Today in AgBioView: March 22, 2002
* Response to 'Biotech Remains Unloved by the More Informed'
* Corporate Risk Management in AgBiotech
* Fukuyama and the Precautionary Principle
* Sir Gustav Nossal Adds Support to GM Movement
* U.S. Outreach on Benefits of AgBiotech
* You Just Can't Keep A Good Seed Down
* Improved FAO Biotechnology Website
* Bridging the Gap between Scientific and Legal Worlds
* Friend or FOE?
* Obituary: Expert in Plant Genetics; John Langridge
* Prince Charles to Use Organic Cocoa
* Safety Assessment of Bt Cotton
Response to 'Biotech Remains Unloved by the More Informed'
- Paul Christensen , Submitted to 'Nature', Letter
to the editor
Massimiano Bucchi; Department of Social Sciences, University of
Trento, via Verdi 26 - 38100, Trento, Italy has provided a very
interesting observation from Italy: "exposure to information does not
always lead to greater trust in biotechnologies." He concludes with
a hypothesis that "Attitudes appear to be rooted at a deeper,
cultural level where values (such as trust and conception of risk)
are heavily involved and media information does not reach."
I would like to propose an alternate hypothesis, although I regret
that I do not have data to back it up:
A. Europe has other underlying beliefs that have entered into the GM
1. A tendency to mistrust corporate activities and motives
2. A preference for agricultural subsidies and government management
of the economy including food aid to third world countries.
3. A willingness to believe that Europe's agricultural surplus is
indicative of where the rest of the world is heading, and a
remoteness from the contribution that improving agricultural
productivity makes to economic development, not only in the third
world but in Europe. Europe is far from the agricultural
transformation that accompanied the industrial revolution. Threats of
third world starvation do not resonate with Europe (or Japan) because
individuals are fully aware that there is more involved in economic
development than improvements in crop yield.
4. A mistrust of government regulatory bodies.
B. Green peace and political parties who are inclined to more
government intervention rather than less have an interest in playing
on the public's fears about biotech and the companies associated with
1. Group self preservation through political activity
2. Profits from organic farming
3. Public fame for the leadership.
4. The power of control of government intervention in the economy
not only in Europe, but in food distribution in the hungry world.
5. Employment in government safety and economic management
C. The press has self interest in inflammatory news and has an
incentive to report when the greens generate news.
D. Those with more media exposure have been influenced by b. and c.
If the hypothesis is correct, the public exposed to this media
exposure would be not more informed but more misinformed. It would be
very interesting to see some measure of the amount of misinformation
to which the survey respondents had been exposed.
If this hypothesis is correct, there are implications for action on
the part of the scientific community:
- Continue to educate the public on the relative safely of
biotechnology compared to other food safety issues.
- Support the appropriateness of the gene safety reviews that have
been done. The review system works. Biotech is over regulated
compared to other food risks.
- Correct inaccuracies in press reporting on GMO's.
- Publicize the selfish interests of Green peace, other
anti-biotech activist groups and those that support them. Brake the
misinformation feedback loop.
- Explain the role of increasing agricultural productivity in
general economic prosperity and development. Farm subsidies should
be structured so that there is a return to the farmer and the public
for use of more efficient technology.
- GMO supporters must avoid claiming or appearing to claim that
biotech is sufficient to insure the world food supply. It is not.
Remind Europeans that improving agricultural productivity is
necessary, but not sufficient, for the economic development of the
- Criticize the green anti-biotech activism for insufficient
attention to the need for increasing agricultural productivity in the
third world and for spreading the notion that food aid is sufficient
for third world economic development.
I don't think that there is much evidence that European concerns
about biotechnology as such are deep or cultural. There is every
reason to believe that these beliefs are new and the deliberate
result activist group misinformation.
- Dr. Paul Christensen, DeKalb, IL 60115; Email: Intlcorn@aol.com
Corporate Risk Management in AgBiotech
- From: Thomas Redick
I would like to correct the common misunderstanding that corporate
risk management departments only look to regulatory authorities in
deciding whether to market products that might pose a risk to
consumers or the environment.
In the attached posting from March 20 in AgBioView (see below), the
author suggests that Pioneer's decision not to market its
high-methionine soybean may have been based on a concern that
regulatory authorities would not allow it to be marketed. It is my
understanding that Pioneer also considered the liability risks of
commingling allergens, and dropped plans to market the animal feed
(even though there was regulatory authority to allow marketing, as
the regulatory decision to allow Starlink corn to be marketed as
animal feed confirmed).
