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June 13, 2000


RE: Proof that GM soy doesn't deliver


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

Dear Marcus Williamson,

reading your comments on the yield for GM soy actually reminded me to a
discussion I was able to follow on a recent conference organised by Friends
of the Earth Europe in Brussels on "Sustaible agriculture in the next
millenium" and which I simply do not understand....

Why are those being involved in the public debate on genetic engineering in
the food sector are fighting all the time on the thesis, you also have put
forward that "the world's food problem is about distribution of food, and
responsible use of the food supply, not about availibility"?

This is the wrong fight! To my knowledge, almost everyone agrees on the
fact that hunger can not be solved by improoved plants only (see for
example even Bill Gates in its Time article (

On this above mentioned conference Howard Atkinson, University of Leeds
()(h.j.atkinson@leeds.ac.uk) gave a really impressive presentation on his
project on nematode resistant potatoes in Bolivia, where he considered
almost everything which was brought up by critics during the last years
when evaluating research projects in foreign countries, i.e. he worked
together with scientist from the country, he was looking for governmantal
funds to be independent from industry, he made parallel risk assessment
research, he considered the patent situation etc. The reaction was,
however, neverthelsse a strong resistance from some NGO "representatives" .
The same happend with Paola Lucca, ETH, Switzerland (paola.lucca.
@ipw.biol.ethz.ch), giving a presentation on the Vitam A/ increased
iron-rice. Anna-Rosa Martinez from GRAIN (garin@bcn.servicom.es), Spain was
attacking her arguing in a similar way as you did.

I simply could not believe what I have seen their: Two young woman fighting
for a better world using the tools they have the most competence and fun in
(one focussing the purely scientifc approach, the other more on the
approach of social development). And obviously it was not possible for the
NGO respresentaive to say: "Good work. Good product. But do you agree that
we also have to change the socio-political conditions? And if so, would you
lobby together with me our governments to change these conditions?"

Why wasnīt this possible? Why wastting human and financial ressources for
the wrong fight if the problems we are looking to solve for are so enomous?
If the vitamin A rice or the nematode resistant potato would have the
negative side effect of increasing (!) the poverty of the small scale
farmer, if it would avoid a land reform etc., I could at least understand,
why one is arguing against the product. But this is simply not the case.

The fight for women rights, farmer rights, land reform (to name only a few
factors) and (!) new technologies providing more yield and/ or more
resistant plants a supplementary developments - not contradictionary! As
there is no doubt about, that hunre and starvations has many reasons ther
is (or shoul be) also no doubt about that we simply need more food for a
growing population - especially if the living standards will also raise (as
e.g. in China) (not to mention the loss of agriucultural land by
urbanisation, desertification, erosion, growing areas for natural
protection etc.).

Insofar plant breeeders (I am working in a plant breeding company) do what
they have done during the last 100 years. Developing new varieties with
increased yield and better resistances (to reduce the loss for example by
insects) which of course has to be adapted to the local climate and soil
situation (which is the reason, why we for example offer some 50 different
sugar beets).

Why opposing the application of new technologies for better yields? Why not
simply figthing for both? Isnīt it your argumentation much more credible,
arenīt you heard much more if you simply agree that for example the vitamin
A rice is a good product - even if it does not solve all the probelmes in
one step?

Where is the problem?

Best regards

Jens Katzek

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

Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 01:17:45 +0100
From: Marcus Williamson
Subject: Proof that GM soy doesn't deliver


Proponents of GM food, such as yourselves, have been trying to tell us
that one of the reasons for accepting GM is to feed the world's

Here's proof that the yield for GM soy is actually _lower_ than
conventional crops. ...........