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February 17, 2001


Blaming Industry; Lies in Greenpeace Ads; Saint Nader;


In all the back and forth over golden rice, I am a bit puzzled
by criticisms of the biotech industry by a couple of prominent individuals
who allege industry has made statements in which golden rice has been
oversold, over played, or in which credit for GR has been inappropriately
arrogated. In all the industry statements I have seen or made industry
spokespersons have always scrupulously pointed out that GR has been
developed by academic researchers with funds from independent or public
sources; that GR is not a magic bullet, but that it does offer
significant promise to help in addressing a major health problem that
disproportionately affects the poorest of the poor; and that it is at the
moment an idea in the process of being tested, with numerous challenges
remaining between fulfillment of the ideal and the present reality. If
somebody could provide me with chapter and verse citations or quotes of
offending industry statements that send any different or inappropriate
message I would be most interested. I would also be willing to correct
any misstatements that can be identified.

I note also with some irony that not so very long ago industry was roundly
criticized in some circles (a number of posts appeared here) for being
insufficiently vigorous in defending the technology against the willful
distortions and hysteria mongering of demagogues. I suppose in the
present criticism there may be an element of the principle that no good
deed goes unpunished.

I look forward to someone providing the offending statements from industry.


Val Giddings
Biotechnology Industry Organization


From: Ferdinand Engelbeen
Subject: Greenpeace and "green" companies

As worker in the chlorine/PVC industry, now 13 years, and working for a
better environment for over 30 years, I am following the GMO discussion
with interest. There are a lot of similarities in the way that chlorine
and PVC are attacked by the environmental (?) movement and how they act
against GMO's. That is also the case for nuclear power, seal and whale
hunting etc... I have my personal opinion on several of these points, but
in most cases half truths and untruths are used to scare people for
dangers that are purely hypothetical.

We too have problems with companies that turn "green" and "sustainable" by
avoiding the products that we help to make. That is the case for The Body
Shop, Nike and Ikea. While I don't have much social information about the
Body Shop, Nike as well as Ikea have a notorious past (and probably
present) of social abuse. Not directly in the few factories they own, but
indirectly in the many factories in the Far East that work for them and
are pressed to go cheaper and cheaper, at the cost of the workers,
including children's labour. I have recently seen a TV-documentary made by
a Swedish journalist, who filmed the factories & families who work for
Ikea in countries like Indonesia, The Phillipines, India and Vietnam. In
that last country, children's labour is still legal! Horrible, how people
has to work with acids, solvents etc.. without any personal protection.

With Greenpeace, we have a lot of experience too. To say the least, they
are very clever in using parts of documents in such a way that the truth
is distorted. Or with the words of the Court in Hamburg, Germany (where we
were brought to by Greenpeace Germany e.V., for defamation):

The complaint of Greenpeace against our opinion that they spread
half-truths about PVC was rejected: "The reader understands from the
actual context of the text that Greenpeace presents facts that are
overstated or, even though they give true information about a fact, they
do not give all the details, so that at the very least a false impression
can be created in the mind of the person receiving the message."

Besides the above court case, Greenpeace was also convicted by the
Advertising Standards Authorities in the UK for an advert where they
accused PVC to be the "mother of plastic pollutants", in Spain for an
advert, linking dioxins in mother's milk to PVC and in The Netherlands,
for an advert where they warn parents for "toxic" PVC toys...

In several cases they were invited by governments to join discussions
about PVC and chlorine chemistry. In general, they refused, or didn't show
up, but had a lot of critique, once the final report was published.

So IF they are willing to discuss GMO with you, what I doubt, be very
aware that they are likely to (ab)use that to send their own distorted
messages to scare people...


