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August 20, 2000


Research groups, Responses to Thomas and Bowden, CBS


Information sought: I am trying to identify all research groups in the
U.S. that focus on Ag Biotech Policy issues. Does anyone on this list
belong to such an institute? I would also be interested in knowing of
research institutes that may not be exclusively devoted to Ag Biotech, but
includes it as a major component? I know Paul B. Thompson had one at
TAMU, but it seems to have morphed into something else. If anyone can
give me some leads on this matter, please respond privately.

Thank you very much.

Mary Ellen Jones, Ph.D.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0247

Date: Aug 21 2000 15:35:51 EDT
From: Mary Ellen Jones
Subject: ban the backstabbing!

Hooray for Paul Thomas for having the courage to chastise the schoolboy
behavior! (Mon, 21 Aug 2000, AgBioView) How many of us wish the list to
be reserved for dissemination of useful news information, websites, etc.,
and that personal feuds with their backstabbing banter be taken to private
email exchanges? My hand is up. Thanks, Paul.

I'd also be a lot happier to see more notes like "for an opposing opinion
to so-and-so's statement on 'X' please contact me for my own detailed
philosophical viewpoint" before sending a 10K message to the entire list.
Any opposing opinions to this statement? Please send them only to me and
I will send a concise summary to the list. I promise to read only the
first two screens of text (a unit already known on other lists as a

Mary Ellen Jones, Ph.D.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0247

Subj: Re: AGBIOVIEW: CBS News, Recent content, Public Perceptions
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2000 3:11:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Alex Avery

I wish that I could agree with Mr. Thomas (re: post below) that all
biotech needs to do is provide sound factual, positive information on
biotech and eventually the public will see the merits of biotech. I wish
that the media was that unbiased. I wish that the public was that smart
and had the time to read all of the factual information available. I wish
that we could win the debate about biotech solely on the merits of the
science and a true assesment of the global food challenge ahead. I wish I
didn't have to spend so much time discussing organic food and farming.

However, the organic industry (along with their close friends in the
environmental movement) has built an entire consumer base on lies about
modern farming. Now they have engaged in an all-out war against biotech
and offer the public the myth that their food is better, cheaper, and
safer for the environment. Mr. Thomas suggests we ignore the war and
stick to our meek, weak, and ineffective "information" campaign.

We have tried that for years without any success, Mr. Thomas, and we've
learned the hard way that your prescription is a recipe for failure. The
organic myth must be challenged in order to expose the greater lies about
biotech coming from the self-serving organic and environmental activists.

Alex Avery
Center for Global Food Issues
Hudson Institute

Subj: Response to Bob Bowden:
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2000 2:09:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Henry I. Miller"

Response to Bob Bowden:

You have misunderstood and misrepresented my views on biotech regulation.
I have never suggested that there should not be regulation of biotech
product testing and commercialization; I have only demanded that such
regulation make scientific and common sense. Any regulation should
conform to certain basic rules -- it should be scientifically defensible
and risk-based; in other words, the degree of oversight should be
commensurate with risk.

In my 1997 book, "Policy Controversy in Biotechnology: An Insider's View"
(Austin: R.G. Landes), I described a syllogism that may help to put
biotech regulation into perspective:

A paradigm for regulating products of the new genetic engineering may be
summarized in a syllogism. Industry, government and the public already
possess considerable experience with the planned introduction of
traditional genetically modified organisms: plants for agriculture and
microorganisms for live attenuated vaccines and for other uses such as
sewage treatment and mining. Existing regulatory mechanisms have
generally protected human health and the environment effectively without
stifling industrial innovation. There is no evidence that unique hazards
exist either in the use of recombinant DNA techniques or in the movement
of genes between unrelated organisms. Therefore, for recombinant
DNA-manipulated organisms, there is no need for ADDITIONAL regulatory
mechanisms to be superimposed on existing
regulation [emphasis added]. In fact, as a former regulator who was
involved for more than a decade with the evaluation of the organisms and
other products resulting from new genetic engineering techniques, I
continue to be impressed with the extraordinary predictability and safety
of the newer techniques compared to the older, less sophisticated,
"conventional" ones; arguably, any disparity of regulatory treatment would
logically propose lesser scrutiny of organisms crafted with the most
precise and predictable techniques, other factors being equal.

The syllogism assumes, of course, that leaving aside the new biotechnology
and its products, there exists adequate governmental control over the
testing and use of living organisms and their products. This assumption
is certainly open to question, particularly where known dangerous
pathogens, chemicals, and similar products are largely unregulated or
where regulations are widely ignored. Nevertheless, throughout our
pre-recombinant DNA history of scientific research, in the United States
and elsewhere, scientists have had a high degree of unencumbered freedom
of experimentation, with pathogens as well as nonpathogens, indoors and
out. The resulting harmful incidents have been few, and the benefits,
both intellectual and commercial, have far exceeded any detrimental

Some may feel that overregulation of the new biotechnology and its
resulting costs of and disincentives to innovation are just the cost of
being good scientific and corporate citizens. I disagree. See the
following passage, also from "Policy Controversy in Biotechnology . . ."

There are other indirect and subtle perils of government overregulation.
Money spent on implementing and
complying with regulation (justified or not) exerts an "income effect"
which reflects the correlation between wealth and health, an issue
popularized by the late political scientist Aaron Wildavsky. It is no
coincidence, he argued, that richer societies have lower mortality rates
than poorer ones, and to deprive members of society of wealth is to
enhance their risks.

Wildavsky's argument is correct: Wealthier individuals are able to
purchase better health care, more nutritious diets, and generally less
stressful lives. Conversely, the deprivation of income itself has
adverse health effects, including an increased incidence of stress-related
problems, including ulcers, hypertension, heart attacks, depression and

It is difficult to quantify the relationship between the deprivation of
income and mortality, but academic studies suggest, as a conservative
estimate, that every $7.25 million of regulatory costs will induce one
additional fatality through this "income effect." The $4 billion annual
cost to society of Superfund -- most of it transferred to consumers as
higher prices on chemical and petroleum products -- would, therefore, be
expected to cause more than 500 deaths per year. These are the real
costs of "erring on the side of safety," the mantra which Vice President
Gore and EPA chief Carol Browner invoke to justify regulatory overkill.

Wrong-headed public policy has real-world consequences, Bob. And biotech
regulatory policy has been detrimental to taxpayers and consumers around
the world, and catastrophic in those regions that can least afford the
excesses advocated by anti-technology extremists.

Henry I. Miller

Hoover Institution
Stanford University

To: AgBioView@listbot.com
From: heather.massel@agric.gov.ab.ca
Subject: CBS BT corn report tonight

I've learned some more information on this Bt corn segment that is to air
tonight on CBS that may be of interest.

The Internet promo runs as follows:

'In tonight's "Eye on America" report, Wyatt Andrews tells us how
America's favorite insect, the monarch butterfly, is dying from the pollen
of gene-altered corn. The results of the first field study of genetically
modified "BT corn" are in, and, the findings have some scientists
questioning the EPA's approval of
this gene-altered crop.'

I was able to get one of the people connected with the production of the
story to call me back. I am not certain if she is more of a researcher
than a producer (and with CBS they tend to do a lot of both) but she's
apparently been heavily involved in this issue for more than a year.

I asked her to tell me on which study this report was based, and she told
me it had just been published on the Oecologia site.

Here is the link to the Oecologia website for both the abstract and the


I wish I had a LINK ID but don't (apparently they mail these things and it
could take 2+ weeks) so I can't viewthe study.

I would be interested to know if anyone else on this listserve has access
to this study and their reaction to it.

As someone who has absolutely no scientific background beyond all the
information I read every day, I am
curious: would a refuge belt address the pollen drift issue?

I also asked the CBS person whether they had interviewed some of the
Canadian scientists who have done
work in this area (especially Dr. Mark Sears from the University of

I was told they had spoken with him and others but had only used American
information in the story (which stands to reason, given the name of the

Tried to find out more but couldn't -- we just have to "tune in to see it!"

Thanks to Andrew Apel for giving us the heads-up on this.
Junkscience.com - www.junkscience.com

New at Junkscience.com

Bt Corn kills Monarch butterfly, study claims

A new study to be featured on CBS News tonight claims pollen from Bt corn
plants has a lethal effect on Monarch butterfly larvae.

The full study is at http://www.junkscience.com/aug00/monarch.pdf

Should a new round of Bt corn-hysteria develop from the CBS report on this
study, please keep in mind:

-- The new study stands in the shadow of more than 20 independent studies
by widely recognized scientific experts. It investigates only one small
area of this complex topic and is in stark contrast to the conclusions of
this broader scientific community's research - which has found that Bt
corn does not pose a significant risk to the Monarch butterfly.

-- The new study is not "field research." The conditions represented in
his study do not represent what one would actually find in the field as it
relates to monarch mortality. In fact, the researcher states in his paper
that larvae mortality was not correlated with the number of pollen grains
on the plant or the plant location within or at the edge of the field.

-- Last year, more than 28 million acres were planted with Bt corn, which
was about a 40% increase from the previous year. In the same time period,
the monarch butterfly population flourished, and increased by about 30%.

-- A University of Illinois study conducted on black swallowtail
butterflies this summer, found that under actual field conditions there
was no evidence that Bt corn harmed the butterflies.

Steve Milloy