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Date:

August 15, 2000

Subject:

Response to 'Organic Nazis'; Concept of Natural

 

Prof. DeGregori's thesis that modern organic agriculture was promoted by
Hilter's government is a bizarre distortion of history. The organic
chemical pesticides were not even invented during the era of the Nazi
government.2,4-D for example was invented as a strategic war weapon and
only available to farmers at wars end. The phosphate neurotoxins were war
gases but no agricultural were available. DDT was used to control lice
near the wars end. Most prewar and wartime pesticides included sulfur and
the other control tools certified by organic agriculture.

The chemical fertilizers and the rules of NP and K use were not practiced
to any major extent until after the second world war. Indeed the nitrates
were far too valuable in manufacturing explosives to find much diversion
to agriculture. Animal manure and bone meal were the stables, I believe,
in crop production during the war years.

Professor DeGregori suggests the Nazi's promoted animal rights. My reading
of the era was that the Hitler and the Nazis promoted antivivisection. My
wife's great uncle Karl von Frisch was a professor at Munich, he was
beaten up by Hilter Youth students for experimenting on fruit flies. The
Nazi view was that it demeaned superior races to compare them to animals.I
spoke to him of that matter many years ago. He feared Nazi thugs the way
many opponents of GM crops fear confronting the carcinogenic pepper gas
and beating of mindless government.
=================================================

From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Biotechnology and the Brownshirts

Another take on Tom DeGregori's views about invoking Germany's National
Socialism in the controversies on the new biotechnology, the piece below
was published in the Wall Street Journal Europe, April 18, 1996. Its
conclusions remain valid.

Henry I. Miller
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
--------
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE BROWN SHIRTS
Henry I. Miller, MD, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Biotechnology applied to agriculture is beginning to yield all manner of
products, including fruits and vegetables that are disease-resistant, more
nutritious and able to grow with less chemicals. We may see an
agricultural revolution in much of the world during the next decade. But
not in Germany.

Burdened by both the European Union's and national regulations, German
researchers have found themselves in a regulatory stranglehold. They are
hindered by required "case by case every case" governmental review, even
of negligible-risk experiments; have low expectations that products
ultimately will be approved for marketing; and are beleaguered by
activists who manifest a degree of hostility not seen elsewhere.
Consequently, many scientists and companies have left the country and some
who remain are conducting field trials abroad.

Of some 6,000 field trials world-wide of plants genetically engineered
with the most precise recombinant DNA, or gene-splicing, techniques, only
a few dozen have been performed in Germany. It is particularly disturbing
that last year, all 15 of such small-scale field trials conducted by
universities and research institutes in Germany were partially or
completely destroyed by activists, even though most were studying the
environmental safety of growing genetically manipulated plants in normal
agricultural environments. One postdoctoral fellow was attacked with
stones while trying to protect his virus-resistant sugar beets from
vandals.

Those who ignore the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them. The
current situation recalls Germany in the 1930's when the Third Reich
vilified and persecuted the practitioners of what the regime called
Entartete Kunst, "degenerate art." Accused by propaganda minister Joseph
Goebbels of "insolent arrogance" and "snobbism," they included such
subversives as Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh,
Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso.

Now we have a kind of Entartete Forschung, degenerate research. The
stridency and absolutism of the activists' pronouncements -- and their
violent tendencies -- are uncomfortably familiar. The German government is
not culpable in the current situation, however, except indirectly by
neglecting to protect the personal safety and property of plant scientists
against assaults by anti- biotechnology activists.

But the vandals are abetted by governmental ambivalence and policies that
equate innovation with risk. There is an obvious solution -- one that has
been purposefully ignored by policy makers in both the European Union (EU)
and Germany: Simply apply scientific and risk-based regulatory policies to
the testing of gene-spliced plants.

As the distinguished British journal Nature editorialized in 1992, a broad
scientific consensus holds that "the same physical and biological laws
govern the response of organisms modified by modern molecular and cellular
methods and those produced by classical methods . . . [Therefore] no
conceptual distinction exists between genetic modification of plants and
microorganisms by classical methods or by molecular techniques that modify
DNA and transfer genes." Putting this another way, government regulation
of field research with plants should focus on the traits that may be
related to risk -- invasiveness, weediness, toxicity, and so forth --
rather than on whether one or another technique of genetic manipulation
was used.

Flying in the face of the scientific consensus, current EU and German
regulation casts a veil of suspicion over biotechnology by requiring case
by case government environmental assessments for field testing with
gene-spliced plants. By contrast, plants with similar or even identical
traits that were created with less precise techniques, such as
hybridization or mutagenesis, are subject to no government scrutiny or
requirements (and no publicity) at all. And that applies even to the
numerous new plant varieties that result from "wide crosses,"
hybridizations which move genes from one species or genus to another --
that is, across natural breeding boundaries.

If gene-spliced plants were treated appropriately -- that is, like other
new varieties -- their testing would not need government review, special
warning signs, or public announcements. There would be no way for the
thugs to target and disrupt field research that they consider Entartete
Forschung.

There is an important lesson here: The problem would have been avoided
entirely, had public policy been crafted intelligently in the first place.

Dr. Miller is the Robert Wesson Fellow of Scientific Philosophy and Public
Policy at the Hoover Institution and a consulting professor at Stanford
University's Institute for International Studies.
======================================

Subj: Re: Comments on Mr. Beant Ahloowalia's views and FAO
From: "John W. Cross"

Dear Mr. B:

If you don't mind, I'd like to address your comments on my message.

>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.

Comment:
In the United States we have a vibrant, successful and highly competitive
commercial plant breeding industry. Competition has been successful in
bringing to the US farmer the best, most productive seeds in the world.
Naturally, I suggest that for their own self-interest other countries
should follow the US example and encourage a free-enterprise seed
industry. In the US, public domain seed is readily available, even for
hybrid crops, like corn, but it is generally less attractive to the
farmer, since it is less productive. Profit-making companies are driven to
constantly improve their products in a competitive market.

Public research institutions definitely have a place in the scientific
research enterprise, doing basic research and supporting small specialties
that would be unprofitable for industry, but for practical results in the
major crops, private industry delivers the goods. The financial and
scientific success of the American seed industry is the proof.

>The same rules should apply to the use of genetically engineered
varieties?
I don't think so. People deserve to be paid for their hard work, genetic
engineers included.
>Had the use of the dwarf genes and varieties been patented, the Green
Revolution would not have taken place in Asia!
How are you so sure? Did you do an experiment? Or are you just making an
unsupported assertion, which may or may not be true? If you are a
scientist, then surely you can recognize an unsupported argument.

>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
regulatrory system of the deveoping nations? Mr. J. Think again.
B.Ahloowalia

I've thought again. The laws may need to be strengthened to protect
innovators from those who want to steal their inventions. Theft is not
just illegal: It's immoral in every religion and ethical system of which
I'm aware.

As you said: Think again. Or do you propose that developing nations should
be free of ethical restraints?

As I indicated earlier: I have no financial connections to the
agricultural seed industry. My views are my own.

Best wishes, John Cross
=====================================================

Subj: Re: The Concept Of Natural: Implications For Biotech Regulation
From: PROFDHW@aol.com

When we say the word "natural" we have one of three possible meanings. We
may mean "not artificial", not contaminated with human activity. In this
sense, we most often use it illogically, as in "natural gardening."
Gardening is artificial to begin with.

Sometimes when we say natural we mean "not uncommon" or "normal." For
example: It's natural to be nervous on the first day of class."

Finally, we may use "natural" in juxtaposition to "supernatural."

In any case, it's hard to argue against technology on the basis of its
being "unnatural." It certainly is artificial; how could it not be? This
is no argument at all.

It's very common so it's natural in the second sense. An it certainly is
not supernatural.

So, what's this argument all about?

Dave Williams
Science Department
Valencia Community College, East Campus
701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail
Orlando, FL 32825
407-299-5000 x2443
profdhw@aol.com
============================

From: Bob MacGregor

When I read the following excerpt in Agnet, I thought about the
hypothetical effect of a few escaped gm farm salmon on wild populations. I
presume = that some folks would object to this technique on the grounds
that it might, say, lead to the collapse of malarial mosquito or tsetse
fly populations. BOB
___________

A REPRESSIBLE FEMALE-SPECIFIC LETHAL GENETIC SYSTEM FOR MAKING TRANSGENIC
INSECT STRAINS SUITABLE FOR A STERILE-RELEASE PROGRAM July 18, 2000 Proc.
Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 97, Issue 15, 8229-8232 Applied Biological
Sciences JF6rg C. Heinrich and Maxwell J. Scott* Institute of Molecular
BioSciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand Edited by
Bert W. O=B9Malley, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

Abstract: We have developed a tetracycline-repressible female-specific
lethal genetic system in the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. One
component of the system is the tetracycline-controlled transactivator gene
under the control of the fat body and female-specific transcription
enhancer from the yolk protein 1 gene. The other component consists of the
proapoptotic gene hid under the control of a tetracycline-responsive
element. Males and females of a strain carrying both components are viable
on medium supplemented with tetracycline, but only males survive on normal
medium. A strain with such properties would be ideal for a sterile-insect
release program, which is most effective when only males are released in
the field.
======================================

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