Ferdinand Engelbeen
Chairman Chlorophiles (the Chlorophiles is a group of workers in the
chlorine and
Oude Ertbrandstraat 12 B-2940 Stabroek Belgium Tel. +32-3-605.38.14
Fax +32-3-605.43.96 E-mail ferdinand.engelbeen@pandora.be
Website Chlorophiles: http://www.ping.be/chlorophiles/


From: Tom DeGregori

See News Item on Nader below (forwarded by Agnet):

Comment on news item by Tom DeGregori

Do we see here an emerging line of attack here by the anti-GM food folk.
Having failed to provide any evidence as to the lack of safety of GM food,
they are not arguing by sneaky innuendo that, oh yes, the evidence does
exist but it is locked away in the vaults of "corporate science." Note the
word "coverups." Sounds like a bit of "McCarthyism" to me! Nader ought to
know since one of his first if not first publications was a xenophobic
anti-foreign trade piece (similar to his subsequent writings down to the
present) in the March, 1960 issue of American Mercury which was not only
xenophobic, anti-semitic, Luddite etc., its line on fluoridation of water
- a communist plot to turn us into a nation of zombies - was later nicely
parodied in the lines of General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.

As I have already noted, Arpad Pusztai has been playing the innuendo game
against his critics in his complaints about "anonymous" reviewers as if
this was not standard peer review procedure. Now we have Nader claiming
"coverups." Is it too much to ask of Saint Ralph to provide some evidence
of what is being covered-up? If we wanted to play the same game, we could
ask questions about various items and practices of "organic" agriculture
whose "trade secrets" they have successfully protected by legislation
that exempts them from the testing and reporting mandated for their
competitor food producers. Is it then too much to ask of Nader that he
raise the same questions about "organic" food production?

Thomas R. DeGregori,
University of Houston
February 15, 2001 The Ottawa Citizen A12 Tom Spears

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader was cited as saying that genetically
modified food won't ever be safe unless biotechnology companies start
sharing test data that are treated today as trade secrets, and that is the
message he will bring to a conference in Ottawa tomorrow.

The conference -- Science and the Public Good -- is hosted by the Council
of Canadians at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Nader was quoted as saying in a
phone interview this week that, "This is a very tumultuous and provocative
technology that is very hard to recall. Therefore it should be subjected
to academic science, not corporate, secret science. Corporate science --
Monsanto, Novartis-style -- is not peer-reviewed.'' Corporate science "is
subject to confidentiality agreements, trade secrecy agreements, and the
like. And that increases the risk that something could go wrong ... You
build up the risk of mistakes, coverups.''



February 15, 2001 Press Release

The conference on biotechnology in food production to be held at an Ottawa
hotel on February 16 is intended as a forum for those opposed to the
technology, and does not accurately reflect the majority view of the
global scientific community, according to the President of Ontario
Agri-Food Technologies.

"Certainly there are groups and individuals who oppose the technology:
that's the case with any new development, and that's their right, " said
Dr. Gordon Surgeoner, former director of the Plant Research program at the
University of Guelph and currently President of the 37 member consortium
of grower organizations, industry, academic and government partners
working to optimize the potential of the agri-food industry in Ontario.
"In more general terms, however, the global scientific and research
communities' endorsement of both the safety and the benefits that genetic
engineering can offer in food production has continued to strengthen as
new research consistently confirms the technology's potential."

More than 3000 scientists worldwide, including five Nobel Prize winners,
have now signed the "Declaration in Support of Biotechnology", subscribing
to the contention that the application of biotechnology will "contribute
substantially in enhancing the quality of life by improving agriculture,
health care and the environment." Names, affiliations and research
interests of the signatories, along with a full text of the Declaration,
are available at

As well as individual scientists, many groups have offered their
endorsement in recent months. After a review of the available literature,
the American Medical Association reported that there is no greater risks
of allergen from genetically modified crops (and may be less), and that
such crops have many potential benefits. The AMA also indicated that there
is no scientific justification for special labeling of genetically
modified food. Similarly, the National Academy of Sciences' National
Research Council reported that genetically modified crops can reduce the
need for chemical pesticides and do not offer greater risks than crops
developed through conventional breeding methods. This position is also
endorsed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
which represents 29 developed nations. Scientists agree, however, that new
crop varieties must be subjected to rigorous regulatory oversight to
ensure their health and environmental safety. In Canada, all new crops
with novel traits, however they are developed, must be approved by
regulators at Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before
they can be used or sold in Canada.

The Royal Society of Canada expert panel report on the future of food
biotechnology, released early in February, confirms that the current
regulatory environment has operated successfully with no evidence of
problems from foods with novel traits, and outlines further regulatory
safeguards that will be needed as the technology advances. The report is
currently under review by the international scientific community through
an initiative launched by the University of Guelph's Centre for Safe Food.

