Live Interview with Dr. Patrick Moore, founder and former president of
Greenpeace TV Program : Newsline on Channel 11 -- Bangkok, Thailand (4
September 2000 : 9.40 pm)
Host (Sutthipong Tatpitakkul): Responding to increasing demand of food,
scientists have come up with significant breakthrough of genetically
modified organisms or, as we call it, GMOs, a method to improve forming
productivity. All the innovation has become a controversy. Now joining us
tonight is Dr. Patrick Moore, the former founding member of Greenpeace
Organization to talk about this particular issue. Good evening, sir.
Welcome to our program.
Dr. Patrick Moore : Good evening.
Host : How much do people know about GMOs in general?
Dr. Moore : Not enough, unfortunately. And I think it's the responsibility
of governments and industries that they have failed to teach the public
sufficient information. Therefore, the public is opened to misinformation
and particularly scare tactics. I'm quite confident that, when the public
is properly informed about biotech, they will realize that the positive
benefits are far away any potential negative benefits. In fact, we don't
really know of any negative aspects for GMOs but we do know of many
positive ones, both socially and environmentally.
Host : You talk about we as a public in general?
Dr. Moore : No, we as people who understand GMOs and genetic engineering
and scientific community, for example, the academies of science of
America, Canada, Mexico, Britain, China, India and the third world academy
of science, have all signed the document saying we must develop GMOs, but
consciously with care, concern for the environment and concern for the
social impacts. Because of cause with many changes, there are some
impacts. But, when you consider the benefits of biotech for the
environment, they reduce use of pesticides, the sating of soil erosion,
because you don't have to plough the soil so much and also the more
productivity means less forests would be cleared away to grow the same
food. Then, the social benefits: increase nutrition and health. The Golden
Rice, for example, which now is being introduced and which the biotech
companies are giving free to the world with support from the Rockefeller
Foundation in the U.S. This Golden Rice will mean that no more children
will go blind from lack of vitamin A. Half a million children go blind
each year in the world because vitamin A is not present in normal rice.
The Golden Rice contains vitamin A and will end this blindness. And,
believe me, there are 100 or more other already-understood processes which
could be delivered to improve nutrition and health in food through biotech
with no negative impact on the environment and perhaps even many
advantages there too. So, in many technologies, we have to say that it's
good for society but it's not good for the environment or it's good for
the economy but it's not good for social issues. In the biotech, we don't
have to worry about this because it's good for all ways. It's good for the
economy. It will make farmers wealthier, especially in developing
countries where they need to grow more food per hectare. It will be good
for society. It will make food more nutritious and healthier. And it will
be good for the environment in reducing reliance on chemicals and in using
less land to grow the same food for our 6 billion people in this world.
Host : Well, that sounds wonderful but many fear that GMOs might not be
safe for human consumption. Has that been proven scientifically?
Dr. Moore : Well, the sort of way of saying in the community of people who
understand these issues is no one has ever had even a stomachache from
GMOs. You know, with many technologies, there are serious side effects
like some medicines, for example, can have side effects and, even then, we
accept them because the medicine is curing our illness. With GMOs, there
are no side effects that we know. If you compare GMO foods with regular
foods, there is no difference and all the food and agriculture
organizations are saying and the academies of science are saying this. Of
course, there may be some risks in the future if we do certain things and
we don't do it correctly. There could be risks. No one knows what they
are, though, at the present time. And until we find something negative, we
should be just careful to make sure that we go forward with caution and
that we do not just throw seeds around. We don't do that anyway. People
have laboratories where they test these things and, before they are put
out for commercial development, they'll go in field trials to make sure
there's no obvious negative problem. And only them are what we allowed to
be grown. And even then, they are monitored very carefully because people
are concerned. Nobody wants to see an accident with technology. But, I'd
also like to say, with biotech it's been introduced for over 10 years now.
There is no DDT of biotech. Many technologies, there have been mistakes
made and even serious accidents. With biotech, we don't see it and no one
can predict it so I think it's much more beneficial than the potential
risks which, as I said, we know of many positive aspects, we don't know of
any actual negative aspects. It's all prediction and speculation and
Host : In a religious issues, some might say that scientists are playing
Dr. Moore : I think that is a significant aspect. But then, I think we
started playing God a long time ago. We've breeding plants for agriculture
for 10 thousand years. We've been using wood for fires to cook for a
million years. So we have been using nature, manipulating nature for a
very long time.
Host : And creating artificial leg.
Dr. Moore : Yes.
Host : We've heard that you're conducting a seminar tomorrow. Could you
tell us more about it? What's the significance of the seminar?
Dr. Moore : The seminar tomorrow is basically focusing on biodiversity,
biotechnology and sustainable development. And it is my belief that, if
you look a sustainable development in the broad sense meaning social,
economic, and environmental sustainability, biotech is positive for
biodiversity, that biotech is good for our social programs, and that, from
an economic point of view, it will produce more food which is healthier.
Biotechnology in Africa: Why the Controversy?
AgriForum No 12. July 2000 Quarterly Newsletter of the Association for
Strengthening Agicultural Research in Easter and Central Africa ASAREC PO
Box 765, Entebbe; Uganda; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Biotechnology in Africa: Why the Controversy?
This is an edited version of an article by Dr. Cyrus Ndiritu, formerly the
Director General of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI),
which was published in the KARI Technical Notes Series, No. 6, November
1999, under the same title. It was initially prepared for the Conference
on Biotechnology organized by the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research and the US National Academy of Science held in
Washington, DC, USA in October 1999.
African agricultural growth has been slowing considerably during the last
two decades. Of the major developing regions of the world, it is only in
sub-Saharan Africa where the per capita food output has been declining
over the last thirty years. Two explanations have been advanced.
The first one revolves around incentive structure to African farmers. It
is argued that following independence, many African governments have been
committed to Industrialization. To generate the capital for
industrialization, exports from agriculture have been heavily taxed thus
reducing incentives for agricultural production. Thus, there has been
little incentive for farmers to invest in new technologies or in other
agricultural enterprises. The low profitability has led to low
productivity and encouraged risk avoidance behavior. The welfare of
farmers has also been severely affected by the poor rural marketing system
for industrial and food crops. In the second explanation, it is argued
that Africa's agricultural performance is constrained by, among others,
shortage of arable land, poor moisture availability, declining soil
fertility, limited access to farm inputs, limited technological base as
well as pests and diseases. While increase in agricultural productivity in
the past has relied on expansion of land under cultivation, availability
of such land has greatly declined and this is therefore, no longer an
The Way Forward
While area expansion and the use of conventional methods of breeding and
agricultural production have served Africa agriculture well in increasing
output in the past, for example, the production of Katumani Mpya maize in
Kenya, these options can no longer be relied on to sustain productivity.
New intensive production techniques are now, more than ever before, needed
to augment yields and reduce losses while conserving the natural resource
base. Innovative technologies are needed as the way forward in the
transformation of agricultural production.
Biotechnology, which includes plant tissue culture, molecular markers
assisted technologies and genetic engineering, bears relevance and has
scope to resolve many of the external problems affecting crop and
livestock production in Africa.
The debate on biotechnology for Africa must be considered in the context
of the continent's need for more food and survival of its people.
Biotechnology-derived solutions for the stresses, which are so prevalent
in Africa, are built into the genotypes of plants and animals. Countries
like South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Egypt are putting in place,
structures and capacities for research and development in biotechnology
within improvements in productivity are beginning to emerge.
Cannot Be Ignored
The application of tissue culture to address the constraint of
availability of adequate disease-free planting materials to farmers and
that of rapid improvement in crop production is now common in several
countries. In Kenya, the application of tissue culture technology has been
initiated in different crops, and has resulted in increased production of
crops such as banana, pyrethrum, potato, cassava, sugarcane and flowers,
most of which have emerged as commercial enterprises. The demand for such
materials is demonstrably high and the changes at the household income
levels of growers are becoming increasingly noticeable.
The use of DNA-based molecular markers is now applied in various forms.
Mapped markers are useful in speeding up selection of traits for use in
conventional crossbreeding procedures. These techniques are applicable to
many African crop improvement programs such as those seeking to enhance
resistance to insect pests and drought conditions.
Supplement Traditional Approaches
With respect to the prohibitive costs of agricultural chemical inputs and
yield losses arising from damage by pests and diseases, the relevance of
genetic engineering cannot be ignored. The use of high yielding, disease
and pest resistant varieties would have a direct bearing on improved food
security, poverty alleviation and environmental conservation. Great
strides are being made in this field in Africa. Tangible examples include
Kenya's project on virus-resistant transgenic sweet potato, Egypt's
transgenic potatoes, maize, faba beans and tomatoes and South Africa's
tobacco and cotton varieties that are resistant to herbicides.
In the field of livestock improvement, recombinant animal vaccines have
considerable application in combating rampant and devastating livestock
diseases such as rinderpest and Rift Valley fever. Not only can such
vaccines be produced inexpensively but they also offer the advantages of
multiple protection, low cost as well as allowing easy distinction between
vaccinated and naturally infected animals. This is highly desirable in
Africa with respect to livestock disease eradication crusades.
The socio-economic crises manifested in widespread poverty, hunger and
starvation constitute the basis for the urgent need to enhance food
production. The numerous constraints to increased agricultural production
call for continued development and application of innovative and better
ways of farming to supplement traditional approaches. By enhancing food
production, biotechnology provides direct and relevant contribution to the
improvement of the welfare and socio-economic advancements of the
populations of Africa.
Where food surpluses are the norm and where hunger and starvation to the
magnitude prevalent in Africa has no relevance, the agencia for
application of biotechnology is entirely different. Debates regarding the
relevance and need for agricultural biotechnology must of necessity take
into account the differences between Africa and Europe. It would be naïve
to equate Africa's food needs, and therefore biotechnological research
needs, to those of Europe and America. In this context, controversy and
confusion should not prevail over Africa's needs. In many circumstances,
the environmentally sustainable use of genetically engineered products, in
particular, has been advanced as the main concern driving the
The need for biosafety concerns, awareness and instruments is key to the
safe utilization of biotechnology in Africa. However, advocating the need
to apply biosafety requirements is not the same as calling for a ban
because of perceived biosafety concerns. What Africa needs is support to
create public awareness and establish requisiste policies, instruments and
capacities in this emerging scientific field. Any resources directed at
creating confusion and fear are resources badly used.
It must be recognized that while several initiatives have been made to put
in place structures and mechanisms for development of biotechnology in
Africa, there exists at present, major differences among different
countries in relation to its level of application. A number of challenges
are involved in making decisions for engagement in and application of
biotechnology in different countries. Among these, is the development of a
knowledge base appropriate for decision making in the use of
biotechnological approaches, priority setting for biotechnology aimed at
solving specific problems of national importance, establishment of policy
structures for biosafety and intellectual property protection, capacity
development for enhancement of the above issues, and the establishment of
linkage and cooperative mechanisms for biotechnology development, transfer
and sustainable application.
Many countries in Africa are faced with severe reduction in funding for
agricultural research. Given that biotechnology is more expensive than
conventional research, it should be focuses on solving priority national
or regional problems where it has a comparative advantage. This means that
African countries must develop appropriate policies for biotechnology,
bearing in mind the needs of the resource poor, who depend on agriculture
for their livelihoods. Diverse stakeholders should be involved in the
formulation of national biotechnology policies, strategies and plans. The
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) can help
National Agricultural Research Systems identify priorities and appropriate
technologies, taking into account the areas of comparative advantage and
those of joint responsibility.
The safe application of biotechnology continues to be a subject of
considerable debate. Potential environmental hazards from new products of
biotechnology especially genetically modified organisms have raised
concern and generated international debates that in the absence of
adequate legislation and biosafety instruments, companies may use African
countries as test sites. While advocating the establishment of adequate
regulations, risk assessment and management regimes should not necessarily
be prohibitive, but accommodative and promotional. The CGIAR should work
with national governments or where present, regional biotechnology
networks to assist, devise, and update biosafety standards and carry out
risk assessment and management research.
Partnerships and Linkages
If we accept that biotechnology has the potential to enhance agricultural
development in Africa, the issue then is how the continent can be assisted
to harness and safely apply it. A number of countries such as Egypt,
Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Cameroon and
Zambia either have or are in the process of adopting explicit biosafety
regulations and guidelines and some are involved in the negotiations for
the international biosafety protocol. What Africa needs most is the
creation of widespread awareness for the public and the policy makers. The
CGIAR can assist these nations by promoting information exchange in the
rapidly changing area of biotechnology.
At the moment, biotechnology research and development in Africa is focused
on agriculture; the greatest effort still being focused on tissue culture
application. Over 85% of the research is within the public sector, with
universities and agricultural research institutions taking on most of the
responsibilities. Except for South Africa, local private sector engagement
is very limited. The CGIAR should help establish active research and
develop partnerships and linkages among institutions and countries, and
foster closer relationships between private and public sectors. It should
also assist in building national and regional capacities through technical
collaboration, training courses, workshops and visits.
For further information:
Dr. Cyrus G. Ndiritu, c/o KARI P.O. Box 57811 Nairobi Kenya
Fax: 254-2-892075; E-mail email@example.com
Subj: Biotech guru attacks GM food critics
From: "Barry Hearn"
Biotech guru attacks GM food critics
SIMON Best, one of the best known figures in world biotechnology, has made
an emotional plea for the industry to stand up to opponents of GM foods.
He warned healthcare companies not to follow the example of people who had
turned a blind eye to Nazi attacks on Jews and political opponents.
Best, who formerly headed a company commercialising cloning technology
used to develop Dolly the sheep, said industry leaders must start
explaining the benefits of food and agriculture biotechnology openly and
He drew on speeches by the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, who survived
a Nazi concentration camp, to tell healthcare companies they cannot afford
to stand by and let food and agriculture biotechnology be picked off.
Niemöller famously observed that when the Nazis came for socialists, trade
unionists and Jews, people turned a blind eye, only to find themselves
alone when it was their turn to be terrorised.
Best said: "Many of the (public communication) issues faced by food and
agriculture and healthcare are the same. If you let food and agriculture
go, well it’s a bit like the old saying about the Nazis."
His comments in the supercharged atmosphere generated by attacks on
genetically modified crops and food and on embryo cloning for research,
drew a sharp response from environmental campaigners.
"We want a rational debate about GM food," said a Friends of the Earth
spokesman. "Comments of this kind insult the memory of millions who died
in the fight against Nazism and trivialises the word."
Best, who introduced purée from GM tomatoes into supermarkets when he was
at Zeneca Plant Sciences, acknowledged that the GM food industry had been
its own enemy.
"I don’t think we can blame the public for their reaction to GM foods,
given the way its introduction in Europe was handled, particularly by
Monsanto. It was disastrous, and Monsanto deserved it.
"But it has further undermined general public confidence in our
institutions and science at a time when big shifts in the world economy
mean that remaining in the first tier of nations will take leadership in
one or more of the hi-tech sectors."
Best warned that UK biotech could see a huge brain drain or drying up of
investment if "political timidity" continued. He expressed concern that a
free vote in the UK parliament this autumn on embryo cloning for research
would allow opponents to reopen painful issues on which Britain had taken
a lead under the Warnock Committee in the late 1980s and early 1990s which
paved the way for in vitro fertilisation.
"It’s like turning the clock back 15 years. We will have to go through all
that again even though Britain is regarded as having the best
thought-through and best-regulated framework for embryo research in the
Sunday, 10th September 2000
Scotland on Sunday
Barry Hearn , EVAG Co-ordinator
Economically Viable Alternative Green , Bridging the gap between
environmental idealism and reality. http://www.altgreen.com.au/
Have you fed a starving person today? Visit http://www.thehungersite.com/
to have a sponsor donate food on your behalf - costs you nothing.
Subj: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Nigerian Minister Demands AgBiotech
From: Bernard Munos
Excellent points from Hassan Adamu, Nigeria's Ag Minister. The sad truth
is that anti-GMO activists don't give a hoot about Africans or Asians whom
they see as a threat to the rainforest and other sensitive ecosystems. I
would even argue that there is more than a streak of neo-malthusianism in
their opposition to the technology. In their logic, depriving hungry
countries of the biotech crops that can feed them (or the biotech drugs
that can rescue them from malaria, AIDS, etc) may not be all bad. It will
cause them to die off in numbers thereby allowing the well-fed,
rosy-cheeked children of today's anti-biotech agitators to go on eco-tours
and enjoy a pristine nature untouched by savages. The whole sham is of
course abject, and we must commend Minister Adamu and other officials from
India, China, among other countries, for helping unmask it.
GENETIC CROPS CAN SAFELY FEED WORLD
Wisconsin State Journal, September 8, 2000 , Editorial, page 7A
Here are two words for all the "foodies" who are gathering in Madison this
weekend to heap disdain on genetically modified crops:
This is a genetically modified crop that adds vitamin A and iron to rice.
That gives it the potential to save the lives of up to a million children
a year in the Third World - children who die from vitamin A deficiency and
anemia. If golden rice survives field trials, its developers have promised
to give it away, free.
It would be interesting to hear a panel discussion of golden rice at
Saturday's Food for Thought Festival during the Dane County Farmer's
Market on the Capitol Square. But don't count on it. Golden rice is the
nasty little secret the all-natural crowd doesn't want to talk about. The
thought that a dreaded GMO ( genetically modified organism) could save a
million lives a year is a big, clunky wrench thrown into the workings of
their anti-technology propaganda machine.
Here's another one: E. coli.
People who eat organic foods are eight times more likely to suffer an
attack of food poisoning caused by the E. coli bacteria than those who
don't. But don't expect to hear much about E. coli at Food for Thought,
either. Instead, there will be lots of talk about the yet- unproven risks
of trace amounts of pesticides found on non-organic produce.
It's true that organic agriculture has made enormous strides in the past
20 years. Crop yields are up, and so is quality. Techniques pioneered by
those in the "sustainable" agriculture community have helped farmers who
choose to use chemicals reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides,
thus cutting their costs and benefiting the environment. And the organic
community's willingness to explore the viability of different crops has
led directly to the greater variety of fruits and vegetables that Farmer's
Market patrons so enjoy.
Such success stories will be bountiful at the Food for Thought Festival.
But any good news about improvements in agricultural technology will
probably be shoveled into a rhetorical compost pile, which is too bad.
It's going to take both organic and traditional agriculture - both fueled
by the profit motive that drives small farmers and big agri-tech
businesses alike - to feed the world in the 21st century.