Today in AgBioView: May 27, 2003:
* No risk in GM food, say doctors
* GMO research should be protected and respected, urges French government
* R.P. scientists back GMO promotion
* Europe in disgrace
* Europe and genetically modified foods
* Bush right on biotech
* EU blasts back at Bush over biotech food
* GREEN GROUP SAYS US EXPLOITS HUNGRY IN GM FOOD ROW
* US Senate Resolution on the WTO Action
* Parting Thoughts – Scientists, Shoemakers, Spades and Society
* Research 'stunted by our culture of protest'
* What Did You Do During the African Holocaust?
* Nature not always what it may seem
* Fear and loathing
No risk in GM food, say doctors
Medical body may change its advice, but public 'needs more information'
By Kamal Ahmed, political editor
Sunday May 25, 2003
The British Medical Association is to change its advice on the health
risks of genetically-modified foods after its Head of Science and Ethics
said she had seen 'no evidence' that it posed a threat.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson told The Observer there was no direct health risk to
people and work needed to be done on the environmental impact of GM crops
and on reassuring the public that there were 'global benefits'.
She also said that 'indirect threats' to human health through possible
changes to the environment needed to be analysed.
Nathanson was one of the authors of the original BMA report into the
dangers of GM foods in 1999, which said much more research was needed
before health risks could be ruled out.
The report came after controversial research from the Rowett Institute in
Aberdeen suggesting a link between GM potatoes and damage to rats fed on
them. It called for a moratorium on widespread planting of GM crops.
'We cannot at present know whether there are any serious risks to human
health involved in producing GM crops or consuming GM food products,' the
It promoted the 'precautionary principle' and was seized on by anti-GM
protestors who claimed it proved GM crops and foods were a risk.
The BMA report was seen as one of the seminal 'negative' assessments of
the GM industry, despite the association's insistence that it was a far
more balanced document than initially reported.
Nathanson will host a BMA 'round table' of experts to discuss updating the
BMA 1999 report. She said that because the science had moved on
considerably, she would be surprised if the BMA decided not to update its
Any softening of the line against GM foods would be a huge boost to the
industry in its campaign to convince the public that GM crops are safe.
Next week the Government will launch a 'nationwide debate' on the issue
with a series of public meetings.
The Department for Envi ronment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it wants
the public to have an input before it makes the key decision on whether to
give the go-ahead to GM crops later in the year. Large-scale trials of GM
crop growing at farms across the country will then be completed and the
Nathanson said that people needed much more information before they could
make a considered judgment. She said that at the moment the debate was
'It is likely that the majority of people are not quite sure what genetic
modification means,' she said. 'There is no such thing as no risk, but
people have to be able to balance the risks and benefits.'
GMO research should be protected and respected, urges French government
Cordis News Service
Members of the French Senate's commission for economic affairs have
unanimously adopted a report detailing the steps necessary to bring about
a viable research and regulatory framework for the development of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The report notes that biotechnology research has significantly declined in
recent years, despite France's reputable scientific base in the field. In
an effort to turn the situation around, the report says that it is
necessary to award greater recognition and protection to GMO research that
has applied the precautionary principle. The report also underlines the
need for greater political will and moral support for scientists who carry
out research for the development of GMOs.
Furthermore, public and private partnerships should be encouraged, public
budgetary allocations re-established and funding for private companies for
GMO research increased, urges the report.
In terms of public scepticism concerning GMOs, the report calls for
greater transparency and increased dialogue between scientists and
citizens. Members of the commission also agreed to the adoption of a bill
setting the ethical parameters for biotechnology research.
The report concludes that the implementation of these measures will
inevitably lead to the lifting of the moratorium on GM products.
To read the report in full, please visit the following web address:
R.P. scientists back GMO promotion
May 26, 2003
Around 20 Filipino scientists from government and private sectors Monday
trooped to the Department of Agriculture and expressed support to its
position to promote and commercialize genetically modified (GM) crops,
including the controversial Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn in the
The scientists said they believe and support the application of modern
biotechnology as a tool to enhance agricultural productivity.
The scientists’ expression of support came after anti-GM advocates lifted
their almost one-month hunger strike in front of the Department of
Agriculture building in Quezon City to dramatize their opposition to the
government’s giving a green light to the commercialization of Bt corn in
the country, and demanded a moratorium.
