Today in AgBioView: August 6, 2003:
* GMOs, God and the Prince of Wales
* Vatican to gather experts to assess biotech crops
* Response to Lance Kennedy
* ORGANIC PRODUCTS CAN BY LAW BE ADULTERATED
* Biotech suit against EU won't be dropped, US says
* Appearance of British MP comes to abrupt end
* BBC World to launch Bitter Harvest on August 9
* SPAIN COULD BECOME A LEADING FORCE IN PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH
From: "Tawanda Zidenga"
Subject: GMOs, God and the Prince of Wales
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 2003 00:50:58 -0700 (PDT)
GMOs, God and the Prince of Wales
By Pretty Bara and Tawanda Zidenga
Crop Science Department,
University of Zimbabwe.
We write to challenge the comments Prince Charles continues to make about
GMOs and we hope he stops commenting on a subject he clearly knows nothing
about. The prince needs a GM-free Wales and a GM-free Britain, and who
knows, may be a GM-free world! He believes that this kind of genetic
modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God, and to God
alone. According to the prince, apart from certain highly beneficial and
specific medical applications, we don’t have “the right to experiment
with, and commercialize, the building blocks of life?”
We question the good prince’s understanding of agriculture, and we believe
he doesn’t quite understand what a GM crop is and how it differs from his
organic crops. We know that the prince is a top organic farmer at his
Highgrove Estate in Gloucestershire, and therefore fears being pushed off
business by the GM revolution.. However, we think it’s best we take a look
at his claims. That any place can and should stay GM-free is nothing short
of a dream. We believe that biotechnology is here to stay, and the best we
can do is ponder on how best we can use it without harming the environment
and our health.
Numerous scientific studies have pointed to the safety and sustainability
of this technology, and we believe debate should be based on facts rather
than emotion. We are writing from the third world, and we know what it is
like to have no food. While we understand the rationale of organic
farming, we think it is a luxury for the Princes of this world.
While developed countries can afford to choose food based on the process
used to produce it (a ridiculous choice indeed), we in the third world do
not have such a choice. The complication comes if we have to be bullied
into being GM-free to satisfy European trade standards.
The rejection of GM food aid by some countries in this region was due to
the fear of losing European beef markets. If the prince so wishes, he can
declare his own plate GM-free, and even then we wish him luck. But to
claim that genetic modification takes scientists into the realms of God is
to clearly misunderstand both genetic modification and God. Nobody can
ever play God, because God plays his part superbly and he doesn’t need a
stand-in. We hope the prince understands in the long run that scientists
are only playing scientists, period.
Perhaps the prince has never taken a moment to think about agriculture,
because if he had, then he would know that agriculture itself is a way of
“experimenting and commercializing the building blocks of life” and that
is true with and without genetic modification. The claim that agriculture
can be “natural” is misguided, since agriculture itself is driven by
If the good prince reads the bible, then he may have missed the line that
mankind was given dominion over creation, and it’s a reality that we will
always manipulate our environment to our own ends. If the prince does not
regard insect resistant crops, nutritionally enhanced crops and stress
tolerant crops as highly beneficial then we question his understanding of
farming and the whole purpose of crop production. We find the comparison
between genetic modification and organic farming very ridiculous. The
former is a method of breeding while the latter is a method of production.
If it wasn’t an issue of commerce, one would expect the two to complement
If the Prince of Wales admits the usefulness of this technology in
medicine, why should he reject it in agriculture? The basic principles are
still the same. You don’t start playing God only because you are now in
agriculture when you can do the same thing in medicine and receive a round
of applause. We in the third world know better, that a poor diet will
reduce our capacity to fight off disease. Biotechnology provides the tools
for providing more food of better nutritional value. It is not a magic
bullet, but it certainly is an important tool.
If the Prince is worried about playing God, he should join debates about
things such as the death sentence where people actually decide that
someone has to die. Otherwise somebody close to him had better tell him to
please shut up!
Plant Biotechnology research student,
Crop Science Department,
University of Zimbabwe.