Further Information:
Declaration of Scientists in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology:
American Medical Association, Report 10 of the Council on Scientific
Affairs: Genetically Modified Crops and Food,
U.S. National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council: Genetically
Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation:
Centre for Safe Food, University of Guelph: Draft Technical Critique of the
Royal Society of Canada's Expert Panel Report on the Future of Food
Biotechnology Published; International Scientific Community Invited to
Contribute: http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/safefood/
A Draft Technical Critique of the Royal Society of Canada's Expert Panel
Report on the Future of Food Biotechnology.
Royal Society of Canada (January, 2001):Elements of Precaution:
Recommendations for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology in Canada.


From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Pest refuges

I have been wondering why it is that EPA has mandated that pest refugia be
maintained for Bt crops when they don't require these for crops where
pesticides are applied rather than inherent. If resistance management is
a concern, why is that only so for Bt crops, but not for foliar
application of Bt or any other pesticide?

Is this another example of special hurdles being put in the way of
products of GE, or is there some scientific rationale for this apparent

From: Richard McQualter
Subject: transposons in genome databases

I read the article in agbioview by Roger Highfield, titled "How we were
'genetically modified' by bacteria". I don't dispute that this may be
true, but in a lot of cases I feel that contamination is to blame. Here is
why. I am currently sequencing the Fiji disease reovirus (FDV) genome, a
dsRNA genome. I frequently compare my sequence against the NCBI database.
A BlastP search involving a recent clone from my library came up with
hundreds of high homology (e=10-99) hits against almost all genera present
in the database (ie human, drosophila, yeast, nematode etc) and against
bacterial transposase. I know that FDV does not contain any transposons
and that all of the genes are accounted for. This led me to consider that
the transposon was a contaminant of the library and inserted into the
plasmid vector during cloning.

Because much of the sequence on the databases is obtained from cDNA
libraries, it is not unreasonable to expect that this is a common
occurrence in big genomic sequencing projects. Try a Blast search using
the bacterial transposase sequence yourself. You will be amazed at the
amount of rubbish present on databases worldwide. Obviously some good
Southern data using a transposon specific probe would help settle the
argument and I must admit, I haven't as yet read the article in Nature.


Richard McQualter.

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Cybernetics and Precaution


Proponents of the precautionary principle often demand that modified crops
be proven completely safe before they are deployed. Many also refer to
various “unknown consequences” which could arise within complex systems,
such as the environment, as a result of their deployment.

These claims persistently hijack science-based discussions of
biotechnology, with scientists and others correctly pointing out that
scientific omniscience is not likely to be achieved in the near term, that
absolute safety cannot be guaranteed, and that it is impossible to prove a
negative. Paradoxically, the opposition occasionally agrees with them
cheerfully on these points.

Cybernetics offers another perspective on the precautionary principle, or
at least on the claims of many of its advocates—especially when they point
to the uncertainty of outcomes in complex systems. (Mae Wan-Ho appears to
be the primary advocate of this approach.)

Cybernetics acknowledges a Principle of Incomplete Knowledge, according to
which the model of any system is necessarily less complete than the system
it represents. This means that no matter how much a thing is studied,
i.e., a genetically modified organism, the environment, etc., our
understanding, or ‘model’ of it, will always be less complete than the
thing itself.

As F. Heylighen points out in Principia Cybernetica (Aug. 1993), the
Principle of Incomplete Knowledge can be deduced from a lot of other, more
specific principles: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, implying that the
information a control system can get is necessarily incomplete; the
relativistic principle of the finiteness of the speed of light, implying
that the moment information arrives, it is already obsolete to some
extent; the principle of bounded rationality, stating that a
decision-maker in a real-world situation will never have all information
necessary for making an optimal decision; or a generalization of Goedel’s
incompleteness theorem, implying that a system cannot even represent
itself completely, and hence cannot have complete knowledge of how its own
actions may feed back into the perturbations.

If we accede to the demands of some advocates of the precautionary
principle, this means that progress in deploying biotechnology would be
blocked, pending the completion of a literally eternal cycle of discovery
(modeling), realization that the model is incomplete (which of course it
has to be), followed by more modeling.

This also amounts to a rather complex justification for the old adage:
“Change is inevitable, progress is optional.” For more information on
cybernetics and knowledge theory, visit this excellent site:


From: jcummins
Subject: tunnel vision

"Eating Cauliflower Mosaic Virus infected vegetables does not prove that
that Cauliflower Mosaic Virus Promoter in genetically modified crops is
safe" Recently researchers from the John Innes Centre (JIC) for plant
research in Great Britain have again claimed that the Cauliflower Mosaic
Virus (CaMV) promoter used to genetically modify virtually all of the
transgenic crops now marketed or being tested for marketing has been
proven to be safe for human consumption because humans have been consuming
virus infected crucifers for a long time. It is worth pointing out that
virus infected crucifers are not tasty items and they are avoided by most
animal predators including humans. JIC may be exceptional in consuming
large quantities of virus infected crops and certainly those laboring at
the institute are worthy of fuller study. Even if virus infected crucifers
could be prepared and consumed as dietary treats the fact is that the
behavior and potential hazard of the CaMV promoter in transgenic crops is
unrelated to the replication and behavior of the virus in the plant cell.
It is simply unreasonable to maintain that the the integrated CaMV
promoter in transgenic crops behaves the same way in the virus replication
cycle as it does in the chromosome of the transgenic crop.

CaMV is a pararetrovirus which means that it transmitted as a double
stranded DNA virus that replicates using reverse transcription of RNA into
DNA. The replication of CaMV is similar to the replication of a related
pararetrovirus Hepatitis B (Seeger and Mason 2000). In CaMV replication
the infecting virus enters the plant cell then transfers a copy of the
viral DNA to the plant cell nucleus where it forms a nuclear plasmid that
very rarely (possibly never) integrates into the chromosome. The viral DNA
is transcribed releasing both messenger RNA for making virus components
and RNA copies of the viral chromosome that are translocated to the
cytoplasm where the RNA copies of the viral chromosome are packaged in
virion like particles. Within the virion like particles the RNA is reverse
transcribed to make the viral DNA that is released from the plant cell in
the mature virus (reviewed in Poogin et al 1998).

When CaMV genes are inserted into the DNA of the plant chromosome those
genes may recombine with infecting CaMV virus. Wintermantel and Schoelz
(1996) found that recombination was observable in every plant when virus
invaded transgenic plants with CaMV genes inserted on plant chromosome.
They believed that most observed recombination occurred in the cytoplasm
during reverse transcription and that there was little chance for
recombination between invading virus and CaMV transgenes on the
chromosome. Genes such as human interferon have been inserted in CaMV
virus and were found to produce interferon in virion like particles but
the human genes were not reported to have recombined with plant
chromosomes. DeZoeten et al (1989).

Plant gene replacement vectors based on CaMV have been discussed for
nearly twenty years but have not proven highly useful because the only
small DNA inserts have proven feasible but recently Viapana et al (2001)
have experienced improved success by employing helper virus. Earlier we
discussed the problems with CaMV promoter integrated into the chromosome
in great detail." We pointed out that the CaMV 35S promoter is promiscuous
in function, and works efficiently in all plants, as well as green algae,
yeast and E. coli. It has a modular structure, with parts common to, and
interchangeable with promoters of other plant and animal viruses. It also
has a recombination hotspot, flanked by multiple motifs involved in
recombination, and is similar to other recombination hotspots including
the borders of the Agrobacterium T DNA vector most frequently used in
making transgenic plants"(Cummins et al 2000).

In conclusion , authorities from JIC base their belief in the safety of
CaMV promoter in transgenic crops on their belief that people and animals
massively consume virus infected crops without apparent discomfort. The
natural history of CaMV replication in plants clearly shows that the CaMV
promoter installed in crop chromosomal DNA is entirely different from CaMV
virus replication so that the presumed safety of eating CaMV in crops has
no real bearing on the safety of genetically engineered crops with CaMV
promoter. In fact JIC seems to be suffering from "tunnel vision" and
directing research away from the real problems with crop genetic
technology. The JIC argument surely impresses science administrators and
government bureaucrats who, unfortunately, control research funding and
gullible journalists who influence public opinion. Even though the
discussion between us and JIC has grown repetitious ultimately the
inappropriateness of the JIC pronouncements will be widely recognized and
then progress can be made in judging the safety of transgenic crops with
CaMV promoter.

