Today in AgBioView: May 28, 2003:
* Sobriety and the Bt corn issue
* False issues vs Bt corn
* Seed producers support Bt corn commercialization
* Correction on Bt COrn
* Support for Bt corn variety gaining ground
* CropGen response to ActionAid Report
* Bush Urged to Battle 'Technological Apartheid' in Dispute Over Biotech
* Canada Raps EU's 'Phony Science' Over GM Food Ban
* A killer policy in Europe
* Europe's ban ignores science on modified crops
* Greenpeace policies cause deaths in Africa
* Greenpeace boats in Sweden
Sobriety and the Bt corn issue
The Philippine Star
by Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
Now that the hunger strikers have finally called off their protest action
against Bt corn, the country can now resume a truly sober and scientific
discussion of the issue. As we have said time and again in this column,
biotechnology, genetically modified food products and Bt corn are topics
that are best discussed outside the realm of politics. Politics is often
propelled by business interests; science is driven by the quest for
answers to problems. And in the search for answers, the scientific brain
must work without pressure from fear and emotional manipulation.
In all candor, this column respects the views, even the conviction of the
hunger strikers. We see the validity of their concerns, for example, that
Bt corn could be harmful to human health, that it could contaminate other
corn varieties, that it could tie-up Filipino farmers to a single seed
supplier. Unfortunately, this is the very thing we have been trying to
avoid - to succumb to the hysterical scare campaign of international
anti-GMO groups. The rhetoric of anti-GMO lobbyists is full of 'coulds'
and 'could-bes'. That is precisely the language of a mind pinioned by
What anti-GMO groups should accept is that the use of 'coulds' and
'could-bes' merely underscore that they do not have a convincing
scientific stand on the issue. True, they have been quoting some Filipino
scientists who are against the commercialization of Bt corn. But again,
unfortunately, the language of these savants, with all due respect, are
also coated with uncertainties. For example, the over-quoted UP Professor
Nelia Cortes-Maramba says Bt corn 'could spread genes that would render
antibiotics ineffective.' Why could? Because it is not a scientific
statement. It is, at best, a word of caution that is as uncertain as an
earlier warning to farmers that Bt corn could turn one into a homosexual.
On the one hand, there is greater certainty in the statements of those in
favor of biotechnology. For example, farmer-leader Edwin Paraluman says
our corn harvests are steadily declining despite the heavy use of chemical
insecticides. He adds that chemical insecticides used to kill the Asiatic
corn borer are harming our health. Are, not could.
Internationally respected scientist C.S. Prakash of the Tuskegee Institute
who first sounded the warning against the multimillion-dollar global
Greenpeace scare campaign, in a letter to President Arroyo, said 3,500
scientists from across 60 countries have vouched for the safety of biotech
crops, 20 of who are Nobel laureates. The statement of these scientists is
sober and devoid of coulds and could bes. For example, they say with
certainty that the addition of new or different genes into an organism by
recombinant DNA techniques does not inherently pose new or heightened
risks relative to more traditional methods.
By all means, all concerned sectors must sit down and discuss - in a sober
forum - these issues. In addition, these questions need to be answered:
What about the growing dependence of Filipino corn farmers on imported
European chemical insecticides? How about the deteriorating quality of
traditional corn varieties? How about the declining productivity of our
corn farms and the vanishing revenues of our corn farmers? Consistency
False issues vs Bt corn
Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Honesto C. General
May 26, 2003
AS a one-time corn farmer who lost money to corn borers and other insect
pests, I wish to answer the ten arguments against Bt corn listed in the
Inquirer editorial of last May 20.
First. The pollen of Bt corn does not carry a "poison gene." The gene is
from Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring soil-borne bacterium
that produces a pre-toxin. This pre-toxin is activated by the alkaline
condition of the gut of the corn borer to produce a toxin fatal to the
corn borer, but only to the corn borer. The pre-toxin is not activated in
the human stomach which is acidic. Planting earlier or later than the Bt
corn farmer easily prevents cross-pollination. Even if cross-pollination
occurs, the harvest can be sold to feed millers.
Second. A paper prepared by Dr. C. S. Prakash, Tuskagee University, and
signed by 3,200 scientists worldwide, including 20 Nobel Laureates,
supports the use of recombinant DNA as a potent tool for the achievement
of a productive and sustainable agricultural system. Over 300 million
North Americans have been eating Bt corn for years. No adverse health
consequence has ever been reported.
Third. Bt corn is Monsanto's intellectual property, which is rightfully
protected by a patent. Is there a corn farmer who can produce Bt corn?
Besides, why should he do so, when Monsanto guarantees to buy all his Bt
corn harvest at a price profitable to him?
