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February 14, 2005


Thoughtless activists; GM Myth in Iraq; Pollen Pollution; GM Can Benefit Africa; Bt Cabbage; Western Australia Ministerial Letter


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: February 14, 2005

* Out of Africa: What thoughtless activists want to do with biotechnology
* Activist Myth: GM in Iraq
* Biotech products in Developing countries
* Whether Gold or Grain, humans don't give it away
* Pollen Pollution
* Biotechnology for improving farm output, protect resources stressed
* Here comes Bt cabbage!
* Biotech Industry Rejects WA Ministerial letter
* Greenpeace demands Poland ban imports of GM foods


Out of Africa: What thoughtless activists want to do with biotechnology

- MichNews.com, By Paul Driessen and Cyril Boynes, Jr., Feb 13, 2005

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Ruth Oniango has a dream. A member of Kenya’s parliament, she dreams of the day when the people of her poor country “can feed themselves.”

Congress of Racial Equality national chairman Roy Innis shares that vision. But he also knows the obstacles. “Over 70% of Africans are employed in farming full time,” he points out. “Yet, half of those countries rely on emergency food aid. Within ten years, Africa will be home to three-fourths of the world’s hungry people.”

Many of the continent’s farmers are women who labor sunup to sundown on 3 to 5 acre plats. They rarely have enough crops to feed their own families, much less sell for extra money. Millions live on less than a dollar a day.

Maize (corn) is southern Africa’s most important crop. But because of drought, insects, poor soil, plant diseases and lack of technology, the average yield per acre is the lowest in the world. Other crops suffer similar fates.

“We eat cassava for breakfast and mash it with potatoes and bananas. But the mosaic virus attacks the plants, the leaves fall off, and it’s no good for eating,” Kenya’s Samuel Njeru laments. “We can’t afford to spray. We need a variety that is resistant to the virus.”

Mosaic virus first appeared in Africa in 1894 and now infects every cassava plant. Over 35 million tons of this staple are lost every year – along with tens of millions of tons of other crops.

“I farm a third of a hectare with cotton,” says Alice Wambuii. (A hectare is 2.5 acres.) “I spray five times a season with pesticides, but sometimes the insects still destroy my entire crop. Last year, I got 3,000 Kenyan shillings for my cotton, but I had to spend 5,000 for sprays.”

“Africa needs a new agricultural revolution,” Mr. Innis says flatly. One is finally on the way – a biotechnology revolution. It’s not a magic bullet. But it is a vital weapon in Africa’s thus far losing struggle against malnutrition, poverty, despair and deepening anger.

Participants in day-long conference hosted by CORE at the United Nations in January conveyed that message forcefully. So do Kenyan and South African scientists, farmers and politicians interviewed by Mr. Innis for a video documentary. With this technology, farmers don’t have to learn new skills. They just plant and tend seeds the same way as always – but with amazing results.

Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, says “biotechnology is a contribution, not a solution, to the hunger crisis.” It is a technology that African farmers can afford to have – and can’t afford not to have.

“I grow maize on a half hectare,” South Africa’s Elizabeth Ajele explains. “The old plants would be destroyed by insects, but not the new biotech plants. With the profits I get from the new Bt maize, I can grow onions, spinach and tomatoes, and sell them for extra money to buy fertilizer. We were struggling to keep hunger out of our houses. Now the future looks good. If someone came and said we should stop using the new maize, I would cry.”

Countryman Richard Sithole shares her excitement. “Now I don’t have to buy any chemicals. With the old maize, I got 100 bags from my 15 hectares. With Bt maize I get 1,000 bags.” The new maize has enabled South African farmers to cut their pesticide use up to 75%, triple their profits and save 35-49 days per season working in fields – mostly spraying pesticides by hand.

A genetically engineered (GE) cassava plant is now being tested in Kenya. It is absolutely resistant to the mosaic virus and, once approved, will be provided free to farmers. Mr. Njeru anxiously awaits that day, so that he can “complete my children’s education and build a new house and maybe a better shed for my cattle.”

In South Africa, widow, school principal and mother of five Thandi Myeni explains: “With the new Bt cotton, I only spray two times, instead of six. At the end of the day, we know the crop won’t be destroyed and we will have a harvest and money.”

“By planting the new Bt cotton on my six hectares, I was able to build a house and give it a solar panel,” says Bethuel Gumede. “I also bought a TV and fridge. My wife can buy healthy food and we can afford to send the kids to school. My life has changed completely.”

Urgent needs, simple dreams and newfound hope. But now Africa faces a new threat every bit as ominous as the droughts, viruses and locusts that have plagued it for centuries: hordes of activists and regulators bent on keeping this technology out of Africa (and away from farmers everywhere).

Their brilliant, well-orchestrated campaign is financed to the tune of some $70 million a year by foundations, organic food interests, EU governments, and even UN agencies and programs. It employs moratoriums and threats against agricultural imports from countries that grow biotech crops, complex and expensive requirements for labeling all GE ingredients and tracking them from seed to store shelf, even outright lies about the safety of biotechnology.

Their latest tactic is legislation in Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota and Vermont that would make farmers and seed manufacturers liable if their crops “contaminate” organic produce with traces of GE pollen. It would open the door for frivolous lawsuits, make biotech farming legally and financially risky, deplete R&D budgets, and further delay Dr. Oniango’s dream.

It promotes the narrow interests of organic growers and their well-off, well-fed clientele – who elevate their fears and demands above the needs of 200 million Africans who are still chronically hungry and malnourished. Organic growers want to increase their market share and bottom line. Organic consumers want food that is 100% biotech free. Africans want to be fed.

Freedom from hunger is a fundamental human right. Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and the UN charter affirmed this principle. To turn it into reality, we must do more to help impoverished nations generate the health and prosperity that we Westerners view as our birthright. A vital step in that process is ending the fear-mongering and regulatory overkill that places precaution against speculative risks from agricultural biotechnology over the real, immediate, life-and-death dangers that millions of Africans face every day.

Then Dr. Oniango’s dream will come true. Poor Africans – and poor families everywhere – will be able to feed themselves, and take their rightful places among the Earth’s prosperous people.

Cyril Boynes is CORE’s director of international programs (http://www.CORE-online.org). Paul Driessen is its senior policy advisor and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power · Black Death (http://www.Eco-Imperialism.com).

Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 14:06:30 -0600
From: "Dr. Tom DeGregori"
Subject: Here we go again!

Here we go again!

Those of you who do not subsribe to www.checkbiotech.org (Your personal daily newsletter) may have missed the following. As you can see from the opening sentence, it is more of the same mythology spread by Smith and others about GM crops in Iraq. I am sure that the activists will kep this myth alive and we will see it repeated in many forums over the next few weeks or longer.

Tom DeGregori

P.S. - lest you get the wrong impression, www.checkbiotech.org is a useful source of good information that shares the same values that most of us have and that is to present other sides of an issue even when the other side is looney.

Iraqi farmers forced to sow modified grain
(09 Feb 2005) Wednesday, February 9, 2005
By Christopher Findlay

An order on intellectual property signed by the former US military administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, forces Iraqi farmers into dependency on international corporations peddling genetically modified (GM) seed.

Full article at:


Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Houston
Department of Economics
204 McElhinney Hall
Houston, Texas 77204-5019
Ph. 001 - 1 - 713 743-3838
Fax 001 - 1 - 713 743-3798
Email trdegreg@uh.edu
Web homepage http://www.uh.edu/~trdegreg

Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2005 10:43:20 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Biotech products in Developing countries.

Comments on Biotech rejection a 'tragedy' among developing countries by Tom Steever, February 7, 2005.

Biotech products are not totally rejected in the developing world. It is the supply and demand.It is the cost of the products it matters compared to whether it is biotech or non biotech product.The Monsanto GM cotton is accepted in India ,because it has some advantages of pest reistance and the cost benefit ratio is good and also cotton is a non edible crop. There are still some concerns about edible GM foods ,since non GM foods are available plenty.It is the purchasing power of the middle class family.People are not even afford to purcahse the non GM food,why people think about the GM food?.Some non GM food is rotten in Govt godowns .Fruits and vegetables are sold less then the cost price? If this is the condition who is going to purchase the edible GM foods with high costs. No one can stop Biotech crops ,it is the cost benefit ratio decides the accepatance of the GM crops.The farmers is the one who ultimately decide which is more profitable?

Dr.P.H.Ramanjini Gowda
Associate Professor
Department of Biotechnology
University of Agricultural Sciences
GKVK,Bangalore 560065

Whether Gold or Grain, humans don't give it away

- Knight Ridder, By Alan McHughen, Feb 13, 2005

Globally, a thousand people die of hunger every hour. Over 800 million of us are chronically malnourished. Yet studies consistently conclude that the world actually produces enough food for everyone; if only it were more evenly distributed we could eradicate hunger.