Among the scientists who articulated their support were former science
secretary Dr. William Padolina; Dr. Patricio Faylon, executive director of
the Philippine Council for Agriculture Forestry and Natural Resources and
Development of the Department of Science and Technology; and Dr. Mae
Mendoza of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Institute of
Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. told the scientists that the
termination of the hunger strike last week might have signaled a
realization by the protesters that the biotechnology issue involves a
process and that protest actions will not provide answers to their
“I think they [the hunger strikers] realized that they should respect the
process and having a hunger strike is not the solution. If they do have
scientific evidence, they should give it to the Bureau of Plant Industry
and from there, let the independent body of scientists, who will be chosen
at random, determine if there is merit for whatever they are requesting,”
Lorenzo said in an interview.
“After that [study] let there be a decision on what position, and with
enough people being sought for consultation, we can follow the
recommendation,” he said.
Lorenzo thanked the farmers and concerned nongovernment organizations for
ending their political action in front of the department’s building in
“What we need is to continuously inform the public what this Bt corn is
all about, the advantages and even the risks,” he said, adding that the
technology is old because it has long been adopted in the US.
Dr. Rey Ebora, professor of biotechnology at UPLB, noted that products of
modern biotechnology promise to reduce farmers’ high-input costs, increase
their yields, while keeping the ecosystem intact and enable crops to grow
under normally unfavorable conditions.
“Modern biotechnology can be a useful tool to attain greater nutritional
security, through enhanced product’s vitamin content and prolonged shelf
life. Modern biotechnology can also produce healthier oils and develop
vaccines to fight dreadful diseases like cholera and malaria,” he
“Modern biotechnology has tremendous potential and offers remarkable
innovations to support our country’s efforts to attain food security and
global competitiveness. Its benefits to developing countries in the areas
of food and agriculture, health and medicine, environmental protection,
trade and industry, are expected to be more than those benefits gained by
developed countries where food and feed overproduction exists,” the
National Academy of Science and Technology unity statement (NAST) read.
The scientists recognized that no technology is without risk. “However, we
have great confidence in the National Committee on Biosafety of the
Philippines -- the interdepartment agency tasked to regulate research and
development in modern biotechnologies,” NAST added.
Roberto Verzola, a hunger striker and secretary-general of the Philippine
Greens, said they have decided to end their fast so that they can join the
efforts to control Bt corn contamination and to stop genetic contamination
by other genetically modified crops.
Reports reaching the hunger strikers said Monsanto Inc. has been quietly
distributing the Bt corn seeds to corn plantation owners who have started
Verzola’s group said that with this development, to stop the subsequent
irreversible contamination of the local corn varieties will now take more
than a hunger strike and moratorium on seed distribution.
Europe in disgrace
Genetically modified foods could save a starving continent
May 27, 2003
President George W. Bush, in lambasting Europe for its ban on importing
most of this country's genetically modified foods, is on the side of
science, common sense, fairness and humanity — while the Europeans are on
the side of superstition, avarice, shoddy politics and inhumanity.
There are those who say the president ought to shut up on this sore point.
But this is not just about European sensibilities. Nor is it just about
the rules of the game in trade and the interests of American farmers.
Because the European Union says it won't import genetically modified
American corn, some African nations have refused to accept the corn to
feed their starving people. Their fear is that some of the American corn
might mix with their corn and that the EU will then refuse to import their
corn. So people get bloated bellies and die.
Meanwhile, scientists testify that genetically modified foods pose no more
threat to human health than other foods as long as proper precautions are
in place. Has anyone died from eating a genetically modified food? There's
no record of it. There is no record even of a stomachache.
Europe and genetically modified foods
Washington Times Op-ed
May 27, 2003
During a two-day visit to Washington, German Labor and Economy Minister
Wolfgang Clement spoke in favor of abolishing Europe's discriminatory
policy against genetically modified foods produced in the United States
and elsewhere. Mr. Clement's remarks represent a dramatic slap at the
European Union's policy toward U.S. farm exports by one of the EU's own.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Clement as stating that he would assume
the EU "would be ending the moratorium in the course of this year."
Mr. Clement's statement is significant because it directly contradicts
comments by top EU officials. "The U.S. claims there is a so-called
moratorium," said Europe's top trade official, Pascal Lamy, last week. But
"the fact is that the EU has authorized G.M. [genetically modified]
varieties in the past and is currently processing applications," he added.
What Mr. Lamy failed to say is that the European Union has approved only
two applications for new biocrop imports.
Mr. Clement's comment also makes global divisions over the farm trade
issues more entrenched. Increasingly, the United States is in accord not
only with the developing world on a host of farm issues, but also with
parts of Europe — some of it "Old Europe." Germany, along with Britain,
Holland and Sweden, backs the kind of agricultural subsidy reform that the
United States is calling for, while France, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg,
Portugal, Spain and the French-speaking part of Belgium are resisting it.
Mr. Clement's unminced words on genetically modified food create a new
division on a farm trade issue, teaming Germany (which has Europe's
largest economy) with the United States.
Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick raised an alarm that
the global fissures on agricultural issues endanger the ongoing global
trade round. "We can't succeed if agriculture stays stuck," he said.
Surely, the global discord over agriculture is becoming more contentious.
The United States earlier this month challenged Europe's ban on
genetically modified goods at the World Trade Organization. And this week,
President Bush charged that Europe's stance was thwarting the kind of
innovation that could end world hunger.
Given Germany's economic importance in Europe and globally, its call to
end the genetically modified food ban could help break the impasse over
agriculture and help restore the trade round's much-needed momentum.
Bush right on biotech
Alameda Times Star
May 26, 2003
PRESIDENT Bush, in lambasting Europe for its ban on importing most of this
country's genetically modified foods, is on the side of science, common
sense, fairness and humanity. He is, in short, on the side of the angels,
while the Europeans are on the side of superstition, avarice, shoddy
politics and inhumanity.
There are those who say the president ought to shut up on this sore point
because, poor things, the Europeans are already upset with our war against
terrorism. But this is not just about European sensibilities. Nor is it
just about the rules of the game in trade and the interests of American
farmers. It is about European policies that kill people.
That's right: kill people. Because the European Union says it won't import
genetically modified American corn, some African nations have refused to
accept the corn to feed their starving people. Their fear is that some of
the American corn might mix with their corn and that the European Union
will then refuse to import their corn. So people get bloated bellies and
The harm goes further, for the European stance stands in the way of
efforts that could vastly expand the Third World's agricultural
productivity. The European politicians are bowing to the fanaticism of
some environmental groups, to ignorance, to their own agricultural
interests and to their wish for trade advantage.
Meanwhile, scientists testify that genetically modified foods pose no more
threat to human health than other foods as long as proper precautions are
Has anyone died from eating a genetically modified food? There's no record
of it. There is no record even of a stomach ache.
Give'em what for, Mr. President.
EU blasts back at Bush over biotech food
Agence France Presse
May 26, 2003
The European Commission blasted Monday as "unacceptable" a US accusation
that the European Union was starving developing countries because of its
ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy made the rebuttal after US President
George W. Bush said last week that the EU's policy on biotech foods was
hindering efforts to fight famine in Africa.
"It is one thing not to have the same feeling on the level of precautions
one must take over GMOs. We feel the need for more precautions than the
Americans," he said.
But "to accuse for example the EU of starving the Third World because we
don't stuff them with GMO surpluses or to use this kind of argument, that
is clearly going much to far, that is absolutely unacceptable," he said.
Bush, who is travelling to Europe this week, scolded the EU on aid to poor
nations last Wednesday, saying the EU ban on GMOs was an obstacle to
battling widespread starvation.
"Our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all
new biocrops because of unfounded, unscientific fears," he said in a
graduation day speech to the US Coast Guard Academy.
"This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in
biotechnologies, for fear that their products will be shut out of European
markets. European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause
of ending hunger in Africa," he said.
Lamy said: "There are arguments... which should not be used in this kind
of debate, otherwise one crosses lines in the debate which in general are
reproved by morality."
Date: Sat, 24 May 2003 19:19:08 -0500
From: "Tom DeGregori"
Subject: Fie, Fi, FOE, Fum
GREEN GROUP SAYS US EXPLOITS HUNGRY IN GM FOOD ROW
May 23, 2003
BRUSSELS - Friends of the Earth (FOE) was cited as hitting back Friday
against a U.S. policy to export genetically modified (GM) food as aid ...
that the U.S. was exploiting famine-stricken populations by denying them
the choice to avoid genetically engineered crops in aid shipments. Nnimmo
Bassey, Friends of the Earth Nigeria, was quoted as saying, "The U.S.
should stop playing with hunger. It is immoral for the U.S. to exploit
famine and the AIDS crisis in this way' ...'
s of the Earth has the courage
of their to answer them.
Question 1 - If modern science and technology are killing us, why are we
living so long?
Question 2 - How many people has ------- (fill in the blank with the
anti-biotech protesting organization, in this case Friends of the Earth)
Come on Friends, show a little courage and conviction and at least take a
try at an answer. After all, who is helping to feed others and who has
found the protest against it to be a fund-raising ("organic") cash cow?
