Today in AgBioView: April 18, 2002s
* National Geographic: Food, How Altered?
* Anatomy of a Miracle: "Green Revolution" Gene is Unravelled
* It Could Only Be Grown With Guards
* China Looks For Genetics Lead
* EUROPE: Consumers Not Really Worried About Avoiding GM, Says Study
* Benefits of GM Foods Far Outweigh the Risks
* Gene Use Restriction Technology
* Destruction Field Trials is Unacceptable - EU Commissioner
* Development of Biotechnology in South Africa
* The Zero Risk Fiction
* Tactical Terminator Mistake
* UK Tide Turning at last?
* Foods for Health
* Travel Fellowships to Attend the ABIC 2002 Saskatoon
* "Corporate Scientists" are Enslaving "Farmers!"
* Letter from Dr. Norman Borlaug
Food; How Altered?
- Jennifer Ackerman, Photographs by Jim Richardson. National Geographic,
Want disease-free grapes? Add a silkworm gene. How about vitamin-enhanced
rice? While the technology promises new ways to help feed the world, some
see risks to the land and to human health.
Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.
In the brave new world of genetic engineering, Dean DellaPenna envisions
this cornucopia: tomatoes and broccoli bursting with cancer-fighting
chemicals and vitamin-enhanced crops of rice, sweet potatoes, and cassava
to help nourish the poor. He sees wheat, soy, and peanuts free of
allergens; bananas that deliver vaccines; and vegetable oils so loaded
with therapeutic ingredients that doctors "prescribe" them for patients at
risk for cancer and heart disease. A plant biochemist at Michigan State
University, DellaPenna believes that genetically engineered foods are the
key to the next wave of advances in agriculture and health.
While DellaPenna and many others see great potential in the products of
this new biotechnology, some see uncertainty, even danger. Critics fear
that genetically engineered products are being rushed to market before
their effects are fully understood. Anxiety has been fueled by reports of
taco shells contaminated with genetically engineered corn not approved for
human consumption; the potential spread of noxious "superweeds" spawned by
genes picked up from engineered crops; and possible harmful effects of
biotech corn pollen on monarch butterflies.
In North America and Europe the value and impact of genetically engineered
food crops have become subjects of intense debate, provoking reactions
from unbridled optimism to fervent political opposition. Just what are
genetically engineered foods, and who is eating them? What do we know
about their benefits?and their risks? What effect might engineered plants
have on the environment and on agricultural practices around the world?
Can they help feed and preserve the health of the Earth's burgeoning
National Geographic's website also carries a multimedia presentation on
food and food safety with some excellent pictures.
'Follow your food supply from field to kitchen in this multimedia
Join the National Geographic Forum and post your views on GM Food
To help rid the world of hunger and to produce food that withstands
drought and grows in poor soil, scientists are altering our food at the
genetic level. Proponents of genetically engineered food believe the
benefits now being realized - often by large multinational companies and
big-business farmers - will spread. Consumers will get more nutritious
food, and farmers in developing countries will get hardier and higher
yielding crops. But critics caution against rushing genetically altered
products to market without first understanding the long-term effects on
our food supply and the environment. What concerns you about genetically
engineered food? Are we going too far, too fast?
Anatomy of a Miracle: "Green Revolution" Gene is Unravelled
- Agence France Presse April 17, 2002 (Via Agnet)
PARIS - DNA engineers were cited as reporting in Thursday's issue of
Nature, the British science weekly, that they have sequenced the gene that
kicked off the "Green Revolution," the breakthrough in rice growing 35
years years ago that saved tens of millions of Asians from likely
The story says that the superstar plant, devised by the International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI) was a variety called IR8, which dramatically
doubled grain yield at a time when populations in China, India, Indonesia
and elsewhere was growing alarmingly. IR8 was a semi-dwarf variety that
was a cross between a tall Indonesian variety called Peta, which was
vigorous and resistant to insects and disease, and Dee-geo-woo-gen, a
high-yield but short-stalked strain from Taiwan.
IR8 worked well because it efficiently converted nitrogen fertiliser into
grain, yet did not become reedy and long-stalked and thus topple over in
wind and rain as it grew. Researchers led by Motoyuki Ashikari of Japan's
Nagoya University were cited as saying that the reason is a mutation in
IR8 of a key gene called sd1 that controls plant height.
The sd1 gene controls an enzyme that in turn helps to produce
growth-stimulant hormone called gibberellin. But in IR8 and a dwarf
variety of super-wheat called Rht that is another product of the Green
Revolution, a key sequence of sd1 has been deleted.
The result: the gibberellin is in effect switched off, and the plant stalk
remains the same height, despite the stimulus provided by the fertiliser.
This discovery could be of major help in further boosting yields of rice,
the world's most important crop, and other important crops, Ashikari
It Could Only Be Grown With Guards
- John Vidal. The Guardian (UK), 17 April 2002
The world map of GM is changing. Two weeks ago, the Indian government
allowed GM cotton to be grown, and the first commercial crops are expected
to be planted soon. The GM industry is cockahoop and predicting a massive
take-up of its products.
So have the environmentalists lost the battle? At first sight, it might
seem so. In less than six years, some 5.5m farmers in 13 countries have
turned to growing 130m acres (52m ha) of GM plants. However, the bulk of
the crops grown are in the US, and they are not without problems.
No one knows how many Indian cotton farmers will seek to plant Monsanto's
varieties, but it is expected to be confined - at least, at the start - to
large farmers. Last week, Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva predicted that
the small farmers' groups who have vociferously opposed the introduction
of GM into India will heavily pressurise any farmer wanting to grow them,
and that the only way GM could be grown in some areas would be with
hundreds of guards.
CS Prakash, leading US-based plant biotechnologist and adviser to the
Indian department of biotechnology, believes the Indian decision will now
allow the commercial seed sector, dominated by Monsanto-owned companies,
to take off. "Big commercial companies with deep pockets are likely to
come to India and look for local partners, not just for cotton but other
[GM] seeds as well, such as mustard," he says.
But he does not think GM will revolutionise Indian farming. "It is part of
a larger evolution process, since biotechnology too has its limitation,"
he says. "The fact is, [GM] is not being used for crops that are not
commercially viable. Things like chickpea and tur dhal, which form part of
the staple diet for many Indians, will not be given due attention. It will
be up to the state to fund research for these projects"
Indian trade analyst and author Devinder Sharma sees other problems down
the line, with plants inevitably developing resistance, and trade
liberalisation affecting agricultural development. "In the years to come,
it will not be because of low yields but because of heavy imports of cheap
and highly subsidised cotton into the country that the cotton farmers will
be faced with an unprecedented crisis," she predicts. "The introduction of
GM cotton will rob the cotton farmers of whatever little they could
benefit from. We will see more and more cotton farmers getting into the
spiral suicide dance."
China Looks For Genetics Lead
- Ania Lichtarowicz, BBC, April 15, 2002
Genetic research that focuses on the Asian peoples of the world should be
a priority for China, one of the country's leading scientists has said.
Speaking at the Seventh International Human Genome Meeting in Shanghai,
the Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Professor Zhu Chen,
said the country's researchers could be proud of their achievements -
especially given the limited funding they had received at the beginning of
Plant genetics One area where Chinese research is advancing rapidly is in
plant genetics. Professor Chen said he was amazed by what the plant
geneticists had done in so short a space of time. Earlier this month, the
Beijing Genomics Institute (together with the University of Washington
Genome Center, US) published a draft genome of the indica variety of rice,
the predominant subspecies eaten in China and other Asian-Pacific
countries. Professor Gane Ka-ShuWong, a member of the Chinese research
team, said that with up to 56,000 genes, rice had the biggest genome yet
to be sequenced.
"Rice seems to have a lot of unique genes - genes that are not seen in any
other organisms," he said. Professor Zhu Chen said plant genetics was
extremely important because it could help produce new crops that were more
productive and that could grow in all sorts of environmental conditions.
"If you can identify those genes that will allow you to make plants that
use fewer resources, like water or fertilisers, then you can significantly
reduce the pressure on the environment."
EUROPE: Consumers Not Really Worried About Avoiding GM, Says Study
just-food.com editorial team, 17 Apr 2002
While previous studies have found that 80% to 90% of Europeans don't want
GM foods, manufacturers who sell both GM and conventional products have
noticed that the two versions sell about the same. This paradox is an
important one for food producers, farmers and other agribusinesses, argues
Charles Noussair, associate professor of economics at Purdue University.
However, Noussair says it is common for public opinion and consumer
behaviour to differ: "Opinion surveys capture the respondent in the role
of a voter, not in the role of a consumer.
"The two behaviours can be quite different, as many studies have shown."
Noussair and colleagues in Europe conducted experiments to investigate the
paradox and the results were published in the most recent issue of the
academic journal Economic Letters. Their research found that despite the
high level of opposition to GM foods, most Europeans aren't concerned
enough to read ingredient lists on food packaging. The study found that
consumers didn't notice a food contained GM products even after they were
seated and left for three minutes with nothing to look at but the
ingredient label. The research paper dryly noted, "What is not read in the
laboratory will probably not be read in the supermarket."
In the study, French consumers were given FF150 (US$21) and asked to bid
on a product. The consumers bid on large chocolate bars made by a major
multinational company that produces both GM and non-GM foods. Consumers
could bid on what they thought the product was worth, in a sophisticated
survey technique called the Vickery Auction, named after William Vickery,
who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in economics.
The study found that even after they were told the chocolate bars
contained GM ingredients, most of the consumers participating in the
research were willing to buy the GM foods, but only if the price was about
one-third less than conventional products. The study and subsequent report
was funded by a partnership of 37 organisations, corporations and
governmental agencies composed of groups as divergent as Monsanto and
Greenpeace. The researchers worked under the aegis of the French
agricultural ministry. As a result of the study, the researchers are
advising European nations to put a large label on the foods indicating
they contain GM ingredients in addition to putting the information in the
list of ingredients.
Bernard Ruffieux, professor at the Institut National Polytechnique de
Grenoble and Grenoble University, in Grenoble, France, says labelling of
GM foods is a major public issue in Europe. "It's a big issue for us
because we're importing a lot of maize and soya [corn and soybeans], and
these are used in many of our foods," he says. "It's also a big issue
because now the food markets are globalised. The demand of the consumers
for information is spreading around the world." Although foods that
contain GM ingredients are not cheaper now, that situation may change as
new advances in biotechnology are put into production. Noussair says the
research shows that labelling would allow a separate market for GM foods
in Europe. "We believe there would be a market for GM foods in Europe if
they had a distinct advantage, such as reduced cost," Noussair says. "This
situation might very well be different in the US, where such distinct and
separate markets may not exist."
Despite the recommendation, Noussair says that some economists are opposed
to unnecessary labels and segregated markets. "It's very costly to keep GM
and non-GM crops and foods separate in the production stream," he says.
"To an economist it creates a deadweight expense if there is no reason for
doing it. However, given our data, we think that there is good reason to
have separate production tracks in Europe." In the US the law requires GM
products to be labelled only if there is an actual change in the food that
"Non-labelling is a science-based policy, and that is what we have in the
US," Noussair says. "Most scientists are opposed to labelling unless there
are specific known health and environmental consequences of using the
product." The study was conducted in 16 sessions in Grenoble, France. That
city was chosen because surveys have shown their views toward GM foods are
very similar to those of the Europeans overall. "French responses are
very, very close to the European average," Noussair says. "They are more
vocal about their views on the issue, but their views are approximately
the same." The study also used a cross-section of the population, which
Noussair says is unusual for such research: "99% of such studies are
conducted with college students, and they are actually much easier to do,"
he says. "There are methodological changes you have to make when you
survey real people."
Ruffieux says one amusing aside was that even though the people
participating in the survey were offered portions from the same large
chocolate bar, some participants said they thought the second portions
weren't as tasty as the first portion even though the servings were
identical. "It's amazing that once you think the product contains
something you think you don't like that you think it tastes differently,"
Benefits of GM Foods Far Outweigh the Risks
BIOTECHNOLOGY already offers benefits to the Australian people, the
environment, and the economy through better and safer medicines and
diagnostic testing, reduced chemical usage, rehabilitated degraded land,
and the creation of a world-renowned bio- industry. Biotechnology has the
possibility to further improve our lives, particularly in relation to
food. But before people make up their minds about genetically modified
food they need to look at the risks and the benefits on a case-by-case
A recent survey has highlighted that Australians want to be provided with
enough information to make informed decisions about the benefits and risks
of genetically modified food.
The survey by Quantum Market Research for Biotechnology Australia
questioned over 500 Australians on their attitudes to genetically modified
foods. The biggest change between the latest survey and a similar survey
conducted in May 2000 was a rise in the number of people wanting more
information about genetically modified food. Forty per cent felt that
simply labelling food as genetically modified did not give enough
information they wanted to know why the food was modified compared to 25
per cent in 2000. The public's quest for balanced, credible and factual
information should not be underestimated. Based on such information,
people make tough decisions all the time.
Life is a series of decisions. We balance the risks of taking medicines
with the benefits of better health, we balance the risk of travelling by
car with the benefits of reaching distant destinations, we balance the
risks of using mobile phones with convenience they bring to our lives, and
we balance the risks of using electricity with the benefits of heating our
homes. The problem for consumers in evaluating genetically modified food
is that the technology is new and they are not able to judge from
experience how risky it is.
It was the same when trains first started running. People worried that
train travel might cause illness because it was 'unnatural' to travel at
20 miles an hour. It happened with pasteurisation as well. People thought
it would remove the goodness from food. Now we know what a huge positive
difference pasteurisation has made to public health.
Sixty per cent of those surveyed said they would buy GM food if it had
been modified to be healthier than traditional foods (e.g. more nutritious
foods, or lower fat content foods) but only 51 per cent said they would
buy GM food that was modified to taste better.
It is clear people are making decisions by weighing up the risks and
benefits as they see them. Food that is healthier is a more powerful
benefit compared to food that just tastes better. Australian food tastes
pretty good already.
All genetically modified foods, additives and products used in the
processing of food are rigorously examined by the Australia New Zealand
Food Authority (ANZFA) before they are approved for use in Australia. They
are looked at on a case-by-case basis which is, I think, exactly what an
ordinary person would do.
People are not going to be fooled by simplistic arguments like 'all GM
food is unnatural therefore all GM food is bad'. We all know that some
ordinary foods cause allergies and that some, like high-cholesterol foods,
carry long-term health risks but we judge for ourselves whether the
benefits to us of each of these foods outweigh the risks. Nothing in life
can ever be 100 per cent safe.
The irony in all this is that GM foods are more extensively tested than
ordinary food. There are people saying how dangerous it is mixing genes in
new combinations but we have been doing this for thousands of years. That
is how most of the world's crops, like wheat, have been developed,
crossing plants by traditional methods.
People worried that train travel might cause illness because it was
'unnatural' to travel at 20 miles an hour. Genetic modification gives us
the opportunity to mix genes in a more precise way than we can with
Of course with any new technology we must move forward with the
appropriate caution and controls but society should not be denied the
opportunity to move forward and receive benefit from those technologies.
Biotechnology already provides benefits and has the potential to improve
our lives further. ANZFA is very cautious and demands extensive safety
testing before approving GM foods in Australia. I think the public can be
reassured by that. It's the approach they would take themselves after all
look at the risks and look at the benefits on a case-by-case basis.
Dr Rolleston chairs the Life Sciences Network, a New Zealand-based
organisation whose members have an investment in biotechnology and genetic
science. The network recently opened an office in Canberra. Tomorrow it
will host a seminar in Melbourne, Co-existence: an issue for GM and
organic farming? which will involve Australian and international experts
from both sides of the debate.
Gene Use Restriction Technology
From: "Collins, Harry B"
Subject: Corrections to Drew Kershan's Item
Last Friday, April 12, 2002, in the second item posted, Mr. Drew Kershan
wrote what I would consider a positive piece about GURTs. I am in
agreement with this assessment of GURTs. However, I want to correct some
of the information in this item.
He stated, "Gene Use Restriction Technology (GURT) is a TPS that prevents
the germination of the seed from the transgenic plant. My understanding is
that GURT was the initial patented TPS. USDA scientists created GURT and
USDA licensed it to Delta Land & Pine Company. [Patent # 5723765: Control
of plant gene expression. March 3, 1998] The GURT system was promptly
named Terminator by the anti-biotechnology ETC organization (formerly
known as RAFI)".
I would have said that the Technology Protection System (TPS) was the
initial GURT, or at least the first GURT to be well known. It is a V-GURT.
The TPS is one application of the technology covered by three patents
(5,723,765, 5,925,808 and 5,977,441), all named Control of Plant Gene
Expression. These technologies were actually invented by four researchers,
Dr. Don Keim, a cotton breeder employed by Delta and Pine Land Company,
and three USDA-ARS scientists, Dr. Mel Oliver, Dr. Norma Trolinder and Dr.
Jerry Quisenberry. This is why the USDA-ARS and Delta and Pine Land
Company share the ownership of the Control of Plant Gene Expression
patents. The research on TPS was then conducted by Dr. Mel Oliver, under a
I want to be clear concerning Mr. Kershen's message. I agree with his
general message, but wanted to correct some technical points.
- Harry Collins, Vice President, Technology Transfer, Delta and Pine Land
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Thanks to Drew Kershen for that additional information. I'd say whoever
coined the term "gene use restriction technology" made a tactical error.
They should not have used "use"; it should have been "control" or "escape
prevention" or just call it a gene leash-- "use restriction" definitely
does not sound like some environmentalist trying to keep the genes from
getting loose into the environment-- it sounds a lot more like some
corporation trying to keep control over a cash cow (and ETC, Greenpeace,
et al seem intent on butchering these cash cows-- the analogy doesn't seem
quite right for PETA!). - BOB
Destruction of Experimental GMO Field Trials is Unacceptable, Says
European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin
- European Commission Press Release April 17, 2002 (Via Agnet)
Destruction of experimental GMO field trials is unacceptable, says
European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin Following the destruction
of an experimental field trial with genetically modified colza in Alost,
Belgium, last week, the latest in a series of recent attacks on field
trials across Europe, European Research Commissioner
Philippe Busquin today expressed his firm disapproval for these acts of
violence. Field trials are conducted for developing genetically modified
as well as conventional plant varieties. The plant trials destroyed during
the attacks had been authorised by Belgian authorities and were carried
out under the appropriate health and safety conditions, in full compliance
with EU and local legislation. Plants targeted by vandals had been
modified through new, more precise and efficient genetic methods. Adding
the same genes through conventional plant breeding methods is a far more
imprecise and longer process. If carried out in the proper safety
framework, promising GMO technologies are expected to enhance EU
performance in health, environmental and agricultural policy.
"This is an example of ignorance and prejudice leading to illegal acts of
violence, that in the long run can only deny society the benefits that
scientific progress will bring about", said Commissioner Busquin. "The
freedom of research is a fundamental value in democratic societies. This
kind of research is key to overcoming suspicion and uncertainty about such
crops. If we do not invest enough in GMO research, our ability to innovate
and assess potential risks could be hampered. Ultimately, European
citizens will be the losers." Field research on genetically modified crops
has virtually come to a halt in most EU countries. Last year, the
Commission's Joint Research Centre, which monitors these activities in
co-operation with EU Member States, received 88 notifications for
genetically modified field trials (1). This is to be compared to an
average of 1500 field trials carried out annually in the US.
Stopping all GMO research in Europe may make the EU more dependent on key
technologies developed elsewhere. Benefits are not only related to
agricultural production improvements. A promising application of genetic
modification technologies is the development of plants with medical or
therapeutic properties. Should Europe stop nurturing know-how and
expertise to turn these technologies into market products, and without
appropriate research into the potential impact of genetically modified
plants on the environment, it will be difficult to know whether they can
bring about real benefits to EU citizens and consumers. Some leading EU
companies in this field have already closed down their research facilities
in Europe, and others have stressed they could relocate research
activities overseas, should the situation get worse.
Commissioner Philippe Busquin, for his part, insists that an open,
science-based dialogue between all stakeholders, for and against GMOs, is
indispensable. On 18 April 2002, the Commission will host the second
meeting of the Round Table on GMO safety research. The Round Table brings
together European bio-safety researchers and other stakeholders, such as
consumer organisations, environmental NGOs, national administrations and
industry. Over 15 years, the Commission has been supporting 81 bio-safety
research projects for a total EU funding of ?«® 70 million. The projects
involved over 400 teams from all parts of Europe.
For further information please see:
Information on the Round Table is available at
Development of Biotechnology in South Africa
- Stephanie G. Burton and Don A Cowan, Electronic Journal of
Biotechnology in South Africa stands at a cross-roads. As a country with
huge natural resources, equally huge social problems, and in a state of
positive transition to full multi-cultural development, SA faces the
complex task of effectively exploiting its science, technology and
resource base for the benefit of its society. The potential of
Biotechnology for social and economic development has only recently been a
focal point. There are signs, at all levels from central administration to
individual tertiary institutions, that the first decade of the 21st
century may be the point where Biotechnology 'comes of age' in South
* Full Article on the website
The Zero Risk Fiction
- Thomas R. DeGregori, Health Facts and Fears, April 12, 2002
Arguments against constructive change take many forms. One is what I have
called the myth of the "riskless alternative." Every change has its risks,
whether the change is political, scientific, or technological, but a
simple assertion of risk is not in and of itself an argument against
The risks of change have to be measured against the benefits of change and
the risks of not changing. Increasingly, we hear impossible demands for a
zero-risk society. In public discourse, scientists are asked to guarantee
that an innovation, be it genetically-modified food or a new
pharmaceutical, has no possibility of ever causing harm. Given that no
reputable scientist can ever answer such a question with absolute
certainty, the interrogator has seemingly won the argument by default - if
one believes that there is some totally risk-free alternative, either in
the status-quo or in some presumed prior way of doing things.
Opposition to change in favor of the status-quo-ante used to be considered
a conservative or reactionary position; now it has become the battle cry
of presumptive radicals from the streets of Seattle to those of Genoa and
beyond. Having "won" the argument by showing that safety cannot be
guaranteed with absolute certainty, the believers feel no need to subject
their proposed alternatives to the same tests, tests that would often
reveal that the radicals' plans carry far more risks than the innovations
Along with "riskless" change, there are now demands for "victimless"
change. Unfortunately, if there are possible risks, there are always
possible victims. If we examine the many changes over the past century
changes that have reduced infant and child mortality over 90%, have given
Americans nearly thirty years of added life expectancy, have recently
caused an even more rapid growth in disability-free years of life, and
have allowed comparable or greater advances in other countries Û we will
find that all those changes carried risks. Indeed, all those changes had
and continue to have organized opposition: chlorination of water,
pasteurization of milk, synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, modern
medicine, and immunization, to name a few. Pasteurization took nearly
fifty years to be introduced into the United States and the arguments
against it were identical to those used today against food irradiation.
Most every health intervention carries some risk, but those that we have
come to depend upon carry vastly fewer risks than the threat to life and
good health from the diseases that they protect against. But again,
nothing in life carries zero risk (although some vaccines seem to be
getting very close to that). I have a question that I have been asking for
over a quarter of a century: If technology and science are killing us, why
are we living so long?
Infant and child mortality and morbidity have so successfully been reduced
that we, individually and collectively, forget the scourge of the diseases
against which we are now protected. Unfortunately, infants and children
still suffer from other maladies, many with uncertain causes. Since
infants are given a regimen of eleven successive immunizations, it is not
surprising that some shots happen to coincide with the onset of an
unexplained malady. The anti-science and anti-technology coterie are quick
to assign the blame to immunization without a scintilla of evidence, and
they frighten parents into not immunizing their children. The evidence is
overwhelming that a decline in immunization will eventually lead to an
increase in disease, often with death or permanent health impairment
following in its wake. In the United Kingdom and Germany, some of these
fears have lead to declines in immunization, which have lowered the
immunization rate perilously close to the minimum necessary for "herd" or
"community" immunity. That could lead to epidemics of diseases such as
There is a role for the genuine radical in calling attention to victims of
change, encouraging us to ask, for instance, whether the costs of change
are falling unfairly upon certain groups or individuals. Focusing on the
victims and the risks sometimes helps us find ways to reduce the adverse
outcomes (by making our vaccines ever safer, for instance). The smallpox
vaccination that I received as a boy had more antigens than the combined
total of all eleven vaccines that are administered to infants and children
today. Those who were harmed by the vaccinations obviously knew it, while
the vastly greater number who didn't get smallpox (or any other disease
against which we were protected) went on with their lives without thinking
about the horrors they might have suffered without the vaccinations.
One of the problems in defending modern science and technology against its
critics is that so many of the benefits are unseen: nasty things that
don't happen to us. Suppressing a technology such as immunization creates
far more victims that does utilizing it. In other areas, such as
globalization of the world economy, it is not only who is harmed that
matters but who and how many benefit. Unfortunately, globalization
critics, as is increasingly the case for the critics of most of the
modernizing transformations, provide us with a litany of victims or
alleged victims without noting the many beneficiaries, such as the
hundreds of millions of people who have been able to rise out of poverty
as a result of having their economies opened to change. There is a kind of
Gresham's Law of social protest whereby the increasingly strident
opposition to all globalization drowns out more reasoned arguments for
making globalization fairer.
Wealthy advocacy groups largely controlled by white, northern-European and
North American males with sophisticated command of public relations and
media access Û have created a new form of neo-colonialist imperialism,
hijacking the political agendas of many oppressed peoples and misusing the
suffering of those people to oppose globalization and change. With six
billion people in close to two hundred sovereign political entities, the
world is replete with injustices, legitimate grievances, and indigenous
groups seeking a just remedy for them. Tragically, they are not able to
get a hearing in the media without the aid of the developed countries'
advocacy groups. Those advocacy groups demand that the poor of other
nations make their claims using slogans that conform to their own ideology
and fund-raising needs. To draw media attention to poverty in a southern
nation, local activists may have to conform to the party line of northern
groups such as Greenpeace. Thus, their real grievances are diluted or lost
Û as are the grievances of any groups pressured to use the litany of
political complaints favored by wealthy countries' elite activist groups.
Justice requires that the poorest and most needy in the world have the
opportunity to experience the changes that have benefited the rest of us.
They should not be hindered by groups that oppose change for others while
enjoying it themselves. Taking reasonable risks turns out to provide us
all with greater safety. Those who would force us to pursue the impossible
goal of absolute safety put us all in greater jeopardy. -- Thomas R.
DeGregori, Ph.D., is a Professor of Economics at the University of
Houston, is a member of the board of directors of ACSH, and has done
development work in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. His book The
Environment, Natural Resources, and Modern Technology has just been
published by Iowa State Press: A Blackwell Scientific Publishing Company.
The article is taken from a book manuscript to be completed later this
UK Tide Turning at last?
"At a Parish Meeting in a village near Bristol, England on Monday 15 April
there were presentations about the UK government's 3 year programme for
Farm Scale Evaluations (GM crop trials) from DEFRA (
http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/fse/index.htm ) and from Monsanto (
http://www.monsanto.co.uk/monsantouk/trials.html ) on their role in
identifying farmers willing to take part, for the independent scientific
steering committee to select from
After the farmer had explained what he normally does when growing fodder
beet and the less spraying involved when growing the GM beet alongside for
trial purposes, the villagers of Westerleigh (where the proposed trial is
located) gave him their support to go ahead.
The general feeing was that sound science had overcome sound bites - if
only to illustrate the point that the results from these trials will give
everyone involved the answers to the questions some of them are asking -
especially about biodiversity before the Government decides whether to
commercialise their growing in the UK."
Foods for Health
Advances in agriculture and medicine are bringing the world of food
production and medicine together to focus on health. Learn what this means
for you at Foods for Health, a unique national conference that examines
the perspective, policy and potential of integrating agriculture and
medicine. You won't want to miss Foods for Health, this year's annual
conference of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC)
hosted by the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and College
of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences.
This emerging area is already drawing the attention of a broad
audience---medical experts, consumers, plant breeders, food scientists,
agricultural researchers, epidemiologists, nutritionists, public health
professionals and leaders in ethics, consumer demand, behavioral trends
and regulatory and policy issues.
Please join this group from May 19-21 in Minneapolis. You can look at the
complete program of nationally-recognized speakers and thought-provoking
topics on the attached PDF. Or, if you prefer, the same information is
also on our web site (http://www.coafes.umn.edu/nabc2002). Register ONLINE
at http://www.coafes.umn.edu/nabc2002 -- John Byrnes, Director of
Communications, College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences,
University of Minnesota; 612-625-4743
Travel Fellowships to Attend the ABIC 2002 Saskatoon
Open, global access to agricultural biotechnology. This is a goal of the
Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) Foundation, and
the reason behind two bursaries for promising young researchers in
The ABIC Foundation has established two travel bursaries to enable
promising young scientists in developing nations to attend the 4th
Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC 2002),
agbiotech: cultivating convergence, this September 15 - 18 in Saskatoon,
Canada. ABIC 2002 will feature more than 60 national and international
speakers and is an important event for agbiotech scientists, researchers,
investors, industry leaders, and policy-makers.
Each bursary will cover the cost of return travel and accommodation for
one delegate to the conference. Applications are being accepted from
graduate students or post-doctoral fellows of accredited post-secondary
institutions whose studies focus on agricultural biotechnology. The
deadline for applications is May 15, 2002.
Application guidelines are available at the ABIC website
http://www.abic.net by clicking on ABIC Foundation, or by contacting: ABIC
Foundation c/o Ag-West Biotech Inc. #101 - 111 Research Drive, Saskatoon,
SK, Canada S7N 3R2 Fax: (306) 975-1966, E-mail: email@example.com
The ABIC Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1998 and
overseen by a board of stakeholders from seven countries. The Foundation's
goal is to ensure ongoing opportunities for continuous learning and
networking within the agbiotech community through ABIC. It is based in
Saskatoon, Canada. Information on the ABIC 2002 Conference can be obtained
on the website at
http://www.abic.net or by sending an email to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or,
phone CANADA (306) 683-2242.
"Corporate Scientists" are Enslaving "Farmers!"
- From Andrew Apel:
Colleagues, Below are some excerpts from a book I found published on the
internet. I've paraphrased the excerpts here and there, and my changes are
in brackets. See if you can guess the author and title of the original.
Walking about in the garden of Nature, most men have the self-conceit to
think that they know everything; yet almost all are blind to one of the
outstanding principles that Nature employs in her work. This principle may
be called the inner isolation which characterizes each and every living
species on this earth.
Even a superficial glance is sufficient to show that all the innumerable
forms in which the life-urge of Nature manifests itself are subject to a
fundamental law - one may call it an iron law of Nature - which compels
the various species to keep within the definite limits of their own
life-forms when propagating and multiplying their kind. Each animal mates
only with one of its own species. The titmouse cohabits only with the
titmouse, the finch with the finch, the stork with the stork, the
field-mouse with the field-mouse, the house-mouse with the house-mouse,
the wolf with the she-wolf, etc.
The [corporate scientist] uses every possible means to undermine the
[genetic] foundations of [native crop germplasm]. In his systematic
efforts to ruin [native landraces] he strives to break down the last
barriers of discrimination between them and other [varieties]. The
[corporate scientists] were responsible for bringing [foreign modified
genes] into [Mexico], with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the [native
varieties] which they hate and thus lowering its [quality] so that
[corporate science] might dominate. For as long as a people keep their
[seed] racially pure and are conscious of the treasure of their own
[biodiversity], they can never be overcome by the [corporate scientist].
The loss of [genetic] purity will wreck inner happiness for ever. It
degrades [germplasm] for all time to come. And the consequences to the
[ecosystem] can never be wiped out.
If this unique problem be studied and compared with the other problems of
life we shall easily recognize how small is their importance in comparison
with this. They are all limited to time; but the problem of the
maintenance or loss of the purity of the [native varieties] will last as
long as the [crops themselves] last.
Have you guessed the author or title yet?
It's Adolph Hitler, "Mein Kampf," chapter 7: "Race and People." For the
original text (albeit translated from German), visit
It's scary how the "corporate scientists" are enslaving "farmers,"
destroying traditional ways of life and threatening the "racial purity"
decreed by natural law, isn't it? - Andrew
From the AgBioWorld, Department of Accolades......
From: Norman Borlaug, CIMMYT
Date: Tue, 02 Apr 2002 13:45:20 -0600
Dr. C. S. Prakash, Director
Center for Plant Biotechnology Research
Dear Dr. Prakash:
I want to congratulate you for being named the recipient of the Man of the
Year for Alabama by "Progressive Farmer" magazine. Your work has been
outstanding in bringing common sense into the use of biotechnology not
only in the USA, but throughout the world. As I mentioned when I visited
Tuskegee last summer, I am very pleased that you have had the courage to
speak out about the need for adopting new technology to meet the world
food requirements and concentrating on producing the food that is needed
on the land best suited for agriculture, so that other vast land areas are
spared and will serve for other important uses such as habitat for
wildlife and for forestry, and for grazing outdoor recreation.
I also want to congratulate Tuskegee Institute for providing the
environment which permits you to speak out on many of these controversial
issues. I mentioned this to the top officials in Tuskegee that I came in
contact with during my short visit to your campus last year. The
initiative which you took to collect the endorsement of more than 3200
scientists in support of biotechnology, I think, was one of the very
visionary and helpful step that was taken to counteract much of the false
information that has been put out by pseudo-scientists and greenie
Your work on developing high protein transgenic sweet potatoes for use in
the USA and other parts of the world, as well as your basic studies on
gene mapping of peanuts will be great importance to mankind in the future.
I believe that those of us who have had broad experience in many different
parts of the world need to speak out against the pseudo-scientists and
over-elitist environmentalists who are trying to block the use of new
biotechnology which will be used to effectively increase food production
in the decades ahead. Unfortunately, I see that some of the greatest
extremists greenies are present in India such as Dr. Vandana Shiva and up
to two days ago, successfully blocked the release of Bt cotton. I hope
that now that Bt cotton has been released that the Indian scientific
establishment will be more aggressive in adopting GMO technology.
Norman E. Borlaug
(Reproduced with permission from Dr. Borlaug)