Today in AgBioView - Feb 27, 2002
* Response and Comments on the AgBioWorld Statement in Support of
Scientific Discourse ...
* Klaus Ammann's update on the Genetically Modified Maize in Mexico
* In Corn's Cradle, U.S. Imports Bury Family Farms
* Biotech Regulators Should Become People-friendly
* New Front on Ecoterror? Targeting High-Profile Activists in Battle
* ALF Vandalizes an Ag Biotech Facility in Manteca, California
* US Comments to Codex on Biotech Labeling
* Starbucks Walks Line Between Globalization and Humanitarianism
* Cows to Produce Glyphosate!
* 'Technology Terminator' Shiva
* Letter about Pusztai
* What The Editor Didn't Say
* GM Crops Won't Feed the Poor
* Measuring Gene Flow in the Cultivation of Transgenic Barley
The AgBioWorld statement in support of science discourse over the
Mexican corn issue has been updated again. The list now has over 60
scientists who has signed on and this includes nearly ten researchers
from the University of California at Berkeley. A few select comments
Should you wish to be included in this list, please send email to
From: Michael Goodin
Please add my name and address to the joint statement of scientific
discourse concerning the the Mexican corn scandal. If those that
oppose, or are concerned with, genetically engineered crops wish to
publish their findings in the major scientific journals then they
must also be willing to be subject to, and be a part of, the
discourse that follows. Open scientific discourse is the singular
most important means by which we ensure that science is being
performed correctly regardless of your stance pro or con.
- Michael Goodin, Ph.D., , Jackson Lab, Department of Plant and
Microbial Biology, University of California at Berkeley
From: Rob Martienssen
I would like to add my name to the joint statement on mexican maize.
And by the way, speaking as a maize geneticist, it is utterly absurd
to think that contaminating hybrid seed in mexican landraces would go
"unnoticed". Cross-pollination from any elite hybrids of transgenic
corn would be completely and immediately obvious to any mexican
farmer, although rich fat westerners who have never seen a corn plant
could, I suppose, miss it!
Rob Martienssen, PhD, Professor
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
From: Stevens Brumbley
Please add my name to the Joint Statement in Support of Scientific
Discourse in Mexican GM Maize Scandal. I find it deeply disturbing
that these environmental organisations are challenging the very
pillars upon which modern day science rests. Peer review and the
ability to repeat someone's work in a different lab are critical
features of modern science. To start attacking science at this
fundamental level would suggest that either these organisations have
no clue how modern science operates or they have reached a state of
desperation indicative of a lost cause.
- Stevens M. Brumbley, Senior Research Scientist. Bureau of Sugar
Indooroopilly, Queensland, AUSTRALIA
From: "Nicholas J. Kaplinsky"
As an author of a critique of the Quist and Chapela paper, I'd be
more than happy to have my name on the statement. Thank you,
Nick Kaplinsky, Graduate Student, University of California, Berkeley
From: "Johannes Fuetterer"
I have been reached by your request to some scientists to react on
the "Joint statement ...." of Food First.
I have coauthored (with Matt Metz) one of the critical letters to
Nature about the Quist and Chapela paper and found the (FoodFirst)
statement extremely annoying and insulting but also speaking of a
very dangerous attitude towards science.
- Dr. Johannes F¸tterer, Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH Z¸rich
Universit”tstr. Z¸rich, Switzerland
From: "Philippe Joudrier"
In our experiments, some years ago (we have been actively involved in
GMO's detection and labeling), we have been able to amplify fragment
of DNA corresponding to the p35S in non-GMO maize (probably, because
direct contamination with CaMV).
So, it is necessary to be very careful with eventual false positive
response, to identify precisely the amplified DNA (restriction
analysis and/or sequencing) and to check that it is inserted DNA
(co-amplification of other transformation events).
- Dr Philippe Joudrier, Director of research, Institut National de la
Recherche Agronomique, France
From: "Boris Levenko"
Subject: Point of view
I undoubtedly support all scientists authors of Agbioview
counter-statement. At the same time I would like to express my
personal opinion on this matter. I think all those who engaged in
work with transgenic plants understand that gene flow is a natural
process that was created by nature to widen the genetic diversity and
to select best adopted. That is why if part of 35S promoter or any
other transgene or it parts found in Mexican maize or elsewhere it is
not contamination and it has nothing to do with harm to this crop or
any other crops.
The slogan "threat to genetic diversity" is most often used by people
who are very far from understanding of natural processes going on in
plant populations but they use this slogan to attract some layers of
public to show their concern about the "purity" of the nature which
is not exist at all. Under these conditions we can not stay apart and
wait for the results of this conflict. In last time in newspapers, on
the radio and on TV you can read, hear and watch people that very
actively arguing against the use of transgenic plants and at the same
time very rare you can hear the voices of professionals who
understand the situation and who defend the implementation of
I think it is the high time now for all those who professionally
understand the situation to raise their voices in support of this
newest trend in plant breeding and to explain to the general public
on the radio, in the press and on TV all benefits of transgenic
plants and those advantages the mankind is acquiring by their use. Do
not stay aside- Dr.Boris A.Levenko
From: Wayne Parrott
You are quite right-- up to a point. The main message is and must be
that the presence of transgenes in Mexican landraces does not
constitute a major threat to biodiversity, food security, or anything
else. If Mexicans decide that campesinos have the right to experiment
and improve their landraces, it is their right to do so.
However, the use of flawed data and bad science to push an agenda
forward--which is what is happening here-- cannot be condoned. A
journal or a process which lets incredibly bad data through its
system must be questioned. The scientific process cannot be
compromised to satisfy a political agenda or to prove a point.
As this discussion gains prominence over the next few days, it is
important to keep these two issues separate.
>From: "Bob MacGregor"
>Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Joint statement from Scientists?,
>I think we are on the verge of missing the point. It doesn't really
>much in the long term whether Quist and Chapela screwed up or whether
>there is CaMV in Mexican maize landraces. A more important point is
>transgenes are likely to show up there eventually. As long as viable
>is moving across the border and is made available to rural people,
>will be planted, resulting in hybrids with local varieties. That is
>the capesinos improve their maize and it is routine and OK.
>It is NOT contamination when the local breeder deliberately created
>crosses to try out new traits. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot
>trying so hard to discredit the Quista and Chapela results? What will
>response be when, as inevitably must happen, valid, defensible studies
>detect transgenes in Mexican
>corn, Asian rice or soybeans, etc? If we buy into the argument that
>is "contamination" and is evil, then we are doomed to failure. - BOB
From: Klaus Ammann
Debate 2002'0226 a: More News About The Mexican Corn Case From Oaxaca
Below important links for the Mexican corn cases and some news: I can
circulate confirmed news that the Bernese Lab of Dr. Urs Pauli from
the Federal Office of Health (Bundesamt f¸r Gesundheit) worked for
one week on the Oaxaca samples, provided by Dr. Chapela in March
2001, in order to confirm his own findings. But alas - they did not
fit Chapelas own concept of having found the influence of transgenic
maize in Oaxaca. He also did not quote the work of Dr. Pauli and
others, a clearcut sign of bias.
Read the original emails, edited as a pdf, you find them as a first
link. All the other documents are listed below as links, please
notice two relatively new ones just below the mentioned email
Let me make the case very clear here: the doubts cast on the Nature
article are real and well founded, but this does not mean that I
support the rebuttals in order to reject the possibility of finding
transgenes and their products in Mexican landraces of maize.
Gene flow has always happened, as confirmed by many papers, one given
below (KatoGeneflowIntro), and I have a hunch that those transgenes
will soon pop up in the Mexican landrace populations. But it is quite
another thing, whether they threaten biodiversity or even worse, the
landraces. Landraces in Mexico are threatened by the rapid change of
agricultural practice, not by a few transgenes.
and a small trick if you have a stall tonight, since obviously many
want to sign on:
First go to the website http://www.agbioworld.org and then click the
joint statement on the first page
Please sign up with firstname.lastname@example.org
and some older stuff, maybe useful to have it in one place
From: Klaus Ammann
Debate 2002'0226 b: Transgenic DNA confirmed in Oaxaca landraces,
press conference CIVESTAV-UNAM and Chapela
Dear friends: Now the case seems to be clear, with new results and
better methods: Transgenic DNA has been confirmed. Still, the methods
are not yet revealed and we are all still very eager to see the
results and the data. - Klaus
From: Klaus Ammann
Subject: Debate 2002'0226 c: Note From Wayne Parrot About The
Previous Confirmation News: Just Straight Pcr, Nothing Better
Dear friends: Wayne Parrot knows about the work in more detail, its
obviously just straight PCR, in evidence nothing better than what
Quist/Chapela have to offer. - Klaus
Dear Klaus: These news reports were based on straight PCR, and both
reports are about the UNAM work. Only passing refernece is made to
the Civestav work. There was another report circulating today that
the woman quoted here has very frustrated that these news reports
overstated the solidness of the findings.
Eitherway, it is just a matter of time before the transgenic corn is
found beyond doubt. Need to focus on the implications-- or lack
thereof-- for the landraces - Wayne Parrot
In Corn's Cradle, U.S. Imports Bury Family Farms
- Tim Weiner, New York Times, Feb 26, 2002
Anzanillo, Mexico - For many generations, corn has been the sacred
center of civilization in Mexico, the place where the grain was first
cultivated some 5,000 years ago.
Gods and goddesses of corn filled the dreams and visions of the great
civilizations that rose and fell here before the Spaniards came five
centuries ago. Today the corn tortilla is consumed at almost every
meal. Among the poor, sometimes it is the entire meal.
But the modern world is closing in on the little patch of maize,
known as the milpa, that has sustained millions of Mexicans through
the centuries. The powerful force of American agribusiness, unleashed
in Mexico by the North American Free Trade Agreement, may doom the
growing of corn as a way of life for family farmers here, agronomists
and economists say. Lorenzo Rebollo, a 53-year-old dirt farmer, works
two and a half acres of corn and beans here on the slopes of the
eastern state of Michoac·n, in Mexico's central highlands, where corn
was first grown as a food crop, archaeologists say. Mr. Rebollo is
one of about 3 million Mexicans who farm corn and support roughly 15
million family members.
His grown sons have left for the United States to make a living, and
Mr. Rebollo says he may be the last man to farm this patch of earth.
