Today in AgBioView - Weekender
* Designer Food: Mutant Harvest or Breadbasket of the World?
* From the Lab to Your Grocer's Shelves
* Eradicating World Hunger
* Monterey Workshop on Biotech for Horticultural Crops
* No Bt Soybeans Planted Despite Claims -Monsanto
* Agribusiness Better, But No Bumper Year
* Free Movies on AgBiotech Online
* Free Genetic Texts Online
* Free CD-ROM on Genetics
* Harvest on the Horizon - Radio Program
* Greens On Gravy Train Attack Science When It Hurts Their Cause:
Scientific American Joins Attack On Lomborg Book
Designer Food: Mutant Harvest or Breadbasket of the World?
- Gregory E. Pence, Rowman & Littlefield Pub Inc. Dec 2001; 256 pp,
http://www.rowmanlittlefield.com In stock now at
Amazon.com price: $18.86
Preface: Food is the very stuff of life. I am what I eat and what I
eat is me. In eating, I relate to other people and I relate to the
world. How I eat, with whom I eat, and why I eat partly define me.
Food is the mind-body problem made personal.
Our current, reductionist ideology tells us that genes make up our
true selves; so if we eat genetically modified food, don't we risk
changing our natures? When food crops are genetically modified,
scientists seem to be changing the very stuff of our lives and,
indirectly, to be changing us. Isn't this scary?
Genetically modified (GM) food also scares people because it suggests
tampering with our traditional food, which is assumed to be safe,
clean, and mostly natural. Growing GM crops suggests the death of the
wholesome countryside, which in the past nurtured many virtues and
gave many people meaning in life.
The main topics of this book are GM food, whether it should scare us,
and whether it is good for the world. When I started writing about GM
food, I realized that I could not do so without discussing organic
food, world hunger, agricultural terrorists, the safety of meat,
environmental ethics, mad cow disease, and European versus American
attitudes toward food. At some point, all these topics enter the
debate about GM food.
Like death, food concerns everyone. Unlike death, which only happens
once and which many people prefer not to think about, food must be
considered several times a day, every day, and many people spend a
great deal of time thinking about it. Thus it is surprising that
philosophers have not written about food, for as we shall see, not
only GM food but food policy in general abounds with ethical issues.
Thinking about food can be sharpened by using four world views:
globalism, naturalism, scientific progressivism, and egalitarianism.
I deploy these "frames" throughout the book to illustrate how
different people in good faith come to differing conclusions about GM
food. For some people, particular frames matter the most in judging
GM food. For others, parts of several frames must be combined to make
the best judgment.
More is at stake here than aesthetics. Squeamish American and
European sensitivities do not mirror the whole world, where many
people each night still go to bed hungry. If genetically enhanced
crops can feed the starving, prevent blindness, or carry vaccines
against pandemics, then these great goods should count vastly in the
acceptability of GM crops.
As we shall see, Europeans and Americans react disparately to GM
food. Of course, what Europeans fear is McCafes on every block
playing American rap music. Can we imagine how we would feel if, say,
Japanese or Arabic culture seemed to be triumphing over our own?
(Canadian readers undoubtedly do understand this feeling.)
At the same time, some European organizations, especially Greenpeace
International, inappropriately alarm the public about GM crops.
Countering their biases requires some base for comparing the safety
of GM foods. In this book, I take that base to be the safety of the
meat most Americans eat everyday.
This book also answers some other questions about GM food: is "Bt
corn" safe to eat? Does it destroy Monarch butterflies? Does it need
smaller amounts of pesticides to grow? Are environmental groups that
fight GM food evil? When did past environmentalism assist fascism?
