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February 3, 2004


Beware the Eco-Imperialists; Let Them Eat Precaution; No consensus on GMOs


Today in AgBioView: February 4, 2004

* A journalist's view
* Killing People and Dreams: Beware the Eco-Imperialists
* Environment radicals face major setbacks
* Trivial and Unscientific but Still Published
* Battle for Biotech Progress
* Let Them Eat Precaution
* Check That Footnote
* Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort?
* No consensus on GMOs
* GM ingredients found in 40% of health food soya
* Scientists Develop Plant That Produces Potential Anti-Carcinogen

r /> Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 14:16:02 +0000 (GMT)
From: "Ann Mikia"
Subject: My view

I think the scientists behind biotechnology have a responsibility of
educating journalists so that the right information is imparted by the
mass media.

I am an electronic journalist and the radio is very fast, and is also
regarded very credible source to the audiences regarding the latest
technology and discoveries and innovations.The radio has a wider audience
than the print media and the educational background of the listeners
differs greatly inlike the print. The electronic journalist is therefore
required to understand properly what they set out out to communicate to
their audiences.

Both the positive and the negative aspects should be told to the listener
so that they can make informed decisions for instance on whether to
whether to grow genetically modified crops like the tissue culture banana.

Regular training sessions for journalists should therefore be regularly
held to achieve this objective.

I beg to differ with the opinion that journalists are just interested on
sensational stories disregarding the consequences as i feel this is a bit
irresponsible. Its time we started viewing life more postively and being
sensitive to others feelings. There are newspapers out to even malign and
tarnish reputations of personalities inorder to sell their papers but even
the readers are able to detect this and history is bound to judge such
media houses very harshly as Africans are bound to benefit from some of
the agricultural innovations. On the other hand, more research should
continue inorder to evaluate side effects [both short term and long
term]of some of the genetically modified products


Killing People and Dreams: Beware the Eco-Imperialists

- National Review, By Deroy Murdock, February 03, 2004

International environmentalists finally are being held accountable for the
havoc they are wreaking around the world. On January 20, the Congress of
Racial Equality — a 62-year-old, New York-based civil rights group — and
the Women's National Republican Club convened a Manhattan teach-in to
begin educating the public on a problem they call "eco-imperialism." The
House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will explore this issue
at a Wednesday-afternoon hearing on Capitol Hill.

Countless third worlders still plunge into darkness every dusk. After they
fall asleep, they dream about such things as lights, running water, and
the defeat of diseases that Westerners cannot even remember. Then these
third worlders awaken...to none of the above.

American and European environmentalists help maintain this grim status
quo, even as they claim to pursue the best interests of black, yellow, and
brown people the world over. Meanwhile, these first-world citizens enjoy
refrigerators, indoor plumbing, Internet access, and CAT scans. This toxic
hypocrisy is the core of eco-imperialism.

Panelists at this symposium, which I moderated, illustrated how
eco-imperialism sentences billions to destitution, disease, and early

Some 2 billion people on Earth have no electricity, explained Paul
Driessen, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power — Black Death. "Wealthy,
powerful First World environmental pressure groups are seeing to that,"
added Driessen (like me, a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research
Foundation). "Their comments reveal an unbelievably callous,
paternalistic, eco-centric attitude."

Listen to the Earth Island Institute's Gar Smith: "African villagers used
to spend their days and evenings sewing clothes for their neighbors, on
foot-peddle-powered sewing machines. Once they get electricity, they spend
too much time watching television and listening to the radio."

Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, transforms this
prejudice into policy. "It's just not possible for people to have the
material lifestyle of the average American. I'm proud that we've been able
to block almost 300 hydroelectric projects in developing countries."

The same paucity of hydroelectric dams that keeps third-world homes,
workplaces, and clinics dark also limits the water treatment that dams
facilitate. Rather than turn on faucets, poor women often take water
buckets to wells and streams, then carry them home on their heads. When
this water is tainted, they and their loved ones frequently suffer
diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, and other intestinal ailments that kill some
6,000,000 annually.

Meanwhile, malaria wipes out approximately 1,000,000 Africans every year,
mainly boys and girls. "That is roughly like filling seven Boeing 747s
with children and crashing them into the ground every day," said the
American Enterprise Institute's Roger Bate, "a September 11 every 36
hours." The best and cheapest tool against malarial mosquitoes is DDT, an
insecticide that environmental and aid groups hate. The World Health
Organization and America's Agency for International Development, among
others, have pressured African, Asian and Latin governments to abandon
DDT, arguing that it jeopardizes birds, as may have occurred in America
due to widespread agricultural use until 1972.

"Would you choose a bird, or would you choose Fifi?" asked astonished
Ugandan businesswoman Fiona "Fifi" Kobusingye. She mesmerized her audience
with riveting details about how malaria has killed her son, two sisters,
and two nephews, one of them as she herself was hospitalized with the

"I have suffered high fevers for days, vomited until I thought I had no
stomach left," she said. "Dehydrated, thirsty and weak, sometimes I could
not tell day from night." Malaria often makes its victims too listless to
move, leaving family breadwinners bedridden and turning workers into wards
of indigent states.

Africans beg for DDT. Spraying it in small amounts in homes, buses, and
factories curbs this plague. In 1996, when South Africa "wanted to belong
to the Western club that didn't use DDT," says AEI's Roger Bate, malaria
cases shot from a few thousand to 65,000 in one season. The reintroduction
of DDT in 2000 cut malaria rates by 80 percent in 18 months. Despite such
successes, anti-pesticide treaties and other regulations environmentalists
imposed have hiked the cost and curtailed access to DDT.

Before they do further harm, the eco-imperialists should stop smelling the
roses and instead listen to those they have betrayed, such as one woman
from India's Gujarat province. Exasperated, she told Great Britain's
Channel 4: "We don't want to be encased like a museum."


Environment radicals face major setbacks

- BioScience News and Advocate, 4 February 2004

There have been a series of major setbacks for environmental radicals in
recent months, Chris de Freitas writes.

First, the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty designed to control the world’s
climate, slipped into a deep coma caused by the refusal of Russia, the US
and Australia to ratify it.

Second, the “Hockeystick” theory of unprecedented recent climate change so
vigorously promoted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
and global warming advocates has been shot down in flames.

More than one study has now convincingly shown that the 20th Century was
not particularly warm in comparison with other, pre-industrial periods.

Third, latest research on the effect of the sun on climate is so
convincing that even greenhouse enthusiasts admit that there is a strong
case for solar activity, not human intervention, as the main factor in
global warming.

Fourth, Bjorn Lomborg, best selling Danish author of the “The Skeptical
Environmentalist” has been formally vindicated.

These are important milestones because they expose glitches in the
scientific process. But the Lomborg incident stands out as the most
glaring and shameful example.

Dr Lomborg's book with 1,800 bibliographical references and almost 3,000
footnotes and published in 2001 by Cambridge University Press, challenged
the conventional wisdom of popular views on several of the world's
environmental problems. It was especially effective in dismissing Kyoto as
an unnecessarily costly and ineffective attempt to fix climate.

The book caused panic within the environmental movement, but also within
the global warming scientific community, whose future depend on
perpetuating global warming catastrophism

The attacks on Dr Lomborg were vicious in the extreme, and appeared in
some of the more respected science publications such as Nature and
Science. In January 2002, Scientific American magazine published a special
section titled “Science Defends Itself Against 'The Skeptical
Environmentalist’” that included a series of articles condemning Lomborg’s

The finishing blow came when a bureaucratic sub-agency made up of 25
scientists within the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and
Innovation, called none other than the “Danish Committee for Scientific
Dishonesty” (DCSD), issued a report in January 2003.

It stated that The Skeptical Environmentalist “is deemed to fall within
the concept of scientific dishonesty" and “clearly contrary to the
standards of good scientific practice.”

The enthusiasm for this verdict was widespread and it fuelled a vicious
anti-Lomborg crusade. The global warmers among climate scientists could
not hide their glee.

In 2002, The Economist reported that "Mr. Lomborg is being called a liar,
a fraud and worse. People are refusing to share a platform with him. He
turns up in Oxford to talk about this book, and the author… of a
forthcoming study on climate change throws a pie in his face."

Dr Lomborg lodged two formal complaints concerning the DCSD's decision
with the Danish Ministry of Science. Last month the Ministry finally gave
its verdict, which completely vindicated Dr Lomborg. The Ministry found
that the DCSD had not discovered any bias in Dr Lomborg’s choice of data
and that criticism of his working methods was “completely void of

The DCSD were accused of using sloppy and emotive language that - perhaps
deliberately - obscured the fact that the DCSD had in fact cleared Dr
Lomborg of gross negligence and an intent to deceive. The Ministry also
listed a number of significant errors by DCSD, several of which were
considered so grave by its lawyers that any one alone is sufficient to
make the committee's decision invalid (details at www.imv.dk)

According to Roger Pielke Jr., director of the Center for Science and
Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado writing in the
journal Nature, the Lomborg affair merits attention “not because of its
robust criticism, character assassination and pressure politics—these are
nothing new—but because its extremeness could mark a watershed in how
science relates to policy and politics.”

Dr Pielke says science is “increasingly the battlefield on which political
advocates, not to mention lawyers and those with commercial interests,
manipulate 'facts' to support their positions. It is urgent that the
scientific community changes if it is to prevent science's contribution to
effective policy development from being diminished, and the practice of
science from being compromised.”

The Lomborg affair is a sobering reminder that science is not always
objective or value free. Scientists have interests to protect: their
research funding, scientific status and reputation, and cosy links with
environmental bureaucracy, their funders.

It is also a reminder of what Cornell University academic Thomas Gold
calls the “herd instinct in science.” According to Gold, this has been a
disaster as it discourages diversity and openmindedness.

“If a large proportion of the scientific community in one field is guided
by the herd instinct, then they cannot adopt another viewpoint since they
cannot imagine that the whole herd will swing around at the same time. It
is merely the logistics of the situation. Even if everybody were willing
to change course, nobody individually will be sure that he will not be
outside the herd when he does so. So this inertia-producing effect is a
very serious one.

“If support from peers, if moral and financial consequences are at stake,
then on the whole staying with the herd is the successful policy for the
individual who is depending on these, but it is not the successful policy
for the pursuit of science.

“If one departs from the herd, then one will be asked, one will be charged
to explain why one has departed from the herd. One has to be able to offer
the detailed justifications, and one's understanding of the subject will
be criticized. If one stays with the herd, then mostly there is no such
charge…The sheep in the interior of the herd are well protected from the
bite in the ankle by the sheep dog.”

The herd of global warming scientists have built a general attitude or
viewpoint that has become firmly established. Dr Gold believes they have
built a superstructure on what may be a weak foundation. He warns us:
“Never judge the strength of the foundation by size of the building.”

Chris de Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Geography and
Environmental Science at the University of Auckland.

Source: National Business Review, 30 January 2004

RE: Trivial and Unscientific but Still Published.
FROM: Joseph D. Rosen, Department of Food Science, Rutgers University;

Tom DeGregori (January 29) suggested that Allan Felsot and/or I post a
summary of the article [A. S. Felsot & J.D. Rosen, J. Agric. Food Chem.
52: 146-149 (2004) that we wrote criticizing the content of a paper titled
"Comparison of the total phenolic and ascorbic acid content of
freeze-dried and air-dried marionberry, strawberry, and corn grown using
conventional, organic and sustainable agricultural practices" [D.K. Asami,
Y-J. Hong, D. Barrett and A. Mitchell, J. Agric. Food Chem. 51: 1237-1241

he gist of the Asami et al. paper was that environmental stresses, most
notably insect and pathogen pressures, caused food plants to synthesize
phenols such as flavonoids that are thought to be helpful, (partially
because of their antioxidant activity) in preventing cancer and heart
disease. Food plants which are treated with insecticides and fungicides
are protected from these stresses and don't need to synthesize defensive
chemicals. Measurement of total phenols (TP) showed small but
statistically significant increases of TP in marionberries and corn grown
by organic and sustainable methods compared to conventionally grown
marionberries and corn. There was also a very small, but statistically
significant TP increase in sustainable strawberries compared to
conventional strawberries. (Organic strawberries were not grown.)

The modest results of this experiment were, however, deemed so important
that it warranted a press release by the American Chemical Society
"Organically grown foods higher in cancer-fighting chemicals than
conventionally grown foods"
(http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-03/acs-ogf030303.php) and it
was designated a "Hot Topic" on the J. Agric. Food Chem. on-line edition,
a designation that permitted access by those without a journal
subscription. The ACS headline omitted mention of foods grown using
sustainable methods (a mixture, more or less, of conventional and organic
methods) even though the sustainable results showed higher levels of TP
than organically grown food. This press release was picked by a number of
organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association, "Report confirms
more health benefits of organic food"
(http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/polyphenolics031203.cfm) and the
Institute of Science in Society, (http://www.i-sis.org.uk/oahfc.php) where
Professor Joe Cummins reported "Organic agriculture helps fight cancer".
Edie Lau of the Sacramento Bee wrote an article headlined "Study shows
organic produce is healthier"
(http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/5517418.htm). Marian
Burros, in the New York Times on July 16, 2003, asked "Is organic food
provably better?" Ms. Burros' articles are widely syndicated throughout
the United States.

There was only one problem with all this good news---the journal article
on which the news was predicated was seriously flawed. Space
considerations do not allow me to post the entire commentary but I will
provide reprints for those interested in reading it. The major points that
Allan and I made follow:

1. No pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) were used in
the growing of the marionberries with any of the agricultural methods.
Therefore, pesticides could not be responsible for the lower TP
concentration in the conventional marionberries. The use of synthetic
fertilizer is also ruled out as a cause of lower TP in the conventional
marionberries because the sustainable berries were grown with the aid of
synthetic fertilizer and had the same TP concentration as the organic

2. Synthetic fertilizers were used in the growing of the strawberries in
both the conventional and sustainable methods. No pesticides were used in
either treatment. Furthermore, in their rebuttal to our commentary
Mitchell and Barrett [J. Agric. Food Chem. 52: 150-152 (2004)] were unable
to explain why sustainable frozen strawberries had more TP than
conventional frozen strawberries, but this difference was non-existent for
the freeze-dried or for the air-dried strawberries.

3. Insecticides were not used in any of the treatments for the corn crop.
Herbicides were employed in both sustainable and conventional growing of
the corn but not in the organic. Again, synthetic fertilizers were used in
both sustainable and conventional growing but not the organic.

4. It appears from this data that synthetic pesticides and synthetic
fertilizers have nothing to do with TP content.

5. The analytical method used by Asami et al. for TP content needs to be
corrected for ascorbic acid and sugar content. While the authors applied
this correction for experimentally determined ascorbic acid, they used
literature USDA values for sugar content, ignoring the possibility that
organic and sustainable growing conditions could result in an increase in
sugar content.

6. Using TP as a criterion for health benefits is meaningless as some
antioxidants are more effective than others. It is imperative in such a
study to determine the identity of the antioxidants produced and to
measure their antioxidant capabilities before health effects can even
begin to be evaluated. Further, it is not at all clear if the purported
small differences in phenol content can have any effect on human health. A
recent study [Grinder-Peterson et al., J. Agric. Food Chem., 51: 5671-5676
(2003)] demonstrated that quercetin, but not other selected flavonoids,
was significantly increased in a diet consisting of organically-grown
produce, but that markers for antioxidant activity in the blood of the
human volunteers (one group eating the organic food and the other eating
the conventional food) did not differ.

7. The experimental design was inappropriate for statistical analysis.

In their rebuttal to our comments, Mitchell and Barrett essentially agreed
with the vast majority of our criticisms. They did, however, cite two
papers not included in their original article that seemed to lend support
to the notion that organic food has higher levels of TP than conventional
food. The first [Carbonaro and Mattera, Food Chem. 72: 419-424 (2001)],
showed significantly higher levels of TP in organic pears and peaches, but
the conventional peaches had significantly higher levels of tocopherols.
Measurement of lipid oxidation products showed no difference between
organically grown fruit and conventionally grown fruit. The second cited
paper [Ren et al., J. Science Food Agric. 81: 1426-1432 (2001)] also
showed higher levels of some flavonoids in organically grown produce.
However, the organic produce was sprayed with chitosan, a natural
pesticide known to elicit the production of phenolic compounds {Fajardo et
al., Food Biotechnology Volume 9 (1/2) pp. 59-78, Marcel Decker (1995).

For those of you who download the ACS press release, please note some
serious misstatements of fact. In paragraph 7 ...."to foods grown
sustainably (in this study fertilizers but no herbicides or pesticides
were used"---see points 1, 2 and especially point 3 above. In paragraph
8... "Sustainably and organically grown strawberries..." --- no organic
strawberries grown in this study (point 3). Obviously, the press release
enhanced the results a bit. One final note: there is a bit of confusion
because the interviewee in the press release talks about pesticides and
herbicides. I think she meant insecticides and herbicides.


Battle for Biotech Progress

- American Enterprise Online, By Patrick Moore, March 2004

I was raised in the tiny fishing and logging village of Winter Harbour on
the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, where salmon spawned in the streams
of the adjoining Pacific rainforest. In school I discovered ecology, and
realized that through science I could gain insight into the natural
beauties I had known as a child. In the late 1960s I was transformed into
a radical environmental activist. A rag-tag group of activists and I
sailed a leaky old halibut boat across the North Pacific to block the last
hydrogen bomb tests under President Nixon. In the process I co-founded

By the mid 1980s my interest was in "sustainable development" that would
take environmental ideas and incorporate them into the traditional social
and economic values that govern public policy and our daily behavior.
Every morning, 6 billion people wake up with real needs for food, energy,
and materials. The challenge is to provide for those needs in ways that
reduce negative impact on the environment while also being socially
acceptable and technically and economically feasible. Compromise and
cooperation among environmentalists, the government, industry, and
academia are essential for sustainability.

Not all my former colleagues saw things that way, however. Many
environmentalists rejected consensus politics and sustainable development
in favor of continued confrontation, ever-increasing extremism, and
left-wing politics. At the beginning of the modern environmental movement,
Ayn Rand published Return of the Primitive, which contained an essay by
Peter Schwartz titled "The Anti- Industrial Revolution." In it, he warned
that the new movement's agenda was anti-science, anti-technology, and
anti-human. At the time, he didn't get a lot of attention from the
mainstream media or the public. Environmentalists were often able to
produce arguments that sounded reasonable, while doing good deeds like
saving whales and making the air and water cleaner.

But now the chickens have come home to roost. The environmentalists'
campaign against biotechnology in general, and genetic engineering in
particular, has clearly exposed their intellectual and moral bankruptcy.
By adopting a zero tolerance policy toward a technology with so many
potential benefits for humankind and the environment, they have lived up
to Schwartz's predictions. They have alienated themselves from scientists,
intellectuals, and internationalists. It seems inevitable that the media
and the public will, in time, see the insanity of their position. As my
friend Klaus Ammann likes to hope, "maybe biotech will be the Waterloo for
Greenpeace and their allies." Then again, maybe that's just wishful

On October 15, 2001 I found myself sitting in my office in Vancouver after
Greenpeace activists in Paris successfully prevented me from speaking via
videoconference to 400 delegates of the European Seed Association. The
Greenpeacers chained themselves to the seats in the Cine Cite Bercy
auditorium and threatened to shout down the speakers. The venue was
hastily shifted elsewhere, but the videoconferencing equipment couldn't be
set up at the new location, leading to the cancellation of my keynote

The issue, in this case, was the application of biotechnology to
agriculture and genetic modification. The conference in Paris was a
meeting of delegates from seed companies, biotechnology companies, and
government agencies involved in regulation throughout Europe. Surely these
are topics covered by the rules of free speech.

Had those rules not been violated, I would have told the assembled that
the accusations of "Frankenstein food" and "killer tomatoes" are as much a
fantasy as the Hollywood movies they are borrowed from. I would have
argued that, if adding a daffodil gene to rice in order to produce a
genetically modified strain of rice can prevent half a million children
from going blind each year, then we should move forward carefully to
develop it. I would have told them that Greenpeace policy on genetics
lacks any respect for logic or science.

In 2001, the European Commission released the results of 81 scientific
studies on genetically modified organisms conducted by over 400 research
teams at a cost of U.S. $65 million. The studies, which covered all areas
of concern, have "not shown any new risks to human health or the
environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant
breeding. Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater
regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants
and foods." Clearly my former Greenpeace colleagues are either not reading
the morning paper or simply don't care about the truth. And they choose to
silence by force those of us who do care about it.

The campaign of fear now waged against genetic modification is based
largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic.
In the balance it is clear that the real benefits of genetic modification
far outweigh the hypothetical and sometimes contrived risks claimed by its

The programs of genetic research and development now under way in labs and
field stations around the world are entirely about benefiting society and
the environment. Their purpose is to improve nutrition, to reduce the use
of synthetic chemicals, to increase the productivity of our farmlands and
forests, and to improve human health. Those who have adopted a zero
tolerance attitude towards genetic modification threaten to deny these
many benefits by playing on fear of the unknown and fear of change.

The case of "Golden Rice" provides a clear illustration of this. Hundreds
of millions of people in Asia and Africa suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.
Among them, half a million children lose their eyesight each year, and
millions more suffer from lesser symptoms. Golden Rice has the potential
to greatly reduce the suffering, because it contains the gene that makes
daffodils yellow, infusing the rice with beta-carotene, the precursor to
Vitamin A. Ingo Potrykus, the Swiss co-inventor of Golden Rice, has said
that a commercial variety is now available for planting, but that it will
be at least five years before Golden Rice will be able to work its way
through the byzantine regulatory system that has been set up as a result
of the activists' campaign of misinformation and speculation. So the risk
of not allowing farmers in Africa and Asia to grow Golden Rice is that
another 2.5 million children will probably go blind.

What is the risk of allowing this humanitarian intervention to be planted?
What possible risk could there be from a daffodil gene in a rice paddy?
Yet Greenpeace activists threaten to rip the G.M. rice out of the fields
if farmers dare to plant it. They have done everything they can to
discredit the scientists and the technology, claiming that it would take
nine kilos of rice per day to deliver sufficient Vitamin A. Potrykus has
demonstrated that only 100 grams of Golden Rice would provide 50 percent
of the daily need.

Golden Rice is not the only example of civilization being held hostage by
activists. Since its introduction to Chinese agriculture in 1996, G.M.
cotton has grown to occupy one third of the total area planted in what is
northern China's most important cash crop. This particular variety, called
Bt cotton, has been modified to resist the cotton bollworm, its most
destructive pest worldwide.

On June 3, 2002 Greenpeace issued a media release announcing the
publication of a report on the "adverse environmental impacts of Bt cotton
in China." In typical Greenpeace hyperbole, we were advised that "farmers
growing this crop are now finding themselves engulfed in Bt-resistant
superbugs, emerging secondary pests, diminishing natural enemies,
destabilized insect ecology," and that farmers are "forced to continue the
use of chemical pesticides."

