Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





September 30, 2003


No Class-Action; Green Enemies of Progress; Conventional Crop All


Today in AgBioView: October 1, 2003:

* Judge: No Class-Action in Monsanto Case
* The Green Enemies of Progress
* Questionable Programs
* Conventional Crop Breeding and Allergens
* Virtue of Innovation and the Technological Imperative
* Destruction of GM Crop Trials Unreasonable
* Re: EU Moves Closer to Lifting Ban on GMOs
* Biotech for Food Security: Risks And Rewards
* "Organic" Food Produces More Nutritious Piss
* Consequences of Genetically Engineered Genes Escaping
* Will Frankenfood Save the Planet? - Join the Atlantic Debate
* Review of 'Bountiful Harvest'


Judge: No Class-Action in Monsanto Case

- JIM SUHR, Associated Press. Oct. 01, 2003

ST. LOUIS - A federal judge has ruled against granting class-action status
to a lawsuit accusing Monsanto Co. and some of its seed-marketing rivals
of plotting to control genetically modified corn and soybean prices.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel's ruling, released Wednesday, thwarts a
bid by attorneys suing the companies to expand the 1999 lawsuit to include
more than 100,000 farmers, not just the handful of farmers represented in
the original lawsuit.

"Simply put, plaintiffs presume class-wide impact without any
consideration of whether the markets or the alleged conspiracy at issue
here actually operated in such a manner so as to justify that
presumption," Sippel wrote in his 17-page ruling.

"It is a highly individualized, fact-intensive inquiry that necessarily
requires consideration of factors unique to each potential class member,"
including the variety of genetically modified seeds bought, geographic
location, growing conditions and purchase terms, Sippel wrote. "I am not
persuaded that the alleged conspiracy could even be proven with common
evidence," he ruled.

Telephone and e-mailed messages left with the law firm behind the lawsuit
were not immediately returned.

The ruling was welcomed by Monsanto, which along with the other companies
named in the case - Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and DuPont unit Pioneer
Hi-Bred - has denied the farmers' allegations that the companies plotted
for years to fix prices. The farmers also contend that genetically
modified seeds and foods are unsafe.

Monsanto spokesman Bryan Hurley said the latest ruling marks "a huge
victory for Monsanto and biotechnology." Pioneer spokesman Doyle Karr
called the judge's decision "a very favorable development" and said the
company maintains the rest of the case is also without merit. Messages
left Wednesday with Syngenta and Bayer were not immediately returned.

Wednesday's development follows Sippel's decision last month to let the
antitrust portion of the 1999 lawsuit go forward, concluding then that
"genuine disputes of material fact remain."

But at the same time, the judge rejected negligence and "public nuisance"
claims by farmers who grew non-genetically modified corn and soybeans and
who argued, among other things, that their crops were tainted by
Monsanto's genetically modified seeds. Corn and soybeans genetically
designed to kill pests or withstand herbicides have become widely popular
in the United States, but they've have met consumer resistance overseas.
Genetic engineering involves splicing a single gene from one organism to

Biotech opponents have focused on persuading food makers not to buy
genetically modified crops and getting governments to require the labeling
of altered foods.


The Green Enemies of Progress

- Alan Caruba, MichNews.com, Oct 1, 2003
http://bigjweb.com/artman/publish/article_1204.shtml (Sent by Andrew Apel"

Not a day passes when I don't receive a book or read a news story filled
with Green gobbledygook, the deliberately obscure language Greens use to
hide their true agenda. The Green revolution is based on the techniques of
the Communist revolution. It infiltrates organizations in order to take
them over and it smothers the media with its profusion of lies in order to
influence public opinion and policy. The Greens are patient, knowing that
a lie told over and over again becomes the "truth" if not debunked over
and over again.

Recently, I received a news release about yet another Green book. This one
is titled "The Web of Life Imperative: Regenerative Ecopsychology
Techniques that Help People Think in Balance with Natural Systems." It was
sent by the Institute of Global Education, which is identified as a
"special NGO consultant to the United Nations Economic and Social
Council." It is part of something called "Project NatureConnect" that
operates out of Friday Harbor, Washington.

What struck me immediately--and no doubt yourself--is the use of verbiage
to give the appearance of serious intellectual content, but which reveals
only the pure invention of something called "ecopsychology." This is
absurd pseudo-science, if in fact, psychology can be considered science
despite its use of statistical information and endless "studies." It is
psychology that has coined a variety of "syndromes" that has led, for
example, to the drugging of millions of school children deemed to be
"hyper-active" or suffering from "attention deficit syndrome."

This psychobabble book purports to respond to "the dire problems that
arise because people in contemporary society live extremely
nature-separated lives." This is hogwash! Anyone who has spent any time in
the "great outdoors" knows that it is not a friendly place for humans.
There are no supermarkets filled with a largesse of food in Nature. There
are no places fit for habitation in Nature unless you pitch a tent, build
a lean-to or find a cave. Nature does not provide clean water from the tap
with a flick of the wrist. Nature offers merciless cold or heat.

