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November 16, 2000


Feeding or controlling burgeoning population?; Livestock


Taylor and Fauquet humbly admit that biotechnology may not be a panacea
but that it can contribute to the aleviation of hunger. Bravo. By all
means, I heartily endorse continuing the struggle toward the worthy goal
of feeding all people already starving on earth plus all those we will
produce by the year 2050. I note, however, that in no publication I have
ever read about the desperate need to meet the demand for more and more
food for a burgeoning, starving populace is mention ever made about how to
reduce demand. There are TWO ways to balance supply and demand, not just
one. Reduction of demand in this case is a TABOO SUBJECT, which I will
courageously address here along with another taboo subject: "Sh-t."

Maybe biotechnology's truly great challenge in helping to alleviate
starvation is not in food production, but in birth control options and
human waste conversion. PLEASE note that I refer to birth control
'options' not forced compliance. Far be it from me to suggest that the
best way to remedy an overflowing bathtub is not to build up the sides
faster while bailing out water to fill other tubs, but simply to turn off
the water. If I were to suggest such a thing, first, it would immediately
be assumed that I only object to the overproduction of children in POOR
situations. Next, I would be chastised as one of those wealthy folks who
does not understand that the reason poor folks have so many children is in
hopes that one of them will beat the odds and live long enough to rise
above the poverty and possibly feed the rest of the family. I would be
burned in effigy holding a trident with a baby impaled on the teeth for
suggesting that one teensy factor contributing to starvation,
deforestation, and extinction of other species is the terrific
overproduction of our own species. But would anyone deny that closing the
faucet just slightly tighter might help to buy us some time while we
continue to mop and bail and build up the sides of the tub? Biotechnology
has a challenge here. I will with the same humility as Taylor and Fauquet
admit that biotechnology may not be a panacea but that it can contribute
to the alleviation of hunger in a small way through development of methods
to *reduce demand* for food in DEVELOPED countries, which consume most of
the food supply anyway, through development of better birth control

(In case anyone is wondering, I, the insensitive child who would dare to
mention such a taboo subject, have, permanently and by choice, no children
of my own loins.)

The second challenge, human waste conversion, is another subject avoided
by polite society, but it is perhaps a morally safer ground on which to
argue that biotech can be very useful. At some point agriculture may be so
lucky as to be so successful at meeting increased demand for food that we
will wonder what to do with all the additional sewage. (Nuclear power deja
vu anyone?) Sewage treatment could be a saviour of biotech in terms of
public acceptance. People will be much more willing to accept rDNA if they
don't have to eat it while being subjected to one scare tactic after
another. Once it is well established as one of the beneficial "Mr. Clean
guys" who knows what doors will open.

I apologize in advance for the inevitable offense that will be taken by
Big Family Fans, and those who object to anything approaching "toilet
humor" and request that they keep SPAM to less than 2 screens. :) Thanks,
Mary Ellen Jones, Ph.D.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University PPWS Glade Rd.
Research Facility Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0330 office: 540-231-8073
Subj: Manure Use
From: Wayne Parrott

At 05:18 PM 11/8/00 +0000, you wrote:
>Subj: more on manure use. >From: Thomas Bjorkman
> Wayne Parrott's recent post on P indicates a continued interest in
> manure use. (And a continued misperception about who is using it). I
> am one of......

Dear Thomas, Thanks for shedding additional light on the topic. Soil
fertility is a far more interesting topic than I initially gave it credit.
Nevertheless, I stand by my original statement: use of manure can
eventually cause problems for organic farmers due to an accumulation of P,
which can in turn contaminate water supplies. My statement was
specifically limited to organic farmers, not to non-organic farmers who
supplement their fertilizer regimes with manure. My understanding is that
right now, the guidelines and management plans available through most of
the Cooperative Extension Services in the various states are N-based, not
P-based, and they make allowances for the use of chemical fertilizers. The
part of the above publication you should have quoted is:

"In a well-planned land application program, the rate of application is
based on the nutrient requirements of the crop. Usually, the ratio of N to
P2O5 to K2O in manure does not match the ratio of the amount of these
nutrients needed by the crop: there fore, complete utilization is rarely

"When manure is applied at rates that provide more nutrients than are
needed, these nutrients will accumulate in the soil. Further accumulation
will occur from overapplying fertilizer. Thus, manure rates should be
adjusted based on the nutrient availability in manure and the crop's
requirement for that nutrient having the highest priority. The rate must
further be adjusted if problems arise."

Conventional farmers can use chemical N to correct any imbalances, but
organic farmers lack adequate sources of organic N to correct imbalances.
Nevertheless, organic farmers will have legal breathing room as long as
most guidelines and regulations remain N-based. As I understand the
situation, the USDA-NRCS came out with proposed guidelines for P-based
manure management earlier this year, but these will not become official
until September of 2001. Even then, enforcement will be voluntary unless
one is cost-sharing with NRCS. Thus, it will most likely be up to each
state to provide enforcement of P levels. Thus far, I understand that
Maryland (in the wake of Pfiesteria in the Chesapeake Bay) is the only
state that mandates adherence to the new NRCS standards, but if events
here in Georgia are any guide, Georgia and other states are not far
behind. Oklahoma also has P threshold standards, but these have been
challenged in court.

Legal issues aside, the basic premise remains. Continued use of manure,
exclusive of chemical N supplements, will lead to an accumulation of P.
Once the soil P sorption capacity of the soil is filled, excess P is
available to run off into rivers and lakes, contributing to

From: "Meggin Marie Wood"
Subject: Price Comparisons needed

Fellow list members,

I am in great need of price comparisons on genetically modified crops and
organic crops for project I am conducting. If any of you can provide
information that can help me, it will be greatly appreciated. Thank You,




SAVOY, IL – Are the meat, milk and eggs from livestock and poultry fed
genetically modified or biotech feeds, safe to eat? Yes, says the
Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS), a federation comprising
over 10,000 animal, dairy and poultry scientists. FASS scientists have
reviewed all of the data available worldwide from research studies in
which results have been published in refereed, peer-reviewed journal
articles. These research results conclusively indicate that there is no
effect of feeding biotech crops to livestock and poultry on the
nutritional value or safety of meat, milk and eggs.

"In over 20 different animal studies, livestock growth, milk production,
milk composition, and health are equal, whether fed conventional or
biotech feeds," states Dr. Jimmy Clark, University of Illinois, dairy
cattle nutritionist. "Nutrients in meat, milk and eggs from livestock fed
biotech feeds are the same as those from livestock fed conventional
feeds." Dr. Terry Etherton, Pennsylvania State University, expert on farm
animal physiology, agrees: "Because most components of feeds are broken
into smaller components during digestion by the animal, plant proteins
have not been detected in milk, meat or eggs."

Dr. Marjorie Faust, Iowa State University, a leading expert on evaluation
of biotech crops for dairy cattle, indicates, "The DNA or other proteins
from biotech crops are not found in the meat or milk from animals fed
biotech crops."

FASS concludes that meat, milk and eggs from livestock and poultry
consuming the biotech feeds are safe and often may be safer for human
consumption. "By 2020, global protein consumption from meat, milk and eggs
is predicted to increase dramatically, a "livestock revolution".
Therefore, with biotech crops, and animal food products, we will benefit
the nutrition and well being of the world’s population, especially
children in developing countries," said Dr. R. Lee Baldwin, University of
California, Davis, and Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.

FASS was established January 1, 1998 to form a unified voice for the
advancement of animal agriculture and animal sciences. FASS consists of
three founding member societies: the American Dairy Science Association
(ADSA), the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS), and the Poultry
Science Association (PSA). These three founding member societies comprise
nearly 10,000 professionals from animal agriculture; additionally, the
memberships of our client societies include more than 4,000 professionals
in the industry. FASS is unique in that it supports common agricultural
interests while, at the same time, streamlining administrative expenses
and preserving the societies’ traditions and values.

