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August 27, 2000


Donella Comments; Response to Somerville; NRC Committee


Dear Donella,

No one can guarantee, nor is there any scientific evidence, that eating
tomato's is 100% safe. It is just that after many, many years of eating
tomato's without signs of harm, people assume they are safe despite the
lack of scientific evidence.

If you could provide even one example of a harm caused by any of the many
genetically modified organisms produced since 1976, perhaps then your
cautionary tale would have some credibility.

Even though they may not realize it, the Earths people should be so
grateful that brave pioneers began eating tomato's despite the tales of
poisoning and evil from fearful individuals very much like yourself. Who
knows what life would be like today without the delicious and nutritious
tomato on our menu's.

Tom Leustek

Subject: Bt corn and Monarch butterfly
From: Paul Geiger

Aside from all the accumulated experimental evidence that the butterfly is
not going to be harmed significantly in the real world, I'd like to call
attention to what I think is a bigger picture maybe with more perspective.

1. We notice that even in the latest extreme experiment about 1/3 survive
-- interesting because this finding is in line with what one finds in
biology generally. For instance, in the 14th century about 1/3 of the
world affected with plague survived. Evolutionarily, critters including
human beings are pretty tough. Not 100% are killed by the ebola virus
either nor by the flu pandemic of 1918.

2. The magic 1/3 appears in biology often, e.g., placebo reactors to
medicine tests, etc.

3. I suggest that there should be no worry as butterflies will be selected
according to well established Darwinian laws, the same laws that cause
antibiotic resistance. In time Bt corn will probably be less effective or
maybe wholly ineffective and all caterpillers will survive, an
evolutionary adaptation.

4. Where is the perspective regarding milkweed? It doesn't just grow near
corn in the whole world, now does it? The Monarchs no doubt do just fine
in other areas.

5. We have to keep in mind Joshua Lederberg's essay this spring in
_Science_ magazine. Bugs can mutate a lot faster than we or other animals
can. He was talking about danger of emerging diseases but I propose this
extends to insects too. They are amazingly adaptable and prolific.
Evolution again. Human beings don't have the power to kill all of them.
Again, DDT now just repels mosquitoes if painted on the walls inside
houses and at least keeps the bugs off of the people even if it doesn't
kill them anymore. Malaria cases can be cut down still by judicious use of

6. Others writing to this list have pointed out that uncared for, manmade
food plants have no advantage in the wild. They mostly die out, choked by
the real "superweeds" that are wholly natural and have been with us for a
long time. Just look at any neglected piece of property, a vacant yard and
house or field. Nature fills them with weeds and fungus attacks uncared
for wood. Nature.

Anyway let's hope there can be a little more perspective on our look at
the biological world and not try to grab headlines the way some
researchers seem to do with badly designed experiments. Think
"Darwinianly", eh?


Paul Geiger
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Re: The Genetically Modified Organism Conflict

Dr. Somerville should be applauded for his approach, but he is dangerously
misguided. Somerville wrote:

>Few readers of this journal will have failed to notice the recent
> uproar, particularly in Great Britain, concerning the release of
> genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The hysteria was fed by supermarkets battling for market share, aided and
abetted by organic farmers and retailers who financially thrive on the
illegitimate markups they can demand as the result of consumer hysteria.
Bear in mind, "organic" foods are the only products on the shelves which
offer the consumer no benefits; the sole
demand for these products is driven by food scares.

>One of the ironies of the current conflict between the proponents and
>opponents of GMOs is that the technology is inherently green. I cannot
>help but think that if the technology had been advocated by any sector
>except multinational chemical companies with an eye on the world
>market, the technology would have been embraced by environmentalist
> groups in much the same way that windmills and solar cells are.

The ambition of these groups is to gain control of public institutions
without public accountability. If they could dream up a "scare" over
windmills or solar cells, they would do that. They would most certainly do
it, if they could make money from, i.e., selling a book. If Stephen King
can make money from a horror novel, why should not others?

>Indeed, I remain optimistic that politically neutral groups such as
>>the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club

The two groups you name are NOT neutral, look at their rhetoric and most
expecially their sources of funding. Both stand to gain substantial cash
from cultivating hysteria.

>Indeed, much of the rhetoric concerning GMOs has very little to do
>with the underlying science and a lot to do with other issues such as
>industrialization of agriculture and control of the food supply by
>[American] multinational corporations.

Don't be fooled; in Western civilization, we have the cash available to
play at tearing down the science and the institutions which feed us all.
Others can scarcely afford to play at the starvation game.

>My impression is that many people
>who reject the silence of capitalism on issues of social equity have been
attracted by the eco-reactionary groups who, among other things, oppose
>GMOs. The recent unrest concerning the release of GMOs and the
>protests at meetings of the World Bank and the World Trade
> Organization bear witness a new manifestation of a familiar political

Yes. Trade protectionism rears its ugly head. Those who are well-fed and
prosperous do not want to compete with labor and goods from third-world
countries, and are willing to protest about that. The protests are, like
all conflicts, justified with cheap rhetoric.

>To the extent that GMOs raise social issues, there should be a vigorous
public debate.

This presupposes that you believe paranoiacs and political spin-doctors
earning hundreds of thousands of dollars really are willing to resolve a
debate that lines their wallets so nicely.

>However, I think it is damaging to science to have the
>terms of the debate focused on scientific issues in a forum that does not
nsupport the traditional values of scientific discourse.

The "debate" would never be focused that way unless the protest industry
can make some money off of using facts and reason in a non-pathological
manner. Bottom line: the activists are winning the "debate" because they
have no scruples whatsoever, whilst civilized persons feel they are above
skirmishing on such a low level.

Face it. The battle has been conceded by well-meaning people.
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Investment in Biotech

If you consider modified mammals which produce pharmaceutical proteins in
their milk to be a branch of agricultural biotechnology, and also as a
branch of pharmaceutical technology, then you can see that the hysteria
from ag biotech can easily cross over into pharma biotech. It's starting
to happen in Australia and New Zealand, and can easily spread from there.
If you have a profit in a biotech stock portfolio, I say, take the money
and run.

>From: "Kershen, Drew L"
>Subject: Biotech, Investment Markets, and the Poor

>I report this information because I think it provides evidence,through
>investor confidence, that pharmaceutical biotechnology has met market

From: Fred L Gould
Subject: National Research Council Committee to assess 'Environmental
Effects Associated with Commercialization of Transgenic Plants'

Following is a statement and letter form The National Academies concerning
their new committee on the environmental effects of biotech and a request
for letters regarding what "you" see as specific environmental issues
associated with plant biotech which need attention:

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and

The National Research Council committee on Environmental Effects
Associated with Commercialization of Transgenic Plants is seeking your
input on identifying specific environmental issues associated with plant
biotechnology. Please read the following letter from the chair of the
committee explaining how you can contribute to this study by providing the
committee with your perspective on this topic.

The letter is also attached as a file in several formats for your use as
needed. (See attached file: Public Letter - Word Document.doc)(See
attached file: Public Letter - TExt Only Document.txt)(See attached file:
Public Letter - Word 5 for Macintosh.mcw)(See attached file: Public Letter
- RTF.rtf)

Karen L. Imhof Project Assistant Board on Agriculture and Natural
Resources Ph: (202) 334-3062 Fax: (202) 334-1978 Email: kimhof@nas.edu

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and
Medicine National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine National Research Council Commission on Life
Sciences / Board on Biology Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources

August 17, 2000
Dear Colleague,
The National Research Council recently established a committee to examine
Environmental Effects Associated with Commercialization of Transgenic
Plants. Our committee held its first meeting on July 15th and 16th, 2000,
during which we clarified our goals and approaches to meeting this charge.
Our committee is now in the phase of gathering information. The final
product from our deliberations will be a detailed report.

Our committee has broad expertise in environmental sciences, agriculture
and other relevant areas. However, we think it is essential for us to seek
input from individuals with diverse perspectives on environmental issues,
so that we don?t miss important insights. We are contacting you based on
your previous interest in issues related to plant biotechnology.

The goals of our committee are as follows: We will review the scientific
basis that supports the scope and adequacy of USDA?s oversight of
environmental issues related to current and anticipated transgenic plants
and their products.

In order to address these issues, the committee will: Evaluate the
scientific premises and assumptions underpinning the environmental
regulation and oversight of transgenic plants. This evaluation will
include comparison of the processes and products of genetic engineering
with those of conventional plant breeding as they pertain to environmental
risks. This evaluation may result in recommendations for research relevant
to environmental oversight and effects of transgenic plants.

Assess the relevant scientific and regulatory literature in order to
evaluate the scope and adequacy of APHIS environmental review regarding
the process of notification and determination of non-regulated status. The
committee will focus on the identification of effects of transgenic plants
on non-target organisms and the environmental assessment (EA) of those
effects. The study will also provide guidance on the assessment of
non-target effects, appropriate tests for environmental evaluation, and
assessment of cumulative effects on agricultural and non-agricultural

Evaluate the need for and approaches to environmental monitoring and
validation processes. We would appreciate it if you would help us meet
this charge. We are committed to getting sufficiently broad input to
ensure that all important perspectives and information are considered.
Please send us a concise letter describing what you see as specific
environmental issues associated with plant biotechnology that need
attention. We would be particularly appreciative if you would emphasize
potential positive and/or negative impacts that you think are
underrepresented in most discussions of plant biotechnology. Please send
your letter via e-mail to kwaddell@nas.edu. Your letter may also be faxed
to him at (202) 334-1978.

It would be very helpful to us if you could return your letter by
September 5th. We are planning to have a second meeting in October and
will need some time to assess outside information such as that in your
letter. If we have follow-up questions regarding your letter, we may
contact you by phone or e-mail, or we may request that you present more
details directly to our committee in October.

If you have a colleague or friend who is likely to have a novel
perspective on these issues, we would appreciate your forwarding this
letter to that person. While we are not trying to assess the weight of
public opinion, we are trying to identify the diversity of perspectives in
relation to our charge.

Attached you will find a committee membership list. You may also want to
visit the National Academies' Current Projects website at
http://www4.nas.edu/cp.nsf for further information* about our committee,

the Academy's standing committee on Biotechnology, Food and Fiber
Production, and the Environment, which is examining a broader range of
biotechnology related issues.

Please call Kim Waddell or Karen Imhof at 202-334-3062 if you need further
information, or assistance with transmitting your letter. Your effort will
be appreciated.

On Behalf of the Committee,

Fred Gould Committee Chair

* Search for committee information by entering title of project in the
Current Projects website. Commission on Life Sciences, Board on Biology
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources


Fred Gould, Chair William Neal Reynolds Professor Department of Entomology
North Carolina State University David A. Andow Professor Department of
Entomology University of Minnesota Bernd Blossey Assistant Professor
Department of Natural Resources Cornell University Ignacio Chapela
Assistant Professor College of Natural Resources University of California,
Berkeley Norman C. Ellstrand Professor of Genetics Dep Botany and Plant
Sciences University of California, Riverside Nicholas Jordan Associate
Professor Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics University of
Minnesota Kendall R. Lamkey Associate Professor Department of Agronomy
Iowa State University Deborah Letourneau Professor Environmental Studies
Department University of California, Santa Cruz Alan McHughen Professor
Crop Development Centre, College of Agriculture University of Saskatchewan
Ronald L. Phillips Regents Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in
Genomics University of Minnesota Paul B. Thompson Distinguished Professor
of Philosophy Department of Philosophy Purdue University

From: Klaus Ammann Subject: Debate 2000'0825
c: IFOAM Debate on Organic Farming and Biotechnology

Dear Friends,

have a look at the progamme of IFOAM in Basle and feel encouraged to
attend this most interesting international conference, especially I want
to draw your attention to the following event:

see http://www.ifoam2000.ch

Thanks to Urs Niggli (niggli@fibl.ch) for this reminder.

Genetic Engineering or Organic Farming against the Hunger in the World
Date and Place: Tuesday 29th of August 2000, 18.00 to 19.30, at the
Convention Centre Basel, Basel (Entry: SFr. 10.-) Public Panel Discussion
during the IFOAM 2000 Development Cooperation: Organic Farming or Genetic
Engineering against the Hunger in the World

Focussed Themes of the Public Panel Discussion · How to proceed with
development cooperation between advanced & developing countries · Genetic
Engineering versus Organic Farming · Food security · The South and North
· Mrs. Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and
Natural Resource Policy, India, Critic Physicist, philosopher,
ecofeminist, director of the Research Foundation for Sci-ence, Technology
and Ecology, vice-president of the Third World Network, and author of
several celebrated works including „Staying Alive„, „The Violence of the
Green Revolution„, and „Monocultures of the Mind„ · Mrs. Camila
Montecinos, Centro de Educacion y Tecnologia, Chile, Critic Agronomist,
currently PhD student at the University of Wageningen (The Nether-lands).
She has worked with Centro de Educaciòn y Technologia (CET) in Chile since
1985. CET worked since its foundation in sustainable rural development and
agriculture. Organic agriculture is one of its basic technological tools.
She led an experimental organic farm from 1988 to 1994. Since 1994, she is
general coordina-tor of the community bio-diversity, development and
conservation programme, an international programme supporting on-farm
conservation, utilisation and enhance-ment of plant bio-diversity. · Mr.
Mahendra Shah, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
(CGIAR) and World Bank, USA, Supporter Executive secretary of the CGIAR
System Review, based at the World Bank since May 1997. He was director at
the International Institute for Applied System Analysis and of the UN
Office for Emergency Operations in Africa. He also served in the UN Office
of the Coordinator for Afghanistan as director of information. He was an
advi-sor to the Secretary General of UNCED, to WHO, IUCN, Earth Council,
International Development Center of Japan, and the Systema Alimentario
Mexicano. · Mrs. María Antonia Fernández Martínez, Technical Advisory
Committee of CGIAR, Cuba, Supporter Biologist with background in genetics
and physiology. Technical advisor to the CGIAR (1998 - current). Director
of the Plant Biotechnology Department at the Ministry of Science,
Technology and Environment of Cuba. Head of the Cuban Programme for Plant
Biotechnology and Secretary of the Cuban Board for Plant Bio-technology.
Director of the Department for Science and Technology, Ministry of
Ag-riculture in Cuba. Consultant to the International Academy of the
Environment, at Geneva, (Programme: Biotechnology/Bio-diversity).
Participation at the ISNAR project for PME (Planning, monitoring and
evaluation) in LAC. Chairperson · Ben Miflin, former Director of the
Institute of Arable Crops Research and of Rothamsted, UK. Science
Consultant and Lawes Trust Senior Fellow at Rothamsted Expt. Station, UK.
An agricultural plant biochemist he was formerly Director of the Institute
of Arable Crops and IACR-Rothamsted until 1999. Previous positions include
Head of R&D for Ciba-Geigy's International Seeds Business and Head of the
Biochemistry Dept at Rothamsted. He is currently a non- executive Director
of MicroBio a company supplying biofertilisers and biopesticides used in
organic and conventional ag-riculture. He has a long-standing interest in
the development of novel technologies that can be integrated into
sustainable agriculture.

We hope to see you soon in Basel for this interesting event. Eric Wyss and
Urs Niggli Research Institute of Organic Agriculture CH-5070 Frick