Today in AgBioView - January 9, 2003
* Smear Continues
* Lomborg Responds...Matter of Scientific Dishonesty - DCSD
* Stalinist Kangoo Court; Attack on Lomborg
* Genetically Modified Wheat May Be Allowed
* India: Govt May Give in to US Plea for Entry of Soya-corn
* 'Moderate' Prohibition: A new study by CSPI isn't in the public
* Seed banks and Biotech .... More Responses
* Anti-biotech Radicals Turn Research Into A War Zone
* US record on GM maize
* WFP Moves GM Food to Malawi
* The Future of Life
* A Developing-world Take on Science Literacy
* Reconciling the Contrasts Between CBD and TRIPS
- Nick Schulz, TechCentral Station, January 8, 2003
When Bjorn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist was published a
little over a year ago it caused an immediate sensation in the United
States and Europe for its unconventionally optimistic take on
At the time, I asked Ronald Bailey, the author and editor of two books on
the environment and the foremost expert in the United States on the
intersection of science policy and political controversy, what he thought
of the book. "Lomborg doesn't have a clue what's about to happen to him,"
Bailey said. "I feel sorry for him."
Bailey was right.
In a little over a year, a global smear campaign has attempted to
discredit the Danish academic who had the audacity to question the
hysterics and distortions of the modern day environmental movement. So
threatened were the professional environmental pessimists in academia,
NGOs and think tanks by Lomborg's arguments and ideas, they lashed out and
viciously attacked him, seeking to destroy his credibility. The attack
included a one-sided smear in the pages of Scientific American, protesters
throwing pies at him at speaking engagements, and a website,
www.anti-lomborg.com, devoted to discrediting him.
The smear has now reached a new low, with the Danish Committees on
Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) playing the 17th Century Catholic Church to
Lomborg's heretical Galileo. The DCSD has written a 16-page book report
denouncing the Dane for publishing a book that they say falls "within the
concept of scientific dishonesty."
"The publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good
scientific practice," the Committees concluded. This smear was then picked
up and amplified by The New York Times, Washington Post, and other
But the Committees' report is nothing more than a rehashing of the
complaints already lodged against Lomborg, complaints that are largely
without merit or that he has refuted. For example, the Committees rely
heavily on Stephen Schneider's complaint about Lomborg's treatment of
climate science in The Skeptical Environmentalist. The Committees describe
Schneider as "a particularly respected researcher who has been discussing
these problems for 30 years."
But Schneider is hardly always a paragon of scientific integrity. In a now
famous interview with Discover magazine, Schneider showed his true colors:
"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific
method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but - which means that we must include all the doubts, the
caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just
scientists but human beings as well. And like most people, we'd like to
see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our
working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do
that, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's
imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So
we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements,
and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Í Each of us has to
decide what the right balance is between being effective and being
Would the Committees deem that admission within "the standards of good
scientific practice"? It is those "scary scenarios Í simplified, dramatic
statements" that Lomborg sought to address in his book. But what the
Committees and others who perpetuate the smear against Lomborg don't
realize just yet is they have a bigger problem on their hands. The extreme
pessimism of the environmental movement doesn't stand up to scrutiny, and
more and more scientists who refuse to be cowed by academic bullies and
their lapdogs in the press are speaking out.
This April, Jack Hollander, the distinguished emeritus professor at
Berkeley, is publishing a new book "The Real Environmental Crisis: How
Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment's Number One Enemy." An early
draft of the book shows it deepens our understanding of many of the same
themes Lomborg discussed in The Skeptical Environmentalist and denounces
in convincing fashion the extreme pessimism of the environmental movement
typified by Schneider and others who have attacked Lomborg.
In the meantime, in the effort "to capture the public's imagination," as
Schneider so honestly put it, the smears against Lomborg and others will
no doubt continue.
For more on the Lomborg controversy:
The Ruling on The Matter of Scientific Dishonesty From The DCSD
- Comment by Bj»rn Lomborg, Press release, Copenhagen 2003-01-07
(Forwarded by a friend)
In the beginning of last year several complaints regarding my book ŰThe
Sceptical EnvironmentalistÝ were handed in to the Danish Committee on
Scientific Dishonesty (the DCSD). Naturally, I have been looking forward
to being cleared of the charges of scientific dishonesty. Therefore I have
submitted my comments on many of the accusations to DCSD.
