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February 7, 2001


School Magazine on GM Food; Critique of Canadian


The Biotechnology Institute recently published an issue of "Your World"
magazine addressing the topic of 'Genetically Modified Food Crops' . A
free sample is available to members of Agbioview!. Please e-mail
JeffADavid@cs.com to request a copy of the issue, we will also send you
the accompanying poster for free and an order form for Your World
subscriptions, back issues, and other materials.

Your World is a magazine of biotechnology applications designed for high
school (7th to 12th grade) students that colorfully explores the science
and applications of biotechnology. Each issue explores a particular topic
in depth by examining a variety of related applications of biotechnology
and relating them directly to the students "world". Seventeen issues of
Your World have been produced over the past ten years, and 12 issues are
currently in print.

CS Prakash served as the science advisor for the issue, which features
articles on: The Gene Revolution in Food, Creating Better Plants, Weed
Warriors, the Monarch Butterfly Effect, Golden Rice, Potato Power, a
profile of Florence Muringi Wambugu, and a GM versus non-GM soybean

The Biotechnology Institute is a nonprofit educational organization,
affiliated with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, that is working
to support a greater public understanding of biotechnology issues. The
Institute is working to dramatically expand the distribution of Your World
throughout the United States and the world. Your World is currently used
by approximately 750,000 students per year.


Note From Prakash:
Please make sure you get your copy of this beautifully illustrated
magazine issue on GM foods! I enjoyed working on this magazine with its
writer Catherine Delude, and thank many friends for their help especially
Peggy Lemaux and Wayne Parrott. I definitely encourage you to get a copy
and also pass the information on this magazine to your local school
biology teacher. This issue would certainly come in handy if you are asked
to speak about biotech foods at schools and to the general public. High
school teachers can also request a teacher's guide that goes with the
issue. Write to now!................ Prakash


From: Doug Powell
Subject: Royal Society of Canada

press release

GUELPH, ONTARIO -- Researchers with the Centre for Safe Food at the
University of Guelph today called on the international scientific
community to review the recently published Royal Society of Canada's
expert panel report on the future of food biotechnology, in order to
comment on areas of strength and weakness and to suggest improvements.

"There are some serious omissions in the report which could, at best, call
into question certain findings, but at worse, could be very misleading to
the Canadian public " said Shane Morris, a research assistant, with the
Centre for Safe Food, University of Guelph The Royal Society of Canada, in
response to a request from Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency and Environment Canada, formed an expert panel of 15 people to
provide advice on a series of questions related to the safety of new food
products being developed through the use of genetic engineering

The report was issued after nearly a year of work. It was first published
on the Internet on the evening of February 4th, 2001. The report is 263
pages in length and divided into nine chapters (available at
<http://www.rsc.ca>http://www.rsc.ca). An initial reading of the report
raised concerns that some scientific material seems to have been ignored
or disregarded in the preparation of the report. An opinion column
outlining initial concerns was published by Powell and Morris in the
National Post on Feb. 7/01

A preliminary critique of the Royal Society report was published today at
Scientists with expertise in the areas covered by the Royal Society report
are being asked to submit fully referenced briefs that may be supportive,
critical or provide contextual arguments, to conclusions and
recommendations presented by the Royal Society expert panel.

Morris will collect all responses for a 90-day period. Of course, this is
an on-going and rapidly evolving scientific and public discussion, but
after 90 days, responses will be collated and analyzed, and a final
critique of the Royal Society report on genetically engineered foods will
be published.

Contacts: Shane Morris, research assistant, Centre for Safe Food,
University of Guelph 519-824-4120 x2506 morris@uoguelph.ca Doug Powell,
assistant professor, dept. plant agriculture, University of Guelph:
519-821-1799 dpowell@uoguelph.ca http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/safefood



February 7, 2001 National Post Financial Post: Editorial C19

Douglas Powell and Shane Morris Conrad Brunk, a philosophy professor at
the University of Waterloo and co-chairman of the Royal Society of Canada
expert panel on genetically modified foods, cut his teeth in the risk
analysis community with his 1991 book, Value Assumptions in Risk
Assessment. In it, Mr. Brunk argues that human values influence scientific
pronouncements of risk through the numbers chosen to summarize a risk's
magnitude and through the weighting of a hazard's different attributes. In
others words, even esteemed scientists bring baggage to the table when
they evaluate risk. They (and we) have our experiences, our concerns, our
biases, and individual constructs of what individuals consider to be
important. These preferences influence even the most scientific of
pronouncements in subtle ways. Including those by Mr. Brunk's expert