"WE MUST ACCEPT FINITE DISAPPOINTMENT BUT WE MUST NEVER LOSE INFINITE
HOPE" - MLK
Vatican to gather experts to assess biotech crops
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican will convene a round-table discussion in
the fall to study the ethical and scientific implications of biotech
The Vatican "will draw the appropriate conclusions" on using genetically
modified organisms after the meeting, Cardinal Renato Martino told Vatican
Radio on Monday. A day earlier, an Italian newspaper that interviewed him
on the divisive issue suggested the Vatican was coming out in favor of
biotech crops as a way to combat world hunger.
"The problem of hunger involves the conscience of every man and in
particular those of the Christians," Martino told Vatican Radio. "For this
reason the Catholic Church follows with special interest and solicitude
every development in science to help the solution of a plight that
afflicts such a large part of humanity."
Martino said the meeting organized by the office he heads, the Pontifical
Council on Justice and Peace, would call on experts to investigate every
aspect of the issue. No date has been set.
Proponents of biotech crops contend the technology will fight hunger by
improving quality and quantity of crops and protecting against pests.
Opponents say the modified crops cause health and environmental problems.
The Europe Union has imposed a moratorium on new biotech foods to give
experts time for study. The United States, which grows biotech crops like
corn and soybeans, has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization
to push Europe to lift the ban.
French anti-globalization activist Jose Bove said Monday any Vatican
endorsement of biotech crops would be "scandalous."
"I believe that St. Francis, if he were living today, would have something
to say about this stance of the Roman shepherds," he told the Turin daily
La Stampa, referring to the saint who lived in communion with nature. Bove
was released from jail last week after serving about a month for
destroying genetically modified corn and rice crops.
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 07:38:52 -0700 (PDT)
From: "ze tan"
Subject: response to lance kennedy---etc...reg
It is of course possible of their (ie greenpeace annual reports, from
where one can see the funds position, but it may be difficulty to btain
exact information. However as for my knowledge what I have seen in couple
of eurpoean countries, even they does not hesistate to run the roadshows
to collect funds on the GM abet etc., during my visits.
Of course the Europe knows the value of food from time to time and is not
worry to give small contribution for such firms, including at fast
foods/food bazars etc.
With regard to the organic it is most important to cultivate and cut the
cost of cultivation of crop if not developed countries, but in the view of
developing countries. The recent fast experience in India cost of
cultivation increased 10-15% by farmer by useing the many cemical
application, results he/she fails to obtain the minimum support price
recomanded by the Government. , which results certain loss to the farmer.
Therefore whether GM crop is addressed such problems? It is yet to know
... even in recent past some NGO`s claims that GM coton is not addressing
the farmers problems, and raising the cost of cultivation, and not solving
problems like control of pests nd diseases etc.... Still I feel to know
more of the adoptability ofthecrop too.
When we have requested sample seed directly from M/s Monsanto in India
failed to supply to enable to take up pot culture intially equally to
For eg. we have conducted an experiment of pot culture of organic
agriculture in our Lab at field conditions without distrubing soil
conditions consucativel;y for the thrid year, which gives more results,
and useing the rural biotechnology, ie fixation of biological nitrogen,
and rainfed approach, and no pesticides and fertilizers applied.
Any one can visit and see the same in India. At present address:
office of the Director-General.,
IAMMA at 17 L.I.C. Colony,
opp to Indira park gate,
Hyderabad 500 060, India.
cell: 98493 86002
We are one to say that ^Agroeconomy is super economyunder transitional
economy-eg. India, after conducting the research of one decade. and it is
under continuation at present too.
If you are interested any thing more let me know or give a ring simply
adding our country code 0091.
KBN RAYANA, DIR.GEN., IAMMA, HYD/INDIA
From: "John W. Cross"
Subject: Info on NGO's available
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 14:50:28 -0400
Dear Mr. Kennedy:
In the USA all non-profit organizations are required to submit annual
statements to the IRS. In addition, they are required to obtain a
fund-raising license each state in which they raise funds. This requires
they send an application to the office of the Secretary of State for each
state. Typically these applications require a great deal of information.
Thus there will be a great deal of publicly available info on this
organization. See below for some info from their own website.
Now, how to get the info:
Greenpeace Fund (a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization) and Greenpeace, Inc.
(a separate non-profit 501(c)(4) organization) will have different legal
reporting requirements. However, they both submit Form 990 to the US
Internal Revenue Service each year. You can get a copy of their 990s by
faxing a request to the US IRS at fax no. 801-620-7896.
You could also write to the Secretary of State of a US state (e.g. New
York, Virginia etc.) and ask for the report the non-profit submitted to
ORGANIC PRODUCTS CAN BY LAW BE ADULTERATED
Western Morning News
BY JASON GROVES
5 August, 2003
Dozens of organic products on the shelves of Westcountry stores may
contain ingredients treated with chemical pesticides because of a loophole
in the law, the WMN has learnt.
Although organic fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products all have to be
produced to exacting standards without the use of chemical treatments, the
WMN has learnt that some processed products are allowed to carry the
organic label even if they contain non-organic ingredients.
The revelation last night prompted one Westcountry MP to call for a change
in the law. Although the Food Standards Agency has said that organic food
offers no proven health benefits, many consumers believe otherwise and
have helped the organic sector become one of the fastest growing segments
of the food market in recent years.
The loophole, which is enshrined in European laws passed two years ago,
allows processed products like biscuits, cakes and ready meals to contain
up to five per cent non-organic ingredients, but still be labelled as
wholly organic. Because of this it is impossible for consumers to tell
which processed products may contain non-organic ingredients.
Food manufacturers can also apply for a temporary licence to use up to 30
per cent non-organic ingredients in a product, although in this case the
product must carry small print explaining that only a certain percentage
is genuinely organic.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which issues the
"derogations" to food processors and importers, said the loophole was
needed because some ingredients "cannot be produced organically". The
department said temporary licences could also be granted when certain
organic ingredients were in short supply.
A Defra spokesman cited the example of organic Christmas puddings, where
he said it had proved impossible for manufacturers to source organically
He said the powers were used relatively rarely, with just 45 organic
products granted licences to use non-organic ingredients last year.
But the loophole is likely to alarm consumers, who have been switching to
organic produce in droves in recent years - despite higher prices - in a
bid to avoid eating food that may contain traces of chemical pesticides.
Paul Tyler, Lib-Dem MP for North Cornwall, said it was not acceptable for
food labelled as organic to contain non-organic ingredients.
Mr Tyler, a long-time campaigner for organic food, said consumers had the
right to expect that food labelled as organic would not contain traces of
And he warned that the loophole could leave the door open to allow firms
to use small amounts of genetically modified ingredients in processed
Mr Tyler said: "If organic products can be adulterated without being
labelled as such then I think that is a matter of great concern.
"If it continues to be permitted then you have to ask whether GM
ingredients might also be allowed.
"There are a lot of people who do not want even one per cent GM in their
food. The great fear is not that we will have a 'big bang' with GM, but
that it will creep in through exactly that kind of process of attrition.
"I think we need to look again at this anomaly and take advice on how best
to tighten the law in this area."
Mr Tyler also said that the relatively small size of Britain's organic
farming sector meant that UK processors would find it more difficult to
source organic ingredients. Around 70 per cent of organic food sold in the
UK is imported.
Biotech suit against EU won't be dropped, US says
August 04, 2003
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has no plans to drop a World
Trade Organization complaint against the EU's moratorium on new biotech
products, even though the policy is being phased out, a U.S. trade
negotiator said Monday.
"I see the case moving forward," said Allen Johnson, chief agriculture
negotiator for the U.S. trade representative.
In May, the United States announced it was filing suit at the WTO against
the European Union's 5-year-old moratorium on approvals of new genetically
Last month, EU farm ministers gave formal approval for labeling of biotech
food and animal feed, taking an important step toward lifting the
Since then, EU officials have argued the WTO biotech complaint brought by
the Bush administration should be dropped.
Johnson, in remarks to reporters, said the United States would continue
pursuing the matter.
"We haven't seen (biotech product) approvals moving forward. We haven't
seen the member states that are the ones blocking it move forward. The
basis for the case is sound," Johnson said.
As for the labeling regime, as well as standards the EU is expected to
impose to trace biotech food and feed back to the farm, Johnson noted
strong concerns in the United States.
He said it was too early to say whether the labeling and traceability
standards might also be challenged at the WTO.
The United States opposes any mandatory labeling of biotech foods, saying
it should be done on a voluntary basis.
American corn farmers complain they are losing $300 million in lost
exports to the EU because their biotech crop has not been approved for use
Appearance of British MP comes to abrupt end
06 August 2003
A select committee appearance by former British environment minister
Michael Meacher came to an abrupt end at Parliament this morning, when
committee chairman Brian Donnelly labelled it a political stunt.
Mr Meacher was giving evidence on behalf of Greenpeace to the education
and science committee, which is considering the New Organisms and Other
After being warned by Mr Donnelly to confine himself to the legislation,
Mr Meacher strayed into banned territory.
He was pulled up after saying he was "astonished" with the risk New
Zealand was about to take with the release of genetically modified
organisms. Mr Donnelly stepped in.
"We have been hoodwinked in this particular case and I am not prepared to
go on with this," he said.
Mr Donnelly appeared ready to close Mr Meacher down more quickly, until
persuaded by Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons and Labour MP Helen
Duncan to allow him to continue.
Even after his patience ran out, he permitted Mr Meacher to answer several
questions from National MP Paul Hutchinson.
As Mr Meacher rose to leave Mr Donnelly apologised, saying he would be
prepared to talk to him outside the committee.
While he was not a member of the Government, or an apologist for its
legislation, he had to defend the role of the select committee as an agent
of Parliament, Mr Donnelly said.
Outside the committee room, Mr Meacher said he was "surprised" the
committee was not interested in the United Kingdom experience.
He had been in politics for too long to be angry or hurt by his reception,
he said. "I was very surprised at being told it was a political gimmick,"
"I didn't interpret it like that at all. It was never intended to be. I
was trying to be helpful, yes, I have a particular point of view, but I
was trying to present it unpolemically, and as openly, transparently and
helpfully as I could."
What he was saying was connected with a clause in the New Organisms and
Other Matters Bill under consideration by the committee, he said. The bill
is the Government's response to the Royal Commission on Genetic
If passed it would allow conditional release of genetically engineered
organisms, and review the liability regime to deal with issues surrounding
such organisms. It would also develop a biotechnology strategy, and set up
programmes to address social, economic, ethical, environmental and
agricultural research as identified by the commission.
Mr Meacher said it was important that the evidence and facts were well
"It would have been nice if there had been the opportunity for more
questions and to explain the position more fully, but I am sure I did
manage to say enough."
He would not comment on the motivations for him being closed down, saying
he wanted to stick to the issues.
"We're talking about food. . . nothing is more substantial or fundamental
to human beings, we're talking about our bodies, our lives, our children.
"I really don't want to get into a little friction with the select
committee. I hope I have had the opportunity to deliver one or two key
messages and it will be taken further."
The moratorium on the commercial release of GE material is due to be
lifted in October.
BBC World to launch Bitter Harvest on August 9
BBC World will be launching a series on biotechnology called Bitter
Harvest from August 9. The three-part series will document the story of
genetically modified products with the fist episode charting the case of
Frostban, a product designed to protect fruit from frost, and the Flavr
Savr tomato. The second episode will focus on Monsanto and genetically
modified grains and fruits with the third and final episode examining the
future of biotechnology ...
SPAIN COULD BECOME A LEADING FORCE IN PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH
Madrid, 9th of July, 2003 – More than 13 research centres in Spain
dedicate their work to issues concerning Plant Biotechnology, mainly in
Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, commented Jose Luis Garcia, general
subdirector of Scientific Programming, Monitoring and Documentation for
the Spanish Council for Scientific Research, the CSIC, in yesterday’s
working breakfast: The future of agricultural Biotechnology in Spain:
second-generation transgenics, organized by Antama Foundation in the
National Natural Sciences Museum.
According to Jose Luis Garcia, “our highly qualified researchers could
make Spain a European leading force on this subject, although in order for
this to happen, we need on the one hand, more support from the Government,
and on the other hand, for the present climate of scepticism towards
genetically modified plants, to change.”
Standing out among the investigations which are being carried out within
the framework of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research, are those
relating to the fight against viruses which attack various species of
plants, such as orchards. There are also projects for the detection of
transgenics in food, for phyto-remediation (decontamination of heavy
materials from the ground via transgenic plants), for plants tolerant of
salinity, and there is even a study which aims to increase the quantity of
fructose in barley, for industrial purposes.
Pilar Carbonero, professor of Plant Biotechnology at the “Escuela Técnica
Superior de Ingenieros Agrónomos” (Higher Technical School of Engineers)
in Madrid, and recently named as the first female member of the Royal
Academy of Engineering, undertook a study to analyse the role of the
University in these investigations.
In her opinion, although the scientific projects are not as consolidated
in the university field as they are in the CSIC, one of the most important
projects in which the “Escuela de Ingenieros Agrónomos” participates, is
the creation of the Institute of Biotechnology and Genomics of Plants, a
project which relies on the support of the National Institute of
Agricultural Research (INIA) and the autonomous region of Madrid.
However, although formal discussions were initiated last year to carry out
this project, “at present, the project is on hold due to a lack of finance
and the social climate of uncertainty which exists right now”, stated
Regarding the passing of the new Regulation on labelling of GMOs, approved
by the European Parliament last week, Carbonero indicated that “it is
always good news, although the conditions imposed on companies are unfair
and difficult to fulfill.”
Jose Luis Garcia also stated his opinion on the matter, commenting that
“with this Regulation, countries which have declared themselves in favour
of the moratorium have lost their final excuse and will have to make their
position clear from now on. However, this measure is highly complex and we
are yet to see whether or not the final product will increase in price.”
With regard to the agricultural dichotomy between GMOs and organic
agriculture, Jose Luis Garcia commented that all this has to do with a
false opposing argument, expounded by those groups most critical to
Biotechnology, since he believes that “transgenic plants are the most
organic because they do not require the use of pesticides and in the not
too distant future, there will be plants which consume much less water.”
Elena Fernandez Guiral, Communications Director of Antama Foundation
e mail: email@example.com
THE COEXISTENCE OF BIOTECHNOLOGICAL, CONVENTIONAL AND ECOLOGICAL
PUT TO THE TEST IN ARANJUEZ
The Ministry of Agriculture has set up a test field in Aranjuez (Madrid)
in order to analyse the coexistence between conventional and transgenic
maize and verify whether a crossing of genes between both types of cereal
takes place. The 23rd of July just gone, the Ministry and ANTAMA
Foundation organized a visit with the media, agricultural and consumers
groups, so that they could see for themselves how these studies are
The test field of Aranjuez belongs to the National Institute of Research
and Agricultural and Food Technology (INIA) and it is formed by an area of
land of 1.8 hectares of conventional maize. In the centre of this plot of
land, 0.2 hectares of Bt maize (genetically modified to be safe from corn
borer attack) have been sown, with the aim of analysing whether or not a
crossing of pollen occurs between both varieties, and to what degree and
under which conditions (wind, temperature and humidity) it occurs. To do
this, technicians from the Spanish Office of Plant Varieties (OEVV) will
take 400 samples from the field, as explained by Jose Ignacio Ortega,
director of trial programmes for the OEVV.
The objective of these experiments is to establish the agricultural
procedures which guarantee the coexistence of biotechnological,
conventional and organic agriculture. Essentially, they are concerned with
reducing, through adequate farming methods, the presence of genetically
modified organisms which are present in transgenic crops and their
conventional and organic counterpart, in order to ensure different types
of production and market.
The results of this test field will be added to another one which the
Ministry of Agriculture has in Santa Ana (Albacete) and which occupies a
greater surface area: 46 hectares. It is expected that these studies will
be continued over a period of two or three more years. In addition to
Spain, the United States are conducting field trials to evaluate the
coexistence of crops.