The debate that now rages about how many bowls of rice might be required
to prevent the various health effects of Vitamin A deficiency could be a
healthy sign of inquiry and problem-solving. But it is not. The detractors
are just that, bent on discrediting the science, the scientists, and the
entire biotech innovation.
If there are issues and hurdles to be addressed in bringing Golden Rice to
market then they should be treated as challenges, not as proof that the
technology is deserving of condemnation. This is the nub of the moral
issue around biotech. As Indur Goklany has so
clearly expressed, there are consequences to not doing things as much as
there are to doing things. The Precautionary Approach cuts both ways.
If Greenpeace et al had any moral standards they would be offering
millions to solve any outstanding problem with Golden Rice, or at least
encouraging truly humanitarian agencies to do so. Instead they sit on the
sidelines of human misery and take pot shots at a brilliant invention,
threatening to prevent the possible solution to a tragedy that makes
Chernobyl pale by comparison.
As Ingo Potrykus has stated in his communiqué to Greenpeace of Feb. 16,
"If you plan to destroy test fields to prevent responsible testing and
development of Golden Rice for humanitarian purposes, you will be accused
of contributing to a crime against humanity."
I agree with this assertion.
Environmental extremists have been toying with anti-science,
anti-humanitarian, and anti-intellectual policies for some time now. In
this case it is not merely a case of mischief or "fair comment". This kind
of witch-hunt can lead to the kinds of policies enforced by Lysenko under
Stalin. As agriculture minister, Lysenko sent genetic scientists to the
Gulag and put Russia back 50 years in agricultural research. It is time
for people who base their opinions on science and logic to take the
environmental movement back from the political activists who have hijacked
it for agendas that have little or nothing to do with ecology.
Nothing short of a concerted, co-ordinated campaign in the style of those
so well honed by Greenpeace will suffice to turn this issue around. The
AgBioWorld Foundation, with the leadership of C.S. Prakash and his
supporters, is well placed to lead that campaign.
Patrick Moore, Greenspirit
Please visit: www.greenspirit.com
"MAY THE FOREST BE WITH YOU"
Date: Mar 05 2001 23:20:23 EST
From: "Patrick Moore"
Subject: Michael Pollan's article in the New York Times Magazine.
Michael Pollan states that "an 11-year-old would have to eat 15 pounds of
cooked rice to "satisfy his minimum daily requirement of Vitamin A."
Greenpeace originally used the term "recommended daily allowance". Where
could Pollan have found a "minimum requirement"? Surely this is not a
Pollan also claims that "the body can only convert beta-carotene into
Vitamin A when fat and protein are present in the diet". Is this a
reasonable statement? He also infers that if people ate brown rice instead
of white rice they would not suffer from malnutrition. I assume that brown
rice also contains no Vitamin A?
Gordon Conway is being quoted to make it appear as if he is an opponent of
golden rice. This highlights the danger of trying to be so balanced that
those who are trying to discredit the technology can use you as a weapon
Patrick Moore, Greenspirit
Please visit: www.greenspirit.com
"MAY THE FOREST BE WITH YOU"
Date: Mar 05 2001 17:33:53 EST
From: "Frances B. Smith"
Subject: Sunday NYT article
You may remember that Michael Pollan, who wrote the March 4 Sunday NYT
magazine article, was also the author of an earlier (October 25, 1998)
piece in the NYT magazine attacking GM food -- "Playing God in the
Garden" was the title.
In his current article, he uses many of the arguments that both Greenpeace
and Vandana Shiva promote about alternative sources of vitamin A. Are any
of the scientists involved in Golden Rice, such as Ingo Potrykus, planning
Frances B. Smith
From: "Nill, Kim" | Block address | Add to Address
Subject: Response To "Red's" Inaccurate Statements About Mycotoxins
In his March 4 email addressed to "Gale", Red Porphyry asserted that
"current milling and grinding processes already reduce mycotoxin levels in
grains to levels that are far, far below what anyone really needs to worry
That is completely false. No milling or grinding processes reduce
mycotoxin levels in grains. Although the Internet address he cited was
offline when I tried to access it... his above statement is undoubtedly a
misquote from industry literature. The extensive screening processes
employed to detect and REMOVE mycotoxin-containing grains PRIOR to milling
are what have reduced
BUT NOT eliminated deaths (e.g., via liver cancer, esophageal cancer,
etc.) in developed countries from mycotoxin reduction.
Several of the mycotoxins (e.g., aflatoxins, fumonisins, etc.) are
among the most carcinogenic chemicals known to man. Especially for the
most common aflatoxin, there is NO "level that is far below what anyone
needs to worry about". That is why Europe has repeatedly attempted to
lower the legal maximum allowed to be present in imported commodities such
as corn, peanuts, etc... to vanishingly small amounts (another fact
debunking Red's bizarre claim that milling and grinding can reduce it in
For footnotes applicable to the above, see the Tony Trevawas article
posted by AgBioView on November 3, 2000.... especially footnote #63 (re
premature death statistics for European premature deaths STILL caused by
myxotoxin-containing grain products).