Are GM crops safe for the environment? What are their downstream
Extremism characterizes most debates about GM food: egalitarian
critics who never see any good in agribusiness fight scientists who
view environmentalists as tree-hugging morons; globalists who view
small-is-beautiful naturalists as Luddites oppose organic farmers who
see proponents of global agriculture as nothing short of industrial
Within such polarization, an impartial bioethicist may find
employment, at least in removing the conceptual rubbish, finding the
common ground, and sorting out the arguments. At least, that is my
Book Jacket: 'Absolutely everyone must eat. People decide several
times a day what to eat and what not to eat, and the personal issue
about genetically modified food is whether it is safe to eat--not
only in the moment, but over the long-run. 'Designer Food' addresses
these and other pressing questions surrounding the ethics of
genetically modified food in the premier, single authored commentary
on the subject. Beginning with a thorough chronicling of GM Food's
rise to fame first in England and later in North America, the book
considers such issues as the symbolic importance of food, world
hunger, food terrorism and sabatoge, and democratic public
participation in the growing debate surrounding genetically modified
"Professor Pence has done a masterful job in telling the story of the
controversy over genetically modified food, poignantly painting the
views of diverse actors and analyzing the underlying philosophies of
their arguments. And yet, Designer Food is more than a treatise on
the debate--it furthers an argument on the future of food on this
planet, and how we are to go about ensuring its access to everyone. I
recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand the
current debate on genetically modified food." - C. S. Prakash,
director, Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, Tuskegee
"Designer Food is a timely, well-written narrative describing the
ongoing heated debate about assuring the world adequate sustainable
food production without hurting the environment or wildlife habitats.
Pence argues convincingly for the development of improved crops by
genetic engineering." - Norman E. Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Prize winner
and Distinguished Professor, College of Agriculture and Life
Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Gregory Pence is a medical ethicist with twenty years of experience
reviewing significant cases in bioethics, and is professor in the
School of Medicine and the Department of Philosophy at the University
of Alabama. Pence has contributed to the New York Times,Wall Street
Journal,Newsweek, and the Journal of the American Medical
Association. He is the author of Classical Cases in Medical Ethics:
Accounts of the Cases that Shaped Medical Ethics, 3rd edition (2000)
and Who's Afraid of Human Cloning? (1998).
From the Lab to Your Grocer's Shelves
Karl Thiel, Forbes, Dec 10, 2001;
In addition to the problems with yield, disease and pests, there is
the problem of spoilage. Most of us have, at one time or another,
bought a quart of strawberries, juicy and beautifully ripe, only to
find them rotting by the time we get to the bottom of the package. We
know that a head of lettuce seldom stays fresh, even in the
refrigerator, long enough for us to eat the whole thing. Even produce
that we buy in smaller quantities, like tomatoes, suffers from a
spoilage problem less obvious to the consumer. Tomatoes will often
rot in transit from Mexico or other farming areas, so farmers must
pick them while they're still green and let them ripen en route. That
leads to a tomato that didn't ripen on the vine and doesn't have the
full flavor of a fresh garden tomato.
Even with such obstacles, of course, we're very lucky to live in a
country with high-tech growing techniques, a range of climates and
efficient transportation systems that allow us to get a variety of
produce in reasonably good shape. In other parts of the world,
farther from centers of agriculture, many fruits and vegetables are
difficult to get and often very expensive.
At Senesco Technologies, a Princeton, N.J.-based company founded in
1998, researchers are developing new strains of crops that don't rot
as quickly as conventional plants. Dr. John Thompson, a professor of
biology at the University of Waterloo, has been studying plant
senescence - the natural rotting process - for over two decades. His
research has formed the backbone of Senesco, where he is executive
vice president of R&D. Thompson has discovered a handful of molecular
targets that appear to control the process of senescence.
Nobody has ever targeted senescence with such specificity. Several
years ago, a California company called Calgene marketed a genetically
engineered tomato called the "Flavr Savr," which didn't rot as
quickly as conventional breeds. But rotting was delayed because the
whole ripening process was delayed, and the tomato didn't have a
flavor that won consumers over. In addition, new conventional
varieties that matured through a longer growing season made the
problem of rotting tomatoes less acute.
Senesco has focused on different cellular targets, and three genes in
particular: lipase, which plays the central role in senescence by
chopping up cell membranes, and two genes that act as signals,
controlling a host of cellular functions related to senescence. While
the lipase gene makes the protein that carries out most of the dirty
work, the other two genes - a deoxyhypusine synthetase and a
eukaryotic translation initiation factor - initiate the process.
Inhibiting the action of these genes slows down the rotting process,
as Senesco researchers have proven in the laboratory in experiments
with tomatoes, carnation flowers, arabidopsis (a close relative of
canola) and bananas.