Unfortunately the DCSD has made their decision without taking a position
to the content of the complaints. The DCSD has ruled that Űit is not
DCSD's remit to decide who is right in a contentious professional issueÝ.
I find this ruling inexplicable and it means that there is still no ruling
about the numerous complaints put forth in public. So I maintain that the
complaints of the plaintiffs are unfounded.
The main conclusion by DCSD finds that my book is Űclearly contrary to the
standards of good scientific practiceÝ because of systematically biased
selection of data and arguments. But since the DCSD has neglected to take
their position on the technical scientific disputes their conclusions are
completely unfounded. The DCSD does not give a single example to
demonstrate their claim of a biased choice of data and arguments.
Consequently, I donÝt understand this ruling. It equals an accusation
without defining the crime.
The DCSD, however, refers to the criticism of my book put forth by 4
scientists in Scientific American. This is a one-year-old discussion,
which I participated in at that time, e.g. by writing a 34-page response
But in spite of the fact that the DCSD received a copy of my response,
they refer to none of my arguments. In fact the only thing that the DCSD
does is to repeat the Scientific American arguments over 6 pages, while
only allowing my arguments 1_ line. This seems to reflect an extremely
biased procedure. On top of that the DCSD has failed to evaluate the
scientific points in dispute outlined in Scientific American article.
My initial response when I read the conclusion of the DCSD was one of
surprise and discomfort. But when reading through the complete ruling I
found it to be:
* Inexplicable in its negligence to take a position on the complaints of
* Undocumented by ruling the book to be systematically biased without
documenting this with a single example
* Biased by its reference to only one side of the comprehensive discussion
concerning my book (the plaintiffs side)
Stalinist Kangoo Court
You will have heard about Bjorn Lomborg's book 'The Skeptical
Environmentalist'. You may also have heard the astonishing news this week
that Lomborg has been 'found guilty' of 'scientific dishonesty' by a
kangaroo court of the Danish Research Agency, equivalent of a national
academy of sciences. The details of this decision are mind-boggling in
their stalinism. A committee met, ignored Lomborg's own submissions,
judged him guilty and yet then said they were not competent to judge
whether Lomborg's conclusions were correct. I'm sure you all share my
belief that this is a grotesque attack on freedom of speech as well as a
terrible slur on the reputation of a fine scholar -- even those of you who
disagree fervently with Lomborg's conclusions about the possibility for
I am just a freelance writer with no institutional back-up, but I hope
that others to whom I am sending this message will be able to suggest ways
in which this appalling event does not go uncondemned by other national
science academies and other bodies with respect for freedom of speech in
scientific debate. We may not all like what Lomborg says, but we have a
duty to defend his right to say it.
As pointed out by one of my colleagues, the committee said Lomborg doesn't
have ă'any special scientific expertiseă' on the issues he's dealing with.
The people on the committee are:
* Nils Axelsen, a medical doctor
* Finn Collin, a philosopher
* Jorgen Dalberg-Larsen, a lawyer
* Arne Helwig, an agronomist
* Margareta Jarvinen, a political scientist
Attack on Lomborg
- Alex Avery,
They had to stretch things enormously even to grant themselves
"jurisdiction" to pass judgement on Lomborg. The Working Party's
conclusion section belies the purely political nature of the charade:
"It is the view of the Working Party that the many, particularly American
researchers, who have received BL's book with great gusto, even in a
specifically negative fashion, are unlikely to have even given the book
the time of day unless it had received such overwhelmingly positive
write-ups in leading American newspapers and in The Economist. The USA is
a society with the highest energy consumption in the world, and there are
powerful interests in the USA bound up with increasing energy consumption
and with the belief in free market forces. The USA is also responsible for
a substantial part of the research into this and other areas dealt with by
BL claims that he has presented all the facts and has substantiated this
with a large body of notes...What is not usual in "common"
specialist-scientific discussion is BL's personal attacks and apparent
inability to take part in such a discussion, cf. the critique of BL's
style of argument and of the fact that he, so to speak, accepts nothing of
the massive criticism."
They don't like being criticized, especially in such a public manner. And
they don't like America or Americans. As Lomborg says, "It's like I've
been accused of murder, but they won't say who I killed."
