Today in AgBioView: September 24, 2003:
* The Refinement of Transgenic Crops
* GM Nation?..Maybe. A Public Debate?..Unfortunately Not
* Amish Farmers Grow Biotech Tobacco, Potatoes
* Biotech Key to EU Competitiveness - Italy
* Who Scared GM Foods Off Supermarket Shelves?
* Principle and Practice of Novel Food Safety Assessment
* Zambia Launches Its First Biotech Outreach Society
* Science and Tech Key to Generating Africa‚s Wealth
* Science, Tech and Innovation Policy: Training Program at Harvard
* New Anti-Biotech Book
* Cancun's Charming Outcome
* Greenpeace Accused of Violating Tax Law
* GE Policy Since the Royal Commission: Insoluble Problems
The Refinement of Transgenic Crops
- John W. Cross , Consultant
Dear Mr. Roberts, The answers that Charles Rader and Lance Kennedy
provided are very good, but I would like to amplify on one point. Look at
the issue of refinement in GM technology:
The picture painted is of the genetic engineer crudely introducing a gene
into an organism with no idea where it ends up in the genome or what other
genes it disrupts. This is quite correct about the transformation process,
but completely misleading because the transformation process is not the
end of the story. After transformation, there is testing.
First, although current technology cannot control where a gene ends up in
the genome, it is able to very accurately determine where the gene did end
up. That fact makes it completely irrelevant that it was inserted by a
crude method. By analogy, if I try to thread a needle in the dark, most of
the time my attempt will fail, but I can easily tell when I have gotten it
right and that's when I'll use it to sew. It should be understood that
this testing is a dynamic activity that runs interactively throughout the
whole process.By process, I mean the whole activity that begins with a
newly transformed cell and generates from it a transgenic seed line worthy
"Many are called, but few are chosen." Is that a quote from the Bible?
Anyway, a great many transformation events are grown up for testing and
selection (sometimes selection and testing), first as tissues or plantlets
and then as seed-grown plants. In early selection, a smaller number of
parallel transformants is selected for further growth and testing, so that
in each round of selection fewer candidates of progressively greater vigor
and commercial value are advanced. Also winnowed out along the way are the
cases where the transgene landed in a chromosomally-unstable location.
The way Greenpeace has it, geneticists and plant breeders are quite stupid
oafs who will take just any transgenic plant and place it on an equally
undemanding market: low-yielding, unstable, carrying weedy characteristics
etc. What could be further from the truth!
Plant genetic engineers work closely together with plant breeders and
together form a holistic team, critically looking at their product from
many angles. And their customers, the farmers, are pretty sophisticated
themselves. Farmers won't buy much of any one seed until they have seen
the results of local seed trials and have tried a small acreage of it on
their own farms in a head-to-head comparison with their existing
crops. The best seed wins. Greenpeace has a pretty dopey view of plant
breeders and farmers.
"GM Nation?∑Maybe. A Public Debate?∑Unfortunately Not", says CropGen
London, 24th September 2003 - Like many scientists and farmers across the
country, CropGen welcomed the Government‚s decision to initiate a public
debate about GM technology and the commercial growing of GM crops in this
The results, however, published today in the GM Nation? The Public Debate
report, are rather disappointing, explained Professor Vivian Moses,
Chairman of the CropGen panel of scientists: "We had hoped that the
debates might be an effective way of involving the wider public both in
the science and in the other issues surrounding the new technology", he
"Like other scientists, we saw them as part of our civic responsibility
and as opportunities for people to participate, express their own views,
hear those of others and so help them to a deeper understanding of the
reasons behind decisions to come and the implications which will follow
"Most would agree that this is a complex area and that it takes time and
study to get to grips with the facts surrounding the many issues involved.
Sadly, we found that the level of debate was confined to the information
in the briefing material. For the most part it simply rehearsed the
soundbites with which we are all now familiar; in-depth discussion of the
evidence was missing."
"Together with other CropGen panellists, I attended a good number of these
so-called public debates across the country, only to find that the level
of attendance was, at its best, about 1% of the town‚s population, and
that in many cases, the meetings were organised and chaired by obviously
one-sided anti-GM organisations. So much for a fair debate!"
CropGen concludes that the GM Nation? meetings and the questionnaires that
were submitted for the report can in no way be regarded as expressing a
representative view of the nation‚s opinions.
"In announcing the GM Nation? debates, the Government said they would not
be used as a referendum. The outcome of the debate experience shows how
right they were to do so."
For further information, please contact Samantha Chalmers or Cristina
Cunchillos at Countrywide Porter Novelli on 020 7853 2393 or 07720 277143;
CropGen is an information initiative designed to make the case for crop
biotechnology. It is funded by industry but operates independently of it.
For more information please visit our website at www.cropgen.org
Amish Farmers Grow Biotech Tobacco, Potatoes
'Amish farmers in Pennsylvania say they can earn twice as much with
It may come as a surprise to learn that some Amish farmers, who have
shunned innovations like the telephone and electricity, have embraced
But in fact, a growing number of Amish in Pennsylvania have been using
genetically enhanced seeds because they see them as another tool to help
them continue their traditional agrarian lifestyle.
"I myself like biotechnology," Amish farmer Daniel Dienner told the
Associated Press. "I feel it's what the farmers will be using in
thefuture." Dienner is one of about 550 Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who
have been growing a genetically enhanced, nicotine-free tobacco plant
since 2001. Other Amish farmers have been growing a biotech potato, which
is resistant to pests and viruses, on a test basis.
The biotech tobacco has been commercialized by Vector Tobacco and is used
in Quest cigarettes, which are designed to help smokers quit the habit.
Dienner says Vector Tobacco has been paying about $1.50 per pound for the
nicotine-free tobacco -- nearly double the 80-cent-per-pound rate for
traditional tobacco. The increased income -- genetically enhanced tobacco
can earn up to $3,500 per acre compared with $300 to $400 per acre with
corn5 -- has allowed more farmers to continue farming.
"Without tobacco, I wouldn't be at it anymore," one Amish farmer told the
Associated Press. "We have a three-year contract. I wish it would be 10
years." Amish scholars say genetically enhanced crops are not
inconsistent with the simple life that is central to Amish beliefs because
it helps them continue their ties to agriculture, allowing families to
Dienner, his wife and their seven children hand-plant the biotech tobacco
seedlings provided by Vector. They harvest the plants together and strip
the leaves from the stalks and hang them in their barn to dry. "It
teaches a whole family to work," Dienner told the Associated Press.
Amish scholar Steven M. Nolt, an associate professor of history at Goshen
College in Indiana, said he can't think of a reason why biotechnology
would present a conflict with the Amish way of living. "If it helped them
to keep on farming small-scale farms, it would present a benefit," he
said. "They don't dislike technology per se. They just avoid those
technologies that might cause a diminishing of their family life or other
strongly held beliefs."
"Amish law doesn't say anything about growing genetically modified
tobacco," added Dienner in an interview with Wired magazine. Followers of
the Amish religion, a division of the Christian Mennonites, or
Anabaptists, interpret the Bible literally and follow a set of unwritten
rules of the church known as the Ordnung. The Amish tradition differs from
many other modern religions in that its faith is combined in its entire
culture. To preserve their culture and lifestyle, the Amish try to avoid
what they consider outside negative influences.
But their reasons for avoiding specific technologies should not be
mistaken for a complete shunning of all technology. For instance, some
Amish are willing to use telephones in public places, but they don't want
them in their homes. And some have adopted modern farming technologies
such as milk-cooling systems. But many fruits of technology are avoided
because they conflict with basic tenets of the Amish religion: devotion to
God, separation from the outside world, self-sufficiency and closeness to
Biotech proponent is Amish descendant
Klaus Ammann, a field botanist and director of the Botanical Garden at the
University of Bern and who spoke at the Biotechnology Industry
Organization annual conference in June 2003, has firsthand knowledge of
some Amish farmers' willingness to adopt technology. He is a vocal
proponent of the benefits of biotechnology and as a specialist on
biosafety he says he cannot detect any reason why organic farmers should
not adopt modern breeding technologies. Ammann≠s family is also related to
Jakob Ammann, the founder of the Amish sect that began in Switzerland in
the 17th century.
Over the years, Klaus Ammann has developed ties with Amish communities in
Pennsylvania. "As farmers, they do not reject technology out of hand but
instead examine every innovation closely in an effort to determine whether
it might pose a danger to their religion or way of life," said Ammann in a
2001 International Food Policy Research Institute conference.
Ammann confirms that the Amish are very curious about other technologies
that might help them preserve their farming way of life. And because of
his own belief that biotechnology has much to offer, Ammann has spoken at
length about growing biotech crops with his Amish friends.
"To my amazement, they decided to test samples of genetically modified
seeds soon afterwards," said Ammann. Ammann is quick to point out,
however, that not all Amish are open to biotechnology. "But the key
thought is that they have an active spirituality and do not depend on any
kind of 'new green religion' ý they decide on their own," he said.
