Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org : November 8, 2005
* Monsanto's Bollgard Potentially Compromised in India
* Finish this Essay....Ounce Full of Chemicals in Our Food!
* San Francisco Chronicle Opposes Sonoma anti-biotech Initiative
* Studies Show GM Crops Safe
* Plant Transgenic Science Knowledge - Weakening Publications Trend?
* Series Worth Seeing, Regardless of Sponsor
* Biotech to Characterize Genetic Resources in Developing Countries
* Documenting the Impact of Europe's "Risk-Free" Regulatory Agenda
* Vatican: Faithful Should Listen to Science
* Shiva in Iowa: A Voice Against Crop Manipulation
* Chimp Lady Jane Goodal's Book Dispenses Advice on 'Eating and Farming'
Agriculture in the Developing World - Connecting Innovations in Plant
Research to Downstream Applications.
- Deborah Delmer, PNAS. 102(44): 15739-15746. Nov. 2005
Enhancing agricultural productivity in those areas of the world
bypassed by the Green Revolution will require new approaches that
provide incentives and funding mechanisms that promote the
translation of new innovations in plant science into concrete
benefits for poor farmers. Through better dialogue, plant breeders
and laboratory scientists from both the public and private-sectors
need to find solutions for the key constraints to crop production,
many of which center around abiotic and biotic stresses.
The revolution in plant genomics has opened up new perspectives and
opportunities for plant breeders who can now apply molecular markers
to assess and enhance diversity in their germplasm collections, to
introgress valuable traits from new sources, and to identify genes
that control key traits. Functional genomics is also providing
another powerful route to the identification of such genes. The
ability to introgress beneficial genes under the control of specific
promoters through transgenic approaches is yet one more stepping
stone in the path to targeted approaches to crop improvement, and the
new sciences have identified a vast array of genes that have exciting
potential for crop improvement.
For a few crops with viable markets, such as maize and cotton, some
of the traits developed by the private sector are already showing
benefits for farmers of the developing world, but the public sector
will need to develop new skills and overcome a number of hurdles to
carry out similar efforts for other crops and traits useful to very
Conclusion. The challenges surely are great, but the opportunities
are there to harness the innovations of the worldwide plant science
community and put them to use for the public good. The genomics
revolution is creating its own revolution in plant breeding that
cannot be ignored, nor should we avoid stepping up to the plate with
courage when it comes to GM crops.
The best argument we can make that GM crops can have value for the
poor is simply to produce a few winners that such farmers really need
and can benefit from. Sadly, we have very few examples at present,
but if we really believe in this approach, we need fewer roadblocks
and a clearer roadmap than we have had so far to reach that goal.
And for all approaches to crop improvement, we clearly need more
efforts that promote meaningful dialogs between bench and field
scientists, better systems of reward within academia for such
collaborative efforts and, perhaps most critical of all, substantial
new sources of funding for serious projects that aim to apply the
exciting innovations in plant science to problems faced by poor
farmers throughout the world
Full text at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/102/44/15739
Monsanto's Bollgard Potentially Compromised in India
- K.S. Jayaraman, Nature Biotechnology 23, 1326; November 2005.
http://www.nature.com/nbt . Reproduced in AgBioView with the approval
of the editor.
A fresh controversy has erupted over Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
cotton after the publication of a study by a government institute in
India showing that Bt cotton planted in India is not as efficient in
killing bollworms there as it is in the US or China.
A fresh controversy has erupted over Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
cotton after the publication of a study by a government institute in
India showing that Bt cotton planted in India is not as efficient in
killing bollworms (Helicoverpa armigera) there as it is in the US or
China. That's because it is not designed for India's longer ripening
season. The findings have subsequently been exploited by a
nongovernmental organization (NGO), which has alleged that US seed
company Monsanto of St Louis, Missouri, exported to India a
technology primarily suited for Western markets and not for Indian
farmers. Their charge--not entirely denied by Monsanto--raises
concerns that bollworm resistance to Bt cotton could emerge in the
The finding by the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in
Nagpur published in Current Science (89, 291-298 (2005)) last July
has embarrassed the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
India's apex regulatory body. The study that triggered the
controversy, led by Keshav Kranthi, showed that Bt hybrids
commercially grown in India express less than the critical levels of
the Cry1Ac Bt toxin required for full protection against bollworms
late in the season. The toxin expression varied from hybrid to hybrid
and was higher in leaves than in boll rind, bud and flower. This type
of protection works well against Heliothis virescens, or tobacco
budworm, a major pest in the US that feeds on leaves, but doesn't
work against H. armigera, the major pest in India, which feeds mostly
Tony Shelton, entomology professor at Cornell University in New York,
is not surprised at Kranthi's conclusions. "It is already well
documented that Cry1Ac cotton in general is not a consistent high
dose-expressing plant for Helicoverpa," he points out. He adds, "the
lack of a high dose [of the toxin] (in late season) will increase the
likelihood of resistance development."
