Today in AgBioView: March 20, 2003
* 20th Nobel Laureate Signs on to AgBioWorld Petition
* Golden Rice Regulatory Delays May Cause Millions of Deaths
* Get Real
* Food Security in Africa: What Promise does Biotechnology Hold?
* The Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa
* FAO Lists Biotech Pros and Cons
* GM Worries Hold Back Research
* Studies Show Environment Benefits From Biotechnology
* Why Reinvent Risk?
* Improving the Public's Understanding of Science Communication
* Bio-era Report on Positive Trends in Production, Research
* Development Report 2003
* AgBiotech Reporter
* 'Creation' Delves Into World of Eco-activism
Nobel Laureate Prof. Christian de Duve Signs on to AgBioWorld Petition
Prof. Christian de Duve who won the 1974 Nobel Prize in Medicine while at
Rockefeller University now joins 19 other Nobel laureates in their support
of agricultural biotechnology by signing on to the AgBioWorld petition at
Prof. de Duve, who is a professor emeritus at the Institute of Cellular
Pathology in Brussels, Belgium shared his Nobel Prize with two other
scientists "for their discoveries concerning the structural and
functional organization of the cell". He discovered lysosomes and
peroxisomes in the cell, a monumental discovery in cell biology. I am
thankful to Prof. de Duve for this endorsement on the continued use of
novel genetic innovations to improve the quality of life for the humanity.
I encourage the readers to learn more about this great scientist's early
life at http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1974/claude-autobio.html
and his Nobel lecture at
Dr. Charles Rader of MIT, an AgBioView reader encouraged me to contact
Prof. de Duve (see below) and I am grateful to him. May I encourage other
AgBioView readers also to let me know if there are other laureates who
could be contacted. Just send me their email address.
List of 20 Nobel laureates who have supported the AgBioWorld petition can
be seen at http://www.agbioworld.org/declaration/nobelwinners.html
- C. S. Prakash
From: Charles Rader
Dear Dr. Prakash, I just finished reading a book entitled "Life
Evolving'', written by the Belgian Nobel Laureate Christian de Duve
(Medicine, 1974). In his book, he makes some very positive statements
about genetically modified food and he writes that he believes that the
widespread criticism of genetically modified food is mostly based on
misleading and deceptive propaganda.
I checked to see if he was among the Nobel Laureates who have signed your
petition, but I didn't find his name. Maybe you should approach him. He is
at the Catholic University of Louvain and is on the board of directors of
the Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology, named in his honor.
- C. Rader
Golden Rice Regulatory Delays May Cause Millions of Deaths
- AgBiotechNet.com, March 19, 2003
Ingo Potrykus, inventor of the vitamin A-enriched golden rice says that
although production of the rice is solved, regulatory delays would prevent
Asians benefiting for many years yet. By transforming the indica rice
IR64, they have produced a rice variety that would be applicable across
most of South East Asia.
"We could give this out today," said Potrykus, chair of the International
Humanitarian Board for Golden Rice. "This could reduce malnutrition safely
and sustainably." However, regulatory delays were "in essence causing the
unnecessary deaths of millions of people," said Potrykus. He expects it to
take 3-4 years for the rice to make it through the regulatory procedures.
Potrykus says that around 200g of rice could give 100% of the recommended
daily allowance of vitamin A, according to one estimates. While the final
figure might be slightly lower, it was clear that the levels were
sufficient to make a major contribution to reducing vitamin A deficiency
in Asia. Greenpeace had suggested in the past that unrealistic amounts
would have to be eaten to get near the RDA level.
In addition to vitamin A, the golden rice team has been exploring
expression of genes to raise iron levels, vitamin E and whether they can
produce a high-quality protein rice with enhanced levels of 10 amino
acids. However, Potrykus says that he's been advised that the regulatory
issues associated with rice containing even more genes and traits would
make it near-impossible to approve it.
He is working with regulatory agencies of the Asian countries who want to
distribute golden rice to try and co-ordinate a harmonised regulatory
approach to the approval process. "My task is to find a unified approach"
he says. Governments have indicated their financial support for making the
rice available to farmers, but this depended on overcoming the regulatory
Potrykus says that regulators are influenced by political pressure, and
that the issues put to them by political groups are based on "emotions,
not science." Thus far they've been unable to field test the rice, because
of regulatory concerns.
Potrykus says that they have agreement on all the intellectual property
issues surrounding golden rice, which would allow free licensing to
farmers so long as they don't export it or profit excessively from it.
Meanwhile Syngenta has the commercial rights to develop the technology. He
feels that the project has been an excellent example of a public-private
partnership that has real benefits for the poor - while they might have
achieved it eventually via a public route, it would have taken much
Could there be a developed world golden rice? "There certainly could be a
market for nutritionally optimised crops," says Potrykus. He pointed to
the fact that a nutritionally enriched rice could help reduce the macular
degeneration found in older people in the developed world. This eye
problem was less of a concern in the developing world as people tended not
to live long enough to encounter it. However, offering nutritionally
improved GM crops depended on an end to the "hysteria" of European
consumers over GM.
European attitudes had meant that Thailand had decided not to be part of
the golden rice project because they had been warned by European importers
that growing GM rice could affect their ability to export other varieties
of rice. Similar factors had been at play over the Zambian government's
decision not to allow GM maize into the country as food aid.
He described the impact of European views as one of the "worst cases of
- Editorial, Scientific American, April 2003. www.sciam.com
When the cloning of a human was announced last December, political and
spiritual leaders condemned it as an affront to the "dignity of man." That
kind of rhetoric is popping up all over the place. Political scientist
Francis Fukuyama warns that genetic engineering and Prozac-like drugs
augur "a posthuman stage of history." Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun
Microsystems, frets over robotics and nanotechnology: "On this path our
humanity may well be lost."Even the economist, a magazine not usually
given to apocalyptic predictions, worries that neuroscience could "gut the
concept of human nature."
Like their counterparts in earlier ages, these commentators argue that
technology is running ahead of our ability to deal with it; although
scientific progress is all well and good, we have to rein it in. Such
views are often called neo-Luddism, but frankly, that does not do justice
to the Luddites. Those machine-smashing textile workers were reacting to
immediate threats, such as losing their jobs. Today's concerns tend to be
abstract, and that is their problem.
A science magazine is all in favor of abstract thinking, but at some point
abstraction needs to make contact with reality. And the reality of
research bears little resemblance to the technocynics' horror stories.
Will cloning, for example, open the door to "designer babies? Maybe one
day. For now, though, researchers are struggling to develop cloning just
to grow tissues that a patient's immune system won't reject. Even would-be
baby cloners don't purport to fiddle with the genome.
Are people supposed to give up the prospect of life-saving therapies to
avoid a distant, hypothetical threat? The answer from technocynics is yes.
In his book last year Fukuyama drew a line between medical therapy (OK)
and genetic enhancement (not OK) but went on to advocate a ban on all
cloning, even the therapeutic kind. Similarly, Joy has called for a
"relinquishment"of all-all-research into robotics, nanotechnology and
Where does this absolutist stand leave the rest of us? We have watched our
parents and grandparents waste away from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
We have seen children die of diabetes and friends fall to depression,
malaria and HIV. If it comes down to a choice between the vague unease
that emerging technologies conjure up or the very unvague suffering they
could cure, we know how we would decide.
The technocynics basically want us to grin and bear it, lest our attempts
at self-improvement do more harm than good. Yet if history is any guide,
fears about the impact of new technologies generally wind up sounding
pretty silly. Thoreau regarded trains, telegraphs, newspapers and even
mail delivery as dehumanizing. Late Victorians predicted that
industrialization and urbanization would cause our species to degenerate
to a prehuman state.
In the 1970s critics of in vitro fertilization said it would create
monstrous or deranged babies. In all these cases, abstract worries gave
way to mundane ones. New technologies did bring new problems, but people
worked around them. Few would, in retrospect, ditch the technologies
The biggest danger, then, is not that science will run ahead of ethics,
but the opposite: that ethical hair triggers will paralyze worthy
research. Striking a balance is not easy. Bioethicist Gregory Stock
offers a sound prescription: "We should deal with actual rather than
To stop research is to give up trying to make the world a better place. It
denies human nature in order to save it.
(From Prakash: After reading this editorial from the Scientific American,
I can somewhat forgive them for their crusade against Lombrog. Thanks to
Latrice Crawford who typed this for me)
Food Security in Africa: What Promise does Biotechnology Hold?
- BioInnovation, March 1, 2003 (Sent by Katie Streeter:
During the past several months a fire storm of controversy ignited over
the rejection of U.S. food aid donated to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
(SSA), specifically Zambia. Infamously, in September 2002, Zambia's
President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa turned away shipments of U.S. coarse
grains because it could not be determined if the shipment contained
genetically modified corn.
President Mwanawasa had been warned that acceptance of the donated grain
might result in horizontal gene transfer that could render future export
crops unacceptable to EU markets. His response met with dramatic hyperbole
both from those opposing and those advocating the technologies commonly
grouped and defined as agricultural biotechnology. In addition to the
suggestion that GMO corn grain could infiltrate export crops and render
those resources valueless, the threat that GMOs could contaminate some
countries' animal feed supplies, and diminish those nations' ability to
export livestock products to EU markets was also posed.
Some critics suggested darker motives including veiled attempts to draft
less developed countries' (LDCs') populations as unwitting human test
subjects for developed countries' technologies. Technology advocates have
in some cases been no less caustic. Suggesting the EU may be descending
into a new scientific Dark Age, the CATO Institute's Patrick Michaels went
so far as to brand as 'murderers' decision makers in poverty-stricken
countries who would spurn donated GMO grain, taking the hyperbole to new
heights - or new lows.
Within this context, we examine how these technologies may - or may not -
be used to engender food security and bolster economic development on the
African continent. The potential for ag-biotech in SSA may be quite
different from that envisioned by many stakeholders; concepts of commerce
and trade that are appropriate for developed nations are not yet
appropriate models for the economies of many of Africa's LDCs.
Where trade is concerned it is often the case that developing economies
are, by definition, highly dependant upon their agricultural sectors, both
for food produced for internal consumption and, as development advances,
as a primary export resource that can generate the funds necessary to
expand imports of a range of goods, including a more diversified
nutritional regime. Though it may ultimately be possible for African LDCs
to export crops and food products to the EU, today crops are produced
almost exclusively for internal consumption.
Clearly, African trade and commerce - including the commercialization of
crops produced through biotech - are not yet comparable to trade and
commerce in the developed world. In reality, and for the foreseeable
future, the use of biotechnology in Africa is not likely to impact its
trade with other countries because trade remains so limited. Nor, on a
more basic level, will the introduction of biotechnology in Africa's LDCs
resemble the commercialization efforts companies undertake in more
Aside from the obvious lack of financial resources to procure seed and ag
chemicals, the basic infrastructures for commercialization - including
regulatory approval processes, biosafety resources, or a robust
distribution system - do not exist. For the near term, the model that
seems to best suit the African LDCs involves modes of technology transfer
now contemplated by consortia of government, industry, academia, and
philanthropic organizations possessing technologies that could be of use
in improving quality of life.
Through in-depth commentary and analysis, BioInnovation explores the
impact of agricultural biotechnology from development and
commercialization of products to their impacts on business strategies,
structures, and value creation. This article was abstracted from a
lengthier piece published in the March 1, 2003 edition of BioInnovation,
which can be accessed (through subscription) at
The Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa
The Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa 2001 World Conference
Video Summary, 26 minutes.
"Now Is The Time: A Plan to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa."May, 2002.
Full document (including executive summary) and Executive summary only
(via Michigan State Univ. Ag. Econ. update)
FAO Lists Biotech Pros and Cons
- AgBiotechNet, March 19, 2003, www.agbiotechnet.com
"With the increasingly limited amount of new land available to
agriculture, modern biotechnologies could complement and improve the
efficiency of traditional selection and breeding techniques to enhance
agricultural productivity," says Mahmoud Solh, Director of FAO's Division
of Plant Production and Protection. This is one viewpoint expressed in a
feature: Agricultural biotechnology: will it help?
"FAO recognizes that genetic engineering has the potential to help
increase production and productivity in agriculture, forestry and
fisheries," says FAO's Statement on Biotechnology. "It could lead to
higher yields on marginal lands in countries that today cannot grow enough
food to feed their people. But, it adds, FAO "is also aware of the concern
about the potential risks posed by certain aspects of biotechnology. These
risks fall into two basic categories: the effects on human and animal
health and the environmental consequences."
FAO lists the following potential benefits of crop biotech for
* Better resistance to stress,
* More nutritious staple foods,
* More productive farm animals for the environment,
* More food from less land,
* GMOs might reduce the environmental impact of food production and
* Rehabilitation of damaged or less-fertile land,
* Longer shelf lives,
Potential benefits for human health
* Investigation of diseases with genetic fingerprinting,
* Vaccines and medicines,
* Identification of allergenic genes.
It also cites the arguments for potential negative effects on the
environment that have been raised:
* Genes can end up in unexpected places,
* Genes can mutate with harmful effect,
* "Sleeper"genes could be accidentally switched on and active genes could
* Interaction with wild and native populations,
* Impact on birds, insects and soil biota
Potential negative effects on human health
* Transfer of allergenic genes,
* Mixing of GM products in the food chain,
* Transfer of antibiotic resistance
Potential socio-economic effects
* Loss of farmers' access to plant material,
* Intellectual property rights could slow research,
* Impact of "terminator"technologies.
- Food and Agriculture Organization; email@example.com
GM Worries Hold Back Research
- David Mccoy, Farming Life (Ireland) March 19, 2003
European Commissions surveys published at the weekend indicate that, while
most Europeans are in favour of medical applications of biotechnology,
they are still sceptical about agricultural and food- related biotech.
This, combined with an uncertain legal situation and doubts on future
commercial markets, is leading to a sharp decrease in biotech research in
Europe. The Eurobarometer 'Europeans and biotechnology 2002' reveals that
44 per cent of those polled believe that biotechnology will improve their
quality of life, compared to 17 per cent who do not, with 25 per cent
But there is a lack of support for agricultural and food applications,
contrasting with a strong backing for medical uses. This is seriously
slowing down biotech R&D in the EU, particularly in the private sector,
and may put at risk Europe's competitiveness in a promising sector of new
According to an EU study on scientific and technological developments in
GM plants, the number of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) field trial
applications in the EU has dropped by 76 per cent since 1998. GMO research
has also been seriously undermined. Thirty-nine per cent of the
respondents have cancelled R&D projects on GMOs over the last four years.
This share is higher for the private sector alone: 61 per cent of
respondents have stopped projects in this field.
"People in Europe are becoming increasingly aware of biotechnology
applications and their benefits,"said European Research Commissioner
Philippe Busquin. We must continue to champion a rational and informed
debate on biotechnology so that Europeans are able to make informed
Without sound scientific evidence, the debate will always be distorted
"There is a perceived lack of scientific and other information, and the
increasingly sceptic climate is scaring European biotech companies and
research centres away.
"If we do not reverse the trend now, we will be unable to reap the
benefits of the life science revolution and become dependent on
technologies developed elsewhere. Now that strict EU legislation in this
field is finally in place, there is no ground for unjustified fears and
Studies Show Environment Benefits From Biotechnology
- Council for Biotechnology Information, www.whybiotech.com
'Ag Day, a time to celebrate advancements that improve our world'
In the three decades the United States has celebrated Ag Day, no
technological advancement has impacted the agricultural industry more than
plant biotechnology. According to the International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), biotech crops are one of
the most rapidly adopted technologies in agricultural history. Not only
has it increased food productivity, recent studies show biotechnology
provides significant environmental benefits, too.
Increasingly, plant biotechnology is viewed as an important tool in
creating an eco-efficient world of the future - a world where more food
can be produced, while at the same time reducing the environmental impact
of agricultural production and resource use.
Future plant biotechnology innovations are promising to be even more
valuable to our environment. If you are interested in more details on the
environmental benefits of plant biotechnology as part of your National
Agriculture Week or National Agriculture Day story, the Council for
Biotechnology Information can provide background information, statistics
and sources for interviews on the following benefits:
* Increasing conservation practices: The introduction of biotech crops is
largely credited with a 35 percent increase in no-till acres, according to
a Conservation Technology Information Center study.
* Improving water quality: As the world deals with severe drought
conditions, organizations credit biotech crops and no-till, the practice
of growing crops without soil tillage such as plowing, with saving $3.5
billion in water treatment and storage costs, along with many other
maintenance and recreational costs.
* Improving air quality: Biotechnology's impact on conservation practices
is estimated to have decreased on-farm fuel usage by a total of 306
million gallons per year, thereby reducing fuel emissions and improving
* Increasing wildlife habitat and biodiversity: No-till practices create
better habitat for birds and mammals which thrive in the protective
residue of no-till fields increased by the adoption of biotech crops.
* Decreasing pesticide usage: A study estimates that the six biotech
crops planted in the United States - soybeans, corn, cotton, papaya,
squash and canola - reduced pesticide usage by 46 million pounds last
* Reducing reliance on non-renewable energy: Crops produced through plant
biotechnology provide more efficient, renewable methods for producing
bio-fuels, increasingly important given the variability of world oil
* Grow more on less land: According to a United Nations report, farmers
will need to at least double their production over the next 25 years to
feed a world's population that is expected to reach 8.1 billion by 2030.
Biotech crops are helping farmers, especially in developing regions like
Africa, increase production of food without increasing land use.
Why Reinvent Risk?
- Robert C. Lee, Nature Biotechnology, March 2003 Vol. 21 No. 3 p229.
www.nature.com (Used in AgBioView with the permission of the editor)
To the editor: I read with great interest the two commentaries in the
November issue by Goklany (Nat. Biotechnol. 20, 1075, 2002) and
Auberson-Huang (Nat. Biotechnol. 20, 1076-1078, 2002) regarding the risk
assessment and the "precautionary principle"as applied to genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). In my view, neither author makes a critical
distinction between the scientific and analytical process of risk
assessment and the policy stance of the precautionary principle, neither
acknowledges the impact of uncertainty on decisions, and neither offers a
useful framework to address fully the complex decisionmaking associated
In theory, the process of risk assessment and precautionary policy can be
integrated into an analytical decision framework, which I believe is what
both authors are attempting to define, but their definitions are
incomplete. Risk assessment is a scientific process that estimates the
probability and severity of adverse events1. This process is independent
of stakeholder or risk manager viewpoints. Essentially, the precautionary
principle is a policy guiding risk management that states that reduction
or elimination of risk is an overriding decision objective (over and above
that of trade-offs like cost, competing risks, etc.). If that policy is
adopted, it does not replace or inform risk assessment; it simply provides
a means to guide risk management based on the results of risk assessments.
Thus, Auberson-Huang appears to have it backwards. As typically applied,
the precautionary principle hamstrings true stakeholder involvement and
proper risk management by constraining elicitation of stakeholder values
and the scientific process of risk assessment with predetermined
conclusions and the refusal to acknowledge trade-offs. Goklany argues that
we should assess one set of these trade-offs through risk-risk analysis so
as to be "precautionary," but this is an inferior substitute for a true
decision framework using a decision criterion such as net benefit.
Risk-risk analysis does not directly address stakeholder values, nor the
complete range of trade-offs associated with adoption of a particular
policy. Neither author explicitly addresses the central problem that the
risks, benefits, and costs associated with many GMOs are highly uncertain,
and that rigorous, quantitative assessment of the impact that uncertainty
has on decisions is critical to informing stakeholders and decision
makers, as well as informing primary research.
A proper decision process will integrate the science of risk assessment
with the policy of risk management, but to my knowledge this is not
occurring with GMO issues. It is unfortunate that many of the same
mistakes that have been made historically in the environmental toxicology
field and other fields are now being made with regard to GMOs. The
appropriate and acknowledged way to evaluate these highly uncertain risks
is to employ risk assessment as a scientific process within a decision
framework that directly addresses stakeholder values and the impact of
uncertainty on decisions. There is a wealth of literature and applications
regarding such frameworks, such as multi attribute utility theory and
multi criteria decision making, that do exactly this 2. It is time to
acknowledge that policy approaches, such as the precautionary principle,
and halfway measures such as risk-risk analysis, are insufficient to
address the complex decisionmaking that is associated with GMOs.
References 1. Haimes, Y.Y. Risk Modeling, Assessment, and Management
(Wiley, NY, 1998). 2.Cox, L.A. Risk Analysis: Foundations, Models, and
Methods (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 2001). -- University of
Calgary, Community Health Sciences, Health Technology Implementation Unit,
Foothills Medical Centre, 1403 29th St. NW, Calgary, AB T2N2T9, Canada
Improving the Public's Understanding of Science Communication
- Food Insight, Nov/Dec 002
Which of the following is usually not included in media stories on new
A. A fantastic, attention-grabbing headline? B. Arguments among advocates
of different positions? C. Contradictions of last week's "new" research?
or D. Context on to whom the research applies and how it can be
If you answered "D" then you recognize the uphill battle that most science
communicators face when addressing journalists' questions. According to
the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation's Food for
Thought IV research on how the media report on diet, nutrition, and food
safety, journalists provided adequate context in only 6 percent of their
According to the report, the IFIC Foundation has found that little context
is provided with the nutritional advice offered in the news. Four separate
Food for Thought studies have examined thousands of stories that provided
advice on what to eat (or what not to eat) for better health, but they
have rarely specified how much to eat, how often certain foods should be
consumed, or to whom the advice applies. This lack of context creates
consumer confusion and a loss of confidence in science.
To help journalists, scientists, public affairs and public relations
professionals, special interest groups, and others in the science
communication process deliver the good (or bad) nutrition and food safety
news to consumers, the IFIC Foundation, in conjunction with the Harvard
School of Public Health, convened an advisory group and developed a set of
practical guidelines for interpreting and reporting science-based
This advisory group was composed of scientists from Harvard and Tufts
Universities, the editors of medical journals, representatives of
professional interest groups and the food industry, and practicing
journalists. Following the advisory group's initial meeting, a series of
roundtables involving more than 60 other science communications
professionals was held around the country.
Improving Public Understanding: Guidelines for Communicating Emerging
Science on Nutrition, Food Safety, and Health, originally published in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1998, offers tips and advice
and provides thought-provoking questions that everyone involved in science
communication should ask themselves before disseminating important, yet
possibly confusing, information to the general public.
In the fall of 2002, the IFIC Foundation reissued the Guidelines to more
than 6,500 journalists, scientists, and health communicators across the
United States. The Guidelines were accompanied by an open letter from Dr.
Tim Johnson, Medical Editor for ABC News and chairperson of the original
Dr. Johnson asked journalists to revisit the Guidelines and "re-emphasize
their importance for those of us who have the serious responsibility of
communicating nutrition, food safety, and health information."
The Guidelines are intended to suggest how context can be provided. They
also outline the necessary data, disclosures, and contextual qualifiers
that may help the public evaluate a study's relevance and importance.
The Guidelines pose some overarching questions, including: 1. Will your
communication enhance public understanding of diet and health? 2. Have you
put the study findings into context? 3. Have the study and findings been
peer reviewed? 4. Have you disclosed the important facts about the study?
5. Have you disclosed all key information about the study's funding?
A major question that science communicators need to ask is whether the
study is credible enough to warrant public attention. Some studies can be
presented in an overly simplistic fashion, inappropriately characterizing
individual foods, ingredients, or supplements. The best rule of thumb for
communicators and the public interpreting the news is that if it sounds
too good (or bad) to be true, it's probably not true or at least
The Guidelines also pose specific questions to each participant in the
For Scientists: 1. Have you provided essential background information
about the study in your written findings or to journalists or to others
requesting it in a language that can be understood? 2. Have you clarified
dietary risks and benefits? 3. Have you met the needs of the media?
It is important that scientists make themselves available to the media
when one of their studies is released. The authors of a study can help put
it into context, explaining the benefits or harms discovered during the
research process. They also can correct any mis-impressions that the media
For Journal Editors: 1. Does your embargo policy enhance public
communication? 2. Do you encourage responsible reporting on study findings
by the media? 3. Have you considered the effect of the study findings on
consumers? 4. Does your submission policy permit scientists to clarify the
results of abstract presentations with the media?
Competition is fierce among journalists, and that includes the editors of
the many scientific journals that publish peer-reviewed research studies.
Journal editors should act as a liaison between the mainstream media and
the scientists who conducted the published study. This will help not only
to encourage responsible reporting but also to put the science into
For Journalists: 1. Is your story accurate and balanced? 2. Have you
applied a healthy skepticism to your reporting? 3. Does your story provide
practical consumer advice? 4. Is your reporting grounded in a basic
understanding of scientific principles?
Although true science journalists are becoming an endangered species, that
does not mean that new scientific research should go unexplained. It is
the duty of the journalist to take the raw, scientific data and report the
findings in a responsible manner. We all know that sensational headlines
"sell papers,"but responsible journalists will approach each new study
with skepticism and provide practical advice to their audience.
For Industry, Consumer, and Other Interested Groups: 1. Have you provided
accurate information and feedback to the media? 2. Do you adhere to
ethical standards in providing diet and health information?
Interested groups, such as industry, consumer, and advocacy organizations,
need to make sure that the information in the news releases that they
issue is in keeping with the study findings and does not exaggerate,
oversimplify, disregard, or sensationalize the findings. The information
released by these groups should provide new insight and help enhance
public understanding of the study results.
To summarize the importance of getting science communication right, Dr.
Johnson wrote in his original introduction to the Guidelines, "These
Guidelines can only make a difference if they don't sit on a shelf.
Putting these recommendations into practice just might make a difference
in the public's understanding of diet and health."
To receive a copy of the Guidelines write to "Improving Public
Understanding Guidelines" P.O. Box 65708, Washington DC 20035 or access it
on the IFIC Foundation Web site at
Bio-era Report on Positive Trends in Production, Research
- Prof. Klaus Ammann Botanical Garden University of Bern;
Dear friends, Just released: February 2003: An important report of
bio-era: Gregory D. Graff and James Newcomb: Agricultural Biotechnology at
the Crossroads. Part I: The changing structure of the industry , bio-era,
Bio Economic Research Associates
Go to the website and fill out a small form for your request to get a free
copy of the full document: http://www.bio-era.net
here included some useful Powerpoints for the the tables and figures in:
And some more material about the positive trends in production and R & D
in GM crops, go to the forty case studies worked out by Leonard P.
Gianessi, Cressida S. Silvers, Sujatha Sankula and Janet E. Carpenter in
June 2002 http://www.ncfap.org/40CaseStudies.htm for the download of the
single case studies
Included here the powerpoints from a talk of Leonard Gianessi given the
AAAS meeting in Denver February 2003.
James C (2001) Global Status of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2000.
ISAAA Briefs No. 23. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY
James Clive (2002) Preview - Global review of Commercialized Transgenic
Crops: 2001. ISAAA Briefs No. 24, Preview. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY
James C 2002 Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001.
Feature: Bt Cotton No. 26 2002 http://www.isaaa.org/ under briefs 26 Exec.
James C 2002 Preview No. 27: Global Status of Commercializised Transgenic
Crops 2002 http://www.botanischergarten.ch/UNIDO/ISAAA_Briefs_No._27.pdf
and previous briefs as executive summaries under http://www.isaaa.org/
download briefs No. 1 (1996) to No. 26 (2002) James C (2002) Preview -
Global review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2002. ISAAA Briefs No.
27, Preview. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY, News Release 16. Jan. 2003
http://www.isaaa.org/ on the front page
Shoemaker Robbin, Joy Harwood, Kelly Day-Rubenstein, Terri Dunahay, Paul
Heisey, Linwood Hoffman, Cassandra Klotz-Ingram, William Lin, Lorraine
Mitchell, William McBride, Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo 2001 ERS Agriculture
Information Bulletin No. 762. 64 pp, March 2001
Wambugu, Florence Director, ISAAA AfriCentre, Kenya. Agricultural
Biotechnology: Current and Future Trends and Implications for Africa
Catherine L. Ives, Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project,
Michigan State University 1999 Agricultural Economics website of Michigan
Development Report 2003
- Bolaji Abdullahi, Accra Mail This Day (Ghana), March 12, 2003; (Sent by
Andrew Apel). Excepts below..
The World Development Report 2003, "Sustainable Development In a Dynamic
World" does not only do justice to the "sustainable development« discourse
and concerns of those who rule the world, but also keeps faith with their"
environmental managerialism« prescriptions, which hardly accounts for the
realities that most people in the developing world and their governments
contend with daily; realities that can hardly be managed by the 'shopping
mall' logic of the World Bank.
The logic of sustainable development will continue to operate by the logic
set by those who rule the world, and public policy that tends to respond
to the imperatives of sustainable development will invariably conform to
this logic, regardless of the realities confronted by the people of the
third world.- Arturo Escobar, 1995
It will be appropriate to start this with a parody of Shiv Visvanathan
1991 review of Gro-Harlem Bruntland's report on "Environment and
Development". Shall we all rise to say a minute's silence for the trees
that supply the paper on which the World Development Report 2003 was
In 1987, the United Nations convened a World Commission on Environment and
Development under the Chairmanship of former Norwegian prime minister,
Gro-Harlem Bruntland. In its report "our common future" the commission
emphasised the need to reconcile humanity with the environment through
In 1991, a Harvard economist, Theodor Panyatou told the World Bank
conference on development economics that environmental degradation and the
question of sustainability has nothing to do with "growth. Rather, it is a
direct consequence of failure in both market and policy. "Show me a
depleted resource or a degraded environment and I will show you a subsidy
or a failure to establish basic conditions that would enable the market to
function efficiently...If I had to present the solution in one sentence,
it would be this: All resources should have titles, and all people should
have entitlements" Panyatou declared.
In 1996, Barber Conable of the World Bank followed in the same tenor.
Sound ecology he said is all about good economics. With a carefully
planned environment, most can be made of "nature's resources so that
human resourcefulness can make the most of the future."
In 2003, the World Development Report, while not as extreme as Panyatou,
or as bureaucratic as Conable, continues essentially in the same tradition
which holds that environmental misbehaviour can be disciplined by
managerial economics and humanity can be reconciled with the environment
at the market place.
In another 50 years, world population will increase by 3 billion. Of
course, all of this increase will be in developing countries, where
already 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Sustainable
development,- WDR 2003 says, is directed at ensuring better life for these
poor people, while ensuring well-being for everyone. This is also the
central concern of the Report: To improve well-being and protect "what
people value and want to pass on to their children read, sustainable
development - 'To improve well being' the report says, people must have
assets - and to ensure that "development« is sustainable, these assets
must be managed responsibly." - How do we achieve these?
One is by building institutions- that have the capacity to create assets
and make market operate efficiently. This include right to own property
efficient titles and the rule of law legal guarantees that such rights to
property will be protected . However, not all assets can be provided by
the market. Therefore additional institutions have to be constructed to
respond to the need for clean water, clean air, fisheries and forests; to
build trust and increase people's capacity to network social capital and
provide security of persons and property. Institutions are also needed for
accountable formulation and execution of policies and for ensuring
equitable distribution of assets. Groups that lack assets tend also to
lack voice, security, and a stake in the larger society, hampering the
ability of institutions to perform their necessary coordination function.
In one stroke of World Bank rationality therefore, the problems of
poverty, environmental degradation and "sustainability" conflicts and so
on, are all challenges of institutions building. Once the "appropriate"
institutions are in place, the goals of improving well-being and
"sustainable development« will be attained, and our world« will gallantly
march into a future of universal prosperity, while at the same time, fully
prepared for the pressures this unprecedented glory will bring on the
Compared with the classical neo-liberal dogma of the Bank, the WDR 2003
demonstrates a lot more willingness to acknowledge that not all problems
of development can be settled at the market square. However, its
interpretation of what causes what and what options are available is still
rooted in the same tradition. While very strong and positive in its
description, the Report's prescription is still far removed from the
realities that speak to the daily struggles and challenges of the people
in whose interests it purports to argue. In fact, it is difficult to read
through the Report and not ask whom exactly was it meant for. For those
who complain about the danger inherent in the discourse of a
"internationalised« environment as a procedure for masking specific
realities, especially those realities encountered by poor countries, WDR
2003 presents another evidence.
The Report emphasises environmental degradation, population, poverty and
food security, industrialisation, social exclusion and other development«
concerns. It shows that poverty and environmental degradation are
organically connected in a way that the two serve as a cause and
consequence upon each other, and therefore, lend themselves to one simple
solution: sustainable development. And this can be achieved through
planning, management, appropriate policies« and building efficient
institutions. While submitting these clinical prescriptions, the Report
fails to pay adequate attention to how growth« itself becomes a problem
and how some of these concerns, especially of poverty and environmental
degradation are, in fact, negative consequences of market expansion and
growth, which ironically is being pushed forward as the solution to
poverty. Relatedly, it also fails to adequately acknowledge the complex
challenges that most countries, especially in Africa face, which often
defy managerial logic.
Most countries of Africa ravaged by poverty, hunger and disease, ethnic
conflicts, illegitimate government, prostrate economy, crushing debt
burden and so on, which have their roots deep in the cultural and
historical experiences of these countries. Embedded in the question of
"who owns the land« in Africa, are historical parameters for social
arrangements and for setting the boundaries of inclusion and exclusions.
The struggle for "space« therefore, the erosion of social capital that
result from this struggle, the problems of exclusion as expressed in lack
of voice or access, insecurity and even poverty, therefore, often touch on
the very nature of the State itself. Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR and even
Uganda are a few examples.
The Bank will push it through to policy planners in client countries
because it has the muscle to do. In the process, the Bank would have
helped itself and its patrons, but not the world.
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'Creation' Delves Into World of Eco-activism
- Beth Kephart, Baltimore Sun, March 16, 2003 (sent by Andrew Apel)
It was Iris Murdoch who once opined that "a novelist should be wary of
being a teacher in a didactic sense, but should be conscious of himself as
a moralist."Still, it is only the truly exceptional novelist who can turn
issues into stories, politics into dreams. Rare is the book that succeeds
as indoctrination or instruction, while at the same time delivering
indelible characters, pitch-perfect dialogue and wholly involving plot.
Rare is a call to action delivered in supple, enduring prose.
Ruth Ozeki's second novel, "All Over Creation"(her first being the quirky
"My Year of Meats"), stands among that elite handful of books that both
teaches and inspires, chides and appeases.
At its heart lies Yumi Fuller, a Japanese-American mother of three who has
returned to her parents' Idaho potato farm after a 25-year absence. Things
are not what they were when she ran off so long ago. Her father, a once
well-regarded farmer, is dying. Her mother, a breeder and harvester of
seeds, is losing her memory. Her childhood friend Cass is living off the
land Yumi grew up on, and the high school teacher whose rogue carelessness
was the cause of Yumi's adolescent heartache has returned to town and is
conveniently posted in a roadside motel.
Then there's the Seeds of Resistance, an eco-activist group whose members
go by such names as Y, Frank Perdue, Charmey and Lileth, and whose
intellectual leader is a guy named Geek, so knowledgeable about the
science of plants and so passionate about the ruin wrought by genetic
enginfish genes to increase their resistance to the cold,"the members of
Seeds of Resistance careen their way across the country, finally setting
up shop on the very farm Yumi has returned to.
The clash of interests, the entanglement of politics, the very real
tenderness these characters feel for one another even when they stand on
opposite sides of the flaring genetic engineering battle constitute the
core of the novel. How Yumi will come to terms with her radical past and
her ambiguous present circumstances serves as its emotional center.
To her great credit, Ozeki steers just shy of screed in "All Over
Creation" by representing the plight of the farmers and by giving those
who promote the concept of genetic engineering room for their own slogans,
their own rebuttal. In the end, the presentation of politics here is as
complex and multidimensional as Ozeki's characters. This novel is a tour
de force -- structurally sophisticated, conceptually sound, well-rooted in
a concern for both people and the earth.