Today in AgBioView: June 7, 2002
* Biodevastation Funding Sources Exposed
* Schmeiser Changes Story, Admits Saving Seed
* Greenpeace-China Study
* Greenpeace Founder Dismisses Activist Scare Tactics
* Why you won't find the facts spoiling a good docu-drama
* The Good Side of GM Revealed
* Farm Burea Affirms Biotechnology
* EP Environmental Commitee Vote
* Environmental Impact of GM Crops
* Flawed study no reason for moratorium
* WA on the way to countering CMV
* Pakistan Promotes Biotech Research
Center for Consumer Freedom Exposes Biodevastation Funding Sources --
Activist "grass roots" claims shown to be blatantly false
The Consumer Freedom coalition has done it again. On the eve of
anti-biotechnology activists' biggest bash of the year, ìBiodevastationî
in Toronto, Consumer Freedomís www.activistcash.com web site exposes the
funding sources for literally millions and millions of dollars towards
these so-called ìgrass rootsî organizations. Clearly the news reports of
activists ìprotesting on a dollar a day,î according to Consumer Freedom,
have all been false.
Consumer Freedom research of tax returns details how two groups, The
Foundation for Deep Ecology and The Tides Foundation, operate as the cash
source and coordinating points for such anti-biotechnology campaigns as
The Turning Point Coalition and the Organic Consumers Association.
According to Consumer Freedom, Deep Ecology and Tides operate as
ìmoney-laundering enterprisesî which ìstrain the limitsî of IRS tax
regulations while engaging in ìshell gamesî of moving money to avoid
public scrutiny into the real source of the anti-biotechnology protest
movement. Consumer Freedom exposes how so-called coalitions, such as the
Turning Point campaign and Andrew Kimbrellís Fatal Harvest for which over
95% of their funds were provided by Deep Ecology, are in fact mere front
groups for a small band of ìdeep ecologistsî fueled by funds from the
organic and natural products industry.
Info on the Tides Foundation / Tides Center:
Info on the Turning Point Project:
Consumer Freedom exposes Fenton Communications, the current press agents
for Biodevastation in Toronto, as using these so-called foundations as
cover from claims that their efforts on behalf of their non-profit efforts
are just in fact a tax-deductible marketing front for Fentonís paying
clients ñ the multi-billion dollar organic and natural products industry
which benefits from the anti-biotechnology food scares.
Info on Fenton Communications at:
Visit http://www.activistcash.com to see how scientists and biotechnology
innovators are being outflanked and the media and public being deceived by
a very small group of well organized, well funded and professional
supported ìfear profiteers.î (Links at top left of page.)
Farmers can use seeds despite patent, panel says
The Globe and Mail
By Stephen Strauss
Friday, June 7, 2002
Farmers should have the right to plant genetically modified seed they have
harvested from previous years' crops, even if the original seeds were
covered by a patent, a blue-ribbon panel on biotechnology is advising the
The Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee's recommendation -- part of
a package of 13 proposals dealing with patent-related issues -- would
effectively absolve Saskatoon farmer Percy Schmeiser of blame in a
patent-infringement case involving a genetically modified organism, a case
that has garnered worldwide attention.
Mr. Schmeiser was found guilty of violating the patent agreements that
Monsanto Co. places on the use of its genetically modified canola. The
company requires that the canola seed, which is resistant to the herbicide
known as Roundup, be bought each year from the company at a premium price.
Mr. Schmeiser was found to be growing the modified seed in his field
during a year in which he hadn't bought any seed. A judge ordered him to
pay Monsanto $19,000 in damages and court costs of $153,000.
WHILE MR SCHMEISER ORIGINALLY SAID THAT GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEED HAD
BLOWN INTO HIS FIELDS, HIS LAWYER IS NOW ARGUING BEFORE A FEDERAL APPEALS
COURT THAT THE SEED WAS SAVED FROM CROPS GRWON THE PREVIOUS YEAR and that
Mr. Schmeiser was entitled to replant it as an "ancient right of a
farmer." (Emphasis added)
In advocating what it calls a "farmer's privilege," the panel says in its
recommendations that the patent law should allow farmers to "save and sow
plants from patented plants."
From his farm in Bruno, Sask., Mr. Schmeiser said: "I'm really, really
happy to hear that. The whole basis of my fight is the rights of farmers
to use seed from year to year."
A representative of Monsanto Canada Inc. said the company did not have an
immediate comment on the report.
The committee, which was formed in 1999 to advise seven government
departments on issues related to biotechnology, has also weighed in on
another contentious patent issue currently before the courts. As was first
suggested in a preliminary report last December, the CBAC is advising the
government to allow the patenting of genetically modified plants and
The committee, however, recommends strongly against the patenting of human
beings in any stage of human development. While it has been generally
accepted that human-rights legislation effectively prohibits human
patenting, Arnold Naimark, the former president of the University of
Manitoba, who heads up the 17-person committee, says that there there is
no specific ban in Canadian patent law. "It was our thought that that loop
should be closed," he said.
From: "parul malhotra"
Subject: Greenpeace and China Study
Date: Fri, 07 Jun 2002 06:38:46 +0000
I completely agree with your conclusions. As a journalist for an Indian
daily with an interest in biotech, I immediately checked out the new
Chinese report and came to the same conclusions. Some stuff is what we
already know (abt subsequent generations losing resistance, for example);
other stuff in no way points to significant env damage (such as what
you've pointed out).
Additionally, I noted that the report was a collation of 4 academic
researchers' works, some of which have been carried out in labs and others
in the field for a grand period of 1 year...not the best indicators of Bt
cotton's long term performance in the field, are they? My newspaper's
carried an editorial comment on it today "Chinese Checkers" (The Financial
Express June 7) making some of these points, including that of the
report's Greenpeace connection. I'm also going to write a signed piece
wherein there's scope to make a stronger point.
What did however concern me was the assertion that Bt cotton had an
adverse impact on natural enemies of bollworm and that it encouraged the
spread of other pests. If that were to be true, that'll be enough for the
eco-warriors, right? So, we come back to the scientific validity of the
results...anything to suggest that they might be flawed? are they
Greenpeace Founder Dismisses Activist Scare Tactics about Biotechnology,
Encourages Scientific Discussion
Dr. Patrick Moore to Speak at BIO 2002 Media Brunch
The media is invited to meet Dr. Patrick Moore, at the BIO 2002 Media
Brunch. A leader of the international environmental movement for more than
30 years, Dr. Moore was a founding member of Greenpeace.
Dr. Moore will discuss the misinformation used by activists and discuss
his position: that those who have adopted a zero-tolerance attitude toward
biotechnology threaten to deny its many benefits by playing on fear of the
unknown and on fear of change. Dr. Moore is a proponent of using accurate
scientific data to move environmentalism from confrontation to consensus.
Date: Sunday, June 9, 2002
Time: Noon Location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre South Meeting Room
Level 700, Room 713B
***Journalists must present official media credentials to attend***
Dr. Moore was a driving force shaping the policy and direction of
Greenpeace while it became the world’Äôs largest environmental activist
organization. In recent years, he has focused on the promotion of
sustainability and consensus building among competing concerns. Dr. Moore
is the author of two books, Pacific Spirit...The Forest Reborn and Green
Spirit-Trees are the Answer and is a frequent speaker on environmental
Why you won't find the facts spoiling a good docu-drama
Spicing up truth is an easy option for TV producers
The Daily Telegraph
June 07, 2002
By Matt Born and Tom Leonard
'HUMOUR is more truthful than factual," the American polemicist P J
O'Rourke once said, in an attempt to justify his propensity for playing
fast and loose with the facts. How many television producers wish they
could offer up a similar defence?
This week, yet another television drama was accused of irresponsibly
muddling fact and fiction. The scorn heaped on Fields of Gold, a BBC1
thriller about genetically modified crops which starts tomorrow, was
particularly virulent among scientists, including the programme's own
scientific adviser, who thought it was scare-mongering and fundamentally
flawed. But the response from those responsible revealed the essential
conundrum - while the BBC insisted it was "100 per cent fiction", the
drama's writers, the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and Ronan Bennett,
attempted to argue its scientific plausibility.
That the producers had bothered to hire a scientific adviser - a Cambridge
GM expert, Dr Mark Tester - was in itself testament to their desire for
the programme to have a "what if?" credibility. If, as Dr Tester alleges,
they then ignored much of what he said then that is testament to the lure
of letting a good story override the facts.
In many ways, the row is old hat. Ever since Cathy Come Home, any drama
with so much as a passing reference to the real world has found itself
accused of abusing its creative licence. What makes this charge pertinent
now is the proliferation of the genre known as "issue-based" drama.
Traditional documentaries and current affairs programmes tend to attract
lowish ratings, so spicing fact with a bit of fiction is seen as a
palliative by television executives anxious to meet their public service
"There is a great appetite for factual-based dramas as a way of engaging
viewers," says a senior BBC insider. "The trouble is that while
dramatising a story can excite people, it also means there is a greater
freedom - and temptation - to cut corners with the truth."
