Today in AgBioView: March 14, 2003:
* Biotech Tackles Hunger In Africa
* Burdensome Regulation
* response to 'True Green Revolution Gathers Steam'...
* Fate of AgBiotech "in Hands of Regulators"
* Death by Public Policy
* UK Organic Farming In Proper Perspective
* Ploughing Ahead With Seed Warning
* Ex-Aussie Rick Roush Takes On Samela Harris
* GM Facts and Fiction
* New Gene Data about Genetically Modified Crops
* Rick Roush vs Anders
* Experiences Of Bt Cotton Farmers In China
* Transgenic Field Crops Deemed More Profitable
* Regulating Biotechnology: Science, Ethics, Law and Governance Meet Head
On in the Age of Informed Ignorance
* Soy Board Supports Agricultural Biotechnology
* And You Thought Tariff Based Trade Barriers Were a Curse: The
Precautionary Principle at Work
* British Debate in the House of Lords
* Intellectual Property Rights And Access To Agbiotech By Developing
* GM crop introduction
* Summary of Presentations at the GM Food Conference 2003 in Singapore
Biotech Tackles Hunger In Africa
UPI Science News
WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- A coalition of private institutions and
corporations called Wednesday for a second Green Revolution to address the
crippling problem of hunger in Africa.
Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway, speaking at a forum on
African hunger, said his organization is creating the African Agricultural
Technology Foundation, an endeavor that will be Africa-based, African-led
and African-directed. The public-private partnership will allow
agricultural technology to revolutionize farming across the continent, he
Conway cited the Green Revolution, the first major thrust to overhaul
agriculture in developing nations, as a cautionary model because it
increased food production but nevertheless failed to solve world hunger.
Begun in the 1960s, it offered farmers crop varieties that allowed
significant increases in crop yield.
Mexico, India and the Philippines benefited from the new seeds, Conway
explained but "the Green Revolution passed Africa by, focusing on wheat
and rice" while African staples included sorghum, cassava and millet.
Also, the seeds and fertilizers necessary to grow the higher-yield crops
were expensive. Only farmers who were relatively well off could afford the
Now, through an initiative to make intellectual property developed by
universities available for humanitarian purposes and the AATF, Conway
said, new technologies could be developed on a country-specific basis to
improve yields and nutritional values of staple crops in Africa.
If successful, the effort would come not a moment too soon. "By 2015,
Africa will have 73 percent of the world's hungry," Conway said.
The reasons for this trend are many and complex, he continued.
Infrastructure and crop-unfriendly soils are two examples. Only 20 percent
of roads in Africa are paved, making transportation of food difficult.
Also, Africa has some of the oldest and most depleted soils in the world.
Moreover, during the first agricultural revolution, "we essentially gave
up on Africa," he said.
Although factors such as drought, infrastructure and political corruption
contribute to hunger on the continent, poor food production is a major
problem that can be addressed with partnerships among African scientists,
policy makers and biotechnology companies, Conway said.
"Africa is predominantly a rural continent," Conway noted, adding, "The
health of agriculture determines the health of nations in Africa. Without
an increase in agricultural income, we won't get an increase in non-farm
Conway said the foundation's initiatives have built upon the first Green
Revolution's successes as well as failures. For the AATF and intellectual
property initiative to work, Conway described four "sub-revolutions" that
would have to underlie the "doubly Green Revolution" -- dubbed "doubly"
because not only would it help small farmers but also would be
-- The first sub-revolution would involve farmers in the design of new
-- The second would improve resource management to combine organic with
inorganic fertilizers effectively.
-- The third would make African products more competitive in global
-- The fourth would implement the new biotechnologies.
Although many African farmers are weary of genetic engineering, Conway
said -- some fear misuse or dependence on multinational companies -- part
of the fourth sub-revolution would involve building a strong scientific
community in the developing countries to create domestic regulations and
educate scientists and policy makers on the issues so they can make
"I hope this foundation can be a catalyst for the next revolution in
Africa," Conway said. Discussions already have begun with major
biotechnology companies such as Monsanto, in St. Louis, and DuPont, in
"The needs of Africa are so great," said Jill Montgomery, director of
technology cooperation at Monsanto. This is an opportunity for multiple
companies to pool their resources to help out, she said, adding the
initiative should permit a sea change in the rate that small farmers in
underdeveloped lands acquire new technology.
"There won't be a lot of financial incentives -- it's good will,"
Montgomery noted. "We'll probably go without royalties."
Nevertheless, this is an important initiative, said Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla,
senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute
who has done development and poverty work in Latin and Central America.
"Technology is not a silver bullet ... but anything that can promote the
accumulation of scientific knowledge for Africa will help. The issues (in
Africa) go way beyond technology," Diaz-Bonilla said. "It has to be done
the right way" and people seem to be more cautious now about how to bring
change to developing countries.
Some concerns were raised about monopolies and possible harmful effects of
genetically modified crops.
"The difficulty is to have an open appetite on the part of investors to
ensure adequate returns and not excessive returns, to ensure there is no
monopolistic trend," said John Knubel, senior fellow at Virginia
Polytechnic Institute's Center for Food and Nutrition Policy in
Eugene Terry, implementing director of AATF, responded there is enough
competition to prevent monopolies.
Some environmental groups worry about the ecological and health effects of
"There is concern about the health effects of GE crops but the funding is
not there," said Bill Freese, research analyst with Friends of the Earth.
Safer alternative agricultural methods exist and they can be as effective,
but they tend to be ignored because new technology was not used to develop
them, he added.
Beyond these concerns, "the initiative is not getting to the core of the
problem in Africa," said John Kilama, president and CEO of the Global
Biodiversity Institute, a non-profit organization in Wilmington, Del.,
that trains African professionals to facilitate economic development.
"All these initiatives, even though they have good intentions, are not
going to be very successful," Kilama said.
Kilama explained that although he did not want to be critical, he thinks
only changes within governments will help the poor in Africa. Instead of
focusing funds on agriculture, he said they should go toward leadership
programs to empower African people with the ability to turn their
"I wish people would focus seriously on how to change governments in
Africa," said Kilama, who is originally from Uganda.
"I'm a strong proponent of biotechnology," the former DuPont employee
said, "but other things need to be done that are more critical than giving
seeds to farmers. If you've ever been to Africa, you've seen a lot of
stands to sell but not a lot of buyers. If people know they can make money
from agriculture, they will grow food."
To upgrade the standard of living in Africa, the concentration needs to be
on internal government change, not technology, Kilama said. "Everything
else is temporary relief."
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 10:45:30 -0400
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Burdensome Regulation
Rader's comments on burdensome regulations are correct in that North
American governments certainly cannot claim that all our regulations are
fair, logical and consistent. Similarly, many regulations are put in place
to respond to a perceived public desire, even if they may seem
unnecessary, or even silly, to the outside observer. However, this same
openmindeness renders Raders call for balance between burden and benefit
difficult to implement. If the public perceives labelling and traceability
to be desirable, then this might be considered a "substantial benefit"--
those who have other reasons for wanting more regulation (the government
empire-builders and the anti-trade folks, for example) are already making
this argument for labelling in the EU and here, too. This benefit vs
burden argument could be quantified. There are economic tools for
estimating the costs of labelling and tracing origins of goods. There are
also tools, albeit cruder ones, for estimating the value of satisfying a
public desire for which there is no established market (ie, where no money
changes hands, but welfare is improved-- even if only in terms of peace of
mind). However, these tools and their output are worthless when another
agenda-- severed from logic and reason-- drives the process. Appeals to
logic, science, or economic arguments all fail in the face of faith; too
many people whose minds are made up don't want to be confused by the
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 15:31:50 +0300
Subject: response to 'True Green Revolution Gathers Steam'...
From: "Dr Christopher G Hart"
...actually, the whole newsletter was great - keep it up. I'd just like to
comment on the suggestion that the 'most European objections stem from a
desire to avoid foreign competition...'
I don't think this is at all justified - European retail chains /
consumers / governments have a long history of being innovative -
importing novel crops / cheaper alternatives / out of season vegetables
etc etc. The Greens on the other hand have been very effective in Europe -
winning seats in legislatures and running very effective campaigns against
GM etc. The result is a great deal of concern among consumers, to which
The root problem is of course the attitudes etc of the Greens - to which
we must all respond effectively...
Fate of AgBiotech "in Hands of Regulators"
The fate of much of agbiotech in Australia and New Zealand "is clearly in
the hands of regulators in relation to release of GMOs," says one of the
authors of a new report. Kelvin Hopper of Aoris Nova says that there is a
lot of activity in non-GMO related agbiotech, "for example in agricultural
diagnostics, biocontrol of pest species, veterinary vaccines, analysis of
crops to assist in breeding and selection of unique varieties,
identification of selected animal breeding lines. There is also a lot of
interest in the use of agricultural crops for developing therapeutics and
development of value-added meat by-products as inputs to therapeutics and
Hopper believes that "There is however a cloud over agbiotech as a whole
due to concerns re GMOs." He points out that several States already have
moratoria on GMOs as commercial crops (but allow field trials once they
have been approved by the federal regulator), and the political parties in
the forthcoming NSW election all have proposals for moratoria on release
of commercial GMOs. "Such a moratorium in NSW will affect the cotton
industry which has been growing GM cotton for several years."
Hopper co-authored the 2002 BioIndustry Review - Australia and New Zealand
with Lyndal Thorburn. The review spans the whole of the biotech industry
and includes coverage of agriculture, but this is a stronger sector in New
Zealand than in Australia.
"The Review raises several points in relation to agbiotech in the two
countries, " says Hopper. "These include decisions of the Office of the
Gene Technology Regulator in Australia and the development of the biotech
industry in NZ following the conclusion of the Royal Commission. We have
also reviewed the progress of Australian biotech companies formed in the
1980s and have noted that the fate of agbiotech companies in particular
was very poor. The reasons for NZís success in getting products to market
were also highlighted."
Hopper sees four major challenges for agbiotech:
* public acceptance/awareness of GMOs, supported by broader understanding
of what GMOs are and robust field trials which clearly demonstrate
environmental impacts and consumer benefits;
* developing public and political understanding that biotechnology is much
broader than GMOs and can be used beneficially in many agricultural areas
without the side-effects perceived regarding GMOs
* Development of commercial business models that enable agbiotech firms to
have freedom to operate within the existing IP framework and can attract
funding (government, venture capital etc) that enables them to survive and
* There is an ongoing need to develop commercial awareness in the R&D
community so that agbiotech developments can be successfully
Contact: Kelvin Hopper, Managing Director, Aoris Nova Pty Ltd, 1 Central
Avenue, The Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh NSW 1430 Australia Email:
email@example.com URL: http://www.aoris.com.au
Death by Public Policy
Scripps Howard News Service
By HENRY I. MILLER
March 14, 2003
In much of the developing world, poverty has made life, as Thomas Hobbes
put it, nasty, brutish and short, but technophobic extremists are aiming
to prevent rescue.
In southern Africa, 40 million people subsist on one meal a day, and 14
million are on the verge of starvation - 2.5 million in Zambia alone.
Their malnourished state makes them more susceptible to epidemics that
should have become obsolete - serial killers like measles, gastroenteritis
and respiratory ailments caused by toxic smoke from indoor cooking fires.
Worldwide, 230 million children suffer from vitamin A deficiency, 500,000
of whom go blind each year, and all of whom are made even more susceptible
to infections and disease.
Staple food crops also are at high risk: Uganda's vital banana crop is
being decimated by nematodes and black fungus, and Kenya's dietary staple,
the sweet potato, is being destroyed by feathery mottle virus. All over
the developing world, pests and diseases threaten whatever crops survive
the periodic droughts.
Technology offers hope, however. Using the gene-splicing techniques of the
new biotechnology, scientists have developed "golden rice" and other crops
rich in vitamin A that could prevent blindness and greatly reduce
childhood deaths. They have crafted new genetic varieties of banana and
sweet potato that are resistant to the fungus and virus, respectively, and
have made great strides in solving the nematode problem. Other innovations
include plants that have shorter growing seasons and higher yields, and
that are resistant to drought, salt, and insect pests. Plant breeders have
even managed to make vaccines of food plants, so that eating a banana or
dried tomato powder could confer immunity to measles or Norwalk virus.
But environmental activists are having none of this. Eco-zealots such as
Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists,
and Environmental Defense are waging all-out war against biotech crops.
Jeremy Rifkin has characterized gene-spliced plants as threatening "a form
of annihilation every bit as deadly as nuclear holocaust." Greenpeace has
said that they are seeking no less than biotech products' "complete
elimination (from) the food supply and the environment."
The campaign by radical environmentalists to discredit agricultural
biotechnology complements that of European Union politicians, who have
been helping developing countries to grow more regulations instead of more
food. The U.S. shipped 17,000 tons of corn to Zambia, only to have
President Levy Mwanawasa lock it up in warehouses and remonstrate to a
U.N. gathering in South Africa, "We would rather starve than get something
Mwanawasa's false dichotomy - the food has been extensively tested and
consumed, and is not, in fact, toxic or harmful in any other way - follows
from an increasingly popular tenet of public policy known as the
"precautionary principle:" the idea that regulatory measures should be
taken to prevent or restrict actions that raise even conjectural threats
of harm, even though there is incomplete scientific evidence as to their
magnitude or potential impacts. As part of a kind of economic colonialism,
the European Union has demanded that developing countries apply this bogus
principle to gene-spliced plants and their products - by rejecting them.
These developments in Africa illustrate one of the absurd problems created
by European countries' groundless fears about technological change and the
potentially dangerous over-regulation to which it gives rise. Assurances
of perfect safety can never be made, and attempts to hold a product or
activity to a zero-risk standard often result in tunnel vision that
elicits huge and unacceptable costs. As in the Zambian tragedy, such
precautionary cures perpetrated by the eco-radicals and European
politicians are often far worse than the maladies they are meant to
If the new biotechnology is killed in the cradle by precautionary
regulation and by the cupidity and stupidity of environmental activists
and politicians - often abetted by industrial leaders complacent or worse
- poor farmers and consumers in the tropics will be the big losers. As
Wellesley College political scientist Robert Paarlberg has observed, "If
today's rich nations decide to stop or turn back the clock, they will
still be rich. But if we stop the clock for developing countries, they
will still be poor and hungry."
And many of their inhabitants will be dead.
Henry Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a fellow at the Hoover
Institution. He is the author of "Policy Controversy in Biotechnology: An
UK Organic Farming In Proper Perspective
Dear AgBioView Readers:
to read a commentary by Dr. Tony Trewavas of the University of Edinburgh
on UK organic farming and also see the Appendix on 'No-Till Agriculture'.
Tony is inviting comments from AgBioView readers and please direct your
comments directly to him at
Background to the situation
Although the UK government has pushed through an organic action plan I
have found considerable unease amongst scientists in these areas
concerning the scientific justification for such policies. To quote one
"organic has the image-but the reality is rather different, it is based on
assertion". The Curry report (a UK government solicited report on UK
agriculture and the apparent basis for the action plan) reflected no more
than the balance of interests of which it was composed in the first place.
Since the Curry committee included a member of the Soil Association (the
most prominent organic association in the UK) it is hardly surprising that
recommendations for organic farming formed part of the whole package.
Behind all this discussion is the pressure from various groups about
organic farming which represents in most cases no more than the desires of
environmental groups to retreat from the present day, to express
exaggerated fear about the future and to capitalise on the fear of new
Ploughing Ahead With Seed Warning
March 12, 2003
"GREENIE" is some sort of a dirty word. Somewhere along the line, the
strident powers of the "progressive" mainstream marginalised their
opposition with a smear campaign, suggesting that those of the green
persuasion are hippie drop-out protesters who don't know anything about
the "real" world.
Perhaps this has been achieved because the political mainstream has
capital and the alternative objectors tend not to. The same thing has
happened with peace lovers. Most especially in the US, those who object to
the impending war have been derided as "peaceniks" who simply don't
understand what the political grown-ups have to do. "Peacenik" is a dirty
word. "War" is a serious word. One would not argue with the latter.
One will recall, however, that the peaceniks were similarly maligned back
in the Vietnam War days but in retrospect it is seen that they were not
wrong. They were trying to argue a valid point.
The same applies to the environmentalists who have been mocked as
"greenies" and sidelined as troublemakers for as long as I can remember -
which is now an alarmingly long time. Decades ago, they were warning of
salinity and topsoil loss from farming practices. They were concerned
about overuse of chemicals in agriculture. They were pointing out that
alternative cropping would help the environment and the economy. They were
warning of native animals under threat because of removal of habitat. They
were pointing out the issues of yellowcake and the dilemma of
They were voices in the wilderness. But year by year, their warnings have
been vindicated. Now, with high alarm, we document the disastrous state of
the environment and seek long-term answers. The greenies are gracious.
None has said: "I told you so." And they have other missions. Like
genetically modified crops.