Biotech Key to EU Competitiveness - Italy
- EuropaBio, Brussels, Sept 23, 2003 http://www.europabio.org
Italy, as President of the EU, is urging other EU Member States to
recognise the importance of biotechnology as a key tool to making European
industry competitive. Ministers were discussing the EU‚s biotechnology
strategy and action plan at this week‚s Competitiveness Council.
The biotech plan aims to push biotechnology as one way of helping Europe‚s
ailing economy to become the world‚s most competitive by 2010. The
strategy sets out 30 actions for Member States, Science, Society and
Industry to follow. The Presidency would like to see that all parties now
start implementing this strategy. Commenting on the outcome, Feike
Sijbesma, Chairman EuropaBio said: "It is very important that Member
States take the decisions needed to build the biotech arena, for example,
eight Member States have still not implemented the biotech patents
The European Commission proposed the EU strategy on biotechnology in
January 2002 when it became apparent that EU industries could benefit from
using new biological systems to produce food, drugs, and new therapies for
diseases including those that treatment has eluded in the
past. Biotechnology is also being used to make lots of other products like
detergents, plastics, paper and pulp. The European Commission estimates
the market to be worth EUR 2000 billion by 2010.
No industry will be left untouched by biotech, the pharmaceutical,
agricultural and fast moving consumer goods markets are all using the
technology today. "Biotech is an important technology for the development
of Europe‚s major industries to engineer new products, processes and
pathways," says Feike Sijbesma. "More Member States might follow in the
tracks of the UK and others, and agree a national biotechnology strategy
to boost growth and jobs. We‚d like to see Ministers developing a
coordination mechanism to help different ministries and countries to do
this. Because biotechnology cuts across so many sectors, we believe this
merits a special discussion in itself at next Spring‚s European Council."
Who Scared GM Foods Off Supermarket Shelves?
- Deryck Laming, Letters, Western Morning News (UK) September 23, 2003
Your editorial "Keep up the fight to remain GM-free" (WMN, September 4)
comments on consumer opposition to GM foods. You state that people
"refused to eat the produce", and that "unequivocal consumer opposition...
sends a powerful message to food producers and retailers". Likewise,
retailers "cannot afford to alienate their customers... and are unlikely
to give (GM foods) shelf space".
This gives a picture of customers running screaming from supermarkets
because of GM foods on the shelves, perhaps threatening the management
with riots, sanctions or boycotts if the foods were not removed - but how
true is this? Look at your own back issues to see what really did happen
five years ago and you will see that scaremongering, not consumer
reaction, caused the supermarkets to clear their shelves. By chance I came
across an old copy of WMN with an article entitled "Protesters target M&S
over GM food sales" (October 15, 1998). The protesters demonstrated
outside an Exeter High Street store and other supermarkets, handing out
leaflets about the health risks they believed would arise from such food.
They said it was "unethical" to sell the food, and complained that the
store did not provide enough facts to consumers.
The fact that the protesters themselves were not telling the truth about
GM foods - just their own invented scare stories - did not seem to bother
their consciences. This publicity-seeking campaign was aimed at shops
selling GM food and people buying it. The facts are that, initially,
consumers bought tomato paste that then was the main GM food available,
and bought it enthusiastically in preference to the non-GM variety by a
ratio of about four to one. The reason this was withdrawn from the shelves
had nothing to do with consumer resistance, but to the high-profile
campaign by a small group of protesters.
Consumer acceptance or indifference to GM foods cannot be measured,
because we are not allowed to buy them. Farmers are vilified even if they
allow their land to be used for testing the crops, despite the obvious
advantages in reduction of fertiliser use and the benefits to wildlife. An
example of the latter is the experimental plots of GM sugar beet in
Suffolk where the increase in bird numbers on the farm was enough for the
GM variety to be labelled "skylark friendly".
Your editorial suggests that one day there may be "cast-iron proof that
the (GM) technology is risk-free". This is impossible for, like all
technologies, it is the application that is important, not the method
itself. Some misguided scientist might inject genes from deadly nightshade
into potatoes and produce a truly poisonous result, but that does not
condemn the whole technology. Similar effects can be produced by
hybridisation, yet there are no calls for this technology to be banned.
Principle and Practice of Novel Food Safety Assessment
Zambia Launches Its First Biotech Outreach Society
- Biosafety News (Kenya), July 2003, http://www.biosafetynews.com/
Speaking during the launch of the Biotechnology Outreach Society of Zambia
in the capital Lusaka, Dr Bruce Siamasonta , an official from the Zambia
Cotton Development Trust, told delegates who included scientist from other
African countries that; "technology will not wait for us, it is advancing.
Therefore if we do not go for it now , it will come to us later, at a
Dr. Mumba, the interim Chairman of BOSZ said it was unfortunate that the
government snubbed the meeting at the last minute despite having
participated in the planning and organization. "We involved the ministry
of science and technology in the planning and organization of this
meeting. We are surprised that they failed to turn up for the launch
without any explanation," said Dr Mumba.
But undeterred, Zambian scientists who attended the meeting expressed
cautious optimism that the government will change its negative attitude
towards agro biotechnology once the society launches an aggressive
awareness campaign in the country. "Our priority is to mount an aggressive
awareness campaign that will bring all stakeholders on board to discuss
all the issues relating to the technology . This is the only way the
Zambian public including the government can make an informed choice
regarding biotechnology." said Dr. Mumba..... More at
Science and Technology Key to Generating Africa's Wealth
- Dr. Osita Ogbu, Biosafety News (Kenya), July 2003 (Executive Director,
LAST year the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) took an
important first step in Marking the African scientific revival day,
reminding everyone that June 30 was declared by African leaders, under the
auspices of the oau now AU, as a day to appreciate what science can do for
Africa. The activities of last year generated a lot of interest amongst
policy makers, journalists and other regional scientific institutions and
that has seen us today taking a second giant step. ATPS has therefore come
together with AAS, ACTS, ICRISAT, IPGRI, ICIPE, ITDG, JKUAT, the
Government of Kenya and AU to organize this year‚s event.
It is no longer a one day event, but a three-day event involving key
policy makers, parliamentarians, students and the private sector with a
very strong signal that science and technology can only work to Africa‚s
benefit if all the stakeholders understand their various roles. This year,
we have added a science and technology exhibition to give visual reality
to the use of Science and technology in producing goods and services.
But this is not just a science day; it is a science and technology day,
the African renaissance day, Africa‚s innovation day and principally a day
to demonstrate that Africa has been using science and technology and can
use science and technology to advance its economic and social
Can there be Africa‚s renaissance without a strong dose of relevant
application of science and technology?
Many have equated the renaissance to good governance, the emergence of
democratic governments and enlightened leadership across Africa.
This is only one aspect of the re-birth and hope central to the
renaissance is good governance of science and technology and an
understanding of its key role in development which only an enlightened
leadership would appreciate. There cannot be renaissance if there is self
doubt, if science and technology is not used to improve Africa‚s
competitiveness, and if science and technology is not used to interrogate
the intricate questions of poverty. What rennaissance if Africa‚s hope is
bogged down by the past instead of the promise of the future?
Thus institutions such as the ATPS and others have taken up the mantle to
champion the good governance of science and technology, to enlighten the
populace, journalists, policy makers, parliamentarians, farmers groups and
all others in the private sector that without full deployment of science
and technology, Africa‚s renaissance will be a dream. But is the message
getting across? We think slowly but surely. That we are all gathered here
today and for the next two days is a clear testimony that the interest is
growing. It is an attempt to concretize this interest that the organizing
committee of this event chose the theme: Science and technology and wealth
Science and technology is often seen as an abstraction in Africa without
any link to wealth creation. Science is what scientists do and wealth
creation is what business and industry do. Where we appreciate the link,
we allow all forms of excuses to stand in the way of forging this link in
a manner that suggests that Africa has accepted its role as the producer
of raw materials in its most basic forms and consumers of finished
products from the basic to the most technologically sophisticated. In the
developed and many developing countries, the link is obvious in
agriculture, industry, mining etc. In these countries, while the private
sector takes the lead in converting science and technology to wealth, the
government is charged with providing an enabling environment, fostering
partnership and providing the vision.
Africa remains the poorest continent in the world in spite of its natural
resource endowment. It is in the transformation of these resources and the
knowledge content of the new products that greater value is created.
Africa‚s agriculture has remained rudimentary. It is only in Africa that
we still bemoan the failure of rains as we watch helplessly as children,
women and the weak die from hunger and starvation. yet regions of the
world where there is virtually no rain fall produce surplus food to export
to Africa. Science and technology applications in irrigation, soil
enrichment, use of new varieties, improved extension services can produce
great wealth in agriculture. Agro-processing, with even higher science and
technology content, presents Africa with greater opportunity to transform
her abundant agricultural resources. Falling agricultural export has
contributed to Africa‚s declining share of export trade from 6% in 1980 to
2% at the end of the 1990s.
Africa continues to operate at the fringes of new technology such as
biotechnology and information and communication technology. Biotechnology
is a multi billion dollar industry in the world with enormous potential
for wealth creation and ensuring food security. There is enormous
potential in bio-pharmacy in Africa, in vaccine production, in application
to indigenous foods, in improving yields in raw materials such as cotton.
But before biotechnology can realize its potential in Africa, governments
must invest in an innovative biotechnology policy that enables them to
make intelligent choices that would not depend on what the green peace
movement wants or what the EU advocates or what the biotechnology
entrepreneurs are pushing from America. Rather, it will depend on the
needs and aspirations of the peoples of Africa.
Asia and in particular India, knowledge industry specific to the ICT
sector has become a source of employment and huge export to the united
states and other developed countries. The silicon valley in California has
its match in Bangalore in India and several young Indian noveaurich have
emerged by tenacious application of science and technology. Like most
technology, the externalities from this sectoral boom are felt throughout
the other sectors as Indian industries are becoming more competitive
globally. Many Africa countries do not yet have an ICT policy or a road
map to how they see the deployment of this tool for its societal benefit.
The private sector is searching for leadership and clear guidance from the
government but bits and pieces of legislation from the government leave
conflicting signals as to the way forward. Africans, and African youths in
particular, Can exploit the ICT revolution to great advantage through
e-commerce, software development, ICTengineering etc.
Science and technology led development can only occur when there is a
leader willing and ready to champion it. In Africa, this is the critical
missing link. In particular India, knowledge industry specific to the ICT
sector has become a source of employment and huge export to the united
states and other developed countries. A report from the scientists who
were involved confirmed that the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, stopped
by the laboratory every day for the life of the project to monitor
progress. This singular act was not only a moral booster to the
scientists; it gave indication that this was a project with national
strategic ramifications. Fidel Castro may not understand the science of
the vaccine, but he understood that major breakthroughs do not just happen
because you have good scientists.
We have also seen leaders construct crisis in order to propel scientists
to greater national feat. When president J.F. Kennedy announced that the
United States will land someone on the moon, he actually had no idea what
it will take. But that announcement was an act of crisis construction and
since he had made the promise, the scientist worked very hard not to fail
their president and the president in turn provided both the leadership and
the environment for the promise and major scientific break through to be
We need African presidents to be champions for science and technology led
development; to chair science and technology commissions and be interested
in monitoring scientific developments that can lead to major breakthroughs
in social and economic transformations of their various countries. We need
finance ministers that understand that we need to finance science and
technology institutions of government and an enlightened cabinet that
understand that science and technology ministry is a vital ministry that
should be equipped to provide leadership across all ministries on the
issues of science and technology.
We need leadership in the private sector that will transform the work of
scientists into products and services and forge the link between industry,
the university and other research institutions. We need scientists that
are willing to market their ideas and a people that will be devoid of
self-doubt and have confidence in the work of its scientists.
Science, Technology and Innovation Policy: Executive Training Program at
- Nov 30, 2003 - Dec 6, 2003; Application Deadline: October 01, 2003
With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kennedy School of
Government is offering an executive training program on integrating
science and technology into sustainable development strategies. It is open
to ministers and senior leaders in government, industry, civil society and
academia from developing and developed countries. For more information,
New Anti-Biotech Book
- Fran Smith , www.consumeralert.org
Dear AgBioView readers, Consumer Alert sponsored a mini-briefing on
"Agricultural Biotechnology and Sustainability" (with speakers Dean
Kleckner and Greg Conko) in Cancun in conjunction with the WTO meeting.
The speakers pointed out how ag biotech can promote sustainability,
especially in developing countries. As a member of the audience,
anti-biotech activist Jeffrey Smith took part in the very civil discussion
and distributed some promotional material about his new book attacking ag
biotech -- Seeds of Deception.
Here are some quotes from the press releases relating to his contention
that GM food is "inherently unsafe."
"--About 100 people died and 5-10,000 fell seriously ill from a
genetically modified food supplement L-tryptophan.107-125 --Milk from
rbGH-treated cows contains an increased amount of the hormone IGF-1, which
is one of the highest risk factors associated with breast and prostate
cancer.94-97 --Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, coinciding with
the introduction of GM soy imports from the U.S.160-161 --Food related
illnesses in the U.S. increased substantially, corresponding to the period
when Americans have been eating GM food. There is no way to confirm a
connection since no one has looked for one."
Many of the allegations are recycled ones that have already been refuted
by scientists or hypothetical ones. However, scientists should not rest
assured that facts and science will prevail. A major promotional campaign
is underway for the book, as one can see from the schedule of press
More information about the book and its allegations appears at the site
I would urge scientists and others who are involved in the scientific and
public policy issues relating to agricultural biotechnology to get
involved in what may be another round of public debate about ag biotech.
Cancun's Charming Outcome
- Editorial, The Economist, Sept 18, 2003
'Champions of the world's poor are celebrating the collapse of global
trade talks. Some champions'
"Vicotry to the people," cheered a press release from a globophobic
activist group, Food First, after the world trade talks broke down in
Cancun on September 14. This delight is widely shared among
developing-country advocates and even among many poor-country governments.
Great news from Cancun? What scandalous rubbish. The failure sprang not
from principle, nor even from intelligent calculation, but from cynicism,
delusion and incompetence. It is going to leave most people in the world
worse off--and, without a doubt, those who will suffer worst are the
At the very least, Cancun's failure has delayed progress towards
concluding a trade round that would have given poor countries the biggest
economic gains. Launched in the Qatari capital, Doha, in November 2001,
the Doha trade round was explicitly dedicated to helping poor countries.
Its chief goal was to lower trade barriers in areas where freer trade
would help poor countries most, especially agriculture. With the Doha
round in tatters, the day when rich countries repeal their grotesque farm
subsidies and poor countries can finally sell textiles to the rich world
without facing punitive tariffs has been pushed far into the future. The
chances of concluding the round by the original deadline of December 31st
2004 are now nil. To finish it within five years would be difficult.
As if this were not bad enough, the breakdown in Mexico may have dealt a
mortal blow to the multilateral trading system itself--a system that, for
more than half a century, has underpinned global prosperity. Since the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was signed in 1947, with its basic
principle that tariffs must not discriminate between countries, trade has
been governed by multilateral rules. The World Trade Organisation, created
in 1995 as a successor to the GATT, is the system's core. With 148 members
(Cambodia and Nepal joined just days ago), the WTO is the only trade forum
in which the needs of the developing countries can be given full weight.
Decisions there are reached by consensus; every country, no matter how
small or poor, has a veto. Nowhere else do poor countries have such clout.
Cancun's collapse leaves the whole system in peril. It comes less than
four years after a similar flop in Seattle in 1999, where efforts to
launch trade talks failed amidst street violence. After two such abject
defeats in four years, the WTO is in enormous trouble. If it becomes
entirely irrelevant to the conduct of trade policy--as it may, and as many
governments and activists seem to desireųthe developing world will come to
regret the consequences bitterly over the coming years.
Who to blame
The breakdown was entirely unnecessary. Trade ministers were not trying to
come to a final agreement on the Doha round; they were not even making
difficult choices about exactly how far to open their economies. The
purpose of Cancún was far more limited: to be no more than a mid-course
stock-taking, a time to agree on principles for taking negotiations
forward. It is extraordinary, and all the more shameful, that the
ministers failed even to do this.
All concerned are pointing the finger, as one might say, at each other. In
fact, nearly everybody involved deserves criticism (see article). For all
the fine promises made at Doha, rich countries could see no farther than
the interests of their own farmers. America's unwillingness to curb its
cotton subsidiesųwhich have an especially severe effect on poor-country
producers--is unforgivable. So too is Japan's unyielding defence of its
own swaddled rice farmers. And for all its ballyhooed efforts at reform,
the European Union remains the most egregious farm subsidiser of all.
Europe deserves added blame for trying to push poor countries into
negotiating new rules on investment, competition, government procurement
and trade facilitation, when most of them clearly did not want to.
Yet the rich countries did not wreck Cancun by themselves. Many poor
countries saw the Doha round, and its promise to be pro-poor, as an excuse
for making demands of the rich world while doing nothing to lower their
own trade barriers. They forgot that trade talks require compromise. Egged
on by a bevy of activists, too many third-world politicians got carried
away by the thrill of saying no--ignoring the fact that poor countries
actually have more to gain from lowering their own trade barriers than
from persuading rich countries to lower theirs. According to the World
Bank, over 70% of the benefits that poor countries might see from the Doha
round would come from freeing trade with each other. By refusing to
compromise, poor countries have come away with nothing.
Heading for a fractured world
Optimists, of whom there are still a few, point out that previous trade
rounds have all taken longer than scheduled to complete. The Uruguay round
took eight years rather than the planned three. Maybe the Doha round can
be revived after all.
If so, the prospect looks remote. A presidential election is looming in
America: starving peasants are not a pressing constituency. The European
Union, with ten new members to absorb, is also going to be distracted. In
any case, the energies of rich-country trade negotiators can always be
deployed in a different--and, as they would see it, more
effective--direction. Bilateral and regional trade agreements are already
in favour with the Bush administration. In this setting, the poor
countries have far less sway than they would have at the WTO; that is why
American legislators prefer such deals. America is pursuing a regional
trade agreement for the Americas, has signed bilateral deals with Chile
and Singapore, has begun bilateral talks with 14 other countries, and
promises many more.
