Today in AgBioView - Feb 19, 2002
* We Need Wisdom and Foresight
* Beans, Bootlegs Top Bush Business Agenda for China
* Comments on 'Discredited Scientist To Come To New Zealand'
* NGOs And Protecting The Environment
* Fears that Europe is Being Left Behind as the World Takes to GM Crops
* South Africa, USA Exploring Possibility of Free Trade Pact
* Terrorist Buds: Bombing in the Name of "Mother Earth" Isn't Cool
* Dangers of Going Underground
* Uganda Favors Commercial Farming of BT Cotton
* Consequences of the Deployment of Bt Transgenic Plants
* Improving Agriculture
* EU Commissioner Calls For End of "Muddling-through Policy"
* Green what?
* DNA Tagging; "Pure" Terrorism; Biology Teaching Award
We Need Wisdom and Foresight
- Thomas Hoban, News & Observer, Feb 17, 2002
We are in the early stages of a scientific revolution that will
impact every aspect of our society and the natural world. Over the
last few decades, scientists have made great progress toward
understanding the blueprint of life contained in DNA. Fruits of these
discoveries are now starting to arrive on the market and are being
put to use in the natural environment and health care system.
It is clear from the recent Emerging Issues Forum that our leaders
now look to biotechnology as a key economic engine for our state and
nation. Thanks to the foresight of leaders like former Gov. Jim Hunt,
North Carolina is positioned among the top five states in the country
for taking advantage of this opportunity. Our state also has the
chance to lead the world in developing new societal institutions and
the wisdom to properly manage our newfound power.
For the past 12 years I have conducted social science research with
people from around the world. It is clear that the potential benefits
of biotechnology will never be realized if society does not accept
the science and resulting products as effective and safe. Such
acceptance is not guaranteed. Some groups are concerned that these
changes are taking place too quickly. They worry that our culture and
institutions are not able to keep pace.
Such a reaction has been observed with other technological
revolutions, but the sense of anxiety here is even deeper and more
profound. Basic questions are being raised about the nature of life
and the sanctity of our human heritage.
From a scientific perspective, it is imperative that we carefully
evaluate the benefits, risks and ethical implications associated with
each new application of biotechnology. Unfortunately, it is not
possible to fully comprehend and control all impacts. We are dealing
with complex systems and inherent uncertainty. We need greater
commitment of resources to ongoing research and informed debate.
Society is only starting to come to grips with the nature, scope and
pace of these scientific changes. On one hand, public policies are
being adopted that would either ban areas of scientific development
or establish such stringent regulations that innovation will be
stifled. On the other hand, some within the business community argue
that the market should be able to sort out the winners from the
Neither of these extreme positions will be socially responsible or
effective over the long term. The science and technology are simply
too powerful and pervasive. What is needed is a major commitment
toward an open societal dialogue about the issues associated with
biotechnology. This in turn requires a much greater commitment to
communication among all the segments of society with an interest in
our collective future.
We need better understanding of society's hopes and fears, priorities
and prejudices, and vision for the future. This will require a
systematic program for social science research to analyze the full
range of views from the broadest cross section of society. Such
research will also shed light on the communication challenges
scientists and others face when trying to communicate with consumers
in a credible manner.
Our state universities are ready to help society understand and deal
with the changes that arise from the developments in science and
technology. For more than a century, research universities have
played a major role in the development and promotion of new science
and technology. We now must ensure that our knowledge and tools are
used ethically and safely.
Universities also have the unique opportunity to facilitate the
interaction and involvement of a wide range of stakeholder groups.
These issues require the active involvement of all disciplines found
within the university. We can bring public and private sector leaders
together with citizen groups and other interests. Universities
provide a learning environment where all points of view can be aired
Above all, we have a shared obligation to future generations to
ensure that we leave the world a better place than we found it.
Biotechnology gives us the power to make unprecedented changes to our
environment and our own evolution. We need the wisdom and foresight
to ensure that safety and ethics are confirmed before new products
are introduced into the environment, food supply, or health care
Thomas Hoban, professor of sociology and food science, is
establishing a Center for Biotechnology in Global Society at N.C.
Beans, Bootlegs Top Bush Business Agenda for China
- Bill Savadove, Reuters, Feb 18, 2002
BEIJING - When President Bush (news - web sites) sits down with
Chinese leaders this week to push forward trade ties, the agenda will
be full of beans and the black market popularity of the latest U.S.
cinema blockbusters. As two countries already doing $80 billion in
trade a year try to forge better relations, concerns over $1 billion
in U.S. soybean sales threatened by planned Chinese rules on
bio-engineered foods are at the forefront.
