Today in AgBioView: December 19, 2002:
* Shiva's research
* Vandana Shiva Twists The Ideas of Sir Albert Howard
* Dr Ewan's statements about cancer
* Phony War Over Biotechnology
* Africa Hunger Alert campaign begins
* South Africa in grips of famine
* UK government advisers say GM maize variety safe
* GM or non-GM food, there is no difference
* Agricultural biotechnology could help feed the world
* EU allows 2 Monsanto GM cotton oils on to market
* How to make a better beer
* The UN's Bizarre War on Biotech
* FRENCH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES SAYS GM CROPS SAFE
* China a biotech 'crouching dragon'
* CSIRO BREEDS SALT-TOLERANT WHEAT
* RE: oil palm attacked - and defended
From: Fran Smith, Consumer Alert, email@example.com
Subject: Shiva's research
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 16:27:43 -0500
Regarding the Dec. 18 posting of the Vandana Shiva interview, a small note
on her quote, "Just like Chief Seattle talked about being in the web of
life,. . ." Most people who deal with environmental issues know that the
"web of life" speech purported to be delivered by Chief Seattle in the
1800s instead was the product of a screenwriter -- Ted Perry -- who penned
many of the phrases such as "web of life." (Check on Google under "Chief
Seattle" and "hoax" for more information.)
Is this an example of Vandana's rigorous research?
Deception on the Dung-heap: Vandana Shiva Twists The Ideas of Sir Albert
By Dave Wood
Dec 19, 2002
Recently (AgBioView, December 12), I commented on organic farming in
India, as defined by bio-feminist Vandana Shiva. After further reading and
debate, it now seems that I was too severe on Sir Albert Howard, and not
nearly severe enough on Vandana Shiva, who has captured and misrepresented
Howard's ideas for her own purposes.
In common with the Soil Association and other organic extremists, Shiva
claims Sir Albert Howard to be the father of modern sustainable farming, a
man who `learnt organic agriculture from Indian peasants and spread it
Further, in her 'In praise of cow dung'
http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2002-11/12shiva.cfm Shiva claims
that 'Biodiversity intensification rather than chemical intensification is
the way forward for Indian agriculture.'
This is the fatal flaw of the extremist organic movement: to equate
sustainable farming only with their narrow concept of organics and then to
reject synthetic fertilizer. Their extremist view is based not on what
Indian farmers do, nor on what Howard himself believed, but on the
doctrinaire and foreign monopolization of Howard's views.
It is gross deception by the organics movement and by Shiva to associate
Howard with their `We must reject chemicals' view. He emphatically did not
reject synthetic fertilizers.
This is plain from the reports of his second wife, Louise (Louise E.
Howard, 1953 `Sir Albert Howard in India'. London: Faber & Faber). In
chapter eight of this book Louise wrote:
'On the question of artificial fertilizers Sir Albert's opinions were at
first much like those of his colleagues. He certainly had no objection to
them, for a long time taking them more or less for granted, indeed, quite
in favour of their use in a general way. There is no reason to attribute
to him anything that can be called an initial prejudice against them. ...
However, in his final summary, Sir Albert does not depart from the current
view of the value of artificials. He does not hesitate to state that 'the
full possibilities of humus will only appear when the dressings of compost
are supplemented by the addition of suitable artificials. The combination
of the two, applied at the right moment and in proper proportions, will
open the door to the intensive crop production of the future. Humus and
artificials will supplement one another'. One proviso he does make and it
is an important one, that a fair state of fertility, built up by organic
matter, must precede the use of these fertilizers; artificials can 'never
be the whole story'.'
This is the balanced and sensible 'two-hands clapping' approach that I
drew attention to last week, an approach resolutely rejected by Shiva and
the Soil Association.
Shiva, the Soil Association, and other organic extremists have no right
whatever to celebrate Howard as the father of the organic movement, to
claim his support for their devious dogmas, and at the same time ignore
his practical views on the need to combine organics with `artificials'.
This is self-serving duplicity.
Clearly, if Howard did not reject artificial fertilizers, his views cannot
be used in any way by Shiva to endorse her anti-farmer concept of organic
At the time Howard worked in India, synthetic fertilizers were not an
option for Indian farmers - Howard had to take what was locally available
and promote composting to enrich the soil. Now there are lots of
fertilizer factories to serve farmers, and big ones. Now anyone can get on
their cycle, ride a mile of two to the yellow and green ubiquitous seed
and fertilizer stores and buy urea, NPK, DAP and the rest at low prices.
This permits the 'organics plus' approach widely recommended in India. I
have done this myself, successfully putting DAP and groundnut residue
compost on my garden in India.
Just as 'organic' agriculture can be combined with synthetic fertilizers,
so too can it be combined with biotechnology. The good sense of farmers is
needed rather than the dogma and hysteria and deception of multinational
Leave Gandhi out of it
On October 2, Shiva's NGO put out the following press release. 'To
commemorate the birth anniversary of Gandhiji, a leading environmental
NGO, Navdanya, today organised the third Albert Howard Memorial Lecture
that focused on the 'ahimsic' agriculture in the memory of Sir Albert
Howard, who learnt organic agriculture from Indian peasants and spread it
Indians might find it lacking in moral taste, or even ethically sickening,
for Shiva to link the name of a saintly person such as Gandhiji with
Shiva's anti-farmer doctrines, just as I find her misrepresentation of
Albert Howard morally and scientifically indefensible. She cannot cloak
her dubious anti-farmer dogmas with the ethical and humanistic work of her
And Shiva's promotion of 'ahimsic' (non-violent) agriculture is spurious.
