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June 26, 2000


Marcus Williamson


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


Bt toxin has been sprayed over crops for decades by farmers (organic and
otherwise). There is no evidence of harm to human health. I would be happy
if the world could grow crops without pesticides but this is a totally
unreasonable proposal. Techniques that have some efficacy in small farms or
gardens do not work on large-scale farming.

Why do you think that scientists don't want sustainable development? It was
scientists who coined the term and made it "understood" in the wider
community. None of the scientists working in agricultural biotechnology (or
any other agricultural discipline) wish harm to the world. We are working
hard to make suststainable development a reality. Just wishing it to be so
is not good enough. It is necessary that people make an effort to address
these potential problems. Just whining about it will achieve absolutely
nothing. Biotechnology is one of the tools scientists are using to achieve
sustainable development. We don't however consider mass starvation to be an
acceptable approach. There are 6 billion people on the planet and this will
swell to at least 9 billion before the middle of the century. You have a
snowball's chance in Hell of feeding this many people without pesticides.
There are plenty of problems facing humankind now and in the future such
as: pollution from burning fossil fuels, clean water supplies, land erosion
and degradation and new diseases. One of the outcomes will be resource wars
where countries or ethnic groups fight over diminishing supplies of food,
minerals and energy. Indeed this is already happening in many places.
Western citizens contribute to resource shortfalls by using most of the
world's resources to live a charmed life but how many of us are willing to
give up our cars, buses, trucks, water supplies, food and most of all
MONEY. Why is it alright for Britons on the dole to live the "high life" by
using more than the $1 a day most people in the world live on (I don't
really mean they live well on the dole - I've been there myself)? I would
like to see NGO's like Greenpeace give up some of its money to fund food
aid to places like Orissa. Why don't they? Because they don't give a damn
about those people. They care only for themselves. They want the luxury to
pick and choose what food they eat, what cars they buy etc. Some
eco-activists want the luxury of buying fuel efficient cars to save the
environment. This is Clayton's environmentalism. I am not a hypocrit. I
admit that I use too much energy and have a ridiculous choice of foods to
choose from but I would not trade places with those living in poverty
worldwide. My hope is that they too can have my choices but I can tell you
it won't come from not using pesticides. It is necessary to look beyond the
local supermarket and think about where our food comes from and how it is
grown. I don't expect Greenpeace activists to study plant diseases etc. but
they show no interest whatsoever in finding out how to live on this planet
in a sustainable and balanced way. Agricultural biotechnology is not a new
and deadly pesticide but a safe alternative. There is no evidence of harm
from these developments and theoretically the chance of producing new
allergens is extremely remote. Most plants eaten today have chemicals in
them that might cause cancer and many are poisonous unless processed
properly. GM crops are no more risky than our common crops.

There are risks in not developing this technology just as there are risks
in not looking for new antibiotics or not searching for cures to cancer.
Human beings can not turn the clock back to a time before agriculture
without destroying 99.998% of the population. I have children and believe
me I want them to survive. I want them to survive even if they have to harm
the environment to do so. You are harming the enviroment everyday. If you
will not give up the luxuries of modern Western civilization for the sake
of the environment then you are relying on science and technology to keep
you in the style to which you are accustomed. My hope, and that of all
scientists, is that we can find a way to bring peace and prosperity to all
the people of the world. This might be an unreasonable ambition but at
least we are trying. The "stop the ship I want to get off attitude" of many
enviromental activists is a ridiculous and selfish response to a complex
problem. I would like to issue a public challenge to Greenpeace and
like-minded groups to come up with any kind of policy to address the
problem of sustainable development or indeed sustainable existence.

Malcolm Livingstone
CSIRO Tropical Agriculture

At 16:55 26/06/00 +0100, you wrote:
>Surely the best solution is to stop poisoning the land altogether?
>That means ceasing the use of herbicides and pesticides and returning
>to truly sustainable agriculture.
>I don't advocate the use of Bt corn because the long term effects on
>the soil and on human health of Bt are not known.
>Marcus Williamson
>Editor, "Genetically Modified Food - UK and World News"
>>The article you refer to states that there might be some danger to
>>arthropods from glyphosate use. This is an unrefereed report from a TV
>>station. I hope you don't believe everything you see on T.V. Also I never
>>stated that there could never be any consequences from using glyphosate. My
>>objective was to point out that glyphosate was much less toxic than other
>>frequently used herbicides and I stand by that. If British use of
>>glyphosate increases by 60% then I expect that the use of other herbicides
>>will decrease. Farmers won't use more than they have to. Herbicides cost
>>Are you taking an epidemiological study of 4 people seriously? There are
>>numerous causes of cancer - too many to mention. Even the article states as
>>much. I am not in favour of poisoning people or anything else. I want an
>>environmentally friendly society as much as anyone. I believe that the use
>>of glyphosate will reduce environmental damage. Have you researched the
>>links between cancer and other herbicides? Our world is awash in cancer
>>causing agents both natural and man made. Linking cancer to one chemical is
>>extremely difficult to do and this study is barely more scientific than
>>hearsay. If glyphosate is used properly it will not harm anybody - just
>>don't bathe in it.
>>In relation to harming useful insects and arthropods why do you not then
>>advocate the use of Bt corn instead of widespread use of pesticides that
>>kill indiscriminately and are blown by winds all over the place?
>>Malcolm Livingstone
>>At 11:53 19/06/00 +0100, you wrote:
>>>If it's so "environmentally friendly" perhaps you can explain this
>>>article :
>>>which indicates that beneficial arthropods may be impacted by
>>>glyphosphate use.
>>>How about the increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Is that
>>>"environmentally friendly"?
>>>I think not...
>>>And I ask again, why have the UK and US governments _increased_ the
>>>allowed application of this poison by 200 times?
>>>Marcus Williamson
>>>Editor, "Genetically Modified Food - UK and World News"
>>>On Fri, 16 Jun 2000 11:54:46 +1000, you wrote:
>>>>I'm sorry but glyphosate is a very useful environmentally friendly
>>>>herbicide and you can't grow food on large scales without herbicides. I'm
>>>>sure there are plently of agronomists who can back me up on this.
>>>>Glyphosate use has increased in some areas but the number of applications
>>>>per season has decreased and alternative more dangerous herbicide use has
>>>>declined significantly. What could possibly be wrong with eating plants
>>>>expressing viral proteins? Most crops suffer from viral disease and hence
>>>>much of what you eat contains virus particles (whole ones not just coat
>>>>protein). In addition many plant viruses are retroviruses which means they
>>>>integrate into the genomes of plants exactly like genetic engineering for
>>>>virus resistance - absolutely no difference! If you don't want to take my
>>>>word on this there planty of publications to support this. Go check them
>>>>out. I don't have time to do this but all you need to do is access a
>>>>database like Agricola (found in any University). Your argument doesn't
>>>>stand up theoretically or empirically.
>>>>Malcolm Livingstone
>>>>At 00:56 16/06/00 +0100, you wrote:
>>>>>If Glyphosphate is intended to _reduce_ herbicide use, why have US and
>>>>>UK governments _increased_ the permitted application of glyphosphate
>>>>>by 200 times?
>>>>>Glyphosphate has already been shown to cause lymphoma in tests in
>>>>>Sweden. The substance is banned in several European countries.
>>>>>The point with all these poisons, is that farmers don't "need" to use
>>>>>them at all. Instead, they can adopt natural, organic methods, which
>>>>>still have high yields and ensure that the environment, animals and
>>>>>plants are not being poisoned.
>>>>>>Virus diseases are easily controlled by genetic engineering. Plants are
>>>>"immunised" by expressing a
>>>>>>part of the coat protein of the virus. If you eat plants affected by
>>>>>>viruses then you are already eating the virus. What can be wrong with
>>>>>What's wrong is that, rather like the early brain surgeons prodding
>>>>>around inside the head, genetic scientists don't really _know_ what
>>>>>they're doing when they are meddling at this level. This was proven
>>>>>recently when it was revealed that a Monsanto modification had shown
>>>>>previously unknown gene changes to have taken place. See here for
>>>>>details :
>>>>>Personally, I see no applications of "great value". This is a
>>>>>technology which has been released into the environment far too soon
>>>>>and without fully comprehensive testing of the crops produced. Testing
>>>>>should be at the same level as that accorded to new pharmaceuticals,
>>>>>not the cursory "substantial equivalence" assessments which are
>>>>>carried out at the present time.
>>>>>Look forward to your comments.
>>>>>Marcus Williamson
>>>>>Editor, "Genetically Modified Food - UK and World News"
>>>>>On Wed, 14 Jun 2000 09:57:04 +1000, you wrote:
>>>>>>Dear Marcus,
>>>>>>GM soybean (glyphosate resistant) is not intended to increase yields.
>>It is
>>>>>>intended to decrease harmful herbicide use. Glyphosate is not a toxic
>>>>>>chemical. It breaks down in the soil within weeks. Without this approach
>>>>>>farmers need to spray more often and with more toxic and long lasting
>>>>>>herbicides. They need to also increase the amount of ploughing which
>>>>>>increases the amount of soil erosion. Genetic engineering is not just
>>>>>>increasing yields by simply producing a higher yielding variety. Pest
>>>>>>control contributes significantly to lower crop yields. Recently Africqa
>>>>>>lost 50% of its casava crop to a virus. Virus diseases are easily
>>>>>>controlled by genetic engineering. Plants are "immunised" by
expressing a
>>>>>>part of the coat protein of the virus. If you eat plants affected by
>>>>>>viruses then you are already eating the virus. What can be wrong with
>>>>>>approach? For aphid transmissable viruses it is possible that different
>>>>>>virus may be enveloped by the coat protein. This too is easy to
>>prevent. We
>>>>>>simply remove that part of the protein that is necessary for aphid
>>>>>>tranmission. Eventually genetic engineering will increase yields but for
>>>>>>now there are many, many other applications of great value.
>>>>>>Malcolm Livingstone PhD
>>>>>>CSIRO Tropical Agriculture