World Use Of Genetically Modified Crops Up 11% In 2000
Dow Jones Newswires Prime Sarmiento Tuesday -- December 19, 2000
MANILA-- The total global area tilled with genetically modified crops hit
44.2 million hectares in 2000, up 11% from 39.9 million hectares in 1999,
the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications
The ISAA is an independent international agency that monitors the global
use of biotech crops. In a press statement, the ISAAA said farmers decided
to plant more genetically modified rapeseed, corn, soybean and cotton
because of ``more convenient and flexible crop management, higher
productivity and safer environment through decreased use of conventional
In Europe, the U.S. and Asia, groups opposed to genetically modified crops
say the use of such crops are harmful to consumers and the environment.
Clive James, chairman of ISAAA`s board of directors, said the expansion of
area planted with genetically modified crops ``reflects the growing
acceptance of transgenic crops by farmers using the technology in both
industrial and developing countries.``
He added that most farmers decided to do this after evaluating the results
of their first plantings. ``This speaks volumes for the confidence and
trust farmers have placed in transgenic crops,`` he said.
ISAA said that for the year 2000, four countries grew 99%, or 43.8 million
hectares, of the global transgenic crops. The U.S. grew 30.3 million
hectares of transgenic crops; Argentina, 10 million hectares; Canada, 3
million hectares; and China, 500,000 hectares. Australia, Mexico and South
Africa also have plantations devoted to transgenic cotton and corn.
THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION REPORT ON BIOTECHNOLOGY RELEASED
Genetically Modified Crops and Foods
To review the technology used to produce transgenic crops and examine
issues relevant to the utilization of transgenic crops and genetically
modified foods, including the current regulatory framework, possible human
health effects, potential environmental impacts, and other
Data Sources. Eleven reports issued over the last 2 years by various
scientific and governmental bodies on selected aspects of genetically
modified crops were reviewed. Additionally, literature searches were
conducted in the MEDLINE database and Lexis/Nexis GenMed library for
articles between 1990 and September 2000 using the terms "genetic
engineering" combined with "food microbiology," "food technology,"
"agriculture," "plants, edible," "food," and "crops, agricultural."
A secondary search was conducted for articles between 1995 and September
2000 using the search term "plants, transgenic." References containing
information relevant to the safety, regulation, and environmental impact
of transgenic crops and foods were examined further. Additional references
were culled from the bibliographies of these pertinent references. The
World Wide Web was searched for information using the search terms
"genetically modified foods" or "genetically modified crops," revealing
several links to additional scientific and regulatory sites.
Results. More than 40 transgenic crop varieties have been cleared through
the federal review process with enhanced agronomic and/or nutritional
characteristics or one or more features of pest protection (insect and
viruses) and tolerance to herbicides. The most widely used transgenic
pest-protected plants express insecticidal proteins derived from the
bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Crops and foods produced using
recombinant DNA techniques have been available for fewer than 10 years and
no long-term effects have been detected to date. These foods are
substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts. Genetic
engineering is capable of introducing allergens into recipient plants, but
the overall risks of introducing an allergen into the food supply are
believed to be similar to or less than that associated with conventional
breeding methods. The risk of horizontal gene transfer from plants to
environmental bacteria or from plant products consumed as food to gut
microorganisms or human cells is generally acknowledged to be negligible,
but one that cannot be completely discounted. Pest-resistance due to
exposure to Bt-containing plants has not occurred to date, and harmful
effects on nontarget organisms, which have been detected in the
laboratory, have not been observed in the field. Nevertheless, these and
other possible environmental effects remain areas of concern.
Conclusions. Federal regulatory oversight of agricultural biotechnology
should be science-based. Methods to assure the safety of foods derived
from genetically modified crops should continue to be refined and
improved. Although no untoward effects have been detected, the use of
antibiotic markers that encode resistance to clinically important
antibiotics should be avoided if possible. Genetic modification of plants
could potentially lead to detrimental consequences to the environment.
Therefore, a broad-based plan to study environmental issues should be
instituted. There is no scientific justification for special labeling of
genetically modified foods, as a class, and voluntary labeling is without
value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education. Government,
industry, and the scientific and medical communities have a responsibility
to educate the public and improve the availability of unbiased information
on genetically modified crops and research activities.
RECOMMENDATIONS The following statements, recommended by the Council on
Scientific Affairs, were adopted as AMA Policy at the 2000 Interim AMA
1.The AMA recognizes the continuing validity of the three major
conclusions contained in the 1987 National Academy of Sciences white paper
"Introduction of Recombinant DNA-Engineered Organisms into the
2.Federal regulatory oversight of agricultural biotechnology should
continue to be science-based and guided by the characteristics of the
plant, its intended use, and the environment into which it is to be
introduced, not by the method used to produce it, in order to facilitate
comprehensive, efficient regulatory review of new genetically modified
crops and foods.
