Today in AgBioView: January 10, 2003:
* U.S. Hints It Will Sue EU Over Altered Crops
* EU's Anti-GM Stance Under Threat
* How Much Food Aid is GM or non-US Corn?
* Response from CSPI on 'Reason' Article
* Fixing Food: Allergen-free Comestibles Might be on the Way
* 'Precautionary Principle': Over-care Hinders Science, Technology
* A Primer on Genetic Modification
* Bove: Fast and Loose with Food Facts
* WhatÝs This? The French Love McDonaldÝs?
* Greenpeace Gets It Wrong In Australia
* No Skepticism, Please - We're Danish
* Activist Ventriloquism
* Potential of Plant Biotech Widens
* Developing Countries and Biotech Regulations
* New Journal: Environmental Biosafety Research
* Altered Corn Fears Deepen Famine
* Let Them Eat Fake
* Seeds of Doubt
* A Great Big Silence In Norway
U.S. Hints It Will Sue EU Over Altered Crops: Complaint About Food Ban
Would Go to WTO
- Justin Gillis and Paul Blustein, The Washington Post, January 10, 2003
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said yesterday that he
strongly supported filing an international trade case against the European
Union for its refusal to accept genetically modified food, throwing down a
gauntlet on one of the touchiest issues in relations between the United
States and Europe.
Zoellick's remarks, at a news conference in Washington, signaled that the
United States is likely to bring suit against European governments in the
World Trade Organization, perhaps within weeks. Such a suit, long favored
by American farm and corporate interests and by lawmakers on Capitol Hill,
would seek to overturn a moratorium on gene-altered plants, such as corn
and soybeans, that was adopted by European governments four years ago
during a consumer backlash against the crops.
A suit would be the Bush administration's strongest response to date to
anti-biotechnology sentiment in Europe, and experts on both sides of the
Atlantic regard the government's legal argument as compelling. "I tend to
think the U.S. government probably has a pretty good case," said John H.
Jackson, a specialist in international law at Georgetown University.
Yet there is concern in some quarters that a suit could stir up European
public opinion against the United States -- and possibly even set off a
wider trade war, prompting the European Union to impose sanctions in
unrelated trade battles. And it is far from clear that even a successful
legal case would open European markets to foods made with gene-altered
crops, because resistance among European consumers is perceived to be
In essence, Zoellick would be arguing that anti-biotech rules in Europe
are a response to unreasonable public fears, not to meaningful scientific
research, and therefore represent trade discrimination against U.S.
agricultural products. He said yesterday that he was deeply concerned that
European resistance to the technology appears to be influencing the trade
policies of other nations, even of African governments that have turned
down genetically modified American grain meant for starving people.
"I don't see things getting improved," Zoellick said. "Instead I see
something extremely disturbing: the European anti-scientific view
spreading to other parts of the world -- not letting Africans eat food you
and I eat, and instead letting people starve." He called this "immoral"
and described the European view of biotechnology as "Luddite," a reference
to the English workers who smashed machines to save their jobs at the
beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Zoellick's counterpart in the European Union, Pascal Lamy, told reporters
yesterday that the issue should be settled through negotiation instead of
litigation, adding that a trade suit would make finding a solution "more
complex." But he added: "If there was to be litigation, of course we would
fight it, and I believe we would win it."
Genetically modified crops have become widespread in North America since
the mid-1990s, accounting for half or more of the U.S. and Canadian
acreage of some row crops. Generally, these plants have been altered in
ways that help them resist insects or weeds. Gene-altered corn, soybeans
and canola, or ingredients made from them, appear in a large majority of
the products on American grocery shelves.
Though environmental groups oppose the crops, and some controversy lingers
in this country, the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug
Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency have declared the
existing crops safe for human consumption and safe for the environment.
American companies are working on many new varieties of gene-altered
plants, including some that promise improved nutrition.
The situation in Europe is different. A series of food disasters there,
involving problems such as "mad cow" disease being passed to humans
through food, was followed in the late 1990s by a fierce controversy over
genetic manipulation of crops. Nearly every European government adopted
labeling laws and imposed moratoriums on the crops, costing U.S. farmers
at least $300 million a year in export revenue.
U.S. interests contend that the European crackdown is not based on
legitimate scientific concerns, as it must be under World Trade
Organization rules, but simply on public fear. While acknowledging that
they will never be able to force European consumers to buy foods they
don't want, some American companies want to test whether consumer
resistance across the Atlantic is really as strong as perceived.
"Biotech companies would be happy to have their products put to that kind
of test," said Val Giddings, vice president of food and agriculture for
the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group in Washington. "Get
trade barriers out of the way and see what consumers really do."
EU's Anti-GM Stance Under Threat
- Jim Boulden, CNN, January 10, 2003
London, England (CNN) -- The Bush administration could decide within weeks
to take the European Union before the World Trade Organization for
blocking genetically modified crops. U.S. Trade Representative Robert
Zoellick said this week that the EU's four-year moratorium on approving
new genetically modified (GM) crops violated WTO rules.
