Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: February 4, 2005
* Need help in getting USDA Organic Program to be honest with public
* CSPI Report
* ISLAMIC SCIENTISTS FAVOR BIOTECHNOLOGY
* BIOTECH HAS CHRISTIAN, HUMANE PERSPECTIVE
* WORLD COTTON CROP TO USE 50% BIOTECH SEED NEXT YEAR
* Kenyan Minister Roots for GM Food
* EU to Consider Allowing Imports of More GMO Maize
* European Union expert says RP GMOs are safe
* Making GM technologies work
* Patrick Moore - It ain't easy being Green
* The green 'State of Fear'
From: "Alex Avery" View Contact Details
Subject: Need help in getting USDA Organic Program to be honest with public
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2005 09:01:29 -0500
I need your help in getting the USDA’s National Organic Program to make clear (and public) that so-called “genetic contamination” of organic crops by biotech-derived material will not impact the organic status of a crop or farm.
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) had sent a letter to USDA’s NOP last October asking for clarification of the organic status of a crop where a certifier had detected biotech-derived material. The USDA posted the NASDA’s questions and answer on their website in mid January. However, the NOP’s answer was inaccurate and misleading.
The NOP’s answer stated, “It is particularly important to remember that organic standards are process based. Certifying agents attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices that meet the requirements of the Act and the regulations. This regulation prohibits the use of excluded methods in organic operations (§205.2—Terms defined, and §205.105—Allowed and prohibited substances, methods, and ingredients in organic production and handling). The presence of a detectable residue of a product of excluded methods alone does not necessarily constitute a violation of this regulation. As long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with the products of excluded methods as detailed in their approved organic system plan, THE UNINTENTIONAL PRESENCE OF THE PRODUCTS OF EXCLUDED METHODS WILL NOT AFFECT THE STATUS OF THE ORGANIC OPERATION. AS TO THE STATUS OF THE COMMODITY, USDA’S POSITION IS THAT THIS IS LEFT TO THE BUYER AND SELLER TO RESOLVE IN THE MARKETPLACE THROUGH THEIR CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP. (See page 80556 of the preamble, “Applicability—Clarifications; (1) “Genetic drift”).
This makes it seem as though the issue of whether the crop/product is still organic or not is left to the buyer and seller to resolve.
Yet the actual NOP regulations cited by the NOP in their answer state, ". . . the unintentional presence of the products of excluded methods should not affect the status of an organic PRODUCT or operation."
I have been able, after many calls and emails, to get a USDA Public Affairs person to get the following email clarification out of the NOP office that makes it clear that the crop is still organic and, in fact, that there is no tolerance for biotech-derived material in organic crops. None. (see email below) However, the NOP office refuses to correct the answer on their website or to further publicly clarify that the product and crop are still organic, leaving this open to mischaracterization by organic activists to the press. This issue is of critical time importance, given the pending Vermont legislation on genetic contamination that is being discussed next week. I need all who can to email or call the USDA NOP and demand that they correctly cite their own rules and make clear publicly that so-called “genetic contamination” is simply NOT grounds for loss of organic certification of either the product or farm.
The email for NOP regulatory officer Keith Jones is: email@example.com
Email for USDA public affairs officer, Joan Shaffer: Joan.Shaffer@usda.gov
The NOP office phone is: 202-720-3252
NOP fax is: 202-205-7808
Any and all help is greatly appreciated.
Alex Avery, Hudson Institute
From: Shaffer, Joan
Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2005 4:00 PM
Subject: RE: Mismatch between "clarification" posted on NOP website and actual NOP regs
The National Organic Program asked me to tell you the following:
"Status left to the buyer and seller" refers to the fact that a buyer and seller may have a contract specification that allows a buyer to reject a product for some reason, in this case, if the buyer and seller agreed that presence of a detectable substance allowed the buyer to reject. According to USDA and the regulation, the crop status IS NOT adversely affected. But buyers and sellers in the market may have agreements; USDA does not enforce or intervene in private contracts under the National Organic Program. Also, the National Organic Program does not have a tolerance level for GMOs (like for chemical residues) at which food may no longer be sold as organic, and the preamble says the absence of this tolerance level does NOT create a zero tolerance.
