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May 5, 2003


Healthy Debate, Mr. Sharma's errors, Hand weeding, Gene flow


Today in AgBioView: May 2, 2003:

* Healthy Debate
* Mr. Sharma's errors
* Re: Hand weeding
* Gene flow
* Brazil labeling plan for GM foods draws criticism
* Greenpeace ordered to pay loggers for lost time
* GM survey finds misleading labels

From: "Mae-Wan Ho"
Subject: Re: more stuff
Date: Thu, 1 May 2003 14:03:08 +0100

To CS Prakash and AgBioView,

It has come to my attention that you have posted the following defamatory
and libellous item on your website concerning me.

I demand that you remove it immediately and issue an apology. It is total
fabrications and you know that.

I find your other items speculating on my publication list quite
despicable as well. You resort to personal attacks when you run out of
scientific arguments.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Institute of Science in Society
PO Box 32097
London NW1 0XR


AgBioView is a moderated forum where diverse and informed viewpoints are
openly allowed to be expressed. It is made clear when these viewpoints
come from individual authors. Such individual viewpoints, similar to
those shared with the AgBioWorld community by Ms. Ho and her colleagues in
past communications, do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of
AgBioWorld. While we seek to maintain focus on issues relevant to the
majority of AgBioWorld members, in the interest of contributing to a
healthy debate, we invite Dr. Ho to provide a response to the commentary
to which she takes offense and we will publish her response upon receipt.


Date: Fri, 02 May 2003 00:02:29 -0400
From: "John W. Cross"
Subject: Mr. Sharma's errors

Dear Mr. Sharma:

Your message to AgBioView makes a number of incorrect or exaggerated
statements. Sadly, some of them are also mean-spirited.

First, you claim that "...agricultural scientists have maintained that
there is no alternative to using pesticides." This is just the cheap
debating trick of setting up an indefensible "straw man". Get real. Many
farmers all over the world get by without using pesticides, we all know
that, so we must accept that this, in fact an alternative. But,
agricultural scientists also know that this alternative requires farmers
to accept the probable risk of an unacceptable degree of loss to pests,
depending on (unpredictable) conditions. That's the real world. GM crops
that have been engineered to resist pests or contain pesticides (BT crops)
are also an alternative.

Second, you claimed that farmers are advised to cease traditional
practices to reduce pest losses. Perhaps you've never heard of integrated
pest management (IPM)? IPM seeks to use the best traditional and modern
methods TOGETHER to obtain the best results with the least environmental

Third, somehow you claim pesticide manufacture is mostly an American
phenomenon. Not true. Many of the large players are European corporations.
Moreover, the earliest pesticides (sulfur, arsenicals, Bordeaux mixture)
were developed in Europe.

DDT is not an evil substance, it is just a substance. Like any other
substance, it can be used for good or ill, or not used at all.
Unfortunately, because of its low acute mammalian toxicity, it was
overused in the 1950's and 1960's, and it accumulated to high levels in
the environment before it was banned. BUT, how many human lives have been
saved from death or suffering from malaria by the early mosquito
eradication campaigns? Malaria was endemic in the USA until it was
eradicated by judicious use of DDT. Massive agricultural use and abuse

What does Agent Orange have to do with this debate? It's military use in
Vietnam was a mistake, most scientists agree, but the abuse of this
defoliant in Vietnam had noting to do with agriculture. Still, your
figures on its effects seem far-fetched. The Guardian is not a scientific
journal. I suggest you check the source of those figures. Also, I see that
you want the death penalty for scientists who make incorrect judgments.
Perhaps you'd like to move to Cuba, where dissenters get the death penalty
or 20 years.

So who is responsible for the starving in India? I don't know, but I don't
think that Ingo Potrykus is the culprit. Golden rice may not be the total
solution to the problems of India, but why object when some good-hearted
people try to help out? Carping about the charitable efforts of other
people is at best rude, at worst it is immoral and evil. I suggest that
you "Judge not, lest you be judged."

By the way, starvation among the poor in the US is not very common,
although I am sure it does exit. Poor nutrition is common among the US
poor, but not because of a deficiency of calories.

Finally, your solution to starvation in India is to beggar American rice
farmers? Again, get real. No US government is going to adopt policies that
will wipe out a major crop in a region of this country.

India needs to find solutions to its hunger problem that draw on its own
strengths. The power of science is that it points the way to win-win
solutions, not the old zero-sum games of the past. I am sure that with all
of its marvelous scientific brainpower, India can develop and adopt
policies that will raise up its own living standards without harming other
countries. When India unleashes the power of biotechnology, it will help
find a way to do this and more.

