Today in AgBioView: June 27, 2003:
* Borlaug urges shift to gene revolution
* Clashes smaller but sharper; tab could exceed $2 million
* Royal Society president accuses Meacher of twisting facts to suit case
against GM foods
* Swiss reject GM moratorium
* Egypt keen on GM Food
* African Farmers Need and Want Access to Biotechnology
* Risks of Conventional Farming
* Government Destroys Genetically Modified Maize
* Vilsack: Biocrops crucial
* Californian Food Fight
* Purdue genetic discovery may aid plants and human medicine
* Biotechnology has ‘growth potential’ in Europe
* Tuskegee Hosts Biotechnology Workshop for State's Teachers
* "Co-Founder of Greenpeace Argues Against Enviro's Approach to Forest
Borlaug urges shift to gene revolution
Western Farm Press
June 25, 2003
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Nobel Peace Laureate Norman Borlaug says the 21st
Century challenge to agriculture will be producing sufficient supplies of
food to sustain the world’s continued population growth “The world has the
technology, either available or well-advanced in the research pipeline, to
feed 10 billion people,” said Borlaug, who delivered the keynote address
during the second day of the Ministerial Conference and Expo on
Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento.
“Extending the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution will provide a
better diet at lower prices to many more food-insecure people.”
Agricultural scientists have the ability to meet this challenge through
continued research and development of technology, including biotechnology,
that can expand the yield potential of crops to improve resistance to
insects and disease, resistance to herbicides, nutritional quality and
But Borlaug said that some of the organizations that are influencing
public policy are impeding research with fears that are unfounded in light
of extensive scientific research. The results are regulation that has
constrained innovation, especially in smaller laboratories, as well as a
significant decline in funding for public sector research from the World
Bank and many bilateral donors.
He also questioned the rapid consolidation of ownership of life sciences
companies and the current intellectual property system.
The Green Revolution of the 1960s, the creation of high-yield crops and
more efficient farming methods, saved millions from starvation and
advanced conservation of the environment, he noted.
The production of cereals, such as wheat, maize or rice, which comprise 70
percent of the world food supply, has increased from 650 million tons in
1950 to 1.9 billion tons in 2000. During this same period, the land area
under cultivation for cereals remained steady at 660 million hectares,
sparing 1.1 billion hectares from being plowed at 1950 yield levels.
While poverty is still rampant in Asia, Borlaug said Africa remains the
region of greatest concern. Declining soil fertility and sparse
application of improved technology, coupled with the lack of roads and
transport, poor education and health services, high population growth even
with the spread of HIV/AIDS, has led to continued chronic hunger for 200
million people in Sub-Saharan Africa and portends an unprecedented
Borlaug’s leading research achievement was to hasten the perfection of
dwarf spring wheat. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work
in the developing world, primarily for reversing the food shortages that
had plagued India and Pakistan during the 1960s.
Since 1986, Borlaug has been the President of the Sasakawa Africa
Association, an international Extension program to increase farm
production in Africa, and the leader of the Sasakawa-Global 2000
agricultural program in sub-Saharan Africa. Borlaug has also been the
Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M
University since 1984.
For additional information on the Ministerial Conference, visit:
Clashes smaller but sharper; tab could exceed $2 million
By Dorothy Korber and Mike Bush
June 25, 2003
For the third straight day, downtown Sacramento was an armed camp Tuesday,
as a roving band of protesters skirmished with police.
Meanwhile, the costs of providing security for a controversial conference
continued to mount.
Sacramento Police Chief Albert Najera Jr. estimated his department's costs
at more than $750,000 -- a third of that for overtime pay. For the
California Highway Patrol, expenses probably will exceed $1 million,
according to Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick.
Add to that costs for sheriff's deputies, firefighters, paramedics and
city workers, and the price tag for state and local taxpayers likely will
climb well above $2 million, officials estimated.
"We don't have a choice," Najera said. "We have to police it."
The focus of all this attention is the three-day international Ministerial
Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology, held in the
Sacramento Convention Center and hosted by the U.S. government.
The conference, which ends today, has spawned days of protest by activists
who object to genetically modified food and the role of American big
business in agriculture around the globe.
On Sunday and Monday, mass demonstrations closed downtown streets and
brought a carnival atmosphere to the capital. The tenor of the protests
changed Tuesday, with a much smaller core of about 100 determined
activists engaging in more aggressive confrontations with police.
"The numbers are less, but the passion is higher," Najera said.
Around 11 a.m., police confronted the group of protesters in front of the
Convention Center. About 15 demonstrators sat down in the intersection at
J and 14th streets, their arms linked. A Sacramento police officer, using
a bullhorn, ordered them several times to get back on the sidewalk or risk
As soon as the protesters stood up and moved back to the sidewalk,
officers rushed in and made two arrests.
For a few minutes chaos ensued, as dozens of police on foot -- some
brandishing Taser guns -- and about 10 others on horseback pushed the
demonstrators back into police barricades. A handful of people received
electric shocks from the guns.
"The police trapped the crowd," said one protest organizer, a writer who
asked to be identified as Starhawk. "There was nowhere to go."
Throughout the day, police clearly outnumbered demonstrators, many of whom
said they felt intimidated.
June West, a Humboldt State University student, was one of those hurt in
the fracas. She said she was "sandwiched between bicycle cops and riot
cops with Tasers. Behind them were the horses." West said she lost "a
chunk of skin" from her leg when she was pushed into a police bicycle.
A little later, three more protesters were arrested after police advised
the crowd it was an illegal assembly. "Let them go! Let them go!" chanted
their companions, who then decided to march to the county jail to demand
the release of everyone arrested since the protests began on Sunday.
After walking around the jail, the demonstrators stood in front of the
building for nearly an hour. Gradually, the tension eased. Sandwiches and
cold water materialized, distributed by other activists. At the same time,
police personnel supplied bottles of water to officers on the street.
