First Benedikt Haerlin, (Greenpeace International Genetic Engineering
Campaign Coordinator Berlin) is quoted in The Independent 10 February 2001
"I feel that 'golden rice' is a moral challenge to our position. It is
true there is a different moral context, whether you have an insecticidal
or pesticide-resistant GM, or whether you have a GM product that serves a
good purpose." and that "The trials of GM 'golden rice' will not be the
target of Greenpeace action, I'm quite sure about that,"
Then he writes in a letter (The London Independent February 17, 2001, Page
2 ) that his comments were "simply practical recognition of the resources
we have available for our work in the Philippines" and that "Golden rice
has not been ruled out as a target for direct action in the future"
Does this seem right? "I am quite sure - but then one week later I am not
Who got to him? This sort of softening of stance could slay the golden
goose of campaigning. Did the financial powers-that-be in the Greenpeace
corporation threaten to send the boys around? :-)
The only reason that the trials are not treatened is because you have no
staff in the Philippines? How about in India? They are going to trial the
rice in India too aren't they?
Times of India, 15-2-2001 http://www.timesofindia.com/today/15hlth20.htm
Date: Feb 22 2001 16:25:16 EST
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Rice Puffery
Colleagues, I found the remarks made by Val Giddings of BIO a few days ago
to be quite thought-provoking and have since been waiting for a response
to his challenge: to find industry statements which expressly claim that
golden rice is a "silver bullet" or something similar for vitamin A
deficiency. Quite obviously many, including Gordon Conway of the
Rockefeller Foundation, are quite convinced that the industry made vastly
inflated claims for the rice. But nobody appears able to find these claims
or statements. As the industry does poorly at both self-defense and
self-promotion, evidence of such statements and claims would naturally be
difficult to find. On the other hand, enthusiasm for the technology by
industry observers was rather lavish and activists were unrestrained in
their accusations of puffery. Between the two, an appearance of industry
puffery was created--but it was never really there.
Date: Feb 23 2001 11:02:49 EST
From: "SAM PARDUE"
Subject: Organic food Production
I am wanting to obtain refereed journal articles relating to organic food
production for an undergraduate honors seminar. A number of areas have
yielded limited citations. Any info you could provide in regards to the
following areas would be helpful.
1) Microbial Load Comparisons of Organic and Conventional Foods
(Both Friuts/Veggies/& animal products (e.g. free range)
2) Consumer Profiles or Demographics of Organic Food Purchasers
3) Yield data (per acre / hectare)
Prince Charles' Award
The 2000 Nanny Award for “The most egregious example of activism
undertaken for financial gain” goes to: Prince Charles – Earlier this
year, Charles said the growing of genetically improved food could have
“disastrous consequences.’’ Luckily for Charles, his comments helped cause
enough fear in the public to create a market for his own line of organic
food products. In fact, Charles now owns the UK’s leading independent
organic-food brand, thanks in large part to his high-profile crusade
Rice Of The Future
Exciting times for rice research but new varieties are still some years
By Jairam Ramesh
February 26, 2001
Two significant developments took place recently concerning our staple
food, rice. On January 19, the Manila-based International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI) received the first research samples of "golden rice" from
the scientists and companies who had originally developed it. Second, on
January 26, two private companies from Switzerland and the US unveiled the
complete map of the rice genome. New varieties are, however, at least five
Golden rice is genetically modified rice invented by two scientists-Ingo
Potrykus, a Swiss, and Peter Beyer, a German. Although it provides about a
third of our daily calorie intake, normal rice is low in vitamin content.
Through modern genetic engineering techniques, Potrykus and Beyer have
incorporated three new alien genes into the conventional rice plant-two
from daffodils and another from the earth bacterium Erwinia. The colour of
this transgenic seed is yellow-hence, the name golden rice. It contains
beta-carotene and other carotenoids which break down into Vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness and is endemic among pre-school
children in the poorer regions of India. We do have a national programme
whereby infants in the nine-36 months age group are to be provided with
assive Vitamin A doses. But actual coverage, particularly for follow-up
doses, is low.
IRRI, which is a publicly funded laboratory, will now mount a global
effort to further investigate golden rice, using local rice varieties.
Remarkably, a Humanitarian Board chaired by Potrykus has been set up to
further the application. This points to how public-private partnerships in
biotechnology can be structured. IRRI has a strong India connection-it was
headed by none other than M.S. Swaminathan himself during 1982-88 and for
the past three decades its top breeder has been the legendary Gurdev
the world's leading wheat and maize breeders are Sanjaya Rajaram and
Surinder Vassal at IRRI's sister laboratory CIMMYT in Mexico, from where
we got the wheat seeds in the mid-1960s to launch our Green Revolution.
Although the genetic code of rice has been sequenced, the exact function
of each gene is not known. The next step is to determine what each of
these 50,000 genes do. It would then be possible, for example, to develop
new rice varieties tolerant to drought. IRRI is establishing a global
network for functional genomics research and Khush believes India should
play a leadership role in this network.
Over half the births in India are of markedly underweight babies brought
about by maternal malnutrition aggravated by iron deficiency. In January
1999, five Japanese scientists reported the development of a transgenic
rice based on the transfer of the soyabean ferritin gene. This transgenic
rice contains two to four times the iron normally found in rice. Since
anaemia is widely prevalent among pregnant and lactating women in our
country, iron-fortified rice is of special significance to us.
A third new transgenic rice variety is called Bt rice. This is rice that
produces a protein toxic to insects and pests by the injection of a gene
from the microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis. In 1915, a scientist had
isolated this toxin from a dead moth in the German region of
Thuringen-hence the name of the bacterium. Bt rice is still in its infancy
unlike Bt cotton which has taken major strides. About a third of the
cotton area in the US is under Bt cotton. In India small field trials are
on. Bt cotton is of great importance because the cotton crop now consumes
about 60 per cent of all chemical pesticides used.
Way back in 1954, two scientists at the Cuttack-based Central Rice
Research Institute, S. Sampath and H.K. Mohanty, were the first to draw
attention to the possibility of developing hybrids involving two separate
parental lines for a self-pollinated crop like rice. But it was China that
surged ahead. Around 40-45 per cent of China's rice area is under hybrid
varieties. India too has been experimenting with hybrid rice. A. Janaiah
of IRRI, who has been studying the socio-economics of hybrid rice,
believes that while hybrid rice gives higher yields of at least 15-20 per
cent over high-yielding
varieties, it results in lower profitability. This is because of three
main reasons: lower market prices on account of poor grain quality and
higher risks of pests and diseases.
While we keep abreast of the latest in rice science, there are many
immediate production challenges. As Swaminathan has pointed out recently,
Punjab must diversify from rice to agro-forestry, fodder crops, quality
protein maize and legumes. In arid regions, low-yielding rice has to give
way to other lucrative opportunities like tree crops. Eastern India has to
see a fuller development of its substantial groundwater resources.
Finally, there are big yield gaps-between potential and actual-that need
to be bridged.
The author is with the Congress party. These are his personal views.
GM PROPONENT SPEAKS OUT
February 17, 2001
By Dan Buglass
Sir John Marsh, professor emeritus of Reading University, was cited as
telling the annual Scottish conference of the fellows and associates of
the Royal Agricultural Societies at Ingliston, that several of the major
supermarket chains which insist that all produce, including beef, poultry
and eggs, must have been reared on diets free from genetically -modified
(GM) crops are acting irrationally, adding, "I think they have done a
major disservice to their own credibility. A few years ago one could say
multiples that these were the people who held credibility with the public
in the area of food. Once the message gets through that this decision is
based on a short-term opportunistic reading of consumer preference without
any integrity of judgment, then I think their credibility is going to be
Sir John was also cited as saying he believes that the future of farming
in Europe is being held back by the failure of the public and politicians
to embrace GM technology, adding, "I think the long-term benefits of
genetic modification are so substantial that probably one is deciding
whether one has an industry or not. The short-term impact, as far as food
is concerned, is imperceptible in the eyes of the public. But the area in
which it will become perceptible to the public is much more in the area of
medical research and the development of products which have
characteristics that are hugely helpful in alleviating some of our greater
anxieties about our own
health. I therefore think that there is not likely to be a rapid retreat
from the present anxieties about GMs, and that is a very serious problem.
But where it is increasingly demonstrated that there are benefits to
health, it will become increasingly difficult to shutoneself off from
that. Then opposition will become politically difficult to sustain. In the
end, I believe that common sense will prevail. The fact that large numbers
of people in the world are currently benefiting from food produced by GM
technology, which causes no problems with health and no particular
difficulties to the environment, proves the argument."
FAO report reveals GM crops not needed to feed the world
NATURAL LAW PARTY WESSEX
Directive to Allow Controlled Release of GMOs
GILLIAN NI CHEALLAIGH
February 22, 2001
A new directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) approved by the
European Parliament last week will allow the 'deliberate release' of GM
crops into the environment. It also paves the way for their commercial
production in the EU.
'It's showing there's more confidence in the safety of these products,' Dr
Patrick O'Reilly, business manager of Monsanto Ireland, said.
Monsanto, one of the biggest global GM food corporations, is testing GM
sugar beet in trials in the Republic. This crop is destroyed at harvest
The directive tightens controls on GMO products and imposes strict rules
for granting GMO licences. Six EU states, including France but excluding
Ireland, have indicated they will block GMO applications until
traceability and labelling rules are significantly improved.
The directive includes mandatory labelling, but only on live GMOs such as
the micro-organisms in yoghurts. There is still no obligation to label
products made with GMO ingredients, such as sugar or starch.
Some Monsanto applications are intended for Ireland, such as GM sugar beet
and blight-resistant potato seeds, Dr O'Reilly confirmed. If approved
'they would be on the market quite soon'.
Environmental groups here have expressed concern at the EU directive.
Father Sean McDonagh of Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment
(VOICE), said: 'The European Commission is basically pushing the agenda of
He added: 'The EU's precautionary principle is absolute on CJD, why is it
not absolute on genetically engineered foods?' VOICE has joined the Green
Party in calling on the Government to use opt-out provisions in the
directive to declare Ireland a GMO-free State. GMOs may be prohibited in
specified regions to protect ecosystems, environments or geographical
Green Party MEP Ms Patricia McKenna said declaring Ireland a GMO-free
State 'would increase the demand for Irish products and preserve Ireland's
environment from contamination'. Green Party spokeswoman Ms Mary White
said Ireland had an opportunity to be 'at the forefront of safe food
production' by banning genetically engineered crops.
She said all a company needed to do now was apply to the Department of
Agriculture for permission to plant commercial GE crops. 'It is clear that
without a specific national ban being in place in Ireland, protection for
the Irish public is compromised.'
Approval of the new directive defies a recent warning from a prominent
panel of scientists. The Royal Society of Canada called for far more
caution in approving GM crops that could pose 'serious risks to human
health, of extensive, irremediable disruption for the natural ecosystems
or of serious diminution of biodiversity'.
It also said a basic testing standard used by EU countries in licensing
was inadequate in protecting public health and should be abandoned
Some People are Just Never Happy
The Vancouver Province
By Jon Ferry
February 20, 2001
The longer I live on this planet, the more I'm convinced it's inhabited by
two kinds of people: those for whom the glass is always half-empty -- and
those for whom a half-empty glass presents a wonderful opportunity to fill
'er up and have some fun.
Some folk choose to look on the bright side of life. Others scour the
horizon for big, black clouds and find them. Often.
Whether it's because of too much political correctness or too few real
worries, we nervous nellies in western Canada seem to breed negative
people -- doomsayers bent on making others as miserable as themselves.
The professional environmental protesters who flourish in Vancouver like
weeds are a case in point. They invariably pick issues where they believe
they can destroy enterprise and kill jobs, in a futile effort to return to
a mythical Garden of Eden (complete with orthodontists and
fuel-cell-powered vehicles, of course).
When they're not complaining about the felling of old trees, they're
carping about the planting of new crops -- in particular, those which are
But, they conveniently forget that human beings have been genetically
modifying plants and animals by selection and breeding for the past 10,000
To quote Vancouver eco-supremo David Suzuki himself: "All of the food we
eat was once wild and, whether it's corn, rice or chickens, we have
dramatically increased yields and changed characteristics by genetic
modification. Even more remarkable, the array of dog breeds -- from
chihuahuas to Great Danes -- were all derived by breeding from tamed
Now, scientists for the big biotech firms have accelerated the process.
They've come up with genetically modified (GM) crops which they expect
will not only dramatically increase the world's food supply, but will
substantially reduce the amount of land (and pesticides) required to grow
such life-giving sustenance. They have even developed vitamin-enriched
rice which they claim will help curb Third World blindness.
In other words, these GM foods hold out huge hope for both limiting the
harmful environmental impact of agriculture and raising the health of
starving millions around the world.
So, you'd have thought all the Greenpeace gnomes would be falling over
themselves to encourage their production.
Yet, so far the response has been uniformly negative. So-called activists
-- ranging from the usual gaggle of B.C. malcontents to such silk-stocking
Brit socialists as Lord Melchett, a former Labour minister -- have
resorted to childish acts of vandalism and sabotage.
Canada's spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has
even predicted an increase in protests by militant bioengineering
Which is all a great shame.
Most of these nattering nabobs of negativity wouldn't know a "frankentree"
from a frankfurter. And so far no one has proved that GM/biotech foods are
hurting any human being.
GM canola is being grown in Peace River country where, despite all the
environmentalist rhetoric, farmers appear quite happy with it.
"Production-wise it certainly has some advantages," notes B.C. government
district agriculturist Jim Forbes, citing everything from better yield to
the need for fewer pesticides.
High-profile former Greenpeacer Patrick Moore, meanwhile, points out that
so-called normal foods themselves pose many dangers.
"Bacterial contamination is by far the most important problem, and that is
worse in organic farming because they use animal dung," Moore says.
"So, all this talk of organic farming being better for you than GMOs
(genetically-modified organisms) is nonsense."
Not that I agree with Ottawa's recent expenditure of more than $280,000 to
promote the use in China of GM cotton and corn manufactured by
Missouri-based multinational Monsanto. But then I don't think governments
should be subsidizing any profit-making corporations.
Nor do I quarrel with those who, like the Royal Society of Canada, are
calling for better regulation and testing of such products. However, that
does not mean we should throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Virtually all the evidence to date shows that GM/biotech foods will be a
huge boon to humankind. And all the wailing by well-fed alarmists won't
alter this fact.
This particular glass really is half-full.
Jon Ferry is Deputy Editorial Page Editor at the Vancouver Province.
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 11:47:04 -0600
From: Tom DeGregori
Companies and scientists in the U.S. have attained patents to use extracts
from plants such as turmeric (Curcuma longa, also called
tumeric) and neem (Azadirachta indica) as medicine, which have long
medicinal use in India. At least one of these patents was legally
challenged by the Indian government in what they call blatant
"biopiracy" (Agarwal and Narain 1996, see also BBC 1999d, Stock 1999,
Kerr et al. 1999 and Knight 2000). Part of the challenge was successful,
as a patent for the use of turmeric as a healing agent
issued to a U.S. university was canceled by the U.S. Patents and
Trademark Office in August 1997. However, the patent may be
reinstated for specific uses, such as surgical procedures (Sampat
1998, 8). The efforts to have the courts cancel a patent for uses of
an extract of neem for medicinal and agricultural uses have not yet
been successful in the United States but has been revoked by the
European Patent Office though it has thus far granted 11 other
patents based on the use of the neem tree (IATP 1997b, Hoggan 2000,
Kirby 2000, Jarayaman 2000b and Hellerer and Jarayaman 2000).
One author has challenged the accepted version of the story of patenting
neem, calling it "alarmist" and "nonsense." According to
David Richer, the patent in question was for a process of extracting
neem oil and not for the use of neem itself.
Patents are granted only for inventions that are new and obvious,
and the use of the neem seeds in pest control fell into neither of these
(Richer 2000, 206)
Richer adds that a firm could not "prevent farmers from
continuing to use their tradition methods of pest control" nor could
any patent "stop anyone from doing something which he was doing
before the patent application was filed" (Richer 2000, 206). The
purported fears that a firm outside of Houston, Ricetec, that
produces a locally produced variety of Basmati, called Texmati, could
use their patented name to prevent the sale of Basmati from the
Indian subcontinent is nonsense. Basmati from India and from Pakistan
has been readily available in local supermarkets in Houston along
with Texmati. There is a long held belief that traditional Basmati
rice cannot be grown outside the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.
Whether true or not, Ricetec was able to cross Basmati with local
varieties to come up with a good (I still like the traditional better
and it is much cheaper even imported into Houston) Basmati-like rice.
It was Ricetec fields incidently which were visited by the
counter-culture agricultural expert and hero, Dr. Vandana Shiva who
saw a field of weeds (the rice crop had long ago been harvested) and
thought she was looking at rice plants which she argued were inferior
to those back home in India. At least this time, she was half right
in that a field of weeds, even a field of Texas weeds, is inferior
to a rice paddy in India or elsewhere.
Agarwal and Narain 1996,
Agarwal, Anil and Sunita Narain. 1996. Spices of Life. Asia
Times 266:ll, 19 December. (Reprinted from New Scientist).
BBC. 1999a. India to Protect Herbal Remedies: Spices Such as
Tumeric Have Medicinal Properties, BBC World Service online 27
Hellerer and Jarayaman 2000
Hellerer, Ulrike and K.S. Jarayaman. 2000. Greens Persuade
Europe to Revoke Patent on Neem Tree. Nature 405(6784):266-267, 18
Hoggan, Karen. 2000. Neem Tree Patent Revoked: The Neem
Provides a Popular Traditional Tooth Cleaner, BBC World Service
online 11 May.
IATP. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. 1997b.
India Bio-piracy Campaign Successfully Challenges U.S. Tumeric
Patent, Intellectual Property & Biodiversity News online, 6(13), 22
Jarayaman, K.S. 2000. ..as India Pushes Ahead with Plant
Database, Nature 405(6784):267, 18 May.
Kerr et al. 1999
Kerr, William A.; Jill E. Hobbs and Revadee Yampoin. 1991.
Intellectual Property Protection, Biotechnology and Developing
Countries: Will the Trips be Effective? AgBioForum 2(3&4):203-211.
Kirby, Alex. 2000. US Tree Patent Challenged: The Neem
Provides a Popular Traditional Tooth Cleaner, BBC World Service
online 5 May.
Knight, Danielle. 2000. Indian, Thai Farmers Fight US
"Biopiracy," Inter Press Service, Asia Times online 2 May.
Richer, David L. 2000. Intellectual Property Protection: Who
Needs It. In Agricultural Biotechnology and the Poor, edited by
Gabrielle J. Persley and M.M. Lantin, pp.203-208. Washington:
Consultitative Group on International Agricultural Research and the
US National Academy of Sciences.
Sampat, Payal. 1998. Judgement Protects Indigenous Knowledge,
World Watch: Working for a Sustainable Future 11(1):8, January/
Stock, Jon. 1999. "Patent Buccaneers" Targeted, South China
Morning Post Internet Edition, 1 December.