The 1996 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, Prof. Peter Doherty has endorsed our
petition in support of agricultural biotechnology at
His Nobel Prize winning ground breaking research on major
histocompatibility complex, shared with Rolf Zinkernagel of Switzerland,
"for the discovery of how the immune system recognizes virus-infected
cells" which "laid a foundation for an understanding of general mechanisms
used by the cellular immune system to recognize both foreign
microorganisms and self molecules".
I thank Prof. Doherty for this support and he is the fourth laureate now
to endorse our petition. Dr. Doherty (an Australian native now working in
US) received his bachelors and masters degrees in veterinary science from
the University of Queensland and obtained his Ph.D. from University of
Edinburgh. I am personally gratified with his endorsement as his Nobel
research was conducted at the Australian National University, my alma
From: "Doherty, Peter" Subject: Agricultural
Dear C. S. Prakash,
I am very happy to endorse the statement on the value of agricultural
biotechnology and have, in fact, done so repeatedly in various public
forums. Sign me up!
I served on the ILRAD Board for 6 years, and have maintained some contact
with the CGIAR. My original training was in veterinary science, and I am
keenly interested in the food problem, though it is rather far from what I
Peter C. Doherty,
Department of Immunology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 North
Lauderdale, Memphis TN
Legendary Plant Scientist Honored by President Clinton
Peter H. Raven, Director, Missouri Botanical Garden and Englemann
Professor of Botany, Washington University in St. Louis was among the
twelve individuals honored recently by President Clinton with 2000
National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science honor. The medals
were conferred to the awardees at a ceremony at the on December 1.
Raven has become one of the world's leading authorities on plant
systematics and evolution, introduced the concept of coevolution and is a
leader in international efforts to preserve biodiversity. He also
recognizes the potential role agricultural biotechnology in addressing
environmental and food security issues. On Being Named to Receive the
National Medal of Science, he said " I am greatly honored by this
distinguished award. For some 40 years, I have devoted myself to
understanding and protecting the diversity of life on Earth in the light
of increasing evidence of its accelerated destruction as a result of human
activities. My hope is that we devote ourselves to compassionate concern
about the Earth's future through preserving biodiversity throughout the
There is an excellent new paper on the web that examines the role of U. S.
Land Grant Universities in relation to developments in biotechnology
including issues such as funding, private sector interaction, policy
implications and the potential role faculty can play in public debate
about agbiotech research:
IDENTITY CRISIS: LAND GRANT RESEARCH IN THE BIOTECHNOLOGY ERA
Dave D. WEATHERSPOON; James OEHMKE; Kellie Curry RAPER Michigan State
University, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, East Lansing, MI 48824 June
2000 Staff Paper 2000-16
Thanks to Dr. Julie A. Caswell , Dept. of Resource Economics , University
of Massachusetts who alerted me to this paper.
Gene-Altered Corn: The Furor Is Unwarranted
To the Editor:
The bottom line on corn products recalled because they contain StarLink, a
genetically improved corn variety approved only for animal consumption, is
that not one person has been or is likely to be harmed by eating StarLink
corn (front page, Dec. 11). Exhaustive testing has revealed no allergic
reactions, toxicity or any other problem with StarLink.
The furor over StarLink is a result of the federal government's wrong-
headed regulatory approach to gene- spliced plants and foods. The
Environmental Protection Agency holds these plants to an inappropriate
standard, even requiring expensive testing of gene-spliced crop and garden
plants as though they were chemical pesticides a policy condemned by the
Gene-splicing is more precise, circumscribed and predictable than other
techniques, and new insect-resistant varieties of grain crafted with
gene-splicing have lower levels of contamination with toxic fungi and
insect parts than conventional grains.
HENRY I. MILLER, M.D. Stanford, Calif., Dec. 12, 2000 The writer was head
of the F.D.A.'s Office of Biotechnology, 1989-93.
Subj: From The Scientist 14 (2000) Dec. 11, 2000
From: "Karl J. Kramer"
Debating the Food Debate, Two Views (1)
By Henry I. Miller, MD
Several points in Kate Devine's article, "GM Food Debate Gets Spicy,"1
deserve amplification. The first pertains to the widespread recall of
foods containing "StarLink" corn. The bottom line is that not a single
person is at all likely to be harmed by this product, which differs from
other commercial varieties by the presence of a Bacillus thuringiensis
protein called Cry9C. The foods in question are actually far less likely
than thousands of other products on the market to cause allergic or other
health problems. For example, fava beans, a fixture of upscale restaurant
cuisine in the United States and Europe, can be life-threatening to
persons with hereditary glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency; by
contrast, even after exhaustive testing, no allergic reactions, toxicity,
or any other problem has been demonstrated with Cry9C or any substance
similar to it.
The real problem lies not in StarLink corn, but in the United States'
regulatory policy toward gene-spliced plants and foods. As noted in
Devine's article, there is widespread consensus that because of
gene-splicing's precision, products are better characterized, more
predictable, and often safer than those made with other techniques of
genetic modification. Dozens of new plant varieties produced through
hybridization and other traditional methods of genetic improvement enter
the marketplace each year without scientific review or special labeling.
Many such products are from "wide crosses," hybridizations in which genes
are moved from one species or one genus to another to create a plant
variety that does not and cannot exist in nature. For example, Triticum
agropyrotriticum is a new human-engineered "species" that resulted from
combining genes from bread wheat and a grass sometimes called quackgrass
or couchgrass. Possessing all the chromosomes of wheat and one extra
entire genome from the quackgrass, T. agropyrotriticum has been
independently produced in the former Soviet Union, Canada, United States,
France, Germany, and China, and it is grown for forage and grain.
The scientific consensus notwithstanding, the Environmental Protection
Agency and other government agencies hold gene-spliced plants to a higher
standard than other similar foods, requiring the hugely expensive testing
as pesticides of gene-spliced crop and garden plants that have been
genetically improved for enhanced pest or disease resistance. The policy
has been repeatedly condemned by the scientific community. The report on
food safety from the Institute of Food Technologists referred to in the
article specifically took current regulatory policies to task. The report
concludes that the evaluation of gene-spliced food "does not require a
fundamental change in established principles of food safety; nor does it
require a different standard of safety, even though, in fact, more
information and a higher standard of safety are being required." It
continues that science "does not support more stringent safety standards
than those that apply to conventional foods."
Henry I. Miller, MD
Hoover Institution Stanford University
1. K. Devine, "GM food debate gets spicy," The Scientist, 14:10, Oct.
Debating the Food Debate, Two Views (2)
By Derek Maurer
It's understandable that The Scientist's coverage of the GMO [genetically
modified organism] debate focuses on the science of crop technology, and
understandable if most of your readers favor continued research and
development of GMOs. However, I should hope your editors, reporters, and
readers also understand that technology is just one dimension of the
controversy. For some GMO critics, social and political concerns outweigh
arguments over bioengineered crops' safety to humans and the natural
By framing practically every one of your reports in terms of the safety
issue, The Scientist, like most mainstream news organizations, risks
portraying GMO critics merely as anti-science. An article quoting three
sources who weigh in on the side of GMO benefits, plus a fourth who
expresses some mild caution, [can] leave the impression that anyone who
opposes bioengineered crops must be willfully ignorant or ideologically
motivated. Left unexplored is the question at the core of many skeptics'
doubt: Who will control this brave new technology?
Perhaps it would be convenient if social and political factors didn't
intrude on the practice of science, if new technologies took root and
spread without regard to the influences of wealth, power, and dominance,
if inventions served human need above human greed. In some other universe
it might be so--but not in ours. Divorcing the GMO debate from its larger
cultural context doesn't just present a false (if comforting)
science-versus- ignorance dichotomy; it also deprives your readers of
information they need to understand thoughtful and legitimate opposition
to the biotech enterprise.
Derek Maurer Health Science Relations
The University of Iow 5118 Westlawn Iowa City, IA 52242-1178
1. K. Devine, "GM food debate gets spicy," The Scientist, 14:10,
Oct. 30, 2000.
New Book on Agbiotech!
"Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing Countries: Towards Optimizing
the Benefits for the Poor"
Edited by Matin Qaim Center for Developmental Research (ZEF), University
of Bonn, Germany Anatole F. Krattiger International Service for the
Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Cornell University, NY,
USA Joachim von Braun Center for Development Research, University of Bonn,
Biotechnology offers great potential to contribute to sustainable
agricultural growth, food security and poverty alleviation in developing
countries. Yet there are economic and institutional constraints at
national and international levels that inhibit the poor people's access to
appropriate biotechnological innovations. Agricultural Biotechnology in
Developing Countries: Towards Optimizing the Benefits for the Poor
addresses the major constraints. Twenty-three chapters, written by a wide
range of scholars and stake-holders, provide an up-to-date analysis of
agricultural biotechnology developments in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Besides the expected economic and social impacts, the challenges for an
adjustment of the international research structure are discussed, with a
special focus on intellectual property rights and the roles of the main
research organizations. Harnessing the comparative advantages of the
public and private sectors through innovative partnerships is the only way
forward to optimize the benefits of biotechnology for the poor. The book
will be an invaluable resource for both academics and policy-makers
concerned with agricultural biotechnology in context of
Order at: http://www.wkap.nl/book.htm/0-7923-7230-1
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston
Hardbound, ISBN 0-7923-7230-1 October 2000, 448 pp. NLG 365.00 / USD
145.00 / GBP 102.00
From: David Cohen
Winrock's Wallace Center Issues Report on Biotech Crops
The Winrock International's Wallace Center announced the availability of a
report, "Transgenic Crops: An Environmental Assessment," in a Nov. 27 news
release. The report was prepared by a team of researchers from the Wallace
Center, Michigan State University, and Portland State University. "The
report recommends greater public research funding, revised research
policies, and a better regulatory system to ensure that development and
use of transgenic crops deliver public environmental benefits and avoid
ecological hazards," the release stated. "The authors recommend a cautious
approach to the use of transgenic crops, one designed to build scientific
evidence on possible environmental effects and to reform the regulatory
system so that it makes full use of the new scientific data. The authors
also recommend changes in the environmental regulatory system that will
deliver more public benefits and avoid ecological risks."
Report can be downloaded at http://www.winrock.org/Transgenic.pdf Summary
Subj: The Reality of Golden Rice?
From: Mary-Howell and Klaas Martens
In response to Red Porphyry and Roger Morton - here is some additional
information to go along with the claims about 'golden rice' being the
solution for vitamin A deficiency in developing countries.
1) Is the RDA for vitamin A in adult humans 750 micrograms or not? If not,
what is the true RDA?
-----The FAO/WHO recommended intake for vitamin A in adult men is 600
micrograms, and in adult women it is 500 micrograms. Based on generally
accepted beta-carotene-to-vitamin A conversion ratios, an adult male would
need to ingest 3.6 milligrams (=360 micrograms) of beta-carotene, and a
woman 3.0 milligrams (=300 micrograms)of beta-carotene to obtain these
recommended amounts of vitamin A. Recommendations can vary from country to
country, and organization to organization. For instance the U.S. NRC RDAs
for vitamin A are higher than FAO's (adult male: 1000 micrograms, adult
female: 800 micrograms). (Source: G.F. Combs, Jr. The Vitamins. Academic
2) What is the RDA for vitamin A in human babies and small children?
-----The FAO/WHO RDA for vitamin A in children ages 1-6 is 400 micrograms,
which, based on generally accepted beta-carotene-to-vitamin A conversion
ratios would be met by ingestion of 2.4 milligrams of beta-carotene. This
is about the same as suggested by the NRC. (Source: G.F. Combs, Jr. The
vitamins. Academic Press. 1998.)
3) Is the ultimate goal of Potrykus and co-workers ('golden rice'
inventors) to produce a strain of golden rice that produces at most 9.9
micrograms of provitamin A / 30 gm of rice (dry weight) or not? If not,
what is the realistic maximum level of provitamin A /30 gm of rice (dry
weight) that Potrykus and co-workers hope to achieve?
-----The golden rice contains approximately 1.6 micrograms (0.16
milligrams) of beta-carotene per gram dry weight (Source: Ye et al.
Science 287:303-305. 2000). Thus, 30 grams of this rice would contain 48
micrograms of beta-carotene. Using the standard beta-carotene-to-vitamin A
conversion, 30 grams of this rice would contain 8 micrograms of vitamin A
activity. You can use this value and the recommended intakes provided
above to make estimates of the relative contribution of a given amount of
this rice to vitamin A requirements for different age groups and different
sexes. Probably they will ultimately want to increase this level but
realistic levels that could be achieved because this can only be
determined experimentally. But, some plant cells clearly have the capacity
to accumulate huge amounts of beta-carotene. For example, carrots can
accumulate somewhere in the general vicinity of 100 micrograms or more of
beta-carotene per gram fresh weight. (Source: USDA-NCC Carotenoid Database
for U.S. Foods. 1998).
Check out the FAO ELECTRONIC FORUM ON BIOTECHNOLOGY IN FOOD AND
AGRICULTURE at http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.htm
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has
established an Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture.
Current conference: Agricultural biotechnology and food security.
Objectives of the Forum: To provide an open forum that will allow a wide
range of parties, including governmental and non-governmental
organisations, policy makers and the general public, to discuss and
exchange views and experiences about specific issues concerning
biotechnology in food and agriculture for developing countries. This will
be done through a series of e-mail conferences, each lasting two months,
on specific topics. Background documents and summary documents for these
will be produced.
Biotechnology is a collection of tools that can be applied to many areas
of food and agriculture (including animals, crops, fish and forest trees).
This collection comprises scientific tools that are very diverse and
sometimes highly controversial. They may pose ethical problems and require
substantial debate among policy makers, researchers and the public at
large. Particularly in some areas of biotechnology, the debate has become
quite polarised and there is therefore an increasing need for quality,
unbiased, factual information. It is in this spirit that the Forum is
This website has been established to complement and support the Forum. It
contains information on the e-mail conferences, including archives of all
messages posted: see archives for the Crop sector, Forestry and Animal
agriculture conferences, as well the Fishery sector and Hunger/Food
The Glossary of biotechnology and genetic engineering is also available
See also Conference 1 (March 20- May 26, 2000): How appropriate are
currently available biotechnologies in the crop sector for food production
and agriculture in developing countries
Conference 2 (April 25 - June 30, 2000): How appropriate are currently
available biotechnologies for the forestry sector in developing countries
Conference 3 (June 12 - August 25): The appropriateness, significance and
application of biotechnology options in the animal agriculture of
Conference 4 (August 1 to October 8): How appropriate are currently
available biotechnologies for the fishery sector in developing countries ?
Conference 5 (November 1 to December 17): Can agricultural biotechnology
help to reduce hunger and increase food security in developing countries ?
From: Ashok Chaudhury Subject: A new website for
information on Genetically Modified Plants
It has been consistent endeavor by TERI to discuss the issues arising from
worldwide biotechnological research in the area of agriculture. To this
effect a series of one-day workshops on stakeholders dialogue for
agriculture biotechnology had been organized by TERI in different parts of
India for allaying the fears and for building public acceptance of
genetically engineered plants.
Now we have launched a new section on Genetically Modified Plants (GMP) on
our web site at http://www.teriin.org/gmp/gmp.htm in our endeavor to
disseminate and make information available to all concerned individuals as
well as organizations/institutions. The section contains information
pertaining to key issues, status, viewpoints, guidelines, and news on
genetically modified plants. Details and recommendations of stakeholders
dialogue workshops are available in this section. One can also participate
in the ongoing debate on genetically modified plants by joining the
We welcome your comments and suggestions to make this section more
comprehensive. We would request your contributions for bibliography
section and for links.
Dr. Ashok Chaudhury
TERI (Tata Energy Research Institute), New Delhi, India
Re: Dr. Strangelunch: Why we should stop worrying and love GM food
Maybe Ms. Shiva and her kind should pick up a hoe and go spend a couple of
years living as a poor farmer and then maybe she could tell the difference
in field of rice and feild of weeds. And see if she is still of the
opinion that there is still enough food to go around.
>>Shiva and Ho rightly point to the inequities found in developing
>countries. They make the valid point that there is enough food today
>to provide an adequate diet for everyone if it were more equally