When the demonstrators left the jail at Sixth and I streets, hundreds of
police officers forced them to walk to the protest "Welcome Center" at
12th and C streets. Officers blocked intersections, allowing no one to
leave the prescribed route. At one point, the demonstrators stopped
walking but immediately were threatened with arrest.
Later in the day, the focus turned to the site of the former Mandella
Community Gardens, where 14 had been arrested Sunday night.
When demonstrators arrived at the site shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, they
found it ringed by sheriff's deputies -- with scores of Sacramento police
and California Highway Patrol officers standing ready nearby.
The same 100 demonstrators began a noisy but peaceful march around the
site, chanting "Let the gardens grow," and "I don't see no riot here --
take off all that stupid gear."
The crowd eventually dissipated, with no arrests.
Overall, only 10 arrests were made Tuesday, police said, bringing the
total for the three days to 75.
"The low number of arrests will save us money in the long run," Chief
Najera said. "Our highest overtime cost is our officers' court time."
At the protest Welcome Center, several demonstrators complained they were
hassled or arrested by police for wearing bandannas and carrying protest
signs on wooden stakes. They said police cited a new Sacramento city
ordinance that restricts what protesters can wear and carry in a parade.
The law, passed on an emergency basis last week, calls for signs only of
cloth, paper or cardboard no thicker than a quarter inch. Signposts have
to be less than a quarter inch thick and its ends cannot be pointed.
The ordinance also prohibits protesters from wearing gas masks or other
filtering devices over their faces -- though exactly what the provision
was intended to refer to remains unclear.
Deputy City Manager Richard Ramirez said the city's ordinance does not
prohibit the bandannas that some of the protesters have been wearing over
their faces this week.
Not all the protest action was focused on Sacramento Tuesday. In Davis,
three protesters locked themselves to a DNA sculpture in a science
building at the University of California, Davis. Two of them dangled by
ropes from a stairway.
Firefighters from Davis and Sacramento managed to extricate the three, who
were then arrested.
Royal Society president accuses Meacher of twisting facts to suit case
against GM foods
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
26 June 2003
The president of the Royal Society, the national academy of sciences,
lambasted the former environment minister Michael Meacher yesterday for
putting his own spin on the safety of GM food.
Lord May of Oxford, a former chief scientific adviser to the Government,
said Mr Meacher had twisted the facts to suit the case against the
introduction of GM foods.
Lord May said that the former minister was guilty of distortion and an
ideological conviction, which had hampered an honest approach to the
science of GM. He was referring to an article Mr Meacher wrote in The
Independent on Sunday.
He said: "The recent newspaper articles by Mr Meacher appear to show an
ideological opposition to GM crops, and present a severely distorted
account of the scientific facts and uncertainties surrounding GM foods."
Mr Meacher quoted the Royal Society's report into GM crops to justify his
concerns. Lord May said: "By quoting very selectively from the Royal
Society report on GM plants published last year, Mr Meacher has also shown
that he is not averse to applying his own spin to the scientific evidence
"Although Mr Meacher refers to our report, he conspicuously fails to
mention its principal conclusion that there is no scientific reason to
doubt the safety of foods made from GM ingredients that are currently
available, nor to believe that genetic modification makes GM foods
inherently less safe than their conventional counterparts."
Mr Meacher said that the notion of "substantial equivalence", which
attempts to compare GM food with its non-GM alternative, was
"scientifically vacuous" because it did not take into account the
unpredictable nature of GM technology. But Lord May said substantial
equivalence was far from being scientifically vacuous. It was being
adopted by the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development.
He said: "The [Royal Society's] report pointed out that genetic
modification may be used in future to improve the quality of food, which
again Mr Meacher appears unwilling to acknowledge.
"Mr Meacher attempts to play up the uncertainties surrounding the
techniques of genetic modification. A balanced account would also have
pointed out that each act of conventional cross-breeding leads to the
shuffling of far greater numbers of genes in an uncontrolled way. It is
perhaps helpful that Mr Meacher has now made his ideological stance so
explicit, so that the public can judge for themselves his statements on GM
Mr Meacher was unavailable for comment.
* Mr Meacher was appointed vice-chairman of a left-wing think-tank that
has been critical of the Government. Catalyst describes itself as a
"campaigning think-tank for the Labour movement and the left ... committed
to the redistribution of wealth, power and opportunity".
Mr Meacher said yesterday: "An independent voice of radicalism within the
Labour movement is very much needed at the present time."
Swiss reject GM moratorium
June 25, 2003
The Swiss Parliament has rejected a moratorium on GM crops. The Lower
House voted to reject the moratorium by 77:70, reflecting an about-turn by
the Lower House to support the Upper House, which at the beginning of June
voted overwhelmingly against any moratorium by a majority of 29 to six
In May this year, the Lower House had originally voted in favour of a
moratorium (83:78). This led to the need to find a resolution between the
two Houses. Swiss parliamentary procedure dictates that both Houses must
reach consensus prior to decisions becoming law.
"We applaud this decision, which is a positive political move in Europe,"
said Simon Barber, director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio,
the European biotech industry body. "At long last, we are beginning to see
encouraging signals to support this important technology," he added.
His words would no doubt be echoed by US President George W. Bush who,
this week, renewed his criticism of European nations on Monday for
refusing to accept genetically modified foods, and contended the ban was
contributing to famine in Africa.
Speaking at a biotechnology conference in Washington this week, President
Bush commented:"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge
the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. We
should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the
fight against global hunger."