As its first commercial products, Senesco is concentrating on
developing improved varieties of bananas (through a joint venture
with Raha Meristem, an Israeli agbio company), and on lettuce and
melons, through an alliance forged earlier this year with Harris
Moran Seed Co. For a young company like Senesco, it is important to
focus on research that can be turned into commercial products, and as
Thompson notes, "There is considerable commercial interest in
extending the shelf life of fruits." Better yet, the genes that
control senescence in lab species like arabidopsis are very similar
to genes in commercial plant species, meaning Senesco's technology
could be almost "plug and play." That may allow the company to expand
a product line with fewer technical hurdles.
But putting the brakes on rotting may have indirect effects that
create a whole range of new market opportunities. "Our objective has
been to delay senescence in crops in order to enhance the quality of
perishable crops and help recoup losses in the marketing chain from
spoilage," says Thompson. He notes, however, that there is another
"We have found that at least two of the genes we're working with have
broader effects on plant development," explains Thompson. Senesco
researchers noticed that plants with delayed senescence tend to grow
more quickly and get bigger - indicating that Senesco's technology
might be useful in increasing crop yield.
The reason why this happens is not entirely clear, but Thompson
points out that senescence is not merely a process that occurs at the
end of a plant's life. Crops often undergo environmental stresses
that are not lethal, and they often react to these everyday
challenges with targeted senescence in particular leaves or stalks or
fruit. They do this because the senescence process allows plants to
put nutrients into seeds and soil that will be used by future
generations. When this process is inhibited, that plant may instead
invest that energy in itself.
Of course, most consumers have little direct contact with farm crops.
Whether it be rot-resistant produce, Roundup Ready soybeans or any
other genetically improved crop, farmers count on food processors to
take harvests from their gate and turn it into goods that eventually
Eradicating World Hunger
An estimated 800 million people in the world - many of them children
- are malnourished, according to Channapatna Prakash, professor of
Plant Molecular Genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama. The
causes of hunger and famine are manifold - often political in nature,
as we've seen in Afghanistan. But much of it also has to do with
The fact that about 19% of people in the world are malnourished may
be shocking, but in the 1970s, that figure was more than twice as
high - 39%. In 30 years, we've cut hunger in half, even while the
world's population has doubled. How?
One major contributing factor was the "Green Revolution" of the
1960s. This change in farming practices that increased crop yields
around the globe was essentially a revolution in plant breeding
brought about by agricultural scientists who learned how to create
dwarf hybrid species of common crops. For plants like wheat, this had
an enormous impact.
If you heavily fertilize regular wheat, it grows tall rather than
dense and falls over from its own weight, rotting on the ground.
Hybrid breeds, on the other hand, stay relatively short but grow
thicker. The result is more food yield from the same amount of land.
Norman Borlaug, an American plant breeder, won the 1970 Nobel Peace
Prize for his work in creating these dwarf hybrids and fueling the
Borlaug's work took decades because he did his research at a time
before genomics made it possible to efficiently pinpoint and study
the genes responsible for growth and yield traits in crops. Although
for many, agricultural biotechnology brings to mind images of gene
splicing, much of the science is actually a simple outgrowth of
traditional plant breeding. Scientists merely guide their breeding
work with precision afforded by modern biotechnologies.
In other cases, scientists have found that the best way to give a
plant an improved trait is indeed to splice in a desired gene, often
from another species. Thus Monsanto of St. Louis, Mo., has introduced
a commercially successful line of seeds for plants resistant to the
widely used herbicide Roundup, as well as corn that resists the
European corn borer, an insect that can decimate harvests.
The impact of these products has already been profound. "Farmers
adopt these technologies because they make more money as a result,"
says Leonard Gianessi, senior research associate at the nonprofit
National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. Instead of using
four or five different chemicals that can control various weed
species but not damage crops, farmers can simply use broad-spectrum
Roundup after planting Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" crop varieties.
Gianessi estimates the technology is saving U.S. soybean farmers
alone about $200 million per year.
But the impact goes beyond economics. Many conventional herbicides
linger in the ground for years, while Roundup breaks down completely
in a matter of hours. That means less potential for chemicals to
enter groundwater supplies.
Agricultural scientists think the revolution has just begun. At seed
companies and academic institutions around the globe, researchers are
studying plants to see how we might further improve crops - by
developing breeds that resist common diseases, can survive drought,
or grow in salty soil. Those developments could allow people to farm
land currently considered non-arable.
Researchers also have developed foods with improved nutritional
characteristics. "Golden Rice," developed by Ingo Potrykus of the
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Peter Beyer at
the University of Freiburg, Germany, contains genes from the daffodil
flower. This gives the rice a golden color and, more importantly, a
high level of vitamin A precursors like beta carotene. Blindness
resulting from vitamin A deficiency is a serious problem in many
areas where rice is a staple. Rice does not naturally contain much
vitamin A, and people who eat little else suffer from chronic
deficiencies of this important nutrient.
Workshop on Biotechnology for Horticultural Crops: Challenges &
March 7-9, 2002, Monterey, CA; University Of California
While some horticultural crops enhanced through biotechnology have
been commercialized, unique technical, economic, regulatory and
marketing hurdles remain for horticultural biotechnology. The
diversity of species and varieties requires continuing research to
develop enabling technologies and to identify target traits for
improvement. The small acreages and market values of individual crops
make it difficult to recover the research and development costs of
biotechnology. Similarly, access to enabling intellectual property
and the regulatory requirements for testing and registration are
particularly burdensome for horticultural crops. Consumer concerns
and trade issues are delaying the marketing of developed products.
This Workshop will bring diverse segments of the horticultural
industry together to assess the current situation and to identify
avenues for future progress. Scientific, economic, social, regulatory
and policy aspects of horticultural biotechnology will be addressed
by invited speakers and group discussion. Attendance will be limited
to 100 participants to foster an interactive workshop atmosphere.
No Bt Soybeans Planted Despite Claims -Monsanto
- Randy Fabi, Reuters, January 11, 2002
WASHINGTON - Biotech giant Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON - news) on Friday
said an unapproved genetically engineered soybean variety had never
been sold to U.S. farmers despite a survey of growers that indicated
some 1,775 acres of the beans were planted last year.
"Bt soybeans are not commercially available and they are not being
planted in the United States," said Kimberly Magin, Monsanto soybean
director for industry affairs, who added that the variety was still
in an experimental phase. Earlier this week, a Reuters straw poll
found eight farmers who said they intended to plant 1,515 acres of Bt
soybeans for the 2002 crop, down from 1,775 acres the previous year.
The confidential poll questioned 321 farmers at the American Farm
Bureau Federation's annual meeting in Reno, Nevada.
Bt soybeans, engineered to help a growing plant resist a harmful
pest, were being planted by the company in a controlled environment
following strict federal guidelines, Magin said. "Maybe the farmers
thought the products would be available this year," she said. "But
they are not."
Bt cotton and corn seeds are commercially available to farmers.
Another type of biotech soybeans -- known as Roundup Ready -- is
available to growers. It has been rapidly adopted by U.S. farmers
during the past three years because it allows growers to use a single
herbicide to reduce weeds in fields.
The biotech issue is an especially important one for the soybean
industry, which it says exports about half of all U.S. soy products.
Nearly 70 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown from genetically
modified seeds. Bob Callanan, spokesman for the American Soybean
Association, said U.S. soybeans would be shut out of many export
markets if an unapproved biotech soybean variety, like Bt soybeans,
was detected in a shipment.
"Japan and Europe would bar our exports if we tried to ship soybeans
that are not approved, " Callanan said. The U.S. agricultural sector
is still feeling the aftershocks of the federal government's
discovery in September 2000 that an unapproved biotech corn variety
had seeped into American food products and exports. StarLink corn,
made by the European drug giant Aventis SA , was found in taco
shells, sparking the recall of hundreds of food products and hurting
U.S. corn exports overseas. Unit Aventis CropScience has since been
sold to Germany's Bayer AG .
Agribusiness Better, But No Bumper Year
- Julie Forster, BusinessWeek, Jan 14 2002
In 2001, U.S. prices for cotton, rice, soybeans, and other farm
commodities languished at historic lows. So despite big harvests,
revenues shrank across the agricultural sector, sparing neither
farmers nor equipment makers. This year will be better, but just a
little. Prices won't rebound much because more countries are trying
to boost exports of farm products to combat the global economic
slowdown. "We've got a lot of competition in the world," says Keith
Collins, chief economist for the U.S. Agriculture Dept.
The $206 billion agribusiness sector could be in for a few pleasant
surprises, however. Corn prices may firm up faster than expected
because many farmers have switched from corn to soybeans, a crop that
carries a bigger subsidy. As a result, corn stockpiles are now being
depleted to meet demand. Producers also stand to get a welcome
increase in price supports if a new farm bill is enacted. And farmers
are cheered by the prospect of huge new markets in China.
Nonetheless, such bright spots are the exception. Even for soybeans,
one of America's main cash crops, prices will linger at all-time
lows. To be sure, more soymeal protein is being fed to animals in
Europe and Asia amidst ongoing concerns about mad cow disease. Big
soybean crushers such as Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, and Cargill
are going after that market. But Latin American soybean farmers, who
have steadily gained market share at the expense of U.S. producers,
will likely satisfy much of the demand. Agriculture's Collins wonders
whether subsidies are sustainable and whether they "really help
American agriculture meet the emerging competition."
Prospects in the $42 billion cattle industry are hardly any better.
Although strong demand and tight supplies in the cattle market
sparked a 10% increase in retail beef prices at the beginning of
2001, demand fell as the economy weakened--then sank even further
after the terrorist attacks of September. Mad cow disease is another
drag on consumption. U.S. herds have been spared so far, but a
handful of cases have surfaced in Japan--the largest foreign market
for U.S. beef. Charles D. Lambert, chief economist with the National
Cattlemen's Beef Assn., worries about continued weakness in 2002.
As the farm economy sputters, equipment manufacturers such as Deere &
Co. anticipate another year of sluggish sales. Deere reported losses
of $64 million for its fiscal year ended Oct. 31. Overall, sales in
the $10 billion North American farm-equipment industry may fall as
much as 5% from 2001 levels. One factor dampening demand is
uncertainty over the next farm bill. The 1996 bill expires this year,
and lawmakers are wrangling over a new one. ``If you don't know
what's coming, you don't make capital investments like you would if
commodity prices alone drove that decision,'' says Mogens C. Bay,
chairman of Valmont Industries, a maker of irrigation systems in
On the bright side, China's entry into the World Trade Organization
is creating opportunities for embattled U.S. farmers. John W.
Skorburg, an economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, says
that Chinese imports of soybeans could rise steeply--from about 13
million metric tons this year, to 15 million by 2005. By then, he
also expects China to turn from an exporter to an importer of corn.
Rising incomes in China should stimulate demand for wheat, beef, and
poultry as well, Skorburg says. But that's the future. In 2002, farm
exports are likely to grow only slightly, to $54.5 billion.
Genetically modified foods remain a wild card. American farmers are
planting more bioengineered seeds than ever before, and the Europeans
are protesting less, says Tim Stocker, head of regulatory affairs in
Europe for seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. Now,
there's new hope within U.S. agribusiness that the European Union
will move forward on proposed food-labeling laws that would tacitly
recognize the safety of engineered foods. Wider acceptance there--or
in Asia or Latin America--could spark new growth in U.S. exports.
The big wait-and-see issues for this year will be the farm bill and
the recession. A recovery, or some well-placed subsidies, could go a
long way in dispelling the gloom hanging over U.S. farms.
It's Movie Time!
Kansas State University has produced four short movies on
View them at http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/learnmore/TVBiotech.htm
Thanks to Andrew Apel for the alert.
Biotechnology: What is It? Biotechnology has been used for more than
25 years. Today, it's used widely in the marketplace. Part I of
this series explains what biotech is, specifically plant
biotechnology. Length 3:05
Risks and Benefits: Many experts in the scientific community are
praising the results of genetic engineering. Some of those outside
that circle doubt the benefits of this technology. In part II of his
series, Joe Camoriano traveled to the world's largest gathering of
biotech experts and spoke with industry leaders about the risks and
benefits of genetic engineering. Length 3:20
Farmers and Consumers: The object of researchers, scientists, and
farmers is to help improve our food supply and keep it safe. Through
genetic engineering, that goal is becoming a reality. In part III of
his series, Joe Camoriano reports on how genetic engineering is
affecting farmers and consumers. Length: 3:23
Biotech Crops: When it comes to farming, it's obvious producers want
to grow as much as possible and maintain high quality crops at the
same time. They also want to help improve the environment. In the
final part of his series, Joe Camoriano takes a look at biotech
crops, and how they are influencing the way some are viewing genetic
engineering. Length: 2:49
Web Texts: No Library Card Needed
- Science, vol 295, No 5552, Jan 4, 2002
Looking for textbooks on cell biology, molecular biology, or
genetics? Check the shelves at this digital biomedical library from
the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the same people
who bring you the PubMed abstracts database. Full-text versions of
six classroom staples are available, including the third edition of
Molecular Biology of the Cell, Molecular Cell Biology, and C. elegans
II. The most recent addition is a timely chapter on smallpox and the
vaccinia virus (the source of smallpox vaccine) from a textbook on
vaccination; upcoming titles include Developmental Biology by Scott
Gilbert and Cancer Medicine. You can search the texts for a specific
subject or just browse, and all have been hyperlinked to relevant
abstracts in PubMed.
