melchett often impressed interviewers with his professions of Greenpeace's incorruptibility. "Truth is our strength," he would say. "We must be as independent and uncompromising as possible. That is the way to achieve success." Plainly he has reconsidered. Has Greenpeace?

If the mitre fits . . . Birt


Daily Post (Liverpool)
January 10, 2002, Thursday

FORMER Greenpeace chief Lord Melchett yesterday defended his decision to work for a controversial public relations firm which counts GM company Monsanto among its clients. The Labour peer said that as an adviser to BursonMarsteller's social responsibility unit he would be offering firms advice just as he had from time to time at Greenpeace.

His decision to join the firm, whose previous clients included Union Carbide and the Argentine junta, has infuriated other green campaigners.

But Lord Melchett said: "I am interested in change for the better, change in Government policy and practice and change in commercial - corporate - practice that benefits the environment."

From: Santaniello Vittorio
Subject: ICABR Conference call for paper

Dear Colleague,

This is just a reminder that January 20 is dead line for presenting paper proposal for the 6th International Conference convened by ICABR (International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research) on: " Agricultural Biotechnology: New Avenues for Production, Consumption and Technology Transfer" that will take place in Ravello (Italy) on July 11 - 14, 2002.

Additional information on the Conference can be found at the following web link:

Prof. Vittorio Santaniello, Dipartimento di Economia e Istituzioni, Università di Roma "Tor Vergata", via di Tor Vergata snc, 00133 Roma (ITALY), Ph. ++39 06 72 59 57 05, Fax ++39 06 72 59 57 21

Date: 10 Jan 2002 02:26:10 -0000
From: "John W. Cross"
Subject: EU document

Here is an interesting paper from the European regulators regards transgenic plant-derived pharmaceuticals. It tells more about the EU regulators than about transgenic plants.

For example, they appear to be unaware of clonally-propagated plants. They also think "transgenic plant" is undefined, that plants in controlled environments are uniform, that antibiotic resistance marker genes integrated into plant chromosomes are a problem, that cellulose is hard to remove from extracts, etc.




ISB News Report
January, 2002


2001 World Review of Agbiotechnology
The Future of Transgenic Plants
Use of G1 Donor Nuclei Improves Viability of Cloned Cattle
End of the Year Brings Good Tidings For Plant Utility Patents
Battles and Skirmishes in the Biotech Patent Arena
Upcoming Meetings



USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum 2002

—Each year, USDA's Outlook Forum attracts over 1,300 people and features 25-30 sessions highlighting farm, food, and policy prospects affecting the agricultural landscape. The 2002 Forum program includes plenary sessions on "Market and Policy Prospects for 2002" and "The Future of Agricultural Biotechnology in World Trade," as well as concurrent sessions on topics including "Feasibility and Cost of Marketing Identity-Preserved Crops" and "Growth of Middle Class Consumers in Developing Nations." Forum attendees come from agribusiness, commodity groups, finance, universities, and government. The Forum will be held on February 21-22, 2002, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, and requires advance registration. ERS is a co-sponsor of the Forum and helps organize sessions.


Agriculture in Brazil and Argentina: Developments and Prospects for Major Field Crops

ERS Agriculture and Trade Report No. WRS013. 85 pp,
December 2001
By Randall D. Schnepf, Erik Dohlman, and Christine Bolling

This report identifies key factors underlying the agricultural productivity growth and enhanced international competitiveness of Brazil and Argentina in the past decade. Economic and policy reforms, infrastructure development, and enhanced use of agricultural inputs that drove output growth during the 1990s are discussed. This report also compares Brazilian, Argentine, and U.S. soybean production costs and evaluates the combined impact of production, marketing, and transportation costs on the overall export competitiveness of each country's soybean producers. Finally, the outlook for continued growth in output and exports of key commodities is assessed.


UCR Extension Co-Hosting Public Conference On Food Biotechnology

Jan. 10, 2002

UCR Extension, in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension, Southern Region of the University of California and the California Council on Science and Technology, is hosting on Jan. 30, 2002 a one-day conference titled "Food Biotechnology: Risks and Benefits" that will focus on genetically modified foods.

The conference is open to the public and is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the UCR Extension Center, 1200 University Avenue in Riverside. The $79 conference enrollment fee includes a continental breakfast, materials and parking. Conference lecturers include noted professors and industry experts who will explore the genetic, environmental, safety and nutritional issues and consumer perceptions surrounding the use of transgenic crop plants.

Featured lecturers are Dr. George Bruening, University of California, Davis; Dr. Christine Bruhn, University of California, Davis; Dr. Subray Hegde, University of California, Riverside; Dr. Henry Miller, Stanford University; Tamara Schiopu, University of California, Riverside; and Dr. Carl Winter, University of California, Davis.

While genetically modified foods (GMFs) have been in widespread commercial production in the United States since 1996, the topic is still considered somewhat controversial by many consumer organizations. Today, products modified by the new techniques of biotechnology are in supermarkets and drug and retail stores.

It is estimated that 60-70% of the foods in U.S. markets contain at least a small quantity of some crop that has been genetically engineered.

"Much of the discussion planned for the Food Biotechnology conference will center on information provided by scientists and cooperative extension specialists," said Dr. Seymour Van Gundy, who will serve as conference moderator.

