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Date:

February 14, 2006

Subject:

Biotech's Sparse Harvest; Research Looks Into Future; FrankenFood to Feed the Poor; Percy Schmeiser's Public Comments

 

Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - February 14, 2006

* Biotech's Sparse Harvest
* Biotech Research Provides Look Into Future
* Bt Crop Global Market Passes $5B Mark
* Philippines Banks on "Frankenstein Food" to Feed the Poor
* Monsanto -vs- Percy Schmeiser - Farmer Speaks Out
* .... Facts Concerning Percy Schmeiser's Public Comments
* Comparing Nanotechnology and GMOs Misleads Public
* T-Shirts That Make You Think Science
--

Biotech's Sparse Harvest

- Andrew Pollack, New York Times, Feb. 14, 2006 http://www.nytimes.com

At the dawn of the era of genetically engineered crops, scientists were envisioning all sorts of healthier and tastier foods, including cancer-fighting tomatoes, rot-resistant fruits, potatoes that would produce healthier French fries and even beans that would not cause flatulence.

But so far, most of the genetically modified crops have provided benefits mainly to farmers, by making it easier for them to control weeds and insects.

Now, millions of dollars later, the next generation of biotech crops — the first with direct benefits for consumers — is finally on the horizon. But the list does not include many of the products once envisioned.
Developing such crops has proved to be far from easy. Resistance to genetically modified foods, technical difficulties, legal and business obstacles and the ability to develop improved foods without genetic engineering have winnowed the pipeline.

"A lot of companies went into shell shock, I would say, in the past three, four years," said C. S. Prakash, director of plant biotechnology research at Tuskegee University. "Because of so much opposition, they've had to put a lot of projects on the shelf."

Developing nonallergenic products and other healthful crops has also proved to be difficult technically. "Changing the food composition is going to be far trickier than just introducing one gene to provide insect resistance," said Mr. Prakash, who has promoted agricultural biotechnology on behalf of the industry and the United States government.

In 2002, Eliot Herman and his colleagues got some attention when they engineered a soybean to make it less likely to cause an allergic reaction. But the soybean project was put aside because baby food companies, which he thought would want the soybeans for infant formula, instead are avoiding biotech crops, said Mr. Herman, a scientist with the Department of Agriculture.

In addition, he said, food companies feared lawsuits if some consumers developed allergic reactions to a product labeled as nonallergenic.

The next generation of these crops — particularly those that provide healthier or tastier food — could be important for gaining consumer acceptance of genetic engineering. The industry won a victory last week when a panel of the World Trade Organization ruled that the European Union had violated trade rules by halting approvals of new biotech crops. But the ruling is not expected to overcome the wariness of European consumers over biotech foods.

New crops are also important for the industry, which has been peddling the same two advantages — herbicide tolerance and insect resistance — for 10 years. "We haven't seen any fundamentally new traits in a while," said Michael Fernandez, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a nonprofit group.

Now, some new types of crops are appearing. Monsanto just won federal approval for a type of genetically engineered corn promoted as having greater nutritional value — albeit only for pigs and poultry. The corn, possessing a bacterial gene, contains increased levels of lysine, an amino acid that is often provided to farm animals as a supplement.

Coming next, industry executives say, are soybean oils intended to yield healthier baked goods and fried foods. To keep soybean oil from turning rancid, the oil typically undergoes a process called hydrogenation. The process produces trans fatty acids, which are harmful and must be disclosed in food labels under new regulations.

Both Monsanto and DuPont, which owns the Pioneer Hi-Bred seed company, have developed soybeans with altered oil composition that, in some cases, do not require hydrogenation. Kellogg said in December that it would use the products, particularly Monsanto's, to remove trans fats from some of its products.

Monsanto's product, Vistive, and DuPont's, which is called Nutrium, were developed by conventional breeding. They are genetically engineered only in the sense that they have the gene that allows them to grow even when sprayed with the widely used herbicide Roundup.

But Monsanto and DuPont say the next generation of soybean, which would be able to eliminate trans fats in more foods, would probably require genetic engineering. Those products are expected in three to six years.
Beyond that, both companies said, would be soybeans high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart and the brain. These are now derived largely from eating fish, which in turn get them by eating algae. Putting algae genes into soybeans could allow for soy oil that is rich in the fatty acids.

"Our hope is it is easier to formulate into food without it smelling or tasting fishy," said David M. Stark, vice president for consumer traits at Monsanto.

Other second-generation crops are also on the way. DuPont is trying to develop better tasting soy for use in products like protein bars.