Let's examine these allegations one at a time:

• Bt-Resistant Superbugs: There is not a single example or shred of
evidence in the Greenpeace report of actual bollworm resistance to Bt
cotton in the field. There is evidence from lab studies in which bollworms
were force-fed Bt cotton leaves, but any scientist knows that this kind of
experiment will eventually result in selection for resistance. Greenpeace,
however, is claiming selection for resistance has actually happened to
farmers in the field. According to Professors Shirong Jia and Yufa Peng of
the Chinese National GMO Biosafety Committee, "no resistance of cotton
bollworm to Bt has been discovered yet after five years of Bt cotton
planting. Resistant insect strains have been obtained in laboratories but
not in field conditions." So much for the superbugs.

• Emerging Secondary Pests: Greenpeace points out that there are more
aphids, spiders, and other secondary insect pests in fields of Bt cotton
than in conventional cotton.This is called an "adverse" impact in their
report. The fact is, because Bt cotton requires much less chemical
pesticide than conventional cotton, these other insects can survive better
in Bt cotton fields. For the scientifically literate, this reduction of
impact on non-target insects is actually considered one of the
environmental benefits of G.M. crops. How Greenpeace figures this is
"adverse" is beyond comprehension.

• Diminishing Natural Enemies: The Greenpeace media release states that
there are fewer of the bollworm's natural predators and parasites in Bt
cotton fields compared to conventional cotton, and calls this an "adverse
impact." Again, a careful read of the report comes up with no evidence for
this claim. And again, according to Professors Jia and Peng, "as of today,
there are no adverse impacts reported on natural parasitic enemies in the
Bt cotton fields." And after all, isn't it a bit obvious that if using Bt
cotton reduces bollworm populations, that bollworm parasite populations
will also be reduced? Will Greenpeace now embark on an international
campaign to "save the bollworm parasites"?

• Destabilized Insect Ecology: This one is a hoot. To speak of "insect
ecology" in a monoculture cotton field that was sprayed with chemicals up
to 17 times a year before the introduction of Bt cotton is ridiculous. The
main impact of Bt cotton has been to reduce chemical pesticide use and
therefore to reduce impacts on non-target species.

• Farmers Forced to Continue Using Chemical Pesticides: This claim gets
the Most Misleading and Dishonest Award. No, Bt resistance does not
provide 100 percent protection. Because secondary pests sometimes need to
be controlled, farmers using Bt cotton usually use some pesticides during
the growing cycle. Professors Jia and Peng sum it up this way: "The
greatest environmental impact of Bt cotton was...a significant reduction
(70-80 percent) of the chemical pesticide use. It is known that pesticides
used in cotton production in China are estimated to be 25 percent of the
total amount of pesticides used in all the crops. By using Bt cotton in
2000 in Shandong province alone, the reduction of pesticide use was 1,500
tons. It not only reduced the environmental pollution, but also reduced
the rate of harmful accidents to humans and animals caused by the overuse
of pesticides."

The Greenpeace report is a classic example of the use of agenda-based
"science" to support misinformation and distortion of the truth. Once
again, Greenpeace demonstrates that its zero tolerance policy on genetic
modification can only be supported by distortions and false
interpretations of data--in other words, junk science.

A hunger strike led by Greenpeace finally ended in Manila on May 22 after
29 days. Activists were protesting the introduction of Bt corn into the
southern Philippines. In order to whip up media attention, activists have
spread scare stories that G.M. corn "would result in millions of dead
bodies, sick children, cancer clusters and deformities." Thankfully, the
government did not give in to these fools and stood by its decision, based
on three years of consultation and field trials, to allow farmers to plant
Bt corn. Already there are indications of higher yield and improved
incomes to farmers who chose to use the Bt corn.

For six years, anti-biotech activists managed to prevent the introduction
of G.M. crops in India. This was largely the work of Vandana Shiva, the
Oxford-educated daughter of a wealthy Indian family, who has campaigned
relentlessly to "protect" poor farmers from the ravages of multinational
seed companies. In 2002, she was given the Hero of the Planet award by
Time magazine for "defending traditional agricultural practices."

Read: poverty and ignorance. It looked like Shiva would win the G.M.
debate until 2001, when unknown persons illegally planted 25,000 acres of
Bt cotton in Gujarat. The cotton bollworm infestation was particularly bad
that year, and there was soon a 25,000 acre plot of beautiful green cotton
in a sea of brown. The local authorities were notified and decided that
the illegal cotton must be burned. This was too much for the farmers, who
could now clearly see the benefits of the Bt variety. In a classic march
to city hall with pitchforks in hand, the farmers protested and won the
day. Bt cotton was approved for planting in March 2002. One hopes the
poverty-stricken cotton farmers of India will become wealthier and deprive
Vandana Shiva of her parasitical practice.

Until recently the situation in Brazil was far from promising. A panel of
three judges managed to block approval of any G.M. crops there. Meanwhile,
the soybean farmers in the south of the country have been quietly
smuggling G.M. soybean seeds across the border from Argentina, where they
are legal. The fact that Brazil was officially G.M.-free has allowed
European countries to import Brazilian soybeans despite the E.U.
moratorium on the import of G.M. crops. But recently things have changed.

With the election of President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva of the Workers
Party in 2002, the Green elements within the party pressed the government
to enforce the ban on genetically modified organisms. There was something
ironic about a "workers party" enforcing a policy that will damage farmers
who have come to enjoy the benefits of biotechnology. In the end, the
Brazilian farmers rebelled like those in India. In 2003 the government
relented and allowed G.M. soybeans to be planted. The soybean farmers of
southern Brazil have become prosperous, bringing benefits to the
environment and their local communities.

Surely there is some way to break through the misinformation and hysteria
and provide a more balanced picture to the public. Surely if reasonable
people saw the choice between the risk of a daffodil gene in a rice plant
versus the certainty of millions of blind children, they would descend on
Greenpeace offices around the world and demand to have their money back.
How is it that these charlatans continue to stymie progress on so many
fronts when their arguments are nothing more than wild, scary speculation?

The main reason for the failure to win the debate decisively is the
failure of supporters of G.M. technology to act decisively. The activists
are playing hardball while the biotech side soft-pedals the health and
environmental benefits of this new technology. Biotech companies and their
associations use soft images and calm language, apparently to lull the
public into making pleasant associations with G.M. products. How can that
strategy possibly hope to counter the Frankenfood fears and superweed
scares drummed up by Greenpeace and so many others?

Just from a brief scan of the Monsanto, Syngenta, and Council for
Biotechnology Web sites, it is clear that these companies and
organizations are trying to project positive, clean, and calming thoughts.
This is all well and good, but it is no way to turn the tide. Stronger
medicine is needed. Imagine an advertising campaign that showed graphic
images of blind children in Africa, explained Vitamin A deficiency,
introduced Golden Rice, and demonstrated how Greenpeace's actions are
preventing the delivery of this cure. Imagine another ad that showed
impoverished Indian cotton farmers, explained Bt cotton, and presented the
statistics for increased yield, reduced pesticide use, and better lives
for farmers--followed by the clear statement that activists are to blame
for the delayed adoption of the technology.

How about an ad that graphically portrays the soil erosion and stream
siltation caused by conventional farming versus the soil conservation made
possible by using G.M. soybeans? And another one that shows workers
applying pesticides without protection in a developing country versus the
greatly reduced applications possible with Bt corn and cotton? What if all
these ads were hosted by a well-known and trusted personality? Wouldn't
this change public perspectives? The biotechnology sector needs to ramp up
its communications program, and to get a lot more aggressive in explaining
the issues to the public through the media. Nothing less will turn the
tide in the battle for the minds, and hearts, of people around the world.

Patrick Moore is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies,
an environmental consulting agency.


Let Them Eat Precaution

- American Enterprise Online, By John Entine, March 2004

On cue, at last fall's World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, self
anointed "Green" activists showed up to protest the use of gene
modification (G.M.) technology in agriculture. A bevy of teenagers
outfitted as monarch butterflies flitted through what resembled a
Halloween riot. Dotted amongst the chanting demonstrators was an
assortment of human side dishes including walking "killer" tomatoes, a man
dressed as a cluster of drippy purple grapes, and a woman in a strawberry
costume topped with a fish head peddling T-shirts that warned of the weird
and horrid mutants that will be created if "Corporate America" and the
"multinationals" get their way.

It would all be so very entertaining—if there weren't so much at stake,
largely for the very people in Africa and Asia for whom these protestors
purport to speak. As Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, who split
with environmental fundamentalists over their didactic rejection of
genetic modification, writes in his piece beginning on page 24, "I cannot
comprehend that anyone, let alone someone who fancies himself as
progressive, would argue against pursuing research on putting a daffodil
gene in rice that could boost its Vitamin A content and prevent a half
million children from going blind each year. Yet, that's just what they're
doing. They even oppose basic research."

What a disheartening turn in the genetics revolution. Fifty-one years ago
this February, James Watson and Francis Crick hoisted pints of ale into
the air at the Eagle Pub near Cambridge University and declared: "We have
found the secret of life!" The two young scientists had finally identified
the elegant, double-helix structure of the DNA molecule, which contains
the chemical codes for all living things, animal and plant. The era of
genetic science had begun. In 2004 we are just beginning to exploit its
potential .We see the future in the promising screening procedures and
therapies developed to treat hundreds of genetic disorders from breast
cancer to sickle cell to cystic fibrosis. It enables crime scene
investigators to clear the innocent and convict the real criminals.

But of most immediate importance, it is spreading the Green Revolution to
the poorest corners of the globe. G.M. technology has led to the
development of soybeans, wheat, and cotton that generate natural
insecticides, making them more drought resistant, reducing the need for
costly and environmentally harmful chemicals, and increasing yields.
Researchers are perfecting ways to increase the vitamin content of staples
like rice and bananas, which could dramatically cut malnutrition and
lengthen life spans. Yet, for all its vast demonstrated value, this
still-nascent technology, which promises further breakthroughs in fields
such as plant-based pharmaceuticals, remains drastically underused, mired
in controversy.

Some concerns are serious. There needs to be a vigorous discussion about
the degree to which corporations should be allowed to patent and therefore
control beneficial biotech products they develop. Monsanto, Novartis, and
other firms maintain they need to recoup their research costs. There is an
eminently reasonable concern over corporate control, but it has taken a
backseat to sensational and often misleading allegations.

Consider the hyperbolic campaign against treating cows to increase milk
yields. Organic activists allege that 90 percent of our milk supply is
"contaminated" by being mixed with milk from cows treated with a protein
supplement, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST). A decade ago, farmers
discovered that cows given supplements produce more milk for a longer
time. That means less feed and fuel are needed than for other herds, which
results in a host of environmental benefits. But the bio-fermentation
process, which is similar to making beer and wine and doesn't change the
milk, involves biotechnology, and has sparked an outrageous scare

There is simply no evidence that biotechnology poses greater risks than
crossbreeding or gene-splicing, which have given us seedless grapes and
the tangelo. Virtually every plant grown commercially for food or fiber is
a product of crossbreeding, hybridization, or both. Using traditional
breeding methods, about which there is absolutely no controversy,
thousands of genes of often unknown function are moved into crops and
animals. The new biotech tools allow breeders to select specific genes
that produce desired traits and move them from one plant or animal to

Time and again, dire warnings have been unmasked as little more than
hysteria-grams. Years of hammering away with misinformation have taken an
enormous toll--polluting public opinion, profoundly altering the
trajectory of biotechnology applications, and damaging the financial
wherewithal of companies and university research projects.

Undercut by the mounting genetic evidence, anti-G.M. forces have cooked up
a new tactic, invoking the lowest common denominator in fabricated
scientific disputes: the "precautionary principle." They assert that
"Trojan Horse" genes not subject to built-in checks and balances in nature
could cause environmental havoc. They argue for a halt to all commercial
uses of biotechnology. They politicize the issue by introducing into
common usage the pejorative appellations "pollution" and "contamination"
to describe the mixing of genetically modified seed or crops with
conventional supplies. They claim to be acting on behalf of innocent but
unaware consumers and the natural environment.

"Better safe than sorry" has nice a ring of moderation, but it's deceptive
in this context. Recall the dozens of serious injuries and the death of a
Seattle girl in 1997 from drinking unpasteurized, E. coli-laced juice made
by Odwalla from apples that had fallen in "natural" fertilizer: dung.
While there have been no documented health problems and no deaths or
injuries linked to bioengineering, people die every year from eating
"naturally" contaminated foods. If the precautionary principle were
applied to "natural" foods, they would be stripped from the grocery
shelves overnight.

Let's underscore what's going on here: Activists demonize biotechnology by
exploiting a general wariness about science. This is not a scientific
dispute, but an ideological and religious one: Don't tamper with nature.
It's a romantic and superficially seductive message, but a blanket
insinuation that nature is always benign or better is obviously hokum. The
anti-biotech industry is stocked with scientific illiterates who worship
the primitive over progress and confrontation over reform even if it means
freezing the developing world out of the benefits that we take for

Some mainstream environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, and
"ethical" investors, which could have taken the high road on a complex
issue, instead stand with anti-science hardliners in arguing for mandatory
labeling of products made with G.M. technology. More disclosure seems
reasonable, but mandatory labeling is a disingenuous ploy designed to
stigmatize biotech products with what amounts to a skull and crossbones.
Michael Passoff, of anti-biotech group As You Sow, bragged about what
would happen if the campaign succeeds. "We expect that [the food industry]
won't want to risk alienating their customers with labeling, so they'll
eventually decide not to use any bio-stuff at all," he chortled. In other
words, G.M. products with proven health and environmental benefits would
vaporize from the marketplace.

The call for labeling, even absent evidence of problems, has nonetheless
resonated strongly in Europe, where scares involving mad cow disease and
dioxin-contaminated feed have rattled the public. Supermarket chains have
yanked G.M. products. The European Union has had an unofficial moratorium
on new bioengineered seeds and food for five years, and will not lift the
embargo until it is assured that the U.S. won't resist its labeling rules.
Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries support
mandatory labeling of G.M.-derived foods.

The ideological crosswinds have spawned regulatory bodies, global
protests, litigation, Internet campaigns, and an international
humanitarian crisis over whether people in famine stricken countries
should starve rather than eat crops grown using biotechnology. The "earth
firsters" are directly responsible for spooking Zambia into rejecting
donations of G.M. grain that would have helped feed its desperately
starving population.

There are certainly valid concerns that need to be addressed if genetic
modification is to get a fair shot in the marketplace. However, in the
current atmosphere, rational policy initiatives and coordinated
international trade policies are extremely difficult. What is lacking in
Europe, and increasingly in the U.S., is a public discussion about the
existing and potential benefits of biotechnology. Let's hope this issue of
TAE furthers that discussion.

Check That Footnote

By Thomas R. DeGregori

Having just posted a note on taking care on not over interpreting a
headline, I now wish to add also to be careful in accepting author's (even
very distinguished authors) implied interpretation of an article in their
footnote citation of it.

The current issue of Science (303(5658):625-626, 30 January 2004), there
is a letter on Conservation Policy in Coffee Landscapes

In it there is the following sentence and citation which seems to echo one
of the standard complaints against the Green Revolution and is often (but
not in this letter) used to argue that the farmers did not benefit from
using the HYV (High Yielding Varieties, also known as MVs or Modern
Varieties) seeds and technological package associated with it. The
sentence reads as follows - "In general, green revolution intensification
benefits consumers via lower prices, but farmers have experienced
increased co crops (1)" and the citation below is - R. E. Evenson, D.
Gollen (sic), Science 300, 758 (2003).

Having read this magnificent article (Assessing the Impact of the Green
Revolution, 1960 to 2000 by R. E. Evenson and D. Gollin, Science
300(5620): 758-762, 2 May 2003.) and not gotten that impression, I once
again went to it -

Since the Green Revolution has brought about a decline in the real price
of grains, it would be obvious to everyone that those farmers who were
unable to take advantage of the new technology would likely be hurt by it
since they would get a lower price for whatever crop that they had to
sell. However, the letter states that farmers who adopted the technology
were also losers and there is nothing in the article that I could find
that supports that contention. Quite the contrary as the two quotes from
it bel "failure of the Green Revolution" has become part of the anti-GM
litany of Vandana Shiva and others it is important to counter any
statement (in whatever context it appears) in a prestigious journal, even
in a letter to the editor that might be used to further that claim.

On the farmers who experienced losses, Evenson and Gollin state: "But some
farmers and farm workers experienced real losses from the Green
Revolution. Those who did not receive the productivity gains of the Green
Revolution (largely because they were located in less favorable
agroecological zones), but who nonetheless experienced price declines,
have suffered actual losses of income. The challenge for the coming
decades is to find ways to reach these farmers with improved technologies;
for many, future green revolutions hold out the best, and perhaps the
only, hope for an escape from poverty."

On the use of inputs, Evenson and Gollin state: "Nor is it true that
chemical intensive technologies were thrust upon the farmers of the
developing world. Both IARC and NARS breeding programs attempted to
develop MVs that were less dependent on purchased inputs, and considerable
effort has been devoted to research on farming systems, agronomic
practices, integrated pest management, and other "environment-friendly"
technologies. But ultimately it is farmers who choose which technologies
to adopt, and many farmers in developing countrieslike those in developed
countrieshave found it profitable to use MVs with high responsiveness to
chemical fertilizers."

Let me strongly recommend that this fine article be read in full. Also I
have much more on the myths about Green Revolution that are contrary to
fact and that are falsely used against it and transgenic agriculture in a
lengthy article that will soon be posted on on Butterflies and Wheels. I
will post a URL for it when it is posted and possibly a summary of it.

Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort?

Amber Waves
February, 2004

The unprecedented growth in U.S. agricultural productivity over the past
70 years owe much to a series of biological innovations embodied in major
crop seeds, in particular cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat. These
innovations are the result of the investment of considerable time and
money into plant breeding research and development (R&D). However, the
seed sector has changed: seed R&D has moved from being predominately
public to predominately private, innovation protection is now pervasive,
and the private seed industry has become highly concentrated. This article
examines the extent of this shift in R&D from the public to the private
domain and whether or not the shift is positively or negatively affecting
research effort, and potentially agricultural productivity growth.

See http://www.ers.usda.gov/Amberwaves/February04/Features/HaveSeed.htm

No consensus on GMOs

- FoodNavigator.com, 04/02/2004

Demonstrating the clear divisions that exist between member states and the
European Commission over genetically modified foodstuffs, in the same week
that Belgian ministers threw out an application for an oilseed rape, the
EU’s food safety chief predicts that GM sweetcorn could be in the European
can within months.

Belgian ministers rejected an application from biotech company Bayer
CropScience to grow genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape commercially
throughout Europe after research from a recent report in the UK – the Farm
Scale Evaluations (FSE) - showed that growing the crop could harm the

German-based Bayer CropScience had applied through Belgium for a
Europe-wide licence to grow and import the GM oilseed rape. Belgian
ministers have forwarded the application to all member states for a joint

In contrast, speaking at a meeting with consumer organisations this week
EU Commissioner for health and consumer protection David Byrne said that
authorisation for biotech sweetcorn – Bt-11 from Swiss firm Syngenta -
could be made a couple of weeks after 15 April, referring to the exact
date when the new rules on GMO labelling would apply.

The imminent rules were created in order provide consumers with the choice
between GM and non-GM products on supermarket shelves and their entry will
likely mark the end of the unofficial ban on biotech foods and crops in
place in Europe since 1998.

Despite the tighter labelling rules Europe remains divided on the issue
with member states yet to be convinced about the full benefits of GMO
crops and foodstuffs. The Belgian decision this week to block any approval
process for Bayer’s oilseed rape is one such example.

Ministers from the EU member states at the European Council are due to
take a decision in the next three months on the import of Syngenta’s
genetically modified sweetcorn. If they fail to reach a conclusion, the
Commission could allow imports of the GM maize variety under its own

GM ingredients found in 40% of health food soya

- New Wales, 4/2/2004

Almost 40 per cent of soya food from health food shops in Britain contains
genetically modified ingredients.

A study by researchers from the University of Glamorgan of health food
shops in South Wales and Yorkshire during the summer of 2003, used an
EU-approved method, called an ELISA, to detect any GM proteins. The key
findings of the report were:

* In a survey of health food stores and supermarkets, a total of 10 out of
25 samples of food products containing soya, tested positively for GM

* This was surprising because eight out of the ten GM-positive samples
were either labelled as 'GM free' and/or were labelled as 'organic', both
of which imply absence of GM ingredients.

* In the interest of consumers, we should reconsider current labelling
practices that may be misleading about the presence of GM ingredients in
many organic and vegetarian foods

Soya is a key ingredient in many organic and health foods. It is
especially important in the diets of many vegetarians and others who wish
to avoid dairy products or gluten-containing foods.

Soya is found in meat substitutes and desserts as well as in tofu,
soymilk, flour, beans and sauces.

"We have recently observed that many soya products now carry 'GM free' or
'organic' labels, both of which imply an absence of GM ingredients in
these foods," said Professor Denis Murphy, head of the unit.

"However, most of the soya now produced in the world comes from GM
varieties. Nearly all our soya is imported from the USA (80% GM),
Argentinean (95% GM), and Brazilian (over 30% GM and growing).

“It was therefore of interest to the Unit to determine whether the
supposedly 'GM free' soya products, available in the UK, really contained
no GM ingredients.”

One food, a vegetarian sausage mix that was labelled 'GM free', contained
0.7% GM soya. This is close to the 0.9% mandatory EU threshold that would
require it to be labelled as a GM product.

Three other foods contained 0.1-0.4% GM soya; this is above the Soil
Association limit for organic foods.

"Given that GM soya production is set to increase even more over the
coming years, it is difficult to see how 'GM free' labels can be justified
unless there is much more rigorous testing of such foods," continued
Professor Murphy.

"In view of these findings, the organic food industry may need to
reconsider the 0.1% threshold for GM presence in organic foods; an
alternative is to remove organic status from all soya products, unless
these have been rigorously tested for GM.

"Obviously, the latter action by organic certifiers could involve the loss
to many organic/vegetarian consumers of an entire category of one of our
most nutritious and versatile, plant-based foods, namely soya."

A full account of the complete study will be published on 2nd April, in
the British Food Journal (Vol 106 (3) 2004).


Scientists Develop Plant That Produces Potential Anti-Carcinogen

- Newswise, 03-Feb-2004

A Purdue University researcher has successfully engineered plants that may
not only lead to the production of anti-carcinogenic nutritional
supplements, but also may be used to remove excess selenium from
agricultural fields.

By introducing a gene that makes plants tolerate selenium, David Salt,
professor of plant molecular physiology, has developed plants capable of
building up in their tissues unusually high levels of a selenium compound.
His interest in selenium stems in part from recent research sponsored by
the National Institutes of Health showing that selenium can reduce the
risk of developing prostate cancer by 60 percent.

"We now know how to genetically modify plants so they will make this
anti-carcinogenic selenium compound," Salt said. "This research gives us
the genetic means to manipulate the amount of this material that's
produced in any plant."

Selenium, a mineral that occurs naturally in the soil in some parts of the
world, is an essential micronutrient for animals, including humans, but is
toxic to animals and most plants at high levels.

However, a few plant species have the ability to build up high levels of
selenium in their tissues with no ill effects. These plants, called
selenium hyper-accumulators, convert selenium taken up from the soil into
a non-toxic form called methylselenocysteine, or MSC.

Full article at http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/503057/

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