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April 27, 2003


Bt Cotton in India, Nabob of Nonsense, Dodgy Organic Produce


Today in AgBioView: April 28, 2003:

* Re: Bt cotton
* Nattering Nabob of Nonsense: A Review of a Review
* The World is Beginning to Embrace Agri-Biotech
* Dodgy organic produce - but how can you tell?
* Prakash warns NZ not to forgo biopharming
* Bio-Pharming Opportunities
* The Adventures of Dart the Fly
* More genetically modified foods cropping up
* Indian scientists develop vaccine from GM crop for cattle, sheep
* Two new reports support prospects for GM crop co-existance
* Global adoption of GM could boost global income by $316 billion by 2015
* Prince Charles, science and 'grey goo'

From: "Devinder Sharma"
Subject: Re: Bt cotton
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 09:43:10 +0530

Dear Mr Alex Avery,

I am not even amused to read your letter. The next time you write a letter
or a response to someone please try to follow the etiquettes, and be
decent in your language and _expression.

I do not like expressions like "intellectual masturbation", which I think
is essentially an _expression of desperation, frustration and failure.
Since you started it, and think that those who are 'anti-corporate' and
'anti-biotech' are indulging in 'intellectual masturbation', than let me
tell you what those scientists who serve as 'loudspeakers' for the tainted
corporate and biotech industry are ---- they are merely pimps for an
industry indulging in 'artificial insemination'.

My apologies for using such a deregatory language. But, I belive in giving
it back.

For your kind information, each and every State government in India where
Bt cotton was commercially cultivated in 2002-03, despite lobbying by the
biotechnology industry and their pimps, have given their verdict --
Monsanto's Bt cotton is a failure. The Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) has only on Friday rejected Monsanto's application for
aproving the Bt cotton varieties for the northern States.

I am afraid scientists have failed the biotech companies in India. I think
the scientists who approved the sub-standard crop should be publicly
prosecuted for causing damage to farmers. Accountability in science is the
need of the day.

Best wishes,

Devinder Sharma

Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 11:05:58 -0400
From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: Re: Bt cotton

Mr. Sharma,

Freedom or Dictatorship?

Hooray, Mr. Sharma, the big, evil corporations have been defeated and Bt
cotton technology is apparently dead for now in the Northern states of
India. Those farmers are for now left with one less choice and one less
effective pest control option. For now they are forced to continue using
chemical pesticides (often sham, adulterated pesticides from fruadulent
Indian pesticide companies) against pesticide-resistant pests and losing
even greater percentages of their crops. What a banner day for those

As for the other state's declarations that Bt cotton was a failure, there
are many conflicting reports as to the success or failure of Bt cotton in
India and there are many factors other than insect pests that contribute
to the success or loss of crops. It's a complex enough issue that I
wouldn't be so arrogant as to attempt to make decisions on any farmers'
behalf. But that is exactly the point of my email and this discussion: if
there aren't any environmental or consumer safety issues -- and there
aren't with Bt cotton -- then why is anyone, government or activist,
attempting to make such decisions for the farmers? WHY NOT ALLOW FARMERS
THE CHOICE TO USE OR NOT USE Bt COTTON?!! No farmer in any part of the
world is forced to plant biotech crops of any variety.

It is clear that there are plenty of Indian farmers who have had great
success with Bt cotton and will continue to purchase and plant it on their
farms -- as long as the government or activists don't take that choice
away from them. But that is precisely what has happened in the Northern
States and those farmers are now being denied choice. Who are you and who
are the bureaucrats to make such decisions for these farmers? You seem to
be of the view that Indian farmers are too stupid to act on their own
behalf or think for themselves and must be "protected" from such choices.
Do you really have such little faith in Indian farmers' intellect and
common sense? Conversely, do you really have that much faith in your
knowledge and experience in agriculture?

Why are 45% of Chinese farmers choosing to plant Bt cotton? Why are so
many farmers in the US, Australia, Brazil and Argentina freely making the
choice to plant biotech crops? Are they all so stupid?

Mr. Sharma, I am not a whore or a pimp for any corporation or government
bureaucracy. I'm an advocate for a very promising technology and for
farmer choice. You seem to be an advocate for centralized bureaucracy and
a precautionary principle so narrow that it will not allow 400 million
poor citizens in your country to ever achieve decent lifestyles.


Alex Avery
Hudson Institute

Cultivating Biodiversity: Understanding, Analyzing and Using Agricultural
Diversity Reviews at:


Aakanksha Kumar reviews a new book that highlights efforts made by small
farmers in the tropics, to preserve and conserve our biodiversity.

Nattering Nabob of Nonsense: A Review of a Review by Thomas R. DeGregori*

In a review of Cultivating Biodiversity: Understanding, Analyzing, and
Using Agricultural Diversity (Edited by Harold Brookfield, Christine
Padoch, Helen Parsons, Michael Stocking, Published by Intermediate
Technology Development Group) in TerraGreen, Issue 34, 15 April 2003,
Aakanksha Kumar asks the rhetorical question - How green is the Green
Revolution? Need we have read further in the review to find the reviewer's
answer or have we read enough of these rhetorical rants to recognize the
"answer" in advance?

First a comment on the publisher, Intermediate Technology Development
Group, of this meaty tome. In the 1970s they were the rage promoting
"appropriate" or "intermediate" technology. "Appropriate" to what other
than to a pre-existing ideology, was never really explained.
"Intermediate" technology was the term of E. F. Schumacher in Small is
Beautiful in which intermediate was neither the modern stuff nor was it
the technology that mired people in poverty. Schumacher himself admitted
that it did not yet exist but like Lewis Carroll's snarks, he knew that it
was out there someplace or at least could be invented. He also knew what
its characteristics were such as using local materials and "gentle" in its
use of resources.

By the 1980s, the "intermediate" technology craze had largely run its
course because it simply did not deliver development while other
technology strategies were delivering rapid transformation to many parts
of the globe particularly, East and Southeast Asia. To some of us it
seemed strange that just as peoples in developing countries were
demonstrating a mastery of modern science and technology and effectively
using it to compete with the once dominant "Western" enterprises, along
comes a group of activists to say that it was not for them. Could this
have been some sneaky Western capitalist conspiracy to suppress
competition? They have now been trumped by the post-modernists who
essentially revive 19th century imperialist ideas about science and
technology being an exclusively Western, white male testosterone loaded
endeavor. This was and remains, Old Wine in Old Bottles, but now with a
new label as we are informed that logophallocentric science and technology
are destroying the earth with one author, Sandra Harding, arguing that we
could as well call Newton's Mechanics, "a rape manual."

Old activist ideological organizations never die, they just re-tool to the
latest cause of the moment. In this case, it is biodiversity loss
resulting from "an overemphasis on high-yielding plant varieties." The
book is based on "11 case studies from South America, Africa, and Asia,
where farmers have `literally cultivated biodiversity'." These were the
"expert farmers" who "had the sense not to be swayed by the generally
`dismissive view of traditional agriculture'."

While it is true that in the very earliest phases of the introduction of a
new regimen of cultivation, farmers sometimes have had to be "swayed" and
persuaded about its benefits. This "persuasion" involves a combination of
methods, demo plots followed by having a selected number of locally
respected farmers try the new seed or technique (often guaranteeing the
crop) and training sessions, and extension and credit provided by
agriculturalists who live and work in the region and who have an intimate
knowledge of local farming practices and their history. What ultimately
persuaded farmers about the Green Revolution technology was the
significant increases in yields and the ability to protect them from
insects and disease.

A common cliche of environmental activists is that farmers have to be
"weaned" away from pesticides as if they were babies in need of parental
guidance from urban elitist activists with no other experience except
activism. However, other than the condescending tone, there is an element
of truth to this claim. Forty years of the successes of the Green
Revolution have made so-called "traditional farmers" not only open to
change but most often actively seeking it. Knowing the agricultural
history of their area better than the activist outsiders, they know and
often have personal memories of crops lost to insects and the human
tragedies that followed before the introduction of various forms of
chemical crop protection. Therefore many farmers otherwise open to change
are resistant to reduction in pesticide use even though it would reduce
their input cost and increase their net return.

When visiting an IPM project in central Java, I asked a farmer what he
would say if I told him that another farmer across the valley was
harvesting the same yield of cabbages as he was but only spraying about
one third as often. His response was straight-forward and to the point -
"I wouldn't believe you!" But through time, programs like the one that I
observed do work and farmers see for themselves the benefits realized by
their neighbors and learn to spray responding to pest infestation and not
the calendar just as farmers today are responding to the transgenic
varieties which require even less spraying and produce a higher net yield.

The Green Revolution was and remains, an ongoing process of improvement
and anyone who has worked with farmers around the world, knows that having
experienced the benefits of change, farmers are now actively seeking new
solutions and new technologies of which there has been a constant stream
and which it is now recognized that biotechnology is a vital element in
continuing this process.

Contrary to mythology about "an overemphasis on high-yielding plant
varieties," from the first research in Mexico on wheat in 1943 - witness
the almost complete absence of outbreaks of rust and smut -disease
resistance has been right up there with increased yields in Green
Revolution research. The famous IR 36, the most widely grown variety in
the late 1970s and 1980s, was the result of crossing of 15 different
varieties from 11 countries that had enhanced ability to handle 11
different forms of stress. The current convoluted arguments - harvesting a
much larger crop is not really an increase in yield because it largely
resulted from a decline in the loss from insect damage - against the
growing of insect resistant transgenic cotton in India makes it likely
that we will be hearing less about the dangers that mono-cultures pose for
crop protection since it will be a marvelous argument for transgenic

The centerpiece of the review is the usual litany of numbers on the
decline in genetic diversity resulting from modern agronomy - "75% of the
genetic diversity of the agricultural crops has been lost in the last 100
years." The first question that we have to ask, is how are we suppose to
know this as a fact as opposed to a myth? Whose counting, how are they
counting and why? In the pantheon of anti-technology "factoids," there
almost seems to be an inverse relationship between how often a number is
repeated and its accuracy. From agriculture's early beginnings, there was
the diffusion of crops from one region to another, more often than not,
displacing a local crop or greatly reducing its cultivation. At the same
time, there was a slight counter trend, as cultivation of a crop through
time led to the creation of local varieties adapted to regional
characteristics. What else are farmers supposed to do but plant the crops
that best allow them to provide for their families? Quite possibly this
decline in "genetic diversity" reflects the fact that farmers around the
world have been voluntarily adopting various elements of the modern
agronomy and the "Green Revolution." Has it occurred to Aakanksha Kumar
and the authors of the study that hundreds of millions of farmers around
the world may know something about what best meets their needs that their
self-anointed saviors don't?

This period of the "loss" of genetic diversity has seen the growth of
regional, national and international seed banks with hundreds of thousands
of accessions. In effect, the much maligned modern agronomy has reversed
the long term loss in genetic diversity as the accessions not only
included cultivated crops from around the world but also wild varieties.
This has been very much a part of the Green Revolution as these seed banks
are regularly drawn upon to develop new varieties and to respond to needs
of farmers growing the crop who may be facing an emerging disease or
insect problem. Historically, the only genetic diversity that had any
meaning to a farmer was that which was in his or her immediate vicinity at
the time they needed it. Now through the integrated research and
distribution systems of the CGIAR institutions, the entire computerized
data bank and the seeds that it represents are available to address
emerging problems.

