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March 22, 2000


Anti-biotech sentiment has its own risks


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

Henry Miller's comments on the Codex commission's meeting do well pointing
out the alarming political trend of the day. The combined forces of
anti-technology, anti-business, and trade-protectionist interests are
making huges strides towards turning biotechnology into a scapegoat.

There is one comment of his which I do feel compelled to contend with,

> FDA officials orchestrated the phoney
> "pressure" for such a change by holding public meetings at the end of
> last year that offered activists an opportunity to stuff the ballot box,
> and at which the discussion panels were packed with radical opponents of
> biotech.

I attended and testifed at the FDA hearing held in Oakland, CA, the
final of three public meetings which he mentions. The panels had fewer
radical opponents than supporters of biotech (at least in the Oakland
case). The public testimonies given at the hearing were stacked with
'activist' opponents, however there were empty seats for people to
testify. I wish that some of my colleaguse had filled those seats. This
was not something that we can blame the FDA for 'orchestrating'. The
ballot box was perhaps 'stuffed' because many in the scientific community
did not "vote".
Stuffing of the ballot box also occurred where written tesimonies were
accepted for the public record. Although many biotechnology opponents
revealed their lack of indepentent thinking by pasting in and e-mailing
letters from such groups as Greenpeace, this was obviously more effective
than silence.
It seems to me unfair to blame the FDA for the outcome of the
hearings. Obviosly it is not members of this list who are inactive. But
perhaps we need to focus some of our efforts on involving the many of our
colleagues who tend to be more lethargic.

Matt Metz
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
UC Berkeley