Although business deals are possible on the sidelines, Bush's focus
will be on China's implementation of World Trade Organization (news -
web sites) (WTO) commitments after its entry to the trade body three
months ago, officials, business executives and analysts said Monday.
China has vexed the United States with planned rules on genetically
modified foods, to take effect on March 20, which Washington has
called a trade barrier with no scientific merit.
U.S. officials say China's implementation of some WTO pledges, such
as protection of intellectual property, is lagging as evidenced by
rampant piracy of movies, music and software. But improving
political ties since China supported the war on terror after the
September 11 attacks on the United States will help the business
relationship, analysts said. The United States is China's second
largest trading partner after Japan while China ranks fourth for the
United States. By the end of 2001, U.S firms had invested $35 billion
"This relationship revolves both around grand politics and economics.
Improvements since mid-2001 have been strengthened by China's
response to the events of 11th September and its aftermath," said
Alastair Newton, senior political analyst for Lehman Brothers in
London. "President Bush's visit to Beijing this month should
reinforce the trend of markedly improving relations."
From: "Mieschendahl Dr., Martin"
Subject: Discredited Scientist To Come To New Zealand
Discreditied scientist to come to New Zealand, NZ Life Sciences
Network, February 14, 2002
The work of Dr. Ingham has been published in 1999: M.T. Holmes, E.R.
Ingham, J.D. Doyle, C.W. Hendricks Effects of Klebsiella planticola
SDF20 on soil biota and wheat growth in sandy soil Applied Soil
Ecology 11 (1999) 67-78
This publication deserves some comments.
I became aware of the work of Dr. Ingham on the genetically
engineered soil bacterium Klebsiella planticola SDF20, at least part
of which was the thesis of M.T. Holmes at the Graduate School at
Oregon State University (OSU), in August 1995 by a handout
distributed by green groups in Germany. This handout was the copy of
a fax of Michael T. Holmes and Elaine R. Ingham, Department of Botany
and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
97331-2902, dating back to Nov-28-1994.
In September 1995 I recieved a second handout of the same authors,
this time distributed by members of the green party of the European
Finally I got a copy of the publication in Applied Soil Ecology.
All three papers are on the same issue: Into Klebsiella planticola
strain SDF15 that hade been made kanamycin resistant by phage Mu
pf7701 infection, the plasmid pZM15 was introduced by conjugation to
construct strain SDF20. Plasmid pZM15 carries a pyruvate
decarboxylase gene that enables strain SDF20 to ferment agricultural
waste to ethanol. Strains SDF15 and SDF 20 were assessed in
microcosms to analyse the effects to soil food web and plant growth.
One of the main results was the death of wheat seedlings that were
grown in low organic matter, sandy soil after the addition of the
genetically engineered strain DSF20 but not with the non-genetically
engineered strain DSF15. As the publication shows there were no
negative effects on the soil microflora: (citation) "The introduction
of either SDF15 or SDF20 strains to soil without plants did not alter
the nematode community. No effects were observed on the activity of
native bacterial and fungal communities by either SDF15 or SDF20."
The recombinant strain SDF20 had no improved environmental fitness.
As Fig. 1 of the publication shows, the survival in soil of the
recombinant strain SDF20 is even worse compared to the
non-recombinant parental strain SDF15. Both strain level off after 8
weeks at approximately 100 cells g-1 what (citation from the handout)
"is normal for populations existing in soil".
The publication in Applied Soil Ecology only describes experiments
performed in low organic matter, sandy soil. The handouts, on the
other side, also mention experiments performed in soil amended for
their organic matter by the introduction of peat. In these
experiments no killing of what seedlings by SDF20 was observed.
Last but most important, the handout of November 1994 describes a
control experiment that was neither included in the handout of
September 1995 nor the publication in Applied Soil Ecology, the
addition of ethanol instead of strain SDF20. Citation from the 1994
handout: "Plants in the GEM microcosm treatment were chlorotic and
dying, while plants in the control and parent microcosm treatment
were healthy. The same chlorotic condition of plants was measured
when we added ethanol directly to soil microcosms at the same
concentration produced by the GEM".
So what conclusions can be drawn from the work of Holmes and Ingham?
