Today in AgBioView: May 15, 2003
* WTO Action on EU GM Moratorium: Readers Respond
* Why is US Pushing for Radical Changes in Agriculture on Rest of the
* Australia - GM Foods: How the Government is Failing Everyone
* Mae-Wan Ho's 'Independent Science Panel' - Independent of What?
* Per Pinstrup-Andersen: Keeping Children Well
* Coalition of the Tilling
* The New Colonialism
* Genetic Food Fight
* A Trade Battle That Will Cost US Dears
* Modified Food Fight
* Challenge to Moratorium - Backlash on Trade Talks?
* Tuskegee Scientist's Expertise a Key Component of WTO Initiative
* NPR - All Things Considered: Edward Alden Interview on WTO
* U.S. Officials Confident of Winning WTO Biotech Cases
* Environmental Racism
* Greenhouse Gas Might Green Up The Desert
Re: WTO Action on EU GM Moratorium
- Bob MacGrego
While it is probably worthwhile, on principle, to go ahead with the WTO
challenge, I suspect that, even if successful, it may have little effect
on the store shelves in Europe. After all, the antis seem to have
convinced the major food suppliers in Europe to specify non-GM ingredients
for the vast majority of their foodstuffs; if negative labelling becomes
the accepted norm, then lifting the moratorium still won't mean choice for
Despite this pessimism, I am hopeful that the publicity around the WTO
action itself may lift the scales from the eyes of a few more people
concerning the extent of scientific and regulatory attention that has been
paid to GM crops and the human and environmental health and safety issues
that have been raised about them. Comparing the extent of this effort to
show adverse effects of GMOs with the cursory attention paid to the health
and safety of "conventionally-bred" crop varieties makes the anti-GMO
cries of "untested" or "incompletely understood" laughable.
I'd challenge the antis to point out a crop, any crop, that has been
"proven" safe for human consumption and the environment and share with the
group a bibliography documenting the proof for this claim of safety.
It would be nice to see what standard of proof of safety they are thinking
- Dr Lefteris EG Sideris
A well propagated European naiveté against GM in your recent note
"AGBIOVIEW SPECIAL: U.S. vs. EU" reminded me of a commonly used naiveté in
debates against GM in the Old Continent. That, of the incorporation of
genes from GM plants into the genome of our human cells!!!
How strange might sound I have heard this "argument" propagated in public
discussions by organic activists as well as by not less than academics of
medical orientation. I had to politely remind them Human Physiology 101:
that the strongly acidic pH of the stomach will denature in a matter of
minutes the DNA macromolecules by depurination, effectively destroying all
kind of genes alike either from GM or organic plants. This, is again a
Biochemistry 101 fact, known at least since the sixties when I was
completing my Ph.D. studies in Genetics in the States.
You have to admit that the naiveté of GM genes from edible stuff being
incorporated into our cells is worth of a Guinness record.
- Lefteris, E.G. Sideris (Dr.Rer.Nat., Ph.D.) Research Director at the
Laboratory of Molecular and Radiation Genetics, N.C.S.R. DEMOKRITOS,
- Gordon Couger
There are no winners in a trade war but the EU stands to loose a lot more
Other more or less unrelated factors in the world favor the USA over the
EU. As the dollar weakens against the Euro it makes the EU products
increasingly expensive in the US and much of the rest of the world and the
US products become more completive in much of the world. The EU also has
the eastern block counties to normalize into its high cost social services
society. Add on the losses that are not trade war related such as a drop
in tourist due to SARS and the loss of US tourist and business in Germany
and particularly France form the opposition in the Iraq situation that
will be further aggravated if a trade war breaks out.
The US will take a large hit in the pocket book but nothing like the EU
will. Today's trade is not a game where one side wins and one looses it is
a game where all win or all loose. If the anti global groups that
masquerade as greens, or what ever are allowed to throw a wrench in the
works on this they will continue to try to dictate world policy by what
every means they can.
I would hate to see a trade war but since my main product is cotton the
weaker dollar it should produce should protect me some. The over all
damage to the world economy won't help the demand for cotton or any of the
technology things I am involved with. The longer that the EU prevents GM
cotton from spreading to the rest of the world the longer I retain a
competitive advantage. With low interest rates and poor performance I am
putting money in irrigation wells. They pay better than anything else and
will help keep the cost of raising crops down for the people that farm my
I am a strong vocal supporter of world wide adoption of GM crops even
though it helps my competitors more than me. I really don't care what they
eat in the EU but I do care what the third world farmer has to face
raising a crop in uncertain conditions with no support from their
governments. Over the years I have worked with agriculturist from almost
every part of the world and rain, bugs, diseases and prices are something
we all understand.
The pastoral view that those with full bellies have of the farm would
quickly fade in the hot sun with a hoe in their hands when their living
and their food had to come from the ground they worked. Let them spend
some time planting sprigs of grass by hand or hand weeding crops only to
watch it die when it fails to rain. They will quickly loose their
illusions of the pastoral life. You don't have to go to the third world to
find those conditions I have done every one right here in the USA.
Why is US Pushing for Radical Changes in Agriculture on Rest of the World?
- Joseph Houseal
Dear Prakash: Congratulations!
Who is accounting for the changes in culture with the radical changes in
agriculture the US is so bullishly pushing onto the rest of the world? Is
the issue addressed anywhere? Increased crop yields and better nutrition
due to GM and economy-of-scale farming may be a destructive force in the
traditional fiber and coherence of communities. The Chairman of my board,
Eric Urbani, has been doing alternative energy and organic farming
philanthropy in Nepal and VietNam and other 'third-world' countries
because of this sensitivity. It is not such a vast effort, but one that
improves farming, creates new markets and is harmonious with behavior that
holds communities and continuity together.
I've see what the Indian 'national grid' in education and now agriculture
is doing in places like Ladakh ( where arable land is at a premium ) . It
is robbing locals of language and history, outlawing living practices like
polyandry, and changing ag method to require more machines and less
people, so the young men or fathers move to "the city" ( Leh) and become
urban poor. Is this something other than breaking up families, igniting a
population problem where there wasn't one and replacing western market
values for existing community values?
I am quite sure the Bush-era doesn't give a rats ass about such things.
Does anyone even supply a hypocritical CAST-style report about the effect
of changing farming styles on traditional community structure and
well-being in the long term?
Good news about your presence in Washington. yrs Joseph
On Sound Science, Not Silence
- Michael Liptosn
Dear Prakash, I 'm not a natural scientist but an economist. I follow the
debates, and largely accept the logic of the arguments in your email.
However, scientists on the whole favourable to GM tell me that:
(a) almost any challenge to an insect pest - whether by pesticide,
conventional breeding, Bt spray, or toxin generated when the insect
ingests a plant with Bt gene-expressed protein - induces the selection of
resistant biotypes of that insect in due course (though this has taken
surprisingly long - and has not apparently yet happened with resistance to
(b) work in progress at Cornell may show that Bt exudates in GM plant
roots bind to clay particles in soil, and persist for long periods (though
whether that is cause for concern is not clear).
Anyway, any opinion I may have on this cannot be directly informed by
professional evaluation of the evidence, as I don't have those skills. So
my signature would not add anything to your case.
Australia - GM Foods: How the Government is Failing Everyone
- Mike Nahan, The Age, May 15 2003 http://www.theage.com.au/
'The growing of GM canola by farmers must go ahead. Ignore the Luddites'
It is time for the Bracks Government to stop the duplicity on
biotechnology. It can either promote the safe use of the technology or
placate the Luddites but not both.
The Government has spent millions on a biotechnology strategy "to build on
the state's strength in biotechnology by encouraging and facilitating
investment; promoting careers in science, innovation and technology;
assisting in the commercialisation of research achievements; and preparing
a strategic direction for the industry".
It has done this because it recognises that biotechnology is a key
transforming technology: changing old industries, creating new ones and
providing means to solve many of society's most intractable problems. It
also recognised that in this globalised world technological laggards are
also economic laggards.
Last week, in the state budget, the Government reconfirmed its commitment
to the technology with a $321 million updated strategy to, among other
things, "position Victoria as a leading biotechnology cluster".
Two days later, however, it did the opposite by announcing a moratorium on
the use of biotechnology crops.
This was done just as farmers were about to begin planting a variety of
biotech canola produced by Bayer. This variety has, after extensive
testing, received the go-ahead from the Gene Technology Regulator and has
the support of the majority of farmers.
The crop in question is hardly new or unknown. It was developed in the
1980s. It has been commercially grown overseas since 1996 and now makes up
more than 50 per cent of world canola production. The crop has produced
no adverse impact on the environment, human or farmer income. Indeed, it
has proven to be a boon to the environment and growers with less pesticide
use; greater use of soil-saving, minimum-till techniques; higher yields
and lower costs.
There is concern in the community about GM food, which is understandable.
It is a new and novel technology and to date the benefits accrue to
farmers and the environment and not to consumers - though that is set to
change. These concerns have been both flamed and exaggerated by the
Non-government organisations (NGOs), including Greenpeace and the
Australian Conservation Foundation, organic farmers and front groups for
"health" food manufacturers have spent millions of dollars on a highly
professional campaign of fear, threat, politics and commercial pressure to
stop the technology. These groups are not the Luddites of old - they are
wealthy, professional, influential and commercially motivated and funded.
The Government is, however, fully aware that the regulatory process it
helped set up and oversee is the most rigorous in the world; that the
critics have been given ample hearing; that due process has been followed
and that all concerns have been explored.
The Government is aware of the extensive supplemental research showing the
benefits of the crop to farmers and the environment and that it poses no
market access problems or threatens the markets of other crops. The
Government is also aware that the regulator and, indeed Bayer, would
tightly control and monitor the introduction of GM canola and that only
about 1000 hectares of GM canola would have been planted during the first
As such, the introduction of GM canola would have been another necessary,
controlled step in the testing of the technology. Instead of following
due process, the evidence, the advice of experts and the interest of rural
communities, the Government has decided to follow the Luddites and, in so
doing, has done great harm to Victoria's biotechnology sector. The clear
message to investors is to avoid Victoria as the risk is too high.
Even if the product is brought to a commercial stage and passes the
regulators, the Government is likely to ban the product in response to
lobbying by commercial competitors. The message to researchers and
entrepreneurs is to prepare to emigrate.
When the government grants run out or products get to the
commercialisation stage, you will be forced to seek more enlightened
locations such as Canada. To students contemplating a career in
biotechnology, the message is to look elsewhere.
The message to regulators and scientists is to look to politics not
science. The message to rural communities is not to try to get ahead, and
to be satisfied with being a servant of visiting Melburnians. The message
to consumers is that the Luddites are right: biotechnology must be
dangerous and the regulatory process flawed.
The message to taxpayers is that the Government is squandering millions on
a biotechnology strategy that it is actively undermining. The Government
has failed on its first real test on biotechnology. While it may hope that
the damage will be limited by its claims to need more information on
markets, this however, will fool few as it already has two detailed
reports on markets. It may also hope that the fallout will be limited to
the agriculture sector but, again, it will disappointed. The technology is
Food may be the main battleground now, but the battle will spread to
medicine and manufacturing. What is needed is leadership based on good
decision-making and science, not duplicity driven by the politics of fear.
Mike Nahan is the executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs.
"Independent Science Panel" - Independent of What?
- www.CropGen.org, May 14, 2003
The self-styled "Independent Science Panel" (ISP), which launched on 10th
May, lists ten aspects of GM technology that it finds 'especially
regrettable and unacceptable'.
CropGen has reproduced these ten points together with commentary and
observations and has also created its own list of especially regrettable
and unacceptable aspects:
* The consistent presentation by ISP panellists of unpublished, non-peer
reviewed and incomplete research as evidence in support of their
* The casual assumption that no one involved in the development, research
and commercialisation of GM crops can possibly have any interest in
solving critical agricultural problems in the developing world;
* The characterisation of GM crops as being less regulated and researched
than conventional and organic crops when, in fact, the opposite is true;
* The sequestering of the word "independent".
Having attended the launch event at which one evidence-free presentation
was followed by another, CropGen was left with the feeling that the only
thing that the Independent Science Panel is independent of……is scientific
reasoning, the rigorous testing of hypotheses.
(Note: The ISP being referred here is a product Mae-Wan Ho - Details are
at http://www.i-sis.org.uk )
Per Pinstrup-Andersen: Keeping Children Well
To agricultural economist and author Per Pinstrup-Andersen, it all boils
down to children: if they are unwell, the economy can't be much better.
Born in Denmark and raised on a family farm, Pinstrup-Andersen did not
suffer from malnutrition, as do many farm children in developing nations.
And he also had the advantage of living in a nation where - despite
leaving school after the seventh grade to do farm work - he eventually was
able to enter a university and proceed to graduate studies in the US.
After a long and varied career, in his current post as Cornell
University's H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy,
Pinstrup-Andersen is concentrating on agricultural policies regarding
genetically modified foods and keeping the focus on human suffering in
"I feel very strongly that the ultimate indicator of improvement in human
beings is the health status of children," Pinstrup-Andersen said. If a
nation's children suffer from malnutrition, it's more than likely adults
are suffering as well.
As a university student, Pinstrup-Andersen started out studying animal
science, but later specialized in agricultural economics in hopes that he
could someday help run farmer cooperatives - which allow farmers to share
resources, equipment and marketing - or work in the food industry. But a
sense of social responsibility caused him to gravitate towards the
economic issues of developing countries.
"The idea was, if I could put my agricultural economics background to work
for developing countries instead of working for some company making dog
food, that would be better," he explained. It wasn't about trying to be a
saint, he says, but simply a way to make a living in his chosen field and
also serving a good cause.
Since then his career has included stints as a professor, researcher or
director at Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research
Institute, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research,
the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia, the
Agro-Economics Division at the International Fertilizer Development
Center, and the Danish Veterinary and Agricultural University in
Copenhagen. He has also served on a long list of international committees
addressing food and economics in developing nations and has been
recognized for this work with the 2001 World Food Prize.
In the 1990s, Pinstrup-Andersen says he began to see problems with how the
matter of GM organisms was being addressed, particularly in Europe. "I
felt that the debate was not very constructive at that time," he said.
For example, Europeans generally have nothing against GM organisms being
used to produce medicines, but they don't want it for food, he says. This
is because Europeans have plenty of inexpensive food - and so they have
the luxury of choosing between GM foods or conventional foods. There's
less choice - and more willingness to take a risk - with medicines, which
are perceived as more critical for saving lives, he explains.
Yet the same thing can be said about the need for food in developing
countries, he says. To a mother in a famine-struck region in Africa, the
disease she and her children suffer from is hunger and the medicine is
"The problems (in Europe vs. developing countries) are very different and
so the solutions are going to be very different as well," said
Pinstrup-Andersen. "The biggest health problem in developing countries is
starvation." The world's poor spend 60 to 80 percent of their incomes on
food and there often isn't enough. So Europe's strong stand against GM
crops, which might make more food available, seems bizarre to people in
The conundrum, he says, is that while GM foods may possibly help third
world farmers break out of poverty, Europe's stand against importing GM
foods presents a significant barrier to progress. "The Europeans are
pushing a precautionary principle," he said. "But it's being used to block
progress." It's an obstacle that he and colleague Ebbe Schiøler explored
in detail in their 2001 book, Seeds of Contention: World Hunger and the
Global Controversy Over GM Crops.
"Many developing countries would like to export to Europe," said
Pinstrup-Andersen, "but couldn't if they switched to (more productive) GM
crops." So they stick with what they can sell. As a result, the European
debate has had a profound effect on how fast GM technology is moving into
developing countries, he says. What's really needed and what he is arguing
for is a more diverse debate on the matter so these problems can be
As for the difference between the US and Europe regarding GM crops,
Pinstrup-Andersen attributes the US's greater tolerance of GM crops
largely to cultural and historical differences. Generally speaking,
Americans are more accustomed to changes and more prone to trust the
government to regulate GM crops, he says. Europeans, on the other hand,
generally have less confidence in their governments and are more averse to
change. "We [Europeans] are much more cautious about new things," he says,
"because the status quo in Europe is quite good."
The status quo in many parts of Africa, on the farthest other end of the
spectrum, is famine. Any crop - GM or otherwise - that might grow better
food, tolerate droughts and saline soils or resist disease, would provide
a ray of hope that someday there will be enough food for the children and
perhaps a stable economy for grandchildren. That's what Pinstrup-Andersen
wants brought to the fore.
Disguised Trade Barriers That Ignore Sound Science
- Lawrence Kogan, National Foreign Trade Council, Washington DC.
Please find attached to this e-mail message web links to the detailed
research paper the NFTC recently released on the growing use of disguised
trade barriers that ignore sound science. The paper addresses the
overarching principles that are being employed by the EU to hold back
scientific advancement. The impact upon both agricultural and
non-agricultural sectors has been addressed, as has the impact upon
developing country economic and social advancement. There is also a
discussion of the EU's use of the Biosafety Protocol to distort WTO rules
For a copy of the Full NFTC White Paper, please see:
http://www.nftc.org/default/white%20paper/TR2%20final.pdf for the full
For the Executive Summary, please see:
Coalition of the Tilling
- Waldemar Ingdahl, TCS, May 14, 2003 ] (sent by the author;
European debates on the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and
their use in agriculture tend to become rather predictable, considering
that most of the pro and con arguments are fairly well known and the
opposing sides are firmly entrenched. So it is good sometimes to get out
of those trenches, and re-connect with the real issues at stake. Now that
the US and several other nations have decided to lodge a formal complaint
with the World Trade Organization against the EU moratorium on GM crop
approvals, the issue is sure to become even more emotional and politically
At a recent seminar in Stockholm sponsored by the Eudoxa think tank,
participants attempted to break the mold of the debate. Participants tried
to recapitulate where science is at present, what options there are for
GMO crops now and in the future, and what can be achieved with a positive
agenda in developing countries, where GM crops can prove especially
The GMO issue is a rather complex one in which science, economics and
politics often blend, so we invited speakers from three different fields:
genetics, politics, and the role of developing countries in GMO issues.
Christer Jansson, professor of plant genetics at the Swedish Agriculture
University at Uppsala, pointed out that conventional crops are also the
product of quite extensive tampering, just over a longer time span than GM
crops. Pre-Columbian Indians bred maize from inedible teocinte grass over
centuries. Wild cabbage has been bred so extensively that it has given us
broccoli and cauliflower (actually, cauliflower is a cancerous mutation of
wild cabbage). Thus conventional breeding is also a very powerful method
of changing nature, with a wide variety of risks that should be accounted
for, and not the simple choice between GM/conventional breeding that
Greenpeace posits. The improvement in modern biotech agriculture over what
farmers have been doing for centuries is that now we know what genes we
The first generation of GM plants encountered resistance since it did not
offer any immediately apparent benefits to consumers. The increased
tolerance towards biotic and abiotic stress has mainly been beneficial to
farmers in producing virus-resistant papaya, herbicide-resistant crops,
drought-resistant cotton, and salt-resistant tomato plants that store
excess salt in their leaves.
The second generation has been about getting bigger and better harvests.
This is vital especially to poor countries trying to feed their growing
populations on less arable land. GM plants are not the only solution to
world hunger, Professor Jansson pointed out, but they are an important
part of one, particularly since the second generation also offers the
benefits of functional food. Biofortification, such as with vitamin
A-enriched Golden Rice, could solve many problems of malnutrition.
The third generation could be the real GM revolution, eclipsing the
effects of the previous generations. Plant production of non-food
applications gives value to farmers immediately, and is especially
beneficial to farmers in poor countries. Plant-derived renewables like
bioplastics are degradable and cheap. Plant production of edible vaccines,
antibodies and blood proteins could solve medical problems.
Ewa Bjorling, Member of the Swedish Parliament and professor of
microbiology at The Karolinska Institute, discussed the politics of GMO.
Views, obviously, are divided. Biotechnology's benefits to development
issues are recognized, and the UN sees it as an important player in
fulfilling the Millennium Goals of halving world poverty before the year
2015 and reversing the spread of diseases like HIV and malaria. But trade
issues and concerns of ensuring environmental sustainability often block
initiatives on GMO, and many poor countries feel that the use of GM plants
is being forced upon them. Thus Bjorling stressed the importance of not
solving GMO questions bilaterally (as has often been done) but through the
Anil Trigunayat, commercial counsellor at the Indian embassy in Stockholm,
discussed India's rapidly expanding biotechnology industry. India has a
long experience of biotechnology since the Green revolution of high yield
crops in the 1960s. Today, India is a net exporter of wheat, rice and
sugar; but with a growing population and less arable land, biotechnology
is necessary to further improve Indian agriculture.
There are now about 150 biotechnology companies in India, of which 75
percent have been founded during the last five years. India's
biotechnology companies make yearly revenues of $150 million, of which $60
million are export revenues. This has been achieved with a modest venture
capital funding of $20 million, and together with India's edge in
bioinformatics and more than 1,500 PhDs in biosciences, the potential for
a globally competitive industry is certainly there.
(Waldemar Ingdahl, CEO the Eudoxa think tank, Stockholm, Sweden)
The New Colonialism
- Roger Bate, TCS, April 18, 2003 http://www.techcentralstation.be/
This week Nigeria will elect a new President. Of course, whoever wins the
election won't be new exactly, since both are former Nigerian dictators,
but at least the elections are likely to be relatively free and fair. That
is a lot more than can be said for most African nations, although the
situation is much better across the continent than twenty years ago.
With the exception of the despotic Zimbabwe and war-torn Angola, all large
countries in Southeast and Southern Africa are democracies, or emerging
democracies (Lesotho and Swaziland are tribal kingdoms). A few in Western
Africa (Benin, Mali and Senegal and soon Nigeria and Ghana) can also claim
the title democratic, but the rest of the continent is a mixture of
military dictatorships, collapsed states or pseudo-regimes that pretend to
be somewhat democratic.
As the late great Lord Peter Bauer explained, aid has often kept countries
poor by maintaining a victim culture and perpetuating a crony-led elite
that benefit from aid. Even in the most organised of African nations there
have been numerous failed projects, with donor money rarely finding its
way to the intended recipients.
Partly because of previous aid project failures, there has been less
Government-to-Government aid in the past decade and more aid to
non-governmental organisations like Christian AID or Oxfam, and direct aid
to local communities. This approach has certainly reduced the amount of
corruption and despotism in many African nations, but it has caused a
different type of problem - the advice from NGOs is driving
neo-colonialism, where advice is followed, no matter how absurd, which is
then reinforced by officials in European nations from which the NGOs come.
India, China, and even Cuba have welcomed new technologies, especially
those that can help agriculture. But Africa has not, and the main reason
is that those giving it advice, and much pivotal funding, oppose those
technologies. Furthermore its main export markets, by accident of history,
don't much like them either.
For example, Zambia exports thousands of tons of food to Europe, in
successful years earning tens of millions of dollars. Other Southern
countries like Botswana export beef and Zimbabwe exports peas and beans,
the Ivory Coast and many other Western African nations export coffee and
cocoa. Over half of Africa's food exports go to Europe; it is therefore
unsurprising that African nations are worried about European opinions. And
as the former colonising powers, European nations have far more influence
in Africa than pro-technology America.
Zambian Vice President, Enoch Kavindale explained recently: 'Our decision
to reject genetically modified food is out of fear_We have been told that
we will lose our European market if we start growing GM foods...Hungry we
may be, but GM foods pose a serious threat to our agricultural sector and
could grind it to a halt'.
Last month Dr John Kilama, President of the Global Bioscience Development
Institute, testified before the US House Committee on Agriculture. Dr
Kilama explained the 'precautionary principle of the Biosafety Protocol
serves as a convenient tactical device for Europeans - because the
principle permits countries to reject foreign GMOs even when there is no
scientific proof that they are harmful'.
Yet although African countries are signatories to the Protocol not a
single country in Sub-Saharan Africa has enacted any laws for enforcing
biosafety regulations. According to Kilama, only Kenya and Egypt have
workable drafts of biosafety laws, and Nigeria may have one in a matter of
weeks - but that is it for the whole of Africa. And European nations (and
especially the European Commission) will require workable laws before they
will ever permit GM products to be imported from Africa. And of course
most of the NGOs receiving aid 'on behalf of' poor nations oppose the
technologies and advise countries not to antagonise European leaders.
There are further problems with giving aid to NGOs and especially local
communities. The most important problem is that such a focus leads to
neglect of national institutions. It may seem sensible to bypass national
institutions if they are corrupt, but as Kilama says 'no matter how
corrupt and mismanaged government agencies may be, we must figure out ways
to train government officials in the key leadership skills of policymaking
Without dependable national institutions, such as the rule of law, the
protection of rights, (especially economic rights over property and
contracts), are never going to withstand shocks such as recessions in
western export markets. When trouble arrives, fragile institutions break
down and mistrust, theft, and inevitable declines in business and
investment occur. The lack of rule of law is the main reason that although
Ghana and Zambia were wealthier than Korea in the 1960s, today they are 30
The one thing that the United States can do is to open its markets up to
African produce. The less reliance Africa has on its former colonial
masters in Europe, the better chance Africans have of developing the same
free institutions that make America successful. It will also bring the
adoption of technologies that Africa needs more badly than any other
continent on earth.
With notable exceptions, like the recent civil unrest in the Central
African Republic, African nations are moving in the direction of freedom.
It is ironic that the NGOs and aid agencies that have done well to reduce
recent corruption, ultimately could adversely affect Africa's progress.
Genetic Food Fight
- Editorial, Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2003
The Bush Administration's trade record is far from spotless, as we've
often pointed out. But its decision this week to file suit at the WTO
against the European Union's moratorium against genetically modified crops
starts a very useful food fight.
The ban is almost certainly illegal under WTO rules, it has no basis in
science and it is hurting some of the poorest and hungriest countries in
the world. A number of African countries, most prominently Zambia, have
been pressured by the EU ban into refusing food aid from the U.S., for
fear that American GM food will "taint" their own crops and leave them
shut out of European markets.
In support of the case, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick mustered
some 3,000 scientists, including 20 Nobel Prize winners, all of whom
maintain that the EU's biotech protectionism amounts to junk science. The
complaint is joined or supported by more than a dozen other countries.
The EU knows that the ban is insupportable legally and scientifically.
Three years ago, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem called it
"illegal and not justified," and Health Commissioner David Byrne has been
saying the same for years. In response to fear-mongering in the late 1990s
by countries like France and Germany, the commission launched a six-year
study of the safety of GM foods. Its conclusion, published last year, was
that they not only pose no threat but are in many cases safer and more
environmentally friendly than traditional crops.
They're safer because the genetic modifications are tightly controlled to
achieve a certain aim, such as pest resistance, rather than the result of
random mixing of strains or crops in the hope that a valuable hybrid will
emerge. They are more environmentally friendly because the modifications
often allow for higher yields (meaning less land under cultivation) and
reduced pesticide use due to pest resistance.
Yet when some countries banned the import of even EU-approved genetically
modified crops five years ago, the European Commission stopped processing
applications for approval of new GM strains. Now the EU says all it wants
is an adequate labeling and traceability regime.
What this means in practice, however, is that all crops -- and not just GM
products -- will have to undergo costly and unnecessary testing at each
stage of production to check for the presence of GM foods. The European
greens behind this boondoggle may hope it will drive up the price of
GM-derived products, but the requirements are so stringent that they'd
drive up the price of all food in Europe.
The labeling requirement is merely a scare tactic. If it's truly a
question of consumer choice, then a voluntary "GM-free" labeling system
would allow those who really care to pay extra for the comfort of avoiding
"Frankenfood," without forcing all consumers to pay for their paranoia.
Unfortunately for Europe's environmentalists, price surveys in Europe
indicate that products currently labeled "GM-free" enjoy zero price
premium relative to unlabeled products. In other words, for all the
huffing about how important the issue is to European consumers, no one
seems willing to pay anything extra for protection from the dread GM.
What we have here is the spectacle of timid European politicians and
bureaucrats flacking for a handful of misinformed and radical -- and no
surprise, mostly French -- environmentalists. If there were ever such a
thing as a just trade war, this is it.
A Trade Battle That Will Cost US Dear
- David Victor and Ford Runge, Financial Times, May 15, 2003
America's farm lobbyists have long been pressing their government to
launch a formal trade dispute against the European Union's ban on
genetically modified crops. This week they got their way, as the US and
more than a dozen allies started proceedings within the World Trade
For US farmers - the world's top planters of GM crops - the case is a
welcome chance to crack open a lucrative market. But the case may
ultimately do their country more harm than good.
Now is a particularly bad time to embark on a dispute that will inflame
anti-Americanism in Europe. In the broader, already deteriorating
relationship with continental Europe, the US has much more important
issues at stake, notably reviving the Doha round on trade and mending
diplomatic relationships strained by the Iraq war. Moreover, a close look
at the options reveals that each of the plausible outcomes from a dispute
would leave the US worse off than before.
First, the US could pay the political costs of launching an inflammatory
dispute and then lose. Most press accounts compare this case with one of
the first disputes ever handled by the WTO: the EU's ban on beef that had
been produced using hormones. The EU lost because its ban had no basis in
science and in "comparable" areas of food policy it had adopted much less
strict rules - a telltale sign that the ban was a protectionist gambit.
On the surface, the cases appear similar. Although the science on the
health risks of GM food is contested, essentially all the credible
evidence shows that these foods are safe, which would seem to indict the
EU ban. But in critical ways the cases differ. Across the board, the EU is
tightening food safety regulations in ways that seem irrational by
standard cost/benefit tests but, crucially, are broadly non-discriminatory
and consistent - the key tests for whether a trade ban is legitimate.
Moreover, the GM ban is a temporary measure - unlike the permanent ban on
beef hormones - and trade rules allow more flexibility for countries that
implement temporary measures when they can claim the science is uncertain.
Second, the EU could change its rules in the middle of the dispute. For
several years, EU bureaucrats have been designing a new set of standards
that would "reopen" Europe's markets to GM foods if traders complied with
onerous tracing and labelling requirements. This shift would make it
harder for the US to win because trade laws are tolerant of labels that
allow consumers to make the final choice. While the US might respond by
dropping the suit, it would be more likely to redirect the dispute against
the tracing and labelling rules. In the past, hotly contested trade
disputes have usually taken on a myopic life of their own. Each side digs
in and the political damage spreads.
Third is the most likely (and worst) outcome: the US could win. The
victory would be Pyrrhic because the issues are fundamentally ones of
morality and technology - they must be settled in the courts of consumer
opinion. On this score, the beef hormones case is instructive. Even today,
hormone-treated beef is no more able to find European consumers than it
was before the US won its case; and the years of legal wrangling have led
to counter-sanctions that have harmed a wide variety of unrelated products
and industries. The antagonism over GM foods appears to be unfolding in
much the same way.
A better strategy would have been to stay the course that US policy has
followed ever since the controversy over GM crops broke out in the late
1990s. Time is on America's side because the technology is already proving
itself in the marketplace and European opponents will find themselves
But now that Washington has pulled the trigger, what can be done? The
greatest danger is that both sides of the Atlantic slide into a
tit-for-tat retaliation. But a trade war will cause untold harm to an
alliance already in stress and make it harder to rejuvenate the soggy
world economy. Cooler heads must prevail.
In Europe, the critical need is to reform the moratorium on GM foods.
Frustration over its inability to get the import ban lifted is what pushed
Washington to this desperate act. In the US, serious movement in Europe
must be seized as pretence to rescind the WTO case before the antagonisms
of hearings, judgment, appeal and retaliation unfold. -- David Victor is
director of the programme on energy and sustainable development at
Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations. Ford Runge is a professor of applied economics and law at the
University of Minnesota
Modified Food Fight
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal- Europe, May 13, 2003
Here we go again.
The Bush administration is expected to announce today that it is filing a
complaint with the World Trade Organization over the EU's five-year-old
moratorium on approvals of new genetically modified crops. This will no
doubt be taken as yet another sign that President Bush is a unilateralist,
trampling over European concerns and prerogatives, etc.
Now, we yielded to no one in criticizing the president's steel tariffs.
But the truth here is that the U.S. has been more than patient with the
EU's foot-dragging. The case looked set to be filed in January, but was
held up at the last minute in a fruitless attempt to try to keep the
Europeans on board the Iraq boat. That didn't really work out. And last
week, the EU threw down the gauntlet on its own blockbuster WTO case,
giving the U.S. Congress until the end of the year to resolve the EU's
complaint about the tax breaks of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies.
But even so there are those who argue that the U.S. should avoid rankling
European sensibilities at a time when Iraq's reconstruction is still being
debated. The good news is, the do-nothing crowd appears to have lost the
The conventional wisdom on GM foods in Europe is that Europeans don't want
American "Frankenfoods" anyway, and so in keeping them out the European
Commission and the member states are only doing their citizens' bidding.
But the evidence for this is hard to find. Yes, there are polls that
indicate some apprehension, but that seems to have more to do with basic
human resistance to change than any deeply felt fear of genetically
The commission approved over 20 GM crops for sale in Europe prior to the
moratorium, and price surveys in Europe indicate that foods currently
labeled "GM free" enjoy no price premium compared to those that are not
labeled. Whatever the polls say, European consumers are not ponying up for
the comfort of knowing that their corn chips are free from the dreaded GM.
To the extent that there is concern, this no doubt comes from the EU's own
ban. It gives the impression -- one belied by the EU's own extensive
scientific research, as Gregory Conko notes nearby1 -- that there's
something to be concerned about. Since that's not true, the quickest way
to dispel those fears is to lift the moratorium.
The other canard is that the moratorium will be lifted faster if the EU is
left alone. But there's little evidence of that, either. Health
Commissioner David Byrne has called the moratorium unsupportable, but so
far to little effect. The prospect of losing a case that the EU has no
chance of winning -- since its own science says the moratorium has no
basis -- may be just the nudge it needs. The U.S. complaint to the WTO is
Consumer Group Hopes US Challenge to EU Biotechnology Moratorium Won't
Have Backlash on Trade Talks
- Consumer Alert Press Release, May 13, 2003; Washington, DC
"The United Statesí World Trade Organization challenge today to the EUís
moratorium on new approvals of agricultural biotechnology products is
based on sound principles and scientific evidence but could make efforts
to liberalize agricultural trade even more difficult," said Frances Smith,
executive director of Consumer Alert. Smith was responding to the United
States Trade Representativeís announcement today that the United States
and several other countries will challenge the European Unionís moratorium
on approval of new agricultural biotechnology crops and products.
"The EUís five-year hold on any new approvals is not based on scientific
evidence that these products cause harm to humans or the environment. The
de facto moratorium is based on risk perception by some and protectionism
by others," Smith said. She pointed out that while every country has the
right to refuse products and imports that can pose harm to humans, animals
or the environment, such measures should be based on science and on a
process in which countries try to address the uncertainty of risk that
exists with every new technology.
"The European Union should move forward in reinstating the approval
process for such products. The blunt refusal to even consider approving
any product is not justified under the current trade agreements. This in
no way restricts the right of the EU to make a case-by-case decision on
the approval of a specific product or application of the technology,"
Smith said. However, she warned that the announced challenge to the EUís
policy might have significant negative side effects on overall trade
negotiations that could lead to more harm than good for U.S. consumers,
producers and exporters.
"With the WTO members struggling to find common ground on agricultural
trade, the U.S.-EU formal break on biotechnology issues could result in a
deepening divide on all agriculture issues. Progress on farm subsidies,
import restrictions and other agricultural topics are essential to reach
an agreement at the next WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico in
"In the current frosty relationship between some EU countries and the
U.S., the U.S. action could create a significant backlash. While trade
negotiators are used to the rough-and-tumble of trade politics, the effect
on public opinion in Europe cannot be ignored. Public resentment to any
move that might be regarded as the U.S. applying pressure on this often
not well understood issue could set back biotechnology acceptance. Such
developments may not help U.S. farmers who want to reach more of the
Smith said she hopes that both sides realize that the negative effect of
any large trade dispute are borne by consumers on both sides of the
Atlantic, the North as well as the South. Smith noted that the blockage of
agricultural biotechnology in Europe has repercussions way beyond its own
borders. Consumers and producers in developing countries are struggling
with the concerns promulgated by some activist groups and the fear that
crops produced with such technology could be barred from European markets.
Smith pointed to the recent example of some Southern African countries
refusing to accept U.S. food aid--despite malnutrition and threats of
famine-- because of unfounded fears about biotech crops. "We hope that
consumersí interests are not forgotten in the wake of the controversy that
this suit before the WTO will bring," said Smith. Consumer Alert, founded
in 1977, is a national consumer group that promotes the consumer value of
a market economy in increasing choice and competition that can lead to
lower prices and technological advances to improve health and safety.
Frances B. Smith, Executive Director, Consumer Alert, Washington, DC
Tuskegee Scientist's Expertise a Key Component of World Trade Organization
- Tuskegee University, AL; May 15, 2003
Genetically modified foods have the potential of revolutionizing agrarian
societies throughout the world by "addressing hunger, environmental
degradation, and poverty by improving agricultural productivity,"
according to renowned Tuskegee scientist Dr. C.S. Prakash.
Prakash, Professor of Plant Genetics and Director of Tuskegee University’s
Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, oversees the research on food
crops of importance to developing countries and the training of scientists
and students in plant biotechnology.
He was recently named the "Face of Innovation " by the Washington, D.C. –
based Biotechnology Council which hailed him as one of the "pioneers and
visionaries behind the progress and promise of plant biotechnology."
Prakash was one of the principal orators May 13 when U.S. Trade
Representative Robert B. Zoellick and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M.
Veneman announced the intention of the United States, Argentina, Canada,
and Egypt to file a World Trade Organization case against the European
Union over its "illegal five-year moratorium on approving agricultural
He also collaborated with Gregory Conko, Director of Food Safety Policy at
the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., in an op-ed
article that appeared in the European Wall Street Journal the same day.
"Because 70 percent of the people living in developing countries are
dependent on agriculture, any technology that helps transform agriculture,
helps bring an element of profitability, helps cut down the costs in
farming and helps to improve the nutritive value of foods is going to
benefit the great humanity," Prakash said in his testimony at the media
"All over the world, the genetic technologies, and many agricultural
technologies, have literally transformed and enhanced the quality of life
for most people on this planet," Prakash continued. "Yet, the new
technologies need to be continuously developed, and it is important that
we have another 2 billion people in this world who do not have the luxury
of taking their daily food for-granted, but would one day come under the
level of food security that we enjoy here today."
According to Prakash, more than 145 million acres of biotech crops were
grown in the world in 2002. Worldwide, about 45% of soy, 11% of corn, 20%
of cotton and 11% of rapeseed are biotech crops. In the United States, 75%
of soy, 34% of corn and 71% of cotton are biotech crops.
The EU implemented a ban on genetically modified foods in October of 1998.
Two years later, Prakash organized a pro-agricultural biotech declaration
on his popular Web portal, www.agbioworld.org, which was signed by more
than 3,200 scientists worldwide, including 20 Nobel Laureates.
"Genetically modified crops neither are new nor dangerous. But they are a
more precise method of altering and improving our crops," Prakash said.
"We have been genetically modifying crop plants by conventional means for
nearly thousands of years, but by more scientific means for the past 100
Ambassador Zoellick concurred with Prakash’s assertions.
"The EU's moratorium violates WTO rules…Biotech food helps nourish the
world's hungry population, offers tremendous opportunities for better
health and nutrition and protects the environment by reducing soil erosion
and pesticide use," said Zoellick.
Edward Alden Discusses the Case Brought to The WTO Against the European
Union by A Number of Other Nations over EU Trade Regulations
- National Public Radio: All Things Considered, www.npr.org, May 13, 2003
ROBERT SIEGEL, host: The United States, joined by several other countries,
is suing the European Union over its rules on genetically modified crops.
The US, along with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt and eight Latin
American countries, is taking Europe to the World Trade Organization,
charging that EU regulations amount to an illegal trade barrier. Here with
more on this story is reporter Edward Alden of The Financial Times
Mr. EDWARD ALDEN (The Financial Times): Good morning.
SIEGEL: And first, what's at stake in this action?
Mr. ALDEN: What's at stake really, it's a battle internationally over
fundamentally different views of how governments should regulate to
protect consumer health and safety. The Europeans have a notion that we
ought to be protected from dangers that we're not even certain exist. The
Americans want to stick to very hard science. And the WTO case will be the
forum in which this battle is played out at very high level to set the
rules that will govern international trade in products that are affected
by these regulations.
SIEGEL: What sort of product is at stake here, and how much is it worth
Mr. ALDEN: The case involves agricultural crops which have been
genetically altered. And the US says right now, in terms of the European
market alone, it's maybe losing several hundred millions of dollars in
sales a year, but the potential's enormous. About two-thirds of US
soybeans, two-thirds of cotton, a third of US corn is grown using these
genetically altered crops. If the European model gets exported to the rest
of the world, which is what the US fears, US farmers are going to get
frozen out of many of the most lucrative markets in the world--the Chinas,
the Indias, the Russias, the Africas--and that's thereal worry that the US
has in bringing this case.
SIEGEL: This is an interesting argument between the US officials, who say
that genetically modified crops have not been shown to be harmful, and
Europeans say that they haven't been proved harmless, invoking what they
call the precautionary principle. And this is a real divide.
Mr. ALDEN: There's no question it's an absolutely fundamental divide, and
it doesn't just have to do with this issue. The Europeans just last week
introduced a chemicals directive, which is going to require retesting of
some 30,000 chemicals that have been in use for a long time to set up
whole graduated systems of risk and try to protect consumers from the risk
of chemicals. There's similar things involving end of life with products
that would end up in waste dumps that now the Europeans want to make sure
get recycled properly. The Americans say in a lot of these cases, the
Europeans just haven't demonstrated scientifically that there's a real
threat to consumers. Europeans come back and say, 'Well, look, we faced
the mad cow scare. We faced other food crises, and we want to be
absolutely certain that there's no danger to our consumers,' even if they
acknowledge the science on this is rather fuzzy.
SIEGEL: Well, of course, one New York Times columnist has heard Europeans
saying all of this through a fog of the cigarette smoke that they're
exhaling as they're saying it.
Mr. ALDEN: Well, there's a tremendous hypocrisy here in that if there's
any one principle underlying the European Union economy, it's protection
of their farmers. I mean, it's a very, very heavily protected agricultural
system. And so from the American perspective, they see this as basically
an excuse for economic protectionism, and there's certainly both of these
things going on probably in equal measure.
SIEGEL: Beyond the science of it and beyond agriculture, how does this
dispute figure in the bigger picture of US-Europe trade relations right
Mr. ALDEN: Well, it comes at a bad time in the sense that the underlying
theory of US-EU trade relations was the relationship was so strong in the
fundamental diplomatic sense that it could handle these trade disputes,
that they were minor irritants in a good relationship. In the wake of the
war in Iraq, the underlying relationship is not strong. It's very poor.
It's the poorest it's been probably in more than half a century. And so
the question is whether these trade disputes--and this is not the only
one; there are a number of others--will, in fact, escalate in some serious
way, because the relationship has been frayed at the larger level. I think
that's the bigger concern.
SIEGEL: There's a big aircraft dispute right now as well.
Mr. ALDEN: There's a dispute over a rather blatant European decision not
to buy engines for military transport aircraft from Pratt & Whitney and to
throw the bid to a European consortium. There's another dispute over a big
tax subsidy for US exporters, like Boeing and Microsoft and Caterpillar
that the Europeans are saying--they've won a WTO case on this issue, and
they're saying this needs to be gone by the end of the year, or the US is
going to face up to $4 billion in trade sanctions. There's also steel,
which could well end up in trade sanctions by the end of this year, so
there ar a number of very, very contentious disputes all converging at
about the same time.
SIEGEL: Edward Alden, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. ALDEN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Edward Alden, Washington correspondent for The Financial Times
U.S. Officials Confident of Winning WTO Biotech Case
- Washington File, May 15, 2003
'Larson describes potential problems with proposed EU labeling scheme'
Bush administration officials say they have no doubt the United States
will win a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge against the European
Union (EU) moratorium on processing applications for new products derived
"This is a case that is so solidly grounded that we are very confident
that we will succeed," Under Secretary of State Alan Larson said in a May
14 briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington.
Larson and three other officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade
Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the
comments on the day following announcement that the United States,
Argentina, Canada and Egypt, joined by nine third-party supporters, were
initiating consultations with the EU, the first step in WTO
"We are not interested in a dispute, Larson said. "We are interested in
resolving disputes." If as a result of consultations the EU ends the
five-year moratorium, he said, "we'd be very pleased."
He said that if the EU did lift its moratorium, then the United States
would consider whether to continue the WTO dispute-settlement challenge.
Larson and the others reiterated the arguments made the preceding day --
that science has repeatedly demonstrated the safety of biotech food, that
the EU ban is not based on science and therefore violates WTO rules, and
that the EU ban is discouraging developing countries from importing food
that could feed their hungry people and seeds that could make their
farmers more productive.
"There are many, many countries in the world that are not proceeding with
biotechnology because of this moratorium and concerns that they will not
be able to market their products in the European market," said John
Veroneau, USTR's chief counsel.
Larson and the others deflected some questions related to a proposed EU
scheme for labeling products as produced by biotechnology. Larson did
suggest that a labeling scheme could be rigged in a protectionist way
"that would establish tolerances and requirements that would be, in
practice, impossible to comply with."
Describing a number of food safety problems that have beset the EU, Larson
contrasted the assured safety of food for U.S. consumers and of U.S. food
"One of the reasons we have a strong record is that we have food safety
review processes that are scientific and not politicized," Larson said.
Full transcript of the discussion at
- Andrew Apel
On May 16-18, eco-reactionaries from around the world will descend on St.
Louis, Mo. for an event they call 'Biodevastation 7: A Forum on
Environmental Racism, World Agriculture and Biowarfare.' The event is
timed to precede the 2003 World Agricultural Forum, titled ''A New Age in
Agriculture: Working Together to Create the Future and Disable the
The Biodevastation activist conclave will boost 'environmental racism' as
a novel theme, one which is growing in popularity in eco-reactionary
circles. Purportedly, environmental racism is when genetic technology is
''used to discriminate against and exploit communities of color.''
We recently had an opportunity to assess environmental racism when the
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of America's most venerable civil
rights groups, confronted Greenpeace at a public event and accused it of
''eco-manslaughter'' through its support of international policies
limiting development and the expansion of technology to the developing
''But well-fed eco-fanatics shriek 'Frankenfoods' and 'genetic
pollution,''' CORE said in a statement announcing their intention to
confront Greenpeace. ''They threaten sanctions on nations that dare to
grow genetically modified crops, to feed their people or replace crops
that have been wiped out by insects and blights. They plan to spend $175
million battling biotech foods over the next five years. Not one dime of
this will go to the starving poor, and even Greenpeace co-founder Dr.
Patrick Moore is disgusted that the organization he once led ''puts
unfounded fear-mongering ahead of the world's poor.'' But the zealots are
Just how unmoved are the zealots? At the CORE protest, Rick Hind,
Greenpeace's legislative director, called the accusations made by CORE
''absolutely ridiculous and not worth commenting on.''
Completely unmoved, apparently. And when hordes of well-fed white people
from developed nations descend on St. Louis to protest ''environmental
racism,'' we'll have yet another opportunity to question who the
environmental racists really are.
Greenhouse Gas Might Green Up The Desert
- Weizmann Institute of Science, Pub. & Media relations dept.
May 12, 2003
Weizmann Institute study suggests that rising carbon dioxide levels might
cause forests to spread into dry environments
Missing: around 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main
greenhouse gas charged with global warming. Every year, industry releases
about 22 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And every
year, when scientists measure the rise of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere, it doesn't add up - about half goes missing. Figuring in the
amount that could be soaked up by oceans, some 7 billion tons still remain
unaccounted for. Now a study conducted at the edge of Israel's Negev
Desert has come up with what might be a piece of the puzzle.
A group of scientists headed by Prof. Dan Yakir of the Weizmann
Institute's Environmental Sciences and Energy Department found that the