Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Unintended consequences

Talk about your unintended consequences! According to HealthFactsAndFears.com (Hat tip: JunkScience.com), CAFE standards set by the Federal government to reduce our dependence on foreign supplies of oil resulted in thousands of unintentional deaths:

A study sponsored by USA Today determined that since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law took effect in 1978, approximately 46,000 people died in crashes they would have survived if they had been in larger, heavier vehicles.

Or what about this "oops!" Well-fed, healthy American and Euro environmentalists worry about non-existent cancer risks from the use of DDT, which is used to control the mosquitoes that carry malaria. As a result -- duh! -- millions of unintentional deaths from malaria:
Every year, up to 300 million Africans get malaria; up to 2 million die. Millions more perish from typhus, tuberculosis, dysentery, alnutrition, AIDS and other serial killers they would likely survive if they didn’t also have malaria.

Were the United States hammered by malaria to the degree sub-Saharan Africa is, over 100,000,000 Americans would be infected every year and 500,000 would die – half of them children. Agonizing cycles of 104-degree fevers, body-shaking chills, convulsions, diarrhea and vomiting would leave many unable to work, for weeks or months on end, others with permanent brain damage.
This mother put it well:

“I lost my son, two sisters and two nephews to malaria,” says Uganda’s Fiona Kobusingye. “Don’t tell me a little DDT in our bodies is worse than losing more children to this disease. African mothers would be overjoyed if that were their biggest worry.”

Environmentalists are fond of pointing out the "unintended consequences" of human tampering with the ecosystem. But what about the unintended consequences of appearing to be environmentally righteous, but actually killing thousands or millions of people?

But was it really unintentional when there were plenty of smart, qualified people who could have (and in many cases, did) tell us what would happen if we implemented these morbid agendas? What should we think of those groups who demonized the voices of reason, calling them names (like corporate stooges and worse) and calling their motives into question.

What should we think of media who propagate every hyped-up press release by environmental groups and seldom put the subdued words of concern and reason in a favorable light, always attributing them to an "industry spokesperson," tainting their words by subtle -- and not so subtle -- rhetorical devices.

I know what I think of such groups. What do you think?

Monday, February 21, 2005

BioTech Basics

Bone up on AgBioTech Basics!

AgBioTech Basics 1
In order to genetically modify an organism, the desired DNA sequence has to be inserted into its native genetic material. But this is not as easy as it sounds: the foreign genetic material has to pass through the cell membrane, the nucleus, and be incorporated into the cell's DNA.

To achieve this, scientists have developed a number of techniques. One technique makes use of extremely fine particles of gold or tungsten coated with the desired DNA sequences. These can be shot into the cytoplasm or nucleus of a cell (biolistics or microprojectile bombardment).

For more information on the techniques underlying genetic engineering have a look at
"How Do You Make A Transgenic Plant?" on the Transgenic Crops website of Colorado State University. The National Centre for Biotechnology Education of the University of Reading, the John Innes Centre and Bioscope have more information on plant biotechnology, and you will find a good set of links to educational sites at the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
AgBioTech Basics 2
What has come to be called "biotechnology" and the genetic enhancement of agricultural products may be one of the oldest human activities. For thousands of years, from the time human communities began to settle in one place, cultivate crops and farm the land, humans have manipulated the genetic nature of the crops and animals they raise. Crops have been bred to improve yields, enhance taste and extend the growing season.
Pockets of Knowledge

The techniques used in modern plant biotechnology provide plant breeders with precise tools that permit them to introduce desirable characteristics into a plant. Further, they do so without having unwanted or extra traits that occur with traditional plant breeding.

“Traditional cross (plant) breeding requires the mixing of thousands of genes between two plants in the hope of getting the desired trait. With modern biotechnology, you can choose the specific characteristic you want and add that single feature to a seed. The difference between these two techniques is dramatic. ... Plant biotechnology allows you to choose and move the single characteristic you want - it’s streamlined, efficient, and produces superior results.”

– American Dietetic Association
Biotechnology Resource Kit, 2000

Friday, February 18, 2005

The (first!) letter bag

My first letter! How cool! My bunny ears are just twitching with joy and my fur is positively erubescent!

Dr. C. S. Prakash, Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics and Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, writes:

I read your piece and it makes a terrific point. Kudos!

I agree with you totally. Risk of any product is dependent on the nature of the product and how it is used and not on how it was produced. We have many situations in crop varieties like you have described.

Recently a company released herbicide wheat variety developed through mutation and did not have to go through any regulation, and was never subject to any opposition or attack by activists or the media.

Yet, the same type of result using biotechnology (which is far more precise and also we would know more about the risk of this) would be subject to so much regulation.

Good job.


Wow! Thanks, Doc!

Dr. Prakash is referring to my previous post about an initiative that has qualified for the ballot in Sonoma county, California, in which I stated:

It bears repeating: this is a ban on HOW not WHAT. Genetically identical plants, but one was produced with unsanctioned, unnatural technologies and the other was the result of a fortunate mutation. And only one can legally be grown.

This is not science. It is superstitious fearmongering fueled by misinformation and rhetoric from True Believers -- from the sanctimonious eco-zealot to the merely misinformed groupie to the intellectually indolent Bohemian. At another level it is even worse, for it is also opportunistic political intimidation by "green" business interests and so-called watch-dog groups (who's watching the watch-dogs, btw?). Such organizations eagerly take advantage of the ignorance and fanaticism of the True Believers and the timorous public to further their own economic power structures at the expense of the general public -- that would be you and me.

Thanks again for the kind words, Doc. I really appreciate all you're doing to inform the public about the latest advances in AgBioTech. Much of what I've learned about this subject has come from the informative articles at your web site, AgBioWorld.org. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

GMOs help clean up environment!

Genetically engineered crops are good for the environment because less pesticide and herbicide is needed. But other genetically engineered plants can actually help clean up toxic chemicals.

Transgenic mustard sucks up selenium (Hat tip: JunkScience.com):

{Genetically modified Indian mustard plants have successfully cleaned up excessive selenium in a California field.

This is the first field trial for a pollution-busting transgenic plant, and it proves that the technology can work outside the laboratory, say the researchers who carried out the test.}

{They found that the transgenic plants could accumulate up to 4.3 times as much selenium as conventional, wild-type Indian mustard.}

More irradiation

If you have more questions about food irradiation, I recommend the Center For Consumer Research.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The arguments against irradiation

In "Irradiated foods can curb E. coli" (from The Calgary Herald via FSNET), the Bunny learned some important facts about irradiation and why it should be used more widely:

{When ground beef is irradiated, at least 99.99 per cent of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli) and many other harmful food-borne bacteria are killed. The principle of food irradiation is similar to that of milk pasteurization. Like milk pasteurization, the current use of irradiation kills harmful bacteria, but leaves important bacteria that help people know when the product has spoiled.}

{Each year in the United States, food-borne illness occurs in an estimated 76 million people. Of those, 325,000 will require hospitalization and 5,000 will die.}

Sounds like a good thing. Wonder why we're not doing more of it? Here's why:

{The arguments against irradiation today are similar to arguments waged decades ago against milk pasteurization. Pasteurization opponents said it wouldn't prevent disease, the taste was unpalatable, and it was an excuse for farmers to run a dirty operation.

None of these doomsday predictions turned out to be true. Today, most people would not consider drinking unpasteurized (raw) milk because of the known risks. Those same risks exist with non-irradiated ground beef.

Irradiation is not a substitute for good personal and kitchen hygiene, nor is it a substitute for safe and sanitary food processing and manufacturing.}

Wouldn't think of drinking unpasturized milk on a regular basis? Then why eat "unpasturized" (non-irradiated) meat?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Paul Driessen and Cyril Boynes, Jr show us What thoughtless activists want to do with biotechnology (Hat Tip AgBioView):

{“We eat cassava for breakfast and mash it with potatoes and bananas. But the mosaic virus attacks the plants, the leaves fall off, and it’s no good for eating,” Kenya’s Samuel Njeru laments. “We can’t afford to spray. We need a variety that is resistant to the virus.”}

{A genetically engineered (GE) cassava plant is now being tested in Kenya. It is absolutely resistant to the mosaic virus and, once approved, will be provided free to farmers. Mr. Njeru anxiously awaits that day, so that he can “complete my children’s education and build a new house and maybe a better shed for my cattle.”}

{But now Africa faces a new threat every bit as ominous as the droughts, viruses and locusts that have plagued it for centuries: hordes of activists and regulators bent on keeping this technology out of Africa (and away from farmers everywhere).

Their brilliant, well-orchestrated campaign is financed to the tune of some $70 million a year by foundations, organic food interests, EU governments, and even UN agencies and programs. It employs moratoriums and threats against agricultural imports from countries that grow biotech crops, complex and expensive requirements for labeling all GE ingredients and tracking them from seed to store shelf, even outright lies about the safety of biotechnology.}

Not much to add here.

Please read the whole article. You will not believe it.

Like Paul Driessen says: Green Power, Black Death.
Steve Milloy teaches some important Junk Science Judo techniques. This is a great mini-course to help you recognize when someone's trying to sell you junk science snake oil. Highly recommended. And the book is even better (yes, I have it and yes, I've read it -- its very good).

Some of my favorite facts from the course:

1. Statistics Aren't Science

2. Epidemiology is Statistics

3. Ignore Relative Risks Between 0.50 and 2.0 (or decreases in relative risk from 0.5 - 1.0)

4. Mice Aren't People, Exposure Isn't Toxicity

Sunday, February 13, 2005

AgBioTech and Africa's green revolution

C S Prakash reminds us that "Genetically modified crops are good for Africa" (Hat Tip: Junk Science).

AgBioTech has already benefited farmers around the world and the environment. Increased yeilds and decreased use of pesticides to produce more food is a benefit for the farmer, for the consumer and the environment. But the greatest benefit is to the most destitute of humanity: relief from hunger and life itself.

Dr Prakash, president of the AgBioWorld Foundation and a professor of plant biotechnology at Tuskegee University in Alabama informs us of the urgency of this issue for sub-saharan Africa: "The rate of malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa is among the worst in the world and is expected to reach catastrophic proportions unless food production and access is enhanced dramatically within the next decade."

Anti-GMO organizations argue that genetically engineered crops are unnecessary to fight hunger and malnutrition. This may or may not be true -- they really can't know if this is possible and anyone who makes this claim is just guessing and hoping. But even if it is possible to achieve the necessary gains in productivity with "traditional" breeding techniques (which include inducing massive mutations in seeds via radiation or mutagenic chemicals), such techniques are not fast enough. As Dr Prakash reminds us, we need to produce this food now or millions more will face malnutrition and even starvation.

But what exactly needs to be accomplished? We know the hungry need more food, but, as they say, the devil is in the details. Africa relies on unique staples each of which has specific issues that must be addressed individually, crop by crop. Dr Prakash provides us with some important details:

{African cassava farmers typically lose 60 per cent of their crop to mosaic virus. Sweet potato yields in many African nations are dangerously low — in some cases losing up to 80 per cent of expected yields due to the sweet potato weevil and also the feathery mottle virus (SPFMV). And the European corn borer likewise destroys approximately seven per cent, or 40 million tons, of the world’s corn crop every year - equivalent to the annual food supply, in calories, for 60 million people. Banana and plantains are seriously threatened with a fungal ‘Sigatoka’ disease.

Biotechnology is working to solve these problems by producing plants that resist these pests and diseases. Biotech corn, which is already widely used now in South Africa, produces its own protection against the corn borer. Research is under way on sweet potatoes that produce their own protection against SPFMV, as well as beans, cassava and other staple foods with enhanced natural tolerance to diseases, pests, and physical stresses.}

As I wrote in a previous post, "One of the many things the eco-imperialists get wrong is that nature is not a garden of Eden. It is unpredictably dangerous, not sweet and cuddly. And it constantly theatens us with new dangers every day. New diseases surface that we have to fight with new vaccines and medications; bacteria develop immunity to our drugs; insects develop immunity to our pesticides; weeds develop immunity to our herbicides. It is a constant battle and those who suffer the most when we do not fight these battles with everything we have are always the most vulnerable: women and children."

However, even if enough food can be grown to keep body and soul together, if it does not provide enough of the proper nutrients many who rely on it for their daily sustenence will eventually suffer from malnutrion-related diseases. So another goal of AgBioTech research is to develop varieties that provide more of the nutrients our bodies need:

{... Researchers have been working to develop varieties of cassava that more efficiently absorb trace metals and micronutrients from the soil and have enhanced starch quality and contain more beta-carotene and other beneficial vitamins and minerals. “Golden rice” that contains increased amounts of iron and beta carotene (a precursor of Vitamin A) could be on the world market within a few years. This new rice could help more than 100 million children worldwide who suffer from vitamin A deficiency, the developing world’s leading cause of blindness, as well as some 400 million women of childbearing age who are iron-deficient. Iron deficiency places a newborn baby’s at risk of physical and mental retardation, premature birth and death.}

Most of us in the developed countries of the world aren't farmers, and none of us have faced starvation. We're well-fed and free from the worries and struggles inherent in the activity of producing food from the earth. Details like those provided by Dr Prakash are essential if we are to understand the specific issues faced by the local farmers who actually produce the food their nation needs, and the very real and immediate needs of those who can benefit the most from AgBioTech. Thus equipped, we are better able to understand why modern genetic engineering techniques are so indispensable in the fight to meet those needs in a safe and timely fashion.

Finally, Dr Prakash quotes Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug, the father of the first green revolution, who reminds us, "People talk about the potential of the sub-Sahara region of Africa. Yes, the potential is there. But you can’t eat potential."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

De ja vue

This is a fantastic article (Hat Tip: Roger L Simon, author of the Moses Wine mystery novels). It is similar to one written by the Diplomad some time ago which I referenced in a previous post.

{Those whom the fall of the Berlin Wall had left orphans of a cause, spent the next decade plotting the containment of the US. It was a complex operation that involved the (in many cases state-sponsored) mushrooming of NGOs, Kyoto, the creation of the ICC, ..., etc. I’m not as conspiratorially-minded as to think that all these efforts were in any way centralized or that they had some kind of master-plan behind them. ...}

{And so, spontaneously up to a point, anti-Americanism became the alternative ideology that came to fill in the vacuum left by the failure of traditional, USSR-based communism and its Maoist or Trotskyite satellites. Before 1989, the global left had something to fight for: either the strengthening of the communist states or the correction of what they called their bureaucratic distortions. To fight for something is simultaneously to fight against whatever threatens it, and thus, the leftists were anti-Western and anti-Americans too, anti-capitalistic in short.

Now, whatever they wanted to defend or protect doesn’t exist anymore. They have only things to destroy, and all those things are personified in the US, in its very existence. They may, outwardly, fight for some positive cause: save the whales, rescue the world from global heating and so on. But let’s not be deceived by this: they choose as their so-called positive causes only the ones that have both the potential of conferring some kind of innocent legitimacy on themselves and, much more important, that of doing most harm to their enemy, whether physically or to its image.}

Every once in a while we have to step back from battle to see the larger strategy. The minions who follow mindlessly the anti-biotech, anti-corporate, anti-globalization, animal rights, anti-energy, anti-pesticide eco-terrorists may not understand the bigger picture. And no, its not a coordinated conspiracy. But there is a larger moral goal of all these groups: to oppose the "evil hegemony of Imperial America."

Let me repeat: everyone who gives to Greenpeace is not an underground Marxist. But many who work full or even part-time for Greenpeace, WWF, etc., believe with all their hearts that they are so much more deserving because of their eco-convictions and righteous lives that they should be able to tell the rest of us how to live: what we can grow and eat, where we can live, how many children we can have, what we can teach them...

They really do think -- and act -- that way, out of a moral self-righteousness driven by an indignation at that most mortal sin of the West: the sin of capitalism.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The eco-pharisees are here

The eco-pharisees (religious eco-zealots who are better than the rest of us eco-sinners because they care about cute furry animals more than everyone else) are coming to a town near you to blow up your new home if you dare to build it where they think you shouldn't:

{Arsonists claiming to be from the Earth Liberation Front ignited seven firebombs at a 110-unit, partially completed apartment complex in Amador County. The Sutter Creek blaze marked the third time such devices had been found at construction sites in the region's foothills in less than two months.

The vandals said they were connected to ELF in the other two incidents as well. ELF is thought to be a collection of individuals who espouse anarchist philosophies and oppose development they believe hurts the environment.}

Oh, and get this -- guess who the owner of the Sutter Creek apartment complex is?

Monsanto, maybe? No.

An evil Fortune 500 international corporation, perhaps? (I know -- that was doubly redundant wasn't it?) No.

Its the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians! So much for multi-culturalism.

Native Americans are fine -- just so long as they don't try to build homes where ELF/ALF thinks they shouldn't...?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Genetically Engineered Flakes

I guess the eco-nannies (those who know better than the rest of us what food is good for us and what isn't) up in wine country haven't read this:

{There are at least 42 publications extractable from the PubMed database that describe research reports of feeding studies of GM feed or food products derived from GM crops. The overwhelming majority of publications report that GM feed and food produced no significant differences in the test animals. The two studies reporting negative results were published in 1998 and 1999 and no confirmation of these effects have since been published. Many studies have been published since 2002 and all have reported no negative impact of feeding GM feed to the test species.}

Oh, I take that back, they probably have heard of it -- but never bothered to read it. Why should they bother? They know its just propaganda eminating from that evil Corporation, Monsanto, a.k.a, the Dark Storm Troopers seeking to control the world through genetically engineered corn flakes.

The author, Dr. Christopher Preston, probably worked for the second cousin of Hugh Grant's hair stylist's boyfriend's neighbor twenty years ago. So of course he's an evil minion of the Dark Lord.

Speaking of flakes...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Tale of How not What

It was just a matter of time. With two nearby counties in California having enacted bans on genetically engineered organisms (see the text of Mendocino county's infamous Measure H here and Marin county's Measure B here), it was only a matter of time before the controversy came to wine country:

{The measure, which would impose a 10-year moratorium on raising genetically engineered crops and livestock, is now eligible for the Sonoma County ballot.}

{Without biotechnology, Sonoma County's world famous wine industry could be disadvantaged, said Henry Miller, a Hoover Institution fellow and past director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's office of biotechnology.

"A ban could remove important technological tools for combating significant economic problems such as Pierce's disease," said Miller, author of the "The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution."}

{Activists claim the value of biotech crops is outweighed by unknown health and environmental effects, a message they expect will resonate in Sonoma County as in neighboring counties.}

If you read the text of the Mendocino and Marin Measures banning GMOs (genetically modified organisms), you'll see that they are banning organisms produced using certain (unnatural) technologies, like using non species specific DNA - "If God had meant those species to cross she'd have done it herself!"

This is stupid. It is a ban on HOW certain varieties of organisms are created, not a ban on WHAT is created.

So? Well, let's look at an example to see how silly this is.

Let's say a scientist discovers a gene in a certain species of native grass that is resistant to a disease that causes millions of dollars of damage to grapevines. If that scientist has access to the precision technologies of genetic engineering, she may succeed in transferring that gene and eventually produce a variety that expresses that gene sufficiently for it to also enjoy a significant resistance to the disease in question.

This will undoubtedly take at least a few years to come to pass.

Now what about the poor guy who doesn't have access to genetic engineering? He can only resort to slow trial and error methods to try to get that same gene to fortuitously occur in the right place in the grape genome.

He might try, for example, massive genetic mutations by bombarding seeds with radiation or soaking them in a mutagenic chemical -- yes these are "traditional" techniques that have actually been used to produce many successful varieties of crops. However, when you are looking for a very specific mutation, this process is very unlikely to succeed in any reasonable time frame (less than thousands of years). But, hey, the guy could get lucky.

Lets say -- after many, many years of trial and error -- our intrepid scientist finally succeeds in producing a grape variety identical to the one produced by the scientist who has access to modern genetic engineering techniques. Genetically, they are identical. They are both resistant to the same devastating disease.

In the end you have the same plant, only one took 1/1,000th the time and effort to create. However, even though they are identical plants, only one can be legally grown in Mendocino and Marin counties because it was produced using officially sanctioned methodology. The other plant, even though it is genetically identical, cannot be grown because was created using verboten technologies.

It bears repeating: this is a ban on HOW not WHAT. Genetically identical plants, but one was produced with unsanctioned, unnatural technologies and the other was the result of a fortunate mutation. And only one can legally be grown.

Now how does that make sense?

I'm sure the pot smokers of the world are relieved to know that Mendocino's finest will not be contaminated by genetically modified organisms.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Caricature of evil

I wish I were an artist. I really wish I could draw those wonderfully distorted political caricatures that delight one group while at the same time driving another to apoplexy.

Here's what I would draw: an old, decrepit man with the Euro sign on him somewhere (maybe on a French beret) shoving fists full of body parts and bones into his mouth. The body parts are very dark. He looks crazed and spittle drizzles from the corners of his mouth. The body parts and bones come from a pile of dark bodies, mostly women and children, in the shape of the continent of Africa. There is a hole in the continent where Uganda belongs. And there would be a sign on Africa that reads: SALE: ORGANIC, GUARANTEED DDT FREE.

Why? Here's why:

{The European Union on Wednesday warned Uganda that its exports to Europe may suffer if it goes ahead with plans to use the controversial pesticide DDT to fight malaria.}

{The Ugandan government has indicated it may soon begin spraying of DDT in people's homes to reduce the infection rate of malaria which now kills an estimated 70,000 people, mainly children under five, a year.}

Then there's this annoying, ignorant whinging from the same article (imagine the church lady from Saturday Night Live): "The government should explain why it should spray people's houses where mosquitoes do not breed," he said. "If they cannot, then they have no moral authority to spray people's houses. "

If you do not recognize the moralising tone of this particular species of fanatic, let me identify the breed for you: it is an eco-pharisee, a professional religious worrier and hand-wringer who goes about scolding and sternly warning all who have the temerity to oppose his or her latest eco-superstition from one of several broad canons of political correctness: chemical phobia, food phobia, fossil-fuel phobia, etc.

He should read a little more broadly, something that at least makes more of an attempt at objectivity than the pure propagandistic pablum he gets from his favorite eco-religious sect. Here, let me make a mild suggestion (don't worry, this won't hurt -- too much):

{Historically, the primary method of malaria control has been Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS)--the spraying of house walls with tiny amounts of an insecticide, usually DDT. IRS often kills mosquitoes, but more important, it creates a barrier between man and mosquito. Studies show the vast majority of mosquitoes won’t enter a DDT-sprayed building, and this chemical barrier prevents transmission of the disease, much as prophylactic drugs or bed nets do, but more cheaply. Such an approach was highly successful in Sri Lanka. Owing to DDT, malaria rates fell from three million cases a year in the 1940s to fewer than 50 in 1963.}

{Studies showed that Sri Lankan mosquitoes may be developing resistance to DDT, which meant that some of them would not be killed by the insecticide. Even the WHO report says Sri Lanka’s malaria vectors have been considered DDT-resistant for many years. But DDT’s main role is as a repellent, not as a toxic agent. Houses sprayed with DDT repel far more mosquitoes than any other insecticide tested and so remain effective even when resistance is substantial. This information, although known by health entomologists, is ignored by the WHO, which has adopted the anti-DDT environmentalist agenda. The WHO advises using alternative insecticides--although the organization buys precious few even of these.}

Let's repeat the most important part, shall we? "DDT's main role is as a repellent." I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to compare this new revelation as to DDT's role and irrelevant whining above and decide which sounds the most informed. Go ahead -- I'll wait...

Well, at least the EU can rest at ease knowing that not a molecule of DDT, which is not harmful to humans (see many previous posts here at the BNB blog for references), will be found on its precious imported organic produce. Not to worry that thousands of Ugandans died so that they might remain pure and unsoiled by an unclean -- but harmless -- chemical.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Superstition born of ignorance and lies

In an Email from Dr. Tom DeGregori to AgBioView, Dr DeGregori tells us what, in his experience, farmers really want and how the anti-biotech folks are trying to poison the magic well of biotech promise with misinformation about modern genetic engineering technologies:

{Never in my overseas experience (or in the experience of anyone whom I have consulted) has any farmer or official asked or worried about how a new variety was bred; they were interested in issues such as whether it produced a larger crop and how secure is it from crop failure. The only reason transgenics is considered by a population as being a violation of a sacred element within it while various forms of mutation breeding are not, is because an activist group has planted that idea of the alien character of biotechnology while deliberately remaining silent on most all other forms of plant breeding. Unlike the activists, who seem to believe that farmers are like children who need someone to think for them and protect them, I credit peoples of all types around the world with the ability to think for thrmselves. But concerns about how plants are bred only come about if people have been informed (or misinformed) about the issue and if they have been deliberately not told about the other ways that plant breeding has taken place for the variety of foods that they grow and/or eat. All of which reinforces the posting that we have to act early to inform people early on these issues before others with an ideological agenda can create a fear factor that is difficult to overcome.

Since the activists use the "violation of sacred cultural beliefs" as part of their global propaganda, it is important that we point out how this perception was created. In our world today, there are many different fears concerning other ethnic or religious or racial groups and the harm that they wish to visit upon ones own group. They are "real" in the sense of being firmly and widely believed but like beliefs about the harm from transgenics and the evil intent of those who promote them, they are no less wrong because many honestly believe them. It may seem strong to may but I view the misinformation and fears about plant breeding that make it more difficult to help farmers improve their food production to be in the same category as spreading fears about other ethnic, religious or racial groups.}

Many people believe irrational things about other "different" people; the label "foreign" is perjorative in many (if not most) parts of the world. But in the West, we have prided ourselves in stridently opposing such ideas and would never stoop to pandering to such ethnocentric or racist ideas just because a lot of people believe them. We attempt to enlighten people about the differences we all have, to be tolerant of other people's customs and ways of life even if it they are foreign to us.

Unfortunately, many environmentalists are taking advantage of these fears and using junk science and supersitious rhetoric to instill a fear of the "foreign" gene. "Its unnatural!"

Funny, but it kind of reminds me of the stereotypical religious hick a sophisticated urbanite might make fun of: "Mixin' races!? Why that just ain't natural! God never intended it!" ending the imitation with a mock spit of tobacco juice aimed at an imaginary spitoon. "Mixing genes!? Why it just ain't natural! God never intended those genes to mix!"

I think today's eco-imperialists, who know best what is good for all of us and what isn't, would be right at home in early colonial America, hunting and burning witches. Only today its scientists they're after and their wood and fire is misinformation and hysteria. And the dead are not witches, but rather the women and children of the third world who die from hunger, the many diseases of malnutrition, malaria, etc., etc.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A world of wonders

Paul Driessen, author of Eco-Imperialism, writes of The wondrous promise of biotechnology:

{Two June 2004 reports document the exciting potential for genetic engineering in industrial processes to reduce air and water pollution, expand the production of new fuels, reduce the amounts of energy and raw materials required in manufacturing, and provide a host of other benefits.}

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), author of one of the reports, warns that this revolutionary technology is being stifled and challenged instead of nurtured and applauded:

{These new tools cannot help us move toward a more sustainable future BIO warned, unless government policymakers, corporate leaders and NGOs comprehend their value, support their adoption and take proactive steps to incorporate them in a wide array of manufacturing processes. The EC report cautioned that Europe's scientific and economic position is declining as a consequence of the political inertia caused by the polarized and increasingly heated debate between opponents and advocates of biotechnology. In fact, 27% of European research projects in plant genomics and biotech (and 63% of industrial projects) have been aborted in recent years, the EC pointed out.}

What's amazing is that most people (the Bunny included) are totally unaware of how much this revolution has already begun to change our world for the better -- and there's so much more to come if we can only get the hand-wringing eco-nannies out of the way:

{Biotech already improves the production of paper, textiles, plastics, chemicals, fuels and pharmaceuticals speeding the process and reducing water, energy and raw material inputs, as well as pollution. Bleaching pulp for paper via biotech processes can reduce the use of chlorine-based chemicals by up to 15% and energy use by a third or more. }

{Gene-spliced crops could greatly improve nutrition and food security, reduce soil erosion, cut fertilizer and pesticide use, require less water, produce more food from less land (thus saving habitats and wildlife), prevent spoilage and increase shelf-life for foods (even without refrigeration), eliminate allergens, and decrease contamination from fungal mycotoxins.}

One of the many things the eco-imperialists get wrong is that nature is not a garden of Eden. It is unpredictably dangerous, not sweet and cuddly. And it constantly theatens us with new dangers every day. New diseases surface that we have to fight with new vaccines and medications; bacteria develop immunity to our drugs; insects develop immunity to our pesticides; weeds develop immunity to our herbicides.

It is a constant battle and those who suffer the most when we do not fight these battles with everything we have are always the most vulnerable: women and children.

{Fumonisin has been clearly linked to neural tube defects like spinal bifida in Hispanic babies in Texas and Guatemala, where women consume large amounts of corn that is grown using organic or subsistence farming methods. Recent studies have also found fumonisin levels in organic corn nine to 40 times higher than allowed by the UK Food Safety Agency, while levels in biotech Bt corn were close to zero. }

{Some 740 million people go to bed every night on empty stomachs and nearly 30,000 (half of them children) die every day from malnutrition. Meanwhile, activists are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to battle biotechnology. }

Bottom line? Superstitious, anti-science eco-pharisees are keeping millions of the world's poor in poverty, suffering, and disease and causing millions of deaths every year -- mostly women and children -- because of their sanctimonious fearmongering.

{Their misguided position underscores "their intellectual and moral bankruptcy," says Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore. ... They voice concern for poor people, he observes, but their policies perpetuate poverty and misery. They say they want to save wildlife habitats, but oppose technologies that could make this goal a reality.

The benefits for industry, farmers, consumers, the world's poor, wildlife and sustainable development are significant and increasingly obvious. The risks, meanwhile, are manageable and on par with those associated with the many other technologies that make our lives better, healthier and longer than any previous generation has enjoyed.}

This Bunny is furious and he's had it. Spread the word: support our biotech researchers and help save a few million lives. And even though we enjoy uprecedented health and prosperity in the USA and other developed countries, we're not immune to epidemics of deadly diseases like the super-flu that killed millions just after WWI.

Just think -- the life you save one day may be your own or that of a loved one.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

B4 State of Fear

In September of 2003, more than a year before State of Fear hit the book stores, Michael Crichton gave a speech in San Francisco to the Commonwealth Club.

His topic? "What I consider the most important challenge facing mankind." His answer? "The challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda."

In his talk, Mr Crichton directed his harshest attack at an issue near and dear to the modern environmental movement: that evil, man-made pesticide, DDT:

{I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.}

The speech is very good - highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

How sick is that?

In an op-ed piece in the Miami Herald, Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore takes today's environmental activists to task for their anti-science, anti-rationality, anti-facts, and anti-capitalism. He addresses genetic enhancement, salmon farming, vinyl, hydroelectric power, wind power, nuclear power, and forestry and finds environmentalist's anti-science positions unfounded and dangerous.

On the issue of genetic engineering (enhancement) Mr Moore says:

{"Activists persist in their zero-tolerance campaign against genetically enhanced food crops. There is no evidence of harm to human health or the environment, and benefits are measurable and significant. Genetically enhanced (GE) food crops reduce chemical pesticides, boost yield and reduce soil erosion. Enriched with Vitamin A, Golden Rice could prevent blindness in 500,000 children per year in Asia and Africa if activists would stop blocking its introduction. Other food crops contain iron, Vitamin E, enhanced protein and better oils. The anti-GE campaign seeks to deny these environmental and nutritional advances by using ''Frankenfood'' scare tactics and misinformation campaigns."}

Regarding hydroelectric dams he notes that, "International activists boast to have blocked more than 200 hydroelectric dams in the developing world and are campaigning to tear down existing dams."

That's a pretty morbid boast given the fact that, without electricity to heat their homes and refrigerate and cook their food, many suffer horribly from the effects of the environmentalist's preferred alternative: "bio-fuels". Paul Driessen, author of eco-imperialism shows us the result: "Homes are thick with smoke from fires that belch soot, bacteria and toxic chemicals. Some 4 million infants and children die every year from this pollution, primarily from pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses. Asthma is rampant among women who make it to adulthood. Cancer plagues those lucky enough to survive asthma, dysentery, malaria, typhus and other serial killers that ravage their countries."

Oh, and btw, you can't just rely on your friendly neighborhood PG&E to deliver these bio-fuels to your door every day: "Children and women must spend hours each day in the drudgery of collecting firewood or squatting in mud laced with animal feces and urine, to collect, dry and store manure for cooking, heat and light."

If I lived like that, I'd be pretty steamed if some well-fed, rich, comfortable European and American environmental activist/nannies wanted to tell me that I couldn't have a hydroelectric dam.

Patrick Moore's conclusion?

{"Environmentalism has become anti-globalization and anti-industry. Activists have abandoned science in favor of sensationalism. Their zero-tolerance, fear-mongering campaigns would ultimately prevent a cure for Vitamin A deficiency blindness, increase pesticide use, increase heart disease, deplete wild salmon stocks, raise the cost and reduce the safety of healthcare, raise construction costs, deprive developing nations of clean electricity, stop renewable wind energy, block a solution to global warming and contribute to deforestation. How sick is that?}

The Bunny's conclusion? Well said!

Hat Tip: AgBioView