Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

July 12, 2000

Subject:

Philip Stott interview, Sharad Joshi article,

 

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

Date: Jul 12 2000 02:26:18 EDT
From: "C. S. Prakash"
Subject: Philipp Stott: Biotechnology is an essential tool for
humans.......

From: Klaus Ammann
Subject: Debate 2000'0607 c: Interview with Philipp Stott:
Biotechnology is an essential tool for humans to keep ahead in
evolutionary terms.

Dear friends,

here some straight talk from the UK, Prof. Philipp Stott is giving a nice
summary of the present day errors in the GT debate.

Klaus

thanks, Philipp for circulating this interview: Stott2@compuserve.com

have a look at the following website:

http://www.agriculture.com/worldwide/correspondents/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Johan Bakker
@g Worldwide Correspondent

Johan Bakker was born in the Netherlands, raised and educated in the United
Kingdom, and now makes his home in South-East Michigan. A mechanical design
engineer by profession, he and Carol live in a log home on a hobby farm
where they raise a variety of animals, including horses, llamas and
Doberman Pinschers. He's the author of "Tracking Tom Horn", a history of
the Wyoming stock detective, published in 1994. His other interests
include the repair and restoration of Ford "N"-series tractors, and the
life and works of Nevil Shute Norway.

Some straight talk about GMOs
03-Jul-00

Philip Stott, Professor of Biogeography the School of Oriental and African
Studies at the University of London in England.

On the various message forums on this Web site, the last few weeks, there
has been some intense discussion of the pros and cons of Genetically
Modified foods, also known as GMOs, Genetically Engineered foods (GE) or by
the catch-all term of "biotech."

I was doing some in-depth research on the Internet, and came across this
Web site http://clix.to/probiotech. While the Web site is clearly
pro-biotech, the depth and breadth of information it contains, from around
the world, is very impressive. So impressive, that I contacted the owner
of the site, Professor Philip Stott, and asked him for an interview, which
he was kind enough to grant me.

Mr. Stott is Professor of Biogeography (that is, Ecology) at the School of
Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in England. He is
the Editor of the "Journal of Biogeography", published by Blackwell Science
(Oxford). He has worked all through the world, but especially in the
tropics and in developing countries. During the last ten years, his
research has focused primarily on how 'Green' ideologies have been
constructed, including in America, and how these may prove problematic for
progress and development. His most recent concern has been with
biotechnology in agriculture.

Our interview follows.

Llamas: Professor Stott, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

Professor Stott: Thanks for asking me to comment.

Llamas: Professor Stott, what do you see as the major benefits of GM food
crops, economically, politically or environmentally, for the developed
world? For the underdeveloped world?

Professor Stott:
The first biotech plants, which were developed in 1983, were primarily
research tools. The second generation provided a wide range of
herbicide-tolerant crops (e.g. those LibertyŽ-resistant to glufosinate
ammonium) and pest control crops (e.g. the Bt crops resistant to the
European corn borer, cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, and pink bollworm)
that you all know so well in America. These primarily carried benefits for
the producer and for the environment, especially with regard to chemical
spraying. The real consumer benefits, however, both for the developed and
the developing world, will come with the third and fourth generation of
crops. These will provide:

(a) food with better health characteristics, such as increased
digestibility, less saturated fat, high monounsaturated fat, zero trans
fats, and cholesterol-reducing properties, such as soybeans (e.g. high
oleic soybeans and high stearic/high oleic soybean margarine) with the
potential for heart and cancer health benefits;

(b) high-performance cooking oils that will maintain texture at raised
temperatures, reduce processing needs, and again create healthier products
from peanuts, soybeans, and sunflowers;

(c) edible crops that will carry vaccines (e.g. bananas, potatoes, and
tomatoes ) against some of the world's worst diseases (e.g. cholera,
hepatitis, malaria) and crops in which vaccines are developed and produced
(e.g. tobacco and a vaccine against cervical cancer - what an irony:
tobacco
to fight cancer!);

(d) crops which will carry important nutritional and health additives
(even now, and free for humanitarian purposes, 'golden rice' is being
developed with enough beta-carotene to satisfy the daily requirements for
Vitamin A in as little as 300 g of cooked rice, as well as providing added
iron. This will help to combat two of the very worst nutritional
deficiencies in the developing world);

(e) crops with reduced allergenicity (e.g. peanuts);

(f) crops with better storage and transport characteristics through
delayed ripening and fungus/pest protection ( e.g. bananas, pineapples,
raspberries, strawberries, andtomatoes); and, especially important for the
developing world;

(g) new subsistence crops that will extend agriculture into ecologically
marginal areas, such as saline soils, soils poor in nutrients, and
drought-affected regions. So great are the possibilities that I am
horrified that unfounded hysteria may set back the development of these
third and fourth generation products. The key point about biotechnology is
its ability to keep humanity, yet again, ahead of pests and diseases,
environmental change (including climate change), and population growth.

Llamas: What do you see as the major drawbacks of GM food crops,
economically, politically or environmentally, for the developed world? For
the underdeveloped world?

Professor Stott: I can see few drawbacks for the developed world. In fact,
because they will continue the process of efficient intensification -- and
more safely than with chemical spraying -- they should help to prevent the
need to extend agriculture further into 'wilderness.' Their role in the
developing world, however, is more problematic, and care will be needed to
ensure that crops are produced which genuinely assist agricultural
development in ecologically, politically, and economically marginal areas.
Mind you, we must remember that the developing world is itself already at
the forefront of the development of biotech crops, in China (1 million
acres in 1999), India (which just ratified Bt cotton), Argentina (14
million acres in 1999!), Cuba (some famous labs), Mexico, and elsewhere. I
would also like to see biotech crops working with, rather than against,
'organic' processes. One of the very worst features of the current debate
is the misleading attempt to drive an ideological wedge between the two by
some very self-indulgent 'organic' purists. Their hype could back fire
very badly.

Llamas: Much of the furor among farmers in the US about GM food crops has
centered upon the issue of the patenting of genetic variations, the
charging of "tech fees", and the prohibition on "seed saving." Would you
comment on this and how this has been handled in Europe?

Professor Stott: The answer with regard to Europe is simple: these
arguments are being used by opponents as an excuse to stop any development
whatsoever. In America, the problem is much more down-to-earth: who pays
for the development of biotech crops? We need a much fuller democratic
discussion over how research is to be funded and to be paid for. Who pays
for testing? But be careful about 'seed saving'; this, in many cases, is
in reality seed quality protection and preservation (also remember
seedless grapes, bananas, roses etc). Something which has always gone on.
And, with regard to the developing world, remember that all crops
developed with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, (the world
famous philanthropic Foundation dedicated to the development of science
and knowledge, especially for the disadvantaged), for example, must be
free for humanitarian purposes.

Llamas: The resistance of consumers to GM foodstuffs has been much greater
in Europe than it has in the US, to this point at least. Please comment on
this, and describe what moves are being made to educate consumers more
fully about the benefits and the risks of GM foods.

Professor Stott: Absolutely. And the reason for the European hysteria is
easy to see.

Firstly, it is a result of the experience with BSE, or "mad cow disease."
This, of course, is a totally different case, the feeds involved having
been utterly untested and largely hidden. A disgrace. But it has made folk
understandably wary. This is a pity, because, by contrast, biotech crops
are the most tested crops there have ever been. In the USA, it takes 9-10
years to commercialization. To date, the USA alone has held over 24,000
field trials, and the protein products are rigorously scrutinized for
allergencity problems.

Secondly, it is a distrust of 'science' in general -- a very different
attitude to that in America. You rightly respect your National Academy of
Sciences; in the UK, people don't respect our equivalent, the Royal
Society, to the same degree.

Thirdly, it is a very poor science education in our schools. Many folk
simply cannot cope with the science and feel frightened by it.

Fourthly, 90% of journalists writing about biotechnology are liberal-arts
graduates.

Fifthly, being a small country, environmentalists tend to be far more
concerned about the environmental impacts than you need to be in the wider
spaces of America.

And, finally, despite their limitations (about which I am sure you can all
be most eloquent!), your regulatory bodies (the FDA, the EPA, etc) are far
better than their equivalents in the UK and in Europe. Europe, especially,
is a total mess, and getting any novel crop accepted for all EU countries
a positive nightmare (involving, if I remember correctly, over 30 separate
bodies!). Nevertheless, we are now trying very hard to counter all the
fear and hysteria through groups of scientists being ready to speak on the
media, write in the press, debate, and talk to people Your readers might
want to visit, for example, the Web site www.cropgen.org, which has been
created
especially for this purpose, as well as my own little Web site
www.probiotech.fsnet.co.uk.

Llamas: How much of the current resistance to GM foods in Europe, do you
believe, is being fomented as a political and social reaction to US
agribusiness?

Professor Stott: All that having been said, the real reason for the
hysteria is indeed the exploitation of the fears I have described above by
extreme environmental groups, who often have little interest in the
'science', but who have social agendas of their own. These groups want to
'stop-the-world-and-get-off' and they will abuse and misuse 'science' to
achieve their ends. They are avowedly anti-capitalist, anti-development,
anti-science, sometimes even anti-farming, and most certainly
anti-American, and they want to position America, and its biotech
companies, as the 'Great Satan.' Many were at Seattle and Washington DC
for the WTO and World Bank protests, and they regularly visit St Louis in
small numbers to attack Monsanto, DuPont, etc. You should know that some
of the extreme organisations involved are wealthy and are large
corporations in their own
right! One or two are far more dangerous for humanity than any biotech
crop ever will be!

Llamas: Professor, would you please comment on the likelihood and impacts
of any gene transfer from GM foodstuffs to human consumers?

Professor Stott: This issue is typical of the kind of 'fears' that can so
easily be exploited by those opposed to biotechnology. The simple fact is
that we all eat the DNA of other organisms (carrots, lamb, beef) every day
of our lives, but it doesn't recombine with our own DNA to produce
monsters, a la Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I'm afraid it goes the way of
everything else we gobble down! A few weeks ago, I indulged in my
favourite delicacy at a French restaurant in London - frogs' legs!
Needless to say, I haven't turned into an amphibian requiring a kiss from
a lovely princess (a pity) to
return to human form -- though I undoubtedly masticated a lot of froggy
cells and nuclei! The fact is that we do not get gene transfers from
eating. There may be problems with the protein products, of course --
hence the needfor the careful allergen testing of biotech foods (all foods
for thatmatter). In reality, getting DNA to recombine in new crops has
taken some 50years of research. Sadly, eating wasn't a cost effective
alternative! Andmost of the products of the new DNA are destroyed in the
processing beforethey even get to us.

Llamas: Any other issues or comments you feel are important?

Professor Stott: Biotechnology is an essential tool for humans to keep
ahead in evolutionary terms. We cannot afford to ignore its benefits. Yet,
it is vital that scientists, both in the government and in the private
sector, learn far better how to work with folk -- farmers and consumers --
in presenting and developing these products. They need to be careful about
the language they employ (e.g. no 'terminator' genes!) and be far more
ready to be democratically accountable. I believe we are beginning to
improve -- and
it is interesting that, despite all the hype, IFIC recorded, in May, an
increase of 3% in consumer confidence for biotech crops in the USA , and
the 2000 plantings in the US of biotech cotton and soybeans will be up on
those in 1999.

In the future, I am convinced that all 'Successful Farming' must include
biotech crops.

Llamas: Professor Stott, thank you very much for taking the time to talk
with us today.

Professor Stott: Thanks for asking me to contribute to your outstanding
site. I am happy to receive comments and constructive discussion,
especially from farmers, and you are welcome to e-mail me at
Stott2@compuserve.com. And very best wishes to you all from London.

I have to say that I learned more about the realities of biotech in my
discussions with Professor Stott than I did in all my other researches. I
hope you find his remarks informative too.

Have a great day,

Llater,

llamas
======================================================

Date: July 12, 2000
From: "C. S. Prakash"
Subject: The farmers and the Greens

The farmers and the Greens
Sharad Joshi
Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications on indiaserver.com
Wednesday, July 05, 2000

ENVIRONMENTALISM is a big brand today, and environmentalists are big news.
In Germany, the Green Party is part of the ruling alliance.
Environmentalists, along with labour activists and sundry Luddites, made
big headlines during the WTO meet in Seattle, Washington. Even in India,
environmentalists command prestige. They appear to be getting parallel
Nobel Prizes and other international awards all the time. How can one be
angry with people who desire that nature be retained in its pristine
purity, that the bio-diversity be preserved, that animal species likely to
perish be protected? The farmer in India has probably not even heard the
term environmentalism and ignores what it stands for. Farmers staying near
the protected forests find that their cattle have been killed by the wild
beasts that are protected.

They are told that nothing can be done, that protection of species is of
great importance, and that his cattle have perished in a noble cause. They
listen and wonder. Some of them, after suffering losses a couple of times,
get desperate enough to put poison on the carcass of the dead animals, and
this kills the beasts. Police come down heavily on the killers of the
beasts. The farmers wonder how the life of a beast could be more precious
than the life of his own children! Deer are one of nature's most elegant
and graceful creatures. No one would like to see them disappear from the
face of the earth. But they look certainly less graceful when they are
trampling over standing crops, spelling ruin for the farmer. The deer
cannot be hurt, the farmer is told, no matter if they hurt him. The
farmers find that their crops are devastated by pests, but they cannot use
pesticides to repulse and prevent their attack as it is not supposed to be
good for nature.

Many do not realise that, in this cruel world, the life of insects is more
valuable than that of the peasant and his family, who are sometimes driven
to consuming the pesticide themselves. Farmers find that their crops do
not fetch even the minimal price because markets are inundated with
cheaper and better quality produce from abroad. He is unable to beat the
foreign competition because the alien farmers are using improved seeds and
technology that he cannot have. They say it is bad for nature. In fact, it
is supposed to be so bad that the farmers cannot be allowed to make trials
to find out how bad it is! Farmers find their crops are drying up and that
their womenfolk have to fetch drinking water from long distances. They are
told that water could flow into their fields if only a barrage or a dam
were built at some point upstream, but that it cannot be built because the
damming of waters could cause terrible disasters and disturb the balance
in nature!

The farmer who has access to water and is busy irrigating his fields
suddenly finds that the electric power is cut off as there is not enough
power available. He changes his schedule and waters the crops when the
power is available, that is during the lean hours of night. Standing in
the water on freezing nights, he curses the government that does not
produce enough electricity. He is told that producing more power can be
harmful to the nature. He listens and he wonders! He wonders how come all
those who oppose the dams, power projects and new seeds and those who care
for the wild beasts at the expense of the peasantry are urban gentry
living in high-rise buildings and penthouses. He naturally appreciates the
concept of caring for nature and not allowing unbridled consumption and
modern industries to ruin the earth.

The farmer is certainly not guilty of consumerism. He barely manages to
provide two meals for his family. He is bewildered to see elegantly
dressed, English-speaking people coming to them flying in aeroplanes over
thousands of kilometres, burning gasoline to cover long distances by
roads, and talking on their cellular phones all the time, upholding the
need for simple living, high thinking, rescuing the globe and caring for
nature. It is the farmer's business to nurture nature and to provide food,
fibre and fuel for the population. He has no interest in ruining nature or
doing anything that will affect the sun, the rains and the earth. A farmer
is a born environmentalist. But, paradoxically, he often finds himself in
the opposite camp. He is not learned and cannot articulate in polysyllabic
words what he feels. He wishes some environmentalist would tell him what
is good for nature rather than drawing up a long negative list of what is
harmful for it. After generations of experience, the farmer has learnt
there is nothing that is only good and the wholly good, and there is
nothing that is all bad. Man makes mistakes, he corrects them once he
realises the folly of his ways. He does not like the `nature people' to
talk so much about the government doing this and that to protect nature.
Over the centuries, farmers have acquired the conviction that the
government is invariably pernicious. How can a good thing like the
protection of nature come out of this pernicious weed called the
government, he wonders.

The farmer has seen some of these `Green' people, in a not-too distant
past, carrying red flags and talking of the government eradicating
poverty. Now they are talking of the government protecting nature. The
farmer wonders if their real cause is not the government, rather than
alleviation of poverty or protection of nature. He wonders if the Greens
are not like watermelons -- green outside, red inside. The farmer has
difficulty understanding the talk of saving species of animals and plants.
He sees with his own eyes nature ruthlessly eliminating hundreds of
varieties and bringing forth hundreds of new ones. He knows that nature
preserves diversity through resurgence and not through protection.

The farmer is all for bio-diversity and would not, left to himself, go for
company-produced seeds. Unfortunately, he finds that those who talk of the
superior merit of indigenous varieties go for the plump, round, red
tomatoes rather than for less nice looking native varieties. In any case,
the farmer is not in the business of preserving species, that is the job
of specialised germ-plasm banks. He has a healthy doubt that the Greens
are not interested in the species but only in the protection racket.

The farmer is, by instinct, a conservative, and does not like too many
bright people bandying about their new-fangled ideas. Over the years, he
has seen on the stage of the world, different characters using the same
language opposing change. Such people had, at various times, cried halt to
industry, said down with mining, and no to trains. He has found that the
Luddites, like owls protesting against the sunrise, have invariably been
proved wrong, and that the only good that has come to him is through
technological advancement. True, some new things have unsavoury traits;
but they are taken care of by newer things and not by going back to old
ones.

The farmer has difficulty appreciating the argument that man destroys
nature. Is not man a part of nature? And is his work not a part of
nature's work? If farmers are in conflict with the Greens, it shows there
is something amiss with the latter. The farmers could not be wrong because
they live by tending and caring for nature rather than by talking about
it. The intellectuals from urban RCC-forests better reflect on their
credentials before making pronouncements on nature and the environment.

(The author is founder-president, Shetkari Sanghatana, {a farmers'
organization}. Feedback can be sent at sharadj@pn2.vsnl.net.in)