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January 3, 2005


Profit Drives Innovation; GM Can Help Africa; Planting Seeds of Change; Embrace GM Rice; Ethics of Eating; End of the World


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : January 3, 2005

* Without the Profit Motive, the World Would Lack Modern Conveniences
* Africa's Food Problem - GM Can Be One of the Solutions
* U.N. Report Stresses Science and Technology for Economic Growth
* Black Civil Rights Group to Honor Borlaug on King Birthday
* India Must Yield to GM Rice
* Taking the Horror Out of Frankenfoods
* FAO Forum on Public Participation in GM Research
* Molecular Tools in Seed, Feed and Food Analysis
* Ethics of Eating: Surfeit, Want and Health
* PhytoPharma 2005
* History Channel Slanders Ag Biotech, Big Time!
* The End of the World: A Brief History

Without the Profit Motive, the World Would Lack Mod Cons

- Letter to the Editor, Cape Times (South Africa), January 3, 2005 http://www.capetimes.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=273&fArticleId=2361181

The letter from Rory Short criticising Pick 'n Pay for not labelling genetically modified foods ("GM foods should be labelled by producers, not stores", Cape Times, December 29) has at its heart a fallacy that runs throughout much of the anti-GM food lobby's arguments.

Short bases his argument on the statement that "GM foods were not requested by the consumers in the first place" and implies that these foods were imposed on an unsuspecting world by evil multinationals "because they sensed an opportunity to make money".

There are two answers to this nonsense. The first is that consumers did ask for GM foods. They did so through the fact that a large number of people on Earth are starving; the need for increased and easier crop yields is one obvious way in which food shortages can be addressed.

In response to this obvious demand, mankind has been working to improve crop resistance and yields through genetic selection for hundreds of years. GM crops are just one of the more recent ways in which the genetic composition of food crops has been altered and improved.

We're lucky that the present lot of anti-GM food faddists were not around when the first "wonder crops" were genetically bred earlier this century.

The second point that Short fails to grasp is that virtually every advance in technology has come about because some business somewhere pursued the idea to make money.

When Short takes aspirin for his headache or writes a letter to the newspaper on computer or drives his car or puts on his clothes in the morning - every single one of the technological advances that he uses in his everyday life were made available to him and the rest of mankind because some company promoted it to make a profit.

If we waited for products that were distributed for "altruistic or humanitarian reasons", we would still be in the Dark Ages. The single greatest stimulus for the research, development and manufacture of new technology is the profit motive.

The strong bias against business that drives much of the anti-GM food hysteria indicates that being politically fashionable is no substitute for understanding how the world works.

There is indeed an argument that foods that have GM components ought to be so labelled. But that such foods are being developed and produced by multinational companies for profit is not one of the reasons we need listen to.

Instead we ought to be grateful for the mechanism of liberal capitalism that supports research and development into countless products that have improved our lives in countless ways.

- Janaat Shuriya, Kenilworth


Africa's Food Problem - GM Can Be One of the Solutions

- C. S. Prakash, Yale Global, Jan 3, 2005

In his commentary "Africa's Hungry Are Fed Bad Policies", Paul Kwengwere (YaleGlobal, 30 December 2004) (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=5080) rightly outlines many bad policies in Africa that have led to the hunger problem. He also correctly identifies many geographical and ecological constraints to the current food production in Africa including drought. However, suddenly he switches gears and goes on a tirade against genetically modified food saying that this new technology can "only worsen existing food crises" by invoking myths and unsubstantiated facts to support his flawed argument.

First, nothing would prevent any farmer from using saved seeds in the developing world, whether genetically modified or conventional. Just ask the millions of farmers who plant GM soybean every year in Argentina and Brazil. However, because of this lack of returns for their investment, there is hardly any private sector investment to develop improved seeds of pure line crops such as rice, wheat, legumes, and vegetables in the third world.

Second, no farmer saves seeds from "Hybrid" varieties (used in crops such as corn and cotton) because the progeny segregates and the yields are very poor. So, farmers in all developing countries have ben willingly buying superior performing hybrid seeds every year because they recognize the economic merit of such investment. Genetically modified technology would not change this any way.

