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July 10, 2000


20/20, NY Times, testing and labeling


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

ABC's 20/20

How Good is Organic Food?



Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2000 15:24:48 -0600
To: verma.1@osu.edu
From: Sonny.Ramaswamy@ksu.edu
Subject: (Fwd) web site


The New York Times has established a Web site in which articles on genetic
engineering food are posted at
http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/science/health/gm -index.html.
Recent articles, from both the pro and anti-biotechnology camps, cover a
wide range of topics, including the political, industrial, scientific, and
public opinion issues surrounding the GM food debate. The site also
maintains a list of related links and a few articles that include diagrams
depicting the mechanics of altering plants. Visitors may review the
information posted and opt to participate in the on-going discussion forum
on genetically engineered foods at

Date: Jul 10 2000 21:08:55 EDT
From: Andrew Apel Subject: Testing

I find myself compelled to strongly disagree with Dr. Lineback's assertion
of a distinction between research and testing. Both, it seems, involve
experimentation and results, and the results are all of interest, albeit to
different communities.

While it may not be necessary to have peer reviews of experimental results
of food and environmental testing, these results are nonetheless of
interest to many, as one might easily guess from the biotech "debate."

This artificial distinction between types of experiments has led to a lack
of transparency in environmental and food testing which many have
complained about, I number myself among their ranks.

Unfortunately, the nature of the food and environmental tests carried out
on GM crops would, if made public, "tip off" competing companies as to
what their competitors are up to in their research and commercialization
pipelines; so there are other interests at stake here.

I can't propose how to solve the issues, but at the very least, making an
artificial distinction between research and testing contributes to the
lack of transparency, rather than to justifying it very well.

From: David Lineback Subject: Re: Microarrays, testing, antibiotic markers, RAFI

Dear Dr. Prakash:

Dr. Vint is apparently having some difficulty distinguishing between a
research program and a testing program. The statement in your letter to
the SF Examiner correctly implies that genetically improved foods
have undergone testing relative to issues of safety, substantial
equivalence to the common counterpart, and environmental concerns. This
is clearly a testing program, as it should be, not a research program.

The results of testing programs are usually not subjected to peer review
and publication of the results for they do not contribute new knowledge
the sense of the results of research programs. It is the results of the
latter that are peer reviewed and published.

Date: Jul 10 2000 21:20:50 EDT
From: Andrew Apel Subject: Re: CHC Briefing, ACGA, RAFI, Labeling, Sainsbury

This "consumer right to know" is an odd thing. I don't know where this
"right" really comes from; it seems to have been invented out of whole
cloth. A "right to know" implies that Person A has a right to force Person
B to say something Person A wants to know. Is merely wanting to know
something good enough to
establish this right?

Personally, I don't think that everyone has a right to everything I know
just because they might want to. After all, Person B has some rights, too,
presumably just as many as Person A.

On the other hand, if Person B has knowledge of a danger to Person A's
health or safety, I would think that Person A could be said to have a
right to that information, just as Person B would have an obligation to
divulge it.

In the case of biotechnology, consumers would then perhaps have a right to
know anything about food which is directly relevant to their health or
safety. As no dangers to health or safety have been associated with
biotechnology, it is difficult to see how a "consumer right to know" is
implicated, or justifies

Subj: Labeling
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000 11:22:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "MERRITT, COLIN R [AG/8050]"
Paul Ebert wrote the apparently reasonable statement:

"The real question is why not label genetically engineered (or modified)
agricultural products? What are you afraid of? If the science is so
sound then your efforts would be better spent informing the public of the
risk/benefit ratio of using your products, rather than attempting to keep
your products indistinguishable from there non-biotech alternatives.
Organic farmers have gone to great lengths to get there products labeled."

Colin Merrit wrote:

Consumer's right to know says label foods with whatever we may all wish
for, but in that case soceity should ensure that the full force of law is
brought to bear on anyone making false claims about food hazards (or
unproven benefits)as a result.