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Date:

April 16, 2003

Subject:

Shiva the Destroyer, GM in New Zealand, The French Get it Right

 

Today in AgBioView: April 17, 2003:

* Shiva the Destroyer
* UNITED FUTURE SLAMS 'SELECTIVE' GM OPPONENTS
* Anti-GE in Australia
* A French Coalition that's getting it right
* The economics of GMOs
* Genetic crops get the green light
* LSN welcomes outcome of research
* Environment Minister says GE could boost GDP
* Govt says GE could increase productivity
* Royal Commission sees benefits of GE
* Govt says GE crops can co-exist
* Engineering wheat with sugar alcohol-producing gene helps plants resist
drought and salt

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=17

Shiva the Destroyer

By Thomas R. DeGregori

Postmodernist anti-science thought was once primarily associated with
European and North American academics in the humanities. Now not only has
its influence become international, but it has become integrally
intertwined with a number of other issues such as anti-globalization,
anti-transgenic technology in agriculture, and conservation. Nobody can
fault the prevailing internationalism of postmodernists and their respect
for different cultures and peoples (except for the culture of those who
are committed to modern science/technology and its benefits). Nor can we
fault their argument that all of us have biases, though they fail to
comprehend the vital role that scientific method plays in helping to
overcome the limitations which personal and cultural biases impose. Their
belief in the worth and dignity of all human beings is unexceptionable.
Some of us critics would suspect, however, that in going global,
postmodernist thought does not necessarily impact on other
political/cultural traditions in a way which upholds the worthy ideas that
most postmodernists claim to espouse. To the extent that these
postmodernist ideas have become part of the globalization debates, there
is a legitimate issue of consistency if in fact what is being forcefully
advocated produces adverse outcomes contrary to what its proponents claim
for them.

None of us are totally consistent in all our beliefs, nor can we find
total consistency in the various political or social movements we may be
committed to. Life and the world of ideas are messy, and so we can take
heart with Ralph Waldo Emerson's strictures against that foolish
consistency which is the hobgoblin of petty minds. A little untidiness and
a few gaps in our knowledge here and there are probably healthy, and
facilitate the emergence of new ideas. However, the argument to be pursued
here is that there is a basic inconsistency, or more accurately, a
fundamental contradiction between what has been advocated by a type of
postmodernist thought, and its practical outcome in developing countries.
It is a contradiction that is often so blatant as to undermine whatever
merit there may be in the avowed postmodernist respect for other cultures.
Stated baldly, the respect for "local ways" of knowing, rather than
promoting multi-culturalism, ends up instead promoting crass forms of
cultural chauvinism and intolerance that can devolve into violence. In our
internet/information age, there is no excuse for those who have entered
various globalization debates without knowing the outcomes and
implications of their advocacy.

Local knowledge and reactionary politics

Dr. Vandana Shiva is likely the world's most celebrated holistic
ecofeminist, deep ecologist, postmodernist luddite, anti-globalizer, and
spokesperson for those she claims are without a voice. Because she has
advanced degrees in science, Shiva is useful for providing legitimacy to a
range of anti-science views on the part of those who mistrust scientific
inquiry (except where they think that it will promote their ideological
agenda). Contemporary ecofeminist literature is almost unreadable,
particularly on the Green Revolution, which ecofeminists deem to be a
failure, and on "organic" agriculture, which they favor. Being able to
cite Shiva as a presumed authority allows them to talk about global
agriculture without any substantive knowledge of how peoples around the
world raise crops and feed their families. One wonders how many academics
obtained tenure on the basis of books and articles for which Shiva was a
major source.

One leader does not fully define a movement, to be sure, but Shiva with
her condemnation of "scientific reductionism" has become so preeminent in
the global deep ecology/ecofeminist movement against modern science that
raising serious questions about her does in many respects raise questions
about the entire movement. Shiva's ideas, which are shared and promoted in
the West by ecofeminists and others as radical and revolutionary, often
turn out to have reactionary consequences where they are practiced in
India.

This may come as a shock to the true believers, but for many the faith in
the fundamental rightness of Shiva's message is so firm that it would be a
near impossibility to convince them otherwise. The philosopher of science
Meera Nanda shows that the much revered "holistic way of knowing ... lies
at the very heart of caste and gender hierarchy in India" (Nanda 2002,
54)."The role that the goddesses and the idea of sacredness of nature have
played (and still play) in perpetuating the oppression of actual women is
not adequately understood by the enthusiasts for alternative sciences"
(Nanda 2003a). It is the much venerated "local knowledge" of the Hindu
cosmology of "Karma and caste" which was used to justify the repression of
Dalits (the crushed or oppressed - untouchable). The liberation of women
is "linked" to overcoming the "kind of cultural assumptions about
sacredness and holism" that are promoted by Shiva (Nanda 2003c).

Many of those now promoting the virtues of "local ways of knowing" were,
we hope, opponents of it in its pre-postmodernist manifestations. From
1948, with the election of the National Party in South Africa, to the
early 1990s, a similar reverence for "local ways of knowing" appropriate
to the culture was proclaimed and promoted as "Bantu education." It was
called Apartheid and many of us spent most of our adult life in active
opposition to it, as, undoubtedly, did many of today's activists who tout
the special virtues of local knowledge.

Among the many reasons for opposition to Apartheid and its repressive
policies, was that the so-called "Bantu education" would handicap the
student even in a non-Apartheid society by not providing her or him with
the knowledge necessary to survive economically. Today we have what is
misnamed as "Science Studies" promoting a "Navajo way of knowing" (which
is "assuredly more spiritual and holistic than European ways") in learning
mathematics by "teaching calculus before fractions" (Olson 1999). Among
many problems with this method of teaching is the "difficulty of
expressing the slope of a line, one of the fundamentals of calculus, in
any way other than by using a fraction or decimal" (Olson 1999). Thus,
"while well-meaning teachers puzzle out such difficulties, Navajo children
are ... to grow up without learning how to compute sales tax" (Olson
1999). From the elite precincts of Western universities,
"multi-culturalism" has spread to other parts of the world. Across the
border from where Shiva’s ecofeminism lends support to Hindu chauvinism,
Pakistani proponents of "Islamic science" and "Islamic epistemology" have
been:

"citing the work of feminist science critics in their campaign to purge
many Western ideas from the schools, and certain feminist professors in
the West--perhaps caught up in the thrill of having their work cited half
a world away--have favorably cited the Islamicists right back (Olson
1999)."

Not to be outdone by Shiva's Indian advocacy, in the United States there
are advocates of a mysterious entity called "feminist algebra" (Bookchin
1995, 212). When the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power
in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1992, they sought to awaken "national pride"
by making "Vedic mathematics compulsory for high school students" (Nanda
1996). "Hindu ways of knowing" involved government-approved texts
replacing standard algebra and calculus with sixteen Sanskrit verses.
Leading Indian mathematicians and historians examined the verses and found
"nothing Vedic about them," thinking them merely a "set of clever formulas
for quick computation" and not a "piece of ancient wisdom" (Nanda 1996).
According to Meera Nanda (1996), "in the name of national pride, students
are being deprived of conceptual tools that are crucial in solving
real-world mathematical problems they will encounter as scientists and
engineers."

Hinduization extends beyond mathematics to promoting the "Aryan race"
together with a disdain for all "foreigners including Muslims." The BJP
along with the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council) are
offsprings of the RSS (Rashtirya Svyamsevak Sangh or Organization of
National Volunteers) which has been actively promoting hatred of Muslims
and Christians in India, and has been involved in the destruction of
Muslim and Christian places of worship and fostering deadly riots against
non-Hindus. Postmodernist/ecofeminist multi-culturalism might be a worthy
idea in some ways, but when it is integrated with a "suspicion of modern
science as a metanarrative of binary dualism, reductionism and
consequently domination of nature, women and Third World people" it
supports Hindu reactionary modernists who claim the "same holist,
non-logocentric ways of knowing not as a standpoint of the oppressed but
for the glory of the Hindu nation itself" (Nanda 2000, 2001a).

The Chipko "Movement"

Many activists like Shiva, who are promoted in the West by the
anti-globalization Greens and who receive uncritical acclaim, are often
the object of very severe criticism in their own countries, a fact which
goes largely unreported. After an article in a Malaysian newspaper talked
about Shiva in highly flattering terms, claiming that she was a leader of
the famed Chipko (tree huggers) movement in India, the Chipko local
activists sent a letter of protest to the editor, arguing that the
interview was based on false claims and noting that it had angered many
people. Those writing the letter saw themselves as being the "real
activists," who do not understand why Shiva is "reportedly publishing
wrong claims about Chipko in the foreign press."

Shiva uses Chipko as a model for Green ideologies from deep ecology to
eco-feminism. Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, a distinguished scientist and
environmentalist, examines each of these ideologies and deems them myths
without any basis in fact (1999). He is an active supporter of the Chipko
villages, in which he finds "a movement rooted in economic conflicts over
mountain forests," and a "social movement based on gender collaboration"
and not a "feminist movement based on gender conflicts" (Bandyopadhyay
1999).

Chipko is but one example where external activists, even those who may be
well intentioned idealists, in effect hijack a movement and use it to
promote an ideological agenda. The original motivation for "participating
in Chipko protests" was to gain local control of forest resources in order
to create a forest-based industry which offered the Himalayan villagers
the possibility that their kinsmen who had to migrate to find work, might
be employed closer to home. Further, increased local access to forest
resources might "have offered women the possibility of adding to their
meagre incomes and insuring themselves from potential crisis if
remittances ceased or became intermittent" (Rangan 2000, 199-200).

Chipko is one of many cases of environmental groups in developed countries
co-opting a cause like wildlife or habitat conservation, or a local
movement with legitimate grievances, and then subverting them. In the case
of Chipko, the co-option was initially by people from the urban elite in
India, who received international acclaim as a result. As with other cases
that I have examined, in places like Africa and the Americas, not only do
local concerns get brushed aside, but often the locals are worse off
because of the external "support." This is particularly true in case after
case that I have examined for conservation projects, be they in Africa,
Central America or India, where local interests are swept aside in favor
of saving the environment from those who live there (DeGregori, 2004,
Chapters 4, 10 & 11 and DeGregori 2002, Chapter 2).

One of Shiva's ‘Chipko women' from the Pindar Valley in Chamoli District,
Gayatri Devi, bitterly states that the movement has made life worse in the
valley:

"Now they tell me that because of Chipko the road cannot be built [to her
village], because everything has become parovarian [environment] ... We
cannot get even wood to build a house ... our ha-haycock [rights and
concessions] have been snatched away (Rangan 2000, 42)."

