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Date:

July 20, 2003

Subject:

Another Nobelist Endorses AgBioWorld Petition; UK Science Panel V

 

Today in AgBioView: July 21, 2003:

* Dr. Sydney Brenner, Nobel Laureate Endorses AgBioWorld Declaration
* UK Science Panel Says GM Food Safety Risk Very Low
* Risky Business - Time Magazine says "no such thing as zero risk"
* Frankenstein Food Safer Than Organic
* Will Food Science End Hunger?
* Europeans Remain Reluctant to Accept GM Foods
* Bangladesh: Ag Minister Stresses Frontier Research in Agriculture
* US Reacts to EU GMO Rules
* Cleaning House - Sound biotech policy, like charity, begins at home
* GM - The Truth

Dr. Sydney Brenner, Nobel Laureate Endorses AgBioWorld Declaration

'AgBioWorld Nobel Count now 21'

Dr. Sydney Brenner, a widely acclaimed scientist and the winner of last
year's Nobel Prize in Medicine joins 20 other Nobel laureates in endorsing
the AgBioWorld declaration in support of agricultural biotechnology
research at http://www.agbioworld.org/.

Dr. Brenner, who was born in South Africa and now a professor at Salk
Institute (CA), "made seminal discoveries concerning the genetic
regulation of organ development and programmed cell death. By establishing
and using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as an experimental model
system, possibilities were opened to follow cell division and
differentiation from the fertilized egg to the adult." (Source:
www.nobel.se) .

Dr. Brenner has been outspoken in his call for continued genetic research
to advance human welfare. Recently at the Melbourne International Congress
of Genetics, he said "Genetic engineering has been turned into this
Frankenstein technology and a lot of it is due to ignorance."

AgBioWorld thanks the estemeed scientist for lending his support for a
worthy cause.

Full list of Nobel laureates support AgBioWorld petition at
http://www.agbioworld.org/declaration/nobelwinners.html

Learn more about Dr. Sydney Brenner's life and work at
http://www.salk.edu/news/sb.php

Listen to and read this great scientist's Nobel lecture at
http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/2002/brenner-speech.html

**********************************************

UK Science Panel Says GM Food Safety Risk Very Low

- Reuters, July 21, 2003

Genetically modified crops pose a very low risk to human health and foods
derived from them are probably as safe as those made from conventional
varieties, a major British scientific study has concluded.
"On balance, the panel concludes that the risks to human health from GM
crops currently on the market are very low," the report of the
government-backed study, published on Monday, said.

The report said that, "there have been no verifiable untoward toxic or
nutritionally deleterious effects" on human health, but did not say they
were completely safe. The 24-member scientific panel responsible for the
"GM Science Review" said more research was needed, particularly as new
varieties entered the market.

"It is clear that gaps in our knowledge and uncertainties will become more
complex if the range of plants and traits introduced increases," the GM
Science Review Panel, led by chief government scientist David King, said.

The report largely dismissed arguments by green groups that GM crops would
cross-pollinate with conventional plants to create "superweeds" that would
blight the countryside and taint organically-grown varieties. GM crops are
"very unlikely to invade our countryside or become problematic plants," it
said.

Opponents of the technology say they want more evidence before the
government decides whether the gene-spliced crops should be grown in
Britain. "The limited evidence available indicates that there could still
be negative effects," Gundula Azeez, policy manager at organic lobby group
the Soil Association said. "It would be irresponsible of the government to
expose the public to these risks by approving GM crops," she added.

Environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth also called for more
research. "There are considerable scientific uncertainties about the long
term effects that GM food and crops may have on human health and the
environment - this is because there has not been enough research into the
potential impacts," the group's GM campaigner Pete Riley said.

The commercial benefits of GM crops were largely dismissed in a government
Strategy Unit study published last week, which concluded that there were
few economic reasons for introducing them into Britain, at least over the
short term.

Controversy surrounding the technology is unlikely to fade away soon, with
the results of field-scale trials of GM crops and the outcome of a
government-sponsored public debate on the technology all expected in
September.

The Independent Steering Board, which organised the government's recent
eight-week-long debate, has to analyse opinions and responses to more than
20,000 questionnaires before drawing together its final report. The
government has indicated it will decide later this year whether to allow
the gene-spiced crops to be grown in Britain.

**********************************************

Risky Business

- James Geary, Time, Vol. 162, No. 4; July 28, 2003
Full story at
http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901030728-465812,00.html


'Science can pinpoint potential dangers from GM foods, mobile phones and
household chemicals -- but can't tell us if those risks are real. What's a
consumer to do?'

.... Over the past months and years we've endured the SARS crisis, the BSE
scandal and the foot-and-mouth epidemic. We've been warned of deep-vein
thrombosis from air travel, brain cancer from mobile-phone radiation, and
mutations from genetically modified organisms. We've been told that
climate change threatens our coastlines, antibiotic-resistant viruses
threaten our children, and wayward asteroids threaten our planet.
Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning seems too risky --
especially when we consider that it could take decades before we know if
these potential dangers are real.

How worried should we be? That depends on how much uncertainty we're
prepared to live with. And these days we're prepared to live with less and
less. As science, medicine and technology make life safer, healthier and
more comfortable, our intolerance of risk is growing. Plenty of dangers
have been eliminated -- childhood mortality is way down, diseases that
were once common have been eradicated, food is more plentiful and
nutritious than ever. But these advances have made us even more sensitive
to the risks that remain. "Before the umbrella, if it started to rain you
got wet," says Raffaele De Giorgi, director of the Center for the Study of
Risk at Italy's University of Lecce. "With the invention of the umbrella,
the risk of getting wet was born."

Most Europeans, for example, are alarmed by the prospect of eating GM
foods, but many will happily sit in a bar munching potato chips, smoking
cigarettes and drinking alcohol -- all of which together amount to a much
clearer health risk than sipping a bowl of genetically modified tomato
soup. Europeans are suspicious of GM foods despite the absence of any
proof that they are actually unsafe. In contrast, everybody knows smoking
can kill you -- but 94 million people in the E.U. do it anyway. "There are
discussions about health risks that are a luxury," says Irene Lukassowitz,
spokeswoman for Berlin's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. "By and
large, we are very well-fed and have the time to worry about even the
smallest risk. Consumers want to be protected, but prefer it if there is
someone else to blame."

Helene Guldberg, a developmental psychologist at Britain's Open
University, believes that our risk- aversion poses dangers of its own.
Society's reluctance to accept the inevitable risks that accompany
progress, she argues, could slow the pace of discovery and innovation.
"There can never be a guarantee that anything is harmless," she says. "But
unless there is evidence of harm, we shouldn't worry. Without risk taking
there can be no experimentation, and therefore no progress."

Learning to live with risk is one of those quintessentially modern skills
-- like learning to order a venti-skim latte or buy groceries online --
but a whole lot more difficult and important. To manage our fear of risk,
we have to come to terms with some very tricky issues. Can we trust
scientists, politicians and the media to interpret the dangers and
benefits of new technologies? When they dump the choices back in our laps
and tell us to make the decisions -- test the fetus or not; eat the food
or not; use the phone or not -- how do we do it? Should we just stop
worrying and be happy? To find out, Time examined the science and the hype
around three controversial issues -- GM foods, mobile phones and household
chemicals. Here's our anatomy of risk.

To Eat or Not to Eat?

Looking out over a field of genetic-ally modified oilseed rape on his
810-hectare farm in Oxfordshire, 85 km northwest of London, Christopher
Lewis recalls the warm, sunny day last summer when an Oxford University
scientist came to visit. Lewis, a thoughtful man who's been a farmer for
44 of his 69 years, has been growing GM crops for the past 36 months as
part of a U.K. government study to track the impact of genetically
modified organisms on the environment. He took the researcher down to one
of the maize test fields. Conventional maize was growing on one side; on
the other, the plants were genetically modified to be resistant to
glyphosate, a herbicide found in every garden store, which kills plants
while leaving the soil undamaged.

On the GM side, treated with the relatively mild glyphosate, there were
occasional clumps of small, stunted weeds as well as "midges, bees,
beetles and a pair of partridges feeding their young," Lewis remembers. On
the non- GM side -- which was treated with simazine, a stronger
conventional herbicide that clears weeds but can render the soil sterile
-- there was nothing; no weeds, no insects, no birds. "How can these
anti-GM protesters continue down this route?" Lewis wonders. "What more
assurance do they want?"

Few Europeans share Lewis' conviction. A Eurobarometer survey carried out
in 2001 found that 94% of respondents wanted the right to choose whether
to consume GM foods -- and 70% don't want to eat the stuff at all. And
Lewis has paid a high price for his willingness to experiment. Anti-GM
activists ripped up his crops seven times, intimidating him and his
family; and some of his neighbors have shunned him for "meddling with
nature."

Opponents of such meddling fear that the genes inserted into crops could
confer new and undesirable traits on wild species, damaging biodiversity
and creating "super-weeds." They also worry that GM foods could affect
human health in unpredictable ways. "We need to be extremely cautious,
because once the GM genie gets out of the bottle, it's going to be very
difficult to put back in," says Mike Grenville, 53, a mobile-phone
industry consultant who, last month, led a protest against GM crops in
Forest Row in East Sussex.

Opponents of gene modification also allege that GM crops are being foisted
on the public by agro-chemical conglomerates interested in nothing but
profit. It's true that multinationals stand to gain. These firms often
control the rights to genetically modified seeds as well as the pesticides
to which the crops are made resistant. Monsanto sells glyphosate under the
name Roundup and a variety of seeds resistant to the weedkiller as Roundup
Ready. But GM crops could benefit others too, especially farmers in the
developing world. In many countries, supplies of arable land and water are
diminishing as the demand for food increases. The U.K.'s Nuffield Council
on Bioethics, an independent think tank, recently suggested that gene
technology could improve the livelihoods of poor people in developing
countries by enabling them to increase crop yields, grow drought-resistant
plants and cultivate salinated soil.

The economic impact in the U.K., however, is likely to be minimal in the
short term, according to a new report by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit.
Only a few GM crops so far are suited to the British climate, and public
mistrust of GM will probably ensure that the market for it is small. The
government's review of GM science, published this week, concluded that the
health risks from current products were "very low" but some uncertainties
remained, and that crop approval should be granted on a case-by-case
basis.

So are GM foods safe? The results of a recent Danish trial, published by
Denmark's National Environmental Research Institute (NERI), suggest they
are. For three years, researchers at the NERI monitored fields of
conventional and GM sugar beet, the latter genetically altered to be
resistant to glyphosate. They found that the GM plots supported more plant
species and insects than the conventional plots, thus providing more food
for birds and other types of wildlife. And in May, Britain's Royal Society
produced a GM science review that "found nothing to indicate that GM foods
are inherently unsafe."

That's not good enough for Pete Riley, senior food campaigner for Friends
of the Earth. His organization's study of the chemical constituents of
genetically modified maize indicates GM foods show increases in amino
acids, the building blocks of proteins that control bodily processes.
"That could be significant in the long term," Riley says, arguing that
years of exposure to GM foods could affect muscle and organ growth.

There's been little research into how GM foods behave inside the human
body. But one study, commissioned from Newcastle University by Britain's
Food Standards Agency, found evidence that low levels of
antibiotic-resistant genes inserted into GM soya can pass into the
bacteria that live inside the gut. That's worrying, says Emily Diamand,
senior food research officer for Friends of the Earth, because "if you
insert an antibiotic-resistant gene into a crop, and then the food is
broken down in your stomach, other bacteria can pick up the gene and use
it in unpredictable ways." Those concerns were backed up last month when
the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization and the who warned that a
failure to rigorously study the health effects of GM foods could prevent
us from identifying GM-induced toxic reactions, allergies and resistance
to antibiotics.

"I am astonished and appalled that there have been no systematic clinical
tests of the long-term health impact of people eating GM foods," says
Michael Meacher, the former British Environment Minister who launched the
trials in which Christopher Lewis is taking part. "I am not against GM,"
he says, "but I don't think anything like the right amount of testing has
been done."

The bottom line is, there is no bottom line: no definitive proof that GM
foods damage your health, no definitive proof that they're safe. And this
is a handy point to keep in mind when trying to interpret research
results: absolute certainty is a myth.

"Science can never say there is no chance of something happening," says
Colin Blakemore, a professor of physiology at Oxford University. "All you
can do is gradually accumulate evidence that reduces the probability."
Most scientists agree that the balance of probability is that GM foods are
safe. But most will also admit they can't be sure.

What we can be sure about, though, is that Europeans want to decide for
themselves whether to eat the stuff. So in the absence of scientific
certainty, the E.U. is providing the next best thing: freedom of choice.
By the end of this year, any product with more than 0.9% of GM content
must be identified as such. Hundreds of foodstuffs -- ranging from
mayonnaise to cooking oil to peanut butter and coming mostly from the U.S.
and Canada -- will now require labels.

Neither side of the GM divide is likely to accept the other's results, so
the arguments both for and against are sure to continue. There is one
thing, however, on which they can agree: the customer is always right. But
for consumers who have to make their decisions without the benefit of
conclusive science, the question is simple: Feeling lucky?

When it comes to calculating risk, reasonable doubt can be the consumer's
best friend. It's perfectly reasonable to doubt what scientists,
activists, businessmen and politicians say; to doubt hyped-up headlines
that exaggerate the benefits or dangers of new technologies. But doubt is
not enough. To take control of decisions that can affect your health, you
have to do your homework -- by using the library or the Web to get more
information, and finding out whether the people praising or blaming some
new advance have a vested interest in the result.

But be warned: even after you've done the research, you still won't know
for sure if GM foods, mobile phones or household chemicals are safe. So
the first step is to accept the fact that, despite our scientific prowess,
100% certainty has gone the way of the new economy and the free lunch.

There's no such thing as total proof, no such thing as zero risk. Better
learn to live with it.

**********************************************

Frankenstein Food Safer Than Organic

- Mike Merritt, Sunday Mail (UK), July 20, 2003
http://www.sundaymail.co.uk

'Pennington attacks GM critics and vegetarians'

SCOTLAND'S top food expert revealed yesterday he'd rather eat so- called
Frankenstein Food than organic produce. Professor Hugh Pennington launched
a scathing attack on critics of genetically modified food.

He claimed organic fruit and vegetables - backed as a healthy option by
supporters such as Prince Charles - are as dangerous as mass-produced
food. The professor spoke out before publication of a hard-hitting book
written to mark his retirement after a career spent policing Britain's
food industry.

In the book, he lays into many of his fellow experts for alarming
shoppers. He claims:

* Food in our supermarkets is healthier now than 30 years ago.
* Organic food is not worth paying extra for.
* Obesity is more of a risk to life than food poisoning.
* The human version of mad cow disease will claim no more than 200 lives
in Britain.
* Vegetarians must lead very dull lives. {from Prakash: :( }

The professor of microbiology at Aberdeen University led the government
inquiry into the Wishaw e.coli outbreak in 1996 which killed 27 people. He
said: "Each GM product should be looked at on its merits. I've no problem
with the technology. It is used to make vaccines and nobody complains
about that.

"GM food is perfectly safe, possibly far safer than organic. The key for
producers is to make it cheaper, nicer and safer than natural foods. At
the end of the day, people vote with their purses."

The professor played down fears surrounding modern mass-production
methods. He said: "I don't think organic food is healthier. It may use
less pesticides but the amount of pesticides used in non-organic food is
unlikely to do anybody any harm. It is about zero.

"The growth of the organic market has slowed down. It appeals to the
wealthier, older, middle class. Supermarket food is much safer than 30
years ago. Organic food is just as likely to give you food poisoning."

Last week, the Sunday Mail revealed Prince Charles was planning to send
his favourite organic vegetables north for his month- long holiday at
Balmoral. But Prof Pennington said: "People seem to think that just
because it's organic, it's healthier - it is not. Just because an animal
is free-range doesn't make it safer to eat."

The professor doesn't see the need for more food inspectors but says more
home cooks should go on hygiene courses. He believes children should be
taught the general principles of food safety at school.

He said: "You'd couple that with a broader approach to food, including
what a good diet is. "Obesity is a much bigger problem than food
poisoning. It kills thousands every year."

Prof Pennington doesn't agree with people who shun meat. He said: "You can
still get food poisoning from a vegetarian diet. "Our teeth were designed
to eat meat with - it must be dull to be a vegetarian. "If you avoid
everything, like the Mormons - if you don't drink coffee, you don't drink
alcohol and you don't smoke and so on - you might tack an extra couple of
years on to your life. But most people would probably think it was not
worth it."

The professor's book, When Food Kills, will be published by Oxford
University Press after he retires in September.

**********************************************

Will Food Science End Hunger?

- Al Swanson, July 18, 2003 United Press International http://www.upi.com/

Nell Mondy believes God was working behind the scenes when she spent four
months in Nigeria for a food technology research project 20 years ago.

The 81-year-old retired Cornell University chemist went to Africa in 1983
to compare the biochemistry of the American potato and the African yam and
ended up helping a rural village and later the entire country use soybeans
to overcome severe nutritional deficiencies affecting thousands of
children.

"I was experimenting with potatoes in my work on enzymes," she said. "I
knew how to do this and I saw the need because these women were having to
import soybean milk through Togo from Holland and I knew that we had
soybeans ... "

Mondy said she lacked needed chemicals in her field lab to perform the
potato experiments she had planned and instead used materials she had on
hand to show women at a nearby children's home how to make their own high
protein soymilk.

"What I did was to go back and contact the men who were growing these
soybeans and offer to buy some bags to take over to the children's home,"
she said. "And when they heard about this, they said they'd love for me to
take the soybeans. They were anxious to get it into Africa so they gave
them to me."

Mondy said it was easy to teach African mothers how to make soymilk. "They
needed the soy protein to go with their cassava," she said. "The children
were very sick. They were really very sick. They were so deficient in
protein. They had been trying to live on cassava and they were very
deficient in protein and other things too."

Cassava, a starchy shrub formed into cakes or tapioca, has nutrients but
is an incomplete protein. The children were losing their hair, had large
stomachs and kwashiorkor -- a disease of starvation that literally means
"red boy" in Ghanaian -- was very prevalent. "It made me very sad," she
said. "I took some pictures of them in the home."

Mondy said school officials had been trying to teach the mothers what to
do for their babies and they had been thinking of different sources of
protein. They were importing soymilk and with her help soon learned how to
make it themselves. The mothers started growing the soybeans and making
their own soymilk and they liked it so well they started teaching others
how to do it.

Four years later the Nigerian government had a nationwide soymilk program
funded by Canada to fight protein deficiencies in children. "I felt that
God had a purpose in this," she said. "And I happened to have the right
information at the right time and I knew how to use it and get them to use
it."

Mondy told her experience to a room of academics, scientists and food
technologists at the 12th World Congress of Food Science and Technology.
The session was a continuation of a 6-month-old roundtable of the
International Union of Food Science and Technology, a 33-year-old
organization with chapters in 66 countries. Mondy's story was an object
lesson, as speaker after speaker called for use of appropriate technology
to end hunger in developing counties.

"The good news is there's enough food produced to meet the nutritional
needs of every person on the planet," said Malcolm C. Bourne of the New
York State Agricultural Experiment Station and Institute of Food Science,
Cornell University. "The bad news is there is unequal distribution." There
was a huge increase in food production in the late 20th century but
post-harvest crops are lost to spoilage, spillage, pests and insects --
and distribution is affected by wars, corruption, poor government
policies, geopolitics, globalization and Third World debt, which hinders
economic development and sometimes creates famine.

IUFost is concerned about practical programs that food science and
technology can develop to make adequate food and clean water available,
and what part individual food scientists and technologists can play.

By 2008, 3 billion people will live in countries that face water shortages
-- especially in North Africa, China and India -- and there is a growing
list of countries at risk. Hydrology expert Wayne Bidlack of California
State Polytechnic University said biogenomics would develop crops that
have shorter growing periods and the ability to thrive in harsher climates
and salinity that will lead to water savings.

Agriculture uses more fresh water than any other human activity and does
not return more than three-quarters of the resource for further use. Water
scarcity will only increase with global climate change as aquifers that
took thousands of years to fill are drained and the sinking water table
may never recover.

Land-use decisions are water decisions and competition over water may lead
to conflicts in the regions where it is scarcest. The Jordan River in the
Middle East is one of more than a dozen river basins shared by five or
more countries. About 261 other river basins worldwide are shared by two
or more countries. "We must safeguard our limited resources from human
activity," Bidlack said at a lecture entitled "Water: The World's Most
Precious Resource."

Conservation and deeper wells will only provide groundwater for irrigation
so long before the ecosystem suffers irreparable damage. More efficient
water management systems like drip irrigation have not widely adopted
because of its cost. "If you try to pick up any one thing you'll find it
attached to everything else," said J. Ralph Blanchfield of Britain. "This
is not just rhetoric."

Technologies like drying, canning, refrigeration, freezing, packaging and
pasteurization have been able to dramatically increase the shelf life of
perishables like fruit, dairy products and flour, but processing and
bioengineering is expensive because of the costs of labor and equipment.
Products like meat, milk and prepared breads remain highly perishable.
"Hundreds of millions have less than $1 a day to spend on food -- what we
spend on a can of Coke," said Bourne.

Daryl Lund of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said more long-distance
education was needed to get knowledge from universities to the people who
can use it. He outlined an ongoing demonstration project in sub-Saharan
Africa using well-trained mentors and paraprofessionals to teach
entry-level people who already work in the food industry. He said hands-on
experiential on-the-job training, local ownership and a sense of
empowerment were key to successful distance learning.

Poor people don't care about scientific theories they care about what's on
their plate, said Henry Njapay, a Zambian-born food scientist who works by
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Make food technology education
available to the locals." Zambia last year rejected Bush administration
efforts to promote biotechnology and genetically engineered food even
though the continent's food needs have soared.

Africa has changed like the rest of the world. In 1962, 80 percent of
African people lived in rural areas but by 2002 nearly half lived in
cities. A 1997 study published by The International Food Policy Research
Institute estimated the population of sub-Saharan Africa would increase by
425 million between 1995 and 2020, requiring an additional 73.1 million
metric tons of cereals -- maize, rice, wheat, barley, millets, sorghum,
legumes -- and 5.75 million metric tons of meat products.

The number of malnourished children was expected to jump from 25 million
to 32 million despite world food relief programs. Countries can no longer
be fed by subsistence agriculture but producing high-yield crops is not an
end in itself, it's what ends up on the table that counts.

In many cases low tech rather than high tech is the appropriate
technology, said Ken Marsh of the Institute of Food Technologists, which
had its annual "Food Expo" in not far from the 12th World Congress of Food
Science and Technology.

More than 900 exhibitors touted their wares at the Expo and some handed
out samples of new products like jell lemonade that resembled a science
experiment more than food. Street protesters demonstrated outside both
meetings against bio-engineered "Frankenfoods"

"More and more companies, including the biggest companies in the world
like Kraft Foods, are getting into organics," said Larry Bohlen, director
of Health and Environmental Programs of Friends of the Earth. "One of the
themes here today is that biotech is costing food companies billions of
dollars. Kraft lost millions because of recalls (of processed taco shells
that contained StarLink, a variety of genetically engineered corn not
approved for human consumption) as well as lawsuits, settlements over
StarLink."

Friends of the Earth tested 23 products in 2000 and found StarLink in the
food supply. Bohlen called StarLink a "biotech blunder." "The track record
of the biotech industry has been abysmal and it's clear that biotech crops
cost us all," he said.

"From consumers, to farmers to food companies like Chicago's hometown food
company, Kraft, biotech food has made us all victims," said Christine
Phillips of Genewise. "We shouldn't repeat the same mistake by pinning our
hopes of solving world hunger on an unproven technology that poses huge
risks to our health and environment." Demonstrators held signs reading:
"World Food Con: Biotech makes hunger worse, not better."

Bohlen said environmentalists feared U.S. agribusiness was more interested
in promoting expensive first-generation genetically engineered crops than
offering more cost-effective solutions to hunger that would work better in
areas suffering from famine.

The European Union slapped a moratorium on approval of genetically
modified organism crops and the United States filed a complaint with the
World Health Organization contending the EU had turned some developing
African nations against biotechnology.

"Perhaps they jumped before they could run," said B. Onuma Okezie,
professor and director of the Office of International Programs at Alabama
A&M University. "Biotechnology is a good thing that will help humanity,
but they didn't finish the research to ensure that it is safe. If people
had enough information about the safety of the food they wouldn't reject
it. We needed to do the research completely before we began to peddle the
GMO foods. "It is a good thing, but more research is needed to reassure
consumers that they are safe for consumption and the environment," said
the Nigerian-born professor.

Okezie said IFT and IUFost were making progress in fighting world
hunger."For years I have been talking about the massive technical know how
within IFT to bring them to emphasize the need for technology in
developing countries. They're listening. People are paying attention now.
They are concerned about how to deal with food security in many countries,
not only in developing countries."

Even Friends of the Earth's Bohlen, a mechanical engineer by training,
acknowledged what he had heard at IUFost had not been what he expected.

Up to 20,000 people were expected to attend the World Food Congress,
"Feeding the World: Opportunities Without Boundaries," before it ends
Sunday

**********************************************

Europeans Remain Reluctant to Accept Genetically Modified Foods

- Charles Crain, St. Joseph's News Press, July 21, 2003
http://www.stjoenews-press.com

'Missourians look at genetically modified crops and see possibilities.'

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., a farmer before he became a congressman,
remembers learning about the new technology for the first time. "I was in
awe about the stuff that was on the horizon," Mr. Graves said. "Iím still
that way."

But where Missouri farmers see opportunity, Europeans see risk. Europe
hasn't allowed the cultivation or import of genetically engineered crops
since 1998, and American critics accuse Europeans of leading a campaign to
discredit the technology.

The possibility of military intervention in Liberia dominated the
headlines during President Bushís trip to Africa, but he made a point of
touting the benefits of genetically modified crops in meetings with
African leaders.

"Some governments are blocking the import of crops grown with
biotechnology, which discourages African countries from producing and
exporting these crops," Mr. Bush said on June 26 in laying out his agenda
for Africa. "The ban of these countries is unfounded. It is unscientific.
It is undermining the agricultural future of Africa"

The presidentís faith in genetically modified foods is shared by farmers
and scientists in Missouri and across the country, who see a weapon
against hunger and disease in genetically modified crops. "Weíre teaching
plants to grow in saltier, drier soil, so more of the world is arable,"
said Bill Romjue of the Missouri Biotechnology Association.

By modifying plants' DNA, scientists can make crops more resistant to
drought and insects. In the past decade, the use of genetically modified
crops like corn and soybeans has proliferated in Missouri and across the
country. Lowell Mohler, director of Missouriís Department of Agriculture,
said more than 70 percent of last yearís Missouri soybean crop was
genetically modified. Fred Stemme of the Missouri Corn Growers Association
says 42 percent of Missouriís corn crop was genetically modified in 2003
-- up from 34 percent in just one year.

"The goal is to produce a premium product," said Tom Lesnak of the St.
Joseph Area Chamber of Commerce. "Genetically modified seeds have proven
that they are a valuable commodity, something that can really help our
agriculture industry."

But in Europe, a continent where mad-cow disease has killed 135 people
since 1995, altering the food supply inspires wariness, not excitement.
Europeans are concerned that altering a plantís DNA may have unintended
consequences for human health and the environment, consequences that may
not become apparent until it is too late.

"I donít think it's easy to understand how panicky it made people about
the food supply," said Maeve OíBeirne, the press officer for the European
Commissionís Washington delegation. "The European consumer tends to be a
little bit more cautious." This caution, Ms. O'Beirne said, is the driving
force behind the reluctance of some European countries to allow the
cultivation of genetically modified crops or the import of genetically
modified foods. No genetically modified foods have been approved for sale
in Europe since 1998, while the European Union continues working to draft
rules that satisfy the concerns of all of its member states.

Such concerns are foreign to most Americans, who have been eating
unlabeled genetically modified foods for years. "Agriculture is so
ingrained in the St. Joseph area, we arenít concerned with the food
supply," Mr. Lesnak said. "Everybody around here knows somebody involved
in agriculture -- itís their lifeblood."

There may be more nervousness over genetically modified foods in Europe,
but Mr. Graves and U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., say European officials are
using that as an excuse to stave off competition. "Itís just
protectionism,Ē Mr. Talent said. "How convenient that theyíre afraid of
this type of technology when it happens to protect their producers."

The U.S. government said the European Unionís actions amount to a
moratorium on the import of American genetically modified crops and filed
a complaint with the World Trade Organization in May. Mr. Mohler said
exports to Europe comprise between 5 percent and 8 percent of Missouriís
agricultural exports and are less important to the stateís farmers than
exports to the Pacific Rim and the Americas. But Mr. Graves said the
moratorium has more far-reaching consequences.

"It backs everything up and affects the price," Mr. Graves said, noting
that a surplus of grain has driven down prices. " has a huge effect on our
exports and a huge effect on our economy."

Mr. Graves, along with Mr. Talent and the office of the U.S. Trade
Representative, says Europeans are scaring the world away from genetically
modified crops. "This is beyond an economic issue. Itís a moral issue,"
Mr. Talent argued, saying that Europeans have pressured countries in
Africa not to accept genetically modified U.S. food aid. "Itís just wrong
to take food out of the mouths of starving people, and I donít think
thatís heated rhetoric."

Ms. O'Beirne strongly disputed the claim that the European Union has
discouraged African countries from importing genetically modified crops.
She pointed out that the European Union shared its own scientific studies
demonstrating the safety of genetically modified foods approved for sale
in Europe. While European activists may be outspoken in their opposition
to genetically modified food, Ms. OíBeirne said those groups donít speak
for the European Union.

Ms. O'Beirne also said that, far from helping the European economy,
restrictions on genetically modified foods have hurt Europeís own biotech
industry. She said the European Union hopes by this fall to have a system
in place that would require foods with more than a tiny amount of
genetically modified ingredients to be labeled and also mandate that the
genetically modified components in foods be traceable back to the place
they were grown. Legislation on labeling passed the European Parliament on
July 2. "We do believe in some respects the vote by the European
Parliament was a positive sign in removing the de facto ban," said Mr.
Stemme.

But he voiced a concern, common in the United States, that European
labeling and tracing requirements will be too impractical and expensive.
"Weíre trading one set of protectionist rules for another," he said. "The
result is going to be continued lock-up of biotech corn."

Ms. O'Beirne says no amount of government action will resolve the real
roadblock for American farmers: widespread European disapproval of
genetically modified foods. Getting the World Trade Organization to
invalidate Europeís moratorium on genetically modified food may prove much
easier than convincing European consumers to eat it.

**********************************************

Bangladesh: Agriculture Minister Stresses Frontier Research in Agriculture

- Reaz Ahmad The Daily Star (Bangladesh) July 21, 2003
http://www.thedailystar.net/

Agriculture Minister MK Anwar has underscored the pursuit of frontier
research in agriculture to raise farm production that reached a plateau
after the benefits of Green Revolution ran out. "We have to give more
attention to applied research in agriculture to make strides in
production," Anwar said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star.

His determination to push the limits came after he took over the
agriculture portfolio and attended the biggest-ever congregation of
agriculture ministers from around the world in the US late last month.

Anwar was among 150 ministers, who attended the June 23-25 international
Ministerial Conference and Exposition on Agricultural Science and
Technology, jointly organised by US Department of Agriculture (USDA), US
Agency for International Development (USAID) and US Department of State in
Sacramento, California.

The minister emphasised a major review on the agriculture sector in
Bangladesh. "I had some positive discussions with the World Bank division
chief on agriculture and rural economy," Anwar said of his talks in
Washington later with senior officials of the WB South Asia Agriculture
Division on its bankrolling the projects on agricultural development in
Bangladesh.

Anwar quoted Prime Minister Khaleda Zia as saying agriculture is the prime
mover of the economy and added that experts were now talking about Gene
Revolution -- meaning the world will have to tap the benefits of genetic
engineering in farming. He pointed out that the Sacramento conference
that highlighted the prospects of modern crop science, gave almost no
attention to the issue of pumping millions of dollars as farm subsidy by
the developed economies.

About the possible fallout of genetically modified crops, Anwar recalled
that anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) groups rallied outside the
Sacramento conference hall, as they believe that conquering world hunger
is just a veneer, and making money the ulterior motive.

The groups argue that bio-engineered agriculture is an inadequate solution
to hunger and is potentially dangerous. Reviewing a 20-year vision
document, developed by the National Agriculture Research System (NARS)
back in Dhaka on July 16, Anwar laid stress on more applied researches to
be supplemented by basic and intermediate research.

He said applied research should be carried out to harvest in different
soils by applying biotechnology and hybrid seeds at the farmers' level. He
emphasised harmonisation of field trial achievements of scientific
research and farmers' experience to reduce the gap between field trial and
actual production.

The NARS framed the document with an individual master plan and action
plan of all agricultural institutes to ensure an appropriate use of
agriculture inputs, maintain genetic resources, face climate change,
achieve competitiveness on the world market and develop research.

Three separate committees were formed at the review meeting to assess the
recommendations with a specific programme review. The pursuit of modern
crop science apart, the agriculture ministry will think seriously of the
weak marketing management, Anwar said.

**********************************************

US Reacts to EU GMO Rules

- Andrew Scott, July 9, 2003 The Scientist in assoc with BioMed Central
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20030709/03/

Labeling and tracing plans are criticized, but new UN rules may strengthen
EU position

US trade officials say that the EU's proposed new rules for the labeling
and traceability of genetically modified (GM) crops and foods will not be
enough to resolve a complaint the United States currently has before the
World Trade Organization (WTO). The rules, approved by a vote of the
European Parliament last week, require special labeling of food with more
than 0.9% GM content, or which involved GM crops in its production, and
the meticulous tracing of GM products from the field to the consumer.

The vote was intended to clear the path to removing the EU's de facto
moratorium on new GM approvals, in place since 1998. This moratorium arose
when some member states of the European Union blocked new approvals
because of fears about safety and consumers' right to know if GM crops
were present in foods or had been used in their production. This has been
interpreted by the United States and some other countries as unfair
blocking of the free movement of safe products and led to the complaint to
the WTO, a first decision on which is expected later this year.

Richard Mills, of the US Trade Representative's office, said that the new
rules would not be sufficient for the WTO complaint to be resolved. In a
statement released after the vote, he said the new labeling requirements
should be nonprejudicial and feasible. "We are concerned that the proposed
traceability and labeling does not meet this standard," he said.

The US position may have been weakened by the adoption by the United
Nations, at a meeting that ended on July 7, of new standards on GM crops.
These standards are widely used as the legal basis for resolving trade
disputes. They provide detailed procedures for determining if GM foods are
safe and also endorse the concept of traceability, which is central to the
European proposals.

David Bowe of the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment,
Public Health and Consumer Policy does not see much hope for things
changing to suit US demands. He told The Scientist that the new proposal
is "the best we can get in terms of a balanced piece of legislation, and
it will give the consumer choice if we can make it work."

"There will be some member states who wish to persist with the
moratorium," Bowe said. "I am sure there are going to be a lot of
disputes." He pointed out that the real test will only come when the
appropriate Regulatory Committees meet to consider new applications,
something that is not likely until the fall.

Simon Barber of EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries,
believes the new rules meet the demands of the member states that have
been blocking new approvals. "We now see no reason for the continued
moratorium," he told The Scientist.

The reaction of the US biotech and agriculture community has been
overwhelmingly negative. "The new traceability and labeling standards are
impractical," Val Giddings, of the Biotechnology Industry Organization,
based in Washington, D.C,. said in a statement. "We fear the result [of
the rules] would be to replace an overt moratorium with a technical
barrier to trade that would be no less indefensible."

Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a
statement: "The EU has only made a bad situation worse. It's commercially
impossible to comply with the rule, it's not justified by any scientific
analysis, and it's just as WTO inconsistent as the biotech ban that the EU
says it will replace."

European anti-GM pressure groups are taking some comfort from the new EU
rules but are far from satisfied. Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) would
have preferred a threshold of 0.1% rather than 0.9%, in order to make it
as strict as current testing techniques allow.

But they gave the rules a general welcome. "This new legislation is a
welcome step in the right direction and will allow countries to take
action to protect our food and farming from genetic pollution," Geert
Ritsema, FoEE's GMO campaign coordinator, said in a statement. "It will
also give consumers and farmers more information so that they can choose
whether or not to take part in the biotech industry's massive GM
experiment."

Links for this article
A. Scott, "EU Parliament OKs GMO rules," The Scientist, July 2, 2003.
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20030702/03/
"US and cooperating countries file WTO case against EU moratorium on
biotech foods and crops," Office of the US Trade Representative press
release, May 13, 2003.
http://www.ustr.gov/releases/2003/05/03-31.htm
"New UN standards could strengthen EU's stance on GMO's," EurActiv.com,
July 2, 2003.
http://www.euractiv.com/cgi-bin/cgint.exe/526214-30?204&OIDN=15
05837&-home=search
"Codex Alimentarius Commission adopts more than 50 new food standards,"
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations press release,
July 9, 2003.
http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/news/2003/20363-en.html
EU Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer
Policy
http://www.europarl.eu.int/committees/envi_home.htm
Biotechnology Industry Organization Statement on European Union Vote on
Biotech Foods, July 2, 2003.
http://www.bio.org/newsroom/newsitem.asp?id=2003_0702_01
"FB condemns EU rule on biotech labeling," American Farm Bureau
Federation, July 2, 2003.
http://www.fb.com/news/nr/nr2003/nr0702.html
"New UN standards on GM food a victory for consumers," Consumers
International press release, July 1, 2003.
http://www.consumersinternational.org/news/display.asp?regionid
=135&tag=C&id=261&type=news&cat=467&langid=1#
"MEPs back tougher GM labels new eu legislation gives states power to
restrict GMOs," Friends of the Earth Europe press release, July 2, 2003.
http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2003/GR_2_july_mep.htm

**********************************************

Cleaning House - Sound biotech policy, like charity, begins at home

- Henry I. Miller July 18, 200, www.TechCentralStation.com

Agricultural biotechnology suddenly is headline news -- the focus of a
vitriolic transatlantic trade squabble, and the subject of pointed public
comments recently by President Bush. At a conference in Washington, he
extolled biotechnology's achievements and its potential to feed the
starving inhabitants of less developed countries.

The president also took the opportunity to blast the EU, saying that
European anti-biotechnology hysteria based on "unfounded and unscientific
fears," had caused many European governments to ban the testing and use of
new crop varieties crafted with gene-splicing, the most precise techniques
of biotechnology. "We should encourage the spread of safe, effective
biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger," the president said.

However, sound public policy, like charity, begins at home, and Mr. Bush's
own Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency have
adopted regulatory approaches to biotechnology that are fundamentally as
unscientific and regressive as those in Europe; they're just applied in a
slightly less aggressive fashion.

The dirty little secret of U.S. biotech policy is that regulation at the
USDA and EPA is internally inconsistent and contradicts the official
overarching federal policy -- developed during the previous Bush
administration with the formal agreement of the agencies -- which
stipulates that regulation of biotechnology products should be
"risk-based," "scientifically sound," and focused on "the characteristics
of the biotechnology product and the environment into which it is being
introduced, not the process by which the product is created."

These strictures for federal agencies are contained in a statement of
policy published in 1992 which clarifies how the regulation of
gene-splicing-modified organisms should be approached. It calls explicitly
for "a risk-based" approach to the oversight of gene-spliced products,
asserting that the "[e]xercise of oversight in the scope of discretion
afforded by statute should be based on the risk posed by the introduction
and should not turn on the fact that an organism has been modified by a
particular process or technique."

What we have is exactly the opposite: regulation that arguably has an
inverse relationship to risk, and that is triggered by the use of
gene-splicing techniques.

Consider USDA's approach to regulation. The USDA regulates the importation
and interstate movement of plants and plant products that may result in
plant diseases or pests, or the dissemination of "noxious weeds." "Plant
pests" are defined as any organism "which can directly or indirectly
injure or cause disease or damage in or to any plants or parts thereof, or
any processed, manufactured, or other products of plants." The APHIS
regulations incorporate an inclusive list of organisms that are or that
harbor plant pests. This approach is essentially binary: A plant that an
investigator might wish to introduce into the field is either on the
proscribed, inclusive list of plants pests -- and therefore, requires a
permit -- or it's exempt. This straightforward approach is risk-based, in
that the organisms that are required to undergo case by case governmental
review are an enhanced-risk group -- organisms that can injure or damage
plants -- compared to plants not considered to be plant pests. So far, so
good, but this risk-based regulation has an evil twin.

For the past 15 years, USDA also has maintained a parallel regime focused
exclusively on plants altered or produced through gene-splicing
techniques. In order to establish this mechanism, in which the scope of
what is regulated is essentially independent of risk, USDA tortured the
original concept of a plant pest as something known to be harmful, and
crafted a new category -- a "regulated article," defined as "any organism
or any product altered or produced through gene-splicing technology, which
is a plant pest, or for which there is reason to believe is a plant pest."
The phrase "for which there is reason to believe is a plant pest" has been
broadly interpreted by USDA to include any organism that includes any
amount of DNA from a plant pest -- even a snippet of DNA that is incapable
of conferring pathogenicity. It was defined this way specifically: Because
small sections of DNA from plant viruses or bacteria are often used in the
gene-splicing process to aid in the transfer of DNA between organisms, the
USDA definition captures virtually all gene-spliced plants for case by
case review.

In order to field test or introduce a regulated article, a researcher must
apply to USDA for a permit and submit comprehensive data that includes a
description of the regulated article; identification of the donor organism
(from which genetic material was obtained or transferred); the intended
date and location of importation, movement, or release; how the regulated
article differs from the "unmodified" parental plant; the experimental
protocol for the release; description of facilities to be used; the
measures to ensure confinement; and the plans for disposition of the
regulated article upon termination of the field trial. After a plant has
undergone sufficient testing and evaluation, the sponsor can petition USDA
for a "determination of non-regulated status," which permits a
gene-spliced plant -- at long last -- to be treated by regulators like any
other plant, with no limitations on experimentation, cultivation or sale.

USDA's case-by-case permitting process and costly field test design and
other requirements have made gene-spliced plants disproportionately
expensive to develop and test. A field trial with a gene-spliced plant may
be 10-20 times more expensive than the same experiment performed with a
plant that has an identical phenotype, but which was modified with less
precise genetic techniques!

Consider an actual example of this incongruity in USDA's approach. There
are several varieties of a new pre-gene-splicing manmade "species" of
wheat called Triticum agropyrotriticum, which resulted from the wide-cross
combination of the genomes of bread wheat and a grass sometimes called
quackgrass or couchgrass. Possessing all the chromosomes of wheat and one
extra whole genome from the quackgrass, T. agropyrotriticum has been
independently produced for both animal feed and human food in the former
Soviet Union, Canada, the United States, France, Germany and China.

At least in theory, several kinds of problems could arise from a genetic
construction that introduces tens of thousands of "alien" genes into an
established plant variety. These concerns include the potential for
increased invasiveness of the plant in the field, and the possibility that
quackgrass-derived proteins could be toxic or allergenic. Yet dozens of
new varieties are produced each year through these imprecise traditional
methods of genetic improvement and enter the marketplace and food supply
without any governmental review or special labeling. Only the molecular
methods of the new biotechnology allow breeders to identify and
characterize the exact changes that have been made in the progeny.

This increased precision and predictability make biotech-derived foods
safer than conventional ones -- but paradoxically they are far more
intensively regulated. Government regulators have not shown the slightest
interest in or concern about the greater risks of plant breeding that
would occur with less precise, less predictable techniques. However, if a
single gene from quackgrass were introduced into wheat via gene-splicing
techniques, the draconian regulatory regime applies. This sort of
inconsistency is irreconcilable.

This discriminatory regulation by USDA is the most far-reaching and costly
biotech-related abuse by the USDA. But it is not the only one. Another is
the department's National Biotechnology Impact Assessment Program, an
expensive boondoggle that holds conferences, publishes newsletters and
makes grants for risk assessment, all focused on the meaningless
pseudo-category of gene-spliced organisms. Similarly, there is large
set-aside within USDA's competitive grants program, the Biotechnology Risk
Assessment Research Grants Program, for "biotechnology risk assessment."

These wasteful, superfluous programs exert a corrupting influence on
scientific research and public opinion. Scientific consensus holds that
agricultural applications of gene-splicing technology do not themselves
create any new, incremental risk compared to conventionally modified
organisms. Thus, risk assessment experiments should focus on important
scientific questions wherever they arise, without being constrained to
gene-spliced organisms. Also, the existence of a special "pot" of money
induces researchers to cast proposals of almost any sort (and often of
little scientific merit) as "risk assessment," in order to be eligible for
the set-aside.

Worse still, by focusing assessments solely on gene-spliced organisms,
rather than on a comparison of organisms modified by various methods, the
inevitable response to new research findings is for the press to ignore
the broader context, while highlighting some newly discovered, supposed
risk of gene-splicing.

The portions of the agricultural biotechnology landscape that have not
been ravaged by the USDA have been laid waste by the EPA, whose policies
are equally unscientific and more incompetently implemented than anywhere
else in government.

However, exploiting the old Washington DC political tradition that once
something has been said three times it becomes a fact, federal regulators
continually remonstrate that their policies are scientifically defensible
and risk based. What is remarkable is not that they are disingenuous
(another old Washington tradition), but how consistently they get away
with claims that are clearly untrue.

The harsh reality is that unscientific federal regulatory policies,
combined with unwise decisions on individual products, have created a
seemingly irreversible morass. And even well-intentioned public comments
by the president and secretary of agriculture extolling the virtues of the
new biotechnology do nothing to reverse the malignant effects of their
administration's regulatory policy.

**********************************************

GM - The Truth

- Ian Sample ,The Guardian, July 21, 2003

Today the government publishes a report which will have a major impact on
whether Britain becomes a GM nation. Ian Sample asks the vital questions -
and weighs the scientific evidence

For the past eight months, two dozen scientists have had their heads down,
pondering over piles of scientific papers, in the hope of answering a
simple question: what will happen if the government gives the green light
to genetically modified crops? Today, the government is due to publish its
conclusions. Amid hundreds of pages littered with ifs, buts and maybes,
the report will have a stab at describing what GM crops could mean for our
health and the environment, and also how best the technology should be
controlled. The report will carry a lot of weight, heavily influencing the
government's decision on what has become one of the most contentious of
modern issues: should Britain become a GM nation? These are some of the
key questions and the scientific studies carried out to address them.

Is GM food safe to eat?
Genetically modified crops invariably have genes added to them, making
them churn out proteins they wouldn't normally produce. Can these genes,
proteins or any other changes caused by the GM process make food dangerous
to eat?

Evidence. The most famous paper on the safety of eating GM foods was
published amid huge controversy in the Lancet in 1999. The report, by
Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen (before the
furore cost him his job) and Stanley Ewen at Aberdeen University, claimed
that feeding rats GM potatoes damaged their stomach linings. But the
report was largely rubbished by scientists. The Royal Society, and even
the Lancet's own advisers, dismissed it. Since then, studies by bodies
such as the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation, the International
Union of Nutritional Sciences and the Royal Society have all concluded
that the GM foods currently on the shelves in other countries are safe to
eat.

A huge unofficial experiment is going on, thanks largely to the population
of the US. Between them, they have eaten millions of meals containing GM
food since 1995 with no apparent problems. The only hint of danger came in
2001 when a type of GM maize, approved only for animal feed because it
contained a potentially allergy-inducing protein, got mixed up with normal
maize and turned up in tacos in the US. Some of the people who ate the
tacos complained of a range of ailments, but the US Food and Drug
Administration was unable to confirm or rule out whether the GM maize was
to blame.

Verdict. There is no evidence that today's GM food is unsafe to eat, but
according to Janet Bainbridge, who chairs the government's advisory
committee on GM foods, it is impossible to be certain that any food is
100% safe. "You can never guarantee absolute safety, but the GM foods that
have been through the process are as safe, if not safer, than conventional
alternatives," she says.

Each new GM crop will have to be tested to ensure it doesn't produce
allergenic proteins or has changed in any other way that could make it
dangerous to eat. Bainbridge says this will quickly become the biggest
issue for GM food safety - as GM foods become more complex, far more
sophisticated equipment will be needed to ensure they are safe.

Will GM crops feed the world?
Some groups claim that GM crops will bring higher yields and so help
provide food for the world's hungry.

Evidence. Several studies have shown GM crops can increase yields,
especially if they are resistant to pests. A review of research by Janet
Carpenter at the National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy in
Washington DC found that pest-resistant GM corn upped yields in America by
the equivalent of 500,000 acres a year. Higher gains have been reported in
developing countries.

Verdict. GM crops can boost yields, but according to Clive James, chairman
of the International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications,
a charity concerned with alleviating poverty in developing countries, it
will take more than GM technology to solve the problem of world hunger.
"It's always going to take more than just GM technology, but it can and is
making a real contribution to these countries that need it most," he says.

Will GM crops put organic farmers out of a job?
Organic produce must be free of GM products, but because GM crops are
capable of crossing with non-GM varieties, some worry they could threaten
the purity of organic produce.

Evidence. Studies show separating fields of GM crops from organic crops
can reduce the amount of contamination, but achieving zero contamination
is next to impossible. Given the go-ahead by the government, the first GM
crops to be planted in the UK would be oilseed rape, sugarbeet and maize.
Pollen from oilseed rape travels the furthest - up to three kilometres on
the wind - and so is most likely to contaminate non-GM varieties. Maize
and sugarbeet pollen travels less far and sugarbeet poses much less of a
threat as it doesn't usually flower before being harvested.

Verdict. Unless GM and organic crops can be kept far enough apart, cross
pollination is almost a certainty. Introducing mandatory separation
distances could work for sugarbeet and maize, but it may prove impossible
to grow oilseed rape organically if GM rape is introduced. Farmers reliant
on a limited range of organic crops are likely to suffer significantly.

Will GM crops harm farmland wildlife?
GM crops are often used with so-called broad-spectrum herbicides that wipe
out everything with leaves except the crop. Some groups, including English
Nature, the government's advisory body on wildlife, are concerned that the
broad-spectrum herbicides will destroy so many weeds, there won't be
enough for insects and other creatures to feed on. If the numbers of
beetles, bugs, butterflies and other creatur