Today in AgBioView: December 11, 2002:
* Top French Medics Say GM Crops Safe
* Greenpeace Founder Calls Extremists
* UN Withdraws Maize Food Aid From Zambia
* EU Closer to GM Crop Imports
* US May Challenge Europe's GM Food Rules
* Philippines Gov't Okay of Bt Corn Draws Mixed Reactions
* Brazilian Scientist Ends First Stage of GM Coffee Quest
* Why Europeans Won't Buy Genetically Modified Food
* Commission - Report on Impact of GM Crops in Mexico
* Richard Roush to Lead UC's IPM Program
* Protesters' Circus Act Past Its Use-by Date
* Biotechnology Risk Assessment
* Reaching Sustainable Food Security for All by 2020: Powerpoint version
* Label of Contents - Memo to Members
* UK Prime Minister's Scoping Note
* Productivity, Public Goods and Public Policy: Ag Biotech Potentials
* The Future of Pharming: Can It Be Done Safely?
* GM Expert Warns of Cancer Risk From Crops
Top French Medics Say GM Crops Safe
- Agence France Presse, December 11, 2002
PARIS (AFP) - France's Academy of Medicine on Wednesday called for
European countries to end their moratorium on genetically-modified (GM)
crops, saying it saw no evidence that these plants were a danger to
In June 1999, seven European Union (EU) countries imposed a four-year
suspension on granting licences to grow new GM crops until issues of
traceability and corporate liability had been resolved. The academy said
in a report that GM crops and their derivatives had been grown and eaten
for around a decade, especially in the United States, and "no particular
health problem has been detected."
GM food could be a boon for countries with fast-growing populations and
marginal or shrinking farmland, it added.
"GM use has been a generally positive experience," it said. The moratorium
should be lifted, the report said, adding however the caveat that it was
still essential to set up "permanent systems for evaluation and
biovigilance." The French Academy of Sciences is to issue a report on GM
safety on Friday. Many western Europeans oppose GM crops, fearing they
could be harmful to health or the environment.
The main argument put forward by environmentalists is that the technology
is too recent to its assess long-term impacts. Eating GM food may have an
as-yet unknown effect, for instance, on people with allergies, and GM
genes could be transferred to other plants through wind-borne pollination,
it is claimed. The United States, where GM crops are widely grown and
eaten, is a vociferous supporter. It accuses European green groups of
scaremongering and of erecting a barrier to its food exports. GM crops are
plants that have had genes inserted into their DNA that confer specific
The first generation of these have mainly aimed at cutting costs for
farmers, by for instance making corn exude an insecticide to kill pests or
make it resistant to herbicide, thus enabling a farmer to make a once-off
spraying to eradicate weeds without harming his crop. The next generation
is likely to focus on aspects of nutrition and yield, such as rice that
would have high levels of vitamins or can be grown in salt-tainted water,
a problem that is frequent in poor countries.
Greenpeace Founder Calls Extremists 'Anti-human'
- David Mercer, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 11, 2002
One of the founders of Greenpeace told a rice industry gathering Tuesday
that environmentalism has been hijacked by extremists opposed to the
intensive agriculture and biotechnology needed to feed and clothe the
world's population. "Environmental extremists are basically anti-human,"
Patrick Moore told members of the USA Rice Federation on the final day of
its conference in Little Rock. "Humans are characterized as a cancer on
An uncritical news media, he also charged, reports much of what
organizations such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund offer as fact
without checking its validity.
Moore's message was well-received by the roughly 100 members of the trade
group on the last day of its annual conference. "I think more people need
to hear what he was saying" said Gary Sebree, a Stuttgart rice farmer.
"It' good when you see someone on the other side that's seen the light."
Moore was among the founding members of Greenpeace in the early 1970s and
eventually became its international director.
Yet in the 1980s, Moore said, he grew weary of confrontation and became
more interested in consensus building. "I had been against three or four
things every day of my life," said Moore. "I decided I'd like to be for
some things." The movement he was part of didn't follow, Moore told his
Instead, he said, when the environmental movement gained a degree of
acceptance, many of its members became more radical, unable or unwilling
to let go of confrontation as a way of life. With the end of the Cold War,
Moore told the crowd, peace activists also found themselves looking for a
new cause and latched on.
The environmental movement has largely become anti-business and
anti-trade, according to Moore, adhering to a "utopian dream" that the
world' population can feed itself from small organic gardens. Efforts to
contact Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday afternoon for a
reaction to Moore's comments were not successful.
Western environmental organizations now finance small groups in developing
nations such as India, he said, to maintain traditional agriculture and
battle the influence of agribusinesses such as Monsanto that offer
genetically modified seeds capable of producing larger crops and resisting
disease. "Wouldn't it be a shame if those poor farmers actually got a
decent crop out of the ground?" Moore said.
He also called environmental campaigns against the logging industry, an
important business in both his native British Columbia and the South,
short-sighted. Since most logs cut for commercial use are grown on
private land, landowners aren't likely to leave their property idle, he
argued. "If [environmentalists] destroy the market for wood, which they're
trying to do," Moore said, "those people will cut the trees down and grow
something else instead."
Sebree said he envied the ability, as Moore described it, of environmental
groups to generate news coverage. "When you have a national organization
that is against something, [and] that is really big-time like
Greenpeace... they get coverage."
UN Withdraws Maize Food Aid From Zambia
- James Lamont, Financial Times (in Johannesburg), December 10, 2002
The UN World Food Programme has begun to ship emergency food supplies out
of Zambia, even though 3 m of the country's people are facing severe food
shortages. The WFP said yesterday the removal of genetically modified
maize from warehouses in Zambia was the first time the UN had taken
emergency relief out of a country threatened by starvation.
Failed policies and the HIV/Aids pandemic have turned poor rainfall in
southern Africa into an impending catastrophe. The WFP estimates about 14
m people are facing severe food shortages in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi,
Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho. It has called the prospect of
starvation in southern Africa the world's worst current humanitarian
But Zambia has rejected the WFP's supply of genetically modified food. It
has advised the WFP to remove 18,000 tonnes of maize in spite of
assurances from the World Health Organisation and the European Union that
such food is not harmful.
President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia said in September: "We will rather
starve than give something toxic." Zambia alleges that genetically
modified maize is being dumped by the US, one of the relief effort's
largest donors. They also fear future agricultural exports might be
compromised if farmers contaminate local crops by planting modified maize
kernels. It is a measure of need in Zambia that average life expectancy
in the country is estimated to have dropped from 50 to 37 years over the
past 15 years. About 63 per cent of its population live on less than $1 a
EU Closer to GM Crop Imports
- CNN.com, December 10, 2002
BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) -- European Union environment ministers agreed
to new controls on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that could
eventually lead the 15-member bloc to reopen its markets to GM foods.
"We can now give consumers a choice between products that contain GMOs and
those that don't," Danish Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt said
at the end of a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels. Denmark currently
holds the rotating EU presidency.
"We have got a majority in favor of a solution...The result is very
important for Europe. It gives the possibility to industry to use GMOs for
the benefit of all," Schmidt said in a meeting beamed to journalists by
closed circuit TV.
The new rules require ships carrying bulk grain to detail exactly what GM
products, if any, the shipments contain. The regulation now requires
approval by the European Parliament. The EU has had a virtual ban on most
GM crops since 1999 when a large minority of EU states vowed not to
authorize any new GM crops for use in the bloc, pending tougher rules on
what the media was calling "Frankenstein foods."
The United States said the ban was illegal, dismissing European fears of
possible future environmental and health risks. The cabinet of U.S.
President George W. Bush is considering launching a World Trade
Organization case against the EU, a high-level U.S. official said last
UK, Netherlands vote against. The new rules will require GM shipments to
carry a code number which identifies the origin of the crops, enabling
products to be withdrawn from the food chain if problems arise. Britain
and the Netherlands voted against the rules, saying they would prove too
costly for bulk shippers as some mixing of GM and non-GM grain is
inevitable. They wanted shipments to be labeled "may contain GMOs"
without the need for an exact list of the crops on board, but they were
Environmental group Greenpeace was pleased with the agreement. "An
overwhelming majority of ministers have saved the traceability system
which was under threat," Greenpeace campaigner Lorenzo Consoli said.
Anti GM-campaigners say even if GMOs -- plants or animals whose gene
sequence has been spliced with that of other species -- show no immediate
health risks, they might cross breed with conventional plants or wild
relatives. The new rules are meant to ensure that GMOs can be traced
"from farm to fork" and removed from the food chain if any health or
environmental problems emerge.
Monday's text and an agreement by EU farm ministers last week which set a
0.9 percent threshold below which traces of GM matter in non-GM crops
would not need to be labelled, now pass to the European Parliament to be
approved or rejected.
US May Challenge Europe's GM Food Rules
- Edward Alden and Daniel Dombey, Financial Times, December 10, 2002
The US looks set to launch a World Trade Organisation challenge to the
European Union's regime for genetically modified foods after the EU this
week moved to tighten proposed rules for labelling such products.
EU environment ministers agreed on Monday night to push ahead with
"traceability and labelling" rules for products containing genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) that will be stricter than those in a current
international protocol. At the same time, the EU made no progress towards
lifting an existing moratorium on the approval of GM products. The US
believes this violates international trade rules.
An inter-agency group of senior US officials agreed at a meeting last week
that the US should bring a WTO challenge unless the EU took concrete steps
this week to end the ban, according to officials involved in the
discussions. President George W. Bush's cabinet is expected to meet
shortly to take a decision.
The US remains worried about a political backlash in Europe if it uses
world trade rules to try to force open the EU market, but officials said
that European intransigence had reached a point where the US had little
choice but to act. "I think this will add to the perception that things
are going from bad to worse," said Craig Thorn of DTB Associates, an
agricultural trade consultancy with close ties to the administration.
The EU environment ministers agreed that future rules for tracing
shipments of GM foods should require a breakdown of GMOs in bulk shipments
of goods such as maize. Whereas the international Cartagena protocol says
that shippers should declare which GMOs a shipment "may contain", the
agreement, which has to be approved by the European parliament, says such
a declaration must refer to GMOs that "have been used". This means that
shippers would have to enter into much more detail and refer to all GMOs
present in a shipment.
US farmers say such rules would make bulk shipments to Europe impossible.
Ministers also confirmed a previous agreement that all products in which
GMOs account for more than 0.9 per cent would have to be labelled.
Margot Wallstrom, the EU environment commissioner, said she hoped the
agreement would spur a group of six EU countries to drop the embargo they
have maintained against the authorisation of all new GM products for the
past four years. The six, which include France, Italy and Austria, had
called for clearer EU rules. Ms Wallstr–m said this had now been
But Denmark, another member of the "moratorium group", has already
suggested that new environmental liability rules also need to be in place
before the moratorium could be lifted. "The liability issue might be used
to move the goalposts," Ms Wallstr–m said. "That will take us another two
years into the future. Do we think that's a reasonable approach?"
"I'm quite convinced that this [ministerial] decision will push the US
towards to a WTO case," said David Bowe, a British member of the European
parliament who initially supported the moratorium. "There's a group here
that are using their objections to GMs as protectionist measure for their
(Philippines) Gov't Okay of Bt Corn Draws Mixed Reactions
- Leilani M. Gallardo and Carmelito Q. Francisco, BusinessWorld
(Philippines), December 10, 2002
The Bureau of Plant Industry's (BPI) recent approval of the first-ever
commercial propagation of a genetically modified (GM) crop in the country
drew mixed reactions yesterday.
While farmers groups welcomed the government's move as a step towards
increasing their productivity, environmental groups such as Greenpeace
warned of possible environmental consequences of planting GM crops in the
In a telephone interview with BusinessWorld, Philippine Maize Federation,
Inc. (PMFI) president Rey Bioco said his group is satisfied with the way
the government handled the application for the commercialization of
bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn. Bukidnon-based PFMI is an association of
corn stakeholders in the country. "We are quite satisfied with the efforts
of government to expedite the approval of Bt corn commercialization. I
think the review and consultation has taken up so much time, but we cannot
avoid that. Overall, we are satisfied with the results," he said.
Mr. Bioco also said that even if local farmers expect Bt corn to cost as
much as P3,000 to P4,000 per bag or 50% higher than regular seeds, they
are willing to pay the premium given the promise of better productivity.
"Compared to the crop being wiped out by pests, most of the farmers are
willing to pay the cost," he said.
Bt corn is a corn variety developed through genetics modification to
resist asiatic corn borers, a major cause of declining yield in local corn
production. A GM crop or a transgenic crop is a plant that contains a gene
or genes that has been artificially inserted to create a desired trait. GM
crops, such as corn, wheat and canola, are widely used in the United
States and China but will still have to be pioneered in the Philippines.
US-based multinational seed company Monsanto Co. is the first firm to
apply for the commercialization of a GM crop in the country. But its field
tests have drawn flak from environmentalists who said that genetically
engineered corn variety may trigger environmental problems.
In a statement released yesterday, Greenpeace said the government should
have employed tighter regulations in allowing the commercialization of GM
crops in the country. "RP approval of GM crop came at a time when tighter
regulations are being discussed, decided upon and implemented elsewhere in
the world," Greenpeace said in a statement.
The group noted the European Union reached an agreement last November 28
to adopt stricter policies on labeling food and feed ingredients derived
from GM crops thus, the government should have deemed it "crucial" to
regulate the release of GM products in the country.
On the other hand, a General Santos City-based farmers group refuted
Greenpeace's claim. It said local corn farmers need the new technology to
improve corn production, which has been continually damaged by pests.
"We have been waiting for government to approve the technology for a long
time. Other countries have adopted it and we are toeing the line. Farmers
are really attracted to Bt corn since field tests have shown that the
produce is really clean compared with those that are infested with corn
borers," said Edwin Paraluman of the Saranggani and General Santos
federation of irrigators in a telephone interview. He said that with clean
corn products, farmers can command a higher price for the crop.
Last week, BPI recommended the commercialization of bacillus thuringiensis
(Bt) corn after US-based multinational seed company Monsanto Co. garnered
the approval of the interagency Science and Technology Review Panel (STRP)
under BPI. The STRP recommendation was the last roadblock to GM corn
commercialization since Monsanto already passed the approval of other
government agencies such as Bureau of Animal Industry, Bureau of
Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards, and Fertilizer Pesticide
In statement released last Friday, Monsanto said it expects Filipino
farmers to start planting its Bt corn product, called YieldGard Corn
Borer, over the next few months. It is expected to distribute the seeds
through tie-ups with seed companies Dekalb, Pioneer Hi-bred and
Isabela-based Cornworld Breeding System Corp. It is still to release the
price of the new product.
In Davao City, a group opposed to Bt corn said it is going to campaign
against GM crops directly to farmers and consumers. "The only thing
remaining is for us to intensify our campaign by informing the farmers of
the possible danger that Bt corn may bring to them, their farms and the
consumers of their products," said Socorro Requiza of Konsumo Dabaw (KD),
a group whose main advocacy is consumer protection.
Ms. Requiza went to Davao del Sur yesterday to meet with farmers and other
sectors to organize them into a consumer group. Disappointed over the BPI
approval, Ms. Requiza said the group has been trying its best to block the
commercialization of Bt corn.
But now that its propagation has been allowed by the government, the
alternative is to organize farmers into a bloc that will refuse to plant
Bt corn, she added. "After all, the farmers are the ones on the field.
They should know the risks that they will take if they plant this Bt
corn," she added. Ms. Requiza said the group would also ask local
government units to look at the possibility of enacting laws that will
regulate the mass production of Bt corn.
Groups have been urging the National Government to stop Bt corn field
tests, and the eventual commercialization of the corn variety, because of
allegations that it is not safe for consumers and to the environment.
Last year, groups opposing the propagation of Bt corn uprooted plants in
the Monsanto field in Tampakan, South Cotabato. Ms. Requiza said KD would
concentrate on organizing consumers and farmers into groups that will
appeal before the government for the labeling of products that may contain
And the Department of Trade and Industry must compel the manufacturers of
these consumer products to label these products, she added. "They (product
manufacturers) should label their products in order that the consumers
will know what they are buying. They should shoulder the burden of
informing the public about the contents of their products," she said.
Brazilian Scientist Ends First Stage of GM Coffee Quest
- Alastair Stewart, OsterDowJones, FWN Financial News, December 10, 2002
Sao Paulo, Dec 10, 2002 (ODJ via COMTEX) - Super gene-modified coffee
trees will come a step closer in December when Brazilian scientists finish
mapping the coffee genome.
Over the last 10 months, research teams have identified approximately
200,000 genetic sequences in coffee trees, information which will be the
basis for research into creating more resistant trees that produce
higher-quality coffees, a scientist leading the project told
"We now want to find out more about what the genes do," said Carlos
Colombo, chief researcher on the project at the Campinas Agronomic
Institute, or IAC, in Sao Paulo state. Colombo said the next phase of the
project, starting in the new year, will be to identify key gene sequences
and discover their properties.
From this information, scientists aim to modify trees as a way of
increasing the quality of arabica coffee produced at a lower cost. "We
have been told not to focus on increasing yields but adding value to
produce," said Colombo.
Researchers, for example, will look at ways of reducing the arabica coffee
blossoming period to cut time spent picking coffee. This would not only
cut harvesting costs, which account for around 40% of total outlays, but
also increase the likelihood cherries are taken off the trees at exactly
the right time, said the researcher. "At the moment, very little is known
about how the blossoming works," said Colombo.
Scientists will also look at which genes increase resistance to drought, a
major problem, as well as pest and fungi. Gene-modified technology offers
the potential to reduce herbicide and pesticide costs by 50% to 100%,
according to Agriculture Ministry's research arm.
But don't expect gene-modified trees to start populating Minas Gerais
hillsides too soon. Colombo estimates it will take five to 10 years to
identify the relevant sequences start creating modified trees. Meanwhile,
funds still have to be raised to sustain the research groups, which
involved 20 laboratories in Sao Paulo state alone, through the next stage.
Around 200,000 Brazilian real ($1 = BRL3.80) are in the coffers but the
first phase alone ate up around BRL2 million in government and state
All 200,000 gene sequences will be stored at the Sao Paulo State
University of Campinas, or Unicamp, one of the country's leading centers
of agricultural research, and the University of Sao Paulo, or USP. This is
by far the most advanced study into coffee genes. "The hope is that this
research allows Brazil to stay ahead of the competition," said Colombo.
Brazil is the world's No. 1 coffee producer and exporter, accounting for
around 40% of world production, according to U.S. Department of
Agriculture data. In 2003-04 (July-June), Brazilian coffee production is
expected to slip to around 25 million to 35 million 60-kg bags from 45
million to 52 million bags this year.
Brazilian researchers have already genetically mapped sugarcane and are in
the process of studying the genes of witches' broom fungus, which has
devastated Brazil's cocoa production in recent years.
Why Europeans Won't Buy Genetically Modified Food
- Guenter Burghardt, San Francisco Chronicle, December 05, 2002
A European envoy from Washington coming to San Francisco to talk about
transatlantic relations may seem a little strange -- after all, isn't San
Francisco on the Pacific coast?
Well, geography isn't everything. Even if Europe is on the other side of
the world, it does have a bearing on the daily lives of people in the Bay
California has a substantial and rapidly growing economic relationship
with the European Union. After NAFTA, most goods produced for export in
California go to Europe, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures,
and European companies are by far the largest source of foreign direct
investment in the state. In short, the lifestyles and well-being of more
than 550,000 Californians depend on European trade and investment.
For many years, the core of the E.U.-U.S. relationship has been trade, and
California's huge economy has been a major component in that. About $3
billion in goods, services and investment cross the Atlantic every day.
Although 95 percent of our commerce is trouble-free, disputes invariably
arise -- the United States regularly blasts the European Union ban on
hormone beef or its slowness to embrace genetically modified foods. The
European Union often slams unilateral U.S. action on the diplomatic front
or industry-driven policymaking.
As the world's biggest traders, some friction between us is inevitable. At
the end of the day, we recognize that it is our economic interdependence
that matters, and our responsibility to show leadership in the new round
of global trade talks.
We do, however, need to recognize why there are differences. In Europe
today, for example, there is still a close, even emotional connection to
the land, traditional farming and food. For years, the United States has
criticized Europe for lavishly supporting its farmers, but the truth is,
the United States and European Union spend roughly equal amounts on farm
support, which is spread across 7 million farms in the European Union (16
million after E.U. enlargement) as opposed to 2 million farms (mostly
large ones) in the United States.
The recently passed U.S. farm bill will actually increase production
support over the next 10 years, while the European Union, in line with
multilateral commitments, has capped farm spending and directed policy
away from production toward conserving the countryside and promoting the
environment, food safety and animal welfare.
Genetically modified foods are a sensitive issue for Europe because
consumer confidence still needs rebuilding after a series of food scares
in the 1990s. American business must understand that Europeans, while
generally in favor of biotechnology for medicinal purposes, are not yet
receptive to GM food or convinced about how it benefits them, as end
consumers rather than producers, over conventionally grown food. Under our
treaties, consumers have a right to information. We believe clearly agreed
rules on labeling and traceability (in the event of a problem) give
consumers the information and assurances they need, and are a democratic
and pragmatic way to resolve the GM food issue in Europe.
Ties between California and the European Union extend far beyond trade and
investment. We share the preoccupations about energy and the environment
that California brought to international attention. As one of the biggest
emitters of carbon dioxide -- second only to the United States -- we
believe industrialized countries have a duty to fulfill commitments
entered into in the early 1990s. Addressing global warming has only become
more urgent, and the U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto accord was a major
setback. We hope that California can again lead the way back to a truly
California's links to Europe make an invaluable contribution to the larger
relationship between the United States and the European Union, one that
has grown and matured over 50 years to become the most important strategic
partnership in the world. This partnership is set to expand and deepen
even further when 10 new countries join the Union in 2004. Europe has
become America's steadfast partner, not only in the war against terrorism,
but also in providing aid, advice and diplomacy that complement U.S.
actions around the world. America should not go it alone.
Ambassador Guenter Burghardt is head of the European Commission Delegation
to the United States. He is visiting San Francisco through Saturday.
Commission for Environmental Cooperation Report on Impact of GM Crops in
http://www.cec.org/maize/ (Thanks to Dr. Peter Raven for alerting us on
The potential effects of transgenic maize on traditional varieties of
maize in Mexico have been a source of public debate for several years. The
key concern is gene flow from genetically modified plants - or transgene -
in the case of traditional maize, crop varieties with a broad genetic base
resulting from thousands of years of development and adaptation to
particular soil types and microclimates.
This is of particular concern not only because of the socio-cultural and
economic importance of traditional maize agriculture, but because Mexico
is a centre of origin for this important food crop. Since April 2002, the
CEC Secretariat has received a number of letters and petitions from
members of civil society in Mexico and worldwide, requesting that the
Secretariat initiate a report on this issue.
The purpose of this report is to examine, from different perspectives,
issues related to gene flow from transgenic varieties of maize to Mexican
land races and their wild relatives, and the conservation of biodiversity
in this centre of origin. At the conclusion of this examination the
Secretariat will prepare a report including findings, background papers on
key issues, and recommendations from our advisory group. The final report
will be presented to the Council of the CEC. In general terms the report
may consider the:
* Socio-economic and ecological aspects of traditional maize agriculture;
* State of scientific knowledge on the potential risks and benefits of
transgenic maize; * Economics of transgenic maize, including the effect on
traditional farming in rural Mexico; * Links between genetic maize
diversity, biodiversity, and the livelihood of Mexican rural communities;
and, * National and international legal frameworks.
In addition to the report, specific recommendations from the advisory
group will be presented to the Council of the CEC. As with previous
reports prepared in accordance with Article 13 of the North American
Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, the process will include:
* Selection of an advisory group representing specific expertise and
stakeholders from each country; * Distribution of discussion papers,
prepared by independent experts, on potential issues to be considered in
the report; * Release of the terms of reference for public comment; *
development of various background papers and report chapters by experts
hired by the Secretariat to fulfill the study's scope and objectives;
* Development of various background papers and report chapters by
independent experts to fulfill the report's scope and objectives;
* Release of these draft documents for public comment; * A public
symposium at which the issues are given further scrutiny; * Submission of
the Secretariat's report, including recommendations from the advisory
group, to Council; and, * Public release of the final report, unless the
Council decides otherwise.
University of California Names Entomologist Richard Roush to Lead
Integrated Pest Management Program
- Ascribe News, December 9, 2002
Oakland, Calif. - Richard Roush, a University of California-trained
entomologist and currently chief of the Australian weed management center,
has been tapped to lead UC's Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Roush is currently a professor at the University of Adelaide and chief
executive officer of the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed
Management. Roush will be based at UC Davis and will begin his duties as
UC IPM director February 2003.
"We are fortunate to have attracted a person of Dr. Rick Roush's caliber
to assume one of the key positions in the Division of Agriculture and
Natural Resources," said Henry Vaux, Jr., the Division's associate vice
president. "Dr. Roush is well qualified to follow in the footsteps of his
distinguished predecessors, who have built the Integrated Pest Management
Program over the past two decades. I look forward to working with him."
The San Diego native looks forward to joining the UC IPM program and
re-establishing contact with California growers. "I aim to build on the
successes of a program that is already internationally respected and
highly regarded," Roush said. "Since the 1950s, the University of
California has not only played a key role in advancing integrated pest
management and reductions of pesticide use in California, it has had a
tremendous influence on the development of integrated pest management
across the U.S. and around the world."
"It's a great honor and responsibility to continue in this tradition," he
said, "and I look forward to working with IPM researchers and staff to
expand the range and effectiveness of IPM." Over his seven years of
working in Australia, Roush's research has covered two broad areas. He has
experimented with using insects and fungal diseases to control weeds. He
also has studied risk assessment and management for genetically modified
crops. The entomologist feels his work with weed specialists and plant
pathologists has helped prepare him for the job of IPM director.
"Because herbicides remain the most widely used pesticides, we need to
consider the potential for novel weed-management systems in California,"
Roush said. "I have learned a great deal about non-chemical control
tactics for weeds in crops and natural ecosystems, and how to avert new
weed threats before they get established in the country." For general
pest management, Roush sees opportunities to borrow ideas for reducing
pesticide use from organic agriculture and biotechnology.
(AgBioWorld congratulates Rick on his new appointment and welcomes him
Protesters' Circus Act Past Its Use-by Date
- Miranda Devine, The Sun-Herald (Sydney, Australia), November 17, 2002;
Protesters against the World Trade Organisation will have to come up with
some new tricks soon. Puny uni students named "Jonny" wearing balaclavas
and clutching Molotov bongs just won't cut it any more. Wrestling police,
throwing marbles at horses and vandalising McDonald's stores is becoming a
The media attention span is short and the protesters have been singing
their tired old tunes for too long now. We will drop them as suddenly as
we picked them up. Even their pin-up girl Naomi Klein may be on the wane.
The 32-year-old Canadian author of No Logo, who has become a best-selling
global brand in her own right, has had only a lukewarm response to her
latest collection of anti-capitalist essays.
After three years in the media glare, WTO protests are in danger of
becoming passe. The time has arrived for the other side to be heard. And
that is why a smiling Indian engineer named Barun Mitra was in Martin
Place last week, moving among the protesters, asking them about GM crops
and if they really supported Saddam Hussein.
Mitra, 42, wasn't being provocative. As the director of the Liberty
Institute, a seven-year-old think tank in New Delhi, he has a genuine
interest in debating these well-fed children of the West. He says Sydney's
WTO protesters are a lot "better behaved and more friendly" than those he
saw at Seattle. But they are no less misguided.
What war in Iraq and refugees have to do with the World Trade Organisation
is anyone's guess but for the protesters the WTO represents capitalism,
their grab bag Satan. Logic doesn't rate. Mitra burst into the media
spotlight earlier this year at the Earth Summit, aka the United Nations
Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, a talk fest aimed at
eradicating world poverty in a green way.
He gathered street hawkers and African and Indian farmers to protest at
what he called the "sustainable poverty" agenda of environmentalists who
want to retard economic development in the Third World "in the name of
He made CNN after he presented a plaque adorned with cow dung, the "BS
award for sustaining poverty" to an environmentalist who is trying to ban
modern farming techniques in India. Mitra's point is that environmental
protectionism is just a new way to keep developing countries down. What
countries like India need, he says, is "trade, not aid".
Inside the WTO, the European Union, echoing green protesters outside, is
trying to change the rules to block exports from countries that don't live
up to certain environmental standards. These are just trade barriers
in a new guise, and the EU's "eco-imperialism" is motivated by
self-interest, Mitra says. "Developing countries suffer from environmental
degradation, not because people consume too much but because they consume
In India, for instance, 50 to 60 per cent of people do not have
electricity so instead burn firewood and cow dung, which damages the
environment, not to mention their health. The tendency for the developed
world to think it knows what is best for developing countries struck Mitra
on Friday as he listened to WTO ministers talk endlessly at Homebush Bay
about access to medicines.
"It sounds quite humanitarian," he says. "But in practice donated drugs
will rot in warehouses without doctors, hospitals, diagnostic services and
proper methods of delivery. "It just makes them [Western nations] feel
good. It becomes a symbolism, but in the developing world, where we're
dealing with life and death, symbols mean little."
Meanwhile, agriculture, the most important issue for economic growth in
the developing world, has had just one hour's attention. Mitra knows what
he's talking about, having spent three years in a remote village in the
Bay of Bengal with no electricity or sanitation, trying to start a shrimp
farming business. He escaped every weekend to Calcutta for a warm bath but
will never forget his immersion in poverty.
At the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, when the anti-globalisation
movement broke into the serious world's consciousness, he found himself
arguing with a British protester about GM crops, which, of course, she
opposed. "I've lived in India, and I know what it's like," she finally
"But I AM Indian and I've lived there all my life," he replied,
The facts don't even register on the protesters' radar. They are too
wrapped up in the self-importance of being part of a global "movement" to
notice that it is utterly meaningless.
Biotechnology Risk Assessment
(Thanks to Dean Gabriel for alerting us to this)
Worldwide, over 25,000 field safety and production trials have been
conducted on more than 60 genetically engineered plants and animals in 45
countries. In the U.S. alone, over 6,500 field tests of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) have been conducted at some 18,000 sites. Last
year, 74% of the soybeans, 71% of the cotton, and 32% of the corn planted
in the U.S. were GMO varieties.
Which regulatory agencies are responsible for ensuring the safety of these
GMOs? How are their regulatory decisions made?
This web site is designed to help provide answers to these questions and
necessary background information to understand the process of gene
engineering and the available data relating to the safety of GMOs and the
risk assessment questions asked. The site has several levels, with each
level containing increasing detail on particular topics. By clicking on
the site navigation buttons to the left, you will first find summaries of
general areas of risk/safety assessment written by experts in the fields,
followed by links to comprehensive expert reviews, together with citations
of primary literature.
(Dear Prakash: Our new USDA/UF Biotechnology Risk Assessment web site,
designed to allow the general public to know about the science behind Risk
Assessment decisions, is now on line. The site provides links for teachers
as well as extensive references to the primary literature, with summaries
written by leading experts in each subject area. The URL is:
http://www.riskassess.org. Please post. Comments, suggestions always
welcome. Thanks and best regards, - Dean)
Reaching Sustainable Food Security for All by 2020: Powerpoint version
New tool for teachers, researchers, practitioners, and others working on
global food security: 34 slides on IFPRI's action plan for ending hunger
by 2020. The action plan reflects IFPRI's best judgment and the advice of
more than 900 public, civil society, and private leaders. Use entire
presentation or selected slides.
Download: http://www.ifpri.org/2020/books/actionppt.htm (the powerpoint
file is only 250K)
Label of Contents - Memo to Members
- Jim Guest, President, Consumers Union; January 2003 issue of Consumer
Reports (Sent by Bruce Chassy and Wayne Parrott)
A little recombinant DNA technology associated with your fries? At the
very least, we have a right to know what weÇre eating. Just as producers
are required to state on the label if juice comes from concentrate, they
should be required to tell us if their food - our food - has had its
genetic material altered. But they're not.
CU hasn't seen evidence that genetically engineered (GE) foods now on the
market are unsafe to eat. But there isn't a lot of safety research yet; it
simply hasn't been done. The federal government doesn't require it.
This is in striking contrast to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
approval process for food additives, which requires companies to present
research confirming the safety to the FDA before additives can be used.
With GE foods, the FDA merely suggests ways firms might conduct research
and lets them consult with the agency if they wish. This is far too lax
for a new technology that can insert genes, not present naturally, into
foods. We will continue to press for better government oversight and
All of us want the ability to make decisions based on the facts. But it's
hard to know what the facts are if they aren't backed up with substantive
research and spelled out clearly, consistently, and verifiably on the
The Prime Minister's Scoping Note
- CropGen (UK), December 5, 2002
As a contribution to the UK national debate on GM crops and foods, the
Prime Minister's Strategy Unit has published a scoping Note on "The Costs
and Benefits of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops". It sets out some of the
economic considerations which the Strategy Unit thinks relevant to the
The note itself is rather an odd aspect of the whole business. Quite
clearly, any use of GM crops in agriculture and their products for human
and animal foods would be normal private sector business initiatives;
nobody is suggesting, at least in the UK, that the public sector should
become involved. And, of course, everybody recognises that GM crops and
their foods need proper regulation and authorisation.
Have we any other examples of a national debate to discuss business
initiatives? Do Ford or Vauxhall invite public discussion about their new
models? Of course not; they make the decisions, take the financial risks
of any new venture and let the market decide. If that is good enough for
cars, why is it not good enough for food? Offer properly and legally
approved varieties to the market in the normal way and let the farmers
decide whether to sow and the consumers whether to buy.
Agricultural biotechnology economics can be an interesting topic for those
who have a taste for such things - just like the economics of conventional
or organic production. Indeed, it would be worth while as an academic
exercise to do a proper comparative analysis of the three styles of
production but that is unlikely to influence anybody doing their weekly
The scoping note surveys the many items and aspects which would be worth
looking at. It invites views on all those matters though does not go so
far as to suggest how the relevant information is to be obtained and,
equally importantly, who is going to pay for it.
Much as CropGen supports the idea and looks forward to the outcome, we
fear that most of the responses will be the hot air of assertion and
opinion unsupported by facts or data. Some of that is already with us.
Their very vehemence -- statements like "It is, therefore, quite
literally, worse than useless" and ".....Condemns Prime Minister's Scoping
Note" -- rather encouragingly suggest that the authors of the scoping note
have got it about right.
Productivity, Public Goods and Public Policy: Agricultural Biotechnology
- Conference at Ravello (Italy) June 29 - July 3, 2003
In the past decade a number of agricultural biotechnology products have
been invented and commercialized. These "genetically modified organism"
(GMO) crops have attracted public attention and debate. Recently public
and government's attitudes are changing. While in the US public acceptance
has slightly deteriorated, government's positions in Europe have improved.
Overall public discussion, however, has paid little attention to the fact
that these products were enabled by advances in the biological sciences.
The techniques of genetic engineering were first developed in scientific
research programs and first pursued by scientists. The sciences
underpinning the technology are continuing to open up new technological
invention opportunities as genome maps are completed and as the fields of
genomics and proteomics analysis take form.
As these sciences develop, we can expect to see changes in the
organizations and conduct of public or government programs of applied
research and in the private industrial sector as well. Important policy
questions regarding public research system design and conduct are
emerging. These are of particular importance in developing countries.
These questions require a long view and an understanding of the scientific
revolution that is underway.
The Ravello's Conference will focus on the following topics: Impact of
agricultural biotechnology, Industrial organization, Public acceptance,
Impact of science, Intellectual property rights, Biotechnology &
developing countries, Regulation of biotechnology, Biomasses and new
products, Governance issues for the Biotechnology sector, Biotechnology,
trade and development, Ecogenomics and ecoproteomics.
Proposals for contributing papers are sought. As for the previous
conferences, presented papers will be published in a proceedings volume.
Proposals in the form of a maximum of 500 words abstract incorporating
agbiotech applications to one or more of the topics on the previous list
of topics should be sent to: Prof. Vittorio Santaniello University of
Rome "Tor Vergata" Via Columbia, 2 00133 Roma, Italy fax: ++39 06 72595721
or electronically to: email@example.com by January 10, 2003
The Conference steering committee (R. Evenson, Yale University; P.
Pingali, Fao, Rome; V. Santaniello, University of Rome - Tor Vergata; P.L.
Scandizzo, University of Rome - Tor Vergata; E. Tollens, K. U. Leuven)
promise a response by February 1, 2003, with accepted papers due May 10,
Authors of accepted papers should register as soon as possible following
notification. The registration form can be found on the Conference web
Conference Secretariat: fax: ++39 06 7259 5721
The Future of Pharming: Can It Be Done Safely?
December 17, 2002; Washington, DC; CSPI Science Policy Forum
You are invited to attend the Center for Science in the Public Interest's
Science Policy Forum entitled, "The Future of Pharming: Can It Be Done
This moderated panel discussion will explore the use of plants to produce
pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals and the scientific, technical,
and regulatory issues posed by those biotechnology applications. The
discussion will cover topics such as: * The benefits and risks of
"pharming;" * physical and biological containment measures; * the use of
food and nonfood crops; * recent industry actions; and the adequacy of
the regulatory system.
Place and Time: National Press Club 529 14th Street, N.W. December 17,
2002, 1:00 - 3:00 PM Moderator: Daniel Charles, Contributing Science
Correspondent, National Public Radio, and author of "Lords of the
Panelists: Dr. Rhona S. Applebaum, Executive Vice President, National Food
Processors Association. Dr. Jim Brandle, Research Scientist, Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada. Gregory Jaffe, Director, Biotechnology Project,
Center for Science in the Public Interest. Anthony G. Laos, Chairman and
CEO, Prodigene. Dr. Allison A. Snow, Professor of Biology, Ohio State
Attendance is free. Please RSVP to Gregory Jaffe (202-332-9110, Ext. 369)
or Adam Pearson (202-332-9110, Ext. 316).
GM Expert Warns of Cancer Risk From Crops
- Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald (UK), http://www.sundayherald.com/29821
(Sent by Wayne Parrott)
'Demand for Executive to ban crop trials until effects of GM food on
health are studied'
EATING genetically modified (GM) food could give you cancer. That is the
stark warning today from one of Scotland's leading experts in tissue
Dr Stanley Ewen, a consultant histopathologist at Aberdeen Royal
Infirmary, says that a cauliflower virus used in GM foods could increase
the risk of stomach and colon cancers.
He is calling for the health of people who live near the farm-scale GM
crop trials in Aberdeenshire, Ross-shire and Fife to be monitored. Their
food and water will be contaminated by GM material, he said, which could
hasten the growth of malignant tumours.
'I don't want to be scare-mongering, I want to be understated,' Ewen told
the Sunday Herald. 'But I'm very concerned that people who rely on local
produce might be endangering themselves.'
The government, backed by its scientific advisors, has always insisted the
GM trials pose no risk to human health or the environment. Never theless,
the trials have provoked widespread opposition, with dozens of protesters
arrested for damaging GM crops.
Ewen's warning, which has been delivered to the Scottish Parliament's
Health and Community Care Committee, is bound to be seized on by critics .
The committee is just completing an investigation into the safety of GM
food and is hoping to report its findings this week.
Ewen, who has 29 years' experience as a histopathologist, is currently
leading a pilot project in Grampian to screen people for colon cancer. In
1999, along with Dr Arpad Pusztai, a former researcher at Aberdeen's
Rowett Institute, he published a study suggesting that GM potatoes harm
In his submission to the health committee, Ewen expressed 'great concern'
about the use of the cauliflower mosaic virus as a 'promoter' in GM foods.
The virus is used like a tiny engine to drive implanted genes to express
But Ewen pointed out that the virus is infectious, and could act as a
'growth factor' in the stomach or colon, encouraging the growth of polyps.
The faster and bigger polyps grow, the more likely they are to be
malignant, he added.
There are also risks in feeding GM products like maize to cattle, he
'It is possible cows' milk will contain GM derivatives that can be
directly ingested by humans as milk or cheese. Even a lightly cooked,
thick fillet steak could contain active GM material.'
GM material can be destroyed by cooking or boiling for 10 minutes, and it
can be broken down by the acids and enzymes in the stomach. But Ewen is
worried that genes in uncooked GM fruit and vegetables could survive
common stomach infections.
'It is possible GM DNA could affect stomach and colonic lining by causing
a growth factor effect with the unproven possibility of hastening cancer
formation in those organs,' he stated.
Ewen stressed that he is not opposed to all GM technology, which he
believes could have real benefits, particularly in medicine. But he is
sufficiently alarmed by the current use of the technology to urge the
health committee to call for a ban on GM crop trials while their safety is
tested on animals.
Doctors from the British Medical Association have also suggested a GM ban
to the committee because of the unknown effects on health. The committee's
investigation was prompted by a petition of 6000 signatures gathered by
protesters who maintained a vigil at a GM trial site at Munlochy in
'What is most worrying about Dr Ewen's evidence is that while his concerns
are disease-specific, the risks extend to a wide range of GM food crops,'
said Jo Hunt, director of the lobby group Highlands and Islands GM
'The effects are caused not by just one 'bad' DNA fragment, but are a
result of the reaction of plant cells to genetic engineering itself. All
the major GM food plants currently produced could have the same effect
Hunt argued that long-term research was needed to establish whether GM
food was safe. 'But instead of looking at the impact of GM food on
people's health, the Scottish Executive has spent over £5 million on
farm-scale trials to see how growing GM crops on Scottish farms will
affect butterflies and weeds. The Executive has already released GM at 11
sites and is considering allowing GM to be released anywhere in the
country from 2004, before it knows whether GM food is safe to eat.'
The Executive also came under fire from the Scottish National Party's
shadow environment minister, Bruce Crawford, who demanded a freeze on GM
crops trials. 'We cannot allow GM material to enter the food chain until
there are absolute guarantees that there are no risks,' he said.
He pointed out that, in a recent letter, the environment minister, Ross
Finnie, had admitted to him that plants around GM crops could become
contaminated . Finnie added, however, that the government's advice was
'unanimous in its conclusion that GM crops that have approval do not pose
a safety threat.'
Ewen's evidence to the health committee is backed up by a separate
submission from Arpad Pusztai, who now works as an independent consultant.
He warned that GM contamination could jeopardise human health and cause
irreversible environmental damage.
'We need to rethink the whole strategy of genetic engineering,' Pusztai
said. 'Because of its potential importance for, and effect on, mankind, it
should not be left to the decision of a few multinational companies.'