The major finding of the Society's recent report on genetically engineered
food: The government needs to be much more transparent and accountable
about the regulatory process. Nothing new here. The British model of
civil-servant-as-mandarin, accountable only to the secrecy of decision
making, is an anachronism. Mr. Brunk told the press that the panel
examined all the information publicly available. Health Canada said there
was all kinds of additional, but private, documentation. Listening to
Health Canada complain yesterday that the expert panel had not asked the
right questions, and was therefore not provided with all the internal
documentation proving the safety of approved genetically engineered foods,
smacked of arrogance and elitism -- everything the public already dreads
about science. Such secrecy only fuels visions of conspiracy. But both
parties missed the reams of data that are actually available in the public
domain, much of it in peer-reviewed journals, assessing the safety of and
potential problems with genetically engineered foods.

And while government regulators and the expert panel engage in accusations
about communications all too familiar to Ottawa, others are rapidly
interpreting the report to fit their own agendas. Some have already
proclaimed the report as a basis for an immediate moratorium on
genetically engineered foods. It is not. Instead, a careful reading of the
263-page Royal Society document reveals a pattern of selective or
incomplete referencing that leads to one of two conclusions: Panel members
were upset at aloof and secretive treatment they received from regulators
and decided to retaliate, or -- a possibility that should concern Mr.
Brunk -- they brought a lot of baggage to the table.

For example, the expert panel report states that antibiotic resistance
markers should be eliminated completely. They cite an OECD Chairman's
report which they claim endorses such a position. However, the OECD paper
referred to makes no reference whatsoever to a ban of antibiotic
resistance marker genes. Further, the Canadian report ignores separate
Belgian and French reports, the latter of which concludes, "the
maintenance in the genome of a transgenic plant of an antibiotic
resistance gene which is of no interest to human and animal medicine does
not present a health or environmental risk [and] can be used in plant
transgenesis." Such balance and thoughtful scientific consideration is
often absent from the Royal Society report. The section, and subsequent
press comments by panel members, on so-called superweeds were exaggerated
and selective at best. Research on weediness has been conducted for the
past 15 years but one would never know that from reading the Royal Society
report. More often than not, results of such studies, including one to be
published later this week, find that genetically engineered crops do not
survive well in the wild, and are no more likely to invade other habitats
than their conventional counterparts.

Mention genetically engineered Bt corn and many would respond, "What about
the Monarch butterfly?" To read the Royal Society report, one would think
there was imminent danger to this Bambi of the insect world, only because
reams of additional research on the non-impact of Bt corn, including on
Monarch butterflies, was ignored. To say that such research has not yet
been published in journals is at odds with the authors' eagerness to
include non-published material from abstracts at conferences or research
theses when it supports what one can only conclude is a pre-existing bias.

The Society's discussion of resistance management eagerly points to
problems with cotton in Australia, but ignores four years of efforts by
Ontario farmers, academics, regulators and industry to implement effective
and responsible monitoring programs of Bt corn in Ontario. The panel
further ignored a comprehensive U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
report (http://www.epa.gov) that affirmed both the safety and the
significant environmental, production and economic benefits to be derived
through genetically engineered Bt plants.

The Royal Society, whether due to time constraints, a confusing mandate
or, as Mr. Brunk would note, value assumptions, has produced a biased and
flawed report. The sound bites from various committee members only inflame
the public discussion. More important for the government, the report was
deliberately conducted in the realm of the theoretical. It gave no
consideration to a reasoned trade-off of risks and benefits. The vast
majority of foods now in the supermarket, and the agricultural
technologies that produce them, would not pass the Royal Society's
standards. In April, 2000, a U.S. National Academy of Sciences expert
panel concluded that "a solid regulatory system and scientific base are
important for the acceptance and safe adoption of agricultural
biotechnology, as well as for protecting the environment and public
health." In general, the U.S. coordinated framework has been operating
effectively for over a decade. However, the committee has identified
several kinds of improvements that would be helpful in the face of a
larger number of commercialized transgenic pest-protected plants, and
novel gene products introduced into these plants. "Because both
[conventional and transgenic crop breeding] methods have the potential to
produce organisms of high or low risk, the committee agrees that the
properties of a genetically modified organism should be the focus of risk
assessments, not the process by which it was produced." These are
scientifically sound conclusions.

The Royal Society report makes some excellent recommendations to help
Canadian society garner the benefits of genetically engineered crops while
actively minimizing the risks. But the failure to properly explore many of
the issues leaves the expert panel vulnerable to appropriation by a
variety of groups, most with an interest in politics rather than in the
production of safe, high quality food.


From: Julian Morris
Subject: Verzola

I just came across this

Might I suggest a mass response by agbioview members to any false,
misleading or irrelevant claims that may be present ...

Julian Morris, Director, Environment and Technology Programme, Institute
of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1P 3LB


From: Javier Verastegui
Subject: "The game of Greenpeace" - Clarín Rural 03-02-01, Buenos Aires

Dear colleagues,

The Argentinean newspaper Clarin (Supplement "Clarin Rural" of Feb.03,
2001) has published an interesting article against the anti-biotech
campaign of Greenpeace, written by Victor Trucco, president of the
Argentinean Association of Direct Sow Farmers (AAPRESID). The full article
in Spanish can be read at:


For your convenience, please see below the translation of some paragraphs:

<< QUOTE: Recent news appeared in the newspapers indicate that Greanpeace
has blocked the discharge of Argentinean soybean in Danish and Dutch ports
because they are transgenic. Is this good or a bad news for Argentina?

Lets analyze Greenpeace's behaviour on two situations: the "mad cow
disease" and the transgenic crops. The mad cow disease is not presumed
dangerous, it is dangerous; and it is confirmed that the disease is
actually transfered to human beings. However, Greenpeace has never worried
about the presence of European meat derived products in our supermarkets,
as it did with transgenic products which are scientifically proved that
they do not offer any danger.

All Argentineans we know that our fate and misfortunes are linked in great
way to the economy. Nobody doubt that we must export more. Because of
this, it is surprising that just when we have succeeded to duplicate
soybean production thanks to biotechnology and when Greenpeace develops
illegal activities to block the free trade of our products, Argentineans
do not repudiate this fact, including Greenpeace staff.

"No doubt that there is ignorance or bad faith, or both, and Greenpeace is
not inocent to these circumstances. They have taken advantage of the
susceptibility of consumers, the anti-American sentiment of Europeans, the
anti-capitalism of many people and the anti-multinational firms sentiment
of other people, to try to demonize transgenic crops. These organizations
have poisoned consumers with fear, and their objective has ceased to be
food and environment
safety."................................................. UNQUOTE


From: George Tzotzos
Subject: Latin America Meeting at Montevideo 28 - 30 March 2001

I'm writing to inform you that we are about to launch a major initiative
in Latin America following high-level requests from governments in the
region. As a first step we intend to organize a high-level forum with the
intention of refining ideas as to the scope and targets of the initiative.
At this stage we do not wish to bias the outcome of the meeting but we
have strong indications that some of the major issues to be addressed
relate to:

strengthening and rationalizing regional regulatory structures
establishing mechanisms of affordable access to proprietary technologies
and setting up the operational parameters of a Latin American strategic
research fund.

The Forum is to be held in Montevideo on March 28-30, 2001, and will be
inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Uruguay. It will be
attended by participants of the highest possible level from governments,
research foundations/institutions, industry, international financial
institutions, national and international biotechnology associations, civic
groups and NGOs. Conclusions from the Forum will provide the framework
for embarking on concrete actions.

I personally, feel that the Forum will provide a unique opportunity to
capitalize on what appears to be strong and high-level political
commitment at a time that is critical for the development of biotech in
the region.

George T. Tzotzos (Ph.D)
Chief, Biodiversity Unit, UNIDO, SES/PEM, P.O. Box 400, A-1400 Vienna,
Austria Tel:(+43-1) 26026 4336 Fax:(+43-1) 26026 6810


From: Katie Thrasher

Study Eases Fears of Modified Plants

http://library.northernlight.com/EC20010207260000013.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc Wednesday, February 07, 2001 2:00 PM EST

A 10-year look at genetically modified crops found that they survive no
better than their conventional cousins, easing fears that superplants
could stray from farm fields and crowd out natural species.

The study looked at soybeans, oilseed rape, potatoes, corn and sugar beets
that had been engineered in the laboratory to resist insects or
herbicides. They were planted from seed in 12 habitats around Britain,
ranging from woodlands to coastal areas. The study found that neither the
conventional nor the modified plants increased in numbers beyond their
first plantings, and the modified plants never lasted significantly longer
than the conventional ones.

In fact, all of the genetically engineered corn, oilseed rape and sugar
beet died out within four years. The modified potatoes eventually died
out, too. Environmentalists have warned against genetically engineered
crops, arguing that they may crowd out natural species, cause health risks
in humans, pass on traits such as herbicide resistance to weeds, and kill
beneficial insects. The study looked only at whether the genetically
engineered plants would have such a survival advantage that they would
take over the habitats of conventional plants.

The study was financed by a consortium of biotechnology companies,
including Monsanto Co. and Zeneca Ag Products Inc., and was conducted by
Michael J. Crawley and others at Imperial College in England. It was
published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

``For those members of the public who have feared that all transgenic
crops are going to be terrible invasive weeds, this research shows that
simply is not the case,'' said Norm Ellstrand, professor of genetics at
the University of California at Riverside. ``But for those of us who have
been studying the risks of transgenic plants, it doesn't allay all our

Crawley cautioned that more research is needed on other modifications,
such as resistance to drought or pests, that might improve a plant's
chances of survival. A hot-button topic in Europe, genetically modified
crops are widely used in the United States, accounting for almost
three-quarters of the land planted in cotton, more than half the soybean
acreage and one-fifth of the corn acreage, according to the National
Center for Food and Agricultural Policy.

Tom Nickson, director of Monsanto's ecological technology center, said
that more research is needed but that the study was reassuring in finding
that herbicide resistance and protection against insects do not give
genetically modified plants an advantage in the wild.

From: Katie Thrasher
Subject: Univ of Guelph's Sears on Bt Corn, Butterfly Study: Comment

Below is a piece regarding Mark Sears, professor at the University of
Guelph in Ontario, and his comments concerning the results of his recent
Bt corn/monarch butterfly studies.
Univ of Guelph's Sears on Bt Corn, Butterfly Study: Comment

Basel, Switzerland, Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Mark Sears, professor and
chairman of the Environmental Biology Department at the University of
Guelph in Ontario, comments on his recent studies of Bt corn and the
effects on the monarch butterfly. He was speaking at a luncheon seminar
hosted by Syngenta, the world's largest maker of farm chemicals.

Previous studies have shown that butterflies who feed on milkweed that
grow near genetically engineered corn, or Bt corn, are more likely to die
and less likely to grow than butterflies who feed on milkweed that isn't
dusted with Bt corn pollen.

On the study that challenges findings of 1999 Cornell study:
``Our data was produced by a collaboration of a number of scientists from
across the United States and Canada. We've found the toxicity of pollen
grains from the current commercial varieties of corn is not sufficient to
cause mortality or even measurable sub-lethal effects.''

``There's just not enough pollen deposited on milkweed leaves, that's the
host of the monarch butterfly, in the field to warrant a measurable
effect. So we can't support the earlier findings by these other scientists
who produced results that said the monarch butterfly is harmed by this
type of pollen. It just hasn't shown to be so in our data.''

On field test results compared with previous laboratory results:
``In our studies we were very careful to follow a prescribed methodology
that excluded any plant debris from the plant itself and examined only the
pollen in relation to the larvae feeding.

``When we examine pollen on leaves of milkweed in the field we find that
it's truly just pollen on those leaves and not a lot of plant debris that
may have been contaminating the samples that these other studies used in
the laboratory.``

On when the study will be published:
``We're currently writing our manuscripts and trying to work out the
details amongst us. It's a group effort. We essentially have several
papers on different phases of our study that we all collaborated on.
Hopefully we'll get the manuscript finished this month and submitted as
soon as we can in hopes of getting publication this spring.''

On European consumer sentiment about genetically modified crops:
``The regulatory process in Europe has not been quite the same as it has
over the years in the United States and Canada. There's the BSE scare
which is a real issue. Regulation would prevent that. The question is, how
do you recover that lost confidence? Generally speaking in the States and
Canada, the food supply has been rigorously inspected. I don't think we
see a lot of concerns with it. The food safety is not a huge issue in
North America.

``They key might be some products that help their (Europeans) health and
well-being rather than prevent a pest from feeding on something.''

Feb/08/2001 5:37 ET (C) Copyright 2001 Bloomberg L.P.

February 8, 2001 Reuters Nicolas Fichot
(Via Agnet: Douglas A Powell )

MONTPELLIER, France - Radical French farm leader Jose Bove, according to
this story, stood trial on Thursday on charges of raiding a research
centre and destroying genetically-modified rice plants in the latest
action by anti-globalisation activists.

The story says that the walrus-moustachioed Bove who shot to fame in 1999
when he led an attack on a McDonald's hamburger restaurant in southern
France to protest against "malbouffe" (lousy food) in general and U.S.
tariffs on French cheese and foie gras in particular, was sentenced to
three months jail.

On Thursday several hundred militants marched to the court with Bove, who
faces up to five years in prison and a fine if convicted of breaking into
the Cirad research institute in the southern city of Montpellier in June
1999 and damaging public property.


Sub: Food Agbiotech in Kuala Lumpur (Mar 22nd) & Beijing (Apr 23-24th)
From: Andrew D. Powell"

Hello everyone; There are two conference coming up in East Asia which
maybe of interest. I have helped the organizers put the speakers together
hence my involvement in both meetings.

March 22nd in Kuala Lumpur
Briefing on Malaysia / ASEAN Food biotechnology- Impact of Labeling
Regulations Subjects include:-

Biotechnology outlook in Malaysia / ASEAN A Muslim religion perspective on
GM Food- halal status etc. Authorization and labeling of GM Food in the
EU: Lessons for Asia Implementation of labeling regulations in the region
Trade impact of international; harmonization of GMO products Global
consumer research in GMO Food
Likely future developments in the region

Speakers and panelists include:-
Mr. Patrick Deboyser, Head of Sanco-D-4, Food Law and Biotechnology
(European Commission) Datin Dr. Harrison Aziz, Director, Food Quality
Control Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia Dr. Morakot Tanticharoen,
Director BIOTEC, Thailand Dr. Andrew D. Powell, ARB Consultants, Singapore
Dr. Marion Healy, Chief Scientist, Australian and New Zealand Food
Authority Dr. Reynaldo dela Cruz, Univ. of Philippines, Los Banos Dr. Paul
Teng, Regional Science and Technology Director, Monsanto Asia Pacific
Prof. Suhaila Mohamed, faculty of Food Science and Biotechnology,
University Putra Malaysia Ustaz Haji Mustafa Abdul Rahman, Director of
Research Div. Dept of Islamic Development, Malaysia Ms. Julie Howden,
Executive Director, Asia Food Information Centre

April 23-24th in Beijing
China's Challenges in Crop Protection, Biotechnology and Food Safety This
conference is part of the Agro FoodTech Exhibition in Beijing which runs
24-26th April

Subjects include:-
Asian Outlook on Crop protection
Impact of WTO on Crop Protection industry Biotech developments in China
and the rest of Asia Socio-economic benefits of Gm crops in China's rural
communities Overcoming IPR and Patent reform challenges Environment
management and safety standards BT- cotton based IPM systems Food labeling
and test measures for GM food New Seed laws and implications for MNCs in

Panelists include:-
Mr. Tim Oviatt, Asia Pacific Crop protection Association, Bangkok Prof.
Peng Yu Fa, CAAS
Prof. Jingyuan Xia, China Cotton research institute Mr. Robin Birtley, The
Birtley Consultancy , UK Dr. Andrew Powell, ARB Consultants, Singapore Dr.
Liu Jian-Wei, Institute of Mol. Agrobiology, Singapore Mr. Philip Laney,
American Soybean Association, Beijing Senior Executives from Monsanto,
Dupont, etc.

Email me at adpowell@pacific.net.sg and I will pass on your enquiry to
the organizers.


Andrew D. Powell, Ph.D. ARB Consultants 21 Nathan Rd. Unit #03-07
Singapore 248743 Phone: (65) 737-2151 Fax: (65) 735-2119

From: C Kameswara Rao


Endogenous pest resistance in conventional or GM crops does not seem to
mean that the insect has to take a bite to be discouraged. Plants are
known to produce chemical compounds, peptide hormones or volatile
terpenoids, are produced in tomato in response to bites by insect pests.
These compounds are transported to the other parts of the plant, and serve
as chemical signals repelling the pest and preventing further damage to
the plant by the insects. Interestingly, these compounds are also known to
stimulate the production of identical compounds by the neighbouring
conspecific plants.

A recent such instance is the response of lima bean to the spider mites
(Tetranychus urticae) (Gen-Ichiro et al., Nature, 406:512, August 2000).
In response to spider mite damage, the plants produced three volatile
terpenoids that attracted natural predatory mites (Phytoseiulus
persimilis) which attacked the spider mites. These compounds travelled not
only within the plant but also reached the neighbouring conspecific
plants, and attracted predatory insects. This response is linked to
triggering expression of genes, by the insect bite. Uninfested lima bean
leaves appear to have activated five separate defence genes when exposed
to volatiles from conspecific infested leaves. Such compounds, similar to
jasmonic acid, were not produced by artificial wounding.

Is there any such work on pest resistant GM crops? If the uninfested
cotton plants produce inhibitory compounds activated by volatiles from
infested plants, a lot of the controversy on the endogenous pestsicide
compounds in GM crops harming other nontarget plants and nontarget insects
can be answered convincingly.

C Kameswara Rao