Today in AgBioView: January 16, 2002:
* Affluent activists condemn poor to lives of abject squalor
* Moral Indignation
* British fears guide African food policies
* Benbrook on non-GM foods
* Non-sequiturs in The Guardian
* African situation and The Guardian's errors
* Colin Berry: There is a strong case for GM crops
* Protesters 'censor' GM crop benefits
* GM beet welcomes weeds and wildlife
* Wildlife killed by conventional farming 'flourishes in GM fields'
* The Guardian: Scientists grow 'bird-friendly' GM sugar beet
* Bush Offers Africa $5B In Aid, Eased Trading Rules
* 'Decrepit' banana faces extinction in 10 years
* 6 million farmers grow altered crops
* Re: Mexico
* Paraguay farmers opt for banned GM soybean seeds
* Transgenic, transplastomic and other genetically modified plants: a
Affluent activists condemn poor to lives of abject squalor
The Sun Herald
By PAUL K. DRIESSEN
January 14, 2003
Three intertwined doctrines are all the rage among corporate,
environmental, government and religious activists these days - and
unfortunately all are condemning the world's poor to lives of abject
The first, called corporate social responsibility, argues that companies
should conduct their affairs with more concern for activists' pet causes
than making a profit for shareholders.
The second, known as sustainable development, says companies must restrict
themselves only to activities that "meet the needs and aspirations of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
The third, dubbed the precautionary principle, requires companies to halt
any activities that may threaten "human health or the environment" even
when there is no documented cause-and-effect relationship.
A hopeless life of hunger and poverty
All of that may sound noble at first blush, but the truth is that radical
activists from affluent Western countries created these buzz phrases to
promote their own socialist agendas. They - and they alone - define what
is "responsible" in a way that blocks any development that doesn't meet
their exacting environmental demands, even though it may mean locking the
world's poor into a hopeless life of chronic hunger and poverty.
For people in the Third World, the three doctrines are dangerous, and even
deadly. They impose the loftiest of developed world standards on
developing nations, while ignoring the needs and aspirations of people who
struggle daily just to survive.
For instance, few of the more that 2 billion Africans and Indians living
today have access to electricity. Half a billion women and children in
Africa, Asia and Latin America currently spend their days collecting
firewood, or squatting in mud laced with animal feces and urine to
collect, dry and store manure for use as fuel. Few attend school. Millions
die every year from preventable lung diseases and dysentery caused by
indoor air pollution and filthy drinking water.
Ironically, the poor in the teeming slums of New Delhi have the same
aspirations for themselves and their families as Sierra Club members in
gated communities in the Hamptons, La Jolla and Sausalito. Above all, they
want to live in modern homes, determine their own destinies, and enjoy
electricity, safe water and other basics that Westerners take for granted.
"We don't want to be encased like a museum," one Indian woman plaintively
told a television news crew.
They also want to protect their environment. "If people don't have
electricity," points out Gordon Mwesigye, a senior official in Uganda,
"they will cut down trees, and Africa will lose its wildlife habitats and
the health and economic benefits that abundant, reliable, affordable
Dams in Uganda and Gujarat Province, India, could provide electricity and
safe drinking water. But First World radicals oppose their construction
and are pressuring international aid agencies to withdraw funding. These
countries shouldn't make the same "mistakes" we did by building mammoth
hydroelectric projects, the activists insist. They should opt for wind
turbines, or solar panels on huts. They mustn't dam up good kayaking
rivers or use fossil fuels.
An additional 14 million Africans face imminent starvation. Modern science
could reduce their anguish - through seeds and crops that have been
genetically modified, to make them resistant to drought, salt and insect
pests, reduce the need for pesticides, and save wildlife habitat by
enabling farmers to grow more food on less land.
The U.S. has shipped African countries thousands of tons of genetically
modified corn - the same corn that Americans have been eating safely for
years. But environmental radicals and the European Union are screaming
"genetic pollution" and threatening to withdraw aid and ban agricultural
exports from any countries that plant or distribute the grains.
'Better dead than fed'
One can only wonder if the activists' cars will soon be festooned with
such bumper sticker slogans as: "Solar for huts - and huts forever" or
"Sustainable insects, expendable people" or perhaps, "Better dead than
For the sake of the world's poor, it's time to ask the eco-activists,
bureaucrats and media elites exactly how their anti-energy, anti-biotech
and anti-people policies are moral, compassionate, sustainable or socially
Paul Driessen is a senior fellow at the Committee for a Constructive
Tomorrow (www.cfact.org), P.O. Box 65722, Washington, DC 20035.
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 19:51:29 +0000
From: "Chris Dawson"
Subject: Moral indignation
I thought that the following quotation from Erich Fromm (1900-1980) might
strike a note with some AgBioView readers. It may increase the
indignation of others.
"There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling
as 'moral indignation', which permits envy or hate to be acted out under
the guise of virtue."
British fears guide African food policies
By Margaret Wilson
LONDON ˇ When British citizens began a public debate recently on
genetically modified crops, the talk was of government indifference to the
But while this country's full-bellied citizens discuss the niceties of
outcrossing and allergenicity, Africans are listening from countries where
the issues are overshadowed by starvation. In the autumn, after
consultations in Europe, one African country rejected American food aid
that contained genetically modified corn.
British ˇ and European ˇ attitudes toward genetically modified food are
profoundly shaping the African response. The repercussions can be seen
most clearly in Zambia, where 3 million people face starvation because of
After donated corn began to arrive, the Zambian government discovered it
was partly genetically modified and said it posed major environmental and
perhaps health implications. Zambia turned to Europe for guidance and has
now rejected 63,000 tons of American corn. It even turned down the corn in
milled form, free of genetically modified seeds that farmers might plant.
"We believe the government of Zambia has disregarded the scientific
evidence and is rejecting the advice that accepting this safe maize to
feed its hungry people would help avert human catastrophe," the United
States said. But Zambia looks to Europe, not to America.
British activists have had a hot line to the Zambian scientists entrusted
with advising their government about such corn. The Zambians have adopted
the groups' suspicion of genetically modified food ˇ and they have been
particularly moved by the health fears that erupted in Britain in 1999.
In September, Zambia's scientists traveled around Britain, Brussels, the
Netherlands, Norway, the United States and South Africa on a quest to
understand issues surrounding genetically modified food. One of the
seven-member team said: "I did see things differently from the way I saw
them before I left: I got more scared." Mwananyanda Lewanika is a
biochemist at Zambia's National Institute for Science and Technology,
holds two degrees from American universities and has specialized in
biological safety for five years. He said his team rejected the corn
largely because of health concerns raised in Europe.
His first concern is gene transfer ˇ the idea that the foreign genes in
genetically modified plants could, while in the digestive system, transfer
to the cells of the body or into intestinal bacteria.
If the genes were for antibiotic resistance, as they sometimes are,
bacteria that picked them up then could rampage unchecked through human
populations, say opponents of genetically modified foods. Zambia's science
minister, Abel Chambeshi, said in November that donors are refusing to
tell Zambia what type of modified corn they have donated.
Mr. Lewanika also fears unintended effects resulting from gene insertion ˇ
that the functions of genes are not fully understood, and that they may
produce substances that could be poisonous or allergenic.
How could Zambia's scientists have attached such weight to health risks
that are mostly irrelevant to those who face starvation? During their
three days in Britain, as well as meeting representatives from five
government bodies, the team met a host of nongovernmental organizations,
many of whom pressed the health issues. Farming and Livestock Concern UK
said in the Zambia Daily Mail that the virus used to create most
genetically modified varieties "could form a retrovirus that could produce
symptoms similar to HIV" ˇ a contention that raises eyebrows among
biologists. Genetic Food Alert raised the "unknown and unassessed
implications of providing large quantities of food containing resistance
genes to a large population in Zambia."
The scientists reported that they met a host of groups, such as Econexas,
the Natural Law Party and the Third World Network, as well as hearing the
arguments from organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and
the Soil Association.
These meetings convinced the Zambian delegates that the health risks of
genetically modified crops are of even greater concern to African
countries than to developed nations.
"The people of Zambia are in poor health," said Mr. Lewanika. "Many are
immune-compromised. If the health concerns are true, they are more likely
to affect those in Zambia."
The fact that Zambians eat unprocessed corn, while Americans eat their
genetically modified corn in a highly processed form, also was important
to the scientists. "In Zambia, corn is eaten as nshima [a porridge] for
breakfast, lunch and supper. In America, they eat it as cornflakes and
tortilla chips, while corn on the cob is not genetically modified," Mr.
Lewanika said. Foreign proteins in the maize would perish en route to
becoming cornflakes, he says, but might survive the mild simmering that
turns cornmeal into porridge.
Kainyua M'bijjewe, spokesman for Monsanto in Africa, has accused groups
like Greenpeace of perpetuating starvation by persuading African
governments to reject genetically modified foods. But Mr. Lewanika
dismisses such accusations, saying he is capable of assessing the
soundness of research for himself. He says it is the groups that thought
Zambia should accept the corn that failed to provide scientific arguments.
He says they came across as patronizing and unsympathetic to Zambia's
anguish over the corn.
Mr. Lewanika said David King, Britain's chief scientist, was dismissive.
"He said that Zambia doesn't have a choice [and must accept the corn]. But
he also said that he does have a choice, so he would not eat it himself.
"The Department for International Development said: 'You just accept it,
because you have no choice.' As a human being, I felt that these people
actually didn't care. You are being told you are put in a position where
it's given to you ˇ so just accept it."
The five other famine-threatened countries in southern Africa have
accepted such donated corn ˇ four of them on condition that it is milled
before distribution, a process that is expensive and time-consuming but
eliminates the chance it will be planted.
Another consideration is that Africa's agricultural future depends on
Europe's stance toward genetically modified crops. If Europe rejects them,
then African countries that grow them could lose their export markets.
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 14:12:42 +0930
From: "Rick Roush"
Subject: Benbrook on non-GM foods
From "The Guardian" in 14 Jan AGBIOVIEW "AFRICA HAS BEEN drawn into the
increasingly bitter dispute between the United States and the European
Union over the safety of genetically modified (GM) food crops".... (etc)
"Critics say that the world has plenty of non-GM food that Zambia could
buy with the money the US offered. There is no shortage of non-GM foods
which could be offered to Zambia by public and private donors, said Chuck
Benbrook, a leading US agronomist."
I am confused by this. (1) What are the non-GM foods which could be
offered to Zambia, and which are culturally and practically appropriate to
Further, (2) can you clarify for the readers of AgBioView what are your
areas of training and expertise? Forgive if my memory has faded over the
years since the NAS panel of 1984-86, but I thought you were an economist
Richard T. Roush
Associate Professor and CEO
EMAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management
"Weeds - Australia's most underestimated environmental threat"
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 22:41:57 -0500
From: "John W. Cross"
Subject: Non-sequiturs in The Guardian
The Madeley article from "The Guardian" has at least three errors or fact
or logic that are so blatant as to seem deliberate misinformation. 1. "The
US Department of Agriculture responded by offering Zambia US$50 million on
condition that it, effectively, used the money to buy GM foods."
As other writers to this forum have stated earlier, US Law requires the
government to provide food aid in the form of actual US-grown commodities,
2. "..thus, establishing GM crops in Africa and farmers' dependency on US
companies for seed."
Since the grain the Africans would receive from the US had been harvested
from f1 plants, that grain is f2 and will grow into corn plants showing
segregation for hybrid vigor and many agronomic traits. How does growing
one crop of corn from f2 seed make farmers dependent on US companies? Only
a farmer with no other options would plant f2 seed, let alone f3 seed.
3. "Research just published in Britain ...raises the possibility of
superweeds developing that are immune to herbicides."
There aren't any weedy relatives of Zea mays in Africa with the ability to
cross-pollinate with it. Perhaps Mr. Madeley might explain how British
research proves the donated corn will mutate into a "superweed", whatever
that might be.
Is Madeley a staff writer at the Guardian or what?
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 10:29:13 -0500
From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: African situation and The Guardian's errors
Letter submitted to The Guardian on Wednesday, Jan. 15 Dear
John Madeley wrote in his Jan 12 story on Africa caught in the biotech
food debate that "The US Department of Agriculture responded by offering
Zambia US$50 million on condition that it, effectively, used the money to
buy GM foods."
Madeley had his facts wrong. The US does not offer cash for food aid
because of a law enacted by the US Congress decades ago that requires any
food aid to be given in the form of US commodities held by the Commodity
Credit Corporation -- a government body. Because of this preexisting law,
it would be illegal for the Bush Administration to give Zambia US$50
million to purchase food, even if it wanted to. Thus, there was no
"condition" to buy only GM food, as there was no cash offered. The only
commodity corn stocks held by the CCC are unsegregated bulk stocks roughly
30% GM content. Contrary to the reports of activists, there are no stocks
of organic corn big enough to meet Zambia's needs, and none held by the
government that would meet the requirements of the existing law.
While some may argue that cash or non-GM food stocks should be given, it
would require Congress to repeal the existing law or pass a waiver
allowing the Bush Administration and federal agencies to ignore the law.
Hudson Institute, Center for Global Food Issues
(540) 337-6354, or -6387
PO Box 202
Churchville, VA 24421
Colin Berry: There is a strong case for GM crops
From a lecture by the emeritus professor of pathology at Queen Mary's
Hospital, given at the Scientific Alliance conference in London
14 January 2003
Mankind stands to reap great health benefits from genetically modified
crops. There is the potential to incorporate vaccines into the crops
genetically ˝ and thereby into our diet. We also have the potential to use
the crops as pharmaceutical factories to create new vaccines that will
protect us from disease.
But what I want to talk to you about is not these hypothetical benefits,
but the direct ways genetically modified crops can help people, and in
ways that can be measured now.
There is clear evidence that when crops are genetically modified to be
more resistant to pests, the health of farmers improves. Firstly, they are
less exposed to manufactured pesticides, which can have adverse effects on
their health. Secondly, they don't need to buy pesticides, so their
profits improve. With lower costs, their livelihood ˝ and overall standard
of health ˝ improves.
There are also great educational benefits to be had where genetically
modified crops are used in subsistence or near-subsistence agricultural
communities. The boll weevil, which laid waste to the cotton fields of the
American South in the last century, is found today in China and India.
The children and women of these subsistence communities spend a great deal
of time picking weevils and weeding the cotton. Where genetically
engineered crops are used, engineered to be resistant to the boll weevil,
a great deal of time can be saved.
The women of these communities are often keen for their children to be
educated, and will choose to send their offspring to school rather than
have them working in the fields. It is my personal view that this is an
excellent development, and a strong argument for the increased use of
genetically modified crops.
Protesters 'censor' GM crop benefits
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent
Protesters who destroy genetically modified crops are conducting a
campaign of censorship designed to mislead the public, one of BritainÝs
leading agricultural scientists said yesterday.
Vandalism of GM trials has nothing to do with environmentalism, but aims
to suppress research into the ecological benefits of the technology,
according to John Pidgeon, director of the BroomÝs Barn Research Station
Activist groups, such as Greenpeace, are so concerned that field trials
may undermine their blanket opposition to GM crops that they prefer to rip
them up so that the results will never be known, he said. As a result, the
public is getting a one-sided view of the potential environmental benefits
and risks of biotechnology.
Dr Pidgeon added: ýThe public has a right to know about environmental
research, and we have faced repeated attempts to halt this research, which
we regard as a form of censorship.ţ
BroomÝs Barn has published a study showing that GM sugar beet could bring
major ecological benefits to the countryside, helping farmland birds, such
as the skylark and the lapwing, to make a comeback.
The research found that the herbicide-resistant sugar beet allowed weeds,
seeds and insects, on which threatened birds feed, to thrive without an
impact on yield.
During the trial, one scientist found a skylark nesting in a beet field
for the first time in his 19-year career. Lapwings and partridges were
also seen in the crop which survived vandalism by GM protesters.
The trial was funded by the biotechnology company Monsanto, but the
scientists were free to publish their results without its approval.
Ben Ayliffe, of Greenpeace, said that direct action was not about
censoring research but was about preventing GM crops from
cross-pollinating with wild neighbours.
ýAlthough he may think itÝs a form of censorship, Greenpeace believes the
farm-scale trials themselves legitimise genetic pollution,ţ Mr Ayliffe
GM beet welcomes weeds and wildlife
NewScientist.com news service
15 January 03
Fields of sugar beet full of weeds and insects have for the first time
challenged the idea that crops genetically-modified to resist weedkillers
are bad for wildlife. The experiments suggest that the careful use of GM
technology can encourage back the wildlife lost in conventional crop
fields - without sacrificing farmers' yields.
"It's the first time someone's taken herbicide-resistant crops and shown
that they can have an environmental benefit," says John Pidgeon of the
Broom's Barn Research Station (BBRS) in Suffolk, UK, where the
groundbreaking work took place. The BBRS is mainly funded by the sugar
beet industry, with this study partly financed by biotech company
Pidgeon notes that farms growing sugar beet occupy about 15 per cent of
England's arable farmland, so wider use of the GM regime could help
attract wildlife to significant areas. And similar strategies should be
applicable to any crop grown in rows, such as maize and soya, suggesting
But sceptics remain unconvinced by the findings, published in a scientific
journal on Wednesday. They say that farmers would be tempted to obliterate
weeds altogether with the GM technology, gaining about 10 per cent in
yield but "sterilising" Europe's farmland. And sugar producers may resist
buying GM beet on the grounds that European consumers would reject GM
Much more food
Pidgeon, Alan Dewar, Mike May and colleagues showed that weeds could
flourish for months alongside the growing GM beet, without comprising the
ultimate yield. These weeds, and the insects they support, provided much
more food for birds than was available in neighbouring but barren
"control" fields of conventional sugar beet.
The hope is that if used extensively, the beet could provide enough food
and cover to attract back birds such as skylarks and lapwings, whose
numbers have dwindled on European farms.
The team tested a strategy that permits weeds to grow in the
50-centimetre-wide gullies between crops. The GM beets used were resistant
to broad-spectrum herbicides that "kill anything green". Four to six weeks
after sowing the seed, the researchers killed weeds near the emerging
seedlings, but allowed all others to carry on growing.
Not until four to six weeks later did they destroy these gully-dwellers
with a second dose of weedkiller. Even then, the weeds took up to three
weeks to die, providing continued food and refuge for wildlife as they did
"You have six to 15 weeks after sowing when you still have the weeds
there. With conventional beet growing, the field is bare the whole time,"
By capturing and identifying tens of thousands of insects in traps, the
team showed that the GM plots were far richer in bugs - staphylinid
beetles were up to five times as common.
But sceptics remain unconvinced. Brian Johnson, the biotechnology adviser
at English Nature, says that larger trials would be needed to demonstrate
that the measures attracted birds back to farms.
Johnson thinks that farmers would maximise their profits by obliterating
all weeds. Pidgeon agrees there would be a temptation to do this, but not
if farmers were given financial incentives rewarding reintroduction of
wildlife rather than tonnage of production.
Wildlife killed by conventional farming 'flourishes in GM fields'
By Steve Connor
15 January 2003
One of the first experiments to test the impact of genetically modified
crops on the environment has found that insects and farmland birds can
flourish in GM fields that under conventional farming would be wildlife
Scientists monitoring plots of GM sugar beet have recorded a significant
increase in spiders, beetles and other insects that provide important food
for the nestlings of skylarks, lapwings and partridges.
They claim in a study published today in the Royal Society journal
Proceedings B that GM crops engineered to be resistant to broad-spectrum
herbicides could be better for wildlife than conventional crops doused
with less powerful weedkillers.
The study was run by the Broom's Barn research station in Suffolk,
Britain's national centre for sugar beet research, and was part-funded by
Monsanto, the American agrochemicals company and principal supplier of GM
Alan Dewar, an entomologist at Broom's Barn, said the study was vetted by
independent scientists and that Monsanto had no role in determining the
way the data was collected or how the findings were published.
Although the GM sugar beet plots were relatively small ˝ about 144 sq
metres (1,550 sq ft) ˝ the the findings were broadly applicable to other
crops grown on a much bigger scale, Dr Dewar said.
"I've spent 19 years crawling around sugar beet fields and I have never in
all that time seen a skylark's nest. I saw my first one in one of the GM
plots," he said. "I didn't expect these things to happen but they did and
I was quite pleased."
Conventional sugar beet seedlings have to be sprayed with herbicides
within a few days of germination if they are not so be suffocated by
invading weeds. This means fields are sprayed several times and are
virtually devoid of weeds.
There are few insects and spiders for birds to feed on and little cover
for ground-nesting species such as skylarks.
But the scientists showed that weeds could be allowed to grow between the
rows of GM sugar beet seedlings provided a limited spraying with a
broad-spectrum weedkiller was applied directly to prevent early
suffocation of the seedlings.
Later in the summer, after the first clutch of nestlings fledged, the
weeds between the rows could be sprayed, leaving a decaying mulch where
some insects continued to live, Dr Dewar said.
John Pidgeon, the director of Broom's Barn, said non-GM crops needed
frequent spraying with conventional herbicides to destroy the weeds on
which insects and birds depended.
"Our system means we can reduce the amount of spraying and allow weeds
between the rows to flourish in summer without affecting yield.
"Our method could easily be applied to other row crops," Dr Pidgeon said.
"We are excited about our results because this is the first time research
has shown that GM herbicide-tolerant crops can be managed for
environmental benefit," he said.