The introduction of bacteria, genetically engineered or not, will
have transient influences on the resident microflora as would have
any introduction of organic matter. There was no influence of the
recombinant strain SDF20 on the bacterial and fungal biomass or on
the activity of the native biomass. The number of bacterial-feeding
nematodes was even higher after the introduction of the
no-recombinant parental strain SDF15 than after the introduction of
the recombinant strain SDF20. The recombinant strain SDF20 shows the
same environmental survival as the non-recombinant parental strain
SDF15. The only negative effect seen was the killing of wheat by the
recombinant strain SDF20 in low organic, sandy soil but not in high
organic matter soil. The same killing effects occurred after the
edition of ethanol instead of strain SDF20. So the killing of wheat
seedlings by SDF20 in low organic matter soil is due to the
production of ethanol by strain SDF20 and not due to any other
unrecognised effect caused by the application of genetic engineering
There is no reason to believe that the introduction into soil of this
recombinant Klebsiella planticola strain will be more deleterious to
the environment than the introduction of the non-recombinant parental
strain or any other micro-organism.
One can only speculate why the publication in Applied Soil Ecology
does not describe the control experiments mentioned in the handouts.
Without this knowledge the non-expert reader can only draw wrong
conclusions as Ms Ingham does.
- Martin Mieschendahl
From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Subject: NGOs And Protecting The Environment
"Are Standing Rights for Environmental Groups in the Public Interest?"
Tijdschrift voor Milieuaansprakelijkheid/Environmental Liability Law
By: Lucas Bergkamp, Hunton & Williams, Brussels Erasmus, University
Rotterdam (EUR) Available from the SSRN Electronic Paper Collection:
Contact: Lucas Bergkamp Email: Mailto:email@example.com Postal:
Hunton & Williams, Brussels ave Louise 326, B6 1050 Brussels, BELGIUM
Phone: +32 2 643 58 00 Fax: +32 2 643 58 22
Abstract: This article discusses some important issues associated
with NGO standing rights in the environmental area. It reviews the
arguments proffered by Hunter and Hallo in their respective
contributions to the Environmental Liability Law Review/Tijdschrift
voor Milieuaansprakelijkheid, and extends the debate. I argue that
there are many difficult problems associated with NGO standing
rights. Such rights, as Hunter asserted, involve delegation of public
authority to private parties, and restrict the government's negative
enforcement discretion. In addition, NGO's have conflicting interests
and are not accountable for their enforcement decisions. These are
potentially serious deficiencies of NGO-initiated legal actions.
To explain why NGO standing rights are problematic, this article
reviews the Hunter and Hallo enforcement models. A cursory analysis
of these enforcement models as undertaken in this article suggests
that it would not be in the public interest for the EC to prescribe
NGO standing rights with respect to environmental harm. There is no
reason to believe that NGO-initiated enforcement will bring us any
closer to the desired enforcement level. NGO's do not have to take
interests other than the environment into account. In addition, the
constantly present need for fund-raising may influence their
enforcement decisions. Enforcement by NGO's thus creates risks of
over-enforcement and excessive litigation in some categories of
cases, and will not do much to remedy any under-enforcement, if any
exists, in cases that are not attractive from a fund-raising
perspective. Moreover, unlike government officials, NGO's are not
accountable for their enforcement decisions. The available empirical
evidence confirms that the desire to promote environmental quality
does not support NGO standing rights. To the contrary, the evidence
suggests that NGO-initiated suits harm the environment.
Fears that Europe is Being Left Behind as the World Takes to GM Crops
- Chris Benfield, Yorkshire Post, Feb 18, 2002
Fears that Europe will become an "island" of old farming practices in
a world full of designer crops are growing after recent reports on
the spread of GM technology. At least 15 countries, including China,
Canada, the United States and Argentina, are now growing a wide range
of genetically modified plants over a total area the size of Spain.
The area has multiplied 30 times since the first commercial GM
harvests, in 1996, and continues to expand rapidly. There is almost
certainly a lot of unregistered planting too. It is likely that
struggling farmers have taken GM seeds from Argentina into Brazil and
Mexico, for example.
Meanwhile UK farmers are restricted to small-scale trials, under
licence, and the position is much the same in the EU as a whole.The
Government has promised a review of the evidence at the end of this
year - after a third year of harvesting for analysis only, from the
trial plots - and the pro-GM movement says the startling change in
the global picture will have to be taken into account.The title of a
conference being organised in Cirencester next month sums up their
concerns: "GM crop adoption: is Europe being left behind?"