Some efforts are under way to develop more nutritious crops for the world's least developed countries, led by what is termed golden rice, which contains the precursor of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in certain poor countries.

There has been progress in crops able to withstand drought. While those would mainly benefit farmers, it would also help consumers in regions like Africa, where droughts bring famine.

Mr. Stark said Monsanto had not anticipated that use of genetic engineering would discourage food companies from using the company's soybeans. "I don't get many requests for 'Is this a G.M.O. or not?' " he said, using the abbreviation for genetically modified organism. "It's more 'Does the oil work?' "

Still, opposition by consumers and food companies has clearly forced big companies like Monsanto and DuPont to choose their projects carefully. It has also made it difficult for academic scientists and small start-ups, which typically provide much of the innovation in other fields, to obtain financing.
Avtar K. Handa, a professor at Purdue, said he had stopped work on a tomato he helped develop a few years ago that was rich in lycopene, a cancer-fighting substance. Genetically modified crops are not being brought to market and research funds have diminished, he said.

Still, opposition is not the only problem. Alan McHughen, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, said that for small companies and university researchers, the main obstacles were patent rights held by the big companies and the cost of taking a biotech crop through regulatory review. That has made it particularly difficult to apply genetic engineering to crops like fruits and vegetables, which have smaller sales than the major grain and oil crops.

Technical issues are another obstacle. While a single bacterial gene can provide herbicide resistance or insect resistance, changing the nutritional composition of crops sometimes requires several genes to alter the metabolism within a cell. That raises a greater risk of unintended effects, some experts say.
Enhanced crops must also meet the demands of farmers for high yields and of food companies for good taste and handling properties.

DuPont won approval for a soybean high in oleic acid, which could produce healthier oils, back in 1997. But instead of becoming a showcase of the consumer health benefits of genetic engineering, the crop is now used only to make industrial lubricants.

Erik Fyrwald, group vice president of DuPont's agriculture and nutrition division, said one reason the crop was not sold for use in food was that demand for healthier oils was not as great then as it is now. But other experts say there was another problem — foods made with the oil did not taste good.

"The high-oleic oils are not very well received by the consumer," said Pamela White, a professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University. Further, she predicted that soy oils containing the omega-3 fatty acids would be unstable, making them hard to use in fried foods.

William Freese, a research analyst at Friends of the Earth, which opposes genetically engineered crops, said genetic engineering had been oversold. "The facts show that conventional breeding is more successful at delivering crops with 'healthy traits' than genetic manipulation, despite all the hype from Monsanto and other biotech companies," he wrote in an e-mail message.

Scientists at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico have already used conventional breeding to develop corn rich in lysine, similar to the new Monsanto product, he said.

The biotech companies concede that if improvements can be made conventionally, results would come quicker because such crops do not face regulatory scrutiny. Mr. Stark of Monsanto said that if his company could develop high-oleic soybeans using breeding, the product could reach the market in three years, rather than six for the genetically engineered version.

But in some cases, scientists and executives say, it is not possible to get a trait, like the omega-3 fatty acids, without using genes from another species. "With genetic engineering you can go further," said Mr. Fyrwald of DuPont.

Mr. Fernandez of the Pew Initiative said polls have shown that consumers seem to be receptive to genetically modified products that have direct benefits for them. But whether that would be enough to win wide acceptance of genetically engineered foods remains to be seen.

One issue is whether consumers would even know what they are eating. Right now, in the United States, genetically modified and conventional crops are typically mixed together, and food made from biotech crops is not labeled.

But it is likely that crops with consumer benefits would be segregated so farmers could charge more for them. And food companies are probably going to want to label them. But the labeling is likely to proclaim that the food has healthier oil or is better for the heart, rather than mention it was the product of genetic engineering.

In Europe, food containing genetically modified ingredients has to be labeled to that effect, but it is not clear whether the health aspects would be linked to genetic engineering on the label.

Chris Somerville, chief executive of Mendel Biotechnology, a small company developing drought-resistant crops, said acceptance would depend more on big food companies than consumers. Companies, he said, would not want to risk their brands by using biotech crops if they thought there was even a slight chance of consumer rejection.

"Really, they're the gatekeepers," said Mr. Somerville, who is also head of the plant biology department at the Carnegie Institution. "The consumers aren't going to have any choice before the brand companies think it's safe to go out."

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

Biotechnology Research Provides Look Into Future

- Tom C. Doran, Agrinews, February 13, 2006 http://www.agrinewspubs.com

A peek into the future of biotechnology was provided at the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association conference. Steve Padgett, chief agriculture researcher at Monsanto, presented a "What's Coming Next in the Biotech Pipeline?" during the conference.

Available to producers only in the last couple of years, Padgett said Roundup Ready 2 corn and YieldGard Rootworm corn have provided success. "The Roundup Ready 2 corn is doing very well. We had up to 22 million acres planted in the U.S. in 2005. It demonstrated yield improvement," Padgett said. "This has really turned into a premier weed control system. We see its worldwide market increasing significantly."

YieldGard Rootworm corn recently earned the honors of being one of the top 100 inventions in 2005. "It usage doubled to about four to four and one-half million acres in 2005. It provides very consistent control, especially in years like last year," Padgett said.

He added it also showed a yield advantage of 10 to 20 bushels over competing germplasm with insecticide. "There is a real intense effort at Monsanto of putting together stacks that we'll need in the market place," Padgett said. "We're really moving toward a very detailed and executed plan for delivering all of the traits that the customer needs in a single seed so that the choice of what trait to use will be here in that single seed."

Padgett went onto note some of the new traits that are being developed. Research in the Roundup Ready 2 soybeans has been positive, he said. "We're seeing up to a five-bushel yield improvement compared to Roundup Ready soybeans out there today. We are working very, very diligently to get this trait into all germplasm for soybeans," he said.

"Another is dicamba resistance in soybeans. It's really a great weed control option. This will come in stacked with the second generation Roundup Ready soybeans, and is in the early development stage." Ways to battle against soybean rust also are being investigated at Monsanto. "We found a very interesting result. When we were able to spray Roundup Ready over the top of soybean plants later in the season and challenge them with rust, we actually see a reduction of rust incidents with Roundup treatment," Padgett said.

"This is an off-label application, which we can't recommend right now, but this is a real phenomena. We're excited about exploring the potential of developing rust mitigation procedures using Roundup, especially Roundup Ready 2 soybeans where we can spray higher and later in the year. This is not labeled for rust control now, but an exciting result."

Research for genes to increase yields continues at Monsanto. "Yield gene is kind of the holy grail of biotech. We've jumped into early development of looking at the yield gene," Padgett e explained. Eventually, the plan is to place Roundup Ready 2 soybeans, dicamba-resistant soybeans and high-yield soybeans all in on single seed. "That is the plan we're executing in the lab," Padgett said.

On the corn side, Padgett said a new product soon to enter the market is YieldGard second-generation corn borer. "This one has two Bt genes in the second generation corn borer. Since we have two modes of action present there, we have the ability to enhance insect management because the insect will have less of a chance of getting resistance if you have two modes of action in there," he said.

Other seed research includes such areas as drought tolerance and improved water utilization, improved nitrogen utilization, and developments of seed to better benefit processors and consumers. Padgett also provided unique insight into research and development. Padgett has been with Monsanto for 21 years and said the company now focuses 100 percent in the area of agriculture, which was not the case when he started there.

The company released its first biotech trait in the form of Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996. By 2004, global sales for seeds and traits reached $3 billion. He said bringing together biotech and breeding is something uniquely done by Monsanto. "When we go out and look for improved seeds, we're looking whether we can get it through breeding. If we can get this trait through breeding, we're going to absolutely go with the breeding side of things so there are not the regulations as there is for biotech," he said. "There are some traits out there that you can't get by breeding. In those cases, we'll go with the biotech approach. But, even if we're doing biotechnology on a trait, it's linked up with breeding all through the cycle."

Padgett said the acceptance of biotechnology continues to grow. "You can see that the adoption of the biotech technology has been outstanding. Overall, 200 million acres or so were forecasted for (biotech seed planting) in 2005," he said. "Based on the estimates that we see the biotech acreage increasing to 350 million acres worldwide by 2010. I think what we can see is the benefits are there - economic benefits, environmental benefits, solid record of safety."

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

Bt Crop Global Market Passes $5B Mark

- Rudy A. Fernandez, The Philippine Star, Feb.12, 2006

The global market value of biotechnology crops hit the $5.25 billion mark in 2005, registering a significant increase of more than half a billion dollars over that of the previous year. The $5.25 billion represented 15 percent of the $34 billion global crop protection market last year and 18 percent of the $30 billion 2005 global commercial seed market, reported the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

Last year's biotech crop market comprised of $2.42 billion for biotech soybean (46 percent of the global biotech crop market), $1.91 billion for maize (36 percent), $0.72 billion for cotton (14 percent), and $0.21 billion for canola. "The market value of the global crop market is based on the sale price of biotech seed plus any biotechnology fees that apply," ISAAA chairman and founder Dr. Clive James explained in his report covering 2005, which marked the 10th year of the commercialization of genetically modified (9GM) or transgenic crops, now more popularly called biotech crops.