It is the same story all over Mexico: thousands of farmers pulling up
stakes every year, heading for Mexico City or the United States. Some
grew coffee or cut sugar cane. But most grew corn. Roughly a quarter
of the corn in Mexico is now imported from the United States. Men
like Mr. Rebollo cannot compete against the mechanized, subsidized
giants of American agriculture.
"Corn growing has basically collapsed in Mexico," Carlos Heredia
Zubieta, an economist and a member of Mexico's Congress, said in a
recent speech to an American audience. "The flood of imports of basic
grains has ravaged the countryside, so the corn growers are here
instead of working in the fields." The facts are stark. Since Nafta
took effect eight years ago, imports of corn to Mexico from the
United States have increased nearly eighteenfold, according to the
United States Department of Agriculture. The imports will probably
keep growing for the next six years as the final phases of Nafta take
In the United States, corn growers receive billions of dollars a year
in subsidies from Congress, much of it going to huge agribusiness
operations. That policy fuels huge surpluses and pushes corn prices
down. Free trade and Mexico's own farm policies "threaten the ability
of Mexican farmers to continue to grow corn," said Alejandro Nadal, a
professor at the Colegio de MÈxico and the author of a study on the
issue. In Mexico, Nafta did away with many traditional subsidies and
generous price supports. Some contend it is doing away with small
farmers. About 90 percent of Mexico's corn farmers work fields of
five acres or less, and their survival instincts are driving them
farther and farther up Mexico's mountainsides as they strive to grow
enough to get by.
"We work the land all our lives," Mr. Rebollo said. "But the farmers
are growing more and getting less." Under a slowly lifting ceiling,
the United States will be able to export all the corn it wants to
Mexico, duty free, by 2008. Nafta's drafters told Mexico's farmers
that as the ceiling lifted, the price of corn in Mexico would slowly
fall toward United States and international prices over the 15-year
But instead, prices plunged quickly, converging with the free-market
price by 1997. This was good news for big companies in Mexico
importing corn for animal feed and processed food. But it was hard on
the farmers, who have little political clout under the government of
President Vicente Fox, an ardent free-trader.
The effect of American imports on Mexican agriculture was not
unforeseen. "Integration into the global economy will also accelerate
the social dislocation that rapid modernization inevitably brings to
a developing economy," Bernard Aronson, a former assistant secretary
of state for Latin American affairs, wrote eight years ago as the
trade pact took effect. But some things were not predicted. One
unforeseen result of the collapse of corn farming, Mr. Nadal warns,
will be the loss of genetically unique kinds of corn. As imports grow
and farmers give up their fields, he said, ancient varieties like the
succulent blue corn used for tortillas may be endangered. Some may
already be lost, he said.
"If traditional growers abandon corn production - as the Nafta
strategy foresees - then even more significant genetic erosion will
occur," he said. The importation of bioengineered corn from the
United States is a separate but heated issue. Mexico's government
does not permit the planting of genetically modified corn. But the
new modified breeds can be imported as food or feed. The science
journal Nature and Mexico's government published findings last year
showing that bioengineered genes from American imports have invaded
ancient varieties of corn in the state of Oaxaca.
Nafta has had demonstrable benefits for many sectors of the Mexican
economy that have become competitive, and Mr. Fox says it is no
longer possible for the government to step in and assist farmers.
State legislators who want Mexico to protect its corn the way Japan
protects its rice have had no luck swaying him. Mr. Fox's agriculture
minister, Javier Usabiaga - a highly successful exporter known as the
Garlic King in Guanajuato, his home state as well as Mr. Fox's - says
that a farmer who cannot survive in the 21st century is simply "going
to have to find another job."
Farmers like Mr. Rebollo are regarded as artifacts of an earlier,
simpler age. "I have this little bit of land, and I work it, and it's
good hard work," he said as he walked his fallow field. "But I think
when I go it will go too."
Biotech Regulators Should Become People-friendly
- Bruce M. Chassy, Chicago Tribune, Feb 26, 2002
These days one hears cries of "superweeds" and doomsday scenarios
about bioengineered crops. Protesters chain themselves to
laboratories, or worse, they burn the laboratories.
Concerned about the controversy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
one of three agencies regulating biotechnology, asked the National
Academy of Sciences to undertake a critical review of the agency's
Last week, the academy issued a detailed report that applauds the
scientific approach applied by the agency. The academy said the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service had substantially improved its regulation of transgenic
plants but should solicit public input, get scientists to review its
work and explain to the public the reasons behind regulatory
decisions. People have a right to know how and why regulatory
policies are set, and they need good information to judge the
The academy also recommended that biotech products continue to be
assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some biotech crops will raise
greater potential concerns than others. Requiring that all go through
exactly the same assessment experiments could cause environmental
harm by delaying important benefits. Biotech crops have brought
environmental benefits, such as reduced chemical usage and prevention
of soil erosion. The academy also recognized that what works for
today's biotech crops may not be applicable to tomorrow's.
Biotech crops currently on the market, with a few exceptions, are
either insect-protected or herbicide-tolerant. These crops are
designed to be no different than the varieties that are planted and
marketed today. In the future, biotech crops may not be so similar to
their present-day counterparts, yet they will bring important
benefits. Work must begin today to determine how to regulate these
The framework to accomplish that exists if the three agencies
regulating biotechnology focus on what they do best. And, according
to the academy, judging each product on a case-by-case basis is what
the USDA does best.
