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Date:

August 27, 2002

Subject:

Global Food Fights; Genetic Solutions NOT Pollution; Agenda 21; H

 

Today in AgBioView: August 28, 2002:

* Food Fights on the Global Sale
* Vandana Shiva and African Scientists Agree -Implement Agenda 21
* Experts at WSSD Differ With Greenpeace Campaign Against GMO
* UN Report Calls for Technology to Help Tackle Africa's Challenges
* UN Food Body Urges Care in Africa GM Dispute
* World Summit Looks at Ag Technology
* Contradictions at Earth Summit
* Modified Foods Are Safe: Canadian Federal Group
* The Race to Boost Organic Farming is Heading up a Dead-end Street
* French Anti-globalisation Activist Says Earth Summit Doomed

Food Fights on the Global Sale

- Editorial, Washington Times, August 28, 2002
http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20020828-83674008.htm

When East meets West, food fights often ensue. Nowhere is that more
notable than in the current debate over genetically modified foods. It's
an important fight: During the next 50 years, the Earth's population is
expected to rise to approximately 9 billion people, all of whom will
actually have to eat.

Genetically modified foods will almost certainly reduce that hunger ˇ
especially in the developing world. Molecular techniques almost have to be
used, since much of the world's best farmland is already being cultivated
by modern methods. Scientists believe that modified foods could increase
the yields of wheat, rice and other major cereals by up to 20 percent in
Asia. They can also be designed to reduce vitamin deficiencies, grow in
marginal soils and resist droughts. Such foods might even be engineered to
immunize people against infectious diseases.

"The benefit of [genetically modified] technology to the poorest farmers
is palpable," scientist Antony Trewavas explained in a review article
published in the Food and the Future, supplement to an August issue of the
journal Nature. "To a cotton farmer working on a farm of about a hectare
in area, the use of 'Bt' cotton [containing a gene for an insecticide
derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis] has raised income by a
quarter, cut costs by a third and slashed pesticide use by
three-quarters."

Little wonder that China, with a population expected to increase by 200
million over the next quarter-century, is investing heavily in genetically
modified (GM) foods. As scientists Jikun Haung, Carl Pray and Scott
Rozelle pointed out in another review paper also published in Food and the
Future, "China's scientists . . . are working on [genetically modified]
rice, potato and peanuts, crops that have been largely ignored in the
developed world." They further noted that, between 1996 and 2000, "China's
Office of Genetic Engineering Safety Administration approved 251 cases of
GM plants, animals and recombined micro-organisms for field trials,
environmental releases or commercialization."

In contrast, Europeans have almost been moving backwards, thanks to their
vigorous application of the precautionary principle to environmental
policy. Under that edict, any produce that might potentially harm the
environment must be pulled out by its roots (literally). For instance, in
Scotland earlier this month, a few fields were found to have been
contaminated with "unauthorized" genetically material being used in a
trial by Aventis CropScience Ltd. The company was reprimanded and the
crops destroyed ˇ even though authorities admitted

However, Europe's intransigence presents a problem for American farmers,
who produce about two-thirds of the world's genetically modified crops.
Those crops have been under an unofficial moratorium by the European Union
(EU) for the last three years, and EU regulations demanding the labeling
of all food products containing genetically modified material are set to
come into effect in October. As Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for
Reason magazine, suggested in a just-released study, "The Looming Trade
War over Plant Biotechnology," this

Yet there's no scientific reason for such a trans-Atlantic food fight. The
results of decade-long study of several strains of GM crops published in
Nature last year demonstrated that such crops were no more invasive in the
environment than their conventional counterparts. Other studies have
consistently supported the safety of GM foods.

Between their innocuous nature and still-unrealized potential, it's hard
to believe GM foods won't eventually carry the day. After all, by 2050,
something will have to satisfy the hunger of 9 billion people.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Vandana Shiva and African Scientists Agree - Implement Agenda 21

It's About Genetic Solutions Not Genetic Pollution

- AfricaBio Press Release, August 28, 2002

Johannesburg -- Indian activist Vandana Shiva has demanded that the
global commitments to Agenda 21 be aggressively implemented without
further delay. Speaking at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
session on agriculture yesterday, as a representative of the WomenÝs
Group, Madame Shiva launched into a blistering indictment of the
governments of the world, demanding that they cease backsliding and
implement, without further delay, Agenda 21 ˝ the global plan of action
agreed upon at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

Finally, there is something that she and the scientists of Africa can
agree on.

By implication, Madame Shiva is demanding adoption of the modern tools of
agricultural biotechnology as supported under the provisions related to
biotechnology in Chapter 16 of Agenda 21. Nations of the world agreed in
Rio that applications of modern biotechnology to agriculture hold enormous
promise, especially for the subsistence farmers and smallholders of
developing countries. Chapter 16 states that biotechnology ýpromises to
make a significant contributionÍ.to better health care, enhanced food
security through sustainable agricultural practices, improved supplies of
potable water, more efficient industrial development processesÍÍsupport
for sustainable methods of afforestation and reforestation, and
detoxification of hazardous wastes.ţ Chapter 16 also recognizes that
increased agricultural productivity to meet growing human population needs
ýwill need to take place in developing countriesţ and ýwill require the
successful and environmentally safe application of biotechnology in
agriculture, the environment, and in human health care.ţ

African biotechnology stakeholders are delighted that Madame Shiva has
finally taken a view of biotechnology that is consistent with sound
science and experienceÍ.one that is friendly to farmers and consumers the
world over and one that is now delivering benefits to the environment.

Since 1992 crops improved through biotechnology have been adopted at
unprecedented rates by farmers around the world. Statistics complied by
the International Service for Acquisition of AgriBiotech Applications
(ISAAA) show that global biotech crop acreage has increased dramatically
from 6 million acres in 1996 to 130 million acres in 2002. The cumulative
total indicates approximately five hundred million acres of transgenic
crops have been grown worldwide to date, producing hundreds of millions of
tons of food, that has been eaten by hundreds of millions of people
without a single incidence of negative impact on human health and the
environment.

The National Center for Food & Agricultural Policy (NCFAP, Washington,
D.C.) has found that the economic impacts of these crops has added more
than a billion dollars of value per year to agricultural production in the
United States alone, while eliminating tens of millions of pounds of
costly pesticide applications.

But what is good for the US may be even better for Africa. As African
scientists and stakeholders, we believe the true promise of this
technology will be realized right here, on our continent. Already, our
farmers are reaping benefits. In South Africa, smallholder farmers
growing biotech cotton have seen yields increase from 28-43%, incomes
increase by $50 US per hectare and pesticide sprays decreased by an
average of 60-80%.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development has focused global attention
on Africa. Our continentÝs economic and environmental security require
new approaches, new partnerships and new technologies. We applaud you,
Madam Shiva, for your call to action on implementing Agenda 21. And we
look forward to working with you and others to bring the benefits of
biotechnology to the people of Africa.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Experts at WSSD Differ With Greenpeace Campaign Against GMO

- PanAfrican News Agency (PANA), August 27, 2002

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) - A 175-million dollar campaign against the
development of genetically modified crops, launched by the Greenpeace
environmental group, has been criticised by dissenters who insist that
biotechnology is vital in the search for food self-sufficiency in Africa.

Greenpeace has mounted a strong pressure group at the ongoing Johannesburg
World Summit on Sustainable Development, to boost their claims that GM
foods are unsafe. But co-founder and former Greenpeace president Dr
Patrick Moore and the chairman of the Nairobi-based African Biotechnology
Stakeholders Forum, Prof. James Ochanda, have challenged the move. Moore,
who has since resigned from Greenpeace, urged Third World nations to use
biotechnology in agriculture, saying it could help farmers in developing
countries grow more food per hectare.

He said biotechnology reduces the use of toxic pesticides and averts soil
erosion, adding that it allows for greater farm productivity. "It will be
good for the environment since it reduces reliance on chemicals and would
require less land to grow the same food for our six billion people in the
world," Moore said.

He belied claims that food derived from biotech plants is not safe for
human consumption. "There are no side effects that we know of. Compared
to regular food there is no difference," Moore said.

Also commenting on the issue, Prof. Ochanda questioned the motive behind
the European-based Greenpeace campaign against genetically modified foods
in Africa and the Third World at large. "Why do Europeans want to deny
Africa the opportunity to apply modern scientifically tested technology to
increase our food production? Is there some sinister agenda behind their
modus operandi?" he queried.

"Africa has never been able to meet its food requirements. It is therefore
important that Africa looks at alternative technologies, such as
biotechnology, to address this problem," Ochanda said. He asserted that
"biotechnology offers Africa a great opportunity for sustainable crop
development."

+++++++++++++++++

From: "BEYERSDORF, MIKE [AG/2563]"

Did anyone else notice that the (fictitious) genetically altered Ebola
virus developed by the villains in the Jack Clancy novel "Rainbow Six"
was called "Shiva"?

Coincidence?

- Aloha from the desk of Mike Beyersdorf, Kihei, Hawaii Research Station,
Monsanto

>>The Villainous Vandana Shiva 'A false environmental prophet'
>> Michael Fumento, Natoinal Review Online, August 27, 2002
>> http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-fumento082702.asp
>
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

New UN Report Calls for Technology Research to Help Tackle Africa's
Challenges

- UN, August 24, 2002 (via www.checkbiotech.org)
http://www0.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=4541&Cr=Johannesburg&Cr1=development


Geneva ˝ If effectively harnessed to tackle Africa's specific challenges,
emerging technologies can help the continent by cutting the incidence of
disease, food insecurity, and vulnerability to environmental damage, the
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said today.

Previewing a report that will be officially launched at the World Summit
on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which opens in Johannesburg, South
Africa, on Monday, the ECA also cautioned that the expected benefits of
both medical and agricultural biotechnology can only be realized if a
number of key challenges related to their adaptability in Africa are
addressed.

Biotechnology should be viewed as one part of a comprehensive, sustainable
poverty reduction strategy, and not as a technological "quick fix" for the
continent's hunger and poverty problems, according to the report,
Harnessing Technologies for Sustainable Development. At the same time, the
ECA notes that Africa stands to benefit from any technology that can
increase the production of food, enhance its nutritional quality, and
minimize the exploitation of forests and marginal lands.

With breakthroughs in medical biotechnology revolutionizing the
prevention, diagnosis, management, treatment and cure of diseases, the
report argues that "the biggest risk for Africa would be to do nothing and
let the biotechnology revolution bypass the continent." But the new
technologies are no panacea, the report points out, noting that most
African countries are not well equipped to address the potential risks of
these technologies to human and animal health, and to the environment.

Reaping the full benefit of the technological revolution will require
critical planning and strategic investments, the report says, calling for
the promotion of African-focused biotechnology research which emphasizes
the diseases and their strains prevalent on the continent, particularly
HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. With African countries currently
investing less than 2 per cent of their total agricultural research funds
in biotechnology, the report recommends increased spending on modern
biotechnology research.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

UN Food Body Urges Care in Africa GM Dispute

- Beatrice Mategwa, Reuters, August 28, 2002

Johannesburg - The United Nations food body urged poor countries facing
the threat of famine to think twice about rejecting gene-altered food aid
and other technologies to boost crop production.

Zambia, one of six countries in southern Africa where some 13 million
people need emergency food aid, has refused offers of genetically-modified
food supplies. "There is a potential for substantive productivity
increases in the developing countries, but these potentials are not fully
exploited," said Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director General of the Food
and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

"It is the ultimate responsibility of the governments of those countries
concerned to weigh the risk of lack of food leading to malnutrition and
starvation against possible risks to human health and the environment," he
told Reuters in an interview. The FAO official was speaking on the
sidelines of the 10-day U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development where
agriculture and trade issues took centre stage yesterday.

The summit is taking place as 13 million people in six countries -
Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique - face
starvation due to drought, disease and political mismanagement.
In a report released on the summit's first day this week, the FAO urged
donor nations to give food and funds to avert a "large scale humanitarian
crisis".

Another U.N. food agency warned last week that the dispute over
gene-altered food could hurt aid distribution in Zambia, where an
estimated 2.4 million people face starvation. The Zambian government says
the August 17 ban on GM food imports will stay in effect until its
scientists establish through their own tests if the foods are safe for
human consumption.

Scientists working for aid agencies say there is no health threat from
genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), but they are encouraging African
countries to mill GM food to avoid concerns over contamination of domestic
crops.
De Haen said he was not opposed to recipient countries carrying out their
own risk assessments on GM food and new technologies. But in the midst of
a food crisis, he said he hoped "governments will give the additional
supply of food very important weight in their decisions".

De Haen said leaders of the wealthiest nations should heed the summit's
call yesterday for an end to billions of dollars in farm subsidies blamed
for exacerbating hunger and hampering trade from poorer nations. Rich
countries gave about $57 billion in development aid in 2001 but paid more
than $350 billion to their own farmers. Such subsidies help keep out
produce from developing nations. World Bank figures suggest that access
to markets in the developed world could generate about $150 billion a year
in income for poorer countries. "It was very clear that this subsidy to
agriculture in the rich countries creates a disadvantage...in the poor
countries and that is no longer tolerable," de Haen said.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

World Summit Looks At Ag Technology

- AP, Wednesday, August 28, 2002

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Delegates to the World Summit on
Sustainable Development called Tuesday for increased global efforts to
bring new agricultural technologies to poor farmers to help feed the
developing world.

The 10-day summit, which began Monday, is focused on uplifting the world's
poor and protecting the global environment. "There is no point of having
healthy children if they are going to die of malnutrition," said Pedro
Sanchez, former director of the International Center for Research in
Agroforestry. "There is no point in being an environmentalist with an
empty stomach."

Meanwhile, negotiators continued trying to reach a compromise on the
conference's implementation plan, which many delegates hope will include
detailed timetables for tackling problems of energy, biodiversity, food
security, clean water and health care. Developing nations are trying to
extract more aid and greater access to Western markets and technology from
the summit. The United States is resisting any new aid targets or
timetables, while demanding that aid recipients reduce corruption.

The summit, which is being held in a convention center attached to a
shopping mall and business complex, was sealed off by concrete barriers
and metal fences. An 8,000-person security force is deployed to help
prevent the kind of violence seen in past years' international meetings in
Seattle and Genoa, Italy. About 100 Ethiopian activists peacefully
demonstrated against their government Tuesday morning as about 100 police
looked on.

Also Tuesday, the organizers of a parallel gathering of non-governmental
groups said they were being sidelined and threatened to walk out of the
summit. The groups said they had trouble getting seats at the main event,
which is being held in a building that can't accommodate all the
accredited delegates.

During Tuesday's session, many delegates railed against European
agricultural subsidies, saying they made it difficult for poor farmers to
compete on the world market. Developing countries are hoping the summit's
action plan will call for the reduction and elimination of
"environmentally harmful and trade-distorting subsidies."

Activists said massive subsidies did nothing more than protect inefficient
agricultural systems.
"Unsustainable agriculture would not be possible without these subsidies,"
Vandana Shiva, a women's leader and organic farmer from India, told the
summit. Wealthy countries are opposing the proposed language, and the
summit was unlikely to resolve the issue. "No country can realistically
be expected to make a major commitment here on those matters," South
African Trade Minister Alec Erwin said. Sanchez recommended that wealthy
countries commit 5 percent of the money they spend on subsidies to fight
hunger in the developing world.

An estimated 800 million people go hungry every year and about two-thirds
of the world's farmland is affected by land degradation. Delegates said
new technologies in fertilizers and other agricultural sectors could help
reverse that trend, but those advances need to be shared with the
developing world.

"We can roll back hunger immediately," said M.S. Swaminathan, an
agriculture expert. About 150,000 poor farmers in Africa were using new,
sustainable technologies in fertilizer and soil replenishment and, as a
result, were far more productive than their neighbors, Sanchez said. "It
can be done, gentlemen. The question is do we have the political will to
do it," he said.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Contradictions at Earth Summit

- Sharad Joshi, Business Line, August 28, 2002

Sustainable development will be helped if the governments of rich
countries scale down the various subsidies they shower on their farmers
and if the governments of poor countries cease to persecute their
peasantry. But few heads of state are likely to take such a global,
long-term view. Each of them will want to defend his own national
interests and agenda, points out Sharad Joshi.

THE Earth Summit 2002 has opened at Johannesburg. The focus of the
electronic media and of various environment groups is now on the main
conference centre at Sandton as also at the NGO meeting centres at Nasrec,
in Soweto, at the end of the town. The advance parties of all the
contending groups arrived early in Johannesburg and local TV channels had
a hectic time telecasting the statements and interviews of leaders of
different schools of thought. On August 23, a full three days before the
inauguration, 77 demonstrators were rounded up by the police. Those
opposed to freedom and globalisation have meticulously planned massive
demonstrations with a view to catching the global limelight, obstructing
the proceedings of the conference and, if possible, frustrating it.

Over the last two years, the rag-tag coalition of sundry groups of
environmentalist, socialists, trade unionists and luddites joined by that
sophisticated instrument of frontier technology - the Internet - have
succeeded in making their presence felt. This time they will have to
contend with the police in South Africa, who are known for their
toughness; the highest number of custodial deaths occurs in South Africa.

What is the Summit about? The agenda relates to the most fashionable
cliche of the present epoch - sustainable development. The Johannesburg
conference is a sequel to the earlier 1993 Rio de Janeiro Summit, which
gave birth to this now widely used term. The predecessor conference was a
success and its resolutions certainly figured on the agenda of most
governments. That little was accomplished in consequence is due more to
the complexities of the issues, as also to the wide divergence of
interests between poor and rich countries, than the lack of interest and
political will.

The Earth Summit 2002 has certainly bitten off too big a slice to be done
justice to in the short duration of the meet. The very concept of
sustainable development is a limitless canvas.

Agriculture is only one chapter in any developmental programme. The heads
of state/government who have converged to confabulate will, no doubt, be
more interested in industrial growth, increase in employment, transfer of
frontier technology and facilitation of finance. Agriculture does not
figure at the top of their agenda. The list of subtopics covered under
the chapter of agriculture is spread out in alphabetical order from 'A'
for agriculture to 'W' for water. Clearly, the Summit can do nothing more
than make some kind of recommendations on action programmes that may
barely scratch the surface of the issues involved under each topic.

One could perhaps start drafting the final resolutions straightaway. The
Summit would decide to promote, encourage and support the national
governments in implementing the standard prescriptions in each domain, no
matter if some of them contradict each other.

Anybody who is a head of a state/government is unlikely to be enthusiastic
about presiding over the liquidation of his own estate. The action
programme would, understandably, highlight the active role of the state
while paying lip service to the forces of liberalisation, globalisation
and the market.

As regards agriculture, the fact is that it would benefit more if the
governments refrained from intervening - either positively or negatively -
than from any programme of action. From a global point of view,
sustainable development will be helped if the governments of rich
countries scaled down the various subsidies they shower on their farmers
and if the governments of poor countries ceased to persecute their
peasantry.

No head of state/government is likely to take such a global long-term
view. Each of them, rich or poor, will perorate to present and defend
his/her own national interests and agenda.

Two events occurred on the eve of the Earth Summit 2002 that may caste
their shadow on the proceedings. Fishermen in Scotland are agitated that
their highland rivers, which used to brim with fish, particularly salmon,
have been emptied out due to reckless commercial mechanised fishing
without adequate measures of replenishment. A discussion of their brief
will bring out the intricacies of the 'man versus nature' conflict
involved in all measures of contrived development.

The Earth Summit will certainly be seriously over-shadowed by something
that is happening in its very backyard - Zambia. The Director-General of
the World Food Programme (WFP), Mr James Morris, has declared the
inability of his organisation to provide food to the estimated two and a
half million starving people in Zambia and another 13 million who will
soon be affected, unless the Government of Zambia agrees to receive the
genetically modified (GM) food supplies.

The genetically engineered seeds have proved their merit as regards
production, yields and cost as also quality. There is, however, a strong
lobby interested in the continued use of chemical fertilisers and
pesticides, which are important elements of the Green Revolution package.
The lobby has succeeded in creating a scare about, both probable and
improbable, hazards for environment, plants, cattle and human population.

The Zambian Government, as of today, appears determined not to allow the
entry of GM foods, even at the risk of exposing millions of people to
starvation. In the past, Africa has witnessed the curious spectacle of a
national government preventing food supplies from abroad from reaching its
own starving people. It need not shock anyone if the government of Zambia
uses the anti-GM arguments rather than some tribal diatribe to justify its
policies.

Eventually, people the world over will come to consume GM foods. If in the
course they notice any unsavoury effects, human ingenuity will produce the
necessary antidotes. In any case, in another decade man will have no
alternative but to adjust himself to GM foods.

In the meanwhile, the Zambian authorities' stance will provide a good
backdrop for discussions on biotechnology, environment and sustainable
development for the Earth Summit at Johannesburg. (The author is Founder,
Shetkari Sanghatana. Feedback may be sent to sharad@mah.nic.in)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Modified Foods Are Safe: Canadian Federal Group

- CBC, August 26, 2002
http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2002/08/26/Consumers/foodsafe_020826

OTTAWA - A federal advisory committee has recommended voluntary labeling
of genetically modified (GM) foods.

The Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee stopped short of mandatory
labelling saying that GM foods pose no risk to human health.

The committee is made up of nutritionists, scientists and business
experts. It spent two years examining the issue as well as collecting
opinions from Canadians. In its final report, CBAC suggested the federal
government institute clear guidelines for labelling and monitor the
situation for five years. The committee says the government should
consider making it mandatory if the voluntary system doesn't work.
Committee members say labelling is good for public information, so
consumers can have a choice of buying products without genetic
alterations.

The experts warn the government should not be lax about the possible
long-term effects of modified products.
The report calls for better regulation of food in general and for the
government to make the process more transparent.

Consumers groups not satisfied But the report goes against the
recommendations of some consumer groups.
Greenpeace has been waging a campaign against the use of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) in food. It says more than half the food in
Canadian grocery stores contain GMOs. Greenpeace and the Council of
Canadians have argued for an independent food monitoring agency and for
strict labelling standards on modified foods.

The European Union introduced new measures in February 2000 for the strict
labelling and monitoring of GM foods, feeds, seeds and pharmaceuticals. A
public registry will be set up allowing consumers to trace products.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Race to Boost Organic Farming is Heading up a Dead-end Street

- John Stewart, The Scotsman (UK), August 27, 2002

To an outsider our food policy, if we have one, must seem a mess of
hilarious contradictions which have just scaled new heights of absurdity
in the boost to organic cultivation arising from the Curry Report earlier
this year. That, of course, only applies to Englandshire but it will
happen here too, believe me.

When politicians begin to wield the ladle in the pork barrel to the
accompaniment of cheers from the great and good, it is time for the
citizen, the ultimate provider of the pork, to ask: Who benefits? We
already spend too much public money on organic production and we need to
start asking now if we hope to head this latest one-off at the pass.

In the specifically organic context, the real answer to the question is
nobody, and it doesn't get any better in the wider context. We have a
policy of cheap food which is irreconcilable with a system whose products
cost between 20 and 50 per cent more than conventionally farmed goods.
That may not matter to households where the food bill accounts for a small
part of income but it is crucial to those less well-off, especially the 25
per cent of children raised in poverty.

Eating fruit and vegetables has considerable health benefits and there is
no argument that Scotland needs as many of these as it can get. So, once
again, we need to ask why we are spending public money promoting a system
that will greatly increase costs and inevitably decrease consumption.

Faced with questions like these, the next line of defence for the organic
cultists is that their system is sustainable. Sustainability is like
motherhood and apple pie, an unquestionably good thing but it is a rural,
or maybe urban, myth and will remain so until we are willing to return to
the soil everything that comes from it, including all body wastes and our
own dead bodies. We are not going to do that, so farming of every sort
will remain a depleting industry drawing on the mineral legacy of
millennia of volcanic activity and glaciation.

But surely organic farming is better for the environment? No, it is
actually worse because the lower yields and fallowing requirement mean
more land in cultivation and therefore less left to nature. Worse still,
until we can find people willing to spend their days hand weeding, the
mechanical methods which replace chemical control inevitably use a lot
more fossil fuel and release much more CO2, some actually using propane
torches directly on the weeds.

Well, at least it doesn't use nasty chemical pesticides and fungicides
like ordinary growers. No, it uses even nastier ones like virulent, toxic
and environmentally devastating copper sulphate to control potato blight,
a practice long abandoned by conventional farmers because the spud is a
very important starch crop and organic cultivation has no real answer to
blight. It also uses an extremely toxic insecticide derived from the
laburnum species which is implicated in Parkinson's disease and widely
deploys a bacterial culture known as Bacillus thuringiensis which causes
lung disease.

There are no winners on the organic scene, not even the subsidised
producers who, having made the conversion, find there is either no premium
to be had for their produce or no market. Despite extravagant claims of
superior taste, purity and nutritional value, which have been repeatedly
challenged by the Advertising Standards Authority and wholly refused by
the Food Standards Agency, the buying public remain sceptical and the
supermarkets non-commital.

The Scottish Parliament may well follow its UK counterpart and throw money
at it, but it will not work and many will feel, like me, that a country
that cannot afford to give malnourished children free school meals cannot
afford to subsidise the food fad of a self appointed elite. I harbour no
animosity towards the monarchy, but I think Prince Charles is abusing his
position in promoting a system which he is not qualified to evaluate and
which disadvantages so many.

Subsidising inefficiency, pandering to cranks and propping up privilege
have contributed greatly to the mess we are now in and we should not
compound it by subsidising the absurdity of organic production.
---
John Stewart is not an organic farmer.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

French Anti-globalisation Activist Says Earth Summit Doomed

- Agence France Presse, August 27, 2002 (Via Katie Thrasher)

The UN Earth Summit underway in Johannesburg is "doomed to fail" because
of resistance by wealthy countries, France's high-profile
anti-globalisation campaigner Jose Bove said Tuesday.

"The rich countries wave good intentions that are in total contradiction
with their fight in the World Trade Organisation to maintain their
privileges," Bove told a media conference after a rally of left-wing
militants in this southern French town. It was his first public appearance
since being released from prison on August 1 after serving a short
sentence for destroying a McDonald's outlet under construction in 1999.
Bove took French President Jacques Chirac to task for championing the
system of EU subsidies to European farmers, which he said resulted in a
flow of artificially cheap products to poorer countries.

In his address to the rally, the radical farmer and union leader
criticised the propagation of genetically modified crops. "The five or six
firms that own almost all the seeds used on the planet have only one aim:
to make farmers buy new seeds from them each year," he said. "They spend a
fortune on GM food and want a rapid return on their investment. Their main
argument in promoting GM food is that it helps fight hunger in the world,
but that's just obfuscation -- we know that genetically modified soya and
maize isn't used to feed populations in in the southern hemisphere, but to
feed pigs, poultry and cows in industrialised countries."

The Johannesburg conference on sustainable development is a follow-up to
the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 which produced 2,500
recommendations for protecting the environment, most of which have
gathered dust. At the core of the summit is a non-binding action plan to
meet the Rio goals, as well as aims to provide water, sewage and
electricity to two billion of the world's poorest people.