European countries, and crucially, European consumers, are concerned about
the safety of genetically modified foods. Since 1998 Europe has upheld a
moratorium on new GM crops - a position roundly criticised by the United
Egypt keen on GM Food
Though Europe and US are divided over the issue of GM Foods, Egypt has no
such confusion, at least at the top echelons in the power. Egypt is keen
to plant new biotech crops. The country would not also be against the
purchase of genetically modified wheat if the crop were commercialised in
Magdy Madkour, head of the ministry’s Agriculture Research Centre, who is
responsible for the introduction of agriculture biotechnology into Egypt,
said, “Let me reassure you that in our plan we are adopting
He also hopes to make a "presentation on public-private
partnership...involving the public sector from Egypt with the private
sector from US companies like Monsanto."
African Farmers Need and Want Access to Biotechnology
24 June 2003
(Panel touts potential of modern food technology for the continent)
By Sarah Bloxham
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- African farmers want access to biotechnology and they want
it now, according to African educators, scientists and farmers
participating on a panel at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's
annual convention in Washington, D.C. June 23.
"Access to modern food technology is critically important for African
families trying to grow their own food, especially during a three-year
drought in Africa that has drastically cut farm production and caused food
shortages or outright famine for 16 million people in 25 countries," said
Florence Wambugu, Kenyan scientist and founder of A Harvest Biotech
Members of the "Biotechnology and Developing Countries: Spotlight on
Africa" panel shared stories and statistics about how biotechnology can
help small farmers, and called on governments, both African and Western,
to make the technologies available.
"Using genetic tools to make crops more resistant to pests and weeds and,
in the future, more able to withstand drought or thrive in marginal soils,
can help improve productivity," said Wambugu. "And because this technology
is available in a seed, it can be useful to small-scale farmers who lack
machinery and access to other farm inputs."
South African farmer Thandiwe Myyeni began planting genetically modified
cotton in 1999. "Since I began to plant Bt cotton, I've been able to
increase production 30 to 50 percent on my 10 hectares and spend less time
working in the field," she said. "With my additional income, I've
remodeled my kitchen, purchased a new tractor and I'm able to spend more
time with my four children."
The panel also addressed the controversy surrounding the use of
biotechnology in Africa. "There has been a message to Africa that here is
a technology that can deliver, that can make a difference," said Wambugu.
"So the message is already there but the message has been received with
mixed reactions depending on the country."
She cautioned against interpreting Zambia's refusal of genetically
modified food aid as a sign that all Africans have rejected biotechnology
products. "It's not true. The reason it happened is because there is a
vacuum." According to Wambugu, the vacuum represents a lack of accurate
information about the science. "There is a need for information and
outreach," she said. "There is a need for investment" of time and energy
more than money.
Speaking for the farmers themselves, Peter Rammutla, president of the
National African Farmers Union, which represents 250,000 small-scale
farmers in South Africa, asked and answered a basic question. "Why are we
here? We are catching a moving train -- a moving train that is
globalization," he said. "Africa needs the opportunity to access this
technology and assess its potential."
"Friends from all over the world, including Europe, must understand that
Africa will not put up with hunger," he added.
"We hope that the positive experience the United States has had with
biotech crops encourages it to continue expanding those possibilities to
Africa, too," Wambugu said. She underscored the importance of education,
research and regulatory capacity in bringing more biotech crops to African
In seeming response to Wambugu's call, President Bush addressed the
Biotechnology Convention later in the day and echoed the need for sharing
technology as well as food. "Your industry is also helping this country
and the world to meet a second great challenge: sparing millions of people
from starvation," Bush told convention participants.
"America and other wealthy nations have a special responsibility to combat
hunger and disease in desperate lands," he said. "We meet that
responsibility with emergency food in times of crisis. But for the
long-term, we must help troubled nations to avert famine by sharing with
them the most advance methods of crop production."
Citing some benefits experienced by those who use agricultural
biotechnology, such as crop resistance to drought, pests, and disease and
greater yields per acre, Bush lamented, "Yet, the great advantages of
biotechnology have yet to reach developing nations in Africa and other
lands where these innovations are now most needed."
The message of the panel to the convention and beyond was best summarized
by Myyeni: "We, as small scale farmers, like to have access to this
technology because it is so helpful to us."
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Risks of Conventional Farming
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2003 13:30:56 -0500
I just got a hard lesson in the risks or conventional tillage. On my
wife's farms in west Texas where due to late installation of the drip
irrigation system the farmer was not able to get a cover crop of wheat up
to start the no-till cotton he had planed we just lost something over 300
acres of cotton in a large thunder storm from combined action of wind and
water on a stand of cotton that was 2 week old. I don't have picture of
that cotton but I do have pictures of conventional tillage and minimum
tillage cotton in Oklahoma (http://www.couger.com/farm). The clean field
of cotton was the only field the farmer saved on that planting becuse the
soil was very loose and dry because it was a plowed up alfalfa meadow and
he had work 3 or 4 extra times to get rid of the clods an the week of rain
did not water log the ground. All his fields were conventionally tilled.
The other field is either no-till or very minimum tillage and I don't know
if the farmer left the stand or not. I would have. About half of the no
I looked at that day looked good enough to keep to me and my dad's field
was the only conventional tillage field that looked fit to keep.
But that's not the point. The cotton my wife lost in west Texas was clean
tillage like the cotton on my dad's place in the picture on the left. Had
it been in no till like the cotton on the right. It would probably have
survived the storm becuse the trash on the ground would have kept the sand
from blowing and broken the force of the rain drops falling high speed.
Blowing sand is a problem in a very large part of the world. I can still
see the damage caused by the dust bowl of the 30's. The smaller the farmer
the worse the problem with blowing sand becuse he has limited means to
stop it from blowing. We have something 30 or 40 feet wide to fit every
tractor to fight sand and when the conditions are right we loose some
crops regardless what we do on conventional tilled crops.
