* Anti-GM and Anti-Nuclear Advocates Need to be Challenged
* UK: GM Protesters 'On Messianic Mission'
* India May Harvest Record Cotton Crop Next Year
* Australia: It's Time for GM Flowers to Bloom
* Gene Technology the Way to Feed the World
* Activist Delusions, Stranger Than Fiction
* Global Leaders Urge Business to Help End Hunger
* Africa: Fears Allayed on GMOs in Regional Agriculture
* Gates' Millions to Help UN Buy from Small Farmers
* Switzerland GM Crops - USDA FAS annual report
* Time to Relax GMO Regulation in Europe
* PETA Urges Ben & Jerry's to Use Human Milk
Anti-GM and Anti-Nuclear Advocates Need to be Challenged
- Dr. William Reville, The Irish Times, Thu, Sep 25, 2008 (Hat Tip: Shane Morris)
'Scientists should be as passionate and determined in debate as anti-GM or anti-nuclear activists'
I recently attended a press conference called by anti-GM (genetically modified) protesters at an agricultural biotechnology scientific conference (ABIC2008 in UCC- Ed).
Three people, none of whom are scientists, ran the press conference and each made detailed statements. The audience was a mixture of anti-GM activists, none of whom (to my knowledge) were scientists, and a selection of scientists experienced in the GM field.
I myself have little experience in the GM area. The arguments presented by the amateurs at this press conference were completely at odds with the positions outlined by the experienced scientists. Both sides liberally cited "scientific research" to support their positions. What is the general public to make out of this?
This scene is typical of what happens nowadays, particularly in environmental areas.
As I said, I am no GM expert, but I do have some professional expertise in another environmental area - the effects of low-level ionising radiation. The press conference described above perfectly mirrors many meetings I attended over the years organised by anti-nuclear groups. A main plank of the anti-nuclear argument is that the low-level radiation emitted by nuclear power plants, and ancillary processes, is very dangerous.
Mainline science holds that risk from exposure to radiation is proportional to the dose received and because the leakage of radiation from nuclear power plants under normal circumstances is tiny, the risk to the health of those exposed is correspondingly tiny. Of course, the situation is very different in the event of major accident.
Both sides quote scientific evidence to back their claims. The difference between the sides is that the mainline science position is based on a lot of high quality research published in the best peer-reviewed journals, whereas the anti-nuclear position on low-level radiation is supported by very little research, much of which is not published in high quality peer-reviewed journals.
When pressed on the paucity of their underpinning scientific support, the anti-nuclear people say that all "independent" scientists back their position. But, when you look at the credentials of these few scientists who support the anti-nuclear position it is completely unclear in most cases how they merit the title "independent" any more than most of the scientists who come to opposite conclusions.
Some of the "science" put forward by the anti-nuclear side is farcical. For example, they went through a phase of claiming that risk of ill-health from exposure to low-level radiation is negatively correlated to dose - that is, the less you received, the more dangerous it is. In fact, there is now good evidence to show that exposure to the lowest level of radiation is not dangerous at all but, on the contrary, it is good for you. This is the phenomenon of hormesis, which I described here on September 11th.
So, why was the anti-nuclear argument about low-level radiation not dismissed out of hand in the face of massive contrary evidence from mainline science? Probably the main reason was the timid approach adopted by mainline scientific spokespersons. The anti-nuclear people speak with absolute confidence. They assure the public that every nuclear power plant spreads a deadly cloud of cancers in its vicinity and that they have scientific proof of this. Mainline scientists deny this and say that studies consistently show that risks are small, although not zero. The anti-nuclear people would challenge them with the question, "Can you guarantee the public that nuclear emissions are absolutely safe?"
The mainline scientists reply, "There is no such thing as zero level of risk". This is where the argument is lost with the public. The anti-nuclear people have no problem giving guarantees of danger and cancer, the mainline scientists will not guarantee safety, preferring to talk of low levels of probability.
Of course, in cases like this mainline science should declare a process to be safe. Safe here means safe in the sense understood in everyday life. For example, is it safe to walk down the stairs? The commonsense answer is yes, provided the stairs is sound and you look where you are going. The strict scientific answer will quote you the probability of having a fall.
Another problem is that the media tends to give every voice, amateur and professional, equal weight. This is not fair to the general public. The media has a responsibility to ask tough probing questions of all who seek a platform for their views. When questions can only be answered by science, scientists have an even greater responsibility to stand firm on issues where the scientific evidence is persuasive. Environmental activists who take a position on issues contrary to the evidence of mainline science always speak with confidence and passion and often try to shout down opposing voices. They should be opposed with matching vigour. Only then can science win out.
William Reville is associate professor of biochemistry and public awareness of science officer at UCC - www.understandingscience.ucc.ie
UK: GM Protesters 'On Messianic Mission'
- Western Morning News. Sept 23, 2008 (via Agnet) http://www.thisiswesternmorningnews.co.uk
UK farming minister Lord Rooker last night hit out at anti-GM protesters, claiming they were on a "messianic mission" not based on science and that the public were being "taken for a ride" by campaigners who behaved as if opposition to the technology was a "religion".
Amid mounting frustration at the emotive debate being hijacked by talk of "Frankenstein foods", the minister warned Britain was at risk of losing its position as a world leader in bio-technology because of ignorant public opposition to the development of genetically modified food.
He said public attitudes to scientific developments - including GM - had to change or the experiments would simply be carried out overseas, adding: "I think we haven't taken it seriously." He said the public would accept GM technology in medicines for themselves and loved ones, but went on: "It is a difficult issue with food.
"If the ignorance prevails, we don't allow experiments to take place because of the fear you might find a result you don't want. "We just put up with people trashing the crops and magistrates let them off. Frankly, we're just being taken for a ride."
And in a stark warning to extremist protesters, he said: "One thing I will not accept is the arguments and the slogans when there isn't any evidence. They are on a messianic mission. It is almost a religion where there isn't any science base to it."
Andrew Opie, food policy director of the British Retail Consortium, said: "We don't sell it because nobody wants it. There isn't a demand for GM crops, and we have perfectly good non-GM food in this country."
Paul Temple, vice-president of the NFU, said: "Europe is not engaging in the debate. And it's for political reasons in Europe. It will cause huge problems in the supply chain in future, and we should be talking about it now.
"We are driving investment in this technology to North America, South America, India and China. Plant genetics is absolutely vital for the future of agriculture."
India May Harvest Record Cotton Crop Next Year
- Thomas Kutty Abraham, Bloomberg, Sept 25, 2008
India's cotton output, the second- biggest in the world, may rise 4.8 percent to a record next year on higher yields from genetically altered crops and good rains, said Textiles Commissioner A.B. Joshi.
Production may total 33 million bales in the year starting October compared with an estimated 31.5 million bales this year, Joshi told reporters today in Mumbai. An Indian bale weighs 170 kilograms (375 pounds).
Higher output may boost exports to countries including China, the biggest producer and user of the fiber, and further undermine prices that have fallen 10 percent this year in New York. India is the world's biggest cotton exporter after the U.S.
"The climatic conditions have been excellent,'' Joshi said. "Though the area is slightly down, higher planting of BT cotton will ensure higher production.'' Bt cotton is a genetically modified strain that produces toxins lethal to bollworms, which are among the most serious threat to the crop.
India increased planting of genetically modified seeds by a fifth to 17.2 million acres this year, or 76 percent of the total cotton acreage, from 14.4 million acres, or 63 percent, a year earlier, according to Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd.
India's average per-hectare yield has almost doubled to 560 kilograms since the nation allowed farmers to use modified seeds for the first time in 2002. Rains in Maharashtra and Gujarat, the nation's largest cotton-growing states, were as much as 5 percent above average as of Sept. 18, according to the India Meteorological Department.
Farmers in India planted the crop over 9.06 million hectares (22.4 million acres) as of Sept. 19, 2 percent lower than a year ago, according to the farm ministry.
Australia: It's Time for GM Flowers to Bloom
- Colin Bettles, Farm Weekly, Sept 25, 2008 http://fw.farmonline.com.au/
Genetically modified (GM) crop supporters have welcomed the recent change of state government, saying it has renewed hopes among farmers and the industry.
