Today in AgBioView: August 16, 2002:
* Developers of Genetically Modified Crops Forge On
* WFP Clears Air on GMO Food Issue
* Africa is Merely a Pawn
* Mexico Invests in Genetically Modified Organisms
* Quote of the Week
* Genetically Modified Company
* Food and the Future - 'Nature' Special
* Crop Biotech Update; African Biotech to Benefit from WSSD
* Role of Biotechnology in Sustainable Development - ISAAA's Position Paper
* Martina McGloughlin on MSNBC, Takes on Paul Newman's Daughter
Developers of Genetically Modified Crops Forge On
- Reuters, August 15, 2002
ISTANBUL - Researchers and seed companies are hard at work developing new
genetically modified (GM) crops despite the storm of opposition they face
from consumers, especially in Europe, scientists told a conference this
The new varieties range from a new soybean that yields healthier vegetable
oil to a strain of coffee bean that grows without caffeine. "The next
generation will improve the nutritional quality of the foods," Richard
Wilson, a researcher with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) told an
edible oils conference in Istanbul.
Field tests have already been conducted on a wide range of new GM
varieties, including rice, strawberries and melons, said Richard Phipps, a
research fellow at the Britain's University of Reading. In the United
States, GM crops are widespread with 54 million acres of soybeans, 25
million acres of corn and 11 million acres of cotton planted this year,
Wilson said. The launch of GM crops sparked protests by environmental
groups such as Greenpeace and many consumers remain suspicious of them,
worried about their health or damage to the earth's ecology. Many food
companies in Europe have pledged to use non-GM ingredients in their
Wilson said the new varieties should appeal more to consumers since most
will improve health instead of just help farmers to increase yields or
save money as current GM crops do.
Healthier veg oil. Many of the new GM crops under development employ more
sophisticated techniques than the transgenic method used in the first
varieties that spliced in genes resistant to herbicides or insects, Wilson
said. Now, the technique of "proteomics" uses markers found through the
mapping of the genome to speed up conventional plant breeding, said
Wilson, who heads the Oilseeds and Biosciences unit at the USDA's
Agricultural Research Service.
A new commercial variety of soybean should be on the market in the next
few years that yields healthier oil when crushed, he said. Scientists are
increasing the amount of healthy oleic acid, similar to that found in
olive oil, and reducing saturates, high consumption of which can
contribute to circulatory and heart problems.
The new soyoil will need very little hydrogenation to harden it for use in
margarine and thus cut down on trans-isomers, recently identified as
unhealthy, Wilson added. Trans-isomers are unsaturated but due to their
cell structure the human body treats them as saturated. Genetic
researchers have also figured out how to maximise the amount of
high-protein meal from crushed soybeans, while keeping high levels of oil
at the same time, Wilson said.
Previously, if the amount of protein in the meal was boosted from 44
percent to 45 percent then the proportion of oil would fall to 14
percent-16 percent from the normal 18 percent-19 percent, Wilson said.
Soymeal is mainly used for animal feed.
Better for environment. Phipps strongly disputed arguments against GM
crops by groups such as Greenpeace, saying current GM crops are actually
better for the environment than conventional ones since they reduce use of
chemicals and fuel on farms.
Phipps, at Reading University's Centre for Dairy Research, also said there
is no evidence that foods derived from animals fed GM products are not at
least as safe as those produced from conventional feed ingredients. Since
most GM crops currently being grown include modified genes for herbicide
tolerance or insect resistance, the use of GM crops is estimated to have
cut pesticide use by 22 million to 23 million kg in 2000, he said. GM
crops have also reduced the need for field operations with tractors,
cutting use of fuel and carbon dioxide emissions.
WFP Clears Air On GMO Food Issue
Financial Gazette/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX, August 15, 2002
THE United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has moved to clarify the
issue of the acceptance or rejection of genetically modified (GMO) foods
by drought-hit southern African countries.
WFP regional director for east and southern Africa Judith Lewis this week
told the Integrated Regional Information Network in South Africa: "There
is a great deal of disinformation, misinformation and lack of information
regarding the GMO issue. "The governments of Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland
are all accepting relief food of GMO origin."
The United States, which has been distributing food aid which includes
GMO-produced maize to the six southern African countries which are
threatened by famine, has already made clear that GMO maize is safe and
has been eaten in the US in the past eight years. Nearly 13 million people
in the six southern African countries - most of them in Zimbabwe - require
food aid to stave off hunger.
The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have blamed the
food shortages on poor rains last farming season and failed government
policies. The WFP has appealed for US$507 million worth of food aid for
southern Africa but some governments in the region are reluctant to take
Lewis noted that Zimbabwe, which had refused to accept GMO food, is now
"in negotiations with the government of the USA over the acceptance of GMO
maize". Zambia remains undecided regarding GMO food relief although
commercial imports of such food had already been banned. Zambian radio
reported last week that Vice President Enoch Kavindele had told Parliament
that there were 15 000 tonnes of donated GMO-produced maize in the country
but that the authorities were still to decide on whether or not to
Lewis said: "The government of Zambia is holding a stakeholders meeting on
the issue." The result of the meeting were not known at the time of going
to print last night. Meanwhile Lewis said negotiations were still going on
between the WFP and Mozambican government regarding the issue of GMO
Africa is Merely a Pawn
- Saliem Fakir, Mail & Guardian, Letter to the Editor, August 15, 2002
The garb of educated commentary offered by Jason Lott ("We need more
reasoned public debate over GM food", August 8) is vacuous and appalling
given his credentials as an ethicist.
Lott misses the larger issue. He does not ask why the United States is
choosing the food crisis in Southern Africa to promote its imperial agenda
of spreading a mode of food production that supports its biotech industry,
which in the end is about profits and not people who are starving.
