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December 5, 2002


Crime, Half of Earth Intact, Technophobes, Wambugu, Golden rice, Evolution,


Today in AgBioView: December 6, 2002:

* Study's Authors 'Surprised' to Find Nearly Half of Earth's Wilderness
* The Technophobes
* Millions Served
* Can golden rice eradicate vitamin A deficiency?
* Dietary change was a driving force in human evolution
* Monsanto's Insect-Protected Corn Approved for Planting in the


December 5, 2002
Reuters (Via Agnet)

BRUSSELS - Tony Hall, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations food agencies,
was cited as telling reporters that African leaders who refuse to accept
food aid due to fears of genetically modified products are committing
crimes against humanity and should be put on trial, and that Europe, which
has effectively banned the development and import of new genetically
modified crops, should do more to help millions of people facing famine in
southern Africa and reassure them over the safety of such crops, adding,
"People that deny food to their people, that are in fact starving people
to death should be held responsible...for the highest crimes against
humanity in the highest courts in the world.

The EU has made some great statements (on the safety of GM food), at the
same time there are people who have thrown a lot of doubts, who have been
neutral. We cannot be neutral on this issue...We need strong statements.
We are beyond this discussion (on GM) here."


Study's Authors 'Surprised' to Find Nearly Half of Earth's Wilderness

By Marc Morano
December 06, 2002

The findings of a new study showing that nearly half of the Earth's
surface remains an untouched wilderness came as a surprise to the authors
of the report.

In fact, a critic of the Green movement says environmentalists "will be
furious" with the report because they raise money based on the "idea that
man is killing the planet and the earth is running out of everything."

The Conservation International report, Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild
Places, was the result of two years of research and the work of hundreds
of international scientists. The study revealed that the Earth's untouched
wilderness areas are 46 percent intact.

"A lot of people will be surprised by the percent of the land surface that
is in very good shape. We were surprised," said Russ Mittermeier, the
president of Conservation International, in an interview with CNSNews.com

Human activity has reduced the Earth's wilderness areas from just over 54
percent of the Earth's surface since the dawn of man to the present day
coverage of 46 percent, according to the authors.

The intact wilderness sites on the planet occupy a land area equivalent to
the six largest countries on Earth combined; or more than seven times the
size of the United States, according to Mittermeier. These wilderness
areas are critical to the survival of the planet, according to the study.

Other positive notes from the study are that the tropical rainforests of
the Amazon and the Congo have not been decimated by development and
logging. "For the most part, these forests are really intact," said

Another unexpected finding was how sparsely populated the wilderness area
are in terms of human habitation.

"Seven-tenths of the world's population was in 38 percent of the [Earth's]
land area. That surprised us," Mittermeier said.

The absence of human populations in wilderness areas is considered
positive for the environment because man and nature do not have to compete
for resources, according to the study. Nine of the wilderness areas were
in the United States.

"We are painting a picture of guarded optimism...Yes, there is some good
news, but let's not sit on it and say we don't have to do anything,"
Mittermeier cautioned.

'Wilderness good, man bad'

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free-market environmental think tank
Competitive Enterprise Institute, thinks the study's findings will be "met
with extreme hostility" by a lot of environmental groups.

"They will be furious, their entire fund-raising and therefore existence
is based upon the idea that man is killing the planet and the earth is
running out of everything," Horner told CNSNews.com .

Horner said most Geen groups believe "as a matter of faith" that man has
destroyed the natural world and development must be restricted.

"They cannot allow people to believe anything but catastrophe is possible
if you don't do what they want," he said.

Horner was also critical of the Conservation International study for it's
implied message that human development is not desirable.

According to the study, Horner said, "Half the world is in pretty decent
shape, [and] that is the half of the world that has no man. So decent
shape means no people.

"Wilderness good - man bad," he added.

19th century colonial activity'

Conservation International bills itself as a non-profit, non-political
group, according to its spokesman Brad Phillips.

"Because we are a scientific organization, we feel that if we have an
ideological bent, it call into question our science," said Phillips.

The organization, however, has some very definite positions on what
mankind needs to do to preserve the remaining wilderness areas. It
advocates many Green causes regarding forestry and population control.

"To me, logging of primary forests is a 19th century colonial activity
that has no place in the modern world... and it needs to be phased out as
quickly as possible," Mittermeier explained.

Even the concept of "sustainable" forestry, endorsed by environmental
groups, does not meet with Mittermeier's approval.

"They do it under the banner of sustainability, but there is nothing
sustainable about it... it is not sustainable - it is the mining of trees,
it's a disaster," he said.

Mittermeier would like to see all timber harvested from controlled
farm-like plantation forests instead.

Phillips believes that the world must act to control population growth to
ensure the continued existence of wilderness areas.

"Most scientists believe that by 2050, we are going to have somewhere
between 9 or 10 billion people. We know now that there are water shortages
in parts of the world, food shortages, material shortages," Phillips said.

But Horner rejects the notion that man has over-industrialized the planet
or that a population crisis is looming and blames the Green movements'
frightening scenarios on faulty projections.

"[Environmentalists] would probably like to scare you to death about a
future race of giant men coming to kill us all by showing you the growth
chart of a baby from six weeks to six months. At that rate, he will be 300
feet tall and kill us all," Horner said.

"[The baby analogy] is not an accurate assessment, but they do the same
thing with population curves," he said. "If you live in New Jersey, you
can be forgiven for thinking the world is a crowded place, but it isn't,"
he added.

No famine in democracies

Horner believes the solution to population and food- distribution issues
will emerge from the political process.

"You don't find food or water shortages in a democracy; you have never
seen a famine in a democracy," he said.

"Most shortages occur in those areas that most closely border wilderness.
You alleviate them through instituting democracy and development," he

The Technophobes

Dec 5, 2002
By Dan Seligman

A guide to assorted Luddites, labor monopolists, muddled intellectuals and
otherworldly pietists who kept resisting modernity even as it overwhelmed

It is hard to resist technology's endless landslide, but people keep
trying. Why? One discerns four possible reasons:

FIRST CASE: The new technology threatens the material interests of some
groups. An esoteric example, now largely forgotten, arose from the sudden
popularity, early in the last century, of margarine. Based on vegetable
oils, the new spread obviously represented big trouble for butter. The
dairy industry responded by attacking margarine as a threat to healthy
diets--this was before Americans had heard of cholesterol--and, since the
new stuff looked like butter, as an exercise in consumer fraud. Allegedly
to forestall fraud, but actually to make the new competitor seem as weird
as possible, dairy lobbyists persuaded many state legislatures to outlaw
yellow margarine, and so many a consumer had to take home white vegetable
fat and add yellow food coloring on the kitchen counter.

Less esoteric and more pervasive were wars against new technologies that
threatened jobs. A typical union reaction was to demand that new work be
found for the suddenly redundant employees, even if the new work was of no
economic value. So we entered the era in which newspaper publishers were
stuck with typographers whose job was to set "bogus" type. Or sometimes
not even that. Thirty years ago there was a place in the New York Times
building called the Rubber Room. The reference, you will (possibly) be
relieved to hear, was to rubbers of bridge. It seems that members of the
printing-trade union would report for work, play bridge for eight hours,
then go home.

The Rubber Room was made possible by two French inventors, RenČ Higonnet
and Louis Moyroud, who developed a machine, ultimately called the Photon,
that set characters electronically on film. It eliminated the need for the
kind of artisans who had, for the previous 500 years, moved metal type
around. Unable to get financing in France, the inventors crossed the
Atlantic, and soon had American newspaper publishers panting to get in on
the Photon. The device could spin out type at least four times faster than
the Linotype machine. It could be operated by inexpensive clerical workers
hired off the street in place of the high-paid members of the
International Typographical Union. The Photon represented disaster for the
ITU, and the union's New York Local 6, run by hardball player Bertram
Powers, led a strike from 1962 to 1963 that shut down all New York City
newspapers for 114 days and terminated the life of New York's Mirror. The
union ultimately won lifetime employment contracts for printers, many of
whom took up bridge.

SECOND CASE: The new technology is thought to be unhealthy. Here the
paradigmatic examples were DDT and other pesticides, and their principal
adversary was Rachel Carson, author of the 1962 bestseller Silent Spring.
The book inspired the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency
(news - web sites) and the environmental philosophy of Al Gore (news - web
sites). Carson, a marine biologist by training, wrote with a kind of
poetic power and scared the socks off thousands of readers with
apocalyptic passages like: "One of the most sinister features of DDT and
related chemicals is the way they are passed on from one organism to
another through all the links of the food chain. Ö The breast-fed human
infant is receiving small but regular additions to the load of toxic
chemicals building up in his body. Ö There has been no such parallel
situation in medical history. No one yet knows what the ultimate
consequences may be."

Fortifying this dreadful storyline was the fact that Carson died two years
after the book's publication--of breast cancer (news - web sites). Many
environmentalists think that toxic chemicals are an important cause of
breast cancer. DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972.

But today the Carson argument is seriously suspect. DDT has been
enormously successful in wiping out malaria in undeveloped countries
worldwide--no other pesticide does the job as well--and there is no
evidence that this huge benefit has been offset by increased cancer rates.
It is not clear that DDT is carcinogenic to humans, and if it is, the
effect is clearly weak. The World Health Organization (news - web sites)
has found that "the only confirmed cases of injury [from DDT] have been
the result of massive accidental or suicidal ingestion." An interesting
question is whether Rachel Carson's policy influence might actually have
increased the incidence of cancer. It now seems clear, at least, that the
pesticides she was concerned about had little if any effect on cancer,
while restricting use of pesticides raises the price and reduces the
consumption of fruits and vegetables--which are important inhibitors of

Echoes of these 40-year-old arguments may be picked up nowadays in the
worldwide debate over the safety and legitimacy of genetically modified
foods. While few would deny that we need to pursue research on the
long-term health effects of such foods, the evidence thus far plainly
shows that the new technology holds considerable promise of lowering fruit
and vegetable costs, and thus enhancing human health.

THIRD CASE: New technologies are resisted because they are viewed,
correctly, as fostering economic growth, and growth is viewed,
incorrectly, as bad for the human species.

Prominent on the antigrowth track was Lester Brown, founder of the
Worldwatch Institute. Another famous member of the school was Paul Ehrlich
of Stanford, a tireless pessimist who was endlessly arguing, just like
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), that natural resources are limited but there
is no natural limit to human populations--so it is only a question of time
before we have overcrowding, famine and pestilence. In his 1968 book The
Population Bomb, Ehrlich said it was already too late to prevent huge
worldwide famines in the 1970s. ("The battle to feed all of humanity is
over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people are going to
starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.")
Ehrlich had an equation to prove it: I = PAT. That means the Impact of
growth can be quantified by looking at Population multiplied by Affluence
(i.e., consumption) and multiplied again by Technology.

The grim Malthusian argument that growth means starvation climaxed in a
1972 book by the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth, spelling out the
timetable on which the world would run out of this or that essential raw
material. It sold 12 million copies in 37 languages.

But it was all involved nonsense, and Ehrlich had the bad luck to
demonstrate his folly by making a bet guaranteed to get extensive media
coverage. The bet was with economist Julian Simon of the University of
Maryland. Both men agreed that if Ehrlich's model of the problem was
valid, then basic commodities would be increasingly scarce and rising in
price. Simon's data told him that, on the contrary, commodity prices were
in continual decline, and he offered to bet $1,000 that any raw materials
one picked would decline in price (in real, inflation-adjusted terms) over
a period of at least a year. Ehrlich and two of his colleagues sprang for
the deal and said that a "basket" of chromium, nickel, copper, tungsten
and tin would rise in price over a ten-year period. They lost
ignominiously: The real price of every one of the metals declined during
the decade. Far worse, from Ehrlich's point of view if not humanity's, was
the subsequent relentless improvement in living standards worldwide. In
place of famine and death, the global population has seen a steady
increase in per capita calorie consumption (up 24% since 1961 and up 38%
in developing countries). Life expectancy has also grown steadily, from
around 30 years in 1900 to 67 in 2000.

FOURTH CASE: The technology is said to offend religious faith. It is
always possible to find a certain number of environmentalists identifying
their own policy prescriptions with God's will, or to find preachers in
pulpits with strong views about our need to embrace the Kyoto Protocol
(news - web sites) on global warming (news - web sites). Right now the
religion/technology nexus is conspicuously embodied in a much-hyped
coalition of Christian and Jewish groups that is "linking fuel efficiency
to morality," as the New York Times put it, and positing that Jesus would
not drive a sport utility vehicle.

And yet it is possible to point to at least one religious group that has
had a fair amount of success in resisting technology. Not total success,
but definitely above average. The group in question is the Pennsylvania
Dutch--the Mennonites of Lancaster County, and especially the Amish. Back
in 1919 the Amish made a fateful decision to turn their backs on
electricity and declined to connect their farms to the power grid. They
still do without electricity, cars or flush toilets, and their principal
farm equipment is a horse-drawn tractor with metal wheels. They resist
modernity because easy access to the outside world could, in the words on
an Amish Web site, "lead to many temptations and the deterioration of
church and family life."

The Amish and other Mennonites make up a small fraction of the population,
but a sizable number of people embrace environmentalism with a
quasireligious fervor that opposes technological progress on the theory
that the good old days of horse-drawn sleighs were less sinful. Whether
such believers would be willing to accept 30-year life spans as a price
for turning the clock back is another matter.

Millions Served

Thu Dec 5, 6:36 PM ET
By Lynn J. Cook

While the West debates the ethics of genetically modified food, Florence
Wambugu is using it to feed her country.

Civil war in Angola and Sudan and drought in Eritrea mean that the
continent is on the brink of another mass famine like the one that swept
Ethiopia in the early 1980s. Florence Wambugu knows the kind of hunger
that swells the stomach and dulls the eyes. She grew up with it. Now she
has the makings of a cure. Wambugu was born in 1953, just a few miles away
from Treetops, Kenya's famed game reserve. (That was the same place where,
a year earlier, England's Elizabeth II was on holiday when her father,
King George VI, died during the night and she awoke as queen.) But
proximity to the posh highlands resort and the titled travelers who lodged
there didn't spare Wambugu and her nine brothers and sisters from going a
day or two at a time without eating. When Kenya's colonial government
crumbled in 1963 Wambugu's father was rounded up--like so many young
men--and trucked off to work on a white settler's farm. That left her
mother and ten kids to scratch a life from the land. They stayed alive on
sweet potatoes, a rich source of calories, vitamin A and beta carotene.

"The sweet potato is a woman's crop, a security crop," Wambugu says. "If
we didn't have sweet potatoes, we had nothing." But pests love it as much
as people need it. Growing underground, it is prone to infestation by the
feathery mottle virus and worms. Africa's year-round tropical temperatures
offer no winter to freeze off disease cycles, so each year nearly half the
sweet potato crop fails. In Africa the sweet potato harvest averages two
and a half tons an acre; the global average is more than twice that.
African yields rank dead last in every major crop harvested, from corn to

Today the dismal yields are improving, thanks to Wambugu's decade-long
effort to genetically modify crops to withstand pests. Into the sweet
potato she has spliced in a gene from the pyrethrum, a white flower whose
ingredients are fatal to insects and the feathery mottle virus.

This shuffling of genes is a hit-and-miss, years-long affair. First
Wambugu isolates the gene that codes for the production of insecticidal
pyrethrins in the pyrethrum flower and extracts them. Next, tens of
thousands of copies are made and mixed together with tungsten balls just
one micron in diameter. Thousands of genes stick to each ball, and the
combination is loaded into a "gene gun," which consists of two small
stainless steel chambers and a vacuum pump. Using compressed helium, the
gun shoots the microscopic gene-bearing balls into sweet potato leaves.
Some of the genes migrate off the tungsten and into the nuclei of the
leaves' cells, and are absorbed into the collection of DNA that defines
the plant.

It was a breakthrough 25 years in the making. From the time Wambugu
entered the University of Nairobi's plant pathology program as an
undergraduate in 1975 until she earned her Ph.D. in plant virology from
the University of Bath, U.K. in 1991, she tried various conventional
hybridization techniques to outbreed the viruses that wipe out the
otherwise drought-resistant and energy-rich tuber. Nothing worked--nor did
her experiments over a decade-plus at the Kenya Agricultural Research
Institute. Then, in 1992, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (news - web
sites) offered her a grant to study transgenetics in St. Louis in
collaboration with Washington University and Monsanto , the agrochemical
giant. For three years Wambugu labored in Monsanto's labs, trying to
splice genes for viral resistance into the sweet potato. It took another
two years to test the transgenic tubers in greenhouses and yet another two
years to obtain the necessary permits from Kenya to plant the crops for
field testing. Now halfway through field trials, the results are

The sweet potato is sub-Saharan Africa's first genetically modified crop,
and its yields so far are double that of the regular plant. Potatoes are
bigger and richer in color, indicating they've retained more nutritional
value. On a continent where population growth outstrips food supply growth
by 1% a year, Wambugu's modified sweet potato offers tangible hope.
According to the World Bank (news - web sites), biotech crops could
increase food production in the developing world by 25%.

Wambugu overcame long odds even to get the education she needed for this
venture. When she was 13, with food scarce and every child's hands needed
to work the family plot, her mother sold the family cow to pay for
Wambugu's boarding school 10 miles away. Her mother needed a dispensation
from the village council to sell the animal; most thought she was crazy
for educating a daughter when it would be easier to marry her off.

Today Wambugu, who lives and works in Nairobi, faces a different sort of
obstacle. Groups from Greenpeace to the Union of Concerned Scientists fret
that Africa is being manipulated by multinational corporations, in effect
serving as one big--and potentially dangerous--genetic experiment. Some
Africans are so freaked by plant technology that Zambia's government would
rather have its citizens starve than accept donated food that includes
genetically modified corn. Concerned with the misunderstanding about
transgenic corn, Wambugu created A Harvest Biotech Foundation
International to serve as a pan-African voice on the issue.

Wambugu concedes that GM crops are experimental but insists the potential
good far outweighs the risks. It's like penicillin, she says. Some people
are allergic to it, but the medicine has cured far more people than it has
hurt. "This is not a question of export to Europe or America," she says.
"If they don't want it, they don't have to have it. We have local demand.
We're dying, so can we eat first?" Her former boss, Cyrus Ndiritu, former
director of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institution agrees. "I would
like to make something very clear. It is not multinationals that have a
stranglehold on Africa. It is hunger, poverty and deprivation. And if
Africa is going to get out of that, it has got to embrace GM technology."

If tissue-culture technology, a predecessor to genetically modifying
organisms, is any indicator, the payoff for Africa could be huge. Wambugu
won the World Bank award for global development in 2000 after introducing
the tissue-culture banana to Kenya. In this process a piece of tissue is
cut from a healthy plant and grown in a sterile environment into several
plantlets that root in pasteurized soil before being transferred to the
field. It turned what was once a subsistence crop into a major income
earner for women farmers, more than doubling average banana harvests to 20
tons per acre.

Wambugu's next challenge is getting the funding to help Kenyan farmers pay
for the modified sweet potato and tissue-propagated banana plants. To that
end she is working with government researchers to loan out $15,000, with a
repayment rate of 96%, but has no great benefactor on the horizon.

That has not deterred her from her next project: reforesting acres
stripped by those in search of firewood.

Can golden rice eradicate vitamin A deficiency?

The Hindu
December 5, 2002
By Ramesh V. Bhat and S.Vasanthi

HYDERABAD -- Various kinds of transgenic rice are being developed for a
range of characteristics.

These are developed to be used both as food as well as for industrial
purposes. Among these, nutritional enrichment has been receiving
considerable attention especially in India.

Among all the transgenic crops, transgenic rice is claimed to provide
maximum benefit to the consumer while other crops provide benefit mostly
to the producer.

Nutritional Genomics has been applied to rice for the development of
Golden rice, iron enhanced rice and rice with enhanced proteins and amino
acid. The proponents of Golden rice claim that its consumption provides
the required vitamin A dose to prevent nutritional blindness in
populations where xerophthalmia is endemic.

Although the initial experiments with Golden rice appear to indicate
potential for alleviating vitamin A malnutrition, there is a need to
examine in depth several factors before accepting this technology as an
intervention strategy.

The total dietary exposure and exposure to the modified nutrient among
various age groups, especially the vulnerable segment of the population
need to be considered.

An adult would have to eat 3.7 kg (equivalent to about 9 kg of cooked
rice) to obtain the total daily requirement of vitamin A. The projected
serving size of 300 gm is claimed to provide only 8 per cent of the daily
requirement. On the other hand, the developers of the transgenic crop
dispute the calculation and suggest that only 0.75-1.5 kg rice would have
to be consumed to meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) and rice can
provide 20-40 per cent of the RDA from a 300 g serving. Since rice is a
staple food in large parts of the country and vitamin A deficiency is
still a problem of public health significance, specially among children,
it is essential to look into the Indian scenario.

The surveys of the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau indicate that the
average cereal intake is 106 gm per day among 1-3 year old children. As
per the ICMR Expert Committee, RDA for age groups 1-3 years of retinol
equivalents in India is 400 microgram per day while for betacarotene it
is1600 microgram per day.

The current dietary intake of betacarotene among these children is
estimated to be 788 microgram per day. Golden rice would provide an
additional intake of betacarotene of 186 microgram per day. Thus, while
from the current diet 49 per cent of RDA of betacarotene is met and from
golden rice an additional 12 per cent, the total from both sources would
be 61 per cent.

However, Dr.Peter Beyer of the University of Freiberg, Germany, who along
with Dr.Ingo Potrykus is the developer of the Golden rice, claimed that
"whatever quantity they eat would be sufficient to keep blindness and
other problems at bay" (The Hindu, 7 Nov, 2002). Based on the above data,
obviously such a claim appears to be not correct.

Another important fact that has to be considered in this context is the
bioavailability of betacarotene in the Indian context. The bioavailability
of betacarotene is low compared to vitamin A and it depends on various
dietary factors like level of protein and fat in the diet, protein and fat
stores and cooking and processing methods.

Protein Energy Malnutrition and intestinal infections and infestations
affect the absorption of vitamin A among children. Moreover, an intake of
at least 5gm fat is necessary for betacarotene absorption. The consumption
of fat among the needy communities is woefully inadequate.

An evaluation of bioavailability of betacarotene from Golden rice requires
to be urgently assessed before any conclusions about the actual potential
of Golden rice to meet its requirements are drawn.

There is no information as yet on consistency of the level of betacarotene
production in Golden rice, particularly with respect to the nutrient
amounts as claimed, when it is grown in different environmental
conditions, in different locations under different levels of fertilizer
application and management. What is more important is the acceptability of
yellow Golden rice that requires further investigation.

Thus, many questions are yet to be answered and we have miles to go before
Golden rice can be claimed to help eradicate the problem of vitamin A
deficiency in the country.


Dietary change was a driving force in human evolution

Scientific American
December 2002
By William R. Leonard

We humans are strange primates.

We walk on two legs, carry around enormous brains and have colonized every
corner of the globe. Anthropologists and biologists have long sought to
understand how our lineage came to differ so profoundly from the primate
norm in these ways, and over the years all manner of hypotheses aimed at
explaining each of these oddities have been put forth. But a growing body
of evidence indicates that these miscellaneous quirks of humanity in fact
have a common thread: they are largely the result of natural selection
acting to maximize dietary quality and foraging efficiency. Changes in
food availability over time, it seems, strongly influenced our hominid
ancestors. Thus, in an evolutionary sense, we are very much what we ate.

For full article see


Monsanto's Insect-Protected Corn Approved for Planting in the Philippines

December 05, 2002

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Philippines' Department of
Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry, the body that reviews the
country's applications for approval of plant biotechnology products, has
given commercial approval to YieldGard Corn Borer, an insect-protected
corn developed by Monsanto (NYSE: MON).

Filipino farmers will likely begin planting YieldGard Corn Borer corn over
the next few months.

This decision is good news for Filipino growers who now have an
opportunity to share in the economic and environmental benefits of
YieldGard Corn Borer corn, said Juan Ferreira, Monsanto's country director
for the Philippines. Where it's grown commercially, this product has a
demonstrated ability to improve both yields and quality of grain which, in
turn, increases growers' incomes.

This is the first biotech crop to be approved for commercial planting in
the Philippines, and is one of the first biotech food crops to be approved
for planting in Asia. Other approved biotech crops currently being grown
in Asia/Australia include Monsanto's Bollgard/Ingard insect-protected
cotton and Roundup Ready cotton.

Several other Asian countries including Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Australia
have reviewed the safety of a number biotech crops and granted import

This approval in the Philippines demonstrates that both farmers and
government regulators recognize the safety and benefits of plant
biotechnology, which is why use of these technologies continues to expand
throughout the world, said Robb Fraley, Ph.D., chief technology officer of

This acceptance is driven by the overwhelming benefits of biotechnology,
such as significant reduction in pesticide use.

The recent approval by the Philippines' Department of Agriculture was
based in part on local field trial results that demonstrated significant
increases in yield and a reduced need for insecticide applications, which
will potentially increase farmers' incomes.

Ultimately, the adoption of technology like YieldGard Corn Borer corn has
the potential to improve the self-sufficiency of many Filipino farmers and
the Filipino agriculture industry, said Ferreira.

In addition to its commercial products, Monsanto shares its knowledge and
technologies on a non-commercial basis with public-sector partners to
benefit subsistence farmers and the environment in Asia and throughout the

For example, Monsanto is participating in work to develop virus-resistant
papayas in the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia, and has
contributed to the international project to sequence the rice genome.

Monsanto Company is a leading provider of agricultural solutions to
growers worldwide. Monsanto's employees provide top-quality,
cost-effective and integrated approaches to help farmers improve their
productivity and produce better quality foods. For more information on
Monsanto, see: www.monsanto.com .


December 6, 2002
Science Volume 298, Number 5600, Issue of 6 Dec 2002, pp. 1889-1890.

Indur M. Goklany, Office of Policy Analysis, U.S. Department of the
Interior, Washington, DC, writes that in their their Report "Soil
fertility and biodiversity in organic farming," P. M”der et al. (31 May,
p. 1694) downplay two factors in their discussion of the relative merits
of organic and conventional farming. First, because organic farming yields
(per unit of
land) were 20% lower than those from conventional farming, 25% more land
would be required to produce the same amount of crop biomass, offsetting
some of organic farming's advantage with respect to biological diversity,
inputs, and soil erosion. Allowing for an increase in cultivated land and
adopting the authors' results (p. 1695), organic farming would reduce
overall nutrient use by 18 to 39% (not 34 to 51%), energy use by 20 to 41%
(not 20 to 56%, as indicated in the text), and pesticide use by 96%. So in
terms of the environment, the issue is whether reducing nutrient, energy,
and pesticide inputs and impacts on biodiversity on a smaller piece of
land outweighs the impacts of increasing cropland under cultivation (1,
2). The answer to this question might be different if one examines what
occurs "typically." If typical cereal yields under organic farming are 60
to 70% of those of conventional farming (p. 1695), then between 43 and 67%
more land would be needed to keep production constant, further diminishing
the environmental and biodiversity advantages of organic farming.
Similarly, organic farming might require 0 to 43% more grasslands. Second,
says Goklany, although Europeans--being well fed and currently running
unsustainably large food surpluses--might welcome reduced crop production,
it could prove disastrous for those in developing countries. A 20%
reduction in production from 1997-99 levels, for instance, would reduce
global crop production per capita to levels not seen since at least the
early 1960s (3). Despite improvements during the 1960s, an estimated 37%
of the inhabitants of developing countries (or 956 million people) still
suffered from chronic hunger and malnourishment in 1969-71 (4). By
1997-99, thanks in large part to conventional agriculture, these numbers
had dropped to 17% (or 777 million). Therefore, a 20% drop in production
would have more than doubled their numbers to at least 1700 million in
1997-99. Clearly, there are environmental and humanitarian trade-offs that
should be considered before judging the overall merits of different
agricultural systems. Curiously, the authors did not discuss the
difference in yields between experimental and "typical" conditions, which,
according to them was 10% compared to 30 to 40% (p. 1695, paragraphs 3 and
4), particularly because the latter is more relevant to the real world.
Reducing this gap, I suspect, would be welcomed by all farmers,
conventional or organic, so long as they get the same or better returns on
their effort and other investments.


1.I. M. Goklany, Technology 6, 107 (1999).
2.------, Bioscience 48, 941 (1998).
3.Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), FAOSTATDatabase (FAO, Rome,
2002) (available at http://apps.fao.org).
4.FAO, press release 01/69 (2001), accompanying The State of Food
Insecurity in the World 2001 (available at


M”der et al. respond that Goklany states that 20% lower crop yields in
organic farming would require 25% more land use to produce the same amount
of crop biomass, offsetting some of the advantages of organic agriculture
with respect to biological diversity, inputs, and soil erosion, and that
the experimental yields are not typical. Furthermore, he indicates that
organic farming might not be sufficient to feed the world. M”der et al.
say our nutrient and energy calculations in the comparison trial (known as
DOK) were related to the land area. Organic systems are more efficient,
both on a land unit and a crop unit base. Conventional systems clearly
show highest productivity. Soil fertility and biodiversity in the organic
systems of our study were significantly enhanced compared with the
conventional systems, which were managed according to integrated plant
production standards. In the long term, fertile soils are essential for a
sustainable production. In the past three decades, agricultural yields
have doubled, but worldwide, one-third of arable land has been lost to
erosion (1), accompanied by a tremendous increase in fertilization (2); a
dramatic decline in biodiversity of crops, weeds, birds, and insects; and
immense external costs of intensive conventional agriculture (3). Organic
farming may need more land to produce the same yield, but it maintains
fertility and biodiversity of the cropped land. Conventional farming has
degraded soils irreversibly in large areas of the world, and,
consequently, the remaining land will be farmed as well, rather than used
for ecological compensation. Differences in crop yield of organic and
conventional systems are hardly ever valid for all circumstances, because
they depend on input levels and local production conditions. A
satisfactory reference for productivity in system comparisons is the mean
regional crop yield. Both the organic and the conventional wheat yields
were similar to those of the respective farms in the region, and therefore
representative (organic farms: 4.2 metric tons/ha; conventional farms: 4.8
metric tons/ha) (4-6). Crop yields of organic and conventional farming
systems in high-intensity production regions of Europe show higher
differences (7) than those in the United States, where yields of both
systems can even be similar (8, 9). The results from our comparison trial
are suitable mainly for mixed farms in central Europe. Sustainable local
production is needed in developing countries to nourish the growing
population. The question is whether organic or conventional farming meets
this goal best. Organic farming may be applicable in developing countries
because it relies mainly on local resources and combines traditional
knowledge with modern agronomic techniques.


1.D. C. Pimentel et al., Science 267, 1117 (1995).
2.D. Tilman, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 96, 5995 (1999).
3.J. Pretty et al., Agric. Syst. 65, 113 (2000).
4.H. P. Ryser, personal communication.
5.Agro Treuhand SO/BL, Postfach 140, CH-4533 Riedholz (Switzerland);
report, data available at the Landwirtshaftliches Zentrum Ebenrain,
CH-4450 Sissach/BL, P. Simon.
6.P. M”der, A. Berner, C. Bosshard, H. R. Oberholzer, P. Fitze, paper
presented at the 13th International IFOAM Scientific Conference, Basel,
Switzerland, 28 to 31 August 2000.
7.F. Offermann, H. Nieberg, Economic Performance of Organic Farms in
Europe (University of Hohenheim, Hago Druck & Medien, Karlsbad-Ittersbach,
Germany, 2000), vol. 5.
8.See http://apps.fao.org/page/collections?subset=agriculture.
9.L. E. Drinkwater, P. Wagoner, M. Sarrantonio, Nature 396, 262 (1998).

December 6, 2002

Science Volume 298, Number 5600, Issue of 6 Dec 2002, pp. 1890-1891.

Dirk Zoebl of the Netherlands writes that in their report "soil fertility
and biodiversity in organic farming" (31 May, p. 1694), P. M”der et al.
demonstrate that most organically grown crops in their study were more
energy efficient per unit crop than conventionally grown crops. This is
contrary to other research (1, 2). In their study, organically grown
winter wheat yields were only 10% below those of conventional crops of the
region. How does this compare with Vaclav Smil's finding that worldwide
output of grain would fall by at least half if grown without synthetic
fertilizer (3)? M”der et al. conclude that organic fertilizers generated
on the farm itself are a realistic alternative to conventional farming
systems. What about nutrients imported from outside fields in the form of
feed for the farm animals? Alternative farming certainly deserves more
attention from researchers and rural-policy makers in order to develop the
healthy production systems needed for future generations. This challenge,
however, may not gain much by the presentation of controversial results.


1.S. Bonny, Agric. Systems 43, 51 (1993).
2.H. E. Uhlin, Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 73, 63 (1999).
3."Thought for food," New Scientist (18 May 2002), p. 34.


M”der et al. respond that we agree with Zoebl that alternative farming
systems deserve more attention in order to develop healthy production
systems. In fact, the environmental advantages of organic farming in
comparison with intensive conventional production methods have been shown
in many cases (1). In our study, we showed a better protection of soil
fertility in organic systems compared with conventional systems. Efficient
use of fossil energy is another important topic. Organic farming has
proven to be more efficient in most cases (1). Both articles (2, 3) cited
by Zoebl in support of the claim that organic farming would have a lower
energy efficiency are inappropriate, because they only cover the
efficiency of French and Swedish conventional agriculture between the
1960s and the 1990s and make no claims about organic farming systems.
However, organic farming also makes use of modern techniques and
biotechnology, improving its efficiency. The relatively low wheat yield
reduction in organic farming in our experiment is in accordance with other
results from the region (4-6). Yield differences may by greater in
intensive farming in Europe (7), or yield may be similar in extensive
production areas in the United States (8). The supposed worldwide 50%
reduction of grain output if synthetic fertilizers were not used is not
substantiated by any data in the cited article (9). Zoebl suggests that we
did not take animal feed into account, whereas in fact it was taken into
account, because fertilization intensity in the organic systems (life
stock units per hectare) was based on the amount of feed stuff produced in
the experimental rotation, mimicking a closed system on farm level.


1.M. Stolze, A. Piorr, A. H”ring, S. Dabbert, The Environmental Impact of
Organic Farming in Europe (University of Hohenheim, Hago Druck & Medien,
Karlsbad-Ittersbach, Germany, 2000), vol. 6.
2.S. Bonny, Agric. Systems 43, 51 (1993).
3.H. E. Uhlin, Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 73, 63 (1999).
4.H. P. Ryser, personal communication.
5.Agro Treuhand SO/BL, Postfach 140, CH-4533 Riedholz (Switzerland);
report, data available at the Landwirtschaftliches Zentrum Ebenrain,
CH-4450 Sissach/BL, P. Simon.
6.P. M”der, A. Berner, C. Bosshard, H. R. Oberholzer, P. Fitze, paper
presented at the 13th International IFOAM Scientific Conference, Basel,
Switzerland, 28 to 31 August 2000.
7.F. Offermann, H. Nieberg, Economic Performance of Organic Farms in
Europe (University of Hohenheim, Hago Druck & Medien, Karlsbad-Ittersbach,
Germany, 2000), vol. 5.
8.L. E. Drinkwater, P. Wagoner, M. Sarrantonio, Nature 396, 262 (1998).
9."Thought for food," New Scientist (18 May 2002), p. 34.