Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : October 4, 2005
* Broken Silence: In Search of the Equitable Share
* A Scientific and Ethical Discussion of GM
* Reaping What We Sow: Billionth Acre of Biotech Crops Harvested
* How Synthetic Biology Can Avoid GMO-style Conflicts
* Socio-economic Considerations in Biosafety Decisions: The Role of
* Public Participation and GMOs - FAO e-conference
* UN Biotechnology Reports
* A Nutritional Paradox
* The Corn Next Door: Can Organic and Biotech Crops Coexist?
* Danish Act No. 486 of June 9, 2004 on Coexistence?
* Africa Trails Behind In Science and Technology...
* Despot Mugabe Worries about Africa's Vulnerability to Unsafe Food Imports (!)
* Corn Crop Saved by Genetic Engineering
* 'Eco-Terrorism' Advocate's Speech Sponsored by University
Broken Silence: In Search of the Equitable Share
- Van Joseph F. Capili (Student, Ateneo de Manila University), Manila
Bulletin, Oct, 4, 2005
Since the 20th century, our world has overgrown its most important
resource, that is, intelligence. Perhaps, our quality of thinking
matches, if not, surpasses beyond that of the history's brilliant
people. Having reached this far, there's probably not a single
hindrance thought by man in encompassing even the role of playing
However, with religion's analogy to silent water that runs deep, it
has always consciously or unconsciously stirred our views. With
regard to technology, the genetically-modified organisms or
transgenics have merited a heated debate primarily because it
distorts or mutate the creation of God. Personally, I believe that
genetic engineering on plants such as rice and corn should be
practiced in the Philippines to enable the equitable distribution of
resources to the entire population, not particularly food or money
but also the merits of intelligence, being a resource in itself, men
obtained through science.
People have different angles looking at GMOs. Here's a bigger picture
of what is happening. The index of income concentration among
Filipino families is not equitably divided. The main cause is not
merely the deprivation of income but generally, the deprivation of
the country's resources. I believe now more than ever is the perfect
time to commercialize GMO. In genetic engineering, the desired traits
fused to these organisms have totally, if not, significantly offset
the disadvantages. The cost ranks as the number one issue why people
refuse to accept Golden rice or BT corn. However, isn't it not the
guarantee of better food content a fair exchange for a reasonable
price? Perhaps, it is wise to leave the choice to the consumer and to
look at long term effects.
Providing a range of choices to the buyers doesn't in anyhow
transgress any moral norm. The worst infringement, I believe, would
be when we deny the alternative of a new technology and its benefits
to the people. Which now is morally correct, to conceal a technology
that provide remedy to problems or to prioritize the interests of
consumers? The problem is that people always look on the immediate
result of an action. They always want to downsize the prices of
commodities to better their living conditions without knowing that
their remedies are temporal or at a limited time frame only. Lack of
foresight to a sustainable future is not a preferential concern in
their minds. Personally, I would go for the greater good.
The GMO is not a means of castigating the poor, rather, it assures
them of a better future. Are we willing to sacrifice social status
with health and survival by depriving GMOs to the people. Perhaps
only few can afford it now. With this scenario in mind, the clear and
present common good is centered on the purchasing power of consumers
clamoring for an equitable distribution of food resources. The only
recourse left is to embrace the principle of urgency in responding to
this dilemma. Risk may be our only capital in investing a better life
in the future. We must place GMOs in the market to yield in the
future a higher demand which, by the laws of economics, will result
to a lower price.
Then-expensive food products become now-accessible goods. This is the
clear and sustainable future that is expected to happen. But there is
always fear that places a leash on our feet from further walking. We
are intimidated by the unknown future, an attitude that must be
suppressed for this construes that we, neither live in the present
nor in the future. How can sustainable development come into picture
when we are detained in the prisons of our past. Risk begins where
certainties end. Our assumption that anything that lasts for a
significant period of time must be adaptive refers not only to humans
as flexible beings but also to solutions. Like for example, why has
there been laws in the society. Because it worked! In the same way,
we tend to retain the means we have for survival because they are
I was walking along Katipunan Avenue. The scene of two old people
foraging through the trash bags, looking for recyclable junk, shocked
me. Why should a person be reduced to this? Where does dignity stand
in the face of a developing nation such as ours? What now is the
relevance of the greatest fruit of intelligence if it does nothing to
change the lives of people? Perhaps, science may mold intelligence as
the greatest human resource into something useful. But when can it
really be useful? Of which, I am uncertain. Diverse opinions create
the tension of opposites that is constantly pulling them apart.
People cannot agree on a single thing which leads to the creation of
more societal blunders. Moreover, the aftermath of overpopulation has
left unfelt tremors on our society. The birth of every individual has
been coupled with the increase of the most essential resource that
can be developed, intelligence. Once again, as this resource expands,
the tension of the opposites grows even firmer and less preventable.
The ideas of people will be constantly warring against each other
because higher levels of competition do not only apply to survival
this time. In our case, competition is augmented to the levels of
intellectual supremacy. The GMO issue is just an image of how the
intellectual world yields a tragic polarization of the society. Unity
has become an elusive dream. Ultimately, there. would be a build up
of intellectually complex societies which will give rise to the
skirmish of the minds making extreme ends difficult to meet.
The realities of struggles are always present but that is essentially
what God wants us to experience in this world. We don't only struggle
to be human. At the end, we are only left with the truth that we are
humans because of our struggles.
The author is an 18-year old sophomore taking up Bachelor of Science
in Legal Management. You may send your comments at scubul-at-mb.com.ph
A Scientific and Ethical Discussion Regarding Genetic Modification of Plants
- Eudoxa Policy Study, Sweden.
Mankind has during many thousands of years changed the genetic setup
of plants in order to achieve better harvests. Modern genetic methods
are an extension of traditional breeding methods, which enable us to
create new varieties of plants that have improved resistance against
vermin, produce enhanced harvests, are more nutritious and reduce the
strain of agriculture on the land.
Plant improvement via modern genetic methods means that a few genes
are altered under laboratory circumstances and intensive studies are
performed on the new breed of the plant. In contrast, traditional
plant improvement mingles or mutates thousands of genes in order to
achieve a positive result by chance. The moral arguments that man
cannot play God are built upon a misunderstanding of natural science.
Genes are modified constantly in nature via biological processes.
Although many millions of people have eaten genetically modified food
for many years, there is still no indication that it would be harmful
to the consumer. Still, both consumers and politicians in the EU are
very skeptical towards genetic modification of plants. This is in
large parts due to myths spread by various groups that oppose these
technologies, either because they have economic interests to defend
or because they have a dogmatic view on nature and science.
This report by the Eudoxa think tank, written by Nima Sanandaji and
Tomas Brandberg, considers the debate regarding genetic modification
of plants from both a scientific and ethical perspective. We hope
that this report shows that altering the genetic content of plants is
nothing mystical or abnormal.
(Forwarded by Waldemar Ingdahl (waldemar.ingdahl-at-eudoxa.se),
Director, The Eudoxa think tank, Sweden
Reaping What We Sow: One Billionth Acre of Biotech Crops Harvested
'Farmers around the globe have adopted this technology with amazing speed'
Des Moines, Iowa, USA (Sept. 30, 2005) "- True to the biblical adage
'you reap what you sow', somewhere in the world, the one billionth
acre of biotech crops is being harvested," stated Dean Kleckner, an
Iowa farmer and Chairman of Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT).
A counter designed to track biotech crop acres as they are planted
and harvested around the world, researched by Ross Korves, economist
and policy analyst for TATT, has indicated that the one billionth
acre will likely be harvested somewhere in the northern hemisphere on
Sunday, October 2, 2005.
"While we don't know exactly where this milestone-setting harvested
acre is located - it could be soybeans grown in Iowa, canola produced
in Canada, a corn field in Spain or cotton in California, China or
India - we do know that it is being harvested this weekend", said
Kleckner."This year, my organization has researched and tracked
agricultural statistics from around the world, establishing that the
one-billionth acre of biotech crops was planted in early May. The
astonishing speed with which farmers from around the world have
adopted this technology is significant. And soon, China will approve
biotech-enhanced rice. A tipping point moment. As China goes (the
number one populated nation) and rice goes (the number one global
food staple) so goes the world."
The TATT biotech counters are based on a starting point established
for planted and harvested acres by ISAAA Brief No. 32-2004 Preview-
Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2004 by Clive James
of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications (ISAAA). On December 31, 2004 the accumulated global
biotech acres planted was 951 million acres. In 2004 alone, more than
eight million farmers planted 200 million acres of biotech crops in
17 countries. Ninety percent of those farmers are resource-poor
farmers from developing countries. While the United States continues
to dominate agriculture biotechnology, more than one third of the
2004 biotech crop was grown in developing countries. Biotech acres
planted and harvested will continue to grow rapidly as
health-enhancing traits become available.
