Greenpeace May Attack Rice
From: Andrew Apel
Colleagues, Evidently, rumors that Greenpeace will not attack fields of
golden rice because of humanitarian concerns are apparently premature, as
are notions that the activist group understood the erroneous calculation
behind its assertion that people would have to eat monstrous quantities of
the rice to benefit.
The London Independent February 17, 2001, Page 2
Letter to the Editor by Benedikt Haerlin
Sir: Greenpeace is opposed to the intentional release of genetically
modified organisms; that is the basis for all our campaigning in all areas
of genetic engineering.
Clearly the industry promoting a crop such as golden rice with claims that
it could save millions of lives (“Greenpeace promises not to halt trials
of GM rice”, 10 February) attempts to bring a moral dimension into the
debate. What was made clear by me at the press conference in Lyon, but
sadly not widely reported, was that there is no evidence that this
invention can produce any beneficial effects. The average person would
have to consume a massive 9kg of cooked rice per day to prevent symptoms
of vitamin deficiency, a figure confirmed by the inventor of the product.
The acknowledgement that we have no plans to disrupt field trials of
golden rice is in no way a U-turn in our policy, but simply practical
recognition of the resources we have available for our work in the
Philippines. Golden rice has not been ruled out as a target for direct
action in the future.
Greenpeace International Genetic Engineering Campaign Coordinator Berlin
Greenpeace Tactics and its Business Interests
From: Tony Trewavas
I took Iceland, a company that is hand in glove with Greenpeace to the
Advertising Standards Authority, over a leaflet they produced and gave
away. It included the tryptophan story as well as other scurrilous things
about GM. I won my case, Iceland appealed and have now lost the appeal.
The person responsible for this leaflet a certain Malcolm Walker CEO and
founder of Iceland and I believe a member of Greenpeace. He has resigned
from Iceland with what looks like a full blown financial scandal in the
offing. He sold large numbers of shares in his company two weeks before
adverse trading results sent the share value plummeting. So hopefully that
will be the end of the story.
Iceland introduced an organic only policy and that has proved disastrous.
A new CEO from outside the company has now taken over. A further piece of
information. A letter about Melchett's hypocricy that did the rounds on
your network some while back got published accidentally under my name in
the Glasgow Herald. Greenpeace threatened some sort of legal action. I got
to got together everything I could to support the letter including the
business interests of Greenpeace (they sell something called Greenpeace
business at $25 a copy that is 10 pages long) with a long string of
business subscribers at the front; you know fund raising under a different
name and sent that to the Heralds lawyer. We have heard no more.
Anthony Trewavas FRS
Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, Mayfield Road, University of
See below a letter published by Dr. Trewavas in 'Chemistry and Industry'
the past Summer.
Dr Pusztai uses his commentary in Chemistry and Industry (number 8 page
280) again to make claims over what his research demonstrates about GM
food. Having heard him lecture in Edinburgh and having read the paper by
Ewens and him in The Lancet, I differ very strongly from his assessment.
Dr Pusztai used three lines of potato for his tests which he admitted were
not substantially, and therefore not nutritionally equivalent, to each
other. The claimed effects of these different diets, again admitted by Dr
Pusztai, are tiny; if believable at all since some of the statistical
procedures are surely inappropriate. Again in the course of his lecture Dr
Pusztai admitted he is not a molecular biologist, statistician or plant
biologist. He is an organic chemist. I believe such training gives rise to
unrealistic expectations of replication in biology particularly when
different diets are involved and the rats are still growing vigorously.
Many years ago R.J. Williams summarised in "Biochemical Individuality"
(1959. Wiley,Chicester) the anatomical, cellular and chemical variations
reported between normal, healthy, reproducing human beings. Intestinal
mass is an adaptive feature, responds to diet and Williams reports
variations of six fold. Pusztai reported variations supposedly due to GM
food of 10% or less in mass with slightly higher variation in thickness of
several parts of the intestine. The largest reported effects (40%)
resulted from feeding rats ordinary raw, instead of cooked, potato. The
growing animals actually lost weight (starvation conditions) and in true
biological fashion increased their intestinal mass, no doubt as an attempt
to cope. If the intent of Ewens and Pusztai was to demonstrate that
particular GM foods were damaging as a result only of GM, then at the
minimum, use of a variety of non-transgenic potato lines with differing
nutritional content was essential to establish normal variation. I
appreciate that this work was truncated but by going on TV, Dr Pusztai
truncated it himself. Pusztai is a member of the Union of Concerned
Scientists (organised in the UK by Mae Wan Ho) which called for a
moratorium of five years on the release of GM crops. I would be surprised
if this played no part whatsoever in his decision.
The Pusztai affair is a sad chapter in British science. Dr Pusztai has an
excellent scientific record. An expert on lectins he has published some
300 papers and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. If he had
chosen to publish and not gone on TV he might well have still been in
employment and investigating further. However as scientists we submit to
referees criticism after submission of papers because we can be wrong. The
Ewens and Pusztai paper would have been rejected by any reputable plant
journal, not for subject matter, but simply there was inadequate data to
justify any conclusion, for failure to take account of somaclonal
variation in the GM potatoes and for claiming signficant differences
between means with overlapping standard errors. Rather than use a paired
student t test, the experiments used three samples and analysis of
variance is surely the appropriate tool. The fact that the Lancet
apparently accepted the paper says something about relative refereeing
standards between journals.
The technology for potato transformation requires an initial phase of cell
culture, that is well known, on its own, to induce substantive chemical
and morphological variation in any subsequent regenerates. This so-called
soma-clonal variation is normally eliminated by a sexual reproductive
cycle. But potatoes are cloned and are not obtained from seed. Thus
somaclonal variations from the culture conditions are retained in the
adult potato plant and subsequent potatoes derived from them. Potato was
thus the worst choice for these experiments to test the purported effects
of GM on food. It was imperative that the two GM potato lines used by
Ewens and Pusztai should have been subjected to the detailed scrutiny of
the kind now required for estimating the substantial equivalence of novel
foods. Only then could possible soma-clonal variations in important
dietary constituents be discounted.
Substantial equivalence is the current testing procedure in use for all GM
crops and food. The tests demand detailed profiling of benign and toxic
alkaloids, carbohydrates and polysaccharide and wall constituents, amino
acids, lipids, phyto-oestrogens , other steroids, minerals as well as
major nutritional constituents. Such tests usually take years and require
that the GM crop does not differ in any of these parameters (within
experimental error) from the crop or food from which it was derived.
Usually such parent foods are considered safe from a history of
consumption. That latter judgement may be flawed but it is the best on
offer at present. The new individual trait is then examined for safety and
allergenicity. In future, substantial equivalence will probably involve
complete DNA microarray analysis of gene expression. Since we know the GM
lines used by Putzai were not substantially equivalent in several major
nutrients, we can only surmise as regards other minor nutrient or
anti-nutrient modifications. Potato is notorious for some of its toxic
constituents including arsenic.
The GM crops on trial in the UK at the moment contain one new piece of DNA
and the resulting protein. Both are rapidly degraded in the stomach. But
in GM soya these molecules are already degraded by processing before they
are even eaten. All that we know about toxic proteins (tetanus toxins,
allergenic proteins) indicates that their effects are acute and immediate.
Notions of some remote effect of GM foods in some remote future do not
accord with any mechanism that I know of. Dr Pusztai doesn't quote one
either in his insistence on long term testing. New variant CJD is a
disease and is only caused by proteins already in human brain tissue.
Claims that random insertion of cDNA's might represent a problem fails to
recognise that transposable elements, that form 20% of the plant genome,
move and insert at random with every reproductive cycle inducing
biological variation. An inserted cDNA simply mimics a natural process.
Dr Pusztai thinks that the public requires reassurance on the safety of GM
food. Well maybe it does, but it was his TV announcement, an associated
hysterical press and irresponsible political groups that are primarily
responsible for public uncertainty. Sir John Krebs as the new Head of the
Food Standards Agency will in future deal with such problems and his
stated conclusion is that GM soya is as safe as its untransformed
counterpart. The suggestion of human trials for GM food does not recognise
that well over a billion people have eaten GM foods for 3-5 years with,
not surprisingly, no sign of any medical problem despite doom-laden
predictions by the Maharishi university. The requests for unnecessary
testing is surely part of a general campaign designed simply to delay GM
introduction for no reason whatsoever.
The FDA did not suddenly find toxicity of food a problem because of
Kuiper's studies on force feeding rats with tomatoes. Bruce Ames
voluminous studies in the 80's showed that all foods contain anywhere from
5,000-10,000 naturally synthesised chemicals which can induce cancers in
rodents. Thus any new food could always be shown to be toxic via this
particular test route. These observations generated in turn the principle
of substantial equivalence in the early 90's as the best way forward for
Finally I was surprised that Dr Pusztai did not mention Professor Chen's
(Beijing University) remarkably detailed analyses of rats fed GM peppers
and tomatoes and described at the OECD conference, since he was there. No
effects whatsoever emerged from the page after page after page of detailed
Anthony Trewavas FRS. FRSE Professor in Plant Biochemistry
From: Roger Morton
Subject: re:tunnel vision
Dear Dr Cummins, In your recent post (Subject: tunnel vision) to Agbioview
you again made the suggestion that there are properties of the CaMV 35S
promoter that make it dangerous. Could you tell me specifically what
properties of the CaMV 35S promoter differ from the virus-like promoters
of the thousands of transposable elements that are found in all plants?
How do these differences provide any increased risks over and above the
risks already entailed in eating plant DNA?
From: "Terrance Hurley"
Subject: Bob MacGregor and Pest Refuges
Over the last three years, I have worked with the EPA and many of the
scientists advising the EPA on resistance management. The clearest
statement I have found of the EPA's rationale for requiring resistance
management for Bt crops is in a 1998 white paper (the full citation is
listed below). In this white paper, the EPA states that Bt
plant-pesticides are a reduced risk pesticide and that it believes it
is in the public's interest to preserve the efficacy of Bt in order to
reduce environmental and human exposure to more hazardous pesticides.
From an economic perspective, it can be argued that managing
resistance to any pesticide is in the public's interest. If Bt is a
reduced risk pesticide, it is reasonable to argue that the EPA should
be more vigilant with resistance management for Bt crops. The
arguments are based on the notion of the tragedy of the commons. Pest
susceptibility to Bt can be viewed as a nonrenewable open access
resource. It is nonrenewable in the same sense as oil. The more we
use it the faster we lose it. It is open access in the same sense as
salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest or cod populations in the
Atlantic. Anyone who wants to use it can do so. However, anyone who
uses it contributes to resistance, which makes less available for
everyone else to use. People tend to overuse nonrenewable and
open access resources because if they do not use it first their
neighbors will. Restricting the use of Bt by requiring farmers to
plant refugia is one way to try to avoid this type of overuse.
Of course, this argument also suggests that the use of Bt foliar
sprays should be restricted.
Reference: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1998a). The
Environmental Protection Agency's White Paper on Bt Plant-Pesticide
Resistance Management. Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention
Division, Office of Pesticide Programs, Office of the Assistant
Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street, SW, Washington, DC
Terrance M. Hurley, Department of Applied Economics, University of
Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108
> From: "Bob MacGregor"
> Subject: Pest refuges
>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?
From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Subject: Response to DeGregori and McGregor
Bob McGregor asked why Bt-crops must have refugia but other crops using
pesticides do not. I tried to give an answer to that question in a
commentary I wrote entitled, "The Concept of Natural: Implications for
Biotechnology Regulation." Anyone may find this article in Vol. 3, # 1
(Winter 2000) AgBioForum available at < http:www.agbioforum.org/ >.
Tom DeGregori refers to an early Ralph Nader article in the March 1960
issue of American Mercury. [ I had never heard of this article prior to
reading Prof. DeGregori's post.] His post states that Ralph Nader attacked
fluoridiation of municipal water as a communist plot to turn us into
zombies. I have heard this argument since I was a young boy growing up in
Hereford, Texas (in the Panhandle of Texas between Amarillo, Texas and
Clovis, New Mexico.] Hereford is the "Town without a Toothache," so named
because dentist George Heard in the 1920s discovered that residents of
Hereford had significantly fewer cavities than the residents of other
communities with which he was familiar. Dr. Heard traced the reason for
the reduced number of cavities to the natural fluoridation in the Hereford
groundwater. Dr. Heard's discovery put into motion the fluoridation of
water and the fortification of toothpaste with fluoride. (Hereford was
even featured in an early fluoridated toothpast advertisement -- for Ipana
with "Bucky, Bucky Beaver" and his cavity-free front teeth.) The Communist
plot theory of fluoridation came to Hereford in the mid-to-late 1950s. It
gained some adherents in Hereford until someone pointed out that if adding
flouride to water was a Communist plot, then God must be a Communist
because God added the fluoride to Hereford water. The sensible Hereford
farmers, ranchers, and small town people promptly abandoned the Communist
plot theory of fluoridation. Too bad Ralph Nader did not have similar
common sense. Remember the old adage: Once fooled, the shame lies with the
liar; twice fooled, the shame lies with the listener.
- Drew L. Kershen, University of Oklahoma College of Law
Two Media Releases from New Zealand:
From: Francis Wevers
Life Sciences Network produces evidence that Green Party witness testimony
to Royal Commission is without scientific validity
The New Zealand Life Sciences Network (Inc) today presented rebuttal
evidence from three scientists showing the key Green Party witness, Dr
Elaine Ingham, presented assertions to the Royal Commission on Genetic
Modification which were without foundation in science.
"Dr Ingham made outrageous and scientifically unsupported assertions about
ecological devastation for all terrestrial plant life arising from genetic
modification of a single soil bacterium," the Network's Chairman, Dr
William Rolleston, said today. "Her evidence, while not given on oath, was
nevertheless bound by normal standards of ethical behaviour expected of
scientists. These standards, according to one authority, the Greenpeace
Chief Science Advisor, require scientists to avoid extrapolating 'from
tests on a single organism to predict effects on an entire eco-system'.
"Dr Ingham also told the Royal Commission the United States authorities
had approved field tests of the bacterium. No such approval was ever
given. "This doomsday evidence is all the worse for its potential to
create fear in the community. Dr Ingham's evidence calls into question the
ethics of opponents to genetic modification and their apparent willingness
not to let inconvenient facts get in the way of startling revelations.
That the Green Party and Greenpeace should have been involved in the
presentation of demonstrably inaccurate, careless and exaggerated
information is also very troubling.
"The discovery of Dr Ingham's reliance on a research paper which never
existed and her distortion of facts also raises questions about her
personal conduct as a senior staff member of Oregon State University. We
will bring our findings to the attention of the University authorities,"
concluded Dr Rolleston.
Greenpeace Founder and now its critic in New Zealand
The former Director of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore, is coming to New
Zealand on Thursday and Friday this week to give evidence in Christchurch
to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification on behalf of the New
Zealand Life Sciences Network. Dr Moore is critical of Greenpeace for its
global campaign against genetic modification and describes the zero
tolerance approach to genetic modification as wrong-headed and illogical.
He believes that genetic modification could have tremendous benefit for
New Zealand's native forests, plantation forest and environment through
increased forest growth. Increased timber growth would have major
beneficial effects on net greenhouse gas emissions, better protection of
soils, clean air and water and the provision of more renewable fuel and
material for the economy. Dr Moore has been to New Zealand several times
before. He was the Greenpeace spokesman in Auckland after the French
Secret Service sank the Rainbow Warrior. On Thursday Dr Moore will give a
public address at 7.30 p.m. in the Rolleston Lecture Theatre, Ground
Floor, Christchurch School of Medicine Building. On Friday he will give
evidence to the Royal Commission. He leaves for Australia on Saturday.
NOTE FOR EDITORS; If you wish to contact Dr Moore while he is in NZ please
contact Francis Wevers at the contacts below.
Francis Wevers, Executive Director, NZ Life Sciences Network (Inc), PO Box
715, Wellington, New Zealand, Ph email@example.com Website
Man of the Year: John Sanford
Progressive Farmer, January 2001
http://www.progressivefarmer.com/issue/0101/sanford/default.asp (thanks to
HANU PAPPU for this alert to Agbioview)
From a simple BB gun, this scientist fired the shot heard around the
world-the promise of biotechnology to feed the hungry.
The revolution of agricultural biotechnology came to be through the
business end of a Crossman BB gun-a dime-store toy wielded by many a
rambunctious youth. This is the pistol that powered the first gene gun, a
low-tech, "laughable" idea, mocked in the scientific community.
It will never work, they said. But it did. And it transformed agriculture
in a way no one understands.
From an idea of Cornell University scientist John Sanford, the world now
has corn and cotton that kill insect pests, plants that are resistant to
herbicides, a rice resistant to insects (from the genes of potatoes) and
tolerant of salt and drought (genes from barley). The gene gun was used to
create a virus-resistant fruit that will save Hawaii's $45-million-a-year
papaya crop from a viral killer. In less developed countries, the
technology Sanford pioneered is embraced as a miracle, perhaps a real way
to beat chronic crop failures and hunger.
Also evolving from his BB gun is a hand-held gene gun for use on humans
and animals that shoots genetic vaccines directly into the skin. The
vaccines, says Sanford friend and University of Texas Southwestern Medical
Center researcher Stephen Johnston, are safer than today's vaccines and
produce "whopping" immune responses. It is because so much human good has
come from the barrel of an air pistol that Progressive Farmer is honored
to elect John Sanford its 2001 Man of the Year in Service to Agriculture.
Agriculture's newest production revolution began in the fall of 1983 when
Sanford was waging an aggravating backyard battle with plundering
squirrels. So it was BBs Sanford had on his mind when Cornell University
electrical engineer Ed Wolf asked him this question: Exactly what speed is
needed to force bits of genetic material through the fragile,
semipermeable walls of plant cells? Wolf and Sanford had done some hard
thinking about Sanford's ideas for moving genetic material into living
plant cells, and had come upon the notion of "shooting" it in. But what
about that speed? Wolf wondered. Sanford thought for a moment. "About the
speed of a BB," he said.
Wolf looked over his array of electromagnetic accelerators and ion beams.
The less-than-blazing speed of a BB can be achieved with much less
sophistication he thought. Wolf came across the right tool on a cluttered
shelf in Fay's Drug Store near the Cornell campus-a Crossman air pistol.
Christmas break 1983 brought together Sanford, Wolf and Nelson Allen (the
head machinist in Wolf's lab who modified the BB gun and, later, vastly
improved versions of it) for the first tests of this low-tech but elegant
tool for moving genetic material.
Into a hole drilled in the barrel of the gun, the three poured bits of
powdered tungsten. The target was a whole onion, which Sanford chose for
its large cells. The first blasts of air were so violent that bits of
onion splattered back onto the researchers, donning the customary white
gowns, booties and hats of ultra-clean laboratories. As the roomed filled
with the pungent smell of splattered onion, Sanford made adjustments and
soon had tungsten hitting the bull's-eye-the insides of onion cells.
Sanford took what Allen and Wolf jokingly called the macroparticle
accelerator back to his lab. There he soon proved the cells survived the
shots of tungsten and that DNA could be delivered into the cells on these
particles. He soon realized bursts of air from air guns where too
uncontrollable-too close and the cells were blasted apart; too far away
and the particles failed to penetrate. So in the spirit of Tim Allen's TV
character Tim the Toolman, he added more power. Sanford brought into the
employ of the fragile craft of plant biotechnology .22-caliber blanks (the
kind used in nail guns). The blanks powered a plunger that ran into a
stopping plate that was pierced with a small hole. The tip of the plunger
was treated with DNA-covered bits of tungsten. When fired, the rod shot
forward, striking the stopping plate. The DNA-coated tungsten flew forward
through the hole into the target cells.
That's the theory. In practice, it fell to a sometimes powder-burned Ted
Klein, a young researcher now working at DuPont, to fire the gun and dodge
bits of high-velocity debris. Klein soon began tying a length of string to
the trigger and leaving the room before firing the gun. Researchers on the
second floor of Cornell's Hedrick Hall never did get used to the sporadic
gunfire coming coming from Sanford's lab. And neither did the cells. They
often died from the effect of blast and gunpowder. But Sanford and Klein
slowly improved their techniques. Klein's work eventually led to the first
successful biolistic transformations of plants. By 1986, with improvements
in the gun-today's gene guns are most likely powered by gas, such as
helium-Sanford's lab, in collaboration with Pioneer Hi-Bred International,
Inc., produced the first transformation of corn.
Sanford and Klein's gun shattered the biotech bottleneck. Researchers knew
what some genes did and even how to get some inside plants, but the gun
made the process faster, more reliable and less expensive. Plus it worked
in a wide variety of applications. From that work, Sanford has moved on.
After selling the rights to his gene gun to DuPont and selling Sanford
Scientific, a company he founded, a financially-secure Sanford opened the
doors to his Feed My Sheep Institute in Waterloo, N.Y.
A deeply religious man, Sanford hoped to transfer for free the benefits of
plant genetic engineering to Third World nations. Although his intentions
were honorable, the real-world costs were too high. So Sanford has
mothballed Feed My Sheep. Today, he works some on his own human gene gun,
but more often he is engaged in what he calls the field of Christian
spiritual nutrition. He won't say much about it, except that his work
takes on some of the rougher edges of TV of the Internet. With regard to
some of today's biotechnology controversies-particularly charges about
Aventis' StarLink seed potentially causing allergic reactions in
humans-Sanford admits some confusion. He points out that the proteins of
dispute are very similar to ones that, for decades, have been an important
tool in organic farming.
What's more, he says, "We're exposed to tens or hundreds of thousands of
proteins in a normal diet. There are a bewildering array of potential
allergens. They have never been regulated. But now there seems to be [a
movement to] arbitrarily and artificially raise barriers [to their
advanced use]." He finds today's loud and angry biotech debate a bit
ironic. As a student in the 1970s, Sanford remembers his alarm at the
prospect of mass starvation. The thought of the "population bomb" drew him
into the field of plant breeding.
And with the fruits of his labor, Sanford has helped bring the promise of
genetic engineering to all who must eat to live.
Scope Commentaries on GM Food
The "Science" magazine has posted short commentaries on certain issues of
GM food controversy at http://scope.educ.washington.edu/gmfood/commentary/
. I found some really thought-provoking scholarly contributions by Galun,
Tanksley, and McHughen along with a few anti-biotech pieces by Mae- Wan
Ho. You need to sign up but that should take less than a minute, and
certainly worthwhile. -Prakash
"Genetically Modified Picasso"
Check out "Transgenic Art" site at
http://www.ekac.org/transgenicindex.html for a rare blend of art and
science......You will find some interesting art works including DNA
synthesized music, a sentence from the book of Genesis was converted to
Morse code before translation into DNA, flourescent bacteria and bunny;
and all with a very subtle message on scientists playing God ("dubious
notion of divinely sanctioned humanity's supremacy over nature").
Thanks to Michael Goodin of UC, Berkeley who alerted me to this site.
Michael is active in the Berkeley Biotechnology Education Inc.
http://www.BBEI.org./ . Check out Michael's splendid nature photographs at
http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=978733&a=10134645 and your
support of his photos would help BBEI also. - Prakash
---- "Genesis is a transgenic artwork that explores the intricate
relationship between biology, belief systems,information technology,
dialogical interaction, ethics, and the Internet. The key element of the
work is an "artist's gene", a synthetic gene that was created by Kac by
translating a sentence from the biblical book of Genesis into Morse Code,
and converting the Morse Code into DNA base pairs according to a
conversion principle specially developed by the artist for this work. The
sentence reads: "Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over
the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the
earth." It was chosen for what it implies about the dubious notion of
divinely sanctioned humanity's supremacy over nature. The Genesis gene was
incorporated into bacteria, which were shown in the gallery. Participants
on the Web could turn on an ultraviolet light in the gallery, causing
real, biological mutations in the bacteria. This changed the biblical
sentence in the bacteria. The ability to change the sentence is a symbolic
gesture: it means that we do not accept its meaning in the form we
inherited it, and that new meanings emerge as we seek to change it."
From: Mark Tepfer Re: transposons in
Hi, Regarding Richard McQualter's comment: I had some of the same reaction
on this, but if you look at table 24 of the Nature paper (Nature 409, p
902) and the accompanying text, you will see that they confirmed
integration of the gene in the human genome by PCR. Sounds OK to me.
Please also note that these are apparently ancient gene transfers, since
also found in other vertebrates. yours,
- Mark Tepfer
>From: Richard McQualter
>Subject: transposons in genome databases
>I read the article in agbioview by Roger Highfield, "How we were
>'genetically modified' by bacteria". I don't dispute that this may be
GOING ORGANIC CANNOT HELP WORLD HUNGER: FAO CHIEF DIOUF
Patrick Crampont February 17, 2001 Agence France Presse English
---- (Note from Prakash: I wonder if the following statements from the FAO
Chief Jacques Diouf are accurately quoted in the French Press where he is
cited as saying "GMOs are not necessary either" in fighting world hunger,
as surely the critics of biotech would now pick this up selectively. Diouf
has repeatedly said that biotech will be a powerful tool in advancing
agricultural productivity and fighting poverty in the third world ( "vital
tool in the fight against hunger ") including in a speech he made at
Tuskegee recently. Look for one such report below I picked up from the
Agnet archives.) -------------- (I just learn about the full report at
ROME -- UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Director-General Jacques
Diouf was cited as telling AFP that going organic to fight world hunger is
"just a pipedream" but genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not the
Diouf added that in terms of trying to feed the world's starving, "Organic
farming makes no use of chemicals or pesticides so it's just a pipedream.
In order that agriculture can produce the amount of cereal that is needed
around the world, it simply is not possible without using chemical
fertilisers and pesticides." But he also stressed his belief that GMOs are
not necessary either: "Faced with the needs of the 800 million people who
are suffering from hunger, we don't need GMOs. The big question is exactly
what level of fertiliser and pesticides should be used."
Diouf was cited as recommending "an integrated organic approach" to
achieve the right balance while not compromising on the environment. He
gave the example of Indonesia where he said pesticide use had been reduced
by 50 percent while rice production had increased by 15 per cent. But he
pointed out: "There has been and there is too much use of fertilisers and
chemicals." Diouf said modern agricultural techniques and new crop strains
meant it was now possible to try to tackle hunger head-on.
"In six years, Vietnam has gone from being a net importer of rice to the
position of number two world exporter. In Ghana, daily consumption of rice
per inhabitant has increased in just a few years from 1,900 calories a day
---- (Earlier report of his strong support for biotech):
World needs GM crops, says UN food chief - By Michela Wrong, Financial
Times June 28 2000
The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) gave
genetically-modified (GM) organisms his backing on Wednesday, saying new
plant and animal varieties were needed to feed a burgeoning world
Speaking ahead of next month's Group of Eight summit in Japan, where GM
crops will be on the agenda, Jacques Diouf acknowledged that conventional
crops developed during the Green Revolution could feed the world's 800m
hungry people, if only they were fairly distributed across the developing
world. But he predicted that a shortage of land available for cultivation
would make it impossible to feed a global population expected to peak at
9bn without recourse to genetically-engineered plants and animals.
"We cannot deprive ourselves of the potential to have crops that require
less pesticide, need less nitrogen and phosphorus to grow and offer poor
people improved nutrition, whether added vitamins or oligoelements," the
director-general said in an interview with the Financial Times. "We need
to take all the necessary precautions to protect human health and the
environment. But in the long term, I believe this is a vital tool in the
fight against hunger." (-cut-)
From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Blaming Industry
I agree with Val Giddings that industry does not deserve criticism for its
"spin" on golden rice, especially when there are so many other
biotech-related areas in which the industry has been myopic, disingenuous
or otherwise culpable. See the article below (in press).
Henry Miller, Hoover Institution Stanford University
THE BIOTECH INDUSTRY'S FRANKENSTEINIAN CREATION
Henry I. Miller, MD
The last two decades have been the best of times and the worst of times
for biotechnology applied to
agriculture and food production -- stunning scientifically, dismal
politically. Especially in Europe there is widespread public and political
opposition to importing gene-spliced, or "genetically modified" (GM),
seeds; vandalization of field trials; suspension of regulatory approvals;
labeling to identify GM foods and even their banishment by major
The cause of much of this adversity is ill-conceived public policy =97 in
particular overregulation that singles out and discriminates against a
superior new technology. Ironically, the big agribusiness companies,
especially Monsanto, have no one to blame but themselves: By insisting for
years that their own gene-spliced crop plants and the foods derived from
them merited extraordinary government oversight, agricultural biotech
companies elicited regulation that lessened competition and slowed the
flow of products through the development pipeline. (This strategy also
played into activists' scare scenarios, discouraging public acceptance of
the new products.)
The companies appear not to have learned the Rule of Holes: When you're in
a hole, stop digging. In a major policy speech on November 27, 2000,
Hendrik A. Verfaillie, Monsanto's new CEO, neglected to mention
overregulation, let alone any (belated) commitment to seeking public
policy toward biotechnology that makes scientific and common sense.
Instead, he sniveled and crawled to the very radicals whose vandalism and
propaganda had lopped $8.6 billion off Monsanto's market value, so
weakening the company that it was sold dirt-cheap earlier in the year to
the Pharmacia Corporation. He went out of his way to endorse a new FDA
policy that requires a burdensome pre-market review of biotech foods, an
approach that has been roundly censured by the scientific community.
In the early 1980s a few major agrochemical-biotechnology companies led by
Monsanto approached senior policy makers in the administration of
President Ronald Reagan and requested more restrictive regulation,
primarily from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), than could be
justified on scientific grounds. Their motive was clear: 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
They achieved their short-term goal. The US Department of Agriculture,
Food and Drug Administration and (especially) Environmental Protection
Agency promulgated new policies that focused specifically on and
discriminated against plants and microorganisms crafted with gene-
splicing techniques. The regulatory policies put federal bureaucrats in
the middle of virtually all field trials of GM plants during the past
fifteen years, spelling disaster for small businesses and especially for
academic institutions, whose scientists lack the resources to comply with
burdensome, unnecessary regulation. The cost of field-testing GM plants
skyrocketed to as much as twenty-fold higher than for virtually identical
plants crafted with older, less precise genetic techniques. Limited R&D
resources were siphoned away from productive research to paperwork and
gratuitous field test requirements. Added production costs were a
particular disadvantage to products in this competitive, low profit-margin
Seed companies and entrepreneurial biotech companies for the most part
failed to compete successfully on this tilted playing field, and
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 anticompetitive strategy Monsanto
gobbled up Agracetus, Ecogen, and Calgene. Few of the agbiotech companies
launched in the 1980s exist today -- in contrast to biopharmaceutical
companies, whose numbers have increased steadily for a quarter century.
However, Monsanto and the few others remaining have won only a Pyrrhic
victory. The overregulation that they engineered has fed the
anti-biotechnology mythology that has poisoned the views of consumers and
emboldened regulators, particularly in Europe and Japan.
The industry as a whole must share the blame for this strategy. Its
monolithic trade association, the Washington DC-based Biotechnology
Industry Organization (BIO), has lobbied tirelessly for overregulation in
the United States and internationally for more than a decade. In 1994, for
example, in a letter to the FDA, BIO requested that the agency develop a
special notification scheme for GM foods, even though there was no
evidence that these posed any health risk, and such foods were already
subject to the FDA's routine, rigorous policing of the marketplace. The
agency did announce such a requirement earlier this year, a repudiation of
its twenty-year old commitment to regulate biotech products in a
scientifically defensible and risk-based way.
Industry has advocated other unscientific and even bizarre regulatory
proposals, including one from the EPA to begin regulating garden and crop
plants as pesticides. Under this policy, case by case regulatory review is
required for even small-scale field trials of familiar, innocuous,
commercially important, GM plants genetically improved to enhance their
pest- or disease-resistance. This proposed policy has been condemned
repeatedly by dozens of scientific associations, representing more than
100,000 scientists and food professionals.
In the international arena, Monsanto and BIO have lobbied for United
Nations-based regulation of biotechnology. One result has been the
disastrous Cartagena biosafety protocol, finalized in January under the
auspices of the 1992 United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity.
These regulations introduce a global scheme for regulation of biotech
products that violates a cardinal principal of regulation =97 namely, that
the degree of scrutiny should be commensurate with risk. Under this
unscientific and Draconian regulatory regime, no biologist, plant breeder
or farmer will be allowed to grow and test a GM crop or garden plant =97
no matter how small the test-plot -- without prior, case by case approval
from the UN-sanctioned bio-police. (With rare exceptions, plants crafted
with more primitive, less precise genetic techniques will continue to be
subject to no government scrutiny at all, from the first tests in the
field to the consumer's plate.) Paperwork, red tape and corruption will
dog the process from beginning to end, from the first seed to the store
shelves, around the world, and the regulations offer national regulators
cover for decisions based only on protectionist considerations.
Monsanto and BIO have likewise supported and participated in the work of
no fewer than three panels of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the
United Nations agency concerned with international food standards. These
groups are working toward holding biotech-derived food and food
ingredients to standards that are unscientific, far beyond those that any
other products can or should meet, and that will prevent their competing
successfully in the marketplace.
Agricultural biotechnology holds tremendous potential benefits for the
world's consumers and farmers. Products will continue to emerge in the
marketplace, but at a disturbingly low rate because of regulatory
barriers. Under current circumstances, the commercialisation of agbiotech
products will be limited primarily to commodity crops grown at vast scale,
at the expense of opportunities to improve important small-acreage crops.
For example, innovation will seldom target improvement of the genetics of
environmentally-threatened but low-value-added species such as trees, or
of subsistence crops such as millet, cassava and yams.
The potential market for GM plants and foods derived from them is being
undermined and distorted by overregulation and public antagonism.
Ironically, both are the industry's own Frankensteinian creation.
Henry I. Miller is a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution and
the author of "Policy Controversy in Biotechnology: An Insider's View."