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Date:

April 4, 2004

Subject:

Angola's state-managed food crisis; Food Aid Fears not about GM ; Vic farmers protest against GM bans; PROVE CLAIMS, SCIENTISTS DARE ANTI-GMO ACTIVIST

 

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - April 5, 2004:

* Angola's state-managed food crisis
* AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS WITH GM FOOD
* Food Aid Fears not about GM
* India Approves More Bt Cotton
* Vic farmers protest against GM bans
* Rethink GM crops ban
* Without a genetic fix, the banana may be history
* SURVEY REPORTS GM COTTON BENEFITS INDIAN FARMERS
* EUROPABIO WELCOMES DECLARATION FOR BIOTECH
* Human cost of MMR scare
* PROVE CLAIMS, SCIENTISTS DARE ANTI-GMO ACTIVIST
* LOCAL SAVANTS DARE GMO ACTIVIST TO SHOW CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE
* INT'L SCIENTISTS CRITICIZE ANTI-GMO CAMPAIGN

http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20040404-100410-4823r.htm

Angola's state-managed food crisis

- Washington Times Editorial, April 05, 2004

The blame for Angola's food shortages can be squarely placed on the country's government. Luanda decided last month to ban the import of genetically modified food, following in the footsteps of four Southern African nations. That decision had the effect of blocking the shipment of 19,000 tons of corn from the United States. Under the government's ban, genetically modified grain may be imported only if it has been milled first, which would prevent the material from germinating in the soil. The government, though, provided no lead time to allow for milling. As a result of this and other factors, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) starting Thursday had to cut its rations to 1.9 million Angolans by 50 percent.

The government's decision to ban genetically modified food compounds a global reticence to aid the Angolan government, due to disappearing oil revenue. Human Rights Watch said in January that from 1997 to 2002 alone, $4.2 billion in oil money — one-fourth of the total — was unaccounted for. Due to falling funds, the WFP was already planning to cut food handouts by 30 percent.

Almost half of Angola's children suffer from malnutrition. Angola's chronic food shortages, though, frame part of an underlying concern — how can developed nations best aid poor ones without creating dependency or other problems? This question is particularly relevant to Angola, given the widespread corruption and extensive oil reserves. U.S. officials are aware that food aid is a humanitarian remedy that has its own consequences. It is not a development tool.

Dealing with a regime that needlessly denies people the food aid they depend on is clearly a challenge for the United States and other countries. For now, the most coherent response would appear to be using aid as leverage to induce the government to change its behavior. In the absence of that, the focus should be on providing humanitarian assistance to the Angolan people.
*************************************

Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2004 16:28:09 +0100 (BST)
From: "balopi kebapetswe"
Subject: AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS WITH GM FOOD.

I am an African young man who is currently in his biological degree course with hope that one day I will also be a biotechnologist so that I will take part in rescuing my continent from the scourge of hunger.

However, I was deeply hurt to hear that some leaders in this continent are banning the use of GM Food in their countries while their people are perishing from hunger.

To me this ability of food production (GM Food) is a major gift from GOD to help his people from their biggest enemy -- HUNGER. But banning them is not a wise step.

Anyway, I would like to encourage African Scientists to work hard day and night in order to convince our leaders on how safe and helpful is the GM Food. Otherwise there Will be no Africa tomorrow because hunger is finishing us.
*******************************

rom: "Muffy"
Subject: Food Aid Fears not about GM
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2004 22:17:12 +0200

One of the facts often overlooked in the food aid controversy in Southern Africa is that food aid is the same food these countries import officially every year for feed and food processing. Most Southern African countries are net importers of food. Commodity grain is obtained from the region and from international trade. Both sources contain GM maize and the populations of the region have been consumers of GM crops for the last 5 to 6 years.

So the real issue is not about GM, it is about politics. More specifically it seems to be about opposition to dominance and control through food aid.

Perhaps if the WFP got to the bottom of this, governments could be more open about their political concerns and more conscientious about not misinforming their electorate.

Muffy Koch
Golden Genomics cc
South Africa
muffykoch@telkomsa.net
******************************

Subject: RE: India Approves More Bt Cotton
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2004 19:18:51 -0800
From: "Sivramiah Shantharam"

Good News! and Bad News?

India approves the fourth line of Bt cotton for commercialization (AP 4/2/04). I understand that the RCH2Bt is a much superior hybrid than the first three Bt lines. That should be a boon to cotton growers. Hope more would follow.

The Associated Press release quotes an official of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) who it seems to have said that it is not the Government of India's policy is not to allow biotechnology in food crops, but only in cotton and other forms of non-food crops. Just last month, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) rolled out an ambitious plan to develop transgenics in a dozen food and horticultural crops with direct financial support from the Planning Commission of India, and the scientists of ICAR are all excited about the opportunity to develop those transgenics and have drawn up an ambitious plan to get their hands wet in it. If according to MoEF official that grants approval of commercialization of transgenics, the policy is not to allow biotechnology in food crops, then it is puzzling as to how ICAR can invest so much of resources and time to develop transgenics in food crops, and equally how the Department of Biotechnology can continue to support millions of dollars on R&D to develop transgenics in food crops.

This is rather confusing and sends wrong signals to the world and private investors in the technology.

I hope that the MoEF official has not been quoted wrongly or out of context by AP. But, it is time that a proper agricultural biotech policy is framed so that the people of India know clearly whether or not their Government is fully behind modern biotechnology.

- Shanthu Shantharam, Biologistics International, Ellicott City, MD.
***********************************

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1081458.htm

Vic farmers protest against GM bans

- ABC News Online (Australia), April 5, 2004

Farmers and scientists are accusing the Victorian Government of stunting the growth of farming and biotechnology research by continuing to ban commercial planting of genetically modified (GM) canola.

A small group has gathered at Parliament House in Melbourne to present a letter of protest against the four year moratorium on GM trials.

The Government maintains the move will protect the state's grain and dairy exports as a number of international markets are wary of GM products.

However Melbourne University's biotechnology coordinator Dr David Tribe says the Government has not fully considered the implications of its decision.
****************************************

http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,9187505%255E24218,00.html


Rethink GM crops ban

- The Herald Sun, 05 apr 04

THE decision by the Victorian Government to prolong its ban on genetically modified canola crops needs to be reconsidered.

Premier Steve Bracks' announcement to increase the one-year moratorium to four years caught many observers by surprise.

Not least his own ministers, scientific experts, farmers and the bio-technology industry who recognised that planting trials can be conducted safely.

Indeed, two reports commissioned by the State Government recommended that trials should go ahead.

Nobel laureate Peter Doherty and former CSIRO head Adrienne Clarke acknowledge the reason and benefits of GM canola.

It is increasingly obvious that the green movement's arguments against GM canola fail to carry any scientific weight.

Even so, the New South Wales Government has defied scientific opinion too, by ruling out a 3000ha test of GM canola for another year.

In Victoria, the Bracks Government can no longer fly in the face of mounting evidence backing trials. It must now rethink its ban or risk sinking the state's claims as a world leader in bio-technology.
************************************

http://dels.nas.edu/global_challenges/

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?

More info at: http://dels.nas.edu/global_challenges/
*****************************

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/04/05/BUGF75VU791.DTL


Without a genetic fix, the banana may be history

- San Francisco Chronicle, By David Ewing Duncan, April 5, 2004

With his red, Abe Lincoln beard, round face and large hands, plant pathologist Emile Frison is talking bananas to me in Southern France. Not just any bananas -- genetically modified bananas, a type of genetically modified organism, or GMO.

A GMO is any creature or plant bioengineered by scientists -- say by inserting a new gene from another organism or by creating and inserting an artificial gene that doesn't appear in nature.

For bananas and other crops, these bio-adjustments are designed to increase yields, improve a plant's defenses against pests or allow crops to thrive under poor conditions.

Environmentalists and other lovers of the organic oppose genetically modified foods as unnatural, often less tasty than the original and possibly dangerous. Most Americans, however, don't seem too upset about eating bioengineered corn flakes and tortillas. Last year in the United States, genetically modified soybeans accounted for more than 50 percent of total yields; GMO corn accounted for almost 40 percent.

