Today in AgBioView: December 23, 2002:
* Cummins' fantasy fears
* More Zambians in need of relief food: vice president
* Study: Corn Growers Responsible Managers of Bt Technology
* PMPs Dialog
* Growers Planting Pioneer Hybrids Win 23 of 27 Categories in 2002 NCGA
Corn Yield Contest
* Manure as Fertilizer
* Wine, GM yeast, and hangovers
* Law and Horror
* Corrected open letter
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 16:22:23 -0500
From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: Cummins' fantasy fears
Joe Cummins and his fellow biotech-bashers speculate (wildly, i might add)
that the risks from CaMV promoter sequence as it exists in GE
construct/plant chromosome may pose significant risk of cancer or some
other purely speculative, unidentified "health risk" to humans. At least
enough theoretical risk is present in their minds as to require the study
of the "ingestion of the CaMV promoter DNA in the configuration with which
it is used in GM crops." Joe, we all know if such research were to be
conducted and showed eating CaMV promoter in chromosomal DNA to be
perfectly safe, you guys would just claim either: 1. The research was
"corporate sponsored" and therefore inadmissible into the court of
scientific/public opinion, or 2. Was not conducted in such a way as to
demonstrate 100% safety, or 3. Was not exhaustive enough (didn't test in
enough people to "prove" safety), or 4. You guys would simply come up with
another completely theoretical (fantasy) boogey man with which to scare
the uneducated and block this technology.
The bottom line is that we eat viruses, naked DNA, DNA with aggressive
promotors incorporated into chromosomes, etc. from the day we're born!
There is NO evidence that the CaMV promotor sequence -- whether it is
naked DNA plamids, naked RNA transcipts, incorporated into chromosomal DNA
(as many viruses in fact DO incorporate themselves into chromosomal DNA
and only emerge during stress) -- is in anyway at all harmful to human
WE EAT DNA daily.
It is my opinion the Mae Wan Ho and Joe Cummins are both personally
responsible for more than a few of the tragic and unecessary African
famine deaths that have occured to date. Their scaremongering is at the
heart of the current tragedy. We're now being told to expect more in the
coming months because of difficulty sourcing "GM-free" grain -- in direct
contradiction to the claims of the activists, who have stepped forward
with not one bushel of donated grain, only criticisms of those actually
DOING something. All of this current tragedy was foreseen months ago and
food was on hand to deal with this -- food now being shipped away from
desperate regions becuase of the wildly irresponsible speculative
fear-mongering of activists such as Ho and Cummins. Lord, have mercy on
Center for Global Food Issues
More Zambians in need of relief food: vice president
Xinhua News Agency
December 22, 2002
LUSAKA, Dec 22, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Zambian Vice President Enock
Kavindele said Sunday the number of people in need of relief food in the
country has increased because the number of districts in need of urgent
food now stands at 43 from the initial 38.
Kavindele told a press briefing that his office had managed to source
about 50,000 tons from the country's food reserve agency which it is
distributing to hunger-stricken areas.
He said the country will not face any food shortage because the government
was doing everything possible to ensure that the staple food of maize be
Kavindele also said there are possibilities that the country may buy about
200,000 bags of maize from neighboring Tanzania.
Meanwhile, he warned millers not to increase the price of mealie meal,
considering the fact that maize was being sourced locally.
We want to remind them of what happened in the second republic when the
government took over the running of the milling companies, but we do not
want to intervene, we just want them to act responsibly to the people of
Zambia, said Kavindele.
He said the government was aware that most millers have sourced their
maize locally and wondered why they were increasing the price of the
staple food and basing their move on the performance of the currency
kwacha against the US dollar.
Kavindele said the government should not be held responsible for the
increase, saying that this has been caused by the private sector which has
failed to honor the contract signed with the government.
He explained a contract was signed with two companies in South Africa
which have failed to deliver the maize.
He disclosed the government learnt that the two companies had no capacity
to deliver the maize to Zambia.
Around 3 million Zambians are facing famine after failed harvests but
President Levy Mwanawasa has blocked genetically modified (GM) food aid to
feed them, calling it poison.
Mwanawasa says his government has no scientific evidence it was safe for
Some Zambians disagree with the government's position. Hungry villagers
recently raided a chief's palace and stole GM food, which the authorities
were refusing to distribute.
Study: Corn Growers Responsible Managers of Bt Technology
by Julianne Johnston
A survey completed by the EPA reveals that a large majority of corn
growers responsibly managed Bt hybrids. The National Corn Growers
Association (NCGA) says the survey confirmed that corn growers are
practicing good stewardship and properly following Insect Resistance
Management (IRM) requirements to help avoid corn insect pests, such as the
European corn borer, from developing resistance to Bt corn.
The survey found 86 percent of growers who planted Bt corn in 2002 met at
least the minimum refuge size IRM requirement. Eighty-nine percent of
growers (and 94% of Bt corn fields) met the distance requirement.
Additionally, the survey results indicate that almost 80% of the growers
who used insecticides regularly (four or five of the previous five years)
report decreasing their insecticide use to control corn borers since the
introduction of Bt corn.
There are two main IRM requirements established by the EPA that growers
must follow when planting Bt corn. One involves the size of the non-Bt
corn refuge and the other involves the distance between Bt corn and the
refuge. EPA requirements say growers must maintain at least a 20 percent
non-Bt corn refuge. In certain corn/cotton areas of the South, growers are
required to plant at least a 50 percent non-Bt corn refuge. In all areas,
every Bt cornfield must be located within one half mile of a refuge
The survey results also confirmed findings from previous years that the
vast majority of growers (93%) believe IRM is important. The survey showed
a sharp increase in grower awareness and familiarity of IRM requirements
in 2002. Eighty-eight percent of Bt corn growers said they were aware of
IRM requirements, which is 8 percentage points higher than in 2001.
Additionally, 89 percent of Bt corn growers said they received enough
information to properly implement a refuge in 2002, an increase from 74
percent in 2001.
More than 550 growers responded to the survey conducted during the 2002
growing season among Bt corn users in the Corn Belt and Cotton Belt. The
survey was conducted in cooperation with NCGA by an independent research
firm for the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 19:32:58 -0800
Subject: PMPs Dialog
From: "Allan Felsot"
In regards to the exchange about Plant Made Pharmaceuticals, I want to
reiterate three points I made in my on-line essay, ìPharm Farming: Itís
Not Your Fatherís Agricultureî (July 2002 issue of Agrichemical and
Environmental News @ http://aenews.wsu.edu/).
First, operation of a pharm farm will have to follow GMP (Good
Manufacturing Practice) Standards, which are somewhat analogous to GLPs
(Good Laboratory Practice Standards promulgated under FIFRA). These
standards are essentially a cradle-to-grave responsibility that rely on
pre-developed protocols, procedures (known as Standard Operating
Practices), and auditing. While, management of humans taking care of the
ësystemí is not 100% perfect, there will be standards in place and
auditing will point out when they are not followed. All humans involved
in the production/extraction system must show a record of training that
proves knowledge of the SOPs. Much record keeping will be required.
The fiasco created by Prodigene was a good example of failing to follow
protocols and SOPs, but it was caught by the system of controls already in
place! Given that acreages for pharm commodities will be in comparison to
food crops very, very limited for any one product and highly regulated,
site visits by inspectors are very feasible. Indeed, GMPs and GLPs
require on-site inspections during the whole manufacturing/experiment
process, as well as post manufacturing/experimentation auditing.
Anyone working in a facility operating under GLP Standards knows about the
degree of data tracking that goes on, the inspections, and the
independence of auditors. If youíre worried that management will be
self-policing, like the fox guarding the hen house, then consider that the
whole organic certification enterprise is a self-policing system in which
individual growers must follow their own SOPs, but the SOPs are approved
by a private or public certification business/agency.