John Cross

Date: 01 May 03 11:31:11 -12
Subject: Re: Hand weeding


The Sacramento Bee article reprinted in AgBioView on the proposed ban or
restriction of hand weeding by the California Legislature caught my
attention. The proposed legislation seems totally unnecessary if a natural
course of events would have occurred. These events include not banning
methyl bromide, the registration of more effective herbicides and the
bioengineering and approval of vegetable crops with resistance to
herbicides. A huge reduction in labor costs and ultimately a reduction in
food costs would have resulted from these actions.

Now, because there are apparently no post-emergent, herbicide-resistant
vegetable crops being planted, workers have to hand weed and use short
hoes reported to cause back injuries. Restriction of hand weeding in
vegetable crops is not the solution to the problem of sore and injured
backs. Hopefully, the practice of hand weeding in vegetables, will
gradually decrease with regulatory and public approval of biotechnology
solutions and the registration and renewal of effective herbicides.

The proponents of agricultural biotechnology can now add saving backs to
the long list of benefits.

Robert Osgood
Hawaii Agriculture Research Center

From: "Nagib Nassar"
Subject: PS: sometime
Date: Thu, 1 May 2003 17:14:50 -0300

Dear colleage

From many writings exposed at this journal and others, authors refer to
gene flow from GMO to wild species and primitive races as if somthing
prejudicial and harmful in process of evolution which happens in natural
habitats under pressure of natural selection. I wander why the contrary
be not right? why this gene flow be not useful? why it may not fluent
evolution to produce new useful products and evolving more useful types?
tell me!! can you project this question on readers so that they discuss?

Best regards,


PS: Sometime I thought in Re-introducing cassava interspecific hybrids
produced by me to natural habitats of wild species to accelerate
evolution process and enrich wild species gene pools. I wander if
there is a contrasting difference between the introduced material be
interspecific hybrids or GMO.

Nagib M. A. Nassar
Professor, Genetica, Universidade de Brasilia, Brazil


Brazil labeling plan for GM foods draws criticism

May 1, 2003

SAO PAULO, Brazil - The Brazilian government decree ordering labels to be
put on all genetically modified foods drew criticism from both sides of
the GM debate who said the decree was either confusing or insufficient.

Decree 4,680 published on Monday mandates the labeling of foods or
ingredients of foods with more than 1 percent genetically modified
material. The decree is part of the broader government measure 113 that is
aimed at ending Brazil's large black market in illegal GM soy planting.

But Leila Oda, the president of the National Biosecurity Association
(ANBio), argued that the decree is unclear on what standards would be used
to determine levels of GM content.

"The decree manages to be very incoherent with the provisional measure
113, aside from being confusing," Oda, said this week. She used to sit as
a representative on the National Commission on Biosecurity (CTNBio) when
it authorized the commercial planting of GM soy and corn in Brazil.

The GM planting has since been blocked by environmentalists such as
Greenpeace and local consumer groups such as the Institute of Consumer
Defense (Idec) in the courts.

"No labeling norm is rational, given the current scenario in the country,
if there is not certification of the (entire) production chain," said Oda.

Oda said there would be no way to detect GM in poultry or cattle that had
been fed transgenic corn or soy. She also said the processing of grains
into meal or oil will make it impossible to detect GM contents because
high temperatures and preservatives breakdown the tell-tale genetic

The consumer watchdog Idec said the decree is a step toward informing
consumers but it remains doubtful of whether the government decree does
enough to protect consumers.

Idec said consumer will not know if food with less than 1 percent GM is
actually GM-free and no labeling is required if GM is undetectable after
processing, which destroys the traces of genetic alteration.

"This means all highly processed products (such as crackers, chocolates,
pastas) will not be labeled, by the simple fact of destroying the protein
making it impossible to detect GM," the institute said in a statement.


Reuters (Via Agnet)
May 01, 2003

SYDNEY - The New South Wales Farmers Association, Australia's largest
farmers' group, was cited as passing a resolution yesterday at an
executive council meeting supporting a three-year trial of genetically
modified (GM) canola in the state up to a maximum of 5,000 hectares
(12,360 acres) a year.

The story says that the resolution shows that NSW farmers generally
support the introduction of GM canola, which boosts yields, despite
opposition from growers who fear loss of international markets. The
resolution followed a decision on April 1 by Australia's federal GM
watchdog, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, to allow Bayer
CropScience (BAYG.DE) to commercially release seven varieties of GM canola
in Australia. Keith Perrett, president of grower body Grains Council of
Australia, was cited as saying growers needed the opportunity to see GM
canola grown in field conditions to assess its performance, including
costs of segregating it from conventional produce, adding, "If you want to
see this industry progress, this is a minimum way forward."


Greenpeace ordered to pay loggers for lost time
Illegal 1997 blockade meant 10 days off work

The Vancouver Sun
By Gordon Hamilton
May 1, 2003

Coastal loggers have claimed a victory against Greenpeace after the B.C.
Supreme Court ordered the environmental activists to pay loggers affected
by a blockade for lost wages. Greenpeace and two of its organizers,
Tzeporah Berman and Tamara Stark, were found to have wrongfully interfered
and prevented 25 loggers from going to work on Roderick Island on B.C.’s
central coast in May 1997. The activists were among a group who chained
themselves to logging equipment.

“This decision is going to certainly raise the bar for future protests,”
said Darrell Wong, president of IWA Canada Local 2171. “Greenpeace is
going to have to temper its actions against our members.

“If they are going to hold blockades, then I think they are going to have
to recognize the precedent is there: they can be sued both as an
organization and personally for the loss of employment and loss of wages.”

However, Wong said the affected loggers will not receive much money.

The total amount comes to no more than $5,000, he said, to be divided
among the four remaining loggers who pursued the case through the courts
for six years. Further, a claim for punitive damages was dismissed because
Justice Janet Sinclair Prowse found the protesters were peaceful.

Stark said she has yet to see the Tuesday judgment and was unable to
comment on the ruling until she had. Berman, now a director of
ForestEthics, a San Francisco-based group, was not available for comment.

The 1997 blockade lasted 10 days and was part of the eco-campaign to
preserve a swath of the central coast dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest. It
was being logged by a contractor working for Western Forest Products, a
division of Doman Industries Ltd.

Stark said in her testimony the purpose of the protest was to bring
attention to the kind of damage that Western was doing to public land such
as Roderick Island. In May, Stark, Berman and other protesters arrived at
Roderick Island aboard the Greenpeace ship Moby Dick.

Court documents show that on May 20, loggers had just begun working when
six people, four wearing white coveralls with the Greenpeace logo on them,
approached their worksite. The loggers shut off their equipment and the
protesters climbed aboard and hung banners. The protest ended after the
activists were served with a B.C. Supreme Court injunction May 29.

“In my view, the defendants did not conduct themselves in a high-handed,
vindictive or otherwise shocking and reprehensible manner, calling for
damages beyond those that have already been awarded,” Sinclair Prowse
stated. “Although the defendants did interfere with the plaintiffs’
employment, they conducted the protest peacefully; they did not damage any
of the equipment; and they left as soon as they were advised that an
injunction had been granted ordering that they leave.”


GM survey finds misleading labels

May 1, 2003

A harbinger of problems likely to arrive when new tougher European
legislation on genetically modified foods enters into law, arrived with
the findings of a recent survey on GM foods that highlighted the fact that
a small section of the food industry are totally mislabelling their

Commissioned by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) the study
found that out of a range of 75 foods, including breakfast cereals, baby
foods, dried soya products, twelve were found to contain low levels of GM
ingredients. Although the GM ingredients identified were authorised for
food use within the EU, 7 of the 12 products (58 per cent) that contained
GM ingredients were inaccurately labelled to indicate that they had no GM

Heavily critical of those food manufacturers guilty of inaccurate GM
labelling, Alan Reilly, Deputy Chief Executive, FSAI said: “Unfortunately
a small minority of food manufacturers continue to mislead consumers by
using labels that indicate or suggest that the food contains no GM
ingredients, when in fact they do.

Some of these labels were placed on foods even though the manufacturers
were aware that small amounts of GM ingredients were present. It is
unacceptable trade practice and we have made our views known to the
relevant parties,” he continued.

The FSAI stressed that although the 12 samples found to contain GM
ingredients had less than the threshold of 1 per cent which triggers
mandatory GM labelling, labels on 5 of those GM positive products
indicated they contained no GM ingredients. Furthermore, one product had
an organic label while another carried both organic and GM-free labels.

EU legislation governing the labelling, presentation and advertising of
foodstuffs is clear in its stipulation that food labels must not mislead
the public on the composition or production methods of a food, or make
false claims as to the properties of a food.

For Dr Pat O'Mahony, chief specialist in biotechnology, FSAI, there is no
justification for the inaccurate labelling of a food as GM-free. “Industry
is entitled to use legitimate strategies, such as labelling, to gain a
market advantage, but responsibility for the accuracy of these labels
rests solely with them.”

“The persistence of misleading labelling, some on brands that were
highlighted by previous FSAI surveys, is a cause for concern.”

In light of much tighter GM regulations currently being developed by the
European Commission, the FSAI voiced its concerns saying “this new
legislation may lead to the authorisation of more GM foods for the EU
market place in the near future and we need to be confident that consumer
choice will not be jeopardised by small sections of the industry”.

Keeping the industry on its toes, the FSAI also announced that it plans to
carry out a more focused survey later this year with a strong emphasis on
the mislabelling problems identified. Action may be taken against
offenders, the safety body warned.