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Date:

March 22, 2011

Subject:

Rejecting GM May Spur Violence; Answer for Many African Farmers; 9 Billion-People Question; How We Engineered The Food Crisis

 




* GM Plans Could Encourage Violence, Spelman Warns EU
* GM Crops Are The Answer for Many African Farmers
* The 9 Billion-People Question: The Economist Report on Feeding The World
* Many Ideas for World Hunger Crop Yield Idea Jam
* How We Engineered The Food Crisis
* Bee Expert Gets $200K Tyler Environmental Prize
* World Cotton Research Conference
* GM Crop Regulations: Safety Net or Insurmountable Obstacle
* The Haunting Erotics of Genetically Modified Food in Japan

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GM Plans Could Encourage Violence, Spelman Warns EU

- Caroline Stocks, Farmers Weekly (UK), March 22, 2011 http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/03/22/126050/GM-plans-could-encourage-violence-Spelman-warns-EU.htm

EU proposals to allow countries to reject genetically-modified crop technology to prevent civil unrest could encourage violence and crop vandalism, DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman has warned.

Mrs Spelman joined a number of EU environment ministers who said they were unconvinced about draft European Commission rules that would allow member states to decide for themselves whether they would allow GM plantings.

While the draft report called for farmers to have a say on whether to use GM technology, MEPs said countries should be allowed to prohibit GMs to maintain public order.

But at a meeting in Brussels last week (17 March), Mrs Spelman said using public order as a possible reason to opt out of growing GM crops would set a dangerous precedent.

Backed by France's environment minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Mrs Spelman said the clause might encourage violence or lead to more militant anti-GM campaigners damaging crops or property.

Germany's environment minister Norbert Roettgen also raised doubts, claiming the opt-outs proved the proposals were not compatible with EU or World Trade Organisation rules, while delegates from Belgium and Austria also expressed concerns.

Rejecting criticism of the report, EU health commissioner John Dalli told ministers work was already underway between the legal services of the Council and the Parliament to "make clearer why the proposed legal basis is appropriate" ahead of a working party meeting on 30 March.

-==========

GM Crops Are The Answer for Many African Farmers

- Father Athanas Meixner, Soni, Tanzania; Letter to the Editor of The Economist, March 17, 2011

http://www.economist.com/node/18386051

SIR – GM crops are the answer for many African farmers. It is the cruel propaganda of European activists, sadly swallowed by the ruling African urban class, that prevents poor farmers from access to this lifeline. GM seeds are offered free to African farmers by Monsanto. And yet, out of fear or a neocolonial mindset, farmers refuse to take up the offer, lest they offend their European masters.

I see my neighbours, small landholders, desperately trying to extend their acreage and continually being pushed back to their one hectare. They see weeds smothering their maize and forcing them to abandon the rest of their field to return to the part that they already weeded but where more weeds are coming up.

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The 9 Billion-People Question: A Special Report on Feeding The World

- The Economist, Feb 24, 2011; http://www.economist.com/node/18200618

'The world’s population will grow from almost 7 billion now to over 9 billion in 2050. John Parker asks if there will be enough food to go round'

THE 1.6-hectare (4-acre) Broadbalk field lies in the centre of Rothamsted farm, about 40km (25 miles) north of London. In 1847 the farm’s founder, Sir John Lawes, described its soil as a heavy loam resting on chalk and capable of producing good wheat when well manured. The 2010 harvest did not seem to vindicate his judgment. In the centre of the field the wheat is abundant, yielding 10 tonnes a hectare, one of the highest rates in the world for a commercial crop. But at the western end, near the manor house, it produces only 4 or 5 tonnes a hectare; other, spindlier, plants yield just 1 or 2 tonnes.

Broadbalk is no ordinary field. The first experimental crop of winter wheat was sown there in the autumn of 1843, and for the past 166 years the field, part of the Rothamsted Research station, has been the site of the longest-running continuous agricultural experiment in the world. Now different parts of the field are sown using different practices, making Broadbalk a microcosm of the state of world farming.

The wheat yielding a tonne a hectare is like an African field, and for the same reason: this crop has had no fertiliser, pesticide or anything else applied to it. African farmers are sometimes thought to be somehow responsible for their low yields, but the blame lies with the technology at their disposal. Given the same technology, European and American farmers get the same results.
In this special report

The wheat bearing 4 or 5 tonnes a hectare is, roughly, like that of the Green Revolution, the transformation of agriculture that swept the world in the 1970s. It has been treated with herbicides and some fertilisers, but not up to the standard of the most recent agronomic practices, nor is it the highest-yielding semi-dwarf wheat variety. This is the crop of the Indian subcontinent and of Argentina.

The extraordinary results in the centre of the field are achieved by using the best plants, fertilisers, fungicides and husbandry. The yield is higher than the national average in Britain, and is as good as it gets.

Seeds of doubt
But the Broadbalk field shows something else. Chart 1 tracks its yields from the start, showing how the three different kinds of wheat farming—African, Green Revolution and modern—have diverged, sometimes quite suddenly: in the 1960s with the introduction of new herbicides for Green Revolution wheat, and in the 1980s with new fungicides and semi-dwarf varieties. Worryingly, though, in the past 15 years the yields of the most productive varieties of wheat in Broadbalk have begun to level out or even fall. The fear is that Broadbalk may prove a microcosm in this respect, too.

At the start of 2011 the food industry is in crisis. World food prices have risen above the peak they reached in early 2008 (see chart 2). That was a time when hundreds of millions of people fell into poverty, food riots were shaking governments in dozens of developing countries, exporters were banning grain sales abroad and “land grabs” carried out by rich grain-importing nations in poor agricultural ones were raising awkward questions about how best to help the poor.

This time, too, there have been export bans, food riots, panic buying and emergency price controls, just as in 2007-08. Fears that drought might ruin the current wheat crop in China, the world’s largest, are sending shock waves through world markets. Discontent over rising bread prices has played a part in the popular uprisings throughout the Middle East. There are differences between the periods, but the fact that agriculture has experienced two big price spikes in under four years suggests that something serious is rattling the world’s food chain.

The food industry has been attracting extra attention of other kinds. For years some of the most popular television programmes in English-speaking countries have been cooking shows. That may point to a healthy interest in food, but then again it may not. The historian Livy thought the Roman empire started to decay when cooks acquired celebrity status.

At a meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) industrial countries in 2009 the assembled leaders put food alongside the global financial crisis on their list of top priorities, promising to find $20 billion for agriculture over three years. This year the current president of the Group of 20 (G20), France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, wants to make food the top priority. The Gates Foundation, the world’s richest charity, which had previously focused on health and development generally, started to concentrate more on feeding the world. At last month’s World Economic Forum, a gathering of businesspeople and policymakers in Davos, 17 global companies launched what they described as “a new vision for agriculture”, promising to do more to promote markets for smallholders—a sign of rising alarm in the private sector.

Anything for dinner?
Some of this public and political attention has been sporadic, but it is justified. An era of cheap food has come to an end. A combination of factors—rising demand in India and China, a dietary shift away from cereals towards meat and vegetables, the increasing use of maize as a fuel, and developments outside agriculture, such as the fall in the dollar—have brought to a close a period starting in the early 1970s in which the real price of staple crops (rice, wheat and maize) fell year after year.

This has come as a shock. By the 1990s most agricultural problems seemed to have been solved. Yields were rising, pests appeared under control and fertilisers were replenishing tired soil. The exciting areas of research in life sciences were no longer plants but things like HIV/AIDS.

The end of the era of cheap food has coincided with growing concern about the prospects of feeding the world. Around the turn of 2011-12 the global population is forecast to rise to 7 billion, stirring Malthusian fears. The price rises have once again plunged into poverty millions of people who spend more than half their income on food. The numbers of those below the poverty level of $1.25 a day, which had been falling consistently in the 1990s, rose sharply in 2007-08. That seems to suggest that the world cannot even feed its current population, let alone the 9 billion expected by 2050. Adding further to the concerns is climate change, of which agriculture is both cause and victim. So how will the world cope in the next four decades?

That question forms the backbone of this special report. The answer to it cannot be a straightforward technical or biological one because food is basic to life. In the Maya creation myth, the first humans were made of maize dough. In the slang of Marathi, a language of west central India, the man on the street is known as “fried bread”—after the workers’ favourite snack.

Because food is so important, agriculture—more than any other form of economic activity—is expected to achieve a series of competing and overlapping goals that change over time and from place to place. The world looks to farmers to do more than just produce food. Agriculture is also central to reducing hunger (which is not quite the same thing) and provides many people’s main route out of poverty. Food is probably the biggest single influence on people’s health, though in radically different ways in poor countries and in rich ones, where the big problem now is obesity. Food is also one of the few pleasures available to the poorest. In the favelas (slums) of São Paulo, the largest city in South America, takeaway pizza parlours are proliferating because many families, who often do not have proper kitchens, now order a pizza at home to celebrate special occasions.

Given these conflicting aims, it is not surprising that the food crisis has produced contradictory accounts of the main problem and radically different proposals for solving it. One group is concerned mainly about feeding the world’s growing population. It argues that high and volatile prices will make the job harder and that more needs to be done to boost supplies through the spread of modern farming, plant research and food processing in poor countries. For those in this group—food companies, plant breeders and international development agencies—the Green Revolution was a stunning success and needs to be followed by a second one now.

The alternative view is sceptical of, or even downright hostile to, the modern food business. This group, influential among non-governmental organisations and some consumers, concentrates more on the food problems of richer countries, such as concerns about animal welfare and obesity. It argues that modern agriculture produces food that is tasteless, nutritionally inadequate and environmentally disastrous. It thinks the Green Revolution has been a failure, or at least that it has done more environmental damage and brought fewer benefits than anyone expected. An influential book espousing this view, Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, starts by asking: “What should we have for dinner?” By contrast, those worried about food supplies wonder: “Will there be anything for dinner?”

This special report concentrates on the problems of feeding the 9 billion. It therefore gives greater weight to the first group. It argues that many of their claims are justified: feeding the world in 2050 will be hard, and business as usual will not do it. The report looks at ways to boost yields of the main crops, considers the constraints of land and water and the use of fertiliser and pesticide, assesses biofuel policies, explains why technology matters so much and examines the impact of recent price rises. It points out that although the concerns of the critics of modern agriculture may be understandable, the reaction against intensive farming is a luxury of the rich. Traditional and organic farming could feed Europeans and Americans well. It cannot feed the world.

* Not just calories
* How much is enough?
* No easy fix
* Plagued by politics
* Waste not, want not
* Doing more with less
* Our daily bread
* A prospect of plenty

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World Hunger Crop Yield Idea Jam

http://www.ideaconnection.com/idea-jam/crop-yield/?partner=17330

The world needs ideas and solutions to the problem of dwindling food supplies, and this is your chance to help make a difference.

See the list of ideas submitted by jammers - you can vote ideas up or down, enter your own ideas, and comment on ideas and engage in the discussion at

https://www.ideaconnection.com/members/idea-jams/ideas.html

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How We Engineered The Food Crisis

- Henry Miller, Guardian (UK), March 20, 2011

‘Thanks to dysfunctional regulation of genetic engineering and misguided biofuels policy, the world's poorest are going hungry’

Food prices worldwide were up by a whopping 25% in 2010, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, and February marked the eighth consecutive month of rising global food prices. Within the past two months, food riots helped to trigger the ousting of ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. (It is noteworthy that food prices increased 17% last year in Egypt, and the price of wheat, a critical staple there, soared by more than 50%.) For poor countries that are net importers of food, even small increases in food prices can be catastrophic, and recent bumps have been anything but small.

There are several causes of rising prices. First, large-scale disasters have precipitated localised crop failures, some of which have had broad ripple effects – for example, Russia's ban on grain exports through at least the end of this calendar year resulted from fires and drought. Second, deadly strains of an evolving wheat pathogen (a rust) named Ug99 are increasingly threatening yields in the major wheat-growing areas of southern and eastern Africa, the central Asian Republics, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, South America, Australia and North America. Third, rising incomes in emerging markets like China and India have increased the ability of an expanding middle class to shift from a grain-based diet to one that contains more meat.

And fourth, against this backdrop of lessened supply and heightened demand, private investment in R&D on innovative practices and technologies has been discouraged by arbitrary and unscientific national and international regulatory barriers – against, in particular, new varieties of plants produced with modern genetic engineering (aka recombinant DNA technology or genetic modification, or GM). Genetic engineering offers plant breeders the tools to make crops do spectacular new things. In more than two dozen countries, farmers are using genetically engineered crop varieties to produce higher yields, with lower inputs and reduced impact on the environment.

But exploiting this advanced technology has been a tough row to hoe. Regulation commonly discriminates specifically against the use of the newest, most precise genetic engineering techniques, subjecting field trials to redundant case by case reviews and markedly inflating R&D costs. A veritable alphabet soup of United Nations' agencies and programmes are prime offenders, perpetuating a regulatory approach that is both unscientific and obstructionist. These public policy failures, in turn, inhibit the adoption and diffusion of new plants that boast a broad spectrum of new high value-added input and output traits.

Can the flawed public policy that prevails in most of the world be rationalised? Nina Fedoroff, professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, former state department senior adviser and currently visiting professor at King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia, is not optimistic:

"The continuing distaste for [genetically engineered plants] and their consequent absurd over-regulation means that the most up-to-date, environmentally benign crop protection strategies are used almost exclusively for the mega-crops that are profitable for biotech companies. The public agricultural research sector remains largely excluded from using modern molecular technology. Will this change soon? I don't think so."

Fedoroff continues:

"The screams of pain will come first from the poorest countries that already import way beyond their ability to pay and [are] too poor (or perhaps unwise) to make the requisite investments in developing new high-tech approaches to agriculture in hot places. And now we we're pouring our ag [agriculture] bucks into biofuels, of all the imaginable absurdities."

In fact, the United States and Europe are diverting vast and increasing amounts of land and agricultural production into making ethanol. The United States is approaching the diversion of 40% of the corn harvest for fuel and the EU has a goal of 10% biofuel use by 2020. The implications are worrisome. On 9 February, the US department of agriculture reported that the ethanol industry's projected orders for 2011 rose 8.4%, to 13.01bn bushels, leaving the United States with about 675m bushels of corn left at the end of the year. That is the lowest surplus level since 1996.

If only the ingenuity of genetic engineers were unleashed, we would likely see innovative approaches to the production of energy from non-food organisms, including switchgrass, trees and algae. But as Steven Strauss, professor at Oregon State University and an expert in genetic engineering of plants, has pointed out, regulators' approach to such sources of energy make field trials and commercialisation unfeasible.

Related to this issue is that discriminatory regulation has been complemented by outright antagonism to genetically engineered crops from anti-technology, anti-business NGOs, and some governments, which has caused farmers to become concerned about the acceptability of such crops to importers of seeds and other agricultural products. This is part of the ripple effect of flawed, discriminatory regulation. Finally, the United Nations' brokering of an international agreement on "Liability and Redress" in the event of damages, real or imaginary, from the use of genetically engineered crops is yet another drag on investment in and the use of these products.

What are the implications of this profound and costly policy failure? Mixed, according to Juergen Voegele, director for agriculture and rural development at the World Bank:

"Somewhat higher food prices are a good thing for overall global food production because they stimulate investments in the agricultural sector which are long overdue. Those investments need [to] be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, everywhere, but particularly in poor countries because they are most vulnerable to climate change and social disruption."

That might be so, but the classic relationship between supply and demand is being distorted by public policy that discourages the private sector investment that would otherwise be stimulated by market forces. Voegele goes on to observe that the inflation of food prices also has negative implications:

"Somewhat higher food prices are a bad thing for the poor because they cannot afford a healthy diet in the first place and are forced to make further cuts on education and health spending if their food bill goes up. We already have close to one billion people go[ing] hungry today, not because there is not enough food in the world but because they cannot afford to buy it."

And therein lies the real – and escalating – tragedy of our current, flawed regulatory excesses. Voegele muses about whether we will be able to feed 9 billion people in 2050: "Without a doubt we can. But not by continuing business as usual. Or we will have 1.5 to 2 billion hungry people in the world by 2050. It will require very significant investments in agriculture R&D and in overall productivity increases."

But investment alone will not be enough: like trying to run a locomotive with the brakes on, it is wasteful – and ultimately futile – to focus on the "supply side" of research without considering the inhibitory effects of gatekeeper regulation; the regulatory barriers are, in fact, rate limiting.

Greater global food security certainly cannot be accomplished without innovative technology. And that, in turn, cannot be developed in the face of unscientific, gratuitous and excessive regulatory barriers. As Professor Strauss says, "Solving these problems will require new ways of thinking and strong scientific and political leadership to move us toward a regulatory system that enables, rather than arbitrarily blocks, the use of genetic engineering."

He is correct, but there is neither impetus nor momentum to move us in that direction, no hint of bureaucrats' willingness to correct past mistakes. Yet again, the poorest and most vulnerable and powerless among us will suffer most.

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Leading Entomologist and Bee Expert Awarded Prestigious 2011 Tyler Environmental Prize

http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/tylerprize

May Berenbaum, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joins a distinguished group of laureates for her groundbreaking work on the science behind the bee population collapse and on the genetics of coevolution between plants and insects

Los Angeles, CA – One of the world’s leading entomologists and foremost experts on the evolutionary relationship between insects and plants, May R. Berenbaum, PhD, will receive the 2011 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. Since its inception in 1973 as one of the world’s first international environmental awards, the Tyler Prize is the premier award for environmental science, environmental health and energy, given to those who confer great benefit upon humankind through environmental restoration and achievement.

“I’m absolutely humbled to receive the Tyler Prize,” said Berenbaum, the head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “All of my scientific heroes are Tyler Prize alumni.”

Previous laureates include Edward O. Wilson, recognized for his early work on the theory of island biogeography; Jane Goodall, selected for her seminal studies on the behavior and ecology of chimpanzees and her impact on wildlife awareness and environmental conservation; Jared Diamond, a renowned author who gave birth to the discipline of conservation biology; and Thomas Lovejoy, a central figure in alerting the world to the critical problem of dwindling tropical forests.

“I was afraid of insects and didn’t fall in love with them until college. I placed out of introductory biology and the only course that fit my schedule was 'Terrestrial Arthropods,' and I figured, fear stems from ignorance, so here I go,” recalls Berenbaum. “That’s one reason I do so much outreach and public understanding because I know what it’s like to fear insects.”

“Professor Berenbaum has done more to advance the field of entomology and explain its significance than nearly any other researcher today,” said Tyler Prize Executive Committee Chair Owen T. Lind, Professor of Biology, Baylor University. “Her expertise on bees and the causes behind declining bee populations has further positioned her as a leading resource for the media, policymakers and peers.”

The Tyler Prize, consisting of a $200,000 cash prize and a gold medal, honors exceptional foresight and dedication in the environmental sciences—qualities that mirror the prescience of the Prize’s founders, John and Alice Tyler, who established it while the environmental debate was still in its infancy.

Coevolution
Berenbaum’s groundbreaking research in the field of chemical ecology has led to an understanding of the relationships between insects and the plants on a genetic level. Through a combination of genetic analysis and experimentation, Berenbaum has shown that plants evolve to create natural defenses, like chemical toxins to ward off pests, and that insects in turn evolve to overcome these defenses. Understanding this coevolution, or “arms race,” between plants and insects has been fundamental to a better understanding of pesticide resistance, insects and genetically modified crops.

“Someone has got to stick up for the little guy,” said Berenbaum. “This world, this planet, would not function without insects. Our lives would be miserable without insects and people don’t realize that.”

The Decline of Bees
Berenbaum’s research has also been central to understanding the decline of bee populations in North America and around the world, known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

-=============

World Cotton Research Conference

- November 7-11, Mubai, India http://www.wcrc-5.com/

The theme of the conference is ‘Technologies for Prosperity’ . Topics of interests range from biotechnology, breeding, cotton husbandry, input use, physiology, protection, abiotic stress management, harvesting, ginning, fibre quality issues, economics, marketing, textile research, cotton by-product utilization to technology transfer.

This five-day event has been organized in the most serene environment of “The Renaissance Mumbai Hotel and Convention Centre”

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GM Crop Regulations: Safety Net or Insurmountable Obstacle

- Dr. Marquita K. Hill, ISB NEWS REPORT, MARCH 2011

Full report at http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2011/Mar/GM-Crop-Regulations.pdf

AAAS Symposium February 18, 2011 Washington, DC;

Regulations governing genetically engineered (GE) crops, even commodity crops, are overwhelming. For small-market GE crops, regulations have become almost impossible, especially for crops produced and tested in publicly-supported institutions, such as universities. At the AAAS symposium titled “GM Crop Regulations: Safety Net or Insurmountable Obstacle?” (http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2011/webprogram/Session2860.html) held in Washington, DC, six speakers presented key impediments posed by US regulations, particularly when public institutions are trying to follow them, and offered possible improvements.

The presenters focused their talks (summarized below) on two primary reasons that specialty GE foods are not currently commercially available: First, the current regulatory system is viewed as not sufficiently science-based and hence too costly to be justified for small-market crops; and second, the complexities of the regulatory system at the USDA, US EPA, and US FDA make the path to commercialization tedious, costly, time-consuming, and burdensome.

Why We Need to Craft Science-based Regulations for GM Crops and Animals in the United States
— Nina Fedoroff, Pennsylvania State University

Dr. Fedoroff initially stressed attaining global food security—without destroying the environment—as a key challenge facing the world’s growing population in the twenty-first century. Scientists must adapt plants to a hotter, drier world using less water, producing less pollution, and, overall, having a lowered environmental footprint. GE crops may be capable of surmounting some of these challenges and reaching the market if researchers are given an opportunity to get past a maze of regulations.

Fedoroff and other speakers asked why the commercialization of GE crops has reached what is basically an impasse. Even the large-market crop alfalfa, recently given government go-ahead, may yet be stymied by litigation challenging government approval. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was general agreement that the potential hazards of GE crops must be systematically evaluated. A US National Academy of Sciences Council white paper published in 1987 said that there was no evidence that recombinant DNA technology was inherently hazardous and that the introduction of recombinant DNA engineered organisms into the environment should be based on the properties of the modified organism, not on the process through which it was generated. Thus, Fedoroff opined, what we should evaluate is the product and not the process by which GE crops are created. That basic thought – product not process – has been lost in an expensive, complex, and time-consuming maze of regulations.

Three agencies are given the task of evaluating risks: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These agencies are required to regulate GE products using existing regulations. One especially problematic result of this approach is that EPA treats GE crops as if they were toxic chemicals.
^^^
Afternote: Major regulatory problems were noted by these speakers. However, this report may well be ended by noting some of the conclusions of keynote speaker, Nina Fedoroff:
• The way forward is to help GE developers comply with regulatory requirements and to change regulations to reflect accumulated knowledge and experience with GE organisms.
• Changes to the regulatory regime are now progressing through government.
• Attitudes, even in Europe, are beginning to change.
• Regulations most need to be improved so as to become less expensive.

A remarkable amount of information was packed into this three-hour symposium by these six speakers. Although all agreed that fewer (or less expensive) regulations are needed, only one speaker advocated having no regulations. Indeed, the shortcomings of greatly relaxed regulations were noted by one speaker.
ISB

-==================

The Haunting Erotics of Genetically Modified Food in Japan

- Neal Kazuhiro Akatsukaa (University of Hawai’i at Manoa, United States)
Appetite, Volume 56, Issue 2, April 2011, Page 516; doi:10.1016/j.appet.2010.11.151 ; Elsevier Ltd.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WB2-52BDWHD-3T&_user=496259&_coverDate=04%2F30%2F2011&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=gateway&_origin=gateway&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000024178&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=496259&md5=ec45f0e8d549a33a040268683e714bdf&searchtype=a

Since 1996, when genetically modified (GM) food and feed were first imported into Japan, consumers have grown increasingly wary of the place of such food in their diets. By 1999 this negative sentiment had become so ubiquitous that the Japanese government, in response to pressure by consumer and activist organizations, passed legislation to regulate GM food and implement mandatory labeling.

Nonetheless, consumers continue to voice a desire to avoid GM food in their everyday lives. This raises questions as to what is the nature of this desire and how it has emerged? Based on an analysis of popular culture and ethnographic research in Tokyo and Chiba Prefectures conducted between 2008 and 2009, the contours of the gastronomic threat of GM food for Japanese consumers emerges as a haunting absent presence that restructures the urban space of Tokyo.

This haunting results from GM food being simultaneously everywhere, as GM food are quantitatively present and being consumed; yet nowhere, insofar as many consumers cannot or do not look and find GM food. The nature of this polluting threat shapes how food products (e.g. strawberries, tomatoes, okra, and potatoes) are made gastronomically desirable in food venues such as a neighborhood Santoku supermarket.

In this context, the (im)possibility of conscious consumption of GM food by Japanese consumers should be understood by how consumers become interpellated within an intimate actor-network of entangled, mutually penetrating bodies premised in part upon the exclusion of GM food.

-
Selected abstracts from the 2010 Annual Conference of the Joint Meeting of the
Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS), Agriculture, Food, and
Human Values Society (AFHVS), Society for the Anthropology of Food and
Nutrition (SAFN) 2–5 June 2010, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA