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Date:

August 30, 2000

Subject:

Funding Cuts for Plant Biotech; Vandals hit USCD; Labeling;

 

As Europe is swept up in an anti-GMO campaign conducted by Greenpeace and
other groups, support for plant science research by the European Union
(EU) and several European nations has been dropping sharply. There has
been a two-thirds reduction in the number of successful plant research
proposals funded by the EU. Dutch authorities are in the midst of
implementing a 30% cut of plant research funding over 5 years and have
ended funding for all collaborative projects. All Danish programs in plant
biotechnology will expire by 2002, and no new initiatives are planned.
Plant scientists in Europe are seeking to reverse these declines. An
article from Science published July 7 reported that European plant
scientists are mounting an ambitious effort to persuade EU officials to
plow more money into their field. But their blueprint for change, intended
to prevent them from falling farther behind their global counterparts, has
so far failed to win any promises from EU commissioner and science chief
Phillippe Busquin.

The September issue of Nature Biotechnology reports that:

Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, Italy's Green minister for agriculture and
forestry, is pushing Italian agbiotech research to the point of collapse.
By attaching strict conditions to public funding, he is limiting the
efforts of scientists and stifling research in an area that is already
underfunded

Pecoraro Scanio's hostility to agbiotech has been evident since his
appointment in April: a few days after taking office, he removed his
ministry's support of the International Biotechnology Congress held in
Genoa in May, banning his officials from taking part in the meeting. His
new constraints come when Italy's public funding of agbiotech is already
limited and the industry struggling. There has been a 75% cut of financial
resources for research inside the agriculture ministry in the last two
years. The government's long-term plan, the National Plan for Vegetal
Biotechnology, had intended that the agriculture ministry allocate $4
million a year for agbio research, but even this was stopped two years ago
as a result of Italian economic problems; in 2000, $2 million must be
shared among 200 agbio projects. In addition, GM field trials have fallen
from about 40 in 1999 to 26 this year, many being halted because of
pressure from local authorities. "The precautionary principle is turning
out to be a 'no experimentation principle'," says Defez.
------------------------------------
A number of the same anti-biotech groups that have succeeded in weakening
support for plant biotech research in Europe are also active in the U.S.
and with some key Congressional offices. We're hearing comments from some
members of Congress questioning modified foods and even federal support
related to plant genetic research. If you are in a state or Congressional
district where you've received an Alert for ASPP Campus Contacts to
support federal plant research programs, this means your member of
Congress is on an important committee deciding funding for plant research.
Help keep the U.S. from following the ominous trend in Europe. Please
contact your member of Congress when you receive an ASPP Campus Contact
Alert.

=======================================

WISCONSIN ACADEMY 130th ANNUAL CONFERENCE: "Genetically Modified Food:
Risks, Rewards, & Realities."
http://wisconsinacademy.org/conference/fallforum.htm

This year the Wisconsin Academy will present a special Fall Conference
"Genetically Modified Food: Risks, Rewards, & Realities." EVENT
ANNOUNCEMENT

REGISTRATION FORM This fall, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and
Letters will present a one-day conference titled "Genetically Modified
Food: Risks, Rewards, & Realities." Our goal is to educate and encourage a
thoughtful citizenry to better evaluate the rewards and risks of
biotechnology as it relates to food and agriculture. The Academy will
bring together leading scientists, farmers, ethicists, and the news media
to address issues that concern not only those working in these fields, but
also the citizens of Wisconsin and the general public. The conference will
take place November 3rd, 2000, at the Monona Terrace Community and
Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Registration will be open to all
and the public will be encouraged to attend.

The objectives of the conference are:

* To educate the public to make informed decisions regarding the
ever-expanding effects of genetic research and practice on our lives.

* To promote communication among geneticists, farmers, ethicists,
journalists, other scientists, and the public.

* To encourage news media to address the issues surrounding genetic
science and to effectively communicate the viewpoints of those working in
the fields of agriculture, genetics, and ethics to a broader audience.
s growing.
Government agencies, research institutions, and businesses have placed a
priority on research and development, but have often overlooked the need
to inform an apprehensive public about these issues.

The time is right to present a unique conference that addresses the
important aspect of public communication and education in the discussion
of genetics and ethics by including journalists in the program alongside
scientists and ethicists. The Academy will draw upon-as participants and
audience-the talent and resources of the University of Wisconsin,
Wisconsin's agriculture community, Madison's rapidly expanding biotech
sector, news organizations, and the thoughtful people of Wisconsin and
beyond.

The "Genetically Modified Food: Risks, Rewards, & Realities" conference
fits perfectly within the mission of the Academy-interdisciplinary study
and the examination and dissemination of knowledge. The conference will
bring together diverse but connected viewpoints; it will allow a
thoughtful and critical examination of an important subject; and it will
be accessible not only to those with professional interests, but to anyone
wishing to educate themselves on such important issues.


For more information, please contact the conference director, Michael
Goodman, at 608/263-1692 or e-mail at: conference@wisconsinacademy.org
================================

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Another Attack

Colleagues,

Strangely, the latest incident of anti-biotech vandalism seems to have
been ignored by the mainstream press - perhaps this sort of thing now
occurs so often that it's not considered "news" any more. Believing that
this sort of thing should not be ignored, I am sending you AgBiotech
Reporter's report on the incident.

Vandals Hit UCSD

August 26, 2000 - AgBiotech Reporter - Research at the University of
California (San Diego) has been hit by activists, this time by a group
calling themselves ‘Ninos del Maiz (Children of the Corn).’ According to
Genetix Alert, the publicity organ for anti-GM vandals in North America,
the activists destroyed one acre of genetically modified maize and entered
and destroyed the contents of four greenhouses containing rice, maize,
Arabidopsis, tomatoes, tobacco and “other GE lifeforms.” The activists
also spray-painted messages on the greenhouses and mixed up paper bags
that were being used to collect maize in the field.

Ominously, a communiqué sent by the activists personally named three
researchers involved in genetic engineering, calling them ‘bio
imperialists.’ The international anarchist symbol (the letter ‘A’ enclosed
in a circle) was left around the site.

“Los Ninos del Maiz welcomes the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
when they come to San Diego in June 2001,” the communiqué concludes. “San
Diego is saturated in biotechnology! Hey BIO--Alerta mucha alerta porque
Los Ninos del Maiz estan vigilando!” (‘Beware, the Children of the Corn
are watching!’)

In a report on the damage, the UCSD said that the vandals were unable to
distinguish transgenic from non-transgenic plants and destroyed them
“rather indiscriminately.”

“Severe damage was suffered by a visiting woman scientist from Eritrea,
who is trying to develop varieties of sorghum that are better adapted to
the arid climate of this impoverished country,” the UCSD noted. “She had
hoped to take the crosses back with her to Eritrea but this is now out of
the question. Also hard hit was a project that aims to understand how corn
forms its male and female flowers and the evolution of corn from its
ancestor teosinte, which still grows wild in Mexico.”

The UCSD also found irony in the attack. “The anti-technology vandals,
claiming to be concerned with biodiversity, destroyed a number of native
California plants from a project that is aimed at understanding how
biodiversity of wild populations is maintained. Different species of
native plants of California are grown at the Field Station for the purpose
of re-establishing them in areas from which they have disappeared.”

The monetary damage, mostly time lost by doctoral students and
post-doctoral researchers on their research projects, is estimated at
$75,000. “The emotional damage to these young scientists who are trying to
understand how plants work or are involved in improving the crops of the
poorest people on this earth,” the report concluded, “is harder to
estimate.”

=======================================

From: Mary Ellen Jones

Re: labeling of GM foods
What about short circuiting the demand to label GM foods as though they
were poisons to be avoided by using proactive labeling as a marketing
strategy?

For example, "this new product proudly contains the most scientifically
advanced GM components for increased value," or improved flavor, or to be
environmentally friendlier, or some such proactive statement. If it is
competitively priced, it may sell well anyway. If not, then you've gotten
some valuable marketing information. Also, people may be afraid to try
something new if they have to pay for it, but there's nothing like putting
out free samples of a good, well-tested product to gain market share.
////////////////// Mary Ellen Jones, Ph.D.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
=========================================

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Kenya President/Ag Biotech Cooperation


Does any one have any information on the "private - public initiative
named 'Healthy Harvest'"?
>Ambassador Andrew Young during his visit to Kenya recently, informed me
of a promising U.S. private - public initiative named "Healthy Harvest"
which will
===========================================
(Following is From the Biotech Activists Listserv: Mae-Wan Ho still
maintains that CaMV35S promoter is dangerous....CSP)

From: RBBAX@aol.com
From: roger.mainwood@virgin.net (Roger Mainwood) Via: owner-food@foe.co.uk

Dear All,
I've pasted below some correspondence I've had from Dr. Mae Wan Ho
regarding viral promoter genes. A lot has been written about the dangers
of the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus promoter gene which is found in most GM
crops - and two of the GM trial crops have had this gene inserted into
them. Aventis' forage maize has the cauliflower mosaic virus gene CaMV
35S, and Monsanto's sugar beet has the cauliflower mosaic virus gene
p-E35S .. But I noticed that the spring and winter oil seed rape crops
didn't use this particular promoter gene. They had some others inserted,
and I wondered if these were of greater, similar, or less concern.

Here is Dr. Ho's reply, preceeded by my question. best wishes, Roger.

P.S. The biotech establishment like to claim that there is a closed book
on this subject, and there are no problems associated with these promoter
genes. However, we do now know that an add on study to the crop trials is
being carried out by the Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York, -
so clearly questions are being raised in SOME official corners.
____________________________
Dear Maewan,

I notice from Genewatch's factsheet that the cauliflowrer mosaic virus
promoter gene is not present in Aventis' spring oil seed rape. However, it
says that they use two other promoter genes. One is PssuAra from thale
cress, (arabdopsis thaliana) to switch on the herbicide tolerance bar
gene.The other is PTA29 from the tobacco plant Nicotiana tabacum. This
one, it says, directs the expression of the male sterility gene, barnase
to a layer of the anther so pollen is not produced.

Would I be right in thinking that your concerns about the CaMV 35S
promoter could equally be applied to these different promoter genes, or
are there other concerns that I should be focusing on ? With thanks for
your time.

Regards,
Roger Mainwood
(Wivenhoe GM crop trial - Essex)
____________________________________
REPLY FROM MAE-WAN HO)

Dear Roger,

CaMV seems to be special among promoters as far as existing experiments
go. However, there simply isn't enough in the scientific literature to say
anything about the stability of the others. Until there is evidence from
the biotech companies that the line is really stable, we have to assume
that GM construct in general is not, and will have an enhanced capability
for horizontal gene transfer. Barnase itself is a very dangerous gene. It
was isolated from a bacterium which secretes it out in order to kill other
bacteria by breaking down RNA. There is a large literature on this. If you
can, do a computer search on it! Unfortunately, I am really tied up here
and have to be travelling again soon. Regards,
maewan

=========================================
#####