3.The AMA believes that as of December 2000, there is no scientific
justification for special labeling of genetically modified foods, as a
class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is
accompanied by focused consumer education.
4.The AMA supports efforts for the systematic safety assessment of
genetically modified foods and encourage: (a) development and validation
of additional techniques for the detection and/or assessment of unintended
effects; (b) continued use of methods to detect substantive changes in
nutrient or toxicant levels in genetically modified foods as part of a
substantial equivalence evaluation; (c) development and use of alternative
transformation technologies to avoid utilization of antibiotic resistance
markers that code for clinically relevant antibiotics, where feasible; and
(d) that priority should be given to basic research in food allergenicity
to support the development of improved methods for identifying potential
5.The AMA supports continued research into the potential consequences to
the environment of genetically modified crops including the: (a)
assessment of the impacts of pest-protected crops on nontarget organisms
compared to impacts of standard agricultural methods, through rigorous
field evaluations; (b) assessment of gene flow and its potential
consequences including key factors that regulate weed populations; rates
at which pest resistance genes from the crop would be likely to spread
among weed and wild populations; and the impact of novel resistance traits
on weed abundance; (c) implementation of resistance management practices
and continued monitoring of their effectiveness; and (d) development of
monitoring programs to assess ecological impacts of pest-protected crops
that may not be apparent from the results of field tests.
6.The AMA recognizes the many potential benefits offered by genetically
modified crops and foods, not support a moratorium on planting genetically
modified crops, and encourages ongoing research developments in food
7.The AMA recognizes that the government, industry, and the scientific and
medical communities have a responsibility to educate the public and
improve the availability of unbiased information on genetically modified
crops and of research activities.
The following statement, recommended by the Council on Scientific Affairs,
was adopted as a Directive at the 2000 Interim AMA Meeting:
The AMA will monitor the forthcoming final rule for plant pesticides from
the Environmental Protection Agency and respond as appropriate.
From:"John W. Cross"
Subject: Shorter answers
Your answer is very long, indirect and unclear. I read you as saying:
1) Non-experts should bug out. Pusztai is above criticism because he's an
And, more importantly:
2) The rations were uncooked. Right?
Please correct me if I have it wrong.
At 11:07 AM 12/21/2000 -0800, you wrote:
>I passed your message on to Dr Arpad Pusztai. While I don't know your
>own area of expertise, you will probably be aware that Dr Pusztai must
>have published something like 30 papers on protease inhibitors in
>leading science journals. It also, incidentally, strikes me as
>extraordinary that sweeping statements have been made about lectins, by
>biotechnologists for example, in relation to Dr Pusztai's GM potato
>research, when Dr Pusztai is widely accepted to be the pre-eminent
>expert on this topic! His work on lectins in kidney beans, for example,
>has almost certainly saved lives.
>I do think it's a bit hard on Dr Pusztai to keep being given lessons in
>key areas of his own expertise. The same goes more generally, of course,
>for his own area of science - nutrition - and the question of how
>experiments should be conducted there. As he noted in his reply to Dr
>Morton, the methodology of his GM peas study was in essentials identical
>to his GM potato research, yet the former was published without
>controversy in the Journal of Nutrition. As he said, this suggests that
>the real concern may be with the results!
>This is supported by that fact that his GM potato work was widely
>condemned, most often by non-specialists, before full details of the
>methodology were even available. The irony is, of course, that no one is
>more concerned than Dr Pusztai that adequate and appropriate studies be
>done on these foods. The almost complete lack of adequate studies was
>dealt with in his reply to Dr Morton.
>Dr Pusztai notes in relation to studies in animal nutrition that "unless
>there are exceptional circumstances animals are always fed rations which
>contain either unprocessed or slightly processed protein sources in
>practice because they are cheaper and processing costs would make them
>uneconomical. More or less the only exception is soya (perhaps rape
>seeds) that is processed but not because of its use in animal rations
>but because when the oil is extracted the residue is dried (by steam or
>by other heat sources)."
>Dr Pusztai feels that if you read the pea paper and his reply to Dr
>Morton together with his Lancet paper, you will find that your points of
>concern are fully dealt with. You may also be interested to read a
>recent interview with Dr Pusztai
> > From:
> > "John W. Cross"
> > To: email@example.com, Roger Morton
> > vegetables? If so, how were they cooked. People do occasionally eat
> > but never raw potatoes. if uncooked, then the significance of his
studies needs to be
>considered in that light. In addition, people rarely, if ever, eat raw
peas as a high percentage of
> > their diet. I would not be surprised if any study comparing
>>uncooked pea or potato diets would be sufficiently unbalanced that the
>> should beconsidered suspect. Moreover, many of our vegetables contain
protease inhibitors or
>> even toxins that must be denatured or leached by cooking. GM foods
which contain inhibitors of >> digestive enzymes may be insignificantly
more indigestibl e than such raw vegetables.