Date: Thu, 03 Feb 2005 09:43:13 -0800
To: NY Times Letter to Editor
From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Letter to the editor
To the editor of the New York Times:
The claim by the Center for Science in the public interest that the new biotechnology, or gene-splicing, applied to agriculture "is stagnating, not thriving" ("Biotech Falls Short in Farming, Group Says," Business, February 3) is ironic, because this group consistently has championed gratuitous, debilitating regulation of agricultural biotechnology and opposed its broader application. Their biotech spokesman, Greg Jaffe, was a primary drafter of legislation introduced in Congress by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) that would have established excessive regulatory requirements specific for gene-spliced foods -- requirements that no conventionally produced food (made with less precise and predictable technology) could meet.
This kind of disingenuousness is reminiscent of the child who murders his parents and then asks for mercy from the court because he's an orphan.
[Dr. Miller was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989-1993 and is the author of "The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution."]
Henry I. Miller, M.D.
The Hoover Institution
Stanford, CA 94305-6010
ISLAMIC SCIENTISTS FAVOR BIOTECHNOLOGY - MUSLIM EDUCATOR
- Philippines Today, 29-30 January 2005
A LEADING Muslim educator favors the safe use and propagation of biotechnology in agriculture and medicine as long as the producers and technology used comply with the basic tenets of the Koran.
In a forum among scientists, Christian and Muslim leaders held at Annabel's Restaurant in Quezon City, on Monday, Dr. Carmen Abubakar, dean of the University of the Philippines-Institute of Islamic Studies, said biotechnology or genetically modified food is acceptable to Muslims only as long as the processed is clearly labeled as "free from haram elements."
Haram generally means taboo, but in case of food, it refers to forbidden ingredients like swine extracts, blood, wine and other elements that Muslims are barred from consuming.
Abubakar said biotechnology is not new to the Islamic world, adding that as early as 2000, Muslim scientists have already been studying genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their potential contribution to the growing Muslim population.
In an Islamic Conference held in Rabat, Morocco on October 24, 2001, the Islamic Academy of Science (IAS) came out with the "Rabat Declaration on Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering for Development in the Islamic World."
Accordingg to Abubakar, the IAS issued a decree that as long as GM products are of good quality and pose no risk to the person and the environment, the Muslims may use them.
The Malaysian Biotechnology Information Center also came out with ethical criteria regarding the use of biotechnological products like processed food. The report said that the food to be consumed by Muslims should be halalan tayyipan, or "permissible," based on Shariah perspective. Food quality and safety are of utmost importance to those practicing Islam.
"In the case of GM foods, as long as they meet these criteria, then it is consumable by Muslims," Abubakar said. "The IAS is determining the sources of GM food. If the source come from items which are labeled as haram, so definitely this GMO product is also forbidden."
On the other hand, she said that technological conversion of anything derived from swine cannot be consumed by Muslims. She said that this is where the problem of labeling is important.
"It has been found out that some items that are sourced from haram elements enter into processed food but they are not labeled accordingly. The whole Muslim world urges government to make sure that any product from this technology is consumable according to Muslims' ethical prescription. So it is very important that the label clearly states its genetically modified contents."
Bishop Jesus Varela, bishop emeritus of Sorsogon, also told participants that "there are some 800 million people all over the world who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition in varying degrees. Society's moral responsibility to feed these teeming millions is inexorable, and food biotechnology offers a humane solution since it promises to improve significantly crop yield and increase resistance to pests and diseases."
Varela told a large group of Muslims in the forum that modern science and technology can offer solutions if applied appropriately, and that the use of GMO in food is a human decision that must be examined under the Rules of Ethics.
BIOTECH HAS CHRISTIAN, HUMANE PERSPECTIVE
- Philippines Today, By Lyn Resurreccion, 29-January-2005
He has been talking about the advantages of modern biotechnology in forums all over the country for several years now which would make one think that he is in favor of or endorsing the controversial scientific intervention, especially that on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
But at the start of this interview, Bishop Jesus Varela, Bishop Emeritus of Sorsogon, immediately qualified his position on the matter.
"My personal position is that I am neither for nor against [modern biotechnology]. My role in this fora [debate on the issue] is simply to talk about the ethics of this human and social enterprise," he said.
"So far there has been no indication of anything that is injurious to health and to environment. So far the people who have been saying that it is not safe have no proof. They only project fears [of] what could be or what might be [harmful]. But there is nothing that is injurious to human health or destructive to the environment. These have been ensured by a wealth of studies," he told Today.
He explained that he does not make a sweeping endorsement of the technology. "We have to go case by case. So far the cases presented to us are not injurious to health and not destructive to the environment."
Varela stressed that modern biotechnology has a "Christian or humane perspective."
"Because it is an effort to help solve poverty, hunger and malnutrition. It is a very Christian perspective. But one must be very careful because anything that we think that might be good, might have risks. So there must be scientific studies; they must be well researched so that, as much as possible, we remove the risks."
In the Philippines, the controversy on modern biotechnology was on a high pitch in the past four to five years, particularly on the genetically modified Bt corn. Its opposers-including religious people like bishops-have claimed that it has risks to human health and the environment. So far, the technology showed no such adverse effects in tests abroad and in the Philippines.
Bt corn has been in commercial production in the country for more than two years now. Studies have shown that Filipino farmers have benefited from it because they have harvested more and have saved money owing to the reduced use of pesticides.
Speaking at a forum early this week, held by the Biotech for Life Media and Advocacy Resource Center, Varela called his ethical framework on biotechnology as "Christian environmentalism," which advocates custody, stewardship and right ordering.
In his concept, he virtually explained that man's gene splicing or tinkering with the living things-strictly except with humans-is not un-Christian, or definitely not playing God, as the biotech critics would claim it is.
He said custody is the preservation of the integrity of nature, respect of its inherent God-given "stability, truth and excellence."
Stewardship is the responsible use of material things for the real good of the human being, the human society and ultimately, the glory of God.
Right ordering is the establishment of reasonable criteria and guidelines for the exercise of stewardship in order to foster the dynamic harmony of nature and its sustainable development for the sake of future generations; effectively monitor new technologies and check them out for safety and benefits or harmfulness and risks; attain the good of man and society without inflicting irreparable damage to the ecology; and keep science at the service of man, and not vice versa.
"Now with these ethical criteria for a framework, let us see how GMO in food biotechnology can stand up to it," Varela said.
The Vatican and the Philippine Church's position
Early this month the Vatican issued a document, which recognizes "human intervention in nature," adding that "nature is not sacred or divine reality that man must leave alone."
A news release from the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP), led by Dr. Benigno Pecson, said that the document represented the official catechism on the social doctrine approved by the Holy See and the Secretary of the State. Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Gian Paolo Crepaldi of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, titled "Safe-guarding the environment."
The chapter on the document on environmental safety, BCP said, includes a section that aims to resolve the issue on biotechnology.
Section 4, titled "A common responsibility," the BCP said, recognizes the role of modern biotechnology as having a "powerful social, economic and political impact, locally, nationally and internationally," while underscoring the criteria of justice and solidarity.
It states that "the Christian vision of creation makes a positive judgement on the acceptability of human intervention in nature" and recognizes that "nature is not sacred or divine reality that man must leave alone."Pecson said that it categorically states that no illicit act is committed when man intervenes with nature by modifying some of nature's characteristics or properties.
The bishop said that the Vatican means that it is opposed to biotechnology if they have adverse effects on human health and on the environment but would support the beneficial effects.
"But again it is not a sweeping endorsement of biotechnology because it is a human endeavor that is subject to errors."
Varela said that five years ago, the Vatican already gave an advise on the scientific technology "to proceed with caution" if it is not harmful to human health and to environment.
The Church in the Philippines has no position on the issue. The positions made by the religious person in the country are their own.
He said a committee organized by Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin during that period subscribed to the earlier position of the Vatican.
About two years ago, Varela said, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines came out with a "very precautionary statement." He said it sort of says that "since we do not know exactly what will happen, especially to the [biotech] food that we consume, we should practice caution."
But if there are those who endorse the positive aspects of the technology, or cautious about it, on the extreme are those who oppose it, including some bishops.
To the opposers Varela said: "I would like to ask them to open their eyes more, their minds more and their hearts more. Sometimes they are carried away by sloganeering and following the line of antiglobal environmentalists. They should not listen only to one side, especially since their constituents, [like the] farmers in Isabela are already into Bt corn farming.
He agreed that the priests and other religious people, especially in the provinces, are looked up to by the parishioners, who listen to their words.
"That is why they [Church people] have to be very careful with their statements. That is what we are telling the Catholic groups who are attending the fora. To open their minds and their hearts to what is happening and give equal time to both positions. They seem to be closed already."
WORLD COTTON CROP TO USE 50% BIOTECH SEED NEXT YEAR
- Dow Jones Newswire, By Alison Guerriere, Jan 30, 2005
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Half the cotton grown throughout the world will be genetically modified cottonseed within the next year, which could lead to higher yields and improved quality, according to scientists who shared their findings during the National Cotton Council's (NCC) annual meeting here.
Phillip Wakelyn, senior scientist for environmental health and safety for the NCC, and M. Rafiq Chaudhry of the International Cotton Advisory Committee, told reporters during a briefing that more countries throughout the world are commercializing biotech cotton varieties, which are said to be insect resistant and herbicide tolerant.
In the current 2004-05 season, about 80% of the U.S. cotton crop was grown using biotech cotton while, biotech varieties were planted on 24% of the world's cotton area, accounting for 35% of world production.
But that percentage is moving upward, Wakelyn told Dow Jones Newswires.
"With Brazil, China, India and Pakistan expanding (cotton growing area) over 40% of cotton production right now is biotech cotton and that will soon move to 50%," he said.
Wakelyn and Chaudhry said that number would continue to increase as more countries develop regulations allowing the growth of biotech cotton.
"There is apprehension in some countries," Wakelyn said. However, he noted those countries, such as Brazil, already use about 10% biotech cotton, but have yet to adopt the governmental regulations.
According to a study on biotech cotton, about nine countries representing 60% of the world area have commercialized biotech cotton varieties.
Biotech cotton carries an average increase in cost of about $35-$40 extra per acre versus conventional cotton, however that could also replace some of the costs of insecticides, an NCC official told Dow Jones.
The scientists said no risk to human health has been seen, however they noted that some insects and weeds could develop a tolerance to the biotech cotton.
Wakelyn said biotech cotton is largely beneficial to small farmers in many developing countries who do not always have access to insecticides.
A full report of the study's findings, to which experts from Australia, France, Greece, Pakistan, the U.S. and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications contributed, can be found at www.icac.org.
Minister Roots for GM Food
- The East African Standard (Nairobi), February 4, 2005
Kenya can stave off its perennial food shortages and solve its environmental problems if it embraces prudent biotechnology applications.
Assistant Minister in charge of Higher and Technical Education, Dr Kilemi Mwiria, told scientists at a workshop in Naru Moru that the solution to problems lies with the adoption of Genetically Modified Organisms. Mwiria said despite the controversies kicked up by the critics of biotechnology, environmental degradation could be reversed.
He said Kenya's marginal lands could yield more and boost the country's food security if the technology was implemented well.
He admitted that there have been a lot of controversies surrounding the application of biotechnology around the world.
Some poor countries have rejected food and seed offers from donors who acted to alleviate hunger.
Mwiria said if embraced, biotechnology could revolutionalise food production in many countries.
He said the fast fading indigenous forests could be reversed with the application of genetic engineering.
has the capacity, and potential of recovering species threatened with extinction.
Mwiria said safety measures had been taken by the Government to make sure that Kenyans are not exposed to adverse side effects of the technology.
EU to Consider Allowing Imports of More GMO Maize
- Reuters, February 4, 2005
BRUSSELS - EU environment experts will discuss whether to allow imports of a gene maize next month, potentially the fourth such food to win approval after the bloc lifted its biotech ban last year, officials said on Thursday.
Two genetically modified (GMO) maize varieties were authorised for EU-wide use last year using a rubberstamp process that kicks in when the 25 governments cannot agree. A third GMO, a rapeseed type, should be approved in a couple of weeks.
Another GMO maize will be discussed on March 7 when EU member state experts should vote on whether to allow imports for processing into animal feed. But the maize, known as 1507, would not be allowed in food products or to be sown as a crop.
"The product may be put to the same uses as any other maize, with the exception of cultivation and uses as...food," read a European Commission draft document, obtained by Reuters.
The maize is made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont Co, and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds. It is engineered to resist the corn borer insect and other pests, and glufosinate-ammonium herbicide.
But the chances of the experts reaching agreement, either to approve the maize or reject it, look fairly slim, officials say.
EU governments have been deadlocked over biotech foods for years, with the result that the Commission -- the EU's executive -- has found itself empowered under EU law to issue an approval.
Since November 2003, the Commission has asked EU states nine times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product. In eight cases, there was no agreement and in the ninth, the deadlock around the table resulted in the vote being postponed.
VISAYAN FARMERS EYE EU MARKET
European Union expert says RP GMOs are safe
- Manila Bulletin, By Edith B. Colmo, 29-January-2005
ILOILO CITY - Farmers in the Visayas who have long feared the health risks supposedly associated with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and biotechnology products could now heave a sigh of relief after an official of the European Union (EU) vouched for their safety.
The same official revealed to Filipino scientists that the EU conclusion was made after years of study and thorough scientific inquiry into the toxicity and nutritional value of GMOs and food preparations derived from them.
Earlier, farmer groups in the Visayas threatened to block the cultivation of GMOs, particularly Bt corn, saying that the variety developed using Bacillus thuringiensis had high toxicity and would create monster weeds and pests.
Based on studies in Europe, the reverse is true since Bt corn is disease-resistant tested negative as far as health risks to humans are concerned.
Patrick Deboyser, minister counselor of the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General (SANCO) of the European Union (EU) told agriculture and food experts who attended a seminar of EU food safety and biotechnology at the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Soil and Water Management (DA-BSWM) that biotechnology guarantees global food security.
Deboyser said that the EU is meticulous about food since it buys bulk of its agricultural products from countries in North America and Asia.
The EU, an economic and political alliance of most nations in Europe, is the world's largest importer of agricultural products, absorbing more than what the US, Canada and Japan import each year.
Deboyser's declaration indicates the satisfaction of the EU with food products that are derived from GMOs.
It is generally known that the EU maintains stringent phytosanitary standards and all food products entering the European market have to pass through strict tests before they are allowed to enter the market.
The EU official stressed that scientific tests have confirmed the absence of toxicity in GMOs and consequently, all studies conducted so far dashed the fears of GMO opponents about the health risks posed biotechnology products.
Over the last five years, the EU food safety system has been overhauled, and many of its standards have been revised to conform to the advances in science, food processing and even biotechnology.
Deboyser also explained that the EU has consistently been monitoring the food chain under its farm-to-market approach, thus leaving no room for faulty processing and the use of toxic food in any dinner table in Europe.
On account of these actions, EU now proudly claims to have the highest food safety standards in the world.
Making GM technologies work
Meridian Institute, February 3, 2005 (VIA AGNET)
A new report, titled: Putting GM Technologies to Work: Public Research Pipelines in Selected African Countries, describes genetically modified (GM) crop development pipelines and biosafety issues in four African countries: Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
In total, the report says that these countries have reported genetic transformation events for several different phenotypes and across 21 different crop plants.
African public research institutions have demonstrated the ability to pair transgenes with local genetic resources in order to better meet local needs, and thirty-nine percent of the total of 38 transformation events that have taken place are currently in various stages of confined testing.
The report notes that this indicates the opportunities for public sector research products in Africa. It adds, however, that although regulatory systems and biosafety policies have been under development for over ten years in Africa, progress in regulatory decision-making has been complicated by efforts to conform to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and has been subject to delays and moratoria.
To minimize time delays for approvals, the paper says that countries could adopt a more efficient "single window" regulatory approach. It also notes the possibility of conflict of interest in cases where biosafety information is provided by the makers of GM crops.
Japan Says GM Rice Could Help Combat Hay Fever
- Reuters, Feb 4, 2005
TOKYO (Reuters) - Bad case of hay fever? Eat more rice. Japanese scientists have developed a genetically modified strain of rice they say will help alleviate the symptoms of an affliction that causes misery each year for some 10 percent of Japan's population.