Cummins,J,Ho,M and Ryan,A "Hazardous CaMV promoter?"2000 Nature
Biotechnology 18, 363
DeZoeten,G,Penswick,J,Horisberger,M,Ahl,P,Schultze,P and Hohn,T "The
expression,localization and effect of human interferon in plants" 1989
Virology 172,213-22
Poogin,M,Hohn,T and Futterer,J "Forced evolution reveals the importance of
short open reading frame A and secondary structure in the cauliflower
mosaic virus 35S RNA leader" 1998 J. Virology 72,4157-69
Seeger,C and Mason,W " Hepatitis B Virus Biology" 2000 Microbiology and
Molecular Biology Reviews 64,51-68
Viaplana,R,Turner,D andCovey,S "Transient expression of a GUS reporter
gene from cauliflower mosaic virus replacement vectors in the presence and
absence of helper virus" 2001 J Gen Virol 82,59-65
Wintermantel,W and Schoetz,J "Isolation of recombinant viruses between
cauliflower mosaic virus and a viral gene in transgenic plants under
conditions of moderate selection pressure" 1996 Virology 223,156-64


From: C Kameswara Rao
Subject: Carotenoid pool


A group of about 20 related compounds, called carotenoids, occur in a wide
variety of higher plants, sea weeds, animals, fungi and bacteria. In
the higher plants and algae, these light harvesting pigments are located
in cell organelles called plastids, which also contain the green pigment
chlorophyll (in the green parts).

The a-, b-, d- and g-carotenes are hydrocarbons (contain only carbon
and hydrogen) while the other carotenoids contain oxygen in addition.
All of them are insoluble in water but are soluble in fats and organic

The carotenoids, related to and derived from b-carotene, impart pale
yellow to light reddish yellow colour to the parts in which they occur.
Organisms contain different combinations and quantities of carotenoids in
different parts. Leaves and other green parts, anthers, pollen, styles
and stigmas, fruits and seeds of several species of plants contain
carotenoids. Leafy vegetables, mangoes, peaches, oranges, saffron,
maize kernels, light yellow-red coloured pulses, carrots, beetroot, sweet
potato, etc., are common examples. Animals products such as eggs and
butter also contain them.

In the earlier days when the techniques of chemical analysis were not
sophisticated enough, it was dofficult to precisely distinguish one
carotenoid from the other. Now it is easy to isolate and quantify each
one of them separately. The more important of the carotenoids and their
sources are listed below:

a-carotene: leaves and roots of carrots, and the fruit of red palm oil
b-carotene: a very large number of plants and animals, abundant in brown
sea weeds but exceptionally high concentrations in the daffodils
d-carotene: tomato fruits.
g-carotene: many flowers and fruits, but more abundant in the fungi
Lycopene: tomato fruit
b-cryptoxanthin: maize seeds, eggs, butter, and blood.
Spirilloxanthine: photosynthetic bacteria and some fungi.
Lutein (xanthophylls): flowers, fruits, seeds, eggs and animal fats.

As humans and animals cannot synthesize carotenoids, they must be obtained
from vegetable dietary sources.

b-carotene is the most efficient precursor of retinol (vitamin-A), hence
it is pro-vitamin-A. Our liver converts b-carotene into vitamin-A, the
most important means of getting our requirement of vitamin-A. Specific
enzymes split one molecule of b-carotene into two molecules of

Lycopene and lutein do not yield vitamin-A. a-carotene and
b-cryptoxanthin result in only one molecule of vitamin-A, with the rest of
the parent molecule contributing to the chemical debris of the body.
Hence, maize kernels, eggs and animal fats like butter are poor sources of
pro-vitamin-A, while tomato is no source at all. Hence, b-carotene very
important to us.

In recent times, b-carotene has been rated high as an antioxidant that
scavenges free-radicals, which are believed to be involved in the onset of
several disorders, including cardio-vascular disease and certain types of
cancer. b-carotene is being increasingly used as a preventive measure
against these diseases.

The rice plant produces b-carotene in the green tissues but there is none
in the starchy endosperm which constitutes 90 per cent of the grain we
eat. Most of us get the required amount of b-carotene from supplementary
food such as carrots, fruits and leafy vegetables, where it is one of the
components of the carotenoid pool. Several communities, such as the
Japanese, consume brown sea weeds, which are high in b-carotene.

The synthesis of carotenoids and b-carotene in plants is a complex process
controlled by several genes. In quantitative terms their efficiency is
highly variable and dependent upon a number of internal and external
factors. It was very clever of Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer to have
chosen the daffodil as the b-carotene gene donor, as daffodils synthesise
exceptionally high quantities of b-carotene, most of which can be
converted into vitamin-A in our body. Unfortunately no part of daffodil
is edible.

Greenpeace suggested red palm oil as a supplementary source of
pro-vitamin-A, but what this contains abundantly is a-carotene, which is
only half as efficient as b-carotene in terms of conversion into
vitamin-A. Then, how much of palm oil one can consume? How much of it
actually available to the poor who cannot have the more commonly available
leafy vegetable?

Vitamin-A requires a (mostly endogenous) protein and palmitic acid (a
fatty acid) to be stable and functional in our body. It also requires
tocopherol (vitamin-E), an antioxidant that makes it more stable. When
these substances are not present in the existing varieties of rice and
other cereals, it is very unreasonable to expect only Golden Rice to
contain them. May be if given a chance, the future varieties of Golden
Rice may contain these stabilising compounds, as well. Their absence
does not make Golden Rice a useless product.


From: Klaus Ammann
Subject: Debate 2001'0216 a: Hans Herren on the Golden Rice and other

Dear Friends,

Here is the opinion of Hans Herren (herren@africaonline.co.ke) who has an
excellent record in solving pest problems of African crops with
biocontrol. The costs of his methods are only a fraction of those using
pesticides whether inside or outside the crops. Although also biocontrol
has its risks, we should always balance this elegant strategy against
other possibilities.

Let me say that also GT has its great potential, especially if combined
with more insight in genomics of the crops.

But for sure the greatest potential is hidden in the combination and wise
use of any new breeding technologies and agricultural strategies adapted
to local conditions.

And frankly: I don't think it is possible to attribute exclusively
visionary thought to one single strategy in agriculture .

The Golden Rice has been developed with minimal costs, none of the funds
coming from the industry and it will safe many lifes.

Yes, I also think it should be possible to solve the Vitamin A -
deficiency with lots of other means, but why did that not happen already
years ago ?

I assume that many of those other methods would need deep political
restructuring, and that introducing a novel gene to the land races of rice
might be the mildest and most elegant way of solving an ardent problem,
even if it does not - alas - solve it at its roots.

From: Hans Herren:

Dear Friends,

The question here is: at what/who's cost will the Golden Rice (and for
that matter any biotech product/solution) be further developed? Given the
shortage of funding for research, capacity building and development
(implementation) I would like to suggest that should any further
development in the biotech (read GE for Golden rice, Bt maize, cotton
etc....) continue, it must be from private sector funds only, that it must
be additional to presently available funding for development issues, and
that the private sector matches dollar for dollar costs for independent
evaluation of new technologies/products and for all environmental and
health impact studies.

None of this necessary research should be funded from public funds, as at
the end of the day it is the private sector whom will benefit from selling
the technology, should it prove to be of social, economical and
environmental value to humanity. We already know today that most of the
problems that are to be addressed via Golden Rice and other GMOs can be
resolved in matter of days, with the right political will. The problem is
not scientific, it is social and economical. It is of a nature that
requires a bit of courage from the political establishment, which
unfortunately is totally lacking. The public at large in the
industrialized countries is also to blame, to prefer short term tax breaks
and extra luxuries to few sacrifices for an assurance of a sound world for
all of its children. If our fathers had had as little foresight as our own
generation of (so called) leaders today, most of us would not even be here
today to lament over this state of affairs. The greed that has brought us
the pesticides that were marketed without proper testing, BSE and now the
new miracle crops, will bring more of the same disasters under different

A good example for misguided investment is in vaccine research, malaria
and others, whereby millions die every year, with no hope for any
improvement, because the simple activity of reducing the source of the
infection, i.e., the mosquito, has been forgotten. The development of an
effective vaccine, just as the development of new miracle crop varieties,
does not automatically solve the problem, the social and economical
constraints are often far more difficult to overcome, and so need to be
given far more attention. No one seems to be learning form the past
experiences, be it the green revolution or the yellow fever vaccine, or
untold others, all great achievements at first glance, but with meager
results, once all has been considered.

Sad indeed, and what have we learned?

Hans R. Herren

Dr. Hans R. Herren
Director General, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology
POBox 30772, Nairobi, Kenya

From: "Robert Vint"
Subject: Greenpeace and Golden Rice

Dear Professor Potrykus,

I read with interest your letter 'Greenpeace and Golden Rice' of Thu, 15
Feb 2001 (as posted on the AgBioView list). I think the proponents and
critics of Golden Rice need to address at least two issues before this
controversy can be resolved.

Firstly, I am somewhat puzzled as to why you have concentrated almost
solely upon dialogue with Greenpeace when it would seem far more important
to focus on direct discussion with farmers and activist groups in Southern
nations who question the relevance of the technology - after all, they are
the ones being asked to grow and eat the product. Maybe you met with
critical groups [such as TNWF (KRRS (Karnataka State Farmers Union); Tamil
Nadu Women's Forum); SRED (Society for Rural Education and Development);
PREPARE; Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology; and CIKS
(Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems) to name but a few] when you were in
India - but I can find no reference to this.

I know that just one of the concerns in the South is that even if Golden
Rice were to achieve its intended aims, they fear that alleviation of
another outward symptoms of poverty will just be used as yet another
excuse for postponing any action to tackle the real causes of poverty -
the principal cause of which is the landlessness and maldistribution of
wealth caused by the Green Revolution. They fear that its approval will
open the floodgates to other varieties of GM Rice - with the associated
problems of terminator genes, restrictive patents, abolition of seed
saving, pesticide dependence and indebtedness (both individual and
national). Also many feel that the funds spent on and allocated for
developing and cultivating Golden Rice could better be spent on promoting
dietary diversification or tackling landlessness. Whilst I understand that
you are a scientist and not a politician or economist, I encourage you to
engage in open and direct dialogue with critics in the target nations.

Secondly, it is clear that much of the controversy in the West about
Golden Rice is a result of attempts by the multinational agrochemical
corporations to use it as a 'Trojan Horse' to ease approval of their own
products. If an apparently beneficial product were to be rushed through
the regulatory procedures for approval then this would set precedents that
would enable the corporations to flood the world market with far less
desirable products. [I believe you have expressed your own disgust at this
kind of moral blackmail]. That is one of my own fears and I am sure that
this is one of the underlying fears of Greenpeace. I cannot see how the
dilemma resulting from this corporate marketing strategy can be resolved
unless efforts are made to ensure that any attempts to approve Golden Rice
are not used by others to reduce national and international regulations
relating to GMOs or to shorten the normal assessment periods for GM
products. I would therefore encourage you to do whatever you can to
promote rigorous regulation of commercial GMOs and to condemn the 'Trojan
Horse' strategy of the corporations.

Yours sincerely,


Response from Prakash:

I know two of the organizations that Mr. Vint refers to in India. KRRS is
an organization that burns or uproots Bt trial crops in India and thus is
not really a very pro-farmer entity but with help from European greens is
working hard to keep India backward. RFSTE is the outfit of Vandana
Shiva and again is so anti-farmer because it is opposed to the development
of modern farming, and bent on taking away of the freedom of farmers to
choose. Both of them have little to do with farmers and most Indian
farmers do not know or care about these organizations which are very
political and self serving. I am not sure about others but have they done
any work to provide alternate solutions to the problems Vint discusses
and also to the vitamin A deficiency? Why should Ingo waste his time?

The Indian scientists will be integrating the provitamin A genes into
Indian rice cultivars, the Indian regulatory system would ensure whether
the golden rice so developed will be safe and then will be made freely
available to the farmers, and then it is up to the farmers and consumers
to choose.