Today in AgBioView: February 26, 2003
* Zambia and Food Safety Confusion
* Brazil: Lula Confronts Transgenic Crop Dispute
* Australia: Forum to Air Pros and Cons of GM Crops
* GM Crop Hysteria Could Deny Australia Benefits
* DNA from the Beginning: An Animated Primer on Basics of DNA
* Celebrating 50 Years of DNA
* Activist French Farmer Gets Prison Time
* BIO 2003 Annual Convention: Washington DC
* Int Assessment of Ag Science and Technology
* Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe
* GM Crops in Europe ? Planning for the End of the Moratorium
* The Science of Working with the News Media
Zambia and Food Safety
- John W. Cross , AgBioView, Feb 26, 2003;
Dear Mr. Simpson:
Please let me give you some answers to the questions that are troubling
you regards GM-maize.
First, my credentials. I have a Ph.D. from Caltech in Cell Biology and
Genetics. I am not employed by the seed or food industries. I work as an
independent consultant, mostly for pharmaceutical companies. Earlier in
my career, I worked in the food safety program for a state regulatory
agency in California.
First, I can assure you: nearly all agricultural and food scientists in
the US and abroad agree that the GM crops being raised commercially in the
US are safe.
Basically, GM crops are virtually identical to conventional crops, with
just a few added genes of known activity. The differences are not
relevant to food safety.The US government has looked at the data on these
added genes and certifies that this is so before the crops are released to
farmers. The harvested maize is not separated from conventional grain
because it is basically not different from conventional grain in any way
that is relevant to the consumer. We in the USA eat this grain every day.
It is safe. Someone claiming it isn't is spreading a falsehood.
There are groups in the USA and abroad who make their living scaring
people about hazards. Unfortunately some very wealthy donors (who know
little about agriculture) were scared, so they have plenty of money to
work with spreading their lies. Since we have complete freedom of speech
in the US, these scoundrels are free to spread their lies and fear - to
get more donations.
The food-fear people work by blowing out of proportion the limits of
scientific knowledge that apply to agricultural crops and the very
unlikely risks that everyone else rejects as insignificant. In fact the
same, identical risks that they trumpet about GM crops are in fact also
applicable to conventional crop breeding. They just conveniently ignore
that. Conventional agriculture does, in fact, have small risks, but people
are willing to accept them to eat a normal diet at a reasonable price.
Let me give you an example. Every time conventional breeders make a cross,
they recombine hundreds of thousands of genes of unknown function in new
combinations. No one ever checks those thousands of genes for safety in a
conventional cross, they just assume it is safe until proven otherwise. In
GM-crops, by contrast, the plant with a newly added gene is subject to
extensive testing to prove that the grain is safe and equivalent to
conventionally-bred grain. So which breeding method is safer? Which is
I say the conventional method is actually riskier, but that the risk is
small, a risk I am willing to accept.
Best wishes, John Cross
>> Confusion by Fear Mongers in Zambia - David Simpson
>> Re: Benbrook Lectures Zambian Delegates
>> We in Zambia continue to be confused by the diverse opinions of experts
>on GMO foods. While in the cities we are comparatively well provided for,
>poverty spreads, crime grows, and then nobody is safe.
Brazil: Lula Confronts Transgenic Crop Dispute
- Mario Osava, Inter Press Service, February 21, 2003
Rio De Janeiro, Feb. 21 (IPS) -- The new populist Brazilian government is
moving to stake out a consistent position on genetically modified products
in an effort to reconcile the divergent pressures from environmentalists,
scientists and the international business community.
A working group set up this week, with representatives from nine
ministries, will have one month to issue a governmental definition on the
matter of transgenics. One of the problems for which the group must find
a solution is the expanding illegal cultivation of genetically modified
soy in southern Brazil. Official figures state that 4 million tons of this
transgenic crop were harvested in the last year.
