Today in AgBioView: June 28, 2003:
* Chapela begins Berkeley protest over tenure case
* Mexican Maize Resource Library
* Biologist protests his lack of tenure
* Whistleblower says he's being punished
* GM crops touted to fight poverty
* Re: Forest Management
* Egypt clarifies biotech support
* AFRICAN/WORLD POOR PAWNS IN INTERCONTINENTAL GMO CLASH OF WORDS
* Uganda; Minister Calls for Wider Biotechnology Dialogue
* Delegates enjoy meal, but nations' food woes are harder to digest
* Zambia; Bio-Technology: the American View
* Exposing Eco-Hypocrisy: Eugene Lapointe is on point
* Why Forests Burn
* Greenpeace calls on Madrid to release Rainbow Warrior
* UN Maritime Body Decides to Evict Greenpeace
Chapela begins Berkeley protest over tenure case
--- From Ignacio Chapela Berkeley, California, 26 June 2003
We asked the captain what course of action he proposed to take toward a
beast so large, terrifying, and unpredictable. He hesitated to answer,
and then said judiciously: "I think I shall praise it." Robert Hass
Dear friends, dear colleagues,
Beginning at 6 o'clock this morning, as I enter the final days of my
contract as a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley,
I intend to mark and celebrate them, by doing what I believe a professor
in a public university must do: to further reason and understanding. For
the brief time that remains of my terminal contract at Berkeley, I shall
sit holding office hours, day and night, outside the doors of California
This is the building housing the Budget Committee of the Academic Senate,
and the office of the Chancellor, the two arms of our university
governance in charge of my file. I am saddened by the failure of the
administration and the Academic Senate to resolve in a timely fashion
whether to grant me tenure at Berkeley. I believe that I have contributed
to the mission of the university and my heart and intellect are also
vested in its health and growth. All but one of the colleagues who
witness my everyday teaching and research in the Department of
Environmental Science, Policy and Management have repeatedly stated their
support for my tenure, and so have a set of external expert reviewers and
the leadership of my College.
To the extent that reason can assess, I do not know of any other academic
information on the case that might suggest that a negative decision should
be reached. Yet as of tonight, well over a year into the part of the
process conducted in secret in California Hall, no decision has been
made, as far as I am aware. I must therefore conclude that there is
another set of criteria that counterweigh the strength of the case, but
that such information cannot be publically shared. In the face of such
lack of transparency and accountability, I choose to hold office hours in
public, in the open, and in the midst of our beautiful campus.
I do so in celebration of my vocation and my time at Berkeley, and not in
the expectation that such an action will change the course of the decision
process, whatever that might be. It has been suggested that the
extraordinary delay in reaching a decision on my tenure case without
ostensible reason may be the result of, even retribution for, my advising
our campus, academe, the government and the public against dangerous
liaisons with the biotechnology industry, as well as my concerns regarding
the problems with biotechnology itself.
Without doubt, the uncertainty and reproach implicit in the silence on
campus surrounding my case has had grave consequences for my professional,
public and personal life. But such are the wages of doing work that has
significance for the world, and it will be up to those sifting through the
files of this case to discern the twists and turns that brought us to this
moment, and to pass the judgment of history on the motives and actions of
those involved, within and beyond our community. It is difficult to blame
otherwise principled individuals for not voicing their best understanding.
Fear is justified when even the president of the country equates with
criminal acts any questioning of the wisdom of deploying transgenic crops.
Against the desire of some to banish critical thinking from the birthplace
of the Free Speech Movement, I choose to sit, openly available for
discourse, in the heart of our campus. At least one person has said that I
should be banned from the academic system, implying that my work harms the
public role of the university as a hothouse for the agbiotech industry.
Indeed I have long stood against the folly of planting 100 million acres
with transgenic crops each year, without knowing even the simplest
consequences of such a massive intervention in the biosphere. An
increasing number of scientists seem to be reaching the same position.
It seems also true that research in my laboratory has prompted serious
public concerns that the industry would rather not address. An industry
on the crutches of public subsidy for a quarter of a century, an industry
that trembles in the face of the simplest token of precautionary research,
is hardly an industry that deserves to carry the public trust, much less
our best hope for recovery in a flagging economy. It would seem rational
that our university - and the public - should strive to keep an
independent source of advice on the wisdom of supporting such an industry.
Rationality, however, must take a back seat when the university becomes
grafted to a specific industry. Such has increasingly been the case at
Berkeley and at other universities.
At a time of rampant obscurantism and irrationality, I am proud of the
privilege vested in me by the public as a professor at Berkeley. In
fulfillment of the duty attached to that privilege, I intend to share the
light of rationality during office hours over the next five days, together
with those who might wish to join me. Fiat lux. Ignacio H. Chapela
Assistant Professor (Microbial Ecology) Department of Environmental
Science, Policy and Management Logistical details and contacts: I will sit
in an "office" without walls. This means that I will most likely not have
direct access to an AC electric wall outlet. Nevertheless, I will have a
battery-operated cell phone (USA-510-207 7331). My cell phone will need to
be recharged occasionally; if you do not get an answer, please leave a
message and I will call back. My email address is
firstname.lastname@example.org. In case of server breakdown, please use
email@example.com - email responses may be delayed for some hours. I
will foreseeably be in my "office" 24 hours a day (except for short
unavoidable breaks) from Thursday to Monday midnight, circumstances
allowing. Three chairs will accommodate myself and two others in this
transparent office. Bring your own portable chair if you need to.
I hope to be able to offer tea and biscuits, but that is not a promise.
These last days have been on the hot side, but with any luck the natural
"breathing cycle" of the Bay Area will bring fog relief for at least some
of the mornings between Thursday and Monday. At meal times, I will have
space for company, although the seating may be less than royal, and the
menus are still being planned. Despite President Bush's emphatic demands
this week, the House has yet to pass the BioShield legislation, and there
may be further delays in the Senate. Nevertheless, I am making efforts
to comply with the current spirit on our campus and across the nation by
surrounding my office with protective, gray, duct tape, for added
Visitors from Toronto and elsewhere in the world, please note that I will
also have protective face masks and rubber gloves at hand. After midnight
on Monday, I will be travelling to the Gen-ecology laboratory in Norway
until 22 July. I will be underway for a week, subsequently available via
my alternate email account: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to
forward this email as you see fit. I hereby decline all copyright.
Mexican Maize Resource Library
... The real question is one of academic integrity. Since the dogged and
relentless pursuit of truth is the ultimate goal of science, should Quist
and Chapela have been allowed to publish such obviously flawed findings?
Furthermore, if Quist and Chapela were so eager to overlook the
shortcomings of their research, perhaps observers ought to be somewhat
more skeptical of their other claims about the relevance of those
Here, AgBioWorld presents a brief library of resource documents of
relevance to the Mexican maize issue:
Biologist protests his lack of tenure
Modified crops critic camps out Berkeley assistant professor camping out
to protest lack of tenure
By MICHELLE LOCKE
June 27, 2003
BERKELEY A biologist known for his outspoken criticism of genetically
modified crops was camping out at UC Berkeley on Friday to protest his
lack of tenure.
Ignacio Chapela, who began his protest Thursday morning and planned to
continue through midnight Monday, said he is not sure what is preventing
administrators from confirming him as a professor.
He said he wanted to move his office outdoors to serve as a transparent
contrast to the closed-door secrecy of the tenure process.
Chapela, who is in the Environmental Policy, Science and Management
department, began teaching at Berkeley in 1996. He is on a "tenure track"
which means if he is not granted tenure, a permanent appointment, by the
end of his contract he must leave the university.
Chapela's contract was scheduled to expire on June 30. However, on
Thursday, university officials informed Chapela his contract had been
extended for one year.
Administrators say they decided on the extension before Chapela's protest
began, noting that the letter announcing it is dated June 19.
Chapela says he was approved for tenure by his department last year, but
he has yet to hear from university administrators about his case.
Chapela has been a controversial figure on campus, loudly opposing a
five-year, $25 million deal Berkeley signed with Novartis Corp., a
Swiss-based agriculture giant, in 1998. Two years ago, Chapela co-authored
a study published in the journal Nature that concluded that DNA from
genetically engineered corn contaminated native maize in Mexico.
The study was denounced by the biotechnology industry and Nature later
said there wasn't enough evidence available to justify publication of the
paper. The journal did not retract the original paper but printed two
harsh criticisms of the work as well as a defense by the researchers, who
presented new data.
Chapela's supporters say one of the professors reviewing Chapela's tenure
has ties to the biotech industry. UC officials declined comment on that or
any of the details of the tenure case.
On the question of whether Chapela is being punished for his controversial
stands, George Strait, Berkeley's assistant vice chancellor for public
affairs, said Chapela "is a valued and respected member of the Berkeley
faculty. We respect his scholarship and his teaching."
Chapela's camp out was proving a rigorous one as Berkeley abandoned its
usually wintry June weather for temperatures near 90.
Chapela, who is maintaining a 24-hour presence with some short breaks,
said he'd discovered it is legal to be on campus at night, but not to
sleep there. "You have to keep your eyes open. The police come by and
Friday morning, Chapela was greeting a stream of supporters, some of whom
brought offerings of coffee and muffins. His office, parked under a shady
tree, consisted of a few chairs and a small bookcase.
Earlier, Chapela had taught a high school chemistry class brought to
campus by their teacher, said supporter Jason Delborne, a graduate student
in the environmental department.
"This has been a crazy couple of days," Delborne said.
Biotech researchers say their work splicing foreign genes into a variety
of plants to enhance such traits as pest resistance will produce more
food. But critics worry the consequences of the work are not known.
"My concern is really with the widespread release into the environment of
transgenic organisms," Chapela said.
Some view the tenure-track period as a time to avoid controversy, but
Chapela said he doesn't regret speaking out.
"If you're scared enough to shut up for tenure you'll be scared enough to
shut up for (office) space, for privileges here, for recognition there,"
he said. "I would rather be able to look at myself in the mirror every
morning than be a professor at Berkeley."
Whistleblower says he's being punished
THE WESTERN PRODUCER
Thursday June 26, 2003
By Sean Pratt
An organic "whistleblower" says he is being blackballed by the industry.
Independent organic inspector Mischa Popoff of Winnipeg said he can't find
work since he went public last summer with concerns about the integrity of
Last year, in an interview with The Western Producer, Popoff alleged that
while he was working as an organic inspector, he witnessed acts of fraud
that were overlooked by certification bodies.
He said the inspection system was too lax and that consumers are paying
big premiums for food that may not be free of chemicals or fertilizer. His
biggest complaint was the lack of random inspections and residue testing
to catch cheats.
Certifiers countered that random on-farm testing is unnecessary, too
expensive and less effective than what they call bioassay techniques,
which Popoff calls visual inspection, now used by the industry.
Certifiers said residue testing is also redundant because organic food
buyers, traders and government regulators routinely carry out random
And they pointed out that Popoff had a vested interest in coming forward
with his claims because he was trying to establish his own residue testing
Shortly after the article was published, Popoff was kicked off a web forum
operated by the Independent Organic Inspectors Association and was put on
probation by the Organic Crop Improvement Association, one of the biggest
organic certification bodies in the world.
He has since been conditionally approved as an OCIA inspector but can't
find work with that organization and many others.
"I used to get more work offered to me than I needed. Now it looks like I
have to consider another profession," said Popoff.
"I've heard from people directly it's because I besmirched the industry by
doing the article. The messenger is being shot here."
OCIA president Debbie Miller said that is not the case, at least with the
chapter she operates. By the time she was approached by Popoff for work,
she had already hired her inspectors for the season.
"I wasn't shopping for an inspector," said Miller, who added that she
isn't aware of any blackballing going on.
