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February 27, 2001


Nutritional enhancement, Lord Melchett, Golden Rice,


AgBioView readers,

I have been closely following the current debate about the pros and cons
of Golden rice ''media hype''. Here is an interesting question to add to
the think tank. Are there no nutritionally enhanced GM foods in the
making that would be of direct benefit to consumers in developed
countries? Golden rice and banana vaccines are certainly far removed from
their immediate day-to-day health concerns. It is rather obvious that
Golden rice, banana vaccines, etc. (while being laudable, ethical and
moral) are not being developed for their direct benefit, as is the case
against pesticide resistant GM crops. Conclusion: consumers in the
developed world still have no proof that agbiotech researchers (industry
or otherwise) really care about them.

Are there no nutritionally enhanced GM foods that, like Golden rice, could
potentially be on grocery shelves in the U.S. and Canada (I'll leave
Europe out at this point) within the next 3 to 4 years? If there are
some, would it not be a good idea at this time to start naming them (being
careful to make very modest claims)? If there are none that could be
available within 3 to 4 years, why should consumers in developed markets
concede to consuming all kinds of GM foods that do not offer them any
direct benefits? Do we expect them to eat up so that developing countries
will be more accepting of Golden rice, banana vaccines, etc.?

Sad, but true: consumer self-interest usually comes before the interests
of others. In order to more rapidly increase consumer acceptance of GM
foods, the media should be naming GM foods that are being nutritionally
enhanced for the direct, although modest, health benefit of North American

Yours, Gale*
CREA, Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada

Gale West, Ph.D., Professeure Agrégée
Centre de recherche en économie agroalimentaire (CRÉA)
Institut des nutraceutiques et des aliments fonctionnels (INAF)
Pavillon Comtois, Université Laval, Ste-Foy (Québec) G1K-7P4

Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001
From: Mary Murphy
Subject: Melchett's Making Money!

Isn't it amazing? With former UK Greenpeace director Peter Melchett on
their payroll, Iceland Foods is now mentioned in anti-biotech press
releases as a good company while anti-biotech groups attack Sainsbury's,
Iceland's competitors.


Press release

For immediate release

Anti GM protestors blockade Sainsbury's depots

This morning at approximately 10:30am protestors have begun blockading
Sainsbury's regional distribution centres [1] around the country,
preventing them from supplying Sainsbury's supermarkets with GM-fed animal
produce. [2]

The protestors are targeting Sainsbury's because of their failure to
follow recent moves by other supermarket chains [3] in announcing a date
by which all own-brand meat, dairy, egg, and fish products will be from
animals raised on a GM free diet [4].

The protestors have used various means of blockading, including climbing
on top of lorries, and using bicycle locks to secure themselves to lorries
and gates, with banners and costumes to highlight the issue to Sainsbury's

Notes to Editors:
1. So far, reports of at least four seperate actions have been received.
For progress reports and footage of the blockades:
Tel: 0207 6900626 GEN for updates
Via GEN (blockade at Elstree Way, Borehamwood WD6 1SN)
Tel: 07796 430 141 (blockade at Basingstoke depot)
Tel: 07710 482201 (blockade in Midlands area depot)
2. Regional Distribution Centres (RDC's) operate on a "just in time" basis
to local stores.
3. 75% of the worlds GM crop acreage is grown to feed animals that then
enters the food chain via meat, dairy, egg and fish products. Although
most supermarkets have removed GE as direct ingredients, little attention
has been paid to animal feed entering the food chain via eggs, dairy, meat
and fish. 67% of people in a recent independent poll said that they were
opposed to farm animals being fed GM crops.
4. Iceland was the first UK supermarket to outlaw GE animal feed in it’s
ownbrand products. ASDA, Tesco, and Marks and Spencers have recently given
dates by which own brand produce will be GM free. Sainsbury's has yet to
do so.
5. GM-fed animal produce is currently not labelled as such.
6. This year for the first time since the introduction of GE, acreage
looks set to decrease compared to last year. After the Starlink scandal in
USA, Bosnia recently refused 40,000 tonnes of GE maize which was sent as
aid by the USA. Sainbury's is a major UK supermarket chain.

Video footage from one of the actions is available via Zoe Broughton 07779
Stills pictures are available from a freelance photographer - contact GEN
7690 0626

For a detailed briefing on the issue of GE animal feed


Date: Feb 28 2001 02:07:49 EST
From: Roger Morton
Subject: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Overstating_Golden_Rice_Benefits=A0_?=

Overstating Golden Rice Benefits

Boy the philastines are really clutching at straws now. The only problem
with golden rice now is that it might not be 100% effective so we should
not even bother testing it to see how effective it is AND some people who
are promoting it have said things about it that might not be 100%
acurate. Boy what a major crime that is ;-) [<- this is a wink emoticon]

Lets see how great these crimes are.

Of the list of quotes lets see which ones overstate the situation - might
it be that when the story gets in the hands of the press or the
politicians that things go a bit off the rails?

>*"GM food scientists have already developed a yellow rice, or "golden"
>rice, that is rich in vitamin A and iron and helps prevent anemia and
>blindness, especially in children."
>-article published on CNN.com vii

This one seems to overstate the iron factor but the vitaminA part seems on
track - press getting it half right - not too bad really. Often they get
it 10% right.

>*"This rice could save a million kids a year"
>-headline on the cover of Time magazine viii

seems reasonable. It "could".

>*" [...] 'golden rice', which has been modified to include certain
>vitamins and is already saving the sight of thousands of children in the
>poorest parts of Asia."
>-Invitation from The United States Congress to a Special Congressional
>Forum, "Can Biotechnology Solve World Hunger." ix

Totaly off. Politician. You expect that.

>*"If we could get more of this golden rice, which is a genetically
>modified strain of rice, especially rich in vitamin A, out to the
>developing world, it could save 40,000 lives a day, people that are
>malnourished and dying,"
>-Former U.S. President Bill Clinton.x

= 14 million per year. Totally off. Politician

>*"The levels of expression of pro-vitamin A that the inventors were
>aiming at, and have achieved, are sufficient to provide the minimum
>level of pro-vita-min A to prevent the development of irreversible
>blindness affecting 500.000 children annually, and to significantly
>alleviate Vitamin A deficiency affecting 124.000.000 children in 26
>"One month delay = 50,000 blind children month."
>-Dr. Adrian Dubock, executive from Zeneca (now Syngenta), the company
>which would market the rice -- and plans to commercialise it in rich

Not quite right. Not sure that the levels are high enough to help yet.

>*"For populations that rely upon rice as their primary or sole food
>source, this ['Golden Rice'] nutritional enhancement can deliver an
>enormous improvement in public health."
>-Dr. Stanley Wallach of the American College of Nutrition xvii

Probably should have said "could" and not "can deliver".

>*"Nestle executive vice-president Michael Garrett told […] that the new
>"golden" rice, genetically modified to be rich in vitamin A, would
>address a common deficiency in developing countries that caused
>blindness and death."
>-article published in The Age (Australia)xviii

This seems on target. The golden rice would address vitaminA deficiency.
It does not say it will be guaranteed to succesfully address it.

>*"Should the opponents eventually succeed in preventing "Golden Rice"
>to reach the poor in developing countries, it will be them who will have
>to take responsibility for the foreseeable yet avoidable death or
>blindness of millions of poor, underprivileged people, year after year
>in the foreseeable future."
>-Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, inventors of the 'Golden Rice' xix>

Seems spot on to me. If the research gets blocked the researchers will
never reach their goal. If they are already at 20% of the amount they need
then it might not take too much effort to bump this to 100% if only people
would let them do their job.

I am not sure what crime the next bunch of quotes are supposed to condem
the authors of.

>vii "Are biotech crops sowing seeds of dispute?" January 24, 2001, By
>Troy Goodman.CNN.com Health and Food Writer
.>viii TIME magazine, July 31, 2000, vol. 156 No 5

>ix From The United States Congress, "Can Biotechnology Solve World
>Hunger" invitation to the Senate Agriculture Committee/Congressional
>Hunger Center, Special Congressional Forum, June 29, 2000.

>x The Independent (London) "G8 meeting: Clinton attacks Europe for
>moving too slowly over 'safe' GM food", July 24, 2000

>xi Executive summary of a presentation by Dr. Adrian C. Dubock, of
>Zeneca Plant Science (now Syngenta) at a conference on sustainable
>agriculture organised by Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Dag Hammarskjöld
>Foundation and supported by the European Commission on "Sustainable
>Agriculture in the New Millenium: The Impact of Biotechnology on
>Developing Countries," May 28-31, 2000, Brussels.

>xvii The Daily Oklahoman, "Biotechnology: Fighting Disease &
>Malnutrition," October 11, 2000
>xviii "GM food the answer, says giant company", The Age (Australia) by
>Claire Miller, Sep. 14, 2000
>xix Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," We can save millions of lives", by
>Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, 22 Jan 2001

Judging by Potrykus' previous careful and conservative assesment of the
golden rice one might expect that this document might be fairly measured
in its claims. Am I wrong? give us some juicy quotes, NGIN.

Dr Roger Morton 02 6246 5069 (ph) (int: +61 2
CSIRO Plant Industry 02 6246 5000 (fax) (int: +61 2
GPO Box 1600 roger.morton@pi.csiro.au

UK: Northern Foods' Haskins slams organics movement, supports GM food

26 Feb 2001
Source: just-food.com editorial team

Lord Haskins, non-executive chairman of Northern Foods and chairman of
the UK government’s Better Regulation Task Force, has criticised the
organics movement, saying it: "seeks to ban most scientific innovation
and appears to have replaced the Church of England as a place where
aristocrats take refuge from the real world."

According to a report in the Grocer trade publication, Haskins, a
known advocate of GM food, said that concern over the BSE crisis,
fuelled by often spurious media scare stories, had created a climate
"where scientific progress, notably with GM food, is being denied by
affluent, educated middle class pressure groups."

Reiterating one of the key arguments advanced by biotech companies
such as Monsanto, Haskins mentioned the potential role of GM food in
fighting starvation in developing countries. In a caustic reference to
the Prince of Wales, as strong supporter of organic food, Haskins
continued: "Let the heir to the throne enjoy his excellent if somewhat
risky organic food […] let the poor, starving people of the world have
access to safe, affordable food - which GM food will probably offer

Unusually, considering he was speaking at a dinner hosted by the
Provision Trade Federation, Haskins also spoke out strongly against
retailers and manufacturers who "in a knee-jerk response banned the use of
GM ingredients in their products."


Conference on
Ethical Considerations

Organized by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,
Harvard University Center for International Development at Harvard
University Third World Academy of Sciences

Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
1-2 May 2001

Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
and Center for International Development, together with the Third World
Academy of Sciences, are organizing a two-day conference on Biotechnology
and Globalization: Ethical Considerations. The Conference is organized
under the auspices of the "Biotechnology and Globalization" Project funded
by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Ethics claims to address the subject of values in a practical manner. An
ethical discussion based on rational arguments is supposed to reduce the
appeal to emotion in controversial issues and to foster public confidence.
Ethical issues have been extensively invoked in discussions regarding
biotechnology. These issues are closely tied to fundamental differences in
worldviews among major regions of the world. Often, depending on the
respective worldview, other ethical theories are applied in order to
strengthen one particular position. In this context, ethics has to be
regarded in a critical light as well, and ways must be found to determine
which ethical approach is most appropriate for a specific case.

The conference presents the existing ethical theories (for example,
utilitarian and transcendental ethics, biocentric and anthropocentric
approaches) and how they are used in the context of biotechnology and
development. Furthermore, the conference focuses on the key ethical issues
that influence policy discussions on biotechnology.

This conference is the second of a planned series looking at different
aspects of biotechnology and globalization. Other conferences in the
series include the International Conference on Biotechnology in the Global
Economy: Science and the Precautionary Principle, held in September 2000;
as well as future ones on Globalization of Research and Development, to
take place September 11-13, 2001; Biotechnology in Developing Countries;
Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge; and Institutional Innovation.

For further details, please contact:

Brian Torpy
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

Email: brian_torpy@ksg.harvard.edu
Telephone: 617-496-5574
Fax: 617-495-8963.