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January 4, 2001


Fear, Biodiversity, Pesticide safety



One of the more puzzling features of the so-called "debate" over
biotechnology is the concerted effort by non-governmental organizations
(increasingly calling themselves 'civil society' organizations) to export
fear of biotechnology to developing nations. In the developed nations,
these organizations have typically
used fearmongering to gain funding from organic industry profiteers and
other vested interests.

However, in developing nations, there is little market for "organic" food,
and scarcely any funding available from local groups who can expect to
benefit or profit from fearmongering. Yet the efforts to cultivate a fear
of biotechnology in developing countries continues. Why?

It is entirely likely that the organizations cultivating fear of
biotechnology in developing countries are doing so in order to protect the
export markets for "humanitarian" aid. Numerous "non-profit" organizations
make tremendous amounts of money on exporting aid to developing
countries. If the developing countries become
self-sufficient, the export market for humanitarian aid suffers
accordingly, along with profits. Thus, it becomes imperative for activist
organizations to prevent developing countries from gaining access to more
productive modern technologies.

It would not be surprising if this were the case. Activists have, for
instance, aligned themselves with labor to fight against free trade, which
threatens to move personal income opportunities from the developed to the
less-developed countries.

If this is what is going on, it should be possible to "follow the money"
or find other sorts of ties between the groups cultivating fear of
biotechnology and the groups exporting "humanitarian" aid to developing
countries. Is anyone aware of any such ties? If there are such ties, this
would obviously be a shameful state of affairs.

Date: Jan 04 2001 20:24:43 EST
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Re: Preserving Biodiversity

Preserving biodiversity is not a new problem by any means. for at least
100 years people have been preserving plant lines by planting a small plot
every few years and saving the seed for several years and replanting it
before it lost it's ability to germinate. With the advent of freezers the
time between replanting became much longer. Institutions also maintain
their germplasam this way because we all realize that there is known and
unknown value in the old seeds.

For many years it has been possible to preserve the frozen semen. It is
not a cook book procedure each specie takes its own fluid to assure good
survival rates. About 20 years ago we discovered ways to freeze embryos so
a complete animal could be stored for future use. As of yet I don't know
of any banks that preserve genetic diversity using this method.

With the advent of cloning we have a mechanism for preserving genetic
diversity of large numbers of animals at a small cost. How long a frozen
cell will remain viable must be determined but theoretically it is no
different than how the plant seed bank works. Raising a new generation for
fresh storage material will be a great deal more expensive but it would be
affordable if spread around the word to many institutions.

I believe that the same technology that is being damned for reducing
diversity gives us increasingly better ways to preserve it. No breeder of
plants or animals wants to loose any variety let alone a species because
they need the diversity to build new varieties.

I think all sides of the current agriculture policy support preserving
diversity. I am sure that the high tech guys have the best means to do it.

Gordon Couger gcouger@couger.com
Retired Farmer www.couger.com/gcouger

Date: 5 Jan 2001 17:13:37 -0000
From: Jeff | Block address
Subject: Peter Raven - Pesticide Safety

I find Dr. Raven's statement in the Times of India interview that in
the US every year pesticide spraying "cause 130,000 cases of sickness in
humans, and 10,000 extra deaths" absolutely preposterous. Can he
provide a single reputable literature citation to support this outlandish
statement? I think not.

The facts are to the contrary. As Steve Milloy pointed out earlier this
week in his piece on the myths of organic foods, leading pesticide critic
Dr. Phil Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine acknowledges that
no data indicate legally applied pesticides have caused even one health
problem despite more than 50 years of use on agricultural crops.
Certainly, the infrequent cases of pesticide misuse do not lead to
anything even close to the levels of health problems cited in Dr. Raven's

Dr. Raven is well intentioned in his zest for the future of agbiotech. I
believe that making gross misstatements about the safety of pesticides,
which have served mankind so well and will continue to do so for the
distant future, as a way of promoting agbiotech serves no useful purpose
what so ever.

Jeff Graham