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Date:

March 16, 2006

Subject:

Banning Regulatory Overkill; Cost of Fearful Initiatives; Ground the Black Helicopters; Blue Rose; End of Poverty

 

Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org : March 16, 2006

* Missouri Senate Considers Ban on (local) Regulations for GM Crops
* The Cost of Environmental Initiatives
* Unnecessary GM Regulations Will Impede Trade
* Biosafety Protocol Implementation Costs
* Ag Biotechnology Critical for Biodiversity Protection
* Let's Ground the Black Helicopters
* GM Crops - The Latest Developments
* Future Markets for Transgenic Blue Rose
* Mighty Joe Cummins
* New Posting on Irish GM Blog
* Fulbright Scholars Program
* End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time
* Smart Move: Organic Association Boycotting ... Organic Companies (!)
--

Missouri Senate Considers Ban on Regulations for Genetically Modified Crops

KCTV, http://www.kctv5.com/Global/story.asp?S=4638318

Jefferson City, Mo. -- An ordinance from a sparsely populated northern California county has some Missouri lawmakers worried that local regulation of genetically modified crops could hamper agriculture's future in the state.

Mendocino County, Calif., banned all genetically modified crops and animals in March 2004, prompting activists to attempt to do the same in four other counties. They were successful in one. Since then, 14 states have banned local regulation of the types of seeds farmers can use and another five -- including Missouri -- are considering bans.

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would give the state responsibility for the "registration, labeling, sale, storage and planting of seeds," while also barring local governments and the state from adopting regulations that exceed federal requirements. A similar bill is pending in a House committee.

With half of the states bordering Missouri adopting or considering bans on local regulations, Sen. David Klindt said the state risks falling behind its neighbors in the race to attract agricultural industries and research if local governments start creating more restrictive regulations. "We need to continue to send a very clear message that Missouri is very open to biotechnology, because not only will farmers have the ability to produce food, but we will be able to heal people," said Klindt, R-Bethany.

Klindt, a farmer in rural northwest Missouri, is not a rookie to the issue of genetically modified seeds and crops. After first trying unsuccessfully to grow crops in southeast Missouri, a Sacramento, Calif.-based biotechnology company planned to relocate to Klindt's district. Ventria Bioscience planned to cultivate rice containing human genes for growing proteins that could treat ailments such as diarrhea and dehydration. But delays in state financing prompted the company to drop its plans.

Sen. Rob Mayer said biotechnology has a great future, but it doesn't mix with rice because the public _ and thus brewers, baby food makers and cereal companies that buy it from farmers _ refuse to buy rice if it has been genetically engineered.

Mayer, R-Dexter, said banning all local regulation of seeds increases the chances that genetically engineered rice will find its way into food crops and leave rice farmers unable to sell their product to anyone. "Rice is a unique commodity because it's directly consumed by humans," he said. "So there is a higher level of scrutiny for that product."

Nick Kalaitzandonakes, an agricultural economist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said it costs between $7 million and $15 million for researchers to meet federal regulations. The existing costs already make it difficult for universities and smaller companies to compete with the giants.

"Would you let every municipality decide how much fluoride they want to put in the water? Would you let them decide independently whether they drive on the left side or the right side of the road?" Kalaitzandonakes asked. "There are some things that in the absence of a homogenous standard become too expensive to function."

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The Cost of Environmental Initiatives

- Bill Tucker, March 15, 2006, The Record (Bergen County, NJ) http://www.bergen.com/

'We pay a price when the doom-and-gloom crowd exaggerates dangers and curbs progress.'

Environmental causes are endlessly fashionable in Europe and America. You know movie stars or successful entrepreneurs have arrived when they announce they have become environmentalists.

What's usually overlooked is how these fashionable causes play out in the rest of the world, particularly underdeveloped countries.

There've been more than a few bad examples. The banning of DDT has led to a huge resurgence of malaria in the tropics. Boycotting genetically engineered foods in Europe has played havoc with African farming. Now it's emerging that "biofuels" - the latest environmental craze - is leading to the decimation of forests in South America and Asia. The result may be the end of a few more endangered species plus a big new boost in global warming.

You may not remember the DDT episode. It started in 1962 with Rachel Carson and "Silent Spring." Carson charged that DDT was being overused in agriculture - which was true - but added the dubious claims that it was threatening North American bird life and causing cancer.

The cancer charged turned out to be a false alarm. A generation of workers was exposed to DDT without showing any confirmed ill effects. The bird-life charge was also exaggerated. The Environmental Protection Agency concluded so, but its first commissioner, William Ruckelshaus, bowed to pressure and banned it anyway. By 1986 we were telling African countries they wouldn't get our foreign aid if they didn't stop using DDT.

The result has been a huge resurgence of malaria. More than a million people die each year and tens of millions suffer lifelong debilitation. Even some environmentalists are now allowing that DDT could be used in dusting for mosquitoes. But public inertia is hard to overcome.

Genetically engineered foods have followed a similar trajectory. U.S. consumers have actually been marvelous about accepting such products. One-third of our corn and three-quarters of our soybeans are now genetically engineered and nobody bats an eye. A gaggle of alarmists did manage to create a scare over some genetically modified taco shells from Mexico a few years ago, but it blew over quickly.

Not so in Europe. From 1998 to 2004, the European Union banned even experimenting with genetically modified crops and has made farmers liable for spreading its "contamination." The World Trade Organization ruled last month that the decision had more to do with protecting European farmers than science, but the damage is already done.

Swiss scientists have developed a vitamin-A-rich breed of "golden rice." Vitamin A deficiency causes a million deaths around the world each year, plus blindness in 350,000 school-age children. Yet Asian and African countries have resisted accepting golden rice for fear that Europe won't take their exports. Even in the midst of drought and starvation, Zambia has refused donations of genetically engineered American corn.

The world is a complicated place. Environmental policies have to be carefully thought out. It's not just all good guys and bad guys. Our enthusiasm for environmental purity can often end up doing more harm than good.

---
Bill Tucker, a columnist for The American Enterprise Online (taemag.org), writes for The Record every week. Send comments about this column to The Record at opedpage@gmail.com.

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Biotech Industry Cautions Govts That Unnecessary GMO Regulations Will Impede Trade

- Crop Life International, March 14, 2006 http://www.croplife.org

Curitiba, Brazil - As the 3rd Meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (the Biosafety Protocol) kicks off today, the plant science industry urges governments to finally take a decision on a global documentation system for agricultural biotech products, but warns that unnecessary and costly requirements could severely restrict international trade.

"We hope that the 132 Parties to the Protocol recognize that current documentation systems used for international trade of these products works well. Going beyond this to require exporters to specify which biotech material is present and in what exact quantity, for each individual shipment is simply unworkable in today's highly efficient agriculture bulk handling system. It would not provide information that could be used to benefit biodiversity or advance any of the aims of the Protocol," stated Christian Verschueren, Director General, CropLife International.

"Biotech crops have been proven to be safe, both for the environment and human consumption. Any decisions regarding their passage across international borders should be based in science, not fear. New documentation regulations would create confusion, delays and impose costs across a variety of sectors, and ignore our vast experience and scientific understanding of these products," he continued.

"Most importantly, they would serve to prevent the millions of farmers around the world, as well as the industry groups, researchers and governments, who want to benefit from this technology, from doing so."

A study released last year by the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council showed that, while most of the additional costs of detailed documentation requirements would be borne by the handful of large countries that import the largest volume of food and feed grains, a disproportionate share of those costs would fall on consumers in smaller developing and least developed countries.

An updated study released last week and focusing on two countries - China and Brazil - showed that the Biosafety Protocol acts exactly like a tariff for importing countries, keeping trade down and forcing prices up. Costs would also rise for exporting countries,which would need to establish costly identity preservation systems. Both studies can be accessed at www.agritrade.org.

"Perhaps governments might consider how they dedicate the spend of taxpayers money, and avoid diverting limited resources from the protection of biodiversity to the establishment of unnecessary requirements based on hypothetical risks?" continued Verschueren.

"Implementation of the Biosafety Protocol should focus first on helping countries build their own regulatory and scientific capacities to use, control and import biotech products."

The Biosafety Protocol, which will be discussed in Curitiba, Brazil this week, is an international treaty under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and seeks to protect the world's biodioversity from any risks presented by biotechnology.

The Protocol calls on Parties to take measures to implement a global documentation system for shipments of biotech products under Article 18.2. Currently, an exporter of biotech crops destined for food, feed or processing must indicate that an export cargo "may contain" LMOs.

Parties will debate proposals to increase requirements to specify which LMOs are present, and, in what proportions, for each individual vessel. This will require vast changes in the way commodities are produced, harvested, transported and shipped, with cost implications for farmers, the biotech industry, export/shipping companies and consumers, and without any apparent benefits for biodiversity.

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Biosafety Protocol Implementation Costs

- International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council, March 2006

The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) has published two technology issue briefs on China and Brazil, examining the costs of implementing different documentation requirements envisaged under the Biosafety Protocol (BSP) for shipments of living modified organisms intended for direct use as food or feed or processing (LMOs-FFP). Focusing on a major importer (China) and exporter (Brazil) of agricultural commodities, the briefs highlight BSP implementation costs for each country under the different potential documentation requirements for the identification of LMOs-FFP.

The release of these papers is timely considering that the issue of documentation requirements will be discussed in the third meeting of the parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, to be held 13-17 March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil. Depending on what type of labeling scheme is agreed upon, the implementation of such requirements could prove costly and disruptive for world agricultural trade. The IPC believes that parties need to closely assess the likely impact on individual countries adopting such requirements and to this end has commissioned the papers. The main findings include:

China will bear major costs if parties agree to impose a very detailed documentation regime. The brief sets forth costs involved in the operation of China's biosafety regime, as well as the estimated total costs for laboratory and other related costs for testing LMOs at China's border. For soybean imports alone, costs under the strictest documentation requirement would amount to US$ 13.98 million in 2005. The brief also shows through economic modeling that the BSP acts exactly like a tariff, keeping trade Sdown and forcing prices up for importing countries and reducing domestic price in exporting nations.

Brazil is unique in that its commodities have such a long way to travel from field to port. The brief finds that Brazil may well need to set up an Identity Preservation system in order to implement stricter documentation requirements. The paper lays out these costs, which for some regions in Brazil could be close to 9% of a shipment's product value.

The studies can be downloaded on the IPC website: http://www.agritrade.org

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

Agricultural Biotechnology Critical for Biodiversity Protection

- March 15, 2006

CURITIBA, Brazil - Agricultural biotechnology is necessary for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity. As officials from 132 nations meet in Brazil this week for a UN meeting under the Biosafety Protocol, the plant science industry reminds governments of the vital role biotech innovations play in achieving sustainable agriculture and development:

* Biotech crops are essential to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity – the overall objective of the Biosafety Protocol. They enable more efficient use of water in agriculture, reduce soil erosion, prevent loss of biodiversity, and increase air quality. By making farming more efficient on limited land area, they are critical for preventing habitat destruction – the biggest single threat to biodiversity.

* Biotechnology is an established technology, having been used in research for more than 30 years, and with biotech crops commercially available for more than 10 years. In this time, there has been no proven harm to humans or the environment.

* These crops are delivering major benefits to farmers and society, through increased yields, higher incomes, simplified crop management, and, in some cases, reductions in the use of pesticides.

* Global planted area of biotech crops has soared by more than fifty-fold from 1.7 million hectares in six countries in 1996 to 90 million hectares in 21 countries in 2005. Last year, some 8.5 million farmers planted biotech crops – mostly in developing countries. This is because small scale farmers tend to benefit most from biotech crops, as insect and disease protected crops provide new and previously unavailable tools to combat pest problems.

* A study by PG Economics released last October showed that farmers using biotechnology increased their incomes by US$27 billion during the period 1996 to 2004with significant environmental benefits delivered. Importantly, the accumulative economic benefits during the nine years to developing countries ($15 billion), exceeded benefits to industrial countries ($12 billion).

As the biotech debate takes place in Curitiba, Brazilian farmers will be reaping their first legal harvest of biotech soybeans, having been given the green light from regulators in 2005.Brazil is the third largest country user of biotech crops (behind the USA and Argentina) and the largest user of all Parties to the Biosafety Protocol.

"Given the important economic, environmental and human health benefits of biotechnology, we simply cannot understand why many activists are trying to use the Biosafety Protocol to deny farmers and consumers around the world the ability to use these products for years to come," stated Christian Verschueren, Director General, CropLife International.

"Let's hope that farmers' voices, safety, and consumer interests will be taken into consideration this week so that decisions are taken on key issues - including documentation requirements, risk assessment and capacity building - that will ensure those who want to provide for the future sustainably, can continue to use this technology," he continued.

CropLife International has recently made available an online database of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the benefits and safety of biotech crops. This can be accessed at http://www.croplife.org/biotechdatabase.

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

Let's Ground the Black Helicopters

- Henry I. Miller, M.D., Update Magazine, March/April 2006 Food and Drug Law Institute http://www.fdli.org/pubs/Update/update.html

Recently, I was attacked by the United Nations (U.N.)--not by black helicopters, but through an article written by the Assistant Director-General of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In November 2005, in an article written for The Wall Street Journal, I took the United Nations to task for its unscientific and regressive approach to the regulation of gene-splicing as applied to agriculture and food production.1 Based on my participation as a member of the U.S. delegation in a task force of the U.N.'s Codex Alimentarius Commission (the agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) and FAO that establishes international food standards), I made several points in my article.

The scope of the task force's work, which has gone on for five years, is unscientific, the projects are pointless and gratuitous, the attendees (from scores of countries) are not experts in the subject areas addressed, and political correctness prevails. The project is focused on sui generis regulatory requirements applicable only to foods made with the newest, most precise and predictable techniques of biotechnology, thereby exempting those products made with far less precise and less predictable technologies, including irradiation mutagenesis and hybridization.

This task force, operating under the auspices of two prominent U.N. organizations, makes a mockery of the United Nation's own Millennium Development Goals -- especially the first and most ambitious: "to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger" by 2015.2 This goal cannot be accomplished without innovative technology, but there will not be innovative technology if it is regulated excessively and poorly as mandated by this Codex project and the "biosafety protocol" of the U.N.-based Convention on Biological Diversity.3

Other Millennium Goals inevitably will be compromised, directly or indirectly, by these initiatives. For example, an important and cost-effective way to "reduce child mortality," the fourth goal, would be to produce childhood vaccines cheaply in edible fruits and vegetables, but there is undue alarm at U.N. conferences over conjectural problems with this approach.

The U.N. deliberations on biotechnology-derived foods also are disastrous politically. Unscientific, unduly burden-some U.N. standards for biotechnology-derived foods compromise hopes of World Trade Organization relief from protectionist policies in Europe and elsewhere. U.N. standards provide cover for unfair trade practices because with them in place, a country that wishes to block trade in gene-spliced foods for any reason can defend against charges of unfair trade practices simply by remonstrating that it is deferring to standards promulgated by the United Nations.

Shortly thereafter, The Wall Street Journal published a response to my letter from Hartwig de Haen, the Assistant Director-General of FAO.4 Unwittingly, he illustrated my point -- namely, the unscientific approach and lack of rigor of the U.N.'s institutions, programs, and senior officials. Without offering any evidence to support his assertions, he claimed that the United Nations is committed "to the contribution of biotechnology to eradicating world hunger," and to "developing standards for [biotech-derived] foods on the basis of scientific evidence and risk analysis."5

As often is the case with the assertions of U.N. officials, the facts argue otherwise.
Like trying to build a bridge or an airplane using the incorrect value of ?, when the basic assumptions underlying a project are flawed, everything that follows is distorted. A long-standing scientific consensus and 30 years of experiments confirm that gene-splicing (or more formally, recom-binant DNA technology) and its products are not, in fact, distinct categories amenable to generalization or appropriately subjected to sui generis regulatory regimes. Essentially, gene-splicing techniques are an extension, or refinement, of earlier, less precise, less predictable techniques to accomplish genetic improvement—not unlike the improvement of automobiles' performance and safety with radial tires and disk brakes. That is not to say that gene-splicing techniques and products made with them should be exempt from regulation, merely that the regulation should be scientifically defensible and should adhere to the principle that the degree of scrutiny should be commensurate with risk.

Biotechnology regulation has become a growth industry at the United Nations, however, as many programs and projects--including those under the imprimatur of Codex (a creature of WHO and FAO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Convention on Biodiversity--continue to defy science by devising burdensome new regulatory requirements and procedures that apply only to the pseudo-category of organisms and foods from gene-spliced organ-isms. This turns the logic of regulation on its head -- in the United Nation's world of regulatory oversight, there is an inverse relationship between degree of regulation and risk.

De Haen remonstrates that the United Nations does recognize the promise of biotechnology: "In regard to the contribution of biotechnology to eradicating world hunger, FAO has made it the theme of its flagship publication, The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-2004."6 But there is a difference between wishing and achieving, between window dressing and substance, between saying and doing. At the highest levels, the United Nations failed to grasp this in the formulation of its Millennium Development Goals. The fact is that much of the United Nations seems to want to establish regulatory bureaucracies for virtually everything that happens on the planet--regulation that often is so poorly conceived that it is inimical to wealth creation.

The results of the unwarranted regulatory burdens imposed on agricultural biotechnology by Codex and other U.N. agencies are inflated research and development costs, less innovation, and diminished diffusion of superior techniques and products--especially to poorer countries, which need them desperately. Public-sector research has been particularly affected by these regulatory burdens.

De Haen makes the statement that, "The world currently produces enough food to feed all its citizens, but far too many--852 million--do not have access to sufficient food for their daily needs."7 Although biotechnology applied to agriculture and food production is in itself no panacea for malnutrition, starvation, and disease, the cumulative impact of hundreds or thousands of possible applications could be monumental, arguably as great as that of the Green Revolution.8

I doubt that many of those 852 million, many of whom are, or depend on, subsistence farmers, would object to the availability of genetically-improved plants that resist pests, require fewer inputs (including chemical pesticides and water), offer higher yields, and permit farming practices that reduce soil erosion. If people are starving because of the maldistribution of food, then that situation should be addressed, but nothing positive is achieved by introducing unscientific, excessive regulation that diminishes innovation and raises costs to both food producers and consumers.

Finally, de Haen offers a tautology: "As the world's population increases, biotechnology may well have a part to play in increasing food production and productivity, but it is important that food safety issues are addressed."9 De Haen should know that the food safety issues fundamentally are the same for biotechnology-derived foods as for other foods that are obtained from new genetic variants, and that because of the imprecision of traditional genetic techniques, it is not gene-splicing but those older techniques that have presented food safety problems. Two varieties each of squash and potatoes and one of celery crafted with traditional techniques were found to be toxic and had to be kept off or removed from the market.

Our experience with gene-spliced plants? After more than a billion acres cultivated worldwide and more than a trillion servings of foods that contain gene-spliced ingredients consumed in the United States alone, not a single person has been injured, or an ecosystem disrupted.

Although I do not wish to pick on Mr. de Haen in particular, he is both handy and in many ways typical of those who occupy senior positions at the United Nations. Why is there such condescension and on-going incompetence at so many agencies within this vast organization? Why is it a haven for so many biotechnology regulator-wannabes who do not know designer genes from designer jeans?

First, because the United Nations essentially is a monopoly, inefficiency and incompetence are not punished by "consumers" of its products or services spurning the United Nations and patronizing a competitor. On the contrary, it is not uncommon in these kinds of bureaucracies for failure to be rewarded with additional resources, according to the hypothesis, "Maybe it's not working because it's just not big enough."

Second, there is the observation by economist Milton Friedman that if you want to understand the motivation of an individual or organization, follow the self-interest. Sadly, the self-interest of U.N. bureaucrats seldom seems to coincide with the public interest. U.N. officials are rewarded for making the bureaucratic machinery run, for producing reports, guide-lines, and white papers, and for holding meetings--regardless of whether any of these are of high quality or in any way useful.

A related phenomenon is what the leader of a prominent national delegation to the Codex biotechnology task force called "glamour fever": the national participants become so enamored of the trappings of the meetings--the formal and dignified proceedings, the simultaneous translation of the proceedings into various languages, and exotic venues--that they seem to forget why they are there. And they certainly do not want that activity--and its attendant opportunities--ever to end; for some, these fruitless exercises represent the all-expenses-paid vacations of a lifetime.

