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Date:

October 2, 2003

Subject:

Vatican Approves GM; Royal Society says GMO report "speculative"; GM plants

 

Today in AgBioView: October 3, 2003:

* Philippines announces Vatican's approval of GM food
* Percy Schmeiser Friends
* EU Moves Closer to Lifting Ban on GMOs
* Food labelling and GM crops
* UK's Royal Society says GMO report "speculative"
* EU may start to lift GMO ban before year-end
* French public sector researchers call for open debate on GMOs
* GAO REPORT: BIOTECH FOODS 'AS SAFE AS CONVENTIONAL FOODS'
* Get your facts straight, Greenpeace
* BIOTECH PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND CHINA
* Germany to aggressively promote Green Biotech
* NON-GM AND GM RAPE Ų BEES DON‚T CARE
* GM plants safe for bees
* BjŅrn Lomborg: Environmentalist who exposed the Greens

http://www.scidev.net/gateways/index.cfm?fuseaction=readitem&rgwid=3&item=News&itemid=1043&language=1


Philippines announces Vatican's approval of GM food

SciDev.Net
Katie Mantell
3 October 2003

Filipino President Gloria Arroyo has used the Catholic Church's stance
that growing and consuming genetically modified (GM) crops is not sinful
to support her government's controversial policy to allow the cultivation
of GM crops.

According to Agence France-Press, Arroyo said in a statement following a
meeting with Vatican State Secretary Cardinal Angelo Sodano that "what's
important now for opposers [of GM crops] is that the Vatican said that
GMOs [genetically modified organisms] are not immoral."

The government's approval of GM seeds in the Philippines Ų a largely Roman
Catholic nation Ų has met with strong opposition from environmental
groups, as well as several Catholic bishops.

Recent months have seen confusion over the Vatican's stance on GM food.
Newspaper reports in August suggested that the Vatican had declared its
support for the technology, but the Vatican later clarified that it had
not made an official decision to support the technology, but was planning
to hold a roundtable discussion to study the ethical and scientific
implications of using GM crops (see Confusion over Catholic stance on GM
crops).
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: Wed, 01 Oct 2003 22:11:12 -0500
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Percy Schmeiser Friends

In "'Organic' Food Produces More Nutritious Piss" (Tom DeGregori,
AgBioView, Oct. 1, 2003), Dr. DeGregori mentions in a P.S. that proponents
of seed-saving such as Vandana "unhappy rice" (turns out it was weeds)
Shiva are concerned that preserving the rights of developers of superior
seeds will do bad things to farmers. Somehow, everyone in the mainstream
press has conveniently ignored the fact that Schmeiser engaged in
biopiracy. If you read the court documents, it is apparent that Schmeiser
did precisely what any biopirate of Monsanto's work would do: spray it
with Roundup and take what survives for seed. Seed-savers can save all the
seed they want, and it's nobody's business if they do.

But if they biopirate someone else's seed, well, my guess is, the Canadian
courts are going to agree with (much to their chagrin) the Greenies, and
say, we don't put up with biopiracy.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Date: Wed, 01 Oct 2003 21:45:27 -0500
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Re: EU Moves Closer to Lifting Ban on GMOs

In "Re: EU Moves Closer to Lifting Ban on GMOs" (AgBioView: October 1,
2003), Dr. Mieschendahl says that he "can't see the EU moratorium on
genetically engineered plants to be lifted soon." He estimates that
lifting the moratorium could "take months."

A better estimate would be years. France, which leads the anti-biotech
minority which has managed to stymie all new approvals of GM crops, has
said that no new GM crops will be approved until there is a strict
liability regime for all new crops. The liability proposal has been tied
up for years already, and now the Europeans have another red herring: the
coexistence of different crops. They can debate that for a decade at
least.

The EU threw out the "recommendations" for co-existence of various crops
as a sop to the gullible. Those who know better, know that it's merely
something to distract the WTO while it deliberates on European trade
protectionism. Europe has become quite good at making things look nice on
paper, but in practice, they're casual murderers who hire their farmers to
maintain public food parks at the expense of their hapless taxpayers.
Meanwhile, anyone who follows food corruption scandals knows that
consuming European food is highly risky.

People need to recognize that Europe is very good at making things look
good on paper, and at saying it is "taking aggressive regulatory action,"
but Europe is helpless when it comes to preventing health risks. It is
usual for politicians to impose laws to make populations think their
representatives are "doing something," perhaps more in Europe than
elsewhere, but in Europe, "doing something" means pushing paper and little
more. Lots of laws, no enforcement and a blind eye to science. For
instance, in France, much of the beef produced would be rejected by US
regulators for having excessive residues of growth hormones. (It's like
Brazil: since X is illegal, that means you don't have to worry.)

Hopefully the WTO will recognize that the EU's "recommendation" for
coexistence of different kinds of crops and the lengthy, tedious
discussions the recommendation has spawned is just a smokescreen, just
like the EU's "white paper" on the precautionary principle. Europe will
sicken itself while Africa starves and others shuffle paper, unless
Europe's ploy is seen for what it is. A paper ploy.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "Murphy D (SApS)"
Subject: Food labelling and GM crops

Food labelling and GM crops

(from Denis Murphy, Biotechnology Unit, Univ of Glamorgan, UK)

If there is to be GM food labelling in the European Union, as now appears
inevitable, this may have some interesting consequences for the
introduction of GM crop products, especially in light of the recent
decision of Brazil to legalise GM soya (see today's Economist
http://www.economist.com/world/la/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2102001).

The new EU rule is that any food containing over 0.9% GM-derived material
MUST carry a GM label. Our ongoing research has shown that even organic,
vegetarian and health foods can sometimes contain 0.7% or more of GM
material (ms submitted for publication), which is perilously close to the
0.9% limit for GM labelling in the EU. All of these GM-positive foods that
we tested contained GM soya and most were actually labelled as "GM free"
or "organic" (in the UK, organic foods are supposed to be 100% free of GM
materials). In other words, far from being free of GM ingredients, some of
these health food products will now almost qualify for a mandatory GM
label.

This means that in the future, any food manufacturer who wishes to avoid
having to use a GM label (especially if they want to claim organic or GM
free status as well) will have to set a costly and complex series of
product tests (e.g. PCR or ELISA tests). They will also have to establish
an elaborate audit trail to verify identity preservation of the various
potential GM ingredients.

Therefore, the cheapest and simplest future option for any importer of
soya into the EU, confronted by the realities of the extensive and
increasing presence of GM soya throughout the supply chain, would be to
apply the precautionary principle and label all foods as "may contain GM
ingredients". Those retailers wishing to omit a GM label (i.e. who are
thereby willing to guarantee a less than 0.9% GM content) or those who
wish to make stronger claims (e.g. "GM-free") would then incur the
considerable additional costs of identity preservation of ingredients and
of testing the foods for adventitious GM materials. Such costs would
inevitably be passed on to consumers.

This may result in market segmentation with GM-labelled foods being
considerably cheaper and capturing a larger market than those niche
products that carry no GM label or a "GM-free" label. Ironically this
means that the first real test of the willingness of consumers to pay a
premium for non-GM food may come in the health food/organic sector where
customers may see some hefty price hikes over the next year. This is an
interesting possibility, and possibly not one desired by those who have
advocated mandatory labelling of GM-containing foods.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://reuters.com/financeNewsArticle.jhtml?type=governmentFilingsNews&storyID=3546745


UK's Royal Society says GMO report "speculative"

Reuters
October 2, 2003

LONDON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Britain's Royal Society on Thursday distanced
itself from a newspaper report saying government-backed experimental
trials of genetically modified (GMO) crops have concluded that two of the
three crops grown -- rapeseed and sugar beet -- appear to harm the
environment.

According to the newspaper, scientists who carried out the trials are
expected to tell the government that growing GM crops damages plant and
insect life.

The society, which is due to detail the scientific results of the trials
on October 16, described the report in Thursday's Guardian newspaper as
"speculative."

"This attempt by 'The Guardian' to summarise and soundbite the entire
contents of the eight scientific papers has not been checked for
accuracy," the Royal Society said in a statement.

"We are aware of the wide interest in these papers and are preparing them
for publication on our website where they will be freely available to
all," it said.

The Royal Society, an independent scientific body that funds, promotes and
publishes the works of scientists in its widely-respected journals, has
the task of officially disseminating the trial's results.

The newspaper said GM maize, which could be grown in Britain for animal
feed purposes, might be given the green light under strict guidelines, as
a concession to the GM companies and the United States where a trade war
looms.

Last week, the UK unit of Germany-based biotech firm Bayer CropScience,
told Reuters it was ready to plant commercial GM maize if it the
government gives the go-ahead for plantings.

Bayer BAYG.DE 's GM herbicide resistance maize, Chardon LL, already has EU
marketing consent.

The results of the British crop trials, along with those of the Science
Review Panel and the Strategy Unit's costs and benefits study, are
expected to form the basis on which the government decides whether to give
GM crops the green light, probably later this year.

No GM crops are currently grown on a commercial basis in the UK. Several
applications for approval are under consideration at European Union level,
and the EU's food safety chief said on Thursday the 15-nation bloc could
begin to lift its five-year de facto ban on most genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) before the end of the year.

EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said member
states would vote on allowing a new type of genetically modified maize for
use in food, BT11 sweet corn produced by Swiss firm Syngenta AG SYNZn.VX ,
in the test case.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://reuters.com/financeNewsArticle.jhtml?type=governmentFilingsNews&storyID=3546592


EU may start to lift GMO ban before year-end

Reuters
October 2, 2003

BRUSSELS, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The European Union's food safety chief said on
Thursday the 15-nation bloc could begin to lift its five-year de facto ban
on most genetically modified organisms (GMOs) before the end of the year.

EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said member
states would vote on allowing a new type of genetically modified maize for
use in food, BT11 sweet corn produced by Swiss firm Syngenta AG SYNZn.VX ,
in the test case.

"It is possible that the Syngenta product could be considered by the
relevant regulatory committee before the end of the year," the Irish
Commissioner told EU lawmakers.

The decision would take place behind closed doors in a committee bringing
together member state officials and the European Commission. A majority of
votes would carry the day.

A second type of GM maize produced by U.S.-based Monsanto, Round-up Ready
maize GA21, also for use in food, would be up for a vote in 2004, added
Byrne.

The EU remains divided over GMOs though a raft of rules has been agreed to
meet health and environmental safety concerns.

Rules for growing gene crops are already in place, while legislation for
labelling food and animal feed containing GMOs is being rubber-stamped and
should apply by spring 2004.

EU member states are currently trying to thrash out seed purity rules
setting a maximum GMO content in organic and conventional seeds. They are
also discussing how to limit GMOs spreading from biotech crops to
"traditional" varieties.

Britain's Guardian newspaper on Thursday published a leaked report from
British scientists, saying the mass cultivation of GM oilseed rape and
sugar beet would destroy plant and insect life. The findings are due to be
published next week.

United Statesfarmers are watching events in the EU closely, ready to
expand their cultivation of the two GM maize varieties if the EU opens up
its market. They say the EU's ban is costing them $300 million a year in
lost exports of mostly maize.

The pro-biotech United States, along with Canada and Argentina, are
challenging the moratorium in the World Trade Organisation, arguing that
the EU is acting illegally.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

French public sector researchers call for open debate on GMOs

Cordis News
October 3, 2003

More than 700 researchers from the French public sector and universities
have signed a petition calling for a public debate on biotechnology
research programmes.

This initiative follows the collection of over 1,500 signatures defending
research into genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which itself was a
response to the destruction of 25 GMO field trials over the summer.

All of France's public research institutions are represented in this
latest petition, most notably INRA, CNRS, CIRAD and CEMAGREF.

'Researchers and universities say to society that they should be party to
decisions concerning the objectives and use of the results of their work.
They declare that quality research should strive to be socially relevant,
particularly when it concerns food safety and the management of
biodiversity resources,' states the petition.

The researchers claim that the recent destruction of GMO field trials was
a useful warning, and should lead to the implementation of the
precautionary principle. They also contest the potential of this form of
biotechnology for developing countries, saying that it 'traps farmers into
dependence on certain seed companies and pharmaceutical products.

The preceding petition, defending the rights of French researchers to
carry out GMO field trials, which are described as 'indispensable to
research into plant biology and the improvement of plants', called on the
French government to 'take responsibility' for the continuation of such
research.

For further information on the petition calling for a public debate,
please visit:
http://ouvronslarecherche.free.fr

For further information on the petition defending GMO research, please
visit:
http://defendonslarecherche.free.fr
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

GAO REPORT: BIOTECH FOODS 'AS SAFE AS CONVENTIONAL FOODS'

ISAAA
October 3, 2003

The General Accounting Office of the U.S. government has released a report
concluding that foods produced using biotechnology are as safe as
conventional foods. It stated that there is no scientific evidence that
they would cause long-term health risks to consumers.

The report entitled „Genetically Modified Foods: Experts View Regimen of
Safety Tests as Adequate, but FDA‚s Evaluation Process Could Be Enhancedš
notes that „Foods from GM plants pose three types of risk to human health:
they can potentially contain allergens, toxins, or antinutrients. These
risks are not unique to GM foods. People have consumed foods containing
allergens, toxins and antinutrients throughout history.š

In addition, suggestions were made to improve the process being followed
by the US Food and Drug Administration to evaluate new biotech foods. The
FDA, according to the report, should enhance its oversight role in two
ways. One is to randomly verify the raw data companies provide about new
products since the agency currently reviews summaries of that data. The
second is to improve its system of informing the public about its
evaluation process and the scientific rationale behind its decisions.

The full report can be viewed at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02566.pdf.
A news item on the report is available at
http://www.whybiotech.com/index.asp?id=2098
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Get your facts straight, Greenpeace

October 2, 2003
Canola Ink Vol. 22

The Canola Council of Canada is telling Greenpeace activists to check the
facts before attempting to protest against genetically modified (GM)
canola. Earlier today, members of Greenpeace in Vancouver, B.C. suspended
themselves from the cranes of the vessel Glory Island, which was loaded
with canola and destined for Japan. The protesters also carried signs
saying "Biohazard: GE Export."

The stunt shows that Greenpeace activists are certainly dramatic and
definitely wrong. For example, they are contending that by continuing to
export GM crops, Canada is threatening to violate Biosafety Protocol
regulations and that Canada is losing canola sales to countries like
China. Actually, Canada has exported in excess of $100 million of canola
and canola products to China this year. Yet Greenpeace makes the claim
that exports to China have dropped to $16 million.

When it comes to the Biosafety Protocol, Canada actually asked for the
issue of regulations to be added to the agenda of the Japan Canada
Pre-Consultations held just two months ago in Saskatoon, SK, says Council
President Barb Isman, adding Canadian exporters have made it clear they
are fully prepared to comply with Japan's protocol regulations. However,
these regulations are not yet in place. Canadian exporters are already
fulfilling the requirements of the Biosafety Protocol in their customer
countries around the world.

"This may not be as fun as hanging from a crane, but it's how we
responsibly conduct business," says Isman. "Canadian canola is safe. Oil
produced from GM and non-GM canola is identical, and we're proud of it."
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BIOTECH PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND CHINA

ISAAA
October 3, 2003

Pakistan has recently signed an agreement with China to increase its
global biotechnology presence by agreeing to exchange biotechnology
experts and to collaborate in plant and rice genomics research.

According to Professor Atta-ur-Rahman, Federal Minister for Science and
Technology and leader of the negotiations with China, Pakistan has the
potential to become a player in the global biotechnology market in the
next three to five years. Rahman added that Pakistan's agriculture-based
economy and strong research and development infrastructure would also help
attract international investment.

Early in the year, Pakistan released a national biotechnology action plan
that aims to prioritize vaccine production, biodiagnostics, and improved
crop yields. And for over the past three years, Pakistan has invested
US$16.5 million in biotechnology promotion. At present, about 50 new
biotechnology projects ranging from the design of new textbooks to
research into blight-resistant rice varieties are underway.

Further, Pakistani officials recently devised new biosafety guidelines
that will serve as a framework for future national biotechnology
initiatives. These guidelines are being reviewed by Pakistan's Ministry of
Environment.

The new release can be found at Nature Biotechnology.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Germany to aggressively promote Green Biotech

http://www.bayern.de
October 2, 2003
By Robert Derham

Bayern sent a reminder of the need for a quick conversion of the EU
guidelines that calls for commercial development of Green Biotech
solutions, so that Germany can remain an international competitor for
innovative and leading research in the world.

The Bayern Cabinet decided earlier this week to strongly promote federal
and private funding for Green Biotech solutions such as allergen-free food
and oral vaccines via food products.

Environment Minister, Werner Schnappauf, explained during the cabinet
meeting that, „The Federal Government can no longer seek to evade this
clear position (of the EU), and thus must implement the EU guidelines as
they stand. This means responsibly implementing the most modern
biotechnology and its sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions
that relieve strains on the environment.

„With Green Biotechnology we are dealing with advantages for the consumer
and the environment,š noted Schnappauf. As examples of some advantages to
consumers he pointed to making certain food sources allergen-free (such as
with peanuts or seafood), increasing the levels of vitamins in food, and
using food as a form of oral vaccination.

In regards to developing countries, Schnappauf made it clear that Green
Biotechnology offers a great opportunity to fight world hunger by
providing a more secure food source. He backed this conclusion by pointing
to the fact that many genetically modified crops provide inherent
protection from disease and pests, thus eliminating the need for
pesticides and helping ensure a harvest for developing farmers who do not
receive farming subsidies if their crop fails.

In order to ensure a better level of acceptance of Green Biotechnology,
Schnappauf emphasized the importance of educating the public of the
available scientific results that demonstrate the safety and benefits of
Green Biotechnology.

„The government takes the publics fears and reservations of genetically
modified products very seriously,š added Schnappauf. „It is crucial that
producers and consumers are comprehensively informed, and are allowed to
make their own decision about whether they want genetically modified food
or not.š

As has been proposed by the EU commission, Schnappauf noted that the best
way to give the public a choice was to provide comprehensive labeling of
genetically modified products.

In addition to the environmental and consumer benefits, Schnappauf also
pointed out the benefits that Green Biotechnology has in store for the
German economy. World-wide, a rapid growth in the amount of genetically
modified crops being planted led to a total of 58 million cultivated
hectors, producing a market worth of 4.25 billion US dollars in 2002. This
growth projects to reach a total market potential of 100 to 500 billion US
dollars by the year 2015 through the use of Green Biotechnology.

With respect to these statistics, Schnappauf noted that, „Economic
prosperity and jobs can only be assured, if Germany, being a land poor in
raw materials, remains a leader in science and technology. We must remain
in competition through innovation and cutting-edge research.. Therefore we
will aggressively promote federal and private research in the area of
Green Biotechnology.š

Schnappauf‚s comments come at an interesting time. The market for both Red
and Green Biotechnology has been staggering of late in Germany. Schnappauf
pointed to Germany‚s ever-increasing regulatory rules for the release of
new products as the greatest obstacle.

„The government can not disconnect Germany‚s tie with modern cutting-edge
research. Only when Germany actively participates in research and
innovation are German security standards also protected.š

Minister Schnappauf further explained that by implementing the EU
guidelines on Green Biotechnology, Germany would be giving the security of
people, animals and the environment the up-most priority.

„To date, there isn‚t any evidence of health or environmental damages
arising from genetic modification world-wide. This despite millions of
genetic studies and more than ten thousand genetically modified plants
that have been released in the environment. Therefore, there is an
opportunity to also use Green Biotechnology in Germany, and while doing
so, paying close attention to possible risks. With this in mind, I call
upon the German Government to see to the long over-due implementation of
the EU guidelines concerning the release of genetically modified
organisms.š
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NON-GM AND GM RAPE Ų BEES DON‚T CARE

ISAAA
October 3, 2003

Honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees and Diptera cannot discriminate
between genetically modified (GM) rape and non-GM rape plants. Bees and
other insects move freely from one rape plant to another regardless of
their GM status, and thus are able to transfer pollen easily to one
another. This is a gist of a finding of French researchers led by
Jacquiline Pierre as they studied the foraging behavior of various bees.

In addition, similar insect numbers and behavior were found, and the
equivalent plants showed similar nectar volume, nectar sugar
concentration, and composition.

Pierre however cautions that the research does not generalize about GM
plants having no impact on pollinator behavior. „In GM plants, a case by
case approach is absolutely recommended,š she says.

The full paper entitled „Effects of Herbicide-tolerant Transgenic Oilseed
Rape Genotypes on Honeybees and Other Pollinating Insects Under Field
Conditionsš is published in Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata.

Email Jacqueline Pierre at pieere@rennes.inra.fr
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.lifesciencenz.com/news-detail.asp?newsID=4880

GM plants safe for bees

Life Sciences Network
October 3, 2003

Studies have shown genetically modified plants have little or no impact on
bee health, says HortResearch scientist, Louise Malone.

However, bees still need to be taken into account when GM plants are
considered for field trials or release.

Malone, who spoke at the Foundations for Success conference in Wellington,
says bees contribute $2.7 billion to the New Zealand economy each year,
playing an important role in the pollination of clover in pastures and
also of vegetables, seeds and fruit, especially kiwifruit.

The New Zealand beekeeping industry makes $57m a year from honey, live
bees, pollen, wax and propolis.

Malone says of the crops grown in New Zealand for which GM varieties are
or may one day be available, some, including white clover, kiwifruit,
apples, canola, seed brassicas, eucalyptus and seed onions, are important
honey species or require bees for pollination.

Potatoes, maize and ryegrass can be visited by bees if there is no better
forage available and traces of pine pollen can also be found in beehives
because of the large amounts of pine pollen released.

Malone says HortResearch has looked at the possible impacts of GM plants
on bee health since 1995, working closely with overseas scientists.

Because bees only eat pollen, nectar, resins and honeydew of plants, a bee
can only be affected by a GM plant if the plant expresses a new protein in
these parts. That protein, in turn, must have some biological activity
against the bee.

The HortResearch team has developed a system where the possible effect on
honey bees can be studied without actually using GM plants.

Adult and larval bees are fed purified proteins -- at a range of
concentrations -- identical to those produced by GM plants.

Malone says the team choose proteins designed to control insect pest
populations because these are the most likely to affect bee health.

The trials found Bt toxins (designed to control caterpillars) and
biotin-binding proteins (for general insect control) had no effect on bee
health.

Protease inhibitors (used for caterpillar and beetle control) had a slight
effect on bees at high concentrations, shortening their life-span by
several days.

Malone says overseas studies, where it is easier for researchers to work
with flowering transgenic plants, have found most GM plants produce only
minute quantities of new proteins in pollen and none in nectar.

They have also found no negative effects on bees on plants modified to be
insect, herbicide or disease-resistant.

Malone says researchers in Canada are beginning a four-year study on
pollinator diversity on conventional, organic and GM canola and sweetcorn
crops.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BjŅrn Lomborg: Environmentalist who exposed the Greens

National Business Review
October 2, 2003
David Cohen

With cruel rains and unforgiving storms walloping much of the country over
the past week, the average New Zealander might be forgiven for wondering
what has become of the much-ballyhooed greenhouse effect, which was
supposed to be turning even the most miserable of winter periods into a
sunny oasis.

BjŅrn Lomborg, executive director of the Danish Institute of Environmental
Assessment and an associate professor in the department of political
science at the University of Aarhus, in Denmark, doesn't wonder anymore.

Dr Lomborg, a onetime Greenpeace activist turned "sceptical
environmentalist," the title of his controversial best-seller, not only
disbelieves the greenhouse effect but has unpopularly set himself against
such fashionable political notions as the imminent exhaustion of the
world's natural resources and extinction of vast numbers of species, the
problem of overpopulation, and disappearing forests. The self-described
"eco-optimist" feels pretty relaxed about genetically modified crops as
well.

The trouble with so many of the great environmental causes, he has
written, is that the "litany is not supported by the evidence." Energy and
other natural resources have become more abundant, not less so, he argues,
and more food is now produced per capita than at any time in the world's
history. Fewer people are starving and most of those supposedly threatened
species are doing just fine.

As for those pesky claims about environmental pollution, these, too, look
as if "they have either been exaggerated or are transient."

Worse, almost, in the horrified view of many of Dr Lomborg's old
greener-than-thou colleagues within academe and the environmental
community, is the 38-year-old scholar's belief that the comparatively few
areas of environmental decline that can be shown to exist are "best cured
not by restricting economic growth but by accelerating it."

Although widely criticised in some quarters since its publication in
English two years ago, his 515-page work has never been faulted for being
a light read – The Skeptical Environmentalist includes some 2930
footnotes, 1800 bibliographical references, 173 graphs and figures, and
nine tables.

Dr Lomborg, who will be in the capital next Wednesday as a guest of the
Business Roundtable to deliver an address on the same topic for the annual
Sir Ronald Trotter Lecture, told The National Business Review he was
always happy to turn the political temperature up by a few notches in the
interests of a healthy debate. But infuriating special-interest groups or
left-leaning pols had never been the primary intent of his scholarly work,
he insisted.

"I just want to ensure we get the best environmental bang for our buck,"
he said, speaking by telephone from Australia.

That governments do not always pursue the best-value policies for the
environment, in Dr Lomborg's view, can be blamed on three separate
groupings: academe, the media and many special-interest environmental
groups. Why? Because all of them have a compelling interest in arguing
that things are getting worse.

In the case of the media, the issue is straightforward enough – the
age-old problem of news organisations only being interested in reporting
on areas where crises are seen to exist.

In the case of researchers, the issue is "that if your research area has
no problems in it then you often don't get any funding," he said.

"But if you can say, 'Whoa, all of mankind might die in 10 years if we
don't do something about the situation,' then that's going to get more
attention."

Not that there is anything inherently wrong in that, he believes, for that
is simply the reality of research funding. What the situation does mean,
however, is that those who may have a different view – business groups, in
particular – "tend to be listened to far less than, say, Greenpeace.

"I can only speculate on the reasons – I don't have any data on it – but
my feeling is that businesses are obviously seen to be motivated to some
degree by money while the environmental organisations, who often don't
have much money, are able to impress people that what they're doing is out
of the goodness of their hearts. Now I have no doubt that that's the case
but they are in the political arena, too, and they really should be
treated sceptically."

Dr Lomborg knows from personal experience what it means to be treated with
scepticism. In Europe, the publication of The Skeptical Environmentalist
has caused him to be virtually excommunicated by sections of the
scientific community.

Earlier this year, his own country's somewhat Orwellian-sounding academic
body, the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, released a report
denouncing his book as a work "of scientific dishonesty."

At the same time, more than 300 Scandinavian professors – "that's no small
number of academics in a country like Denmark" – have signed a petition
supporting his work, while the dishonesty charge remains under appeal.

Dr Lomborg remains grateful that one his earliest supporters was a New
Zealand-based scholar, Denis Dutton, an associate professor of philosophy
at the University of Canterbury and the editor of the popular on line
website Arts & Letters Daily.

Writing in the Washington Post, Dr Dutton hailed Dr Lomborg's good news
about the environment as decidedly bad news for green ideologues. "His
richly informative, lucid book is now the place from which environmental
policy decisions must be argued," he wrote, declaring it the most
significant work on the environment since the appearance of its polar
opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, in 1962.

"It's a magnificent achievement," declared Dr Dutton, in a verdict that
other interested New Zealanders will now be able to sceptically judge for
themselves next week.