This is a major plank in the argument against using modern farming methods to increase food production…. There's already enough food, so we don't need modern technology. "All we need do", according to this simple argument, "is to redistribute the surplus grain from those who have it to those who don't."

But humans have been starving for eons, even as the world has been producing grain and other food surpluses all along. Clearly, if redistribution were as simple a solution as some suggest, hunger would have been eradicated long ago.

The same argument can be made of poverty. On a world scale, poverty is widespread and massively crippling, yet there is plenty of total wealth. We could eradicate poverty simply by taking the surplus gold from rich people and giving it to the poor. As with global food production and hunger, society has always had poor people in a world filled with bountiful riches. And the simple solution is to redistribute wealth from those who have to those who haven't.

But complex problems are not solved with sound bites. Hunger persists, and the simplistic solutions simply don't work. Worse, they actually impede the development of realistic solutions to reduce, if not eradicate, hunger and poverty.

Biotechnology and other techniques of modern farming offer a practical means to provide more nutritious food to more people, and do so in an environmentally sustainable manner. Yet these methods are under attack by some of the very people who claim to represent the hungry and impoverished. Biotech crops and foods have now been grown by farmers, and eaten by hundreds of millions of consumers, for ten years. In that time, farmers report a dramatic drop in pesticide usage, increases in yield and higher quality grain with less insect and microbial damage and contamination. Important also is the safety record: after ten years, there is still not a single documented case of harm from eating biotech foods.

In developing countries, crops under perform largely due to devastation from weeds, insects and disease. When whatever's left of the crop is finally harvested, as much as a third spoils before humans can eat it. These are exactly the problems that judicious use of biotechnology can overcome, and a large reason why biotech crops have been so enthusiastically embraced in developing countries. In the Philippines, for example, farmers growing biotech corn report a 30% increase in yield, and a huge drop in insect damage and contamination. Sadly, hungry people in some developing countries are denied access to this life saving technology because their politicians listen to the unsupported scare stories. Zambia, for example, in 2002 rejected biotech corn as food aid for their starving masses, because European activists told Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa that biotech was 'poison' and that any future food exports to Europe would be jeopardized due to the strict EU rules on biotech foods. Never mind that Americans have been eating the same supposedly 'poison' biotech corn for years with no documented ill effects, the emotional if unsubstantiated scare stories overwhelmed any rational evaluation.

But let's return to the 'redistribution' scenario and question its feasibility. Is it realistic to expect American farmers, responsible for much of the world surplus grain, to deliver that excess, uncompensated, to the hungry overseas? Will our productive farmers continue to grow surpluses if they have to give away the excess grain? Having the world's poor and hungry fed by American farmers does nothing to stimulate self respect and self sufficiency. In banning biotech crops and foods, we deny the impoverished and hungry a means to overcome both, and continue the cycle of dependency on charity handouts.

American farmers have overwhelmingly adopted biotech crops, as have farmers in every country where such crops are allowed. Because the grain surpluses come mainly from these biotech crop farmers, redistribution faces another roadblock. The same activists spouting the 'redistribution' argument have succeeded in banning biotech grain in many hungry countries. Since biotech grain forms the bulk of the surplus, redistribution to those countries will be prohibited, and the people will continue to be hungry.

One of Nature's immutable laws holds that simple solutions to complex problems don't work. Let's reject this redistribution fallacy and focus on real solutions.

Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 15:18:59 -0600
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Pollen Pollution

Are there any of the pollen pollution laws that can cut both ways? Where a seed grower of conventional crops can sue their neighbor for pollution of the certified or registered crops and requiring them to buy new foundation seed ever so often because genetic pollution of any kind from neighboring crops, mixing in the seed processing plant, weed seeds and genetic drift.

When harvesting seed wheat the first truck load from the outside edge nearly always went to town for regular sale to reduce the pollution from pollen drift, weeds creeping in from the edge of the road and to clean out the combine of foreign wheat and weeds it might be carrying.

So under these laws can I sue my neighbor for the difference in the value of the wheat sold for consumption and the wheat sold for seed when the outside of the field is weed free and the combine has come from another field of the same wheat that was weed free as well and have any chance of winning? A few lawsuits by conventional farmers against organic farms for polluting our conventional crops that we can legally save seed for replanting or contract back to the owner of agent of the seed patent will cure them of sucking eggs with their poison pill legislation by making it a bitter pill for the organic grower as well. Remember anyone can sue anyone for anything in civil court as long as it isn't so foolish that judge calls it frivolous and makes you pay the party you are suing's legal fees. Of course they can counter sue using the same logic.

But I expect a legal defense fund would not be too hard to raise for the conventional farmers.

I am a retired farmer, rancher and agricultural researcher and crop share land lord of all or part of 4 farms and ranches in Texas and Oklahoma. I put bought my first cattle in 1957. The ranch in Texas www.couger.com/ranch.gif the red star on the map is being run by the 4th, 5th generation and looks like it a sure thing to stay in the family the next 50 years. It was settled in 1873. My wive has a third interest in the south headquarters of the XIT ranch and our family's bought them both from the state of Texas with no intervening owners.

I have worked the land with 2 of those generations that organic methods were all they had and farmed cotton on my wife's home place with organic methods because 2/3 of a bale to the acre won't pay for anything else my wife and I could hoe 80 acres of cotton by our selves saving the cost of herbicides and their application. My parents, grand parents, my wife and I all agree that organic methods the worst way of farming from the point of yield, erosion from water and wind and preservation of the organic matter in the soil and improving the soil. On my home place I have more legume rotations than most organic farms do and the farmer is using limited till and no till as much as he can and we have seen more improvement in the yields and soil tilt, organic matter and improved soil structure in last 4 years including the 15 years in the 50's & 60's that we were spreading the manure of 2,000 calves a year in the feed lot on 240 acres.

Gordon Couger Stillwater, OK www.couger.com/gcouger


- CropBiotech Update, Feb 11, 2005

Poorer farmers in low potential areas in Africa can benefit more from planting Bt corn. So says a study on “Assessing the benefits and risks of GE crops: Evidences from the insect resistant maize for Africa project” by H. de Groote and colleagues. Results of the study showed that most objections to Bt corn cannot be substantiated. These objections include inability of the technology to address small farmers’ needs, irrelevant crop traits relative to demand, and agro-businesses benefiting more from it.

An evaluation of the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project that started in 1999 was done and “after five years of research in the first phase, it can be shown that most, but not, all concerns against Bt maize can be answered.” The project used both conventional breeding and biotechnology and considered both biophysical as well as social aspects of the technologies.

Groote and colleagues noted that demand for Bt maize is likely to be high since corn is a major food crop in Kenya yet production remains low. Among the top constraints that can be addressed by the technology include problems related to seed quality, pest problems, and yield losses. Farm surveys showed that most areas had enough alternative hosts that form natural refugia and prevent the build-up of resistance against the toxins.

View the complete article at http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2005/artspdf/feb0503.pdf



Contact de Groote at h.degroote@cgiar.org


Biotechnology for improving farm output, protect resources stressed

- Bangladesh Journal, February 13, 2005

BSS, Dhaka, Feb 14: Agriculture Minister MK Anwar today said biotechnology is an important and prospective device to help improve sustainable agricultural productivity to match with additional food and nutrition demands and protect ever-decreasing land and water resources.

The minister said this while inaugurating a six-day workshop on "The improvement of grain legumes for tropical agriculture through gene transfer: New approaches and bio-safety aspects" at a city hotel.

Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Prof SMA Faiz, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council Dr Nurul Alam, professor of Hanover University of Germany Hans Jorg Jacobsen and professor of Agbios Dr D J MacKenzie of Canada addressed the inaugural function.

A large number of agriculturists, botanists and experts from home and abroad are attending the workshop, a press release said.

MK Anwar said Bangladesh has made excellent progress in agriculture production by almost tripling the foodgrain production and halving the intensity of hunger and poverty.

But the food demand of the country is expected to increase significantly in the next 20 to 25 years due to a rise in population and economic development, he said, adding that this increased demand could be meet only by adopting modern technology.

Stressing the need for grain legumes to check malnutrition, he said pulses like lentil, chickpea, mungbean, grass pea, black gram, field bean and cowpea are being cultivated in the country. But these varieties have low yield potentials and prone to pest attack and diseases, he added.

"Genetic engineering would be effective in producing fungus and salinity resistant crop varieties," the agriculture minister said, adding that an effective transformation protocol should be established to transfer genes of desirable traits successfully.

Besides its genetically modified (GM) cotton, MK Anwar said China has started production of GM rice. Other Asian countries like Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, India and Indonesia are making huge investments on biotechnology research.

Other Asian countries should also produce GM rice to meet the growing demand, he observed.

He emphasized coordinated efforts for developing regulatory framework and policies related to biotechnology and human resources development in this field.