The academy found that APHIS gave only "superficial" assessment to
insect-protected plants, but that's to be expected since the
Environmental Protection Agency has primary authority for these crops
and has demonstrated aggressive oversight in that area. In fact, all
three agencies have the authority to act aggressively after products
are approved. The EPA has authority to cancel the registration of
products, to demand more data and to require post-approval
monitoring. The FDA can immediately recall any food it finds to be
unsafe. And the committee concluded that APHIS has all the authority
it needs to regulate new plant varieties. In addition, companies in
the biotech industry are working together to conduct research and
monitor the performance of their products.
With intensive governmental, academic and commercial oversight for
the past 15 years, not a single instance of actual harm to health,
safety or the environment has been confirmed for biotechnology crops
on the market or in field trials today. The academy report noted that
biotech plants may even be safer than conventional varieties that
receive no formal scrutiny by regulators. Improvements are always
possible, but a reading of the report suggests that we should be
confident that regulators are doing a good job.
If regulators can improve their communication and consensus-building
skills as well, the protesters may have to move on to another cause.
Bruce M. Chassy, a professor in the college of agriculture at the
University of Illinois-Champaign, chaired a scientific panel that
evaluated the U.S. biotechnology regulatory systems.
New Front on Ecoterror? Some Want to Target High-Profile Activists in
- Dean Schabner, ABCNews.com, Feb 26, 2002
Some congressmen and industry advocates want the federal government
to take a hard look at some well-known animal rights and
environmental groups, and maybe shut them down as supporters of
terrorism. The idea was floated earlier this month at a Congressional
subcommittee hearing on ecoterrorism by Richard Berman, the executive
director of a group called the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Berman, whose group represents restaurant and tavern owners and
advocates protecting "the public's right to a full menu of dining and
entertainment choices," said a number of high-profile activist
groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have
links to groups named on the FBI's domestic terrorism list, such as
the Earth Liberation Front. What he came to the hearing advocating
was that the government wage war against domestic terrorism the way
the war has been waged against accused terror mastermind Osama bin
Laden's al Qaeda network - not just by going after those who carry
out illegal acts, but by trying to cut off financial support for
organizations identified as being terrorist.
In the cases of domestic offenders, he said the federal government
could crack down by revoking the tax-free status of not-for-profit
organizations found to fund domestic terror groups. "I'd like
Congress to look at the tax-exempt status of groups like PETA,"
Berman told ABCNEWS.com. "I don't see this being any different from
George Bush being able to shut down foundations funneling money to al
Qaeda. The difference in degree of activity doesn't mean anything if
you're on the receiving end of it."
Where Does the Money Come From? Berman was dismissed by officials at
PETA and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine - another
group that he accused of ties to organizations that have been linked
to criminal activity - as a showman doing his best to earn his
paycheck as a lobbyist for restaurant and tavern chains. But many
members of the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest
Health seemed to take him more seriously.
"I would say there is real cause for concern," said Joshua Penry, the
staff director of the subcommittee. "A lot of the evidence is
circumstantial, but in some cases it's deeply troubling." As one
piece of evidence, Berman submitted a federal tax return showing that
PETA gave $1,500 to ELF, which has taken credit and been blamed for
millions of dollars in vandalism in recent years. "The reality is
these groups are getting their money from somewhere," Penry said.
"That's the question, just where are these groups getting their
James Jarboe, the domestic terrorism chief of the FBI's
Counterterrorism Division, said during testimony at the hearing that
ELF and the related Animal Liberation Front have caused more than $43
million in damage in more than 600 attacks since 1996, including the
firebombing of the Vail ski resort in 1998, which did $12 million in
damages. The FBI calls both groups terrorist operations.
"These are hardened criminals," Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Scott
McInnis, R-Colo., said. "They are dangerous, they are well-funded,
they are savvy, sophisticated and stealthy, and if their violence
continues to escalate, it is only a matter of time before their
parade of terror results in a lost human life."
Members of ALF, ELF Elusive The two groups have managed to almost
completely elude law enforcement, despite not being shy about
trumpeting their successes. They issued a joint statement in January
claiming responsibility for 67 illegal acts last year, including
setting a fire that destroyed a $5.4 million horticulture building at
the University of Washington.
The fact that many Americans support protecting the environment and
oppose cruelty to animals, combined with the success of ELF and ALF
in avoiding any human casualties in their attacks, seems to some of
the lawmakers at the hearing to have created undue sympathy for the
activist groups. "We must strip away the Robin Hood mystique and
perceived high ground that some have given these radicals," McInnis
said. "It's just a matter of time before a human life is taken."
The lawmakers were thwarted in their efforts to get information about
ELF and its backers from a Portland, Ore., man who has acted as the
group's spokesman. Craig Rosebraugh took the Fifth Amendment more
than 50 times when he appeared before the subcommittee. Outside the
hearing room he also refused to answer reporters' questions. FBI and
Justice Department officials declined to comment on whether efforts
to break up ELF and ALF have gone beyond more traditional law
enforcement practices to include any attempt to cut off funding.
