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May 1, 2000


Contributions May 2, 2000


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

(Eight Contributions below.......)

From: "Quentin B Kubicek"

With Regard to Marc Lappe and Tom Hayden's article:

"Mexico's Senate recently has supported an analogous label. Should not
shoppers in California and Mexico have the right to fill their baskets with
products they can trust are accurately labeled?" I have just returned from
Mexico. In Mexico the legislative process requires that the Senate
decision, in reference, be passed on to the lower house for consideration.
This did not happen by Friday, April 28th which I was told was the end of
the legislative calendar year. Perhaps in the upcoming legislative year
Mexico's Congress will raise this issue. It could; leading to further
analysis and debate and possible vote. It could not; end of labelling
story in Mexico until it is tried again. Please note that Mexico will have
Presidential elections this Summer and the ensuing electoral positioning is
taking place. Perhaps regrettably, this changes ones priorities.

It is incorrect to imply that Mexico's Senate decision means products are
thereupon labelled. Today, in Mexico, products of biotechnology are not
obligatorily labelled. Mexico, a democracy, follows a democratic process.
Similar to the US, a bill approved in the Senate does not immediately
become law. Need I say more? Tom Hayden ought to better understand this
process. It is the same process his southern NAFTA, Sacramento, and
Washington, D.C. brethren follow.

Quentin B. Kubicek
Du Pont
ated attack against biotechnology incorporation in
foods, the agbiotech community is starting to adopt a fiery rhetoric against
its opponents. We are matching rhetoric. "Frankenfood" was a successful
term. "Eco-reactionaries" probably will be deemed as corporate culture
protecting itself by vilifying those who suggest caution. One cannot match
tactics with the like of Greenpeace and win support.

It is my contention that the biotech community needs to shed any hint of a
combative tone for a language that highlights the benefits of products being
produced or in late research. We cannot afford to exaggerate or take our
opinions of our opposition to extremes. It violates our very core message
that we have extensively and objectively reviewed the safety of our products.
Being passionate is effective if the passion highlights the importance of
what we are doing and what benefit our enhanced seeds will provide.
Likewise, highlighting the effect of resistance to GM foods on countries
desperately needing greater output or the extra vitamins or nutritional value
of new strains of modified food makes good sense. Where I think we are
losing public attention is when we vilify our opposition, their tactics and
their research (different from objectively highlighting the mistakes in their
research). We are entering a slugging match with groups often viewed as
"consumer advocates" and we are viewed as "corporate culture" or "corporate
controlled scientists". Most slugging matches between consumer advocates and
corporations go to the consumer advocate. Their position supports mud
slinging (and in some cases in other industries attacks were helpful to make
products safer). I can't name one campaign where corporations attacked the
criticizing consumer group itself and didn't suffer negative consequences of
some sort. Wear the white hat and make the opposition seem concerned but
irrational, concerned but unable to cipher good science from bad, concerned
but unwilling to consider the clear benefits of biotechnology or to compare
the clear benefits to the speculative "risks", or concerned but concerned
really about the effect of technology on the traditional practice of farming
and the reliance of farming on corporations versus really being focused on
"health and safety" issues and guess what you have a quite reasonable
opportunity to turn public opinion. If we come across as extremists, our
credibility as scientifically based will be lost. Pure science alone won't
win the current PR battle (professors signing on to support biotechnology
helps but the climate in many countries won't be swayed easily). Losing our
credibility as companies of science, with objectivity and rational reasoning
will slaughter us. You don't want to look like the tobacco companies of old
lashing back at any attack with rattlesnake venom.
From: Malcolm Livingstone
Subject: Re: Horizontal gene transfer

Dear All,

I mentioned several months ago that so-called horizontal gene transfer in
plants was likely to be widespread due to retroviruses. This does seem to
be the case as outlined in an article in Trends in Genetics, April 2000, by
Peterson-Burch et al entitled "Retroviruses in plants?". Indeed the Athila
"gene" makes up to 0.3% of the Arabidopsis genome. These retroviral
elements contain ORFs with frameshifts and stop codons so there is no
reason aberrant proteins can't be produced.

From: Scott.Carpenter@aventis.com
Subject: RE: High School Students Ask Tough Questions

Answers to the questions are below.
My educational background: Studied resource management (focusing on
Australian flora/fauna and ecosystems; resources such as soil, water and
cultural), a degree in Applied Biology Biotechnology and an honours year in
ecotoxicology (aquatic).
I have been involved in flora and fauna monitoring (mainly of endangered
species), ecological surveys and public education (mainly regarding pest
Following my degree I worked in a biotechnology lab looking at gene flow and
I am currently working in regulatory affairs.
I am also a member of the Australian Biotechnology Association.
My views here are personal and do not reflect those of the company I work
for or the ABA

1. How come the environmental terrorists do not get taken to court?
It is rare that they have a fixed base that is publicly known and there is
always the requirement of burden of proof.
So you need to find them with enough evidence to convict or catch them in
the act.
Some laws have clauses (I believe) where people acting in the belief that
their actions are for the greater social good are either let off or punished
by some token measure.
The use of a jury that maybe sympathetic to your point of view helps in
reducing the sentence or charge.

2. Why do you believe that the opposition comes from lack of knowledge?
Biotechnology, as an anti-biotech person rightly pointed out, is not a
science. It is a collection of many disciplines from molecular biology,
genetics, microbiology, biochemistry, physics, pathology, ecology,
toxicology and the list goes on. Even experts in one area of biotechnology
(microbiology) may have little knowledge in another area (plant
Even to obtain a good understanding of biotechnology as a whole you need to
study it over a number of years (basically you need to do a degree or work
in biotechnology), even then you won't have all the answers. How can people
who have been introduced to the subject via shock tactics be expected to
understand such a basic, yet complex subject?
Some of the fears associated with biotechnology take about 10 seconds to
express. However, easing those fears can take hours. Many of the "risks"
associated with transgenic plants and animals as also present with "normal"
foods, however people are not used to thinking about them. People at least
need to understand basic biology and genetics before they can understand the
more complex concepts. Sad to say, life-sciences are not so popular at
school (hopefully this is changing).
One easy way to detect the lack of knowledge on the subjects is to do a
search on GMO's on the web. Some anti-biotech sites are full of miss
information and half truths. Claims made by activists that have been
answered by data are not withdrawn and the correcting data is never
After saying all this, each modification should be looked at on a case by
case basis and assessed as such.

3. How do you fight back against terrorists?
With terrorists you are often fighting ideals and beliefs (at least with the
hard core terrorists, other people may be along for the ride, so to speak).
Laws often hold no sway over their activities. Short of changing these ideas
and beliefs, terrorists will remain as extremists of that particular
ideal/belief, often with the support of a wider group. Education and
compromise may help change the ideals/beliefs and leave terrorists isolated
from the rest of the community they once represented, but this can be a slow
It is not in the interest of the terrorist to fight a fair fight.

4. How do you believe your research should be funded? For example, tax
payers, private organizations etc.
From all sectors. Public funded research is important, it often explores
areas where companies have no interest at the present such as blue-smoke
ideas. Fundamental research is sometimes ignored by companies because of
costs associated with the idea, however many great discoveries are based on
basic, fundamental research and blue smoke ideas. Private organisations can
then develop concepts and products that can be sold to the public (they
often do this better then public organisations) and often refine further
developments from research.

5. What motivates you to do your research? For example, solve the hunger
issue, interest in the topic etc.
When I was doing research it was because it was interesting, I could see an
application which could reduce the costs to farmers (I am from a rural
background) and had potentially less impact on the environment then other
improvements. It was also related to ecology which I enjoyed.

6. What keeps you motivated after appreciate it greatly something like the
torching of Agriculture Hall at Michigan State University happens?
I think damage to public or private property is pointless in this issue. All
it does is scare people and possibly lead to harm (or death). It does not
aid in the debate or provide knowledge, which may indicate the benefits of
problems associated with gene technology. It actually drains money from
independent research groups looking at those issues. I disagree with a
number of things that happen, however it does not give me the right to
damage property or persons that are doing the things I disagree with.

How do you feel about genetically modified foods?
- Should be looked at by a case by case basis. I have yet to see anything
that I am concerned about.
Cloning animals?
- See above. However, producing large populations of clones (for example in
re-introducing endangered or extinct species) will lead to a lack of genetic
diversit. This can lead to increased disease and predation pressure and
possible reproduction problems in the crop/ animal population. However, if a
given clonal population survives over a period of time, diversity should
start to occur again in the population.

There are possibilities for pathogens being introduced into the host so it
needs to be monitored. Organ acceptance is also a problem. Cloning tissues
(from the host which needs the transplantation) would be better the
From: Gordon Couger
Subject: Re: . how do you feel about the genetic engineering of agriculture?

> From: Pudenzia@cs.com Piscilla
> 1. how do you feel about the genetic engineering of agriculture?
It holds much of the future of agriculture and will greatly reduce the
impact of agriculture on the environment. I will use two examples
the Roundup ready gene that make the crop resistant to the
herbicide round up if applied early in the crops development and
the Bt gene that is a naturally occurring compound that kill worms
that eat plants. These are the two most wide spread GMOs in use.

Roundup ready plants allow the use of Roundup while the plant
is young. Round up is a herbicide that must be applied to the
leaf of the plant you want to kill. It is inactivated when it touches
the soil and is only toxic to plants and not animals. It benefits the farmer
because it gives him more flexibility in planting and
weed control. In many cases the farmer can use Roundup insted
of preplant herbicides that remain active in the soil for up to 18
months and can pollute the water supply. Roundup is very quickly
broken down in the soil.

Roundup ready benefits us all because it can replace a long acting
herbicide that can pollute the water supply with a product that
is much safer.

The Bt gene was found in a bacteria. The Bt toxin is used by
organic farmers. By adding the Bt gene to crops you have a
crop that is toxic to worms that eat the leaves. It is only toxic
to insects not mammals. It greatly reduces the need to spray
for corn ear worms and cotton boll worms. They are the same
moth that goes by several names. It is the most expensive pest
in the world and a great deal of very toxic sprays are used
to control it. Some of these sprays are toxic to all life.

By adding Bt to the plant you only kill the worms that eat it
not the worms, and all the, birds, frogs, rabbits and insects
that happen to be in the field or pass throughout it. By using
Bt you also keep these toxic sprays out of the water you
drink and the air you breath.

> 2. how do you feel about the cloning of animals?
Cloning will be very important for animals that produce
drugs in their body fluids so they can know exactly
what the genetics of the animal are.

It is very important to scientist that are studying the
way cells develop into a fetus and will be very helpful
in finding ways to prevent birth defects.

There are many other areas that it will help research.

The actual cloning of an animal will probably only be worth
doing in a very small number of cases.

> 3. how do you feel about xenotransplantation?

I am very much for it. We have been doing it for
at least 20 years with no problems. I have a friend
that has a pigs heart valve. He thought it was much
better than dying. It added about 15 years to his life
as reasonably healthy man.

> 4. what are the dangers and benefits of each?

There have never been any cases of any of the things
you ask about causing a single problem.

There is risk in all things but the risk of genetic engineering
are much smaller than the risk of most other breeding methods.
With GE you are only changing a very few genes with congenital
breeding you are changing half the genes. Mother nature has
been doing genetic engineering since the dawn of time. Many of
the methods of genetic engineering use bacteria that exchange
genes from different species at random. We just put in the gene
we want insted of what ever the bacteria picks up. The swapping
of genes is not something man made it is something he found
in nature.

> 5. do you think mankind has gone too far with genetic engineering?
By now you know that my answer to this question is we have just
started. Rice that will save thousands of children's sight is a reality.
Foods that can deliver vaccines to the third world with out the risk
of AIDs from a dirty needle and plants that can fix more nitrogen
so the poor farmers of the world can have higher yields.

The Eco terrorist say that the big corporations are only in it for the
money. They need to explain why Monsanto gave the world the genetic map
for rice. This could have been an great deal of profit that they gave
up so the world could move forward faster to improve the yield
and improve the nutrition of third world.

As you can tell I am very much for genetic engineering. I am a retired
farmer and rancher and I ate the same food I raised and fed it to
my child. There is no way that would eat something I though was
not the safest I could find. I have also work at the university and
I can tell you that researchers feel the same way. I know professors
that have spent their whole life working on ways to make food safer.

I hope this helps you with your paper.

My best regards

Gordon Couger gcouger@couger.com

Stillwater, OK www.couger.com/gcouger
405 624-2855 GMT -6:00
From: Rcjohnsen@aol.com
Subject: Re: More on Labeling

So why do some people in this group feel obligated to tear down others by
name calling, labelling them ultra right/left/who the hell cares. I think
people have the right to know the ingredients of their food, and hence the
ultimate right of choice is theirs not some organisation or corporation or
government. If you have arguments pro or con, scientifically then simply
make them. John Q. citizen has the right to an opinion however informed or
uninformed. That's democracy. Just quit the skull bashing. It isn't
From: Bob MacGregor
Subject: Re: McDonald's following PepsiCo's lead

I wonder what kind of oil they are cooking these potatoes in....? BOB

Received: from Pudenzia@cs.com

hey do you guys know which brands of food are genetically engineered?