Today in AgBioView from http://www.agbioworld.org - October 16, 2006
* Let's Force-Feed Activists Some Social Responsibility
* Re: The Vegetable-Industrial Complex
* Green Revolutionaries
* New Issue of AgBioForum
* Peaceful Coexistence Among GE, Conventional and Organic Crops
* Nobel Prize Winner Yunus a 1994 'World Food Prize' Laureate
* Kenya Gets National Biotechnology Policy
* Malaysia's Biotech Council Approves Biosafety Act
* The Spinach is Bad - YouTube
Let's Force-Feed Activists Some Social Responsibility
- Nick Nichols, townhall.com, Oct 11, 2006; via Agnet
If you have read my columns about the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement or have heard me speak, then you already know that I think the corporate Neville Chamberlains who buy into this socialist claptrap should be held accountable at the next shareholders meeting and issued a one-way ticket to the unemployment office.
That said, I must admit that I recently experienced an epiphany about social responsibility thanks to Spinacia oleraceaóthat dark green, leafy vegetable that Popeye made famous.
I was visiting my sister in Wisconsin when news broke about the deadly E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated spinach from an organic farming operation in California. It killed a woman in Wisconsin and sickened hundreds across the country. We now know that other deaths have been attributed to the infected spinach, as well.
The victims have already filed lawsuits against the organic farmer. They will have their day in court. But it occurred to me that the people who died and those who suffered have also been victimized by a shrewd propaganda campaign run by activist groups that oppose the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
For decades, American consumers have been bombarded with messages from activist groups claiming that organic foods are safer, healthier and better for the environment. Today, organic products command shelf space in supermarkets across the country. But the activists never mentioned that using cow manure instead of synthetic fertilizers poses risks, including E. coli contamination. They also failed to tell consumers that drinking raw dairy products and un-pasteurized juice is like playing Russian roulette with some very nasty pathogens. Now, hundreds of people are paying a steep price for being misinformed.
Ironically, many of the same chemistry-bashing activist groups involved in promoting organic agriculture were also responsible for an even more deadly propaganda barrage which succeeded in pressuring weak-kneed government officials throughout the world to impose a nearly complete ban on the pesticide DDT Ė the most effective mosquito killer known to man. Thanks, in part, to their handiwork, many millions of people Ė mostly children Ė have died of malaria in Africa and other mosquito-infested areas. After more than three decades of this human travesty, the World Health Organization (WHO) only recently lifted its ban on DDT.
But that is not the end of this deadly saga. Environmental activists, food purists and anti-technology Luddites have also launched a baseless, scare-them-to-death lobbying campaign aimed at crops produced through biotechnology. The results? Food crops that scientists developed to enhance nutrition and yields, and to reduce the need for pest control, have been denied to millions of people who face malnutrition and starvation as part of their daily lives.
Will Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, and the Environmental Defense Fund, to name a few, accept social responsibility for their unique brand of population control? Donít hold your breath.
So, here is my spinach epiphany. I believe it is time to hold the activists to the same standards that they have imposed on corporations. As American taxpayers, letís demand that in order to receive tax-exempt privileges and government grants, activist groups must annually publish social responsibility reports that focus on the true impact of the policies and practices they have successfully promoted. The reports should also contain information about the concrete steps each group has taken to actually improve the environment and enhance the quality of life for human beings. I am not talking about the number of news releases issued, or protests organized or lobbyists sent to pressure government officials. I am referring to quantifiable actions to clean up the environment and help real people. Itís time for facts, not hype.
I do not believe it is asking too much to hold activist groups socially responsible for their actions? Given their track record, more than a simple apology is long overdue.
Nick currently develops and teaches graduate-level crisis management courses at the Johns Hopkins University and co-author of Rules for Corporate Warriors: How to Fight and Survive Attack Group Shakedown.
From CSP: An environmental writer calls for Nuremberg-style trial for those who disagree with him (and then acknowledges his stupidity and retracts them:
Re - The Vegetable-Industrial Complex: Letter Sent to the Editor of New York Times
To the editor:
Re "The Vegetable-Industrial Complex" (October 15): Once again, Michael Pollan's views seem plausible but are wrong.
First, irradiation is unlikely to prevent injury from E. coli 0157:H7 because the bacteria produce and excrete a toxic protein called Shiga toxin. Irradiation may kill the microorganisms but wonít inactivate the toxin that has already been excreted.
Second, contrary to Pollan's assertions, there is not a correlation between the diet of cattle and their harboring E. coli 0157:H7. For example, Scotland has some of the highest levels of these microorganisms in both humans and cattle although the feeding of high-grain diets is very rare in their production systems.
Finally, it is ironic that biotechnology, which Pollan disparages regularly in his articles, can provide three useful approaches to illness caused by E. coli 0157:H7:
(1) the introduction into plants of "interfering RNAs" that could both prevent the microorganism from growing within plant cells and block the synthesis of the Shiga toxin;
(2) the use of monoclonal antibodies against the Shiga toxin in infected patients; and
(3) the production in gene-spliced rice of the therapeutic proteins lactoferrin and lysozyme, which have been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for diarrhea.
- Henry I. Miller, M.D., The Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA; [Dr. Miller was director of the F.D.A.ís Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993.]
- Dean Kleckner, Truth About Trade & Technology, Oct. 12, 2006 http://www.truthabouttrade.org
"Food given by another person is only a throat tickler," says an old proverb of the Maori, the original inhabitants of New Zealand. "But food gained by the labor of one's own hand is the food which satisfies."
This belief is what motivated Norman E. Borlaug to spark the Green Revolution nearly two generations ago. He understood that the world couldn't feed itself through foreign-aid handouts. He knew that the solution to the problem of hunger and population growth was simply to produce more food. If farmers in the developing world planted and harvested as much as possible, they would satisfy themselves both psychologically and nutritionally.
That's basically what happened, and Borlaug went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. It has been said that over a billion people are alive today because of his achievement.
But the effort to grow more food and better food continues. In this respect, the Green Revolutionís work is never done.
This yearís World Food Prize, which will be formally awarded on Thursday, October 19, recognizes three Green Revolutionaries who made their mark in Brazil. Their combined efforts transformed the Cerrado, a vast land of arid brush, into fertile farmland that today produces more than half of Brazilís soybeans, coffee, and beef.
The Cerrado's very name suggests the nature of the struggle: In Portuguese, Brazilís language, "Cerrado" signifies a closed and inaccessible land. It surely was that half a century ago. When I was there 15 years ago, it was just beginning to develop.
In 1955, only 200,000 hectares of land in the Cerrado were arable. Today, that figure is more than 40 million hectares. Thatís like taking a place about half the size of tiny Rhode Island and expanding it to an area larger than all of Iowa.
Borlaug has called the development of the Cerrado "one of the great achievements of agricultural science in the 20th century, which has transformed a wasteland into one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world." He has also expressed his hope that the technologies that forever changed the Cerrado will transfer into agriculturally challenged sections of Colombia and Venezuela, and then perhaps into central and southern Africa.
The winners of this year's World Food Prize are A. Colin McClung, an American who studied the Cerrado's complex soil and figured out how to make it fertile; Alysson Paolinelli, a former Brazilian minister of agriculture who helped create the financial infrastructure necessary for farmers to move into the Cerrado and prosper; and Edson Lobato, another soil expert who built upon McClung's pioneering work. This is the first time the World Food Prize has been shared three ways.
Their story shows how much farmers have to gain when they use science to improve their productivity and work with government officials to build an economic and political environment in which agriculture can thrive.
Yet the main way these techniques spread is through farmers talking to each other. When one farmer tells another about his experience with a certain seed, or a farmer spots his neighbor using a new fertilizer or pesticide--that's how agricultural progress spreads.
And that's why Truth About Trade and Technology is sponsoring a day-long, farmer-to-farmer global roundtable on Wednesday, October 18, as a part of the World Food Prize celebrations. We have 24 farmers from 17 countries scheduled to participate. They include Dramane Diasso, a cotton farmer from Burkina Faso; Jeff and Marilyn Bidstrup, who run a 5,000-hectare operation in Australia; and Luiz Marcos Hafers, a coffee grower from the Cerrado in Brazil.
Conversation will focus on how access to technology, including biotechnology, and free trade can help farmers flourish in the 21st century as the Green Revolution turns into a Gene Revolution and looks for ways to repeat the miracle of the Cerrado in other parts of the world.
Our hope is that each of them will come away with a better understanding of the common challenges they face as farmers--as well as with ideas that they can take back to their home countries and apply to their unique problems. Food given by another person may be a throat tickler, but knowledge is another matter entirely. From it, great things may grow.
Dean Kleckner is an Iowa farmer, member emeritus of the World Food Prize Board of Advisors and past president of the American Farm Bureau. Mr. Kleckner chairs Truth About Trade and Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org)
New Issue of AgBioForum
- Volume 9, Number 2, 2006. Contents....
Bt Cotton Adoption in The United States and China: International Trade and Welfare Effects - G.B. Frisvold, J.M. Reeves, & R. Tronstad
Impact of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin on Dairy Farm Cost of Production: Evidence from Multiyear Data
- L.W. Tauer
Agricultural Biotechnology and Organic Agriculture: National Organic Standards and Labeling of GM Products - K. Giannakas & A. Yiannaka
Who Adopts What Kind of Technologies? The Case of Bt Eggplant in India - D.E. Kolady & W. Lesser
Public Perceptions of Tobacco Biopharming - J. Nevitt, B.F. Mills, D.W. Reaves, & G.W. Norton
Potential Regional Trade Implications of Adopting Bt Cowpea in West and Central Africa - A.S. Langyintuo & J. Lowenberg-DeBoer
Does Application Matter? An Examination of Public Perception of Agricultural Biotechnology Applications - A.J. Knight
Peaceful Coexistence Among Growers of GE, Conventional and Organic Crops
- New Report Available From Pew Initiative/NASDA Workshop
In March 2006, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) held a workshop that examined how growers of conventional, genetically engineered (GE), and organic crops can "peacefully coexist" in our ever-evolving marketplace.
The workshop, which took place in Boulder, CO, was the second of three sponsored by the Pew Initiative and NASDA. Participants included representatives from state and federal governments; GE, conventional, and organic farmers; the European Union, seed companies, food processing and marketing companies, academia and the biotech industry. All gathered to identify potential options for advancing peaceful coexistence in the marketplace and to understand the existing and future roles of the public and private sectors in achieving this goal.
* "Peaceful coexistence" can be described as the ability of conventional, GE and organic growers to effectively meet the specifications of their targeted and consumer markets and ensure a strong, vibrant, diverse agricultural economy.
* Growers of conventional and organic crops have at times been denied market access when unable to meet the contract or other market specifications.
* The lack of standardized, internationally accepted marketing standards, testing methodologies, and protocols pose a significant challenge to the smooth and efficient operation of both domestic and international agricultural marketing chains.
* State agricultural agencies are sometimes pressed to "pick sides" among GE, conventional, and organic production methods, but they believe all three production systems are critical to the economic viability and sustainability of U.S. agriculture.
* Overcoming the challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities provided by fostering "peaceful coexistence" will require a combination of market, research, farmer-to-farmer communication and Federal, state and local government efforts.
An overview of the conference agenda and the full paper from the workshop, entitled Peaceful Coexistence Among Growers Of: Genetically Engineered, Conventional and Organic Crops, can be viewed at: http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0301.
Additionally, proceedings from the first workshop on sharing confidential business information between state and federal agencies involved in agriculture biotechnology oversight, can be found at: http://pewagbiotech.org/events/1214. Proceedings from the third workshop on issues relating to the federal regulatory system governing agricultural biotechnology, and the appropriate role for state agriculture agencies in that system, will be available in the near future.
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank is also a 1994 'World Food Prize' Laureate
"The results of Dr. Yunus' ingenuity have been remarkable. Loan recipients increase their incomes by 50 percent over three years on average. Malnutrition is less prevalent among Grameen Bank members than among Bangladeshis in general: half the children of Grameen Bank members have normal height and weight at age nine; less than one-third of the children of non-members have normal measurements. Acute hunger and starvation prior to the harvest season is far less common among the bank's members. The distribution of food resources within families is much more equitable after women have been empowered to control their own destinies with a Grameen Bank loan.
Under Dr. Yunusí leadership, Grameen Bank programs have actively improved Bangladesh's food supply and energized its agricultural sector. The bank has given over 6 million packets of vegetable seeds and almost 3 million saplings to encourage home gardening and conservation. It has made over 2 million loans for poultry, livestock, and fish production. The bank's officers are trained to discuss health care and proper nutrition with loan recipients and regularly organize workshops on such matters as livestock and poultry care, proper nutrition, and good sanitation.
The Grameen Fisheries Foundation encourages the development of aquaculture in Bangladesh and the Grameen Agriculture Foundation supplies poor farmers with operating capital, production advices and marketing assistance. Through these foundations, Dr. Yunus has promoted the diversification of crops to include corn, soybeans, and sunflowers in addition to the traditional crops of rice, wheat, and sugarcane. In the wake of natural disasters, the bank distributes food, seeds, saplings and money to people in the affected areas."
Yunus was also interested in bringing modern technology to poor farmers in Bangladesh by linking up with Monsanto ('Grameen Monsanto Centre for Environment - Friendly Technologies'). However, activists stopped that in its track...
Vandana and RAFI attacked Grameen for its link with Monsanto -
Grameen buckled and rejected the Monsanto Arrangement -
Monsanto Forged Ahead without Grameen -
Kenya Gets National Biotechnology Policy
- Crop Biotech Update, issaaa.org
The government of Kenya has adopted a comprehensive national policy to guide the research, development and trade in biotechnology products, the National Biotechnology Development Policy 2006, which comes into effect immediately. According to Kenyan laws, a Policy, unlike a Bill, does not have to go through parliamentary debate. The policy has been the result of several years of debate involving all major biotechnology stakeholders and relevant government departments.
Noah Wekesa, Kenyan Minister for Science and Technology, said the policy is one of the measures the government is putting in place to chart its vision on biotechnology development and application in the country. This policy will provide those developing and applying the technology a clear framework in which to operate in order to address fears on their safety, saidWekesa. She added that the government is determined to explore the use of biotechnology for the benefit of Kenyans, and to ensure that the country becomes a key participant in the international biotechnology enterprise within a decade.
The approval and adoption of the policy now clears the way for fast-tracking the enactment of biosafety and biotechnology laws to enable the country to be compliant with international instruments governing trade in biotechnology products.
For more information contact Kenya National Biosafety Office at http://:www.biosafetykenya.co.ke
Malaysia's Biotech Council Approves Biosafety Act
Malaysia's National Biosafety-Biotechnology Council approved the Biosafety Act in a meeting chaired by Prime
Minister Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and attended by cabinet members who discussed the implications of the Act on the countrys biotechnology industry. The Biosafety Act is expected to complete the National Biotechnology Policy which aims to regulate the use of genetically modified organisms. It is expected to be discussed in Parliament t+---his November.
In related developments, the proposal to set up a National Biosafety Board will also be tackled in Parliament next year. The Board will be responsible for approving the import and export of biological products. In addition, a Genetic Modification Advisory Committee composed of scientists will be formed to assist the Board in implementing policies.
mail Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC) at email@example.com for additional information. Visit MABICs website at http://www.bic.org.my for other updates on Malaysia's biotechnology activities.
The Spinach is Bad - Music Video
- Andy Apel
Although the music video "The Spinach is Bad" was added to YouTube on September 19, 2006, the claim is that it was "created in the Summer of 2005" and "predicted the E.Coli-in-bags-of-Spinach pandemic currently ravaging America's grocery stores."
According to the blurb, "The producers of this song/video conclude that humans have an inherent aversion to Spinach because it has historically been a mechanism of transmission of pathogens to the human race. Prehistoric humans who avoided Spinach survived, and deep in our brains we know it's just not right to eat this vile little leaf. We hope that our video/song will scare children everywhere into standing up to "the man" or "their mom" and say "no" to Spinach."
The video is available at