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Date:

October 6, 2005

Subject:

No Bans Please; How Europe Starves the World's Poor; Hypoallergenic Apple; Know the Anti-biotech Crowd; Why Societies Collapse

 

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

* Brussels Says No to Gene Technology Ban
* Gene Specialists Come Out Against Moratorium
* How Europe Starves the World's Poor
* Conway and Wambugu among the Top 100 Global Intellectuals
* 'BioIndustry Ethics' - New Book
* Swedes Develop Anti-allergy Apple
* Enhancing the GM in Developing Countries
* Zimbabwe to Import Maize to Feed Citizens
* Get to Know the Anti-biotech Crowd
* Media Should Campaign on the Basis of Facts
* Biology Doesn't Explain Why Societies Collapse
--

Brussels Says No to Gene Technology Ban

- Simon Thönen, Swissinfo, October 5, 2005 http://www.swissinfo.org

A proposed moratorium on genetically modified organisms, similar to a
current Swiss initiative, has been rejected by the European Court of
Justice (ECJ).

On Wednesday the ECJ threw out an application from the Austrian
province of Upper Austria for a moratorium. The Austrian province was
hoping to achieve exactly the same goals as the Swiss campaign. They
wanted a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) in agriculture for several years.

Supporters want to protect conventional and biological farmers from
potential contamination by genetically modified crops in neighbouring
fields. The Austrians argued that coexistence between genetically
modified and natural agriculture is not possible.

But the ECJ said the province had not provided sufficient evidence
that it had an "unusual or unique ecosystem". The Austrians had
needed to prove this in order to receive an exemption from strict
European Union regulations.

In principle it is permitted to cultivate genetically modified crops,
which have been approved by Brussels, anywhere in the EU. "This is a
very strong signal to EU members that an EU-wide cultivation ban
conflicts with Single European Market rules," explained the
spokeswoman for Stavros Dimas, the EU Environment Commissioner.

Mixed reactions
The verdict is a defeat for some 160 regions in Europe that have
declared themselves GM-free zones up to now. But they are not ready
to throw in the towel. "The movement against genetically modified
seeds will not be stopped by one ruling," the environmental
organisation Friends of the Earth said in Brussels. In Austria, other
provinces have already introduced strict precautionary regulations
that make genetic farming almost impossible in practice.

However, the EU ruling pleased opponents of the GM-free initiative in
Switzerland. A referendum on the issue will take place in Switzerland
at the end of November. Johannes Randegger, a parliamentarian from
the centre-right Radical Party, said the EU had already
scientifically proved that the coexistence of genetically modified
and conventional farming is possible. "This ruling shows that
moratoriums are superfluous," he said. Maya Graf from the Green Party
naturally saw it differently. "The European public is mostly against
gene technology in food," she said. "They are denying us the
possibility to decide on this question democratically"

***********

Gene Specialists Come Out Against Moratorium

- Neue Zürcher Zeitung AG, October 4, 2005 http://www.nzz.ch via
checkbiotech.org

A group of Swiss scientists has warned that if voters accept a
moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in
agriculture, research could suffer. The Gen Suisse Foundation said
that delaying the use of GM plants would also undermine teaching in
Switzerland's universities.

Swiss voters are being asked on November 27 whether to accept a
five-year moratorium on GMOs. "Switzerland cannot afford to stick
its head in the sand," said Ernst Hafen, who will take over as the
president of Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology in December.

"Ten of Europe's best 50 biotechnology researchers are Swiss," he
added. "We should not hinder their projects or they will start
heading abroad." Hafen also believes that careers could be nipped in
the bud. "Uncertainty or a poisonous working environment will make
some people hesitate to pursue a career in this field."

The genetics specialist pointed out that even safe tests of GM plants
in a controlled environment are difficult to carry out because of
protests from associations opposed to the use of modified organisms.
For Hafen, current legislation restricting the use of GM plants is
sufficient and there is no need for a further moratorium.

Fundamentalists
Klaus Ammann, head of Bern University's botanical garden, warned that
those backing the moratorium weren't all lily-white either. "Some of
them are fundamentalists who want to kill off genetic engineering and
spread irrational fears," he said. Ammann added that the idea of
biological farming in developing countries was a pipe dream.

"These nations already use modern technology for farming when they
can afford it. But because they often can't, it's up to rich
countries like Switzerland to make sure their research and
development is as competitive as it can be," he said. Ammann said
that examples of research that could benefit developing nations
abounded, such as strengthening plant resistance to drought and salt
or increasing the vitamins contained by plants.

Swiss farmers
But the ecologist also pointed out that Swiss farmers stood to gain
from the use of GM plants. "We have trouble eliminating mildew from
potatoes, even with pesticides," he said. "Modern genetic technology
would give us a chance of dealing with it."

On Monday, Economics Minister Joseph Deiss said that a moratorium on
GMOs in agriculture would be bad news for farmers and consumers. He
added that the current law on the issue, which came into force last
year, provided enough protection for people and the environment.

Deiss said that under the law the procedure for authorising GM crops
lasts at least five years - as long as the moratorium. He also noted
that a moratorium would give the wrong signal to the scientific
community and would be harmful to economic sectors linked to research.

*****************

Hungry for Biotechnology: How Europe Starves the World's Poor

- Ronald Bailey, Reason, August 31, 2005
http://www.reason.com/rb/rb083105.shtml

The European Union and fellow traveling anti-biotech activists may
well succeed in bottling up the next wave of genetically improved
crops that aim directly at helping poor farmers in the developing
world. How? Anti-biotech European regulations are spooking the
governments of poor countries into preventing their farmers from
growing the new genetically enhanced crops. And that's a shame,
because researchers in laboratories and plant breeding stations
around the world are endowing new biotech crop varieties with traits
like disease resistance and improved nutritional value.

For example, researchers are trying to save bananas and plantains
from commercial extinction in the coming decade. Bananas and
plantains rank fourth as a staple crops after rice, wheat, and maize,
providing food for nearly 400 million poor people. Unfortunately,
bananas and plantains, are rapidly succumbing to global plagues like
black sigatoka and a new variety of Panama disease. As a result,
yields have dropped by half in many poor countries.

Bananas and plantains are sterile, and thus generally propagated by
farmers as genetically identical clones. If one clone is susceptible
to a disease, so are all of the other clones. Sterility also
obviously makes it difficult for plant breeders to create new
disease-resistant versions of bananas and plantains. This is
precisely where biotechnology comes in handy. Researchers are trying
to create hardy clones by directly inserting disease resistance genes
from rice into banana tissue and coaxing the tissue into producing
full grown plants, which can then be propagated.

Then there is golden rice. Golden rice was the first crop developed
specifically as a nutritional enhancement for hundreds of millions of
vitamin A-deficient poor people whose main staple is rice. In the
developing world some 500,000 people per year go blind due to vitamin
A deficiency. Conventional rice produces almost no vitamin A. Golden
rice has a yellow hue because it has been genetically engineered to
produce beta-carotene, the yellow precursor molecule that is turned
into vitamin A by the body. The original version of golden rice
released in 2000 contained beta-carotene genes from daffodils, and a
serving of it provided about 20 percent of the recommended dietary
allowance (RDA). A new version released this year, containing genes
from corn (maize) has boosted the amount of beta-carotene per serving
to 50 percent of the RDA.
The non-profit International Rice Research Institute is working with
the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board to crossbreed genetically improved
golden rice with local Asian varieties for eventual release to poor
farmers.
Finally, there is the case of disease resistant cassava.

Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center near St.
Louis, MO, has developed a cassava plant that resists the devastating
effects of cassava mosaic virus. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch points
out that African subsistence farmers produced 108 million tons of
cassava in 2004, more than two-and-a-half times the amount of corn
they produced. But African farmers could produce a lot more if it
weren't for the cassava mosaic virus. The virus reduces yields across
Africa by 30 percent to 40 percent, and caused losses as high as $2.7
billion in 2003.

The Danforth Center researchers ride to the rescue. They inoculate
the cassava plant against the disease by inserting a gene for the
protein coat of the mosaic virus into the plant's own genome. This
poses no health danger to people since they have suffered no ill
effects from eating the virus on infected plants for decades. The
Danforth Center's genetically improved cassava is now ready for field
testing, but because of concerns about the reaction of the European
Union and anti-biotech activists, no African nation has had the nerve
to approve such tests yet.

Not surprisingly, the constituency of anti-biotech environmental
groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth is not poor African
and Asian farmers and their families, but affluent and easily
frightened European consumers. In response to ferocious pressure
ginned up by the misleading campaigns of ideological
environmentalists, EU politicians and bureaucrats have built an all
but impenetrable wall of anti-biotech regulations around themselves.
Wielding these onerous crop biotechnology regulations, the EU, on
specious safety grounds, has essentially banned the importation of
most biotech crops and foods. But these regulations do not only have
consequences for European farmer and consumers.

The EU wants to export its regulatory system to the world, and it is
offering "capacity building" foreign aid to persuade developing
countries to adopt its no-go or go-slow approach to crop
biotechnology regulations. Even more tragically, some developing
countries are so afraid of the EU's anti-biotech wrath that they are
willing to risk the lives of millions of their hungry by rejecting
food aid that contains genetically enhanced crops.

Activists usually blame the inaction of rich countries for killing
people in poor countries. However, instead of outrage here, we get
Greenpeace geneticist Doreen Stabinsky primly quipping in the
Post-Dispatch, "Hunger is not solved by producing more food. We're
the breadbasket of the world, and we have hungry people in the U.S."

Hunger may not be solved by producing more food, but it sure couldn't hurt.

--
Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation
Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution" is
now available from Prometheus Books. see http://www.reason.com/lb/

**********************************************

Gordon Conway and Florence Wambugu among the The Prospect/FP Top 100
Public Intellectuals

"Who are the world's leading public intellectuals?

FP and Britain's Prospect magazine would like to know who you think
makes the cut. We've selected our top 100, and want you to vote for
your top five. If you don't see a name that you think deserves top
honors, include them as a write-in candidate. Voting closes October
10, and the results will be posted the following month.

See the complete list at

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3249

Vote at http://prospectmagazine.co.uk/intellectuals/

**********************************************

BioIndustry Ethics

- David L. Finegold, Cecile M Bensimon, Abdallah S. Daar, Margaret L.
Eaton, Beatrice Godard, Bartha Maria Knoppers, Jocelyn Mackie, Peter
A. Singer; Amazon.com $34.95; Paperback; 384 pages, Academic Press
(June 10, 2005) ISBN: 0123693705

This book is the first systematic, detailed treatment of the
approaches to ethical issues taken by biotech and pharmaceutical
companies. The application of genetic/genomic technologies raises a
whole spectrum of ethical questions affecting global health that must
be addressed. Topics covered in this comprehensive survey include
considerations for bioprospecting in transgenics, genomics, drug
discovery, and nutrigenomics, as well as how to improve stakeholder
relations, design ethical clinical trials, avoid conflicts of
interest, and establish ethics advisory boards. The expert authors
represent multiple disciplines including law, medicine,
bioinformatics, pharmaceutics, business, and ethics.

From the Back Cover: The application of genetic/genomic technologies
raises a whole spectrum of ethical questions affecting global health
that must be addressed. This book is the first systematic, detailed
treatment of the approaches to ethical issues taken by biotech and
pharmaceutical companies. Each chapter highlights a real, original
case study conducted by the authors, including perspectives from
executives and employees within each of the thirteen participant
companies.

Topics covered in this comprehensive survey include considerations
for bioprospecting in transgenics, genomics, drug discovery, and
nutrigenomics, as well as how to improve stakeholder relations,
design ethical clinical trials, avoid conflicts of interest, and
establish ethics advisory boards. The expert authors represent
multiple disciplines including las, medicine, bioinformatics,
pharmaceutics, business, and ethics. It is appropriate for anyone
involved in the business, scientific, medical, legal, or regulatory
aspects of the biotech, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries.

**********************************************

Swedes Develop Anti-allergy Apple

- Food Business Review, October 6, 2005, http://www.food-business-review.com

Swedish scientists have developed an apple with a reduced amount of
the protein Ma1 d 1, which is known to cause allergic reactions.

Ma1 d 1 is found in certain plant-derived foods such as apples,
strawberries and carrots. The protein is similar to that which is
found in birch pollen, a common cause for allergies across Northern
Europe. Studies have shown that commonly used apple cultivars like
Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Cox Orange are highly allergenic
as they contain high levels of Mal d 1.

The department of crop science at SLU in Balsgard, Southern Sweden
developed the new apple in response to the growing allergen-free food
and beverage market. In Sweden, up to 90% of birch pollen allergic
patients are sensitized to apples, with symptoms like itching and
swelling of lips, tongue and throat after ingestion.

Scientists at SLU said they must investigate where the best
conditions for growing the new apple can be found. As such, the
product is not due to hit the market for another four to five years.

**********************************************

Enhancing the GM Crop Research in Developing Countries

- Ramanjini Gowda , Univ of Agri Sciences,
Bangalore, India

How to enhance the Development of GM crops in under-devolped and
developing countries.

1. In a few developing countries, the infrastructure for the
development of GM crops is excellent and also there is good
intellectual capacity of the scientists to develop new GM crops. The
major hurdle is the cost factor, which can be overcome by
collaboration with private institutions and funding from government
agencies.

2. Establishment of regional testing centers for GM crops, which can
test all the biosafety parameters required for the prerelease of the
variety. This facility is lacking in almost all countries.The centers
may be funded by the local governments but international agencies can
help here.

3.Creation of extension (outreach) wings to promote biotechnology
education by the government departments.

4.The international agencies such as FAO or World Bank must strongly
consider funding the scientists to carry out the research and
extension on biotechnology in developing countries.

5. Creating awareness about biotechnology for the policy makers.

6. Starting new pro-development NGOs and think-tanks to promote
biotechnology awareness. among the public.

**********************************************

Zimbabwe to Import Maize to Feed Citizens

- Michael Hartnack, Associated Press, Oct. 5, 2005

The Zimbabwean government plans to assist at least 2.2 million people
it says are incapable of feeding themselves until the next harvest,
due in April 2006, according to the country's director of Social
Welfare. The figure is far short of the minimum 4 million people
estimated by United Nations agencies to be in urgent need of food aid.

President Robert Mugabe has so far refused to appeal for assistance
but said foreign donations would be permitted, providing they carried
no conditional demands for political or economic reform, and
contained no genetically modified foodstuffs. The state-controlled
daily newspaper The Herald said Social Welfare Director Sydney Mhishi
made the disclosure during testimony to an all-party committee of
legislators on Monday.

The estimate of at least 4 million in need was made by World food
Program head James Morris after he visited here in May. Mugabe's
leading human rights critic, Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of
Bulawayo, alleges the authorities have widely abused access to food,
through the state monopoly Grain Marketing Board, as a weapon of
political intimidation. Pro-government tribal leaders were required
to exclude families of suspected opposition sympathizers.

Mhishi said the government would be importing 245,000 tons of maize,
the staple diet of the country's 12 million people, to meet
shortfalls he said were due to severe drought. Independent experts
say shortfalls result from destruction of commercial agriculture,
through Mugabe's seizure of 5,000 white-owned farms, and a resulting
economic collapse causing lack of seed, fertilizer, fuel, equipment
and chemicals for small-scale farmers.

**********************************************

Get to Know the Anti-biotech Crowd

- Harry Cline, Western Farm Press, Sept. 2005 via
http://www.truthabouttrade.org/article.asp?id=4512

Nov. 8 seems just around the corner with the airwaves starting to jam
up with political commercials, mostly about the ballot propositions.

The Sonoma County initiative to ban biotech crops in that county will
hardly represent a blip on the California statewide election radar
screen, but as we have said in the past it has become the key to
turning back the anti-biotech crowd. Sonoma is heavily urban and the
home base of the anti-biotech movement. A defeat in Sonoma would be a
major blow. The Sonoma County Farm Bureau has marshaled forces to
defeat the initiative and indications are the effort has a good
chance of defeating the anti-biotech ballot measure.

The anti-biotech crowd has started its campaign by showing the movie
called the "Future of Food" in the county. I was loaned a copy with
the warning not to get too angry when I watched it. GMO Free
Mendocino Doug Mosel, the uneducated leader of the GMO Free Mendocino
movement, called it "the Fahrenheit 9/11 of the genetically
engineered food battle."

I have not seen Michael Moore's tirade, but it if is as bad as the
Future of Food, it must be something.

The Future of Food is a slick and a wildly distorted view of not only
biotechnology, but agriculture in general. It includes photos of Nazi
soldiers and a claim that bomb making lead to fertilizer
manufacturing. It is so pathetic it is not worth watching, yet it
must be viewed by everyone involved in farming. Don't buy it. Just
show up at a screening and be prepared to be appalled. It is
insulting to any discerning person's intelligence.

It also it gives a clear picture of the level of distortion the
anti-biotech crowd is willing to plummet into to win this fight. You
have to wonder if the anti-biotech crowd really believes the stuff
they put out.

Another example of the absurdity these people put out is an editorial
advisory e-mail a few weeks back from Ryan Zinn, a paid minion for
the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) of Minnesota who is often a
spokesman for the GE-Free California group. It was entitled "OCA:
How Organics Can Help Break the Chains of U.S. Dependence on Foreign
Oil. From Farm to Fork: How Much Oil Did You Eat Today? Depending on
Cheap, Imported Oil is Risky Business."

The solution is simple, according to OCA: Buy local and buy only
organic. OCA cites the Earth Policy Institute as the source for
stating that the U.S. food system, from actual food production
(synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, etc.), energy for irrigation,
transportation, to refrigeration packaging and preparation, uses
enough energy equal to supply all of France's annual energy needs.

According to Brian Halweil of Worldwatch Institute, a typical meal
bought from a conventional supermarket chain uses four to 17 times
more petroleum for transport than the same meal using locally
produced ingredients. That is it, all 297 million Americans should
stop shopping at supermarkets and go to the local organic food stand
for their daily food supply and there would be no oil crisis.

"The choice facing Americans is clear," says Ryan. "Buying local and
organic foods over the long term will result in a more sustainable
food distribution system we can afford, even as oil prices continue
to rise. By encouraging consumers to buy local, organic, we can
improve public health, preserve the environment and reduce the
nation's dependence on foreign oil."

What a solution to the energy crisis and cleanup of agriculture at
the same time! Brilliant observation, Ryan. We know we can count on
OCA to come up with solutions to the problems society faces.

The man behind OCA is Ronnie Cummins, its executive director.
According to Activistcash.com, he has spent a lifetime as a
professional activist. Since getting his start in anti-war activism
in 1967, he has dabbled in the "human rights, anti-nuclear, labor,
consumer and sustainable agriculture" movements.

Cummins spent the 1990s leading food-scare efforts of national and
international scope, including Rifkin's "Beyond Beef" campaign, the
"Pure Food" campaign (which later became the OCA) and the "Global
Days of Action Against Genetic Engineering." At the height of the
American mad-cow food scare, Cummins insisted (with no evidence to
support his warning) that "we may already have an epidemic in the
United States."

In 1998 Cummins told the Minneapolis City Pages that "Consumers and
farmers would both be better off if people paid twice as much for
their meat and ate half as much." And despite the promise of
important biotech advances to the world's food supply, Cummins
promised a San Diego Union Tribune reporter that "it's not going to
be that long before we'll have the same movement around industrial
agriculture and genetic engineering that we had around nuclear power."

In July 2000, Cummins poured his fear-of-food charisma into an
apocalyptic book called Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense
Guide for Consumers. Despite his commitment to "educating" consumers
through his writing and organized protests, Cummins doesn't seem to
have much respect for them. At a June 2001 protest outside a
Washington, D.C. Starbucks coffeehouse, he conceded that his strategy
depends on "the fact that most consumers aren't smart enough to know
what they want."

Just so everyone knows who the opposition is come Nov. 8 in Sonoma County.

**********************************************

Media Should Campaign on the Basis of Facts

- Robert May, Nature, v.437, p814; October 6, 2005; nature.com

Sir: Your Editorial on how the scientific community should respond to
public controversies ("Responding to uncertainty" Nature 437, 1;
2005) suggested that researchers should attack, on a "scientific
basis", misleading reports that appear in sections of the media. I
would like to make some further points about the responsibilities of
the media.

Certainly the media should be free to report the opinions of maverick
researchers, no matter how unrepresentative these may be of the rest
of the scientific community. After all, mavericks are occasionally
right. But it is not in the public interest for the media to present
these views in a way that creates a misleading impression about the
amount of support they have among other scientists.

As you point out, journalists often strive to achieve a balance by
reporting one view and then presenting a diametrically opposed
counter-view. When presented in the same way time after time, this
can make the research community seem to be evenly divided, even if
there are a thousand on one side and one on the other.

As researchers at Cardiff School of Journalism have shown, much of
the public gained the wrong impression about how few scientists
believed that the triple vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella
(MMR), mentioned in your Editorial, was linked to autism and bowel
disorders in children, partly because of campaigns in the media.
Even more difficulties are created if there are many differing
viewpoints.

But the real problems arise when parts of the media decide to
campaign on an issue. To take some UK examples, such campaigns may be
openly declared, as with attempts by The Sunday Times in the 1990s to
convince its readers that HIV was not the likely cause of AIDS, and
by The Independent on Sunday at present to promote the view that
genetically modified (GM) foods pose an inherent danger to human
health and to the environment. Or they may be undeclared: The Daily
Mail, for example, seems to be running a campaign to deny the
existence of a link between greenhouse-gas emissions and climate
change.

In any country, such campaigns can mislead the public about where the
weight of scientific opinion lies.
The scientific community should undoubtedly make every effort to
ensure that the public and media know where the weight of scientific
opinion lies on issues such as the MMR vaccine, GM foods, HIV and
climate change. But surely the media also have a responsibility to
find out and convey that information as well?

**********************************************

Under the Spell of Malthus: Biology Doesn't Explain Why Societies Collapse

- Ronald Bailey, Reason, August/September 2005. Excerpts below....
Full article at http://www.reason.com/0508/cr.rb.under.shtml

"Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond,
New York: Viking, 592 pages, $29.95"

Jared Diamond's new book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or
Succeed, is neither "superb" (The New Statesman), "incisive" (The
Washington Post), "magisterial" (BusinessWeek), nor "insightful and
very important" (Boston Herald). It is, instead, a telling example of
how a smart man can be terribly misled by a fixation on one big idea.
In this case, Diamond, a biologist, is trying to apply biology's
master narrative to human societies.

"Our world society is presently on a non-sustainable course," Diamond
warns. "The world's environmental problems will get resolved, in one
way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults
alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved
in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our
choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and
collapses of societies."

In Collapse, Diamond argues that the decline and fall of several
relatively small-scale premodern communities are pertinent to our
current situation. These include the medieval Norse colony in
Greenland, the Polynesian settlers of Easter Island, and the Mayan
civilization of Central America. "It is not a question open for
debate whether the collapses of past societies have modern parallels
and offer any lessons to us," he declares. "That question is settled,
because such collapses have actually been happening recently, and
others appear to be imminent." By collapse, Diamond means "a drastic
decrease in human population size and/or political/economic/social
complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time." Based on
his case studies, Diamond concocts a five-point framework to explain
why societies collapse: "environmental damage, climate change,
hostile neighbors, and friendly trade partners," along with "the
society's responses to its environmental problems."

Diamond adheres to the orthodox Malthusian claims that human
population growth is exponential while "improvements in food
production add rather than multiply; this breakthrough increases
wheat yields by 25%, that breakthrough increases yields an additional
20%, etc." But just looking at the history of the 20th century, it is
very clear that increases in food production have been exponential
too; in fact, food production has been increasing faster than human
population growth. Since 1961 world grain production has tripled,
while world population has doubled. Consequently, per capita global
food production increased by 25 percent between 1961 and 2004,
according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.


Diamond admits that many previous Malthusian predictions were wrong
but feels compelled to defend earlier doomsayers such as Paul
Ehrlich, arguing that "the reason that alarms proved false is often
that they convinced us to adopt successful countermeasures." That's
flat-out wrong. In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Ehrlich wrote:
"The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world
will undergo famines -- hundreds of millions of people are going to
starve to death."

Unfortunately, influential bodies such as the Rockefeller and Ford
Foundations listened to Ehrlich's population alarmism, and they
diverted resources from their highly successful agricultural research
programs and put them instead into largely fruitless efforts at
direct (and often coercive) population control. It turns out that
boosting food production through agricultural research is probably
the best way to reduce population growth rates. The countries where
food security is highest--Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. -- are
precisely the places where one finds below-replacement fertility
rates. Not only was Ehrlich wrong, but his false alarmist predictions
probably made the world a worse place.

The only way to solve the allegedly impending global ecological
crisis, according to Diamond, is "long-term planning, and a
willingness to reconsider core values." Although vague about whom he
would put in charge of global planning, Diamond evinces throughout
Collapse an alarming affection for authoritarian rulers who issue
top-down orders restraining their citizens' use of resources. For
example, he praises China's leaders for restricting "the traditional
freedom of individual reproductive choice, rather than let population
problems spiral out of control." He approves of measures in feudal
Japan that apportioned wood supplies based on social class. He
applauds Indonesian and Dominican despots for establishing national
parks.

Meanwhile, Diamond calls on Americans, Europeans, and Japanese to
reject their "traditional consumer values." So in essence, Diamond's
solution to the problems he believes humanity faces is to reduce the
living standards of the world's wealthiest societies (U.S., Europe,
Japan) and curb economic growth in the poorer countries. This is
Malthus' legacy at its worst, and when Diamond embraces it, Collapse
collapses into claptrap.

Read on at http://www.reason.com/0508/cr.rb.under.shtml
###