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 17, 2001


Pretty, Red Tape, Organic healthier?, FDA Rules,


Hello agbioworlders,

I am not sure which story to believe. In one Mr. Pretty supports the
golden rice and in the other story from the NGIN web site he is against it.

also, in the article from New Scientist
(http://www.newscientist.com/dailynews/news.jsp?id=ns9999325) he is
advocating for use of non-ploughing techniques for the sustainable
farming. But I have read that transgenic technology also makes use of this
technique. For example, see following url:


Thank you,


GM rice 'best hope of feeding world'

The Daily Telegraph
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
16 January 2001

THE best hope of feeding the world lies in genetically modified crops
because organic and other "sustainable" farming methods would not be able
to do the job, a conference at St James's Palace was told yesterday.

Professor Jules Pretty, of Essex University, an expert on organic farming
and "sustainable" agricultural methods, said it would be difficult to
tackle the malnutrition facing 800 million people without using
developments such as genetically modified rice with added vitamin A.

Professor Pretty, organiser of the conference on reducing poverty through
sustainable farming, said it was difficult to see how UN targets of
reducing world malnutrition by 2015 could be achieved without embracing
such technology.

He said: "Vitamin A rice will make a hell of a difference because these
people are suffering today and we can make a difference right away. It's
all very well to call for nice diverse diets but it will take us 20 years
to get there."

Dr Per Pinstrup-Andersen, of the International Food Policy Research
Institute in Washington, said a way of dealing most immediately with the
malnutrition facing the world's poor was to breed vitamin A and iron into
the foods they ate anyway.

'Feeding the world?'

'Strange fruit'


TELFORD, Shropshire, United Kingdom, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - UK farmers
say an unprecedented increase in environmental regulation threatens to
bring the agricultural industry to its knees. Environmental group Friends
of the Earth says farmers should quit whining.

For full text and graphics, visit:

Study Says `Organic' Food Isn't Healthier Than Modified Food

Zurich, Jan. 18

Internutrition, a Swiss research group whose sponsors include Novartis AG,
Nestle SA and Monsanto Co. , said ``organic'' food is not healthier than
conventionally produced or genetically modified food, Swiss daily
newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported.

A study by Internutrition and Stiftung Gen Suisse says products grown by
organic farmers may even present dangers not present in those farmed
conventionally or genetically altered, the paper reported.

On the basis of these findings and a need for further research, Gen Suisse
said renouncing agriculture involving genetic engineering would be
detrimental. ``Gen-Lex,'' a group of legal changes to regulate genetic
technologies, will be discussed in Swiss parliament in the spring, the
paper said.

Switzerland's Novartis and Monsanto of the U.S. are among the producers of
genetically modified seeds. The products have come under fire from critics
who say they haven't been adequately studied and may prove dangerous.

FDA Issues Biotech Food Rules; Proposals Address Labeling

Washington Post
January 18, 2001
By Marc Kaufman

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday announced its first guidelines
for companies on how to label products as free of genetically engineered
ingredients or enhanced through biotechnology .

The agency also proposed a rule backed by the biotech industry that would
require companies to notify the FDA 120 days before selling any new
genetically engineered products or ingredients. Most companies now do that

The proposals are in line with those made by the Clinton administration in
May to address criticism of FDA policies on biotechnology . "These
measures will permit the review process to be more transparent to the
public, one of the primary issues voiced during FDA's public hearings on
this issue," FDA Commissioner Jane Henney said.

The proposed guidelines do not require labeling of genetically engineered
foods or safety testing beyond what the FDA already does.
The proposals were well received yesterday by industry groups, but they
disappointed activists who question the safety of biotech ingredients and
foods, and who argue that the public wants to know whether their food
contains biotech products.

"The result of today's action is simple," said Carol Tucker Foreman of the
Consumer Federation of America. "Consumers are told public agencies are
looking at these products when in fact they are not. They believe these
products are safe when in fact there is no assurance of that beyond the
opinion of the manufacturer."
She and other consumer advocates have called for Congress to tighten
biotechnology regulation, making it more like that in the European Union.
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) has proposed legislation along those
lines in the past, and yesterday he dismissed the FDA's latest action as

But Carl B. Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry
Organization, yesterday praised the FDA proposals, saying they "renewed
grounds for the confidence American consumers have in our food supply and
the regulatory system to ensure its safety."
"The U.S. regulatory system is a model around the world because it is
grounded in science, not superstition or uninformed emotion," Feldbaum

In its draft guidance on voluntary labeling, the FDA indicated that it may
oppose the use of the terms "GMO free" and "not genetically modified." The
agency objected because it's impossible to tell that a product has no
biotech ingredients. It also objected to use of the word "genetic
modification" because farmers have been modifying -- though not
"engineering" -- their products for centuries.

"It seems like the agency almost took the offensive against even voluntary
labeling," said Matt Rand of the National Environmental Trust, part of
coalition that wants stricter rules on biotechnology . "If companies can't
label 'GMO-free' or 'GE-free,' that would be a real loss."

The FDA said it would be "misleading" for a label to say or imply that a
product is safer or of higher quality because it is not bioengineered,
because it has concluded that the presence or absence of biotech products
makes no material difference in the food.

Higher crop yields needed for a hungry world

The Canberra Times
January 18, 2001
By Per Pinstrup-Andersen

AUSTRALIA is an outward-looking nation, deeply involved in the
international community. For that reason, Australians must pay attention
to a few simple trends in the developing world.

By 2020, there will be 1.5 billion additional people in the world, almost
all in poorer countries. Unfortunately, as more and more land is swallowed
up by urbanisation and industrialisation, there will be little new

Consequently, the world's farmers will need to produce 40 percent more
rice, wheat, and other grains on the same amount of land. This cannot be
accomplished without major public investments in agricultural research.

Agricultural research and development have generated astounding increases
in food production in the 20th century. But changes in the financing,
management and organisation of agricultural research are occurring

After decades of rapid expansion, the rate of growth of spending on public
agricultural research has slowed in most countries since the early 1980s.
Moreover, the private sector is now paying for and conducting an
ever-larger share of agricultural research, focused primarily on affluent
markets with high purchasing power. These changes pose a threat to global
food security.

Australia has long been a world leader in supporting agricultural research
in developing countries. As the country debates the appropriate role for
its public sector to play in supporting agricultural research, it's a good
time to reflect on the impact Australia's continued investments can have
on the developing world.

First, wealthy nations have a moral obligation to help the poor by
assisting developing countries in solving their agricultural and food
security problems.

Australia can help by expanding its financial support of agricultural
research and strengthening its collaboration with developing-country
institutions. As such, it should continue its important contribution to
the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an
international body of organisations, governments and private foundations
that focuses on food security and eradicating poverty in developing

Breakthroughs in crop technology can have a dramatic impact on the lives
of poor farmers. For example, at the West African Rice Development
Association, a CGIAR centre based in Cote d'Ivoire, scientists used a
combination of conventional breeding and tissue culture to cross African
and Asian rice varieties.

They created a hardy, leafy rice that denies weeds sunlight. Not only did
it improve yields, but it also reduced the amount of time women spend
weeding, allowing them more time to focus on the health and nutrition of
their children.

Second, Australia is well advanced in biotechnology and should focus
research to improve crops for use by farmers in poor nations.
Private-sector biotech research does not generally focus on the needs of
small-scale farmers, and few developing countries can develop that
technology without help from outside.

Third, with increased globalisation, financial support for R & D is a good
investment, ensuring Australia's continuing role in agricultural trade.
Agricultural R & D promotes economic growth in developing nations, making
them better trading partners with Australia.

The economic rates of returns on agricultural research are usually very
high. A review by the International Food Policy Research Institute of more
than 1000 studies shows that 20 to 80 percent annual rates of return are
common in public-sector agricultural research.

In order to prepare for the impact of increasing globalisation, Australia
must continue to invest heavily in research for its own agriculture.
Globalisation will rapidly increase demands on the export market for
agricultural products from developing countries.

IFPRI projects a doubling of the net imports of grain by developing
countries during the next 20 years and a much faster rise in the net
import of livestock products.

