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January 21, 2002


Strawberry shelf life, Great Debate, BT cotton in Africa,


Today in AgBioView:

* Fort Valley, Ga., Researcher Helps Give Strawberries a Longer Shelf Life
* Farm level impact of Bt cotton in South Africa
* EU passes laws to set up new food safety body
* UN launches project on genetically engineered food
* Who really destroyed the potato crops in New Zealand ..????
* What does Lord Melchett have to say about his new job
* Lord Melchett, meet our clients...

Fort Valley, Ga., Researcher Helps Give Strawberries a Longer Shelf Life

January 22, 2002

Jan. 22--FORT VALLEY, Ga. -- The word inventor is written on the rectangular gold fob that dangles from Seema Dhir's key chain.

It's followed by a series of letters and numbers that probably don't mean much to most people: US 6,274,791 B1.

Dhir, who works in the Biology Department at Fort Valley State University, has waited nearly 10 years to see those 11 numerals and letters. It means she, along with three people from California and Missouri, are credited with the invention titled Methods for strawberry transformation using Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

What all that scientific mumbo-jumbo means is that Dhir has helped create a gene transfer method to slow down the ripening process in strawberry plants. The genetic transformation makes the fruit last longer. The fact that the shelf life of strawberries can be extended presents new opportunities to create disease-resistant plants, change the nutritional value or even develop edible vaccines through genetic modification.

It is not just a scientific concept anymore, but a reality to genetically modify plants to make them better, Dhir said.

Dhir -- who worked for the biotechnology conglomerate Monsanto Corp. before arriving at FVSU in 1994 -- is the first faculty member at the college to receive a patent since 1989.

Charles Magee, a former professor, received a patent for a fruits and vegetables precooling, shipping and storage container 12 years ago. Sharon Hunt, an associate professor of food and nutrition, may be the next on the horizon with her development of a sports drink.

Although Dhir said she knew the patent involving the genetic transformation of strawberries was coming, she was still ecstatic when Aug. 14 rolled around. It meant she could move forward in her quest to secure patents for methods to genetically transform other foods, hoping eventually to see the day when people in Third World countries could be vaccinated by eating plants instead of getting a shot.

You won't have to go see the doctor, Dhir said.

Instead of worrying about funding to pay for vaccines and doctors, scientists one day may be able to propagate large numbers of plants laden with vaccines.

Farmers, grocery stores and consumers could also potentially benefit from extended shelf-lives of strawberries and other plants.

Dhir hasn't stopped with the genetic modification of strawberry plants. She's currently researching a similar technique to genetically transform alfalfa and tomatoes with the help of several work study students from FVSU.

As scary as genetically modified food may sound to those who call it Frankenstein food or genetically horrified food, Dhir said it can truly benefit a world that's leaving less and less space for farmers.

The population is increasing day by day, and the land available to cultivate is decreasing. What's the reality? she said. That tomorrow we may not have food to feed people.


The Christchurch Press
January 19, 2002
By BIRSS Neill

Prisoners in the slammer for sabotaging research work, like the potato patch at Lincoln, need to be handcuffed to keyboards and made to read public submissions on gene engineering at www. gmcommission. govt. nz

Perhaps not. This site's informative, sometimes moving, and occasionally a laugh. It's the Internet at its best, bringing knowledge, detail, wide points of view, to be absorbed at your own pace. Not flashy, flickering, gaudy stuff, but good information. Read a mother's longing for researchers to end the daily pain of insulin injections for her young son. Sense the hope of haemophiliacs.

Smile as the Worm Federation asks to be part of research on the effects on worms of eating the residue of GM crops. Someone's got to look after those at the bottom.

Ponder a submission from a handful of New Zealand Jews campaigning for GM-free food. Elsewhere find a thought-provoking submission by an American professor of philosophy. He mentions a Jewish philosopher, Baruch Brody, who suggests biotechnology may be a vehicle ordained by God for the perfection of nature.

Catholic bishops prove surprisingly middle of the line and ambiguous. Quakers, no doubt following an organic inner light, are conservative towards GM.

Maori reveal their dilemma. As one of the New Zealand groups developing high incidence of diabetes, they need GM insulin and would welcome other scientific advances. But GM threatens ancient cultural mores.

Scientists explain that humans have modified genes of crops for many thousand years, since we came out of hunters' caves and began farming in valleys. GM just greatly speeds up the process.

Then the big question: can we afford not to have GM? Two-thirds of our exports still come from the land. Prices slope down. The Green Revolution, itself a product of science, means food output has grown faster than human populations. Farmers have votes, so walls go up against our products.

To get off the economic slide, we must keep up with scientific advances in agriculture and apply them. This has been the basis of the country's economy until now.

GM might also offer a chance for farmers to diversify into higher-value products such as pharmaceuticals. Silicon Valley grew near magnificent universities of electrical engineering. New Zealand has a similar tradition, but in leading agricultural research. Suddenly we have a new competitive advantage.

Read the submission of Infometrics' Adolf Stroombergen. He argues that even modest advances from GM offer New Zealand agriculture significant economic benefits.

If New Zealand rejects GM in agriculture while overseas competitors use the technology, his economic model suggests substantial economic decline, including the loss of about 56,000 jobs, a fall of about 5 per cent in private consumption and a 3.8% fall in GDP.

If the country banned GM completely, employment would fall more than 7%, pushing the unemployment rate above 12%. GDP would fall almost 10%, exports would fall 13%, and investment would fall 20%.

The graph printed with this article summarises Dr Stroomberg's views.

These are based on GM effects on agriculture. Forestry, one of our other big industries, has been modifying trees by sophisticated breeding techniques for years. The radiata pine is a different tree from the wild pines of Monterey where it came from. New Zealand scientists must be free to use GM if they are to stay at the front of forest research. If they fall behind, the forest industry falls behind.

The Internet site can be quirky to navigate. Persist. Click through the menus until you reach the alphabetical list of papers and authors. Then read. If your Adobe Acrobat snarls up, (a bloated system itself in need of some GM), log back on and start again. The nuggets in the paydirt reward the clicks.

This way you sit in the national jury on GM. Pardon me for asserting it's an open and shut case. Reject GM while our competitors adopt it, and New Zealand's amble towards a Third World economy becomes a sprint.

Righton@press. co.nz

From: "Mieschendahl Dr., Martin"
Subject: Bt cotton in South Africa
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 07:34:08 +0100

Farm level impact of Bt cotton in South Africa

This paper describes the method and findings of the first independent survey of smallholder farmers in the Republic of South Africa designed to explore the economic benefits of their adoption of Bt cotton. The study found that the Bt variety generally resulted in a per hectare increase in yields, value of output and reduction of pesticide costs which outweighed the increase in seed costs to give a substantial increase in gross margins.

Yousouf Ismael, Richard Bennett and Stephen Morse
Biotechnology Monitor 48, 15-19, 2001

the complete text can be found at

Martin Mieschnedahl

EU passes laws to set up new food safety body

January 21, 2002

BRUSSELS - European Union farm ministers on Monday officially passed laws setting up a new European Food Safety Authority, designed to boost public confidence in the wake of alerts such as mad cow disease and dioxin poisoning. (ref.2401)

``Today is a great day of achievement for food safety in the EU, and a showcase for the effectiveness of European institutions when it comes to solving problems close to the hearts and minds of EU citizens,'' EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said in a statement.

Under a deal brokered at a summit of EU leaders in December last year, the new authority will be temporarily located in Brussels, and the Commission said the search was now on for a management board and executive director.

The main tasks of the body, which will employ up to 250 people with budget of 40 million euros, will be to provide scientific advice to policy makers and give the public information on potential risks in the food chain.

It will also operate the rapid alert system, collecting information on possible food risks from national authorities.

The system will be extended from food to cover animal feed -- currently at the centre of a scare in the Netherlands and Germany over contamination with chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that can cause a potentially lethal form of anaemia.

A permanent seat for the new agency has yet to be decided. Finland, Italy, Spain and France have all offered to host the EFSA but EU leaders have so far failed to resolve the issue, which has become politically very sensitive.

Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 14:41:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: UN program seems silly
Reply-to: jmc@cs.Stanford.EDU

A posting begins

UN launches project on genetically engineered food

Times of India
JANUARY 19, 2002

NEW YORK: The UN Environment Programme has launched a
multi-million dollar project to help developing countries
assess the potential risks and rewards of genetically
engineered crops.

The project, financed by the Global Environment Facility,
will help up to 100 countries develop the scientific and
legal skills for evaluating the health and environmental
issues surrounding imports of Living Modified Organisms.

The three-year, 38.4 million dollar initiative is seen as a
principal element in helping developing countries prepare
for the entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on
Biosafety adopted in January 2000.

It seems silly that 100 countries should each develop their own
standard. Let them copy a few countries.


January 21, 2002
Dow Jones Newswires
By Brandon Mitchener
(Via Agnet)

BRUSSELS -- According to this story, the European Commission says in a strategy paper scheduled to be adopted this week that Europe's fears about biotechnology are costing it in terms of jobs, growth and prosperity. The story says that the paper, titled "Life Sciences and Biotechnology: A Strategy for Europe," marks a bid by the European Union's executive body to gain the moral high ground in an arena where it has often been portrayed as the villain. For years, the commission has written laws that treated biotech products as a potential threat, and several more such laws are in the pipeline. Now the commission is saying that the 15-nation EU can no longer afford to heap suspicion on biotechnology as a whole. A draft copy of the document was quoted as saying, "Uncertainty about societal acceptance ... has stifled our competitive position, weakened our research capability and could limit our policy options in the longer term." A 30-page annex lists specific initiatives to be taken by the commission, national


January 20, 2002
Digital Chosun
By Choi Won-kyu
(Via Agnet)

The genetically modified organisms (GMO) issue on major agricultural products is, according to this story, expected to loom large as a critical pending agenda in the forthcoming governmental talks between Korea and the United States. The Korean government enacted a mandate to indicate GMO in the labels of imported corn products last year. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAF) announced Sunday that Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., the deputy United States Trade Representative (USTR), is due to pay a visit to the ministry and Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) Monday and Tuesday, respectively, to launch discussions on the GMO labeling system in Korea. Sources at the ministry commented that the deputy representative is expected to call for the Korean government to soften the GMO labeling requirement as the Korean law mandates certificates that verify that the GMO items have been separated from non-GMO ones in each step of production and marketing of the products. Concerned US industries have been claimin

From: "Adrian Picot (DSL AK)"
Subject: Who really destroyed the potato crops in New Zealand ..????
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 12:27:48 +1300

Luckily there is a far higher standard of proof required by the NZ
and judicial system over the matter
of the destruction of experimental crops, than by William Rolleston and
Frances Wevers, our indefatigable
GM promoters.

No one has ever been charged with the the destruction of these crops
and no
one has claimed responsibility
for the actions, so where is the substance to the claim that it was
done by
anti-GM activists ?

In fact, it suits the agenda of the GM industry for such an event to
and anti-GM activists are astute enough
to know that such an action would alienate supporters, the vast
majority of
whom are law-abiding and strong
believers in parliamentary process and the rule of law.

So, who did it ???

Adrian Picot
New Zealand.

From: "Adrian Picot (DSL AK)"
Subject: What does Lord Melchett have to say about his new job
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 14:35:47 +1300

Note that he is STILL against nukes and GM

I quote from this site

Lord Melchett defends PR move

Julia Day
Wednesday January 9, 2002

Lord Melchett, the former head of Greenpeace UK, has defended his decision to join a PR firm whose clients have included world dictators such as Nicolae Ceausescu and Union Carbide, the company responsible for the deaths of 15,000 people following the Bhopal disaster.

He insists his green credentials will remain untarnished by joining a company that has sought to improve the image of some of the worst offenders of environmental damage and human rights.

"I'm interested in change and changing for the better, change in governmental policy and practice and commercial and corporate policy and practice to benefit the environment.

"If I can use my experience from Greenpeace to advise people with the hope of and actuality of change happening, I think it is for the good," Lord Melchett told Radio 4's Today programme this morning.

"I'm an adviser to [Burson-Marsteller's] corporate social responsibility unit - giving advice to companies about what to do in response to the environmental age. I'm hoping to tell people what to do to benefit change.

"It's important to have the opportunity to pass on on the information and advice I have gained at Greenpeace to people who have a lot of power to change things," he said.

Lord Melchett said he did not believe his name could be misused by the PR company's clients to pretend they had boosted their environmental credentials.

"I haven't changed my view. I still believe nuclear weapons and nuclear power should be got rid of and that GM food should never be planted. I'm not going to change or lie.

"I don't think it's right [that his name could be misused]. Greenpeace were worried about this, about companies using my name as a green-wash. But in my 15 years at the Greenpeace I have never known it to happen. It is not who you talk to but what you say."

Lord Melchett also refused to reveal how much he was being paid by Burson-Marsteller, but said his role as a policy adviser to the Soil Association and as a farmer constituted the majority of his income.

But his move has attracted surprise and indignation from the green lobby, although Greenpeace said it backed the appointment.

George Monbiot, environmental campaigner and Guardian columnist, said: "It's an extraordinary decision. It's very hard to understand how he [Lord Melchett] can take this job if he has not lost his integrity as a green campaigner."

Allan Biggar, the chief executive of Burson-Marsteller London, said it asked Lord Melchett to join the agency because of his vast experience.

"Our CSR unit has a lot of experience in building constructive dialogue and engagement between businesses and non-governmental organisations, and in communicating on environmental and social issues.

"This is a growing area of business for us and Peter's vast store of knowledge and experience will help us to do even more for our clients," he added.


Lord Melchett, meet our clients...

The Guardian
Julia Day
January 8, 2002

Lord Melchett, the former head of Greenpeace UK, will discover a yawning chasm between his opinions and those of some the clients at his new employer, the world's biggest PR company, Burson-Marsteller.

Greenpeace has always held the opinion that you cannot change the behaviour of companies without dialogue, and has built strong relationships with big business.

It has, however, always maintained that this approach would never stop it campaigning against environmentally damaging behaviour by the same companies.

Some of Lord Melchett's new clients could include some of the worst corporate abusers of the environment and governments with questionable human rights records.

Burson-Marsteller clients:

British American Tobacco
The Global Climate Coalition, which lobbied to continue the oil economy
Exxon - after Alaskan oil disaster
Three Mile Island nuclear plant, which suffered a partial meltdown in 1979
Union Carbide - responsible for the Bhopal gas leak killing up to 15,000 people in India
Pan Am - after Lockerbie
Nigerian government - BM helped discredit reports of genocide during the Biafran war
Argentine junta - just after the disappearance of 35,000 civilians
Indonesian government - after the massacres in East Timor
The late Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu
The British government after BSE emerged
The Saudi royal family
The Mexican government