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April 7, 2004


Crushing Cost of Regulation; Low Biotech In Third World; Science Vandalism; UN Prize; Low Trust for Activists; Trace-Amounts Policy; Sex, Lies and Anti-GM Rubbish


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - April 8, 2004:

* GM Crops: The Crushing Cost of Regulation
* Why Poor Biotech Adoption In Third World?
* Vandalism of New Science
* Jennifer Thomson of South Africa Wins UNESCO ($100K) Prize
* Ethics, Patents and the Poor - BioVision Alexandria 2004
* Contamination, Crop Trials, and Compatibility
* Genetically Modified Crops Deserve Enhanced Reputation
* Why Do You Believe In Biotech?
* Trust In Ag and Support For Freedom of Food Choice Is High
* Drough-Tolerant Biotech Wheat Tested at CIMMYT
* What is in the Biotech Pipeline?
* Greenpeace Founder Wins Cotton Producer Converts
* Government Must Expedite 'Trace-Amounts' Policy for Biotech Products
* Sex, Lies and Activist Rubbish
* Cows Ate GM Maize and Died!


GM Crops: The Crushing Cost of Regulation

- Willy De Greef, IBRS, Gent, Belgium . Special to AgBioView http://www.agbioworld.org/

The recent BioVision meeting in Alexandria (http://www.bibalex.org/ ) once again showcase the astonishing range of GM crops in the pipeline. Much emphasis was put on work done by public goods research institutions on crops and traits of interest to resource poor farmers and countries. A fascinating glimpse of the potential future was on offer, with proof of concept demonstrated for a range of disease resistant crops and, even more importantly, for improved abiotic stress tolerance.

Technically, we seem to be for abiotic stress where we were in 1986-1987 for Bt and for herbicide tolerance. We know it works in some species. We see early stage results in the contained environment and even in some early field trials, and Proof of Concept, that vast watershed which divided blue sky research from applied technology and product oriented projects is very close. Technically, we should be able to make a difference in the hands of the farmer with regard to drought tolerance between 2010 and 2015. I said, technically, because in practice, larger hurdles than the still daunting task of translating all that promise into stress tolerant tropical varieties of key staple crops loom, and they have to be addressed soon, if we are not to let those target dates slip. The hurdles come in two forms.

First is the need to agree rapidly on formats and experimental approaches for a rational environmental risk assessment of these crop-trait combinations. For insect resistance and herbicide tolerance, these issues were intensively debated and rapidly agreed upon in a dialogue between the technology developers and key regulators in the late eighties, and the remarkable safety record of GM crops in the field is a tribute to the quality of the work done in that period.

Today, the regulatory environment is far more complex and hostile. It is not certain that technology developers would be able to find the regulators as open and willing to help us analyse the issues an create a high quality and science based approach to risk assessment for the new classes of traits. A quite different issue is that the technology leaders for the current batch of traits are mostly public research institutions, most of which do not have much previous experience with the regulatory and biosafety environment in which their material will soon be evaluated.

The second, and more intractable, issue is the cost of regulatory release and compliance, which is already the most important roadblock for public goods research projects in this field. Almost all regulatory compliance work for ag-biotech at the scale of commercial release and international trade is done in the regulatory affairs departments of the big technology companies. They have seen the costs of regulatory compliance soar over the past decade. The cost of obtaining regulatory clearance for, say, a new Bt maize event, grown in the U.S., Canada and Argentina, and registered in the main export markets of these countries for food and feed use, has been estimated by different companies as between 7 and 15 million $ and rising. On top of the very considerable financial burden this poses for the developers (a rule of thumb is that regulatory clearance of GM crops absorbs about half of the total product development investment), comes the certain knowledge that this is not the full picture.

As more countries set national regulations for GM crops and their products, technology developers have to keep registering their products in ever more markets. The Cartagena Protocol should, in principle, lead to a significant reduction of that burden, because it allows importing countries to accept new GM events without additional requirements. Unfortunately, it is rather the refusal of biosafety assessment data of exporters in favour of massive duplication of data gathering that seems to be the rule today. As a result, regulatory clearance has become a major component of life cycle management of GM crops.

The core biosafty assessment of a GM crop is only a fraction of the total regulatory cost. It has been estimated at between 800000$ and 2 million $ by various teams. The rest is mainly attributable to two factors: duplication and administrative burden.

In many countries, the duplication of biosafety assessments for regulatory submissions has become a sizable industry, which in many cases provides more jobs than actual product development. In many developing countries, in the absence of a biotechnology strategy, and in the absence of sufficient belief in the future of their own biotechnology programmes, authorities redirect donor funding for biotechnology towards me-to biosafety assessments, most of which are only intended to confirm in other hands what was already demonstrated in the core regulatory package.

A widely traded GM crop such as maize will have to be cleared in well over twenty markets now, from Argentina through China and the EU to Russia. Each of these jurisdictions requires applicants to follow their national regulatory pathways. Even though the actual technical questions, the elements of the risk assessment, are usually very similar, authorities have almost systematically attempted to differentiate their approaches by different regulatory file format requirements, distribution of authorising responsibility and approval procedures. A task such as translating regulatory files, which can run up to a thousand pages or more, into dozens of languages, is by itself a major challenge and a significant cost.

If we are to see some of the public goods research breakthroughs making it to resource poor farmers, these non-technical hurdles have to be addressed urgently. It is not likely that donor agencies which are currently paying for the research, will be willing to foot the bill for this massive undertaking. That leaves two options: cut the losses and forget about things like Golden Rice (not really an option…), or working to reform a system of regulatory review that has spiralled out of control. This reform is as much a priority for the biotechnology community as the continued scientific work. There are several avenues for rapid improvement.

The first is to tackle the duplication of data gathering requirements, document it as a source of waste of biosafety assessment money and therefore probably a negative biosafety impact. The default approach of any authority should be Mutual Acceptance of Data. Duplication of experiments (especially the baseless requirement in some countries to duplicate generation of compositional data for imported crops, based on trials in the receiving country) should be the exception, and based on a scientific rationale.

The second immediate need is to promote the use of a uniform set of application formats, and to accept a limited need for translation of technical files. This would increase biosafety. Translation of highly technical filings in widely different languages is a challenging task, and companies achieve it reliably only at massive cost. Public sector institutions are unlikely to have the resources for the necessary quality control, and may therefore be working with files that have different meanings for the applicant and the regulator, a recipe for disaster. A uniform format already exists. It is found in the different guidelines developed by OECD between 1986 and 1995, which are the technical basis for the annexes of almost every regulatory system in the world today.

A third burden which has to be challenged urgently is the “time limited permit”. This system, in which countries approve GM crops only for a limited period of time (e.g. in the EU for ten years), leads to a nightmare of complexity. Applications for product approval extensions have to start several years before the actual end of the approval period. During that time, which in the EU is typically 3-4 years, developers shoulder massive risks in their product development pipeline, since permit renewal cannot be taken for granted and large breeding and seed production programmes may well have to be abandoned at the last moment. The institutionalised inability of many regulatory authorities to respect their own official timelines for reviewing files adds to the uncertainty.

It is hard enough for herbicide tolerant and insect resistant crops to survive in this hostile regulatory environment. Applications such as Golden Rice, CMV resistant cassava or drought tolerant wheat can not possibly reach their potential under these constraints. We urgently need a strategic review of the regulatory maze in the light of the coming generation of public goods GM crops, in a setting where the actual science of the regulatory system can again be a major part of the discussion.

There are not many policy platforms left where this is possible. That observation by itself is a sad reflection for how far we have lost contact with scientific and farming reality in the biotechnology debate. Much of the science based framework for risk assessment which proved itself so well in the field over the past decade was agreed upon in a Group of National Experts of OECD, working between 1983 and the mid-90s. Given the current political environment around biotech, the chances are slim that a similar group of experts could be brought together to do a reasonably politics-free job today. It is impossible to imagine this happening in the Cartagena Protocol, where science is systematically discredited as a source of decision making on safety.

The scientific community urgently has to ask policy makers about where they think they are heading with the current approach for biotechnology regulation. It is vastly inefficient in terms of biosafety assessment. It is also actively undermining the sustainability policies of the international community, and a major cause for the delays in reaching the global objectives for poverty eradication and for improvement of the sustainability of agriculture. Not being able to achieve food security and a reduction of the environmental footprint by lack of technological or other resources is one thing. Not being able to do so because we cannot get the policies set up to translate our proven capacities into decisive change is entirely unacceptable.


USDA Advisors Explain Poor Biotech Adoption In Third World

- Stephen Clapp, Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News, March 15, 2004

Inadequate regulation or over-regulation -- not restrictive patents -- is hindering adoption of public sector biotechnology products in developing countries, a Cornell University professor told USDA's Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture last week.

"In many ways, it's a very simple subject," Anatole Krattinger told the AC21 panel, which is charged with preparing a report for Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman early next year (see PTCN, Dec. 15, Page 6). "You have a good seed, and the farmer knows how to grow it. However, there are so many actors between the original innovation and delivery to the farmer's field."

Krattinger, who teaches part-time at Cornell and spends the remainder of his working hours as a consultant, said technology transfer to the Third World is driven by the absorptive capacity of developing countries and their biosafety regimes. "University scientists often become de facto regulators and policymakers," he said. Krattinger said intellectual property is not on his list of obstacles. "IP licensing or cross-licensing is an expense, not a problem," he said. "Very little technology transfer to the marketplace is driven or pulled by IP."

The Swiss-born consultant said technology transfer is best served by a critical mass of farmers who want it, general applicability, and shared or complementary market interests. "In either case, IP is not the stumbling block," he said. "It's just a management problem. IP rights are stepping stones, not stumbling blocks."

Krattinger said he and his colleagues had identified 40-odd patents for bioengineered vitamin A-rich "golden rice," but none in the developing world. Developing countries are not using the technology despite an estimated $6 billion in annual health benefits. "We have shifted our emphasis from North to South [developing countries]," Krattinger reported. "Companies will donate their technology, but you have to bring in partners in the South. In the South, you need demand, market structure and divisibility of technology" among beneficiaries. He noted that small farmers in Argentina get more benefit from using Roundup Ready soybeans than do large farmers.

Krattinger listed key challenges to biotechnology transfer:
* Inadequate legislation for technology and variety protection
* Cost of biosafety regulation
* Difficult access to new technologies
* Public sector pricing subsidies, including tax incentives and disincentives
* Complex variety notification, registration and seed certification procedures
* Inadequate water and power infrastructure.

Observing that assembly of a biotech product is easy but transfer is difficult, Krattinger said private companies are able to manage a product development plan, but public sector institutions such as universities "need to work with more partners and acknowledge the market-driven environment." He lamented a total lack of U.S. legislation encouraging technology transfer to developing countries. "I believe the situation will dramatically change when countries like Brazil, India, South Africa and China take the lead" in demanding biotech crops, Krattinger said. "That will happen five years from now--I hope!"

Suitable partners lacking
In the first in a series of presentations on public versus private biotech research, June Blalock, a scientist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service, acknowledged difficulty in finding partners for commercializing bioengineered small-market crops. She cited daunting biosafety regulations and liability issues, noting that regulatory approval is a "predictable but costly process."

"How do we turn our research results into marketable products if we don't have a partner?" Blalock asked. While niche market crops would seem to present opportunities for small companies, "what's missing is the availability of capital for the entrepreneur," Blalock said. "IP rights are usually not the prime reason things are not shared. And liability concerns translate into real money."

Blalock reported that some seed companies are bypassing opportunities to develop transgenic crop varieties because advances such as targeted genetics enable them to use conventional tools and technologies to achieve the same ends. Noting that only two biotech crops developed by the public sector have been commercialized--virus-resistant squash and papaya--Michael Schechtman, designated federal official for the AC21 committee, said USDA research agencies plan to hold a national expert workshop on development of small-market biotech crops.

Randy Woodson, a Purdue University scientist, cited "the overwhelming cost of regulatory approval" as the principle obstacle to translating university biotech research into marketable products. "That's why we don't develop pesticides and drugs in universities," he added.

Woodson noted that indemnification of a university against liability litigation is a non-negotiable demand of administrators. Reporting that funding streams haven't followed biotech research trends into minor crops and niche markets, he said state legislatures are mostly interested in supporting projects that further economic development. Stressing a need to form public-private partnerships to bring biotech products to market, Woodson suggested creation of a publicly funded effort resembling the IR-4 program, which helps producers develop data to register minor-use pesticides such as those used on strawberries and lettuce.

"Commercial companies focus on major commodities and market share," Woodson said. "Niche markets, minor crops and developing country opportunities can be ignored in the current environment. Minor crop producers were funding biotech research until it became clear the companies weren't interested."


The Appliance and Vandalism of New Science

- James Withers, Aberdeen Press & Journal (UK), April 3,2004

In The good old days, scientists were revered members of society. Considered the leading thinkers, their views were deemed almost religious and allowed the ordinary member of the public to sleep safe knowing there were brighter thinkers who would make life simpler and explainable.

Times have moved on and 21st-century society is now sceptical about science. There is a widespread belief that a great deal of it is founded on vested interests, usually of the companies or individuals commissioning and paying for the research.

Scientists themselves are now products, available for the biggest research grant to provide scientific credibility to various arguments. Find a contentious topic, and you can likely find a scientist supporting an interest group on either side of the debate. Science itself is not at fault, rather the misuse to which it is put.

In a more alarming development, Government now disregards science if it is not convenient and if, heaven forbid, it flies in the face of public opinion. The most obvious example of this has been the heated debate over genetically modified (GM) crops.

Earlier this week, Bayer CropScience, the German company eligible to grow GM maize, announced it would not be pursuing the option in the UK. Whether you believe that GM crops are Frankenstein foods, the answer to Third World Hunger or you don't really care, the background to this decision should cause real concern.

