Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

March 4, 2002

Subject:

Questioning the Corn Report; Top UK Scientist Supports GM; Great

 

Today in AgBioView - March 5, 2002

* Report of Transgenes in Mexican Corn Called Into Question
* British Scientist-Case for GE Food Crops
* China GMO Rules: Great Wall or Euro-style Caution?
* Green Genes
* Response to "GM Crops Won't Feed the Poor"
* Herbicide-Tolerant Genes
* Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): Tech Transfer, Use& Management

Report of Transgenes in Mexican Corn Called Into Question

- Gregory Conko , Competitive Enterprise Institute , Washington DC;
conko@cei.org
- C. S. Prakash, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL; prakash@tusk.edu

ISB News Report, March 2002;
http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2002/news02.mar.html#mar0202

Ever since hybrid maize varieties were first planted in Mexico
decades ago, the possibility and consequences of gene flow to local
landraces of maize has been an issue. Such concerns have come to the
forefront with the advent of transgenic maize hybrids in the
marketplace. A letter1 published in Nature last fall is purported to
be the first evidence not only that has transgene flow occurred, but
also that transgenes already have become introgressed into landraces
of maize (Zea mays L.) in southern Mexico, where no transgenic maize
varieties have ever been approved for commercial cultivation.
Furthermore, the transgenes were said to be unstable and spreading
throughout the maize genome.

The authors, University of California at Berkeley graduate student
David Quist and mycologist Ignacio Chapela, immediately voiced
concerns that such introgression threatens the genetic diversity of
landraces in Meso-america, the center of origin and diversity of
maize.2 Co-author David Quist was quoted in several news outlets as
suggesting that transgenic crops posed "enormous risks to food
security."3 Ignacio Chapela told USA Today that, "The probability is
high that diversity is going to be crowded out by these genetic
bullies."4 Among the authors' concerns is the possibility that
transgenes could improve the progeny's reproductive fitness enough
that they would out-compete untransformed relatives. Another concern
is that gene flow could increase the weediness of teosinte, the
ancestral variety of maize.

Although the possibility that transgenes may have outcrossed into
landraces has not been disputed, the Quist and Chapela findings, as
well as the implications that gene flow to landraces could have
negative effects, has been called into question by numerous plant
biologists. Within weeks of publication, several scientists had
identified serious methodological flaws in the experiment design.
First to publish a critical report was Paul Christou, director of the
molecular biotechnology unit at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK,
on behalf of the editors of the journal Transgenic Research.5

At least three other teams of university-based scientists have
notified Nature of shortcomings and asked that the paper be
withdrawn. Details of these letters are not available due to a press
embargo imposed by Nature in mid-December, 2001. However, a leaked
internal memo by a Nature referee discussing the Quist and Chapela
paper supports the validity of arguments posed by the critics of the
paper and further suggests that Nature should consider retracting it
( http://www.lifesciencesnetwork.com/news-detail.asp?newsID=676).

In their Nature article, Quist and Chapela used polymerase chain
reaction (PCR) and inverse PCR to find the cauliflower mosaic virus
35S promoter (CaMV 35S) sequence in four out of six cobs sampled from
two fields in the remote state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. CaMV 35S
is a commonly used sequence in transgenic constructs, and cauliflower
mosaic virus is not generally known to infect corn. Consequently, the
presence of the CaMV 35S sequence in criollo maize could suggest
outcrossing from a transgenic variety.

Methodological criticisms of the Quist and Chapela analysis focus on
the mis-interpretation of the PCR and iPCR results. According to
Christou's analysis in Transgenic Research, "the authors have not
been able to show the presence of intact inserts" of the expected DNA
sequences. The authors explain these anomalies by suggesting they are
the result of sequence rearrangements during the transformation event
or recombination. But Christou adds that rearrangement is an unlikely
explanation since the transgenic constructs have been shown to be
stable over multiple generations.

Quist and Chapela also report finding sequences "similar to synthetic
constructs containing regions of the adh1 gene found currently on the
market." However, Christou notes that, in two cases where Quist and
Chapela claim to find the adh1 gene sequence, the iPCR results showed
the CaMV promoter to be located within the adh1 sequence, not at one
end as in the original construct.

Finally, Quist and Chapela claim to have found the nopaline synthase
terminator (T-NOS) sequence from Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a
commonly used vector for plant transformation, as well as the cry1Ab
toxin gene from Bacillus thuringiensis in some samples, but according
to several scientists, their paper in Nature does not include enough
data about the sequences to substantiate those claims.

Ultimately, many scientists agree that the evidence presented does
not support claims of transgene introgression or rearrangements.
According to Christou, "It is most likely that the report by Quist
and Chapela is a testimony to technical failure and artifacts which
are common with PCR and iPCR." He and others believe that the results
are the false positives to which PCR and iPCR are prone.

Publication of the Quist and Chapela findings in Nature was widely
reported in the popular media around the world. And the authors'
allegations that transgene spread represented a grave threat to food
security were naturally met with great concern among some
environmentalists, politicians, and farmers. Despite reports
indicating methodological flaws, noted above, the authors have
continued to repeat their original claims.

Using those claims as justification, environmental organizations,
including Greenpeace, ETC Group (formerly the Rural Advancement
Foundation International), and Friends of the Earth have called for a
global moratorium on transgenic crops. In December, the Mexican
senate called on President Vicente Fox to ban imports of maize from
the United States,7 and trade analysts suggested that the report
could be used by European governments as justification for continuing
their moratorium on the approval of new transgenic crop varieties.

Individuals and environmental organizations alarmed by the reports of
transgenes in Mexican maize landraces also took issue with the
subsequent scientific discourse questioning the validity of these
findings. They circulated a petition on the Food First Web site (
http://www.foodfirst.org/progs/global/ge/jointstatement2002.html)
entitled "Joint Statement on the Mexican GM Maize Scandal" (excerpted
below), which, among other things, accuses the scientists who have
questioned the Quist and Chapela results of "academic intimidation"
and of conducting "a highly unethical mud-slinging campaign."

In response, scientists organized through AgBioWorld Foundation
crafted their own "Joint Statement in Support of Scientific Discourse
in Mexican GM Maize Scandal" (reproduced below), defending the
freedom of scientists to rigorously examine the results and
methodology of reported research. The statement
(http://www.agbioworld.org/jointstatement.html), with nearly 100
signatures to date, affirms that "relentless double-checking and
independent third party evaluations are the cornerstones of the
scientific process," and further, "This is in fact how science
corrects mistakes and ever more closely approximates truth and
understanding."

In the end, most scientists believe it is inevitable that transgenes
will eventually be found in maize landraces. Although tests of
numerous samples from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement
Center (CIMMYT) gene banks showed no evidence of transgenes,
preliminary results of other research conducted by the Mexican
government's National Commission on Biodiversity already may have
found transgenes in both Oaxaca and the neighboring state of
Puebla.6,8 Given that level of agreement, the more important question
is what will be the effect of transgene spread when it does occur?

Luis Herrera-Estrella, director of the Center for Research and
Advanced Studies in Irapuato, Mexico, has noted that "gene flow
between commercial and native varieties is a natural process that has
been occurring for many decades," so "there is no scientific basis
for believing that out-crossing from biotech crops could endanger
maize biodiversity."9

Mexican farmers reproduce their landraces by carefully selecting the
seed they save from year to year.10 Thus, if a gene producing an
undesirable trait is transferred into certain plants, seed from those
crops will not be planted the following year and will be eliminated
from the gene pool. Mexican corn biologists Juan Pablo
Martinez-Soriano and Diana Leal-Klevezas have written that, "Any
transgene transferred inadvertently to native maizes can be removed
from the progeny by selecting against the incorporated trait."11 This
practice has worked very well for millennia and explains why Mexican
farmers can plant many different landraces next to one another
without worrying about cross-pollination.

Journalist Ronald Bailey sums up the issue succinctly: "Two questions
arise from the Nature study: Is it true? And does it matter?" 12 In
this case, the answer to both questions appears likely to be "no."

Sources
1. Quist D and Chapela IH. 2001. Transgenic DNA introgressed into
traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nature 414: 541-543.
2. Yang S. 2001. Transgenic DNA discovered in native Mexican corn,
according to a new study by UC Berkeley researchers. University of
California at Berkeley press release (November 29), available at: <
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2001/11/29_corn.html>.
3. See, for example, Chapman J. 2001. GM crops `pollute 60 miles
away'. The Daily Mail (November 29): 42.
4. Manning A. 2001. Gene-altered DNA may be `polluting' corn. USA
Today (November 29), available at: <
http://www.usatoday.com/news/healthscience/science/biology/2001
-11-28-biofood-mexico.htm
<http://www.usatoday.com/news/healthscience/science/biology/2001-11-28-b
iofood-mexico.htm> >.
5. Christou P. 2002. No Credible Evidence is Presented to Support
Claims that Transgenic DNA was Introgressed into Traditional Maize
Landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Transgenic Research 11: iii-v.
6. Hodgson J. 2002. Maize uncertainties create political fallout.
Nature Biotechnology 20: 106-107.
7. Zarembo A. 2002. The Tale of the Mystery Corn in Mexico's Hills.
Newsweek International (January 28): 50.
8. Hodgson J. 2002. Doubts linger over Mexican corn analysis. Nature
Biotechnology 20: 3-4.
9. In AgBioWorld Foundation. 2001. Scientists Say Mexican
Biodiversity Is Safe: Concerns About Cross-Pollination Unfounded.
AgBioWorld Foundation Press Release (December 19).
10. Loutte D and Smale M. 2000. Farmer's seed selection practices and
traditional maize varieties in Cuzalapa, Mexico. Euphytica 113: 25-41.
11. Martinez-Soriano JPR and Leal-Klevezas DS. 2000. Transgenic Maize
in Mexico: No Need for Concern. Science 287: 1399.
12. Bailey R. 2002. Environmentalist Biofraud? `A new report
challenges research published in the respected journal, Nature'.
Reason (February 12). Available at:
<http://reason.com/rb/rb021202.shtml>.
---
Note: Prakash and Conko are co-founders of the AgBioWorld Foundation
(http://www.agbioworld.org)
_____

Joint Statement on The Mexican GM Maize Scandal

We call upon CIMMYT to: Publicly acknowledge that GM maize
contamination has taken place in Mesoamerica; Confirm that under
present circumstances the operational assumption has to be that GM
maize contamination in gene banks is inevitable;

We call upon FAO to: Ensure that the Code of Conduct on Biotechnology
which is currently under development, incorporate mechanisms to
control the diffusion of GM materials to vulnerable regions and to
guarantee that the burden of ecosystem restoration and farmer and
national compensation rests with those who pollute.

We call upon CGIAR and FAO together to: Review the current FAO-CGIAR
Trust Agreement to ensure that the integrity of germplasm held in
Trust is protected and that there are no intellectual property claims
pertaining to any of the germplasm; Recommend steps to safeguard
local farmers' varieties and gene banks. Propose an immediate
moratorium on the shipment of GM seed or grain in countries or
regions that form part of the Centre of Origin or Centre of Genetic
Diversity for the species.

We call upon Academia and the Private Industry to: Renounce
immediately the use of intimidatory tactics to silence potentially
`dissident' scientists. We call upon the scientific community to
publicly support the academic freedom of scientists whose studies
conflict with the interests of industry and to censor those academics
and institutions that slander the competence or integrity of those
who publish peer-reviewed studies.
______

Joint Statement In Support Of Scientific Discourse In Mexican GM Maize
Scandal

Recently, several activist organizations and individuals signed a
"Joint Statement" charging impropriety and criticizing vigorous
scientific debate surrounding controversial GMO research published in
Nature. The research supposedly demonstrated that Mexican landrace
maize varieties had been "contaminated" with genetic material from
maize varieties improved through biotechnology, presumably through
cross pollination (activist statement available at
http://www.foodfirst.org).

It is important to recognize that the kind of gene flow alleged in
the Nature paper is both inevitable and welcome. It is inevitable
because of the nature of maize, and it is welcome as demonstrated by
the standard practices landrace custodians have used to improve their
varieties for thousands of years-increasing variation by planting
seeds of new varieties adjacent to old ones, and then selecting the
desired offspring while discarding the rest.

However, several scientists have now challenged the methodology and
the results reported in the Nature paper in formal letters to Nature.
The editorial board of the journal Transgenic Research found it
surprising "that a manuscript with so many fundamental flaws was
published in a scientific journal."

These challenges are based on the fact that the key research method
employed is highly prone to false positives, and the Nature paper
failed to use standard techniques to ensure accuracy and confirm
results. The "joint statement" signed by the activists strongly
condemns these challenges from fellow scientists as nothing more than
"academic intimidation" and "a highly unethical mud-slinging
campaign."

It must be stated clearly and unequivocally: scientists have a
fundamental ethical obligation to rigorously examine the results and
methodology of reported research. This is in fact how science
corrects mistakes and ever more closely approximates truth and
understanding. Far from being "mudslinging" or "intimidation," all
scientists worthy of the name understand that relentless
double-checking and independent third party evaluations are the
cornerstones of the scientific process.

Such relentless criticism and re-examination is perhaps most
important when it leads in directions that may conflict with a point
of view driven by politics or activism, rather than science.

We the undersigned scientists declare our support for appropriate and
necessary scientific discourse and debate, especially in areas marked
by widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation, such as
agricultural biotechnology.

(Signature list available at
http://www.agbioworld.org/jointstatement.html )

**********************************************

British Scientist Makes Case for GE Food Crops

- New Zealand Press Association, March 4, 2002 (Via checkbiotech.org)

Lord Robert May, an Australian-born ecologist who is president of the
Royal Society of London, was in Auckland yesterday to present the
2001 Rutherford Medal for Science and Technology to the director of
the Liggins Institute, Dr Peter Gluckman.

Lord May believes genetic modification of food crops will be
necessary to feed the expected increase in the world's population at
minimum cost to the environment. Paradoxically, he favours modifying
farming techniques to allow more room for "pests" so as to preserve
the earth's biological diversity - yet he also believes that genetic
technology is needed to help food crops withstand pests, eliminating
the need for environmentally damaging pesticides.

"The first wave [of GM applications] were things which were motivated
by the interests of agribusiness," he said. "I hope to see a second
wave where the primary interest is the interests of the consumer and
the environment, that gives us the ability to create crops which are
salt-tolerant and drought-tolerant, where everyone benefits." It was
not surprising that GM was unpopular because people could see risks
without any concrete benefits. That would only change "when we have a
GM golden apple where we can say, eat this apple and you will be
healthy and thin".

"There are allergy-free products and cholesterol-free products that
offer health benefits," he said. "In the developing world there are
much more concrete things [crops] that specifically engineer in
vitamins that are otherwise deficient in the diet of the people, and
maybe in the future we will provide a method of engineering in
vaccines against childhood illnesses."

Lord May said there were risks of allergies in any new food, but
there were "no concrete examples whatsoever" where such allergies had
been introduced in genetically modified foods. As for the risk of
genetically modified "super-weeds" driving out natural species, he
said this was much less likely than with new species of crops bred by
conventional techniques. There was no demonstrated example of it
happening through GM. He considered that the most serious risk with
GM was that it would allow a more intense form of farming, with crops
made to produce food for humans only and resistant to weeds and
pests. "We should reflect before ramping up yet one more notch in the
intensification of agriculture," he said.

The author of several books on extinction, Lord May believes the
earth is going through its sixth great episode of extinctions,
comparable with the one which wiped out the dinosaurs. He said the
five previous episodes were associated with environmental changes
such as the changing configuration of continents. The current episode
was unique in being caused by human destruction of natural habitats
and over-harvesting of fish and other species.

He advocates setting aside more natural habitats to help species
survive because the alternative would be to live in "a greatly
impoverished world". New Zealand's eight fellows of the Royal Society
of London were invited to see Lord May present the Rutherford Medal
to Dr Gluckman in Auckland tonight. The medal is awarded by the Royal
Society of NZ to a leading scientist each year.

**********************************************

China GMO Rules: Great Wall or Euro-style Caution?

- K.T. Arasu, Reuters, March 1, 2002

CHICAGO,) - China's rules on transgenic foods smack of protectionism
to stonewall imports from the United States, but could also be an
attempt to follow Europe's lead in soothing consumers' health
concerns, U.S. agricultural analysts said.

The World Trade Organization could well have the final say, if the
United States files a complaint that the rules would halt $1 billion
in yearly sales of U.S. soybeans to its best customer: China.

"That is one interpretation of what they (China) are doing," said
Phil Abbott, professor of agricultural economics at Indiana's Purdue
University, referring to grain industry claims that the rules, which
take effect March 20, mask a non-tariff barrier. "There are clearly
cases in this world where people have used safety regulations which
are not based on science as trade barriers," he told Reuters in an
telephone interview.

In less than three weeks, China is scheduled to begin enforcing the
import rules for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that would set
up procedures for importers or exporters to get certificates from the
Chinese government stating that their foods are safe.

"The U.S. position is that it's a non-tariff barrier. Our claim is
that scientific evidence shows there's no risk from the soybeans we
put on the market," Abbott added.

The issue of soybean exports to China figured prominently during
President George W. Bush's visit to Beijing last week, as he
unsuccessfully raised it with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin,
and Premier Zhu Rongji. Zhu told Bush that the proposed GMO rules
were in line with international practices. "At the moment, many
countries in Europe and Asia have this system of labeling GM foods,"
a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said after the meeting.

While U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary J.B. Penn said last week that
the "WTO is a big option" for the United States in resolving the
dispute, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said on Thursday:
"We need to try to work with the Chinese on these issues." Europe has
imposed a moratorium since 1998 on the approval of new varieties of
crops with GMOs following protests by environmental and consumer
groups, who argue that more research is needed to ensure transgenic
foods are safe for humans.

But the European Union's moratorium has had a limited impact on U.S.
agricultural exports to the region, because many varieties of
transgenic crops produced in the United States had been approved by
the EU before the de facto ban. Nearly 70 percent of the soybeans
grown in the United States are bioengineered, with the Roundup Ready
variety from life science company Monsanto Co. dominating the
field. Some 20 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified.

China's 'Rigorous' Rules Seen Hurting U.S. Soybeans
"There seems to be a whole new layer of bureaucracy (being created by
the regulations in China) that isn't being applied by Japan, the EU
or anywhere else in the world," said Ian Sheldon, a professor of
agricultural economics at Ohio State University.

Sheldon, who spent a year analyzing GMO regulations from around the
world and their relationship to the WTO, said China's rules seem
"rigorous" and that they were bound to disrupt soybean exports from
the United States. He said the regulations did not contain relevant
details, but added that the United States should continue to engage
China in talks to clarify the rules instead of escalating the dispute
to the WTO, as that could be a tough battle.

"The U.S. has to keep pressuring China to say exactly what these
regulations mean. The rules are vague," he added. He said China
could, like Europe, adopt the precautionary principle, which is
basically that GM foods should not be placed on the market until they
are proven to have no adverse impact on humans or the environment.

Sheldon said any complaint to the WTO would have to come under the
Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and the Technical Barriers to Trade
(TBT) agreements. The SPS covers regulations put in place based on
health risk reasons, while the TBT covers non-safety aspects of GM
products such as labeling.

For example, Sheldon said the regulations make no mention of a
tolerance level or if every cargo must undergo China's safety
certification process. "We don't know if an exporter whose cargo of
Roundup Ready soybeans has been approved will need approval for a
second cargo of Roundup Ready soybeans," he said.

