Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : May 13, 2005
* Inaccurate Reporting or Media Bias?
* Story of Golden Rice - Lectures Online and Free DVD
* Genetically Modified Crops Pose Dilemma for Developing Countries
* Being on the Wrong Side of Science, History, and Morality
* India: Cotton Production Up Five Times In Four Years In Gujarat
* Correct Web Links for Downloading USDA's Biotechnology Reports
* Agricultural Biotechnology: Beyond Food and Energy
* GM Crops and Biodiversity: What
* Greenpeace Charged Under Danish Terror Law for GM Crops Action
Inaccurate Reporting or Media Bias?
- Andrew Apel, AgBioView, www.agbioworld.org : May 13, 2005
Dr. Dickson, Friends and Colleagues:
On May 11, 2005, AgBioView published "Inaccuracy - Not Bias - Is the
Scourge of the Media," by David Dickson. Either I cannot understand
it, or it is wrong. In the piece, Dickson claims that critics of the
media ignore "the fact that the main problem is not media bias, but
inaccurate reporting." The statement is immediately striking because
it appears to deny media bias. On further reflection, it becomes
tempting to view media inaccuracies as a symptom of bias--but then,
inaccuracies and bias would be two names for the same thing. But,
they are not the same thing, and Dickson's statement makes sense only
if there is a difference between the two.
It is tempting to then suppose that the difference between inaccuracy
and bias is that inaccuracy in news consists of random errors in
describing reality, like "noise" in a signal, whereas bias consists
of systematic errors in describing reality.
It appears Dickson is as tempted by this notion as I am when he says,
"It is not the role of the media to give equal prominence to all news
about an issue, whether good or bad. *** Significantly, publications
that have focused on providing only 'good' news seldom generate wide
audiences (or sales)."
That being the case, it is hard to see how a systematic, intentional
misrepresentation of the state of the world can be anything less than
bias. Occasional statements such as, "two plus two is five" can be
dismissed as inaccuracies, but with repetition, another explanation,
and another term, becomes necessary.
Alarmingly, Dickson offers an explanation for this conundrum that he
appears to believe is so self-evident as to be natural and therefore
forgiveable. "Rather, such [activist] groups are important in any
society precisely because of their role in pointing out - and indeed
in focusing on - either undesirable side-effects of scientific and
technological progress that have been given insufficient attention,
or potential dangers before they occur. *** The same can be said
about the media." Pardon my paraphrasing, but this means the natural
role of media and activists is to offer negative portrayals of
science and progress. That means bias in my book.
Dickson offers as a case in point the "inaccuracy" involved in
under-reporting findings that GM rice benefit farmers in China. A
similar "inaccuracy" is under-reporting the fact that the majority of
climatologists around the world do *not* believe human activity has a
significant impact on global warming.
Simple under-reporting, if one is in a generous mood, might be
classed with omissions such as failing to point out to readers that
two plus two is four. However, the problem is far worse than that.
Since it is systematic, and therefore not "noise," but actual
bias--intentional misrepresentation of the state of the world--it is
found not only in under-reporting, but in the selection of sources as
For instance, take a bit of news involving scientist A, who has
discovered beneficial properties in an engineered crop plant.
Journalist B, who is presumably fulfilling his natural social role as
opposing science and progress, will naturally want to torpedo this
finding. Who better to cite in opposition to scientist A? Well of
course, another scientist of equal or greater stature, or even a
group of his peers. Wrong-o. The journalist turns to an activist, who
then talks about the "unknown risks" of engineered crops. Bias must
be inherent in the journalistic breed when they can swallow whole
such an odd concept. Quite simply, if it's unknown, how do we know
it's there? Yet somehow, the crude confession of ignorance contained
in the notion of "unknown risk" is offered up as trumping a
demonstrated scientific fact.
Dickson appears to imply that, since human nature is imperfect,
asking for objectivity calls for too much in the first place. "But
the real crime is not bias in itself," he says. "Indeed, it would be
naive to pretend that a journalist can (or should even pretend to)
remain totally objective about the issues he or she is covering, and
a passionate interest can often inspire high-quality reporting."
