The U.S. White House has just posted info on agbiotech on their website
and includes six case studies examining the coordinated regulatory
framework. They are asking for public comments.
Please take time to look at this document and offer your comments - Prakash
Forwarding the Farmer's Take on Biotech
Peg Zenk, Rooster News Network; January 19, 2001 http://ROOSTER.COM/
Lately the news is full of stories attacking or at least raising plenty of
skeptical questions about recent biotechnology developments. Environmental
groups and consumer advocacy organizations seem to get plenty of ink and
air time. But the voice of the farmer has been rarely heard in the growing
biotechnology debate that appears in the general press. An effort by
fourteen farmer-based commodity groups hopes to change that, though.
We need to be more proactive in making sure people know how farmers feel
about key biotechnology issues, says Fred Yoder, a Plain City, OH, farmer
who currently serves on the National Corn Growers Association board and as
chairman of the organizationís Biotech Working Group. ìI think one of the
key misconceptions among consumers right now is that farmers are losing
confidence in biotechnology, due to the expected downward shift in biotech
acreage. But thatís more a reflection of market forces than of farmer
We need to help consumers understand that there is already a high degree
of testing in place for biotech crops that ensures itís high quality, he
adds. And, in light of the StarLink issue, we also need to prove, in the
coming years, that we can straighten out our segregation systems in order
to regain their confidence.
To that end, he and farmer-leaders from other commodity groups, including
the American Farm Bureau, American Soybean Association, National
Cattlemenís Beef Association and the National Cotton Council, have
organized on effort they call Tomorrowís Bounty, which revolves around
developing key messages that will help tell the farmerís story to the
public regarding biotechnology. And they are arming more farmers with
these messages and encouraging them to be accessible to local and regional
media. Key points the group has identified include:
* Food biotechnology will help reduce world hunger by increasing
productivity and reducing crop losses.
* Biotechnology allows farmers to use more environmentally friendly
farming practices that protect land and water and make more productive use
of the worldís resources.
* Independent scientists and government agencies have determined that
biotechnology can help farmers produce safer and healthier foods.
* The nutritional and pharmaceutical benefits that await, as biotechnology
evolves, are profound. Mere glimpses of the future promise extraordinary
advances that will greatly enhance quality of life.
* Biotechnology is helping farmers and their partners in the food and
fiber industry provide American consumers the abundant, safe and
high-quality supply of food and fiber they demand.
* In addition to industry safeguards, the U.S. food supply is highly
regulated, with several federal agencies having established stringent
guidelines for products of biotechnology.
We are encouraging our memberships to become knowledgeable on the issues
and to then be more proactive in speaking out says Fred Middleton,
director of communication services for the National Cotton Council.
Together, we need to reassure consumers of the value and safety of
biotechnology so that we'll all be able to capitalize on the benefits
agricultureís new technologies deliver today, and the promises they hold
Other farmer groups participating in the Tomorrowís Bounty effort include
the National Association of Wheat Growers, National Chicken Council,
National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council,
National Potato Council, National Turkey Federation, USA Rice Federation,
U.S. Grains Council and the United Soybean Board.
These groups are currently surveying their memberships on the topic of
biotechnology. To take the short, three-question survey, visit
To voice your opinion on which biotech benefit is most important to
emphasize to a consumer audience, visit our current rooster poll.
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Feed 'em with debt relief!
Food First is at it again, this time with a new anti-biotech program for
developing nations best described as "let's feed 'em with debt relief."
For the latest on this shabby, cynical campaign to prevent those in
developing nations from eating as well as Americans, visit
Food First makes its money by campaigning against the spread of modern
technology to developing nations. Surely taking money for such efforts
must be distasteful.
From : firstname.lastname@example.org
for a story entitled : Biotechnology: DNA On The Dinner Table By Geoffrey
As the United States embraces genetically altered food, Europeans remain
deeply skeptical. What are the risks to consumers and the environment—and
what are the potential benefits?
FORD FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL GRADUATE FELLOWSHIPS
New York, N.Y. - The Ford Foundation today announced a major international
graduate fellowships program and a complementary undergraduate initiative
to help prepare a new generation of future leaders for the challenges of
the 21st century.
The $330 million commitment features a new Ford Foundation International
Fellowships Program (IFP) that will provide $280 million over the next 10
years to support post-baccalaureate study for Fellows from Africa, the
Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Russia. The IFP, which will award 350
new graduate fellowships annually, assisting a total of 3,500 Fellows over
the next decade, represents the largest single grant in the Ford
An additional $50 million will support programs that seek to broaden
opportunities for undergraduate education in these regions. "Societies
around the world face the challenges of globalization, advancing
technology, peace and security, and the widening gap between rich and
poor," said Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation.
"To tackle these challenges successfully we need people from all sectors
of society who can bring fresh vision, expert knowledge and strong
leadership skills. In many countries, however, the rapidly increasing need
for advanced education far exceeds available resources, which is why we
feel this is the right moment to commit to a large-scale fellowships
The graduate fellowships will support up to three years of master's or
doctoral study at universities anywhere in the world. Fellows will be
selected on the basis of their leadership potential, academic excellence
and commitment to community or national development. They may pursue their
studies in any fields that further the Ford Foundation's goals of
strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting
international cooperation and advancing human achievement.
