16 February 2000

Table of Contents

Re: B-GE: Chinese scientists ready to test genetically modified rice
IMF chief says: 'We are best friends of the poor'
Emerging "R&D" Pattern in Genes May Reduce Evolution's Risks
Firms face battle over Shareholder activists
Filipino peasants write OECD on GMOs
Genetically Engineered Tree Alert
A Letter to the Editor of a Pro-GE article
Genetically Engineered Vitamin 'A' Rice: A Blind Approach to Blindness Prevention
USA grows 72% of world's GMOs but 31 million people live in food-insecurity
Hard Times Hit Biotech Agriculture

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Date: 14 Feb 2000 20:44:35 U
From: Robert Mann

Re: B-GE: Chinese scientists ready to test genetically modified rice

This story obviously raises anew the question whether Potrykus's carotene-rice exists.

A few months ago, I asked him . He did respond, but ignored my question and merely referred me to his paper in _Nature_.

Either the Chinese claim "the world's first transgenetic rice strain" is as true as their other claim that scientists have "unequivocally shown the genetically altered rice is harmless to people's health" OR Potrykus' carotene-rice is not real and instead belongs along with the majority of gene-jockey visions in the category of fantasy or hope rather than reality.

Normally, inability to discriminate between fact and fantasy is a sign of insanity. But today the gene-jockeys have made it respectable and indeed a competitive product.


Robt Mann, consultant ecologist
P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949

Chinese scientists ready to test genetically modified rice

Source: Kyodo News Service/Associated Press Publication date: Feb 14, 2000

BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Kyodo) – Scientists in China's coastal Zhejiang Province have developed a genetically altered strain of rice that is resistant to herbicides, China's state media reported Monday.

Xinhua News Agency quoted researcher Huang Danian of the China Rice Research Institute as noting the anti-herbicide rice strain will allow weeds and low-quality rice to be killed using herbicides, while the modified rice will be improved in overall quality and output.

The report claims that the new rice is the world's first transgenetic rice strain.

The Xinhua report concluded by noting scientists have "unequivocally shown the genetically altered rice is harmless to people's health."

In January, China Business Information Network reported China had 300,000 hectares of GM crops under cultivation, cotton being the most common. China's figure was exceeded only by the United States, Canada and Argentina, the report noted.

Attitudes toward bioengineered foods vary widely, with the government and populace of the U.S. taking a generally benign view while many Europeans voice pointed concern.

And in China, some lawmakers have called for improved control of GM foods.

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Date: 14 Feb 2000 12:11:54 U

Well if you will insist on saying that the IMF and the World Bank are 'friends of the poor', cream pies are surely to be expected are they not?

IMF chief says: 'We are best friends of the poor'

By Charlotte Denny in Bangkok, The Guardian., Monday February 14, 2000

Unctad Camdessus bows out with staunch defence of record in helping developing nations

The outgoing head of the International Monetary Fund, Michel Camdessus strongly defended his organisation's role in managing the world's poorest economies – after an anti-globalisation protest threatened to disrupt the United Nations meeting he was addressing.

In a feisty farewell speech, Mr Camdessus said poverty was the greatest menace to humanity and insisted that the IMF and the World Bank were "the best friends of the poor". But shortly before he began speaking, the French former central banker became the latest international diplomat to be cream-pied.

As Mr Camdessus prepared to deliver his key-note speech at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), a man stepped forward from the audience and smeared the official's face with a cake. Mr Camdessus quickly removed the remains of the pie and the protester was speedily removed by security staff.

Mr Camdessus refused to press charges against Richard Reuel Naiman, 34, of Washington D.C., representing a group called Fifty Years Enough - with campaigns for the abolition of the World Bank.

The IMF is an object of hate for many activists who blame its orthodox economic prescriptions - high interest rates and budget belt-tightening for worsening the pain of countries that run into balance of payments problems and seek bailouts. Last week, one development campaigner described Mr Camdessus as a "war criminal".

At his last press conference with the IMF, Mr Camdessus made light of the latest attack, calling it "professional risks, part of my job".

Tight security from police who have closed off most of the area surrounding the conference centre has prevented a repeat of the street protests which disrupted the Seattle world trade talks last November.

Earlier in the day, some of the 300 trade unionists camped on the boundary of the exclusion zone managed to break through the police line.

Mr Camdessus suggested that the protesters outside the centre and those who disrupted the trade talks in Seattle were fundamentally misguided. "Globalisation can now be seen in a positive light, not what some have portrayed it to be – a blind malevolent force that needs to be tamed," he said.

Mr Camdessus also said that, as part of the "new paradigm", an expansion of information technology has given poor nations access to knowledge that was once the preserve of the rich. The 66-year-old suggested that the annual summit of rich nations should address mounting criticism that globalisation was benefiting rich nations at the expense of the poor.

In questions after his speech, Mr Camdessus brushed over charges that the fund's handling of the Asian crisis two years ago had deepened poverty unnecessarily. He said that Thailand, the country where the crisis began, had graduated "summa cum laude" from the fund's programme for the affected economy, with industrial output back at pre-crisis levels. He said the rapid recovery in all the Asian economies vindicated the IMF's approach.

"It is very touching that he has discovered human development so late in his career," said Martin Khor, head of the Third World Network, a Malaysian think-tank. "It would be more convincing if he admitted we need this new paradigm because the old paradigm has failed."

Unctad issued a report saying that the number of least developed countries – the world's poorest nations – had risen since 1971 from 25 to 48, with 33 in Africa.

The least developed countries are "becoming increasingly marginalised in the world economy," Unctad secretary-general Carlos Fortin said. "There's no greater challenge facing the international community today than integrating the less-developed countries into the world economy and trading system."

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Date: 14 Feb 2000 14:14:15 U
From: wytze

Dear all, Below a message on a highly interesting and significant study in my opinion. wytze

Biotech Activists wrote:

From List: Biotech Activists
Date Posted: 02/14/2000
Posted by:

Emerging "R&D" Pattern in Genes May Reduce Evolution's Risks

from a press release, Feb. 12 2000

The genetic blueprint at the heart of life may be divided into "research and development" and "production" sections, according to an author of a new study in this week's "Science" that compares genetic material in yeast, roundworms, insects and humans.

The distinction may help shunt the random genetic changes that cause evolution onto areas of the DNA where such changes have a better chance of benefitting the organism (the "R&D" section) and away from areas where they would more likely harm it (the "production" section). "The great paradox of evolution is that you have many established functions to maintain in an organism, and how can you be conservative about those functions while experimenting to discover new and possibly advantageous gene functions?" says Edward Hedgecock , biology professor at The Johns Hopkins University.

If it is confirmed, the theory could aid researchers in their efforts to analyze genetic information from humans and other species. With support from the National Institutes of Health, Hedgecock and other researchers conducted an extensive computerized comparison of the sequence of genetic information, known as genomes, found in yeast, the roundworm C. elegans and other nematodes, the fruit fly Drosophila, and humans.

New species arise throughout evolution. Comparing their genomes can therefore provide "snapshots" of the development of DNA at various points in evolutionary history. Since portions of DNA are used as instructions for building proteins, researchers can compare the details of these "snapshots" to get a feel for when life first developed various proteins. If, for example, a gene for a protein is common to yeast and to animals, Hedgecock explains, then the protein's birth date was before the emergence of multicellular organisms.

Hedgecock and his coauthors focused most of their attention on proteins involved in the creation of the exterior of the cell. Examples include the proteins that help cells stick to surfaces, proteins that help create a sheath that is the outermost boundary of a cell, and proteins that are emitted by cells.

Scientists grouped the proteins into families and "superfamilies." "Proteins are in the same family if they have essentially the same modular organization along their length," Hedgecock explains. "They're made of the same parts in the same order. Superfamilies are a higher structural class, and that only means that the proteins share an individual domain, but they may differ-be unrelated-outside of that."

While noting that the human genome is not completely sequenced yet, researchers reported finding some families and superfamilies of proteins present in C. elegans and other roundworms that are absent in the human genome. Families and superfamilies, they concluded, are being created throughout evolutionary history.

"The big surprise, though, is evidence that old superfamilies can be remarkably stable alongside a new family being created," Hedgecock says. "The old idea was that all the genes of the genome were subject to similar mutational processes, so roughly speaking, the older you were as a gene family, the more opportunity you had to duplicate, to disperse in the genome, and to diverge from one another."

The very oldest superfamilies should be the largest, the most dispersed, the most diverged, and the fastest-growing in size, he explains. But the team's analysis found that once superfamilies are established, they can be very stable even if they're beside a dynamic, young expanding family of proteins.

By analyzing the organization of the genes, looking at the pattern of genetic material actually used to build proteins, and studying a database of genes with known mutations in C. elegans, the researchers found a pattern of two kinds of regions in the DNA: areas with long-established genes with advantageous properties, and areas where the DNA was being shuffled and rearranged.

"We speculate in the paper that this division may correspond to a division that scientists have noticed in cells that are in the process of dividing," Hedgecock says.

Dividing cells have to make an additional copy of the DNA they contain, a task that requires them to unpack DNA from structures known as chromosomes where it is stored. Scientists have noticed that some portions of the chromosomes appear to get more thoroughly unpacked than others. The portions of the genome that are incompletely unpacked might be more susceptible to mutational processes, Hedgecock theorizes, while the genes that have established value are in the fully open areas.

"The analogy to industry is that you separate your research and development facility from your production facility-if you ever were to combine those two activities, it might be a disaster," says Hedgecock. Other authors on the paper included Harald Hutter of the Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany; and Bruce Vogel, an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins. Additional authors came from the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio; Washington University in St. Louis; and the Max-Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology, also in Germany.

Mark Ritchie, President
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Ave. South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404 USA
612-870-3400 (phone)    612-870-4846 (fax)    cell phone 612-385-7921

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Date: 14 Feb 2000 15:12:26 U

Firms face battle over Shareholder activists

By James Cox, USA TODAY, Page 1A

Firms face battle over altered food Shareholder activists want to force votes on genetic engineering

Eighteen big-name restaurant, food, grocery and seed companies face proxy fights led by opponents of genetic engineering in the largest wave of social-issue shareholder activism since corporations were challenged for doing business in apartheid-era South Africa.

Religious groups, environmentalists and socially conscious investment funds have flooded the companies with proposals that would require shareholder votes on the controversial issue of genetically modified (GM) foods. The proposals demand that companies such as DuPont and McDonald's halt the development, use and sale of GM crops and foods until long-term tests prove them safe for humans and the environment.

Genetically modified crops are grown from seeds implanted with genes from other organisms. The implanted genes give corn, soybean and other crops desired traits such as resistance to bugs, weeds and chemicals.

The anti-GM shareholder resolutions, which are aimed at companies holding annual meetings this spring, are the first on the issue, says the Investor Responsibility Research Center, which tracks the proposals. The group says no issue has generated as many proposals since apartheid, which officially ended in 1991. is galvanizing. We're being fed this food without says Ariane van Buren of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which advises institutions investing money for Catholic priests and nuns, Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis.

In an effort to keep the GM proposals from coming to a vote, companies can challenge them before the Securities and Exchange Commission on the grounds that they unfairly hamper management or are irrelevant.

Monsanto, a biotechnology pioneer that has been criticized by anti-GM activists worldwide, is the only company not to challenge at the SEC. We're confident our shareholders understand biotechnology well Monsanto spokesman Dan Verakis says. The SEC is reviewing all but one of the other proposals. Two weeks ago, the commission ruled against PepsiCo, which had argued that an anti-GM resolution infringed on management decisions. Ironically, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay snack division recently said it would ask its corn growers not to use genetically modified seeds.

The Adrian Dominican Sisters, a group of 1,000 Catholic nuns based in Adrian, Mich., withdrew a proposal it had submitted to Dow Chemical after Dow agreed good-faith with the nuns.

U.S. companies faced 123 social-issue shareholder resolutions in 1999. None passed. In most, 6% to 8% of shareholders voted for the We know the votes rarely pass. (But) they're great for says Sara Newport of Friends of the Earth, a sponsor of the proposals.

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Date: 14 Feb 2000 15:46:45 U
From: wytze

Filipino peasants write OECD on GMOs

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas wrote:

14 February 2000

To the OECD,

Greetings from Filipino farmers!

My name is Rafael Mariano and I write to you on behalf of the largest national group of Philippine peasants, small farmers and farmworkers, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines) or KMP.

The KMP is campaigning for genuine land reform and just sharing of agricultural production, and as an organization has links to many independent farmers groups, interest groups and life science experts. Our organization is one of the major groups in the Philippines and Asia opposing the release of genetically modified organisms in test fields near actual traditional growing areas of crops such as corn, rice and vegetables.

We have campaigned for a moratorium in Philippine territory on the field testing of Bt-corn last year, but our state body, the National Committee on Biosafety in the Philippines (NCBP), gave the license to Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto to go ahead and test Bt-corn in two sites near major corn growing areas.

In the perfunctorily conducted hearings by the NCBP, the corporate proponents and the Institute for Plant Breeding claimed that field tests of Bt- corn promises hiked yields of corn by suppressing the Asiatic corn borer in our country. However, we beg to disagree to the way GMO field testing is being promoted, because they have no material basis.

Infestation by the Asiatic corn borer is not a major problem in any growing area in the Philippines since our member peasants can manage corn borers by detassling and other integrated pest management schemes. Our main problem in growing corn is the marketing aspect, because our government has opened our grains market to the onslaughts of the global market of subsidized produce from the OECD and newly industrializing countries. Our harvests are left to rot or are forced to be sold for great loss since oversupply from trade liberalization has caused successive and sustained collapses of our local corn market.

Filipino peasants are very concerned with the yet unknown long-term effects that the proliferation GMOs will have on soil bacteria, gut bacteria, the physiology of human and animal biological processes, which also adds to our concern. Many consumers are refusing to use, buy and eat products made from GMO crops, which also means that we may be further bankrupted if we are made to plant GMOs on a national scale or after pollens from GMO plants interbreed with our traditional varieties.

We have suffered before from introductions of so- called high-yielding varieties because the temporary improvements in yields did not address the basic problem of injustice and landlessness among the 50 million Filipino peasants. The bounties of the surplus only went to some 40,000 landlords, but our farms were permanently damaged from genetic erosion, chemical contamination and massive environmental destruction that left us poorer, sicklier and landless as ever. The entry of GMOs will certainly intensify landlessness, hunger and injustice, but this time no scientific evidence proves the false increases in yields that HYVs somehow showed in the 1960s.

We in the Third World are bound to suffer the most from the eventual exposure of the biological and economic costs of GMOs since we don't have the basic infrastructure to monitor, control and clean up the impending genetic pollution. We ask that your institution make itself a venue to publicly, seriously and concretely ban all release of GMOs especially in poor and backward agricultural countries.


Rafael Mariano
Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP)

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Date: 14 Feb 2000 18:45:19 U
From: wytze

Genetically Engineered Tree Alert

This message includes a notification of a conference in the US on the issue (at the bottom).

Owen PR wrote:


Would anybody on this list be willing to share some information regarding genetically engineered tree trials in South Africa? Can trees be genetically engineered to use less water? suck less nutrients? absorb less light?Or are trees genetically engineered to grow faster, taller, straighter, easier only? More raw pulp, never mind the raw earth.

From: Orin Langelle/ Coordinator, ACERCA (Action for Community and Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America)

RE: Genetically Engineered Tree Alert/Strategy Planning

While genetically engineered food crops have held center stage in the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the genetic engineering of trees has largely remained outside the global spotlight. But while little is being said publicly, much is being done, as the back door for this biotechnology is wide open. It is propped in place by the timber and chemical industries, with even the petroleum and auto industries taking part. In the near future there is cause to speculate that all industrial forestry plantations will include genetically engineered trees.

Genetically altered trees, combined with economic incentives for plantation forestry – including international agreements that offer carbon credits to polluting corporations – could prove to be a recipe for environmental disaster.

The timber industry has plans to grow hundreds of thousands of hectares of fast-growing monoculture plantations that are herbicide and pest resistant and contain lower levels of the protein lignin for easier pulping. All of this is designed to feed the insatiable appetite of the pulp and paper industry and to produce more uniform traits for lumber production. The industry touts the business of "designer trees" as one that will promote forestry health and prove beneficial to the economy.

Many of us who have been researching and analyzing the issue of genetically engineered trees are calling for concerned forest activists to become involved in what appears to be one of the most urgent threats to forest ecosystems internationally. The Native Forest Network and ACERCA are launching a campaign against the genetic engineering of trees and we invite interested people to meet and strategize with us. An important conference is taking place in Boston, MA this March called BIODEVASTATION 2000, The 4th International Grassroots Gathering on Genetic Engineering (full information on the conference follows my signature).

We will be hosting a workshop to inform, discuss and strategize on this issue on Saturday, March 25th at the conference. Additionally, we invite interested forest/environmental justice advocates to become part of the discussion on GE Trees.

In solidarity/for the Earth,

Orin Langelle, Coordinator
ACERCA – Action for Community & Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America
POB 57, Burlington, VT 05402 USA
(802)863-0571    Fax (802) 864-8203

ACERCA is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice and a member of the Native Forest Network

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Date: 14 Feb 2000 20:48:25 U
From: Robert Mann

A Letter to the Editor of a Pro-GE article

This letter was suppressed.

I wrote also to McLauchlan himself (an acquaintance). He wrote back dismissively & rudely, refusing to admit any correction.

This furphy "it's only speeded-up nature" is particularly puzzling because it is the gene-jockeys themselves who say, correctly, that you will need to pay them to get what they very pointedly insist are unnatural organisms which you couldn't get in nature.

Those who perpetutate this furphy are of a very low order of intelligence, or a low order of honesty.


Letter to editor
NZ Herald

Your columnist Gordon McLauchlan asks whether genetic engineering is "all that much different from what animal and plant scientists did when they discovered they could artificially select various characteristics by continued inbreeding".

If he read your paper more assiduously, he would have learned there a fortnight ago that, yes, genetic engineering is radically different from ordinary breeding (which latter is, by the way, more interesting than mere 'continued inbreeding').

GE is, generally, performing gene transfers that are not thought to occur in nature. Toad genes do not normally get into potatoes, nor human genes into cows.

The results of these artificial transfers are unpredictable. There have been many flops, and many more unexpected shocks will doubtless be forthcoming from this new commerce which has yet to come under any effective legal control.

yrs etc

Robert Mann Remuera

Robt Mann, consultant ecologist
P O Box 28878 Remuera, Auckland 1005, New Zealand (9) 524 2949

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Date: 15 Feb 2000 07:29:57 U
Posted by:
From: wytze

Vandana Shiva on Vit. A Rice!

Genetically Engineered Vitamin 'A' Rice: A Blind Approach to Blindness Prevention

By Dr.Vandana Shiva, Feb 2000

The Development
Eclipsing Alternatives.
Environmental costs of vitamin A rice.
Health risks of vitamin A Rice.

The Development

Genetically engineered Vitamin A rice has been proclaimed as a miracle cure for blindness – "a break through in efforts to improve the health of billions of poor people, most of them in Asia".

More than $100 have been spent over 10 years to produce a transgenic rice at the Institute of Plant Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The Zurich research team headed by Ingo Potrykens and Xudong Ye introduced three genes taken from a daffodil and a bacterium into a rice strain to produce a yellow rice with high levels of beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A within the body.

The rice is being promoted as a cure for blindness since Vitamin A deficiency causes vision impairment and can lead to blindness . According to the UN, more than 2 million children are at risk due to Vitamin A deficiency.

The work in Zurich was funded by grants from the Rockfeller Foundation the agency which had launched the chemical agriculture in Asia through the Green Revolution which led to erosion of biodiversity and erosion of diverse sources of nutrition for the poor. In addition, the Swiss Government and the European Community has also supported the research.

It will however take millions more in dollars and another decade of development work at the International Rice Research Institute to produce Vitamin A rice varieties that can be grown in farmers fields.

Is the "golden" rice a miracle that is the only means for preventing blindness for Asia or will it introduce new ecological problems like the Green Revolution did and create new health hazards like other genetically engineered foods?

The genetic engineering of Vitamin A rice deepens the genetic reductionism of the Green Revolution. Instead of millions of farmers breeding and growing thousands of crop varieties to adapt to diverse ecosystems and diverse food systems, the Green Revolution reduced agriculture to a few varieties of a few crops (mainly rice, wheat and maize) bred in one centralised research centre (IRRI for rice and CIMMYT for wheat and maize). The Green Revolution led to massive genetic erosion in farmers fields and knowledge, erosion among farming communities, besides leading to large scale environmental pollution due to use of toxic agrichemicals and wasteful use of water.

Genetically engineered rice as part of the second Green Revolution is repeating the mistakes of the Green Revolution while adding new hazards in terms of ecological and health risks.

The "selling" of Vitamin A rice as a miracle cure for blindness is based on blindness to alternatives for removing vitamin A deficiency and blindness to the unknown risks of producing Vitamin A through genetic engineering.

Eclipsing Alternatives.

The first deficiency of genetic engineering rice to produce Vitamin A is the eclipsing of alternative sources of vitamin A. Per Pinstripe Anderson, Head of the International Rice Research Institute has said that Vitamin A rice is necessary for the poor in Asia, because "we cannot reach very many of the malnourished in the world with pills". However, there are many alternatives to pills for Vitamin A supply. Vitamin A is provided by lever, egg yolk, chicken, meat, milk, butter. Beta-carotene, the vitamin A precursor is provided by dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, carrot, pumpkin, mango and drumstick.

Women farmers in Bengal use more than 100 plants for green leafy vegetables.

The lower cost, accessible and safer alternative to genetically engineered rice is to increase biodiversity in agriculture. Further, since those who suffer from vitamin A deficiency suffer from malnutrition generally, increasing the food security and nutritional security of the poor through increasing the diversity of crops and diversity of diets of poor people who suffer the highest rates of deficiency is the reliable means for overcoming nutritional deficiencies.

Sources of Vitamin A in the form of green leafy vegetables are being destroyed by the Green Revolution and Genetic Engineering which promote the use of herbicides in agriculture. The spread of herbicide resistant crops will further aggravate this biodiversity erosion with major consequences for increase in nutritional deficiency. For example, bathua a very popular leafy vegetable in North India has been pushed to extinction in Green Revolution areas where intensive herbicide use is a part of the chemical package.

Environmental costs of vitamin A rice.

Vitamin A from native greens and fruits is produced without irrigation and wastage of scarce water resources. Introducing Vitamin A in rice implies a shift from water conserving alternatives for Vitamin A to water a intensive system of production since so called high yielding rice varieties are highly water demanding. Vitamin A rice will therefore lead to mining of ground water or intensive irrigation from large dams with all the associated environmental problems of water-logging and salinisation.

Further, as in the case of other genetically engineered crops, rice with Vitamin A will have impact on the food web. The ecological impact on soil organisms and other organisms dependent on rice in the food chain should be part of the biosafety analysis of genetically engineered rice before it is released for production. Research has already shown that indigenous rice varieties support far more species than Green Revolution varieties. How will genetically engineered rice impact biodiversity and the potential for disease and pest vulnerability?

Health risks of vitamin A Rice.

Since rice is a staple eaten in large quantities in Asian societies, vitamin A rice could lead to excessive intake of vitamin A especially among those who do not suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Excess vitamin A can lead to hypervitaminosis A or vitamin A toxicity. Such toxicity is known to occur due to over ingestion of vitamin A rich food eg. Polar bear liver or by food faddism by over solicitous parents, or as side effects of inappropriate therapy.

Vitamin A toxicity can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, popillidena, bulging fontanelle.

Chronic toxicity of vitamin A can occur after ingestion of large quantities of vitamin A for protracted periods. Chronic at toxicity is characterized by bone and joint pain, hyperotosis, hair loss, dryness and fissures of lips, a nausea intraeranial hypertension, low grade fever, pruritis, weight loss, hepatosplenomegaly.

Natural sources of vitamin A are consumed seasonally and in small quantities as greens, relishes, fruits and hence do not carry the risks of vitamin A toxicity. Rice eating regions have been found to be associated with higher malnutrition than wheat eating regions, especially after the Green Revolution which destroyed fish and plant biodiversity necessary for a balanced diet.

These regions also have higher prevalence of water borne diseases like diarrhea, amoebiasis hepatitis A and E, dysentery, and vector borne diseases like malaria, which unlike in earlier years when it was a less hazardous form of malaria caused by plasmodium vivax is increasingly becoming falciparum malaria. These health problems are known to involve damage to the lever. The additional risks of vitamin A toxicity under these conditions of vulnerable health situation of the poor in Asia needs to be assessed with care before a large scale push is given to genetically engineered rice.

Further, the globalisation of agriculture is leading to an increase in malnutrition in the Third World, as the most fertile ecosystems are diverted to luxury export crops, and as domestic markets are destroyed due to dumping of subsidised agricultural commodities. In India, per capita consumption of cereals has declined by 12 per cent in rural areas over the past two decades. The shift from policies based on the "right to food" to free trade policies will push millions into hunger and poverty.

Genetically engineered rice is part of a package of globalised agriculture which is creating malnutrition. It cannot solve the problems of nutritional deficiency but it can introduce new risks of food safety. Since the vitamin A in rice is not naturally occurring and is genetically engineered, novel health risks posed by vitamin A rice will need to be investigated before the rice is promoted by IRRI and aid agencies or commercialised.

The risk assessment for living modified organisms intended for direct use as feed is given in Annexe II of the recently finalized Biosafety Protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The risk assessment of vitamin A rice should therefore involve the following steps.

  1. An identification of any novel genotypic and phenotypic characteristics associated with the vitamin A rice that may have adverse effects on biological diversity in the likely potential receiving environment, taking also into account risks to human health.

  2. An evaluation of the likelihood of these adverse effects being realised taking into account the level and kind of exposure of the likely potential receiving environment.

  3. An evaluation of the consequences should these adverse effects be realised.

The risk assessment also needs to take into account the vectors used, the insects, the ecological differences between transgenic vitamin A rice, and conventional rice varieties. The diverse contexts in which the rice is to be potentially introduced also needs to be taken into account. This includes information on the location, geographical, climatic and ecological characteristics, including relevant information on biological diversity and centres of origin of the likely potential receiving environment.

It is these potential risks which have put a question mark on genetic engineering in agriculture. The genetically engineered vitamin A rice is now being used as a Trojan horse to push genetically engineered crops and foods.

Mr. Pinstrup Anderson, the IRRI Director has suggested that the "vitamin A rice could provide a public relations boost for plant biotechnology, which has been criticised by some environmentalists and consumer activists for promoting "Franken foods"". It has yet to be established that genetically engineered rice is not a Franken food.

But one thing is clear. Promoting it as a tool against blindness while ignoring safer, cheaper, available alternatives provided by our rich agrobiodiversity is nothing short of a blind approach to blindness control.

Mark Ritchie, President
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Ave. South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404 USA
612-870-3400 (phone)    612-870-4846 (fax)    cell phone 612-385-7921

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Date: 15 Feb 2000 09:02:45 U
From: wytze

USA grows 72% of world's GMOs but 31 million people live in food-insecurity

GENETNL wrote:

-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE: A Program to End Hunger: Hunger 2000 800 Million Hungry in World as 21st Century Begins
SOURCE: Bread for the World, USA, Press Release
DATE: February 10, 2000

----------------- archive: ------------------

Dear GENET-news readers,

this highly interesting report from Bread of the World does not deal with GE but can clearly be linked to the "GE Feeding the World" discussion. Is there any better study to reveal that growing GMOs is in no way related to fighting hunger? For the full text of the press release and the study check

Hartmut Meyer


A Program to End Hunger: Hunger 2000

800 Million Hungry in World as 21st Century Begins

Americans could cut hunger in half within two years in the United Statesaand do their part to cut world hunger in half within two decadesafor just pennies a day, says a new report by Bread for the World Institute.

A Program to End Hunger – Hunger 2000, the organization's 10th annual report on the state of world hunger, says that the United States is the only industrialized country with widespread hunger, with some 31 million people at risk. The data shows that people in 3.6 percent of all American households were hungry and 10.2 percent of households were at risk of hunger.

"As much as we'd like to think that ours is generous society, the fact is that the richest country in the world does less than any other developed nation to combatpervasive hunger," says David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a nationwide citizens' movement against hunger based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The report argues that the United States could cut the number of its hungry to some 16 million for $5 billion a year, which breaks down to a cost of only $18 a year for each person in the country. The U.S. government would have to contribute just $1 billion more yearly to lead the international effort to cut hunger worldwide, Bread for the World says. The total is less than one-third of one percent of the federal budget.


The report says that one in ten households in the United States cannot afford the food they need.

"While the record-setting stock market and low unemployment have become cliché topics in the press, the booming economy hasn't improved the lives of all Americans," Rev. Beckmann says. "This is particularly striking when you realize that hunger is one problem we can actually solve. But churches and charities can't do it all. Our government must do its part. Congress needs to pass the Hunger Relief Act and raise the minimum wage."

Bread for the World calls on Congress to invest an extra $5 billion annually in nutrition programs with proven track records.

Similarly, a global commitment could cut hunger in half in the developing world over the next 15 years. At the 1996 World Food Summit, the nations of the world agreed to reduce undernutrition in developing countries by 50 percent in 20 years. This goal will not be met unless industrialized countries provide the necessary resources. The U.S. share of this effort would be just $1 billion per year.

The Extent of Hunger in the United States

"In the United States, hunger does not manifest itself dramatically like famine and starvation," Rev. Beckmann says. "The face of hunger is much different in our country than it is overseas. But although it's easier for us to ignore, it is still a widespread problem."

One in ten U.S. families cannot always afford the food they need, according to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some 19 million adults and 12 million children live in these homes. Too many of these families have to choose between buying food or paying the rent. Some of these people are going hungry; some parents are skipping meals so that their children can eat. Growing numbers are turning to soup kitchens and food pantries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses Census data to assess the extent of food insecurity and hunger. When a family is described as "food insecure," it means that they cannot always afford the food that they need. They are forced to cope by lowering the quality of their diets, or skipping meals, or having the adults go a whole day without eating. When a household is classified as "food insecure with hunger," even the children go without eating.

In 1998, 3.7 million U.S. households (3.6 percent) were hungry and 10.5 million households (10.2 percent) were at risk of hunger. Nearly one in five children and more than one in ten adults live in a food-insecure (hungry or at risk of hunger) household.

In mid-1998, U.S. unemployment was at a low 4.5 percent and inflation was 1.9 percent. The U.S. economy remained strong in its eighth straight year of expansion. Yet, despite the booming economy, hunger and food insecurity persisted at about the level of 1995.

The booming economy coincided with cutbacks in the very government programs that over the years have lifted millions of people out of poverty. The Food Stamp Program is a prime example.

In the time from the historic Field Foundation visit to Mississippi in 1967awhich exposed deep hunger and poverty to a shocked nationato the late 1970s, hunger declined dramatically. The expansion of the Food Stamp Program during this period made a big difference. Yet today this program is in disarray. Nine million people have dropped off the Food Stamp Program in the last five years, and this may be the biggest single reason that hunger did not decline despite falling unemployment.


For more information, or to set up an interview contact:

Bread for the World/Institute President David Beckmann, Board Chair Sister Christine Vladimiroff and Policy analysts will be available for interviews starting Feb. 9. We can also respond to interview requests in Spanish.

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Date: 15 Feb 2000 11:05:06 U

Hard Times Hit Biotech Agriculture

Source: Augusta Chronicle, Feb 13, 2000, © 1999, NewsReal, Inc.

Hard Times Hit Biotech Agriculture Growing Opposition To Engineered Plants, Poor Economy Hurt Growers Of Genetically Altered Food Products

The companies that genetically engineer crops are bringing fewer new varieties to market amid a slumping farm economy and growing public resistance to biotech food.

Seed companies sought government approval for six genetically engineered varieties in 1999, the fewest applications since 1993, and withdrew four of them by year's end. One application has been filed this year.

By comparison, businesses filed 14 applications with the Agriculture Department in 1997 and nine in 1998. All but four were approved.

"Getting a new biotech crop approved is probably high on the dumb things to do for your stock price right now," said Alex Hittle, an industry analyst with A.G. Edwards and Sons Inc.

Seed companies contend the slowdown has nothing to do with the controversy over biotech food. Rather, they say, agricultural biotechnology has reached a natural lull as companies near the end of the first wave of development, which focused on altering crops to make them toxic to insect pests or tolerant of herbicides.

Commercialization will pick up again as scientists develop new varieties attractive to consumers, companies say. Examples they cite include potatoes that can make low-fat french fries, and higher- protein corn and soybeans.

"We are full bore ahead," said Michael Phillips, executive director of food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

"We're continuing to develop products and working them through the system," said Doyle Karr, a spokesman for Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. The crops now on the market "are bringing value and doing what they're supposed to be doing."

Biotech crops have become widely popular with farmers because of increased yields. But Wall Street has grown nervous about the future of genetically engineered food, and small companies are likely to find it harder during the next few years to finance their development, analysts say.

Unlike conventional plant breeding, genetic engineering involves splicing a single gene or a handful of genes from one organism into another to transfer certain traits. The most popular variety of biotech corn carries a bacteria gene that kills insect larvae.

New crops must go through a two-stage approval process at the Agriculture Department before they can be put on the market. Companies have to get permission to conduct field tests and then seek permission for commercial sales. Insect-resistant crops also must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.