Paul Kwengwere does not seem to understand either of these, and does not know the difference between pure line and hybrid seeds as he says "Farmers are no longer able to depend fully on hybrid open-pollen-variety seed, perhaps fundamentally changing both their environment and livelihood" because hybrids cannot be open-pollinated.

He is right in saying that good policies are needed in Africa to stimulate food production and that we must involve farmers in decision making. Wherever farmers had a choice of improved technology including GM seeds, they have willingly embraced it. Kwengwere also mentions how erratic rainfall and poor soil quality limits food production in Africa. One can also add disease, weed and pest problems along with poor post-harvest infrastructure to this. Biotechnology tools including genetically modified crops can be of great benefit to African agriculture in solving these problems as they can help improve crop productivity even under adverse conditions, cut down the use of farm chemicals, improve food quality and nutrition, help develop hardier crops against drought and salinity, and help bring improved income to the farmers. Yet these foods are safe as conventionally produced foods.

Kwengwere does a great disservice to the development effort in Africa by negating the potential of genetically modified crops. Africa did not benefit much from Green Revolution which brought unprecedented food increases to countries such as India and China. Dubious and ideological arguments should not be invoked to deny the benefit of valuable new technologies including biotechnology to Africa. GM crops are planted on nearly 60 million ha every year. American farmers have cut down 20 million kilograms of pesticides (a.i.) ever year because of this, and also brought a remarkable improvement in the environment.

Kwengwere could simply practice what he preaches and could have just asked an African farmer if she would want new crop varieties that yield well, use less chemicals, have reliable production and produce better quality food. Farmers in eighteen countries including South Africa have this choice and have so far overwhelmingly have said yes.

There is absolutely no reason why African or any other farmers should not benefit from this technology.

Organizations like ActionAid (for which Kwengwere works) and Oxfam plus other green groups are staunchly opposed to GM crops in Africa but it is clear that they are really against the economic freedom, free trade, globalization and multinational corporations in the Third World. It is ironic that because these organizations exist and survive because of the affluence in the Western countries exactly due to such policies. Formula for prosperity in Africa is no different: economic liberalization and freedom to operate. Just ask the South Koreans, Singporeans or even more lately the Indians and Chinese.

India has already determined that all foreign aid would stop by 2010, and it is a hallmark of progress that groups like ActionAid would not be needed in the country by that time. Africans should strive for the same and the only way for that to happen is to create growth by encouraging liberal economic policies combined with the rule of the law and good governance.


New Report for U.N. Stresses Science and Technology for Economic Growth    

Developing nations should focus on harnessing the power of technological innovation to grow their economies and improve the lives of their people, asserts a newly released report by experts prepared for the United Nations. 

The report, titled Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development, was prepared by the Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation of the United Nations Millennium Project commissioned by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  It outlines key areas for urgent national and international policy action to accelerate substantive economic and social progress in developing countries, even within the next five years. 

"There is an urgent need for developing countries to pursue those public policies that begin to tap the tremendous benefits promised by science, technology and innovation," said Calestous Juma, Task Force coordinator and professor of the practice of international development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. "Now is the time to plant the seeds of change – in education, government and the private sector -- that can begin moving developing countries forward."

The Task Force recommendations aim at implementing the Millennium Development Goals adopted by all governments in 2000. They include: 
* Strengthening the ways in which governments use science and technology advice to inform development policy and implementation;
* Putting institutions of higher learning such as universities to the service of community development;
* Designing infrastructure projects as a foundation for technological innovation.

The Science, Technology and Innovation Task Force is comprised of 18 representatives from academia, the public and private sectors, civil society organizations, and UN agencies.  The Task Force was coordinated by Juma (who also co-authored the report) and Lee Yee-Cheong, president of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations.

Speaking to the Task Force recommendations, Juma said, "Traditional wisdom continues to emphasize the role of primary education in development. While this foundation is necessary, it is poor substitute for strong commitment to higher education in science, technology and engineering as a source of economic development." 

Addressing the issue of business development, Juma said, "The capacity of the public sector to meet the needs of the poor is being exceeded around the world. The time has come to complement its role with a strong emphasis on business development as the engine of growth. The role of the public sector is to promote entrepreneurship; not to supplant or suppress it." 

Regarding public sector change, Juma stated, "Economic advice will continue to play an important role in guiding policy makers on development matters. But in a knowledge-based economy, leaders will need to turn more and more to science and technology advisors. This is inevitable in a world marked by rapid technological change and science advisors will soon become a necessary part of presidential and executive offices, including the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General."

The Millennium Development Goals, backed by a political mandate agreed upon by the leaders of all UN member states, have become the international standard of reference for measuring improvements in the human condition in developing countries. 

Calestous Juma is professor of the practice of international development and director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is a former executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and served as founding director of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi and currently serves on the President's National Economic and Social Council of Kenya.  Juma has won several international awards for his work on sustainable development. 


Black Civil Rights Group to Honor Borlaug on King Birthday

- New York, January 17-18, 2005

World Conference Biotechnology - Implications & Realities

The subject of biotechnology to increase food production has sparked controversy and debate around the world. Proponents argue that the use of biotechnology can increase the efficiency of farmers particularly in developing nations. They also point to the increased resistance to pests and herbicides, the greater nutritional content and the positive effect on the environment that it can have. Opponents cite the unknown long term consequences and ethical implications as their primary reservation in its use. They advocate further testing and stricter regulation. While some parts of the world, such as the US and Japan have embraced biotechnology, other areas and markets have continued to express reservations. In the meantime, people are dying from hunger and disease all over the world.

For this reason, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which has consultative NGO status with the United Nations, has decided to co-sponsor, along with the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC), an all day conference to examine all sides of this hot issue. Ambassador Aminu Wali, the Permanent Representative to the U.N. from Nigeria has agreed to host this important event. The conference will be part of a 2-day celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday.

On Monday, January 17, 2005 we will honor Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and father of the "Green Revolution", Dr. Norman Borlaug, at our annual King Holiday Ambassadorial Reception & Awards Dinner at the New York Hilton Hotel.

The World Conference will be held on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York. We will convene academics, scientists, attorneys, farmers, diplomats and other distinguished guests to present equally eloquent opposing points of views on the subject. I hope you will join me for all or part of these important events. I look forward to welcoming you.

Full program of the biotech conference at http://www.core-online.org/events/biotech%20seminar.htm
Borlaug Honor Dinner details at http://www.core-online.org/events/current_mlk.htm

- Congress of Racial Equality, New York, NY 10003; (212) 598-4000; bioseminar@core-online.org


India Must Yield to GM Rice

- Shanthu Shantharam, Business Line (India), December 17, 2004.

Unbeknownst to most growers and consumes of Rice, the International Year of Rice 2004 is drawing to a close. But, rice continues to be "life" for Asians in general and Indians in particular. Asia cultivates rice to 137 million hectares of which India's lion's share is 45 million hectares (137 metric tones or 2 tones per hectare) that is a distant second to China whose tonnage is twice that. Rice contributes to 15% annual GDP of India and it provides 43% calorie requirement of more than 70% of Indians.

India's population is expected to be 1. 2 billion by the year 2012 and it will have to produce a whopping 120 million tons of rice to meet the burgeoning demand. Major constraints of rice production India will face are land, water, labor and other inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, and even high quality germplasm without adversely affecting the already degraded and stressed agricultural environment. The big question is can India do it given the current status of its agricultural capability. At the moment, India has only high yielding varieties like IR-64, Jaya, and Srjoo-52, and about 17 hybrid rice varieties have just made a hesitant debut. Resistance to major pests and diseases like stem borers, gall midge, blast, bacterial leaf blight and sheath rot are limited or narrow both in high yielding varieties and hybrid rice.

Hybrid rice costs about Rs. 120-130 per kg, a ten fold increase in cost compared to high yielding varieties. The cost of hybrid rice seed per hectare is about Rs. 2000. Under optimum growing conditions hybrid rice can provide a yield advantage of 1 to 1. 5 tones per hectare (still a far short of what China's 5 tones per hectare), and certainly provides a cost advantage by an average of Rs. 4000 per hectare. Yield advantage of hybrids is still not consistent in all parts of southern India where they have been introduced, and as such farmers' adoption is slow. Large scale hybrid rice seed production is still undergoing refinement, and continues to represent major challenges for large scale adoption. Although hybrid rice cultivation is an economically beneficial proposition, it has not been taken up on a large scale by all rice farmers.

The mainstay of Indian rice cultivation is high yielding rice varieties. Rice as a crop has notched up impressive gains in its study and understanding of biology in the past twenty five years, thanks mostly due to the efforts of rice research community aided by a fantastic applications of molecular biology and biotechnology through Rockefeller Foundation's International Rice Biotechnology Network and IRRI based Asian Rice Biotechnology Network of which India has been an active partner. Rice genome has also been completely mapped and its sequence has been completely delineated in the last couple of years both by public and private sector scientists.

Once again, Indian scientists have made significant contributions to these international efforts and there is an impressive array of biotechnology research projects funded both by the Department of Biotechnology and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to develop genetically engineered rice for stem borers, blast resistance, bacterial leaf blight resistance and biofortification of micronutrients of which Golden Rice is important. Indian scientists have developed Bt rice and have been field testing for a couple of years now, and it is time to push it for rapid commercialization after a thorough regulatory review. The chances of finding natural resistance to major pests and diseases in rice seems bleak and hybrid rice may not be much of a salvation.

Threfore, the best option for the moment seems to be deployment of genetically engineered rice that is undergoing field tests. These GM rice varieties must be rapidly pressed into commercialization through a rigorous regulatory review encompassing all aspects of biosafety and environmental impacts. The alleged significant environmental impact issue relative to GM rice is that it is the potential to reduce or seriously impact the wild and weedy relatives (biodiversity) of rice as India is one of the major centers and origins of rice biodiversity. This issue is not as significant as it is made out to be as rice is predominantly a self-pollinating crop and gene flow is limited to the rice growing tracts far away from where rice biodiversity occurs. And, even if novel genes from GM rice flow into wild and weedy relatives, their introgression will be very low due to lack of selection pressure and the progeny will be sterile and unfit for survival. Any gene introgression into wild weedy relatives will only result in enhanced genetic diversity and not less. There is really no known plausible pathway of gene flow from GM rice that would deleteriously affect rice biodiversity.

India is also home to world's largest number of malnourished people most of whom are women and children. Almost fifteen million women and children suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) and most of them fall under the poorest of poor category. The golden rice development must be put on fast track and be made viable to the suffering people. Similarly iron-rich GM rice is also under development along many other bio-fortified crops that should not be delayed or denied to suffering deserving and needy sections of India.

Another important problem of rice production in upland rice is weed control that costs almost 30 per cent of the total cost of crop cultivation. In transplanted rice yield loss due to weeds can vary from 18 to 48 %, and yield loss of up to 90% is not unheard of. Number of herbicides for weed control in rice cultivation is getting narrower making integrated weed management a real challenge in medium to large scale (20 to 100 acre) rice farms. Additionally manual labor costs are making it increasingly uneconomical to cultivate rice in many parts of India. Herbicide resistant GM rice can be a weapon of choice for weed control under such circumstances, an option that should not be dispensed with based on the fear of the scientifically bogus "genetic pollution" and "genetic contamination" scares.

Non-GM herbicide resistant rice is already available as an option but only for imidizialone class of herbicides, and what is needed is a broad spectrum, post-emergent herbicide resistance crop that is now readily available in the form GM rice, and it should be tested and tried to determine its feasibility without having to worry anything about undue biosafety or environmental impacts that are no more or less the same as for any other introduced rice variety into Indian agriculture. If non-GM herbicide resistant rice has not done any damage to the biodiversity of rice, then there is no earthly reason why GM herbicide resistant rice should not be cultivated. Many environmental impact assessments of GM rice have come to a finding of no significant impact on the environment, and as such there should not be any unique environmental impact issue in the Indian scenario. Salt and drought tolerant GM rice is also undergoing field tests and they too should be put on a fast track to commercialization. GM rice has a clear advantage to address many of the production constraints in India and help protect environment by cutting down on chemical inputs.

There is a global movement to stop or delay deployment of GM crops technology and India must not allow useful GM rice to be held hostage of that movement and deny itself the fruits of this technology. India must put in place a scientifically rigorous regulatory oversight system to address any potential biosafety and environmental impact issues and bring the fruits of modern technology to bear on rice improvement and production. Given some of the major biotic and abiotic constraints for increasing the rice production in the years ahead, GM rice becomes a highly relevant option for India, and an option that must not be either delayed or denied based on baseless unscientific fears. China which is already way ahead in rice production now has announced that it will commercialize GM rice in 2005.

If India does not get ready to implement GM rice in a short order, stealth GM rice will find its own way into Indian markets just like stealth Bt-cotton did. India must not waste too much time for evaluating the utility of GM rice for improving its agriculture.
Biologistics International LLC, Ellicott City, MD, USA; sshantharam@biologistics.us.


Taking the Horror Out of Frankenfoods

- Adrienne Clarke, The Weekly Times (Australia), Dec 29, 2004

'Genetically modified foods are being unfairly vilified, writes Adrienne Clarke'

We are now living in a time of great change. This is fundamentally driven by the increase in global population. The increase in greenhouse gases, the destruction of forests and arable lands, and the loss of biodiversity are all fundamentally due to human activity.

We also face global shortages of water and power as the developing world increases consumption. There are no easy and quick solutions, but there is no doubt many possibilities for the future will be based on new technologies.

The genetic modification debate has gone through several phases associated with specific myths and mantras to build opposition. Firstly, it was the spectre of "Frankenfoods", a very clever mantra but without any scientific or theoretical credibility. Essentially, the creation of a new trait in a crop using genetic modification involves transferring one or more specific genes into the plant.

Some of the arguments put forward to stop the use of this technology were claims that the genes were "foreign genes" and therefore in some way toxic. The fact is we eat foreign genes every day. We eat beef genes and sheep genes and chicken genes as well as tomato and potato genes, and so on.

Furthermore, we eat bacterial genes and viral genes in some virus-infected vegetables. All this, and any other foreign DNA, is degraded in the gut. There is no evidence that any foreign genes have ever been incorporated into the human genome.

There have been countless inquiries by governments around the world and none have turned up any evidence to stop the use of GM crops. A new GM crop is more extensively tested and regulated than a new conventional crop for such things as, for instance, potential allergens.

In a practical sense, 300 million people have eaten GM foods for more than eight years and there has not been a single report of any adverse health effect. GM food is no safer or less safe than conventional food. (Some argue that GM food is actually safer than conventional food as it is subject to more stringent testing and regulation).

The reality is there has been rapid uptake of GM crops globally. Seven million farmers are now planting GM crops in 18 countries. Four crops -- soya, corn, cotton and canola -- are the major GM crops. They have been engineered for two traits -- resistance to herbicides and resistance to insect pests. About 67 million hectares were planted globally last year.

The results are spectacular savings in applications of chemical pesticides and herbicides that are persistent in the soil. For example, in the US last year, the reduction in chemical pesticide use was 9000 tonnes for GM soya and 5500 tonnes for GM cotton. In another setting, the GM technology which so dramatically reduces the use of chemicals on farms, might have been part of an organic movement.

Cotton is the only GM crop grown in Australia. Last year, 80 per cent less chemical insecticide was used on the Australian GM cotton crop compared with conventional cotton. Obviously, this is a huge benefit for the farmer and for the environment.

In Australia, GM canola was approved by the responsible Commonwealth body, the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. However, a moratorium on planting was placed in all states except Queensland.

Have the reasons and the consequences of these decisions really been thought through on a factual basis given the global experience? Plants are the main renewable energy source of our planet and there are many new traits in the pipeline. Drought tolerance, tolerance to salt, the generation of plants with a high content of oil, golden rice which contains vitamin A and iron to name a few.

As an agricultural nation and a major food exporter, we need at least to consider the consequences of not being part of this revolution.

Laureate Professor Adrienne Clarke is based in the University of Melbourne School of Botany. She is a shareholder and director of several companies that have interests in GM and other food technologies. This is an edited text of her recent McLennan Oration.


FAO Electronic Forum on Public Participation in GM Research at Developing Countries

The FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture was established in March 2000 with the aim of providing quality balanced information on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries and to make a neutral platform available for people to exchange views and experiences on this subject. Eleven e-mail conferences have been hosted by the Forum so far.

