I read with interest the note from Andura Smetacek
which included the information that New
England Biolabs is supporting the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS),
which has an anti-GMO program. I noted from the UCS website
(http://www.ucsusa.org/agriculture/agr-home.html#staff) that it employs
two staffers in this program: Margaret Mellon and Jane Rissler. Their
bios from the UCS website follow. I note that neither of them is listed
in the membership of the American Society of Plant Physiologists.
Searches on Medline and Agricola (from 1981 on) did not identify any
research papers by either one of them to establish qualifications in the
area of plant molecular biology, although the Mellon bio describes her as
a molecular biologist and the Rissler bio describes her as a plant
pathologist. I did find some papers by Rissler from the pre-molecular era
concerned with behavior of plant pathogens. They both publish opinion
Does anyone know more about the actual scientific qualifications of these
two individuals? This will help me to prepare a more knowledgeable letter
to New England Biolabs.
M. Mellon Bio from http://www.ucsusa.org/news/expmm.html
Margaret Mellon is one of the nation's most respected
experts on biotechnology and food safety. She holds a
doctorate in molecular biology and a law degree from the
University of Virginia. She was formerly a research fellow
in molecular virology at Purdue University and program
director for the Environmental Law Institute.
Mellon has published widely on the potential
environmental impacts of biotechnology applications.
She co-edits Foodweb (formerly Gene Exchange), a
public voice on food, farming, and the environment, and
is co-author of Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops
and co-editor of Now or Never: Serious New Plans to
Save a Natural Pest Control." She teaches a course in
biotechnology and the law at the Vermont Law School,
and in 1993 received a Distinguished Alumni Award from
Purdue University's School of Science.
When Mellon first became aware of biotechnology in the
early '80s, her attitude toward the new technology was
like that of most scientists -- unreservedly enthusiastic.
But as she learned more, she grew skeptical of its
benefits and more concerned about its risks. She
became convinced that decisions about new
technologies shouldn't be left to companies and
scientists -- she believes the public must have a role. A
widely quoted expert on genetic engineering, Mellon
regularly appears on ABC World News Tonight, CNN,
and NPR, as well as in the New York Times,
Washington Post, and many other major media outlets.
Rissler Bio from http://www.ucsusa.org/news/expjr.html
Jane Rissler is one of the nation's leading authorities on
the environmental risks of genetic engineering. She
provides firm scientific grounding for UCS's policy
positions on agriculture, biotechnology and the
environment, and also works to ensure that the public
has opportunities to participate in regulatory decision
making on biotechnology applications.
Rissler's passion for science meshes perfectly with her
deep love of the natural world, gained from a childhood in
rural West Virginia. She received her PhD in plant
pathology from Cornell's College of Agriculture and
taught in the Department of Botany at the University of
Maryland. But she always wanted to use science "in
ways that were more directly relevant to public policy."
She spent four years at the Environmental Protection
Agency helping to formulate biotechnology regulatory
policies before moving to the National Wildlife
Foundation, where she felt better able to protect the
public interest. In 1993, Rissler and her colleague at the
foundation, Margaret Mellon, were invited to join UCS to
establish our Agriculture and Biotechnology Program.
Rissler has published major reports on the
environmental risks of transgenic crops and on
crop-management plans to delay insect resistance to the
Bt toxin, a valuable natural pesticide. She is a widely
cited authority on biotechnology and frequently appears
on NPR, CNN, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, ABC
World News Tonight, and many other media outlets.
Date: Jul 31 2000 18:15:33 EDT
From: John McCarthy
Subject: Re: BASF, Labeling, GM Banned, ORG - MARG
Andura Smetacek includes
Activists frequently use strong arm tactics to threaten
companies to avoid GMOs, threaten boycotts and engage in
misleading fear campaigns to influence consumers. Worst of
all they promote violence against researchers and those
seeking answers about biotechnology risks and benefits;
however, I find it ironic that they use money they derive
from companies whose practices they oppose to do so.
More ironic is that these companies are willing to help them
do it. I suspect it is unwittingly.
I'm not sure it is unwitting. Maybe there is a belief that a donation of
suitable size will put off taking the particular company as a target.
Maybe it has elements of a protection racket.
Scientists and those who care about delivering on the
promises of biotechnology should not fund or support those
who engage in these activities. I noticed another case,
where New England BioLabs 2000-01 Catalog gives space and
notes funding and support for the Union of Concerned
UCS has many good people and causes; however, their campaign
against biotechnology is not one of them. They help spread
fear and misinformation and attack scientists who support
the technology. New England Biolabs, and their customers,
like BASF, and their customers, should not support these
My opinion is that UCS also spread fear and misinformation about nuclear
power. It was entirely natural for the UCS misinformation spreaders about
nuclear power to see their future in misinformation about biotechnology.
Subj: Re: PP in Organic Food?; Natural Plant Toxins; Pro-GM Label;
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 5:41:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time
I admit to belonging to the group who is cautious about labelling. If a
food product is GMO, I don't think the product must carry a GMO label. If
the product is predominantly made with corn but has a trace of egg/or
peanut/ or eye of newt, then the label should read corn"chips" with egg,
peanut, or newt in the ingredient list. The problem is not the GMO tag.
It's what's in it, for many people are deathly allergic to egg, fish,
peanut. If it has BT, thencall it BT. Organic pesticides can be washed
off, but the BT engineered food cannot. This simply alerts people who
have allergens and prevents death and unnecessary suffering.
I was always taught to wash produce because it may have been grown with
manuer, or sprayed but these could be washed off, and I believe hand
washing tests show that between 85-95% of all dirt and spray is washed
off, unless, of course, you don't wash produce, or if the water is
contaminated. The argument that all foods have toxins/carcinogens is moot.
Plants have been defending themselves against insect predation for
millenia before we came upon the scene, and we have some natural built in
defenses. The truth
is that the vitamins and mineral supplements far outweigh the risks when
it comes to vegetables and fruits.
Subj: 92% OF INDIAN FARMERS INTERVIEWED THINK BIOTECHNOLOGY IS BENEFICIAL
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 7:53:18 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Wendy Russell
Have the results of this study been published somewhere?
Celebrating the Amazing Year
Dr A. Wendy Russell
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Wollongong
ph (02) 4221 4916
fax (02) 4221 4135
Subj: Re: 92% OF INDIAN FARMERS INTERVIEWED THINK BIOTECHNOLOGY IS
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2000 8:59:54 AM Eastern Daylight Time
this study excerpts is quite interesting and encouraging. Can I have
copyof the complete report?