High Profile: Norman Borlaug
By David Tarrant / The Dallas Morning News 01/21/2001
Dr. Norman Borlaug, still active at 86, has spent much of his life
fighting world hunger. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, he now
teaches one semester each year at Texas A&M.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - He works out of a windowless office barely
big enough for a desk and two chairs for visitors. Lining the walls
are shelves filled with books on agriculture and philosophy, a few
framed photographs taken in Africa and Mexico, and a large poster of
the University of Minnesota's wrestling team schedule.
It is an appropriately modest place to find the man who is among the
lesser known of the Americans who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. The
group includes such notables as former Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger, author and humanitarian Elie Wiesel and Martin Luther King Jr.
However, no one familiar with Dr. Norman Borlaug doubts his right to
be on the same stage as the others. He is credited with starting the
Green Revolution in the mid-1960s and saving millions of lives from
starvation. Since 1984, he has been a professor of international
agriculture at Texas A&M, where he teaches one semester every year.
But he is by no means semi-retired. At 86, he remains as active as
ever - carrying his brand of prairie pragmatism to fight hunger around
the world and in the classroom. Think big. Fight complacency. That is
the essence of his message, whether he's talking to heads of state or
"I think there are a lot of potential leaders who never become leaders
because they don't put out that extra effort to move into unexplored
territory," he says. "It's pretty boggy ground out there on the front
lots of times. But the difference is courage. I think there is a lot
of innate talent that's not utilized to anything approaching its real
potential." He gets calls, letters or e-mails every day from
journalists, scientists, political leaders, farmers and friends all
over the world. He is often called upon to lend his perspective to the
emotional debate over the uses of biotechnology.
"Dr. Borlaug is held in the highest esteem worldwide, but particularly
in the developing world. The scientific community, particularly the
agricultural community, almost treat him as a deity," says Ed Runge,
the Texas A&M professor who was responsible for bringing Dr. Borlaug
to the university 16 years ago. Dr. Borlaug's "excellent health" and
"tremendous stamina" enable him to maintain a schedule that would tire
many half his age, and he shows no sign of easing up, Dr. Runge says.
"Dr. Borlaug wants to die with his boots on."
The face of hunger On a chilly morning in December, he hardly looks
like a warrior or controversial figure. He wears a gray pinstripe
suit. His tie clasp is shaped like a stalk of wheat. His hair is white
and his voice a little shaky. But his handshake is firm and strong,
befitting a man who is in the Hall of Fame for wrestling at the
University of Minnesota.
It was at his alma mater where he first saw the face of hunger. He had
grown up just outside Cresco, Iowa, a speck of a town a few miles
south of Minnesota. He was shocked by what he saw when he arrived in
Minneapolis as a freshman in the fall of 1933. "I saw these people out
there on the streets in the cold, mostly grown men and whole families
too, sleeping on newspapers, hands out, asking for a nickel, begging
for food. This was before the soup lines."
The sight of farm failures, sheriff's sales and hungry children would
stay with him and influence his choices for the rest of his life. "I
saw all that unfold. And I think that had something to do with how
things turned out."
He was born on March 25, 1914, the eldest of three children of parents
of Norwegian descent. He worked on the family farm, planting crops and
raising livestock. His first eight grades were spent in a one-room
rural schoolhouse. He attributes getting off the family farm to his
grandfather, Nels Borlaug, who strongly encouraged education. He loved
sports and played baseball and wrestled in high school. His wrestling
coach was a lasting influence, always encouraging him to "give 105
He went to the University of Minnesota, which had a wrestling team. He
periodically dropped out of school to earn money to pay for his
tuition and living expenses. One of those jobs was as a leader in the
Civilian Conservation Corps, working with unemployed men on federal
projects. He saw that many were malnourished. He returned to graduate
school at Minnesota and studied plant pathology, receiving his
doctorate in 1942. During the war, he worked as a microbiologist for
In 1944, he joined a new program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation,
aimed at assisting poor farmers in Mexico. He spent the next 16 years
at the International Maize and Wheat Center outside Mexico City
working to improve wheat-crop yields and train a generation of Mexican
agriculture scientists. During that time, he developed new strains of
disease-resistant wheat distinguished by their smaller stalks, higher
yields and greater adaptability. By 1960, he began looking for other
sites where he could start programs similar to the Mexico project. He
had opportunities to go back to the United States in private
enterprise but turned his attention to other parts of the world
dealing with chronic hunger and famine.
That led him to the region where he would have his greatest impact -
India and Pakistan.
Famine and starvation It was the mid-1960s and the subcontinent was
experiencing famine and widespread starvation - despite emergency
shipments of millions of tons of grain from the United States. India
and Pakistan were at war, and doomsayers were predicting that a
catastrophe of unprecedented proportions was virtually unavoidable
with the possibility of millions of lives being lost to starvation.
Dr. Borlaug wanted to immediately plant his new strains of wheat but
was repeatedly thwarted by an entrenched bureaucracy as well as
cultural traditions opposing new agricultural methods. Finally, the
famine became so bad that the governments of Pakistan and India
overrode the obstructionists.
Bureaucratic snafus were not limited to Asia. A shipment of more than
500 million high-yield wheat seeds from Mexico was stalled by customs
agents and later by the National Guard when the Watts riots prevented
the cargo from getting to the Los Angeles port. Despite the war raging
around them, Dr. Borlaug and what he calls his "tough group of hunger
fighters" planted the first crop. Yields more than doubled, helping
avert the immediate crisis.
Pakistan wheat production grew from 3.5 million tons in 1965 to more
than 14 million tons by the early 1990s. During the same period in
India, average wheat yields grew from 11 million tons to 55 million.
Those bountiful harvests prompted the U.S. Agency for International
Development to hail his achievement as a Green Revolution.
In 1970, Dr. Borlaug, who was working in Mexico, was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize. Margaret Borlaug got the news about her husband's award
from a reporter in Oslo, Norway. She drove out to a wheat field to
find him. "He didn't believe it. He said, 'Are you sure?' He was very
surprised," she says. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Borlaug quoted
Alfred Nobel, the creator of the Nobel prizes, as saying: "I would
rather take care of the stomachs of the living than the glory of the
departed in the form of monuments."
But Dr. Borlaug was ambivalent about the spotlight. The award brought
more attention and funding for the cause of world hunger. But it also
pulled him away from his work. "It was a disaster as far as I'm
concerned. You get pushed into so many things. A lot of your energies
are cut off from the things you know best. Some of them you have to
do. Because you end up being the spokesman for science in general."
Biotechnology His latest fight pits him against "the doomsayers," as
he calls them. These are critics who question the use of biotechnology
and genetically altered crops, the tools he used to help reap the
lifesaving harvests for millions in Asia and Latin America. He argues
that biotechnology has actually helped conservation. Without
high-yield crops and more efficient farming methods, the United States
and other countries would have had to plow under millions of acres of
woodlands - at a great cost to plants and wildlife. "We wouldn't be
talking about saving the spotted owl if we were plowing up that much
more land," he says.
Dr. Borlaug says there is no such thing as a risk-free life. He knows
this, because he and his wife had a son who was born with spina
bifida. The boy died in childhood. "Who was responsible for my son's
condition?" he says. "Nobody. Maybe it was a bad gene. Maybe something
went wrong right after conception. There are no zero biological risks
and yet people keep searching. "We have to find an acceptable level of
risk. And that acceptable level will vary from one country or society
to another, depending on the social-economic evolution of that country."
Time for his children Dr. Borlaug is married to the former Margaret
Gibson, whom he met in college. The Borlaugs keep a home in Dallas, so
Mrs. Borlaug can live close to their two children, Jeanie Laube and
William Borlaug. The Borlaugs also have five grandchildren and two
great-grandchildren. Mrs. Borlaug, 89, says she doesn't travel anymore
because of her arthritis. Dr. Borlaug spends only about a month at
home each year. "He's never been home a lot. You just live with it."
But he always made time for his children, she says. When the family
was living in Mexico, Dr. Borlaug organized a baseball team for his
son. In the process, Dr. Borlaug helped introduce Little League
baseball to Mexico. He coached Billy through Little League, Pony
League and Colt League. He also attended many of Jeanie's Girl Scout
meetings. "He'd drive many a night getting back [from his field work]
for his kids," Mrs. Borlaug says.
When he is not teaching at Texas A&M, Dr. Borlaug spends a great deal
of time traveling in Mexico and Africa as part of his work. He is a
consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico and
president of the Sasakawa Africa Association, a private Japanese
foundation working to raise the productivity of farmers in sub-Saharan
Africa. The latter "is a program that happened in a funny way," Dr.
Borlaug says. In 1984, he got a call from Ryoichi Sasakawa, chairman
of the Sasakawa Foundation of Japan, who has since passed away.
Mr. Sasakawa wanted to know if the Green Revolution's agricultural
methods could be applied to Ethiopia, Sudan and other parts of Africa
suffering from drought and famine. "Why isn't something being done to
change food production like what you did in India and Pakistan?" Dr.
Sasakawa asked him.
"I don't know," Dr. Borlaug replied. "I'm retired now and too old to
start something new." The next morning Mr. Sasakawa called him back
and said, "Young man, I'm 15 years older than you are. We should have
started this project yesterday, but let's get started tomorrow."
And the work is not over yet.
Date and place of birth: March 25, 1914, in Cresco, Iowa My heroes
are: E. Charles Stakman, professor and scientist at the University of
Minnesota, George Harrar of the Rockefeller Foundation, my grandfather
Favorite expression: If you stretch yourself, you'll be surprised how
much you can do. Get a little stardust on your hands, and you'll be
surprised what that can do for you. And not only for you but also for
your family, the state, the nation and the people of the world. Best
asset: I like to see action. Worst habit: I don't know how to handle
paperwork. Neglect of paper is my worst habit. Favorite city outside
Dallas: The lake region of southern Chile is a most beautiful place. I
loved to fish there. Nobody knows: I was certain I was going to be a
second baseman for the Chicago Cubs.
(Thanks to Mike Fumento < Mfumento1@cs.com> for pointing to this great
From: "John W. Cross"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: White House on Agbiotech;
The following URL http://www.whitehouse.gov/CEQ/news_bottom.html has
been removed from the White House website by the Bush Administration,
"Please note: many files associated with the previous administration
have been removed from this server. Some materials may be available
through the National Archives and Records Administration website."