Here comes Bt cabbage!

- Financial Express, February 12, 2005

NEW DELHI - A team of scientists from India, Canada and France has developed transgenic cabbage by inserting Bt genes. This transgenic cabbage is resistant to pest, diamondback moth (DBM).

In a scientific paper appearing in the Indian Journal of Biotechnology, the scientist trio said the DBM pest usually gets resistant to pesticides. With a view to make the cabagge resistant to DBM they successfully experimented by inserting two cry genes of the soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

This transgenic cabagge was developed by insertion of a synthetic “fusion gene’ of the soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This inserted Bt gene produces two protiens which are toxic to DBM. One of the co-authors of the scientific paper, Dr Polumetla Ananda Kumar of Delhi-based Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) claimed this is the first successful experiment to develop a transgenic cabbage resistant to DBM. As this Bt cabbage is of tropical and sub-tropical variety, it can be grown in India. Bt cabbages are at various stages of development by different biotech companies in India.

Biotech Industry Rejects WA Ministerial letter

- AusBiotech, 10 February 2005

AusBiotech, Australia’s biotechnology industry organisation representing over 2,600 Members is stunned at the release of correspondence between WA’s Agricultural Minister Kim Chance and a genetically modified (GM) activist during the current government caretaker mode.

At a time when the WA government has related to biotechnology industry representatives that the government cannot respond to the organisation’s correspondence dated 7 February, it is now evident that the same conditions have not been the case for GM activist groups.

“On the same day that AusBiotech was informed by the Director General of the Department of Agriculture that the Government cannot respond to our letter dated 24 January, a detailed letter was sent to Julie Newman, Network of Concerned Farmer (an organisation linked with Greenpeace),” said Dr Tony Coulepis, Executive Director, AusBiotech.

The letter not only contained many errors of fact but also brings into question the advice that the Minister is receiving in relation to agribiotech and GM crops.

AusBiotech has been working closely with industry members concerning the GM moratoria and distributed a five-point plan to state governments for the future development and opportunities for Australian agriculture late last year.

“The plan aroused considerable governmental and industry interest and consultations have since been held with Agricultural Ministers from several states, as well as the Federal Agricultural Minister, Warren Truss,” said Dr Ian Edwards, Chair, AusBiotech AgBio Advisory Group.

There has been no response from the WA Minister Kim Chance’s office.

“The Minister’s action is not only taking away any opportunity for a level playing field, but also denying WA growers choice in canola production, as well as creating uncertainty about the pathway to market for other Australian GM innovations,” Dr Coulepis said.

This is despite OGTR approval for canola and the fact that triazine chemical currently used for most canola production in WA is 60 times more toxic than Round-up and is subsequently banned in Europe because of ground water contamination.

Greenpeace has called for the termination of atrazine use in several countries. If banned in WA, it could put the canola industry in jeopardy, unless the moratoria is overturned.

“AusBiotech is deeply concerned that the Minister’s attitude towards multinational companies, which jeopardises choice for growers and has a dramatic effect on small Australian companies, researchers and students in this field,” said Dr Coulepis.

AusBiotech calls for an explanation of the letter and a commitment by Government to create a level playing-field. A detailed response to factual errors within the Minister’s letter is attached, with appropriate references.

Media Contact:

Dr Tony Coulepis, Executive Director, AusBiotech, Mob: 0419 436 902
Dr Ian Edwards, Chair, AgBio Advisory Group, Mob: 08 9450 4804


Greenpeace demands Poland ban imports of GM foods

- AFP, Feb 11, 2005

WARSAW (AFP) - Around 30 activists from environmental group Greenpeace blocked the entrance to the office of Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka for nearly two hours to demand that Poland ban imports of genetically modified produce.

Some of the protesters chained themselves to the metal fencing around the prime minister's office while others unfurled a banner above the main entrance reading: "Stop GMOs before it is too late."

They also hoisted a giant, inflatable clock, to signify the rapid passage of time.

"We want the government to ban imports of genetically modified foodstuffs before it is too late," Polish Greenpeace activist Jacek Winiarski told AFP.

The demonstrators were from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, Greenpeace said.

The protest ended after around two hours, when police and the fire services unchained the demonstrators from the gates and took down the banner.

Several demonstrations have been staged around Europe by Greenpeace activists in recent weeks ahead of the European Commission (news - web sites)'s authorisation, expected next month, for genetically modified colza produced by US biotech giant Monsanto to be imported and processed in the European Union.