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June 12, 2000


Bill Gates on AgBiotech; Shiva says 'Let 'em Weeds';More


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

From: Prakash

Time Magazine has a superb opinion piece from Bill Gates entitled, "Will
Frankenfood Feed the World?" This is an incredibly positive piece that
talks about the tremendous value bioechnology can bring to the world.
Read it for yourself at....


From: Gale Ellen West
Subject: Gucci vs organic


Poor and rich alike know that no one dies because they cannot afford Gucci
clothes or other expensive branded consumer goods. Unfortunately, the
rhetoric in the GM vs organic foods debate easily leads all consumers to
believe they could die (or condem their children to die) from eating
cheaper GM foods. They are also lead to believe they are committing a
sinful act by eating un-natural (thus un-godly) GM foods. Therein lies the
rub. If the rich prefer Gucci and organic foods, that is their rich
prerogative. Unjustly scaring middle, lower and poverty stricken consumers
should not be their prerogative. Which essential commodities should lower
income families give up (housing, clothing, energy) in order to purchase
"essential" organic foods with fictive "healthy" "godly" attributes?

Yours, Gale*

At 12:20 PM 6/10/00 -0500, you wrote:

>I am rather disturbed by the over criticism of Prince Charles and Shiva.
As the society becomes more sophisticated, people have their preferences
such as

From: Alex Avery
Subject: Re: Vandana Shiva's Opposition to Food Aid

Actually, the transition discussed below has mostly already occurred.
That's why even the UN predict a PEAK GLOBAL POPULATION of only 9-10
billion. Historically, the UN's numbers have been wildly over the mark, so
a peak global population of 8-9 billion is likely, reached sometime about
the year 2050. This is because fertility rates (the number of children per
couple) are below replacement level in the developed world and have been
for decades, and the developing world is fast reducing its fertility
In 1960-65, the developing world average fertility rate was 6.5 children
per couple. Today it is 3. Replacement level fertility is only 2.1
children per couple, so the developing world has moved 75% of the way to
stability in one generation.

But rich people eat better diets which take more farm resources per
calorie to produce. So even though the population will only increase by
~50% over the next 50 years, the total global farm resource demand will
increase by 2-3X.

At 10:00 AM 6/9/00 -0500, Wallace Berry wrote:
>>That is one way of limiting population growth. Not one most of us could
>>support. In the end we will have to curtail population growth or find
>>very innovative ways of producing power and disposing of waste. We

From: Alex Avery
Subject: Vandana Shiva and vitamin A rice

This is a short article from the Spring 2000 issue of Global Food
Quarterly that I thought might interest the group. The Quarterly is
available for free from our website, www.cgfi.org, under the "Articles and
Papers" button. Anyone interested in recieving the Quarterly via email,
simply send an email to cgfi@rica.net and ask to be placed on the
electronic subscriber list.

Vandana Shiva Antoinette: Let them Eat Weeds!

In a recent display of astonishing arrogance, Indian anti-biotech activist
Vandana Shiva suggested that poor Asians suffering from severe vitamin A
deficiency didn’t need a recently developed biotech wonder rice designed
to address the problem because “vitamin A is provided by liver, egg yolk,
chicken, meat, milk, and butter.” She also said poor people could get
plenty of vitamin A by eating weeds.

Ms. Shiva declares “Women farmers in Bengal use more than 100 plants [to
get vitamin A] . . . For example, bathua a very popular leafy vegetable in
North India . . .” As Ms. Shiva herself noted at an April 13, 2000
presentation at Michigan State University, many of these “native plants”
are considered weeds by Western standards.

There you have it: the solution to severe dietary nutritional deficiencies
suffered by extremely poor people is to eat more meat, milk, eggs and

It is worth noting that according to experts at the United Nations
Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Food Policy Research
Institute vitamin A deficiency is still a major problem in both Bengal and
Northern India, places where Ms. Shiva/Antoinette says weeds are
successfully utilized as critical sources of dietary nutrients. Moreover,
these experts point out that the bioavailability of the ß-carotene in such
leafy green vegetables is actually quite low.

The new wonder rice, dubbed “golden rice” because of the yellow color it
gets from the ß-carotene it was bioengineered to contain, was developed
with support from the Rockefeller Foundation to combat the severe vitamin
A deficiencies plaguing nearly half a billion people worldwide, including
70% of children under five in Southeast Asia. Severe vitamin A deficiency
increases susceptibility to disease and causes blindness in an estimated
250,000 children each year. UNICEF predicts that improved vitamin A
nutrition could prevent 1 to 2 million deaths each year among children
ages 1 to 4.

Alex A. Avery
Director of Research and Education
Center for Global Food Issues
Hudson Institute
P.O. Box 202
Churchville, VA 24421
(540) 337-6354
fax: (540) 337-8593
email: aavery@rica.net
Bio-foods are perfectly safe, non-polluting and our best bet for ending
global hunger

By R. James Cook

Knight Ridder/Tribune
June 10, 2000, Saturday

PULLMAN, Wash. _ As a plant scientist who has devoted a 40-year career to
helping farmers manage their crop diseases without pesticides, the reasons
given for rejecting biotechnology for food and agriculture make no sense
to me.

One question I have heard repeatedly from consumers is "when will
agriculture become less dependent on pesticides to produce our food?"

While there are many approaches to reducing pesticide use, the ultimate
one is to make the crop plant genetically resistant to its pests and
diseases _ like immunization of people and animals.

Traditional plant breeding has made this happen for about 25 percent of
crop diseases and no more than 10 percent of the insect pests of crops.

Biotechnology offers the means to access all of nature's genes for pest
defense and therefore greatly reduce agriculture's dependency on
pesticides. And, because the genetic changes are so precise, and also so
small relative to the total genetic make-up of the plant, the modified
plant typically looks exactly like its unmodified parent.

Currently McDonald's is only accepting french fries from the russet
Burbank or "Idaho" potato produced under the traditional
pesticide-intensive system, rather than from the same potato with specific
genes added for pest defense so that it can be grown with greatly reduced
amounts of pesticide.

McDonald's has concluded that consumers do not believe that french fries
from the genetically modified (GM) version of the russet Burbank potato
are safe.

In fact, surveys indicate that the great majority of American consumers
trust the conclusions of the Food and Drug Administration, the
Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and
the National Academy of Sciences, all of which have reported over and over
again that foods from GM plants are as safe as food from the same plants
without these added genes.

In making its decision, McDonald's is forcing farm workers to again face
the risks of applying these pesticides and working in fields that have
been treated with these pesticides.

Earlier this year, my wife and I visited a farmer's market in Hawaii. As a
plant pathologist I knew that the papaya industry in Hawaii, and elsewhere
in the tropical world, is threatened with extinction by papaya ringspot, a
disease caused by a virus harbored harmlessly in the surrounding
vegetation but lethal in papaya when carried to these vulnerable plants by
plant-sucking aphids.

After all other attempts failed, the disease has been brought under
control by inserting a copy of a gene from the virus itself into the
genetic makeup of the papaya.

The method is like immunization, and it works almost universally for
virus-disease control in all plants. Since this farmer's market claims to
sell organic, I asked about the papaya with the virus gene added for
resistance to papaya ringspot. The answer was "we just say that it was
grown without pesticides."

How silly that they cannot refer to this papaya as organic, especially
since the papaya fruits without the virus gene are infected with the whole

What could be more organic than papaya with its own built-in genetically
based defense against this disease? Like organic, consumers may be
persuaded that GM-free food is healthier but also that they must be
willing to pay more for it. Some food companies will be labeling GM-free
for the perceived added value, while virtually all of them see the GMO
label for "genetically modified organism" as something they would rather

Announcements by Gerber and Frito-Lay to sell only GM-free, and by the
Food and Drug Administration of stepped-up procedures to certify GM-free,
all fit with this trend.

It seems to me that there is something backward in the logic that says we
should fear GM foods. While the opponents of biotechnology are concerned
about food safety, the environment and farm economics, it is a fact that
keeping GM-free food in the marketplace will depend on continued use of
the pesticides and other costly inputs required for growing these crops.

On the other hand, genetically modified crops make agriculture less
harmful to the environment, improve conditions for farmers and reduce the
cost of food while making food more convenient, nutritious and safe for

I firmly believe there is great promise in the science and application of
biotechnology. It is needed to help feed the 8 billion people projected to
be on this earth by about 2030, and in numerous other ways it will improve
the lives of people worldwide.


R. James Cook holds the Endowed Chair in Wheat Research at Washington
State University. Readers may write him at: Box 646430, Washington State
University, Pullman, Wash. 99164-6430.