Purely organic farming in India would lead to the expansion of agriculture
by 100million hectares, to compensate for the low yields of organics. This
would violently destroy most of the plants and animals on this vast area,
wild elephants, tigers, chital, the lot: far better to apply `ahismic'
urea and save human and animal life. Shiva is a charlatan in this.
Although Albert Howard cannot be blamed for Shiva's misrepresentation of
his work, I still believe Gabrielle Howard was the brains behind the team.
She had a First Class degree from Cambridge, and researched under Prof. F.
F. Blackman, F.R.S., on transpiration and respiration of plants -
apparently published in the Trans. Roy. Soc. (as promising a young
scientist as you can get). In 1905 she knew that, as a woman, she could
never be appointed to an `Imperial' post in India, but married Howard and
then went as her husband's assistant. She was an outstanding success as a
scientist, and was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal, at that time
rarely given to a woman, in 1913. This was two years before the great
Gandhi received the same award for humanitarian work.
As early as 1905, when Gabrielle was engaged to be married to Howard, she
outlined to him her conception of the 'whole plant': `the plant knows no
division of science, in growing and carrying out its functions it uses
all.' This concept was a key to Albert Howard's subsequent ideas on plant
health. And it was Gabriele's own idea. Expecting opposition, she wrote to
Albert: `Don't condemn this idea outright but think about it--it is what
we intended when we made the scheme.' (quoted from Louise Howard's book).
Gabrielle was a wonderful woman who dedicated her entire working life to
the improvement of farming in India. Characteristically, she is ignored by
I was less than fair to Louise Howard: she was not only Albert's second
wife, but Gabrielle's sister and a good and sympathetic reporter.
Dr. Dave Wood is a geneticist from UK who has lived in India for the past
few years, and can be contacted at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: "Murphy D (SApS)"
Subject: Dr Ewan's statements about cancer
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 18:14:37 -0000
Here is a letter about Dr Ewan's statements about cancer risks of GM food
(AGBIOVIEW, 12 Nov 2002, GM Expert Warns of Cancer Risk From Crops).
CaMV DNA is not a novel cancer risk
Dr Stanley Ewen recently warned of cancer risk from GM crops in a
statement delivered to the Health and Community Care Committee of the
Scottish Parliament. In particular, he was concerned that a cauliflower
virus used in some GM foods (actually, only the viral gene promoter is
present) could increase the risk of stomach and colon cancers. The story
was reported in a prominent Scottish newspaper (Sunday Herald) and has
doubtless further alarmed an already fearful public about the risks of GM
However, there is nothing new about this story and Dr Ewanís claims can
readily be laid to rest. The virus in question is the cauliflower mosaic
virus (CaMV) and, as almost any vegetable gardener will tell you, it is
one of the most common diseases of all our brassica crops. These crops
include such important staples as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower,
broccoli, turnip and Swede, as well as major seed crops like mustard and
CaMV is a virus that occurs worldwide, principally infects brassicas and
other members of the Cruciferae, but otherwise has a restricted host
range. In the UK, for example, CaMV incidence in oilseed rape varies from
year to year. In 1991 and 1993, between 14% and 25% of plants sampled from
test fields were infected with CaMV (1). Also, 60% of naturally occurring
wild cabbage plants (B. oleracea) in Dorset (UK), were found to be
infected with CaMV (2). In short, CaMV has a variable but significant
incidence in many locations over a wide geographical region.
Dr Ewan characterises CaMV as a potential ìgrowth factor in the stomach or
colon, encouraging the growth of polypsî. But the relatively frequent
incidence of CaMV in so many staple food crops means that humans must have
been inadvertently ingesting the virus for many millennia. Given this long
history of exposure to such an apparently worrisome virus, it is curious
that there have as yet been no reports on the adverse effects of brassica
vegetables on the human gut (or anywhere else for that matter).
Quite to the contrary in fact, as has been shown in the evidence linking
brassica isothiocyanates with anti-cancer activity, both in cultured human
cells and in animal model systems (3). Researchers at the Harvard School
of Public Health recently confirmed the added cancer protection that
Brassica vegetables provide. They followed over 47,000 men in the Health
Professionals Follow-up Study and complied food intake data over the
course of eight years. They found that eating Brassica vegetables was
linked to a 51% reduction in the risk of bladder cancer. In contrast, no
association was found with eating other vegetables or fruits (4).
Furthermore, Dr Richard Mithen and co-workers, have developed new
varieties of vegetables, such as broccoli, that are particularly enriched
in these cancer-protecting compounds (5,6). Several companies have
licensed the use of such brassica vegetables for marketing as ìhealthy
eatingî options in supermarkets. Interestingly, these modern scientific
studies merely confirm centuries-old folk traditions about the efficacy of
brassica vegetables in protecting people against the risk of cancer
It is true that the CaMV promoter used in transgenic plants is randomly
integrated into the plant genome whereas, in an intact virus, the CaMV DNA
is protected by a protein coat. This point has been used by Dr. Mae-wan Ho
to stress that there is ìa great deal of difference between the CaMV eaten
in vegetables every day, and the promoter CaMV. Viruses, she said, are
protected in the environment by a protein coat that also confers species
specificity. The CaMV cannot enter mammalian cells because its protein
coat is specific to plant cells. But the CaMV promoter used in GMOs comes
in the form of naked viral DNA and naked DNA of any sort is highly
But Dr Ho is not correct in assuming that all of the CaMV ingested in
brassica vegetables would be in the form of intact virus particles
shielded by a protein coat. Many of the viruses would have penetrated into
the nuclei of infected plant cells, where their DNA replicates as naked
plasmids. This replicating form of the virus would be present in many
brassica vegetables. The viral DNA would be unshielded by its protein coat
and presumably therefore theoretically available for recombination with
other DNA, whether from different viruses or from bacterial or human cells
in the gut ñ just like the recombinant CaMV that Dr Ho warns us about
Does this make you think twice about eating uncooked brassicas (e.g.
watercress)? I certainly hope not, especially given the evidence that, in
addition to its well-known generalised anti-cancer role (5), the
consumption of just 170g (6oz) of watercress per day protected smokers
from the major lung carcinogen in tobacco smoke (7).
In conclusion, Dr Ewanís assertions would appear to be based on
speculation that does not take into account the prevalence of viruses like
CaMV in our normal diet. Much of our food contains viral DNA, either
intact or fragmented, and the kinds of theoretical risks from GM food
containing the CaMV gene promoter would therefore apply to many
long-standing and efficacious dietary components.
1. Hardwick NV, Davies JML, and Wright DM. 1994. The incidence of three
virus diseases of winter oilseed rape in England and Wales in the 1991/92
and 1992/93 growing seasons. Plant Pathology 43:1045-1049.
2. Raybould AF, et al. 1999.The prevalence and spatial distribution of
viruses in natural populations of Brassica oleracea. New Phytology
3. Zhang Y, Talalay P, Cho CG, Posner, GH. 1992 A major inducer of
anticarcinogenic protective enzymes from broccoli: isolation and
elucidation of structure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
4. Michaud DS, Spiegelman D, Linton SK, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Giovannucci
EL. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of bladder cancer in a male
prospective cohort. J Natl Cancer Ins. 1999;91:605-613
5. Rose P, Faulkner K, Williamson G and Mithen R (2000)
7-Methylsulphinylheptyl and 8-methylsulphinyloctyl isothiocyanates from
watercress are potent inducers of phase II enzymes Carcinogenesis 21:
6. Faulkner, K., Mithen, R. and Williamson, G. (1998) Selective increase
of the potential anticarcinogen 4-methylsuphinylbutyl glucosinolate in
broccoli. Carcinogenesis 19: 605-609
7. Hecht SS, Chung F-L, Richie JP Jr, et al. 1995 Effects of watercress
consumption on metabolism of tobacco-specific lung carcinogen in smokers.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.;4:877-884
Denis Murphy was Head of the Brassica & Oilseed Research Department at the
John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, from 1990-2000 and is currently Head of
the Biotechnology Unit at the University of Glamorgan, UK.
A Collection of Open Letters to the Participants in the Phony War Over
Mark Mansour's full article at:
Africa Hunger Alert campaign begins
World Food Programme (WFP)
Date: 16 Dec 2002
ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme today officially launched
the Africa Hunger Alert campaign, aimed at drawing international attention
to the unprecedented hunger crisis gripping the African continent where 38
million people face starvation.
The campaign represents a global response to a growing number of
spontaneous grass-roots initiatives in North America, Europe and Asia. For
USA: the executives of American humanitarian relief organisations on 3
December unveiled "The Baltimore Declaration: Africa in Crisis," a unified
pledge to act in an effort to prevent famine from taking hold in parts of
Tokyo, Japan: a concert held on 9 December and attended by more than 1,200
people was the setting of an awareness campaign designed to highlight the
plight of the hungry in Africa;
France: the country's all news radio, France-Info, will devote its Monday
broadcast to the hunger crisis in Africa.
St. Louis, MO, USA: students at Seckman High School have asked the
surrounding community to take part in a vigil today, 16 December, to bring
attention to the looming tragedy in Africa;
Newmarket, Ontario, Canada: Pickering College has invited its high school
and elementary students to participate in a school-wide fast Monday to
raise awareness of, and funds for, the humanitarian disaster;
Hong Kong: a lobbying campaign has begun to urge the local government to
provide financial support for Africa;
"Right now, these are all individual, isolated expressions of concern and
compassion which we expect to intensify and spread as the catastrophic
nature of this crisis becomes more apparent to the public worldwide," said
WFP Deputy Executive Director, Jean-Jacques Graisse.
"If we are to avert starvation in Africa, ordinary citizens have an
important role to play. It's critical they join the campaign and urge
their governments to address the needs of the hungry now before it is too
late, before we have to endure the shame of seeing images of dying
children on the news."
In a growing sign of concern among ordinary citizens, WFP has recently
received hundreds of unsolicited online donations from people of different
nationalities, all of them eager to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
As just one participant in a global campaign open to all organisations and
individuals, WFP is using its website to provide information on the
emergency as well as a forum for ideas. To coincide with the launch, a
documentary on the hunger crisis and a statement by WFP Executive Director
James T. Morris will be available to download at
www.wfp.org/AfricaHungerAlert. Participating organisations are encouraged
to create their own web sites in an effort to generate urgently needed
resources, and individuals are urged to lobby their governments.
The hunger crisis in Africa has grown particularly acute in the wake of
two major, simultaneous emergencies in the past year. In southern Africa,
almost 15 million people are threatened in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia,
Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, an additional
12 to 16 million are at risk; millions more people also face starvation in
Sudan, Angola, the Great Lakes region and West Africa.
These catastrophic conditions are primarily the result of drought, the
HIV/AIDS epidemic and, in some countries, political turmoil and failed
economic policies. Of particular concern is the new phenomenon of shifting
weather patterns, causing floods and droughts. The past two years have
brought the highest number of weather-related disasters over the decade.
"Progress is possible, if the political will is there," Graisse said. "To
avert mass starvation we need a massive response by governments, private
charities, non-governmental organisations, citizens' groups and
individuals. If the relief community is not given the necessary resources
to respond, the result will be a humanitarian catastrophe."
To find out more about growing hunger in Africa and the global campaign to
assist more than 38 million people across the continent, go to WFP's
"Africa Hunger Alert" webpage. Videos and photos are also available:
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2001, WFP fed more than
77 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees
and internally displaced people.
For more information please contact:
Chief Public Affairs Officer
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Public Affairs Officer
Public Affairs Officer
Public Affairs Officer
Public Affairs Officer
Tel.: + 41-22-9178564
Public Affairs Officer
WFP New York
South Africa in grips of famine
Johannesburg - Southern Africa is facing unprecedented famine, but rich
countries are failing to provide enough aid to feed more than 14 million
people - many weakened by Aids - threatened with death by starvation,
relief agencies say.
"What is new is Aids...This is what has destroyed the agricultural
workers," said UN special envoy Stephen Lewis as he began a tour of the
region in December.
He attacked rich nations for their "hypocrisy and double standards"
"It's upsetting to see the slowness with which the world is responding to
the humanitarian crisis," Lewis said.
"We know there is a lot of money out there, but something must be
profoundly wrong somewhere. Something is morally wrong."
In Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 14.4
million people are under threat, plus another 400 000 people in Namibia,
where the government is coping by itself, and close to two million in
Angola, largely as a result of civil war.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned mid-year that it needed $507m for
the first six countries, but as 2002 drew to a close it had received
pledges totalling just $286m.
It is also combating famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where a similar
number of people are under threat.
In southern Africa, the worst affected country is Zimbabwe, where 6.8
million of its 11 million people are under threat.
They could start dying in the first three months of 2003, the WFP is
Only 56% of the aid needed in Zimbabwe is arriving, and in several regions
many villagers have nothing to eat but wild fruit and roots.
The effects there of the drought and Aids - more than a third of Zambian
adults are HIV-positive - have been aggravated by President Robert
Mugabe's policy of confiscating white commercial farms to split them up
among pro-government supporters.
That violent campaign has sent agricultural production plummeting, with
the Central Bank saying output in 2001 fell 13%.
Zimbabwe needs 600 000 tons of food aid by the end of March, the agencies
In Zambia, where close to a third of the 10 million people are under
threat, President Levy Mwanawasa has refused to accept genetically
modified grain as food aid, aggravating the situation to an "alarming"
extent, WFP says.
Hundreds of tons of such grain were stored in warehouses without being
distributed, enraging starving villages who pillaged at least two of the
The government is now looking at importing non-genetically modified grain
from Tanzania and South Africa.
It needs 150 000 tons.
In Malawi, 3.3 million people, 30% of the population, need relief food.
The shortfall there is 240 000 tons.
Lesotho and Swaziland, where around a third of the inhabitants are under
threat, need respectively 36 000 and 20 000 tons of emergency food aid.
Mozambique is the least affected of the six countries, with only three
percent of its population, essentially those living in the south, needing
UK government advisers say GM maize variety safe
December 18, 2002
LONDON - Britain could be back on track towards approving the country's
first gene modified seeds for sale, after government advisers found that a
variety of GM maize seeds were as safe as conventionally grown varieties.
Britain's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) held a
hearing on the stalled decision to approve sale of maize seeds, called
Chardon LL and owned by biotech firm Bayer CropScience Ltd, after concerns
raised about testing by green group Friends of the Earth (FoE).
Britain had said in 2000 that it would allow Chardon LL seeds, to go on
its National Seed List, which would allow them to be sold to British
farmers for commercial use.
But the decision was stalled after independent scientists presented
evidence showing that the maize variety had been tested for only one year
instead of the necessary two.
"ACRE has carefully considered the scientific points made in written
representations and submissions for the Chardon LL public hearing...No
evidence was presented to alter ACRE's previous risk assessment," the
committee said in a statement published on its website.
However, the government's Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs
(ACAF) have asked for information from Bayer CropScience confirming that
that silage from the GM maize is the same as conventional maize silage.
No GM crops can be approved for commercial growing in the UK until
completion of a three-year test planting programme, designed to measure
the impact of such crops, but the final stages of those trials are
Environmentalists say GM crops will contaminate traditional varieties and
change the countryside, while some scientists argue that they could solve
The government called a public debate on the issue earlier this year, but
that has already drawn criticism as the budget and time-scale for
discussion is tight.
Bayer said it was delighted with ACRE's assessment.
"Never before has a seed variety been under such scrutiny - a variety of
forage maize which we believe farmers in the UK should not be denied the
use of," Bayer CropScience spokesman Julian Little told Reuters.
"We are delighted that ACRE has considered all of the evidence given... we
are pleased that ACRE agreed that this variety of maize is as safe as any
conventional non-GM variety," he added.
But FoE said ACRE's findings were a face saving exercise.
"This GM crop should never have been approved in the first place," the
group's spokesman said.
"The result is that a GM crop with serious safety question marks hanging
over it is allowed on to our plates and to be grown in our countryside,"
GM or non-GM food, there is no difference
December 18, 2002
By Daniel Rechsteiner
Excutive Director Carol Bellamy of UNICEF, during an interview with the
IRIN, talked about the relationship between drought and HIV/AIDS in
Ethiopia, genetically modified food, land distribution and the
responsibilities of the government and donors.
In an interview with IRIN, after a two-day visit to Ethiopia to witness at
first hand the scale of the drought, Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of
the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) pointed out that from a health
perspective thereís no evidence to reject GM food.
Asked about her opinion on genetically modified (GM) food, Carol Bellamy
pointed out that UNICEF is absolutely comfortable with the quite clear and
definitive statement of World Health Organisation, which is the normative
health agency for the UN, that they have no scientific evidence that there
are any health consequences to genetically modified food.
ìSo, from our perspective, from a health perspective, GM food or non-GM
food, there is no difference whatsoever,î she said.
Another topic that was addressed during her interview is the issue of
mixing of the seeds, which is, as Carol Bellamy said, a U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organisation concern.
Concerning seed mixing, Bellamy noted, ìIf you are a major exporter to
European countries, and those European countries have restrictions on GM
mixing, then what should happen is not a rejection of the food, but
something worked out to try and ensure that you are able to segregate the
food. It may be [by means of] milling, it may be something else, but you
are able to segregate it so it will not get mixed with your regular food.î
Touching on further issues, Bellamy said that despite the fact of low
indicators in Ethiopia as high mortality rates, poor quality of education
and falling per capita incomes, one canít say that the government has
failed totally. She further added, ìI think it is a wake-up call to the
government to recognise there still is a great deal to be done, and for
the donor community to recognise that as well. That is why approaching
this drought crisis both on a short- and long-term basis so [development]
begins to have a little bit of sustainability is very important.î
From an October USAID report on Ethiopia, it was noted that the Government
of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopiaís (GFDRE) Disaster
Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) issued a special alert on
the food security situation in country on July 12, 2002. The alert warned
the international community that the number of people vulnerable to food
insecurity would likely be higher than anticipated in the original appeal.
In an updated appeal dated September 30, the DPPC and the U.N. revised the
number of Ethiopians currently vulnerable to food insecurity to
approximately 6.3 million people. Although this number is expected to
decline in the short-term following the main harvest in November, under
the worst-case scenario, the number of affected could reach 14.3 million
people by early 2003.
Another noted problem during the tour were the poor livestock conditions
in pastoral areas. The drought has led to severe curtailment of production
of milk ñ a staple of the normal diet in these areas ñ which has
negatively impacted the nutritional status of children.
Outside of Ethiopia, the problems in Africa only worsen. In southern
Africa countries, up to 15 million people are facing food shortage. One of
these countries is Zambia. With nearly three million people on the verge
of starvation, Zambia has rejected even milled genetically modified (GM)
maize donated by the United States. Following the rejection of the US GM
maize, Zambia ordered the World Food Program (WFP) to withdraw GM maize
from refugee camps and other places. The decision was made based on fears
that Zambia may lose its export market in the EU if seeds from the GM
maize were eventually planted by Zambian farmers, and that according to
Zambian officials, GM food might poison their people.
WFP Public Information Officer Woods noted that Zambia was currently
importing non-genetically modified maize from Tanzania to help alleviate
the hunger situation in the country.
The GM maize from the US will be exported to countries such as Zimbabwe,
Mozambique and Malawi, who are accepting milled GM food during their food
Other countries in southern Africa that are accepting genetically modified
food that has been milled are Lesotho and Swaziland.
In contrast, South Africa is the only country in the 14-nation Southern
Africa Development Community (SADC) not only to licence the production of
transgenic crops, but also to put strong support for agricultural
ìWhile maintaining a healthy respect for the future consequences of
growing GM crops in a world where significant export markets, such as
Europe and Japan, have come out against the technology, farmers in South
Africa see few problems with GM,î said Christo Booyens of SENWES, South
Africa's largest grain cooperative.
Agricultural biotechnology could help feed the world
By Billy Skaggs
December 19, 2002
It's hard to believe that in today's high-tech world, more than 4 billion
people do not have access to refrigerated milk. And more than 400 million
people worldwide, including 180 million children, suffer from Vitamin A
Hopefully, things will be changing for the better due to advancements in
agricultural biotechnology. Currently, biotech applications in agriculture
are in their infancy.
Most current genetically enhanced plant varieties are modified for only a
single trait, such as herbicide tolerance or pest resistance. Rapid
progress may enhance plant breeding to help secure better and more
consistent yields. This would be of great benefit to those farming in
areas of the world with historically poor crop production.
Today, nutritional and health benefits beyond those available in foods are
delivered via pharmaceuticals and vitamin supplements.
In the future, the potential exists to provide these benefits to a greater
part of the world, at significantly lower costs, through foods.
Potential health benefits available from biotech foods include:
- Soybean, sunflower and peanut oils lower in saturated fats.
- Fruits and vegetables higher in beta carotene and Vitamins C and E.
- Bananas that deliver oral vaccines for diseases such as hepatitis B.
- Strawberries with augmented cancer-fighting nutrients.
As you are probably aware, farmable land is depleted every day. The most
urgent need for agriculture is to create plants with the highest yields
possible. Another pressing need is in the area of animal agriculture as
relates to feed efficiency in poultry and livestock.
In Georgia, we are fortunate to have researchers with the University of
Georgia, Georgia Tech and Fort Valley State University working in each of
these areas. Each of these universities is at the forefront in
agricultural biotechnology and production efficiency work.
According to the United Nations, 800 million people worldwide are
malnourished. Through advances in agricultural biotechnology, farmers will
be able to meet this need someday.
So the next time you hear something negative about genetically modified
crops, remember how many people in the world are in need of these advances
in food production.
EU allows 2 Monsanto GM cotton oils on to market
BRUSSELS, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The European Union has approved two oils from
genetically modified cotton for use in food in the bloc, despite a pledge
by many EU states to block their markets to new GM foods, the European
Commission said on Thursday.
"These processed cottonseed oils are indistinguishable from conventional
cottonseed oils and can therefore be considered as being substantially
equivalent to conventional cottonseed oils," the Commission said in a
The oils, from cotton strains created by Monsanto (nyse: MON - news -
people), had been favourably evaluated by British regulatory authorities,
the Commission said.
The products will have to be labelled as being derived from GM organisms
once new EU labelling rules that are still under discussion come into
force, the Commission said.
How to make a better beer
ABC Regional Online
18 December, 2002
Would you drink a genetically modified beer?
Maybe genetic modification just hasn't been marketed properly...
The debate about genetically modified grains can be a firey one, with some
people fearing side effects and cross-pollination, while others fear that
by not adopting the technology, we'll be left behind in the farming race.
What if beer drinkers knew that genetic modification could, in fact,
improve the amber liquid they love so much?
Scientists at Southern Cross University's Plant Conservation Genetics
Centre believe they're on the brink of producing a beer with a longer
Director of the Centre, Professor Robert Henry, explains his work, "Our
research is aiming to produce barley varieties that will provide a higher
price for Australian farmers by being better suited to the major end users
of barley which is feed for animals but most importantly the production of
beer," he says.
Listen to the five minute interview at:
The UN's Bizarre War on Biotech
Tech Central Station
by Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko
The United Nations' abject failure to get Iraq to adhere to the Security
Council's post-Gulf War resolutions might lead to a war that is costly to
the United States and its allies and devastating to Iraq. But for a large
portion of the world's population, UN failures in the economic and
regulatory arenas will be far more damaging in the long run: The UN's
self-serving involvement in excessive, unscientific biotechnology
regulation will slow agricultural research and development, promote
environmental damage and bring famine and to millions in developing
In Montreal two years ago, delegates to the UN-sponsored Convention on
Biological Diversity negotiated a "biosafety protocol" for the regulation
of international movement of gene-spliced organisms. It was based on the
bogus "precautionary principle," which dictates that every new technology
ó including, in the case of gene-splicing, an improvement over less
precise technologies ó must be proven safe before it can be used. An ounce
of prevention is certainly desirable, but because nothing can be proved
totally safe ó at least, not to the standard demanded by anti-technology
extremists ó the precautionary principle creates prodigious obstacles to
the development of new products.
Precautionary regulation shifts the burden of proof from the regulator,
who once had to demonstrate that a new technology was likely to cause some
harm, to the innovator, who now must demonstrate that the technology will
not. Under this new standard of evidence, regulatory bodies are free to
arbitrarily require any amount and kind of testing they wish.
Thus, rather than creating a uniform, predictable, and scientifically
sound framework for effectively managing legitimate risks, the biosafety
protocol establishes an ill-defined global regulatory process that permits
overly risk-averse, incompetent, and corrupt regulators to hide behind the
precautionary principle in delaying or deferring approvals. One example is
a several-year-long moratorium on approvals of gene-spliced plants
Canada, which in April 2001 signed the treaty of which the biosafety
protocol is a part, faces a dilemma over whether to ratify the protocol
itself (which becomes law after ratification by at least 50 nations). It
would permit Canada to restrict biotech exports from other countries - at
best, a dubious, anti-trade option, because along with the United States
and Argentina, Canada is one of the world's three major producers of
agricultural biotech products. Even worse, the protocol would provide
resources for "capacity-building initiatives," or regulatory apparatuses,
in developing countries that would enable them to restrict Canada's own
biotech product exports. Jacqueline Duckering, of the Saskatchewan-based
Ag-West Biotech, Inc. (a non-profit venture funded by Saskatchewan
Agriculture and Food to support local biotech enterprises) posits that
Canada's support for the biosafety protocol would be self-destructive: "We
would be paying for our own guillotine!"
Another ongoing example of the UN's malign influence is a task force of
the 165-member Codex Alimentarius Commission, the joint food standards
program of the United Nations' World Health Organization and Food and
Agriculture Organization, which is moving relentlessly towards
circumscribing only food products made with gene-splicing for various
Draconian and even bizarre regulatory procedures and requirements.
The Europeans want to stop gene-spliced products because the technology
was developed in U.S. labs and commercialized by U.S. companies that were
financed by American capital. They are aided by radical environmental
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are permitted to participate
in Codex meetings, and which are ideologically opposed to new technology.
The Codex task force is en route to codifying various procedures and
requirements more appropriate to potentially dangerous prescription drugs
or pesticides than to gene-spliced tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries.
They include long-term monitoring for adverse health effects and batteries
of tests for genetic stability, toxins, allergenicity, and so on.
Among the most egregious is something called "traceability," an array of
technical, labeling and record-keeping mechanisms to keep track of a plant
"from dirt to dinner plate", so that consumers will know whom to sue if
they get diarrhea from gene-spliced prunes, and providing, in the words of
the anti-biotech European Commission delegate, "a tool governments can use
to remove products from the market".
The prospect of unscientific, overly burdensome Codex standards for
gene-spliced foods is ominous, because members of the World Trade
Organization will, in principle, be required to follow them, and they will
provide cover for unfair trade practices. Jean Halloran, of the
anti-biotech group Consumers International, characterized Codex standards
as a legal defense against WTO challenges to countries that arbitrarily
interfere with trade in biotech foods. "The Codex is important because of
the WTO. If there is a Codex standard, one country cannot file a challenge
[for unfair trade practices] against another country which is following
the Codex standard. But when there is no Codex standard, countries can
challenge each other on anything."
These unscientific regulations and standards actually harm the environment
and public health, stifling the development of environmentally friendly
innovations that can increase agricultural productivity, help clean up
toxic wastes, conserve water and supplant agricultural chemicals. UN
experts themselves warn that the greatest single threat to the planet's
environment comes from the world's burgeoning population and its demand
that ever more land be brought into food production.
Yet, an important answer ó developing more productive plant varieties ó
will be blocked by the disincentive of unnecessary regulations on
gene-splicing. Morally, this is no different from permitting the building
of an unsafe dam or knowingly administering a contaminated vaccine. The UN
and its Secretary General should be held accountable.
Henry Miller is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. He was an FDA official
from 1979 to 1994 and is an adviser to the US delegation to the Codex
Alimentarius Commission task force on biotech foods. Gregory Conko is
Director of Food Safety Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in
FRENCH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES SAYS GM CROPS SAFE
In a report released last week, France's Academy of Sciences announced its
support for GM crops. The report says that there is no evidence to date
showing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose potential health and
"All the criticisms against GMOs can be set aside based for the most part
on strictly scientific criteria," the report says, adding that "any
generalization on the potential risks linked to GMOs is impossible since
scientific rigor can only proceed from a case by case analysis."
The Academy also called for the EU to end its moratorium on the approval
and environmental release of GMOs. The report said that with the
implementation of the new regulations "there will be no objective reason
to continue the moratorium on market approval authorization of GMOs."
The Academy report centered on the role of fundamental research, the
contributions of the transgenic crops to agriculture, on the risks and the
regulation, and the prospects offered to the developing countries. The
work also comprises a chapter intended to clarify the basic scientific
concepts on the matter.
In a related development, France's Academy of Medicine also called earlier
for the European countries to lift the ban on GM crops, saying it saw no
evidence that GM crops pose risks to humans, AFP reported. The academy
said in a report that GM food 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 and shrinking farmland, the report added.
For more information, visit the website of the France Academy of Sciences
China a biotech 'crouching dragon'
December 19, 2002
HONG KONG, China (Reuters) -- Is China a crouching cyborg dragon, ready to
spout out new plant biotechnology and genetically-modified organisms
(GMOs) on the World? Scientists and industry officials familiar with the
country's bio-technology sector say that is not just possible, but likely.
To ensure food security for its 1.3 billion people, Beijing has injected
large sums of public money into agricultural biotechnology research since
China's plan appears to have two sides: push forward fast on GM foods
which offer high yield, and resistance to disease, while promoting GM-free
areas for crops for sale to rich export markets, where many consumers
still reject the idea of genetically modified food.
China is now emerging as a global leader in some areas of technology. This
year, scientists estimate it planted insect-resistant cotton on 2.2
million hectares of land, almost twice the size of Belgium, or 53 percent
of the total cotton acreage in China, the world's top cotton producer.
"China is developing the largest plant biotechnology capacity outside of
North America," scientists Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle, Carl Pray and
Qinfang Wang said in a joint article published in Science magazine earlier
"Poor farmers in China are cultivating more area of genetically modified
plants than are small farmers in any other developing country," they say.
Huang from the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy in Beijing said
publicly-funded scientists were now working on nearly 60 crops, many of
them ignored by western researchers who focus on a handful of plants.
"I believe China is now the leading country in (GM) rice and cotton. I
think it will be also the case for some other food crops, such as peanuts,
in five to 10 years," he said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
But China faces a dilemma as consumers in its top trading partners, like
the European Union, Japan and South Korea, are worried over the safety of
GM crops, dubbed "Frankenstein food" because of fears that they may create
mutation or diseases as yet unknown.
China fears such countries may reject its farm products unless it keeps GM
crops under control, analysts say. But strong operations management has
never been China's strength, nor law enforcement in a vast country where
corruption and rural poverty remain endemic.
"They are concerned about their ability to continue to export," said a
foreign diplomat in Beijing. "Once it (GM crops) is out there, there's no
way of putting it back into the bottle."
So far, Beijing has approved commercialization of only a few GM crops,
such as cotton, tomatoes, sweet peppers and petunias. It has also
introduced a new set of rules, slowing down approval procedures, while
restricting its own trade in GM organisms (GMOs), such as soybeans from
the United States.
Monsanto Co (MON.N), the U.S. biotech and seed group, has so far applied
in vain for commercialization of its insect-resistant BT corn in the past
three to four years, said John Killmer, president of Monsanto China based
"Each time, it seems there are new reasons (for rejection). I believe that
in general there is administrative and government guidance not to approve
insect resistance corn," Killmer said.
Some say Beijing has also put on hold commercialization of Chinese GM
herbicide-resistant rice, which had already passed the safety evaluation
for environmental release.
China learned from bitter experience with its GM virus-resistant tobacco,
officials say. It had to withdraw it from the market a few years after
commercialization in 1992 because of pressure from a major international
Referring to the rules, the industry officials say China seems to have
decided to wait and see how international consensus develops, while
building up control mechanisms at home.
Though there is no firm evidence, there are industry rumors that farmers
are growing GM varieties beyond those approved by Beijing. Industry
officials say it would not be a surprise, given how fast insect-resistant
GM cotton proliferated.
"Until this year, the Ministry of Agriculture had prohibited BT cotton in
the Yangtze valley. Now, they have opened up. However, the Yangtze Valley
was 40 percent plus insect-resistant cotton already," said one official,
who declined to be named.
Huang agreed that some farmers are not waiting for the green light to
plant BT cotton, because it offers significant economic and health
benefits. For example, BT cotton farmers need to spray pesticides only two
to four times on the crop, against up to 40 times for conventional
The company JJH in the northern province of Jilin has recently become the
first Chinese certified producer of non-GMO soy. It contracted GeneScan, a
German specialist firm, to set up a programme to prevent the engineered
transgenic soy from entering its normal supply chain.
Asked about the move, an official from Jinong Hi-Tech Inc. Ltd, one of
JJH's two owners, said that some farmers in southern Jilin province grew
drought resistant GM-soybeans.
Genescan officials say that meanwhile Beijing plans to create non-GMO
areas dedicated for exports. It wants to shield them from GMO
contamination and capture a niche in the international market that may
even pay a premium.
GeneScan, active around the world in GM testing, is in talks with Beijing
on how to bring such a scheme into reality.
"In future, you cannot grow GM soybeans in Heilongjiang. But you can grow
your GMO soy anywhere else," said Wu Chuk, marketing manager of GeneScan
Hong Kong. "Xinjiang will be a protected area for tomatoes, and Yunan for
Thomas Werrs, head of GeneScan's international sales, added: "We know they
do lots of research, and I am convinced that they plant a great deal (of
GMOs) at least for trial purposes."
CSIRO BREEDS SALT-TOLERANT WHEAT
Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
(CSIRO) announced that they have successfully bred the first salt-tolerant
durum wheat variety. CSIRO claims that it will give farmers in
salt-affected areas the opportunity to grow durum wheat and attract its
higher prices, while increasing Australia's world market share in premium
Rana Munns, senior research scientist at CSIRO Plant Industry, says there
are two mechanisms for salt tolerance in cereals like wheat. One is the
exclusion of salt by the plant's roots, the other is tolerance of salt in
the leaves. Bread wheat has one and barley has the other, but modern durum
wheat has neither.
Munns and Ray Hare, from Enterprise Grains Australia's wheat and durum
breeding program, discovered an ancient salt-tolerant durum wheat variety
that excluded salt. The team was able to breed the tolerance mechanisms of
the ancient wheat variety into modern breeding lines and current
Extensive field trials are planned for next year. "If successful, a
salt-tolerant durum wheat variety could be available to growers within
three years, says Hare.
For more information email Rana Munns at email@example.com or Ray Hare
From: "Murphy D (SApS)"
Subject: RE: oil palm attacked - and defended
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2002 15:09:54 -0000
On 16 Dec 2002, the respected British newspaper, The Independent,
published an article about Oil Palm, entitled "Oil on troubled water", by
journalist Sanjida O'Connell (see:
http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=362139). Here is my response
to the article (which I sent to the paper but doubt whether it will be
I am troubled by the overall tenor of the article on oil palm by Sanjida
O'Connell (16 Dec 2002). This article is critical of the expansion in the
acreage of oil palm in the Far East, especially in Indonesia, and the
possible adverse effects on the environment. It ignores the ongoing
exploitation and despoiling of the environment in most Western countries
that has been going on for the past two centuries. Here in South Wales, we
live with the legacy of the plundering of the Valleys for coal and iron
that has devastated the landscape, but also laid the foundations for much
of the current prosperity of the UK. In North America, and to a lesser
extent in Europe, our factory farming has turned unique prairie and
woodland ecosystems into biological deserts that feed much of the world.
So who are we to lecture the Asians on how to address the pressing need to
feed and employ their rapidly expanding populations? At the moment, there
is a shortfall of over 1 million tonnes of vegetable oils in the world.
This mostly affects importing countries like India and China. What is our
message to these people? Sorry folks, but you cannot have any more food
oil because we want to save some rain forests - oh and by the way, we can
continue degrading our own ecosystems to create wealth for ourselves.
Ms O'Connell's article also ignores the real strides being made by
countries like Malaysia in improving the sustainability of their oil palm
production. For example, they have introduced biological control as an
alternative to chemical agents in combating some of the diseases that
affect the crop. There are several advanced trials of new methods of
multi-cropping, where small farmers grow rice crops or graze animals in
their palm plantations. Finally, they are developing new (non-GM) advanced
breeding methods to increase the yield of the trees so that less land is
needed to produce each tonne of oil.
Rather than criticising such worthy efforts, we should engage
constructively with countries like Malaysia and help them to develop even
more sustainable agricultural practices. Who knows, maybe we will even
learn something from our Asian colleagues.
Professor Denis J Murphy
School of Applied Sciences
University of Glamorgan
Cardiff CF37 1DL