Fourth. The decision to commercialize Bt corn was not rushed. Five years
of research in the laboratory and the field back up the decision. The
farmer's main problem is low productivity, not financing or
Fifth. Why should the farmer continue to use the old and ineffective
defenses when there is now a much better and more effective defense in Bt
Sixth. Refugia are an essential component of sustainable agriculture. How
can refugia be bad for Bt corn but good for sustainable agriculture?
Seventh. Development of resistance is almost a certainty. When that
happens, science will surely come up with a solution.
Eighth. Finally, there is a grudging acceptance of the value of Bt corn,
that it will protect the yield. Theoretical yield is not as important to
the farmer as actual yield. Bt corn directly influences the actual yield,
which the farmer will actually harvest and actually sell for real income.
Ninth. Bt corn is an effective defense against the corn borer, the
farmer's worst enemy. The other minor pests can be controlled
Tenth. Of course, Bt corn is more expensive. But the farmer saves on
pesticides, labor, and equipment. The bottom line is: the farmer makes
more money by spending more on Bt corn seeds.
Next July, the European Community will lift its moratorium against Bt
corn. Where does this place our local protesters? There is no connection
between Bt corn and antibiotic resistance. Dr. Maramba and her friends
simply do not understand what Bt corn is all about.
That GMOs will reproduce, mutate and move within the environment belongs
to the cheap sci-fi movies of the 1950s. Corn cannot grow without human
help, because corn has no dormancy period. This means corn needs the hand
of man to put the seed in contact with the ground. Otherwise, the seed
Here are the areas, in million acres, planted to biotech crops: US, 96.3;
Argentina 33.3; Canada, 8.6; China, 5.2. Other countries that grow biotech
crops are South Africa, India, Spain, Mexico, Indonesia, Honduras,
Australia, Romania, Uruguay, Bulgaria, Colombia, and Germany. There has
been no damage to the environment.
The Philippines had better join the parade before it is too late for our
poor corn farmers.
Seed producers support Bt corn commercialization
By Bong Sarmiento
27 May 2003
KORONADAL CITY -- An umbrella organization of vegetable and seed producers
in the country is supporting the earlier decision of Agriculture Secretary
Luis Lorenzo Jr. to allow the commercial propagation of the controversial
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn in the country.
Dante Balbas, president of the Philippine Seed Industry Association
(PSIA), allayed fears that the transgenic corn crop could be hazardous to
human health and the environment.
In a statement, Balbas said the PSIA is commending the agriculture
department and the Arroyo administration for their firm stand on the
propagation of Bt corn in the country
Bt corn, a genetically modified organism (GMO), has been commercialized
for more than 5 years in the United States, Canada, and Japan, among
"The product had already undergone a very strict, science-based risk
assessment and evaluation by numerous regulatory agencies and independent
scientists,' Balbas said.
PSIA is a non-profit organization composed of vegetable and corn seed
companies with the objective of providing the Filipino farmer with access
to high quality seed of superior varieties of all economically important
In its position paper on the proposed moratorium on Bt corn, which was
trashed by Lorenzo, the PSIA said it is "confident that the country has an
appropriate framework to address the biosafety and health aspects of plant
products through the agriculture department's administrative order on
regulations for plants derived from modern biotechnology."
Balbas disclosed the vegetables and seed company members approved the
position of the association during the height of the "unwarranted
pressure" on the government by anti-Bt corn critics led by Greenpeace and
backed by the Catholic Church.
Chiding the anti-Bt corn advocates, Balbas said that to date the
opposition groups have not presented any science-based evidence that the
Bt corn technology is harmful to the human health and the environment.
On May 15, the National Secretariat for Social Action Justice & Peace
(NASSA), the social arm of the Philippine Bishops' Conference of the
Philippines and 80 Diocesan Social Action Centers around the country
issued an advisory urging farmers to refuse Bt corn, explaining that "GMOs
are dangerous to genetic integrity, human safety and farmers' control over
their basic resource - the seed."
"Propagating Bt corn seeds is dangerous. It is a genetically modified
organism (GMO) that contains the soil bacterium which attacks corn borers.
But scientific studies prove that such is not a problem among corn growers
in the country" The church organization emphasized that GMOs present
dangers to genetic integrity, human safety and farmers' control over their
basic resource, the seed.
The advisory was issued to intercept the Department of Agriculture's plan
to distribute Bt corn seeds in time for the May 2003 planting season. In a
statement released earlier this month by the Permanent Council of the
CBCP, the bishops pointed out that last April more than 500 scientists
from different parts of the world signed an Open Letter calling for a
moratorium on the release of GM crops.
One of them was Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in
Society based in London who wrote: "Many independent scientists, along
with the British Medical Association, now believe there is sufficient
evidence to indicate that GM crops pose serious risks to health and the
environment." Dr. Ho added: "Bt toxin released in root exudates from Bt
corn. It accumulates and persists in soil and retains insecticidal,
immunological and other biological activities, with potentially large
impacts on soil ecology and fertility."
According to Balbas, since its introduction in the world market, there has
been no report of any harmful incident or death caused by the technology,
adding that the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech
Applications (ISAAA) reported an estimated 58.7 million hectares GM crops
planted around the globe in 2002.
In the Philippines, Bt corn was approved for propagation only in December
2002 after more than five years of testing under the supervision of the
National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) and the Bureau
of Plant Industry (BPI).
The crop is resistant only to the Asiatic corn borer, the most prevalent
corn pest in the country.
Balbas said the application process for Bt corn involved the BPI, Bureau
of Agricultural Food and Product Standards, Bureau of Animal Industry,
Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, and a scientific and technical review
panel composed of scientists of different disciplines.
He added that the PSIA appreciated the efforts of the national government
in pursuing the advancement of the safe and responsible use of modern
biotechnology for the agriculture sector's improvement, despite the
But the local opposition to the propagation of Bt corn here urged the
national government to formulate penalties in case something goes wrong
with the transgenic corn.
"It is important to know precisely who is going to be [held] legally
liable to pay for any [possible] damages whether the harm is to the human
health, the environment, or both," said Eliezer Billanes, chair of the
South Cotabato Movement Against Genetically Modified Organisms (SCMAGMO).
"Will it be the company which sells the seeds or the farmer who grows it?
What government agencies will be responsible [in case something goes wrong
with the Bt corn]?" he asked.
Joining Billanes in urging the government to come up with the appropriate
sanctions were Maxima Nimfa Lebaquin, coordinator of the Social Action
Center of the St. Anthony Parish under the Diocese of Marbel, Benjie
Nequinto, advocacy officer of the diocesan Justice and Peace Desk, Antonio
Jaco, of the South Cotabato Farmers Association, Crisanto Sinco, of Bayan
Muna, among others.
The Bt corn critics claimed that a handful independent testing has been
done on the effect of Bt corn in animals and that the results show "high
In the United States for instance, the group said laboratory tests "showed
that pollen from Bt corn caused damage to the caterpillar monarch
butterflies, and the same might affect other species."
By Sonny T. Tababa
May 28, 2003
We would like to correct the false and misleading information on Bt corn
which have continued to spread in the media.
The Philippine-approved Bt corn is designed to be used along with other
control methods against corn borer. Growing and protecting crops involve a
lot of decision by farmers. When traditional methods like insecticide
application, detasseling, Trichogramma, biopesticides, timely planting,
resistant varieties if any, cannot be done due to rains, shortage of farm
labor or limited cash, an additional options should be available for
farmers to choose if they want to. The Department of Agriculture believes
that “Bt corn can be an integral component of Integrated Pest Management
which is a sustainable agriculture practice promoted by the department.”
An insect resistance management strategy is currently in place to ensure
that Bt corn will provide a season-long control for many years while our
plant breeders continue to develop insect-resistant corn varieties.
The Philippine-approved Bt corn is safe as food and feed, and to the
environment. This genetically improved corn variety is much more
extensively tested, well-characterized and well-regulated than traditional
foods. The insecticidal protein in Bt corn is the same as the insecticidal
protein found in Bt microbial pesticides which is used by organic farmers
as well as vegetable farmers in Benguet. Besides the history of safe use
of Bt microbial sprays, countries of the European Union, Switzerland,
Japan, Korea, Australia, Canada, United States, South Africa and Argentina
have approved Bt corn for food, feed and the environment, hence,
confirming the safety of the product. There is an extensive literature
available on the safety assessment of Bt corn.
The Philippine regulatory agencies have thoroughly studied the issues
related to the commercial cultivation of Bt corn and have concluded that
the risk, if any, could be managed under Philippine conditions. The Bt
corn does not contain the antibiotic marker gene, hence, does not pose
concern regarding the spread of antibiotic-resistance genes. Field tests
conducted in the Philippines showed that higher yields can be achieved
because of the added protection against the corn borer as well as lower
production cost due to decreased use of pesticides. The tests also showed
that Bt corn enhances biodiversity because beneficial insects are not
killed by the target insect-specific insecticidal protein.
Studies cited from the Independent Panel of Scientists that alleged
potential impacts to humans or threats from bio-terrorism are based on a
laboratory experimental system that does not represent the condition under
which Bt proteins are used in commercial crops. Also, these studies refer
to other Bt proteins different from the Bt protein which is found in the
Philippine-approved Bt corn. There are about 200 Bt insecticidal with
different properties, structures and modes of action.
Crops that are genetically improved and are now in the market are as just
as safe as those from the other crops. These findings are supported by the
UK Royal Society, European Commission, the French Academy of Science.
Third World Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization, the Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, United Nations
Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development, Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation, Vatican Pontifical Academy on Life, International Society of
African Scientists, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Indian National Academy
of Sciences, Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology, the
American Medical Association, American Society for Microbiology, US
National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, American Society
of Plant Biologists, Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee, the Royal
Society of Canada, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Mexican Academy of
Sciences, New Zealand Royal Commission, Australia New Zealand Food
Authority, and the Australia National Farmers’ Federation.
We hope that groups opposing the propagation of Bt corn shall present
their evidence(s) to the Department of Agriculture, which has consistently
invited them to observe due process. A rational discussion would have done
much good to the public instead of going to the media with well-crafted
scare stories. The public deserves the right to correct information and
the current media blitz against Bt corn would only cause unfounded and
As professor Patrick Bateson, vice president and biological secretary of
the Royal Society of UK who reported on May 8, 2003, that genetically
modified foods pose no greater threat to human health than conventional
varieties, important questions that need to be answered “should be
addressed without a smokescreen of unfounded claims about their threat to
Sonny T. Tababa
SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center
Support for Bt corn variety gaining ground
May 28, 2003
Scientists, business groups and academicians recently staged a rally in
front of the Department of Agriculture's (DA) compound in Quezon City to
express their support for the propagation of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
In separate statements, the groups said they support biotech products
because of their "positive impact" on farm productivity. The groups also
cited studies disproving Bt corn's ill effects on the environment and
human health. "We support the application of modern biotechnology as a
tool to enhance agricultural productivity....and to address hunger and
poverty," the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) said in
"The safety of biotech foods and feed products is established through
comprehensive studies, which are reviewed by national and international
regulatory authorities such as the World Health Organization," the
Philippine Association of Broiler Integrators (PABI) said in a statement.
The National Federation of Hog Farmers (NHFH), for its part said that its
members had some "prior experience" in the use of imported Bt corn but
found no adverse effect on the animals.
Other groups which circulated their position papers include the Philippine
College of Veterinary Feed Practitioners, the Philippine Chamber of Food
Manufacturers Inc., Philippine Society of Animal Nutritionists, Philippine
Seed Industry Association Inc., and the Philippine Association of Feed
International scientists, some of whom are Nobel laureates, also
circulated a statement expressing their support for biotechnology.
In a statement, C.S. Prakash, president of US-based Tuskegee Institute,
said the scientists wrote President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to assure her
of the safety of biotech products such as Bt corn.
In Davao, most of the members of the business sector in Mindanao are
supporting the commercialization of the Bt corn, a survey revealed.
The Mindanao Business Council said many of the business organizations
believe it would be better for the government to stick to its earlier
decision to allow the commercial-scale planting of the corn variety.
CropGen response to ActionAid Report
London, 28th May 2003 – Contrary to ActionAid's report, GM technology is
delivering real results in the developing world right now. In 2001, 75% of
all farmers who grew gm crops were small (two hectares or less)
resource-poor farmers from the developing world2:
Small-hold GM cotton farmers in the Natal region, are experiencing:
* yield increases of 25%
* 80% decrease in insecticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social (health, less back-breaking work,
less time tied to the land) and economic benefits
Small-hold (average size of farms being 2.5 hectares) GM maize farmers in
the Natal region, are experiencing:
* yield increases as high as 220%
* decreases in pesticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits
China - GM cotton grown by 4 million small-hold farmers e.g. The Yellow
River cotton growing region in Northern China:
* yield increases of 5 - 10%
* 50% decrease in insecticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits. (In 2001, GM
cotton increased annual farmer income by £300/hectare)
Indonesia - GM cotton is being grown by thousands of small-hold farmers in
the South Sulawesi province
* yield increases of 200% upwards
* 75% decreases in insecticide sprays
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits
India - Over a four year period (1998-2001) field trials of GM cotton in
seven states resulted in:
* average yield increases of 60%
* 70% reduction in insecticide use
* resulting in environmental, social and economic benefits
After years of field trials, commercialisation of GM cotton commenced in
India in 2002. If the success of the Indian experience is projected to
South and Southeast Asia and Subsaharan Africa, where pest pressure is
also high and chemical pest control alternatives are limited, then the
yield effects of GM crops have the potential to be just as high and result
in huge environmental, social and economic benefits3.
GM maize and potato, which have direct relevance to food security in the
developing world, are being developed and in some countries already
commercialised. GM rice and sweet potato are also on their way.
1. GM Crops – Going against the Grain:
2. James, Clive. 2002. Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops:
2001; Feature: Bt Cotton. ISAAA Briefs No. 26. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY.
3. Qaim, M., Zilberman, D. 2003. Yield Effects of Genetically Modified
Crops in Developing Countries. Science. 299: 900-902.
Bush Urged to Battle 'Technological Apartheid' in Dispute Over Biotech
By Marc Morano
May 28, 2003
(CNSNews.com) - Only days before the Group of Eight economic summit in
France, President Bush is being urged to stand up to European
"technological apartheid" and continue supporting biotech or genetically
modified foods for Africa.
Genetically modified (GM) food advocates believe the technology can
increase production yields and save Africans from starvation, but they
blame European trade policies for pressuring African nations to reject the
Opponents of GM foods say they have not been adequately tested and the
long-term effects are unknown. GM foods have spawned fears of food
allergies and carcinogenic threats to humans among some organic farming
'Ripple effects' of biotech ban
"Europe's selfish stands on biotech is having ripple effects with grave
consequences in far corners of the globe," said Alex Avery of the
Indiana-based Hudson Institute Center for Global Food Issues.
Avery believes Europe's insistence that Africa reject GM foods for its
starving populations is a form of "apartheid."
"It's technological apartheid. Europe is abundantly fed; it is a surplus
producer and has the luxury of forgoing technologies that are highly
promising and productive. Africa doesn't have that luxury. They have
horrible infrastructure, they desperately need productivity enhancing
technologies, including the basics like fertilizer and pesticides," Avery
Several African nations on the brink of famine, including Zambia and
Zimbabwe, rejected U.S. biotech food aid in 2002 partially out of concern
for European Union (EU) trade retribution.
President Bush is already on record chastising European nations for their
opposition to GM foods. He is expected to apply more pressure on the
European leaders at the G-8 summit in Evian, France next week.
"Our partners in Europe are impeding this effort," Bush said in a speech
last week. "They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded,
The president added that "European governments should join -- not hinder
-- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."
Bush's criticism produced a blunt response from European Union Trade
Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
"To accuse, for example, the EU of starving the Third World because we
don't stuff them with GM surpluses or to use this kind of argument, that
is clearly going much too far, that is absolutely unacceptable," Lamy
Earlier this month, the Bush administration launched a formal complaint
with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the EU's five-year ban on GM
Bush's claims called 'ridiculous'
The national director of the Organic Consumer Association (OCA), which
opposes any use of genetically modified food, accused Bush of "lying"
about the technology.
"Bush is lying to promote a technology that is more and more being
rejected around the world, including Africa," Ronnie Cummins said.
"[Bush's] claim that biotech crops can feed the world's hungry is
ridiculous ... Bush's attempts to force GM foods on Europe and Africa will
backfire," Cummins predicted.
Avery believes it is inhumane and scientifically shortsighted for European
nations to dictate agricultural policies to poor African nations.
"We are in the midst of the largest surge in food demand in human history.
In 50 years the world will have to produce two times as much, at least, as
we currently produce today. We need more production-enhancing
technologies," Avery added.
But, European nations are forcing African countries to give up any efforts
to produce biotech crops for fear of trade sanctions, according to Avery.
"African nations that one day hope to be able to sell food to wealthy
Europeans are having to adopt the same paranoid polices of the Europeans,
to their populations' detriment," Avery said.
'Frankenfoods' allegation denied
Critics have occasionally labeled genetically modified foods
"Frankenfoods," insisting that they have yet to be proven safe for
consumption. "But without any science to support this paranoia, there is
no reason to impose that [conclusion] on the rest of society," Avery said.
"That is part of the rhetoric of the 'whack-tivists,'" Avery said. "They
don't have science on their side so they have to come up with scary
scenarios and Hollywood is the richest source of paranoia."
The politics of agricultural subsidies also influence Europe's opposition
to biotech crops, according to Avery.
"More than half of the EU's collective budget is gobbled up by farm
subsidy costs so Europe has done all that it can to avoid
productivity-enhancing technologies for cost savings," Avery said.
Organic and sustainable farming is the solution to feeding the world's
hungry, according to Cummins, from the Organic Consumer Association.
"[GM] crops and food have not been safety tested, so there is no way that
industry or the U.S. government can claim they are safe," Cummins
explained. "Africa can feed itself with organic and sustainable farming
... Sustainable and organic farming practices can reduce input and your
energy costs by 50 percent and raise your yields by 50 percent," he said.
