Today in AgBioView: January 14, 2002:
* AGOA Forum dates set for Mauritius
* Starving Africa caught in the middle of GM food debate
* MOST PESTICIDES ARE NATURAL
* Empowering farmers is top agri agenda
* Morton replies to Cummins again
* Complete rice sequence goes public at last
* U.S. should fight ban on biotech food
* Biotech crops lure Michigan farmers
* For African nations, biotech corn carries seeds of hope, fear
* 'Immoral' Europe
* Biotech: "brightest hope" says U.S. official
* US Considers Trade Case against "Antiscientific" EU Genetically Modified
* Bjorn Lomborg - Thought control
* Burn, Baby Bjorn, Burn!
* Political correctness
* The Value of thought, Tact, and Time
AGOA Forum dates set for Mauritius
The Government of Mauritius and the United States Embassy in Port Louis
are proud to announce the official dates and programmes for the Second
U.S.-Sub-Saharan African Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum. The Second
Forum will be held Wednesday, January 15 through Friday, January 17, 2002
at the University of Mauritius campus. Ministerial delegations of up to
eight members from the thirty-six AGOA-eligible countries will take part
in the plenary and breakout sessions. Themes for the sessions are ýTradeţ
(Wednesday), ýConditions for Investmentţ (Thursday), and ýInvesting in
Peopleţ (Friday). The AGOA Forum opening ceremony is scheduled for 9:00
AM on January 15 and the closing ceremony at 4:00 PM on January 17.
United States government agencies participating in the sessions include
the Department of State, the U.S. Trade Representative, Department of
Commerce, Treasury Department, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for
International Development and the U.S. Trade Development Agency. Plenary
and breakout sessions will be co-chaired by representatives from the
United States and AGOA-eligible countries.
A senior Government of Mauritius official will brief AGOA country
representatives on Forum planning on November 27 in Addis Ababa.
AGOA Private Sector Forum
In addition to the government-to-government Forum scheduled at the
University of Mauritius, a parallel private sector event is being
organized by the Mauritius American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), the
Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) and the African Coalition for Trade
(ACT). The workshops will be held January 14-16 at the Radisson Hotel.
The Private Sector Forum will include a trade exhibition at the Freeport
focused on AGOA, open to companies from the United States and
AGOA-eligible countries, and plenary sessions and workshops on a broad
range of topics, including finance, doing business with the US,
agriculture, trade barriers, and bio-technology. Representatives of the
private sectors of the United States and the AGOA-eligible African
countries will be attending. For more information, please see the
following webpages: www.agoa.mu and www.africacncl.oog
AGOA NGO Forum
The Foundation for Democracy in Africa, in conjunction with the African
Union and other NGOs including the Africa Society of the National Summit
on Africa, Bread for the World, and the Constituency for Africa, are
organizing an event called "AGOA: The NGO Perspective on Implementation,
Progress, and Future Objectives," to be held at the Indira Gandhi Centre
January 13-15. It will include programmes on assessing AGOA's results, the
role of civil society in trade, challenges facing Africa, civil society
and governance, linkages between AGOA and efforts to reduce rural poverty,
assessing the impact of trade on human development in Africa, and others.
Starving Africa caught in the middle of GM food debate
By John Madeley
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.
The US, whose huge agricultural businesses are in the vanguard of the
technology and where products containing GM foods - particularly soya and
corn - are widely available on shop shelves, holds that food produced from
GM crops is no different from any other and does not require it to be
specially labelled. But EU countries are insisting on them being labelled
so consumers know what they are buying.
Since the mid-1990s, the EU has imposed a moratorium on the import of GM
foods, infuriating the US, which claims that this is in breach of trading
agreements and discriminates against American farmers who, the US
authorities say, have lost more than US$200 million (HK$1.5 billion) in
corn sales. The Bush administration was urged last month by angry senators
representing farm states to lodge a formal complaint against the EU with
the World Trade Organisation.
The unexpected African twist to the dispute has emerged more recently, as
serious drought and food shortages ravage nations in the south of the
continent. Last June, it became clear that about 14 million people in the
region - chiefly in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe - needed food
aid. An appeal for donors was launched through the Rome-based World Food
Programme, which co-ordinates food aid efforts.
The US Department of Agriculture responded by offering Zambia US$50
million on condition that it, effectively, used the money to buy GM foods.
It said it could not provide GM-free corn because there is no requirement
in the US to separate GM and non-GM foods.
The government of Zambia, where three million people - 30 per cent of the
population - are in danger of starvation, declined the offer because of
fears about GM food safety. There was also concern that farmers could have
used the corn as seed, resulting in the contamination of non-GM crop
varieties and, thus, establishing GM crops in Africa and farmers'
dependency on US companies for seed. Observers say this outcome could have
compromised future agricultural exports to the EU. Promises by aid
agencies to make sure only ready-ground corn came in failed to sway the
decision-makers in the Zambian capital, Lusaka. Environmentalists strongly
opposed to GM foods and anti-globalisation activists are suspicious as to
whether US generosity was simply a way of using food aid to try to force
GM food on Zambia and open the African door to its agricultural companies.
Almost 80 per cent of the contracts and grants of the US aid agency USAid
go directly to American firms.
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.
But in Washington, David Hegwood, counsel to the US Secretary of
Agriculture, hit back, saying EU policies against GM food were having a
devastating impact on African nations that have refused US food aid for
fear of GM crops.
The fears of Europe are keeping food out of the mouths of hungry people in
Africa, he said. And the American envoy to UN food agencies, Tony Hall,
said leaders who denied their people food should be put on trial.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has supported the right of African nations
to ban GM foods because, despite American assurances, many feel there is
still a big question mark over their safety.
Fears over contamination remain the most potent. Research just published
in Britain casts serious doubt on whether GM crops can be grown without
contaminating non-GM varieties and also raises the possibility of
superweeds developing that are immune to herbicides.
Last month, EU agriculture ministers agreed on new rules that require
labels on GM foods containing 0.9 per cent or more of GM ingredients.
The EU's moratorium on GM food imports will be lifted when the labelling
becomes law. As there is no segregation of GM from non-GM in the US, it
could prove very difficult for US exporters to comply.
MOST PESTICIDES ARE NATURAL
American Council on Science and Health
January 13, 2003
Today's topic: natural pesticides.
At Nutrition News Focus, we were recently questioned about a statement in
NNF that 99.99 percent of the pesticides we eat are natural. This has been
known by scientists for many years, but some activists try to give the
impression that man-made chemicals must be bad while natural ones must be
good. Well, chemicals are chemicals. In fact, all of us are just big bags
of chemicals held in by skin. The famous and highly-respected scientist
Bruce Ames wrote in 1990 that plants produce toxins to protect themselves
against fungi, insects, and animal predators. Tens of thousands of these
natural pesticides have been discovered, and Americans on average eat
about 1.5 grams of natural pesticides per day. (See an article on the
topic by Ames and others at the website of the National Academy of
Likewise, the American Council on Science and Health has published a
holiday dinner menu showing how many natural carcinogens are found in
foods many of us love:
Here's what you need to know: This story is not meant to scare you away
from foods that naturally contain potentially toxic chemicals. Remember
that the dose makes the poison. Also remember that natural is not a
synonym for safe; cocaine, arsenic, and petroleum are all natural, but you
probably don't want to eat any of them. Many of the "carcinogenic"
chemicals in food are being studied for their anti-cancer effects. Most
of the toxins we eat are naturally found in plants, but the more fruits
and vegetables you eat, the healthier you will be.
Empowering farmers is top agri agenda
ABS-CBN News (Philippines)
Sunday, January 12, 2003
By Alvin Capino
It would seem that the international environment pressure group,
Greenpeace, still could not accept its defeat on the biotechnology issue.
Greenpeace and its allies are lashing at people who they think is to blame
for their failure to stop the government approval for the domestic
propagation of the high-yielding pest-resistant Bt corn variety. It seems
that their favorite target now is Agriculture Secretary Luis ýCitoţ
Lorenzo Jr. Greenpeace and its allies have indicated that they will block
the confirmation of Lorenzo before the powerful Commission on
Appointments, since they are blaming him for the action on the use of a
biotech corn variety that has benefited farmers in the US and many other
Greenpeace of course is ignoring the fact that the approval for the
domestic propagation of Bt corn was granted during the watch of LorenzoÝs
predecessor, former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor. Even if
they know that during the time when the approval was granted, Lorenzo was
the presidential adviser on job creation, they are angry at him because of
LorenzoÝs consistent public stand supporting the use of improved crop
varieties including hybrid rice and Bt corn.
Lorenzo, who was involved in his familyÝs business that includes
agribusiness, knows the big boost that these high-yielding varieties that
need minimal or no pesticide input could do for our farmers and lift them
from their present subsistence status.
He has made it clear even before his appointment at the agriculture
portfolio that the government should do all it can for the empowerment of
farmers to be founded on giving them the opportunity to earn more.
The new agriculture secretary said he has been supporting the use of new
higher-yielding plant varieties because for him increased harvest means
more jobs in the countryside. It also means bigger farmersÝ income that
translates into expanded persona; consumption and downstream business
growth in the provinces.
His position of course runs counter to the position of Greenpeace who
wants a stop to the use of the new high-yielding varieties because they
fear that it would somehow affect the environment. It should be stressed
that antibiotech activists like Greenpeace has not offered any solid and
irrefutable evidence to support their fears but in the meantime they are
vehemently opposing biotech-boosted crops.
Lorenzo should not expect these groups to understand him since they have
taken an inflexible position and they are not open to see the other side
of the picture. Since the approval for both hybrid rice and Bt corn are
now official and irrevocable, it is understandable that these pressure
groups would shift the fight to the CA.
The new agriculture secretary should not be too worried. Against the
expected hysterical attacks of the high-pressure groups like Greenpeace he
can show a solid record of success in agribusiness and in the management
of large business organizations. He is a hands-on farmer who has soiled
his feet in the muddy farms of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental as he learned
the ropes of the science and business of agriculture.
Some people would have a hard time connecting Lorenzo with the word
ýfarmer.ţ He certainly defies the traditional stereotype of a farmer.
Despite his expertise in agriculture, he does not look like a peasant.
Unfortunately, ýpeasantţ is how our culture defines ýfarmerţ who must be a
poor, uneducated farm worker living on subsistence levels and constantly
claiming that he is oppressed.
Lorenzo wants to change this misconception of the farm and he has said
that one of his main objectives in his stint at the department is to
redefine the farmer and promote the perception of him as a
ýcountryside-based entrepreneur,ţ abreast with current technologies and
one who looks at his farm as an instrument of production which must be
coaxed to yield at optimum levels.
A farmer of this mold would be an empowered farmer. So-called peasant
leaders cannot herd him and he cannot be claimed to an ýoppressedţ
mentality that organizers find so easy to manipulate. A business-minded
farmer, the transformation that Lorenzo wants, will think in terms of
trends, productivity and increased revenues that come from systematic
management of his agricultural resource.
Lorenzo has a clear vision of how to lift our farmers and we hope that the
members of the CA will give him the chance to prove that a modernized
agriculture sector could indeed help create more jobs and get the country
out of the rut.
Despite the threats from Greenpeace and its allies, Lorenzo should not
feel beleaguered. On the issue of biotechnology, he has the largest corn
farmersÝ organization and the local scientific community that carried the
issue and exposed the unsupported claims of Greenpeace to back him up.
From: "Roger Morton"
Subject: Morton replies to Cummins again
Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 07:51:49 +1100
Prof Cummins Wrote:
>> It is probably unwise to presume that retroviruses, pararetroviruses
>and retrotransposons are
>>unable to recombine if their is a massive influx of the viruses or their
>>genes into an environment in which much greater contact between the genes
>>of the viruses and retrotransposons are permitted.
So you are worried about HIV and CaMV sequences coming together and
Which condition offers more contact - a plant cell full of multiple
copies of a complete virus nucleic acid or a plant cell with a single copy
of a tiny fraction of a virus? You appear to be alluding to a risk of
recombination with transposable elements. If there is really already a
risk of viruses recombining with transposable elements (of which every
plant appears to contain thousands of copies) then how does a single,
small part of a CaMV virus add significantly to this so called risk?
Your scare mongering sounds scary when you are forced be vague about what
you are talking about. But it just sounds stupid when you have to actually
crystallize what you are saying.
>> Recently CaMV promoter was successfully combined with genes from HIV in
>a transgenic plant and it
>> is unlikely that such recombinants cannot appear naturally.
Is this so? What journal will I read about it in? Care to summarize the
technique used to make this occur?
>> I indicated that there is evidence that there is a well described
>genetic phenomenon , transcription
>> related recombination and mutation in plants, animals and bacteria
You did not indicate this. You indicated that there was evidence of a
recombination hotspot in the CaMV 35S promoter that functioned in the
plant chromosome. Now you fall back to transcription induced
recombination. Why can't you admit you were wrong? There is no evidence of
a recombination hotspot in the CaMV promoter that functions in the
chromosome is there?
What about transposition induced recombination? Every time a transposable
element transposes there is the potential for recombination. Every
transposable element is a potential recombination hotspot. Not only this
but there are the extremely dangerous virus like promoters of the
transposable elements nearby. There could be recombination with
retroviruses and pararetroviruses. Boy of boy it is such a dangerous
world out there. And all this happening even in the organic gardens of
M.W. Ho. How have we ever survived?
With respect to my comments on the paper Wintermantel, W.M. and Schoelz,
J.E. (1996). Isolation of recombinant viruses between cauliflower mosaic
virus and a viral gene in transgenic plants under conditions of moderate
selection pressure. Virology 223, 156-164
Prof Cummins says:
>> Few editors would have passed a paper claiming that selection caused
I am sorry - I did not make myself clear. I am not claiming that selection
caused the recombination. I am claiming that if it occurs at such low
frequency that you have to select for it in the lab then it is of doubtful
relevance to the real world.
BTW do you have an electronic copy of this paper to send me - I am retired
from science so have no longer access to Virology.
>> Hot spot refers to degree rather than kind and there are
>> not millions of hotspots in the genomes of plants and animals.
How can you say this when in the same sentence you say that hotspot is a
matter of degree? With all the transposable elements in the plant genomes
it is quite possible that a plant could have thousands of recombination
hotspots. And there are lot of plants out there. Quite quickly we get to
>>[The] introduction of a hyperactive promoter such as the CaMV promoter
>>cause a recombination hotspot to appear in a chromosome where no hotspot
>> has been before.
And the danger of this is .... ?
What will happen is that the new gene you have introduced will not be
stably inherited, you will get no commercial product and you select
another line that does not have this new recombination hotspot.
What about when I cross two plants together conventionally. I can
guarantee this will "cause a recombination hotspot to appear in a
chromosome where no hotspot has been before". Why isn't this dangerous?
Complete rice sequence goes public at last
13 January 2003
Rice was the second plant to be sequenced after the lab workhorse, the
fast-growing cress . But the first versions were created by private
companies and were only available to researchers prepared to sign
restrictive licence agreements. The journal Science came under fire last
year for publishing a paper on the rice genome assembled by Syngenta of
Switzerland even though the company would not make the actual sequence
Now the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project, a 10-nation publicly
funded effort, has unveiled the most complete draft yet - and it's
available to all. Japan did most of the sequencing, followed by the US and
China. And after an agreement was reached with the company, the group was
able to include Syngenta's data, as well as that of The Institute for
Genomic Research in Maryland.
"Rice is the most important food crop in the world, and feeds half the
population," said Rod Wing of the University of Arizona, head of the US's
contribution, at a ceremony to unveil the draft sequence in Washington DC
last month. "It's imperative we learn as much as possible about it."
His sentiments are echoed in Tokyo by Takuji Sasaki of Japan's National
Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, the leader of the international
effort. Although a finished genome is still a few years off, the draft is
helping scientists to identify rice genes and their functions. Genes for
resistance to diseases such as rice blast have already been found, he told
Identifying rice genes will help breeders create more productive,
nutritious or stress-resistant strains, through conventional breeding or
genetic engineering. "We've been waiting for this and now it's here, it's
fantastic," says Mike Gale of Britain's John Innes Centre in Norfolk.
The draft is of the subspecies Oryza sativa japonica, grown in many
countries around the world. A rough draft of the genome of Oryza sativa
indica, the other major rice subspecies, was published in Science by a
Chinese team in April 2002. However, it doesn't yet have a genome "map"
allowing all the sequences to be put into place, unlike the japonica
sequence. But an analysis by Gale suggests the two genomes differ by fewer
than 16 letters per 5000.
The rice genome is also similar to that of other cereals such as wheat and
barley, Gale says. That means that work done on one cereal can easily be
applied to others. For example, after the mutation responsible for a dwarf
form of wheat was discovered, a Japanese team produced a dwarf form of
rice by creating the mutation in the equivalent gene.
The 12 rice chromosomes have around 400 million letters compared with our
own 3.1 billion. Yet rice has between 40,000 and 60,000 genes, double our
meagre 30,000 or so.
U.S. should fight ban on biotech food
Rocky Mountain News
January 13, 2003
Maybe Europe is preparing to back off from a major mistake, but if it
doesn't - if it continues to ban genetically modified foods processed in
America - U.S. officials should start to do more than protest. After all,
stupidity can kill, and this European stupidity probably has already.
Fortunately, U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick said the other day
that the United States may make an official case against the Europeans
before the World Trade Organization. The New York Times quotes him as
saying, "The European antiscientific policies are spreading to other
corners of the world," the other parts he meant being some African
nations. Because of the European example, Zimbabwe actually refused
genetically modified foods from America last year even though it faced the
prospect of widespread starvation.
The Times quotes European officials as responding that they were planning
to scrap the policy this spring but that, hey, all this noise about it
could get in the way and maybe there is an ulterior motive and, after all,
you have to deal with public opinion.
In short, they said all the kinds of things people say when their position
is utterly indefensible, as this one is. Biotechnology is safe. All kinds
of safeguards are in place. Food produced through biotechnology has never
caused as much as a stomachache, and Americans have been consuming
genetically altered foods in large quantities for years.
Urging the president to take action, three members of the Senate
Agriculture Committee wrote in December, "even the European Commission has
officially acknowledged the safety of these products. On August 23, 2002,
the Commission itself stated: 'For the EU, there is no reason to believe
that GM food is inherently unsafe to human health.' "
Zoellick said he finds it "immoral that people are not being able to be
supplied food to live in Africa because people have invented dangers about
biotechnology." He's right.
Biotech crops lure Michigan farmers
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
By Edward Hoogterp
LANSING -- Broader use of genetically modified crops in Michigan could cut
farmers' pesticide use by 825,000 pounds a year while adding $35 million
to their net income, according to a study by a Washington, D.C., farm
But resistance by consumers and food processors has slowed the development
of markets for genetically enhanced varieties of apples, potatoes and
sugar beets that could be grown here, said Leonard Gianessi, program
director of the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy.
"We're involved in an educational enterprise," Gianessi said during his
Monday keynote address to the annual conference of the Michigan
Agri-Business Association, a group that represents suppliers, growers,
chemical manufacturers and others in the agricultural industry. He said
many Americans are unaware of the benefits of biotechnology.
Gianessi said scientists at Cornell University have spliced genetic
material from giant silkworms into apple tissues to create a tree that
resists fire blight, a disease that has devastated thousands of acres of
"It looks like an apple, tastes like an apple. Everything else is the
same," Gianessi said.
But the biotech apples have not made it out of the laboratory, largely
because of concerns that the fruit would not be accepted by consumers.
That means orchardists will continue to fight fire blight by spraying
their trees with antibiotics such as Streptomycin.
Gianessi said a genetically modified variety of sugar beet, approved for
use three years ago, could save growers as much as $40 an acre in
pesticide and related costs.
But sugar processors have so far declined to accept the variety, so none
has been planted.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants or animals that have
been given new traits by having genetic material from another species
spliced into their DNA.
One variety widely planted in Michigan and other states is so-called Bt
corn, which contains genetic material from a bacteria that makes the plant
toxic to leaf-eating caterpillars. Varieties of soybeans, corn and cotton
have been altered to make them resistant to the popular Round Up
herbicide, so that growers can spray their fields once or twice a year and
kill weeds without harming the crop.
Based on his evaluation of 27 biotechnology crops, including six that are
already commercially grown, Gianessi said biotechnology could produce an
additional 14 billion pounds of food in America while reducing pesticide
use by 163 million pounds.
The growth of genetically modified crops remains a subject of controversy.
While biotechnology companies and many farmers tout the possibility of
higher profits and lower pesticide use, others worry that the high-tech
plants may limit the diversity of farm crops or cause other unforeseen
"I think there may be a role for some biotech crops," said Susan Smalley,
a Michigan State University extension specialist in sustainable
agriculture. "But many of the applications so far, I view them as
shortcuts. We could get some of the same results in ways that might be
better for all of us."
The sustainable and organic agriculture movements contend that most
insects and plant diseases can be controlled through such techniques as
rotating crops, building up soil health and planting naturally resistant
Widespread planting of genetically modified crops, Smalley said, "May be
good economically for the companies that provide them, but may in fact be
harmful to farmers in the long run."
But Gianessi said American farmers must cut expenses to meet the challenge
of low-cost growers in other countries around the world.
And biotechnology may offer the best hope, he said: "If you want to keep
farmers in Michigan competitive, they have to control production costs."
For African nations, biotech corn carries seeds of hope, fear
By Sudarsan Raghavan
January 13, 2003
NAIROBI, Kenya - In a Nairobi laboratory, protected by metal doors and an
alarm system, African scientists are experimenting with imported
genetically modified corn, hoping to create a food revolution on a
continent besieged by hunger and malnutrition.
But Africa's food revolution could be stillborn. In Zambia, even though 3
million of its people are starving, the government has flatly turned down
corn aid from the United States because it comes from genetically modified
And elsewhere, critics charge that the Kenyan scientists could be creating
an agricultural Frankenstein that would forever haunt Africans, despite
the potential that genetically modified foods have for feeding a hungry
In tiny vials, the scientists are testing the effect of the stem borer, a
pest that destroys 400,000 tons of corn in Kenya annually, on genetically
engineered corn from Mexico's International Maize and Wheat Improvement
If the plants resist the pests, the scientists plan to grow them in Kenya
this year. They hope this could one day help millions of subsistence
farmers grow hardier crops, bringing gains in food production like that
seen during Asia's Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.
``We're not saying it's a panacea,'' said Christopher Ngichabe, head of
the biotechnology program at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.
``But if we can apply this technology successfully, it could lead to a
bio-revolution that is going to see Africa come out of its food and health
But the issue of genetically modified foods is a divisive one fueled by
misunderstanding, mistrust and fear as well as unanswered questions about
the impact of the technology.
``Our own scientists have cautioned us. They are saying not now,'' said
Mundia Sikatana, the Zambian Minister of Agriculture. ``We have sufficient
muscle to produce bumper crops without that intervention.''
Zambian officials are worried that altered genes could change the
biodiversity in Africa by infecting traditional crops through
cross-pollination. It could also create weeds resistant to herbicides, as
well as new allergies and other health risks, they fear.
``Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give
them poison,'' Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said at the U.N. summit on
sustainable development in South Africa last year.
Most of all, the Zambian government is concerned that its grain exports
will be barred from Europe, which doesn't accept biotech crops.
``If you take it from the longer-term economic development perspective,
Zambia could put at risk some of its . . . food market opportunities,''
said Richard Fuller, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization in
Zambia. Genetically modified crops ``offer a lot of good promise for the
world, but to force a country?''
Last month, U.S. officials urged the European Union to relax its
restrictions on bioengineered food.
``We must find ways to deal with the humanitarian crisis in southern
Africa -- in spite of our differences on biotechnology,'' Rockwell
Schnabel, U.S. ambassador to the EU, told European officials in Brussels.
``Human lives are at stake.''
Yet the objections come not just from Africans, or Europeans, whose
judgment may be clouded by fear of competition from U.S. exporters.
``Genetic engineering of crops . . . threatens to increase the control
over our food supply by a small number of transnational corporations whose
first loyalty is to the bottom line,'' Oakland-based Food First, a
non-profit research group, says on its Web site. The risks that
genetically modified food entails ``are potentially great but largely
unstudied,'' the group says.
African governments, critics say, lack the safety regulatory agencies to
monitor genetically modified foods and their impact on the population and
U.S. officials counter that Americans have been eating genetically
modified foods for years with few ill effects.
Ngichabe and other African scientists who support genetically modified
foods say that Zambia is misinformed -- and should have accepted the food
aid. Some African nations, they note, accept bioengineered crops.
There are experimental farms and laboratories in Nigeria and Egypt. In
South Africa, farmers have been growing genetically modified crops such as
cotton and corn, some of which ordinary people eat. The farmers have
enjoyed higher yields. And the crops are more durable and resistant to
insects and viruses.
On farms and greenhouses around Kenya, Ngichabe and other scientists are
already growing different strains of sweet potatoes, cassava and cotton.
All have altered genes to fight off a virus that routinely destroys
Safety is not taken lightly in this experimental stage. The farms are
surrounded by barbed wire, and guards watch the gates. The crops, for now,
are destroyed before they can be eaten.
In the lab in Nairobi, Stephen Mugo, dressed in a white coat, looks
carefully at different strains of corn leaves. Some are chewed through.
Others are intact. One day, this could lead to the implanting of
protective genes in Kenyan corn varieties.
``When people say we are creating Frankenstein crops, they
misunderstand,'' Mugo said. ``The research is credible. There is no
negative impact on human health.''
Today, Ngichabe says, farmers cannot afford pesticides, and governments
cannot afford irrigation schemes -- key factors in Asia's successes.
Pests, plant viruses, droughts and acid soil also make it difficult to
Last year, the stem borer ate up 15 percent of Kenya's staple corn yield,
a loss of $90 million. And the continent's rapid population growth will
drive up demand for corn by 3 to 3.5 percent a year over the next 20
years, according to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.
That's why Ngichabe is looking forward to the day when average Africans
can eat the crops from his labs and farms.
``Rather than building irrigation projects and buying pesticides, you can
place all these traits inside the seed itself,'' Ngichabe said. ``I
believe that technology can answer most of our problems.
``Given the right leadership and environment, Africa can do even better
Wall Street Journal
January 13, 2003
Government officials usually speak in diplomatic niceties, even code, so
when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick uses the words "immoral"
and "Luddite" to describe our friends the Europeans, it's worth paying
Mr. Zoellick was referring last week to the European Union's continued
refusal to accept genetically modified food. Europe has long used "health
concerns" as a front for trade restrictions, such as its ban on
hormone-injected beef. But it is now bullying Africa into refusing to
accept American food aid even though millions are malnourished or
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa turned away 26,000 tons of food in
October, for fear genetically modified (GM) corn would cross-pollinate
with non-GM crops in his country and upset Europe -- his biggest export
market. Mr. Zoellick says European countries are making economic aid to
developing countries contingent on whether they prohibit biotech crops.
Thus the apt word, "immoral." GM crops have been declared safe by the most
cautious agencies, and have never been linked to any illness, allergy or
fatality. Genetic modification produces healthier, cheaper, more abundant
food and is many poor countries' main hope for the future.
"I see something extremely disturbing," Mr. Zoellick said bluntly. "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." Tough, but true.
Biotech: "brightest hope" says U.S. official
US Department of State
13 January 2003
Biotechnology is one of the world's "brightest hopes" for addressing
hunger, malnutrition, water scarcity and environmental degradation, says
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jim Moseley.
Addressing a conference of U.S. cotton producers January 7 in Nashville,
Tennessee, Moseley added that the famine in southern Africa -- where some
nations have refused U.S. food aid because it may contain grain derived
from biotechnology -- is at a "flash point."
"For the sake of generations to come, Africa should embrace
biotechnology," he said.
Noting that some African nations fear that the European Community would
cut off purchases from Africa if the countries grow biotech crops, Moseley
said, "We cannot let irrational public opposition in Europe prevent the
rest of the world from accessing this technology."
Speaking of the importance of trade to U.S. agriculture, Moseley said the
United States is consulting with Brazil regarding its challenge to U.S.
support programs for cotton growers. "The U.S. position is that our
programs are in full compliance with all of our GATT [General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade] and WTO [World Trade Organization] obligations and
we'll vigorously defend their legitimacy and legality."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Trade Representative
(USTR) are also pressing China to adhere to its WTO commitments, Moseley
said. "People make plans and investments based on agreements and we can't
accept negligence in following them."
Moseley said USDA's homeland security efforts include tracking shipments,
investing in early detection technology and simulation exercises.
US Considers Trade Case against "Antiscientific" EU Genetically Modified
January 10, 2003
A top US trade official has announced that he is considering a World Trade
Organization case against the EU for its ban on genetically modified food.
Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick accused the EU, which has strict
regulations on genetically modified foods, of influencing some
famine-threatened African countries to the extent that they rejected US
food aid last year because it was genetically modified.
"The European antiscientific policies are spreading to other corners of
the world," Zoellick told reporters yesterday. "I find it immoral that
people are not being able to be supplied food to live in Africa because
people have invented dangers about biotechnology. That puts it rather high
on my scale to deal with."
EU trade negotiator Pascal Lamy said that if the US brought a trade case
it would only complicate the EU's plans to lift restrictions on
genetically modified foods, which could happen this spring.
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003
According to this story from one of the leading independent newspapers in
Mexico City, the Mexican Government is about to approve the seeding of
GMOs in Mexico. If this is true and the government goes ahead with the
measure, it would prevent potential block of imports as has been
threatened from time to time.
Story says that after 7 years of studies the government has found GMOs to
be better for sustainable agriculture and for the environment. The crops
will be approved on a case-by-case basis and there will be areas of the
country where they will not be allowed to be seeded.
Aprueba el Gobierno uso de transg╚nicos
Consideran que puede reducir costos de producci█n, mejorar propiedades
nutricionales y tener una vida mĚs larga en almacenamiento
Por VŇCTOR FUENTES / Grupo Reforma
Ciudad de M╚xico (13 enero 2003).- El Gobierno federal prepara la
autorizaci█n para la siembra y comercializaci█n de transg╚nicos de uso
agr╠cola, luego de 14 aĎos de limitar el uso de transg╚nicos a fines
Entre las justificaciones se considera que puede reducir costos de
producci█n, mejorar propiedades nutricionales y tener una vida de
"Los OGM (Organismos Gen╚ticamente Modificados o transg╚nicos) tienen el
potencial de contribuir a una agricultura mĚs sustentable y menos nociva
para el medio ambiente", seĎala el anteproyecto de Norma Oficial Mexicana
enviada el martes por las Secretar╠as de Agricultura y del Medio Ambiente
a la Comisi█n Federal de Mejora Regulatoria (Cofemer).
Esta determinaci█n gubernamental se presenta luego de siete aĎos de
intentos frustrados de los legisladores por fijar un marco jur╠dico en la
Actualmente, siguen como asuntos pendientes en el Poder Legislativo cuatro
propuestas del PRI, PAN, PRD y PVEM sobre qu╚ permitir y qu╚ prohibir al
Los transg╚nicos son plantas cuya informaci█n gen╚tica es alterada con
m╚todos de biotecnolog╠a para hacerlas mĚs resistentes al medio ambiente,
plagas o herbicidas, o para mejorar su contenido nutrimental.
Entre 1988 y 2002, el Gobierno autoriz█ el cultivo de 300 mil hectĚreas
para ensayos con transg╚nicos y, a partir de 1995, para pruebas de campo.
MĚs de la mitad de esa superficie fue autorizada en los Öltimos dos aĎos,
y el siguiente paso son los programas piloto y la venta al pÖblico.
En total, 32 organismos y empresas --la mayor╠a, trasnacionales de la
agroindustria-- han desarrollado estas prĚcticas, y serĚn ellas las que
tendrĚn derecho a solicitar los permisos para liberar y comercializar sus
Los transg╚nicos u organismos gen╚ticamente modificados, son plantas cuya
informaci█n gen╚tica es alterada con m╚todos de biotecnolog╠a para
hacerlas mĚs resistentes al medio ambiente, plagas o herbicidas, o para
mejorar su contenido nutrimental.
Sobre la controversia que durante aĎos ha generado el uso de transg╚nicos,
en un documento de apoyo la Sagarpa explica a la Cofemer:
"Aun cuando es claro un beneficio proveniente de la tecnolog╠a de los
cultivos transg╚nicos en un pa╠s pobre, su aplicaci█n es vulnerable a la
oposici█n de grupos de consumidores o ambientalistas y sobre todo a los
efectos reales derivados del riesgo asociado".
Sin embargo, se considera que los beneficios para el campo mexicano pueden
ser importantes. "Actualmente, nuestro pa╠s mantiene una balanza comercial
deficitaria en todos los cereales, oleaginosas y forraje que se consumen",
explica la Sagarpa al justificar la necesidad de la regulaci█n.
Ante este escenario, "se reconoce el potencial de la biotecnolog╠a vegetal
para generar █rganos con mayor productividad, que pueden reducir los
costos de producci█n, con mejores propiedades nutricionales, con mayor
vida de anaquel, variedades que se adapten a condiciones adversas de
cultivo", dice el proyecto de norma.
"Los OGM (transg╚nicos) tienen el potencial de contribuir a una
agricultura mĚs sustentable y menos nociva para el medio ambiente",
La Sagarpa opt█ por emitir una NOM en vez de esperar a que el Congreso
apruebe legislaci█n en la materia, ya que las normas oficiales "son
flexibles y pueden ser modificadas en cinco aĎos, lo que es sumamente Ötil
en una actividad tan cambiante como la biotecnolog╠a".
En total, 36 personas participaron en la elaboraci█n del anteproyecto, 16
de ellos funcionarios de cuatro secretar╠as de Estado. AdemĚs de seis
instituciones acad╚micas, participaron tres expertos de Monsanto Company,
el gigante agroindustrial de Missouri que desde 1996 realiza en M╚xico
ensayos con transg╚nicos.
La NOM establece que cada solicitud serĚ analizada caso por caso con el
fin de detectar los posibles riesgos al ambiente y a la agricultura, y
tambi╚n en cada caso se determinarĚn las condiciones de bioseguridad bajo
las cuales se permitirĚ la liberaci█n y/o comercializaci█n.
El procedimiento serĚ lento y, promete el Gobierno, meticuloso. Por
ejemplo, la Sagarpa tendrĚ 220 d╠as para estudiar una solicitud de
certificado para importar y liberar al ambiente productos transg╚nicos, y
los requisitos incluyen estudios de bioseguridad y planes de contingencia.
Si bien muchos transg╚nicos ya han sido estudiados y aprobados en otros
pa╠ses, el Gobierno decidi█ que analizarĚ caso por caso debido a que
"nuestro pa╠s es megadiverso y es centro de origen y biodiversidad de
algunos cultivos agr╠colas".
HabrĚ zonas prohibidas donde no podrĚn liberarse transg╚nicos. Őstas
incluyen las que han sido designadas por el Gobierno como Ěreas naturales
protegidas, lo que de entrada restringe el acceso a mĚs de 354 mil
hectĚreas agr╠colas, y ademĚs, los centros de biodiversidad que determinen
Entre los beneficiados por la NOM, ademĚs de los agricultores que podrĚn
utilizar semillas mejoradas, el Gobierno menciona a los consumidores.
"La mayor informaci█n es una ventaja tanto para el consumidor como para el
productor, ya que en un caso de daĎo (en el caso de alergia a prote╠nas,
por ejemplo) ambos podr╠an actuar en defensa de sus derechos".
Otra ventaja es que los productores que utilicen estas semillas sabrĚn que
han sido gen╚ticamente modificadas. Hay pa╠ses que, para autorizar
importaciones, exigen que se aclare desde el lugar de origen si hay
Tambi╚n se considera como beneficio el hecho de que la regulaci█n
permitirĚ evitar los costos que tendr╠a "cualquier medida para mitigar o
revertir la presencia o liberaci█n al ambiente de un transg╚nico daĎino,
que es sumamente costosa... un evento de esa magnitud puede por s╠ solo
justificar el anteproyecto".
Bjorn Lomborg - Thought control
Jan 9th 2003
The scourge of the greens is accused of dishonesty
THE Bjorn Lomborg saga took a decidedly Orwellian turn this week. Readers
will recall that Mr Lomborg, a statistician and director of Denmark's
Environmental Assessment Institute, is the author of ýThe Skeptical
Environmentalistţ, which attacks the environmental lobby for
systematically exaggerated pessimism. Environmentalists have risen as one
in furious condemnation of Mr Lomborg's presumption in challenging their
claims, partly no doubt because he did it so tellingly. This week, to the
delight of greens everywhere, Denmark's Committees on Scientific
Dishonesty ruled on the book as follows: ýObjectively speaking, the
publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the
concept of scientific dishonesty.ţ
How odd. Why, in the first place, is a panel with a name such as this
investigating complaints against a book which makes no claim to be a
scientific treatise? ýThe Skeptical Environmentalistţ is explicitly not
concerned with conducting scientific research. Rather, it measures the
ýlitanyţ of environmental alarm that is constantly fed to the public
against a range of largely uncontested data about the state of the planet.
The litany comes off very badly from the comparison. The environmental
movement was right to find the book a severe embarrassment. But since the
book was not conducting scientific research, what business is it of a
panel concerned with scientific dishonesty?
One might expect to find the answer to this question in the arguments and
data supporting the rulingˇbut there aren't any. The material assembled by
the panel consists almost entirely of a synopsis of four articles
published by Scientific American last year. (We criticised those articles
and the editorial that ran with them in our issue of February 2nd 2002.)
The panel seems to regard these pieces as disinterested science, rather
than counter-advocacy from committed environmentalists. Incredibly, the
complaints of these self-interested parties are blandly accepted at face
value. Mr Lomborg's line-by-line replies to the criticisms (see
www.lomborg.com) are not reported. On its own behalf, the panel offers not
one instance of inaccuracy or distortion in Mr Lomborg's book: not its
job, it says. On this basis it finds Mr Lomborg guilty of dishonesty.
The panel's rulingˇobjectively speakingˇis incompetent and shameful.
Burn, Baby Bjorn, Burn!
The Report From the Committees on Saying McCarthyism in Danish
January 10, 2003
By Charles Paul Freund
Did you see where the Greens in Denmark have burned Bjorn Lomborg at the
stake? A Danish institution with a deeply impressive (even pluralized!)
name stenciled on its door, The Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, has
reviewed Lomborg's book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, a statistical
inquiry into the claims of Wild Environmentalism, and has made its
pronouncement. Having examined the complaints against Lomborg, the
Committees placed the Wig of Judiciousness on its head and lit the straw
at the Danish statistician's feet.
"Objectively speaking," the Committees intoned, "the publication of the
work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of
It's interesting to observe how impressively Denmark resolves issues of
science that arise within its borders: by pronouncement. This saves a lot
of time that is otherwise wasted on observation, experiment, analysis, and
debate. The "pronouncement" business has a long and distinguished history,
of course, having served the Counter-Reformation Church so well in its own
battle against heresy, and Stalinist science so effectively in its
campaign in support of Lysenkoism. Nor is there any reason to question the
disinterestedness of such Committees, since their own witness to their own
objectivity is so conveniently placed within their own pronouncement.
Most impressive of all, however, is the manner with which this process has
approached the question of evidence. What instances of Lomborg's
dishonesty have the Committees cited in support of their pronouncement?
This is where they've covered themselves with glory. Evidence is beneath
the Committees' contempt; they've cited none. That would have opened the
door to a rebuttal on the merits. Why be bothered?
The Economist calls this process Orwellian, incompetent, and shameful,
while Tech Central Station says it's a smear. Even so, Lomborg says it
makes him uncomfortable, and who can blame him? Lomborg may have the
statistical case on his side (the Danish Committees sure didn't put a dent
in it), but that can be small comfort when one is up against a
well-publicized charge from a body with an impressive name.
What Lomborg needs are other sorts of pronouncements from other
self-important bodies located in appropriate nations. That is why I'm so
pleased today to report the findings of the Committees on Discovering
Moral Fraudulence Masquerading as Something Else. These Committees do
business in Freedonia, a nation established decades ago by the Marx
Brothers and therefore bringing exactly the desired sensibility to the
campaign against Lomborg. Why should these Committees' pronouncements be
taken seriously? Because its members are in possession of an impressive
set of judicial wigs. Having placed those wigs askew on their heads, the
Freedonian Ministers of Pronouncements have denounced the Danish
Committees as a collection of "schnorrers," have refused to lend them any
more money, and are even refusing to return the Danes' door stencils,
deposited in Freedonia as collateral.
Additionally, the Committees on Saying McCarthyism in Danish have weighed
in. This group is based in Ruritania, a ludicrous monarchy that figures
prominently in the forgotten novels of Arthur Hope. Ruritania is an
excellent location to debate Lomborg's critics, because it is a place best
known for the extravagance of its military epaulettes. Consistent with
their national reputation for impenetrable intrigue, the Ruritanian
Committees have dressed up to look exactly like the Danish Committees in
question, and have issued a counter-statement in the Danish language that
pretends to be the work of the Danish Committees itself. That document
demands that Denmark's royal family wear more epaulette braids while
riding their bicycles. The smirk on the faces of the Ruritanian imposters
at their press conference suggests that there is a good deal more to their
conspiracy, but that by the time we turn the last page of the story it
will be next to impossible to reconstruct what actually happened.
Finally, the Committees on Pronouncing Pronouncements, based in Pyongyang,
North Korea, reports that it intends to buy yet another two-page spread of
The New York Times. There, they will print, in 6-point type, the text of a
speech begun several days ago by their unique head of state, and still
going on. The ad will, as usual, declare socialism's inevitable victory,
and cite as evidence the Danish Committees' appropriation of North Korea's
Perhaps none of these developments will reduce Bjorn Lomborg's
understandable unhappiness, but it will at least place the Danish
Committees' pronouncements in a context befitting their seriousness.
From: "terry hopkin"
Subject: Jyllands-Posten Danemark
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2003 16:54:57 +0000
Translated from Dansk (hope with not too many errors) Prof. Claus Haagen
Jensen of Aalborg University called the attack on Bj»rn Lomborg's book,
"Lacking and without foundation" [Jyllands-Posten] "If he complained to
the Parliamentary Ombudsman he would have a good case" The professor is
one Dane marks leading jurists in Civil Service (Administration) law.
Further David Lando professor in Finance (in Denmark) called the report on
Lomborgs book "Shockingly low level of scientific discussion" Together
with two other professor colleagues he has started a campaign against the
report source Jyllands-Posten newspaper and "Danmarks Radio text TV side
regards Terry Hopkin
From: "Gordon Couger"
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2003 07:22:23 -0600
Political correctness was never any more than terrorism of those ignorant
of the harsh realities of life. It is easy to sit in you warm home with
food from around the world at the lowest prices in history and pontificate
that we have plenty of food and we just need better distribution. Let them
raise the money, book the barges, ships and transportation on the other
end and put it in the hand of the hungry people and see how long they can
keep up the charade. We can help a country with infrastructure and a
willing government but the only help for Zimbabwe and those like her is
for some one to install a decent government that can take quick and
It seems we have got out of the government business unless it has some up
side for us and there is no winning hand in Africa. 25 years ago
agriculturists returning from Africa were saying that it was doomed if it
didn't control it population growth, modernize its cash agriculture and
spend large amounts of money for research for substance agriculture. Well
they have done none of it and AIDs and a string of unbelievably corrupt
governments have played one tribe against another to increase their power
and have some positive effect on population control.
But much of today's Africa is past famine. The four horsemen of the
Acropolis ride free over much of the content welcomed by despots ready to
be rid of troublesome tribal groups by any means that comes to hand.
The greens of the world support this as free choice. The were not so
cooperative when the forces of Hitler and Stalin reaped the blood of
Europe. Or are Africans less important then the undesirable Europeans the
rounded up and actively killed rather than ineptly letting civil war,
famine and disease do the job. The Africans have found a more cost
effective method to accomplish the ethnic cleansing and they are getting
support of Green Piece, Ms Shiva, et. al. to do it.
The greens have stopped the green revolution from reaching Africa,
undermined the malaria programs world wide and public health has ground to
a halt world wide with their concernments over vaccines.
I have had polio, seen friends die in iron lungs, die of tetanus, whooping
cough, seen vegetables caused by 3 day measles and the risks of vaccines
are well worth the risk of taking them.
If we follow the PC way of well meaning folks that have no idea of how to
run the world but they sure don't let that stop them from trying they will
mange to wreck it in the next 50 years if they haven't done it already.
Most of Africa is gone. The EU has a chance but they seem to be convinced
that they can survive like a cow sucking herself by massive taxes and
social programs with birth rates falling like a rock and productivity that
is pathetic. Taxing tax money won't put food on the table.
The only bright star on the horizon is China and their path to prosperity
is a long, hard and dangerous one. One regime can set the whole thing back
It is time for people that won't have anything to do with politics to step
up and do their duty for their country and throughout the PC crowd and
replace it with people that have experience in making the world work, not
going to meetings and stealing what ever they can carry home for their own
district and pocket what they can.
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2003 16:42:14 -0800 (PST)
Subject: The Value of thought, Tact, and Time
Starting a suit with the EU over GMOs right now is highly
counterproductive. Considering the large list of conflicts the US already
has with the EU, this will only make them more stubborn, shrill and
determined to thwart the US- perhaps on other fronts as well. Thoughtful
debate and time has done more than Corporate/gov wrangling in furthering
biotech. Wasnt Starlink bad enough? Segregation of pharm crops is
imperative. (tips hat to Cougar) Dont hand crop safety issues to
opponents, they can "invent" well enough as it is. Biotech firms must
aggressively craft and enforce pharm-crop regulations, in real life, and
not just on paper. When you have a self-propagating drug in the field, new
containment and oversight methods need to be implemented before an even
minor crisis results in bad press, depressed sales, lawsuits, excessive
oversight, and fines. Since companies are only as perfect as the people in
them, be prepared for the hit, deserved or not. Remember how well Tylenol
handled the poisoning scare decade/two ago? They werent defensive, they
were active, decisive, up-front, and pro-consumer.
Seed Banks? Let time show their worth. Im not convinced that we can
imagine everything that nature has evolved, certainly not with a few
million years head start, clever monkeys that we are. Budget cuts will
take care of redundancy in the future.
Just because groups are against GMOs doesnt mean they are "always" wrong.
The best propaganda and dogma starts with a grain of truth. "Two groups,
alike in knee jerk reaction...." it cant end well. Perception is NOT
reality, but lose integrity, lose composure, make a personal attack, and
your actions become a proxy for the safety, and value of GMO's.
Unfortunately, thought, tact, and time will not save those millions
starving in Africa. This is not the first time this has happened in recent
memory. There is no global rock concert to raise funds for the starving. I
suppose "the west" has other things on it's mind. A generally free and
educated people could have fed themselves, or procured their own relief.
No fish, no hook, only rhetoric by the pound.