And which is moral and which is immortal, trying to feed people or trying
to prevent those in dire need from receiving assistance and profiting from
their misery and death which the protest has made more likely? In other
words, how dare you try to claim a moral highground?????
Or in the immortal words of Penn and Teller, if all you can do is complain
about those who are trying to feed others - "Shut the f*** up!
Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Houston
Department of Economics
204 McElhinney Hall
Houston, Texas 77204-5019
Ph. 001 - 1 - 713 743-3838
Fax 001 - 1 - 713 743-3798
Web homepage http://www.uh.edu/~trdegreg
US Senate Resolution on the WTO Action "to end the unwarranted moratorium
imposed by the European Union"
S.RES.154 Expressing the support of the Senate of United States efforts in
the World Trade Organization to end the unwarranted moratorium imposed by
the European Union on the approval of agricultural... (Agreed to by
Senate) SRES 154 ATS, 108th CONGRESS, 1st Session
Expressing the support of the Senate of United States efforts in the World
Trade Organization to end the unwarranted moratorium imposed by the
European Union on the approval of agricultural biotechnology products.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES May 23, 2003
Mr. TALENT (for himself, Mrs. LINCOLN, Mr. BOND, Mr. LUGAR, Mr. BAUCUS,
Mr. BUNNING, and Mr. ROBERTS) submitted the following resolution; which
was considered and agreed to
Expressing the support of the Senate of United States efforts in the World
Trade Organization to end the unwarranted moratorium imposed by the
European Union on the approval of agricultural biotechnology products.
Whereas agricultural biotechnology is subject to the strictest Federal
review in the United States, based on sound science, by the Department of
Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug
Administration prior to planting and human consumption;
Whereas agricultural biotechnology has made considerable contributions to
the protection of the environment by creating an environment more
hospitable to wildlife and reducing the application of pesticides by
46,000,000 pounds in 2001 alone;
Whereas agricultural biotechnology holds tremendous promise for greatly
increasing the world's supply of nutritious and wholesome foods which will
improve the quality of life and health in the developing world;
Whereas there is objective and experience-based consensus in the
international scientific community, including the National Academy of
Sciences, the American Medical Association, the Royal Society of London,
the French Academy of Medicine, the French Academy of Sciences, the
Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian
National Science Academy, and the Mexican Academy of Sciences, that
agricultural biotechnology is safe;
Whereas policy decisions regarding agricultural biotechnology in the
European Union are being driven by politics and not by sound science;
Whereas since the late 1990s, the European Union has pursued policies that
shelter its markets from competition by opposing the use of agricultural
Whereas agricultural biotechnology policies of the European Union have
frustrated the development of modern scientific tools and plant technology
that could expand the production of indigenous food products by addressing
problems related to local pests, weather conditions, and vitamin
Whereas since its implementation in October 1998, the moratorium has
blocked more than $300,000,000 annually in United States corn exports to
countries in the European Union;
Whereas the European Union's unjustified moratorium on agricultural
biotechnology approvals has ramifications far beyond the United States and
Europe, forcing a slowdown in the adoption and acceptance of beneficial
biotechnology to the detriment of farmers and consumers around the world,
and especially to starving people in the developing world;
Whereas in the fall of 2002, famine-stricken African countries rejected
healthy, wholesome, United States humanitarian offers of food aid because
of ill-informed health and environmental concerns and fears that future
exports to Europe would be jeopardized; and
Whereas the 5-year moratorium on the approval of new agricultural
biotechnology products entering the European market is not science based,
effectively prohibits most United States corn exports to Europe, violates
European Union law, and clearly breaches the rules of the World Trade
Organization: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate supports and applauds the efforts of the
Administration on behalf of the Nation's farmers, challenging the
long-standing, unwarranted moratorium imposed by the European Union on the
approval of agricultural biotechnology products and encourages the
President to continue to press this issue at the G-8 Summit in Evian,
France, on June 1 through 3, 2003.
Parting Thoughts – Scientists, Shoemakers, Spades and Society
With the changing of the guard at In Vitro Reporter, the time has come to
turn this column’s responsibilities over to my successor, who will bring
new energy, ideas, perspective and insight. I did, however, want to leave
a few parting points to ponder. These were inspired by a cartoon that was
anonymously posted outside my laboratory. The cartoon asks a simple
question: “What is the difference between science and magic?” The answer
to apparently simple question speaks volumes: “Magicians know what they
Point to ponder No. 1: Scientists must speak out!
It is clear to society at large that scientists- in and out of
biotechnology– don’t always use their best judgement. Incidents ranging
from the Columbia disintegration during reentry to StarLink’s spread and
Prodigene’ pharmaceutical maize mixed in with soybean have all helped
undermine the public’s confidence in science general and transgenics in
particular. Furthermore, the esoteric and complicated nature of
cutting-edge science ensures it will be mystified and misunderstood in the
Hence, it is essential that all scientists help demystify their work to
the general public, and to do so in plain, clear language. Technospeak
should never leave the confines of scientific conferences and journals.
Seek out local reporters in your area and become acquainted– not with the
intention of indoctrinating the reporter, but so that s/he has a handy
resource when the need arises. Don’t miss an opportunity to write a
letter to the editor, or to make yourself available to schools and other
community organizations. Society’s trust is something to be earned, not
Point to ponder No. 2: Scientists must speak out– in their area of
An oft-heard saying from my childhood in Central America was, “Zapatero, a
tus zapatos,” Shoemaker, stick to making shoes, repeated whenever anyone
would try to others how to do their job. When it comes to opinions on
genetic engineering– everyone has one, from biotechnologists to
shoemakers. That would not be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that all
opinions are treated like facts and given equal credence by the media and
by the public.
The current state of affairs became particularly evident with the December
2002 issue of Nature Biotechnology. An opinion piece, written by a
neurobiologist, occupied prominent space near the front of the journal.
What was particularly troubling is that a neurobiologist’s opinion, who
obviously knew very little about what he was talking about, carried the
same weight as the informed knowledge of plant scientists who had spent
their careers on the topic.
How did we get to this point? The biotechnology industry, professional
societies like ours, and the regulatory system all played a part. Too
many people– with little to no scientific background in the field, but
with an opinion to share, were brought to the table and treated as equals,
and thus were given both credibility and respectability where there should
have been none.
It has been like insisting the Flat Earth Society be given equal time at a
geographer’s convention. Maybe in the earlier days of the technology
there were enough questions around that this approach was merited, but no
more. There are literally volumes of data pouring in each day on
agricultural biotechnology. So, while everyone has the right to express
their opinions, with that right comes the responsibility to inform oneself
before speaking like an expert. Those who speak out without first
informing themselves must be held accountable. To the public, one
scientist can come across as knowledgeable as the next, making it
difficult to realize that someone is speaking in an area other than their
area of expertise. So, when the public points out that the neurologist is
as much a scientist as the genetic engineer, ask if they would feel
comfortable asking their neurologist to perform open-heart surgery on
Point to ponder No. 3: Regulations are speaking louder than words
As knowledgeable scientists have failed to speak out, regulations have
been written to fill in the information void. Far too often the
biotechnology industry has looked to regulations to help reassure the
skittish public after each public relations blunder the industry commits.
Rest assured, stricter regulations do not necessarily reassure the public–
they can scare the public. After all, the perception is that if the
technology was really as safe as proponents claim it is, it would not need
all these regulations.
The effects of unfettered regulations are even more insidious. As
regulations are written to accommodate perceived risks rather than real
risks, the regulatory costs of getting an engineered product on to the
market are soaring into the tens of millions of dollars. The bottom line
is that only a very few genes in a very few major crops will ever be
profitable enough to recover the cost of regulatory approval. Forget
about allergy-free peanut, vitamin-enriched tomato, or raspberries that
don’t get moldy and mushy while still in the supermarket. While these
products may exist in the laboratory, they constitute too small a market
to ever finance the cost of regulatory approval, and hence may never be
released to help serve the public.
The key to regulations is common sense. On one extreme, engineering with
scorpion toxin genes–were it ever to be done, clearly deserves scrutiny.
On the other extreme, requirements to sequence insertion sites and
prohibitions against the presence of vector sequences and clinically
unimportant antibiotic resistance genes are scientifically indefensible,
as are many of the huge number of component analyses and feeding trials.
Another current trend that bodes ill is the growing intolerance for gene
flow. We must recognize that gene flow has been a fact of life since
there was life on earth. Inasmuch as plants evolved pollen to facilitate
gene flow, it is essential to set reasonable expectations for gene flow.
Rational tolerance limits have been set for the presence of seeds from
weeds and from other varieties, pesticide residues and even insect parts
and rodent waste. Why should these tolerance limits not apply to
Final point: Speak out!
The proper course of action should always have been to call a spade, a
spade. Don’t be afraid to question silly or unnecessary regulations.
Don’t be afraid to question the credentials of many that speak out on the
topic. Don’t be afraid to point out fallacious data from ill-conceived,
ill-executed experiments with over-extrapolated results. Our role has
always been to insist on facts, not on opinions. Comparatively speaking,
there are relatively few scientists who work on crop transgenics– so few
in fact, that we cannot afford for any of them to remain silent. In the
end, magic will continue to be perceived as less threatening than science
as long as those scientists who are experts in a given topic do not speak
out when necessary.
Research 'stunted by our culture of protest'
By David Firn
May 27, 2003
The UK is in danger of sliding back into the stone age unless the
government tackles the growing anti-science culture, senior technology
industry figures will warn today.
Public opposition against high-technology and biotechnology companies has
grown so strong that investors are no longer willing to back start-up
companies commercialising genetic modification or working on animals.
The stark warning comes in a survey of the UK's leading technology
companies published today by Grant Thornton, the business advisers. Sue
Staunton, head of technology at the firm, says only one in seven companies
sees the UK as a centre for growth.
"It is desperate trying to raise money for GM over here or anything that's
going to involve animals," she says. "The government needs to be far more
robust in defence of life science companies if they are going to retain
the ones we have.
"Companies can't even get enough funds to get into a position where they
can float. We need a strategy to keep them alive or they will sell out to
US pharmaceutical companies."
The report's warning comes as leading scientists are criticising the
government for its handling of GM crop trials. The Royal Society will
today attack the government for ignoring recommendations made five years
ago to monitor the long-term impact of GM crops. In a statement that is
being seized upon by environmental groups, Patrick Bateson,
vice-president, says a lack of objective scientific information on the
possible harmful effects of GM had made it even harder for researchers to
make a case for the development of the next generation of more beneficial
Prof Bateson said: "There are many crucial decisions to be made concerning
the use of GM crops that will affect the future of humanity and the
planet's natural resources. It is vital that these decisions are based on
the best scientific information."
Ms Staunton said the British had become so complacent about their
comfortable lifestyle that they were unaware of the challenges faced by
farmers. "We don't have a culture that is aware of the sort of problems
caused by pests. The same goes for nanotechnology.
"After [the Prince of Wales'] recent attacks we face the danger of
becoming anti-science because of the frightening spectre of Frankenstein
technology. But if we don't take control it will happen elsewhere where we
have no control over it."
British technology companies believe the US and Far East offer far better
opportunities - in spite of recent turmoil there - than the UK. One third
of 171 companies said the US was best. The Far East followed closely, with
Europe coming last.
Companies say the US is a more reliable source of funding while Asia, with
its growing population, is more receptive to the use of GM and less
squeamish about animal research.
Aisling Burnand, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, the group
that represents UK biotechnology companies, said conditions were tough for
UK companies but dismissed the report's bleak outlook.
"We can't be complacent, but the UK has always been good at innovation and
good companies are still raising money here," she said.
But recent events paint a worrying picture. Huntingdon Life Sciences, an
animal research laboratory, was forced to move its headquarters to the US
after intimidation. One of the creators of Dolly the cloned sheep left for
Singapore where he believes there will be more funding for stem cell
research. And last week Chiron, a US biotech company, launched a takeover
of PowderJect Pharmaceuticals, one of only three profitable UK
What Did You Do During the African Holocaust?
By Nicholas D. Kristof
New York Times
May 27, 2003
ASMARA, Eritrea -- This charming nation was hailed in the 1990's as one of
Africa's brightest hopes, a symbol of an African renaissance. Its economy
boomed, and Hillary Clinton dropped by.
It was an apt symbol of that evanescent renaissance, for Eritrea is now
turning into a thuggish little dictatorship. It is imprisoning evangelical
Christians, it jails more journalists than any other country on the
continent, and the regime that once empowered women now rapes them.
The private sector has been regulated mostly out of existence, and aid
groups are given a cold shoulder. The leader who liberated his people a
decade ago is now starving them.
And in the same way, much of Africa has been caught in a tailspin. While
our attention is diverted by Iraq, famine is looming over 40 million
people on the continent, West Africa seems caught in an expanding series
of civil wars, and much of Central Africa has been a catastrophe for up to
In Congo, in which I've had a special interest ever since Tutsi rebels
chased me through the jungle there for several days in 1997, 3.3 million
people have died because of warfare there in the last five years,
according to a study by the International Rescue Committee. That's half a
Holocaust in a single country.
Our children and grandchildren may fairly ask, "So, what did you do during
the African holocaust?"
Some African nations, like Uganda, Mauritius, Ghana and Mozambique, are
booming; they show that African countries can thrive. But the failures
outnumber the successes: child mortality rose in the 1990's in Kenya,
Malawi and Zambia; primary school enrollments dropped in Cameroon,
Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania; the number of malnourished children is
growing across the continent.
"We are losing the battle against hunger," warns James Morris, the head of
the World Food Program.
So it's time to rethink this continent. Africa itself has largely failed,
and Western policies toward it have mostly failed as well.
Eritrea is a window into what went wrong. To be sure, even now it is an
alluring country with a gentle people. President Isaias Afwerki avoids a
personality cult; instead of a statue of him, the central square has a
gargantuan pair of sandals, which symbolize the liberation struggle.
But Mr. Afwerki fought a senseless border war with Ethiopia beginning in
1998, and now an estimated half the budget goes to the military. The port
is quiet because there is no trade with Ethiopia; most of the working-age
population has been drafted into National Service, so families have no one
to till the ground or earn a salary. A million Eritreans are at risk of
There are no simple solutions to Africa's problems, but there are some
good ideas around:
Western powers could guarantee the security of African governments that
commit themselves to democracy. This idea, which would attract more
investment for democracies, is detailed in a fine new book, "Africa's
Liberals and conservatives feud over plenty, but they generally agree on
the need for widespread debt forgiveness. Africa is asphyxiated by its
$217 billion foreign debt.
Think trade, more than aid. Incentives to build cheap factories in Senegal
or Ethiopia could perhaps replicate Bangladesh's success with clothing
We should phase out socialist agricultural policies in Europe and America.
Western farm subsidies cost poor countries some $50 billion in lost
agricultural exports. The best way for the U.S. to help a struggling
democratic country like Mali would be to stop lavishing $2 billion a year
in tax dollars on U.S. cotton farmers (whose average net worth is
$800,000) so Malian peasants can produce for the world's markets.
Would any of this work? I don't know. But Africa is broken, and it needs
high-level attention to help it fix itself. President Bush's $15 billion
AIDS initiative was an important step, and it proved surprisingly popular
around the United States.
So perhaps there is even a political payoff in compassion for Africa, and
this is also an area where we can work with Europe and rebuild trust,
beginning at next week's G-8 summit. Mr. Bush's planned trip to Africa
this year would be the perfect start for a major U.S.-led effort to help
Africa find its footing — and nothing we could do in coming years would
save so many millions of lives.
Nicholas D. Kristof is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.
Nature not always what it may seem
The Border Mail (Wodonga, Australia)
Sat, May 24, 2003
A FRIEND was horrified when I said I often treated my vegetable patch with
dihydrogen monoxide contaminated with a cocktail of nitrogen, potassium
and phosphorus and containing trace elements of magnesium, copper, zinc,
boron, molybdenum, sulphur, as well as plant and animal excrement.
She was mortified when I admitted I also washed my hands in
molecularly-accelerated dihydrogen monoxide laced with carboxylic acid
dissolved sodium hydroxide.
She asked if I knew what such a chemical as dihydrogen monoxide did and I
replied that it was a strong solvent, that it accelerated corrosion of
most metals, is lethal if inhaled, can burn flesh in its gaseous state, is
highly addictive, is found in tumours of all terminally ill cancer
patients and is the major component of acid rain.
There followed a lengthy lecture about the evils of our chemical-dependant
society and how we must get back to “natural” products and “organically”
Dihydrogen monoxide is of course a molecule of two hydrogen atoms attached
to one of oxygen H2O water: and I had washed my hands in warm soapy water
after I treated my vegetable patch with diluted organic compost.
But she was not interested in finding that out, but merely acting out the
role of a supposedly concerned, progressive and responsible post-modern
In short everything on this planet is chemical. If you saw the chemical
formula for blood you would drain it from your veins.
Such logic, or lack thereof, is seen in the current arguments on
fluoridation and GM crops with nonsense reasoning like “fluoridation is
just the dumping of chemical waste product” or “we are what we eat”.
If we are to exclude chemical waste product from our society then ban all
plastics as they are just the chemical waste product of the petroleum
industry, or raze all flowers that dont, or have already, set seed as they
are just the chemical waste product of a random, wasteful genetic
modification and duplication process. The list goes on.
And if we are simpletonistically what we eat then the brains of organic
food consumers would be made of animal urine and excrement. Stupid logic,
There may be good reasons against fluoridation and other things like GM
crops but were certainly not seeing it here when the most convenient,
economical and pure source of a specific chemical or genetic modification
process is used as Chicken Little scaremongering rather than proving any
Fear and loathing
May 24, 2003
It is widely accepted that reactionaries reach their misinformed, false
consciousness-led belief systems largely as a result of "fear", the
best/worst chicken/egg example of which is currently the Daily Mail. The
Daily Hell is fuelled by fear, addicted to fear, indeed often seems drunk
and gleeful with fear; it brings to mind the old Sparks line, "My parents
say the world is cruel/I think that they prefer it cruel." The Hell is
fearful of Sars, Aids, DVT, GM, EU, MS, S&M and, for all I know, M&S; it
believes Fido is a silent killer and Puss a paid assassin. Above all, it
is fearful that somewhere, somehow, a woman is having sheer, selfish fun
and getting away with it!
Liberals like to laugh at the fearfulness of reactionaries and, because
they think all rightwing people are wicked and stupid, they not only get a
legit political thrill out of being morally superior but also an Ali
G-type, up-themselves, big-swinging-dick thing about how sad and
inadequate fearful people must be - while they, all laid-back and secure
(smug) in their own skin, are life-affirming and, well, sexy, in a
strictly nonsexist kind of way.
But, in my experience, liberals are just as fearful as reactionaries; for
every Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, there is a Horrified of Hampstead.
Sometimes, Disgusted and Horrified share a fear factor. Recently, it's
been the Jews once more, with bully-boys from Islamofascist youth to
racist skinhead to aristocratic buffer, from Daily Mail columnist to Old
Labour firebrand, jostling to lead the witch-hunt.
As an unashamed lifelong philo-Semite, I always knew, growing up in the
1970s, that the relative restraint shown by Gentiles concerning their
ceaseless obsession with the Jewish Plot To Rule The World was a purely
temporary tongue-curbing exercise brought about by the horror of the full
revelation of the Shoah, and that sooner or later it would be back in the
most apparently unlikely of places - and here's Tam Dalyell, of all
people, talking about a Jewish "cabal" that controls the planet! How can
they control the bloody world? There's only about six of them left! The
Gentiles have seen to that.
Another fear-object shared by reactionaries and liberals alike is food -
that is, food audacious enough to be fast rather than slow, or convenient
rather than inconvenient. Rightwing tabloids and leftwing broadsheets
alike are forever scaremongering, and not just about genetic modification
and pesticide residues, which may be proven to be unreservedly Bad Things;
they also display anti-modernist, illogical hysteria to each new survey
that shows - shock, horror! - that British people are eating what they
like, when they want! rather than being forced around a table three times
a day by some stand-in for Mr Barrett of Wimpole Street, eager for a
regular opportunity to impose his anal retentive bossiness on his
It's surely no coincidence that a large majority of anorexics report
coming from homes in which fixed family mealtimes were sacrosanct, in
which people had to eat whether or not they were hungry; anorexia is,
after all, about taking control in a world in which you have been made to
feel powerless. Family mealtimes are often little more than domestic abuse
with a cherry on top.
So rightwing worrywarts hate fast/convenience food because it frees women
from the kitchen and deprives the sort of man who thinks his home is his
castle of another opportunity to flex his control-freak tendencies.
Liberals hate it for two reasons: they don't like America, the spiritual
home of fast food (tell that to the Earl of Sandwich and German Mr
Hamburger), and, being self-loathing, they don't like England. In
bemoaning our soulless grazing, they get a chance to compare us for the
worse once more with France and Italy where, myth has it, family mealtimes
and "good" food add to the quality of life. In some unexplained way, this
is supposed to breed better people and a healthier society, mentally and
physically - which makes me wonder why so many citizens of oh-so-civilised
France and Italy have such a weakness for voting fascist.
Reactionaries are afraid of too much licentiousness - but then, equally
hysterically, liberals are afraid of censorship, to the point at which
they will even defend web servers who refuse to ban paedophile sites.
Reactionaries fear asylum seekers, but liberals fear philistinism and
xenophobia of the indigenous working class, who quite reasonably complain
about having to share their grotesquely overstretched schools and
hospitals with thousands more people. (This is routinely dismissed as
"racism", even though the immigrants being objected to are white and
though the majority of black and Asian Britons object to it, too.) And
both are scared of reality TV - ostensibly because it degrades people, but
actually because it shoves real, imperfect people in the faces of
hoity-toity reactionary and liberal alike.
Fear, then, is not the sole preoccupation of the right, and it doesn't
necessarily originate from the sort of sexual and social inhibition that
liberals like to pretend it does; you know, when you're a teenager and you
read Wilhelm Reich and you think everyone would be "really nice" if they
had loads of orgasms. (It never worked for me, for a start!) Swinging
liberals are just as prone to fear as uptight reactionaries; they just
aren't as upfront about showing it. That may make them smarter - but it
doesn't make them better.