Cummins predicted that Bush's efforts to promote GM foods during the Group
of Eight Summit in France would ultimately fail.
"More and more Africans will feel insulted seeing Bush prey on their
poverty and lack of food in an effort to push an unpopular (GM)
technology," Cummins said.
Avery, however, believes the future of agriculture will depend on science.
"With more effective ways for combating pests and increasing yields,
biotech is the most amazing untapped potential technology at our
disposal," Avery said.
Canada Raps EU's 'Phony Science' Over GM Food Ban
By David Ljunggren
May 28, 2003
ATHENS (Reuters) - Canadian officials on Wednesday angrily accused
European Union members of using "phony science" and caving in to political
pressure to justify a five-year-old ban on new genetically modified foods.
Seven EU member states -- Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy
and Luxembourg -- have maintained a de facto moratorium on genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) since March 1998 on the grounds that the foods
have not been scientifically proven to be safe.
Canadian officials say the ban is the main reason for the collapse of
canola exports to the EU, worth as much as C$400 million ($290 million) in
They also said that, after the EU ban, exporters had lost worried clients
in Asia and Africa. About 80 percent of Canada's canola, an oilseed used
to make cooking oil and margarine, is genetically modified.
The officials insist there is no scientific reason for the ban and
demanded it be lifted.
But the EU stood firm, saying member states would take all the time they
deemed necessary to examine the issue.
Earlier this month Canada, the United States and 11 other countries said
they would file a World Trade Organization complaint in hopes the EU would
lift the moratorium.
The Canadian officials -- using the strongest language so far to express
their unhappiness -- said the challenge would force the EU to examine its
"If you look at the basic political picture in Europe, you can't get
elected unless you're opposed to genetically modified food," one official
told reporters after a summit between Canada and the European Union.
"We're not trying to shove it down their throats and we're saying we
understand their politics. But they can't hide behind phony science. And
so, in that sense, there's progress, in that we're actually moving toward
at least an honest assessment that science isn't the problem," he said.
The official said EU members now accepted they had to examine such issues
as to how to label foods containing GMOs.
"The point is, they've got to start doing this stuff. You can't simply put
a moratorium on things that affects people's livelihoods for phony
reasons," he said.
Although the EU's executive commission has approved a protocol on
regulating trade in GMOs, several member states oppose the idea.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis told a news conference after the
summit that many EU countries wanted more time to discuss the question.
"In many member states there is a political problem. This is not a trade
problem, it's not a problem about protection of European agriculture in
the sense that there should be no imports and no loss of income because of
imports," he said.
"The majority of public opinion in many states thinks that the genetically
modified products will ... have a negative impact on the environment. This
is not acceptable so it's necessary to discuss this matter and have
Biotech crops are engineered to, for example, repel predatory insects or
withstand weed killers. Critics say they could endanger human health and
cause unforeseen damage to the environment.
A killer policy in Europe
Scripps Howard News Service
May 27, 2003
By James Ambrose
If the European Union were to send armed troops to steal food from the 40
million men, women and children in Africa who are already facing the agony
and death that accompany starvation, it would be no more morally calloused
an act than the EU stance on genetically modified foods.
You think the Europeans are not far more arrogant than they accuse the
United States of being? You think they are so lacking in self-interest
that they would never let others die so they can get richer? You think
they are so sophisticated that they will heed science before they embrace
hopeless superstitions about modernity?
Then look at this policy. In violation of the rules of the World Trade
Organization, the European Union has refused to import genetically
modified food products. The consequences are unfair and unfortunate in
America - our farmers are said to have lost hundreds of millions of
dollars - but deadly in Africa.
Despite widespread hunger, leaders there have refused to accept American
biotech corn donations for fear it will get mixed with their own corn and
that Europe will then refuse to import their corn, too. Some of these
leaders seem to have bought into the European scare talk, too. For fear
that biotech products might really, truly be dangerous, as well as fear of
European trade ostracism, they are reluctant to employ a technology that
could produce a greater, more nutritious crop yield per acre.
Here are the facts about genetically modified foods. They've been around
for years, and virtually every American has consumed them without any of
them having ever caused a problem so serious as indigestion. Virtually
every major scientific organization in the world that pronounces on such
things has verified that biotech foods are as safe as any other foods -
and that they hold enormous promise for feeding the people of this world.
Their production requires environmental and consumer safeguards, but so
does the production of just about anything you want to name.
