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August 11, 2004


Green Con; Better Coffee; Addressing Public Sentiment In Japan; Does Hunger Outweigh GM Doubts?; Explaining EU Bias; Solving Wicked Problems


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: August 11, 2004

* Australia: We Must Cotton On to the Green Con
* DNA Map to Help Brew Better Coffee
* Negative Fallout From Public Sentiment In Japan
* Does Hunger Outweigh GM Doubts?
* ..... Africans Wrestle With Grim Choice
* French Government Report Says GM Corn Has Health Benefits
* India: Govt to Set Up Single Window Body for GM Crops
* Uganda: Accept GMOs, Don Urges
* Report Explains EU Biotech Bias
* GM Bans Hurting Australian Agriculture: Troeth
* U.S.-Africa Agribusiness Conference
* Indian Council Overlooked an Extensive Scientific Knowledge Base
* Anti-GM Protesters Disrupt Melbourne's Biofestival
* A Fresh View at The Biotech Debate: Solving Wicked Problems

Australia: We Must Cotton On to the Green Con

- Sydney Morning Herald, August 12, 2004

It serves no one to demonise modified crops that help the land and
the starving.

Rob Tuck, a fourth-generation farmer from Narromine, NSW, has been
growing genetically modified cotton for six years and says his farm
has never been cleaner or healthier. His cotton contains a gene that
makes it resistant to the marauding Helicoverpa caterpillar which
used to devastate his paddocks.

Whereas Tuck, 38, used to have to spray his crops with a toxic
pesticide up to 16 times a season, now he sprays only twice - and
that's just to ward off sucking insects, not caterpillars. His cotton
is also "stacked" with a gene which makes it "Roundup ready" - that
is, tolerant to the herbicide used to destroy weeds. Tuck says he is
using 69 per cent less herbicide than when he grew conventional
cotton, which more than makes up for the $300 per paddock cost of the
Monsanto seed. Less chemicals on crops means run-off water so clean
you can drink it and less impact on native animals and river

"It's fantastic for the environment," Tuck said yesterday. "The
neighbours are happier, too, because we're not spraying as much."

Tuck's new crops are such a boon to the environment you would expect
Greenpeace to give him a medal. And yet, to activist groups such as
Greenpeace, genetically modified crops are all irredeemably evil.
Instead of applauding the environmental advantages, they continue a
Luddite scare campaign against the crops and "Frankenfood",
successfully convincing lily-livered politicians in five states to
ban genetically modified canola crops, scaring consumers at the
supermarket shelf and demonising global biotech companies such as

In the face of such an unrelenting negative campaign, who would know
that the story of genetically modified cotton has been such an
environmental success story that it now accounts for more than 40 per
cent of the Australian crop?

It's not just the farmers singing its praises. Last week, a
University of Sydney study, A Snapshot of Roundup Ready Cotton in
Australia, declared that genetically modified cotton had produced
significant environmental and economic benefits for Australia. It had
reduced the potential harmful effect of herbicides on plants and
animals in river ecosystems.

Tuck, who also farms wheat, canola, sheep and cattle on his three
properties in the Macquarie Valley, would love to repeat his cotton
success with genetically modified canola. But there's no hope of
that, after the NSW Government, under pressure from green groups,
vetoed a 3000-hectare modified canola trial in April, forcing
Monsanto to abandon its Australian plans altogether. Greenpeace was
further empowered by what it regarded as a "huge victory for
consumers" over the biotech Satan. The NSW Greens MP Ian Cohen said
Monsanto's pullout was "an admission of failure to force GM crops
onto farmers and consumers".

It was no such thing. It was the abandonment of a trial which would
have told farmers and consumers whether the modified canola was

But the scare campaign against genetic engineering is working. A
survey of 1000 Australians by the government agency Biotechnology
Australia in February found 80 per cent were concerned about gene
technology in food and 56 per cent believed only traditional methods
should be used for breeding of plants and animals. Even though only
two genetically modified crops - cotton and carnations - are
commercially grown in Australia, the survey found 55 per cent of
people believe there are "Frankenfood" fruit and vegetables on
supermarket shelves.

Public sentiment may be impossible to shift but rational science is
starting to make itself heard above the scaremongering of green
groups. Last month the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences
issued a report that found genetically engineered crops do not pose
any greater health risk than crops created by conventional
cross-breeding techniques, which involve the mixing of thousands of
unknown genes.

New crops created with either technique could result in "unintended,
harmful changes to the composition of food". It cited the
conventional breeding of a strain of potato which resulted in a toxic
vegetable hitting the market.

The Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne has also been battling
to set the record straight on genetically modified crops, with a
lecture to be delivered later this month by one of the world's
leading authorities on the subject, Rick Roush. The University of
California entomologist and agricultural scientist first proposed in
the late 1980s that genes from a bacteria, which produced its own
natural insecticide, could be introduced into cotton. His research
laid the groundwork for the Bollgard II, or B2, cottonseed used by
Rob Tuck. Roush's lecture "Good, Better, Banned" will attack the
idiocy behind the anti-GM campaign.

Dr David Tribe, a University of Melbourne microbiologist who has
worked with Roush on genetic issues, points out that so-called
organic food carries its own risks. For instance, B2 cotton exudes
natural insecticide in its leaves and buds which wards off its
caterpillar predator. Some "organic" farmers have taken to spraying
their crops with the original bacteria, which may or may not lead to
unforeseen hazards.

Modifying genes through conventional breeding techniques has been
practised in agriculture for half a century, says Tribe. Since the
1940s wheat has been crossbred with natural grasses to provide
resistance to fungi - so-called smuts and rusts. So welcome to
farmers were the new crossbreed strains that one was called Hope.

In the end, Tribe says, we need to remember that the amount of
farmland in the world stopped expanding in 1960. Since then the
world's population has grown by 2 billion. The only way we have been
able to feed more people with less farmland is through better
technology: irrigation, crop breeding, fertiliser and, to some
extent, pesticides. Genetic improvement of crops to make them yield
more food, or need less water and chemicals, is the obvious way to
feed the world's people without resorting to doubling the world's
farmland by clearing vast tracts of forest.

"It is very wrongheaded to try to destroy a system that is feeding
billions of people without any clear idea of how to replace it," he

What is the Utopians' alternative?


DNA Map to Help Brew Better Coffee

- Reuters, August 11, 2004

Brazil says it has created the first complete map of the genetic
structure of the coffee plant and its Agriculture Minister says the
country will now work to develop a "super coffee". Brazil has mapped
coffee's DNA in a bid to cut production costs and create beans that
cater to the rich tastes of US and European consumers.

After more than two years of work, the world's biggest coffee grower
is using the DNA map to create a genetic database on the plant. The
database contains information on the 200,000 DNA sequences and 35,000
genes that create different aromas and caffeine levels in the
tropical bean.

Brazil is known for mass-market "junk" coffee. However, it hopes to
use the data to raise production of gourmet, organic and new
caffeine-free beans within two years. It also plans to cut coffee
prices in Brazil, the world's second-largest coffee consumer. "We
are going to create a super coffee that everyone can benefit from
eventually," Brazilian Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues said.

Production to double
Experts say new genetically engineered plants could double coffee
production per hectare, allowing Brazil to cut production costs by 20
per cent. Six Brazilian public institutions will have initial access
to the genome database. They will apply the findings to national
coffee production.

Clayton Campanhola, head of Brazilian agricultural research agency
EmbrapaIn, says in about five or six years, the DNA database will be
open to Brazil's private sector. It may also be opened to foreign
companies, on payment of royalties for patented information. "This is
going to redirect our production toward quality," Mr Campanhola said.

Brazil hopes to create high-quality coffee trees that are more
resistant to diseases and pests and can have a productive life of 30
years, instead of the current 15 years. While the project will create
new varieties of coffee plants through cross-pollination and other
measures, it will not create genetically modified plants. Brazil has
benned the planting and sale of GMO crops and foods.

New genetically resistant plants could double coffee production per
hectare from 15 sacks to 30 sacks. This would allow Brazil to cut
production costs by 20 per cent and raise national production to 60
million sacks without expanding its growing area. Researchers also
see cost savings of between 50 and 100 per cent on the money
Brazilian producers spend on chemical herbicides and pesticides that
cause serious pollution problems.


Negative Fallout From Public Sentiment In Japan

- Kazuo N. Watanabe et al., Nature Biotechnology 22, 943 (2004)
http://www.nature.com/ (Reproduced with the permission of the editor)

To the editor: As concerned plant scientists at major plant science
research institutions in Japan, we would like to express our
collective concern over the impact of Japanese public resistance to
plant genetic engineering on the actions of local and national
government. We are concerned that negative public sentiment could
translate into government actions that will compromise overall
competitiveness and research and development capability in the plant

For example, at the prefecture level, the local government in
Hokkaido (a major region of agriculture) is currently formulating a
bill scheduled for 2005 to ban planting genetically modified (GM)
crops approved by the national Japanese authorities. The Tokyo
metropolitan government and local farmers have already stopped the
field assessment of a transgenic potato line at an experimental field
in Tanashi city, Tokyo, apparently solely on the basis of negative
public perception. These actions appear to have unsubstantiated fears that such planting might affect the local
agriculture economy1. We fear that they bring Japanese plant science
closer to a critical situation in which research not only in the
field but also in the laboratory will be threatened. At the national
level, negative public sentiment may also affect funding allocation
by the Japanese government in the plant sciences as a whole.

We urge Japanese political leaders not to abandon a technology that
is readily being adopted by countries outside of Europe and could
positively contribute to economic growth in Japan. Politicians have a
responsibility to respect and honor the concerns of their electorate,
but also should respect scientific consensus that genetic engineering
is as safe as any other technology.

1. http://www.biotech-house.jp/news/news_84.html


Does Hunger Outweigh GM Doubts?

- Scidev.net, 10 August 2004; http://www.scidev.net Source: Scoop --
see below..

Crop pests are a fact of life for African farmers, and chemical
pesticides are often too expensive to allow profits. Two alternatives
are genetically modified (GM) crops and insect resistant strains of
crops developed by conventional breeding experiments. Critics of GM
say the technology is being forced on African farmers but supporters
say that hunger in Africa cannot be tackled with it.

In this article, Robert Scalia reports on the choices facing African
farmers and governments. Uganda, for instance, has a lucrative
organic market in Europe and the government forbids the planting of
GM crops, but allows imports. Angola and Zambia have banned GM food
in imports. Meanwhile, Kenya and South Africa are pushing ahead with
GM crops.

Increasing yields is one thing but, as farmers have found, unless the
produce looks and tastes right, people won't buy it. And whether or
not GM can produce improved yields of safe food, other factors, such
as loans for farmers, better infrastructure, and improved markets are
also central to the improvement of food security in Africa.

Full Scoop article at
http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0408/S00080.htm Excerpts

Africans Wrestle With Grim Choice
- Robert Scalia, Scoop, August 9, 2004

Sam Musoke knows what his people will and will not eat.

Like many farmers in central Uganda, Musoke doesn't use chemical
pesticides. Instead, he prefers manure and mulched tobacco leaves to
fertilize the red arid soil on his 10-hectare commercial farm in
Nsangi District, where banana, mango and avocado trees grow in fenced

But fences designed to keep his farm animals out have proved useless
against the various pests and viruses that continue to ravage his
crops - a problem that has plagued many subsistence farms in the

Musoke says these poor farmers can hardly produce enough food for
themselves, let alone for profit. Manure and pesticides are costly.
Farmers want solutions, even if that means planting genetically
modified crops.

" Farmers will not refuse crops because they are genetically
modified," he tells me in his characteristically reflective tone. "
But if the food doesn't taste the same, people will reject it."

Like most African nations, Uganda currently forbids planting GM crops
on its soil for either research or commercial purposes. Politicians,
exporters and consumers believe GM could threaten the country's
organic sector, which has found a very lucrative market in Europe.

Similar public concern over cross contamination and the long-term
health effects of genetic modification forced American biotech giant
Monsanto to shelve its GM wheat program in North America. Several
European and Asian countries had even threatened to boycott Canadian
wheat had Monsanto's herbicide-tolerant variety been introduced.

For the moment, farmers in Uganda don't even have that option. They
rely instead on various insect resistant strains (hybrids) developed
through conventional cross breeding by the Kawanda Agricultural
Research Institute (KARI), Uganda's leading research body.

Musoke has planted several cassava hybrids resistant to the infamous
Cassava Mosaic, a virus which has ravaged crops across Eastern
Africa. But these strains take far longer to grow and taste bitter,
which hasn't made them very popular with the locals. And he still
lost nearly 40 per cent of his cassava crop last year.

" The average person eats what is tasty and easy to prepare. If these
varieties are not palatable, then I won't waste my time with them."

It has been said of Africa that beggars can't be choosers.

The Bush administration made that very argument in late 2002 after
famine-stricken Zambia announced it would not accept any GM grain
from the US, where almost 80 per cent of food contains genetically
modified organisms. Angola recently did the same.

In Uganda, the government's recent decision to allow GM food imports
in the wake of last year's whirlwind African tour by president Bush
shocked its East African neighbours and outraged local farmers.
Non-governmental organizations have also weighed in on the debate.
Last week, over 60 NGOs from 15 African countries accused the World
Food Programme (WFP) and the US Agency for International Development
(USAID) for effectively forcing African nations to accept GM food aid
against their will.

The US, meanwhile, continues to accuse anti-GM lobbyists and Europe
for impeding its efforts to reduce hunger in Africa. Shooting down
calls for more long-term health and environmental testing, the US
insists any food good enough for its own people is good enough for

In Kenya, where erratic rains have left an estimated 2 million people
without food, discussions on the long-term repercussions of GM have
taken a back seat to hunger.

"People who are starving don't care either way," explains Philippe
Guiton, the Africa relief manager for World Vision. " They are dying
now. But we need to take all precautions. What's the use of saving
people's lives today to have them die tomorrow? "

The World Health Organization has proclaimed GM foods safe for
consumption. Guiton would still like to see more long-term testing.
And while he applauds Kenya's decision to accept all food aid, he
believes the government has become too focused on GM research funded
by the US and international biotech giants.

Dr. Florence Wambugu of A Harvest Biotech Foundation International
denies her native Kenya has been dragged into this global showdown.

" Nobody in Africa is going to use these technologies because the
Americans or Europeans tell them to," she explains with slight
irritation. " Our group's vision is to fight hunger, poverty and
malnutrition. We need to get science working for the poor."

Read on at http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0408/S00080.htm


French Government Report Says GM Corn Has Health Benefits

- Allison A. Freeman, Greenwire, August 10, 2004 (Via Vivian Moses)

Certain genetically engineered crops can have greater benefits for
human health than their more traditionally bred alternatives,
according to a recent report from the food safety regulatory agency
in France -- a country that has been hesitant to embrace the

The report comes as the European Union begins making efforts to lift
what has been a de facto six-year ban on genetically modified
products. Analysts said the report -- which was released by the
French Food Safety Agency, the French equivalent of the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration -- could help make further inroads for acceptance
of biotechnology in Europe.

While a number of French scientists have favored biotechnology,
French government officials have gone back and forth on approval of
the products. France was part of the voting block in favor of the
moratorium on new approvals years ago, but last month the country
voted in favor of approving a new GM corn.