For more information, contact Barbara P. Glenn, Executive VP-Scientific
Liaison, FASS, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 571-1875;
fax (301) 571-1837; or access the FASS website at http://www.fass.org/.

From: Aarti Gupta
Subject: India & biosafety

Dear colleagues:

It was a pleasure to meet many of you at the Precautionary Principle
Conference at Harvard University in September and to exchange views on
biotechnology governance. I wanted to share with you my paper on Governing
Biosafety in India: the relevance of the Cartagena Protocol„ which some of
you had requested. The paper can be downloaded from:

I also want to share this paper with those of you not at the conference
because the conference summary report (available at
http://www.iisd.ca/sd/biotech/) does not always reflect the main points I
made in my presentation, which are elaborated in detail in the paper.

In particular, I did not advocate an embrace of transgenic„ crops for
India, as the report suggests. In my short presentation, I merely noted
that such crops were being developed in India, and then focused on
questions relating to precautionary decision-making for biosafety in the
Indian context.

The larger points I wanted to make were that examining biosafety
decision-making in India reveals (a) the problematic nature of *sound
science„ as some universally understandable basis for decision-making; and
(b) the problematic nature of trying to distinguish between sound science„
and precaution. Regarding *sound science„: in India, for example, toxicity
data for ruminants (such as goats) is required during the biosafety risk
assessment process. This is seen as relevant to the Indian context and
*scientifically sound„ by Indian regulators, yet it is dismissed as
unscientific by some others. Just this brief example illustrates that what
is scientifically sound will, of course, be differently interpreted.
Furthermore, the ruminant data requirement is also seen by Indian
regulators not only as scientifically sound, but also as precautionary.
This is because, in their view, while there may be no concrete evidence of
harm which would merit these extra tests, they are required nonetheless on
precautionary grounds. From this example, I wanted to illustrate not only
how varied the interpretation of sound science„ can be, but also that
sound science„ for some is precisely a science which is precautionary,
rather than somehow divorced from precaution. This set of observations,
however, are somewhat unfortunately summarized in the conference report as
a claim that Indian biosafety regulations are based on sound science„.

Another important point I emphasized in my talk, which I also discuss in
the paper, is that socioeconomic considerations cannot be divorced from
science-based„ decision-making about biosafety in a developing country
such as India. The distinction between a scientifically sound risk
assessment and socioeconomic factors is made in the Cartagena Protocol on
Biosafety, which confines scientific assessment to ecological and human
health considerations, rather than socioeconomic factors as well. In
India, however, socioeconomic data about the economic viability of a
transgenic crop has to be provided during the *technical„ biosafety
assessment stage, before approval to a crop can be given. Thus,
socioeconomic considerations are an integral part of the technical
biosafety assessment in India, not separate from it.

I welcome any thoughts on the above or comments on the paper, and look
forward to continuing these discussions.

Best regards

Aarti Gupta

Research Fellow Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Harvard University 79 John F. Kennedy Street Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Phone: 1-617-496-0426 Fax: 1-617-496-0606


Africa-At-Large; Biotechnology Could Solve Africa's Food Problems
Panafrican News Agency 13 November 2000

The Deputy Under-secretary in the US Department of Agriculture, James
Schroeder, has said that Washington would support African scientists to
use biotechnology to achieve food security and reduce poverty.

"USDA is committed to a long-term strategy to support research and
technical assistance aimed at improving African food production and
security. Biotechnology to improve African food production ad security
must play a role in this strategy," he told more than 100 participants at
the weekend at end of a two- day workshop on "Enabling Biotechnology for
African Agriculture" organised jointly by the USDA, Council for Scientific
and Industrial Research and several international institutions.
Biotechnology is the use of modern scientific techniques, including
genetic engineering, to modify plants, animals and micro-organisms. It can
be used to develop high yielding and disease resistant plants and animals
to increase productivity.

The workshop brought together more than 100 scientists, agriculturists,
policy makers and other professionals from Ghana, US, Kenya, Mexico,
Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Cote d'Ivoire.
Schroeder said biotechnology offers the opportunity for meeting the global
food needs of the growing population, especially those who suffer
malnutrition and hunger.

"While sub-Sahara Africa is projected to account for only 25 percent of
the world's population in 2008, the region is expected to account for
nearly 80 percent of the nutrition gap (domestic supply and minimum gap),"
he added. The US government spends more than seven million dollars
annually in collaboration with universities to support biotechnology
development and technology transfer in Africa. "At USDA, for fiscal year
2000, a total of 188 million dollars was targeted for biotechnology,
including research and development, germ plasm and germ plasm repositories
and regulatory efforts," Schroeder stated.

He said past research efforts focused on developed countries, and "it is
time to focus on research breakthroughs that benefit African farmers and
consumers. There are a host of traditional African crops that stand to
benefit from biotechnology and genetic improvement." Turning to the
concerns about the adverse effects of biotechnology, Shroeder said public
and private institutions as well as non-profit making organizations must
work together to ensure transparency and build trust. African countries,
he said, should participate in international discussions on biotechnology
at various forums, including World Trade Organisation, Food and
Agriculture Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Trade and

Critics of biotechnology say some genetically modified organisms would
have adverse effect on health and the environment. In a statement,
participants said safe and well-managed application of biotechnology would
reduce poverty and solve food and nutrition deficiency problems in Africa.
They, however, stressed the need to address the concerns of critics about
t he safety of some Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs and their
negative impact on the environment. Africa's strength to adopt the
technology for her benefit was also considered.

The participants pledged to address concerns about GMOs by improving
public awareness of the benefits and challenges of biotechnology,
strengthening research and building capacity of scientists, especially
Africans, to develop safe and beneficial tools. They called for social and
economic analysis of the impact of biotechnology on the citizenry of
beneficiary countries while policy and regulatory framework are properly
developed. "Networking is important in order to avoid duplication. There
should be transparency of activities to build trust. We need to share
information, resources and communicate effectively make good decisions,"
they added.

Copyright 2000 Panafrican News Agency All Rights Reserved
(From Agnet archived at:


November 14, 2000


The Food Standards Agency announced today that the levels of GM
contamination alleged by Friends of the Earth to be present in tortilla
chips are far too low to pose a danger to human health. The FSA made its
announcement after receiving advice from its independent advisory
committee, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).

The Food Standards Agency started its investigation after receiving
details from Friends of the Earth regarding the analyses commissioned by
them concerning the presence of unauthorized GM ingredients. The Agency
has been in contact with the laboratory in Germany that carried out the
work. The information received raises a number of questions over the
robustness of the analysis, particularly in respect of the control samples
used. What is clear is that if GM material is present the levels are so
low that the laboratory has been unable to quantify them.

Food retailers and their suppliers have informed the Agency they have had
identity preserved systems in place for over two years along the entire
supply chain and routine analysis for the presence of GM ingredients has
shown nothing to be present at a level of 0.1%. They have commissioned
independent analysis of the tortilla chips to see whether the results
obtained by the German laboratory can be confirmed. The results from this
will be provided to the Agency and made publicly available as soon as they
are obtained. This is expected to be within the next week.

The Agency has also discussed the situation with the local authority in
whose area the tortilla chip manufacturer is situated. This authority
routinely carries out tests for GM ingredients and has not detected their
presence at a level below 0.1% in samples of tortilla chips.

The Agency is planning to hold an open meeting to debate the issues that
arise from the presence of very low levels of GM materials and
investigating what further action may be necessary at EU level.