Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: January 26, 2004:
* Global Moral War
* New Zealand's Maori View of Biotech
* No Call for Anti-GM Campaign: Let Consumers Choose
* Waste of Time and Money
* GM Plant Can Detect Landmines
* Nano's 'No GMO' Mantra
* Premier Papaya Plantations Rescued Through Science & Teamwork
* Best Way to Biologically Confine GE Organisms
* ... BIO Statement on NAS Report on Biotech Organisms
* Eco-Socialism: Threat to Liberty Around the World
* A Taste of Our Own Poison: Hold Hollywood hostage to End Farm Subsidies
* How to Identify if your Cow has 'Mad Cow' Disease...!!
Global Moral War
- Ross S. Irvine, Guest Editorial, Environment and Sustainability, Jan.
26, 2004 http://www.BioSciNews.com/files/news-detail.asp?newsID=5943
Biotech businesses are unique in corporate history. They form the first
industry to confront an unrelenting, unpredictable and information-rich
opposition on a global scale. From the beehive-shaped building that houses
the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament, to quiet villages
nestled in the fertile valley’s of the United Kingdom’s Worcestershire, to
the sanctity of the Vatican, and to the heart of famine-stricken Africa,
activists oppose genetically engineered food. Such worldwide opposition to
a single industry is unprecedented.
In response to this unique situation, the biotech industry insists on
using antiquated and ineffective communications tactics and strategies.
The industry believes - wrongly - that if people only understood biotech
better the opposition would disappear, or at least lessen. If legislators
appreciated the technology’s capacity to enhance sustainability, reduce
chemical usage, and cut on-farm fuel consumption, government’s would see
the folly of imposing further biotech regulations.
To make its point, the biotech industry hauls out scientists in white lab
coats, leading academic, and other "experts" as spokesmen. The belief is
that the most credible people to explain the technology are the people who
know it best. Such an approach, however, is simplistic. It fails to
acknowledge the breadth, depth and goal of anti-biotech activism.
Much of the anti-biotech activism is not aimed at the technology or a
specific law or regulation. Rather, biotechnology is merely a focal point
around which many activists rally.
A look at activists shows they use biotechnology to promote their views on
many issues. These include capitalism, trade, globalization, monetary
policy, corporate governance, the environment, progress, development,
government responsibility, democracy, health, agriculture, forestry,
religion, and third world industrialization. In addition, biotechnology is
a lightning rod for a seemingly endless list of rights such as human,
women's, childrens', indigenous, civil, property and intellectual rights.
When one understands the scope of ideas that activists bring to bear on a
single issue, such at biotechnology, one sees that activists are fighting
a larger battle. They are fighting for a social order, a world vision -- a
sense of right and wrong. They are fighting a war for moral leadership and
In a battle for moral leadership, discussion of just the technology is a
weak weapon. Industry must address the larger moral context. It must view
biotechnology, not as a technology but as a moral issue. It must explain
and demonstrate the moral necessity for the technology. And, it must
expose the immorality of activists who oppose the technology. Recent
activist efforts to keep readily available genetically modified food from
starving people in famine-ridden Africa are clear examples of activist
A key to delivering the moral message is seeking out and building networks
with others who can address the wide range of issues with credibility,
authority, resourcefulness, forcefulness, enthusiasm, conviction, and
In Wellington, Worcestershire, the Vatican, and communities around the
world, anti-biotech activists are engaged in a global moral war. Business,
not just the biotech industry, has a choice -- be a combatant and a leader
or be a casualty.
President ePublic Relations Ltd, Guelph, ON, Canada;
New Zealand's Maori View of Biotech
- BioScience News and Advocate, 23 January 2004
As Maori we value our history and our whakapapa, and the importance of
handing it on to the next generation as a solid grounding for the future.
But acknowledging and appreciating your past does not mean we must remain
in the past. We must look for and embrace new ideas so that we can be at
the forefront of the gains from those ideas in the future.
Maori have always been an enterprising and innovative race, quick to seize
the opportunities provided by new technology, and that attitude can be
seen in a number of biotechnology developments.