Third, there is no accountability--no U.S. Government Accountability Office or congressional oversight (e.g., the Iraq oil-for-food debacle and its continuing cover-up), and no electorate to replace the U.N. officials who fail to do what is in the public's interest. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that we find numerous examples of arrogance and corruption, let alone day-to-day featherbedding, laziness, and incompetence in the thousands of individual U.N. programs and projects.

Fourth, in the absence of accountability, U.N. officials feel little need for transparent policymaking. In May 2004, I attended a major WHO event in Geneva at which the highly-respected nongovernmental organization I represented was denied accreditation because it was known to be an advocate of free markets and a critic of some U.N. policies. Apparently, participation in the U.N.'s marketplace of ideas is dependent on official approval of what is being sold.

Fifth, there is the issue of the quality of the pool from which senior U.N. officials are selected. Country or region of origin of a candidate seems to be at least as important a criterion as personal credentials--no meritocracy there. Finally, there is another critical factor related to the quality of the potential candidates--as a nation's president or environmental or health minister, would you give up your best and brightest people and send them to work for the United Nations?

We must counterattack the United Nations. U.S. policymakers could provide the firepower by withholding U.S. funds from, and participation in, all U.N. agencies and programs that are considered to be corrupt or incompetent. Better still, the United States could cease paying any dues until the entire U.N. organization undergoes fundamental and genuine reform. Let's ground the black helicopters.

--
Dr. Miller, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, was an FDA official from 1979 to 1994.
---
1 Henry I. Miller, Letter to the Editor, U.N.'s Excessive, Absurd "Biosafety Protocol," WALL ST. J., Nov. 2, 2005, at A15.
2 United Nations, What Are the Millennium Development Goals?, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ (last visited Jan. 11, 2006).
3 For information on the biosafety protocol of the U.N.-based Convention on Biologi-cal Diversity, see Convention on Biological Diversity Home Page, http://www.biodiv.org/default.shtml (last visited Jan. 11, 2006).
4 Hartwig de Haen, Letter to the Editor, Agency Seeks to Form World Food Standards, WALL ST. J., Nov. 14, 2005, at A23.
5 Id.
6 Id.
7 Id.
8 According to Encyclopedia Wikipedia, the Green Revolution is the increase in food production stemming from the improved strains of wheat, rice, maize, and other cereals in the 1960s developed by Dr. Norman Borlaug in Mexico and others under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation. This increased the crop yield in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico, Sri Lanka, and other underdeveloped countries. For additional information, see WIKIPEDIA, THE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA, Green Revolution, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution (last visited Jan. 11, 2006).
9 de Haen Letter, supra note 4.

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GM Crops - The Latest Developments

- You And Yours, BBC Radio 4, March 13, 2006

Eighty million hectares of GM crops are being grown around the world, is it now time for the UK to start growing GM crops? Vivian Moses and Michael Meacher debate...

To hear 17 minutes of riveting entertainment, click on http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours/items/05/2006_11_mon.shtml

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Future Markets for Transgenic Blue Rose

http://www.hortinews.com March 14, 2006

It is said that it cost the Japanese brewer Suntory, just under Euro 30 million to breed the blue rose over a period of ten years. The appropriate gene coding for the blue pigment was identified in 1991 but it was only in 2004 that it was successfully inserted into the rose genome.

Suntory estimate the potential world market value for this transgenic rose as Euro 230 million. The light blue-violet colour of this rose still needs improving to a stonger sky-blue colour but at all events their popularity is predicted to grow rapidly and they are much more attractive than roses that are dyed blue. The blue rose will start to reach the market in 2007 after the propagation of adequate stocks and the start-up of commercial cultivation.

Techniques developed for the insertion of the blue gene will provide the basis for other genetic modification on colour and resistance to pests and diseases. Suntory is the company behind many other milestones in breeding that include: Sufinia, Calibrachoa 'Million Bells' and the Dipladenia series 'Sundaville'.

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Mighty Joe Cummins

- Tom DeGregori, Professor of Economics, University of Houston

In response to the complaint by Shane Morris about being compared to a Nazi, our beloved Joe Cummins responded as follows:

"In reply to Shane Morris: I made clear that that Shane Morris is an obedient public servant (bureaucrat). He obediently follows the wishes and desires of his superiors in the Ministry of Agriculture. Would Hitler have fired Adolph Eichmann for doing his job as he was ordered? Imputing motive is a risky business, but surely Shane should realize that that I believe that if anybody should be fired it should be the ADM and not obedient Shane."

How stupid of Shane Morris and the rest of us? Of course when Joe Cummins likens one to a Nazi, it should be obvious that he means nothing personal and merely thinks that ones boss should be fired. How dare Shane impute any other intent or interpretation? Are we to interpret Joe Cummins to mean that only Hitler should have been "fired" and that his loyal followers who were simply doing their job such as Adolph Eichmann should have been set free to find another patron to whom they could pledge their loyalty?

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New Posting on Irish GM Blog

http://www.gmoireland.blogspot.com (the links in this piece are interesting.....)

Darina Allen wants to stop GM food http://www.irishexaminer.com/pport/web/supplements/food/Full_Story/did-sgWhX0RgvUwqIsgdL11Zs5FWAE.asp Irish Examiner , March 11, 2006. This is great, however the GM trials Ms. Allen refers to are not for food use. The blight resistant potato trials under consideration by the EPA are experimental and will not be for public consumption, similar to the previously GM crops trials carried out in Ireland in 1997, 1998 and 1999. These previous EPA approved trials of GM sugar beet occurred without the doomsday impact on export markets, consumer choice or the environment. They did however yield some [ http://www.teagasc.ie/research/reports/crops/4483/eopr4483.htm ] INTERESTING DATA that allowed Irish farmers to asses the claims of both the biotechnology industry and the pressure groups.

A recent study by UCC and the Food Safety Promotion Board that surveyed 400 independent food safety experts in Ireland found that Irish food experts believe there is a significant over assessment by the public of risks associated with GMOs. Ms. Allen, as a newspaper columnist, may also find it interesting that 92% of the Irish experts believed that both the print and television media put a "slant" on food risk messages to maximize its impact.

Ms. Allen has interesting priorities on food safety and public health. Her own very profitable, portrait bearing, [ http://www.brianwallace.ie/media/radio/thumbs/darina_allen.jpg ] ICE CREAM has a whooping 16 grams of fat per 2 scoops, over 3 times more than HB Vanilla!!! (according to the [ http://www.vhihealthe.com/hfiles/hf-247.jsp#7 ] Irish Health Focus website run by VHI). My favorite is Darina’s Toffee Swirl, it’s so good and I can never just eat two scoops! However, I do try to remember that cardiovascular disease causes 42% of all deaths in Ireland. So it is interesting to think then that as Darina frets over the to-date zero effect of GM food on public health she herself is actually profiting as her own products negatively impact the Irish population.....mmm

Thus, preferring to take advice on health issues from the EU commission, I note that in 2004 the then EU commissioner for health and consumer affairs, Irishman David Byrne stated on GM foods "The science is right, the law is right, the procedures are right, the information to the public is right and public health is protected and not under threat in any way." (Irish Times, May 20th, 2004)

Darina has a point in regards to the Biotech industry and the simplistic use of the Irish Famine shows a lack of understanding of the history of the Famine. I made this point in 2000 in the New Scientist

The Irish public pays highly trained officers at the EPA to make risk decisions based on fact. All technologies bring risks (the internet brings Darina good things like the [ http://www.examiner.ie/ ] IRISH EXAMINER online but can also bring [ http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2003/01/17/story348872357.asp ] CHILD PORN).

Should we ban all technology? No, we regulate it. So let's leave this regulation to those we charge to do so. They clearly did a good job the last time.

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The Fulbright Scholars Program

http://www.cies.org/

Fulbright grants are made to U.S. citizens and nationals of other countries for a variety of educational activities, primarily university lecturing, advanced research, graduate study and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Since the program’s inception, more than 250,000 participants --chosen for their leadership potential-- have had the opportunity to observe each other’s political, economic and cultural institutions.

Of these participants, 42,200 have been overseas academics and professionals who have conducted research or taught in U.S. universities as Fulbright Visiting Scholars, and more than 40,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who have engaged in similar activities abroad.

Both U.S. and Visiting Fulbright Scholars lecture or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.

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The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time

Author: Prof. Jeffrey Sachs. Amazon.com Price: $17.61, Hardcover: 416 pages, Penguin Press (December 30, 2005), ISBN: 1594200459; http://www.sachs.earth.columbia.edu

Celebrated economist Jeffrey Sachs has a plan to eliminate extreme poverty around the world by 2025. If you think that is too ambitious or wildly unrealistic, you need to read this book.

His focus is on the one billion poorest individuals around the world who are caught in a poverty trap of disease, physical isolation, environmental stress, political instability, and lack of access to capital, technology, medicine, and education. The goal is to help these people reach the first rung on the "ladder of economic development" so they can rise above mere subsistence level and achieve some control over their economic futures and their lives. To do this, Sachs proposes nine specific steps, which he explains in great detail in The End of Poverty. Though his plan certainly requires the help of rich nations, the financial assistance Sachs calls for is surprisingly modest--more than is now provided, but within the bounds of what has been promised in the past. For the U.S., for instance, it would mean raising foreign aid from just 0.14 percent of GNP to 0.7 percent.

Sachs does not view such help as a handout but rather an investment in global economic growth that will add to the security of all nations. In presenting his argument, he offers a comprehensive education on global economics, including why globalization should be embraced rather than fought, why international institutions such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank need to play a strong role in this effort, and the reasons why extreme poverty exists in the midst of great wealth. He also shatters some persistent myths about poor people and shows how developing nations can do more to help themselves.

Despite some crushing statistics, The End of Poverty is a hopeful book. Based on a tremendous amount of data and his own experiences working as an economic advisor to the UN and several individual nations, Sachs makes a strong moral, economic, and political case for why countries and individuals should battle poverty with the same commitment and focus normally reserved for waging war. This important book not only makes the end of poverty seem realistic, but in the best interest of everyone on the planet, rich and poor alike. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly: Sachs came to fame advising "shock therapy" for moribund economies in the 1980s (with arguably positive results); more recently, as director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, he has made news with a plan to end global "extreme poverty"--which, he says, kills 20,000 people a day--within 20 years. While much of the plan has been known to economists and government leaders for a number of years (including Kofi Annan, to whom Sachs is special advisor), this is Sachs's first systematic exposition of it for a general audience, and it is a landmark book.

For on-the-ground research in reducing disease, poverty, armed conflict and environmental damage, Sachs has been to more than 100 countries, representing 90% of the world's population. The book combines his practical experience with sharp professional analysis and clear exposition. Over 18 chapters, Sachs builds his case carefully, offering a variety of case studies, detailing small-scale projects that have worked and crunching large amounts of data. His basic argument is that "[W]hen the preconditions of basic infrastructure (roads, power, and ports) and human capital (health and education) are in place, markets are powerful engines of development." In order to tread "the path to peace and prosperity," Sachs believes it is incumbent upon successful market economies to bring the few areas of the world that still need help onto "the ladder of development."

Writing in a straight forward but engaging first person, Sachs keeps his tone even whether discussing failed states or thriving ones. For the many who will buy this book but, perhaps, not make it all the way through, chapters 12 through 14 contain the blueprint for Sachs's solution to poverty, with the final four making a rigorous case for why rich countries (and individuals) should collectively undertake it--and why it is affordable for them to do so. If there is any one work to put extreme poverty back onto the global agenda, this is it.

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Organic Consumers Association Considers Boycott of ... Organic Companies (!)

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Reader Poll: Should We Boycott? Please Cast Your Vote

How should the Organic Consumers Association deal with the escalating problem of large corporations weakening regulations and taking advantage of loopholes in the organic standards? You decide... As one of more than 850,000 members and supporters of the Organic Consumers Association, your input is needed.

Should the Organic Consumers Association call for a boycott of organic brands that are lobbying to weaken organic laws and taking advantage of loopholes in the organic standards (example: producing so-called "organic" dairy products on factory farms, where the animals are imported from conventional dairy farms, and then kept in intensive confinement, with no access to pasture)? Please vote on the strategic direction of OCA's "Safeguard Organic Standards" campaign here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/chat/viewtopic.php?t=587

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