Today in AgBioView - July 28, 2002
* Lepkowski article
* organic cotton an boll weevil eradication in Texas
* Drew's Request re Organic Farms-Pests
* Flawed papers
* Dissecting issues against GMO: advanced nations' widely used technology
* Greens Still Wildly Out Of Step
* Organic Industryís Thin Skin
* Japan approves GM corn and soybean
* Re: AGBIOVIEW: Zimbabwe Prefers Famine Over Biotech Corn
* N.Z. Leader Clark Secures Support
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 22:11:02 -0500
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Lepkowski article
The Wil Lepkowski article is rather nicely written, but in theorizing
about why responses to the Chapela paper were so vehement he overlooks the
one theory that best accounts for it. That is, that Chapela aligned
himself with the activists in the assault on biotech that followed the
paper's publication. His rhetoric in media interviews was as hysterically
overblown and implausible as the worst Greenpeace had to offer. If he had
behaved as a scientist he would have been treated like one. Behaving
instead like an activist, he got treated like one.
>>Subject: Fwd: Debate 2002'0726 b: Another piece on the Oaxaca saga
>>on the Mexican corn gen
>>here a status summary of the present day debate about the Mexican corn
>>flow case, written by Wil Lepkowski
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: organic cotton an boll weevil eradication in Texas
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 22:18:37 -0500
Here is what I could find on orgainic cotton in Texas. The only place I
know that has an organized orgainic group. It appears that the organic
cotton is exempt from prophlactic spraying for weevil but if the weevil
reach a high enough level they have the choice of spraying or plowing up
the cotton and being paid approximatly the same amout of money that
conventional farmes receive from crop insurance.
I do know that the delays in the implemtation of the Texas program were
very costly for southwest Oklahoma since our program didn't work very well
when the weevil could blow accross the river.
I don't think that organic cotton was anything but a distraction. The
delay was from suits from conventinal farmers not organic farmers.
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 14:17:59 -0700
From: "Chuck Benbrook"
Subject: Drew's Request re Organic Farms-Pests
Drew has asked about the legitimacy of farmer-complaints that organic
farms are reservoirs of pests. Certainly not actively managed organic
farms, they would not be in business if over-run by pests, since they rely
on softer systems to avoid damaging losses. In orchard/vineyard systems,
the "organic by neglect" neighbor can be a huge problem, serving as a
reservoir for disease pathogens, codling moth, and other nasty, mobile
insects. For every acre of abandoned organic orchard/vineyard, there are
no doubt 100 abandoned acres of conventional orchard/vineyard. Only
legitimate grip I can think of might be weed seeds from some organic
systems, which tolerate more escapes than conventional systems, and weed
seeds do, alas, move. Maybe blight in a few systems, if an organic farm
happens to be the first hit in an area and does not get it under control
as fast as a conventional farmer. Still, blight is going to move when the
conditions are right if it is in an area, and all farmers will pay a
The big issues re pest movement are widely agreed and generally have to do
with either pesticide use, crop desiccation, or tillage. In intensively
farmed valleys like the San Joaquin, with perhaps 20 crops in a few square
miles, the big issue is adult insects moving out of sprayed alfalfa,
cotton, milo, or other row crops, into vulnerable fruit and vegetable
fields, crops that often lack registered insecticides up to the task -- at
least not without wiping out all their beneficials and hence dooming their
IPM systems longer-term. Nothing to do with organic versus conventional,
it's a down-wind thing.
Organic farmers have their own legitimate grips, in addition to the
biotech-oriented ones we read so much about. Organic farmers have to
establish/maintain high populations of certain beneficials to deal with
spikes in insect populations; more and more, they pay cash for beneficials
insects, which are deliberately released. Conventional insecticide
applications can and do sometimes knock down beneficial populations, via
drift or movement. Also, organic farmers can and sometimes do get
literally overrun by pests moving from conventional fields, and they lack
the quick-response options to deal with them. Some on this list might
chuckle and think "... serves them right," but in the end, any farmer that
takes a hit because of a pest problem not of his/her making is a farmer
who deserves some help.
From: Gregory L. Guenther
Klaus Amman wrote the following:
- In the heat of the debate we often forget that this is what science is
all about: publish the data in a transparent way and let it have
criticized. But this does not mean that a scientist having published a
flawed paper should be denigrated - it is after all just a flawed paper
and when you consider that even Nobel Prize winners sometimes come out
with flawed science....
Sir, it is not JUST a "flawed paper". Many such papers are published to
further an agenda that has little or nothing to do with food safety,
economics or any other worthwhile cause. I am unfamiliar with the paper
that you reference, and will take a look at it. But, it is symptomatic
of a trend that I have seen sweeping the world. A "flawed paper" on the
economics of ethanol production by Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell
University in New York has caused all kinds of problems for the ethanol
industry. Even though numerous reputable scientists have refuted his
claims, the media continues to give this entomologist credibility for his
economic study. As long as there are scientists willing to prostitute
themselves to help further an agenda and are willing to publish "flawed
papers" for any reason, the uninformed public will be unable to make
reasonable decisions based on the best information available.
My suggestion is that the scientific community begin a process to police
themselves and consequences should be attached to deliberate acts of
intellectual sabotage that these flawed papers conduct.
As a U.S. farmer, I can tell you that these scientists and their flawed
papers have caused myself and my industry untold harm in the past and will
continue to do so in the future if something is not done.
Thank you for your attention.
Gregory L. Guenther - U.S. farmer
Dissecting issues against GMO: advanced nations' widely used technology
Asia Intelligence Wire
Dr. Benigno D. Peczon
In an official statement, the American Society for Microbiology, which
represents over 42,000 microbiologists worldwide, said, Food labeling is
justified if it identifies real risk and provides information for the
safety of consumers. To label a product only because it is genetically
modified would be punitive.
* Genetically modified (GM) foods are less nutritious than their
The truth: GM foods available in the market are as nutritious as their
As part of its assessment of GM foods, the United States Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) reviews data on nutrient content. Significant changes
in nutrient levels of a new GM food, compared to its traditional
counterpart, would trigger a formal FDA review and require labeling.
To date, all GM foods reviewed by the FDA have shown nutritional values
within the normal range. Independent, peer-reviewed research has also
found that the nutritional composition of current GM food products is
equivalent to that of conventional foods.
* GM foods are dumped in developing countries.
The truth: The biggest market for GM foods is the US, a very developed
GM ingredients are extensively used in food products sold in North
America, which is one of the largest markets in the world. Between 60% and
70% of the food products in US supermarket shelves contain GM ingredients.
In Japan, which has put in place labeling requirements covering foods that
use GMOs, the safety of GM crops such as corn, soybeans, rapeseed,
potatoes and cotton has been confirmed. c Genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) can cause antibiotic resistance. The truth: the US FDA confirms the
safety of antibiotic resistance marker genes.
The allegation arose because in the development of most of the first-
generation GM crops, antibiotic resistance genes were used as selectable
markers to determine whether the transfer was successful.
The conjecture was the genes could neutralize the antibiotics to which
they were resistant, or the genes could be transferred to microorganisms,
which would then become resistant to the antibiotics.
The US FDA has reviewed the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes and
confirmed their safety. In general, the antibiotics used in marker systems
are not antibiotics used to treat disease. In addition, researchers are
studying alternative screening methods that do not use antibiotic
* GM foods can cause allergic reactions.
The truth: Modern biotechnology makes it possible to identify and remove
known allergenic agents from GM foods.
The International Food Information Council said while all known food
allergens are proteins, only a small number of proteins are allergens.
Allergens are found in popular foods like peanuts and other nuts, milk,
eggs, soya, fish and shellfish.
Nowadays, biotechnology companies do not use genetic material from plant
foods commonly associated with allergies.
In the US, the FDA required companies using genes from a known allergenic
source to assume these will produce an allergen, and conduct allergenicity
tests on the food product.
Researchers are also now using biotechnology to remove allergens from
food. For example, experimental rice has been modified to remove
allergenic proteins, and work is ongoing to remove or neutralize
allergenic proteins from other foods such as peanuts.
In the future, it is possible that people suffering from food allergies
will benefit from products that have been made allergen-free by genetic
* Pests will overcome the resistance of GM crops.
The truth: A number of approaches have been made to minimize pest
In some cases, crops are genetically modified to make them resistant to
specific pests or diseases. For example, genetically modified corn (Bt
corn) produces toxins originally found in Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
These toxins kill the corn borer and corn worm, pests that destroy corn
crops and leave farmers with little income. GMO critics argue that pests
or diseases will overcome the resistance of GM crops, perhaps at a faster
University of the Philippines-Los Banos Institute of Plant Breeding
professor Evelyn Mae T. Mendoza, an academician of the National Academy of
Science and Technology, said it is a known fact that resistance against
pest or disease of crops, whether conventional or genetically modified,
eventually breaks down, and insects will adapt to insecticides especially
when the latter are not properly used.
For this reason, strategies for integrated pest management (IPM) have been
developed. Pest-resistant GM crops can thus be regarded as another mode of
pest management, compatible with IPM.
For GM crops, therefore, a number of approaches have been made to minimize
pest adaptation. These include using IPM practices that encourage
ecosystem diversity and multiple tactics for insect control, and
developing products with different modes of action.
To cite a specific example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
devised a scheme to prevent pests from developing resistance to Bt toxins.
The EPA requires Bt corn growers to plant 20% of their land with non-Bt
For Bt corn grown in cotton areas, farmers are required to plant at least
50% of their land with non-Bt corn. Such strategies result in Bt corn
delivering high doses of Bt toxins while the presence of non-Bt crops
nearby ensures that pests remain susceptible to Bt toxins.
The EPA also requires expanded monitoring to detect any potential
* Bt toxin have adverse effects on nontarget organisms.
The truth: Bt toxin does not pose unreasonable risks to human health or to
GMO detractors allege that harmless or even beneficial insects are
vulnerable to Bt toxins meant to kill pests. They said even beneficial
insects die when inadvertently exposed to Bt-laden pollen. The Monarch
butterfly has been widely cited as a case in point.
However, scientific studies showed the long-established practice of
spraying Bt toxins on crops does not harm beneficial insects. Bt-based
sprays have been an important and effective tool of organic farmers for
More specifically, last year, the US National Academy of Science released
the results of a study evaluating two years worth of data from five
universities in the United States and Canada, on claims that Bt corn was
harmful to Monarch butterfly larvae.
The study concluded that the most commonly used types of Bt corn have no
adverse effects on Monarch butterfly larvae.
Other studies on Bt cotton and potatoes have confirmed that populations of
nontarget insects, including useful species that prey on harmful pests,
are actually larger in Bt crops than in conventional fields treated with
After a review process of almost two years, in October 2001, the US EPA
announced Bt does not pose unreasonable risks to human health or to the
environment and approved the use of all Bt corn products for another seven
Environmentalists and organic farmers are worried that with the widespread
planting of Bt corn and cotton, insect pests will be overexposed to the Bt
toxin and will in time develop resistance to it.
As previously described, the EPA requires that farmers who plant Bt crops
must set aside some of their fields for non-Bt crops, so that any Bt-
resistant insects would be forced to mate with nonresistant insects,
reducing the chances that the resistant trait would be passed on to their
* Pollen from GM crops can contaminate other plants.
The truth: The chance of inadvertent cross-pollination is low.
EPA said this issue has been addressed by farmer agreements to build
buffers around their fields and agreements to limit plantings until more
is known about the likelihood of this particular situation.
Studies also show pollen will only survive a short time in soils and is
dependent on wind velocity, etc. Thus, the chance of inadvertent cross-
pollination is low.
Notwithstanding the controversies, clear benefits of biotechnology have
To be continued
(Mr. Peczon is president of Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines.)
Greens Still Wildly Out Of Step
Bluegreens press release
July 29, 2002
The Green Party is still wildly out of step with public opinion on the
lifting of the moratorium on genetic modification field trials. This today
from Terry Dunleavy, national convener of Bluegreens.
"In Saturday's election, the one poll that really counts every three
years, parties that campaigned for an extension of the moratorium past
October next year were trounced, getting less than 8 per cent of the total
vote. Yet, here we have Jeannette Fitzsimons continuing to recite the
moratorium extension mantra as the only policy plank mentioned in her
post-election comment this morning. This, in spite of voters having
indicated clearly that it is as irrelevant as the Green Party has now
become in our political processes.
"This fixation with the moratorium is yet another demonstration of the
extent to which the Greens are in a fantasyland of their own, and out of
step with public opinion as expressed in Saturday's voting results,"said
"Leaving aside the potheads and woolly dreamers who are the Greens core, I
hope that other more moderate New Zealanders who were suckered into voting
Green last Saturday will realise their mistake, and begin looking about
for other parties who offer sensible policy paths toward sustainable
development of our country. The National Party's "Bluegreen Vision for New
Zealand" is a good place to start," Mr Dunleavy concluded.
Organic Industryís Thin Skin
Friday, July 26, 2002
By Steven Milloy
Whole Foods Market can dish it out, but they sure canít take it. The
largest organic foods retailer developed a mega-profitable business by
scaring consumers about conventionally produced foods supposedly
"contaminated" with chemicals and biotechnology.
Now Whole Foods is having a mega-hissy fit because someone says its
products might not be so unadulterated after all.
The American Council on Science and Health, a nonprofit group that
addresses consumer health issues, notified Whole Foods on July 11 of
ACSHís intent to sue Whole Foods for violating California Health & Safety
Code section 25249.6, better known as Proposition 65. The law requires
warning labels on products containing substances deemed "toxic" by
ACSH says Whole Foods illegally sells its whole wheat organic bread
without a warning label. Swedish researchers announced in April that
baking carbohydrate-rich products like bread produces the chemical
acrylamide ó listed as a toxic substance under Proposition 65.
ACSH doesnít really believe that any minute amount of acrylamide present
in Whole Foodsí organic bread is dangerous. But the state of California
Whole Foods no doubt caught on that ACSH was simply playing a practical
joke to make a point about the silliness of Proposition 65 ó a law that
needlessly scares consumers and provides no safety benefit.
The company apparently was ignoring ACSH when the New York Times called.
Food reporter Marian Burros wanted Whole Foodsí reaction to the potential
lawsuit for her article in next Wednesdayís Times.
Whole Foods no longer thinks ACSH is funny and has unleashed its attack
dogs (i.e., lawyers).
"This is no longer a publicity stunt of limited impact. I [am] requesting
that [ACSH] confirm in writing (immediately, for release to the press)
that it does not intend to pursue any claim against [Whole Foods] and that
it apologizes for any embarrassment or other injury to [Whole Foods] on
account of your notice and your statements to the press," threatened
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher lawyer Charles Ivie in an e-mail to ACSH associate
director Jeff Stier.
"[Whole Foods] does not intend to sue ACSH, if you will immediately
damage. It is incomprehensible to me why an organization such as yours
would have done what it has done," added Ivie.
ACSH is not backing down, according to Stier. In any event, the irony is
Whole Foods papers its stores with advertising implying, if not
proclaiming, that conventional and biotech foods are downright dangerous.
Whole Foods issued a press release last September claiming organic food is
healthier than conventional food because, "Ö organic foods are spared the
application of synthetic insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and
fertilizers. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before
extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases.
Now, the EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all
fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides as potentially cancer
Unfortunately for Whole Foodsí assertion, there is not a single shred of
evidence that any application of pesticides has caused a single case of
cancer anywhere in the world despite 50-plus years of widespread use.
About biotech foods, Whole Foods says, "As consumers learn more about the
genetic modification of crops, or GMOs, there is increasing concern that
biotechnology may be moving faster than our government's regulatory system
is currently able to monitor and evaluate. The effect genetic engineering
may have on our environment and on long-term human health issues has not
been determined by health officials.
The implication is simply false as regulatory agencies have conducted
extensive reviews of biotech foods and deem them to be safe.
Last November, Whole Foods issued a press release titled, "Guess Who's Not
Coming to Dinner This Year?; Whole Foods Market Offers Solutions to Make
Holiday Meal Memorable And Delicious Without Artificial Additives,
Preservatives, Growth Hormones."
Omitted from mention is that these technologies have been extensively
tested and approved as safe by government regulators around the world and
have been used for decades without any evidence of harm.
But why let facts get in the way of a profitable marketing strategy?
A final irony is that New York Times reporter Marian Burros is no fan of
ACSH and itís facts-not-fear advocacy. Her upcoming article is more likely
to depict ACSH, not Whole Foods, as the bad guy.
Whole Foods is lucky the conventional foods industry isnít as
thin-skinned. Otherwise, Whole Foodsí lawyers would have a whole lot more
to worry about than ACSH.
Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at
the Cato Institute and the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense
Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).
Japan approves GM corn and soybean
Crop Biotech Update
26 July 2002
Reuters reports that Japan's Health Ministry has approved three varieties
of genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans as safe for human
consumption. The approved crops are insect-resistant, herbicide-tolerant
GM corn - called Herculex I - from U.S. chemical firm Dow Chemical Co and
two varieties of herbicide-tolerant GM soybeans from Franco-German
pharmaceutical group Aventis SA.
There are now a total of 43 varieties of six crops - corn, soybean, sugar
beet, potato, rapeseed and cotton approved for human consumption.
Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun likewise reports that the government will
compile by year-end a set of strategic principles for the development of
biotechnology in Japan. It includes an action plan to be implemented by
2010 for technological development and for the appropriate use of genetic
engineering in food products.
The first meeting of the biotechnology strategy council will be hosted by
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Those attending the meeting include
academics, industry experts and the heads of seven government agencies -
among them the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of
Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Health and Labor.
From: "ezequiel monteagudo"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Zimbabwe Prefers Famine Over Biotech Corn
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 15:51:46 +0800
About the Zimbabwean restriction, for developing countries always exists
the fear, true or not, that developed countries tests their products,
specially foods, exporting or giving them for free. We don¥t if that¥s
true or not but if that crops are GM people has the
right to know. From my point of view, gm foods are the way out to many
starving problems in
developing countries but it¥s easy to find corruption when you¥re talking
about this kind of countries, for example, Australia were trying for years
to export nuclear waste to Argentina but an investigation from Greenpeace
founded that many members of Argentinian goverment were recieving money
for voting a law to create a nuclear waste zone in the south of the
Keeping this in mind we have to be carefull whwn we take a position at
issues like Zimbabwean.
N.Z. Leader Clark Secures Support
Sun Jul 28, 2:51 PM ET
By RAY LILLEY, Associated Press Writer
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Prime Minister Helen Clark, armed with a
fresh mandate to lead the country after winning a historic second term,
moved quickly Sunday to solidify her support in Parliament.
Clark's Labor Party won 52 seats in the 120-member Parliament on Saturday
and gained the endorsement of at least 10 other seats ó eight from the
Greens and two from the Progressive Coalition Party ó for a parliamentary
She was also courting the centrist United Future Party's nine seats, in
case the Greens make good on their vow to vote against her government if
it allows genetically modified organisms for commercial use.
A moratorium against genetic engineering is due to end in October 2003,
and Clark has made clear that Labor would allow the ban to expire while
working to ensure modified crops are checked for safety.
"The moratorium will end," Clark, a 52-year-old former political science
university lecturer, said on National Radio. "I can't offer the Greens an
olive branch on this."
Meetings between Labor and the United Future and the Greens were planned
Clark said it would be a huge mistake for New Zealand to turn its back on
genetic engineering, already widely used and accepted in many countries.
Greens co-leader Rod Donald, however, said the party "will stick with our
principles ... and our bottom line" of extending the moratorium. "We hope
Labor comes to its senses on this issue."
Clark, the first New Zealand woman to win back-to-back elections, has
maintained her popularity among voters despite her sometimes flinty image,
partly thanks to a strong domestic economy and a fall in unemployment to a
Indeed, business leaders viewed the election result as "good for the
Alasdair Thompson, chief executive of the northern branch of the Employers
and Manufacturers Association, said it allowed Labor to avoid being tied
to the "far left which resides in ... the Greens."
Provisional results showed Labor won 41 percent, or 52 seats; the National
Party had 21 percent, or 27 seats; the right-wing New Zealand First party
had 11 percent for 13 seats; United Future had seven percent for nine
seats; and the Green Party had six percent for eight seats. The rightist
ACT party had seven percent for nine seats, and the Progressive Coalition
was forecast to win two seats. A final result is due within days.