A really good example of this would be the work of Professor Garth Cooper,
CEO of Biotech Company of the Year, Protemix Corporation, and North and
South magazine's New Zealander of the Year. Protemix is at the leading
edge of advances in the treatment of diabetes - a condition that affects
200 million people worldwide, leading to blindness, heart and blood vessel
disease, strokes, kidney failure, amputations and kidney damage. In 1999
diabetes was estimated to cost $270 million in New Zealand, and the
condition is particularly prevalent among Maori.
Professor Cooper, of Tainui descent, has made significant breakthroughs in
diabetes research, discovering the peptide hormone amylin and invented
amylin replacement therapy for diabetics. My father suffered type 2
diabetes and his suffering was greatly alleviated by the development of
genetically enhanced insulin. Further advances like those pioneered by
Professor Cooper could help millions of diabetes sufferers.
Which is why lifting the moratorium on genetic medication was so
important. Often I hear that "Maori oppose GM," but I dispute that claim.
To oppose GM potentially denies Maori future advances in medical
technology that could see them live longer, healthier lives. That is a
cost we cannot afford to pay. My own children have a genetic condition,
cystic fibrosis, which is a potential threat to their health, and GM
offers the best hope for advances that would end that threat.
While Maori continue to show up in all the worst health statistics, and
have an average life expectancy 10 years shorter than non-Maori, we need
to welcome all the advances in medical technology we can get, and genetic
modification has the potential to create huge advances in medical science.
For too long the economic and social development of Maori has been held
back by our over-representation in unskilled labour in low-tech industry.
We can't afford to pass up the opportunities created by biotechnology to
improve our situation. The forestry industry, which promised to deliver
Maori jobs and economic success, is now looking more doubtful. Just ask
any redundant forestry worker.
It's not just Maori but all New Zealanders who need to think smarter in
using our natural resources. Simply growing trees, chopping them down and
sending them offshore as raw, unprocessed logs isn't going to be good
As a nation and an economy we still overwhelmingly depend on agricultural
and horticultural products, and our success depends on boosting
productivity by developing more sophisticated and innovative products.
Biotechnology has a huge role to play in that.
Hon John Tamihere, Minister of Youth Affairs, Small Business, Land
Information and Statistics Associate Minister of Maori Affairs and
No Call for Anti-GM Campaign: Let Consumers Choose
- Canberra Times, Jan. 22, 2004
GM technology has a long history of safe use. In addition to its use in
plant breeding, it is used diagnostically to identify diseases of plants,
animals and humans. It is used extensively in the production of vaccines
and medicines for veterinary and human healthcare. It is used to produce
food ingredients like yeast for brewing and enzymes for cheese making. It
has industrial uses, including bioremediation.
Despite the proven safety and benefits of the technology for healthcare,
our environment and for food production, a global activist lobby is
campaigning against its use, especially its application to plant breeding.
Scientists, farmers, agronomists and plant breeders are seeing important
benefits from GM crops, allowing farmers to grow food and fibre in ways
that are cleaner than traditional techniques allow. GM techniques avoid
hit-and-miss plant breeding or reliance on natural or artificial
mutations. A characteristic, such as resistance to a particular disease,
can be cleanly and accurately added to a high-yielding and vigorous
Australian variety using GM techniques. This outcome cannot be assured
with conventional techniques.
GM crop varieties have a successful track record in Australian agriculture
since their introduction in 1996. More than 95 per cent of Australian
cotton growers use some GM varieties to provide better protection from
insect pests with less insecticide use.
The future potential of GM in crops such as canola and for characteristics
such as drought tolerance and healthier vegetable oils is enormous and
crucial for the future of a sustainable and competitive farm industry in
The GM variety InVigor hybrid canola was recently licensed by the Office
of the Gene Technology Regulator and found to be just as safe as
traditional canola after exhaustive tests and review. InVigor hybrid
canola is a very productive, reliable, evenly maturing variety of canola.
It is resistant to Liberty herbicide and therefore provides farmers with a
new option for weed control while the canola is growing. Conventional
(non-GM) herbicide- resistant canola has been enthusiastically adopted by
farmers because it provides a solution to the weed problem.
GM herbicide-resistant varieties will not necessarily replace either
conventional non-herbicide-resistant canola, or conventional
herbicide-tolerant canola, but all three systems will allow the grower
more opportunities to control weeds and maximise the return from each
paddock in a more sustainable way. In Canada, 85 per cent of growers use
herbicide-tolerant canola and more than 70 per cent of the varieties they
plant are GM.
