Today in AgBioView: June 26, 2002:
* DNA PIONEER DECRIES OVER-REGULATION OF GENETIC
RESEARCH ON FOOD
* Don't fear 'rogue genes'
* CHARLES RENEWS ATTACK ON GM CROPS
* GREENPEACE CAN'T FACE FACTS
* 'Greenpeace Conclusions On Bt Cotton Incorrect'
* Blessed Are the Poor with Spirit
* Scientists create tomato to reduce cancer risk
* Biotech exporters need patience
* Ag-biotech needs to target consumers!
* Greenpeace's cotton warning
* Re: Greenpeace Cotton Warning Full of Holes
DNA PIONEER DECRIES OVER-REGULATION OF GENETIC
RESEARCH ON FOOD
June 24, 2002
Associated Press (Via Agnet)
By Jay Lindsay
BOSTON- DNA research pioneer Dr. James Watson was cited as
saying after a
speech to the American Seed Trade Association's annual
Boston on Monday that there was over-regulation of genetic
food and blamed activists for raising irrational fears.
Watson, who won the Nobel Prize 50 years ago as co-discoverer
of the shape
of DNA, said genetically engineered food is simply an expansion
traditional efforts to breed crops with certain traits, adding, "We've
been breeding new varieties, insect-resistant plants ... in
ways. We've been changing the food forever. I think it's just this
'gene.' Genes are power."
Jeanne Merrill, a Greenpeace campaigner, was quoted as saying,
these powerful tools to fundamentally alter (food) and we don't
clear understanding of what the effects are," and that genetically
modifying food is unnecessary, and there's nothing natural about
the genetic testing.
Watson was further cited as saying environmental groups, such
Sierra Club and Greenpeace, oppose biotech crops for political
aren't interested if tests show the food is healthy, adding, "You
win with these guys. Ten people do OK - no, they want a hundred
then they want 10,000 and then they don't want anyone to get
from eating this stuff. They get bigger memberships if people are
Don't fear 'rogue genes'
Agricultural biotechnology has been carried on safely for centuries,
without a single mishap or injury to any person or ecosystem
June 21, 2002
By Henry I. Miller
Foes of agricultural biotechnology lambast it as unproven,
unnatural and uncontrollable, and worry that "rogue genes" in the
crop may contaminate wild (or domesticated) relatives. These
Those opposed to plants crafted with the newest gene-splicing
(and food derived from them) gloss over two fundamental points:
biotechnology nor genetic engineering is new, and consumers,
and industry all have extensive -- and positive -- experience with
Early biotechnology -- the application of biological systems to
or industrial processes -- dates back at least to 6000 BC when the
Babylonians used specialized microorganisms in fermentation to
alcoholic beverages. And genetic engineering can be dated from
recognition that animals and crop plants can be selected and bred
enhance desired characteristics. In these applications, early
and agriculturists carried out selection for desired physical traits,
poorly understood changes in the organisms' genetic material
Putting it another way, "nature" didn't give us seedless grapes and
fungus-resistant strawberries: The genius of farmers and plant
did. And during the past half-century, better understanding of
the molecular level has added to the sophistication of the genetic
improvement of all manner of organisms.
At the risk of mixing metaphors, fears over the movement of "rogue
is a red herring. Gene flow is ubiquitous. All crop plants have
somewhere on the Earth, and some gene flow commonly occurs if
populations are grown close together. Gene flow from wild
crop plants may even be encouraged by subsistence farmers in
the broad genetic base of the varieties that they plant using seed
harvested from an earlier crop: a kind of poor man's genetic
Such gene flow does not occur when farmers buy their seeds from
producers, of course, but in that case, gene flow in the other
is still possible, with genes from the cultivated crop ending up in
That is most likely to happen if a certain gene(s) from the crop
selective advantage to the recipient, an occurrence that is
gene-splicing, where most often the added gene places the
recipient at a
selective disadvantage. The worst-case scenario would be gene
from plants that have been engineered for enhanced resistance to
herbicides, because once the herbicide-tolerance gene has been
to the wild relative, there will be a strong selection pressure to
maintain it there if the same herbicide is used, making the weedy
relatives more difficult to control. However, it should be
this scenario raises no issues of ecological or food safety; if the
one herbicide were to be compromised, farmers would simply
move on to
Gene transfer is an age-old consideration for farmers. Growing
crops, virtually all of which (save only wild berries) have been
genetically improved, the practitioners of "conventional" agriculture
North America have meticulously developed strategies for
cross-contamination in the field -- when and if it is necessary for
commercial reasons. In order to maintain the highest level of
purity of plants, distinct varieties of self-pollinated crops such as
wheat, rice, soybean and barley need to be separated by at least
while certain insect-pollinated crops need wider segregation - a
for watermelon and a mile for onion, for example.
Canola -- the general term for the genetically improved rapeseed
by Canadian plant breeders a half-century ago -- is a good
original rapeseed oil, used as both a lubricant and as an edible
harmful when ingested because of high levels of a chemical
acid. Conventional plant breeding led to the development of
varieties of rapeseed with low concentrations of erucic acid, and
oil has now become the most commonly consumed oil in Canada.
acid rapeseed oil is still used as a lubricant and plasticizer,
so the high- and low-erucic acid varieties of rapeseed plants must
carefully segregated in the field and thereafter. Canadian farmers
processors easily and routinely accomplish this.
These applications of conventional biotechnology, or genetic
represent scientific, technological, commercial and humanitarian
of monumental proportions. However, the techniques used for
successes were relatively crude and recently have been
in many cases replaced, by "the new biotechnology," a set of
techniques which make possible genetic modification at the
level. The prototype of these techniques, variously called
or genetic modification (GM), is a more precise, better understood
more predictable method for altering genetic material than was
An authoritative 1989 analysis of genetic technologies by the
States National Research Council summarized the scientific
"With classical techniques of gene transfer, a variable number of
can be transferred, the number depending on the mechanism of
predicting the precise number or the traits that have been
difficult, and we cannot always predict the [traits] that will result.
With organisms modified by molecular methods, we are in a
better, if not
perfect, position to predict [their traits]."
The desired "product" of gene-splicing may be the engineered
itself -- for example, bacteria to clean up oil spills, a weakened
used as a vaccine, or a papaya tree that resists viruses -- or it may
biosynthetic product of the cells, such as human insulin produced
bacteria, or oil expressed from seeds.
Gene-spliced plants have for several years been grown worldwide
than 100 million acres annually (about 7% of that in Canada), and
than 60% of processed foods in the United States contain
derived from gene-spliced organisms. There has not been a
that resulted in injury to a single person or ecosystem. Thus, both
and experience confirm the extraordinary predictability and safety
gene-splicing technology and its products.
The new gene-splicing techniques already have yielded many
research tools and commercial products. They have only begun to
way we do biological research and to increase the choices
farmers, food producers, physicians, and consumers. But
because the new
biotechnology is an extension, or refinement, of the kinds of
modification that preceded it, perhaps we should think of the
technological era that is upon us as a Brave Old World.
CHARLES RENEWS ATTACK ON GM CROPS
By Sam Greenhill
June 25/02 (Via Agnet)
The Prince of Wales tonight was cited as launching another attack
genetically modified organisms, saying: "We only have one
Charles, who earlier this month accused governments of ignoring
dangers, was cited as telling a gathering of conservationists,
King Constantine of Greece, at a St James's Palace reception that
upset the harmony of nature, adding, "We have this one planet.
lots of people out there busily trying to find other ones. Some
think that when we have finished with this one we can simply start
somewhere else. But I'm not prepared personally to find another
important to care for the one we know exists. They will be
re-engineering everything. To me it's absolutely essential that we
husbandry and stewardship of this piece of Earth. I hope we
vital importance of working in harmony with nature and not against
seems to me that technology is marvellous as long as it's used
appropriately. We don't have to use it if it's doing damage."
GREENPEACE CAN'T FACE FACTS
June 25, 2002
Life Sciences Network Media Release
Food derived from genetically modified organisms, which has
for consumption by New Zealanders and Australians, is safe, the
of the Life Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston, said today.
"Greenpeace is scare mongering when they try to persuade
people to the
"GM foods are the most thoroughly tested for safety of any new
the market. It takes at least 9 years to get food from a genetically
engineered plant onto the supermarket shelf. All food derived from
tested for toxicity and allergenicity and then thoroughly assessed,
independent agencies, before consumers get anywhere near
"The proof of the pudding, so to speak, is, despite strenuous
over the last 15 years to prove otherwise, none of the opponents
able to come up with one sustainable case where an approved
GM plant or
food has actually posed a risk to humans or animals.
"The Life Sciences Network has never approached these issues
unlike the opponents of GM. We have consistently argued for
assessment to assure public confidence in the regulatory
Royal Commission thoroughly examined all the evidence put
Greenpeace and still came to the conclusion that the regulators
independently and professionally in their duty to preserve the
"No amount of trying to reinvent the facts or the history will change
fact that Patrick Moore made a very powerful case to the Royal
and despite strong cross examination was unshaken in his
"As a founder of Greenpeace he is in an unique position to
the ways in which that once-proud organisation has been
de-railed and led
down the garden path in its misguided campaign against gene
concluded Dr Rolleston.
'Greenpeace Conclusions On Bt Cotton Incorrect'
Asia Intelligence Wire
June 23, 2002
Academics in China have come forth to trash Greenpeace
campaign against Bt
cottonseeds. The conclusions made by the author of the
are incorrect, said Prof Yufa Peng director, Centre for Biosafety
Research, Institute of Plant Protection and Prof Shirong Jia of
Biotechnology Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural
(CAAS), Beijing in a joint statement released by Monsanto.
After carefully reading the report 'A Summary of Research on the
Environmental Impact of Bt Cotton in China' by Dayuan Xue,
Institute of environmental Sciences and published by Greenpeace
this month, the two scientists in the fields of agricultural
and plant protection in their statement said: The governmental and
sector funded research on biosafety were significantly increased
five years and according to the scientific data generated from
research the greatest environmental impact of Bt cotton was its
the environment in the form of significant reduction (70-80 per
the chemical pesticide use. It is known that pesticides used in
production in China are estimated to be 25 per cent of the total
pesticides used in all crops. Further, the statement adds it not only
reduced the environmental pollution, but also reduced the rate of
accident to the human and animals caused by the overuse of
Farmers and scientists in China are currently realizing the benefits
using GM insect resistant cotton crops. Risks to beneficial insects
the environment are negligible. As of the end of 2001, 13
transgenic cotton varieties were grown in 12 provinces in China.
most of these provinces belong to Northern China, we take this
example where cotton is the most important cash crop. The overall
and social benefit is estimated to be more than two billion remnibi.
risks to beneficial insects and the environment have been
observed in the
field. Therefore, based on the above facts and other related
think that the conclusions made by the author of the report
Greenpeace are incorrect. In fact the report has only collected very
limited research data. A large amount of positive results have not
quoted by the author, and many other results have been painted in
Blessed Are the Poor with Spirit
Tech Central Station
By Gregory Conko and C.S. Prakash
This year's UN-sponsored World Food Summit just concluded
with a grim
reminder that the goal of cutting world hunger in half by 2015 set
years ago at the first Food Summit still seems far out of reach.
time, however, delegates agreed to meet the challenge of
food security with a very potent tool: agricultural biotechnology.
Biotechnology holds the potential to increase food production,
use of synthetic chemical pesticides, and actually make foods
healthier. Already, farmers in the United States, Canada,
Africa, and elsewhere have benefited from improvements in
reduced use of synthetic pesticides.
The real future of biotechnology, however, lies in addressing the
problems faced by farmers in less developed nations. Opponents
biotechnology argue that it will forever be the play toy of rich country
agriculture and that it could never help farmers in less developed
nations. But the unanimous agreement by 182 nations that the UN
"advance agricultural research and research into new
including biotechnology," demonstrates that the poorer countries
Although most commercially available biotech plants were
farmers in the industrialized world, farmers in less developed
now grow nearly one-quarter of the world's biotech crops on more
million acres (10.7 million hectares).
The reason is simple. The most common biotech plants were
address problems with insects, weeds, and plant diseases. And
less developed nations face these problems, too. For example,
South Africa and China grow biotech cotton that is resistant to the
insect pests. And the Indian government approved it for
cultivation this spring. South African farmers also grow
corn as well as soybeans that are engineered to make weed
And while this first generation of crops was primarily designed to
farming efficiency, the environmental benefits they offer are
The United States Department of Agriculture found that U.S.
growing biotech corn, cotton, and soybeans reduced the total
insecticides and herbicides they sprayed by over eight million
year. Similar reductions have been seen in Canada with biotech
In China, where pesticides are typically sprayed on crops by hand,
400 to 500 cotton farmers die every year from acute pesticide
But the adoption of biotech cotton varieties has lowered the
pesticides used by more than 75 percent and reduced the number
poisonings by an equivalent amount. South African cotton farmers
Perhaps most importantly, the productivity gains generated by
crops could save millions of acres of sensitive wildlife habitat from
being converted into farmland. The loss and fragmentation of
habitats caused by agricultural development in the less developed
countries experiencing the greatest population growth are widely
recognized as among the most serious threats to biodiversity.
agricultural productivity is an essential environmental goal, and
much easier in a world where agricultural biotechnology is widely
Fortunately, many biotech varieties have been created specifically
in less developed countries and will soon be ready for
Examples include insect-resistant rice varieties for Asia,
sweet potatoes for Africa, and virus-resistant papaya for Caribbean
nations. Other crops now in the research pipeline would bring
tolerance to temporary drought conditions or extremes of heat and
In addition, biotechnology offers hope of improving the nutritional
benefits of many foods. Among the most well known is the variety
"Golden Rice," genetically enhanced with added beta carotene,
converted to vitamin A by the human body.
And Golden Rice is just one example. Another variety developed by
research team has elevated levels of digestible iron. Scientists at
Tuskegee University in Alabama are enhancing the level of dietary
in sweet potatoes, a common staple crop in sub-Saharan Africa.
even biotech bananas in development that produce vaccines
and hepatitis B.
Admittedly, experts recognize that the problem of hunger and
is not caused by a global shortage of food. Political unrest and
governments, poor transportation and infrastructure, and, of
poverty, will all need to be addressed if we are to ensure real,
food security. But the long-term solution requires generating
yields in the regions where food is needed most, and biotech
good tools for helping farmers do that.
Although the complexity of biological systems means that some
benefits of biotechnology are many years away, the biggest threat
populations currently face are restrictive policies stemming from
unwarranted public fears. Scare stories spread by
campaigners have led to the adoption of restrictive policies in
countries. But time and again those scares have been proven
Mankind has been modifying the genetic makeup of plants for
years, often in ways that could have had adverse impacts.
tomatoes and potatoes are routinely bred from wild varieties that
toxic to human beings, for example. But plant breeders, biologists,
farmers have identified methods to keep potentially dangerous
entering the food chain.
The choice of World Food Summit delegates is clear. Innovators
proceed with caution. But, as a report published by the United
Royal Society, the National Academies of Science from Brazil,
India, Mexico and the U.S., and the Third World Academy of
contends, "It is critical that the potential benefits of [biotechnology]
become available to developing countries."
Gregory Conko is Director of Food Safety Policy at the Competitive
Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, and C.S. Prakash is
Plant Molecular Genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama. The
are co-founders of the AgBioWorld Foundation, based in Auburn,
Scientists create tomato to reduce cancer risk
June 24, 2002 12:15 PM
Scientists have created a tomato that destroys dangerous cancer
The tomato, which may protect against prostate cancer, was made
by Government researchers.
Scientists at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Purdue
University in West Lafayette, Indiana, were trying to develop
late-ripening tomatoes for food processing.
Unexpectedly, they found that the new tomatoes had
the normal level of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene.
Lycopene is one of the pigments that colour tomatoes and other
vegetables red, orange or yellow.
In the body, it mops up destructive electrically charged oxygen
called free radicals that can damage tissue and trigger cancer. A
study of nearly 48,000 men in 1995 found that those who ate at
servings each week of foods containing tomatoes or tomato sauce
per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer.
The Harvard University study also found that four to seven weekly
reduced prostate cancer risk by 20 per cent.
Professor Avtar Handa, a horticultural scientist at Purdue
said: "We were quite pleasantly surprised to find the increase in
lycopene. This is one of the first examples of increasing the
value of food through biotechnology. In fact, it may be the first
of using biotechnology to increase the nutritional value of a fruit."
Co-researcher Autar Mattoo, head of the USDA Vegetable
the lycopene increase occurred naturally in the
"The pattern for the accumulation was the same as in the control
tomatoes," he said. "The lycopene levels increased two to 3.5
compared to the non-engineered tomatoes." Lycopene is one of
powerful antioxidants and is twice as good at combating free
the carrot pigment beta-carotene.
But it is difficult to increase the amount of lycopene in the diet.
Research has shown that taking purified antioxidants as
Randy Woodson, director of agricultural research programmes at
University, said: "When you just take lycopene as a drug it doesn't
the same effect. There is still a lot of biology to understand before
know why phytonutrients (plant nutrients) in food are so much
effective than if they are given as supplements." The research was
reported in Nature Biotechnology.
Biotech exporters need patience
Monday June 24, 2002
Although we sometimes see protesters dressed like deformed
corn demonstrating outside grocery chain stores, for the most part
Americans have accepted biotechnology.
Regionally, we're a hub for this new science. But it's not that way
everywhere. Europe's been less enthusiastic -- many there
hint of genetic tinkering with atrocities still vivid from the Second
World War, and want nothing to do with it.
And that will only change if consumers are fed balanced
instead of propaganda.
Media heard that message repeatedly at a news conference about
biotechnology attitudes in Europe, at the BIO 2002 meeting earlier
month in Toronto.
There, European authorities from Belgium, Austria and the
described what's needed to fill the biotechnology information void.
"The negative public attitude towards agricultural biotechnology is
because people are ignorant about scientific facts," said
manager Ann Van Gysel, with the government-funded
Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology in Belgium.
One of her seven-year-old institute's mandates is to promote a
well-structured public debate on biotechnology.
The institute conducted research that convinced it biotechnology
as safe as conventional crops, and they want other Belgians to
but without fanfare, bells and whistles.
"We need sound, well-balanced information, not promotion
To that end, she and her colleagues appeal to schoolchildren with
approaches such as a programme that makes farmers from
organic and biotechnology persuasions available online, so kids
questions of them.
That way, answers can be assessed evenly, and the students can
Apparently, it's not as hard to make a point in Holland. Rutger
Schilpzand, who works for a biotechnology and genomics
there, says his country is one of the most accepting European
biotechnology -- only 25 per cent of the population opposes
modified food, versus almost half in Germany and the U.K.
Biotechnology was introduced early there, and farmers and the
had time to digest it. But still, he said, Dutch people crave a better
understanding of the technology.
"They want safety ... and most of all more information," he said.
If biotechnology's ability to promote sustainability can be shown, it
win converts, he added.
Biotechnology faces a much tougher audience in Austria. There,
popular media vehicle is a sensational tabloid that crusades
As a result, balanced information does not prevail.
Barbara Streicher, public relations co-ordinator for the
information organization Plattform Gentechnik & Wir (it accepts no
financial support from biotech companies), says gene technology
finalist in a poll of "terms Austrians dislike the most," along with
notables as "nuclear power," "globalization," and "foreigners."
But, says Streicher, they will accept gene technology for medical
applications, and that's what she thinks will make her country turn
The BIO 2002 news conference offered only a snapshot of Europe.
exemplified the strong division that still exists. For companies set
exporting biotechnology products there, the message is be patient.
Owen Roberts teaches agricultural communications at the
Guelph. His column appears Mondays.
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2002 15:56:54 +0530
Subject: Ag-biotech needs to target consumers!
Consumers are a confused lot these days with so many
to that comes the hysterical campaigns from the pro and anti GM
which is holding up the progress of one of the most important and
technologies known to man, in an area which is most in need of
technologies - agriculture/food.
One of the big reasons is, I believe, until now, the final consumer -
common man, has seen virtually no advantage from the GM
either in terms of price or value. Most GM crops introduced until
have probably helped reduce usage of chemicals/pesticides or
with better yields, which help the growers. One might argue that
yields means depressed commodity prices being passed on the
but on the other hand, by the time the commodity reaches the
from the farms, there are a lot of other factors which influence the
prices (like logistics, monsoons etc) and therefore the argument
weight and therefore the consumer is influenced by groups of
may have interests other than that of the common consumer.
THE major difference that I find between the applications of
biotech/genetics in pharma/industries as compared to
that, in pharma/industrial applications of biotech, the last link in the
supply chain i.e, consumers, benefit as much as the producers,
way of more/better drugs or thro' better process efficiency.
biotech solutions in these areas seems to be well accepted. In
Ag-biotech, it seems, with the presently commercialised products,
first/second link in a long supply chain, i.e the growers/processors
to benefit the most. Whatever benefits accrue to the last link, the
consumer, cannot be easily quantified due to reasons mentioned
Therefore, it is but natural that the issue becomes
controversial/confusing, since the consumer presently hardly has
in what she/he gets, but most of the pro-biotech/anti-biotech
target the consumer with their respective view-points.
Ag-biotech companies will do very well to introduce value added
targetted at the end-consumer, rather than merely target the
pest resistant crops. Directly benefitted consumers having the
educated say will surely kill off any controversy in ag-biotech. In
Ag-biotech needs to create a win-win situation for both, the
Subject: Greenpeace's cotton warning
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 06:22:54 +0530
Farmers forced to continue using chemical pesticides which is
practice taught by our scientist.
Now only the same scientist says that there is lot of health hazards
using these chemical in agriculture, that too only after the
farmers started crying about this.
In the same way now the GM food has come. It will take decades
to show it
real health hazards.
Now that there would not be any hazards to health or environment,
it will not be felt now. But the same scientists are going to say that
tese GM foods are the main cause for all the Health hazards.
It is human behavior that any new things comes, it will be accepted
many and criticized by some. It is the inborn human tendency. But
are correct. At a later date both will be proved to be truth. But the
truth of the accepted group ought to have experienced lot of
which could not be solved. this is the long felt experience from
As such the for and against shou