The new strain of rice contains a gene that produces the allergy-causing protein, a Farm Ministry official said on Friday.
"Eating the rice ... helps mute the reaction of the body's immune system," she said, adding that the effect was similar to other allergy treatments where a small amount of allergen is released into the body to allow resistance to build up.
Millions of Japanese suffer from hay fever each spring caused by an allergic reaction to pollen from the Japanese cedar tree.
The pollen count this spring is forecast to be 5 to 10 times worse than last year.
Officials gathered on Friday to discuss steps to battle the pollen menace, including the new rice, pollen-free cedar trees and a tea-drink that helps combat symptoms.
"This is becoming quite a social problem," said Yasufumi Tanihashi, a special cabinet minister for science and technology.
Growing the new rice could draw protests from consumers concerned about the safety of genetically modified products.
The official said that if the new rice goes into production it will be the first genetically modified product to be grown in Japan.
Ironically, production of rice, Japan's staple food, has been on a long-term downtrend due to falling consumption.
It ain't easy being Green
- Columbia Basin Herald, Feb 04, 2005, By Matthew Weaver
The keynote speaker's presentation for the 2005 Washington State Potato Conference included a picture of said speaker being arrested for sitting on a baby seal.
Photographs from Patrick Moore's days as a founder of Greenpeace -- during which he protested hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska, French atmospheric nuclear testing, Soviet whaling and seal clubbing off the east coast of Canada -- punctuated the beginnings of his address before a packed house in Big Bend Community College's Advanced Technologies Education Center (ATEC) Wednesday morning.
But after 15 years, Moore said, he got tired of being against things and decided to be in favor of something for a change.
"I made the transition from the politics of confrontation, telling people what they should stop doing, to the politics of trying to find consensus about what we should do instead," Moore said. "After all, there is no getting away from the fact that over 6 billion people wake up every morning on this planet with real needs for food, energy and materials."
Moore said sustainability is about continuing to provide for those needs while reducing negative environmental impact, and is what he's been working on in the 20 years since leaving Greenpeace.
Many environmentalists, he said, are anti-human, anti-science and technology, anti-trade and globalization, anti-business and anti-civilization, and refuse to make compromise.
Moore proceeded to list and dispel some of the current environmental stances against such issues as exotic species, pesticide residues on food, genetically modified foods, salmon farming, global warming and extinctions brought about by forestry.
In the case of genetically modified crops, Moore spoke of the need in Asian and African urban slums for Vitamin A. The people depend on rice as a staple in their diet, which has no Vitamin A. Half a million children go blind each year as a result of that deficiency.
A friend of Moore's in Switzerland has determined a way, using daffodil genes to create genetically modified golden rice, to provide the necessary vitamins and decrease the cases of blindness brought on by Vitamin A deficiencies. But environmentalists refuse to accept the benefits, because of what Moore called the precautionary principle -- something might go wrong.
"They say they will tear it out of the ground if anybody dares to plant it," he said. "Why? Because of unspecified risks to health and the environment."
But no one has been able to say a single risk that is actually tangible or meaningful, Moore said, when the risk of not planting the golden rice means 500,000 more cases of children going blind each year. Moreover, Greenpeace and the like have effectively blocked the rice from being given to farmers of the developing world, when the Golden Rice Humanitarian Project has agreed that any farmer making less than $10,000 U. S. dollars a year would get the seed for free.
The risks of doing something need to be weighed against the risks of not doing it, Moore said.
"It is exactly the same with crossing the road and why the chicken did it: When you come to the curb, the precautionary approach means you look both ways before you step off the curb," he said. "If you see there's nothing coming, you want to get to the other side because of the opportunity that's over there, so you walk out across the road, having looked both ways. A 747 comes hurtling out of the sky and crashes right on you halfway across the road. That is a risk. There is always a risk. It could happen. It's the opposite of a miracle. But it's not likely to happen, and it's not likely that anything is going to go wrong with the golden rice, and no one can even think of a 747 analogy to go with that."
William E. Farris, a grower from Richland, said he liked how Moore talked about how he went from the confrontational aspect of Greenpeace to sustainability.
"Wonderful," Farris said of the speech, while Mount Vernon potato grower Richard Smith called the speech worthwhile.