"I think the European view on this is Luddite," Zoellick said. "I
personally am of the view that we now need to bring a case." Corn growers
in the United States say they are losing $300 million annually because
their GM crops are barred -- along with many other modified products --
from the European market. Biotech firms say GM seeds resist insects and
disease, requiring less pesticide. They also say GM food is not dangerous.
"You can cry wolf for so long, but in the end people begin to realise that
perhaps it's not quite as bad as they think," says Vivian Moses of
"I also think they are getting the idea that more and more people and more
and more farmers around the world are actually using these techniques."
About 70 percent of soybeans and more than 25 percent of corn in the
United States is grown from GM seeds. Biotech company Monsanto wants to
bring biotech wheat to market.
The United States had been gently pushing Europe to lift its ban on new GM
crops. Consumer groups say that even if Washington were to force GM food
onto the European shelves, consumers will not buy it until people are
convinced it is safe.
"I think if the USA were to instigate a trade war with Europe, it would be
a strategy that would fall right back in their face," says Leona Supples
of Friends of the Earth. "Here in Europe, consumers have clearly said that
they don't want to GM foods thrust down their throat. "We are going
through a legitimate political system to try to make choices about whether
we want to have these GM products in our country or not."
Meanwhile, Europe's aversion to GM food is spreading to Africa and Asia.
The United States says its offer of GM food to developing nations can help
feed the world's poor and hungry.
But anti-GM campaigners disagree, saying that politics and war are the
reason for most famines, not a lack of food. "Food aid allows you to dump
cheap food to the African countries and prevents their own indigenous,
sustainable agriculture from taking off," says Dr. Mae-Wan Hoe, director
of the Institute of Science in Society.
EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy says the EU will fight if the United
States files a complaint with the WTO. The EU has already been loosening
its moratorium, Lamy says, and any complaint would be counterproductive.
"If there was to be litigation, of course we would fight it and I believe
we would win it, which is probably not exactly what the U.S. is looking
for," Lamy told reporters. "I have always said that doing this ... would
make a solution more complex rather than more simple."
Some pro-GM companies also have been resisting calls for Washington to
push Europe with legal action because a WTO case could take three years to
resolve. But U.S. action appears increasingly likely -- even if it slows
down the acceptance of GM foods in Europe.
How Much Food Aid is GM, non-GM or non-US Corn?
- Alex Avery , AgBioView, Jan 10, 2003
Klaus Amman forwarded a letter published in The Guardian (below) in which
US Embassy employee Lee McClenny claimed that "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."
This implied strongly that the rejected corn was NOT GM corn at all.
Apparently this is incorrect. I have contacted the US Agency for
International Development press office in Washington, DC and they state
this information is completely incorrect.
According to US AID's press office, the information in the letter from at
the US Embassy is wrong because of a law passed by Congress in the 1970s
requiring that any US food aid be given in the form of US commodities.
Thus, there was no sale of US wheat in exchange for South African corn.
100% of the corn donated to the World Food Program by the US was US corn.
Therefore, the reality remains that the corn rejected by Zambia was US
commodity corn that is a mixture of non-GM and GM corn (likely at a rough
ratio of 70/30 percent).
Because of that pre-existing law, the accusation by anti-biotech activists
that the Bush Administration made a conscious and cynical decision to
deliberately "force" GM food on Africa is totally bogus. Any US
administration, even one theoretically headed by Vandana Shiva herself
would be legally bound to donate US commodity stocks, which aren't organic
Africa's staple food for the masses is corn (mealie meal, or corn meal),
so that is the most logical food to donate. (they are familiar with it,
how to cook it, fits within their cultural context -- something on which
Shiva places high importance) And seeing as the US does not segregate
based on the process used to develop the particular crop variety, even a
Shiva administration would be forced by US law to give the Africans US
corn containing some amount of GM kernels.
As for any notion that giving Southern African nations cash instead would
be a better approach to famine relief, even if US law didn't forbid it, it
would still be a bad idea for several reasons. 1. The remaining food in
the region is expensive -- US AID reports corn prices three times higher
than the highest recorded maize prices in 2000 and 2001. 2. The
governments in the region are notoriously corrupt -- ie. the Malawian
grain stocks sale/profit rip off -- so much of the money would likely be
siphoned off into Swiss bank accounts 3. The delay in translating cash
into food would likely leave millions in the lurch before food arrived.
Hope this clears up this recent confusion.
- Alex Avery, Hudson Institute, Center for Global Food Issues
Response from CSPI on 'Reason' Article
- Doug Gurian Sherman, Ph. D., Center for Science in the Public Interest,
The "Reason" article cited the case of MON 809, where FDA did not receive
some data it requested from Monsanto. Monsanto claims, and the "Reason"
article claims, that Monsanto did not comply with FDA because the company
decided not to commercialize MON 809. However, there was no record of that
in the FDA file, which includes (the critics of the report conveniently
fail to mention) communications between FDA and the companies (the agency
is, I believe, required to make memos of any such communications). Clearly
it would not have made sense for Monsanto to submit MON 809 to FDA if it
did not intend to market it at that time!
But even if Monsanto is correct (and so far, we would have to take that on
faith), the "Reason" article and others fail to mention that the two other
examples of non-compliance with FDA data requests discussed in our report
were for subsequently commercialized products. Furthermore, regardless of
Monsanto's intent, FDA gave a green light to MON 809 by completing its
review without any requirement from the agency to submit the missing data.
Indeed, our assessment is that FDA could not required Monsanto to submit
the data short of a full safety-approval under food additive provisions of
the law. But because FDA made a policy decision in 1992 to consider GE
food crops to be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), it would be very
difficult for FDA to do that. In general, if we limited ourselves to
reviewing commercialized products in the report, the data set we used
would have been too small. In all the cases reviewed, as with MON 809, FDA
completed its safety review.
On the issue of the T3 SAMase gene, the "Reason" article simply misstates
what the report says! The "Reason" article says that peer-reviewed papers
that were submitted to FDA with the T3 SAMase data show that T3 is found
in the human intestines. The problem is that those papers say nothing
about T3 (the papers are cited in my report, so anyone is welcome to get
them from a library and see for themselves)! The crop producer claims that
the papers show T3 in the intestines, but that is simply wrong (the papers
do mention other lytic phage, for example Goyal et al. test for T2, T4,
MS-2 and psi-X174. But the infection rate of E. coli in the intestines for
those phage was very low and sporadic).
The article attributes ideas to us that are also unfounded. It suggests,
for example, that we advocate an 800 million dollar FDA review process. If
one actually reads the report, it is clear that we are asking for actions
that would not necessarily cost more than the current system. For example,
since companies produce actual data, submitting those along with analysis
and methodology, rather than often highly condensed data summaries, would
not add additional cost.
Having a standardized way of conducting gastric stability assays for
allergenicity that have been worked out by the leading researchers in that
field, and which are virtually always done now by non-standardized
methods, would not add additional cost. The suggestions that we make for
additional data, like sequencing the transgene rather than just supplying
the sequence prior to transformation (a suggestion made by a recent
National Academy of Sciences report as well), are routine in vitro
procedures that are not expensive.
We are not talking in the report about endless scientific inquiry, as the
article contends. We reviewed parameters that FDA already, in broad terms,
agrees should be looked for, such as increased toxicant levels (e.g.
alkaloids in potatoes or tomatoes). FDA has also said in its 1992 guidance
that prior dietary exposure to a protein that has been put into a
transgenic plant is significant evidence for safety (that makes good sense
to me as part of a safety assessment). That's what was at issue with the
T3 SAMase case, so it is FDA's own current criteria that are not being
followed in that case (and others)! The report is primarily about making
the FDA process a sounder one, not adding a lot of new data requirements!
The article, I believe, also quotes Gould out of context. Their point is
contradicted by the fact that he signed our petition supporting a
mandatory safety-approval process at FDA that you co-signed as well [we
are also happy to take more signatures! The petition form is on our web
site], which is the main recommendation of the report! That approval
system should (and would) be geared to the unique aspects of transgenic
plants, not drugs (or even traditional food additives in most cases) as
the "Reason" article suggests.
I can't speak for Dr. Gould, but just because a scientist does not see
unique risks from transgenic crops should not preclude supporting adequate
regulations for GE. The risks from transgenic crops do not have to be
unique to warrant regulation, just sufficient to potentially cause harm.
Whether the risks from other types of breeding should be regulated seems
to me a separate issue to be decided on its own merits.
Finally, the paper says that many of the lapses we found could have been
easily "cleared up" by calling the right people. It conveniently doesn't
mention what those "many" issues are other than MON 809 (and their
mistaken view of the T3 SAMase issue). I was more interested in the
recorded facts than the uncorroborated opinions of individuals.
As to Alex Avery's comments about CSPI's position on GE crops yesterday, I
am more concerned about science than labels. But to address his point, our
position on regulation of GE food crops has not significantly changed. As
with our new report, we have always advocated a mandatory safety-approval
law for GE foods for FDA and we continue to say that, based on the
evidence, the current commercialized crops seem to be safe (or as safe as
their conventional counterparts). Although I would feel more comfortable
about saying that if the data were better. Probably Alex would never have
considered our position to be "moderate", but he is several years late in
coming to that assessment! For earlier statements about our positions, see
our web page ( http://www.cspinet.org/biotech/index.html , especially
http://www.cspinet.org/nah/11_01/ ). The report itself is linked to the
following web site: http://www.cspinet.org/new/200301071.html .
Best Regards, Doug Gurian-Sherman
>> A "Moderate" Prohibition: A new study by Center for Science In the
>> Interest isn't in the public interest.
>> Ronald Bailey, http://www.reason.com/rb/rb010803.shtml
Fixing Food: Allergen-free Comestibles Might be on the Way
- Carol Ezzell, Scientific American, December 30, 2002
A bite of a cookie containing peanuts could cause the airway to constrict
fatally. Sharing a toy with another child who had earlier eaten a peanut
butter and jelly sandwich could raise a case of hives. A peanut butter cup
dropped in a Halloween bag could contaminate the rest of the treats,
posing an unknown risk.
These are the scenarios that "make your bone marrow turn cold" according
to L. Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture of the
Biotechnology Industry Organization. Besides representing the policy
interests of food biotech companies in Washington, D.C., Giddings is the
father of a four-year-old boy with a severe peanut allergy. Peanuts are
among the most allergenic foods; estimates of the number of people who
experience a reaction to the legumes hover around 2 percent of the
Giddings says that peanuts are only one of several foods that
biotechnologists are altering genetically in an attempt to eliminate the
proteins that wreak havoc with some people's immune systems. Although soy
allergies do not usually cause life-threatening reactions, the scientists
are also targeting soybeans, which can be found in two thirds of all
manufactured food, making the supermarket a minefield for people allergic
to soy. Biotechnologists are zeroing in on wheat, too, and might soon
expand their research to the rest of the "big eight" allergy-inducing
foods: tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish and fish.
Last September, for example, Anthony J. Kinney, a crop genetics researcher
at DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Del., and his colleagues
reported using a technique called RNA interference (RNAi) to silence the
genes that encode p34, a protein responsible for causing 65 percent of all
soybean allergies. RNAi exploits the mechanism that cells use to protect
themselves against foreign genetic material; it causes a cell to destroy
RNA transcribed from a given gene, effectively turning off the gene.
Whether the public will accept food genetically modified to be
low-allergen is still unknown. Courtney Chabot Dreyer, a spokesperson for
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, says that the
company will conduct studies to determine whether a niche market exists
for low-allergen soy before developing the seeds for sale to farmers. She
estimates that Pioneer Hi-Bred is seven years away from commercializing
the altered soybeans.
Doug Gurian-Sherman, scientific director of the biotechnology project at
the Center for Science in the Public Interest--a group that has advocated
enhanced Food and Drug Administration oversight for genetically modified
foods--comments that his organization would not oppose low-allergen foods
if they prove to be safe. But he wonders about "identity preservation" a
term used in the food industry to describe the deliberate separation of
genetically engineered and nonengineered products. A batch of
nonengineered peanuts or soybeans might contaminate machinery reserved for
low-allergen versions, he suggests, reducing the benefit of the
gene-altered food. Such issues of identity preservation could make
low-allergen genetically modified foods too costly to produce, Chabot
Dreyer admits. But, she says, "it's still too early to see if that's
Biotech's contributions to fighting food allergies need not require gene
modification of the foods themselves, Giddings notes. He suggests that
another approach might be to design monoclonal antibodies that bind to and
eliminate the complexes formed between allergens and the subclass of the
body's own antibodies that trigger allergic reactions. "Those sorts of
therapeutics could offer a huge potential," Giddings states, and may be
more acceptable to a public wary of genetically modified foods. He
definitely sees an untapped specialty market. "When you find out your
child has a life-threatening food allergy, your life changes in an
instant," Giddings remarks. "You never relax." Not having to worry about
every bite will enable Giddings--and his son--to breathe a lot easier.
'Precautionary Principle': Over-care Hinders Science, Technology
- Southwest Farm press, January 09, 2003
'It is one of the ironies of our time,' says Bonner Cohen, 'that the
countries that have the greatest technological advancement are the ones
where science and technology are most under attack.'
It is even more ironic, he told members of the Southern Crop Production
Association at their annual meeting at Charleston, S.C., that 'the same
people who demonize technology are also the ones who use it.' Cohen, who
is senior fellow at the Lexington Institute, was editor of EPA Watch and
now serves as Washington editor for the Earth Times and Environment News.
Since the early 1980s, he says, environmental activist groups have
operated on the Precautionary Principle, which says, 'When an activity
raises the threat of harm to the environment or public health,
precautionary measures should be taken ' even when some cause and effect
relationships are not scientifically established.'
Adherence to this principle, Cohen says, 'has brought about a world in
which we too often cannot take the risk of risk, with the onus on us to
prove the innocence of our science and technology. Had the Precautionary
Principle been in effect in earlier eras, we would have no electricity, no
automobiles, no airplanes ' they would all be too dangerous.'
The principle more recently has been applied in the European Union to
impede or ban the use of genetically modified crops and to block the sale
of U.S. beef containing growth hormones ' 'despite there being no
peer-reviewed scientific evidence of any danger to human health.' Efforts
are now afoot by environmental groups in the United States, Cohen says, to
have the Precautionary Principle serve as the basis for environmental
legislation in several states.
'Their idea is to come in under the radar screen to accomplish their
agenda. But the ultimate effect is to stifle innovation and research. What
company is going to spend millions of dollars to develop a product that
can be stopped in its tracks by the Precautionary Principle''
The Science and Environmental Health Network, based in North Dakota, and
founded in 1994 by a consortium of North American environmental
organizations, is 'the leading proponent' in the U.S. and Canada for use
of the Precautionary Principle as the basis for environmental and public
health policy, Cohen says.
Following last year's mid-term elections that restored control of Congress
to the Republicans, he notes, 'The president of the Sierra Club was quoted
as saying he imagined the Bush administration would 'try to bring back
DDT' ' as if that would be bad for the nations where it is desperately
needed for control of diseases.' The banning of DDT and other
anti-pesticide efforts by environmental organizations throughout the world
'reflects the same kind of mentality underlying the Precautionary
Principle,' he says.
'They go around the world, telling countries they need to develop 'in a
sustainable fashion,' the idea being that overcoming Third World poverty
and disease should be based on sustainable agriculture ' that what's been
good enough for the U.S. and other developed nations in terms of science
and technology isn't good enough for poorer countries.'
Increasingly, Cohen says, 'these countries are rejecting efforts by
developed nations to deny them the fruits ot the technology we ourselves
have used to achieve so much progress. In the past, they lacked a forum, a
voice. But, this is changing.'
At the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, he
says, 'one of the overriding points was how the eradication of disease
will be viewed in developing nations. The Bush administration has
recognized that these serious problems cannot be eradicated unless these
countries are allowed to embrace science and technology.
'So, they went around the EU and the environmental groups, and directly
addressed the leaders of these countries with the message: 'We'll assist
you in overcoming these conditions ' but you must realize that you'll have
to do it the way we were able to do it, using science and technology. And
you'll have to clean up your own act in terms of dealing with corrupt,
inefficient governments that keep people in poverty.' 'All this fell on
very receptive ears, and it represents a tremendous sea change in terms of
global environmental and health policies.'
There are 'tremendous opportunities,' Cohen says, for 'those unfortunate
enough to be born in the world's hellholes' to utilize science and
technology to overcome their desperate need. 'Too many organizations are
still married to old doctrines, positive they know what's best. Those most
in favor of banning DDT, for example, were not those who were most likely
to suffer and die from malaria. This is eco-imperialism.'
A Primer on Genetic Modification by Tom DeGregori
- Tom DeGregori
AgBioView readers might find the following to be useful to pass onto
someone who knows absolutely nothing about transgenics and wants something
short and simple before begining further inquiry. It is very basic as
intended and is definitely too basic for this list.
A Primer on Genetic Modification vis a vis the Southern African Drought
Bove: Fast and Loose with Food Facts
- Tom DeGregori"
We have been told for some time now that Europeans, particularly the
French, care very deeply about the quality of the food that they eat while
Americans will stuff anything in their mouths as evidenced by the fast
food chains such as McDonalds. This has been used as an explanation and
therefore a justification for their irrational rejection of Transgenic
food. This was further symbolized by Jos╚ Bov╚' s destruction of a
McDonald's restuarant under constuction in France and his subsequent
canonization by the Western media and the elitist in Seattle and beyond.
According to an article in this week's issue of BusinessWeek (see below),
McDonald's has been experiencing some difficult times lately (as reported
elsewhere in the media) and is in a retrenchment mode as it is closing a
number of outlets around the world. I know, I was in Trinidad and Tobago a
few weeks ago where the locals were bemoaning, not celebrating, the close
of the country's only McDonald's restaurant. Well McDonald's is
retrenching everywhere but you guessed it, not in France where they are
opening a new outlet every six days. It would appear that the French like
McDonald's cuisine (hoorayfor them!) and further, maybe our buddy Jos╚
Bov╚ does not speak for all of France (or Europe) as he is portrayed in
the media. Exerpts from the article are given below for more details.
After all, McDonalds would not build them if nobody came to eat there.
P.S. - question - does anyone know whether the J. Bov╚ who is listed as
one of the co-authors of the Beneviste homeopathy papers in Nature a dozen
years or so ago, is the father our beloved Jos╚ Bov╚ ? As most of you
recall, the claim was made in these articles that "molecules have memory."
Addendum to the question of who are 'A Seed Europe': We should here and
always, what have they ever done to help the poor feed themselves?
WhatÝs This? The French Love McDonaldÝs?
- Carol Matlack & Pallavi Gogoi, BusinessWeek Jan 13, 2003 Page 50
After teaching the world about haute cuisine, France is ready to offer
another culinary lesson: how to sell le fast food. McDonald's Corp.'s
French subsidiary is booming even as its parent is struggling. The Oak
Brook (Ill.) company announced its first-ever quarterly loss on Dec. 17.
Yet as the parent is shuttering 175 outlets worldwide, a new McDonald's
opens in France every six days. What's more, the typical French customer
spends $9 per visit, vs. only $4 in the U.S., even though a Big Mac costs
about the same in Paris as it does in New York ... "We are upgrading the
experience, making McDonald's a destination restaurant," says Denis
Hennequin, the French unit's chief executive. .. Who knows, the next
French restaurant in your town could be a McDonald's.
Greenpeace Gets It Wrong In Australia
Rick Roush responds to the media release issued by Greenpeace on the
imminent importation of corn from the US to be used as chicken feed (see
Perhaps not surprisingly, says Rick, the release is factually in error or
misleading on several points, all of which could have been easily picked
up by Phelps and Hepburn if they would just read some list-servers that
are not anti-GM, such as Agnet and AgBioView.
This media release shows how perverse Greenpeace and GeneEthics have
become on the issue of GM in Australia. There are no risks to health or
the environment from these importations (which they know, or should know
if they did any homework on this issue), and yet they would punish farmers
in a time of need.
Perhaps most troubling is the claim that "breeding sows in the US fail to
conceive when fed corn containing insect toxin". This was a claim made
originally by a US farmer, and has since been investigated and debunked by
US experts such as Dr Gary Munkvold at Iowa State.
Munkvold and other US investigators have also shown that, if anything, the
30% of US GM corn carrying genes modeled on those from Bt is actually
safer than conventional corn for stock feed because it has levels of a key
class of mycotoxins (fumonisins) that are as much as 40-fold lower (this
is because the Bt proteins prevent insect damage to corn kernels, and it
is these insect-damaged kernels on which the fungi grow).
Japan most certainly does not reject US corn (except in connection with
the now banned Starlink varieties), and many or most of the lines being
imported to Australia are already approved by FSANZ for human consumption
in Australia, even though this will not happen with the current shipments.
To the best of my understanding, the only varieties being imported and not
approved here are those for which applications have not yet been made or
processed in Australia. All are approved for human consumption in the US
There is a good reason as to why products from animals fed GE aren't
labelled here; they pose no health risk, as all GE components are degraded
in digestion, and the foods produced are exactly identical to those from
conventional feeds. All GE foods in Australia ARE labeled. Phelps also
wants labels on foods that are not GE but where GE was used in production,
but apparently (as in Europe) excludes cheeses and other foods made with
Australian farmers are suffering enough from the drought without suffering
additional and needless costs in obtaining suitable feeds for their
animals just to meet the standards of groups like Greenpeace.
As a comical note, I am not a expert on chicken feeds, which I understand
is the main purpose of the importations of corn, but I believe that corn
is preferred for chickens (my chickens at least greatly prefer corn over
wheat!). However, I am certain that (contrary to Phelps' comments), honey
is not produced from animals fed GE grains!
Link to Genethics Media Release:
Source: Rick Roush 9 January 2003
No Skepticism, Please - We're Danish
The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, a division of the Danish
Research Agency, have found Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical
Environmentalist, guilty of "scientific dishonesty." That sounds damning,
until you try to get a handle on exactly what they mean by that.
"Objectively speaking," the committees' report says, "the publication of
the work under question"--a book that upset environmentalists by
challenging their litany of doom--"is deemed to fall within the concept of
scientific dishonesty." But according to The New York Times, the
committees "found no evidence that Professor Lomborg deliberately tried to
mislead his readers," or even that he was "grossly negligent." His is a
subtle, unintentional "dishonesty," apparently--the sort of lapse that is
usually described as "error."
Yet Lomborg complains that the committees didn't even cite examples of
things he got wrong. "You can't say I'm scientifically dishonest or in
breach of good scientific conduct unless you point the finger and say this
is the smoking gun," he told the Times. "It's like saying you committed
murder but we won't tell you who you killed. It's impossible for me to
The committees relied heavily on allegations that Ron Bailey has dissected
in Reason. But their real beef seems to be that they didn't like the
thrust of Lomborg's argument. "The report did not cite specific examples,"
the Times says, "but asserted that the book--although presented in the
style of a scientific treatise, with copious footnotes and diagrams--was
actually 'a provocative debate-generating paper.'"
So here is an official inquisitorial body, headed by a judge from the
Danish High Court, that explicitly criticizes a scientist for provoking
debate. What sort of science are they practicing in Denmark?
From: "Barry Palevitz"
I read Lomborg's book for a faculty get together a few months ago. I'm no
ecologist, but I find scads of mistakes, misinterpretations and ridiculous
claims in the book. It's awful, in my humble opinion.
- Barry A. Palevitz (Professor Coordinator of Advising in Biology,
University of Georgi; Contributing Editor, The Scientist)
- From Andrew Apel
It is standard practice for activists to claim that they speak for other
persons or things (i.e., farmers, whales, etc.), which has been dubbed
'ventriloquism.' A new activist group has taken this one step further, by
speaking for people who might not even exist!
Check out the Clone Rights United Front (CRUF) at
Potential of Plant Biotech Widens
- Crop Biotech Update, www.isaaa.org/kc January 10, 2003 (Via Agnet)
Progress in research has encouraged a massive surge in plant biotechnology
which is currently changing the vision of crop production and protection.
So says Dominique Job of Bayer CropScience in France. In a paper "Plant
Biotechnology in Agriculture" published in the international journal
Biochimie, Job says that the evolution of transformation and breeding
techniques have enabled researchers to respond to criticisms raised
against transgenic plants in agriculture.
Job adds that technologies enable "us to envisage the feasibility of
improving the nutritional conditions for animal and humans (yield
increase, correction of nutritional deficiency, elimination of
antinutritional components, vitamin intake) and health (protein and
enzymes manufacture, vaccinal plants), to encourage the arrival of
multiple new industry-oriented products and to produce crops that work in
greater harmony with the environment in terms of their water requirements,
pesticides, and fertilizers". Job concludes that the finalization of new
breeding methods, not based on the use of anitibiotics or herbicides, and
the transformation of plastids provide examples that demonstrate a
positive influence on the social debate surrounding their development".
All that remains, Job asserts, is "to thoroughly evaluate the
environmental impact of these transgenic crops". The full paper is
available online at www.sciencedirect.com
Developing Countries and Biotech Regulations
- Crop Biotech Update, www.isaaa.org/kc January 10, 2003 (Via Agnet)
Developing countries have to address regulatory issues if they want to
benefit from biotechnology. When the Cartagena Protocol comes into force,
according to Julian Kinderlerer of the Sheffield Institute of
Biotechnological Law and Ethics, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom,
countries have to set in place legal and administrative systems to ensure
that they are able to deal with both exports and imports of living
modified organisms. If a scientific infrastructure to produce varieties
adapted for their environment is not in place, the development of the
capacity will take much longer.
Kinderlerer indicates the following systems that countries need to be
instituted to ensure that any living modified organisms are used safely: A
system for receiving notifications about the intended introduction of a
living modified organisms.
Specific systems for different uses, i.e. a product to be used only for
food and feed versus those instituted with organisms that are intended to
be released into the environment. The administrative system must examine
the dossier submitted by an applicant to ensure completeness. The
Government either performs or audits a risk assessment based on
information in the dossier. In either case a system must be set up for
scientific oversight of the dossiers received.
Systems must allow public and stakeholder comment to be considered. A
system for evaluating the risk assessment and/or the audit report and any
public comments. The full paper is available at
New Journal: Environmental Biosafety Research
- Crop Biotech Update, www.isaaa.org/kc January 10, 2003
A new interdisciplinary journal, Environmental Biosafety Research, the
official journal of the International Society for Biosafety Research, has
just been launched. The new journal aims to provide a single forum for the
reporting and discussion of such issues as ecological studies of the
impact of novel organisms; studies of their interactions with pests and
pathogens; food and feed safety evaluation; impact of novel organisms on
agronomy and farming practice, effect on microbial populations and
assessment of horizontal gene flow.
The initial copy is available free of charge at
http://www.edpsciences.org/ebr. For additional information send email to
Altered Corn Fears Deepen Famine
- Danna Harman, Washington Times/The Christian Science Monitor, January 9,
Full Story at http://washingtontimes.com/world/20030109-88408318.htm
Boston - This is not the same old story of drought equals famine in
Africa. This time, there is hunger in the huts for reasons that have
little to do with the weather. Top Stories
Christian Science Monitor correspondent Danna Harman and staff
photographer Andy Nelson spent three weeks traveling in southern Africa
this autumn, delving into the causes of the growing food crisis. For 24
days, the crew of the Liberty Grace saw nothing but endless Atlantic
Ocean, a handful of whales, thousands of dolphins, and each other. The hum
of engines buzzed in their ears constantly. The wind hammered them as they
took long shifts on deck.
On the three-week journey from Louisiana to the ports of East Africa, the
ship's chief engineer learned to play the electric piano. Capt. John
Codispoti got through some Tom Clancy paperbacks, and the cook perfected
his chili-dog recipe.
But no one thought much about the cargo: 50,000 tons of genetically
modified (GM) corn to help some of the 14.5 million hungry men, women and
children facing food shortages in southern Africa. "Sometimes, I wonder
about the hungry people out there, and this corn we are shipping in," said
Capt. Codispoti. "But we never see them, so it's hard to imagine."
What also may be hard for this American crew to imagine is that other
shipments of corn ˇ genetically modified, just like the corn in countless
U.S. products ˇ is rotting in storehouses in Zambia while the people there
go hungry. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has rejected corn from the
United States because he believes it poses health risks to his people.
While science has yet to find any health problems caused by genetically
modified corn, misinformation has clouded the debate. Now many hungry
Africans don't know what to think of it.
Let Them Eat Fake
- Sterling Rome, CNSNews.com Commentary, January 9, 2003
Our culture is littered with perverse examples of the way that
politically-correct dogma hinders rational thought and produces monumental
inefficiencies. However, many people are able to profit because these
inefficiencies exist, thus they become a built-in constituency arguing for
them to continue - or worsen. This is why federal agencies never admit to
out-living their usefulness, and why charities that have obviously
achieved their goals never, ever admit to doing so. Further, it is why an
"activist group" founded with a particular mission always seems to find
new dragons to slay - and reasons to keep raising funds.
Such hypocrisy is an unfortunate by-product of a capitalist society, and
most of us simply find a way to muddle through without taking those
zealots among us too literally. But like everything else in our culture,
even activism seems to have morphed into an unreasonable and stultified
bellicose ignorance. Healthy dissent has been replaced by conformity.
People can no longer agree to disagree, they must be forced to agree by
any means necessary. In effect, this means that their can be no
opportunity for reason or sharing of ideas, only a point-blank conversion.
Unless they agree to instantly conform, or use the right code-words,
individuals are immediately categorized in the harshest and most
simple-minded terms. Depending upon where you are geographically, room for
error is reduced to zero. Imagine wearing an I'm the NRA" tee-shirt in
downtown Berkeley, or a mink coat in Greenwich Village. The fact that I
have given the above example proves that the activists have achieved their
goal. If certain choices cannot be legally eliminated, they will twist
public opinion to the point of achieving fear of public approbation.
This is a subtle, but chillingly effective form of censorship and its
adherents have virtually no regard for debate, and this same activist
zealousness is applied to the issue of genetically modified crops. Groups
like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth claim that growing and consuming
these so-called "Frankenfoods" could pose a health hazard, despite the
fact that these crops have been specifically developed to limit the need
for extra fertilization and pesticides. (Ironically, two other demands the
green groups have been making.)
There has been absolutely no proof generated anywhere that genetically
modified crops are a health hazard, but no matter, as the activist groups
don't have to prove their claims, they have merely to enforce them. As
usual, the burden of proof lies with the accused. In Europe and the United
States, where food is plentiful, this asinine side-show would again have
to be chalked up to the price we pay to live in a free society, but the
activist groups are not satisfied with indoctrinating those of us that
have a choice. In fact, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have gone so
far as to attempt to convince
Africans who are literally starving that they should refuse genetically
modified crops from the United States.
USAID Administrator Andrew Natios has said "The Bush administration is not
going to sit there and let these groups kill millions of poor people in
Southern Africa through their ideological campaign." It is precisely
because the advocates of these groups are not starving that they can
afford to be so willfully smug in the face of people who are.
Gullible African leaders have been duped into actually turning down
thousands of tons of US aid - as if they share the aloof activists option
of ordering "off the menu." There has probably never been a more
condemning, or deadly, example of the price of indoctrination based on
ideological zealousness rather than hard facts.
That these green groups are knowingly involved in starving millions of
Africans on ideological grounds should be a wake-up call to the rest of us
as to where they will draw the line. The answer is that they will not.
Thus, when college professors give speeches suggesting that a baby animal
has more "value" than a baby human being they are probably not speaking
Moreover, it appears that many of these activists, in a quest for
ideological purity, have passed into some sociopathic state of moral
superiority where they actually feel qualified to decide if people live or
die. That starving people should be denied life-saving food in order to
make a well-funded activist group feel "affirmed" is so grotesque as to
make me ashamed to have to write this article.
I suggest that the administrators of these multi-million dollar charities
be forced to live with starving Africans for a few months. I doubt that a
starving African has the privilege of rejecting free food in order to make
a cultural statement - he or she would probably rather survive. But that
realization is easy enough to ignore from a posh office in New York or
Seeds of Doubt
- BBC Radio 4, Tuesdays 7 & 14 January 2003 8.00-8.40pm (repeated Sundays
5pm); A two part series on the politics and science of GM food production
A spectacular backlash, including threats against a scientist. A $150,000
grassroots campaign is crushed by a $5million corporate counterblow. Whole
countries have changed policies, and we may be next. The link? GM foods,
and the backers of agricultural biotechnology.
Part one of Seeds of Trouble investigates the truth behind the conspiracy
theories and the alleged bully boy tactics by the GM food industry - and
its biggest fan: the US government.
Genetically modified (GM) food was supposed to be the bright new dawn of
agriculture, and the answer to world hunger. It unleashed a biological
goldrush, which turned sour when shares lost value, debts mounted, and the
corporations got rid of their agricultural biotech divisions, leaving them
to sink or swim on their own.
At the same time, pressure mounted on individual scientists, on activists
who fought for the labelling of GM foods, and on various countries
including those in the EU.
The follow up discussion on the subject is at:
A Great Big Silence In Norway
- Terry Hopkin
After years and years of opposition to the building of a gas driven
electric power station, constant opposition to building new dams for hydro
electricity, demands that wind mill parks must not destroy the
environment, and that the use of electricity must be reduced by use of
high government electricity taxes, the hysterical wing of the
environmentalist movement, have got the rest us in Norway in a real fix.
We are experiencing the longest and coldest winter for a long time(it
began to snow in October), causing rapidly rising electricity prices;and
the first reports of hypothermia amongst folk who can't afford to warm
their homes. Whilst a good deal of the present crises, that include
threats of rationing supplies, can be laid at Electricity companies door,
it is apparent that capacity which should have been built out long ago,
and is only now being discussed is also major factor, and a deal of finger
pointing at the causes for this lack of new capacity, is not going down at
all well with some of the more hysterical environmental groups, who are
getting a deal of the blame for this crisis, and it it seems now being
distanced from government that until now slavishly followed their advice.
Perhaps though the major change in the press and TV, is the silence from
these groups. Who'd dare to scream about dams wind mill parks, and gas
powered electricity stations,and government taxes on electricity when it
is unpopular? Perhaps we now know they only oppose, when it's "in" to do