Friday, December 31, 2004

We Just Thought We Were Making A Better Fish

This news item, We Just Thought We Were Making A Better Fish, is a few years old. I haven't seen transgenic Salmon at my local COSTCO, so its likely this project was sacked by the anti-science zealots who want to force all of us to eat only the food they deem "natural" (even though human beings have been modifying the genetic code of plants and animals for centuries through brute-force methods and, for several decades, used chemical mutagens and radiation to force genetic mutations on a massive scale).

But of course, we all just need to concede: the food nannies know better. We must let them decide what foods will be available for us to choose from. Obviously we can't be depended upon to make these kinds of decisions for ourselves.

Some excerpts from We Just Thought We Were Making A Better Fish:

Opponents of genetic engineering have found new terrors in a salmon spliced with genes that make them grow two to four times faster than nature's best -- and which therefore can be sold at lower prices. Those who have sampled the delicacy say they taste the same as ordinary salmon.

A scientist involved with the salmon project in Canada was amazed at the opposition -- saying he thought "we were just making a better fish."

The contributions of biotech engineered animals are potentially enormous -- pigs with less fat, chickens which resist bacteria-causing illnesses and beef that can grow twice as fast on less feed are all at risk.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Rice production must increase 60% to keep up with population growth

That's the reality. And AgBioTech (direct genetic modification of the rice genome) is required to get us there in time to save millions of lives.

Forrest Laws gives us the details in China’s developer of super hybrid rice receives World Food Prize. Here are some important excerpts:

It’s not often that one person can be said to be responsible for feeding 60 million people. But then Yuan Longping has never been an ordinary person.

Yuan, 74, a Chinese agricultural scientist, is widely acknowledged as having discovered the genetic basis of heterosis in rice – a breakthrough that helped lead to the development of hybrid rice.

Hybrid rice has spread so that it is now planted on about half of China’ rice area, resulting in a 20 percent higher yield over previously grown varieties.

That 20 percent increase translates into enough food to feed an additional 60 million people per year in China.

His team of scientists ... met its first goal of 10.5 metric tons of rice per hectare ... in 2000.

Yuan said demonstration plots of the Hunan Center’s new P885/0293 hybrid produced above 12 metric tons per hectare in four locations in 2003.

[Yuan] believes that further development of new rice hybrids and varieties must rely on biotechnology.

One of their more startling avenues of research involves a plant most growers consider a weed in commercial rice fields. The researchers are using genomic DNA from barnyardgrass to create new sources of genetic diversity to increase yield.

“Many scholars believe that the conversion of photo-synthesis in rice can be as high as 5 percent."

"Even if we can reach 50 percent of that or 2.5 percent, rice yields could reach 22 to 23 metric tons per hectare."


Hat-tip: AgBioWorld.org

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Fear for Profit

Yet another great review of FrankenFood: Fear for Profit. Some excerpts:

Western developed nations are increasingly abandoning science-based assessments of risks. In their place is a growing "absolute safety at all costs" perspective that's been skillfully fueled by scares and misinformation from special interests. As a result, foods and technological developments that can and are bettering our lives and can save lives, are being maligned, feared and resisted far out of proportion to their potential risks.

The result of overly-cautious, inaccurate tenets is regulatory policies rife with blunders and inconsistencies that hurt consumers, most of all the poor and disadvantaged. We not only deny ourselves better choices, as well as perfectly safe foods, we deny them to others who may more desperately need them.

The scientific community views the risks of genetically-modified crops to be no different, and even less, than those from conventional plant breeding.

"No one should mistake the anti-biotech [groups'] misdemeanors for naive exuberance or excessive zeal in a good cause," said Miller and Conko. "Their motives are self-serving and their tactics vicious."

Hat-tip: AgBioWorld.org

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Imagine A Green Utopia

Great review of Miller and Conko's book, "The Frankenfood Myth:" Imagine A Green Utopia. Some excerpts:

Overtilled land is returned to the forest. Waterways are unmenaced by the runoff of pesticides, now rarely used. Farmers are spared crop-killing frosts and insect plagues. The Green Utopia is not a fiction. It arrived in 1973 when Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer spliced the DNA of one species of bacteria into another and cultivated a new organism.

The authors show how foolish policies -- premised on junk science, media sensationalism and the mixed motives of bureaucrats and corporations -- are choking off a wonder-technology.

The verdict of science is clear: Gene-splicing offers no new risks to man or his environment. Gene-swapping between unrelated organisms happens often in nature, and conventional plant breeding can move genes from one organism to another. Gene-splicing does essentially what hybridization doe s, but with more precision, predictability and possibility.

Hat-tip: AgBioWorld.org

Monday, December 27, 2004

NUCLEAR POWER FOR THE FUTURE

Nuclear power is the safest most economical way to produce base-load electricity (that is, electricity available at any time, on-demand, unlike solar and wind which only work when the wind's blowing or the sun's shining). We need more nuclear power and the good news is it looks like we are going to get it.

Nuclear Power for the Future gives us lots of details about the next generations of safe nuclear power plants that will economically and safely supply the world's growing energy needs. Here are some excerpts:

All Western power reactors incorporate reactivity control as an intrinsic feature of their designs. The Chernobyl reactor that caused the accident in 1986, on the other hand, did not, and instead relied on operating procedures, which were violated.

Decay heat ... is the heat generated by radioactive decay of the fission products that continue to be produced even after fission reactions stop. Decay heat, if not removed, can result in overheating and damage to the fuel. Failure to adequately remove decay heat contributed to the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in March 1979.

"In passive safety systems, decay heat removal occurs primarily by gravity-driven flows, using a combination of convection and phase change to remove and transport heat out of the reactor containment" ... Typically, the only power required to activate the systems is battery power to open valves and maintain power to instrumentation and control systems.

Compared with a conventional 1,000-MW PWR [pressurized water reactors], AP1000 has 50% fewer valves, 35% fewer pumps, 80% less pipe, and 85% less cable.

The 2010 program expects that the advanced reactor designs will produce electricity in the range of $1,000 to $1,200 per kilowatt of electricity.

"While a PWR operates at coolant temperatures of typically 340 °C, the PBMR [pebble-bed modular reactor] is designed to achieve at least 900 °C," Ion continues. "This higher temperature will give a thermal efficiency of up to 44%, which translates into roughly one-third more output than a conventional PWR."

VHTR [very-high-temperature gas reactor], helium- and lead-cooled fast reactors, and the molten salt reactor are all designed to generate electricity and also to operate at sufficiently high temperatures to produce hydrogen by thermochemical water cracking.

THERMOCHEMICAL hydrogen production ... can be achieved at temperatures of less than 900 °C.

"The only feeds to the process are water and high-temperature heat, typically 900 °C, and the only products are hydrogen, oxygen, and low-grade heat," Abram explains. "Nuclear power is particularly well suited to hydrogen production by such a process because of its near-zero emissions."


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Death by Environmentalism

Its hard to believe, but Death by Environmentalism, an article by Robert James Bidinotto, preceeded and even seems to foreshadow much of Michael Crichton's new book, "State of Fear."

Mr. Bidinotto pulls no punches in this hard-hitting, not-to-be-missed piece. Some excerpts:

The environmental movement's deadliest threats to human lives do not come from its violent fringe characters, that relative handful of "eco-terrorists" who set fire to SUV dealerships and research labs.

...The environmental movement's worst assaults on human lives are plotted and implemented every day by genteel, well-dressed lawyers, activists, and bureaucrats, working inside the posh offices of mainstream environmental groups and government agencies.

While the theatrics of tree-sitters and terrorists grab headlines and provoke public anger, the policies and programs of the mainstream greens command little public concern or opposition. But theirs are the activities that are destroying the lives of millions.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Let them eat organic!

Will Verboven of The Calgary Herald confronts the environmental misanthropes about the effects of their Politically Correct, naive view of the world.

Bottom line: its killing women and children in Africa.

They don't have enough to eat? Let them eat organic!

Africans on the Environmental Altar (some excerpts):

It's a sad reflection of our western society that it takes the impending starvation of millions of people to expose the despicable connivance of some environmental and anti-progress groups. Their campaign against perfectly safe genetically modified (GM) food is putting at risk the lives of millions of people in southern Africa.

Organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth International and other such globalized, corporate environmental lobby groups are seeing their self-serving crusade against GM food coming home to roost. European countries which have banned or restricted GM food ingredients have also shown they are capable of showing callous disregard for human life, all in the name of political correctness and protectionist trade policy.

Famine-stricken countries have decided to refuse or restrict food-aid that contains GM ingredients. In one case, the president of Zambia said he would rather have his people starve than eat GM food, because the food could be toxic.

That would be the same food that millions of North Americans, Japanese and even some Europeans have been happily consuming for eight years -- without a single death or case of sickness.

Green with bigotry

In Green with bigotry, Thomas Sowell lays it out and says it like it is. Green bigots want choice - their choice, not your choice.

Some excerpts:

First they destroyed the gasoline station, so you have to drive miles out of your way to get gas. Then they destroyed a parking lot. Now they want to destroy a dam and a reservoir supplying more than 2 million people with water.

No, these are not al Qaeda terrorists. These are our own home-grown fanatics -- and the places mentioned are all in Yosemite National Park.

They call themselves environmentalists, but a more accurate term would be green bigots. What makes someone a bigot is his wish to deny other people the same rights he has. That is the hallmark of the environmental zealot.

They are trying to stop the building of a hydroelectric dam in Uganda and they have already got "nature preserves" created in various parts of Africa -- which are vast lands where Africans are forbidden to hunt for food because the green bigots prefer keeping the land "natural."

African economist James Skikwati in Kenya put the case against affluent Western environmental extremists very plainly: "Wealthy countries want the Earth to be green, the underdeveloped want the Earth fed.... What gives the developed nations the right to make choices for the poor?"

A hydroelectric dam in Uganda would bring electricity to millions of Africans, but it would annoy the delicate sensibilities of Berkeley environmentalists who like waterfalls.

...

We are talking about green bigots forcing millions of Yosemite visitors to do what the green bigots want, rather than what the visitors themselves want. Such ego trips by coteries of self-exalting people are treated in the media as idealism, rather than the petty tyranny it is.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Insurance climate alarm rings false

Insurance companies have been behind the global warming bandwagon for some time. Their motives are a bit obscure, but the result is typical: powerful organizations bend the truth about global warming for some perceived benefit to themselves and the innocent and powerless suffer as the world economy is crippled by useless carbon-emissions laws.

Insurance climate alarm rings false

As Mr. Pielke has found in his research, hurricanes are no more frequent than they've ever been. What has gone up is the willingness of people to build homes and businesses in hurricane territory and file insurance claims after the hurricanes hit.

The tables tell part the story of how the cause of rising insurance losses over the last 100 years is unrelated to weather event frequency. Hurricane frequency has indeed varied a great deal over the last 100 or more years, but "they have not increased in recent decades." On the contrary, "although damage increased during the 1970s and 1980s, hurricane activity was considerably lower than in previous decades." (For more see http://science policy.colorado.edu).

As Mr. Pielke puts it, "When the head of UNEP insists on misusing science in support of a political agenda, it damages the overall credibility of ... UNEP and the climate science community generally. And it is made worse because the scientific community stands by silently."


DDT Spray to Start in 2005

Finally! Uganda is telling the white European eco-imperialists to mind their own business. They're not going to listen any more to the whinging from well-fed Euro and American pharisees who live in malaria-free countries (because of chemicals like DDT) with plenty of food (because of pesticides and genetically modified foods).

DDT Spray to Start in 2005:

"Government strongly believes that DDT is very useful in the fight against malaria and the first phase will be early next year, possibly in January. We have carried out tests which have proved that DDT is not harmful as long as it is sprayed selectively," [state minister Dr Nsaba Buturo] said.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

WHY MODIFIED FOOD IS A GOOD IDEA

Charles Rousseaux reviews "THE FRANKENFOOD MYTH," by Henry I Miller and Gregory Conko. It is a great reminder of the tenuous nature of the green revolution just beginning to sprout in a harsh environment, an environment that threatens to kill the revolution a-borning. The poor, malnurished and hungry of the world deserve better. The anti-science eco-radicals cannot win this one - for the sake of the world's destitute and starving, we simply cannot let them win.

Some excerpts:

In "The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution," they describe how activists and regulators have almost literally taken foods off the table, out of the mouths of those who might choose it and those who desperately need it. Regardless of their motives, those anti-biotech zealots have caused tragic results, and they now threaten what could be the next Green Revolution.

To modify an organism predictably, whether plant or paramecium, one has to first have a sense of what genes are there and how they work together. Attempting modifications blindly — randomly crossing strains of wheat or rice to produce a high-yield line — tends to result in wastage and unpleasant surprises. In fact, farmers have been trying blind modifications for millennia -- it's called traditional agriculture.

Modern molecular techniques differ from previous plant-improvement methods only in their higher degree of accuracy. Given that continuum, Mr. Miller and Mr. Conko insist that genetically modified foods are at least as safe for consumption as their conventional counterparts, and probably safer.

Michael Crichton takes a novel approach to global-warming alarmism

Michael Crichton's new novel, State of Fear, is typical of his science-thriller genre: in other words, I couldn't put it down. I finished it in a few days and enjoyed it very much. Only Michael Crichton could pull off a good read like this while exposing global warming and many other environmental shibboleths. And for once, its great to read a novel where the bad guys are the real bad guys -- pharisaical environmentalists using their money and power to force their back-to-nature illusions on the millions of poor and starving of this world -- rather than the typical marxist bad guys found in most novels and movies these days: evil corporations.

Highly recommended - especially for your eco-radical family members and friends.

Michael Crichton takes a novel approach to global-warming alarmism

The novel raises stinging criticisms of the way the environmental movement conducts itself. Its mutual infatuation with Hollywood, its preoccupation with litigation, and, above all, its preoccupation with obtaining more money so as to continue its privileged existence are all writ large in the text. One of the chief villains, a lawyer turned green-group director, regularly rages about the difficulties he has fundraising. His main problem, he rants, is that global warming is not the immediate threat that pollution was in the 70s. It is therefore harder to get people to give money to combat it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Biotech crops cut pesticide use, boost yields and producer income

Biotech crops cut pesticide use, boost yields and producer income - if these miraculous benefits were the result of anything other than AgBioTech, environmentalists would be singing their praises.

Then again, given the misanthropic leanings of most radical enviromentalists, maybe not. Anything that's good for the world's teeming multitudes of poor or American farmers and consumers cannot be good for the environment - right?

Some excerpts:

The widespread adoption of biotech crops last year increased farmer income, boosted yields, reduced pesticides use and spurred greater reliance of environmentally friendly no-till farming.

The study indicates that Bt corn varieties have had the greatest effect on yields, increasing food production by 4.9 billion pounds, while herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties have created the biggest pesticide reduction, eliminating the use of 20 million pounds of pesticide annually. Herbicide-tolerant soybeans had the greatest impact on farmers' pocketbook, improving farm income by nearly $1.2 billion.

"Opponents of biotech crops often overlook the environmental benefits the technology offers," Ihnen [chair of NCGA's Biotech Working Group] adds. "Herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant hybrids significantly reduce the need for pesticides and other traditional crop protection products."

The report also notes that since biotech crops were commercialized in 1996, U.S. farmers have increased their no-till acreage. The benefits of no-till agriculture include reduced fuel consumption, decreased machinery wear, reduced input rates and improved habitat for wildlife.

The complete study is online at www.ncfp.org

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bt corn reduces serious birth defects

The Western Farm Press has an article about a wonderful, unexpected side-benefit of genetically modified corn: it reduces birth defects!

No program of drug development, no matter how successful the drug itself, could have as far reaching an impact as this, for many reasons. Getting drugs to every woman who needed it would be impossible. And it does not require an inefficient/corrupt government agency (take your pick which one - there are plenty of them) to buy and distribute drugs. The benefit comes to any woman who eats this genetically modified corn.

Here is the article: Bt corn reduces serious birth defects, and here are some excerpts:

In the early 1990s, Hispanic women in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas gavebirth to babies with neural tube defects (NTDs) at a rate ... approximately six times the U.S. national average for non-Hispanic women. Neural tube defects include spina bifida, hydrocephalus,and anencephaly.

Fumonisin, a deadly mycotoxin found in unprocessed corn is the likely culprit according to research published inthe Journal of Nutrition (Marasas, April 2004). At the time that the Hispanic women of the Rio Grande valley suffered the high rate of NTDs intheir babies, the fumonisin level in corn in the Rio Grande Valley was twoto three times the normal level. These women also reported much higher dietary consumption of homemade tortillas prepared from unprocessed corn.

Researchers in Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United States have clearly established that planting corn seeds genetically engineered to be resistant to corn borers and similar insect pests results in the harvesting of corn with much lower levels of fumonisin. The insect protected corn varieties contain a protein that is found in a common soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis [Bt].

It is not unusual for Bt corn to have one-tenth to one-twentieth the amount of fumonisin that is found on organic and conventional corn varieties.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Corn With Enhanced Protein And Oil

AgBioTech scientists take another step in the fight against world hunger and malnutrition. In UC Riverside Researchers Develop Low-carb Corn With Enhanced Protein And Oil, Science Daily give us the details about recent research that improves the nutritional value of corn:

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside reported the development of technology that doubles the protein and oil content of corn while reducing its carbohydrate content, a boost for growers to feed both people and livestock.

Flowers in the corn ear develop in pairs but one from each pair aborts before pollination can occur. ... The research team introduced a gene that enabled production of cytokinin in developing flowers.

"Surprisingly, not only did we observe rescue of flower abortion but the kernels produced from pairs of flowers fused into a single normal-sized kernel." ... "The reduction in the size of the endosperm in the kernel, the tissue that contains most of the carbohydrate, means that the nutritional value of the grain has been improved considerably."

Spider Silks, The Ecological Materials Of Tomorrow?

In Science Daily's Spider Silks, The Ecological Materials Of Tomorrow? article we learn about some of the amazing possibilities - once we overcome the incredibly difficult tehnical problems of producing spider silk proteins and then weaving the micro-fibers:

Spider silk could allow manufacturers to improve wound-closure systems and plasters, and to produce artificial ligaments and tendons for durable surgical implants. The silk could also be woven into strong textiles to make parachutes, body armour, ropes and fishing nets.

Safer, fuzz-free strawberries

Growing enough nutrutious food to feed the world's growing billions is only half the battle. Keeping it from spoiling or carrying disease is another, just as important battle.

According to Science Daily in Fuzz-Free Strawberries Forecast With New Food Safety Treatment, scientists are investigating the use of chlorine dioxide gas to eliminate 99.999% of certain pathogens commonly found on strawberries:

Linton's study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Food Protection, compares two different chlorine dioxide treatments, called "batch processing" and "continuous processing." Both treatments provide greater than a 5-log, or 99.999 percent, reduction in the numbers of E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes on strawberry surfaces.

While current methods for removing pathogens on strawberries yield about a 2.5 log reduction in bacteria levels [between 99% and 99.9%], the Food and Drug Administration has stated produce treatments should achieve a 5-log reduction in pathogens [99.999%].

"The berries last a lot longer after this treatment-in fact, we've had strawberries in the refrigerator for more than six weeks with no mold growth," Linton said.

"If this process can give consumers even one or two more days before the strawberries they buy get fuzzy, that's huge. Think about it - how many strawberries do you have to throw away in a pint? If we could reduce that number, it would be a great advantage for consumers and the industry."

University Of Manchester Uses Crystals To Help Battle Deadly Diseases

Science Daily alerts us to a revolutionary advance in molecular imaging in University Of Manchester Uses Crystals To Help Battle Deadly Diseases.

A groundbreaking technique developed at The University of Manchester, which uses crystals to map 'invisible' parts of molecules, is set to revolutionise drug discovery.

The technique, which involves sending beams of neutrons through crystals at freezing temperatures, just a few degrees above 'absolute zero', will for the first time allow scientists to see complete structures of protein molecules, right down to the last atom.

The breakthrough allows the molecular structures of proteins, the chemical catalysts in the body, to be studied in complete detail. ...the number of visible atoms in a molecule doubled ... compared to techniques used today.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Fresno County backs biotech

The Fresno Bee reports in Fresno County backs biotech that the "county's board of supervisers ... approved a resolution supporting the use of biotechnology in agriculture."

Some excerpts:

"An open dialogue is critical, the use of science as a foundation for making decisions, not emotion," said Fred Swanson, superintendent of the University of California Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

"Much of what has gone on in the political scene has not been open, rational discussion."

Swanson pointed to decreased use of pesticides as a result of advances in biotechnology and said it also can help improve air quality by cutting down on the number of trips made across a field for cultivation.

Responding to a question from Supervisor Judy Case, Swanson said it can cut pesticide applications to cotton in half.

Supervisor Phil Larson, formerly president of the county farm bureau, said, "It can reduce by four or five trips the number of dust-making passages in a field."

Mainstream farm organizations such as the American Farm Bureau and California Farm Bureau federations are staunch backers of [biotechnology in agriculture].

The Prophets, False Prophets, and Profiteers of Kyoto

In The Prophets, False Prophets, and Profiteers of Kyoto, the intrepid Paul Driessen reveals the true motives behind the modern environmental movement: "Simply put, profits and power." Here are some excerpts:

Just the 12 largest environmental lobby groups in the U.S. had a combined budget of $2 billion in 2003. Collectively, the global environmental movement has a war chest of up to $8-billion a year.

Global warming is big business. The U.S. government ladled out $15 billion on global warming research and “education” between 1992 and 2000. The United Nations spent billions more, as did the European Union, and big foundations provided hundreds of millions more.

“To capture the public imagination,” global warming scientist-activist and former global cooling false prophet Stephen Schneider once said, “we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

Former Boston Globe editor Ross Gelbspan urged a Washington, DC audience in July 2000: “Not only do journalists not have a responsibility to report what skeptical scientists have to say about global warming. They have a responsibility not to report what these scientists say.”

“Environmentalists are quick to accuse their opponents in business of having vested interests,” The Economist has observed. “But their own incomes, their fame and their very existence can depend on supporting the most alarming versions of every environmental scare. Pressure groups, journalists, and fame seekers will no doubt continue to peddle ecological catastrophes at an undiminishing speed.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The New Witches

I am so outraged I don't know what to say. A so-called Christian organization in the UK has been at the fore-front of demonising genetically modified foods.

Using Marxist rhetoric to accuse corporations of "gaining increasing control over the global food supply", this arrogant, self-righteous group of well-fed food Pharisees proceed to set fire to the dry tinder of malnutrition and starvation at the feet of millions of destitute men, women and children in developing nations as they pontificate from their safe, malaria-free, well-stocked Western European country.

I am so furious and upset at this group of arrogant, supercilious elitists using religion to spread fear and misinformation in a transparent attempt to gain notoriety for their organization. Killing Peter to pay Paul, you might say.

I'm a Christian and this just infuriates me. Christianity has been associated with too many ignorant slaughters over the years (although far outdone by atheists Stalin, Mao, etc.) -- we don't need to be associated with the modern-day, anti-science witch hunts of the Western eco-radicals who have their food and drugs and abundant, inexpensive energy and want to deny the same to others who suffer and die by the millions around the world.

This is one of the most shameful things I have ever seen. I am appalled that the name of Christ, who loved and ministered to the sick and dieing when he walked the earth, would be associated with such a group of arrogant and ignorant witch-burners.

Death by Bureaucrat

I wonder how many Kenyans will die because the Bureaucrats decided to appease the international community of fearmongers and hand-wringers (well-fed, predominately white, western Eruopean and American fearmongers I might add).

'Triple stack' corn clear for '05

The amazing products of AgBioTech continue to roll out for the benefit farmers, consumers and the environment:

[Monsanto] received Japanese environmental approval late in November for YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready 2 corn. The product, which provides Roundup herbicide tolerance and resistance to both Western and Northern rootworm larvae and the European corn borer, is the industry’s first commercial triple-trait offering.

However, overly-stringent regulatory hurdles whose primary purpose is protectionism and appeasment, cost farmers, consumers and the environment as AgBioTech innovations are slowed and sometimes even prevented from ever coming to market:

The EU reviews multiple-trait products separately from single-trait “events.” And EU officials have indicated they plan to address single-trait products before reviewing “stacks.”

If all goes well, Schemmer said Monsanto’s triple stack corn could clear the EU approval process within two years.

GE Crops and Poverty Alleviation

GE Crops and Poverty Alleviation, by Al Rio and Peter Turner, urges Europe to "Take an urgent look at two recent World Bank reports on genetically engineered (GE) crops and food technologies in developing countries."

These reports concern the economic and health effects of genetically modified crops on developing countries. They inform us that the reports indicate that developing countries have much to gain and little to loose by adopting genetically engineered crops:

The welfare gains can be rather large, especially from golden rice (and "golden" wheat, so to speak): current estimates of better health and a bigger contribution to unskilled laborers' productivity are greater for nutritionally enhanced grain than for conventional, non-GE foods. And fortunately, even if the European Union keeps banning GE food imports, the gains do not vary much. But what's more revealing, if Sub-Saharan countries ban GE crop imports to prevent losing EU markets for their traditional non-GE produce, consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa would lose more than what a privileged market access would earn producers.

The article concludes:

Studies like these pile upon scientific reports showing the same or better safety for GE varieties than for conventional ones, and EU consumers would get better prices, and producing countries would get more exports and advance their development. Knowing all this, why are EU governments so protectionist? They are depriving the less well-off people of a way to better their lives, both in developing and developed countries.

Europe Promotes Tragedy in Uganda

In, Europe Promotes Tragedy in Uganda we learn how, once again, the food elitists of Europe are causing death and suffering in Africa.

Some important excerpts:

If Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback is correct, European scaremongering is delaying the re-introduction of DDT into Uganda. And this will have deadly consequences.

Ugandan farmers are being told that they could lose millions of dollars in fruits and vegetable exports into the European Union (EU) market when the Ugandan government imports DDT for the prevention of malaria.

Robert Karyeija, the principal health inspector in the Ugandan agriculture ministry, said the EU -- the largest importer of Uganda's agricultural products -- was considering suspending buying its produce for fear of DDT intoxication. In an interview with the New Vision newspaper last Thursday in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, he said:

"The European Retailers Produce working group for Good Agricultural Practice is considering suspending exportation of our agricultural products as soon as the government imports DDT."

For the thousands of Ugandan children whose lives could be saved, but who have no voice in this debate, it will be a tragedy. But just another tragedy on top of so many others perpetuated by European greens and the farm lobby.

The possibilities of biotechnology

In, The possibilities of biotechnology, C S PRAKASH shares some of the terrible and common scourages of Indian agriculatural products which biotechnology is attempting to address. The humanitarian relief possible by putting the technology to fight these pests in the plants themselves should make any self-professed environmentalist think seriously about opposing them. The suffering is real; the malnutrition is real; the threat to the environment and farmers due to heavy and often incorrect use of pesticides is real.

What is not real are the imaginary boogey-monsters of AgBioTech. They are not demons, but angels. Here are some excerpts:

Modern scientific approaches to improve agriculture can help revitalise farming in our state by enhancing crop productivity; cut down the use of chemical inputs on the farm; empower our crop plants to be more tolerant to stress such as drought and salinity; develop new value-added products; improve the nutritive value of food; enhance the profitability of farming; and thus overall, improve the quality of life for both farmers and consumers in this state. Biotechnology is clearly the most revolutionary tool to impact agricultural research since the discovery of genetics by Mendel.

Many of the important crops in Karnataka have diseases and pests that are taking away much of the harvest. Examples include: dieback disease of the pepper, leaf curl virus on tomato, blast of rice and ragi; bunchy top of banana and borers on avare.

Conventional plant breeding has little ammunition to deal with these problems in an expedient and effective manner. These problems can be significantly minimised in an ecologically-friendly manner with the development of genetically reprogrammed seeds designed to resist these disease attacks, while minimising or even eliminating costly and hazardous pesticide sprays.

One could extend the growing season of crops and minimise losses due to environmental factors. The shelf life of fruits and vegetables can be prolonged to minimise losses due to food spoilage, expand the market opportunities for farmers and also improve food quality.

There has been much human misery caused by hazardous substances in many of our food crops — such as the presence of toxins in sorghum, cyanide in tapioca, aflatoxins in groundnut and antimetabolites in chickpea, horsegram and sweet potato. Biotechnology has the capability to ‘silence’ these undesirable traits and thus improve the quality of these ‘humble’ food crops so critical to the nutrition of disadvantaged and resource-poor consumers.

Plant Biotechnology Has Gone Global: Research And Production Underway In 63 Countries

The incredible international growth in AgBioTech research is amazing. Some of the details of this exciting growth are detailed in Plant Biotechnology Has Gone Global: Research And Production Underway In 63 Countries. Here are a few excerpts:

Less than a decade after the first biotech crop was commercialized in 1996, biotech crops are now being grown in 18 countries, and research and development is being conducted in another 45, according to a study by a leading U.S. food and trade policy analyst. "The international adoption and diffusion of biotech crops has gone global and is poised to transform production and development around the world," said C. Ford Runge.

"Major expansions in biotech crop approvals and plantings are expected in Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa." While North America is the epicenter for plant biotechnology research, more than half of the 63 countries engaged in biotech research, development and production are developing countries.

China has emerged as a major center for biotech research. Its government has invested several hundred million dollars, ranking it second in the world in biotech research funding behind the United States. ... other regions also are investing heavily in biotech research to improve agricultural production and rural incomes: South Africa, which has already approved biotech varieties of corn, cotton and soybeans for planting, now ranks sixth in the world in the amount of acres planted with biotech varieties. The country is poised to lead the continent in development. India, where farmers grow and sell insect-resistant cotton, has at least 20 academic and research institutions involved in plant biotech research covering 16 crops. Many Indian scientists hope to usher in a second "Green Revolution."

In Praise of Pesticides

Dennis Avery is interviewed by the Times of India. Its a very interesting interview, as one might expect from an iconoclast such as Mr Avery. Some excerpts:

My estimate is that high-yield crops and confinement lifestyle have saved more than 16 million square miles of wildlife habitat.

We will need more than twice the farming resources in 2050 as we use today.

If we issue an organic farming mandate, there will be a 20 per cent decrease in yields, a 50 per cent loss due to global shortage of organic nitrogen fertiliser. You'll have to get rid of either two-thirds of the people or all the wildlife habitat.

[Ques] You seem to blame many of the problems on the environment movement.

[Ans] They said DDT caused cancer, studies have shown it doesn't. They say human emissions are raising temperatures, the temperature history of 200 years shows no impact from CO2. The environment movement has deliberately offered mis-information in some cases to stop the world on things they consider important.

We now realise the rich actually have smaller families, use better technology to protect the environment.

To sit in New York and offer solutions to problems you haven't even seen isn't just ignorance, it's arrogance.


Of Rice and Men

In Of Rice and Men, we learn how China is poised to take advantage of the promise of AgBioTech. And the promise (as well as the need) is great:

GM rice could add billions of dollars in annual revenue to the country's agricultural sector, reduce pollution as farmers begin to use fewer toxic pesticides and fertilizers, improve nutrition and produce higher yields to feed the country's huge population. China's influence would be felt throughout Asia as other countries jumped on the GM bandwagon.

they've come up with six strains as candidates for commercializing. One contains a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a soil bacteria that produces a natural pesticide. Another rice strain uses genes from legumes that confer resistance to pests like the pink stem borer, a common Asian moth that eats rice during its larval stage. A third variety produces a protein that fights bacterial blight, and geneticists are working on "green rice" that would require less fertilizer and resist drought.

Cutting the tonnage of pesticides sprayed on China's crops would save the lives of at least some of the hundreds of farmers who die each year of pesticide poisoning, particularly in the rice fields. "The farmers stand for hours in shin-deep water that is full of chemicals," Huazhong University professor Zhang Qifa says, adding that one Chinese farmer out of 30 is hospitalized at one time or another for poisoning. At the same time fertilizers—often simply human waste applied to the fields—are polluting groundwater and rivers.

By 2045, demographers predict that together India and China will be home to 3 billion people. At the same time the amount of cultivated land in China is shrinking due to urbanization and road building.

According to Mishra some 20,000 children go blind annually in Asia because of poor nutrition, primarily because they don't get enough vitamin A. Now, he says, researchers are working on creating vitamin A-enhanced rice that might help to cure much of the problem.

Hybrid, GMO rice strains may help raise yields-FAO

The world doesn't stand still. Hybrids that once increased yeilds are "running out of gas," so to speak. Pests change, become more virulent. Irrigated land becomes too salty for many crops after decades (or centuries) of irrigation. Drought hits a region causing crop failures. World population will continue to grow over the next century (slowing, however, and reaching a peak in the not-to-distant future).

We are reminded in Hybrid, GMO rice strains may help raise yields-FAO of why AgBioTech is so important. Here are some excerpts:

Rice growers should make better use of biotechnology and hybrid strains to reverse falling yields from a crop that feeds more than half the world, the United Nations food agency said on Wednesday.

Yields had dropped rapidly since 1990 after sharp growth in the 1970s and 1980s, and crops remained vulnerable to pests and disease, said Mahmoud Solh, director of plant protection and production at the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

"The battle against hunger and poverty does not end when bellies are full, but when they are nourished. We must also look to science and new technologies to confront the need for added value of this staple crop," he said.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

State of Fear

I am currently reading Michael Chrichton's State of Fear. (I just noticed - its number 2 on Amazon!) Its a page-turner -- I've wasted way to much time reading it when I should have been doing other things... I am thoroughly enjoying it. Somehow, in the midst of a techno-thriller, he manages to deftly sprinkly a plethora of myth-busting facts that should make any semi-open-minded global warming booster take a second look at the bandwagon they've boarded.

Thanks to Professor Emeritus Philip Stott at EnviroSpin Watch, for this link to 'Newsnight Review' - a discussion of the book from the BBC.

CNN: Michael Crichton, man of 'Fear'

John Stossel, ABC News: Michael Crichton Takes on Global Warming in Latest Work

Here is Michael Crichton's web site for State of Fear and finally, a blogger commenting on the book and quoting some of its reviews: Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" Takes on Global Warming Alarmists

Top Ten Dubious Achievements and Irresponsible Claims Made by Health and Environmental Scientists

Steve Milloy at his Junk Science web site recently posted his awards for the Top Ten Most Embarrassing Moments in Health and Environmental Science for 2004.

Mr Milloy says his list, "Spotlights individuals and organizations that -- through exaggerated claims, bad judgment, and/or hidden agendas -- have most egregiously undermined public confidence in the scientific community’s capacity to conduct sound and unbiased research."

Here are some of my favorites:

Anti-obesity crusaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who claimed in March that “obesity kills 400,000 Americans each year,” received a long-overdue black eye when researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics attacked the oft-quoted estimate as overblown by as much as 200 percent -- revealing just how the crusaders cooked the books.

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment alerted the public that polar bears may be on the verge of extinction due to global warming -- even though their own data show that the current Arctic warming trend is within the expected fluctuations of the Arctic’s natural cooling/warming cycle. Despite their claims, other scientific surveys indicate that polar bear populations have actually been increasing during the current warming trend!

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials who had halted use of chlorine disinfectant in the Washington, DC drinking water system -- due to unfounded cancer fears hyped by the Environmental Protection Agency -- replaced this proven germ-fighter with a more corrosive substitute that leached lead from the pipes and caused wide-spread public alarm as lead levels climbed above federal standards.

In early 2004, a panel of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine urged that the recommended daily allowance of sodium be drastically reduced by almost 40% and that the average American’s actual sodium consumption be slashed by more than 60% -- even though 10 major studies conducted since 1995 have all concluded that lower sodium diets don’t produce health benefits and may pose risks for some. Why the extreme recommendation? Political correctness run amok.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Poison on the Menu?

Ever asked someone if they think "chemicals" in our food are harmful and should be avoided? I have. When I asked her what "chemicals" she was concerned about I got the expected answer: man-made chemicals. In most people's minds the equation is simple: Nature = good; man-made = bad.

In ACSH's Holiday Menu we learn some surprising things about both man-made and natural "chemicals" - mainly that they are equally as likely to be rat carcinogens.

Here are some extracts from that article:

Human dietary intake of nature's pesticides is about 10,000 times higher than human intake of synthetic pesticides that are rodent carcinogens. In other words, consumers who choose to worry about eating chemicals shown to cause cancer in rodents (and ACSH does not recommend that you worry about this hypothetical risk) should understand that the human diet is full of naturally occurring rodent carcinogens.

Present scientific knowledge suggests that residues of synthetic rodent carcinogens in our diet are unlikely to pose a risk of cancer in the quantities we consume on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis.

We hear much about "carcinogens" in our food. But the media use the designation "carcinogen" most frequently in conjunction with man-made rodent carcinogens—substances such as Alar (a fruit-ripening chemical), saccharin (a synthetic, noncaloric sweetener), and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole, a synthetic antioxidant). Chemicals that are rodent carcinogens, or that are suspected of being such, abound in nature.

Many of these naturally occurring rodent carcinogens are natural pesticides—chemicals that plants produce to repel or kill predators. Of the approximately 10,000 such natural pesticides occurring in the diet, only about 60 have been tested in rodent experiments. These chemicals are found in a wide variety of our food plants: Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cherries, chili peppers, cocoa, garlic, grapes, kale, lentils, lettuce, and radishes.

The consumption of small doses of rodent carcinogens, whether of natural or synthetic origin, is quite unlikely to pose a cancer hazard to humans. When you understand that carcinogens and mutagens are everywhere in Mother Nature's own food supply, you can see the absurdity of panicking over tiny levels in the food supply of synthetic chemicals (such as pesticide residues) that are "carcinogens" when fed in large doses over a lifetime to rodents.

It would be unrealistic to attempt to remove from our food supply every known trace of every natural chemical that tests positive in a high-dose rodent test. Even human carcinogens may be neither toxic nor carcinogenic at very low doses. ... It is important to emphasize that with natural carcinogens, as with synthetic compounds, the "dose makes the poison."

Scientists are just scratching the surface in their quest to identify nature's own rodent carcinogens. It is already evident that we should reject the presumptions—one might almost call them superstitions—that the label "natural" means "safe and free of rodent carcinogens" and that "synthetic" substances are the only rodent carcinogens. No scientific evidence supports these beliefs.

Indeed, a recent review of rodent carcinogen studies demonstrated that of chemicals tested for their cancer-causing potential, 57% of the naturally occurring ones and 59% of the synthetic ones were evaluated as positive: virtually identical percentages!


Friday, December 10, 2004

Irradiation to rescue millions from rotten food

In Irradiation to rescue millions from rotten food, David Rothbard and Craig Rucker inform us of a little-known but highly effective and efficient method of preserving food -- food that currently rots instead of feeding the world's growing population, or carries dangerous diseases.

This technology could save many thousands -- even millions once it is in widespread use -- from hunger and horrible diseases, but irradiation facilities must be built and used. Irradiation should be applauded and rapidly utilized in both developed western nations and developing nations to help increase the food supply and ensure its safety.

Unfortunately the use of the term "radiation" concerns some people unnecessarily and many groups -- that should know better -- are circulating misinformation about irradiated foods.

In Irradiation to rescue millions from rotten food, Mr. Rothbard and Mr. Rucker give us the straight scoop on this promising, almost miraculous process and its benefits.

Here are some excerpts:

Despite freezing and the use of post-harvest chemicals, much of the world's food supply never makes it to market. In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of theUnited Nations, between one-quarter and one-third of all the food grown in the world is destroyed by spoilage and insect infestation. In some countries, particularly in tropical regions, the figure is closer to 50% or more. ... This has a devastating impact on the Third World where the challenge is not necessarily to grow enough food but rather to deliver it to hungry mouths before it rots.

While the severe effects of food spoilage are largely confined to developing countries, the illness and death resulting from food poisoning know no boundaries. Indeed, a 1983 joint commission of the FAO and World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that"illnesses due to contaminated food is perhaps the most widespread health problem in the contemporary world."

In the U.S. alone, 40% of the chicken sold to consumers is said to be contaminated by salmonella which infects an estimated two million Americans annually. In addition, estimates of human infection from campylobacter are over two million cases per year while trichinosis and toxoplasmosis, parasitic diseases that result from infested meat, also strike many Americans. All told, some five to ten thousand Americans die each and every year from food-borne illness.

The process can kill the insects and larvae found after harvest in grains and produce, can slow the ripening process of fruits and vegetables, can dramatically extend the refrigerated shelf life of fresh fish and meat, and can reduce or eliminate pathogens like salmonella in fresh or frozen poultry and shrimp. This is achieved by using a conveyor to bring food products past a gamma ray source, usually cobalt-60, that emits a controlled and carefully timed level of energy.

Food irradiation does not make food radioactive, does not produce chemical residues, and any loss in the nutritional value of irradiated foods is comparable to those foods packaged by the conventional methods of canning or freezing.

Food irradiation hasbeen studied for more than 40 years and has obtained the blessing of the world's scientific community. The FAO, WHO, International Atomic Energy Agency, and the American Medical Association have all concluded that irradiated foods are safe. In addition, the U.S.Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture have approved the use of food irradiation for many products.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Biotechnology a tool for the future

Gene Hugoson in Biotechnology a tool for the future reminds us a great humanitarian of whom most people are ignorant: Norman Bolaug, a man who, it has been said, probably saved over a billion people from starvation (yes, that's Billion with a "B").

Here are some excerpts from his Grand Forks Herald article:

In the 1960s, Borlaug was at the forefront of a movement that became known as the "Green Revolution." He led a team that developed a special breed of high-yielding wheat that resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases. To his great credit, Borlaug didn't stop there. Working side by side with local farmers, Borlaug showed farmers in India and Pakistan how to cultivate the crop properly. By doing so, he helped the drought-stricken countries avoid a famine that would have claimed thousands of lives.

More recently, Borlaug has been involved in sub-Saharan African programs bringing similar benefits to farmers in that region. In countries where he has worked, crop yields have doubled or tripled over what the traditional practices provided. While regional food shortages still occur today, they more often are because of social crises than production crises.

Borlaug is a staunch supporter of biotechnology, describing it as a tool that can help the world produce enough food to feed the still-growing population while also reducing the need for turning pristine wilderness lands into cropland.

"Today, anti-science and technology zealots are trying to retard and even stop the application of new science and technology ... that offer so much promise for the future," Borlaug said during an appearance last May at the University of Minnesota.

Like Borlaug, I consider biotechnology a tool that has immense potential for improving agriculture and protecting the environment in the 21st century. Properly implemented, biotechnology can help farmers around the world grow more nutritious crops more efficiently and with fewer inputs. It will allow us to increase production on existing cropland and thereby reduce the need for converting rain forests and untouched grasslands into cropland.

Ideas have consequences

Ideas have consequences, and when we believe false assertions about the world, someone, somewhere eventually suffers. Sometimes we suffer for our own fantasies, but usually it is the weakest and most vulnerable who suffer and die for the Utopian dreams of others.

Paul Driessen at his hard-hitting web site, Eco-Imperialism.com reveals the source of the litany of death and suffering brought down on mostly women and children in Africa: we, in the rich western countries, freed from the worst ravages of hunger and endemic diseases because of the technological advances we enjoyed, wanted to believe the myths championed by the so-called environmental movement in this country and epitomized in one woman: Rachel Carson. In Eco Myths Revealed, we get a concise summary of the myths and their result:

"Much of the anti-DDT hysteria generated by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring, and by assorted eco-activists, involved erroneous and even fraudulent scientific studies. In one, a researcher reported that mice fed DDT developed cancer – but withheld the fact that mice which were not fed DDT actually developed more cancers than did those fed DDT. The oft-cited claim that DDT caused eggshell thinning in birds resulted from lab studies in which the calcium level in the birds’ diets was only 22 percent of normal; when the calcium level was set at normal dietary levels, the same amount of DDT resulted in no thinning. In this case, the researcher corrected his own errors, but Science magazine refused to publish his new findings and its editor said he would never publish anything that was not antagonistic to DDT. The result? Millions of needless deaths every year from malaria and other infectious diseases."

I highly recommend the two articles linked to at Eco Myths Revealed: DDT: A case study in scientific fraud and Myths and facts about DDT.

(Thanks to Paul Driessen's Eco-Imperialism.com for the great content and a fantastic book).

The Malaria Clock: A Green Eco-Imperialist Legacy of Death

If you were surprised by my last post about DDT and malaria, then you have to visit Steve Milloy's Malaria Clock at his JunkScience.com web site.

At his Malaria Clock Steve Milloy says,

"Let's be unequivocal, spraying DDT inside dwellings presents no discernable human or environmental hazard. "Resistance" is not an issue since this mostly takes the form of avoidance and keeping mosquitoes away from human prey is the intended object anyway. DDT presents no patent issues to upset anti-globalists/anti-capitalists and, at pennies a pound, DDT is affordable and cost-effective health care for developing nations."

For more FAQs about DDT, I highly recommend Steve's 100 things you should know about DDT, and a great article at Tech Central Station by Roger Bate, The Worst Thing Nixon Ever Did.

Also valuable is the wonderful (and very inexpensive) Facts Versus Fears booklet published by the American Council on Science and Health. This is the third edition of this indispensible guide to understanding the greatest unfounded health scares of recent times. A pdf of the booklet is also available for free at their web site.

From the Facts Versus Fears booklet:

The ban on DDT was considered the first major victory for the environmentalist movement in the U.S. The effect of the ban in other nations was less salutary, however. In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) DDT spraying had reduced malaria cases from 2.8 million in 1948 to 17 in 1963. After spraying was stopped in 1964, malaria cases began to rise again and reached 2.5 million in 1969.

The same pattern was repeated in many other tropical —and usually impoverished—regions of the world. In Zanzibar the prevalence of malaria among the populace dropped from 70 percent in 1958 to 5 percent in 1964. By 1984 it was back up to between 50 and 60 percent. The chief malaria expert for the U.S. Agency for International Development said that malaria would have been 98 percent eradicated had DDT continued to be used.

Finally, to really understand the big picture, see Eco-Imperialism - Green Power. Black Death.

(Thanks to Steve Milloy's JunkScience.com web site for compiling the references to these invaluable resources).

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Open Letter to WHO on malaria control policies

In the letter, Open Letter to WHO on malaria control policies, a group of scientists argues that the World Health Organization (WHO) is prolonging the suffering of countries infested by the blight of malaria by opposing the use of insecticides in indoor residual spraying (IRS) programs, and specifically the most effective of those insecticides: DDT.

Here are some excerpts from this important petition to the WHO:

We are a group of scientists, doctors and researchers who are writing to you because of our deep concerns over the way in which WHO is conducting Roll Back Malaria (RBM) and other malaria control initiatives.

We feel that the WHO ignores the advice and research of many malaria control scientists and specialists from around the globe and supports malaria control initiatives based on political, and not scientific, criteria. We object to the stance that the WHO has taken against the use of insecticides in indoor residual spraying (IRS) programmes. More specifically, we object to WHO exerting political and financial pressure to force malaria endemic countries to reduce or not begin use of DDT for malaria control.

Malaria is the biggest killer of young children and the most significant health threat to pregnant women and newborns in the developing world. As malaria scientists, we are well aware of the appalling burden that malaria places on some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people, and we are concerned that the RBM programme increases that burden by deliberately undermining one of the most effective tools against malaria, indoor residual spraying (IRS).

From the late 1970s, through the 1980s and 1990s, malaria control strategies evolved primarily through political processes, not by consultation and deliberation with malaria control experts.

Experts have long known that IRS is one of the most effective ways of controlling malaria. IRS programmes eradicated malaria from Europe and the United States and were dramatically successful in many poor countries with endemic malaria, such as India, Sri Lanka1 and much of Southern Africa. The malaria eradication programme of the post war years showed that well coordinated and focussed IRS can reduce the burden of the disease.

IRS remains a vital malaria control tool in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. For instance, South Africa has successfully used IRS to keep malaria under control for more than 50 years. South Africa is not alone in sustaining a well-run IRS programme; Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana have all run IRS programmes that have successfully controlled the disease.

During the 1960s and 1970s, political opposition, mostly in advanced and malaria-free countries, began to rise to the use of insecticides (particularly DDT) in agriculture and in disease control. Although malaria experts such as us widely acknowledge DDT as vitally important in saving lives, political organizations have applied significant pressure on countries to reduce the use of DDT. The WHO has not been immune to such pressure. Indeed its practices and positions have strengthened this political, life threatening agenda.

Countries that chose not to decentralise their malaria control activities and chose to retain IRS for malaria control have not witnessed the rise in malaria cases experienced by those countries that complied with the WHO's resolution. In the early 1990s, Ecuador chose to increase its IRS programme with the use of DDT and greatly reduced the number of its malaria cases while the disease ravaged its neighbours. Mexico renewed its house spray programme after 1985 and successfully used DDT to reduce malaria rates.

IRS programmes in Swaziland since the 1960s have ensured an average of only 3,063 confirmed cases between 1981 and 2003, even though the Swaziland Department of Health estimates that around 350,000 people are at risk from the disease4. This vigilant and carefully controlled IRS programme uses DDT and other insecticides and has ensured that Plasmodium falciparum infections in Swaziland are very low. A baseline study of children between the ages of 2 and 15 conducted in December 1999 found 4% parasite prevalence in Mlumeni, 2% in Lomahasha and only 1% in Shewula. In neighbouring Mozambique, with no IRS at that time and in that area, the parasite prevalence for the equivalent age group at the same time ranged between 37% at Namacha and 90% at Catuane.

WHO's anti-IRS and anti-DDT political positions hamper malaria control efforts and ultimately cost lives. Clearly, the WHO failed to act upon the recommendation of the African delegates to the February 2000 meeting in Harare. The WHO has maintained its anti-DDT and anti-IRS stance, as further evidenced by the recent Africa Malaria Report. Furthermore it appears that the WHO has failed to create the necessary public private partnerships to create new much needed insecticides for IRS and has not adequately researched the health and economic implications of forcing African countries away from IRS.

We call on RBM to begin to support IRS programmes where in-country malaria control programmes see a need for them. This support requires the WHO to engage with IRS experts from around the globe to provide the necessary logistical and scientific support to those countries. In addition, the WHO should advise and encourage donors agencies, such as USAID, DFID and UN agencies such as UNICEF to fund IRS programmes and to provide the logistical support to run these programmes effectively.

SILK PURSE FROM A SOW’S EAR? SPIDER SILK PRODUCTION IN TOBACCO

We are just beginning to glimpse the exciting and wonderous future our children and our grandchildren will enjoy, the amazing properties of everyday items that they will take for granted -- products of the incredible AgBioTech revolution that is just now getting under way.

In SILK PURSE FROM A SOW’S EAR? SPIDER SILK PRODUCTION IN TOBACCO, Jim Brandle & Rima Menassa explain how, through the miracle of AgBioTech, tobacco plants are being used to manufacture spider's silk - the strongest fibre by weight known to man.

Some Excerpts:

Dragline spider silk is nature’s strongest known fiber and, since it compares well with many synthetic fibers, it has great potential for use in a wide array of industrial and medical applications that range from surgical sutures to bulletproof vests. ... Composed of two different proteins, dragline silk is located inside spiders’ silk glands in a liquid crystalline solution known as "spinning dope."

It has not been possible to make fabrics from spider silk simply because spiders can’t be "farmed" and there is no other concentrated source for spinning. So if we want to make such fabrics, we need to duplicate spider silk in some other system. Development of machinery to do the spinning can be accomplished through engineering. The production of recombinant dragline silk proteins in transgenic plants, in a process known as "molecular farming," can provide the spinning dope. In fact, the two components of spinning dope have been produced in a collaboration between Agriculture and AgriFood Canada and Nexia Biotechnologies.

For the production of spider silk, tobacco was chosen as the production platform precisely because it is clearly non-food. It is a non-native species in many countries, does not persist in Northern climates, and produces large amounts of biomass4. Riskier production elements like seed multiplication, because tobacco is a prolific seed producer, can easily be conducted in greenhouses. Features like male-sterility2 and visual distinguishability have been added to further enhance biosafety.

By bringing together a good product concept that needs plants for large scale production with a biosafe platform, spider silk fabrics and many other recombinant protein products that improve human health and quality of life will become a reality.

The Supermarket's Unnatural Selections

The prolific Henry Miller reminds us in his TCS article, The Supermarket's Unnatural Selections, of some important facts that must be repeated and emphasised over and over again because of the hysterical hyperbole of the anti-science misanthropes.

Here are a few excerpts:

"When we eat wheat, we consume varieties mutated by nuclear radiation. It is not known what happened with the genomes, but we have been eating this wheat for decades, without any type of problem. Today, with more extensive knowledge and new applications of the technologies resulting from [gene-splicing], we are faced with a new system where control is greater, more precise, and less risky than that of the old systems." Professor Ammann might have added that gene-splicing makes it possible actually to remove dangerous allergens from wheat (and also from peanuts, milk and other commonly allergenic foods), which would benefit millions of consumers.

But as the world's population grows and water shortages become increasingly vexing, gene-splicing's greatest boon to both food security and the environment may prove to be the enhancement of new crop varieties' ability to tolerate periods of drought and other water-related stresses. These varieties are able to grow with smaller amounts or lower quality water, such as water that has been recycled or that contains large amounts of natural mineral salts.

There are thorns on the rose, however. Unscientific, overly burdensome regulation in most countries and by agencies of the United Nations has raised the cost of research and development to levels that "exclude the public sector, the academic community, from using their skills to improve crops," according to Dr. Roger Beachy, the director of the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.

This systematically flawed public policy adds millions of dollars to the development costs of each new gene-spliced crop variety.

Excessive regulation and activists' endless repetition of The Big Lie -- that the new biotechnology is unproven, untested and unregulated -- collectively constitute one of the most costly and tragic hoaxes of the last century.

Science makes exciting ag advances, but 'natural' naysayers stand in way

Robert B. Goldberg has a great op-ed piece at the LA Daily News, Science makes exciting ag advances, but 'natural' naysayers stand in way, that very succintly summarizes the issues for AgBioTech and what those in opposition to it really represent: anti-rationality and anti-science.

Here are some excerpts:

During the next 50 years, we will need to produce more food than in the entire history of mankind. And we will need to do this on a rapidly shrinking amount of land that is suitable for agriculture.

Sadly, just as new opportunities and advances in agriculture are within our reach, an ideological battle is raging that is slowing to a snail's pace the transfer of exciting laboratory discoveries to reality in the field.

The anti-science forces of darkness have proclaimed that the same genetic engineering technologies that have given us miracle drugs that can treat cancer, diabetes and heart disease should not be used to produce new crop varieties that require small amounts of water, are resistant to pests, require no pesticides and yield significantly more food than conventional varieties.

Why? Because they are not "natural," claim the naysayers.

Yet agriculture has never been natural. The vast majority of food in a grocery store has been produced on land cleared of trees, fortified with nutrients either in the form of manure or fertilizers, and irrigated with water that is piped to the fields. This has been going on since agriculture was invented by our ancestors 10,000 years ago and is the result of a simple biological fact - plants need land, light, water and food in order to grow. Most crops that we use as food have been bred for thousands of years not to grow in the wild, but in the artificial environment that we call a farm.

In a future of rising populations and shrinking natural resources, turning our backs on modern science's potential would be a major tragedy for us and our children.

400,000 Big Fat Reasons for Skepticism

In 400,000 Big Fat Reasons for Skepticism, Radley Balko fills in the details about the latest junk science mis-information campaign -- the "obesity epidemic" -- this time aided and abetted by the CDC (and a herd of uncritical, sympathetic media).

Some Excerpts:

The Centers for Disease Control announced last week that the often-mentioned figure of 400,000 Americans dying each year due to overweight or obesity is based on a study that's plagued by methodological errors. The CDC estimates that the number may be off by 20%, but longtime critics of the figure (who until last week were largely ignored by the media) say it may actually be closer to four times the number of early deaths attributable to obesity.

In the New York Times ... the University of Chicago's Dr. Eric Oliver pointed out that there are only 2 million deaths each year in the United States, total. Since obesity has little effect on the mortality rates of people over 65, and 70% of annual deaths are among people over 65, in order for the 400,000 figure to be correct virtually every single death among people under 65 would have to have been caused by obesity.

Every person in the study's data who was obese and died early was assumed to have died because of obesity. There are thousands of things that could cause an obese person to die early -- getting hit by a car or succumbing to cancer -- that aren't related to weight at all.

Despite our expanding waistlines and the devastation that's supposed to mean for our well-being, we've actually never been healthier. Heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease are all down dramatically in the last 20 years. Mortality rates in nine of the ten types of cancer most associated with obesity have all dropped in the last 15 years. Overall cancer rates and deaths from cancer have dropped every year for the last ten years. We're living longer, too.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Eat Up! Why Genetically Modified "Frankenfood" Is Gaining Ground

From Barron's (courtesy of AgBioWorld), Eat Up! Why Genetically Modified "Frankenfood" Is Gaining Ground nicely summarizes the benefits and necessity of AgBioTech and the junk science behind the hysterics of its detractors.

Some Excerpts:

The promise of 21st-century agriculture, a high-tech future in which bioengineered plants may indeed be very friendly to the environment and to man: They should require fewer herbicides and pesticides, and allow for huge reductions in water irrigation. At the same time, these new plants can be nutritionally enhanced with extra proteins and vitamins to help combat malnutrition worldwide.

And that's just over the next few years. Within the next decade or two, we might reap the benefits of cheap, farm-grown pharmaceuticals; lawns that need to be cut only twice a year; flowers with different scents and new colors; nonaddictive and zero-nicotine tobacco; quick-growing trees that produce cheap, high-quality paper; and vegetables that are bigger, taste better and are more healthful.

If some researchers hit pay dirt, we may also in time benefit from crops that gather and remove air and soil pollutants -- or see farms that "grow" plastics and petroleum.

To a large degree, the effort to stigmatize genetically modified foods has become a social movement aimed at protecting us from vague, unproven and still theoretical dangers. ... Activist groups insist that there is something utterly unnatural and wrong about moving a gene from one plant to another, let alone from an animal to a plant.

Greenpeace and other groups opposed to genetic modification persuaded the government of Zambia to reject 20,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid for famine relief on the grounds that the U.S.-grown, genetically modified crops were dangerous. The Lusaka government also worried that seeds of the modified corn might be planted and spread to contaminate the country's existing crop plantings.


Heinz and the Gerber unit of Novartis both say they don't accept genetically modified products for their baby foods, while Procter & Gamble's Iams pet-food unit bans them from its kibble and General Mills says its cereals are free of modified foods. PepsiCo's Frito Lay, Britain's Marks & Spencer and Japan's Kirin Brewery all prohibit genetically modified products. Both McDonald's and Burger King announced in 2000 that they would not buy modified potatoes for their fryers. Tellingly, neither hamburger chain says much about the genetically modified corn inevitably consumed by the livestock used for their beef: Almost all corn used in animal feed in the U.S. is genetically modified to resist insects. These companies are all playing to the gallery.

"The anti-[genetic modification] furor is a monumental hoax," says Henry Miller of Stanford University's Hoover Institution and once the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology. "The new biotechnology is no more than an improvement over what has been done for millennia. We have been moving genes across species for 40 years and all evidence suggests the risks are low. Claims that genetic modification is untested, underregulated and dangerous has become a big lie of current technophobia."

All of today's potatoes, tomatoes, corn, oats and rice are hybrids. ... Red grapefruits, black currants, pumpkins, pea pods that remain closed and watermelons are all man-designed and man-created, as are all "seedless" grapes and other fruits.

The difference is that the old methods were hit-and-miss, with a dismal success rate. In labs, rather than planting fields, we can now do it better.


[Monsanto's] corn seeds have been engineered to contain a gene that produces a protein that kills the corn borer and the corn-rootworm larvae, the latter a pest that the Department of Agriculture has nicknamed the "billion-dollar bug" because of its estimated impact on U.S. farming revenues. The company's soybean and canola seeds are modified to be more herbicide-resistant, while its cotton plants can fight off bollworm infestations, boosting annual yields by 80%.

The company has experimented with other crops, too, including a potato resistant to the Colorado beetle; a golf-course grass that would require fewer herbicides and waterings; and genetically superior wheat, also herbicide resistant.

Other companies in the field, such as Syngenta ... are working on everything from tomatoes that could help fight prostate cancer to rice modified to contain a daffodil gene that increases levels of vitamin A; according to the World Health Organization, 500,000 children a year now go blind annually because of vitamin-A deficiency.

Researchers in India ... have developed a potato that contains half again as much protein as normal, while a Belgian scientist has created a banana that's resistant to a deadly airborne fungus called Black Sigatoka, which wiped out this basic crop in Uganda in 2002. And a Japanese company has inserted a carrot gene into eucalyptuses so they can flourish in acid soil.

The world today produces twice as much grain as it did in 1960, on only a third more land, yet the harvest still falls short of demand, and an estimated 840 million people, or 13% of the world population, are still chronically malnourished, most of them in developing nations.

That's why the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization says genetically modified plants are essential to the future of the planet. In one of the most sweeping endorsements ever of the new technologies, the organization issued a report last spring calling for more support of genetically modified plants, particularly for drought-resistant strains to offset threatened water shortages.

Biotechnology's Benefits for Bodiversity

In Biotechnology's Benefits for Bodiversity, we are reminded of the environmental benefits of the products of AgBioTech. If only the so-called "environmentalists" could see past their technophobia they might discover the blantly obvious: AgBioTech is good for the environment!

Here are some excerpts:

Although critics of Genetically Engineered Food (GE food) claim that the products of biotechnology threaten biodiversity, almost 10 years of commercial growing experience says something different. It is becoming very clear that growing GE crops helps reduce the impact of agriculture around the world.

Around the world ... Bt crops have allowed farmers to reduce the amount of organophosphate insecticide sprayed by close to a hundred-million pounds each year. Today only the target pest is killed in the fields containing Bt crops and all other insects are unaffected. This means that the insect biodiversity is not threatened in the same fields where crop yields remain high.

Growing Bt potatoes resulted in dramatic reductions of insecticide use but, unfortunately, the main buyers of potatoes in North America (McCain Foods and McDonald's) have stopped buying these environmentally friendly potatoes so the farmers have returned to growing traditional varieties and spraying them with traditional insecticides.

Each year Bt crops have allowed farmers to produce good yields without spraying hundreds of millions of pounds of insecticide. Herbicide tolerant crops maintain high yields with reduced tillage or no-till practices thereby saving huge amounts of topsoil and protecting waterways from run-off. Bacterial and viral resistant crops also maintain yield without the need for insecticide spraying. The future will see drought resistant, salt and aluminum tolerant and fungal resistant crops added to the varieties of wbiotechnology products that will help preserve arable farmland.

There are three certainties: the population will continue to rise for decades to come, people will be fed, and all agriculture has some impact. If we want to save biodiversity, we must save the remaining wilderness.

Without a doubt the largest threat to biodiversity is converting wilderness to farmland. Agricultural biotechnology has shown that it can reduce the impact on the environment while maintaining or increasing yields. Therefore its incorporation into world agriculture will help protect biodiversity.