In July, the European Commission voted to approve importation and
sale of an herbicide-resistant corn for use as animal feed. But E.U.
agriculture ministers remained deadlocked on allowing the corn to be
sold for human consumption.

The French report -- based on reviews of scientific papers on several
GM crops, including corn bred for insect resistance -- found that the
GM varieties generate health benefits for farmers by allowing them to
reduce their use of pesticides, thus reducing the use and exposure
risk associated with the chemicals.

Biotech corn also has the benefit of having significantly fewer
mycotoxins -- toxic substances produced by fungus or mold -- than
conventional corn, according to the report. Other studies have come
to similar conclusions, but the new report signifies the first time
French food safety officials have accepted them.

"The report is noteworthy in that it got establishment scientists in
a country that has recently become one of the bastions of
anti-biotech activism speaking out," said Gregory Conko, director of
food safety policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

France has been a hotbed for anti-biotechnology activism among
citizen groups, ranging from protests in city squares to civil
disobedience at farms, such as when activists last month tore out
rows of biotech corn in southwestern France. "Overall, it is good
that the French food agency is looking into this and helping to
educate the French public about the benefits, risks and issues
surrounding this technology," said Greg Jaffe of the Center for
Science in Public Interest. But Jaffe said he has not seen much
scientific evidence showing that insect-resistant corn has led to
significant reduction in pesticides, though he has seen reports of
the mycotoxin benefits.

While not fully endorsing biotech rice, the report said development
of vitamin A-enriched rice could have benefits for health in
developing countries. The French food agency was more cautious on
genetically engineered microorganisms, saying a lack of scientific
data leaves experts unable to conclude on their potential benefits
and dangers.

The report also found that a sugar beet bred for glyphosate
resistance could be beneficial for the environment and provide some
benefits for farmers health, but no significant gains for people that
eat sugar made from the beet. The biotech beet allows for use of
fewer herbicides, but the herbicides used on conventional beets are
considered harmless for human health and do not make it through the
sugar processing anyway. The USDA Foreign Agriculture Service
released on brief on the report at the end of July.


India: Govt to Set Up Single Window Body for GM Crops

- Business Line (The Hindu), August 10, 2004

The Centre will put in place a single window regulatory body by
January next to consider permission for cultivation of
genetically-modified crops in the country, according to the Minister
of State for Science and Technology, Mr Kapil Sibal.

"We are evolving a simpler regulatory system to rapidly speed up the
approval or rejection of technologies in order to bring in additional
choices for farmers as soon as possible," he said, addressing a
conference on agricultural biotechnology.

He also said the Government would devise necessary intellectual
property rights (IPR) protection system for biotechnological
inventions. "Until a sound IPR protection system is put in place, the
developer of technology will be reluctant to transfer the technology."

He also signalled the Government's intention of promoting
biotechnology applications in agriculture, including genetically-
modified (GM) crops. "In the backdrop of the country's growing food
grain requirement and diminishing arable area we have no choice but
to go on a path of biotechnology and gene revolution," he said.

Speaking at the conference, organised by FICCI, International Service
for the Acquisition of Agri Biotech Applications (ISAAA) and M.S.
Swaminathan Research Foundation, Union Agriculture Secretary, Mrs
Radha Singh, said the Government would contribute to initiatives "to
hasten the process of biotechnology applications in agriculture."

Ms Singh pointed out that while considerable advances had been made
in biotechnology uses in medical research, production of vaccines and
pharmaceuticals for human and animal healthcare, its applications in
agriculture continued to be cautious.

"An overall assessment up to present times clearly indicates that the
benefits from the use of GM plants are substantial and that the gains
outweigh risks, which in many instances are hypothetical and not
quite real. The goodness and strength of biotechnology makes us
believe that it would be difficult to stall or suppress the extensive
use of this technology," she said. She also called for full-scale
development work on promoting GM technology beginning "as quickly as
possible on all fronts - scientific and societal."

Ms Singh noted that while commercial cultivation of Bt cotton was
permitted since 2002, the area covered under it had expanded from
62,000 acres in 2002 to about 10 lakh acres this year. "The last two
years experience indicates significant agronomic benefits leading to
better returns. The experience of using Bt cotton has also enabled
the regulatory agencies to gain greater experience of evaluation and
regulation of GM crops and we are now planning to rationalise the
regulatory mechanism and streamline protocols in keeping with
international practices," she added.


Uganda: Accept GMOs, Don Urges

- Denis Ocwich, New Vision (Kampala), August 11, 2004

An agricultural scientist, Prof. Elly Sabiiti, has urged Ugandans to
accept genetically modified (GM) technologies in order to raise food

"We have started studies on bio-technology and we have the equipment
to understand the genes. So I appeal to the Government to accept
biotechnology," Sabiiti, a former dean of the Faculty of Agriculture
at Makerere University said recently.

He said some lecturers from Makerere were in Sweden pursuing their
PhD degrees in biotechnology and understanding genes. He said GMOs
could help fight food insecurity because such crops were fast
maturing and could withstand weather changes.

Sabiiti was a member of a 18-member of the council constituted in
2002 by United Nation's Secretary General, Kofi Annan to investigate
how to improve agricultural productivity in Africa. The committee
released its report last month.


Report Explains EU Biotech Bias

- Don Curlee, Visalia Times-Delta, August 9, 2004

Farmers in California and the agricultural researchers who serve them
by exploring new and better ways of producing food, fiber and floral
crops have embraced genetic engineering and the biotech concept to a
much greater degree than their counterparts in Europe.

Because the same approach is true for farmers and researchers in the
corn and soybean regions of mid-America, the biotech revolution has a
distinctly red, white and blue appearance. And that has a certain
irritation value for Europeans.

Two agriculture and resource economics researchers at the University
of California have explored the European reluctance to accept biotech
applications to agriculture. They found that it originates more with
the suppliers of conventional agricultural chemicals than with

That will probably surprise those American consumers and
environmentalists who have resisted the biotech movement in
agriculture, thinking the opposition to it in Europe must have sound
and widely appealing logic.

Biotech research and the advancements it has produced were recognized
early by the European manufacturers of agricultural chemicals, but
their commitment to established research parameters handicapped them
from running strong in the biotech derby.

The corporate suspicions of biotech have received wide coverage in
European markets, and have influenced consumer attitudes. Wary
European consumers, even further removed from true food production
experience than most Americans, have willingly accepted the negative

But Berkeley researchers Gregory Graff and David Zilberman conclude
that "The European rejection of agricultural biotechnologies cannot
be explained as simply a case of consumer preferences; it also
reflects the self-interests of the European agricultural inputs
industry and farmers."

The European farm community is substantially more beholden to their
government than U.S. producers are, mostly because European farmers
are so highly subsidized by their governments. European farmers can't
afford to buck the trend set by government, in turn influenced by
agricultural chemical lobbying.

But the Berkeley researchers conclude that European consumers and
perhaps even the chemical companies will have to fall in behind the
biotech revolution when conclusive proof is offered that biotech
products significantly enhance consumer well -being while clearly
helping the environment. And that day seems to be approaching rapidly.

The widespread acceptance of biotech by major agricultural producers
such as China, India and Brazil will exert continuing pressure on
European attitudes.

Even if biotech stumbles at some point, allowing alternative
technologies to surge ahead, the Berkeley researchers expect the new
knowledge and tools of molecular biology to continue to be decisive
in the future of world agriculture.

Don Curlee is a freelance writer who specializes in agricultural
issues. Write to him at Don Curlee-Public Relations, 457 Armstrong
Ave., Clovis, CA 93612.
Online access to "Explaining Europe's resistance to agricultural
biotechnology", Gregory Graff and David Zilberman, Agricultural and
Resource Economics Update, Vol.7, No.5, May/June 2004, pp. 1-4 at


GM Bans Hurting Australian Agriculture: Troeth

- Australian Associated Press Financial News Wire, August 10, 2004

CANBERRA, Aug 10 AAP - Bans by state governments on genetically
modified crop trials were hurting Australian agriculture, a
government frontbencher said today. Judith Troeth, the parliamentary
secretary to the agriculture minister, used a biotechnology
conference to criticise the bans and signal continuing federal
support for GM trials.

Moratoria on GM trials have been introduced by most states in recent
months after two companies signalled plans for major commercial
trials. The states said they were reacting to commercial concerns
from Australian farmers and grain companies that GM crops could
undermine efforts to sell products oversees.

But Senator Troeth said studies had found little evidence to suggest
GM trials would hurt sales of Australian crops. She said the bans
would only hurt farmers, and possibly put Australia behind other
nations which are using GM technology.

"It is important that more Australian farmers, in more sectors, are
allowed to seize opportunities and have access to the latest
technologies, that could not only improve their competitiveness, but
also have environmental and social benefits," she said.

"A consistent national approach to agricultural biotechnology would
broaden the range of options available to help Australian producers
to make the right choices, suited to their own unique circumstances.

"Producers could benefit from more information to aid their
decisions, and the Australian government is committed to working in
collaboration with the state and territory governments to overcome
the uncertainties that are inhibiting the industry's development."

Senator Troeth said the actions of state governments had confused the
biotechnology industry and resulted in some withdrawal of GM research
and development. She said the growth of GM technology across the
globe meant Australia must remain committed to research in the area.

The success of GM cotton in Australia proved the benefits of the
technology. "GM insect-resistant cotton varieties have been
commercially grown since 1996, delivering an average 56 per cent
reduction in the use of some chemical insecticide sprays," she said.
Senator Troeth said the government was committed to further studies
into GM technology.


U.S.-Africa Agribusiness Conference

- Nov. 7-10 2004 Monterey, CA, USA

More information and brochure at


Indian Council of Medical Research Overlooked an Extensive Scientific
Knowledge Base

- C.S. Prakash [and ten other co-authors listed at
http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/articles/icmr.html ], August
10, 2004

After reviewing the April, 2004, report by the Indian Council of
Medical Research (ICMR) entitled Regulatory Regimen for Genetically
Modified Foods, The Way Ahead, we were disappointed that the ICMR
overlooked the extensive scientific knowledge base supporting the
food, feed and environmental safety of biotechnology-derived crops
and foods, and economic and environmental and benefits to farmers and

The ICMR acknowledged that biotech crops are important for improving
Indian agricultural productivity, through improvements in stress
tolerance, soil nutrient utilization, nutritional enhancement, pest
resistance and herbicide tolerance, and that biotech crops have the
potential to improve food quality, nutrition and health. However,
they ignored the extensive safety assessments and expert analyses
that have accompanied the approval of the current biotech crops.

Instead, ICMR stated "there is limited scientific evidence regarding
their toxicity or health risks, the methodology used for assessing
the risks is not robust enough or sensitive enough, and the molecular
and genetic effects of the technology are unpredictable in nature."
Respectfully, these views are not shared by the dozens of scientific
and regulatory authorities all over the world that have reviewed and
accepted the extensive and growing base of published scientific
information that established or confirmed the safety and benefits of
biotech crops and foods.

We invite the ICMR to engage the expert community of scientists that
have examined and researched the potential risks referenced in their
report. Information is readily available through the scientific
literature and via consultation with local and international experts.
We recognize that certain opponents of biotechnology-derived crops
remain skeptical and continue to focus on potential risks - even
though these crops have been rigorously examined according to
internationally accepted methods and standards. These potential risks
represent perceptions, not realities.

Full document at http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/articles/icmr.html


Anti-GM Protesters Disrupt Melbourne's Biofestival

- Graeme O'Neill, Australian Biotechnology News, 10-Aug-2004

Anti genetic-engineering protesters smashed full vases containing
genetically modified carnations during the afternoon session of the
Biofestival 2004 at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre
today. Three women approached the display and swept the vases from
their stand, shattering them and spreading the mauve carnations onto
the carpeted floor, shouting "Monsters." "What you are doing is

Startled security guards moved in to restrain the women, taking them
to a nearby room to question them. The woman who destroyed the vases
appeared to be in a highly agitated state and collapsed after being
led away by the guards.

Earlier in the day activists with their mouths taped with black duct
tape protested at the entrance to the exhibition centre and shouted
at delegates: "What you're doing is a crime." The carnations,
developed by Melbourne biotech Florigene, have been grown
commercially in Australia for more than half a decade and were the
second genetically modified crop approved for environmental release
by Australian authorities after genetically modified cotton. They are
now used by florists worldwide.


A Fresh View at The Biotech Debate: The Systems Approach (Discourse)
Helps to Solve Wicked Problems

- From: Klaus Ammann

Dear friends, as you may have seen in the interview of the ABIC
newsletter No. 4, I am not happy with the progress in the biotech
debate in Europe. We need to rethink the situation and consider at
least some important elements of a new discursive approach, which
goes in short words along the following lines:

- Symmetry of Ignorance (or, as you wish, the Asymmetry of Knowledge)
- Respect with critical interest other kinds of knowledge, example:
traditional knowledge - Scientific knowledge is of utmost importance,
but alone it cannot explain the complexity of our social and cultural
world. If we do not respect this, we will run into a major problem,
since we will build up resistance against scientific argumentation.
If we signal the limitations of scientific knowledge, lay people will
be more ready to hear us. - Reduce hidden agendas by exchange of
knowledge before the discoursive process even starts. - Such
discoursive processes need time and patience, it does not make sense
to push consensus solutions within a few weeks. - The process should
be moderated by people acting as midwives, not as professional
steering agents. - Only those people should participate who are part
of the problem. - There is no scientific planning process possible
when you deal with 'wicked problems' (problems including complex
social and cultural elements), what we need is an iterative, open
decision making process.

My wife (Dr. Biljana Papazova Ammann, a philosopher) and I have
recently published in the Handbook of Plant Biotechnology (Wiley) a
text explaining some elements of such a discoursive process in
difficult debates.

Chapter 53.
Factors Influencing Public Policy Development in Agricultural Biotechnology
by Klaus Ammann, Botanic Garden, University of Bern Switzerland
Biljana Papazova Ammann, Botanic Garden, University of Bern

Paul Christou, Harry Klee (eds.), Handbook of Plant Biotechnology
Part 9. Risk Assessment of Transgenic Crops Copyright 2004 John
Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Abstract: It is obvious, that agricultural biotechnology is one of
the center points of the recent debate. If we focus on the most
neuralgic point, it is genetic engineering as a tool for modern plant
breeding. It is clear that lay people are anxious regarding the new
developments, and it is not only ignorance which makes them fearful.
There is a big divide between lay people and scientists and between
politicians and citizens, to name just two major divides. The
important question is, how can we overcome divides of this dimension
and what do we want to set as new policy goals in the appropriate
time scales?

Integral: the word means to integrate, to bring together, to join, to
link, to embrace. Not in the sense of uniformity, and not in the
sense of ironing out all the wonderful differences, colors, zigs and
zags of a rainbowhued humanity, but in the sense of unity
indiversity, shared commonalities along with our wonderful
differences: replacing rancor with mutual recognition, hostility with
respect, inviting everybody into the tent of mutual understanding.
Not that I have to agree with everything you say, but I should
attempt at least to understand it, for the opposite of mutual
understanding is, quite simply, war. (Wilber, 2002), Boomeritis, p. 15

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