Today in AgBioView: April 29, 2003:
* Re: Bt cotton
* Ho's Publication list
* Why are most Europeans opposed to GMOs?
* The GM Labeling Debate
* Enron, Malaria and the Public Interest
* GIVE GROWERS CHOICE, SAYS FEDERATED FARMER
* GENETICALLY MODIFIFED CROPS MAY SOON ENTER MALAYSIAN MARKET
* Many Wisconsin Crops Genetically Altered
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 12:12:03 -0400
From: "Alex Avery"
Subject: Re: Bt cotton
Reuters reports that the GEAC rejected Bt cotton for the Northern States
because it wasn't resistant against a virus. "The committee...noted with
concern the highly sensitive nature of this BT (bacillus thuringiensis)
cotton hybrid towards leaf curl virus that affects the yield of cotton and
is rampant in the area where it is to be grown," a government statement
I ask: Would it be appropriate to "reject" a conventional, non-GM cotton
variety because it wasn't resistant to the cotton bollworm? This is
exactly the same logic used by the GEAC. Under this logic, all non-Bt,
bollworm-resistant cotton varieties should be banned because bollworm is a
significant threat in essentially all areas of India.
Mr. Sharma, you may tout the rejection of Bt cotton by the GEAC because it
isn't perfect and doesn't solve all ag problems facing Indian farmers, but
it's an absurd decision and demonstrates the power of bureaucracies in
India. It's a despicable decision and an affront to common sense and
From: "Roger Morton"
Subject: Ho's Publication list
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2003 23:47:28 +1000
In Mae-Wan Ho's biographical blurb at the UK GM science debate
http://www.gmsciencedebate.org.uk/topics/forum/0067.htm it states "Dr Ho
has close to 300 publications."
Dr Ho offers the existence of these publications as part of her
credentials. I believe we are entitled to know what fraction of these
publications are in peer reviewed journals. I believe that the public
should be given the opportunity to read some of these publications in
order for us to be able to judge them.
In evidence given to the Chardon LL Hearing, Novotel, London, October 26
2000 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/chardonLLtranscript.php Dr Ho stated she
has "over 200 publications". So it would appear that her publication list
must have grown by something approaching 100 publications in the space of
two and a half years. This is quite remarkable.
Perhaps in 2000 she had 290 publications and she called this "over 200"
and perhaps in 2003 she still has 290 and calls this "close to 300" - we
don't know because we don't have her bibliography.
I have tried to do a literature survey to find Dr Ho's publications (see
http://www.netspeed.com.au/ttguy/Mae_Wan_Ho_bibliography.htm) and can find
only 18 publications in the pubmed database. I believe the vast majority
of her so called publications would be things she has written and then
self published on her own web site.
I would really like to see Dr Ho's list of close to 300 publications and
was wondering if any Agbioview members would consider an email campaign to
the GM Science review or to Dr Ho to request she supply such a list. I
have requested this list from Dr Ho, but doubt I will receive it - Dr Ho
does not usually offer me the courtesy of replying to emails from me.
Mae-Wan Ho's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
UK GM Science debate forum email address: email@example.com
Agbioview members might also consider giving Ho a serve for placing an
advertisement for an upcoming book of hers in her submission to the GM
(http://www.gmsciencedebate.org.uk/topics/forum/pdf/0067a.pdf) They might
like to give the forum a serve for allowing the advert past their
Why are most Europeans opposed to GMOs?
Factors explaining rejection in France and Europe
A strong movement of opposition to GMOs developed in the late 1990s in
many countries, especially in Europe, although these technologies were
presented from the outset as highly promising and their advantages were
often highlighted. How can this rejection be explained? The aim of this
paper is to answer that question through the case of France, which is
fairly representative in this respect of various European countries, even
if the opposition movement is here particularly strong. One examines
various factors, actors and processes that have led to such strong
opposition to GMOs that at this stage their development in Europe has
almost totally been halted. In the first part of the article we recall the
results of several recent surveys, showing the level of acceptance or
refusal of genetic engineering in several countries. We then examine
important factors of rejection: the focus on potential risks of GMOs and
the extensive publicity given to them, coupled with the inadequacy of
answers to these diverse criticisms, and a drawing up of an unfavorable
risk-benefit balance. Lastly, we point out that various fears and
objections to the evolution of agriculture and to the functioning of
society (i.e. limited trust in institutions and firms) appear to be
crystallized around GMOs.
