Today in AgBioView: April 9, 2003
* Viable Production Not Possible Without GM
* It's GM or Starvation - Borlaug
* DNA Pioneer Urges Gene Free-for-all
* Agricultural Expert Tudge
* USDA - LIST OF NEW ADVISORY COMM. ON BIOTECH AND 21ST CENTURY AGRI
* The Postmodern Disconnect: Food Fetishism and Agricultural Reality
* BASMATI AND OTHER FRAGRANT RICES
* Tyler Prize $200 K Awarded to Bt Scientist and Biocontrol Expert
* THE GREAT organic CON? -Revolution in healthy eating? But now it's big
* The Organic Food Lobby
Viable Production Not Possible Without GM
- Aaron Edmonds, April 8, 2003, Canberra Times
BIOTECHNOLOGY, including genetic modification, is vital for Australian
grain production to remain economically viable, and become environmentally
sustainable. This is the reality of a production system under increasing
environmental pressures and a marketplace that is becoming more
competitive by the day. Denying ourselves the answers that modern
biotechnology can give us is to deny the realities of modern farming. It's
a complacency we can't afford.
Many Australian grain growers have become comfortable with wheat prices
around the $200 a tonne mark. This is perhaps even on the lower side of
what some might hope for in any given year. We get by because we are among
the most efficient producers in the world. But what happens if the
Australian dollar appreciates from its recent US59 cents to US80 cents?
The consequence is simple. Growers will again have to try to find further
ways to cut costs. How long can this continue?
Markets are also becoming increasingly discerning about the environmental
aspects of grain production. Australia has a "clean and green" image, but
can we back this up? Our salinity problem is attracting international
attention. Our massive reliance on artificially manufactured fertilisers
is sustained by non-renewable fuel sources (it takes the energy of one
litre of oil to produce one kilogram of urea). Our soil erosion again made
world news when dust clouds swept over Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne last
So not only do farmers have to become increasingly efficient producers,
they also have to farm sustainably. It is a huge task and it needs to
happen quickly. Recently the spectre of bio-terrorism and quarantine
breaches have raised new scenarios that would require plant breeders to
respond very rapidly to any disease outbreak in our food crops. It is
circumstances such as these that make gene technology crucial to our
profitable survival and it goes far beyond the debate on
As well as disease resistance, gene technology opens the way to yield
increases through crop tolerance to drought, waterlogging, and aluminium
and salinity tolerance, to name a few. The genetic modification of
nitrogen-fixing bacteria will increase the amount of nitrogen delivered to
legumes. Physical and physiological resistance to insect pests will be
able to be bred into crops, reducing our reliance on toxic synthetic
pesticides. So what we growers must start to understand is that truly
sustainable grain production in our lifetime will not be possible without
the use of GM technologies.
The longer we defer the use of GM technology in Australia, the more likely
it is that large overseas companies will patent and control the GM
breakthroughs that our own grower-funded research groups could have
secured. The reason we are backing away from adopting GM technology
appears to stem from the European Union's strong opposition. We seem to
have overlooked the fact that our grain markets do not lie in the EU,
which is a net exporter.
Our prime markets are Asia and the Middle East where most countries do not
discriminate against GM crops. Clearly, the GM debate needs much clearer
thinking than we have seen so far.
Aaron Edmonds is a West Australian grain grower. This article first
appeared in Feeding Tomorrow's World: Biotechnology and the grain
industry, published by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
It's GM or Starvation
- NORMAN BORLAUG, April 9, 2003, Herald and Weekly Times (Australia)
Biotechnology is the key to feeding the world.
THE world's population was about 500 million in 1650. It did not reach one
billion until 1850. When I was born 89 years ago, the world's population
was 1.5 billion people. Now it is 6.2 billion. There are now 80 million
more people to feed every year.
The green revolution has had a huge impact on feeding this population.
Take India, for example. Indian wheat production in 1961 was 11 million
tonnes. By 2000, this had grown to 76 million tonnes. Yields went from
856kg a hectare to 2.9 tonnes a hectare. Despite India's population
growing from 452 million in 1961 to 1.02 billion in 2000, they were still
producing enough food to feed themselves. The cultivated land area went
from 11 million hectares to about 22 million hectares.
If you tried to produce the harvest of 2000 with the yield of 1961, you
would have had to cut down all the forests. On a world basis, cereal
production in 1949 to 1951 averaged 650 million tonnes. From 1997 to
1999, average production was 1887 million tonnes. The land used, on
average, was 660 million hectares.
If you had tried to produce the harvest of 1999 with the technology of
1950, you would have required another 1.1 billion hectares of land.
Biotechnology is a wonderful new tool to complement the genetic and plant
breeding methods used before. The difference is we can reach across the
taxonomic barriers that we could not cross before due to sterility. This
technology opens many new doors for disease and insect resistance.
Mother Nature was showing these genetic modifications long before
Neolithic women began agriculture some 10,000 years before Christ. Wheat
is a good example of Mother Nature building a pretty complex organism.
First, it crossed wild triticum with Aegilops speltoides to produce
spaghetti wheat. Later, Mother Nature made another cross with Aegilops
tauschii (goat grass) to produce the bread wheats.
She did not do this overnight: a million years did not make much
difference to her. But today, we have to use new technology or move into
marginal areas and plough up more fields, with more erosion and
destruction of wildlife. But we need to find the middle of the road,
whether it is biotechnology or conventional genetics and plant breeding.
One of my concerns is that too much of the genetically modified organism
technology is falling into the hands of one or two companies. I don't
believe in a monopoly and the best protection is public sector programs or
growers and the public sector working together, such as in Australia.
With the technology available now or in the research pipeline, we can feed
10 billion people by the middle of this century. This has to be
complemented with good agronomy, good weed control and good irrigation.
You have to get the right economic policies to permit the farmer to adopt
new technology. If these pieces come together, this will be a
continuation of the green revolution.
I get sick and tired of listening to people who say we can produce enough
food with organic fertilisers. Don't get me wrong: I support food being
produced by organic fertilisers. But don't give Third World nations the
idea that you can produce food for 6.2 billion people without destroying
many lands that should not be opened up for cultivation.
The question remains: will the world's farmers be permitted to use this GM
technology to benefit humankind? International agricultural research
expenditure is decreasing due to the lack of spending by the World Bank
and other agencies. The world spends $US850 billion each year on
weaponry, of which the US accounts for 47 per cent. But there is no money
for food, roads or schools in the Third World.
As Nobel Peace laureate John Boyd Orr said: "You can't build peace on
Nobel peace prize laureate Norman Borlaug bred wheat varieties that helped
avert hunger and starvation and is recognised as the "father of the green
revolution", This is an edited version of his speech to the Grains Council
of Australia in Adelaide last week.
DNA Pioneer Urges Gene Free-for-all
- Tim Radford, The Guardian (UK), April 9, 2003
Governments, popes and presidents should not try to control the use of
genetic knowledge, the man who began the DNA revolution said yesterday.
James Watson, who with Francis Crick in Cambridge, 50 years ago this
month, deciphered the double helix of DNA, said he would let people choose
the characteristics of their children if it could be done safely.
"We are the products of our genes. No one else is going to take care of us
or give us rules for how to behave, except ourselves," he told an
international conference in Lyon, France. "I am against society imposing
rules on individuals for how they want to use genetic knowledge. Just let
people decide what they want to do."
Professor Watson, 75, still active in science and still characteristically
provocative, argued for parental choice. They should decide whether or not
to give birth to a child with Down's syndrome - or, in future, one with
enhanced genes, he said. "Anything - a short child, a tall child, an
aggressive child ... We don't know how. I'm for using genetics at the
level of the individual. Nothing like what happened in Germany [under the
Nazis], or when we sterilised people because they had mental diseases. It
is best to let people try and do what they think is best. I wouldn't want
someone else to tell me what to do - as long as you are not hurting
Since the launch of genetic modification, there have been alarms about
enhancement of future babies. "Enhancement means making better," Prof
Watson said. "I'd have liked to have been born brighter. Our whole
civilisation has been giving people the right to try and improve things.
Occasionally you get very conservative governments who want to stop all
improvement. I think it is human nature, the drive to make things better."
He also thought that environmentalists were wrong on genetically modified
food: "They should be worried about that Chinese virus. That's a real
Prof Watson, with Crick and Maurice Wilkins of King's College London, won
the 1962 Nobel prize for physiology and medicine, and was instrumental in
launching the human genome project. Last night he closed a day of
celebration by Nobel laureates of the DNA anniversary with forthright
comments. He said President George Bush's ban on embryo stem cell
research was extremely harmful, but he was less dogmatic on Europe's ban
on reproductive cloning, because the technology carried risks. As for
multiple cloning, "any woman who cloned herself would be creating a great
deal of trouble for her daughter".
Sir Paul Nurse, a British geneticist who won a Nobel prize in 2001,
disagreed with Prof Watson's libertarianism: "I would rather see a great
social and political debate rather than simply putting information out
there and letting individuals decide."
Agricultural Expert Tudge
- John W. Cross
I read that Colin Tudge is visiting research fellow at the "Centre for
Philosophy of Natural and Social Science" at the London School of
Mr. Tudge's point of view is truly amazing, an educated man whose writing
is factually wrong or interpreted backwards in nearly every sentence. For
example, where did this man learn his economics? He writes that
agriculture is about feeding people. Wrong. It is about farmers earning a
living. Farmers are motivated to produce more than their families consume
because they can earn money doing so.
Although it is unstated, one detects a distinctly Marxist, not a
scientific, basis for his arguments. For example, there is an innuendo
that somehow the involvement of the profit-motive in agriculture is wrong.
In one place he even makes it explicit: "GM is not about feeding people.
It is about commerce. Its advocates do not occupy the moral high ground."
He imagines that farmers have no choice in what to plant, claiming that
interviews with farmers around the world back him up. Obviously, he must
not have interviewed American farmers, who are solicited each year by
competing seedsmen from many companies, all eager to win their business.
Many of those salesmen offer both GM and non-GM products from the same
company in direct competition. The successful salesman wins a commission
whichever product, GM or not, the customer buys. If GM seeds did not
perform, the farmers wouldn't be willing to pay a premium price for them.
Since GM seeds are most established in the US, his failure to consider the
aggressive competition for the American farmer's dollar is a major
Not only ignorant, but wrong: There is no government strategy for
agriculture because there shouldn't be one. It's the former Marxist
countries that told their farmers what and where to plant. And we know how
well Marxist agriculture performed in Russia and elsewhere. Millions
starved because of the half-baked policy decisions of Communist bosses. A
great many of those who starved under Marxism were farmers.
It is factually untrue that the US Food and Drug Administration requires
new drugs to have distinct advantages. The FDA approves me-too and generic
drugs all the time. It is the pharmaceutical companies themselves that
trumpet the (often small) advantages of their offerings over established,
innovator products. Who's to complain? Patients benefit when more, rather
than fewer, alternative treatments are available.
Again, Tudge complains that GM has not already been commercially applied
to making plants more drought resistant, ignorant of the great amount of
current research aimed at just that, as though solving this technically
demanding problem could be done instantly. He conveniently ignores the
fact that over-regulation of the field has discouraged research on
incremental GM solutions. GM solutions are so costly that only major
improvements in major crops can be commercialized.
Regarding risks, Tudge believes, "But the risks are not known to be small:
they are not known at all, and in principle they are unknowable." How does
this situation differ, both qualitatively and quantitatively from the
risks arising from nearly every other human endeavor? All living is risky,
often unknowably so. Only practical experience managing the known risks
can establish their magnitude and allow development of the most
appropriate countermeasures. As far as unknown risks are concerned, they
are just that: unknown and likely non-existent.
Tudge is just relying on fear and emotion as a crutch to win his argument.
His Marxist central planning will not solve agriculture's problems.
Instead it would provide its own unwelcome and inhumane unintended
I could write a whole book refuting Mr. Tudge's arguments. I guess I'll
stop here for now.
John W. Cross, Ph.D.
>> Brave New World? - April 5, 200, New Scientist
>> Dear Christopher and Anthony,
>> Some of the nicest people I know in science (and most scientists are
>> are manipulators of DNA - "genetic engineers". Truly, they want to make
>> the world a better place. I have no doubt that if we had anything
VENEMAN ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENTS TO THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY
AND 21ST CENTURY AGRICULTURE
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2003 - Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman today
announced appointments to the new Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and
21st Century Agriculture. Appointees will serve one- or two-year terms,
and may be reappointed to serve up to six consecutive years.
"This committee will take a forward look at agriculture biotechnology and
will serve as an important resource as USDA addresses emerging issues
related to this field," said Veneman. "I am pleased that these individuals
have agreed to provide their time and expertise to serve on this
The committee is charged with examining the long-term impacts of
biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and providing
guidance to USDA on pressing individual issues related to the application
of biotechnology in agriculture.
The Committee is composed of 18 members from 14 states, the District of
Columbia and Mexico. The members represent the biotechnology industry, the
seed industry, farmers, environmental and consumer organizations, academia
and international plant research centers, the food industry, product
shippers and traders. The appointments will be published in the Federal
Register in the coming week.
Patricia A. Layton, Professor, Department of Forest Resources, Clemson
University, South Carolina will serve as Chair of the Advisory Committee
on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture.
The other members of the Committee are:
Daryl D. Buss, Dean, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of
Wisconsin, at Madison, Wisconsin;
Leon C. Corzine, Farmer, and Chairman, Biotechnology Working Group,
National Corn Growers Association, in Illinois;
Carole Cramer, Professor, Virginia Tech, and Chief Scientific Officer,
CropTech Corporation, in Virginia;
Richard T. Crowder, Chief Executive Officer, American Seed Trade
Association, in Virginia;
Michael D. Dykes, Vice President, Government Affairs, Monsanto Company, in
Juan C. Enriquez-Cabot, Director, Life Sciences Project, Harvard Business
School, in Massachusetts;
Randal W. Giroux, Staff Scientist, Cargill, Inc., in Minnesota;
Duane Grant, Farmer and Member, National Association of Wheat Growers and
U.S. Wheat Inc. Biotechnology Committee, in Idaho;
David A. Hoisington, Director, Applied Biotechnology Center and
Bioinformatics, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT),
in Mexico City, Mexico;
Gregory A. Jaffe, Co-Director, Biotechnology Project, Center for Science
in the Public Interest, in Washington, D.C.;
David C. Magnus, Assistant Professor, Center for Bioethics, University of
Pennsylvania, in Pennsylvania;
Terry L. Medley, Vice President, Global Regulatory Affairs, DuPont
Agriculture and Nutrition, in Delaware;
Margaret G. Mellon, Director, Food and Environment Program, Union of
Concerned Scientists, in Washington, D.C;
Ronald D. Olson, Vice President, Grain Operations, General Mills, in
Jerome B. Slocum, Farmer and General Manager, North Mississippi Grain
Company, in Mississippi;
Keith C. Triebwasser, Manager, Product Safety and Regulatory Affairs, The
Procter and Gamble Company, in Ohio;
Lisa W. Zannoni, Head, Global Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations,
BASF Plant Science, in New Jersey.
The Postmodern Disconnect: Food Fetishism and Agricultural Reality
- Thomas R. DeGregori, Health Facts and Fears, April 8, 2003
There seems to be some disconnect from reality when one hears strident
voices dogmatically proclaiming that our food system has "failed" and must
be entirely transformed, or that the "Green Revolution" (which boosted
crop yields through improved fertilizer use) is a failure. People who say
that must think, as Tertullian (and later St. Augustine) would say, Credo
Quia Absurdum Est ˜ "I believe it because it is absurd."
That it is absurd can quickly be seen if one simply glances at the produce
section of a modern supermarket and thecornucopia it offers to an
increasing number of the world's population. It is absurd because though
world population has doubled in the last forty years the absolute number
of people in poverty and hunger has been falling steadily. Such absurd
statements are made possibly because being absurd is the only way that
some people can find to be different. One could legitimately argue that
the number of those experiencing poverty and hunger is too large and
should be declining faster, but to do so requires improving upon the
agronomy that has taken us thus far, not destroying it.
Absurdists tend to be oblivious to facts but some of their fellow
travelers, at least, hunger for facts. The hardcore believers are probably
beyond redemption, but they must traffic in back-up factoids to strengthen
the resolve of the marginal believers. So, the obvious abundance and
cheapness of food is countered by the assertion that it is less nutritious
than "organic" food. Just add in a bit of spiritualism about immeasurable
mystic potencies in "organic" food, and you can even get people to ignore
or discount important evidence such as the nutrition-related increase in
height and health of humans in developed countries and in a growing number
of developing countries.
But What About the Planet?
When the belief that "organic" food is in some inchoate manner better
cannot be sustained, there is the ever-present claim that modern food
production is bad for the environment. But to compare modern agriculture
performance with that of some utopian past or some putative alternative,
one ought to compare the environmental impacts in each case from output
sufficient to feed the world's current population at the impressive per
capita caloric intake that is now possible. By this reasonable criterion,
the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of modern agriculture. A brief
review of this evidence is order. The peer-reviewed literature on these
issues is clear and substantial:
1. Yield increases have meant that we are producing about 2.7 times as
much food to feed a doubled population on virtually the same land area
under cultivation as in 1960. For grains, the staple of the Green
Revolution, it has meant a mere 4% increase in land under cultivation.
Stated simply, 1960 yields would require virtually all of the land not yet
being used for crops - or taken out of cultivation for habitat and
wildlife conservation - to be cultivated.
2. Green Revolution crops are more efficient in using nitrogen, requiring
less nitrogen input for each unit of output. As Norman Borlaug stated in
his Nobel acceptance speech: "The old tall-strawed varieties would produce
only ten kilos of additional grains for each kilogram of nitrogen applied,
while the new varieties can produce twenty to twenty-five kilograms or
more of additional grain per kilogram of nitrogen applied." Synthetic
nitrogen fertilizer costs money, so farmers attempt to become more
efficient in its use. The best measure of this is the ratio of nitrogen in
the fertilizer applied to the nitrogen in the crop. This ratio fell for
American farmers by 2% per year from 1986 to 1995. Another measure of
increasing efficiency in nitrogen use is the feed-to-meat ratio. Waggoner
and Ausubel (2002) report that the "calculated feed to produce a unit of
meat fell at an annual rate of 0.9%" from 1967 to 1992 and that with
increasing crop yields per acre, "cropland for grain-fed animals to
produce meat for Americans shrank 2.2% annually."
