Home Page Link AgBioWorld Home Page
About AgBioWorld Donations Ag-Biotech News Declaration Supporting Agricultural Biotechnology Ag-biotech Info Experts on Agricultural Biotechnology Contact Links Subscribe to AgBioView Home Page

AgBioView Archives

A daily collection of news and commentaries on
ag-biotech.


Subscribe AgBioView Subscribe

Search AgBioWorld Search

AgBioView Archives

Subscribe

 


SEARCH:     

Date:

March 22, 2001

Subject:

Storm in the Rice Bowl: IRRI & Greenpeace; GM Food Safety

 

Greenpeace Visits IRRI

IRRI Press Release: News about Rice and People; 23 March 2001

Los Baños, Philippines — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
was pleased that the international advocacy group Greenpeace took up its
invitation for representatives to visit the institute on Monday, 19 March.
IRRI welcomes the better understanding subsequently shown by Greenpeace
regarding research into Golden Rice.

During the visit, the Greenpeace delegation, which included
representatives from Thailand and Europe as well as colleagues from the
Southeast Asian Regional Institute for Community Education, also gathered
information on how IRRI sets its priorities in biotech research. The group
learned more about the extensive work done by the institute in the area of
biological pest control—for example, encouraging farmers to protect
friendly insects that prey on insect pests—and other measures aimed at
reducing pesticide use in rice production.

IRRI Director General Ronald P. Cantrell said he was satisfied that
Greenpeace now appears to have a better understanding of the future
development of Golden Rice. “As we’ve said many times, much work remains
to be done to develop Golden Rice into the successful new strategy that we
feel it can become, to help combat the terrible problem of vitamin-A
deficiency in the developing world,” Dr. Cantrell explained. “Because of
this, it will be at least three to four years before there are any field
trials and another two years before it may reach farmers. “IRRI remains
committed to the continued safe and sustainable development of Golden
Rice, and there will be no change to our plans as a result of the
Greenpeace visit,” he added.

During the visit, IRRI scientists also explained to the Greenpeace
delegation a number of established facts. These included:

* The ultimate release of Golden Rice to farmers will be the
responsibility of the national agricultural research programs that are
partners with IRRI in its continued development.

* Before the material can be released in any country, a wide range of
trials must be conducted to ensure that Golden Rice is environmentally
harmless and safe to eat, and to measure how much vitamin A it provides
consumers.

*Although, at its present stage of development, Golden Rice produces only
low levels of the building blocks of vitamin A, or pro-vitamin A, it may
ultimately provide enough to be a great help in alleviating the health
problems associated with vitamin-A deficiency (VAD).

*While Golden Rice alone may not eliminate all VAD problems in developing
countries, it is an exciting new alternative that deserves further
development, bearing in mind that a diverse diet remains the best solution
to VAD.

*Golden Rice is only one of IRRI’s efforts to develop
micronutrient-enriched rice, using a wide range of methods and
technologies, including traditional plant breeding.

Dr. Cantrell said he looked forward to continued dialogue with groups such
as Greenpeace, especially if it aids the development of new technologies
that can improve the lives of poor rice farmers and consumers in safe and
sustainable ways.

IRRI, with its headquarters in the Philippines and offices in 11 other
countries, is the world’s leading international rice research and training
center. It is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving
the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and
consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural
resources. IRRI is part of the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an association of public and private donor
agencies that funds 16 international research centers.