Popoff has heard from other chapters and agencies that his rates are too
high or that his work is substandard. But said he had no trouble getting
work before his Producer interview last August.
"There was a real change in their attitude towards me after the article
He estimates he has completed more than 500 inspections since starting in
the business in 1998. But this year he is looking at doing one quarter the
number he usually does.
"I knew I was sticking my neck out with the media interviews last
(summer), but I never dreamt it would be this bad," said Popoff.
One company that isn't hiring him this year and is "unlikely" to be hiring
him down the road is the Organic Producers Association of Manitoba.
OPAM president Alex Scott said his group made the decision to halve the
number of inspectors it uses for the sake of continuity. Popoff didn't
make the list.
"We reviewed all the inspectors and rated them and I guess he didn't rate
quite as high as some," said Scott.
"He wasn't the only person who didn't get hired again this year, but he
was one of the unfortunates."
Scott said OPAM rated inspectors on qualifications such as years of
experience and level of training, but it also looked for qualities like
loyalty and integrity and that's where Popoff's public criticism of the
industry might have hurt.
"I don't suppose it did him any good," said Scott.
GM crops touted to fight poverty
By Chris Lackner
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Genetically modified crops are the key to eradicating poverty and hunger
in the Third World, says a leading African biotechnology expert.
Investment and research into genetically enhanced crops, such as corn and
sweet potatoes, could create a "green gene" revolution that pulls the
African continent out of decades of economic and social despair, said Dr.
Florence Wambugu, CEO of A Harvest Biotech Foundation International, a
non-profit organization that advocates using agricultural biotechnology as
a tool for aiding the poor.
"I see technology as a tool -- my goal is to look for solutions to help
Africans in need," she explained. "With genetically modified crops, the
technical and delivery systems are both packaged in a seed."
Dr. Wambugu worked with Kenyan scientists and government agencies
throughout the 1990s to develop the country's first genetically modified
sweet potato plant -- one resistant to a virus that commonly plagues
The engineered plant will go through a final phase of testing this year
before it can be cleared for market production. Dr. Wambugu, who continues
to act as an advisor on the project, said the modified sweet potato seeds
should be able to produce 10 tonnes of vegetables per hectare compared
with a natural Kenyan crop that yields four tonnes per hectare.
A Harvest Biotech also lobbies African businesses and political leaders,
as well as the international community, to invest in the biotechnology
field as a solution to poverty, as well as a profitable enterprise.
"We need to start looking at the private sector as a strategic partner and
not some kind of enemy," she said. "There are things we agree on, so let's
use those to help our people."
In Kenya, the company is developing communication and technical programs
to help convince the country's farmers to accept engineered crops. "Many
are very reluctant to risk and to change," Dr. Wambugu said.
Dr. James Heller, a professor and biotechnology expert at the University
of Toronto, said biotechnology has the potential to help the Third World
in food production, but also offers a mixed blessing. "A country could
lose a lot of control of its own domestic industry because its beholden to
an off-shore seed manufacturer ... or a variety of traditional, indigenous
crops could be minimized.
"We also automatically assume we can project our safety standards on these
countries and those standards just aren't often there."
In terms of genetically modified foods acting as a detriment to health or
a danger to the environment, Dr. Wambugu said no data exist to prove the
case for either. "Nobody can stand up and say that as a fact -- that being
said, we must continue to monitor," she added.
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 11:52:31 -0300
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Forest Management
Another aspect of the forest ecology/management issue is carbon
sequestration. Given that many forest products have a long lifetime (eg
in paper, furniture or building construction), whereas allowing a forest
to burn cycles much of the fixed carbon right back into the atmosphere
short-term, this so-called fire-ecological management approach is
counter-productive in the climate change context. For me, this is yet
another example of disjointed, inconsistent and misanthropic thinking on
the part of so-called greens.
Egypt clarifies biotech support
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
By Jeffrey Sparshott
June 28, 2003
Egypt supports U.S. efforts to gain world acceptance and market access for
genetically modified crops, Egypt's top trade official said yesterday.
Youssef Boutros-Ghali, Egypt's foreign-trade minister, clarified his
country's position following Egypt's withdrawal last month from a U.S.-led
case filed with the World Trade Organization.
The case challenges the European Union's moratorium on the sale or
production of new genetically modified crops.
"There is no difference between the two positions [of the United States
and Egypt]. There may be a difference in approach, but there is no
difference in our positions," Mr. Boutros-Ghali said during a meeting with
U.S. businessmen and reporters in Washington.
Egypt's withdrawal, announced in a May 27 letter from Egypt's ambassador
to the European Union, was viewed as a blow to the U.S. case against the
15-nation European Union.
The biotech spat between the United States and the European Union has been
fueled by bitter rhetoric.
The Bush administration has cast the case as a fight for developing
countries that need biotechnology to feed their populations and compete in
world markets. EU officials cite consumer-health and environmental-safety
concerns over biotech.
Egypt had been the only country from Africa to formally support the case.
Argentina and Canada also joined the complaint.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali said Egypt has started consultations with the European
Union on the biotech matter. Similar consultations between the United
States and the European Union broke down last week, prompting the Bush
administration to seek a ruling from the WTO.
Biotech crops, like soybeans, corn and cotton, are genetically modified to
withstand pesticides, resist pests and withstand drought.
The biotech case also was linked to Egypt's bid for a free-trade agreement
with the United States. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, told
Egyptian officials he was concerned and perplexed by reports that the
country might not participate in the WTO challenge.
"One of the criteria that ought to be used to determine with whom the
United States negotiates future FTAs is whether a country shares the same
vision of the global trading system as does the United States," he said in
a letter earlier this month.
As Senate Finance Committee chairman, Mr. Grassley is a key voice on trade
issues in the Senate.
Bush administration officials also have retreated from earlier comments
that Egypt is an immediate candidate for a free-trade agreement, though
the change in tack has not been explicitly linked to the biotech issue.
Robert B. Zoellick, U.S. trade representative, said earlier this week that
Egypt had not made sufficient regulatory reforms.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it for people. Egypt has some work to do," Mr.
Zoellick said while in the Middle East to lay out a trade plan for the
Egypt has been keen to enter into a free-trade agreement with the United
States, but also is sensitive to economic reality — the European Union is
its largest export market and trade partner.
Yesterday, Mr. Boutros-Ghali said that Egypt wants to start negotiating
with the United States immediately on a bilateral trade pact.
"We believe the time to commence negotiations for a free-trade agreement
is now," he said.
Egyptian officials also have emphasized that the country is the key to Mr.
Bush's proposed Middle East Free Trade Area, an initiative that would help
integrate the region and tie it economically to the United States.
AFRICAN/WORLD POOR PAWNS IN INTERCONTINENTAL GMO CLASH OF WORDS
For most of this week U.S. President George Bush has been trading verbal
blows with European Union (EU) counterparts over the safety of genetically
enhanced agricultural products. The cross-Atlantic debate has intensified
since a grievance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) was filed
against the EU ban on genetically modified foods (commonly referred to as
GMOs) by the U.S., Canada and Argentina. Australia, Chile, Colombia, El
Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay joined as third
parties supporting the pro-GMO side in the WTO action.
European reticence to accept GMO products or commercial cultivation by EU
nation farmers has been linked to the influence of anti-biotech NGOs such
as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Those critics allege an array of
“possible” environmental and health problems they claim may be associated
with crops that contain genetic material from other organisms. The gist of
their arguments seems to center on the idea that since no problems have
been found with GMO crops, that doesn’t mean they won’t develop later.
Scientists involved in the development of modern agricultural
biotechnology point to the years of research and consumption, particularly
among U.S. citizens as proof positive that genetically enhanced foods are
safe. Critics of GMO critics link NGO opposition from groups such as
Friends of the Earth and others to ties they claim principals within the
various NGO groups have with the organic food industry. Others see the NGO
opposition as a means to insert paid NGO overseers into the regulatory
process governing what foods may be farmed, processed and sold on the
Individuals, governments, and agencies dedicated to eliminating world
hunger are frustrated over Europe’s stubborn opposition. The Catch-22 is
that African nations undergoing food shortages caused by a variety of
natural and political reasons claim they are reticent to accept GM foods
because the European ban suggests the food is unsafe. Perhaps that
attitude has to do with generations of ties between African nations and
their leaders with European educational institutions and Colonial regimes.
Perhaps it is tied, as some press reports suggest, to a fear of European
markets closing to African exports. Perhaps an equal portion of NGO
influence within government circles plays a role too.
At a meeting in Washington DC Wednesday, President George Bush tweaked the
noses of European Union officials meeting on the biotech and cutting
support of international terrorist issues when he joked “Let’s go eat some
genetically modified food for lunch.” EU officials continue to take
offense at the blunt assessment by the U.S. that the EU ban is a major
cause in African nations refusing emergency food supplies during the
height of last year’s global effort to stem the effects of sub-Saharan
Africa’s multi-nation famine. EU officials and NGO critics falsely accuse
the United States of sending the food aid as a means of forcing sales of
GMO crops to African farmers. Such claims are patently false. The food
sent from the U.S. was sent to feed the hungry. It was the same food fed
to American families and their children. No quid pro quo regarding
commercial sales of GMO seeds was suggested or implied.
NGOs continue to ignore years of evidence that GMO crops increase yields
at lesser costs in terms of time, labor and cash from farmers as well as
damage to the environment from toxic pesticides. Evidence of GMO benefits
can be seen in India’s cotton farmers whose crop survival rate increased
dramatically with biotech hybrids as one example. In fact, research shows
that the greatest benefits from GM plantings are reaped by the most
impoverished sectors of global agriculture.
An urban legion spread by NGOs throughout the world and among certain
sectors of the U.S. population that tend to be sympathetic to NGO
campaigns is that Monsanto and other Life Science firms sell or license
for a fee GMO seeds to farmers via contracts that forbid their saving
seeds from a crop to be replanted the following year. A critical fact is
being ignored in this argument. Monsanto, Bayer, etc. indeed do wish to
make money selling their “special seed.” However, the farmers who agree to
purchase and plant it see their efforts rewarded with crops that yield
greater harvests and require less cost. They too make money. For many, for
the first time in their lives GMO crops spell the difference from their
being perennial subsistence farmers who may or may not salvage enough
mature crops to feed their families to farmers who actually make a profit
selling the results of their labor.
So called anti-biotech “green” groups claim traditional farming techniques
can equal the yield from insect and herbicide resistant genetically
enhanced crops. Thus far, with the exception of certain key circumstances,
those traditional techniques have been tried from year to year and
generation to generation with the bottom line that impoverished rural
subsistence farmers remain impoverished rural subsistence farmers.
The common definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over
and expecting different results each time.”
Europe’s pride is being hurt by blunt U.S. accusations. Such posturing may
be the stuff that novels and films may thrive upon but in the real world
of feeding a burgeoning human population and hoping to salvage the world’s
last wild forests and fields, cooperation is paramount.
Uganda; Minister Calls for Wider Biotechnology Dialogue
June 27, 2003
The Minister of Agriculture, Mr Kisamba Mugerwa, has called on Ugandans to
broaden their understanding of biotechnology beyond the controversial
debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
He called on Ugandans to focus on industrial, medical, and tissue culture
technologies. These are already being developed in Uganda for the local
market. Kisamba Mugerwa was recently speaking at a Biotechnology
Stakeholders dialogue organised by the Consumer Education Trust Uganda.
Currently, government forbids imports of GMOs until there is a
biotechnology policy and regulatory framework in place.
Food safety and environmental concerns have been at the centre of the
controversy on GMO's. Many Europeans fear their environmental and health
implications while the use of GMOs has been popularised in the US. Uganda
is one of several countries caught in the middle - they fear developing
GMO crops in case they are banned for export in Europe, its biggest
The agriculture minister is now reportedly in the US to attend a
biotechnology forum organised by the US Secretary of Agriculture.
Mr Henry Kimera, of Consumer Education Trust, said that GMO technologies
have been successfully commercialised in America where the average US farm
is 3500 hectares and big farms go up from 35,000 to 40,000 hectares.
The farmers who have benefited from GM are those who farm crops like corn,
soy and canola. These are not major commercial crops in Uganda.
In the battle for hearts and minds over GM crops, many US companies are
focusing on winning over African farmers.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation ( AATF) is working with US
biotech giants Pioneer/Dupont and Monsanto Corporation and others to
educate people about GMOs. AATF will also provide royalty-free
technologies from large firms to African rural farmers.
Currently AATF is headed by Dr Eugene Terry, a Sierra Leone national,
while Godbar Tumushabe, a Ugandan lawyer, is on the board of directors.
Diana Griego Erwin: Delegates enjoy meal, but nations' food woes are
harder to digest
By Diana Griego Erwin
June 26, 2003
My stomach was rumbling, but I did not eat all day Tuesday.
I craved a Macho Chicken Salad from Bandera. A glass of grapefruit juice.
A greasy burger. Anything.
By 5 o'clock, I was shaking.
I didn't cave in to the hunger pangs for one reason: Everyone gushed that
I was in for the meal of my life that evening, and I wanted to savor each
morsel. According to those in the know, the dinner invite on my desk was a
gastronomical "E" ticket to the culinary magic of world-renowned chef
Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, the Queen Extoller of Fresh, Healthful,
Locally Grown Food herself.
Well, I was ready.
What really made the evening interesting, though, were the socio-political
undertones of the meal -- that is, Waters and her co-hosts concocted this
feast to make a point. Their guests: California elected officials (did
anyone show except state Sen. Liz Figueroa?) and international ministers
attending the U.S. government's controversial agricultural-science expo in
So amid the helicopters buzzing downtown and the line of cops in riot gear
on horseback lined up across the street from the Sheraton Grand Hotel,
here was Waters selling ecologically sound farming practices to people
through their taste buds -- her mantra for years.
As mother of the cooking fresh movement, she is America's patron saint of
organic farmers; everything she serves is organic, unprocessed,
unadulterated -- grown and nurtured by local growers devoted to
But would her message waft beyond the palates of government officials in
need of food solutions in countries as diverse as China and Zambia, Turkey
and Nicaragua, South Africa and Fiji, ministers who dared cross an
invisible line to what expo organizers might call the other side. So what
that they relished the lip-smacking fava bean toast appetizer, swooned
over the flavor-bursting rocket leaf and cherry-tomato salad? How does
that translate amid clinking wine glasses to feeding the masses,
particularly in developing countries?
Organized by the International Forum on Globalization and Center for Food
Safety, the evening included a panel speaking against industrial
agriculture and genetic engineering -- and speak they did. All through
By the time the entree arrived -- orange-and basil-infused local king
salmon with green beans, beets, carrots and the tiniest new potatoes with
a subtle garlic mayonnaise -- the friendly, outgoing Macedonians were
weary of all exhortation, which was informative but overly preachy.
"We think there are different manners," Menva Spirousus of the Macedonia
delegation said with her kindest smile. "In our country, you enjoy the
food and one another, not speeches."
A scientist representing China at the dinner was, on the other hand, quite
interested, although his concerns about genetically engineered products
vary. "Are you talking about cotton?" fish biologist Seta Lee asked.
"Corn? A fish?" Cotton doesn't concern him. "You wear it. Big deal." Corn,
yes, people ingest it. A fish is even more worrisome. You can't control
it; it moves; its genetics can affect other populations. "Too many
unknowns," he said.
The Jamaican ministers, who say their country needs to bring back "the
dying art of agriculture -- fast food is taking over," already were sold
on the praises of sustainable farming. "We're already organic," Camella
Rhone said, shrugging and smiling. "We can't afford fertilizers and all
While silently enjoying a sliver of Goat's Leap goat cheese and Winchester
Gouda followed by a layered apricot tart cut like a pizza slice, the
Nicaraguan minister, José Augusto Navarro Flores, said he found the
evening's messages "unrealistic."
"This (dinner) is very nice quality, but how much did it cost?" he asked,
popping a luscious cherry in his mouth. "For a developing country, one
with many poor people, in the mountains, without refrigeration, without
even electricity, this is not realistic.
"The question in my country is not natural or genetic engineering, it's
eat or no eat."
Zambia; Bio-Technology: the American View
June 27, 2003
OUR Business Editor Simon Mwanza has just returned from a 14-day
Agricultural Bio-technology (BT) tour of the United States of America and
today brings out what other people think of BT as a transgenic future for
mankind, especially in Africa where hunger and poverty continue to tell
JUST what is agricultural bio-technology (BT)? BT refers to the use of
technology to modify the genetic material of plants and animals by taking
genes from one organism and inserting them into another, thereby altering
the genetic structure.
But even with such a well sounding definition, BT is still a boiling issue
which in fact, led to Zambia rejecting GMO maize donated by the American
government, and whose concerns are about its safety to humans and the
At the time Zambia rejected the maize, Agriculture and Co-operatives
Minister, Mundia Sikatana made it clear that Zambia was not in a hurry to
start growing BT crops as a way of boosting agricultural production.
In America and other developed nations, the current general feeling is
that genetically modified crops can contribute substantially to improving
agriculture in developing countries such as Zambia. They have argued that
the need to feed the ever-increasing global population is the GM lobby's
most powerful argument for why European nations should invest in research
into GM and open up their markets to GM products.
It is also true that the debate over BT has tended to gravitate towards
the extremes between those who see BT as the next great boon to humankind
and those who see every new development as a potential "Frankensteinfood".
