Today in AgBioView -January 1, 2003
A very happy new year to all readers of AgBioview! .......Prakash)
* Euro Notes are Genetically Modified, Scientists Reveal
* GM Scare Hots Up
* India: Call for Science-based Biotech Policy
* GM Crops Could Save Endangered Birds
* Biotech - The Future Has Caught You
* Biotechnology Can Feed The World
* For A Care-free Lawn
* Biopharming Is Safely Regulated
* Futility of GM Crop Case
* Isoflavones in Glyphosate-Treated Soybeans
* On 'Comparing Iowa to Oaxaca'
* GM Crops are Breeding With Plants in The Wild
* Ministry Denies Burying Report on GM Crops
* Cummins and Obfuscation
* International Crop Science Congress
* 2002: The Year of Activist Lunacy
* Behind Africaís Famine
* Poverty Has Broken the Cultural Values
Euro Notes are Genetically Modified, Scientists Reveal
- Mark Henderson, The Times (London) January 01, 2003 (Sent by Prof.
Vivian Moses) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-529172,00.html
Sceptics who derided the euro as an artificial currency have been right
all along: its banknotes are printed on genetically modified cotton.
Though the European Union has some of the toughest GM regulations in the
world, it has ignored the transgenic fibres in its own currency. The
engineered banknotes are not even labelled. Most modern banknotes are
printed on cotton-based paper, as it is both highly durable and difficult
to forge. Sterling uses a mixture of cotton and linen rag, while the euro
is 100 per cent cotton.
While the Bank of England imports its raw material mainly from Turkey,
which does not grow GM cotton, one of the European Central Bank's main
suppliers is America, where three quarters of the cotton crop is now
transgenic. American farmers and wholesalers do not separate conventional
and GM cotton, and the ECB has no procedure for tracing the origin of the
fibres it buys. As a result, GM cotton certainly finds its way into many
banknotes, and may be present in them all.
The biotechnology of the single currency has been revealed by Klaus
Ammann, of the University of Berne in Switzerland, and Oliver Rautenberg,
of the German company BioLinX, who have even designed an alternative
20-euro note that advertises its genetically engineered contents.
"The central bank will not acknowledge it, but it is inconceivable that
there is no GM cotton in the euro," Dr Ammann said. "The single currency
is genetically modified." The ECB said that it could not say whether GM
material was used. "We buy banknote paper of the highest quality, which is
made from 100 per cent cotton, but we do not provide specifics on the
ingredients," a spokesman said.
Most GM cotton is modified to produce a toxin called Bacillus
thuringiensis or Bt, which kills the corn borer, a devastating pest. It is
not harmful to human health and has reduced the need to spray pesticides,
though some environmentalists are concerned that it could lead to growing
resistance among insects. While the European Union requires GM foods to be
labelled, fibres do not have to carry any warning.
Dr Ammann said that the euro issue raised questions about the future of
labelling, and that the policy was inconsistent and hypocritical. Green
groups said that they were alarmed that people with concerns about GM
crops would be forced to use them in their currency.
Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth, said it would be perfectly possible
for the ECB to source non-GM cotton. "Many of the people who are concerned
about GM crops are worried about the environmental impacts rather than
food safety," he said. "If the EU wanted to adopt a policy that would
actually help southern cotton farmers, there are plenty of places in the
world that would be only too willing and able to fulfil such a contract."
GM Scare Hots Up
- Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne), December 29, 2002 (Courtesy: Katie
Much of Australia is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in a
century. It is having a devastating impact on crops and livestock, and the
effect is being felt in the cities as scarcity forces consumers to pay
higher prices for food.
Lack of rain and withering heat are causing vast damage to horticultural
crops -- many of the table grapes in the vast patchwork of vineyards
around Mildura, where I live, have been damaged by a week of 40-plus
temperatures. It's a worrying time for farmers and consumers. Many farmers
are facing financial ruin, and when the price of fresh meat, fruit and
vegetables rises, low-income families suffer disproportionately.
A shortage of grain and pulse crops for animal feed means Australia's
dairy and poultry farmers are having to import maize from the US. The US
is the world's largest maize producer and, because of the sheer bulk of
production, decided it would avoid the expense and work involved in
segregating conventional hybrid maize between farm gate and supermarket
Importers have applications before the Office of the Gene Technology
Regulator (OGTR) to bring the US grain into Australia, and inevitably, the
prospect of our chooks and dairy cows being fed on GM maize has set the
watchdogs of the anti-GM movement barking.
On Friday, ABC Radio interviewed Martin Goddard, health policy officer of
the Australian Consumers Association, who fretted that we are getting into
GM technology too fast. Mr Goddard wasn't certain whether chicken fed on
GM grain would need to be labelled as GM chicken, under Australia's
labelling laws, now among the most stringent in the world. To Mr Goddard's
credit, he thought it was more important to worry about whether our
chickens have been fed feed laced with antibiotics, leading to the
presence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in animals and then
in the human gut.
It's worth worrying about. Patients in some Australian hospitals are dying
because the indiscriminate use of antibiotics growth promoters in
livestock has given rise to multi-resistant strains of common bacteria
resistant to the entire arsenal of modern antibiotics.
Expect the Australian GeneEthics Network, Greenpeace, the Organic
Federation of Australia, and the Australian Consumers Association to go
into overdrive during the next few weeks to alert consumers to the
unacceptable risks of feeding our cows and chooks imported GM maize. There
will be the usual slogans -- "Untested! Unsafe! Unwanted!" -- and dire
warnings about long-term threats to our health. The threats are never
spelled out, because it's easier to foment fears about the unknown.
Any health threat -- short or long-term -- posed by chickens or cows fed
on imported GM corn ranks less than zero on a scale of risk. In fact,
it's probably negative, because the GM maize has a health benefit that no
anti-GM activist ever talks about. Someone who knew nothing about biology
once claimed you can't unscramble an egg -- but of course, you can. You
just feed it back to the chook that laid it. All the fats, carbohydrates
and proteins are broken down in the chook's digestive system, and fed back
into the reproductive system to make another egg.
Maize seed contains fats, carbohydrates and proteins -- and it's the
potential presence of "unnatural" GM proteins that the anti-GM people
worry about. The US maize may contain a transgene for a protein called
delta-endotoxin, which is synthesised in all the plant's tissues.
It protects the developing cobs against insect attack. Delta-endotoxin is
absolutely harmless to humans, and to most insects, except for
caterpillars that munch on crops such as maize and cotton. When we ingest
it, along with all the other proteins in maize, our digestive system
breaks it down into amino acids, the simple organic building blocks for
You don't hear the anti-GM people warning about the long-term health risks
of delta-endotoxin, for the simple reason that it's the pesticide of
choice for their soulmates in the organic food industry. The only
difference is that organic growers use this natural pesticide in its
original package -- the soil-dwelling bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis The
Bt microbe has been used safely for almost 75 years as a living
insecticide to kill leaf-chewing caterpillars.
Any long-term human health impacts would be obvious by now, so the anti-GM
crowd can't throw at Bt-protected GM crops without wrecking their own
house of glass. So when chooks eat maize containing delta-endoxin, or the
GM protein that breaks down the herbicide glyphosate in so-called
Roundup-ready maize varieties, the GM proteins are simply broken down into
their constituent amino acids and recycled into new chook proteins. No
trace of the original protein remains. GM maize is manifestly safer for
human and animal consumption than conventional maize, because moulds
invade insect-damaged kernels and produce liver-damaging fumonisins, which
are also carcinogenic.
GM maize is almost free of fumonisins. If Australia's GM labelling laws
were to be extended to non-GM chickens that had been fed GM maize, or to
milk and dairy products from cows fed on GM maize, things would come to a
very strange pass. Martin Goddard of the Australian Consumers Association
would, in logic, have to label himself as a GM product if he made
scrambled eggs from their eggs, milk and cheese.
That would be profoundly silly -- yet no sillier than a situation that has
already arisen as a consequence of anti-GM activists successful efforts to
foment baseless consumer fears about the safety of GM foods. The simple
fact is that much of Australia's feed-lot beef cattle, and some dairy
herds, are already munching on GM seeds -- not from maize, but from the
Bt-protected GM cotton being grown in Australia. They account for about 30
per cent of production, and the seed is not segregated from conventional
seed. Last week I was amazed to learn that two of Australia's biggest
dairy food manufacturers will not take milk from dairy cattle fed on GM
In the current climate of consumer concern, they see a marketing advantage
in the carefully fostered perception that their products are GM-free.
They're not -- like most cheese manufacturers across the world, they use a
GM protein, called chymosin, to curdle or coagulate the milk in the early
stage of cheesemaking. Chymosin is an enzyme, the active component of
rennet, which until 1990 was only available by slaughtering young calves
and extracting the milk-coagulating agent from their stomachs.
Today, most of the world's cheddar-type cheeses are made with chymosin,
made by splicing the cattle gene into bacteria, which synthesise it in
bulk. I suspect most consumers today would prefer their cheese to be made
with chymosin, rather than know their cheese sandwich or fondue involved
the death of a young calf. Chymosin has been used safely for 12 years.
Chymosin is widely used for cheese-making in Europe, where many consumers
maintain a deep distrust of GM foods. So why isn't cheese labelled as a GM
product in Europe or Australia? Manufacturers shuffle their feet and claim
that chymosin is merely a food additive, so there is no need for a label
-- the implication being that a GM label would merely cause consumers to
worry needlessly about a perfectly healthy food product.
Consumers, unwilling to forgo one of their most cherished traditional
foods, go along with the charade. They are happy to buy the cheese, along
with the little bit of bull that absolves them of the mortal sin of dining
with the enemy.
Foods containing GM ingredients have been on our supermarket shelves for
six years without a single, scientifically reputable report of any adverse
impact on human health: not one case of illness, not a single allergic
reaction, not one poisoning death, and no evidence of any long-term impact
on our health. More than a century ago, similar scare campaigns were waged
against pasteurised milk; it was "unnatural", and meddled with God's
In the early decades of the 20th century, the first wave of hybrid crops
created similar headlines, and plant breeders, such as pioneer American
hybridist Luther Burbank, were vilified from the pulpit and by newspaper
Few people today would dream of risking their health by drinking
unpasteurised milk. Even in Britain and Europe, the heartlands of anti-GM
sentiment, consumers are beginning to realise they have nothing to fear
from GM foods. Common sense is breaking out all over.
India: Call for Science-based Biotech Policy
- Economic Times (India); December 30, 2002 (Sent by Andrew Apel)
New Delhi: India should frame a biotechnology policy which is
"science-based, transparent and timelya and avoid delays in giving
approval for introduction of biotech products in the country, a US expert
said on Monday.
"Delay in introduction of biotechnology related products is as good as
denial," Senator Christopher Bond from Missouri and member of the Senate
Biotechnology Caucus, said here at an interactive session on
ëOpportunities for Cooperation in Biotech Between India and USí.
There had been many applications related to biotech products waiting for
approval in India, said Bond, adding, to fasten the process, policy makers
should work out a science-based, transparent and timely regulatory
mechanism. It was important for establishing partnerships with other
countries like the US, he said. Approval granted to Bt cotton, however,
was a good step. It had led to saving of about $90 per acre for farmers,
Cautioning against the "hysteria" of "some groups" which oppose
biotechnology without any scientific basis, Bond said it was causing delay
in development of new biotechnology products. The US had been consuming
biotechnology products for the past six-seven years, he said. These groups
had their own agenda for which they were trying hard to make governments
interfere against biotech. "Hysteria should not overrule science" he said.
"Biotechnology has tremendous potential in preventing starvation. We had a
debate in the US on the issue. Government bodies and independent
scientific agencies in US have found that biotech products are safe," he
said. Bond said that opposition to genetically modified technology in
Europe was causing frustration among their scientists who were now moving
to US for working in this area.
GM Crops Could Save Endangered Birds
- David Green, East Anglian Daily Times (UK), Dec 26, 2002
Genetically modified crops could help reverse the decline in farmland
birds, according to pioneering research carried out in East Anglia.
A trial at the Broom's Barn research station in Higham, near Bury St
Edmunds, has showed more weeds, seeds and insects ñ the crucial foods of
wild birds ñ survived in a genetically-modified (GM) sugar beet crop than
in a conventional crop and that there was no loss of yield. But a
spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth said organic agriculture offered the
best benefit to wild birds and there was no need to "tinker with nature".
The RSPB also recommended caution in digesting the Broom's Barn results
without waiting for the findings, expected in July, of farm-scale trials.
The trials in Higham ñ the findings of which will be reported to the
Government next month ñ are thought to comprise the first major attempt to
test the impact of GM crops on the environment. Beet fields are usually
sprayed several times a year because the crop competes poorly with weeds.
Spraying is agriculturally effective, but it wipes out the weeds and
insects which help sustain birds such as the skylark, corn bunting and
Scientists at Broom's Barn let weeds grow between the rows of GM beet
early in the season and sprayed only once before harvest. The yield was
not affected, but the weeds flourished, a summary of the research findings
is understood to say. The findings were welcomed yesterday by Professor
Vivian Moses, chairman of the Cropgen panel which supports GM agriculture.
He claimed many of the environmental fears about the consequences of GM
crops would be proved to be unfounded.
Lynda Goddard, a Suffolk-based anti-GM campaigner for Friends of the
Earth, said the sustainable way of helping farmland birds was organic
agriculture. "The GM trials are another example of using a science just
because it is there. There is no need to tinker with nature," she added.
Mark Avery, director of conservation for the RSPB, said people should
await detailed results from the farm-scale trials of GM crops because it
was the availability of seeds during the autumn and winter that was
Biotech - The Future Has Caught You
- Editorial, The Nation (Thailand), December 26, 2002
Prime Minister Dr Thaksin Shinawatra has made known his keenness about
technology and science advancement. He recommended that the Thai public
read the book "As the Future Catches You" which is about how a revolution
in genetic, digital and scientific knowledge is redefining our lives. The
premier also visited the Science Park earlier this week and was reportedly
impressed by its development as a cluster area for the knowledge business.
He said that within the next five years he would like to see thriving
links between basic research conducted at the university level and at
On Tuesday, a number of experts - from science, finance and business -
attended a forum organised by the Krungthep Turajkij newspaper on business
opportunities in bio-technology development. Some 100 people came to the
event. Many were small businesses looking to advance themselves in this
But sadly, the message was that Thailand is running away from the future
instead of trying to catch it. It has fallen behind many neighbouring
countries in biotech development. Vietnam, the Philippines, China and
Malaysia appear to be moving ahead in regulations, research and endowment
of a suitable infrastructure in biotech development. This is not to forget
that Singapore is placing a huge bet to become the regional hub in biotech
Worst still, Thailand has all the ingredients to become a major player in
the regional biotech development, given its special strengths in food
production, medical skills and measures to protect the environment. No, it
isn't that Thailand does not have the intention to do better in this area
nor do we lack the necessary personnel. Rather, the problems are typically
Thai. The end result is to make a mockery of the prime minister's vision
and all the promises that the government might have made thus far.
Thailand's slowness in biotech development seems to have three key
One, which is typical of all the problems in this country, is "nobody
knows who is doing what, where or why". Regulations related to biotech as
a scientific development and a business enterprise are all over the place.
The recent seminar called for a one-stop shop to facilitate businesses
that want to go into biotech.
Secondly, the regulations are hampering potential growth. The government
cannot delay making a decision, for example, on how Thailand should treat
genetically modified organism products. The current ban on research is
affecting data collection. The lack of a clear direction is not
encouraging more businesses to go into the biotech business.
Thirdly, these problems will not be easily resolved unless the
policymakers get an accurate and complete picture of the biotech industry,
its scope and potential opportunities for this country. Until such a
comprehensive master plan comes about, it will be difficult for businesses
to thrive in the biotech arena.
It is a sector that features great diversity and not always precise
description because unlike manufacturing, biotech extends from pure
research, to the test and trial process, to production, to services. And
as one expert said, the business is "weightless". The government or the
National Competitiveness Committee will have to do better to map out a
workable national strategy. The National Science and Technology
Development Agency can help with its input and make recommendations about
the way forward. Experienced business people in the medical and food
areas, and bankers as well, can also play a crucial role in the process.
The effort thus far has been on visions and promises of the future.
Biotechnology Can Feed The World
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Letters To The Editor), Dec 29, 2002
This is in response to the Dec. 23 letter from Professor Charles J.
Guenther Jr., criticizing an editorial that supported plant biotechnology
and saying that the opposition by some in Europe was ill-founded.
Yes, biotechnology does have the potential to feed many. As the world
population expands, food must be produced to feed the people.
This can be accomplished in only two ways: The first is to clear
wilderness areas and put them into production using present-day production
methods. The second is to adopt newer technologies that can both feed
people and preserve the environment. Plant biotechnology is such a
Even before its introduction 18 years ago, many claimed that the food and
feed derived from modified plants was unsafe for consumption, or that they
posed a threat to the environment. After years of careful testing and
consideration of the added components (proteins), it has been accepted
that all crops and foods developed to date are safe for consumption and
pose no environmental threat. No country has rejected any of this food or
feed for these reasons.
When safety was demonstrated, those who were opposed to the technology
advocated labeling, so that consumers would have a "choice." Food-and-feed
labeling has been providing information that the consumer would need to
make nutritional or safety considerations. Since no hazards have been
discovered, there is no reason for labeling. These labeling rules would be
costly, and these costs ultimately would be born by the consumer.
The United States has led the world in the development and deployment of
new technologies aimed at saving lives and improving our way of life.
Should we follow Guenther's advice and be more cautious, or continue to
work to make the world a better place for all to live in?
Capitalism works; socialism fails.
- Frank Serdy, West County
For A Care-free Lawn
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Letters To The Editor), December 28, 2002
While Europe and the Third World debate genetically modified food,
Monsanto has a huge untapped market for a new GMO product right here in
America. Give us a drought-resistant, Roundup-tolerant lawn grass that
will only grow 3 inches tall - a grass that seldom requires mowing.
Imagine the consternation this product would cause the environmental
alarmists - fretting about the effects of a new GMO vs. being forced to
admire the environmental gains of reduced water usage, fewer hydro-carbons
spewed into the air by 2-cycle lawn mower engines, and reduced dependence
on foreign oil.
Should Monsanto accept this challenge, I have a quarter-acre test plot I
would like to volunteer.
- John P. Ridenhower, Normandy
Biopharming Is Safely Regulated
- Capital Times (Madison, WI), December 28, 2002
Dear Editor: There can be no quarrel with Associate Editor John Nichols'
conclusion in his Dec. 17 column that plants genetically engineered to
produce medicines should not be allowed to contaminate food crops.
However, I disagree with Nichols' assertion that the U.S. Department of
Agriculture is "asleep at the switch" when it comes to protecting the
integrity of the nation's food supply.
Nichols wrote about ProdiGene Inc., a Texas firm that was fined $250,000
by the USDA for violating the federal Plant Protection Act. The USDA is
also requiring the firm to reimburse taxpayers for the roughly $3 million
it will cost to acquire and dispose of 500,000 bushels of Nebraska
soybeans. The company must also post a $1 million bond. That doesn't sound
like a government tap on the wrist. It's more like a deserved whack with a
Industry groups such as the Biotechnology Industry Organization agree
there should be "zero tolerance" of regulatory violations that threaten
public confidence in the nation's food supply. That is why the USDA and
other agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, rigorously
enforce such laws.
The ProdiGene incident should not overshadow the value of the emerging
technology of "biopharming." Plant-made pharmaceuticals can make important
contributions to human health, including the production of proteins for
new drugs to treat and fight life-threatening diseases. By using living
plants instead of traditional manufacturing methods, scientists can
increase the safety, number and quantity of drugs available to patients.
Biopharming is taking place, safely and with little risk to adjoining
fields, in hundreds of carefully monitored test plots nationwide. Given
the choice, I would much rather accept the incredibly minimal risks
associated with biopharming than pass up an enormous opportunity to
produce breakthrough drugs that could help millions of people.
Futility of GM crop case
(Sent by : Of possible interest as the view of one
Euro-anti writing to
those whom he sees as his own community. Once again we see the
missapplication of a logical simile to tar GMO products with the poor
performance of British and EU regulators in the early stages....
Letters to The Editor: Futility of GM Crop Case
- Allan Asher, Financial Times (London); Dec 31, 2002
Sir, It was refreshing to read your editorial "Seeds of conflict"
(December 18). We agree that the US may well win some elements of a broad
challenge to the effective moratorium on genetically modified products in
the European Union, although we are not convinced it would win on
labelling requirements. However, any victory would be a pyrrhic one.
The concern among consumers in Europe about food safety is not a
theoretical one. It should never be forgotten that lapses in food safety,
such as in the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, have killed
people. If the US takes a case on GM foods to the World Trade Organisation
and wins, the overwhelming unpopularity of GM crops will ensure that they
never gain a foothold in EU markets, irrespective of a WTO panel. Perhaps
even more important than this simple calculus would be the setback that
such a victory would pose for reform of EU agriculture and stability of
The EU is already conjuring up wheezes to justify the common agricultural
policy on spurious food safety grounds. A US victory at the WTO on GM
would strengthen the hand of the CAP reactionaries. Worse still, the WTO
system would be tarnished by the massive unpopularity of GM crops.
Does the US really want to put a paper victory, unrealisable in the
market, ahead of the CAP? We sincerely hope not.
- Allan Asher, Campaigns Director, Consumers' Association, London NW1 4DF,
Isoflavones in Glyphosate-Treated Soybeans
- Allan Felsot ; Professor & Extension
Specialist, Washington State
Regarding an old controversy concerning effects of glyphosate on nutrients
and secondary metabolites (like phytoestrogens) produced in RR soybeans,
the January 1, 2003 issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
(vol. 51) has an article by S. Duke et al. "Isoflavone, Glyphosate, and
Aminomethylphosphonic Acid Levels in Seeds of Glyphosate-Treated,
Glyphosate-Resistant Soybean" that shows no statistically significant
differences among herbicide and no-herbicide treatments.
Here is the abstract.
"The estrogenic isoflavones of soybeans and their glycosides are products
of the shikimate pathway, the target pathway of glyphosate. This study
tested the hypothesis that nonphytotoxic levels of glyphosate and other
herbicides known to affect phenolic compound biosynthesis might influence
levels of these nutraceutical compounds in glyphosate-resistant soybeans.
The effects of glyphosate and other herbicides were determined on
estrogenic isoflavones and shikimate in glyphosate-resistant soybeans from
identical experiments conducted on different cultivars in Mississippi and
Missouri. Four commonly used herbicide treatments were compared to a
The herbicide treatments were (1) glyphosate at 1260 g/ha at 3 weeks after
planting (WAP), followed by glyphosate at 840 g/ha at 6 WAP; (2)
sulfentrazone at 168 g/ha plus chlorimuron at 34 g/ha applied preemergence
(PRE), followed by glyphosate at 1260 g/ha at 6 WAP; (3) sulfentrazone at
168 g/ha plus chlorimuron at 34 g/ha applied PRE, followed by glyphosate
at 1260 g/ha at full bloom; and (4) sulfentrazone at 168 g/ha plus
chlorimuron at 34 g/ha applied PRE, followed by acifluorfen at 280 g/ha
plus bentazon at 560 g/ha plus clethodim at 140 g/ha at 6 WAP. Soybeans
were harvested at maturity, and seeds were analyzed for daidzein, daidzin,
genistein, genistin, glycitin, glycitein, shikimate, glyphosate, and the
glyphosate degradation product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA).
There were no remarkable effects of any treatment on the contents of any
of the biosynthetic compounds in soybean seed from either test site,
indicating that early and later season applications of glyphosate have no
effects on phytoestrogen levels in glyphosate-resistant soybeans.
Glyphosate and AMPA residues were higher in seeds from treatment 3 than
from the other two treatments in which glyphosate was used earlier.
Intermediate levels were found in treatments 1 and 2. Low levels of
glyphosate and AMPA were found in treatment 4 and a hand-weeded control,
apparently due to herbicide drift."
From: "Julio S. Bernal"
Re: AGBIOVIEW: Comparing Iowa to Oaxaca;
Andrew Apel wrote:
>>Compare Iowa to Oaxaca
>>Colleagues, As you already know, the winner of the 2002 National Corn
>>Growers Association (NCGA) Corn Yield Contest is again Francis Childs
Normally, I do not respond to any of the messages that I receive from
Agbioview, but I simply could not resist in this case because it is a
highly simplified and disinformative piece of biased information. it
simply ignores (I hope out of ignorance rather than commission) several
well known (for anyone willing to scratch beneath the surface) facts,
e.g.: Mexico has been capable of feeding itself for many years (although
corn has been imported recently, this has more to do with price
differentials than lack of capacity). Yieldgard1 corn has no use in
Mexico--nor would lead to 27 metric ton/ha yields--because corn borers are
not the main, nor a key problem; fall armyworms and grubs are more
important, though insect pests are not a key problem--the main problems
are socioeconomic (ask an Iowa farmer to produce even one ton/ha on a
rocky hillside without fertilizers and water--water and nutrient
deficiency tolerant seed would be more useful than borer-resistant seed;
fortunately, at least a few people are working on this)
The comparison you make has nothing to do with biotech versus non-biotech
stances...would Yieldgard by itself take a Mexican farmer from 1 ton/ha to
27 ton/ha??? the comparison that is made ignores something that we as
Americans frequently take for granted: cheap energy. the information that
is presented would be less biased if you also included the energy inputs
required to produce 27 ton/ha in Iowa versus 1 ton/ha in Oaxaca.
I could go on and on, but I presume that you have gotten the idea. please
present more complete information in your future messages. Unfortunately,
Agbioview is using the tactics - disinformation and manipulation - at it
criticizes of others...
I would hope that in the future Agbioview would be more careful and fair
with the information it makes available.
- Julio S. Bernal, Assistant Professor of Entomology, Texas A&M
University, College Station, TX; http://bclaboratory.tamu.edu/
GM Crops are Breeding With Plants in The Wild
- Geoffrey Lean, Independent (UK), December 26, 2002
Alarming new results from official trials of GM crops are severely
jeopardising Government plans for growing them commercially in Britain.
The results, in a new Government report, show - for the first time in
Britain - that genes from GM crops are interbreeding on a large scale with
conventional ones, and also with weeds. The report is so devastating to
the Government's case for GM crops that ministers last week sought to bury
it by slipping the first information on it out on the website of the
Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Christmas
Eve, the one day in the year when no newspapers are being prepared.
Even then, the department published only a heavily edited summary of the
main report. Unusually, the full report, which will contain much more
devastating detail, was withheld from publication on the website. Defra
said it was available on request, but when The Independent on Sunday tried
to ask for it last week, the department said no one was available to
The report, the result of six years of monitoring of GM crops in Britain,
is particularly politically explosive and it gives the first results from
the official farm-scale trials, which ministers have been running to test
the suitability of growing GM crops in Britain. The Government has
repeatedly said that the results of the trials would settle the question
of whether GM crops endangered the environment but - perhaps because it
knew what the research had found - it has been downplaying their
significance in recent weeks.
The trials - originally set up to buy time in the face of strong public
hostility to the crops - were not designed to look at the possibility of
genes from GM crops contaminating nearby plants, but focusedon the effects
of different uses of pesticides on GM and non-GM plants. But, after this
was criticised, studies of this "gene flow'' were bolted on.
The report covers true studies carried out between 1994 and 2000 by the
National Institute of Agricultural Botany and the Laboratory of the
Government Chemist. It shows that genes from GM oil seed rape, specially
engineered to be resistant to herbicides, contaminated conventional crops
as far as 200 yards away. Equally alarmingly, GM oil seed rape that
escaped from a crop harvested in 1996 persisted for at least four years,
until studies ended in 2000.
In another case, the report adds: "It was found that some combine
harvesters were not cleaned after the harvesting of the GM crop,'' and
"subsequently flushed out'' the GM seed on to ground intended for
conventional crops "causing contamination of this field.''
Most worryingly of all, the report shows that the GM crop readily
interbred with a weed, wild turnip, giving it resistance to herbicides and
thus raising the prospect of the development of "super weeds". The report
concludes that the research "indicates that commercial-scale releases of
GM oil seed rape in future could pollinate other crops and wild turnip''.
Other studies from elsewhere in the world have shown that interbreeding
occurs, and English Nature, the Government's wildlife watchdog, has said
super weeds will "inevitably'' emerge in Britain if GM crops are grown
commercially. In a commentary also published by Defra on Christmas Eve,
the official advisory committee on releases to the environment said that
the contamination was "entirely within expectations''.
The committee added that "in itself'' gene flow did not constitute a risk
to the environment. But Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth said the
results showed that if GM crops became widespread, almost all similar
crops would inevitably become contaminated, severely threatening organic
agriculture. He added: "It is not surprising that the Government has tried
to cover up this report.
"It shows that we need to know a great deal more about these issues before
we even contemplate growing GM crops commercially"
Ministry Denies Burying Report on GM Crops
- Financial Times (London), December 31, 2002
The government has denied that it tried to bury a report showing how genes
move from genetically modified crops into neighbouring fields. Anti-GM
groups seized on the report as confirmation of their fears that
large-scale genetic "contamination" of other plants is inevitable once GM
crops are commercialised in Britain.
Friends of the Earth also attacked the Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs for quietly posting a summary of the report on an
obscure part of the Defra website on Christmas eve, without making any
announcement or issuing a press release.