"Ten years of use and a billion acres harvested around the world have
clearly shown the economic benefits of biotech crops" said
Korves. "Documented analysis of producer experiences in both
developed and developing countries indicate increased economic return
and environmental benefits as a direct result of biotech crop
production. With more countries establishing regulations for the use
of biotech crops, the second billion acres will likely be harvested
in only four years as biotech crops continue to spread around the
How Synthetic Biology Can Avoid GMO-style Conflicts
- Mark Tepfer, Nature v.437, p476; September 22, 2005) (ICGEB
Biosafety Outstation, Via Piovega 23, 31056 Ca' Tron di Roncade,
Sir: Your News story "Synthetic biologists face up to security
issues" (Nature 436, 894?895; 2005), defines synthetic biology as the
ability "to create complete genomes from scratch and to introduce new
characteristics into viruses and bacteria". But the second half of
this definition has already been applied for decades to genetically
modified organisms (GMOs), and particularly to modified viral genomes.
The present discussion about regulation of synthetic biology should
carefully consider how and why GMOs are regulated, in order to avoid
The US and Canadian systems for GMO regulation are based on the
properties of the organisms produced, whereas the European system is
based more on techniques. The incompatibility between product-based
and technique-based systems is the source of much of the
transatlantic tension regarding GMOs.
North American scientists are calling for technique-based regulation
of synthetic biology. But for products of synthetic biology that bear
novel genes and thus are also GMOs, which type of regulation should
prevail: technique- or product-based? If the former, one would
quickly encounter the situation where equivalent organisms, synthetic
or classic GM, would be regulated using drastically different
strategies and criteria. If the latter, the most potentially
dangerous products of synthetic biology would simply be regulated as
GMOs. If the United States and/or Canada go forward with
technique-based regulation of synthetic biology, a minimum of
coherence would require them also to shift to technique-based
regulation of GMOs -- a major policy change.
I believe that the first step to reassure the public about synthetic
biology should be to cool the rhetoric. The present situation is
reminiscent of 30 years ago, when some of the pioneers in the
then-new field of genetic engineering made unrealistic claims about
what was feasible; this was one of the major early sources of public
uneasiness about GMOs.
There should be a bit more modesty in claims both about what can be
achieved by synthetic biology in the foreseeable future, and about
what could be achieved by additional regulatory supervision.
Integrating Socio-economic Considerations into Biosafety Decisions:
The Role of Public Participation
- World Resources Institute; Full paper at
2005, ISBN: 1-56973-591-3 (48 pages) Lindsey Fransen, Antonio La
Vina, Fabian Dayrit, Loraine Gatlabayan, Dwi Andreas Santosa, Soeryo
Modern biotechnology, as it is applied to agriculture, poses a common
challenge to countries and societies worldwide: the need for careful
decision-making to ensure that society enjoys the benefits of this
technology while minimizing or avoiding its potential costs. This
paper proposes governance mechanisms and opportunities for
stakeholder engagement that can assist in achieving such an outcome.
In particular, it focuses on the social and economic implications of
modern agricultural biotechnology and its products and how to take
these issues and concerns into consideration in decision-making about
The integration of socio-economic considerations, through
analytically sound research and regulatory processes that engage the
public meaningfully, is an important step toward the good governance
of modern biotechnology. However, information on and analysis of the
social and economic impacts of modern biotechnology are lacking, and
there is little experience in dealing with these issues in actual
decision-making processes. The aim of this paper is to provide such
information and analysis as a starting point for assisting national
governments and other stakeholders in designing and implementing
policies and mechanisms that incorporate socio-economic
considerations into decision-making.
Public Participation and GMOs - FAO e-conference
- FAO-BiotechNews, Oct. 2005; FAO-Biotech-News-at-fao.org
The summary document of the FAO e-mail conference entitled "Public
participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing
countries: How to effectively involve rural people" has now been
published. The 12-page document provides a summary of the main issues
discussed during this moderated e-mail conference, hosted by the FAO
Biotechnology Forum from 17 January to 13 February 2005, based on the
messages posted by 70 people from 35 different countries during the
The main topics discussed were if, and to what degree, the rural
people of developing countries should participate in decision-making
regarding GMOs; misinformation and the type and quality of
information required by rural people; appropriate communication
channels; costs of public participation; international
agreements/guidelines; and scepticism about the public participation
process. See http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C12/summary.htm
or contact email@example.com to request a copy.
UN Biotechnology Reports
- FAO-BiotechNews, Oct. 2005; FAO-Biotech-News-at-fao.org
As part of a series of biotechnology publications by the United
Nations University's Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), aimed
at "providing information on the challenges, opportunities, and risks
of this expanding technology for sound decision- and policy-making",
a book and two reports by A. Sasson have now been released.
The reports, entitled "Industrial and environmental biotechnology:
Achievements, prospects and perceptions" and "Food and nutrition
biotechnology: Achievements, prospects and perceptions", are freely
available on the web. See
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A Nutritional Paradox
- Dean Kleckner, Truth about Trade and Technology, Sept. 30, 2005
Anyone who has ever tried dieting knows why 'stressed' is 'desserts'
Yet you could make the case that too many people don't feel stressed
enough about their desserts. According to one federal study, nearly
two out of every three Americans is overweight. Almost half of these
people aren't just a few pounds on the pudgy side--they're
dangerously plump. Indeed, obesity is one of the world's emerging
health dilemmas. It afflicts both wealthy countries and poor ones.
Because it touches both rich and poor in virtually every nation, one
clever writer dubbed it "globesity."
At the same time, malnourishment remains a major problem in the
developing world. One estimate claims that more than one billion
people worldwide don't eat enough food or consume a proper balance of
Here is one of the great paradoxes of the 21st century: Our planet is
both overfed and underfed. This is also the theme of this year's
World Food Prize symposium, scheduled for October 13-14 in Des Moines.
"The co-existence of underweight and overweight," says Catherine
Bertini, recipient of the 2003 World Food Prize, "poses one of the
greatest challenges to nutritionists, health workers, and national
policy makers in the new millennium."
There is an obvious solution to this feast-or-famine quandary: More
people need better access to the right food. Achieving this, of
course, is easier said than done, but we know two of the essential
ingredients to a winning recipe: freer trade and biotechnology.
Someone who's starving for food probably has no patience for
listening to complaints about the problem of obesity. Although we
know that obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, and
even certain forms of cancer, these must seem like far-off concerns
for folks who are having trouble putting enough food on their tables.
At bottom, however, obesity and malnourishment are both the unwelcome
results of lacking access to, or eating, the right foods. There are
many ways to improve access, and education about what constitutes a
proper diet is one of them. Another important step is to remove the
barriers that prevent nations from trading with one another. Through
the work of the World Trade Organization, countries are exchanging
goods and services with each other more than ever before--but
agricultural trade, despite considerable progress, hasn't kept pace.
Food suffers from more protectionism than any other product. Unless
that changes, we can expect that some people will continue to be cut
off from a full menu of food choices.
Biotechnology also offers solutions. As drought-resistant crops
become increasingly available, they will help farmers improve their
harvests during difficult years. Higher yields during tough times can
make the difference between full stomachs and empty ones, especially
in developing countries. Moreover, the emerging science of
biofortification will result in new varieties of staple crops that
contain nutrients unavailable in traditional ones.
For all that the economics of free trade and the science of
biotechnology can offer, however, we still must overcome crippling
prejudice. I recently visited the Donald Danforth Plant Science
Center in Missouri, where researchers have developed a form of
virus-resistant cassava, a potato-like staple crop in Africa.
The United Nations estimates that disease cuts Africa's cassava
harvest by 30 to 40 percent annually. So it would seem as though
African governments would leap at the chance to help their farmers by
working with the Danforth Center. And yet some African nations
continue to resist biotechnology, in part because they're under
pressure to do so from the European Union.
This is madness, but perhaps it is madness of a particularly
illuminating variety: It places in full relief the fundamental fact
that so many of our global food problems are the products of human
error rather than the random misfortune of natural disaster.
Just as the poor will always be with us, so too, I suspect, will be
the overweight and the malnourished. Yet the wise deployment of free
trade and biotechnology may help lighten the load.
Dean Kleckner is an Iowa farmer and past president of the American
Farm Bureau. He chairs Truth About Trade and Technology
(www.truthabouttrade.org) a national non-profit based in Des Moines,
IA, formed and led by farmers in support of freer trade and
advancements in biotechnology.
The Corn Next Door: Can Organic and Biotech Crops Coexist?
- Amy Norton, The Scientist, V.19, Page 34, Sep. 26, 2005
In 2000, public officials in Boulder County, Colo., were faced with
calls from organic farmers, environmentalists, and others to ban
genetically modified (GM) crops. GM opponents worried that pollen
drifting from transgenic corn fields could "contaminate" their
County commissioners weren't comfortable with an outright ban, but
they decided to appoint a panel that would draw up a "good neighbor"
policy to help organic and GM growers peacefully coexist on the
county's large stretch of public land. Scientists at Colorado State
University conducted a pollen drift study and concluded that a buffer
zone of 150 feet could ensure a less-than-1% inadvertent, or
adventitious, presence of GM pollen or other materials in non-GM corn
Those involved in forging the coexistence plan - which county
officials believe to be the first such effort in the United States -
say things have gone smoothly so far, with no disputes over buffer
zones or GM-tainted organic corn. It offers, they say, proof that
organic and GM farms can be good neighbors. "GMOs [genetically
modified organisms] are highly contentious here," Robert Alexander,
an official with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, says of the
organic-friendly region. "Coexistence is possible. We're doing it."
Organic Certification At Risk?
But there's no consensus on the necessary ingredients for
coexistence, and a panel at the June Biotechnology Industry
Organization (BIO) conference in Philadelphia took up the issue. Many
scientists and farmers believe coexistence is a fairly simple matter,
achievable through neighborly communication and a certain level of
tolerance for the adventitious presence of GMOs in organic crops.
Others contend that organic and non-GM conventional growers are
unfairly burdened with the responsibility for protecting their crops
from what they regard as contamination.
At issue is organic certification, which is bestowed by 56 US
Department of Agriculture (USDA)-accredited certifying agents across
the country, and for which some consumers will pay a premium. These
organizations ensure that growers follow national standards for
organic production and handling.
"We are not categorically opposed to the use of biotech in
agriculture," says Mark Lipson, an organic grower and policy director
of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) in Santa Cruz,
Calif. But, he adds, US regulators have "taken coexistence for
granted," and he sees a need for protections for non-GM growers.
Lipson argues that biotech firms should be held liable for economic
injury to organic farmers when seed commingling or pollen drift allow
GMOs into their crops. According to USDA standards, organic farmers
should not lose their certification due to adventitious presence of
GMOs, as long as they take "reasonable steps" to prevent such
However, that rule is murky, and a few farmers in a 2002 OFRF survey
said they lost certification due to GMO presence, according to Bob
Scowcroft, the group's executive director. That survey, of 1,034 US
organic farmers, also found that 8% reported some "economic impact"
in the last growing season that they attributed to GM farming - the
cost of testing their crops for GMOs, for example, or loss of organic
markets due to actual contamination or buyers' fears of it. Though
that figure is small, Scowcroft says, the survey results are a sign
of a looming problem, as concern about GM contamination was a
nonissue in earlier OFRF surveys.
Some state legislatures apparently feel the same way. Bills were
floated in several states this year that would hold seed companies
liable for economic damages to non-GM farmers whose crops were found
to contain GMOs, including a measure in California that will be taken
up again in 2006 and one in Vermont that is still alive.
Bad Neighbors Can Foster Innovation. But Drew Kershen, a law
professor at the University of Oklahoma, says such measures lack
legal footing. It's the organic farmers who are aiming for a price
premium, he says, and to hold biotech firms responsible for their
market loss would be a "significant reversal of the laws as they have
been." Kershen says coexistence essentially boils down to organic
buyers having some tolerance for adventitious presence of GMOs.
Organic certification, he points out, covers the processes growers
use, and does not guarantee a "pure" final product.
Kershen points to a coexistence study by the Swiss Federal Office for
Agriculture, which concluded that a roughly 160-foot separation
between corn fields and 160 to 1,300 feet between oilseed rape,
depending on the species, should keep the detectable levels of GMOs
in those crops below 0.5%. If buyers will accept such levels, Kershen
says, then coexistence should be relatively easy to achieve.
Fred Yoder, a past president of the National Corn Growers
Association, says the key to coexistence is quite literally to be
neighborly; when farmers communicate with each other, they can, for
instance, vary their planting dates to avoid the issue of pollen
drift. "We can handle (pollen drift) a lot better than people think,"
explains Yoder, noting that he and his own organic neighbor have a
"great relationship." He says, "We can coexist just fine."
For less neighborly sorts, though, conventional corn breeding may
soon lend a hand in the form of hybrid that shuns all pollen but its
own. The small Nebraska firm Hoegemeyer Hybrids is set to market the
corn, dubbed PuraMaize, for the 2006 growing season. Tom Hoegemeyer,
who stresses that he is far from anti-GMO, says he saw a need for
such a "niche" product when consumers, particularly in Europe,
reacted negatively to the advent of transgenic crops in the 1990s.
The corn strain takes advantage of natural traits seen rarely in
certain corn varieties native to Central America. Scientists have
long known there are genes that affect corn pollination, Hoege-meyer
notes, and developing the discriminating corn was "just a matter of
Rex Bernardo, an agronomy professor at the University of Minnesota in
St. Paul, agrees that PuraMaize could help GM and organic corn crops
live side-by-side, and could help growers in exporting to GM-wary
markets in Europe and Japan, for instance. He points out, though,
that cross-contamination can occur at several points between field
and supermarket - via equipment, for instance, or at local elevators
that take grain from many sources.
Coexistence could get thornier as the business of biopharmaceuticals
takes off. Sacramento, Calif.-based Ventria Bioscience, which is
using rice to grow lactoferrin and lysozyme proteins to be used in
products for diarrhea and dehydration, found that opposition could
come from unexpected places when beer giant Anheuser-Busch objected
to the firm's plans to grow its rice in Missouri.
Citing concerns that the pharmaceutical rice could contaminate
commercial rice grown in the region, which the brewer uses to flavor
its beer, the beer giant threatened to boycott Missouri rice, causing
a stir among local farmers. This was despite the fact that unlike
corn and canola, rice is self-pollinating, and despite the company's
closed production system, Scott Deeter, Ventria's CEO, points out.
In April, Ventria and Anheuser-Busch struck a "compromise" in which
the former agreed to plant 120 miles away from Missouri's rice belt.
But that was too late for Ventria to get the necessary permits to
grow its rice in the state this year. Instead, the company planted in
North Carolina, on a few acres where it already had USDA approval.
But the company is still moving its headquarters to Maryville, Mo.,
and plans to plant its rice in the state next year. Deeter downplays
any opposition the company has gotten from local farmers and other
citizens - first in California, and now in Missouri - and says the
Missouri Farm Bureau is "one of our biggest supporters." And he says
the Anheuser-Busch conflict is an example of the neighborly
cooperation everyone agrees is necessary for coexistence. "On the
bright side," he says, "we did reach an agreement."
Danish Act No. 486 of June 9, 2004 on Coexistence?
- Drew L Kershen University of Oklahoma College of Law
Dear AgBioView readers: About a month ago I asked for information on
the German 2004 amendments relating to liability and agricultural
biotechnology in the German Genetic Engineering Act. Many responded
with a large amount of very helpful information. I now make a
similar request that relates to Denmark.
I ask for information (in English) related to the Danish Act No. 486
of June 9, 2004 on coexistence. I ask for government reports,
parliamentary studies or discussions, law review or journal articles
discussing the Act No. 486, industry or NGO discussions of this Act
No. 486, private information that you can share with me. I am
seeking as much information about this Act No. 486 as possible. I
would ask for these in either MSWord, Adobe pdf, WordPerfect,
PowerPoint formats that are sent to me as attachments to return
Thank you for your kind, prompt and helpful responses on the German
law. I thank you in advance for your help on the Danish Act No. 486.
Africa Trails Behind In Science and Technology
- The East African Standard (Kenya) via http://allafrica.com October 4, 2005
With a bleak economic outlook in the next 10 years, Africa is in
great need for science and technology and could miss most, if not all
the UN Millennium Development Goals set for 2015.
Global scientific organisations recently told the Heads of State and
Governments meeting at the UN in New York that "stronger worldwide
capacities in science and technology are necessary to allow humanity
to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals".
Scientists say that "sustained progress in reducing poverty and
related problems will require strengthened institutions of science,
technology and innovation throughout the world, including each
The paradox is that the science and technology divide continues to
widen, causing concern to nearly 500 leading scientists, 18 ministers
overseeing science and technology policies, 10 Nobel laureates and
policymakers. Also in attendance at the Second Annual Meeting of the
Science and Technology in Society forum held in Kyoto are business
executives and opinion leaders from over 60 countries, including
African Ministers of Science and Technology from South Africa,
Malawi, Rwanda and Sudan.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi and the Crown Prince
Naruhito addressed the Forum. While discussions centred on the need
to use science and technology to defeat terrorism, find new and
renewable sources of energy and develop medical vaccines and
therapies against infectious diseases such as Aids, many participants
underscored the need for a special focus on Africa. Speaking to the
Financial Standard, STF founder and Steering Committee, Mr Koji Omi,
who is former Member of the House of Representatives, as well as a
former Japanese Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy,
said "it was clear during the different sessions that Africa faces
unique needs in science and technology and these need to be
Sudanese Minister for Science and Technology, Prof El Zubair Beshir
Taha, said "Africa's Gross Expenditure on Research and Development
(GERD) as a ratio of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains
unacceptably low". He said that while GERD in Europe, North America
and Japan was between 0.2 and 7 per cent, Africa's rate was a dismal
0.001 per cent.
Africa Harvest Chief Executive Officer, Dr Florence Wambugu, who is
also a member of the founding committee members of the STS Forum,
said "science and technology has made unprecedented breakthroughs in
all spheres of life, bringing enormous wealth and prosperity to the
world". She, however, lamented that "the scientific and technological
developments have also resulted with considerable environmental and
societal concerns, which cannot be ignored in the future". Dr Wambugu
told the Forum that "one of Africa's opportunities to close the
science and technology divide is to develop Africa-led, Africa-driven
consortiums addressing specific problems. These consortiums can then
identify the science and technologies available in developed
countries and adapt these to the Africa-specific challenges, while
ensuring that African capacity is strengthened".
She cited the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project consortium,
which brings together seven African and two US-based organisations.
The projects goal is to develop transgenic sorghum varieties that
will deliver essential amino acids: lysine, threonine and tryptophan;
vitamins A and E; iron; and zinc which are deficient in sorghum to
African populations in the arid and semi-arid tropics.
The President-elect of the International Council of Science (ICSU),
Prof Goverdhan Mehta, told the Forum that although progress in
agricultural science and food production had helped significantly in
feeding the world's growing population in the last three decades,
major challenges still remain. "Of the 5.1 billion people who live in
the developing world, 1.2 billion still confront the ravages of
poverty on a daily basis." He said science and technology will be
required to find new solutions to feed the over 800 million - most of
them in Africa - who are insecure.
Prof Mehta, quoting Prof Normal Borlaug, a Nobel Prize-winning
agronomist said, "World peace will not be built on empty stomachs and
human misery." He said scientific developments in genetic engineering
have helped increase crop productivity, conserve biodiversity and
contributed to more sustainable agricultural systems.
STS Forum founder, Omi, said science and technology can best be
viewed as "lights and shadows" and "while the negative aspects must
be properly controlled.
Mugabe: Africa Vulnerable to Unsafe Food Imports
- Reuters, Oct 3, 2005 http://www.alertnet.org/
HARARE, Oct 3 (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, which
is in need of food aid, urged Africans on Monday to monitor imports
to prevent poor quality or unwanted foodstuffs from being dumped on
Some African leaders including Mugabe oppose the use of genetically
modified foods in aid because of concerns about their environmental
impact and possible effect on human health. "Relatively weak food
safety control systems, coupled with unpredictable droughts, have had
a negative impact on regional food security, thereby resulting in a
growing prevalence of food-borne diseases," Mugabe told an African
meeting on food safety.
"These challenges are compounded by ... the influx of new foods from
new technologies and the dumping of other foods from developed
countries, often under food aid programmes," he told the meeting
convened by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and
the World Health Organisation. Mugabe did not say GMOs by name his
reference to "new technologies" was obvious.
The United Nations says it is aiming to feed 8.5 million people --
until the next harvest in April -- across southern Africa which is
gripped by its second food crisis since 2002 largely due to poor
rains and a raging AIDS pandemic. Some African countries such as
Malawi will only take GMOs as food aid if they are processed or
milled while others such as Swaziland have no restrictions on GMO
"Africa is vulnerable ... The long borders that many Africans have
with their neighbours ... make it very difficult to effectively
control the food that enters any country," Ezzedine Boutrif, a FAO
food quality and standards official, told a news conference on the
sidelines of the meeting.
The conference will discuss and adopt an action plan aimed at
reducing threats to public health through the flow of contaminated
food and other products that do not meet global quality and safety
standards, organisers said.
Corn Crop Saved by Genetic Engineering
This year the American grain belt has experienced the fourth driest
summer in 100 years yet despite the arid conditions, the corn harvest
is predicted to be the second-highest output on record. How does this
happen? The answer is nutrigenomics, or genetic engineering that
created a corn plant that withstands the dry conditions.
Dry weather stresses a corn plant making the plant vulnerable to a
host of insects such as corn borer and rootworm. Pesticides must be
applied to the corn plant in an attempt to maintain yield.
Genetically modified corn plants resist the insects, cutting the need
for pesticide application and improving the output when conditions
turn harsh, as in this year.
Currently, more than half of the nation's corn is genetically
modified allowing corn to be grown in many new geographic regions.
Crop analysts report that corn is a completely different product,
"Weather now has just a modest impact on the harvest."
Although some fear genetically engineered crops, the reduction in use
of pesticides and the development of a product that needs less water
thereby saving critical aquifers appear to bode well for the overall
health of the nation.
'Eco-Terrorism' Advocate's Speech Sponsored by University
- Nathan Burchfiel, CNSNews.com, Sept. 30, 2005 http://www.cnsnews.com/
(CNSNews.com) - An Ohio taxpayers' group is appealing to the publicly
funded Ohio University to repeal its sponsorship of an environmental
activism conference that is hosting an outspoken supporter of
Two departments at the university are co-sponsoring the Buckeye
Forest Council's conference, "Defending the Earth in Times of War."
The keynote speaker on Saturday is Derrick Jensen, an author and
activist who has advocated the tactics used by groups like the Earth
Liberation Front (ELF) to disrupt industries that profit from the
"Our problem is that Ohio University, which is funded with public
dollars, taxpayer dollars, is a sponsor of this program," said Ohio
Taxpayers Association director Scott Pullins. "We don't think our
taxpayer dollars should be used to subsidize folks that advocate
Connie Pollard, the administrator of the Department of Environmental
and Plant Biology at Ohio University, told Cybercast News Service
that her department made a "modest" contribution to the conference,
but declined to give the exact amount. The university's Environmental
Studies department is also listed as a co-sponsor.
In exchange for the donation, Pollard said, the department sent a
student to the conference free of charge. Ohio University students
will also be able to attend Saturday's keynote address without
registering for the conference, which normally costs $25.
Buckeye Forest Council Executive Director Susan Heitker also declined
to give the exact amount of the sponsorship, but told Cybercast News
Service that sponsors must donate at least $250 in order to send a
representative to the conference for free.
Jensen explained his feelings in a 1998 essay titled "Actions Speak
Louder than Words." "Every morning when I awake, I ask myself
whether I should write or blow up a dam. I tell myself I should keep
writing, though I'm not sure that's right," Jensen wrote.
He compared the unwillingness of environmentalists to act violently
to the "striking blindness" of German resistance to Hitler from 1933
to 1945 and compared acts of violence to "the honeybee stinging to
defend her hive; it's the mother grizzly charging a train to defend
In an undated interview with the militant animal liberation magazine,
http://www.nocompromise.org/issues/26jensen.html No Compromise,
Jensen said his goal was "to bring down civilization."
He said he "fully support[s]" groups like the ELF that blow up dams,
set fire to SUV dealerships and hack computer systems.
The FBI's domestic terrorism section chief, James Jarboe, called the
ELF "a serious terrorist threat" in 2002 congressional testimony. He
told the House Resources Committee that ELF and its animal rights
counterpart, the Animal Liberation Front, were responsible for more
than 600 criminal acts since 1996, amounting to more than $43 million
"Free speech only extends until someone's hurt," Pullins said. "We
can't yell 'fire' in a crowded theatre, we can't encourage crowds to
beat and maim people and we can't advocate the blowing up of dams and
other things." Pullins added that college campuses are "a hotbed of
liberal activism and that's fine, but in cases of where they're
supporting the advocacy of violence, we're going to try to prevent
Pullins told Cybercast News Service that the university was aware of
his group's concerns, but Pollard said she had not heard of any
concerns and seemed to be unaware of Jensen's connections to
eco-terrorists. "I will look into this," she said. "I don't feel
comfortable saying anything more. I think I'll just look into it on
my end because this is the first I've heard of it."
Heitker, of the Buckeye Forest Council, said she sees no problem with
the university departments co-sponsoring the conference because it is
"an educational event." She said taxpayers fund universities because
they are educational institutions and "part of being an educational
institution is about learning and discussion."
She told Cybercast News Service that Jensen will be addressing how
environmentalists can protect the environment when much of the
nation's focus is on international affairs such as the war in Iraq.
"That is what we presented to the university and that is what these
departments at the university are co-sponsoring," Heitker said.
Jensen will not be talking about blowing up dams and setting fires to
SUV dealerships, Heitker insisted. "As far as the Buckeye Forest
Council, we don't condone violence but we do believe in free speech,"