FULL TEXT AT:
The GM Labeling Debate
The Globe and Mail
By ROBERT WAGER
April 25, 2003
Front Lines is a guest viewpoint section offering perspectives on current
issues and events from people working on the front lines of Canada’s
technology industry. The author is a member of the Biology Department at
Malaspina University College in Nanaimo, B.C. He has a science degree in
microbiology and a masters of science in biochemistry and molecular
biology from the University of British Columbia.
The discussion about special labelling of genetically modified (GM) food
has been increasing of late, which brings up the issues of truth and
objectivity when it comes to deciding the content of those official
In North America, labels depend on the content of the food. This is called
a product-based labelling system. Nutritional content and potential
allergen warnings are the two main reasons for labels on food. Labelling
food because it was produced using biotechnology would be a process-based
All labels must show nutritional information like protein, carbohydrate
and fat content. Now it is true that the labels in the U.S. require more
detail than those in Canada, but the regulations in Canada are soon to
mirror those of the US. A good thing, as consumers are becoming more
conscious of nutrition.
All known strong allergenic content must be on the label. This is a safety
issue, as some people can have severe problems when they consume
particular allergenic proteins. No one would argue against this important
safety labelling regulation.
These are the two reasons why certain information is put on food labels.
This system of labelling is objective, verifiable and enforceable. Truth
in labelling is very important.
All food products of biotechnology (GM food) are examined extensively
right down to the amino acid (building blocks of proteins), carbohydrate,
fat, vitamin, micronutrient and macronutrient content long before the
product reaches the market. If the biotechnology product is the same as
the parental variety, then the product is said to be substantially
equivalent. Substantially equivalent is a safety evaluation process
endorsed by most scientific bodies around the world including the American
Medical Association, CODEX and the World Health Organization. Since the
biotechnology products are nutritionally the same as their parental
varieties, why would a special label be required?
Proteins are made of long chains of 20 different amino acids. Most
allergens are proteins, and as such have a particular amino acid sequences
that gives them their allergenic properties. At present there are about
500 amino acid sequences of known allergenic proteins in data banks around
the world. This represents the vast majority of known allergenic proteins.
All biotechnology-engineered proteins’ amino acid sequence is compared
with the known allergen data banks before they reach the market. If a
particular engineered protein has sequence similarities with a known
allergenic protein, then there are many more requirements that must be met
before that particular food biotechnology product is given approval for
commercialization. There are no products available today that match
anything in the data banks. This extensive evaluation process for
allergenic potential is done on all food biotechnology products long
before they reach the market.
Is the process perfect? No. But it is certainly far superior to all other
types of food that are not evaluated for allergens at all. As technology
advances, we will be better able to further refine the evaluation process.
Clearly neither the nutritional content nor the potential allergen content
regulations are violated by the lack of GM specific labelling.
For the sake of argument, let’s say we are going to label food based on
the process used to make it and not the product itself. Here are a few of
the hurdles that must be addressed.
First, what is GM food? Different countries have different definitions. Is
anything that has the genome manipulated a GM product? If this is the
basis for defining a GM food, then virtually every food on the market
including organic food is a GM food. Modern plant breeding uses techniques
which cause mutations throughout the genome of the plant in order to make
new varieties, and except for biotechnology products those mutations are
Second, do we consider highly processed foods GM? For example, is canola
oil, which contains virtually no DNA or protein, a GM food? With no
detectable DNA or protein it becomes impossible to verify labels. This
means enforcement is also impossible.
And third, what do we do about the detection of food biotechnology
products? The average biotechnology crop has the engineered protein
accounting for 0.00004 per cent of the total protein of the plant. If
anything over 1 per cent must be labeled (EU regulations), then that means
we would label for content that 0.000004 per cent (these levels are far
below the levels of other contaminants of grain, such as insect parts and
There are very few systems in place that have that level of sensitivity
and accuracy. It is true that PCR could detect the engineered DNA at this
level, but only if the DNA is intact and not destroyed by the processing.
This means there are a great many foods that will not have sufficient
protein or DNA for detection. What should happen with these, as labelling
is not verifiable and therefore unenforceable?
Here is a real world example of the difficulties of moving to a
process-based labelling system. Consider a typical loaf of whole wheat
bread. The wheat may or may not be GM depending on the variety (triticale
is by most definitions a product of genetic manipulation). The yeast is
probably GM. If the fat is from canola, so it is probably GM but has no
detectable DNA or protein in it. But because of the low levels of
ingredients, it is impossible to truthfully label this product as GM or
Non-GM. Since it is imperative that all labels be truthful, what do we do
with a loaf of bread?
It has been said that consumers should have the right to choose and only
labelling GM food will give them that choice. This is a false. At the
present time about 70 per cent of food in the supermarket contain at least
one ingredient that is a product of biotechnology. The exception is
organic food. Organic food does not use food biotechnology products. This
means that everyone has the choice to avoid GM food. Simply buy organic
Perhaps a GM-Free labelling option might satisfy some critics of the
present labelling regulations. If a company wants to market a product that
does not contain GM ingredients then that company can label their food
GM-Free. However, that company must pay for the tests to prove their
claim. This way there is more choice for the consumer and the price burden
of labelling is put on those who are demanding the labelling in the first
Since there still is absolutely no evidence of any harm coming to anyone
from consuming food biotechnology products there should not be a financial
penalty put on the average consumer for the (scientifically unjustifiable)
labelling demands of the few.
Remember that not one single illness has been attributed to the
consumption of food biotechnology products. All claims to the contrary
have been disproved. Considering over two trillion meals with
biotechnology products have been consumed, the safety record speaks for
Dramatically changing our product-based food labelling regulations from
objective, verifiable and enforceable system to a subjective,
non-verifiable and unenforceable process-based system is not in the
Enron, Malaria and the Public Interest
Center for Global Food Issues
April 29, 2003
Some Enron executives have already gone to jail, and more probably will.
They defrauded the public; and, in some cases their own company, with
their high-flying stock manipulations. We have the Securities Exchange
Commission, anti-trust laws and accounting standards, to ensure good
business practices. Enron didn’t live up to them.
A Tulane University scientist, Steven R. Arnold, was banned from working
on federal grant projects because he misled the country, and the Congress,
by overstating the dangers of pesticides. His fellow scientists blew the
whistle, because they couldn’t replicate his supposed findings.
Congressman James Traficante of Ohio was expelled from the Congress in
2002 after a Federal judge ruled he used his office for fraud.
So what do we tell the people of Africa about their malaria epidemic? More
than a million Africans per year die from malaria, a scourge that could
have been cost-effectively controlled through the indoor use of DDT.
America and Europe eradicated the malaria before they renounced DDT and
then began pressuring Africa to give it up too.
DDT is not only the most effective mosquito killer, but is also a uniquely
effective mosquito repellent. DDT Sprayed on the insides of homes cuts
malaria risks by 90 percent with no threat to wildlife.
Dr. Maureen Coetzee, a malaria expert with the South African government,
notes that DDT is persistent and has been found in mothers’ breast milk,
but studies have failed to find any evidence that DDT is hazardous to
“If you give a mother a choice of small amounts of DDT in her breast milk
or having her baby die from malaria, it’s not really a choice at all, is
it?” she asked.
What do we tell the lumbermen in Oregon and Washington whose jobs were
shut down because logging was supposedly bad for the threatened salmon?
Now the salmon are suddenly flourishing again. It wasn’t the logging at
all, but a 25-year natural cycle that shifts the salmon food in the ocean
back and forth between the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf of Alaska.
Charles Margulis of Greenpeace says the government hasn’t tested
genetically enhanced crops for safety. But he’s lying by omission. Three
different government agencies have required and overseen the most
intensive product testing in history by the companies requesting approvals
of their biotech products.
Doug Tompkins, the multimillionaire founder of the Esprit clothing empire,
is a businessman with ecological aspirations. He’s bought up a thousand
square miles of remote southern South America to preserve it from
development. However, Tompkins also started the Foundation for Deep
Ecology. His foundation opposes the modern ships, cell phones, and
airplanes that make the global Hong Kong-based Esprit empire possible
Worse, the Foundation opposes the high-yield farming that feeds more
people from less land. Tompkins’ Foundation says, “Modern industrial
agriculture contributes to virtually every current social and ecological
crisis, from extinction to globalization to overpopulation to
But if modern agriculture (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) hadn’t tripled
the world’s crop yields after 1960, we’d already have plowed Tompkins’
Patagonian nature preserve for more food--along with virtually all the
world’s other wildlands.
Tompkins’ foundation blames modern farming for a soil erosion crisis, but
the traditional farms he prefers suffer a hundred times as much soil
erosion per ton of food produced.
We demand honest accounting from Tompkins’ Esprit clothing firm, but we
haven’t demanded any standard of accountability from his so-called
“non-governmental organization.” We still presume that such non-profit
groups are selfless and without guile.
Yet the Foundation for Deep Ecology says publicly, “The much heralded
Green Revolution has been a failure.” What part of saving a billion people
from starvation and simultaneously preserving 12 million square miles of
wildlands from being plowed for low-yield crops represents failure? What
does a non-profit organization gain by lying about the Green Revolution?
Hundreds of NGOs today fill the air with scary press releases. We have
accounting laws for corporations, and peer review for scientists, but we
have no institutional standards for the non-governmental “non-profit”
organizations. Journalists, unfortunately, too often fail to dig behind
the press releases because eco-scares give them front-page by-lines.
Shouldn’t everybody tell the truth--and have evidence to back up their
Don’t both corporations and non-profit organizations owe society the
highest standards of responsibility and accountability?
GIVE GROWERS CHOICE, SAYS FEDERATED FARMER
April 29, 2003
Life Sciences Network
Crop growers should be the ones to decide what they will grow, Neil Barton
from Federated Farmers said at the Symposium on Biopharming in Wellington
yesterday. Mr Barton said New Zealand was unique in having a small growing
area and that he believed it was unlikely growers here would move rapidly
towards large scale GM crop production, such as the United States had with
corn and soy. ³New Zealand¹s strength is in specialized crops and our high
health status, particularly with animals,² Mr Barton said. On the subject
of co-existence between GM and traditional crops, Mr Barton said as a
grower himself, he felt those wanting high levels of purity in non-GM
crops should bear the associated costs. Purity could be established and
maintained by using certified seed, undergoing voluntary crop inspections
three times a year and observing post-production separation methods. ³With
careful handling methods, GM presents us with opportunity,² Mr Barton
GENETICALLY MODIFIFED CROPS MAY SOON ENTER MALAYSIAN MARKET
New Strait Times (via Agnet)
April 28, 2003
BY Suzanna Pillay
KUALA LUMPUR -- Dr Low Fee Chon, head of the secretariat for BioSafety of
the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, was cited as
saying that with time, genetically modified crops created locally or
imported will enter the Malaysian market. Low, guest speaker at a talk on
Biotechnology entitled Genetically Modified Crops and their impact on
health and the environment which was held at the National Science Centre
yesterday, was further cited as saying that the Malaysia currently does
not commercially cultivate genetically modified crops and that the safety
of GM crops and GM foods would be assessed prior to release in the
Many Wisconsin Crops Genetically Altered
April 28, 2003
Genetically altered crops are becoming more prevalent in Wisconsin and
elsewhere. Eighty percent of the state's soybean crop is genetically
modified. And nearly one-third of all corn planted in Wisconsin this
spring will be genetically altered. Plant geneticist Neal Stewart says
Americans eat genetically altered foods every day -- everything from pizza
to soft drinks. The modified crops have helped farmers increase
productivity and reduce the use of chemicals. But, opponents worry about
food safety and long-term effects of tinkering with genes. The Council for
Biotechnology Information says about 40 different crops across the country
are approved for commercial use.