Those who were continually frustrated by the excuses and political game playing that accompanied the ALP's moratorium on commercial GM crop production during two terms of office, are now preparing themselves for a bright new era.
The newly formed alliance between the Liberal and Nationals parties could see broad scale trials of GM canola start in WA by as early as next year. GM supporters also believe GM cotton can be grown in the state's North West as soon as infrastructure developments of Ord Stage 2 are complete. Agriculture Department senior scientific staff would not comment as they are prevented from statements before their new minister is sworn in.
However, there was no hiding their renewed interest at the thought of a new political attitude to biotechnology. The cleaning out of a stifling political ideology could now be replaced by the virtues of scientific facts, it is understood.
AgBio advisory group and AusBiotech chairman Ian Edwards said he had never been more satisfied in seeing a government defeated. Dr Edwards said it was common knowledge that Labor had cut a deal with the Greens on GM when they came to power with two Upper House seats. He said this meant bad news for farmers because no GM crops would be grown during the tenure of any Labor government.
During the past two and a half years, Dr Edwards served with a key role on former agriculture minister Kim Chance's GM Reference Group. Dr Edwards said the group was nothing but a charade and should be disbanded immediately. He said it was simply an exercise in window dressing designed to buy the minister time and avoid making any decision.
Dr Edwards said he voted for the Liberal Party on September 6 because of their sound policies on science and innovation. He said it was now time for the new state government to support biotechnology in WA, attract venture capital and stop the exodus of good scientists to states and countries with more enlightened policies.
Gene Technology the Way to Feed the World
- Ian Morgan, North Queensland Register, September 25, 2009 http://nqr.farmonline.com.au/
Archeologists tell us by the time the Roman calendar became the world standard, mankind had been growing crops for between two and six thousand years.
They included cereals grains, rice, pulses, potatoes, soybean, grapes, cotton and bananas, with seeds from the best producing plants being selected to grow the next generation.
It took until 1742 for a French company called Vilmorin (which is still in the plant breeding business) to produce new varieties of plants and that led to the first cereal hybrid in 1799.
In 1927 it was shown X-rays could be used to produce mutations, which may be of benefit, with the next major breakthrough being the production of the first transgenic plant in 1983.
The technology opened up the possibility of producing plants: resistant to disease and insect attack; resistant to specific herbicides; that were more nutritious, that produced pharmaceuticals or vaccines; were drought tolerant; made better use of water; were less dependent on added fertilisers; could make better use of nitrogen or could grow in saline environments.
And although a lot of research is going on and answers to some of those possibilities are still to be found, the world has embraced Genetically Modified plants to such a degree that this year more than 120 million hectares will be planted to transgenic crops across the globe.
Most are grown in North and South America, India, China, Australia and some of the newer members (ex Iron Curtain countries) of the EU.
Soybeans top the list at 65 million hectares; maize 35m/ha; cotton 15m/ha; and canola 5m/ha.
That has resulted in an annual reduction of 22 million tonnes of active chemical ingredient being sprayed on crops in the United States alone or 15 per cent in environmental impact.
In Australia the first licenses to grow a genetically modified crop was cotton with insect resistance in 1996.
Since then two other genes have been added, resistance to Roundup and another gene for insect resistant.
That has resulted in almost 100 percent of cotton grown in Australia being transgenic, which has reduced the amount of insecticide and herbicide used by 80 percent.
Activist Delusions, Stranger Than Fiction
- Center for Consumer Freedom, September 23, 2008. Main story with embedded links at
We often joke that some activists seem out of touch with reality - from another planet, even. Why would anyone fight for the lives of rodents over people? Who on Earth would want to move technology backward? But every now and then, we find ourselves really wondering if some of these campaigners are one chair short of a picnic. The latest news from the animal rights freakosphere is the resurrection of this gem of a PETA conspiracy theory which claims that animals are working together to take revenge against humans. (Okaaay.)
But there are even stranger activist delusions to worry about. Like the movement against modern advancements in agriculture, particularly genetically modified (GM) crops. In England, Soil Association director Patrick Holden brings us the latest in anti-technology activism:
'There is no evidence that GM crops increase yields, reduce pesticide use or bring any public benefits to society. And there is a growing body of evidence there could be health risks.'
Where does Holden get this stuff? Was all the news about breakthroughs in yield-increasing, extra-nutritious, and potentially life-saving GM crops a figment of our imaginations? And last time we checked, the "growing body of evidence" says there are no health risks associated with GM foods.
It's as if anti-biotechnology activists are united in a scientific state of denial about, well, science. Holden's comments bear a striking resemblance to the Prince Charles' hysteric rant a few weeks ago. Yesterday, British farming minister Lord Rooker weighed in on the madness and offered his own assessment:
'One thing I will not accept is the arguments and the slogans when there isn't any evidence. They are on a messianic mission. It is almost a religion where there isn't any science base to it.'
Rooker's rhetoric may be a little harsh, but it's actually not too far off what some activists have openly admitted. As Lord Peter Melchett of the Soil Association put it, "Science doesn't tell us the answers so some of it we have to go on feelings."
Global Leaders Urge Business to Help End Hunger
- Lesley Wroughton, Reuters, Sep 24, 2008
Global leaders from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to former U.S. President Bill Clinton urged business executives on Wednesday to get involved in ending a global food crisis pushing more people into poverty.
Soaring food and fuel prices have focused attention on years of underinvestment in agricultural in developing countries, now having to import food at enormous costs.
Ban has made the Millennium Development Goals, a U.N. agreed target to reduce poverty by 2015, a theme of this year's U.N. General Assembly. Progress in reaching the goals will be discussed by U.N. member countries on Thursday.
"We need more private sector engagement with this campaign," Ban told the business forum. "Government may hold the primary responsibility of the Millennium Development Goals, but we we all have a common interest in success."
With private-sector help, farmers could access financing to buy seeds and fertilizers, and increase food production through better technology, while better roads could help them get their products to market, the leaders said.
Clinton said improving markets for farmers would not require major capital investments, citing work by his charitable organization in Rwanda and Ethiopia.
"Basically, agriculture in developing country after developing country has been subject to 27 years of system neglect, so they're doing the best they can, with food they can grow, but can't sell," Clinton said.
With the U.N. warning that higher prices could push 100 million people deeper into poverty, Ban said the world faced a development emergency. "That is why we have to boost our private-public alliance," he said.
Among business officials at the meeting was Carl-Henric Svanberg, chief executive of Ericsson; Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel Corp, Hiromasa Yonekura, president of Sumitomo, Neville Isdell, chairman of Coca-Cola, and Chad Holliday, chairman and CEO of Dupont.
'A HUMAN DISGRACE'
Rocker and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof said it was "a human disgrace" that the world allowed people to go hungry. "The fact that Africa gets $2 billion every year for agriculture is pathetic when Europe gets 40 billion euros and America gets $60 billion for their agriculture," he told executives. "It makes no sense."
World Bank President Robert Zoellick said costlier food and fuel was pushing countries to a tipping point, and the question now was whether the global financial turmoil could push them over the edge.
"When all the dust settles there will be a financial rescue," Zoellick said, referring to the $700 billion U.S. bailout plan for troubled Wall Street banks. "But we also need to have a human rescue and to accomplish this we are going to have to interconnect public and private institutions."
Clinton said governments could not tackle the food crisis alone and needed private sector involvement. "The energy crisis and supply realities alone -- are going to drive us to agricultural self-sufficiency anyway," he said. "The question is how fast we're doing to do it and how well we're going to do it? The potential is staggering."
Africa: Fears Allayed on GMOs in Regional Agriculture
- Bernard Muthaka, The Citizen (Kampala), Sept 24, 2008 http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/newe.php?id=7902
A study by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has allayed fears that introducing genetic technology in agriculture may lead to market losses.
It indicates that even should such products be rejected, the decline in exports from the three East African countries would be insignificant.
The study says there is little justification in the precautionary stance taken by countries, ostensibly in the conviction that they are preserving their trade interests and niche markets.
The low level of trading risk is attributed to the fact that most of the agricultural exports that importers may reject as possible genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have not been commercialised as yet. These include tea, coffee, cocoa, pyrethrum, sugar tobacco, bananas and a wide range of horticultural products.
GM varieties of these commodities have not been developed and commercialised anywhere and so far there has been little commercial interest to develop them. The study analysed the value and volume of agricultural food and feed exports by African countries to various regions of the world including the EU.
The findings revealed that the share of total export value that might be rejected translates to 1.1 per cent for Kenya, 6.5 per cent for Uganda and 6.2 per cent for Tanzania.
European countries have been the most vocal in the campaigns against GM crops, even though some European countries such as Poland have started growing GM maize.
Last year marked the second highest global increase in area under GM crops in the last five years, with the total area now being estimated at 114 million hectares.
There are now 12 countries in the developing countries that are planting biotech crops, compared with 11 in the industrialised countries. Last year's growth rate in the developing world was three times that of industrialised nations (21 per cent compared to 6 per cent.) Out of the global total 12 million beneficiary biotech farmers in 2007, over 90 per cent were small and resource-poor farmers from developing countries. Of these, most were cotton farmers followed by those growing biotech maize and soybeans.
According to Kenyan scientist Prof Calestous Juma, biotech crops must play an even bigger role in the next decade if African countries are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of cutting hunger and poverty by half by 2015.
In Kenya, the regulatory frameworks are still in construction stage. The Biosafety Bill was time-barred in the last parliament, with the house being dissolved just as the Bill was going through its third and final reading.
Kenya a Step Closer to Using GM Technology
- Gatonye Gathura, Daily Nation, September 23, 2008
The Government has taken the first step towards adopting biotechnology in agricultural production by preparing guidelines on how to handle genetically modified applications.
According to the head of the National Council for Science and Technology, Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology will on Thursday launch a strategy paper explaining the benefits of the technology to the public.
Agriculture minister William Ruto on Monday said he would ensure the long delayed Biosafety Bill is passed. "We have done enough lobbying to ensure that this time the Bill is passed," said Mr Ruto in a speech read on his behalf by an assistant minister in his docket, Mr Japhet Kareke Mbiuki, at an All-Africa Congress on Biotechnology.
"My desire is for all African countries to adopt an enabling policy for the development and application of biotechnology. This will fast-track the integration of Africa in the global bioeconomy," said the minister.
This is the third time in as many months that Mr Ruto has called for the adoption of biotechnology and yesterday he got backing from the African Union. Ms Rhoda Tumusiime of the AU said the Assembly of the African Heads of State and Government had called for adoption of a common position on genetic engineering.
"This indicates the commitment by African leaders that GM technology may as well be one of the tools that will resolve the continent's agricultural constraints," Ms Tumusiime told the delegates.
A month ago, a report by a high-level African panel on modern biotechnology, led by Kenya's Prof Calestus Juma, called for the speedy adoption of GM technology and soon after, Comesa produced a similar report.
If and when the technology is adopted, Kenyans will be surprised at how much GM research has been going on in the country, especially on aloe vera, maize, sweet potatoes, rice, sorghum, forestry and even on livestock, most of which will be discussed at the five-day event.
Gates' Millions to Help UN Buy from Small Farmers
- Charles J. Janley, The Associated Press, Sept 24, 2008
With a multimillion-dollar boost from the Gates Foundation, the U.N. food aid agency announced Wednesday it plans to jump-start markets across Africa and elsewhere to give small-scale farmers a chance to rise above subsistence living.
In 21 countries, 15 in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Food Program will work to develop farmer cooperatives, long-term contracts and other means whereby the U.N. agency will buy corn, wheat and other food crops from smallholders for distribution through its $1-billion-a-year aid program.
"Developing new ways for WFP to purchase food locally represents a major step toward sustainable change that could eventually benefit millions of poor rural households," Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates said at a joint news conference with African presidents and the WFP leadership.
Although WFP buys 80 percent of its food in developing countries, only a fraction comes directly from small farmers. Road access to their farms is difficult, their productivity is low, and those who do sell surplus depend on middlemen offering low prices. Many consequently grow only for subsistence, for family consumption. "Sixty-seven percent of the homesteads in Uganda are subsistence farmers. That is all idle potential," Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, here for the annual U.S. General Assembly session, told reporters.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $66 million and the U.S.-based Howard G. Buffett Foundation $9 million to the new, five-year "Purchase for Progress" program. The donations will underwrite WFP "capacity building" and studies of market and farming conditions that vary from country to country, depending on crops and local customs, from Guatemala and El Salvador in Central America, to Tanzania and Ethiopia in East Africa.
Capacity building could include training programs and infrastructure, such as food storehouses, said WFP spokeswoman Laura Melo. The program partners estimated Purchase for Progress would "significantly increase" the income of at least 350,000 farmers in the 21 pilot countries. But WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said this was just a beginning. "The goal is to learn from this," she told reporters, "and then to apply that over all of WFP's local purchases.
Switzerland GM Crops - USDA FAS annual report
'Although the Federal Council has proposed to extend the current five-year moratorium on approvals for planting of biotech crops or production of genetically modified animals, it is now possible to set a tolerance for unapproved biotech varieties in food and feed.'
Switzerland Biotechnology Annual 2008 GAIN Report Number: SZ8001; 2008-08-22
Full report at http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200808/146295589.pdf
Prepared by: Christine Strossman; Approved by: David C. Miller, US Mission; USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Contact: Christine Strossman, USDA FAS, Christine.Strossman@usda.gov
Report Highlights: Switzerland has an onerous and slow process for approving products of agricultural biotechnology for food and feed use. The Federal Council has proposed to extend the current five-year moratorium on approvals for planting of biotech crops or production of genetically modified animals. It is now possible, however, to set a tolerance for unapproved biotech varieties in food and feed.
(This message was distributed by Cindy Roberts, who may be reached at e-mail: email@example.com)
Time to Relax GMO Regulation in Europe
-Jaroslav Drobník, Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult (2008) 94:235-238; firstname.lastname@example.org (Charles University, Prague; CR Association BIOTRIN www.biotrin.cz)
Abstract: There is enough experience gained during ten years of genetically modified (GM) crops application to seriously evaluate the ratio of risk to benefit and reduce the existing regulation in Europe. It does not evaluate benefit and the risk of the alternative situation when GM crops are not used. The precautionary principle is applied only to GM crops application, never to alternative solutions of, e.g., pest control. The Eurobarometer 2005 shows how propaganda inseminates public opinion with shameful nonsense.
Voices asking for change of this politics come from the European Parliament, British ACRE, EuropaBio, even from Commission, scientists and other European sources, but also from Africa and other developing countries.
It is generally accepted that that European regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) is most stringent in global scale and also lacking scientific grounds.
The support of agriculture after the War brought fast recovery, but later led to overproduction. The rules of GATT, later of WTO, would in that situation expose the European agriculture to strong competition. Fear of GMO was used by EU as a non-tariff barrier to oversee import of agroproducts. To this end the political dogma contradictory to science was imposed by key legal steps (Council of Europe 1990 a) and (Council of Europe 1990 b) deriving the risk of new varieties and organisms not from their traits but from the method how they were developed. The regulation considers only transgenosis as risk generating out of all modern breeding methods. This has no support by experience and evoked false feeling that other new crop varieties and food components are safe and need no risk evaluation. The term "biosafety" became synonym to GMO regulation.
Many political bodies - political NGOs and parties - struggle against GM crops. The comprehensive summary of their activities before 2000 may be found in the report (DG III 2000). Public controversy over GMOs crystallised as the first GM crops were being harvested. Mobilisation emerged at the global level around the ´Pure Food Campaign´, later known as the ´Campaign for Food Safety´. The ´Global Days of Action Against Gene-Foods´ organised in the spring 1997 evidenced the transnational, and multi-faceted character of mobilisation. The Greens had quite power in European Parliament and contributed in eighties of the last century to the formulation of key directives (Cantley, 1995). Political NGOs stressing the risk of GMO are fabricating catastrophic scenarios using the cliché "--it cannot be excluded that GMO would" in connection with them. In this way they succeeded to manipulate people to ask for 100% safety of GMOs to be proven by 100% confidence before they can be used.