The old environmentalists have been campaigning against the acceptance of
GM farming and GM products since the bioengineering companies first began
their secret tests. The greenies have been warning us that these seeds,
bred to resist herbicides and with inbuilt pesticides, are an unknown
factor in our environment. They are worth huge bickies to the biochemical
companies but their long-term implications remain a mystery. There are
myriad questions being asked and few answered. The greenies call for
But the GM companies are another behemoth - and before the public fully
understands that there is a difference between natural seeds and GM seeds,
we will be eating GM products.
GM is "science". Objections to GM are howled down as backward. But the old
greenies have been right so many times before that surely it is time the
mainstream heeded their warnings.
Ex-Aussie Rick Roush Takes On Samela Harris
Dear Ms Harris:
I am living in California at present, but still follow with interest the
news on GMOs from Adelaide. I read your column "Ploughing ahead with seed
warning". Of course there have many cases when environmentalists (and I
consider myself one) have been right on past predictions, but also many
cases where they have been wrong.
An example that comes quickly to mind because one of his students is
lecturing here today is Paul Ehrlich. Paul is a great biologist and
influenced me to work on pest management. However, many of his predictions
in the book Population Bomb are famously wrong. He even lost a very public
bet on them with British economist Julian Simon. More locally, Graeme
O'Neill of the Melbourne Sun pointed out recently that Bob Phelps of
GeneEthics is often (nearly always?) wrong, as when he predicted that the
release of the GM so-called ice minus bacteria in California would ruin
the world's climate.
The current "Green' attacks on GM crops can also be compared to past
campaigns against hybrid fruit (like nectarines) in the early 1900's and
on pasteurisation of milk a few decades later. Great controversies at the
time, but now accepted to be harmless or of overwhelmingly great net
The GM tests have never been secret, but have been publicised in the
scientific literature and, more locally, by GMAC and GTTAC. Even the EU
has published reports concluding that GM is safe. Most GM work is done by
government and unis, not companies. History is repeating itself, but it is
the history of pasteurisation, not salinity. I'll plan to keep your column
and remind you of this in the years ahead.
Perhaps the following would be worthwhile for you to review. - Rick
GM Facts and Fiction
- Rick Roush, University of California, Davis
Some anti GM groups have made comments that are highly misleading or
> Claim: Canada has experienced a 30% drop in canola sales last year due
to GM canola
Fact: Canadian exports of canola were 25% higher in 2000-2001 than ever in
history, and were as high in 1998-99 and 1999-2000 as in any previous year
>Claim: There's a large premium market for GM free crops
Fact: Neither the AusBulk, Victorian government, ABARE nor independent
traders have found any premiums for GM-free canola, despite it being
"mandatory for the EU market and desirable for Japan." (4 July issue of
"The Land", page 27). Japan takes our canola and mixes it with GM Canadian
canola. See also Victorian Government and Western Australian Government
reports on GM-free zones.
> Claim: This is a new and untested technology
Fact: There have been extensive international studies into the health and
safety issues of GM crops. A 2001 report from the European Union in GM
crops and food involving 400 research groups at a cost of US$65 million
found: Æ no new risks to human health or the environment, compared to
conventional plant breeding. Æ more precise technology and greater
regulatory scrutiny, probably safer than conventional plants and foods
> Claim: GM crops and developed and controlled by large overseas
Fact: Most research in GM crops is carried out by public research groups.
Third world governments have invested heavily in the technology they
believe will reduce their reliance on chemical inputs, and give great
yield stability and improved nutritional properties.
>Claim: GM crops have shown no benefits for consumers or producers
Fact: 21 million kg reduced pesticide use in 2001 due to 8 GM crops in USA
alone, plus increased profitability and adoption of no-till agriculture
(http://www.ncfap.org, see also www.ers.usda.gov/epubs/pdf/aer786/). In
Australia, Bt cotton requires 45% less insecticide use. In China, human
pesticide poisonings are reduced by about 75% by Bt cotton (Science 295:
"BRS Gene Flow Study Report": Minister Warren Truss: "Provided there are
realistic tolerances for environmental impacts and crop contamination, -
there is no evidence of insurmountable barriers to GM crop releases"
Animal feeds. Some people are also concerned with the potential that DNA
can be passed from GM feeds to livestock or meat. However, a wide range of
studies have shown that consumption of milk, meat and eggs produced from
animals fed GM crops should be considered as safe as traditional practices
(eg., Federation of Animal Science Societies 2001, Einspanier et al. 2001,
Agrifood Awareness Australia 2002). None of the insecticidal Bt proteins
registered in the US have shown any significant negative effect (Shelton
et al. 2002).
In particular, recognisable fragments of DNA are broken down in digestion
and not taken up in animals (Einspanier et al. 2001). If this were not
true, all animals would have been overcome by a large amount of plant DNA
over evolution. Instead, mechanisms have evolved to make sure that doesnÇt
happen. Far from being a health risk, there is strong evidence that insect
resistant (Bt) corn has lower levels of carcinogenic and liver-damaging
fungal toxins (fumonisins) than conventional corn, because there is less
insect damage to corn kernels on which the fungi grow (CAST 2003).
Agrifood Awareness Australia (2002) Paper No.15. www.afaa.com.au CAST.
2003. Mycotoxins: Risks In Plant, Animal, And Human Systems.
http://www.cast-science.org/ EINSPANIER, R., et al (2001) Eur Food Res
Technol 212, 129-134 FEDERATION OF ANIMAL SCIENCE SOCIETIES (2001)
www.fass.org/Factsheet2.htm SHELTON, A., ZHAO, J., ROUSH, R. (2002) Annual
Rev Entomology. 47, 845-881.
Growing GM canola will affect exports of other commodities Most of
Canada's canola is GM, but there are no reports that this has affected
their other grain exports. A quick search pulled up data from the Canadian
Data for 2001 show exports of bulk barley at 293,000 tonnes to Saudi
Arabia and 5,000 tonnes to UAR, with malting barley exports were 31,000
tonnes to Japan.
The US also has large GM grain crops. US barley exports for 2000/2001 were
437,000 tons to Japan, 219,000 tons to Saudi Arabia, and 29,000 tons to
Taiwan (http://www.fas.usda.gov/grain/images/barley.pdf). Of that 60,000
tons was malting barley to Japan. In 1999/2000 US exported 55,000 tons of
malting barley to Saudi Arabia and 57,000 tons to Taiwan.
New Gene Data about Genetically Modified Crops
- Sent by Mark.CANTLEY@DG12.cec.be
Due to the success of the highly-acclaimed BATS-Report "Food Derived From
Genetically Modified Organisms And Detection Methods," in 1997, BATS
Center is proud to present its new updated BATS-Report. The latest
BATS-Report is a unique, world-wide collection of molecular sequences and
regulatory laws pertaining to genetically modified crops that have been
released for commercial use.
The authors, Shirin Bruder and Katharina Leitner, have compiled all
available information regarding transformation methods, promoter,
terminator and genes used in developing the present genetically modified
crops in the world
You can find the new BATS-Report at www.gmo-watch.org
<http://www.gmo-watch.org/. It is important to note that the authors will
make periodic updates to the information in the report as it is made
Rick Roush vs Anders
A recent poster in Australia showed an anti-GM activist who refers to both
cheese and beer from GM enzymes at "Monsanto's Mutant Cafe" (neither beer
nor cheese actually have anything to do with Monsanto, but Novo doesn't
yet have a brand name recognition for anti-GM activists, so Monsanto is
the target of choice for a propagandist). The poster, displayed by Bob
Phelps at the Wimmera Field days, illustrates that for the devoted anti-GM
activist, enzymes and plants are not distinguished.
In response to your comments to Bob McGregor, no, I don't think that meat
should be labelled on the basis of its feed, but then I don't think that
oils should be labelled either. To be honest, if I were a US or Canadian
Farm Belt politician, I might demand that meats from GM feeds should be
labeled the same as oils. Given what I understand to be the insufficient
availability of non-GM soy in Europe, and the fact that you no longer feed
animal proteins to stock, the resulting chaos among suppliers trying to
find non-GM soy to avoid labelling might be fun to watch and might be just
enough to show the oddity of biologically meaningless distinctions over
I realise that you have a difficult job, and am even prepared to accept
that GM foodstuffs that still have GM protein or DNA might justify a label
because they are detectably different than conventional (despite lack of
evidence that there are health risks), but a label that depends on the
process rather than on an identical product is clearly a political
I'd like to ask you to comment on another issue. It's often claimed that
one reason Europeans are more skeptical of GM foods is because of previous
regulatory failures like mad cow disease (and I understand, sadly, that an
entomologist I greatly admire, TRE Southwood, was involved in the decision
to allow continued use of animal parts in feeds). Do you see any irony in
the prospect that North American farmers are now paying for past EU
regulatory mistakes (however well intentioned) through still more EU
regulations (again however well intentioned)?
Thanks for your reply. I am surprised at your assertion that "consumer
fear of the long-term consequences of GMOs and has nothing to do with mad
cow disease or other food scares", because the results of sociological
studies and polls that I have seem consistently point to these as a key
difference between the perception of GM in the EU and North America. To
what do you attribute the fear of GM among European comsumers of GM foods,
especially in light of studies such as
argue in effect that these fears are misplaced? - Rick
Let me try once more to explain the situation in Europe. Four years ago
after having authorised about 30 GMO, a blocking minority of member states
decided to vote no to further authorisations before stricter rules for
authorisation and labelling were in place. The reason was consumer fear of
the long-term consequences of GMOs and has nothing to do with mad cow
disease or other food scares. This attitude of a majority of consumers in
EU has been confirmed by many opinion pools right up to now.
Given this fact we had to make the required rules in order to normalise
the situation and be able to benefit from the advantages of GM. It was an
extremely difficult task to find a compromise between the Commission, the
Council and the Parliament, and of course we discussed at length the
different classes og products with different relation to GMO, but I can
assure you that protection of the "not commercially" used possibility of
GM yeast or GM enzymes, did not play any role. In fact, it is part of the
compromise to continue with rulemaking for micro organism used as
processing aids but not present in the final products. One member state
and some MEP wanted to exclude oil and starch and some member states and
some MEP wanted to include animal products feed with GM feed. However, the
necessary qualified majorities agreed on the compromise.
Therefore, I think it is of minor importance that some people in USA or
Australia have other opinions. Agreeing on this compromise is a very
important task accomplished for the sake of progress towards normal
conditions for GMO in EU. The de facto moratorium has de facto been
lifted, since the authorisation procedure has been restarted.
-- Kind Regards Anders Buch Kristensen PhD
Experiences Of Bt Cotton Farmers In China
The documented experiences of Bt cotton farmers in China are synthesized
in a brochure produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop
Biotechnology of the International Service for the Acquisition of
Agri-biotech Applications. An updated version is available online at
Transgenic Field Crops Deemed More Profitable
- From Crop Biotech Update, Isaaa.org
Michele C. Marra, Philip G. Pardey, and Julian M. Alston recently
conducted a study to describe the farm-level evidence of the impacts of
transgenic field crops. The research, entitled "The Payoffs to Transgenic
Field Crops: An Assessment of the Evidence," showed that compared to their
conventional counterparts, transgenic crops have consistently higher
average profit and, in some cases, required lower pesticide use.
Some of the research highlights are as follows:
Ô* Growing transgenic cotton (Bt, RR, or the stacked-gene type) may reduce
pesticide use, and has the potential to be a relatively profitable
enterprise in most of the United States (US) Cotton Belt. An average yield
increase of 292 pounds per acre, and a $243 per acre profit increase were
observed.* Bt corn can provide a small, but significant yield increase,
across the US Corn Belt, although in some states (Illinois and Minnesota),
the increase might be substantial, resulting to significant increases in
profit. * For the RR soybean varieties, savings in pesticide costs can be
substantial enough to offset the possible losses in revenue. However,
discrepancies in yields seem to be negligible as the transgene is inserted
into more varieties within the various soybean maturity categories.
Overall, Marra, Pardey and Alston concluded that "for every transgene
type, crop and state combination, the average profit is higher for the
transgenic crop than for the conventional counterpart." However, the
researchers reiterated that these results apply only in the context of the
United States, although they might be expected to have parallels in other
The published article can be found online at AgBioForum, 5(2), 2002.
Regulating Biotechnology: Science, Ethics, Law and Governance Meet Head On
in the Age of Informed Ignorance
- Mark Mansour, Mondaq Business Briefing, March 6, 2003
It has been five years since the cloning of ëDollyí the sheep and only two
years since the unveiling of the completed map of the human genome. In
that short time, these and dozens of other major breakthroughs in the
biotechnology industry promise to revolutionize not only the business of
applied science as we know it, but our understanding of the world around
us. Yet, as new biologic technologies explode into new industrial and
agricultural applications, governments fall further behind in terms of
their understanding of these technical innovations and their confidence to
As the Age of the Machine slowly gives way to the Age of the Gene, there
is scarcely time to consider the larger possibilities, risks, and
implications these new technologies present for all of us. Yet nothing is
more essential for regulators, consumers, and the biotechnology industry
Governments have been ill-equipped (and understandably reluctant) to
engage the difficult technical and ethical issues presented by
biotechnological innovations such as cloning, stem cell research,
agricultural transgenics, and the like.1 Thus, technological innovation
has been stymied by bad public relations, understaffed regulatory
authorities lacking clear mandates, uninformed legislatures, and
miscommunication on all sides.
Governmental regulation of biotechnology will expand as the industry grows
and applications for new technologies become increasingly universal.
Currently, lawmakers and regulators are highly reactive to advances in
technologies that appear strange (i.e. have a high "weird quotient") or
that promise to offer biological drug applicationsóespecially those that
might benefit only a small number of whom many anti-biotech activists
prefer to describe as "wealthy elites." As biotechnologies evolve,
regulators will be forced to become more proactive and anticipate how to
address breakthroughs which could lead to broader applications.
Full article at:
Soy Board Supports Agricultural Biotechnology
The United Soybean Board recognizes that the future of agricultural
biotechnology depends upon the understanding and acceptance of consumers.
As such, we advocate the responsible development of plant biotechnology in
a way that provides long- term benefits to consumers, producers, and the
USB is committed to fostering active, open communication among consumers,
producers, industry leaders, researchers, and the regulatory community in
order to insure marketing opportunities for all U.S. produced soybeans and
Issues In Agricultural Biotechnology
Safety: Regulatory agencies, including the FDA, EPA and USDA, have
declared that approved crop varieties derived from biotechnology are safe,
after completing rigorous reviews of scientific testing. The most common
varieties of biotech soybeans, for example, have undergone more extensive
safety and compositional testing than any crop in history. More than 1,800
scientific evaluations in the United States-including tests for
allergenicity and environmental safety-have come to the same conclusion:
commercially available soybeans produced through agricultural
biotechnology are safe for consumers and for the environment. They are
just as nutritious and safe as any other commercially available variety.
The United Soybean Board believes that crops and products enhanced by
agricultural biotechnology are safe to grow and safe to eat, as confirmed
by FDA following their thorough reviews of rigorous, scientific testing.
Labeling: FDA's current guidelines state that food made from new
crops-whether those crops are developed through traditional breeding
methods or agricultural biotechnology-must be specially labeled if the new
crops differ in composition, nutritional profile, or safety. If a food
contains a serious allergen, for example, it must be labeled so consumers
will know what they are eating. If the new crops are declared equivalent
in composition, nutritional profile, and safety, FDA maintains that
special labeling of the foods produced with these crops would be
misleading and, therefore, inappropriate. Thanks to these regulatory and
labeling practices, American consumers enjoy one of the safest food
supplies in the world.
The United Soybean Board supports a policy based upon good public health
practices and sound science, which will provide consumers with clear and
meaningful information about the foods they eat. The current FDA labeling
guidelines are exemplary in that regard. If anyone proposes to change
these labeling requirements, we would encourage that the proposed changes
adhere to the same standard.
The current FDA labeling guidelines are endorsed by the EPA, USDA, food
companies, soybean producers, and food processors. We maintain open lines
of communication with all of these groups and work with industry partners
to share vital information about biotechnology, labeling, agriculture, and
soybeans in general. --- If you have any questions about USB's position on
agricultural biotechnology, please contact John Bissell at 206-270-4636 or
And You Thought Tariff Based Trade Barriers Were a Curse: The
Precautionary Principle at Work
Mark Mansour, Feb 28,2003
Lurking behind the persistent reports that the U.S. is about to take the
European Union to the World Trade Organization over the EUís refusal to
lift its moratorium on new biotech crop approvals is the specter of a
recent ruling by the European Unionís Court of First Instance in Pfizer
Animal Health SA v. Council. The Court focused its ruling on the
Precautionary Principle, that instrument which suggests that governments
take a ìbetter safe than sorryî approach to regulation.
The ìprincipleî has been manifested in EU decisions regarding foods
derived from biotechnology: numerous scientific bodies have agreed that
biotech foods present no health or safety risks, but the EU restricts the
planting, distribution, importation, and marketing of biotech foods. EU
officials will tell you, without reservation, that there is no evidence to
suggest that biotech foods cause adverse health consequences, but neither
does there exist any guarantee that there will not be adverse
consequences, someday. It is a philosophical divide, not between the EU
and the US so much as between the risk-averse and those willing to take a
chance at progress. Some of the most virulent critics of the ìprincipleî
are European scientists who have been muzzled by risk managers (read
Full Article at
British Debate in the House of Lords
... and from there click on the heading GM crops.
Intellectual Property Rights And Access To Agbiotech By Developing
Jorge E. Mayer http://www.agbiotechnet.com/
IP Analyst, Center for the Application of Molecular Biology to
International Agriculture, CAMBIA Intellectual Property Resource,
Canberra, Australia Email: email@example.com Web: www.cambia.org
Abstract: This review addresses the issue of whether global intellectual
property protection regimes are hindering access to agricultural
biotechnologies by developing countries. It is assumed that harmonization
of worldwide legislation and regulations on intellectual property rights
will continue. As such, emphasis is placed on the ways in which developing
countries are or should be dealing with these issues. Opportunities
arising from an increased availability of information and from little
obstruction by patents in the developing world most often do not
compensate for the lack of capacity and infrastructure to absorb the
technologies. Capacity building is needed in the scientific as much as in
the legal aspects of agbiotech in order to take advantage of those
Introduction: Long before our time Aristotle gave thought to ways of
rewarding inventors. Although the origins of patents and other
intellectual property rights (IPR) are not well known, in England the
first patents can be traced back to the 15th century. Since then patent
law has gone through several iterations reflecting a continuos process of
co-evolution with technology and society. Globalization is leading to
harmonized IPR regimes around the world, even in the face of stark
contrasts in wealth between the highly developed and the least developed
nations. IPR is an evolving area with a number of grey zones, causing
confusion at all levels, from governing bodies to policymakers and
During the 1980s, plant biotechnology came of age with the first
commercial releases of transgenic crops. Along with commercialization came
an increase in IPR protection. Other industries (such as those in the
pharmaceutical and the information technology sectors) similarly have gone
through this maturation process. However, some new issues have been raised
in the case of agbiotech. Some are related to cultural values such as
ancestral farmers' rights, traditional knowledge or sovereignty, others
address ethical issues such as the patentability of life forms. What makes
many people feel uncomfortable about IPR in agbiotech is that agriculture
was perceived until now as "the last stronghold of the free". Farmers have
had the freedom to replant their own seed and to sell it to other farmers
since the dawning of agriculture.
The issue I shall address here is the merit (or lack thereof) of the
prevailing perception that patents on biotechnological inventions are
preventing the access of developing countries to badly needed technologies
in the agricultural sector.
For the purpose of this overview the following definitions apply:
`technology' is the application of knowledge to solving specific problems
meeting identified needs; `technology transfer' is the application of
technologies in new geographic or product areas, generally involving
adaptation to local needs and conditions (Lesser, 1997). According to
Lesser, technology transfer is the means of providing broad access in an
Adoption of agricultural biotechnologies: For many, agbiotech implies
genes, genetically modified plants and the processes involved in their
production. But other tools and technologies are equally important,
including tissue culture, diagnostic tools, molecular marker techniques
While holding great promise for the future of agriculture, transgenic
crops are not yet playing a major role in most developing countries.
Various factors have contributed to this delay, one being that the first
generation of transgenics has been geared toward herbicide and insect
resistance in crops more relevant to a few developed countries. Another
reason is the low level of public acceptance of transgenic crops in many
developed countries that are the traditional importers of crop produce
from the developing world. This has contributed to a slow development of
national biosafety legislation in a number of developing countries and
international agreements concerning trade with genetically modified
First -generation transgenics might not address the needs of smallholders
in developing countries, but national economies are also dependent on
larger agricultural enterprises and the delay in adoption of these
technologies is leading to measurable losses to these countries (Evenson,
Tissue culture techniques were adopted at a fast rate in developing
countries during the 1980s and 1990s, and now they constitute standard
technology in areas like banana and plantain production, in the cut-flower
industry and in the production of disease-free potato seed. Factors that
contributed to its widespread adoption were the low costs of the
technology and a quick return on investment because of their direct impact
With restricted funds to conduct and apply research, strategy becomes
crucial. Even the adoption of simple technologies can be affected by
international competition. Israel, for example, is a fierce competitor in
the delivery of in vitro multiplied replanting material for banana and
plantain in South America. For technology adoption at least two levels of
readiness are required, technically trained personnel and strategic
management. Without the proper level of quality control, businesses will
shop around for the desired product in the global village.
The proliferation of tissue culture laboratories was a symptom of the low
cost of the technology. While the production of transgenic organisms or
the application of molecular markers in a laboratory represent a steeper
price tag they still bear no comparison to the cost of installing a
microchip factory or building a pharmaceutical industry from scratch. Only
a few emerging economies have managed to create a booming industry based
on their own microelectronics industry, especially in southeast Asia.
Full review at http://www.agbiotechnet.com/ for subscribers only
From Denis J Murphy
University of Glamorgan
We have recently had several adverse reports on the consequences of GM
crop introduction by various groups related to health care in Scotland.
For example in Jan 2003, the Parliamentary Health and Community Care
Committee issued a highly critical report on GM crops that was widely
reported in the media - see the full report on
This followed a previous statement to the committee by Dr Stanley Ewen (in
Dec 2002) warning of cancer risk from GM crops that was also reported in
the press - see http://www.sundayherald.com/29821. (I have previously
commented on Dr Ewan's remarks in Agbioview.)
It was therefore interesting that this week the Scottish Executive issued
a robust rejection of the anti-GM report from their own Health Committee
and even described it as "fundamentally flawed"
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2840977.stm). The Ministers go on to
state that: "In preparing its report, the committee seems not to have had
regard to oral and written evidence, as well as substantial volumes of
peer-reviewed research, which confirm, as far as it is scientifically
possible, that current GM crops pose no greater risk to human health or
the environment than comparable non-GM varieties." Strong stuff,
especially coming from a body facing elections in a couple of months.
Could it be that the Scottish politicians detect a swing in public
attitudes away from their previous anti-GM stance?
From: "YEOH GUAN HUAH"
Subject: Re: Summary of Presentations at the GM Food Conference 2003 in
Singapore Institute of Food Science & Technology (SIFST) with the support
of Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore, Food Science &
Technology Programme in the Chemistry Department of the National
University of Singapore (NUS), the School of Chemical & Life Sciences of
Singapore Polytechnic, and the Federation of Institutes of Food Science &
Technology in ASEAN (FIFSTA) successfully organised a very informative GM
Food Conference on February 27 - March 1, 2003 at Meritus Mandarin
Singapore. The theme of the Conference was "Genetically Modified Foods -
Prospects, Challenges & Safety".
A total of 23 oral presentations in 5 sessions covering wide aspects and
issues of GM Foods, including legislations, patentability & intellectual
property rights, biosafety, testing methodologies and GM transgenic
research findings were made at the Conference. The feedbacks from the 100
odd conference delegates from 10 countries were very satisfying, and the
Conference also attracted media coverage. The public forum on "Issues &
Concerns of GM Foods" on Saturday drew in crowds from the general public
as well. The panel experts comprising Prof Lee Sing Kong of GMAC, Dr Chua
Sin Bin of AVA, Dr Stuart Boyer of Griffth Hack and Dr Andrew Powell of
ARB Consultants helped to answer many questions raised by the public
pertaining to issues of food labelling and safety of GM foods.
The following technical papers were presented at this Conference:
a. Plenary Lecture on "Regulatory Perspectives on GM Foods", by Dr Ngiam
Tong Tau, Chairman of GMAC Singapore and CEO of AVA
b. "GM Crops and Food: Nutrition and Safety Issues" by Dr Andrew Powell of
ARB Consultants, Singapore
c. "GM Food Safety Assessment : A Challenge to ASEAN" by Dr Ruud Valyasevi
of BIOTEC, Thailand
d. "Biosafety Policy Options and Capacity Building of GMO in ASEAN" by Dr
Sukun Kunawasen, et al of BIOTEC, Thailand
e. "Some Remarks on Food Safety in Vietnam" by Dr Nguyen Thi Huong Thuy,
Post-Harvest Technology Institute, Hanoi, Vietnam
f. "Current Status of Biosafety of GM Foods in Thailand" by Dr Sakrindr
Bhumiratana, et al of BIOTEC, Thailand
g. Keynote Lecture on "Patentability of GMOs" by Dr Stuart Boyer of
Griffith Hack, Australia
h. "Exploitation of GM Techniques as Intellectual Property Assets -
Strategy and Practical Considerations" by Mt Chai ChorLeong & Ms Anne Choo
of CitiLegal LLC, Singapore
i. "Reconciling Public Sentiments Towards GM Technology" by Dr Liew Oi Wah
of Singapore Polytechnic
j. "Global Status of Agricultural Biotechnology and its Benefits" by Dr
George Fuller of Asian Biotechnology Strategies, Thailand
k. Keynote Lecture on "Food Additives and Implication of Gene Technology"
by Mr Norman Lodge of Lodge & Associates, New Zealand
l. "GM RR-Soybean Meal in Feed for Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar, L:
Effects on Growth, Digestability and Organ Composition and Morphology" by
Dr G-I Hemre of Institute of Nutrition, Bergen, Norway
m. "The Fate of GM Plant Products in Fish Feed - Investigating the
Survival of Soy Transgenes in Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar L." by Ms
Monica Sanden, National Institute of Nutrition & Seafood Research, Bergen,
n. "Generation of Flourescent Transgenic Ornamental Fish and Bioreactor
Fish" by Dr Zhiyuan Gong, Department of Biological Science, NUS, Singapore
o. "Transgene Impacts on Fitness of GFP-Enhanced Zebrafish, Danio rerio"
by Ms Seah Wee Khee & Dr Li Daiqin of NUS, Singapore
p. Keynote Lecture on "GM Testing Methodologies" by Dr Jacqui Coutts of
Tepnel Biosystems, United Kingdom
q. "Development of Fibre Optic Spectroscopy for Detection of GM Plants" by
Dr Liew Oi Wah, Singapore Polytechnic
r. "Detection of GM Foods - A cross-Linking Hybridization Assay" by Prof
Klaus-D Jany of Federal Research Center for Nutrition, Karlsruhe, Germany
s. "Automated DNA Isolation from Maize and Maize Products using Magna Pure
LC System for the Determination of GMOs" by Mr Ahmad Latiff Mahamud, et al
of the Department of Chemistry, Malaysia
t. "Novel Foods - Safety Assessment: Method Development for Proteome
Analysis of Arabidopsis Seeds Produced by Different Ecotypes and By
Transgenic Events" by Prof Klaus-Dieter Jany of Federal Research Center
for Nutrition, Karlsruhe, Germany
u. "Development of Novel Hepatitis B Vaccine in Edible Plants" by
Associate Professor Dr William Chen of School of Biological Sciences,
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
v. "GM Foods in Europe - Acceptence and Confidence Building Measures" by
Prof Klaus-Dieter Jany, Federal Research Center for Nutrition, Germany
w. "New Zealand's Experience with GM Food Issues" by Mr Norman Lodge of
Lodge & Associates, New Zealand.
The proceedings of this Conference will be published by the Institute in
June/July this year. Watch out for the announcement at the website:
http://www.sifst.org.sg for the proceedings.
Regards GH Yeoh