Instead of cotton in west Texas that had the potential of grossing $1,350
per acre the farmer will plant a shorter season crop of milo or soybeans
that have the potential of $360 and acre gross. Soybeans are often
referred to as poverty peas in irrigated cotton country. They don't cost
much to raise but you sure don't make much. These crops are subject to
wind damage just as the cotton was until they get big enough to keep the
sand from blowing. On a sandy farm that can be pretty good sized. I have
seen the sand blow in cotton while I was harvesting it. The cotton wasn't
very good and it was a pretty strong norther but it gives you an idea of
the real problems of wind erosion.
The sand may not blow in the EU but it does in most of the rest of the
world. If you look at the rain fall maps and cropland maps of the world a
lot of the crop land is in simi arid and arid area that are at real risk
of desertification if famed using conventional methods. In west Texas the
rain fall is 20 inches per year and it is just on the very edge of land
that will produce dry-land crops and only becuse of monsoon rains in July
and August of 4 to 6 inches form the Gulf of California rather than the
rainfall pattern that affects the rest of the great plains.
It is not just the highly productive land that GM crops benefit but the
fragile lands at the edge of the desert may benefit more from no till than
anything we have ever done for farming.
The people that claim to be concerned about the environment should get out
in it and see what it is really like. Because from what they say about it
all they have seen is what they read in green literature.
Government Destroys Genetically Modified Maize
June 26, 2003
THE government has directed National Foods Limited to destroy all the
genetically modified (GMO) maize at the firm's plant in Bulawayo.
Livestock producers say the grain which is to be destroyed could be used
as stock-feed to save cattle in a region where nearly 50 000 cattle have
perished in Matabeleland South alone due to the drought.
The Financial Gazette is informed that since Monday, a total of about 3
000 tonnes of the GMO maize had by yesterday been dumped in several
disused mine shafts at Turk Mine. This has disappointed cattle farmers,
many of them peasants battling to source stock-feed. National Foods last
year won a multi-million dollar World Food Porgramme (WFP) contract to
mill 13 000 tonnes of GMO maize meal to feed hungry Zimbabweans.
Obert Mpofu, the governor and resident minister of Matabeleland North,
confirmed in an interview that the government had directed that the GMO
maize be destroyed. Mpofu said the state felt the residue was not even fit
as stock feed.
"It's an agreement between us (government), and National Foods.
"The GMO maize is being milled in a quarantined place as per the agreement
reached between us and the two parties in the deal. We will not allow that
stuff to be carelessly disposed off. GMO foods are not good for us
Africans," said Mpofu.
President Robert Mugabe reluctantly allowed WFP and other relief agencies
to distribute GMO maize meal owing to serious food shortages caused by
poor harvests blamed on the drought and the chaotic land reform.
About six million people in Zimbabwe are dependent on the food-hand-outs
mainly from WFP.
Farmers that spoke to this newspaper queried the government's decision not
to allow the farmers to acquire the destroyed GMO maize to feed cattle,
ostriches and other livestock.
Ian Kind, the managing director of National Foods, could not immediately
comment yesterday as he was said to be attending several meetings.
Sources at National Foods told this newspaper that the maize was being
transported to the disused mine shafts at Turk Mine by 10 30-tonner
"There is a local firm that won the contract to move and dispose the
stuff. The government does not want it to be fed to cattle or for it to
leak into fields," said a National Foods official.
"The government allowed WFP to feed hungry villagers with GMO maize meal,
why not allow us to feed our dying cattle with the maize which is very
good stuff for the animals. If the people are eating GMO maize, why not
the cattle," a farmer from Turk Mine who witnessed the dumping of the GMO
maize told this newspaper.
Mpofu expressed concern that farmers were now aware where the maize was
"In fact we wanted it to be a secret. I am surprised that they have
discovered it. No-one except the authorities is supposed to know where the
stuff is being destroyed because we don't want to contaminate our beef or
fields," said the governor.
"People might abuse the stuff and then we are in trouble. We don't like
these GMO foods and we are not alone in this in Africa," he said.
The refusal by the government to allow farmers to use GMO maize as stock
feed comes at time when the price of stock feed has gone up by 40 percent.
A 50-kilogrammes bag of cattle feed now costs $9 847 compared to $7 000 a
bag two weeks ago.
Zambia has refused relief agencies to ship in GMO maize.
Vilsack: Biocrops crucial
Des Moines Register
By PHILIP BRASHER
Washington, D.C. - Gov. Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that he isn't giving up
on making Iowa a leading producer of crops for pharmaceutical and
industrial products despite the qualms of the food industry.
"That's the future of our state," Vilsack told reporters at the
Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual convention, which wrapped up
Vilsack, who was using the convention to recruit biotech companies to
Iowa, said adequate regulations are needed to ensure that pharmaceutical
and industrial crops can be kept separate from corn intended for food and
"It doesn't seem to make sense that we would take the most productive
farmers in the world and say, "You can't play that game." We need to
figure out how they can play," Vilsack said.
The food industry's concerns about pharmaceutical and industrial crops
were heightened last year when a small biotech company called ProdiGene
was fined for improperly managing field trials of its crops in Iowa and
The Iowa incident was resolved by destroying a cornfield adjacent to the
test site. But in Nebraska, officials say bits of the ProdiGene corn
plants, which weren't approved for human consumption, contaminated 500,000
bushels of soybeans stored in a grain elevator. As part of its settlement
with the USDA last December, ProdiGene purchased the soybeans.
BIO, a trade industry organization, briefly imposed a moratorium on
growing pharmaceutical corn in the Midwest last fall only to back off
under pressure from Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of
the Senate Finance Committee.
No pharmaceutical corn is being grown in the state this year.
Vilsack envisions Iowa both growing and processing the crops, and he
arrived at the BIO 2003 convention with a significant enticement for
biotech companies - a new $503 million business development fund.
The state has yet to sort out the exact incentives that will be offered to
companies, but Vilsack had meetings scheduled with representatives of six
firms. He declined to identify the companies.
"To see this kind of commitment from a state like Iowa is probably an
eye-opening experience for the state development teams that were at this
convention," said Patrick Kelly, BIO's vice president for state government
Michigan set up a $1 billion fund for biotech companies three years ago,
using its share of the national tobacco settlement, but has since had to
scale back because of the economy, Kelly said.
Money isn't the only thing companies are seeking. Vilsack said one firm
wanted a "regulatory tweak," but he would not elaborate.
"Every company is going to come through with a different set of issues,"
Federal officials, meanwhile, told convention delegates they are
considering tighter rules on pharmaceutical and industrial crops.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture tightened planting rules for
pharmaceutical crops and will soon order companies to get permits for
growing crops that are engineered to make industrial products.
The Food and Drug Administration is deciding whether it needs to issue a
rule requiring the seizure of food products that are contaminated with
crops that haven't been approved for food use.
It would "make clear our authority to take action if we find material in
food that is not supposed to be there," said Eric Flamm, a senior science
adviser at FDA.
Corn can be genetically manipulated to produce a wide range of proteins
for the production of medicines and vaccines. The grain is easy to grow
Californian Food Fight
By Kevin Beckman
June 26, 2003
For five days, radical leftists throughout the country converged on
Sacramento, California, to protest the International Ministerial
Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology, sponsored by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agriculture ministers from over
100 WTO nations gathered to discuss the latest advances in biotechnology
and how these techniques can be used to feed the 800 million starving
people of the Third World. But now that the war in Iraq is over, the
radical Left saw the Conference as an opportunity to get their old
comrades together again. These radicals sought to portray themselves to
the media as a collection of harmless, homespun, grassroots activists
concerned about small farmers and the poor. After spending three days
embedded with these people, I found out the reality: they were a motley
crew of anarchists, socialists, and well-paid activists.
The Sacramento Ag Expo was held from June 23-25 but the protestors had
been trickling in for months. At the end of May, the anti-capitalist
Ruckus Society came to Sacramento to provide "lessons" in left-wing
activism. The Ruckus Society receives its generous funding from the Ben &
Jerry's Foundation and the Turner Foundation. The Society's Founder, John
Sellers, believes "Anarchism has gotten a really bad rap, like communism."
I presume he also believes eco-terrorism has gotten a bad rap, since the
Society has also provided training for the Earth Liberation Front, the
number one domestic terrorist group. The protestors' website provides a
complete list of their sponsors many of whom set up their own tables at
the rally on the Capitol steps. The sponsors included the
Communist-dominated Code Pink and Global Exchange, the FMLN apologists of
the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador and the SHARE
Foundation; Direct Action to Stop the War!, whose website issued a thinly
veiled call for sabotage once the war in Iraq began; Revolution Books, the
fund raising arm of the Revolutionary Communist Party; and Students for
Justice in Palestine. The front page of the Bee the next morning showed
representatives of these groups being cuffed by officers.
The group split into four different teams: fire, air, earth, and water --
how environmentally friendly! These groups tried to keep ahead of the
police. Black masked anarchists broke off and tagged buildings and streets
with graffiti, broke windows, rolled dumpsters down the road, and hurled
rotten fruit and light bulbs filled with paint at police officers. Several
activists gathered at Mandella Garden, which had been sold to developers
last year, and proclaimed their intention to "take it back for the
people." They locked themselves together with steel piping, which had to
be sawed off by police and firefighters. An anarchist who called himself
"Snap Shoe" spoke to the police through his megaphone: "Put down your
badges, nightsticks, and guns, and join the revolution."
Monday, June 23, was the day of the formal protest rally on the steps of
the Capitol building. I showed up an hour early and saw everyone putting
up their tables and kiosks. Two young men dressed all in black arrived
from Revolution Books with several boxes worth of communist literature.
They also offered the writings of convicted murderers Leonard Peltier and
H. Rap Brown, alongside the obligatory "Free Mumia" merchandise. United
for Peace and Justice had their own table as well, as did several of the
local Green Party chapters. Two elderly looking men sold "Dennis Kucinich
for President" signs. And of course, no protest would be complete without
costumed pageantry: my friends from Sunday, dressed as tomatoes and corn
cobs, put on a song and dance show for the local media with their
colleagues, who wore butterfly costumes. The fashion of choice highlighted
tie-dyed or Che Guevara-emblazoned t-shirts. One woman I saw wore a red
cloak which declared "Seattle: what protests ought to be." I gathered an
armful of the free literature which included the latest issue of People's
Weekly World, the official news weekly of the Communist Party, USA.
The speakers were mostly incoherent; they rambled endlessly about
everything from the presidential election of 2000, to how a free market in
food will lead to mass starvation, to "U.S. imperialism" and other
generalized anti-capitalist rants. My personal favorite was a young woman
who called herself Mother Corn: "My children existed long before you
humans discovered us and we have fed you for thousands of years! But now
you are polluting our land and splicing our genes!" The young man next to
me, in the Frankenstein's monster outfit, roared his approval.
The protestors obtained a permit for up to 8,000 people, but police
estimate only 1,500 people showed up. (The protestors naturally claimed
twice that number.) Once the scheduled speakers finished, the crowd
prepared for their march. I decided to follow the Black Bloc Anarchists.
What struck me about this crowd was how very few of them were actually
from Sacramento. They were completely unfamiliar with the layout of the
city and unaware the authorities were herding them in a big circle around
the capitol building. When we got back to where we started from, the
Anarchists were furious. They rushed to the nearest police officers and
began shouting things like, "F*** you fascist pig! Oink oink! Eat s*** and
A group of kids who called themselves "Mud People" caked themselves from
head to toe in red clay, stripped off their clothes, and sat in the
street, blocking traffic. When the police attempted to arrest them, some
took off running and some climbed trees. I think the entire city breathed
a sigh of relief when they were finally caught and forced to cover up with
blankets. In all, about seventy people were arrested. Although the
protestors claimed to believe in non-violence, the anarchists must not
have gotten the memo: police confiscated several Molotov cocktails and
sharpened wooden sticks, presumably to be used as spears. CHP Chief D.O.