These statements are just true enough to appear truthful. But they
are not. In actuality, journalists who pretend to be objective should
be fired. They are not inherently objective, but they are *at least*
expected to *try*.
We are then invited to consider that a systematic, intentional
misrepresentation of the state of the world might be naughty, but it
pales in comparison to a far greater sin. "In contrast," Dickson
says, "the worst distortions come when facts are reported
inaccurately. For the wrong facts can never become the basis of good
decisions, and truthfulness (whether in reporting or campaigning) is
essential in a way that objectivity is not.
It is quite obvious that decisions based on the notion that two plus
two equals five will often be deeply flawed. By the same token,
journalists who rely on this non-equation will find their reporting
to be "inaccurate." But it is a far different thing to attempt to
persuade readers to conclude that two plus two is five, and get them
to interpret their world in light of that conclusion.
It is one thing to be wrong, and it is another thing to be
intentionally wrong. It is one thing to be inaccurate, and it is
another thing to be intentionally inaccurate. It is one thing to be
human, and it is another thing entirely to abandon the aspirations
for objectivity that should typify the honest journalist. Having been
a journalist, I can say for myself that I'd rather be accused of
inaccuracy than bias. An inaccuracy can be fixed with a retraction. A
bias is a fundamental personal flaw that cries out for a career
change. Like joining Greenpeace.
> Inaccuracy -- not bias -- is the scourge of the media by David Dickson
> The media is often criticised for focusing excessively on 'bad'
>news about GM crops ..
The Story of Golden Rice - Lectures Online and Free DVD
Last year, designated by the United Nation as the Year of Rice, The
Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture asked the two
inventors of Golden Rice to talk about their discovery and about its
future. We also asked Syngenta to clarify its role with the Golden
Rice program. All three readily agreed, and in October 2004 in honour
of World Food Day, together gave this Syngenta lecture in Basel,
Among the questions addressed in the lecture: Why Golden Rice * What
daily intake of Golden Rice is estimated to help reduce VAD * Who
owns Golden Rice * Can farmers freely reuse seed * What is the taste
of Golden Rice * Are there cultural issues with eating colored rice *
What are the environmental effects * When and where will Golden Rice
Watch the Video online at
Request a free DVD at http://www.syngentafoundation.com/golden_rice/order.htm
Genetically Modified Crops Pose Dilemma for Developing Countries
- Lisa Schlein, AXcess News, May 12, 2005
A new study by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD,
highlights the dilemma for developing countries posed by genetically
modified organisms. The study urges developing countries to balance
the potential benefits and risks from genetically modified crops so
as not to endanger the food supply for their populations.
The UNCTAD study reports genetically modified crops pose especially
difficult choices for the world's poorer nations. On the one hand, it
says farming based on genetically modified organisms may produce
bigger and better crops, improve profits for farmers, ease domestic
food shortages and facilitate the production of new quality products.
But, the study says developing countries have to weigh these benefits
against the potential risks. It says the new technology could disrupt
traditional agricultural practices, limit access to seeds, and pose
unpredictable environmental and health problems.
An additional worry is that international trade flows may be
jeopardized. UNCTAD economist and author of the study, Simonetta
Zarrilli Traeger, says developing countries often depend heavily on
agricultural exports and may bend their domestic priorities to meet
the demands of their main trading partners.
"For instance, for African countries which export very few
agricultural products to the EU, a major consideration is to preserve
the export opportunities to the EU market," she said. 'So, if they
feel that by getting involved in bio-technology they can miss trading
opportunities in the EU market, they will regulate their bio-safety
and agriculture domestically to respond to the expectations."
The study says a number of African countries have imposed import bans
on genetically modified products mainly because of possible trade
losses. These countries include Angola, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi,
Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Ms. Traeger notes that some of these
countries even have refused food aid containing genetically modified
materials because they feel they will miss out on export
opportunities by importing modified foods.
She says developing countries are caught between an ongoing dispute
between the European Union and the United States, which have
completely different views regarding the safety of genetically
modified foods. She says both trading blocks are trying to impose
their views on the poorer countries.
"The United States, for instance, is insisting that genetically
modified crops will contribute to solving the huge problem of
starvation, especially in the developing countries,&qout; she
explained. "While the EU has the approach that starvation and
malnutrition are the result not of limited food availability, but are
the result of poor transport, of concentration of food production,
Ms. Traeger says developing countries are responsible for providing a
reasonable amount of food and agricultural products for local
populations. Therefore, she says their desire to preserve export
markets in the rich countries has to be balanced with their need to
have enough food for their own people.
40% of Europeans Say They Lack Information on GMOs, Says New Survey
- Europe Information, May 5, 2005; From Prof. Vivian Moses
Forty percent of Europeans say that they lack information on the use
of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in farming, according to a
Eurobarometer survey on "The attitudes of European citizens towards
the environment" published on April 29. This makes GMOs the second
most nebulous environmental topic for Europeans, after the "impact on
our health of chemicals used in everyday products", which got 41%.
The survey provides an interesting insight into the Europeans'
outlook on the environment, showing that most respondents, while they
feel uninformed about genetically-altered products, do not classify
them among their major environmental concerns. Greece and Austria
stand out on GMOs in the study, appearing to be the two member states
where there is both the highest concern on GMOs and little
information on the topic.
Trusting television more than the EU.
The survey reveals, among other intriguing discoveries, that most
Europeans trust television considerably more than the European Union
when it comes to environmental issues: television came third in the
list of trusted entities on the subject of the environment, with 27%,
just after environmental organisations (42%) and scientists (32%).
The EU, in contrast, managed a mere 12%, ranking eighth in the list.
Strong lack of information on GMOs.
The issue on which there is a strong EU-wide consensus among the
respondents is that they feel they a lack information on GMOs. This
feeling is especially strong in Finland, where a towering 66% of
respondents - 20% above the EU average - said they lack information
on GMOs. The number of ill-informed is also high in Slovenia (56%),
Greece (54%) and Slovakia (54%), as well as Germany (49%) and Austria
(44%). Feeling best-informed on GMOs are Portugal (only 28%
ill-informed), Italy (33%), Spain (33%) and Lat
GMOs not among Europeans' top environmental concerns.
One of the survey's surprising finds, in view of the raucous debate
over GMOs which has taken place in the EU in the last few years, is
that the use of GMOs in farming does not rank among the top
environmental issues that Europeans are worried about. The survey
found GMOs to be a major environmental concern for 24% of the
interviewees, ranking just tenth in the overall list of concerns.
Intriguingly, more people seem to be worried about agricultural
pollution - and in particular the use of pesticides and f
- than GMOs, with 26% of respondents ranking agricultural pollution
as a major concern.
Both concerns are far outweighed by the four major worries which top
the list: water pollution (47%), man-made disasters (46%), climate
change (45%), and air pollution (45%) (see separate article for a
full analysis of the environmental aspects of the survey).
Greece and Austria are the countries where the biggest number of
respondents named genetic engineering among their top environmental
concerns: both countries saw 43% of respondents mention GMOs as a
worry. They are followed by Cyprus (39%), Slovenia (31%) and Germany
(30%). At the opposite end of the scale, the Maltese (12%), the
Spanish (15%) and the Dutch (15%) are the countries where least
respondents mentioned GM products as a concern.
Being on the Wrong side of Science, History, and Morality
To The Editor of New Age, Bangladesh:
Dear Editor : Having read with great interest your April 27 article
on biotechnology and GM food, I must say I was absolutely astonished
by how brazen these unfounded attacks have become. There is
absolutely no truth to them, and yet they are made regularly and
reported with almost no analysis or scepticism. Even worse, it is the
poorest, most malnourished people in the poorest countries who will
be hurt most of all.
The following letter attempts to correct these flagrant lies by
anti-GM activists. I hope you will be able to publish it in its
entirely, so that your readers will at least know there is another
side to this 'debate' and will understand that these representatives
of 'civil society' are promoting an agenda that hardly serves the
best interests of Bangladesh or its people.
- Paul Driessen, Senior policy advisor, Congress of Racial Equality
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore says the environmental movement's
"campaign against biotechnology clearly exposes its intellectual and
moral bankruptcy." In presenting Greenpeace activist Farida Akthen's
incredible litany of outright fabrications, New Age's April 27
article, "Ban on genetically modified foods demanded," dramatically
underscores how right Dr. Moore is.
The fact that this technology holds so much promise for improving
environmental conditions, agricultural production and people's
nutrition in Bangladesh and other poor countries makes her opposition
to GM foods even more baffling and perverse.
Biotech crops reduce the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides,
and the time farmers must spend working in their fields. By
eliminating the need to cultivate for weed control, herbicide
resistant varieties reduce soil erosion. Because they grow better and
resist insects and viruses, GM seeds dramatically increase yields per
Ms. Akther's claims that GM foods cause unknown diseases, allergies,
toxins and immune problems are false and bizarre. I myself eat food
with biotech ingredients almost every day, and I almost always buy GM
maize (corn). It's better for the environment and unlikely to have
pesticides on it or be contaminated by dangerous fungal toxins. In
fact, tests in England found that GM cornmeal had almost zero
contaminants, whereas organic cornmeal had fungal contaminants
(fumonisin) up to 30 times higher than limits set by the EU.
Americans so far have eaten over 1 trillion servings of foods
containing at least one GM ingredient. Over the past 10 years,
hundreds of millions of consumers around the world have eaten foods
from these improved crops. No one has gotten so much as a hiccup from
them. All these crops are rigorously screened for allergies and other
risks, and prestigious scientific bodies like the World Health
Organization, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of
Sciences and UK Royal Academy have all concluded that biotech crops
and foods are at least as safe as (and often safer than) those from
conventional and organic farms.
Ms. Akther "feels" that the capitalist world has a "hidden plan to
control the world's food chain." This is nonsense. Golden Rice will
be distributed free to farmers, who will retain the right to save and
replant seed as long as they sell less than US $10,000 annually.
While farmers do have to pay for other GM seeds, most are happy to do
so, because the benefits are so great.
South African farmers who use GM corn have boosted crop production,
cut pesticide use up to 75%, tripled profits and saved 35-49 days per
season working in fields. "With the old maize, I got 100 bags from my
15 hectares," says Richard Sithole. "With Bt maize I get 1,000 bags."
Elizabeth Ajele shares his excitement: "My old plants would be
destroyed by insects, even when I sprayed 12 times a season, but not
the new biotech plants. If someone said we should stop using the new
maize, I would cry."
No wonder Dr. Moore says the greens' position is "insanity."
Ms. Akthen, Greenpeace and UBINIG are on the wrong side of science,
history, morality and humanity. Keeping GM seeds out of the hands of
farmers, and GM food out of the mouths of hungry children and
parents, can justly be described as a terrible human rights
violation. Anti-GM activists need to be held to civilized standards
of honesty, transparency and accountability - and New Age and other
papers need to treat their unfounded claims with far more scepticism.
- Paul Driessen, Virginia, United States
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial
Equality, one of the United States' oldest and most respected civil
and human rights organizations, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green
power - Black death (www.Eco-Imperialism.com).
India: Cotton Production Up Five Times In Four Years In Gujarat
- Business Standard (India), http://www.business-standard.com/
Gujarat has witnessed a significant surge in the productivity of
cotton farming in the last four years, according to the figures
published by the state agriculture department. The productivity of
the land under cotton crop has increased about five fold in the last
The state had produced 4.95 quintals of cotton per hectare in 2001-02
that has increased to 13.92 quintals per hectare in 2004-05.
However, the trade value of cotton produces has been unstable during
the period under observation.
Industry observers agree that there has been a sizable increase in
the yield per hectare of cotton, but state that the figures provided
by the state government appear to be exaggerated. Experts say that
newer varieties of seeds, availability of irrigation water under the
Narmada project and other factors too have played a role in this
S K Suri, branch head, Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), said, "The
state has achieved significant growth of productivity in the farming
of cotton in the last few years. The productivity has increased due
to the new varieties of seeds and larger area under irrigation due to
the Narmada Irrigation Project. Meanwhile, the Technology Mission on
Cotton (TMC) undertaken by the government of India has also played a
vital role in enhancing the productivity."
"The new technology deployed by farmers and hard work are also
responsible for the growth in the agriculture," added Suri.
The reason behind the surge of productivity in cotton farming is
believed to be the use of genetically modified seeds.
In April 2002, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the monitoring
agency for use of GM seeds, had approved the commercial cultivation
of BT cotton in six states including Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil
Web Links for Downloading USDA's Biotechnology Reports
- Vivian Moses
These reports can be downloaded from
Agricultural Biotechnology: Beyond Food and Energy
- NABC Conference in Nashville - June'05
Discussions about the safe, ethical and beneficial development of
agricultural biotechnology will highlight a June conference co-hosted
by the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee.
Scheduled in Nashville for June 27 - 29, 2005, the meeting is
sponsored by the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council, a
not-for-profit consortium of 37 leading agricultural research
agencies and universities in North America.
"An excellent program of speakers will provide a range of opinion in
several areas, including product development, regulatory
considerations, bioremediation and plants as new sources of medicine"
said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research in the UK College of
Agriculture and conference chair.
The conference will explore the theme 'Agricultural Biotechnology:
Beyond Food and Energy' to Health and the Environment.=Agricultural
producers and consumers as well as representatives from corporate,
government and academic institutions and public-interest groups are
expected to participate.
"A number of extraordinarily strong speakers will lend their
expertise and opinions," said Neal Stewart, one of the even's
coordinators and a UT professor of plant sciences. Stewart holds the
Racheff Chair of Excellence in Plant Molecular Genetics and recently
authored the book Genetically Modified Planet."I am especially
looking forward to hearing the latest reports on how biotechnology
might be used to positively impact the environment," he said.
NABC works to define issues and public policy options related to
biotechnology associated with food, agriculture, and the environment
and to promote increased understanding of the scientific, economic,
legislative, and social issues associated with agricultural
biotechnology. Membership in the NABC is open to institutions that
support agricultural biotechnology research and development.
Additional details are at http://www.outreach.tennessee.edu/ppd/nabc
GM Crops and Biodiversity: What
- Shanthu Shantharam, BioSpectrum (India), May 10, 2005
Anti-GM crop activists are of the strong belief that GM crops pose a
threat to biodiversity but this is far from truth and is yet to be
The modern agricultural economy dictates that farmers grow only those
crops that would fetch decent returns (not always the case!). All of
this is not a rocket science to those who are intimately involved in
agricultural research of one kind or another. But, the general public
does not understand these things very well and need not. They have
left it to the experts to take care of the matter. How effectively
these matters are being addressed by experts is also questioned by
many. But, unless proper public policy instruments are in place,
there is very little that experts can do to help protect biodiversity.
Full blown activism is underway around the world to change policies
that can help protect biodiversity. But, any such activism in the
policy arena necessarily becomes political and things don't change
very easily. But, that is the price we have to pay in this day and
age for cherishing democratic pluralism.
A 10,000-year-old human activity like agriculture will not change
quickly. Any practical solution to conserve biodiversity will have to
come from modern science and technology, and not by activism and
harping against GMOs. Modern plant breeding and biotechnology have
already proved that they can play a useful role. There are always
trade-offs, but the critics of biotechnology single out GM crops as
the villain of the situation, and would like to stop GM crops in its
tracks to save the precious biodiversity without proving how they are
directly responsible for the destruction of biodiversity. Many of
them want to go back to diversification of crop varieties of the yore
and restore the glorious romantic agricultural past where every
homestead grew little of everything needed and take care of all the
community's needs and just be one happy family. How realistic is this?
We can neither go back to the past nor can we ask poor farmers of the
developing world to grow uneconomical varieties. That will be a crime
against humanity. Certainly, we all need to protect that precious
biodiversity and protect it using modern science and technology and
there is nothing better than modern biotechnology to do so. But, it
is ludicrous to suggest that GM crops destroy biodiversity any more
than any other introduced crops. "Gene pollution" and "genetic
contamination" from GM crops are merely scaremongering tactics.
One must realize that there must be an economic incentive for farmers
to maintain on farm biodiversity; otherwise they have no reason to
conserve the biodiversity to the benefit of few environmental
romantics. Protecting biodiversity for the sake of biodiversity
without benefiting from it in a sustainable manner will never work
and has never worked. Many eulogize a tattered, poor farmer as a
primary conserver of biodiversity. There is no reason why a poor and
hungry farmer must cling on to non-productive old varieties just so
that the urban NGOs and activists can feel good about it. What does
he get in return? Is not it better for a scientific organization to
collect all that biodiversity, characterize them and maintain both
for posterity and also for use by future generations if they tap any
benefit from them. That is what FAO is doing by organizing the Global
Trust. Yes, it is going to cost money and money must be spent for
that yeoman purpose, and all NGOs fighting for conservation of
biodiversity must get on the case of their host governments to
support this international effort. And, that would be a good case of
The cause celebre of the critics of GM crops is the introduction of
GMOs into the centers of origin and diversity. They constantly invoke
the infamous case of Bt maize gene escaping into certain land races
of maize in the highlands of Oxaca, Mexico. All hell broke loose when
it was first reported in a scientific report in the prestigious
science magazine Nature. There were so many grandiose claims of loss
of land races to genetic contamination to gene pollution to loss of
agricultural spirituality of pastoral people in the highlands of
Mexico. The fact is Bt genes did escape into land races because those
farmers just did what they always did to preserve their delicate land
races. They just used some of the Bt maize seeds and crossed them
into land races (creolilization). This was happening all along the
way and GM maize happens to be the villain this time because some
people don't like GM crops. Now did this destroy maize land races?
The answer is an emphatic NO, and it has been certified by the
world's leading research institute on maize CIMMYT located right in
In fact, there is not a single instance of any wild or weedy relative
having been reduced or destroyed by any newly introduced crop variety
much less GM crops. But, for the critics it is "genetic pollution" or
"genetic contamination" as if biodiversity was some how a virgin all
this time, a complete scientific nonsense! CIMMYT did a thorough
investigation of all its world collection of maize in their gene
bank, and proved that there has been no contamination at all. But,
activists never accept it and keep on stirring the pot so much so
that FAO with the help of CGIAR has launched another multi-million
exercise to discuss all the pros and cons of GMOs threat to germplasm
collections around the world. That same funding could have been used
to fund the much needed research that helps improve many of the
subsistence crops and animals that badly need improvement. This is
wastage of precious funding entirely due to the misguided activism.
If one can visualize a pathway of gene flow from a GM crop to a wild
or weedy relative anyone with basic a understanding of biology would
know that gene flow in plants is via pollen and that pollen has to be
viable in transit, effectively pollinate (through any number of known
ways of pollination), and the genes have to be fixed in the new
population over several generations with selection pressure. Then the
question is so what if a Bt-gene or any other introduced gene from GM
crop really gets fixed in a non-target population (biodiversity). By
all reckoning, hundreds and thousands of genes are being introduced
into crops through breeding are all known and determined to be
beneficial and there is no evidence of these genes causing any harm
to the non-target crop wild or weedy. On the other hand, they all
enhance genetic diversity.
In the context of GM opposition, somehow this wonderful natural gene
flow is considered dangerous! Genes have been flowing as long as
there have been living organisms on the planet, and we should all be
thankful for it. Gene flow is the very essence of biodiversity. We
should be praying for more of it, and not less. Humans have mediated
gene flow all throughout the course of agricultural history and what
biotechnologists are doing today is an improved and refined way of
doing the same. There is no newly invented villainy here. It is once
again sheer scientific nonsense to single out GM crops as a threat to
biodiversity and prevent their gene flow. Genes flow in all
directions. These critics of GM crops do not seem to have considered
that genes from surrounding wild and weedy plants also flow into
cultivated crops. That process equally destroys genetic purity of
advanced varieties and can potentially lose their market and
agronomic value (contra-indication!). In fact, plant breeders have
been doing just that selectively for genetic improvement of crops.
To preserve and to enhance biodiversity must be an important goal for
everyone. By all reckoning, biotechnology can help by providing for
new and novel approaches. GM crops are just like any other introduced
crop variety designed for a beneficial or utilitarian purpose, and
would have no more or less significant impact on either on-farm
biodiversity or wild biodiversity. If genes that might have flown
from cultivated plants into surrounding biodiversity all these years
has not done any demonstrable or observed damage to biodiversity, how
on earth GM crop pollen would destroy biodiversity now? The same can
be said of any changes to agricultural practices associated with GM
crops. All other arguments to the contrary are sheer a scientific hog
wash, and nothing but an attempt scare people into banning GM crops
which might otherwise be useful to farmers and consumers.
Surely, all introduced crops must be monitored and GM crops are no
exception to see what unexpected effects might occur on the
agricultural landscape.But scientific and technological quest for
improving the moribund agriculture in developing countries must go on
as it is the only hope. That biodiversity will be destroyed by GM
crops is nothing but an urban myth, and be dismissed as a scientific
- Shanthu Shantharam, Biologistics International, Ellicott City, MD,
Greenpeace Charged Under Danish Terror Law for GM Crops Action
- Denmark Radio web site, Copenhagen, in Danish 0823 gmt May 12,
2005; BBC Monitoring Intl
The environmental organization Greenpeace has become the first body
to be charged under the provisions of the anti-terrorism package over
a protest action against genetic modification. This conflicts with
the aim of the anti-terrorism legislation, several Danish
parliamentarians have said.
Usually triggers a fine
On 13 October 2003 Greenpeace carried out an action against
genetically-modified crops at Danish agriculture's headquarters at
Axelborg in Copenhagen. Activists entered Axelborg illegally and
hung up a giant banner. Greenpeace activists have used the same
tactics in scores of previous actions and this usually triggers a
fine for each individual activist.
Greenpeace is now also being charged for the first time under a
section of the so-called terror package. "When the terror package was
introduced it included a provision that companies which did something
illegal could be charged. However, it was quite clear that there was
a desire to hit organizations which support terrorism. Now there is
an attempt to use it on a body as peaceful as Greenpeace," says
Greenpeace lawyer Steen Bech.
Completely different application
Greenpeace has been charged under section 306 of the criminal code,
which was amended when the Folketing [Danish parliament] produced the
terror package in such a way that it is now possible to charge the
entire Greenpeace organization for the conduct of a few activists.
"And it has to be said that this is a completely different
application than the Folketing intended. It is therefore alarming
that the prosecuting authorities have brought charges, but
interesting to see how the courts will rule," Steen Bech says.
He has political support.
"If the section is now applied broadly in order to restrict political
debate then we will have to look at rewriting the section," says
Sandy Brinck, Social-Democrat member of the Justice Committee.
"During the debate we warned against it being used for something
which was not the intention, so the fear now is that this will
actually happen," says Anne Baastrup, Socialist People's Party
Justice Committee member.
According to Steen Bech there are two dangers when the terror package
is used on grass-roots organizations such as Greenpeace. "We strangle
grassroots political activity. There will also be a trend towards
conducting these sort of actions covertly. And that is something
which we are not at all interested in - we want these issues to be
out in the open," Steen Bech says.
The court case against Greenpeace is to begin in mid-June. Justice
Minister Lene Espersen will not comment until the case has been dealt
with by the courts.