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Date:

March 21, 2003

Subject:

Genetic Apartheid; Killing Plants That Cure; Dramatic Fall in EU

 

Today in AgBioView: March 22, 2003

* Anders v/s David
* Killing Plants That Cure
* CEOs Urged Not To Ignore Activist Groups
* South African Judge Warns of 'Genetic Apartheid'
* Regulators Hinder Modified Rice
* Two New EU Surveys....
* Dramatic Fall in EU Research
* Genes & Society Festival
* The Release Of Genetically Modified Crops Into The Environment
* It's the World, Stupid
* Organic Quackery
* Philippines: Is Greenpeace Running DENR now?


Anders v/s David

From Anders Buch Kristensen" to:
detribe@unimelb.edu.au

Dear David: Indeed, we agree on more than you can know: the Danish
government and I are working for liberalisation of EUs CAP, and for
progress in the WTO negotiations, especially for the developing countries.
Personally, I believe that GM is the way for future improvement of plants
and animals; and with much less risk than the traditional breeding.

By the way, Denmark is one of the few countries in the world spending more
the 1 % of GNP on true development aid, (none of is used for emergency
relief in kind with the main aim of getting rid of a surplus of
agricultural products). However, EU is not keeping GM products of any
importance out, since 1994 we have authorised GM soy, which is the major
GM product that could be imported; Maize cannot be imported anyway due to
import duty and no need. Cotton fibres don't have to be labelled.

Therefore, what is kept out is soy protein and maize starch in consumer
products, but this is due to the retailers, who don't want to sell such
products. This is the problem we intend to solve with the new regulation.
EU has also started the process of reform already in 1992 and with agenda
2000; we have on the table a proposal for the final liberalisation and we
have made an agreement with the 50 LDC on free import of "Anything than
arms"

Furthermore the technical barriers for import to EU is not worse than for
Australia (I have worked for 20 years for an opening for fresh pig meat
from Denmark, who have the highest veterinary standard in the world) or
for USA (I have tried for 25 years to make USDA accept import of potted
plants, of which they have accepted the same plants and the growing media
separated).

- Kind regards, Anders Buch Kristensen PhD.

-----
David Tribe's Initial Query:

Dear Anders, I thank you again, very genuinely, for both your replies and
continued courtesy. It makes a dialogue with you enjoyable even though we
may disagree. I'm sure we could agree on many other things with great
pleasure.

I accept your points about chymosin and its lack of importance, but I must
make it clear that my actual concerns about EU "selfishness" are at a
different level to the issues you explain. I use the word "selfishness" to
refer to unintended adverse consequences of policies that help only EU
people, as a kind of shorthand, but do not intend to be perjorative or
unnecessarily offensive.

My major concerns are directed the very general issue of excessive EU
agricultural self protection (and for which I see GM related trade
barriers as providing just one "convenient" prop or crutch), and this is
different from the chymosin issue you explain. As for beer, who cares -
Australian brewers also avoid GM for obvious marketing reasons.

By keeping GM imports out of the EU there is a de facto trade barrier
which assists continuation of these excessive EU farm price supports
(subsidies) at a high level. The EU farm price supports (tens of billions
of EU/year) harm farmers in third world countries by excluding them from
trade by pricing them out of the market. Thus the people who get hurt are
African South American and other poorer farmers, and this is wrong, a
great evil even. The EU also make it difficult for Australian farmers, but
they can survive.

It's morally much better if poorer farmers could get more for their crops
from free-er trade with EU enabled but lower EU barriers. I really do not
care what the EU do to themselves, but I do care about the indirect damage
they do to poorer non European farmers.

In my mind then, the whole issue of excessive subsidies (CAP) for EU
farmers, and all the convenient barriers to prevent price competition from
imports are interconnected with de facto GM trade barrier issue.

May I end in commending you for putting such genuine effort into
explaining the EU activities. Please keep reading Agbioview.

- David Tribe Ph.D, Dept. Microbiology & Immunology, University of
Melbourne; detribe@unimelb.edu.au

**********************************************

Killing Plants That Cure

- Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service, March 20, 2003

Could you ever have imagined that the "yucky" spinach you shoved aside on
your plate as a child would one day be used to develop an anthrax vaccine?

Or would you have believed that potatoes, tomatoes and carrots would be
genetically engineered to prevent hepatitis B infection; that tomatoes
could protect against rabies; and that bananas could prevent a type of
diarrhea that kills up to three million children yearly in poorer nations?
Texas-based ProdiGene, Inc. is developing an HIV vaccine that may cost
pennies a dose.

Yet these miracle medicines may become endangered species. After a couple
of minor crop contamination mishaps, the Agriculture Department has
proposed severe restrictions on crops producing "biopharmed" medicine that
some experts believe could cripple the nascent technology.

Moreover, 11 environmentalist groups have announced they will sue the
agency because they claim the proposed rules aren't stringent enough.
Included are the anti-biotech usual suspects, including Friends of the
Earth, Greenpeace, the Center for Food Safety, and the Organic Consumers
Association.

There's nothing new about extracting drugs from plants, naturally. But
these special crops have a gene or genes spliced into them so that they
produce medicines that are either completely unlike any currently
available or are superior to those which are. Eventually some such as the
bananas will be consumed orally, although the first generation requires
extraction and purification.

The industry leader is Texas-based ProdiGene. It already produces two
corn-based products. One is the enzyme trypsin, used to make insulin. The
other is aprotinin, used in cardiac surgery, for healing wounds, and as a
component in making pharmaceuticals. Both will replace the natural source
of the proteins, cows, thereby removing any chance of transmitting
pathogens - including "mad cow disease."

But in charting new waters, ProdiGene also made the first mistakes. In
Nebraska, it failed to thoroughly plow under a plot on which it had grown
corn for an experimental pig vaccine. Errant stalks sprouted among half a
million bushels of soybeans.

In Iowa, ProdiGene was ordered to destroy 155 acres of corn because
windborne pollen from its bio-corn might have contaminated nearby fields.
In both cases, the lapses were discovered before the food was eaten.
Further, there's no reason to believe that even if the experimental corn
had been eaten right off the cob it would have caused harm, much less when
diluted by 500,000 bushels of soy or 155 acres of non-medicinal corn.

The FDA declared it was "confident that the material from the corn would
pose virtually no health risk," but added that "even the miniscule amount
of material in question should not have been present in the soybeans." For
both incidents, the relatively small company was forced to pay a
relatively huge $300 million in costs, plus a $250,000 fine.

But acting under pressure from both the food industry and the
environmentalists - strange bedfellows, indeed - the Agriculture
Department this month proposed regulations that range from reasonable to
almost punitive. Among them: a sevenfold increase in the number of
inspections made to biopharming companies, and huge buffer zones between
ordinary crops and drug-containing crops.

But "even before the USDA's new rules, the testing, cultivation and
marketing of gene-spliced plants generally - whether involving biopharmed
crops or garden-variety ones intended for food and fiber - was already
massively over-regulated by a veritable alphabet soup of federal
agencies," Hoover Institution fellow and former director of the FDA's
Office of Biotechnology Henry Miller told me.

Unfortunately here, as is often the case, the proposed regulations have
less to do with safety than promoting the appearance of safety. That's why
Lisa Dry, a spokeswoman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization,
emphasized that the regulations could "instill public confidence in the
regulatory oversight."

That's important. But so is the cost of the regulations. These "will
inflate biopharming's development costs so that only very high-value-added
products will be candidates and that consumers ultimately will see fewer
biopharmed drugs in the pharmacy," says Miller. And remember, for those
litigious environmentalist groups it's still not enough. To them, the more
valuable a biotech crop is the greater the need to destroy it.

One of their spokesmen told a reporter that, "The environmental and human
health risks associated with biopharm crops are substantial." Wrong.
What's substantial is the ultimately hundreds of millions of deaths that
drugs developed from these plants can prevent - if we can keep overzealous
bureaucrats and green groups from permanently plowing them under.

**********************************************

CEOs Urged Not To Ignore Activist Groups

- Sandra Guy, Chicago Sun Times, March 22, 2003
http://www.suntimes.com/output/business/cst-fin-kraft22.html

Kraft Foods Co-CEO Betsy Holden expressed disdain Friday for the same
activist groups she urged her fellow corporate chieftains to listen to.

Though business leaders might resent the growing demands, they cannot
ignore them in today's post-Enron era, she said in a luncheon speech to
the Executives' Club of Chicago in a ballroom of the Chicago Hilton &
Towers. The day is quickly passing when companies can be highly selective
in who we have a relationship with and on what terms," Holden warned.

Besides, engaging one's critics can help identify those who are
"constructive," those who aren't, and whether there is common ground the
two sides can reach, she said As if to demonstrate her point, five
protesters from Chicago-based Genewise stood outside the hotel, holding
placards and handing out leaflets calling on Kraft to cease using
genetically engineered ingredients in its food. Holden said science has
proven that genetically modified organisms are safe, but Kraft prohibits
genetically altered ingredients in the products it sells in Europe because
of the consumer outcry abroad.

Holden also urged business leaders to donate money in a way that solves
problems, rather than just to get the glory, and to critically assess
company policies. Holden revealed that Kraft is implementing a beefed-up
code of conduct governing its employees' ethical behavior.

Though Holden lauded Kraft's values-driven heritage throughout its
100-year history, she omitted the fact that cigarette maker Altria holds
97.7 percent of Kraft's shareholder voting power.

**********************************************

South African Judge Warns of 'Genetic Apartheid'

- Tamar Kahn, Scidev.net

Stellenbosch, South Africa - A leading South African judge has warned of
the possible emergence of a 'genetic apartheid', arguing that the
scientific advances of genetic research have created the spectre of a
'genetic underclass' that is vulnerable to exploitation and
discrimination.

And the South African minister of arts, culture, science and technology,
Ben Ngubane, has appealed to genetic researchers in Africa to increase
their collaborative efforts in order prevent the so-called 'digital
divide' being followed by a similar divide in genetic research and its
technological applications.

Both warnings were made during a three-day conference this week organised
by the Human Sciences Research Council, the South African Academy of
Science, and the Sustainability Institute.

Held at a wine estate north of Cape Town, the conference drew together
about 350 scientists, sociologists, policy makers and educators to debate
the implications for Africa of research into the human genome.

South African Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs, who was at the
forefront of the anti-apartheid movement, urged delegates to consider the
ethical implications of genetic research. These included the difficult
issue of how communities who provide genetic or other material to
researchers should share the benefits of any commercial products arising
from the research.

"Our continent has historically provided raw material and even human
beings to other continents. Can we afford to [continue to be] universal
donors, and universal recipients of what is made by others?" he asked.

Referring, for example, to the issues raised by the case of the Khoisan
(bushmen), who have recently reached an agreement with the South African
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research over the use of an appetite
suppressant obtained from a local cactus (see South African tribe seals
benefit-sharing deal ) he asked: "How can we be sure that the knowledge
gained is shared in a way that truly gives back to their community, and to
South Africa?"

Ngubane, who opened the conference, appealed to scientists and educators
to collaborate or risk seeing Africa left behind the industrialised world
when it came to genetic research and its applications.

"The threat of a second divide -- after the digital divide -- increasingly
separating the haves from the have-nots, looms in genetic studies and
technologies," Ngubane said. "We in the developing world have a strong
incentive to be active rather than passive participants in these new areas
of science and technology."

This, he argued, would require joint, concerted action by all elements of
government and the research community. Ngubane added that this would mean
a "smarter" use of funds, concentrating research efforts at tertiary
institutions and developing a closer working relationship between academia
and industry.

"We cannot afford independent silos to be set up, nor can egos and
personal agendas prevent us from establishing the kinds of centres of
excellence and capacity-building programmes that are needed to enable us
to emulate the performance of Brazil, India and China in the new
biological areas," he said.

Ngubane's plea for greater collaboration between African researchers was
echoed by one of South Africa's leading HIV/AIDS researchers, Hoosen
Coovadia, professor of paediatrics at the University of Natal in Durban,
who said it was often easier to forge collaborative links with overseas
researchers than it was with his local counterparts.

In a separate presentation, a British researcher, Gordan Dougan, told the
conference that recent developments in genomic technology meant that
African countries now had a unique opportunity to develop their own
vaccines needed to immunise their populations against diseases.

Dougan, director of the Centre of Molecular Microbiology and Infection at
Imperial College, London, said that such countries should not be
"hypnotised" by technology. "Vaccines can be produced with relatively
simple technology within five years," he said. Although the initial costs
were high, the benefits for the treatment of diseases like malaria and
tuberculosis were enormous.

The South African conference was funded by the Wellcome Institute, the WK
Kellogg Foundation, the British Council, the Swiss Agency for Development
and Co-operation, and the South African Department of Science and
Technology.

War in Iraq prevented several international delegates from attending the
conference, including the Nobel laureate David Baltimore. Several US
speakers who did attend the conference chose to return home immediately
after making their presentations.

**********************************************

Regulators Hinder Modified Rice

- John Mason, Financial Times; Mar 21, 2003; Sent by Vivian Moses

Food regulators in developing countries are now the main hurdle to the
cultivation of "golden rice" - the genetically modified (GM) crop intended
to combat vitamin A deficiency in poor countries, according to Professor
Ingo Potrykus, the scientist leading the project.

Preliminary results of research at Tufts University in the US have shown
normal portions of the rice could provide the bulk of daily vitamin A
needs, contradicting claims by environmentalists that people would have to
eat vast quantities to derive any benefit, he said.

The future of the crop now lies with regulators from big rice-growing
countries such as India, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. However,
Europe's anti-GM stance could influence these regulators not to approve
the crop, Prof Potrykus said. John Mason, London

**********************************************

Two New EU Surveys....

For those who might not have seen this as yet there are two new EU surveys

The Eurobarometer survey into consumer attitudes to biotechnology
"Europeans and Biotechnology in 2002" and "Review of GMOs under research
and development and in the pipeline in Europe" commissioned by the
European Science and Technology Observatory and the JRC... highlights and
useful links are posted at
http://www.ec-eu-delegation.com.cy/en/news/030317e.htm

Regarding Eurobarometer, the good news is things are not getting worse...
and might even be improving....among it findings... * For GM crops and GM
foods support declined and opposition increased over the period 1996-1999.
From 1999-2002 there is almost no change in levels of support or
opposition. *

All the EU countries, with the exception of Spain and Austria, showed
moderate to large declines in support for both GM crops over the period
1996-1999. Thereafter support more or less stabilises in France and
Germany and increases in all the other countries with the exception of
Italy, which sees a 10% decline in support. *

For GM food there is a rather similar pattern to GM crops. With the
exception of Sweden and Austria all the European countries showed moderate
to large declines in support over the years 1996-1999. Post 1999, the
majority of countries show an increase in support for GM foods with the
exceptions of Germany and Finland, which are stable, and Italy, France and
the Netherlands which show further declines.

and on a comical note... * "The typical supporter of GM food is more
likely to be male, well-educated, optimistic about technology in general,
engaged with biotechnology, science and, to a lesser extent, politics, has
trust in the food chain and holds materialistic values."

Full report is attached or available at
http://europa.eu.int/comm/public_opinion/archives/eb/ebs_177_en.pdf

The second report "Review of GMOs under research and development and in
the pipeline in Europe" suggests the number of Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMO) field trial applications in the EU has dropped by 76%
since 1998. GMO research has also been seriously undermined. 39% 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 % of respondents
have stopped projects in this field

Full report at http://www.jrc.es/gmoreview.pdf

- Bernard Marantelli, Agriculture Biotechnology Council, email:
enquiries@abcinformation.org, www.abcinformation.org

**********************************************

Dramatic Fall in EU Research

- Vivian Moses, V.Moses@qmul.ac.uk

Dear Colleagues, You might be interested in the following which came
yesterday from EuropaBio - with implications for the UK.

Greetings, Vivian
------

Brussels, 21 March 2003: According to a new Joint Research (JRC) report,
plant biotechnology research has dropped in the EU by 76% since 1998. The
report attributes this fall mainly to the Environment Ministers' decision
in 1999 to block any new approvals of genetically modified (GM) products
in Europe. "The findings clearly indicate that Europe is likely to become
an importer of plant biotechnology rather than a developer," says Simon
Barber, Director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio (1). With EU
heads of state and government concerned about boosting research and
innovation to build the knowledge economy, these latest figures must be
seen as cause for concern.

"Without research, innovation suffers. Europe cannot allow investment in
research on plant biotechnology to wither. This is a very significant
technology allowing benefits in sustainable agriculture not seen since the
Green Revolution," says Simon Barber. "Plant biotechnology must be
developed in Europe for EU farmers. This will help increase
competitiveness in this area while promoting sustainable agriculture
benefiting all EU citizens, and in turn impact favourably on growth and
jobs in Europe."

The JRC report shows that the development of innovative products is being
displaced to other countries as European small and medium sized
enterprises (SMEs) scale down their research and large firms continue
their research and commercialisation outside the EU. Just recently, the
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
(ISAAA) reported that the 2002 global acreage of biotechnology crops
increased by 12 percent from 2001 and for the sixth consecutive year
farmers worldwide adopted biotech crops at a double-digit pace, with 2002
global biotech acreage reaching 58.7 million hectares.

"While the JRC report compares the US and Europe, it must be remembered
that the United States is not alone in this developing market," says Simon
Barber. "Leading growers according to the ISAAA latest figures are now
Argentina, Canada and China."

For a copy of the full report http://www.jrc.es/gmoreview.pdf

**********************************************

Genes & Society Festival

- London, UK; 26-27 April, 2003;
http://www.instituteofideas.com/ The Institute of Ideas in association
with Pfizer

Genetics is one of the most-high profile issues of the day. New
discoveries generate media coverage almost every day, and spark
excitement, awe, fear and contention in equal measure. Genetic discoveries
are seen as having significant implications for health, medicine,
reproduction, religion, food, the environment, industry, insurance,
employment, privacy, self-identity and even terrorism. The impact of
genetics goes way beyond the laboratory with concerns and interest being
reflected in popular culture through film, TV, art, and heated media
discussions.

April 2003 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Crick and
Watson's famous paper on the structure of DNA in the scientific journal
Nature. The Institute of Ideas' weekend-long Genes and Society Festival,
in association with Pfizer, brings together a host of scientists, writers,
social commentators, regulators, philosophers, artists and campaigners to
reflect on and debate the many implications of genetic discoveries and
advances.

Does genetics throw up uniquely new and difficult ethical dilemmas? Can
scientists, industry and government be trusted to employ genetic
technologies to the benefit of all? Have we become too suspicious of those
involved in science? Are there any moral or natural limits to what humans
should attempt to manipulate and control? Are we overreacting to the
unfamiliar? These are only a few of the important and varied questions to
be discussed. - Tony Gilland, Institute of Ideas

Sessions on GM Crop Related Topics include...

Intellectual Property and Developing Countries - which way forward?:
Genetic science is big business, and companies move quickly to patent
genetic discoveries. Business needs to earn a return on its investments
and argues that without patent protection there would be no breakthroughs.
Critics counter that the common heritage of humanity is being privatised
and that developing countries cannot afford to meet the costs of patented
technologies. How can we best encourage the development of new products
from genetic science and ensure that they don't only benefit the rich?

GM Crops and the Developing World - who decides?: Has the developing world
become a battle ground for the competing interests of Western
multinationals and campaign groups? China and India have both embraced GM
technology and 75 per cent of biotech farmers are based in the developing
world. Yet Zambia refuses to accept GM grain as food aid, concerned about
whether the technology will have unforeseen consequences and fearing that
it won't be allowed to export its produce to European countries opposed to
GM. What are the benefits of this technology for developing countries and
who decides?

GM Crops - time to say yes?: Farm-scale trials of GM crops in the UK will
be complete by the end of this year. The government is expected to make a
decision on whether to allow the commercial use of GM either this year or
next. Are we now in a position to start experimenting with this
technology? Or are the benefits and potential pitfalls still too
uncertain? What should be learnt from this debate for the implementation
of other new technologies? Is the caution that has been exercised to date
a step forwards or back?

**********************************************

The Release Of Genetically Modified Crops Into The Environment.. two
Papers

Part I. Overview of current status and regulations.
Jan-Peter Nap, Peter L. J. Metz, Marga Escaler, Anthony J. Conner The
Plant Journal

Part II. Overview of ecological risk assessment.
Anthony J. Conner, Travis R. Glare, Jan-Peter Nap The Plant Journal

You can download these documents now at http://www.agbios.com/

**********************************************

It's the World, Stupid

- Norman P. Neureiter, Science Adviser to the Secretary of State;
http://www.state.gov/g/stas/18780.htm Remarks delivered to the National
Academy of Engineering's Symposium; Washington, DC. Full Speech at
http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/WO0303/S00242.htm Excerpts below..

Educating the public is an area where I think the science and engineering
community has to do much more. On a complex issue, it will not be enough
just to tell the policy wonks at State what they should do. For instance,
today in Europe, political pressures have escalated the concept of
precaution, to the point where policy makers are demanding zero risk in
decisions on genetically modified foods, environmental pollutants, new
energy sources, etc. There is nothing that is zero risk--not even going
out the door and crossing the street. And I guarantee you, there is
definitely not zero risk in entering that building across the street and
trying to influence the elusive and often chaotic process of formulating
our nation s policy.

**********************************************

Organic Quackery

- Jeff CLothier, Des Moines Register

http://desmoinesregister.com/opinion/stories/c2129999/20793724.html

Consumers, don't be fooled. The issue over feed standards for so-called
"organic" livestock is one of marketing and profit, not of food quality.

The movement has succeeded in co-opting the term "organic" by defining it
in a very narrow, inaccurate way. "Organic" simply means pertaining to or
derived from life. This includes chemicals such as benzene, all manner of
petroleum products and food products of both conventional and
biotechnological processes.

In short, all food is organic. To be inorganic, a substance must be based
on or consist of non-biological material, such as silicon. Using this
deception, the organic movement has created a very profitable market
niche. This niche would disappear were it not for the more efficient,
economical, historically safe and increasingly sustainable modern
food-production methods the movement rails against in its propaganda.

Let me take my turn in redefining so-called "organic" food. It should be
labeled "pricey, over-marketed foodstuffs produced by inefficient,
labor-intensive means and marketed to the affluent and gullible."

**********************************************

Philippines: Is Greenpeace Running DENR now?

- Alvin Capino, ABS-CBN News (Philippines) March 20, 2003 (sent by Andrew
Apel)
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/abs_news_body.asp?section=Opinion&oid=18683

The continuing revelations on the scary extent of activities and influence
of the USAID-funded AGILE in shaping government policies have only served
to underscore the significance of the proposal of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel
Jr. to regulate the activities of PR and lobby groups in meddling with the
work of the legislature and government agencies.

Indeed, as we have seen from the various exposÈs on the manipulations of
AGILE to shift government policies to ones that would favor American
interests (concerns ranging from "open skies" to the privatization of tax
collection), these lobby groups could be used as convenient conduits where
global business and political interests can bring in "financial
ammunition" to push their agenda on the local front.

Pimentel might wish to include international pressure groups like
Greenpeace among those whose activities should be rigorously regulated.
While the activities of Greenpeace are more overt than those of AGILE, it
too has vast international financial resources to put pressure on
government and legislative decision-making. As with AGILE, what Greenpeace
wants to happen may not be the best for the Philippines.

Take the case of recent news reports where Environment Secretary Elisea
Gozun appeared to be openly and publicly contradicting the earlier
announced policy of President Arroyo adopting biotechnology as the anchor
of the government's food security and sufficiency program.

It's a no brainer to guess who's behind this position of Gozun, who,
before her appointment, was identified with environmental activist groups.
Greenpeace had a field day telling the media about Gozun's reversal of the
Arroyo administration's policy on biotechnology.

Greenpeace's principal lobbyist against biotechnology, Beau Baconguiz
(he's been saying that biotechnology would result in "a million dead
bodies and sick children, cancer clusters and deformities"), hailed Gozun
and cited her "adherence to the Greenpeace principle which urges
scientists to err on the side of caution."

In the Greenpeace press release, Baconguiz said that Gozun had promised to
review the approval given by the Arroyo administration for the domestic
propagation of genetically modified seed types.

We hope that Gozun was just misquoted by Baconguiz in the Greenpeace press
release. She may be new at the DENR, but it's hard to believe that she is
not aware of the government's probiotechnology policy. President Arroyo
herself announced this at the mammoth food summit in Mindanao attended by
all of the country's major farmers' groups.

Gozun, as the alter ego of the President at the DENR, should now be ready
to take the bigger perspective on the issue of biotechnology. She should
free herself from the narrow confines of the so-called Greenpeace
principle that says that, even in the absence of any evidence on the
alleged dangers of biotechnology, it should not be adopted at all until
its safety is proven to the satisfaction of Greenpeace. What Greenpeace is
saying is that biotechnology is "guilty," and the people advocating its
use would have to prove their "innocence."

The problem with this position is that Greenpeace decides whether or not
biotechnology is safe for the environment and the people's health. It
doesn't want to accept the conclusions made by scientists, including
Filipino scientists, that their studies have shown none of the negative
health and environmental impact that Greenpeace fears. Greenpeace doesn't
want to consider the fact that genetically modified seeds are being used
extensively in the United States and many other countries without any
problem.

Gozun might wish to weigh the speculations made by Greenpeace against the
benefits of using genetically modified high-yielding seed varieties that
require minimal or no use of toxic chemical pesticides. We wonder if Gozun
has asked Greenpeace what the alternatives are for our farmers. Organic
farming is certainly not the answer. The only other option is to continue
planting seed types that need millions of gallons of chemical pesticides
to make things viable for farmers.

If Gozun has really adopted a position against biotechnology, as
Greenpeace wants the public to believe, she should have taken up matters
first with the President before making any public announcement on the
issue.

The environment secretary is well advised to be cautious in dealing with
Baconguiz. Greenpeace has its own agenda. She has to keep in mind that she
should adhere to what is best for the country as decided by the President
and the rest of the Cabinet. It is to the interest of Greenpeace to milk
every possible benefit for its agenda from Gozun's alleged
anti-biotechnology stance even if this pictures her in direct conflict
with her colleagues in the Cabinet.

In the Greenpeace press release, for example, it was stressed that Gozun's
opposition to the policy promoting biotechnology "was in contrast to the
prevailing position of other government agencies." The reference is
obviously to Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit, who has adopted the findings
of the Filipino scientific community and the American Medical Association
that genetically modified food products are safe.

We would like to assume that Gozun means well. However, we hope she also
realizes that when a Cabinet member opposes an announced official policy
of the President in public and in the process aligns herself with a
well-funded international group, the public cannot help having doubts in
their minds.