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June 1, 2000


Distribution, GM in GB, Developing world ag, Fish fruit, E-coli


Subj: Re: Abigail Salyers & food distribution
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 3:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Gale Ellen West

Dear Abigail,

When discussing food distribution as a GM food issue, let us not forget
the ethnocentric assumption held by people in rich countries that people
in Developing nations WANT to eat the types of food we produce. Our
surplus milk makes people ill in certain Third World nations where
digestive tracks never learned to digest cow's milk. Our surplus wheat
and corn are totally uninteresting to many (some wonder how people in
Developed nations can stand to eat them).

I agree with you that the most salient need is to to use GM to improve the
production of foods traditionally grown and loved by people in Developing
nations. Obviously multinational biotech companies are most interested in
GM modification of crops grown and loved by richer populations in
developed countries. Thus the problem is not solely with the
multinationals. Non-profit university, government and internationally
funded hi-tech laboratories are conducting much of their research for the
benefit of
biotech companies. With funding as the big carrot, companies can convince
these laboratories to renounce/delay projects with Third World appeal to
work on their own pet projects.

The issue of what would happen to food production in North America and
Europe should Developing nations ever become self-sufficient is
intriguing, to say the least! What an interesting senario for Ag
Economists to model. Profits would be less contingent on high yields.
Maybe farmers would be
forced to lower production, focusing instead on higher quality and relying
on niche markets to maintain farm profitability.

Yours, Gale*

Subj: Food distribution,
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 5:46:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Alan McHughen

Let's fry this 'food distribution' red herring once and for all.

Yes, it's true. If we take the total food production of the world, and
distribute it evenly to the total population of the world, there would be
enough for everyone to eat. We don't need biotechnology to increase food
quality or quantity, we need a political solution to enforce food

Number one. This has been the situation for hundreds of years. The world
has always generated enough food for everyone, but we've always had
portions of the population suffering starvation, malnutrition and
undernourishment. Across the centuries, we've enjoyed (?) democracy and
dictatorships, capitalism and socialism, economic ups and downs, but no
food redistribution on the scale required. How long are we to wait for the
'political solution'? While we dally, people suffer, people die, and even
more are born. Biotechnology offers an opportunity to generate more food,
and more nutritious food NOW.

Number two. The construction of this food redistribution argument is
identical to another worldwide concern: poverty. If we took all the money
in the world, and redistributed it evenly, we could eradicate
poverty. All it will take is for everyone with more than the world
average amount of wealth (maybe including Prince Charles?) to hand over
the excess. Mind the rush.

Number three. The current food to be redistributed is, for the most part,
being grown by farmers who grow crops and livestock for a living. Food
redistribution assumes the poor and starving don't have to pay for
it (otherwise, they'd buy it now. But they don't have the money.) How many
current farmers will continue to grow crops and raise animals if they not
only don't get paid for it, but they also will have to pay to
transport it to the hungry people? I talked to a group of farmers recently
and asked them. Not one put up a hand. This is a reality check.

This 'redistribution' argument is a red herring, an unworkable false
alternative to known workable solutions. Food redistribution is not
realistic and it is not feasible. Those advancing the argument are either
dreaming or disingenuously confusing the public against the potential
benefits of new technology. Biotechnology by itself will not eradicate
world starvation and malnutrition, but, properly applied and sensibly
regulated, food produced using biotechnology will help feed and nourish
far more people. Let's wake up and face the reality that food (or wealth)
redistribution is not going to occur.

Alan McHughen DPhil CBiol MIBiol
Professor and Senior Research Scientist
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Sk S7N 5A8
tel +1 306 966 4975
fax +1 306 966 5015

Subj: Re: great essay
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 4:06:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: David Hildebrand

One of the best essays I've seen on the GMO issue is written by Robert
Paarlberg and recently published in Foreign Affairs. For those of who
haven't seen it the citation is:

Robert Paarlberg. 2000. The Global Food Fight. Foreign Affairs 79: 24-38.


Subj: Alleged sowing of GM seeds in GB
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 5:50:54 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Geoffrey Wollaston"

Can anybody tell me on this excellent site the exact nature of all the
modification/s designed to be manifest in the plants of Rape and Maize
arising from the alleged sowing in UK of some GM seed last year and this.
The opponents, and notably the press, seem to have studiously ignored this
factor, and yet no honest assessment of the conceivable effects upon
neighbouring plants or insect life can possibly be made without such
facts. It obviously suits their purpose of engendering maximum suspicion,
fear and prejudice against GM , for them merely to mention that a
particular product has been genetically modified, which they have almost
completely succeeded in implanting in the public mind as equivalent to a
dangerous poison. Inuendo is vastly more effective and destructive than


Subj: Organic foods and Goose Sauce
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 5:52:54 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Bob Zeigler


This is in response to your obviously irritated reply to the "Sauce for
the Goose" contribution. In your brief remarks you suggest that someone
who has not spent some time in developing countries might not be a valid
source of opinion on the topic of organic agriculture in developing

I have lived and worked for about 20 years in Africa, South America and
Asia conducting research to develop durable disease resistance in crops
with the expressed purpose of decreasing (eliminating, really) the need
for pesticides while still achieving high yields. I have visited in a
meaningful way (i.e. some professional activity during my visit) over 60
countries during that time. Major work experience has been in Zaire,
Burundi, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama,
Ecuador, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Indonesia,
Bangladesh, Bhutan and China.

I think you are right that people in this discussion probably do not do
ourselves good by venting against organic food and agriculture. It
probably is an expression of extreme frustration that I feel myself ever
more frequently. But, temper tantrums and tirades rarely have the
desired response.

The central issue is that much of the developing world practices organic
farming, and this is disproportionately tilted to those poorest of the
poor who can afford no inputs. There is no question in my mind that under
anywhere near current population levels this form of agriculture is
completely unsustainable. It is an extractive approach to agriculture
and the capacity to replace what is removed is simply not there. There
is terrible environmental degradation in the countries where this is
practiced. Worse, farming pressure on marginal lands is
increasing-precisely where the environment can tolerate it the least.
Simple arithmetic tells us that by taking more out of a system than you
put in will run the system down. So, I do not see organic farming on
either fertile lands or marginal lands as a sustainable alternative to
careful and prudent intensification of agriculture on our most fertile
lands. Raise crops on land that is suitable for them, allow them to
express their yield potential, and allow the rest of the land to revert
to a more "pristine" condition.

Biotechnology can make enormous impacts on making intensive agriculture
sustainable. Currently, as I am sure you know, there is horrendous
application of pesticides and poor management of fertilizer over very
large areas of intensive agriculture in developing countries. Simply
stopping the use of ag chemicals will not solve the problem, as production
would crash and have severe social impact. Creating plants that carried
internal resistance, either through conventional breeding (as I have
focussed during most of my international career) or through application of
transgenic approaches to intransigent problems are
clearly the most environmentally safe and economically attractive
approach (from a farmer's perspective...they always reply when asked what
they want: "A better variety").

I think most of us are extremely frustrated by transgenic crops being
labeled as non-organic, and somehow soiled. I cannot imagine a technology
that is more in line with the principles and philosophy of an agriculture
that has the minimum impact on the environment and is safest to consume.

I agree, by the way, that organic agriculture and dairy in Wisconsin has
little in common with that in impoverished developing countries. Both
sides would do well to keep that in mind.


P.S. I'm off to a one-week bioethics workshop. I'll write up anything that
comes out that is of interest to this group.

Robert S. Zeigler

Manhattan, KS 66506-5502

Subj: Re: Fish Fruit, HRH, Doug Powell
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 6:29:39 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Quentin B Kubicek"

Regarding Elliot Entis (Elliot Entis A/F Protein Inc eentis@aol.com)
comments and others as well about tracing the myth of the flounder gene in
plants we may have to accept that this was never intended to be
"misinformation" but rather an honest attempt to demonstrate the benefits
of biotechnology. Today, Klaus Ammann was kind enough to forward yet
another valuable note. Klaus recommends that we visit a lot of very
useful information about the hot topic -- for free (it costs you only 60
minutes per hour to read)

Well I did so and there an article by by Deborah B. Whitman on Genetically
Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? (Released April 2000) tells of (you
guessed it!)

Cold tolerance
Unexpected frost can destroy sensitive seedlings. An antifreeze gene from
cold water fish has been introduced into plants such as tobacco and
potato. With this antifreeze gene, these plants are able to tolerate
cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified seedlings 10. (Note:
I have not been able to find any
journal articles or patents that involve fish antifreeze proteins in
strawberries, although I have seen such reports in newspapers. I can only
conclude that nothing on this application has yet been published or

Perhaps further credence was given earlier by the US FDA. If you visit
this site you'll note a great article by Dr. James Maryanski
(Bioengineered Foods: Will They Cause Allergic Reactions?) written in the
Fall of 1997. The article begins by asking: Have you heard that corn or
tomatoes may have peanut genes or fish genes? You may be concerned that
you or members of your family could be allergic to these new foods,
especially if someone is allergic to peanuts or fish.

The question is entirely hypothetical and serves to illustrate FDA
process. I encourage each of you
read this article and others by Dr. Maryanski. They are well written and

There may be other examples of where the flounder gene/tomato has been
used. It is not necessary
list all of them. Nevertheless the "myth" survives and keeps on going.
Previous replies to Klaus have in my opinion put to rest the flounder gene
tomato. It remains alive as the bogeyman which we selfishly
chose to keep alive. The chimera tomato-fish is a useful ploy to elicit
squeemish responses from most consumers in the hopes they will reject
biotechnology. Thus the need to keep the myth alive.

I hope the above helps,

Du Pont

Subj: Re: E-coli in organic produce
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 4:23:47 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Alexandre de Kochko


Will it be possible to have the exact references of this study, I am
asking this just not to act as many detractors of conventional farming by
making "free affirmations": By whom? when?
where was it published? This kind of study can be very helpful to calm a
little bite the quasi hysteria growing around the "marvelous" organic food
and the "demoniac" GM plants. But precise references are needed.

Thank you for your reply

A. de Kochko

>A US study, compared organically grown lettuces and brussel sprouts to
>vegetables produced conventionally. Alarmingly, researchers found that
>non-organic lettuce had 1,000 E-coli cells per gramme, but the organic
>alternative had 100,000. There was a similar 100-fold increase between
>ordinary and organic sprouts.

Alex de Kochko Ph.D.
Research Director
IRD Center
BP 5045
F-34032 Montpellier
Tel: 33 (0)4 67 41 62 24
Fax: 33 (0)4 67 41 62 22

Subj: Re: E-coli in organic produce
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 4:43:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Olin D Anderson

There is an ongoing claim-denial-counterclaim cycle about whether organic
farming is or is not more of a safety problem than conventionally farming.
The just posted report by Dave Manley is an example. While interesting,
and important if true, it is a questionable contribution since the main
information was of an unreferenced "US study" finding more E.coli in
organic produce. Whether the report is for or against
organic/GMO/whatever foods it is critical for complete discussion if we
have the exact references. An unreferenced "scientific study" is no more
valid to discussion than the ancedotal "evidence" we also see far too

Olin Anderson


> A US study, compared organically grown lettuces and brussel sprouts to
> vegetables produced conventionally. Alarmingly, researchers found that
> non-organic lettuce had 1,000 E-coli cells per gramme, but the organic
> alternative had 100,000. There was a similar 100-fold increase between
ordinary and organic sprouts.