Stalinist is an apt comparison, but somebody else (who doesn't like BL)
compared BL to Lysenko. NO, those who would savage BL in such a puppet
court full of idealogues are the neo-Lysenkoists.
Genetically Modified Wheat May Be Allowed
- Martin Mittelstaedt, The Globe and Mail/National (Canada) Jan 8, 2002
Canada soon could become the first country to allow farmers to grow
genetically modified wheat, ending the grain's status as the only major
crop that has not been subject to genetic engineering. Monsanto Canada, a
biotechnology company, applied to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
during the Christmas week to permit the release of wheat it genetically
manipulated to make it tolerant of the company's Roundup brand of
herbicide. It also seeks approval to feed the modified wheat to livestock.
A separate review on the safety of the company's genetically modified
wheat -- used for products ranging from bread to pastries and noodles --
is before Health Canada. The applications are the last major step before
the full commercial production of genetically modified wheat, which could
grow in fields as early as next year or 2005, if federal regulators find
no safety concerns.
"This assumes that everything is okay," said Stephen Yarrow, director of
the plant biosafety office at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in
Ottawa. Mr. Yarrow said Canada could become the first country to allow
genetically modified wheat, although Monsanto applied for approval from
U.S. authorities when it approached Canadian regulators.
Monsanto officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. Farmers can
grow genetically engineered corn, soybeans and canola. Only small,
experimental trials involving wheat have been undertaken in Canada.
Monsanto's modified wheat seed is believed to contain genes from a
bacterium. The foreign genetic material allows the wheat to withstand the
company's herbicide, which kills all surrounding plants. By reducing the
competition from weeds, companies developing herbicide tolerance believe
crops from genetically modified seed would help farmers obtain higher
In nature, unrelated species such as a bacterium and a plant are unable to
exchange genetic material. The introduction of foreign genetic material
has prompted most of the critics, who question the safety and the need for
India: Government May Give in to US Plea for Entry of Soya-corn
- The Economic Times, January 8, 2003
New Delhi: The Centre will consider an appeal by aid groups to allow a
planned shipment of soya blended with corn which had been rejected because
it was unclear if it had been genetically modified, officials said on
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee in November turned down an
application by US-based aid groups CARE and the Catholic Relief Society
(CRS) to import the shipment to make food for impoverished school
children. Officials from the environment ministry, which oversees the
committee, said the consignment was not approved because it lacked proper
certification. "Our contention is they should certify that it does not
contain StarLink or any other genetically-modified and harmful variety," a
senior ministry official said.
StarLink - spliced with a gene deadly to the corn borer pest - has been
approved in the United States for animal feed but not for human
consumption due to concerns it might cause allergic reactions.
The official said the application only said the food had been tested for
A US embassy spokesman in New Delhi said the soya-corn blend was safe for
human consumption and contained no Starlink DNA. "There is no rejection,
they have deferred approval and it is going to the appellate authority and
we believe it will make a favourable determination," the spokesman said.
"We are encouraged that the committee has agreed to review the issue of
importation of corn-soyabean blend for food aid deliveries, especially
since it has been proven to be safe for human consumption," the spokesman
added. The ministry official said CARE and CRS appeal would be considered
A "Moderate" Prohibition: A new study by 'Center for Science In the Public
Interest' isn't in the public interest.
- Ronald Bailey, Reason Online http://www.reason.com/rb/rb010803.shtml
"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lacks both the authority and the
information to adequately evaluate the safety of genetically engineered
(GE) foods," claims the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)
in a just-released study. An uncritical Washington Post story about the
study describes CSPI as "moderate" on the issue because the activist group
claims it is not in principle opposed to genetically enhanced crops. But
with this new report, they join the unmoderate ranks of the activist
groups trying to effectively block crop biotechnology.
What does CSPI see as the solution to the gaping holes in the regulatory
safety net that allegedly imperil the health of all Americans? Establish
"a mandatory pre-market approval system that requires biotechnology
companies to submit much more detailed testing information and obtain FDA
approval before marketing the product."
The CSPI report claims that, by mining the data voluntarily submitted by
biotech companies to the FDA, it uncovered a number of serious lapses in
protecting consumer health. For example, the CSPI claims that the FDA was
given incomplete data about a type of corn, MON 809, modified to increase
its resistance to insects. The CSPI declared that the company had failed
to supply data to show that it was nutritionally equivalent to
conventional corn fed to cattle. The only problem is that the MON 809 was
never put on the market, so there was simply no need for the company to
submit a complete set of data. However, CSPI does acknowledge that the
company did submit adequate data for the MON 810 variety that it actually
Another alleged FDA lapse occurred when the agency supposedly failed to
question a developer about the dietary history of a viral gene that it had
included in its tomatoes and cantaloupes. But was the FDA really
negligent? The developer argued that including the gene in its crop
varieties is safe because human beings are already naturally exposed to
proteins made by the T3 virus in question. As evidence, the developer
submitted a peer-reviewed scientific study showing that the T3 virus has
been found in the human colon and small intestine. This did not satisfy
the CSPI, which argues that the FDA should have demanded evidence that T3
virus regularly passes through the entire digestive tract from mouth to
anus. "How do they think the T3 viruses got into the colon in the first
place if not by passing through the entire digestive tract?" asks Val
Giddings, director of food and agricultural policy at the Biotechnology
The important point here is that scientific inquiry has no obvious
endpoint. There are always more questions that can be asked. The CSPI
could just as easily have insisted that regulatory approvals be held up
until the developer provided scientific studies on the entire life cycle
of the T3 virus in the human gut or what its chances of virulently
recombining with smallpox would be in the event of a bioterrorism attack.
Activist lawyers are masters at ginning up endless interrogatories
designed to jam up the regulatory process.
It turns out that many of the "lapses" that the CSPI claims to have found
in the FDA's written records could have been easily cleared up had its
researchers bothered to call the FDA or the biotech companies. "The report
either knowingly misleads or is the product of unbelievable incompetence,"
In any case, do the regulators at the FDA think the agency needs more
authority to police foods made from genetically enhanced crops? No. Back
in 1992, the FDA issued a report, Foods Derived From New Plant Varieties,
which declared that its "existing statutory authority" was "fully adequate
to ensure the safety of new food ingredients and foods derived from new
varieties of plants, regardless of the process by which such foods and
ingredients are produced." Indeed, food producers have "a clear legal
duty...to assure the safety of foods they offer to consumers." Not only
would producers who offer products that harm their customers be subject to
the usual civil penalties, but they could also be hauled into criminal
Do genetically enhanced crops pose any novel dangers to the health of
consumers such that the CSPI's desired level of scrutiny is justified? No.
North Carolina State University entomologist Fred Gould, who headed up a
prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel that issued a report
on the safety of biotech crops in 2000 declared on National Public Radio:
"Looking through all the information available to us, looking through
piles of data that were submitted by the companies for the registration
process, as well as literature in the peer review journals, we found no
evidence there was any reason to suspect these crops of not being safe."
Gregory Conko, the director of food safety policy at the free-market
Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., argues, "There is no
evidence at all that genetically modified crops are any riskier than crops
produced using conventional breeding techniques." He adds, "No crop plants
produced using conventional breeding techniques could possibly pass the
tests required for approving genetically modified crops."
Gould points out that the NAS panel compared the safety of conventionally
bred crops with genetically enhanced crops. "What we did find was that if
you were comfortable with the level of safety in conventionally bred
crops, we could say that there was no added concern from having
genetically engineered crops with the same kind of traits," he said.
"There's nothing special about the genetic engineering... process, that's
going to make the plant less safe." In other words, if you're afraid of
biotech crops, you should be equally afraid of conventional crops. Perhaps
the CSPI will call for the strict regulation of all food crops, both
biotech and conventional. The soaring prices for food that would result
should make consumers happy.
So, is the health of millions of Americans imperiled by FDA regulatory
toothlessness with regard to biotech crops? After all, some 70 percent of
all processed foods in the United States are made using ingredients from
biotech crops. If there were a major problem with biotech foods it should
be apparent by now.
Despite the absence of evidence that there is any problem, the biotech
crop regulatory scheme that the CSPI appears to be calling for would be
similar to the FDA's strict regulation of pharmaceuticals. It is worth
pondering that it costs an estimated $800 million to bring a new drug to
market. Consequently, you find some bottles of pills costing $120.
However, it is doubtful that consumers would be willing to pay $120 per
pound for genetically enhanced tomatoes or potatoes. Ultimately, the CSPI
position with regard to biotech crops would more accurately be summed up
as, "We're not against genetically modified crops in principle; we're just
against each and every variety individually."
--- Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent, is the editor of Global
Warming and Other Eco Myths (Prima Publishing) and Earth Report 2000:
Revisiting the True State of the Planet(McGraw-Hill).
Seed banks and Biotech
- Roger Morton
Andrew Apel wrote:
>> Yes, that's true. Obsolete and worthless. The more advanced the
>> of gene function and transfection becomes, the more pointless
>> "biodiversity" and seed banks become. Seed banks and biodiversity are
>> important if your only available technology is conventional breeding.
>> more advanced knowledge and techniques, antique germplasm becomes
>> increasingly irrelevant. If you need a trait (such as resistance to the
>> European Corn Borer), you engineer it in--as with the YieldGard gene.
This might eventually be true. But I think 10 years might be a bit early
to be throwing away all our genetic diversity. You need this diversity to
enable you to understand gene function. And there are a lot of genes. And
a lot of gene to gene interactions. So really understanding this is not a
trivial matter. Lets not be too hasty in closing down our gene banks.
Where do your genes come from that you are going to use in your
engineering projects. People seem to forget that genetic engineers rarely
ever invent genes. They just borrow mother natures good ideas and use them
in new ways.
PS. in my response to Cummins I meant to quote Cummins more fully when
he said "I will try to reply even though you will, as usual, deal with
what you want rather than what I say" before accusing him of a "pot
calling the kettle black" type of statement.
From: Alex Avery
Re: AGBIOVIEW: Are Seedbanks Obsolete?
Rethinking my position on seedbanks and why I love Agbioview
I must say that Dave Wood's arguments on genebanks based on his personal
experiences and keen observations have led me to seriously rethink my past
strong advocacy for seed/genebanks. This support stemmed from the
favorable opinions of seed/genebanks held by a couple of my mentors in
graduate school when I was a very minor member of a big team of African
and other CGIAR scientists trying to develop drought and disease
resistance varieties of sorghum.
Wood's argument that wild relatives of crops are more important than old
landraces is supported by the research that I myself cited by Tanksley and
McCouch in my defense of the need for seed/genebanks. The fact of constant
co-evolution of pathogens with plants/crops certainly makes in situ wild
plants a more plausible future resource for resistance genes to current
pathogens, rather than landraces and varieties developed decades or
centuries ago and held in stasis in storage.
Thanks for contribution, Dave. While I still think seedbanks are
important, you've moved me on this issue and this is exactly why I love
agbioview and open debate on scientific questions. - Alex
From: Nagib Nassar
Re: Are Seedbanks Obsolete?
I found the material of this issue, and every issue very interesting
!!!!!. I shall make link of it to my electronic journal
In the meantime may I take this opportunity to invite you to please visit
it. Best regards - Nagib Nassar, Professor, Universidade de Brasilia,
Anti-biotech Radicals Turn Research Into A War Zone
- Southeast Farm Press, January 7, 2003 (Via Katie Thrasher)
Is this a weird world, or what? Used to be a career in research was not
considered particularly dangerous. Oh, an ag researcher might have a heat
stroke while making crosses or checking plots in the summer sun, or be
assailed by chiggers, mosquitoes, and assorted other biting pests, and
medical researchers might occasionally be overcome by fumes from
Now, research has become a war zone. Labs have been burned, facilities
ransacked and files destroyed, plots torn up, animals set loose, and
researchers threatened with physical harm. The recent-years focus on
biotechnology has only spurred the protesters to ramp up their terror
In one of the most recent instances, police in Italy managed to disable a
very powerful bomb that had been planted at a biotech center where
researchers were working on interspecies organ transplants, such as pig
livers into humans. The fuse had been lit, police said, but luckily it
went out before detonating the bomb.
The anti-biotech radicals are a lot like Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida
loonies: They want to take the world back to the Stone Age. Regardless of
the consequences to humanity as a whole, they want to dictate the pace of
scientific progress according to their own messianic insight into what is
right for the world.
An example of how convoluted things have become: The government of South
Africa, which has six nations with some 13 million of its citizens on the
brink of starvation, has decreed that it will refuse donations of corn
that may contain some genetically modified kernels. The corn offered
through the World Food Program, of which the U.S. is the largest donor
participant, could not be guaranteed GMO-free, the WFP said.
The government says it fears the genetically modified corn will
cross-pollinate varieties grown there and thus jeopardize sales of South
African grain and livestock to its major European Union markets.
"We have decided, as a government, not to accept genetically modified
maize," one government official said. "It would be too risky." Another
official countered that EU citizens, and those of other wealthy nations,
"can afford to debate genetically modified foods - they have the comfort
of a food surplus. Hungry people only want something to eat."
Barring some sort of 9/11 equivalent catastrophe in the world of
agriculture, biotech isn't going to go away. The genie's long out of the
bottle; too many promising avenues need to be explored. Not only solutions
to the hunger of millions hang in the balance; the potential for
alleviating many of mankind's major health problems may lie in the work
researchers are doing.
We have come so far in such a relatively short time, thanks to man's
inquisitiveness and ability to expand on the achievements of those who've
It's unfortunate there are those who would stop progress in its tracks and
impose their own selfish views on the rest of the world. To the extent
they're able to do this, whether through protests, bombings, or political
strong-arming, the progress of research may be slowed.
Issue of GM Maize and Food Aid In Africa: Letter to the Guardian With
Highly Interesting Details
- Klaus Ammann, Bernedebates@bio-scope.org
Dear friends, It is really interesting to know that the case stirring up
everybody about the US food aid in Africa has a very simple end...
I do hope that these facts will now end the war on Bt genes in this case.
The food aid standard in this case even complies to the most ardent
fundamentalist believe in zero tolerance...
US record on GM maize
- The Guardian December 19, 2002
The letter from Ben Lilliston (December 17) has further muddied the water
on the issue of GM maize and food aid in Africa. For the record, I provide
the following statistical data on the subject:
1) Nearly 35% of maize planted in the US is GM.
2) About 95% of the maize in the US food distribution system (ie, the
maize that is eaten by Americans and given as food aid around the world)
is considered GM because we do not discriminate between or segregate GM
and non-GM food products.
3) Ironically, exactly 0% (ie, none at all) of the maize food aid offered
by the US and refused by several African governments actually came from
the US. Little US maize was available at that time, so we sold surplus
wheat and bought South African maize locally with the funds generated.
4) The food aid offered by the US was a 100% humanitarian effort to
alleviate hunger and avoid death due to starvation in southern Africa.
I hope that this clears up any doubts about this matter.
- Lee McClenny Office of public affairs, US Embassy
The letter of Ben Lilliston in full wording:
The Guardian, Tuesday December 17, 2002
In his letter (December 13), US ambassador William Farish stated that
"more than 95% of American maize is GM". This is just flat wrong.
According to the US department of agriculture's national agriculture
statistics service, only 30% of US corn in 2002 was genetically modified.
The absence of a comprehensive segregation system which separates GM corn
from non-GM corn is real problem in the US. Nevertheless there is a
significant and expanding supply of organic corn and identity-preserved
non-GM corn that clearly could be accessed for food aid if there was the
political will to do so. With an estimated 70% of corn in the US non-GM,
it is hard to make the argument that none can be found for countries that
want it. -- Ben Lilliston Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
WFP Moves GM Food to Malawi
- Bivan Saluseki, The Post (Lusaka), January 08, 2003
The World Food Programme (WFP) is moving the Genetically Modified food
from Zambia to Malawi, the Southern Africa complex food security crisis
situation report by the USAID has revealed.
The report dated January 3, 2003 states that the WFP continues to move
biotech food commodities from Zambia to Malawi following government's
rejection of the biotech food assistance.
"Mozambique and Malawi have expressed concerns over the environmental
effects of biotech food, but are accepting such food assistance as long as
it is milled before distribution," the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID) stated. "However, the government of
Malawi has publicly stated its intention not to disrupt the distribution
of humanitarian corn if milling is not possible."
The report stated that December maize prices in Zambia averaged between US
$240 and US $260 per metric tonne, three times more than the highest
recorded maize prices in 2000 and 2001. "Prices are likely to continue to
increase as a result of the limited prospects for commercial imports in
early 2003. However, WFP expects the pipeline for January and February to
be relatively strong.
WFP estimates that 79,676 metric tonnes of cereals will arrive during
these two months," the report said. The report stated that from the
beginning of 2002 to date, the US government has provided or pledged more
than US $278 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to
the food security crisis. The report stated that in the fiscal year 2002,
USAID and Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) provided more
than US $10 million in non-food programs that were currently underway in
Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, and Lesotho. On the latest shipment of US food
assistance to the region, the report stated that to date, the US
government has delivered over 400,000 metric tonnes of food to the region.
"The balance of approximately 100,000 metric tonnes will arrive in the
region by the end of February. The Magna Energy, with 15,000 metric tonnes
of bulk sorghum, recently arrived in Dar es Salaam. WFP will receive 5,000
metric tonnes of this cargo," the USAID stated. "The remaining 10,000
metric tonnes will be given to the NGO consortium, C-SAFE.
The entire tonnage has been allocated for Zambia." The report stated that
this year, however, regional stocks were exceptionally low, as they were
drawn down to fill the previous year's food shortages, and surplus
commodities within the region were limited. USAID is also sponsoring a
SADC regional workshop on biotech and food insecurity in Gaborone,
Botswana, in February 2003.
Participants would include technical experts from around the world and
policy makers from the affected countries. The meeting will address the
technical and policy issues related to biotech food assistance.
The Future of Life
- Monterey, CA; February 19-21, 2003;. http://www.thefutureoflife.com
Time magazine invites you to participate in a groundbreaking dialogue
celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix.
Join the architects of the genomic revolution as they chart the future of
biotech and its ramifications on mankind. Participation will be limited to
300 guests, creating an environment for personal interaction with the
leaders of science, academia and business.
Legendary Nobel Laureate James Watson, one of the three founders of DNA,
will highlight the list of luminaries. We are honored to welcome Nobel
Laureate James Watson to The Future of Life. He will be joined by an
extraordinary roster of participants representing a wide gamut of
interests and expertise. Innovators at the vanguard of science and
industry will share the floor with ethicists, activists, venture
capitalists and religious leaders to ensure a rich and provocative
dialogue. (Speakers also include Bill Joy, Francis Collins, Craig Venter,
Matt Ridley, EO Wilson, Vandana Shiva, Thomas Lovejoy....)
A Developing-world Take on Science Literacy
- Bruce Lewenstein, scidev.net
"Science literacy" is generally believed to be a good thing. In a world
infused with science and technology, it seems obvious that it is desirable
that more people understand scientific research and how it can be used to
improve life. In developing countries, modern science and technology offer
hope for addressing the pressing needs of improved nutrition, public
health, safety, and shelter.
But often when something seems obvious, it's a good idea to look more
closely. In December 2002, a two-day workshop in Cape Town, South Africa,
found that new definitions of science literacy are needed to ensure that
public communication of science and technology addresses the real needs of
people and societies in the developing world.
The workshop "Achieving public understanding of research in developing
countries" was part of the 7th conference of the International Network on
Public Communication of Science and Technology. It brought together more
than 50 individuals from 16 countries and six continents ˛ journalists,
scientists, museum and science centre staff, policy analysts, community
outreach co-ordinators, and academic researchers.
We held a common belief that the "public understanding of research" ˛
understanding the scientific process and the results of cutting edge work
˛ is essential for any modern society, whether in the North or South. What
we didn't know was whether our vision of what makes a good public
understanding programme in developed countries had any relevance in the
Discussions in this field often focus on three kinds of science literacy:
practical, civic, and cultural. They assume that, once essential human
needs have been met, the ability to make personal or policy decisions
about science-based issues essentially revolves around being able to use
complex information, and is not constrained by political or economic
In the developed world, debates about topics such as nuclear power or
genetically modified foods take it for granted that access to energy or
nutritious meals is not at stake, and that individuals are free to make
meaningful choices. Moreover, developed-world scientists take as a given
that science is as fundamental a part of modern culture as music or art.
Even the definition of science in the developed world often seems
unproblematic: science is the product of cutting-edge research conducted
by methods and techniques that have emerged from Europe since the 17th
But for much of the developing world, public understanding of research is
about much more basic issues: providing clean water for drinking and
cooking, learning the essential link between unprotected sexual
intercourse and HIV infection, and so on. In this developing-world
context, it is not clear that museum exhibits about electricity or
magazine articles about in-vitro fertilisation are relevant in addressing
the needs of most of the population.
To give just one example, last year during a class on science journalism
in Johannesburg, South Africa, a student from a rural district asked me
how to talk about HIV infection. "In my community, it is taboo to talk
about sex," he said. "In our language, I cannot even use the words for
'penis' and 'vagina'. How can I explain how to avoid HIV infection when I
don't even have words for explaining the acts that lead to infection?"
Public understanding of science in his community is not about the latest
immunological results, nor about acquiring greater political power, or
improved use of scientific instruments; it is about addressing fundamental
barriers to scientific information. These barriers are not caused by
ignorance or hostility, but by the core conditions of the developing world
˛ local languages, poverty, lack of public health, lack of economic
infrastructure and lack of education.
At the workshop in Cape Town, we found that we need to redefine our terms
of reference. The developed world has the luxury of detached interest in
reliable knowledge about the natural world. In contrast, public
understanding in the developing world must focus on knowledge upon which
one can act immediately.
Some of our more practical conclusions may be familiar: create databases
of successful projects and opportunities for training, improve access to
web-based materials (such as those on SciDev.Net), and provide ongoing
support to people and projects. Some reinforced the continuing need to
evaluate the effectiveness of particular programmes and to recognise that
there is no one "best" practice, as all projects need to be adapted and
used in particular local contexts.
But our more far-reaching conclusions forced us to redefine science
literacy itself. Instead of "practical" science literacy, Nalaka
Gunawardene, a veteran science and environment journalist from Sri Lanka,
talked about defining public understanding as "the minimum knowledge to
make life better". He advocated thinking in terms of survival: of
preventing dehydration of babies, of campaigning for better road safety,
of promoting the safe use of pesticides.
Similarly, "civic" science literacy looks different in the developing
world. Carlos Setti, a Brazilian science writer, reminded us of the gaps
between rich and poor in developing countries and urged us to always put
public understanding programmes "at the service of overcoming social and
regional inequalities" ˛ a reminder that choices about how to allocate
scientific and technological resources are not politically neutral.
But in the end we still concluded that research ˛ including open and
honest appraisal of the reliable knowledge embodied by indigenous systems
˛ offers tools of great value to the developing world. And we continued to
believe in the value of public understanding of research for local
culture, and thus in the need to convey the excitement of research,
especially to children. After all, recruiting the next generation of
scientists is as critical, perhaps more critical, to the culture of the
developing world than to the developed world.
Bruce V. Lewenstein is associate professor of science communication at
Cornell University, editor of the journal Public Understanding of Science,
and webmaster for the International Network on Public Understanding of
Science and Technology.
Reconciling the Contrasts Between CBD and TRIPS
- Klaus Ammann
Dear friends, This is a major piece on a difficult attempt to, a well
documented study of more than 100 pages, with an immense amount on
annotations. There are many interesting ideas packed in on how to tackle
those extremely difficult problems.
Recommended for reading, using as an electronic encyclopedia on the
subject and: Also open for comments to the author: Dr. Jonathan Curci
Staffler Lalife & Partners, Attorneys-at-Law, GENEVA Switzerland;
The reference found on the title page: Universite de Geneve Institut
Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales ; Towards a Reconciliation
between the Convention on Biological Diversity and TRIPS Agreement An
Interface among Intellectual Property Rights on Biotechnology, Traditional
Knowledge and Benefit Sharing ; And an important citation at the
Law and Science: Toward a Happy Marriage Like all good marriages 'that of
Science and Law' are complementary to each other Science seeks knowledge
of facts, Law seeks justice which may rise from above and beyond the facts
- Science rested on the material, Law on the moral and ethical and
philosophical. Science analyses and predicts phenomena, Law clarifies and
controls conduct. Science describes, Law prescribes. ' As in human
marriages each partner brings an influence on the other. Science and
Technology move the Law toward new fields and the need to change and grow.
The Law tames, controls, and channels Science and Technology ' In a
broader sense, unless law controls science, man will become, in Thoreau╠s
phrase, 'the tool of his tools'. Thus Science and Law must be treated as
legitimate lovers, not as living in sin'.
MARKEY H. T., A Compilation of his Writings Opinion and Speeches, ed. John
Marshall, New York, 1984.
The link for the full text: