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June 14, 2000


Henry Miller; More Trewavas & Mae-Wan Ho; More


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

From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Why Can't We All Get Along?

Jens Katzek wonders why those who embrace and those who oppose the new
biotechnology can't make common cause for the good of mankind. Part of
the answer is simple: the anti-biotech activists' agenda has nothing
to do with beneficence, genuine concerns about safety, or greater
choice and benefit for more people. Biologist Donald Kennedy, former
FDA Commissioner and Stanford University president emeritus, now
editor of the journal Science, more than a decade ago
analyzed the relationship between anti-technology activism and
governmental oversight of America's scientific enterprise. Bringing to
it the experience of a scientist and regulator, Kennedy observed about
biotechnology that bad public policies usually result when we respond
politically to some popular movement, only to discover that we have
mistaken its real motivation. "'We did what they wanted, but after we
did it they turned out to want something else' is among the oldest of
political complaints. It has all kinds of bad consequences. Not only
is the wrong policy put in place, but those who have tried to be
responsive experience alienation and disillusionment when they
discover that they have not provided any satisfaction." Kennedy gently
chided policy makers: "Frequently decision-makers give up the
difficult task of finding out where the weight of scientific opinion
lies, and instead attach equal value to each side in an effort to
approximate fairness. In this way extraordinary opinions, even those
like Mr. [Jeremy] Rifkin's, are promoted to a form of respectability
that approaches equal status." (Kennedy D. The Regulation of Science:
How Much Can We Afford? MBL Science, Winter 1988-89; 5-9.)

Henry I. Miller

Hoover Institution

Stanford University
From: "Robert L. Manning"
Subject: What are we discussing?

Dear Prakash,

As a reasoning human being, - which I consider myself to be, and not
as a molecular biologist, which I am not - what I want to understand
about transgenic biotechnology and deployment of rDNA into the
environment is twofold:

§ Is it likely to be effective in achieving positive results for the
human species?
§ Can the risks of long term damage to human health and the biosphere
be evaluated well enough to conclude that the benefits justify the
risk, and what controls might be necessary to ensure this result?

For me those are the important questions. I have felt disappointed and
even frustrated to read so much exchange of opinion that is polemic,
sarcastic, satirical, or simply rude, but does not deal constructively
with these difficult and fundamental issues. Only a few postings I
have read seem to be attempts to present facts that might help the
reader reach conclusions on those questions, it seems to me.

If I am right about this, it seems a shame to waste the opportunity
for increased understanding presented by this discussion group.
Perhaps that is not the goal. If it is, isn't there something that
could be done to improve the situation?

Of course, I may be wrong. In any case, I will hang in there a while
longer, if I can take it, to see if it will bring me closer to the
answers to these questions I consider so important.


From: "G. Eric Schaller"
Subject: Re: Anthony Trewavas - GM is the best option we have

Red Porphyry wrote:
>well, here in the states, most of us assume that scientists are no
different than anyone else, meaning that they're in it mostly for the
money, not ideology. the money from working in science allows them to

Science a "well-paid trade" in the US??!!! I don't think so. Your
characterization of the scientific life is so far from the truth that
it is astounding. I seriously doubt that most scientists in the US got
involved in science because of the financial benefits. If they did,
then they came in for a rude awakening. Maybe you have scientists
confused with doctors or lawyers or stock brokers or just about any
other profession.

The fact is that here in the US, as elsewhere, scientists are
scientists because (1) they love finding out how a previously unknown
process works and/or (2) they believe that understanding how a process
works can lead to a better world.
From: david.nicholl@nabri.Novartis.com
Subject: Re: Anthony Trewavas - GM is the best option we have

A response to the critique by Red Porphyry of Anthony Trewavas

well, here in the states, most of us assume that scientists are no
different than anyone else, meaning that they're in it mostly for the
money, not ideology. the money from working in science allows them to
drive big-ass, gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, live in
3,000-4,000 sq. ft. houses (far, far more than they actually need) on
land far from the "problems of the inner city" (land that was, until
recently, farmland), fill these houses with expensive stereos, tvs,
vcrs, appliances, and furnishings (all placed in accordance with
proper feng shui principles), eat in nice restaurants (all too often
on the company's or university's tab), and send their children to
nice, private schools. science may very well still be a noble calling
in england, but over here, it's mostly a well-paid trade, like
plumbing or cabinet-making, and consequently, scientific motivations
tend to be driven more by the attitude of a tradesman than a nobleman.

Well I am a scientist in America and would like to know where to go to
sign up for my 3,000-4,000 sq ft house and my 30,000 dollar SUV or
luxury car. Most scientist are not in it for the money, and most don't
make exhorbitant sums that your letter suggest. Most are in it because
they are driven my their inquisitive nature. And scientist at public
universities certainly aren't in it for the money or they would be
working for industry. If we were in it for the money we would be
computer programmers, business executives, lawyers or medical doctors
(not that these people are necessarily in it for the money either).
Everything doesn't have to be black and white you can have a job for
your ideals of improving the world and the love of discovery and also
as a way to live a comfortable life.

here in the states, most people are fairly skeptical that any global
warming is taking place at all, and if it is, that people have
anything to do with it (the contributors to this list from the hudson
institute and the hoover institute will back me up on this, i'm sure).
arguing that gm technology is necessary to counteract the effects of
global warming doesn't cut much ice with us yanks, i'm afraid.

This is not a scientific study but most of the people I talk to in the
states actually do think global warming is taking place. But people's
views are not the baseline for the truth, science is. And more and
more climatologist are coming to the same conclusion that global
warming is "real". Having genetic engineering at our disposal to
develop plants quickly that could grow better under conditions that
may result from global warming (ex: drought tolerance) cuts ice with
us Yanks quite well and I think a majority of Americans would support
these endevors.

In closing I don't know why you think that a purely capitalist view
devoid of any emotions or convictions or religion is somehow superior
to incorporating a stewardship view for the role of science. No
science takes place in a vacuum from the culture, beliefs and
religions in which it takes place. What exactly are you advocating, I
just don't get what you are driving at?


David Nicholl

Transformation Scientist
Novartis Inc.

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Is there an economist in the house?


You may all by now be aware that Iceland, a leading British grocery
chain, has managed to lock up 40 percent of the world's 'organic'
vegetables with supply contracts and will sell only organic frozen
vegetables (see below). The company claims that this will allow it to
offer 'organic' vegetables at ordinary prices. As a journalist, I have
some questions, and I need some expert answers; naturally, I will give

1. It is generally agreed that organic food is forced to sell for
higher prices because organic agriculture is less efficient than
conventional agriculture in terms of input costs and reduced output.
If this is true, how can Iceland sell organic at the same price as
conventional without subsidizing it with sales of its other products?

2. Since there are no international 'organic' standards, what
assurance is there that this stuff will really be 'organic?' Or will
Britain's Soil Association now be monitoring crop production in North
and South America?

3. Does this herald the 'commodification' of organic produce and
downward pressure on the price of organic produce?

4. Forty percent is a significant share. Could this violate
international trading principles? If the forty percent is locked into
low-price delivery contracts for one British supermarket chain, the
remaining 60 percent will supply the rest of the world, creating an
artificial shortage which will command a premium, severely distorting
market pricing - possibly amounting to a worldwide subsidy for the
discounts offered by Iceland.

Kindest regards,
Andrew Apel, editor
AgBiotech Reporter

Iceland Decision Sparks Dissent

June 15, 2000 The London Express says that a price war has broken out
after British supermarket giant Iceland contracted for almost 40 per
cent of the world’s organic vegetable crops. Nearly 40,000 tons of the
planet’s annual organic vegetable production, most of it from North
and South America, has been secured by the frozen food giant after
what the paper called “months of secret discussions.”

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s, Britain’s largest supermarket chain with
investments in organic produce in the Caribbean, said: “With all the
issues facing British farming it’s a shame they are moving towards
foreign organics.” Iceland, which has 760 stores in the UK, said they
had no choice but to look abroad because only three per cent of UK
agricultural land is organic.

Iceland’s entire frozen vegetable line, which accounts for 15 percent
of the total UK frozen vegetable market, will switch to organic by
this October. The company claims it will reduce organic food prices to
supermarket private-label levels.

Asda, a rival supermarket chain, responded to the announcement by
unveiling plans to sell 15 new lines of organic meat at low prices.
Soon after that, the Co-op, which has 1,100 outlets across Britain,
announced it would be cutting the cost of 100 organic lines in
September after experiencing huge demand from shoppers.

Sainsbury’s, the UK’s biggest organic seller with 650 lines and weekly
sales of £2.3 million ($3.45 million), said it would soon expand its
range of organic offerings.

While the big supermarkets responded to Iceland’s announcement by
saying they had bigger plans for organic food, they did not intend to
follow suit. The Financial Times reports that Sainsbury’s has a 30
percent market share of organic food sales, compared to Iceland’s one
percent, and questioned whether Iceland’s decision was sound. “There
are extra costs and that has to be reflected in the price,” a
spokesman said. “We do not make any more money from organic than
conventional food.” However, the company is working with suppliers to
bring down prices through economies of scale.

Malcolm Walker, Iceland’s chairman, said he was confident the £8
million ($12 million) annual outlay, which represents 12 percent of
the company’s profits last year, would pay off.

Analysts said Iceland would only need a 2 percent sales increase,
between £35 - 40 million ($52.5 - 60 million) a year, to offset the
investment, which could be generated by initial publicity. “There is a
lot of PR in here. Will the PR give the sales uplift to make it pay?
Historically, Iceland has won those bets,” said one analyst. Iceland
led the retail sector’s rejection of genetically modified foods when
it banned GM ingredients two years ago.

The switch to organic follows a series of marketing moves that have
often been dismissed initially by competitors. However, the big food
retailers have eventually followed the company’s lead, first on home
delivery and then on abolishing GM ingredients. The strategy has paid
off for Iceland, which has seen pre-tax profits rise from £50.2
million ($75.3 million) in 1998 to £65.3 million ($98 million) last


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

In a message agbionews@earthlink.net writes:

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 inteacted 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.


From: Andrew Apel Subject:
Re: Mae-wan Ho

Dear Zeami and Colleagues:

In the course of the "public debate" over biotechnology, it is
important to expose, and properly dispense with, what is more properly
described as propaganda. I highly recommend the following site:


You don't find Prakash employing the rhetorical tricks and logical
fallacies which are outlined at this site. The tricks and fallacies
will, on the other hand, instantly remind you of certain individuals
and groups we all know far too well.

Zeami2000@aol.com wrote:

>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.