Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : October 28, 2004
* On the Ballot - 'A Major Change In US Agriculture'
* Butte County Board Opposes Biotech-Ban Ballot
* A California Farmer Speaks Up and Takes on "GE-Free" Myths
* Educational Commentary on California County Anti-GMO Initiatives
* Nation's Largest University System Opposes California's Anti-GMO Initiatives
* What Can you Do?
* Why Californians Must Vote Against Banning Biotech Crops
On the Ballot - 'A Major Change In US Agriculture'
- Elizabeth Weise, USA Today, October 28, 2004
Initiatives on the ballot in four California counties could signal a
major change in U.S. agriculture.
Marin, Butte, Humboldt and San Luis Obispo counties vote Tuesday on
whether to ban the planting of genetically engineered crops. If the
initiatives pass, those counties will join Mendocino, which became
the first in the nation to ban such crops last spring, followed by
Trinity County in August. Foes believe such crops have not been
proved to be safe.
Both sides agree that California could be a bellwether. "These are
preliminary skirmishes for legislative and state ballot initiatives
that are to come," says Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers
Association, a non-profit group that promotes food safety and opposes
biotech crops. "A ballot initiative in California that enacted
mandatory labeling or enacted very strict liability would really
cripple this industry."
Of the existing biotech crops -- corn, soybeans, cotton, canola,
summer squash and papaya -- only small amounts of corn and cotton are
actually grown in California. But in the Midwest and South, where
biotech corn, soy, canola and cotton are widespread, bans would have
Dave Kranz of the California Farm Bureau says farmers think
regulations should be enacted at the federal level.
Butte County Board Opposes Biotech Ban Ballot
- Jamie Johansson ; Chair of 'No on
Measure D', Butte County, CA; Jamie runs Lodestar Farms at Oroville,
Great news, the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 in favor
of a resolution to formally oppose Measure D (one supervisor is an
organic rice farmer). After ;GE Free Butte' flat out accused the
Supervisors, Butte County Farm Bureau, and California farmers in
general for being on the take of big agriculture, their fate was
sealed. It truly was a thing of beauty as their arguments melted away
one by one.
This is really ground breaking as Butte County Board of Supervisors
are the first board in California to put science and the health of
their constituents, environment and local economy ahead of fear,
propaganda and recognizable outright lies.
The grand finale was GE Free Butte spokesperson Scott Wolfe whining
that if the Supervisors voted to oppose Measure D they were
overstepping their bounds legally. Their ignorance and arrogance is
spell binding really. As if we are not aware of the other counties in
which GE Free California has pressured county boards to endorse the
measure once it was already on the ballot.
What a big difference when the Measure is held up to the
knowledgeable elected leaders who understand the dangers these bans
bring to their communities, rather than a board of supervisors who
represent a county that has no major agricultural role in feeding the
world and creating jobs. While making political statements concerning
our food may be acceptable in counties like Marin, I will continue to
point out that the courage of our county board will ensure that Butte
County farmers will continue to feed the children of Marin, Humboldt,
Mendocino and Trinity Counties.
Please feel free to spread the good news for science and common
sense. No matter what happens this Tuesday (there is a very strong
consensus among the county and media reporters that we will beat this
I am extremely proud of this community that really stuck its neck out
not only as progressive thinkers but ultimately in support of local
farmers. Not to put the cart before the horse but we look forward to
helping anyway we can (I'm just getting to understand this science,
not bad for a political science major).
A California Farmer Speaks Up and Takes on "GE-Free" Myths
Following is the rebuttal to 'GE-Free Butte' Ad: Response in *(parentheses)
> No Monitoring of Health Risks of GE Foods
> Rats Die And Develop Serious Immune System Problems. Rats fed a
>diet of GE tomatoes in early 1990's. Stomach lesions and 7 out of
>40 died within two weeks.
* (This claim is included on page 157 of Jeffrey Smith's book without
a citation. So far as I can tell, this claim is without basis in
> GE foods in general might create unpredicted allergies, toxins,
>antibiotic resistant diseases and nutritional problems.
