Today in AgBioView: June 18, 2003:
* Seattle Comes to Sacramento - The Next Festival of Folly
* Protesters to Converge on Ag Conference in Sacramento
* "New Report" on GM Crops is Neither Independent Nor Scientific
* Humans May Spread GM Seeds (!)
* ... CropGen Responds
* Food Fetish
* Greenpeace Policies Keeping Africa Poor
* Europeans Do Import Biotech Food From US (Millions of Tons!)
* More on Public Domain vs. Private Control
* RoundupReady Bentgrass
* The Biased BBC Questionnaire
* How Do Insects Evolve Resistance to Bt?
* Australian Capital Territory Bans Commercial GM crops
* Russian Academic: GM Food Is Not Harmful
* Co-existence of GM & Non-GM: Economic and Market Perspectives
* But Scientists Are the Ones Who Said...
* NZ Activist Denies Sending Cruel Email to Cabinet Ministers
Seattle Comes to Sacramento - The Anti-globalization Crowd's Next Festival
- Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, June 18, 2003
Trade and agricultural ministers from at least 75 countries are expected
to attend the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and
Technology in Sacramento, CA, from June 23 to 25. According to the
Department of Agriculture, the gathering "will focus on the critical role
science and technology can play in raising sustainable agricultural
productivity in developing countries." Sacramento is part of the run-up to
the big World Trade Organization ministerial meeting this September in
Cancun, Mexico, where negotiators from 180 countries hope to change the
way farm goods are traded, among other things.
Of course, wherever trade ministers gather, so too does the
anti-globalization "resistance" movement. Activists plan to make
Sacramento a practice run for bigger things in Cancun. The protest
umbrella group (or should I say website?) Sacramento Mobilization
describes the conference as a "meeting to pave the way for 'free trade,'
privatization of water, genetic engineering and factory farming."
Organizers are "inviting the participation of social justice/human
rights/animal rights/and peace activists, workers, students, trade
unionists, environmentalists, indigenous groups, artists, community
campaigners, consumer advocates, citizens and anyone else who is concerned
about the violence and inequality of the corporate economy."
One of their chief targets is plant biotechnology. A group calling itself
Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering (NW RAGE) posts a
resolution from the Pesticide Action Network's Asian subsidiary,
declaring: "Through this meeting transnational corporations (TNCs) will
tighten their collaboration with governments to expand the use of the
untested and unlabeled products of agricultural biotechnology, which pose
extraordinary risks to public health, farmer independence and the
environment." This is, in a word, crap.
All crops used to grow biotech foods are tested extensively. In fact,
biotech crops are the most thoroughly examined foodstuffs in the history
of the world. What the anti-globalization activists want is for biotech
foods to pass through the same laborious testing process as pharmaceutical
products. Practically no conventional foods—all of which have been greatly
modified from their genetic forbearers—could pass such scrutiny.
As for labeling, it is true that the United States does not require foods
made with genetically ehnanced ingredients to be identified as such.
That's because our food and drug laws require that a product be labeled
only if the information is relevant to human health or safety. Sadly,
there is one exception to this reasonable rule—organically produced foods.
Organic farmers managed to bamboozle the feds into allowing special
labeling requirements for their products. Thus, if some consumers get
spooked by unfounded activist claims that biotech foods are harmful, they
may be lured into buying labeled organic products.
What about those extraordinary risks to public health? Again, complete
twaddle. Since being introduced in the mid-1990s, "there has not been a
single adverse reaction to biotech food," said Lester Crawford, Deputy
Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, at a recent American
Enterprise Institute conference in Washington, D.C. "In the meantime,"
Crawford added, "we've had tens of thousands of reactions to traditional
foods." In other words, to the government's knowledge, no one has gotten
so much as a sniffle or a stomach ache because of biotech foods.
What about farming independence? Won't farmers, especially poor ones,
become mere serfs for biotech multinationals? This attitude treats farmers
with condescension, if not contempt. If growers don't find seeds
worthwhile, they won't use them. The problem for the activists is that
poor farmers who are given access to biotech seeds embrace them with a
Consider, for example, the case of insect-resistant cotton in India. The
Indian government prohibited cotton that was genetically enhanced to fight
off bollworms, but some farmers managed to smuggle in the forbidden seeds.
The subsequent crops of biotech cotton performed spectacularly, boosting
yields as much as 80 percent, and increasing farmers' cotton-related
income by 500 percent. Now the government has approved the seeds.
In Brazil, similarly, farmers have been smuggling in herbicide-resistant
biotech soybeans for years. So why won't the activists let poor farmers
choose for themselves? Because every time farmers have been given the
option, they've jumped at the opportunity to plant genetically modified
seeds. That's real independence.
Finally, what risks do biotech crops pose to the environment? Negligible.
Biotech strains are hardly threatening to run roughshod over the ecology.
All crop plants are pampered and protected from the ravages of wild
nature; that's called farming, and it's why we don't see wheat invading
our forests, or corn taking over the grasslands. But won't traits like
pest-resistance and herbicide-resistance, transferred by cross-breeding to
wild plants, create superweeds? Pollen can flow between biotech crops and
wild relatives, but the potential to cause environmental problems is
Meanwhile, by boosting productivity, biotech crops mean that fewer natural
forests and grassland areas will have to be plowed under to produce food
for a hungry world. Pest-resistant crops use less chemical pesticide, and
the future may produce plants resistant to drought, and perhaps even able
to self-fertilize. All of which would be enormously beneficial for the
Sacramento should provide us all with a protest preview for Cancun, at
which organizers are hoping 150,000 anti-globalizers will show up. So let
the protesters dance in the streets of Sacramento. I will defend the right
of any idiot to spout whatever nonsense he or she wishes, but the rest of
us, including world leaders and business executives, have no obligation to
pay any heed to it.
Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent, is the editor of Global
Warming and Other Eco Myths (Prima Publishing) and Earth Report 2000:
Revisiting the True State of the Planet(McGraw-Hill).