In Europe, the opposition is more potent. Polls show that only 1 in 4 Europeans favors genetically modified foods. On the other hand, this same poll says that Europeans by a slim majority support research into genetically modifying humans. This situation is almost the exact reverse of how Americans feel.

Anti-GMO furor in Europe is frustrating to the Belgium-born Frison, who was introduced to me along with his banana work by San Francisco filmmaker Xandra Castleton.

Frison definitely does not work for Monsanto or other food giants. After earning his doctorate in Belgium, he worked for years in West Africa on development projects to help small-scale farmers improve their staple crops.

In 1995, he became the director of the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain, a nonprofit consortium of small-scale banana growers in 100 countries.

Late last year, he was promoted to director general of the association's parent organization, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, an independent group funded mostly by government and foundation grants.

Leading me into a steamy greenhouse outside Montpelier filled with leafy banana trees, Frison explains that bananas and plantains are in trouble. Imperiled by pests that they cannot fend off, they need a genetic fix. Otherwise, many varieties may one day become extinct.

The problem is that bananas have not had sex for 10,000 years. Edible bananas are mutants with three sets of chromosomes instead of the two found in wild bananas, causing the edibles to be seedless and therefore sterile.

Without seeds, the edibles cannot reproduce -- something discovered by Stone Age foragers, probably in Papua New Guinea, some 5,500 years before the pharaoh Cheops built the largest of the Giza pyramids. Since then, the banana has spread around the world, every plant grown by replanting shoots that sprout from the base of mature stalks. Most banana plants come from the original trees of 10,000 years ago.

With its DNA frozen in time, the hapless banana has not been able to modify itself genetically through natural selection to fend off pests and bugs that have appeared in the past 1,000 centuries. The most serious threat comes from black sigatoka, a fungus that has spread around the world since devastating plantains in Fiji during the '60s.

Other blights are Panama disease, a soil fungus impervious to fungicides, and weevil borers, a pincer-tipped bug with larvae that gouge burrows into stalks.

We westerners love bananas, but we won't go hungry if they disappear. They taste good in daiquiris and smashed into a baby's mush. The most profitable export fruit in the world, bananas earn $12 billion for Chiquita, Dole and other companies growing crops in South America and Africa.

For the poor in developing nations, however -- more than 400 million people, from Honduras and Cuba to Uganda, Ethiopia and the Philippines -- the banana and plantain are major food staples. They consume 9 of 10 bananas and plantains, 90 million metric tons annually.

Rich in vitamins, potassium, magnesium and fiber, bananas and plantains in the tropics grow yellow, orange, green or brown, some as big as a football or as small as a child's finger, some sweet, some starchy.

In some areas, crop yields for small-scale farmers are down by as much as 50 to 75 percent in the last 30 years. In Uganda, entire regions north of Kampala once thick with bananas have been decimated by black sigatoka -- this in a country that eats bananas three meals a day and where the word for banana, matooke, also means food.

Already, entire varieties of bananas have vanished. The Gros Michel used to be the big banana in the West. This was the banana that Carmen Miranda wore in the fruit bowl balanced on her head and that Josephine Baker wore
-- with nothing else -- during her banana-skirt routine in Paris in the '20s.

In the 1950s, Panama disease struck and obliterated the Gros Michel, which was replaced by the Panama-disease-resistant Cavendish, the slightly less sweet banana that now appears on our grocery shelves.

Exporters are able to fend off pests by a heavy use of chemicals -- as many as 40 sprayings a year, more than any other crop -- which poor farmers cannot afford. Field hands working in Latin America suffer from high rates of leukemia and sterility from these pesticides.

Frison's fix is to insert a gene from rice that works as a natural fungicide to fend off black sigatoka. He is working with a young Ugandan Ph.D. student, Geofrey Arinaitwe, who is training at the Laboratory for Tropical Crop Improvement in Leuven, Belgium, which is affiliated with the growers' consortium.

Arinaitwe comes from one of the prime banana-growing regions in his country, the roiling, volcanic highlands west of Lake Victoria, where his family owns and farms a small plot of bananas threatened by black sigatoka.

After visiting Frison in Montpelier, I traveled to Leuven, where Arinaitwe showed me the results of his rice-to-banana gene swap: a perfectly normal looking banana tree growing in a greenhouse, protected from the Belgium soil by barriers and subjected to rigorous tests for toxicity and for effectiveness in warding off black sigatoka.

Arinaitwe, a thin, shy man, insists that the bananas are safe. "I know what I put in them, and they are not dangerous."

The International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain is also trying nongenetic fixes. Another plant scientist, Rony Swennon, the head of the Leuven lab and a banana network research fellow, has spent years coaxing seeds from the sterile bananas by looking for mutants of the mutants - - that is, by growing thousands of plants in search of the few that appear now and then with a seed or two.

Swenson cross-breeds the resulting plants with inedible wild bananas that are fertile and can naturally resist fungi. Some of these hybrids are growing in farms in several countries and have fended off fungi. However, the lack of seeds makes this a less than perfect repair because they can't easily reproduce and the resulting fruit tastes bitter.

Frison has little patience with those opposed to all GMO foods, saying that the fears are not supported by the science. "They don't want to hear anything that does not agree with their position," he says. "It's annoying." Frison is equally critical of companies' aggressive claims about GMO food.

The truth, he says, lies somewhere in the middle, with a spectrum between GMO foods that are safe and those that are not.

Dangers include GMO plants that unintentionally turn toxic and hurt or kill other plants, animals or humans or that cause horrible allergies. Another fear is that rogue genes will be accidentally transferred into a complicated ecosystem to incite unintended havoc.

On the safe end of the spectrum, ample evidence exists that some genetic modifications are OK, says Frison. The rice gene, for instance, appears to be safe in the banana so far, although Arinaitwe's tests are not yet finished.

Frison's group favors regulation and stringent testing for safety. The Lueven lab follows strict EU protocols that are more rigorous in Europe than in the United States.

Frison believes that the animosity toward GMO foods comes less from science and safety than from a decade of insensitivity by highly profitable global food giants that force genetically modified foods onto reluctant populations.

Most people in the United States, Europe and elsewhere are grappling with a basic trepidation over the still freakish notion of inserting the gene of one species into another, never mind into foods that we will eat. In Europe, mad cow disease and other food scares also remain fresh memories.

A smarter idea for food conglomerates would be to answer fears by openly supporting regulations and policies that explain the technology, reassure people about GMO safety and clearly label genetically modified products.

Instead, Big Food, supported by the Bush administration, continues to push the aggressive exportation of corn, soybeans and other modified crops, literally trying to force these foods down peoples' throats. Likewise, European food giants and some politicians respond by using the fear factor to keep out competing American exports.

Lost in this international food fight is the poor banana. With no seeds to sell and plenty of Cavendishes being grown for now in fields drenched in pesticides, the banana barons have little incentive to create a transgenic fix. So far, Chiquita, Dole and other companies have no plans to introduce GM bananas for export.

This situation allows us to unpeel the politics of GMO foods for the banana and to consider the science and safety issues as well as the pressing needs of 400 million banana dependents.

These people most likely will not die of starvation without a GMO banana. But millions already face hardship and economic dislocation as they are forced to grow less-productive foods that degrade the soil and yield less biomass.

Frison remains frustrated by hardliners on both sides of the debate imposing their political and commercial imperatives on the scientific debate. There is a middle ground -- to agree on reasonable and very visible testing and regulation. When the results are in, let's ban what's dangerous, and regulate and approve what's safe.

The fate of more than the banana may depend on it.
**********************************

SURVEY REPORTS GM COTTON BENEFITS INDIAN FARMERS

- CropBiotech Update, April 5, 2004

ACNielsen ORG-MARG Pvt Limited, an international marketing and information group commissioned to survey Bt cotton, particularly Bollgard cotton, in India, confirms the benefits of the crop for Indian farmers. These benefits include increased yields, reduced pesticide sprays against bollworms, and higher profits.

The survey covered five of the six Bollgard cotton-growing states: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat. It estimates that there has been approximately 30% or 1.7 quintals per acre yield increase in Bt cotton fields, when compared with conventional cotton fields. The net profit to farmers from Bt cotton cultivation has increased significantly by nearly 80% or Rs.3126 per acre.

Another significant finding was the reduction in bollworm pesticide sprays, which resulted in an average savings of Rs.1294 per acre (reduction of 2-3 sprays per acre) for farmers. In the survey, more than 90% of users and 42% of non-users express their intention to purchase Bollgard in 2004.

For more information on the survey, contact Ranjit Panda of ACNielsen ORG-MARG at his email address: ranjit.panda@orgcsr.org.
*************************

EUROPABIO WELCOMES DECLARATION FOR BIOTECH

- CropBiotech Update, April 5, 2004

EuropaBio welcomes the recent declaration made by the Heads of State in Europe to ensure that public sector investment in research and development
(R&D) would attract private funding and improve the general conditions for R&D investment to further encourage greater investment by the business sector.

This declaration was made in order to create better conditions for research based companies, including those engaged in biotechnology, for them to be able to flourish in Europe. "But what is needed now is action," says Johan Vanhemelrijck, Secretary General of EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries. According to Vanhemelrijck, four years has passed since the leaders made their pledge in the Lisbon Summit, and yet little has been done so far.

" Today's summit conclusions will be really valuable if the Competitiveness Council in May takes them up and leads the way forward on biotechnology when Ministers will discuss the Commission's progress report, " says Feike Sijbesma, Chairman of EuropaBio. EuropaBio also hopes that the Competitiveness Ministers will show political leadership both at the EU level and in the Member States to support an industry that matches economic growth, improves quality of life and a high level of environmental protection all at the same time.

More information about EuropaBio at http://www.europabio.org.
******************************

Note: The following news item from today's Sunday Times is evidence of the damage which can result from scare-mongering. Sent by Professor Vivian Moses.

===========

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1062079,00.html

Human cost of MMR scare

- THE SUNDAY TIMES, April 04, 2004, By Nina Goswami and Jon Ungoed-Thomas

Two boys have been left permanently disabled as a result of the MMR vaccine scare.

Doctors have revealed that the boys, who have been left mentally and physically impaired after contracting measles, are the first known victims of the MMR scare in Britain.

The boys' doctors blame the now discredited research of Dr Andrew Wakefield for the boys' condition. They say his claim that MMR could cause autism led to the outbreak because fewer children are being vaccinated.

Matthew Costen, 13, was blinded and paralysed after contracting measles last year. He is believed to have caught the disease from his friend Joe Quick, 9, who suffered partial paralysis to his left side and damage to his speech. Their condition originated from an area of south London where the take-up rate of MMR, which offers protection against measles, mumps and rubella, had fallen to 52%.

For medical reasons unrelated to MMR, neither boy could receive the vaccine. This meant they were dependent on other children being vaccinated to minimise their exposure to the infection.

Dr Judy Taylor, a consultant at Guy's hospital who treated the boys, said: "The publication of his (Wakefield's) concerns over MMR is directly linked to what has happened to Matthew and Joe.

"Immunisation rates have fallen in the area where Joe contracted measles and he must have caught it from someone who was not immunised. We are devastated, and frantic that the rates pick up again."

Karen Pettitt, 36, Matthew's mother, said: "He (Wakefield) abused his power as a doctor by making the comments he did. That paper should never have been published."

It has also emerged that three babies have died in Ireland in measles outbreaks caused by falling take-up of MMR.

A Sunday Times investigation revealed last month that Wakefield's research paper was seriously flawed. He had failed to reveal a conflict of interest when he first published his research in The Lancet in 1998.

Yesterday Wakefield said he had always advised children should be vaccinated. Any increase in outbreaks was because of government failure to offer single-jab vaccinations as an alternative to MMR, he said.
*************************************

From the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center:

PROVE CLAIMS, SCIENTISTS DARE ANTI-GMO ACTIVIST
21-March-2004 The Philippine STAR

A leading Filipino scientist recently challenged a visiting Norwegian anti-GMO activist to "come up with solid evidence" before airing allegations that could cause panic in the local agriculture sector.

Dr. Nina Barzaga, director of the Institute of Biotechnology & Molecular Biology at the National Institutes of Health in University of the Philippines-Manila, said claims made by Terje Traavik that respiratory ailments among members of South Cotabato’s B’laan tribe were caused by the genetically-modified Bt corn variety were "mere scare tactics."

"Traavik needs to show pertinent scientific data that establish his claims before making press releases and unduly causing panic to the public," Barzaga added.

Without these data, she said Traavik "must not be given the chance to have the exposure that he craves for with these scare tactics." Barzaga heads one of several organizations of Filipino scientists which openly backed the adoption by the government of the agricultural development policy which anchored the country’s food security program on biotechnology.

Local health and agriculture authorities have also belied Traavik’s claim. The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) issued a statement saying it has made "a thorough review of the safety of Bt corn to human and animals." No toxic or allergenic effect is associated with the approved Bt corn variety, it pointed out.

Contrary to some claims, Bt corn does not emit unusual odor during flowering, the BPI added.

South Cotabato health officials, meanwhile, said the respiratory infection in the area "has been a common illness for the past few months". It is premature to conclude that these illnesses are due to factors other than viruses causing respiratory tract infection, they added.

The other scientist groups that supported the government’s adoption of biotechnology were the Women Association of Scientists in the Philippines, The Philippine Association for the Advancement of Crop Science and Technology, the Crop Science Society of the Philippines and the Biochemical Society of the Philippines.

It was also backed by the Philippine Maize Federation, the country’s biggest organization of corn farmers.

The policy, however, was opposed by international pressure group Greenpeace which warned Philippine authorities that biotechnology "can lead to millions of dead bodies, sick children, cancer clusters and deformities."

_____________________________

LOCAL SAVANTS DARE GMO ACTIVIST TO SHOW CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE 22-March-2004 Manila Bulletin

The Philippine scientific community recently urged a visiting Norwegian anti-GMO campaigner to ‘come up with solid evidence” before airing allegations that could cause panic in the local agriculture sector and branded as “scare tactics” his claims that a genetically-modified corn variety can cause sickness.

Several Filipino scientists lamented claims made by Terje Traavik that respiratory ailments among members of South Cotabato’s B’laan tribe were caused by the genetically-modified Bt corn variety.

Local health and agriculture authorities have belied Traavik’s claim. The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) issued a statement saying it has made “a thorough review of the safety of Bt corn to human and animals”. No toxic or allergenic effect is associated with the approved Bt corn variety, it pointed out.

Contrary to some claims, Bt corn does not emit unusual odor during flowering, the BPI added.

South Cotabato health officials, meanwhile, said the respiratory infection in the area “has been a common illness for the past few months.” It is premature to conclude that these illnesses are due to factors other than viruses causing respiratory tract infection, they added.

Traavik’s claims were also questioned by leading Filipino scientists and University of the Philippines medical expert Dr. Nina Barzaga. Barzaga said the allegations need to be evaluated based on the principles of immunology and immunobiology.

‘Traavik needs to show pertinent scientific data that establish his claims before making press releases and unduly causing panic to the public,” Barzaga added.

Without these data, she said Traavik ‘must not be given the chance to have the exposure that he craves for with these scare tactics”.

Barzaga is a professor of medical immunology at the University of the Philippines in Manila. She is the director of the Institutes of Biotechnology and Molecular biology at the National Institutes of Health also in UP-Manila. She heads one of several organizations of Filipino scientists which openly backed the adoption by the government of the agricultural development policy which anchored the country’s food security program on biotechnology.

The other scientist groups that supported the government’s adoption of biotechnology were the Women Association of Scientists in the Philippines, The Philippine Association for the Advancement of Crop Science and Technology, the Crop Science Society of the Philippines and the Biochemical Society of the Philippines.

It was also backed by the Philippines Maize Federation, the country’s biggest organization of corn farmers.

Policy, however, was opposed by international pressure group Greenpeace which warned Philippine authorities that biotechnology “can lead to millions of dead bodies, sick children, cancer clusters and deformities.”

_____________________________

HYBRID RICE DIRECT SEEDING NOW POSSIBLE
25-March-2004 The Philippine STAR

Production of hybrid rice, often regarded by detractors as tedious and
capital- and labor-intensive due to extra care and added farming procedures needed to attain the desired yield, can now be simplified by letting the seeds planted directly into the field instead of having them grown in a seed bed before transplanting.

This is the technology smart and practical farmers in Isabela developed by themselves in recent months which they showcased with pride during a visit of Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. to Cagayan Valley yesterday.

Lorenzo said the hybrid rice direct seeding technique can be considered a farmers’ technology breakthrough in that it had not yet been applied on local farms with considerable success since hybrids began to be commercially propagated in the country two years ago.

With 60 hectares in Cauayan City used as demonstration farm, Lorenzo said the direct seeding technology sharply reduces seed input because it uses only between 20 to 30 kilograms of hybrid seeds per hectare compared with up to 100 kg per hectare if traditional or inbred seeds were used.

“Consequently, the technique offers considerable savings to farmers by up to P1,500 per hectare, “ he said. Lorenzo pointed out that since it cuts crop maturity period by a week, direct seeding offers an advantage because it shortens the total time to produce palay which normally ranges from 116 to 120 days.

The technology developed by the Isabela farmers also requires less labor for the crop to be fully established, thereby helping solve the growing labor shortage problem felt in the farms because of migration and the lure for able-bodied men to find jobs in urban areas.

During a visit to Isabela, Lorenzo also inspected the progress made by the Villa Luna Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Cauayan City since the group was provided in 2002 by the Department of Agriculture with a P15.85 million soft-term loan which it used to venture into mechanized corn farming, corn milling and corn marketing.

Lorenzo said with the loan, the cooperative has significantly improved efficiency in the way its members plant, mill, and sell corn, thus helping Isabela return its coveted position as the country’s top corn producing province.

_____________________________

INT'L SCIENTISTS CRITICIZE ANTI-GMO CAMPAIGN
28-March-2004 The Philippine STAR

Reaffirming its support to biotechnology, the international scientific community decried recently the anti-GMO campaign being waged by one of their peers. Terje Traavik, a Norwegian anti-genetically modified organism
(GMO) activist, recently came under fire from the international scientific community for apparent breach of ethics for releasing unconfirmed allegations that a GMO corn variety may have caused respiratory ailments in some Filipino tribesmen.

Biotechnology has long been touted as one of modern science's ally in alleviating world hunger. Thus, scientists have said that every claim for or against it must be backed by the presentation of solid evidence. The scientists said Traavik, who recently visited the Philippines on an anti-GMO blitz, by-passed the so-called peer review process which could result in "public misinformation and miscommunication.

"They accused Traavik of failing to provide "public access to your experimental methods and data which will make it possible for scientists to have a chance to review your work, attempt to repeat it and look for similar examples elsewhere."

"Potentially inaccurate second-hand accounts and possibly exaggerated claims in news media are no substitute for the presentation of solid scientific evidence," the scientists told Traavik. Among the scientists who cautioned Traavik against making unfounded claims were Bruce Chassy, University of Illinois; Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia; Dr. Peggy Lemaux, University of California, Berkeley; Prof. Tony Shelton, Cornell University; and Dr. Chris Preston, University of Adelaide.

Traavik was also criticized by the local scientific community for apparent misinformation following his allegations that the planting of the Bt corn variety in Mindanao was responsible for respiratory ailments among the B'laan tribesmen. Authorities from the Departments of Health and Agriculture belied Traavik's claims. Renowned Filipino scientist Dr. Nina Barzaga also disputed Traavik's claim, saying "talking to the press with too little data is certainly not the way to go."

"Traavik needs to show pertinent scientific data that establish his claims before making press releases and unduly causing panic to the public," Barzaga added Without these data, she said Traavik "must not be given the chance to have the exposure that he craves for with these scare tactics.

"Barzaga is a professor of medical microbiology and microbial immunology at the University of the Philippines in Manila. Barzaga heads one of several organizations of Filipino scientists which openly backed the adoption by the government of the agricultural development policy which anchored the country's food security program on biotechnology.

The other scientist groups that supported the government's adoption of biotechnology were the Women Association of Scientists in the Philippines, The Philippine Association for the Advancement of Crop Science and Technology, the Crop Science Society of the Philippines and the Biochemical Society of the Philippines. It was also backed by the Philippine Maize Federation, the country's biggest organization of corn farmers. The policy, however, was opposed by international pressure group Greenpeace which warned Philippine authorities that biotechnology "can lead to millions of dead bodies, sick children, cancer clusters and deformities."

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