Today in AgBioView: August 30, 2002:
* World Bank Bid To Break Deadlock Over GM Food
* Heated Debate Over GM Food at Summit
* US Defends GM Food Aid As Safe And Better For Consumption
* Zambian Authorities Dither Over GM While People Face A Famine
* USAID Head Blames Pressure Groups For Zambia's Rejection of Aid
* African Scientists Condemn Govts Rejecting GM Maize
* The JoBurg Summit: Sustaining The Poor's Development
* Sustainable Development: A Few Green Shoots
* Biotechnology and the Public Good: Cohen and Pinstrup-Andersen
* ESF Conference on Introgression of GM Plants Into Wild Relatives
* Near a Thousand Tables:
* Crop Biotech Update - Future of Food, Biosafety...
* Revisiting The Pros and Cons of GM Crops
World Bank Bid To Break Deadlock Over Genetically Modified Food
- Financial Times (London), August 29, 2002
An initiative to break the policy deadlock over genetically modified food
is to be launched today by the World Bank.
A global consultation process over the possible benefits and drawbacks of
biotechnology involving governments, industry and environmentalists is to
begin next month. It will be chaired by Robert Watson, former chairman of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Mr Watson, now chief
scientist at the World Bank, was removed as chairman of the IPCC this year
following pressure from the US administration and Exxon, the oil group,
apparently concerned at his success at moving global warming up the
Describing the agriculture initiative, he said: "This issue is as
controversial as climate change. Our intention is to ask the big questions
about the future of agriculture." The exercise would be transparent and
would consider the future of biotechnology along with traditional farming
techniques and organic agriculture, said Mr Watson.
"The situation in Paris may be very different to that in Mali. Just as we
need a variety of different energy sources, so we will need a mix of
farming types. "In the future, there will be a mix of organic,
traditional and farming using different types of biotechnology. We want to
assess the scientific, economic, environmental and social aspects of all
techniques," he said.
The initiative comes against a background of profound differences over the
use of biotechnology in world farming. Opposition by European consumers to
the technology continues to pose trade problems with the US, where
biotechnology is largely accepted by the public and policymakers.
Developing countries remain divided over the benefits and possible dangers
of adopting the technology. Zambia has refused genetically modified US
food aid for fear its own crops could be contaminated and exports damaged.
The World Bank initiative aims to have as much impact on policy formation
as the IPCC - widely credited with forcing governments to take action to
combat global warming. The initiative, expected to last between two and
three years, would not lead to a moratorium on the commercialisation of
genetically modified crops, Mr Watson said. Individual governments would
continue to make their decisions while the assessments took place. "I do
not see this leading to a freeze on the technology," he said.
Mr Watson said the initiative would look at the whole range of issues
facing farming in the future - from the need to feed the growing world
population to the strengthening of rural economies. It would also consider
the intellectual property rights regime, which critics of biotechnology
say could lead to unacceptable monopoly control by large companies.
Mr Watson agreed the farming initiative was potentially as politically
sensitive as his previous work on climate change. He warned it would be
wrong for industry and the US administration to let commercial pressures
override the World Bank's findings.
Today the World Bank made an announcement at the WSSD in Johannesburg. It
is launching a formal study through its consultative process into
Agricultural biotechnology. It is titled "Reducing Hunger Through
Agricultural Science a Global consultative process looking at risks and
Details of the announcement are at:
Heated Debate Over GM Food at Summit
United Press International, August 30, 2002
Johannesburg, South Africa, (UPI) -- Though 14 million people face
starvation in southern Africa, the controversy over genetically modified
seed loomed Wednesday at the Johannesburg summit on sustainable
In an increasingly vitriolic debate, GM critics argue that it is not an
unacceptable solution, and supporters hail it as the answer to Africa's
number one problem. Lavshankar Upadhyay, the president of the farmers
union in Gujarat, India, and a summit delegate argues that lack of
technological diversity contributes to the food shortage in Africa.
"Without new technologies, such as GM seeds -- which are more drought
resistant -- and agro-chemicals it's harder to vary growing seasons and
maintain crop diversity, which protects against extreme weather," he said.
Upadhayay is firmly in favor of GM food, but based on the statements he
was in a minority inside the conference center. One argument frequently
made was that GM remains untested and could have irreversible health and
environmental effects. Delegates cited the development of superweeds, and
the danger of gene transfer to unrelated crops, with unknown consequences.
Others were concerned that GM technology would make farmers dependent to
Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva, said "There is plenty of
normal maize in the world available for this emergency, and any government
that claims only GM corn is available is lying." Her views reflected
widespread concerns that the United States is foisting GM food aid on
impoverished nations because use of genetically modified food by other
countries broadens the acceptability of the technology in Africa.
Observers feel they have a point. Since GM food and seeds were accepted by
Malawi and Zimbabwe, other African countries are considering it too.
Wednesday Indian farmers who marched through Johannesburg in support of
new technologies and open access to western food markets awarded Vandana
Shiva with "The Bull........ Award for Sustaining Poverty." The award is
made from varnished cow and elephant dung. Whether Shiva will actually
collect her prize is uncertain. The farmers claim that Dr. Shiva and her
allies will perpetuate poverty if they succeed in denying GM seeds to
Indian farmers. They argue that India recently had as bad a drought as
southern Africa is now experiencing, but because of different
technologies, including GM, production dropped by only two percent -- and
virtually no increase in the price of grain. Experts of this issue point
out that it is often the increase in price of food that causes the famine,
since it encourages hoarding.
A green NGO delegate who was monitoring the march claimed to UPI that the
Indian farmers at the summit were probably sponsored by a multinational
corporation. Most of the Indian farmers, on the contrary, oppose GM seed
and the international corporations.
Mr. Upadhyay denies this charge. Many of the African farmers, such as TJ
Buthelezi, the leader of the South African Ubongwa Farmers Union, are
aligned with the pro-GM Indian farmers: "Its imperative we have all
available technologies to address drought in Africa," claimed Buthelezi.
But these farmers are rightly more concerned that the really important
issue of removal of agricultural protection in the developed world is not
being addressed at the summit. Without the prospect of expanding markets
to the north action foreign investment in crop development into Africa
will remain at a paltry level.
However, as Upadhyay concluded, protection is set to continue and the
developing world must become more self-reliant, which means using the
US Defends GM Food Aid As Safe and Better For Consumption
Agence France-Presse, August 29, 2002
The United States defended genetically modified (GM) food aid for
drought-stricken southern Africa, saying it was safe for human
"Our scientific research has demonstrated that genetically modified food
is as safe as non-genetically modified food," Claude Allen, US deputy
secretary for the health and human services department, told AFP on
Thursday. "In fact, genetic modification can remove mild toxins that
already exist in some food such as maize so we believe it's even better
The department is continuing research into GM food, which Allen said was
critical to meet the short-term needs of millions of hungry poor. An
estimated 13 million people face the threat of famine in southern Africa,
and 300,000 people could die of starvation in the next six months, the
United Nations says.
But three countries affected by the crisis -- Mozambique, Zambia and
Zimbabwe -- have raised health and environmental concerns over the
longer-term effects of GM maize donated as emergency food aid. Zambia
recently said it would no longer allow GM food into the country.
But UN World Health Organisation director general Gro Harlem Brundtland on
Wednesday defended the use of GM food, saying there was no scientifically
documented cases of negative health effects. Earlier Thursday, the World
Bank announced the formation of a global panel to assess the environmental
and social risks of scientific methods to boost agricultural productivity,
including the use of GM food.
"It's a difficult ethical issue and the sad fact is that there is not
enough information on the table to make wise decisions," said World Bank
vice president for sustainable development Ian Johnson. Johnson said the
panel's findings would help governments in their policy-making, and help
spur productivity by examining organic agriculture, traditional plant
breeding techniques and new farming technologies.