For more information, visit the Web site of CGIAR (www.cgiar.org) or
Future Harvest (www.futureharvest.org). Future Harvest is a nonprofit
organization that builds awareness and supports food and environmental
research to build a world with less poverty, a healthier human family,
well-nourished children, and a better environment. Future Harvest supports
research, promotes partnerships, and sponsors projects that bring the
results of agricultural research to rural communities, farmers, and
families in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

-----
For additional information, contact Duncan Macintosh, IRRI, DAPO Box 7777,
Metro Manila, Philippines; telephone (63-2) 845-0563 or (63-2) 844-3351 to
53; fax: (63-2) 891-1291 or (63-2) 845-0606; email: d.macintosh@cgiar.org;
Web (IRRI): http://www.cgiar.org/irri; Web (Library):
http://ricelib.irri.cgiar.org; Web (Riceweb): http://www.riceweb.org; Web
(Riceworld): http://www.riceworld.org

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED 'GOLDEN RICE' NOT TO BE RELEASED INTO THE
ENVIRONMENT WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

GREENPEACE PRESS RELEASE March 20, 2001

Genetically engineered 'Golden Rice' not to be released into the
environment within the next five years, admits International Rice Research
Institute

London/Manila, 20th March 2001 - The International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) has confirmed to Greenpeace that it has no plans to release
genetically modified (GM) so-called "Golden Rice" into the environment.
Field trials are unlikely to take place within the next five years. IRRI
scientists told Greenpeace that various genetic elements in the "Golden
Rice" need to be changed or removed, in particular its gene construct and
an antibiotic resistance gene (1-2). IRRI received the first grains of the
GM rice variety for breeding purposes earlier this year. IRRI scientists
also admitted that many uncertainties related to the "Golden Rice" still
need to be addressed before this crop could be released. These include
environmental risks as well as health and nutritional questions. IRRI also
confirmed that the currently available "Golden Rice" only produces very
low levels of beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A. They also agreed
with Greenpeace that the best solution to vitamin A deficiency is a
diverse diet.

Greenpeace welcomes the fact that the world's leading public rice research
institute is more honest in its assessment of the benefits of "Golden
Rice" than other advocates for the GM industry. "There are cheap and
proven solutions and technologies available to fight against vitamin A
deficiency," said Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign
Director, "The main problem is lack of political will to see these
solutions through and the inadequacy of resources to enforce them. The GM
industry's propaganda that keeps pushing 'Golden Rice' as the solution for
vitamin A deficiency is irresponsible. It is using the misery of mothers
and children who suffer from this deficiency for its own commercial gain."
When asked by Greenpeace, IRRI scientists admitted that there might even
be naturally occurring rice varieties that contain beta-carotene or other
vitamin A precursors. However, very few studies have been conducted so far
on whether such natural pro-vitamin rich rice varieties exist.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

From: Tom DeGregori
Subject: to IRRI - YOUR CAPITULATION TO GREENPEACE

Letter to: IRRI (International Rice Research Institute)
DAPO Box 7777 Metro Manila, Philippines

To whom it may concern

Please inform me if the following article is correct. If so, I will write
to my Senators and Congressman and Congresswomen asking them to move to
suspend all further US contributions to IRRI and to move within the World
Bank to have them do the same until there is some further clarification
from you.

I have long been a supporter of IRRI and the other CGIAR institutions as a
former member of the Research Advisory Committee of USAID (serving under a
former Director-General of IRRI), as a practising devlopment economist and
policy advisor and as an author of numerous books, articles and reviews.
I have been extremely strong in arguing the importance of agricultural
research and have praised the work of IRRI in more of my writings than I
can count. IRRI is one of the many CGIAR institutions to which I have been
privileged to visit and one of the most impressive in the good work that
it has done.

The IRRI described in the statement below does not even remotely resemble
the scientific and humanitarian organization that I had the privilege of
visiting. Rather, the article describes an institution that cravenly and
shamelessly capitulated to a bunch of ignorant fanatics who would rather
have children go blind and half the world's population starve than in any
way compromise their irrational totalitarian ideology. Many qualified
people that I know honestly believe that Greenpeace and other similar
groups are totally cynical and only interested in raising money for their
own self-aggrandisement. In any case, capitulation to them by any
reputable institution is intolerable and must be opposed.

It is with heavy heart that I advocate such drastic measures (which I
doubt will succeed in being implemented) but issues are too important to
act in any lesser way. If this letter sound strongly worded, so be it. The
implications of capitulation to Greenpeace are far more extreme than any
reasonable use of the English (or other languages) can describe. Please
say the article is incorrect and if it is, please issue a press release
and so state it.