Protesters to Converge on Agriculture Conference in Sacramento
- Bobby Caina Calvan, The Boston Globe, June 16, 2003
Sacramento- An upcoming world agricultural symposium organized by the US
Department of Agriculture has police girding for riots, although no one's
sure how many protesters will converge on California's capital later this
month to demonstrate against biotechnology, genetically modified food, and
A thousand invited guests from around the world, including agricultural
ministers from at least 100 countries, will gather in Sacramento June
23-25 for the first US-sponsored Ministerial Conference and Expo on
Agricultural Science and Technology, the largest international conference
ever to be held in Sacramento.
Unwelcomed guests could arrive, too, and law enforcement officials have
been preparing for months to avert a repeat of the riots that disrupted
the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. The tens of
thousands who demonstrated caught Seattle off guard and caused millions of
dollars in property damage. "We're planning for the worst-case scenario,"
said Sergeant Justin Risley, spokesman for the Sacramento Police
Department. "We are well prepared. . . . This is not going to be Seattle."
Last Tuesday, 200 police officers trained with nonlethal ammunition and
rehearsed procedures for crowd control. In all, two dozen local, state,
and federal law enforcement agencies will monitor the event. Language on
websites and other published material have caused police to be wary,
Risley said. The Organic Consumers Association's website calls for a
"massive protest" and conjures the "resistant spirit of Seattle." "We
invite people to come out to share their viewpoints, but we want to send a
clear message that we're not going to tolerate illegal behavior," Risley
Demonstrators plan a rally at the steps of the state Capitol, a few blocks
from the Sacramento Convention Center, where the conference will take
place. They have scheduled teach-ins, fairs, forums, and street
demonstrations. They are inviting agriculture ministers to go on
eco-tours. Alice Waters, the maven of California gourmet cuisine, will
host a dinner at a nearby hotel.
"We want this to be a nonviolent, peaceful five days in Sacramento - but
it doesn't mean it will exclude civil disobedience," said Heidi McLean,
spokesperson for Sacramento Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture, one of
at least a dozen groups taking part in scheduled rallies that begin this
weekend. Demonstrators representing groups from as far away as Vermont
are expected to join activists from the Northwest and California for the
The USDA said the Sacramento event is not intended as a place for global
politicking but as a venue to showcase this country's agricultural
technologies and their potential for boosting food production and
alleviating world hunger.
Activists, however, see the conference as an opportunity for the United
States to press WTO members, most of whom will have a representative
attending the gathering, to reconsider trade barriers for agricultural
products, and to soften resistance to genetically engineered food.
"New Report" on Genetically Modified Crops is Neither Independent Nor
CHURCHVILLE, Va., June 17, 2003 -- A panel of activists claiming to be
scientists from "many disciplines, committed to the promotion of science
for the public good" is actually two organic special interest groups
campaigning to stop modern agricultural techniques, and there is nothing
new in their "new report," according to the Center for Global Food Issues.
In an apparent attempt to create confusion and promote misleading
propaganda in advance of the upcoming Ministerial Conference and Expo on
Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento, this inappropriately
named "Independent Science Panel" was created by the Institute of Science
in Society and Food First -- both of which oppose scientific advances in
agriculture and are paid advocates of low-yielding organic farming,
according to the Center for Global Food Issues.
Their report, "The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World," is a rehashing
of old and well-debunked myths about foods produced using agricultural
biotechnology -- foods grown by high-yielding crops improved to use fewer
pesticides which compete with expensive, low-yielding crops marketed as
organic. For example, their claim that "GM food raises serious safety
concerns" is contradictory to the findings of the National Academies of
Science of the United States, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and the Third
World Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, and both the
British and American Medical Associations, all of whom endorse the safety
of GM technology. Furthermore, a review of 81 separate research projects
conducted over 15 years and funded exclusively by the European Union found
that GM crops are just as safe for the environment and for human
consumption as conventional crops, and in some cases are even safer
because the genetic changes in the plants are much more precise.
The report also claims that, "GM crops failed to deliver promised
benefits." However studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Economic Research Service and the National Center for Food and
Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) show that six crops currently in the
marketplace developed through biotechnology -- soybeans, corn, cotton,
papaya, squash and canola -- produce an additional 4 billion pounds of
food and fiber on the same acreage, improve farm income $1.5 billion and
reduce pesticide volume by 46 million pounds.
"Terminator crops" (an activist term for crops with built-in Genetic Use
Restriction Technologies which may some day alleviate activist concerns
about so-called genetic contamination), according to the report, are said
to be spreading "both male sterile suicide genes as well herbicide
tolerance genes via pollen," despite the fact that these crops do not
exist outside of government-sponsored laboratories and were never
developed past the planning stage.
According to Alex Avery, research director for the Center for Global Food
Issues, "Since no such 'terminator' crop exists in any form outside of the
laboratory, it is clear the only thing being spread here is some well-
funded organic manure. These are but a few of the vast inaccuracies and
misrepresentations found in the activist panel's report."
Journalists and other interested citizens are welcome to call or write the
Center for Global Food Issues (http://www.cgfi.org) for more information,
and for the contact information of GM crop scientists and experts.
Humans May Spread GM Seeds
- John Whitfield, June 18, 2003
Study suggests intrepid beet weed seeds could spread crop genes into wild
Hitch-hiking on farm machinery, the seeds of sugar-beet weeds can travel
more than a kilometre from the field where they were born. In theory, such
seeds could spread genes from genetically modified (GM) crops into their
But the finding, some of the first evidence of gene flow from crops
through seeds, rather than pollen, should not increase worries over the
environmental impact of growing GM foods, researchers say. "You can't
contain genes," says ecologist Alan Gray of the Centre for Ecology and
Hydrology in Dorset, UK. "The concern is to identify possible hazards from
gene flow - we must be very careful about the sort of genes we put in."
Gray chairs the UK government's Advisory Committee on Releases to the
The study suggests that, in managing GM crops, farming practices will be
as important as technology. To minimize gene flow, domestic and wild beets
need to be well separated, and fields must be carefully weeded.
Cross check. The problem is neither the crops nor the wild plants
themselves, but crosses between the two. Domestic sugar beet breeds with
its wild relative, sea beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima). The resulting
hybrids are potent weeds, producing thousands of seeds in their first
These weedy beets' seeds get around, Joel Cuguen of the University of
Lille in France and colleagues have found1. Once the weeds are alongside
their wild relatives, they breed with the wild plants. The researchers DNA
fingerprinted weeds in a sugar-beet field in northern France, and those
growing alongside a river 1.5 kilometres away, where sea beet also grows.
The river weeds were descended from those in the field. They must have
been transported there as seeds - in soil on agricultural equipment, for
example, says Cuguen. "Gene flow through seeds is too often
underestimated." "If you grow beets near the coast, escape is possible,"
agrees ecologist Detlef Bartsch of the Robert Koch Institute, Berlin. Gene
escape is even more likely in southern Europe, where the crop is grown for
seed, he warns.
The herbicide-tolerant beet varieties being grown in the United States and
on trial in Europe will have no advantage over wild plants - although
herbicide-resistant weeds might give farmers a problem. But possible
future varieties, such as insect- or disease-resistant strains, might
cause environmental damage. "Gene escape will take place - the question is
what the genes are," says Bartsch
References: Arnaud, J.-F., Viard, F., Delescluse, M. & Cuguen, J. Evidence
for gene flow via seed dispersal from crop to wild relatives in Beta
vulgaris (Chenopodiaceae): consequences for the release of genetically
modified crop species with weedy lineages. Proceedings of the Royal
Society B, published online, doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2407 (2003).
CropGen response to Proceedings Royal Society B Study -- Seed dispersal of
Sugar Beet (1)
London, June 18, 2003 - This is not new phenomenon. Seeds have been moving
around the world over the centuries --the weeds of the New World were
taken there by early immigrants in their clothes and shoes.
Co-existence between crops and their weedy relatives has been occurring
for hundreds of years and farmers come up against this in many other
farming systems other than that of GM. It is down to excellent management
and on-farm hygiene that problems are avoided.
Here in the UK, our conventional sugar beet also has weedy relatives and
it is thanks to good farm management that this has not become a real
farming problem and we don’t have sugar beet growing everywhere it
shouldn’t be. This will also be true for GM sugar beet. According to a
recent study (2) published by Brooms Barn Research Station, Britain's
£800m sugar beet industry may not continue to be viable without the use of
GM crops have been growing worldwide for the last ten years by five
million farmers who are reaping economic, environmental and social
benefits. Is it not time we focused on how GM technology can be useful in
the UK and not hysterical, hypothetical and minimal risks that have not
been borne out elsewhere where GM crops are being taken up?
- David Martosko, American Spectator, Jan/Feb 2003
File this one under "strange airport experiences." In a sandwich-stand
line at Reagan National the day before Christmas, the twenty-something
waif ahead of me pestered the counter girl: "Do you have anything
organic?" And then: "Is that lettuce GMO-free? 'Cause, if not, I won't eat
Here was a young woman who was perfectly content to put herself into a
140-ton pressurized metal tube and allow a total stranger to catapult her
body seven miles into the sky at 530 miles per hour. But she wouldn’t eat
genetically modified roughage.
Grains and vegetables enhanced by biotechnology have been as common in the
United States as tap water since the mid-1990s, and they haven’t given a
single person so much as the sniffles. Yet fear of "genetically modified"
food--"GM" to aficionados, or with an added "O" for "organism"--has become
a worldwide neurosis, fueled by the same nasty combination of ignorance
and junk science that powers environmental hysteria worldwide.
In this country alone, more than a hundred separate organizations agitate
against what they derisively call "Frankenfoods." According to their tax
returns and annual reports, such groups spent over $400 million worldwide
in 2001. Connecting the dots between rhetoric and financial muscle,
DNA-research pioneer James Watson has pointed out the obvious: behemoths
like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth "get bigger memberships if people
are afraid of their food."
True enough. More than half the environmental movement’s funding comes
from large foundations. But the rest arrives in $20 and $30 checks. As any
direct-mail fundraiser will tell you, fear sells. Ronnie Cummins, a Ralph
Nader disciple who runs the Minnesota-based Organic Consumers Association,
has described how it works overseas. Outbreaks of "mad cow"
disease--bovine spongiform encephalopathy, utterly unrelated to crop
biotechnology--made Europeans "lose faith in industrial agriculture
altogether," sparking huge growth in activist budgets and political power.
Cummins now openly hopes for "a similar crisis of confidence . . . in the
United States," leading to a glorious "new era of sustainable living and
This, of course, is propaganda worthy of Chairman Mao. But it nicely
describes the dramatic effects that peddlers of doom and gloom expect,
once enough of us are terrified of what’s on our plates. Here in the
United States, though, there’s no mad cow. So activists have to be
In a now-famous bit of junk science, British researcher Arpad Pusztai
proclaimed in 1998 that bio-engineered potatoes stunted rats’ growth and
immune systems. Britain’s Royal Society called the study "flawed in many
aspects of design, execution, and analysis" and said that "no conclusions
should be drawn from it." It seems Pusztai failed to make "blind"
measurements of any kind. And his data, said the society, "provide no
reliable or convincing evidence of adverse effects." Pusztai’s employer,
Scotland’s Rowett Institute, "retired" him immediately after the incident,
but not before the seeds of a food panic were sown. Greenpeace’s Charles
Margulis could hardly contain his glee: "It’s going to increase concern
here in the United States."
Then came a 1999 Cornell University experiment, in which eleven Monarch
butterfly caterpillars died after eating milkweed leaves dusted with
biotech corn pollen. Even opponents of biotech foods now admit that the
study was so badly flawed that its results were meaningless, but few
understand how environmental activists intentionally deceived the public.
The Cornell caterpillars were force-fed pollens they never eat in the
wild. And the pollen itself came from corn genetically engineered to
produce a pesticide toxic to crop-eating caterpillars. In other words, it
worked! The researchers themselves recognized their work’s limitations,
cautioning: "It would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions about the
risk to Monarch populations in the field."
None of which stopped Greenpeace, Environmental Defense, and a host of
other activist groups from launching a media blitz declaring biotech corn
a global hazard. Instantly, giant Monarch costumes became hot commodities
at protest rallies.
Three years later, although the USDA says that the risk "is negligible"
and the EPA has concluded that "there is no unreasonable hazard,"
greendom’s giants continue to cling to their Lepidopteran fantasy. And who
knows how much money those butterfly costumes helped them raise?
Another source of support for food scaremongers comes from organic and
"natural" food marketers, eager to hurt their conventional competitors and
build market share. Many such "fear profiteers" and "black marketers" plow
money back into activist groups, even boast about it--not just to pillory
genetically enhanced foods, but also to suggest organic varieties as the
only "safe" alternative.
They’re helped along by a growing cadre of celebrity restaurateurs whose
organization, the Chefs’ Collaborative, maintains a strict "no GMO"
orthodoxy. In a 2000 press conference, Peter Hoffman of New York’s Savoy
restaurant actually attacked the Green Revolution, which has saved
hundreds of millions of lives in the developing world since the 1960s. "We
don’t need it now," he barked, "We didn’t need it then." Hoffman recently
told Newsday that only organic produce is "the right product" to serve.
Here’s hoping he’s reincarnated as a peasant farmer in the Philippines.
The recent introduction of USDA "Certified Organic" labeling hasn't
injected much sanity into the debate. Even though the labeling "makes no
claim that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than
conventionally produced food," activists are trying to convince an unwary
public that the reverse is true. Mr. Cummins insists in print: "There is
no doubt that organic food is better and safer." And Katherine DiMatteo,
who leads the Organic Trade Association, told a Reuters reporter that
buying organic foods is "like using a seat belt or bicycle helmet."
That’s a 180-degree pivot away from reality. A 2002 study by the Hudson
Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues found that organic and "natural"
food products were eight times more likely to be recalled or suffer other
food safety problems, compared to their conventional counterparts. And
America’s number-one source of food-borne contamination from deadly E.
coli bacteria isn’t processed beef. It’s organic sprouts. What should we
expect from food that’s grown in manure?
Just one thing, actually: higher prices. Organic and "natural" foods can
cost twice as much as those we were all perfectly content to eat just a
few years ago. And marketers of these trendy foods know exactly what
they’re doing. Organic Valley marketing director Theresa Marquez told a
2001 conference of chefs: "The question is not, 'Why is organic food so
expensive?' The question is, ‘Why are the foods we are eating now so
cheap?’" As Marie Antoinette might have said, let them eat organic
blue-corn tortilla chips.
But such economic questions are lost on today’s most ardent anti-biotech
protesters. So intertwined are the anti-biotech, socialist, anarchist, and
anti-globalist movements that the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle looked to some
like just another anti-GMO rally. Even when people’s lives are allegedly
at stake, the biotech protest culture simply can’t shake its fondness for
Karl Marx. No wonder its hit list includes some of the world’s most
Even in mainstream academia, some gastronomic busybodies are letting the
anti-GMO movement’s anti-corporate roots show. Joan Gussow, a Columbia
University nutritionist who rails almost pathologically against food
technology, recently complained to the San Francisco Chronicle that big
companies are "taking over" organic markets. "When we said 'organic,' we
meant local," whined Gussow, "we meant social justice and equality."
Apparently this crusade is less about what’s for dinner and more about who
One problem: These hated corporations are the only ones at the moment with
the resources to ensure that if the marketplace wants organic food, at
least it won’t kill anybody. USDA food safety undersecretary Elsa Murano
recently told a World Food Prize symposium that "consumers should be wary"
of organically grown foods. "We must remember," Murano explained, "that
bacteria and parasites are also all-natural."
Which brings me back to the backpack-toting young traveler whose worldview
was skewed enough to demand genetic purity in her airport food. It’s
dangerous enough to embrace, as Europe has, an organic-dominated food
culture that costs more than it needs to and makes life riskier for the
people who eat it. But we should be doubly careful not to encourage the
next generation of moms and dads to fear their food just because some
global company and--Lord save us!--a scientist had a hand in making it.
David Martosko is director of research at Washington’s Center for Consumer
Freedom, a coalition of restaurant owners, food producers, and ordinary
people who eat.
Greenpeace Policies Keeping Africa Poor
- Richard Tren, East African Standard http://www.eastandard.net
(via http://www.ahbfi.org/newspaper/newsletters.htm )
Greenpeace, the radical international environmentalist group, recently
came under attack from an unusual source.
The organisation that has spent decades attacking corporate interests and
the institutions of capitalism wasn‚t 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
week, Greenpeace organised a run in at 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
Greenpeace‚s policies and their damaging and sometimes deadly effects on
Core's spokesman, Niger Innis lambasted Greenpeace for being a "powerful
elite of First World activists whose hardcore agenda puts people last."
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 and use. 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
country‚s history a 1000 per cent 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 per cent 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 isn‚t 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 any."
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 incomes. Campaigns
against the burning of fossil fuels to provide energy ignore some basic
realities and highlight the outrageous naivety 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 don't need the racist, misguided and life-threatening
anti-growth campaigns run by eco-imperialist Greenpeace.
The author is a director of the health advocacy group 'Africa Fighting
Europeans Do Import Biotech Food From US
The letter published in the "Greensboro News & Record" contained at least
one very significant factual error. Ms. Brown asserted that "The European
Union Has Clearly Stated That It Will Not Purchase Bioengineered Seeds Of
Any Kind". It is a common (though incorrect) belief of many people that
the EU has banned all imports of biotechnology-derived commodities, so I
would like to point out the facts.
During the last three marketing years (ending on Sept. 30). the U.S.
exported to the EU the following amounts of soybeans:
2000 6.1 million metric tons
2001 6.6 million metric tons
2002 7.7 million metric tons
Please note the increasing TREND here, in addition to the absolute tonnage
- Sincerely, Kim Nill, Technical Issues Director, American Soybean
>> Bioengineering Plants Scary Seeds
>> - Amy Brown, Greensboro News & Record, June 12, 2003
>> My blood is still boiling from Cal Thomas' column about how Europeans
>are spreading fear in Africa,,,
From Prakash: Kim, what was the dollar value of these exports? Is it
true that Europeans crush these beans and rexport them as they would not
like to use GM oil for human Consumption?
Response from Kim Nill:
Dear Prakash: You are correct that virtually all of the U.S.-origin
soybeans are crushed in Europe now
for use in animal feeds. That is because Europe's current (since 1998)
food "GMO labeling"
law... caused many food manufacturers there to simply remove soy protein
from their products
in order to avoid having to place the dreaded "GMO label" on their food
products. The only good news is that only a small tonnage of soy had ever
been utilized in human foods.
While some food manufacturers there had also removed soybean oil from
their food products-- so yes, Europe's exports of soybean oil had
increased--- many food manufacturers there had continued to utilize
soybean oil in their food products. It remains to be seen what will happen
in terms of soybean oil use in food products... if/when the planned
"traceability & labeling" regulations are implemented... since they will
extend mandatory "GMO labeling" to even foods using refined soybean oil.
Approximate US to EU Soybean Export Values:
2000 $ 1.2 billion
2001 $ 1.3 billion
2002 $ 1.5 billion
Having just returned from a ten day trip to Europe, I would have to very
much disagree with your statement that "they do not like to use "GM" oil
for their human food...". Via decades of success re incorporation of
soybean oil into their food products, we KNOW that they LIKE to use
soybean oil in foods. We also know from 1995-1997 sales of the biotech
tomato puree product in the UK that their CONSUMERS WILL HAPPILY PURCHASE
A PRODUCT WHICH WAS LABELED AS BIOTECH FROM THE FIRST DAY IT WENT ON SALE
(i.e., it quickly became the number one seller in its category).
However, many of their food manufacturers are SCARED of using it after the
labeling laws go into effect... because those laws enable TARGETING OF
THEIR FOOD PRODUCTS BY ANTI-BIOTECH ACTIVISTS (e.g., who come into stores
with television cameras, throw the products on the floor & destroy them,
etc... until the store manager comes out/pleads with them, and states on
TV that he will never sell such "GMO" products again). Then, having
driven all "GMO" products off the market... the activists tell the next
reporter they meet that they WANT GMO-LABELING FOR CONSUMER CHOICE (having
just made sure that consumers WON'T get the choice of biotech food
More on Public Domain vs. Private Control
- Jerry Cayford
The word "democracy" means control by the people. It is worth keeping this
in mind when reading Andrew Apel's June 6 reply to my note "Heart of the
Opposition to Biotechnology: Concentration of the Control," because he
repeatedly equates control by the people with communism.
In response to my claim that biotech critics are concerned about the
diminishing public domain, Apel equates such public ownership with
"Soviet-style control where germplasm is 'collectively owned' by the
proletariat," and says that "most groups opposed to biotechnology prefer a
neo-Soviet model of ownership." There is no call for smears like these
against biotech critics. A vigorous public domain is a requirement of
democracy, and this argument has nothing to do with communism.
Apel writes about the control of germplasm resting with farmers or seed
developers or governments or multinational treaties, as if these were all
basically the same, just different groups of people. He ends saying
biotech corporations currently have control, and "Some people want to take
that [control] away and give it to someone else. That's all." At this
level of generality, I suppose that's true. By the same token, though, the
difference between a police state and a democracy is just one group versus
another having control. And when land reform movements arise in banana
republics, opposing ownership of all the land by two or three families,
those movements could be described as "some people want to take that
[land] away and give it to someone else. That's all." This level of
abstraction hides all the important differences.
Apel says, "biotechnology has greatly increased the value of
germplasm,"and infers it is right that "that value is now controlled by
those who have created that value--biotech corporations." To counter this
exaggerated view of the contribution of biotechnology, I recommend a
comparison in Prakash's article "The Genetically Modified Crop Debate in
the Context of Agricultural Evolution" (available at
http://www.aspb.org/publications/plantphys/gmcpub.cfm). In a striking
picture (Figure 2), Prakash shows modern corn next to wild maize. Wild
maize looks like a twig, and about as appetizing. The development of the
germplasm all the way from that twig to modern corn was accomplished in
the public domain by generations of farmers. The contribution of
biotechnolgy is very modest by comparison, but it is the whole value of
the germplasm that utility patents are transferring from the public domain
to biotech corporations.
The only flat out mistake of fact in Apel's note is this claim: "There is
no reason to believe that biotechnology introduces a new variable into
this situation." From this and emails I have received, I gather that some
plant scientists are not aware of the legal background that is driving the
The new variable that biotechnology introduces is utility patents on
plants and animals. Until 1980, when the Supreme Court's controversial 5
to 4 decision in Diamond v. Chakrabarty granted a utility patent on a
genetically engineered bacterium, living things were not considered
patentable subject matter. In 1985, the US PTO extended that decision from
microorganisms to plants, and in 1987 to animals. This is what is new with
GM. As Apel says, "The big problems arise when people try to change the
pattern of control." These patent policy changes came with biotechnology,
and the big problems they are causing constitute the GM food debate.
- Chris Preston"
I believe that we would be generally in agreement that GM crops should be
considered on a case-by-case basis. This view recognises that there is
nothing intrinsically dangerous about GM technology, it is the way that
the technology is deployed that matters. In this light the recent posting
on Agbioview "Geneticists Aim for Dream Lawns: Weed-resistant grass could
hit market next year" made me sit up.
I have been following the progress of glyphosate-tolerant creeping
bentgrass for some time, but always considered that sanity might prevail
over its release. If the report is to believed, I have been mistaken.
Creeping bentgrass is a widely used turfgrass, particularly beloved by
golf courses. It is also a widely dispersed weed and can be troublesome in
some areas, although rarely in annual cropping enterprises.
I am not concerned about the deployment of GM for "recreational" uses.
Although, I am sure there would be some interesting stories in the papers
about parents being advised to keep children indoors so they don't get
"contaminated" by playing on the lawn, The British Open declaring it will
only be played on GM-free courses, and so on. Personally, I would be one
of the first to line up for a GM lawn grass that requires less mowing. I
am not even greatly concerned that the grass is resistant to herbicides.
Indeed golf courses currently spend a lot of money on herbicides and
providing a cheaper and more environmentally benign option would be a
great benefit. I believe the Friends of the Earth are being apocalyptic in
their pronouncements of instant disaster.
So what is there to be worried about? The concern is about use by home
gardeners. Many home gardeners use glyphosate products regularly for the
management of weeds including for creeping perennials. Such use is a major
contributor to herbicide sales, even in Australia. At present most home
gardeners who use herbicides stick to the relatively benign glyphosate.
Home gardeners might like the idea of glyphosate-tolerant creeping
bentgrass in their lawn, but would want to control it when it got into
paths, paving and garden beds.
When farmers have RoundupReady soybeans or RoundupReady canola growing in
the wrong place they simply use an alternative herbicide or mixture to
control them. However, home gardeners do not have the same luxury. They
have a limited collection of herbicides to choose from and the options
available are generally inefective for controlling glyphosate-tolerant
creeping bentgrass. Therefore, I am not convinced that this is a good use
- Dr. Christopher Preston, Senior Lecturer in Weed Management, University
The Biased BBC Questionnaire
- Owen McShane
BBC's essay which followed the questions also contained serious errors
too. They claim that individuals or companies can invent; they cannot.
Only individuals can invent but they can assign their inventions to a
company which can then own the patent. And so on.
I found several questions impossible to answer also. For example, "Do I
trust scientists to tell the truth about GM?" I had to answer no because
some of the biggest lies about GM are told by 'scientists' who are anti
Also the question about the Government of Madagascar seemed to suggest
that by just discovering a gene one could patent or otherwise own the
gene. This is contrary to my experience. There must be an act of invention
either of invention or of a process of manufacture. the question about the
sale of my genes is impossible to answer because it depends on the rights
of ownership. No one should be able to buy or sell my own genes without my
consent. But if chose to then I should be able to sell my own genes - even
someone wants them. The power of consent is the issue.
>> * BBC's Biotech Questionnaire
On Insect Resistance to GM
- Lance Kennedy, Tantec
I am still pondering the question of supposed resistance developing to GM,
such as the Bt modification. I am aware that this resistance has developed
in the past in certain insect pests to 'organic' sprays, but as far as I
am aware, never to GM crops. Am I correct? If so, perhaps we should ask
for 'organic' agriculture to be banned because of the threat it carries to
I would like to ask again, what is the mechanism by which resistance is
supposed to develop against the Bt gene in crops such as GM cotton? I
cannot understand how it could, unless genetic variation between
individual plants leads to a substantial difference in the amount of Bt
pre-toxin expressed. Is this so? Could someone please enlighten me?
Response From Prakash:
Rick Roush further enlighten us on this below. As I posted earlier, insect
resistance under commercial growing conditions has only occurred after
repeated and intensive use of Bt sprays. The best example is the
adaptation by diamondback moth in Hawaii. The following references are
Roush, R.T. 1994. Managing pests and their resistance to Bacillus
thuringiensis: can transgenic crops be better than sprays? Biocontrol
Science and Technology. 4: 501-516.
Shelton, et al. 1993. Resistance of diamondback moth (Lepidoptera:
Plutellidae) to Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies in the field. Journal of
Economic Entomology 86(3): 697-705.
Tabashnik, B. E et al. 1990. Field development of resistance to Bacillus
thuringienis in diamondback moth (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae). Journal of
Economic Entomology 83(5) 1671-1676
Regarding the mechanism of resistance, my understanding is that, insect
can develop resistance to Bt by developing alternate receptors so that the
existing receptor protein would not be able to bind to it and thus evade
action by Bt. Go to http://www.icgeb.org/biosafety/bsfdata3.htm for the
ICGEB/bsf-ID: 3711. (Update: 15/05/2003). Long-term regional suppression
of pink bollworm by Bacillus thuringiensis cotton. Carriere,et al. (2003).
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of
America vol. 100 (4) p.1519-1523
More From: Rick Roush
As well outlined by Prakash, resistance to Bt sprays is widespread in the
diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella. These sprays have been used in both
organic and conventional farming. By virtue of the fact that organic farms
still constitute only a small percentage of production, most of the
selection has occurred on conventional farms. Still, I note that no
activist organisation to my knowledge has ever made any effort to push for
resistance management for Bt sprays, despite the ramifications of
resistance to organic growers. I should add that this is despite efforts
by at least myself to get organisations like the Union of Concerned
Scientists interested in the problem. I interpret this to mean that
activists are not seriously concerned about Bt, despite their public
comments and lawsuits, but are interested in resistance only as an issue
to attack transgenic crops.
Although resistance has not yet evolved to commercial transgenic crops in
the field (see for example, Carriere et al. 2003), resistant diamondback
moths selected by Bt sprays can survive on Bt transgenic crops (e.g., Metz
et al. 1995, Zhao et al. 2000) and Bt resistant pink bollworms can survive
on Bt cotton (see Carriere et al. 2003 for earlier citations). Further,
when Bt resistance in diamondback moths is initially incorporated into
experimental populations at low frequencies, it has been selected with Bt
crops in the lab (e.g., Tang et al. 2001) and small scale field trials
with experimental broccoli (Shelton et al 2000).
In sum, there is no reason to believe that resistance to Bt cannot evolve
to Bt crops. Given the history of evolution of resistance to other
pesticides among the pests targeted by Bt crops, it is only prudent to
implement practices to delay resistance. Such tactics have been developed
and implemented (e.g., Roush 1997a. 1997b, 1998, Shelton et al. 2002).
There are several potential mechanisms for resistance against the Bt gene,
but the general type most commonly found so far involves reduced binding
of the Bt Cry protein to the insect gut due to a loss or reduction in
activity of binding sites (aka receptors). In at least some cases, this is
due to a missense truncation mutation in a cadherin (e.g., Gahan, L. J.,
Gould, F. & Heckel, D. G. (2001) Science 293, 857-860). Although there are
substantial differences in the amount of Bt pre-toxin expressed between
individual plants, selection occurs because the resistance mechanism
allows survival of the insects even across a range of expression levels in
Carriere, Y., C. Ellers-Kirk, M. Sisterson, L. Antilla, M. Whitlow, T. J.
Dennehy, and B. E. Tabashnik. 2003. Long-term regional suppression of pink
bollworm by Bacillus thuringiensis cotton. PNAS 100: 1519-1523.
Metz, T. D., R. T. Roush, J. D. Tang, A. M. Shelton, and E. D. Earle.
1995. Transgenic broccoli expressing a Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal
crystal protein: implications for pest resistance management strategies.
Mol. Breeding 1: 309-317.
Roush, RT 1997a. Bt-transgenic crops: just another pretty insecticide or a
chance for a new start in resistance management? Pesticide Science 51:
Roush, R. T. 1997b. Managing Resistance to Transgenic Crops. pp. 271-294,
in Advances in Insect Control: The Role of Transgenic Plants, N. Carozzi
and M. Koziel, eds. Taylor and Francis (London)
Roush, R. T. 1998. Two toxin strategies for management of insecticidal
transgenic crops: Can pyramiding succeed where pesticide mixtures have
not? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B,
Biological Sciences 353: 1777-1786
Shelton, A. M., J. D. Tang, R. T. Roush, T. D. Metz and E. D. Earle. 2000.
Field tests on managing resistance to Bt-engineered plants. Nature-Biotech
Shelton, A., Zhao, J., Roush, R. 2002. Economic, ecological, food safety,
and social consequences of the deployment of Bt transgenic plants. Annual
Rev. Entomology 47: 845-881.
Tang, J. D., H. L. Collins, T. D. Metz, E. D. Earle, J. Z. Zhao, R. T.
Roush, and A. M. Shelton. 2001. Greenhouse tests on resistance management
of Bt transgenic plants using refuge strategies. J. Econ. Entomol. 94:
Zhao, J. Z., H. L. Collins, J. D. Tang, J. Cao, E. D. Earle, S. Herrero,
B. Escriche, J. Ferré, R. T. Roush, and A. M. Shelton. 2000. Development
and characterization of diamondback moth resistance to transgenic broccoli
expressing high levels of Cry1C. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 66: 3784-3789.
Australian Capital Territory Bans Commercial GM crops
- Chris Preston
A snippet from the Canberra Times in Australia below. Before the anti-GM
groups get too excited about this development, it is important to point
out that the Australian Bureau of Statistics lists the estimated area in
the ACT sown to commercial crops as being zero for the period 1993-2000.
It is pretty easy to ban an industry that you don't have.
'COMMERCIAL GM CROPS FACE BAN Publication: The Canberra Times (p8,
Commercial genetically modified crops will be banned in the ACT for at
least three years. Health Minister Simon Corbell said the moratorium would
be reviewed annually and the ACT would negotiate with NSW, which was
considering a similar temporary ban, on the issue. The ACT's moratorium
would only cover commercial crops, and not be the broad ban recommended by
an Assembly committee.'
- TERRY HOPKIN-SUNDBY
As repeated time and again here -- copper sulphate accumulates in the
soil, because it stays there for up to a hundred years, unlike most other
pesticides which are out of the soil in a year or two.
Russian Academic: Genetically Modified Food Is Not Harmful
- Pravda, June 17, 2003 http://newsfromrussia.com (Sent by Andy Apel)
GM crops have been grown for the last twenty years but in that time nobody
has managed to prove that 'improved foodstuffs' are harmful to people's
health. This was announced yesterday by Alexander Panin, an academic at
the Russian Academy of Agricultural Science, at the international
conference Genetically modified foodstuffs: assessment of safety,
legislation and marketing. He added 'GM foodstuffs are completely harmless
according to contemporary research.'
According to Mr Panin there are now 60 million hectares of land in the
world where genetically modified crops are grown. 66% of this land in the
US and 21% in Argentina. American farmers supply 77.7 million tonnes of
genetically modified soy to the world market every year and 12 million
tonnes are exported to EU countries. In Russia, however, GM crops are
still not grown. 'Admittedly, we do have seven trial fields already
cordoned off by barbed wire,' Mr Panin conceded.
Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Science Lev Ernst
shares Mr Panin's enthusiasm. 'We destroyed genetics in the forties, then
we destroyed cybernetics and as a result we are fifty years behind the
rest of the world in these areas,' he said.
(From Prakash: Hah!... We certainly live in interesting times! Pravda
tells the truth now while The Guardian and BBC have taken over its role
with their continued biased propaganda !)
Co-existence of GM and Non-GM crops: Economic and Market Perspectives
Graham Brookes, Agricultural Biotechnology Council, UK
The use of the technology of genetic modification (GM) in European
agriculture and the food supply chain continues to be controversial. Due
to strong anti-GM technology sentiments, the use of ingredients derived
from GM crops have largely been eliminated from foods manufactured for
direct human consumption by the food supply chain in much of the European
Union (EU) and been removed from a minority of animal feeds used in the
EU's livestock production sectors . A de facto moratorium on the
regulatory approval of new GMOs in the EU has also operated since 1998.
As new legislation designed to meet concerns expressed about the use of GM
crops approaches finalisation (eg, relating to labelling and
traceability), one of the main subjects of current debate is the economic
and market implications of GM and non GM crops being grown in close
proximity (ie, co-existing). This paper examines these issues from an
economic perspective drawing on existing evidence and market developments.
What is co-existence? Co-existence as an issue relates to 'the economic
consequences of adventitious presence of material from one crop in another
and the principle that farmers should be able to cultivate freely the
agricultural crops they choose, be it GM crops, conventional or organic
crops' (EU Commission 2003).
Adventitious presence of one crop with another can arise for a variety of
reasons. These include seed impurities, cross pollination, volunteers
(self sown plants derived from seed from a previous crop), from seed
planting equipment and practices, harvesting and storage practices
on-farm, transport, storage and processing post farmgate.
Download the full report at
But Scientists Are the Ones Who Said...
- Thomas DeGregori, June 16, 2003
Those who promote an anti-modern agenda have a number of glib retorts that
often carry the crowd in a debate -- even when they don't have the facts
on their side. Some of these retorts are repeated so often that they seem
to be part of a Luddite catechism for the believers. Many of these pithy
pronouncements concern the alleged earlier sins of scientists and
engineers or their creations.
One campaigner, Michael Hansen (who was active in the effort to prevent
Zambians receiving transgenic food --as though the starving are better
dead than biotech-fed), has proclaimed that "genetic engineering today is
the equivalent of nuclear energy in the 1960s." Of course, he may be more
right than he realizes, since every risk analysis has shown nuclear power
to be the safest way to generate electricity.
Another ploy is to respond to any current technology that is producing
obvious benefits to humanity by comparing it to the pesticide DDT and how
useful it seemed until we learned of its many dangers. A brief
genuflection to Rachel Carson at this juncture is seen as enough to close
the case in spite of the fact that forty years after the publication of
Silent Spring, there has yet to be any evidence of harm to humans from DDT
but plenty of evidence of harm to humans from not using DDT, evidence that
often comes in the form of children dying from malaria.
Every Drug Is the Next Thalidomide
Then there is always thalidomide, as in the sarcastic claim that x, y, or
z "was brought to you by the folks who gave us thalidomide." This tragic
but unique mishap-- birth defects caused by a drug used to fight morning
sickness-- is used to deny the worth of any modern pharmaceutical or
advance in life sciences, including biotechnology, and to impugn the
integrity of an entire industry and profession. It matters little that
Ciba, the only major pharmaceutical company that had anything to do with
thalidomide, found it of no value and gave up on it without any further
testing. Thalidomide was picked up and marketed in 1954 by a German soap
and detergent manufacturer that decided to enter the pharmaceutical market
after World War II. Thalidomide was also licensed for the Commonwealth
countries to a British firm whose main business was selling distilled
alcoholic beverages. Thalidomide is such a powerful all-purpose image that
it is also used to discredit the regulatory process.
The anti-transgenic agriculture activists generally claim that g.m. crops
are not regulated. When that is shown to be blatantly false, the sarcastic
fallback claim is that it is regulated in the same way that thalidomide
was. Unanswered, this is once again a winner. In fact, though, the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration never approved thalidomide for any use
whatsoever (thanks to the research efforts of Dr. Francis Kelsey). In
addition, there were changes in the law mandating the type of animal
testing that would have found thalidomide to be teratogenic, but don't
tell the animal rights folks that, since they are at pains to deny it.
Further weakening the anti-chemical activists' case is the fact that the
verycharacteristics that made thalidomide (or more accurately, its
enantiomer) teratogenic make it a possible antiangiogenesis drug for
treating forms of cancer and other diseases (as long as it isn't given to
pregnant women). But who wants the tough job of rehabilitating
thalidomide's public relations status?
Dreaming of a Risk-Free Testing Regime
Unfortunately, slogans such as the "folks who brought you thalidomide"
obscure very serious questions in need of discussion. How rigorous should
testing requirements be, and for how long do they need to be carried out?
The more rigorous the testing and the longer they are conducted, the lower
the risk of unwanted side effects -- but that also means a greater loss of
life or increase in human suffering from delaying the release of good,
safe drugs. In other words, we will always have to weigh risk versus risk
as there are no risk-free options.
Ironically, the Europeans--who have latched onto the "precautionary
principle" since it suits their protectionist impulses--have long been
critics of the U.S. FDA for not placing enough emphasis on the human cost
of delaying approval of pharmaceuticals. In the 1980s, there were often
learned discussions on TV and elsewhere about a promising new treatment
for AIDS followed by the caveat that it would not be fully tested and
ready for distribution for x number of years. This led activists to run
full-page newspaper ads demanding to be "guinea pigs" for the new drugs.
After all, AIDS was viewed as a certain death sentence at that time, so
why worry about long term consequences? Recognizing these factors, there
have been some regulatory changes such as fast track approval, but there
should be an ongoing discussion of these regulatory issues, and it should
not be obscured by mindless slogans.
The real question should be whether most people prefer to be treated with
the pharmaceuticals currently available to us and or those of fifty years
or any past period. No testing procedure, no matter how rigorous will
identify all possible long-term harmful side effects, so the
pharmaceuticals that we have today have come to us at a human price over
the preceding decades, and there will no doubt be some mistakes as more
progress is made. If we prefer the treatment potential of modern medicine
and its technology and pharmacopoeia, then we always have to weigh
thebenefits against the cost of obtaining them. Once again, it is risk
versus risk, and most reasonable people would opt for the present rather
than erase all past drug trials and in the process erase the benefits and
costs alike. Those who deny the benefits of modernity have to explain why
it is that we now live so long and have so many years free of
We Haven't Had Time to Evaluate G.M. Foods!
One of the cleverest anti-science retorts is that g.m. foods, for example,
have not been around long enough for us to "really" know whether or not
they are safe. Therefore, we should have a moratorium on their use. Note
the illogic of this argument. It is not how long something "has been
around" but whether or not it has been used that will decide its long-term
safety. Call a moratorium on its use and we will never have any long-term
data on its safety. Of course, no matter how long a product was safely
used, no matter how many people safely used it, no matter how rigorously
it was tested, and regardless of whether there was ever any reason to
expect it to be other than safe, it will never be enough for some critics.
The anti-g.m. forces do not have a single scientist who would be
considered a leading member of his or her profession, someone whose work
forms the foundation of the research efforts of others, or someone whose
writing is routinely-required reading in graduate science programs in
leading universities. They have a pitifully small number of scientists,
some with advanced degrees but few if any known for work other than their
activism. In fact, in my entire adult life, never have I been involved in
an issue or even observed an issue in which the scientific community was
so nearly unanimous in its support for (or at least lack of opposition to)
a new technology. But this