The World Bank reported that approximately 40% of premature adult
disability & death in developing countries is caused by consumption of
mycotoxin-laden grains. Extensive research has shown that most Bt corn
hybrids have FAR LESS mycotoxin content than traditional corn hybrids.
That is because they so effectively prevent the insect
tunneling-into-plant via which the mycotoxin-producing fungi (e.g.,
Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus parasiticus, etc.) are able to enter the
Red... you badly need to learn the "basics" about mycotoxins, because
your statements were completely false.
Date: Mar 05 2001 19:23:18 EST
From: Roger Morton
Subject: Healthy GM
Red Porphyry wrote:
>From the responses to your questions so far, I think it's reasonable
>to conclude that the answer is basically no, there are no
>"nutritionally enhanced GM foods that, like Golden rice, could
>potentially be on grocery shelves in the U.S. and Canada within the
>next 3 to 4 years".
I don't know about the time frame but look out for a whole heap of
products with improved oil characteristics in the near future. Look out
for a deep frying vegetable oil that has the benefits of not being a
saturated animal fat but has the long lasting cooking qualities of animal
oils. Look out for other modified oils with health benefits.
Also checkout this paper.
Dunwell,J.M., 1998. Novel food products from genetically modified crop
plants: methods and future prospects.
International Journal of Food Science Technology 33, 205-213.
Abstract: An overview of the subject is presented. To date, the most
widely grown genetically modified (GM) crops (soyabean and maize) are
those with modified agronomic traits (herbicide or insect tolerance); the
products from these commodity crops are now included in a wide range of
processed foods. This review describes the methods used to generate these
crops and then discusses the range of modified food products that can be
generated using this new technology. Such products include those with
altered protein, starch or oil quality, as well as examples of improved
micronutrient or vitamin content. Much of this work, particularly that
aiming to develop food with specific health benefits, is still at the
experimental stage, but there is no doubt that many GM foodstuffs, with an
increasing variety of qualitative changes, will reach the market in the
coming years. The rate at which such products are developed commercially
depends to a large extent on the public reaction to a technology thought
to be still poorly understood by most consumers
Roger L Morton
Opinons expressed in this posting are personal and do not reflect the
position of my employer
For Some Teens, the Anti-corporate Call to Action Holds no Interest
The Toronto Star
By San Grewal
March 6, 2001
`I never dared be radical when young for fear it would make me
conservative when old'
Adorned with all the logos and symbols of a media-distilled upbringing, a
woebegone young woman sits during an anti-globalization conference and
laments, under her breath, "Can't I at least graduate and get a job before
I burn my evil clothes and save the world."
At the front of the room on Metro Hall's third floor, presenters from the
Canadian Federation of Students, Oxfam Canada and the Sierra Club address
Grade 12 and OAC students from six Toronto high schools. The message to
the students is about the growing influence of corporate interests:
"You're the future. You have to fix things."
The call to activism, "to be good global citizens," is initially met with
a wariness that slowly turned to skepticism.
The teenagers, whose teachers signed them up for the What In The World Is
Going On conference, gaze around the room, slouching in their chairs,
whispering to friends. Eyes roll and lips curl into sardonic grins as the
students occasionally look up at the procession of speakers waxing
They are told about the spectre of global free trade, the loss of culture
and heritage, the perils of privatizing the supply of water, education and
health care, the corporate erosion of respect for human rights and the
effects of genetically modified foods. (Tampered tomatoes, they're told,
are bad, even if they're as large and round as basketballs.)
While organizers press on with their enthusiastic call to arms, the
students have their own message: "We, better than the spin doctors,
marketers or activists, know what's going on because we're the ones
they've been trying to brainwash since we were born," is how one teen puts
The 120 students break into small groups. They check their watches
frequently and, during the morning sessions (perhaps distracted by all the
talk of seemingly perfect tomatoes), seem more concerned about when lunch
is being served than where it came from.
"The only thing that influences my decision to buy food is how cheap it is
and how good it tastes," says 18-year-old Shawn Elliott, an OAC student at
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate in Scarborough. He says the seminar on
genetically altered foods wasn't effective because it didn't address any
of the benefits that science can lend to food production.
The "preachy tone," he and many of the other students say, is a big turn
off. "It was biased and that's why I tuned out," Elliott says.
One presenter, during a seminar on education, explains how companies are
insidiously influencing students by sponsoring courses and providing
resources to schools. A student jumps in and says he is glad to be working
on the latest Cisco (the company that builds Internet networking systems)
platforms in class and using the most current software and hardware
provided by private companies. "The standard of education is raised," he
"So," asks the presenter, looking surprised, "IBM and Microsoft and other
companies get to control the training of the technology trade?"
"I'd rather have them doing it than people who don't understand what's
driving the new economy," the student says calmly.
When asked later about the attitude of the students, the presenters
dismiss much of the resistance as the growing apathy of adolescents who
have been marketed to since they were toddlers - narcissistic teenagers
who've bought into the idea that nothing matters unless it lends to the
construction of their image.
"It's funny, because these guys (the presenters) are telling us the
companies have us all figured out, that they control our identity, what we
learn," says Adrian Bowen, an 18-year-old OAC student at Sir Sandford
Fleming Academy in North York. "Meanwhile, they talk to us like they've
got us all figured out."
So who's more patronizing, the corporate right for creating the "want" or
the anti-establishment left for assuming youth don't know what they need?
Making judgments based on logos and brands is a natural part of growing
up, says Bowen. But as teenagers get older, because their generation has
been bombarded with marketing messages since they were toddlers, they can
easily see through the pitch.
The teens say, with the passing of boomers and Xers who are still snapping
up the latest SUVs and designer clothes, the extended adolescent
consumerism - which defines some people well into their 50s - will end.
Bowen says the older presenters (they're in their 30s and 40s) are
particularly shocked about the potential influence of global corporations
because the idea is relatively new to them.
"All I've heard is why it's bad to have corporations in schools, food
companies in cafeterias, sports companies in gyms and tech companies in
classrooms. If public funding can't provide the resources, what's so bad
about letting companies in? Do they really think we'll be brainwashed
because there's a Pepsi machine in the hall?"
Corporations such as IBM and Microsoft should be regulated, Bowen
concedes - which, pointing to the pending breakup of Microsoft,
governments are already doing.
"People (who are) against globalization don't know what free enterprise
and the idea of competition creating choice is all about. I don't see a
future where only four companies control everything. That's more like
communism, when one group controls everything."
During the lunch break, a 19-year-old OAC student who doesn't want to be
identified points out some contradictions in the presenters' views.
"I don't understand how they can talk about being globally aware and then
talk to us about preserving distinct cultural voices," the student says.
"Exactly whose voice are they trying to protect? If Canadian magazines
can't compete with other magazines or the CBC doesn't speak to young
Canadians, it's not because they're being squeezed out by larger
competition, it's because we're not interested in their content."
When most of the students admit the last movie they've seen was American,
many bristle at the suggestion by the presenter that unique Canadian
voices are being drowned out.
"No, it's more like Canadians realize there's a better chance of people
actually watching their movies if they go down to the States to make
them," says a young woman. "That's a problem with the Canadian film
industry - they expect the government to fund them even if the product
The presenter, wearing a goatee and army boots, asks what words they would
use to describe the effect of large American-owned media conglomerates.
When a student yells out "cool" the speaker, whose face becomes flushed,
turns his head and says with disdain, "Cool . . . you think it's cool."
Youth culture, the students tell him, is not informed by unique Canadian
stories filled with unique Canadian perspectives. Their culture is
influenced by the most interesting content they can find, lifestyles that
they engage via online technologies, mass-communication, their own travels
and a never-ending supply of media messages, regardless of where in the
world they originate.
"I'm not saying that the way things are going is all good," Bowen says.
"I'm saying it's double-edged.
"The companies aren't stupid. IBM wants to get into schools to help
students stay on the cutting edge. Technology is the reality of the
future, it's here to stay and IBM's money and computers talk.
"What they're saying is they'll give us the education to get the jobs to
get the money, which would go back to them because we'll go and buy their
But having the opportunity to make this choice, the students say, is key.
"When you're trying to talk to people about all these large issues, it's
pretty hard to relate them down to someone's life," says Lena Macdonald,
an 18-year-old Grade 12 student at Inglenook Community School in Toronto.
She's been actively involved with the anti-globalization movement for a
couple of years, and, unlike the other students, came to the conference of
her own free will.
When asked about the skepticism of her peers, she admits that making large
sacrifices is sometimes outside their thinking, particularly for those
suspended in their own solipsism.
"You can't force things on young people. They'll be offended if you say,
`Well, you have to decide. Do you want to be a corporate citizen or a
civic citizen.' "
Elliott agrees. "Lecturing to high school students is not the right
approach. We're a bit too cynical to jump on the bandwagon."
As the conference comes to a close, he scoffs at the last attempt of
organizers to sign them up for a protest in April, when trade
representatives from countries throughout North, South and Central America
will meet in Quebec City to discuss the Free Trade Area of the Americas
(FTAA), the largest proposed free trade zone in the world.
"I mean, I'm not saying human rights aren't important or making sure
everyone should have things like clean water, not just rich people, isn't
important. But the idea that Bill Gates is the devil and all companies are
evil just sounds too paranoid," Elliott says.
Next to him is a large sign-up sheet for a student activist group that's
been taped to a pillar all day. Only one name is on the list.
"I mean, if they want us to get on buses and get arrested, then they've
got to show us what's really so bad about a system that allows anyone to
"You can be poor or rich, from any country and make a real choice about
the life you want. And no other system in the past allowed people that
kind of freedom of choice."