Introduction to Genetic Analysis. 7th ed. Griffiths, Anthony J.F.;
Gelbart, William M.; Miller, Jeffrey H.; Lewontin, Richard C.
Modern Genetic Analysis. Griffiths, Anthony J.F.; Gelbart, William
M.; Miller, Jeffrey H.; Lewontin, Richard C.
Molecular Biology of the Cell. 3rd ed. Alberts, Bruce; Bray, Dennis;
Lewis, Julian; Raff, Martin; Roberts, Keith; Watson, James D.
Molecular Cell Biology. 4th ed. Lodish, Harvey; Berk, Arnold;
Zipursky, S. Lawrence; Matsudaira, Paul; Baltimore, David; Darnell,
An Educational CD-ROM on Genetics
Email Requests for CD:
The Roche Genetics Education Program is an interactive CD-ROM
developed to promote basic awareness of genetics in the general
public, and offer an interactive tool to learn basic principles of
genetics. The CD-ROM is targeted to a broad audience with an interest
in human genetics and its applications in drug discovery and
The program includes the following topics: Introduction to Genetics;
Finding Genes Associated with Diseases; Pharmacogenetics; Ethical,
Legal and Social Issues
If you want to order the Roche Genetics CD-ROM, send an email at
Harvest on the Horizon
WTOP with info posted to
Original message courtesy of Jack Cooper, http://www.fien.com (From:
"Cindy Lynn Richard, CIH" )
The Use and Regulation of Ag Biotech Products is the topic of
reports to be aired on the Washington, DC News Radio Station, WTOP,
under the banner "Harvest on the Horizon" - The reports are sponsored
by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (PIFB), which is
assisting the radio station with content, but control of final story
content rests with the station, according PIFB - The following was
taken from the WTOP www site: "
This begins a new series of reports on modern biotechnology in
agriculture. It's an interesting field and one that has generated
significant debate. Much of it centers on the rapidly growing use of
food crops whose genes have been altered…sometimes to make them
resistant to pests or chemicals…sometimes to make them ripen more
slowly during shipping…sometimes to change their appearance or taste.
Altered life forms are now allowed to grow in the open. And there are
plans for more of them, for food, fuel and fiber.
Critics worry about unintended consequences, biological, economic and
legal. In this series the aim is not to take sides, but to engage
your interest in an important subject and add to your knowledge of
it. ... Since all sides in the biotech debates say they'd like the
public to know more about the field, we're launching this series with
some background on biotech ... Genetic engineering, or gene splicing,
is kind of tricky. Scientists have figured out that biological
scissors that they call restriction enzymes can snip out specific
genes from a strand of DNA. Isolated genes can be inserted into
circular pieces of DNA called plasmids where they rapidly reproduce.
Similar methods, and there are several of them, are used to insert
these genes into other strands of DNA. When it works, you get a life
form with genes from two different species. Such an organism is
called transgenic. The first and simplest forms of this are bacteria
that grow proteins. One is used to produce human insulin. Another
makes an enzyme for the production of cheese..."
New reports on the series will be posted on the WTOP www site - The
WTOP information is posted at
provides links to PIFB. The following information was taken from the
following WTOP Radio Station www site
on the Horizon is sponsored by the Pew Initiative on Food and
Moving the discussion beyond conflict into constructive engagement
about the use and regulation of agricultural biotechnology. This
begins a new series of reports on modern biotechnology in
agriculture. It's an interesting field and one that has generated
significant debate. Much of it centers on the rapidly growing use of
food crops whose genes have been altered* sometimes to make them
resistant to pests or chemicals* sometimes to make them ripen more
slowly during shipping *sometimes to change their appearance or
taste. Altered life forms are now allowed to grow in the open. And
there are plans for more of them, for food, fuel and fiber. Critics
worry about unintended consequences, biological, economic and legal.
In this series the aim is not to take sides, but to engage your
interest in an important subject and add to your knowledge of it.
