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January 10, 2001


German Greens, Bathua, Poll, WSJ, Benefits, Brightsparks,


Now research "doesn't matter" in Germany as Greens take offices.



Two Named to New German Agency in Shuffle Over Beef Disease

New York Times
January 11, 2001


Chancellor Gerhard Schröder created a new super-ministry for food,
agriculture and consumer protection today and handed it to the
environmentalist Greens ... "Europeans do not want genetically modified
food -- period," said Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, of the Greens. "It
does not matter what research shows, they just do not want it and that has
to be respected."

Date: Jan 11 2001 02:00:49 EST
From: Roger Morton
Subject: Is Shiva magic bullet toxic?

I have a question for Vandana Shiva. She is championing a plant called
bathua as an alternative to the new vitamin A variety of rice produced by
Indgo Potrykus (http://www.biotech-info.net/blind_rice.html). I have been
looking into Bathua which is Chenopodium album.

My question is - has Dr Shiva considered the fact that Chenopodium album
might be poisonous? What is the effect of long term consumption of this
plant? This plant has high concentrations of oxalic acid - a know plant
toxin. Why is this plant a good alternative to golden rice if it has the
potential to be toxic?

Reference List

Doaigey,A.R.: (1991) Occurrence, type, and location of calcium oxalate
crystals in leaves and stems of 16 species of poisonous plants. American
Journal of Botany 78: 1608-1616.
Abstract: Three types of crystals were identified by light microscopy in 16
species of poisonous plants growing naturally in Saudi Arabia: druses,
prismatics and crystal sand. Raphides and styloids were not observed in any
of the species studied. Druses were frequently found in the leaf midrib and
in the cortex and pith of the stem. By contrast, crystal sand and prismatic
crystals were rare and occurred in the leaf, intercostal lamina and in the
vascular tissues. The absence of the 3 types of calcium oxalate crystals in
the stem and leaves of the following 7 species was demonstrated: Ammi
majus, Anagallis arvensis, Calotropis procera, Citrullus colocynthis,
Euphorbia peplis, Hyoscyamus muticus and Solanum nigrum. They were,
however, found in the leaves or stems of a further 9 species: Anabasis
articulata, Chenopodium album, Convolvulus arvensis, Datura stramonium,
Nerium oleander, Ricinis communis, Rumex nervosus, Pergularia tomentosa and
Withania somnifera.

Lopez,T., Odriozola,E.R. and Cseh,S.: (1988) Toxicological aspects of
Chenopodium album. Veterinaria Argentina 5: 230, 231-230, 236.
Abstract: C. album is a widespread weed in Argentina. It contains a maximum
concentration of 11.1% of total oxalates and 6.9% of soluble oxalates when
flowering. It has caused poisoning of sheep and cattle in other countries.

Singh,P.P. and Saxena,S.N.: (1972) Effect of maturity on the oxalate and
cation contents of six leafy vegetables. Indian Journal of Nutrition and
Dietetics 9: 269-276.
Abstract: The leafy vegetables, amaranth (Amaranthus gangeticus),
khar-bathua (Chenopodium murale), bathua (Chenopodium album), purslane
(Portulaca oleracea) and spinach beet (Beta vulgaris) were examined at 5
stages of maturity. In early stages of growth oxalate and cations were
uniformly distributed in leaves and stems. In later stages oxalate and
cation contents increased in leaves and decreased in stems. The oxalic acid
content in leaves paralleled the cation content at different stages of
maturity. Both soluble and insoluble oxalate of leaves increased
progressively with maturity

Dr Roger Morton

Date: Jan 11 2001 13:18:24 EST
From: Susan Smith
Subject: Say YES to biotech!

Here's your chance to vote YES for biotech! I don't
know about agreeing with their take of "surrendering"
to biotech, but I don't want to make it easy for them
to claim that everyone wants to fight it, either.

See below:

-- a poll from The Edmonds Institute

An article from the Toronto Star recently quoted the
vice-president of an international consulting firm
whose client list features all the world's major food
businesses -- including Kellogg Co., ConAgra Foods
Inc., Unilever NV and Aventis SA -- was quoted as
saying that GM crops may soon be so prevalent that
there may no turning back, despite the cost:

"The hope of the industry is that over time the market
is so flooded that there's nothing you can do about
it," he said.

"You just sort of surrender."

The Edmonds Institute, a small, non-profit, public
interest group, is conducting a poll to see if people
believe that they will "just sort of surrender" to GM
(genetically modified) crops.


If you think you are likely to surrender to GM crops,
send an email to: beb@igc.org
saying in the subject line "I surrender".

If you think you are unlikely to surrender to GM
crops, send an email to: beb@igc.org
saying in the subject line "I will not surrender".


Only one vote will be counted from any one e-mail
address. Incomplete messages in the subject line will
NOT count.

Feel free to make comments in the body of the message.
Feel free to forward this message to your friends and

Voting in the poll ends January 16, 2001. TO BE
Standard Time, January 15, 2001.

Poll results will be announced in Chicago in
mid-February and sent to all voters shortly after

Bad-Mouthing Biotech

Wall Street Journal
January 11, 2001

Remember all the hoopla a little while back surrounding a May 1999 Cornell
University study that suggested genetically modified corn, which produces
its own insecticide, was killing monarch butterflies? Scientists found
that when monarchs were confined to a laboratory setting and force-fed GM
corn for four straight days, some died. Environmental groups like
Greenpeace, along with much of the media, embraced the findings as
justification for their long-held suspicions toward "Frankenfood." Across
the pond, European supermarkets cleared their shelves of GM products, and
the European Commission, citing the study, balked at approving the sale of
GM corn in Europe.

Now, 20 months later, we get the rest of the butterfly story in the form
of a timely cautionary tale. In an effort to confirm the Cornell findings,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture commissioned comprehensive field
studies at several major research universities. In November, while America
was preoccupied with another butterfly situation down in Florida, these
field study results came in. The verdict?

"Fears that genetically modified corn is killing monarch butterflies are
not supported by new research," wrote Sharon Schmickle of the Minneapolis
Star Tribune, the first media outlet to report the findings. "Indeed," she
continued, " the monarchs fared better at the edges of one Minnesota GM
cornfield than they did in a nearby wooded area." Comparing survival rates
between those butterflies exposed to GM corn and those not exposed,
Richard Hellmich, a USDA researcher at Iowa State University, said: "If
there are any differences out there, they aren't very profound."

These findings don't surprise anyone able to objectively read the results
of the original Cornell study, including its lead researcher, John Losey.
"Even as his work was published," the Times of London reported last month,
"Dr. Losey himself sounded caveats." He noted, for example, that his
findings applied only to laboratory research and, unlike the subsequent
field studies that showed no harm to the butterflies, were not designed to
replicate actual conditions found in the wild. "Yet while Dr. Losey's 1999
study was reported on front pages," said the Times, "the latest findings
have barely had a hearing."

No surprise, there. For the alarmists who distorted the original findings,
the well-being of the monarch butterfly is, at best, a secondary concern.
The real target is biotechnology, which has made it possible to grow more
food on less land and with fewer chemicals. Biotech crops were first
approved by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug
Administration -- neither of which has a reputation of acting hastily on
such matters -- back in 1995. Today, some 60% of goods on American grocery
shelves are products of biotechnology.

In this month's Reason magazine, science correspondent Ronald Bailey
reports that one scientific panel after another has concluded that biotech
foods are safe to eat. Of course, none of this matters to the anti-biotech
crowd, which, in addition to Greenpeace, Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin,
also includes groups with names like Seeds of Resistance, Third World
Network and Cropatistas. "As one tracks the war against green biotech,"
writes Mr. Bailey, "it becomes ever clearer that its leaders are not
primarily concerned about safety. What they really hate is capitalism and
globalization." Here's a sampling from Mae-Wan Ho of the Third World
Network, who warns: "Genetic engineering biotechnology is an unprecedented
intimate alliance between bad science and big business which will spell
the end of humanity as we know it, and the world at large."

Despite such histrionics, biotechnological advancement in the U.S.
continues apace. What's sad is that these activists are, with some
success, using misinformation to scare those countries most desperately in
need of what biotechnology can offer. The World Health Organization
estimates that five million children die each year from malnutrition.
Millions more suffer ailments such as blindness from vitamin deficiencies.
Bioengineered crops could go a long way toward addressing these problems.
Too bad some prefer to play politics.

Benefits bring scientists to biotech food's defense

The Pantagraph
By Chris Anderson
January 10, 2001

URBANA - Almost everything eaten by U.S. consumers contains
biotechnological ingredients, and not a single, adverse effect from
consuming the food has been documented, according to a food scientist and
former food industry researcher.

Susan Harlander, president of Minnesota-based BIOrational Consultants
Inc., told a crowded room of farmers and agrichemical industry
representatives attending the University of Illinois Crop Protection
Technology Conference Tuesday that biotechnology yields safer food and a
cleaner environment for consumers.

"When I worked at Pillsbury, we asked 1,000 consumers what they thought
about biotechnology and other food issues every other week. They primarily
support biotechnology in food because it reduces pesticide use.
Secondarily, they support it from a food safety standpoint," said
Harlander, who has also worked for Green Giant and Land O' Lakes.

Vegetable processing companies, she noted, have become increasingly
interested in biotechnology to control field pests, such as corn earworm
in sweet corn. Growing pest resistant varieties ensures worms won't be
found in a can of corn, she noted.
Furthermore, insects often introduce ways for toxins to form on food. If
the insects can be controlled without pesticide, fewer toxins will form,
she added.