Roger Turner, chief executive of the British Society of Plant
Breeders and chairman of SCIMAC agri-business federation, which
represents interests in GM technology, is one of those who thinks the
answer is Yes. He says our farmers are already losing business
because they cannot be as efficient as GM growers - in the production
of beets for sugar-making, for example.He also makes the point that
if we want farmers to use less chemical assistance, GM crops look
like being a large part of the answer."It fascinates me that the
Greens object to both insecticides and GM crops," he commented. The
most startling of the reports on GM expansion is from China, where
the government has led a drive to plant crops designed to resist
pests and diseases. China now has the biggest GM crop programme
outside the US and claims that the pioneer farms have cut the use of
pesticides by 80 per cent and production costs, including fuel, by 28
per cent.We are probably not eating any of those crops. But we
probably are unwittingly consuming cooking oil made from GM seeds or
meat raised on GM fodder. Those second-generation products do not
need to carry warning labels because they do not contain any trace of
the modified genes.
There is heavy political pressure to change the rules in favour of
more "customer awareness" but Julian Little, a spokesman for the
agricultural suppliers Aventis, asks where that stops."If you want to
label the oil do you want to label the mayonnaise made using the oil
and the egg sandwiches made using the mayonnaise? And do you really
expect the sandwich-maker to make a declaration which might affect
his trade when he knows there is no GM content in his product that
can be traced?"He is in favour of informing the customer but as a
scientist he thinks there is a clear cut-off point between a GM plant
and an extract from it which is identical in all observable ways to
the extract from a "natural" strain.So far, at least, there is no
evidence that even whole GM plants are any less nutritious or more
toxic than their cousins.But whatever is happening in China, the
politicians of Europe cannot ignore an opinion poll which found that
70 per cent of their voters do not want GM foods in any form.
South Africa, USA Exploring Possibility of Free Trade Pact
- Business Day (South Africa), Feb 18, 2002
South Africa and the US will continue exploratory talks today to pave
the way for the possible launch of negotiations on the creation of a
free trade agreement.
Top US trade official Robert Zoellick, who is on a five-day visit to
SA, met President Thabo Mbeki yesterday, and began talks with Trade
and Industry Minister Alec Erwin. A senior US official said that his
country would like to gain a general sense from South African
officials about how the two governments should proceed with
discussions on a free trade agreement.
Zoellick, who reports directly to President George Bush is the first
US trade representative to visit South Africa. He is visiting South
Africa, Kenya, and Botswana. Zoellick said the purpose of his visit
was to look into how the USA's African Growth and Opportunity Act
(AGOA) could be used to improve market access for eligible African
countries. He appealed to African countries to keep open minds on
biotechnology and genetically modified crops.
The offer of free trade talks is being made to members of the
Southern African Customs Union, which includes South Africa,
Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. One of the challenges of
any negotiation would be finding a way to secure an agreement to
accommodate the wide disparities between the countries in the union.
At a meeting between trade representatives of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) and Zoellick on Saturday, Malawi's
minister of commerce and industry suggested that there might be wider
interest in the region in an arrangement like the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At the moment, the US has free trade
agreements with Canada and Mexico under NAFTA, as well as with Israel
Expanding African access to the US market through trade agreements,
as well as what is called "capacity building" for trade negotiators
and private businesses, were likely to emerge as a component of US
contribution to the New Partnership for Africa's Development.
Zoellick said the US would make available nine million US dollars to
support regional integration, trade negotiation skills, customs
reform, and help for farmers to meet US and European food standards.
Terrorist Buds: Bombing in the Name of "Mother Earth" Isn't Cool
- Collin Levey, Wall Street Journal, Feb 14, 2002
Maybe it's a cheerful commentary on the state of things in the U.S.
that the No. 1 domestic terrorist group identified this week by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation is not al Qaeda or the Aryan Nation.
In fact, it's not a group claiming to act in the name of Allah at
all. No the most dangerous homegrown terrorists we have are fighting
for the bunnies: The Earth Liberation Front.
ELF, that firebombing group of environmental whackos, got the top
honors with responsibility for some $43 million of damage in 600 acts
of violence since 1996. So much for the war against terrorism being a
war against Islam.
The group, which is loosely affiliated with the Animal Liberation
Front, is more than just tree-hugging and fluff, however. Its stated
mission is the destruction of property belonging to people or
companies it doesn't like. Remember the torching of a $12 million ski
lodge in Vail, Colo., a couple years back? Or the obliteration of
that evil horticulture building at the University of Washington where
biotech experiments were going on?
Those attacks were some of ELF's flagship accomplishments, held out
to other activists as blows struck in the name of nature (which as
far as anybody knows didn't pick ELF to represent it) and against
mankind as an illicit intruder on earth. The group is believed to
have been started around 1979, and to be an informal presence on a
fair number of college campuses around the country.
For all this, the FBI and various police agencies seem to have been
unsuccessful in penetrating the group, figuring out who its members
are or how they are organized. There have been very few arrests--at
the moment only three ELF members are known to be in jail. Those who
have been detained in relation to some of the group's sabotage acts
claim that ELF is organized al Qaeda-like, a bunch of loosely
affiliated cells with little direct contact between them. Who "Mr.
Big" might be, or whether such a person even exists, is unknown.
Still, the group's notoriety has earned it a spot in a Congressional
hearing led by Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) this week. Presenting
himself as ELF's "former" spokesman, Craig Rosebraugh did manage to
find common ground with at least one titan of industry--Enron's Ken
Lay--by pleading the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions
about an organization he claims no longer to be involved with.
Unlike the executives of the bankrupt company, though, Mr. Rosebraugh
exalted in the grand inquisition. He averred piously that he would go
to jail in order to protect ELF from "political manipulation."
On some levels, ELF looks much like any number of the college-age
activist groups whose primary responsibility in life seems to be
organizing field trips to Seattle for college students who don't dig
Mexico for spring break. What distinguishes it is the growing
severity of its means. Indeed, it's only a matter of luck that
someone hasn't yet been killed by its antics--and perhaps only a
matter of time until someone is.
If Greenpeace rejoices in such triumphs as sending activists
clambering up the Kellogg's building to hang a rabid depiction of
Tony the Tiger, ELF advises its acolytes in the use of real weapons.
Its Web site offers pointers on "Setting Fires with Electric Timers,"
among other charming diversions. Among the acts of terror it has
perpetrated in recent years, many have gone beyond broken windows and
spray paint. The lab attacks at universities have used firebombs and
been responsible for very grown-up levels of damage.
That's a point of pride for the group, which boastfully puts up the
Justice Department's tally of its tale of destruction on its Web
site. There's little of the self-delusion and nicey-nice rhetoric
often found among other hippy-dippy activists. ALF unapologetically
posts commentary that its "attacks on medical research continue
today" and are aimed at producing "millions of dollars worth of
damages and delays in the development of new treatments and cures."
In other words, people are bad and deserve to die if the medicine to
save them comes up at the expense of violating ELF's idea of the
rights of minks and trees and things.
Which brings us to the fundamental issue in all terrorists acts: the
willingness to subvert people's lives to a cause. Elf's jihad may
seem like a Saturday Night Live skit, but it's deadly serious to
those who find themselves targets. " 'Violence' or 'terrorism' has
long expressed the most important social, religious and historical
forces in this country and in others around the world," the group's
Web site says. Reportedly, Rep. McInnis has received death threats in
the days leading up to the Congressional hearings.
The saving grace of the animal rights movement may be the animal
righters themselves. They are not, shall we say, always the sharpest
folks around. Osama bin Laden may be labeled an evil genius, but so
far there hasn't been much reason to think ELF's band of stoned
arsonists are a threat worth ratcheting up the highest levels of
Tradecraft, as advised by the group's Web site, consists of
suggesting, for instance, that a would-be arsonist drive to the next
town to buy kerosene at the K-Mart where the check-out girl might not
recognize you. Or--whoohoo--covering your trail: "If possible, any
literature on illegal activities should be mailed to a fake name at a
post-office box or a private mailbox center. . . . or perhaps a
well-trusted friend (who could handle police/federal harassment)."
In many cases the acts of terrorism even backfire against the very
causes ELF claims to represent. In the case of the Vail Ski Resort
burning, which was done to protest the cutting of trees to make way
for an expansion, the resort manager himself observed that more logs
were to be used in rebuilding than ever would have been used in the
But then, the problem with terrorists is that they like attention,
and the tendency is to reach for ever grander and more spectacular
stunts. Mr. McInnis's hearings are a welcome sign that politicians
and law enforcement are beginning to take our domestic, tree-hugging
al Qaeda seriously. Before it develops a taste and capacity for real
Ms. Levey is an assistant features editor of The Wall Street
Journal's editorial page.
Opinion: Dangers of Going Underground
- Nature Vol. 415, p.717, Feb 14, 2002
Faced with continuing attacks and threats from radical environmental
and animal-rights groups, scientists increasingly find themselves
lumped in with an odd assortment of societal targets - from fast-food
restaurants to mink ranchers to second-hand car dealers - branded as
agents of global capitalism and eco-destruction. No amount of academy
studies proclaiming the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops, or
protocols to guarantee the humane treatment of lab animals, or
public-relations campaigns explaining the benefits of biotechnology
to a hungry world, are likely to persuade the vandals and arsonists
otherwise. They have reduced the world's complexity to a few simple
manifestos, and have traded debate for intimidation.
So scientists should focus instead on winning over the vastly larger
number of people who may be sceptical or uneasy about GM foods or the
need for animal research, but who still have open minds. And the best
way to do that is to stick with two of science's traditional
strengths - the open exchange of information and a faith in
Two stories in this week's News section illustrate how difficult that
high-minded road can be. A local planning board has rejected a
proposal by the University of Cambridge to build a new primate
research facility for fear of protests from animal-rights groups. And
scientific societies are pressing the US agriculture department to
remove information from the Internet about scientists who use
laboratory animals - information that had been posted in the
interests of transparency and public accountability.
The first action is the more lamentable, in that it represents a
citizens' council simply caving in to bullying tactics. The second
action, proposed by the research community itself, is defensible in
spirit, but sets a worrying precedent. No one can blame scientists
for wanting to protect themselves. The tactics of groups such as the
Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)
have moved well beyond spray-painting slogans and trampling crops, to
arson. If that trend continues, it's only a question of time before
someone gets hurt. So the request from the Federation of American
Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to remove detailed
identifying information about animal research facilities from the web
seems justified. And there should be a way to accomplish that while
still satisfying the public's right to know. The US agriculture
department, for example, posts information about GM crop trials on
the web, as does the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs in the United Kingdom. In neither case is the precise
location of research plots given, presumably to make things difficult
for would-be saboteurs.
Some 'secrecy', if it can be called that, therefore seems warranted.
At the same time, scientists must scrupulously avoid giving even the
slightest impression of taking their research underground. That would
only further inflame the zealots, and make it harder to win over the
uncommitted. Besides, it's not clear that arsonists rely that much on
the kind of information posted on the agriculture department website.
Groups such as the ELF or ALF don't seem especially diligent about
doing careful research before they choose their targets. More likely,
a short news story about a genetics lab being built at a nearby
university, or the simple knowledge that a scientist uses animals -
any animals - in their work, will suffice.
Take the case of Toby Bradshaw, the University of Washington plant
researcher whose office was burned down last May by the ELF. The
arsonists obviously misunderstood his work. Bradshaw has studied
traditional hybridization of poplar trees, but has never done any
genetic 'engineering'. And when the eco-vandals fire-bombed his
office, they also destroyed 100 showy stickweed plants - a quarter of
the remaining samples of one of the region's most endangered species.
Which goes to show that if too much information is sometimes
dangerous, too little can be even worse.
Uganda Govt Says It Favors Commercial Farming of BT Cotton
- Fred Ojambo, Dow Jones 18 Feb 2002
Kampala, Uganda (OsterDowJones) - Uganda's government favors
introducing genetically modified BT cotton for commercial farming
after a period of study, Agriculture Minister Kisamba Mugerwa has
told OsterDowJones. The stance was taken despite strong domestic
opposition, including by officials of the state- run Cotton
Development Organization. Mugerwa said the government wants to see BT
cotton grown because of its high yields and resistance to disease.
"It will be introduced once we understand its characteristics. When
it has worked elsewhere you can't say it cannot work here," he said.
The minister, who said he backs the use of biotechnology in general,
said BT cotton would significantly boost Uganda's annual cotton
output, which has fallen to around 100,000 185-kilogram bales at
present from around 500,000 bales in the early 1970s. Most of the
cotton is exported, making it Uganda's fourth major export commodity
after coffee, fish and tea. The sharp drop in production in recent
decades has been blamed on Uganda's political and economic turmoil.
U.S.-based Monsanto, which holds the patent for BT crops, has already
allowed the state-run National Research Organization to test the BT
cotton. The domestic opposition to growing it stems from concerns
that the quality of existing cotton crops would be negatively
Economic, Ecological, Food Safety, and Social Consequences of the
Deployment of Bt Transgenic Plants
- Shelton, A., Zhao, J., Roush, R. 2002. Annual Rev Entomology. 47:
845-881. Feb 1, 2002
Annual Reviews Entomology
Summary: Transgenic plants expressing insecticidal proteins from the
bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are revolutionizing
agriculture. Bt, which had limited use as a foliar insecticide, has
become a major insecticide because genes that produce Bt toxins have
been engineered into major crops grown on 11.4 million ha worldwide
in 2000. Based on the data collected to date, generally these crops
have shown positive economic benefits to growers and reduced the use
of other insecticides.
The potential ecological and human health consequences of Bt plants,
including effects on nontarget organisms, food safety, and the
development of resistant insect populations, are being compared for
Bt plants and alternative insect management strategies. Scientists do
not have full knowledge of the risks and benefits of any insect
management strategies. Bt plants were deployed with the expectation
that the risks would be lower than current or alternative
technologies and that the benefits would be greater. Based on the
data to date, these expectations seem valid.
- J.B. Pridham, Feb 14, 2002, The London Times (Letters)
Sir, Those of us that farmed and gardened in the 1930s and 40s will
remember the "delights" of using organic methods (letters, February
4) with weeds in profusion, the air thick with cabbage white
butterflies and the brassicas being devoured by their green and white
Broad beans were covered with black aphids and tomatoes with white
fly. Carcinogen-containing soot was applied to fly-ridden carrots and
environmentally friendly soapy water was commonly used as a general
insecticide. Those whose lives depended on agriculture looked forward
to the introduction of sophisticated agrochemicals. The new
generation of plant breeders now uses biotechnology which, if allowed
to develop, will offer valuable new products for the future.
Personally, when in the supermarket, I quickly pass by the expensive
organic produce with the fungal spots and the tired appearance. There
is no evidence that this is better for us, in any way, than the
conventional foods. If agriculture is to progress then the
development of GM products must also be encouraged. There will be
little to fear from these as, before release to the public, they will
have been examined in much greater detail than has ever been afforded
to conventional products.
In order to meet the next and inevitable crisis, which may be a world
population of eight billion by 2050, we need to apply all of the best
agricultural practices which the chemical industry, biotechnology and
organisations such as the Soil Association can provide.
Yours sincerely, Jack Pridham, Royal Holloway, University of
London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX.
Biotech: Farm Commissioner Fischler Calls For End of "Muddling-through
European Commission, 02-15-2002
Biotech: Farm Commissioner Fischler calls for end of "muddling-through
Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and
Fisheries, warned that Europe could be left behind on new
technologies: "We have to stop making decisions on such a difficult
issue as biotechnology on a purely emotional basis."
Brussels 14 February 2002 - Speaking on biotechnology at the AGRIBEX
Food Fair in Brussels, Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture,
Rural Development and Fisheries, warned that Europe could be left
behind on new technologies. "Europe lacks a shared vision and a
common objective regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Currently, our response to the challenges of GMOs is
"muddling-through". We have to stop making decisions on such a
difficult issue as biotechnology on a purely emotional basis. It is
high time that Europe finds a way to address questions, such as: "Can
we eat food that has been genetically modified?", "Do GMOs represent
a threat to the environment?", "Could the use of GM seeds have a
negative impact on other plants?". This is reflected in the recently
presented Life Science and Biotechnology Strategy of the European
Commission (see IP/02/122). The Commissioner labelled the consumers
role in this context as "absolutely paramount". "Agriculture today is
demand driven, and we will not be able to sell our products if we do
not win the confidence of the consumers." Fischler called for a
policy which protects farmers who grow conventional or organic crops
from accidental GMO-contamination. "In the future, the conventional
farms will have to follow the example of organic farming. Farms will
have to segregate production and marketing chains, introduce minimum
distances but also different sowing dates between GM and non-GM crop
varieties.", he said.
"The consumer must be free to choose between GM and non-GM products.
In order to do so, we have to introduce an EU-wide labelling system.
However, the labelling will be worthless if we do not manage to
segregate GM and GM-free on the fields of European farmers", he
underlined. He explained that the Commission had already brought
forward a coherent strategy on how to deal with GMOs, including clear
labelling provision for consumers.
Research has made clear that the situation differs considerably
according to the crop. For potatoes, for instance, co-existence does
not present a big problem with the thresholds of our existing GMO
draft regulations. On the other hand, for maize, changes in farming
practices are needed to keep adventitious presence below the
threshold. And for seed production of oilseed rape, the necessary
changes in farming practices can be substantial, and their costs may
be fairly high. This makes co-existence difficult from a technical as
well as an economic point of view.
For organic farming, the situation is particularly difficult. On the
one hand, European consumers expect organic food to be completely
free of GMOs. On the other, organic farms may in some cases face a
higher probability of adventitious presence of GMOs than conventional
farms. However, it seems that accidental contamination with GMOs is
lower on organic farms because separate production and marketing
channels already exist for organic produce.
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Green what?
Tom DeGregori was uncomfortable with the "peace" part of Greenpeace.
GP now seems, too often, to be just anti-human, without moderation.
It occurred to me that the "peace" in Greenpeace may be short for
"rest in peace" for those who would benefit from things GP doesn't
like . - BOB
P.S. From Prakash: I have heard one speaker in a meeting suggest
that 'Greenpeace' change its name to 'Greenwar'
DNA Tagging; "Pure" Terrorism; Biology Teaching Award
- From: "Andrew Apel"
Here something for opponents of GM to chew on......
Epitope Tagging in Transgenic Plants: A Monoclonal Antibody Specific
for Recombinant Fusion Proteins In Plants. Lawrence, Susan D; Novak,
Nicole G ; Slack, Jeffrey M.
Identification of genetically modified (GM) plants and foodstuff is
becoming increasingly important as such products move from the
laboratory to the market. Attaching a small tag to the protein which
will be added to the GM plant allows tracking of the protein with
antibodies that recognize the tag. Antibodies are proteins that can
bind specific portions of a protein allowing tests to be performed to
identify the protein. The protein added to the GM plant remains
functional with the small tag attached. The attachment of a tag is
useful when many different genes are being examined for experiments
characterizing new GM plants since the tag antibody will recognize
all the proteins added to the GM plants.
We have discovered a new tag/antibody combination that is very
specific. The antibody does not bind readily to other proteins in the
plant material. Therefore, this method reliably distinguishes GM
plants from unmodified material. This could be useful for scientists
who wish to characterize numerous new GM plants and to industry or
regulatory agencies that are looking for ways to universally label GM
plants. Contact: 1030 0 Baltimore Blvd. Rm. 214, Bldg. 011A, BARC
Beltsville MD 20705
If the analysis presented in the article below is correct, it
suggests that what Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth do with GM
crops is 0% bio and 100% terror...
New Terrorist Arsenal Aims at Panic, Chaos
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Feb 18, 2002
Boston --- The country's first brush with bioterrorism was 5 per cent
bio and 95 per cent terror --- something scientists say poses a grim
new reality in the world that once thought of anthrax and other
biologic al agents only as weapons of war.
The mail-borne anthrax attacks killed only five people, but
frightened millions. To be effective, experts warned Sunday, agents
of terrorism need only be able to scare large numbers of people.
David Franz, former head of the Army's biological research program,
told the American Association for the Advancement of Science that
emphasis on psychological impact, ra her than lethality, means
effective terrorism could be waged with hundreds of agents that were
once considered unlikely weapons of war.
On the battlefield, only a handful of agents, like anthrax and
smallpox, are deadly, disruptive and fast-acting enough to be used
against a military force. It was primarily those weapons on which the
United States and the Soviet Union concentrated their bioweapons
research in the 1970s and 1980s.
But Franz said if terror, not casualties, is the goal, any number of
lesser microbes --- from hepatitis and food-borne illnesses to
foot-and-mouth disease, which only infects farm animals --- are
potential weapons of mass disruption. Franz, now vice president of
the biological defense division of the Southern Research Institute in
Birmingham, said the new reality also means that large quantities of
a substance no longer are necessary to create wides pread havoc.
The U.S. mail system and affairs of Congress were disrupted for
months by a handful of anthrax-laden letters and a few grams of
finely ground, but deadly, powder. Efforts to pinpoint the source of
the anthrax through DNA fingerprinting are still under way, but Franz
said science alone is not likely to track down the person responsible
for last year's attacks. In the absence of a break in the criminal
investigation, he said the culprit may never be caught.
Franz said he believes the person who manufactured the anthrax was
highly skilled. We can be pretty sure that this was not a person who
started with a wooden spoon and a page of instructions from the
Internet. Five years ago, the government spent only $150 million a
year on biologic al weapons research. This year, largely in response
to perceived terrorist threats, it will spend $10 billion.
NABT Distinguished Service Award
Primary Sponsor: National Association of Biology Teachers Deadline:
NABT members and friends are invited to nominate outstanding
scientists and educators to receive the NABT Distinguished Service
Award, established in 1988 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the
Association. Nominees should be nationally recognized scientists who
have made major contributions to biology education through their
research, writing, and teaching. Recipients are honored at the Annual
Banquet during the NABT National Convention. The nomination deadline
is May 1, 2002. For more information go to