But Defra said the "unfortunate" timing was the result of officials trying
to clear their desks before Christmas and not an attempt to bury the
report. Michael Meacher, environment minister, told the BBC: "I can assure
you there is no wish to conceal. It is another case, as is so often the
case, of cock-up rather than conspiracy."
Defra commissioned the report from the National Institute of Agricultural
Botany and the Laboratory for the Government Chemist. It gives the results
of monitoring experimental plots of GM oilseed rape from 1994 to 2000. As
a result of cross-pollination and interbreeding, genes for herbicide
resistance spread from GM fields into conventional oilseed rape and into
wild turnip, a weed closely related to rape. Significant levels of "gene
flow" into non-GM rape were found up to 200 metres from the GM crop.
The government's advisory committee on releases to the environment said:
"The extent of gene flow . . . was entirely within expectations."
Cummins and Obfuscation
- Roger Morton
Prof Cummins wrote:
>> The CaM virus never integrated into the DNA of the chromosome and it is
>> circular. The virus replicates from RNA copies in the cytoplasm to make
>> protein bound virus particles in the plant cell cytoplasm. In contrast
>> CaMV promoter used in most genetic constructions is integrated into the
>> chromosome from a bacterial plasmid and its neighboring genes are most
>> frequently synthetic transgenes along with the bacterial sequences.
Where the gene is incorporated into the plant chromatin and for all
intents and purposes behaves like a plant gene.
So are you trying to say that a bit of CaMV promoter sequence incorporated
into plant chromatin is MORE dangerous than millions of copies of the
complete virus? How is this so?
Thu, 19 Dec 2002 Prof Cummins wrote:
>> The CaMV promoter **in the chromosome** is a hot spot for genetic
>> presumably a consequence of transcription related
>> recombination and mutation).
1. Care to supply any evidence to back this claim up? Other than your
usual reference to the Kohli et al 1999 paper - which reveals that a
section of the CaMV 35S promoter is a recombination hotspot BEFORE the DNA
intergrates into the chromosome. Have you read Gahakwa et al., 2000? This
paper shows that this construct displays stable inheritance of the
transgenic locus - ie the CaMV 35S promoter is NOT a recombination hotspot
Do you have any evidence that the CaMV promoter contains a recombination
hotspot that functions after integration in the chromosome?
2. Even if the CaMV promoter contains such a recombination hotspot could
you please explain how such an sequence entails any increased risk when
you consider the fact that all plants that have had a genetic and physical
chromosome map constructed show evidence of many 'natural' recombination
hotspots. For one example see Gorman, Banasiak, et al. 1996.
3. Since you are an expert on the risks of virus promoters could you tell
me specifically what properties of the CaMV 35S promoter differ from the
virus-like promoters of the thousands of transposable elements that are
found in all plants?
How do these differences provide any increased risks over and above the
risks already entailed in eating plant DNA?
Can you please answer these 3 questions without obfuscation?
Kohli A, Griffiths S, Palacios N, Twyman RM, Vain P, Laurie DA, Christou P
(1999) Molecular characterization of transforming plasmid rearrangements
in transgenic rice reveals a recombination hotspot in the CaMV 35S
promoter and confirms the predominance of microhomology-mediated
recombination. Plant Journal, 17 (6): 591-601
Gahakwa D, Maqbool SB, Fu X, Sudhakar D, Christou P, Kohli A (2000)
Transgenic rice as a system to study the stability of transgene
expression: Multiple heterologous transgenes show similar behaviour in
diverse genetic backgrounds. Theoretical and Applied Genetics.101 (3): 388
Gorman SW, Banasiak D, et al. 1996 Mol Gen Genet (1996) 251: 52-59 A 610
kb YAC clone harbors 7 cM of tomato ( Lycopersicon esculentum) DNA that
includes the male sterile 14 gene and a hotspot for recombination
Reply From: "jcummins"
Re: Cummins and obfuscation
Hi Roger, It is nice to hear from you and I will try to reply even though
you will , as usual, deal with what you want rather than what I say. The
main point I wish to reiterate is that I believe that it is wrong to
assume that the CaMV integrated into the chromosomal DNA ( and frequently
with its DNA sequence "tuned" and flanked by synthetic genes) is
equivalent to the CaMV promoter contained in the virus and not naturally
integrated into the chromosome. It is wrong to assume that the fact that
the virus exists is sufficient evidence of the safety of the integrated
Regarding your comment "Have you read Gahakwa et al., 2000? This paper
shows that this construct
>> displays stable inheritance of the transgenic locus - ie the CaMV 35S
>> promoter is NOT a recombination hotspot after intergration."
Most recombination "hot spots" do not cause segregation distortion, stable
inheritance follows recombination, segregation distortion is a separate
phenomenon. However, most very productive loci have promoters effected by
transcription related recombination and mutation. Your comment "Even if
the CaMV promoter contains such a recombination hot spot could you
>> please explain how such an sequence entails any increased risk when you
>> consider the fact that all plants that have had a genetic and physical
>> chromosome map constructed show evidence of many 'natural' recombination
>> hotspots. For one example see Gorman, Banasiak, et al. 1996."
You pretend that I have claimed that there are no other hot spots rather
than CaMV and that appears to be a crude effort to make yourself look
authoritative rather than just bitchy. The main point is that adequate
safety tests have not been supported because it is assumed that the
synthetic constructs are equal to the native organism. Highly active
exchange between the integrated virus promoter and viral sequences have
been reported ie(Wintermantel, W.M. and Schoelz, J.E. (1996). Isolation of
recombinant viruses between cauliflower mosaic virus and a viral gene in
transgenic plants under conditions of moderate selection pressure.
Virology 223, 156-164.)
However, in recent years there seems to have been little support for
genetic studies (meaning studies of molecular recombination)of the CaMV
promoter integrated with transgenes nor for that matter the popular
figwort mosaic virus promoter.Such studies should have been done before
the constructs saw widespread distribution. I think where we differ the
most is that you are driven by faith in the niceness of genetic
engineering constructs and feel no real need for experiments, many of us
feel that faith should be based on experiments. I hope this helps you
understand what we have said.
- Sincerely, Joe Cummins
International Crop Science Congress
- Queensland, Australia; Sept 26 - Oct 1, 2004
The 4th International Crop Science Congress - entitled 'New directions for
a hungry planet' - will review and harness the best science in all
disciplines that must be integrated to achieve sustainable development in
the great cropping systems that feed the world.
4ICSC will enhance the knowledge and skills base of the international crop
science community as well as leading edge growers, industry policy-makers
and agribusiness representatives who will all be invited to attend. There
will be a large number of high-level international speakers. In addition,
the scientific program will include technical visits to a number of
diverse cropping areas near Brisbane.
Congress participants will be both public and private sector crop
scientists, research managers, research funders, policy makers,
agribusiness professionals and leading farmers from around the world, thus
fostering consideration of the total global effort in crop science.
Emphasis will be placed on having participation by crop scientists from
developing countries, the International Agricultural Research Centres and
the private sector.
THEME 3 - Crop science for harnessing genetics
Society is becoming increasingly interested and involved in issues
surrounding the development, use and safety of new crop varieties. The
first plenary paper addresses many of these important global issues, with
a related symposium exploring some aspects in more detail in the
developing and developed world. The use of classical breeding techniques
in the development of better-adapted, more nutritious crops has
underpinned the supply of food for an ever-increasing world population.
There is uncertainty, however, as to whether such procedures can continue
to meet this demand. The second plenary paper will address the integration
of the new biotechnology tools with classical approaches, a probable
necessity if we are to meet these growing demands for food.
Crop science is an integrating discipline by which knowledge from the
underlying sciences such as genetics can be harnessed for enhanced
production of various crop-based products in an ecologically sustainable
manner. This is a dynamic and rapidly evolving area that is providing
scientists with an enhanced understanding of the biology that underlies
traits of interest. DNA sequence information once only available for
simple model species is now being generated for important crop species
while efficient transformation systems offer the promise of exploiting new
genetic variation, and deploying new genes in a more rapid time frame.
Our challenge is to successfully harness this information and these
technologies to improve breeding of new varieties. Symposia in this theme
highlight the opportunities and the challenges in harnessing genetic
information for crop improvement, including the role of whole genome
sequencing of model organisms, the complexity of the gene to phenotype
system, the exciting opportunities in addressing biotic and abiotic
stresses and of delivering new output traits by manipulation of plant
metabolism, new frontiers in use of molecular markers, the changing role
of the private and public sectors in world-wide breeding efforts, and the
importance of accessing genetic resources to provide genetic variability.
2002: The Year of Activist Lunacy
Read full Article with links to stories at http://www.consumerfreedom.com
2003 arrives in just a few hours, so today we thought we'd take a look
back at 2002 to remember the most astonishing, aggressive, and newsworthy
activities of social activists who make your food and beverage choices
It's been a busy year, full of all sorts of headlines. Here are some of
our favorites, as we would have written them:
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. calls pork farmers a greater threat than Osama bin
PETA donates to eco-terror group; ringleader pleads the fifth amendment
over 50 times
Scientific journal Nature retracts anti-biotech "study"; activists
continue to fiddle while Africa starves
American Public Health Association hops on pop, ignores real science
Animal rights loonies break campaign finance laws, add pigs to Florida
constitution; pigs to be slaughtered
Happy New Year from the Center for Consumer Freedom!
Eyewitness: Behind Africaís Famine
- BBC News, December 29, 2002 (Sent by Andrew Apel)
Millions of Africans face severe food shortages. The BBCís Alastair
Leithead travels through southern Africa to discover why the region is in
the grip of a potentially devastating famine.
There are a mixture of strange and conflicting emotions associated with
witnessing and reporting on a humanitarian crisis like that currently
unfolding across southern Africa. My first, surprisingly, were cynicism
and doubt. How could these people possibly be short of food when the land
was so green, the rain so heavy, Lake Kariba in Zambia so big?
Was this just aid agencies justifying their own existence by
over-emphasising poverty and dressing it up in the clothes of famine -
were they simply courting the media and using us to legitimise their
business plan? And was it not in the African governmentsí best interests
to play along and watch rich countries pay for their social welfare? But
like the plough turning over last yearís failed crops, you must cut
through the surface and peer beneath, to uncover the true scale of this
Vital aid. People are not dying of hunger, but people are at the stage
where they would die if the truck and train loads of aid were not being
distributed to those most in need. The harvest is due in March at the very
earliest, May for most, but the small round grass-topped mud huts sitting
on stilts that keep the village maize reserves good between harvests are
empty - there is nothing to eat.
It was pitiful watching the old woman thinly slice a bowl of roots and
barbs, dug up to fill the stomachs of the hungry. Eight hours of boiling
removes the toxins, but also the nutrients - they are merely stomach
packing to take your mind off eating until tomorrow.
Bleak Christmas. It was an unusual Christmas morning, arriving in the
village of Monjo in Malawi. The jeeps turned into a little settlement of a
hundred mud houses and the children came running - as delighted to see us
as they would have been to see their Santa Claus, bringing them the maize
and the protein that would stop their little bodies being blown up like
balloons and turning them fat from hunger.
Their singing was spontaneous and enthusiastic, the music a fabulous
grinning chorus of harmonies. But the meaning of the words sent a shiver.
This was no Christmas song: ìHunger is all over the country,î they sang,
ìhunger is all over the village, hunger has surrounded all the
householdsî, and, ìThis is the modern hunger, how can we eat?î
The chief was grateful for the food sacks supplied by the aid agencies who
had taken us to the village, but he kept talking about a bore-hole, and
that when he had that he could irrigate some of the fields and keep the
maize growing even if the rains failed. And that, of course, is the key to
tackling this crisis - the aid is a stop-gap to prevent people from dying,
but a long term solution is the way forward.
Countries in crisis. Rushing from country to country and spending only a
couple of days in each, was a challenge simply to find out the truth under
the surface as quickly as possible. But on reflection, a picture emerges
of this hunger in southern Africa. It is a new kind of famine, the
landscape may be lush, but poverty runs deep, and HIV/Aids has robbed
communities of the coping strategies that have brought them through
And each country has its own individual crisis - its own explanation for
why it has not been able to cope. In Zambia, the delayed dispatch of food
aid as genetically modified maize had to be removed from the silos, in
front of the hungry people, and replaced by non-GM food. In Zimbabwe, the
political crisis playing out through economic collapse and evidence of aid
being targeted away from pro-opposition areas. In Malawi, the selling off
of the countryís grain reserves just before the drought, the money
unaccounted for, the IMF and World Bank accused of giving bad advice and
making things worse. In Lesotho, where 31% of adults are HIV positive, an
increasing number of orphans pressure the traditional family group and the
whole structure of society is being remoulded.
Unfortunately, my initial cynicism on the famine was unfounded - there is
real tragedy here, and while food aid patches it up and keeps people
alive, long term planning - irrigation, development and poverty reduction
- are the only ways to prevent this from repeating itself every time the
Poverty Has Broken the Cultural Values
- Sheikh Chifuwe, The Post (Zambia) - AAGM, Dec 29 2002
Full Story at http://allafrica.com/stories/200212290432.html
She neither knows her age nor that of her only two daughters but recalls
vividly how starvation has broken the cultural values.
Esther Sakala, a South African by birth in her 90s, who lives in the heart
of Chief Mwanjabantu's area in Petauke district in Eastern Province
narrates how starvation has further cemented the bondage with her
daughters, Eda and Uria Sakala.
Although Sakala cannot remember when she came to Zambia with her late
husband who went to work in the mines in Cape Town, South Africa, the
headmaster at a nearby Primary School Blazius Nkhuwa says the couple
together with Eda and Uria arrived in the village sharing the border with
Mozambique in 1940.
She says the hunger situation in the country, particularly Chief
Mwanjabantu's area has caused moral decay with the girl-child forced into
early marriages for dowry and young boys getting involved in illicit
activities. "What we are seeing today never used to happen a few years
back, the hunger situation has worsened things and the parents are
helpless," said Sakala.
"At least someone should give people enough food to feed their families."
Sakala who can faintly remember when her husband, Enersto Mwanza died,
says it is sometimes a miracle to have a plate of food on the table.
Sakala said she could not marry off her two daughters - Uria and Eda in
their 60s and 50s respectively because she was scared of starving to death
as no one else would look after her.
"We are happy the way we are staying, look at me, I am just a helpless old
woman who is supposed to be looked after," she said. "At least my
daughters cross to Mozambique to work for food, we are really suffering
here." Asked whether she would be eager to return to South Africa, Sakala
hesitates before saying she has never been in touch with any of her
relatives over 50 years ago. She said if the Zambian authorities were not
eager to cushion the suffering of the people in Chief Mwanjabantu's area,
she would look up to God for the family's continued survival. "We have
never seen any relief food here, we are very desperate," she said. "There
is no one to assist us since my husband died many years ago."
Both Uria and Eda do not have a slight idea of what happened since they
arrived in the country because they were 'little' girls. Village headman
Julius Mumba said the suffering of Sakala and her two daughters was a
reflection of the entire village which was now threatened with a sombre
Mumba said some of his people stayed in Mozambique for as long as two
weeks in search of food, leaving their fields unattended to. "People used
to feed on Mangoes but they have run out and I won't be surprised of
people dying of hunger if nothing is done immediately," mourned Mumba.
And another villager Grace Mbewe, a mother of seven said all her children
don't go to school because they had to work to feed themselves. Mbewe
whose eldest child is 18 years old expressed worry that the mangoes people
were feeding on were running out, creating immense uncertainty and fear
among the people.
"Do you think a hungry child can go to school?" she asked. "They have to
work to feed themselves so that they don't die from starvation." World
Food Programme (WFP) emergency operations co-ordinator David Rhody
admitted that the food security situation had deteriorated further this
year because of drought, especially in Southern and Western provinces
during the 2001/2002 farming season.
Rhody said according to the assessment of August this year, 32,000 metric
tonnes of cereal was required every month to cater for the 2.7 million
people in a desperate hunger situation. Rhody said there was enough relief
food from Tanzania and South Africa in the pipeline which will last until
March next year. He said WFP in collaboration with the Zambian government
was working with donors in order to deploy significant food reserves
during the emergency operations.
"I think that January, February and March are going to be reasonably well
catered for," he said. "Our goal is to provide all the needs." Rhody,
however, expressed doubt that all the affected people would receive their
ration this month because of importation delays following government's
rejection of the GMOs. Vice-President Enoch Kavindele last week assured
that not a single Zambian would die from starvation.
Vice-President Kavindele expressed confidence that even in the absence of
GMOs, government had taken measures to ensure that emergency supplies did
not run out completely.
Rhody said it was difficult to immediately replace the rejected cereal
GMOs which was now being taken to Malawi which is equally hit by the
crisis in the Southern African region. Kapoche member of parliament
Charles Banda feared that the situation would worsen next year because
people were trekking to neighbouring Mozambique to work for food instead
of the villagers working on their fields.
Katinta village headman Henry Mwanza in Mutenguleni, Chipata demanded for
the distribution of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) foods if
government was failing to feed the people on non GMO cereals. Mwanza,
flanked by his induna Ganizani Mwanza, said it was demeaning to the people
when they did not have food to feed themselves.
He said people have been eating more poisonous wild fruits and roots than
GMOs and did not understand why government would let its people starve to
death. "Is it being irresponsible for government to let its people eat
wild fruits instead of feeding them with GMOs?" he asked.
"Why are our friends in the neighbouring Malawi eating the same maize, the
truth is that our leaders don't care about their people." Mwanza appealed
to government to immediately address the problem of hunger if lives were
to be saved. Chipata Central FDD member of parliament Matthew Mwale
believes that peri-urban areas have been left out in the distribution of