Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - March 25, 2004:
* Tony Bair and other World Leaders Salute Norman Borlaug
* Birthday Greetings to Borlaug from AgBioView Readers
* Ideals Nourish Creator of Green Revolution
* Norman Borlaug Deserves His Day
* A Seed of Hope for Africa
* Chinese Farmers Choked - On Pesticide
* Eco Sounding: Word Association
* Global Challenges & Directions for AgBiotech - Mapping the Course
* Brilliant Borlaug Rap - Getting the Message Out
* Genes, Trade, and Regulation: Seeds of Conflict
* Aussie Victoria Shoots Itself in the Foot
* Australia: Farmers Claim Govt 'betrayed' Them on GM
* .. States Should End GM Bans
* Time for a Decision on Growing GM Crops
* Lack of Sophistication in the 'GM' Definition
* Regarding Professor Traavik's science...
* Biosafety is Key to Transgenics...India
* You're Misguided
Tony Bair and other World Leaders, Scientists Pay Tribute to Norman Borlaug
- Press Release from the Norman Borlaug Institute for Training and Research in Plant Science (UK), March 24, 2004
Nobel Peace Prize winner and "Father of the Green Revolution" Norman Borlaug, will celebrate his 90th birthday on Thursday the 25th of March. "The passion that drives your life is an inspiration for all of us to follow. It has been an honor to collaborate with you. You are a true humanitarian and a dear friend." - Jimmy Carter, former US president.
"In recognition of your lifelong selfless devotion to the humanitarian cause of bringing the benefits of scientific discovery in food production to those most in need, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government and the British people, it is my great pleasure to wish you well on your 90th birthday. - The Rt Hon Tony Blair, Prime Minister, UK
"Norman Borlaug is the living embodiment of the human quest for a hunger free world. His life is his message." - Professor M.S. Swaminathan, UNESCO Cousteau Chair in Ecotechnology & Chairman of the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in India.
"Your unrivalled contribution to humanity was based upon your demonstration that plant genetics has a crucial role in enabling agricultural production to satisfy the world's demands for food. By He initiating the Green Revolution you pointed the way towards the EverGreen Revolution which must sustainably satisfy the need to triple food production during this millenium. The Norman Borlaug Institute is dedicated to your mission". - Professor Malcolm Elliott, Director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for Training and Research in Plant Science, based in Leicester, UK.
"You are one of the greatest humanitarians who ever lived. You have demonstrated, by your own efforts, the power of science to better the lives of people everywhere - especially in the developing world." - Professor C.S. Prakash, AgBioWorld Foundation President and Professor of Plant Genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama, USA.
Dr Borlaug will celebrate his birthday at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) near Mexico City where he has been based for most of his working life.
1. During the 1940s, Dr. Borlaug moved from the USA to Mexico to breed new wheat varieties under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation-Mexican Government cooperative program. The improved plants more than doubled the yields of their predecessors. Later, he moved to India, Pakistan, China, the Middle East, South American and Africa and had similar successes. The crop varieties and the improved farming practices he helped develop sparked what is known today as the "Green Revolution." These improvements are often credited with saving more than one billion lives. In 1970, Borlaug's humanitarian achievements were recognized by the Nobel Committee, which awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, despite his age, Borlaug still serves as a senior consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico and he is the Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. He is also President of the Sasakawa Africa Association, and, along with Jimmy Carter, he leads the Sasakawa-Global 2000 agricultural program which has worked with several million farmers in 15 countries of sub-Saharan Africa to increase food production.
2. Norman Borlaug articles, photos and web links are currently available at http://www.agbioworld.org 3. Further comments and information are available from The Norman Institute in the UK (http://www.nbipsr.org);
Professor Malcolm Elliott, FRSA, Director The Norman Borlaug Institute for Training and Research in Plant Science The Gateway Leicester, LE1 9BH UK;
Tel: 44 (0)116 2577715 (Office); Cellphone: 44 (0)7710 505868; Fax: 44 (0)116 2577752; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: http://www.nbipsr.org
Birthday Greetings to Borlaug from AgBioView Readers
I send you our warmest congratulations on being 90 years young today.
Your are a beacon of hope in a world that continues to suffer from poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Your unwavering belief in science and your advocacy of biotechnology, as a contributor to global food security, reflects your vision and humanitarian commitment to the people of the developing countries, where you have spent your life toiling in the wheat fields of Asia, Africa and Latin America, your home. Your mottoes have always been:
learning by doing; do as I do, not do as I say; and you have cautioned
that undue analysis leads to paralysis! Norm, the following verse
captures the spirit which has been your guiding light throughout your life and I feel honored to have had the privilege of working with you for a decade, as a companiero, at CIMMYT in Mexico in the 1980s. God bless y saludos
He cares, more than others think wise
He dreams, more than others think real
He risks, more than others think safe
And he expects, and normally gets, what others think impossible
Clive James, Chairman Board of Directors of ISAAA and former Deputy Director General CIMMYT
An Irish Toast for Norman Borlaug
Lá breithe sona duit! (A birthday of happiness to you!)
What a privilege it is to have known someone like you in my lifetime. I consider you and Jimmy Carter to be two of my greatest heros as you exemplify all that is noble in the human spirit.
I felt truly honored when you came up after our session at the Ministerial Conference last June and said that you wished you were 50 years younger so that you could be part of this incredible time in agricultural biotech research. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, biotech scientists are where they are today because they are standing upon the shoulders of giants. And I do not think that there are any broader shoulders in the field than yours!
'An Irish Toast for your Birthday'
Sláinte agus saol chugat. (Health and life to you) Go maire tú an céad agus bliain chun aithrí! (May you live to a hundred and a year for
May there be spring enough in your life
to outlast the winters;
May there be drums enough
to lift your spirits whenever you are down;
May you be gentle enough to comfort those who are hurting, But revolutionary enough to bring heaven to those who need it now.
May there always be Daoine Sidhe (good spirits) near you to bring out laughter and dance and the child in you.
And may God always have room enough for you in the palm of his hand.
Best wishes for another ninety years.
Dear Dr. Borlaug,
My name's George Mouratidis, and I'm a student of Environmental Engineering Dept. of the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece. My country's capability of producing excellent scientists since ancient times is only matched by its sceptic approach on most technological advances.
I will admit it was with the same scepticism that I faced the truly controversial topic of crop enhancement when it was assigned to me as the subject of my term essay.
I can now say, with a sense of great satisfaction, that I have realized the potential, both already used and untapped, lying in this aspect of science. And what is most inspiring about GE is that it really is a case of technology and science serving humanity, instead of simply increasing the profits of governments and corporations.
The Green Revolution was the spark that lit the fire of modern agricultural technology. A fire that burns bright and strong in every scientist, researcher and student trying to find ways to bring the end of the global wounds famine and starvation are. The same fire that we have witnessed in you, through your works, actions, lectures and scripts.
You have my thanks for passing on that fire, for cementing my belief that technology can and must be used as a lever to elevate humanity past its imposed by nature limits, to perfection, where it should be... and with that, I'd finally like to wish you a happy 90th birthday.
May you live long enough to taste the sweet fruit of the seed you have planted.
- George Mouratidis, Environmental Engineer, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece
Dear Dr. Borlaug,
It is a pleasure to be able to send a warm greeting on your 90th birthday. It is a honor to be able to say thank you for your tireless support of humanity, your goal of making this world a better place through science can only inspire us to continue to work so much harder.
Thank you for being so sensitively human.
Happy Birthday Dr. Borlaug!
- Barbara MacDonald, IMPACTT Teacher, Sunnyside High School, Tucson, Arizona,
Dear Dr. Borlaug,
I have a very similar story as that of Dr. Prakash. As I was growing up in India in the 70's, the green revolution had already left its mark there. Being a good student academically and with several accolades won, there was always hope in my well wishers that I would make it big in the field I chose to profess in.
Then I enrolled into the 'Botany and Seed Technology' program at the University of Mysore (my alma mater). When I won the Dr. Paul Neergard gold Medal in Seed Technology, many of my well wishers would say to me .."Follow in the footsteps of Dr. Borlaug!" ..That's the kind of effect he has left on many Indians.
I admit I am nowhere close to this great scientist, humanitarian and human being...but in my own way I am trying to do my best. I am involved, as a scientist, in "Biotechnology" research at one of the leading biotech companies in the world. In my role as a scientist, I am making plants that I feel, can rid hunger in the world, create a better environment for children, and cut down on pesticides!
We can all make this world a better place to live. I have also been involved in scientific outreach activities, both here and in India, to promote these strong feelings and educate the lay person.
To me, Dr. Borlaug is a great role model and the inspiration that his life brings is just awesome. Thanks!
- Shubha Subbarao (Ms.)
Dear Dr. Borlaug,
Happy Birthday, Best wishes on your Birthday from Kenya
Nakuombea Heri Na Baraka Za Mwenyezi Mungu,
Thank you for your convincing messages to scientists and Policy Makers from Africa during the biotechnology conference Des Moines October '03; ''Africa Can feed herself and improve nutritional quality of foods through Science/Biotechnology''
Hoping to meet you somewhere, where ever
-- Cecilia nzau, Nairobi.
Sir, I Pray Almighty to bestow you with best of Health, Long life and strength to eliminate hunger from the face of the Earth.
Happy Birthday & many, many, many Happy returns of the day!
- S.Govindarajan, Indian farmers fertiliser Cooperative, India.......Growing more per acre spares more acres for nature ........
I hope you have a wonderful celebration on the occasion of your 90th birthday.
You are testament to the long lives that have been made possible due to work of yourself and many others in the fields of agronomy and nutrition.
May you celebrate many more in good health.
- Cheers, Patrick Moore, Greenspirit
The world, US, Iowa will not forget your contribution to improvement in agriculture and for the peace.
- Bin Hu
Dear Dr. Borlaug,
I wanted to wish you the Happiest of Birthdays. I also wanted to let you know that I greatly enjoyed the seminar you gave this past semester, and that I will take the advice you gave to heart. Sincerely yours,
- Midhat Farooqi, Senior in Genetics, Texas A&M University
Ideals Nourish Creator of Green Revolution
- Cynthia Boyd, St. Paul, Pioneer Press Mar. 25, 2004
'U of M alumnus Norman Borlaug won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for developing grains that reversed food shortages in India and Pakistan. The U will mark his 90th birthday today.'
The good don't always die young.
Norman Borlaug, University of Minnesota alumnus and Nobel Peace Prize winner, a man who arguably has saved more lives than any other scientist in history, turns 90 today. The university is celebrating his life and work in wheat hybrids that launched the Green Revolution. He'll give the commencement address in May at the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences.
Not bad for a guy who failed his initial exam to get into the university in the 1930s. "I was pretty nervous,'' is how he explains it now, by phone from his office outside Mexico City. The university did admit him to General College and within a few quarters he showed himself a stellar student. He later earned his master's and Ph.D. in plant pathology from the university. He won't be on the Twin Cities campus today because the work that's taken him around the world isn't done.
Borlaug heads to Washington, D.C., this week to name the 2004 winner of the World Food Prize, an honor he helped establish, which is the food equivalent of the Nobel. Then he is off to Uganda where he will address a world conference on factors slowing the development of African countries. Already this year his crusade against hunger has taken him to Africa and Brazil.
"His work is life consuming," said Charles Muscoplat, dean of the university's College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science. Borlaug won the Nobel in 1970 for reversing food shortages in Pakistan and India. Millions lived because he helped develop a shorter, sturdier and more prolific wheat plant. Though acknowledging he was a leader in the effort, he credits also a "fraternity of international scientists" from many countries.
Borlaug sees increasing food production as the key not only to preventing starvation and eliminating poverty, but also the first step to providing better education, to increasing opportunities for women and to slowing population growth, Muscoplat said.
"Borlaug is about peace,'' he said. 'When people are starving, there is no peace.'' The roots of his obsession grow deep. This country boy grew up on a farm near Cresco, Iowa, in the shadow of the Great Depression. He remembers the hunger strikes, the unemployment, the hundreds asking for a nickel to buy bread, even in Minneapolis. "There was food all around, but nobody had any money," he said. "It's like Argentina now."
Today, Borlaug sees progress and problems. Ask him about his work and he answers in the manner of a professor addressing a full lecture hall or a man dictating his autobiography.
About 800 million people are undernourished or hungry at least sometimes, he said, but producing better plants is only part of the solution. In India, China and Pakistan, major improvements in food production have led to better standards of living, though equitable distribution of food still can be problematic in many places, he said.
Some contend Borlaug's efforts encourage overpopulation. Borlaug says experience shows that food and education lead to smaller families. In India, he said, there are 30 million to 60 million tons of grain in government storehouses because unemployed or underemployed people do not have the money to buy it.
"No matter how high the potential yield is and how disease-resistant, it cannot show its real potential productivity or yield unless the environment, the cultural practices under which it is grown are modified,'' Borlaug said. Scientists demonstrate high-yield crop production in government stations, then on small farms in each country.
Critics object to Borlaug's use of chemical fertilizers, advocating organic methods such as manure. Borlaug says "use all the organic fertilizes available,'' but soils often are so poor chemical fertilizers are necessary as well. "It's the technology that gains you respectability,'' as shown in China, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, he said.
But the infrastructure -- the roads and railways -- get the food to the people and lead to better standards of living. "Africa will never change until it has roads," Borlaug said. "A road soon brings schools. On that road, a beat-up old vehicle, a bus crosses cultural barriers, ethnic and religious and linguistic orders. This starts to change everything.''
Borlaug's mark on the university is deep; a building is named after him. Borlaug Hall on the University campus in Falcon Heights houses classrooms and research for agronomy and plant genetics, including soil, water and climate, and plant pathology departments.
Muscoplat says Borlaug has an encyclopedic command of details and facts regarding his crusade, dating to the 1960s in India and Pakistan, to China in 1974 and again in 2001 when Muscoplat was part of the delegation. Borlaug was 88 years old when Muscoplat accompanied him to China. Muscoplat and others wore blue jeans and sweatshirts for the long trip. Borlaug wore a hound's-tooth sports coat and tie. "He read and talked the whole flight," Muscoplat said. When they arrived in Beijing, most everyone went to their hotel. "Dr. Borlaug went to give a talk. He went to work.''
Borlaug cannot stop. Too many are living in poverty and misery on the brink of violence, he says. "Today the TV and radio let those people know the rest of the world is living in pretty good luxury, and they are stuck in poverty. This is a very fertile seedbed for extremism, for planting seeds of terror and violence. The affluent nations need to understand this."
Borlaug says he is "greatly indebted to the people of Minnesota, to the University of Minnesota that gave me a start and to many of my professors who have long since left us.''
BORLAUG BIRTHDAY. The University of Minnesota will celebrate the 90th birthday of Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug with a ceremony at 11 a.m. todayin Borlaug Hall, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, on the University Campus in Falcon Heights. Minnesota legislators are working to designate Oct. 16 as Dr. Norman Borlaug World Food Prize Day. For information on his life, check www.alumni.umn.edu.
Norman Borlaug Deserves His Day
- Doug Grow, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) March 25, 2004 http://www.startribune.com/stories/587/4684130.html
The Minnesota Senate is expected to agree unanimously this morning to make Oct. 16 a day to forevermore honor an international giant who has deep roots in the state. No, not Prince Day. The Senate will pass a bill that will make Oct. 16 Norman Borlaug World Food Prize Day. The House already has passed the bill.
This legislative action is something that all Minnesotans can agree on. But, if you're like me, Norman Borlaug is probably a name that's only vaguely imprinted on a few cells in the back of the mind.
Hmmmm, Borlaug. University of Minnesota? Something about wheat?
And that's precisely why a St. Paul child psychologist and stay-at-home dad, Don Henry, has spent the past few years working to raise the profile of Borlaug.
There are heroes among us who deserve to be at least as recognizable as Kevin Garnett. None of those heroes is mightier than Borlaug, who lettered in wrestling at the "U" in the 1930s and got his doctorate in plant pathology there in 1942.
After leaving, he taught at Texas A&M and he developed high-yield, disease-resistant strains of wheat, leading eventually to the hungry being fed in places such as India and Pakistan. Along the way, he received the Nobel Peace Prize (1970) and the National Academy of Science's prestigious Public Welfare Medal (2002). "Some credit him with saving more human lives than any other person in history," said Bruce Alberts, president of the Academy when presenting Borlaug with the medal.
Turn now to Henry. It's his belief that we should know more about this remarkable man. Henry has campaigned for the university to do more with Borlaug. He has lobbied to make sure that Borlaug's achievements are part of Minnesota's K-12 standards. He wrote the letter to Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, which led to the legislative action that should be completed this morning.
"Some people tell me I should get a life," Henry said of his one-man public relations/lobbying operation. Henry, 60, admits that as a kid growing up in Cresco, Iowa, just south of the Minnesota border, his heroes were members of the University of Iowa football team. But he also had a knowledge of Borlaug, who had grown up in the same community and is a distant relative. "We always knew he was somebody who had gone off and done OK," Henry said.
Henry was a grad student at the University of Minnesota when the announcement was made that Borlaug had won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was thrilled, of course. But it wasn't until he attended a ceremony in Des Moines three years ago that Henry took up Borlaug as a cause. The ceremony was to mark the opening of the World Food Prize Foundation, founded by Borlaug. (The organization annually recognizes individuals who have helped humanity by improving the quantity and quality of food.)
At this opening, there were speeches, music and poetry all honoring Borlaug. It also was announced that Oct. 16, which is World Food Day, forever be known as Norman Borlaug World Food Prize Day in Iowa. "Finally, it was his turn to talk," Henry said. "He gets up and starts talking about University of Minnesota wrestling. It's amazing how loyal he is to wrestling and the University of Minnesota. After he was done, the master of ceremonies turns to him and says, 'Norm, only you could get a roomful of Iowans to applaud Minnesota wrestling.' "
Henry came home from that event with a couple of thoughts. First, despite the huge accomplishments in Borlaug's life, he's just a guy, considered a friend by people ranging from former President Jimmy Carter to Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson. Second, it would be tragic if Borlaug was allowed to fade into Minnesota oblivion.
Henry went to work, doing things such as writing letters to the Star Tribune. For example, in 2002 when Borlaug visited the Twin Cities to see an Iowa-Minnesota wrestling match and address some students there was huge media attention about the big wrestling match. Borlaug's visit was overlooked.
"How can this be?" Henry wrote in a letter to the paper. "How can Minnesotans not know? The story should be told -- again and again -- with no concern that it will ever become old news."
It was, he said, at the urging of the university that he wrote to Anderson to push for a Borlaug Day. "I'd vaguely heard of Borlaug," Anderson said. "But I'm pretty far out on the issue [of genetically altered food], so I had a few doubts. But my staff did some research very quickly. It was pretty clear that this man's a hero."
She pushed the cause started by Henry. Even Minnesota pols couldn't fight over this. Come Oct. 16, Minnesota should be celebrating Borlaug Day. It should be noted that Borlaug, who is in Africa trying to help find ways to feed the hungry, has no idea that Henry has been doing this work. "I'm sure he has little need for more recognition," Henry said. "But the fact is, he deserves it; the university deserves it and his cause deserves it."
Work remains to be done in raising Borlaug's profile. Henry recently contacted staff members of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum to tell them about the action the Minnesota Legislature is about to take.
What did the staffers think of Borlaug Day? "They'd never heard of him," Henry said.
Doug Grow is at email@example.com
A Seed of Hope for Africa
- Don Melvin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 3, 2004
'Altered corn feeds a revolution in Ghana, with assistance from the Carter Center'.
Sekyedumase, Ghana -- With the help of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, an agricultural revolution has swept over much of the West African nation of Ghana and attracted the attention of other countries in the region and beyond.
Powerful forces like AIDS and war often hinder the efforts of Africans to escape poverty and illness. But those forces are held in check in some small measure by the seed that has taken root in Ghana - an altered form of corn known here as obatanpa, or "good nursing mother."
Scientists call it by a more prosaic name -- quality protein maize. It is like normal corn in all respects but two: It yields more corn per acre and it contains better protein. The higher yield is important in a country where 60 percent of the workers are small farmers. The better protein is critical in a country where corn porridge is used to wean babies from their mothers' breasts.
The details of proteins can sound technical, but there is nothing "technical" about the effects Nana Akosua has seen in her children. The family lives in the village of Sekyedumase, about 200 northwest of Accra, the capital.
Healthy Children. Akosua's oldest child, a boy named Augustine, was born before obatanpa was introduced to the village and before the government began a program to teach mothers about infant nutrition. When he was 2 months old, Akosua started adding koko, a corn porridge, to Augustine's diet of breast milk. Unbeknownst to her, normal corn has very low amounts of lysine and tryptophan, two amino acids essential to human life. Augustine often suffered from diarrhea and fever. By the time Akosua gave birth to her second child, Phyllis, the village had switched to obatanpa, which has been bred to have much higher quantities of those two amino acids, making its protein more complete. Akosua fed Phyllis exclusively on breast milk for six months, as she was taught. When she weaned the baby, she used koko made with obatanpa.
Today, Augustine is 13 years old. Phyllis is 10. They are virtually the same height. And that's not all. "The girl is very clever," Akosua said proudly. "She is the first in her class." One of her classmates is Augustine, who has been held back twice in his grade. Anomalies happen, but Akosua says she knows why her children turned out differently. "I think it is because of the diets," she said.
Ten years ago, about half the children in this district were malnourished, said Abenaa Akuamoa-Boateng, a regional nutrition officer for the Ghana Health Service. By last year, the rate had dropped to 8.7 percent.
The reduction in malnutrition coincides precisely with the period of time that the Carter Center, headed by former President Jimmy Carter, worked to introduce quality protein maize in the region. The center worked in partnership with the Sasakawa Africa Association, led by agronomist Norman Borlaug, who helped alleviate food shortages in India and Pakistan in the 1960s with high-yield agricultural techniques.
Long time coming. Scientists began developing quality protein maize from a strain of Andean corn found in the 1960s to have higher-than-normal levels of lysine and tryptophan. But it was difficult to get a variety that tasted as good as normal corn, or resisted disease as well, or offered as high a yield, or had appealing color and consistency.
The work was shelved for a while, as critics scoffed that feeding a child an egg a day was a simpler solution to inadequate protein. But other experts said that advice was of little use where families could not afford an egg a day. It was revived in the 1980s, particularly in Ghana, where, with help from the Carter Center and the Sasakawa association, local experts developed a quality protein strain that matched traditional corn in taste, texture and color.
"It's equal to mother's milk," Carter said. "It's a complete food." And the yield is 50 percent higher than for normal corn. The economic benefits can be seen in the village of Enyinase, 10 miles east of the city of Cape Coast.
"Our standard of living has changed," said Seth Apecu, the secretary of a farm group there. "Since obatanpa, I have been able to put up a mansion. In this village, everybody who is cultivating obatanpa has put up a new building."
The work in Ghana is now sufficiently supported by the Ghanaian government and local enterprise that the Carter-Sasakawa partnership ended its program there on Dec. 31. But the partnership, known as SG2000, continues with its programs elsewhere on the continent, said Wayne Haag, an SG2000 official.
"We've taken seed products from Ghana and introduced them in other countries throughout Africa," Carter said.
Chinese Farmers Choked - On Pesticide
- Dr David J. Bennett. Financial Times (UK), Letters To The Editor: Mar 22, 2004
Sir, Railing against government, campaign groups and companies in the genetically modified crop debacle (née debate), John Kay concludes: "May biodiversity choke them all." ("A rich crop of cynicism, greed and mistrust", March 17.) Let him choke, as thousands of Chinese farmers did, hundreds of whom died annually from pesticide spraying before the introduction of Bt cotton.
Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop worldwide, mainly because of bollworm attack, and China uses more pesticide than any other country. Bt cotton has reduced the pesticide needed by about two-thirds and hence farmer poisonings similarly, and increased cotton yield and biodiversity of insects. Cotton farmers and users are the big financial winners, the royalties of Monsanto and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences are tiny by comparison and the huge losers are the pesticide companies. All th is is very well documented. -- David J. Bennett, Acting General Secretary, European Federation of Biotechnology, NL-2611 CD Delft, The Netherlands
Eco Sounding: Word Association
- John Vidal, The Guardian, March 24, 2004 http://society.guardian.co.uk/environment/story/0,14124,1176046,00.html
Ex-environment minister Michael Meacher should not count on the friendship of Alan Michael, chief exec of the Institute of Biology. "What is the word for someone who opposes the application of new technology for use by others who might benefit, when he/she has no practical interest one way or another?" asks Michael on the pro-GM website Agbioview. Answer? A "meacherite or one who meaches". Ho ho ho
Global Challenges and Directions for Agricultural Biotechnology - Mapping the Course
- Washington, DC, May 13-14, 2004; National Academy of Sciences, USA
The National Academies' Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology, Health, and the Environment (CABHE) and an ad hoc Steering Committee on Global Challenges and Directions for Agricultural Biotechnology are hosting a workshop in Washington, DC on May 13 and 14, 2004 first to identify important global problems, and then to discuss the possible use of agricultural biotechnology as one of many tools for easing these problems. Experts focusing on challenges that society faces now or will face in the future will be brought together with biotechnologists, other scientists, and stakeholders to address the following questions:
1) What are the most important global problems facing society (focusing on such long-term goals as preserving biodiversity, conserving natural resources, achieving food security, and improving the health of populations)?
2) Can the use of agricultural biotechnology, as one of many tools, help provide solutions to these problems? and if so,
3) What are the scientific risks and socioeconomic issues associated with its use that need to be considered?
Contributions from people in developing countries will form the cornerstone of the workshop agenda. Prior to the workshop, this electronic forum will be used as one of several mechanisms to reach stakeholders and experts who do not typically have direct input into National Academies activities, particularly those close to agriculture in developing countries. Diverse applications of agricultural biotechnology involving transgenic plants, terrestrial and aquatic animals, insects, and microorganisms will be considered. Primary goals of the workshop are to identify policy issues and to explore research and directions for the safe use of agricultural biotechnology in addressing current and future global problems.
The National Academies' Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources welcomes you to provide feedback on any or all of these questions. This feedback will be used as input to help shape the agenda and content of our public workshop. To respond to a question online, please click here and follow the instructions provided. Although your input will become public information available via the Federal Advisory Committee Act, it will not be viewable by other visitors to this Web site. For more information on this project, please click here.
For more information, please contact:
Michael Kisielewski, Research Assistant, or Kim Waddell, Senior Program Officer Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, The National Academies, 500 Fifth St, NW, Washington, DC 20001, Ph. 202-334-3062; Fax. 202-334-1978
Submit your comments via form at http://dels.nas.edu/global_challenges/
Feedback on Borlaug Rap
- From Joseph Houseal
Ha Ha!! Brilliant! The best thing in the track is Rohan. Wow!
Interesting how this exercise truly shows what a communicative medium Rap is. Think of the ways to get a message out, and how many people will listen to this that won't listen to another professional appraisal of NORMAN.
You must be a proud father of such a talented child. Pleased too to see the fusion of generations and skills! Thank you so much for sending this to me. Hello to Rohan, and FYI, the piece played just fine on my computer.
I also think it is so wonderful to let people know before they die how much they are appreciated. This is good karma, for all you Hindus out there..
"Genes, Trade, and Regulation: The Seeds of Conflict in Food Biotechnology" by Thomas Bernauer
Agricultural (or "green") biotechnology is a source of growing tensions in the global trading system, particularly between the United States and the European Union. Genetically modified food faces an uncertain future. The technology behind it might revolutionize food production around the world. Or it might follow the example of nuclear energy, which declined from a symbol of socioeconomic progress to become one of the most unpopular and uneconomical innovations in history.
This book provides novel and thought-provoking insights into the fundamental policy issues involved in agricultural biotechnology. Thomas Bernauer explains global regulatory polarization and trade conflict in this area. He then evaluates cooperative and unilateral policy tools for coping with trade tensions. Arguing that the tools used thus far have been and will continue to be ineffective, he concludes that the risk of a full-blown trade conflict is high and may lead to reduced investment and the decline of the technology. Bernauer concludes with suggestions for policy reforms to halt this trajectory--recommendations that strike a sensible balance between public-safety concerns and private economic freedom--so that food biotechnology is given a fair chance to prove its environmental, health, humanitarian, and economic benefits.
This book will equip companies, farmers, regulators, NGOs, academics, students, and the interested public--including both advocates and critics of green biotechnology--with a deeper understanding of the political, economic, and societal factors shaping the future of one of the most revolutionary technologies of our times.
Australia: Farmers Claim Govt 'betrayed' Them on GM Stance
- ABC Online, http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1073910.htm
The Victorian Farmers Federation says it has been betrayed by the State Government's stance on genetically modified canola. The Government will ban commercial planting of GM crops for another four years.
Premier Steve Bracks says new legislation will ban commercial GM crops until 2008 to protect Victoria's grain and dairy exports. "We've got something like $3.5 billion of exports of dairy products, of grain products which are going out every year," he said.
But an Independent report, commissioned by the Government and released today, says there is little or no evidence market access would be affected if GM crops were planted commercially.
Paul Weller from the Victorian Farmers Federation says he feels betrayed. "I'm a dairy farmer myself and if the company that I sell to don't want me to feed GM canola meal, I won't feed my cows GM canola meal. It's as simple as that," he said.
But Bob Phelps from the Gene Ethics Network says the Government should be congratulated. "We're elated and we welcome the Bracks announcement of the four-year ban on genetically modified crops in Victoria," Mr Phelps said.
Australia: States Should End GM Canola Bans
- Editorial, The Australian, March 23, 2004 (Sent by David Tribe)
Yesterday's announcement by West Australian Premier Geoff Gallop that his state would be "legally declared a GM-free area" in order to preserve its "clean and green" status was a piece of empty populism. And it will be a great pity if state governments in Victoria and NSW, which are due this week to reconsider their own bans on genetically modified canola, follow suit and we end up with a GM paranoia bidding war. The canola being grown in Western Australia right now has been specifically bred to be resistant to several herbicides, including Atrazine, which recently was banned in Europe due to environmental concerns. So much for "clean and green".
GM canola has been successfully grown in Canada since 1996. It offers better weed control with less chemicals, and higher yields. Last July, the Gene Technology Regulator in Australia, Sue Meek, approved GM canola as Australia's first GM food crop. Its benefits are expected to add about $135million in value each year to the local industry. But in a pattern we have seen repeated in Australia over recent decades, the environmental groups that pushed for a strict regulatory regime promptly backed away from it when they did not like the regulator's decision. They then proceeded to put the heat on the state Labor governments. Spooked by the prospect of losing marginal seats to a GM-inspired fear campaign, all of the states apart from Queensland slapped moratoriums of varying lengths on GM canola crop trials.
GM cotton is grown commercially in Australia, and is currently being trialled in the Kimberley by - wait for it - the West Australian Agriculture Department. Australians are eating margarine and cooking oil made from the seeds of this cotton, without ill-effect. In fact, despite the disinformation campaign being waged by GM's opponents - who are multinational, well resourced and unscrupulous - there has not yet been a single documented case of serious ill-health resulting from food containing GM ingredients.
Australia has the most stringent GM regulations, and the strictest labelling laws, in the world. Our state governments invest millions in biotechnology research, then promptly stymie its practical applications without a shred of genuine scientific evidence to justify their actions.
Instead of pandering to the politics of fear, it is time to let informed consumers decide on GM foods.
Time for a Decision on Growing GM Crops
- The Age (Melbourne), March 22, 2004
Victoria should not extend the moratorium on genetically modified canola.
Last July, gene technology researcher and president of the Australian Academy of Science, Jim Peacock, gave a speech in which he accused state governments of hypocrisy for on the one hand claiming to be champions of biotechnology and on the other preventing the commercial harvest of genetically modified foods. Dr Peacock went on to say that at least 30 billion meals containing GM crops had been eaten around the world over the past six years with no adverse effects on human health or the environment yet reported.
Dr Peacock's remarks have particular relevance now as the Victorian Government considers whether to extend its 12-month moratorium on GM crops, which ends on May 8. Agricultural chemical companies Monsanto and Bayer have applied to grow GM canola in this state and are waiting on a decision. The Victorian Farmers Federation and environmental groups are also keen for the Government to reach a verdict.
The Age believes the Government should allow the GM canola to be grown despite the discontent this will cause among green lobbyists and its own backbench. Last July, Australian Gene Technology Regulator Sue Meek ruled that Bayer's InVigor hybrid canola was as safe for humans and the environment as non-GM canola; it became the first GM food crop to be approved in Australia. Five month's later, Dr Meek ruled that Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola "will not pose a risk to human health and safety or the environment". Farmers opposed to GM crops are concerned about its likely impact on farm exports. Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron has a report on what this impact is expected to be; he should release it.
Last year the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics released a report predicting sales of non-GM grain crops would not be harmed if GM grain were cultivated in Australia. Eighty-five per cent of the canola grown in Canada is genetically modified but this has not affected export sales of other Canadian grains.
GM canola, sugarcane, barley and wheat, grapes and Indian mustard have been grown experimentally in this country for more than a decade, while non-food GM crops - cotton and blue carnations - are grown commercially. At the same time, some GM foods such as soya beans, corn, potato and canola are already imported and used in Australia.
Those who oppose GM crops on political, environmental or health grounds remain free to exercise their power of choice in the marketplace. But in order to do this, information about the extent of GM products should be freely available. If livestock is fed GM feed, for example, consumers have a right to know; if takeaway chips are fried in GM canola, they have a right to know that too. Advocates of GM food insist consumers have nothing to fear from their products: logically this means that they should not oppose full disclosure of the extent of GM products in the foods we eat.
Lack of Sophistication in the Definition of "GM"
- Andrew Apel
I completely agree with Nina Federoff's claim that it is difficult to define what "GM" is and I would offer a different definition, at least for purposes of discussion. Given that the concerns of technophobes and the claims for antique agriculture made by the organic contingent drive much of the debate, the term "GM" might be better be defined as any crop improvement technology developed after a certain date. A strong argument in favor of an historical definition of what constitutes "GM" is the Precautionary Principle, the application of which is, in practice, triggered by novelty.
Consider the plight of Phytodyne, a company based in Iowa, USA which has developed "gene editing" technology. Since the technology only edits what's already in the genome, the company is so sure that the process is non-GM that it believes novel crops developed with this technology could reach the market in as little as two years, compared to the many years it takes to get approval for "GM" crops. Doubtless this technology will be regarded by the antis as "GM" nonetheless.
The definition offered would not be helpful for Phytodyne, but it might prove nonetheless descriptive for what may happen to this company and its fledgling technology. Watching what happens with Phytodyne may prove instructive.
The problem with the historical definition of "GM" is its relative lack of sophistication, but I think it's nonetheless quite descriptive--which is what a good definition should do, at least in part.
Regarding Professor Traavik's science....
- Sivramiah Shantharam
At this stage, I really do not care if Prof. Traavik did not go through established peer review process for publishing his findings, instead chose to announce it at a non-scientific meeting where his findings might not have undergone the kind of scrutiny otherwise.
But, time is right now for Professor Traavik to announce his complete findings on any web site. The world needs to see his complete data and methodology used to arrive at his "own" conclusions. That will also allow the world scientific community draw its own conclusions. No amount of his justifications and explanations will ever convince the scientific community of the veracity of his conclusions unless they see what he has got. Seeing is believing!
Professor Traavik, do it for the good of scientific progress.
India: Biosafety will be Key to Transgenic Crops, Claims ICAR
- Ashok B Sharma, Financial Express, March 2, 2004 (Forwarded by Shantu Sharma" )
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has attempted to clear the apprehensions of hazards associated with the application of transgenic technology on crops. It has said that all domesticated crops and animals have been subjected to varying degrees of genetic modifications in the past. Though the potential danger associated with transgenic crops is small, valid biosafety concerns must be properly addressed.
The Union agriculture minister, Rajnath Singh had earlier said that he was in favour of only those transgenic crops which are compatable with nature. In the same breath the Union minister of state for agriculture, Hukamdeo Narayan Yadav had instructed the scientist "to take care in developing transgenics so that the inherent qualities of the crop in question endowed by nature is not changed in the process." In this this context the ICAR director-general, Dr Mangla Rai though did not like to directly comment on the two ministers, but assured that the transgenic crops developed and cleared in the country will be safe with appropriate biosafety measures put in place.
Speaking to FE, Dr Rai said, "there has been much debate about the potential benefits and risks that may result from use of genetically modified or transgenic crops. From a scientific perspective, all domesticated crops and animals have been subjected to varying degrees of genetic modification. During the last century, plant and animal breeders expanded the tools of genetic manipulation beyond conventional crossbreeding to use a variety of other breeding techniques, including wide hybridisation, embryo rescue, protoplast fusion, somaclonal selection and mutation breeding. These techniques allow no precise control at the genome level; rather, they allow multiple genes to transfer, and require years of backcrossing to remove unwanted effects."
He further said "despite the parallels between selective breeding and transgenic research, we cannot afford to ignore the importance of proper risk assessment and environmental and biosafety regulations with respect to transgenic crops. Although the balance of scientific opinion holds that the potential danger associated with transgenic crops is small, valid biosafety concerns must be properly addressed. The fast-paced and ever-changing nature of research and product development presents a moving target for biosafety regulators, research managers, scientists and the public. Therefore, there is a definite need for a dynamic and well-balanced regulatory system."
Dr Rai said that ICAR has launched a national network on research and development of transgenics involving 20 public sector research institutes for developing 14 transgenic crops, which are now in different stages of development. "The transgenic programme in India has so far been heavily dependant on borrowed genes, promoters and gene constructs. We are aimimg to develop these products indegenously and also develop marker-free transgenics."
He also stressed the need for public-private sector collaboration in developing transgenics as a range of 18 transgenics are being developed by private sector in the country.
- Steve Dube, Western Mail, 23 March 2004
Opponents of genetically modified crops have been branded misguided fundamentalists by one of the European Parliament's leading members. Caroline Jackson, the Conservative Euro-MP for South-West England, who chairs the EU environment, consumer protection and public health committee, said they were choosing the wrong target.
'I'm more worried about imported bugs than GM food,' said Dr Jackson. 'Making GM a target is misguided fundamentalism.'
Dr Brian John, spokesman for GM Free Cymru, said no one had shown that GM food was safe to eat. 'Have they learned nothing at all from BSE and CJD?'
Dr Jackson's 60-member committee is one of the main bodies involved in negotiating the final form of EU legislation on GM crops and in an exclusive interview in Brussels last week she insisted that they offered great benefits.
'There is a problem with organic farmers, who are not very many anyway, who might have to take it on the chin and accept that some of their organic crops may contain some GM material,' she said. 'But once GM crops are allowed to be grown in Britain the whole problem will just go away.'
Asked whether she was satisfied that GM crops had been tested for any possible effects on human health, Dr Jackson said no tests had been done to see if custard was safe to eat. She went on, 'Two billion Chinese (sic) are taking part in such an experiment.
'There is no evidence of any danger to human health from America or China where GM crops are being grown and entering the food chain. 'GM food and crops are more tested than any other natural food on the market. It's been tested in the laboratory and we have the human experiments being carried out by the fact that people are eating it.
'Everybody is probably eating GM food now. Up to 1% under existing EU legislation can be GM. We're eating irradiated food and GM food and I'm sure that if there was the slightest danger we would know about it. 'There is more danger to human health from eating too much sugar.'
Dr Jackson, who has been a member of the EU environment committee since becoming a Euro-MP in 1984, and has been chairman since 1999, said she was much more worried about food safety from the open frontiers of Europe, particularly when the border moves to Russia in May.
GM Free Cymru spokesman Dr Brian John said he disagreed with almost everything that Dr Jackson had said. 'The science of GM is corrupt from top to bottom, and this sort of nonsense is typical of the way some politicians put their spin on it.' He said GM crops offered no benefits. They did not reduce herbicide use or increase yields, and would do nothing to solve the problems of world hunger.
Instead, 97% of current GM varieties were designed simply to resist proprietary brands of herbicide and pesticide. 'In other words, they are designed to enable the GM multinationals simply to sell seed and chemicals in a single package, thereby guaranteeing vast profits,' he said. 'And if the GM industry is so convinced that its products are utterly harmless, why do they not simply accept full liability with good grace?'
He said Dr Jackson was adopting the GM industry's own tactic of deliberate misinformation by saying that people were eating GM food without any effects, whether they knew it or not. 'There has not been a single epidemiological study on the effect on the human body of eating GM food,' he said.
'There has not been a single study of the effect on the body tissue of ruminants fed continuously on Chardon LL fodder maize. 'And every time a study comes up with something that should be followed up, such as the one involving the dead broiler chickens, or the 12 dead dairy cows in Germany, or the Newcastle feeding study when people were fed on a single soya meal, or the Arpad Pusztai study of rats fed on GM potatoes, the scientific establishment tries to shoot the messenger and makes sure that nobody repeats or develops the experiments.'
EU Conservative group leader and Wales Euro-MP Jonathan Evans said Dr Jackson was not reflecting official party policy.
He said, 'We are in favour of more testing because the Government's tests were flawed.'
'No one has commissioned research into the effects of GM foods on human health':Gm Free Cymru has called on UK Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett to set up an internal inquiry into her department's civil servants.
The group has accused them of complacency and disdain for the public interest. It claims Defra's GM Unit manipulated scientific evidence on Chardon LL maize in order to support the Government's case for GM commercialisation.
The group charges Defra with allowing the Chardon LL farm-scale trials to proceed despite knowing that the science was defective and the research design biased towards a decision in favour of the GM variety. It also says that no one has commissioned research into the effects of GM foods on human health, or the physiological effects of feeding Chardon LL maize over a period of months or years to cattle.
'All of the studies that have been conducted with GM maize have been designed simply to establish compositional and nutritional equivalence, and they have carefully avoided any investigation of the possible transfer of GM material into animal tissue and the effects that might follow,' said spokesman Dr Brian John. 'There is now abundant evidence that transgenic DNA from GM food does fragment and transfer into animal and human cells, and that physiological effects follow. We want to know whether these effects are important or insignificant.'.