He seems oblivious of the ethics of such a policy agenda, and instead
diverts our attention away from the US's questionable ethical food aid
policy by parading Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's position and that
of other governments in the region as being demonic.
Lott does not seem to think that one should be suspicious of this
manoeuvre on the part of the US. The current context in Southern Africa,
given the crises in Zimbabwe and the sale of food stock by the Malawian
government, has led to an unwitting moral trap. The US is taking advantage
of this, and is forcing governments in the region to make a drastic policy
decision: mass starvation versus breaking their policy on genetically
modified (GM) food.
There is a larger strategy behind this. It has to do with the US's attempt
to break the European Union's position on GM foods.
Africa is merely a pawn in this global game of chess. By forcing Southern
African governments to take a decision on GM foods, a precedent will be
set. The next time round, US corporations will roll out their grand plan
for agricultural rejuvenation in Africa founded on GM-based production.
African governments will be hard-pressed to resist given that they have
subverted their own policies in the face of a food crisis.
If sufficient regions adopt this mode of production, the US will have
created a group of like-minded countries to help it lobby against EU
policies at trade negotiations. The US is interested in the EU market
because this is where money is to be made, not in Africa.
The strategy also goes beyond GM food. A platform will be created where
new biotech products can find their way into the world markets.
Biotechnology is regarded as the US's strategic industry for the 21st
century. The game now is to ensure that markets are opened so that
investment in the industry over the past 30 years can begin to reap
Lott also fails to address why there is a food shortage in the region. The
role of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should not go
without criticism. The SADC should play a better coordinating and
monitoring role to ensure the region does not become dependent on foreign
food aid. As the current debate demonstrates, this forces countries to
accept food assistance at the expense of their policies.
Food aid from a power with imperial intentions does not come without a
foreign policy agenda. Regional food security is an obligation of all SADC
member states, and to blame individual states is to abscond from this
The lessons from this saga need to inform the manner in which we
coordinate aid assistance under the New Partnership for Africa's
-- Saliem Fakir, director, IUCN (World Conservation Union) South Africa
Mexico Invests in Genetically Modified Organisms
- El Financeiro/SABI via COMTEX, August 15, 2002
The Mexican government invests around US$300 mil annually in research and
development in the area of agro-biotechnology, especially in the areas of
food and medicine. The country has 800 bio-technologists, of which 100 are
specialists in genetically modified organisms. The Savia company is one of
the world's main producers of genetically modified seeds, and
Cinvestav(Centro de Investigacion y Estudios Avanzados del Instituto
PolitÈcnico Nacional) has developed varieties of corn and wheat, amongst
others. As well as producing genetically modified organisms, Mexico also
imports these, with a total of 4mil m tons being imported from the US.
Quote of the Week
-Ý Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, August 15, 2002
"It is necessary to examine the maize before we give it to our people...
we will rather starve than get something toxic." -- Zambian President
Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique have reportedly raised concerns about
genetically modified maize forming part of the food aid they receive from
the United States.
Genetically Modified Company
- The Economist, August 15, 2002Ý
Sceptics abound. Has Monsanto learned its lesson since causing a stir in
the late 1990s?
"AS A man sows, so shall he reap," is a biblical lesson that really means
something in the agricultural chemical and seed business, where profits
critically depend on timely plantings and rich harvests. One firm,
however, knows far better than most what it is to reap the whirlwind:
Monsanto, a leading purveyor of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Two years ago, Monsanto was arguably the world's most controversial
company, praised by those who see a future of environmentally friendly
farming and healthier diets in high-tech crops, and damned by others who
consider them promoters of ecological destruction and corporate control of
the global food supply. Under siege from anti-GM protestors and heavily
indebted after a $5.3 billion acquisition spree, Monsanto found temporary
shelter under the roof of Pharmacia, an American drug company that bought
the embattled firm for its successful pharmaceutical division, Searle.
In 2000, Pharmacia floated 15% of Monsanto on the stockmarket and
announced plans to spin off the rest by the end of this year. Last month,
Pharmacia itself was snapped up by Pfizer, an American rival, and the
Monsanto sale was pushed forward. This week, Pharmacia handed its
remaining stake to its shareholders, to keep or to sell as they wish.
On the face of it, the new Monsanto is quite different from the old one.
In 2000, Hendrik Verfaillie, a company veteran, replaced Robert Shapiro as
boss. Mr Verfaillie is seen as more pragmatic than the missionary Mr
Shapiro, who preached the gospel of the "life sciences" and the synergies
from mixing farming, food and pharmaceuticals. Not only has Monsanto lost
its drug-making arm, but it has also shed its NutraSweet business. Within
agriculture, it has narrowed its interest to four key crops - soyabeans,
maize, wheat and cotton.
Hugh Grant, Monsanto's chief operating officer, says that Pharmacia gave
the firm much-needed breathing space, assuming most of its debt and
leaving it to get on with cutting costs and integrating the many seed
companies that it bought in the late 1990s. The upshot is that Monsanto is
now liquid once more. By the end of this year, it expects to have free
cash flow of at least $400m.
Monsanto is not the only company in the industry having to tighten its
belt. Rivals such as Syngenta and DuPont have also been cutting costs in
order to meet profit-margin targets. This is particularly true in the
crop-protection business: global sales of chemical pesticides are expected
to shrink by more than 10% to $11.8 billion by 2004.
As John Moten of Deutsche Bank points out, the agrochemical and seed
industry is under pressure on several fronts, including persistently low
commodity prices and industry consolidation. The second of these has
created bigger competitors in crop chemicals. Another factor is the
economic meltdown in Argentina, a big consumer of chemicals. In the second
quarter of this year, Monsanto wrote off $154m of unpaid bills there. Like
its rivals, the company has since reduced its Argentinian risk by refusing
credit and taking payment for goods only in cash or grain.
