Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - April 19, 2004:
* GM Soya Saved Us, Says Angry Argentina After 'Superweed' Claim
* Transgenic Corn Growing in Mesoamerica
* Europe's Ban On GMOs Is Still Firmly In Place
* On GM Rice and Barriers to Its Adoption
* Pharmaceuticals: A Bad Regulatory Model For Seeds
* German TV GM Consumer Test
* New Brochure on Bt Corn and Insect Diversity
* Australia: Greenpeace Targets GM Ship
* Opportunity Blocks
* Losing a Valuable New Technology
* What Hypocrisy
* Time to Wake Up to the GM Reality
* GM-Free Britain? Who Are We Trying To Kid?
* Death by Environmentalism
GM Soya Saved Us, Says Angry Argentina After 'Superweed' Claim
- Seamus Mirodan, Daily Telegraph (UK), April 18, 2004 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
'Headlines in Britain last week claimed that genetically modified crops were proving disastrous in South America - but local farmers say they have transformed their lives'
Ricardo Martinez smiled with pride as he looked over the thriving fields of genetically modified soya and then denounced critics who claimed last week that such crops had been a "disaster" for his country, Argentina. "Back in the 1980s we had a lot of trouble with flooding, soil erosion and ever-present weeds," said Mr Martinez, who has been growing soya for seven years on his 3,200-acre farm 190 miles from the capital, Buenos Aires.
"When Monsanto introduced GM soya to Argentina it was something of a miracle. It allowed us to increase production and manage our land far more effectively," he added, stressing that the crop had been of "huge benefit" to Argentina's economy. Mr Martinez's remarks were prompted by an article in New Scientist magazine claiming that the introduction of GM crops in Argentina was proving an economic and environmental failure. The article, published in Britain last week, made national headlines when it said that Argentina's pioneering use of GM soya since 1997 had caused "superweeds" to overrun the country and had led to health problems.
The claims have prompted an angry reaction in the South American country, where GM crops have been embraced enthusiastically. Argenbio, Argentina's council for biotechnology, led the protests, arguing that GM soya had enabled farmers to avoid a cocktail of chemicals that threatened the crop and, in some cases, damaged the health of farm workers and livestock, causing skin rashes and respiratory problems.
GM soya is engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, so that farmers can use just that one product to control weeds without damaging their crops. "That combination of glyphosate and GM soya was a godsend to us," Mr Martinez said. Glyphosate also takes less time to sink into the soil than the mix of chemicals used before, reducing the risk of its presence when the product is consumed.
Since GM soya's introduction in 1996 its production in Argentina has grown by almost 75 per cent, while more traditional crops such as rice, maize and wheat have shown a steady decline. Today, 99 per cent of soya grown in Argentina is genetically modified and farmers cultivate 85.5 million acres of it.
New Scientist quoted experts who warned that GM crops could destroy the soil's natural micro-organisms and create "superweeds" - undesirable plants that mutate to be as resistant to herbicides as the main crop. Small farmers blamed glyphosate for crop failure and loss of livestock. Elsewhere, Adolfo Boy, an agronomist and spokesman for the GM-sceptic Group for Rural Reflection, was quoted as saying: "Let Argentina be a warning to others. We are going down the path of destruction."
Many involved directly in Argentine agriculture said last week that they disagreed with that analysis. Eduardo Trigo, an agricultural consultant who carried out a study in 2002, jointly funded by the Argentine government and an international research centre, said that crops would be damaged only if glyphosate were used "negligently". He accused New Scientist of making "very liberal use" of one such example to paint a misleading picture of Argentine agriculture.
The study also found that the the expansion in soya growing had helped increase rural employment from 700,000 in 1995 to about 900,000 in the late 1990s and concluded that it had made Argentine farmers £4 billion a year richer. Eugenio Cap, the co-author of the study, said: "It is highly irresponsible to write an article describing the soya programme as a disaster when in effect it saved a society from economic catastrophe."
Carlitos Quattordio, an agronomist who works on the 5,000-acre Molinari farm, one of Buenos Aires province's largest soya estates, said: "I am in the fields every day and I have seen no evidence of these 'superweeds'. "If the cultivation process is carried out conscientiously there appear to be no adverse effects on the soil or livestock. Glyphosate is simple to use and it kills only the plants on which it is directly placed. As aircraft are not used to spray these crops, it is hard to see how it could end up on other people's land. It certainly has no effect on any animals."
Gabriela Levitus, the executive director of Argenbio, said that her council had studied the environmental consequences of using glyphosate and found it harmless to other plants, livestock and farm workers. She rejected claims that GM crops reduced the levels of bacteria and other micro-organisms in the soil as "a complete lie". GM soya was cultivated in such a way that the organic matter left after the harvest remained on the land, providing cover to maintain the soil's humidity and nutrient levels, she said.
Damage had been caused by some farmers' reluctance to practice crop rotation, but that would be true of any monoculture, whether the crop was genetically modified or not, she said. "We are not savages who do not look after the soil. Producers and exporters appreciate the risks and, for their own good, are not going to let that situation arise."
Transgenic Corn Growing in Mesoamerica
- Diego Cevallos, Inter Press News Agency, April 15, 2004
MEXICO CITY, - In the Mesoamerican region, where maize was domesticated some nine thousand years ago, Honduras is the only country that permits
the commercial cultivation of transgenic corn varieties. Officials there
say that those who are opposed to genetically modified (GM) corn are misinformed, and that there are some who believe transgenics are some form of "witchcraft".
But the battery of arguments against transgenic crops is much more complex, and includes scientific grounds about the risks they pose for ecosystems, food security and the region's cultures Transgenic corn varieties "have only generated benefits" for Honduras, Francisco Gómez, a spokesman for the state-run Institute for Agricultural Information, told Tierramérica The Institute authorized the commercial planting of genetically modified corn in Honduras in 2003 Approximately 2,000 of the 350,000 hectares dedicated to maize in Honduras are planted with GM varieties.
Opposition to these crops is due to misinformation, says Gómez "And many people believe that transgenic crops are related to witchcraft (but) all
we are doing is accelerating and improving production". In Mexico, where
there is broad and intense debate about this issue, "witchcraft" has not emerged among the arguments wielded by either side.
The controversy in Mexico has been heating up since 2001 when it was reported that GM corn -- which a 1999 law states cannot be grown commercially -- genetically contaminated its "natural" relatives. For most of the people in Mesoamerica, a region extending from southern Mexico through Central America, this grain is a main part of their diet, and pre-Hispanic tradition states that the gods used corn to create the first human.
Around eight million hectares are planted with corn in Mexico each year, 60 percent by small farmers who grow the crop for their own families' consumption. The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation
(CEC) considers genetic contamination a serious matter, and decided in 2002 to undertake an extensive investigation, with the results expected to be ready in June.
However, it is not known if the governments behind the CEC -- Canada, Mexico and United States -- will make the conclusions public .These three countries are partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) The CEC was created to prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, and complements the treaty's environmental provisions.
According to the commission's preliminary reports, the problem of introducing transgenic varieties in genetically diverse regions is that their genetic information can spread to the local varieties that the small farmers produce, and could dilute the natural sustainability of those strains. Another element to consider is that GM corn has been created to produce toxins that repel pests, and could be disseminated through the food chain to insects, bringing with it serious implications for the natural biological controls in cultivated fields, says the CEC
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has taken the Mexican corn issue into account in its Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) report for Latin America and the Caribbean 2003, citing the "potential environmental consequences of transgenic contamination".
According to the transnational corporations that produce genetically modified seed, their use will enrich the native varieties of corn without affecting the environment, One of the issues of greatest concern to the environmentalists is that the patents for transgenic corn and other genetically modified crops developed for commercial purposes belong to a handful of transnationals, who the farmers must pay for the seeds and the right to use the patented crop Small farm production in Latin America supplies 40 percent of domestic consumption and is responsible for 51 percent of maize output, 77 percent of beans and 61 percent of potatoes.
Guatemala, which along with Mexico is considered the birthplace of maize, since 1998 has banned experimentation, planting and imports of genetically
modified varieties. "The prohibition is justified because through
pollination a transgenic plant can be crossed with native varieties" and create a "difficult situation", Salvador Sandoval, agronomist with the Guatemalan Agriculture Ministry's health regulation division, told Tierramérica.
Sixty thousand hectares are planted with corn in Guatemala, not enough to meet domestic demand, so the country imports around 115 million tons of the grain each year Similar situations can be found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The region purchases about 90 percent of corn exports from the United States, the world's leading producer, and a third of US corn is genetically modified, but reaches Latin America with lo labelling to indicate it as such to the consumers.