"Genetic engineering gives us a tool to transfer one gene in a precise and
predictable way. The Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug
Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture all rigorously test
genetically modified foods . Plants modified through traditional breeding
are not. And we have been doing that for thousands of years," said
Harlander, who helped FDA and USDA write rules for testing genetically
modified foods .
She noted that data from 20 food companies regarding consumer calls they
receive indicates that very few deal with concerns about biotechnology.
Pillsbury staff fielded about 3 million consumer calls per year when
Harlander worked there, with only 150 dealing with biotechnology.

While at Land O'Lakes, Harlander said consumers told the company they
wanted a milk product free of bovine growth hormone. They also wanted it
labeled as such, and said they would pay more for it. The company complied
only to discover that consumers would not pay a penny more for the

"Consumer awareness is increasing slightly, so education can go a long
way. Most U.S. consumers say they are not concerned about labeling foods
for biotechnology product content. They do want labels to provide
nutritional and health information," she said.
Peter Goldsbrough, a Purdue University horticulture professor, agreed with
Harlander that consumer education by scientists and farmers will resolve
much of the controversy about biotechnology.

"Regulations, too, will instill consumer confidence. That may be the most
important aspect," said Goldsbrough, a Scotland native. "I'm a United
Kingdom citizen, and there's been a lot of discussion about biotechnology
there. Science has not done a good job of explaining these technologies.
And I think we will have to understand that there are some people who
don't see things in the same light."

A lot of new biotechnology products will likely decrease consumer
criticism of such foods because they contain direct consumer benefits,
including improved health, Goldsbrough and Harlander predicted. Golden
Rice, which contains vitamin A, will be commercially available in two
years to growers.

Tomatoes containing high levels of lycopene, which prevents prostate
cancer, also are being developed. Vaccines also will be delivered through
food as well as genes that remove allergens and toxins.


'No Alternative To Genetically Modified Foods'

Times of India
January 11, 2001

Genetically modified (GM) foods may one day be the only solution for a
world supporting 100 billion people where only 10 per cent of the land
available can be devoted to agriculture, according to a British expert.

By the year 2020, a nation like China would have to import grain equal to
the amount produced by all of North America now, Janet Bainbridge said. A
time would soon come when countries would have to look at the quality
rather than the quantity of food and value-added, additional nutrient
foods will have to substitute for quantity, she added.

Bainbridge, decorated with the Order of the British Empire, is director of
the School of Science and Technology at the University of Teeside. She is
also chairperson of the Committee on Novel Foods and Processes that
advises the British government on modified food. Her area of special
interest is regulations that govern GM foods.

Bainbridge is part of a Brightsparks team that is participating in a week
long festival of Indo-British partnership in science. The program, spread
over several major Indian cities from January 6 to 13, is aimed at
spotlighting British and Indian achievements in science. This year the
program looks at the impact of biotechnology on society, with special
emphasis on food and health.

Speaking at a symposium organised jointly by Anna University's Centre for
Biotechnology and the British Council, Bainbridge said while it was tough
to convince the people to adopt GM food, it was more difficult to convince
governments to accept it. While in the United States about 70 per cent of
the food on the shelves is modified in some way or the other, in Europe
there is only 20 per cent acceptance, she said.

Noting that in the US meat protein comprised 70 per cent of the diet while
in Europe it formed about 30 per cent of the diet, she said after the mad
cow disease the West is looking more and more at sources of protein in

She said the British government had not yet allowed the sale of GM foods
in the open market as "first generation products were not beneficial to
consumers". Switzerland had, however, thought GM products were good, she

Bainbridge told IANS that for a country like India, biotechnology research
would have to look at specific products keeping in mind the local
conditions, which are very different from those in Europe and the United
States. As food habits differ, the emphasis would have to be in the plant
sector rather than the animal food sector.

"Public understanding of science is very important and public opinion is
very important," she said. India too would soon have to put in place laws
and regulations that govern GM foods as the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
regime comes into force and more multinationals bring in their products to
the Indian market, she said.

Britain's experience in framing regulations could help Indian regulators,
she said. The two countries need to look at how the British experience can
be translated to India, she said.

Bainbridge said it was time to look beyond Dolly and Polly, the Scottish
sheep clones. The benefits of biotechnology in therapeutics, in developing
value added nutrient rich food, would have to be exploited, she said.

"Instead of depending on GM imports like American maize and oil seeds, it
is better to add value to locally grown crops," she said. "India could
learn a lot from the British experience," she reiterated, noting that
Britain had experimented with tomato genes. The already available
knowledge in the area and the technology could be modified to suit India
conditions and applied here, she said.

Outlining the possibilities biotechnology held for the future, Bainbridge
said it could be used to develop maize varieties immune to pests, thereby
helping cut down on the use of harmful pesticides, or to develop drought
resistant varieties of crops. Enough experiments and studies had been done
in the world on potatoes, cucumber, rape seed, maize and tomato for it to
be safely adopted, she said.

Distinguishing the controversial terminator technology, used in Monsanto
seeds and BT cotton imported by India, from genetic modification of food,
she said "food safety and transparency" of the processes should be kept
foremost in mind. "Ideological and ethical questions should be addressed
first. Rigorous and detailed research on genetic modification should be
undertaken before any such program is allowed in the public domain," she

While the terminator technology "is very contentious and is an undesirable
change, GM technology is no better nor worse," she said.

POLL-U.S. farmers to cut bio-crop output only slightly

By Randy Fabi
January 10, 2001

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan 10 (Reuters) - Most U.S. farmers have shrugged off
global concerns about genetically modified crops and plan only slightly to
reduce their 2001 spring plantings, according to a Reuters survey released
on Wednesday.

Farmers said they decided to cut their plantings of genetically modified
corn, soybeans and cotton by 4 percent overall, with all the declines
coming from two varieties, Roundup Ready soybeans and Bt corn. Sowings of
the other varieties would rise modestly.

In a test of how U.S. farmers have reacted to temporary halts in foreign
purchases of bio-crops, Reuters surveyed 400 attendees of this week's
annual meeting of the nation's largest farm organization, the American
Farm Bureau Federation.

U.S. farmers widely plant genetically modified crops but this practice is
controversial in major markets like Japan and Europe where health concerns
have been raised, especially after last year's revelation that traces of
StarLink bio-corn foods approved for animal feed were found in U.S.
grocery products.

About 60 percent of farmers responding to the survey said the StarLink
bio-corn controversy had no impact on their planting intentions. But some
indicated they believed StarLink had frightened consumers and soured other
nations' appetite for U.S. grain exports at least in the short term.

"The fear from consumers around the world about StarLink has driven me to
not plant any Bt corn this year," an Iowa farmer said. "But I plan to
plant biotech again once people get their heads screwed on right and
realize GM crops are safe."

The Reuters survey gives an indication of trends in gene-altered crop
planting intentions among American farmers. The poll does not represent a
scientific sampling of all growers and does not attempt to weight
responses by state, size of farm, or other criteria.

The 400 farmers surveyed by Reuters said they have about 354,388 acres of

Japan, the biggest U.S. corn buyer, sharply cut purchases of U.S. corn
until an international agreement was reached in December to test and
sample U.S. shipments for StarLink. Europe, which has strict rules for
labeling foods containing gene-spliced ingredients, never purchased any

About 81 percent of farmers surveyed at the Farm Bureau meeting said they
had not made, or plan to make, any investments to segregate genetically
modified crops despite growing global demands for biotech testing of grain

In the survey, growers indicated they would plant 15 percent less Bt corn
than last year and 4 percent less Roundup Ready soybeans.


Increases were planned for other gene-spliced crops. Sowings of Roundup
Ready corn would rise by 6 percent, Bt cotton by 8 percent and Roundup
Ready cotton by 12 percent, according to the survey.

Roundup Ready crops are engineered to protect plants from a highly
effective weedkiller known as Roundup, while Bt varieties produce a
natural pesticide that repels destructive insects.

American farmers typically purchase most of their seeds for spring
planting between November and February. About 56 percent of the farmers
surveyed by Reuters said they had already purchased their genetically
modified seed.

Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman said the results of the Reuters survey
were "reasonable" under current economic conditions.

"I think producers are looking at what (biotech crops) mean to their
operations in terms of economics and market, and I think these shifts
probably bear that out," Stallman said.

The reduction in overall biotech plantings could reflect the lower corn
acreage anticipated this year.

Dick Smetana, director of research for AgResource, forecast corn plantings
at 78.6 million acres this year, down 1 million acres from 2000. Jim
Sullivan of Sparks Companies put likely corn plantings at 78.2 million


Growers generally endorsed bio-crops, saying their benefits were
overshadowed by criticism from environmental activists.

U.S. environment groups have criticized the federal government for failing
to thoroughly test and check bioengineered crops for safety with human
health and the environment. A National Academy of Sciences panel last year
cautiously endorsed gene-altered foods, saying that the government should
carefully monitor and study the new crops.

Many farmers surveyed said bioengineered crops help growers reduce
pesticide use and improve yields. Scientists are now developing crops with
more nutritional content and other consumer benefits.

"If penicillin had to go through the same scrutiny, it would have never
been approved," said Don Batie, a Nebraska farmer. "We need to get sound
science more involved in people's opinions."

Last year's Reuters survey found respondents planned significant declines
in Roundup Ready soybeans, Roundup Ready corn, Bt corn and Bt cotton.
Farmers interviewed for that survey also said they would plant more
Roundup Ready cotton.