3. Modern conservation tillage (or reduced, minimum, or no-tillage)
agriculture using pesticides for weed and pest control conserves water,
soil, and biodiversity better than its "organic" competitors and better
than any previous forms of tillage (DeGregori 1985, 111-112). Conservation
tillage is building up soil and soil quality. Planting with a drill
preserves soil structure and vegetative cover (and the diversity of life
therein) and preserves the earthworms and other lifeforms that are often
destroyed by the deep plowing used in "organic" and older forms of
These gentler modern practices have been expanded in recent years with
crops genetically engineered for pest resistance or for herbicide
tolerance, allowing forms of conservation tillage in which a less toxic,
broad-spectrum pesticide is substituted for multiple sprayings of an array
of targeted pesticides and herbicides, thereby reducing overall pesticide
use. "Precision agriculture," using computers and GPS to monitor inputs
and outputs over a farmer's entire cropland, creates still more
efficiency, as does software advising farmers on the most efficient input
Where Will Get Water, Though?
The environmental resource that is generally considered most threatened is
water, and many worry about its sufficiency for sustaining a growing world
population. Vandana Shiva has an unverified belief that "food crops for
local needs" are "water prudent" (Shiva 2000). The claim is often made
that modern agronomy has some "voracious" need for water, much as claims
were made about the Green Revolution crops requiring huge amounts of
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has just
released a study that brings together the literature on water use in
agriculture, once again challenging the absurdist claims of those opposed
to modern agronomy (FAO 2003). Contrary to the claims of Shiva and others
about the Green Revolution's voracious water use, in agriculture "water
productivity increased by at least 100% between 1961 and 2001" (FAO 2003,
25). "The major factor behind this growth has been yield increase. For
many crops, the yield increase has occurred without increased water
consumption, and sometimes with even less water given the increase in the
harvesting index" (FAO 2003, 25).
For wheat and rice, two major crops of the Green Revolution, "water
consumption experienced little if any variation during these years" as per
capita water use in food production fell by half (FAO 2003, 25). FAO
argues that genetically engineered crops can contribute to increased
"water use efficiency" (2003, 28). A 100% growth in efficiency means that
"water needs for food per capita halved between 1961 and 2001" (FAO 2003,
FAO does not stop with merely reviewing past performance but lays out an
agenda, including genetic engineering, for sustaining growth in output
without destroying the environment. "Plant-level options rely mainly on
germplasm improvements, e.g. improving seedling vigor, increasing rooting
depth, increasing the harvest index (the marketable part of the plant as
part of its total biomass), and enhancing photosynthetic efficiency...The
modern rice varieties have about a threefold increase in water
productivity compared with traditional varieties. Progress in extending
these achievements to other crops has been considerable and will probably
accelerate following identification of underlying genes" (FAO 2003,
The FAO study brings together data from literature in journals on water
use that many of us working on issues of agriculture do not always follow
as closely as we should. The FAO study is a must read. The question
remains as to how our intrepid "organic" afictionados will respond to it.
Undoubtedly they will ignore it until they can conjure yet another
specious reason that all of modern agriculture is a failure.
This does not mean that modern agriculture cannot be improved or that it
does not merit constructive criticism -- all human endeavors warrant and
benefit from criticism -- but as the FAO water study shows, the path to a
sustainable future requires that we continue the research in science and
technology that brought us this far. I believe it because it is not
absurd. There is massive evidence supporting it.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). Unlocking
the Water Potential of Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, 2003.
ftp://ftp.fao.org/agl/aglw/docs/unlocking_e.pdf. DeGregori, Thomas R. A
Theory of Technology: Continuity and Change in Human Development. Ames,
IA: Iowa State University Press, 1985. Shiva, Vandana. BBC Reith Lectures
2000, BBC online network, May 12. Waggoner, P. E. and Ausubel, J.H. A
Framework for Sustainability Science: A Renovated IPAT Identity, PNAS
(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) 99(12):7860-7865, 11
Thomas R. DeGregori (http:www.uh.edu/~trdegreg), Ph.D., is a professor of
economics at the University of Houston. Material for this article comes in
part from his books Bountiful Harvest; The Environment, Our Natural
Resources, and Modern Technology; and the forthcoming Origins of the
BASMATI AND OTHER FRAGRANT RICES
- C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education,
Bangalore, India; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Basmati-Texmati controversy brought me some queries on the varieties
of fragrant rice.
There are several varieties of rice that are fragrant. Since the name
Basmati is the most popular, most or all of them go by that name. The S2
fraction (the other is S1) of a low molecular weight volatile compound
2-acetyl-1-pyrroline (2AP) is responsible for the fragrance. Even if raw
rice is not very perceptibly fragrant, cooking process releases the aroma.
The fragrance may be lost on prolonged storage of raw rice, as 2AP is
not a very stable compound.
2AP is easily synthesised using proline (D- or L-) and a sugar (glucose,
fructose or sucrose). 2AP is also found in the flowers of Madhuca indica
(Bassia latifolia), which contain large amounts of nectar. Some tribals
in Madhya Pradesh use these flowers to brew an intoxicating drink that has
the same smell of Basmati rice.
What is more interesting is that 2AP is also produced by tigers and
leopards, in addition to the two species of plants. The carnivores
release the compound in a milky fluid, which they spray upwards from below
the base of the tail. They lift the tail up while spraying this fluid.
It is believed that 2AP is also produced by a certain breeds of dog and
may also be found in human sweat in some cases.
The aroma of Basmati is often described as mousey. I have enquired of
several educated north-Indian housewives, who regularly use quality
Basmati rice and they agreed with this description. Mice may also be
producing 2AP that is secreted on to the skin surface. That mice too
produce 2AP has to be scientifically established, but the Indian
commercial enterprise seems to have has put it to use a long time ago,
which may even qualify as Traditional Knowledge. Once I was warned by a
resident of Delhi not buy Basmati rice, if it is below a particular price
level (which is consistently climbing up). He said that ordinary rice is
sprayed with washings of rodent skins to produce the cheap varieties of
the so-called Basmati rice.
It is believed that 2AP is used in communication signalling by the
carnivores. In the rice varieties 2AP may be functioning as an attractant
for predators of pests, the same way as jasmonic acid and methyl jasmonate
and as defence against microbial pathogens.
There are several commercial brands of 'Basmati' rice on the Indian
markets, costing from Rs. 30 to 130. There are some fancy varieties that
are far more expensive. It may be easier to bring fragrance to rice by
simply adding a few flowers of Madhuca indica, while cooking. Since it is
easy to synthesise 2AP, it may even be added to cooked ordinary rice.
These methods are hassle free and are probably far less expensive.
Most of rice preparations in India are heavily spiced. I always wondered
of the chances of the delicate aroma of Basmati showing up, in the
competition of the odour of one spice masking that of the other. Hype,
built on status consciousness, mostly due to the high cost, has put
Basmati on the pedestal. When I say this, the others may say that pigs
cannot perceive fragrance, but only the stink of the gutter.
Tyler Prize Worth $200,000 Each Awarded to Bt Scientist and Biocontrol
(From Prakash: Among the past Tyler winners are Swaminathan, Peter Raven,
Jared Diamond, Jane Goodall, Bruce Ames, TT Chang, and Paul Ehlrich)
The 2003 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement ($200,000 and Gold
Medallion) is being awarded to Dr. Hans R. Herren for leading one of the
largest and most successful biological control programs in the world. His
research and action saved one of Africa's most important food crops,
cassava. When the mealybug was attacking the cassava plant and threatening
over 200 million people of famine across tropical and subtropical Africa.
Dr. Herren and his research team identified and introduced a parasitic
wasp, a natural enemy of the mealybug. The wasp brought the mealybug under
full control within 10 years, preventing widespread famine and the death
of an estimated 20 million people. This biological control program also
eliminated the need for and risks associated with chemical pesticides.
The 2003 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement is being awarded to
Yoel Margalith to honor him for his contributions to the biological
control of mosquitoes and black flies. His discovery in 1976 of the new
microbial subspecies known as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) has
had an enormous effect on human health and on environmental quality.
The 2003 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement is being awarded to Sir
Richard Doll to honor him for his pioneering contributions on the
association between a range of environmental agents and cancer.
THE GREAT organic CON? - It was hailed as a revolution in healthy eating.
But now it's big business, ...
- DIANA APPLEYARD, Daily Mail (UK) April 8, 2003
THE GREAT organic CON? - It was hailed as a revolution in healthy eating.
But now it's big business, isn't the reality that it tastes no better,
costs more - and may not be totally natural? WHEN organic food arrived in
supermarkets 15 years ago, many of us rushed to fill our trolleys with
this 'healthier' food.