The rise of civilization has been man's triumph over Nature. It was the
invention of agriculture, barely five thousand years or so ago, that
provided food and permitted the rise of towns and then cities, freeing men
to become artisans and craftsmen. Nor are we "separated" from Nature. Ask
anyone who just experienced a recent hurricane. Ask the Japanese who
experienced a recent earthquake. Ask anyone who has fled a tornado or
lived through one. Ask anyone how they feel about Nature after a flood has
destroyed their home. Ask anyone whose home was burned to the ground in
the now ceaseless forest fires that are the direct result of the Green
insistence that all logging cease.

However, the new book says, "Reconnecting enables us to benefit from
nature's unifying renewing powers. It transforms into constructive
relationships the injured roots of our stress and disorders." More
hogwash! Modern life provides more than enough stress and disorders, but
earlier generations toiled long and hard, living short, brutish lives, for
mere survival.

This weird book claims that "Contemporary people are blind to the
importance and value of natural systems that flourish within and around
us. We plant the seed of our blindness-to-nature in children by rewarding
them for living indoors, sensuously separated from nature over 95% of the
time and, in addition, teach them that people are different than nature
because we Œthink.'"

Well, think about this. Do you want children to live outdoors 95% of the
time? Do you want to have them taught that their unique human capacity for
thought, for analysis, for understanding science, literature, and the
arts, is wrong?

"Like a benighted cancer, we overrun, pollute and destroy natural systems
in people and places while fully knowledgeable that these systems are life
and support our life. Such behavior is a form of madness." For the record,
barely 3% to 5% of the landmass of the United States of America involves
cities, towns, highways, railroads and airports. The vast bulk of our
population lives within fifty miles of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Greens regard the human species as a form of "cancer" on the Earth. We
are said to be bent on the destruction of the Earth as we go about finding
new ways (biotechnology) to abundantly feed the billions who would
otherwise starve to death. We have eradicated diseases that threatened
millions with needless death. We are threatened by other diseases because
the Greens have systematically banned essential and beneficial pesticides
to suppress insect and rodent pest populations.

We humans know how to grow and manage forests. We know how to ranch and
farm. We know how to build systems to provide clean water to drink and
irrigation for our farms. We know how to generate life-enhancing energy to
light, heat, cool, and power our homes. We know how to provide medicines
to protect and extend our lives. We know how to criss-cross the Earth in
hours and days. We can communicate with each other as no previous
generation ever could.

"In our denial, we learn to offer Œprogress', ŒGod's will' and Œeconomic
growth' as rationale for our injurious effects."

There it is. The bottom line. Greens hate progress if it means a better
life for everyone on Earth. The Greens worship Gaia, the pagan Earth
goddess, not the universal God of mankind. And the Greens do everything
they can to destroy economic growth and the spread of prosperity anywhere
on the face of the Earth.

The real threat to our lives are the Greens. There are other threats, but
this evil anti-progress, anti-capitalist, anti-energy, anti-science,
anti-God movement is the real cancer that seeks victory through its
twisted belief that the only thing that matters is "Nature." Man is part
of Nature and what matters most is each new child born today, bringing
with them the hope of a better world for future generations.


Questionable Programs

- Ken Adelman, Fox News, Sept 30, 2003
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,98739,00.html (Sent by Andrew Apel)

It's the Elmer Gantry syndrome where the preacher takes to sin. That
preachiest of moralistic organizations -- Greenpeace -- has taken to sin,
big-time. That's according to the Public Interest Watch (search), the
non-profit watchdog organization on non-profit organizations.

Greenpeace is among the most visible non-profits. But it's been among the
least looked at. As PWI states (see http://www.publicinterestwatch.org/),
the public has been inundated by corporate outrages, notably the illegal
shenanigans of MCI, Worldcom, Enron, and Tyco.

Big corporations are targeted by the media and law enforcement constantly,
as they should be. But not so non-profits. As PWI puts it well, "precious
little has been said about the equally murky depths of the world of
non-profits." Many operate multi-million dollar budgets, yet "non-profits
thus far have escaped the same level of scrutiny given their corporate

Many find Greenpeace's actions abominable. But few have known that they
may also be illegal. PWI found them violating their tax-exempt status:
"Greenpeace used its complex corporate structure to divert over $24
million in tax-exempt contributions for use in non-qualifying programs."

Such "programs" -- to use PWI's ginger euphemism -- include such actions
as: -- Blockading a naval base, military port and cargo ship for
transporting American military troops and equipment around the time of the
Iraq war; -- Breaking into the central control building of a nuclear power
station; and -- Padlocking a government research farm.

Such deeds are justified by Greenpeace's ideology, which impels its
members to stop genetically modified "Franken-foods," the war in Iraq, and
nuclear power. Moreover, all such actions are -- so says PWI -- funded by
illegal means. The lawlessness of the Greenpeace actions -- breaking into
top-security facilities, blockading ports and ships, and the like -- are
presumably being investigated by law enforcement authorities.

Now the alleged lawlessness of the Greenpeace finances need to be
investigated by the IRS. More than $24 million in tax-exempt contributions
-- required by law to go exclusively to religious, educational,
scientific, literary, or charitable purposes -- are said to go to
Greenpeace's "direct action campaign."

The real outrage should come from -- and go to -- the foundations which
support such objectionable Greenpeace actions and finances. Most of its
fund-raising dollars come, obviously, from the left -- the foundations of
Ted Turner, Stewart Mott, the Rockefeller brothers and the Rockefeller

But some funds come from foundations established by quite responsible
individuals. For instance, can one even imagine David Packard -- who
served President Nixon so ably during the Vietnam War as Deputy Secretary
of Defense ˆ wanting his hard-earned money to fund Greenpeace's blocking
of ships and equipment going to support U.S. troops engaged in combat? Yet
the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is listed as a Greenpeace funder,
along with the MacArthur Foundation, and that of best-selling author
Steven King.

Raising this issue makes a lot of sense. Where's a hard-charging
investigative Congressional hearing, just when we need it?


Conventional Crop Breeding and Allergens

- Denis Murphy

There is an interesting paper in the latest issue of Plant Biotechnology.
The authors show that (non-GM) cytoplasmic male sterile crops like oilseed
rape, radish, rice, and fava bean can contain novel ORFs that encode
potentially allergenic (IgE-binding) proteins. Of course, CMS has been
around as a breeding tool for many decades. It was first applied to maize
(US corn) by Rhoades back in 1933. We have been eating the results (and
possibly the putative allergenic proteins) in dozens of crop products ever
since. The authors conclude that similar safety assessments should be
applied to conventionally bred crop as are currently applied to transgenic

the full citation is: Kleter, Gijs A. - Peijnenburg, Ad A. C. M. (2003)
Presence of potential allergy-related linear epitopes in novel proteins
from conventional crops and the implication for the safety assessment of
these crops with respect to the current testing of genetically modified
crops, Plant Biotechnology, 1, 371-380

Abstract Mitochondria of cytoplasmic male sterile crop plants contain
novel, chimeric open reading frames. In addition, a number of crops carry
endogenous double-stranded ribonucleic acid (dsRNA). In this study, the
novel proteins encoded by these genetic components were screened for the
presence of potential binding sites (epitopes) of allergy-associated IgE
antibodies, as was previously done with transgenic proteins from
genetically modified crops. The procedure entails the identification of
stretches of at least six contiguous amino acids that are shared by novel
proteins and known allergenic proteins. These stretches are further
checked for potential linear IgE-binding epitopes.

Of the 16 novel protein sequences screened in this study, nine contained
stretches of six or seven amino acids that were also present in allergenic
proteins. Four cases of similarity are of special interest, given the
predicted antigenicity of the identical stretch within the allergenic and
novel protein, the IgE-binding by a peptide containing an identical
stretch reported in literature, or the multiple incidence of identical
stretches of the same allergen within a novel protein. These selected
stretches are present in novel proteins derived from oilseed rape and
radish (ORF138), rice (dsRNA), and fava bean (dsRNA), and warrant further
clinical testing. The frequency of positive outcomes and the sizes of the
identical stretches were comparable to those previously found for
transgenic proteins in genetically modified crops. It is discussed whether
novel proteins from conventional crops should be subject to an assessment
of potential allergenicity, a procedure which is currently mandatory for
transgenic proteins from genetically modified crops.


The Virtue of Innovation and the Technological Imperative

- Andrew Apel, Editor, AgBiotech Reporter http://www.bioreporter.com

Abstract: A technological imperative exists in Western philosophy and
jurisprudence. In ethics technological invention is a virtue and in law it
is protected and encouraged; and in both, a duty exists to allow the
dissemination and use of novel technology. The state of the art of
technology is value-neutral. An improvement over the state of the art is
distinct because it enables improved availability of moral goods. A duty
arises when an inventor offers an invention to be used. The duty is
reciprocal among all who might benefit directly or indirectly from its
use, and that is to allow its use. Interfering with the dissemination of
innovative technology breaches this duty.

For the main text visit


Destruction of GM Crop Trials Unreasonable

- Tawanda Zidenga

The destruction of crop trials of GMOs is unreasonable, and defeats the
claims of many of the anti-GM activists. At one end they are saying not
much is known about GM crops to warrant their release into the market, and
then at another end they are destroying the very attempt to ensure more is
known. This could be one of the stupidest debates in history.

We are told that it is official that Britons don't like anyone meddling
with their crops. This is interesting, because interpreted in science it
means Britons don't want crops. Crops as we know them to date, are a
product of humans meddling with plants. The comment by Prof Anthony
Trewavas is right on the truth. The public does not understand food, let
alone, science.


Re: EU Moves Closer to Lifting Ban on GMOs

- Martin Mieschendahl

I can't see the EU moratorium on genetically engineered plants to be
lifted soon. There is a strong opposition of different Member States to
lift the ban until strict rules on co-existence and liability are in
place. This can take months.


Biotechnology for Food Security: Risks And Rewards

-Abdul Bayes, The Daily Star (Bangladesh) Sept. 30, 2003

In a recent seminar organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at
the BRAC Centre, eminent economists and agricultural scientists dwelt,
albeit indecisively, on the sensitive issue of biotechnology. The topic,
admittedly, is of top most importance in the wake of ongoing realities
related to rice production, particularly in developing countries like
Bangladesh. Here the green revolution, allegedly, tends to gradually groan
under a regime of declining yield rates, complex problem of insect and
disease pressure and other problems. Thanks to the organisers, especially
CPD and IRRI/ PETRRA, for floating a debate that warrants best available
empirical evidence relevant for poor people in developing countries. Such
debates should help identify the most appropriate ways that molecular
biology-based research might contribute to achieving and sustaining food
and nutrition security.

Safety and security: Two of the well-known researchers from the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) -- Drs Mahabub Hossain and
Swapon Kumar Dutta -- set the tone round the table at the very outset.
They made preliminary remarks on scientific evolution in molecular biology
over the last two decades, genetic basis of living organism, and the
ability to develop processes and products useful to food security,
nutrition and human health. These two speakers succinctly summarised the
potentials and the problems of biotechnology. While the issue is being
debated both in the developed and the developing world, according to them,
the premises are quite different and hence a grandiose generalisation
should be shelved. The developed ones stand against it in the face of an
almost stagnant population growth for decades with a consequent crave for
food safety, while developing countries' imperative is food security.

For example, a la Mahabub and others, about 1.2 billion people mostly in
South Asia and Sub-Sharan Africa live in a state of absolute poverty with
an income of less than one US dollar a day. About 800 million people are
food insecure and 160 million preschool children suffer from
energy-protein malnutrition, which results in the deaths of over five
million children under the age of five years. Thus the whole issue boils
down to a debate between food safety and food security.

Problems and potentials: I assume that my readers are well informed of the
potentials of biotechnology as these are by now articulated and known.
Even then, to put it simply, biotechnology can bring forth a revolution
not only in food production -- in a regime of declining land and rising
population -- but also in the realm of nutrition for the poor. One example
should suffice to sound the semantics. Vitamin A deficiency affects 400
million people worldwide, leaving them vulnerable to infections and
blindness. Iron deficiency affects 3.7 billion people, particularly women,
leading to higher maternal deaths and infant mortality. Developing
micronutrient dense rices, with higher amounts of iron, zinc and vitamin
A, can have a tremendous impact on the health of low-income people.
Conventional breeding when combined with biotechnology can provide
powerful tools to achieve this goal. Besides, rice hybrids have 15-20 per
cent yield advantage over inbred rices. Their adoption by farmers is,
however, constrained by the need to buy seed every season and sometimes at
high seed cost. But government's commitments and gearing up national
research institutions, should help stem the rot in the long run.

There is another point to ponder over. The big multinational companies --
the candidates for criticisms on this count -- have reportedly backtracked
in recent years fromn rice biotechnology as they observed the dominance of
small holders in Asia and the high transaction costs of enforcing
intellectual property rights under weak judicial system. By and large,
both in developed and developing Asia, the public sector needs to be the
vanguard of rice biotechnology.

Bangladesh perspective: Complacency and concerns The Bangladesh
perspectives on potentials and problems -- quite obviously -- were on
board for threadbare discussions. Bangladesh is one of the most land
scarce country in the world with cultivation frontier closed almost half a
century ago. The green revolution that swept over the last decades helped
a balance between growth rate of population and food. Most of the gains of
green revolution came from improved rice and wheat varieties developed by
the Bangladesh agricultural research institutions in collaboration with
international research centres. Two-thirds of the cropped areas are now
being covered by modern varieties and 55 per cent of the cultivated areas
are now under irrigation facilities. In tandem, population growth rate
also declined appreciably, say from 2.2 to 1.2 per cent per year in the

While complacency could be in one corner, concerns loom large elsewhere.
Every year, two million people are added to the existing stock putting a
pressure on food supplies of 0.56 million tons a year, just to maintain
the same level of per capita consumption. Despite the claim of
self-sufficiency in food and the calm it confers upon, occasional imports
invoke inquiry into the claims made so far. The easy options of realising
increased rice production have already been exhausted and Bangladesh is
poised to reel under a regime of losing cultivated areas at more than one
per cent per annum due to growing urbanisation, population pressure and
leaving land for non-rice crops. In this scenario of an almost closed
cultivation frontier, declining yield and increasing population Bangladesh
-- a country that stands with higher population density than America when
all people of the world are pushed into that country -- must strive for
the alternatives, especially the opportunities created by the rice

It is also because 60 per cent of the children under age five are
underweight and more than half are stunted. More than 70 per cent of
pregnant women suffer from Anemia due to iron deficiency. In rural areas,
where three-fourths of the people live, malnutrition is acute due to lack
of knowledge or financial capacity to buy a balanced diet. Since poor
people consume nearly 150 to 170 kg of rice per year, incorporation of a
small amount of iron and Vitamin A in rice could go a long way in meeting
the deficiencies in these micronutrients

For and against: There are a lot of risks too. Concerns on food safety,
ethical points and environmental implications and socio economic risks
were also deliberated upon by the authors. Taking all the risks into
consideration, the authors noted that samples drawn from a large section
of the civil society and agricultural institutions seem to support
biotechnology on certain conditions. For example, it could be supported
provided done by public sector and free for farmers, with health and
environmental assessment before the release etc. And those who declined to
support put forth various arguments like, the development of pests to
destroy food sources, dependence of farmers on private companies,
additional production of rice not needed and gene transformation is
unethical etc.

Riding the risks: Given the growing constraints on future rice
availability in Bangladesh and the devastatingly developed micronutrient
deficiency among the poor households in rural areas, the rice
biotechnology issue should be left neither to rhetoric nor to emotions. In
the seminar mentioned before, sordidly, I sensed emotions engulfing
economics, rhetoric ruling over realties on the ground in the case of a
few. We think that the society needs to rise above all rhetoric and
emotions and seriously start a systematic inquiry into the nexus soon. Dr
Mhabub Hossain and others provided sufficient food for thought for a safe
and secured world of food, particularly in the context of Bangladesh.

We strongly feel, biotechnology could be the key to the upcoming crisis,
but keeping in mind the questions. We have to seek answers to the
questions raised rather than throwing away the question itself. Allow me
to remind my readers that had we not hailed adoption of modern rice
technology in the 1960s and 1970s, we would have, probably, experienced a
worse food situation to turn into a beggar's bowl. Many of the forecasts
at that time turned out to be futile. We can only hope that we shall be
able to find a judicious path for our survival.


"Organic" Food Produces More Nutritious Piss

- Tom DeGregori, Professor of Economics, University of Houston

It is now official, all studies that purported to show that organic food
is superior to conventionally grown crops were bullshit. Don't take my
word for it, just check the opening sentence on the press release on the
latest study.

"For the first time ever, scientists have been able to substantiate a
difference between organic and conventional vegetables."

Oresund Food Excellence (the website of the Øresund Region of Denmark
which touts itself as perfect for growing "organic" food. Not exactly a
disinterested site. http://www.foodoresund.com/composite-309.htm

"The study was a double-blinded randomised, crossover design with two
intervention periods with a strict control of dietary intake. Test-persons
were given organic food and conventional food in turn for periods of 3
weeks. During the test-periods blood and urine samples were collected and

[Effect Of Diets Based on Foods From Conventional Versus Organic
Production on Intake and Excretion Of Flavonoids And Markers of
Antioxidative Defense In Humans, Journal of. Agricultural and. Food
Chemistry 51 (19), 5671-5676, August, 2003.]

From the study we learn: "Different food production methods may result in
differences in the content of secondary metabolites such as polyphenolic
compounds. The present study compared conventionally (CPD) and organically
produced (OPD) diets in a human crossover intervention study (n = 16) with
respect to the intake and excretion of five selected flavonoids and effect
on markers of oxidative defense."

We later learn; "Some varietal difference was seen in the study, and
because selection of more resistant varieties is of central importance to
organic farming, it cannot be excluded that the observed effects originate
from these differences."

So may the differences were not from the method of cultivation organic and
conventional but in the plant varieties used. Further, the difference was
claimed to be due to the fact that the "organic" crop (or more accurately,
the urine samples from those who ate the "organic" food) higher
concentration of particular secondary metabolites, namely flavonoids. To
the best of my knowledge, when we consume a plant food, we consume all of
the secondary metabolites in it. Since many of the secondary metabolites
are known carcinogens, then when are editors of reputable journals (this
is the second time for the Journal of Agricultural and. Food Chemistry)
going to demand that those doing the study account for all of the
different secondary metabolites and not allow them to cherry pick ones in
which there is some belief (but no firm evidence to my knowledge) that
they maybe beneficial.

Further, it has been noted that Americans have the highest priced, most
nutritious urine in the world given the plethora of superfluous vitamin
pills, herbs and supplements that many scarf down each day. Maybe the same
is true for the Danes. Unless the main body of the study shows that there
was absolutely total control over all in take food, drink and pills, we
have a right to remain skeptical even of their limited findings. At best,
our response is so what? Even one of one of the scientists behind the
study concluded: "However, he emphasizes that is much too soon to conclude
that organic vegetables are more healthy than conventional ones. It will
require a significant amount of research to document." Unfortunately, the
organic enthusiasts will be touting this study as proof of the superiority
of "organic" food. In other words, from their perspective, their piss is
more nutritious than mine. That is a point that I really am not going to
get excited about arguing.

P.S. On another issue, I notice that a number of NGOs are seeking to
enterfriends of the court briefs on behalf of Percy Schmeiser. Among them
is Vandana Shiva who claims that "If other jurisdictions were to follow
the approach adopted by the Federal Court of Appeal in this case, the
result would undermine the seed-saving practices of hundreds of million of
farmers whose livelihoods depend on this practice." In other words, those
who do not buy seeds, have to be protected from contracts that they won't
have to sign. Contrary to the campaign of deliberate misinformation, the
original judges ruling in the case, maintained that Percy Schmeiser knew
or should have known that the seeds that he was planting were not his but
those of Monsanto. Expect once again to be inundated with the SAVE THE
SEED propaganda.


Consequences of Genetically Engineered Genes Escaping

- University of California (Riverside) News Release September 30, 2003
(Sent by Andrew Apel)


In New Book, UC Riverside Geneticist Spells Out Consequences of
Genetically Engineered Genes Escaping into Wild Species Author to read
from book at ŒBack to the Grind' in Riverside on Oct. 21

Norman C. Ellstrand, professor of genetics at UC Riverside and director of
the Biotechnology Impacts Center, has published his first book entitled
"Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate With Their Wild
Relatives." (For a high resolution image, click on the picture above.)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- (www.ucr.edu) -- Domesticated plants are the
descendants of wild plants and the two are therefore closely related. What
would be the consequences of sex between cultivated plants and their wild
relatives? Would they perhaps make strange bedfellows?

Norman C. Ellstrand, professor of genetics at UC Riverside and director of
the Biotechnology Impacts Center, poses this question and provides some
answers in his first book entitled "Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated
Plants Mate With Their Wild Relatives" (288 pages, Johns Hopkins
University Press, October 2003, edited by Samuel M. Scheiner).

The title captures, in a few words, the idea that possible problems could
result from spontaneous hybridization between cultivated plants and their
wild relatives. "This is an issue of much interest to plant evolutionary
geneticists, crop evolutionists, weed evolutionists," said Ellstrand. "It
would appeal also to those interested in understanding the Œgene flow'
controversy associated with the field release of genetically engineered
(transgenic) plants, to managers of endangered plant species, regulators
of plant biotechnology, decision-makers, academics, students, and others
concerned about the environment."

Ellstrand will read from "Dangerous Liaisons?" at Back to the Grind, 3575
University Ave., Riverside (Tel: 909-784-0800), at 5:30 p.m. on October
21, 2003. A discussion of the book will follow the reading.

The book introduces the reader to what is involved in the natural
hybridization process. Ellstrand then describes what impact the
hybridization between crops and their wild relatives has already had
(e.g., evolution of weediness/invasiveness in the hybrids, the increased
risk of extinction by hybridization if the wild plants are rare). The book
ends with Ellstrand casting an eye on the future when he considers how we
may better manage and monitor the escape of engineered genes into wild

Ellstrand came to UC Riverside in 1979 after a year's postdoctoral
appointment at Duke University. He received his Ph.D. in 1978 from the
University of Texas at Austin. His awards include being named Fellow of
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000;
Distinguished Speaker, 42nd Ecological Genetics Group Meeting, St.
Andrews, United Kingdom, 1998; Fulbright Fellow, 1993; and a National
Science foundation Mid-Career Fellowship in Environmental Biology, 1992.

"I've always been fascinated by evolution -- and sex," said Ellstrand,
"and that drew me to my field of research. I've also always wanted to have
the experience of writing a book. I really wanted to write a novel, but I
figured that first I had better try a book that would stand a better
chance of getting accepted!"

Ellstrand decided to write "Dangerous Liaisons?" because of all of the
controversies associated with the field release of transgenic plants. "The
most frequently discussed controversy is the fact that engineered genes
may move by pollen flow -- and subsequent sex -- into plant populations
for which they were unintended, but not one book has yet emerged that
focuses on this issue," he said.

For this book, Ellstrand's style and delivery were inspired by Don Levin,
his major professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Dave Nanney, his
mentor at the University of Illinois, and Harriet Naden, his high school
American Literature teacher. Ellstrand's recent favorite readings have
been "Lords of the Harvest" by Dan Charles and "Instructions to the Cook:
a Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life that Matters" by Bernard Glassman
and Rich Fields.

What scholars have said of Ellstrand's "Dangerous Liaisons?": "In the
stormy sea of debate over genetically modified organisms, Ellstrand's book
is a safe and fascinating harbor of science-based opinion on cultivated
plants in their larger gene pools. A visionary scientist and an ethical
public servant, Ellstrand sets the quality standards for all who will
follow." - Gary Paul Nabhan, Director, Center for Sustainable
Environments, author of Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of
Local Foods.

"A well-written, objective account of the prevalence and roles of
hybridization in plants, focusing on the relationships between crops and
their wild and weedy relatives. This book is important reading for those
concerned with the development of agriculture in the future, and the
standards that ought to be applied when new strains of crops are
developed. Norman Ellstrand has provided us with the best account of this
important field." - Peter H. Raven, Director, Missouri Botanical Garden.

"Buckle up for a rollicking ride through the world of plant sex. Norman
Ellstrand, scientific investigator, is on the trail of a little-noticed
phenomenon, the migration of plant genes across the boundaries of farmers'
fields. He provides a comprehensive and even-tempered look at an old
phenomenon that has suddenly acquired new relevance in this era of
genetically engineered crops. An essential guide to a fascinating and
often startling topic." - Daniel Charles, author of Lords of the Harvest:
Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food.

"This book brings science to bear on a controversial issue - the possible
escape of engineered genes into wild species. Although Ellstrand's
discussion is nuanced and sophisticated, his friendly and informal writing
style makes it palatable. Ellstrand has produced the rare book that does
not compromise the science yet remains a pleasure to read." - Loren
Rieseberg, Indiana University

"With insight, originality and extraordinary scholarship, Norman Ellstrand
brings together classical and current knowledge about crop evolution, crop
breeding and evolutionary ecology, weaving historical and
ultra-contemporary themes into a single, comprehensive treatment. This
book is a masterpiece that will be highly influential and widely cited." -
Allison Snow, Ohio State University.


Will Frankenfood Save the Planet? - Join the Debate


In "Will Frankenfood Save the Planet?" (October Atlantic
http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2003/10/rauch.htm), Jonathan Rauch
argues that genetic engineering "may be the most environmentally
beneficial technology to have emerged in decades, or possibly centuries."
Genetically engineered crops, he explains, make it possible to farm
without ploughing, which is a major advance because ploughing causes
"runoff that pollutes rivers and blights aquatic habitat, erosion that
wears away the land, and the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse
gases stored in the soil." Genetic engineering can also obviate the need
for environmentally harmful insecticides.

"All of that," Rauch writes, "is the beginning, not the end. Bioengineers
are also working ... on crops that tolerate aluminum, another major
contaminant of soil, especially in the tropics. Return an acre of farmland
to productivity, or double yields on an already productive acre, and,
other things being equal, you reduce by an acre the amount of virgin
forest or savannah that will be stripped and cultivated. That may be the
most important benefit of all."

At the moment, however, most environmentalists strenuously object to the
idea of genetic engineering as unnatural, frightening and dangerous. In
the near future, Rauch predicts, environmentalists will come to see the
benefits of genetic engineering and will heartily embrace it?

What do you think? Is genetic engineering something we should welcome?
Should we fear it? Do you believe that environmentalists will change their
views about it?

(From Prakash: See the discussion on this article at
http://forum.theatlantic.com/WebX?.2cb4fd9e . I encourage AgBioWorld
readers to post comments on this article at the website and forward a copy
to agbioworld@yahoo.com )


Review of 'Bountiful Harvest: Technology, Food Safety, and the

- Craig S. Marxsen (University of Nebraska at Kearney). The Independent
Review, Vol. 8, N0. 2;

(Author - By Thomas R. DeGregori Published - Washington, D.C.: Cato
Institute, 2002. Pages - Pp. xiii, 262. )

Thomas R. DeGregori, an economist who specializes in the study of economic
development, has traveled to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the
Caribbean more times than he can recall. His most recent books chop at the
roots of obstructionist efforts of nongovernmental organizations that seek
to prevent modern development in poorer countries. Certain organizations
resist, for example, the distribution of genetically modified corn to the
starving and prevent the construction of hydroelectric dams where people
desperately need electricity. DeGregori wars against an antitechnology
movement that oppresses poor people he evidently cares about˜people he has
devoted his life to helping. Indeed, he seems driven by compulsions nobler
than those of the organizations that deliberately obstruct development in
poor countries just as they also sponsor antigrowth oppressions through
our domestic regulatory system.

The devil-and-Dr. Faust view has pervaded the twentieth century, keeping
modern technology under fire from media bias that sensationalizes every
hint of technological risks or hidden harm. Organizations have found
exploitation of fears of technology to be a fruitful source of donations,
and industries promoting natural or organic products have found lucrative
markets among ignorant people driven by technophobia. DeGregori argues a
contrary view of technology and notes some of the pitfalls in misguided
efforts to back away from modern technology, especially from technology‚s
capacity to provide bountiful food. He boasts of advancing a politically
incorrect view that technology is not the seducing destroyer of humans but
rather their defining and distinguishing virtue.

DeGregori begins by describing humans as creatures distinguished by their
acquisition and maintenance of tools. Humans are inherently creative, and
technology consists of art executed through complex tools requiring
specialization, social orga-nization, and systematic learning and
transmission of knowledge. Technology manifests a unique expressiveness
that otherwise does not exist in nature. Technology defines the core of
human capability rather than a peripheral extension. It is more than the
foundation of human sustenance; it distinguishes human perception. By the
use of technology, we peruse the heavens above the Hubble telescope and
the microcosm below an electron microscope. Through technology, we can see
what we are and have been; we look not only around us, but also into our
past and even into our own bodies by using modern noninvasive imaging
methods. Human creativity of all kinds exploits technology, whether by
recording music, transmitting written words, or creating motion pictures
and television broadcasts. Modern technology does not alienate humans from
themselves, but instead defines and manifests the natural human self.
Civilization rests on domesticated plants and animals that could not have
existed without human protection from the wild.

DeGregori focuses on misperceptions that technology is inherently
destructive to the natural earth, advancing it toward a state of
uninhabitability. Movies such as A Civil Action interpret statistically
meaningless cancer clusters as if a corporate underworld was secretly
poisoning everyone. Reinforcing preposterous fears that background traces
of manufactured chemicals are causing trends in declining sperm count, the
media ignore plant-originating chemicals of far greater significance. The
World Health Organization labels tamoxifen a human carcinogen rather than
endorsing its remarkable life-preserving effectiveness. Allegations indict
technology for insignificant risks, whereas the risks of not using
technology go unheeded. DeGregori discusses conceivably humorous pitfalls
of "natural" and "organic" foods, citing evidence that increased
consumption of "Organic" foods has caused an increase in the incidence of
food poisoning. Bacterial infections such as Escherichia coli-infections
of the same kind that can originate from using manure to fertilize organic
food naturally-claim many lives each year. Likewise, "health" foods such
as unpasteurized juices, raw sprouts, and the like promote the reemergence
of food-borne-pathogen problems previously thought eradicated. Even the
vegetarian diet is hardly natural for humans; a balanced vegetarian diet
is possible only because modern technology brings a voluminous variety of
appropriate foods within our reach. Try fertilizing your lawn with manure:
one thousand pounds provides the nitrogen available in a five-dollar bag
of commercial fertilizer.

World crop yields would be, by some estimates, 70 percent smaller in the
absence of pesticide use. Even Consumer Reports (1998) testifies that
organic foods cost 57 percent more. Technophobes have succeeded in
maintaining a prohibition on food irradiation in spite of its substantial,
proven benefits. More significant, opposition to genetically modified
foods has impeded the use of insect- and disease-resistant crop varieties
that would help reduce the need for pesticides. The Luddites who oppose
genetically modified plants perpetuate considerable hardship in poorer
countries that might benefit especially from the improved food output and
enhanced nutrition that come from bioengineering breakthroughs, including
new salt-tolerant plants. Although the technology of genetically modified
food products is probably among the safest of human achievements,
opponents succeed politically by labeling them as "Frankenfoods" or
"mutant grub."

DeGregori is not a lone voice defending his commonsense position. The
Hudson Institute‚s Dennis T. Avery reveals that groups including
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are lobbying famine-stricken African
countries such as Zambia to persuade governments to prevent distribution
of genetically modified corn donated by the governments of some of the
world‚s advanced industrial countries (Daily Articles, October 10, 2002,
available at http://www.hudson.org). Avery laments that these
environmental groups do not seem to care if their preferred policies are
killing starving Africans. He notes also that donations for these
environmental organizations are going up apparently as a result of such
maneuvers and that the organizations dismiss the resulting premature
deaths of Africans as inevitable˜an attitude that DeGregori emphasizes in
Bountiful Harvest.

DeGregori stresses that otherwise benign political movements are not the
only ones to exalt nature excessively. He touches on the prevalence of
such behavior among the Nazis in Germany. Feeling that they had a higher
calling, they propounded bizarre doctrines of wildlife and animal
protection that involved the degradation of people and sought to give the
Germans a "blood-and-soil-rooted-garden" uncontaminated by "alien
species." Some of the leading Nazis, including Adolf Hitler himself,
advocated and practiced compulsive vegetarianism with a commitment to
organic agriculture. Although DeGregori elaborates some of the Nazis‚
back-to-nature traits, he stops short of linking Nazi mentality and
practices such as shooting on sight human intruders who stray into vast
wildlife protection areas in present-day Africa. (He elaborates on that
theme in his subsequent book, The Environment, Our Natural Resources, and
Modern Technology [Ames: Iowa State Press, 2002], pp. 33ˆ37.)

Fear of carcinogens has reawakened real terrors, such as malaria and
cholera. Halting water chlorination in Peru in 1991 killed nearly seven
thousand people from cholera. Pesticides have increased food production
greatly and reduced the cost of feeding people. Corn would cost 61 percent
more and wheat 50 percent more if we did not use any chemicals. Before the
advent of modern pesticides, people used less-sophisticated poisons, such
as arsenic. If today‚s chemicals cause cancer, they do so largely by
increasing average human life spans so that a greater percentage of people
get old enough to get cancer. DeGregori emphasizes that technology in the
past century has brought great improvement in the lives of children. For
political purposes, promoters of false fears about power-line radiation
causing cancer and of inordinate sensitivity to insignificant pesticide
residues recklessly exploit our love of children. DeGregori illustrates
how children are particularly vulnerable to unwarranted impediments to
technology because they are disproportionately technology‚s beneficiaries.
Various misguided regulations for food production have disregarded
explicitly the safety of American children and have caused great hardship
for children in developing countries that export food. Modern pesticides
are much more a cure for human misery and death than a cause of them˜in
fact, the mortal risk from properly used chemicals is virtually
fictitious. Impeding the use of chemicals results in many lives actually
lost, especially in poorer countries.

The number of undernourished people in the world continues to decline,
while improved food supply continues to enhance human health and longevity
consistently. Food is cleaner today than it was in earlier times, and
rising life expectancies challenge views regarding modern life as
significantly more polluted than it once was. Science and technology,
despite misuses by bad governments, overwhelmingly serve to increase the
length and quality of human life at unprecedented rates by historical
standards. Declining birthrates coupled with rising life expectancies and
falling infant mortality mock the idea that modern technology is killing
us. Moreover, the fraction of an average life spent with disability is
evidently declining despite rising longevity. Infectious diseases rather
than any sort of chemical pollution remain the substantial killer of
children in developing countries. Although polio may have thrived from
advances in public health and sanitation, this effect is hardly the case
for most other infectious killers of humankind. Technology has sheltered
us greatly from the harsher realities of the natural world; it remains the
core of human potential for promoting the future good of humanity.