The Europeans have dodged the truth in part because eco-fanatics have been
more successful than in America in worming their way into power,
especially in France and Germany. And over the years, some observers say,
Europeans have found their governments less successful than Americans have
found theirs in protecting them from food impurities. So that's a factor,
too. Then there's protectionism, good, old protectionism. The Europeans
want as much as possible to give their farmers as free a ride as possible
because that's good politics, and they want every advantage they can get
in their trade with the United States.
The Bush administration isn't going to take it anymore. In a recent
graduation speech at the Coast Guard Academy, President Bush attacked the
European Union position, saying Europe "should join - not hinder - the
great cause of ending hunger in Africa." The U.S. trade representative,
Robert Zoellick, wrote a Wall Street Journal oped article naming specifics
of African nations backing off from advisable projects because of concerns
about European reactions. The United States has filed a formal complaint
with the World Trade Organization, and the president is expected to raise
the issue at a G-8 summit that begins June 1.
Some reported responses of the European Union are valid. Also lambasted
because European governments subsidize food exports, the EU has taken note
of America's farm-bill subsidies to its agribusinesses. And the EU is
hardly amiss at being miffed at U.S. steel tariffs.
But news accounts show that when you are sufficiently wrong, your defenses
are very weak. The EU cannot argue that biotech is bad, after all, and so
it says that it's going slower than promised because the politics of the
thing are complicated. Well, yes, but when people are suffering, you don't
drag your feet. Then it says the United States is making its job tougher,
which actually means it is making the EU more embarrassed. And when the EU
talks about labeling rules for biotech foods, it has an exemption in mind,
it seems: French wine made with genetically modified grapes.
Laughable? It would be except for the starving Africans. More than a
changed EU policy on genetic foods is required for their rescue,
obviously, but the current policy is something worse than a shrug of the
shoulders or fixedly looking in the other direction. It is a policy that
vigorously works to make things in Africa worse. It is a policy that
Europe's ban ignores science on modified crops
Kansas City Star
May. 27, 2003
The Bush administration finally has challenged Europe's unfair,
politically motivated and probably illegal opposition to importing
genetically modified foods from America. Good.
Europe has banned such products -- at least unofficially -- since 1998.
The ban was instituted despite scientific evidence from American and
European regulators that these foods pose no health risk.
Indeed, genetically engineered crops have the potential to help feed
millions of hungry people all over the world and to allow farmers to grow
these crops without using potentially damaging pesticides.
But activists in Europe have created an environment of fear based on
misinformation. Many politicians there lack the courage to stand up to
these arguments and allow people to buy genetically modified foods as
freely as Americans do. And as President Bush accurately noted in a
graduation speech the other day, Europe's unfounded fears are spreading to
underdeveloped countries full of malnourished people.
Recently the United States and several other countries filed a complaint
against the European Union with the World Trade Organization. In his
filing, America's trade representative, Robert Zoellick, noted the
conclusion of thousands of scientists -- including Nobel Prize winners --
that the paranoia about genetically altered foods is unfounded.
Some European Union leaders acknowledge that. A European government study,
published last year, said genetically altered foods threaten no one and
that many are safer and more environmentally friendly than traditional
Europe's ban violates trade rules. The United States will have 60 days to
work out a solution with the European Union, but don't bet on that
Even if Europe agrees in principle to let these American crops in, it may
inflict burdensome labeling requirements. A better policy would be to
suggest that producers of nonmodified crops label their products, similar
to the way American producers of organic foods use labels to attract
Europe's intransigence is costing American farmers millions of dollars. In
1998, for instance, the United States sold $63 million worth of corn to
the European Union. Last year, those exports were down to $12.5 million.
In the end, good science will prevail, and carefully regulated genetically
modified crops will be accepted everywhere. But because of European
politicians, it may take a long time.
Greenpeace policies cause deaths in Africa
Greenpeace, the radical international environmentalist group, recently
came under attack from an unusual source, writes Richard Tren.
The organisation that has spent decades attacking corporate interests and
the institutions of capitalism wasn¹t attacked by the oil or chemicals
industry, but by the New York based Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). In
what is increasingly a black and white issue, CORE charges Greenpeace with
being racist and keeping Africa poor, sick and underdeveloped.