Here, DIANA APPLEYARD talks to four women who believe they have been
tricked by the great organic food revolution ... JOY DAVIES, 46, a food
writer, has two children: eight-year-old Huw and Tom, two. She is married
to Gareth, 48, a food consultant, and the family live in Blackheath,
South-East London. Joy says: WHEN the organic revolution arrived, I was as
interested as the next woman. But many advisers to organic food companies
have pulled the wool over our eyes.
They have been quick to damn the use of herbicides and pesticides as being
bad for you, but have failed to inform people properly about how the
produce is grown.
My mission is to find the best and purest food for my family, but I am
hugely disillusioned with the majority of organic food found on the
supermarket shelves. For example, unwaxed lemons are very fashionable,
but because they are not sprayed they go off very quickly - most packs
I've bought have at least one which is rotten.
And they don't even taste better. The whole point of organic food is that
it should be grown slowly, so it has less water content and its cell
texture is more dense, which means its taste is more intense.
But now organic food producers seem to be finding ways of growing it more
quickly. Frankly, I cannot tell if a carrot I buy in the supermarket is
organic or not by taste - and I'm a food expert, so it must be very
difficult for the average mother.
It's an obsession that's gone mad. Surely a good variety of carrot grown
inorganically is better than a poor variety of carrot grown organically?
As far as I'm concerned when faced with a limp organic carrot, you may as
well eat the box it came in for all the extra nutrients you get. The
truth is, the supermarket buyer is being conned, too, because they can't
be sure what they're getting.
When organic vine-grown tomatoes first appeared, they were delicious.
They came from countries such as Southern Italy, where they were grown and
ripened in the sun, so they tasted much better than anything we had tasted
Now they are bought from Holland, for example, where they are grown and
fed on artificial food. They may look pretty, but they're no tastier than
ordinary tomatoes, and you pay at least a third more for them.
I have trawled London looking for good organic suppliers with no success.
Gareth and I signed up to the box scheme, organised by small, local
suppliers. This means that seasonal, locally produced organic food is
delivered straight to your door. You never know what you are getting, but
the promise is that it will always be fresh. It cost me £24 per box, but
I was hugely disappointed with what arrived. Instead of the succulent,
seasonal produce we'd expected, we received a rotten lettuce and some
The rule with food is simple. The fresher the better, and I don't think
you can beat shopping for normal, locally produced fruit and vegetables at
your nearest market. I shop daily for fresh food, and buy most of my fruit
and vegetables from Lewisham market.
The problem is that organic food is fashionable, and shopping at a market
isn't. But at least the market doesn't mark up organic food by as much as
200 per cent like the supermarkets do.
THESE days I never go shopping with a list - I just buy what looks good. I
get my meat from the local butcher because it tastes better and I buy only
free-range poultry. I would say my weekly shopping costs two-thirds less
now that I shop at the market. It just takes a little longer.
ANNABEL KARMEL, 41, has three children: Nicholas, 14, Lara, 13, and
ten-year-old Scarlett. Annabel is a children's food writer, and is married
to Simon, 50, a City broker. The family live in North-West London.
Annabel says: ORGANIC food is well beyond most people's budget. There are
strict guidelines on how much pesticide can be used, and if you're
worried, all you need to do is wash it. When you consider organic food is
more expensive, doesn't taste any better and has a more limited choice, I
can't see the point in buying it.
When organic food first hit the supermarkets, it was presented as being
the healthiest way of feeding your family. But organic food has not Many
mothers have been pressurised into spending more money on organic baby
food by companies that make them feel guilty if they are not seen to be
giving their children the best. In fact, most baby food is organic anyway,
because they aren't allowed to use more than 2 per cent of the normal
Making the food more expensive and writing 'organic' on the labels makes
some women feel they are buying a superior product. All they need to do is
buy fresh produce and puree it - it takes no time at all.
Organic food is simply a fashion. Most of the health risks come not from
ordinary, non-organic food, but from processed foods, which contain much
higher levels of salt and sugar, which can lead to heart problems.
It's not as though organic foods even taste any better. If you blindfold
people and ask them to tell the difference between organic and non-organic
food, they couldn't. Many of us are taken in by the cost: we think
because it's more expensive, it must be better for our children. My
children eat masses of fruit, vegetables and salad, and I make dressings
which will entice them, such as tomato puree and ginger.
I really resent the way we have all been fooled into thinking that organic
food is the best, when normal fruit and vegetables are perfectly fine. I
spend no more than £100 a week on food, yet my children eat very
You're just paying for the word 'organic' on the label.
ALEXANDRA O'SULLIVAN, 27, is married to Harry, also 27, who is the manager
of a group of bars. The couple live in Hastings, East Sussex, and have a
son, Charlie, seven months. Alexandra says: I HAVE become increasingly
sceptical about the whole organic food issue. I started buying it three
years ago, spending at least £50 a week on groceries, which was probably
nearly double what I spent before. But I thought I was buying the best
because it was organic, and would be so much more healthy.
But as time passed I started to question my food bill and asked myself:
'Why am I paying nearly twice as much for this bunch of carrots?' Not only
that, but I couldn't honestly tell the difference between organic and
non-organic food in a taste test. I certainly haven't read anything that
conclusively proves that it's better for me.
As a new mother, I am passionate about giving Charlie the best start in
life, but I don't think it's necessary to give him a totally organic diet.
I like to know exactly what's in Charlie's food, so I use normal fruit and
vegetables which I wash really well.
Also, I don't think the standards governing organic food are strict
enough. All of these factors have made me question the organic food
industry - and if I feel like this, why pay twice the price for it?
SIGRID CRAGOE, 41, is a stylist with two children, Emilienne, six, and
threeyearold Maximilian. She is married to Harry, 37, who owns a fruit
The family live in Wandsworth, South-West London. Sigrid says: AS A child,
I lived on a farm in California, where we ate delicious, home-grown,
organic food. You could tell the difference in taste, but I don't think
that's the case with organic food in Britain today. I went through a
stage of buying only organic fruit and vegetables, until I realised you
simply could not tell the difference in taste, and yet I was paying up to
three times the price.
But then I became very suspicious-about organic produce - it looks too
perfect in shape and colour. I know from my childhood that most
home-grown food is all shapes and sizes.
So I don't buy it. But that doesn't mean I'm not concerned that my family
has a healthy diet. The only processed foods I buy are canned tomatoes,
ketchup and baked beans.
I buy fresh food locally every day. We start the day with smoothies,
which are full of vitamins and minerals. Then, in the evening we all eat
together. We have fish, chicken, vegetables and pasta. My children never
seem to be ill.
The only organic thing I do insist on is milk, because I worry about the
hormones in non-organic milk. I think we have all been taken for a ride
by the organic revolution. In doing so, we have poured more money into the
supermarket coffers - but have we actually improved our diet and health?
What makes food 'organic'? ORGANIC food has not had chemical fertilisers,
insecticides, fungicides, herbicides or pesticides sprayed on it, or any
post-harvest treatment such as waxing. In the case of meat, the animals
must not be given medicine such as antibiotics or wormers, and they must
feed on pesticidefree food.
CAN anyone sell organic food? It is an offence to use the word unless the
product has been certified by a recognised organic agency.The most well
known is The Soil Association, which certifies up to 70 per cent of all
WHO buys organic food? Three out of four households in the UK buy organic
food, and the organic market is worth more than £1 billion a year. Sales
of organic food in the UK are the second highest in Europe.The number of
licensed organic farms has risen by 5 per cent to nearly 4,000.
The Organic Food Lobby
Whatever else organic food is, it's big business. Grocery stores,
distributors, seed companies, compliance officers, manure providers, and a
host of other enterprises large and small (not to mention the farmers
themselves) are all part of the growing economy that is the organic food
industry. Stronger than ever before, some in the organic lobby are now
piggybacking on activist-driven legislation that seemingly has no
relationship with organic food -- all in an effort to increase its market
Maine's Anti-biotech Legislation
On Monday Maine's House of Representatives held hearings on a bill that
would impose a three-year moratorium on genetically enhanced crops and
require the state to run an extensive campaign to market Maine's
biotech-free status. That means taxpayer money would be spent promoting
the idea that biotech crops are somehow harmful, notwithstanding every
single reputable scientific institution in the world. And the organic
lobby, http://www.bangornews.com/editorialnews/article.cfm?ID ] the
primary sponsors of this legislation, would laugh all the way to the bank.
Testifying at the hearing, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners
Association (MOFGA) clearly stated why they want to stop non-organic
farmer's from buying the seeds of their choice: GMO growth will be at the
expense of the organic sector."
Biotechnology is one of the biggest reasons not to grow organic food. Take
that away, and the ranks of organic farmers will swell. The beneficiaries
of the trend toward organic farming include the
http://www.keepmainefree.org/coopvoicesunite.html organic buying clubs
and the http://www.mofga.org/oss_sources.html organic seed distributors
that support MOFGA.
MOFGA recently completed a $3.1 million fundraising campaign and is
poised to expand its organic certification business. If the biotech ban
goes through, MOFGA's for-profit certification enterprise will be rolling