"Spike" Helmick was hit on the arm by a light bulb filled with sulfuric
By Tuesday, the protests degenerated into greater farce. These groups were
smaller than the groups that had marched on Monday, but they were more
passionate. There were several tense moments: protestors locked arms and
sat in the street again. When they finally moved, the police rushed in to
make some arrests. The protestors quickly surrounded them and pressed in,
shouting "Let them go!" The police were forced to use tasers on several of
them to move them back. The biggest group or marchers walked to the local
jailhouse to express their "solidarity" with their comrades who were then
being arraigned. I later heard from a police officer that a lawyer entered
the jailhouse and informed them that his clients had a Constitutional
right to a vegan meal.
The theme of the Ag Expo was using science and technology to ease world
hunger. Thanks to advances in biotechnology, genetically modified seeds
often require fewer pesticides and boost crop yields, thus reducing the
acreage needed for farming. It allows farming in marginal soil, which
would normally be unusable. Agricultural cross-breeding has been the norm
for literally thousands of years. Today, 34 percent of U.S. corn is
genetically modified, as are 78 percent of U.S. soybeans and most of the
produce available at your local grocery store. Two decades worth of
experience with gene-spliced crops has not shown any injury to any
individual, nor any significant damage to eco-systems. The AgBio World
Foundation has collected the signatures of 3,200 international scientists
for its Declaration of Support of Agricultural Biotechnology, including
twenty Nobel Laureates. "Golden Rice," bio-fortified with beta-carotene
from daffodils has been given to Third World farmers. Thjs has the power
to prevent anemia and the Vitamin A deficiency which blinds hundreds of
thousands of Third World children. But the neo-Luddites of the
environmentalist movement have made up their minds.
National Review's Deroy Murdock tells the story of Kenyan agronomist Dr.
Florence Wambugu. She spent three years working with the Monsanto company
developing a virus-resistant sweet potato that she said "holds the promise
of feeding some of the 800 million chronically undernourished people in
the world." Unimpressed, eco-terrorists with the Earth Liberation Front
destroyed her lab and test crops. "If they don't want it, they don't have
to have it," Wambugu said. "We're dying, so can we eat first?"
Environmentalists have raised enough doubts about GM foods to cause
drought stricken Zambia to reject a shipment of gene-spliced corn from the
U.S. last year. Chance Kabaghe, Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Zambia,
told the Sacramento Bee his country had little choice, even though many
teetered on the verge of starvation. America's corn crop carries implanted
genes that produce natural Bacillus thuringiensis pesticide, safe for
humans and friendly insects like ladybugs and lacewings, and requires
virtually no costly spraying. Splicing corn with a borrowed natural soil
bacterium defense has already by one estimate prevented insects from
destroying up to 300 million bushels of corn. Similar GM crops could
prevent famines in the Third World where insects typically devour a third
Although the activists openly hoped that the Ag Expo would turn into a
repeat of the 1999 riots in Seattle, their protests ended not with a bang
but a whimper. The Conference went off without a hitch and the leftists
slithered back where they came from. It is estimated that the costs of
providing security for the Conference and overtime for police officers
will total nearly $2 million, a staggering sum for departments which are
already facing layoffs due to California's budget crisis. In the last days
of the Roman Empire, the Caesars thought they could distract the masses
with bread and circuses. Biotechnology is offering the Third World bread,
and the Left is offering only circuses.
Purdue genetic discovery may aid plants and human medicine
June 25, 2003
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Findings that two mutated genes alter plant growth
and development could result in improved plants and enhanced cancer
treatments, according to Purdue University researchers.
In a paper published in Thursday's (6/26) issue of Nature, the scientists
report that these abnormal, or mutant plants are able to reorient
themselves in response to light and gravity more rapidly than normal, or
"wild type," plants. Apparently plants behave differently in accordance
with how a growth hormone moves through them. Because the two genes
affecting transport of the hormone are related to human genes that impact
the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, controlling these genes may allow
physicians to better determine the dosage of cancer drugs.
"We now know that if we can modify these genes, we can control the growth
of the plant in very specific regions," said Angus Murphy, assistant
professor of horticulture and senior author of the paper. "This means we
might be able to change the shape of upper portions of a plant or develop
a more robust root system."
These genes are related to multidrug resistance (MDR) genes in humans. MDR
genes transport anticancer drugs out of cells, rendering the treatment
less effective. The genes are designated with capital letters, while the
mutated, or altered, genes are designated with small letters (in this
case, mdr). Murphy's research group found and studied the altered genes in
the commonly used experimental plant, Arabidopsis(pronounced:
The Arabidopsis mdr mutations disrupt the accumulation of a protein, PIN1,
at the base of cells in the stems of plant embryos, Murphy said. Because
PIN1 is an essential part of the system that transports the growth hormone
auxin, dislocation of the protein impairs flow of the hormone through the
plant. This alters how the plants develop and respond to factors such as
light and gravity.
Relocation of PIN1 and selective disruption of auxin transport makes
plants bushier and affects fruit production. Transport of auxin to roots
is actually enhanced in some mdr mutants, so the same gene modifications
may alter root structures to make plants more adaptable to different soil
In addition, discovery that MDR-like genes play an integral role in
transport of auxin could impact human cancer chemotherapy treatments,
Murphy said. Researchers already know that MDRs move the drugs out of
cancer cells, but they don't know what other transport functions they
perform or exactly how they work.
"We're assuming that they work together with other transport proteins to
move toxic compounds out of cells, but we don't really know," Murphy said.
"The idea that they could be affecting where those transport proteins go
in human cells has tremendous implication for studies in humans as well as
One way to find out more about transport proteins is to find out how a
gene affects a plant's development.
"We learned how these genes function by knocking out the gene," Murphy
said. "This is the genetic equivalent of taking a car from the assembly
line and just pulling out a particular part. When the car is finished
without the part, you see what works and what doesn't.
"In this case, we have removed two parts with similar functions to find
out more about what they do."
Murphy said the research team would like to alter plant growth by changing
the gene slightly rather than turning it off altogether. They know that
one MDR mutation in another plant species results in plants that are
shorter and stockier with a bigger root system than in the wild type.
These mutants are more resistant to wind and may be more robust in
difficult environments where the soil is poor and the climate is arid.
"Timing is also important," he said "If we can turn these genes on and off
at the right times, we may be able to enhance a valuable trait.
"For instance, right now you have to mechanically pinch off chrysanthemums
so they will spread, or apply a growth regulator to produce useful
ornamental plants from cuttings. If, instead, we could insert a program
into the plant to activate or inactivate auxin transport at a particular
time and in a particular part of the plant then the plant would
automatically become bushier or produce more flowers."
Further research on auxin transport will investigate whether other MDR
family members influence PIN1 distribution and also what specific
relationships exist between members of the MDR and PIN families of
The other authors of this study were Bosl Noh, now a senior research
scientist at Kumho Life and Environmental Science Laboratories in Korea;
Anindita Bandyopadhyay, a Purdue horticulture doctoral student; Wendy
Peer, Purdue horticulture research scientist; and Edgar Spalding,
University of Wisconsin associate professor of botany.
The National Science Foundation provided funding for this research.
Writer: Susan A. Steeves, (765) 496-7481, email@example.com
Source: Angus Murphy, (765) 496-7956, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, email@example.com;
Biotechnology has ‘growth potential’ in Europe
Food Production Daily
A new study has revealed that Biotechnology could help control diseases
and pests that take a bite out of European-grown crops, resulting in more
food production at lower costs and with less use of pesticides.
In the US the biotechnology industry is already highly developed, with
many biotechnology crops now approaching advanced stages of production.
However in Europe opposition to biotechnology has arrested its
development. Currently most European governments block the import of all
biotech crops, a move which President George Bush this week termed as
being based on "ungrounded and unscientific fears," when he spoke at the
annual of the US Biotechnology Industry Association.
The three case studies compiled by the National Center for Food and
Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) documented that crops developed through
biotechnology can help farmers reap an additional 7.8 billion kilograms
(17 billion pounds) of food and improve farm income over €1 billion, while
using 9.7 million fewer kilograms (21.7 million pounds) of pesticide. The
survey suggests that this would bring substantial savings to the entire
food chain and would eventually pass on significant benefits to food
"This is the first study that explains how biotechnology could impact
Europe," said Leonard Gianessi, programme director for NCFAP, a
non-profit, Washington, US-based research organisation. "The potential
impacts for Europe have not been quantified before."
The study shows that crops like Bt or insect resistant corn, currently
planted in Spain on a small scale, have the potential to increase yields
in Europe by 1.9 billion kilogrammes. Meanwhile, crops like biotech
herbicide tolerant sugarbeets could significantly lower costs to growers,
and a fungal resistant potato under development could reduce pesticide use
by over 7.5 million kilogrammes.
Conversely, if European growers did not want to increase overall
production, they could reduce the amount of land in production. Said
Gianessi, "We found that an area larger than Luxembourg or Rhode Island
could be removed from production without any production loss due to higher
yields on the remaining biotech acreage."
"These first few case studies show every country stands to benefit from
development of the new varieties evaluated in this study," Gianessi says.
Based on the initial findings, NCFAP researchers say that France would see
the greatest production increase at 2.6 billion kilogrammes and the
greatest increase in income with a €265 million change, closely followed
by Germany, which would also see income increase by over €200 million.
Pesticide use would also go down, with Germany seeing the largest impact,
a reduction of 2.8 million kilogrammes, it is claimed.
"In these three cases, biotechnology provides better control of harmful
pests at reduced costs," Gianessi said.
The release of the three case studies is the first in a series that NCFAP
will release in the next year. The complete study will include 15 case
studies of fruits, vegetables and field crops where biotechnology
solutions to major pest problems are under development in Europe.
The case studies, which were reviewed by plant biotechnology experts from
European academic and government institutions, are the most comprehensive
evaluation of the potential impact on European agriculture of crops
developed through biotechnology. The complete case studies are available
on the Internet at the NCAFP website. Monsanto, Syngenta and BIO funded
The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy is a private,
non-profit, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C.
Tuskegee Hosts Biotechnology Workshop for State's Teachers
June 17, 2003
TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, AL — (June 17, 2003) — Educators from throughout East
and Central Alabama gained a keener understanding of biotechnology and its
benefits June 10-13, 2003, at Tuskegee University.
The Southern AgBiotech Consortium for Underserved Communities hosted the
intensive four-day AgBiotech Teachers’ Workshop in historic Milbank Hall
on campus, with presentations ranging from bacterial culture and cloning
to DNA extraction and the socioeconomic impact of biotechnology.
"Eleven high school science, environmental and agricultural teachers from
Barbour, Bullock, Chilton, Dallas, Lowndes, Macon, and Montgomery counties
are learning the latest information and the most interesting hands-on
experiments in agricultural biotechnology for their classrooms," explained
Dr. Marceline Egnin , SACUC Co-Program Director.
"This workshop gives teachers the opportunity to earn Continuing Education
Units, and obtain equipment and supplies that will assist them in their
classroom activities," added Egnin, a research associate professor of
plant biotechnology in Tuskegee’s College of Agricultural, Environmental
and Natural Sciences.
Egnin and Dr. C.S. Prakash , professor of plant genetics and director of
Tuskegee’s Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, oversee the
cutting-edge research on food crops of importance to developing countries
and the training of scientists and students in plant biotechnology.
"Genetically modified foods have," they said, "the potential of
revolutionizing agrarian societies throughout the world by addressing
hunger, environmental degradation, and poverty by improving agricultural
productivity. Bringing the technology in rural communities will bridge the
Prakash, Egnin and Drs. Eunice Bonsi, Jackai M. Corley, and Mudiayi S.
Ngandu were among the featured presenters for the four-day session, as
well Booker T. Washington High School teacher Carol Harrison.
Harrison, an alumnus of the 2002 SACUC Workshop, has traveled extensively
touting the advantages of biotechnology, including trips to Sacramento,
Calif., Johnston, Iowa, and Portland, Ore.
"Because of the knowledge I have acquired through this workshop, I have
represented Tuskegee’s SACUC program at the Center for Engineering Plants
for Resistance Against Pathogens at the University of California-Davis, a
biotechnology workshop sponsored by Pioneer Hybrid, and presented work
done by my students at the 2003 Congress on In Vitro Biology earlier this
month," said Johnson, who spearheaded the training for her colleagues.
For their participation, the teachers were provided with a wide array of
equipment, including electrophoresis chambers, centrifuges,
trans-illuminators, oven incubators, laptops and projectors.
Egnin leads SACUC project through a grant from the United States
Department of Agriculture’s Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food
Systems. Eleven 1890 Land Grant Colleges and Universities from Alabama,
Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas united in 2000 to
"reduce the knowledge gaps that exist in biotechnology."
SACUC specifically seeks to increase the knowledge of biotechnology for
farmers (especially small and mid-sized) and consumers and to increase
knowledge and resources for teaching agricultural biotechnology and
related sciences, Egnin added.
"Through the exceptional work of Ms. Harrison and Drs. Edith Powell and
Carlton Morris, and the dedicated faculty and students of the College of
Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences, we have hosted a SACUC
event of this nature for each of the past three years," Egnin noted.
Likewise, Tuskegee continues its reign as the leading producer of Blacks
in the state of Alabama in the biological and life sciences, as reported
in the June 5, 2003, edition of Black Issues in Higher Education.
For more information on the AgBiotech Teachers’ Workshop contact Dr.
Marceline Egnin, SACUC Co-Program Director, at (334) 724-4404 or (334)
"Co-Founder of Greenpeace Argues Against Enviro's Approach to Forest
Posted by the ChronWatch Founder, Jim Sparkman
Thursday, June 19, 2003
ChronWatch has often noted that the extreme environmentalists are steadily
imposing their warped views on our society. No oil drilling anywhere,
ever. They are opposed to any timber cutting at all,ever. Our beloved
knee-jerk Chronicle falls right in line with that thinking in their
editorials. The Chron writers adds their normal anti-business attitude,
and charge that it's all about allowing the timber companies to rape the
countryside, with Bush's blessing. The objective seems to be to restore
all rural areas to their original untouched state. Even that doesn't seem
to be enough. They don't want anyone to visit them either.
Therefore, it is heartening to read an item by Dr. Patrick Moore,
co-founder and former president of Greenpeace, arguing against this
emotional and thoughtless approach. In the Wall Street Journal.
Greenpeace has just issued a report claiming that it is better to let our
forests burn to the ground than to adopt programs that will reduce
catastrophic wildfire. As an ecologist, I can tell you that this approach
ultimately leads to soil destruction, air and water pollution, and
wildfires that can kill every living thing in our forests--all in the name
of ''saving the forests.''
Having dedicated my life to the environment, I am always concerned when
the forces of nature meet face-to-face with the forces of politics. This
is especially true when the forces of nature are coming in loud and clear:
Approximately 90 million acres of our nation's public forests are at risk
of catastrophic wildfire right now. Every year we see millions of acres
of forest burn when this could be prevented.
We live in an era when many activists believe we should leave our forests
alone--an ecologically dangerous policy that sets our forests up to be
destroyed not just by fire, but by insects and disease. It is especially
bewildering when you consider how simple it is, through the application of
time-tested forest management practices, to maintain forests in a state
that reduces the chance of such outcomes.
The root of the problem is that when we protect our forests from
wildfires, over time they become susceptible to disease and to
catastrophic wildfires as fuel loads build up. The only way to prevent
this is to actively remove dead trees and to thin the forest. The active
management of these forests is necessary to protect human life and
property, along with air, water and wildlife. This does not prevent us
from also maintaining a world-class system of parks and wilderness areas
where industrial activity is restricted or banned.
Many activists have a mindset that is simply opposed to forestry. These
groups favor policies that involve reducing the use of wood instead of
encouraging its use as a renewable resource. We have been led to believe
that when we use wood we are causing a bit of forest to be lost. This is
not the case. When we buy wood we send a signal into the marketplace to
plant more trees, and produce more wood. One of the main reasons there is
still about the same area of forested land in the U.S. today as there was
100 years ago is because we use so much wood. Agriculture and
urbanization cause forest loss, not forestry.
The inferno that began in the Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos,
N.M. in May 2000 is a classic case in point. The park officials who
started this fire did so with good intentions. But they failed to take
into account that more than 50 years of fire prevention had resulted in a
fuel load build-up that nearly guaranteed what ensued: hundreds of homes
destroyed and thousands of acres of forest lost.
The only solution in these circumstances is removal of wood to reduce the
fuel load. In some types of forests, it may be possible to manage fuel
loads with prescribed fire. In other forest types, especially where there
are homes and other property at risk, mechanical thinning and harvesting
are the best options.
It is unfortunate that some organizations characterize the need to
implement active management of national forests as damaging to the
environment. It is actually the only way to break the present
environmentally destructive pattern of fuel build-up that often results in
catastrophic outcomes. I hope that those responsible for our forests will
bring about the very necessary changes in law and practice--and return the
forces of nature to a more desirable state.
Dr. Moore is co-founder and former president of Greenpeace.