The official scientific research concluded that this one particular variety of maize, Chardon LL, was not only safe for commercial growth, but environmentally beneficial. Yet, our elected leaders, decided not to pursue rational argument or try to inform the public on the research. Instead, in an act of remarkable, although not entirely surprising, political cowardice they agreed in principle to the licensing of the crop, but threw in so many conditions that growing it commercially became economically unviable.

The inconvenience of the official science, which flew in the face of apparent public opinion, meant that it was given a sympathetic nod, but in reality was consigned to the dustbin. It may seem a significant victory for the anti-GM lobby, but such an attitude from Government is dangerous.

Ultimately, the decision forced upon Bayer CropScience may avoid a potentially divisive debate within the industry over growing the crop and avert another potential public relations nightmare for farming. But when competitors elsewhere in Europe begin growing certifiably safe GM crops, and some already are, the competitive disadvantage of a domestic regime which denies Scottish producers the same opportunities will be a bone of contention.

Another fine example of the vandalism of science came courtesy of one newspaper earlier this week. Its series, The Big Debate, claims to pick a hot topic and suggests radical solutions. This week Michael Mansfield QC, debated the dangers of meat.

While obviously designed to be as controversial as possible, the gloves-off approach of the writer crossed a line. Among his many claims were that the meat industry kills more people each year than tobacco, physically and mentally tortures animals, encourages farms to be run like Nazi concentration camps, and contributes to the death through starvation of 12million children every year.

Aside from thinking the Holocaust is a clever analogy, the article was laughable in its approach. No doubt it will spur responses, and in that sense it has done its job, but on an issue as important and central to life as food safety, the debate deserves to be treated with respect.

As well as the availability for a fee of convenient research, the accessibility of modern science has also resulted in non-scientists cherry-picking findings for their own use. Mr Mansfield, apparently of legal background - not scientific - cites a swelling avalanche of evidence that meat products are the major cause of modern degenerative diseases. The words balanced diet probably never made it near the first draft.

However, it is not only those who use science who must be wary. The media has an important role as the vehicle for delivering its findings. Freedom of speech is cherished and we must not censor the views of Mr Mansfield or anyone else, no matter how bizarre they may be. But, there is a responsibility on the media in shaping public opinion and balancing the expression of extreme views. It is not sufficient to simply hope that such outbursts will be re-balanced by opposing respondents

The big debates increasingly seem to be shaped by small minds in the mistaken belief that it makes a better read. Unless the "sensational at all costs" ethos is softened, the rational reader will switch off and the minority switch on.

Once that happens the cycle perpetuates itself and the real issues drown under a tide of misinformation, vested interests and bad science.


UCT Professor Savours Taste of Scientific Success: UNESCO to Honor Her for Work on Genetic Engineering

- Tamar Kahn, Business Day (Johannesburg); April 8, 2004

Tomorrow night world renowned scientist Prof Jennifer Thomson will be heading off to a celebration of note, joining fellow luminary Prof George Ellis in toasting their prizes at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Ellis recently won the R10m Templeton Prize for his work on science and religion, while Thomson scooped the $100 000 L'Oréal United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) Award for her work on genetic engineering.

Her award, which is judged by a panel that includes two Nobel prize-winning scientists, recognises outstanding women scientists around the world. Thomson heads up a team of molecular biologists at UCT, which has spent the past decade trying to engineer maize to be resistant to the maize streak virus. The virus is widely found in Africa and stunts growth and cob development in affected plants. "We don't know in rand terms what it costs, but farmers will tell you that it can be devastating," says Thomson.

Her team has succeeded in finding a way to stop the virus replicating and spreading in a noncommercial maize variety, and is now working with local seed company Panaar to develop a commercial strain. Thomson is also investigating the potential for transferring the tough aspects of the South African resurrection plant Xerophyta viscosa into maize, in the hope of making it better able to withstand drought.

"It can lose 95% of its water and look totally dead, but if you add water, within three days it will (become) fully green and healthy," says Thomson of the plant that survives in cracks in the rocks of the Drakensberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal. Her team has already isolated nine genes that combine to give X.viscosa its remarkable properties, and they are now exploring the genes' capabilities for helping maize survive critical dry spells.

Thomson co-founded the Association of South African Women in Science and Engineering, but is curiously reticent on why so few women build successful careers in the sciences. She points out that scientific pursuits require a focus and dedication that does not marry well with the demands of family life. "You can't tell a bacterium that it's got to stop growing because you have to go home at five to feed the kids," she says.

Thomson is an enthusiastic member of Ellis's Saturday afternoon hiking club (which is something of an institution at UCT), and says he gave her invaluable advice on writing her recently published book, Genes for Africa . She wrote the book in just four weeks, a feat she attributes to Ellis's suggestion that she figure out what chapters she would like to see , amass the requisite data, and then start writing.

She set out to show that food containing genetically engineered ingredients is safe to eat. "In the history of humankind no food has been tested as thoroughly as genetically modified crops. In fact there's no such thing as safe food, only the safe use of food you could overdose on eggs or pineapple for that matter," she says.

Moreover, says Thomson, there are plenty of foods on the market today that would never make the grade if subjected to the same stringent testing as genetically engineered crops. It is such "miniscule" risks, initially unforeseen by scientists, that so alarm the antigenetically modified lobby campaigning vigorously for a moratorium on genetically engineered crops .

"Then don't use technology at all," responds Thomson. "If you are not prepared to take a little bit of risk for the benefit (you'll gain), then don't catch a plane, don't cross the street."

Thomson has been practically demonised by local lobby groups opposed to the genetic engineered of crops, but shrugs off their attacks, saying she has "broad shoulders". She says the lobbyists stance is taken seriously by government, but dismisses their "sensational" tactics, saying they borrow heavily from the Europeans and by implication have little to offer that is original or specific to SA.

From Prakash: This is a great honor and a wonderful recognition of the scientific and outreach efforts of Jennifer. AgBioWorld congratulates her on this well deserved award!


"Ethics, Patents and the Poor" in BioVision Alexandria 2004

- April 6, 2004 http://www.bibalex.org

Scientists, researchers and scholars from all over the world continued their deliberations for the third day at the BioVision Alexandria 2004 Conference, held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 3-6 April. On this day, discussions concentrated on "Trade, Patents and Developing Countries", addressing matters of "timing, quality and focus of bio-safety research". Intellectuals worked on finding answers to questions like whether we should move from risk assessment to sustainability assessment? And what evidence base do we actually need to make sound decisions and defend them?.

In a special session on "Intellectual Property Rights", David McConnell, Co-Vice Chairman of European Action on Global Life Sciences and Professor at Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College, Ireland, spoke of the "genetic hazards resulting from biotechnology being limited compared to other kinds of technology". Professor McConnell pointed out the fact that for the past thirty years, neither genetic engineering research nor biotechnological experiments have caused deaths or accidents in developed or developing countries.

For more information, please visit the conference"s website: www.bibalex.org/bioalex2004conf


Contamination, Crop Trials, and Compatibility

- D. Bruce, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 2003, 16: 595-604.

This paper examines the ethical and social questions that underlie the present UK discussion whether GM crops and organic agriculture can co-exist within a given region or are mutually exclusive. A European Commission report predicted practical difficulties in achieving sufficient separation distances to guarantee lower threshold levels proposed for GM material in organic produce.

Evidence of gene flow between some crops and their wild relatives has been a key issue in the recent Government consultation to consult on whether or not to authorize commercial planting of GM crops, following the results of the current UK farm scale trials. The admixture of imported Bt transgenes into landrace varieties of Mexican maize also presents difficulties. An ethical evaluation is made of the claim that organic growers should expect protection from adventitious traces of GM constructs in their products.

To what extent - on either side of the debate - can any particular group in society set up agricultural standards for itself that may effectively restrain others from an otherwise just business? The assumptions behind notions like "purity" and "contamination" are examined, together with their underlying views of nature and human intervention. The 2001 UK Agriculture and Environmental Biotechnology Commission report is relevant to these issues. While the Government wishes to promote the UK biotechnology industry and is under pressure from US claims of trade restraint, a strong organic lobby demands purity from GM contamination. Does this adversarial framing of the issues reflect broader public opinion in the UK public consultation?

In arriving at policy decisions, the role of the virtue of tolerance is considered in post-modern and Christian ethical context.


Genetically Modified Crops Deserve Enhanced Reputation

- Steve Rissing, The Columbus Dispatch, April 6, 2004

'It's time for organic-food enthusiasts to put genetically modified crops where our mouths are'

Check out labels in the organic section of your favorite grocery: no genetically modified ingredients. But genetically modified crops require far fewer pesticides than non-modified ones; all else considered, that's good. The single gene added to those already in corn is from the common soil bacterium Bacillus thuringensis (Bt). Bt produces a protein that kills insects feeding on corn.

The strain of Bt used is selected according to crop and anticipated insect pests. Corn borers, for example, provide points of entry and growth for fungi that release disease-causing toxins in corn. Bt corn has 90 percent less fungal toxin than non-modified corn. Cotton is one of the most pest-ridden crops in the United States; non-Bt cotton can require 12 to 14 applications of chemical pesticides per year. This drops to two to six treatments in Bt cotton.

Nonetheless, many people prefer non-modified foods. Indeed, the labels on soymilk assure the consumer that not only has it not been genetically modified, but it's organic as well. Way cool. One pest-control method certified for organic crops is spraying with Bacillus thuringensis spores; sound familiar? Those spores contain all Bt genes, including the single one inserted into modified plants that attacks pests.

Why not buy foods that are both organic and genetically modified? Alas, that's impossible because federal labeling laws prohibit modified crops in foods sold as organic. Genetically modified crops are powerful weapons in our ongoing competition with other organisms for our food.

Natural selection and plant breeders have hybridized plants for generations, transferring thousands of genes. A few of those genes have valuable properties for our food plants and for us. Properties of the Bt gene inserted into genetically modified plants are some of the best understood in biology.

As the agriculture and food industries and regulatory agencies continue to develop genetically modified technologies, we can look forward to even safer and more nutritious crops produced with fewer pesticides. Grocery stores may someday be permitted to sell foods that are organic and genetically modified. I could buy that.

Steve Rissing is a biology professor at Ohio State University.


Why Do You Believe In Biotech?

- Balopi Kebapetswe (student), Gaborone, Botswana (Southern Africa)

It is clear that most of the people regard biotech just like Robin does ("Trying to be smarter than nature!"). Therefore it is unfortunate that most of them, if not all, are missing such a beautiful explanations of what biotech does or can do if given chance, to the well being of people, like the one said by Mr Prakash.

Until all the nations, our leaders can understand biotech just like Mr Prakash, malnutrition, famine and other many catastrophic effects brought by lack of food will be just stories of the past. I was very happy on how Mr Prakash answered Robin.


Trust In Agriculture and Support For Freedom Of Food Choice Is High

- PRNewswire, April 5, 2004

ARLINGTON, Va.,- The general public has deep trust and confidence in American school teachers, veterinarians, physicians and farmers and ranchers. In contrast, the public indicates distrust for activists and well-known Hollywood actors or actresses, especially when they attack animal agriculture. So says a national consumer opinion survey conducted by Market Directions, Inc. and jointly underwritten by the Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

"The results of the survey are very positive and don't surprise anyone who appreciates the contributions that animal agriculture makes to our quality of life," says Bruce Andrews, Animal Agriculture Alliance President. "Our polls show that the public has consistently over the years trusted and valued American farmers and ranchers and the important job they do so well. More than 40 percent of respondents over the age of 25 considered farmers and ranchers to be one of their two most favorably viewed groups. At the same time, animal rights activists show themselves to be consistently out of touch with the public at large."

NCGA President Dee Vaughan, a corn grower from Dumas, Texas, added, "It's heartening to realize the public is gaining a greater awareness that accurate information on animal and production agriculture comes not from celebrity sources and activist groups but straight from the experts -- those ranchers and farmers who on a daily basis make their livelihood by working with animals and the land. Efforts by the entire agriculture sector to educate the general public on best practices are having an impact."

Eighty-six percent of respondents think consumers should have the right to choose what they eat and not be dictated to by a small minority of activists, according to the poll conducted in February. The poll is the fifth conducted by the Alliance to track public attitudes about farmers and ranchers, as well as trends in philosophies, issues and buying habits.

Tracking those whom the public trusts when it comes to messages about farm animal well-being revealed farm animal veterinarians, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) representatives, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) representatives and farmers and ranchers among the most believable. On the opposite side, among the lowest ranked for credibility on farm animal treatment were well-known Hollywood actors (6 percent) and activists (18 percent).


Drough-Tolerant Biotech Wheat Being Tested

- USAgNet, April 8,2004

Last month, the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT) took a modest but historic step in the development of drought tolerant wheat, when a small trial plot was sown to genetically modified
(transgenic) wheat in a screen house at the Center's headquarters in Texcoco, Mexico. This is the first time that transgenic wheat has been planted under field-like conditions in Mexico, and rigorous biosafety procedures are being followed.

Drought is arguably the world's most important agricultural production problem. In developing countries, millions of hectares of wheat are grown in areas that often experience drought, and the problem is projected to worsen with climate change. A plant's ability to withstand dry conditions at critical periods in its growth can make the difference between food and famine for poor households. Developing drought-tolerant wheat and maize varieties that perform well under diverse conditions is a top priority at CIMMYT, where innovative research is pursued to meet this complex and difficult challenge.

CIMMYT researchers have well-founded hopes that the wheat they are testing will withstand serious droughts. This wheat carries the DREB1A gene from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The gene has been shown to confer tolerance to drought, low temperatures, and salinity in Arabidopsis, a plant species related to wild mustard.

Previous experiments with DREB wheat grown in pots in CIMMYT's biosafety greenhouse provided very encouraging results. The new screenhouse trial will enable researchers to see whether the DREB wheat responds similarly under more "natural" conditions.


Commercial Plant Breeding - What is in the Biotech Pipeline

- Andrew Cockburn, Journal of Commercial Biotechnology. 10(3): 209-223.

Of all of humankind's endeavours, agriculture has led to the most pressure on land, its resources and biodiversity. Over the past 50 years, the need to increase food production has resulted in the loss of one-fifth of the world's topsoil, one-fifth of its agricultural land and one-third of its forests. To slow down, and ideally reverse, this trend in the face of a predicted population increase of 50 per cent, a water shortage and climate change, new approaches will be needed.

In this context, crop biotechnology and genomics have a major contributory role to play in the sustainable improvement of crop and livestock productivity, human and animal health and the development of renewable resources such as fibres, plastics, biofuels and plant-made pharmaceuticals. Manifestly, this will require both political will and international agreement.


Greenpeace Founder Wins Cotton Producer Converts

- Harry Cline via http://www.truthabouttrade.org/article.asp?id=1610

VISALIA, Calif. - Patrick Moore's hair has noticeable thinned in the 26 years since he was photographed straddling a baby seal to prevent it from being clubbed to death. However, his passion for environmental issues has not disappeared since that photograph appeared in 3,000 newspapers worldwide in 1978.

Moore, who holds a doctorate in ecology from the University of British Columbia, is one of the founders of Greenpeace. Greenpeace introduced the world to environmental activism by protecting baby seals, protesting atmospheric nuclear testing and challenging huge Russian whaling trawlers in rubber boats in the stormy North Pacific.

Moore is no longer associated with Greenpeace or any of the other so-called mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club. When what he called the anti-civilization, anti-human, anti-globalization, anti-trade ultra-left extremists took over those groups, he turned his back on them. Not only that, he challenges their so-called science at every turn.

"We have an environmental movement (today) that is run by people who want to fight, not win," Moore says. Moore left Greenpeace after 15 years to find realistic solutions to issues like the "environmental disaster" of 6 billion who go hungry each day. He now mesmerizes audiences like the California Cotton Growers Association annual meeting with his take on finding solutions to environmental issues.

One solution is embracing genetically modified crops to feed the world's poor. Genetically modified food not only can generate more food per acre, but it does it with fewer pesticides and less soil erosion.

"There are so many real benefits from genetic modification compared to the largely hypothetical and contrived risks that it would be foolish to ban genetic modification," said Moore. He scoffed at the recent vote ban genetically modified crops in Mendocino County, Calif. It was purely politically motivated because "the campaign of fear now being waged against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic." He calls it scripts right out of Hollywood movies.

He said the attack on "Golden Rice" is a tragedy that is preventing millions from receiving sufficient Vitamin A in their daily diet. An estimated 500,000 children go blind each year from chronic Vitamin A deficiency. A Swiss scientist used DNA technology to insert a gene from daffodil plant into rice to add high levels of Vitamin A to rice, a staple for millions worldwide. The controversy over genetically-modified crops likely will keep that off the market for decades.

He said if environmental extremists were to admit that Golden Rice was a good GM crop, they would have to admit that there might be others. "And then, they would be reduced to a rational discussion on the subjects like the rest of us mortals," he says. He said environmental extremists invent campaigns against invisible poisons. He calls the Alar on apples scare a classic case of this. The end result of this activity is that people eat fewer fruits and vegetables, the very foodstuff that has proven to reduce cancer risks.


U.S. Grain Industry, BIO Urge U.S. Government to Expedite 'Trace-Amounts' Policy for Biotech Products

Washington -- The nation's two major grain industry organizations and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) for the first time have jointly urged three U.S. regulatory agencies to expedite the implementation of an overarching, science-based policy governing incidental, trace amounts – or so-called "adventitious presence" – of biotechnology-enhanced events in raw and processed grains and oilseeds, as well as food and feed.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA), BIO and 17 State and Regional Grain and Feed Associations affiliated with the NGFA said implementation of such a policy for biotech-enhanced commodities is "enormously important" and a "vital" precursor to the United States' providing international leadership to develop a harmonized global approach on the issue.

The organizations' joint statement was precipitated by a request for comment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on whether it should establish a separate component within its regulatory system to address the adventitious presence of biotech-enhanced commodities that have not yet received full regulatory approval for food or feed. APHIS also sought input on whether it should exempt "low-level" occurrences of such biotech-enhanced events in commercial crops, food, feed or seed.

The NGFA, NAEGA, BIO and the other organizations urged APHIS to work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in developing a unified policy approach governing the adventitious presence of biotech events that have been reviewed for food, feed and environmental safety, but have not completed the full
regulatory-approval process. In so doing, the groups called on the three
federal agencies to adopt a policy proposed by the White House Office of Science and Technology in August 2002.

"Such a policy must be solidly grounded in science, involve all agencies with regulatory responsibilities for biotechnology, and not compromise the safety of the U.S. food and feed supply or the environment," the groups said. The organizations also insisted that such an early safety assessment policy maintain stringent regulatory safeguards and be restricted to those biotech events (specific gene sequences) for which the sponsors seek regulatory approval for use in the general commodity stream for food and feed use. Biotech-enhanced plants intended for pharmaceutical or industrial uses would not be covered by this policy unless they are deregulated for general commodity use in food and feed.

Under the U.S. government's current "coordinated framework" for regulating agricultural biotech-enhanced events, APHIS is responsible for issuing permits for field trials of biotech-enhanced plants, and grants "non-regulated status" to biotech crops if the agency determines they do not pose an adverse risk to other plants, wildlife or the environment.
Meanwhile, FDA determines whether biotech-enhanced foods, feed and feed ingredients are safe for human and animal consumption. EPA registers biotech-enhanced events that express their own pesticides and determines whether such products pose unreasonable adverse effects upon the environment.

The NGFA, NAEGA, BIO and other groups noted that trace amounts of biotech-enhanced events in commodity crops that have not completed the regulatory review process can result from a plant's natural physiology (pollen flow) or inadvertent mixing during harvest and transportation.
But they noted that the U.S. regulatory system imposes a zero tolerance on the presence of such unapproved biotech-enhanced events in food and feed, regardless of the risk level.

"This 'zero-tolerance' policy exposes grain handlers, food processors and feed manufacturers to the risk that any presence in general commodity crops of biotech-enhanced events that have not been approved for food and feed under the U.S. regulatory process could render such crops adulterated and subject to seizure under federal law," the groups said. Such risks are even more complex for agricultural exporters, which confront a lag time in biotech approvals by foreign governments, they said. Further, the groups subsequently noted that this policy is inconsistent with other food regulations that have established thresholds for trace amounts of unexpected materials.

The NGFA, NAEGA, BIO and other organizations said that once such a policy is established, the U.S. government "must vigorously promote global adoption" of compatible regulatory systems that meet the same standards for being science-based and transparent. "A U.S. policy on adventitious presence is a key element in a much-needed comprehensive and harmonized global approval system for regulation of agricultural products of modern biotechnology," the groups said.


Sex, Lies and Activist Rubbish

A book entitled "Sex, Lies, & GMOs" by Alex Jack is now available and explores "the connection between sexual decline and gene-altered foods. $5.95."

Apparently this sage of truth Alex Jack also has many other words of wisdom. See this gem below.

> Protecting Yourself Naturally from Mad Cow Disease By Alex Jack
> To strengthen DNA (lacking in prions), eat organically grown brown
> rice. millet, and other cooked whole grains as main food, day to day,
> meal to meal. Other seeds will also help restore DNA, especially sesame
> and pumpkin seeds. http://www.amberwaves.org/web_articles/publications.html

Our 'New Age Guru' also believes that "New biotech grains will inevitably contaminate the natural food supply, stretching back to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and other civilizations. Medical and scientific studies of similar GM crops, pesticides, and estrogen-disrupting chemicals suggest that Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat could potentially lead to a higher risk of allergies and other disorders."

He is also an expert on "Macrobiotic Food" and ponders: "Humanity is truly at the crossroads. Either it will learn to respect and live with nature or create an artificial nature." http://www.cybermacro.com/articles18.html

Alex Jack is obviously associated with organic food industry and is "a faculty member of the Kushi Institute and author of Imagine a World Without Monarch Butterflies: Awakening to the Hazards of Genetically-Altered Foods and over twenty-five books on diet, health, and the environment." http://www.biotech-info.net/amberwaves.html

His earlier books have included articles by such scientific luminaries as Dr. Vandana Shiva and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, and a foreword by Dennis J. Kucinich.

Cows Ate GM Maize and Died!

If you are still in mood for even wackier stuff, you cannot beat out friend Mae-Wan's "Cows Ate GM Maize & Died" from http://www.i-sis.org.uk :

Twelve diary cows died after being fed GM maize and silage. This happened on a farm in Woelfersheim in the state of Hesse, Germany. According to the report by Greenpeace Germany, 'common errors in feeding and infections had by and large been ruled out as the cause of deathî, and the farmer involved, Gottfried Glickner, a supporter of GM crops, now suspects that Syngentaís GM maize Bt 176 is to be blamed.

Bt 176 contains multiple complex traits, including insect resistance ñ conferred by a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate. It was produced initially by the company Ciba-Giegy in 1994, and acquired subsequently by biotech giant Syngenta. Glickner has been growing Bt 176 increasingly in his fields since 1997, and in 2000 and 2001, switched over entirely to GM maize. Shortly thereafter, five of his cows died within four months in 2001, and another seven in 2002. The rate of milk production decreased in some of the remaining cows and others had to be slaughtered because of unknown illnesses.

If you still had not enough, enjoy this "Oscar-worthy piece of propaganda" is at