There have been some persuasive arguments on AgBioView suggesting that
seed banks have served their purpose and that biotechnology essentially
renders them unnecessary. However cogent these arguments may be, it is
likely that we will have "seed banks" around for awhile longer. I, for
one, want to put ever more eggs in the biotechnology basket but I also
consider it wise to leave a few in the seed bank basket for the
foreseeable future. It is also clear that biotechnology opens vast new
realms of genetic diversity that will benefit farmers and all of humankind
if only its critics will stop impeding its progress.

Aakanksha Kumar's short review is so replete with misconceptions that one
is almost afraid to read the entire work less one be overwhelmed by them.
There is the standard refrain about "water-hungry varieties" which I have
dealt with in my Shiva the Destroyer? (Butterflies and Wheels: Fighting
Fashionable Nonsense, 16 April, 2003 and reposted on AgBioView.
http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=17) in which I
use the latest FAO data to show that the food that we eat today took about
half as much water as the same food did 40 years ago before the Green
Revolution. Also in the Shiva piece, is data, well known to AgBioView
participants, on the importance of the yield increases of the Green
Revolution for preserving overall biodiversity by allowing habitats to
remain uncultivated and the biodiversity preserved in agricultural fields
in modern no-tillage agriculture.

I try to read a reasonable sampling of these activists tomes even though
one rarely if ever finds any evidence in them of their being even remotely
familiar with the serious scientific literature on the subject nor does
one often find them written by authors with any experience in global
agriculture. But I am tempted to read this one to see where the farmers
are who abandoned "the so-called miracle varieties." Given the hundreds of
millions of farmers in the world, there might be a few in relatively
unique circumstances but many of us who have been out in the field have
yet to encounter them.

Finally the claim is made that our "expert farmers"- those who have not
succumbed to the siren song of modern agronomy - "have a higher standard
of living than others in the area." These "expert farmers" are a "small"
and ever diminishing minority of agriculturalists. One wonders how it is
that their agronomic achievements "are seldom recognized by fellow
villagers or outsiders" or why other farmers have not noticed the relative
affluence of "expert farmers" and reverted to the more traditional forms
of agriculture? Come-on get serious, if there is one thing that villagers
around the world recognize, it is the relative wealth of its members and
any change in relative economic status.

I have encountered many of these "expert farmers" in Africa and elsewhere
who had to make do with very limited inputs not because they wanted to do
so but because the inputs that they needed weren't available. My respect
for their hardscrabble ingenuity does not make me want to keep them in
that condition but to give them the opportunity to transform their lives
as farmers elsewhere have done. If the authors of the study, the NGO that
sponsored it and the reviewer have really found a way to raise farmers
income by abandoning modern agronomy, why do they not submit it to a
quality journal for peer review rather than self-publishing it in a
promotional tract. Until they submit their data for peer review, the rest
of us have more than enough reason to remain skeptical. Or to put it
bluntly, if it looks and smells like bullshit, be careful and don't step
in it.

*Professor of Economics
University of Houston
(author of forthcoming book, Origin of the Organic Agriculture Debate
State Press: A Blackwell Publishing Compamy, in press, January 2004.
http://store.yahoo.com/isupress/0813805139.html, trdegreg@uh.edu and

Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Houston
Department of Economics
204 McElhinney Hall
Houston, Texas 77204-5019
Ph. 001 - 1 - 713 743-3838
Fax 001 - 1 - 713 743-3798
Email trdegreg@uh.edu
Web homepage http://www.uh.edu/~trdegreg



New York Post
April 27, 2003

GORDON Gecko would be proud. After all, environmental activists have
adopted his style: using annual shareholder meetings to manipulate
investors into voting for their agenda.

Although these radicals are promoting a different concept than that of
Wall Street raiders, their results are nevertheless the same - costing the
corporations they target a lot of money just to make them go away.

These environmental extremists have a powerful new ally on board, too.
Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), an advisor to nearly 950
institutional and corporate investors, is endorsing these resolutions and
is recommending that their clients vote accordingly.

Their initial target? American Electric Power (AEP), the largest
electricity generator in the U.S.

Two AEP shareholders - the Connecticut state pension fund and Christian
Brothers Investment Services - took the advice of ISS and filed a
global-warming-related resolution for the company's annual shareholder
meeting. Specifically, the resolution requires a corporation to calculate
and publicly announce the potential costs to the company if government
regulations on fuel emissions were to tighten.

On the surface, the resolution may seem harmless enough. But clearly,
substantially restricting carbon-dioxide emissions would cause energy
costs to soar. In fact, a study by the Clinton Administration's Energy
Department estimated that such restrictions would cost the U.S. about $400
billion annually.

But why would environmental activists persist in forcing corporations to
go through these machinations even though they realize the current
administration is unlikely to impose such constraints on companies in the
midst of a recession?

Actually, they're doing it precisely because they realize they can't get
the government to pass those laws.

It becomes obvious, then, that the environmentalists' real objective is to
scare shareholders with the improbable notion that a corporation's failure
to cut emissions will result in steep government fines, a subsequent drop
in profits and an adverse effect on share price. The danger here is that
companies, which should focus on increasing shareholder value, are instead
distracted out of fear that these radical environmentalists will pound
their company's stock price if they don't comply with activist agendas.

But let's pretend for now that the objective of these environmentalists is
actually sound. Their methods nevertheless remain completely flawed.

Rather than providing some objective standard that applies to all
companies in an industry, their strategy selectively targets specific
companies - the ones they may have influence over - and harms them
individually. In essence, it pushes some companies to adopt standards and
it materially increases their costs, while others in the industry face a
lower, market-driven set of costs.

Furthermore, did Connecticut pensioners really hire their pension fund to
push social agendas, and in the process decrease the value of their
investment in companies like AEP?

Maybe, to rephrase from the movie, Wall Street, "Green is good." How can
we tell, though, if the green these activists are advocating represents
the environment or the money taken from shareholders' pockets?


The World is Beginning to Embrace Agri-Biotech

The East African Standard (Nairobi)
April 28, 2003
By Catherine Wanyama

The uptake of agricultural biotechnology outside Africa has been rapid,
with over140 million acres of genetically modified crops currently under
cultivation in 16 countries. Global trends indicate that since 1996, both
the acreage under transgenic or genetically modified (GM) crops and the
number of crops being genetically engineered are growing.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
(ISAAA) attributes rapid adoption of agribiotech to social and economic
benefits of the crops to farming, especially to resource-poor farmers. GM
crops have an edge over other crops because of their higher yields, less
use of pesticides and herbicides, reduced time in fields, reduced
production costs, insect and drought resistant varieties.

In some countries, biotech is taking centre stage in economic development.
Some of the leading developing countries in GM adoption include China,
India, Korea, Mexico, Cuba, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In these
countries, biotech industries reflect a robust and fast growing industry
geared towards economic empowerment. China in 1999 had over18 transgenic
crops under field trials, with the main crop under commercial production
being Bt cotton.

In South Africa, transgenic cotton is widely grown by farmers in the
Makhatini area of Kwazulu-Natal. Still in Kwazulu, initial reports show
that the genetically modified maize has increased the yield and farmers'
incomes have shot up.

"This new technology is what Africa needs to overcome food shortages,"
says Richard Sithole, Chairman of the Hlabisa Distict Farmers' Union whose
members harvested 100 bags of the maize on an average two and a half
hectare plots last season as compared to 80 the previous season. Closer
home, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the
International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) are
conducting research on maize varieties resistant to the stem borer.
Australia recently gave a go-ahead to cultivation of Canola-the country's
first GM crop.

The soybean is the most important GM crop in terms of acreage with over 80
million acres worldwide followed by maize with 30 million acres. Canola is
third with 18 million acres. According to statistics, America leads other
countries in growing of transgenic crops. By 2002, it had a total of 96
million acres comprising mainly of soybean, corn, cotton and canola.

Argentina is second, growing soybean, corn and canola on 30 million acres,
followed by Canada with similar crops on 8.6 million acres. China, one of
the countries that has pursued genetic modification in agriculture
vigorously, by last year had 5 million acres under cotton.

In 2002, China's budget on GM crops surpassed USA's. By 2000 South Africa
had 0.5 acres of cotton and corn, ahead of Australia with 0.4 million
acres of cotton. Adoption of biotechnology, especially genetic engineering
is expected to soar in countries that have adopted a biosafety law and are
in the process of research in certain crops.

The Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) in Shimla, India, is set to
conduct field trials with GM potatoes tolerant to the potato tuber moth.
According to SM Paul Khurana, Director of CPRI, potato transgenic lines
that are resistant to potato tuber moth have been under field trials for
three years.

In Kenya the transgenic sweet potato is also undergoing field trials. The
transgenic sweet potato is modified against viruses. Vitamin A enriched
rice is expected to help address major problems associated with vitamin A
deficiency in South East Asia. The International Rice Research Institute
is in charge of the project.

Future GM crops are likely to carry traits that will improve nutrition and
health. Some of the food crops in the pipeline include salt tolerant
tomato, "golden rice" with vitamin A, sunflower, mustard, tea and coffee.

Gordon Conway, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation stresses the
importance of Africa having the experience and capacity to make informed
choices about GM food, and adds that three things are needed for African
countries to decide whether to take up GM crops, "A strong scinetific
community, policies that encourage advanced research and regulatory
systems, and a better understanding of the complexities of biotechnology."


Dodgy organic produce - but how can you tell?

26 April 2003

Dodgy operators are passing off non-organic food as the real thing and
charging consumers premium prices, but little can be done to catch them,
authorities say.

The practice is damaging the reputation of New Zealand's booming $70
million organics industry, but it is almost impossible to detect.

In the past few years the Commerce Commission had investigated only a few
complaints about organic food, but this did not mean the problem was not
widespread, fair trading director Deborah Battell said.

"It's a very difficult offence to detect. Consumers are not easily going
to know whether something is organically grown," she said. "There's really
no way to know. Some people say they can taste the difference but by then
it's too late as you have already bought the product."

Consumers relied on the honesty of traders, she said. "Clearly it is
better for a company that sells organic products to be able to say to
consumers they have certification."

Traders could be prosecuted for breaches of the Fair Trading Act for
making misleading and deceptive claims. Though there were three
independent organisations that certified organics growers, membership was

The problem was also partially caused by the lack of a national standard
that set guidelines for organics producers.

Prakash warns NZ not to forgo biopharming

NZ Life Sciences
April 28, 2003

A visiting biotechnologist says New Zealand, as an agricultural producer,
cannot afford to miss out on the rapid developments in bio-pharming - the
extraction of valuable pharmaceutical and industrial compounds from plants
and animals.

Dr Channapatna Prakash, from Alabama in the United States, is one of the
speakers at a symposium on bio-pharming in Wellington today, organised by
Crown Research institutes, the Life Sciences Network and the Royal

Dr Prakash says some very high value pharmaceuticals can be extracted from
genetically engineered plants.

They include ingredients used in vaccines.

He says examples already under development include vaccines for rabies,
cholera and Hepatitis B, from plants such as tobacco and potatoes.

As an agricultural nation with a knowledge-based economy, Dr Prakash says
New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of the new technologies.

But he says there are challenges, including issues of product safety,
containment and designing a regulatory environment that will allow the
emerging industry to operate.

Bio-Pharming Opportunities

28 Apr 2003

A visiting biotechnologist says New Zealand, as an agricultural producer,
cannot afford to miss out on the rapid developments in bio-pharming - the
extraction of valuable pharmaceutical and industrial compounds from plants
and animals.

Dr Channapatna Prakash, from Alabama in the United States, is one of the
speakers at a symposium on bio-pharming in Wellington today, organised by
Crown Research institutes, the Life Sciences Network and the Royal

Dr Prakash says some very high value pharmaceuticals can be extracted from
genetically engineered plants.

They include ingredients used in vaccines.

He says examples already under development include vaccines for rabies,
cholera and Hepatitis B, from plants such as tobacco and potatoes.

As an agricultural nation with a knowledge-based economy, Dr Prakash says
New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of the new technologies.

But he says there are challenges, including issues of product safety,
containment and designing a regulatory environment that will allow the
emerging industry to operate.

The Adventures of Dart the Fly

By Cory Weinstein, Student
Acres Green Elementary, Colorado

(Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. 2003. Boundless
Science for Bountiful Agriculture: Winning Student Essays, 2003. Special
Publication 23. CAST, Ames, Iowaa) Thanks to Linda M. Chimenti and Cindy
Richards for forwarding this.)

Hello, Im Dart the fly. One night I went flying for an adventure. I
came across a tobacco plant that was glowing. I asked the plant, "Why are
you glowing?" It answered, "I am genetically modified, which means that
scientists cut out DNA from a plant or animal and put it in a another
species to change the original plant or animal to produce a new property.
I have a gene from a firefly in me." "Wow," I said, "that sounds so cool.
Think of all the future combinations possible!"

A bit down the road I saw a field full of colors and a corn about a
million times my size. I looked at it in amazement and asked what its
name was. "Im called Bt corn. I have a gene from a bacteria that helps
me make a natural pesticide inside me," said the corn. "It kills the
insects that usually eat me. Farmers use fewer pesticides, so this leaves
fewer residues on food. Fewer insecticides go into the soil and the
streams. I also have a better yield, so that saves money too!"

After a few hours flying, I came to a field that was all green. Under all
the leaves was a big soybean pod. "Hi, whats your name?" I asked. "Im
called the Roundup Ready soybean. Im genetically modified, and Im
immune to the pesticide called Roundup. Roundup kills the weeds around
me, but not me," said the soybean gleefully, "so that means less
pesticides used."

I flew over to a glass house and saw a scientist. He said he was busy
creating golden rice. I asked, "Whats that?" The scientist said, "I
take two genes from a daffodil and one from a bacterium and put them into
rice plants. This makes rice produce beta-carotene, which a human can
turn into vitamin A." I said, "That sounds like a great product since so
many children suffer from vitamin A deficiency and can go blind."

"Wow!" I said, "I have so many ideas for the future: plants that will
handle droughts, floods, or extreme temperature changes; disease-resistant
plants; longer-lasting vegetables; plants with more yield because of the
growing population; healthier plants that have more vitamins and nutrients
or that have beneficial effects in humans like antibiotics and vaccines.
Maybe plants can even treat diabetes or cancer!" The scientist explained
that although I have great ideas, many people are afraid about using
genetically modified foods since they dont know much about them.

I decided to pay a visit to the Environmental Protection Agency. I put on
my top hat and coat and went to one of the offices. I explained all the
benefits of genetically modified foods and their future possibilities. I
demanded more research to prove that genetic modification is safe for
humans and the environment, and that the foods wont cause allergies. I
suggested more education and labeling so people could make a choiceand I
begged him not to swat me!


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Applications of Biotechnology to Crops: Benefits and Risks. Issue Paper
No. 12. CAST, Ames, Iowa, <http://www.cast-science.org/biotc_ip.htm>
Freedman, J. 2002. Everything You Need to Know About Genetically
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Genetic engineering. 2002. <www.greenpeaceusa.org/ge/> Genetically
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Guide to genetic engineering. 2002.
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York. Lauck, S. 2002. [Agricultural Economist, Business Advisory
Services, CoBank, ACB, Denver, Colorado] Personal communication. Risk of
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Transgenic crops: An introduction and resource guide. 2002. < HYPERLINK
Ward, S. 2002. [Associate Professor of Plant Breeding, Colorado State
University, Fort Collins, Colorado] Personal communication. Yount, L., et
al. 2002. The Ethics of Genetic Engineering. Green Haven Press, San
Diego, California.



More genetically modified foods cropping up
Advocates point to increased productivity, while critics worry about
long-term effects

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 27, 2003

Once a tiny kink in the food chain, genetically modified foods have become
a staple in America's diet.

Almost one-third of all corn planted in Wisconsin this spring will come
from genetically altered varieties. Among soybeans, nearly 80% of the crop
will be genetically modified.

Nationwide, some 40 different crops are approved for commercial use,
according to the Council for Biotechnology Information.

More and more, these crops are becoming ingredients in everything from
soups to pizzas to soft drinks.

"We eat genetically modified foods every day," said C. Neal Stewart, a
plant geneticist at the University of Tennessee. "If you have any romantic
notions about natural foods, lose them."

Fifty years ago, it was unlikely that scientists James Watson and Francis
Crick were thinking about bio-engineered food when they discovered the
structure of DNA, and in so doing, unleashed generations of scientific

By helping to unravel the mysteries of DNA, Watson's and Crick's work has
wended its way through science. In agriculture, it allowed scientists to
alter genes - adding a trait here, eliminating a trait there - so the raw
product in some foods was suddenly different.

With their ability to fight pests and weeds, biotech advocates say, the
new genetically altered crops have helped farmers increase productivity
and cut the use of farm chemicals. As an alternative to laboratories,
newer generations of genetically engineered crops are being used in
outdoor experiments to harness the powers of Mother Nature to mass-produce

But as much as the technology creates a ray of sunshine for its advocates,
clouds continue to hang over it.

Some opponents are dead-set against it on principle and believe that
dickering with genes is wrong. Others say that the technology is another
way of exacerbating a trend toward large-scale farming.

Others worry about food safety and the long-term effects. What happens to
both animals and humans over a lifetime of eating gene-tweaked food? Will
insects become resistant to these brave new crops?

Another issue is how the integrity of organic food can be protected as
wind-blown seeds move from one field to another.

"My own personal feeling is that if scientists can create miracle drugs,
that is one thing, we can't pooh-pooh that," said Theresa Marquez, chief
of marketing and sales at Organic Valley, a co-op in La Farge in western

"But to focus on food, it's not necessary. We're producing a glut of food.
Farmers are going out of business."

'Is it safe?'

Advocates are quick to note that three federal agencies are required to
approve the sale of genetically engineered crops. They point to reports by
both the American Medical Association and the National Academy of
Sciences, which concluded that the differences between genetically
modified foods and conventional foods are negligible.

But those two scientific groups also raised questions about the long-term
effects of the technology. The National Academy panel said regulators
should more closely scrutinize the environmental impact of genetically
altered plants and should monitor fields after approval for unforeseen

"Is it safe?" asked Brent McCown, a horticulturist at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison who uses the technology.

"I believe it is. This is an incredibly powerful science, and it is so
powerful that we will never put it back in the box. We have to accept that
it is here to stay."

Stewart, author of "Living on a Genetically Modified Planet," said that
genetic engineering only allows plant breeders to do more quickly what
they have always done: breed crops for desired characteristics.

"You are under much more risk from food-borne pathogens," such as
salmonella and E. coli, than from genetically modified organisms, Stewart

Jim Lange's 2,000 acres of farmland in the Town of Norway in northern
Racine County is increasingly being encroached on by urbanization. He uses
two gene-altered varieties of corn and soybeans that allow him to cut down
his use of pesticides - something he said that many of his neighbors

All of the soybeans he plants are so-called Roundup Ready - the trade name
for seeds that contain a gene that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup.
About 60% of his corn has a toxin-producing gene that protects against the
infestation of the European corn borer.

Roundup Ready soybeans let farmers spray the powerful herbicide on
soybeans without harming them. The result: He saves money, has fewer weed
problems and spends less time tilling the soil.

"They are a good risk-management tool for farmers," Lange said.

But even some advocates have concerns.

McCown believes farmers are planting too much corn that has been
engineered to kill the corn borer.

"What that leads to is all kinds of things down the road," he said.
"Insects will develop resistance. Ecologically that is stupid."

Questioning controls

Others worry about inadequate controls.

In February, a Kraft Foods executive said the company would like to see
the practice of using food crops to make pharmaceuticals stopped for fear
they will get into the food supply.

That happened last year in Nebraska when the U.S. Department of
Agriculture pulled 500,000 bushels of soybeans off the market. The
soybeans had been engineered to produce an enzyme used in laboratories to
speed the production of insulin. The company, ProdiGene of College
Station, Texas, was involved in another case in Iowa, and last month
agreed to pay $250,000 and cleanup costs that could total more than $3
million in the two states.

Kraft supports the use of genetically modified crops approved by

"Right now public acceptance of biotechnology in America is relatively
high," Betsy Holden, Kraft's co-chief executive officer, told an
agriculture group in suburban Washington, D.C.

"But how many more times can we test the public's trust before we begin to
lose it?"

Sowing mistrust

Europeans are already mistrustful of the technology. The European Union
bars genetically modified foods and seeds - costing U.S. biotech firms
about $200 million a year in lost corn exports alone.

While an outright ban on the technology seems unlikely in the U.S.,
consumer unease is evident.

Last fall, Oregon voters defeated a measure requiring the labeling of
genetically engineered foods - but only after support dwindled from
two-thirds of the voters to less than than 30% in the final three weeks.
Opponents spent $4.5 million on a last-minute ad blitz, according to the
Portland Oregonian.

Labeling measures have surfaced in Congress since 1999, and several state
legislatures are now mulling mandatory labeling laws. A poll conducted in
2001 for the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that 75% of
people wanted to know whether their food contained products that were
genetically altered.

"I think a lot of our customers want a better connection with their food,"
said Lisa Malmarowski, marketing manager for Outpost Natural Foods, which
operates stores in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa.

"We are not anti-tech, we are not a lot of Luddites here. We just want to
know more about where our food comes from."

A worldwide poll commissioned by the Discovery Channel for a program
titled "DNA: The Promise and the Price," which aired this month, showed
that 62% of people in eight countries believe that rules and regulations
are not keeping pace with genetic research. In the U.S., 70% held that

This wariness shows up in the marketplace as well.

Organic boom

Organic farming and organic foods have been a hit with consumers.

While still a tiny percentage of overall farmland, crops planted on
certified organic land rose 74% to 2.3 million acres between 1995 and
2001, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By law, organic
crops can't use genetically modified organisms.

Sales at Organic Valley in La Farge have jumped from $99.5 million in 2001
to a projected $155 million this year.

Organic Valley can't attribute the growth directly to concerns about
genetically modified food, but customer surveys regularly point to worries
over the "Big Three," said Marquez.

They are: antibiotics, pesticides and bovine growth hormones - a
genetically engineered product injected into dairy cattle for higher milk

"Three years ago, we were 75 percent in small stores and whole foods
stores, and 25 percent in some of the select upscale stores," Marquez
said. "Today we sell to Wal-Mart, and 70 percent of dairy is in the
grocery mass market channel."

Foods in spotlight

When it hit the market in 1994, Monsanto's Posilac - the bovine growth
hormone - was hailed as a way for farmers to get more milk out of their
cows. But it also riled consumer groups that were concerned about its

An estimated 17% of the nation's dairy cattle in 2002 were being treated
with the product, also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin, according
to a new report by a team of UW researchers.

"It seems safe to say now that (the product) will be remembered in the
historical annals of agricultural biotechnologies as the juggernaut that
was not," the report said.

Lee Quarles, a Monsanto spokesman, said 13,000 dairy farmers use Posilac
and "are able to reduce their input costs because their cows are producing

Two other genetically altered foods that have taken a hit are potatoes and

Genetically altered potatoes, which were once raised in Wisconsin, are no
longer grown here because major buyers such as McDonald's are steering
clear of them, said McCown, the UW horticulturist.

Even in his own lab, he has felt the effects of a consumer backlash.
McCown used genetic engineering to develop cranberries that produce a
deeper, redder color in Wisconsin's short growing season. But he balked at
conducting field trials after growers expressed concerns. Growers were
worried about public acceptance.

"The juice business is enormously competitive," McCown said. "No one wants
to take the risk."

McCown, however, remains optimistic.

He believes the next generation of genetically modified foods will have
qualities that consumers want - rather than having attributes, such as
insect resistance, that appeal mostly to farmers.

"You'll see quality traits so food will store longer and taste better," he
said. "These are things that the consumer can buy into."

Marilynn Marchione of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this


Reuters (Via Agnet)
April 25, 2003

WASHINGTON- U.S. wheat industry leaders on Friday were cited as asking the
U.S. Department of Agriculture to press ahead with its review of Monsanto
Co.'s biotech wheat and deny a bid by opponents of genetically modified
wheat to block regulatory approval. Led by the National Association of
Wheat Growers (NAWG), the story says that the industry delivered a letter
Friday to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman asking that the USDA adhere to
a strictly scientific review of Monsanto's application for "Roundup Ready"
wheat. The story says that in the industry letter Friday, U.S. Wheat
Associates, an industry export marketing agency, and the Wheat Export
Trade Education Committee (WETEC), joined with NAWG to assert that the
biotech opponents did not represent the interests of the wheat industry
and that it is not USDA's role to examine issues outside of scientific
concerns. NAWG CEO Daren Coppock was quoted as saying, "We don't want a
scientific process to become burdened. That needs to stay pure. There is
some substantial reaching going on there. The folks filing it are trying
to do everything they can to slow down biotechnology. The true farmers
have an approach ... of progress, cautious progress, but still progress.
We're not ready to go plant biotech wheat in the ground tomorrow, but we
want to continue to work on biotech issues to successfully launch biotech
wheat at the appropriate time."


Indian scientists develop vaccine from GM crop for cattle, sheep


New Delhi, April 27, IRNA -- Indian Institute of Science (IIS) scientists
have achieved a breakthrough in developing 'oral candidate vaccine' from a
transgenic plant to fight a deadly virus, which is affecting thousands of
sheep and goats in the country.

Bangalore-based scientists have demonstrated that a genetically modified
'pigeonpea' plant has been effective on the rinderpest virus, which has
killed thousands of cattle in Africa, West Asia and South Asia.

Though India is in the process of declaring itself as a 'rinderpest' free
country, a similar disease has affected thousands of sheep and goats.

It has been scientifically tested in the laboratory and is the first of
its kind for a oral candidate vaccine against rinderpest virus. As India
is becoming a rinderpest free country, the vaccine can be tested on sheep
and goats, which are being affected in thousands, said M S Shaila, head,
Microbiology and Cellular Biology Department at IISc in the Southern
Indian State of Karnataka.

Shaila worked with G Lakshmi Sita of IISc in identifying the antigen from
pigeonpea plant to fight the rinderpest virus.

If everything goes well, it can be tested on sheep and goats in a year or
so, she said.

After the lab experiments, field trials and experiments with the edible
vaccine would be conducted before a final product was brought out, she


Two new reports support prospects for GM crop co-existance

April 25, 2003

Fresh information from UK farm industry body SCIMAC has given a major
boost to prospects for managing GM and non-GM crops at the practical farm
level. The two new reports were issued as EU stakeholders met at a
roundtable forum in Brussels (24 April) to discuss co-existence - how to
manage the production of GM and non-GM crops on the same farm or between
neighbouring farms.

The first report is a survey of all farmers who took part in GM crop
trials over the past three years. It found few practical difficulties in
managing GM and non-GM crops according to co-existence guidelines. The
second, an independent audit of growers conducted by ADAS Consulting Ltd,
confirmed very high levels of compliance with the requirements of the

"The positive response from trial growers and the audit process is very
encouraging," said SCIMAC chairman Dr Roger Turner. "Overall it shows that
the guidelines are based on procedures which farmers are familiar with,
and which do not represent a major departure from current best practice
within the industry."

"The farm-scale evaluations in the UK have presented a unique opportunity
within Europe to apply a set of protocols developed specifically to allow
access and choice to both GM and non-GM crop production."

"This experience, in what is without doubt the largest ever series of
co-ordinated field trials in the UK, clearly demonstrates that the SCIMAC
approach is workable in practice, robust in safeguarding the integrity of
GM and non-GM crops, and capable of being audited."

Click here to download the file [60 KB]:



Global adoption of GM could boost global income by $316 billion by 2015

Agricultural Biotechnology Council
April 26, 2003

A new report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics
(ABARE) suggests the worldwide adoption of genetically modified crops
could boost the overall income of all regions by $316 billion by 2015,
according to economic modelling forecasts.

However, there are a number of barriers to this being achieved. These
include consumer acceptance, ownership of key technologies and the stance
of certain major food importing countries.

Greatest gains would be made in the developing world were increases in GDP
could expected to be 1.2-3.1% while the already developed world area can
only expect improvements to GDP from GM adoption to be below .2%

"GM crops have the greatest potential for increasing the standard of
living in less developed countries" says the ABARE's principal research
officer, Max Foster. "However, there are a number of barriers to this
being achieved. These include consumer acceptance, ownership of key
technologies and the stance of certain major food importing countries".

Current EU restrictions while having wider implications, and would impact
the EU most significantly with an estimated decline in GDP of $20 billion.

Click here to read more:


Prince Charles, science and 'grey goo'

Daily Telegraph
28 April, 2003

PRINCE Charles has warned that life on Earth could be wiped out by
scientists playing God with potentially lethal new technologies.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper has learned that the Prince has summoned
experts to a crisis summit over fears that the planet could be engulfed in
a so-called grey goo catastrophe caused by experiments going wrong.

The campaign reflects his continuing concern over environmental issues
following his successful crusade in highlighting the dangers of
genetically modified food, and centres on nanotechnology, the cutting-edge
new science that involves meddling with the molecules and atoms that make
up the universe.

His intervention last night set him on a collision course with the
Government, which has given its full support to scientists involved in
this controversial research, claiming it could be worth a fortune for
British industry.

Tony Blair himself has described nanoscience as startling in its

And last night senior Labour MP Ian Gibson, himself a scientist, warned
the Prince to keep his nose out of the debate. Mr Gibson said the Prince
should not hold private seminars but instead give evidence to a Commons

But Charles won powerful support from Britain's best known green
campaigner, Jonathon Porritt, who said: "This research has radical
consequences and we need to be much more alert about its implications".

The row follows claims by some experts that nanotechnology could spark a
freak accident the so-called grey goo nightmare where tiny nanorobots
could gobble up the Earth.

This apocalyptic vision is conjured up by Michael Crichton, best-selling
author of Jurassic Park, in his latest thriller Prey, which tells of
humans being attacked by a cloud of out-of-control nanobots.

Environmentalists deny it is science fiction fantasy and say it could
happen if governments fail to impose strict controls on maverick

The Prince has asked the Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious
scientific institution, to help him organise an emergency summit in his
Highgrove home to discuss the frightening consequences of this unproven

He has also written to leading opinion-formers in an attempt to raise the
profile of the nanotechnology debate.

Revelations about Charles' new crusade will cause further tensions between
the Royal Family and the Labour Government. He has already infuriated
Ministers with his outspoken views attacking GM crops.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, who is close to Tony Blair and has
extensive private business interests in GM technology, is a passionate
supporter of the new science. "Nanotechnology opens up huge
possibilities," he said in a recent speech. "But we must move fast if we
are to stay in the race."

And last night The Mail on Sunday learned that the billionaire Minister,
who has made donations worth $30 million to the Labour Party, will shortly
announce Government grants worth $260 million to fund nanotech research.

Enthusiasts say nanotechnology could create new miracle lightweight
materials, cures for deadly diseases and super-fast microchips. Research
is already taking place at some of Britain's most prestigious universities
including Oxford and Cambridge.

The Americans see the potential of the technology for new defence
equipment including body armour and lightweight fighting vehicles.

The Prince's sceptical stance came under fire from Dr Gibson, chairman of
the influential Commons Science and Technology committee.

Dr Gibson accused him of unfairly using his Royal status to bias an
important debate and said he would now launch a Commons inquiry into the

"The Prince's views are anti-science. He has some very green advisers. He
should talk to more people from the scientific community.

"The Prince uses his position to get a platform for his views that other
mere mortals cannot match. If he has already taken a position on the
subject which it sounds like he has then he will inevitably bias the
argument. Most people have not even heard of nanotechnology and many will
naturally side with the Prince rather than investigate the issue for

"He did the same with GM food. He took a strong line against it even
before the results of any of the farm trials had even been announced."

Dr Gibson added: "It is, however, an important subject. And if my
committee does have an investigation into it we will certainly be asking
Prince Charles to come along, where his views can be properly

If the Prince continues to oppose Government policy, he risks a
constitutional crisis. While he is free to vent his views on non-political
issues, such as modern architecture, as a member of the Royal Family he is
forbidden from going head-to-head with the Government on matters of public

Charless worries were triggered by old-Etonian environmental campaigner
Zac Goldsmith, who is emerging as one of the Prince's most important

Mr Goldsmith, the 28-year-old son of late billionaire Sir James Goldsmith
and editor of The Ecologist magazine, defended the Prince's decision to
get involved in the row.

"He can play an enormously important role in leading the debate," he said.
"The potential is there for the grey goo effect. It is a Pandora's box.

"With nanotechnology there is massive room for disaster. It is quite
terrifying that there has been no debate on this issue. Some people may
say the genie is out of the bottle already.

"But in fact it will only be pushed out the bottle with billions of pounds
of research money. There is still time to ask if we are wise enough as a
species to handle this new technology."

Mr Goldsmith told how he sparked Charles' excitement in the subject when
he sent him a detailed report warning of the dangers. "I know the sorts of
issues which interest him," he explained.

The Big Down report, published earlier this year by the Canada-based ETC
Group, is seen by ecologists as the definitive work on nanotechnology and
has heavily influenced the Prince's thinking.

The survey recommends an international agreement restricting nanotech
research. It also warns that even if the grey goo nightmare proves to be
unfounded, nanotech poses other threats to the planet.

For example, it argues, some of the new miracle materials could have
unforeseen side-effects rather like asbestos, once hailed as a
wonder-substance, which was later revealed to pose deadly risks. The
Prince also discussed the issue with long-time friend Jonathon Porritt,
chairman of the Governments Sustainable Development Commission.

Mr Porritt said: "I know Prince Charles keeps a close eye on a wide range
of emerging issues and nanotechnology is certainly one in which he has
taken a keen interest."

A senior Royal aide told The Mail on Sunday the Prince felt it was
important to start a national debate.

The summit is likely to take place in the next couple of months, said the
aide. He is worried that research is running ahead of the ethical issues.
He feels the need to take the time to think things through.

Ottilia Saxl, chief executive of the Stirling-based Institute of
Nanotechnology, which supports the new science, welcomed the Princes
involvement, but said the new technology would bring huge benefits.

"There are great prospects particularly in medical research. This is not
about unlocking a Pandora's box. The idea of self-replicating nanorobots
is pure science fiction, she said. You cannot regulate every aspect of
nanotechnology. We need to have a common sense approach."

In the introduction to his new novel, Michael Crichton joins the calls for
restrictions on research.

"But of course, it is always possible that we will not establish
controls," he said. "Or that someone will create artificial,
self-reproducing organisms far sooner than expected. If so, it is
difficult to anticipate what the consequences might be."