The debate pitting those who warn of the health and environmental risks of
transgenic crops against those who promote further research and
development created a deep rift between the ministries of Environment and
Agriculture under the previous government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso
The controversy continues under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with
the Ministry of Environment opposed to the introduction of genetically
modified organisms in Brazilian territory and the Ministry of Agriculture
championing transgenic crops. Transgenics -- plant or animal -- are
created in laboratory by introducing the gene of a different species into
the organism's own gene make-up. The aim is usually to improve its
characteristics, for example, making a plant more resistant to pests or to
Cultivation of genetically modified crops is illegal in Brazil due to a
provisional court decision, issued in June 2000, which banned the
commercial planting of a transgenic soy variety developed by the
U.S.-based seed and agro-chemical giant Monsanto.
The case, dating back to 1997, should see a definitive ruling within 60
days, marking the end of a long series of postponements filed by
environmental organizations and authorities. The ambiguity of the
government stance and uncertainties in the legal sphere have apparently
contributed to the illegal planting of genetically modified soy in
According to denunciations, eight percent of the national soy harvest this
year is from genetically modified seeds, says agriculture minister Roberto
Rodrigues. The illegal crops are the result of seeds smuggled in from
Argentina, where nearly the entire national soy yield is from transgenic
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics calculates that the
country's total soy production this year will be 48.5 million tons, with
nearly 4 million tons being of genetically modified varieties. Farmers in
southern Brazil, however, believe the volume of the transgenic soy harvest
is much higher -- more than double -- at 8.5 million tons, and worth $1.74
billion. In Rio Grande do Sul state, which shares an extensive border
with Argentina, "they say that more than 70 percent" of the soy grown is
genetically modified, says Carlos Sperotto, president of the local
Federation of Agriculture.
What to do with the illegal harvest is one of the problems that the
inter-ministerial working group must tackle, along with assessing the
various ways that genetic engineering can be applied to agriculture.
Minister Rodrigues, a defender of biotechnology applications, comments
that decision-makers must not forget "the socio-economic reality" and
should not throw out the harvest, jeopardizing the approximately 155,000
But six non-governmental organizations are leading the "Campaign for a
Transgenic-Free Brazil", demanding government action to eliminate illegal
genetically modified soy and to penalize those responsible for planting it
inside Brazilian territory. Pressure on the government is coming from
several fronts, while no conclusive scientific evidence is yet available
about the effects of genetically modified organisms on the environment or
Researcher Manoel Teixeira Souza, of the governmental Brazilian Enterprise
for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA), says he regrets that the controversy
emerged in reaction to the soy variety Roundup Ready, created by Monsanto
to withstand the company's herbicide and thus facilitate its application.
This new technology became associated with negative factors, such as
greater dependence on agro-chemicals and the dominance of a transnational
like Monsanto in the national market, according to Souza. "But the
technology could lead precisely in the opposite direction," said the
agronomist, a researcher of the banana genome at EMBRAPA's Genetic
Resources and Biotechnology Center.
The debate, stated in these terms, "hurts research," paralyzing projects
and inhibiting investment, comments Souza. He led the development of a
genetically modified papaya, the seeds of which could be ruined due to the
ban on planting transgenics in Brazil, while a transgenic papaya is being
grown for export in the U.S. state of Hawaii. There is no technology that
offers "100 percent security," but current knowledge allows scientists to
create genetically modified foods that are relatively safe and are
resistant to pests.
"I prefer to eat transgenic fruit that does not require agro- chemicals to
fruit that is treated with pesticides," he said. But the new president of
EMBRAPA, Clayton Campanhola, said when he assumed the post a month ago
that the government body -- which oversees 40 specialized research centers
-- should respect the principle of precaution in all of its activities.
According to the precautionary principle, established in international
talks on biotechnology, nations have the right to ban the introduction or
development of substances or organisms whose innocuousness has not been
rigorously proven. Caution and the need for further research on
genetically modified organisms in a country with such rich biodiversity as
Brazil are also the arguments wielded by environment minister Marina da
Silva in opposition to the commercial production of transgenics in this
But it will be difficult to resist economic pressures. Six business
associations in the Brazilian cotton industry, which includes textiles,
defend the cultivation of transgenic cotton as a means to halt the
country's declining production and increasing imports. According to
cotton producers, genetically modified seeds could represent 60 percent
savings in production costs. Without the transgenic variety, and faced
with competition from other countries -- particularly the United States,
where it is already widely cultivated -- Brazilian farmers will abandon
cotton for other crops, they argue.
Transgenic cotton cuts to less than a third the volume of agro- chemicals
needed to protect the crop, reducing costs and benefiting the health of
farm workers and the environment, Helio Tollini, director of the Brazilian
Cotton Producers Association, said in a conversation with IPS. Cotton is
particularly susceptible to fungus, insect and bacterial infestations -- a
list that runs to 250 pathogenic agents -- and therefore requires the
intensive application of pesticides or the development of resistant
Tollini, however, is not calling for the immediate release of transgenic
seeds, but rather a greater effort in research, "based on national data",
so the country can take a decision on the matter, "in three years,
Australia: Forum to Air Pros and Cons of GM Crops
- Herald and Weekly Times, Feb 26, 2003
Visitors to Wimmera have the chance to find out more about genetically
modified crops THERE will be a special focus on genetically modified crops
at next week's Wimmera Machinery Field Days.
Opinion is divided on GM crops. Some people say they will bring higher
yields and reduced use of pesticides, while others claim they will result
in loss of overseas markets and create Frankenstein weeds. Among those
providing information on this new technology will be Federal Government
agencies, at a site in the Alan Heard Pavilion.
The agencies will have information, exhibits and staff on hand to answer
questions. There will also be an opportunity to hear presentations from
expert speakers in the pavilion. Agencies involved in the field days
include: Biotechnology Australia; Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Forestry; Gene Technology Information Service; Office of the Gene
Technology Regulator; Cooperative Research Centre for Pest Animal Control.
"There is a huge amount of information out there about agricultural
biotechnology and it seems that every scientist, corporation and
environmental group has a different spin on the issues," said Craig
Cormick, public awareness manager at Biotechnology Australia.
"As a result, the facts are sometimes distorted or lost in the arguments,
leading many people to be confused about the technology. "Farmers and the
general public deserve to get balanced and factual information so they can
make up their own minds.
"To help them do this, Commonwealth agencies have developed high quality
material on key issues, such as overseas market access for GM crops.
"This information will be freely available to farmers at the field days
and they can also speak directly with people who have expertise in the
area to find out more." The field days committee has joined forces with
the agencies to host a public forum on GM crops.
The issue of GM crops has been hotly debated in the Wimmera, with some
arguing that they will improve farming outcomes, and others saying they
will impose large costs on farmers. As a result, it has been decided to
host a public forum to present all points of view about GM crops and allow
people to make up their own mind.
The forum will be held at the Horsham Town Hall next Tuesday evening,
after the opening day of the field days.
More information on biotechnology or gene technology:
Fed: GM Crop Hysteria Could Deny Australia Benefits
- AAP News, February 25, 2003
Canberra, Feb 25 AAP - Hysteria over genetically modified crops could deny
Australia some of their benefits, a supporter of the technology said
today. Agrifood Awareness Australia executive manager Paula Fitzgerald
said deliberate misinformation about GM crops was threatening to undermine
GM opponents next week will start a new campaign against genetically
altered crops, including a proposal now before the Office of the Gene
Technology Regulator for the commercial release of GM canola. But Ms
Fitzgerald said it was vital farmers had to ensure any decision about GM
crops remained in their hands. Addressing an Australian Women in
Agriculture conference, she said farmers had to get credible evidence on
GM products rather than listen to outlandish and often incorrect claims.
Ms Fitzgerald warned that by making the wrong decisions on GM crops,
Australia could disadvantage itself. "GM products must be judged on a
case-by-case basis," she said. "It would be extremely harmful to
Australian agriculture if it closed the door on an entire technology based
on a decision or assumption about one GM product. "Our cotton industry has
benefited enormously from this technology (and) the broader applications
of biotechnology, and the potential it offers to farmers, such as marker
assisted breeding, cannot be ignored."
But GM opponent and Western Australian farmer Julie Newman said there were
still too many questions about genetically altered crops for them to be
released widely. "It's critical that our industry identifies and addresses
problems before commercial release," she said in a statement. "Priority
must be given to economic assessment, protection of our existing systems
and industry readiness for release."
The gene technology regulator is expected to rule on the commercial
release of GM canola within three months. There are only two GM crops
commercially grown in Australia - carnations and cotton. As part of the
anti-GM campaign, high-profile Canadian farmer Bob Willick, who is leading
a class action against agribusiness giants Monsanto and Bayer over the
release of GM canola in his country, will address public meetings in rural
and metropolitan areas. The Network of Concerned Farmers is hosting Mr
Willick's 11-day speaking tour that will include four states.
DNA from the Beginning: An Animated Primer on Basics of DNA, Genes and
'DNA from the Beginning' is organized around key concepts. The science
behind each concept is explained by: animation, image gallery, video
interviews, problem, biographies, and links
(From Prakash: this is a 'must see' site and is a treasure trove for
teaching genetics to novices and beginner students. The site
http://www.dnaftb.org/dnaftb/ has one of the best animation and graphics
in teaching heredity and DNA issues that I have come across!)
Celebrating 50 Years of DNA: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
DNA at 50: Finding the Double Helix
Nobel Laureate James Watson reflects upon his involvement in two
scientifically and historically significant events. See the Video clip of
Watson's comments at
Activist French Farmer Gets Prison Time
- Associated Press, Feb 26, 2003
Montpellier, France (AP) - Militant French farmer Jose Bove now faces a
total of 10 months in jail after an appeals court on Wednesday ruled he
must spend four months in prison for destroying genetically modified
The court in the southern French city of Montpellier imposed the prison
time after a lower court had given him a suspended sentence for destroying
genetically modified corn. The four months will be added to a six-month
sentence handed down in a separate case for ripping up genetically
modified rice crops.
Bove's lawyer, Francois Roux, said he would take the case to the European
Court of Human Rights next week. He also suggested that the French
president, Jacques Chirac, should pardon Bove. "The justice system
decided that a nonviolent action done in the open was worth 10 months
imprisonment. The decision from now on belongs to Jacques Chirac,'' Roux
Bove, a sheep farmer whose crusades against globalization have taken him
around the world, shot to fame after leading a group of protesters who
dismantled a McDonald's restaurant under construction in Millau, near his
sheep farm, in August 1999. He went to jail June 19 to complete a 61-day
prison term for that act, but benefited from a sweeping presidential
pardon--a Bastille Day tradition--and got an early Aug. 1 release.
After years of denouncing "foul food''--including genetically modified
crops and fast food -- Bove has increasingly taken up other causes,
including that of the Palestinians.
BIO 2003 Annual Convention
- Washington DC, June 22-25, 2003 http://www.bio.org/events/2003/
Breakout Sessions: Food and Agriculture
Agricultural Biotechnology for Development: Engaging the Private Sector:
Biotechnology has tremendous potential to address agricultural constraints
and improve nutrition in developing countries. Meeting food needs for
increasing populations in developing countries without further threatening
already fragile environments will require the use of new technologies,
including biotechnology. Constraints to wider adoption of this technology
in developing countries are not only due to lack of access to these tools
for local applications, but also due to new challenges in developing and
disseminating this technology. This session will look at the role of the
biotechnology industry, which has been instrumental in the rapid adoption
of this technology in the United States, in fostering wider application of
biotechnology in developing countries.
Release of Transgenic Crops in the Crop's Center of Origin: Are There
Special Evaluation Criteria That Apply?: The issue of pollen flow often
dominates discussions concerning the environmental release of transgenic
crops, especially in the crop's center of origin. This session explores
the evaluation of potential environmental impacts associated with the
release of several important transgenic crops. Scientific experts discuss
the historical origins, physiological characteristics and potential impact
of the environmental release of transgenic material in the center of
origin of crops such as wheat, corn, sunflowers and sorghum.
Biodiversity-Problems and Prospects: The estimated 10 million to 20
million known species of plants, animals and microorganisms on Earth,
properly managed, constitute a virtually inexhaustible source of goods and
services for the future. Modern molecular biology allows the analysis and
utilization of the genetic features of organisms in ways that are just
starting to be realized. This panel will discuss the dimensions of life on
Earth; the rate of loss of biodiversity and what we can do about it;
bioprospecting; and the impact of GM crops on biodiversity.
Science and Regulatory Policy Roundtable on Agricultural Biotechnology:
Research and regulatory policy for agricultural biotechnology in the
United States continues to evolve. At times, the rapid pace of the science
puts pressure on regulatory agencies to keep pace with either updated or
new regulatory policy. Better ways are needed to more systematically
anticipate the implications for changes in regulatory policy that
innovation invokes. Speakers will focus on how science policy can better
take into account implications for regulatory policy, how regulatory
policy can better take advantage of knowledge about scientific innovations
and how linkages between science and regulatory policy can be made more
The Future of Our Foods: Many advances are taking place over a wide range
of food and agriculture-related research that promise to offer new and
valuable possibilities for our food. Potential technologies include
healthier foods and nutraceuticals, better processing food ingredients,
and new flavors and fragrances. Speakers will discuss the exciting
possibilities these new technologies bring to the food industry and
benefits for consumers.
The Debate over Agricultural Biotechnology: Historical Perspectives: Are
the current issues surrounding agricultural biotechnology unique-or simply
the expected reactions of interest groups to change? Societies have always
greeted new technologies with vigorous argument over risks, both real and
imagined. Speakers will examine examples of past clashes between new
technologies and societal concerns, drawing parallels to help us see
today's debates in a clearer light.
The Future of Animal Biotechnology in Livestock Production: Production of
animals through the use of biotechnology for research and commercial
purposes including pharmaceutical production has been ongoing for
approximately 20 years and is increasing in frequency and scale. Today,
research is being conducted on new methods of selecting animals possessing
desirable commercial traits through utilizing genetics and proteomics.
Once these animals are selected, there is additional research to determine
how to reproduce these traits in offspring. Cloning the chosen animals may
be an answer. Speakers will describe the process of cloning, how it may be
used in livestock production, what are the current regulatory policies for
cloning in livestock, and its use in the future.
International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology
Agriculture. The fount of life -- from the food we eat, to the clothes we
wear, to the books we read. Little in our lives would be the same without
the agricultural products that nourish and enrich us. And for the world's
poorest people --75% of whom live in rural areas --agriculture is nothing
less than their livelihoods.
Today, access to food -- enough food, nutritious food, and affordable food
-- is the primary problem for nearly 800 million chronically
undernourished people. Yet, unless we act now, the next few decades will
almost certainly find us unable to produce agricultural products
(vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, forest products and commodities)
sufficient to meet the demands of growing populations and changing diets.
And we may lose opportunities to harvest critically needed pharmaceutical
products and develop new delivery systems. Meeting these demands will
require productivity increases and product diversification to improve the
livelihoods of the poor, protect the environment and ensure broad-based
We will need to produce more with less -- less water in many areas, and
less labor where HIV/AIDS and endemic disease abound. And we will need to
do so in the context of increased climate variability.
Policy. We will need a policy environment in both developed and developing
countries that is grounded in equity, that addresses key issues such as
trade, IPR and land tenure, and that enhances agricultural productivity
while encouraging the sustainable use of natural resources. This means
finding answers to questions such as:
* What research should be conducted, where and by whom, to aid the rural
poor in adopting technologies that improve nutritional security and raise
incomes? * What technologies can increase land and labor productivity,
especially where AIDS has devastated the work force? * What part can
biotechnology safely play in increasing productivity and improving crop
traits? What can traditional plant breeding techniques offer? * What is
the relevance of organic agriculture to food safety and nutritional
security? * How can we accelerate the diffusion of methodologies that
maximize efficient use of biophysical resources and minimize harvest and
Assessment. An international assessment on agricultural science and
technology would bring together representatives from governments,
industry, the scientific community and NGOs from around the world to work
together to give decision makers the tools and information they need to
answer these questions in a larger policy context and to shape the future
of agriculture. International assessments have proven invaluable for
guiding policy makers on the key questions of our time, in a way that
brings the singular insights of scientists, advocacy groups and industry
specialists to bear on complex scientific, economic and political
Process. The World Bank and its partners are undertaking a consultative
process to develop an appropriate authorizing environment for an
assessment, and to determine the scope, objectives and value of an
international assessment, the key questions to be addressed, and the
principles and procedures to be followed.
During this process, stakeholders throughout the world --farmers and
producers, NGOs, researchers, the private sector, governments, consumers
and others --will exchange ideas on how agricultural S&T can contribute to
reducing hunger and improving rural livelihoods.
The World Bank, convener of the consultative process, asks that you add
your voice to this unprecedented discussion by downloading the concept
paper in Portable Document Format (PDF) "An International Assessment on
the Role of Agricultural Science and Technology in Reducing Hunger and
Improving Rural Livelihoods" (10 pages, 3K). You will need Acrobat Reader
to view or read this document. Get it here for free.
Once you have read the paper, please provide us with critical feedback via
the online form. Thank you.
If you have questions, please send them to: email@example.com
Dublin Meeting Assess Role of Science and Technology
- Crop Biotech Update, www.isaaa.org
A global consultative process was held in Dublin, Ireland to do an
international assessment of the role of agricultural science and
technology (S & T) in reducing hunger, improving rural livelihoods and
stimulating environmentally sustainable economic growth over the coming
decades. The meeting was convened by the World Bank and had participants
from governments, the private sector, non-government organizations, farmer
and other producer groups, consumers, scientists and international
The participants agreed that a broad and diverse potential audience exists
for a well-focused assessment of agricultural S and T. Assessments were
perceived to strengthen national and international science and
decision-making structures, and possibly provide the justification for
increased public sector funding and improved public-private partnerships
given the "global public goods" nature of agricultural S & T.
Participants felt that the assessment would include areas where
agricultural S & T knowledge is likely to inform producers and consumers,
have policy implications, and stimulate sustainable development.
Among the core S & T issues which could include a critical evaluation are:
* The potential of current and future technologies * The potential to
reduce post-harvest losses and minimize wastes; the potential to improve
crop traits* The potential to increase productivity in rain fed, drought
prone and marginalized areas where production is low, among others * The
limiting factors of present production systems in meeting producers' needs
Full report online: http://www.agassessment.org/reports/dublin/index.html
Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe (ABE)
The companies involved with the development of agricultural biotechnology
believe strongly that biotechnology has the potential to be of great value
to the agricultural and food industries. We recognise that the
introduction of crops produced with biotechnology and the use of these
crops in foods have raised concerns in Europe, and that future
introductions can be made successfully only once consumers feel they have
sufficient information to make an informed choice. We are committed to
developing and commercialising products in a responsible and safe manner
and recognise that the market success of any new technology is dependent
upon its understanding and acceptance by consumers.
Transparent information and communication The agricultural biotechnology
industry is therefore working with various organisations across Europe to
improve transparency and to foster a useful dialogue on GM technology. We
are working on wide-ranging communications initiatives with a variety of
stakeholders ? the food and feed industries, retailers, the media,
policy-makers and others ? with the aim of listening to and addressing the
concerns of Europeans as well as making information available about our
industry and this technology. A high-quality and well-informed debate
should precede informed economic and legislative decisions to harness the
potential of agricultural biotechnology. The opinions of diverse groups ?
farmers, consumers, trade and industry, scientists and governments ? will
help us make the wisest choices.
Following Issue papers can be downloaded: 1. Crop Biotechnology: An
Overview 2. Public Attitudes to Agricultural Biotechnology 3. The
Environmental Impact of Agricultural Biotechnology 4. Crop Biotechnology
and Food Safety 5. Economic Impacts of Crop Biotechnology 6. Future
Developments in Crop Biotechnology
GM Crops in Europe ? Planning for the End of the Moratorium
PG Economics Ltd announced today the availability of its new report "GM
Crops in Europe ? planning for the end of the moratorium". It
objectively examines the likely future development of GM crops in Europe,
once EU-wide legislation is fully in place and the moratorium is lifted ?
probably during 2003.
With the anticipated lifting of the moratorium and the enactment of EU
legislation on GMO labelling and traceability, probably in late 2003,
European farmers will soon, for the first time, be able to choose whether
to plant GM crops or not, based on their benefits/costs relative to the
market incentives offered by conventional non GM seeds.
The new legislation should also pave the way for European farmers and
supply chain users to plan for their introduction over the coming years.
The possibility of increased cultivation of GM crops in Europe will have
major implications for all stakeholders in the European food/feed chains.
Experience from the USA and South America has demonstrated that GM crop
technology can be adopted at an extremely fast rate resulting in changes
to farm and crop protection practices, cropping systems, agrochemical
prices, food/feed distribution and prices.
The future development of GM crops in the EU is clearly subject to
considerable uncertainty and influence by a number of variables. The
report includes forward-looking analysis and forecasts based on three
possible scenarios for the development of key influencing variables.
These are variables that affect both the level of demand for non GM
products and the planting of GM crops in the EU.
GMO labelling of products becomes widespread and anti GM sentiment falls
on back of familiarity of the label Limited availability of GMO labelled
products ? slow decline in anti GM sentiment on back of some, but not
widespread familiarity Reluctance of supply chain to use GMO labelling
because of concern about remaining high levels of anti GM sentiment ?
supply chain prepared to seek out and source non GM alternatives to avoid
Based on these scenarios, the report includes forecasts of when reasonable
volumes of seed containing GM traits in the leading arable crops are
likely to be available to EU farmers, together with forecasts of likely GM
crop penetration by 2013.
Key forecasts presented include:
* It is likely to be another 2-3 years before GM seed is widely available
to EU producers of maize and possible 3-4 years before GM seed is widely
available for other crops like oilseed rape and sugar beet. GM wheat is
unlikely to available to EU farmers until 2008-2010;
* In five years time the penetration of GM crop in EU arable crop
production is likely to be limited to no more than a 10% share of
cultivation in some crops like maize. This largely reflects the time
period required to complete regulatory approval processes and to get GM
Events into leading varieties (in commercial quantities of seed) and the
continued existence (albeit declining) of some anti GM sentiment amongst
* In ten years time, we perceive that GM arable crop penetration in the
EU will largely reflect the extent to which specific pests and weeds
(which are targeted by GM traits) are considered to be a problem for
farmers. Thus take up of insect resistant and herbicide tolerant crops
like oilseed rape, sugar beet and maize will be concentrated in regions
where pests and weeds are perceived to be causing significant crop losses
and/or conventional control methods are considered to be of limited
effectiveness (or are more expensive than the GM alternative). GM crop
uptake (of traits with agronomic traits) in wheat and potatoes will
however probably be more limited in 2013 than for other crops mainly
because the traits available are fairly new to the market.
Order and enquiry form ? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or FAX 44
(0)1303 840959; This report can be purchased for £795.00.
The Science of Working with the News Media
- ASPB News, Jan- Feb 2003; www.aspb.org
The prospect of talking with journalists can be somewhat daunting for
scientists, just as it is for many people in all other walks of life.
However, scientists and reporters have more in common than some people may
As Terri Lomax explained at an ASPB media workshop sponsored by the
Committee on Public Affairs last summer in Denver, traits often found in
both scientists and journalists include free and independent thinking,
competitive natures, and curiosity as well as higher levels of education.
Botany and plant pathology professor at Oregon State University, Lomax is
now directing a public education program on biotechnology with the support
of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences. Lomax notes that working with
the media is key to communicating with the public and believes that some
advance preparation can help the media contact go more smoothly.
She said that in preparing for an interview, a scientist should learn more
about the reporter, the publication, and the readership. A scientist needs
to have a goal in mind for the interview and deliver a focused message.
Advance practice in answering expected potential questions can contribute
to more accurate and confident answers during the actual interview.
If the reporter attempts to divert a scientist from the point or poses a
hypothetical question, it's important for the scientist to stay on message
and politely transition back to the relevant points the scientist wants to
make. "As Secretary of State Colin Powell said, 'Remember, they
[reporters] get to ask the questions, but you get to give the answers,' "
Lomax worked tirelessly throughout the summer and early fall to educate
the media and the public about the effects that Oregon ballot issue
Measure 27 could have on consumers and producers. Measure 27 would have
required mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods in Oregon.
Peggy Lemaux, then chair of the ASPB Committee on Public Affairs,
coordinated the media workshop. Lemaux is Cooperative Extension Specialist
at the University of California at Berkeley. She promotes public
understanding of biotechnology through an active outreach program.
Lemaux said responding to calls from journalists merits top priority. "I
will drop everything to talk to the press," Lemaux said. She noted that
too often, the media use misleading terminology such as "Franken-food" and
"killer corn." Scientists need to use more accurate terminology in
discussing genetically modified foods and should not repeat misleading
terms if they are used by a reporter in a question.
Denver Post science writer Diedtra Henderson told ASPB members at the
workshop that they need to convey their key points to the journalist.
Scientists should be able to answer questions on their research such as,
"What does it matter?" Scientists need to convey to the reporter what the
relevance of their research is to the public. Henderson implied that this
should not be difficult to do, because people have a lifelong interest in
In talking to a journalist, scientists should speak as if they are
speaking to a friend, Henderson advised. However, it is important to know
that information from the scientist is generally not considered off the
record if the off-the-record request is made subsequent to the scientist's
actual comment. Off-the-record comment agreements between scientists and
journalists need to be agreed to by both parties in advance of the comment
being made by the scientist. Some media relations advisers also warn that
if you don't want to see a comment to a reporter in print, it is best to
simply not make the comment.
Alan McHughen, biotechnology specialist/geneticist, University of
California, Riverside, related some of his experiences in working with the
media. Author of Pandora's Picnic Basket: The Potential and Hazards of
Genetically Modified Foods, McHughen interacts frequently with the media.
McHughen said a survey seeking public views on the credibility of
different sources found that Americans have considerable respect for
scientists and family physicians. "However, don't assume that you'll
always have this. Don't be arrogant," he advised.
Writing letters to the editor to cite a need for corrections in a science
story is one of the ways that McHughen has found effective for getting to
know journalists. He said that although his letter might not get
published, it is likely the editor will have the reporter call him to
clarify any facts in dispute noted in the letter. At that point, a contact
is made and McHughen can be identified by the writer as a valuable source
in a particular subject area, such as genetic modification of foods.
When writing an op-ed piece for a newspaper, the scientist has a larger
word count to work with than for a letter to the editor. You can "let
yourself go a little bit" in delivering your message, McHughen noted.
For advice from a newspaper editorial page editor to ASPB members on how
to get letters to the editor and op-eds published, visit the ASPB Public
Affairs web site at