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March 6, 2002


Feeding the World; Mayhem at The Market; Medical vs. Food


Today in AgBioView - March 7, 2002

* Feeding the World
* Your Response to "GM Crops Won't Feed the Poor"
* Mayhem at The Market: Paper, Plastic, or Propaganda?
* Consumer Benefits of GM foods
* Biotechnology Perceptions: Medical vs. Food
* DeGregori's Agriculture and Modern Technology
* Dispute Over GM Maize Risk To Mexico
* Answers to the Mexican Corn Questions..
* Lenten Message of Pope John Paul II
* Seminar on Ecology and Health Aspects of GM Products
* Time For The Greens To Join Us In The Real World
* The Profits of Doom
* Gospel Science
* Scientific American Threatens Greenspirit For Publishing Bjorn
Lomborg's Response
* Organic Vegetables May Pose Hidden Dangers

Feeding the World

- Agricultural Research, USDA/ARS, February 2002

Some might say that Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize
winner in 1970 and respected agricultural scientist, was destined for

For evidence, they might point to the name of his hometown in Iowa:
Cresco. In Spanish, crezco, pronounced similarly to Cresco, means "I
grow." Indeed, Borlaug's entire life and research have been about
growing. He is recognized the world over as the father of the "Green
Revolution," a term that refers to marked increases in cereal-grain
production that began in the late 1960s.

"Back in the late thirties and early forties, I didn't have any idea
that my work would have the impact that was achieved by the so-called
Green Revolution," Borlaug said from Texas A&M University in College
Station, where he gives special lectures and has a building named in
his honor. "I didn't have any intentions of going into international
agriculture. My education and work was originally in forestry with
the U.S. Forest Service."

At this month's inaugural Henry A. Wallace Inter-American Scientific
Conference Series at CATIE, in Turrialba, Costa Rica, an
international body of scientists and agricultural policymakers will
hear the Nobel laureate talk about his views on research and food
technology. As time marches along in this young millennium, improving
food technology is vital to a world populated by more than 6 billion
people and growing by 80 million each year. He is in favor of
harnessing biotechnology to help address the world's food shortages.

ARS and CATIE are excited to have at their conference this
distinguished scientist, who has a lengthy list of honors,
accomplishments, and work experience. The first major assignment of
Borlaug's professional career took him to Mexico, where he organized
and directed the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program.
That was part of an initiative linking the Mexican government with
the Rockefeller Foundation. There, Borlaug oversaw foundation
research in genetics, breeding, plant pathology, entomology,
agronomy, soil science, and cereal technology.

It was his work in Mexico that began Borlaug's humanitarian goal of
feeding the world's indigent. While predictions of an overpopulated
world with little food to eat entered the mainstream-boosted by the
1968 best-seller The Population Bomb-Borlaug helped feed the poor
through his research on dwarf wheat varieties that resisted pathogens
and pests while yielding two to three times more grain than regular

From those innovations, wheat production in various countries
skyrocketed. Yields rose from 4.6 million tons to 8.4 million in
Pakistan between 1965 and 1970. India's totals for the same period
rose from 12.3 million to 20 million. India has recently harvested
more than 73.5 million tons of wheat.

From that work, the Rockefeller Foundation and Mexico began the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). While
investigating crop and plant problems there is a top priority,
Borlaug used new funds to help create a highly productive internship.
At last count, more than 1,900 young scientists from 16 different
countries had worked with CIMMYT.

Today, Borlaug is a distinguished professor with many involvements.
Through the Carter Center's Global 2000 program, Borlaug and former
U.S. President Jimmy Carter work together to help more than an
estimated 4 million small-scale farmers in 11 sub-Saharan countries
improve food production. After all these years, his work is still
creciendo (growing).-By Lupe Chavez, formerly with ARS.


Your Response to "GM Crops Won't Feed the Poor"
From: GForrer@foxkiser.com

Prakash: I thought your response was appropriate and timely. One
thing occurs to me. Whenever the argument is raised by activists that
we need not use biotechnology or other modern agricultural
technologies because there is already enough food, the tendency is to
answer with discussions about inadequate systems -- political,
distribution, economic, transportation, etc. Also, there is also much
talk about the future to come, in other words while there may be
ample capacity today, what do we do to feed the next 2 billion who
will join the 6 billion already here by 2025.

However, when addressing these activists who are so convinced that
the planet can today feed the entire global population, we -- who
argue about the necessity of considering agricultural biotechnology
as an important part of the mix for meeting future needs -- rarely
call the activists on their failure to acknowledge an important
truth. By this I mean, if the globe does indeed produce enough food
today to feed the planet, it is because of systems and technologies
that many of the activists inherently reject.

The agricultural abundance of the globe, the fact that many developed
countries have more than enough food to export, the fact that many
developing and 2nd world nations are not, today, in the midst of
famine, is due to the relentless growth of agricultural technology.
In other words, without the application of modern agricultural
technologies, without Norman Borlaug, without profit motives and
corporate farming, without efficiencies and chemicals there would be
no abundance.

We need not argue alternatives that do not exist. If the planet
produces enough food today it isn't because of "organic" agriculture
or other experimental political or philosophical systems that don't
exist. You can't argue that we have enough to feed the world today
all the time tacitly accepting that agriculture in the developing
world has been a huge success and than demand that this success must
be junked and a "new" unproven agriculture -- i.e. organic, or other
new age, unproven processes or political, economic, ecological
systems -- be implemented to assure both greater yields and delivery
to those in need. It doesn't make sense, it is, in fact, having your
cake and eating it too.

