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Date:

August 14, 2000

Subject:

Stossel and Organics; Patents on Varieties and Genes

 

vindicated, pass it on!!

Stossel Vindicated: The New York Times Owes Stossel and ABC an Apology

The New York Times, to its credit had a story in the Business Section by
Jim Rutenberg and Felecity Barringer that makes public for the first time
(to my knowledge) vital information that puts the recent Stossel episode
in a new light. Following the receipt of the letter from EWG to ABC, the
producer of the Stossel segment called the two researchers and asked them
if they had in fact conducted the tests. The researchers admit in today's
story that they in fact, were called and that they responded affirmatively
that they had done the tests. The problem is that the ABC producer was
asking about the tests on produce and the researchers response was in
regard to the tests on chicken. Clearly we have an honest error and a
breakdown in communication by all parities involved. The only possible
reason for the producer for the original broadcast to call the researchers
for confirmation would be if he honestly believed that the tests had been
conducted. Stossel would therefore have been informed by his staff - if
Stossel could personally check out every fact that he presents, he
wouldn't need a staff of 10 to 12 people - that the tests had been
conducted for the first broadcast and would have been told the researchers
were called and reconfirmed this fact prior to the re-broadcast. Given the
volume of garbage and false claims that had been generated by his critics
over the original broadcast, it is understandable that Stossel would have
dismissed the accuracy of the letter following what appeared to be
"confirmation" of the tests by his staff. Those who are without blemish or
error in their public life can raise all sorts of issues about not
double-checking or being sufficiently clear in communications etc. I would
quibble here not nor has Stossel. I would simply say that in an important
detail, those in involved allowed an error to creep in and be repeated but
that the substance of the report was accurate and needed to be said. Maybe
it was not the most stellar journalism but repeat, in substance it was
accurate which is more than you can say for Stossel's critics.

Also in the today's NY Times story was the admission that it was a New
York Times story that caused this controversy to erupt. The thrust of the
stories in the Times and in other media that picked it up, was of a
deliberate dishonesty on the part of ABC and Stossel. The Times and other
media allowed the EWG and the OTA to use this small opening as a means of
leveling a number of false and scurrilous charges against Stossel and the
program. Of the tons of excrement that had been previously hurled against
the program, the Times coverage made it appear that one small piece had
stuck and thereby gave credibility to the large mass that was once again
thrown using the compliant columns of our respected media.

In my judgement, the journalist error of the Times in not interviewing the
researchers or if they were interviewed, in not reporting that ABC had
contacted them for confirmation, was far more serious than anything that
Stossel did. He had the courage and integrity to admit error. Does the
Times, do the reporters who covered for the Times and for the other media,
also have the integrity to admit to their error? Do they have the courage
to apologize?

I ask the readers of this email in joining me to ask the various media,
begining with the New York Times to correct their earlier stories and to
issue an apology to Stossel and ABC. A copy of any such communication sent
to ABC would be useful.

Finally, we should also inform ABC that they ought to call OTA's bluff and
tell them to sue to clear the air if they dare. We could provide them with
such a parade of expert witnesses that only the most closed minded true
believers could still be motivated to pay higher prices for inferior
products.

Tom DeGrgeori

P.S. to Charles Benbrook - Chuck - If I am not mistaken, and please
correct me immediately if I am in error, but I recall in our exchange that
you claimed that the exchange of letters posted on the EWG website proved
that Stossel lied or something to that effect. If I am in error, I
apologize in advance. If you did make a charge along these lines, are you
prepared to make an apology to Stossel and ABC. I know you to be a person
of integrity so I await your reply. TRD

Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics, University of Houston
=======================================
Subj: A proposal
From: Gordon Couger

Why not preform an experiment in the US, Canada and the nations of the EU
were conventional, GM, GM free and Organic food is placed side by side in
the market and marked at different price levels. Some stores all the same
level, some at levels that reflect the best estimates of the difference in
cost of production and at levels that are opposite the cost of production.
And priced in between.

The object of the experiment is to find out what the market is actually
willing to give for each product.

Obviously it should be done unannounced and any time the press or
demonstrators became involved that trial would be thrown out.

Since Organic is meets the requirements of all the classes of food I would
use all organic produce that is picked from the same shipment at random,
labeled and put on the counter.

Lets see what the public thinks not the activest.

Gordon
Gordon Couger gcouger@couger.com
Stillwater, OK www.couger.com/gcouger
==================================================

From: Alex Avery
To: marcus@myrealbox.com

Marcus Williamson wrote:

>Mr Avery
>Far from being an "honest and minor mistake", John Stossel is
experiencing the consequences of telling an untruth, incorrectly comparing
pesticide residues on organic and conventional products. You, your father,
John Hillman, John Mottley, Antony Trewavas, and others, have continually
attempted to denigrate organic architecture using "data" about E.coli from
a report which does not even exist. What do you have to gain by trying to
denigrate organic agriculture in this way? Why not concentrate on the
supposed benefits of GM food, if any can be found? Look forward to hearing
from you.
>
>regards
>Marcus Williamson

My reply:

Marcus, I've explained many times already that the CDC data DOES exist. We
have never cited a CDC study, so the fact that the CDC has never conducted
a study is irrelevant. This is a smokescreen. The very first line of
Dennis' first article on this topic states, "According to recent data
compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control." The CDC's data on E.
coli O157:H7 outbreaks for 1996 indicate that more than one third of all
foodborne E. coli O157:H7 cases traced by the agency back to their source
were sourced back to organic and natural foods. Is this not a significant
enough red flag for you?

If not, how about the comments of the CDC's foodborne illness branch chief
in the January 8, 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Medical
Association? In an article on foodborne illness and how to better prevent
it, Dr. Robert V. Tauxe said, "Organic means a food is grown in animal
manure . . . We got rid of human waste in our food and water, and I think
we're going to have better control in the future of manure in our food and
water." (JAMA vol. 277:97-98)

Not enough? What about the letter exchange between Dr. Tauxe and Katherine
DiMatteo, spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association, in the June 4,
1997 issue of JAMA? After Ms. DiMatteo complained about Dr. Tauxe's quote
in the January issue and that proper organic technique would render the
threat of bacterial contamination from manure use, Dr. Tauxe stated: "The
public health hazard of fresh fruits and vegetables contaminated with
feces used as fertilizer is a long-standing concern . . . , foodborne
outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 infection and of cryptosporidiosis in apple
cider, juice and lettuce have highlighted concern that foodborne pathogens
present in animal manures might also find their way into fresh produce."
(JAMA 1997; 277:1679-1680)

Guess what marcus, Dr. Tauxe was refering to the 1996 CDC data you keep
insisting doesn't exist!

There's more. Dr. Tauxe also stated, "Ms. DiMatteo is quite correct that
adequate composting of manure should in principle eliminate pathogens from
manure. Unfortunately, knowledge of the critical times and temperatures
needed to make composted animal manures microbiologically safe is
incomplete, and the regulatory approach to agricultural use of animal
manures is patchy at best. Although the Organic Foods Production Act of
1990 specifies that raw manures should not be applied within 60 days of
harvest, this is not entirely reassuring; Wang and colleagues have shown
that E. coli O157:H7 can survive in bovine feces for 70 days depending on
the temperature."

All of these statements from Dr. Tauxe were published well before Dennis
ever wrote about this issue, and were in fact what sparked our interest in
the topic.

So, Marcus, stop bothering us with claims that we've made up our data and
have no credible standing to state that organic foods may pose a greater
foodborne illness threat. I think that having the chief of the CDC's
foodborne illness branch in our camp puts us on a fairly sound footing.

Sincerely,
Alex Avery, Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute
=================================================
Subj: Re: Comments on Mr. Beant Ahloowalia's views and FAO
From: Beant Ahloowalia

Dear Mr. J.

I am responding to some of your comments on the equitable sharing of
genetic resources:

Comment: How far back do you want to go Mr. B The life of a patent (Plant
Breeders Rights) is around 20 -25 years. Let us go back at least 25 years
to provide protection to the gremplasm resources collected and stored in
CGIAR institutions and unprotected varieties of Developing countries. If
any private organizations use these resources, then either they pay for
the use of genes and germplasm originating from these collections or if
they use these freely then they should not be allowed gene patents and
plant varieties! This is on a quid-pro-quo basis.

Comment: Basically, Mr. B. wants plant genetic engineering to be in the
public domain.

Reply: In most developing countries, much of plant breeding has been and
is even now is in public domain. Varieties bred by Universities and State
Institutions are freely available for growing, and further use in plant
breeding. And farmers retain seed on-farm and exchange seed freely. The
same rules should apply to the use of genetically engineered varieties?

Had the use of the dwarf genes and varieties been patented, the Green
Revolution would not have taken place in Asia!

Do you reallly think that the laws covering patents and breeders rights in
USA are so damn perfect that you feel these should be forced down the
regulatory system of the developing nations? Mr. J. Think again.
B.Ahloowalia

>Subj: Comments on Mr. Beant Ahloowalia's views / correction From: "John
W. Cross" From: Beant Ahloowalia
"...So far, the plant breeders have used
genes freely from gene pools, without patents. Why should the developing
countries be now be asked to create new laws to protect and pay for a few
novel genes, when rest of the world have used and are still using plant
germplasm produced in the developing countries!"

=======================================
You may recall recent agbioview discussion thread on individual U.S.
states passing laws against GM foods. Here is a web page (an activist one)
that tells about legislation in different states:

http://www.thecampaign.org/legislationcenter.htm

===========================================

From: "Felix-Faure, Karin" Subject: Your
Agricultural Biotechnology Update No. 6 - Aug/Sep, 2000

Dear Colleague,

Please find our 6th Update on Agricultural Biotechnology: Policy and
Management Perspectives - Contributing to Food Security.

To read the Newsletter in HTML format, or if you want to download the
Newsletter in PDF format, you might want to visit:
http://www.cgiar.org/isnar/projects/ibs/updates.htm

With kind regards,

Karin Félix-Faure
ISNAR Biotechnology Service (IBS)
ISNAR
P.O. Box 93375
25AJ The Hague
Tel. +31 70 3496152
Fax +31 70 3819677
Mailto:ISNAR-Biotech@cgiar.org
<http://www.cgiar.org/isnar/ibs.htm>