Pioneer could have marketed its soybean with adequate risk management
measures in place, but it exercised a form of precaution common to
corporations faced with massive liability risks (these often dwarf
regulatory recall risks, and are factored in accordingly). As the
precautionary corporate decisions accumulate, they establish a
"standard of care" that is used to hold other, less cautious
companies liable for any harm they cause. As a result, the decision
by Pioneer might be used to establish the common law "standard of
care" that Aventis should have followed when it decided to market
Starlink corn. For the prevention of commingling, Aventis would look
to the American Soybean Association's standards for identity
preservation, or other similar standard of care (e.g. the American
Seed Trade Association's guidance on planting distances to avoid
It is well known, among multinational corporations, that responsible
corporate risk managers consider regulatory approval to be a minimum
standard. If they are doing their job as industry standards would
mandate, these corporate risk managers routinely impose a higher
level of internal "precaution" in marketing products. The decision by
Pioneer not to market its "Brazil nut" soybean is one good public
example of this largely private phenomenon.
Corporations practicing a high degree of care should make it more
widely known, if possible, so consumers realize how well-protected
they are from the slightest risks. Over time, the level of corporate
precaution directed at agbiotech products will probably make other
plant breeding and production methods look inadequate in comparison.
This comparison could probably be conducted on today's data. When one
considers the more precise nature of rDNA changes (compared to
mutagenesis -- Henry Miller has pointed this out on Agbioview before)
and this high level of voluntary risk management, one gets the sense
that we are truly regulating the most-regulated of all plant breeders.
The trend toward increasing levels of corporate precaution is evident
in the history of biotech liability cases to date --- the first
alleged biotech-related injury (l-tryptophan) has yet to show any
sign of the long-sought link to biotech innovation in the production
process. While biotech has not been implicated, the l-tryptophan
cases provide a case study in precautionary corporate risk management.
Showa Denko, the Japanese chemical company with the most market share
for l-tryptophan was subject to "tracing" by CDC that never proved
fault. Because Showa Denko voluntarily retained good records, its
products could be traced. Its competitors could not; hence no one
thought to blame them for the problem. Showa Denko did not wait for a
finding of fault or causation of harm, but immediately acted to
recall the product (days, not months, faster than the FDA) Showa
Denko paid humanitarian aid to anyone alleging certain characteristic
forms of injury, willingly funded millions of dollars of medical
research, paid out several billion dollars in settllements, and
settled cases in a "precautionary" manner (without requiring firm
scientific proof of medical causation, as federal courts would
If this level of corporate precaution were to become the standard for
21st Century corporate risk management in biotechnology ( Pioneer's
conduct would seem to indicate that precautionary approach is being
used), then consumers will eventually feel more secure with corporate
risk management than the less careful competitors. Ironically, the
impersonal multinational corporations that made so many mistakes in
the 20th Century (asbestos, etc.) have been burned so badly by
product liability that they may be the best entities to defend us
from these remote risks. These behemoths have the assets and
expertise to pay for a high level of voluntary precautionary risk
management. Mistaken precautionary judgments can be quickly reversed
when they are voluntary. In contrast, advocates of precaution toward
biotech would encode laws that might take a half-century of
accumulated misery to fully reverse. We owe it to our children to
allow them to choose, and not tie their hands with binding
international laws mandating precaution toward agricultural
I have long advocated implementation of the precautionary principle
as a voluntary measure undertaken by corporations, because they are
capable of knowing more about their product, and will be liable for
risks that regulators miss (through liability laws). This makes the
corporate risk manager the logical locus for making the precautionary
principle work optimally for society.
Those who advocate the precautionary principle seem most concerned
with mass-produced products --- the costs it would impose on small
producers would run them out of business if it applied, pre-market to
their products. As a result, precautionary principle should only
reside in the modern multinational corporation for the foreseeable
future. Experiments in regulatory precaution toward biotech food are
doomed to cause more harm than good.