Author of Educational Websites:
The Charms of Duckweed http://www.mobot.org/jwcross/duckweed
From: Emilio Muñoz
Subject: Adds to literature on control safety of GM foods.
I am following with great interest all the debate circulating around
AgBioView on the transgenesis of plants and its influence on food. I have
not yet intervened actively because my essential task on this issue is to
contribute to disseminate information in Spanish in written (articles,
reviews) or oral (conferences, workshops, intervention in TV,
broadcasting...) to specialized or lay audiences. I have enough work on my
own language to carry out an extra task in English. However, I am making
an exception and I am posting this message to add two new references to
the controversy between Roger Morton and A. Pusztai that I have found
- Effect of GM and non GM-soybeans on the immune system of BN rats and
B10A mice by Teshima, A., Akiyama, H., Okunuki, H., Sakushima, J., Goda,
Y., Onodera, H., Sawada, J., Toyoda, M., Journal of the Food Hygienic
Society of Japan, 41(3), 188-193, June 2000.
- Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Plants on the Submisssion for
Placing on the Market of Genetically Modified Maize (Zea maydis) Line GA
21 with Tolerance to Glyphosate Herbici"de Notified by Monsanto,
SCP/GMO/232 - Final (22 September 2000), published by the Health &
Consumer Protection Directorate - General of the European Commission
(Scientific Committee on Plants, 10 members + 6 experts).
The first paper (peer-reviewed) states that "(there are) no significant
differences between animals fed GM and non GM- lines".
The second (typical evaluation exercise carried out by a panel of experts)
states that "there is no evidence to indicate that the placing on the
market of the modified maize line ..... is likely to cause any adverse
effects on human health and the environment".
IESA / CSIC Alfonso XII, 18 5=BA 28014 MADRID (Spain)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.iesam.csic.es
From: Graeme O'Neill
Subject: Green imperialism critique
Here is my most recent science column from the Sunday Herald-Sun in
Melbourne - I am indebted to several of your contributors for some of the
Science Writer, Sunday Herald-Sun Melbourne, Australia.
By GRAEME O’NEILL
Around three months ago I had lunch in an organic food restaurant in the
city with several people known in Australia for their opposition to
genetically engineered crops and foods.
Several things stand out clearly in memory. The first was that all the
main courses cost at least $30, so I had a bowl of noodles in miso soup
that cost only $16. Even allowing that our entrepreneurial restaurateur
operates in a niche market, and sets his prices with an keen eye on what a
wealthy inner-city clientele can afford, rather than on the basic cost of
the ingredients, $30 is about a month’s income for an impoverished farmer
in Africa or Asia.
Organic produce in Australia regularly commands a premium of between 30
and 80 per cent over conventionally grown produce. There are two possible
explanations for these high prices: either the industry is ripping
consumers off, or its prices do reflect production costs, in which case
claims by those opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that
organic production can feed a hungry, impoverished Third World are pure
At those prices, any mass movement towards organic production would only
reinforce the status quo where the bulk of the world’s food supply goes to
over-nourished people in industrialised nations who can afford to pay for
it, while the poorest 750 million in the world starve. Be sceptical when
anti-GMO organisations like Greenpeace, the GeneEthics Network, Friends of
the Earth assert that peasant farmers in Africa and in the Indian
sub-continent don’t like gene technology, and don’t want genetically
In fact, Third World farmers are clamouring for access to transgenic
crops, especially those engineered for resistance to the insect pests that
ruin at least a third of their meagre production ever year. The major
discussion point at our organic lunch in the city was vitamin A deficiency
and golden rice. Golden rice is the bete noire of the anti-GMO movement,
and it is no surprise that it s devoting enormous energy to a global
campaign to discredit it.
Unlike today’s rice varieties, golden rice contains vitamin A, in the form
of beta carotene. Swiss geneticist Professor Ingo Potrykus and his
colleagues, with sponsorship from the Rockefeller Foundation, developed it
specifically to tackle vitamin A deficiency, which is endemic to poorer
African and Asian nations where rice is the dietary staple. Professor
Potrykus and his colleagues have installed in rice an entire biosynthetic
pathway that previously did not exist in the rice genome. They achieved
their remarkable feat by combining genes from unrelated organisms: a
humble daffodil and an ITAL Erwinia XITAL bacterium, the microbe that
causes fireblight in apples and pears.
Golden rice will be Western science’s gift to farmers in poorer nations
where rice is the dietary staple, and vitamin A deficiency affects about
400 million people, causing vision defects and blindness. One of my lunch
companions subsequently wrote an article in which he suggested that rice
had somehow "resisted" developing the vitamin A pathway because it was
never intended that rice should contain vitamin A. This strange argument
betrays the mystical beliefs of many proponents of organic food, and flies
in the face of science and common sense.
