Today in AgBioView: May 8, 2003
* Crotty Principle
* On Mae-Wan Ho Publication List
* Roses Are . . .
* GM Crop Ban Would Hurt Us All
* Australian State Victoria Expected to Announce 12-Month Ban on GM Canola
* GMO Debate in Philippines Intensifies
* Public 'Misled By Anti-GM Campaigners'
* Where is the Evidence That GM Foods are Unsafe - Royal Society
* GM Foods 'Not Harmful'
* Why are Most Europeans Opposed to GMOs?
* India Harvests First Biotech Cotton
* Why the World Used to Have More Wars
* The Real Envr. Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment's
No. 1 Enemy
* ABIC2004 - Cologne, Germany
* Springtime in Luddite Land
- Dave Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Anthony Crotty attack on AgBioView's approach to debating was a useful
insight. The 'Crotty Principle' is that any argument pro-GM that doesn't
meet the critical norms of the anti-GM lobby will endanger the pro-GM
Two can play this game. For example, my critical norm is that I rule out
anyone who attacks my point of view who has a commercial interest in doing
so. Obviously, anyone who does not disclose this interest will further
damage their own case. Out goes Anthony - he is associated with Portiasun,
an organic marketing company whose success depends on anti-GM scare
mongering. He has thereby undermined the case for organic agriculture.
But now it gets scary. Access the Portiasun web-site. Their Newsletter is
called 'Malbouffe'. Confused? Do a Google search for the word. You get
lots of French anti-McDonald and pro-Bove hits: scaring the pants off
gullible foodies and cashing in.
And what of Portiasun's ethics? '...developing countries, cultures and
our environment need protection from the status quo'. This is a moral
maze, particularly as Anthony writes condemning mechanization in regions
with cheap labour and - unbelievably, irrigation 'other than natural
stream and river beds'. This is the anti-technology movement gone mad.
This is from someone living in Ireland, a country receiving massive
agricultural subsidies from the EC and flooding the Third World with
milkpowder and butter, putting all those Third World farmers and herders
out of business.
Anyone against mechanization should try to putting their wives or lady
friends to hand transplanting or weeding rice, or baling water up a couple
of feet into a rice field on a hot day (the most back-breaking labour I
have ever seen, done by a couple of slight Vietnamese girls for many hours
in sweltering temperatures along the Red River).
This approach to business can be nothing but hypocrisy And back to the
'Crotty Principle' - anyone arguing for this view is severely damaging
their own case and promoting their opponents' values.
Finally, Anthony's latest Newsletter for Portiasun has a unique usage of
'genetic modification'. He includes all 'hybrids' and all Green Revolution
crops. He bewails the creation of hybrid grasses. 'Grass!' (that last
quote is Anthony drawing attention to the disaster of hybrid grass).
I've news for you Anthony: everything, just everything, we eat is hybrid
and 'genetically modified', starting with wheat ten thousand years ago (a
really wide hybrid with three different genomes) and most bananas (with
two genomes) and - wait for it - as a result of being hybrids bananas have
genetically modified sterility, the original 'Terminator' technology. The
problem is all that alien pollen 'contaminating' everything it touches.
I like the rough-and-tumble of AgBioView.
More from Alex Avery:
From the Portiasun.com website of Mr. Crotty: "We want to protect the
cultures, environments and societies threatened by mass production," with
weblinks to Greenpeace (an extreme anti-biotech activist group), Corporate
Watch UK (anti-capitalist, anti-biotech activist group), Confederation
Paysanne (an extreme anti-biotech activist group), Terrestrials Organic
(anti-biotech corporate client of Mr. Crotty), and Adbusters (A network of
activists/pranksters who "want to advance the new social activist
- Pierluca Meregalli
I am not qualified for an in-depth debate on the topic,but I suppose there
is some misunderstanding about the true meaning of the debate. It is a
different thing to question the validity of biotechnologies as a
scientific application,rather than to question the problem of
transnational corporations or the patents problem.
The latter is a problem in any case, the former needs a twofold
argumentation. You can't be against biotechnologies arguing a scientifical
inconsistency if you are only against corporations without any other
You need an appropriate argumentation for both the questions separately. I
personally am rather against corporations and patents as they are meant in
U.S.A.but I am rather in favour of biotechnologies from a scientific
standpoint,but it seems that between the anti-biotech there is some
On Mae-Wan Ho Publication List
- Michael Lipton, Brighton University, UK. email@example.com
The answer is in Dr. Ho's hands. She has only to respond to Dr. Morton's
normal professional request for her full publications list. Though
apparently not on the web, this is surely on her CV; providing it can give
her no trouble.
By doing so, she will end any unfounded accusations or rumours, whether
these mistakenly assert that she has written papers that she disavows, or
that she has not written papers that she claims. If she does not provide a
list, interested persons must go to independent sources such as CAB
Abstracts and Web of Science, and then seek, or draw, reasonable
conclusions. In the absence of better information from her (viz. her
verifiable list of publications list), it is wrong to see such conclusions
on the best available evidence as "speculating" or as "personal attacks".
Of course, the scientific value of any one piece of her work is unaffected
by the content (let alone the length) of her list of publications; but
claims about publications, like all other claims, are of value only if
they can be checked by others. And the reliability of a person's claims
about one matter permits assumptions (unless changed by further knowledge)
about the reliability of other disputed claims by that person.
>> From: "Mae-Wan Ho" Subject: Re: more stuff
>> To CS Prakash and AgBioView,
>> It has come to my attention that you have posted the following
Roses Are . . .
- Denise Ryan, The Age (Australia), May 9 2003 http://www.theage.com.au/
A group of stubborn Melbourne scientists has spent 17 years in the quest
to create the blue rose. Denise Ryan reports.
When it comes to the holy grail of the flower world, the quest to create a
blue rose ranks with the search for the black tulip. A team of 12
scientists has been slogging over the puzzle for 17 years in a modest
laboratory in Collingwood. They have unlocked the secret to creating a
blue carnation, and experimented with inserting a blue gene into gerberas
and chrysanthemums, but a blue rose remains elusive.
The team's groundbreaking approach with carnations - inserting the blue
gene from petunias into the plant - does not appear to work with roses.
So, thinking laterally, the scientists' latest tactic is to isolate the
blue gene from the sea anenome and insert it in a rose. The results so far
from a joint project with the University of Queensland look promising, but
- even if such a rose can be created - it is a long journey from the
laboratory to flower markets.
Some may disapprove of the genetic modification of flowers, and others
will argue that flower lovers should be satisfied with the native blue of
the iris or with the many shades of purple roses. But this small team of
scientists determinedly toil, believing it is a privilege to be paid to
unravel the mysteries of flowers.
When the blue gene from a petunia was isolated in 1991, paving the way for
the first blue carnation, the scientists involved wept.
"There was a bunch of people standing around crying," recalls Mike
Dalling, who founded the start-up company Calgene Pacific in 1986. "There
was sheer exhilaration about the achievement. It was a hard thing to
accomplish, not just technically but because people worked very long
hours. I don't think our laboratories ever closed."
The Melbourne discovery - a significant scientific coup for Australia, up
there with the 1886 creation of the Granny Smith apple - came in the nick
of time. The Australian team slapped patents on their discovery, beating a
Japanese scientific team by three days.
"We felt the pressure of others doing similar research but we never
realised how close the Japanese were," Dalling says.
The Dutch company Florigene, which had also been working on a blue
carnation, lost the support of its investors in the wake of the Australian
discovery, enabling the small Australian firm to buy it and change its own
name to Florigene. This provided access to Europe's lucrative cut-flower
Since its early success, Melbourne's Florigene has foundered several
times, becoming a textbook example of the difficulties Australian
biotechnology companies face in securing and retaining investor support.
Research is costly, takes years and offers uncertain returns.
"Like a lot of start-up companies, we were always broke," Dalling says.
"There was relentless financial pressure. We thought that once we had a
blue carnation the world would be at our feet. But instead, we lurched
In 2000, when Florigene was about to go bankrupt, Nufarm took control and
provided the working capital for research to continue. Dalling, who had
left Florigene in 1994 to join Nufarm, is now the managing director of
Florigene and the group general manager of research and development at
Not everyone has the constitution to work for a company that has almost
run out of money several times, says Florigene's research manager John
Mason. "The atmosphere is different to most workplaces," he says. "There
is a lot of energy and people are highly organised. They will go the extra
A stubborn streak is needed. After the blue gene was isolated in 1991, it
was another four years before the first blue carnation bud appeared. It
took a further two years before the first blue carnation - a
mini-carnation called Moondust - was commercially available. Different
shades of mauve flowers, including Moonshadow, Moonlite, Moonvista and
Moonaqua, are now available.
Two or three clones were made from those first blue flowers and then up to
eight cuttings were taken from each plant. Permission then had to be
sought from the Federal Government's genetic manipulation advisory
committee to grow the genetically engineered plants outside the company's
Florigene is the only Australian biotechnology company that develops and
sells genetically modified flowers around the world. For the past two
years, it has grown flowers in Ecuador and Colombia, both renowned for
their quality flowers, and has sold them in the US and Japan. Opposition
to blue carnations has been minor because they produce almost no pollen.
"They are essentially sterile and are harvested when the flowers are
closed, so there is no risk of cross-pollination. As well, there is no
The fortunes of the blue carnation owe more to fashion trends than
concerns about genetic manipulation. Some florists simply won't touch
carnations because they are not deemed trendy. But that changed recently,
Dalling says, because brides have recently switched from pastel bouquets
to hot colours and exotic flowers, opening a niche for blue flowers.
The general manager of Tesselaar Flowers, Steve White, says blue
carnations have recently gained popularity. "We sell nearly as many of the
three blue varieties as the others combined." The researchers recognise
that a blue gerbera or lily would be commercially popular but there is a
long lead time between inserting the blue gene and achieving flowers. So
far they have achieved colour shifts in gerberas but not a true blue.
"Getting them into production could take years," Mason says.
The blue gene could potentially be inserted into any plant matter -
imagine blue leaves, geraniums or cacti - and scientists predict it will
be possible to match a flower colour to a paint colour chart within 20
Meanwhile, the team's other breakthrough involved discovering how to make
flowers last longer. It developed a range of carnations that no longer
produce the plant hormone ethylene, which induces flowers to deteriorate.
But a chemical process used by many florists matches the longevity of
Florigene's more natural approach. "Most flowers are treated with small
quantities of the chemical silver thio sulphate when harvested, to have
more than a three-day vase life. These chemicals have been banned in
Holland because they are toxic. But the consumer here has no perception of
why they should pay more for flowers using our technology," Mason says.
Australia: GM Crop Ban Would Hurt Us All
Anthony Coulepis, Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), May 8, 2003
If, as the Herald Sun reported yesterday, the Victorian Government is
planning a moratorium on commercial genetically modified (GM) food crops,
it will fly in the face of scientific evidence here and overseas.
GM agriculture is a force for good, and one that will benefit humankind
around the world.
Last month, the Commonwealth Gene Technology Regulator, Dr Sue Meek, gave
an in principle go-ahead for GM canola to be grown. The decision came
after a nine-month investigation. Up until now, only GM cotton and
carnations have been grown in Australia.
An increase in GM agriculture will increase the efficiency of agriculture,
attract investment and boost exports and the economy in general. Nobel
prize winner Dr Norman Borlaug has said that GM crops will significantly
benefit global agriculture and help feed the world's hungry more
efficiently and at lower cost.
Australian Nobel Prize winner Professor Peter Doherty has been reported as
saying that many of those who are opposed to GM crops are anti-science and
cannot be swayed by rational arguments. A Melbourne University study found
that the benefits of GM changes to canola production alone would lift farm
productivity by $135 million a year.
Most importantly, GM crops will allow Australian agriculture to help feed
the world's hungry sooner. And as more GM crops are introduced, the price
of food will come down in Australia and around the world.
Advances in science, such as genetically modified organisms, have allowed
modern agriculture to feed a vastly greater population much better than in
any previous era. The arguments for GM agriculture are compelling.
GM crops require less insecticides and herbicides and are better for the
environment. GM crops are cheaper to grow. GM canola, for example, will
allow farmers to sow earlier, achieve better weed control and increase
crop yields substantially.
Traditional crop development often relies on trial and error -- GM crops
reduce this uncertainty. Australian farmers are just coming out of one of
the worst droughts in living memory. Being able to grow GM crops will give
them every cost and efficiency advantage they need.
Using GM technology, more food will be able to be produced using a given
level of resources. While there are obviously areas of great abundance,
global food production is falling behind population growth. GM technology
will also play a key role in feeding an ageing world population.
Opponents of GM crops say more research is needed.
But in her statement, Dr Meek said: "GM canola poses no higher risk to
human health and safety than is currently posed by the farming of
conventional canola." Many studies in Australia and overseas have found no
evidence linking GM crops or food to health or other problems in humans or
Yet while the opponents of GM agriculture call for more research, they
cannot produce one example of scientific evidence to support their claims
of harm from GM crops. They argue that GM crops will cross-pollinate with
other crops, yet extensive research in Australia and overseas has found
little evidence of this. Even if cross-pollination did occur, the effect
on agriculture and the environment would be no different to crops
developed using traditional methods.
Thirty-five years ago, opposition to the introduction of fluoride in water
saw this development postponed for many years. Opponents condemned this
supposedly evil chemical. Today, the benefits of fluoridation are accepted
worldwide, and it is acknowledged as the major factor in reduction of
dental cavities in Australian children.
Similar arguments were used about the supposed dangers of milk
pasteurisation, yet the benefits of this technology are now universally
accepted. GM crops and food will benefit Australian agriculture and the
economy in general and the benefits will spread to a far wider number of
the world's hungry. A moratorium is unnecessary.
Dr Anthony Coulepis is executive director of AusBiotech, which represents
the biotechnology industry
Victoria: State Govt Expected to Announce 12-Month Ban on GM Canola
- AAP Newsfeed, May 8, 2003
The Victorian government is expected to announce a 12-month moratorium on
the commercial planting of genetically modified (GM) canola today.
Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron is likely to announce the ban to allow an
assessment of how the technology would affect the marketing of the state's
The move will bring the state into line with NSW, South Australia, Western
Australia and Tasmania, which have all announced GM moratoriums.
Queensland and the Northern Territory are still undecided on the issue.
The Office of Gene technology last month found seven GM canola varieties
posed no more threat to human health or the environment than ordinary
canola. Supporters of GM crops cite their disease resistance and bigger
But there are fears growing GM crops could jeopardise Victorian exports,
and environmentalists believe there could be long-term risks associated
with the technology.
GMO Debate in Philippines Intensifies
- Asia Times, May 9, 2003; http://www.atimes.com/
Koronadal City, South Cotabato, Philippines - Farmer groups who support
the use of genetically modified crops have asked the Philippine government
to junk petitions of church-backed organizations calling for a moratorium
on the propagation of the controversial Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn.