I am researching, for a legal journal article in the Environmental
Law Reporter, many different instances like this of voluntary
corporate use of precaution to hold back products that a regulatory
authority would have allowed to be marketed. Pioneer's soybean is one
example, and AgrEvo USA's decision not to market its Liberty Link
soybean is another. In each case, the regulatory agency would allow
marketing, but corporations alert to risks of liability from
accidental commingling (including acts of third parties beyond their
control) made decisions to refrain from marketing particular biotech
crops. I expect that there are many similar products now in the
agbiotech pipeline that are under voluntary restraint, because a
large multinational corporation is acting more intelligently than the
regulatory minimum would require. This is why we have product
liability laws --- the regulators cannot intercept every risk as
quickly as a responsible company can.
If we put the precautionary principle into play as a regulatory
standard, however, we tie the hands of responsible companies. If most
companies are responsible, we will do much more harm than good by
making the precautionary principle a regulatory mandate applicable
only to agricultural biotechnology.
I will be circulating the draft of my article for peer review prior
to publishing my article summarizing these wise corporate decisions.
Anyone sending me anecdotes can have an early look at the data I
generate. This data will assist careful corporations in avoiding
mistakes like Starlink corn.
If anyone has information to share with me (which will entitle them
to 'peer review' rights for this article to come), I invite them to
send me an email at "email@example.com".
- Tom Redick, Gallop, Johnson & Neuman, LC; St. Louis, MO
>>Today in AgBioView: March 20, 2002
>>So far a transgenic plant has poisoned no one. The Brazil nut protein
>>produced by a transgenic soybean was not released because it was
>>allergenic. This is cited as a good example of self-policing by
>>industry. But it might have also been because it was realised that
>>the regulatory authority would not have allowed it. India needs a
>>regulatory framework that can at all times identify such transgenic
>>products in use. We do not have one and even in the US such precise
>>identification and labelling has not been possible.
Fukuyama and the Precautionary Principle
- Mark Centley, Mark.Cantley@cec.eu.int
Many criticisms could be voiced of Fukuyama's simplistic critique of
biotechnology in 'Foreign Affairs', March-April 2002, and the
confusions of vocabulary and understanding which it reveals. I would
address just one, when he writes, "In dealing with genetically
modified food, there is currently an acrimonious fight between the
United States and Europe over whether Europe's "precautionary
principle" - the notion that products should be presumed guilty until
proved innocent of potentially threatening the environment or
health-is in fact science-based."
Those interested to know what is actually meant by the notion of
precautionary principle are invited to download a 28-page text on
this topic from the EurLex website
There they can read, for example, five concepts always to be applied
in risk management:
* examination of the benefits and costs of action or lack of action
* examination of scientific developments.
Incidentally, the classic example of the application of a
precautionary approach or principle is the international debate on
the safety and regulation of recombinant DNA work which took place
from 1973 to 1986 - with US scientists, agencies and politicians
among the leading players.
Scientific uncertainty, concerns, a moratorium, international
conferences, national oversight committees (such as the NIH
Recombinant DNA Committee, still going strong), research, guidelines
which evolved in the light of research and experience, culminated in
the OECD expert consensus and political agreement of 1986, "no
scientific basis for specific legislation to regulate the use of
recombinant DNA organisms". A complicated story, but one in which
scientific evidence and method played key roles - in dialogue with
the public and the political communities. This looks like common
sense. To mislabel this approach and then condemn it is just a cheap
- Mark Cantley, Brussels, Europe
Sir Gustav Nossal Adds Support to GM Movement
- ABC Rural News Online,s March 21 2002
The country's most celebrated scientist has spoken in depth and
publicly for the first time of his support for genetically modified
crops. An Australian of the Year in 2000, Sir Gustav Nossal, is
famous for his work in immunology.
He says the consumer backlash against GM crops is similar to what the
medical fraternity experienced when many pharmaceuticals were
introduced in the 1970's. Sir Gus Nossal says like vaccines, GM foods
will eventually be accepted by consumers, making issues like labeling
irrelevant. Looking ahead: Sir Gustav Nossal hopes for better PR for
"My own belief is that just as the consumers are now buying
recombinant hepatitis B vaccine, so in time will they come to these
improved crop varieties. Here in Australia we should be thinking
about drought resistant varieties, virus resistant varieties and
other pest resistant varieties. All the techniques that protect our
fragile environment," Sir Gustav Nossal says.
U.S. Outreach Regarding the Benefits of Agricultural Biotechnology
- Mark Mansour, AgBioView, March 23, 2002, http://www.agbioworld.org/
(Attorney, Keller and Heckman LLP )
The reluctance among some nations to embrace agricultural
biotechnology is considered as much a product of the absence of
definable output traits, or benefits that can be easily appreciated
by consumers in our country and in the developing world, as it is the
questions many have about the technology itself.
No one will deny that some of the actions taken to increase crop
yields in this century have resulted in adverse ecological effects.
Pesticides were long assumed to have been necessary for the
production of adequate food supplies to feed a growing global
population. We learned from experience, and as our knowledge of the
soil ecosystem increased, refined soil tests actually reduced the
amount of fertilizer applied. Fertilizer use increased only as a
result of the introduction of higher yielding varieties were
introduced, which in turn allowed to feed more people on less land.
For the first time in human history, we have at our disposal tools,
through the recombination of DNA, that allow conservation tillage
that leads to gains in topsoil over time and reduces chemical input,
without reducing crop yields. This is not an inconsequential
variable, and it is all too often dismissed or glossed over. At the
present rate of exhaustion, the world's agricultural land will no
longer be sufficient in volume to provide adequate supplies for a
population that many believe will exceed ten billion midway through
this century. Such a monumental benefit on its own justifies a much
more sober global examination of the benefits of agricultural
biotechnology than has taken place so far.
When modern biotechnology emerged over the course of the past decade,
many believed, and continue to believe that, it provided renewed hope
for safe, rapid and soil-efficient crop development, not just for
tomatoes, soybeans and corn, but for a host of other plants. That
promise has been more than borne out. As a result of biotech, and
numerous other advances in agricultural technology, we are developing
crops that provide tangible, quality of life benefits to farmers such
as reduced reliance on chemicals and increased quantity and quality
of yields, as well as the long-desired output traits, such as
fortified grains that not only hold the promise of more and better
quality food, and food which intrinsically bears the potential to
prevent disease and alleviate malnutrition, blindness and a host of
other ills that are all too common in the poorest regions of our
Indeed, recent analyses have suggested that future agricultural
biotechnology may allow farmers to grow crops on half the land they
previously employed, resulting in the concomitant use of half as much
agricultural chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides.
As many experts in the developing world know all too well,
biotechnology has immediate life-saving potential. Mycotoxins, which
are the result of lethal molds that are prone to grow on some plants,
are a legitimate safety and health concern for farmers, processors,
producers, consumers and regulators. It is a proven fact that some
varieties of biotech derived corn contain significantly lower
mycotoxin levels, in part because the biotech plants are less
susceptible to insect infestation, which provides a point of entry
into the corn for the mold that causes the development of mycotoxins.
This benefit alone, without the discovery of the inevitable and
quantifiable benefits that are sure to become public, as have the
recent disclosures regarding Vitamin A rice, make biotech crops
inestimably valuable to the billions throughout the world who can
benefit, today, from safe and predictable supplies of grain. In
addition, biotechnology brings with it a panoply of indirect benefits
to consumers and the environment, such as reduced pesticide use,
reduced worker exposure to pesticides, reduced use of natural
resources for production and shipment of pesticides, a reduction in
the quantity of pesticide containers, and less strain on resources as
a result of container disposal issues. As famine after natural
disaster and earthquake have left many regions devastated and
millions homeless, and as increasing population threatens to leave
our arable land inadequate for the challenge of feeding so many, we
would do well to remember these realities and foreseeable calamities,
and assess them against the speculative dangers we hear so often of
the unforeseen (and unsubstantiated) adverse consequences of
agricultural biotechnology. Contrary to the oft-stated contention
that biotechnology results in uncontrollable ecological chain
reactions, most genetically improved crops are well contained in
their fields, and have easily managed outcrossing risks, if any, with
their wild relatives.
We would also do well to remember that, in many parts of our world,
there are governments who legislate the labeling of foods containing
biotechnology, while at the same time, invest billions in its
promise. Clearly, mankind is of two heads about the issue, and our
goal should be to seek answers and promote understanding, rather than
the perpetuation of a sterile debate that has already gone on too
long without any demonstrable enlightenment of the citizenry. While
those of us intimately involved in this issue debate nuances in
endless loops, poll after poll demonstrates that many do not even
understand with any semblance of precision what it is we are debating.
With this in mind, and in view of the clear interest so many of us
have encountered throughout the world in these crops and in the vast
potential and hope they offer, we would do well to agree on a means
by which we can assure the safety of emerging varieties, to reassure
those who believe in the promise of biotechnology but fear the
unknown, while allowing those who are prepared and willing to explore
the immediate benefits to do so, unencumbered by unreasonable
regulation that does less to promote safety and more to foster fear
and uncertainty. Just as important, we would contribute mightily if
we were to cease arguing and instead begin the hard work of offering
data to a public that cries out for more information. Given such
knowledge, objectively delivered, people will always understand
intuitively their best course of action. As Maslow so eloquently put
the issue, "One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward
growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome
again and again."
The United States can and should play a leading role, by offering the
facts about agricultural biotechnology--reduced chemical use,
increased output using less land, safer plants and grains, and
delivery through basic commodities of life enhancing nutrients and
soon, very likely, the means to prevent disease.
The development of a transparent and meaningful outreach program,
involving the best ideas capable of development through the goodwill
of this group and others, designed to share the merits of the
technology along with clear, straightforward facts, positive and
negative, with nations throughout the world is not simply a
convenient means of promoting American agriculture. It is consistent
with the spirit of innovation and contribution that has characterized
this nation's mission for two centuries and, more important, is
reflective of the quality of moral, political and economic leadership
so many of us assumed would be the hallmark of America in the post
Cold War world. If nothing else, vigorous outreach will broaden, and
bring fresh ideas to a discussion that has for too long excluded
perhaps the most important stakeholders: the billions of citizens in
the developing world.
You Just Can't Keep A Good Seed Down (Black market in Transgenic Soy)
- Forwarded by: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brazilian Farmers Ignore Ban on GM Crops
- Reese Ewing, March 22, 2002
NAO-ME-TOQUE - Soy producers in Brazil's South are ignoring the
country's ban on planting genetically modified (GM) crops in an
effort to stay competitive, leaders in the farm industry said
yesterday. A representative of Monsanto, the world's leading seller
of GM soy technologies, said he could tell that many of the region's
farmers were planting illegal GM soy as he drove across the fertile
high plain in northwest Rio Grande do Sul state, where the
surrounding farmland is covered in a seemingly endless sea of emerald
"They are easy to identify. The fields are perfectly green without
any weeds among the soy plants," said the representative at
Monsanto's Nao-Me-Toque test farms who preferred to be unnamed. GM
crops are a touchy subject in these regions and are still illegal in
Brazil, despite widespread use in the country's South.
Ironically, Monsanto, stopped all GM test planting in Brazil almost a
year ago, after a court suspended the company's license to develop
several GM soy and corn in Latin America's farming giant. Monsanto's
Roundup Ready soybean seeds need fewer costly herbicide applications
because the soy is genetically modified to resist the company's
strong herbicide Roundup, which would kill a conventional soy plant.
The company sells Roundup herbicide and varieties of conventional
seeds in Brazil, and has strains of Roundup Ready soy ready for sale
should the ban end.
But soy producers, fed up with bureaucratic delays in the legislature
and Congress to lift the four-year-old ban on GM, have ignored the
law and are committing more fields to the biotechnology they say is
keeping them in the black. The black market seeds are thought to be
smuggled in from neighboring Argentina.
"Transgenic technologies reduce farmers' operational costs, which is
crucial right now with world commodity prices lagging," Ireneu Orth,
a small farmer and substitute federal congressman for Rio Grande do
Sul, told Reuters at the Expodirect Farm Fair being held by the
Cotrijal cooperative this week in Nao-Me-Toque.
Official seed producers in the region have informally pegged GM soy
planting at 60 percent of Rio Grande do Sul state's crop, up from 30
percent last year, by monitoring the fall in yearly conventional seed
sales. Making an example of some may be difficult and not
particularly effective in curbing illegal plantings. Unlike common
criminals, farmers pay taxes, own land, create jobs and are
influential in their communities.
The government indicted about 15 farmers caught with GM seeds in the
South but most have cooperated with prosecutors in exchange for light
fines and community service. "There is no way to prosecute them all.
When the use of transgenics reaches this level, it's beyond the
government's ability to stop it," said Iwao Miyamoto president of
Sementes Maua, a large seed producer for in Brazil's South.
Miyomoto added that producers throughout the No.2 soy state Parana
were now plants transgenic soy but with less frequency than in the
No.3 soy state Rio Grande do Sul. Farmers say GM crops will also
succeed in the fast growing Center-West and Northeast soy operations
because of the cost benefits they offers producers.
Orth said the GM-food bill in Congress now provides the foundations
for a national labeling system which would allow the country's farm
industry to separate GM from conventional grains through the food
production chain. A quick and unopposed passage of the bill is
unlikely, however, as it barely left its congressional committee a
week ago, after GM opponents disrupted the vote. And controversial
bills typically have trouble reaching a final vote in the Senate with
presidential elections only seven months away.
Improved FAO Biotechnology Website
A range of new features has been incorporated into the FAO
Biotechnology website in recent weeks. These include i) a search
engine for the website ii) the revised, augmented version of the FAO
Glossary of Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture, published last
month, available on the site as a searchable database iii) a
searchable archive of News and Events items and iv) a section on
documents published by FAO in recent years concerning biotechnology
in food and agriculture. The site is available in Arabic, Chinese,
English, French and Spanish - see http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp
BIOLAW 2002: Bridging the Gap between Scientific and Legal Worlds
- September 3-5 2002, Bangkok, Thailand
This international conference, organised by a range of organisations
and institutes, including FAO, aims to provide a forum for lawyers
and scientists to share their knowledge and opinions on legal aspects
(including intellectual property rights) of biotechnology applied to
agriculture, food or medicine. See http://biolaw.biotec.or.th
<http://biolaw.biotec.or.th> or contact Biolaw@biotec.or.th
Friend or FOE?
- John Stewart, March 22, 2002 The Scotsman
http://www.business.scotsman.com/ (Forwarded by Andrew Apel
A Friend in need is not always a friend indeed
JUST how friendly are Friends of the Earth and with whom? Their
objective to change lifestyles and consumption patterns in the
developed world rather rules out friendliness between them and our
consumer society but in practice they seem to be equally unfriendly
towards the object of their affections, the environment.
However unlikely it is to happen within the constraints of the
British system of food production, consumption and land ownership,
the current fashion is for agriculture that is economically,
environmentally and socially sustainable.
The contribution to that objective by the environmental lobby headed
by Friends of the Earth has been a proliferation of regulations which
has hastened the demise of small and medium sized farmers. The net
effect of such measures as fixed price licences to use sheep dip or
restrictions on dung spreading in nitrogen sensitive zones has been
to jeopardise that very style of farming which has the potential to
meet sustainability criteria and maintain bio-diversity - large
scale, intensive units have been much less affected. Neither the
earth nor those who make a living from it have benefited from being
Their latest crusade - municipal rubbish dumps - is also more of a
tilt at windmills than a serious examination of a real problem.
According to them there are 500 landfill sites in Scotland. Even at
the improbably generous estimate of four acres per site, this amounts
to fractionally more than one hundredth of one per cent of our total
land space of around nineteen million acres. Unsightly and untidy our
landfill sties may be but they are not a serious environmental
problem and provide no real justification for a recycling process
whose benefits are grossly exaggerated. It is claimed, for example
that recycling newsprint would create 10,000 jobs but that takes no
account of the jobs lost in the forestry and pulp production
industries or the economically depressing effect of having that
number of people employed on handling rubbish.
Even the FriendsĖ flagship policy of renewable energy drifts on a sea
of contradictions. They estimate that 800,000 Scots suffer from fuel
poverty yet see nothing wrong in pursuing a policy which environment
minister Ross Finnie admitted would add 4.5 per cent to electricity
bills if the renewable component was increased to ten per cent of the
total. With friends like these ScotlandĖs poor do not need enemies.
What Friends of the Earth and those they advise have failed to
understand is that a piecemeal approach is doomed to fail. They have
failed to take into account the ease with which capital and
technology can be moved around the globe. If energy becomes too
expensive then steel making will switch to countries where it is
cheaper. Likewise if cattle rearing becomes too enmeshed in tiresome
regulation then it will move to less closely regulated areas. The
problems and the pollution will simply be relocated.
What is required for a healthier balance between us and our
environment is a fundamental shift in our concept of values which
will not happen until we are affected by the imbalance. If the
outrage of the attack on the World Trade Centre has failed to jolt us
into an awareness that we are living like orchids in a bell jar
surrounded by hopeless desert then the extinction of the common wren
will certainly not do so.
Perhaps our falling birth-rate is an indication that the limits to
growth may prove to be psychological rather than physical.
Obituary: Expert in Plant Genetics; John Langridge
- The Canberra Time, March 22, 2002 (Forwarded by Andrew Apel)
Among his scientific colleagues there is a strong consensus that
Professor John Langridge deserved greater recognition for his work in
plant genetics than was accorded to him.
Born in Auckland in 1923, John was educated in various bush schools
in New ZealandĖs North Island before serving in the Royal New Zealand
Navy on secondment to the Royal Navy. His service found him on escort
duties with the convoys that plied between Britain and northern
Russia, and a period with the clandestine Combined Operations
On one occasion he was landed on the coast of Belgium. Dressed in
mufti and carrying a basket of apples in which was hidden a message,
as he later recalled, he managed to quash a powerful urge to shoot
the two Nazi policemen who shared his bus and thus successfully
deliver his apples. The result was that a submarine base was
successfully demolished and the young man survived for Australian
science to benefit from the powerful focus his interests took after
the war. This came when he gained a cadetship in the NZ Forest
Commission, which, together with a ServicemanĖs scholarship, allowed
him to gain a BSc and an MSc from Auckland University. In the
holidays he would apply his scientific knowledge to the experimental
farm that his father ran at Taupiri in the Waikato.
Following his studies, John worked for the NZ Department of
Scientific and Industrial Research in Christchurch where he met and
married Marta Abeles. In 1952 he undertook a doctorate at Adelaide
University under Professor David Catcheside, and it was during this
time that he established the foundation for his two quite remarkable
contributions to the study of genetics. These were, first, the
recognition and characterisation of biochemical mutations in higher
plant forms, and second, the addition of Arabidopsis thaliana to the
realm of genetics. These are two outstanding contributions which have
never been adequately attributed to John. He developed the system for
growing Arabidopsis in aseptic culture, where he could recognise and
study biochemical mutations.
JohnĖs work on Arabidopsis was decisive in the Global Genome Project.
On his birthday in 2000, news broke that scientists had completed the
first map of the entire genetic sequence of a plant. The plant was
Following the completion of his Ph D John was recruited by Sir Otto
Frankel for the CSIRO, and the Langridge family moved to Canberra
where John continued his work on Arabidopsis, using it to
characterise not only biochemical reactions but chemical, osmotic and
temperature reactions in higher plants. In 1963 John spent a year at
the Pasteur Institute in Paris and after this his interest switched
from Arabidopsis to Eschericha coli and beta galactosidase metabolism
and the chemical basis of heredity and evolution.
Happiest when in the laboratory undertaking research into gene action
and reaction, John none the less accepted administrative posts in the
1970s, a period as assistant chief and acting chief of the CSIROĖs
Plant Industry, and concurrently Professor of Genetics at the ANU. He
retired in 1986, but continued to write on scientific subjects,
completing his last book, Plant Development and Genetic Engineering,
shortly before he died.
'Dr John Langridge, born December 13, 1923; died March 4, 2002.'
Prince Charles to Use Organic Cocoa
AP Online, March 22 2002
LONDON (AP)- Britain's Prince Charles said he plans to use organic
cocoa grown by farmers in Guyana for his own line of chocolate
biscuits. The prince, an enthusiastic organic farmer, oversees Duchy
Originals, a food company that produces biscuits and jams from
Charles said he suggested the organic crop as a way of reviving
Guyana's disused cocoa plantations during a visit to the former
British colony in 2000. Two years later, the first crop will go into
his Organic Dark Chocolate Thins. The prince said Thursday the
project "has provided a perfect opportunity for small farmers from
the disadvantaged Amerindian community to come together in mutual
"These Amerindian farmers have blazed a trail which other farmers in
Guyana are likely to follow in the months ahead with different
produce," he added. The prince urged supermarkets to take up the idea
and "have an impact on a much more significant scale than my small
food brand." Charles said he hoped the sweets bearing his label would
be in stores before Christmas. Proceeds from the sale of Duchy
Originals products go to the prince's charitable foundation.
Safety Assessment of Bt Cotton: Bollgard Cotton Event 531
- Monsanto, September 13, 2001
Bollgard cotton, developed by Monsanto and field tested since 1992,
produces an insect control protein (Cry1Ac) derived from the
naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis subsp.
kurstaki (B.t.k.). Production of the Cry1Ac protein in the cotton
plant provides effective season-long protection against key
Lepidopteran insect pests, including tobacco budworm, pink bollworm
and cotton bollworm (Wilson et al., 1994; Betz et al., 2000).
Microbial formulations of Bacillus thuringiensis that contain the
Cry1Ac insecticidal protein have been registered in numerous
countries worldwide, and have been safely used for control of
Lepidopteran insect pests for more than 40 years (Luthy et al., 1982,
Baum et al., 1999). The Cry1Ac protein produced in Bollgard cotton is
nearly identical in structure and activity to the Cry1Ac protein
found in nature and in commercial B.t.k. microbial formulations.
Bacillus thuringiensis and B.t.k. microbial formulations have been
shown to be specific to the target insect pests and do not have
deleterious effects to non-target organisms such as beneficial
insects, birds, fish, and mammals, including humans (U.S. EPA, 1988).
The primary benefits of Bollgard cotton are reduced insecticide use,
improved control of target insect pests, improved yield, reduced
production costs, improved profitability, reduced farming risk, and
improved opportunity to grow cotton, resulting in improved economics
for the cotton growers (Edge et al., 2001; Carpenter and Gianessi,
2001; Betz et al., 2000; Economic Research Service/USDA, 2000;
Falck-Zepeda et al., 1998; Falck- Zepeda et al., 2000;
Fernandez-Cornejo and McBride, 2000; Gianessi and Carpenter, 1999;
Klotz-Ingram et al., 1999; Traxler and Falck-Zepeda, 1999; Xia et
Planting of Bollgard cotton since 1996 in the US has resulted in a
reduction in insecticide use of 2.7 million pounds of insecticidal
active ingredients and a reduction in 15 million insecticide
applications (Carpenter and Gianessi, 2001). US cotton growers
planting Bollgard cotton showed a 260 million pound increase in
cotton production per year which resulted in an estimated $99 million
increase in net income in 1999 (Carpenter and Gianessi, 2001). There
also are a number of secondary benefits associated with the reduction
in insecticide use, which include enhanced populations of beneficial
insect and wildlife populations, reduced potential runoff of
insecticides, and improved safety for farm workers by reducing
The genetically improved Bollgard cotton product was produced using
Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transfer of the cry1Ac gene into
the genome of a conventional cotton variety, Coker 312, using a
binary plasmid vector. The nptII gene, which encodes a selectable
marker enzyme, neomycin phosphotransferase II (NPTII), was also
present on the plasmid to facilitate selection of insect-protected
plants. The NPTII protein served no other purpose and has no
pesticidal properties. The plasmid also contained the antibiotic
resistance aad gene, which encodes the bacterial selectable marker
enzyme 3"(9)-O- aminoglycoside adenyltransferase (AAD). This gene
confers resistance to the antibiotics spectinomycin and streptomycin,
and facilitated the selection of bacteria containing the plasmid in
the initial steps of transforming the cotton tissue. The aad gene is
under the control of a bacterial promoter and the encoded protein is
not detected in Bollgard cotton plant tissue.
In assessing the nutritional and compositional equivalence of
Bollgard cotton to conventional cotton varieties, more than 2,500
separate analyses were performed on 67 components of the cottonseed
and oil. These analyses included protein, fat, moisture, calories,
minerals, amino acid, cyclopropenoid fatty acid and gossypol levels.
The results of these analyses clearly demonstrate that, other than
the production of the Cry1Ac and NPTII proteins, Bollgard cotton is
compositionally equivalent to and is as safe as conventional cotton
varieties currently available (Berberich et al., 1996).
The following summary provides information on the methods used to
develop Bollgard cotton event 531 and a summary of the food, feed and
environmental safety studies that support the safety of Bollgard
cotton. In addition to the molecular characterization, the following
safety studies were conducted: safety of the produced proteins,
food/feed composition, and environmental safety. On the basis of this
evaluation, Bollgard cotton and its processed fractions were found to
be substantially equivalent to conventionally bred cotton, taking
into consideration the natural variation seen among cotton varieties,
with the exception of the expression of the Cry1Ac and NPTII
proteins. The Cry1Ac and NPTII proteins were shown to be safe for
human and animal consumption and to the environment.