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December 18, 2000


Potrykus Responds; EU-US Forum Report; Canadian Committee


Dear Prakash,

This is an endless discussion and not too helpful. The basic message is
right: we are tying to achieve a pro-vitamin concentration which has an
effect on the basis of 300g of rice (not 30 as the writer is using). With
our 1.6 microgram/gram we are at the lower level of what we want to
achieve. The VAD values given tell only part of the story and are mostly
rather luxurious. There is also no agreement on the conversion ratios, and
we have no data yet on the bioavailability and the stability during
storage. And it is very difficult to get reliable data, from which level
on additional provitamin A within the diet has an effect in different
stages of vitamin A-deficiency. We also do not have to provide the total
amount required because nobody has zero provitamin A in the diet.

I prefer to:
a) continue to work towards higher levels in endosperm (we have several
independent approaches running);
b) continue with a (still secret) strategy which may change the discussion
immediately (data we will have in two month); and
c) wait for real data from bioavailability studies with "Golden Rice".

We will never have the problem of overdosing, but we may arrive at a
compromise which decides not for the maximum possible to not built a to
high hurdle for acceptance (Golden Rice with the amount of provitamin A
required to provide 100% of an US VDA, probably, would no longer look
golden, but darker red than the reddest carrots, and such a rice not many
people will like to eat.

With best regards, Ingo

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht----- >
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

From: Red Porphyry
Subject: Re: The Reality of Golden Rice?

I'd like to thank Mary-Howell Martens for taking the time and effort to
answer the first three of the questions I asked this group a couple of
weeks ago. We finally have before us what looks like real numbers that we
can use to see just where golden rice is at the present time.

Basically, if Asian men, women, and small children are going to obtain the
RDA of vitamin A through the eating of golden rice, 300 gm--2/3rd of a
pound (dry weight) of such rice should contain somewhere in the
neighborhood of 4,000 micrograms of beta-carotene, where 1,000 micrograms
= 1 milligram (Note: 300 gm, not 100 gm, is apparently the actual average
daily rice consumption per person in Asia, so Shiva, in her original
article, was off by a factor of three here). Now, according to Potrykus
and co-workers in the Science article cited by Ms. Martens, 1 gm (dry
weight) of rice from the golden rice strain named "Z11b" contains 1.6
micrograms of beta-carotene. So, 2,500 grams--2.5 kg (dry weight) of
golden rice strain "Z11b" would need to be consumed daily by an Asian in
order to obtain the RDA of vitamin A. This is 8 1/3 times the current
average daily rice consumption per person in Asia. That's an awful lot of

Unfortunately, Potrykus, in the same Science article, says that the 1.6
microgram number is unreliable because (1) strain "Z11b" (presumably the
best of the lot) is not homozygous for beta-carotene (I assume by this he
means that the beta-carotene genes in "Z11b" do not breed true?) and (2)
the color of the "Z11b" rice grains is not uniform. Based on his
"unreliable" number of 1.6 micrograms, Potrykus then claims that it should
be feasible to create an improved golden rice strain that is both
homozygous for beta-carotene and produces rice grains that are uniform in
color. Such rice is expected to contain 2 micrograms of beta-carotene per
gram (dry weight). Achieving this would reduce the required daily
consumption of golden rice for Asians to 2,000 gm--2 kg (dry weight), or 6
2/3 times the current average daily rice consumption per person in Asia.
That's still an awful lot of rice.

So, what do we have right now and can expect to have in the near future?
Right now we really have nothing, because golden rice strain "Z11b" still
needs considerable work to be done before it's ready for prime time. At
some point in the future, it will be ready for prime time, at which point,
an Asian whose entire average daily rice consumption (300 gm) consists of
golden rice can expect to obtain 600 micrograms of beta-carotene from it,
which is 15% of what's needed to obtain the RDA of vitamin A for adults,
and 25% of what's needed to obtain the RDA of vitamin A for children. If
Asians choose not to consume only the golden rice variety (say, by mixing
1 part golden rice with 2 parts white rice), the amount of beta-carotene
(and, therefore, vitamin A) obtained is reduced proportionally.

The issue for me is not whether golden rice is safe to eat or not. I'm
confident that it is. It's whether golden rice, touted both by a large
number of pro-biotech scientists and the popular press as *the* solution
for vitamin A deficiency in Asia, is or can live up to these claims. Now
that we've got what appear to be reliable numbers, I think the answer is
still basically no. Should Asian governments therefore ban it as some kind
of "hoax"? Of course not. Golden rice is not likely to do any harm, and
will most likely have *some* positive effect on vitamin A deficiency in
Asia, assuming Asians are willing to eat *some* amount of it every day.
Nevertheless, it's clear that golden rice ain't "all that", and never will
be. It still behooves Asian governments to encourage their respective
citizens to take vitamin A oral supplements, to enact laws mandating the
supplementation of white rice with vitamin A, and encourage both increased
local production and consumption of fruits and vegetables high in
beta-carotene. And yes, this *does* mean carrots, among other things.


Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee RELEASES BACKGROUND PAPERS ON

Ten excellent and comprehensive background papers have been released : 4
papers discuss concerns related to regulation; 4 papers discuss
intellectual property and patenting of higher life forms; 2 papers discuss
legal and ethical issues associated with genetic privacy and biotechnology

The papers are available at The Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee


and click on "Meeting the Public’s Need for Information on Biotechnology"
and other papers. For the first paper, the zip file has to be downloaded
into your computer first and when unzipped, you will get the Acrobat .pdf
file. Right now, the document has formatting problems with some repeat
words but still readable. Thanks to Katie Thrasher for
informing me about this document.

From: Klaus Ammann
ubject: Debate 2000'1219 a: Final Report of EU-U.S. Biotechnology
Consultative Forum, December 2000

Dear Friends,

Here is a fairly balanced report of the EU-U.S. Biotechnology Consultative
Forum, with lots of good statements, also the following one which I have
copied for fast readers, these are the final paragraphs of the report,
stressing that further talks are urgently needed.

The full report at the following links:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/external_relations/index_en.htm and:

please find below also two press comments taken from AGNET, archived at:

Thanks also to Alejandro Herrero for making
me aware of this important report.

Final paragraphs of the EU-Report

We urge the EU and the U.S. to promote a transatlantic process for
engaging a broad range of stakeholders to examine ongoing issues of

(Recommendation 23)

Two areas are particularly important: firstly, the role of biotechnology
in global agriculture; and, secondly the consideration of socio-cultural
and other factors of importance to current and future applications of
biotechnology that are not addressed readily by natural science. This
process could also serve to anticipate second and third order beneficial
and harmful effects of policies with respect to biotechnology and a
consideration of additional issues related to biosafety, biodiversity, and
food security. Future differences in approach and interpretation may lead
to disagreements on biotechnology within and between the EU and US related
to risk assessment and risk management. These differences are likely to
result in part from fine judgements on scientific factors, but more often
from non-scientific considerations. They will be related only rarely to
risk assessment and more often to risk management.

In the introduction of this report biotechnology was set in the context of
parallels from history, globalisation, the power of the citizen and
sustainable development. We suggest that the process we recommend build
upon this. Participation should be broadly based and include policy
makers, environmentalists, scientists, economists, lawyers, ethicists,
consumers, farmers, and other representatives of civil society. Because of
the global ramifications of these issues, the EU and the US should ensure,
to the degree possible, the participation of individuals with direct
knowledge of the needs of and conditions in the developing world. Among
the process‚s principal aims should be to further the mutual understanding
of and respect for the different perspectives of biotechnology and its
application, thus diminishing the tensions between and within the EU and
US. We suggest that this recommendation be promoted for a limited period
before its utility is evaluated.

Press comments:

December 18, 2000 The Associated Press Philip Brasher

WASHINGTON -- A committee formed by the United States and the European
Union was cited as recommending tighter controls Monday on genetically
engineered foods, including mandatory labeling of products with biotech
ingredients. The 20-member panel, which included scientists, farmers,
consumer advocates and industry officials was quoted as saying, "Consumers
should have the right of informed choice regarding the selection of what
they want to consume."

The 19-page report said the United States and Europe should set
"content-based mandatory labeling requirements" for foods that contain
"novel genetic material," a term Europeans use for genetically engineered

The United States currently does not require the labeling of products with
gene-altered ingredients, based on the premise that they are essentially
the same as conventionally bred crops, but, the story says, some panel
members believe the report's language is vague enough to support the U.S.
position. Agricultural biotechnology "holds the potential to provide new
tools for farmers in developing countries to increase yields, produce
crops resistant to drought, salinity, pests and diseases, and produce new
crop products of greater nutritional value," said the panel's report.