"We have an extraordinary opportunity at this point in history to foster
freedom, democracy, human rights and overall better lives for millions of
people around the world. The Ford Foundation International Fellowships
Program will play a major role in training new leaders," said U.S. Senator
Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee and the author of a federal program to train new Russian CPA's
and MBA's at American universities.
The International Fellowships Program aims to broaden the talent pool of
future leaders by making a special effort to recruit exceptional
individuals who would otherwise lack opportunities for advanced study.
This will include women, people who belong to particular ethnic, racial or
religious groups, and those who live outside capital cities or in
countries in conflict or post-conflict situations.
"The Second Summit of the Americas, in 1998, recognized education as 'the
determining factor for the political, social, cultural, and economic
development of our peoples,'" said Francisco Rojas Aravena, director of
the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Chile. "In Latin America,
the Ford Foundation's International Fellowships Program will make a
decisive contribution to achieving these goals and to the consolidation of
The program builds on the Ford Foundation's longtime commitment to
providing educational opportunities to talented people around the world.
Since the 1950s Ford has granted an estimated $365 million to enable some
30,000 individuals from more than 70 countries to pursue graduate
education. Over the years, Ford fellowship recipients have helped advance
knowledge in the social sciences, the humanities and the arts. Many former
Ford Fellows have become leaders in their countries' governments and in
major institutions around the world.
The new commitment of $330 million represents a special appropriation
above the Ford Foundation's annual level of grant making. Last year the
foundation made some 2,000 grants totaling close to $700 million. "In
making this commitment to international higher education, we can draw on
our 50 years of experience working overseas as well as the recent growth
of our assets resulting from the strong U.S economy," said Ms. Berresford.
"We thought it would be good to share our new wealth with people in
developing countries and particularly those from disadvantaged
communities." The International Fellowships Program will begin in Vietnam,
Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Chile, Peru, and Russia. During 2001-2002 the
program will expand to other countries and regions, including South
Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia,
Mexico, Brazil, North Africa, the Middle East and Central America. United
States citizens are not eligible, but Fellows may study at U.S.
The program will be managed by national, regional and international
organizations working in close collaboration with a Secretariat based at
the Ford Foundation's headquarters in New York. These organizations will
convene panels of scholars, practitioners, and other experts to assess
applications and make the final selection. For the first phase of the
program, these "partner" organizations are: the Association of African
Universities (West Africa), the Center for Educational Exchange with
Vietnam/American Council of Learned Societies (Vietnam), the Latin
American Faculty of Social Sciences (Chile and Peru) and the Moscow office
of the Institute of International Education (Russia).
The Institute of International Education in New York will provide
centralized monitoring services for the program. The Ford Foundation is an
independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental grant making organization. For
more than a half century it has been a resource for innovative people and
institutions worldwide, guided by its goals to strengthen democratic
values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation,
and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the
foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America,
Further information about the foundation is available on its web site at
IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT
Ronald Bailey January 17, 2001 Reason
Why are consumer groups "breeding distrust" of biotech foods? This week
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will release its Revised regulations
for foods produced using biotechnology. The new regulations are expected
to be a bit more onerous but not nearly enough to satisfy some special
interests in Washington.
One such special interest group, the Consumer Federation of America,
released a new 258-page report, Breeding Distrust: An Assessment and
Recommendations for Improving the Regulation of Plant Derived Genetically
Modified Foods, at a press conference at the National Press Club last week.
The CFA is a Washington, D.C. lobbying group under whose umbrella dwells
some 250 organizations (including Consumers Union and the American
Association of Retired Persons), all of which claim an interest in
protecting consumers. At the press conference were CFA co-director Mark
Silbergeld, Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the CFAis Food Policy
Institute, and University of Texas Law professor Thomas McGarity,
co-author of the report. So what is the CFA demanding that U.S. regulatory
agencies do to control and to monitor the menace of genetically enhanced
crop plants? "These products need to be subjected to a mandatory
pre-market approval process," asserted Foreman. The CFA reports recommends
that U.S. biotech regulations be modeled on Those developed by the
European Union and Brazil--not generally considered hot-beds for
technological innovation and economic growth. "Both the EU and Brazil have
adopted process-oriented regulatory programs aimed at all GM [genetically
modified] organisms," notes the report. "The laws in the EU and Brazil
broadly encompass all GM foods because they include all GM organisms
within their scope."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically rejected the EU and
Brazilian models in 1992 and declared that foods should not be regulated
on the basis of the process by which they were created. "The regulatory
status of a food, irrespective of the method by which it is developed, is
dependent upon objective characteristics of the food and the intended use
of the food," concluded the FDA. In other words, the FDA made the sensible
call that determining whether a food is safe or not depends on whatis in
it, not how itis made. The FDA also noted that the precision of
biotechnology made it much easier in general for scientists to tell what
new substances are in a food than conventional breeding does. The agency
correctly stated that "most, if not all, cultivated food crops have been
In 1992, the FDA further declared that "in most cases, the substances
expected to become components of food as a result of genetic modification
of a plant will be the same as or substantially similar to substances
commonly found in food, such as proteins, fats, oils and carbohydrates."