"Nearly 800 million people go to bed hungry every night and over the next
50 years, food production will have to double to meet growing demands," he
said. The panel, chaired by World Bank chief scientist Robert Watson, will
hold its first meeting in Dublin in November, to be followed by
consultations with groups including consumers, farmers, scientists,
governments and the private sector to produce a global assessment of
Around 10 percent of the World Bank's annual lending of 17 billion dollars
goes to agricultural projects, and Johnson said the figure was expected to
rise to about 15 percent this year.
Zambian Authorities Dither Over GM While People Face A Famine
- The Irish Times August 29, 2002
Tom Kitt travels to Zambia today. Declan Walsh describes how the
authorities there have food to feed their hungry people but are refusing
to do so because of fears of genetic modification
Aid worker Steven Grabiner pulled open his warehouse in Chipapa, a hungry
village half an hour south of Lusaka. Sunlight fell across 20,000 neatly
stacked bags of maize meal, Zambia's staple food. The American pastor
shook his head in frustration. In the villages around, many people were
hungry, he said. Some families had cut back to one meal a day; others were
foraging for wild fruit and roots.
'This is nonsensical,' he said, closing the door again. 'I have enough to
feed 40,000 people for a month. But I can't give it out.'
The threat of famine is sweeping across southern Africa, and over one
million Zambians are at risk. But the Zambian government has started
refusing to accept US genetically modified (GM) food aid - even if it
means some of its own citizens may die.
Two weeks ago President Levy Mwanawasa banned GM foods, citing possible
health risks for consumers and jeopardy to future agriculture exports to
the European Union. 'It is certainly awkward that people are going hungry
when the food is there,' Vice-President Enoch Kavindele said in an
interview. 'But we are listening to scientists who say agriculture could
be affected and we could be hungry forever.'
Aid officials and diplomats say such fears are unfounded, however, and
warn this policy is putting thousands of lives at risk. The United Nations
had planned to feed 1.3 million Zambians during the coming six months. But
US maize donations account for over half the planned food supplies, some
100,000 tonnes. Now stocks are running perilously low.
'We have less than a month's supply of food left,' said Mr Richard Ragan,
country director with the World Food Programme (WFP). 'After that, we have
zero.' Biodiversity is one of the issues under scrutiny at the World
Summit in neighbouring South Africa this week. In Zambia, the GM move has
triggered a fierce debate, much of it marked by a strong anti-American
Newspapers have carried stark headlines about 'Frankenstein's Fodder',
while some organisations have accused the US of using food aid to
introduce GM foods to Africa by stealth. 'We could become dependent on GM
crops,' said Father Pete Henriot of the Jesuit Centre for Theological
Reflection. 'So is this aid primarily about humanitarian assistance, or
economic benefit to those giving it?'
Mr Mwanawasa says he is worried about the 'toxic' effects of eating GM
maize. Aid officials say such fears are unproven. They also point out that
Cornflakes sold in Lusaka are made in South Africa, which grows some GM
crops. The other worry is cross-pollination. Campaigners say that if GM
grains are used as seed for next year's harvest, the EU - which has
adopted a cautious approach to GM - will refuse imports of other
agri-products such as cut flowers, fruit and vegetables.
The acting EU ambassador to Zambia, Mr Ambjorn Berglund, confirmed that
the EU demands certification of food imports. However, he said fears about
GM maize excluding other products were unfounded. The stand-off may be
resolved through milling the donated maize into powder, as is happening in
Zimbabwe. But the WFP says it has no funds for milling, and the US
government is refusing to pay.
American officials point out that Zambians have already eaten GM maize.
During a smaller food crisis last year, over 18,000 tonnes were
distributed. Campaigners say the US is using the WFP - to which it has
already given dollars 700 million this year, mostly through in-kind
donations - as a means of distributing its own food surpluses.
One voice absent from the debate is that of 1.3 million Zambians living
under the threat of famine.
There should have been a food distribution last week in Kabweza, a
drought-stricken village close to Pastor Grabiner's food stores. Instead,
there was nothing. 'There is very much hunger. Everything is getting
thin,' said Mr David Chinkumbi (72), sitting miserably near a couple of
empty maize bins. His wife had just fed their daughter, who gave birth the
day before, with wild papaya fruits. Mr Chinkumbi admitted to not knowing
much about GM technology, but said: 'If we had the choice, we would eat
that food, because otherwise we are going to die anyway.'
USAID Head Blames Pressure Groups For Zambia's Rejection of Aid
- Jeremiah Marquez, Associated Press, August 29, 2002
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The United States' top aid official on
Thursday blamed powerful pressure groups for pushing Zambian officials to
reject desperately needed food aid from the United States because it might
contain genetically modified corn.
Almost 2.5 million Zambians are believed to be in danger of starvation if
they don't get help quickly, but the government is worried the food may be
a health risk. Andrew Natsios, director of the U.S. Agency for
International Development, said "it's very distrubing" that pressure
groups have chosen a famine as the time to make a political point.
"It's appalling. They're slowing the relief effort," he added.
Natsios was speaking at the World Summit for Sustainable Development after
finishing a tour of two of the six southern African countries affected by
the hunger crisis. Nearly 13 million people in the region are in danger of
starvation, according to the World Food Program. The United States has
committed to delivering 490,000 metric tons (540,000 tons) of aid to the
Natsios described conditions in Malawi as dire, and said Zambia's
rejection of the U.S. corn would cause widespread malnutrition and
starvation. In an effort to persuade Zambia to accept the corn, Natsios
offered to help Zambia set up a biotechnology research site to study the
food and said he would send Zambia research collected by U.S. scientists
proving the food's safety. He also offered to send Zambian scientists to
the United States to study the issue.
"If we do not speed up the relief efforts, we will have a tragedy on our
hands," Natsios said. Natsios also gave details of a dlrs 90 million plan
aimed at giving African farmers skills and technology to bolster local
food supplies and prevent famines.
The initiative aims to spark an agricultural revolution in Africa, similar
to one in India over the last 50 years that allowed that country to
strengthen food stocks and avert hunger crises, he said.
The plan announced Thursday would spend dlrs 53 million on training
farmers and developing technologies tailored for African agriculture. It
would also spend another dlrs 37 million to link farmers with food
distributors and research ways to reduce trade tariffs among African
African Scientists Condemn Govts Rejecting GM Maize
- PanAfrican News Agency, August 29, 2002
Johannesburg, South Africa (PANA) - African scientists attending the World
Summit on Sustainable Development have criticised Southern African
countries that rejected genetically modified foods, saying it was
"immoral, unethical and inhuman for governments to reject GM food under
the pretext that it was unsafe."
In a press statement issued on their behalf by a Harvest Biotest
Foundation International (AHBFI) on Wednesday in Johannesburg, the
scientists said they wanted to clarify the matter from a scientific
perspective on issues that threaten the lives of 13 million people and
over 300,000 at the brink of death.
The scientists from more than one dozen countries said the rejection of GM
food by some African countries is not based on scientific data evidence of
harm to human beings, animals or the environment. Zambia and Zimbabwe have
refused some GM relief maize from the US though about 13 million people
are threatened with hunger in Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe
"We consider it unethical and inhuman to play politics with the lives of
people under the pretext that the food aid is unsafe because it is GM
food," the scientists said in the release. They rejected the notion that
GM food was harmful, and regretted that the affected governments had
neither consulted scientists in their countries nor the starving masses
before making their decisions.
"People are dying from hunger, brought about by indecision, caused by
misinformation from anti-GM groups, not GM food," the scientists lamented.
They said no scientific evidence or data exists to show that GM foods are
unsafe to human beings, animals or the environment and that on the
contrary, ample data and information from several credible international
organizations such as WHO and FAO, confirms the safety of GM foods.