PETA: We're Strictly Legal
Berman's accusations against PETA also included a claim that the
group gave money to Rodney Coronado, who was convicted of arson for
setting fires at fur farms, and to Josh Harper, who was "arrested a
half-dozen times and convicted of assault on a police officer." The
president of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, said Harper was "the guy who hit a
police officer with a piece of tofu during a demonstration" and said
the group does contribute to the legal funds of those arrested in
animal rights demonstrations.
"For young activists who sometimes get overzealous we do provide for
the right to counsel, which is a fundamental American right," she
said. Newkirk said the group would never give money to be used to
support violence or anything illegal, but said she did not remember
the check to ELF, which was reported on the organization's 2000 tax
return. "We have an annual budget of $17 million and he has to go
back two years to find something for $1,500," Newkirk said. "It
certainly wasn't for anything that he would like it to be for because
we don't fund anything that's illegal."
SHAC Attack Berman's accusation against Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine, a group that advocates a non-meat, non-dairy
vegan diet as the healthiest way to eat, was based on a letter that
was co-signed by PCRM president Dr. Neal Barnard and Kevin Jonas, who
heads a group called SHAC, for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The
letter was sent to dozens of companies asking them not to do business
with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British research firm that also
operates in the United States. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, ALF
and others have battered away at the lab's financial backers with
e-mails, threats, protests and bad publicity to convince investors to
pull out. The groups have been known to post the telephone numbers
and e-mail addresses of bank officials on their Web sites, urging
supporters to call and write often. Supporters of the groups and
their cause have destroyed the property of Huntingdon backers, but no
one has been convicted of any of the crimes or linked directly to the
PCRM president Barnard said the inclusion of his group by Berman was
just another attack by an industry lobbyist. "It is unfortunate that
the tobacco, meat, and dairy industries have launched a hate campaign
against health and humane advocates," Barnard said. "Now that an
average American's cancer risk has reached one in three, the tobacco,
meat, and dairy interests are trying to obscure their roles in this
disease. "This is America and people can say what they want. If it
gets to the point of libel, we will sue them," he added.
Elusive Opponents If federal officials were to go after backers of
groups like ELF and ALF, it's not clear what impact it would have.
The groups have Web sites, but given the lack of evidence of any kind
of structural organization within the groups, it is not clear how
much of a role funding plays in their ability to act. According to
law enforcement officials, both ELF and ALF seem to work more as
grassroots operations than many radical groups. There are no
identified leadership figures, and those who act as spokespeople for
the two groups have thus far avoided being convicted of any criminal
links to the organizations. Recent arrests on Long Island, N.Y., and
in Phoenix for crimes believed to have been committed by ELF cells do
not seem to have led law enforcement officials to any broader
organization. The Phoenix man who admitted setting fire to several
houses being built on the edge of a nature preserve also lived in the
housing development and said he was just angry that others were
moving in. In the Long Island arsons, three teenagers were arrested
in February 2001 and confessed to setting fires and committing
vandalism in a luxury housing development. They said they were
members of ELF, but no other arrests have followed.
ALF Vandalizes an Ag Biotech Facility in Manteca, California
- ALF Listserv message (Courtesy of Jack Cooper; via Katie Thrasher
The North American ALF Press Office received the following anonymous
Early in January, Plant Sciences Inc. in Manteca, CA was visited by
nighttime gardeners. We spread salt across many rows of GE
strawberries, intending to disrupt research and cause economic
damage. We also uprooted a test plot of GE Valent wheat. This is the
second time Plant Sciences Inc. was visited, the first time was two
years ago at their Watsonville property. Our actions will continue
until the genetic engineering of life is stopped.
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Animal House
When I first saw the piece about PETA's contributions to ELF and ALF,
it brought to mind the post-Sept. 11 rhetoric of Pres. Bush about
cutting off the funding sources of terrorist organizations....I'm
just waiting for PETA's bank accounts to be frozen and for the
marines to move on PETA's offices.... - BOB
From: "Frances B. Smith"
Subject: US Comments to Codex on Biotech Labeling
The U.S. comments to the Codex Committee on Food Labeling relating to
the labeling of foods produced through modern biotechnology are
posted on the following website:
Starbucks Walks Line Between Globalization and Humanitarianism
- Allison Linn, AP, Feb 27, 2002
Seattle - Like any fast-growing global corporation, Starbucks Coffee
Co. hopes to spend 2002 expanding aggressively into international
markets while building record revenues. But unlike most major
corporations, it also is working feverishly to maintain its image of
a homegrown company devoted to doing good works.
The question, Chairman Howard Schultz said at the company's annual
shareholders meeting Tuesday, is "Can we get big and stay small?" The
two-hour gathering, in a packed house at Seattle's Benaroya Hall,
opened and closed with the traditional trappings of a shareholders
meeting - financial outlooks and shareholder votes on whom to elect
to the board and hire as an independent auditor.
But the Seattle coffee retailer spent most of the presentation
listing its good works. One video montage showed the company's
employees cleaning up parks and serving coffee at AIDS (news - web
sites) fund-raisers. Another touted its efforts to offer medical care
in the areas where it grows coffee, and another was simply devoted to
employees talking about how much they like working at Starbucks. That
wasn't all. Ethnic music played and a gospel choir sang "I Believe I
Can Fly." Employees waved flags from around the world - including the
American flag, which got a standing ovation.
A Sept. 11 survivor who found refuge in a Starbucks store was
spotlighted in the audience, after his reunion with the man who
pulled him inside to safety. A New York City-based Starbucks manager
shared a tearful embrace with Starbucks President Orin Smith, after
receiving a corporate award for his efforts to serve coffee to rescue
workers and victims after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
It would be easy to forget that this is a company that makes and
serves coffee. That's no mistake. "There's probably only so much we
can say about the coffee," Smith said in an interview after the
Although the company believes it serves and sells good coffee, Smith
said it also thinks it needs more than that to distinguish itself
from the competition. "In some respects this is more a people
business than a coffee business," he said.
As the company continues to expand rapidly - another 1,200 stores
will open this year, including many internationally - Smith said it's
worked harder to maintain its image than ever before. "I think we
have been paranoid about that issue," he said.
But for all Starbucks' efforts to brag about its good works, some
people aren't satisfied. For the second year, about 50 organic foods
proponents gathered outside the meeting to protest the company's use
of genetically modified foods and milk containing artificially
produced growth hormones.
Smith said last year Starbucks would aim to get rid of milk
containing artificial growth hormones. This year, Smith said that
proved to be too complicated and costly, and the company has decided
only to offer the option of organic milk - for an added price. "We
did our best with it," he said.
"Starbucks has actually been making a few good steps," said Lisa
Ramirez, a protester with Friends of the Earth. But she said the
groups would continue protesting. "They can do a lot better," she
said. Some shareholders, fed up with the protesters, called on the
company to begin labeling food containing genetically engineered
ingredients in an effort to appease the protesters. A shareholder
resolution on the issue garnered just 7 percent of the vote.
Starbucks said its coffee products are not genetically modified, and
that the company would support federal legislation on labeling but
not do it on its own.
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Cows to Produce Glyphosate!
Mae-Wan Ho-Ho-Ho! Now she's claiming that cows eating
herbicide-tolerant maize will produce glyphosate herbicide in their
stomachs! Read all about it at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMmaize.php
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Shiva's at it again...
Vandana Shiva, the "Technology Terminator," is at it again....
MoU With Monsanto Draws Criticism
- The Times of India, Feb 26, 2002
Hyderabad: The signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU)
between chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and seed giant Monsanto,
on Naidu's recent trip to the United States, has come for sharp
criticism from Research Foundation for Science, Technology and
Ecology member Dr Vandana Shiva.
Shiva talking to The Times of India on Sunday said it was ridiculous
to assume that the MoU for setting up a research centre in Hyderabad
by Monsanto would be purely for scientific purpose. Monsanto, a
multi-national company (MNC) in the business of selling seeds for
profit, would only be interested in the commercial success of its
She alleged that the company would convert the genetic engineering
experiments into the Intellectual Property Right of the company and
have a unfair monopoly. She accused Monsanto of devising a "mechanism
of theft" of the knowledge and bio-diversity in India. Vehemently
opposing the use of Bt cotton, the agriculture expert said it would
have an adverse impact on the bio-diversity of the region. She
explained how farmers were made to use more toxic doses of Bt after
initial years as the bollworm pest developed resistance to the Bt
Shiva claimed that the genetically modified technology did not
increase yield but only prevented bollworm attack in the first year.
Demanding an independent and transparent assessment of the impact of
Bt cotton, the agriculture expert wanted the government to guarantee
bio-safety. All life forms, including agriculture should be exempted
from the TRIPS and WTO agreements. She suggested the concept of
organic farming with "zero seed and zero pest cost".
This could be the best alternative method of farming, she said.
From: Tony Trewavas
Subject: Letter about Pusztai
Dr Pusztai has written requesting that I clarify what I said about
him in my recent contribution to AgBioWorld. I am happy to do this. I
have never suggested that he fiddled his data and I know of no-one
who has ever suggested it. If that is the way it was read then I
apologise to him, however that was not my intention. The statement
"you can be wrong" merely states the obvious about any scientific
paper. That is conclusions which are not substantiated by the
evidence provided; outlandish conclusions which are unrealistic;
incorrect methods; over intepretation and so on.
I published a commentary on the Pusztai potato work in 2000 in
Chemistry and Industry in the form of a letter and this is shown
below. It was written in response to a letter by him to Chemistry and
Industry in the previous issue.