Mexican studies show that the genetic contamination of native corn varieties could be the result of accidental pollination -- something that could also be happening in the other Mesoamerican countries. Maize is a freely pollinating crop, and it is known that the transfer of genetic material occurs easily among plants within short distances of each other For centuries, farmers have taken advantage of this fact to cross domesticated corn with wild varieties
In Costa Rica, where the production of genetically modified corn seed has been permitted since the 1990s exclusively for export, there is no evidence of genetic contamination, Alex May, of the Agriculture Ministry's National Biosafety Commission, told Tierramérica. Costa Rica dedicates some 18,000 hectares to corn production, and imports around 70,000 tons of the grain from the United States each year
Mexican scientist Luis Herrera, who is considered one of the founders of biogenetics, maintains that despite the debate on transgenics under way, the introduction of these varieties in agriculture worldwide is irreversible. In his opinion, what countries need to do is control, use and develop their own transgenic varieties, but while also promoting traditional crop development technologies
Europe's Ban On GMOs Is Still Firmly In Place
- Henry I. Miller And Gregory Conko, Wall Street Journal (Europe), April 19, 2004 http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB108232453004485923,00.html
There is an old saying among political veterans in Washington that when something has been said three times it becomes a fact. The same maxim apparently also applies in Brussels. Yesterday, the European Union's draconian labeling rules for genetically-modified foods went into effect, a step that is supposed to help end the EU's illegal five-year moratorium on approvals of new GM crop varieties.
EU Commissioner for Food Safety David Byrne has promised that the EU will soon approve an insect-resistant sweet corn variety, a move he argues will obviate a World Trade Organization complaint by the United States and other countries against the moratorium. "Quite obviously, if authorizations are made, a WTO panel wouldn't have any work to do . . . I would expect the [WTO] case to fall away, in one way or another," he added.
Mr. Byrne's glib observation is an example not only of hoping that repetition will create facts, but also of whistling past the graveyard. Even if the EU itself were to resume approvals, developers of GM crops would still confront other obstacles: A voting structure that allows a minority of European countries to refuse registration for new GM products, as well as unscientific, Draconian, hugely expensive new EU regulatory requirements. These include the strict labeling regime, which requires GM foods to be identified; the segregation of GM from conventional products; and "traceability," so that GM ingredients can be traced through every step of the food chain all the way back to the farm where they were grown.
European officials, including Mr. Byrne himself, have acknowledged that the labeling and traceability rules have nothing to do with protecting consumer health or the natural environment. An analysis by the EU itself that summarizes the conclusions of 81 different EU-funded research projects spanning 15 years concluded that because GM plants and foods are made with highly precise and predictable scientific techniques, they are at least as safe, and often safer, than their conventional counterparts.
Literally thousands of laboratory, greenhouse and field studies show that the risks of GM plants and foods are minimal, their benefits are legion, and their future potential is extraordinary. Globally, the adoption of GM crops -- by more than seven million farmers in 18 countries -- has reduced pesticide use by tens of millions of kilograms annually and saved billions of kilograms of topsoil from erosion. In less-developed countries such as China and South Africa, GM crops have increased yields, raised the incomes of resource-poor farmers, and reduced occupational exposure to chemical pesticides. Future increases in the adoption and diffusion of GM crops could improve human nutrition, reduce the amount of land and water needed to produce food, and save ecosystems from fragmentation and destruction.
European leaders make no apologies for regulatory policies toward GM that pander shamefully to uninformed public opinion that verges on superstition. Commissioner Byrne has pointed out that in spite of repeated scientific assurances about the safety of consuming GM food products, European public attitudes have not moderated. "The science-based message simply fails to get across," he said. Apparently, it never occurred to Mr. Byrne that the public would interpret greater regulation as implying greater risk.
Are Europeans venal? Stupid? Intent on economic suicide? We'll leave those judgments to others, but on the subject of GM crops and foods, they have left themselves little wiggle room. GM research and development in Europe has virtually disappeared, the victim of debilitating regulation, unrelenting attacks by activists, and public opprobrium. Since 1998, 61% of the private-sector institutions surveyed by the European
Commission's Joint Research Center have canceled research projects that involve GM technology, and there has been a near-meltdown of field trials of GM-improved organisms. From an unimpressive peak level of 264 field trials in Europe in 1997, there were only 35 in 2002. Thus, the EU's only viable strategy may be to poison the well -- to make sure that agricultural applications of GM fail everywhere, and that no competitor remains standing.
