Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : Sept 21, 2002
* French Farmer-Activist Jose Bove Stands Trial for Ripping Up GM Crop
* China: Biotech Prepares For Rapid Expansion
* The Future of Food and Medicine
* Re: - Sheila Jasanoff's book
French Farmer-Activist Jose Bove Stands Trial for Ripping Up
Genetically Modified Crop
- Associated Press, Sept 21, 2005
Toulouse (AP): Frances best-known farmer, Jose Bove, a Greens Party
lawmaker and seven others went to trial Tuesday for ripping up a
field of genetically modified corn, telling the court they ravaged
the fledgling crop in the name of caution.
About 100 supporters, some wearing masks, greeted the defendants with
a round of applause. If convicted, they face prison terms and fines
for uprooting the corn on July 25, 2004, that belonged to a U.S. seed
company that is a subsidiary of Dupont.
"If we hadnt carried out this action ... there would be no debate,"
Bove told the court. He said nearly half of the open fields of
genetically modified crop "had been neutralized" this year. However,
Bove added that he is not opposed to GMO research in a closed space.
Green Party lawmaker Noel Mamere said there has been no parliamentary
investigation on the possible effects of GMO products, adding that "I
acted in the name of urgency and necessity." Other defendants said
they, too, were acting out of caution, citing mad cow disease and
blood tainted with AIDS as reasons to apply the "principal of
precaution" "Give me the maximum sentence or let me go," Bove said.
Bove, as a repeat offender, faces a 10-year prison term and $150,000
(US$182,000) fine. The mustachioed sheep farmer served just over a
month in prison in 2003 for destroying a field of GMO corn and rice
crops. He became a headline-maker in France after ransacking a
McDonalds restaurant in 1999 that was under construction near his
home in the south.
The eight other defendants each face five years in prison and a
$75,000 (US$91,000) fine. The trial ends Wednesday. The crop they
attacked in the town of Menville, near the southern city of Toulouse,
belonged to Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., based in Johnston,
Iowa. Bove and others called the act one of 'civil disobedience.'
China: Biotech Prepares For Rapid Expansion
- Business Daily Update, Sep 15-2005
Biotechnology could become the fastest growing industry in China for
the next 15 years, according to Minister of Science and Technology Xu
Guanhua. "Biotechnology will be put high on the country's
mid-and-long-term scientific and technological development strategy
for 2006 through 2020," said Xu at the opening ceremony of the
International High-level Forum on Bioeconomy held in Beijing
Though nothing was mentioned about how much the government will
invest in support of the sector's development in the years to come,
Xu noted the investment will be expanded a lot, and that the money
will be collected through multiple sources. In the past decades, the
State has invested 15 billion yuan (US$ 1.8 billion) in biotech
development. He said the government will give priority to stimulating
creativity in biotechnological development in the long run.
Significance will be attached to the fields most likely to produce
breakthroughs in China, such as genomics, proteomics, transgenic
food, vaccine development and the modernization of traditional
Chinese medicine, he said. "Compared with some developed countries,
China has many fewer biotechnology patents," he said.
Statistics show nearly 60% of the patents related to biotechnology
come from the United States, followed by Europe and Japan. A survey
completed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences last year found the
country's total applications for biotech patents ranked fourth in the
world between 2001 and 2003. Further efforts will be also made to
train more biotech professionals and to establish a number of
advanced laboratories, steering towards life sciences and other
progressive biotechnologies, Xu said.
Eventually, all the advancement in research and development will lead
to a bioeconomy boom, he said. China currently has 200
government-funded laboratories concerning biotechnological research,
and 500 related companies. The three-day forum has attracted nearly
4,000 participants from up to 20 countries, regions and
organizations. Ten topics are being discussed concerning basic life
science, energy-related biotechnology and biological security.
The Future of Food and Medicine
- Karri Hammerstrom, email@example.com, AgBioView, Sept 21, 2005
As a mother and a consumer, I want to know that the food I eat and
prepare for my family is safe and nutritious. I also want to know
that technological advances are occurring to keep the food safe and
that those same technological advances include research to protect my
family against disease and find cures for existing diseases.
I have spent many hours educating myself on the pros and cons of
biotechnology and genetically modified foods. I have read numerous
articles, searched the internet, listened to renowned experts on the
subject, and talked to friends and family regarding biotechnology
which is the refinement of conventional breeding of plants and
animals to achieve desired, beneficial traits. I have also tried
desperately to understand what, in my opinion, are the misguided and
unjustified fears of those vehemently opposed to biotechnology. My
conclusion is that rather than having opposition based on reality or
fact, that those opposed, or posing as the opposition, truly just
dislike the United States' government (which ironically allows them
to freely have an opposing view), successful multi-national
corporations, and anything that flies in the face of their organic
dogma which really has very little to do with organic farming.
Corporate verses Family
After watching The Future of Food (an anti-biotech film), I was
deeply troubled by the irresponsible pseudo-documentary which tries
to present lies as truth and fiction as fact. While trying to
unabashedly espouse their anti-government and anti-multinational
corporate sentiment, the anti-biotechnology activists responsible for
the film take an unjustified swing at the family farmer who chooses
to farm conventionally and who may choose to incorporate
biotechnology into their operations.
That is where I saw The Future of Food crossing the line. You see,
in addition to being a mother and a consumer, I am also a farmer. I
consider myself and my peers to be environmental stewards of the
land, as well as farmland preservationists. Like 99 percent of all
U.S. farms, my farm is family owned and operated. In fact, according
the 2002 Census of Agriculture only less than 1 percent of America's
farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations. And, about
94 percent of U.S. agricultural products sold are produced on farms
like mine that are owned by individuals, family partnerships and
family corporations. Non-family corporations account for only about 6
percent of U.S. agricultural product sales.
In spite of burdensome regulations and increased urbanization,
California is still the number one agricultural producer and exporter
in the United States. Contributing almost $30 billion to the
economy, California farmers raise more than 350 different crops that
supply food, fiber and flowers to the world. California agriculture
also supports over 1.1 million jobs or nearly 8 percent of all the
jobs in the state. Farming is by no means an easy profession, but it
is a noble one and I am proud of what I do and how I do it.
The film noted above tries to invoke hysteria into the
biotechnologically-challenged masses (i.e. the average consumer, like
me, who wants a variety of convenient, healthful foods at reasonable
costs, but otherwise does not want to be troubled with the details)
by conveying that conventional farming involving biotechnology is
dangerous and that organic farming is the purest farming above all
others. There are, actually, many facts that support the safeness of
biotech food. Here are a few:
First, conventional farming and the use of biotechnology are safe.
For centuries, humankind has made improvements to plants through
selective breeding and hybridization - the controlled pollination of
plants. Plant biotechnology is an extension of traditional plant
breeding with one very important difference - biotechnology ensures
the transfer of beneficial traits in a precise, controlled manner.
Crops developed through biotechnology are subject to testing and
monitoring at three levels of the federal government which secure
food and environmental safety of biotechnology derived products.
Specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes sure
the products are safe to grow; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) makes sure the products are safe to eat; and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates crop protection
Critics of biotechnology have claimed that some crops are not tested
and pandemonium may occur by growing unchecked crops. The emergence
of a new genetically modified plant variety on the market is not the
beginning, but the end result of a research and development process
that can take as long as six to 12 years and can cost from $50
million to $300 million. The level of pre-market evaluation done on
every biotechnology crop is far greater than for any other type of
food crop. As previously mentioned, the monitoring and tests
include both food safety and environmental impact assessments. In
addition, the USDA, EPA and FDA each have the authority to recall
products from the food chain if new science-based information
identifies a public or environmental health hazard.
Second, I do not see this as an either/or situation, meaning organic
verses biotech. Organic farming and conventional farming involving
biotechnology can and do coexist. Biotechnology can make the food we
eat safer, more nutritious and free from allergens. The use of
biotechnology in agriculture has enhanced the wellbeing and
environmental stewardship of communities through reduced pesticide
use and exposure to other environmental factors. Allowing farmers
the ability to choose what and how to grow is the very essence of
free market. Organic and biotech choices are tools in a farmer's
"toolbox" which allow for farmers to choose to utilize the widest
range of technologies available to produce a safe, healthy, abundant
and affordable food supply. In other words, there is no
justification for restricting the farmers' ability to utilize the
kind of breakthroughs and ingenuity we celebrate in every other facet
of life. In a world of iPods, cell phones, Palm Pilots and GPS
technology, why should farmers be made to use the outdated
equivalents of cassette players, rotary phones, Rolodexes, and
Third, there is no evidence that organically produced food is any
safer than food produced by any other method of farming, nor is
there a clear nutritional bonus to eating organic. However, I uphold
organic farming as an option for any farmer wishing to incorporate
organic farming practices into their operations. In fact, I truly
believe that organic products are enjoying great niche-market
success, in part, because of misguided media hype that buys into
propaganda that The Future of Food promulgates.
Fourth, there is no evidence that genetically engineered foods
currently on the market pose any human health concern or that they
are any less safe than those foods produced through traditional
breeding. "To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic
engineering have been documented in the human population," (U.S.
National Academy of Sciences, Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods:
Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects, 2004).
Furthermore, no commercially available, genetically engineered food
product contains genetic information of DNA sequence derived from an
animal (i.e. fish-headed tomatoes are mythical).
Fifth, because of biotech crops, the world has benefited from a
reduction in pesticide use. In the state-by-state study, Impacts on
U.S, Agriculture of Biotechnology-Derived Crops Planted in 2003,
conducted by the National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy,
they evaluated biotechnology's impact on two of California's
commodities - corn and cotton. The study concluded that the biotech
varieties increased the state's food and fiber production by more
than 10 million pounds, improved farm income by nearly $33 million
and reduced pesticide use by 776,000 pounds annually. At a
genetically modified foods debate at U.C. Davis in October 2004,
Professor Rick Rousch, Director of the Statewide Integrated Pest
Management Program, cited studies that found pesticide poisonings
among Chinese cotton workers have dropped by 75 percent, and insect
resistant corn reduced the fungal toxins on insect-damaged corn in
Africa where toxins are the likely culprit behind a high incidence of
throat cancer and liver problems. Rousch also cited a 2001 European
Union report that reviewed $65 million in research by some 400
research groups showing no new risks to human health or the
environment compared to conventional plant breeding; and, in fact,
that more precise technology and greater scrutiny probably made
genetically modified (GM) crops safer than conventional ones. Plant
biotechnology provides new options for Integrated Pest Management
(IPM) programs, reduces the overall use of pesticides and enables
soil-conserving management practices.
Sadly, the ideology behind many organic supporters is not backed by
sound science, or even a love for the land. Many biotech foes oppose
the industrialization of the agricultural industry, yet few have
actually farmed or have a true understanding of agriculture other
than a trip to the grocery store. An all orgranic world is neither
"sustainable" nor an efficient use of the land. Organic farming is
less efficient and certified organic produce is more expensive than
traditionally farmed produce. By comparison, traditional or
conventional farmers incorporate many technologies into their
cultural practices to achieve sustainable agricultural that is often
rejected by many organic farmers.
It is irresponsible to succumb to the previously mentioned film's
notion that an all-organic food supply is the answer to all woes of
Over eight hundred million people-13 % of the world's population- are
poor and malnourished. They live on less than a dollar a day and
cannot be sure that their fields will yield enough food or that they
will earn enough money to buy food. Twenty thousand children die
every day from malnutrition and another twenty thousand adults also
die from the same thing. Norman Borlaug, Ph.D, a Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate and Texas A&M University Professor, believes that
biotechnology is a necessary component to feeding the world. "I
believe the world will be able to produce the food needed to feed the
projected population of about 8.3 billion in the year 2025Šbut it
cannot be attained without permitting the use of technologies now
available or without research to further improve and utilize new
technologies, including biotechnology and recombinant DNA."
According to the Director of the San Diego Center for Molecular
Agriculture, Maarten J. Chrispeels, he also stresses the need for
biotech crops in an effort to successfully feed the word. In a
recent article in Plant Physiology entitled "Biotechnology and the
Poor", he writes, "The answer to the problems of the poor, according
to a number of organizations that oppose GM crops, is more organic,
regenerative agriculture. We certainly need more sustainable
regenerative agricultural practices, but "organic" farming is the
type of agriculture already practiced by the poor, primarily because
they do not have the means to buy fertilizers, pesticides, and
irrigation equipment. According to Dyson, sub-Saharan Africa, where
most food crop production is "organic," is unlikely to see much
improvement in its already dismal food situation. Exhaustion of the
soil caused by the lack of fertilizers is depressing yields and
pushing agriculture onto more erodible soils. Organic agriculture is
nearly always nitrogen starved unless land is set aside for the sole
purpose of producing green manures, a luxury the poor can ill afford.
Agriculture as it is practiced now in much of sub-Saharan Africa is
environmentally unsustainable and a new approach that will require
considerable investment in agricultural research is needed. This new
approach must be research-driven and will most certainly include GM
In short, the world does not have enough land mass to support an
all-organic food and fiber production society. In order to preserve
wilderness lands and the biodiversity they offer, higher crop
productivity that is not feasible with organic crops is necessary.
More than 250 million people worldwide have been helped by more than
100 biotechnology drug products and vaccines approved by the US FDA.
Of the biotech medicines on the market, 75 percent were approved in
the last seven years.
I have been a direct beneficiary of biotech medicines. When pregnant
with my first child, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I
was unable to control the disease with diet alone and was insulin
dependent. In 1982, human insulin to treat diabetes became the first
commercial application of biotechnology.
Biotechnology is being used to develop food and fiber crops that are
salt water tolerant, drought resistant, have enhanced antioxidant
properties, contain trans-fat free oils, possess increased protein
and resist viral infections like Pierce's disease. Cynics attack the
notion that private donors fund university research. In agriculture,
it is an acceptable practice for private industries to fund
university research projects and educational programs. Public
funding for agricultural research is not readily available, so
without private contributions and matching funds university research
would not be conducted.
As a result of the research, subsequent discoveries and unlimited
possibilities, it is no wonder that world authorities such as the
American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association,
Institute of Food Technologists, World Health Organization, and the
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations support
biotechnology. They recognize food biotechnology as a safe,
environmentally-friendly, useful tool to help feed the world.
Dr. Patrick Moore, Environmental Consultant and Co-Founder of
Greenpeace, warns the skeptics, "The campaign of fear now being waged
against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and a
complete lack of respect for science and logic." Groups opposing
genetically modified crops on ideological, philosophical, or economic
grounds have not brought forth scientific evidence to support their
claims of negative health consequences or environmental impact.
In October 2004, the California State University Program for
Education and Research in Biotechnology released a statement on
behalf of the California State University System stating that science
is the driving force behind innovation and technology advancement and
has been a key driver for California's agricultural success and there
is no credible scientific evidence to question the health and
environmental safety of approved, commercial biotech crops.
Other Biotech Falsehoods
Cross-Contamination: Regarding pollen drift/gene-flow, organic
growers will not lose their certification if their crop shows GM
variety within their crop. If the grower demonstrates that his/her
organic plan has the appropriate safeguards in place to attempt to
avoid contamination, the grower's certification cannot be revoked.
If the certifier denies the grower's organic status, the grower can
appeal the decision, and the California Department of Food and
Agriculture will grant it back, so long as the grower maintains
his/her normal organic-growing practices.
Several California farmers successfully farm conventional, organic
and biotech crops. They do so by creating buffers between crop
varietals and implementing practices such as crop rotation and
Royalties: The film criticizes royalties paid to seed companies for
the use of their seed. In the agricultural industry, royalties are
paid for conventional, organic and biotech varieties of commodities
such as peaches, plums, cotton and roses. For example, a farmer may
pay a royalty fee to the University of California for a stone fruit
variety they developed; the royalty fee helps to offset their
research costs and funds further research.
Seed Harvesting: Seventy-five percent of the world's farmers save
seed, but in the United States it is only about ten percent. In
other parts of the world, they are saving seed because they do not
have access or resources to the commercial varieties. In the Percy
Schmeiser case, the Supreme Court found that Schmeiser knowingly (and
fraudulently) saved and sold seed using Monsanto-derived technology,
and, therefore, this had not been accidental contamination.
Superweed: In regard to the creation of a superweed, good cultural
practices dictate the rotation of crops and implements to prevent
resistance or tiring of the soil. If all scientific advances were
halted out of fear of the unknown, life-saving technological
breakthroughs such as penicillin, the pasteurization of milk, or the
polio vaccine would have never been made available to the world.
World Acceptance: World cultivation of plants from modern
biotechnology is increasing year by year. More than seven million
farmers in eighteen countries planted a total of 167.2 million acres
in 2003, up fifteen percent from 2002. At present, there are about
sixteen varieties approved for commercial cultivation. The four
major countries are Argentina, Canada, China and the United States.
Exaggerated Fear Campaign: The Future of Food is just another
exploit in a long line of many acts of hype. North Dakota wheat
farmer Al Skogen fervently describes his opinion of the environmental
movement against biotech, "It's clear to most farmers that the
environmental movement completely has neglected the fact that biotech
crops are a solid step forward for the environment. Unfortunately,
most environmental activist groups sold their allegiance to the
environment a long time ago in exchange for a fully funded fear
campaign supported by trust funders, organic promoters and
I believe farmers should retain as much choice as possible in
determining what they plant, and consumers should have an equal
amount of freedom in choosing what they eat.
As a farmer, I look to biotechnology in hopes that research will
avail new types of crops and livestock that improve product quality,
reduce labor, reduce insecticide use, reduce soil erosion, improve
air and water quality, etc. In addition to increased yields and less
environmental impacts, I can anticipate better health because I will
no longer be exposed to certain insecticides when growing
insect-resistant biotech crops.
As a consumer and a mother, I believe biotech or genetically modified
foods can offer lower prices, better nutrition and fewer pesticide
residues. So, I will continue to buy them without hesitation. In
the same manner, I will also continue to exercise my freedom of
choice to purchase organically and conventionally grown foods and
products as I see fit.
Biotechnology is not the silver bullet and it is not without its
shortcomings. However, with an increasing world population and
rampant disease in third-world countries, I am confident research
will continue to "grow" solutions that will benefit us all. It is a
powerful tool to increase food production, protect the environment,
improve the nutritional value of food, and produce invaluable
pharmaceuticals. I encourage you to educate yourself on the issue
and make you own informed decision on the biotech issue. I am
confident you will reach a similar, if not the same, conclusion I did.
Karri Hammerstrom and her husband farm tree fruit and alfalfa in
California's Central San Joaquin Valley.
Agricultural Biotechnology at the Crossroads, Bio Economic Research
"Biotechnology and the Poor," Chrispeels, Maarten J., Plant
Physiology, September 2004, Vol. 124: 3-6.
Foods from Genetically Modified Crops. San Diego Center for
Molecular Agriculture, www.sdcma.org. page 16.
California State University Program for Education and Research in
Biotechnology Press Release, October 2004.
The Knowledge Economy and Biotechnology, Darunee Edwards, Bangkok
Post, October 30, 2004.
Put Biotech Wheat on the Table, Al Skogen, Grand Forks Herald, June 27, 2005.
From: Karri Hammerstrom
For some time I have been reading your e-newletter AgBioView and I
have really enjoyed it. The stories are informative and
thought-provoking. I have learned so much about biotechnology as a
result of reading the articles and being inspired to conduct
additional research. I work part time for the Fresno County Farm
Bureau, located in Fresno, California which is the nation's #1 ag
producing county. As a state (California), we have recently been
faced with radical movements against biotechnology. As a result, FCFB
has tried to step effort in our region to educate others about
And, I have tried to channel some of my passion into writing about
biotechnology from my perspective...a mother, a consumer and a
farmer. I have attached the article I wrote over the summer. I know
it's long, but I thought it still might be of the calliber of some
the articles I have read in your compilations. I am hopeful you might
consider its inclusion into a future a-newsletter.
Sincerely, Karri Hammerstrom
Re: - Sheila Jasanoff's book
For those interested in some of the issues covered in Sheila
Jasanoff's book 'Designs on Nature', please see Latour's and
Woolgar's seminal work in the field of science and technology
studies, 'Laboratory life : the construction of scientific facts'
Department of Government PhD Student Post,
Dover Street Building University of Manchester, Oxford Road,
Manchester, M13 9PL United Kingdom