Thomas R. DeGregori
Professor of Economics, University of Houston

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
IRRI's Response to Tom DeGregori:

To: Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics, Department of Economics
University of Houston, Houston, Texas

Dear Dr. DeGregori,

Thank you for your e-mail letter of March 22, 2001 and for your
long-standing support of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI),
which we greatly value and appreciate. Please let me stress right at the
start that there has been no change what so ever to IRRI’s policies and
research agenda in relation to biotechnology or Golden Rice as a result of
the Greenpeace visit. If there were, we would certainly not seek to
announce any such changes via a Greenpeace press release.

I would like now to address point-by-point some of the comments made in
the Greenpeace document.

1. We did indicate that it would take a minimum of three years before we
may be able to transfer the pro-vitamin A trait into indica-type rice and
it would be ready for field-testing. Thus, it would probably be an
additional two years before it would be available to farmers. However,
because of the nature of such research we have made no “commitment” to
Greenpeace or anyone else in relation to these schedules.

2. The statement that IRRI is not planning to release Golden Rice is a
simple misinterpretation of the information that was given. Since the
mid-1980s, IRRI has not released any rice varieties; this is the
responsibility of our partners in the national programs. We provide the
national programs with varieties and they name them and submit them to the
relevant local procedures for release. We think the concept of Golden Rice
has great value and will eventually be released in some form - otherwise
we would not be investing the resources we have on such a project.
Statements made by Greenpeace suggest we may be doing Golden Rice research
with no intention of it ever reaching the farmer or consumer. This is
totally inaccurate.

3. The statement made about uncertainties is also accurate. We do not know
what levels of beta-carotene will be present when this trait is
transferred to indica varieties. A wide range of availability and
biosafety trials must be conducted before the material can be released in
any country. These procedures are well defined in the Philippines.

4. We also stated that the Golden Rice lines we now have produce
beta-carotene at levels of between 1.6-2.0 micrograms per gram in the rice
grain. However, we are optimistic that these levels can be raised as a
result of further research.

5. We also stated that Golden Rice would not resolve all the VAD problems
in developing countries and that a diverse diet remains the best way to
eliminate this problem.

6. Finally, we explained that Golden Rice is only one of the efforts to
develop micronutrient enriched rice using a variety of different methods
and technologies (including traditional plant breeding).

As I am sure you are aware, IRRI has no control over information released
by Greenpeace and we realized this would part of the challenge of inviting
them to visit. However, regardless of personal opinions, Greenpeace leads
international opposition to biotech research and Golden Rice, especially
in Asia. Therefore, we think it important to at least engage them in
dialogue and so hopefully avoid the scenario of IRRI developing
technologies that are ultimately rejected by the very societies they are
meant for because we ignored the concerns of some groups. Having said
that, please let me stress in conclusion that, ultimately, IRRI aims to
please only one group, the poor rice farmers and consumers for which we
have worked for the past 40 years.

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me
again or the Head of IRRI’s Public Awareness Program Mr. Duncan Macintosh.
I would be especially grateful that before disseminating your opinions on
IRRI’s activities again that you at least allow us the opportunity to
comment and respond to your concerns first.

Yours Sincerely,

(IRRI)

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

From: Klaus Ammann
Subject: Debate 200'10323 a: IRRI - Response to Greenpeace statements
about the Golden Rice, letter to Thomas DeGregori and IRRI statement

Dear Friends,

As already assumed earlier by Ingo Potrykus and Thomas DeGregory,
Greenpeace has given a distorted view about statements and facts in their
report about a meeting with IRRI concerning the Golden Rice.

Again: There should be some regulation for major NGO's, no censureship,
but these protest corporates should be held responsible for their products
just as this is the case for the biotech industry.

Thanks to IRRI for the swift reaction, wonder whether these statements can
be seen on the Greenpeace webpage over the weekend ?

Klaus

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

GRAIN OF HOPE
Gordon Conway, The Guardian March 21, 2001
(From Agnet Douglas A Powell )

Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, writes that
advances in the genetic modification of rice may lead to a variety which
helps to alleviate vitamin deficiency in developing countries Greenpeace
calls "golden" rice fools' gold but many scientists and nutritionists
believe it could save millions of people`s lives. It is a type of rice
into which genes for beta-carotene have been inserted - and it is being
made to carry a crushing load of ideological baggage in the GM debate.
These tiny grains reflect the worst sides of the participants. Basic facts
are not in dispute. More than 100m children worldwide are affected by
vitamin A deficiency. As a consequence, 2m children die each year and
500,000 go permanently blind. They are from the poorest families in the
developing countries, with little or no access to the balanced diets we
enjoy in the industrialised world.

The chart shows the size of the problem in Asia. There, poor families
consume rice as a staple; babies are often weaned on rice gruel. But the
rice grain lacks beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. There is
plenty in the leaves and stems, but none in the grain endosperm. And no
amount of traditional breeding has been able to get it there. (Brown,
unmilled rice contains only minute amounts of beta-carotene.) That has now
changed as a result of the work of Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology. His team has been able to transfer two daffodil
and one bacterial gene into rice that will ensure the rice grain contains
beta-carotene. It is a classic piece of genetic modification, and that is
why the anti-GM activists are so strident in their condemnation. The food
industry, which had no part in its development, is also using golden rice
for its own ends. It has featured the golden grains as part of a $50m
campaign to promote GM foods. The message is that GM is not just about
profits, it can save children`s lives.

Conway says that all of this hype is premature and dangerous. The science
that led us to golden rice is at a very early stage. Until the product is
fully developed and tested, no one can be sure how well it will work and
whether there may be unwanted side effects. Nor can many of the other
promising applications - adding more nutrition to basic staple crops, such
as cowpeas and sweet potatoes - be pursued. But some anti-GM activists
would like the work to be stopped before we know its real value and are
going to extraordinary lengths to rubbish the science Much play has been
made of the amounts of rice people would have to eat to gain a full day's
supply of vitamin A. But this misses the point that it is a deficiency we
have to tackle, not a total lack of vitamin A. No one is suggesting rice
should be the only source of vitamin A. Children die or go blind because
they do not get enough. The first golden rice varieties, which will be
improved, should provide enough beta-carotene to meet 10%-20% of the
dietary requirements of a child. In many instances this will keep a child
alive.

This all sounds worthwhile but, says the opposition, it is a quick fix. We
should be working instead on the causes of malnutrition. Of course we are
working on those, but changing people`s livelihoods and farming patterns
takes time. And in the meantime, millions will die or go blind. The
insistence on focusing on fundamentals is also in consistent, if not
downright hypocritical. Conway says that at the Rockefeller Foundation, we
are also funding the development of vaccines against HIV in Africa (the
first ones are currently being tested in Kenya). Should we stop all
efforts at this and devote our funds solely to the attempt to change
sexual behaviour or wait until the fundamental problem underlying the Aids
epidemic - grinding poverty - is eliminated? There are alternative ways of
dealing with vitamin A deficiency. They are all being tried (we fund some
of them), but they all have drawbacks.

Giving children twice yearly massive doses of vitamin A in tablet form
will greatly reduce mortality. Several countries are doing this, but it is
relatively costly and the poorest children are difficult to reach. Also,
the mortality rate can be further reduced if, instead of massive doses,
children are given smaller doses every day.

Ideally farmers should cultivate diverse kitchen gardens, but in many
regions they have to cope with long dry spells during which there are few
fruits or vegetables. Besides, researchers have recently found that the
beta-carotene available in green, leafy vegetables is much less than
previously supposed. The best sources of vitamin A are animal products -
butter, cheese, eggs, liver - but they are often out of reach for the
poor. While nutritionists disagree on the relative merits of better diets,
supplements or fortification, they agree that some combination is needed
and multiple tools must be brought to the task.

But before Golden Rice can be part of the solution we do need more answers
to the questions raised by anti-GM activists: answers which careful
testing can safely provide. First, we need to ensure the grain is freely
available to the poor and that it is acceptable; second, that there are no
serious environmental consequences from growing golden rice and third,
that there are no adverse effects on health. There is no hazard in
ingesting excess beta-carotene but we should watch for possible allergies.
The potential for saving lives is there and this makes it a moral
imperative to seek out the answers. That is why Conway says he welcomes
the recent statement by Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace that they will not
disrupt testing and he hopes that other anti-GM activists will give up a
good campaign icon for the sake of hungry children.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

'Everything you wanted to know about the 'Safety Testing of GM Foods'

Dr. Bruce Thomas and colleagues at the Seed
Biotechnology Center , University of California, Davis have put together a
very useful resource on the Internet that provides information on
agricultural biotechnology with links to informative sites dealing with
Current Biotech Feed Crops, Methods of plant breeding and biotechnology,
Transgenic Crop Traits, US Government Regulation of Transgenic Crops,
International Government Regulation of Transgenic Crops, Consumer survey,
Feeding trials, and Future Biotech Feed Crops. Be sure to visit this page
at

Crop Biotechnology: feeds for the dairy industry
http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/outreach/lecture/DairyDayAbstract.htm

There is also a very comprehensive database of published literature on the
safety testing of GM foods with some excellent web links at:

GM Food Safety Assessment - Resource Series
http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/outreach/resource/gm_food_safety.htm

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Learn biotech basics online from Purdue
http://www.purdue.edu/UNS/html3month/001201.Goldsbrough.biotech.html

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. People looking for information on agricultural
biotechnology can log onto a Purdue University Web site that takes them
step-by-step through the basic science and fundamental issues surrounding
biotechnology.

"There is a lot of confusion about agricultural biotechnology, and we
thought we could help by trying to explain the basics of the science in
accessible terms," says horticulture professor Peter Goldsbrough, a member
of the team that created the Web site. "We wanted to create a resource for
high school teachers and students, but we also wanted it to be accessible
to anyone looking for more information on the subject."

Goldsbrough and Natalie Carroll, a professor in Agricultural and
Biological Engineering, settled on the Internet as their teaching tool for
Introduction to Agricultural Biotechnology, a university course for high
school teachers. Teachers who took the course worked their way through a
Web-based tutorial, took tests online, then came to campus to present
lesson plans and projects produced to meet course requirements. Last
summer four teachers took the class for credit and took home lesson plans
to use in their classes.

In October, when a group of teachers visiting campus took a quick tour of
the Web part of the course, they asked if their students could log onto
the Web tutorial. In response, Goldsbrough and Carroll opened up the Web
site to the public. The public site, a slightly pared-down version of the
original, includes 19 lessons as well as short self-tests to help
reinforce main points.

You can visit the Web site by following the link from the Biotechnology
Education page of the Purdue School of Agriculture's News Backgrounders
site.

A continuing education course based on the Web site will be offered again
in 2001. For more information or to sign up for the course, contact
Kathryn Orvis (765) 494-8435, kathryn.orvis@four-h.purdue.edu.

CONTACTS: Peter Goldsbrough, (765) 494-1334, goldsbrough@hort.purdue.edu.
Natalie Carroll, (765) 494-8433, njc@four-h.purdue.edu. Compiled by Steve
Tally, (765) 494-9809, tally@aes.purdue.edu Purdue News Service: (765)
494-2096; purduenews@uns.purdue.edu

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Group Attack on Starbucks' Anti-GMO Stance Lesson For Meatpackers

by Dan Murphy on 3/22/01 for www.meatingplace.com

A number of high-profile scientific and consumer advocacy groups are
attacking the decision of Starbucks, the gourmet coffee chain -- which is
now the nation's leading user of fluid milk products, by the way -- to
source milk products only from cows not given bovine growth hormones.

What does this have to do with the meat industry? Perhaps an object lesson
in how to handle consumer misconceptions. Read on for more on how these
groups are taking the "bovine biotechnology" issue by the horns.

Not that dairy cows actually have horns, of course.

Among the groups that issued a stinging rebuke of the rationale behind
Starbucks' non-GMO stance are the American Council on Science and Health,
Center for Global Food Issues, Citizens for the Integrity of Science,
Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Alert and National Center for
Public Policy Research.

Collectively, they contacted Orin Smith, Starbucks Corp. president and
CEO, Dennis Stefanacci, senior vice president for corporate social
responsibility (there's a title you don't see everyday); and Howard
Schultz, chairman of the board. Also included with the letter was a
statement from C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General, on the role
of bovine somatotrophin (or BST) in dairy production.

"We are writing to express concern about your recent announcement that
Starbucks would serve milk products only from cows not treated with bovine
growth hormone," the groups' letter read. "Your action is unfounded, and
harms consumers and the environment."

So far, I'm liking what I'm reading.

"In 1994, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called upon food
retailers to act responsibly in the face of extreme fringe-group attacks
on the safety of milk from cows supplemented with protein-based growth
hormones," the letter continued. "Dr. Koop noted that responsible
companies could play an important role by assuring consumers of the safety
of the milk supply, by providing the facts on bovine growth hormone to
interested customers or by referring them to credible health and nutrition
authorities."

The letter then quoted Koop's position, articulated at the time BST was
first commercially introduced: "It is necessary to condemn these attacks
on the safety of milk for what they are: baseless, manipulative and
completely irresponsible." Hello. I think it's pretty clear where Koop
stands on the issue.

The letter concluded by saying, "Starbucks should step up to the plate as
a responsible corporate citizen and meet Dr. Koop's challenge. Consumers
deserve choice and accurate information. [You] recently responded to
extreme activists' pressure by noting that you 'Hope to be able to offer
all of our milk products rBST-free.' This suggests you may not continue to
offer the same safe, affordable, conventionally produced milk that you
have always provided.

"We hope this is not true. Please do not contribute to the vast
misinformation campaigns being spread by [these] extreme activists. Milk
from cows supplemented with protein-based growth hormones, which naturally
occur in all cows, is the same safe, nutritious milk, [and] producers who
use these supplements are . . . helping maintain affordable milk for
consumers and protecting the environment.

"Dairy producers who use [rBST] produce as much as 15 percent more milk
with the same number of cows. That translates to using less water, land
and fuel, and helps reduce waste streams and soil loss. In the U.S. alone,
use of these supplements could save 700,000 gallons [of water], 1.7
million acres of land used for feed [production], 240,000 gallons of fuel,
5.3 million tons of soil loss and decrease manure by one million metric
tons a year."

That's pretty heavy artillery, and it shifts the argument from "Is it
safe?" which is a no-win proposition for biotechnology proponents at this
point in time, to a cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates that GMO
research is not just about making money, it's also about protecting the
environment, conserving resources and producing our food supply with
greater efficiency and safety.

That is a heck of a lot tougher argument for extremists to win. They'll
always have their hardcore group of true believers, which in the meat
industry are the holier-than-thou vegetarians who are convinced their
meatless diet represents a higher level of spiritual enlightenment. But
when the debate is conducted on the basis of how consumers benefit from
biotechnology and how such research helps -- not hurts -- the environment,
the activists are at least put on the defensive, instead of being allowed
to prance and posture about how noble they are and how evil the industry
is.

Personally, when I walk into a Starbucks, I'm more worried about being
able to respond smartly to their pop quiz-type questions about your order
("Do you want dry foam or wet?") than I am with the source of their dairy
products.

But I commend the groups previously listed for their aggressive action in
pointing out that, unlike regular coffee and café au lait, issues such as
biotechnology are not black and white.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

INDUSTRIALIZED FOOD DISTRIBUTION TAKES TOLL ON HEALTH, AUTHOR SAYS
March 21, 2001 Times Colonist (Victoria) B3 Katherine Dedyna

Agricultural activist Wayne Roberts, according to this story, encourages
people to avoid "gassy'' foods and by that, he doesn't mean beans. He's
referring to run-of-the-mill industrialized food that is transported long
distances, taking an unhealthy toll on the environment as well as national
nutrition. Roberts, co-author of Real Food For a Change (Random House),
was cited as saying that modern food production and distribution methods
account for about 25 per cent of the gases that contribute to the
greenhouse effect, and even environmentalists bypass the food industry as
an engine of the pollution machine, adding, "The juice oranges that you're
getting have come from Florida to New Jersey (by train) and by truck the
rest of the way, which is just totally incredible.''

Roberts will present a by-donation lecture that echoes the title of the
book on March 29 from 7-9 p.m. at the Laurel Point Inn, sponsored by The
Canadian Health Food Association and The Vitamin Shop. Roberts says that
his book recounts many unappetizing statistics: "The makings of the
average meal eaten in North America have travelled 1,500 miles before
they're gobbled down in seconds flat.'' Most imported meat and produce has
also travelled thousands of kilometres and we spend $500 million a year
disposing of food packaging designed for these long journeys. Roberts will
address organics, GMO-Free Foods, and crises such as the British foot and
mouth disease as well as new research from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture that he says shows that organic food is more nutritious.

Roberts writes that, "Consumption of fast food would likely drop when
hamburgers are priced at $6, the real cost for the one hundred gallons of
water, two pounds of feed, one cup of gas, and one and quarter pounds of
soil lost to erosion that go into each burger," citing Jack Mintz, a
University of Toronto management professor. Despite the lower price of
conventional industrialized food, "I've never heard somebody say `I prefer
food that is sprayed with pesticides to food that is not.'''

Fresh, local food grown without toxic pesticides and fertilizers and
processed without harmful additives attracts only one per cent of the
grocery store dollar. But it's a plausible and growing start to escaping a
life-long diet of manufactured food, he says.

The story goes on to say that the rise of factory farming hasn't helped.
For instance, processors of potatoes require late harvesting potatoes with
a long shape. But late bloomers leave fields exposed for much of the
summer, resulting in major erosion of top soil and locking farmers into
the same variety of potatoes, year in year out.

In turn, that helps potato beetles adapt, which in turn escalates the
level of chemical spraying. Enter Monsanto's New Leaf Potato, which
contains the genes of a soil bacterium called bacillus thuringiensis,
which paralyzes beetles. But, the story says, no one knows how the gene
that poisons a beetle will react in a human stomach over time, especially
when joined by the manufactured genes of other common food products,
Roberts writes.
-------

(Comment by Prakash: It would be interesting if Canadians follow Mr.
Robert's advice, avoid all transported 'gassy' food, and thus eliminate
coffee, tea, pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, oranges, papaya,
banana, sugar, and all other tropical spices, fruits and vegetables from
their diet. It would drive many Third World country farmers to poverty,
deprive the food industry of business, and make the Canadian diet boring,
all for no reason! He also adds " no one knows how the (bt) gene that
poisons a beetle will react in a human stomach over time". I hope some
one in the audience at his 'by-donation' lecture would ask him "do you
know how all the pest and disease resistance genes that we have put in the
potato by conventional breeding (that may also increase the toxicity)
react in human stomach over time?". He also says "I've never heard
somebody say `I prefer food that is sprayed with pesticides to food that
is not'.'' but 99% of the people say that all the time when they vote with
their dollars. Another classic example of scare selling and profiting
from guilt rides. Why is that only the food and agriculture get attacked
irrationally like this? Why doesn't Mr. Roberts also advocate against all
other 'gassy' commodities like toys, clothes, medicine, furniture,
electronic gadgets including computers that get transported across the
world, and just simply ask all Canadians to go back to simple 18th century
living avoiding all 'manufactured' food and every one can grow their own
food?