Even die-hard documentary traditionalists recognise a role for dramatising
factual events. No one quibbles with Crimewatch's use of actors in
reconstructing a robbery or assault, for example.
But docu-dramas are not constrained by the same rules of balance and
"The key phrase with all these docu-dramas is 'based on fact'," says a
prominent documentary maker. "It's basically a licence for the producers
to be as naive and stupid as they want. There's an awful lot of picture
painting that isn't possible in a straight documentary, and viewers are
never told which bits are factual and which aren't."
Not only are the rules different, but so too - crucially - are the
"These projects are more usually in the hands of a dramatist, rather than
a journalist," says another documentary producer. Their instinct to
entertain can therefore override a responsibility to inform.
"If you are concerned about truth pre-eminently, then you don't make drama
documentaries," he adds.
The two dramatised reconstructions of Bloody Sunday, broadcast earlier
this year, are a case in point.
While ITV's Bloody Sunday - made by Paul Greengrass and shot in a
documentary-style so as to enhance the sense of authenticity - was
generally praised by critics for having stuck to established facts, Jimmy
McGovern's Sunday, broadcast on Channel 4, was derided as a highly
misleading account which gave credence to partisan conspiracy theories.
As one reviewer put it: "McGovern boasts of 'three years of painstaking
research.' But facts are one thing, and what you do with them another."
Jane Tranter, the head of BBC drama commissioning, insists Fields of Gold
viewers will have no difficulty distinguishing the factual wheat from the
"It is not a docu-drama in the strict sense, but simply a well-researched
piece of fiction which hopes to raise an issue in an entertaining way,"
she says. "Casualty uses medical advisers to give its medical scenes
authenticity, but no one believes it is real."
Of course, the "realism" of Casualty is clearly defined. Its doctors may
apply splints correctly, and flirt with nurses as required but have yet to
face a conspiracy to create a superbug that threatens humanity.
Even so, Ms Tranter insists there is a difference. "It would be massively
underestimating the national IQ to suggest people will believe this
[Fields of Gold scenario] could happen tomorrow."
THE GOOD SIDE OF GM REVEALED
June 2, 2002, Thursday
By Vic Robertson
CONSUMERS and environmentalists have as much to gain as farmers from
genetically modified (GM) crops, say scientists at Reading University.
Not only do they result in dramatic reductions in pesticide usage, but the
use of fossilised fuel in production and spraying is slashed, resulting in
less greenhouse gas emission.
"This potential for reduction in pesticide use is reflected in the figures
of companies such as BASF who have stated that, since the introduction of
GM crops, their sales have declined by US$ 300 million (GBP 206 million) a
year," said Dr Richard Phipps, principal research fellow at Reading. He
points out that Canadian consumer research found the public was much more
inclined to buy food products clearly labelled as GM against other
products equally clearly labelled with the list of pesticide sprays used
As a clincher, he estimates that if half of the maize, oil seed rape,
cotton and sugar beet planted in Europe were biotechnological varieties,
pesticide usage in the EU would decrease by 14.5 million kilos of
formulated product a year.
"This reduction in pesticide use would save 20.5 million litres or 5.4
million gallons of diesel fuel and reduce by 73,000 tonnes the amount of
carbon dioxide being released into the environment," he adds.
As well as these findings, just published in the Journal of Animal and
Feed Sciences, Dr Phipps and his colleagues have found sensitive tests
failed to find any GM DNA in milk from dairy animals fed GM maize and soya
in trials at Reading.
Although there has been a widespread positive response to his findings
among scientists, he says there has been little interest from the general
media. "I suppose this may be because most of them are following an
anti-GM agenda," he says.
This has been particularly apparent in the reaction to the recent pro-GM
speech by the Prime Minister and in the debate over a new BBC TV "eco
-thriller" production due to be shown next week.
Dr Phipps remains philosophical, although somewhat bemused. "I have been
involved in dairy cattle feeding trials using maize for the past 20 years.
This has involved the use of Atrazine, a long-lasting residual chemical
which can work its way into water courses.
"It has been banned in a number of EU countries but it continues to be
used here. Yet the introduction of GM maize would enable us to use a short
term contact herbicide with much less risk of pollution."
He points out that some time ago the World Health Organisation estimated
there were 500,000 pesticide-related poisonings per year including 5,000
deaths. The US Environment Protection Agency reckoned that between 10,000
and 20,000 cases of pesticide poisoning incidents occurred in US
agricultural workers each year.
Between 1996 and 2000, the area of GM crops worldwide increased from four
million to 44 million hectares.
Farm Bureauóthe voice of 32,000 member familiesóAffirms Biotechnology
Opposes Legislation for Biotech Moratorium
ALBANY, N.Y., June 5óIn the face of a modest groundswell of anti-biotech
lobbying by environmentalists, New York Farm Bureau has issued a statement
strongly affirming the resolution of its 32,000 member families: ìWe
oppose any moratorium or ban on genetically engineered organisms.î
The resolution came at Farm Bureauís annual convention in December,
capping a five-month process of debating, amending, and passing
resolutions at each county Farm Bureau, then repeating the process at the
State Annual Meeting.
ìApproved resolutions are truly the consensus of the agricultural
community,î says John Lincoln, President of New York Farm Bureau and a
dairy farmer from Bloomfield, N.Y. ìIt is a remarkably democratic
From their on-the-farm perspective, New York farmers see significant
advantagesóeven environmental advantagesóto biotech crops, says Julie
Suarez, Senior Associate Director of Public Policy for N.Y. Farm Bureau.
ìBiotechnology offers ëprecision breeding,í bringing important new
varieties to reality in less time than the older hit-or-miss plant
breeding. These new crops will be better adapted to drought, disease, and
low fertility. Some are already producing low-cost life-saving
pharmaceuticals because of genes placed in them.î Therapies for hepatitis
B, diabetes, and hemophilia are already being produced by plants with new
Many biotech crops in wide use today require fewer and safer pesticides,
with fewer gas-guzzling trips across fields with machineryóa clear
Some vocal opponents of biotech crops are also calling for mandatory
labeling. New York Farm Bureau members strongly support the current
mandatory labeling guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
which cover all food productsóboth those produced via biotechnology and
those produced via traditional selective plant breeding.
The FDA requires products to be labeled if they pose a health and safety
concern, as well as for nutritional content. Any food product that has the
potential to cause an allergy must be labeled for consumer safety already.
It is important to note that the FDA has not approved the retail sale of
any biotechnology product that causes a human allergy, andówith Farm
Bureau supportófederal agencies have eliminated the flawed process that
led to approval of Starlink cornóan approval many main-line farm groups
advised against. It was to be grown for livestock consumption, not human.
"In our opinion, biotechnology has the potential to eliminate or reduce
many allergies for adults and kids,î says Suarez. ìFor example, through
biotechnology scientists will eventually be able to isolate the allergenic
component of the peanut, so that parents and schools will be confident
that the peanut butter and jelly sandwich packed in a child's lunchbox
will not cause an adverse allergic reaction to anyone," says Suarez.
A ban of any duration on this technology will put New York agriculture at
a competitive disadvantage with farmers in other states. Since 1990,
approximately 90% of the cheese manufactured in this state is made using
an enzyme produced through biotechnology. New York is third in the nation
in the production of corn fed to cows, due to our substantial dairy
industry. The acreage of farmland dedicated to soybean production has
increased by nearly 40%, with a higher yield per acre, as a result of
biotechnology. Cheese, soybeans, and corn are the majority of the
biotechnology-produced foods in New York, and consumers have been the
beneficiaries of agricultural biotechnology for many years.
From: "Dr Lefteris,EG Sideris"
Subject: EP Environmental Commitee Vote
Date: Fri, 7 Jun 2002 09:35:51 +0300
I think that might not be a bad idea to send us info (e-mail or fax or
mail address) where we can directly send our professional opinion to the
Environment Committee of EP or the EP about this new disheataning
development. I am afraid it is not the first time neither the only subject
where the EP seems to act not on the basis of the scientifc knowledge
availalbe but on the basis of well orchestrated propaganda by dedicated
(and I think mostly well meaning) action groups like the Greenpeace. No
doupt this organization offered tremendously to the humanity on the
problems of sea or city pollution. But on the GM products they did get it
from the very begining dead wrong (see all these silly, but nevertheless
succeful, mottoes like "Frankestein Food").
Lefteris, E.G. SIDERIS
Laboratory of Molecular and Radiation Genetics
National Research Center "DEMOKRITOS"
NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF GM CROPS
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
June 7, 2002
"We can find no compelling scientific arguments to demonstrate that GM
crops are innately different from non-GM crops", say scientists led by
Philip Dale of the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK.
In a paper on the "Potential for the environmental impact of transgenic
crops" published in Nature Biotech (Vol. 20, June 2002 issue), Dale and
his colleagues conclude that the kinds of potential impacts of GM crops
fall into classes familiar from the cultivation of non-GM crops, i.e.
invasiveness, weediness, toxicity, or biodiversity. It is likely, however,
that the novelty of some of the products of GM crop improvement will
present new challenges and perhaps opportunities to manage particular
crops in creative ways".
The researchers explain that one of the biggest concerns for the future is
to manage the introduction and widespread commercialization of GM crops in
a way that favors the environment. "It will be necessary to provide
incentives that will require GM crops to be combined with agronomic
practices that nurture crop diversity, sound crop rotation, soil
fertility, and wildlife biodiversity, and that minimize the impact of
agriculture on the environment".
The full paper can be accessed at http://biotech.nature.com
Flawed study no reason for moratorium
NZ Life Sciences Network
June 07, 2002
ìExpert analysis of the Greenpeace-funded study of GM cotton in China,
which has been touted as a reason for New Zealand extending its moratorium
on the commercial release of GE, shows the interpretation of the study is
seriously flawed,î the Chairman of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William
Rolleston, said today.
ìA call from GE-Free activists for the New Zealand Government to take a
moral position as a result are misguided.
ìThe Greenpeace-funded study by the Nanjing Institute of Environmental
Sciences is to be reviewed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
ìScientists who have already examined the study have scoffed at the claim
it discloses significant environmental impacts from GM cotton.
ìThis is yet another example, in the hothouse climate created by the Green
Partyís decision to make GE a key election issue, of the rush to negative
judgement by the opponents of gene technology.
ìThey will seize on, and inflate enormously, any skerrick of information
which seems to support their cause. By continually drumming up a false
fear the activists will lose credibility as the public tires of their
extremism,î concluded Dr Rolleston.
WA on the way to countering CMV
June 6 2002
Novel genetic work in WA could abolish the yield-suppressing impact of
Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV) from almost 200 commercially important plant
Using science similar to human vaccination, the Centre for Legumes in
Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) at the University of WA is using the
CMVís own genes to engineer resistance to legume crops.
CMV threatens several grain legumes, including WAís one million hectare
lupin crop and the high value $450 per tonne chickpea crop, which, when
infected, incurs up to 70 per cent dip in seed production, a 76pc drop in
seed weight and reduced seed quality.
Among 190 CMV susceptible commercial plant species are numerous high value
horticultural crops, giving CLIMAís new technology wider application
The introduced gene is expressed in a hairpin-like shape. Having
effectively folded back on itself, it is activated by the plant.
ìThis means it educates the lupin to recognise the virus and destroy it,î
explained Murdoch Universityís Steve Wylie, a senior scientist with
CLIMAís Pulse Biotechnology Program.
ìThere are natural cases of plants in the field recovering from viruses,
where the leaves exposed to the virus canít be re-infected. This is what
inspired our approach.î
CLIMA continues to research transgenic approaches to improve lupin
Many qualities and resistances required to build lupinís profitability
donít exist within the lupin family, which means Dr Wylie is looking
beyond the lupin gene pool to aid the development of superior varieties.
Genes from macadamia nuts are being introduced to help counter fungal
pathogens, while sunflower genes have been used to stabilise lupin
proteins for better digestion, which has boosted live weight and wool
growth by eight per cent in trials with sheep.
One challenge facing CLIMAís transgenic program is the minefield of
intellectual property (IP) restrictions, which can slow progress. For
example, some licensed genes may be used for research and development, but
not in commercial varieties.
ìCLIMAís technology must therefore be a step ahead of what our
contemporaries are using, if we are to release new varieties,î Dr Wylie
ìAnd, with our Grains Research and Development Corporation funding
contingent on commercialisation, our team is very motivated to drive local
innovation, which means WA will profit from the development of its own
PAKISTAN PROMOTES BIOTECH RESEARCH
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
June 7, 2002
Pakistan's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has approved a
project for the promotion of biotechnology research and preparation of a
biotechnology action plan. The project will be implemented by the Pakistan
Council for Science & Technology in a period of 36 months with a Rs 38
million (around 634,000 USD) budget.
Pakistan is facing a variety of problems primarily associated with
population explosion and scarce resources. The Ministry recognized the
need to devise strategies for food security and sustainable economic
development. The project will undertake the promotion of biotech research
programmes related to the development of human resources; strengthening of
the existing research laboratories with the needed manpower, equipment and
other essentials; and the establishment of at least one biotechnology
Biotechnology was declared among the top priority areas in the third
meeting of the National Commission for Science & Technology. The project
was launched to improve the existing research in agriculture, livestock
and medical sectors at universities and R&D organizations.
The MOST press release is available at