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Date:

August 30, 2002

Subject:

Twisted Potato Story; Criticism Vital; Anti-biotech Hinders Aid;

 

Today in AgBioView: August 31, 2002:
* 'Better Potato' Scientist Responds to LA Times Story
* Criticism Preserves The Vitality Of Science
* USDA Says Advocacy Groups' Anti-biotech Approach to Food Hinders Aid
* GM Foods and African Famine
* Better To Starve Them
* Between Famine and Politics, Zambians Starve
* Zambian Food Aid
* EU Offers Research On Gene Foods To Zambia
* Meat Processors Back Import of Genetically Modified Feeds
* No Evidence For Organic Benefit


'Building a Better Potato' Scientist Responds

- From: "Rebecca Nelson"

Since AgBioWorld has posted the article "Building a Better Potato," I
wonder if you'd be willing to post my reaction below. Thanks and regards,
Rebecca Nelson
----------------

Dear Editor:

It is a pity that Jonathan Kandell spent more time talking than listening
during his reporting trip to Peru ("Building a Better Potato," LA Times,
August 11). He writes that the blight-resistant potato varieties produced
by the International Potato Center for Andean farmers are genetically
engineered. This is not true -- they are the product of years of
conventional breeding by potato center scientists. He writes that I am an
"ardent crusader" for genetically engineered crops, when in fact I have
never worked with transgenic plants and do not believe them to be the
answer to the blight problem.

Kandell says the potato center "used" CARE to advance its genetic
engineering agenda. In fact, the two organizations have long worked
together with Andean communities as equal partners, and their late blight
collaboration has had nothing to do with transgenic potatoes.

Kandell suggests that I employed a bodyguard in Peru, and that I knew the
"mafiosa" wholesaler at Lima's central vegetable market before Kandell
introduced me to her for a scene in his article. Both notions are patently
false. How sad that a story about efforts to improve food security for
poor farmers had to be hijacked to make an ideological point.

Sincerely,
Rebecca J. Nelson
Associate Professor of Plant Pathology and International Agriculture,
Cornell University

>> BUILDING A BETTER POTATO
>>American Scientist Rebecca Nelson Has Been Leading the Charge to Use
Genetically Modified
>> Crops to Fight Famine in Peru. But Not Everyone Thinks It's God's Work.
>>Los Angeles Times August 11, 2002 By Jonathan Kandell
>>Nestled some 13,000 feet up the Andes mountains of Peru, the village of
>>Aymara is literally breathtaking. The chest heaves, the head throbs,
>>the fingers tingle. The air is so thin and clear that distances
>>deceive. Crags are etched in such detail that mountains appear closer,
>
**********************************************

Criticism Preserves The Vitality Of Science

- Matthew Metz, Nature Biotechnology, September 2002 Volume 20 Number 9
p 867

The vulnerability of science has been highlighted by the unfolding
controversy over a paper published in Nature on transgenic introgression
into Mexican maize1. The scientific enterprise is labor intensive, and
unforgiving of carelessness. In practicing science, we must contend with
the difficulty of abandoning a favorite hypothesis when data do not
support it. We also have to shield objective investigation from political,
financial, and ideological diversion or risk trying to prove something
that is less than true. External agendas can also detract from science,
with manifestations ranging from manipulation of scientific debate for
political ends, to wanton destructive actions. Concerns about the
impingement of financial influences on research have presumably motivated
recent editorial policy revisions by journals such as Nature and Nature
Biotechnology requiring authors to disclose competing financial interests.

To overcome these challenges, we require both the support and scrutiny of
our colleagues. For scrutiny, peer review is often heralded as the gold
standard. Non-experts in a field often rely on the filter provided by peer
review to screen for quality and originality of research. To ensure the
integrity of this process, reviewers must be expert in the experiments
from which data are drawn and not be predisposed to concur with (or
disfavor) the conclusions in question. Reviewers must be expert and
unbiased enough to rigorously assess not only whether authors made
relevant use of scientific reagents, but also whether they have dutifully
employed the scientific method, produced information of importance to a
field of inquiry, and adequately addressed current knowledge in the field.
Many influences can press for a lowering (or raising beyond reach) of the
bar in the stringency of peer review for particular studies, including
socioeconomic concerns, the lure of prominence in the popular media, and
political agendas. But to compromise this standard weakens the fabric of
science as a self-correcting, knowledge-building process.

However deeply we depend on peer review, it is not an end point, but
rather the debut of hypotheses before a body of knowledge. Even properly
conducted peer review can err. Thus, the re-examination of published data
and the review of newly generated data is essential to the health of
science. Personal clashes are tangential; the evidence (or lack thereof)
will tell the story.

The study published in Nature reporting transgenic DNA found in
traditional Mexican maize1 has drawn into the spotlight the adequacy of
current peer-review policies and the role of a critical scientific
audience. Questions have been raised about the relevance of the study's
conclusions and the validity of the data from which they were drawn2.
Critiques of the study3, 4 have prompted the editors to conclude that the
original study was not fit for publication. These activities emerge as
part of proper scientific discourse. There have also been missteps, such
as the release of a reviewer's comments urging retraction of the study5
before the journal's editorial embargo was lifted.

To those removed from the rigors of scientific scrutiny, this heated
response might seem intimidating. In fact, the "Joint Statement on the
Mexican GM Maize Scandal" released by Food First6 (Oakland, CA)
interpreted the criticisms as "intimidatory tactics" and stated,
"Pro-industry academics are engaging in a highly unethical mud-slinging
campaign." Regardless of less-than-civil statements from both sides,
scrutinizing data and conclusions stands as a duty for scientists.

The "Joint Statement" goes further to demand that the scientific community
"censor those academics and institutions that slander the competence or
integrity of those who publish peer-reviewed studies." As noted before,
peer review is the beginning of a critical process, not the end, and
criticism is not slander. Critical examination from our peers, whether it
corrects or validates our conclusions, will bring us closer to fact.
Criticism is welcomed when pursuit of knowledge is the guiding priority.
Censoring reasoned scientific disputes would invite a culture of
mediocrity in which suspect conclusions would go politely unchallenged. A
worst-case example of this can be found in Stalin's appointee Trofim D.
Lysenko, who devastated Soviet agriculture and biological science with
such policies.

In principle, peer review overrides political, ideological, and financial
influences, and other non-scientific considerations. Functional peer
review evaluates scientific data and conclusions on scientific criteria
alone. Therefore, it might be argued, editorial policies requiring the
disclosure of potential financial conflicts of interest are superfluous:
if such disclosure is necessary, then it follows that the peer review
process must be faltering.

Editors and reviewers are, in effect, censors of scientific disclosure.
They are no less susceptible to conflicts of interest than are authors. Is
it then the secrecy of the editorial process and the anonymity of peer
review that require baring to the public eye? Readers may gain a good deal
more insight from the transparency of the censors than from knowledge of
the minutiae of authors' commercial associations.

Whether or not we doubt the validity of a colleague's conclusions, we
cannot ignore the importance of fellow scientists' pursuit of knowledge.
Our esteem for knowledge should motivate us to give both our criticism of
data and our support of efforts to generate data. It is unconscionable for
a member of the scientific community to give complicit or implicit backing
to suppression of criticism or destruction of research.

As scientists, we must be relentless in critically examining data,
especially our own. We must show unyielding opposition to destructive
acts, both physical and political, against research. And we should not be
complacent about deficiencies in the systems that mediate scientific
discourse.

REFERENCES
1. Quist, D. & Chapela, I.H. Nature 414, 541-543 (2001).
2. Christou, P. Transgenic Res. 11, iii-v (2002).
3. Metz, M. & F¸tterer, J. Nature 416, 600-601 (2002).
4. Kaplinsky, N. et al. Nature 416, 601-602 (2002).
5. Life Sciences Network. Mexico maize scandal hots up.
http://www.lifesciencesnetwork.com/news-detail.asp?newsID=676.
6. Food First Institute for Food and Development Policy. Joint statement
on the Mexican GM maize scandal.
http://www.foodfirst.org/progs/global/ge/jointstatement2002.html.

---
Matthew Metz is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology,
University of Washington, Seattle,WA 98195 e-mail:
metzilla@u.washington.edu

**********************************************

U.S. Agriculture Dept. Says Advocacy Groups' Anti-biotech Approach To Food
Hinders Aid

- Emily Gersema, Associated Press , August 30

WASHINGTON - The Agriculture Department is blaming advocacy groups opposed
to biotech foods for influencing southern African countries' decision to
refuse U.S. aid over fears that genetically engineered foods are unsafe.

"Our ability to deliver desperately needed food has been greatly hindered
by individuals and organizations that are opposed to biotechnology and who
are providing misguided statements about the U.S. food system,"
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Friday.

So far Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe have
refused to accept U.S. food relief, because much of the food has been
genetically modified. The United Nations ( news - web sites) estimates
that 12.8 million people in those countries need help to avoid mass
starvation, caused by drought and government mismanagement.

Only Zambia, which has 2.5 million people in danger of starvation, has
totally rejected the food. The United States is the leading food
contributor for African countries. It wants to deliver about a
half-million tons of food to avert the crisis, much of it biotech corn. So
far, it has sent 490,000 tons of aid to hunger-stricken southern African
countries through the U.N. World Food Program.

The Agriculture Department said the anti-biotech groups should not promote
a political agenda at the risk of losing lives. "It is disgraceful that
instead of helping hungry people, these individuals and organizations are
embarking on an irresponsible campaign to spread misinformation and create
an atmosphere of fear, which has led countries in dire need of food to
turn away safe, wholesome food," she said.

Veneman didn't name specific organizations, but her deputy chief of staff,
Kevin Herglotz said it's no secret which associations and governments have
criticized using the technology in food production. He said Greenpeace is
one example of associations spreading fear.

The European Union ( news - web sites) also has opposed genetically
modified foods, but it changed its position this week in light of the
potential famine. "It's the same food that we're selling on the shelves
at American grocery stores," Herglotz said.

The Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based nonprofit group that is
urging the U.S. government to study the effects of biotech foods before
approving their sale, defended its cautious approach to biotechnology.
"For our government to suggest that it is one group for raising this
concern is totally misplaced. ... It shows that they are just trying to
arrogantly push the technology," said the group's legal director, Joseph
Mendelson.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization urged African countries Friday
to weigh scientific research on genetically modified foods carefully
before rejecting them. "The United Nations therefore believes that in the
current crisis, governments in southern Africa must consider carefully the
severe and immediate consequences of limiting food aid available for
millions of people so desperately in need," Jacques Diouf, the head of the
organization, said at a news conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Diouf noted that the World Health Organization is seeking to create
standards relating to aid that contains biotech food. U.S. officials also
have offered to help Zambia set up a plant where it could research
genetically modified foods to alleviate fear, according to the U.S. Agency
for International Development.

********************

GM Foods and African Famine

- The Irish Times (Letters To The Editor), August 30, 2002

Sir, - As reported recently in The Irish Times and the Economist, major
shipments of US food aid to southern African countries have been refused
because the maize was genetically modified (GM) and local officials feared
it might be 'toxic'. Such bans will inevitably increase the death-rate in
famine-stricken areas. Yet this is the same maize that has been consumed
regularly, in various forms, by hundreds of millions of North Americans
over the past decade, with no harm to anybody.

However, rather than deploring the naivety of African officials for
refusing vital help, we should blame the environmental organisations which
created the current anti-GM hysteria. Such organisations include
Greenpeace, with its TV 'spectacular' of Lord Melchett in white jumpsuit
and face mask thrashing GM maize trials.

The eco-lunatics really have taken over the asylum.,

- Yours, Con O'Rourke, Park Lane, Sandymount, Dublin 4.

********************

Better To Starve Them

- The Chicago Tribune (Opinion), August 29, 2002 (Via Agnet)

Droughts and crop failures have left 2.5 million Zambians at the edge of
starvation, yet the government has rejected thousands of tons of American
grain offered through the UN World Food Program. Why? Because it may
contain genetically modified corn and soybeans. Zambia's President Levy
Mwanawasa recently declared to television reporters that he'd rather let
his people starve than have them eat modified U.S. grain.

He will allow distribution of U.S. food only to 130,000 Angolan and
Congolese refugees. By Mwanawasa's logic his own people may die, but at
least they won't be at risk of some long-term health consequences that no
one has demonstrated even exist.

The known risk, of course, is negligible. World Food Program regulations
require the U.S. to donate only food that is deemed safe enough for
Americans to eat. (Two-thirds of processed foods in the U.S. contain some
bioengineered ingredients.) Not only have all the relevant U.S. government
agencies declared the so-called GM grains in question safe, but so have
the European Union's health experts.

The famine affects five other African countries--and a total of 13 million
people--but Zambia is the only one so far to reject the aid. WFP executive
director James Morris says it's the first time ever a country facing a
famine has rejected free food.

This is lunacy.

GM grains are grown not only by the U.S.--mostly in the Midwest--but also
South Africa, Argentina, Canada and other major grain producers. The seeds
are genetically modified to improve their growth potential. They may be
altered, for example, to make them more pest-resistant--an effort to
reduce the use of pesticides, a traditional bugaboo of environmentalists.
Such efforts have prompted a fair amount of hysteria, particularly in
Europe, where some governments threaten to boycott imports from countries
where any GM grains or plants might have contaminated the food chain.

Following the mad-cow disaster, many European consumers justifiably grew
concerned about food safety. But GM food has become a fly paper attracting
other causes, few of them actually relevant to health or safety. The
anti-globalization, anti-U.S., pro-protectionist crowd flocking to the
issue will not be swayed no matter how much scientific testing is
conducted on the safety of such foods.

Genetically modified crops are at the edge of science and merit close and
continuous testing, which so far has found them to be safe. But there is a
difference between prudence and paralysis, between caution and hysteria.
The UN response to Zambia has been blunt: It will have to accept modified
food products if it is to receive aid, and if it does not do so, the
result will assuredly be the death of many Zambians.

The resistance by the government isn't simply irrational, it's cruel.

******************

Between Famine and Politics, Zambians Starve

- Henri E. Cauvin, The New York Times, August 30, 2002

LUSAKA, Zambia -- About all Josephine Namangolwa has left in her hungry,
weary body is anger, and in an instant it all comes surging out. It has
been days since she had a nourishing meal to feed her eight children,
victims, like millions of other Zambians, of the deepening food shortage
that is sweeping southern Africa.

Yet before her eyes stand sacks and sacks of untouched -- and for now
untouchable -- cornmeal, which has been the foundation of the Zambian diet
for generations and is currently at the center of a scientific and
diplomatic debate over genetically modified food.

It is an argument that means nothing and everything to Ms. Namangolwa.
''We are dying here,'' she shouts as aid workers arrive in her village of
Chipapa to check on their warehouse and the nearly 500 metric tons of
cornmeal stored inside, all of it from the United States and some of it
almost certainly from genetically engineered crops. ''We want to eat.''
For now, however, she and the rest of the hungry in Zambia will not be
eating any of the food from Chipapa, or any of the thousands of tons of
additional food being shipped to the region from the United States.

President Levy Mwanawasa has banned the distribution of food produced with
genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.'s, laying down a hard line in a
debate that has gripped the region for weeks. The president, along with
close advisers and sympathetic scientists, has expressed a number of
concerns about G.M.O.'s. Health is one; trade relations with the European
Union and the United States is another.

Genetically engineered corn is shipped in two forms, as unmilled kernels
and as cornmeal. Zambian officials worry that the kernels might be used as
seed, producing genetically modified corn that would cross-pollinate with
nonmodified varieties. This would jeopardize Zambian exports to the
European Union, which requires all genetically modified products to be so
labeled.

A number of people following the debate say that it has at some level
turned into an undeclared trade dispute between the European Union with
its powerful environmental activists and the United States and its
influential biotechnology industry.

With millions of lives in the balance, neither side wants it to look that
way, and both have gone to great lengths to keep the trade issue out of
the public debate. In a statement today, the European Union mission here
all but encouraged Zambia to accept the modified corn, saying that milling
would allay its concerns about exports from the country.

But even if the incoming corn were milled into cornmeal, eliminating the
risk to the Zambian agriculture industry, the government remained
concerned about the suitability of the food for human consumption. ''I
have been told it is not safe,'' the minister of agriculture, Mundia
Sikatana, said in an interview.

Asked if he believes such foods are poisonous, Mr. Sikatana said the
studies he had read had led him to that conclusion. ''What else would you
call an allergy caused by a substance? That substance that the person
reacts to is poisonous.''

All of the talk of toxins and trade has confused many local people, while
frustrating the United Nations World Food Program and angering Washington,
which is supplying about three-quarters of the food for the W.F.P.'s
operations in the region.

The W.F.P., which is feeding just over a million Zambians now, expects to
be feeding about 2.5 million by the end of the year.

At the moment, the agency says it has only about 7,000 metric tons of
food, or some two weeks worth, approved and available for distribution.
About 14,000 tons already in the country, some already milled, some still
whole grain, have been frozen by the president's edict. Far larger
shipments on the way face the same fate unless Mr. Mwanawasa changes his
mind.

In an indication of the matter's urgency, Andrew S. Natsios, the head of
the United States Agency for International Development, met with Mr.
Mwanawasa this week to urge him to accept the corn and to offer Zambia
assistance in assuring that the food is indeed safe.

In an effort to ease Zambia's doubts about the safety of the foods, the
agency has offered to fly Zambian scientists to the United States to meet
with government and academic researchers. Mr. Natsios maintained that Mr.
Mwanawasa was open to the offer and the possibility that it might yield a
solution.

''I think he wants more information,'' Mr. Natsios said. ''There's no
commitment to change, but I don't think this story is at an end.''

Mr. Sikatana said the government has made its decision and can meet the
country's needs without American aid. Efforts to bring hundreds of
thousands of tons of corn from elsewhere are underway, and Mr. Sikatana
said no Zambian will starve. With each passing day, however, the fates of
millions of hungry people around Zambia grow more dire.

Loveness Malupande, who lives not far from Chipapa, in the village of
Kabweza, with an extended family of about 24, said her family had sold off
all but two of the 20 cattle they had, all to buy stopgap supplies of
food, which have since run out. For now, the family is left to scavenge.
''We go out in the bush and look for wild roots,'' she says.

One of her relatives, Cliff Malambo, 27, said he had heard about the food
at the warehouse in Chipapa. ''They have said that the food is not good
for us, but we don't know,'' he said. ''They don't explain.'' Many
Zambians question the government's statements and wonder why friends who
received the American corn before the ban went into effect have not died.
Others applaud the government's vigilance. Almost all of them are somewhat
befuddled.

''People ask me if it's safe,'' Steven Grabiner, who runs the Riverside
Development Agency, a church-affiliated charity, said. ''I say, 'Yes, I
think it is. If you make me a bowl I'll eat it.''' Foods produced from
crops engineered to be more resistant to worms, for example, are now
widely consumed in the United States less than a decade after such
products first entered the market. By many accounts, they have made
American agriculture more productive, but they have also brought
controversy.

A number of scientists and consumer advocates argue the effects of genetic
engineering on both the environment and consumers have not been adequately
examined. Yet, years of extensive testing have not turned up any findings
that would suggest such foods are not safe for humans, Marc Cohen, an
analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington,
said.

While genetically engineered food has almost certainly found its way into
Zambia for several years, through international aid or through imports
from South Africa, which produces genetically modified crops, the scale
was always small and never attracted attention. But the volume of food
being brought in for the relief operation is huge, aimed at feeding 13
million people across six countries, and red flags went up.

Mozambique and Zimbabwe at first joined Zambia in resisting the geneticaly
modified corn, particularly out of concerns over cross-pollination.
Ultimately, Mozambique and Zimbabwe decided to mill the corn before
bringing it into the country, eliminating the potential threat to their
agricultural sectors. Zambia so far has balked at milling in part because
of the cost, which at $25 a ton is not an inconsequential expense for one
of the poorest countries in the world.

Critics of the government say that officials were late drafting a
comprehensive policy on genetic engineering and were nowbuying time to try
to form one. ''We should be confining our debate in this hour of
emergency to corn,'' said John W. K. Clayton, president of the Zambia
National Farmers' Union. ''We don't have the luxury of time to launch into
broadranging debate on this issue.''

''This is the work of the politicians,'' Ms. Namangolwa said as she looked
in on the stockpile of corn. ''This meal is O.K. They are not helping us.
They are killing us.''

***************

From: "Andrea Labaj"
Subject: Zambian Food Aid

I have to laugh when Zambia says it is saving its people from food that
could be potentially unhealthy. I think that death by starvation is
immediately unhealthy. Zambia will not have to feed its people if they are
deceased so, they won't have to worry about the long term effects of GM
food.

North Americans have been consuming these foods for almost a decade and
our quality of life and life span are actually increasing according to
international statistics. What exactly is long term to activists, Zambians
and Europeans? Long term use of a car can kill you so can long-term
walking across the street. Eventually long term living will kill you
too.....

It is so overtly obvious that this is more a trade issue for Zambia with
the paranoid, thoughtless, overfed Europeans. Perhaps science should be
taught in European schools to help their population better assess the
overwhelming benefits and proven safety of GM foods.

A. Labaj

******************

EU Offers Research On Gene Foods To Zambia

- Reuters, August 30, 2002

LUSAKA, Aug 30 (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on Friday to make its
research on genetically modified (GM) foods available to Zambia following
a U.S. request to encourage African countries to accept GM food aid.

Aid agencies say 2.4 million people in Zambia face starvation as part of a
worsening regional food shortage, but the country has rejected GM food aid
from the United States

It has banned GM food imports until its scientists establish independently
if the foods are safe for human consumption. The EU's mission head in
Zambia, Ambjorn Berglund, said in a statement that Zambia urgently
required information on GM foods "in view of the extreme seriousness of
the (hunger) situation".

He added: "EU scientists have until now found no evidence to show that GM
varieties they have looked at are harmful with regard to human health."

On August 22 the EU, which only allows a handful of GM crops to be
imported or grown on its territory, declined to respond to U.S. calls for
reassurance to African countries that GM food aid from the United States
was safe. In June, the government of Zimbabwe also rejected a U.S. maize
consignment of 17,500 tonnes because it was not certified free of
genetically modified material.

Berglund said it might not be possible to source sufficient quantities of
non-GM maize in the region and in good time to address the needs of people
suffering the consequences of drought. "The delegation wishes to ensure
that relevant and correct information is made available to the general
public and the government for the crucial decisions to determine to what
extent the looming severe food shortage will become an acute threat to
lives of many vulnerable citizens in Zambia," Berglund said.

The southern Africa region's worst food crisis in a decade, affecting 13
million people in six countries, has fired a debate over the use of GM
food.

GM crops are widespread in the United States, which is providing half of
all food aid to southern Africa. The head of the U.N. World Food Programme
said last week the GM controversy could halt aid distributions in Zambia.

"It's frightening people into thinking there is something wrong with the
food...and the consequence of it is that the relief effort is slowing
down," Andrew Natsios, Administrator of USAID, said at the Earth Summit in
Johannesburg on Thursday.

****************************************

Meat Processors Back Import of Genetically Modified Feeds

- BusinessWorld (Philippines), August 30, 2002

Local meat processors support the import of genetically modified (GM) raw
materials, such as corn and soya, despite mounting protests against GM
foods.

In a press conference yesterday, officers of the Philippine Association of
Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) expressed their support to the continued
import and local production of GM agricultural products that are used as
raw materials for animal feeds, snack food and food extenders, among
others. "All documented research on gene technology for agriculture has
been proven beneficial for increased production which the country needs.
We assure the public of the quality and safety of our products," PAMPI
executive director Francisco Buencamino said.

He noted its 38 member companies, which include the country's largest meat
processors Monterey Foods Corp Foodsphere, Inc., Purefoods Hormel and San
Miguel Foods, adhere to the government's safety regulations covering the
use of biotechnology in food processing.

****************************************************

No Evidence For Organic Benefit

- Edinburgh News August 30, 2002 (From Agnet)
http://www.edinburghnews.com/opinion.cfm?id=963122002

Alan D Fairweather writes that Sarah Boyack wants to live in a field of
dreams (August 28). She wrote that "a whole host of organisations believe
that organic food has significant benefits over intensive, mass-produced
food".

Belief may be strong, but the head of the Food Standards Agency, Professor
John Krebbs, has repeatedly pointed out that there is no evidence for
organically produced food being in any way more nutritious or safer than
conventionally produced food. The diet and health of societies subsisting
on primitive agriculture and the pre-war diets in our country reveal only
monotony, contamination and shortcomings. The advent of modern
agricultural methods has made a wider and cheaper selection of foods more
available than ever before.

Fairweather says that organic food production here may supply the two per
cent niche market for those who can afford to believe in process rather
than product - but for the health of the general public, access to an
affordable, wide and varied diet is paramount. Maybe Ms Boyack should join
the Green Party? It seems to favour an abstract ideal, denying ongoing
evolution, biological fundamentals and geophysical change, and wants to
preserve a sort of utopian stasis.

She says "the evidence is mounting" for efficient and healthier soils by
organic farming. Good conventional husbandry offers just the same - but
yielding more and costing less. The evidence is there for more than 100
years of trials and papers in agricultural journals. Is Ms Boyack familiar
with the main body of academic research which has shown modern methods
improving efficiency and health of soils?

Her "mounting" evidence is disingenuous, to say the least, when set
against the established record which is confirmed stacked high and various
on our supermarket shelves. We should be truly thankful.