Do you think Europe is harming African countries by aggressively
campaigning against the use of Bio-Tech products in the international
Yes - (90%)
No - (5%)
Not Sure - (3%)
The Johannesburg Summit: Sustaining The Poor's Development
- The Economist, August 29, 2002
The biggest environmental gathering in a decade could do some good - but
only if it does not overreach
JUST what is the UN's "World Summit on Sustainable Development" for? This
giant jamboree, which opened in Johannesburg this week and will culminate
on September 4th with a meeting of over 100 heads of government, risks
being about everything and therefore, in the end, about nothing. No one in
their right mind is against "sustainable development". Everyone thinks it
would be terrific if there were less poverty, less pollution, less
disease, less war, less corruption. Not quite everyone, alas, favours more
democracy, especially in the poorer parts of the world; in the richer
world, too, not quite everyone, alas, favours more economic growth. But
the world did not need tens of thousands of people to travel to South
Africa in order to learn all of that.
Such a gathering is bound to do some good, simply through the contacts
made and ideas exchanged, in myriad small but useful ways. But there are
also big dangers in summits such as these. Grand meetings, like the "Earth
Summit" in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to which this was originally meant to be
a follow-up, can breed confusion and cynicism. Confusion, because of the
cacophony of different voices and objectives, to which this broader summit
looks especially prone. Cynicism, because the bold promises made are so
rarely met. How many countries have actually hit (or are really on their
way to hitting) the targets set at Rio, or in Kyoto in 1998, for cutting
greenhouse-gas emissions? Precious few. Keep the real agenda simple
George Bush has responded to these dangers by staying away, sending his
secretary of state, Colin Powell, instead. That was a mistake, offering
carte blanche for criticism of America for almost any environmental or
economic ill, some justified, most not. That is a pity, for America has
actually played a more constructive role at the summit than most think
(see article below). Other rich-country leaders can, however, learn from
that public-relations blunder. But only if they focus on what really
matters, and on what can really be achieved.
The first thing they should do is to tell the truth about poverty, growth
and the environment. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president, delighted the
anti-growth lobby with his opening speech, but did a huge disservice to
the facts. "Sadly", he said, "we have not made much progress in realising
the grand vision...the tragic result of this is the avoidable increase in
human misery and ecological degradation, including the growing gap between
North and South. It is as though we are determined to regress to the most
primitive condition of existence in the animal world, of the survival of
In contrast, what responsible heads of government should say is that the
ten years since the Rio summit (home of that "grand vision") have seen
lots of progress in enhancing human welfare, especially in the most
populous countries of the world, China and India, thanks to those
countries' decisions to liberalise their economies and to open their
borders to more trade and investment. Such globalisation has already
narrowed the overall gap between North and South. But some countries,
notably in Africa and the Middle East, have chosen not to take part in
that process, and misery there has increased. Others, particularly in
southern Africa, have been so beset by disease that they have been unable
to take part. Much more can, and should, be done to help them do so. And
measures can and should be taken to ensure that the future economic growth
of the poor world, if that happy outcome occurs, does not unduly
exacerbate the problem of global warming.
The second thing that western leaders can do is to state clearly what they
can, and cannot, do for their poorer counterparts. They cannot "share
assets more equitably", as some claim; making the rich poorer will not
make the poor richer. Virtually everything needed to help countries grow
and reduce poverty depends chiefly on domestic policies˛ask South Korea,
China and even India. Western leaders can still, however, be helpful, in
two powerful ways. They can open their country's markets to the goods that
many poor countries are best suited to produce, namely food and textiles.
And they can focus their overseas aid on the issue that is most difficult
for poor countries to deal with themselves: disease.
There are signs that the summit could achieve something on both fronts.
Farm subsidies are properly the domain of the new round of world trade
talks launched in Doha last November, but are also a source of much
hypocrisy. It is outrageous that rich countries preach free trade to the
poor while lavishing over $300 billion a year on their own farmers.
Despite its recent increase in production subsidies (to levels still below
Europe's), the United States recently put forward a welcome long-term
proposal for reducing subsidies for agriculture, much pooh-poohed in
Europe. The Johannesburg summit offers a fresh opportunity to embarrass
the Europeans into taking the proposal seriously, and to get all sides
committed to a broader dismantling of subsidies in the Doha round.
On disease, too, progress could be made. The scourge of AIDS is
debilitating African economies, as are other diseases such as malaria and
tuberculosis. More broadly, dirty water and air, and poor sanitation, are
the biggest preventable causes of death. Faster economic growth would help
poor countries solve those problems. But disease itself thwarts that
growth. There has been much useful talk at the summit of agreements
between businesses, aid organisations and governments to try to fight
against disease, in ways both big and small. The anti-business lobbyists
may not like it, but the UN has been right to encourage such agreements,
and rich-country leaders should welcome them too. Better still, they
should make further increases in their official aid budgets to take on
these diseases, both bilaterally and through global funds.
But what of the environment? Isn't that what this summit was supposed to
be about? Yes, but enabling poor countries to grow and be healthier will
go a long way towards protecting it. If they want to make one big green
gesture, though, leaders could most usefully agree to phase out the
subsidies they pay for the dirtiest fuels, particularly coal. That way,
both rich and poor can work together to avoid global warming.
Sustainable Development: A Few Green Shoots
- The Economist Aug 29th 2002
The United Nations' World Summit in Johannesburg is an easy target for
cynicism, and rightly so. But it could yet do some good "THIS is not a
sprint, it's a marathon." So said Colin Powell, America's secretary of
state, when describing sustainable development. That neatly sums up the
opportunities and frustrations presented by the World Summit on
Sustainable Development, the successor to the much-vaunted Earth Summit
held in Rio de Janeiro a decade ago.
Inside the official hall, questions of land and farming were to the fore.
Top of the list was criticism of the sort of subsidies that the American
farm bill so generously gives away. As Penny Fowler, an adviser with
Oxfam, points out, the markets in sugar, coffee, cotton and other
commodities that tropical farmers can grow cheaply are distorted by
subsidies of $300 billion a year to rich-world growers. For sugar alone,
the European Union puts 140% tariffs on many imports from Africa, supports
its own sugar-beet farmers to the tune of $1.6 billion a year, and adds
insult to injury by dumping surpluses in overseas markets.
There is no realistic belief that the summit will change these policies
substantially. Farming interests are too strong for that to happen.
(Though a much-trumpeted agreement to "restore the world's depleted
fisheries by 2015" might annoy fishermen, another bothersome lobby, if it
puts any of them out of business.) Negotiations on phasing out
trade-distorting farm subsidies should take place in the Doha round of
trade talks; there are almost no trade ministers at the Johannesburg
meeting. But Ms Fowler hopes that the summit will give a "political steer"
that guides rich-country policy formation.
Practical suggestions that will not cost votes at home do, however, go
down well with rich countries. Several initiatives were unveiled in
Johannesburg. For example, a group of researchers led by the Consultative
Group on International Agricultural Research and the UN's Food and
Agriculture Organisation announced plans for a new Global Conservation
Trust. According to Michael Jeger, of Imperial College, London, despite
the flurry of recent activity in genetic technology, the genetic diversity
of the world's crops is dwindling. The trust will attempt to stop this by
bolstering the finances of gene banks around the world. These banks are
repositories of seeds, intended to maintain such diversity against an
Separately from this, the World Bank announced a plan to form a panel of
experts to tackle the whole thorny question of new agricultural techniques
such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Robert Watson, the bank's
senior scientific adviser on the environment (and, until recently, the
head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), hopes this
panel will re-create the success that the climate-change panel had in
arriving at a consensus among scientists on these controversial issues.
One manifestation of this controversy came earlier this month, when
Zambia's government banned the import of food aid containing GMOs, even
though 21?2m of the country's people are close to starvation in the famine
that has much of southern Africa in its grip. The stated reason was
worries about the safety of such foodstuffs, despite the fact that they
are consumed by millions in North America. Indeed, the American government
is using the conference to try to persuade African governments that GMOs
pose no health risks. But Zambia's administration also fears getting
caught up in disputes between America and Europe on the GMO question, and
would prefer the country to remain GMO-free for the time being, in case
its European trading partners should consider its crops "contaminated",
and stop importing them.
Biotechnology and the Public Good: Cohen and Pinstrup-Andersen; Debate
- From Klaus Ammann
This is a very thoughtful text about the interaction between private and
public funding of biotechnology. Here at the World Summit in Johannesburg
I sadly have to confirm, what the authors say in their introduction:
'Even though biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops are not
formally on the agenda of the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD), the stage is set for confrontation. Once again, corporate and
governmental supporters of GM seed and their derived food products find
themselves pitted against the needs of local, traditional farming systems,
as well as developing countries that do not rely on GM technologies, and
whose advocates wish things to remain this way. Unfortunately, positions
on both sides tend to be portrayed in an antagonistic manner, leaving
little room for constructive discussion. As a result, little opportunity
exists for efforts to achieve a balance between factors such as the
different needs of the public and private sectors, the complex
requirements of farming systems (both local/traditional and
large-scale/commercial), and the continuous pressure to achieve food
security in developing countries. Rather, a confrontational debate is
sustained by! the way in which both forms of farming are portrayed.'
The today (29.8.2002) debate on GMO's and the developing world was led by
a panel only by opponents of GT and again it was impossible to avoid
clashes. It was a fruitless fight, where science was either neglected or
distorted in a ridiculous way.
The event: Biotech & GMO Commission, hosted by Biowatch South Africa and
the Third World Network, AfricaBio as a full member NGO of the network was
denied access to the panel, which I think is a scandal.
The delegates from AfricaBio did a good job intervening from the floor,
contradicting at least the most blatant propaganda declarations from the
panel. It was for some of them a new feeling being the underdogs...
The text of Cohen and Pinstrup-Anderson also give excellent arguments
against the rather simplicisitic divide between dependent and independent
scientists, which one panelist dared to estimate to 90 - 95 dependent
(taking corporate money for research) and independent scientists, assuming
that ONLY independent research results should be taken for granted. This
is, to say the least, very insulting to all the excellent scientists
working within the companies and to all those, who produce lots of peer
reviewed papers with the financial help of the 'wrong party'.
I would call such an attitude unacceptable and it is reminding me of the
old times of Communism (and McCarthyism) where scientists also were
divided in ideologically sound and thus 'trustworthy' ones and others who
dared not to sign up for party membership and who's results were therefore
My line of division is the one between good and bad science.
The full text can be downloaded on the original website:
or at our server:
ESF Conference on Introgression of GM Plants Into Wild Relatives
- "Betty Bijl"
Upcoming European Science Foundation conference, January 2003, organised
by the AIGM program [Assessement of the Impact of Genetically Modified
Plants]: Introgression of GM Plants into wild relatives and its
The website is now updated and gives full information about the
provisional program of invited and confirmed speakers, as well as about
the time table and the registration details
Regular registration is open until November 15, after that date, increased
fees will be due. If you intend to join this meeting, I hope this message
will stimulate you to register now.
On behalf of AIGM, we welcome you to this meeting. Sincerely yours, Hans
den Nijs and Detlef Bartsch **********************************************
Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food
- Felipe Fernandez-Armesto; Amazon.com Price: $17.50
How best to grasp food's place in history? Historian Felipe
FernĚndez-Armesto's Near a Thousand Tables places its beginnings in
cooking, a social act that forges culture (and is perhaps responsible for
it), then pursues it as a series of "revolutions"--from the inception of
cooking, herding, and agriculture to food industrialization and, finally,
Informatively dense yet spry and aphoristic, the book explores food as
rite and magic (it "binds those who believe, brands those who don't"); the
domestication of animals (snails are the world's oldest "cattle"); farming
and food's use as an index of rank ("greatness goes with greatness of
girth"--or at least it did); food's role in trade and cultural exchange
(Tex-Mex cooking as a form of colonial miscegenation); and as a force in
and for industrialization (canning as the cooking of the Industrial
In the end, we are brought to "the loneliness of the fast food eater" and
the "desocializing" effect of microwave cooking and other forms of modern
food manipulation that alienate us from the communal act that "made"
culture. "Food gives pleasure," FernĚndez-Armesto writes, and "can change
the eater for better or worse." He concludes, "the role of the next
revolution will be to subvert the last."
This is a fascinating book that shows us ourselves: like the cannibal, who
eats his enemy to appropriate his power, we believe in food's
transformative effect, which through devotion to vegetarianism and other
special diets will make us "better." It paints a picture both sweeping and
precise. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly: For sheer volume of fascinating facts, this survey
of gastronomic lore can't be beat. Fernśndez-Armesto (Millennium), a
Professional Fellow at the University of London and member of the modern
history faculty at Oxford, debunks popular myths, such as the idea that
spices were needed in medieval times to disguise tainted meat and fish (in
fact, fresh foods in the middle ages were fresher than today and healthier
as well). He shows why the cultivation of rye, barley and wheat is one of
the most spectacular achievements of humankind and informs readers that
the whole grain cracker invented by Sylvester Graham was intended to
impede sexual desire and promote abstinence.
But the book is more then a litany of quirky tidbits; Fernśndez-Armesto
charts how the evolution of human culture is directly connected to the way
food is obtained. The logistics of agriculture and hunting have shaped
notions of gender and community; food is often integral to concepts of the
sacred in a society; and the loneliness of the fast food eater aided by
such inventions as the microwave has become emblematic of contemporary
society's fragmentation. Fernśndez-Armesto writes lucidly and conveys his
enormous enthusiasm for his subject. While he draws upon the work of many
historians and theorists including Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Claude
LEvi-Strauss and Ferdinand Braudel his erudite analysis always engaging
Crop Biotech Update 30 August 2002
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meeting the Challenges of Agricultural Sustainability
A new K-Sheet entitled is available at
http://rd.bcentral.com/?ID=173096&s=56697522 It is based on the article by
David Tilman et. al. "Agricultural Sustainability and Agricultural
Production Practices". K-Sheets are one page synthesis of events and
Future of Food
An insightful article which ponders on the issue of how to feed the
increasing population in the next 50 years and which farming practices
would be most sustainable. Written by See Yee Ai, the Executive Director
of the Malaysia Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC), the article was
originally published in the August 29, 2002 issue of The Star. It is
available for download at http://www.isaaa.org/kc/News/food.pdf.
Distance Learning on Biosafety
UNIDO, in collaboration with the University of Concepcin, Chile, launches
the first academically accredited Diploma in Biosafety by distance
learning. The course, consisting of a faculty of international scientists,
starts on 23 September 2002 with two weeks of on-campus lectures that will
be conducted in English. It will make use of the latest distance learning
techniques and electronic multimedia developed by UNIDO. For more
information visit http://rd.bcentral.com/?ID=173091&s=56697522
Revisiting The Pros and Cons of GM Crops
- Robert Derham
About two weeks ago, an interesting article on the pros and cons of
genetically modified (GM) food crops was published.
The article contained some thought provoking statements that, sought to
equally represent both sides. However, the article could have been
improved with input from an authoritative figure in the field of GM food
science. The article posed cons that really were not cons, or construed a
pro into seeming like a con, while also leaving out key pros that allow
the public to more fully appreciate the technology, with which researchers
have provided us. Here, we will revisit the article, which will appear as
bolded-type and unchanged. All additions will appear in normal