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September 1, 2000


Biotech Papaya is Fine; Monarchs are doing Well; Expert -


Dear listbot team:

I would like to post a message in response to Prof. Drew Kershen's request
for information about the accuracy of reports he has read on other list
services regarding virus-resistant transgenic papayas. To quote his
message, "Within the past two months I have twice received a messge on a
list serve (I do not think it was AgBioView) stating that the Hawaiian
papaya growers have shunned the virus-resistant transgenic papaya in
droves after an intitial wave of enthusiasm. The message gave two reasons:
1) lower production of fruit per tree; 2) less profitability primarily
because of the Japanese market (i.e. the Japanese labeling laws, and
Japanese consumer concerns about genetically improved foods). Please
comment on the Hawaiian papaya situation and the status of the
virus-resistant transgenic papaya."

My response follows:

Dear Prof. Kershen,

I was informed by colleagues who participate in discussions on
AgBioWorld's web site of your questions about the papaya cultivars with
genetically engineered virus resistance. I am a faculty member in the
Dept. of Tropical Plant & Soil Science at the University of Hawaii, and I
have been involved since 1987 as a collaborator in the project that
produced the transgenic 'SunUp' and 'Rainbow' papayas. I would like to add
my comments to those of Dennis and Carol Gonsalves and Emerson Llantero
concerning the current performance of 'Rainbow' in Hawaii.

All the information I have from experiments and observations in production
areas shows that 'Rainbow' has been a great success from an horticultural
standpoint. Its virus resistance has been very effective in overcoming the
chief threat to production in the state. The steep drop in utilized
production on the Big Island from 68 million pounds in 1992 (the year that
the virus struck in the major production area of Puna) to 31 million
pounds in 1997 (latest available stats), shows the impact of papaya
ringspot virus (PRSV) on our traditional varieties. It is nearly
impossible to grow non-transgenic papayas in Puna now with any assurance
of maintaining virus-free fields.

Contrary to the reports you have mentioned about low yields, 'Rainbow' was
found to be a heavy producer in field trials conducted by University of
Hawaii researchers on a farm of a cooperating grower in Puna. Yield over a
1-year period was about four times the state average (100,000 lbs/acre for
'Rainbow' vs 25,000 lbs/acre), although the "state average" figure may
reflect other factors than just plant yield, such as culling of inferior
fruits during the packing operation. Nonetheless, I have no hesitation in
stating that 'Rainbow' yields are very good compared to traditional
commercial varieties in Hawaii. Even more impressive is the fact that
'Rainbow' seems better adapted to regions in Hawaii outside of Puna than
the previous top cultivar, 'Kapoho'. This means it performs better over a
wider range of environments.

The second part of your question is more complicated and involves
economics, marketing, and government regulations, rather than genetics and
horticulture. I should defer to Mr. Llantero who knows these matters
better than I do, but the following is my understanding of the situation:

Since the Japanese pay so much more for imported Hawaiian papayas than the
local Hawaii or North American markets, selling there is a big economic
objective. Unfortunately, Japan's regulatory agencies have not yet allowed
the transgenic papaya to be imported from Hawaii, although they are
currently reviewing our petition for deregulation. Consequently, there may
be (and I am speculating here) some growers who would risk growing
virus-susceptible cultivars in the hope that the extra value of the crop
when sold in Japan would offset early and continuing losses in the field
due to PRSV. The difference in value is strictly a consequence of an
artificial trade barrier, and does not reflect any difference in
horticultural quality. Transgenic and non-transgenic papayas sell for
comparable prices in the US market.

Taste is a subjective thing, but most people I know prefer eating
'Rainbow' to 'Kapoho', or can't tell the difference between them.

Hope this helps provide context for comments you read on the web.

With aloha,

Richard Manshardt, Professor of Horticulture, Dept. of Tropical Plant &
Soil Science University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822; phone
(808) 956-6063 FAX (808) 956-3894

From: Jamie Bishop
Subject: Good news on butterflies!

Excerpt from Research Nebraska (Sept. 2000) University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Headline: Bt pollen limited threat to monarchs Most Bt corn pollen falls
in or near cornfields and before most monarch butterfly caterpillars

That's the word from University of Nebraska Entomologist John Foster and
graduate student Pete Clark, whose research supports pollen distance
studies elsewhere. This summer and last, they tracked corn pollen shed and
monarch activity surrounding five Bt cornfields in eastern Nebraska. They
measured corn pollen on milkweed at different distances from fields.
Genetically modified Bt corn produces toxins fatal to European corn borers
and other caterpillars.

First-year results showed most pollen fell within 5.5 yards of the field,
with highest pollen counts within the first yard, Foster said. None was
found on milkweed more than 44 yards from fields. Beyond 5.5 yards,
researchers found no pollen counts above 3.2 grains per square inch on
milkweed leaves. Studies elsewhere using certain Bt corn hybrids showed
pollen densities less than 24 grains per square inch on milkweed didn't
affect monarch caterpillars. That's about seven times higher than the
pollen levels the IANR researchers measured.

Milkweed often grows near Nebraska cornfields, Foster said. However, the
study found little threat to monarchs because 95 percent of the corn
pollen shed occurs before monarch caterpillars develop. Researchers found
no dead monarch caterpillars on any milkweed. ...

Subj: UCSD vandals non-news
From: Matthew Metz

Dear Colleagues-

It was noted that the recent attack on UCSD's plant research received no
media attention. While those of us that are targeted by eco-vandals may
lament the lack of media recognition of our plight, we should recognize
the other side of the media coin. The criminal activities of vandals is
clearly, in part a ploy for media attention and free advertising for their
ideologies. In this respect these thugs are being deprived of what they
seek, and we should not clamor for media coverage. The focus should be on
getting law enforcement, not news to investigate the problem.

Matt Metz
UC Berkeley


From: "Carol V. Gonsalves" Subject: Re: Gordon
Couger How to cut Greenpeace off at the knees

"Tit for tat" won't do. A "COUGER" might jump on a man while he's down,
but what we all need now is to apply "SALVE" to each other's wounds.

Greenpeace tactics in the anti-GMO arena have led to their loss of
credibility and membership. I take this loss as a great opportunity for
Greenpeace to re-organize and focus on realistic solutions to questions
concerning global environment and consumer issues. One change I would love
to see is major Greenpeace funding and participation in scientific and
other research that will help answer questions raised about GMO foods.

carol gonSALVEs
Volunteer Researcher, Dept. of Plant Pathology, Cornell University

>Subj: How to cut Greenpeace off at the knees From: Gordon Couger

>If respected member of the scientific community will approach the

Subj: Re: Mae-Wan Ho: Organics and Spirituality From: Alex Avery

>Mae-Wan Ho writes: "10. I take science, in the most general terms, to be
any active knowledge system shared by a society of human beings that gives
. . . meaning to their way of life . . ."

Gee, I thought that was the role of religion. Anyway, I love this part:

>11. What does it mean to be an organism? To be an organism is to be
possessed of the irrepressible tendency towards being whole; towards being
part of a larger whole. One of the key concepts in understanding organic
wholeness is coherence, the ideal of which is quantum coherence. Quantum
coherence aptly describes the perfect coordination of living activities in
our body, and there is growing empirical evidence that it may indeed
underlie living organization, as described in my book.

What? Full of sound and fury, signifying NOTHING! If academics buy this
drivel, it is truly a sad testament to the state of "The Academy." Excuse
me, I think I'll go listen to some more quantum jazz.

Alex Avery

(From Agnet: Douglas A Powell )

Rachael Crofts, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the UK Government’s Food Standards Agency, was
cited as telling the BBC’s Countryfile programme to be braodcast Sunday
that consumers of organic food are wasting their money if they think they
are buying something which is safer or more nutritious than conventionally
grown food and that there was no evidence that organic food was healthier
than conventionally grown produce, adding, "They’re not getting value for
money, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Food Standards Agency, if
they think they’re buying food with extra nutritional quality or extra
safety. We don’t have the evidence to support those claims."

The story says that independent scientific tests, commissioned by the BBC,
found that conventionally grown carrots were free of pesticides.
Scientists at the Eclipse Scientific Group laboratory in Cambridgeshire
extensively tested carrots that they had bought anonymously from British

Three types were examined for pesticide and chemical residues. The carrots
tested were: an organic British carrot, an organic carrot from abroad and
a conventionally grown carrot.

The tests, for more than 40 different pesticide residues known to be
associated with carrot production, were negative for all three. Nigel
Gillis of the Eclipse Scientific Group was quoted as saying, "I think the
public will be very surprised. Their perception of organic carrots is that
they have no pesticides in and conventional carrots are riddled with them.
We’ve shown with this test that that’s not the case." Sir John was quoted
as adding, "I think the organic industry relies on image and that image is
one that many consumers clearly want to sign up to. However, I do think
they should be aware of what they’re getting when they pay quite a
substantial premium in the shops."