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Date:

February 4, 2002

Subject:

Embracing Seeds of Doubt; Weird Science - Watson

 

Today in AgBioView - Feb 4, 2002

* Seeds of Doubt: Farmers Embrace Genetics, Despite Fears
* Public Should See ELF as Terrorists
* Weird Science: Interview With James D. Watson
* GMO Labelling Might Decrease Global Food Safety
* Consumers Evenly Divided Over Environmental Benefits and Risks
* No Reason To Doubt GMO Food Safety - UK Scientific Organization
* Safety Checks For GM Foods Must Be Better, Says Royal Society
* Foods for Health: NABC Meet Highlights the Integration of Ag and
Medicine
* Alexandria Conf on Biotech & Sustainable Development: Voices of the
South and North
* NGOs or NDOs?
* Environmental Impact Quotient - Organic Bias
* Biotech Feminism - Twisted Web

Seeds of Doubt: Farmers Embrace Genetics, Despite Fears

- Jeff Wilson, Barron's, Feb 04 2002

Lured by the promise of bigger yields and cheaper weed control in
1996, U.S. farmers were the first to start growing genetically
enhanced corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. Since then, the global
area of modified crops has jumped more than 30-fold, to 115.7 million
acres in 2001, according to the International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, an industry advocate.

Despite the furor among environmental and consumer groups, more than
5.5 million farmers in 13 nations planted genetically modified crops
last year. About 99% of the crops are grown in the U.S., Argentina,
Canada and China. As these data suggest, growers are increasingly
comfortable with the safety of the crops, and so are enough consumers
for those farmers to find a market. But persuading more consumers and
politicians remains the barrier to fully adopting this technology.

Advocates say the technology could fulfill global nutritional needs
in the face of a shrinking supply of agricultural land and a growing
world population.

But that is not an exclusively held view, particularly not in Europe.
Skepticism there about the safety of modified crops may be partly
related to the lack of consumer confidence in European regulatory
agencies and partly from a reluctance to allow big corporations to
control global agriculture. The European approval process has been on
hold since 1998, awaiting tougher rules on testing, labeling and
tracing.

Brazil's government officially reinforced its position last week in
favor of the planting and sale of modified crops, but legal barriers
remain. Brazil is the only major grain-exporting nation that has not
approved modified crops. While the planting of Monsanto's RoundUp
Ready genetically modified soybeans has been blocked since 1998,
trade estimates put illegal plantings at 20%-30% of the total this
season.

China's policy on modified crops is a key uncertainty for the
markets. The country has instituted a modified safety certification
program, set to begin March 20, which is a potential trade barrier.
Without a country-of-origin safety certificate, Brazilian soybean and
soy-product imports may face major barriers in the face of Chinese
zero tolerance of modified-grain imports without proper labeling and
certification.

In countries where biotechnology is advancing the fastest in
agriculture, governments have provided regulatory frameworks
establishing credibility in bio-safety certification.

U.S. consumers are much more trusting of testing at the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration than consumers in some other countries are of
their regulators. Opponents of genetic modification warn, however,
that the FDA merely reviews company research.

C.S. Prakash, professor of plant molecular genetics and the director
of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee
University, argues that the criticism of the FDA's safety-evaluation
process is unfair. "We have a good regulatory system backed up by an
excellent legal system," Prakash says. "Companies are not going to
make any regulatory mistakes because they know the costs of facing a
trial." The free market will be the ultimate determinant of whether
biotechnology adoption, currently dominating animal feed, will move
into human foods, Prakash predicts.

For much of the world, the debate is about how quickly to adopt the
technology. Tom Hoban, a food-science professor at North Carolina
State University, says the focus in the near term will be developing
programs that preserve crop identity, allowing consumers to buy
unmodified grains if they want. "No one has found a viable system
yet, but there are plenty of biotechnology and food companies working
on business models," he says.

Up to now, no one has been willing to pay the costs, projected to be
enormous, of maintaining a two-tiered marketing system of separated
modified crops. Until the consumer makes that decision, the minority
opposition will continue to fight biotechnology's adoption and
expansion into other crops.

Hoban does see the global environment improving for adopting
biotechnology in world food production. "Europeans are finally
realizing the significant brain drain the EU reluctance to embrace
biotechnology is having on their economies," he says about the flight
of scientists from Europe to U.S. research centers. "This change in
attitude could go a long way in

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Public Should See ELF as Terrorists

- Joe Soucheray, Pioneer Press Feb 3, 2002
http://www.pioneerplanet.com/news/ncl_docs/242331.htm

Something called the Earth Liberation Front, which uses the
improbably cute acronym ELF, torched a couple of buildings at the
University of Minnesota campus in St. Paul last weekend. These thugs,
who claim to act on behalf of the environment, put more pollutants
into the air than an automobile manufacturing plant.

Last weekend they went after a soil testing lab, some construction
equipment and a construction trailer. Then, later in the week, they
released one of their statements taking responsibility for the arson.
It got a few paragraphs in the newspapers.

Why aren't these criminals considered terrorists? Actually, the FBI
has an anti-terrorism team investigating last weekend's attack, but
ELF hasn't seemed to register in the public consciousness as a band
of terrorists. They are nothing less than a domestic version of
al-Qaida. They operate in loosely defined cells. They communicate
electronically. If you were to get inside one of their caves, you
would find photographs and maps of university facilities that they
intend to destroy. And, like international terrorists, they probably
can look entirely normal and might even be your neighbor or a distant
cousin. They are functioning in society as normal citizens. That's
what the other terrorists did before they crashed the airplanes into
the towers.

The Earth Liberation Front needs more respect. We need to quit
referring to them as radical environmentalists, or radical activists,
or, as they were referred to the other day in the Enemy Paper, simply
an environmental group. Environmental group? An environmental group
walks along the riverbank and picks up aluminum cans or it works a
couple of shifts at the Christmas-tree lot to finance a hiking trip
to the north shore.

ELF is responsible for millions and millions of dollars of damage.
They risk killing anybody who happens to be asleep in one of the
buildings or research labs they target for destruction. Like the
terrorists we have known since Sept. 11, they are bent merely on
destruction for the sake of destruction. They would have to be ranked
among the factions that do not like America or Americans.

So why aren't they ever caught? It is almost as though the ELF people
and their counterparts in the animal-rights terrorism field are
ignored. Or, put another way, where is the outrage? These are
domestic terrorists. "There is nothing more I would love to do than
get these people in front of a jury,'' Rick Giese, a captain in the
University of Minnesota Police Department, said Friday.

"Are they terrorists?'' "Yes,'' Giese said. "But we will get a break
one of these days. They are an incredibly large and tight-knit group,
but we know who some of them are. We will catch a break. On this
latest arson we have the feds involved and the St. Paul police. This
is not being taken lightly.''

Giese also said that when members of ELF finally get bored and leave
the group, they must take a vow of silence, because they don't talk.
Dave Kleis, a Republican state senator from St. Cloud, has introduced
legislation that would make it a crime to post responsibility for
acts of arson or destroying a cancer research lab or whatever else
ELF does, on their Web sites.

"It isn't a crime to take responsibility,'' Kleis said. "So let's
change that and sue them for triple damages to boot.'' I also called
the governor's office, and they sent somebody running off to find
spokesman John Wodele. I wanted to know if the governor includes the
likes of ELF when he budgets for his homeland security. Whomever it
was that said he would find Wodele had never heard of ELF.

"Yes, we are aware of domestic terrorism,'' Wodele said. "And yes, in
our meetings about security, the ELF types are certainly included in
our watch.'' It still seems like we need to turn up the heat on the
ELF terrorists, to the level of declared war against them, just like
the war we have declared against those pleasant folks in al-Qaida.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Weird Science: Interview With James D. Watson

- Amy Barrett, New York Times, Feb 3, 2002

* Your new book, ''Genes, Girls and Gamow,'' is a blow-by-blow memoir
about your life after the discovery of DNA's structure. I understand
the part about genes and about your colleague, the Russian physicist
George Gamow, but what about the girls? Why tell about your love life?

- Well, it's most of your life.

* I guess that depends on whom you're talking to.
- No, actually I divide men into those who think of women 90 percent
of the time and those who think about them 99 percent of the time. I
was a 90-percenter.

