Today in AgBioView: January 21, 2003:
* Famine, Again
* 'Bt cotton not a failure'
* About the IPM
* New biotech corn a boon to farmers
* GM Cotton
* A Simple Answer to Banana Fungus
* Enact Biotechnology Law
* GM could rescue bananas says expert
* More farms sprouting GM crops
* Evaluating public claims
* Greens to Launch New Scare Campaign
Washington Post Editorial
January 19, 2003
REP. FRANK R. WOLF (R-Va.) just got back from Ethiopia and showed around
his pictures from the field -- the blank eyes, the bloated bellies
balancing on two sticks -- and people thought he was in a time warp. "Yes,
this again" he's been telling his colleagues. Just as in 1984, the ribs
are starting to show and the cupboards are on their last cup of grain, not
just in Ethiopia but in much of southern Africa. But this is not merely a
replay of the last famine. This time there is a cooperative government in
Ethiopia, and everywhere else the aid workers have arrived in time. What
is still needed is critical but manageable: Western governments and other
donors must ensure that over the next few months the food pipeline stays
open and runs smoothly.
The term "famine in Africa" may seem exotic and remote, especially with
war and domestic terrorism so imminent. But zoom in on the elemental:
Famine is about rain at the wrong time and seeds that won't sprout and
parents with children who need nourishment. In Ethiopia, Mr. Wolf traveled
as far from the capital as Richmond is from Washington. There he found a
village of a few hundred where even the kids were too weak to move. One
man had been digging a well for two days in the hot sun; he'd had his last
drink -- a cup of putrid brown water -- the day before. One mother opened
her storage bin mostly for effect. It was empty. "My kids are kind of mad
at me," she explained. "They don't understand why I can't help them."
Some of this can be blamed on bad luck; African weather patterns have been
especially erratic this planting season. Some of it is venality; in
Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe is purposely starving his political
enemies. Zambia still senselessly resists donations of genetically
modified corn. Compounding it all is the astounding AIDS infection rate,
which is killing off the farming generation and has made people less able
to operate in survival mode. But it's almost better not to dwell on the
causes. The important thing is that in the next few months before the new
harvest, about 30 million people are in danger of starvation.
In contrast to 1984, the international aid community is prepared. The Bush
administration just authorized the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) to pledge a large shipment of food to Ethiopia, and
supplies have been reaching southern Africa for the last few months. But
resources are spread thin. There are eight African countries at risk, plus
Afghanistan and North Korea. At the very least, Congress needs to ensure
that the $325 million budgeted for 2003 is approved quickly. Aid groups
have pushed for an additional $600 million, a request Senate Minority
Leader Thomas A. Daschle included in his Africa Famine Relief Act. But
some aid workers in the field are nervous about depending on that
legislation; it is subject to debate, and there's no time to debate.
Another option is to draw on the Emerson Trust, an emergency food reserve
administered by the Department of Agriculture. Given the time crunch, this
seems like the best option. So far the only resistance comes from domestic
food producers worried about rising food prices -- an understandable but
secondary concern. Andrew Natsios, head of USAID, traveled in Ethiopia
last week; a shipment of grain, he said, takes eight weeks to get from the
port of Baltimore to Ethiopia. "The biggest enemy of all famine relief is
time," he said. "People don't die on our schedule."
'Bt cotton not a failure'
January 20, 2003
Contrary to the earlier reports that the genetically modified Bt Cotton
had been a failure in many areas, the Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India)
today claimed that a comprehensive survey of the farmers who had completed
their final picking of the crop showed that they had earned an extra
income of Rs. 7,000 per acre.
According to the company, nearly 55,000 farmers who had already harvested
their crop reported 30 per cent increase in their yields and a 65 to 70
per cent reduction in the use of pesticides.
In a press release, the company said the farmers in Madhya Pradesh
reported the maximum gain of Rs. 9,600 per acre, followed by those in
Gujarat (Rs. 7,370), Maharashtra (Rs. 7250), Karnataka (Rs. 6,480) and
Andhra Pradesh (Rs. 5930).
In Tamil Nadu, the harvesting is yet to be completed, but farmers are
excited by the performance of the crop so far, the release said.
Savings on pesticide usage was to the extent of Rs. 1,090 per acre in
Andhra Pradesh, Rs. 950 per acre in Madhya Pradesh, Rs. 720 per acre in
Maharashtra, Rs. 610 per acre in Karnataka and Rs. 530 per acre in
Gujarat, the report said.
The Bt Cotton, which is the first ever biotech crop to be cultivated in
India, was planted in June last year, two months after the Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee under the Union Environment Ministry gave
its nod for its limited plantation.
Date: Sun, 19 Jan 2003 15:44:33 +0000 (GMT)
From: "shuvas bhattarai"
Subject: about the IPM
I think the biotechnolgy is not complet if the farmere is not going to
follow the Intergrated pest management (IPM). If there is biotechnology
but there is no IPM many be its taste of the salt less curry. If any body
wnats to protect the environment they have to follow the biotechnology and
IPM get together. Am I right or wrong?
Speakout: New biotech corn a boon to farmers
Rocky Mountain News
By Kevin Penny
January 20, 2003
When people first began talking about agricultural biotechnology, we heard
about its potential to reduce the use of pesticides. The promise is about
to arrive in a big way with the anticipated approval of corn that resists
the devastating corn rootworm.
Control of this pest represents the single largest use of conventional
insecticides in U.S. agriculture. It appears that farmers could
essentially eliminate use of that insecticide by planting the new biotech
corn, which produces a protein that controls the pest.
I was one of several corn growers who got to try the new corn in 2002 as
part of an experimental use permit. How did it work? Consider this: I
harvested 25 pivot fields of corn. Twenty-four of the fields received at
least one and sometimes three applications of chemical insecticides; the
biotech field received none and produced yields that were equal to or
better than the other fields.
Rootworms are a devastating pest, which must be controlled if growers are
to have any crop. They really aren't worms, but are the larval form of a
beetle. They attack the corn roots, depriving the plant of nutrients and
causing stalks to fall over. Rootworms cost U.S. corn growers about $1
billion each year.
Currently, in regions like Colorado where rootworms are a problem, most
continuous corn acres are treated with a soil-applied granular
Sometimes that insecticide loses its punch before all the larvae pupate to
their adult form, so farmers might have to apply a liquid insecticide to
control the larvae that are continuing to feed on the roots. Then, in the
late summer, depending on how many mature beetles we see, we might have to
use a third application to suppress the adult beetles, lessening the next
spring's infestation. The latter two applications are generally made
I fully expect the new biotech corn to eliminate nearly all of those
applications. The major exception would be those acres in which we would
not plant the biotech corn to comply with the refuge management system.
The biotech corn contains a gene from a soil bacterium known as Bacillus
thuringiensis or Bt.
Farmers, including organic farmers, have used Bt powders or sprays for
years to control insects that attack leaves or stems. Now scientists have
learned how to put the gene into plants where it produces a protein in the
roots. It provides season-long protection, no matter when rootworms show
up. And, because it is so effective, we probably won't have to control for
beetles in the fall.
The Bt protein in the new corn is effective only against rootworms. The
Environmental Protection Agency requires extensive testing to prove that
the protein does not harm birds, mammals, fish and beneficial insects.
Insect protection through biotechnology is going to be a tremendous
It's good news for farmers, who must invest heavily in chemicals in order
to protect their crops. It's good news for our employees, because it will
greatly reduce their exposure to chemicals.
It should also come as good news to the nonfarming public, because it
gives farmers a new tool to farm more sustainably.
Having seen how the new corn performed on one of my pivot fields in 2002,
I'm hoping it receives final registration approval so I can plant it as
broadly as I can in 2003.
Kevin Penny is a third-generation farmer from Burlington.
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: GM Cotton
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 15:50:01 -0600
Not only does the farmer save fuel and labor on no till cotton but the
environment is saved the CO2 that fuel would have added to the atmosphere.
No till also reduces wind erosion to nil and greatly reduces water erosion
sparing the waterways the silt, phosphorus and much of the nitrogen that
the top soil carries with it when it erodes into the waterways. In
addition minimum till cotton at Lubbock has increased the organic content
of the soil 1% a year for the three years that study was conducted. In
Nebraska over a 20 year period no till corn increased the organic matter
from 2% to 4% in soils where virgin sod had 6% organic matter.
So instead of being one of the most environmentally unfriendly crops on
earth due to soil erosion and insecticide using genetic modification can
make cotton a great deal kinder to the environment by not only reducing
the carbon dioxide produce raising but turning it into a carbon sink,
reducing the soil erosion and with BT technology greatly reducing the
insecticides use in the world. Insecticides sprayed on cotton make up 25%
of the insecticides used world wide and 50% of those used in India.
No till and minimum till cropping are the only cropping methods I have
seen that increase the organic matter in the soil in any substantial
amount. It is the first real step in building soil instead of mining it or
at best conserving it. The environmental benefits of the first generation
of GM crops are very substantial by reducing CO2 output, soil erosion and
insecticide use. These are a benefit to everyone not just the farmer.
Gordon Couger www.couger.com/gcouger
Subject: A Simple Answer to Banana Fungus
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 13:17:11 -0800
From: "Robert Wager"
Perhaps I am way off base here but it seems the present and looming
problem of fungus infections in bananas can be solved rather easily.
Transform the banana with a gene for chitinase. Since virtually all
fungus have chitin cell walls the engineering of this enzyme into the
bananas should give protection from fungal infection (atleast to some
extent). The mainstream media is saying that the banana will be extinct
in ten years from fungal infestations. Is the fear (unwarranted) of GE
bananas worth loosing a wonderful fruit all together. This kind of logic
is already at work in africa with the US corn imports.
Malaspina University College
Enact Biotechnology Law
January 20, 2003
THE BANANA is facing extinction. The world's most popular fruit may be no
more if its genetic composition does not adapt to changing circumstances.
New Scientist, a respected international journal, reports one of the
world's leading researchers as saying that the banana could be wiped out
by two fungal diseases that have struck Africa, South America and Asia.
For Uganda, the implications are catastrophic. Our consumption of bananas
is much more than the fruit that much of the world eats as dessert. It is
a staple - the main course, as it were. We cook matooke; we fry, roast and
boil gonja. We also make wine from the Musa varieties, which we then
accompany with Cavendish (bogoya) and the apple banana (ndiizi).
The New Scientist's report is not new. We have already witnessed the
terrible effects of the black sigatoka fungus and the nematode pest that
have been responsible for much of the Buganda geographical area ceasing to
grow matooke in vast quantities. This phenomenon could extend to Western
Uganda, and further aggravate a situation in which we are producing only
about one-tenth of our banana growing potential.
Curiously, we have, at Kawanda, a very extensive banana research project,
which, ideally, should be at the forefront of international breakthroughs.
Granted, Kawanda collaborates with international researchers; but it is
severely held back by the absence of a biotechnology development law.
Partly because of an inordinate fear of genetic modification, we are yet
to enact a law that would give our researchers a free hand and enhance
developments in genetic science. If we are to meet our full potential,
protect our cultural and economic heritage, and ease the frustrations of
our otherwise hardworking scientists, a law of biotechnological
development should be enacted speedily. Ends
GM could rescue bananas says expert
New Zealand Herald
Canterbury scientists believe they can save bananas from extinction using
the same genetic engineering techniques they used to create pest-resistant
Crop and Food, Lincoln, scientist Maqbool Ahmad, a banana expert, said GM
could be used to develop a banana with resistance to black sigatoka
disease, which experts predict could wipe out conventional bananas within
Crop and Food has already developed pest resistant potatoes and will apply
to plant them all over New Zealand once a moratorium on release of
genetically modified organisms expires in October.
Dr Ahmad said developing a disease resistant banana would involve the same
techniques used at Crop and Food, Lincoln, to create the GM potatoes and
other GM plants.
"It is the same technology. You insert a gene that would make the bananas
resistant to the disease."
Dr Ahmad, who recently returned from a trip to Pakistan, said black
sigatoka was devastating banana plantations between Karachi and Hyderabad,
near the Indian border.
"Normal banana trees are 2m tall. The diseased trees shrink to less than
1m, become shrivelled and black, and eventually die," he said.
Unless bananas were developed with resistance to the disease, many
communities in the Third World faced economic and social ruin. New Zealand
provides $230 million of foreign aid to countries all over Asia and the
Pacific and sponsors aid projects in Africa and Latin America.
Bananas are grown in most of the countries receiving New Zealand aid and
in some, such as Samoa or Tonga, they are one of the most important cash
New Zealand had the capacity to do the genetic engineering, Dr Ahmad said.
Developing disease-resistant bananas through conventional breeding was not
an option since all edible bananas were sterile clones, Dr Ahmad said.
It was important to start work on the GM banana soon and for as many
countries as possible to be involved.
Dr Ahmad said the lack of seeds and pollen meant there was zero risk of
contamination of other crops by GM bananas.
More farms sprouting GM crops
January 20, 2003
A record number of genetically modified crops were planted around the
world last year - proving resistant not just to bugs and weeds but also to
political and financial pressures.
The bumper harvest comes amid a potential trade war between the United
States and the European Union over the crops, the financial struggles of
the companies that push the products and still-doubtful consumers.
A report by a group that promotes use of the technology in poor countries
found that an estimated six million farmers in 16 countries planted
genetically modified crops on 145 million acres last year, an increase of
15 million acres and three countries from the previous year.
In 1996, the first year genetically modified crops were commercially
available, about 4.3 million acres were under biotechnology cultivation.
The United States accounted for 66 per cent of the total biotechnology
acreage last year.
"Biotechnology continues to be the most rapidly adopted technology in
agricultural history due to the social and economic benefits the crops
offer farmers and society," said Clive James, founder of the
industry-supported International Service for the Acquisition of
Agri-biotech Applications, which released the report.
Mr James said nine developing nations planted some genetically modified
crop last year, three more than in 2001. India, Colombia and Honduras grew
biotechnology crops on a large scale for the first time last year, joining
Argentina, China, Uruguay, Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia as countries
James considers developing nations that have embraced biotechnology.
Mr James and other biotechnology proponents argue that genetically
modified plants will help alleviate poverty by improving crop yields and
cutting expenses through less use of pesticides.
The most popular biotech crops contain bacterium genes that make the
plants resistant to either bugs or weed killers.
But critics of biotech crops say there isn't enough known about their
impact on human health or the environment. The crops have met the most
resistance in Europe.
European Union authorities imposed a moratorium on the import of
genetically modified food products in 1998, responding to mounting fears
of European consumers about possible health risks from the products.
American farm groups estimate the EU ban is costing them nearly $US300
million ($A513.26 million) a year in lost corn exports alone.
Recently, US trade representative Robert Zoellick indicated the Bush
administration was close to bringing a case against the moratorium before
the World Trade Organisation, a move certain to spark strong reaction
among European consumer groups.
Mr Zoellick also charged that the EU ban encouraged several
famine-threatened African nations to reject US food relief shipments
containing genetically modified corn.
The critics also argue that few major food crops have been genetically
engineered. Soy, corn, canola and cotton were the only four biotechnology
crops grown widely last year.
"The reality is that the biotechnology revolution has not happened," said
Jeanne Merrill of Greenpeace. "The majority of these crops are going into
animal feed. Farmers are rejecting biotech food crops."
St Louis-based Monsanto Co disputes that assertion. It says 70 per cent of
processed food in the United States includes biotech crops.
US farmers have, however, shunned biotech versions of sugarbeets, potatoes
and sweet corn because major food companies said they wouldn't buy them.
Monsanto's application to market genetically modified wheat has been
widely opposed by US and Canadian growers who fear consumer rejection.
Monsanto, which controls most of the world's biotechnology seeds, is
struggling financially. The company's longtime chief executive stepped
down in December as its sales plummeted.
For the first nine months of 2002, Monsanto lost $US1.75 billion ($A2.99
billion) compared to a profit of $US399 million ($A682.63 million) a year
ago. Sales for the nine months declined 19 per cent to $US3.45 billion
($A5.9 billion) from $4.25 billion.
Still, the company said the report validated biotechnology's increasing
"It confirms that growers are finding economic benefits," said Monsanto
spokeswoman Shannon Troughton. "We believe biotechnology will continue to
Date: Mon, 20 Jan 2003 14:21:54 +0930
From: "Rick Roush"
Subject: Evaluating public claims
Do the Danes have a formal process for evaluating scientific accuracy of
public statements? According to a note circulated on the Ecological
Society of America listserver (below), it looks like Lomborg is being
challenged there. If so, can the system be applied to Greenpeace (etc) as
well? From the Ecological Society of America listserver (from Jason B.
West, Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Ecology, Evolution and
Behavior University of Minnesota):
Although I feel some real hesitation in bringing ole Lomborg up again, I
thought ecologgers would be interested in this finding from the Danish
"On the basis of the material adduced by the complainants, and
particularly the assessment in Scientific American, DCSD deems it to have
been adequately substantiated that the defendant, who has himself insisted
on presenting his publication in scientific form and not allowing the book
to assume the appearance of a provocative debate-generating paper, based
on customary scientific standards and in light of his systematic
onesidedness in the choice of data and line of argument, has clearly acted
at variance with good scientific practice.
Subject to the proviso that the book is to be evaluated as science, there
has been such perversion of the scientific message in the form of
systematically biased representation that the objective criteria for
upholding scientific dishonesty-cf. Danish Order No. 533 of 15 December
1998-have been met. In consideration of the extraordinarily wide-ranging
scientific topics dealt with by the defendant without having any special
scientific expertise, however, DCSD has not found-or felt able to
procure-sufficient grounds to deem that the defendant has misled his
readers deliberately or with gross negligence."
The full text of this decision can be accessed at:
Greens to Launch New Scare Campaign
January 17, 2003
By Steven Milloy
Get ready. The greens are set to terrorize us with yet another junk
science-fueled campaign intended to advance their mindless anti-chemical
The new campaign is part of what the greens are calling "the broadest and
most ambitious operation ever attempted by the national environmental
"Environmentalism in the U.S. could be permanently transformed by the
intensity of the strategic planning," writes prominent environmental
reporter Keith Schneider, who notes the greens have more than $120 million
to push their radical agenda.
Keying off an upcoming government report on human exposure to chemicals in
the environment, this latest campaign will have a new twist -- shameful
exploitation of individuals with cancer and other diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release on Jan. 29 its
second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. The
report will include data on 116 substances detected in humans -- such as
metals, PCBs and pesticides.
Importantly, the CDC report won't link any of the detected substances to
health effects. This makes sense since the trace levels detected aren't
harmful. A fundamental principle of toxicology, after all, is "the dose
makes the poison."
The greens, however, aren't planning on mentioning these key facts.
Instead, they're scheming to use the CDC report as an opportunity to
launch the mother of all scare campaigns.
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) -- a new umbrella
group of virtually every extreme environmental group -- plans to hold a
media event around the release of the CDC report to provide the media with
its own spin.
CHE plans to roll out a group of alleged experts available to answer
health-related questions. Many questions should be expected as CHE claims
chemicals in the environment cause disease in more than one-third of the
U.S. population at an annual health care cost of $325 billion.
The CHE point of view, of course, is chemicals in the environment cause
virtually every case of virtually every disease -- despite the utter
absence of supporting evidence.
CHE's experts likely will be more communications -- rather than
science-oriented. They're being assembled and directed behind the scenes
by the scare-mongering experts at Fenton Communications -- the shady
public relations firm that masterminded the notorious Alar and silicone
breast implant scares.
The activist group Physicians for Social Responsibility will
simultaneously release its own report to provide "valuable tips for the
public on what to look for in CDC's Report" and describe "sources, routes
of exposure, and health effects of specific chemicals."
And there's word the Environmental Working Group will shift from its
current campaign -- scaring consumers about rocket fuel supposedly
detected in lettuce -- to the CHE circus.
EWG plans to exhibit cancer victims who have been tested for chemicals at
the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the home of activist-researcher Philip
Landrigan. EWG is said to be planning advertisements in major newspapers
featuring these victims and naming consumer products claimed to be the
source of their ailments.
CHE also has lured numerous disease-victims groups into the mix, such as
the African American Breast Cancer Group, Endometriosis Association,
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and Parkinson's Association of
The greens apparently have told these groups their fundraising will be
enhanced through CHE. That may be true in the short-term, but in the end,
CHE's efforts actually distract and detract from efforts to find
treatments and cures for the various diseases.
Despite more than 40 years and countless billions of dollars of research,
no credible scientific evidence exists to link typical exposures to
chemicals in the environment with disease. To the extent CHE forces scarce
public and private resources to be wasted chasing myths, fewer resources
are available for more productive medical research on treatments and
CHE also plans to draw attention to kids and chemicals.
But as the American Council on Science and Health exposes in its new book,
Are Children More Vulnerable to Environmental Chemicals, CHE's efforts are
just more of the "disturbing pattern in which activists with a non-science
agenda manipulate the public's legitimate and appropriate concern for
children's health in an effort to promote legislation, litigation, and
Finally, there's some irony attached to CHE. The group's acronym recalls
Fidel Castro's revolutionary comrade-in-arms, ChÈ Guevera, a physician who
opted for violent communist revolution rather than more humane and useful
service treating the sick.
Given the absence of credible science in CHE's efforts, our own leftist
greens seem to be sending us a subliminal message.