Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





May 6, 2005


One Billion and Counting...; Mischief or Ignorance; Greens Attack Chinese Rice; Coping with Climate Change; Dang Brits


Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : May 6, 2005

* One Billion and Counting...
* Wales: GM Farmers' Choice
* Pesticide Results Help China Edge Transgenic Rice Towards Market
* Greenpeace's Misguided Attack on China's GM Rice
* Australia: A Healthy Regard for Tomorrow
* India Renews Permits for Some Varieties of Bt Cotton
* ...But Al Jazeera Twists the Story
* Animal Nutrition with Feeds from GM Plants
* New Members of the USDA's Biotech Advisory Committee
* South Africa In for 'Grave Climate Changes'
* Greenpeace Charged with Violating Environmental Law!
* Greenpeace Co-Founder Dead
* Brainwashed by Ecozealots and the Hippie Media, Brits Vote
'Bicycle' as the Best Invention and GM the Worst!
* Follow-Up on the Discussion on 'Aid for Famine Profiteers'


One Billion and Counting...

Somewhere in the world this week or next a farmer will plant the 1
billionth acre of genetically enhanced crops. Monitor it for yourself
and check out the GM counter at



Wales: GM Farmers' Choice

- Western Mail (UK), May 5, 2005

Sir - Your correspondent Dr Huw Martin Thomas (letters April 20)
makes a number of valuable points in supporting the position of the
new EU Farm Commissioner when he says that farmers should be left
with the choice of whether or not to grow GM crops.

I too support this view and have campaigned for almost a decade for
the public (both young and old) to become better educated about their
food sources although I frequently come across individuals who
display appalling levels of ignorance, including a teacher who had
not appreciated that a dairy cow has to have a calf before she will
produce milk!

Dr Thomas makes the case that few, if any, of the GM crops would be
of interest to Welsh farmers but I beg to differ. Forage maize is an
important crop for many livestock farmers in the principality but is
very much a 'foreigner' in that there are no close indigenous
relatives in UK. But growing this crop causes considerable damage in
terms of soil erosion and nitrate leaching into our rivers,
exacerbated by our relatively high rainfall and the fact that most of
the crop is harvested in late autumn using heavy machinery.

The 'GM' trait of specific herbicide tolerance that is exhibited by
the cultivars currently on offer to us would mean that the crop could
be undersown with another crop (typically ryegrass) which would
firstly mop up much of the spare nitrates in the soil and secondly
help produce a sward which would significantly reduce soil erosion in
the autumn.

As a crop science adviser on a significant acreage of forage maize
grown in Wales, I would advise most (if not all) of my clients that
there are significant environmental benefits to be gained from
growing varieties with such traits and, as far as we know, no

Like Dr Thomas I am bemused by those who for either ideological,
commercial, or philosophical reasons (or maybe through pure mischief
or ignorance) choose to resist this advantageous yet benign

The overwhelming body of evidence is that GM varieties are if
anything inherently at least as safe, if not safer, than the
'conventionally' bred ones that we already grow.

- J.A. Harrington, Optima Excel Ltd, Pen-y-lan, Tregoyd, Brecon


Pesticide Results Help China Edge Transgenic Rice Towards Market

- David Cyranoski, Nature 435, 3; May 5, 2005

'Genetically modified varieties promise health benefits for farmers.'

China is poised to commercialize genetically modified rice, possibly
within a year. Data have just been published that advocate the rice's
health benefits, but observers are concerned by the lack of long-term
health and environmental studies, and by evidence that transgenic
rice is already being sold illegally in the country.

China has four varieties of genetically modified rice in the final
stages of field trials. Last week, Chinese and US researchers
presented evidence that two of them - GM Xianyou 63 and GM II-Youming
86 decrease the use of pesticides by 80% (J. Huang et al.,
Science308, 688690; 2005). The authors argue that this would
dramatically benefit the health of farmers.

The authors' enthusiasm is in marked contrast to wary noises that
have come from China in the past few years. No new transgenic food
crop has been approved for commercial use there since 2000, and the
government has taken every opportunity to emphasize the possible

This reflects China's 'no-risk' approach, claims a senior US-based
plant scientist who advises the Chinese government on agricultural
policy. The agriculture m inistry has hesitated to introduce
transgenic rice so as to avoid responsibility for any resulting
health or environmental problems, he says, adding that positive
results such as Huang's will be crucial in overcoming such fears.

But other observers have suggested that China has simply been taking
advantage of biotechnology c oncerns in Europe and elsewhere. These
enabled it to deny commercial approval to foreign companies such as
Monsanto until its own domestic products could compete (see Nature
422, 111 112; 2003).

The publication of the Science paper suggests that China believes it
has now reached that stage, and is ready to be the first country to
approve genetically modified rice. "Products from China's plant
biotechnology industry could be an effective way to increase both
competitiveness internationally and rural incomes domestically," the
authors write.

The results do sound impressive. GM Xianyou 63 and GM II-Youming 86
contain genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium and the
cowpea, respectively, which make them resistant to two serious pests,
stem borers and leaf rollers. Farmers in eight villages in the Hubei
and Fujian provinces were given either conventional seeds or the
transgenic varieties, all at the same price, and were then told to
apply pesticides as needed.

There was a slight increase in productivity of about 6% . But it is
the 80% drop in pesticide use that would bring both economic and
health benefits, says the paper's lead author, Jikun Huang, an
agricultural economist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Lesser poison. There are no studies showing the extent of
pesticide-related illness in China, but according to Huang's
unpublished estimates, around 50,000 farmers suffered pesticide
poisoning each year in the 1990s, and around 1% of those died.
Questionnaires submitted by the farmers in the latest survey showed
that no households using the transgenic rice suffered symptoms of
pesticide-related illness, whereas up to 8.3% of those using
conventional rice did.

The drop in pesticide usage is not in itself a huge surprise, says
Chris Leaver, a plant biologist at the University of Oxford, UK,
noting that similar advantages have been seen in the transgenic
cotton that is already on sale. & "It's nothing new except that it's
in rice," he says.

But results such as Huang's could change perceptions about the costs
and benefits of genetically modified food, says Robert Ziegler, who
became director-general of the non-profit International Rice Research
Institute in Los Banos, Philippines, earlier this year. "These hard
data are consistent with the objectives that create these materials,"
he says. "It's not hype. It's real."

Selling genetically modified rice in China could lead to the
acceptance of other crops, an d other countries may follow suit, says
Leaver: "This is just the tip of the iceberg." Huang confirms that
scientists from Vietnam and Indonesia have contacted him about plans
to introduce the pest-resistant rice. And progress is being made with
Golden Rice, a transgenic strain that aims to combat malnutrition by
producing extra pro-vitamin A (see J. A. Paine et al., Nature
Biotechnol.23, 482487; 2005).

But it is not all good news. Some observers are concerned that the
Chinese government may use Huang's results to justify approval of the
transgenic strains, although few if any studies have been done on
their long-term health or environmental effects. And they fear that
lax regulation in China might cause problems. Transgenic rice already
seems to be popping up illegally in markets in Hubei GM Xianyou 63
is "probably" being sold there, admits Huang.

"Unregulated distribution would definitely happen within the country
and across borders," says a Japanese plant biologist and advocate of
genetic modification, who asked not to be named. He worries that
unregulated distribution could lead to ecologically unbalanced
agriculture. He argues that distribution of transgenic crops should
come only after farmers have been educated about the technology and
its possible risks.


Greenpeace's Misguided Attack on China's GM Rice

- Thomas R. DeGregori, Professor of Economics, University of Houston

I was contacted by a journalist from China concerning my posted
piece, 'Not So Golden Silence on GM Rice,' American Council on
Science and Health, Health Facts and Fears.Com,
http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.547/news_detail.asp commenting
on a outstanding article in Science on the heath benefits of growing
GM rice in China. My comments reminded him "that in China, media also
remain silent on GM's benefits, and overwhelmingly bad-mouthing GM
crops." He then informed me of Greenpeace's response to the study as

"Greenpeace presented a press release, see
But most of it is irrelevant to the study. In an endnote, it states
that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in China resulted in a
reduction of pesticide use of over 45% (I'm wondering why the most
relevant part is in such a corner), which implies that farmers have
better choice. So I would like to know, whether the IPM is such
effective, and from economic perspective, and can IPM show
significant benefits than the adoption GM crops? Is that any sound
research support Greenpeace claim?"

I thought that others might also be interested in my response so I
posted it on the ACSH website as a comment on my article and I am
sending it for AgBioView...

My Response:

Thank you for you email. Let me answer at this time as best that I
can in a limited time period.

First, let me say how delighted that I am that you discovered my
posted piece on the ACSH website. My editor will be pleased to know
that people around the world are monitoring it. Let me also say that
I read the Greenpeace news release and the FAO report which
Greenpeace claims supports their argument. I also consider it
unfortunate that the media in China fails to recognize the successes
of biotechnology although the article in the issue of Nature
(Cyranoski 2005) that is out today indicates that this may be

Now on to the substantive issues: Somehow activists groups seem to
claim a proprietary right to IPM, manure and even the term,
sustainable agriculture as if the rest of us are knowingly advocate
unsustainable agriculture. As Dr. Norman Borlaug has often stated,
the farmer should use every means at his or her disposal. IPM is just
one set of many tools for the farmer to raise his or her crop. As Dr.
Borlaug states it, using manure does not preclude the necessity of
using additional fertilizer.

IPM can mean many things but under that rubric are a variety of
useful tools that can be helpful in raising a crop. It is not a form
of magic as many of its ideological proponents seem to be asserting,
nor is it a refutation of modern agronomy as the Greenpeace press
release seems to imply. It should be noted that biological controls
that are normally considered as IPM have produced some spectacular
failures releasing predator species that have multiplied out of
control while also having some successes. There is no one form of IPM
that is a success in all circumstances.

I know of no working scientist in agriculture who is opposed to
including IPM techniques in his or her bag of tools. If one listened
to the activists, one would think that modern agriculturalist are
totally opposed to IPM which is simply not the case. When done
correctly, IPM is predicated on a vast array of scientific inquiry
from a multitude of disciplines and fields. A research institution
such as IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) which is
promoting biotechnology research and has been at the cutting edge of
science in agriculture, has also developed some of the most effective
low cost IPM programs.

I have seen IPM programs in Asia that have contributed to successful
agriculture but almost always as part of a larger package of modern
agricultural practice. For example when there is an emerging pest
infestation problem, IPM practices such as "scouting" for bugs might
be combined with the introduction of a new more resistant variety of
a crop such as rice. The purpose of "scouting" would be to reduce
pesticide use by better identifying when there is the need to spray
and when not to spray.

Let me also note that these programs can be labor intensive and
require considerable training. In the U.S., "scouting" is a part of
cutting edge practices called "precision agriculture" which involves
a variety of low tech elements -low cost rain gauges, temperature
measurements - coupled with GPS, computers and expert systems
programs to determine when and what to spray and when not to spray.
It has been my experience that when you truly have an INTEGRATED Pest
Management program that succeeds thanks to a variety of modern
techniques, the ideologues will extract out an IPM component such as
scouting and attribute the success solely to it ignoring such items
as a more resistant strain of the crop or a new pesticide.

Setting up the program can also be expensive where entomologists are
involved in studying the patterns of predator-prey relationships. In
the early 1990s, I had the opportunity of having an extended
discussion with an entomologist in Central Java who was deeply
committed to IPM and who had previously been involved in IPM attempts
in the United States. He readily admitted that most of the attempts
in the U.S. had failed and that what he was learning in Central Java
might not be applicable in West Java, a short distance away. The
program itself was very expensive per farmer trained and therefore
trained very few though it was able to harvest a great deal of
international publicity. Not only that, for reasons that escaped me
then and now, the promoters were asking for additional funding to
re-train those that they had trained. By my calculations at the time,
the cost to train the 30 million Indonesian farmers in IPM in the
first year alone would have consumed the entire budget for the 6 year
program for all of Indonesian agricultural (including all crops and
fisheries) education (including schooling at all levels and research
institutions), training and extension (including maritime). The IPM
program had much value from what we could learn from it but it was
not a panacea for the country's agricultural needs.

The FAO report [Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Green Farming in
Rural Poverty Alleviation in China,
] that Greenpeace cites notes the potential of biotechnology on page
35 and also notes that GM crops have been limited to Hubei and
Shandong Provinces "owing to the debate on rosks"(It is a good,
useful report but fails to support Greenpeace's press release.).They
fail to note that not only has FAO supported biotechnology (much to
the publicly pronounced pain of the NGOs who claim to have been
"betrayed") but it has a long history of supporting any number of
heroic breeding techniques such as mutation breeding using either
chemical carcinogens or radiation. Much of modern agriculture would
be unthinkable without them but clearly the short and long term
outcomes for mutation breeding are far less predictable than is the
case for GM crops.

Let me add, the foodstuffs produced by these techniques probably
account for 60 to 70% of the produce found in "organic" food stores
that post signs claiming to be "GM-free." (Click-on to my webpage
below and the click-on to the link to my piece, Pure But Not Yet, for
details) My understanding is that Greenpeace spends more money each
year to oppose GM crops than the total spent by Potrykus and Beyer to
develop the golden Vitamin A rice.

Greenpeace has learned that it is easier to frighten people than to
inform them and they have been very successful at it. Thus though it
saddens me to learn that successful GM is not publicized in China, it
does not surprise me. The opposition to GM, such as the campaign
against GM maize for famine relief in Africa, is to me, nothing short
of criminal. I have worked in Africa, Asia and elsewhere and have
seen famine and hunger and it is not pretty and I object to
Northern-based and funded NGOs campaigning against ways of helping to
meet the food needs of the most unfortunate members of humanity. But
don't let me get off on this tangent. There is simply no solid
science in Greenpeace's fear mongering and it is my hope that the
Science article and the Nature article below are truly a signal that
China will move ahead in this endeavor.

One final thought on the Science article that I did mention in mine
but not in sufficient detail - Unfortunately, I do not have the time
to go into detail here except to indicate how pleased I was to learn
how much of what used to be very intensive extension and support
programs, was carried out in China by the farmer's themselves. The
Green Revolution often involved not only introducing new seeds but
also new pesticides (farmers have always tried various schemes to
protect crops such as poisons like arsenic) and fertilizer since they
were getting larger yields and therefore taking more nutrient out of
the soil which had to be replaced. Often there were first demo plots
than selected farmers to champion a new "technological package" often
with a guaranteed crop and then extension to help the farmer with
credit for the needed inputs and technical assistance such as when to
plant crops with different length of growing season etc, etc. etc.

What astounded me most about the process described in the Science
article was the lack of need for technical assistance to achieve the
results indicated. Whatever the research costs to develop the GM
crops maybe, it does appear that for rice, the results realized came
at a very low cost. Scientists will likely be working for some time
on new techniques for planting etc so that need for agricultural
extension will continue but it would appear that some GM crops,
building on the acquired Green Revolution knowledge and practices,
will need very little help to realize yield and health benefits. I am
personally, very excited by the possibilties of what the resarchers
observed in the their study.

If it is true, as Greenpeace claims that "farmers have better
choice," then why doesn't Greenpeace let the farmers themselves
choose rather then forcing Greenpeace's choice upon them by denying
farmers the transgenic options?

I hope that you as a journalist will help to spread this very
important message of potential benefit to farmers throughout China,
Asia and the rest of the world.

all the best! -- Tom DeGregori

Cyranoski, David. 2005. Pesticide results help China edge transgenic
rice towards market, Nature 435(7038):3, 5 May.


Australia: A Healthy Regard for Tomorrow

- Jonathan West, Australian, May 6, 2005

During the next 20 years, biotechnology must become a fundamental
contributor to Australia's productivity, both directly through
increases in export income and indirectly through the maintenance of
the population's health.

Initial investment in biotechnology is expensive for any nation, in
intellectual and capital terms. Australia has limited investment in
these resources at present, but has the opportunity to redress the
situation. The quality of Australian science and the nation's stable
political structure provide a good foundation for building a biotech

The question is whether the Australian people want to make the
investment. This question cannot be properly faced until
biotechnology is viewed by the people as a real national resource,
rather than the somewhat eclectic creation of scientists who are
removed from the daily lives of most people. It may well be asked
whether Australia can afford not to make the investment. Present
predictions are that healthcare costs for Australians will reach
trillions of dollars during the next two decades as the population
ages and existing health trends continue.

If Australians are to avoid a catastrophic burden, then we must
invest now in biotechnology and we must invest heavily. Investment of
$1 billion now will probably save $100million in 20 years' time.
Investment must be meaningful in sum and duration. Grants of a few
million dollars seem generous to the recipients, but make little
strategic impact. Recurrent funding is required because the science
and technology is evolving so rapidly. The magnitude of funding
needed exceeds traditional resource supply for biomedical and
bioscience research in Australia, but not in other countries.

Investment must be managed with national priorities in mind. It may
be argued that management of biotechnology funding through individual
grants is fragmented and risks wasting vital resources. For
government, in particular, it is highly desirable that a coherent and
strategic biotech investment program can be developed.

Investment must support partnerships between governments, industry
and research groups. Partnerships should include consideration of
policy direction, co-ordinated research programs and infrastructure
support. The partnerships should maximise synergy between groups and
seek a co-ordinated approach to infrastructure support.

Investment must be strategic, as Australia does not have the
resources to address all aspects of the biotechnology revolution.
Investment priority should be directed towards those initiatives
likely to be of greatest benefit to the health of the population and
national productivity.

Investment must be made in education. The biotechnology revolution
will require us to develop a completely new national skills base. We
will need new tissue engineers, new nano-technologists, molecular
nutritionists and organic architects. We will need to develop
training programs and educational support for the new workforce.

Investment must be immediate. The lead time of assembling research
groups and manufacturing teams can be considerable. We also have the
lead time of training the new workforce. If we are to meet the
challenges of the next 20 years, we must invest now.

At the same time, our advances in bioscience and biomedicine will
open important ethical debates. Already, we face community debate
over the growing of genetically modified crops. While most genetic
modification so far has been directed at improving the "natural"
properties of food, the creation of foodstuffs with additional or
enhanced properties is a new phenomenon. To what extent is it
desirable that we create "designer" foods, which can deliver drugs or
nutrition supplements in our daily diet?

Humans are remarkably adaptable to medical devices and prostheses. It
has been predicted that by 2020, most people over the age of 60 will
have some sort of implanted medical device. Such devices are,
however, expensive. How will we ensure equity of access to the new
technology and avoid a two-tier society of those who can afford the
new medicine and those who cannot? This is particularly important for
those most likely to need new devices -- older members of society.

If we are to embrace organ replacement and tissue repair as means of
maintaining a healthy and productive population, we shall have to ask
how much of our bodies are we willing to replace?

At what point would this process of repair alter the individual
concept of self? Indeed, if the next 50 years see us consuming
predominantly modified foodstuffs and undergoing continuing renewal
of our bodies, and pushing our physical capacity through use of
biomachinery, we might well ask what a human being really is.

The question is not whether biotechnology will have a future in
Australia, but what sort of future it will have and how it will
contribute to the benefit of the nation.

It might be asked what choice Australia has about future investment
in biotechnology. It appears certain that modern biotechnology will
fundamentally change the world as we know it. Indeed, given the
demographic and economic challenges before us, biotechnology will
lead us to change ourselves.

On present trends, we must harness biotechnology to sustain national
productivity and support the standard of living of our children and
their children. The message is clear.

Jonathan West is an associate professor at Harvard University's
Graduate School of Business Administration. This is an edited version
of a paper he and colleagues wrote for the Future Summit.


India Renews Permits for Some Varieties 0f Monsanto's Bollgard

- Bloomberg News Radio, May 4, 005

India Renews Permits for Some Varieties of Monsanto's Bollgard.
Monsanto Co., the world's biggest developer of genetically modified
crops, got renewed permits from India for some varieties of its
Bollgard cotton, which is resistant to bollworms.

St. Louis-based Monsanto got approval from the so-called Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee, a state-run agency, to sell the seeds
for two years in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and
Maharashtra, A.K. Singhal, spokesman at ministry of environment and
forest, said in New Delhi today.

Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co., which makes the so-called MECH-12 Bt
variety seed, and is 26 percent owned by Monsanto, got the license.
The government also renewed permits for the use of MECH-162 Bt and
MECH-184 Bt, developed by Maharashtra Hybrid in the states of
Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

The renewal of permits means more cultivation area under the
company's bollgard seed. "We continue to expect that acreage planted
to bollgard cotton in India will double for this planting season"
compared with the earlier year, the company said in an e- mailed

Permission was given to Rasi Seeds Pvt., a maker of Monsanto's
genetically modified seeds, to sell its RCH-144 Bt variety in Madhya
Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Indian company also got
authorization to sell its RCH-20 Bt range in the states of Andhra
Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka, Singhal said.

The state-run agency, however, didn't renew permits for the sale of
three varieties of cotton including MECH-12 Bt, MECH-162 Bt and
MECH-184 Bt in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh because "reports
received from the state government indicated that the performance of
these varieties were not satisfactory,"


.... How Al-Jazeera Twists the Story....

See the headline. One would think that all Bt cotton is banned in India



Animal Nutrition with Feeds from Genetically Modified Plants

- Flachowsky, G., Chesson, A., Aulrich, K. 2005.Archives of Animal
Nutrition. 59(1): 1-40.

Abstract: Plant breeders have made and will continue to make
important contributions toward meeting the need for more and better
feed and food. The use of new techniques to modify the genetic makeup
of plants to improve their properties has led to a new generation of
crops, grains and their by-products for feed. The use of ingredients
and products from genetically modified plants (GMP) in animal
nutrition properly raises many questions and issues, such as the role
of a nutritional assessment of the modified feed or feed additive as
part of safety assessment, the possible influence of genetically
modified (GM) products on animal health and product quality and the
persistence of the recombinant DNA and of the 'novel ' protein in the
digestive tract and tissues of food-producing animals.

During the last few years many studies have determined the nutrient
value of GM feeds compared to their conventional counterparts and
some have additionally followed the fate of DNA and novel protein.
The results available to date are reassuring and reveal no
significant differences in the safety and nutritional value of
feedstuffs containing material derived from the so-called 1st
generation of genetically modified plants (those with unchanged gross
composition) in comparison with non-GM varieties. In addition, no
residues of recombinant DNA or novel proteins have been found in any
organ or tissue samples obtained from animals fed with GMP. These
results indicate that for compositionally equivalent GMP
routine-feeding studies with target species generally add little to
nutritional and safety assessment.

However, the strategies devised for the nutritional and safety
assessment of the 1st generation products will be much more difficult
to apply to 2nd generation GMP in which significant changes in
constituents have been deliberately introduced (e.g., increased fatty
acids or amino acids content or a reduced concentration of
undesirable constituents).It is suggested that studies made with
animals will play a much more important role in insuring the safety
of these 2nd generation constructs.


New Members of the USDA's Biotech Advisory Committee

- Federal Register: v. 70, No. 86; May 5, 2005, Page 23834-23835

Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture:

Richard Crowder, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Seed
Trade Association Duane Grant, Farmer, in Rupert, Idaho
Robert Herdt, Professor of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell
University Josephine Hunt, Global Science and Regulatory Affairs,
Kraft Foods Gregory Jaffe, Center for Science in the Public Interest,
in Washington, DC; Patricia Layton, Forestry and Natural Resources,
Clemson University South Carolina Bradley Shurdut, Government
Relations, Dow AgroSciences Alison Van Eenennaam, Extension
Specialist, Animal Science, U.California in Davis, Lisa Zannoni,
Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations, BASF Corporation


South Africa In for 'Grave Climate Changes'

- Tony Carnie, Mercury, May 6, 2005. Full story at

Cape Town: South Africans have been warned to brace themselves for a
series of "grave" and far-reaching changes to the climate which will
gradually alter the lives of everyone in the country.

Malaria is predicted to spread across the country to reach as far as
Johannesburg and even Port Elizabeth. Rainfall patterns will be
turned upside down. Poor farmers could be driven off the hotter and
drier landscape and thousands of animal and bird species will be at
greater risk of extinction. These were some of the alarming findings
presented at a press conference in Cape Town yesterday by Environment
Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

Based on a similar presentation given to the cabinet three weeks ago
by the SA National Biodiversity Institute's chief, Prof Brian
Huntley, the briefing outlined the predictions of a major study by
local and international scientists into the expected impacts of
global climate change in South Africa over the next 50 years. "Too
often climate change is regarded as someone else's problem . . . or
as an issue important only to some nations threatened by rising ocean
levels or expanding deserts," said Van Schalkwyk. "The simple truth,
however, is that climate change is everyone's problem, and that over
the next 50 years it may well define the worst social, economic and
environmental challenges ever faced.

"The findings are a cause for grave concern. They are not, however,
cause for panic," he said, noting that the first step to dealing with
climate change was to gather reliable research so government
policy-makers could take early mitigatory action. "This is why our
government has made dealing with climate change a national priority."

Changes would not be uniform across South Africa. In the western
regions there was likely to be significantly less rainfall and the
landscape would become progressively arid or even desert-like. In
eastern areas like KwaZulu-Natal, there could be more rain in the
summer, although intervening dry spells could last longer. For
farmers, maize harvests were likely to decline, especially in the

Poor farmers would be particularly hard hit as they would not have
the financial resources to adapt as quickly as large-scale farmers.
To deal with these scenarios, farmers would have to consider
switching crops, intensifying production in marginal land or even
switching to controversial genetically-modified crops.


Greenpeace Charged with Violating Environmental Law

- Rachel D'Oro, Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Lawyers selected a jury Monday that will decide
whether Greenpeace and its contract ship were criminally negligent by
failing to have the proper oil spill response paperwork during an
anti-logging campaign.

The environmental activist group, the captain of the Arctic Sunrise
and the ship's agent all are charged with misdemeanor criminal counts
of operating a vessel without a spill contingency plan or proof of
financial responsibility in case of a spill, as required by state law.

Opening statements were scheduled Tuesday in state District Court in
the southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan. Because the case involves
misdemeanor charges, it will be heard by only six jurors and two
alternates. "We feel good about the jury and feel confident they'll
listen to all the evidence and render a fair verdict based on the
evidence presented in court,'' said Greenpeace attorney Tom Wetterer.

State environmental regulators cited Greenpeace Inc., Arctic Sunrise
Capt. Arne Sorensen and ship agent Willem Beekman last July for not
filing a spill response plan or having a financial responsibility
certificate. According to court documents, the ship was carrying more
than 70,000 gallons of "petroleum products'' when it arrived in
southeast Alaska for the protest campaign against logging in the
Tongass National Forest.

In Alaska, non-tank vessels larger than 400 gross tons must file an
oil spill response plan application five days before entering state
waters. The group contends the paperwork oversight was a mishap that
was quickly corrected. Those on board didn't know such documents were
required, Wetterer said. "There was no criminal negligence here,'' he

Wetterer said the group is being unfairly targeted in retaliation for
its anti-logging stance. The defendants contend that many other
vessels have entered state waters without the same documents and
never faced criminal prosecution. "At the time of this incident, the
ship was insured against oil spills and also had an international oil
spill contingency plan in place,'' Wetterer said.

The state didn't pursue criminal charges against the group until the
Arctic Sunrise departed from Ketchikan before the paperwork was
finalized, despite an agreement to stay anchored, said Assistant
Attorney General Jay Fayette. The criminal negligence charges carry a
maximum penalty of a $200,000 fine for an organization and a year in
prison and a $10,000 fine for an individual.

The trial is expected to wind up at the end of the week, said
Fayette, who on Tuesday plans to call his first witnesses, including
a radio reporter who interviewed Sorensen after the Arctic Sunrise
left Ketchikan. Some details also will come from documents such as
the ship's itinerary that District Judge Kevin Miller agreed to allow
as evidence Tuesday after 90 minutes of "boring and polite legal
bantering'' between the two sides, Fayette said. "My intent is to
compress this so we can keep it to this week,'' he said.


Read an Online Discussion on this story at


Greenpeace Co-Founder Dead




Brits Vote 'Bicycle' as the Best Invention and GM the Worst!

- Cahal Milmo, BBC, May 6, 2005, Full story at

When asked about the value of the push-bike, H G Wells said: "When I
see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the human race."

Yesterday it emerged that Britons could not agree more with the
author after the bicycle saw off competition from the computer, radio
and the internal-combustion engine to be voted the most significant
piece of technology of the past two centuries.

The 187-year-old, two-wheeled invention of a German aristocrat picked
up 59 per cent of the 5,500 votes in an internet poll - seven times
more than its nearest rivals, the transistor and the electromagnetic
induction ring. The computer was next most popular choice (6 per
cent), followed by the germ theory of infection and the radio (5 per
cent), the internet (4 per cent), the internal combustion engine (3
per cent), and nuclear power and the communications satellite (1 per

But the choice of the bicycle ahead of such innovations as
electricity, satellites and the discovery of germs has been met with
disbelief by other scientists. Lord Alec Broers, who delivered the
Reith Lectures last month under the title "Triumph of Technology",
expressed concern when a similar survey placed the bike ahead of DNA,
the jet engine and vaccination in the pecking order of technical

The peer, who is president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a
former vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, said: "The means to
control plagues, to travel in hours to parts of the world which once
took months to reach, to be able to access billions of written words
from one's desk - these are just a few of the technologies which we
take for granted and which rest upon the accomplishments of
generations of engineers and scientists.

"Compared with these, I am afraid I cannot view the bicycle as a
significant contender. But the fact that so many of our compatriots
thought that it was of such significance surely indicates a failure
in communication and understanding."

The survey also named genetically modified foods as the innovation
that people would most like to "disinvent", scoring 26 per cent of
the vote.

The poll found that a vaccine for Aids topped listeners' wish-list
for technology they would like to see (35 per cent). This was
followed by interplanetary commuter transport and a time machine
(both 15 per cent).

Another section asked which piece of technology would people bring to
a desert island. The winner, with 50 per cent of the poll, was the


Follow-Up on the Discussion on 'Aid for Famine Profiteers'

- Andrew Apel

See earlier discussion thread at

I'm neither a communist nor a Marxist, nor am I a strict free-trader,
though I gladly borrow from those philosophies as circumstances
warrant. One must concede that famine is a special set of
circumstances, even in countries where "famine season" is an annual
event. Accordingly, a market that should normally be governed by free
trade should during times of famine be governed by rules instead.

Free trade is based on greed and bargaining, and both are
fundamentally human and essential to human welfare and dignity.
Famine warps this beyond recognition. The hungry have little to
bargain with, as the lack of food is the lack of life's most basic
necessity. At the same time, the greedy with food can profit from
scarcity, rather than from production. Hoarding and gouging in times
of tremendous need naturally arise in market economies, and at a
certain point should neither be tolerated or rewarded. Indeed, in the
US, there are criminal penalties for hoarding and gouging during
civil emergencies.

This is not Marxism. Marx wanted this response to economic "boundary
conditions" to apply to all economic activities at all times. This
proved to be unworkable, and now Russia is arguably the most
free-market economy in the world. There's also a Russian
Mafia--another type of free marketeering, but again, arguably, a
business model better punished than subsidized.

To return to the main theme: governments should intervene in economic
boundary conditions where free trade no longer works. If free trade
worked in southern Africa in times of famine, prices would rise and
spur imports of food, and thus "local stocks" of food would flow to
hunger-stricken areas: but then, we would not call it famine. Wealth
and food would change hands, and though people might grumble, their
bellies would not. When hoarding and gouging set in, the usual
dictates of free trade are reversed and it is shortage, rather than
production, which is economically rewarded.

This, of course, is bad, and it's equally bad for a government to set
a policy that offers financial rewards for hoarding and gouging.
Instead, a government should act like a rational free-market player
and respond to food scarcity by supplying food. If the hoarders and
gougers get stung in the process, too bad. They'll have to consider
other responses to scarcity--like boosting production, perhaps.

These considerations should apply only to severe economic boundary
conditions. So, for instance, I do not believe governments should
intervene when people are hoarding and gouging on cigarettes or panty
hose. Such privations are survivable. This is not the case with food.
In times of famine, food equates with life and death, and as such,
involves the same moral and practical considerations as war. And war
is the prerogative of government, perhaps even more than taxation.

If there are just wars, then perhaps there are just starvations as
well. However, I doubt it. While a strict free-marketer might argue
that those who fail to evolve efficient, self-governing markets might
as well starve anyhow, a morally nuanced approach would suggest that
starvations disproportionately target helpless civilians, which is as
reprehensible as targeting non-participants during war (and merits
capital punishment, by the way).

This accords well with Ingo Potrykus' observation that those who
countenance death and disease in their opposition to GM crops are
guilty of crimes against humanity. Such crimes are generally
associated with intentional acts of war, but whether shot or starved,
the innocent are still dead.

> Robert Vint Wrote: I totally agree. There's no need for the
>governments/officials to be involved at all. It should be the job of
>the donor to buy appropriate food (as specified by the recipients)
>through the local market. Robert.
Alex Avery wrote:

Actually, it is not correct to say I'm against PL480 and FOR sending
cash instead. I said (I think, and meant to say) that perhaps it's
not a bad idea to scrap PL480 to allow more flexibility and a
case-by-case approach. However, I'm VERY leary of sending cash to
notoriously corrupt African governments/officials as the history of
the vast majority of that money ending up in personal Swiss accounts
is long and tragic. Food is better than money, but perhaps locally
purchased food or a combination of U.S. stocks AND other foods is
appropriate. It all depends on circumstances. Giving only money, I
think, is foolish.
Robert Vint To Andrew Apel:
Hi Andrew, You have in fact provided one of the classic economic
arguments in support of Communism and the state regulation of trade.
Marx argues that in a free market the rich will always exploit the
dependency of the needy and calls instead for a system whereby the
state distributes the goods to ensure fairness. However it is not, I
think, an argument that works.

I prefer a free market approach - but it takes a bit of thought to
see why this works far better. A shortage of food, or any other good,
will increase demand and thus increase prices. The 'rich profiteers',
as you call them, may then sell scarce food for more than normal
prices - but, of course, they will for the same reason have to buy it
at higher prices from the growers. Thus the 'profiteers' are not
necessarily going to profit more than at any other time. Indeed the
scarcity of food to sell would reduce their opportunity for profits.
Assuming that a single organisation (whether the state or a private
monopoly), or a cartel, did not control the entire market, 'rich
profiteers' would be unable to exploit the situation by raising
prices higher than their competitors. The money would end up in the
hands of the growers - which is where it needs to go if the
agricultural economy of the nation is to survive. US food aid policy
stops this happening.

Alex, like me, is opposed to PL480 - the US law that requires aid to
be provided in the form of food purchased in the USA. We have both
campaigned against it - apparently for similar reasons. I assume
that, like me, he advocates a more free market approach to food aid,
such as that practised by the EU and Japan. What these donors do is
to buy food as locally as possible to where it is needed. They don't
give the cash to dodgy Governments but instead contact a range of
companies in the region and buy directly from the cheapest supplier.
Instead of each pound of grain then having to be monitored as it is
taken to each needy individual it is simply sold to traders in the
area where it is needed. If there is enough food in the market to go
round then the market will be more efficient than aid workers at
getting it round. If suppliers form a cartel and try to push up their
prices too far then the donor nations should (and hopefully do)
simply bypass them and buy food in local marketplaces and from small
farms at one end of a nation and then pay for it to be transported to
the other end where it is needed.

The free market system is fairly foolproof. Its much quicker than
shipping food over 10,000 miles, which is important in emergencies.
It supports local food production and the local economy. It
strengthens local trading networks. It doesn't, unlike PL480,
subsidise wasteful global food trading by corporate monopolies. A
significant problem is when there is a virtual monopoly controlling
the distribution of food. That's a problem in traditional communist
states. It's also a problem when WalMart or Cargill or Monsanto
achieves virtual monopoly control of a market sector. This is why I
see the process of corporate takeover - leading to the inevitable
virtual monopoly - as "communism by the back door". Best wishes,

More From Andrew Apel:

Friends and colleagues, I found the discussion between Robert Vint
and Alex Avery in "Zambian Blood on the Hands of Activists?"
(AgBioView, March 23, 2005) to be insightful and informative, and it
reminded me of some unfinished business--a matter of unsatisfied
curiosity regarding the economics and politics of African starvation.
I hope some reader of AgBioView can answer my question.

The question presupposes that in times of famine, the richest man in
town will be the one who holds the most grain, and that grain prices
will be unusually high. The question also presupposes that in such
times, the most politically powerful will be those who control the
food supply. It seems to me that in this scenario, providing money
aid for the purchase of local stocks would be providing money to the
rich and politically powerful at a time of inflated prices, thereby
satisfying the greed of famine profiteers and the power-hungry. On
the other hand, providing food instead of money would place the aid,
absent hijacking of shipments, etc., directly in the hands of the

US policy requires that food shortages be remedied with food, not
with money, a position advocated by Alex Avery. Robert Vint claims to
champion the position of African leaders in asking that money, not
food, be supplied in times of famine. The question is: Is famine
profiteering practiced in Africa, and if so, does this make it more
reasonable to send food instead of money? This will likely help
answer a related question: is it better or wiser to indirectly
subsidize the US farmer by providing food aid, or to directly pay
money to African famine profiteers? I would personally feel very
uncomfortable aligning myself with the latter.