Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on

Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives





January 7, 2001


New imperialists, Open options, Starlink hoax, Patents


Are green activists the new imperialists?

Times of India
By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar
January 7, 2001

Prof Deepak Lal's inaugural Julian Simon Lecture at the Liberty Institute
in Delhi last month was a scintillating attack on the new cultural
imperialism of international Greens and their local compradors. He says
the Green movement is a secular religion filling the void created in the
West by the retreat of faith in God. Its aim is to assume a new White
Man's Burden and impose its values on the world. The old Christian crusade
for supposedly saving souls has given way to the new Green crusade for
supposedly saving the earth. This new imperialism needs to be resisted as
sternly as the old Christian-colonial one. Its professed aim is to save
the environment, but its practical effect in many instances may be ruinous
for poor countries.

Deepak Lal enjoins us, first of all, to stand up to local converts, the
modern descendants of what the Chinese called "rice Christians" and
"secondary barbarians", such as Vandana Shiva, Medha Patkar and Arundhati
Roy. He says the claim that green goals are in keeping with Hindu
cosmology is reminiscent of the attempt of Christian missionaries in the
19th centuries to smuggle the caste system into Christianity to encourage
more conversions. This produced a unique bunch of caste-ridden Christians
that would have horrified both Jesus and Manu.

Second, Lal argues cogently that India must refuse to sign a series of
proposed treaties and conventions promoted by Greens, especially those
aimed against the use of DDT, genetically modified foods, and trade in
supposedly hazardous substances. Further, India must resist the inclusion
of Green standards in WTO, which will open up Third World countries to
trade sanctions.

Lal says, pithily, that on finding themselves unable to get elected in
democratic countries, Greens now use agitations to pressure international
development agencies like the WTO and World Bank to carry out their
agendas. What cannot be achieved through democratic means can be achieved
by street power. Certainly NGO demonstrations at the Seattle meeting of
the WTO changed the whole direction of the trade debate.

The Green position on genetically modified food is especially outrageous
and unscientific. Nothing is commoner in nature than crosses across
genomes, and doing it in the laboratory simply mimics nature. Genetically
modified "golden rice" is rich in beta-carotene, and can greatly help
millions suffering from Vitamin A deficiency, yet Greens oppose this as a
Frankenstein food. The Greens are the monsters in this case. They coolly
ignore the elementary scientific truth that all the cereals we eat
represent trans-genomic combinations over thousands of years, and that man
has modified cereals beyond all recognition.

There is no such thing as natural farming: agriculture is a man-made
activity not found in nature. The future of agricultural productivity, and
hence of poverty alleviation, lies in genetic modification, and we must
not allow Green imperialism to come in the way.

I agree entirely with Lal that we are witnessing a new White Man's Burden.
Perhaps we should call it the White NGO's Burden. But while we need to be
on our guard, I think we must recognise that the new White Man's Burden,
like the old one, carries with it much that is desirable. The British Raj
brought in, along with colonial exploitation, modern notions of democracy,
republican values, civil rights, gender rights and other enlightenment
values. We got rid of the white man, yet kept much of the White Man's
Burden. We refused to have it imposed on us, and refused to accept it
wholesale. But we recognised that many parts of it did indeed have value,
and incorporated it within our own ethos.

We need to do the same with the White NGO's Burden. Like its predecessor,
it has much that is breathtakingly arrogant, ignorant and racist. Even so,
there is much to be learned from the rest of the world in regard to
ecology, and the imperialist tone of the White NGO's Burden must not
produce a knee-jerk rejection from us. Like all crusaders, White NGOs
exaggerate and invent, and present only those facts convenient to their
crusade. But so too do our own politicians, academics and journalists.

Instead of rejecting wholesale what green imperialists say, we need to
extract what is of value and reject the dross. Nor should we underestimate
possible gains from international conventions.

For instance, the evidence on global warming is far from conclusive. The
world experienced global cooling from the 1940s to the 1970s, leading to
predictions of a new ice Age.

Subsequently, temperatures rose. Any credible theory of climate change
must explain the period of cooling as well as warming. I have yet to hear
any theory of greenhouse gases that does so, and so I remain a sceptic.

Yet I think Lal overdoes his attack on the precautionary principle
proposed by Greens. This principle urges precautions that may ultimately
prove unnecessary just in case the outcome is really bad. In other words,
let us incur some costs today to avoid a small possibility of catastrophe
later. In many cases I would agree with Lal that it is not worth paying
the upfront costs, but global warming is an exception. The greatest
security threat India faces is not from China or Pakistan. It is from the
possibility that global warming will raise the sea-level by two metres,
inundating one-third of Bangladesh.

That will send up to 100 million Bangladeshis across the Indian border in
search of land and jobs, changing the demography of the eastern region and
causing ethnic and economic conflict.

It will raise the Assam problem all over again on a horribly magnified
scale. So it is in our national interest to encourage international
treaties to stem global warming, even if it means agreeing to some
carefully limited curbs on our own emissions. Maybe this will turn out to
be unnecessary. But the potential cost-benefit ratio is such that, in this
case, we should take up the White NGO's Burden.


Farm scientists keep option open on transgenic food

The Economic Times (India)
By Sudha Nagaraj
January 8, 2001

NEW DELHI: "WE will decide what is good for us and Greenpeace be damned."
Reactions of farm scientists range from a categorical denouncement of
anti-genetically modified organisms groups like this to those advocating a
cautious approach.

Come to a conscious conclusion only after a thorough risk-benefit
analysis, is what the latter preach.

As the government keeps its options open, allowing test trials of Bt gene
in cotton, the scientific community that gathered here for the Indian
Science Congress pressed for a commission on genetic modification.

Proposed by agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan, the commission
comprising experts, policy makers, industry and NGOs would provide the
right mechanism to blend the evolutionary method of normal breeding with
the revolutionary process of genomics.

Speaking to ET, Swaminathan conceded that the scientific community was
divided over the issue. Advocating a policy of hastily but slowly, the
eminent food expert said the country needed speed in its biotechnology
research and caution in its applications.

This would help ascertain the safety aspects of introducing into nature
what was not originally existing in the gene, but also give a boost to
PSU-based research.

Ismail Serageldin, World Bank vice-president and former chairman, CGIAR,
Cairo, Egypt, qualified that any risk analysis of GM foods must be done on
a comparitive basis. Of course there are risks, but so far all the
food-poisoning deaths reported are those arising from organic food-
contaminations like Salmonella, he said.

On the threat of MNC monopoly, he asked, The US government took Microsoft
to court over the issue, it did not ban software, did it? RS Paroda,
president of the ISCA, agreed, adding the resistance to GM foods would
fade just as the oppostion to hybrids did.

Gurdev Khush of the Internation Rice Research Institute, Manila, insisted
there was false propoganda by ill-informed groups on GMOs. He pointed out
that 40m hectares of genetically modified soyabean and corn were being
cultivated in Canada, Australia and US and there was no evidence of any
harmful effect on human health and life.

It is being widely distributed and consumed widely. In Europe there is no
problem of food security and they can afford to say no to GM foods. But in
India where the population is increasing by 1.7 per cent annually and over
230m people are food insecure, we have to produce at least 60-70 per cent
more food with less water, less land, less labour and less chemicals...
how is it possible, but through technology, he asked.

Mr Khush warned that the information distortion on Bt (Bacillus
thurengensis) cotton which is undergoing trials in Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka and Maharashtra would derail the project aimed at protecting
cotton which is susceptible to insects.

Do you know that 50 per cent of the insecticides used in the country are
sprayed on cotton crops? Bt cotton could well be the solution, he said.

He found support in Raju Barwale, MD of Mahyco, which is involved in the
project through its collaboration with the seed MNC Monsanto. He lamented
the slow adoption of transgenic crops due to the slow regulatory process.
S Shantaram of the International Food Policy Research Institute,

The political establishment many be hesitant to take a pro-GMO stance.
Yet, policymakers seem to be joining the scientific community. As Manju
Sharma, secretary, department of biotechnology , said: India has no option
but to experience genomic revolution under a strict transparent bio-safety
protocol regime.

The monumental hoax behind the StarLink scare

Henry I. Miller
National Post

What do consumers need to know about biotechnology? The bottom line is
that the controversies currently raging over gene-splicing, or
genetic modification (GM), are a complete hoax. GM is merely an extension,
or refinement, of less precise and predictable
techniques for genetically improved products with which
consumers and government regulators have long been both familiar and
comfortable. GM-derived food and other products are safer than those made
with less precise techniques.

Consider the widespread hysteria over "contamination" of chips, tortillas,
taco shells, and even chicken feed with tiny amounts of a GM variety of
corn called StarLink. Not a single person is at all likely to be harmed by
any of these products. Having said that, there is a problem: the
wrong-headed regulatory policies toward GM plants of the United States and
other governments.

StarLink corn differs from other commercial varieties by containing a
protein called Cry9C. This bacterial protein, introduced into corn with GM
techniques, has been approved in the United States for animal feed but not
for humans because, although it resembles no known allergens, it did not
immediately degrade in digestion tests. (Because most food allergens are
not readily digested, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency wanted more data before concluding
consumers could not be allergic to Cry9C.)

The food products in question are actually far less likely than thousands
of other products on the market to cause allergic or other health
problems. Fava beans, a fixture of upscale restaurant cuisine in North
America and Europe, can be life-threatening to persons with a hereditary
enzyme deficiency, for example, and occasionally there is
contamination with peanuts -- a known, potent allergen -- of products like
candy bars that are supposed to be peanut-free. Unlike those situations,
however, even after exhaustive testing no allergic reactions, toxicity or
any other problem has been demonstrated with Cry9C or any substance
similar to it.

The ripple effect of this non-problem concerning StarLink is monumental,
and growing. Mission Foods, the United States' largest manufacturer of
tortilla products, recalled all its yellow corn products -- a move that
may cost the company as much as US$10-million. Major U.S. grocery chains
removed certain corn products from their shelves. Tyson's, the world's
largest producer of chickens,
won't even feed StarLink to its birds.

Finally, StarLink "contamination" has been found in corn exported to
Japan -- an important development because Japan annually imports
about 16 million tons of U.S. feed corn (worth around $2-billion) and has
a policy of zero tolerance for the banned variety. The Japanese Ministry
of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has accepted a baroque U.S. plan
for testing corn exports to ensure that they are free from StarLink. Under
the agreement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will assume
responsibility for sampling and certifying all
export corn at certain export locations.

Predictably, U.S. officials have blamed the manufacturer of the corn,
Aventis SA, accusing the company of failing in its responsibility to
segregate StarLink from other varieties of corn that are normally eaten by

But the real blame lies in the United States' regulatory policy toward GM
plants and foods. The EPA holds GM foods to a higher standard than similar
foods, requiring GM crop and garden plants that have been genetically
improved for enhanced pest or disease resistance to undergo hugely
expensive testing, as though they were chemical pesticides. The policy
fails to recognize important differences between genetic approaches to
enhancing plants' natural resistance and spraying plants with synthetic,
toxic chemicals.

The EPA's policy is so potentially damaging and outside scientific norms
that it has galvanized the scientific community. A consortium of dozens of
scientific societies representing more than 180,000 biologists and food
professionals published a report warning that the policy will discourage
the development of new pest-resistant crops and prolong and increase the
use of synthetic chemical pesticides,
increase the regulatory burden for developers of pest-resistant
crops, limit the use of biotechnology to larger developers who can pay the
inflated regulatory costs and handicap U.S. companies competing in
international markets.

Scientists worldwide agree that adding genes to plants does not make them
less safe, either to the environment or for humans to eat. 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 man-made "species" which resulted from
combining genes from bread wheat and a grass sometimes called quackgrass
or couchgrass. Possessing all the chromosomes of wheat and
one extra whole genome from the quackgrass, T. agropyrotriticum has been
independently produced in Canada, the United States, the former Soviet
Union, France, Germany and China, and is grown for both forage and grain.

Gene-splicing is more precise, circumscribed and predictable than other
techniques, and can better exploit the subtleties of plant pathology. For
example, the corn in the recalled products was made by splicing in a
bacterial gene that produces a protein toxic to corn borer insects but not
to people or other mammals. The GM corn not only repels pests but also is
less likely to contain Fusarium, a
toxic fungus often carried into the plants by the insects. That
significantly reduces the levels of the fungal toxin fumonisin, which is
known to cause fatal diseases in horses and swine that eat infected corn,
and esophageal cancer in humans. Thus, GM corn is not only cheaper to
produce but is a potential boon to public health. Moreover, by reducing
the need for spraying chemical pesticides on crops, it is environmentally

Yet, regulatory agencies have regulated GM foods in a discriminatory,
unnecessarily burdensome way. They have imposed requirements that could
not possibly be met for conventionally bred crop plants. Paradoxically,
only the more precisely crafted GM crops are exhaustively, repeatedly (and
expensively) reviewed before they can enter the field or food supply.
Policy makers have ignored a fundamental rule of regulation: The degree of
scrutiny of a product or
activity should be commensurate with the risk.

Rather than punishing those who develop and market insect-resistant,
chemical pesticide-replacing, low-fungal-toxin, potentially more healthful
corn, we need to regulate as science and common sense dictate. Regulation
would then cost less, offer greater benefits to the consumer and the
environment, and stimulate innovation.

Henry I. Miller, a physician, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and
the Competitive Enterprise Institute. From 1979-94 he was an official at
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Date: Jan 07 2001 23:12:09 EST
From: "nurhanudin achmad"
Subject: Patent

Dear sir,I have some question, what is the patent backgroud ? and why more
people is not receive patent in living ? so what different about living
and not living ? what about bacteri, it living or not living ?

sorry, my english language is bad.
thank you for your answer.
N. Achmad