Today in AgBioView: May 2, 2002
* Re: Heroes
* Losing the Debate
* Bt Corn Gets Favorable Review in French Newspaper
* Scottish Kids Have Unique Food Ideas
* Green spin is desperate propaganda
* Organic Foods Not Tastier or Healthier: Study
* Letter in Electrical Engineering publication
* Needs for pest control
* Rise in biotech crop use cited
* Don't ban genetically improved fish
Date: Thu, 02 May 2002 16:47:37 +0100
From: "Piero Morandini"
Subject: Re: Heroes
Just a comment on the article from "Tech Central Station" By Dennis Avery
(April 30, 2002).
Let me first state that I am in favour of high yield farming
forconservation, that I respect the people who signed the declaration and
that I am probably going to sign it (need still to read it...).
The comment is that part of the trouble transgenic plants are having with
environmental organisations is due to the fact that the belief in the Gaia
hypothesis is widespread in these organisation. Environmentalists see
technology and manipulation of nature by humans as a wound to gaia.
Therefore I welcome that Lovelock is supporting the petition and hope many
more will join, but I wonder what other gaia believers have to say.
Date: Thu, 02 May 2002 10:12:20 -0500
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Losing the Debate
Colleagues, It appears that in the US, the anti-biotech activists are
losing the ìpublic debateî over biotechnology, and losing it badly. To the
point where at least of one of them is complaining about it--and attacking
the press over the result. This is an obviously desperate move, since
credibility and good relations with the press is an important tool in the
arsenals of these fringe elements.
But itís true. A group with the cynically inaccurate name Food
First/Institute for Food and Development Policy (IFDP) says it has
determined that thirteen of the largest newspapers and magazines in the US
have ìall but shut out criticism of genetically modified (GM) food and
crops from their opinion pages,î and concluded that this shows ìan
overwhelming bias in favor of GM foods.î
Activist groups that have chosen to take part in (or, more accurately, to
help create) the ìpublic debateî over GM can scarcely complain over losing
it. Thatís one of the risks of debating. The IFDP also misapprehends or
intentionally distorts the notion of media ëbias.í The media have a
responsibility to provide balanced information, a standard somewhat
relaxed for opinion pieces. The responsibility to be balancedóeither in
news or in opinionódoes not imply that hare-brained theories and
frightening suppositions must be given the same weight as facts or
informed positions. Or even mentioned, for that matter.
To read the IFDPís rant against the press, visit:
Bt Corn Gets Favorable Review in French Newspaper
By Julianne Johnston
April 30, 2002
The U.S. ag attache in France reports the influential daily newspaper Le
Figaro ran a half-page article in favor of biotech corn. The article is a
synopsis of the results of several research studies conducted
simultaneously in France and the United States. The main research
conclusion is that Bt corn is basically harmless. (ref. 3037)
The article first indicates that the probability of the appearance of corn
borers resistant to Bt corn is very low. Over a two-year period, Denis
Bourguet (INRA) and David Andow (University of Minnesota) analyzed corn
borers from the U.S. Corn Belt, where Bt corn is grown on a large scale,
and corn borers from southwestern France, where little Bt corn is grown.
The results were recently published in Theoretical Applied Genetics. The
conclusion was that the risk of developing a Bt corn resistant corn borer
was one out of a million. Moreover, Le Figaroís article quoted INRAís
scientists Guy Riba and Denis Bourget, stating that with such a low
probability, stopping Bt corn production for a year and replacing it by
conventional corn production treated with insecticides would stop corn
borer resistance if it did appear.
Riba further explained that, since there is just one generation of corn
borer per year in France, compared to three generations in the United
States, and seven in China, the French have a longer time period to fight
against any corn borer resistance to Bt corn.
Scottish Kids Have Unique Food Ideas
The Associated Press
May 2, 2002
LONDON -- Cotton comes from sheep and oranges grow in Aberdeen. Or so some
Scottish children believe.
Almost two-thirds of urban Scottish 9- and 10-year-olds believe that sheep
produce cotton and more than half think their country has the climate to
grow oranges, according to a survey published Thursday.
Some 15 percent of pupils questioned by the Royal Highland Education Trust
believed bananas could also be cultivated in Scotland.
However, 83 percent knew that potatoes, a Scottish staple, were grown
"We were surprised at just how little children knew where food comes
from," said the trust's chairman, John Morison.
"I was amazed at the level of it, bananas don't (just) not grow in
Scotland, they don't even grow in this part of the world. It's a challenge
The trust has launched a $15,000 initiative encouraging schools to take
children onto farms to learn about food production.
The trust questioned 126 pupils in more than 50 primary schools in
Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Established in 1999, the trust is the education arm of the Royal Highland
Agricultural Society and is concerned with educating youngsters about the
Green spin is desperate propaganda
ACT New Zealand
01 May 2002
Clearly the Greens have closed their minds to scientific analysis,
something that is entirely consistent with their science free New Zealand
approach, ACT Environment Spokesman Gerry Eckhoff said today.
"The Green Party's spin on the results of honest science at Otago
University is simply desperate propaganda and an attempt to support what
are extravagant claims by the organic food industry.
"The Otago Study confirms the results of other studies overseas and the
conclusions of the Advertising Standards Authority of UK that organic food
is objectively the same in nutrition and taste.
"One positive for the organic food industry from the Otago study was that
organic food was also microbiologically indistinguishable from
conventional produce. Some commentators had speculated that due to greater
insect damage the opportunity for attack by fungi and other microbes was
greater in organic foodstuffs. This was shown in the Otago study to be an
assumption not supported by the facts.
"Diane Bourn and her team of scientists should be congratulated for their
service to consumers and not have their words twisted and selectively
quoted for political purposes by self-interested parties like Ian
Ewen-Street," Gerry Eckhoff said.
Organic Foods Not Tastier or Healthier: Study
May 01, 2002
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A review of international studies found no
convincing evidence to back claims that organically grown foods were
healthier or tastier than those grown using chemicals, New Zealand
researchers said on Wednesday.
Diane Bourn, a food science lecturer at Otago University, said the bulk of
around 100 reviewed studies--mainly from Europe, but with some from the
United States and Australia--were poorly done.
The nutritional value of food was influenced by the time of harvest,
freshness, storage and weather, but many studies claiming organic food had
more vitamins and minerals did not take proper account of these factors,
"To date, I feel there's no evidence that organic food is nutritionally
superior," she said. "When you look at those studies in detail, they're
actually pretty awful...they're not really strong enough to be able to say
The organic food sector has grown massively in recent years, accelerated
by food scares, especially in Europe and Japan. The sector was recently
valued by a new London-based organic produce exchange at $30 billion-plus
a year, with organic produce usually commanding a premium in shops.
Organic producers avoid the use of artificial pesticides, fertilizers and
herbicides. There are no fixed standards although a number of
certification agencies monitor produce and some food authorities set
organic produce rules.
Otago University was commissioned by state-owned science agency Crop &
Food Research to carry out the study.
While there was a lot of anecdotal evidence about organic food tasting
better than conventionally grown food, the studies reviewed could not
conclusively back-up those claims, Bourn said.
However, she added, there were clear environmental benefits from growing
organically and reduced pesticide residues in organics supported claims of
improved food safety.
New Zealand food exports total $6 billion a year, the bulk of its total
exports. Only a small fraction of the food exports are promoted as
Date: Thu, 02 May 2002 13:46:36 -0400
From: "Charles M. Rader"
Subject: Letter in Electrical Engineering publication
The attached file is a verbatim transcript of a letter that appeared in
the May issue of THE INSTITUTE, a monthly newsletter mailed to several
hundred thousand members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic
Perhaps someone would be interested in sending a letter or an email to the
editor of THE INSTITUTE with comments.
The editor is Kathy Kowalenko. The editorial office address is
IEEE Operations Center
445 Hoes Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08855-1331
c engineered foods might be worth the risk, but overall I am not
convinced.Have we learned anything from those reckless radiation
experiments on soldiers after World War II? Now we look back and shudder
at how careless we were.
This new era of geneticallly modified organisms ia a parallel to the
atomic age in the '40s and '50s. It was totally new, and we did not have
road maps. We had no idea of radiation's long-term effects. These new
foods are thrown at a hungry world without proper testing. But I guess we
do not care about that. We take advantage of the Third World's lack of
environmental laws and worker protections, and send them the detritus and
dangers of an industrial civilization. And make a hell of a profit.
The manufacturers are patting themselves on the back for their
humanitarian genius but they do not mention that these plants cannot
produce seeds for the next crop. If you want more food, you need to buy
more seeds from ... guess who?
One new bio product -- a new form of corn -- produces its own pesticide
through DNA derived from bacillus thuringiensis. We later found out that
it is deadly to monarch butterflies, not a big deal unless you like
butterflies, but it points out a dangerous pattern of ``fire, aim,
Genetically modified food may save livesin the long run, and I hope it
will, but it needs much more testing. If the industrialized world is so
focused on humqanitarian efforts, they should be sending low-cost AIDS
drugs, potable water, sanitation systems and solar power plants to Africa.
John J. Christiano
Franklin, N.J., USA
Date: Thu, 02 May 2002 10:28:36 +0300
Subject: Needs for pest control
From: "Jonathan Gressel"
Further to the discussions on needs for pest control in the developing
world, a pdf of a recent paper is attached paper [write to Jonathan for
the paper]: F. Kanampiu, et al. Appropriateness of biotechnology to
African agriculture: Striga and maize as paradigms Plant Cell, Tissue and
Organ Culture 69: 105‚110, 2002., demonstrating how a small amount of
herbicide applied to a herbicide resistant maize can triple yields in
Striga infected areas (average of 50 field sites in 4 countries over a few
seasons). This is also described in a recent edition of Biosafety News.
See details at: http://www.biosafetynews.com/story1.htm
Weeds have become a major problem in rice, as women (the predominant
planters in most areas) would rather take an awful factory job instead of
breaking their backs, hand transplanting rice in the muddy ooze of a rice
paddy in the hot sun. The average age of rice farmers is increasing
throughout the world, as those who can, get away. Direct seeding is taking
over almost everywhere, and has concomitant problems of weeds, especially
feral red rice, the same species as rice. Only a true misogynist would
want to return to (fe)manually transplanted rice. Biotechnology has a real
challenge to develop herbicide resistant rice with sufficient failsafe
mechanisms to preclude transgene flow to the red rice - no single failsafe
method will probably be enough..
Prof. Jonathan Gressel
Weizmann Institute of Science
Rehovot IL76100, Israel
Rise in biotech crop use cited
May 03, 2002
The use of genetically modified crops increased by some 19% last year as
the world's farmers planted new biotechnology processed seeds at almost
twice the rate they did the previous year.
This was disclosed by Noel Borlongan, government and public affairs
director of Monsanto Philippines, Inc., the local office of the world's
leading agricultural research firm.
Mr. Borlongan cited a report by the International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-Biotechnology Applications (ISAA) which also said
there are now about 130 million acres of land worldwide that are planted
to biotechnology processed plants.
Biotech crops now account for 52% of the United States' corn, soy, cotton
and canola acreage, Mr. Borlongan said citing the ISAA report.
Mr. Borlongan added that the US grew 68% of the world's total biotech crop
acres, or 88.4 million acres.
The Philippines imports part of its corn requirements for livestock feeds
from the US.
Mr. Borlongan said the significant increase in the global use of biotech
crops has resulted in greater farm productivity and brought several parts
of the world, especially Third World countries closer to food security.
He also said the growing use of biotech crops indicates the rising
confidence in both the productivity and safety aspects of biotechnology.
There is also a growing recognition of biotech crops to the protection and
preservation of the environment since the use of such crops significantly
reduce the amount of required insecticide and herbicide application.
Biotechnology allows for the development of plant seeds that are naturally
resistant to specific insects and weeds.
Mr. Borlongan said outside of the US, Argentina's farmers grew 29.2
million acres of biotech crops or 22% of the world's total. Canada
accounted for 6%, and China, 3%.
Several Asian countries have already begun the commercial use of biotech
crops. Mr. Borlongan said Indonesia recently planted some 10,000 hectares
of its corn farm with biotechnology processed corn called Yieldgard. The
product is now undergoing farm testing in the Philippines.
Mr. Borlongan said Monsanto is optimistic that Yieldgard will be
commercially available in the Philippines by the middle of this year. He
said Monsanto is actively seeking out groups opposed to biotechnology for
a scientific dialogue on the nature and benefits of this modern process.
He assured anti-biotechnology groups that Monsanto will support moves by
the Philippine government to provide farmers with the option of using
traditional seeds or biotechnology processed seeds.
Don't ban genetically improved fish
San Diego Union Tribune
By Joseph D. Panetta
May 1, 2002
For years scientists have worked to modify the genes of salmon and other
fish to increase their viability for commercial production. These
genetically improved, or transgenic, lines of commercial fish have the
potential to provide tremendous benefits to the business of aquaculture,
to the ocean environment and to the world's food supply.
Next week, separate committees of the Legislature will consider two pieces
of legislation that prematurely establish unnecessary and overburdensome
restrictions on transgenic fish and transgenic fish products in
California. Both pieces of legislation will ultimately hurt California's
economy. On a broader scale, the proposals so poorly define what
constitutes genetic alteration, they could seriously impede scientific
efforts to improve food production in the years ahead.
The first bill, authored by state Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford, would
prohibit in the state of California, the import, transport, possession or
release of any live fish that has been genetically improved. This bill,
should it pass, would hinder the ability of California fisheries to
compete with fisheries located in other states. Fisheries in other states
will be able to take advantage of new science that enables them to
dramatically increase production. Fisheries in California will not.
In the United States, transgenic fish are currently under development by
Aqua Bounty Farms of Massachusetts. Aqua Bounty is producing stable lines
of Atlantic salmon that possess a gene that protects them from freezing
when raised in icy waters. They also possess a gene that expresses a
growth hormone so they reach maturity more quickly, while requiring less
food. Aqua Bounty is awaiting approval to market transgenic fish as a food
source from the Federal Drug Administration. FDA approval is not expected
until at least 2004. Thus, it is highly premature to impose the nation's
toughest restrictions on genetically altered fish at the state level.
Opponents of transgenic fish suggest that the fish will escape from the
aqua culture facilities where they are raised and pollute the gene pool of
wild salmon. Their unfounded fear is that transgenic salmon will overpower
other wild fish species and upset the ocean environment. Aqua Bounty has
taken fail-safe steps to ensure that this cannot happen; they have created
fish that cannot reproduce. These opponents seek to prohibit the very
solution to their concerns. Transgenic fish will not harm the ocean
environment. What will harm the ocean environment is continued
over-fishing in open seas by commercial fishing operations trying to keep
up with increasing demand for high-quality sources of protein. By
improving production in aquaculture facilities, we can help meet this
demand without exploiting the balance of the ocean's ecosystem.
The second piece of legislation, by Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin,
Duncans Mills, is a bill to require additional labeling for products that
contain genetically improved fish in order to identify them as
"transgenic." This proposal could add millions of dollars in packaging
costs, thus increasing costs to consumers. Since there is currently no
identified risk associated with transgenic fish products, this proposal
would only increase food prices with absolutely no benefit to the
consumer. On the contrary, these labels would only serve to mislead
consumers by implying some inherent danger that simply does not exist.
The FDA review framework is the most stringent in the world. There are
safeguards in place under the federal regulatory system to ensure that
transgenic fish will be properly reviewed for public and environmental
health and safety long before they are approved as a food product. And
federal regulations already require labeling if there have been
significant changes made to a food. The bottom line is that these proposed
pieces of legislation are redundant and over-regulate biotechnology in a
manner not based on scientific reality.
California biotechs are on the verge of commercializing numerous products
that will improve the lives of people around the world. But if more and
more layers of regulation are added, it becomes more difficult and costly
to get products to market. At the same time, it discourages investment
from bankers, venture capitalists and other private investors, which are
critical to biotech's viability. Both of these proposals set a bad
precedent for our state Legislature. They will send the message that
California is not a biotech-friendly state and will deliver a strong blow
to an industry that is critical both to our future economy, and to solving
the world's future food needs.