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April 27, 2000


Multiple Contributions April 28, 2000


- http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

(Six Messages Below)

r /> side. Because this latest activity on the part of biotech opponents is
based on the NRC report, my comments are given with that report as context.

First, my reading of the NRC report is that it does not support the
withdrawal of non-regulated status for any of the Asgrow (Seminis) squash.
It does recommend additional studies, which are designed to increase our
scientific knowledge regarding the issues, and I find nothing wrong with
that. In fact, I am currently a co-PI on a grant funded by USDA in order to
do just that. As Dr. Giddings states, we did not have perfect knowledge of
the issues (and never will). Now we are conducting studies to increase our
knowledge. I see this as a legitimate part of monitoring.

I would like to confirm that the lengths to which USDA went to obtain
information on squash were extraordinary. It did take almost two years
before the agency came to their decision, and information was gathered from
a wide array of sources. Asgrow did conduct a survey that failed to show
any infection of wild populations by any viruses. Critics of these data
complained that the sample size was small. That criticism came from people
who do not realize that these populations are in fact not numerous. Because
we knew this, we relied on knowledge of researchers in Mississippi,
Louisiana, and Arkansas, who were familiar with the species and knew where
to look. Therefore, we are confident that the populations we found were a
good sample of the populations available. Visual assessments were taken for
entire populations, and the visual assessments were confirmed by five
different laboratory tests on sample plants from the populations. I do not
consider this methodology unsound (see for example Yuki et al., 2000.
Occurrence, distribution, and relative incidence of five viruses infecting
cucurbits in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Plant Disease 84:516-520).
Our observations were confirmed by consultations USDA conducted with
extension agents and other researchers in the field. I will be conducting
additional field surveys this summer, and my collaborators, one of whom has
extensive field experience with cucurbits, does not expect that we will find
much more than twenty populations. It is significant to note that the NRC
study itself does not criticize the data we generated, but complains that
there were not more studies like them.

As I read the NRC study, the committee takes issue not as much with the
original deregulation decision, but with the fact that the subsequent
deregulation decision was based largely on data generated by the first.
However, I do not see how any information that was gathered for the first
deregulation petition could not be used to address the first. While I do
not speak for the USDA, I expect that they came to the same conclusion,
otherwise they would have asked for it. While the scientists on the
committee might not agree with that, one should not take that opinion as
trumping the equally valid scientific opinion of the USDA scientists who
reviewed the petition.

As another bit of irony, the subsequent treatment of the transgenic papaya
case is telling: In this case, they dismiss the issue of environmental
consequences because "the crop itself is not weedy". I know that this
conclusion was directed to the crop itself, not to issues related to gene
flow to wild relatives, but given the lack of definite data on what makes a
plant a weed, how does the committee come to this conclusion? I can only
speculate that it is based on experience, since I know of no tests that were
specifically done to address this issue. Apparently, then experience is
valid in this case. However, the experience base used to support certain
conclusions about the ecological consequences of squash has been
consistently discounted by opponents (and apparently by at least some of the
committee) as being invalid in the case of squash. Please do not mistake my
position on the papaya. I think that the deregulation decision for that
crop was also correct.

I would also like to ask this question: Even if it were to be shown that
the resistance transgenic resistance genes did confer a selective advantage
in free-living populations, how would that make the wild them more
aggressive, or more weedy? Would it make them less susceptible to the
current weed controls applied to the free-living squash? I think not, and
the responses I've gotten to my previous question to this list bears this

Finally, it appears that the NRC report has no problem with the other major
safety concerns raised concerning the squash: (1)the issue of virus
recombination between transgenic viral sequences and other infecting viruses
or the potential for coat protein transcapsidation of other viral sequences,
and (2) food safety. By their silence, I take it the analysis on these was

In summary, I see that the NRC report provides no compelling reason for the
withdrawal of the decision to consider Asgrow's (Seminis') squash a
non-regulated article. It does suggest further areas of study, and that is
taking place.

Hector Quemada

-----Original Message-----
From: L. Val Giddings [mailto:shiva@pop.net]
The facts are known and documented in the public record in the petitions
related to these transgenic squash. These may be downloaded from the APHIS
From: "L. Val Giddings"
Subject: Re: On the Subject of Organic Foods and Seed Segragation

Amen! Who created a genetic commons and gave sole custody of it to a cult
practicing victorian farming techniques with interesting but generally
obsolete varieties?

----- Original Message -----
From: Alex Avery

> Subject: Re: On the Subject of Organic Foods and Seed Segragation

> IF the organic farmers/retailers expect to sell a value-added product,
then they, not anyone else, is responsible for all of the necessary costs of

From: Bob MacGregor
Subject: Re: On the Subject of Organic Foods and Seed Segragation

I'm with you on this. Historically, someone who wants to maintain some
specific genetic characteristic/purity in his crop (as, eg, a pedigreed
seed producer) has the responsibility for assuring adequate setback
distances to preven cross-pollination. Such a person has never been able
to sue a neighbour for allowing his pollen to "pollute" the seed crop's
genome. I fail to see why, all of a sudden, this precedent needs to be
If it were, would a seed grower be able to insist that his neighbours not
grow any conspecifics (or potentially interfertile) crop varieties? The
only case of this that I am aware of is the mandatory separation of
industrial rape and culinary canola varieties--> but this has a clear
economic and human health justification, which is not the case for organic
vs. GE. This whole thing is a synthetic issue created by IFOAMs
declaration that GMOs are not allowed in organic agriculture; without this,
nearly all of the anti-arguments (and certainly the most likely ones to
occur) would evaporate.

>>> Alex Avery 04/27/00 04:21pm >>>

IF the organic farmers/retailers expect to sell a value-added product, then
From: Ann Oaks
Subject: Re: On the Subject of Organic Foods and Seed Segragation

I really think the organic farmers have a case. They are adding organic
wastes as farmers have done since the beginning of agriculture. The green
revolution with all its herbicides and pesticides has not really been the
success it is touted to be. It has permitted monocultues in western
countries. That is the same crop year after year. I think of maize in
theis instance. Mining the soil. Crop rotations have proven better for
saving the soil. More research money should go into organic farming. The
new biotech farming is prolonging the life of chemical agriculture. We do
not need more pestide or herbicide resistant crops. We need increased
efficiency of metabolism. ie drought resistant crops of which the
Arabidopsis salt tolerance is a beginning. Or to add genes that will
enhance the nurition levels of specific crop plants, of which the vitamine
A enhanced rice is a good example. We do not need roundup ready canola or
Bt producing crop plants. Ann Oaks

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Greenpeace "Peer-Reviewed Study"

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for getting back to me about the credentials of the authors of
the report Greenpeace commissioned in support of its petition to the US
EPA to cancel all registrations of Bt crops in the US.

You may be interested to learn that the EPA turned down Greenpeace'
petition. While the actual text of the EPA's rejection is as yet
unavailable, Greenpeace in a press release noted that the EPA dismissed
the importance of the report by Hilbeck et. al., saying studies prepared
by EcoStrat were ìhighly questionable scientifically.î

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Food Safety

Dear Colleagues:

There has been a lot of discussion in this group about the
safety of modified foods, compared to the safety of
unmodified foods.

Activists like to complain about potential allergens and
want biotech crops banned because of these potential
allergens. Well, OK, then, let's be rigorous and fair about

At the last count, 175 different food substances have been
associated with allergic reactions in susceptible

I have not been able to persuade food processing
organizations to give me the list of these foods or food
substances, but perhaps someone out there could find it.
Then, the next time an activist pulls the 'potential
allergen' trick, you pull out the list and say, "well, do
you want to ban all these, too?" (I would point out that
peanuts sicken and kill many in the US every year, proving
that real allergens are far more deadly than the 'potential'

There is also out there somewhere a substantial list of
conventional foods which contain detectable levels of
carcinogens. These should be listed too.

Armed with both lists, one could easily say... well,
modified crops are at least safer than THESE!

Does anyone out there have these lists or know where to find