At least this was the view an American NGO, Pew Initiative on Food and
Biotechnology, in Washington where a seven-man group of visiting African
journalists from Zambia, Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa and Ghana made
their first stop to get its view on BT.
Executive director Michael Rodemeyer feared that polarizing of the debate
has confused the public and stalled the potential market for
bio-engineered food and other agricultural biotech products.
He said to break the stalemate created by the extremes, his organisation
had been launched to re-focus discussion on this issue into more practical
Agricultural BT is a staple practice of millions of farmers all around the
world, he says. In the past seven years crops through agricultural BT,
have been widely adopted by farmers worldwide, especially in the USA which
grows three quarters of the genetically engineered crops being planted.
He adds that up to some 70 per cent of all packaged foods found in the US
supermarkets shelves include GM ingredients.
A few years ago a leading British scientist dismissed fears over
genetically modified foods as irrational, insisting that engineering new
crops was no different from the selective breeding farmers had carried out
Professor Richard Dawkins of the Oxford University claimed then that many
types of food consumed today would not exist without changes introduced by
"When one uses rhetoric like 'Frankenstein plants' you could call a maize
cob a Frankenstein, but everyone is quite happy to eat maize cobs," he
Senior bio-technology advisor at the USAID Washington Dr Josette Lewis,
was of more sober approach to the issue by simply stating that the US
government would not force BT maize or any other crops on African
countries. The recipients will have to make their own decisions.
So what were all those fears for by Zambia in refusing the donated GM
maize by the Americans?
University of Maryland associate director and dean for research J Scott
Angle told the visiting journalists that most of the maize produced in the
USA was for animal feed but he was not sure what type of maize was sent to
Zambia. The US also uses maize to produce ethanol and other by-products.
Maize is not directly consumed in America.
Asked about the safety of BT crops, Dr Scott Angle simply summarised the
debate as "We don't know what we don't know".
And early this year there was a screaming headline in the Wall Street
Journal: "Makers of Modified Crops Faulted on Safety Data Submitted to
FDA" in which the leading paragraph read:- Makers of genetically modified
crops have avoided answering questions and submitted erroneous data on
federal applications aimed at ensuring the safety of bio-engineered foods
before they are marketed."
The centre for science in the public interest, which sees benefits in
biotechnology crops but wants tougher regulation to ensure safety, said
its study of 14 applications to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
over the past seven years points our significant roles in the safety
review of new biotech crops.
The group later visited the Centre for Science in the public interest
where the director Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, said the FDA consultation
process does not allow the agency to require submissions of data, misses
obvious errors in company-submitted data summaries, provides insufficient
testing guidance, and does not require sufficiently detailed data to
enable the FDA to assure that genetically engineered crops are safe to
But this did not deter Iowa state senator Chuck Grassley who took a swipe
at the European Union (EU) for "confusing" Africa over BT agriculture.
Addressing the African journalists in his office at the Capitol Hill, Mr
Grassley said he could not believe that Zambia could refuse that food
donation at the height of severe hunger in this Southern African nation as
he saw nothing wrong with Bt maize.
The EU has since slapped a moratorium banning the importation of BT crops
into its grouping.
After a week in Washington, the journalists were flown to Des Moines, the
capital of Iowa which apparently is the maizebelt of the USA and
headquarters of Pioneer where vice-president Dr William Niebur, briefed
them on the on-going research to develop new seed varieties using BT.
However, it was perhaps director at Leopold Centre for Sustainable
Agriculture at the Iowa State University Frederick Kirschenmann, who came
out more strongly against the technology by saying that BTs are always
redesigning systems to potentially eliminate problems rather than
introducing external counter forces into systems in an effort to solve
He says redesigning systems to mimic nature represents one way, and
perhaps the best way, of asking "and then what" before introducing a novel
Asking the "and then what" question before introducing a novel technology
is another way of saying that it is "better to be safe than sorry."
Still the supporters of BT maintain that plant bio-technology in Africa
will be a vital tool to improve yields and prospects.
Then a magazine called In Focus was thrown into the face of the visiting
journalists and what particularly caught the eye of this author was a
portion which read " In Zambia boys dive in swamps in search of edible
roots to eat..So would not BT come handy in such situations?"
The magazine takes a swipe at bio-tech critics, especially in Europe for
fanning the rejection of bio foods by many African countries last year. It
says, "let food aid save lives today. It's a matter of humanity."
While critics of high-yield agriculture and plant BT say the world already
produces more than enough food for everyone and that distribution is the
biggest problem, agricultural experts say that generalisation overlooks
At its final leg, the African journalists were flown to St Louis in
Missouri State where they visited one of the US largest seed producers
Monsanto, where the visitors were briefed on a wide range of issues
relating to crop seed production.
At the National Corn Growers Association, the journalists' eyes popped out
when they were shown a wide range of products made from maize - thanks to
They were told that currently, research was going on to improve on the
products made from corn and later gave out T-shirts made from corn to make
their BT point abundantly clear.
No matter what critics will say about BT, the fact is that it has come and
it is here to stay. At least this is a visible view by most Americans who
see it as one of the most effective tools of reducing hunger and poverty
BT could become useful now when the problem of hunger in Africa is
widespread and getting worse. It is estimated that one in every three
people in Africa is currently under-nourished and that a third of all
world's under-nourished people live in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to a United States department of agriculture (USDA), by 2010
Africa may account for nearly two-thirds of the under-nourished people in
Bt maize, they say, has proven to be an important technology to help maize
growers control damaging insect pests and produce.
Perhaps developing countries, especially those in Africa should heed what
American President George Bush said in California that they should adopt
BT if they are to conquer hunger and generally reduce widespread stinging
While BT appears a promising solution to agriculture, it is difficult to
forget what Dr Scott Angle of Maryland University said: "We don't know
what we don't know."
Exposing Eco-Hypocrisy: Eugene Lapointe is on point.
June 27, 2003
By James Swan
Eco-quiz question: How many whales swim the oceans?
If you have been listening to Greenpeace, or other
eco-activist/animal-rights organizations and their friends in the media,
you probably answered a or b. The correct answer is c.
Today, swimming in the oceans, you will find: 25,000 gray whales, more
than before commercial whaling began; one million minke whales; close to a
million pilot whales and beluga whales; and well over one million sperm
whales. Of the 75 species of cetaceans, only 5 are endangered. The North
Atlantic right whale, of which there are less than 1,000, are the most
threatened. Other endagered whale species are the blue (10,000 to 14,000),
the humpback (10,000 to 15,000), and the bowhead (8,000 12,000).
You can read the real story about whales — rather than another tale of
eco-dishonesty — in Eugene Lapointe's important new book, Embracing The
World’s Resources: A Global Conservation Vision (Sherbrooke, Quebec:
Editions du Scribe, 2003, $27). This book should be required reading for
every student studying conservation and ecology, and every decision-maker
trying to fashion sustainable resource-use policy.
Eugene Lapointe has unique credentials to write a book on sustainability.
He is the current president of IWMC World Conservation Trust, a global
coalition of experts and wildlife managers promoting sustainable resource
use guided by science. An attorney who grew up in the woods of Quebec,
Lapointe served fourteen years in the Canadian government before becoming
the Secretary General of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, from 1982 to 1990. CITES is
the international trade commission overseeing the
multi-billion-dollar-a-year commerce in wild animals and their products.
Lapointe left his post at CITES dramatically on November 2, 1990, when he
was dismissed by UNEP executive director Mostapha Tolba. The campaign to
remove him was led by a handful of U.S. officials and 28 major NGOs, who,
according to Lapointe, “claimed I had become the worst criminal on the
planet.” His crime was advocating a sustainable-use philosophy that
allowed for scientifically directed hunting of whales, elephants, and
other animals, especially in situations that respect local cultural
Thirty months later, a Panel of Judges at the United Nations described
Lapointe’s dismissal as “capricious and arbitrary,” resulting from “the
worst case of character assassination in the history of the United
Nations.” In a unanimous decision, the judges vindicated Lapointe, awarded
him financial compensation, ordered his reinstatement, and forced the U.N.
secretary general to write a letter stating that Lapointe "had fulfilled
his duties and responsibilities in every way and in a highly satisfactory
In 167 passionate pages, Lapointe lays out his pragmatic philosophy of
sustainable use, and he also presents considerable data on the actual
state of many wild animals — data that seldom appear in the media. His
defense clearly shows why poverty is the biggest force working against
conservation. Then he describes the attack on him and the organizations
that did it.
Lapointe takes after the extremist NGOs, whose real green quest is the
pursuit of the greenback. He explains why his pragmatic approach to
conservation runs into conflict with green fundamentalists. His method
does not generate the crises necessary for their fundraising. It soon
becomes clear that this is why Lapointe got the hatchet.
Based on decades of watching environmental and animal rights groups
squeeze their way into CITES, Lapointe distills their common approach to
1) Pick campaigns that can be publicized with graphic, shocking and gory
2) Develop simple, catchy slogans, “Save The Whales,” “Don’t Buy Ivory.”
3) Identify a human villain Norwegian or Japanese whalers; big game
4) Launch an emotional appeal, versus a scientific one; humanizing animals
and dehumanizing people.
5) Always include the threat that this will decrease the quality of life
or threaten ecosystem stability, etc. of people and the world.
According to Lapointe, eco/animal-rights NGOs, such as the Species
Survival Network, a coalition of over 60 NGOs who claim to be “committed
to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of [CITES],”
perpetuate many misconceptions about animals and may actually be a threat
to whales and endangered species.
Lapointe’s book harpoons myths. What is the biggest threat to blue and
right whales? Lapointe suggests it may not be whalers, but an
overabundance of minke whales that compete with blue and right whales for
the same food, as well as killer whales, which ruthlessly prey in packs,
or pods, on young leviathans.
Lapointe also points out that tooted and baleen whales consume
three-to-six times the combined 90-million ton annual seafood catch of all
the world’s commercial fisheries. How often have you ever heard the media
suggest that an overabundance of some species of whales is a contributing
factor to the decline of some stocks of fisheries? Lapointe argues that
controlled whaling, for meat, could help restore ailing fisheries.
This book will destroy false media images of the financially well-heeled
and so-called environmental groups, as well as the governments who support
them. For example, Lapointe says that “Greenpeace is a typical example of
a multi-million dollar business concern that is entirely non-productive.
It creates no wealth for society, but instead plays upon the gullibility
of well-meaning individuals, insidiously undermining the technological
basis that create wealth in the first place.” Lapointe is on point.
The X-Files promoted the idea that “The truth is out there.” One of the
places you can find it is in Embracing the Earth’s Wild Resources. Read
this book and you will learn more about ecology and resource management
than you will by reading the endless stream of urgent appeals and tabloid
newsletters written by the green fundamentalists who drove Eugene Lapointe
out of his leadership post at CITES.
Why Forests Burn
By Michael Reagan
June 27, 2003
More than 300 Arizona families are victims of terrorism, made homeless not
by al-Qaeda’s terrorists, but instead, by our home-grown variety, who
masquerade under the banner of environmentalism while committing what
amounts to arson in our nation’s forests.
From opposition to genetic crops that could end starvation and famine in
much if the third world, to so-called animal rights groups fighting
against medical research that saves untold millions of lives, to groups
such as Greenpeace whose policies have resulted in destructive wild fires
across the nation burning people houses to the ground, to anti-growth
radicals who burn and dynamite new construction, the nation is under
assault from our home-grown terrorists.
The blame for the destruction of millions of acres of forest land in the
West is the direct result of the efforts of environmentalists such as
Greenpeace – they have prevented the Forest Service from doing the kind of
maintenance that prevents wild fires.
That’s not simply my opinion; it is also the opinion of the man who
founded Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, a man now treated by his former allies
in the environmentalist movement as if he were the Devil himself.
Moore states flatly that the scientific facts – and just plain common
sense – that call for cleaning out dead trees and the accumulation of
highly flammable debris on the forest floor are ignored by Greenpeace and
their allies. Their attitude is to let the trees burn.
Moore is outspoken about what the movement he founded has become. He
blames the transformation of Greenpeace and the environmental movement
into a far-left-wing crusade on the fall of the Berlin Wall!
‘Suddenly the international peace movement had a lot less to do.
Pro-Soviet groups in the West were discredited. Many of their members
moved into the environmental movement bringing with them their
eco-Marxism…These factors have contributed to a new variant of the
environmental movement that is so extreme that many people, including
myself, believe its agenda is a greater threat to the global environment
than that posed by mainstream society."
Calling the radical environmentalist movement "anti-democratic": Moore
warns, "The very foundation of our society, liberal representative
democracy, is rejected as being too ‘human-centered.’ In the name of
‘speaking for the trees and other species’ we are faced with a movement
that would usher in an era of eco-fascism. The ‘planetary police’ would
‘answer to no one but Mother Earth herself’."
He adds that the movement is "anti-civilization. In its essence,
eco-extremism rejects virtually everything about modern life. We are told
that nothing short of returning to primitive tribal society can save the
earth from ecological collapse. No more cities, no more airplanes, no more
polyester suits. It is a naive vision of a return to the Garden of Eden."
It is left unsaid that this new and glorious Eden, of course, requires a
radical reduction in the number of human beings allegedly overcrowding the
surface of our beloved Mother Earth. How that reduction is to be achieved
is not explained but widespread abortion that has killed over 40 million
unborn Americans is a good start. So was the Clinton administration and UN
failure to stop the slaughter of a million human beings in Uganda.
Think about it. Now that the environmentalist terrorists are born and
causing all this trouble, they want population control. It’s too bad we
didn’t have population control before they were born.
As the Muslim world in the Middle East support their terrorists, in the
U.S. we support our terrorists, with Congress groveling before them and
giving them just about everything they want, and millions of Americans
contributing money to them some of which they use to burn Americans out of
Have we no sense?
Greenpeace calls on Madrid to release Rainbow Warrior
Jun 26, 2003
MADRID (AFP) The environmental watchdog group Greenpeace demanded Thursday
that Spanish authorities release their flagship Rainbow Warrior, impounded
two weeks ago and blocked in the southeastern port of Valencia.
Members of Spain's civil guard inspected the ship on June 13 after
Greenpeace activists tried to block a ship carrying African tropical wood
from entering Valencia, with five demonstrators chaining themselves to the
Spain has refused to release the Rainbow Warrior until the organization
pays a security guarantee of 300,000 euros (345,000 dollars).
"While boats carrying wood resulting from the illegal devastation of
African's jungles systematically enter Spanish ports with the government's
permission, the transport ministry is pursuing Greenpeace for denouncing
these activities," said the director of Greenpeace Spain, Juan Lopez de
Officials at Spain's merchant marine ministry told AFP that an inquiry had
been opened into Greenpeace's activities in Valencia, but could not
explain why the group's ship was being held pending payment of the hefty
A Valencia court on Tuesday ordered the Rainbow Warrior's captain, Joel
Stewart, to pay a 180-euro fine and the five demonstrators to pay 90 euros
each for their role in the June 13 incident.
UN Maritime Body Decides to Evict Greenpeace
Environmental News Service
June 25, 2003
LONDON, UK, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - The International Maritime Organization
(IMO) has given notice that it intends to remove Greenpeace from its list
of official observers, a consultative status the international
environmental organization has enjoyed for a decade.
Greenpeace is known for its strategy of sending volunteers to board ships
carrying cargo the organization deems to be bad for the environment, such
as illegally logged timber, and to chain themselves to parts of the ships
At its 90th session last week, the IMO Council decided to withdraw the
consultative status of Greenpeace International, the Iberoamerican
Institute of Maritime Law, and the International Bar Association. The
Council's ruling was made public Tuesday. A final decision will be made by
the IMO Assembly at its next regular session in November.
Greenpeace says that two of the complainants, Cyprus and Turkey, are among
the "flag of convenience" states which have met criticism from Greenpeace
for their "willingness to license substandard and dangerous oil tankers."
In the eight months since the oil tanker "Prestige" spilled an estimated
12,000 metric tons of oil off the coast of northern Spain, Greenpeace has
been active, demanding an accelerated ban on single-hull tankers, a scale
back in the use of oil worldwide, and a tightening of loopholes that allow
"dangerous rust buckets to sail under flags of convenience," the
The complaint to the IMO from Turkey notes that in July of 2002, activists
chained themselves to various parts of the oil tanker "Crude Dio" and hung
a banner reading "Stop the Oil Industry. Clean Energy Now!"
Complainant Australia noted that Greenpeace had protested ships carrying
shale oil and genetically modified soy beans.
The shipping industry has been trying to brand Greenpeace actions as
"dangerous" for years, despite the organization's view that the "real
dangers are the cargoes such as oil, plutonium, and toxic wastes."
Greenpeace says safety is "paramount" at all times. "Our activists are
thoroughly trained, our nautical standards and expertise have earned the
respect of coast guards and maritime specialists around the world. Unlike
the oil industry, we don't put other people's lives or the environment at
risk with our actions."
The IMO is financially dependent on the tanker industry, Greenpeace points
out. The dues paid by each country are determined by the tonnage of their
respective fleets, which makes the large flag of convenience countries -
Panama, Liberia, Greece, Cyprus, and others - the largest contributors.
The oil companies often pay these dues and will even represent these
countries directly at the IMO, Greenpeace says.
"As the doors of the IMO close to all but the corporate dealmakers and
backroom politicos, Greenpeace will continue its fight to protect our
oceans and its struggle against unsafe cargoes. This fragile earth
deserves a voice. The IMO has a duty to listen," the organization says.