Van Gundy is currently Dean Emeritus of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences for the University of California, Riverside.

The program is intended for those in the food industry, agriculture producers, government agency staff, nutrition and food safety advisers, but is also open to the public including consumers, teachers and students at the high school level and above.

For further information or to enroll in the conference, call Linda Coco in the Natural Sciences Department at UCR Extension at 909/787-5804 ext. 1618, or e-mail sciences@ucx.ucr.edu. CONTACT: UC Riverside Extension, Riverside
Linda Coco, 909/787-5804 ext. 1618


Het Financieele Dagblad (English)
January 10, 2002

THE HAGUE - There is no scientific proof in medical literature to back the general public's fears that their safety could be at risk from foods made with genetically-modified (GM) ingredients, a government commission said yesterday.

'The Dutch population is very uninterested in the subject of biotechnology and food. People are most worried about food safety,' former economic affairs minister Jan Terlouw who headed the commission, said at the presentation of the report, entitled Eating and Genes. But critics said the report was 'rigged' and that the Terlouw commission ignored well-known scientific research in order to reach an upbeat conclusion on GM foods.

'Most people are initially against the idea, questioning the need for modified foods,' Terlouw said. 'But when you talk to people for longer on the subject, they are more likely to accept the idea.'

Farming minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst said the report had succeeded in 'depolarising' the debate on GM foods. A recent survey found that the Dutch are more in favour of GM foods than any other European Union country.

'France, Denmark, the UK and Germany are extremely critical of GM foods,' Terlouw said. 'In the Netherlands most people are not bothered about it.' Brinkhorst warned that 'A cultural split between Europe and the US threatens on this issue'.

Terlouw pointed to the relatively low response to an information website set up by the commission as part of the research. 'Dutch people trust their government more than the people of any other country in Europe,' he added.

But Micha Kuiper, of environmental group Platform Gentechnologie, said the Dutch government is being influenced by the US which wants to increase exports of its GM food products. 'The US has been exerting extreme pressure on European governments in recent weeks, Kuiper said, adding that the Dutch government was 'extremely sensitive to economic pressure'.

'I believe this report is an attempt to give a positive bias to the GM issue. For example, the report says the commission could find no evidence against GM foods in medical literature,' he said. 'That is because most scientific opposition to modified foods comes from biochemists, not the medical profession.'

He added that well-known scientific literature questioning aspects of genetic modification in food was absent from the report's bibliography. 'There is ample evidence against GM foods if you look in the right place,' Kuiper added.

Last September, 15 non-governmental organisations, including Platform Gentechnologie, walked out of talks with the commission claiming the report was being rigged to paint a rosy picture of the so-called 'Frankenstein foods'.

The commission has called on the Dutch government to set up an independent food authority along the lines of the Food and Drugs Administration in the US. The cabinet is set to clarify its own standpoint on GM foods in two week's time.

Global GM Crop Area Continues to Grow and Exceeds 50 Million Hectares for First Time in 2001

January 10, 2002

The Annual Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic (GM) Crops, conducted by Dr Clive James, Chairman of the ISAAA Board of Directors, features comprehensive information on transgenic crops grown globally in 2001; the following are the highlights:

* The estimated global area of transgenic or GM crops for 2001, is 52.6 million hectares (has.) or 130.0 million acres, grown by 5.5 million farmers in thirteen countries. 2001 is the first year when the global area of GM crops has exceeded the historical milestone of 50 million has.

* The increase in area between 2000 and 2001 is 19%, equivalent to 8.4 million has. or 20.8 million acres. This increase is almost twice the corresponding increase of 4.3 million has. between 1999 and 2000, which was equivalent to an 11% growth.

* During the six-year period 1996 to 2001, global area of transgenic crops increased more than 30-fold, from 1.7 million has. in 1996 to 52.6 million has. in 2001.

* More than one quarter of the global transgenic crop area of 52.6 million has. in 2001, equivalent to 13.5 million has., was grown in six developing countries. Indonesia commercialized Bt cotton for the first time in 2001.

* In 2001, four principal countries grew 99% of the global transgenic crop area. The USA grew 35.7 million has. (68% of global total), followed by Argentina with 11.8 million has. (22%), Canada 3.2 million has. (6%) and China 1.5 million has. (3%); China had the highest year-on-year percentage growth with a tripling of its Bt cotton area from 0.5 million has. in 2000 to 1.5 million has. in 2001.

* Globally, the principal GM crops were GM soybean occupying 33.3 million has. in 2001 (63% of global area), followed by GM corn at 9.8 million has. (19%), transgenic cotton at 6.8 million has. (13%), and GM canola at 2.7 million has. (5%).

* During the six-year period 1996 to 2001, herbicide tolerance has consistently been the dominant trait with insect resistance second.

* In 2001, herbicide tolerance, deployed in soybean, corn and cotton, occupied 77% or 40.6 million hectares of the global GM 52.6 million has., with 7.8 million has. (15%) planted to Bt crops, and stacked genes for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance deployed in both cotton and corn occupying 8% or 4.2 million has. of the global transgenic area in 2001.

* The two dominant GM crop/trait combinations in 2001 were: herbicide tolerant soybean occupying 33.3 million has. or 63% of the global total and grown in seven countries; and Bt maize, occupying 5.9 million has., equivalent to 11% of global transgenic area and planted in six countries; the other six GM crops occupied 5% or less of global transgenic crop area.

* On a global basis, 46% of the 72 million has. of soybean grown worldwide were GM in 2001- up from 36 % in 2000; 20% of the global 34 million has. of cotton were GM - up from 16 % in 2000; global areas planted to GM canola and maize, were unchanged from 2000 at 11% of the 25 million has. of canola, and 7% of the 140 million has. of maize. If the global areas (conventional and transgenic) of these four principal GM crops are aggregated, the total area is 271 million has., of which 19% is GM, up from 16% in 2000.

* In the first six years, 1996 to 2001, a cumulative total of over 175 million has. (almost 440 million acres) of GM crops were planted globally and met the expectations of millions of large and small farmers.

* The number of farmers that benefited from GM crops increased from 3.5 million farmers in 2000 to 5.5 million in 2001. More than three-quarters of the farmers that benefited from GM crops in 2001 were resource-poor farmers planting Bt cotton, mainly in China and also in South Africa.

* There is cautious optimism that global area and the number of farmers planting GM crops will continue to increase in 2002

The above are excerpts from "Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001", by Clive James, ISAAA Briefs No. 24: Preview. For media inquiries please contact Tel +1-345-947-1839 from 9.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M. EST, New York, USA. The publication and further information can be obtained from ISAAA's SoutheastAsia Center: e-mail publications@isaaa.org. Cost of the publication, ISAAA Briefs No. 24, is $US 25.00 including postage. The publication is available free of charge to nationals of developing countries.

Biotech Crop Plantings Jump 20 Pct.

Associated Press
January 10, 2002

Global plantings of genetically engineered crops jumped nearly 20 percent last year despite resistance of consumers in Europe and elsewhere, according to a group that promotes use of the technology in poor countries.

Farmers grew an estimated 130 million acres of biotech crops in 2001, about 21 million more than the year before, according to a report issued Thursday by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

The United States and Argentina, where biotech soybeans are popular with farmers, accounted for 90 percent of the world's biotech acreage last year and most of the growth from 2000. But the report said China's farmers tripled their use of genetically engineered cotton to 3.7 million acres last year, nearly a third of their total crop. "There was much speculation in 2000 that indeed the global area (of biotech crops) would decrease rather increase" in 2001, said Clive James, a scientist who is chairman of ISAAA. The group is sponsored by foundations, biotech companies and U.S. and European government agencies.

He predicted a 10 percent increase in biotech acreage this year.

ISAAA assesses the needs of farmers for improved crops in poor countries and finds products developed through public and private research.

The most popular biotech crops contain bacterium genes that make the plants either resistant to bugs or weed killers. Farmers in China who used to spray their cotton crops as many as 15 times a year have started planting an insect-resistant variety known as Bt, for its added bacterium gene. The crop doesn't need to be treated more than twice, said James.

The popularity of Bt cotton in China indicates that genetically engineered crops will be accepted in other countries as they are approved by governments and made available to farmers, James said.

This year, India is expected to approve commercialization of its first cotton crop. The first Bt cotton was planted in Indonesia last year. Approval for biotech soybeans is pending in Brazil, which is a major exporter of soy.

Critics of biotech crops say there isn't enough known about their impact on human health or the environment. U.S. farmers have shunned biotech versions of sugarbeets, potatoes and sweet corn because major food companies said they wouldn't buy them.

However, two-thirds of last year's U.S. soybean crop was genetically engineered, compared to 54 percent the year before. Virtually all of the soybeans grown in Argentina last year were of biotech varieties.

The soybeans are immune to a powerful weed killer, known by the trade name Roundup. In some cases, one application of the herbicide is all that is needed for an entire growing season, farmers say. Fields seeded for conventionally bred varieties can require many sprayings with different types of chemicals.

Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. cotton crop last year and 26 percent of the corn was genetically engineered.

The United States grew 88 million acres of biotech crops last year, followed by Argentina with 29 million and Canada with 8 million, the report said. South Africa, Australia and seven other countries had very small amounts.

Food and Agriculture Committee Sees Potential in Biotechnology

National Policy Association (NPA)
January 09, 2002

WASHINGTON, Jan 9, 2002 (U.S. Newswire) -- The National Policy Association's Food and Agriculture Committee (FAC) released today its policy recommendations on biotechnology. The statement is a collaborative effort of Committee members that was refined at its Nov. 28 seminar on Biotechnology Policies for a Better World. The statement was the culmination of several years of an examination of the benefits of biotechnology at FAC meetings.

The public debate about biotechnology has become increasingly polarized and divisive. The National Policy Association's Food and Agriculture Committee is committed to working toward finding common ground as it advances the debate on the controversial issues surrounding biotechnology and genetically modified agricultural products. FAC members represent all segments of U.S. food and agriculture -- farming, agribusinesses, universities, foundations, and nonprofit organizations. The Committee's continued emphasis since 1943 on fostering a broad-based consensus from the diverse views of its members has enabled the FAC to become an effective force in the development of national policies and private sector initiatives concerning food and agriculture.

According to the FAC statement:

"Biotechnology has significant potential to improve health and nutrition. However, a high level of consumer skepticism exists in many societies. To overcome that skepticism there is a need for both trustworthy regulation and informed consumer choice on products of agricultural biotechnology. Specifically:

-- Individuals need to better understand agricultural biotechnology's potential, which includes improved health and nutrition for people in both the developed and developing worlds.

-- Industry, media and the government need to be more active in informing the public of this potential and should work to create an environment in which consumers and suppliers can make a reasonably informed choice about the use of agricultural biotechnology products.

-- Governments should move in a more timely, effective and efficient manner to review and approve genetically enhanced products using established regulatory procedures in order to merit confidence of both industry and consumers. There should be a clear timeline for the approval process, which should be thorough but not unduly burdensome.

-- Governments should implement their food regulations in a manner that minimizes trade distortions in today's global food system. That involves:

-- Relying on harmonized standards and regulatory processes to the maximum extent possible;

-- Using benchmarks that are more rigorous than current internationally recognized standards and procedures only when they are justified by scientific evidence;

-- Establishing credible risk assessment and risk management mechanisms, as well as reasonable tolerances for incidental commingling. Scientific evidence of possible risks may, in some situations, support extremely low tolerance levels, but zero tolerance cannot be expected in any sector.

-- Approving genetically enhanced products unless the submissions required by reliable, commercially viable testing protocols are incomplete.

-- Societies should support substantial investment in both public and private research to ensure that the benefits of biotechnology reach all. Where possible, public/private research partnerships should be encouraged."

For more information on the FAC, visit NPA's Web site www.npa1.org or contact the FAC Director, Kaylin Bailey, at 202-884-7640.

CONTACT: Kaylin Bailey of the National Policy Association (NPA), 202-884-7640; e-mail: kbailey@npa1.or

Reuters survey: US bio-corn plantings to soar in 2002

January 9, 2002

RENO - American farmers will shrug off European and Asian concerns about genetically modified food and boost U.S. biotech corn plantings by more than 13 percent this year, with a smaller increase planned for soybeans, according to a Reuters survey of more than 300 growers.

The straw poll, conducted at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting, found no slowdown in American agriculture's embrace of gene-spliced corn and soybeans despite concerns abroad about unknown risks to health and environment.

The biggest increase will come in bio-corn plantings, with a leap of 13.8 to 19.3 percent depending on the variety, according to the survey results. Plantings for the main variety of gene-spliced soybeans will climb by a smaller 8.3 percent.

However, plantings of genetically engineered cotton will fall by 2 to 8 percent in 2002, reflecting an overall decline in cotton expected this year, the survey showed.

The Reuters survey questioned 321 farmers at the annual meeting of the United States' largest grower group. Personal interviews were conducted at random and results do not attempt to weigh responses by state, size of farm or other criteria.

The results provide an early indicator of 2002 plantings of genetically modified crops. Most U.S. growers buy soybean, corn and cotton seeds at this time for spring planting.


The Reuters poll found gene-altered corn plantings would soar in 2002 for both major varieties.

Roundup Ready corn seeds enable growers to use a single herbicide, which farmers say boosts crop yields and cuts spending on costly chemicals. Another type -- Bt corn -- is engineered to help a growing plant resist harmful pests.

Farmers surveyed by Reuters said they would sharply increase plantings of Roundup Ready corn by 19.3 percent in 2002. Plantings of Bt corn will rise by 13.8 percent.

The increase appeared to be due mostly to the end of a year-long controversy over a variety of bio-corn, known as StarLink, which was not approved for human food but contaminated some 430 million bushels of the U.S. corn supply.

"We've learned a lot from StarLink, and producers have learned to ask a lot more questions," said Bob Stallman, president of the Farm Bureau. "There's a greater degree of comfort with biotech products and the marketing of them."

The discovery of StarLink in U.S. taco shells and other food in late 2000 triggered widespread recalls and prompted discounted prices to angry farmers, some of whose corn suddenly tested positive for StarLink due to windborne pollen. StarLink, made by Aventis SA , was pulled off the market.

The contamination also made Japan and some other buyers temporarily halt purchases of U.S. corn.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data showed sluggish growth last year in bio-corn plantings, which rose a meager 1 percent to 26 percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, or about 19.3 million acres.


Growers also said they would increase use of the already popular Roundup Ready soybeans by 8.3 percent. Bt soybeans -- used by a tiny number of growers surveyed -- will fall by 14.6 percent, according to the poll.

Many U.S. farmers have already switched to engineered varieties of soybeans during the past five years.

According to data from the USDA, nearly 68 percent of U.S. soybeans, or about 51 million acres, were genetically modified during 2001. That compares to 54 percent in the prior year.

"When you look at corn, soybean and cotton, and you're on a significant amount of those acres already, I can see where you'd take a step back and say that growth has stalled," said Randy Krotz, a spokesman for biotech giant Monsanto .

"But has the excitement and acceptance slowed in agriculture? Not at all. It's simply finding the next market," Krotz added.

Monsanto and its rivals are developing new products to combat problems farmers have with soybeans and corn. Next year, Monsanto is expected to receive approval for a seed to repel the corn root worm, which caused damage estimated at $1 billion to U.S. crops last year.

Some farmers said that while biotech plantings will rise in 2002, the outlook remains less certain in coming years due to consumer resistance in the European Union and Japan. The European Union has delayed new approvals of gene-spliced crops since 1998, when France and other members demanded tougher rules for testing, labeling and tracing biotech products.

"The rate of increase has slowed, and I think we are just hanging back and seeing how the whole issue plays out in terms of access to markets," said Stallman, of the Farm Bureau.


However, gene-altered cotton plantings will shrink this year, the farmers said.

Bt cotton plantings will fall 8.4 percent and Roundup Ready cotton will decline by 2.1 percent, according to the survey.

The decline is blamed mostly on a global glut of cotton.

Agricultural economists at the meeting projected a 10 percent drop in U.S. cotton planting this spring because of low prices and bloated inventories after a record 20.06 million bale crop last year.

Wheat, another key U.S. crop, also has a bright future for genetically altered varieties, according to those surveyed.

The poll showed that 54 percent of farmers surveyed who already grow wheat said they would plant a biotech variety, when one becomes commercially available.

"I'd be quite interested," said John Lindstrom, a Utah farmer who was interviewed. "I'd look at value enhancement and nutritional value as to where it might have a higher market price."

Monsanto hopes to roll out the first bio-wheat seed in 2003. Development of gene-spliced wheat has taken longer than other crops because of the plant's trickier genetics.

China Implementing New Rules on Genetically Modified Imports

January 10, 2002

China is putting the research, production and sale of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under strict scrutiny with the establishment of a safety certification process, a Ministry of Agriculture official said Wednesday.

China has released the details for the implementation of its first statute on GMOs, which was enacted in June to protect people, animals and the environment while pushing agro-biotechnology research, said Fang Xiangdong of the ministry's newly created GMO safety office, according to Thursday's China Daily. The implementing rules have raised concerns in the United States, a major GMO exporter to China. Washington is considering " the potential impact on US trade to China," US embassy officials said Wednesday.

The new rules require all GMOs entering China for research, production or processing to get safety certificates from the ministry to ensure that the goods are safe. Imports that lack safety certificates and relevant papers will be returned or destroyed.

The new rules also require all genetically altered soy beans, corn, rapeseed, cotton seed and tomatoes to be clearly labeled as GMO products when they hit the market after March 20.

The United States agreed that the regulations are "very technical" and will analyze them very closely, said Joseph Bookbinder, a US Embassy spokesman.

Dissecting A National Trend: Almost Half of All State Legislatures Passed Bills Relating to Agricultural Biotechnology in 2001
Seventy percent of bills passed related to destruction of genetically modified crops, according to new research

Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology
January 10, 2002

Contact:DJ Nordquist
202.347.9132 (direct) or
202-347-9044 ext. 246

Washington, D.C. –- Almost half of all state legislatures passed bills in 2001 addressing some aspect of agricultural biotechnology, according to new research released today by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. One hundred and thirty pieces of legislation (112 bills and 18 resolutions) were introduced in 36 states, with 22 states passing those bills into law. About thirty percent of the bills focused on protecting genetically modified (GM) crops from willful destruction by radical anti-biotechnology activists.

“The range and volume of State legislative activity on agricultural biotechnology last year reflects the growing political significance of those issues at the local and state level,” said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Initiative. “From efforts to restrict genetically modified crops on one hand, to proposals to promote and protect the technology on the other, our research shows that states are increasingly on the front line of the agricultural biotechnology debate.”

The fact sheet, “State Legislative Activity In 2001 Related to Agricultural Biotechnology,” is the second in a series developed by the Initiative to synthesize some of the disparate information about the application of genetic engineering to agriculture. It is accompanied by a new State Bill Tracker 2001, a user-searchable database of all of the state legislation relating to agricultural biotechnology introduced in the past year.

Highlights of the research include:

* State legislatures addressed a wide range of agricultural biotechnology issues: regulating GM crops; creating guidelines for agricultural contracts; banning GM crops; labeling GM crops; and protecting GM crops from destructive acts. In addition, many legislatures commissioned studies or task forces.

* Almost one-third (29 percent) of all legislation introduced in 2001, and 70 percent of all bills that passed, established penalties for the destruction of GM crops.

* The New York legislature was the most active in introducing legislation (16 bills) on agricultural biotechnology, although North Dakota passed more legislation (5 bills) than any other state in 2001.

Both the factsheet and the database are available at the Initiative’s website www.pewagbiotech.org. The factsheet can be directly accessed at http://www.pewagbiotech.org/resources/factsheets/bills/factsheet.php3 and the database is available at http://www.pewagbiotech.org/resources/factsheets/bills.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research project based in Washington, DC whose goal is to inform the public and policymakers on issues about genetically modified food and agricultural biotechnology, including its importance, as well as concerns about it and its regulation. It is funded by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to the University of Richmond.

Nature book review: Naturally Dangerous: Surprising Facts about Food, Health, and the Environment

Nature 415, 117


When viewed from the perspective of scientific uncertainty, some of the fears about unknown consequences may seem less irrational. A challenge for those responsible for translating science into regulatory policy is to find an effective way of taking people's concerns into account without straying from the bedrock of scientific evidence. There are no easy answers, but a start may be for scientists both to explain the uncertainties more fully, and to emphasize that evidence is dynamic and evolving rather than a set of ineluctable facts.

Many believe that the natural toxins in their food are safer than synthetic ones.

If you ask people what they fear about their food, typically the top half-dozen concerns are food poisoning, BSE, growth hormones used in animals, animal feed, pesticides and genetically modified (GM) food (http://www.food.gov.uk). But how do these perceived risks stack up with the estimates of deaths caused by food? Acknowledging that these are only approximate, and that great uncertainties surround some of the numbers, two food risks tower above the rest — the dietary contributions to cardiovascular disease and to cancer. These risks, taking a fairly conservative estimate, probably account for more than 100,000 deaths per year in Britain. Food poisoning probably accounts for between 50 and 300 (similar in range of magnitude to the risk of choking to death on food or suffering a fatal accident while getting into or out of bed). As far as we know, growth hormones (banned in Europe) and pesticides in food, as well as GM food, are not responsible for any deaths.

A generally accepted psychological explanation for the discrepancy between perceived and actual risk is the one based on Paul Slovic's identification of the range of factors that make risks seem more frightening. Thus, for example, risks that are under someone else's control, potentially catastrophic and unfamiliar are perceived as greater than those with the opposite features. That is why most of us view riding our bicycle in a busy street as a more acceptable risk than living near a nuclear power station, although rational analysis says that you should stay off your bike.

James Collman writes about another important dimension of risk perception — naturalness: "Many Americans are under the mistaken impression that if something is 'natural' it is safe." As far as food is concerned, Collman covers similar ground to that in Julian Morris and Roger Bate's Fearing Food (Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999) and Douglas Powell and William Leiss's Mad Cows and Mother's Milk (McGill-Queens University Press, 1997).

Perhaps one of the most telling arguments against the 'natural equals safe, man-made equals dangerous' view of foods is the one put forward by Bruce Ames and colleagues. Fundamental to the safety assessment of any potentially toxic substance is the maxim attributed to Paracelsus, that the effects on the body of any substance, good or bad, depend on the dose. Ames pointed out that if the same precautionary criteria that are used to set pesticide safety levels — toxicological data, including tests on rodents for carcinogenicity — were applied to the natural toxins in plants that have evolved to deter predators, many foods would be deemed unsafe. For example, potatoes, grilled food and peanuts would be banned if they underwent the same kind of scrutiny as pesticide residues.

According to Ames, half of the natural toxins that have been tested (most have not) are rodent carcinogens, and each year the average American consumes about 10,000 times more of these natural pesticides than of synthetic residues. A single cup of coffee contains natural carcinogens equal at least to a year's worth of carcinogenic synthetic residues in the diet. The organic sector has claimed that its produce is lower in synthetic residues (fewer pesticides are used) but higher in natural toxins. From Ames's line of argument, consumers of organic produce may well be trading a minute amount of synthetic residue for equally — if not more — dangerous natural pesticides. This should, of course, be kept in perspective: any potentially detrimental effect of natural pesticides or synthetic pesticide residues is far outweighed by the health benefits of consuming five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

Collman's quirky and erratic account, more a series of vignettes than a narrative, makes an effective case for not accepting the simple equation 'natural = safe'. In addition to food, he covers herbal medicines, environmental pollution, global warming, electromagnetic radiation and radioactivity. I would have liked a slightly less triumphalist tone, in recognition that there are still many uncertainties in our understanding of both environmental and diet-related impacts on human health. For instance, the toxicological consequences of exposure to cocktails of residues and the potential effects of long-term exposure are not well documented. As new data emerge, the experts, quite correctly, sometimes change their minds about safety limits. This recently happened for dioxins, for which the safety level has been reduced by a factor of five.

When viewed from the perspective of scientific uncertainty, some of the fears about unknown consequences may seem less irrational. A challenge for those responsible for translating science into regulatory policy is to find an effective way of taking people's concerns into account without straying from the bedrock of scientific evidence. There are no easy answers, but a start may be for scientists both to explain the uncertainties more fully, and to emphasize that evidence is dynamic and evolving rather than a set of ineluctable facts.

Claude Combe's previous book Parasitism: The Ecology and Evolution of Intimate Interactions, has recently been published in an English translation (University of Chicago Press, $55).

*John Krebs is chairman of the UK Food Standards Agency and in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


Jan. 9/02
Vancouver Sun
Re: Food for Thought, January 7, 2002
(Via Agnet)

Mia Stainsby's Jan 7th profile of author and environmentalist John Robbins in 'Food for Thought' dregdes up almost every rumour about the evils of genetically-engineered (GE) food spread during the last decade. Most striking was the description of a GE bacteria that, according to environmentalist David Suzuki, "could have ended all plant life on this continent."

Unfortunately, there was no mention of the controversial origin of this claim. The GE bacteria at issue, named Klebsiella planticola SDF20, was designed to make fuel-alcohol from crop waste. While the bacteria was in development, Professor Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University and a Ph.D. student worked with the bacterium and grew wheat plants in soil inoculated with the bacteria in an eight week lab experiment, not a field experiment as Stainsby's article stated.

The plants growing with the bacteria died, and based on this evidence, Ingham foresaw deadly global consequences. Ingham gave testimony before New Zealand’s Royal Commission on Genetic Modification last year in which she asserted that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had approved field trials of the bacteria with little thought to the ecological consequences. She alleged that her independent research had caused the EPA to cancel field tests, averting possible environmental disaster. "This could have been the single most devastating impact on human beings since we would likely have lost corn, wheat, barley, vegetable crops, trees, bushes, etc, conceivably all terrestrial plants" she said.

Greenpeace widely publicized her findings, but her comments also drew close scrutiny from fellow scientists. A debate followed and vital details came to light. Ingham was found to have been mistaken or to have misled the Royal Commission. Firstly, she said the EPA had approved field trials for the bacteria.

Not true. There was never an application to the EPA to do a field trial, and both Ingham and Greenpeace were forced to issue 'clarifications' on this point to the Royal Commission. Secondly, Ingham apparently falsified a journal reference for her research. For academics, these publications mark both their accomplishments and their integrity. The paper was cited many times, complete with non-existent volume and page numbers.

Thirdly, her doomsday scenario was found utterly indefensible by many of her colleagues including David Tribe, a microbiologist from the University of Melbourne. With others, he issued rebuttal testimony to the Royal Commission. In a written statement they noted that many alcohol-producing Klebsiella planticola varieties are found in nature, without harmful effects to plants. They also stated that over the eight weeks of Ingham's experiment the quantity of the bacteria in the soil decreased 1 million-fold, suggesting it had a poor capacity to survive in the wild. In summary Tribe and colleagues wrote "It is our opinion that Dr. Ingham has presented inaccurate, careless and exaggerated information to the Royal Commission; incorrectly interpreting published scientific information and generating speculative doomsday scenarios that are not scientifically supportable" Comments made by environmentalist and author John Robbins, profiled in Stainsby's article, suggest he has little awareness of Ingham's critic

Other quotes attributed to Robbins in the article are misleading or simply wrong. For instance, Bt corn is not engineered to be resistant to herbicide, it is insect-resistant. Robbins' quote about Bt, "we're eating a substance toxic to caterpillars, we're not sure if it's toxic to people" is perplexing, since he is a proponent of organic agriculture. Organic farmers spray Bt bacteria on their crops as a pesticide - the very same bacteria that contributed the Bt gene used to make Bt corn. Last fall the EPA re-registered Bt corn varieties for another seven years. Their report suggested Bt corn may be healthier than conventional corn for two
reasons: the Bt trait has reduced pesticide use, especially on fields of sweet corn (corn-on-the-cob), and Bt corn has lower levels of mycotoxins (toxic compounds produced by a corn disease) than conventional corn.

Another inflammatory and baseless quote from Robbins was that people 'eat weedkiller' when they eat Roundup-ready genetically-engineered crops. Roundup is a herbicide applied on both conventional and GE crops. It is preferred by growers in part because it is safer and more biodegradeable than other herbicides. Robbins' quote "when genes shuttle between wide varieties of species, they can take with them genetic parasites such as viruses" is deceptive. When plants are genetically-engineered, researchers carefully choose the gene sequences they want to move. It is true that a common sequence used in GE plants originated with the cauliflower mosaic virus, but it is used intentionally, it is not an interloper. The plant virus is routinely found (and safely eaten) on broccoli.


Krista Thomas, research assitant, Food Safety Network Douglas Powell, scientific director, Food Safety Network, dept. of plant agriculture, University of Guelph.

Date: 7 Jan 2002 20:19:09 -0000
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Killer Klebsiella

The Vancouver Sun
January 7, 2002
Pg. B7 / Front

Food for thought: In his latest book, John Robbins warns that genetically modified foods not only don’t provide adequate nutrition, but might also lead to the bankruptcy of poor farmers and irreversible environmental damage.

A few years ago, a German biotech company genetically modified a common soil bacterium, Klebsiella planticula, to enable it to break down vegetative waste and produce ethanol.

It seemed like a huge accomplishment -- ethanol could be used as a gasoline alternative and the rest of the biomass as compost for farming. Hopes were high and it was field-tested at Oregon State University.

But when the genetically modified bacterium was added to living soil, the seeds planted in the soil (to produce the vegetable matter to be broken down) sprouted but then died. The genetically modified Klebsiella was a feisty little guy, knocking out a fungus that plants need to extract nutrients from the soil. Without it, plants can’t survive.

More frightening, the genetically modified bacteria persisted in the soil. Had it been released, it could have become virtually impossible to eradicate, says author John Robbins in his newest book The Food Revolution (Conari Press, $28.95).

“It could have ended all plant life on this continent,” geneticist David Suzuki says in the book. The implications of this case are nothing short of terrifying.”

“That’s how close we came,” Robbins says during a phone interview from his home in Santa Cruz. To him, genetic engineering in the food industry spells potential disaster to our health and environment.

New Scientist
March 17, 2001
Pg. 19

Green-faced apology

New Zealand’s Green Party and another witness to the New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, admitted last week that they gave incorrect and misleading testimony in February. Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University had said that a genetically modified strain of the bacterium “Klebsiella planticola” killed potted plants in experiments, and that if released it could “result in the death of all terrestrial plants” (New Scientist, 3 March, p 11). Ingham now admits that the US Environmental Protection Agency never considered allowing field trials of the bacterium, as she had testified, and says the destruction of terrestrial plants is only “one possible scenario”. But Ingham and the Green Party stand by their conclusion that GM organisms can have unintended effects, and that more testing is needed.


January 9, 2002
(Via Agnet)

On November 15, AGCare representatives appeared before the Prime Minister's Task Force on Future Opportunities in Farming. The following commentary is adapted from that presentation. The complete text is available on the AGCare website: http://www.agcare.org

For farmers, there are two main components that are essential for ensuring a viable and dynamic agriculture industry in Canada: the ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace and retained consumer confidence in our products. Several key areas require special vigilance. Pesticide Regulatory Reform Current Canadian pesticide regulatory practices have contributed to an expanding technology gap between Canadian and US farmers, particularly in the area of minor use crops. In many instances, Canadian farmers have far fewer options available for effective pest control, and are forced to rely on older, less environmentally benign products in order to produce marketable crops. To ensure Canadian growers' competitiveness as well as optimum human health and environmental safety, proactive steps must be taken to close the growing technology gap between Canadian growers and other NAFTA partners. Canadian regulatory requirements must be re-examined to find ways to stop the unnecessary duplication of efforts

(AgBioView message from the past)


The Green's Ear-ie Ad - Groups Use Scare Tactics to Fight Technology

Washington Times
By Steven Milloy
December 10, 1999

"Who plays God in the 21st century?" is the rhetorical title of a recent full-page advertisement in The New York Times attacking genetic engineering. The rhetorical reply should be, "Someone who takes more seriously the Ninth Commandment: 'Thou shalt not bear false witness.' "

The Oct. 11 advertisement was the first in a series lambasting genetic engineering, "economic globalization," "industrial agriculture" and "technomania." The series is sponsored by The Turning Point Project, a coalition of anti-technology and environmental groups including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Ads appear weekly and will continue through Spring 2000.

The "Who plays God?" ad features a photograph of a shaved laboratory mouse with what looks like a human ear attached to its back. The caption states, "This is an actual photo of a genetically engineered mouse with a human ear on its back."

The text rails against genetic engineering: "The genetic structures of living beings are the last of Nature's creations to be invaded and altered for commerce . . . the infant biotechnology industry feels it's OK to . . . reshape life on Earth to suit its balance sheets. Who appointed the biotech industry as Gods of the 21st century? So far, there exist no half-human, half-animal 'chimeras' (like mermaids or centaurs) but we may soon have them."

Dramatic language, indeed. But let's return to that mouse photograph.

In reality, the mouse with the attached "human ear" has nothing to do with genetic engineering. That's not even a real ear attached to the mouse.

A template in the shape of a human ear was formed and then seeded with human chondrocytes, or cartilage cells. The template was then surgically implanted on the back of a mouse, under its skin. The chondrocytes eventually grew into the structure resembling a child's ear.

Eventually this technology may help children who are either born without ears or who lose their ears through injury. The advantage of the technique is that tissue grown from a patient's own cells avoids the problem of rejection.

Thanks to this "tissue engineering," a "whole host of other lab-grown body parts are just around the corner," says Dr. Charles Vacanti, an anesthesiologist and director of the Center for Tissue Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. "I believe that it's technically possible at this time to replace any bone or any cartilage lost in an accident - or to disease," adds Dr. Vacanti.

But nothing in this process involves changing the genetic structure of any living thing. The ad claims that "Biotech companies are blithely removing components of human beings (and other creatures) and treating us all like auto parts at a swap meet. An astounding array of new creatures is being created. They include mice with human ears."

Of course, if the pictured mouse reproduced, no "new" creature would be created. A normal mouse would result because the mouse's genetic makeup was not changed.

If the photo has no connection to the topic of the ad, what's it doing there? Apparently, the Greens will stoop to any level necessary to make their dubious points. Unfortunately, the "Who plays God?" ad is only the tip of the iceberg. Subsequent advertisements haven't been any more credible.

An ad titled "Genetic Roulette" features a photo of a Monarch butterfly with the caption, "Cornell University scientists discovered that genetically engineered corn pollen killed 50 percent of Monarchs in their test." The reality is somewhat different. John Losey, the lead Cornell scientist, said in an interview last June, "Our study was conducted in the laboratory and, while it raises an important issue, it would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions about the risk to Monarch populations in the field based solely on these initial results." Subsequent research by Mr. Losey and others has made premature drawing of conclusions even more inappropriate.

Another ad, titled "Unlabeled, untested - and you're eating it," states, "In secret, genetically engineered foods are showing up on American grocery shelves . . . the Food and Drug Administration still does not require labels or safety tests." Not quite. The Turning Point Coalition is lucky The New York Times doesn't require truth tests.

A longstanding approval process for genetically modified crops involves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the FDA. The FDA standard for approving GM foods is whether they are substantially equivalent to non-GM foods. Safety assessment procedures focus on unique or novel components of GM-foods, such as proteins or metabolites. Foods not "substantially equivalent," but deemed "safe" must be labeled as to what is different.

This regulatory process was subject to notice and public comment prior to adoption. The FDA is currently holding public hearings around the country to determine whether the public wants more involvement. Where's the big "secret"?

These ads aren't intended to inform; they're intended to scare. Who plays God in the 21st century? I've got a better question: When will the Greens tell the truth?

Steven J. Milloy is an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and publisher of Junkscience.com.