While the success that modern agricultural technology has delivered
may not be completely sustainable in its current form, while it must
evolve with the technology and our understanding of ecology and
biodiversity, etc., it is the foundation for building strategies to
feed the future generations who will soon be with us. As has often
been stated, biotechnology is no perfect solution. It may not reach
its full potential at all or in time, but to fail to examine it,
experiment with it and implement it where it is proven to enhance
yields and reduce other more noxious inputs, is a crime against those
who today do not have access to either the food, the technologies
they need to feed themselves, the political and economic systems that
might make that access possible.

Just some thoughts....Grady

>>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.

Mayhem at The Market: Paper, Plastic, or Propaganda?

- Consumer Freedom, March 6, 2002; For links to source articles, please

A group calling itself the "GE Free Markets Coalition" (which attacks
both freedom and markets) released a hit list of "supermarket
campaign targets" for 2002. The coalition, which includes Greenpeace,
the Institute for Social Ecology, NorthWest RAGE, the Organic
Consumers Association, and other top anti-consumer groups, will "take
action" against Safeway and Shaw's stores throughout the United
States beginning March 12, and "demand that these stores remove" all
genetically improved products from their shelves.

In recent months, Greenpeace, RAGE, and other anti-biotech groups
have descended on stores, harassed customers, and vandalized products
with stickers linking the foods to toxic waste. And activists with
the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi-connected anti-biotech front group Mothers
for Natural Law have joined an effort to require labels on all
biotech foods sold in Oregon.

Luckily, some people have a more responsible view of biotech. The
European Union has called genetically improved foods "even safer"
than others, and the head of the World Health Organization says
biotech can save lives. Now, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman
Borlaug, who saved hundreds of thousands of lives by spearheading the
biotech Green Revolution, says "biotechnology is going to help us.
There's little or no starvation in Pakistan and India today, and if
you travel through China you won't see emaciated people; we are
producing more food on less land than we were in 1940 -- all of this
due to technology."


From: "Steve Jobling" {Steve.Jobling@unilever.com}
Subject: Consumer Benefits of GM foods

In response to Manfred Hamann, Frickingen, Germany (The GM Food
Debate, March 4, 2002, Newsweek Letters Via AgBioView at
www.agbioworld.org ) who says that he has never heard of improved
taste or nutritional quality with GM derived foods, I would simply
point him to our work on "heart health tomatoes" Nature Biotech May
2000 - these tomatoes have high levels of flavonoids which could
provide significant health benefits by protecting against CVD
(coronary and vascular disease).

This work was very well received by the popular press and
demonstrates that when there are real consumer benefits the chances
are that this technology will be accepted by consumers. Another
example of a significant consumer benefit is the production of a
freeze-thaw stable starch (just published Nature Biotech March 2002)
which offers the consumer a choice of whether they would like their
frozen foods to contain traditional chemically modified starches or
new genetically modified starches in which no chemical modification
has been used! The consumers should be the ones to decide if they
want these products and not the action/pressure groups who seek to
deny them that choice! - Steve Jobling Bedford, UK


Biotechnology Perceptions: Medical vs. Food

- Food Navigator, Feb 28, 2002;

- Governments and companies the world over are feeling the impact of
biotechnology on society. In a recent collaborative research project,
funded by the European Commission, social scientists from 16 European
countries, Canada and the US explored how biotechnology is perceived
in policy making, mass media coverage and by the public.

A key finding from researchers was that while medical biotechnologies
attract widespread support and perceived risks are tolerated,
agri-food applications are widely rejected. Since 1996, there has
been an increasing differentiation in the public's view of the 'red'
(medical) and 'green' (agri-food) biotechnologies. The public appears
unwilling to support applications with no perceived benefits.

Strongly associated with levels of support are beliefs that green
biotechnologies are 'unnatural' and might lead to 'potentially
catastrophic consequences'. Researchers also found that the level of
support for biotechnology varies widely across countries. The more
supportive countries are Finland, the Netherlands, the US and Canada,
while Greece, Austria, France and Denmark are far less supportive. In
keeping with the 'red' acceptance, GM medicines are supported in all
countries. By contrast the majority are opposed to GM foods in all
but Finland, Spain, Canada and the US.

According to the study, a common concern among people is the unknown
consequence of GM foods for future generations and the possibility of
delayed effects. Biotechnology is likened in the study to a "runaway
train", on a high speed and unstoppable journey to an unknown
destination, fueled by industrial science, without brakes and
ignoring the warning signals of public opinion. And while people want
effective regulation, they wonder if it is possible because of the
speed of scientific and technological developments, the need for
international regulation and co-operation and the perceived weakness
of democratic institutions in comparison to multinational companies.

The report concludes that while new legislation (2001/18/EC) may
allay anxieties about regulatory issues, it is unlikely that public
opinion will shift to a more positive stance until GM foods are seen
to offer clear benefits.
Full Report of this study at http://www.lse.ac.uk/Depts/lses/


DeGregori's Agriculture and Modern Technology

- Reviewed by Manfred Kroger, Ph.D., American Council On Science And
Health; HealthFactsAndFears.com. March 6, 2002

'Agriculture and Modern Technology. Thomas R. DeGregori. Iowa State
University Press, Ames, IA 50014 (2001), 268 pp. Hardbound, $56.99'

Agricultural literacy is at a low level in the land of plenty. There
may be a law that dictates an inverse relationship between abundance
and knowledge about the source of the abundance. We do not burden
ourselves with factual information about that which we take for
granted, namely, food, health, and a comfortable life in a
non-threatening world. As long as the fridge is full, the car always
starts, and the TV keeps entertaining, why bother to know what makes
all that happen?

Thomas DeGregori's new book combats this problem. I could have used
an excellent book such as this during my thirty years of
communicating to students, the public, and the media about food,
nutrition, health, and agriculture. I try to instill the facts as the
consensus of science knows them and instill an appreciation of the
"complex systems" that bring us our food, sustain our habitat, and
make our bodies function. The critical part is explaining how
progress takes place, how insights are gained using the scientific
method, and what technology means for a society endeavoring to shape
a better future. This book would have made my job much easier.

Educators complain about various forms of illiteracy, and general
illiteracy in physiology, chemistry, physics, biology, and
mathematics makes people vulnerable to all kinds of exploiters
whether charlatans, ideologues, money managers, or public decision
makers. We all turn to others for help from time to time, but it is
important to know where the help comes from, and this book helps us

Professor DeGregori writes in an engaging style. In a scholarly
manner, he constructs a defense of agriculture and modern technology.
Close to a thousand references are cited and the author's website at
http://www.uh.edu/~trdegregori/ has still more. His discussions are
detailed and comprehensive, with a long introduction about
technology, industrialization, creativity, and human welfare. Since
agriculture is not mentioned in the first sixty pages, perhaps the
title should have been An Assault on the Beliefs of
Anti-Technologists, Luddites, Chemophobes, and Naive Do-Gooders. The
remaining 140 text pages, however, deal with agricultural subjects,
including organic farming, "natural" foods, pesticides, fertilizers,
genetic modification of food sources by biotechnological means (as
opposed to breeding), the Green Revolution, food distribution (world
hunger), animal rights, and environmental pollution.

These subjects have been and will be discussed with great passion in
the media and in meeting rooms of schools and governments, as they
should be. Unfortunately, the voices of anti-technologists are often
shrillest, and the voices of believers in the scientific method
subdued, reasoned, and polite. To make matters worse, the media
always favor those who supply them with dramatic effects. At best,
the media give half of a panel or story to one side and half to the
other, but it seems to me that those using evidence and facts based
on the scientific method and properly conducted research should be
given far more than one-half. If only they would teach that in
schools of journalism. I would be happy if they made DeGregori's book
mandatory reading there.

Nonagricultural subjects are also covered by the author. They include
environmental quality, public health, food faddism, alternative
medicine, public policy, industrial progress, and human behavior. All
are linked by the recurring theme of technophobia. Whether it is
immunizations , DDT, or the precautionary principle, to name three
major chapters, the author always presents a historical background
followed by pro's and con's. The reader is steered by factual
evidence and not by devious rhetoric or a play on the emotions.
DeGregori is a very believable defender of agriculture, science, and

He is also an outspoken critic of the forces that seek to undo what
has been constructed for the benefit of humankind. More people should
have the courage to oppose misguided ideologues, those whose
understanding of the world and the future is not scientific but
romantic and irrational. Public beliefs about technology have been
molded by anti-technologists for 150 years. There were opponents to
milk pasteurization in the early 1900's as there are now opponents to
food irradiation. Vocal critics of microwave heating twenty years ago
have turned their anti-technological vigor toward other targets.
Luckily, a beneficial technology will always be embraced once
opposition to it is seen as folly. That is a major point made by this
book's author, who argues not only for the benefits of science but
against the erroneous beliefs about it.

Dr. DeGregori describes many of the technological advances of the
past century and challenges those who do not consider them advances.
He debunks some views that have become conventional wisdom, such as
opposition to the use of chemicals, including DDT and other
pesticides. The facts point to their benefits, whereas the imagined,
postulated, and theoretical harm done by them pales in comparison.

DeGregori stops short of calling the more rabid anti-technologists by
the name they deserve: terrorists. There is no other term for those
who destroy the work of visionaries who aim to improve the future of
mankind. In mid-February 2002, for instance, Collin Levey wrote in
the Wall Street Journal that eco-terrorism is alive and well in the
U.S.. As an example, an FBI report to Congress is cited that holds
the Earth Liberation Front responsible for 600 violent attacks on
research laboratories and other places since 1996, amounting to $43
million of damage. Hearings on such acts are currently being held in
Washington by Rep. Scott McInnis. I hope this book is used in those
hearings. It pits intellect and scholarship against acts of
terrorism. Perhaps this book will erode support for these destructive

In fact, this book may inspire more people to become proponents of
technological progress. All technological tools, all inventions, have
positive and negative effects just look at the hammer, the car,
medicine, or firearms. We must recognize and further their beneficial
uses, for the betterment of humanity.
Manfred Kroger, Ph.D., Professor of Food Science; Professor of
Science, Technology and Society; Pennsylvania State University


Dispute Over GM Maize Risk To Mexico

- AgBioTechNet, http://www.agbiotechnet.com/

In an AgBioWorld Foundation initiative, nearly one hundred prominent
scientists have signed a petition supporting "appropriate and
necessary scientific discourse debate" over a controversial report
claiming that genes from genetically modified corn have spread into
corn landraces in southern Mexico.

The original research, conducted by University of California at
Berkeley ecologists Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, identified CaMV
35S promoter sequences, used in genetic transformation, in Mexican
maize landraces ('Transgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize
landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico', Nature (2001) Vol. 414, pp. 541-543).
This has been represented as a 'contamination' of maize landrace
varieties, a highly important genetic resource, by genetic material
from the GM varieties, which presumably occurred via cross
pollination. Many scientists have been highly critical of aspects of
this paper, and represent such criticism as "good, vigorous
scientific debate". However, a Joint Statement by groups opposed to
GM crops
refers to "intimidatory tactics" and a "highly unethical mudslinging

The paper has been criticized on two fronts. The major criticism is
over the methodology used to examine the results. In addition, it has
also been claimed that the general representation of the impact of
such gene flow is misleading. Three groups of university-based
scientists, working independently, have examined the research data
and found it to be erroneous. Each group has submitted formal letters
to Nature questioning the study's validity. In addition, the editors
of the journal Transgenic Research examined the data and found it
surprising "that a manuscript with so many fundamental flaws was
published in a scientific journal".

Despite the claimed inadequacies and misrepresentations of this
particular study, the authors of the AgBioWorld Joint Statement
recognise that gene flow from biotechnology-improved corn, as with
all corn, is most likely occurring at some frequency and will
certainly be demonstrated and accurately characterized through
further studies. However, they fundamentally disagree with green
campaigners on the significance of such gene flow. They claim that
there is no reason to believe that this gene flow will threaten the
diversity or vitality of Mexican landraces, and that labelling gene
flow as "contamination", as activists have done, is a misnomer and a
deliberate attempt to provide an emotional tone to a benign natural

Mexican landraces should not be confused with teosinte, the wild
plant from which maize is thought to have been originally developed
by humans over millennia. Far from being static, non-changing genetic
entities, landraces are ever-changing due to human intervention - in
fact, they only exist because of human efforts. "Just as wild Mexican
wolves are different from Chihuahuas, which have been bred for
centuries, teosinte is vastly different from all cultivated maize,
including landraces," said C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University plant
genetics professor and president of the AgBioWorld Foundation.

Mexican landraces of maize have always outcrossed with modern maize
varieties. But far from being a threat to biodiversity, as has been
claimed by activists and authors of the disputed paper, it instead
promotes diversity by allowing for the development of additional new
varieties. Furthermore, claims Prakash, there is no reason to believe
that transgenic hybrids would affect biodiversity more than any other
hybrid. "If anything, gene flow would aid diversity by increasing
variation," said Prakash.

Supporters of biotechnology from the scientific community have also
pointed to the fact that, despite the fanfare and media buzz created
by this paper and its conclusions, gene flow between
biotechnology-improved maize varieties was publicly anticipated long
ago by plant breeders and scientists, and is no cause for alarm. In
1995, for instance, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement
Center (CIMMYT) held a workshop on 'Gene Flow Among Maize Landraces,
Improved Maize Varieties, and Teosinte: Implications for Transgenic
Maize', and CIMMYT scientists have transparently presented their
findings, writing journal articles and giving presentations on
related topics.

Contact: C. S. Prakash, Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics,
Tuskegee University, Alabama, USA.
URL: http://www.agbioworld.org/jointstatement.html


Some Answers to the Mexican Corn Questions...... From:

Rick Charnes" wrote:
>>Contamination From Hybrid Corn, GE Corn; Source:
>>The radio program Living on Earth recently ran a segment about the
>Mexico GM
>> maize contamination. (A transcript is at http://www.loe.org/) Something
>> came up on that show that I hope somebody can help me understand. One
>>the people interviewed was Mexico's assistant secretary of agriculture
>> Victor Villalobos, a rather pro-biotech fellow. Here's the relevant
>>segment, from their web page:
>> "But, even if the earlier findings are confirmed, Assistant Secretary
>> Agriculture Villalobos insists Mexico's native corn varieties are
>>not at risk.
>>by side with hybrid corn varieties for the past 50 years, and today
>>native corn is still native and hybrid corn is
still hybrid. Transgenic corn is just another hybrid."

Not only that. Landraces are planted next to each other, and there
is lots of pollen flow between landraces.

>>This opens up all sorts of questions that I don't know how to answer. Is
>>'native corn' then entirely free of contamination from the hybrid
>>corn growing nearby?

>>>How could that be? Why would pollen from 'ordinary' hybrid
>>>corn NOT affect 'native' corn but GE corn would?
A key point that often gets lost in the rhetoric. Anti-biotech
oponents say the two are different, when in fact, they are the same.
The only difference is that the transgenes are detectable, while
genes from hybrids are not so easy to detect, hence it is easier to
make a case on the GM corn.

>> I've heard that DNA from GE corn pollen is more biologically rigorous
>> that from ordinary hybrid corn. Is this the explanation?
Not correct.

>>Or does the native corn get contaminated by the hybrid just as much
>>as it does from GE corn,
More contamination from hybrid corn, than contamination from GE corn,
because there is more of the former than of the latter.

>> only the latter contamination is far more serious and destructive?
Not at all. It is just easier to detect.

In the end, farmers maintain the landraces because each landraces has
special uses. Farmers always select the seed they will plant the
following year-- the seed saved comes from plants with all the
desired characteristics. Those plants that are a product of gene
flow-- beit from another landrace for from a hybrid, do not have all
the desired characteristics, so the seed is not saved.


From: "Kershen, Drew L" {dkershen@ou.edu}
Subject: Lenten Message of Pope John Paul II

Dear AgBio View readers:
You may have recently read news items distributed on activist
listservs opposed to agricultural biotechnology about the Lenten
Message of Pope John Paul II. I quote for you the entire text of
Point 2 of the Lenten message (the message has Points 1 though 5), so
that you may judge for yourself what Pope John Paul II said. Point 2
is the only point in which the Pope mentions biotechnology.

"2. God has freely given us his Son: who has deserved or could ever
deserve such a privilege? Saint Paul says: ""All have sinned and have
fallen short of the glory of God, but they are justified by his grace
as a gift"" (Rom 3:23-24). In his infinite mercy God loved us, not
permitting himself to be blocked by the grievous state of separation
to which man had been consigned by sin. He graciously stooped down to
our weakness, and made it the cause of a new and still more wondrous
outpouring of his love. The Church does not cease to proclaim this
mystery of infinite goodness, exalting God''s free choice and his
desire not to condemn man but to draw him back into communion with

"You received without paying, give without pay". May these words of
the Gospel echo in the heart of all Christian communities on their
penitential pilgrimage to Easter. May Lent, recalling the mystery of
the Lord''s Death and Resurrection, lead all Christians to marvel in
their heart of hearts at the greatness of such a gift. Yes! We have
received without pay. Is not our entire life marked by God''s
kindness? The beginning of life and its marvellous development: this
is a gift. And because it is gift, life can never be regarded as a
possession or as private property, even if the capabilities we now
have to improve the quality of life can lead us to think that man is
the "master" of life. The achievements of medicine and biotechnology
can sometimes lead man to think of himself as his own creator, and to
succumb to the temptation of tampering with ""the tree of life"" (Gn

"It is also worth repeating here that not everything that is
technically possible is morally acceptable. Scientific work aimed at
securing a quality of life more in keeping with human dignity is
admirable, but it must never be forgotten that human life is a gift,
and that it remains precious even when marked by suffering and
limitations. A gift to be accepted and to be loved at all times:
received without pay and to be placed without pay at the service of

Pope John Paul II's Message for Lent 2002 can be read in its entirety
at < http://www.vatican.va >. Click on the button for Lent 2002;
click on the button for Message of the Holy Father. I understand that
the message was released on Ash Wednesday Feb. 13, 2002.


Indonesia - Seminar on Ecology and Health Safety Aspects of GM
Agricultural Products

May 16-17, 2002, State University of Manado; Tondano, North Celebes,
A Joint Collaboration of The State University Of Manado And The
French Embassy In Indonesia

Genetically modified plants as results of researches and developments
in biotechnology have been applied and marketed in several countries.
The results of various applications of transgenic plants as
agricultural products have stimulated controversial issues about the
positive and negative effects of genetically modified plants on the
environmental ecology and human health. It is therefore urgent to
accumulate and provide scientific information on research processes,
results of experimental applications and control methods.

The objectives of this seminar are: (1) to distribute scientific
information of the effects of genetically modified plant
implementation on the safety of environmental ecology and human
health and (2) to increase research, development and control of
genetically modified plant product applications locally and globally.

For More information: Fransiska Zakaria, Dept of Food Technology and
Human Nutrition
Bogor Agricultural University, Darmaga Campus, Bogor 16002, Indonesia
Ph 62-251-620918/626725 ,Fax: 62-251-626725; Email:


Time For The Greens To Join Us In The Real World

- The Scotsman, March 4, 2002; http://www.business.scotsman.com/

THE "green" card is being used unscrupulously in Scotland to play
upon the guilt and fears of the population, the intention being to
panic them into approving policies which are frequently foolish and
sometimes dangerous.

In the contrived atmosphere of continually impending catastrophe, it
is difficult to distinguish genuine environmental problems from the
profusion of threats on offer. It is also impossible to avoid the
suspicion that many have as their true objective the denigration of
yet another aspect of our lifestyle rather than the protection of the

It is against this background and in the face of mounting public
scepticism about green issues that the Scottish executive has chosen
to launch its environmental initiative. If this proceeds in the usual
way of political initiatives it will result in a catalogue of high
sounding, politically-correct guff at best and at worst in a series
of measures ranging from transporting broken bottles from Skye to
Alloa to increased reliance on renewable energy which has resulted in
the "brown-outs" causing havoc in California.

With only 14 months to go until they face the electorate, the
temptation to go for some quick, populist measures must be very
tempting but this is exactly what the executive must not do if it
hopes to avoid looking either daft or dangerous.

What they should do prior to any detailed measures being formulated
is to force the green movement to define their ideal level of
technology, clearly identify the social and economic consequences of
its adoption and, above all provide its scientific rationale.

This the greens have so far proved very reluctant to do. When they
are confronted with evidence that contradicts their claims - such as
by Professor Bjorn Lomborg in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist
they take refuge in emotion or claims that present scientific methods
are not adequate for environmental evaluation and that a new paradigm
is needed.

This reaches the pinnacle of absurdity in the following taken from
one of the green bibles Regenerating Agriculture by Professor Jules
Pretty: "The science that supplies us with facts that enable us to
define the problem is in considerable disarray. The argument is that
the science on which we have depended has missed out all the squiggly
bits and, unfortunately, it is the squiggly bits that matter."

Perhaps it is too much to hope that the Rural Development Committee
will sit down and bring the greens to a definition and justification
of their position. As it presently stands, their ideal level of
technology is an incoherent jumble of laptop computers being carried
through the wilderness by experts wearing hi-tech hiking boots all
produced by an economy based on renewable energy and total recycling
and fed on organic vegetables. It bears as much resemblance to
reality as the novel which portrays a sword-wielding medieval
aristocracy bound by codes of chivalry living in an advanced
technology inter-galactic civilisation.

We need an honest appraisal of the environmental situation based on
recognised scientific principles, evaluated according logical
accounting and free of political correctness. The risks of moving
from emotive hypothesis to legislation founded on squiggly bits with
no intervening rational examination are far too great.

It is time for the greens to perform or relinquish the pot.


The Profits of Doom

- Matt Ridley, Spectator, http://www.spectator.co.uk/

'Matt Ridley celebrates Bjorn Lomborg, the environmentalist brave
enough to tell the truth that the end is not nigh'

At the Christmas cabaret in the politics department of Aarhus
University in Denmark last year, the cast members joined together at
the end to sing a song about one of the associate professors. Bjorn,
when will you come back? went the refrain. Don't just get lost out
in the world. (It was better in Danish.)

Bjorn Lomborg 'young, blond, piano-playing, but basically a
statistics nerd' may not be back soon. He has just succeeded Monsanto
as the official chief villain of the world environmental movement. In
January Scientific American devoted 11 pages to an unattractive
attempt to attack his work. He had a pie thrown in his face when he
spoke in Oxford last September.

The great and the good of greendom are competing to find epithets for
him: "Wilful ignorance, selective quotations, destructive
campaigning" says E.O. Wilson, guru of biodiversity. "Lacks even a
preliminary understanding of the science in question, says Norman
Myers, guru of extinction. His book is "nothing more than a
diatribe", says Lester Brown, serial predictor of imminent global
famine. Stephen Schneider, high priest of global warming, even
berates Cambridge University Press for publishing it. What can this
mild statistician have said to annoy these great men so? In 1996 he
published an obscure but brilliant article on game theory, which
earned him an invitation to a conference on computable economics in
Los Angeles (and an offer of a job at the University of California).
While browsing in a bookshop there he came across a profile in Wired
magazine of the late Julian Simon, an economist, who claimed, with
graphs, that on most measures the environment was improving, not
getting worse. Irritated, Lomborg went back to Denmark and set his
students the exercise of finding the flaw in Simon's statistics.

They could find none. So Lomborg wrote The Skeptical
Environmentalist, which not only endorses most of Simon's claims, but
also goes further, providing an immense compendium of factual
evidence that the litany of environmental gloom we hear is mostly
either exaggerated (species extinction, global warming) or wrong
(population, air and water pollution, natural resources, food and
hunger, health and life-expectancy, waste, forest loss).

You might think that environmentalists would welcome such news.
Having argued that we should find a way to live sustainably on the
planet, they ought to be pleased that population growth is falling
faster (in percentage and absolute terms) than anybody predicted even
ten years ago; that per-capita food production is rising rapidly,
even in the developing world; that all measures of air pollution are
falling almost everywhere; that oil, gas and minerals are not running
out nearly as fast as was predicted in the 1970s; and so on.

Instead they are beside themselves with fury. It cannot be Lomborg's
politics that annoy them. He is leftish, concerned about world
poverty, and no fan of big business. It cannot be his
recommendations: in favour of renewable energy and worried about the
pollution that is getting worse. Vegetarian, he rides a bicycle and
approves of Denmark's punitive car taxes. His sin 'his heresy' is to
be optimistic.

This is very threatening to lots of people's livelihoods. The
environmental movement raises most of its funds through direct mail,
paid advertising and news coverage. A steady supply of peril is
essential fuel for all three. H.L. Mencken said, "The whole aim of
practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed 'and hence
clamorous to be led to safety' by menacing it with an endless series
of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary"

For instance, remember acid rain in the 1980s and sperm counts in the
1990s? "There is no evidence of a general or unusual decline of
forests in the United States or Canada due to acid rain" concluded
the official independent study of the subject. Sperm counts are not
falling. If you do not believe me, look up the statistics. Lomborg

The media, too, prefer pessimism. When the United Nations panel on
global warming produced new estimates of the rise in temperature by
2100, they gave a range of 1.4 to 5.8C. CNN, CBS, Time and the New
York Times all quoted only the high figure and omitted the low one.
An increasing number of scientists have vested interests in
pessimism, too. The study of global warming has brought them fame,
funds, speaking fees and room service. Lomborg's crime is to rain on
their parade. In the Scientific American critique, four leading
environmental scientists lambasted Lomborg. The magazine refused
Lomborg the right to reply in the same issue, refused to post his
response on its website immediately, and threatened him for
infringement of copyright when he tried to reproduce their articles,
with his responses, on his own website.

Yet the Scientific American articles are devastating not to Lomborg,
but to his critics. Again and again, before insulting him, the
critics concede, through gritted teeth, that he has got his facts
right. In two cases, Stephen Schneider accuses Lomborg of misquoting
sources and promptly does so himself. In the first case, Schneider's
response "completely misunderstands what we have done", according to
Richard Lindzen, the original author of work on the iris effect and
upper-level cirrus clouds. In the second, Eigil Friis-Christensen
says that Schneider "makes three unsubstantiated statements regarding
our studies on the effect of cosmic rays on global cloud cover".
Result: there are worse howlers in Schneider's short article than in
Lomborgs whole book. By the end of 11 pages, the Scientific American
critics have found two certain errors in Lomborgs work. In one he
uses the word catalyse instead of electrolyse. In the other he
refers to 20 per cent of energy use, when he means 20 per cent of
electricity generation. You get the drift.

What the affair reveals is how much environmentalists are now the
establishment, accustomed to doing the criticising, not being
criticised. The editor of Scientific American, apparently without
irony, condemns Lomborg for his "presumption" in challenging
'investigators who have devoted their lives' to the subject, as if
seniority defined truth. Lomborg is also criticised for his
effrontery in challenging the widely accepted figure that 40,000
species become extinct every year. The number was first used in 1979
by the British scientist Norman Myers. Yet what was the evidence for
it? Here is what Myers actually said: "Let us suppose that, as a
consequence of this manhandling of the natural environments, the
final one-quarter of this century witnesses the elimination of one
million species, a far from unlikely prospect. This would work out,
during the course of 25 years, at an average rate of 40,000 species
per year."

That's it. No data at all; just a circular assumption: if 40,000
species go extinct a year, then 40,000 species go extinct a year.
QED. Now look where this little trick of arithmetic has got Myers. He
describes himself thus: "Norman Myers is an Honorary Visiting Fellow
of Oxford University. He has served as visiting professor at
universities from Harvard to Stanford, and is a foreign member of the
US National Academy of Sciences. He works as an independent
scientist, undertaking research projects for the US National Research
Council, the World Bank and United Nations agencies. He has received
the UNEP environment prize, the Volvo environment prize and, most
recently, the 2001 Blue Planet prize" (Myers's share of the Volvo
prize was worth $130,000; Lomborg does not own a car.)

Lomborg does not deny that species are becoming extinct at an
unnaturally high rate, but he cites a far from conservative
calculation that this rate may reach about 0.7 per cent in 50 years,
not the 25 to 75 per cent implied by Myers, and calls it "not a
catastrophe but a problem, one of many that mankind still needs to
solve". Greens are trying to portray Lomborg as a sort of Pollyanna
Pangloss with her head in the sand. But Lomborg does not dispute the
need to save the planet, only the assertion that this is impossibly
difficult and the particular priorities foisted on us by the big
environmental pressure groups.

Forty years ago this year, Rachel Carson, in her book Silent Spring,
alerted a complacent world to the dangers posed by pesticides.
Vilified by the chemical industry, Carson was already dying of cancer
when the book was published. In the intervening years the
environmental movement has turned from David into Goliath. With huge
advertising budgets and ready access to the media, it can dominate
the news, terrify multinational companies and expect to be invited to
policy discussions at the highest levels. It is the bully now.

Consider the treatment meted out to Julian Simon for having the
temerity to be right. In 1990 Simon won $576.07 in settlement of a
wager from the environmentalist Paul Ehrlich. Simon had bet him that
the prices of metals would fall during the 1980s and Ehrlich accepted
"Simon's astonishing offer before other greedy people jump in."

When, a decade later, Simon won easily, Ehrlich refused a rematch and
called Simon an imbecile in a speech. Ehrlich, who, in contrast, won
a genius award from the MacArthur Foundation, is the man who argued
in 1967 that with the world on the brink of starvation the West
"should no longer send emergency aid to countries such as India where
sober analysis shows a hopeless imbalance between food production and
population." Since then India has doubled its population, more than
doubled its food production, increased its cultivated land acreage by
only 5 per cent and begun to export food. Hopeless?

The pessimists argue that Lomborg's good news might lead to
complacency. But Ehrlich's counsel of despair is far more dangerous.
Many people now work to improve the environment at a local level with
optimism that they can make the world a better place. To be
constantly told by the big pressure groups that all is doom and gloom
is no help. There is something rotten in the state of
environmentalism. It lies not just in the petty factual dishonesty
that is rife within the movement" Stephen Schneider once said, "We
have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic
statements and make little mention of any doubts we might have but
in the very philosophy that lies at the heart of greenery: the belief
in constraint and retreat.

If six billion people have both more food and more forest than their
three billion parents did; if the prices of copper, wheat and natural
gas are going down, not up; if there are 20 times more carcinogens in
three cups of organic coffee than in daily dietary exposure to the
worst pesticide both before and after the DDT ban; if renewable
resources such as whales are more easily exhausted than
non-renewables such as coal; if lower infant mortality leads to
falling populations, not rising ones, then perhaps we need to think
differently about what sustainability means. Perhaps the most
sustainable thing we can do is develop new technology, increase trade
and spread affluence.

Nor will it do to claim that these successes have come from green
pressure. The reason so many environmental trends are benign is not
because of legislation, let alone protest. Apart from the ozone layer
and city smogs, where campaigns probably did accelerate change, most
improvements have been brought about more by innovation, development
and growth than by government action. If six billion people went back
to nature, nature would be in desperate trouble.

The most arresting statistic that Lomborg produces is this. It is
well known that meeting the Kyoto treaty on carbon-dioxide reduction
will delay global warming by six years at most by 2100. Yet the
annual cost of that treaty, in each year of the century, will be the
same as the cost ' once' of installing clean drinking water and
sanitation for every human being on the planet. Priorities, anyone?


Gospel Science

- The Economist, Letters, Feb 28, 2002; www.economist.com

SIR - Jeffrey Harvey's letter (February 16th), in response to your
article on Bjorn Lomborg, is among the most remarkable and disturbing
I have ever read. He attempts to demonstrate the "absurdity" of your
claim that Tom Lovejoy's Scientific American article was "weak on
substance", not by reference to the substance of Mr Lovejoy's article
but by recounting his rank and position. He then one-ups himself by
quoting approvingly an article comparing Nature to the Bible and
Scientific American to the Koran, and ascribing to them the power of
gospel truth.

While notions of unquestioned authority and infallible oracles have
long been shunned outside fundamentalist religious circles,
apparently they have found a comfortable home among some scientists.
You must have been shaking your head in disbelief at such an
egregious example of the kind of person against whom science must be
defended. Men such as Mr Harvey do not deserve to call themselves

- Charles Korsmo, Washington, DC
SIR - During a 40-year career of research, I was privileged to work
with many gifted and distinguished scientists. Most were passionate
about their fields and many were endowed with a generous dose of
"academic ego" but all were prepared to accept critique of their
works. They would participate in dialogue about their assumptions,
the applicability and levels of error in data, and methods of
analysis and rigour of reasoning, addressing how these factors
impinged upon the validity of their conclusions and the level of
uncertainty in their findings.

It seems that the emerging paradigm of scientific discourse is
different: if you dislike someone's conclusions, you malign his
integrity or throw a pie at him.

- Frank Albini, Bozeman, Montana


From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Nature, Scientific American, et. al.

Far more concerning then the articles on the faulty Mexican trans
genes in nature or the balanced articles in Scientific American on GM
crops that presented both sides in a light that seemed to give equal
scientific validity to both it troubles me far more that the
editorial staff holds hot button environmental articles to a vastly
different standard than anything else they publish.

Instead of calling for the retraction of the papers we should be
calling for the resignation of the editors on ethical grounds for
using their positions to further their political agendas.


Scientific American Threatens Greenspirit For Publishing Bjorn
Lomborg's Response To Their Attack On Him

- Greenspirit, March 6, 2002

Scientific American has threatened Dr. Patrick Moore, President of
Greenspirit and former International Director of Greenpeace, for
publishing Danish scholar and author Bjorn Lomborg's detailed
response to their 11-page editorial attack on him on the Greenspirit
website (www.greenspirit.com). Scientific American had previously
threatened to sue Lomborg and he felt compelled to remove the text of
the editorial from his website (www.lomborg.com) thus effectively
gutting his ability to defend himself.

Lomborg is the author of "The Skeptcal Environmentalist", a 540-page
treatise on the state of the Earth's environment. Lomborg concludes
that many environmental trends are positive and that the
environmental movement's "doom-and-gloom" predictions are misleading
and exaggerated. Scientific American published the attack on Lomborg
in their January 2002 edition under the presumptuous title "Science
Defends itself Against the Skeptical Environmentalist". They refused
to give Lomborg any space to respond in that issue and have agreed to
give him one page in a future publication.

Scientific American has claimed in an email to Dr. Moore that the
publication of the text from their editorial "interferes with our
business of selling the article." "It is not possible to reply to an
11-page attack in one page," stated Dr. Patrick Moore. "And it is
completely ridiculous for Scientific American to claim that
publishing the text of their editorial as part of a response
interferes with selling the article. The January edition has been off
the newsstands for over a month. It is obvious that their motivation
is political, to stifle debate and to prevent the public from reading
Lomborg's brilliant defense of his position."

"Scientific American is behaving in a manner that is both
unscientific and un-American," continued Dr. Moore. "They should be
promoting the free exchange of ideas but instead they are threatening
scientists with lawsuits for daring to question their opinions. This
reflects the unbridled conceit that permeates the extreme
environmental movement today. They are convinced the world is coming
to an end and no amount of facts or statistics will sway them from
their self-righteous dogmatism."

"Once again I call on all scientists, organizations and citizens to
publish Bjorn Lomborg's response and to distribute it far and wide,"
said Dr. Moore. "Let the bright light of day shine on Scientific
American's attempt to repress open debate on the future of our

For further information contact: Patrick Moore, Ph.D. ("The
Optimistic Environmentalist")
604-221-1990; patrickmoore@greenspirit.com; Dr. Patrick Moore was a
co-founder of Greenpeace in 1971 and served as a Director for 15
years. In 1990 he founded Greenspirit, an environmental consultancy
focusing on global environmental issues including climate change,
forests, biodiversity, and energy. He lives in Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada.
To contact Scientific American: John Rennie, Editor in Chief, or
Mariette DiChristina, Executive Editor; editors@sciam.com


Organic Vegetables May Pose Hidden Dangers

- Lance Gay, Scripps Howard News Service, March 3, 2002

Atlanta - Those leafy vegetables and fresh carrots look so good and
nutritious on the supermarket shelves. But appearances are deceptive
- produce grown on manure could be harboring unseen pathogens that
could make you very sick.

Scientists attending an Institute of Food Technologists meeting here
say the trends away from artificial fertilizers and back to organic
farming and using manure to grow fruits and vegetables pose a danger.
Pathogens such as E. coli, shigella and salmonella that grow in the
stomachs of animals can be transferred to leafy greens, strawberries
and root vegetables.

Michael Doyle, director of the center for food safety at the
University of Georgia, said tests found that from 1.2 percent to 4.4
percent of produce tested positive for salmonella or shigella, which
is picked up from the soil, transferred from manure used to fertilize
plants, or transferred to the produce from water used in processing.
"We know that produce can contain harmful pathogens," he said.

Doyle and other scientists say they worry that the trend toward
organic farming and greater use of manure could result in more
outbreaks of food diseases. He said that consumers must take as much
care in handling fresh fruits and vegetables as they do with raw

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington food
safety interest group, said contaminated produce - including sprouts,
lettuce, berries and cantaloupe - was responsible for 148 outbreaks
of food poisoning in the United States between 1990 and 2001, with
10,504 people made ill.

One of the country's worst produce-related outbreaks of food
poisoning was in New England in 1996, when 61 people were made sick -
21 of them hospitalized - with a particularly lethal strain of E.
coli. The problem was tracked to a California producer who grew salad
greens in fields fed by water from an adjacent beef cattle farm. Paul
Mead, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said
some food poisoning outbreaks caused by produce aren't being detected
when they occur.

Mead said a computer analysis uncovered a previously undetected 1999
outbreak of salmonella poisoning that researchers were able to trace
back to mangoes imported from Brazil. Mead said the outbreak was only
revealed after investigators searched for the reasons for an unusual
spike in reported salmonella cases, and salmonella-contaminated toads
were found living in the water the Brazilian farm used to wash the

The Centers for Disease Control earlier this year renewed its warning
to consumers to fully cook alfalfa sprouts, often served raw in
salads and sandwiches, after an outbreak in Arizona, California,
Colorado and New Mexico last year sickened 32 people. Researchers
traced the problem to sprouts grown in contaminated water.

Barbara Robinson, deputy administrator of the Department of
Agriculture's national organic program - the agency developing
standards for foods brought to supermarket shelves as "organic" -
said organic farming regulations aim to reduce the risk of transfers
of pathogens from manure.

Farmers enrolling in the program are prohibited from using raw manure
on edible crops within 120 days of harvest, or are required to use
manure composted to kill pathogens. The National Organic Program was
introduced last year, and is to be fully implemented in October, when
labels are to appear on products declaring they are "100 percent
organic" or "organic" for products that contain 95 percent organic
materials. "There are very specific restrictions," Robinson said.
Farmers have to keep proper documentation of how they are using
manure on the soil, and when it was administered.

U.S. livestock produce 1.3 billion tons of manure a year.
Environmentalists have long sought to encourage a return to organic
gardening as a way of reducing the stockpile.

Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade
Association, a group representing organic farmers and processors,
said proper handling of manure can reduce pathogens. "Organic farming
has addressed all those things in regulations," she said.

DiMatteo said modern organic farms actually use less manure than
traditional farms because they rely on crop rotation, the planting of
cover crops, and using composted material to replace artificial
fertilizers. Lee-Ann Jaykus, associate professor of food microbiology
at North Carolina State University, said the best prevention of food
disease is to stop pathogens on the farm.

"But stopping all pathogens at the production level is not possible
at this time," she said, urging consumers to use common sense in the