**********************************************

Green Genes

- May Berenbaum, American Scientist, Mar 01, 2002

'Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food.
Daniel Charles. xx + 348 pp. Perseus, 2001. $27. The Green Phoenix: A
History of Genetically Modified Plants. Paul E Lurquin. xii + 173 pp.
Columbia University Press, 2001. Hardbound $50, paper $25.'

Lords of the Harvest is an engaging account for a popular audience of
"how genetically engineered foods came to be, and why." Author Daniel
Charles, a science journalist who has worked for New Scientist and
National Public Radio, does an exceptionally good job of explaining
in lay terms the technicalities of genetic manipulation of organisms.

In tracing the labyrinthine corporate history of the
commercialization of pest-protected and herbicide-resistant crops, he
has also written a book that is revelatory for scientists.
Descriptions of the structure and function of the gene that encodes
Bacillus thuringiensis ("the first useful gene," which confers
protection against a narrow range of insects) are seamlessly
intermingled with accounts of the intense international corporate
competition to patent the gene-"a race for property rights" that led
to court cases and accusations of patent infringement and "microbial
larceny." In recounting the search (most famously in soybeans) for
genes conferring herbicide resistance, Charles explains lucidly the
multiple genetic routes toward the goal. His account of the battle
between the industrial empires of Monsanto and Hoechst for
preeminence in the field is as gripping as a Tom Clancy novel.

Charles, who grew up on a small family farm in Pennsylvania, is also
particularly effective at describing why agriculture is a unique
enterprise, one with a tremendously long history and an abundance of
traditions. Monsanto's efforts to become the "Microsoft of
agriculture" by licensing genes were complicated immeasurably by the
fact that seeds are perceived generically as a public good, like rain
and sunlight (moreover, a public good that can multiply itself),
rather than as intellectual property.

Agriculture is by its very nature a messy undertaking, vulnerable to
the vagaries of nature. Financier George Soros, expressing his lack
of enthusiasm for agricultural biotechnology as an investment,
remarked in 1981 that he didn't like "businesses in which anything
you could possibly do will be overwhelmed by the effects of the
weather." Calgene discovered this truth to its detriment with the
Flavr Savr tomato (engineered to prolong shelf life), which, despite
being a technical triumph, eventually succumbed to disease, weeds,
hot sun, harvest and shipping problems, and consumer indifference.

The inherent messiness of agriculture also underlies public concerns.
Agricultural biotechnology is applied not in sterile laboratories but
in the natural environment and eventually ends up not only in
people's homes but in their stomachs. Charles describes objectively
the personalities and players allied in opposition to agricultural
biotechnology. He also provides for nonscientists a fair and balanced
account of the scientific evidence regarding its adverse
environmental and health effects, along with a clear-eyed critical
analysis of industry claims for biotechnology's potential to improve
agriculture in developing nations.

The Green Phoenix also presents a history of agricultural
biotechnology, one aimed not at the public but at biologists. Author
Paul Lurquin is a professor of genetics at Washington State
University and a long-time active participant in plant biotechnology
research.

Reading his account of the mistakes, misinterpretations and missteps
of early efforts at gene transfer, one wonders how the field ever
managed to get off the ground. As Lurquin convincingly documents, the
purportedly successful technique of soaking dry seeds in solutions of
bacterial DNA simply could not have effected genetic
transformation-not without an agent to force donor DNA into recipient
cells and a bacterial promoter capable of driving expression in a
plant system. That early missteps did in fact lead to more successful
methodsgene cloning, Agrobacterium-mediated DNA transformation,
particle bombardment and tissue electroporation among them-is a
testament to the robustness of the scientific enterprise. A recurring
theme throughout the book is that scientific research is a
self-correcting process, the ultimate validation of which is that
genetically transformed plants have come to dominate the agricultural
landscape.

