Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : June 23, 2005
* GM Food Can Boost Health But (dah..) Risk Assessment Must Continue - UN
* .... WHO Study On Modern Food Biotech, Human Health and Development
* BIO Tragedy: Five Face Charges In Skirmish In Which Philly Officer Died
* BIO Meeting at Philly - Avery Reports
* UK: GM Crops Get All-Clear From Top Scientists
* Misuse of Science to Spread Suspicion and Fear of Biotech
* Australia: Call to Arms on GM Bans
* Let's Talk Genes - Technology A Powerful Tool For Changing The Way We Farm
* Africa Must Embrace Biotechnology
* Consumers Union Unscientific Internship to undermine GM Food
* Why Science Is Falling Out of Fashion
* T-Shirts That Make You Think Science
GM Food Can Boost Health But Risk Assessment Must Continue - UN
- UN News Center, June 23, 2005,
New genetically modified (GM) foods can contribute to enhancing human
health and development, but continued safety assessments are needed
before they are marketed to prevent risks to both human health and
the environment, according to a new United Nations report released
"We can hope to gain the health and nutritional improvements of GM
foods when we can help countries to research how they can control and
exploit the introduction of GM products for the benefit of their own
people," the Director of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Food
Safety Department, Jorgen Schlundt, said in issuing the study.
The report - "Modern food biotechnology, human health and
development" -presents the potential benefits and risks associated
with GM foods, which can increase crop yield, food quality and the
diversity of foods which can be grown in a given area, leading to
better health and nutrition, thus raising health and living standards.
But some of the genes used to manufacture GM foods have not been in
the food chain before and introduction of new genes may cause changes
in the existing genetic make-up of the crop. Therefore, the potential
human health effects of such foods should always be assessed before
they are grown and marketed, and long-term monitoring must be carried
out to catch any possible adverse effects early, the report stresses.
It notes that pre-market risk assessments have been performed on all
GM products where these products are marketed and that to date no
negative health effects have been found.
The report also recommends that in future, evaluation should be
widened to include social, cultural and ethical considerations to
help ensure there is no "genetic divide" between groups of countries
which do and do not allow the growth, cultivation and marketing of GM
The GM food aid crisis in southern Africa in 2002, where a number of
countries did not permit GM food aid as a result of mostly
socio-economic concerns, illustrates the need for broader
evaluations, it notes. "GM foods should be examined from many
standpoints, including the social and ethical, in addition to the
health and environmental. If we help our Member States to do this on
a national level we can avoid creating a 'genetic divide' between
those countries which permit GM crops and those which do not," Dr.
Download the WHO report at
WHO Study On Modern Food Biotechnology, Human Health and Development
The World Health Organization attaches high priority to the safe use
and application of modern biotechnology to food production and
processing. These applications present opportunities and challenges
for human health and development.
Despite a number of national and international initiatives, the use
and development of modern food biotechnology remains a controversial
global issue. Modern food biotechnology promises a new range of
products and processes proclaimed to be for the public good, some
related to agricultural benefits others directly or indirectly to
health. WHO would like to assess how these products currently impact
human health and the development of society at large and how they
will do so in the future.
The Department of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Foodborne Diseases
(formerly the Food Safety Department) within WHO finalized in June
2005 an evidence-based study of the implications of modern food
biotechnology on human health and development. Impetus for the study
arose from a resolution of the fifty-third World Health Assembly in
May 2000 that the WHO should strengthen its capacity to support
Member States establish the scientific basis for decisions on modern
food biotechnology, and to ensure the transparency, excellence and
independence of opinions delivered. In addition, from the OECD/UK
conference 'New Biotechnology Food and Crops: Science, Safety and
Society'held in Bangkok, Thailand, July 2001 the importance of
considering all aspects relating to the use of modern food
The study was aimed at complementing the efforts of other
international agencies by collating already existing information and
analyzing it as it pertains to the WHO mandate. To enhance
transparency in the process, WHO collaborated with FAO and involved
an array of stakeholders and interest groups. The primary aim was to
create an accessible knowledge base to assist Member States,
international standards bodies and other stakeholders to achieve
transparent and inclusive consensus on the evaluation and application
of biotechnology. Finally, WHO sought to establish an evidence-based
foundation for a more holistic evaluation of biotechnology in the
This study was looking to place the overall contribution that modern
food biotechnology can make to human health and development in
context. It includes the application of modern food biotechnology to
microorganisms, plants and animals. An integrated (holistic) approach
was adopted to identify the key issues impacting directly or
indirectly on human health and development, and establish the
The main issues on which evidence was invited:
* Research and Development;
* Impact on human health (food safety and environmental effects);
* Food security, cost and access to the technology;
* Ethical, legal and social issues;
* Capacity-building initiatives.
Data were gathered through extensive literature, Internet and
enquiry-based research supported by approximately 120 responses to a
questionnaire which was circulated to a broad range of stakeholders
and experts in May 2002. The comments received from an electronic
stakeholder discussion held between January and April 2003 have also
been incorporated. The opinions of participants comprising
representatives from government, consumer, industry, research,
non-government organizations (NGOs) from developed and developing
countries, who attended a stakeholder meeting on 5 and 6 June 2003 in
Geneva, were also included.
The report produced from this consultation process will be used
directly by WHO in planning its future activities with regard to the
use and application of modern biotechnology in human health and
Five Face Charges In Skirmish In Which Philly Officer Died
- Ron Todt, Associated Press, June 23, 2005
Philadelphia - Prosecutors on Wednesday announced charges against
five protesters in connection with a skirmish outside a biotechnology
convention during which a police officer collapsed and died of an
apparent heart attack.
The most serious charges were to be filed against Guillaume Beaulieu,
a 23-year-old Canadian who faces two counts of felony aggravated
assault in Tuesday afternoon's confrontation, authorities said.
Officer Paris Williams, 52, fell to the ground during the incident
and was later pronounced dead at Hahnemann University Hospital.
Williams had an enlarged heart and the struggle with protesters
"created a cardiac situation in which he collapsed and died,"
District Attorney Lynne Abraham said.
"Trust me, if there were evidence, I would charge homicide," Abraham
said. "There doesn't appear to be any at this juncture."
Prosecutors allege that Beaulieu threw water onto another officer,
and when that officer and others tried to arrest him, a skirmish
ensued with protesters struggling to free Beaulieu from custody.
Williams "was right there at the epicenter, and that's why he had
this terrific cardiac event," Abraham said.
Authorities said charges of resisting arrest, conspiracy and
disorderly conduct were being filed against Beaulieu and four others
- Caroline Colesworthy, 25, of Newport Beach, Calif.; Brenton Hall,
21, of Bangor, Maine; Mark Garcia, 19, of San Antonio, Texas; and
Charles Sherrouse, 45, of Philadelphia. Police said they did not know
Groups opposed to biotech research methods, biological weapons,
genetically modified crops and other issues were protesting the
convention, which ran through Wednesday and brought 18,000 people to
the city. BioDemocracy Mobilization Team spokesman Hart Feuer said he
believed the death of the officer coincided with the protest but was
not caused by it. He said the exertion during the struggle was "not
above and beyond the call of activities" an officer should be able to
The protests "were all about celebrating and protecting life, and
this tragedy affected us all," Feuer said. Protesters had called for
a moment of silence following the announcement of the officer's
death, and later events were conducted with a more "somber tone," he
BIO Meeting at Philly
- Alex Avery (Sent on Tuesday morning, June 20, 2005 prior to the
Police Officer incident):
Well, I attended BIO's annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Roger Beachy anchored a panel on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol and
can report that Roger is part of a growing group of public-sector
scientists that have engaged the CBP and signature governments to
ensure that it doesn't interfere with future crop improvement and
plant breeding efforts. They've got an uphill battle ahead, but
they've got some funding and LOTS of enthusiasm to make it happen.
They have the target in sight and their priorities straight. I
suggest only that they also expend some small portion of their
efforts to remind the public (and the politics) that this is not
Monsanto vs. "the world".