* You're usually not one to join the crowd, and the confessional
memoir is nothing if not mainstream. Why write a book like this?
- Well, there are very few books that actually say what science is
really like. So I was trying to write a book that wasn't a romantic
view of it. If anyone should have had an interesting life, it was me.
We were making this great revolution. We knew this was big. It wasn't
a sort of growing realization that this was it. It was it.

* So what were your lives really like then?
- Well, virtually everyone's emotional life was a mess. The marriages
weren't working out, and you know, you fall in love with your
supervisor's wife, and that doesn't work out. I mean there were a
couple of stable ones, but for most of those we thought, Oh, they're
so boring.

* Do you find you get bored easily?
- Yes. I gave five lectures on the double helix, and I was bored.
After about a month of listening to Francis Crick, none of us could
stand it anymore. He'd start talking, and we'd want to leave the
room. At 25, I was famous but bored. No one was inviting me to
parties.

* No one invited you to parties?
- No, because most people didn't know what we were doing was
important. There were no groupies in my life.

* Later on, you must have had some groupies.
- Well, there were a couple. In molecular biology, one avoided
groupies. You know, it's not that sort of field.

* Well, you certainly have fans today, but at speeches you've given
at Berkeley and Harvard in the past few years, you've upset a number
of people.
- I'm not politically correct. And I have an odd theory on happiness,
and it bothers people. My general theory is that happiness is a
reward for an animal doing what it should be doing. So if a horse
runs, it feels happy. Or if you are too thin you can't be happy,
because evolution wants you to be tense and anxious, trying to wake
up in the morning looking for food. So I was just saying that
happiness comes only when you are doing things that are good for you.
But to tell a woman that she can't be thin and happy unless she
exercises, they don't want to hear that!

* Some people have said that your conclusion is based on conjecture
and not on science. What do you say to that?
- I think you have to speculate. If I have a good idea, I tend to
believe it's true. An idea is better than no idea.

* But isn't that unscientific?
- No, that's the way good science works. An idea can be tested,
whereas if you have no idea, nothing can be tested and you don't
understand anything. The molecule that you make when you are getting
sunburned or when you eat a lot of food is part of the same molecule
that contains an endorphin or an opiate. No one has ever had a
hypothesis about why the two are together. So I came up with one.

* And your hypothesis is that sun and food make you happy?
- Yes, and running and exercise.

* You seem to like controversy. Do you try to be different?
- I don't try to be different. I just say something and then, boom.
And what I've said has generally been totally right.

* Does it upset you when people go after you?
- Yeah, for a while, for 24 hours. And then I think of something
else. I figure that I have inserted enough things in my book that
they can get mad at me for. But I'm not putting them in there to make
people angry. I'm just supposed to like everything. I'm supposed to
say, ''Gee, all religions are equally good.'' Well, I think that some
are worse than others. So I shouldn't say that fat people are more
content and that's why I want to hire thin, discontent people.

* Have you always had such strong views?
- I've had strong opinions probably since I was born. It makes you
unpopular, but what can you do?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

GMO Labelling Might Decrease Global Food Safety

- Crop Biotech Update www.isaaa.org/kc Source AgNet
http://www.lifesciencesnetwork.com/news-detail.asp?newsID=557

Kim Nill, the biotechnology and technical director of the American
Soybean Association (ASA), fears that mandatory GMO labelling would
have adverse impacts on global food safety.

Nill's analysis of the Codex standard calling for special labelling
of GMO products shows that this would reduce the use of biotechnology
crops and thereby decrease the safety of food supply. Food
manufacturers and consumers will be driven to less safety options as
a result of a mandatory GMO labelling thus, undermining Codex's goals
to improve food safety." An examination of current agricultural
production practices reveals however, that foods produced prior to
the advent of the new biotechnology had significant risk inherent in
their creation and production.

GMO labelling would entail added cost to both the manufacturers and
consumers. Studies done on segregations of GM and non-GM showed that
it is impractical and costly. "A Canadian food industry study
recently estimated that the segregation handling and labelling alone
would increase Canadian retail food costs by 9-10%; and that estimate
did not include the costs for inevitable mis-labelling product
recalls," Nill explains.

The ASA director also explained that mandatory GMO labelling would
slow or halt the development of future biotech crops possessing even
greater food safety improvement properties. Benefits offered by GM
crops such as lower incidence of aflatoxin contamination of Bt corn,
reduced chemical pesticide use, effective weed control using
herbicide-tolerant crops, and other environment-friendly technologies
derived from GMOs will be put to waste.

In like manner, the development of future GM technologies that would
ensure much safer foods (e.g. meat free of the deadly Escherichia
coli O157:H7) will be shelved leaving consumers with less safer
options. For more on Nill's analysis, go to:
http://www.inpulsemag.org/english/fea=tures/fl8.html

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Consumers Evenly Divided Over Environmental Benefits and Risks of
Genetically Modified Food and Biotechnology: Risks Seen As Greater
Initially, But Benefits Ranked Higher Once Information Is Given

San Francisco (Feb 4, 2002) -- The American public is evenly divided
over whether genetically modified food and other agricultural
biotechnology products hurt or help the environment when given basic
information on risks and benefits, according to a poll released today
by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. The poll, conducted
by Zogby International, was released as part of a panel discussion
hosted by the Initiative titled "Environmental Savior or Saboteur?
Debating the Impacts of Genetic Engineering."

"Despite a long and often fractious debate about the environmental
risks and benefits of biotechnology between critics and supporters, a
majority of the American public agrees with neither position," said
Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Initiative. "Initially,
people tend to feel slightly more strongly about the risks of the
technology, but react more positively when additional information is
presented to them. Simply put, it looks like the jury is still out."

Prior to reading a series of informational statements about the
possible benefits and risks of biotechnology, respondents nationwide
were more likely to say that the risks of biotechnology outweighed
the benefits (40 percent to 33 percent), while 19 percent thought the
benefits and risks were about the same, and nine percent were unsure.
However, after being read a series of questions about specific
environmental risks and benefits (without specifically identifying
which were risks or benefits), respondents were exactly evenly
divided, with 38 percent saying the risks outweigh the benefits and
another 38 percent saying the benefits outweigh the risks. An
additional 21 percent now said the risks and benefits were about the
same, with the number of "don't knows" reduced to 3 percent.

Minorities tended to respond differently than whites: after having
been read the statements, whites were significantly more likely to
say the benefits (41%) outweighed the risks (32%), whereas Hispanics
and African-Americans thought the risks outweighed the benefits both
before and after the statements were read. In addition, women tended
to weigh the risks are higher than the benefits, both before and
after the statements were read.

Consumers overall are also generally unaware of the environmental
risks and benefits of genetic engineering, according to the poll.
Only 15 percent of respondents had heard "a great deal" about the
benefits and 17 percent heard "a great deal" about the risks, with 42
percent hearing "some" about benefits and 43 percent hearing "some"
about risks. An additional 32 percent heard "not too much" about
benefits and 27 percent heard "not too much" about risks, with the
remaining 10 percent hearing nothing about benefits and 13 percent
about risks.

Consumers felt the most important potential environmental benefits of
genetic engineering are: creating plants to clean up toxic soils (74
percent); reducing soil erosion (73 percent); reducing fertilizer
run-off into streams and lakes (72 percent); reducing the amount of
water used to grow crops (68 percent); developing disease-resistant
varieties of trees that are threatened or endangered (67 percent);
reducing the need to log in native forests (63 percent); and reducing
the amount of chemical pesticides used (61 percent).

In terms of environmental concerns, consumers ranked the possibility
that genetically modified plants, fish, or trees could contaminate
ordinary plants, fish and trees not intended to be modified as
highest (64 percent), followed by "creating superweeds" (57 percent)
and increasing the number of insects that may develop
pesticide-resistance (also 57 percent); reducing genetic diversity
(49 percent) and changing a plant, fish or tree through biotechnology
so that it might harm other species (also 49 percent). Changing the
ecosystem ranked lowest of all the risks and benefits listed, at 46
percent.

The list of specific environmental risks on the poll were: drifting
genes, creating "superweeds," increasing pest resistance, affecting
non-target organisms, reducing biodiversity, or changing the
ecosystem. Benefits listed were: engineering plants to clean up
toxic waste, reducing soil erosion, reducing run-off, needing less
water to grow crops, saving endangered or threatened species,
reducing the need to log in native forests, or reducing pesticide
use. Asked to rank these 13 items in terms of personal importance,
the environmental benefits scored significantly higher than any of
the risks listed, with the exception of the non-target organism issue
nationally. However, among Californians, all the benefits outranked
the risks.

These poll results were released at a panel moderated by Margaret
Warner, senior correspondent for the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
The panel, which explored the environmental risks and benefits in the
debate over agricultural biotechnology, included: Charles Benbrook,
an environmental consultant and the former executive director of the
National Academy of Sciences Board on Agriculture; Martina
McGloughlin, Director of the Biotechnology Program at the University
of California; Carl Pope, Executive Director, The Sierra Club; and
Peter Raven, president of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science and recently named "Hero for the Planet" by
Time Magazine.

The poll, a nationwide survey of 1,214 adults and an additional 407
adults in California, was conducted by Zogby International from
January 14-18, 2002. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent for the
nationwide sample and +/- 5 percent for the California sample.
Copies of the poll are available at
www.pewagbiotech.org/research/survey1-02.pdf

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

No Reason To Doubt GMO Food Safety - UK Scientific Organization

- Michael J. Strauss, Dow Jone, Feb 4, 2002

London - The Royal Society, a U.K. scientific organization, said
Monday a review of available research showed "no reason to doubt the
safety" of foods with genetically modified ingredients.

The study found the regulation of GMO foods in the European Union may
have gaps and inconsistencies, and it urged improved safety tests,
including allergy screening, before additional foods with GMO content
are deemed fit for consumption. "We have looked at all of the
available research and found nothing to suggest that the process of
genetic modification makes potential foodstuffs inherently unsafe,"
the Royal Society quoted lead researcher Jim Smith as saying.

++++++++++++++++++++

Safety Checks For GM Foods Must Be Better, Says Royal Society

- The Royal Society (UK), Feb 4, 2002 (Via Agnet)

Report available at:
http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/files/statfiles/document-165.pdf

Safety assessments should be improved before a greater variety of
foods made from genetically modified plants are declared fit for
human consumption, a Royal Society report warns today (4 February
2002).

The report concludes that there is no reason to doubt the safety of
foods made from GM ingredients that are currently available, nor to
believe that genetic modification makes foods inherently less safe
than their conventional counterparts. However, the report calls for
the tightening of regulations for all novel foods, particularly with
respect to allergy testing and the nutritional content of infant
formula.

The report also recommends that the methods for comparing GM foods
with their conventional counterparts, by applying the principle of
'substantial equivalence', should be made more explicit and objective
during safety assessments, and harmonised between Member States of
the European Union. Professor Jim Smith, who chaired the working
group that produced the report, said: "We have looked at all of the
available research, and found nothing to suggest that the process of
genetic modification makes potential foodstuffs inherently unsafe.
However, we fully support the public's right to know that all new
foods, regardless of whether they contain GM ingredients, are
subjected to rigorous safety and nutritional checks."

He added: "The rather piecemeal approach to the regulation of GM
foods in the UK, and EU in general, means that there may be some
important gaps and inconsistencies. It is obvious that consumers want
their food to be safeguarded by rules that are rigorous enough to
prevent any loopholes. But the legislation must not be so restrictive
that it removes any incentive for introducing new food products that
are potentially beneficial to society." The report concludes that the
use of DNA from viruses during the genetic modification of plants
poses a negligible risk to human health. Similarly, consumers would
not face any added threat if they digested food containing plant DNA
that has been genetically modified.

However, the report recommends that allergy screening of all new
foodstuffs, regardless of whether they contain GM ingredients, should
be extended to include risks from inhalation. At present tests are
only carried out for material that is eaten, but there are potential
risks of allergic reactions, particularly for people involved in
growing and producing food products, from breathing in pollen, spores
and dust. Although genetic modification may be used in future to
improve the quality of food, it could also have unintended adverse
impacts on nutrition. The report points out that babies are
particularly vulnerable to changes in the nutritional content of
their food, and recommends that UK and EU laws should be re-examined
to ensure that rigorous tests are carried out if GM ingredients are
one day considered for use in infant formula.

The working group considered the results of research made available
since 1998, as well as evidence submitted by food regulators,
biotechnology companies and non-governmental organisations. All oral
evidence has been posted on the Royal Society web site. The report is
available at:
http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/files/statfiles/document-165.pdf

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Foods for Health
National Agricultural Biotechnology Council Annual Conference:
Highlighting the Integration Of Agriculture And Medicine

http://134.84.89.124/nabc2002/

May 19-21, 2002; Radisson Hotel Metrodome - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Join colleagues in a neutral public forum to share knowledge, discuss
research potential and analyze consumer, ethics, regulatory and
policy issues

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Alexandria Conference on Biotechnology and Sustainable Development:
Voices of the South and North

Venue: Bibliotheca Alexandrina Conference Center, Alexandria, Egypt
16 - 20 March 2002

Co-sponsored by the Government of Egypt & BIOVISION, FAO, UNESCO,
WORLD BANK, OECD, CGIAR, ICARDA, AGERI, AAS&T, KISR and NAS, TWAS

More information http://www.bibalex.org
Our mail address: Bibliotheca Alexandria, The Library of Alexandria,
El Shatby, Alexandria 21526 Egypt (From: Layla Abdelhady
)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: NGOs or NDOs?

Andrew Apel wrote:
>As we all know, "NGO" stands for "non-governmental organization,"
>which means claiming to represent people who never asked for, or
>voted for, such representation; and being completely unaccountable to
>the people said to be represented. Rather like a dictatorship with no
>responsibility. Even the crudest tyrant would not attempt to exercise
>such authority over the innocent without attention to their fate.

I vote that we all stop using the term NGO, and call these groups
what they really are, NDOs for Non-Democratic Organizations. Language
is important, so lets redefine the language. Anyone else agree? -
Alex Avery, Hudson Institute

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: Environmental Impact Quotient - Organic Bias

Wayne Parrott noted the value of comparing pesticides using an
Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) developed by researchers at
Cornell University.

>Totally agree. An excellent discussion, as well as a formula used to
>calculate the Environmental Impact Quotient of each herbicide, may be
>found at the Cornell web site at
>http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/publications/EIQ.html "A Method to
>Measure the Environmental Impact of Pesticides"

A revealing and important sidenote on the use of EIQs is to
intimately know the specific EIQ system that is being used because
they can differ substantially. For example, many have noted the
recent research on organic vs. conventional apple production by
Reganold et al. at Washington State University (Nature vol. 410, 19
April 2001, pg. 926-930), noting that the organic system had high
yields, profitability and supposedly scored higher in
"sustainability" and had a lower environmental impact than
conventional apple production. But, Reganold used a modified version
of the Cornell EIQ that skewed the results in favor of organic
substantially. Just two pesticides will suffice to show why:
Glyphosate and Sulfur. The Cornell EIQ rates glyphosate at 32.4
points per unit of chemical vs. sulfur with 45.5 points per unit.
The Reganold EIQ (which they identify as the "modified" Cornell EIQ
used and developed by Stemilt Growers, a commercial organic fruit
company) rate sulfur at 2.32 points per unit vs. glyphosate at 9.51
points per unit. Huge difference!

So, whereas the Cornell EIQ system rates glyphosate as roughly 30%
safer environmentally compared to sulfur, the Stemilt EIQ rates
glyphosate as roughly 400% WORSE than sulfur.

When I called Stemilt (and I must mention that the guy at Stemilt was
very helpful and open), they couldn't give me any justification for
why they rated the two chemicals so differently than the Cornell
researchers.

So, 1. the Reganold paper is heavily biased (*why would they use the
EIQ developed by a commercial organic grower rather than the EIQ
developed by non-biased University researchers?) and 2. Know your
EIQs.

Alex Avery. Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: Joseph Houseal
Subject: Re: Biotech Feminism

What a twisted web we weave... it seems one could go several
directions with this one. I didn't sense any 'feminism vs biotech' in
the simple call for papers. Off the bat - I'd lump anything in
western academe as masculine - or certainly as beholden to the same
fundamental academic criterion of defense and proof : academic
feminism is a bad as academic anything else. 'Academic' is loaded
with more perjoratives than 'feminist'. An 'academic' translation
means a dry one. An 'academic' scientist means one with a reference
to academe not the real world. An 'academic' feminist - that would
seem to be a scholar of feminism basing shifting interpretations and
definitions among a small group of like-minded academic feminists and
therefore always being able to say, " But THAT's not feminism.
Feminism is changing and has changed." This is where academe comes
home - with this notion that " WE'll tell YOU when it's knowledge" .
This is part of the limitation of science as it is academically
practiced: a rather limited notion of knowledge.

Feminism is so slippery and you will always lose if you think you
know anything about it. Like the woes of other so-called 'soft'
sciences like anthropology - the yardstick seems to change a lot, and
rather than relying on real-world lesbian construction workers to
shape our notion of a woman-centered perspective, we rely on
'academic feminists.' I prefer real-world lesbians. Talk about your
shifting yardstick?! Calling anyone in academe a feminist would be
the same as calling a drag queen a feminist: looks like it is taking
the woman's point - actually sustaining the man's.

Please don't get me started on 'academic dancing.' Nothing says men
wearing tights is necessarily feminist. In fact it is at this place
of undeniability - what's in those tights - that is really what this
Mr Feminist would argue against. What he calls " stereotypical
masculinity" is what I'd call "archtypical masculinity" Let's see
what the ancient Vedics say: masculinity equals penis. OK. That's
straightforward, no pun intended. I am puzzled by his notion of an
"alien external phallus". Mine is a good friend, and may in fact be
the essence of my mind, so far is it from external. This whole
'subject-object' definition of masculinity is itself a western
product. Subject/object is the west's FORTE. Capitalism relies on
identifying groups of humans as 'markets.' Chinese has no subjects
and objects. Tibetans are hell-bent on shattering the distinction.
Any Noh actor worth his salt knows that reality lies beyond such an
illusory mechanism. The Mind has objects. Intellectual endeavor has
objects. We call it knowledge. By his standard there is stereotypical
masculinity only where a functional notion of subject-object exists,
which is not everywhere.But there are penises everywhere, although I
have no scientific evidence to prove it.

Feminism is not such a great word and belongs to what will hopefully
become the trash can of 20th c gender and sexuality words. What is
the opposite of feminism? The Enemy? Masculism? Does feminism require
oppression to exist? Few people realize that the 100 year old word
'heterosexual' was created in response to a newly coined term ( and
notion ) "homosexual.' Yoni ( vagina ) and Phallus ( penis ) worship
far pre-date Freud - by several thousand years - and it is hardly a
case of semiotics to associate things female with the circular,
regenerative, earthly and internal. When was the last time you
worshipped a vagina? For that matter, when was the last time you
worshipped a penis?

Most ancient understandings would land biotech squarely in places
where it landed alchemy: places where earthly/female/adaptable matter
was infused and therefore altered by an
intellectual-mystical/male/directed intent. I'd put 'feminism' and
'academic science' right up there with other ENRONS in the western
intellectual tradition: one trick ponies run amok. Holism has never
been the strong suit of the West. In fact what Mr Feminism gives us
is a polarized self-perpetuating conundrum: not once is it suggested
that biotech, agriculture, or bio-medicine is BOTH masculine and
feminine. Planting isn't masculine - you need ground! Masturbating
would be masculine. No ground. Planting is male and female.
Discounting the earth's perspective, as our Mr Feminist does in
labeling agriculture 'masculine' is where the subtle and infinite
permutations of yin and yang are not honored or understood. But I
suppose an argument is advanced, and that is male, and that is
academic, but such an argument would sustain and nourish academe
which is female, but...

...as luck would have it, my lesbian neighbor is just heading out to
work and I asked her what 'feminist biotech' would be, and she
immediately answered, "any of those processes based on what a woman
can uniquely bring - such a reproduction, healing, feeding." So I
asked her what, then, wouldn't be feminist, and she answered " profit
motive, competition, reductionism - more the culture of the
profession than the possibilities of it. " She did agree that academe
itself, with its intellectual superiority complex, was male. And we
briefly went on to notice that very findamental notions of what a
male and female can uniquely bring have changed because of science:
you don't need a man to have a baby; maybe you don't need a woman.
Then she had to go to work.

So, the correct way of looking at this is: all scientists work for
the Mother Goddess, and she will unleash Her fury if these devotees
get sloppy with respect for her power. It's not nice to fool Mother
Nature. She will kick your ass.
---

(From Prakash: Will the twain shall ever meet? How can we even try
to bridge this chasm between science and social activism when I
cannot even comprehend much of what my 'New Age Green' friend Joseph
is talking about? )