This helps to answer the questions which Rangan raises:

"Why do words like environment and ecology make so many people living in
the Garhwal Himalayas see red? Why do so many of them make derisive
comments when the Chipko movement figures in any discussion? Why is it
that in most parts of Garhwal today, local populations are angry and
resentful of being held hostage by Chipko, an environmental movement of
their own making (Rangan 1993, 155)?"

When the world community was ready to hear the claims of the Garhwal
Himalayan villages,

"their voice in the Chipko movement had all but ceased to exist. The brief
love affair between Chipko's activists and the state had resulted in the
romantic ideal that the Himalayan environment by itself mattered more than
the people who eked out their existence within it."

Rangan adds that:

"if some of the communities are ready to banish their axes today, it must
be seen as yet another attempt to affirm themselves and give voice to the
difficulties of sustaining livelihoods within their localities (174-175)."

From Agarwal and Narain, we learn that the situation has driven some to
advocate practices that violate laws which the urban conservationists have
imposed. "Uttarkhand, the land which gave birth to the Chipko movement,
now even has a Jungle Kato Andolan (cut the forest movement). Thanks to
the ministry of environment, ‘environment' is no longer a nice word in
Uttarkhand" (1991). Rangan argues that the Chipko today is a "fairy tale,"
a myth sustained and propagated by a few self-appointed spokespeople
through conferences, books, and journal articles that eulogize it as a
social movement, peasant movement, environmental movement, women's
movement, Ghandian movement--in short, an all-encompassing movement
(Rangan 1993, 158).

The Green Revolution

Dr. Vandana Shiva, in a book length diatribe against the Green Revolution,
frequently refers to its voracious demand for chemical fertilizers and
indicates that there are alternative ways, more benign, of achieving these
outputs (Shiva 1991). Plants need ingredients (nutrients) in order to
grow. If a molecule is in the plant, it or its constituent elements must
come from somewhere. Except for carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, plants
derive their nutrients from the soil, or in the case of nitrogen from
atmospheric nitrogen mediated by cyanobacteria (other than that from
fertilizer). More plant output means more nutrient input. The often
repeated claim that Green Revolution plants need more fertilizer has about
as much meaning as saying that it takes more food to raise three children
than it does to raise one. If sufficient nutrient is not in the soil, it
must be added. Shiva's argument in essence is that one can grow plants
without nutrients or that one can achieve the same output as Green
Revolution seeds yield without providing nutrient input other than
available "organic" sources. This is patently nonsensical and violates our
fundamental knowledge of physics.

Shiva has made a number preposterous statements over the years about
yields in traditional Indian agriculture or traditional agriculture
elsewhere such as among the Maya. Even before the Green Revolution
dramatically increased the demand for and use of synthetic fertilizer,
there was a large difference between the nutrients extracted from the soil
in India and the "organic" nutrients available to be returned to it. In
fact, nearly twice as much nutrient was being withdrawn from the soil as
was being returned. Contrary to Shiva's assertions, this process was not
sustainable. Given the dramatic increases in Indian agricultural output
over the last four decades (which more than accommodated a doubling of the
population), the deficit in "organic" nutrient must be vastly greater
today. Shiva cites Sir Albert Howard, whose vitalist ideas on "organic"
agriculture were developed in colonial India (Howard 1940). But though he
was a strong proponent of composting ("Indore method"), Howard recognized
the need for additional synthetic fertilizer and improved seeds, which
means he might have favored GM crops if he were alive today.

Shiva has a belief that "food crops for local needs" are "water prudent"
(Shiva 2000). For the Green Revolution grains, the primary output is a
larger percentage of the plant (harvest index) and therefore requires less
nutrient input per unit of output. These gains in agricultural efficiency
and in yields per hectare, particularly for the Green Revolution grains,
has accommodated a doubling of the world's population, with about a 30%
increase in per capita food consumption with only a slight increase in
land under cultivation (about 4% for grains). For rice, the gains in water
use efficiency have been nothing less than astounding. According to a
recent FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) report, "the modern rice
varieties have about a threefold increase in water productivity compared
with traditional varieties" (FAO 2003, 28). Overall, for water use in
agriculture, "water productivity increased by at least 100 percent between
1961 and 2001" while water use per capita was falling about in half (FAO
2003, 25-26). What the FAO is primarily describing is the yield increases
and greater plant efficiency of the Green Revolution technologies so
sharply criticized by Shiva.

Biotechnologists are working to create even more efficient plants, a goal
which is opposed by Shiva and her followers. In her paeans in praise of
cow dung, Shiva's pre-Green Revolution Indian agriculture is one of a
healthy, self-sufficient, calorically adequate, nutritious food supply
produced in an ecologically sustainable manner (Avery 2000; for a critique
of Shiva by an Indian scholar, see Nanda 1991, 1997 & 1998.). Why hundreds
of millions of peasant agriculturalists in India and around the world have
forsaken this utopian existence and adopted the Green Revolution's crops
and modern agricultural technologies is never explained. Maybe those
actually raising crops and feeding their families know something about
agriculture that Shiva and her fellow activists don't?

Equally unexplained is why, if, as Shiva argues, modern technology is
pauperizing populations and in many cases driving people to suicide, life
expectancies have risen so dramatically throughout Asia for both rural and
urban populations. Even more difficult to explain is why those in
developed countries, who are presumed to be educated and informed,
uncritically accept her musings and pay her homage, including selecting
her to give prestigious presentations such as the Reith Lecture (Shiva
2000 and Scruton 2000).

Contradictions, Mistakes and Double Standards

Contradictions and mistakes are all too prevalent in the work of Shiva and
those who revere her. For example, in a public lecture in Toronto, Canada,
she claimed both that the price level of food in India was doubling and
that it was falling. Arguing that the technologies of the Green Revolution
have failed, she has the price of food in India doubling so that consumers
can no longer afford it. But when she wishes to criticize the United
States for "dumping" food on the Indian market, pushing Indian farmers to
commit suicide, she claims that subsidized foreign food is "driving down
prices" (O'Hara 2000 and Oakley 2000).

The following excerpt from a news item on Shiva's visit to Houston in the
October of 2000 is indicative. Shiva appears not to know the difference
between a field of rice and one of weeds.

Shiva walked across the road and looked out into a shaggy field.
"They look unhappy," she said. "The rice plants. Ours at home look very
happy."
"That," RiceTec reports, "is because it's not rice. That's our test field,
it was harvested in August. That's weeds" (Tyer 2000).

Shiva inspired anti-technology criticism reached its true nadir when
humanitarian aid for people in need was attacked because of the technology
used to produce it. In India, following a "super-cyclone," a team from
Vandana, Shiva's "research foundation", gathered samples of donated grain
while involved in "relief work" and had them tested in the United States
to see if they were genetically modified. Claiming that they were
genetically modified, Diverse Women for Diversity then demanded that the
government of India "immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from
Orissa," seemingly preferring starvation for the cyclone victims to a
presumed but unproven contamination from GM food (RFSTE 2000, Devraj 2000,
Lean 2000 and Jayarsman 2000c).

Possibly, Shiva could arrange for "organic" agriculturalists like Prince
Charles to provide famine relief using funds from Greenpeace and other
environmental groups with annual budgets into the tens of millions of
dollars. And once again, it is appropriate to ask how many poor farmers
have Shiva's Diverse Women for Diversity or The Research Foundation for
Science, Technology and Ecology helped to grow more food? How many of
those in need have they helped to feed? And in the name of transparency,
what are the sources of its funding?

These questions are legitimate because too many groups that raise and
spend significant amounts of money and help feed no one, demand
transparency from others and criticize groups and individuals who have
assisted those in need by helping them to grow more food or by providing
relief food that modern agricultural surpluses facilitate. Many "Civil
Society" groups in developing countries are largely and in some cases
fully funded by developed country NGOs, so one can legitimately ask
questions about the independence of their judgements in much the same way
that one would question the independence of a statement by a developing
country employee of a multinational corporation (see DeGregori 2002c).

Nanda accuses "populist intellectuals like Shiva" of being "guilty of
hypocrisy and double standards" for failing to recognize that "their own
growth as intellectuals and activists owes a tremendous debt" to the very
ideas that they disparage (Nanda 1991, 55). It has not gone unobserved
that those like Shiva who are most critical of modern science have gained
favor in Western universities and have often benefited greatly as a
result.

"Furthermore, the jet-setting, globe-trotting neopopulist intellectuals'
propensity to project the life style of the poor as being morally superior
and socially richer than that of the Western oppressors is hypocritical to
say the least ... (and) fails to offer a progressive and feasible program
for change (Nanda 1991, 39)."

Local Knowledge versus Modern Knowledge

We talked earlier about the Chipko movement in the Himalayan Garhwal
region of Uttar Pradesh, India for whom Shiva presumes to speak and for
which she has won international acclaim. When the Chipko movement's battle
for local control of vital forest resources was taken up by Shiva and
other "deep ecologists," the local struggles for resources and development
were sacrificed to global environmental concerns by groups that "tacitly
support coercive conservation tactics that weaken local claims to resource
access for sustaining livelihoods" (Rangan 2000, 239, see also Peluso, N.
1993).

Those who champion local wisdom too often respect it only so long as it is
in line with their ideological agenda. Ideas that are presumed to liberate
end up being instruments of oppression. Their advocates in developed
countries seem to live in a virtual Potemkin village, blissfully unaware
that local knowledge and control privileges traditional elites who tend to
be dominating upper class males who find the rhetoric of ecofeminism
useful, but not its desire for equality of classes, races and genders.
Anyone who has been involved in economic development is aware of the
importance of local knowledge and the need to use it along with any other
available knowledge. But there is a very big difference between using
local knowledge and being dominated by it. And it is important to
distinguish between local knowledge and local myth, particularly myths of
domination that deny some people access to productive resources.

Intellectual elites in some developing countries such as Mexico promote
local use and custom (usos y costumbres) with the same outcome of male
domination. The modernism which opened up society and allowed racial and
other minorities to demand equal rights and women to challenge male
domination is being denied those who are most in need of change in poorer
countries. "The oppressed Others do not need patronizing affirmations of
their ways of knowing, as much as they need ways to challenge these ways
of knowing" (Nanda 1996 and Nanda 2003b).

Modern knowledge allowed Nanda to escape from such practices as forced
marriage and other forms of domination but still allowed her to retain a
sense of shared identity with the culture of her origin. It is the
rationality of the Enlightenment, science and modernity that were
instrumental in the creation of more tolerant multi-cultural societies. As
Nanda states it, "We Are All Hybrids Now" (Nanda 2001). I would add that
we have been hybrids for some time. Over 60 years ago, the anthropologist
Ralph Linton had a sketch of a "solid American citizen" awakening in a
"bed built on a pattern which originated in the Near East" traversing the
day taking for granted the diverse global origins of the items of his
daily routine, ending it by thanking a "Hebrew deity in an Indo-European
language that he is 100% American (Linton 1963, 326-327).

More important, modernity allows one the freedom to participate fully in
modernity while still being able to retain a more localized personal
identity. This is a tolerance for diversity which is rare in the
traditional societies that Shiva seeks to promote. Modern science and
technology are central to this hybridity. As many of us (including Nanda)
have long argued, calling science and technology "Western" is to accept
the 19th century claim of exclusive authorship to what has been and
remains a universal endeavor to which all peoples have contributed just as
they contributed to the artifacts of Linton's 100% American.

Shiva and others can call modern science logophallocentric reductionism
and any number of other pejorative slogans in contrast to Prakriti or the
feminine principle, but, in fact, modern knowledge is liberating. Shiva
and her cohorts may feel "victimized" by "alien" ideas, but it is doubtful
that this is the case for many throughout the world who have benefited
from it, whether by a larger crop or lives saved by immunization or
antibiotics. Nanda suggests that it would be "interesting" to see the
reaction of "untouchables" to the "knowledge that DNA material ... has the
same composition in all living beings, be it brahmin or bacterium. Or what
would a women do with the knowledge that it is the chromosome in sperm
that determines the sex of the new born?" (1991, 38).

May we add that over 99.9% of the human genome is shared by all human
beings and that of the less than 0.1% that differentiate us, only about 3
to 5% of it is between groups, with about 95% being intra group variation
(Rosenberg et al. 2002). If Shiva wishes to help women and those in need
in India, she should be promoting an understanding of DNA and molecular
biology and its liberating implications rather than fostering false fears
of its use for human betterment. Not only is the genome that unites us as
humans vastly greater than that which differentiates us, but the portion
of the genome that defines our individual biological differences within
our culture is vastly greater than the minuscule portion of the genome,
0.05%, that defines differences between groups (Rosenberg et al. 2002,
King et al. 2002 and Wade 2002).

We can argue as to how far we have come on the road to a more just society
or how much farther we have to go, but it is undeniable that in countries
like the United States, the rights of minorities and women have been
greatly expanded over the last decades. Shiva has been promoting a road to
a past that never existed and to a future where nobody really wants to go,
including those who blindly follow her.

*(The article is largely drawn from the author's book manuscript, Origins
of the Organic Debate: Vitalist Junkscience vs. Scientific Inquiry. Ames:
Iowa State Press, A Blackwell Scientific Publisher (in press). Additional
material is taken from two recently published books, Thomas R. DeGregori,
The Environment, Our Natural Resources, and Modern Technology. Ames: Iowa
State Press, A Blackwell Scientific Publisher and Thomas R. DeGregori,
Bountiful Harvest: Technology, Food Safety, And The Environment.
Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, which was originally published as
Agriculture and Modern Technology: A Defense, Ames: Iowa State University
Press. Author's homepage is http:www.uh.edu/~trdegreg).

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++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2003 15:26:00 -0300
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Anti-GE in Australia

The following statement appeared in Trevor Johnston's article from the
Weekly Times:

"Greenpeace is also conducting a relentless campaign, including postcards
at retail and accommodation outlets, condemning GM canola on the grounds
that "as living organisms, GM crops such as canola can multiply and
contaminate the environment indefinitely."

It seems to me that this argument is equally true for all non-native
plants, whether GM or not. Is Greenpeace going to use this argument to
call for a ban on all exotic plants (and animals?) until such time as they
have been "proven safe"?

As usual, their arguments are logically inconsistent as well as being
scientifically risible.

BOB
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

UNITED FUTURE SLAMS 'SELECTIVE' GM OPPONENTS

April 17, 2003
United Future Press Release (Via Agnet)

United Future environment spokesman, Larry Baldock, has described the
papers released by the Government today relating to the effects of genetic
modification technology on the New Zealand economy as perfectly sensible
and based on quite rigorous scientific analysis.

"This is quite contrary to the tactics of GM opponents, like the Green
Party, who are not interested in good science and who do not have an open
mind. They specialise in citing selective points and then interpreting
them to suit their own agenda," he said. "The paper on the economic
impacts of GM at the very least demonstrates the lifting of the moratorium
is unlikely to have negative consequences for the New Zealand economy (and
is quite likely to have at least a small positive effect).

Mr Baldock went on "I think the key point made in this paper in this
respect is that overseas consumers are unlikely to base their purchase
decisions on whether or not the product's country of origin is "GE free"
(and in fact they are unlikely to even know New Zealand's GE status in the
first place). "The survey showing some overseas consumers WOULD make a
decision on this basis is misleading because it specifically brings New
Zealand's GE status to the forefront of the survey participant's mind and
asks them to make an abstract judgment.

"In reality, they are unlikely to be thinking about this issue (or to know
where NZ stands) when making a purchase and are in fact more likely to
make a purchasing decision based on price." Mr Baldock said "The paper on
the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops is even more rigorous and is based
on sound science and commonsense. It advocates treating each GM crop on a
very rigorous case by case basis instead of having a generic framework for
all genetically-modified organisms as originally recommended by the Royal
Commission.

"This makes sense to me because it takes into account a key point that is
often overlooked in the GE debate - and that is that GMOs are not
fundamentally any different from any other plant or animal species. As
with any "natural" species, it is the specific characteristics of the
individual organism that are important - not whether or not it is a GMO.
"If it is poisonous then it is poisonous - if it is a superweed, then it
is a superweed (whether or not it is a GMO is beside the point).

And this holds true for non-GMOs (possums are no less of a threat to our
native forests just because they aren't genetically modified. "United
Future's policy is to support the lifting of the GE moratorium in October
provided all the relevant regulatory and other matters stemming from the
Royal Commission have been properly addressed by that time. On the basis
of these papers and other policy work undertaken by the Government to
date, it looks like this process is well on track," concluded Mr Baldock.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.agweb.com/news_show_news_article.asp?nodate=Y&file=AgNewsArticle_2003417822_2312&articleid=97053&newscat=TT


A French Coalition that's getting it right

Truth About Trade
By Dean Kleckner
April 17, 2003

France is an old ally of the United States, stretching all the way back to
the American Revolution. General Lafayette was so valuable there's a park
named for him right across the street from the White House. In 1783, the
French navy helped George Washington defeat the Redcoats at Yorktown--and
a young country fighting a war for independence won a decisive victory.

In recent months, of course, the French don't seem to be on our side very
much. Yet tensions between France and the United States predate the recent
disagreements over the war against Iraq. We've been fighting with each
other over biotechnology for years.

France, in fact, is a big part of the reason why Europe has quit approving
new biotech foods. Some of the world's biggest enemies of biotechnology
call Paris home.

That's why it's so encouraging to see French opposition to biotechnology
begin to soften--at least among doctors and scientists.

In December, two important French organizations declared their support for
gene-altered food. The first was the French Academy of Medicine and
Pharmacy. It called on the European Union to end its moratorium on
genetically modified crops, noting that they've been grown and eaten for
many years now, especially in the United States--and that "no particular
health problem has been detected." What's more, said the academy, "GM use
has been a generally positive experience."

Two days later, the French Academy of Sciences chimed in, also endorsing
GM crops. "Transgenic varieties have been rejected in Europe, although
there has never been a health problem regarding consumers or damage to the
environment," said the scientists in their report. "All the criticisms
against GMOs can be set aside based for the most part on strictly
scientific criteria."

These announcements are critically important, because nobody's been more
down on agricultural biotechnology than the Europeans. A series of food
scares, combined with the know-nothing activism of modern-day Luddites,
has turned many Europeans against biotechnology.

The French Food Safety Agency, for example, recently demanded that biotech
foods undergo more testing--even though they've already undergone rigorous
analysis. There's not a single scrap of evidence to suggest that GM crops
are anything but safe. More testing won't tell us anything we don't
already know. It's increasingly clear that groups proclaiming otherwise
either fail to understand basic science or they're fronting for
protectionist interests.

France has much to gain from participating in the biotech revolution. Its
Minister for European Affairs, Noelle Lenoir, presented a report last year
showing that France lags behind its British and German neighbors on
biotechnology--to say nothing of the United States, which far outpaces the
whole world. Lenoir recommended that France begin making more investments
into this important field so that it can keep up with everybody else.

Greater willingness to experiment with biotech crops would be a good
start. Before the EU's moratorium on new biotech food approvals in 1999,
the French were operating more than 1,000 biotech test plots, according to
the Minister of Research and New Technologies. Today, there are only about
40. She labeled this an act of "self-censorship."

Another part of the strategy should focus on public opinion. A democracy
like France won't ever become a biotech leader as long as ordinary people
oppose the most basic benefits of biotechnology, which is to say, the
stuff Americans put on their dinner tables just about every night.

Now an important set of French experts says there's nothing wrong with
biotech crops or the foods derived from them. It's too soon to tell
whether the European public will listen, but on my own visits to Europe
recently, I've detected less negativity toward biotechnology than in the
past, especially on the farmer level.

Farmers, doctors, and scientists--it's a powerful coalition, and certainly
one that's well informed about issues of food health. If the politicians
listen to them, perhaps they'll finally do the job they were elected to
do: Lead the masses.

Truth About Trade and Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org) is a national
grassroots advocacy group based in Des Moines, IA formed by farmers in
support of freer trade and advancements in biotechnology.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The economics of GMOs

FoodNavigator.com
April 17, 2003

17/04/03 - As the European Commission tells member states to tow the EU
line over genetically modified organisms, the issue continues to gain pace
elsewhere in the world. A report released today in New Zealand on the
economic risks and opportunities of releasing genetically modified
organisms opts for the cautious approach, but also suggests that GMOs
would have a small economic benefit over the next 10 years.

Commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment and Treasury, the
research is part of the government's response to the Royal Commission on
Genetic Modification. It is one of many initiatives the government is
undertaking to ensure the appropriate regulatory system is in place when
the moratorium on releasing GMOs lifts on October 29.

"The report confirms the government's cautious, case-by-case approach
based on preserving opportunities," said Environment Minister Marian
Hobbs. "The research shows that the most likely economic impact from the
careful and considered release of GMOs would be a small increase in GDP
over 10 years, compared to a small decrease from forgoing GMO releases.

"The report also confirms that the most beneficial way ahead is to
actively manage the potential risks and enhance the potential benefits.
The government is doing this through its response to the Royal Commission
report and in its safe sensible approach to GM," she added.

The research study, part of the government's package of measures in
response to the 2001 report of the Royal Commission on Genetic
Modification, was drawn up by private research company Business and
Economic Research as one of the last studies asked for by the government
before the moratorium on commercial releases of GMOs is lifted in October.
Essentially, it investigated the costs and benefits of releasing GMOs and
of not releasing them.

The study canvassed three specific examples of releases in pastoral
agriculture, pest control, and human therapeutics, and tested them on two
economic models - an agricultural trade model and an economy-wide model.

Full findings from the report can be accessed on the government website
at:

http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/organisms/economic-impact-apr03
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/04/17/1050172716728.html

Genetic crops get the green light

Sydney Morning Herald
April 18 2003

The New Zealand Government has confirmed it would lift a moratorium on the
release of genetically modified (GM) crops in October, saying they could
co-exist with conventionally grown plants.

The Agriculture Minister, Jim Sutton, said on Thursday that cabinet papers
confirmed it would be safe to lift the moratorium with a "robust
regulatory system" to ensure that only GM foods deemed safe would be
allowed to be grown or sold.

New Zealand is one of the world's leading exporters of meat and dairy
products and a growing organic foods industry has opposed the introduction
of GM crops, saying cross contamination was inevitable.

The Green Party, which bitterly opposes genetic modification of foods and
other organisms, said New Zealanders would be forced to accept a level of
GM contamination of all crops. "It is an abuse of human and consumer
rights to expect consumers and organic and conventional farmers and
growers to accept GM contamination," said Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Green
Party's joint leader.

"This is something they have repeatedly said they passionately do not want
in fields and food."

The Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs, released another report by a group
of economists showing that the introduction of GM organisms would have a
limited impact on the economy, with only a small increase in gross
domestic product over 10 years, compared to a small decrease if they were
banned.

Ms Fitzsimons said this showed there were no demonstrated benefits to New
Zealanders from the new technology because there would be big costs under
the GM regulatory system proposed by the Government.

But Mr Sutton said a comprehensive commission of inquiry had found
potential benefits for New Zealand in adopting genetic modification and
the Government would ensure a cautious case-by-case approach would be
taken to applications to release GM organisms.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

LSN welcomes outcome of research

LSN
April 17, 2003

“The Government has taken a significant step forward in the implementation
of its policy decisions to adopt the outcome of the Royal Commission on GM
with the publication today of key research,” the Chairman of the Life
Sciences Network, Dr William Rolleston said Thursday.

“The research conclusively rejects, even in the worst-case scenarios
explored, the predictions of disaster from the opponents of GM.

“The reports, generated by independent economists and scientists, clearly
underline the approach recommended by the Royal Commission – that we move
to adopt GM technology, cautiously and selectively, so NZ can preserve its
opportunities.

“Analysis of the economic impacts confirms that the risk is greater from a
failure to develop GM technologies appropriate to New Zealand.

“The LSN has long argued for a case-by-case assessment of the likely
applications of GM technology. These reports support that stance and we
are confident that, when the Parliament adopts legislative proposals to
give the Environmental Risk Management Authority the right to impose
appropriate conditions on releases; and the moratorium comes off later
this year, New Zealand will be well served by a modern biotechnology
sector,” concluded Dr Rolleston.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Environment Minister says GE could boost GDP

Newsroom
17 April 2003

A report on the economic risks and opportunities from releasing
genetically modified organisms in New Zealand was released today by
Environment Minister Marian Hobbs.

Commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment and Treasury, the
research is part of the government's response to the Royal Commission on
Genetic Modification. It is one of many initiatives the government is
undertaking to ensure the appropriate regulatory system is in place when
the moratorium on releasing GMOs lifts on October 29.

"The report confirms the government's cautious, case-by-case approach
based on preserving opportunities," Marian Hobbs said. "The research shows
that the most likely economic impact from the careful and considered
release of GMOs would be a small increase in GDP over 10 years, compared
to a small decrease from forgoing GMO releases.

"The report also confirms that the most beneficial way ahead is to
actively manage the potential risks and enhance the potential benefits.
The government is doing this through its response to the Royal Commission
report and in its safe sensible approach to GM."

The report was prepared by a team led by Business and Economic Research
Ltd (BERL) and is available on www.treasury.govt.nz/gmeconomic,
www.mfe.govt.nz, or www.beehive.govt.nz
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Govt says GE could increase productivity

NewsRoom
17 April 2003

A Government report has found that the release of genetically modified
products would have little impact on the New Zealand economy.

The report is the last in a series commissioned in response to
recommendations from the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

It has found there would be some consumer resistance in overseas markets
if GM products were released here.

However, it says there could also be an increase in productivity and those
factors could cancel each other out.

Earlier today, the Government released another report which says it is
possible for genetically modified crops to co-exist with conventional and
organic agriculture.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Royal Commission sees benefits of GE

Newsroom
17 April 2003

Co-existence between genetically modified crops and conventional
agriculture crops is possible, Cabinet papers made public today say.

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said the Royal Commission had found
potential benefits for New Zealand in genetic modification technology, and
that it had recommended proceeding with caution.

"The Government is doing this. We are working through a programme to
ensure that we end up with a robust regulatory system by the time the
moratorium on genetic modification release expires."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand had a comprehensive and integrated regulatory
framework for managing risks to the environment and people from GM
organisms and foods, and for addressing marketing claims.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act is to be amended to include
a new conditional release category so the Environmental Risk Management
Authority can impose controls on how new organisms, including GM
organisms, released into the environment are managed.

The papers released today show that the fundamental principle underlying
regulation in New Zealand is that only GM organisms and GM foods that are
considered safe will be allowed to be grown commercially or sold here.
Only after safety has been addressed is choice considered.

The first Cabinet paper on coexistence published today says that
co-existence between GM and non-GM crops is possible, by considering each
use of a GM organism on a case-by-case basis, and that there would be
different approaches for different GM organisms, such as vaccines,
animals, and plants.

"Overseas experience illustrates the need for three essential elements for
achieving effective co-existence of GM with non-GM production systems:

- a robust regulatory approach that protects the environment and safety of
people and communities by preventing or managing adverse effects, and
makes clear where responsibilities for managing and enforcing any
conditions lie;

- a case-by-case approach that responds to the specific characteristics
and likely of each GM organism; and

- a "whole of production chain" approach to address any identified
concerns from seed production and follow-up paddock management to
post-harvest handling, management, and distribution."

Mr Sutton said this would be the approach used by the Government and its
agencies, where all the risks, costs, and benefits of using each GM
organism would be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.

The second co-existence paper published today discusses several practical
issues, including codes of practice for growing GM crops and managing
risks for beekeepers and users of Bt insectcide.

Mr Sutton said the Cabinet papers were part of ongoing work by the
Government, and it was clear that more work would continue to be done in
this area.

"Government agencies will continue to consult widely throughout this
process."
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Govt says GE crops can co-exist

NewsRoom
17 April 2003

Official papers released today say it is possible for genetically modified
crops to co-exist with conventional crops.

The cabinet papers say such a system would require robust regulation, and
a cautious case-by-case approach to be taken to applications to release GE
organisms.

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said the Royal Commission had found
potential benefits for New Zealand in genetic modification technology, and
that it had recommended proceeding with caution.

"The Government is doing this. We are working through a programme to
ensure that we end up with a robust regulatory system by the time the
moratorium on genetic modification release expires."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand had a comprehensive and integrated regulatory
framework for managing risks to the environment and people from GM
organisms and foods, and for addressing marketing claims.

The papers say only GM organisms and GM foods that are considered safe
will be allowed to be grown commercially or sold here.

Mr Sutton said the Cabinet papers were part of ongoing work by the
Government, and it was clear that more work would continue to be done in
this area.

"Government agencies will continue to consult widely throughout this
process," he says.

A second report, on the economic impacts of GE, will be released by the
government later this morning.

The reports complete the recommendations of the Royal Commission on GE,
paving the way for the GE moratorium to be lifted in October.

Mr Sutton says the papers support the Government's plans to lift the GE
moratorium in October.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Engineering wheat with sugar alcohol-producing gene helps plants resist
drought and salt

STILLWATER, Okla. -- A new strategy to genetically engineer wheat to make
it more resistant to drought and salt while improving yields, is being
reported by molecular biologists at Oklahoma State University.

They emphasize that the technique, which involves adding genes to
synthesize a naturally occurring sugar alcohol called mannitol, should
satisfy critics of genetically modified foods because the gene occurs
naturally in many food plants and is routinely used as an additive in many
processed foods.

The biologists describe the new strategy to help wheat overcome two of the
main causes of crop failure in the leading international journal of plant
biology research, Plant Physiology, published on April 11, 2003.

"We have demonstrated that wheat engineered to accumulate this sugar in
leaf tissues has significantly improved productivity under stress from
water deficit or salinity," says Arron C. Guenzi, Oklahoma State
University associate professor of genetics. He is director of a
laboratory in the university's Division of Agricultural Sciences and
Natural Resources where the stress-tolerant wheat has been under
development since 1996 with support from the Oklahoma Wheat Research
Foundation and National Science Foundation.

The lead author is Tilahun Abebe, a Fulbright Scholar, who conducted the
research as part of his Ph.D. program. Other members of the research team
were Bjorn Martin and John Cushman, both Oklahoma State University
faculty.

The Oklahoma State University biologists improved stress tolerance by
introducing into wheat a chimeric, or hybrid, gene derived from corn and
two common bacteria. ³Our experiments to date were conducted under very
controlled conditions and in containment facilities.
We hope to test these materials under field conditions beginning in
2004.

This, of course, will require approval from the federal government,² says
Guenzi. ³If these materials perform well in the field, it will take at
least a decade to incorporate the trait into varieties available to the
farmer,² adds Guenzi, ³this should allow us plenty of time to insure
consumers, farmers, regulatory agencies, and trading partners are all
comfortable with this technology prior to commercialization.²

Contact: Dr. Arron C. Guenzi
Office: (405) 744-5532
E-Mail: acg@okstate.edu