But it also said that new biotech products should not be allowed on the
market until they have gone through a mandatory government approval
process. Panel member Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Consumer
Federation of America's Food Policy Institute was quoted as saying the
report "basically says that what we are doing right now is not enough."
Under the report's recommendation, any foods with detectable traces of
genetically engineered crops should be labeled, she said. But another
panel member, Missouri farmer Ryland Utlaut, was cited as saying the
report could be read to support existing U.S. policy on labeling, adding,
"If we're not changing the content of the food or putting anything new in
it, it is saying that we do not have to label." -----------

FORUM December 18, 2000 European Commission

The EU-US Biotechnology Consultative Forum an independent group of
experts, established at the initiative of Presidents Romano Prodi and Bill
Clinton, and chaired by Ruud Lubbers, Professor of Globalisation at
Tilburg University and former Prime Minister of The Netherlands, with his
US counterpart Cutberto Garza, Chair of Cornell University, has today
presented its report to the Summit l

The report of the EU-US Consultative Forum will be made available on :

- Prof. Dr. Klaus Ammann Director Botanical Garden, University of Bern

From: "Catherine L. Ives"
To develop communication strategies, I would suggest checking out Peter
Sandman's web site:


where there are some excellent articles on risk communication and on
dealing with people's distrust and outrage.




Dec. 15 2000 Knight-Ridder Tribune

CHURCHVILLE, Va. -- Dennis T. Avery, director of global food issues for
the Hudson Institute of Indianapolis writes in that a few days ago, a
panel of science advisers for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
refused to recommend human-use approval for StarLink corn--not because it
would cause allergies, but because they couldn't prove it wouldn't. Avery
says that under this EPA panel's safety standard, even if StarLink were
tested safely on all 280 million Americans, it wouldn't be sufficient.
Someone in Albania might still get an allergic reaction.

At almost the same moment, a Hudson Institute conference on StarLink
safety in Washington heard scientists testify StarLink corn is at least
700 times safer than peanuts and highly unlikely to be more allergenic
than ordinary corn. Larry Bohlen of Friends of the Earth, the group that
started the StarLink scare told the Hudson conference that science was
moving too fast in genetic engineering in the fields of food and medicine.
He urged society to adopt organic farming, despite sharply lower yields
that would take more land from wildlife for food production.

But Bruce Chassy, assistant dean of agricultural research at the
University of Illinois expressed the view that "EPA science advisers are
setting a bizarre new safety standard for a food products, and one that
few natural foods could meet. I'll eat all the StarLink taco shells you
can give me." He labeled the StarLink problem a regulatory failure, not a
food safety lapse. Ruth Kava, of the American Council on Science and
Health, noted that more than 200 natural, non-biotech foods frequently
cause allergies. Moreover, a small number of people are allergic to
ordinary corn. (My nephew, in his youth, was allergic to corn and
virtually every other food except white rice flour.)

Kava noted the purportedly allergenic protein in StarLink makes up such a
tiny proportion of the corn's total proteins (0.0013 percent) that even if
it was as allergenic as peanut protein, consumers would run only a small
allergy risk Dan Lynn, president of Azteca Milling, which recalled
millions of pounds of corn flour products, told the conference the levels
of StarLink in Azteca flour were so low that two different testing labs
often got opposite results from the same samples. I pointed out to the
conferees, as I do to many audiences, that the world will need three times
as much farm output in 2050, and we're already farming 37 percent of the
planet's land area. Unless we use biotechnology to help triple the yields
again, we're faced with either letting a billion people starve or
accepting the destruction of most of the planet's wildlife. Shouldn't that
problem concern our environmental protection agency?

C.S. Prakash, a biotech plant researcher at Alabama's Tuskegee University,
noted that the biotech version of rice, just engineered by the Chinese,
will fend off enough rice stem borers to raise yields by more than 25
percent. That would protect an amount of wildland equal to the land area
of France. Prakash also pointed to biotech papayas that fend off the
ringspot virus and thus protect another staple food of the tropics.

A native of India, he is enthusiastic about "golden rice," which could
save millions of children in poor rice-eating cultures from the blindness
and even death brought on by severe Vitamin A deficiency.

Tom Dorr, an Iowa farmer and seed merchant, told the conferees that
farmers were caught in the middle. Biotech corn has eased farmers' pest
problems and lowered their costs. Dorr said biotech corn would also help
prevent the loss of farmers' fingers and hands in corn harvester
accidents, many of which occur while they try to clear jams caused by
fallen cornstalks damaged by corn borers. He warned, however, that none of
the farmer advantages from StarLink were big enough to make up for a
potential loss of major crop markets in Europe and Japan.

Karil Kochenderfer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association told the
conference her members hope biotechnology results in safety, quality and
desirable products for consumers but the food processing industry must
ultimately produce what consumers want.

A recent New York Times editorial rejected the precautionary
principle--the idea that we must prove any new technology is completely
safe beyond any doubt--because it would prevent us from adopting powerful
ways to conserve nature, such as low-till farming, which saves topsoil
using chemical weedkillers. The Times said we must continue balancing
potential benefits and risks. The StarLink panelists agreed with that
viewpoint, except, says Avery, for Friends of the Earth's Larry Bohlen.

From: Vittorio Santaniello

International Conference on: Biotechnology, Science and Modern
Agriculture: a New Industry at the Dawn of the Century

organised by the: International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology
Research (ICABR ) and the: CEIS - University of Rome " Tor Vergata "

Center of Sustainable Resource Development, University of California at
Berkeley; Economic Growth Center, Yale Universit; Sichelgaita ö Institute
for Economic and Social Studies

The Conference will take place at: Ravello ( Italy ) June 15-18, 2001

In the past decade a number of agricultural biotechnology products have
been invented and commercialized. These "genetically modified organism"
(GMO) crops have attracted public attention and debate. Public discussion,
however, has paid little attention to the fact that these products were
enabled by advances in the biological sciences. The techniques of genetic
engineering were first developed in scientific research programs and first
pursued by scientists. The sciences underpinning the technology are
continuing to open up new technological invention opportunities as genome
maps are completed and as the fields of genomics and proteomics analysis
take form.

As these sciences develop, we can expect to see changes in the
organizations and conduct of public or government programs of applied
research and in the private industrial sector as well. Important policy
questions regarding public research system design and conduct are
emerging. These are of particular importance in developing countries.
These questions require a long view and an understanding of the scientific
revolution that is underway.

The Ravello's Conference will focus on the following topics:

Impact of agricultural biotechnology, Industrial organization, Public
acceptance, Impact of science, Intellectual property rights, Biotechnology
& developing countries, Regulation of biotechnology, Biomasses and new
products, Biotechnology, trade and development

The Conference will include: paper presentation * poster display * round
tables Additional information on: the 5t

Conference Secretariat: Benedetta Braccini Email:
Braccini@economia.uniroma2.it fax: ++39 06 2020500 phone: ++39 06 7259


From: "Genetics Northwest"
Subject: New inexpensive library/document delivery service

Hi, I am contacting you in case you are in need of a way to obtain journal
articles quickly and easily. I have started a new document
delivery/research service and would be happy to help you. Please see
details below. Thank you!

Dear Medical and BioTech Professionals,

A number of you have expressed frustration with trying to obtain articles
quickly and at a reasonable price. For that reason, I have decided to open
a medical genetics library/document delivery service, with the goal of
providing fast access to articles at a lower price. I will also perform
searches for information on genetics or other medical topics for those who
are interested. I have worked in a medical library for several years and
am familiar with the ins and outs of interlibrary loan, information
searches, and basic library operation. In addition, I have training and
experience in genetic counseling and am currently working in private
practice part-time in Bellingham, Washington.

I will be operating the library using the National Library of Medicine's
Docline system, which many of you may be familiar with. Anyone who is
interested can sign up for "Loansome Doc," and then order articles
directly from PubMed or Internet Grateful Med. If you put Genetics
Northwest Library down as your ordering library (LIBID is WAUHVB), your
requests will come to this library initially. If I cannot fill them, I
will send them on into the Docline system, where they will be filled by
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in using Loansome Doc, please contact me and I will help you get signed up
(no charge to sign up). If you do not wish to use Loansome Doc, you may
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geneticsnorthwest@hotmail.com or telephone (360)734-3704. Turn-around time
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Because I will be using Docline, ALL journals owned by United States
libraries will be available to you for $5 each, not just the journals I
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Thank you, I look forward to working with you!
Kristen Beck, M.A. Genetics Northwest Library P.O. Box 4414 Bellingham, WA
98227 geneticsnorthwest@hotmail.com (360)734-3704 FAX (509)752-1453