Last Saturday, Greenpeace organised a run in Liberty State Park, New York,
to campaign against chemicals that it considers to be a danger to human
health. CORE arranged a rival event at the same venue to highlight
Greenpeace¹s policies and their damaging and sometimes deadly effects on
Africa. CORE's spokesman, Niger Innis lambasted Greenpeace for being a
"powerful elite of First World activists whose hardcore agenda puts people
Greenpeace has been at the head of campaigns to ban the use of the
insecticide DDT. Green groups were successful in banning DDT use in
agriculture in most countries during the 1970s. The insecticide is still
permitted for use in public health programmes where it saves lives from
mosquito borne diseases such as malaria. Despite the fact that it saves
lives every day, Greenpeace still campaigns against its production, trade
Greenpeace and others campaign against most pesticide use, but most Greens
are particularly fond of attacking DDT; many environmentalists cut their
teeth on the DDT issue. Their influence stretches far beyond disaffected
anti-globalisation students from rich countries who are desperate to be
angry. The World Health Organisation, World Bank and United Nations
Environment Programme are all against the use of DDT and are encouraging
African governments to reduce its use.
The upshot of this pressure is that lives are lost. In 1996 South Africa
submitted to Green pressure and removed DDT from its malaria control
programme. The result was one of the worst malaria epidemics in the
country¹s history as malaria cases rose by around 1000% in just a few
years and hundreds upon hundreds of lives were lost. South Africa
thankfully did the right thing and reintroduced DDT in 2000. In one year,
the number of cases fell by 80% in the worst hit province, KwaZulu Natal.
Despite the clear evidence in favour of DDT, Green groups continue to
insist that DDT is dangerous to the environment and to human health. In
reality DDT is sprayed in tiny quantities on the inside walls of houses
and simply does not escape into the wider environment. Even if it did, the
environmental impacts of DDT have always been grossly exaggerated. As to
the human health impacts of DDT use, in the 60 years of its use, not one
scientific study has been able to replicate a case of actual human harm
from the chemical. In all that time and with widespread use, one would
think that someone somewhere would have had some ill effect from DDT if it
was so dangerous, yet apparently not. In any event, the human health
dangers from malaria far outweigh those of DDT.
Perhaps it isn¹t surprising that groups like Greenpeace campaign against
something that could save lives. Charles Würster, a leading
environmentalist with the Environmental Defence Fund captured Green
thinking succinctly in 1972 when the US Environmental Protection Agency
was in the process of banning DDT. When someone pointed out to him that
banning DDT would cost lives in poor countries he is reported to have
said: "So what? People are the cause of all the problems. We have too many
of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is as good a way as
Modern greens may be more subtle now, but their misanthropic philosophy
still runs deep. If Greenpeace really cared about people, as it likes to
portray, why would it campaign against GM technology in agriculture? GM
food, which has been consumed in the US for many years, has been shown to
be safe for human consumption and to improve agricultural yields. If
Africa were free to adopt GM technology, not only could we feed more
people and reduce starvation, but we could increase farmers’ incomes.
Campaigns against the burning of fossil fuels to provide energy ignore
some basic realities and highlight the outrageous naivete of Greenpeace.
In almost any African or Indian city, young children suffer from terrible
and life threatening respiratory diseases as a result of burning biomass
like wood and dung indoors to provide heat. Even the dirtiest coal-fired
power plant providing cheap electricity would be a technological advance
that would reduce illness. Yet Greenpeace prefers to promote expensive,
renewable energy such as solar or wind power, even though this would keep
electricity well out of reach of poor people in Africa.
Greenpeace's run in New York was organised by white, wealthy and healthy
New Yorkers that were seemingly amazed that anyone would be opposed to
their views. Their quizzical looks at the sight of 70 black CORE activists
chanting "Africa Yes, Greenpeace NO" betrayed their ignorance of the
policies for which their organisation stands. Liberty State Park is a
million miles from the poverty and disease in Africa that Greenpeace is
helping to perpetuate. But the rally was held in the shadow of the Statue
of Liberty, that beacon of hope and freedom that so many oppressed people
around the globe look up to.
If the Greenpeace activists were capable of looking beyond the ends of
their noses, they might have recognised the importance of the statue
towering above them. Africa needs the liberty that the US enjoys. We need
the liberty and freedom to use whatever technology we require without
interference and restrictions from organisations like Greenpeace that have
little interest in human life. We need free trade and individual liberties
that made the US the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth. We
don¹t need the racist, misguided and life-threatening anti-growth
campaigns run by eco-imperialist Greenpeace.
Author: Richard Tren is a director of the health advocacy group Africa
Fighting Malaria. 27 May 2003.
From: "TERRY HOPKIN- SUNDBY"
Subject: Greenpeace boats in Sweden
Date: Wed, 28 May 2003 04:16:05 +0200
The police in Sweden are investigating complaints against Greenpeace for
environmental polution, in that their boats let their desiel motors run
whilst in dock to generate electricity instead of the normal practice of
taking a supply from land!! Seems boat(s) spewed desiel fumes into the
atmosphere a whole week end before being forced to stop. The report is
from text tv Sveriges television.
Terry S. Hopkin