In the afternoon, Agbioview regular Drew Kershen gave a crystal clear
explanation of why the science is absolutely clear that organic and
biotech crops can easily, cheaply, and even closely coexist.
Afterward, in the Q & A, an activist plant (his name tag didn't match
the business card he gave me - and he was wearing SANDLES!) tried to
trip the panelists up by asking the farmer who grew biotech,
conventional, AND organic crops which fields had the most earthworms.
The reply was that the biotech no-till field did. Darn, he lost that
one. But after Dr. Kershen explained that Guatemalan children were
being born with birth defects because of fumonisin contaminated corn
and Bt corn could alleviate that problem, he returned toW the
microphone and started blaming American policy circa 1950 for the
problems in Guatemala. Kershen would have none of that and
immediately said (with fire in his belly), "Shame on you, Sir. We're
not falling for that. American foreign policy in 1950 doesn't have
ANYTHING to do with the FACT that biotech Bt corn could help those
Shantu Shantaram was there, as was Greg Conko from CEI, Patrick Moore
of Greenspirit, and many other friends.
It was a nice renewal of my faith in what we're doing and it was nice
to see Dr. Kershen get fiery and passionate. That's what this is all
UK: GM Crops Get All-Clear From Top Scientists
- Mark Prigg, The Evening Standard (London) June 23, 2005 Science Correspondent
GOVERNMENT scientists have given the go-ahead to genetically modified
crops. Britain should develop more of the controversial plants, the
experts said. They warned that GM plants must be grown at least 100
metres away from normal crops but their recommendations are bound to
provoke fury among campaigners against so-called Frankenstein foods.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council based its
recommendations on the results of a five-year, £4.5 million study
into the safety of GM crops, released today. They also called for a
massive effort to convince the public of the value of GM crops.
The report, commissioned by ministers at the height of the storm over
GM foods, investigated how the crops could contaminate normal crops
nearby. It found that some could contaminate fields several
kilometres away but scientists said the Government should press ahead
with a safety limit of just 100 metres, despite the risk.
Professor Phil Dale, who headed the report steering group, said:
'Some species will pollinate several kilometres away but it really
depends on the crop - 100 metres seems to us to be a safe limit for
many of them.
'I think we have focused far too much on the negative effects of GM
and the risk assessment. We need to start planning for exactly how we
go about growing these crops effectively rather than worrying about
if we should grow them.' There were more than a billion acres of GM
crops being grown internationally. 'We are falling behind,' he said.
The report would be forwarded to relevant departments to kick-start a
government decision on the recommendations.
Misuse of Science to Spread Suspicion and Fear of Biotechnology
- C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and
Education, Bangalore, India
Anti-biotech activists often lace their statements with bits and
pieces of science, taken out of the context. They may even sound
authentic, to the generally ignorant media and the public. The
unscientific and unacceptable implication is that, all GE products
are dangerous, on the basis of the 'facts of science' the critics
have cited. This is misuse of science to spread suspicion and fear of
biotechnology. Three instances should amply illustrate the point.
Gossypol: A year or so ago, in Karnataka, India, a prominent farmers'
leader (now deceased) cautioned women who work in the cotton fields,
that Bt cotton contains an anti-fertility factor. Women workers
refused to enter Bt cotton fields, affecting cotton picking that
The cultivated cottons are species of the genus Gossypium, and
contain a polyphenol called gossypol in all parts, but particularly
concentrated in the roots and reddish surface glands. Gossypol does
not get into the cotton fibre or the seed oil; even if it does it is
destroyed by heat. Bt cotton naturally contains gossypol because it
is a cotton plant but not because of the Bt gene in it. The Bt gene
only synthesizes the toxin against the bollworm. Gossypol is used in
five different systems of medicine to induce abortion and
menstruation and so has an anti-fertility activity, which for
centuries did not affect women working in cotton fields.
Phytoestrogens: An anti-GE activist from Hyderabad, India, who is now
made famous by GM Watch, stated at a public meeting in Tirupathi
(Andrha Pradesh, India) in October 2003, that girls eating GE soybean
in the US are reaching puberty a couple of years or so earlier than
usual, because the GE soybean contains phytoestrogens. He did not
say anything about the boys who have been eating the same GE soya
(some signs of mammary development?).
The isoflavonones, genistein, biochanin A, diadzein, formononetin,
equol and glycitein are plant products that simulate the function of
mammalian estrogens, and so are called phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens were reported in peanuts, chick pea, several varieties
of the common bean, broad bean, cluster bean, soybean, lentil, pea,
horse gram, red gram black gram, green gram, and even in some
varieties of rice and wheat, which have been safe to eat for ages.
Soybean and red clover have been identified as the richest sources of
phytoestrogens. Genestein and diadzein, particularly from soybean,
were shown to control menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, hypertension
and atheroscloerosis. Several of the isoflavonones were also shown
to function as antioxidants and exercise protective action against
cancer of the breast, stomach, liver, colon and prostate. There are
several on-going research projects aimed at utilizing phytoestrogens
as medicine. Formulations containing such compounds were patented
and are now being commercialized in several countries. The mischief
lies in linking the isoflavonoid phytoestrogens with the chemically
distant mammalian oestrogens, which are steroidal compounds and
saying that phytoestrogens are dangerous.
Deadly nightshade: In the context of the transgenic potato with
protein enhancing genes from the grain amaranth, a famous Indian
critic of GE stated in a newspaper some months ago, that we should be
very careful with this new potato as it belongs to the deadly
nightshade family, an absurd and unnecessary warning.
Linnaeaus gave the botanical names for potato and deadly nightshade
by 1753 and the names are still current. The concept of the Family
in biology developed only some 50 years later and soon after this,
the two species were included in the same family, the Solanaceae,
basing on their characters. The botanists were certainly aware that
deadly nightshade was really deadly and that potato is an important
source of food. Tomato, brinjal (aubergine, egg plant) and
chillies, which are widely consumed, also belong to the Solanaceae.
These vegetables and potato have been safe major plant foods for
ages. Several species of the genus Solanum (to which potato and
brinjal also belong) are consumed in the local tradition in many
parts of the world and several other species of Solanum are used in
indigenous medicine. Many botanical families include several very
toxic species along with numerous safe foods, as for example hemlock
in the family Apiaceae, along with the widely consumed carrot,
coriander, parsley, cumin, fennel, etc.
An effective means of removing fear from the public mind is to
enhance the levels of awareness and knowledge. Conveniently twisted
and inaccurate information is more dangerous than total ignorance.
Call to Arms on GM Bans
- David Mckenzie, Weekly Times (Australia), June 22, 2005
A PROMINENT plant scientist has slammed farm leaders for not sticking
up for genetically-modified foods and crops. CSIRO's Dr Jim Peacock
said the National Farmers' Federation had let itself be "bullied" by
a few anti-GM activists into accepting state government bans on GM
"The NFF can't stay quiet on this," Dr Peacock told the NFF's annual
conference last week. "You can't just maintain the status quo and
look after the walking wounded. "You've got to be planning and
campaigning for tomorrow's agriculture. "You shouldn't be bullied by
the Concerned Farmers Network which is no more than 20 farmers.
"There are more than 200 grower groups around the country. You have
enormous clout, but you're not using it."
Dr Peacock said new GM products were offering important health
benefits to consumers and production advantages for farmers. If
denied access to these, Australian farmers risked losing world
markets to the US, Canada, China and South America, he said.
Dr Peacock said the supposed trade negatives associated with GM
produce were "baloney", with no premium in world markets for
conventional crops. The environmental and public health dangers were
also over-stated, he said.
"There is so much crap spoken about the lack of safety of GM
products," he said. "Thirty million farmers around the world are
producing 80 million has of GM canola, and it's growing
exponentially. "And yet there's not been a single negative report
about human health or environmental effects. What more evidence can
you ask for?"
Dr Peacock said state government GM moratoriums were the actions of
"nervous politicians looking for votes". "Sure, you have to be wary
when introducing GM crops, but there are ways of doing it," he said.
The cotton industry had introduced GM varieties slowly and developed
pre-agreements with key overseas buyers, he said. "This is what the
canola industry should have done."
Dr Peacock said crop industries had successfully managed segregation
in the supply chain for decades, and handling GM produce shouldn't be
any different. A key challenge for the NFF was to convince consumers
of the health benefits of new GM products, Dr Peacock said.
New varieties of wheat, for example, were offering higher protein
content, better amino acid balance, lower content of "bad" starch,
and high anti-oxidants, he said. "You've got to start shaping
community views, promoting informed debate about food safety, making
sure politicians know the facts and not just 'mis-facts'," he said.
Let's Talk Genes - Technology A Powerful Tool For Changing The Way We Farm
- Craig Cormick, Weekly Times (Australia), June 22, 2005
'Information is the key to debating the value of gene technology'
Whether you agree with it or not, the use of gene technology in
agriculture is with us, and is likely to become more widespread over
the decades ahead. Which applications of gene technology we choose to
accept, however, and which we might reject, should be carefully
considered by all concerned parties and discussed widely.
The shape of Australian agriculture in 2020 will be influenced by
dialogue between growers and consumers, industry and community
groups. It is important for many growers and members of the public to
better understand the technology.
And it is equally important for many developers of the technology to
better understand the positions of growers and the public. Gene
technology can be a powerful tool for changing the way we farm in
Australia for the better. But like all new technologies, its adoption
has to be based on an assessment of the benefits and any associated
risks, and be supported with appropriate regulation and accurate,
Biotechnology has been used by farmers for many thousand years,
through selective breeding, but modern biotechnology -- or genetic
engineering -- enables significant advances upon this. To some it is
just an advance on traditional practices, but to others it is a
technology that enables "unnatural" developments. Both views are
valid, and people have the freedom to choose which position they
adopt towards applications of gene technology.
But it is important that people's attitudes are formed on the basis
of scientifically factual information. Because of the diversity of
biotechnology and gene tech-nology applications being developed,
discussions about them need to be individualised, looking in each
case at the risks, benefits and acceptability of the application.
Issues relating to herbicide-tolerant GM canola, for example, are
significantly different to the use of genetic markers in crops.
Likewise, genetically modified bacteria that can clean up
environmental waste are different from genes from bacteria being
inserted into crops to make them more pest-resistant.
Our Biotech Future, the liftout which appears in this issue of The
Weekly Times, is intended to outline the variety of biotechnology and
gene technology applications that are being developed, and may be
with us in 2020. As the quality of public debate is underpinned by
the quality of information available, we have sought to provide a
balanced coverage of the variety of technologies and the diversity of
views being put forward.
The information comes from major Australian research bodies,
including the CSIRO and many co-operative research centres
undertaking research and development into biotechnology and gene
technology applications in agriculture. It also includes vision
statements and opinion pieces from key researchers, industry and
It provides opinions for and against the technologies, and presents a
wide variety of accurate information to underpin more balanced
consideration of these technologies.
The Federal Government wants to encourage a higher quality community
debate about these technologies, and would like the supplement to be
a useful reference tool for people when considering the technologies
and their applications.
Craig Cormick is manager of Public Awareness for Biotechnology
Australia, a Federal Government body.
Africa Must Embrace Biotechnology
- Ama Kudom-Agyemang, Accra Daily Mail (Ghana), June 23, 2005
A number of journalists from Anglophone West African countries
including Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, have had frank
discussions with African scientists on biotechnology and related
This was at a two-day workshop in Accra from June 16-17, at the end
of which, they agreed that there is the urgent need for African
scientists to employ biotechnology, to help address food security and
health matters on the continent.
The journalists were of the view that since scientists and industries
in the developed countries are mainly interested in crops cultivated
there such as maize, wheat, potatoes and soybeans, African scientists
must take up the challenge, and make use of the appropriate tools
available through biotechnology to boost agricultural production
especially in crops such as cassava, yam and legumes that make up the
people's staple diets.
When this happens, the continent's food security status will be
enhanced and the money used in importing food items from the
developed countries, could be channelled into other sectors of the
economy that equally require urgent attention. But on the other
hand, if Africans accept reservations about biotechnology and refuse
to use it to their advantage, they will continue to be dependent on
developed countries for even their basic food items.
The workshop was organised by the Forum in Agricultural Research for
Africa, FARA, with funding from USAID, to expose media persons to the
reality of biotechnology in order to properly position them to engage
in positive debates on the subject. It also provided a platform for
an interactive exchange on biotechnology between the journalists and
Issues discussed included what biotechnology is all about,
biotechnology in agricultural research and its application in crop
and animal production. The five resource persons who addressed the
various topics agreed that biotechnology is simply the "application
of technology using biological systems/tools or their derivatives to
make or modify products or processes for specific purposes and use,"
which tallys with the definition of biotechnology under the
Convention on Biological Diversity.
The tools include monoclonal antibody technology used in diagnosing
and treating diseases in animals, detecting harmful toxins, measuring
pesticide levels and identifying resistant pests in plants/crops, as
well as detecting disease causing microbes and measuring nutritional
value and freshness in food processing; cell culture technology used
for artificial insemination/in vitro reproduction and embryo twining
and transfer in animal agriculture, while in plant agriculture this
tool is used for plant reproduction, producing transgenic crops, and
rescuing plant embryos.
It is also employed in the production of pharmaceuticals and in food
processing and it serves as the source of natural processing aids and
additives derived from plants. Other biotechnology tools are
bioprocessing, genetic engineering, protein engineering and biosensor
The resource persons concluded that the "application of biotechnology
especially in the area of crop domestication is actually not anything
new, it began a long time ago," and involved the selection of certain
plants to be parents for the next year's crops genetic makeup.
Dr Adrianne Massey of the Programme on Biotechnology Systems, a
global initiative, explained that the difference between the old and
modern biotechnology is that, modern biotechnology is faster, precise
and yields better results. She noted "there is so much potential in
biotechnology to benefit everybody both in agriculture and industry
and once it is developed, its usage does not involve huge capital.
Dr Sam Kwame Offei of the University of Ghana, Legon said the
benefits of biotechnology includes improving soil sustainability by
reducing pest, the use of chemical fertilisers, soil erosion and
ensuring the efficient use of land. It also results in high crop
yields by producing plants that are disease resistant, tolerant to
adverse conditions, grow and mature faster and have improved
nutritional value with enhanced taste. In health, biotechnology
fosters the development of vaccines to help cure and prevent diseases.
On the safety of genetically modified foods, Thomas Adjei-Doudu, a
Senior Regulatory Officer of the Food and Drugs Board, who quoted
sources like the FAO and WHO, said the production of such food
products is "subjected to extensive safety assessment, that provide
greater assurances of safety." He added that "the types of risks for
food from genetically modified crops are of the same nature as those
from conventional breeding, so in using such foods, it is essential
to observe precautions that help prevent food borne diseases."
Professor Anthony Youdeowei of the West Africa Rice Developers
Association, WARDA, stated that biotechnology application is yielding
countries like the US about 40 billion dollars annually. He said
companies like Monsanto, Rhone-Poulenc, Dupont and Aventis Crop
Science are spearheading the processes but "they are only interested
in big time commercially viable agricultural production," he added.
Professor Walter Alhassan, the West and Central Africa Coordinator of
the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project Phase II, talked about
the fact that there was the need for an enabling environment for the
deployment of genetically modified foods. This should be in the area
of developing biosafety framework and legislation, having an informed
producer and consumer society, credit availability, dependable market
sources and a viable seed sector.
Professor Alhassan who is also the Coordinator for the Programme on
Biosafety Systems in the region, said a draft Biosafety law for Ghana
has been developed and is currently at the Ministry of Environment
and Science, to be forwarded to Cabinet for the necessary action.
The journalists and scientists further more discussed identified
concerns such as the uncertainty about hidden risks and cost to
society as well as the violation of the natural value of an organism.
However, Dr Monty Jones, Executive Secretary of FARA stressed that
"Africa has to embrace biotechnology if she can achieve the six
percent growth in agriculture by 2020, as projected under NEPAD's
agenda." He stated, "It is only by adopting biotechnology that
Africans can experience equitable distribution of wealth and become a
net exporter of agricultural products." Speaking at the closing
ceremony of the workshop, Dr Jones wondered why if developed
countries have adopted and are benefiting tremendously from
biotechnology, Africa should not adopt it to solve pertinent problems
relating to hunger and disease.
He pointed out that "with the current state of 60 percent of soil
degradation, coupled with water pollution and very little irrigation,
the conventional way of doing things will get the continent nowhere."
"However, Africa," he said "can play a major role in international
science and technology, and conserve its environment by embracing
'Consumers Union Unscientific Internship to undermine GM Food'
Summer GMO Internship for Grad Student at Consumers Union: OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH DR. MICHAEL HANSEN AT CONSUMERS UNION ON BIOTECH ISSUES!
Consumers Union, located in Yonkers, New York, is offering a summer
internship beginning July 5, 2005, to a graduate student in the
sciences to work on public policy related to biotechnology. A
stipend of approximately $7500 would be available for 9 weeks of work.
The intern would work under the supervision of Michael Hansen, PH.D.
on one or more of the following projects:
(1) research foods genetically engineered to produce chemicals and
pharmaceuticals that are already in the field trial stage or
commercialized, as to health and safety issues. Consumers Union
believes such crops should not be commercialized due to their risks.
(2) research the current state of the art related to testing for
unexpected and unintended effects in genetically engineered crops, in
such areas as DNA-profiling and proteomics. Cutting edge research in
these areas could shed light on risks of unexpected effects, such as
unintentionally turning on a silent gene that codes for production of
a toxin or allergen.
(3) investigate whether rice has been imported from China that is
genetically engineered but has gone through no safety evaluation
(such illegal rice has been identified by Greenpeace in China).
Interested students should email a resume or CV ASAP to Toni Rabin at
Alex Avery Comments on the Above Ad:
How balanced and open CU appears with this announcement.
CU Research Methodology 101
1. Formulate predetermined conclusion(s)
2. Hire interns and lackeys to go out and dig up dirt to support predetermined conclusions
3. Announce biotech crops are too "risky" based on predetermined conclusion in your magazine and press release and then claim that you're neutral, unbiased, and untainted by corporate dollars
Seems logical to me, no?
Director of Research
Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute
Why Science Is Falling Out of Fashion
- Alison Cameron, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), June 24, 2005,
'Western society loves the latest gadgets but fears the people who
YOU'VE got 30 seconds to name three living scientists. How are you
doing? Not well, I am guessing. If so, you are not alone. In Britain
almost 1000 teenagers were challenged in an online survey to produce
the name of just one scientist who was still alive.
Among the answers offered were Madonna, Leonardo da Vinci and
Chemical Ali. Only two managed to successfully name a scientist and
they both picked the British environmentalist David Bellamy.
Science has a major problem and it is not just in Britain. Australia,
parts of Europe and the United States have all seen a decline in
students opting for subjects such as physics, mathematics and
chemistry. This is not just one country dropping the ball; it is a
trend across all of the West.
The reasons why science classes around the globe are emptying has
intrigued Dr Terry Lyons, a postdoctoral research fellow at the
University of New England. He has spent 14 years as a science teacher
and is examining the experiences of students in Britain, Sweden and
He has been stunned to find that, despite the thousands of kilometres
between these teenagers, very little separates them. "In some cases
it was almost word for word, the negative descriptions of their
experience in the classroom and their poor attitude to science in
general," he says.
What is perplexing is that his findings come at a time when science
and technology dominate our lives. Phones, computers and iPods are
essential accessories for 21st century life.
As Australians we like to congratulate ourselves on being early
adopters. Show us a new piece of technology and we are there, as long
as we don't have to take the back off.
In mainstream society, when the conversation briefly turns to
science, it is usually discussed in negative terms: the scientific
world has become a dark and frightening place, one populated by atom
bombs owned by rogue states, genetically modified foods and maverick
scientists secretly cloning humans.
There is also a feeling that it is all happening too fast. And it is
the speed of change that really frightens people, says Professor
David Finlay, the dean of science, technology and engineering at La
Trobe University. He says when it comes to picking subjects at school
and university parents are a major influence. "Parents believe that
science has moved too quickly to keep up so they don't recommend
their children pursue it," he says.
It is this parental fear of the unknown that is holding back the next
generations from exploring the subjects that form the world in which
they are growing up. This climate of fear and ignorance has coincided
with a rise in the belief that all things "natural" are inevitably
superior. The world of science is often dubbed the enemy as though it
is marching through nature destroying everything in its path.
It is no coincidence that the only scientist named in the British
survey was an environmentalist. They are portrayed as the goodies
intent on saving the world while scientists are the baddies plotting
its demise. But this is really a breakdown in communication.
Science is about fact, and facts unfortunately take time. The media
and the public find it easier to discuss the ethical and moral issues
of something like nuclear power than to grapple with the statistical
probabilities of contamination.
Scientists also have an image problem. When they state their factual
point of view they appear cold and unable to connect to the emotional
debate other parts of society wish to explore. Scientists feel
frustrated that the debate has become over-emotional and clouded by
We need to find a middle path. Scientists have pressure on their time
not only to execute their jobs but also to raise funds to allow that
work to continue. But they must be allowed time to share their
experiences with us in an understandable way. We need to embrace our
scientists. We need to learn their names and tell our children about
the contributions they have made.
If we become a little less afraid of scientists, perhaps they will
have a chance of engaging our children in the future. Then we might
move from being a nation of excellent operators to a nation of
T-Shirts That Make You Think Science
- Jim Mullen, residententity.at.dabblenbabble.com, http://www.dabblenbabble.com
At a young age, as my interests grew in nature, I came to understand
that introducing new product to market was tied quite closely to
education of the public. If I were to excel in the sciences and
bring product to market, I must also educate. Or as I wrote in one
of my Newsletters (Sent to friends through the '80s and '90s, samples
provided), "The educated are obligated to educate."
As I was choosing which topic to pursue in the sciences, I
investigated plant genetic engineering. And in a 1978 speech to my
college speech class at ICC, I told my classmates that they would
view the topic as the townspeople viewed Frankenstein, the monster.
I did not compare the foods to the monster, but rather, my classmates
to the townspeople's fear, ignorance and reaction to the monster.
And they would place me in the shoes of Dr. Frankenstein who the
townspeople believed was a crazed, arrogant, affluent and dangerous
man. But it was their ignorance and misinformation that drove them
to be rid of the monster. Who was actually benevolent and caring.
A Lack of Understanding. Really. So would I encounter the same
dilemma in the future, I told them. Unless. You, my classmates, in
the future will not accept my product because you don't understand
it. You will fear it in ignorance as the townspeople feared the
Mob Rules. Unless.
The market, or the lack thereof would drive my products to extinction
regardless of the benefits. Unless, You, my classmates (The Public)
Understood. And You, my classmates (The Public) must understand
because that is the direction all human society is moving, science is
taking us there. It recognizes no social discriminations.
Now, the t-shirts. I think there are very many, shall we say, ME out
there. You two included. This thought provides me the education
avenue to begin the harvesting of my mental ferment. This particular
effort has been under formulation since 1995. Finally, I bring my
art and desire to educate to market.
I have seen on AgBioView, that you have - on occasion - provided
links to merchant sites that you thought would be of interest to your
readers. So I ask you, the next time you do this, would you be so
kind as to include me or more specifically my t-shirt site? Please
visit the site. I launched the site in April 2005 complete with
primitive displays of the graphics and a product that is just
phenomenal, I think you will agree.
The goal is to educate. To put science on the street. To make people.
. . . . . THINK.
Jim Mullen received an education in Microbiology and Genetics and has
applied the knowledge In a variety of agricultural research programs.
Currently Jim ferments experimental vaccines for use in human
clinical trials. Please visit his T-shirt site at