Edwin Paraluman, a representative of the Agricultural and Fisheries
Council of General Santos City and the Provincial Farmers Action Council
in South Cotabato, urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Agriculture
Secretary Luis Lorenzo to disregard calls by anti-Bt-corn forces to stop
the commercialization of the transgenic crop.
"We cannot always be around to attend dialogues and counteract the
anti-GMO [genetically modified organisms] campaign because our farms need
us. So, please help us and make it possible for us to try Bt corn,"
The groups represented by Paraluman earlier issued a manifesto of support
to Arroyo's pro-biotechnology stance in line with the government's food
security program. Paraluman was joined by farmer-leaders Felix Cordero and
Rod Bioco in beseeching the Arroyo administration to trash the petition
seeking a halt to the commercial propagation of Bt corn.
Cordero and Bioco represent the Nursery Farmers Irrigators Association,
Matatag Farmers Irrigators Association and San Isidro Integrated
Agro-Industrial Multipurpose Cooperative, and the Philippine Maize
Federation. "Thousands of our members strongly support the use of Bt corn
considering that farmers abroad are already benefiting from the
technology. Why should Filipino farmers be deprived?" Bioco said.
On the other hand, Eliezer Billanes, chairperson of the South Cotabato
Movement Against Genetically Modified Organisms, said his group is not
intimidated by the manifesto of support and the appeals made by
Paraluman's group. Billanes' group last month gathered about 5,000
signatures in line with the nationwide campaign to gather a
million signatures against the commercialization of the transgenic crop.
The Department of Agriculture approved the commercial release for the
propagation of Yielgard 818, a Monsanto Co Bt corn variety, last December.
Bt corn is a hybrid corn variety that has been genetically engineered to
become more resistant to the Asiatic corn borer, the primary plague
hounding the Philippines' corn farmers.
Public 'Misled By Anti-GM Campaigners'
- Press Association (UK), May 8, 2003
Members of the public have been misled into thinking food containing
genetically modified ingredients is inherently unsafe, a leading academic
Professor Patrick Bateson, vice-president and biological secretary of the
Royal Society, said the truth about GM had been hidden behind a
"smokescreen of unfounded claims". He was especially critical of the
message sent out by the environmental group Greenpeace, which has
campaigned against GM food development.
The Royal Society made submissions to the Government's GM Science Review
today setting out its views on genetically modified plant products.
Britain's leading academic institution said there was no evidence to
suggest that food containing ingredients from GM plants was any less safe
than its conventional counterpart.
GM products were no more likely to reduce the nutritional quality of food,
or cause allergic reactions, it said. Furthermore there was no evidence
that eating modified DNA in GM food could be harmful to human health.
Professor Bateson said: "We conducted a major review of the evidence about
GM plants and human health last year, and we have not seen any evidence
since then that changes our original conclusions. If credible evidence
does exist that GM foods are more harmful to people than non-GM foods, we
should like to know why it has not been made public.
"The public have been told for several years that GM foods are inherently
unsafe to eat. Most people would like to know what evidence exists to back
up such claims. We have examined the results of published research, and
have found nothing to indicate that GM foods are inherently unsafe. If
anybody does have convincing evidence, get it out in the open so that it
can be evaluated.
"The public have a right to decide whether they want to buy GM foods, and
are entitled to have access to sensible and informed advice, based on
sound science. It is disappointing to find a group like Greenpeace stating
on its website that 'the risks are enormous and the consequences
potentially catastrophic', without offering any solid reasons to support
such a claim."
Professor Bateson added that "some important questions" undoubtedly needed
to be answered about the potential impact of GM crops on the environment.
But he said these should be addressed "without a smokescreen of unfounded
claims about their threat to human health".
A recent opinion poll showed that most members of the public were opposed
to GM food products, said the professor. "Many consumers have been made
anxious by unsubstantiated claims about the safety of GM foods," he said.
"The developers of GM products also have not successfully demonstrated to
consumers what benefits they offer compared to conventional foods."
In its submissions the Society called on the Government to ensure that
regulations on infant foods and GM foods complemented each other. It also
said the European Commission should consider the use of novel and GM
products as part of its review of rules covering infant foods. Research
should also be undertaken to define the "normal" composition of
conventional plants, said the Royal Society.
Ben Ayliffe, GM campaigner at Greenpeace, accused the Royal Society of not
being objective. He said: "Greenpeace commissioned and published a major
report from the University of Wageningen on the uncertainties and unknowns
around GM crops. This has been submitted to the Science Review and it's a
pity that Professor Bateson hasn't read it. But then the Royal Society are
gaining a reputation as campaigners for their pet technologies."
Where is the Evidence That GM Foods are Inherently Unsafe, asks Royal
- Royal Society, London, UK. May 8, 2003 http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/
Claims that foodstuffs containing ingredients from genetically modified
plants are inherently less safe than their non-GM conventional
counterparts remain unproven, according to a Royal Society policy
statement published today (8 May 2003).
In two submissions to the Government-sponsored GM Science Review, the
Royal Society points out that the potential for GM ingredients to reduce
the nutritional quality of foods or to cause allergic reactions is in
principle no different to that for non-GM ingredients. Furthermore, there
is no credible evidence that human health can be damaged by eating DNA
sequences created by the genetic modification of foodstuff ingredients.
Professor Patrick Bateson, Vice-President and Biological Secretary of the
Royal Society, said: "We conducted a major review of the evidence about GM
plants and human health last year, and we have not seen any evidence since
then that changes our original conclusions. If credible evidence does
exist that GM foods are more harmful to people than non-GM foods, we
should like to know why it has not been made public."
He added: "The public have been told for several years that GM foods are
inherently unsafe to eat. Most people would like to know what evidence
exists to back up such claims. We have examined the results of published
research, and have found nothing to indicate that GM foods are inherently
unsafe. If anybody does have convincing evidence, get it out in the open
so that it can be evaluated.
"The public have a right to decide whether they want to buy GM foods, and
are entitled to have access to sensible and informed advice, based on
sound science. It is disappointing to find a group like Greenpeace stating
on its website that "the risks are enormous and the consequences
potentially catastrophic", without offering any solid reasons to support
such a claim."
Professor Bateson said: "Undoubtedly some important questions need to be
answered about the potential impact, good or bad, of GM crops on the
environment. But these should be addressed without a smokescreen of
unfounded claims about their threat to human health."
"A recent opinion poll showed that the majority of the public are opposed
to GM foods. Many consumers have been made anxious by unsubstantiated
claims about the safety of GM foods. The developers of GM products also
have not successfully demonstrated to consumers what benefits they offer
compared to conventional foods."
The Society’s submissions also draw attention to some areas of food
regulation that should be addressed to
ensure that all foods, including those containing GM ingredients, are
assessed properly. Professor Bateson said:
"The public expect regulations to keep abreast of new developments in the
way food is made, and to be just as effective for both GM and non-GM
foods. We understand that the Food Standards Agency has taken on board the
recommendations we made in our report last year and is taking action to
address the issues we highlighted."
Further details and the latest information of the Society’s work can be
found at http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/gmplants/.
Genetically modified plants for food use and human health - an update, The
Royal Society, February 2002
The FSA’s full response can be seen at
GM Foods 'Not Harmful'
- Ivan Noble, BBC News Online
Britain's academy of science, the Royal Society, says there is no evidence
that eating GM food is any more harmful than eating non-GM food. The UK
Government is sponsoring a review of GM science
The society says in a submission to the UK Government's GM review that
although the technology could lead to "unpredicted harmful changes in the
nutritional status of foods", the same is true of conventional crop
breeding . It says the chances of GM crops and foods triggering allergic
reactions are in principle no worse than the chances of non-GM plants
doing the same.
A senior member of the Royal Society attacked one environmental protest
group for what he said was a failure to provide evidence to back up the
assertion that GM food was dangerous.
'Smokescreen of claims'
"The public have a right to decide whether they want to buy GM foods, and
are entitled to have access to sensible and informed advice, based on
"It is disappointing to find a group like Greenpeace stating on its
website that 'the risks are enormous and the consequences potentially
catastrophic', without offering any solid reasons to support such a
claim," said Professor Patrick Bateson, the Royal Society's Vice-President
and Biological Secretary.
"Undoubtedly some important questions need to be answered about the
potential impact, good or bad, of GM crops on the environment. "But these
should be addressed without a smokescreen of unfounded claims about their
threat to human health," he said.
Professor Bateson acknowledged that the majority of the British public was
opposed to GM foods. Consumers had been frightened by unsubstantiated
claims but GM developers had also failed to convince them that GM foods
products had benefits, he said.
A spokesman for Greenpeace UK rejected the attack and criticised the Royal
Society's role in the GM debate. "Greenpeace commissioned and published a
major report from the University of Wageningen on the uncertainties and
unknowns around GM crops.
"This has been submitted to the science review and it's a pity Professor
Bateson hasn't read it. "But then the Royal Society are gaining a
reputation as campaigners for their pet technologies," he said.
Note from Prakash: The 78 page report Greenpeace refers to in its defense
is some three years old. 'Crops of Uncertain Nature? Controversies and
Knowledge Gaps Concerning Genetically Modified Crops' Commissioned by
Greenpeace Netherlands, Amsterdam August 2000 A.J.C. de Visser, E.H.
Nijhuis, J.D. van Elsas & T.A. Dueck.
Why are Most Europeans Opposed to GMOs?
This paper highlights the results of several surveys regarding consumer
attitudes to GM food and investigates the reasons behind them. Sylvie
Bonny, INRA (National Institute of Agricultural Research) writes:
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.
A strong movement of opposition to the agricultural applications of
genetic engineering has developed throughout the world, particularly in
some countries such as in the European Union. It has led to a moratorium
in the EU – no transgenic crops are cultivated in the EU since 1999,
except some Bt corn in Spain – and to hostility towards the importation of
GM products, as well as to acts of open opposition. How can this strong
hostility be explained when biotechnology, including genetic engineering,
has generally been presented from the outset in a highly positive light
and are still considered by many to be highly promising?
The aim of this article is to present various factors and processes in the
emergence and explanation of this opposition in France, a country in which
it is particularly strong. We look at the French case which is fairly
representative in this respect of various European countries; even if
differences exist, depending on cultural characteristics and economic
situations, a number of factors of opposition are found throughout.
Full paper at
India Harvests First Biotech Cotton
- The Guardian (London), May 8, 2003
'Controversy remains as nation takes its first cautious steps in GM
In the early morning buzz of a busy market, hundreds of cotton farmers
arrive on tractors and bullock carts with sacks full of their harvest of
"white gold." But this season some crops are attracting more attention
Farmers have planted India's first approved crop of genetically engineered
cotton, known as Bt for the soil organism that is toxic to some plant
pests. The new seed, developed by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. and
approved by the government after four years of opposition, is hailed by
some as the solution to a vicious cycle of devastation by pests, heavy
pesticide use and soil depletion that has trapped Indian farmers for
decades. "I heard it is a miracle seed that will free me from the bondage
of pesticide spraying," said Lone Srinivas, 26, as he lounged atop his
neatly piled sacks of genetically modified cotton here in the southern
Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. "Last season, every time I saw pests I
panicked," Srinivas said. "I sprayed pesticides on my cotton crop about 20
times. This season, with the new seed, I sprayed only three times."
About 55,000 farmers across seven states, roughly 2 percent of India's
cotton growers, sowed the genetically engineered Bollgard cotton seed,
which Monsanto describes as resistant to one of the most formidable cotton
pests, the bollworm. But anxiety about long-term effects of using modified
seed - the fear of "Frankencrops" - and concern among nationalists, who
worry that Indian farmers could find themselves tied to Western companies,
have slowed India's march toward biotech farming.
"GM (genetically modified) crop is not a solution to pest attacks. New
pests will become active and resistant to Bt cotton, and Indian farmers
would again get into the same pesticide treadmill," said Afsar Jafri of
the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, an advocacy
group that spearheads the anti-biotechnology campaign and encourages
organic farming. "A handful of Western companies want to control the
agricultural foundations of the Third World nations by robbing the farmers
economically. Indian farmers may lose their sovereignty."
Agriculture poses the biggest challenge for policymakers seeking to make
this nation of 1 billion people a player in world markets. More than
two-thirds of Indians depend on agriculture, making it politically
sensitive in a democracy steeped in populism and socialist rhetoric.
Cotton cultivation is woefully inefficient. India has more land under
cotton cultivation than any country in the world, yet ranks lowest in
productivity, according to Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh.
A recent World Bank report said the biggest obstacle to higher yields in
Indian cotton is the increasing frequency of pest attacks, leading to a
level of pesticide use that depleted the soil and strained water
resources. Moreover, pests develop immunity to the chemicals. Genetically
modified cotton was proposed as a solution.
"India is an importer of cotton today," said Sekhar Natarajan, head of
Monsanto India. "But with Bt cotton, like China, it can become a major
player in the international cotton market in the next five years."
However, opponents claimed that the environmental impact of genetically
modified crops amounted to "bioterrorism." Ecologists said altered genes
may enter the food chain, as many Indian villagers use cottonseed oil in
their cooking. Still others said Bollgard seeds cost four times as much as
regular seeds, and suggested the cotton harvested from them would fetch a
Singh, the agriculture minister, said: "We would be foolish to turn away
from biotechnology. But the stakes are much higher in this new science. So
much is still unknown about the effects of GM crop. We have to take one
step at a time."
From Kameshwar Rao:
I gather from cotton researchers that in India there is no variety of
cotton resistant to the leaf curl virus disease, which is prevalent in the
north Indian states. I appeal to the anti-biotech warriors to see that all
cotton cultivation in the whole of India is banned (this is also to
prevent leaf curl virus coming down to the south of India), till someone
developes, though conventional methods and organic cultivation, varieties
of cotton resistant to this disease.
The "Hand Book of Agriculture", published by the ICAR, does not mention of
the leaf curl virus disease on the cotton plant. It does not mention
Helicoverpa armigera either. Implications are serious. ICAR is the
only organisation which should and is equipped to, provide up-to-date
information on all aspects of Indian Agriculture.
This publication, copyrighted in 2002, is actually a reprint of a
so-called 'Revised edition' (fifth edition) of 1980. Most of the
statistical information is dated 1970-71 and does not cross 1975!
Currently, this 1300 page volume is largely unusable and unreliable. I am
ashamed of this situation and expect the Director General of the ICAR to
be more concerned than I am. There is an urgent need to thoroughly revise
update this book to make it useful to those who seek authentic information
on Indian Agriculture.
- C. Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education,
Why the World Used to Have More Wars
- Dennis Avery, Center for Global Food Issues, May 7,
Human prehistory was dominated by wars usually over critical resources
such as hunting grounds, water, and good cropland. Too many people in one
region meant all might starve, so each tribe tried to drive others farther
away. Archeologists say the frequent prehistoric wars often killed up to
25 percent of the males along with large numbers of noncombatant females.
World War II, the most dreadful combat in recent history killed about 2
percent of the humans alive in 1939. The world's recent conflicts in Iraq
and Kosovo killed less than one thousandth of a percent of the human
Why such a low percentage of war deaths today? We're living in the first
era when humans haven't had to kill each other to protect food supplies
for their families.
Stephen LeBlanc, of Harvard's Peabody Museum, writes in the May/June issue
of Archaelogy that resource scarcity warfare left ample evidence of
violent deaths, including mass graves, crushed skulls, and spear points
between skeletal ribs. Researcher also find bows, arrows, spears, piles of
slingshots and plaster sling missiles, lots of doughnut-shaped stones
perfect for war club heads, and even prehistoric bone armor in the Arctic.
"The prehistoric people who lived in southern California had the highest
incident of warfare deaths known anywhere in the world," says LeBlanc.
"Thirty percent of a large sample of males dating to the first centuries
A.D. had wounds or died violent deaths. About half that number of women
had similar histories. When we remember that not all warfare deaths leave
skeletal evidence, this is a staggering number."
There are other obvious clues: Homes in prehistoric villages were usually
crowded together, almost certainly for defense. Archeologists can usually
find evidence of the walls.
We used to hear that the famous cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and Chaco
Canyon in the U.S. Southwest were built 20 feet up the steep cliffs
"because that made them cooler in summer." No one wanted to believe the
"peaceful" farming Indians engaged in warfare. But some of the
fortress-like villages were suddenly abandoned and burned to the ground.
Ultimately, the pueblo peoples abandoned their cliff dwellings.
What if a major shift in the climate made food scarce? The pueblo peoples
flourished from 900 to 1150 AD (the period of the Medieval warming and
perhaps high rainfall as a result of increased transpiration). They spread
over the countryside in thousands of small stone houses. After 1100,
however, they began to build their fortress-like cliff dwellings. After
1250, they abandoned the cliff dwellings too, and by 1400, their remnants
were concentrated in the region's few river valleys. Did the Little Ice
Age bring droughts? Would the pueblo dwellers have fought over the scarce
corn in their granaries? There was even evidence of cannibalism!
Canadian social scientists Christina Mesquida and Neil Wiener say the
greater the proportion of a prehistoric society composed of unmarried
young men, the greater the likelihood of war. Why? The young men were not
unmarried for lack of interest in females. They must have lacked the
resources to support wives and children. A successful war would provide
more access to game animals and cropland; and, perhaps, more women.
The other important idea about war, says LeBlanc, is that it stops when
there are enough resources to go around. The longest period of peace among
the pueblo peoples of the American southwest occurred from 900 to 1100 AD
during the medieval warming's favorable climate.
As recently as the 1930s, Japan invaded Manchuria for oil and soybeans
fields, ultimately igniting World War II. They turned out to be horribly
Fortunately, since 1960, virtually no country has felt pressure to invade
its neighbors for food or farmland. Why? The scientific Green Revolution
tripled yields on most of the world's good farmland. Countries short of
food today are much more likely to build a fertilizer plant or a
plant-breeding research facility than to invade a neighbor.
Despite the widespread warfare, says LeBlanc, prehistoric tribes' communal
decision-making ensured that warring was not done lightly. Going to war
was based on pressures deciding life or death for the tribe. A thuggish,
hotheaded Saddam Hussein wouldn't be put in charge, any more than he would
be elected and re-elected by a modern democracy.
Food for Peace is not just the slogan for a U.S. famine-assistance
program. Food security, made possible by high-yield farming, literally is
the peace-maker of the world.
The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the
Environment's Number One Enemy
New Book by Jack M. Hollander, University of California Press, 2003;
Hardcover: 237 pages; ISBN: 0520237889
Amazon.com Price $19.25
Drawing a completely new road map toward a sustainable future, Jack M.
Hollander contends that our most critical environmental problem is global
poverty. His balanced, authoritative, and lucid book challenges widely
held beliefs that economic development and affluence pose a major threat
to the world's environment and resources. Pointing to the great strides
that have been made toward improving and protecting the environment in the
affluent democracies, Hollander makes the case that the essential
prerequisite for sustainability is a global transition from poverty to
affluence, coupled with a transition to freedom and democracy.
The Real Environmental Crisis takes a close look at the major environment
and resource issues--population growth; climate change; agriculture and
food supply; our fisheries, forests, and fossil fuels; water and air
quality; and solar and nuclear power. In each case, Hollander finds
compelling evidence that economic development and technological advances
can relieve such problems as food shortages, deforestation, air pollution,
and land degradation, and provide clean water, adequate energy supplies,
and improved public health. The book also tackles issues such as global
warming, genetically modified foods, automobile and transportation
technologies, and the highly significant Endangered Species Act, which
Hollander asserts never would have been legislated in a poor country whose
citizens struggle just to survive. Hollander asks us to look beyond the
media's doomsday rhetoric about the state of the environment, for much of
it is simply not true, and to commit much more of our resources where they
will do the most good--to lifting the world's population out of poverty.
Save the Date: September 12 th to 15th, 2004
This conference, since 1996 a world-wide renown congress for the AgBiotech
community, will take place for the first time outside of Canada. The city
of Cologne/Germany has been chosen as location by the ABIC Foundation. One
of the most important conferences concerning agricultural biotechnology
will bring together scientists, industrial leaders, policy-makers and
investors for an intense exchange of experience and triggering know-how
for agrobiotechnology. Beside this, the ABIC series was initiated to
discuss and inform about the new developments in this important sector.
Phytowelt GmbH was assigned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs of
North-Rhine Westphalia to organize the conference. If you are interested
in receiving further information and regular updates, write to
ABIC 2004 / Conference Office Phytowelt GmbH Kölsumer Weg 33 D-41334
Nettetal Phone: +49-2162-77859 Fax: +49-2162-89215 Email:
Springtime in Luddite Land
We'll say this much about activists who devote their lives to opposing
genetically modified (GM) foods: they don't let a little thing like
reality slow them down.
Despite a biotech crop boom in Asia, the continued acceptance of GM foods
by U.S. consumers and European governments, a report from the UK's Royal
Society that activists' "unfounded claims" have poisoned the public debate
on biotech foods, and a grain-belt mainstream here at home that is
increasingly savvy about tuning out these unscientific scaremongers, the
lunatic fringe of the anti-biotech movement is ramping up its propaganda
campaign. And the Center for Consumer Freedom can now reveal who is
funding their efforts.
Next week, the city of St. Louis will play unwilling host to this year's
"BioDevastation" protest, to be held in tandem with the World Agricultural
Forum's 2003 World Congress http://www.worldagforum.org/. As with previous
"BioDev" events (as the hip technophobes call them), the usual suspects
have opened their wallets this year to showcase some of the world's most
Percy Schmeiser -- a Canadian farmer whose conviction for pirating
Monsanto's patented canola seeds has turned him into one of the world's
Vandana Shiva -- an Indian agrarian prophet of doom-and-gloom who opposes
the development of potentially life-saving "golden rice," and lectures
hungry and malnourished people to eat a prohibitively expensive diet of
"liver, egg yolk, chicken, meat, milk and butter" instead;
Brian Tokar -- a self-described unrepentant socialist whose "direct
action" group, known as "Northeast RAGE," has participated in the
destruction of GM plantings and large-scale vandalism of grocery stores;
Michael Hansen -- an activist in a lab coat, whose advisory position with
the virulently anti-biotech (and woefully misnamed) Center for Food Safety
has, surprisingly, not disqualified him from his work developing positions
on GM foods for Consumer Reports magazine;
Mae-Wan Ho -- Great Britain's most outspoken biotechnology conspiracy
theorist, who insists that the SARS virus is a by-product of genetic
engineering, and admits in her speeches that she has never tried to be a
'good responsible scientist'"; and Ignacio Chapela -- the disgraced
Berkeley professor whose 2001 anti-biotech research on "genetic drift" in
Mexico's maize fields was embarrassingly disavowed by the prestigious
journal Nature, which concluded that "the evidence available" was "not
sufficient to justify [its] publication."
The Center for Consumer Freedom has obtained documents showing that last
year's "BioDev" event, held in Toronto, was underwritten by (among others)
grants of over $5,100 from Brian Tokar's Institute for Social Ecology;
$5,000 from Canada's anti-free-trade Polaris Institute; and $3,000 each
from the Solidago Foundation, the (British) JMG Foundation, the
"Philanthropic Collaborative" program of Rockefeller Philanthropy
Advisors, and the Fund for Wild Nature.
This last funder was originally known as the "Earth First! Foundation,"
and functions primarily as a tax-exempt vehicle for collecting donations
to Earth First!" -- the radical green group that spawned the terrorist
Earth Liberation Front in 1992.
The 2003 event is being organized by the Gateway Green Alliance (GGA),
the St. Louis affiliate of the recently Ralph-Nader-ized Green Party USA.
GGA's two biggest sources of financial support are the Fund for Wild
Nature and " RESIST," a pacifist charity co-founded in 1967 by the dean of
the Hate-America-Loonies, Noam Chomsky.
Other internal documents obtained by the Center for Consumer Freedom
reveal that this year's "BioDev" event will be underwritten by RESIST, the
Green Party USA, the JMG Fund (which has committed $12,000), and several
national organic food marketers, including Wild Oats Markets, who seek to
diminish competition from less expensive and more abundant biotech crops.
Organizers also expect financial support from the Ben & Jerry's
Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the C.S. Fund, the Solidago Foundation,
and the Jenifer Altman Foundation.
These big-money benefactors share a disdain for technology, an
unparalleled hubris, and practically limitless financial resources -- all
of which make them perfect partners for this year's most visible
anti-biotech tantrum. The BioDevastation http://www.biodev.org/ conference
takes place May 16-18. We'll keep you posted.