The private sector will do some of the research needed, but the government
must be prepared to pay for the generation of public knowledge. 'Public
funding is needed to focus on improving farming practices in developing

The agenda for agricultural R & D now includes a greater emphasis on
issues such as genetic diversity, food safety, poverty and human health.
Increased crop yields can no longer come at the expense of the
environment, especially since renewable resources used in agriculture -
particularly water - are becoming increasingly scarce.

Public funding is needed to focus on improving farming practices in
developing countries to assist poor farmers to increase their productivity
and incomes.

Policymakers and journalists need to make the case that world food
security beyond 2001 depends on a renewed commitment to public
agricultural research to meet the rising global demand for food.

In an age when land, water and population issues are becoming more
critical to global food security, Australia can set an example for the
rest of the developed world by sustaining its important investments in
agricultural R & D.

Dr Pinstrup-Andersen, Director- General of the Washington-based
International Food Policy Research Institute, arrives in Australia today
to attend a series of meetings and to address the 45th Annual Conference
of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, which meets
in Adelaide on January 22-25. www.ifpri.org
www.general.uwa.edu.au/u/aares/ conf2000-cp.htm

Latin American Federation of Seed Associations (FELAS) Positive Position
on Biotechnology

Jorge Batlle, President of the Republic commented during the XVII Pan
American Conference of Seeds in late November, "The American continent
needs to head GM product research, approval, and trade - given its
agroecological conditions- its soil can provide what the rest of the world
needs. We haven't done this because we (the countries of the continent)
haven't united yet." Batlle expressed support for a document signed by all
countries belonging to the seed organization FELAS, which encourages the
use of plant biotechnology.

This article, "Explicit support for transgenics", originating from El
Observador was posted on the bioplanet site (<http://www.bioplanet.net).

The English translation appears below:

Explicit support for transgenics

Batlle stated that all governments must be proud of collaborating with
this endeavor "that laces us at the forefront of genetics". With outright
support for transgenic materials from Jorge Batlle, President of the
Republic, the XVII Pan American Conference of Seeds held this week at the
Conrad Hotel in Punta del Este came to an end on Wednesday night with the
presence of a large number of renowned seed scientists and businesspeople
from the seed industry. "The American continent needs to head GM product
research, approval, and
trade since -given its agrological conditions- its soil can provide what
the rest of the world needs. We haven't done this because we (the
countries of the continent) haven't united yet," stated Batlle. He
enthusiastically expressed support for a document signed by all
countries belonging to the Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de
Semillas (Felas - Latin-American Federation of Seed Associations).

This Federation encourages the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
or transgenics that are being rejected by consumers and environmental
organizations, mainly in Europe, due to alleged potential risks to human
health and the environment. The Uruguayan President justified the use of
this technology by the dramatic increase of the world's population and the
need for greater
food production. "It is obvious that modifying plants is the solution" to
make them more productive since soils cannot tolerate more chemicals.
Besides backing transgenics, Batlle stressed that representatives from
virtually all America had signed the document. He said that the continent
"is lucky -given its agrological characteristics- to be able to provide
more than other nations, and we haven't done this because we haven't
united as needed."

He also added that America is "telling the world that it is willing to
face the challenge of knowledge, and thereupon to fulfill its
responsibilities towards those who live in the continent and throughout
the world. Any government can and should feel proud of the
opportunity to collaborate in this endeavor that puts us at the forefront
of what can be achieved in the fantastic world of genetics." In response
to European barriers to this type of
products, he referred to the problems that beset that continent with the
mad cow disease, which seems to result from "the use of slaughtered animal
residues to produce animal feed instead of using transgenics which Europe
is still reluctant to use." He added that if the European Union "does not
buy grains in the United States, Canada, Argentina and Australia, which
are the largest grain suppliers in the world, they won't have any other
place to buy them from."

Marc Van Montagu, a Belgian expert and pioneer in transgenics
("the father of genetics" as dubbed by Simon Berkowitz, President of the
Conference during the closing ceremony), stressed in his speech that
consumers must be informed about what the scientific community already
knows, i.e., GMOs do not imply risks to human health, animals or the
environment. Van Montagu said, "GMOs should be understood" and recalled
that food currently produced cannot be defined as natural because is the
result of hundreds of years of selection. Anyway, he added that consumers
must be listened to and that there is a need for new cooperation among the
seed industry, science, and society, so industry can explain in detail
what it is working on, and governments should work with industry to build
trust among consumers. "Otherwise, it won't work," he stressed. This is
more evident in underdeveloped countries -he stated- since it is here
where greater efforts should be made in the future to reduce hunger in the


An International Conference Egypt : 15-17 October, 2001

Too long, the debate on biotechnology has been seen as a debate between
the US and Europe or between the NGOs and the private sector largely in
the industrialized countries. The developing countries have a vital stake
in the pattern of development that the new technology will take. For it
is in the developing countries that 80% of humanity resides and it is in
the developing countries that all of the additional two billion persons
that will be added to the world's population will come. It is in the
developing countries that we will have to double food production in less
than two generations with largely the same amount of land and water. It
is from the developing countries that the bulk of the biological diversity
has been obtained, and it is to the people of the developing countries, in
their poverty and lack of health, that the new technology could bring
significant and even dramatic improvements in their way of life.

Thus the voice of the developing countries needs to be heard much more
forcefully than has been the case so far. Not by just having an
occasional representative in a meeting held in a western capital, but by
being the hosts of the international meetings, and engaging their decision
makers in this debate. Such events would allow these decision makers to
benefit from the multiplicity of views of the most informed and
knowledgable persons in the world, to form their own views and then
hopefully to articulate their official positions in various international
forums in response to this engagement.

To that end, Egypt is inviting leaders from the developing and the
industrialized world: leaders in science, government, NGOs, the media,
farmers groups, philanthropy, academia, the private sector and the civil
society to meet in Egypt on October 15-17 2001. The event should cover
the multi-faceted dimensions of the biotechnology debate: the scientific,
ethical, and safety issues as well as the regulatory, IPR and trade and
economic issues. Too frequently in the past these issues have been
discussed in separate and uncoordinated forums, where the government
representation comes from different ministries and looks at only one part
of the issue. Thus we must bring representation from the ministries of
agriculture, environment, health, education, scientific research, foreign
affairs and international economy and trade who ultimately represent their
countries at so many different venues: the WTO, FAO, WHO, UN, CSD, UNEP,
CBD, WIPO, UPOV, and so many more.

For this event to be truly effective, we must have the very best
scientists meet and interact with each other as well as with the highest
levels of the political, governmental, non-governmental, private sector,
media and philanthropic sectors. To make progress on this multi-faceted
debate we must make a firm commitment to the best science, and the most
rigorous analysis of risks and promises, of legal and moral obligations,
insisting on firm evidence rather than hearsay.

The following is a brief outline of the eight topics to be covered.

1. Where are we going:

The state of cutting edge science. The promise of likely new discoveries.

2. Ethical issues:

Not everything that is technically feasible is ethically desirable.
What are the ethical issues involved in dealing with life forms? Modifying
life forms in a way that conventional breeding could not achieve? Cloning?
How much say do citizens have in deciding what is allowed?

3. Safety issues:

Safety issues should not be underestimated, but what is the best way to
deal with safety concerns? What do we know about the likely risks? How do
we apply the precautionary principle resposnibly in a context of
uncertainty and risk? How do we improve risk analysis using comparative

Also the different aspects of safety must be looked at:

3-a) Human safety: medical aspects, as well as food safety.
3-b) Environmental issues: bio-safety arguments.

4. Economic concentration:

The role of multi-nationals in the seed business in the pharmaceutical
business. The role of national private sector and governments. The
concerns with economic concentration. The arguments about trade.

5. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Who owns the genes? What constitutes adequate patents? The role of the
farmers rights, breeders' rights and IPR. Different regimes: UPOV,
TRIPS/WTO, the multilateral undertaking (FAO), the Cartagena Biosafety
Protocol, and national legislation.

6. Regulatory regimes:

To address all these issues what do we need in terms of international,
regional, national and local (institutional) regulations? The role of the
governments? Of professional associations? The scientists themselves?
Asilomar revisited? the harmonization of regulations.

Liability? Who is responsible for what? Independent bodies for food
safety? for environmental safety? For what?

7. Towards a better future: different role:

What should governments do? How and where should the private sector
invest? The role of the media, the role of the civil society. The role of
international bodies. Partnerships, with whom?

8. Brokering partnerships for action:

Can the conference provide a platform for new alliances of the caring?
South/South collaboration, North/South collaboration,
international-regional-national-local alliances? Government, NGOs,
farmers' groups, research labs and the private sector? public/private
parternships? How? Where?

For further information, please contact:


Dr. Ismail Serageldin
Chair, Program Committee
c/o ICARDA Cairo office
P.O. Box 2416
Cairo, Egypt
Tel.: (+20-2) 5724358/5725785/5735829
Fax: (+20-2) 5728099

Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 15:23:43 -0500
From: calestous_juma@harvard.edu
Subject: [tech.cid] Announcement

Fellowships Science, Technology and Development Overview

The Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Program
<http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidtech/index.html> offers post-doctoral
fellowships in Science, Technology and Development under the auspices
of the Biotechnology and Globalization project
<http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidbiotech/index.html> supported by the
Rockefeller Foundation <http://www.rockfound.org/index.html>. The aim
of the project is to provide research-based information to policy-makers
and the general public on the role of biotechnology in the global economy
with emphasis on its implications for developing countries. The project
covers issues such as evolution of the biotechnology industry;
biotechnology in international trade; intellectual property rights in
biotechnology; biotechnology and international relations; bioprospecting;
biotechnology in
developing countries; environmental aspects of biotechnology;
biotechnology and human health; and ethics, social values and

STI Program

The STI Program addresses the roles of science, technology and
innovation and, more specifically, examines recent trends in globalization
and their implications for the use of science and technology in the
developing world. Additionally, the program focuses on finding ways to
mobilize the world's pool of scientific and technological knowledge to
contribute to economic growth in the developing world. Emphasis is placed
on science and technology policy issues related to biotechnology and
globalization, pharmaceutical research and the conservation of biological

The STI Program is implemented through research, training and outreach. It
is a joint activity of the Center for International Development
(CID)<http://www.cid.harvard.edu/> at Harvard University and the Science,
Technology and Public Policy (STPP) Program at the Belfer Center for
Science and International Affairs
at Harvard University.

It is implemented in cooperation with the Program in Science, Technology
and Society <http://web.mit.edu/STS/> at the Massachusetts Institute of


Fellowships are offered for one year, with an option for renewal. STI
Program seeks applicants from developing countries in fields related to
the application of science and technology to development, with emphasis on
biotechnology and globalization. Disciplinary background may include
molecular biology, genetics, botany, agronomy, ecology, agriculture,
economics, law, political science, philosophy and international relations
and other relates fields. Ability to operate in an interdisciplinary
environment is an essential requirement. Fellows are expected to
participate in collaborative activities. Their work is expected to lead
to a book, monograph, or other significant publication during their


The STI Program offers 10-month stipends of $31,000, for the period of
September 2001 through May 2002. The awards are limited in number and
so interested applicants are encouraged to seek funding from other
sources. Applicants should indicate whether they expect full or partial
funding. They should also indicate other potential sources of funding.
Non-stipendiary fellowships will also be considered. Where possible,
office space and supplies, computers with LAN and Internet connections,
and access to Harvard University libraries and other facilities will be


Each applicant should submit:

1) a 3 to 5 page research proposal highlighting the relevance of the
candidate's research interests to the Biotechnology and Globalization
project <http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidbiotech/index.html>;

2) a Curriculum Vitae

3) three letters of recommendation (should be submitted directly, by
the referees, to the address below)

4) a list of the names of the referees; and

5) a writing sample, preferably an off-print of a published article, or a
dissertation chapter.


Applications must be received by 15 March 2001.
Mailing Address

Program Coordinator
Science, Technology and Innovation Program
Center for International Development at Harvard University
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA