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June 15, 2000


Public Funding of Biotech Research; Economics of Biotech Crops & More


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

From:"Clothier, Jeffrey"

I applaud Claude Willemot's analysis of who our target audience ought
to be, and the tone that we should take with regard to presenting the
GMO case. However, I differ strongly with his negative analysis of
privately-funded research. There are many factors contributing to the
decline in university and other publicly-funded research institutions,
one of which is the historic glut in research PhDs seeking work in
academia. It is difficult indeed to be a postdoctoral fellow living on
$20,000 a year or less, working ridiculous hours for only partial
credit at best for any publications they present or work produced, and
watching less qualified technicians work 9-5 for twice or three times
the salary. The career ladder in academia is upside-down at best. Thus
many of the best qualified scientists are fleeing to the industrial
private sector, and thank goodness.

My spouse did her doctoral and postdoctoral work in HHMI (Howard
Hughes Research Institute)- funded labs at the University of Iowa and
Duke University. The quality and quantity of work, publications, etc.
turned out by labs funded by this private foundation is staggering,
precisely because their principle investigators are largely freed from
constantly having to scavenge for public grant money. Any moneys they
receive from NIH, from other public granting institutions, from their
own host institutions, etc., are on top of relatively generous
stipends paid by HHMI. Corporate funding for research is following the
same model, often providing for more adequate facilities than the
public alone could or would provide, better living and working
conditions for the professionals involved, and expanded career

Again I must say that the assumption that the profit motive and the
private sector are automatically suspect with regard to sound science
is unproven, and perhaps unproveable. The notion is entirely
unsupported in Claude Willemot's post, agreement with the underlying
premise is taken for granted. Public/private partnerships are not some
unholy alliance, but they are certainly a challenge to the
traditional, perhaps moribund model of purely public, academic

Jeff Clothier Web Coordinator
Corporate Communications
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
Des Moines, IA 50306

>From: Claude.Willemot@aln.ulaval.ca
>I have been trying to read the tidewave of GMO messages on our site,
and found them most informative and interesting. I would like to add
my own thoughts.
>Our messages fighting the anti-GMO opinion should be less agressive.
We should not discuss with the activists, who will never change
From:alan dewar

Can anyone help?
Recently in this forum I read that some shareholders in Pepsi had
tried to ban the use of GM corn syrup in the production of their
product. Does this mean that Pepsi in the USA is made with GM products
now? And what about Coca cola? If so are these products exported to
other countries from the USA, or are they always made locally?
I should say that I am not anti-GM - I just want to know that facts
about this situation to use correctly in discussion. Alan M. Dewar


From:"John W. Cross"

The message of 6/8 by Chuck Benbrook, while technically accurate, is
misleading. As Mr. Benbrook states, trace residues of some pesticides
are found in produce. However, it is also true that only a very small
percentage of test samples of fresh produce exceed the tolerance
limits set by EPA. According to the California Department of Pesticide
Regulation, which has the largest state-funded pesticide testing
program in the US,

About 1 percent of samples tested have illegal residues. No residues
are detected in about 65 percent of samples. Remaining samples have
detectable residues, but most are trace levels well below the legally
allowable limits. U.S. EPA sets these limits with an additional margin
of safety in mind to protect infants, children, and other sensitive

For more detailed information, the report for the most recent CDPR
reporting year (1996) is available:
http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dprdocs/rsfr1996.htm# "http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dprdocs/rsfr1996.htm#execThe"

difference between detectable and tolerance levels is that analytical
techniques are able to detect extremely low levels of pesticides. This
is a triumph of analytical chemistry, but likely not of health
significance, since every epidemiological study I have read shows that
consumption of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces a person's
risk of many serious life-shortening diseases.

John Cross

P.S. I have not financial connection to the agrochemical, food or seed
businesses. At one time I did work for the CDPR Food Safety Program.>
From:Gordon Couger

Why is every one trying to pass the results of a faulty well, a faulty
chlorinater and negligent and lying civil servants off on every one
but the two fools that didn't maintain the well and didn't shut it
down when the chlorinator broke and didn't report the high coliform
count and then denied it for two days.

I don't think agriculture or the providential government should take
the heat this.

The blame for this rests soundly on the shoulders of the two men that
knew the well leaked, they knew the chlorinator didn't work yet they
didn't shut it down. When the got back positive coliform results that
showed a very high level of bacteria they chose to keep their mouth
shut about it. Whe ask by the proper authorities that needed the
information to treat the sick reselting from this lapse of mid they
said the reports were ok. The second time they were as again they
answered the waters ok.

If I were one of those that got sick and lived I don't know what I
would do. Sue them, kill them, or give them a beating they will never
for get. As far as I am concerned these guys have canceled their
tickets to the human race.


Gordon Couger gcouger@couger.com
Retired Farmer www.couger.com/gcouger
From: Tom DeGregori
Subj: Cheers for Alex Avery's - Vandana Shiva Antoinette: 'Let 'em

Cheers for Alex Avery's - Vandana Shiva Antoinette: 'Let 'em Weeds! We
need to keep the discussion on Vandana Shiva, Ph.D. going with more
pieces on her. Currently, she is lionized through North America and
Eurpoe and is extremely useful for the technophes because she is from
a developing country and she is in many ways a very slick writer able
to hit all the right notes appealing to a variety of politically
correct beliefs of groups such as eco-feminists. To those uninformed
on issues, Shiva sounds very learned and scientific and she refers
plants by their local name and gives their botanical names. She is
also the weakest link in the

Luddite case since Shiva makes arguments that with any knowledge or
analysis are simply preposterous. Read her books on the green
revolution carefully and it is clear that she believes that the HYVs
require nutrient in the soil to grow while the "traditional" varieties
don't. You don not have to have a Ph.D. in physics (as Shiva does) to
know that if the chemical nutrient is in the plant, it has to come
from somewhere - the law of conservation of matter and energy.
However, just because her arguments are patently absurd to us, does
not mean that they will be so to the public. They clearly have not
been so far and we must not forget that Paul

Ehrlich has been making outlandish and egregiously erroneous
prounouncements with predictions that have been wildly in error and
yet he is still celebrated in many circles.

Without being personal or otherwise making ad hominem attacks, we need
to expose Shiva's pronouncements for the absurdities that they are.
There I one that I would like to see pursued. In her Reith Lecture,
Shiva claims that the "Mayan peasants in Chiapas" have a total food
out put of 20 tons per acre of which 2 tons are corn and the other 18
are a diversity of beans, squash, other vegetables and fruit trees.
This output would of course require a production of biomass several
times larger. Anyone who has worked in agriculture knows how absurd
that assertion is. My experience as a development economist often
working in agriculture allows me to recognize the myriad of
nonsensical claims she makes about "traditional" agriculture in
various parts of the world that I have worked. From my experience, her
claim of 20 tons of diverse foodstuffs is not only ridiculous but
possibly even impossible. Could I post the question to the botanists
and biologists whether this 20 tons claim (in the composition that she
gives) is within the limits of what is theoretically possible and if
so, how close to the limits is it? Second, does anyone on this list
have any experience anywhere in the world with any agriculture,
"traditional" or modern, that have achieved these 20 ton per acre
outputs (circa 50 tons per hectare) with a diversity of food crops
many of which produce low volume but high valued outputs? I have never
encountered anything even close to that and to me it sounds comparable
to claiming to get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline in ones car by
using fuel produced by a 1920s refinery.

Thank you!

Tom DeGregori
From: Gale Ellen West

An economic analysis of the welfare impact of Bt cotton was just
published. See: Falck-Zepeda, J.B.; Traxler, G.; Nelson, R.G. (May
2000) Surplus distribution from the introduction of a biotechnology
innovation. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 82(2):360-369.

ABSTRACT: We examine the distribution of welfare from the introduction
of Bt cotton in the United States in 1996. The welfare framework
explicitly recognizes that research protected by intellectual property
rights generates monopoly profits, and makes it possible to partition
these rents among consumers, farmers, and the innovatinginput firms.
We calculate a total increase in world surplus of $240.3 million for
1996. Of this total, the largest share (59%) went to U.S. farmers. The
gene developer, Monsanto, received the next largest share (21%),
followed by U.S. consumers (9%), the rest of the world (6%), and the
germplasm supplier, Delta and Pine Land Company (5%). (Authors are
from Auburn University)

The article has an interesting table confirming substantial variations
in Bt cotton yields depending on region of production. It shows only
one negative value (decrease in yield). Yours,

(Prakash Note: You can write to Dr. Greg Traxler directly for a
reprint at )

"Of course we must be open-minded,
but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.'' -- Author unknown
professeure agregee/Associate Professor
Centre de recherche en economie agro-alimentaire/ Centre for Research
in Economics of Agri-Food Pavillon Paul-Comtois, Universite Laval
Ste-Foy (QC) G1K-7P4 CANADA

From: Zeami2000@aol.com
Subject: Re: Mae-wan Ho

Dear AgBioView Listserve

Pointing to Prakash, Apel claims rightly or wrongly that he is by
nature as a scientist, a seeker of truth. Dr Mae Wan Ho is a
scientist, and most surely a seeker of truth. I extend the
understanding that everyone in this discussion is a seeker of truth,
if for no other reason than the issue is passionately charged and
possessed of serious consequence. I don't believe anyone in this
discussion is frivolous; nor anyone evil. Remnants of mutual mockery
between groups of varying interest, belief and practice appear as
exhasperating obstructions to a more genuine harmony of concern.
Mae Wan and Prakash have met and intreacted within and without the
limelight. Nothing could be better. The importance of what their
interaction might produce for us should not be clouded by insults
hurled from whatever court.