Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: January 10, 2004:
* Are GM Crops Linked to Rise in 'Pesticide' Use?
* The Miracle of American Agriculture
* Over-Regulation of Innovation
* Building a Better Banana
* Gene Revolution
* Patrick Moore: From Greenpeace to Greenspirit
* World Congress on Industrial Biotech and Bioprocessing
* Biotech in India - Building Bridge Between Science and Industry
* Free Student Registration at the In Vitro Biology Meeting
* India: Issues Faced by the Agri-Biotech Sector
* Biotech Ends and Means
* Green Power, Black Death
* Edge - The World Question Center and the Third Culture
Are GM Crops Linked to Rise in 'Pesticide' Use?
- Chris Preston
See below the article from Guardian (UK). I haven't bothered to go through
Benbrook's analysis in detail, so won't comment on whether his figures are
appropriate or not. More on that another time. You can find the report at
One statement made by Benbrook is almost certainly true. That is the
amount of 'herbicide' applied to herbicide-tolerant crops has increased
over time. Why should this be so? There are two main drivers. 1) The
adoption of no-till farming systems. While HT crops are not essential for
no-till adoption (it has already happened widely in Australia with only
triazine-tolerant canola as a HT crop), the introduction of HT soybeans
and HT canola in north America has facilitated the adoption of no-till
seeding. In no-till systems, herbicide use will inevitably increase as
herbicides, rather than tillage, will be used for weed control. 2) The
reduction in price of glyphosate. Glyphosate is the major pre-plant
Here in Australia where patent protection disappeared some time ago and
prices decreased dramatically, rates of glyphosate used have increased. In
part this has occurred as a "just-lethal" or sub-lethal rate was often
used in conjunction with tillage for weed control. Now it is much more
common to see a robust rate (anything up to 3 times the "old" rate) used
in the absence of tillage - and the total cost is less.
However, if we were to consider total environmental impact, glyphosate is
relatively benign compared to a number of the herbicides it has replaced
in non-GM systems. The reduction in tillage in HT cropping systems is also
a positive environmental impact. So the net result of HT soybeans in the
US is a positive for the environment - it has not resulted in serious
damage to wildlife as suggested by Peter Melchett.
The so-called "modest" reductions in insecticide use are actually quite
large. In Bt cotton, insecticide use was cut by 67% according to
Benbrook's figures. The environmental impact of many insecticides is much
greater than most herbicides and certainly much greater than glyphosate.
So the fact the reductions in poundage are quite small compared to the
total amount of herbicides used, belies the positive environmental
impacts. The other chemical conveniently ignored by Melchett and others is
diesel. The HT crops allow substantially fewer passes over fields because
less herbicide applications need to be made. This will reduce the amount
of diesel used. The impact of burning diesel on our environment is at
least as bad, if not worse, than many of the pesticides used.
- Dr. Christopher Preston, Senior Lecturer, Weed Management, University of
> GM Crops Linked to Rise in Pesticide Use
- The Guardian (UK), John Vidal, January 8, 2004
Eight years of planting genetically modified maize, cotton and soya beans
in the US has significantly increased the amount of herbicides and
pesticides used, according to a US report which could influence the
British government over whether to let GM crops be grown.
The most comprehensive study yet made of chemical use on genetically
modified crops draws on US government data collected since
commercialisation of the crops began. It appears to undermine one of the
central selling points of GM farming - that the crops benefit the
environment because they need fewer manmade agrochemicals.
Charles Benbrook, the author of the report, who is also head of the
Northwest Science and Environment Policy Centre, at Sandpoint, Idaho,
found that when first introduced most of the crops needed up to 25% fewer
chemicals for the first three years, but afterwards significantly more.
In 2001, the report states, 5% more herbicides and insecticides were
sprayed compared with crops only of non-GM varieties; in 2002 7.9% more
was sprayed; and in 2003 the estimated rise was 11.5%. In total, £73m more
agrochemicals were sprayed in the US during 2001-2003 because of GM crops,
says the report, which was commissioned by Iowa State University, the
Consumers' Union and others.
During 2002-2003, an average of 29% more herbicide was applied per acre on
GM maize. But this trend was not sustained over the eight years. Overall,
modest reductions in insecticide usage with maize and cotton were
recorded, with no sign that the pests were starting to build up
UK farm trials found that two of the three GM crops grown experimentally
in Britain, oil seed rape and sugar beet, were more harmful to the
environment than conventional crops but that GM maize allowed the survival
of more weeds and insects. The key to insects' and weeds' survival was the
quantity of chemicals used on either conventional or GM crops.
Dr Benbrook said: "The proponents of biotechnology claim GM varieties
substantially reduce pesticide use. While true in the first few years of
widespread planting ... it is not the case now. There's now clear evidence
that the average pounds of herbicides applied per acre planted to
herbicide-tolerant varieties have increased compared to the first few
Last night, the Agriculture Biotechnology Council, a British GM industry
trade group, criticised the findings, saying it was not possible to
directly correlate pesticide use with GM crops. "There are lots of
seasonal conditions that have effects [on how much pesticide is used].
Global warming is also important. We do not dispute that there was a 20%
increase [of pesticides] in 2002 over 2001, but that  was the lowest
figure in years."
Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said yesterday:
"This is compelling evidence that GM maize will lead to higher spray use
and serious damage to wildlife if the crop is grown in this country. "The
biotechnology companies have been claiming that GM crops result in large
reductions in the use of sprays, and GM maize is their frontrunner for
commercial growing in the UK. Until now, there has been no clear evidence
over the whole eight years of commercial growing in the US to show their
claims are false - that's what the evidence in this report gives us. "It
would be inconceivable for the government to give the go-ahead to GM maize
now this damning evidence is out."
However, one of the most important factors involved in the increase of
herbicides is thought to have been the recent termination of the patent
protection for glyphosate herbicide, made by the leading GM company
Monsanto. This is the main chemical the plants are engineered to tolerate.
According to the report, new, competing products have halved prices and
encouraged more spraying. Tony Blair yesterday said that public opinion
would play a part in the development of GM products in the UK. Speaking at
prime minister's question time about what impact recent government
soundings would have on a final decision on GM in Britain, he said it was
"vital that we proceed - by public consultation but also on the basis of
the science of GM".
The Miracle of American Agriculture
- Rich Lowry, Townhall.com, Jan. 8, 2004
Mad cow disease has arrived in the United States, but mad-cow hysteria
hasn't, much to the chagrin of environmental and animal-rights activists.
Ronnie Cummins, head of the Organic Consumers Association, hopes that
mad-cow fears fuel a "crisis of confidence" in American food. Great. Maybe
we can have a run on the banks and urban riots, too.
The activists hope for a food apocalypse, because they consider American
agriculture an ongoing atrocity -- think Saddam Hussein in overalls,
wielding hybrid corn as his weapon of mass destruction. What so upsets
them is that the United States has avoided the agricultural neuroses of
Europe and embraced technological advances in the production of its food.
This has made the United States the leader in the "Green Revolution,"
which during the past 30 years has been a boon for human welfare and the
environment. Rather than a fragile edifice about to be brought low by mad
cow disease, American agriculture is miraculously productive and safe.
Britain has been the only country to suffer a mad-cow epidemic because it
was feeding meat and bone meal from infected cows to other cows, spreading
the disease. The United States ended the practice of feeding ruminant meal
to cows in 1997, and the recently discovered case of mad cow disease might
pre-date the ban. So there is unlikely to be a mass outbreak. For
thousands of years, humans have been trading germs back and forth with
livestock and have periodically been devastated by animal-borne diseases.
In light of this, to have less than 200 people die from the human form of
mad cow disease -- the number of fatalities worldwide so far -- would be
something of a triumph.
The chief risk from the arrival of mad cow in the United States is that it
creates a European-style paranoia about technology that has prompted the
Euros to reject demonstrably safe growth hormones in beef, genetically
modified crops and other advances. According to Dennis and Alex Avery, the
indispensable agriculture experts at the Indianapolis-based Hudson
Institute, the pounds of meat produced per acre farmed has doubled in the
United States since 1970. The corn yield in the United States has
increased from 25 bushels per acre in the 1920s to 140 bushels per acre
today. Generally, crop yields have tripled since 1970.
Putting aside the question of the quality of life of the animals involved
(American agriculture isn't always pretty), the increased efficiencies
have made it possible to feed more people, putting the lie to predictions
three decades ago that the planet would inevitably be afflicted by mass
starvation. The new productivity also makes it possible to produce more
food on less land, preserving, by the Averys' estimate, more than 16
million square miles of wildlife habitat since 1950 that otherwise would
have been plowed under. Enviros should be dancing among the biotech corn
There are three major legs to the Green Revolution: genetic improvements,
both crossbreeding and biotech, that increase yields and make crops
heartier, thus reducing the need for pesticides (between 1996 and 2000,
biotech cotton, for instance, obviated the need to spray nearly 3 million
pounds of pesticide annually); synthetic fertilizers, which prevent the
sort of soil depletion that created the Dust Bowl in the 1930s; better and
safer insecticides and weedkillers that increasingly make it possible to
forego the plowing that creates erosion and environmentally harmful
Turning our backs on these advances in favor of "organic" agriculture, as
the mad-cow hysterics want, would be folly. In Denmark in the mid-1990s, a
commission studied the effects of a potential all-organic agricultural
mandate, and found it would reduce Danish food production by roughly half.
Eliminating synthetic fertilizer everywhere, meanwhile, would mean keeping
7 billion to 9 billion cattle globally, instead of the current 1.2
billion, just to get the necessary manure.
Ogden Nash famously observed, "The cow is of the bovine ilk/One end is
moo, the other, milk."
Despite the mad-cow scare, American agriculture does moo, milk and much
else better than they've ever been done. Hold the hysteria. Try
Rich Lowry is editor of National Review, a Townhall.com member group
Over-Regulation of Innovation
- Stuart Smyth, AgBiotech Bulletin (Canada), Vol. 12, Issue 1, Jan. 2004
(Via Agnet) http://www.agwest.sk.ca/bulletin/2004/jan/abbjan04.doc
As many innovations emerge from the laboratory and enter
commercialization, regulations, and often new regulations, are required to
facilitate social trust and consumer acceptance of the innovative product.
New regulations are valued by both industry and government as the goal is
to demonstrate to the public that both of these stakeholders are aware of
consumer concerns and have taken actions to address the concerns. Industry
frequently has input into the development of new regulations to ensure the
proposed regulations do not act as a barrier to entry for new firms.
However, there is a fine balance between when regulations serve the
betterment of the industry and when they begin to become a barrier to new
research applications. Additional regulatory requirements are especially
challenging for companies with products in the pre-commercialization
stage. The added time and cost of conducting the necessary research,
processing the data and preparing submissions, can, and do in many
instances, dramatically lower the return on investment (ROI).
Historically, agriculture has one of the lower industry ROI ratios and the
added costs of meeting all regulatory requirements can reduce an ROI to
the point where commercialization is not as fiscally attractive as was
An analysis of biotechnology in Canada in 1997 by Ernst & Young, estimated
a one-year delay in commercialization can reduce overall ROI by 2.8% and a
two-year delay reduces ROI by 5.2%. Statistics
Canada data has shown the ROI in agriculture has historically been between
5-10%. A comparison of these two sets of figures shows how thin the
margins are in this sector. Given these numbers, a one to two year
regulatory delay can have serious financial impacts on firms developing
new technologies for agriculture.
A review of the regulations that apply to innovations within agriculture
and especially agricultural biotechnology may be very timely. If you have
any thoughts or comments about the area of over-regulation of
biotechnology innovations, please contact me at
Building a Better Banana
- Stephen Mbogo, TechCentral Station, Jan. 5, 2004
In a new wave similar to the overwhelming interest the Internet and mobile
telephony have excited among African youth, biotechnology farming is
spurring grown-up farmers eager to increase their farm crop production
efficiency and volumes.
In Kenya's Nyanza, Mount Kenya and Coastal areas, tissue culture banana
farming is well under way. In Kisii and Murang'a areas of Kenya, farmers
are preparing for their third harvest, while others are tending their
young banana stems, eager to see the "new miracle" of farming. When I
visited a village in Kiambu area, in the outskirts of the Kenyan capital
Nairobi, I met a group of farmers who have organized themselves into a
group, enabling them to use economies of scale especially in learning the
new farming technology.
The predominantly elderly farmers, in their 50s and 60s, showed unexpected
enthusiasm and interest in the biotech banana plants. They want the new
varieties because they grow faster, are bigger and are disease resistant,
hence help improve household food security and fetch higher profits at the
James Kamau, a farmer with 45 tissue culture banana plants, called the
whole idea "a God-send." "We have seen how the bananas have transformed
the lives of farmers elsewhere and now that we have started, we believe we
shall make it." Previously, Kamau had only ten traditionally grown banana
plants in his small plot. The banana plants used to take 18 months to
mature. Now, he has cut them off and planted a whooping 45 tissue culture
banana plants. They will only take 12 months to mature, are resistant to
disease and will produce more and bigger banana fingers.
In addition, he can cook the peels from the unripe banana fingers, based
on the information he learned from Susan Muli, a technical officer at the
Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) Muli said the bananas grow in
a uniform manner, a plus for farmers who may want to grow the bananas for
commercial purposes. KARI is the institution which develops the tissue
culture bananas in the laboratories and has been carrying out research on
genetically modified maize and sweet potatoes. KARI and a host of other
agriculture research institutions in Kenya sell the developed banana stems
to farmers for $1 for each stem and subsequently offer the farmers advise
and education how to grow and care for the plants.
Already, the institute has developed genetically modified maize, known as
BT (Basillus Thuringeises) maize, which has high yields, grows fast and is
resistant to bacteria. But because of legal and policy complications BT
maize is yet to be released to farmers here.
Were Kassim of the International Service for the Acquisition of
Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a group which is coordinating the
education and monitoring of culture tissue bananas, called the response
from the farmers "overwhelming".
Tissue Culture is a form of biotechnology that refers to the production of
plants from very small plant parts, tissues or cells grown in laboratory
conditions where environment and nutrition are rigidly controlled. By the
time the plants are ready for sowing in the farms, they have undergone a
process which induces remarkable physiological changes that influence the
agronomic characteristics of the emerging plant. The process does not
involve genetic modification, a fact which helps farmers here because they
are able to sell their produce to the local market, something they could
not do if the plants were genetically modified.
In Kenya like in many other African countries, genetically modified foods
have not been allowed into the market. However, a number of African
governments including Kenya are in the process of proposing legislation
which will allow production and sale of genetically modified foods.
The road to convincing African governments to allow production of GMOs has
not been easy, although biotechnology lobbyists like Catherine Ngamau of
Biotechnology Information Centerin Nairobi says "there is high hope" that
this could change "soon."
Pro-biotechnology campaigners want Africa to appreciate the technology
fully so that food security situation in Africa can be eased. Professor
Diran Makinde of AfricaBio said African farmers can grow other crops such
as cowpeas, cotton, corn and soybeans with the assistance of
biotechnology. "Biotechnology should be used as a tool to boost crop
quality and improve agricultural efficiency in Africa. I want African
farmers to be able to access this technology and assess the benefits for
themselves," Makinde said.
According to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
although the proportion of the undernourished people in the developing
world had decreased from 37 to 18 percent by the end of 1990s, the
proportion and absolute number of undernourished people has actually
increased in some countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Near East. For
those 49 nations considered the world's least developed, the proportion of
the undernourished has remained unchanged at 38 percent since the early
1970s. Today nearly 800 million people in the developing world remain
hungry and poor - and 650 million of them live in the Least Developed
Countries (LDCs), most of which are in Africa, says FAO.
Biotechnology, as most scientists have urged, is the best vehicle to
improve the food security situation in Africa and could possibly help
eradicate the perennial hunger prevalent in Africa.
Stephen Mbogo is a writer based in Nairobi
- Daily Star (Bangladesh) Jan. 9, 2004
Letters to Editor: Mr. Bayezid Dawla has made some sweeping remarks
against the 'Gene Revolution' in an article entitled 'Gene revolution and
genetic contamination' in your esteemed daily (Jan. 4). He has predicted
that the gene revolution will bring forth, 'an erratic, horror-stricken
His remarks could be likened to saying, 'since knives can kill people,
these should be banned.' Any technology has its good and bad sides. It is
for Bangladesh to first judge rationally whether in particular cases,
tools of biotechnology and genetic engineering can help overcome problems
which have eluded our breeders, because we need to double our food
production in the next 20 years. Current strategies in yield enhancement
have already been exhausted and yields of cereals have reached a plateau
since the last 3-4 years. If the opinion is positive, scientists and
planners may need donors to fund research into producing suitable
varieties for Bangladesh, or do some cost-benefit analysis to find out the
feasibility of the approach.
We cannot simply buy seeds being produced by the multinationals. The
multinationals have not produced transgenic rice -- and even if they did,
their varieties will not grow well in Bangladesh. We can however think of
buying the license to the gene of interest and introducing it into our
varieties. Safety measures for producing these transformed plants and
other organisms are very rigorous all over the world and unless we have
these measures in place, we will not be permitted to use this technology.
One exception is China, which has released Bt rice resistant to the major
rice pests and this is doing extremely well with farmers (sic).
It is of no use citing Europe's aversion to genetically modified
crops-they have plenty of food and their citizens can enjoy the luxury of
choosing what they eat.
- Prof. Zeba Seraj (Dept. of Biochem. & Mol. Biol. University of Dhaka)
Patrick Moore: From Greenpeace to Greenspirit
- AgBiotech BUZZ Vol. 4, Issue 1, January 8, 2004
Patrick Moore isn't a man afraid to change his mind. Once a self-described
"hard core environmentalist," Moore now takes a gentler approach, working
with a diverse group of people to ensure Earth's resources are used in a
sustainable way. He also supports some things that many environmentalists
traditionally don't go for, most notably agricultural biotechnology.
But his shift away from the politics of confrontation toward compromise
has put him in the awkward position of being estranged from Greenpeace,
the environmental group he helped form in the early 1970s. In fact, while
working with the forestry industry in his native Canada to develop more
sustainable forestry management techniques, he was labeled a sell-out and
an "eco-Judas" by those who used to be his closest allies. In turn, Moore
has become an outspoken critic of Greenpeace
Born in 1947 and raised in a tiny fishing village on the northwest tip of
Vancouver Island, Moore has traveled down an ideological road interrupted
with twists, turns and discoveries. His journey started with an ecological
epiphany while a student at the University of British Columbia. A famous
Czech ecologist planted the seed for his love affair with all things
ecological when he spoke during Moore's first year.
"Until then, I had thought of science as purely technical, something that
was completely separate from spirituality," he said. "Ecology showed me
that everything is interrelated. It's all one big system. I discovered
through science, you could understand the mystery of nature and life. In
my own way, I understood genesis or creation."
Moore earned an undergraduate degree in forest biology and a doctorate in
ecology in 1972. It was during this heady time of protest movements ˆ
protests against the Vietnam War, for civil rights and women's rights ˆ
that he first became active in the "save the Earth" movement. Researching
his dissertation on the impact of a large copper mine's tailings in a
marine fjord on Vancouver Island, gave birth to his activism. The people
at the mine said the tailings wouldn't have any impact on the sensitive
marine environment. Moore was convinced the tailings would wreak havoc. He
soon hooked up with a ragtag band of American expatriates, hippies,
journalists and others who sailed to Alaska to protest U.S. hydrogen bomb
testing in Alaska. The motley group generated a lot of press and later
formed Greenpeace, the largest and most well known environmental
organization in the world. Moore worked with the group full time until
"I became radicalized in the sense that I became a revolutionary in my own
mind," he said. "I fashioned myself as a crusader for truth and justice."
While with Greenpeace, Moore handled various campaigns including saving
the whales, stopping seal hunting, protesting nuclear warships and ending
uranium mining. He served for nine years as president of Greenpeace Canada
and seven years as director of Greenpeace International. "I started to
protest and speak out in the media against things and create controversy.
I was described by a mineral engineering professor as a long-haired freak
running wild not knowing what he was talking about. I described him as a
redneck masquerading as a scientist," Moore said. "I was real hard core,
antiestablishment. I thought the system was wrong in a fundamental way."
But he began seeing things in a different light during the early 1980s.
Moore attended a United Nations conference on the environment in Nairobi,
Kenya in 1982, where he was first introduced to the term sustainable
development. He realized that in many ways environmentalism had achieved
its goal of creating awareness of problems. But what was the next step? "I
realized you just can't save the environment and forget about the people,"
Moore explained. "So sustainable development became a way of thinking, and
gradually during the next three or four years that way of thinking caused
me to question some of the priorities Greenpeace was pursuing."
He left Greenpeace in 1986 and in 1991 formed Greenspirit, a consulting
firm that focuses on environmental policy, biodiversity, natural resources
and climate change. He believes in the round table approach, bringing
people in from governments, corporations, public institutions and
environmentalists to work on solutions to some of the world's
environmental problems. For example, he was part of a citizen's group who
worked with the Canadian forestry industry to help them realize the
importance of stream side protection, water quality, riparian reserve
zones and biodiversity when deciding which trees to harvest.
Moore also believes carefully managed agricultural biotechnology can be
blended into environmentalism. This is because by placing a specific gene
into crops that make them resistant to certain insects, farmers don't have
to rely as much on pesticides. Reducing pesticide use protects farm
workers because they aren't exposed to dangerous chemicals, and it
protects the insects that don't harm the crops, he said. In addition,
splicing specific genes into crops to make them bug resistant means
growers can get higher yields out of their fields because the crops won't
succumb to plant destroying insects. All of this translates into less land
used to grow the same amount of food, Moore said.
"We should be using science to grow more food fiber per acre thus
requiring fewer acres to do so," he said. "It's simple arithmetic. There
is only so much land suitable for growing things."
Moore believes unfounded fear is the driving force behind many
environmentalists' stance against genetically modified organisms, and he's
become very critical of what he sees as the inappropriate use of "scary
metaphors" such as "frankenfoods" which prey upon people's anxieties. At
the same time, he says,
At the same time he says there is a powerful movement of many
environmentalists moving toward the policies of sustainable development.
For example, environmentalists worked with rice farmers in the Sacramento
Valley to change an age old harvesting practice. Rice is grown in flooded
fields and after it's harvested, the fields are drained for three weeks.
Then, the stubble of the rice is burned causing air pollution. The farmers
were shown another way of doing it. Instead of burning the leftovers, the
farmers were convinced to let the water rot the stubble over the winter.
By adopting this more environmentally friendly approach, the fields became
a lush habitat for shorebirds, ducks and geese over the winter. "It's
these kinds of win-win situations that are the future of sustainable
development," Moore says.
The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing
- New BIO International Conference, April 21-23, 2004, Orlando, Fl
Representatives from the biotechnology, chemical and agriculture
industries will join with government officials and academics at the
first-ever World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing
April 21-23, 2004, at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel in
This new conference, which is being jointly hosted by the Biotechnology
Industry Organization (BIO), the American Chemical Society and the
National Agriculture Biotechnology Council, will focus on how industrial
biotechnology is being used to transform manufacturing, chemical
synthesis, and energy production, while at the same time decreasing
pollution. The conference also will focus on how agricultural wastes, such
as those derived from corn stalks and rice, are being used to create new
"In the past three years, novel uses of genomics, proteomics and
bioinformatics have revolutionized many aspects of our lives from how
consumer goods are produced to chemical production and industrial
manufacturing processes," said Brent Erickson, BIO's vice president for
industrial biotechnology. "The convergence of biotechnology, agriculture
and chemistry has created a business sector that can bring improvements to
society in so many ways, and this conference will demonstrate exactly
The three-day World Congress is designed to bring together participants
from all over the world from industry, government and academia to exchange
ideas and real-world examples of how industrial biotechnology can be
applied in daily practice. The conference will also provide an overview of
the technological developments and new trends in industrial biotechnology
and examine the barriers that must be overcome to advance the concept of a
bio- based economy.
Technical sessions on topics such as biotechnology in manufacturing and
synthesis, bioprocessing of agricultural feedstocks, bioenergy production,
biotechnology's effect on climate change, marine biotechnology,
developments in the nanotechnology-biotechnology interface, and national
defense applications are among those planned for the conference.
For more information about the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology
and Bioprocessing, go online at http://www.bio.org/worldcongress.
Biotechnology in India - Building Bridge Between Science and Industry
- Hyderabad, India; Oct 31- Nov. 2, 2004 http://www.ikmc2004.com/
International Knowledge Millennium Conference 2004
The objective of IKMC 2004 to build the bridge between "Science &
Industry' in biotechnology. Equal emphasis will be placed on the science
of Biotechnology as well as its implementation in the "real world."
Topics to be addressed: Biopharmaceutical opportunities; Agricultural
applications of biotechnology; Industrial applications of biotechnology;
Process, Process Control, Quality Assurance Infrastructure & Capital
issues Economic opportunities & challenges; Social & political issues
associated with the implementation of biotechnology
Free Student Registration at the Society for In Vitro Biology Meeting
- San Francisco, CA, May 22 - 26, 2004 http://www.sivb.org
Free student registration at the Society for In Vitro Biology meeting in
San Francisco, CA from May 22 to 26., 2004. This is a great and
inexpensive opportunity for students to attend and present at a national
meeting. Abstracts are due by January 15 with a late submission deadline
of February 20, 2004 and can be submitted on line at www.sivb.org. Also,
as an added bonus, all student registrants who attend the meeting will
receive 2005 membership to the Society at no charge.
- Barbara M. Reed, Society for In Vitro Biology,
India: Issues Faced by the Agri-Biotech Sector
'Most of the Successful Biotech Ventures are in Biopharma (Interview with
C S Prakash)'
- Kavitha Alexis, The Financial Express (India), Jan. 5, 2004
Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass grow upon a
spot of ground where only one grew before would deserve better of mankind
and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of
politicians put together.
This quote from Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver’s Travels,' reiterates the
importance of agri-biotech initiatives for a developing economy like
India, says biotechnology expert Dr C S Prakash. In the background of
agri-biotech biotech ventures in India, Dr Prakash, professor and
scientist at the Centre for Plant Biotechnology Research in Tuskegee
University, US, and a member of the advisory board of the government’s
department of biotechnology (DBT), shared with 'The Financial Express' his
views on the issues faced by the agri-biotech sector in India.
Why is agri-biotech so important for India?
- Being a developing country with an agriculture-based economy, efforts in
the area of agri-biotech are key for India for economic growth. Moreover,
crops suitable for Indian conditions could be developed only by research
in the country. Currently, we are forced to rely on imports for many of
our food products. Despite this, India is far behind countries like China
in terms of breakthroughs in the area of agri-biotechnology. Most of the
successful biotech ventures in the country are in the area of
What are hitches faced by the Indian agri-biotech ventures in the country?
- The extreme regulations in the country does not allow small players to
bring out products into the market. Inordinate amount of tests are
required before bringing out a product, for which these companies have to
shell out huge money.
We need an apolitical agency in the country, something like the FDA in US
to handle the issues of our biotech sector. Currently, a task force has
been set up under Prof M S Swaminathan to look into the regulatory issues.
They would be submitting a report next month.
What steps should be taken to enhance agri-biotech research in the
- India has tremendous potential in terms of agri-biotech research. What
we lack is a proper system and enough funds. The department of
biotechnology fund for biotechnology is Rs 260 crore ($70 million), out of
which a very small per cent goes to agri-biotech research. We need
increased funding in public sector research and more public-private
partnerships in the sector. We should have a gameplan to come out with
certain products in the next five years.
Where does India stand on the biotech education front?
- It is sad to note that despite having 220 universities in the country,
only four or five have biotech research capabilities. This means that very
few people have access to it. Biotech education should start at the
undergraduate level. In the US, undergraduate students are being taught by
Nobel laureates, which implies a very high quality of education. This is
lacking in India. Last, but most important is the effort to increase
public understanding on biotechnology and genetically-modified (GM)
products without which the efforts would be futile.
What is your opinion on GM crops?
- Biotechnology-enhanced crops are being grown on around 150 million acres
in 15 countries. Each crop undergoes through vigorous research in terms of
its safety, efficacy and such other factors before its commercialisation.
Farmers have always embraced new technologies if it made them more
efficient and offered them better yields. Agri-biotechnology can help in
bringing out drought resistant crops, increase the shelf life of fruits
Biotech Ends and Means
- Arnold Kling, TechCentral Station, Dec. 18, 2003. Excerpts below. Full
"Decentralized or Centralized Decisions? I would argue that the rapidity
with which the biotechnology revolution arrives will depend on the extent
to which decisions are decentralized. If researchers are permitted to
choose their own projects, if companies are allowed to develop the most
profitable therapies, and if consumers are permitted to decide when to
adopt new methods, then innovation will occur rapidly."
"The problem with trying to regulate biotechnology is that the nature of
the regulations would be completely unprecedented. We have regulated
technology in the past, but never in the ways that would be required in
order to impede the biotech revolution.
Traditionally, we have only blocked research that was conducted in an
unethical manner, such as poor control over potential toxic substances or
causing unacceptable risks to human subjects. Now, we would be talking
about blocking research because of what might be learned or discovered. To
do this, you not only have to know what is in the researchers' labs. You
have to know what it is in their heads."
"Some of the toughest issues in bioethics involve means as well as ends.
Will we curb freedom at the level of research, the level of development
and marketing, at the level of consumption, or at all three?"
"My guess is that people who live through the middle of this century will
feel sharp pangs of sadness from the discontinuity that will develop
between life as it is lived today and life as it is lived in future
decades. This troubles me. However, as concerned as I am about where
biotech is taking us, I would rather take my chances on muddling through
those issues than endure the heavy-handed centralized control that I
believe would be needed to slow the biotech revolution.
If I am wrong, and there are ways to alter the shape of the biotech future
without destroying the freedom in our society, then the ideas for those
alternative mechanisms should be brought to the fore. Instead, discussing
ends without means is almost meaningless."
Green Power, Black Death
- Elizabeth Nickson, National Post (Canada), January 9, 2004
I wonder how many times Mr. Bono has called Mr. Martin in recent weeks?
The hijacking of Canada's "foreign policy" by celebrity culture has to be
one of the more fascinating developments of the past few months. I'm
longing to know how our unelected grandees are solving Africa's problems,
with my money and yours. I do know, for instance, that Bono, Bill Gates,
his father William, along with Stephen Lewis and a dozen other
self-appointed Men of Great Compassion are raising vats of cash for
generic drugs for a few million of the tens of millions dying. History
tells us this will not help.
Africa is where all our bad ideas come home to roost. And while I wouldn't
call Oprah Winfrey a bad idea, necessarily, I was fascinated by her
Christmas TV show about her
gosh-so-wonderful-and-compassionate-travelling- tent-meeting handing out
backpacks, sneakers and a good meal to tens of thousands of malnourished
African children, some of whom had walked an entire day to meet her. At
the beginning of December -- in the Presence of the Great Mandela --
Beyonce, Bono, the Corrs, Annie Lennox, and, of course, Peter Gabriel
performed free (yes, really!) one Saturday night in Cape Town, to raise
money for AIDS mitigation. There was the usual amount of extremely
annoying preaching from people who perch several standard deviations above
all the rest of us wage-and- tax slaves.
Who have, since the 1970s, given Africa more than one trillion dollars in
foreign aid. Which is rather more than the few million our moral betters
have drummed up. Has any of it done any good? Any progress at all? Not a
whit. Despite decades of economic aid, most recipient nations are poorer
now than they were before they first received development assistance.
Our money goes to tyrants who build useless grandiose projects, pay off
their cronies and buy weapons to oppress their people. Together with a
vast bureaucracy filled with the profoundly self-protective elites of
African nations, bolstered by tens of thousands of highly educated,
middle-class Western project planners and managers, they spend over 80% of
our foreign aid improving their personal standard of living. Twenty per
cent gets through to actual needy people, and that only encourages the
shameful, grovelling dependence of Oprah's starving children. Stephen
Lewis's AIDS schemes will vastly increase the intensity and scope of that
process. And maybe he'll get himself a lovely retirement home close up by
Maurice Strong's New Age ranchero, not located, I remind you, in a Third
World country. Bono and Winfrey will come to visit and they can
congratulate each other until even they get sick of praise. Such a state
being impossible to imagine.
Green power, black death. It's axiomatic. Environmental colonialism
started in the late 19th century, when wealthy Victorians began to see
Africa as Eden, and created what is known as "fortress conservation."
Fortress conservation requires the absence of actual people, so over the
ensuing 100 years, vast areas of Africa were cleared of tribes, grazing
rights were confiscated and -- presto! -- the current game reserves
frequented by the compassionate rich looking for a little Happy Valley or
Meryl Streep ("I had a faa-arrrm in Aaaaffriiiikkka") buzz.
Ask Niger Innis, the leader of CORE, the Congress for Racial Equality, one
of the four organizational pillars of the civil rights movement in the
States, what he thinks of our "compassion."
"It's time to hold these zealots accountable for the misery and death they
cause," Innis states. Groups like Greenpeace, he says, and he includes the
European Union and the United Nations in his criticism, serve their own
"ideological agenda, and want to keep the Third World permanently mired in
poverty, disease and death. So far, it has succeeded."
How? Let me count the ways. The near-global restrictions on the
production, export and use of DDT has led to the re-emergence of malaria,
which has killed many more millions than have died to date, from AIDS. The
clearing of grazing lands for Africa Theme Parks has defrauded millions of
Africans of land whereon they traditionally grew food and grazed cattle.
And let's not get started on biotech foods. Late in 2002, the United
States shipped 26,000 tons of corn to Zambia, where 2.5 million were on
the verge of starvation. Parroting the Greenpeace, EU, Sierra, etc.,
shakedown line, President Levy Mwanawasa decreed it unsafe for consumption
because it had been genetically modified to make it resistant to insects.
The EU accused the United States of using Africans as guinea pigs.
Hundreds of thousands continued to starve.
Yet, Americans and Canadians have been consuming this corn for years.
Biotech experts Gregory Conko and Dr. Henry Miller denounce the EU, UN and
radical greens. Their "self-serving involvement in excessive, unscientific
biotechnology regulation will slow agricultural R&D, promote environmental
damage, and bring famine to millions." Patrick Moore argues that "the
banning of Golden Rice, a GMO that may help prevent blindness in half a
million children every year is rejected out of hand by these
Naomi Klein? No Logo, written by our very own Heroine of Compassion, and
Stephen Lewis's daughter-in-law, recommends actions that have led to
disaster. Nike and Reebok closed plants in Pakistan, and 50,000 child
workers were laid off in Bangladesh, over the activist-inspired proposed
U.S. "Child Labour Deterrence Act." Oxfam International later found that
thousands of these children became prostitutes, turned to crime or starved
It's time for a little 19th century classical liberalism. Rich countries
slap huge tariffs on agricultural imports, and spend almost a billion
dollars a day on farm subsidies -- more than the entire output of
sub-Saharan Africa. These barriers drastically reduce what poor countries
can earn from farming, which is what most of their people do. Oxfam
estimates that protecting our markets from African produce costs
developing countries US-$100 billion a year, or twice what they receive in
The Americans are piloting The Millennium Challenge, which ties foreign
aid to on-the-ground development of the principles that made the West
rich: the establishment of property rights; the rule of law; free markets;
small government; and efficient investments in education and health. Paul
Martin must acknowledge that his millions were made in such a market, and
do the same.
Edge - The World Question Center and the Third Culture
(Sent by Andrew Apel: The stuff at the link here to Edge.org is brilliant
and well worth the attention of those in the field of biotech)
Edge Foundation, Inc., was established in 1988 as an outgrowth of a group
known as The Reality Club. Its informal membership includes of some of the
most interesting minds in the world.
"Unlike previous intellectual pursuits, the achievements of the third
culture are not the marginal disputes of a quarrelsome mandarin class:
they will affect the lives of everybody on the planet.
The role of the intellectual includes communicating. Intellectuals are not
just people who know things but people who shape the thoughts of their
generation. An intellectual is a synthesizer, a publicist, a communicator.
In his 1987 book The Last Intellectuals, the cultural historian Russell
Jacoby bemoaned the passing of a generation of public thinkers and their
replacement by bloodless academicians. He was right, but also wrong. The
third-culture thinkers are the new public intellectuals.
America now is the intellectual seedbed for Europe and Asia. This trend
started with the prewar emigration of Albert Einstein and other European
scientists and was further fueled by the post- Sputnik boom in scientific
education in our universities. The emergence of the third culture
introduces new modes of intellectual discourse and reaffirms the
preeminence of America in the realm of important ideas. Throughout
history, intellectual life has been marked by the fact that only a small
number of people have done the serious thinking for everybody else. What
we are witnessing is a passing of the torch from one group of thinkers,
the traditional literary intellectuals, to a new group, the intellectuals
of the emerging third culture. - John Brockman, 1991"