Dr Pusztai uses his commentary in Chemistry and Industry (number 8
page 280) again to make claims over what his research demonstrates
about GM food. Having heard him lecture in Edinburgh and having read
the paper by Ewens and him in The Lancet, I differ very strongly from
his assessment. Dr Pusztai used three lines of potato for his tests
which he admitted were not substantially, and therefore not
nutritionally equivalent, to each other. The claimed effects of these
different diets, again admitted by Dr Pusztai, are tiny; if
believable at all since some of the statistical procedures are surely
inappropriate. Again in the course of his lecture Dr Pusztai admitted
he is not a molecular biologist, statistician or plant biologist. He
is an organic chemist. I believe such training gives rise to
unrealistic expectations of replication in biology particularly when
different diets are involved and the rats are still growing
Many years ago R.J. Williams summarised in "Biochemical
Individuality" (1959. Wiley,Chicester) the anatomical, cellular and
chemical variations reported between normal, healthy, reproducing
human beings. Intestinal mass is an adaptive feature, responds to
diet and Williams reports variations of six fold. Pusztai reported
variations supposedly due to GM food of 10% or less in mass with
slightly higher variation in thickness of several parts of the
intestine. The largest reported effects (40%) resulted from feeding
rats ordinary raw, instead of cooked, potato. The growing animals
actually lost weight (starvation conditions) and in true biological
fashion increased their intestinal mass, no doubt as an attempt to
cope. If the intent of Ewens and Pusztai was to demonstrate that
particular GM foods were damaging as a result only of GM, then at the
minimum, use of a variety of non-transgenic potato lines with
differing nutritional content was essential to establish normal
variation. I appreciate that this work was truncated but by going on
TV, Dr Pusztai truncated it himself. Pusztai is a member of the Union
of Concerned Scientists (organised in the UK by Mae Wan Ho) which
called for a moratorium of five years on the release of GM crops. I
would be surprised if this played no part whatsoever in his decision.
The Pusztai affair is a sad chapter in British science. Dr Pusztai
has an excellent scientific record. An expert on lectins he has
published some 300 papers and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of
Edinburgh. If he had chosen to publish and not gone on TV he might
well have still been in employment and investigating further. However
as scientists we submit to referees criticism after submission of
papers because we can be wrong. The Ewens and Pusztai paper would
have been rejected by any reputable plant journal, not for subject
matter, but simply there was inadequate data to justify any
conclusion, for failure to take account of somaclonal variation in
the GM potatoes and for claiming signficant differences between means
with overlapping standard errors. Rather than use a paired student t
test, the experiments used three samples and analysis of variance is
surely the appropriate tool. The fact that the Lancet apparently
accepted the paper says something about relative refereeing standards
The technology for potato transformation requires an initial phase of
cell culture, that is well known, on its own, to induce substantive
chemical and morphological variation in any subsequent regenerates.
This so- called soma-clonal variation is normally eliminated by a
sexual reproductive cycle. But potatoes are cloned and are not
obtained from seed. Thus somaclonal variations from the culture
conditions are retained in the adult potato plant and subsequent
potatoes derived from them. Potato was thus the worst choice for
these experiments to test the purported effects of GM on food. It was
imperative that the two GM potato lines used by Ewens and Pusztai
should have been subjected to the detailed scrutiny of the kind now
required for estimating the substantial equivalence of novel foods.
Only then could possible soma-clonal variations in important dietary
constituents be discounted.
Substantial equivalence is the current testing procedure in use for
all GM crops and food. The tests demand detailed profiling of benign
and toxic alkaloids, carbohydrates and polysaccharide and wall
constituents, amino acids, lipids, phyto-oestrogens , other steroids,
minerals as well as major nutritional constituents. Such tests
usually take years and require that the GM crop does not differ in
any of these parameters (within experimental error) from the crop or
food from which it was derived. Usually such parent foods are
considered safe from a history of consumption. That latter judgement
may be flawed but it is the best on offer at present. The new
individual trait is then examined for safety and allergenicity. In
future, substantial equivalence will probably involve complete DNA
microarray analysis of gene expression. Since we know the GM lines
used by Putzai were not substantially equivalent in several major
nutrients, we can only surmise as regards other minor nutrient or
anti-nutrient modifications. Potato is notorious for some of its
toxic constituents including arsenic.
The GM crops on trial in the UK at the moment contain one new piece
of DNA and the resulting protein. Both are rapidly degraded in the
stomach. But in GM soya these molecules are already degraded by
processing before they are even eaten. All that we know about toxic
proteins (tetanus toxins, allergenic proteins) indicates that their
effects are acute and immediate. Notions of some remote effect of GM
foods in some remote future do not accord with any mechanism that I
know of. Dr Pusztai doesnít quote one either in his insistence on
long term testing. New variant CJD is a disease and is only caused by
proteins already in human brain tissue. Claims that random insertion
of cDNAís might represent a problem fails to recognise that
transposable elements, that form 20% of the plant genome, move and
insert at random with every reproductive cycle inducing biological
variation. An inserted cDNA simply mimics a natural process.
Dr Pusztai thinks that the public requires reassurance on the safety
of GM food. Well maybe it does, but it was his TV announcement, an
associated hysterical press and irresponsible political groups that
are primarily responsible for public uncertainty. Sir John Krebs as
the new Head of the Food Standards Agency will in future deal with
such problems and his stated conclusion is that GM soya is as safe as
its untransformed counterpart. The suggestion of human trials for GM
food does not recognise that well over a billion people have eaten GM
foods for 3-5 years with, not surprisingly, no sign of any medical
problem despite doom-laden predictions by the Maharishi university.
The requests for unnecessary testing is surely part of a general
campaign designed simply to delay GM introduction for no reason
The FDA did not suddenly find toxicity of food a problem because of
Kuiperís studies on force feeding rats with tomatoes. Bruce Ames
voluminous studies in the 80ís showed that all foods contain anywhere
from 5,000-10,000 naturally synthesised chemicals which can induce
cancers in rodents. Thus any new food could always be shown to be
toxic via this particular test route. These observations generated in
turn the principle of substantial equivalence in the early 90ís as
the best way forward for food testing.
Finally I was surprised that Dr Pusztai did not mention Professor
Chenís (Beijing University) remarkably detailed analyses of rats fed
GM peppers and tomatoes and described at the OECD conference, since
he was there. No effects whatsoever emerged from the page after page
after page of detailed analyses.
- Anthony Trewavas FRS. FRSE, Professor in Plant Biochemistry,
Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh
What The Editor Didn't Say
- UK Grocer magazine "letters to the editor" Feb 23, 2002
Sir; Your response to Patrick Holden's letter (February 16) was far
too kind. His spin-doctored portrayal of the Royal Society's recent
report, like that in Zac Goldsmith's letters to the national press,
was far from "responsible".
It is best characterised by the President of the Royal Society Lord
May's authoritative response in the Sunday Times (February 17), in
which he says: "There is no sound reason to believe that genetic
modification makes food inherently unsafe.
However, as the RS has consistently pointed out, any novel
foodstuffs, regardless of whether they contain GM ingredients, need
to be tested rigorously before they reach the consumer."
Lord May suggests the anti-GM lobby's "claims that the use of genetic
modification makes food hazardous to human health are beginning to
look as if they are driven by dogmatic ideology rather than science."
(See also p14)
I am quite comfortable with organic food production, provided that
the same food safety and HACCP measures are adopted as are required
in food production generally, just as I (and the food science
community generally) are comfortable with the responsible application
of GM provided that issues of product safety, environmental concerns,
information and ethics are satisfactorily addressed.
However, the organic food industry (of which the Soil Association is
the principal UK certifying body, and now seeks a UK monopoly
position) is big business and therefore may be perceived as a vested
interest, of which GM food would be a major competitor.
So in the case of the Soil Association, your readers might discern an
additional driving force beyond plain dogma. Patrick Holden also
imputes a biased motive to you, Sir, by referring to "your trip to
Monsanto's HQ in 2000".
I admire your self-restraint in not responding in kind by pointing
out that activist anti-GM propaganda on the Soil Association's part
could well be seen as a manifestation of the age-old practice, with
which your readers will be familiar, of a supplier "knocking" a
- Prof J Ralph Blanchfield MBE
GM Crops Won't Feed The Poor
- UK Grocer magazine "letters to the editor" Feb 23, 2002
Sir: It was not clear from your editorial of February 16 whether you
also believe that GM foods are "the silver bullet that will feed the
world's starving millions".
Don't worry, this is not a complaint from one of the 'crackpot
fringe' which you also mention, but I hope that you and your readers
are well aware that there is plenty of food already to feed the
'starving millions'. No one starves today because there is a shortage
of food in the world. They starve, sadly, through poor distribution.
The 'benefit' of GM crops, with their increased yields, has nothing
to do with feeding the poor. The cynics might argue it has a lot more
to do with feeding the rich.
- Mark Hipshon, Garden Cottage Foods.
>From Prakash: If you wish to comment on these letters, you may write
to the editor of Grocer at
Measuring Gene Flow in the Cultivation of Transgenic Barley
A. Ritala, A. M. Nuutila and V. Kauppinen, Crop Science 42: 278-285.
VTT Biotechnology; Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd; Ministry of Agriculture
and Forestry, Finland.
ABSTRACT: Genetic engineering is becoming a useful tool in the
improvement of plants and plant-based raw materials. Varieties with
value-added traits are developed for non-food use in industrial and
medical production, and different production lines must be kept
separate. For good management practices, knowledge of relevant gene
flow parameters is required. In the present study, pollen-mediated
dispersal of transgenes via cross-fertilization was examined. A
transgenic barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) line carrying a marker gene
coding for neomycin phosphotransferase II (nptII) was used as a
pollen donor. For maximum resolution a cytoplasmically male-sterile
barley line was utilized as recipient and the flow of nptII transgene
was monitored at distances of 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, 25, 50 and 100 meters
from the donor plots of 225 m2 and 2000 m2. Male-fertile plots at a
distance of 1 m were included to measure the transgene flow in normal
The number of seeds obtained from male-sterile heads diminished
rapidly with distance and only a few seeds were found at distances of
50 and 100 m. Molecular genetic analysis (polymerase chain reaction -
PCR) revealed that all the seeds obtained from male-sterile heads at
a distance of 1 m were transgenic, as anticipated. However, only 3 %
of the distant seeds (50 m) actually carried the transgene, whereas
most of them resulted from fertilization with non-transgenic
background pollen. This background pollen was mainly due to pollen
leakage in some male-sterile heads. In normal male-fertile barley,
the cross-fertilization frequency with transgenic pollen varied from
0 % to 7 % at a distance of 1m, depending on weather conditions on
the heading day. We conclude that, because of competing self-produced
and non-transgenic background pollen, the possibility of
cross-pollination is very low between a transgenic barley field and
an adjacent field cultivated with normal barley. However, adequate
isolation distances and best management practices are needed for
cultivation of transgenic barley carrying special traits.