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March 30, 2000


Images (Multiple Responses)


The following message was received at AgBioView-owner@listbot.com
and is being forwarded to you, the list owner.

AgBioView wrote:

> - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com
> From: Ann Oaks
> What hysterical tripe. Look the people out there distrust the
> scientists who have lead the advance of chemical agriculture, the
> agriculture that brought us DDT to save the world from starvation, who
> brought us the green revolution to save the world from starvation, and
> now bring us biotech. In the first two of these have brought us items
> we have suffered degradation of the environment, increases in
> allergies and cancers. Rachel Carson was right.

Let us assume for the moment that this line of argument is rational. The
central notion is that, since scientific advances have led to consequences
we don't like, we should reject new scientific advances.

If the human race had consistently applied such an approach, we would
still be swinging from trees or, at best, living in caves, which are in
rather short supply, and digging grubs from rotting logs with our

Some might consider that an enviable condition. I do not.

> There must be another
> way to solve the worlds food problems. How about less grain for cattle
> feed and replace it with food for people;

People like to eat meat; its high caloric content freed us from spending
all our waking hours searching out and eating low-calorie vegetable matter
so that we could do things like invent the wheel and write poetry. After
250 million years, it's a genuine dietary preference and folks won't stop
eating meat unless they are somehow denied the choice.

> how about improved
> transportation to get the food to people;

Figure out how to pay for this and your place in history is assured.

> how about protecting good
> agricultural land from developers, highways and megadams.

Find new ways to house people without occupying space, and new ways to
transport people (without highways of course), and provide them with a
new, abundant source of energy that's even cleaner than hydroelectric
power, and your name will be revered forever.

> Have you
> read "Who will feed China" by Lester Brown to see the real problems of
> the world? Have you read "The doubly green revolution" by Gordon
> Conway?
> When I was learning about rBGH I consulted with a number of experts
> familiar with cows and milk production. I learned that there was no
> problem that we were dealing with a natural product. As I probed
> further I discovered that there were no tests on animals that would be
> able to detect problems with people so let the market place judge.

If that is what you discovered, you were not talking to experts; what is
worse, you were talking to those who were either ignorant or who
intentionally misled you.

> I
> thought the problem was to central to our diet to let the market place
> decide. And now with GMOs what do we have? We have the market place
> deciding, and the science community, at least that part of it that is
> pushing biotech down our throats, shouting "hysteria of the masses;
> extreme journalism pushing antiscience down our throats.

It is not hysteria of the masses. It is hysteria of the few who want to
portray themselves as being masses and as representing masses.

> The people
> have a right to be listened to. We are dealing with something new,
> which may well be introducing many serious problems both for people's
> health and for the environment.

The 'hysterical masses' you speak of are ill-equipped to judge. So are
most people, for that matter. That's one reason why we have scientists, we
hire them because they are very smart about these things.

> I close this message with a quote from
> Conway's book , taken from a talk he gave to the board of directors of
> Monsanto "Admit that you people do not have all the answers. Commit
> yourselves to prompt full and honest sharing of the data. This is not
> a time for a new PR offensive, but for a new relationship based on
> honesty, full disclosure and an uncertain future"

You can have all the data you want on the safety of the products of
biotechnology whenever you want, just for the asking. If people lack the
initiative to inform themselves, they should be the last to complain that
they do not know.

> Ann Oaks
> > Images from the biotech war > > By John M. Warner > > > A walking
> caricature of a two-headed mutant human...protestors dressed as
> freakish half-plant, half-animal
> -------- From: Zeami2000@aol.com
> In a message dated 3/29/00 6:01:12 AM Central Standard Time,
> a_nolan@efn.org writes:
> << What can a plant biologist show the average ample-bottomed,
> death-grip-on-his-remote control American consumer, that might
> encourage understanding or empathy about the benefits of a genetically
> improved strain of rice, or insect-resistant corn? Bt corn looks
> exactly like any other variety, and consumers don't (for the most
> part) have the motivation, or the attention span to be educated about
> the difference. >>
> What an insightful and well-written piece. Scientists in biotechnology
> are often frustrated at their science being associated with past
> scientific blunders, corporate greed, journalistic wont of integrity,
> and public suspicion of misunderstood work. This can be turned around
> valiantly to see biotechnology as a lightening-rod issue with the
> potential to benefit many spheres of modern society such as global
> consciousness; historical understanding of agriculture; media
> integrity; and the propriety of multi-national corporate activity . It
> would require a unified comprehensive understanding that is only
> beginning to emerge among bio-tech scientists, via things like
> AgBioWorld. There is still a lot of off-putting indignation among
> scientists, venting attitudes like "why don't people know this or
> that" when they are part of the formula for public ignorance. This
> needs to change and requires a re-think about the public role of
> scientists, among scientists especially. There needs to be a move from
> 'neutral science' to promotion of better world, and a case made and a
> posture developed. There needs to be a fundamental movement from
> reaction to action.
> In response to Mr Warner's post, perhaps one effective means would be
> having Nobel Laureates featured in an ad campaign with compelling
> images. The Nobel prize bears within it a sensibility of scientific
> advance coupled with betterment for mankind. I doubt the same public
> feelings are evoked from Novartis, Merck, the government or Ventur.
> Using images of the starving is a tricky business and those images
> have been exploited too often by many groups - without a significant
> decline in the number of starving people. How about using images of
> "ample-bottomed, death-grip-on-his-remote Americans" to make the
> self-reflective point? Recently in NYC, completing a video about
> scientists beginning to engage with the public, my editing team, which
> was outside the scientific community, stated that everyone seemed to
> be an apologist, rather than an advocate. It was an interesting
> observation.
> Joseph Houseal
> --------------
> From: Tom Lauria
> You write: "What can a plant biologist show the average
> ample-bottomed, death-grip-on-his-remote control American consumer,
> that might encourage understanding or empathy about the benefits of a
> genetically improved strain of rice, or insect-resistant corn? "
> If, in fact, the scientific community actually views the typical
> American news consumer in that condescending light, it's no wonder
> advocates of genetically engineered improvements are getting their
> clock cleaned by activists.
> Unless and until rank-and-file Americans are addressed directly,
> respectfully and COMPELTELY on how and why GE foods b