Although crop chemicals still account for almost 70% of Monsanto's
revenues, their prospects are dimming, because the firm's bestselling
herbicide, called Roundup, has gone off-patent. Monsanto sees its future
in fancy seeds and genomics. Though it may not trumpet this article of
faith quite as loudly as before, the firm is backing it with plenty of
money: last year, 83% of Monsanto's $550m investment in research and
development went into seeds and biotechnology, compared with an industry
average of 29%. The latest crop of products close to being commercialised
include GM maize, which resists a nasty pest called rootworm,
herbicide-tolerant wheat and more nutritious feed for livestock.
In Europe, where public resistance to GM foods has been fiercest, leading
to a de facto moratorium on commercial planting of GM crops, betting on
"Frankenstein foods" might sound like asking for trouble. But Mr
Verfaillie points to the rapid adoption of GM crops outside Europe as
farmers plump for the savings on chemicals that the use of such crops can
bring (see chart). Mr Grant reckons that the environmental benefits of
lower pesticide use and other ecological advantages - all hotly contested
by anti-GM activists - should help to win over European consumers.
At the end of the 1990s, Monsanto made the mistake of assuming that
brilliant science will speak for itself, and that public concerns are not
worth worrying about. Mr Verfaillie admits that the company was arrogant
and secretive in its dealings with the outside world, and blinded by its
own technical success. This time round, the firm is big on public
dialogue, talking to its customers, transparency and technology-sharing -
all of which is embodied in an earnest promise ("The New Monsanto Pledge")
introduced by Mr Verfaillie two years ago. Mr Verfaillie is even mildly
optimistic about the firm's long-term prospects in Europe. He is, after
all, Belgian. That Monsanto is now talking to the public is good. But to
win over the sceptics it will need to prove that it is listening as well.
Food and the Future - 'Nature' Special
From BSE to GM, food is news. One strand unites these issues, and it can
be summarized in one word: 'sustainability'. The world's population
continues to grow, yet resources are finite. Our mission is to squeeze
more crops from the same patch of ground, while preserving that patch in a
state fit to pass on to further hungry generations. The quest for
sustainability is the theme of this Insight.
After World War II, the 'Green Revolution' averted worldwide famine. Half
a century on, the world needs yet greater ingenuity to feed itself.
Science is again at the sharp end. The public wants it to deliver food to
satisfy an increasing population without compromising the integrity of the
landscape we live in. Agriculture in the future must be environmentally
sensitive and above all, sustainable.
Much current debate on these issues concerns genetically modified crops,
but this is only part of the story. Sustainability has lessons for the
whole agricultural enterprise, from high-tech viticulture to the depths of
This web focus brings together what seems to be a disparate selection of
material recently published in Nature. The wide range illustrates, as well
as anything can, how issues relating to food touch every sphere of human
African Biotech to Benefit from WSSD
- Crop Biotech Update, http://www.isaaa.org/kc
Following a series of sensitization meetings organized by the African
Biotechnology Stakeholders' Forum (ABSF) in collaboration with ISAAA
Africentre, the media in Kenya has highlighted the role of the forthcoming
World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South
Africa, in shaping future policies and new initiatives for further
development of biotechnology in Africa. The WSSD aims to ensure a balance
between economic, social development and environmental protection as
components of sustainable development.
The Kenyan media suggested that emphasis should be placed on national and
global strategies to ensure appropriate caution and judgment in the
development and application of biotechnology. This should include
discussion on the implementation of suitable risk assessment systems to
minimize the potential risk in human and animal health.
Also suggested as area of deliberation is the establishment of appropriate
and enforceable national and global regulatory systems to ensure safe
international trade and use of biotechnology products. Key to all these
will be the ratification and implementation of an international biosafety
protocol and an increased level of public awareness and acceptance of the
processes and products of biotechnology.
In related developments, the ABSF recently held a workshop to sensitize
its members on the potential role of biotechnology in ensuring food
security for African countries. The chief guest was Prof. Channapatna
Prakash, Director of the Centre for Plant Biotechnology Research at
Tuskegee University, US.Ý
Prof. Prakash recognized that numerous problems affected agricultural
production in Africa and that biotechnology could only address those
limiting productivity. He outlined the role of biotechnology in producing
more nutritious food using less land, less water and less chemicals as the
best option for increasing food production while conserving the natural
resource base. He emphasized that reliance on food aid was not an option
for sustainable development and suggested that African countries integrate
biotechnology in their development agenda through appropriate policies,
capacity building and inclusion in regional programmes. /Kenya
Biotechnology Information Center
TRANSFORMATION OF AGRICULTURE IS REQUIRED TO FEED THE WORLD
"To feed the world this century and avert increased economic and civil
dislocation, a second and more widespread transformation of agriculture is
required," said Dr. Gordon Conway, President of the Rockefeller
Foundation. Dr. Conway, who has been called "The Voice of Reason in the
Global Food Fight" presented the keynote address in the international
conference of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and
Engineering Crawford Fund, "Food for the Future: Opportunities for a
Crowded Planet", in Canberra, Australia held last 8 August 2002. The event
was held to discuss how science and technology could address food
security, world stability and sustainable development in the face of
growing world population.
Dr. Conway called for a multi-part approach which would:
* design new and better plants and animals, using modern methods of
biotechnology and genetic engineering, particularly aimed at marginal
* develop (or rediscover) non-polluting alternatives to inorganic
fertilizers and pesticides
* improve soil and water management
* enhance earning opportunities for the rural poor, especially women; and
* forge genuine partnerships between researchers and farmers on the
ground, who can offer invaluable input into the creation and application
of new techniques.
In relation to biotechnology and community concern, Dr Conway noted that
much of what is being said in developed countries, like Australia, is
driven by passion, or simple anti-corporate sentiment. He further said,
"unless there is more reasoned dialogue, there is a real danger that the
potential benefits of the technology will be lost in an increasingly
hostile consumer or legislative backlash".
For more details go to http://www.crawfordfund.org/events/prconway.htm.
GM CROPS AS SAFE AS CONVENTIONAL CROPS
Dr. Bruce Chassy of the University of Illinois, states that "crops
produced through biotechnology have proven to be as safe as or safer than
crops produced by conventional breeding". He further elaborates that
these crops could even be safer using Bt corn as an example. It needs less
pesticides thus there would be less exposure to farmers, surrounding
communities and non-target organisms.
Chassy's article "Food safety evaluation of crops produced through
biotechnology" was published in the Journal of the American College of
Nutrition, Vol. 21, No. 3 (2002). He described the evaluation process GM
foods undergo before it is approved for cultivation and eventual
The author made an analogy regarding a "wait and see" approach regarding
technologies. He said that had the US waited to accumulate evidence, they
would have abandoned railways because during the first couple of years,
early train travel was unsafe and often lethal. He said we would also
have abandoned electricity because there were many fires, injuries and
deaths at first. In contrast, GM crops have been around for five years
and "there is not a single report that would lead an expert food scientist
to question the safety of such transgenic crops now in use". Chassy said
that a major lesson is that "we should analyze and judge the safety of
individual products that are the applications of a new technology rather
than the technology itself".
The article can be downloaded at
BROCHURES ON BT COTTON IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Have smallholder farmers benefited from planting Bt cotton? The
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
answers this question in a series of brochures on Bt cotton in developing
countries. These are popularized write-ups on documented benefits of Bt
cotton in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and South Africa by noted
agricultural economists and scientists.
The brochures on Bt cotton prove that farmers have gained much from the
technology in controlling major insect pests of cotton. In addition,
farmers experienced greater productivity and income as well as health
ANNOUNCEMENT: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL ON GMO BIOSAFETY
The newly launched Environmental Biosafety Research (EBR) is calling for
papers. The quarterly international journal aims to publish top quality
research and review articles in areas pertinent to GMO biosafety. Areas
of interest include plant/animal ecology, plant/animal pathology, weed
science, microbiology, entomology, food safety, agronomy, and economics.
For more information, visit http://www.edpsciences.org/ebr/ or download a
leaflet in pdf format from
Role of Biotechnology in Sustainable Development
World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26
August - 4 September 2002
"Preparatory activities are underway to participate in the World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD) 2002 to be held on August 26-September 4,
2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Summit will evaluate the obstacles
to progress and the results achieved since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de
Janeiro. It was in Rio that the international community adopted Agenda 21,
a global plan for sustainable development.
Kofi Annan, Secretary of the United Nations says that the Summit ìmust
send out a message that sustainable development is not only a necessity
but also an exceptional opportunity to place our economies and societies
on more durable footingî.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
(ISAAA) will put up a 12-panel exhibit focusing on the activities and
programs of the organization as it pursues three themes: building
partnerships, enhancing opportunities, and sustaining development. It
will highlight the African and Southeast Asian projects that pursue
ISAAAís mission of contributing to poverty alleviation through sustainable
increase in crop productivity in the developing world. ISAAA will also be
involved in sessions where benefits of crop biotechnology as a scientific
strategy in sustainable development will be discussed (see ISAAA position
paper below ) "
ISAAA Position Paper: ROLE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
A Contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development,
Johannesburg, 26 August - 4 September 2002
Introduction. This paper discusses the role and contributions of
biotechnology towards achieving sustainable development, how it can
contribute in many spheres towards achieving the goals of the UN
Millennium Declaration, and why it must be appropriately nurtured to
facilitate equitable access to such technologies by developing countries.
We highlight some of the major benefits that biotechnology can and in some
cases already does bring, and the paper concludes with some policy
recommendations for the WSSD process.
Agenda 21: a moral imperative. Agenda 21 recognizes the importance of
biotechnology in achieving development objectives. The goals expressed in
Chapter 16 are to encourage international agreement on the safe and
environmentally responsible management of biotechnology, to engender
public trust and confidence, to promote the development of sustainable
applications of biotechnology and to establish appropriate enabling
mechanisms, especially within developing countries.Ý
Biotechnology integrates new techniques emerging from modern technology
with long-established traditional knowledge. Chapter 16 states that
biotechnology carries significant potential for addressing many
environment and development problems, including ìbetter health care,
enhanced food security, improved supplies of potable water, more efficient
industrial processes, sustainable methods of afforestation and
reforestation, and detoxification of hazardous wastesî.
Chapter 16 goes on to say ì..in addition, [biotechnology] offers much
potential for cooperation and partnership between developing nations who
are rich in biological diversity and the developed nations who have
developed the technological expertise to transform these biological
resources into products and processes which can serve the needs of
At the Rio Summit the developing countries of the southern hemisphere
requested that the developed countries in the North should provide new and
additional funding for a wide range of developmental activities including
biotechnology. However, over the past decade it has become clear that
this request went largely unheeded. In fact, the level of financial
assistance by the North has been declining in real terms. Ten years on,
this trend needs to be reversed if the aims of the WSSD are to be
Today, at least 800 million people suffer from hunger and poverty
worldwide, and their struggle becomes more difficult each year as
environmental degradation worsens, caused by pollution and unsustainable
The worldís population will grow by about 73 million people each year from
2001 to 2020, with most of the growth occurring in developing countries.
Meeting the food needs of this expanding population will require dramatic
increases in agricultural productivity. World grain production will need
to increase by 40%, roots and tubers by 58% and livestock production must
double to meet projected world food demand in 2020. This will need to be
achieved through increased sustainable agricultural production per unit of
land in order to conserve our diminishing natural resources.
Technology is of course no panacea, and has to be considered as one
component of a much broader development agenda. Nevertheless, in the face
of such stark realities, the deployment and adoption of innovative
technologies- including biotechnology- in developing countries will form
an important strategic pillar in creating sustainable patterns of
development and sustainable livelihoods.
There is thus a moral imperative for stakeholders to do their utmost to
ensure such technologies are properly harnessed to their full potential,
for example through need-based, pro-poor policies, public sector ownership
and investment in biotechnology, effective risk management mechanisms,
equitable benefit-sharing and IPR, and through global partnerships for
technology transfer and capacity building.
These sentiments have been echoed by many UN agencies and governments, and
were strongly underlined by UNCTAD at the 54th session of the UN General
Assembly held in December 1999. The conference called for ìfarmer-friendly
biotechnology that will foster crop reproduction, improve season-to-season
harvests while enhancing economic growth and the sustainable development
of developing countriesî. The conference recognized that developing
countries have limited access to such technologies, and encouraged the
establishment of global public-private partnerships to address issues of
technology transfer and capacity building.
Echoing this, Dr Klaus Toepfler, Executive Director of UNEP, in his speech
to Precom II in New York (January 2002), encouraged the WSSD to ensure
broader access to biotechnologies:- ìThe advantages of biotechnology
should be affordable and made available to developing countries- while
ensuring that those countries have the ability to assess the risks, and
benefits, of genetically engineered cropsî.
The challenge for all stakeholder groups is therefore to ensure that
biotechnology is developed and applied safely without harming the
environment or threatening human health, and it must be done equitably,
taking advantage of the opportunities it offers for global cooperation in
Can biotechnology help in achieving the Millennium Goals? On a global
scale, biotechnology, harnessed through an appropriate regulatory and
ethical framework, can play a significant role in the solution of problems
identified in Sections III and V of the Millennium Declaration ñ ìFreedom
from wantî and ìSustaining our futureî- issues that include increasing
agricultural productivity, fighting disease, conserving the soil,
preserving forests, fisheries and biodiversity.
Around the world, governments, international organizations and
institutions are recognizing the potential of biotechnology and calling
for action to enable the realization of its benefits. Recognizing its
potential for improving productivity, increasing nutrition, and reducing
the environmental impact of current agricultural practices, the leaders of
APEC in October of 2001: ìreaffirm[ed] the importance of safe
introduction and use of biotechnology products based on sound science.î
The International Fund for Agricultural Development in its 2001 annual
report also states that biotechnology could be essential to the
alleviation of rural poverty in developing countries.
ISAAA also shares the view that new crop biotechnologies have a crucial
role to play in addressing global poverty, and we are committed to their
appropriate, safe, and equitable adoption and use. It is the worldís poor
who stand to benefit most from the increased yields, reduced pollution,
and improved nutritional characteristics that agricultural biotechnology
Technology transfer can only be effective when linked with integrated
measures to address the complex matrix of constraints (including
socio-economic, marketing, credit, land tenure, political) faced by
farmers in poor countries. Public-private partnerships, (North-South,
South- South) using multidisciplinary teams are an effective mechanism for
ensuring value and long term sustainability for technology transfer.
In reaffirming a global commitment to achieving the Millennium Goals for
poverty reduction and hunger by 2015, the WSSD will be a unique
opportunity for all stakeholders to establish such integrated policies and
measures to ensure that the worldís poor are empowered to access the
technologies they need to survive and compete in a global marketplace.
The decisions made at this Summit will result in many new initiatives and
ñ we hope- a climate for further development of biotechnology. Such
decisions could include:
* Better access for developing countries to global markets
* Increased investment for developing economies
* Resource commitment, e.g. support for the New Partnership for Africaís
* Technology development and transfer from developed to developing
countries to facilitate the strengthening of the local biotechnology
* New sustainable sources of revenue for developing countries through
equitable benefit-sharing schemes.
The potential of biotechnology to stimulate economic development and
support sustained development ñ from industrial development to the
development of small-scale and emerging farmers will be emphasized at the
WSSD. It is also hoped that from the WSSD the current lack of skills and
funding in biotechnology will be important components of the North ñ South
The debate at Johannesburg will focus on poverty alleviation, land
degradation, increasing food production, providing better access to good
quality water, reducing the destruction and pollution caused by mining,
combating the effects of desertification, reducing the population growth
rates, resolving problems of crime and civil strife and halting the loss
of biodiversity. In many of these areas, biotechnology can make a
The appetite for biotechnology among both farmers and the general public
is rising steadily in developing countries. In Africa, where population
growth at 3.5% p.a. by far outweighs food production growth (2.5% p.a.),
biotechnology is being recognized as among the most promising tools for
increasing agricultural productivity within a sustainable environment.
Several success stories have emerged where biotechnological approaches
have contributed to the solution of specific problems of small farmers who
produce 80% of all food consumed. They include: the widespread adoption
of tissue culture technology to propagate disease-free banana plantlets in
Kenya, where small-scale farmers have increased their household incomes by
up to 38%.
Documented benefits of modern biotechnology for small scale farmers have
been seen in the cultivation of Bt cotton in the Makhathini area of
KwaZuklu/Natal in South Africa that has resulted in lower pesticide usage,
higher yields and improved net returns. The cultivation of Bt maize also
promises less pesticide use and reduced mycotoxin levels in the edible
product. Similar results have been documented in other countries, both
developing and developed. In China, on-farm studies on Bt cotton show
similar increases in yields and farm incomes, and also that the smaller
farmers benefited most from the cultivation of Bt cotton.
It is hardly surprising therefore that farmers and developing countries
are increasingly turning to biotechnology. The many benefits, especially
to farmers and the environment- are now well-documented both for
large-scale intensive farming in developed countries, and equally for
smallholders in the developing world. Advances in our understanding of
fundamental mechanisms in functional genomics, together with the
elucidation of gene sequences for major crops, have allowed researchers to
focus more precisely on traits which are important to farmers in
A 20 year environmental and food safety track record. The positive
experience with agricultural biotechnology over the last 20 years has been
and continues to be confirmed by governments and international
organizations. For example, in October 2001, the European Commission
announced the results of fifteen years of GMO safety research involving 81
projects and more than 400 multidisciplinary teams. In introducing this
report, EC Commissioner Busquin stated: ìResearch on the GM plants and
derived products so far developed and marketed, following usual risk
assessment procedures, has not shown any new risks to human health or the
environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant
breeding. Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater
regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants
and foods; and if there are unforeseen environmental effects - none have
appeared as yet - these should be rapidly detected by our monitoring
requirements. On the other hand, the benefits of these plants and
products for human health and the environment become increasingly clear.î
Similarly, scientific studies continue to show that GM products that have
been approved for human consumption are as safe as their conventional
counterparts. The positive safety track record of biotechnology, coupled
with the environmental benefits it offers, render biotechnology as one of
the top candidates for the transfer of environmental sound technologies.
In its 2001 Human Development report, UNDP urges developed countries to
put aside their fears of genetically modified organisms and help poorer
nations unlock the potentials of biotechnology. ìBiotechnology offers the
only or the best ëtool of choiceí for marginal ecological zones, left
behind by the Green Revolution but home to more than half of the worldís
populationî, the Report concluded.
Recommendations to WSSD
ISAAA respectfully submits the following recommendations as a contribution
to the WSSD debate:
1. Policymakers must provide an enabling environment to nurture the
development of national biotechnology R&D and regulatory capacity in
2. Developed countries, donors and technology generators must respect the
sovereign right of developing countries to decide for themselves what
technology options they choose to address their national food security
issues, and facilitate equitable access to those technologies.
3. The WSSD process should encourage countries to fulfill their
obligations under the CBD, the Biosafety Protocol and Agenda 21 to
establish transparent and predictable regulatory systems based on
scientific risk assessment and risk management systems.
4. WSSD should support ongoing efforts, within the context of the
Convention on Biological Diversity, to increase the contribution of the
public and private sectors, financial, academic and research institutions,
non-governmental organizations and other major groups, to facilitate the
role of research and development, financing of biotechnology,
capacity-building, and risk management.
5. Policies must promote public ownership and investment in need-based
biotechnology R&D capacity in developing countries. Stakeholder
partnerships (North-South, local-global, private-public) offer an
effective mechanism for mediating the associated issues of technology
transfer and capacity building.
6. Governments should give high priority to measures aimed at integrating
biotechnology, in accordance with appropriate biosafety regulatory
systems, into national sustainable development policies and programmes.
7. WSSD should encourage the adoption of the Bonn Guidelines on access and
benefit sharing for products derived from biotechnology.
8. WSSD should facilitate access to biotechnology technology transfer and
capacity building by developing countries, and also their access to the
9. WSSD should support policies and measures to increase the level of
public awareness and acceptance of the potential, processes and the
products of biotechnology.
We believe that the following specific WSSD outcomes would make a positive
contribution to sustainable development in developing countries and
1 WSSD must recognize the potential contribution of biotechnology as a
tool for future food security and sustainable development. Biotechnology
is an important tool that has the potential to play a meaningful role in
poverty alleviation in developing countries. The final document should
highlight how biotechnology can be incorporated into poverty alleviation
strategies in developing countries.
2. Recognition of biotechnology as a tool for biodiversity: The link
between biodiversity and biotechnology needs to be further highlighted.
Rather than presenting a threat, biotechnology is an important tool for
unpacking and enhancing biodiversity.
3. Capacity Building. To ensure the sustainable development of
biotechnology, the WSSD should produce a concrete plan of action for the
development of the necessary human resources and infrastructure. A
comprehensive needs assessment should be carried out to identify the gaps
that need to be filled, particularly in Africa.
4. Sustainable Business and Biotechnology. The final outcome of the WSSD
must highlight and put into place the modalities for sustainable business
development and biotechnology. Issues pertaining to intellectual property
rights must be addressed in a manner that does not hinder research,
development and commercialization of useful products. Means should be
developed to allow governments in developing countries to take ownership
5. Technology Transfer. Much of the technical and financial expertise in
modern biotechnology is concentrated in the north. It is therefore
crucial that WSSD promotes adequate north-south cooperation. As a major
outcome of the WSSD, the importance of stakeholder partnerships as a means
of implementing this technology transfer should be recognized, and
appropriate support provided at all levels to facilitate assess to
biotechnologies by developing countries.
About ISAAA. The International Service for the Acquisition of
Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) is a not-for-profit organization that
delivers the benefits of new agricultural biotechnologies to the poor in
developing countries. It was established through a World Bank initiative
in 1992, and receives funding from the public and private sectors. ISAAAís
international network has centers in the Philippines, Kenya and the United
States. ISAAAíS MISSION is to contribute to poverty alleviation, by
increasing crop productivity and income generation, particularly for
resource-poor farmers, and to bring about a safer environment and more
sustainable agricultural development. ISAAAíS OBJECTIVES are the transfer
and delivery of appropriate biotechnology applications to developing
countries and the building of partnerships between institutions in the
South and the private sector in the North, and by strengthening
Through its Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology and also via
national Biotech Information Centers, ISAAA provides national focal points
for researchers, policy makers and the media for factual information
related to agricultural biotechnology. FUNDING: ISAAA is funded by a donor
support group consisting of public and private sector institutions. No
open-ended long-term core funding is sought, but donors are asked to
commit funds on a fixed-term basis. This fixed-term funding strategy
exposes ISAAA's program to regular and rigorous peer review by current and
potential donors, thereby ensuring full transparency and accountability.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION contact Dr Randy Hautea, Global Coordinator,
ISAAA, c/o IRRI, MCPO Box 3127 1271 Makati City, Philippines. Tel: +63
2-845-0563 / 0569; Fax: +63 49 536 7216. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
'Martina McGloughlin on MSNBC, Takes on Paul Newman's Daughter!'
- Donahue, MSNBC, Aug. 14 2002
Guests: Martina McGloughlin and Nell Newman
DONAHUE: Welcome back. You are what you eat, but today what you eat may be
injected with a pesticide cocktail. It's called genetically modified food,
and not everybody thinks itís a good idea. Joining me now are Nell Newman,
co-president of organic foods division of Newman's Own. Yes, she is the
daughter of that other Newman, Paul. Her mother is Joanne Woodward. Also
here with me, Martina McGloughlin, director of the biotechnology research
and education program at the University of California, U.C. Davis.
Correct? MARTINA MCGLOUGHLIN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
DONAHUE: Well, now, first things first here. Your dad's products, Newman's
Own popcorn, pasta sauce, salad dressing, pretzels-how much? Over 100
million dollars to charity.
NELL NEWMAN, PRESIDENT, NEWMANíS OWN ORGANICS: Yep. DONAHUE: Thatís
NEWMAN: In 20 years.
DONAHUE: And neither he nor your mother really ever even talk about it.
You know? I think I'd would be out there trying to get my picture taken.
My point is, you know, that-you know, this is wonderful. Itís a tremendous
Now you come forward. You got your own thing. You're separate from your
father's company, but you do the same thing. All your profits go to
charity and your...
NEWMAN: They do.
DONAHUE: And your food is not GM, not genetically modified. Do I have it?
NEWMAN: You do. Itís not allowed in organic agriculture. So we spend a lot
of our charity dollars trying to make sure that thereís no
DONAHUE: Right. Tell me-incidentally, let me show the viewers this. This
year-you probably both know this - 90 million acres of American farmland
are growing genetically modified crops. Wow!~ And then - let me show them
the next one here. Up to 70 percent of processed foods sold in grocery
stores are genetically modified. I donít see them dropping dead in the
street. Now, Nell, make your case here. Whatís wrong with it?
NEWMAN: Well, as far as Iím concerned, as biologist, I really think of it
as bad science, and particularly because thereís no peer review-thereí s
no-of human-of human studies of eating, of environmental-long-term
environmental effects. Itís pretty much been forced on us without any
debate amongst the public.
DONAHUE: Right. Now, let me tell what you Iím sure we can anticipate here.
The gene, for example, for the insecticide is insert into the corn. The
corn grows, it has its own insecticide! You donít to have dump all that
stuff on the ground anymore! Itís got its own built-in 'get out of here,
bugs' sort of-no bacteria. Good thing. Whatís wrong with that?
NEWMAN: One of the problems is that it-the pollen grows and contaminates
other-blows around and contaminates other products, particularly with
organics - itís much more-the toxin from the bacteria bacillus thorengis
(ph), and itís much more toxic. So when the crop actually breaks down in
the soil, theyíve discovered it kills a lot of the microbes in the soil,
which doesnít happen with bacillus thorengis. And it also uses one of the
few things that organic farmers used to use, the bacteria. And now that
itís being bioengineered into all of these millions of acres of crops,
insect resistance is going to build up at a much faster rate.
DONAHUE: Well, Martina, you are on the air. Let me say again, you are Ms.
McGloughlin. You are research and education director of biotechnology at
U.C. Davis. Go get 'em.
MCGLOUGHLIN: Well, actually, news for Nell-all food is genetically
modified and has been for thousands of years. Thereís nothing natural
about farming. If you want natural farming, you have to go back to
DONAHUE: Yes, but we werenít fooling with the genes. We... MCGLOUGHLIN:
Oh, yes, you are.
DONAHUE: Well, Mendel-Mendel gave us the hybrid. And we can do that, and
I-OK. Go ahead. Go ahead.
MCGLOUGHLIN: Well, actually, do you eat spaghetti? Every single strand of
spaghetti that you eat has been modified using whatís called irradiation
mutagenesis (ph) 50 years ago, where you didnít know what you were doing
to the DNA. You were just blasting it with either chemicals or radiation
to get these alterations to come up with the specific characteristics that
give you good semolina. Likewise, every Asian pear...
DONAHUE: Good what?
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... to make-durum wheat is used to make semolina, which has
DONAHUE: So it was easier to grown and more plentiful? MCGLOUGHLIN: And it
give you better quality. DONAHUE: I see.
MCGLOUGHLIN: Likewise, every Asian pear you eat... DONAHUE: I see.
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... was blasted, likewise, a long, long time ago... DONAHUE:
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... to make it resistant to black spot disease.
DONAHUE: But that was before Watson and Crick and DNA, and we got smart,
MCGLOUGHLIN: That was DNA! That was DNA... (CROSSTALK)
MCGLOUGHLIN: Yes, DNA was being changed. We didnít know what we were
doing. Like, for example, in Davis, weíre called the 'Big Tomato.'
Sacramento is the Big Tomato, like the 'Big Apple,' because tomatoes are
very important there. And to get a lot of tomato paste, you want really
high levels of whatís called soluble solids. And you canít get that in
MCGLOUGHLIN: So we went looking to a wild variety from the Andes which has
one very good characteristic. It makes a lot of good paste. But it's a
member of the deadly nightshade family...
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... are all tomatoes. And it... DONAHUE: Do they taste...
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... took 15 years...
DONAHUE: Do they taste good?
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... to get rid of all the characteristics you didnít
want-small yield, bad taste, and itís toxic. But with genetic engineering,
we got the exact same results not by introducing any toxic genes by
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... but turning off a single gene.
NEWMAN: And in my mind, as a biologist, the big difference between rubbing
two flowers together to cross-pollinate something, as opposed to
genetically engineering and injecting genes from one thing into another
crop-to me, thatís a very-thereís a very big difference there. Thatís not
MCGLOUGHLIN: But actually, the toxic plant, the wild variety of tomato,
you couldnít get it by rubbing it together. They wonít breed naturally.
You actually had to intercede-not using genetic engineering. This was
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) cross was done in the '40s and '50s. And weíve been using
these products since.
DONAHUE: Ms. Newman joins not a few other people in lamenting the absence
of testing here. And one of the problems with testing is that, presumably,
we donít have any real valuable tests, unless itís at least a decade old.
Thatís expensive. It delays placing these...
MCGLOUGHLIN: Yeah. And these have been more thoroughly tested than any of
those products I told you about that have been around for 50 or 60 years.
Weíre not glowing in the dark as we eat spaghetti. None of these products
were tested to the extent that biotech products are, and I...
NEWMAN: But thereís no actual...
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... know what they are...
NEWMAN: ... peer-review studies, like there are in traditional science,
because all these of these seeds are trademarked. And they get their
trademark-itís not-I have not seen a single peer review.
MCGLOUGHLIN: I actually am on-I am on a committee that reviews these
products. I donít get paid for it. Iím a university professor, so I donít
get any money whatsoever.
DONAHUE: Does the school get any...
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... from these companies.
DONAHUE: No grants from...
MCGLOUGHLIN: The school doesnít get it. What the school can-we do get
funding for students, but they donít come to us. And there definitely...
DONAHUE: All right.
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... no strings attached.
DONAHUE: Right. Talk about labeling now. NEWMAN: I think the-Rutgers did a
study funded by the USJ which showed that 90 percent of the people that
they spoke to wanted labeling. And I donít see any reason why-if it is so
safe, why are we not labeling it?
DONAHUE: Because itíll hurt the marketing... MCGLOUGHLIN: No. No.
DONAHUE: ... operation. Itíll scare people. NEWMAN: Well...
DONAHUE: You know, I mean, why would they want to put something that is
considered to be controversial on the label? I mean, I get it. Iím not
saying that itís right, but I understand theyíre hesitant.
NEWMAN: Certainly, the public right-the public has a right to know. And in
organic agriculture, 200,000 people made comments saying they wanted to
MCGLOUGHLIN: And I think if you want to know, then you need to-you have to
pay for that right. Otherwise, itís a tax on the individuals who want safe
food, who do not want to depend on chemical methods of growing their food.
And you are putting 15 to 20 percent on the cost to segregate from the
seeds to the table. Thatís a huge cost for individuals who want safe food.
MCGLOUGHLIN: But thatís being paid by my farmers, not by anybody in the
biotech industry. My farmers are paying 30,000 bucks a year now to try and
NEWMAN: ... this stuff separate.
DONAHUE: You know...
MCGLOUGHLIN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people want to buy it. They might think they
have to pay for it. I really donít think you can...
NEWMAN: Well, why doesnít Monsanto...
NEWMAN: ... Monsanto pay for it because... MCGLOUGHLIN: Because people
donít really want to know at that level. Those that do want to know, that
want that choice, they should have to...
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... be in a position to pay for that choice. DONAHUE: But
when you consider what a wonderful bread basket we have you know, itís in
our own back yard, and maybe we donít appreciate it, talk about it enough.
Wow! The heartland-lush, amber waves of grain! Catherine Bates (ph), who
wrote 'America the Beautiful,'was right! What do we need this for? What do
MCGLOUGHLIN: Because every day we add 200,000 people. We add 90 million
people to the worldís population. If we were to switch to completely
organic methods, we could feed, at the most, two billion to three billion.
What do we do with the other three to four billion that are already there?
Whatever view you may have on population control.
NEWMAN: I donít-I donít think that thereís-Iím not asking for a conversion
to organic agriculture. I am saying that there needs to be more scientific
testing. And if you look at one tenth of 1 percent of the USCís budget
being spent on anything considered organic research, then you have to give
us equal funding over equal time.
MCGLOUGHLIN: But the reality is, you need 2,000 acres of organic
production to equal one Û 200 acres of...
NEWMAN: Absolutely untrue.
MCGLOUGHLIN: No, that is true.
NEWMAN: Absolutely untrue.
MCGLOUGHLIN: Absolutely, because if you look at the systems for
production, we would need to put...
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... our national parks and marginal lands... DONAHUE: Right.
MCGLOUGHLIN: ... under the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) NEWMAN: Absolutely untrue.
DONAHUE: But there are not a few folks who want you to know, too, that the
problem really, with-regarding famine around the world is less supply than
means of distribution.
MCGLOUGHLIN: Means of transportation. I totally agree with you. Thatís
part of the process.
DONAHUE: Well, alas, our time is up. I thank you both. Weíre going to - 90
million acres of American farmland now growing genetically modified foods.
Theyíre all around us. Nell Newman, Martina McGloughlin, thank you both.