Greens On Gravy Train Attack Science When It Hurts Their Cause:
Scientific American Joins Attack On Lomborg Book
- Patrick J. Michaels, National Post, January 10, 2002 (via Agnet)
Patrick J. Michaels, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Cato
Institute and author of The Satanic Gases, writes in this op-ed that
Scientific American has succed the big dogs on Danish statistician
Bjrn Lomborg for having the audacity to publish a highly referenced
book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which argues global warming and
many other environmental "threats" are overblown. What gives?
Michaels says that Scientific American now joins the magazines
Science and Nature in blasting Mr. Lomborg. They all editorialize
that his "book is a failure" and call out four well-traveled attack
dogs from the Washington big government/ greenie/lefty establishment
in support. They include: John Holdren, a defence expert from
Harvard. In 1995, he published a paper for the United Nations
University advocating "a condition in which no nation's military
forces were strong enough to threaten the existence of other states."
Good thing the West didn't listen.
Tom Lovejoy, former director of the World Wildlife Fund, the biggest
green lobbying organization in the history of the planet. John
Bongaarts, vice-president of the Population Council, the most
influential lobby in the Down With People crowd. Steve Schneider from
Stanford. Compared to the rest, Mr. Schneider is a real atmospheric
scientist, and (naturally) he wrote the nastiest of the four
denunciations on Mr. Lomborg. Why draw so much attention to a book
you don't want to sell? Clearly, the editorial boards of Nature and
Scientific American, as well as the leadership of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, the publisher of
Science) perceive a big threat if Mr. Lomborg goes unanswered.
This writer has hung around D.C. enough to smell the danger: The
Skeptical Environmentalist threatens billions of taxpayer dollars
that go into the global change kitty every year. The AAAS isn't
located on H Street in Washington -- known locally as "gravy train
lane" for its packs of lobbyists for nothing. Do the arguments
against Mr. Lomborg have merit? Let's examine two of the many
assertions made by Mr. Schneider against Mr. Lomborg. Emissions
Scenarios. Mr. Schneider complains that "Lomborg ... dismisses all
but the lowest" scenarios for future carbon dioxide emissions and
consequent global warming. Mr. Lomborg does so with good reason.
An analysis of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the
last quarter-century reveals the standard assumption of strong
exponential growth is wrong. You could read about that in NASA
scientist James Hansen's recent writings in the "Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences." Future Warming. Mr. Schneider takes
great exception to Mr. Lomborg's statement that "temperatures will
increase much less than the maximum estimates from the IPCC" with the
likely change less than 2C by 2100. The truth is that Mr. Lomborg is
behaving like a scientist here, and Mr. Schneider and Scientific
American don't like the result.
As is shown graphically in the latest report by the UN
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the ensemble of future
climate models predicts a warming that, once started, continues at a
virtually constant rate for the next century. However, they differ in
the rates of their projected warming. It is also the consensus of the
IPCC, first stated in 1996 and repeated in 2001, that "the balance of
evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate."
In other words, alterations of the atmosphere resulting from human
emissions are producing a detectable signal in global and regional
temperatures. By using the combination of those two realities, Mr.
Lomborg is forced to conclude that warming will be relatively modest.
That is all a scientist can do: reconcile disparate models with
The reason Scientific American is apoplectic about that argument is
that it is scientific and convincing. If it convinced the Bush
administration to walk away from Kyoto, how long will it be before it
convinces Congress to derail the multibillion-dollar gravy train
feeding the global warming claque? Then there's the jealousy
component. Each of Scientific American's four writers also has their
While Mr. Lomborg's is immensely popular, ranking #1 in sales under
"Environmental Science" (and 354th overall), the others aren't so
hot. Comparative sales from Amazon.com For Jan. 4 show the following:
John Bongaarts' Beyond Six Million ranks 463,784; Tom Lovejoy's
Blueprint for a Green School is at 583,463; Mr. Schneider's Are we
Entering the Greenhouse Century comes in at 574,469; and trailing
this field of glueboxes is John Holdren's Global Ecology, the
1,340,727th best selling book at Amazon.com. If these were horses,
you'd have to clock them with a calendar.
The bottom line, says Michaels, is that all of the Lomborg-bashing
makes Scientific American look like a bunch of attack dogs,
manufacturing arguments that won't hunt and are in fact canine