As a result 54% of Europeans believe that "eating GMO fruit, my own heredity will be modified" and 41% believed that standard tomato has no genes, as these are present only in modified tomato (Gaskel et al., 2006). Instead of being ashamed of this regrettable misinformation of European citizens, and instead of launching efficient information and education campaign, certain responsible representatives are pleased by it as formulated by the Commissionaire Stavros Dimas (Dimas, 2006)
More than that, the implanted public fear is presented as urgency to even more rigorous regulation (European Parliament and Council 2003 a, 2003 b). Such was the reasoning for the labelling of products that are materially free of even traces of GMO but GM crop was in the production line (e.g. ethanol produced from Bt corn). Lot of money is wasted for labelling and control of product containing safe GMOs (Kalaitzandonakes, 2007) such as Roundup Ready soybeans. This crop has been used for ten years and men and animals consumed about 700 millions of tones of it without any sign of problems due to transgenosis.
All directives e.g (European Parliament and Council 2001) ask just for assessment of risk, not for benefit evaluation and only for risk in the case when GMO is used. This is contradictory to the definition of Precautionary principle (European Commission, 2000). In many cases the risk to human health and/or environment is higher when GM crops are not used. E.g. standard corn under the pressure of Ostrinia nubilalis must either be sprayed by insecticide or results in products containing carcinogenic mycotoxines (Food Standard Agency, 2003).
The process of GM crops approval by EU authorities takes usually much longer time then requested by agreed rules. If the GM crop is eventually approved for planting, several member states urge "GMO-free" status. They should provide sound scientific reasons - however, they are not available. Nevertheless, such status is granted to them.
International impact of EU regulation on developing nations was challenged by Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister for the Environment on the 20 February 2007. This was the topic of the successive meeting organised by European Action on Global Life Sciences (EAGLES). Former head of unit at the European Commission, DG Research and head of the unit of biotechnology at the OECD Mark F. Cantley said (Cantley 2007): " We have painted ourselves into a corner in Europe, from which we shall not easily escape, and from which we have a malign influence on poor countries all over the world".
Professor Marc van Montagu, Department of Molecular Genetics, Ghent University and president of European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) (Montagu, 2007) concluded: "A sustainable agriculture and a less-polluting industry badly need the GM-technology and the transgenic plants developed, worldwide, over the last ten years. Exactly in the same period, well-intentioned regulators in the EU set up an unnecessary and very costly application of the regulatory system. No small or medium enterprise, public research centre, charity or foundation can afford to open a file for approval through the established system. It is a crying injustice towards the developing world, towards nearly 85% of the world population."
Naturally such policy cannot be accepted by WTO. Scientists realised that politics is priority over science and if biotechnology is their field they better leave Europe. The research divisions of big companies move away from Europe as well and young researchers follow (European Commission 2003). The Lisbon criteria in biotechnology are under such political environment fading away.
On the other hand there are obvious benefits in using GM crops as shown by several analyses. E.g., by the document prepared by Joint Research Centre (Goméz-Barbero and Rodríguez-Cerezo 2006). The benefit is on the side of farmers, not of consumers. There is also substantial benefit for the environment (James 2006).
The use of GM crops during the years 1996-2006 saved 220 thousands tones of pesticides and 980 thousands tones of CO2. However, EU approves GM crops mostly for "import and processing", not for plating. That means the benefit is left outside Europe and only problems with misinformed consumers are imported.
The motivation for constructing the import barrier protecting European farmers by escalation the public fear from GMO is ceasing. As the living standard in China and India increases, the food demand grows. Therefore the opportunity for Europe to export surplus crops is opening.
All these factors lead realistic politicians, stakeholders and scientists to argue, that the European regulation of GMO is obsolete and has to be changed. The dogma that existing agriculture is inherently safe and risk is introduced just by GM crops was opposed by the President of Royal Society Lord May (May 2003): "Only by measuring the environmental damage caused by existing agricultural practices can an accurate comparison of alternative systems take place"
Critics of European GMO regulation was formulated by the MP Renate Sommer (Sommer 2007) followed by the draft position of the Panel formed by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (European Parliament 2006). The Committee Panel -fears that the existing complex and extensive implementation of the Community legislation on biotechnological trials and the lengthy approval procedure for placing inventions on the market are creating real obstacles to European research and may lead to research activities and human resources being moved outside the EU."
Most detailed critics of existing EU regulation of GMO and suggestions for alternative approach are formulated in the position of UK regulative body ACRE (Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment) (ACRE 2007). It is based on the results of Farm Scale Evaluation (study of the impact on biodiversity of agro technique using three herbicide tolerant crops) and was adjusted by public discussion.
Naturally, the EU regulation lacking scientific basis is criticized by scientists (Nature Biotechnology 2006) (Morris 2007) as well as by industry (Garthoff 2007). Support for the change occurred recently also in the Commission (Mandelson 2007).
Considering all these voices it is evident that there are good rational reasons to bring the regulation closer to facts, to resume scientific basis and to reflect experiences collected during ten years of the GM crops use. However, powerful economy interests oppose such change. The misinformation of public and resulting fear from GMO creates attractive market for those who claim to be "GMO-free", such as organic farmers and countries getting such status on "environmental" arguments. Thus, the positive changes of GMO regulation will be slow in Europe but unavoidable.
ACRE (2007) Wider Issues raised by the Farm-Scale Evaluations of Herbicide Tolerant GM Crops, Report of the ACRE Sub-Group Revised after public consultation, 3 May 2007.
Cantley, M. (1995) The regulation of modern biotechnology: A historical and European perspective. In H.-J. Rehm and G.Reed: Biotechnology, Weinheim, Berlin.
Cantley, M. (2007) Innovations Report Feb. 26, 2007.
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Presented at: The 7th symposium in the series "Recent Advances in Plant Biotechnology" : Impact on High Quality Plant Production; Stara Lesna, June 10-16, 2007, High Tatras, Slovak Republic
PETA Urges Ben & Jerry's To Use Human Milk
WATERBURY, Vt. -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.
"PETA's request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow's milk in the food he serves," the statement says.
PETA officials say a move to human breast milk would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health.
"The fact that human adults consume huge quantities of dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn't make sense," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "Everyone knows that 'the breast is best,' so Ben & Jerry's could do consumers and cows a big favor by making the switch to breast milk."
"We applaud PETA's novel approach to bringing attention to an issue, but we believe a mother's milk is best used for her child," said a spokesperson for Ben and Jerry's.
PETA's letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
September 23, 2008
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Cofounders
Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc.
Dear Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield,
On behalf of PETA and our more than 2 million members and supporters, I'd like to bring your attention to an innovative new idea from Switzerland that would bring a unique twist to Ben and Jerry's.
Storchen restaurant is set to unveil a menu that includes soups, stews, and sauces made with at least 75 percent breast milk procured from human donors who are paid in exchange for their milk. If Ben and Jerry's replaced the cow's milk in its ice cream with breast milk, your customers-and cows-would reap the benefits.
Using cow's milk for your ice cream is a hazard to your customer's health. Dairy products have been linked to juvenile diabetes, allergies, constipation, obesity, and prostate and ovarian cancer. The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, America's leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding cow's milk to children, saying it may play a role in anemia, allergies, and juvenile diabetes and in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease-America's number one cause of death.
Animals will also benefit from the switch to breast milk. Like all mammals, cows only produce milk during and after pregnancy, so to be able to constantly milk them, cows are forcefully impregnated every nine months. After several years of living in filthy conditions and being forced to produce 10 times more milk than they would naturally, their exhausted bodies are turned into hamburgers or ground up for soup.
And of course, the veal industry could not survive without the dairy industry. Because male calves can't produce milk, dairy farmers take them from their mothers immediately after birth and sell them to veal farms, where they endure 14 to17 weeks of torment chained inside a crate so small that they can't even turn around.
The breast is best! Won't you give cows and their babies a break and our health a boost by switching from cow's milk to breast milk in Ben and Jerry's ice cream? Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely, Tracy Reiman, Executive Vice President, PETA