Robert Vint claims that overpopulation is a result of social failure. It
seems to me that higher populations are a result of social success not
Yes there was a measure of population stability in the pre-industrial age
but it was a stability that was dependent on high mortality rates not on
voluntary birth control. Unlike kangaroos humans are not able to control
their fertility until a good season comes along. Robert do you then
advocate that we return to the good old days when life expectancy was 25
years? I guess that we in the West can have our cake and eat it too but
those poor dumb Africans and Asians will be better off living like
animals. How dare they move to the cities in search of work and a higher
standard of living.
I'm afraid that you have a Rousseau-esque view of subsistance farming. It
is not a romantic and idyllic existance but one frought with hardship and
stress. Yes overpopulation is only maintained by technological fixes. The
alternative is mass starvation.
Modern agriculture most certainly has increased yield per acre and we use
less land to produce more food than before the Green revolution (a US
farmer in 1940 fed 19 people and today feeds 150 on the same acreage).
I've got no problem with land redistribution and GM technology can help
small landholders as much as large ones. Bt crops and golden rice are
scale neutral. These crops are just the tip of the iceberg.
Why not consider all options for these people? Why exclude GM technology
if, for a particular case, it poses no danger and has clear benefits? Why
not grow your leafy weeds with your golden rice (or whatever)? Why one or
CSIRO Plant Industry Ph: (07) 3214 2902 Fax: (07) 3214 2288
120 Meiers Rd.
Date: Mar 11 2001 23:49:44 EST
Subject: Re: Bt corn
I thought this fact was undisputed for most B.t. corn varieties; but the
data is fairly new and not necessarily fully wrung through the peer review
wringer. (Although plaintiffs lawyers would have no qualms about holding
my clients feet to the fire over it). I will share what I can find quickly
since you would not want to get a bill for a lawyer doing scientific
research!). The mechanics are simple --- caterpillars leave holes, the
fungi form, etc. I have seen many research articles on the subject from
P. Dowds, whose funding sources are not known to me. Try searching for his
name. I also attach an excerpt from Professor Kershen's paper analyzing
the Gerber decision, which has Dowds et al mentioned.
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Drew Kershen, The Risks of Going Non-Gmo*
by Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law
© 2000 Drew L. Kershen, all rights reserved
From Farm to Table: A Food Biotechnology Conference
organized by the
American Soybean Association
December 6, 2000
According to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25%
of the world’s food grain crops are ‘infected’ with mycotoxins each year.
That echoed a similar finding by Mannon and Johnson in 1985. (ASA Leader
Letter, June 5, 1997) Mycotoxins are a group of toxins (metabolites)
naturally produced by certain fungi that can infect some crop plants (e.g.
corn). Chief among those mycotoxins is aflatoxin B1, the most potent
cancer-causing agent know to mankind. (Ohio State University Bulletin,
1986, Moldy Grains, Mycotoxins and Feeding Problems). Aflatoxin swiftly
appears in milk after a cow ingests it, so humans can consume aflatoxin in
both milk and grains. According to a 1993 World Bank report entitled
INVESTING IN HEALTH, approximately 40% of disability-adjusted life years
(premature death) in developing countries are lost due to diseases linked
to mycotoxin consumption (e.g. liver cancer). Because the primary vectors
for ... the Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus fungi that produce
aflatoxin in crops are the very insects (e.g. Ostrinia nubialis) best
controlled by transgenic Bt crops, the Bt crops hold the potential to
“reduce or even eliminate mycotoxins in the food supply.” (P. F. Dowd, A
Comparison of Insect and Ear Mold Incidence & Damage in Commercial Bt and
Non-Bt Corn Lines (USDA Res. Paper, 1997); P. J. Cotty, Update on Methods
to Prevent Aflatoxin Formation (USDA Res. Paper, 1997)). According to the
head of the World Health Organization’s (Codex) Food Safety Program, “Bt
corn which reduces insect damage and in turn the amount of mycotoxins in
food raw materials can have a direct impact on the reduction of liver
cancer. (Environmental Feed Technology, April 2000 at p. 14).”5
Gary Comstock in his book VEXING NATURE makes a similar point that some
genetically improved sweet corns are less likely to accumulate mycotoxins
(fumonisins) than some non-GMO varieties. Fumonisins are a cause of
cancer in rats, pulmonary edema in swine, equine leukoencephalomalacia,
and are a suspected cause of esophageal cancer in humans.6 Gary Comstock
is the Director of the Iowa State University Bioethics Institute in Ames,
In light of the information just presented, let us now assume that a
mother discovers that her Gerber-fed baby has developed either liver or
esophageal cancer. While the risk of this happening is assuredly very
low, and while Gerber strictly monitors its baby products to prevent
contamination by mycotoxins, if it does happen it is important to note the
kind of lawsuit the child has against Gerber.
• On the child’s behalf, the products liability plaintiff’s
lawyer will allege strict products liability based on the contamination
(mycotoxins) in the baby food as the causal agent of the cancer.
• In addition, and this is the new, important point, the products
liability plaintiff’s lawyer also will allege a design defect in the baby
food because Gerber (and its parent Novartis) knew of a baby food designed
(made) with less risky ingredients and purposefully chose to use the
riskier design - i.e. Gerber chose to use non-GMO ingredients knowing that
these have a higher risk of mycotoxin contamination. Due to the knowledge
and expertise available to Gerber through its parent Novartis, Gerber had
a reasonable alternative design (safer genetically improved ingredients)
that Gerber ignored. Gerber is likely facing a design-defect products
As the knowledge and science of genetic modification of crops increases,
food manufacturers will increasingly face the same dilemma that Gerber
faces. Does Gerber respond to threats of consumer boycotts by Greenpeace
by going non-GMO in order to protect its reputation from consumer panic
and fears about GMOs? Or, does Gerber use the scientific information
available to it to design food products using GMO ingredients that are
known to be safer in terms of health risks? As genetically improved foods
denominated functional foods - with enhanced health and nutritional
benefits - become commercialized, this dilemma will face food companies on
a daily basis. Companies in the future will not only have to purchase
food supplies that are safe; companies in the future will have to use the
science of agricultural biotechnology to choose the design of their food
products for health and nutrition. Choosing a design that causes harm
when the company could have chosen a different less risky design gives
rise to products liability based on design defects.
IMAGINE A HEALTHIER WORLD
THIS NEW `GOLDEN RICE' IS A BRIGHT NUGGET, IF NOT THE MOTHER LODE, WHEN IT
COMES TO FEEDING PEOPLE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.
By Bruce M. Chassy
March 11, 2001
Golden rice is probably the most celebrated biotechnology project in
the world, but maybe the name ought to be changed. As American history
tells us, the promise of gold can inspire passions to the point that
Such is the case with this new rice, developed by Ingo Potrykus, a
Swiss scientist, and Peter Beyer, his German collaborator. They introduced
new genes into rice so that it produces beta-carotene and iron. Increased
beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) turns the rice "golden" in
It could be very important to developing nations, where millions of
children go blind from lack of vitamin A, and where millions of
iron-deficient women and children suffer serious health problems. The
scientists, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, identified a great
humanitarian need and sought to solve it by adding the missing nutrients
to a food that hundreds of millions of poor people eat nearly every day.
All the major media recognized the human importance of the project and
rushed to cover it. For example, the discovery of genetic gold put
Potrykus on the cover of Time magazine last summer.
The biotechnology industry, beleaguered by an onslaught of negative
publicity, used it to illustrate the great potential it sees in this
technology. Most biotech products on the market today benefit primarily
farmers and the environment, benefits that are not obvious to consumers.
So the industry's advertising campaign points to the rice story as an
example of the gold it believes that biotech will produce.
Activist groups opposed to agricultural biotechnology portray the rice
as "fool's gold." Golden rice is a problem for them, because it has such
potential for good. So, they ignore the benefits and focus on perceived
problems in an effort to discredit the project. They say golden rice
would not provide the recommended daily requirement of vitamin A or iron,
so why bother? And they portray it as a deception cooked up by industry
to take the heat off biotech. This is a great insult to the scientists and
their project, which is not industry-funded and was initiated 11 years ago.
It's time to put golden rice in perspective. It is not a flash in the
pan, nor is it a panacea. Golden rice is not yet on the market. It is a
product concept that is still in development. Through remarkable science,
Potrykus and Beyer have shown that they can make rice yield iron and
beta-carotene. The current prototype produces only modest levels of the
desired nutrients, but new varieties with higher levels are promised in
the near future.
There are still many hurdles yet to clear. It must be demonstrated that
the added nutrients survive cooking and that the body can absorb them.
Environmental and food safety tests must be completed. These tests will be
more rigorous than for current products, because golden rice does not meet
the criterion of being "substantially equivalent" to its
conventionalcounterpart. It is nutritionally different, and it will be
labeled as such.
Like any potential new product, golden rice may fail to pass any of
dozens of tests that could prevent it from reaching the marketplace. If it
is developed into a product, golden rice will not be a cure for all the
world's nutritional ills, so let's not bill it as such. And if for some
reason it does not clear all hurdles, it would be a humanitarian setback,
but it would not mean that biotechnology had failed.
The truth is that golden rice is already a success if we see it for
what it really is--an amazing scientific achievement that shows us the
possibilities that biotechnology places within our reach. No matter how
the golden rice story ends, it is pointing us to where we need to go--not
just for the immediate needs that Potrykus and Beyer have identified but
also for future generations.
We must learn to develop better ways to grow more food for the 4
billion people who will join us in the next 50 years. Golden rice shows
that biotechnology will help us get there. Food shortages may seem
inconceivable to those of us who are fortunate enough to live in developed
countries. But then again, power shortages in California seemed
inconceivable only a few short months ago.
Growing French acceptance of GM
Trends in Plant Science, 2001, 6:2:53
By Trevor Stokes
Two-thirds of French consumers would not be against genetically modified
foods if they were labeled clearly, according to a study carried out by
INRS, the governmental agricultural research institute in France. The
study shows that the hostility towards GM in French public opinion does
not reflect the actions of individuals' consumption. The researchers say
that during the first GM wave, French consumers were forced into
compliance, which created a backlash. The study also reported that French
people are already consuming GMOs, often without knowing it. The other
third of responders plans to boycott all GM products. Reuters. TS
The GM Farmer's Story
By John Ross
March 10, 2001
Steven Barclay runs Park Farm which is owned by his father-in-law, Danny
MacKintosh. The family runs seven farms, totalling roughly 700 acres. They
grow mainly spring barley, oats and wheat and lease out areas for growing
carrots and potatoes.
An application has been made to grow just over 17 acres of genetically
modified oilseed rape at Park Farm at Auldearn, near Nairn, as well as
another area at Seafield Farm, near Smithton, Inverness.
"I believe GM crops are the way forward."
"Like other developments in agriculture over the years, it is just another
farming tool and through time it will come into its own."
My main point is that it will cut down on the use of chemicals. There has
been talk about there being a herbicide tax coming in and margins are so
tight at the moment that we could not afford another tax."
"If we could cut down our herbicides to one, and just pay tax on one,
instead of three or four, then it's bound to be a help."
"I can see the concern of organic farmers but you have to be realistic. If
GM is cleared for use and there are no trials done in the Highlands, these
crops will be grown in Scotland without any trials being done in this
"We have an extra hour of daylight and different temperatures which could
change the outcome of a trial. I have been interested in the technology
for some time and have kept an eye on the progress made in GM crops. I am
from the Black Isle and there is a trial going ahead there already so over
the last few months I have been watching the
developments without saying anything."
"I have noticed that for every person who has spoken against it, there is
one for it, but maybe the folk who are in support are less vociferous than
the others and their views are not being heard as much."
"The furore over the Black Isle trials has not put me off because we have
done things differently here."
"We have told everybody what we are planning before the crops have gone in
the ground - I think it is a wee bit naughty to put the crops in the
ground and then tell people later. We have been totally open all along. We
have nothing to hide and are open to any questions
"I spoke to people locally and no-one said 'don't do it', although since
the scaremongering started big time, one or two have said they are
concerned. One neighbour, who is not against GM, has made a valid point
that if this foot-and -mouth problem continues, he doesn't want people
traipsing over his farm looking for our farm to trample the crop. Another
neighbour is all for it and believes GM is the way forward, while another
is of the view that so long as he does not lose out over it, he is also
"However, I do know there are some who have some quite serious concerns
that it may devalue their farms. I don't see that at all but it has to be
looked into. I am happy to listen to what people have to say and I am
prepared to go to any open meetings and answer any questions that I can."
"I understand the concern of the organic farmers but the feeling of
Aventis (the seed company) who run 120 sites throughout the countryside,
often working close to organic farms, is that that there has been no
"The organic farms were to be 100 per cent squeaky clean but they can't be
because if there is going to be leeching of GM crops then there is also
going to be leeching and contamination from the normal crop which we are
"If pollen can blow for three miles so can the chemicals, so none of these
organic farms is completely free of contamination. It's all very well
putting the boot into GM but are they 100 per cent clean themselves? I
don't think so."
"Also, they say the Highland area is GM-free but there has been GM crops
grown in our area some years ago. Ironically enough a farm now selling
organic vegetables was the site of that trial."
"You wonder what the organic people are looking at. Is it the bottom line
of profits or is there a genuine concern for the environment? I think
probably it's a bit of both."
"But whatever happens, if I don't go ahead and do this trial someone else
will. Put it this way, I have had two phone calls from other farmers
asking could they be put forward for a trial if I don't continue. If I
said today that I am not doing it, there are people already waiting to go
ahead. They might not bother telling the neighbours what they are doing,
but may wait until the last minute before giving the information. But it's
like everything else. If somebody tells you not to do something it is
going to make you determined to do it."
"At the moment, I am pretty open-minded but, if push comes to shove, I
have to do what I consider to be best. There is a lot of literature coming
out from both sides but much of it contradicts each other. You can't say
you are going to believe one more than the other and you have to be
satisfied yourself before you can decide."
"I know what people will be thinking, but there is no financial motive in
this for us. We are a very small farm and we are not going to be able to
do anything extravagant on what is being paid by Aventis."
"There are no big sums of money involved at all. A lot of folk would say,
'Then why accept all the hassle that goes with this and why get involved
at all?' The reason is that I do genuinely think it is the way forward."
Regional Biotechnology Forum: A Latin American Biotechnology Initiative
Vienna International Centre, P.O.B. 300, A-1400 Vienna, Austria
28-30 March 2001
In less than 30 years after the publication of a seminal research paper
that marked the beginning of "new" biotechnology, the pharmaceutical and
agri-chemical industries are being radically transformed by the
application of recombinant and cell technologies.
Biotechnology-derived drugs (biopharmaceuticals) are now routinely used in
medicine and over 25 industrial and food crops have been genetically
Biotechnology is having a major impact on almost all the major sectors of
industry. Its relative importance* in industrial production and processing
is estimated below. Revenues of the biotechnology industry exceeded US $
12 billion in the European Union and the U.S.A. alone in 1996 and are
projected to exceed US $ 20 billion by the year 2001.
As a result, biotechnology is viewed in the industrialised world as an
all-pervasive profit-generating technology and a strategic component of
industrial competitiveness. State-of-the-art science and private venture
capital drive commercial biotechnology. Furthermore the risks of product
development and regulatory approval are high. As a
consequence innovation in biotechnology is dominated by the private sector
and is becoming increasingly proprietary.
UNIDO, as the specialized agency of the United Nations in industrial
development in developing countries and countries with economies in
transition, has accumulated significant knowledge in the biotechnology
sector. As early as 1984, it established the International Center for
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), and has also
taken the lead in establishing unique repositories of relevant information
through BINAS; and in-house development of an innovative computerized
system for biotechnology environmental impact assessment. Moreover, the
Commission of Sustainable Development (CSD) assigned UNIDO as Task Manager
of Chapter 16: Environmentally Sound Management of Biotechnology of Agenda
Based on this expertise and aiming to raise the importance of
biotechnology in Latin America, the Director General of UNIDO consulted
with governments in the region about the necessities, interests and
potentials of their countries in this field. As a result, a regional
initiative in Biotechnology was proposed. This initiative addresses three
critical areas to overcome threshold barriers in the region. Namely,
access to proprietary technology; support for strategic research.