Even if for reasons of economics, beneficence or commitment to good government, the Europeans wished to rationalize their approach to GM products, they would be stymied by Europe's commitment to the so-called precautionary principle, which holds that while the evidence about a product, technology or activity is any way incomplete, it should be prohibited, or at the least, heavily regulated. The precautionary principle forces society to ignore proven benefits in a costly effort to eliminate hypothetical risks that are small or easily manageable. It not only obstructs important new technologies, but also diverts societal resources from more significant dangers.
The precautionary principle is routinely used in Europe as justification for egregious regulatory abuses of GM products. French, German and Italian ministries have blocked the cultivation of GM crops even after they received clean bills of health from their own regulatory authorities. And last month, Bayer CropScience announced that as a result of excessively precautionary restrictions imposed by the U.K.'s environment ministry, the company is giving up plans to grow GM maize in the U.K.
Such events offer insight into why Brussels' lifting of the moratorium on approvals will have little impact. No one should be fooled by the EU's promises to resume authorizations of GM crops -- or even by its doing so. Such theatrics, and David Byrne's disingenuous statements, are merely a ruse to get the U.S. and other countries to end their WTO challenge to unscientific, anti-social EU policies. And even if we don't repeat that over and over, it's a fact.
Dr. Miller is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Mr. Conko is director of food safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Their book, "The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution," will be published later this year by Praeger Publishers.
On GM Rice and Barriers to Its Adoption
- Jonathan Gressel
They should be regulatory barriers when industry is not performing well. When it was assumed that a herbicide resistant rice would have a five year lifetime in S-USA the industry was ready to release to make a quick buck. That is not long-term product stewardship, which is the stockholders problem. Regulators should deal with agro-ecosystem stewardship and wonder if bad ecosystem stewardship will give the govt less taxes as ag goes out of business. 5 years is not good product life with a rice-redrice system because there are only three potential herbicides for red rice control. Therefore regulators must sit on industry when it is in the public benefit
- because industry's interests are the director's benefits (not even the stockholders...). Industry did not put in any of the failsafe mechanisms "because it wasn't required". With rice they listened only when it was found that introgression was so fast that the whole fields were covered with herbicide resistant red rice after 2 years....
- Jonny, Prof. Jonathan Gressel, Plant Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science
Pharmaceuticals: A Bad Regulatory Model For Seeds
- John W. Cross:
The biggest problem facing ag-biotech is that the regulatory model being applied is that developed for medicinal products. The analogy to medicinal products regulation is both false and damaging.
The analogy is FALSE because biotech seeds have never caused any harm to the public. The pharmaceutical industry, on the contrary, had a long history of abuse, false advertising and error that rightfully provoked stringent government intrusion. On the contrary, the seed industry has no such history of harm to the public. If an occasional problem should arise, the tort system and the importance of a company's reputation are more than adequate to set things right. The tort system works well when the system is fair and the wrongs are rare.
The analogy is DAMAGING because it has become a drag on progress. The regulatory millieu for pharmaceuticals works because the products are high-profit items. Seeds are not high-profit items. Years ago I worked in the ag-biotech industry, but that company, like many others, closed down. Today, after so many plant biotech companies have closed there are few opportunities in the field, even for younger scientists. The cost of regulatory compliance is too great for small and mid-sized companies to enter the field.
If the risk of public harm from biotech seeds were high, then the cost of regulatory compliance would be reasonable, even if it resulted in many companies shutting down. Happily, the actual degree of risk is low.
Those citizens who are by philosophy risk-adverse seem to think that the alternative to a heavy-handed government regulatory system is no regulation at all, but that is not the case. The tort system provides an invisible form of regulation in the form of deterrence. When a company knows that there is a real risk of catastrophic lawsuits, it will exercise caution in its business practices. There are many industries, even those involving very hazardous products, which base their risk avoidance on the tort system. Insurance companies, which seek to reduce their risks by inspections and by placing pressure on their insured, and each company's need to maintain its good reputation with customers also play an important role.
As an aside, I will remark that the tort system must have teeth to work well for the public good. The tort system must not be "reformed" to place artificial limits on damages. Businessmen must have a real fear of losing the company if they misbehave.
Corporate reputation as a means to corporate responsibility should not be minimized. Farmers are very cautious individuals when it comes to their source of seeds. They typically plant only a small amount of any new seed to try it for a season, and only after they are happy with the results do they commit to planting more than a few trial rows.
German TV GM Consumer Test
- Martin Mieschendahl
Geman politicians always claim the opposition of the public against GE food to be the main reason for the introduction of strict rules against the application of green biotechnology. Consumers shall have the possibility to choose between GE and non-GE foods. It is argued that 70% of German people refuse to eat gm food. But as 80% of those opposing GE food have no idea what genetic engineering of food means, one must put into question the results of these kinds of polls and the sense of these political actions and actors.
According to a recent poll of the German Press Agency DPA, 47% of the consumers would continue to buy foods they consumed so far even if they become aware that theses foods contain GE materials.
Similar results have already been obtained by Allensbach in 2001. In this poll even 67% of the interviewees were in favour of the application of genetic engineering techniques to plants if this would be of benefit to developing countries.
So it seem that it is not the public in general that opposes genetic engineering but the incapability of politicians to act in a responsible manner. So far there are no indications that GE food is less safe than non-GE food. Due to the European regulatory schemes transgenic plants only get an authorization if they are at least as safe as their non-GE counterpart. To me it is a secret why this should not be explainable to the broad public if politicians would try to do so.
New Brochure on Bt Corn and Insect Diversity
The brochure "Philippines Bt Corn and Insect Diversity" is now available through the SEARCA BIC website. The brief brochure provides a "laymanized" presentation of the results of a study investigating the impact of commercially-approved Bt corn in the Philippines on the variety and community of insects.
To access the brochure, please go to
Australia: Greenpeace Targets GM Ship
ENVIRONMENTAL activists painted a sign on the side of a container ship in Brisbane today in protest against the importation of genetically modified food. Three Greenpeace protesters painted the words "Stop GE Imports" in letters stretching for 25m along the side of the container ship Rhein at its berth in Fisherman Islands.
Police interviewed several people in connection with the incident but none was charged. They plan to use a video from Port of Brisbane authorities to help identify offenders. Greenpeace spokeswoman Carolin Wenzel said three Greenpeace activists had painted the sign on the ship, which had been carrying 13,000 tonnes of genetically modified soy meal from the United States.
The sign, in letters 1.5m high and stretching 25m, was painted with rollers in white paint. Ms Wenzel said the three protesters responsible escaped in an inflatable craft before water police arrived. She said the soy meal cargo was just a fraction of the 300,000 tonnes of genetically engineered soy product entering Australia each year for use in chicken feed.
"Basically, this is letting people know this is coming into the country unlabelled and ending up on people's dinner plates," she said. In another protest today, three Greenpeace protesters in chicken suits appeared outside the ANA Hotel on the Gold Coast where a three-day poultry conference was being held.
- UK Farming, April 10, 2004 (Via Vivian Moses)
WITH disturbing accuracy, we predicted last issue that the obstacles to GM introduction in the UK could threaten the future of the technology which might one day provide real benefits far beyond those currently sought.
That depressing forecast has come home to roost with Bayer's withdrawal in the UK of Chardon LL - the maize variety conditionally approved for planting here last month -because the potential benefits of the variety have been eroded by the delays in its introduction.
That decision is being hailed as a victory by anti-GM campaigners - a signal that GM has no place on our soils. But the real signal is that the UK is no place to be doing business when it comes to the technology. And so we risk being left behind, as it seems we are in so many things.
An opportunity lost? When those cuckoos who believe the UK can survive in isolation from the rest of the food producing world, come down from their clouds, it will be them the industry can thank for being unable to compete or exploit new and exciting market opportunities.
Losing a Valuable New Technology
- FARMER FORUM (UK) 10 April 1002
GM technology has become a victim of its own success, argues Marie Skinner
IT'S GOOD enough to be a joke: modern agriculture needs weeds. But that is the conclusion of the Government in its approval for the commercial growing of GM maize, and the rejection of GM spring rape and sugar beet. Farmers throughout the ages have always fought to control weeds. Then, along comes a new technology that is more effective at reducing them than anything that has gone before.
It should be good news. But the assumption behind approval seems to be that GM maize is good because it has more weeds than conventionally grown maize, whereas GM spring rape and GM beet are bad because they have fewer weeds than their conventional counterparts. More equals more biodiversity, so a weedy crop is better for the environment.
However, when it comes to areas grown, GM beet and spring rape would both leave more weeds than conventional maize, but that comparison does not seem to count. Instead, it is a Catch 22. If a GM crop effectively does what it has been developed to do - control weeds better than the existing methods - then it will not be approved.
The GM dilemma was neatly summed up on a Radio 4 comedy programme which mocked the media's "Frankenstein" food scare tactics, contrasting GM with mobile phones and their potential health hazard - which makes GM crops really safe in comparison. But people do not stop using mobiles. Users accept the risk because the benefits make it worth their while.
That sketch summed up neatly all that is wrong with the way GM crops have been handled by biotechnology companies. They blundered in to the public arena with GM crops that might benefit farmers - depending on the pricing of seed - and would certainly benefit their own businesses, which is fine as it is the basis for future investment and development.
But they totally ignored consumer benefit that would encourage wider acceptance. Why should any member of the public support GMs when, however small the 'risk', they see no benefit for themselves?
Now Bayer, the company with the approved GM maize variety, has decided to withdraw Chardon LL because it no longer believes there is any commercial edge to growing it owing to the regulatory delays in bringing it to market. That's the official line at least. Bayer might also have come to realise that it is just not worth bothering to promote a variety with such small market potential in the UK. Maize is the worst possible crop from a PR point of view when it comes to 'selling' the GM concept. What is needegd is the GM equivalent of the mobile phone. A crop that offers consumers something they value, regardless of the risk.
I can't see many people worrying about the health risks of bread made from GM wheat if it was modified to produce Viagra. Or rejecting bread made from gluten-free GM wheat, or beet that produced drugs such as insulin. Instead, we have GM maize, an antagonistic public, and biotech companies that are now virtually abandoning the UK to move to other less Luddite parts of the world.
So the end result is a disaster. Food made from GM crops, that we are banned from growing, is imported into the UK. We are becoming isolated and will lose out on all the new, significant and valuable GM technology that lies just around the corner.
-- Marie Skinner is an agricultural and rural consultant with 25 years' experience farming a 200ha mainly light land farm in Norfolk
- Farmers Guardian (UK), April 9, 2004
Remember that phrase "level playing field'. It was supposed to mean everybody got a fair crack of the whip, wasn't it - that there wasn't a 'one rule for them, another rule for us' mentality in operation, right? So much for that then. Because whether It's GM you're talk1n8 about, or TB or haIaI slaughter of animals, it would seem that the Government plays whatever card is appropriate, even if it leads to some pretty odd contradictions,
Take halal and kosher slaughter of animals, for example - that is, killing animals by cutting their throats, without any prior stunning. If a non-Halal abattoir slaughtered an animal in this way it would be in very serious trouble indeed. Why? Because it would be in contravention of regulations relating to animal welfare at slaughter.
This week, however, the Government ducked the decision on this method of slaughter by playing the religious sensitivity card, which apparently trumps the animal welfare card. If this isn't contradictory enough, Mr Bradshaw then excused the decision on the grounds of 'exporting a welfare problem'. True enough. Pity that wasn't considered, of course, when sow stalls were banned here end not abroad, or veal crates for that matter.
No doubt, religious slaughter is a very sensitive issue, coming at a time when religious differences are at the heart of some of the world's most serious conflicts - conflicts which could spill over onto our own streets. But the fact remains that either animal welfare Is important, or it isn't
- or is it that some animals are more equal than others?
Talking of welfare, whet about TB? Here we have badger and cattle health problem, a growing human catastrophe, a potential human health issue and a massive headache for the Treasury which stands to lose billion pounds over the next decade. Yet the Government refuses to act, ironically for animal welfare reasons - or, more realistically, fear of upsetting the increasingly irrational and desperate badger welfare lobby. Mr Bradshaw seems to have little concern about the prospect of exporting the entire UK catgtle industry as the UK becomes over-run by TB.
Which brings us to GM. We can't grow it here, of course, but feel free to feed it to your animals and eat it in a wide range of food that has been on our shelves for years. Once again, UK farmers will have no choice but to stand on the sidelines and watch as a system effectively banned In this country Is used to good effect elsewhere in the world.
It wouldn't be so bad if UK consumers didn't have access to cheaper, imported products from countries making use of these technologies and if UK farmers weren't seeing their own markets destroyed by these same cheap imports. But that will be the day when we all operate on that famed level playing field.
0ne word sums up the Government's attitude to UL agriculture. And it stinks.
Time to Wake Up to the GM Reality
- Farmers Guardian (UK), April 10, 2004
Of course we should not be surprised that Bayer Crop Science have pulled out. We should be surprised that any science based company should even think of staying in this country.
Why should they when they can go to literally dozens of other countries where they can be sure of operating in an intelligent and constructive business environment? And moreover in a situation where the overall global area growing GM crops is expanding by somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent annually. They could even go to Spain (in the ED supposedly ultra cautious about biotech), where GM maize is growing ever more popular.
The political chaos re: GM in this coun-try beggars belief. As you rightly say in your Opinion column (FG, April 2), Britain currently imports some 2 million tonnes of GM food and cotton. Who eats that food I wonder? What harm has it done them?
How can the supermarkets justify their current anti GM policies when the cotton undergarments they sell to their unsuspecting female customers are almost certainly made from GM cotton? And the disease-resistant elm trees greeted with such joy by the media, are they not the result of GM? If all this is true in 2004, what will the position be in five years time? For by then it will be either impossible or extravagantly expensive to buy soya or maize or cotton, or whatever, in the global market
The GM antis will say 'what a wonderful opportunity for British farmers to "supply their own market'. Come off it. Compete with other countries benefiting from modern technology? Expect the British consumer to- pay a large premium in a supermarket environment which is pushing all prices down?
Not only is the hypocrisy which surrounds all this almost unbelievable, it is also desperately sad. As your correspondent, Sue Fowler, pointed out last week in her letter (Who would be a hill farmer now?) the risk is that she and her husband will not be there. And here is someone who, however unwisely; has done her damnest to look after the environment.
What applies to her will apply equally to many more, and not just hill farmers either, unless we wake up and adopt modern, cost saving, technology.
- Henry Fell (chairman), The Commercial Farmers Group, Church House, Horkstow, Barton on Humber.
GM-Free Britain? Who Are We Trying To Kid?
- Farmers Guardian (UK), April 10, 2004
Keeping Britain truly GM free could be one of the best things to happen to UK agriculture. It would double the price of UK grown protein crops and goodness only knows what it would do to the wool price. If GM soya and GM cotton were banned from our shores tomorrow there :would be. an immediate and significant shortage of textiles and animal feed.. Nearly all the world's cotton contains GM and GM soya arrives at our ports by the boat-load. We all know why it is cheap compared to its UK grown market rivals.
So, if we are to believe the media headlines that Britain will be GM .free until at least 2008 why isn't this price bonanza on the horizon. Well, it depends on your definition of a GM-free Britain.
If you mean a Britain that doesn't grow any GM produce but imports it by the boat-load then, yes, we are a GM-free country. We are GM free in the same way as we are free of veal that is pro-duced using veal crates. We are GM free in the same way we are free of pork produced using sow stalls.
British consumers can and do buy such products but they can-not be sourced from UK farms as our Government forbids it. Crate produced veal, sow still pork, GM produce will find ready markets in the UK. The lower cost of produc-tion such systems involve mean that they can appear on super-market shelves at a very competi-tive price.
Our Government clearly has a policy of encouraging foreign agricultures to adopt cost saving production systems by allowing those agricultures free access to British markets. It is as if only British farm animals need more expensive high welfare systems. It is as if there is no human health or environmental problem with GM crops as long as they are grown abroad and imported into Britain.
The British consumer also has this streak of economic hypocrisy that acts to the detriment of British farmers. When confronted by questions on clipboards they are quick to specify they would not touch GM produce with a barge--pole or that they think veal crates are wickedly cruel. But before the ink is dry on the questionnaire they are at the supermarket shelf selecting GM produce or choosing crate-reared veal.
And where does this leave the British farmer? He can emigrate and take a farm in France to set up a veal rearing unit festooned with cramped crates. Then he can export the veal back to Britain. He can buy a farm in the mid-west of the US. Once there he will want to be like his neighbours and grow GM soya. GM soya is mighty popular in the US. It is cheap to grow.
It means you have to use less pesticide which makes your life easier and your production costs cheaper. So once farming in the US a British farmer can grow his GM crops and export them back to the UK where he can feed them to his stock.
The popularity of GM protein crops in the US is irrefutable. Last year the acreage of bio-tech corn plantings were up 9.7 per cent to 46 per cent of all corn planted in the US; GM soyabean acreage increased 9.2 per cent to 86 per cent of all plantings; and bio-tech cotton acreage increased 9.1 per cent to 76 per cent of all plantings.
In 2003 there was an increase of GM crops globally with crops planted in 18 countries on more than 167 million acres with a 15 per cent increase in 2003 over 2002. Ninety-eight per cent of the soya beans in Argentina are GM. Uruguay tripled its acreage plant-ed with GM soya in 2003 to 148,200 acres and also planted GM corn for the fist time.
This figure is still set to grow. Brazil will soon become the world's premier soya grower. Until 2003 the Brazilian Govern-ment were keen to be seen as GM free but in September of that year a presidential decree was passed allowing GM to be grown.
Almost immediately Brazil accounted for 4 per cent of the world's GM crops. Eighteen per cent of Brazilian soya beans planted for 2004 harvest were GM - that is 7.4 million acres. These are the official statistics. Unoffi-cially it is known that Brazilian farmers have been growing GM soya beans for many years and the actual figures are much high-er than the official ones.
The idea that GM crops are unpopular with farmers abroad or have had their day is one of the stupider myths put about by anti-GM campaigners.
But back in Britain we insist that we continue to use yesterday's technology rather than tomorrow's. We are becoming a museum agriculture where all change is deemed somehow bad. This would be fine if we could insist our consumers were obliged to only eat in the museum cafeteria but they don't. They eat where they like and show little loyalty to their homespun muse-um agriculture.
Meanwhile our Government is treading a most bizarre path. It allows foreign agricultures access to British markets in the full knowledge that those agricul-tures use cost saving technolo-gies not allowed to British farm-ers. They call it the cautious approach. Others may call it the economics of the madhouse. I would go further than that, I would call it treachery.
Death by Environmentalism
- Robert James Bidinotto, Intellctual Conservative, 19 April 2004
Starting, as they do, from the premise of nature's intrinsic value -- a value independent of any valuer or purpose -- environmentalists are driven by that premise's inescapable logic to consistently oppose every human effort to use the planet.
What does it mean in practice to hold a philosophy that declares that pristine nature has intrinsic value in itself, and that regards Man and his activities as intrusive threats to the so-called ecological balance?
I have discussed the history, meaning, and basic premises of environmentalism previously, in my monograph The Green Machine and in my recorded talk "Green Cathedrals," both available from The Objectivist Center. I also explore these issues on my ecoNOT.com Web site.
But here I want to focus on the consequences of accepting core environmentalist premises -- specifically, their deadly impact on human life.
In the same way that so many intellectuals once turned a blind eye to the massacres perpetrated by communists, most intellectuals now evade the three decades of mass destruction and misery perpetrated by environmentalists. Sharing the movement's underlying philosophic precepts and focusing their gaze upon its proclaimed goals, they remain blissfully ignorant of its wretched consequences, or -- when brought to their attention -- excuse them as unfortunate "excesses" wrought by a few overly zealous "idealists," whose hearts are nonetheless in the right place.
It is this self-imposed blindness that we must penetrate, by casting a spotlight on the human costs of this misanthropic movement.
And let's be clear about our real adversaries. The environmental movement's deadliest threats to human lives do not come from its violent fringe characters, that relative handful of "eco-terrorists" who set fire to SUV dealerships and research labs. As I aim to show, the environmental movement's worst assaults on human lives are plotted and implemented every day by genteel, well-dressed lawyers, activists, and bureaucrats, working inside the posh offices of mainstream environmental groups and government agencies. While the theatrics of tree-sitters and terrorists grab headlines and provoke public anger, the policies and programs of the mainstream greens command little public concern or opposition. But theirs are the activities that are destroying the lives of millions.
For the most part, these leading environmentalists have remained insulated from scrutiny and inoculated against criticism, chiefly because their philosophic premises are so widely shared by intellectuals, the media, and the public. But another factor also conspires to buffer environmentalists from serious opposition. It's what the nineteenth-century French economist Frederic Bastiat described as the problem of "what is seen, and what is not seen."
Environmentalists always tout nice-sounding objectives: a new protected species, cleaner air, more fuel-efficient automobiles. But these efforts invariably have destructive side effects that are often difficult to trace back to their sources.
Full article at... http://www.intellectualconservative.com/article3340.html