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February 25, 2001


Help, IBS Update, Golden Rice, Patents, IFIC


My name is diana quinn and I'm a writer in Washington, D.C., working on a
story about genetically modified crops. I need some help -- I'd like to
talk to any farmers on this list about the subject - what % of your crops
are GM, what your opinions are, etc. This would be not for attribution.
Please email me at diana@muddypaws.com Thanks very much for your help!

Date: Feb 23 2001 17:26:04 EST
From: "Hooff-Vergeer, Maaike"
Subject: Your IBS Agricultural Biotechnology Update #8

The 8th Update on Agricultural Biotechnology: Policy
and Management Perspectives - Contributing to Food Security can be
downloaded at
http://www.cgiar.org/isnar/ibs/updates.htm .

Maaike Hooff-Vergeer
ISNAR Biotechnology Service (IBS) ISNAR, P.O. Box 93375, 2509 AJ The
Hague, The Netherlands

Date: Feb 23 2001 18:32:42 EST
From: Chuck Benbrook
Subject: Overstating Golden Rice Benefits

In reflecting on Val Giddings post defending industry statements re Golden
Rice, Andrew Aple implies there has been no "...Golden Rice puffery." I
am not going to take the time to quote chapter and verse, but I bet
several spicy examples of puffery have appeared in his own publication; I
have read and heard dozens of industry statements well into the red zone
on the puffery scale; someone compiled about six weeks ago a sort of
greatest hits of Golden Rice hype. This compilation was posted on various
anti-GMO lists, maybe someone will remember it and repost the url. Among
them was the projection at a scientific meeting by a Syngenta official
that each day poor kids are denied Golden Rice, another 5,000, if memory
serves me, will go blind unnecessarily. I heard a long account last week
of a speech by an Aventis official made recently at a California rice
industry meeting, a speech full of Golden puffery which left a major
portion of the crowd mystified at its insensitivity under the
circumstances, and a portion just mad.

There is lots to debate re Golden rice but I think we all know that the
technology was over-hyped early on. Maybe it will end up making a solid
contribution, I sincerely hope it does, as do its inventors and everyone
that has brought it this far. In fairness, I think the technology has
also been "over-criticized," or unfairly criticized. Some of the hype was
a reaction to the excessive criticism, and vice versa. In the big
picture, it does not matter which came first, the end result has been bad
all around and we all have to dig out of this hole one shovel full at a

And Andrew, in response to my post re Rachel Carson, you said that I am
apparently unconcerned re the impacts of other pesticides on
beneficials. You are flat wrong, I have worked every angle I could get a
handle on for 20 years to raise awareness in the farm community re the
need to stop creating secondary pests by nailing beneficials. You cannot
resist the temptation to put words in people's mouths so you can then
distort their points and shoot them down. Your encyclopedic knowledge and
sharp edged intellect is appreciated but your style of "debate" can be

Charles Benbrook Ag BioTech
InfoNet <http://www.biotech-info.net>
Benbrook Consulting Services CU FQPA site
5085 Upper Pack River Road IPM site <http://www.pmac.net>
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
Voice: (208)-263-5236
Fax: (208)-263-7342

Date: Feb 25 2001 10:30:38 EST
From: ngin
Subject: Re: gene patents

Regarding Dr Michael Antoniouo's opposition to patents on life, the
following letter from Dr Antoniouo was published in the Guardian on 18th
November last.

Sir, You are right to highlight the ethical and moral unacceptability of
patenting genes and life (Patenting Life, 15th November). However, the
final example shown (back page of report), of which I am one of the
inventors, lays no claim to ownership of any gene. It describes a gene
expression system for the industrial production of pharmaceutically
important proteins and therefore does not constitute a "patent on life" as
is claimed. Such molecular genetic tools are equivalent to building a
machine out of metal. You cannot patent the metal because it's a natural
product, but you can patent the machine, as it is clearly a new
"invention". The patent shown is therefore a bad example to illustrate
what is a crucial issue. Patenting a new gene per se, especially if its
function is unknown, is wrong because it is a natural discovery and the
common property of everyone. It is important to distinguish this from
therapeutic and diagnostic tools derived from genetic materials; these are
clearly artificial invented products.

Dr Michael Antoniou, Division of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Guy's
Hospital, London.

More U.S. Consumers Expect Biotech Benefits: Mixed Feelings, But Not Major
Concern over Labeling

February 2001
Contact: Nick Alexander or Cheryl Toner; (202) 296-6540

IFIC's fifth survey on U.S. consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology
indicates consumers are paying attention to the biotechnology issue-or
arethey? The new survey, conducted January 19-21, 2001 by Wirthlin
Worldwide,includes a few new questions to determine how consumers consider
food biotechnology in context with other food safety issues. Fall 2000
media coverage focused onthe
recall of products containing biotech corn not yet approved for food use
and the resulting discussions of regulatory decisions.

How did this media coverage of a corn product recall affect consumer
knowledge and attitudes? More consumers correctly identify corn products
as foods currently in the supermarket that have been produced using
biotechnology, although overall awareness of the presence of biotech foods
in grocerystores has actually decreased since May 2000. Only 1 in 4
consumers has heardanything about recalls of foods produced through
biotechnology. When StarLink is named,
awareness increases to almost half of consumers, yet 95% state that they
have not taken any action in the last few months based on concerns
regarding biotech foods.Consumers may have mixed feelings on the labeling
issue. When asked, unaided,to identify what information is currently not
on food labels that they would like to see added, 74% say "nothing" and
only 2% mention "genetically altered". Furthermore, when the current
labeling policy is presented to
consumers, 70% remain supportive of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
policy. The survey also presented consumers with the critics' desire to
label all foods produced through biotechnology even if the safety and
nutritional content are unchanged. When given the critics' view, more than
half of consumers agree with them and just over one-third maintain the FDA
position. This question represents the
most significant shift in the survey, perhaps the result of the Starlink
episode. However, when consumers were presented with information resource
alternatives to the food label in the next question, 75% affirm that
information should be provided through toll-free numbers, brochures, and
Web sites "instead of labeling".

Consumers continue to respond positively to the benefits of biotechnology
for the foods they eat. More consumers are likely to buy foods enhanced to
taste better or fresher (58% versus 54% last year), to contain less
saturated fat (46% versus 40%, with 33% stating that this benefit would
have no effect on their purchasing decision). And consumer acceptance of
foods enhanced to
require fewer pesticides has remained stable at 70%.

For the first time since IFIC began its surveys, the number of Americans
expecting to benefit from biotechnology in the future increased.
Sixty-four percent expect to benefit from biotechnology within the next 5
years. This finding is consistent with a newly released FDA focus group
report that also found consumers "remained open-minded and open to future
experience with foods produced by biotechnology." While 79% of those in
1997 expected to benefit,the
trend declined to a low of 59% in May 2000 but now appears to be

###International Food Information Council (IFIC) is a nonprofit
organization that communicates sound science-based information on food
safety and nutrition topics to health professionals, journalists,
government officials and consumers. IFIC programs are supported by the
broad-based food, beverage and agriculture industries. IFIC materials can
be found online athttp://ific.org.