In their maiden year in 1996, biotech crops recorded a global market value of $115 million. The value increased of $842 million in 1997, $1.973 billion in 1998, $2.7 billion in 1999, and slightly to $2.73 billion in 2000.

In 2001, however, it soared to $3.23 billion, further to $3.65 billion in 2002, $4.15 billion in 2003, and $4.66 billion in 2004. "The accumulated global value for the 10-yewar period, since biotech crops were first commercialized in the United States in 1996, is estimated to $29.3 billion," ISAAA reported.

For 2006, the global value of the biotech crop market is projected at more than $5.5 billion. One milestone last year was the planting of the 400 millionth hectare of a biotech crop by one of the 8.5 million farmers in one of 21 countries, Dr. Randy Hautea, ISAAA global coordinator, reported during a media forum recently.

This unprecedented high adoption rate, he echoed an ISAAA report, reflects the trust and confidence of millions of farmers in crop biotechnology. Remarkably, the global biotech area increased more than fifty fold in the first decade of commercialization. The global area of approved biotech crops in 2005 was 90 million hectares, up from 81 million ha in 2004, Dr. Hautea, who is also director of the Los Baños-based ISAAA Southeast Asian center, said.

Another milestone was reached last year when 21 countries grew biotech crops, up significantly from 17 in 2004. Notably, of the four new countries that grew biotech crops in 2005, three were European Union (EU) members (Portugal, Spain, and the Czech Republic) while the fourth was Iran, which planted the world's fifth Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) rice. Portugal and France resumed planting Bt maize in 2005 after a gap of five and four years, respectively, while the Czech Republic planted Bt maize for the first time in 2005.

The United States has remained on top of the biotech "mega-countries", planting 49.8 million has to genetically engineered crops. "Mega-countries" are those devoting 50,000 or more hectares to biotech crops. The others are Argentina, 18.1 million ha; Brazil, 9.4 million ha; Canada, 5.8 million ha; China, 3.3 million ha; Paraguay, 1.8 million ha; India, 1.3 million ha; south Africa, 500,000 ha; Uruguay, 300,000 ha; Australia, 300,000 ha; Mexico, 100,000 ha; Romania, 120,000 ha; and the Philippines, 70,000 ha. Other biotech crop-producing countries are Spain, Columbia, Iran, Honduras, Portugal, Germany, France and Czech.

In the case of the Philippines, said Dr. Hautea, it is the first country in Asia to grow a major biotech feed (corn) crop. It planted Bt maize for the first time in 2003. Four events of biotech maize have been approved for commercial planting in the Philippines. These are MON 810 for insect resistance (2002), NK 603 for herbicide tolerance (2005), Bt 11 for insect resistance (2005), and the stacked gene produce of MON 810 / NK 603 (2005).

"The future acceptance prospects for biotech crops in the Philippines look very promising with products also being developed by national institutes," ISAAA said. These are golden rice, fortified rice resistant to tungro virus and bacterial blight being developed by the Department of Agriculture - Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB).

Summing up, Dr. James said: "There is cause for cautious optimism that the stellar growth in biotech crops, witnessed in the first decade of commercialization, 1996-2005, will continue and probably be surpassed in the second decade 2006 - 2015. Adherence to good farming practices with biotech crops will remain critical as it has been during the first decade and continued responsible stewardship must be practiced, particularly by countries in the South, which will be the major deployers of biotech crops in 0the coming decade."

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

Philippines Banks on "Frankenstein Food" to Feed the Poor

- Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Feb. 14, 2006,

Manila - With one in three Filipinos subsisting on nutrient-deficient but cheap instant noodles, the Philippines is pinning its hopes on "Frankenstein food" to feed its impoverished millions despite environmental and health worries.

Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban said the government has been aggressively promoting genetically modified (GMO) crops for widespread cultivation in order to boost food production. "When your land area (for agriculture production) is getting smaller and your population is growing, then we have to resort to technologies, including the availability to produce double than what is normally being produced in a given land," he said.

Panganiban said the Philippines is among the 12 countries in the world where over 85 per cent of land is already under the most "intense use for agriculture, housing and industry." The agriculture department was encouraged by the response of Filipino farmers in cultivating Bt corn, the first GMO crop introduced in the country five years ago.

Panganiban said the number of farmers growing the genetically modified Bt corn has increased tremendously, with the area of production now at 25,000 hectares, out of at least 250,000 hectares devoted to the crop. "From the ordinary hybrid to Bt, there was a quantum leap in terms of adoptation, especially for corn-growing areas in the southern region of Mindanao," he told a recent meeting of regional biotechnology experts in Manila. "Farmers who adopted it at the initial phase have earned more than those who still cling on the old varieties," he added.

But the Bt corn production in the Philippines has also been met with opposition from some farmer and environmental groups, such as Greenpeace. Greenpeace has warned Filipinos that the so-called "Frankenfood" - or products whose inherent qualities have been artificially manipulated in a bid to produce goods with improved genetic traits - could be harmful.

"Because the technology is very new and imprecise, the potential ill effects on public health and on the environment are still widely unknown," it said. "The truth is no one knows for sure how these new man-made creations will affect life on planet Earth."

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago cautioned the government against embracing biotechnology as the panacea to poverty, which plagues one third of the country's more than 85 million people. Santiago said GMO crops might pose risks to human health, citing a genetically modified corn, called Starlink, that was declared by the US Environmental Protection Agency as unfit for human consumption because it reportedly aggravates allergies. "GMOs can have devastating effects on indigenous and local communities," she said. "They might also create dependence on multinational corporations."

But World Bank economist Kym Anderson said studies conducted by scientists and experts around the globe have shown that GMOs under current cultivation do not pose a hazard to human health or to the environment. Anderson said GMO crops released for commercial production were so far environment-friendly since these are pest-resistant and no longer dependent on pesticides.

"Some of the best scientific reports that have looked into the issue (biotechnology) from Europe, including from academies of sciences, all of them have not been able to find significant environmental or food safety concerns with the products of this technology," he said.

Anderson noted that a lot of concerns and issues raised against biotechnology were due to misunderstanding and ignorance. "I think anti-GM0 groups often, when you force them to the issue, they are not so much anti-GMOs. They are anti other issues, like globalization," he said.

Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech applications, said that in 2005 - the 10th year anniversary of commercialization of GMOs - a total of 90 million hectares of land worldwide were allocated to the so-called Frankenstein crops. He added that 1.8 million farmers from 21 countries, including France, Portugal and Czech Republic, have already shifted to cultivating GMOs.

Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, who directly oversees the Philippines' biotechnology program, said a regulatory system to monitor GMOs was in place in the country. "We are the first country in the region to establish (a regulatory system)," he said. "The process is very transparent. It involves purely scientific objective methods. There are independent scientists to do the assessment of risks."

Panganiban said that with the success of the Bt corn, the government was looking forward to the introduction of genetically-modified rice within the next two years as well as genetically modified cotton, vegetables and fruits.

"There are now over 85 million Filipinos," he said. "By the end of this year two million more will have been born. And because of dwindling farmlands, a vast number of our farmers are counted among the poorest in the Asia-Pacific region." "Biotechnology is the rightful answer to that," Panganiban added.

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

Monsanto -vs- Percy Schmeiser - Farmer Speaks Out

See the video at

http://ingoodhealth.blogspot.com/2006/02/monsanto-vs-percy-schmeiserfarmer.html

Percy Schmeiser has been growing canola for 40 years. He's been experimenting, developing his own varieties, using his own seed. Then Monsanto, the giant multinational agro-chemical company that is at the forefront of developing genetically modified foods, accused him of patent infringement and demanded restitution for its seeds. They stole his plants, seeds & research because of cross pollination with GMO plants that other people had planted within pollinaton range. If GMO's touch your crops... Monsanto owns your crop and will sue you. Pollination is not containable. "I never put those plants on my land," says Schmeiser. "The question is, where do Monsanto's rights end and mine begin?"

Percy gives a full account of the specific allegations and breaks down the facts about GMO's in this 13 minute video.

*********

Facts Concerning Percy Schmeiser's Public Comments, by topic/public perception

- Compiled by Rick Roush, Davis, CA

1. Schmeiser was the innocent victim of Monsanto

PERCY SCHEMEISER: "I lost it all to a contamination because a judge ruled in my case it doesn't matter how Monsanto's genetically modified canola gets on my land or any farmers land. You violate the pattern and you infringe on the pattern and your seed becomes Monsanto's property." (Source: Australian ABC 7.30 Report TV Transcript, 4 July 2002, from http://abc.net.au/news/indepth/featureitems/s599662.htm)

FACTS: The Canadian court's record indicates that the judge found that Schmeiser deliberately selected for and multiplied GM seed. In 1997 (for example), Mr. Schmeiser sprayed Roundup herbicide over "a good three acres" from which approximately 60% of the plants survived and continued to grow. At harvest, Schmeiser saved surviving canola seed from these plants and then used them in planting his 1998 canola crop ( see especially paragraphs 39, 40, 102, 103, 104, 119, and 125 of the judge's decision at http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fct/2001/2001fct256.html ).

Schmeiser could have saved seed from any part of his farm, but he took the unusual steps of spraying just part of the crop with Roundup (which should have killed three acres of crop, so Schmeiser must have suspected it would do otherwise) and then saved seed from the survivors, which any reasonable person would expect to have a high frequency of GM Roundup resistance. No one tried to establish how Schmeiser got the seed in the first place, but the judge said that was not relevant to the facts that he was intentionally growing it. A three judge Canadian court rejected Schmeiser’s appeal unanimously on all counts, but in January 2004, he took his case the Canadian Supreme Court claiming that Monsanto’s patent was invalid.

2. Canada's export markets have been damaged PERCY SCHEMEISER, CANADIAN CANOLA FARMER: "That means 30 per cent of our exports have been lost just to Europe alone." (Source: ABC 7.30 Report TV Transcript, 4 July 2002). --Mr Schmeiser said the fact that Canada could no longer ship canola to the EU had left Canada "sitting on a mountain of GM canola that nobody wants" (source: The Land, 11 July 2002, p. 28).

FACTS: Canadian exports have increased during the adoption of GM canola over the last 5 years. In 2000-2001, exports were 25% higher than ever (according to the Canadian canola website, www.canola-council.org/markets/seedexports), mainly to Japan, Mexico and China. Europe is also a net canola exporter anyway, and never purchased more than about 14% of Canada's canola throughout the period in which Canada was non-GM from the early 1980’s except for 1993-1995. An anti-GM activist from Holland has brought to my attention a Monsanto website that also addresses market share issues (www.monsanto.com.au/canola/marketing.htm).

3. GM will cause financial losses to conventional growers Schmeiser warned that conventional growers could be fined for an infestation of GM canola on their property, which could also cost them premiums from export destinations that demanded GM-free produce. (source: The Stock Journal 11 July 2002, page 3, reporting on a meeting held in Clare, South Australia)

RESPONSE AND FACTS: Who would issue these fines? On the subject of premiums, neither the Victorian government review of GM free zones nor ABARE has found any premiums. "GrainCorp oilseeeds trader Cameron Pratt said that Australia had not been able to identify a consistent premium for GM-free canola, despite it being mandatory for the EU market and desirable for Japan." (4 July issue of "The Land", page 27). Japan takes our canola and mixes it with GM Canadian canola. "There was no evidence to support the hypothesis that adoption of transgenic varieties had a negative impact on canola prices or producer returns" (Source: http://www.canola-council.org/production/gmo_toc.html).

Peter Toole, Parkes was cited in the The Land as noting that prices for non-GM Australian canola are in fact slightly below the Winnipeg quoted Canadian price - the world price yardstick. He was supported by Ian Donges, recently retired National Farmers Federation president and a local grain grower, who said that the EU was largely self-sufficient in canola and only "occasionally" had to import. " I don't know of any other markets that pay a premium for GM-free canola", he said, "Japan certainly doesn't" (source: The Land, 11 July 2002, p. 28, from a meeting at Cowra, NSW)

4. 1800 other (Canadian?) farmers are also being sued. Schmeiser: (When asked about the host about whether he was the only farmer sued): "We estimated that there is (sic) at least 1800 lawsuits". (Source: Australian ABC TV's Landline on 14 July 2002)

FACTS: Landline noted on air in the same program that they could find no support for this claim. I then wrote to 5 Canadian weed and agricultural scientists from across Canada, and they replied that they didn't know of any. I then wrote to Monsanto in August 2002, who said there were 2 in Canada and 14 in the US, and that was all worldwide. In December 2003, Peter T. Jenkins, Attorney/Policy Analyst at the anti-GM International Center for Technology Assessment, claimed that there are 88 cases. Where are the other at least 1700 cases that Percy claimed? On February 21 2004 in Davis California, I personally heard Schmeiser claim that it was 550 lawsuits.

5. Schmeiser denied the crops improved profits. (source: The Stock Journal 11 July 2002, page 3, reporting on a meeting held in Clare, South Australia)

FACTS: "In summary, the total economic impact of transgenic canola production systems has been estimated to be up to $464.0 million over the period 1997 to 2000, inclusive of direct and indirect impacts." "Transgenic canola yields higher than conventional varieties. Survey results showed that transgenic canola yielded approximately three bushels per acre (>10%) more than conventional canola in 2000. ... The yield advantage for transgenic systems resulted from the varieties and a slight increased use of fertilizer, but less summer fallow. Dockage was significantly lower in the transgenic system, largely attributed to more effective weed control..... Transgenic canola growers reported having made fewer tillage passes over their fields than growers of conventional varieties. The majority of the transgenic sample in both the survey and the case studies indicated they practice minimum or zero till on their operations." (Source: http://www.canola-council.org/production/gmo_toc.html). Other reports I have seen estimate benefits between $10-26 per ha.

6. GM canola had become a "superweed"

Schmeiser said that GM canola had become a "superweed" that was virtually impossible to eradicate. (source: The Stock Journal 11 July 2002, page 3, reporting on a meeting held in Clare, South Australia)

.....canola itself had developed into a "superweed" that no chemical would control and was becoming a menace to farmers and municipal authorities alike (source: The Land, 11 July 2002, p. 28)

FACTS: "Canola volunteers are not generally found to be harder to manage in Canada. For example, a recent study prepared for the Canola Council of Canada (Winnipeg) surveyed 650 western Canadian canola growers on numerous issues, one of which was management of volunteer canola. Half of the producers surveyed grew transgenic herbicide-tolerant canola and half grew non-GM canola. Of the producers planting transgenic herbicide-tolerant canola in 2000, 61% said that the difficulty of managing volunteer transgenic herbicide-tolerant canola was about the same as that of volunteer conventional canola.

Interestingly, 16% said that managing volunteer transgenic herbicide-tolerant canola was easier than managing conventional canola varieties. The remaining 23% said that it was more difficult to manage volunteer transgenic herbicide-tolerant canola.... for example, spraying with 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) controls this problem. This chemical application means an additional cost to the producer of 1.50–2.00 Canadian dollars (C$) per acre" (source: Stuart Smyth, George G. Khachatourians & Peter W.B. Phillips, Liabilities and economics of transgenic crops. Nature Bio/Technology (June) 2002 Volume 20 (Number 6) pp 537 - 541)

7. Monsanto covertly dropped herbicide bombs to test a crop it suspected illegally contained its genetically-modified canola

"Percy Schmeiser made the claim in Perth yesterday during a Greenpeace-sponsored speaking tour"
(source: The West Australian, 11 July 2002, p. 33). This claim was also madeby Schmeiser at the Wagga meeting (S. Sutherland, unsolicited email, 24 July 2002).

RESPONSE: This is so crazy that it doesn't really justify a response, but just what would a Roundup bomb look like, and wouldn't be easier, cheaper (and more stealthy) just to collect some plants from the road to take them back to the lab for a test, or even just spray some with a hand sprayer? In Davis on February 21 2004, Schmeiser claimed that that the details were all at his website, that the CBC in Canada had covered the story. Schmeiser claimed that Monsanto never even denied it. I found http://www.tv.cbc.ca/national/pgminfo/canola/ at Schmeiser’s website, and this is what it shows:

"The Kram family in Raymore say planes and a helicopter have buzzed their fields. The couple says agents dropped weedkiller on their canola field, to see if the crops had the Monsanto's gene. Monsanto says they had absolutely nothing to do with it."

Contrary to Schmeiser’s claims, Monsanto did in fact deny this story. One could find more evidence on the web for alien abductions than that Monsanto is using Roundup bombs.

8. "(Schmeiser) said yesterday that a reign of terror had followed the release of GM canola in Canada" (source: The West Australian, 11 July 2002, p. 33)

RESPONSE: No "terror" is evident in any reports I have seen or replies from Canadian weed scientists. To the contrary, "Social concerns expressed by case study participants centered around the lack of knowledge about transgenic production by those outside industry.... In summary, the transgenic canola systems had a positive economic and agronomic impact when compared to the conventional canola systems in western Canada for the four year period, 1997 to 2000." Concerns yes, but not "terror" (http://www.canola-council.org/production/gmo_toc.html)

9. "Schmeiser: I have been breeding canola for 50 years and Monsanto took it all away from me. Claims made in Davis in Feb 2004 and at (http://Www.percyschmeiser.com/profile.htm).

RESPONSE: Setting aside the issue of Schmeiser’s own responsibility for whatever legal action Monsanto took against him, the very first canola ever, Tower, was released by the Canadian government in 1974, so Schmeiser could not have been breeding canola for 50 years. According to the court record, Schmeiser bought new seed in 1993 for sowing on his farm, a claim with which he agreed in an email to me on 8 March 2004 (“The next point you state that I purchased seed in 1993 which is correct.”), so he has not always relied on his own breeding for 50 years.

Further, canola is a largely self-pollinating plant and professional breeding efforts for it require specialized pollination practices. Professional breeders in Canada have challenged Schmeiser’s claims on this. I have asked Schmeiser what breeding practices he used, but he did not answer this in his email to me of 8 March 2004. I also asked Schmeiser “In addition, a common practice among savers and breeders of traditional varieties is to share and swap seed with neighbors. Did you ever provide access to your seed to any other farmer?” Schmeiser did not answer this question either.

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Comparing Nanotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms Misleads Public

http://nanotechwire.com/

Many of today’s discussions about the social and ethical implications of nanotechnology are framed in the historical context of the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the controversies surrounding their agricultural use. But two faculty members from Northeastern University argue that analogy between the commercial development of GMOs and nanomaterials is weak at best and does little to advance a productive discussion about nanotechnology.

Writing in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Ronald Sandler, Ph.D., and William Kay, Ph.D., argue that the GMO-nanotechnology analogy overstates the likelihood of a backlash against nanotechnology. The use of this analogy, they note, also creates misconceptions about the reasons for engaging the public in discussions about nanotechnology and conducting research on the social and ethical issues accompanying the widespread commercial development of nanotechnology.

According to Sandler and Kay, comparing the development of nanotechnology to that of GMOs leads to the following conclusions: "The scientific communities and industries involved in nanotechnology must openly confront the social and ethical issue (SEI) dimensions of nanotechnology, which requires public engagement and SEI research, or they run the risk of a costly backlash against nanotechnology."

But acting on this conclusion, say the authors, will lead to a shallow engagement of the public conducted more to avoid backlash than to truly engage the public and build excitement and support for this new science. This type of shallow engagement with the public also misses an opportunity to explore possible problems and methods to remedy those problems. A more comprehensive discussion would not only inform the use of nanotechnology but lead to the public feeling more involved in setting priorities rather than merely reacting to developments that have already taken place.

This discussion appears in a paper titled, "The GMO-nanotech (dis)analogy?" An abstract is available at the journal's website at http://bst.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/26/1/57

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T-Shirts That Make You Think Science

- Jim Mullen, residententity@dabblenbabble.com, http://www.dabblenbabble.com

At a young age, as my interests grew in nature, I came to understand that introducing new product to market was tied quite closely to education of the public. If I were to excel in the sciences and bring product to market, I must also educate. Or as I like to relate to others, "The educated are obligated to educate."

As I was choosing which topic to pursue in the sciences, I investigated plant genetic engineering. And in a 1978 speech to my junior college speech class, I told my classmates that they would view the topic as the townspeople viewed Frankenstein, the monster. I did not compare the foods to the monster, but rather, my classmates to the townspeople's fear, ignorance and reaction to the monster. And they would place me in the shoes of Dr. Frankenstein who the townspeople believed was a crazed, arrogant, affluent and dangerous man. But it was their ignorance and misinformation that drove them to be rid of the monster. Who actually was a benevolent and caring person.

A Lack of Understanding. Really.

So would I encounter the same dilemma in the future, I told them. Unless. . .
You, my classmates, in the future will not accept my product because you don't understand it. Unless. . .
You will fear it in ignorance as the townspeople feared the monster, Frankenstein. Mob Rules. Unless. . .

The market, or the lack thereof would drive such products to extinction regardless of the benefits. Unless, You, my classmates (The Public) Understood. And You, my classmates (The Public) must understand because that is the direction all human society is moving. Science is taking us there. It recognizes no social discriminations or political border.

To bring science to market, there must be teaching. But, our education system is failing the sciences, making the possibility of great benefits brought to society from science, overwhelmingly burdened by the weight of ignorance. The Townspeople scream in fear “Save us from our Ignorance”. The teachers of science, who are not students of science, cannot. Fear is stoked. Ignorance pervades.

Society needs a new mechanism of teaching science. Me Thinks.

I think there are very many, shall we say, ME out there. This thought provides me the education avenue to begin the harvesting of my mental ferment. I took my scientific understanding, made art and found a medium with which to teach – T-shirts. This effort has been under formulation since 1995. Finally, I bring my art and desire to educate to market. I launched the site in April 2005 complete with primitive displays of the graphics and a product that is just phenomenal, I think you will agree.

Please visit the site at http://www.dabblenbabble.com

The goal is to educate. To put science on the street. To make people.

. . . THINK.

Jim Mullen received an education in Microbiology and Genetics and has applied the knowledge in a variety of agricultural research programs. Currently Jim ferments experimental vaccines for use in human clinical trials.
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