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June 6, 2000


Natural Law Party: Biotechnololgy


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

From: Rick Roush
Subject: Re: Natural Law Party: Biotechnololgy
To: Mark Griffiths

Dear Mr. Griffiths:

Prakash has circulated your message to give it a fair hearing among other
biologists. Time prevents me from making a longer reply.

I am very familiar with the views of many Natural Law Party members on
these issues, having discussed them with your colleagues internationally on
the internet and in person in Australia. With all due respect, I cannot
accept them.

For me the issue is not just one of "the hungry are hungry now", but that
to avoid being hungry now, farmers are exposing themselves to dangerous
pesticide use, inspite of more than a half century of work by my elders and
colleagues (and 25 years of my own life) to change it.

Genomics will not make cotton plants resistant to cotton bollworms, but
Monsanto has with a gene modelled on one in a common bacterium that we all
eat now. Genomics will not make potato or papaya plants resistant to
viruses and thereby reduce the need for insecticides to control the insects
that spread them, but several transgenic virus resistant crops are now in
the field. There are several fungal diseases of crops (such as late blight
of potatoes) for which genomics is unlikely to help. Thus, genomics will
not help to reduce the use of fungicides. The risks of pesticides are real
and current.

You would have us postpone the adoption of these crops for fear of risks
that are relatively small in effect, theoretical and unlikely. As such,
your proposal to postpone the further deployment of rDNA organisms fails to
meet the most basic of ethical standards. Instead of promoting the
greatest good for the greatest number, we would be postponing advances in
human and environmental health because of the concerns of the few and
relatively rich.

Like most biologists, I don't believe that rDNA strategies are needed for
every crop problem, and indeed I have recommended the rejection of several
rDNA proposals in favour of other options. Genomics has a big future.

However, before I could attend a meeting of the type you have proposed, I
would need to see some evidence of a willingness to compromise. Your
proposal includes nothing new, only an argument that we should come around
to your Party's (and Greenpeace's) perspective. To be blunt, what's in it
for us?

I'd like to see a concession from the Natural Law Party and Greenpeace that
not all transgenic crops should be banned, and that they support at least
one such crop to show good faith. I'd suggest that you consider Bt cotton,
a crop where the only food stuffs produced (oil and linters) have no
vestige of genetic engineering (no DNA or protein) and are the same as
those conventionally produced. Except that they are treated with 70% less

Finally, there are many more subjects more important to the future of
humanity than this one. War, global warming, and overpopulation are just


*PLEASE NOTE NEW EMAIL ADDRESS: rick.roush@adelaide.edu.au

Richard T. Roush
Associate Professor and Director Phone +61 8 8303-6590
Centre for Weed Management Systems FAX +61 8 8303-7125
Waite Institute ;-_|
University of Adelaide /
Glen Osmond 5064 ( )
South Australia _;-*_/

South Australia

"Weeds - Australia's most underestimated environmental threat"