To remedy these potential problems, Kranthi suggests in his
publication "India should focus on developing transgenic cotton
varieties with tissue-specific promoters to enhance the expression of
toxin genes in fruiting parts." He also writes that seed companies
should evaluate their hybrids critically for the highest levels of
expression in fruiting parts and also for a relatively effective
level of toxin expression late in the season.
After the publication of this study, Gene Campaign, a New Delhi-based
NGO, has demanded an inquiry to examine whether both Monsanto and
GEAC have misled Indian farmers--the former by exporting the wrong
technology and the latter for approving 13 new Bt hybrids this year
ignoring the findings of CICR. The GEAC held two meetings on August
10 and September 16 to discuss the implications of the study but has
Monsanto's Graham Head, who is responsible for global coordination of
insect resistance management, says this drop in protection is linked
to a long ripening season for cotton in India--an issue that also
crops up in Australia. It apparently causes no problem for farmers in
the US where the ripening season is shorter (Nat. Biotechnol. 21,
958--959, 2003). "But it is an issue for Indian farmers who prefer to
grow medium-to-long duration hybrids for their big boll size and
superior fiber properties," argues Suman Sahai, president of Gene
Campaign. Monsanto claims they have ongoing research efforts to
improve each new variety of Bt and take into account late-season
Kranthi also suggests that part of the problem has to do with the
cultivation of hybrids in India, which are used instead of true
varieties grown in the US, Australia and China. For instance, 25% of
the seeds from hybrid bolls grown in India do not express the Cry1Ac,
whereas all seeds in true varieties contain the toxin. "A global
analysis on the comparative performance indicates that Bt-cotton
varieties appear to be more effective in controlling the Helicoverpa
species compared to the hybrids being grown in India," Kranthi writes.
Gene Campaign's Sahai argues that Monsanto is promoting the use of
hybrids in India to force farmers to buy fresh seeds every year even
though it is aware that true varieties (whose seeds can be saved for
subsequent crops) do better. But Ranjana Smetacek, a Monsanto
spokesperson in New Delhi says the choice of hybrids was purely
circumstantial. "When we first considered taking our cotton traits to
India, we found that most of the cotton seed companies that were
capable of working with us to bring our traits to Indian farmers sold
hybrids." She said that as a consequence, Monsanto decided to
initially work with Mahyco, a major provider of hybrid seed in Jalna,
and subsequently licensed its gene to a number of other hybrid seed
companies. "Since that time, growers have adopted hybrid seed even
more, so we believe that we made the correct decision."
But not everyone--including Kranthi--agrees. In a lengthy article
published on September 2 in the newspaper Hindu, he writes, "Indian
researchers including our own group at CICR must intensify the
efforts to develop Bt straight varieties for the use of Indian
farmers." Ebrahimali Siddiq, former deputy chief of the Indian
Council of Agricultural Research, doubts if companies will switch to
true varieties because they have already spent a lot on hybrids. "One
way to use hybrids and still avoid the problems found by Kranthi is
to use parental lines each having a different Bt gene so that both
genes are present in the hybrid," he comments. "I think there is
plenty of scope for research here." According to Shelton, in
Australia, dual Bt gene cotton has already replaced single Bt gene
As a result of the difference of efficacy of hybrids, Kranthi
concludes, "Bt cotton hybrids in India may therefore require more
supplemental insecticide sprays than [are] being used on Bt-cotton
varieties elsewhere in the world." Monsanto's Smetacek says the
company has always warned "Bollgard cotton is not a panacea." Farmers
are directed to scout their Bollgard fields for insects and
supplement the protection by treating with an insecticide whose
amount "varies from country to country," she remarks.
Entomologist Bruce Tabashnik of Arizona University cautions against
such practice. Citing a recent Australian study, he says that decline
in Cry1Ac concentration in Bt cotton late in the season causes
nonrecessive inheritance of resistance in H. armigera. "Higher
survival of cotton bollworm on Bt cotton will not necessarily speed
its resistance to Bt cotton, particularly if survival of susceptible
pests increases, as reported by Kranthi" says Tabashnik. But he fears
"incomplete control of cotton bollworm by Bt cotton will not reduce
insecticide use enough to avoid resistance to the sprayed
Finish this Essay....Ounce Full of Chemicals in Our Food!
- Alan McHughen, University of California, Riverside
AgBiotech has been kind of slow lately, so I thought we should liven
things up with a 'finish the essay' context for our AgBioView
readers. Here's the opening paragraph:
Every ounce of conventional baby food contains 28.35 grams of chemicals.
Do you really want to feed chemicals to your precious children?
Consider all the anti-nutritional chemicals, DNA, HOH, GMOs and the
rest of the chemical alphabet soup in conventionally produced foods,
adding up to as much as 28.35 grams of chemicals in every ounce! And,
to make matters worse, the government refuses to require the chemical
labeling of our foods -- even our baby foods.
What can we, as concerned parents and citizens, do about this
outrageous state of affairs?
San Francisco Chronicle Opposes Sonoma anti-biotech Initiative
- Harry Cline, Western Farm Press- Primedia Insight November 4, 2005
On the eve of perhaps the most significant California county ballot
to ban biotechnology, the San Francisco Chronicle recommended Sonoma
voters reject a proposed ban on biotech crops.
This is a surprising development since the Bay Area is the base of
not only the state's anti-biotech movement, but many radical
environmental groups are based in the Bay Area as well. One of the
two county ballot victories of the anti-biotech movement in the state
was in Marin County earlier this year. Marin abuts San Francisco just
across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Chronicle's opposition to the anti-biotech measure is a huge
victory for a coalition of farmers and business leaders which opposes
the anti-biotech moratorium. Failing to gain support from the one of
the most liberal newspapers in California can only be described as a
major setback for the group connected to the Occidental Arts and
Ecology Center, an 80-acre organic farm/commune near Bodega Bay that
has been the rallying site for not only the Sonoma County
anti-biotech movement, but for the statewide anti-biotech movement as
The Chronicle hosted an hour-long debate between the two sides in the
Sonoma County ballot initiative and concluded in its editorial that,
"While we share the proponents' desire for further studies, there is
nothing inherently frightening about genetically modified crops.
"They open the possibilities for feeding more people with less
land...with less water, fewer pesticides and herbicides, less
fertilizer and less fuel and pollution."
The Chronicle editorial pointed out that there are a billion acres of
fields with genetically engineered crops in the world and "many of
those products now end up in Sonoma County grocery stores ? and will
continue to do so even if Measure M passes. The technology is not
going away, no matter what happens Nov. 8.
"Further research-yes; Moratorium-no. Sonoma County voters should
defeat Measure M," concluded the editorial in one of the most liberal
newspapers in California.
Joins other majors. The major Northern California newspaper joined
the three major newspapers in Sonoma County which earlier came out in
opposition to Measure M. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Petaluma
Courier an Sonoma News have all come out in opposition to the
A defeat in Sonoma County would be a major setback for the movement
that enjoyed success early for its movement with an anti-biotech
ballot initiative in Mendocino County last year. Since then they have
met stiff opposition from grassroots county agricultural groups.
Biotech bans were rejected at the polls in Butte, San Luis Obispo and
Humboldt counties. The only ballot victory since Mendocino has been
in Marin, a Bay Area county where there is no agriculture and there
was no organized opposition to the ballot measure. Trinity County
passed an ordinance banning biotech crops to keep from holding an
expensive election. The ordinance can be overturned by another vote.
The boards of supervisors in 11 California counties have passed
resolutions supporting biotech crops. Lake County is the most recent
to reject efforts to ban biotech crops. In October Lake supervisors
rejected two proposals to temporarily ban genetically modified crops.
A few days before the Chronicle editorial was published, the Council
for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) issued a scientific
assessment commentary on biotechnology. It was authored by scientists
from the University of Illinois, Urbana, University of Georgia, the
University of Iowa at Ames as well as Rick Roush, entomology
department at University of California Davis and Alan McHughen,
biotechnology scientist at the University of California, Riverside.
Scientific evidence. They say a "preponderance of scientific
evidence" rejects the ideology portrayed in books and videos like The
Future of Food, Seeds of Deception and Hidden Dangers in Kids' Meals
that transgenic foods are unsafe; do not perform well and genes will
escape to "contaminate" other crops or produce "superweeds."
The CAST commentary says transgenic crops have made it possible to
continue the benefits of the Green Revolution "while at the same time
diminishing the detrimental environmental impacts of agriculture."
They do not contaminate and are safe to animals and humans.
Of the 8.5 million farmers who have grown transgenic crops, CAST says
more than 7 million are small acreage farmers in developing
countries. These transgenic crops are consumed by humans and animals
in most countries without adverse affects.
According to the commentary, the National Academy of Science has
concluded that biotechnology "is no more likely to produce unintended
changes than conventional technology ? indeed the greater precision
and more defined nature of the changes introduced may actually be
The advent of engineered crops has resulted in "dramatic reductions"
in insecticide use in agriculture while at the same time increasing
"While films such as The Future of Food distort the history and facts
of agriculture and some people may long for a view of the past that
never was, what the world needs from modern agriculture is both an
increase in productivity and a decrease in its environmental
footprint," write the scientists. "Transgenic crops already have
achieved these needs and will continue to offer much more, as long as
mankind is willing to apply technology to meet societal needs," the
Studies Show GM Crops Safe
- James Hoare, Heartland Institute, Nov. 11, 2005 http://www.heartland.org/
Genetically improved crops are rigorously tested and proven safe, a
panel of University of Nebraska agricultural researchers and
professors told an audience of eastern Nebraska residents on August
The panel, which gathered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, had
invited dozens of randomly selected Nebraskans to hear about advances
in biotechnology and ask any questions they might have about the
genetic enhancement of crops.
"There is no example of anyone in the world being hurt or [becoming]
sick, no documented case," said Michael Fromm, director of the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Biotechnology. "The record
is actually perfect."
According to the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center and the
Lincoln Journal Star, 60 percent of the corn and 92 percent of the
soybeans planted in Nebraska are genetically enhanced. Worldwide, 25
percent of cultivated crops are genetically enhanced.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Anne Vidaver said
genetically improved crops are at least as safe as non-modified
crops. Genetically improved crops must undergo more rigorous testing
than non-modified crops, she told the Journal Star. Moreover, said
Vidaver, because the human body quickly breaks down foods, there is
virtually no long-term risk from the genetically improved foods
people have already eaten.
Swiss Study Agrees. A new study conducted by Switzerland's Federal
Institute of Technology supports the Nebraska scientists' conclusions.
Swiss scientists conducted an outdoor experiment on genetically
improved wheat. "The test confirmed laboratory results that the KP4
gene improved wheat's resistance to fungi by 10 percent," reported
Swiss Radio International on September 8. "Safety tests on pollen
distribution and soil analysis also showed that the GM wheat posed no
increased risk to humans or the environment."
Greenpeace activists opposed the research, and "we will continue to
oppose these risky experiments," spokesperson Yves Zenger told Swiss
Radio International. "We are disappointed that our opposition was not
taken seriously this time."
"We were aware of the opposition, but the researchers had proved that
the experiment was of a scientifically high value, complied with the
laws, and had obtained all the necessary approval from the
government," professor Ulrich Suter of the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology told Swiss Radio International.
"I would appreciate plants that need less chemicals," added project
leader Christof Sautter. "From a scientific point of view there is no
need for this opposition to gene technology."
Real-World Biotech Benefits. "Biotech crops have been grown in the
United States and around the world for two decades, and people have
been eating them for 10 years," said Greg Conko, director of food
safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "Today,
biotech crops are grown on over 200 million acres, and hundreds of
millions of people eat biotech foods every day.
"Not a single human illness or environmental harm can be attributed
to biotech crops, but countless benefits can," Conko noted.
"Improvements as diverse as cleaner air and water, reduced impact on
wild biodiversity, and even a reduction in the risk of foodborne
illnesses, all can be attributed to biotech crops."
Plant Transgenic Science Knowledge
- Philippe Vain, Nature Biotechnology 23, 1348 - 1349, November 2005.
http://www.nature.com/nbt Reproduced in AgBioView with the approval
of the editor.
To the editor: Monitoring the evolution of plant transgenic science
is hampered by the difficulty of obtaining accurate bibliometric
information compared with equivalent animal and microbial research.
This is mostly due to the imprecision of the term 'transformation,'
which is generally used to describe plant genetic manipulation. Here,
following the development of a rigorous data collection, curation and
analysis strategy of two major literature databases, I assess the
scale, growth and impact of the literature associated with plant
transgenic science over the past 30 years.
Two databases, the ISI Web of Science (WOS; Thompson Institute of
Scientific Information, Philadelphia, PA, USA) and CAB Abstracts
(CABA; OVID Technologies Inc., New York, NY, USA), were selected on
the basis that they would reflect the majority of plant transgenic
science papers published in the literature. Searches of these
databases, carried out last year, used a combination of 268
specialized terms (see Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 online) to
identify 54,279 bibliographic records published up to and including
2003. These records were compiled, curated and analyzed in a single
library (Supplementary Methods online). We identified 4,545
bibliographic records focusing on the development of plant transgenic
technology (DevTech); 21,843 records focusing on the applications of
these technologies (AppTech); and 4,236 records concerned with the
development of genetically modified (GM) crops/feed (GMcrop). The
global scale of plant transgenic science was 30,624 records
(Supplementary Data online). This represents a level of coverage 3 to
4 times higher than that previously reported over comparable subjects
and time periods1, 2.
As shown in Figure 1, plant transgenic science literature grew
dramatically in the 1980s after the production of the first
transgenic plants. Worldwide totals, however, conceal dissimilar
trends depending upon the areas of research, countries or major
economic zones considered. To date, most of the growth has been
fueled by AppTech and more recently by GMcrop studies (Fig. 1a). The
number of DevTech studies published annually has not significantly
increased since 1995 (292 3 records per year) despite the strong
growth in China and India. In 1993, GM crop science outpaced
transgenic technology development in terms of scientific publications
Historically, both North America (10,268 total records cited 181,238
times) and Western Europe (11,532 total records cited 161,671 times)
jointly led this area of science followed by Asia (6,342 total
records cited 40,850 times). During the past decade, however, there
has been a sustained expansion of scientific literature in North
America, a dramatic increase in Asia and, recently, a slow down in
the rest of the world, including Western Europe (Fig. 1b). Even the
European leader, the United Kingdom, produced, in 2003, the same
number of bibliographic records (263) as in 1998 (261). In 2003, Asia
produced the same number of bibliographic records in transgenic plant
science (1,007) as Western Europe (1,034) or North America (978).
Currently, only impact (citations) further differentiates the output
of these three economic zones.
Over the past 20 years, transformation technologies have been
critical to the understanding of the processes regulating gene
expression and gene function in plants. Continued weakening in the
publication of technology development is likely to hamper the further
evolution of basic and applied plant transgenic science. It will
notably limit the science-base available to address the issues raised
by more than 1.5 million pages focusing on genetically modified crops
on the World Wide Web. In Western Europe, this trend could further
accentuate the present underexploitation of the science base in
Note: Supplementary information is available on the Nature
1. Dalpé, R. Scientometrics 55, 189-213 (2002).
3. Lemarié, S. et al. Scientometrics 47, 541-560 (2000).
John Innes Center, Crop Genetics Department, Colney Lane, Norwich
Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK. email@example.com
Series Worth Seeing, Regardless of Sponsor
- Jim Suber, Topeka Capital Journal, Nov 6, 2005
A controversial series on farming in modern America opens at 11 p.m.
Nov. 20 on KTWU, public television channel 11.
Its scenes are breathtaking and its context concisely informative, if
one allows it to be. Learning about agriculture today in America is
possible with this series if viewers want that to happen.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as is ugly, and some say this
is ugly even before they've seen or heard a frame. That's because of
the sponsors: Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau Federation, the
American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association,
National Cotton Council, United Soybean Board and the U.S. Grains
Council. These are all large, established representatives of
mainstream agriculture, at least in terms of commodities and
producers who farm most of the acreage.
However, even before the series was put in the can by producer Jim
O'Donnell of KVIE public television of Sacramento, Calif., the
opposition groups hollered about these giants of industrial
agriculture sponsoring a biased series about agriculture on public
television. As if no corporation had ever sponsored anything in the
past on public television.
I say: Pipe down. The tired, shrill anti-establishment rhetoric may
not be justified in this case, and even if it is partially, let us
take our own look at the shows to form our own conclusions. After
all, the members of Farm Bureau, the Soybean Association and the Corn
Growers Association are individuals from farm families trying to make
a living on mighty thin margins. Also, a great case can be made
scientifically, as two British researchers recently have, that
biotech farming has greatly helped the environment and reduced use of
America, however, is polarized. A team of sad-sack, yak-yak urban
lawyers just has to rain on someone else's parade, no matter what the
To be sure, I'm no Monsanto fan, myself. If corporations have no
soul, neither do organizations that exist to raise funds in the name
of good-sounding causes and then do nothing much but cause trouble
without offering to help with alternatives and which also spend great
sums of those donated dollars to advertise for more donations. And
not a one of about 40 on the list of opposition to this simple little
farm program is innocent of my charges just leveled against them.
Why not let this program just play? Let's take away from it whatever
we wish? That is what we are expected to do when any of the activist
groups put out their propaganda. What is good for them is good for
Monsanto and Farm Bureau, I say.
Anyhow, the show will be pleasant and beautiful and tugging at times.
The show's producers released this statement: " 'America's Heartland'
is a 3,000-mile expanse that holds a million stories of hard work,
heartache, endurance, inspiration and success."
The first episode features an historical overview of our nation's
agrarian roots. The next visits a farm in South Dakota operated by
the same family for 120 years. Then the show moves to New Hampshire
and then to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., and then down to a
sandy carrot farm in Georgia. And so on. It's a professionally done
series and one most Americans will enjoy, despite the usual chorus of
Jim Suber is a former staff writer for The Topeka Capital-Journal. He
is an independent regional columnist who writes about rural life and
The Role of Biotechnology for the Characterisation and Conservation
of Crop, Forest, Animal and Fishery
Genetic Resources in Developing Countries
- Summary document of the FAO e-mail conference;
Characterisation and conservation of genetic resources of crops,
forest trees, livestock and aquatic species are important for all
countries, but particularly for developing countries whose economies
depend heavily on these sectors, and where genetic resources are
often threatened. A number of biotechnology tools are available that
can help in characterisation and conservation of such genetic
resources, ranging from relatively cheap and uncomplicated
technologies to sophisticated, resource-demanding ones. In each of
the crop, forestry, animal and fishery sectors, albeit to different
degrees, biotechnology tools are currently being applied in
developing countries for these purposes and numerous examples of the
wide range of applications were provided during this FAO e-mail
Of the different biotechnologies, most discussions were about
molecular markers, in particular their use for characterisation of
genetic resources, where issues such as the advantages or
disadvantages of different marker systems and the proposal to develop
a universal molecular marker database were debated. In situations
involving potential use of marker and non-marker information, such as
development of a core collection of plant genebank accessions or
prioritisation of animal breeds for conservation purposes, there was
general consensus that decisions should not be based on marker
information alone and that other factors, such as morphology and
agronomic performance, should also be considered. The merits of
several in vitro techniques, including tissue culture,
cryopreservation and DNA storage, were considered with a view to
conservation of genetic resources, where e.g. DNA banks for plants
were seen as potentially complementing but not replacing seed banks,
at least in the near future.
The ability to apply these biotechnologies in developing countries is
currently limited by the lack of sufficient funds, human capacity and
adequate infrastructure. The importance of human resource capacity
building was highlighted. There was a general call for greater
collaboration among researchers and practitioners, particularly at
the regional level, to reduce costs and pool limited resources, and
between developed and developing country institutions. A role was
seen for international organisations, including FAO, and the centres
of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
(CGIAR), in coordinating these collaborative efforts and in
supporting these capacity building activities.
messages posted during Conference 13 are available at
The Background Document to the conference can be found at
Monograph Documents Impact of Europe's "Risk-Free" Regulatory Agenda
- Washington Legal Foundation, www.wlf.org, November 4, 2005
In a Monograph released today by the Washington Legal Foundation
(WLF), an international business and trade expert documents the rise
in Europe of the so-called "precautionary principle" and its
proponents' plans to export this risk-free regulatory agenda to the
U.S. and our trading partners. This principle eschews science-based
evaluation of the benefits and costs of regulation in favor of
environmental, health, and safety rules which seek to eliminate every
possible risk from economic conduct.
Exporting Precaution: How Europe's Risk-Free Regulatory Agenda
Threatens American Free Enterprise was authored pro bono for WLF by
Lawrence A. Kogan, an international business, trade and regulatory
attorney who is CEO and Co-Director of non-profit group The Institute
for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development, Inc. The
publication features introductory remarks by a diverse group of
commentators: James C. Greenwood, former Chairman of the House Energy
and Commerce Committee who is now President and CEO of the
Biotechnology Industry Organization; Professor William H. Lash of
George Mason University School of Law and former Assistant Secretary
of Commerce; Graham Mather, a former member of the European
Parliament and now President of the European Policy Forum; and
Professor Gary E. Marchant of the College of Law at Arizona State
The Monograph first defines the precautionary principle and then
explains how international bureaucrats and influential activist
groups are using it as a vehicle to diminish America's competitive
position in the world economy and advance special interest agendas
hostile to free enterprise and technology. Next, Mr. Kogan briefly
reviews some areas where precaution has become institutionalized in
Europe, such as government oversight of biotechnology, chemicals, and
waste disposal, as well as the larger issue of "greenhouse gases."
The costs of pursuing a risk-free regulatory environment are
profound, Mr. Kogan argues a point he advances effectively in two
substantial sections of the Monograph. The financial impact is first
explored by looking at how regulatory precaution would increase costs
in areas such as tort liability, intellectual property and insurance.
The paper then examines how certain industries in Europe have
suffered under a precautionary regulatory regime.
Download the monograph (844 kb) at
Vatican: Faithful Should Listen to Science
- Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, Nov 4, 2005
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A Vatican cardinal said Thursday the faithful
should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning
that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores
Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture,
made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help
end the "mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has long
bedeviled the Roman Catholic Church and is part of the evolution
debate in the United States.
The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992
declaration that the church's 17th-century denunciation of Galileo
was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension." Galileo
was condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus' discovery that the
Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed
Earth at the center of the universe.
"The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to
keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in
particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to
prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future,"
But he said science, too, should listen to religion. "We know where
scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb and the
possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants
to free itself from every ethical or religious link," he said.
"But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links
with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism," he said. "The
faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern
science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be
taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity."
Poupard and others at the news conference were asked about the
religion-science debate raging in the United States over evolution
and "intelligent design." Intelligent design's supporters argue that
natural selection, an element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully
explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life
Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or
Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996
statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis." "A
hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said.
"(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."
He was asked about comments made in July by Austrian Cardinal
Christoph Schoenborn, who dismissed in a New York Times article the
1996 statement by John Paul as "rather vague and unimportant" and
seemed to back intelligent design. Basti concurred that John Paul's
1996 letter "is not a very clear expression from a definition point
of view," but he said evolution was assuming ever more authority as
scientific proof develops.
Poupard, for his part, stressed that what was important was that "the
universe wasn't made by itself, but has a creator." But he added,
"It's important for the faithful to know how science views things to
The Vatican project STOQ has organized academic courses and
conferences on the relationship between science and religion and is
hosting its first international conference on "the infinity in
science, philosophy and theology," next week.
A Voice Against Crop Manipulation
- Rekha Basu, Des Moines Register, November 6, 2005
Every community has its sacred cows -- the institutions you don't
challenge, the economic engines you don't mess with and the myths you
don't try to debunk. In India, it's actually cows that are sacred. In
Iowa, the "sacred cow" is modern-day agricultural production,
chemically enhanced and genetically modified.
There are good reasons for the sacredness. Iowa's Norman Borlaug won
the Nobel Peace Prize for crossing strains of wheat to invent
high-yield, resistant varieties that allowed Third World farmers to
increase production. He was dubbed the father of the Green Revolution
and credited with helping stem world hunger. Iowans were
But he's not the only reason crop manipulation is sacred here.
Biotechnology accounts for 60 percent of corn and 91 percent of
soybean planted in Iowa this year. Biotech crops get exported under
free-trade agreements and bring in the bucks to the farm industry.
There is, however, another point of view on it, one that seldom gets
equal press time, partly because it's hard to reduce to sound bites.
But it was presented last Monday at Iowa State University by perhaps
its most renowned spokesperson, Vandana Shiva -- in the same month as
the World Food Prize Borlaug founded.
Shiva, a physicist, author and environmental activist, is from India,
which also produced this year's food prize winner. She opposes both
free trade and the Green Revolution. While independent Iowa farmers
have spoken out against the reshaping of agriculture by factory
farming, Shiva offers a view from the other side of the world.
She blasts the introduction of a "monoculture" to replace the
biodiversity of traditional agrarian societies like India's. India's
agricultural center, Punjab, used to grow 250 crops before the Green
Revolution. Now it's down to the two that were chemically altered --
wheat and rice. Even the staple of Punjab's diet -- corn -- is gone
But that hasn't prevented hunger or promoted peace, argues Shiva.
Global trade treaties have forced down crop prices and resulted in
some 40,000 farmers' suicides, she says. Globalization is "lowering
the price of products by extracting resources faster than their
renewability and than paying lower wages."
The new form of cultivation doesn't really bring cheaper food because
there are higher costs to livelihoods, the environment, health and
nutrition, she claims, adding, "There's a way in which we can trick
our minds through a monoculture, and even while we destroy systems,
even while we undo productivity, even while we produce less, we can
actually pretend we are doing more."
Free trade is anything but free to farmers in the developing world,
when American producers get government subsidies and they can't
compete. The $4 billion the government pays American cotton
producers, for example, has put many African counterparts out of
Globalization also demands the privatizing of common resources such
as forests and waterways in the name of "modernization." Even the
air, which can't technically be privatized, gets effectively taken
over when a company pumps pollutants into it. Neither is good for
Shiva, who works with small-scale Indian farmers, has won legal
battles against the "intellectual property rights" and "biopiracy"
provision of free trade, through which Western companies manipulate
crops used for traditional purposes, and then declare them new
inventions to be patented.
Iowa has been at the center of exporting a global monoculture, Shiva
said, but if enough farmers joined with consumers, it could instead
become a center of agricultural diversity -- "first at home, then
Even assuming she's right - and there's a danger of oversimplifying
-- is it really practical or possible to turn the clock back?
Maybe, maybe not. But being at the heart of this global
transformation, Iowans owe it to ourselves to consider every side as
we debate the future of our state and its role in the world.
Harvest For Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating
- New Book by Jane Goodall, Gary McAvoy and Gail Hudson; ISBN:
0446533629; amazon.com price $16.47; http://HarvestForHope.com
The renowned scientist who fundamentally changed the way we view
primates and our relationship with the animal kingdom now turns her
attention to an incredibly important and deeply personal issue-taking
a stand for a more sustainable world. In this provocative and
encouraging book, Jane Goodall sounds a clarion call to Western
society, urging us to take a hard look at the food we produce and
consume-and showing us how easy it is to create positive change.
With a firm but gentle touch, Dr. Goodall paints a global landscape
in which corporations own the rainwater, patent the earth's seeds,
and give birth to mysterious "Frankenfoods." This isn't science
fiction; it's reality. But it's a reality we can repair. Offering her
hopeful, stirring vision, Goodall argues convincingly that each
individual can make a difference. She introduces us to inspiring
everyday heroes like Percy Schmeiser, a third-generation farmer who
fought Monsanto and won; Jose Bove and the Mowing Brigade, French
activists who stage dramatic protests against genetically modified
crops; and John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Whole Foods, who
changed his store's policy to sell only ethically raised animal
Most valuable of all, Goodall offers simple strategies each of us can
employ to foster a sustainable society. It doesn't take much to turn
the tide. By using water filters, eating organic, shopping at
farmers' markets, drinking shade-grown coffee, and taking other
mindful measures, we can all do our part to reclaim our food, our
health, and our planet. And we can start now. Brilliant, empowering,
and irrepressibly optimistic, HARVEST FOR HOPE is one of the most
crucial works of our age. If we follow Goodall's sound advice, we
just might save ourselves before it's too late.
From Publishers Weekly (Via amazon.com)
Goodall, best known for her decades of work with chimpanzees and
baboons, turns to the social significance of the food people eat and
of how it reaches our tables. In a style that's both persuasive and
Pollyannaish, her guide glides through a quick history of early
agriculture, despairs of "death by monoculture" (single-crop
farming), warns of the hazards of genetically modified foods and of
the disappearance of seed diversity,and bemoans the existence of
inhumane animal factories and unclean fish farms--the macro concerns
of the environmentally conscious.
On a more micro level, she focuses on what individuals can do for
themselves. In a grab bag of well-intentioned bromides, Goodall
counsels her readers to become vegetarians, celebrates restaurants
and grocery stores that seek out locally grown produce, frets about
the quality of school lunches and the pervasiveness of fast
food-fueled obesity, honors small farmers and warns of a looming
Most chapters conclude with "what you can do" sections: demand that
modified foods be labeled; turn off the tap while brushing your
teeth. This book about making healthy choices breaks no new ground,
but its jargon-free and anecdote-rich approach makes it a useful
primer for grassroots activists, while the Goodall imprimatur could
broaden its reach. © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed