Today in AgBioView: June 6, 2002
* 'Natural' & Organic Foods 8 Times More Likely to Have Safety and Recall
* Organic farming could kill billions of people
* Greenpeace and Biotech: Truth or Deliberate Scare
* Cotton Information
* Yoder Talks Biotechnology at Conference
* Chinese/Greenpeace "research"
* EU PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE BACKS SPECIAL LABELS ON ALL PRODUCTS TOUCHED BY
* Worrying About Frankensteinís Monster
'Natural' & Organic Foods 8 Times More Likely to Have Safety and Recall
Problems, Review by Food Policy Think Tank Finds
Contact: Alex Avery of the Center for Global Food Issues, 540-337-6354,
WASHINGTON, June 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Organic and "all natural" products
are revealed to be eight times more likely to be recalled for safety
related problems than conventional products, according to U.S. Food and
Drug Administration and Health Canada records.
A nine-month review by the non-profit Center for Global Food Issues of
monthly food and supplement product recalls reported by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration and the Food Inspection Agency of Health Canada show
products marketed as organic or "all natural" have significantly higher
recall and warning rates than conventional foods. Reasons for recalls and
warnings included failing to label products with potentially dangerous
allergenic ingredients, mislabeled products, bacterial contamination and
other serious safety-related concerns.
"An $8 billion-plus industry in North America, organic products still
represent less than one percent of the total marketplace, yet they
accounted for more than 8 percent of all recalls," noted Alex Avery,
research director for the Center for Global Food Issues. "This suggests
that consumers have an eight-fold higher risk factor for safety-related
recalls when they purchase higher-priced organic products over less costly
Some retailers, like Whole Foods Markets have multiple violations for the
same products and violations. While urging consumers to be aware of food
recalls, the Center reminds consumers that the U.S. and Canadian
conventional food supplies are the safest in the world. In fact, the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control reported in February a substantial and
sustained decline over the past five years in the number of illnesses
caused by major foodborne pathogens due to the strength of existing food
To see a list of the number of organic or "100 percent natural" food
product warnings for the last nine months, see:
Also, to see a list of recalled products, the reason for the recall, and
the date of notice see
http://www.usnewswire.com/topnews/first/0605-160.html (scroll down to
Organic Alchemy -- Organic farming could kill billions of people
By Ronald Bailey
June 5, 2002
Organic food production is growing by leaps and bounds in the United
States. Many consumers are willing to pay premium prices for organic
fruits, vegetables, and meats, convinced that they are helping the earth
and eating healthier.
Swiss scientists at the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture have
just published a 21-year study in Science comparing two types of organic
farming with two types of conventional agriculture. The results initially
seem to back up those consumer beliefs, and the press has described the
research as showing that organic farms are "viable" (to quote the Los
Angeles Times) and "more efficient" (to quote Reuters). But donít rush out
just yet to Whole Foods to stock up on organic arugula or chard.
Organic farming boils down to essentially two principles: Soluble mineral
inputs, such as artificial nitrogen fertilizer, are forbidden, and so is
the use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides. Another of the organic
systems tested by the Swiss scientists, called bio-dynamic, was dreamed up
by the German "anthroposophist" mystic Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s.
Biodynamic farming uses such novel preparations as manure fermented in a
cowís horn that is buried in the soil for six months through autumn and
winter. To these original principles, organic farmersí organizations have
recently proscribed growing genetically enhanced crops.
One of the most frequent criticisms of organic agriculture is that it is
not as productive as conventional farming. The Swiss scientists confirmed
this: Their organic plots were on average 20 percent less productive than
conventional plots. For potatoes, organic production was about 40 percent
lower. The researchers also point out that "cereal crop yields in Europe
typically are 60 to 70% of those under conventional management."
Furthermore, they dispelled the notion that organic crops are superior
food by noting, "There were minor differences between the farming systems
in food quality."
The Swiss scientists based their claims for greater organic "efficiency"
chiefly on the differences in the amount of energy used to produce the
crops. Since the same horticultural techniques were used on both
conventional and organic plots, the difference in energy use was mostly
the result of counting the energy used to produce inorganic fertilizers
and pesticides. On this basis, the researchers claim in their Science
article that organic farms use about 50 percent less energy. However,
looking at the fine print, one discovers that "since crop yields were
considerably higher in the conventional systems, the difference in energy
needed to produce a crop unit was only 19 percent lower in the organic
Secondly, the researchers declare that they found nutrients "in the
organic systems to be 34 to 51% lower than in conventional systems,
whereas mean crop yield was only 20% lower over a period of 21 years."
But--to ask the organic advocatesí own question--is organic agriculture
sustainable over the long run? Again, the fine print says no. As their
research confirms, organic farming is mining the soil of its vital
minerals, particularly phosphorus and potassium. Eventually, as these
minerals are used up, organic crop production will fall below its already
low level. Conventional farming, on the other hand, restores mineral
balances through fertilization.
"The Swiss researchers are not thinking globally, theyíre only acting
locally," says Alex Avery, director of research for the Hudson Instituteís
Center for Global Food Issues. Avery points out that organic farming can
supply food for niche markets of affluent consumers but cannot feed a
hungry world. Other methods of food production can. In his new book
Enriching the Earth, the University of Manitoba agronomist Vaclav Smil
credits the Haber-Bosch method of producing nitrogen fertilizer, invented
in 1909, with sustaining two billion people today.
Synthetic fertilizers now supply 40 percent of all the nitrogen used by
crop plants. Without this artificially produced fertilizer, farmers would
simply not be able to grow the crops necessary to feed the worldís
population. Organic sources of nitrogen, such as animal manure and
leguminous plants, would supply only about a quarter of the nitrogen
needed. (The remainder comes from rain and lightening.) Other inventions,
such as high-yielding crop varieties and modern farm equipment, have also
been vital to boosting food supplies. For example, when farm tractors
arrived after the 1920s, they replaced draft animals that consumed a
quarter of the crops grown in the United States.
Keep in mind that plants cannot tell the difference between "natural"
sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and "artificial" sources of
those elements. The reason is that there is no difference, outside the
minds of organic farmers.
The Swiss researchers did find some true benefits from organic farming,
including greater water retention by the soil and a higher presence of
beneficial insects. Unfortunately, they did not test their organic systems
against the newest form of conventional agriculture, no-till farming
combined with genetically enhanced crops. This uses much less energy and
less pesticides than the old-fashioned systems examined by the Swiss
Since no-till farmers donít plow, their tractors use less fuel. Also,
since weed control is achieved using environmentally benign herbicides
instead of mechanical removal through plowing, even more fuel is saved.
Finally, no-till farmers use less insecticide, since genetically enhanced
crops can protect themselves against pests. Against all this, organic
farmingís 19 percent energy advantage would likely disappear.
No-till farming matches several other advantages of organic agriculture as
well. Both methods offer improved soil structure, more water retention,
greatly reduced soil erosion, less pesticide and fertilizer runoff, and a
higher presence of beneficial insects. Although organic farmers refuse to
see it, switching to genetically enhanced crops would go a long way toward
accomplishing their avowed goals of restoring their land and helping the
One final argument often offered by organic enthusiasts is that organic
farming is more profitable. Of course, the reason organic foods command a
premium at supermarkets is that so many consumers have been bamboozled
into thinking that they are somehow superior. If organic farming became
widespread, that premium would dissipate and take its higher profitability
As the Cambridge chemist John Emsley recently concluded, "The greatest
catastrophe that the human race could face this century is not global
warming but a global conversion to ëorganic farmingí--an estimated 2
billion people would perish." News reports may hail the Swiss study as
proving that organic farming is sustainable, but it actually did the
Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent and the editor of Earth
Report 2000: Revisiting the True State of the Planet(McGraw-Hill)
Greenpeace and Biotech: Truth or Deliberate Scare
International Foundation for the Conservation of Resources
June 5, 2002
On June 8th Greenpeace is calling for a ìNational Day of Actionî against
genetically engineered food. Specifically, Greenpeace is asking (in some
cases directing) its operatives and consumers to demand that Safeway,
Shawís, and Star Markets remove any and all foods with genetically
engineered ingredients from their store shelves.
Greenpeace advocates see this move as safeguarding the publicís food
supply. Critics of Greenpeace might characterize it as yet one more
attempt to strong-arm controversy-shy corporations into bowing to
Greenpeaceís version of reality.
On the issue of biotechnology and Greenpeaceís view of it, a strong case
can be made that what Greenpeace sees as reality has very little to do
The Greenpeace ruckus over claims of genetic contamination of Mexican
maize (corn) is a classic example of creating the perception of reality
based on a claim a hundred scientists and other experts in the field
contend has little or no truth supporting it.
Nature magazineís edition dated 29 November 2001 ran a story by Ignacio
Chapela and David Quist of the University of California at Berkeley
claiming to prove that maize in 15 of 22 Mexican maize growing communities
tested positive for contamination by genetically engineered strains.
Greenpeace seized upon the report and used it to support its campaign
calling for a ban on importing GE maize by Mexico as a threat to the
global biodiversity of the planetís ancestral home for maize. Greenpeace
also called for legal action against Life Science concerns such as
Monsanto, Novartis, Aventis etc.
Chapela, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is an
outspoken critic of biotechnologyís role in modern agriculture. He plays a
pivotal role in the Greenpeace scenario. But, his role and the evolution
of the Mexican ìGE Maizeî furor got lost to everyone save those in the
agricultural biotech community due to the horrific events of September 11,
In an edition of Nature that appeared a scant two weeks after the ì9-11î
terrorist outrage (27 September 2001) Ignacio Chapela was identified as
the source for the identification of unsanctioned patches of genetically
modified corn/maize being grown in ìscattered plotsî in the Mexican states
of Oaxaca and Puebla. Chapela turned over his information to Mexican
authorities who, in turn, launched their own investigation into these
illegal gardens. Mexico imposed a moratorium on genetically engineered
plantings in 1998.
The same day Nature published its September 27th edition, Greenpeace
unleashed its public relations/news release professionals. Instead of
revelations that illegal genetically modified corn was being ìgrownî in
Mexico, the Greenpeace news release decried Mexican corn varieties in 15
communities that ìsuffered contaminationî from genetically engineered
corn. No mention of Dr. Chapela was made. The Greenpeace media operation
hammered home the idea that ìthe world is at risk of losing unique
diversity of corn to genetic pollution.î
Greenpeace ìbackground informationî entitled ìMaize Under Threatî issued
that month juxtaposes references to Teosintes, the wild grass believed to
be the ancestor from which modern corn/maize evolved through humans
interfering with its genetic make-up and cross-breeding it into maize.
The semantic shift from illegal plots of GE corn growing in Mexico to
ìgenetic contaminationî as well as the reference to loss of biodiversity
and to teosintes were not accidents. In combination, they appear to make a
case that would at the least pique the interest of delegates meeting the
following month at the United Nationís meeting on the Cartegena biosafety
protocol to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, October 1-5, 2001.
The methodology used by Greenpeace (and other anti-biotech NGOs) to use
the Nature magazine article to fashion an international campaign designed
to capture headlines and influence national and international public
policies on bioengineered agriculture is fascinating in a macabre way.
Chapelaís November Nature article did in fact mirror the Greenpeace
rhetoric regarding ìgenetic contaminationî from GE maize. It claimed
ìlandraceî varieties of corn suffered 3 to 10 percent contamination. It
did not claim teosintes were affected. Landrace corn is corn that was
developed via human intervention in the development of its particular
strain. As scientists familiar with scientific methodology read the Nature
article they saw what are described in biotech research literature as
ìfundamental flawsî in the methodology used by Chapela and Quist. At issue
was whether or not Dr. Chapela and his research assistant did indeed find
ìtransgenic promoterî associated with transgenic maize. In this case, the
promoter is ìcauliflower mosaic virus 35S" (CaMV 35S).
The most significant criticism of the Chapela/Quist research is that the
methodology employed by the two researchers is highly prone to
contamination by a variety of vectors including the researchers merely
handling samples. Over the next six months extensive research was
conducted to replicate the Chapela findings by means of unimpeachable
methodologies. Among the authorities testing the Chapela/Quist findings is
the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, officially known as
Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maize y Trigo - CIMMYT.
CIMMYT collected seeds for all 28 maize landraces from the state of Oaxaca
during 1997-99. These and others totaling 152 Mexican varieties were
screened. All failed to detect the CaMV 35S promoter. The 28 varieties
were also germinated and their DNA extracted and tested. Again, no CaMV
35S promoter was found.
The mound of evidence that the Chapela/Quist research did not meet basic
scientific standards continues to grow. Transgenic Researchís Editorial
Board concluded the Chapela/Quist report was at best ìa testimony to
technical failure and artifacts (contaminants) which are common with PCR
and IPCR (the discredited methodology employed by Chapela and Quist).
But that is not the end of the story.
The perceptual damage is done and ìbad scienceî has become perceptual
reality. In a report entitled ìAgronomic Benefits and Risks of Using
Roundup Ready Wheat in Western Canada,î R. Van Acker and M. Entz of the
University of Manitoba make the reference that ìrecently there has been
evidence of transgenes escaping from corn to teosente (sic) in Mexico.î
The campaign by Greenpeace and others against agricultural biotechnology
will not be deterred because it lacks scientific underpinnings. Perception
is reality in the world of political activism and that reality too often
lacks any semblance of truth.
From: "Muhiddin salomov"
Subject: I need information
Date: Thu, 06 Jun 2002 05:40:59 +0000
I'm Muhiddin Salomov
Research student I need information about Repproduction of cotton, drying
of cotton and cotton technology.
Please, Can you send these information
Kasansay street -7
Yoder Talks Biotechnology at Conference
National Corn Growers Association
June 5, 2002
National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President-elect Fred Yoder
provided a grower's perspective of biotechnology Tuesday at the Corn
Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) in Kansas City, calling the
technology "an important asset" for the future of farming.
Yoder, a grower from Plain City, OH, said biotech planting showed 19%
increase this past year. "Biotech crops accounted for 7% of the world's
corn and the U.S. has led the charge by planting 68% of biotech crops
globally. Worldwide, over five and a half million farmers are using
His presentation was one of three perspectives offered: a developer's
perspective, presented by Roger Untiedt, Minnesota Corn Processors; a
grower's perspective, presented by Yoder; and a food processor's
perspective, presented by Susan Harlander, BIOrational Consultants, Inc.
Yoder provided an overview of biotechnology, from its availability for
commercial use in 1996 to the problems with StarLink last year. "StarLink
was never a food safety issue," he said. "It was a regulatory issue. It
created a negative image for biotech corn that certain activists seized
"Biotech can and will be an important asset to us in the future," Yoder
continued. "It will help us conserve soil and water, it can provide a very
selective insect control without destroying beneficial insects, it can
provide a better-quality product to our customers and, most importantly,
it has the capacity to help feed a hungry world, which may grow to 10
billion people by 2050."
Yoder also explained NCGA's goals and objectives concerning biotech. "We
must minimize trade distortions related to the technology," he said.
"Consumers in the European Union (EU) have some concerns about biotech
food products. We have a group of representatives from the U.S. Grains
Council and the NCGA in Europe this week meeting with EU agriculture
regulators and producers to discuss biotech issues.
"We are also expanding our 'Know Before You Grow' program and getting the
facts out there to our growers to answer any questions they may have," he
The CUTC is co-hosted every other year by the NCGA and the Corn Refiners
Date: Wed, 05 Jun 2002 13:07:57 -0400
From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: Chinese/Greenpeace "research" supposedly showing environmental
harm from Bt cotton
All, I've reviewed the Chinese report purportedly showing environmental
damage from Bt cotton. To make such a conclusion, let alone the conclusion
of the Dutch headline of "large environmental damage by Bt cotton", is
laughably absurd, ridiculous, and preposterous. There is no negative
environmental consequences demonstrated AT ALL. None: ZIP, ZERO, NADA.
It looks like the Chinese Academy of Sciences has an easy job of
"refuting" this, as the Dow Jones Newswires has reported they are doing
My excerpted summary of the reports, taken from the report itself is
below, but please read the reports for yourselves. Klaus Ammann has
provided them on his site at:
There are 6 basic conclusions, none of which demonstrates ANY
environmental harm. A summary of the six conclusions below (directly
quoted from executive summary of Chinese report):
1. "the populations of parasitic natural enemies [of cotton bollworm] in
Bt cotton fields are significantly reduced."
2. "Some pests replaced bollworm as primary pests and damaged cotton
3. "the stabilities of insect community MAY be less than those in
conventional cotton, and the POSSIBILITY of outbreaks of certain pests in
Bt cotton is much higher." (emphasis mine, however this is a hugely
speculative statement and even if true still doesn't demonstrate ANY
negative environmental impact. After all, the possibility of outbreaks of
certain pests is MUCH higher in organic farms because of a lack of
adequate control, yet they aren't arguing that this is a negative
environmental impact from organic farming)
4. "cotton bollworm CAN develop resistance to Bt cotton." (So what, this
is NOT a negative environmental impact)
5. "resistance to Bt cotton to bollworm decreases over time...farmers must
use chemicals 2-3 times to control bollworm" (Where's the negative
environmental impact? Without Bt, they'd have to use chemicals MORE!)
6. "there are not yet effective measures to postpone resistance
development [of bollworm to Bt cotton] or to resolve the resistance
problem." (Again, assertion not demonstrated reality, but still has
nothing to do with negative environmental impact from Bt cotton.)
That's all there is, folks. You tell me if they've made their case. To
me this is hilarious, but I'm sure many more journalists will be duped
into thinking that Bt cotton is horrible for the environment based on the
press release, rather than actually looking at the conclusions and
THINKING for themselves.
Any ideas on a response?
PANEL TAKES HARD LINE ON FOOD --- EU PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE BACKS SPECIAL
LABELS ON ALL PRODUCTS TOUCHED BY BIOTECH ELEMENTS
The Wall Street Journal Europe (Via Agnet)
June 5, 2002
By Brandon Mitchener Brussels
In a vote reflecting deep cultural divisions about biotechnology, the
Environment Committee of the European Parliament was cited as voting
narrowly in favor of more extensive labeling of foods and animal feeds
containing genetically modified organisms. The committee voted to require
special labeling in the European Union for meat, dairy products and highly
refined goods such as sugar and soybean oil produced from genetically
modified ingredients -- even though no remnants of genetic modification
are detectable in the final product. It also voted to lower the threshold
at which mandatory labeling would kick in, to 0.5% biotech content per
ingredient from 1% per ingredient, and to forbid the sale of any products
containing traces of biotech ingredients not authorized in the 15-nation
EU -- even if they are widely authorized and grown outside the EU. The
U.S., along with many food producers in both Europe and the U.S., have
warned that such stricter labeling requirements would result in a de facto
ban on all products with a biotech label. In fact, even in advance of the
new rules, many supermarkets are declaring their shelves biotech-free
zones. "This would cause huge problems," said one U.S. government
official. Biotech products aren't subject to special labeling in the U.S.
The committee vote is only preliminary. The European Parliament as a whole
is scheduled to consider the committee's recommendations this summer, and
the draft law also faces review by European capitals, the European
Commission -- which has objected to many of the amendments -- and then a
second reading in the Parliament. Center-right politicians, who hold the
majority in the Parliament as a whole, voted overwhelmingly in the
committee for less-onerous rules, arguing that the amendments ultimately
voted through would cause trade friction, confuse consumers and invite
fraudulent and deceptive labeling. But a coalition of Socialist and Green
members overwhelmingly supported stricter rules, which they said are
needed to help rebuild the confidence of European consumers who have grown
skittish in the wake of a series of food scares.
Worrying About Frankensteinís Monster
Liberty Unbound Magazine
By Fred L. Smith, Jr.
June 1, 2002
A specter is haunting Europeócalled the ìprecautionary principleî. As
generally defined, the precautionary principle states that a product or
technology can be banned even if there is no scientific evidence that it
is harmful. On first hearing, this policy seems to be little more than a
restatement of the aphorism: better safe than sorry. In practice,
however, the policy has become a rationale for viewing all innovations
with suspicion, for requiring that innovators demonstrate that their
product is safe before being allowed to proceed. But, since no innovation
is absolutely safe (although many have made the world safer), this policy
would slow or block any innovation.
The precautionary principle, like so many bad ideas, was part of the Rio
Declaration of 1992. It has since found its way into various
international treaties (the most important being the Biosafety Protocol
agreed to in Montreal). In Europe, the principle has become a binding
rule. The precautionary principle is cited by the European Union as the
rationale for its ban of U.S. beef (growth hormones, you see) and biotech
corn (do we really know all there is to know about genetic engineering?).
And, of course, those seeking to advance the global warming program often
It is hard to envision any innovation being able to prove that it is safe.
The rational test is to ask whether the world is made more or less safe
by innovationóthat is, to compare the risks of innovation and the risks of
stagnation. Only those content with the presentóthose distrustful that
the world could be a better placeóare likely to endorse this policy. But
Europe seems of that mind today. Perhaps, they will rethink. A world
without change is a world without a future.