Canada is the world's largest exporter of canola, exporting three times
more canola to Japan than Australia. Canadian farmers have the advantage
of being able to choose GM varieties of canola: many Australian farmers
want the same choice. The Australian system for growing canola will allow
for grower choice. The grain industry in Australia has demonstrated
significant leadership in developing supply-chain principles that will
support co-existence and choice.
GM varieties are a tantalising temptation to organic growers. They have
potential to deliver what organic growing cannot; safe foods completely
free of residues of any pesticides (including those allowed in organic
growing) through the development of varieties that are resistant to pests
Foods produced from these varieties are likely to contain fewer mycotoxins
(toxins produced by fungal plant diseases) and other natural toxins, which
can be a problem in crops in which insect infestations and fungi are not
controlled. In Britain last month organic corn products were recalled
because of high levels of a mycotoxin called fumonisin, a potent
carcinogen and very toxic to humans and animals.
The orthodox in the organic movements have banned any flirtation with GM
crop varieties and have tried to extend that ban to conventional growers
as well. Will we all be ruined if we grow GM crops, as alleged by the
activists? The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics is
not of that mind. Noted for its reliable economic evaluations and
predictions, it says, ''If Australia and New Zealand elected not to use
the technologies, they could face combined economic losses of $US1.1-1.4
billion a year''. That is a very positive endorsement for the adoption of
GM agriculture from a reliable commentator. ABARE in an earlier report
said that most markets are open for GM crops and also confirmed that there
are no substantial premiums given for non-GM crops in world commodity
Australia has stringent GM labelling laws and we are one of the first
countries in the world to introduce them. With information about the GM
content provided on the label, consumers will be able to make informed
choices. Why don't we leave it for consumers to choose? Mr Gauchat is
executive director of Avcare, a national association which represents
manufacturers, formulators and distributors of crop protection, animal
health and biotechnology products. www.avcare.org.au
Waste of Time and Money
- Ian Pettyfe, Western Morning News (UK), Jan. 21, 2004
I am somewhat bemused by all that's been said and written in the media on
the results of the GM crop field trials that were completed last autumn.
I thought the trials were supposed to give us a better understanding of
the environmental consequences of growing GM crops here in the UK.
As a farmer, I am quite prepared to be guided by public opinion on whether
we should use GM technology for food production. As we all know, there
are very conflicting views on the subject, which I rather naively presumed
the trials were set up to help resolve. I could not have been more wrong.
When the results were first announced, both sides of the argument seemed
to be claiming victory for their point of view.
Before bothering myself about the details, I thought it better to wait
until ACRE, the Government's advisory committee, had made its official
pronouncement. This came out last week, and can be accessed on the Defra
website. I have never read about such a waste of time and money in all my
years of farming.
To be truthful, I didn't read all that was available regarding the trials
- it would take too long. What I did read makes it clear to any working
farmer that the trials had nothing whatsoever to do with GM crops. In the
report's own words, they were "purely concerned with weed management."
There was no evaluation of any direct effect of the actual GM crop on
wildlife, or of any yield or cost advantage in growing the crop in the
I begin to wonder what GM technology had to do with the trials at all. All
they proved was that the more weeds you can kill in a crop, the fewer
birds and butterflies you will find in that field. Unless of course the
birds and butterflies feed on the actual crop itself, and as a farmer you
don't go out of your way to encourage that. Unfortunately that is what
farming is all about. The three crops used for the trials were maize,
beet and oilseed rape. I have never grown rape, but have some experience
of weed control in maize and beet.
When I started farming, the most boring and backbreaking job, which had to
be got through every year, was beet hoeing - in my case horse-hoeing and
singling mangolds. My root fields were the most environmentally friendly
in the neighbourhood. I never seemed to get on top of the job. Every root
field on other farms appeared immaculate - not a weed of any description
to be seen. And it was nothing to do with which spray was being used as
there weren't any. It was straightforward manual work, as organic as you
can get. How would that look today by comparison in the GM trial result?
Maize-growing then, as I witnessed on a university farm, was much the
same. Being a crop that is very vulnerable to weed infestation, meticulous
machine or hand-hoeing was essential. Nowadays sprays have taken over, and
in the case of maize almost too well, as the trials have shown.
It is sometimes forgotten that the man who probably did more to
revolutionise farming was Jethro Tull. Not for him the scattering of the
good seed on the land. His invention of the seed drill in the early 18th
century "allowing room for diligent hoeing between the drills thereby
removing weeds, those robbers of plant-food" to use his own words, saw the
beginning of the end of fields full of poppies and all the other arable
wild flowers, we are so worried about losing now.
Using a measure of weed infestation in a crop as a yardstick to decide on
the future of GM technology in farming is complete madness. Farmers will
go on looking for better ways to eliminate weeds for as long as we go on
farming, GM or not. Even organic farming uses flame-throwing machines to
sterilise the soil before planting, or cropping under polythene to keep
weeds to a minimum. If the Government uses these trials to decide on where
we go from here, I really do despair.
Do what we like, GM technology is here to stay. What is important is how
we use and control it. For me, there was just one sentence in the ACRE
report that was relevant, and that was: "Herbicide-tolerant crops might
allow farmers to maximise the efficiency with which the land is farmed,
leaving more land to be managed for biodiversity."
-- Ian Pettyfer helps on a family farm in Mid Devon.
GM Plant Can Detect Landmines
- Ananova, Jan. 26. 2004 http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_859566.html
Scientists in Denmark have developed a genetically modified plant that
warns of landmines by changing colour from green to red. According to the
team at Aresa, a bio-technology company in Copenhagen, the GM plant
changes colour when its roots come into contact with nitrogen-dioxide - a
chemical used in explosives.
It took the scientists almost three years to genetically develop the Thale
Cress plant for landmine detection. Aresa chief executive Simon
Oostergaard said he hoped the plant would help save lives: "I hope the
plant will be used in the search for landmines, especially in agricultural
areas. "We first plan to test it in small controlled areas. If it does as
we predict then we will use it to search for landmines around the world."
There are believed to be over 100 million unexploded landmines hidden in
the soil of around 75 countries world wide. Clearing the ground to
cultivate the soil is difficult and dangerous work. Oostergaard said
initial testing would take place in Bosnia, Sri Lanka and parts of Africa.
The genetically modified plant changes its colour from green to red within
three to five weeks from the time its roots come into contact with the
The scientists have also ensured that the plant cannot spread without the
help of a human hand. "This is vital as we have to be able to control
where we plant it," said Oostergaard. Denmark's Red Cross association has
hailed the plant as "revolutionary" and says if it works it could save and
change thousands of lives across the globe.
Nano's 'No GMO' Mantra
- Nanobot, Jan. 19, 2004
It's obvious that business and government have a bad case of DNA PTSD, or
genetic shell shock, which is why they certainly won't get fooled again
when it comes to nanotechnology. I've heard the mantra many times during
the past few years: "No More GMO." But the chanters wear pinstripes and
not patchouli oil.
Public outcry (especially in Europe) against genetically modified
organisms was the result of a determined effort between science, business
and government to completely misread the public. It took some serious
brainpower, collusion and planning to so totally miss the point on what
gets the masses all fired up, and the important role public perception
plays in the introduction of any new technology. The biggest mistake was
the arrogant assumption that the public will accept as inherently good
anything that helps big biotech companies succeed and farmers increase
their yields. What was missing from the equation, of course, was
consideration of how the public "feels" about genetic manipulation.
The right has a problem with "playing God," while the left doesn't want
the corporate world messing with Mother Nature. The result is that it
could take a generation or two to undo the damage done to public
acceptance of scientific progress.
If you're curious about how and why this happened, PBS is running an
excellent series on the history of DNA, and last night I caught some of
the episode that deals with genetically modified organisms. The PBS site's
"gallery of genetic modifications" is especially well done, stating the
issues concisely and with flair.
It goes into the Flavr Savr tomato, created by the biotechnology company
Calgene, and accompanying "rumors and horror stories [that] mention square
tomatoes or tomatoes that glow in the dark."
By the time the Human Genome Project came along in the late '90s, the
lesson had been learned. That's when the phrase "societal and ethical
implications" became part of the government lexicon.
I recently had a talk with Kevin Ausman, executive director of the Center
for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology at Rice University, who
explained some of this historical context to me. The study of societal and
ethical implications, he said, is now an embedded part of most government
nanotechnology programs, and it's a direct descendent of the Human Genome
Project, where science, government and business had amazingly learned from
"The scientists involved in the Human Genome Project weren't really aware,
until lots of surveys and things were done by the social scientists, that
privacy issues were going to be the public hot-button issue," Ausman said.
"In hindsight it makes a lot of sense."
And it paid off in broader public acceptance and trust. "You do a
comparison of the Human Genome Project to genetically modified organisms,
and it's just incredible the difference in public perception, and I
believe pretty strongly that's directly attributable to the money and the
good-faith effort that went into studies about societal and ethical
implications," he said.
One more thing about DNA on PBS that I think could echo into nanotech's
future. The documentary describes the "golden rice" debacle in which
Monsanto essentially made overblown claims that it has found the solution
to malnourishment. Long story short: "According to a 1999 report in the
Financial Times, African countries in particular are 'wary of increasing
dependence on developed countries and multinational corporations as a
result of genetically modified crops.'"
A number of efforts are about to get under way that involve selling the
idea of nanotechnology to developing nations, including those in Africa,
as a means of solving local problems. Nanotechnology proponents are
telling them that nano is no GMO. There doesn't need to be a Great White
Monsanto to dole out its product. Developing nations can grow their own
nanotech industry and tailor it to their own needs. It's true, but
nanotech proponents will first need to penetrate more than a few layers of
mistrust. Watch for some of these efforts to make the news this year.
Premier Papaya Plantations Rescued Through Science and Teamwork
- Dennis Gonsalves, Agricultural Research, Jan. 2004 (Director, ARS U.S.
Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Hilo, Hawaii)
Hawaii's papayas are among the world's finest. But only a few years ago,
the state's papaya industry was in crisis. In 1995, at the height of the
disaster, Hawaii's most extensive and most productive papaya-growing
district, the Puna region on the eastern coast of the Big Island of
Hawaii, was besieged by papaya ringspot virus. The virus causes unsightly
ring-shaped blemishes and drastically reduces the amount of fruit that a
tree would otherwise produce. Though the fruit remains safe to eat, the
unattractive appearance makes it unmarketable.
Before the virus hit Puna, farmers in that district often grew more than
50 million pounds of papaya a year. Their harvests of this popular and
flavorful fruit constituted more than 90 percent of the state's papaya
crop. But soon after the virus struck, Puna district's production
plummeted, hitting a financially devastating low of about 26 million
pounds in 1998.
Papaya ringspot virus, discovered and named in Hawaii in the 1940s on the
Island of Oahu, is carried from plant to plant by aphids. It is the cause
of the worst viral disease of papaya worldwide, and there is no cure. At
the time it showed up in Puna, there was no effective strategy for its
prevention, though work on biotech-based tactics had been the subject of
experiments beginning in the mid-1980s.
ARS scientists here at the U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center
in Hawaii teamed up with papaya growers and with colleagues from the
University of Hawaii, Cornell University, and Pharmacia-Upjohn to bring
the best available knowledge to bear on how to battle the viral disease.
Within 6 years after the virus first emerged in Puna, they were able to
provide distraught growers with two remarkable new varieties of papay--the
yellow-fleshed Rainbow and the red-fleshed SunUp. These papaya trees were
highly resistant to the pathogen and produced tasty fruit that shipped and
Instantly popular with growers, packers, and consumers, Rainbow and SunUp
today constitute about 60 percent of all papayas grown in Hawaii. Puna
district production has continued to recover, reaching a respectable 40
million pounds of fresh fruit in 2001, for instance. This team effort,
credited with rescuing Hawaii's $47 million papaya industry, is a notable
example of the speed at which science can provide workable solutions.
Today, the story of how people worked together to help save Hawaiis papaya
orchards has spread beyond the shores of this state. Researchers and
government agricultural officials in other countries where papaya orchards
have been infected by papaya ringspot virus--including Brazil, Venezuela,
Jamaica, Thailand, and Bangladesh--are interested in learning all they can
from the Hawaii model. They are working to bring this practical strategy
for disease prevention to the farmers of their nations. That is
significant because, in these countries and others, people eat papaya
nearly every day.
The lasting protection for Rainbow and SunUp is based on a biotech
strategy in which a gene from the virus itself becomes the key to its
undoing. Rainbow and SunUp trees contain the gene for a protein that would
normally coat, or enclose, the virus. The presence, inside a papaya tree,
of the coat protein gene is a powerful deterrent. The gene triggers a
defense response in the trees, providing strong resistance in the event of
attack by the ringspot virus. The results are somewhat analogous to those
obtained with vaccines that protect people from disease.
Though Rainbow and SunUp are very successful, scientists at the U.S.
Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center intend to accomplish even more.
The scientific discoveries coming from this program will benefit everyone
who grows, ships, or enjoys eating papayas. Scientists at the center have
expanded the family of ringspot-resistant papayas to include a new
specialty papaya called Laie Gold. Developed by our ARS team, Laie Gold is
a delectable, yellow-fleshed papaya especially suited for growing on the
Island of Oahu. Our researchers are investigating a newer and faster way
to accomplish the costly, unavoidable chore of replanting papaya orchards
and are pursuing leading-edge strategies to foil Phytophthora, another
destructive papaya foe. (See story, p. 4.)
Papaya specimens needed for these studies, and for other papaya research
worldwide, are provided from parent plants preserved and safeguarded for
perpetuity at an ARS-managed repository in Hilo, Hawaii. (See story, p.
More and more Americans are becoming acquainted with the delightful tastes
and textures of papaya and other tropical fruits. ARS scientists and the
growers, university and industry researchers, and others with whom we work
will continue to provide new, useful, and intriguing findings to meet the
growing demand for appetizing and nutritious tropical fruits.
Integrated, Redundant Approach Best Way to Biologically Confine
Genetically Engineered Organisms
- The National Academies of Sciences, Jan. 20, 2004
Washington -- Developers of genetically engineered organisms need to
consider how biological techniques such as induced sterility can prevent
transgenic animals and plants from escaping into natural ecosystems and
breeding or competing with their wild relatives, or passing engineered
traits to other species, says a new report from the National Academies'
National Research Council. The committee that wrote the report used the
term "bioconfinement" to describe such techniques.
"Deciding whether and how to confine a genetically engineered organism
cannot be an afterthought," said committee chair T. Kent Kirk, professor
emeritus, department of bacteriology, University of Wisconsin, Madison,
and a former microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"Confinement won't be warranted in most cases, but when it is, worst-case
scenarios and their probabilities should be considered. Also, progress in
research aimed at developing new biological confinement methods will
further minimize risks and boost the public's confidence in
Because no single bioconfinement method is likely to be 100 percent
effective, the committee recommended that developers of genetically
engineered organisms use more than one method to lower the chance of a
failure. It was also clear to the committee that scientists need to do
more research to understand how well specific methods work, and that
planned combinations of confinement methods will need to be tested in
organisms with representative genetic profiles and in a wide variety of
The report was requested by USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture], which
is considering how to regulate a number of genetically engineered
organisms that had not yet been developed when the federal government's
original 1986 "Coordinated Framework" for regulation of biotechnology
products was enacted. Ensuring confinement for some of these new organisms
may become one of the requirements for regulatory approval, the committee
Ecological studies have shown that some genetically engineered organisms
are viable in natural ecosystems and can breed with wild relatives. The
most publicized environmental danger is that invasive weeds could be
created if transgenic crops engineered to tolerate herbicides or to resist
diseases and pests pass these resistant genes to weedy relatives. Plants
also can be engineered with traits that allow them to grow faster,
reproduce more, and live in new types of habitats. An additional risk is
that transgenic fish or shellfish could escape and mate with their wild
counterparts or out-compete them for food. Another concern is that plants
and animals engineered to produce pharmaceuticals could harm humans or
other species who may accidentally consume them.
The efficacy of bioconfinement methods will vary depending on the organism
and the environment in which it will be released. Other factors include
how long confinement needs to last, and the size of the area affected.
Confinement is expected to work best over short time scales and small
geographic areas, the committee said, emphasizing that no one method can
achieve complete confinement. Where confinement is deemed desirable,
techniques are needed to monitor any escape of genetically engineered
organisms or the flow of transgenes; mitigating a confinement failure will
be far easier if it is discovered quickly.
The committee paid particular attention to transgenic fish, shellfish,
trees, grasses, and microbes, because many of these organisms have been
engineered successfully and currently are undergoing regulatory
evaluation. Genetically engineered aquatic species can be confined by
physical barriers, by disrupting sexual reproduction, or by methods that
prevent their survival in the wild. For example, a technique called
triploidization can sterilize some fish and shellfish by adding an extra
set of chromosomes to the animal's cellular makeup, although the technique
cannot guarantee 100 percent sterility. Fish also can be engineered to
rely on a man-made substance for survival, so that they would die if they
escaped into the wild. For plants, bioconfinement methods include
inserting genes that induce sterility, or engineering plants not to
produce pollen, which can help close this avenue of gene flow.
There are two major bioconfinement methods for microbes, the report says.
One method involves engineering bacteria or fungi to use so much energy or
nutrients that they do not compete well with native bacteria and fungi.
Because of the rapid adaptability of microbes, the effectiveness of this
bioconfinement method remains unclear, the committee cautioned. The second
method is to use a chemical to trigger "suicide" genes in bacteria or
fungi if they escape confinement and pose a risk, though this method has
never been field tested. Little research has been done on bioconfinement
of genetically engineered insects, the committee noted. Confining
genetically engineered insects can be particularly challenging because the
typically large number of insects in any population makes even a small
confinement failure problematic.
The committee also said that when bioconfinement methods are needed, an
"Integrated Confinement System," or ICS, should be used. ICS is a
systematic approach that includes a commitment to confinement by senior
decision-makers within the institutions developing genetically engineered
organisms, written plans for confinement and for mitigation of failures,
employee training, periodic outside review, and reporting to an
appropriate regulatory body. The committee was not asked to evaluate
current government practices or policy, but it said that "for ICS to work,
it must be supported by a rigorous and comprehensive regulatory regime
empowered with inspection and enforcement." Government regulators also
need to consider the effects that a confinement failure could have on
BIO Statement on NAS Report on Biotech Organisms
Dr. Val Giddings, vice president of agriculture of the Biotechnology
Industry Organization (BIO) issued the following statement in response to
today's National Academies of Science (NAS) report titled "Biological
Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms."
"Today's recommendation from the National Academies of Science that
regulators "decide whether and how to confine a 'genetically engineered
organism'..." has formed the heart and soul of federal regulation since
the technology's earliest days. Nearly 30 years ago scientists first came
together at Asilomar to harness this nascent technology to maximize
potential benefits without causing harm to any living thing. The
conclusions in this most recent report, commissioned by the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA), confirm that technology providers have a
variety of methods available to ensure confinement of organisms modified
through biotechnology when risk warrants it.
"The NAS panel has scanned the wide variety of biotech-enhanced plant and
animal organisms that can provide societal benefits, including
higher-yielding and disease-resistant crops, medicines unavailable through
other means, or fish that reach maturity faster and with less impact on
the environment and water resources.
"At the request of USDA, this forward-looking report acknowledges the need
for flexibility in the regulatory framework which has provided a safe and
sound approval process over the 16 years industry and academia has been
developing new products of agricultural biotechnology. It is absolutely
appropriate that as the biotechnology industry matures, the regulations
will be elaborated upon and modified as we learn more through experience;
this is the normal course of science.
"As policy-makers study this report to set a future course of regulation,
the goal should be to reinforce the three fundamental principles of
existing regulation: that all regulations are science-based; that they
focus on properties of the transferred gene, not its origin in recognition
that DNA is DNA; and that the level of regulation is based on the level of
risk to public health, not a precautionary 'doomsday' approach."
Eco-Socialism: Threat to Liberty Around the World
- Fred L. Smith, Jr. President, The Competitive Enterprise Institute
"Our economics fails to see, let alone measure, the full value of major
parts of our world...Much of what we don't see with our economics involves
the accelerating destruction of the environment" - Al Gore, Earth in the
" It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are
external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms,
the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and
their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged
deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of
production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in the
system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability
for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers
preventing the full operation of private ownership." - Ludwig von Mises,
Human Action: A Treatise on Economics.
The statements above capture the significant differences between the
contemporary collectivist and classical liberal perspectives on
environmental protection. The collectivist vision is well represented by
former Vice President Al Gore (quote above). He and most other
environmental activists are convinced that the classical liberal order
cannot protect the environment. They believe that markets are rife with
market failures--that externalities are everywhere, and that environmental
public goods are undersupplied. In a world of pervasive externalities,
government intervention must also be pervasive. To the more theological
wing of the environmental movement--the eco-theocrats--mankind has sinned
against Nature, so we must expiate for our wicked ways. And this
expiation is no mild thing--it requires nothing less than a "wrenching
transformation of civilization."
Read on.... http://www.cei.org/gencon/027,03818.cfm
A Taste of Our Own Poison
'A modest proposal: Hold Hollywood hostage till we kill farm subsidies'
- Lawrence Lessig, Wired, Jan. 2004
When America was poor, its citizens "stole." We took the intellectual
property of Dickens and other foreign artists without paying for it. We
didn't call it stealing, but they did. We called it a sensible way for a
developing nation to develop. Eventually, we saw it was better to protect
their rights as well as ours - better because we had rights to protect
elsewhere, too. But we only imposed this burden on ourselves when it made
sense to do so. Until 1891, we were a pirate nation.
Things have changed. Now that we're the world's leading exporter of
intellectual property, we're also the most self-righteous about the
importance of protecting it globally. Indeed, we can be vicious in our
self-righteousness - threatening trade wars with developing nations for
the crime of being just like us. Recently, through a series of trade
agreements, we have demanded stricter protection for intellectual property
internationally than US law would allow domestically. (Fair use, for
example, is mandated by our constitution but invisible in these
This push to protect intellectual property is defended as just one aspect
of free trade - the aspect that benefits Hollywood. Since Adam Smith
pennedThe Wealth of Nations, we've understood that borders are best when
opened and when property from one country is respected in another. Free
trade so enabled is the promised elixir for the woes of developing
nations. Open your borders, protect property rights, and prosperity, the
Smithies say, will quickly follow.
The dirty little secret, however, is that we don't respect the free trade
rules that we impose on others. While the US sings the virtues of free
trade to defend maximalist intellectual property regulation, we poison the
free trade that developing nations care about most - agriculture - by
subsidizing farming in the industrialized world to the tune of $300
billion annually. Rhetoric about family farmers aside, most of that money
passes quickly to agribusiness. This is not Adam Smith; it is corporate
welfare par excellence.
There's little developing nations can do about this - individually. But
increasingly they are acting together. One group recently walked out of
trade talks because agribusiness subsidies were not on the table. Others
are openly discussing ways to get US attention.
What developing nations need is better lobbyists. In particular, advocates
as persuasive as Hollywood's lobbyists, who've managed to defend the
entertainment industry's intellectual property rights extremely well.
Here's one way to get power (or the Man) on their side.
A block of powerful developing nations should first take a page from the
US Copyright Act of 1790 and enact national laws that explicitly protect
their own rights only. It would not protect foreigners. Second, these
nations should add a provision that would relax this exemption to the
extent that developed nations really opened their borders. If we reduce,
for example, the subsidy to agribusiness by 10 percent, then they would
permit 10 percent of our copyrights to be enforced (say, copyrights from
the period 1923 to 1931). Reduce the subsidy by another 10 percent, then
another 10 percent could be enforced. And so on.
The mechanism is clumsy, but the message is clear: Both the subsidy of
agribusiness and the subsidy of local culture and science violate the
principles of free trade by ignoring American intellectual property laws.
Both violations are bad. But the two bads should be resolved together.
Indeed, if anything, American subsidies should be ended first. The actual
loss to US firms from piracy worldwide is not terribly high - if "actual
loss" means the amount Americans would get if the piracy ended. (Would
Microsoft be better off if China ended its piracy of Windows and instead
used GNU/Linux - the only OS they could then afford?) But when crops grown
by farmers in Peru rot in the field because the US House of
Representatives cares more about agribusinesses than about Adam Smith,
then there is real harm. The resentment and anger at this American
hypocrisy festers as poisonously as moldering crops in the hot sun.
Of course, this solution won't work unless enough developing nations join
together. But if they do, their message will have meaning. A principle is
a principle. And a content industry keen to defend its "property" on the
basis of that principle would then have an interest in defending principle
The world is already skeptical enough about Adam Smith's magic. Throwing
hypocrisy into the bargain can't help.
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