Report on Bt Crops Published
Applied Genetic News January 1, 2001
An evaluation of plants protected against insect pests through
biotechnology has appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific journal,
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.
The scientific report reviews scientific research on crops protected
against insect pests with a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The
study purports to demonstrate that Bt crops are as safe as conventional
plant varieties, and that these products provide significant economic,
environmental, and agricultural benefits.
"Bt crops have been commercially available since 1996," says Roy Fuchs,
director of regulatory science at Monsanto Co. (800 N. Lindbergh Blvd.,
St. Louis, MO 63167; Tel: 314/694-1000, Fax: 314/694-7625; Website:
www.monsanto.com), a coauthor of the paper. The evaluation reviewed data
on three major Bt crops - corn, cotton, and potatoes - that have been
commercialized in several countries, rapidly adopted by farmers, and
studied extensively by scientists around the world. According to the
report, the most significant benefits of Bt crops include:
*reduced use of synthetic chemical insecticides; *improved crop yields;
*economic benefits to the farmers; *reduction in naturally occurring
mycotoxin levels; and *the preservation of beneficial insects.
"A view such as this provides [information for] people who are interested
an understanding of the extensive testing and regulatory oversight
involved in the development of these products," says Fuchs.
From: Ajit Chopra
Subject: Jose Bove
I cannot understand how this man Jose Bove can say that he is fighting for
Brazilian farmers when farm subsidies in his country of France are hurting
farmers in the developing world. Can somebody please explain this? I find
a web site <http://www.purefoods.org/other/bove.html> which says that he
supports French "set-aside policies." The same as subsidies?
I do not think this man is helping poor farmers. - Ajit
Brazil judge lifts deportation order on Jose Bove January 30, 2001 Reuters
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, Jan 30 (Reuters) - A Brazilian judge overruled a
decision on Tuesday that would have forced Jose Bove, a French farmer who
shot to fame when he trashed a local McDonald's, to leave the country or
face deportation for his part in a raid on a Monsanto biotech farm.
Bove, who was in Brazil attending a giant anti-capitalism forum, was
detained by police late Monday night and warned that he had 24 hours to
leave Brazil after trespassing, destroying private property and breaking
laws governing foreigners. On Tuesday, a Rio Grande do Sul state judge
said in a statement that he suspended the order until Wednesday night,
giving the pipe-smoking farmer and militant French nationalist time to
leave Wednesday on a previously scheduled flight.
The judge said the order was "abusive" and represented "mere reprisal" by
the authorities. The French activist hailed the judge's decision and
Bove's his acts, saying they had brought attention to the plight of
Brazil's poor, rural workers. "What happened to me is little compared to
Brazil's thousands and thousands of rural poor who fight for land and are
killed every day by the police and land owners," Bove told journalists
after the judge's decision. The vast majority of land in Brazil is
controlled by a handful of its richest citizens, something the rural poor
have long campaigned to change, often through illegal land occupations.
In the predawn hours on Friday, Bove, fellow activists from the World
Social Forum in the state capital of Porto Alegre and more than 1,000 poor
Brazilian farmers raided a plant owned by U.S.-based Monsanto. Protesting
against genetically modified (GM) food, the activists and farmers yanked
out rows of GM soybean crops at the life science giant's experimental
farm. At the forum's closing ceremony on Tuesday, hundreds of activists
gave Bove a standing ovation and chanted "Bove is my friend, whoever
messes with him, messes with me!" Some 16,000 anti-globalization activists
from around the globe met in Porto Alegre for the five-day rival meeting
to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss alternative
forms of development. Among other things, they condemned GM foods.
French anti-globalization activist to leave Brazil
February 1, 2001
By TONY SMITH= Associated Press Writer=
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) France's top anti-globalization activist, who
was arrested earlier for the occupation of a soybean farm in a protest
against genetically engineered crops, was to leave Brazil Wednesday.
Jose Bove, a sheep farmer who shot to fame for ransacking a McDonald's
restaurant in France, was to leave Porto Alegre at 4 p.m. (1800GMT) for
France via Sao Paulo. Bove had faced expulsion for his role in the
occupation Friday of the experimental farm owned by U.S. agribusiness
Police held him briefly late Monday and ordered him out of Brazil by
midnight Tuesday. But the Landless Workers Movement, which backed Bove in
the occupation, won an appeal later at a local court, protecting him from
deportation. Bove and about 1,300 farmers from the movement, known here
by its Portuguese acronym MST, destroyed five acres (two hectares) of
soybeans at the Monsanto farm at Nao Me Toque near Porto Alegre, saying
the beans were genetically engineered.
Genetically engineered crops and seeds are illegal in Brazil, but Monsanto
has said it had government authorization for the fields. The activist was
in Porto Alegre as one of the star speakers at the World Social Forum, a
gathering of anti-globalization activists from around the world.
"Arresting me was a failure," Bove told reporters Tuesday. "The news has
spread around the world and now everybody knows more about the MST."
Bove's actions divided opinions in France's government. Guy Hascoet,
minister for economic solidarity who also took part in the Porto Alegre
meeting, criticized the Brazilian government's order as ``disproportional
and discriminatory, while Minister of Agriculture Jean Clavany, speaking
on radio Europe 1, said Bove's actions ``are his own responsibility.''
Bove said he will join protesters at the Summit of the Americas to be held
April 20 in Quebec, where leaders will discuss the formation of a
U.S.-sponsored free trade agreement for North and South America.
From: Milton Gordon
Subject: Re: Human-Infecting Plant Bacteria?;
It has now been 15 years since we have published the unequivocal finding
of Agrobacterium genes in a number of "natural " species of Nicotiana.
From the slight change in sequence this event is about 10 to 50 million
years old way before there were any NIH or FDA regulations! see Nature 319
(Note from Prakash: Dr. Milton Gordon and Dr. Eugene Nester at the
University of Washington (Seattle) are the pioneers of Agrobacterium
research (who along with others such as Dr. van Montagu and Dr. Jeff
Schell) showed how this soil bacteria naturally transfers its genes to
plants, and thus paved the way for modern plant genetic transformation
From: Frederic Abraham
Subject: About the "natural"
"Natural trans-kingdom crosses": redirecting a "debate"
I would like to comment on Mr. Tribe post. As the choice of his subject
title could suggest ("So called "Unnatural cross kingdom gene movement"
may actually occur in nature!"), one could think that one of the key
argument of those anti-GM folks is the fact that GE is messing with
"nature". The answer from the pro-GM folks to that claim would be, for
instance, what's suggested in Mr. Tribe subject title...
As far as I'm concerned this "natural-unnatural" thing shouldn't be of
matter in the "debate" on GM food:
1) because the claim which suggest that Man is messing with nature is
saying that as human, we are inherently "supra- natural", exacerbating at
the same time modern humanism in claiming, for one part, that Man is all
what nature isn't... This statement couldn't be sustained because one
could argue that what we are doing via GE is in fact natural... it's all a
question of definition (of what's natural and what's not) which, I
believe, would appear to be solved way too quickly by those anti-GM folks
saying we are messing with nature.
2) because, as what seems to be suggested in "So called "Unnatural cross
kingdom gene movement" may actually occur in nature!" is the fact that "If
"Nature" does it, well, there's nothing wrong with us doing it as well!",
not only the problem of definition of nature is raised again by putting it
under the objectivity of human's assessing (instead of seeing it as
"processing" through Man), but it's stating that Nature is inherently
My point here, is that it doesn't matter if trans-kingdom gene flow
actually occur in "nature" with or without my participation in genetic
alteration (Actually, this study on Agrobacterium tumefaciens wasn't
design into putting that kind of argument in perspective into the sayings
of some pro-GM folks). Why? because this "nature" which is stated in Mr.
Tribe subject title ISN'T a moral agent! If there's one thing that
distinguish me from the kind of nature that is stated here (which
shouldn't be understood as the one I'm referring to when I mention the one
that would be processing through my actions) it's that "I" am a moral
agent: "I" can take responsibilities.
This is where I'm trying to focus the "debate" on GM food: Are we willing
to bare the responsibilities of the environmental implications of GE
applied to crop industry?
DON'T tell that all that is implicated here is "world hunger" because no
one would disagree on the fact that this challenge should be face with all
our willing: anti-GM folks AREN'T against feeding the world!!! Beyond
"world hunger", what is most importantly implicated here is our
responsibilities in all that is at stake when we perform GE in our
environment: THIS is what's under debate here.
The Precaution principle (as I understand it and as I pointed in earlier
posts) has stated on that responsibility matter. What do you all have to
say on that particular responsibility matter?
From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Letter to NY Times re Kolata Article
(See my (unpublished) letter, below)
To the Editor of the New York Times:
The article by Eichenwald, Kolata and Petersen ("Biotechnology Food: From
the Lab to a Debacle," 25 January) about biotechnology-derived food
contains several omissions and misapprehensions.
By insisting for years that their own gene-spliced crop plants and the
foods derived from them merited extraordinary government oversight,
Monsanto and several other companies elicited regulation that lessened
competition and slowed the flow of products through the development
pipeline. Contrary to the revisionist accounts in the Eichenwald et al
article, Monsanto executives admitted privately at the time that their
motive was to use regulation as a market entry barrier to competitors --
in particular, seed companies and biotech startups -- that were less able
to bear the high costs of unnecessary regulation.
The cost of field-testing biotech plants skyrocketed, and seed companies
and entrepreneurial biotech companies failed to compete successfully on
this tilted playing field; subsequently many were bought at a fraction of
their true value by Monsanto, Novartis and Dupont. During one period of
only 18 months, for example, harvesting the fruits of its anti-competitive
strategy Monsanto gobbled up Agracetus, Ecogen, and Calgene.
The article suggests that too-lenient regulation stimulated anti-biotech
activists and alarmed the public. Just the opposite is true: By embracing
the myth that the more precise and predictable techniques of gene-splicing
needed extraordinary regulation, government and industry played into
activists' scare scenarios and discouraged public acceptance of products.
As the head of a consumer group testified at a government-sponsored
biotech conference in 1991, "The consumer views the technologies that are
MOST regulated to be the LEAST safe ones. Heavy involvement by government,
no matter how well intended, inevitably sends the wrong signals."
[emphasis in orginal]
If public policy had been dictated by scientific principles instead of by
the anticompetitive instincts of a few big agribusiness companies, those
same companies =97 and American farmers and consumers =97 would now be
Henry I. Miller, MD, Hoover Institution Stanford University
From: Craig Sams
Subject: Organics is not 'anti-science'
Dear Dr. Prakash: I thought you might find this timely in the light of
your recent comments as to the way genomics and plant breeding are likely
to go in the future. I thought that it might help convince some of your
list members that the organic sector are not anti-science. This issue came
up at a meeting that Patrick Holden (the Soil Association Director) and I
had with Hendrik Verfaillie of Monsanto in September 1999 in which he
raised the question of whether organic farmers would use seeds bred
conventionally but using genomics knowledge.
Kind regards, Craig Sams
Campaigning for organic food and farming and sustainable forestry Marker
Assisted Plant Breeding
Summary: The Soil Association welcomes publicly funded research to map the
genetic sequence and structure of plants, offering an opportunity to gain
a better understanding of the molecular biology of crops. We support the
use of this data in natural plant breeding programmes such as marker
assisted breeding (MAB.) By 'natural plant breeding' the Soil Association
refers to methods which do not by-pass the sexual breeding process.
Scientists have developed the means to read the genetic sequencing of
plants. This genetic map can assist plant breeders to more reliably and
rapidly identify desirable traits when selecting plants for sexual
breeding programmes - a process which in the past has involved drawn out
procedures. Utilising this mapping information whilst maintaining the
sexual breeding process enables the more efficient development of new
plant (and animal)varieties, but without the risks associated with genetic
engineering (i.e. the artificial transfer of genetic material between or
within speciesusing recombinant DNA). [note rDNA can be used to transfer
genetic material between the same species].
Marker Assisted breeding - Genomics Marker assisted breeding (sometimes
referred to as 'genomics') is a form of biotechnology which uses genetic
fingerprinting techniques to assists plant breeders in matching molecular
profile to the physical properties of the variety. This allows plant
breeders to significantly accelerate the speed of natural plant breeding
programmes, without exposure to the unpredictable health and environmental
risks associated with genetic engineering techniques.
Local distinctiveness and genetic diversity.The Soil Association would
welcome publicly owned research using MAB provided the technology is not
used to promote a narrowing of genetic diversity in plant varieties (there
is a risk that seed companies may use this technology to further reduce
the genetic diversity of commercially available crop varieties thereby
increasing the plant health risks associated with genetically un-diverse
systems of agriculture - i.e. risk associated with moncultures).
Organic systems traditionally stress the importance of adaptation through
natural evolution along the principle of natural breeds and natural
selection. Any marker assisted breeding programme should therefore focus
on the use of germplasm from locally distinct traditional seed lines from
a particular area or region that are best suited for local weather
patterns, soil type and other important agronomic factors when developing
new varieties. Maintaining genetic diversity within agriculture is of
fundamental importance. It serves as a basic insurance against local crop
disease outbreaks becoming regional or national outbreaks. The less
diversity in the system the wider and faster new bacterial, viral or other
pathogens can spread throughout the national agricultural plant (or
animal) base.The use of locally adapted plants which are more appropriate
to locale cosystems are important in developing such systems of plant
protection based on genetic diversity.
Plant breeding has become such a specialised and centralised industry that
this essential diversity has been eroded in recent years. This represents
a considerable threat not only to the economy of the farming industry, but
also to national food security, human health and the national economy. The
Irish potato famine of 1846 is an extreme example of a past national
crisis which followed low genetic diversity in cropping patterns. Organic
farming reverses this trend of genetic erosion by positively encouraging
Patent Protection Abuse: The Soil Association believes that although
marker assisted breeding can play a useful role in the development on new
varieties, it must not become a means to patent specific genes and that
access to genetic information provided by the technique must be made
available free of charge to all scientists requiring it for research
purposes. Experience with the human genome project has already shown that
the biotechnology industry frequently seeks to patent the genes it
discovers through mapping research, particularly where genetic sequences
are believed to be linked to commercially exploitable traits. The Soil
Association believes that this is immoral. It contravenes the most basic
of traditional patenting principles , which allow patents on inventions
made by humans, but not discoveries in nature. If novel traits identified
by genomic discovery are allowed to be patented this potentially sound
technology will be abused, restricting access to scientific knowledge of
naturally occurring biological phenomena by others for the benefit of the
Genetic Engineering - The dangers Genetic engineering involves the
artificial insertion of individual genes from one organism (typically, but
not exclusively, from other unrelated species) into the genetic material
of another. This methodology is the cause of much concern. Scientists have
identified particular effects that some specific genes have on the
characteristics of an organism (e.g. the identification of a gene in a
plant which makes it resistant to a particular insect pest). However,
wider effects may occur through different genes interacting with each
other. At present, these interactions are not well understood by
scientists, or even understood at all in many cases. The artificial
introduction of novel genetic material out of context using recombinant
DNA in this way is fraught with difficulties given the depth of such
In addition the very process of genetic engineering increases levels of
risk by by-passing the integrated bio-regulatory systems inherent and
generally conserved in the sexual breeding process.In nature genes are
regulated by neighbouring (and sometimes distant) DNA sequences which, for
example, control when or where in the plant the gene should operate. These
processes have so far only been identified and understood to a limited
degree. As a result current agricultural genetic engineering techniques
are unable to take these fundamentally importan trelationships into
account when creating new organisms incorporating recombinant DNA. Equally
in the genetic engineering of plants little or no control is exercised
over the locational placement on the genome of inserted genes.Placement is
essentially random and multiple copies may also be inserted
Because of this lack of knowledge of the natural regulatory functions
within plant genomes, as well as the random positioning of inserted
foreign genes, unpredicted side effects occur routinely with genetic
engineering techniques. Many of these have been recorded even in
commercialised varieties. This approach can lead to dangers such as
allergenicity, the creation of new toxins or poor agronomic performance.
An example of an unpredictable physical side effect was reported in the
new scientist, whereby more lignin in GM soya than non GM soya was
found,causing stunted, weak stems which split open and reduced yields.
By contrast, however, when Marker Assisted Breeding is used to assist
traditional sexually-mediated breeding programmes, natural processes of
gene regulation and placement are not by-passed. This avoids exposure to
the novel health and environmental risks inherent in genetic engineering
plant breeding methods . Organic farming It should be noted that the
principles of organic farming revolves essentially around animal and plant
husbandry rather than merely theattributes of a specific variety.20
"The base line of the investigations [of seed varieties] of the future
must be a fertile soil. The land must be got into good heart to begin
with. A valuable method of testing our practice is to observe the effect
of time on a variety. If it shows a tendency to run out something is
wrong. If it seems to be permanent, our methods are correct.The efficiency
of the agriculture of the future will therefore be measured by the
reduction in the number of plant breeders. A few only will be needed when
soils become fertile and remain so." Sir Albert Howard, An Agricultural
Soil Association 40-56 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6BY E:
Starving Bosnia Says NO to US Feed!
See the following news item. This will set a very bad precedence and
create new hurdles for the delivery of US humanitarian, disaster and
development assistance. This grain will most likely never reach anyone in
need at this point. Perfectly safe and desperately needed foods being
turned away while people starve based on unfounded fears created by
activists using false and misleading anti-biotechnology campaigns to
further their narrow social and economic special interests.
U.S. Withdraws Genetically Engineered Animal Feed Donation After Bosnia's
SARAJEVO, Jan 30, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) The United States has
withdrawn a four million dollar donation of genetically engineered (GE)
corn for animal feed after Bosnian officials hesitated to approve it over
fears of health risks for humans, the embassy said here Tuesday. The U.S.
embassy said in a statement that the shipment of the corn could not be
delivered, as Bosnian officials had failed to take delivery of it.
In the statement the U.S. embassy said it was "disappointed" that
governments of both entities -- Serbs' Republika Srpska and the
Muslim-Croat federation -- "could not decide in a timely fashion to accept
its donation of 40,000 metric of corn for animal feed."The donation was
aimed at helping the country recover from a drought that hit local
harvests last year.
Last week Federation government officials expressed concern over the
donated corn and demanded thorough information on possible effects on both
humans and animals. The inclusion of the genetically modified corn is not
unusual," the U.S. embassy statement said, adding that "such corn was
routinely exported all over the world for human and animal consumption".
The governments of the two entities that effectively rule Bosnia did not
comment on the issue Tuesday. ((c) 2001 Agence France Presse)
From: Red Porphyry
Subject: Vaccine Patch an Alternative to Edible Vaccines?
Agricultural biotechnologists working on edible vaccines need to be aware
of the fact that they are now facing some very formidable competition. The
competition is in the form of a "vaccine patch" that one wears on the
skin, just like a band-aid. Apparently, the immune response, both in
animals and in humans, is much stronger if a vaccine is simply applied
directly to the skin instead of being injected (or ingested?). You can
read about the concept here:
http://www.abcnews.go.com/onair/WorldNewsTonight/wnt001020_21st_patchvac_feature.html and here:
Successful Phase I clinical trials in humans of a vaccine patch against
heat-labile enterotoxin were reported in Nature Medicine (December 2000)
by the Iomai Corporation:
No need for needles or refrigeration, "one-use" means no risk of
contamination, and modern manufacturing techniques guarantee precise
vaccine dosage per patch. Vaccine patches are the *real* competitive
technological alternative to edible vaccines. It's "fish or cut bait"
time, ladies and gentlemen.