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July 16, 2000


Questions from Sudha, Insect resistance, ASA and Soil Association,


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

Date: Jul 15 2000 16:37:57 EDT
From: Sudha Mysore (by way of C. S. Prakash)
Subject: Questions

I am an economist working on agricultural crop related problems in
India. I seek clarifications for the following questions.

(i) What is the difference and implications between ' research on a gene '
and research around a gene or gene sequence which is protected ?

(ii) If a farmer or a farmer organisation develops a variety which is a
biological mutant of an existing improved variety, can it be protected
and if so which is the best method?

(iii) In the Uruguay round of Trade negotiations one important clause has
been included. It is the 'Market access' clause. Which means that the
member countries will have to provide additional
market access to other members to a tune of up to 2 % every year with
reduced tariff rates. If such a clause is introduced, the producers from
the developing countries may incur heavy losses due to increased
produce of better quality available domestically. Is it true and what are
the actual implications of such a clause?

Thank you.

Date: Jul 15 2000 15:35:09 EDT
From: Terrance Hurley (by way of C. S.
Subject: Insect Resistance to Bt

Dear Dr. Suman Sahai,

I read your comments: "GM FOODS: Areas of Concern." In these comments,
you state:

The Bt approach is showing that insects are quickly developing
resistance. So now it is recommended to grow Bt crops with large
refuges where vulnerability of the pest can be maintained.

As an agricultural extension economist in the heart of the US cornbelt, I
have carefully followed the development of Bt corn and insect resistance
to Bt corn for the past three years. I know that the US Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) recently mandated a 20% refuge requirement for Bt
corn. However, I was unaware of evidence "showing that insects are quickly
developing resistance." To the
contrary, I have been unable to find an entomologist willing to state that
anyone has even found a European corn borer (the insect targeted by Bt
corn) that is resistant to Bt corn. That is, I am unaware of a confirmed
case of European corn borer resistance to Bt corn, even though I closely
follow the progress of a number of ambitious academic studies that attempt
to do just that. Furthermore, it is my understanding that the EPA is also
unaware of a confirmed case of European corn borer resistance to Bt corn.

If you read

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1998). The Environmental Protection
Agency's White Paper on Bt Plant-Pesticide Resistance Management.
Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, Office of
Pesticide Programs, Office of the Assistant Administrator for Prevention,
Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401
M Street, SW, Washington, DC 20460.

You will find that refuge has always been part of the EPA's plan for Bt
crops based on the recommendation of scientists concerned about
resistance. Therefore, the decision to use refuge was a precautionary
step based on theoretical models and empirical evidence from the use of
other pesticides. To state that the quick development of insect
resistance is responsible for the recent mandate of refuge seems

If you (or anyone else who reads this) have new evidence on the rapid
development of insect resistance to Bt crops, please share it. I know I
would find it very useful and I think the EPA and many others would
also. If not, I trust that in the future you (and others) will be more
careful to use the word "may" instead of "are" when talking about the
quick development of resistance to Bt crops. I also trust that you (and
others) will take some time to learn more about the history of insect
resistance management and Bt crops before
commenting on the subject further.

Terrance M. Hurley
Department of Applied Economics
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55108
E-Mail: thurley@dept.agecon.umn.edu

Date: Jul 14 2000 14:23:25 EDT
From: willy.degreef@seeds.Novartis.com (by way of C. S. Prakash)
Subject: Soil Association claims for organic food challenged

Dear all,
Below is the decision of the Advertising Standards Authority of the UK on
claims by the Soil Association (a certifying body for organic products in
the UK) that orgaznic food is tastier, healthier and
better for the environment and animals.


120303 JUL 00

By Nick Allen, PA News

Advertising watchdogs today upheld complaints against claims that organic
food is tastier, healthier and better for the environment and animals.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld four complaints against
claims in a Soil Association leaflet entitled Five Reasons To Eat Organic.

It said the claims that consumers could taste the difference, it was
healthy, it was better for the environment and organic meant healthy,
happy animals had not been substantiated and asked that they be removed.

The Soil Association, the UK's leading organic food and farming
organisation, said it was "amazed" at the ruling and was challenging it.

It has referred the ruling to the independent reviewer of ASA
adjudications, Sir John Caines.

A complaint against the leaflet's fifth claim that it was free of
genetically modified organisms was not upheld by the ASA.

The complaints were made by the National Office of Animal Health, which
represents animal medicines companies.

In support of the claim that organic food is tastier the Soil Association
provided the results of a Mori poll to the ASA.

It showed 43% of consumers who preferred organic food did so because it
tasted better but the ASA said more rigorous evidence was needed.

The same research showed 53% of people buying organic produce did so
because they thought it was healthy.

But the watchdog said the association had not provided clinical evidence
that an organic diet was healthier than the same diet consisting of
non-organic food.

The ASA accepted organic farming set out to protect the environment and
that organic farmers were expected to ensure ethical treatment of animals.

But it said the Soil Association had not proved this was achieved in

It accepted the Soil Association claim that organic food was GMO free
noting that genetically modified organisms were banned in organic farming
and food processing.

A spokesman for NOAH said: "Making this complaint was not intended as an
attack on organic farming itself.

"We have no objection to any farmer choosing to farm in a particular way,
laws and standards permitting.

"But we are most concerned that some proponents of organic farming tend to
promote themselves by attacking the 97% of British farmers who farm

Soil Association spokesman Robin Maynard said: "We expect NOAH to promote
its agribusiness members' interests but we are amazed by the ASA's ruling,
which apparently fails to understand the strict legal provisions governing
organic food and farming.

"Fortunately the increasing demand for everything organic demonstrates a
public and market confidence in the Soil Association's standards that far
outweighs this dismal decision."

Here's the full adjudication...
Soil Association
Bristol House
48-56 Victoria Street

Media: Leaflet
Sector: Agricultural
Industry complaint from: Middlesex
Complaint: The National Office of Animal Health Ltd objected to a leaflet
entitled "5 reasons to eat organic ...". The complainants challenged the
1. "You can taste the difference";
2. "It's healthy";
3. "It's better for the environment";
4. "It's GMO free"; and
5. "Organic means healthy happy animals"
because they believed that the claims did not apply to all organic produce
and did not apply exclusively to organic produce.
(Ed 9: 3.1 , 6.1 , 7.1
) Adjudication:
1. Complaint upheld
The advertisers sent the results of a MORI poll in which 43% of consumers
who expressed a preference for organic food said they preferred it because
it tasted better. They also sent a testimonial from a head chef who
believed that organic food tasted better than conventionally produced food.
The Authority concluded that, in the absence of more rigorous evidence,
such as blind "taste" tests, the claim was unsubstantiated. The Authority
asked the advertisers to remove the claim and not repeat it unless they
held convincing substantiation.
2. Complaint upheld
The advertisers sent a copy of an internal e-mail that reported the results
of a Rutgers University study that had set out to prove that organic
produce did not contain more nutrients but apparently found to the
contrary. The Authority considered that the claim "It's healthy" would be
seen, in the context of a leaflet urging readers to move from a diet of
non-organic food to one of organic food, as implying that organic food was
healthier than non-organic food. The Authority noted that people's health
depended more on the composition of their diet than on the nature of
individual foods. Because the advertisers had sent no clinical evidence to
show that a diet consisting of organic products was more healthy than the
same diet consisting of non-organic food, the Authority considered that the
advertisers had not substantiated that implication. The Authority asked the
advertisers to remove the claim.
3. Complaint upheld
The advertisers sent their General Standards for Organic Crop Husbandry.
The Authority noted that organic farmers had to comply with the principle
providing for "The maintenance or development of valuable existing
landscape features and adequate habitats for the production of wildlife
with particular regard to endangered species". The Authority accepted that
organic farming set out to protect the environment but noted they had sent
no evidence to show that that objective was achieved in practice. The
Authority asked the advertisers to remove the claim.
4. Complaint not upheld
The advertisers sent a copy of that part of their standards that dealt
specifically with Genetic Engineering. The Authority noted that genetically
modified organisms (GMO) were prohibited in organic farming and food
processing. The Authority noted that only a few GMO crops were grown in the
UK and those were grown for trial purposes only. It therefore rejected the
complainants' assertion that likely cross-fertilisation from neighbouring
GMO crops meant that no crops could claim to be GMO free. The Authority
considered, moreover, that readers would infer that the claim related to
the rules for growing organic crops and concluded that the presence of
genetic pollution would not devalue claims that organic produce was GMO
free. The Authority accepted the claim.
5. Complaint upheld
The advertisers referred again to their General Standards for Organic Crop
Husbandry. The Authority noted that organic farmers were expected to
"Ensure the ethical treatment of animals" and to adopt "animal husbandry
techniques which meet the animal's physiological, behavioural and health
needs". The Authority noted that, although, the General Standards provided
for the ethical treatment of animals, the advertisers had sent no evidence
to show that that was achieved in practice. The Authority asked the
advertisers to remove the claim