Second, with regard to gene flow (out-crossing), research is well underway
to characterize pollen movement from corn grown under different ëbuffer
zoneí scenarios to characterize possible hybridization with non-pharm
corn. Routine detasseling and male sterile techniques are likely to be
important options in managing out-crossing. Corn is the subject of study
because it is very easy to store and transport. It can be grown just
about anywhere water and nitrogen are sufficiently supplied. It is easy
to recover the trait protein in an extraction process. Transporting a lot
of biomass around in the form of leaves, which transport and store poorly
(from the viewpoint of the protein) unless frozen below ñ20 C (a lot of
energy required for that) seems impractical (thatís why tobacco is
relegated to the role of research rat and not a good commercial
There is nothing wrong with developing pharm traits in those crops that
are easiest and most efficient to grow, handle, transport, store, and
process, even if they are food crops. Outcrossing can also be managed by
where those crops are grown. Visit the irrigated west and you can see how
it is possible to grow corn in isolation. Washington State currently
grows the largest U.S. acreage of processing sweet corn (~100,000 acres),
but you would be hard pressed to find two 120-acre irrigated circles near
one another in the high desert plateau of eastern WA. With all due
respect to the National Corn Growers Association, the Corn Belt is the
last place that a pharmaceutical company should plop down its 1000 acres
of outdoor production (if using corn or beans as the source).
Third, please take a risk assessment perspective. Thus, examine the
hazard, the dose-response, the exposure, and then characterize the risk.
If you were to do this for proteins already manufactured by transgenic CHO
fermentation cultures, then you would see that the system is already
conservative for human health protection. For the most part, we will be
dealing with immunotherapeutic proteins already biosynthesized by humans.
Letís say that the protein in those corn stalks did mix with the soybean,
what exposure potential would exist? The mass would have been so diluted
as to make exposure close to nil. If the soybean was diverted to
industrial products (for example, inks) then exposure would be nil. If it
was intended for food use, what would be the effect of eating a miniscule
amount of protein? Would that protein survive digestion? Would the grain
(or seed) have been fed to cattle first? Contrary to the proclamations of
ëprecautionary principle onlyí advocates, risk assessment lays out a
logical framework to move beyond the simple question of hazard and address
risk, the likelihood of something bad happening. Risk assessment does
look at the system holistically, and it incorporates social values because
risk characterization depends on choosing socially acceptable benchmarks
In short, case by case risk assessment is needed, not blanket
pronouncements about how safe the technology of pharm farming is or isnít.
What is generic is the fact that GMP Standards must be followed
regardless of the pharmaceutical trait. Further information about the
nature of GMP and GLP standards can be found by reading the regulations:
http://www.gmp1st.com/drreg.htm (for GMPs) and http://www.pestlaw.com/GLP/
Growers Planting Pioneer Hybrids Win 23 of 27 Categories in 2002 NCGA Corn
Pioneer growers win first place in all nine contest categories, while one
grower breaks last year's record yield
800-247-6803, ext. 6908
DES MOINES, IOWA, Dec. 20, 2002 - Growers planting PioneerÆ brand corn
hybrids won 23 of 27 categories in the 2002 National Corn Growers
Association (NCGA) Corn Yield Contest with one grower breaking his own
record-setting yield of last year.
Farmers growing Pioneer hybrids finished in first-place in all nine
national classes. Among second-place winners, those growing Pioneer
hybrids won seven categories and, among third-place winners, growers
planting Pioneer hybrids won seven of nine categories.
The highest yield within the contest was Francis Childs of Manchester,
Iowa, who planted Pioneer brand 34N44 with a yield of 442.14 bushels per
acre. Winning in the national AA non-irrigated class, Childs' entry was a
Pioneer hybrid containing the YieldGard1 gene for resistance to European
corn borer. Childs made NCGA contest history last year as the first grower
to win with a yield clearing the 400-bushel-an-acre hurdle. He won first
place in 2001 with Pioneer brand 34M95 with a yield of 408.22 bushels per
acre. This year marks the sixth consecutive time Childs has finished first
in the NCGA yield contest.
"We're excited to see the continued success growers have with Pioneer
products in this contest," says Bill Fleet, Pioneer vice president for
North American sales. "And we once again want to congratulate Iowa grower
Francis Childs, who continues to achieve top yield levels and break
contest records, year after year, using well-planned production
The NCGA Corn Yield Contest is an annual national competition among corn
growers with the goal of producing the highest yields. Growers compete in
nine corn production classes, including conventional, no-till/strip-till
non-irrigated, no-till/strip-till irrigated, ridge-till non-irrigated,
ridge-till irrigated and irrigated classes.
For more information about Pioneer corn hybrids grown by contest winners
and the broad range of top-producing Pioneer products, growers should
contact their local Pioneer sales representative.
For a list of the national winners, yield totals and hybrid numbers, go to
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont, is the
world's leading source of customized solutions for farmers, livestock
producers and grain and oilseed processors. With headquarters in Des
Moines, Iowa, Pioneer provides access to advanced plant genetics, crop
protection solutions and quality crop systems to customers in nearly 70
countries. During 2002, DuPont is celebrating its 200th year of scientific
achievement and innovation - providing products and services that improve
the lives of people everywhere. Based in Wilmington, Del., DuPont delivers
science-based solutions for markets that make a difference in people's
lives in the areas of food and nutrition, health care, apparel, home and
construction, electronics and transportation.
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Manure as Fertilizer
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 15:41:44 -0600
If manure is to be used as fertilzer it has to be treated as a perishable.
Not only do the feces need to be captured but so does the urine which is
high in nitrogen. That either means confinement operations with anaerobic
holding pits or stalls were bedding is spread on the fields on weekly
basis. Even on a weekly basis a lot of nitrogen will be lost as ammonia.
In the 60's we ran a 500 head feed lot and let the manure weather in the
open and cleaned the pens ever 2 or 3 years and spread it at a rate of 7
tons per acre every couple of years. It would not cover a 160 acre farm
and crops still showed a response to nitrogen where the manure was spread.
While fresh manure may be a good source of fertility it quickly degrades
if not properly handled or promptly spread. Only very large operations can
afford anaerobic holding tanks and only very small ones can deal with
animals in stall and spreading manure on a weekly routine. That leaves the
vast majority of the farmers that use manure using a weathered product
that has lost a good deal of nitrogen by the time it gets to the field.
There is also the problem that a good part of the year manure can't or
shouldn't be spread. It can't be put on standing crops where the
application would damage the crop or endanger the consumer with pathogens.
It shouldn't be put on frozen ground because it is likely to run off and
contaminate the water ways. You can't apply it less than 30 days before
planting with out running the risk of poor germination. So it ends up that
the manure must be stored part of the year and during that time it is
There is also the cost of handle manure that is very low in nutrients per
pound of fresh manure. The fuel, labor and repairs are very high pre unit
of nitrogen or phosphorus applied compared to commercial fertilzer.
In a perfect world where the manure an urine went directly from the cow to
the soil and were not exposed to weathering but the manure was
incorporated into the soil were it fell instead of laying on top where
much of the nitrogen is lost to the air bio sources of nitrogen could be
much more efficient than they are. But the way that manure is actually
applied I doubt that we are getting more than a fraction of the available
nitrogen that comes out of a cow back to the soil.
The realities of agriculture practice and the perishable nature of manure
make it a poor nitrogen source for anyone but the farmer that empties his
chamber pot and cleans out his stables into his field every morning or the
dairy man that has a state of the art manure handling system.
Gordon Couger www.couger.com/gcouger
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 16:46:35 -0500
From: "Charles M. Rader"
Subject: Wine, GM yeast, and hangovers
A brief comment about ``GM yeast provides ultimate hangover cure for wine
lovers'', The Independent, December 19, 2002
The component of wine that causes a hangover is ethanol. When the body
utilizes ethanol as a food, it converts it to acetaldehyde, which is a
toxin. The body finally breaks acetaldehyde down into harmless substances,
but slowly. The hangover is the poisoning due to acetaldehyde.
It follows that a genetically modified yeast could produce wine which
won't give you a hangover, but only by producing wine with low alcohol
content. This, however, might not be what people want!
There are other ``congeners'' present in most drinks, byproducts of the
fermentation, which seem to contribute to the severity of a hangover.
Different drinks have different amounts of these congeners. But my
experience is that even pure laboratory ethanol will give you a hangover.
I therefore doubt that GM yeast are likely to give us wines which prevent
Charles M. Rader
Law and Horror
Tech Central Station
by Drew L. Kershen
By coincidence on December 14, I received two documents addressing the
famine in southern and eastern Africa - the World Bank/International
Monetary Fund (IMF) statement on hunger in Africa and the Report of
Zambian scientists to His Excellence the President of Zambia, Mr. Levy P.
Mwanawasa recommending rejection of United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) food aid. The former described the magnitude of the
famines in Africa; the latter distorts a pending international agreement
to intensify the human suffering from the famines.
The World Bank and IMF project that 14.4 million people will likely be at
risk of starvation from January to April 2003 in Lesotho, Malawi,
Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. For Zambia specifically, the
World Bank and IMF estimate that three million Zambians (25% of the
population) will need 150,000 tons of cereals to survive until April.
Presently within the borders of Zambia are 50,000 tons of maize (corn)
from USAID that could be distributed to hungry Zambians. More USAID maize
sits available outside Zambia. The thousands of tons of USAID maize is the
identical maize that Americans, Argentineans, Canadians, Chileans,
Japanese, Mexicans, South Africans, Uruguayans, and others eat every day.
The thousands of tons of USAID maize is the identical maize that the
Australian-New Zealand, American, Canadian, European, and Japanese food
agencies have approved as equally safe and nutritious as other maize.
In spite of this widespread international acceptance, the Zambian
scientists recommended against acceptance of this USAID maize because it
is transgenic maize produced with the precise, predictable, and common
techniques of modern biotechnology. The Zambian scientists concluded: "The
government should maintain the current stand of not accepting GM foods by
employing the precautionary principle." As an alternative, the Zambian
scientists proposed that the World Food Program (WFP) - the consortium of
food relief agencies - remove USAID maize from Zambia while sourcing
non-USAID maize for starving Zambians.
WFP's ability to source non-USAID maize may prove difficult because USAID
provided 62% of all food aid last year. In addition, William S. Farish
(U.S. Ambassador to the UK) has pointed out that world stocks of maize are
nearly 25% lower than 2001 while, simultaneously, WFP has received only
56% of its requested monetary pledges for food purchases.
What caught my attention in the Report of the Zambian scientists was not
the list of remote, highly-unlikely, hypothetical concerns about
transgenic maize related to the environment, food safety, and trade
advantage. This list is a standard anti-biotechnology litany that anyone
familiar with the agricultural biotechnology debate can probably recite
from memory. What caught my attention was a new reason for rejecting USAID
food aid - a sophistic, legalistic reason that pierced this lawyer's
In the sections of the Report entitled "Ethical Issues" and "GM Maize
Currently in the Country," the Zambian scientists cited the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety - a document proposed for international adoption in
Montreal in January 2000 but not yet a legally binding international
agreement. The Zambian scientists argued that the WFP use of USAID maize
"goes against the spirit of international instruments such as ... the
Cartagena Protocol." The Zambian scientists asserted that the Protocol
requires advance informed consent for the transboundary movement of
transgenic food. In light of this alleged violation of the spirit of the
not-yet-adopted Cartagena Protocol, the Zambian scientists claimed that
the WFP had acted unethically and illegally by bringing USAID food to
starving Zambians. For the WFP to comply with the Zambian scientists
interpretation of ethics and law, the WFP must wait for Zambia to develop
a regulatory system and, once developed, wait while Zambia follows the
Cartagena Protocol procedures permitting a country one-year to make a
The Zambian scientists' assertion that the Protocol's advance informed
agreement provisions apply to aid intended for direct food use is
questionable. Regardless, the Zambian scientists have corrupted the
clearly stated purposes of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) -
to protect biodiversity - to deny food to starving people who are eating
any plant and animal around in order to survive. The CBD and its
subsidiary Protocol demand that Zambians be fed so that they do not in
desperation destroy biodiversity.
If the Zambian scientists' legal claim is questionable, their charge that
WFP acted unethically is repugnant. Except for a passing reference to
"distribution of food to the affected community," the Zambian scientists
never mentioned what this lawyer thought might be the ethical issue -
providing food to starving people. The Zambian scientists are using the
Cartagena Biosafety Protocol to provide sophistic legal cover to their
recommendations while labeling the bringing of safe, nutritious food to
starving Zambians as unethical and illegal.
During the several years that Zambia can rely upon the Cartagena Protocol
to delay or permanently deny USAID food aid, three million Zambians can
simply eat "the spirit of international instruments." Unless, of course,
the international instruments are printed on paper made from the fibers of
transgenic plants, such as transgenic cotton.
Sadly, the Zambian scientists' use of the Cartagena Protocol for legal
cover to reject food for starving people may be imitated in eastern
Africa. The World Bank/IMF statement projects that Ethiopia will have 14.3
million drought-affected people in 2003. The situation in the Horn of
Africa (Eritrea and Ethiopia) is becoming as dire as the situation is
presently in southern Africa. The Ethiopian environmental minister is a
confirmed opponent of agricultural biotechnology and a leading architect
of the Cartagena Protocol. Will Ethiopia, too, label WPF food aid (62%
USAID food aid) as unethical and illegal in the face of starvation?
If the spirit of the unadopted Cartagena Protocol can be used to deny food
assistance to starving people, a binding Cartagena Protocol would provide
even greater legal cover to governmental policies of starvation. No
international document should be so divorced from science and modern risk
assessment that it permits the starvation of human beings. In light of the
suffering that the Cartagena Protocol has caused and will cause to
starving people, the Cartagena Protocol should remain unadopted. No
government should find legal cover in international agreements for
governmental policies of starvation.
Perhaps Tony Hall, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. food agencies, put it
best when he recently criticized African leaders who refuse food aid
because of groundless fears of new, improved agricultural technologies.
"People that deny food to their people, that are in fact starving people
to death, should be held responsible ... for the highest crimes against
humanity, in the highest courts of the world."
Drew L. Kershen is Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law, University of
From: "Samuel Avendano"
Subject: corrected open letter
Date: Sat, 21 Dec 2002 17:35:06 -0500
Open letter to AgBioView readers: Is Bt. Cotton (a mutated/transformed
crop to control bollworm) in India, a deception? " the first commercial
Bt cotton clearly led to lower yields than those announced by Monsanto.
Some farmers lost their entire crop in the state of Madya Pradesh" an
Agri.news paper in QuÈbec (published in French) quoted last week.According
to this paper, not only that Bt. cotton was damaged heavily by root-rot
diseases but also showed more susceptibility to drought than the non Bt.
According with the nwespaper, the Indian National Association of Farmers
is thinking that of the efficacy of Bt. cotton in their soils is very low.
The Indian Foundation of Research, Technology and Ecology observed
several irregularities in the trials done only in1998. However, I learned
from Rautenberg that the approval of Bt. cotton in India was given after
three year of test phase with more than 100 field trials.
It continued that the resistance to bollworm had already been acquired in
Australia and in USA. or this resistance could developed faster in Indian
cotton fields where farmers don't know the refuge technology or can't
afford assigning a percentage of their surface to non Bt. cotton; given
the small area they own. However, according to Andrew Apel, the condition
on keeping a refuge of non-Bt. cotton was generally observed by an
independent monitoring team. Besides, Satapthy quoted C. S.Prakash who
said, "The United states has been growing Bt. Cotton for the past seven
years and not a single bollworm has adapted to it".
An illegal network of seed vendors of the genetically modified cotton in
India, contributed to those losses. These vendors obtained the seed from
fields where the trials were carried out and probably the seed was not of
good quality. However, I read in Rautenberg's that the seed was
distributed by a joint venture between Monsanto and the Indian seed
To finish, I should clarify that in this region ( around the 46 LN and 75
LW) there is no cotton cultivation. However, even though the writer did
not openly attack the DNA technology, but he succeeded in underlining at
least some confusion or in denying a recognition to the goodness of
biotech in agriculture. The news of Bt cotton failure in India is not a
good news for developing countries in Central America because non Bt
cotton has almost disappear in these countries, not only because the
yields have been going down( less rainfall) but also the production cost
have been rising on account of numerous pesticide applications and Bt
cotton could have thought of as one of the best alternatives.
Samuel Avendano L., Agr.
Crops's IPM Consultant
Field Phytoresearch Specialist
3095, rue Girouard Ouest
Saint-Hyacinthe ( QuÈbec) J2S 3B7