"It was a logical approach, especially considering where he was at 30 years ago and the attitude he took," Smith said of Moore. "It's a realistic approach to life today, without question. As far as the foresters are concerned, I have a grandson that doesn't think you should cut a tree. Here's a realistic approach to it. It's a realistic approach to the scare tactics that go on out there that we're exposed to everyday. A lot of people believe it without really looking at it."
Ferndale grower Bob Small said he was in attendance because of the conflict that's been in existence between Greenpeace and agriculture.
"I thought he was an excellent speaker, his presentation and his knowledge," Small said. "I think he had an excellent speech that should be seen by more universities and schools."
The green 'State of Fear'
- Washington Times, By Suzanne Fields, February 03, 2005
Michael Crichton is a high-tech, science-savvy Renaissance man in the 21st century. He has sold more than a hundred million books, which have been translated into 30 languages. Twelve became high-grossing movies. Children everywhere have "Jurassic Park" nightmares.
His books are so popular in China that when the calcified remains of a species of dinosaur was discovered there, the Chinese named it Bienosaurus crichtoni in his honor. In 1992, People magazine named him one of the "Fifty Most Beautiful People." Now a new kind of fame brings Mr. Crichton to Washington to speak to policy wonks. He's promoting his new book, "State of Fear," which zoomed to the top of the bestseller lists, but he doesn't come to Washington to talk about the novel.
Not long ago his speech, "Science Policy in the 21st Century," was sponsored by two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, and it's about what he thinks about environmentalists in general, and climate change in particular. He has a lot of thoughts about the way science influences public policy.
He minces no words. What passes for science by so-called experts in the debate over "global warming," he says, influences policy that is based on faulty data and ideological considerations. This does considerably more damage than good.
Ideology drives the scientists who get the grants to conduct research; the government agency that gives grants is driven by politics. In the novel, a page-turning action thriller, major characters, including a scientist, a lawyer, a philanthropist and two gorgeous women are superheroes who foil the devices of environmental extremists, evil missionaries with messianic drives, pushing policies born of their own egos.
In a novel twist on the novel, the author appends footnotes and a bibliography to document scientific reports, and two hard-hitting essays explaining how and why politicized science is dangerous.
He compares the science of the environmentalists as similar to that of the study of eugenics a century ago. The study of eugenics, the idea that the human race could be "improved" by selective breeding, was at first supported by presidents, Nobel laureates, major universities and the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, and together they molded public opinion. The science was insidious, pseudo-, and wrong.
Eugenics, recognized nearly everywhere now as both morally and criminally wrong, led directly to the Holocaust, with the Nazis killing first the feeble-minded, and ultimately extended to include Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. Those who opposed eugenics were reactionary, ignorant or both. Research motivated by racism, fear of immigrants and "keeping the wrong people out of the neighborhood," drew few protests.
Mr. Crichton argues that many environmental studies today are similarly flawed, directed by scientists who shape their research to fit the cause, and read by an ill-informed public duped to believe that scientific papers are "objective." He cites an editorial in The Washington Post, which suggests adopting a policy change in climate control as "a sign of goodwill" to Europe. He notes, with irony and dismay, that the editorial appeared on the day that a dispatch from Auschwitz detailed the observance of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous death camp. Auschwitz, he says, was a direct descendent of politicized science.
Environmental grants, he argues, should go to several scientists working on a project with opposing points of view. Their work should be subjected to mutual criticism. "We need face to face dissent." The results should be made public: "The people paid for it, the people own it." Only ruthless arguments can get to verifiable facts. Congressional hearings on scientific matters, he observes, are mostly dog and pony shows where questions are either "soft balls or hand grenades." Congressmen are eager to show off what their staffs have found for them, and ideologues want to persuade. This is a dangerous way to make policy.
He cites the story of the pesticide DDT, effective against many disease-carrying insects, as an example of environmentalism gone awry. DDT, he argues, was falsely accused of causing cancer, and because it was banned millions, mostly children, have died of disease and their deaths "are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and irrevocably harmed the third world." Environmentalism, he says, is "the religion of choice for urban atheists." Such heresy won't be as popular as his novels and movies, but in the long run, may have the impact of DDT on a mosquito.