Since I have not seen the article, it is not clear to me why it was
(Note from Prakash: I will try locate the new web address for this
document and will post it soon. Sorry about the inconvenience caused
to readers about it)
From: "Soule, George"
Subject: International Rice Research Institute Begins Testing 'Golden
International Rice Research Institute Begins Testing 'Golden Rice'
(Issued by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the
Rockefeller Foundation and Syngenta) 22 January 2001. Samples of
'Golden Rice', a genetically modified rice containing beta-carotene
and other carotenoids, have now been delivered to the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baņos, Philippines. IRRI
scientists will now begin the research which will form part of an
international program to investigate the safety and utility of 'Golden
Rice' in combating Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), which is responsible
for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and 1-2 million deaths
IRRI's Director-General, Dr Ronald P. Cantrell said, "The arrival of
these initial samples at IRRI is a very significant step and allows us
to finally start on the required testing processes using local rice
varieties. IRRI expects to play a major role in the ongoing 'Golden
Rice" research effort and its eventual introduction to the world's
millions of poor rice farmers and consumers."
The delivery of 'Golden Rice' from the inventors' laboratories in
Europe was possible as a result of the donation of intellectual
property licences from; Syngenta Seeds AG, Syngenta Ltd, Bayer AG,
Monsanto Company Inc., Orynova BV, and Zeneca Mogen BV. Each company
has licensed free-of-charge technology used in the research which led
to the 'Golden Rice' invention. Subject to further research, initially
in the developing countries of Asia, as well as local regulatory
clearances, 'Golden Rice' can then be made available free-of-charge
for humanitarian uses in any developing nation.
Professor Ingo Potrykus, co-inventor of 'Golden Rice', said, "Vitamin
A Deficiency remains a very important health problem which no current
remedy completely addresses. Peter Beyer and I are very pleased that
these companies have provided essential support to assist our long
held intent of donating this potentially beneficial invention to those
countries where Vitamin A Deficiency causes hundreds of thousands of
cases of irreversible blindness every year ". In order to further
expedite the introduction of 'Golden Rice' to developing countries, a
'Humanitarian Board' has been established, comprised of a number of
public and private sector organizations. The
Humanitarian Board has four principal aims:
* to support the inventors in making 'Golden Rice' freely available to
those that need it, consistent with the highest standards of safety
* to ensure the proper investigation of 'Golden Rice' as one potential
solution to Vitamin A Deficiency
* to support individual developing countries and their national
research institutes as they assess their interest in 'Golden Rice'
* to facilitate information sharing between 'Golden Rice' projects in
different parts of the world.
The Humanitarian Board is chaired by Professor Potrykus and also
includes his co-inventor of 'Golden Rice', Professor Peter Beyer.
Other members of the Board are: Dr Ronnie Coffman, Cornell University;
Dr Adrian Dubock, Syngenta (Secretary); Dr William Padolina,
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI); Dr Ashok Seth, Rural
Development Unit, South Asia Region of the World Bank; and Dr Gary
Toenniessen, Director of Food Security at the Rockefeller Foundation.
Dr Katharina Jenny, Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology, ETH,
Zurich, is an observer to the Board. Each individual on the
Humanitarian Board retains his/her independent advisory status.
This is an exciting new type of public-private sector collaboration,
formed specifically to further an important scientific breakthrough in
the 'development' field. Licences for further development will now be
granted to other public sector research institutes. The technology can
then be transferred to local rice varieties for biosafety and efficacy
testing which is expected to take at least another four years.
Contacts * Humanitarian Board: Professor Ingo Potrykus
firstname.lastname@example.org * International Rice Research Institute: Duncan
MacIntosh email@example.com * Rockefeller Foundation : George
Soule firstname.lastname@example.org * Syngenta Ltd: Ian Weatherhead
Information for Editors * Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD): Vitamin A is one
of the most important nutrients for the maintenance of life and
health. Consequently, dietary lack or deficiency of Vitamin A (VAD)
leads to severe clinical symptoms. In Southeast Asia it is estimated
that five million children develop xerophthalmia (alteration in the
structure of the conjunctiva and cornea found predominantly in
children) every year. This problem may be equally severe in certain
areas of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. VAD also plays an
important role in measles-associated corneal destruction, the most
common cause of paediatric blindness in Africa (Foster and Sommer,
1987, Brit. Opthalmol. 71:331-343). Overall, around 500,000 children
annually become irreversibly blind as a result of VAD.
* According to statistics compiled by UNICEF, the diets of an
estimated 124 million children worldwide are deficient in Vitamin A
(Humphrey et al, 1992, WHO Bulletin, 70: 225-232). Improved Vitamin A
nutrition could be expected to prevent approximately 1-2 million
deaths annually among children aged 1-4 years, and an additional
0.25-0.5 million deaths during later childhood. VAD is known to be a
serious public health problem in at least 26 countries, and is
suspected to be in at least 13 more (Sommer, 1988, J.Nutr. 119: 96-100).
* 'Golden Rice' is a genetically modified rice containing
beta-carotene and other carotenoids, precursors of Vitamin A, and is
one potential solution to the problem of VAD. Alternative VAD
alleviation strategies include improved diet, through the intake of
green vegetables and animal products, or the use of vitamin pills.
* The inventors of 'Golden Rice' are Professor Ingo Potrykus of the
Institute for Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
(ETH), Zurich, Switzerland, and Professor Peter Beyer of the Centre
for Applied Biosciences, University of Freiburg, Germany.
* The 'Golden Rice' technology was developed with funding from the
Rockefeller Foundation (1991-2002), the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology (1993-1996), the European Union under a European Community
Biotech Programme (FAIR CT96 1633)(1996-2000) and the Swiss Federal
Office for Education and Science (1996-2000).
From: Frederic Abraham
Subject: The precautionary principle
The precautionary principle in GM cropping: an aknowledgement of the
uncertainty with a sense of the irreversible.
I felt I had to assess some of the arguments raised on the
precautionary principle by professor Comstock.
Prof. Comstock: "Now, as mad cow disease grips the European
imagination,concerned observers transfer fears to genetically modified
foods, advising:"Take precaution!" Is this a valuable observation that
can guide specific public policy decisions, or well-intentioned but
ultimately unhelpful advice?"
This question raises others which could be of help in assessing some
crucial aspects of the precautionary principle: Does the precautionary
principle mean to advise us in some kind of a "helpful" way? Does this
principle inherently have this instrumental dimension to it?
First of all, it would be greatly helpful in the face of these
questions to make the fundamental distinctions between three
principles: the precautionary principle, the foresight principle and
the preventive principle. Actually, each of these principles
approaches out coming reality in it's own way and the difference
between them resides in our input, as humans, into the outcome of what
could happen with the help of our tools and knowledge.
The foresight principle "came out" in the 19th century and consisted
in the fact that in considering uncertainty, losses had to be
compensated. In this regard, we relied on probabilistic laws to assess
these losses (and their impact) in a foresight fashion (hence the
principle) in order to plan theircompensation.The preventive principle
edges out in the 20th century and consisted in the fact that while
foreseeing the possible outcome (i.e. losses, impact etc.),not only do
we plan the compensation of these losses, but we also seek to reduce
their probability with the help of science.The precautionary
principle, which came out at the same time as the preventive one,
takes into account the distortion between the relativity of our
scientific knowledge and the necessity of decision making. It could be
seen as an aknowledgment of the fact that knowledge give us
technological capacities which are not entirely controllable by this
What I wish to point out is the fact that there is a danger in not
distinguishing between these principles because we could miss the
meaning o a particular one by associating it with another (which I
think is a fundamental mistake). The foresight and the preventive
principles do have an instrumental dimension as it appears to be
inherent to them. The precautionary principle doesn't necessarily:
it's an aknowledgement of the uncertainty with a sense of the
irreversible. Simply. But what uncertainty?While we lack scientific
certainty in the matter of the GM plants, we do know enough in genetic
science that if some alterations would occur, these would be
irreversible.World hunger is a challenge we have to face actively: but
does it have to beat the sake of profound alteration of our
environment (which could ultimately raise other challenges of
importance)? Is GM technology the final alternative in assessing world
hunger? what about our ways of managing food in a global repartiton
(whether it's genetically modified or not)?
Prof. Comstock: "On the supposition that we might need the tools of
genetic engineering to avert future episodes of crushing human attacks
on what AldoLeopold called "the land," the precautionary principle
requires that we develop GMcrops. Yes, we lack full scientific
certainty that developing GM crops wil lprevent environmental
degradation. True, we do not know what the final financial price of GM
research and development will be. But if GM technology were to help
save the land, few would not deem that price cost-effective.So,
according to the precautionary principle, lack of full scientific
certainty that GM crops will prevent environmental degradation shall
not be used as a reason for postponing this potentially
Here (with all due respect to professor Comstock) is an example of
where could lead the fact of not distinguishing between principles. I
feel that professor Comstock is making two major confusions here:1)GM
technologies as a precautionary mean which he associates (mistakenly,
believe) with a way of applying the precautionary principle.2)The
fundamental confusion between the preventive principle (as a way of
dealing with uncertain outcoming with the help of science as I pointed
out earlier) and the precautionary principle (as an aknowledgement of
the uncertainty as I said earlier as well).Finally (and most
importantly), I think that in assessing these global environmental
problems he's refering to, professor Comstock is claiming the
application of the preventive principle (NOT the precautionary
principle). I strongly felt that this should be pointed out as it was,
as I see it, a misunderstanding of the association of the
precautionary principle with GM technologies in crop plants.
Please, reply to this post by sharing your commentaries as well as
your views on the precautionary principle and its application to GM
technologies:it could be a good way of learning about this particular
principle. I strongly feel that this subject is an exciting theme of
debate in the field of GM technologies applied to crop plants.
- Frederic Abraham
-graduate student at the bioethics programs of the University of
From: Richard E. Stuckey [email@example.com]
Subject: GM web site
For those of you interested in biotechnology and websites, I came
across this today while catching up on some e-mail. Enjoy. Dick
From: Susan Smith
The following news release was emailed to me, I pass it along for what
it's worth. It sounds to me like there might be some interesting
possibilities here. Susan
Announcing an educational Web forum about genetically modified foods
for teachers, scientists and concerned citizens. Are you concerned
about eating genetically modified foods? Are you interested in
learning more about the issues? The appearance of genetically modified
foods (GMF) in the food supply has resulted in a firestorm of public
debate, scientific discussion, and media coverage.
For the first time in history, crops can be specifically designed to
be more frost or drought tolerant, more nutritious, or less dependent
on the constant spraying of pesticides. Yet, a variety of ecological
and human health concerns come with the new advances made possible by
Do you have a position in the GMF debate? Do you have questions about
GMF? Or are you an educator who wants to teach about GMF in your
classes? The SCOPE Project would like to announce an on-line,
educational forum focused on the issues associated with genetically
modified foods. The SCOPE GMF Forum is being designed to serve as a
comprehensive learning resource about genetically modified foods and
the underlying science associated with genetic engineering.
You can access the SCOPE GMF Forum at the following location on the Web:
The SCOPE GMF Forum includes free access to:
* EMAIL LISTS dedicated to discussion of GMF science and news, *
WEB-BASED CURRICULA on a range of GMF-related topics, * INSIGHTS about
how students learn about GMF, genetics, and scientific controversies,
* ORIGINAL COMMENTARIES from scientists about hot GMF topics, *
POSITION STATEMENTS by major stakeholders about aspects of the
controversy, * A REFERENCE DATABASE listing GMF research publications,
news articles, web sites, and organizations.
Teachers, scientists, and concerned citizens can make use of the GMF
resources provided and to join the email list discussion groups. Using
the educational resources in the forum, students can explore the
actual scientific evidence, build arguments, and debate about these
issues in the classroom.
The web site and email lists are designed to facilitate an even-handed
exploration of the potential risks, issues, and possibilities
associated with GMF. We encourage you to participate in this forum and
let us know what you would like to see included. This is a design
preview period for the SCOPE GMF Forum. Additional educational
resources will continue to be added over the coming months. The
"Science Controversies On-Line: Partnerships in Education" (SCOPE)
Project is a research collaboration between the College of Education
at the University of Washington, the Graduate School of Education at
the University of California-Berkeley, and the journal SCIENCE
published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
A central goal of the SCOPE project is to investigate how new
information technologies can promote better understanding and
communication of science at a variety of levels, ranging from active
primary researchers to the public at large to middle school students
learning science. Previously developed SCOPE Forums have focused on
the global decline of amphibian populations and the treatment and
control of malaria.
With funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF),
registration and access to the SCOPE GMF Forum is free to all
interested individuals. Curriculum projects and activities can be used
free of charge in all classroom settings.
We welcome your feedback and suggestions for the GMF Forum. Please
send all comments and questions to
Subject: Pusztai's responses to Morton and MacGregor
1. response to Bob MacGregor:You cannot have it both ways. When
regulation is based on substantial equivalence, as it is, if a GM crop
and its non-GM parent line are not substantially equivalent then the
GM line cannot be accepted on the basis of the present regulations. I
have nothing to do with this aspect of regulation and I am not going
to say whether I think this is good or bad. However, one cannot pick
and choose which of the regulations one needs to obey!
The next question is, then, whether an established significant
difference has any biological meaning. Here, obviously, personal
judgment and expertise will come in but, as a minimum, when a
difference exists it must be obligatory to follow it up and establish
whether the difference signifies any pathological etc.
significance.What you cannot do is to dismiss it just because in your
opinion, and based on a possibly incomplete or poor understanding of
the topic, and/ora lack of experience, you may think that it is of no
importance. There used to be a word for this in the past, humility. We
may not know everything and therefore one is under an obligation to
ask for the advice and help of experts before new experiments are
designed and carried out.
I am not going to speculate on the reasons why differences in the
weight, size and structure of the gastrointestinal tract were observed
in any particular instance because there are good and proper
experimental techniques to probe into these reasons and in most
instances such experimental work can give you precise, biochemical and
quantitative reasons for the underlying gut enlargement. But I can
assure you that there are always good material reasons for this and
even if the "innate characteristics of the plant" change because of
the gene transfer, these methods can still be applied to clear up the
problem. Had we been given time we would have been able to nail down
these reasons, be it with our GM potatoes or GM peas.---
2. response to Roger Morton:I think it is high time to close this
debate because it is now getting too personal. I could, of course, say
that Dr Morton should look at Tables 2 & 4 (I am sure he actually did)
and then politely ask me why I thought that the real and significant
differences in Tables 2 & 4 were not shown by the results of Table 3.
Perhaps, I might have been able to enlighten him. You see, when one
wants to score points over one's opponent in a debate, it shuts off
the channels of communication.
Why does Dr Morton think that "no detectable detrimental effect" is
better than no detrimental effect, particularly if we may have
detected detrimental effects? When the alpha-amylase inhibitor even
partially stops starch degradation in the small intestine, the extra
load of undigested starch accumulating in the enlarged caecum/large
intestine can have a detrimental effect. In fact, it could kill the
animal. This actually happened in our pre-study with alpha-amylase
inhibitor (non-GM)also published in Journal of Nutrition.
So you see, just like with beauty, knowledge is also in the eye of
the beholder. Thorough knowledge of one's topic is never a bad thing
when it comes t oevaluating one's own experiments.One cannot give a
more frappant example of the potential problems due to the
personalizing of the debate. When Dr Morton says that "I am not sure
that I believe you when you tell me Dr Higgins came up with this
title", does he think that apart from himself and possibly a few other
similar people, this business has any interest for anyone else? Our
initial exchanges were to the point and pertinent to the GM debate.
Iam afraid, this has very little enlightement to offer to the general
interested reader.For gut enlargement and its significance, see my
reply to Dr MacGregor.
We are back again to our GM potatoes. I said this before and I say it
again: we were the lab which had done the testing and produced the
data for the commercial company. As referred to before, because of our
work the Rowett and Axis Genetics had already drawn up a commercial
agreemen ton profit sharing if and when the GNA potatoes went through
the regulatory approval process.I am glad to see that even American
lawyers see the holes in the USA regulatory process. In fact, there
are no holes because since the FLAVR-SAVR tomato study in 1992/93,
there has been no compulsory regulation. In effect, up till now it has
On the final point, Dr Morton ought to ponder a little when he dares
me to give him a plausible hypothesis to explain the results. I have
to remind him why I was condemned by the scientific establishment in
August 1998. It was, according to them, because I openly and without
peer-review revealed experimental details of our GM potato work. Apart
from tiny little details, such as the fact that I did no such thing,
it just shows the hypocrisy of the whole system. Just take those 40
odd articles DrMorton quoted in his reference list which had never
been peer-reviewed but which still with great confidence asserted
things which, at best,could only be called opinions. As they were
favourable to GM, they are alright. I am not going to oblige him or
anybody else to crucify me for my views and opinions. If we were
friends and had a confidential discussion over a pint of beer or a
glass of some good Australian wine I could expound on my views. A lot
of things have been said about me but nobody tried to assert that I am
stupid and by rising to the bait definitely would be. On a more
philosophical note, personalized debatesa nd using demolition charges
to remove opponents does not further the cause of science and honest
scientific debate.I am sure, we have had our space and time on the
internet, we shouldgive others a chance too.
From: Martina McGloughlin
Subject: Gordon Conference in Agriculture
Gordon Conference on Agricultural Science
http://www.grc.uri.edu/01sched.htm February 11-16, 2001 Clarion
Ventura Beach Hotel Ventura, CA Co- Chairs: Mark Stidham (BASF) &
Bruce Hammock (UC Davis) Co-Vice-Chairs: John Ryals (Paradigm
Genetics) & Sarjeet Gill (UC Riverside)
This conference is held every two years and has traditionally enjoyed
participation from government, university, and industrial scientists.
The past conferences have been dominated by the science of crop
protection, i.e., pest control, disease control, and weed control. In
1999 our conference theme was "Genomics in Crop Production." We
brought many new faces into the conference, and we will continue
moving with the "Frontiers of Science" in 2001. This intimate and
exciting conference focuses on oral presentations from leaders in the
field, formal and informal discussions and poster sessions. There is
ample time for interaction with colleagues in a charming setting.
The theme chosen for 2001 is "Diversity Exploration in Agricultural
Sciences." This theme should be taken in the context of exploring
diversity in organisms, genetics, chemistry, and in approaches to
address agricultural problems. For more information please see the
Gordon Conference Website at: http://www.grc.uri.edu/01sched.htm
From: "Brian M. Hyps"
Subject: Biotechnology a Part of Many Breakthroughs in Plant Research
PLANT RESEARCH BREAKTHROUGHS OF PAST 25 YEARS FEATURED IN PLANT
PHYSIOLOGY SPECIAL ISSUE
In its first issue of the new millennium, the journal Plant Physiology
is publishing a special issue on some the greatest advances in plant
science of the past quarter-century. The American Society of Plant
Physiologists (ASPP) is publishing this special issue of Plant
Physiology January 11 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of this widely
The January Special Issue focuses on the conceptual breakthroughs of
the last 25 years as perceived by over 40 authors who have been at the
leading edge of this unprecedented surge in scientific progress.
Elliot Meyerowitz (California Institute of Technology), one of the
first of the modern crop of researchers to embrace the weed
Arabidopsis thaliana, as an organism for addressing fundamental
questions in plant biology, traces the historical development of
Arabidopsis's meteoric rise to prominence in the field of plant
physiology. In 1943, the German plant physiologist Friedrich Laibach
humbly suggested that Arabidopsis, because of its short generation
time, few chromosomes, high fecundity, small size, and ease of
crossing and growing might make an ideal research organism to answer
many questions in plant biology, In the late 1980s, Laibach's
suggestion was finally taken to heart with the result that Arabidopsis
is being studied by many thousands of plant biologists worldwide.
Arabidopsis was also the first plant to have its DNA completely
sequenced. Plans are afoot to try to identify every one of
Arabidopsis's estimated 15,000 estimated genes by the year 2010.
Mary-Dell Chilton (Novartis Agribusiness Research), whose research
played an important role in the development of plant genetic
engineering, traces the historical development of the Agrobacterium
technique which is widely used to deliver foreign genes into plant
cells. In nature, Agrobacterium has the ability to insert a circular
piece of DNA called a plasmid into the DNA of a plant, thereby causing
the infected cell to multiply into a tumor-like growth. It has proven
possible to modify the plasmids of these bacteria so that they
maintain the ability to integrate foreign genes into the DNA of a
plant cell, but lose the ability to form these harmful tumors.
(more) Chris Somerville (Carnegie Institution of Washington), another
of the modern pioneers of Arabidopsis research, discusses the
potential use of genetically engineered plants in the development of
environmentally benign methods of meeting society's needs for
materials that are currently produced by chemical synthesis from
declining fossil fuels. Such "plant factories" may also be used soon
to produce novel variations of biological materials (e.g.,modified
oils, proteins, and starches) which have properties not easily
simulated through chemical syntheses.
The 42 articles in the Special Issue, written by leading scientists in
their field of study, include a rich history and look at possible
future study in many of the most significant areas of plant research.
Plant Physiology Editor-in-Chief Natasha Raikhel (Michigan State
University) opens the special issue with her article on "Plant
Physiology, Past, Present and Future." The Special Issue includes
Robert Goldberg's (University of California, Los Angeles) observations
on how gene cloning established new concepts in plant biology. The
journal features Gloria Coruzzi's (New York University) analysis of
nitrogen and carbon nutrient and metabolite signaling in plants. Dan
Cosgrove (Pennsylvania State University) examines cell wall structure
and wall loosening. Vicki Chandler (University of Arizona) discusses
gene activation and gene silencing. Alan Jones (University of North
Carolina) shares insights on programmed cell death in development and
defense. Sharon Long (Stanford University) discusses gene and signals
in the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis.
Don Ort (Agricultural Research Service and University of Illinois)
examines when there is too much light for plants. Clarence Ryan
(Washington State University) discusses polypeptide hormones. Joanne
Chory (Salk Institute) addresses signal transduction networks. Hans
Kende (Michigan State University) shares the surprises found in the
study of hormone response mutants. Mike Thomashow (Michigan State
University) explains what's new in the field of plant cold
acclimation. Dean Della Penna (Michigan State University) discusses
plant metabolic engineering. Maarten Koornneef (Agricultural
University, Lab of Genetics, The Netherlands) examines the changing
paradigms in plant breeding. Toni Kutchan (Leibniz Instut Fur
Pflanzenbiochemie, Germany) discusses the paradigm of secondary
metabolism. Geoffrey McFadden (University of Melbourne) explores
chloroplast origin and integration. More articles by leading
scientists on research breakthroughs can be found in the Special Issue.
As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, special free access to
the electronic version of the 42 articles in the Special Issue will be
made available at (http://www.plantphysiol.org). Dr. Raikhel can be
reached by phone at 517-353-3518 and by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Brian Hyps 301-251-0560 email@example.com
From: Charles Pritchard
Subject: Traders Journal feature on biotechnology
Seasons Greetings from South Africa!
We are hosting a feature on biotechnology in the next issue of
"Traders - Journal for the Southern African Region". We are now
distributing this to 12 central and southern African countries (our
editorial focus is still the SADC - see www.tradersp.co.za for further
details - the issue that you featured in is also downloadable in PDF
format). Our target audience is essentially decision makers and
investors wishing to do (or doing business) in the SADC.
I was wondering if you (one of your colleagues) would be interested in
sending us an update regarding the latest developments in this field -
with an African/global flavour - perhaps 750 to 1500 words? We will
attach full contact details for any efforts on your side.
Our editorial deadline is 28 February.
I look forward to your response.
Kind regards, Charles
Dr Charles J. Pritchard Senior
Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand, School of Electrical and
Information Engineering Personal Website:
http://www.dept.ee.wits.ac.za/~pritchar/ Editor & Member: Traders
THE FATE OF FORAGE PLANT DNA IN FARM ANIMALS: A COLLABORATIVE
CASE-STUDY INVESTIGATING CATTLE AND CHICKEN FED RECOMBINANT PLANT
MATERIAL European Food Research and Technology 212: 129-134
R. Einspanier (1), Andreas Klotz (1), Jana Kraft (2), Karen Aulrich
(3), Rita Poser (4), Fredi Schwagele (4), Gerhard Jahreis (2), Gerhard
Flachowsky (3) (1) Institut fur Physiologie, FML, Weihenstephaner Berg
3, Technische Universitat Munchen, 85350 Freising, Germany e-mail:
Abstract The fate of ingested recombinant plant DNA in farm animals
(cattle and chicken) being fed a diet containing conventional maize or
recombinant Bacillus thuringiensis toxin-maize (Bt-maize) is
described. The probability of the detection by polymerase chain
reaction of chloroplast-specific gene fragments of different lengths
(199 bp and 532 bp) and a Bt-maize-specific fragment [truncated
version of CryIA(b)] is shown. First data indicated that only short
DNA fragments (<200 bp) derived from plant chloroplasts could be
detected in the blood lymphocytes of cows. In all other cattle organs
investigated (muscle, liver, spleen, kidney) plant DNAs were not
found, except for faint signals in milk. Furthermore, Bt-gene
fragments possibly recording the uptake of recombinant maize, were not
detected in any sample from cattle. However, in all chicken tissues
(muscle, liver, spleen, kidney) the short maize chloroplast gene
fragment was amplified. In contrast to this, no foreign plant DNA
fragments were found in eggs. Bt-gene specific constructs originating
from recombinant Bt-maize were not detectable in any of these poultry
Meeting : "Intellectual property clearinghouse mechanisms for agriculture
The University of California Center for Sustainable Resource
Development (CSRD) and the Department of Agricultural and Resource
Economics (ARE) at U.C. Berkeley, along with the University of
California Office of Technology Transfer (UCOTT), would like to invite
you to join other stakeholders and licensing professionals in
agricultural and biological intellectual property to a meeting on
"Intellectual property clearinghouse mechanisms for agriculture," to
be held at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Womens'
Faculty Club on February 16th, 2001.
The workshop will begin with a summary of the current debate about
effects of intellectual property congestion on the research,
innovation, and adoption of biotechnologies for agriculture, with a
special focus on challenges to international agriculture. We will then
hear from leading legal and economic scholars in the field of
intellectual property, who will discuss collective patent pooling and
licensing arrangements in other fields of technology such as
aeronautics and semiconductors and the results these arrangements have
had in alleviating congestion problems, facilitating mutual access to
proprietary intellectual resources, and promoting the advance of those
fields. Several agricultural professionals will then share their ideas
on concrete mechanisms or programs for sharing access to intellectual
property in agriculture. The floor will then be open for examination
and discussion of these clearinghouse mechanisms by all participants.
"IP Clearinghouse" describes institutional or market mechanisms that
aim to effectively and efficiently grant, monitor, and enforce terms
of use for key technologies by multiple parties in order to fulfill
either or both of the following interrelated goals: (1) to improve the
general freedom-to-operate of all those working in agricultural R&D,
and/or (2) to facilitate the international transfer of appropriate
agricultural technologies to the developing world. This workshop, we
hope, will continue in the rich vein of discussion from the Technology
Transfer Meeting held at the World Food Prize Symposium in Iowa in
For more information on the workshop and on clearinghouse concepts,
please visit the "Events" page on the website of the Center for
Sustainable Resource Development:
We have chosen this date to correspond with the American Association
for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting and Science
Innovation Exposition, which will be going on across the bay in San
Francisco the same weekend (February 15-20, see
http://www.aaas.org/meetings/2001/index.htm .) We ask that you please
register for this Berkeley workshop, as space is limited, by e-mailing
your name, address, organization, and position to the address below.
Also please feel free to contact us for assistance in arranging
accomodations in Berkeley.
Sincerely yours, David Zilberman, Director, Center for Sustainable
Resource Development, Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics,
University of California, Berkeley Brian D. Wright, Professor,
Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California,
Berkeley Alan B. Bennett, Executive Director, Office of Technology
Transfer, University of California System Professor, Department of
Vegetable Crops, University of California, Davis Gregory D. Graff,
Ph.D. candidate and economic researcher, Agricultural and Resource
Economics, University of California, Berkeley
Please reply to: Gregory D. Graff, (510) 643-2313 tel Agricultural and
Resource Economics (510) 643-8911 fax U.C. Berkeley 326 Giannini Hall
firstname.lastname@example.org Berkeley, CA 94720
From: "Ousama Awa"
Subject: Training Request A Request for a Training Course and
Assistantship in Ag_Biotechnologies
I am a Syrian scientist. I
received my B.S. from Ain-Shams University, Cairo, Egypt (1956), MS
and PhD degrees (Animal Breeding) from Oklahoma State University,
Stillwater, Ok., 1968 and 1970. I have taught animal breeding and
genetics, reproductive physiology, and experimental designs and
statistical analyses at Damascus (Syria) an Sana (Yemen) Universities
for about 27 years. I led and supervised research projects in many
Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa while occupying the
post of Director of the Animal Science Division at the Arab Center for
the Studies of Arid Lands and Dry Zones (ACSAD) of the League of Arab
Countries (1980-1987). I have published seven books and many research
papers and studies in Arabic. As you know, almost all Mid-Eastern
countries, have been suffering from severe draught and diminishing
resources of water and arable lands, as well as from increasing
population sizes and the practice of traditional agricultural
techniques. Therefore, increasing amounts and better qualities of food
and animal feeds are needed for the time being and the future, and
should be produced from less arable lands and water.
Among other things, this necessitates the urgent use of modern
agricultural biotechnologies to obtain higher plant and animal
products, and to the conservation of the very fragile environment.=20
I am leading a scientific team who is well aware of these problems and
preparing to advocate the necessity and urgency of utilizing
biotechnology in Syria and the Middle East. We are applying for
governmental recognition as the Syrian Group for Agricultural
Biotechnology (SGAB). To lead this team in an efficient way and to
start publicizing our scientific objectives, I feel that I need some
training on scientific, benefits, possible concerns, regulations and
building public and official acceptance of biotechnologies. I wonder
if you could kindly provide a training program for me and an
assistantship to finance my participation in it. In the future, I and
my colleagues should be able to cooperate with you and train other
people in this country and other neighboring countries. Thanks for
your time and cooperation.
Prof. Ousama A. Awa PO Box 9681 Damascus, Syria email@example.com
POST-DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIPS AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Science, Technology and Development
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
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 biotechnology.