Conference 12 runs from 17 January to 13 February 2005 and is entitled "Public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing countries: How to effectively involve rural people." The conference, as usual, is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. Instructions for registering are given here.

To join the Forum (and also register for Conference 12), send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering only the following two-line text message:
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Public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing countries: How to effectively involve rural people


Very few issues have raised as much public discussion and controversy recently as the use of genetic modification in food and agriculture. According to Stone (2002): "It is rather remarkable that a process as esoteric as the genetic modification of crops would become the subject of a global war of rhetoric. Yet for the past few years Western audiences have been bombarded with deceptive rhetoric, spin, and soundbite science portraying the wonders- or horrors-of the new technology". For audiences in non-Western countries the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has also been the object of much debate and in some cases individual African countries have refused to accept food aid derived from GM crops.

Whereas there is no or little public concern about other biotechnologies used in food and agriculture, such as fermentation, use of molecular DNA markers, vegetative reproduction of crops and forest trees, embryo transfer and embryo/semen freezing in livestock or triploidisation and sex-reversal in fish, public acceptance of genetic modification and of GM food products is a major issue that cannot be ignored. For example, Marris (2004) concluded that one of the lessons to be learnt from studies of public attitudes to GM crops and foods was that "Public concerns need to be taken into account by all the operators of the industry, including R&D, marketing, commerce and distribution. Governments and international bodies also need to take these concerns into account when elaborating risk-related regulations and dealing with trade disputes".

The conference focuses on the rural people in developing countries. Agricultural activities take place, by and large, in rural areas. Production of GMOs therefore directly impacts the people living in rural areas and their environment. In addition, people in rural areas have often more limited access to information than their counterparts in urban areas, due to e.g. remoteness, higher illiteracy rates and poorer infrastructure. These kinds of factors similarly have a negative impact on the ability of rural people to access and influence policy-makers and the decision-making process. Awareness about GMOs and involvement in decision-making regarding GMOs may therefore differ for rural and urban people.


Molecular Tools in Seed, Feed and Food Analysis

- Paris, France; February 24-25, 2005; Eurofins Annual Molecular Biology Seminar


Molecular biology tools are now major players on the analytical scene having proved their usefulness through various applications in sectors such as food authenticity, the traceability of food and feed supply chains, food safety, allergen detection, GMOs…

Since their early use in the area of pathogenic bacteriology in the 1980s, these bioanalytical techniques based on molecular biology have made their way to the front of the stage largely due to the development of GM techniques and the debate surrounding their acceptability.

The XIIIth session of the Molecular Biology International Seminar will cover the most recent developments and applications of these techniques in the seed, feed and food industries. Now a customary part of our programme, key events involving GMOs that have taken place over the previous year (latest regulations, new standards, case studies…) will be dealt with among more than 20 conferences. This year in particular the situation in China and India will be discussed from both economic and nutritional perspectives.

We will be delighted to welcome you all again next February either to join in the debate with the internationally renowned speakers, or to meet more than 120 professionals from around the world. We have booked the same conference venue as last year, and look forward to seeing you in these pleasant surroundings on the banks of the river Seine.

Last year Seminar's Presentations (GMOs: After the moratorium – safety, acceptability, traceability and potential) at http://www.formation-conseil.com/seminaires_clubs/agrogene_2004/inscriptions.asp       


The Ethics of Eating: Surfeit, Want and Health

- Rutgers University, Newark, NJ; Saturday, March 5th, 2005; 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM

A conference examining the ethical, social and cultural problems and issues involving food. The Department of Philosophy, Rutgers-Newark and the Medical School-UMDNJ, in association with Prudential Business Ethics Center at Rutgers and the Cornwell Center for Metropolitan Studies, present the Fourth Annual Joint Conference on Applied and Urban Ethics

Location: New Jersey Medical School, 185 South Orange Ave., Newark; Information: Pheroze Wadia; wadia@andromeda.rutgers.edu; 973.353.5498

* What Ought We To Eat? Vegetarianism and After
Christine Cuomo, Obed J. Wilson Professor of Ethics, University of Cincinnati Peter Hoffman, Chef/Owner, Savoy Restaurant New York City

* Genetically Modified Foods and the World’s Food Supply
Michael Sligh, Just Food Program RAFI-USA
C S Prakash, Tuskegee University

* Economic Disparity and Food Consumption
Kamili Williams, Agency Services, Community Food Bank of NJ
Leith Mullings, Anthropology Department, CUNY

* Sixth Annual John A Williams Lecture
Spaker: Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation
Commentator: Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, New York University.


PhytoPharma 2005

- Feb 4-6, 2005; Aurangabad, India. http://www.phytopharma2005.com

The Plants provide an inexpensive and convenient system for the large-scale production of valuable recombinant proteins. This principle has been demonstrated by the commercial success of several first-generation products, and many others are currently under development. Ethno-pharmacological Initiative in India also needs to be reviewed with reference to Global Market Potential.

* To review state of research and application of transgenic plants in agriculture and healthcare of man and domesticated animals (expression of unique attributes useful for crop plants as well as health care products, antigens, therapeutic proteins and antibodies).* Evaluate prospects and limitations in this area.* Provide platform for interaction between industry, scientists, regulatory agency, govt bodies, academicia and students. * Provide platform for bt-it convergence. * Create prolific knowledge pool and analyze risk and benefit of this emerging sector. * Finally prepare and submit to department of biotechnology a joint representation to draw long term policy towards R & D, clinical trials, standardization and commercialization.


History Channel Slanders Ag Biotech, Big Time!

- Alex Avery , Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute

Maybe I saw a repeat, but last night (December 28, 2004) the History Channel aired a show called “Doomsday Tech” which highlighted potential “doomsday” stuff (asteroids, viruses, etc) and how scientists are hoping to head off these disasters.

The show included Ag/Food biotechnology in the doomsday litany!!

The ag biotech segment included Peggy Lemaux, who did an admirable job of explaining the technology and why she wasn’t worried. However, they also interviewed the author of “Seeds of Deception” who claimed that there had been a doubling of foodborne illness documented by the CDC that corresponded with the introduction of biotech foods.

The voice over from the narrator also claimed that the "Starlink fiasco" had caused "hundreds of allergic reactions, some of them severe." They made it sound that ag biotech had already caused serious problems and that it would only get worse.

So, who do you sue for such blatant mis-reporting and why is it that the HISTORY channel gets the recent past so completely wrong?!    


More Doomsday Tech.; Aired on Tuesday, December 28


The second deadly hour examines more threats--both natural and manmade--that may endanger civilization. From the far reaches of space to tiny viruses, doomsday sources are many. But so are technologies used to keep doomsday at bay.....

Finally, we visit the controversial world of biotechnology. Could genetically engineered crops backfire? Does a brave new world of genetically selected beings loom in our not-so-distant future?


The End of the World: A Brief History

'Why Do End-of-Time Beliefs Endure?'

- The Economist, December 16, 2004. Full commentary at http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3490697

"The apocalyptic narrative may have helped to start the motor of capitalism. A drama in which the end returns interminably to the beginning leaves little room for the sense of progress which, according to the 19th-century social theories of Max Weber, provides the religious licence for material self-improvement. Without the last days, in other words, the world might never have had 65-inch flat-screen televisions"

"Science treasures its own apocalypses. The modern environmental movement appears to have borrowed only half of the apocalyptic narrative. There is a Garden of Eden (unspoilt nature), a fall (economic development), the usual moral degeneracy (it's all man's fault) and the pressing sense that the world is enjoying its final days (time is running out: please donate now!). So far, however, the green lobby does not appear to have realised it is missing the standard happy ending. Perhaps, until it does, environmentalism is destined to remain in the political margins. Everyone needs redemption."

"So there you have it. The apocalypse is the locomotive of capitalism, the inspiration for revolutionary socialism, the bedrock of America's manifest destiny and the undeclared religion of all those pseudo-rationalists who, like The Economist, champion the progress of liberal democracy. Perhaps, deep down, there is something inside everyone which yearns for the New Jerusalem, a place where, as a beautiful bit of Revelation puts it: God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.

Yes, perhaps. But, to be sure, not everyone agrees that salvation, when it comes, will appear clothed in a shiny silver space suit."