GenevaSENIOR FAO OFFICIAL CALLS ON
SCIENTISTS TO SPEAK UP FOR THE POOR AND WEAK FAO PRESS RELEASE (PR
Hamburg, 17 August - The scientific community has a moral
responsibility to speak up for the world's poor and hungry, Assistant
Director General Louise O. Fresco, head of the Organization's
Agriculture Department, said today.
"In the globalised economy, small countries, small companies and small
farmers have very small voices. Scientists have a moral responsibility
to speak for the weak, because they sometimes best understand the
likely results of not doing so," she said in the inaugural address to
the 3rd International Crop Science Congress, taking place in Hamburg,
Germany, 17-22 August.
Her wide-ranging speech examined a number of current and emerging
trends in agriculture from an ethical perspective, including the uneven
distribution of food, globalisation, responsible use of land and water,
harnessing biological diversity and genetic modification.
"Popular perception has it that the world of agricultural science has
isolated itself from the man in the street (or the woman in the field),
and is seeking to impose its ideas on the planet, rather than
understand public needs. These views are not new but have quickly
become more vigorous," Ms Fresco warned.
"The most forceful public questions are being asked about both the
sharing of benefits and the perceived negative effects on human health
and the earth's environment of the uncontrolled application of
genetically modified crops. FAO's position is that we must use every
means at our disposal to improve food security subject to careful
assessments being made," she said.
Ms Fresco told the congress that FAO was confident the consensus could
be achieved on GM food standards, and stressed: "There can be no doubt
that scientists have an absolute moral responsibility in providing
objective, peer-reviewed information to the public and to refrain from
publicising immature, insufficiently tested results."
FAO had recently established an international Ethics Committee, to add
the input of philosophers and religious representatives to that of
scientists in investigating human factors related to agriculture so
that strategies could be developed to use the GM tool in the fight
against hunger and malnutrition, while taking all the necessary
precautions to protect human health and the environment.
Looking at food distribution, Ms Fresco told her audience that the
unbalanced availability of food in the world was mirrored by the uneven
application of improved production technologies. "Scientists do bear a
part of the responsibility for the selective applicability of
technologies to more favourable ecological circumstances and, as a
result, their uneven application," she said.
On globalisation, she commented: "Whatever its potential benefits,
globalisation also exacerbates the existing differences among countries
and regions and calls for specific strategies to be developed according
to different needs."
Discussing the responsible use of land and water resources, Ms Fresco
noted: "Within an integrated land and water approach, the logical
complement to improving water availability to crops is the development
of new lines that are drought resistant, or at least, drought tolerant.
The revolution in molecular genetics has now made it possible, at least
in theory...to increase the efficiency of breeding for some
traditionally intractable agronomic problems such as drought resistance
and improved root systems"
On the question of harnessing biological diversity, Ms Fresco noted:
"FAO recognises that food security calls for continuing work on the
genetic improvement of the main crops, especially to increase their
adaptability to the wide diversity of agro-ecological conditions.
However, I also want to emphasize the need to explore a wider range of
species that are already adapted to different and marginal ecologies."
She continued: "Domestication of new crops may be time-consuming, but
there seems to be a lot of scope in the improvement of locally
important minor crops, which in many regions make a major contribution
to the diet, but which attract limited R&D resources."
She concluded: "All of us have a responsibility toward the weak and
poor, even if, in our rapidly globalising and unequal world, this is
not self-evident. Crop scientists need to look beyond their
subdisciplines and support policy and regulatory measures to protect
international public goods, such as water, soil nutrients and genetic
Biotech Crops Mean Less Pesticide Use
Editors, Progressive Farmer -- Wednesday, August 16, 2000
After several years on the market, one fact emerges about the two main
categories of biotech crops in widespread use in the U.S. They reduce
the total amount of pesticides being used. USDA research now shows that
between 1997 and 1998, total pesticide treatments were down 6.2%. Bt
cotton and herbicide-tolerant soybeans account for most of that
reduction. That should be good news for America's consumers. In a 1999
survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Philip
Morris Foods, 73% of consumers said they would accept the use of
genetically engineered crops as a means of reducing chemical pesticide
use. The crops with the highest percentage of biotech variety use are
soybeans and cotton. In some states as many as 80% of the soybean and
cotton acres are planted to the biotech varieties.
In the case of soybeans, Monsanto's Roundup Ready product allows
growers to almost eliminate all herbicides but glyphosate. Says the
USDA's Economic Research Service, "The herbicides that glyphosate
replaces are 3.4 to 16.8 times more toxic and persist in the
environment nearly twice as long as glyphosate."
As for cotton, the use of the Bt variety to control insect pests made
the Southern states the leaders in reduced pesticide applications. That
region led the nation with a nearly 9% reduction in total treatments.
AGRICULTURAL OUTLOOK -- SUMMARY July 20, 2000 (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
AGRICULTURE) August 2000, ERS-AO-273 Approved by the World Agricultural
Does Genetic Engineering Reduce Crop Pesticide Use?
Planting genetically engineered (GE) crops appeals to producers because
of the potential to simplify pest management, reduce pesticide use, and
help control costs. Analysis by USDA's Economic Research Service
indicates that adoption of GE corn, soybeans, and cotton is associated
with a decrease in the number of acre-treatments of pesticides (number
of acres treated multiplied by number of pesticide treatments).
Reduction in volume of active ingredients applied is less consistent,
since adoption alters the mix of pesticides used in the cropping
system, as well as the amounts used. Comparison of different mixes of
pesticides involves evaluating tradeoffs between the amounts used and
the environmental characteristics, primarily toxicity and persistence.
For example, the herbicide-tolerance trait in soybeans allows
substitution of glyphosate herbicides for other synthetic herbicides
that are at least three times as toxic as glyphosate and that persist
in the environment nearly twice as long. Ralph E. Heimlich (202)
Approved by the World Agricultural Outlook Board Full text of
Agricultural Outlook will be available 7/21 at
The magazine in PDF will be posted in about 5 days, and printed copies
will be available in about 2 weeks.
RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT
Genetically Engineered Crops: Has Adoption Reduced Pesticide Use?
Development of new crop varieties through genetic engineering offers a
broad spectrum of potential benefits, including reduced production
costs, enhanced yields, and enhanced nutritional or other
characteristics that add to value. Among the first developments on the
market were changes in the genetic makeup of common field crops that
made them tolerant to commonly used glyphosate herbicides, or that
incorporated genes of the natural pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis
(Bt), so that plants produce a protein toxic to specific insect pests.
These varieties appealed to producers because they promised to simplify
pest management and reduce pesticide use, while helping to control
costs, enhance effectiveness of pesticides (both herbicides and
insecticides), and increase flexibility in field operations. Evidence
of that appeal lies in the rapid adoption of genetically engineered
crops, beginning with very little U.S. acreage in 1996 and reaching 41
percent of major crop acreage in 2000, down from 49 percent in 1999.
The potential to reduce pesticide use through genetic engineering, or
biotechnology, could also appeal to consumers. A Farm Bureau/Phillip
Morris poll of farmers and consumers in August 1999, for example,
indicates that 73 percent of consumers were willing to accept genetic
engineering as a means of reducing chemical pesticides used in food
production. The poll also found that 68 percent considered farm
chemicals entering ground and surface water to be a major problem.
The question remains: does adopting genetically engineered (GE) crops
for pest management reduce use of chemical pesticides? As with most
simple questions, the answer is far from simple. Estimating EffectsOn
Pesticide Use Data exist on pesticide use by producers who did and did
not adopt genetically engineered crops. But characteristics that affect
the adoption decision may influence pesticide use decisions as well,
making simple comparisons suspect. In addition, the changing mix of
pesticides that accompanies adoption complicates the analysis, because
characteristics like toxicity and persistence in the environment vary
across pesticides used.
To offer several perspectives on estimating changes in pesticide use
associated with adoption of GE crops, this analysis uses three
*Same-year differences. Compares mean pesticide use between adopters
and nonadopters within 1997 and within 1998 for a given technology,
crop, and region, and applies that average to total acres producing
each crop in each year.
*Year-to-year differences. Estimates aggregate differences in pesticide
use between 1997 and 1998, based on increased adoption of GE crops
between those 2 years and average total pesticide use by both adopters
*Regression analysis. Estimates differences in pesticide use between
1997 and 1998, with an econometric model controlling for factors other
than GE crop adoption that may affect pesticide use. Data for the study
are from the national Agricultural Resource Management Study (ARMS) for
1996-98, conducted by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service
and Economic Research Service. The dataset includes information on
adoption of GE varieties of corn, soybeans, and cotton, as well as
number of applications and amounts of specific conventional pesticide
applied. Only statistically significant differences in pesticide use
were included in the estimates of change, so results are conservative.
For insecticides, only those used to control the target pests of GE
crops-i.e., those that could substitute for the Bt trait-were analyzed.
Same-year differences between average pesticide use of adopters and
onadopters revealed that adopters of GE corn, soybeans, and cotton
combined used 7.6 million fewer acre-treatments (2.5 percent) of
pesticides than nonadopters in 1997. (An acre-treatment is the number
of acres treated multiplied by the number of pesticide treatments.) The
difference rose to nearly 17 million fewer acre-treatments (4.4
percent) by adopters in 1998. In 1998, adopters of herbicide-tolerant
soybeans accounted for the largest share of the difference in
acre-treatments (54 percent), with most of the reduction occurring in
the Heartland region. Seven percent of the difference in
acre-treatments for target pests occurred with adoption of Bt cotton,
with most of the reduction in the Southern Seaboard. In terms of active
ingredients applied, however, adopters used only 331,000 pounds fewer
than nonadopters (less than 0.1 percent of total pounds applied) in
1997. The difference narrowed to 153,000 fewer pounds in 1998.
Reductions in active ingredients applied in 1997 were related to Bt
cotton and herbicide-tolerant soybeans in the Southern Seaboard, while
in 1998 herbicide-tolerant cotton and Bt corn accounted for most of the
decreases nationally. Year-to-year differences in total pesticide use
between 1997 and 1998, adjusted for change in acres planted but
including both adopters and nonadopters, amounted to 9 million fewer
pesticide acre-treatments (a 2.9-percent reduction). Although GE
adoption leads to less pesticide use, acre-treatments by GE adopters as
a group increased by 49 million between 1997 and 1998, while
acre-treatments by the shrinking number of nonadopters dropped by 58
million. This resulted in 8.2 million fewer pounds of active
ingredients applied (3.5 percent)-the growing number of GE adopters
used 39.3 million more pounds in 1998 than in 1997, but the declining
number of nonadopters used 47.5 million fewer pounds. Most of the
decrease was in soybeans in the Heartland region, and in cotton. For
corn, acre-treatments and pounds of active ingredient increased because
GE adopters used 13.6 million more acre-treatments, while nonadopters
decreased acre-treatments by only 11.8 million. The increasing number
of producers who planted herbicide-tolerant corn used 17.5 million more
pounds of active ingredients as they switched from other herbicides to
glyphosate, but the fewer nonadopters reduced pesticide use by only
15.1 million pounds. Year-to-year changes in total pesticide use result
from sometimes dramatic increases in GE acreage. These increases lead
to increases in total pesticide use by adopters, despite lower average
per-acre rates. Corresponding decreases in nonadopter acreage lead to
decreases in total pesticide use by nonadopters, but, except for corn,
GE adopter increases are less than nonadopter decreases, resulting in a
net decline in total pesticide use.
These comparisons do not account for year-to-year changes in weather
conditions, pest pressures, and other factors that may affect pesticide
use, so it is inappropriate to attribute the results solely to adoption
of GE crops. Still, the overall downward trend in pesticide application
rates on major U.S. crops from 1996 to 1998 appears to confirm the
pesticide-reducing effect of GE crops. For example, as adoption of
herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties increased from 7 to 45 percent,
the average annual rate of glyphosate application increased from 0.17
pounds per acre in 1996 to 0.43 pounds per acre in 1998, while all
other herbicides combined dropped from about 1 pound per acre to 0.57
pounds per acre. That translates into a decline of nearly 10 percent in
the overall rate of herbicide use on soybeans during the period.
The regression analysis approach controlled for differences between
adopters and nonadopters, allowing estimation of changes in pesticide
use associated with increases in GE adoption between 1997 and 1998.
Regression models are usually used to estimate small adjustments from
small changes in conditions. Normally, changes in use of a technology
would be small over a single year. However, between 1997 and 1998,
spectacular growth in genetically engineered crop use led to adoption
rate increases of 160 percent for herbicide-tolerant soybeans, 150
percent for herbicide-tolerant cotton, 12 percent for Bt cotton, and 43
percent for herbicide-tolerant corn. These large changes may be beyond
the model's predictive scope. The analysis estimated that pesticide
reductions related to increased GE adoption between 1997 and 1998 were
19.1 million acre-treatments (6.2 percent of total 1997 treatments),
excluding Bt corn. These estimates reflect reductions in other
insecticides used on cotton, acetamide herbicides used on corn, other
synthetic herbicides used on soybeans, and offsetting increases in
glyphosate herbicides used on soybeans Assuming application rates of
each active ingredient (pounds per acre-treatment) are the same for
adopters and nonadopters, changes in the number of acre-treatments
would imply proportional changes in pounds of active ingredients used.
However, since average application rates vary across pesticide active
ingredients, the net effect of substituting one for another may be an
increase or a decrease in total pounds used. Thus, changing the mix of
products used while decreasing acre-treatments may actually increase
total pounds of active ingredients applied. Estimating the change in
total pounds of active ingredients under the assumption of average
application rates for each active ingredient indicates that total
pesticide use on corn, soybeans, and cotton decreased 2.5 million
pounds (1 percent) in 1998 compared with1997.
Using average application rates gives conservative results. For
example, using average application rates, the net effect of adopting
herbicide-tolerant soybeans is a reduction in acre-treatments but a
slight increase in pesticide use (pounds of active ingredients).
However, direct econometric estimation shows a 1.76-million-pound
reduction in herbicide use associated with increased adoption of
herbicide-tolerant soybeans in 1998 relative to 1997, the net result of
a 7.2-million-pound decrease from use of "other" herbicides and a
5.44-million-pound increase from use of glyphosate. When producers
adopt GE crops, they shift the mix of pesticides they use and can use
them at lower-than-average application rates. Thus, the actual
reduction in pounds of active ingredients may be larger than that
estimated by multiplying average rates by the reduction in
acre-treatments. Changing Pesticide Use:Impact Also Matters Changes in
pesticide acre-treatments resulting from the adoption decision range
from -6.8 million acre-treatments to -19 million across the three
estimation methods. Reductions in pounds of active ingredients vary
more widely, from a net drop of just 0.3 million pounds in 1997 (using
the same-year method to compare adopters and nonadopters) to a net
8.2-million-pound decrease (using the year-to-year method to compare
changes in total pesticide use between 1997 and 1998). Because the
results include only statistically significant differences in pesticide
use by adopters and nonadopters, many relatively small differences in
particular regions were not included, thus underestimating overall
differences. Assessing the impact of the herbicide-tolerance trait
(which enables use of glyphosate herbicides) requires more than simply
calculating whether more or less pesticide will be used. Adoption of
this technology changes the mix of pesticides used in the cropping
system, as well as the amounts used. In addition, effectiveness of the
insect-resistant trait is limited-i.e., Bt-enhanced seed only targets
certain pests-and some amount of conventional pesticide will still be
used to control those not affected by the Bt toxin. When pesticide
mixes are changing, comparing the total number of acre-treatments or
pounds of active ingredients of different pesticide compounds is like
adding the proverbial apples and oranges. Measuring pesticide use in
pounds of active ingredient implicitly assumes that a pound of any two
ingredients has equal impact on human health and/or the environment.
However, the more than 350 active ingredients in use in pesticides over
the last 40 years vary widely in toxicity per unit of weight and in
persistence in the environment. Scaling (weighting) pounds of
pesticides applied by measures of their "toxicity/persistence"
characteristics can provide an indication or index of pesticide impact
or potential risk.
Data indicate that adoption of herbicide-tolerant crops leads to
substitution of glyphosate herbicides for previously used herbicides.
Based on regression results for soybeans, an estimated 5.4 million
pounds of glyphosate is substituted for 7.2 million pounds of other
synthetic herbicides, such as imazethapyr, pendimethalin, and
trifluralin. Glyphosate has a half-life in the environment of 47 days,
compared with 60-90 days for the herbicides it commonly replaces. The
herbicides that glyphosate replaces are 3.4 to 16.8 times more toxic,
according to a chronic risk indicator based on the EPA reference dose
for humans. Thus, the substitution enabled by genetic modifications
conferring herbicide tolerance on soybeans esults in glyphosate
replacing other synthetic herbicides that are at least 3 times as toxic
and that persist in the environment nearly twice as long as
Assessing change in pesticide use associated with adoption of GE crops
is confounded by the same difficulties associated with pesticide use
generally. Comparison of different mixes of pesticides involves
evaluating tradeoffs between the amounts used and the environmental
characteristics, primarily toxicity and persistence. The answer to the
simple question, "Does adopting genetically engineered crops for pest
management reduce pesticide use?" lies not just in more or less but in
more or less of what. Ralph E. Heimlich (202) 694-5504, Jorge
Fernandez-Cornejo (202) 694-5537, William McBride (202) 694-5577,
Cassandra Klotz-Ingram, Sharon Jans, and Nora
This article is an extension of research presented in Genetically
Engineered Crops for Pest Management in U.S. Agriculture, AER-786,
April 2000. <<http://www.ers.usda.gov/epubs/pdf/aer786/>
subj: Re: ACTION ALERT
From: Ray and June Shillito < To:
Here is one of the "Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods"
action alerts. I urge those of you in North America to deluge the 800
number with positive statements, and everyone to email Kraft and the
other companies. The opponenets of Biotechnology are using these
tactics, and supporters must be equally active!
>From: Katie Thrasher [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
>Following is a letter from The Campaign to Label Genetically
Engineered Foods calling for anti-biotech action letters, e-mails and
phone calls to be sent to over 75 food companies. >
>Dear Health Freedom Fighters,
>Below are two interesting articles worth reading. The first is titled
>"U.S. food companies seeing little biotech backlash." According to
article, food manufacturers are not hearing many consumer complaints
about genetically engineered foods.
>To help rectify this situation, The Campaign to Label Genetically
Engineered Foods is currently in the process of developing form
letters to over 75
of the largest food companies in the country. The form letters should
ready by this weekend. We have already posted the list of companies
including telephone numbers and links to their web pages. (Special
Friends of the Earth for supplying this list.) Here is the web page:
>In the article below, a spokesperson for Kraft Foods states, "What
we're seeing and hearing from consumers indicates that consumers in the
are confident in the safety of the products that are on the market."
ACTION ALERT: Please call Kraft Foods at (800) 543-5335, 9:00 a.m.
- 5:00 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday and let them know that
have concerns about genetically engineered foods, do not want to eat
and will not buy their products until they label them as free of
genetically engineered ingredients.
If you prefer to send e-mail, you need to submit it on a web form at
the Kraft web site:
Here is a list of products made by Kraft: Bakers Chocolate, Breyers
Yogurt,Capri Sun, Cool Whip, Country Time, Crystal Light, Deli-Deluxe,
Diabetic Choices, Digiorno, GFIC, Good Seasons, Jacks Pizza, Jell-O,
Kool-Aid, Kraft Barbeque Sauce, Kraft Easy Mac, Kraft Macaroni Cheese,
KraftParmesan, Kraft Singles, Kraft Taste of Life, Light Done Right,
Maxwell House, Minute Rice, Minute Tapioca, Miracle Whip, Oscar Mayer,
Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Polly-O, Post Cereal, Stove Top, Stove Top
Classics, Surejell, and Velveeta. (By the way, Kraft is owned by Philip
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods is providing you
the tools to make your voice heard in Washington, DC and in America's
corporate boardrooms. But it takes those of you reading this e-mail to
the grassroots activism necessary in order to be successful in our
It is essential that you talk to others about this issue and recruit
friends and neighbors in the effort to win labeling of genetically
>Craig Winters Executive Director The Campaign to Label Genetically
Engineered Foods The Campaign PO Box 55699 Seattle, WA 98155 Tel:
425-771-4049 Fax: 603-825-5841 E-mail: mailto:email@example.com
Web Site: http://www.thecampaign.org
>Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign
for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass
that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the