The Guardian: Scientists grow 'bird-friendly' GM sugar beet
January 15, 2003
The new beet crop offers weed cover to nesting birds such as (clockwise
from top) the red-legged partridge, the skylark and the lapwing Main
photograph: Alan Williams
Researchers experimenting with genetically modified sugar beet have found
a way to keep yields high while providing weed cover for nesting skylarks,
lapwings, partridges, and other wild birds.
"This is the first time research has shown that GM herbicide-tolerant
crops can be managed for environmental benefit," said John Pidgeon,
director of the Broom's Barn research station in Suffolk. "The
environmental benefits are particularly important for the UK and the rest
of Europe, where around 80% of the land is farmed."
The technique, outlined today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society,
uses sugar beet modified to give a resistance gene to the herbicide
glyphosate. The GM beet was developed by the agribusiness giant Monsanto,
which also for a while held the patent on glyphosate, and the trials were
funded by Monsanto, partly, according to Dr Pidgeon, because no one else
would produce the money.
The standard approach with herbicide-tolerant crops is to spray early, and
spray regularly: if weeds are hit early, they never develop, and the crop
flourishes in an otherwise sterile field. But sugar beet is planted in
rows 50cm (20in) apart, and the team at Broom's Barn looked for a way to
allow weeds, and therefore insects, to survive between the rows.
They adjusted the nozzles on herbicide spreaders so that the rows of
emerging beet were sprayed but not the intervening spaces, allowing weeds
to grow in them. They then sprayed these weeds later in the summer with
glyphosate, the only herbicide powerful enough to kill adult weeds. They
sampled the population levels of two kinds of insect, and spiders, and
found that in the gaps there was a sevenfold increase over those found in
regular spraying. The technique could work with maize or any crop sown in
Beetles provide food for nesting birds; weeds provide seeds and cover; and
even dying weeds attract scavenger insects that feed birds. Although the
experimental plots were small, the researchers were surprised to find
three bird species had nested and raised broods in the the weeds between
the beet: skylark, red partridge, and lapwing. All three are threatened by
conventional farming practices.
"I have been working with sugar beet for 19 years now, and in all that
time I have never found a nesting skylark," said Alan Dewar, one of the
The research is not likely to lead immediately to the adoption of GM beet.
The yield matches conventional cropping, but farmers might need some other
incentive to encourage weeds in up to 800,000 hectares (2m acres) of their
fields. And one skylark does not make a species revival.
"It's pretty easy to count the numbers of species in a field," said Sandy
Knapp, a botanist at the Natural History Museum. "But it's far more
important for the ecosystem to be self-sustaining. That is a lot harder to
But Stephen Smith of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council said: "Here is
a sound piece of science that suggests that GM technology could be one of
the tools to allow farming to move in the direction society wishes."
Bush Offers Africa $5B In Aid, Eased Trading Rules
January 15, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP)--U.S. President George W. Bush said Wednesday that trade
is critical to lifting the Africa's poor from poverty, and proposed
extending through 2008 an initiative started by President Bill Clinton
that eased trading rules for certain African countries.
In a videotaped speech to a conference in Port Louis, Mauritius, Bush
addressed government, business and nonprofit group leaders gathered at a
conference to examine the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Bush had
planned on attending the conference this week, but postponed his trip to
The initiative by Clinton's administration provided liberalized trading
rules for African countries that meet U.S. political and economic
requirements. Of Sub-Saharan Africa's 48 countries, 38 have been deemed
eligible since the initiative began two years ago.
Bush told about 500 people at the conference he will ask Congress to
extend AGOA beyond its current 2008 expiration.
AGOA shows the power of trade to lift people out of poverty, Bush said.
Exports from AGOA nations to the United States are rising dramatically,
and the benefits are felt throughout the region.
To facilitate better trade, the administration has opened offices in
Botswana, Kenya and Ghana, and will soon add agriculture officials, Bush
Bush reviewed initiatives his administration has begun for Africa:
- An extra $5 billion in aid for developing nations over the next three
years. As part of that, Bush said he will seek a 50% increase in money for
this aid in the budget he submits next month.
- $200 million for education and teacher training in Africa.
- Bush said the U.S. will continue to lead the world in AIDS relief.
Bush's administration is also pressing anew for famine-stricken nations to
accept genetically modified food from the U.S.
More than 14 million people in six southern African countries will be at
risk of starvation by March, the U.N. special envoy to the region's hunger
crisis said late last year.
But some of those countries, including Zambia, have decided to reject
genetically modified corn from the U.S. that was offered as U.N. aid.
African nations can gain from receiving American exports that right now
are being blocked from being sent to Africa out of artificial concern
about genetically modified food, White House spokesman Fleischer said.
This is a way to help the people of Africa to eat the same food that the
American people eat, and a way to relieve the famine. Unfortunately this
type of food is being prevented from being received by the people of
President Bush's top trade negotiator sharply criticized the European
Union last week for its moratorium on importing genetically modified
agricultural products. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said some
European nations had begun to pressure poor nations to go along with the
EU ban on genetically modified food as a condition of receiving foreign
Zoellick attended the conference in Mauritius and on Wednesday pledged
U.S. commitment to increasing commerce with Africa, but urged the
continent's countries to further liberalize their markets.
'Decrepit' banana faces extinction in 10 years
New Zealand Herald
January 16, 2003
The banana could slide into extinction within 10 years because it is
"genetically decrepit", scientists warn.
Because edible bananas are sterile mutants, new varieties cannot easily be
produced by natural methods, leaving the fruit vulnerable to attack from
pests and disease.
In the 1950s, the once dominant Gros Michel banana was wiped out by a
disease caused by a soil fungus.
Its successor, the Cavendish, is now threatened by another fungal disease,
black Sigatoka. With nothing readily available to replace the Cavendish,
the banana business has reached crisis point.
According to a report in New Scientist magazine today, it could be gone in
"In some ways, the banana today resembles the potato before blight brought
famine to Ireland a century and a half ago," said the magazine.
Wild bananas, called Musa acuminata, contain a mass of hard seeds that
make them virtually inedible.
About 10,000 years ago in Asia, stone age man found a mutant edible
variety, without seeds, and grew it using cuttings from the stems.
That means that each banana is virtually genetically identical - meaning
producing new varieties resistant to pests and diseases is very difficult.
"When some pest or disease comes along, severe epidemics can occur," Geoff
Hawtin of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, based in
Rome, told New Scientist.
Emile Frison, head of the International Network for the Improvement of
Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) in Montpellier, France, said banana diseases
were becoming increasingly difficult to control.
"As soon as you bring in a new fungicide, they develop resistance," he
"One thing we can be sure of is the Sigatoka won't lose in this battle."
Since starting in Fiji in 1963, Black Sigatoka has spread and has
destroyed most of the banana fields in Amazonia.
That could cut production there by up to 70 per cent, in the world's
second-largest growing area for bananas, after China.
Scientists and planters working on solutions are unable to agree whether
to produce genetically modified bananas, or develop fungicide.
"Biotechnology to produce GM bananas resistant to fungi is expensive and
there are serious questions about consumer acceptance," said David
McLaughlin, senior director of environmental affairs for the banana
6 million farmers grow altered crops
United Press International
By Gregory Tejeda
Nearly 6 million farmers around the world used 15 million more acres of
land to plant genetically modified crops last year -- a 12 percent
increase from 2001.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
reported Wednesday that farmers are adopting use of genetic crops at a
Officials said the farmers used 145 million acres for genetic crops for
genetic crops, with more than 20 percent of the global crop area of
soybeans, corn, cotton and canola acres now being genetically modified
The 6 million farmers are located in 16 countries, up from 5 million
farmers in 13 countries in 2001.
About 75 percent of the farmers were resource-poor and from developing
"This high adoption rate is a strong vote of confidence in biotech crops,
reflecting farmers' need for and satisfaction with the technology," said
Clive James, the service's chairman.
"In many cases, growers are finding biotechnology offers the only viable
solution to protect crops from economically devastating pests."
While genetic cotton maintained its global reach of 16.8 million acres,
biotech corn acreage grew 27 percent to 30.6 million acres.
Genetic canola acreage increased 11 percent to 7.4 million acres, while
genetic soybean production grew 10 percent to 90.2 million acres,
exceeding more than 50 percent of the global soybean crop area for the
In the United States, genetic crop acreage grew by about 8.2 million
acres, mainly due to significant increases in biotech corn and soybean
Argentina, Canada, China and the United States were the leading growers of
genetically modified crops -- with more than half of China's cotton crop
being genetic for the first time.
The study said more than 25 percent of global genetic crop acreage was
grown in developing countries in 2002.
India, Colombia and Honduras grew genetic crops for the first time, while
the Philippines last month approved a variety of genetically altered corn,
making this one of the first biotech feed crops approved planted in Asia.
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 12:59:48 -0400
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Mexico
In trying to exlude certain parts of the country from planting GE crops
approved elsewhere in Mexico, the Mexican government is setting itself up
for another round of anti-GMO recriminations (reminiscent of the problems
that resulted from Starlink's approval for livestock feed). I have no
doubt that the campesinos in the prohibited zones will see (or hear about)
the advantages of the GE varieties and want to incorporate those
advantages into their own varieties. It would be seriously naive to
believe this could be prevented simply by declaring certain areas
off-limits. If they are really, seriously concerned about the integrity of
corn or tomato genetic resources in Mexico, then they should probably
consider either not approving GE versions of these crops or waiting until
sterile varieties are available.
Paraguay farmers opt for banned GM soybean seeds
By Peter Blackburn
Jan 14, 2003
GOLONDRINA, Paraguay - Farmer preference for illegal genetically modified
(GM) soybean seeds will force Grupo Espirito Santo (GES), a top Paraguay
agribusinesses, to stop producing conventional seed this year, a senior
company official said. Farmers in Paraguay, Latin America's No. 3 soybean
exporter, prefer GM soybean seeds because they cut production costs by an
estimated $20 to $40 per tonne since there's a reduced need to spray
costly imported herbicides.
"Selling conventional soybean seeds has become a problem. We shall have to
stick to soybeans," Luis Arrellaga, GES Director General for Paraguay,
told Reuters during a recent visit to its farm in the country's eastern
Sacks of unsold soybean seeds were stacked high in the farm's warehouse.
Industry sources said that Paraguay is waiting for neighbouring Brazil to
give the green light for the commercial production of GM crops and would
quickly follow its lead.
Meanwhile, the illegal planting of GM soybean seeds is rapidly increasing,
they added. GM seeds are smuggled across the border from neighboring
Argentina, where they are allowed.
Last year GES produced 9,000 tonnes of soybeans, from which 1,700 tonnes
of seed were selected for commercial sale.
Seed prices were around $250 a tonne, two-thirds higher than those of
soybeans, making seed sales highly attractive.
Soybean planting of the 2003 crop was virtually completed by the end of
December, with recent rains favoring speedy crop emergence and raising
prospects for a big harvest in March and April.
"Ninety-five percent of the soy area is drilled directly without any
preparatory tillage so as to prevent soil erosion caused by the heavy
rains we have here," Arrellaga said.
Rainfall averages 2,100 mm (83 inches) per year.
Favorable world prices prompted an increase in planting to 3,500 hectares
(8,650 acres), from just under 3,000 ha in 2002.
Yields in recent years averaged 2.9 tonnes per ha, similar to those
achieved in Brazil's Parana state, 110 km away (68 miles), Arrellaga
Paraguay's soybean production is expected to rise to 3.6 million tonnes in
2003 from 3.1 million tonnes in 2002 as more favorable rains boost yields.
Soybeans are Paraguay's main export earner and nearly 75 percent of the
crop is exported via Brazil and Argentina.
Transgenic, transplastomic and other genetically modified plants: a
By Fran┴ois J. Belzile
D╚partement de phytologie, 1243 Pavillon C.-E. Marchand,
Universit╚ Laval, Quebec, Canada G1K 7P4 Biochimie - Article in Press -
available from http://www.sciencedirect.com
Since the mid 1990s, genetically modified (GM) crops have been grown
commercially in Canada on a scale that has increased steadily over the
years. An intense debate ensued, as elsewhere, and many fears were
expressed regarding not only the technology itself but some of the main GM
crops being grown. It would seem appropriate at this time to examine how
these novel crops compare to crops bred by more traditional means and what
impacts these GM crops have had based on experience and not merely on
conjecture. To begin, we will put things in a historical perspective and
recall how domestication and conventional plant breeding have shaped the
crops of today. Then, we will describe briefly the distinctive features of
GM plants (obtained so far mainly by nuclear transgenesis) and how these
novel crops are regulated in Canada. We will then give two examples of
widely grown GM crops in Canada (insect-resistant corn and herbicide-
tolerant canola) and examine the main questions that were raised as well
as the actual impacts these crops have had on the farm. These examples
will help us outline some of the limitations of the current generation of
GM plants and, finally, we will try to get a glimpse of the future by
examining some recent technical developments in the field of recombinant
DNA technologies applied to plant breeding.