* (And that is why they are assessed for these risks. )
> Internal FDA memos made public.(Druker Case)
*(Were all from more than 10 years ago when the assessment of these
crops was still in its early phases; Druker's arguments were
rejected by a federal judge.)
> The FDA does not require safety studies.
* (Although technically "voluntary", safety studies are always
submitted and reviewed by the FDA. )
> Scientists Hushed Up. UK government-funded study demonstrated that
>rats fed a diet of GE potatoes developed potentially pre-cancerous
>cell growth in their digestive tract, damaged immune systems,
>partial atrophy of the liver, and inhibited development of their
>brains, livers and testicles. Lead scientist goes public, fired
>after 35 years and silenced with threats of a lawsuit.
* (Pusztai was past normal retirement age and violated standard rules
on reporting results to the media before they had been reviewed by
anyone else or even mentioned to his supervisor, whom Puzstai
"blindsided" with this story. Pusztai has hardly been silenced (he's
quoted in Smith's book, for example), and the results of his work are
not what are claimed here; although still controversial, the results
are at least limited to the lectin-based potatoes that Pusztai was
asked to test for safety reasons, and not for any potatoes that have
ever been marketed.)
> Loss Of Export Markets. Once GE crops are introduced, consumers
>will no longer have a chance to buy local GE-Free Crops. Farmers
>stand to lose valuable export markets in EU, Australia, Japan,
>Taiwan and South Korea. The economic impact of GE crops has been a
>disaster for the US taxpayers paid farm subsidies estimated at an
>extra $2-$3 billion per year. This amounts to about $12 billion to
* (This claim was made in a report funded by Greenpeace and released
in 2002 by the anti-GM Soil Association in the UK, which ignored and
didn't even mention a more detailed report released earlier by by the
National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy in the US (and just
recently updated at www.ncfap.org), which concluded that GM crops in
the year 2001 increased profitability by $US1.5 billion and yields
by 4 billion lb and reduced pesticide use by more than 45 million lb.
The entire basis of the claims that the US economy has been hit by
$12 billion is in unpublished or inaccessible claims by the American
Corn Growers Association and Chuck Benbrook, all contained within
about a page of the 66 page report! Again, what's their evidence?)
> Pharmaceutical Drugs In My Cereal? Protect from contamination from
>rice engineered with human genes and spermicidal corn.
* (The FDA and USDA already do this nationally, and an ordinance in
Butte will have no influence on what goes into corn flakes)
> Contamination Is Inevitable . Sept. 2004 -- Of 20,000 papaya seeds
>tested in Hawaii, 50% were contaminated. 80% of the samples were
>taken from organic farms.
* (Scientists are still asking to see the methods and data behind
> Sept. 2004 - A test plot of genetically engineered bent-grass in
>Oregon contaminated fields up to 13 miles away.
* (And it's a proposed crop not approved, and in any case one that we
don't eat! )
> February 2004 - Seeds of traditional varieties of corn, soybeans
>and canola are found to be pervasively contaminated with DNA
>sequences from transgenic varieties.
* (It's not contamination and so what? No one has even tried to keep
them separate because there is not a market that justifies or would
pay for the effort. )
> Sept. 2002 - USDA discovered that volunteer "pharm" corn from
>Nebraska field trial contaminated soybeans.
* (And the fact that they stopped it shows that the system works.)
> 2000 - GE contamination of Maize found in remote regions of Mexico.
* (This isn't contamination, but more likely deliberate breeding by
Mexican farmers. The US corn seed didn't just fall off trucks into
the Mexican fields, nor are Mexican farmers so stupid that they can't
keep their seeds straight. Farmers wanted this stuff, and it's their
corn that they are breeding into. )
Sept. 2000 - StarLink corn found in 22% of the corn samples tested by
the USDA though only planted to 1% of the nation's corn acreage.
(This is an embarrassment but the lesson has been learned.)
* Animal Studies Show Health Risks
* (These rumors have been around for years, but there is no
substantiation to any of them. The claims that "Pigs fed GE corn on
Midwest farms developed false pregnancies or sterility" have been
specifically refuted on 11/11/2002 by Gary Munkvold and colleages,
all then at Iowa State. Demand evidence for these claims!)
> If we don't act now to keep Butte County GE free, the opportunity
>will be gone forever.
* (And if you pass the current ordinance with no sunset clause, the
opportunity for our farmers to keep up is also gone.)
> Co-Existence Is Unrealistic. GE rice can and will cross pollinate
>with wild and weedy relatives such as red rice
*( see http://www.truthabouttrade.org/article.asp?id=2533 )
> GE canola has so thoroughly contaminated non-GE varieties
>Saskatchewan's organic growers abandoned the crop altogether and are
>suing Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.
* (And who were these organic growers? Their production accounted
for a fraction of a percent of all canola growers. Did they have the
right to hinder the economic viability of all other growers? )
Unharvested GE canola seeds fall to the ground and then grow and
reseed again in subsequent years.
> GE contamination will continue indefinitely.
* (Volunteer canola is a weed that is eliminated in the cereal phase
of cropping rotations by herbicides routinely applied to control
broad-leafed weeds. The GM could be eliminated if anyone really
wanted to do so.)
Educational Commentary on California County Anti-GMO Initiatives
- UC Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program
(UCBREP), http://ucbrep.info ; firstname.lastname@example.org; (530) 752-8237
It is the policy of the University of California not to take
positions on local initiatives or ballot measures that do not
directly affect it. However, as a systemwide science research and
education program, we consider it within our mandate to provide
information to improve knowledge and understanding of the sciences
and particularly biotechnology. A well-informed public can make
knowledgeable decisions on the critical science issues of the day.
New technologies have been continuously applied in agriculture and
food production as they were developed. Most of these technologies
have come into common usage without much controversy or even
knowledge by the average consumer. However, some recent innovative
technologies, namely biotechnology and more specifically recombinant
DNA technology (the products of which are more commonly referred to
as genetically modified organisms--GMOs), have been the subject of
much controversy among certain groups. In California, this
controversy led to passage of a ballot measure in Mendocino County in
March 2004 prohibiting the growth or propagation of GMOs. Four
additional counties, Butte, Humboldt, Marin and San Luis Obispo, have
similar measures on the November 2 ballot and other counties may
consider comparable initiatives in 2005.
Informed decisions require clear knowledge of the facts involved.
Agriculturalists have been genetically modifying animals and crop
plants through cross breeding, mutation selection, and culling those
with undesirable characteristics for hundreds of years. Thus, from a
scientific perspective the term "genetically modified organism"is not
an accurate descriptor of the products solely of modern
biotechnology, as virtually all domesticated crops and animals have
been subjected to varying degrees of genetic modification.
Similarly, imprecise definitions in the Mendocino anti-GMO measure
could be interpreted to forbid the growing of many crops currently
cultivated in that county because the DNA of these crops has been
intentionally altered by modern breeding techniques as described
On balance, neither the weight of scientific research nor the great
majority of the scientific community support the view that organisms
modified using the present day biotechnology pose novel or greater
dangers to the environment or human health than organisms developed
by other means. Indeed no crop plants are truly benign and many
produce phytochemicals to protect themselves from pests. Ironically,
many of our daily staples would be banned if subjected to today's
rigorous standards. Potatoes and tomatoes contain glycoalkaloids,
which have been linked to spina bifida and kidney beans contain
phytohaemagglutinin and are toxic if undercooked. Biotechnology
approaches can be employed to downregulate or even eliminate the
genes involved in the metabolic pathways for the production and/or
activation of such plant toxins and also allergens such as globulins
Over time, and especially during the last century, plant and animal
breeders expanded the tools of genetic manipulation beyond
conventional cross breeding to use a variety of other breeding
techniques. In the case of plants, these tools include aneuploidy,
polyploidy, embryo rescue, protoplast fusion, somaclonal variation,
anther culture, colchicine for chromosome doubling and mutation
breeding through either radiation or chemicals.
Examples of crops subjected to these breeding techniques include
bananas and watermelons (aneuploidy, 3X chromosomes); bread wheat
(allopolyploidy, 6X chromosomes from three different species, an old
event); broccoflowers (embryo rescue); male sterility in cauliflower
(radish cauliflower protoplast fusion); barley (anther culture to
speed up development of improved varieties) and asparagus (colchicine
chromosome doubling for "super males"); tomatoes (wide crosses with
high toxin glycoalkaloid relatives); Asian pears, grapefruits and
pasta wheat (irradiation breeding for fungal resistance in the former
and modified starch in the latter).
These techniques allow no control at the genome level; rather,
multiple genes are transferred together or mutated and unwanted
traits are eliminated through subsequent selection and backcrossing.
Plants created by these conventional phenotypic selection techniques
undergo no formal food or environmental safety evaluation prior to
introduction into the environment and marketplace, other than normal
agricultural variety testing. Despite the extensive genetic
manipulation of crop plants by these diverse methods, cases of novel
or completely unexpected adverse consequences for commercialized
varieties of these crops are extremely rare.
At the DNA level, the massive accumulation of sequencing data shows
extensive genetic similarity among genomes of diverse organisms that
are only remotely related. For example, parts of the nucleic acid
sequence of a common bacterium present in our guts, E. coli have been
found in the DNA of organisms such as oilseed rape, amphibians,
birds, grasses, and mammals--including humans. Such findings put in
doubt the value of assigning genes to a particular species and the
validity of using terms such as "species-specific" DNA.
The consensus of scientific opinion and evidence is that
biotechnology-derived foods and feeds present no new or unusual
dangers to the environment or human health (Food and Agriculture
Organization FAO/WHO, OECD, Seven Academies Report, French Medical
Association, Royal Society of London, National Research Council,
Society of Toxicology). The US National Research Council (NRC) in
"Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation"
(National Research Council, 2000) determined that no difference
exists between crops modified through modern molecular techniques and
those modified by conventional breeding practices. The NRC
emphasized that it was not aware of any evidence suggesting foods on
the market today are unsafe to eat as a result of genetic
In fact, the scientific panel concluded that growing such crops
could have environmental advantages over other crops. An EU
Commission Report (2001) that summarized biosafety research of 400
scientific teams from all 15 EU countries conducted over 15 years
stated that research on biotechnology-derived plants and derived
products so far developed and marketed, following usual risk
assessment procedures, has not shown any new risks to human health or
the environment beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant
breeding. Indeed, they concluded, the use of more precise technology
and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer
than conventional plants and foods. A declaration signed by over
3,500 scientists including 25 Nobel Laureates reiterates this
The medical community has also supported the introduction of
biotechnology-derived plants and foods. The American Medical
Association, states that, "it is the policy of the AMA to endorse or
implement programs that will convince the public and government
officials that genetic manipulation is not inherently hazardous and
that the health and economic benefits of recombinant DNA technology
greatly exceed any risk posed to society."
Although France has been among the most skeptical countries about
this technology, the French Academy of Medicine report, Les plantes
génétiquement modifiées "Genetically Modified Plants" (ADSF, Académie
des Sciences 2003), called for an end to the European moratorium on
genetically modified crops as there is no demonstrated concern from a
human health or environmental impact perspective. These crops have
been approved for import and sale in the dozens of countries and for
growth as crops in more than 30. For example, Bt maize, herbicide
tolerant soybeans, and herbicide tolerant canola among others have
been approved for import into the EU and Japan.
Innovation is essential for sustaining and enhancing quality and
productivity in most commercial endeavors and this is especially true
in production agriculture. Commercialization of the products of
recombinant DNA technology is just another facet in a long history of
human intervention in nature and as such the same parameters of
risk-based assessment should apply. It must be undertaken within a
regulatory framework that ensures adequate protection of the consumer
and the environment while not stymieing innovation that may result in
beneficial consequences. The science of biotechnology offers
efficient and cost-effective means to produce a diverse array of
novel, value-added products. It has the potential to improve
qualitative and quantitative aspects of food, feed and fiber
production, reduce dependency on pesticides, and lower the cost of
raw materials, in a sustainable manner.
Agricultural biotechnology has helped farmers around the world boost
their productivity and grow crops in more ecologically healthy fields
while allowing much more efficient use of resources. This technology
allows reduced tillage, which cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions,
water runoff, machinery use and soil erosion. Increasing yields on
existing acreage reduces the pressure to convert forests and
protected land into farmland.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in
a report issued in May 2004 found that biotechnology and genetic
engineering of crops hold great promise for agriculture in developing
countries. The report noted that more than 70 percent of the world's
poor still live in rural areas and depend directly on agriculture for
their survival. Of the seven million farmers who grew biotech crops
in 2003, six million (85%) of those were in developing countries.
Agricultural research of all forms holds an important key to meeting
their needs, the FAO said, and added that biotechnology can speed up
conventional breeding programs and may offer solutions where
conventional methods fail. That is good for growers, consumers, and
anybody who cares about the environment.
For example, in China, use of genetically engineered cotton
eliminated the use of 156 million pounds of pesticides in 2001, an
amount approximately equal to all of the pesticides used annually in
California and in 2003, US farmers who grew biotech crops garnered a
27 percent increase in net farm income (Sankula, 2004).
The proper balance of safety testing by companies commercializing
biotech products and governmental regulation is a legitimate area for
further debate, as are environmental safeguards. But the purpose of
such debate should be to improve biotech research and enhance risk
assessment, not stop all progress. The most that can be expected of
any oversight regimen is that foods developed using all methods
should receive the same level of evaluation both with regard to
impact on the environment and safety to the consumer.
Millions of people have already eaten the products of genetic
engineering and no adverse effects have been demonstrated due to the
techniques per se. Both current science and long-term experience
support the repeated conclusions of learned bodies that it should be
the product, not the process by which it is developed, that should be
evaluated for both risk and benefit. Scientists are confident that if
we abandon the scientific method in judging the safety of the food
supply and the impact on the environment, we will slow or destroy the
advances that will reduce the use of unsafe chemicals and less safe
agricultural practices in this country and we will limit the
potential of improved nutrition and quality that promise to
strengthen the agriculture economies in the U.S.A. and around the
Resources are finite and true sustainability can come only from an
enlightened philosophy that promotes the development of
resource-enhancing technologies. Antithetically, those who claim to
be the stalwarts of sustainability are, on occasion, the very ones
who oppose the development and application of those tools that can
help to insure such sustainability. The only sure way to protect the
planet's resources is not to settle into the complacency of
maintaining the status quo but to engage in continual, constructive
change. Thus, if we are to be accountable to posterity it is not just
our choice but our duty to promote and apply responsible science and
technology in all endeavors.
ADSF. 2003. Les plantes génétiquement modifiées. Rapport sur la
science et la technologie n°13. Académie Des Sciences Française,
EU. 2001. EC-sponsored research into the safety of Genetically
Modified Organisms. Fifth Framework Programme - External Advisory
Groups "GMO research in perspective." Report of a workshop held by
External Advisory Groups of the "Quality of Life and Management of
Living Resources" Programme.
FAO/WHO. 2002. Report of the third session of the Codex Ad Hoc
Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology
(ALINORM 01/34). Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods
Derived from Biotechnology, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the
United Nations, Rome, Italy.
FAO/WHO. 2004. The State Of Food And Agriculture 2003-2004
Meeting the needs of the poor? Food And Agriculture Organization Of
The United Nations Rome, 2004
NRC. 2000. Report on "Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants:
Science and Regulation" <http://www.nap.edu/catalog/9795.html>.
OECD. 1993. Safety Evaluation of Foods Derived by Modern
Biotechnology: Concepts and Principles. Organization for Economic
Co-Operation and Development, Paris, France.
Royal Society. 2003. GM crops, modern agriculture and the
environment. Report of a Royal Society Discussion Meeting held on 11
Accessed 2003 Jul 22.
Sankula, S. et al. 2004. Plant Biotechnology - Current and Potential
Impact for Improving Pest Management in US Agriculture. NCFAP.
National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy:
SOT. 2003. The Safety of Genetically Modified Foods Produced through
Biotechnology. Report of the Society of Toxicology. Toxicol. Sci.
The Biotechnology Program of the Nation's Largest University System
Opposes California's Anti-GMO Initiatives
The 23-campus California State University system-wide biotechnology
program (CSUPERB) opposes the anti-GM initiatives in Butte, San Luis
Obispo, Humboldt, and Marin counties that would prohibit the
cultivation of biotech crops. These initiatives narrowly and
selfishly serve the purposes of the anti-biotech community by
attempting to prohibit the cultivation of biotech crops that have
been proven to be beneficial to agriculture in general, and farmers
and the environment in particular.
The United States has well-established science-based regulatory
requirements that assure the food and feed and environmental safety
of biotech crops. Indeed, extensive safety data have been generated
for each specific biotech crop and U.S. and international regulatory
agencies have granted regulatory approvals. Most importantly, no case
has been documented of harm to humans, animals, or the environment
from any of the biotech crops currently being marketed.
The Institute of Food Technologists, the nonprofit scientific society
with 28,000 members working in food science, approves of the current
system of regulating biotech foods. The highly respected American
Dietetic Association approves of biotech foods as well.
Crops improved through biotechnology are responsible for increased
agricultural production and crop values and decreased farmer costs,
with cost-saving estimates exceeding $2 billion to farmers in 2003.
Because California farmers compete in a worldwide market, where lower
production costs are the norm, it is important that our farmers have
the best crop production technologies available to them.
Biotechnology has allowed California farmers to lower their cost of
production thereby increasing net return on the sale of their crops.
Making the propagation of biotech crops illegal in a county would
likely result in farmers growing them illegally to ensure they reap
the same economic and environmental rewards of farmers in adjacent
counties. Around the world, farmers desire and in some cases demand
the benefits that can come from the improved biotech varieties. For
example, large numbers of Brazilian farmers smuggled in biotech
soybean seeds even though Brazilian courts held up their use despite
governmental approval. In India, extensive precommercialization field
trials of biotech cotton found average yield increases of 80% along
with a 68% reduction in insecticide use. In 2002, Indian farmers saw
the value of biotech cotton and planted 25,000 acres of biotech
cotton prior to government approval.
Importantly, biotech crops that are resistant to certain specific
insect pests have allowed farmers to dramatically reduce the use of
highly toxic, broad-spectrum insecticides. It has been reported that
the adoption of eight current biotech cultivars resulted in a 46
million pound reduction in pesticide use in 2001.
The use of herbicide tolerant biotech crops has resulted in farmers
switching from older generation herbicides -- many of which have
become water contaminants -- to newer, cleaner, more environmentally
benign herbicides. In fact, in watersheds where herbicide tolerant
crops have been grown, studies have shown a decrease in ground and
surface water contamination by these older herbicides. The concept is
evident: If a water-contaminating herbicide is not used -- in favor
of the new, safer herbicide - then it doesn't have the opportunity to
leach into our water resources.
Plant biotechnology will provide answers to many of California's
toughest agriculture problems. Farmers all know that water is a
precious commodity in California. Many of our agriculture areas have
salt levels so high that crops cannot grow. Crops that use less
water, that can grow in salty soil, and that use fertilizer more
efficiently all are promising techniques that will improve
productivity and protect the environment of California agriculture
lands. We expect to see all of these ideas commercialized in the near
What would happen if Pierce's disease were to break out in a county
where biotech is banned? Would grape producers be prohibited from
planting disease-resistant strains developed through biotechnology? A
Pierce's disease task force appointed by the University of California
Extension is convinced that disease resistance through biotechnology
will provide the only long-term protection for grapes.
CSUPERB believes in the value and promise of plant biotechnology. CSU
campuses across the state, including Cal State Chico, Cal Poly San
Luis Obispo, and Cal State Humboldt, have all invested in and
resourced for this science. CSU have laboratories and field research
farms committed to further refining crop technologies and ensuring
that our students are on the cutting edge of the best agriculture
production methods. We have hundreds of student's statewide who are
studying plant biotechnology. These students are some of the most
highly sought CSU graduates.
In August of this year, the CSUPERB Faculty Consensus Group with 60
representatives from the 23 campuses met in Los Angeles and passed
the following statement:
"Science is the driving force behind innovation and technology
advancement and has been a key driver for California's agricultural
success. As deans, administrative heads and research scientists in
the California State University System, we are alarmed by the extent
of incomplete information and false statements regarding agricultural
biotechnology that are prevalent in California today.
There is no credible scientific evidence to question the health and
environmental safety of approved, commercial biotech crops, yet
opponents of agricultural biotechnology routinely challenge their
safety. More than 7 million farmers in 18 countries planted a total
of 167.2 million acres in 2003, up 15 percent from 2002. Countries
with more than one-half the world's population now are utilizing
biotech crops in their agricultural systems. We have a fundamental
responsibility to the communities we serve to provide factual
information that is understandable and informative so that the public
can make informed decisions about agricultural biotechnology.
There is an immediate and critical need for accurate information on
both the critical role that new technologies have played in improving
food production over the past century of American agriculture, and on
the extensive scientific knowledge base supporting the food, feed and
environmental safety of biotechnology-derived crops and foods, as
well as the economic, health and environmental and benefits to
farmers and consumers around the world. Only with this information
and in this context can consumers, legislators, and other decision
makers separate fact from fiction when confronted by sensational risk
allegations made by groups that oppose biotechnology-derived crops.
We recognize that some Californians from various walks of life are
skeptical about the safety of potential impacts of agricultural
biotechnology - even though these crops have been rigorously examined
according to state, federal and internationally accepted methods and
standards. Confidence in food and environmental safety is achieved
through rigorous and comprehensive testing programs.
Biotechnology-derived crops are among the most extensively tested,
well characterized, and regulated food, feed and fiber products ever
All commercial biotech crops have been thoroughly assessed for human
and animal health and environmental safety and have been found to be
wholesome, nutritious, and as safe as conventional crops, food and
feed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) and, where the plant produces a pesticidal
material, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Notwithstanding nearly two decades of extensive governmental,
academic and industry oversight, not a single instance of actual harm
to health, safety or the environment has ever been confirmed for any
biotechnology-derived crop placed on the market. Just last week, the
United States National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine
published a report stating, "To date, no adverse health effects
attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human
We are committed to work jointly with local, state and federal
government agencies and institutions to provide a strong foundation
of information for sound decision making based on knowledge and
reason. We are confident that together we can better serve the
interests of Californians and ensure that we continue to pursue the
most effective and safe technologies, which could include GMO's, for
enhancing human health, farming, food quality and the environment."
CSUPERB is a multi-campus program created in 1987 designed to channel
system-wide resources and catalyze interdisciplinary, inter-campus,
synergistic endeavors involving Biology and Chemistry departments as
well as Engineering, Agriculture and Computer Sciences. The
interdisciplinary nature of biotechnology includes areas such as
bioengineering; agricultural biotechnology; human pharmaceutical and
health applications; environmental and natural resource
biotechnology; molecular ecology; marine biotechnology; and
bioinformatics and the computational sciences as they are applied to
molecular questions. CSUPERB also recognizes basic research in the
chemical and molecular and cellular life sciences as the underpinning
--- Contact Person: A. Stephen Dahms, Ph.D., Executive Director,
CSUPERB, 619-594-2822, sdahms@sciences,sdsu.edu
What Can you Do?
- From C. S. Prakash
Dear Friends from California: I am sure you are aware of the November
ballot initiatives in four counties in California to ban GM crops.
I am also sure that all of you recognize the importance of this
initiative and the danger it poses to the future of agricultural
biotechnology in California. It is imperative that scientists in
California communicate the safety and benefits of GM crops to your
local media, state legislators and the governor. I have drafted a
sample letter below here that you may please use it to develop your
own letter and send it to your legislators, local newspaper and the
Governor (whose address appears below).
You can email this to the Governor at http://www.govmail.ca.gov/
By snail mail or fax:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
You can also locate your state legislator and send this letter at
Why Californians Must Vote Against Banning Biotech Crops?
California leads the country in agricultural production, growing over
350 different crops, and produces more than half of the nation's
total of fruits, nuts and vegetables. This state's agricultural
innovation is based on the fact that farmers have a choice in
determining what method of farming they use - be it growing
conventional, biotech or organic crops. Unfortunately, farmers in
four counties may be denied the choice to grow the crops they want
to. Residents of four counties face November ballot initiatives, born
out of misinformation, that call for a ban on the growth of biotech
plants in Butte, Humboldt, Marin and San Luis Obispo counties.
Today, tons of biotech crops are grown each year around the world,
and eaten by millions of consumers without a single illness or
negative impact on human health. This history of food safety is
derived from strong and current federal regulations. Biotech crops
undergo intense regulatory scrutiny at the federal level, from the
research lab, to field trials, to commercial plantings by farmers, to
ensure they are safe for the food and the environment. Biotech crops
are subject to the extensive, science-based regulations of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pre-market
testing of biotech crops generally takes about 6-12 years at a cost
of $6-12 million.
All three federal agencies have found that the biotech crops
currently on the market are safe for humans and the environment. The
American Medical Association agrees and believes biotech plants have
the potential to improve nutrition as well as prevent and even cure
disease. Moreover, the World Health Organization believes biotech
crops can help developing nations overcome food security problems.
And, just last month, the National Academies of Science reported that
foods from biotech crops are as safe as any other foods in your
In 2001, the European Commission from a fifteen-year year study of 81
projects involving 400 teams reported that "Indeed, the use of more
precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make
them even safer than conventional plants and foods; and if there are
unforeseen environmental effects - none have appeared as yet - these
should be rapidly detected by our monitoring requirements. On the
other hand, the benefits of these plants and products for human
health and the environment become increasingly clear."
Biotechnology is being adopted by farmers faster than any innovation
that has come before. Since 1996, when the first biotech crops were
commercially grown, the global biotech crop area has increased
40-fold to a total of 7 million farmers in 18 countries. In the
United States, alone, 105.7 million acres of biotech crops were
planted in 2003. In 2002, nearly 33 percent of California's cotton
acreage was devoted to biotech varieties. California farmers and the
economy have already benefited from agricultural biotechnology - and
can continue to do so if only given the opportunity. A National
Center for Food & Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) found that if 10 of
California's key crops - lettuce, tomatoes, sugar beets, rice,
cotton, alfalfa, broccoli, cotton, grapes and apples - were improved
through biotechnology, it would increase the state's food and fiber
production by 29 million pounds, increase farm income by $206 million
and reduce farmer's costs significantly by eliminating an additional
66 million pounds of
pesticide use per year.
The scientific community has repeatedly demonstrated that biotech
crops and foods are safe for human and animal consumption. The
federal government has always maintained strict oversight over
biotech crops and has committed to continuing its strong oversight as
the technology advances. The high adoption rate of biotech crops
shows that when farmers have access to these enhanced crops, they
will plant them. Because safety and federal oversight of this
technology are ensured, California residents should vote "NO" on
banning this option for farmers.