The Green Phoenix is not for the casual reader; it presupposes not
only "knowledge and understanding of elementary classical and
molecular genetics," but also familiarity with plant classical and
molecular genetics. Some of Lurquin's explanations for outsiders are
mystifyingly technical, and the well-intentioned glossary
occasionally falls short (failing, for example, to include the term
heteropycnic). The book really is for contemporary plant molecular
biologists and biotechnologists who are interested in the origins of
their field. This rather small audience can truly appreciate the
"Homeric, frustrating, and exhilarating" debates of its early years;
for less specialized readers, the works of Homer are probably more
gripping reading.-May Berenbaum, Entomology, University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign

**********************************************

Response to "GM Crops Won't Feed the Poor"

- Grocer (UK), March 3, 2002

Sir: I am responding to the Feb 23 Letter to the Editor from Mark
Hipshon titled "GM Crops Won't Feed the Poor"

It is disingenuous on the part of critics of biotechnology to keep
saying that there is enough food in the world and thus argue against
scientific advances such as biotechnology to improve food production.
Sure, there are plenty of food grains in the world, but most of them
are in the West and much of them fed to animals: 70% of corn produced
in the U.S. is fed to livestock. Perhaps we can solve all the hunger
in the world by asking everyone to become vegetarians in the West and
then just ask Iowa farmers to donate their grains to the developing
world. Export of food from developing countries accounts for only a
small percentage of the global food trade, and much of it is in
high-value tropical commodities that provide badly needed
foreign-exchange for these countries.

How does one improve access and distribution of food to the rural
poor dependent on farming? By improving farm productivity and by
enhancing the infrastructure and policies that promote free trade. In
South Asia and Africa, where much of the poor in the world live, the
large majority of the people are involved in farming. Technologies
such as genetically modified crops will help these people not only to
produce more food, but also to increase their income. Increased
prosperity of the rural sector would clearly help in reducing hunger
and in narrowing the inequity between urban and rural people. It is
the local production of food and greater income from farm products
that can help the rural poor, and biotechnology will help them to
reduce the chemical inputs on the farm, reduce labor and fuel, cut
down farming costs, produce more nutritious food and improve the
overall productivity.

Can Mr. Hipshon offer any alternative sustainable solutions to global
hunger and poverty, or solutions for improving access and
distribution of food?

yours faithfully,

C. S. Prakash, Ph. D., Tuskegee University; Tuskegee, AL 36088, USA

-----
>> "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.
----

*********************************************

Herbicide Tolerant Genes

- From: Klaus.Ammann@ips.unibe.ch; Debate 2002'0304 a: Felsot's 3
reports about herbicide tolerance genes

Dear friends, No maize news today...

By digging after stuff on herbicide tolerance, in particular
glyphosate related, I again 'discovered' Felsots three well
referenced and comprehensive reports on the herbicide tolerant genes,
you can find them with some clicking under:
http://www.aenews.wsu.edu/

they were already circulated in earlier debates, but difficult to
access.
now you also can get them, prepared as single pdf files, much easier
under:

http://www.botanischergarten.ch/debate/FelsotHerbTolGen1Basics.pdf
http://www.botanischergarten.ch/debate/FelsotHerbTolGen2Toxicol.pdf
http://www.botanischergarten.ch/debate/FelsotHerbTolGen3Environm.pdf

- Klaus

**********************************************

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): Technology Transfer, Use and
Management. International Internship Program

- July 14 - 19, 2002 , Michigan State University

Application Deadline: June 15, 2002. Course Fee per Participant:
Registration Fee: $250 (Non-Refundable); Course Fee*: $3,050. Course
Fee includes instruction fee, information packages, local travel,
meals and lodging (* Course Fee non-refundable after June 30, 2002).
Contact Dr. K. M. Maredia, Institute of International Agriculture,
416 Plant and Soil Sciences Bldg., Michigan State University, East
Lansing, MI 48824, U.S.A. Phone: (517) 353-5262; Fax: (517) 432-1982;
E-Mail: kmaredia@pilot.msu.edu