Decoding the regulation-speak, these substances are regarded as "generally
recognized as safe," or GRAS, which means the agency won't regulate them
any more stringently than it does conventionally produced foods. However,
greater regulatory oversight would apply if genetic modification produced
"a protein that differs significantly in structure and function, or to
modify a carbohydrate, or fat or oil, such that it differs significantly
in composition from such substances currently found in the food." In other
words, if a genetically modified food is "substantially equivalent" to
other foods already being eaten by consumers, then it doesn't merit any
more regulatory scrutiny that conventionally produced foods.
"So long has you do not insert a gene for a known allergen or snake venom,
then it is probably substantially equivalent," is the way Thomas McGarity
characterized the FDA's position at the CFA press conference. But despite
McGarity's pointed rhetoric, the FDA is taking exactly the right position
scientifically: If a non-allergenic corn protein shows up in a tomato, so
what? People have been eating corn and tomatoes for centuries. And so far
the U.S. regulatory system has worked well. Every scientific body that has
ever evaluated genetically modified foods has found them safe.
The latest of these is the American Medical Association, which represents
nearly 300,000 doctors. In December, the AMA adopted a report from its
science and technology committee that concluded that genetically modified
foods are safe for people to eat and don't harm the natural environment.
Indeed, as a medical officer with the FDA who was an observer at the AMA
meeting noted, there is no known case in which a genetically altered food
crop that has been approved for sale has caused harm to any person.
Scientific bodies consistently reject proposals like the CFA's that call
for singling out genetically enhanced crops for special regulatory
oversight. In July, seven national scientific academies, including the
U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London, issued
a consensus report called Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture. The
document concluded that "[d]ecisions regarding safety should be based on
the nature of the product, rather than on the method by which it was
modified." The report further noted that "over 30 million hectares of
transgenic crops have been grown and no human health problems associated
specifically with the ingestion of transgenic crops or their products have
been identified." The CFA also demands that the FDA "require manufacturers
and importers of all foods containing more than a prescribed percentage of
material from GM plants to place appropriate labels on or near such foods.
The CFA claims that this will increase consumer choice. This is
disingenuous. The CFA must clearly know that anti-biotech activists are
counting on consumers to mistake any labels on biotech foods as warning
labels which would induce them to avoid those foods.
Talk about "breeding distrust." The FDA has repeatedly ruled that special
labeling for genetically engineered foods as a class is not required
solely because of the demands of some consumers or because of the process
used to develop these foods. Why? Because the food labels required by the
FDA typically warn consumers of risks based on scientific analyses or
provide certain specified nutritional information, neither of which
applies to biotech foods. The chair of the AMAis science and technology
committee, Dr. Alvin Head, supports the FDAis position on labeling, noting
that as of December 2000, "There is no scientific justification for
special labeling of genetically modified foods." Besides, if some
consumers, misled by anti-biotech activist campaigns, really want to avoid
genetically modified foods, they can buy organic foods certified by
Department of Agriculture regulations issued this past December. Why
should the rest of us pay the costs of accommodating their scientifically
baseless fears by segregating biotech from conventional foods?
Curiously, McGarity, who admitted during the question and answer period
That eating genetically modified foods "hasn't adversely affected me as
far as I know," pleaded that "we are only urging that the U.S. join the
rest of the world in adopting a more precautionary approach." This is a
near-open admission that McGarity and the CFA cannot cite any credible
scientific evidence that biotech crops have caused harm to human health or
the environment. For bioluddites, the great beauty of invoking a
"precautionary approach" is that even in the absence of scientific
evidence, regulation can be based on theoretical harms dreamed up by the
most risk averse elements of society. In other words, regulate first, ask
questions later. Sadly, the CFA report was bankrolled by the Rockefeller
Foundation. By Financing the CFAis campaign to regulate biotech, the
Rockefeller Foundation is Undercutting its support of biotech research to
help the poor in the developing world. Rockefeller money has, for
instance, helped the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology produce rice enriched with provitamin A, or so-called "golden
rice." (See "Like Gold on Rice.") This biotech grain could help alleviate
vitamin A deficiency in some 2 billion people around the globe. If the
CFAis regulatory proposals were adopted, such worthy projects would
certainly take longer to reach those in need without any appreciable
increase in safety or environmental protection.
The CFA co-director Silbergeld asserted at the close of the press
conference that the report "is a landmark that deserves everybodyis
careful attention." In fact, Breeding DIstrust really marks the nadir of a
once proud consumer protection movement that now cares more about the
regulatory niceties of administrative law than it does about scientific
evidence and real consumer interests. Ronald Bailey (email@example.com)
is Reason Magazine's science correspondent.
From: Klaus Ammann
Subject: Debate 2001'0106: About Scientific Outreach,
Mary Woolley makes a very important point: Difficulties in acceptance of
Science is often based on poor or even lacking communication, for sure.
But this is not the only factor explaining the present day difficulties
regarding public awareness, recognition and acceptance of Science:
Science, and in particular Biosciences, have lost their innocence, it has
become an instrument of powerful technologies, and often these
technologies are linked by the public to enormous concentration of
economic and political power. This is why we need to respect anxieties and
the new reluctance of accepting everything in scientific developments.
Science is by itself not infallible, the scientific knowledge's highest
quality is it's revokability, I mean that scientific knowledge can be
amended and/or improved and in the worst case even revoked.
At the same time, as a scientist you have to make clear that Science
itself has implemented with lots of publication rituals a rather brutal
scrutinizing process, a process which is certainly heading towards
enhancing truthfulness of publications. The solution is not communication
alone, but also dialogue, not only conversation, but discussion. If the
good word about 'I work for you' should become more meaningful in fields
outside medical sciences, we must ask the public about their opinion too.
This does not mean that we should revive any outdated concepts of Science,
such as the marxist model. We need to find new models, where the public is
involved in a more meaningful way. This is not a vote that politics should
steer Science (and for heavens sake certainly not basic research), but it
means that the public should get an important voice in the phase of
technology developments stemming from results of basic research.
By the side: I am strongly recommending to link (for free!) to the mailing
list of 'The Scientist', go to:
Scientist, Speak Up By Mary Woolley The Scientist 15:6, Jan. 8, 2001
Like other trade publications, The Scientist gave substantial coverage to
this year's Lasker Award winners, highlighting an important aspect of
scientific research: recognition for outstanding work. Unfortunately, the
broader media allocated comparatively little attention to these awards. It
comes as no surprise, then, that a recent Harris Poll revealed
astonishingly low public recognition of awards for scientific research,
underscoring the need for more public outreach by scientists on behalf of
research. In the September 2000 Harris Poll, questions commissioned by
Research!America show that only 47 percent of adults claim to be familiar
with Nobel Prizes, only 37 percent claim to be familiar with the
Westinghouse Award and only 23 percent claim to be familiar with the Intel
Award (previously known as the Westinghouse Award). Although these
recognition rates are quite low, they are substantially higher than for
people who are familiar with several other research prizes, such as the
Albert Lasker Medical Research Award, which was familiar to only 2 percent
of adults in the United States.
Low public recognition of prestigious science awards is a symptom of a
larger ailment the research community must address, sooner rather than
later: public awareness about science is so uninformed that it is
vulnerable to alarm and subject to possible manipulation.
How do we achieve greater public awareness and understanding of research
and researchers who provide hope for future preventions, treatments, and
cures, not to mention sustained economic prosperity? By talking about
research! It is extremely important for researchers to engage in public
outreach with non scientists at home and in their local communities--yet
we know this is easier said than done. In focus groups conducted in
partnership with the scientific honor society Sigma Xi, researchers tell
us that they often choose not to talk about their work with neighbors,
friends, and others who are not part of the research community because
they feel those people are not interested in science or are hostile to it.
Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, data from the National
Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2000 notes that nine
out of every 10 adults in the United States report being very or
moderately interested in new scientific discoveries and the use of new
inventions and new technologies. And in a public opinion poll conducted by
the Newseum in late 1999, the public ranked science very high, placing
five stories about scientific research in their list of the top 25 news
stories of the century. Anecdotes also make the case for strong public
interest. In a New York Times essay printed shortly after the most recent
Nobel Prizes were awarded ["My Brother, the Genius: Now I know What He
Does," 10/15/00], laureate Paul Greengard's sister, Chris Chase, revealed
that although she knew her brother has long been revered and celebrated
for his work, she had been unsuccessful in repeated attempts to talk with
him about science. In conversations with her brother, Chris found herself
lost and having to change the subject. It became evident that a non
scientist and a scientist often speak different languages, even when
related to each other! She says she only began to understand what her
brother's research was about when reading journalists' reports describing
his Nobel-winning work "on the way brain cells communicate [and that it]
might one day help cure diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."
Chase's lack of understanding of her brother's work was not the result of
disinterest, but rather a lack of effective communication. She needed
someone to take the time to explain her brother's work from the
perspective of a non scientist. In this case, the "someone" who
established a new basis for communication was a journalist. Scientists,
however, don't have to wait--and I suggest, must not wait --for
journalists to communicate to non scientists on their behalf.
When scientists make the effort to engage in conversation with non
scientists using nonscientific language, they are often pleasantly
surprised at the outcome. Recently, I heard from a researcher who took
these words to heart. He was flying back from a presentation and wanted
only to do some editing and get home. When a fellow passenger inquired
about the nature of his work, his instinct was to ignore him and continue
writing. Then he remembered my words: "When someone asks you what you do,
respond, 'I work for you.'" He became engaged in a wonderful conversation
with his fellow passenger. The relationship that developed from that
single conversation resulted in the provision of two endowed chairs
supporting his research! Of course, not all conversations with non
scientists will have this sort of outcome, but almost all will feel
satisfying. The American public values the research that produces greater
health and continued economic prosperity to our nation's citizenry, but
too often, they do not know who conducts this research or how to talk to
those individuals. Being a "citizen scientist" is easier than is generally
believed and its time has come. What is the science community waiting for?
The time is now for the scientific research community to get in the habit
of reaching out to the public and the media. When you see a story in your
local newspaper about a research issue that is of importance to you, write
a letter to the editor or call and talk with the journalist who wrote the
story. When you receive a research grant, write your Congressional
representatives, thanking them for providing strong research budgets on
behalf of the American public, and offer a tour of your lab or clinic,
emphasizing that you share with them the responsibility and honor of
serving the public's interest. Talk with your family and friends about the
work you do; ask them to ask you questions--it's a great way to hone your
public outreach skills. And when you are on your next flight home and a
fellow passenger asks, "What do you do," respond with confidence, "I work
for you." You never know where the conversation might lead.
Mary Woolley is president of Research!America, 908 King St., Suite 400E
Alexandria, VA 22314, www.researchamerica.org.
From: Klaus Ammann
Subject: Debate 2000'0108 a: Klaas Martens plea for peace before Christmas
A plea for peace between proponents of biotech and organic farming -- very
much needed in times of Christmas and New Years celebrations. Its coming
from an organic farmer from the US. I could not agree more with the
statements of Klaas Martens (firstname.lastname@example.org). Its probably the
first piece of text I have ever seen where Vandana Shiva, Margret Mellon,
Phil Regal, Prakash, Tony Shelton and John Sandford are peacefully united
under the umbrella of having the very same goals after all: ' When we
listen to some of these people, they are all claiming similar and very
noble goals ie. to produce safer food and more of it.'
Thanks, Klaas, for sharing this with Debate.
I'm sorry I am so late with this thank you for your kind words and the
draft of your Harvard speech. We have had a difficult harvest and time is
always short when the weather doesn't cooperate. I am finding myself in
nearly complete agreement with you on many issues regarding biotechnology.
It is a tragedy that the "extremists" on both sides of this debate are
dividing us and driving us further apart. Think of the progress toward
solving world hunger that could have been made with the energy, time and
money that has already been wasted on this conflict, and all in the name
of fighting world hunger! When we listen to some of these people, they are
all claiming similar and very noble goals ie. to produce safer food and
more of it. I have met many of the prominent players on both sides of the
issue and talked to them. ( Vandana Shiva, Margret Mellon, and Phil
Regal,as well as Prakash, Tony Shelton, John Sanford, and countless other
great biotechnologists ) They are almost without exception good, kind and
likeable people. It is distressing to see these good people being
demonised and to be the target of such hatred.
I can't talk for all organic farmers, but most of the ones that I know
would rather not be involved in this controversy at all. They would much
rather learn about soil fertility than genetic engineering. They are,
however aware of the heavy losses that they will bear if their crops are
found to be contaminated with GM genes and can't be sold. They are also at
risk of having their land decertified which could cause further loss. Most
of us would be happy to just get on with our farming and do the best job
we know how. I believe that if the first transgenic seeds to be released
had been something like a mosaic virus resistant Vinton 81 soybean, (the
mosaic virus is the biggest problem in the production of the special
soybeans grown for the organic Japanese tofu market) rather than herbicide
resistant crops, history may have taken a very different course. I believe
that if such a crop could be developed and offered to farmers, as Dr.
Gonsalves' did with Papaya, it would make many organic farmers in the US
wish they were allowed to use it. It's not hard for organic farmers to
reject products like roundup ready and BT because they don't serve any
purpose on organic farms anyway. These products won't win support from
environmentalists because they perpetuate environmentally unsound farming
Biotechnology, along with organic management could give us the potential
to solve many problems of our agricultural systems, yet we hear organic
leaders bashing biotechnology and biotech proponents bashing organic
farming. I think its time for the great majority of us, who are not
zealots, on both sides of this issue to reject this conflict and work
together toward a more sound agriculture. I recently posted the following
piece on a sustainable agriculture listserve and got very positive
response from leaders of some of our organic organisations.
>Jane Sooby asked an interesting question regarding biotech in relation to
sustainable agriculture. I think that a technology in and of itself can
neither be good nor bad, sustainable nor unsustainable or even safe or
dangerous. It is how it is used and for what purpose that determines the
answers to these questions. The best known uses of biotech in
agriculture, BT crops and Roundup ready crops are unsustainable not
because they are the result of biotechnology. They are unsustainable
because they don't offer a real solution to the problems they claim to
address. The use of Roundup Ready crops and BT crops perpetuates the poor
agronomic management practices that originally caused the pest and weed
problems. In a few years, the pests will be resistant, Roundup and BT
won't work any more and we will be faced with a bigger problem than we had
before. A truly sustainable solution to European Corn Borer would address
the reason that the pest is present in crop damaging numbers rather than
try to kill them after they reach these high populations. Likewise, many
farmers whose crop management practices have led to weed problems that
they can no longer control by other means turn to Roundup ready beans
despite the technology fees and yield drag. They are in effect using GM
seeds to avoid having to find a sustainable solution to the problem.
There are more effective and truly sustainable ways available to deal with
these problems than pesticides or GM seeds. Our organic corn and soybeans
don't suffer from insects or weeds. The cultural practices that control
these problems will work reliably year after year without buildup of
resistance in the pest populations, environmental degradation, or
expensive purchased inputs. The often stated choice between GM seeds and
heavy pesticide use is misleading. We have far better options available
than those most often presented to us. I believe that biotechnology can
be used in ways that advance sustainable agriculture. The whole field of
biocontrol offers new and potentially more effective ways to protect seeds
and roots than with fungicides. The insights that biotechnology research
could give us into what turns on resistance genes in plants could open up
whole new areas of sustainable agriculture. If more efficient mycorrhizal
fungi are developed to be introduced into the root systems of crops we
could reduce fertilizer use. If these and many other yet unimagined
potential uses of biotechnology were developed and then carefully and
objectively evaluated for safety before being released into the field,
biotechnology could make important contributions to sustainable
agriculture. I know that there are many good, hardworking, and innovative
scientists working on ideas like these and no doubt some have ideas that
are far better. The problem is that companies are not evaluating new
products based on how sustainable they will make agriculture (there is not
much money for them in that) they are looking at what can give them the
highest and fastest profits. That is why we have the type of biotech
products we do on the market today. I believe that with patent laws as
they are, and large corporations putting most of the investment money into
biotech, the most sustainable uses of biotechnology will not get much
funding. The best chance for this type of work is in university research.
Even there, corporate dollars have a lot of influence as to what gets
developed and complicated patents cover all aspects of the technology.
We plan to invite some biotechnologists to speak at our organic farmers
meetings this coming year. I think that some of the research being done in
biotechnology could lead to a better understanding of organic farming. I
think that the best way to build trust between organic farmers and
scientists is for them to get to know each other and realise how much they
have in common and how much they can learn from each other. By building
friendships this way I believe we can relieve much of the distrust that
exists and foster real communication. We don't have to agree on
everything, but we must respect and understand each other's views and
recognise the tremendous amount of common ground we share. I think that if
this could happen in other places around the world also, we could make
some true progress.
I don't believe that we will see transgenic plants on organic farms
anytime soon, but I do think we can all learn to coexist peacefully and
start to see that we can gain from sharing our knowledge and ideas. I have
a special interest in cultural weed control and soil biology. We know so
little about the organisms in the soil and how they interact with each
other and with plants, yet we are totally dependent on them to support the
crops we grow and to recycle residues. Organic farmers have learned that
we can prevent whole classes of weeds from growing by how we manage our
soils yet we don't understand how and why this works. I look forward to
understanding these observations someday and I believe that
biotechnologists have the tools to give us many of the answers. How do
weeds "know" when conditions are favorable to grow and sprout in big
numbers at just the right time? Why does quackgrass dissapear from our
organic fields yet runs rampant on neighbor's conventional acres? Why do
biodynamic farms have such good soil quality? Lets work together on these
questions and thousands more. I'd be interested in any European research
you know of in these areas. I am fluent in German, so I can read
untranslated work if it's not available in English. Have a merry Christmas
and a happy new year!
Incidentally, if you could provide me with the transgenic tobaco plants,
I'll agree to grow them organically and have it made into cigars for you .
From: ngin Subject:Re: AGBIOVIEW: Pretty
Ajit Chopra refers to the "story" on the ngin website. In fact, we
provided urls to two articles by Prof Pretty, ie Pretty in his own words
rather than those of any journalist, whether from the Telegraph, on the
one hand, or the New Scientist and the Guardian on the other, so people
should read and judge for themselves.
Now Pretty's own words from the event the Telegraph piece was reporting
are available, at least in the form of an edited extract of his speech at
St James's Palace on Monday.
This, together with his other articles, may also help Alex Avery with his
uncertainty as to "what exactly does Mr. Pretty mean when he uses the term
"sustainable" farming techniques".
According to the speech, "The conventional wisdom is that to double food
supply, we need to redouble efforts to modernise agriculture. After all,
it has been successful in the past. But there are real doubts about the
capacity of such systems to reduce food poverty. The poor and hungry need
low-cost, readily available technologies and practices to increase local
Text and url for Pretty's speech are given below, and here again are the
urls for the other two Pretty articles:
Could we feed the world without causing further environmental damage?
Jules Pretty puts the case for agriculture's zero option
[Professor Jules Pretty is director of the University of Essex centre for
environment and society. This is an edited extract of his speech at St
James's Palace on Monday to the sustainable farming conference.]
This is the problem: over the past 40 years, per capita world food
production has grown by 25%, and food prices in real terms have fallen by
40%. Yet the world still faces a fundamental challenge. Despite steadily
falling fertility rates and family sizes, the global population is
expected to grow to 8.9bn by 2050, from 6bn today. By then, 84% of people
will be in what we call the "developing" world.
Last year, 790m people went hungry and, even though increased production
and more imports will lessen the problem in future, food insecurity and
malnutrition will undoubtedly persist. Food demand, moreover, is expected
The conventional wisdom is that to double food supply, we need to redouble
efforts to modernise agriculture. After all, it has been successful in the
past. But there are real doubts about the capacity of such systems to
reduce food poverty. The poor and hungry need low-cost, readily available
technologies and practices to increase local food production.
There are three possible choices for future agriculture: expand the area
of farmland by converting new lands, but with the result that forests,
grasslands and other areas of important biodiversity are lost; intensify
production in agricultural exporting countries, so that food can be sold
to those who need it; or increase total farm productivity in the countries
which most need the food.
The success of modern agriculture in recent decades has often masked
significant "externalities", affecting both natural capital and human
health, as well as agriculture itself. Environmental and health problems
associated with agriculture have been well-documented, but it is only
recently that the scale of the costs has come to be appreciated.
With the help of funding from the Department for International
Development, Bread for the World and Greenpeace, the University of Essex's
centre for environment and society set out to see if farmers can improve
food production with cheap, low-cost, locally-available technologies and
inputs, and whether they can do this without causing further environmental
The model, which is increasingly being used in developing countries from
Cuba to India and from Malawi to Peru, is "sustainable agriculture". This
seeks to make the best use of nature's goods and services by integrating
natural and regenerative processes, like nutrient cycling, nitrogen
fixation and soil regeneration.
It minimises the use of pesticides and fertilizers that damage the
environment or harm the health of farmers and consumers, makes better use
of the knowledge and skills of farmers, so improving their self-reliance
and seeks to make productive use of "social capital" - people's capacities
to work together to solve common problems, such as pests, watershed,
irrigation, forest and credit management. It also contributes to a range
of public goods, such as clean water, wildlife, carbon sequestration in
soils, flood protection and landscape quality.
But could it feed the world in the coming decades? We tried to audit, via
the Safe-World research project, recent worldwide progress towards
sustainable agriculture and assess the extent to which these projects, if
spread on a much larger scale, could feed a growing world population.
Our database now contains information on 208 projects from 52 countries.
This is the largest known survey of worldwide sustainable agriculture.
Some 8.98m farmers have now adopted sustainable agriculture practices and
technologies on 28.92m hectares. There are 960m hectares of arable and
permanent crops in Africa, Asia and Latin America, so sustainable
agriculture is present on at least 3% of this land.
We found that sustainable agriculture can lead to substantial increases in
food production per hectare. The proportional yield increases were
remarkable: generally between 50-100% for rainfed crops, though
considerably greater in a few cases, and 5-10% for irrigated crops. It
shows the extraordinary productive potential of small patches on farms,
and the degree to which they can improve domestic food security.
Splitting the data into small farmers growing cereals or roots, and larger
farmers, we found that for 4.42m small farmers practising sustainable
agriculture on 3.58m hectares, average food production per household
increased by 1.71 tonnes per year (up 73%). For the 146,000 farmers on
542,000 hectares cultivating roots (potato, sweet potato and cassava), the
increase in food production was 17 tonnes per year (an increase of 150%);
and for the larger farms in Latin America (average size about 90
hectares), total production increased by 150 tonnes per household (an
increase of 46%).
Few projects, however, reported surpluses of food being sold to local
markets. This could have been because as production increases, so domestic
consumption also increases, with direct benefit for health, particularly
of women and children. Despite this, several projects reported surpluses
and regional improvements to food production.
But besides food increases, we found that 88% of the projects made better
use of locally-available natural resources, 92% said they have improved
human capital building through learning programmes. In more than half the
projects, people were working together as groups.
The environmental benefits were also great. The most important part of any
agricultural system is the soil. When it is in poor health, it cannot
sustain a productive agriculture. Many agricultural systems are under
threat because soils have been damaged, eroded or simply ignored by
Most sustainable agriculture projects, we found, seek both to reduce soil
erosion and to make improvements to soil physical structure, organic
matter content, water holding capacity and nutrient balances.
We found one sustainable agriculture technology spreading at extraordinary
speed. This is zero or minimal tillage. In Brazil, there were 1m hectares
under "plantio direto", or zero tillage (ZT) in 1991, but by 1999, this
had grown to about 11m hectares. ZT has resulted in better use of inputs,
water retention, management by farmers, diverse rotations and break crops
for weed control. It also cuts erosion and water run-off, so reducing
Many sustainable agriculture projects have also reported large reductions
in pesticide use following the adoption of IPM through field schools in
rice agroecosystems. In Vietnam, farmers cut the number of sprays from 3.4
to one per season, and in Sri Lanka from 2.9 to 0.5 per season.
Clearly, sustainable agricultural systems can be economically,
environmentally and socially viable, and contribute positively to local
livelihoods. But without appropriate policy support, they are likely to
remain at best localised in extent, and at worst simply wither away.
From: Toby M Horn
Educators' Conference for High School and Community College Teachers (with
'Hands-On' Wetlab Modules)
Biotechnology 2001 Educators' Conf, July 26-28, 2001. Virginia Tech.
July 26 Speakers: Dr. Toby Horn, Dr. Edward Nelson: "Conference
Orientation" Dr. Tracy D. Wilkins, Fralin Biotechnology Center:
"Conference Welcome" Dr. Barbara Vonderhaar, National Cancer Institute"
"Prolactin: The Forgotten Hormone of Human Breast Cancer" Dr. William
Ward, Rutgers University: "Green Fluorescent Protein" Dr. Abhaya Dandekar,
University of California, Davis: "Bio-Engineering Fruit and Nut Trees for
Quality and Productivity"
#1 A Virtual Epidemiology Lab Simulation and Tutorial Rita Teutonico,
James Madison University #2 Bioinformatics and Protein Evolution Helen
Kreuzer, Marilyn Swofford, Carolina Biological Supply Company #3 Teaching
Biotechnology Through Image Processing Jenny Vuturo-Brady, Center for
Image Processing in Education #4 pGLO* Transformation With a
Bioluminescent Jellyfish Gene Ron Mardigian, Patti Taranto, Kirk Brown,
Stan Hitomi, Bio-Rad #5 Come and Learn How To Fingerprint Your Own DNA
Jack G. Chirikjian, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Karen Graf,
EDVOTEK, Inc. #6 Web-Based Molecular Genetics Simulations to Design Lab
Activities that Enhance Higher Level Thinking Skills Sylvia Perez-Fasano
Educational Consultant #7 Protein Crystal Growth for Education Felecia
Ewing, NASA #8 Plant Tissue Culture Alenka Hlousek-Radojcic, Richard Bland
College, Eugenia McMeans, Virginia Tech (Fralin Biotechnology Center) #9
Experiment with Enzymes Fralin Biotechnology Center and Virginia
Department of Education
Thursday Evening Round Table Discussions 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM #A Community
College Biotechnology Programs. Moderator: Sonia Wallman, New Hampshire
Technical College. #B Ins and Outs of Starting a High School Biotechnology
Program #C Computer and Other Technologies in the High School Science
Classroom #D Incorporating Laboratory Learning while Meeting the SOL
Friday Morning July 27, 2001 Speakers: 8:30 AM Dr. Toby Horn: "Conference
Announcements" 8:45 AM Dr. Satya Dandekar, University of California,
Davis: "A Gut Feeling: Early Host-Pathogen Interactions in AIDS" 10:00 AM
Dr. Kathy Hudson, National Human Genome Research Institute: "Developing
Policy on Privacy Issues for the Human Genome Project" 11:15 AM Dr. Bruce
Alberts, National Academy of Sciences: "Forging a New Partnership between
Scientists and Science Teachers: Redefining the Scientific Community for
the 21st Century"
2 PM to 5 PM Friday Afternoon Workshops #10 Column Chromatography Kristi
DeCourcy, Fralin Biotechnology Center #11 Bioinformatics and Protein
Evolution Helen Kreuzer, Marilyn Swofford, Carolina Biological Supply
Company #12 Teaching Biotechnology Through Image Processing Jenny
Vuturo-Brady, Center for Image Processing in Education Computer HS C #13
DNA Fingerprinting Ron Mardigian, Patti Taranto, Kirk Brown, Stan Hitomi,
Bio-Rad #14 Hands-On Simulation of AIDS/HIV-1 Detection Jack G.
Chirikjian, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Karen Graf, EDVOTEK,
Inc. #15 Using Fast Plants to Teach Genetics Concepts Rita Teutonico,
James Madison University #16 Curriculum Supplements Workshop Bruce Fuchs,
Gloria Seelman, Office of Science Education, National Institutes of Health
#17 Genomics in the Classroom Lisa McDonald, Chelton Jenkins, The
Institute for Genome Research (TIGR) #18 Yeast is the Beast for All Labs
Alison Goforth, Auburn High School, Verizon GIFT Grant Teacher (Fralin
Biotechnology Center) #19 DNA Isolation from Plant Sources Judy Heitz,
Chula Vista High School 9AM to 4 PM Saturday ALL DAY Workshops #20 DNA
Sequencing Ed Smith, Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences (Fralin
Biotechnology Center) #21 Computational Gene Analysis (Advanced
Bioinformatics) John Crews, Whitehead Institute, MIT
icroscope for Data
Collection and Analysis Lisa Coyne, Pat Owens, Southside Virginia
Governors' School for Arts and Technology and Longwood College Institute
for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices #25 Part 1:
Chromosome 8 PCR: Find a Needle in Your DNA-stack Bio-Rad Biotechnology
Explorer* Teacher Workshop: Molecular Evolution Short Course
Saturday Afternoon Workshops #26 Part 2: Protein Fingerprinting: There's
Something Fishy About Evolution! Bio-Rad Biotechnology Explorer* Teacher
Workshop: Molecular Evolution Short #27 Catalase Assay with the PalmPilot
/ Probe System Lisa Coyne, Pat Owens, Southside Virginia Governors' School
for Arts and Technology and Longwood #28 Molecular Magic Markers,
Biotechnilights Kathy Frame, Director of Education, National Association
of Biology Teachers #29 Milk Protein Assay Jean Coles, Centreville HS, Kay
Mikula (Fralin Biotechnology Center)
Toby M Horn, Ph.D. email@example.com telno. 540-231-2692 fax 540-231-7126