Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - April 15, 2004:
* Re: Old cultures
* Bush a piker at manipulating science, compared to Clinton, Gore
* Traditional PR fails Australian biotech industry
* German TV GM consumer test
* Consumer choice and GM products - Is the EU now open for business?
* Re: Controversial Grass
* Belgium introduces stricter GM food labelling
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 14:34:57 -0400
Subject: Re: Old cultures
I would like to comment briefly on David Petch's comment ("Is Europe a Continent of Old Cultures and Ancient Superstitions?"(Agbioview, April 14) responding to Dean Kleckner (Agbioview, April 10)
firstname.lastname@example.org>- Comment on "Truth about trade and technology", because the phrase "Western Europe cannot dictate to the world on this issue" (i.e., biotech crops). Unfortunately, the EU is preparing to implement its new traceability and labeling system circa April 18, 2004, which will certainly dictate to the grain shippers of the world, imposing "zero tolerance" standards for traces of unapproved-in-EU varieties. While the EU officials promoting this new policy to the world have suggested that it is commercially possible to deliver grain to it from nations growing biotech crops, because the EU consumer does not want traces of adventitious DNA "forced down their throat" through reasonable tolerances (similar to those for carcinogens and suspected toxins).
To comply with the EU, growers and grain shippers in exporting nations will have to adopt strict identity preservation. I am an attorney specializing in identity preservation issues, and I am all too familiar with the adverse economic impacts that such strict identity preservation can have. Americans pay increased costs of production while restricting the sale of innovative new biotech crops.
With the EU promoting the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as a tool for expanding this zero tolerance paradigm to its trading partners, there is much more "dictating" by the EU on biotech policy right now, with the US doing its best to chip away bilaterally at the new regime. The new directives are posted on EU website. Read them and weep for innovation in agriculture (at least as far as biotech crops are concerned).
There is no question that these strains of anti-technology thinking run deep within the Romantic side of EU culture. I have been read my way back through anti-technology literature of the past few centuries, and I have run into Drs. Faust and Frankenstein (technologists run amok) and the essay that launched the philosophical career of J.J. Rousseau (an anti-technology diatribe asserting that civilization corrupts our natural state). With its new tracing system, the EU has ideas just as Romantic, Revolutionary and utterly unrealistic as the rambling ideas of Rousseau. The EU rejects biotech crops largely because they interfere with the romantic notion of organic agriculture (a romance I freely engage in, personally -- most organic produce I have access to simply tastes better). Ideas of purity run very deep in this romantic ideal of agriculture, so genetic purity is just a new player in the whole romantic notion. It is very good business practice to sell people romantic notions of their food, but it is not a very good way to run the global commodity trading system. Starving people and poor people tend to drop their need for romantic notions like organic food, when they are having those romantic notions "forced down their throat", along with increased loads of fungal toxins and other potentially harmful, unwanted additions to their food supply.
Tom Tom Redick (email@example.com)
Bush a piker at manipulating science, compared to Clinton, Gore
- The Union Leader, April 11, 2004, By HENRY I. MILLER
The political silly season has spawned a flurry of attacks on the Bush administration for “politicizing science.” To be sure, some of the criticism is justified. It appears political for the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit over-the-counter sales of the morning-after contraceptive, for example.
But the critics seem to have become overnight converts in wanting public policy to be science-based. Not one of them was publicly censorious of the Clinton administration’s blatant and heavy-handed abuse of science. Moreover, the primary force behind the condemnation of the Bush administration, the Union of Concerned Scientists, is notorious for its anti-technology zealotry.
When political fortunes change and a new party comes into power in the executive branch, one must expect pervasive changes in the philosophy of government. This is part and parcel of the political process. However, the improper coercion and influence on governmental, science-based activities that we saw during the Clinton administration were outside the recognized rules of the game, and in some cases illegal.
As President Clinton’s science and technology czar, Vice President Al Gore chose many high-level appointees to regulatory agencies, and thereby obtained the leverage to politicize the administration’s policies and decisions.
And what a collection of yes-men and anti-science, anti-technology ideologues they were: Presidential science adviser Jack Gibbons, whose primary qualification seemed to be mastery of the phrase, “Yes, Mr. Vice President”; Environmental Protection Agency chief and Gore acolyte Carol Browner, whose agency was condemned repeatedly by the scientific community; Jane Henney, appointed FDA commissioner as a payoff for politicizing the agency’s critical oversight of food and drugs while she was its deputy head; State Department Undersecretary Tim Wirth, who worked tirelessly to circumvent Congress’s explicit refusal to ratify radical, wrongheaded treaties signed by the Clinton administration; and Agriculture Undersecretary Ellen Haas, former director of an anti-technology advocacy group, who deconstructed science thusly, “You can have ‘your’ science or ‘my’ science or ‘somebody else’s’ science. By nature, there is going to be a difference.”
Never has American government been burdened with such politically motivated, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-business eco-babble. Yet those who now criticize the Bush administration were silent.
As troubling as the substance of the Clinton-Gore policies was, the mean-spirited nature of their practices was as bad. Gore brooked no dissension or challenge to his view of policy or scientific rectitude and went to extraordinary lengths to purge his “enemies” throughout the government. In order to rid the civil service of dissenting views, Gore and his staff interfered in federal personnel matters in ethically questionable ways.
Gore himself dismissed Will Happer, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy, because he refused to ignore scientific evidence at hand that conflicted with the vice president’s pet theories on ozone depletion and global warming.
Gore’s staff interfered in civil-service hiring and other personnel actions at the departments of state, energy and interior, and at the EPA and FDA. In these departments and agencies, prominent civil servants were moved to less visible positions or substituted with other officials during interactions with the White House for their own “protection.” Gore and his staff even positioned “political commissars” at the agencies, to intimidate and sometimes override government experts.
There appears little likelihood that in the foreseeable future science policy will become less politicized or more rational and progressive. There is no important constituency for sound science policy. On the contrary, politicization often represents merely pandering to the fears, which sometimes verge on superstition, of a scientifically illiterate and statistics-phobic public.
Federal regulator-bureaucrats have learned to confer legitimacy on almost any policy, no matter how flawed or antithetical to the public interest. Skepticism about the motivations and actions of those in government is healthy. But for criticism to be credible, it should be consistent, even if not wholly apolitical. It is instructive, therefore, to ask: During the Clinton-Gore years of egregious excesses and abuses, where were those who now accuse the Bush administration of politicizing science?
Henry I. Miller, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA from 1989 to1993. His latest book, “The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution,” co-authored with Gregory Conko, will be published later this year.
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 22:26:53 -0400
Subject: Traditional PR fails Australian biotech industry
Traditional PR fails Australian biotech industry
In 10 days last month, four Australian state governments took decisive action to regulate and curtail the future of the biotech industry. At least one biotech company is now reconsidering its investment in Australia. This happened even though industry successfully implemented many accepted PR tactics and strategies. The problem was activists were using 21st century networked strategies that were more effective. There are lessons here not only for the biotech industry but for all businesses.
Australian state governments stomp biotech industry: Traditional PR fails
Ross S. Irvine
President / Corporate Activist
ePublic Relations Ltd
Guelph, ON, Canada
Phone: 519 767-0444
From: DKundrun@aol.com Add to Address Book
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 11:32:01 EDT
Subject: German TV GM consumer test
Dear Professor Prakash,
A friend of mine here in Germany recommended, that I should send you a copy of the following e-mail, which I had forwarded to our office in Brussels this afternoon:
The first public German TV station ARD broadcasted an interesting report last night at the main/prime time (9.55 to 10.30 pm) as part of their "Plus-Minus" magazine.
Less than a week prior to the T & L regulation becoming effective date (April 18, 2004), the plusminus team wanted to test how strong (and
honest?) the perceived consumer rejection of any GM containing food would be, if GM labelled products would be offered much cheaper.
Main question of this test was, "will consumers buy GM-labelled food, if the price is o.k.?"
Test case number one was a supermarket, who was featuring (with an eye-catching display) GM bread (claimed to be made from GM wheat) at a price of Euro 0.29 per 500 grams, or less than a third of normal price. Consumer reaction in front of this highlighted GM bread display box was filmed with a hidden camera. Some people were hesitant and cautious, others just took the bread package into their shopping card. Result: 22 of the 30 GM-labelled wheat breads were sold on that day, which was four times as much as the average sales of comparable non-GM breads.
Test case number two was at an outdoor snack bar, where they offered GM labelled pommes frites (french fries) at Euro 1.00 per portion/serving, less than half of normal price.
Result was similar to the first test, i.e. 27 portions/servings were sold during the test period, compared to only one conventional french fries serving!!
People were asked afterwards, if they did not have any concern when buying these GM products. Some were concerned but bought due to the low price, others said, that you anyway don´t know exactly, what´s in the food products you are eating daily, and were not concerned about eating GM products, particularly at those low prices!
I am sure, millions of German consumers have seen this interesting magazine report last night. We should keep in mind though, that prices were really much cheaper than any GM-labelled product will be in the real world in the coming months. On the other hand, it was so prominently displayed and promoted with bold capital headlines, which will not happen in reality either!
Bottom line is, that economy beats any perceived consumer concerns with GM-labelled products. It will be interesting to follow consumer reactions in supermarkets in the next weeks and months.
You are free to give this article wider publicity.
EU Regional Consultant
American Soybean Association
Wichmannstr.4, Haus 5 Sued
Tel: +49-40-41 34 55 00
Fax: +49-40-41 34 55 080
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (personal PC)
Consumer choice and GM products - Is the EU now open for business?
- EuropaBio, 14 April 2004
On April 18th 2004, the most comprehensive labelling and traceability system for GM products in the world comes into effect. These rules were established by the EU Commission, the Parliament and the Council after extensive consultation with consumer and environmental groups as well as industry.
"While GM labelling rules have been in existence in the European Union since 1998, rules on traceability and the criteria for labelling will change significantly on 18 April. Lowering the threshold to 0.9% and extending the mandatory labelling to countless human food products as well as requiring the labelling of animal feed products for the first time ever, will build on the most extensive system of consumer choice in the world. This legislation means that all food and feed products which contain more than 0.9% of safe and approved GM products will be labelled as containing or made from genetically modified organisms," says Simon Barber, Director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio - the European association for bioindustries.
"Consumer and environmental groups, Member State governments and European politicians made these rules a political pre-requisite for the approval of new GM products and the lifting of the moratorium. EuropaBio looks forward to the re-establishment of science-based, transparent assessments and approvals of safe GM products. This, together with the establishment of reasonable and practicable rules on the co-existence of different types of agriculture, will allow farmers and consumers to make a clear choice between GM, non-GM and organic products." In the words of Commission President Prodi, "It is only logical that this safe system continues to be applied in practice and that the EU moves with pending authorisations."
"Seven million farmers around the world are now growing GM crops because they offer new solutions to common agricultural problems, they can boost yields and rural incomes, increase product variety and quality and are friendly on the environment - a truly sustainable option for agriculture. European farmers and consumers should be allowed to reap these benefits as well." (2)
(1) Commission takes stock of progress
(2) What are the benefits of GM crops and what can they do? http://www.europabio.org/pages/ne_140404_benefits.asp
For further information, contact:
Simon Barber, Tel: +32 2 735 0313 Direct: +32 2 739 1172 Mobile: +32 476 44 24 20
A full set of background information on GM crops can be downloaded from
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 2004 13:52:12 -0300
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Controversial Grass
I wonder how often Roundup is used, currently, to control runaway
bentgrass from golf courses? More and more I get the feeling that the
antis have the regulators seeing bogie-men in every shadow and doorway and
back field. They need to get real, step back and figure out how
introduced traits might affect performance in the real world.
If bentgrass is not ordinarily invasive then what reason is there to
suspect RR bentgrass might be any more so? In my experience this type
of escapee does very poorly in "wild" competition-- once you stop zapping the weeds, they start to suppress the domesticated grass (though not necessarily totally eliminating it).
Belgium introduces stricter GM food labelling
- Expatica News, 15 April 2004
BRUSSELS - Sales of food in Belgium containing more than minute traces of genetically modified (GM) ingredients will from Sunday be illegal unless indicated on content labels.
A new law introduced on 18 April stipulates that any food containing 0.9 percent or more of GM substances must display details of the amount on packaging.
Adopted by Belgium following its approval by the European Union's Council of Ministers in November last year, the new law also demands that the same information is clearly displayed to consumers of non-packaged foods, such as bread sold in bakeries.
Howevere, the law does not affect the sale of meat, milk or eggs from animals which have been fed GM foods, which is largely still not indicated to consumers.
Belgian consumer defence organisation 'Test-Achat' described the law as "an evolution rather than a revolution", and warned consumers concerned about GM foods to remain viglant.
"One mustn't be fooled by the real motivations behind this," said Robert Remy, Food Policy director for Test-Achat in an interview with Belgian daily Metro.
"It is above all a necessary step in lifting the European moratorium on GM foods," he claimed. "We will be particularly watchful over tracing methods which are largely based on theoretical considerations," he added.
Under the new regulations, records of the destinations of sales of GM crops must be kept for five years.
Representatives of supermarket chains dismissed fears that the new law could even encourage the use of GM products.
"Belgian supermaket chains have pledged, as far as possible, not to use GM substances in foods sold under their own labels," said Alain Verhaeghe of the Federation of Belgian Large Retail Companies.
A spokeswoman for the Carrefour hypermarket chain told the Belgian daily Metro that it would continue to sell GM-based products. "It is not our role to make the choice of the consumer," said Geneviere Bruynseels.