First, it attributes to a mindless plant the power to consciously choose
its own genetic destiny, which is nonsensical. Crows aren’t black because
they chose not to be white; crabs didn’t elect to have claws instead of
paws ? the attributes of living species are the result of natural
selection, working on random genetic variation. The argument that it’s
unnatural for rice to contain vitamin A also implies that some
supernatural intelligence "designed" rice specifically to nourish humans.
If that were so, there would be no visual defects or blindness due to
vitamin A deficiency in rice-eating countries, or any anaemia due to the
fact that rice is also deficient in the essential micronutrient, iron.
When "golden rice" goes into the fields of Asia and Africa, it will be in
varieties that will be enriched both in vitamin A and iron. If you believe
that’s unnatural, check out the breakfast cereal section of your local
supermarket: for decades, manufacturers have added add A and B-group
vitamins and iron to wheat, rice and corn-based breakfast cereals, calling
Is it more unnatural to add vitamins and other micronutrients after the
grain is processed, than to have the plant synthesise them while it is
growing? The wild ancestors of rice, wheat and maize were around for
millions of years before our ancestors became farmers and domesticated
them. All of these grains are deficient in major nutrients that humans
need for normal metabolism ? rice in vitamin A and iron, wheat and maize
It seems Mother Nature - Gaia in her modern incarnation - was a mite
careless in designing perfect foods for her noblest creation, human
beings. We have to go to no end of trouble to obtain a diverse diet, to
achieve an optimal balance of amino acids, fats, carbohydrates and
minerals. The Western consumer obsession with things "natural" and
"organic" is the ill-begotten child of the advertising industry. It sells
by the time-honored tactic of implying that perfectly healthy foods and
consumer products are in some way "unnatural".
Yet, by my companion’s logic, it is profoundly unnatural for our species,
which evolved as a fruit-eater in the African rainforest, to eat rice,
wheat or maize ? or any other cereal, fruit, vegetable or animal from
outside Africa. As our ancestors spread around the world in prehistoric
times, they encountered a huge array of unfamiliar plants and animals, all
potential food sources. They tried, because they were hungry, and many
bold experimenters would have died or suffered serious health effects.
How can we reconcile such hazardous, self-sacrificing behaviour in our
ancestors with the paranoia that now surrounds the purity and safety of
the food supply in modern industrialised nations?
Anti-GMO activists have used tactics calculated to create unreasoning,
baseless fear about food safety, with no thought to the impact on the
psychological wellbeing of vulnerable individuals, as an episode in a
British court confirmed last month.
The November 18 edition of the ‘Newcastle Chronicle & Journal’ reported on
page 26 that a member of a group of anti-GMO activists charged with
vandalising a farmer’s genetically engineered crop collapsed in tears
during the trial. Stephen Gordon, 26, reportedly sobbed and at one point
collapsed into his seat in tears, as he explained the group’s defence and
justified its actions. "I am running out of things to eat and I’m not at
all confident GM products will continue to be labelled sufficiently," Mr
Poor Mr Gordon seemed to genuinely fear that his health, even his
mortality, were at risk from toxic foods produced by evil geneticists. If
it were not so sad, it would be comical. It’s a tragedy that peasants in
poor African villages starve amid drought-withered, insect-ravaged crops.
But when a Briton can starve in the aisles of a modern supermarket, it’s
either an act of rank stupidity, or of pathological obsession with food
Our food supply, genetically modified ingredients and all, has never been
safer or purer.
In the decade since the first transgenic produce, or foods containing
genetically modified ingredients, began to appear on supermarket shelves,
there has not been a single case of a human being falling ill or suffering
an allergic reaction attributable to the new technology. The safety record
of organic foods is less impressive, according to food-poisoning
statistics kept by the Centres for Disease Control in the US. Millions of
consumers regularly suffer allergic reactions from "natural", healthy
foods like peanuts, shellfish, eggs, bread, tomatoes and strawberries,
chocolate, even milk.
But dare to suggest to any organic food devotee that there might a small
but real risk of suffering food poisoning from pathogenic (but very
natural) bacteria present in animal manure fertilisers used on organic
crops and you will be met with indignant denial. Impossible ? couldn’t
happen. We have rigorous standards. Growers are too careful. Such faith in
the safety and virginal wholesomeness of All Things Organic is impervious
to scientific evidence, statistics, and simple reason. It demands no
proof, and brooks no challenge. It’s profoundly unscientific. It’s a
religion, by any name, dedicated to the worship of nature.
The anti-GMO movement clearly feels that the sacredness of its mission to
protect nature and the temple of the human body ? another pathological
Western obsession - justifies its campaigns to misrepresent a beneficial
technology, and to misinform and frighten the bejesus out of western
But surely, the ultimate arrogance is that nature’s police presume to
exercise the same natural authority over farmers and consumers developing
nations. Another of my lunch companions assured me golden rice was
unnecessary because people in countries like India could be educated to
grow traditional leafy green vegetable crops providing a natural source of
vitamin A - foods that had been displaced by the high-yielding rice crops
of the Green Revolution.
One problem with this argument is that the vitamin A in these leafy green
vegetable crops is in a form that is poorly absorbed by the body ? not so
the pro-vitamin A, or beta-carotene, in golden rice. Nor are vitamin A
deficiency and iron deficiency new problems in rice-eating nations - they
existed long before the Green Revolution. But, the argument goes, if we
could just educate those ignorant Asian peasants to eat a healthy diet,
high in leafy vegetables, the problem would be solved.
If the boot were on the other foot, how would Australian consumers feel if
an expert Indian nutritionist presumed to lecture us about eating a
healthy diet low in fat, sugar and salt? Our dietary problems are entirely
self-induced. With access to the world’s healthiest food and the best
dietary information, we suffer from an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and
heart disease. How dare we presume to advise hungry Indian, African or
Chinese peasants on what crops they should grow, and what they should eat?
An Indian-born economist, Professor Deepak Lal, who is Professor
International Development Studies at the University of California, Los
Angeles, recently criticised Western anti-GMO activists as "green
imperialists." Delivering the inaugural Julian L.Simon Memorial Lecture,
organised by the US-based Liberty Institute, in New Delhi, Professor Lal
drew parallels between the utopian ideas of Marxism, Christianity and the
modern environmental movement in the West.
"The ecological movement is the latest manifestation of the various
secular religions in the West," Professor Lal said. "Once the Christian
God died for so many with the scientific and Darwinian revolution … the
spiritual and moral void was increasingly being filled in the secular
Western world by the worship of Nature." What was ironic is that "those
haunted natural spirits which the medieval Church sought to exorcise so
that the West could conquer its forests are now being glorified and being
placed above Man."
Having failed to achieve success through the normal political process,
even in developed countries, the Greens were seeking to push their agenda
through various unelected and bureaucratic international agencies such as
the United Nations Environment Program. Their chief objective was the
capture of the World Trade Organisation, to impose their anti-development,
anti-trade platform on the rest of the world.
Professor Lal also blasted western environmental groups like Greenpeace
for advocating a ban on DDT in developing countries, where malarial
mosquitoes continue to affect an estimated 500 million annually, when the
West itself had used DDT much more widely to fight malaria decades
earlier. He also ridiculed the fearmongering over biotechnology, arguing
that India should emulate China in its drive to adopt the new agricultural
Professor Lal has a point. Western activists should keep their paranoia
and bizarre dietary obsessions to themselves. Out there, in the real
world, hundreds of millions of people don’t have enough food, and have no
choice in what they eat. They’re starving, and their children are dying.
AMERICAN SCIENTISTS NEEDED TO TOUT BIOTECHNOLOGY BENEFITS AROUND THE WORLD
Tom Cosgrove December 20, 2000 www.meatingplace.com (From Agnet)
Biotechnology is one of those topics where there appears to be no gray
area in one important respect: either you're for it or you're against it
-- based on various reports read by The Meatingplace.com in recent years.
Whether you're for or against biotechnology, its implementation should be
based on sound scientific reasons, not emotional rhetoric, self-serving or
otherwise. And the ongoing, intensifying debate on biotechnology is not
just a domestic issue. In fact, a recent six-week tour to 15 nations left
Lester Crawford, the director of the Georgetown University Center for Food
and Nutrition Policy and a former administrator of the Food Safety and
Inspection Service, convinced that American scientists in both industry
and academia must make their voices heard overseas on the topic of
"We have a formidable adversary in the consumer organizations that are so
vastly opposed to biotechnology and to the American drug and chemical
development system and to American- and European-based multinational
corporations," Crawford said. "It is a worldwide movement. It is a very
serious assault on our system and it is likely to stymie virtually
anything we develop in the next few years until we get it reconciled."
Crawford made his comments as keynote speaker at the Food Safety
Consortium's annual meeting in September at the University of Arkansas. He
also provided several examples of foreign governments' receptiveness to
hostile attitudes toward biotechnology. Australia, he said, has appointed
a gene technology regulator who does not answer to the prime minister's
government or anyone else.
"The law says that this person, when it comes to bioengineered foods, will
report to no one," Crawford said. Australia's policy has pleased
Singapore, which is committed to building biotechnology industries and
seeks to be East Asia's leader in the field, according to an FSC news
release. Australia's policy, Crawford said, means "not only will you not
be able to get a biotech food product approved. You also won't be able to
sell them and you won't be able to start a research program."
Crawford's touring group found in Hong Kong that the organization
Greenpeace had alleged that two American fast-food restaurants were
selling GMO (genetically modified) french fries. "It fed into the standard
Greenpeace line that it will take 30 years of experience with
bioengineered food to know for sure that they're safe," he said. "What
they mean is 30 years of us Americans eating bioengineered foods before
they know it is safe." These developments are a serious challenge to the
United States because of their potential impact on international trade,
Crawford said. For American businesses to compete successfully, the U.S.
needs to export ideas as well as goods, and Crawford had one particular
idea in mind. "The strongest thing we have going for us is the regulatory
decision process in the U.S.," Crawford said. "It is basically without
parallel. It has served us well and has become part of our culture. We
need to continue to modify and improve it."
Crawford cited three key elements of the regulatory process as reasons for
its success: science-based decision making, public participation and the
separation of powers. The United State is unique with regard to
science-based decision making, he said. After scientific data are
evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, "they render a judgment of
reasonable assurance of no harm. It tells us there is no absolute safety.
When FDA lets it on the market, it has a reasonable conviction that this
isn't going to harm anybody. But you will never know that for sure, even
after 30 years." The public-participation phase provides nine steps
between the patenting of a product and its release on the market,
including five steps that require public input.
"FDA is not required to conduct this as an election," Crawford said. "They
read the comments, take them seriously and respond to each one in
writing." The American separation of powers places responsibility for food
regulation in well-defined locations, Crawford noted, in contrast to
European systems. FDA and the Department of Agriculture have authority to
make the final decisions. "They don't have to ask Congress if this is all
right," he said. "They don't have a committee to say if this is all right.
They're in charge. And if they don't do it right we just remove them."
Crawford urged scientists to speak out on these issues so other nations
will have the benefit of their viewpoints.
"I think what they really need to hear are not so much academic scientists
as they need to hear from the whole spectrum of scientists in the U.S.,”
he said. "Unfortunately, in this particularly incendiary time, they will
not listen to industrial scientists in the biotechnology area. That will
come a little later. But we have got to do more in that respect.” One of
the most important things food scientists and the food industry can do is
to continue to get the truth out to consumers about the benefits and
safety of genetically modified foods and animal feeds. As has been the
case with every other emerging technology throughout time, adversaries --
both knowledgeable and otherwise -- will not hesitate to get their points
of view to the public through the media in hopes of derailing a technology
they view as a threat.
Endangering the principles of free society (From Agnet)
Barun S. Mitra, Managing Trustee and Writer, Liberty Institute
Julian L. Simon Centre New Delhi, India
Since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, increasing numbers of international
environmental treaties and conventions have incorporated the precautionary
principle as a cornerstone of international jurisprudence. The greatest
manifestation of the precautionary principle has come in the area of
agricultural biotechnology and biosafety. However, the alleged principle
has some fatal flaws. In the name of prudence, the precautionary principle
endangers a wide range of principles that have evolved over the past two
Philosophically, the call for prudence by the precautionary principle
implies a quest for certainty in knowledge. This is an impossibility.
Politically, the precautionary principle seeks to transfer decision-making
processes back to state agencies, in the name of public safety. This shift
ignores the contemporary trend towards empowering the people, by letting
increasing numbers of decisions be made primarily through the marketplace.
Furthermore, the cost of such state decision-making may be even more
damaging, if uniformity is coupled with uncertainty.
Legally, the implications of the precautionary principle are even more
drastic. If precaution is to be the guiding principle in the face of
uncertainty, then no action will be possible. And since all human beings
have the potential to commit a crime, freedom of choice, the basis of
morality, will be rendered obsolete by instituting a police state. We may
leave aside such questions as who will police the policeman. In this, the
precautionary principle seems to reverse the accepted judicial principle
that one is innocent unless proven guilty, and advocates that in view of
lack of certainty in knowledge, one is to be assumed guilty unless proven
innocent. Logically, it is impossible to disprove a negative, more so if
guilt includes even the potential to commit a mistake.
Economically, by focusing on certainty, the precautionary principle seeks
to bypass the process of discovery of knowledge. The market is more
efficient in allocating resources, because the competitive environment
induces entrepreneurs to constantly try and discover new knowledge. The
precautionary principle, if applied logically, would make entrepreneurship
Ethically, the precautionary principle implies that people cannot be
trusted to make the best decisions for themselves and need agencies such
as the state to make decisions for them, perhaps aided by experts. This
not only violates freedom of choice, but raises the question whether
people, who have the right to vote and choose their representatives and
government, can be so dismissed under the guise of the precautionary
principle. Socially, implementation of the precautionary principle would
only widen the divide between rich and poor societies. The richer
societies would claim the knowledge, and would try to prevent the
ignorant, poor societies from making their own decisions.
Technologically, the precautionary principle would widen the gulf. It
would perpetuate the present status quo in the area of knowledge, and
institutionalize a new kind of imperialism. Such a policy would retard the
growth of new knowledge, and even retard progress in the future.
Finally, the precautionary principle has serious political implications.
For instance, in the developed countries, for the first time in history,
food production is no longer an important issue. In view of the fact that
fiscal, trade and agricultural policies in developed countries have all
distorted the market process through direct and indirect subsidies, the
focus seems to be on finding new markets and restricting access of
competitors to that market. With their advantage in knowledge, and their
larger resource base, developed countries find that the precautionary
principle comes in very handy to keep the produce of developing countries
from the market.
The situation is quite the opposite in poorer countries. Demand for food
is rising. At the same time domestic policies have had a singularly
adverse impact on agriculture throughout the post-colonial period.
Consequently, farm prices and productivity have been falling behind other
more patronized sectors of the economy. With globalization and economic
liberalization, for the first time in many decades, the farmers in poorer
countries have a realistic opportunity to access the wider market and get
a better deal for themselves.. In the area of agricultural biotechnology,
the precautionary principle could thwart this small window of opportunity
for the poor farmers in developing countries.
Clearly, the precautionary principle is endangering not only some of the
most cherished principles of freedom and progress, but also the poor and
the very future that it seeks to protect.
From: Katie Thrasher
Subject: A New NY Times Biotech News Archive
The New York Times has created a new (free) recent archives category where
you can find stories on biotechnology:
(You need to register first time; free)
OECD REPORTS ON MODERN BIOTECHNOLOGY
December 20, 2000 OECD http://www.oecd.org/agr/
The application of modern biotechnology to agriculture has been underway
for more than 15 years. But the debate on genetically engineered foods has
intensified in many countries recently.
The OECD report Modern biotechnology and agricultural markets: a
discussion of selected issues, available on the website at
http://www.oecd.org/agr/Documents/apm005fe.pdf, finds that the adoption of
genetically engineered crops has been very rapid in several countries. But
in terms of profits, these crops give varied results. This suggests that
other advantages, such as increased managerial flexibility, may be part of
the explanation for their increased use. Consumer concerns centre on
unknown long-term health and environmental effects of genetically
engineered crops and on ethical considerations related to genetic
engineering. However, these attitudes differ across countries, and give
rise to uncertainties as regards domestic demand and international trade.
The reports are available on the OECD website as of
From: Gale Ellen West
Subject: Corporate Funding Integrity
Dear Agbioworld readers,
Will your name soon appear at the following web site? Should you be
concerned if it does? Something to think about.
Integrity in Science Project to Expose Corporate Funding of Science Reports
Concerned about the link between industry and science--particularly the
conflicts of interest, biased studies, and secrecy that "war with
science's truth-seeking objective", the Center for Science in the Public
Interest (CSPI) has formed the Integrity in Science project. The new
organization's aim is to obtain a balance of views and full disclosure to
help the public, press, and policy-makers obtain better advice about
scientific issues. One of the group's first projects is creating an
on-line database of scientists with links to industry.
Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Gale West, Professeure Agrégée/Assoc. Prof., Consumer Sciences
Centre de Recherche en Économie Agroalimentaire Universite Laval Ste-Foy
(Quebec) G1K-7P4 CANADA http://alpha.eru.ulaval.ca/crea/
From: email@example.com (Ruth Kava)
Subject: reprinting Biotech booklet
ACSH is preparing to reprint our booklet, "Biotechnology and Food" by Alan
McHughen, soon . I f anyone wants to place a pre-printing order they
should contact Ms. Judy Dagostino at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at
212-3632-7044, ext 221. ACSH is preparing to reprint our booklet, We
apologize if anyone has experienced a delay in receiving their order of
this publication—we ran out sooner than we thought! The booklet may be
downloaded from our website at www.acsh.org.
Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D. Director of Nutrition American Council on Science
and Health New York, 212-362-7044 Fax: 212-362-4919 email@example.com Please
From: "Henry I. Miller"
GREEN POLITICS' BITTER HARVEST
Henry I. Miller, MD (In press)
The growing challenges to biotechnology, or gene-splicing, applied to food
production increased Monday [18 December] with the release of public
policy recommendations at a summit meeting in Washington between President
Clinton and leaders of the European Union. An EU-US committee report
recommended a regulatory approach that has already tarnished the promise
of biotechnology in Europe and the US, and disadvantaged consumers,
farmers and the food industry worldwide. The report was immediately
denounced by a prominent member of the committee, Nobel Laureate Norman
Borlaug, who is credited with being the "Father of the Green Revolution."
Using language more appropriate to a Soviet-era political manifesto than a
21st Century scientific document, the report makes recommendations that
would remove the incentives for innovation and commerce in biotech plants
and foods. While endorsing "public responsibility for global governance of
biotechnology," it condemns broad intellectual property protection, calls
for the "traceability" of biotech crop material through the food supply,
and demands the participation of non-experts in the formulation of public
policy. Inevitably, it recommends tighter regulation, including mandatory
labeling of products that contain ingredients from gene-spliced plants,
even though the US FDA has insisted -- and science supports -- that
labeling should convey to consumers only "material," or important,
information about foods, such as significant changes in nutrition, safety
Nowhere in the document is there any recognition that scientists worldwide
are virtually unanimous that newer techniques are an extension, or
refinement, of earlier, cruder ones, and that adding genes to plants does
not make them less safe either to the environment or to eat. This
consensus was succinctly described in an authoritative 1989 analysis by
the United States National Research Council, "With classical techniques of
gene transfer, a variable number of genes can be transferred, the number
depending on the mechanism of transfer; but predicting the precise number
or the traits that have been transferred is difficult, and we cannot
always predict the [behavior] that will result. With organisms modified by
molecular methods, we are in a better, if not perfect, position to predict
[their behavior]." (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.)
Similarly, a recent analysis released in October by the Institute of Food
Technologists took current biotech regulatory policies to task, concluding
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."
There is more than the prognostications of experts to support this view of
biotech's safety. Thousands of food products from gene-spliced organisms
have been widely marketed and consumed routinely and safely during the
past 15 years. Three-quarters of the cheese produced in the United States
is made from a gene-spliced version of an enzyme called chymosin, for
example, and more than 60 per cent of processed foods in American
supermarkets now contain gene-spliced ingredients. For each of the past
two years, gene-spliced crops have been grown worldwide on approximately
100 million acres — with no untoward effects related to safety.
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. Thus, gene-spliced plants are not
only cheaper to produce but a potential boon to public health. Moreover,
by reducing the need to apply agricultural chemicals to crops,
gene-splicing is environmentally friendly.
Monday's EU-US report and the composition of the group that produced it
illustrate how the greening of US foreign policy in the Clinton
administration has affected technological innovation and free trade. Last
June the US State Department announced the EU-US "biotechnology
consultative forum," comprised of a "carefully selected" group of
participants, to discuss issues related to biotechnology.
The US members were carefully selected, all right — in a way that ensured
that the group would ultimately favor unscientific, gratuitous regulation.
It included Gordon Conway, the green president of the Rockefeller
Foundation; Rebecca Goldburg, a doctrinaire, die-hard opponent of biotech
for many years; Terry Medley, a Dupont executive who had crafted
stultifying and unscientific regulations while an official at USDA; Carol
Tucker Foreman, activist and long-time proponent of unnecessary,
anti-innovative food regulation; and LeRoy Walters, a bioethicist who has
long been a champion of excessive, unwarranted regulation of medical
applications of biotechnology. Significantly, the most eminent member of
the US side, Norman Borlaug, a plant breeder who was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1970 for his contributions to the "Green Revolution," did
not participate in the preparation of the report but complained that "the
process was politicized from the beginning by the State Department's
involvement," and that some of the anti-biotech members of the US team
were "worse than any of the Europeans."
Why would the State Department empower such a group to negotiate with
representatives of European countries, where there is entrenched public
and political opposition to importing grain grown from gene-spliced seeds,
vandalization of field trials, complete gridlock on regulatory approvals,
labeling required to identify gene-spliced foods and even their banishment
by major supermarket chains?
It was just one more step in Vice President Gore's attempt to expand
international governance on terms dictated by environmental extremists.
Other international activities that reflect the same political agenda
include two essays earlier this year into unscientific biotechnology
regulation by the United Nations. These were also supported by the US
The "Cartagena biosafety protocol," finalized in January under the
auspices of the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD),
established a global scheme for regulating biotechnology products that
subjects the most precisely crafted and predictable organisms to the most
regulation. At the same time, it validates the bogus "precautionary
principle," which holds that every new technology should be proven
absolutely safe before it can be used. This erects an almost
insurmountable barrier against new products because nothing can be proved
totally safe -- at least, not to the standard demanded by anti-technology
extremists. The protocol, which is already hobbling the work of academic
researchers and small, innovative companies, and delaying or denying the
benefits of the new biotechnology to much of the world, was specifically
endorsed in Monday's EU-US report.
Similarly, with full US government support and collaboration three panels
of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations agency concerned
with international food standards, are working toward holding
biotech-derived food and food ingredients to standards that are
unscientific, far beyond those that any other products can or should meet,
and that will prevent all but a handful from having a fair chance to reach
consumers. The prospect of flawed, excessive Codex standards for biotech
foods is ominous, because members of the World Trade Organization will, in
principle, be required to follow them, and they will provide cover for
unfair trade practices.
All of these approaches to regulation violate a cardinal principal of
regulation — namely, that the degree of scrutiny should be commensurate
with risk. They treat older genetic techniques and modern molecular
methods very differently, imposing new regulations and establishing
gratuitous new bureaucracies -- only for products made with the newest,
most precise and predictable techniques.
The United States government is willing, literally, to give away the farm.
What is needed is the political will to insist upon policies that make
scientific and common sense and that are genuinely in the public interest.
Let us hope that the Bush administration's new crop of officials can
separate the wheat from the chaff.
Henry I. Miller is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Competitive
Enterprise Institute. From 1989-94, he was director of the Office of
Biotechnology at the US Food and Drug Administration. E-mail: