AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com
Date: Jul 13 2000 20:29:55 EDT
From: "Paul Ebert"
Subject: Environmentalists are not all bad
The environmental movement is consistently attacked in AgBioView. It is a
very diverse movement and not all bad. Just a few of the many positive
things that these "dangerous" people brought you:
The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, The Endangered Species Act,
Wilderness preservation, Ban on DDT, Ban on CFCs and much more. Those are
just some of the battles that were won. Maybe some of you are too young
remember the "good old days" of the industrial revolution before
environmentalist fought for regulations and tried to slow the
deterioration of the environment.
Why are many environmental groups concerned about biotechnology in general
and GM products specifically? Because the same stale arguments are
trotted out by industry and those primarily concerned about their economic
well being above all else. "It has not been proven unsafe yet", "It will
cost to much", Corporations: "We are not just in it for profit".
Environmentalist have heard it before and the same old arguments have been
wrong or exaggerated. We should thank the environmentalists for their
efforts to fight against powerful interests to make this planet just a
little bit better place to live.
Technology can be used for good purposes and I applaud those in AgBioView
that are thoughtfully attempting to use biotech for the long-term
improvement of our environment. Those that use stale
rhetoric to pursue short-term economic gain...well you will probably be
successful as others have been before you.
Sincerely, Paul Ebert
P.S. If I don't respond it's because I think AgBioView should stick to a
scientific discourse. I used to
think it was only the business men and their politicians that spewed half
truths for a buck. Society
has deteriorated to the point that a some scientists will ignore the hard
learned lessons of the past for
their own short-term gain.
Date: Jul 14 2000 04:53:25 EDT
Subject: Re: Expert lashes poor's new enemy
Dear Dr. Prakash
After many weeks since you have visited Greece, I am here with some
questions I have, which came out from a declaration made by the Greek
deputy Minister of Environment and I think that may need an answer. A few
days ago, the Greek Deputy Minister of Environment Mr. E. Efthimiopoulos
(ex Director of the Green peace office in Athens...) gave a press
conference and has officially announced some of the
policies they will follow, concerning GE crops. He has threatened to
uproot some cotton fields this year, which were planted with imported
cotton seed, unintentionally contaminated with GE material. He said
that there is a risk for the consumer (HOW ?) and the Natural Environment
(cotton is not a native plant in this country and there is no botanical
relationship with Greece's wild flora). He also announced that Greece will
push in Brussels, for the designation of GMO free areas within the EU,
including the Island of Crete. Bee keepers sent a complaint to the
Ministry of Environment expressing their concerns for their bee
populations and the quality of their products.
The questions are:
1. How much easy is to declare a geographical area (even an island
ecosystem), free of GMOs ? Do we have such examples from other countries
2. How high is the risk for bees when a few cotton fields are planted with
unintentionally contaminated seed lots ? (do bees visit cotton blossoming
I would be very happy to receive some comments on these.
Dr. Stamatis L. Sekliziotis
Senior Agricultural Specialist
American Embassy, Athens
Date: Jul 14 2000 01:29:38 EDT
From: Charles Benbrook
Subject: Seven Science Soc. Report
AgBioView Participants --
I am sure many of you have read, or read about the just-released,
NAS-organized report on biotech and world food challenges. I served as
the Ex. Dir. of the NAS Board on Agriculture during the 1980s when some of
the early NAS biotech reports were completed, and know the NAS process
well. This is an unusual NAS statement, different in part because it is a
collaborative effort, with major contributions from science academies from
the developing world. The message and tone though is vintage NAS. I could
not resist the temptation to write down some reactions in response to
questions I have gotten about the report from various organizations and
interested parties. I would welcome any reactions from list members.
The full remarks are posted on Ag BioTech InfoNet in the section "Costs
and Benefits," "General Overviews," at
A couple of excerpts --
"In general, the discussion of human health risks is the weakest
and least informative. The short section entitled "Transgenic Plants and
Human Health and Safety" (pages 15 to 17) contains the familiar argument
that GM technology is precise and involves movement of --
'….at most, a few well-defined genes rather than the introduction of whole
genomes or parts of chromosomes as in traditional plant breeding. This
makes toxicity testing for transgenic plants more straightforward than it
is for conventionally produced plants.'
"What the report does not mention, even in passing, is the growing
evidence of transgene silencing and instability and the unexpected
patterns of gene expression that have now been observed in many GM plants
and experiments. ronically, dozens of the most germane research reports
documenting transgene instability have appeared in the 'Proceedings of
National Academy of Sciences.'"
"The report's section "Transgenic Plants and the Environment"
(pages 19 to 22) presents a simple premise set up by a provocative opening
"Modern agriculture is intrinsically destructive to the
The premise follows a few paragraphs later'It must be shown that
the potential impact of a transgenic plant has been carefully analyzed and
that if it is not neutral or innocuous, it is preferable to the impact of
conventional agricultural technologies that it is designed to replace.'
"So, if a GM technology poses risks but appears less damaging than current
technologies, then it should be approved by regulators and embraced by the
public. Some people may beg to differ. Indeed, if the best GM technology
can do is only marginally better than the worst of conventional
technology, the biotechnology revolution may go down in history as one of
the greatest technological duds of all time.
"If GM technology fails, it won't be for lack of effort. In both
the public and private sectors, enormous moral and financial support for
agricultural biotechnology has been and still is predicated on the promise
of a series of near-miraculous benefits this technology is supposed to be
uniquely able to deliver. The section "Examples of GM Technology That
Would Benefit World Agriculture" (pages 7 to 14) covers many often-cited
examples. No space in the report is allotted to the well-known technical
and economic constraints that stand in the way of GM technologies."
"Nor does the report discuss why GM technologies are likely, in
the end, to be the most cost-effective and sustainable solution to a given
problem. This is a serious shortcoming, given that so many of
agriculture's problems arise from the mismanagement of natural resources
and plant-pest ecological interactions. Such problems are not largely
genetic in origin and rarely will genetic manipulation, however achieved,
prove the decisive system innovation."
Charles Benbrook CU FQPA site www.ecologic-ipm.com
Benbrook Consulting Services Ag BioTech InfoNet www.biotech-info.net
5085 Upper Pack River Road IPM site www.pmac.net
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
208-263-5236 (Voice) 208-263-7342 (Fax)