Today in AgBioView: May 130, 2002
* We Can Feed the World. Here's How
* Ten Reasons to Buy GMOs
* Comments by Kershen and DeGregori
* Human Health Effects of GM Corn - Report To FDA
* Gene Flow Among Maize Landraces, Varieties, & Teosinte: Implications For
* Carrots Modified to Contain Hepatitis B Vaccine
* International Symposium of Biotechnology - Andean Region
* Obituary: Charles Rick
* Economic Perspectives: Food Security and Safety
We Can Feed the World. Here's How
- Norman Borlaug, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2002
Thirty-two years ago, I was chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize,
representing the thousands of researchers who created the higher crop
yields of the Green Revolution. The extra food created saved perhaps a
billion people from starving in the 1960s.
Today, we are faced with another, equally enormous task. We must learn to
produce nearly three times as much food for the more populous and more
prosperous world of 2050, and from the farmland we are already using, in
order to save the planet's wildlands. That's why I am one of the signers
of a new declaration in support of protecting nature with high-yield
farming and forestry. (Co-signatories include former Sen. George McGovern
and Per Pinstrup-Andersen, the winner of the 2001 World Food Prize.)
The high yields of the Green Revolution also had a dramatic conservation
effect: saving millions of acres of wildlands all over the Third World
from being cleared for more low-yield crops. If the world were still
getting the low crop and livestock yields of 1950, at least half of
today's 16 million square miles of global forest would already have been
plowed down, and the rest would be scheduled for destruction in the next
three decades. Mexico, where I have done much of my high-yield research,
is nevertheless losing nearly 3 million acres of forest per year to the
expansion of peasant farms.
There are people telling us not to raise the yields. Some of them say that
modern food is not as healthy as yesterday's, though science can find no
lack of nutrients and, all over the world, the people eating modern crops
are growing taller and living longer. There are some who still fear that
more food encourages population growth, though food security has helped
bring Third World fertility rates 80% of the way to stability.
Some of the naysayers claim that modern, intensive farming is risking the
world's biodiversity. However, they apparently think it's more important
to save man-made biodiversity, such as antique farmers' varieties, than to
save the rich web of unique species characteristic of a wild forest. We
can save the farmers' old varieties through gene banks and small-scale
gene farms, without locking up half of the planet's arable land as a
low-yield gene museum.
I've spent the past 20 years trying to bring the Green Revolution to
Africa -- where the farmers use traditional seeds and the organic farming
systems that some call "sustainable." But low-yield farming is only
sustainable for people with high death rates, and thanks to better medical
care, more babies are surviving.
The International Food Policy Research Institute recently projected that
Africa is a "building catastrophe." African farms are currently locked in
a downward spiral, in which the traditional bush fallow periods are
shortened from 15 or 20 years to as little as two or three -- which means
crop yields are declining, soil nutrients are depleted, and still more
land must be planted every year to feed the people.
Africa desperately needs the simple, effective high-yield farming systems
that have made the First World's food supply safe and secure, and kept its
wild species from extinction: chemical fertilizers, improved seeds bred
for local conditions, and integrated pest management (with pesticides).
Without those basics, Africa is likely to see tens of millions more
undernourished children by 2020 -- even after it clears a whole Texas
worth of wildlife habitat for additional cropland. Yet the funding for the
FutureHarvest agricultural research network that serves the whole Third
World is only about $300 million per year.
If America were losing wildlands equal to the size of Texas, we'd believe
it was an urgent problem. We'd demand an increase in agricultural research
and a crash program to get new technology to farms. If millions of U.S.
children were starving for the simple lack of good seeds and fertilizers,
the government would fall.
The declaration that I, and others, have signed does not endorse any
particular technology or farming system. It simply notes that if the world
is to avoid a Hobson's choice between starving children and extinct
wildlife species, the first-order priority is higher yields on the land we
Mr. Borlaug, winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, teaches high-yield
farming systems under the sponsorship of the Sasakawa-2000 Foundation and
the Jimmy Carter Center.
Ten Reasons to Buy GMOs
- "Andrew Apel"
Whole Foods Markets has put together a press release with the title ì10
Reasons to Buy Organics,î which can be found at
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/issues/org_10reasons.html It doesnít say
anything that hasnít been said before, so it's rather humdrum. It's far
more interesting, though, if you take that release and replace the words
ëorganic,í etc. with ëGMOs,í etc. and read the result. It turns out, all
the claims made for organic can be made--and substantiated--for GMOs.
Except claim number ten, because nobodyís been able to show a taste
Ten Reasons to Buy GMOs
1.Support the environment. Production systems using GMOs support natural
ecosystems by using long-term farming solutions. This restores, maintains,
and enhances ecological harmony, and positively effects the health of the
2.Support our future needs. Farming with GMOs embraces the principle that
agriculture must meet the needs of the present without compromising the
needs of future generations.
3.Build a biologically diverse agriculture. Farming with GMOs respects
diversity within the environment, including protection of plant and
4.Help protect our water resources. Environmentally friendly farming
solutions contribute to the overall quality of our lakes, rivers,
estuaries, ground and drinking waters.
5.Increase productivity of the land. Agricultural biotechnology builds
productive nutrient-rich soil that resists topsoil erosion.
6.Help protect our health. Production systems using GMOs limit inputs of
toxic and persistent chemicals into the environment. Choosing foods made
from GMOs positively impacts our own health, the health of our children,
the health of farm workers, and the health of future generations.
7.Help small farms. Although more large-scale farms are making the
conversion to using GMOs, most farms using them are small, independently-
owned and operated family farms.
8.Support a true economy. Buying GMOs is a direct investment in the
long-term future of our planet. The choices we make now can free us from
costly pesticide-related environmental clean-ups in the future.
9.Save energy. Farming with GMOs is less reliant on non-renewable energy
sources, substituting renewable sources or labor to the extent that is
10.Food made from GMOs tastes great! Chefs across the country are
committed to using GM ingredients because plants from healthy soils and
livestock raised on GMOs provide us with more flavorful food. Foods made
with GMOs allow true flavors to shine through!
From: "Kershen, Drew L" Ý
Subject: Request for Information
I would like citations to any reports or articles addressing the impact of
conservation programs in the U.S. Farm bills since 1985 upon rural
population, land ownership, input-suppliers, out-put suppliers, etc.
Beginning in 1985, the U.S. farm bills including provision such as the
Conservation Reserve Program, the Highly Erodible Lands program, the
Wetlands Protection program. In the 1990 and 1996 farm bills additional
conservation programs came into being such as the Wildlife Habitat
Incentive Program. In the proposed 2002 farm bill, additional conservation
programs (e.g. the Conservation Security Program) are scheduled for
Each time a farmer or rancher takes land out of production and places the
land into a governmental conservation program, I suspect their must be an
impact on farm workers, seed dealers, implement dealers, elevators,
chemical dealers. As these workers, dealers, and elevators have fewer
sales, these in turn likely decrease their employment or exit commerce. It
seems to me that rural population, landownership, etc would be affected.
Does anyone know of studies addressing these issues?
I realize that this listserv is primarily about agricultural biotechnology
but I am hoping the readers of this forum will be able to direct me to the
information that I need.
Thanks, Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law, University of Oklahoma College of
From: "Tom DeGregori"
Subject: Comment on Consumers Union Press press release
Consumers Union Research Team Shows: Organic Foods Really Do Have Less
Consumers Union - Press Release, May 8 2002.
What about residues of natural pesticides, used by some organic (and
non-organic) farmers? Critics of organic agriculture have suggested that
residues of natural pesticides in organic foods pose risks comparable to
those of residues of conventional crop chemicals in non-organic foods. The
paper concludes there is no current evidence to support that assertion,
although the authors see this as an interesting question that should be
pursued with better data.
"At present there are no good residue data on the botanicals and other
natural pesticides, and some of those substances definitely should be more
fully evaluated for potential toxic effects," says Groth. But he
emphasized that "There is now no objective evidence of a problem with
residues of natural pesticides, whereas health risks associated with
residues of conventional pesticides in foods are well-established and the
focus of substantial regulatory efforts."
COMMENT BY THOMAS R. DEGREGORI
The oft repeated Green version of the Precautionary Principle is that
"absence of evidence of harm is not evidence of absence of harm."
In the Consumers Union Press press release, they admit to not testing for
the natural pesticides but still claim that they are safe. No testing
therefore no evidence. It is funny but lack of evidence of harm for GM
foods is evidence of harm but lack of evidence of harm for natural
pesticides is evidence of safety. Methinks that there is a bit of ideology
operating here. At least they are saying that "some of those substances
definitely should be more fully evaluated for potential toxic effects."
But if nobody is testing for them how can they be "more fully evaluated
for potential toxic effects." Should this be a task for Consumers Union
and Consumer Reports to which I subscribe? If it is an "interesting
question," may we inquire as to why it is not being asked? At least we can
be grateful that at least one of the press releases includes a statement
about not testing for "natural pesticides."
Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
An Investigation Of Human Health Effects Associated With Potential
Exposure To Genetically Modified Corn. Report To The Food And Drug
May 10, 2002 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2001) (Via
The full document is available at:
Gene Flow Among Maize Landraces, Improved Maize Varieties, And Teosinte:
Implications For Transgenic Maize
May 10, 2002 (Via Agnet)
Proceedings of a Forum Held at El Bat·n, Mexico, September 21-25, 1995
Serratos, J.A., Willcox, M.C., and Castillo, F., Technical Eds. (1997)
The full document is available at:
Carrots Modified to Contain Hepatitis B Vaccine
- By Hannah Cleaver, Reuters May 10, 2002
BERLIN (Reuters Health) - German scientists have grown genetically
modified carrots that contain the vaccine against hepatitis B, which they
say could dramatically cut the costs of preventing the disease.
Development has reached the stage where the carrots are ready to begin
pre-clinical trials and researchers say that carrot-sourced vaccines could
be a reality within about 3 years.
The current vaccine against hepatitis B is expensive to produce and is
administered via three injections, which further increases costs and
strains health services.
But now plant specialists and virologists from Giessen University in
Germany have successfully inserted the gene for the hepatitis B surface
antigen normally used in the vaccine into carrots, and have been growing
the vegetables in the thousands.
"We can make 100,000 or so plants in 2 weeks and within 3 months they are
ready to eat," said Dr. Jafargholi Imani from the research group at
He explained to Reuters Health that carrots are particularly good for this
purpose as they are easy to grow in many different climates and soil
"But it's not as if we will be able to hand out packets of seeds for
people to grow their own," he said. "These are transgenic plants and need
to be isolated. But it does mean that the plants can be grown where the
vaccine is needed."
Carrots are also easy to store, transport and consume raw, he said. Other
attempts to grow transgenic drug-containing tomatoes or potatoes have
suffered from the delicate physical nature of tomatoes and the fact that
potatoes are difficult to eat raw, while cooking would destroy the
Imani's team has been working on the carrots for around 2 years now and
are about to publish their initial report in the Dutch journal Plant Cell,
Tissue and Organ Culture. The paper has already been accepted and should
appear this summer.
"This now needs to be tested clinically, on animals and then people, to
see what kind of dosage will be needed and how it all works in practice,"
he said, adding that such testing would likely take at least 2 years.
"Here we could be ready to start producing within months if all goes
according to plan. I am very optimistic; it has been working very well. At
the moment the vaccine costs up to 200 euros and you have to have three
injections. We can afford this in the developed world but in other places
it is not an option."
Giessen University estimates there are around 350 million people around
the world infected with hepatitis B virus, which can severely damage the
liver and can be fatal. One million people are believed to die from the
International Symposium of Biotechnology-Andean Region
- From: Jaime Lazarte, Director IBT-UNALM
II International Symposium of Biotechnology-Andean Region
The event dates are: December 8-11, 2002 and will take place at the
Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Lima, Peru as a celebration of the
University's Centennial Celebration. Topics of the symposium are
Biotechnology and Biosafety.
Obituary: Charles Rick
The San Francisco Chronicle, May 11, 2002, p. A22
Charles M. Rick -- authority on tomatoes
(Forwarded by "Andrew Apel"
Charles M. Rick, a renowned botanist at UC Davis and an adventurous crop
scientist who was the worldís leading expert on the evolution and genetics
of the tomato, died May 5 at a retirement home in Davis. He was 87.
During his 60-year career, Dr. Rick tracked the most primitive wild
tomatoes from the highest Andes to the Galapagos Islands and collected
hundreds of different species to determine their genetic variation from
their modern domestic versions. His research laid the foundation for
mapping the entire genome of the tomato plant, and by identifying the
genetic basis of resistance to the tiny worm pests known as nematodes, he
led to the creation of tomato crops that are nematode-resistant.
His deep understanding of tomato genetics also has enabled many other
scientists to develop important varieties of the plant for commercial use.
Among Dr. Rickís major achievements in crop science was the creation of
the Tomato Genetics Resource Center at UC Davis, which holds the worldís
largest known collection of tomato seeds, including many primitive and
wild species that are now extinct in their native habitats. He served as
the centerís first curator, and in 1990 the center was named for him.
Dr. Rick retired as an emeritus professor at Davis in 1985, but he
remained active both in his genetics laboratory and in the campus
greenhouses until ill health forced him to stop only two years ago.
Born in Reading, Pa. in 1915, he worked in local orchards and began his
nature study as a Boy Scout. He attended Pennsylvania State University,
where he met and married Martha Overholts, the daughter of a Penn State
professor, and together they moved to Harvard where Dr. Rick earned his
doctorate in botany and plant genetics.
Martha Rick died in 1983. Surviving are a daughter, Susan Baldi, who
teaches anatomy and physiology at Santa Rosa Junior College; a son, John,
a Stanford University archaeologist; three grandchildren; and one great
Because Dr. Rick did not want a formal memorial service, his family is
planning an open house celebrating his life in June. Contributions in his
memory may be made to the Charles Rick Scholarship Fund in care of
Professor John Yoder, Department of Vegetable Crops, UC Davis, 1 Shields
Avenue, Davis, CA 95616-8687.
An Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State, Vol. 7, No. 2, May
Food Security and Safety:
(The current issue of this journal has a focus on food security and
safety. One can download all the papers listed below at the website
NEW CHALLENGES IN HUNGER By Tony Hall, Ambassador-designate to the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program and
International Fund for Agricultural Development; current Member, U.S.
House of Representatives; Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Task
Force on Hunger Hunger's elimination requires broad-based debt relief,
global markets open to developing country products, targeted food
assistance, legal protections for the poor, and creative public-private
partnerships that complement official development assistance.
ENSURING SAFE FOOD By Sally McCammon, Chief Scientist, Agriculture and
Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture The United
States has the most thorough food safety regulatory system in the world
that ensures no new product is released on the world market without
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE IN BANGLADESH: A SUCCESS STORY By Gordon West, Deputy
Assistant Administrator, Asia and Near East Bureau, United States Agency
for International Development By Gordon West, Deputy Assistant
Administrator, Asia and Near East Bureau, United States Agency for
International DevelopmentBangladesh's accomplishments in transforming its
devastated agricultural sector into one of the most productive farm
economies in all of South Asia is a major development success story.
GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY By G. Edward Schuh, Regents Professor of
International Economic Policy, University of Minnesota Alleviating food
insecurity will require governments to reallocate resources in support of
BATTLING HUNGER WITH BIOTECHNOLOGY By Gregory Conko, Director of Food
Safety Policy, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and C.S. Prakash,
Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics, Tuskegee University Needless
restrictions on agricultural biotechnology would harm the world's ability
to battle hunger in the 21st century.
RICE: WHY IT'S SO ESSENTIAL FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND STABILITY By Ronald
Cantrell, Director General, International Rice Research Institute The
challenge for the plant research community is to tap into the rice genome
sequence to produce higher yielding, more nutritious and more resistant
TWO VIEWS ON FOOD LABELING Consumers around the world should have accurate
information about the nutritional contents of their food, but the exact
nature of what food labels should include is at the heart of international
negotiations. Two opposing views present a full picture of the shape of
the discussion in the United States.
FOOD LABELING IN CODEX ALIMENTARUS By Ellen Matten, International Policy
Analyst, U.S. Codex Office
LABELING AND TRACEABILITY OF BIOENGINEERED FOODS By Kristin Dawkins, Vice
President, and Neil Sorensen, Program Associate, Institute for Agriculture
and Trade Policy
PROCESSING TECHNOLOGIES TO PROTECT FOOD By Timothy Willard, Vice President
of Communications, National Food Processors Association Food processes
that retard the deterioration of foods and prolong shelf life make an
important contribution to world food security.
Current or back issues of the journals, and the roster of upcoming
journals, can be found on the Office of International Information
Programs' International Home Page on the World Wide Web at
http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/journals.htm. They are available in
several electronic formats to facilitate viewing on-line, transferring,
downloading, and printing.
Comments are welcome at your local U.S. embassy or at the editorial
Editor, Economic Perspectives IIP/T/ES U.S. Department of State 301 4th
St. S.W. Washington, D.C. 20547 United States of America