This way lies a fracturing of the global trading system. Adding to the
danger is growing protectionist sentiment in the United States. For the
past decade, America has been the main engine of global growth: its trade
deficit and its debts to foreigners have therefore been soaring (see our
survey of the world economy). Trade deficits, particularly when jobs are
scarce, increase demands for protection.
China, with its huge and growing bilateral trade surplus with America, has
already been cast as chief villain. With a cheap currency, the argument
goes, China is stealing American jobs. Once this scapegoating starts,
protectionism follows close behind. Last week, senators from both parties
introduced a bill that would put high tariffs on imports from China unless
China adjusts its exchange rate. This particular measure will probably
fail, but there will be others. In the mid-1980s, when America last had a
huge trade deficit, demands for new protection (mainly against Japan)
proved impossible to resist.
The collapse of the global trade talks may itself worsen the backlash. The
prospect of a global trade round helped curb calls for new protection,
making them seem disreputable; if there is to be no round, there will be
less holding back. An American government concentrating on bilateral trade
deals and domestic politics bodes ill for the global economy. And the idea
that the EU might exercise enlightened leadership while America is thus
distracted is, unfortunately, laughable.
The humbling of the WTO not only worsens economic prospects for the
developing countries (as well as for the rest of the world) but also
shifts the balance of global political power from poor to rich--perhaps
decisively, and who knows for how many years. That is what the developing
countries' champions are so busy celebrating.
Eco-worshippers? Church, State and Nature's cathedrals
- Cathy Young, Reason Online, Sept 23, 2003
Being pro-environment, kind of like being pro-family, is a good way to
score political points. Who can possibly be against environmental
protection? Everyone wants to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and
few of us would like to see every acre of wilderness paved over to make
way for shopping malls and condominiums. The Republicans are perpetually
vulnerable to charges of being anti-environment when they propose, for
instance, to open a part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska
to oil and gas drilling.
But is some environmentalism a radical ideology or even a form of
religious fundamentalism in moderate clothing? This is a charge made by
writer and journalist Robert Bidinotto on his new website with the
provocative title ecoNOT.com and the equally provocative slogan
"Individualism -- not environmentalism." Explains Bidinotto, "Most people
think of themselves as 'environmentalists.' But by that term, they mean
something far different--and far more innocent--than do the most prominent
philosophers, founders, and leaders of the modern environmentalist
What those environmentalists want, he asserts, is not just an environment
beneficial to humans but an environment untouched by humans, whose
activity is seen as destructive to "wildness." He quotes an
eyebrow-raising comment from John Muir, co-founder of the Sierra Club: "I
have precious little sympathy for the selfish propriety of civilized man,
and if a war of races should occur between the wild beasts and Lord Man, I
would be tempted to sympathize with the bears." Some modern
environmentalists have gone even further, calling humanity a "cancer" on
Bidinotto argues that much environmentalism is based on a fantasy of an
idyllic and unspoiled Garden of Eden, and in that he certainly has a
point. Take two recent pieces by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof
(which Bidinotto dissects on his site) addressing the issue of exploratory
oil drilling in Alaska and recounting his trip to the refuge. Kristof
writes that, in his view, the danger drilling would pose to wildlife has
been exaggerated by environmentalists; he also points out that it would
benefit the local Eskimo population. Yet ultimately, he comes down on the
anti-drilling side, arguing that development would damage "the land itself
and the sense of wilderness"ýthe sense of "a rare place where humans feel
not like landlords or even tenants, but simply guests."
The refuge, in other words, is something like a living temple, which is
not to be desecrated. Some environmental writings have explicit religious
overtones. A popular idea among environmentalists is writer James
Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis"--the idea that the Earth is a living entity
with a super-consciousness of its own, of which we are all a part. (Gaia
was, of course, the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth.) Native American
religions with their nature worship are popular as well. Some people who
turn away from traditional religion and then embark on a spiritual quest
in a need to fill the void say that they find that spirituality in
Environmentalist philosophy has a religious dimension other than the
fantasy of the Garden of Eden. Its anti-consumerist animus reflects, to
some extent, the puritanical notion that material pleasures and comforts
are wicked and corrupting, and self-denial is ennobling for the soul.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with religiously or spiritually based
beliefs. But perhaps some forms of environmental philosophy and activism
should raise questions about introducing religion into public policyýor
public schools, where environmental education programs often have elements
of Earth worship and moralist condemnation of consumerist sins.
In his individualist manifesto, Bidinotto unabashedly asserts that nature
should be seen as having no intrinsic value other than its benefit to
humans, because "value" is itself a human concept rooted in rational and
moral principles. This idea is not quite as radical or as anti-environment
as it seems: His concept of "value" certainly includes a clean and healthy
habitat, as well as human enjoyment of wilderness. Indeed, in that sense,
he and Kristof may not be as far apart as he thinks: Kristof wants to
preserve the coastal plain of Alaska as an American heritage. (He also
admits, however, that the part of the land where the drilling is proposed
is not particularly scenic and is valuable mainly for its untouched
The preservation of our natural heritage is undoubtedly a worthy goal. But
when seen from the perspective of human benefit, it is one of many
competing values that must be balanced--including the need to alleviate
our dependence of foreign oil. To treat wilderness as something mystical
and sacramental short-circuits the debate as surely as an appeal to
Cathy Young is a Reason contributing editor. This column appeared in the
Boston Globe on September 22, 2003.
Greenpeace Accused of Violating Tax Law
- Marc Morano, CNSNews.com, Sept 23, 2003
(CNSNews.com) - A watchdog group that monitors non-profit organizations
has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, alleging that the
environmental group Greenpeace is "knowingly and systematically violating
U.S. tax laws."
Public Interest Watch of Washington, D.C., formally filed the IRS
complaint Monday, asking the federal agency to investigate Greenpeace's
non-profit financial practices.
"The most obvious, blatant violator of the non-profit [tax] law was
Greenpeace. They are mooching off the taxpayer every year," said Mike
Hardiman, executive director of Public Interest Watch (PIW). According to
PIW's report, the tax-subsidized division of Greenpeace failed to follow
federal non-profit tax guidelines regarding its educational and charitable
The PIW report maintains that Greenpeace diverted over $24 million between
its various entities over a three-year period for activities that did not
qualify under federal law as tax exemptions. The report said Greenpeace
engaged in such non-tax-exempt activities as blockading a naval base to
protest the war in Iraq and padlocking the gates of a government research
"Greenpeace has devised a system for diverting tax-exempt funds and using
them for non-exempt - and oftentimes illegal - purposes. It's a form of
money laundering, plain and simple," Hardiman explained.
"This is a clear violation of the law," Hardiman added.
But Greenpeace fired back at Public Interest Watch, calling the charges
"unwarranted and unsubstantiated."
"It's completely false and without merit," said Melanie Janin, Greenpeace
USA's spokeswoman. "Greenpeace is considering this an attack by a fringe
group," Janin added.
In its response to PIW's allegations, Greenpeace USA stated that it "acts
in full compliance with all relevant U.S. and state laws." Greenpeace also
indicated it might pursue legal action against PIW over the accusations.
"Given the severity of these accusations by Public Interest Watch,
Greenpeace USA is now considering its various legal options," the
Greenpeace USA also accused PIW of having a "clear anti-NGO
(non-governmental organization) agenda," pointing to the recent lawsuits
by PIW against groups with similar political philosophies to Greenpeace,
like the Rainforest Action Network, the Dogwood Alliance and the anti-war
"While PIW will not disclose its funding sources, Greenpeace strongly
suspects that PIW is funded by American corporations, many of which may be
under scrutiny for anti-environmental behavior by environmental
organizations like Greenpeace," the press release stated.
Hardiman rejected Greenpeace's call for his group to reveal its funding
sources "I don't have to reveal my funding because I am not mooching off
the taxpayer. Contributions to Public Interest Watch are not
tax-deductible," Hardiman said. Hardiman also denied that his group only
goes after environmental groups like Greenpeace, pointing to several
conservative organizations against which PIW has filed IRS petitions.
"Greenpeace selectively only chose the lefty groups we went after. We also
went after conservative groups as well," Hardiman said. He mentioned the
Pat Buchanan-led group, the American Cause, and the anti-immigration
group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, as examples of
conservative organizations PIW has targeted.
Hardiman also shrugged off Greenpeace's threatened lawsuit against PIW.
"Bring them on. That is what I say. Bring them on. Greenpeace will just
embarrass itself further," Hardiman said.
Genetic Engineering Policy Since the Royal Commission: Insoluble Problems
Wills paper now posted to LSN website. The paper for the PSRG (Physicians
and Scientists for Responsible Genetics) by Dr Peter Wills of Auckland
University has now become available. A PDF copy of the paper is available