(Who needs GM? R).
By CAROL KAESUK YOON, New York Times, August 22, 2000
In a stunning new result from what has become one of the largest agricultural experiments ever, thousands of rice farmers in China have doubled the yields of their most valuable crop and nearly eliminated its most devastating disease without using chemical treatments or spending a single extra penny.
Under the direction of an international team of scientists, farmers in China's Yunnan Province implemented a simple change in their rice paddies.
Instead of planting the large stands of a single type of rice, as they typically have done, the farmers planted a mixture of two different rices.
With this one change, growers were able to radically restrict the incidence of rice blast the most important disease of this most important staple
in the world. Within just two years, farmers were able to abandon the chemical fungicides previously widely used to fight the disease. "I wasn't surprised that the system worked but I was surprised that it worked so well," said Dr. Christopher Mundt, population biologist at Oregon State University and the one American-based author on the study, which was published in the current edition of the journal Nature. "I'm excited about the possibilities. There is a lot of potential even beyond rice."
Dr. Youyong Zhu, plant pathologist at Yunnan Agricultural University, heads the mostly China-based research team whose study now covers 100,000 acres and involves tens of thousands of farmers. In fact, many researchers have long argued that planting a diversity of crops should lead to benefits like greater productivity and the suppression of disease, compared with single variety plantings known as monocultures. Yet the use of diversity and other ecologically based cures for agricultural ills have tended to be viewed as more politically correct than economically viable. Scientists say that this latest study shows that such environmentally friendly methods can be highly effective, even more effective, in this case, than standard chemical pesticides.
Calling the results "very significant," Dr. Alison Power, agricultural ecologist at Cornell University, said, "People have said that these kinds of ecological approaches wouldn't work on a commercial scale. This is a huge scale." She added, "We have more alternatives that are really viable than we often think about or include in our arsenal of possibilities." Those studying natural ecosystems also welcomed the new work, saying it closely paralleled findings for the role of species diversity in reducing the incidence of disease in the wild.
"It's an important study," said Dr. David Tilman, ecologist at the University of Minnesota. "It's going to raise a great deal of interest." The scientific hypothesis behind the study, the latest in a growing number examining the effects of biodiversity, is simple. If one variety of a crop is susceptible to a disease, the more concentrated those susceptible types are, the more easily disease can spread and the more victims it can claim. The disease should be less likely to spread, however, if susceptible plants are separated from one another by other kinds of plants that do not succumb to the disease and can act as a barrier. Rice blast fungus, which destroys millions of tons of rice and costs farmers several billion dollars in losses each year, moves from plant to plant as an airborne spore a method of transport that should easily be blocked by a row of disease-resistant plants.
Scientists tested the hypothesis by asking farmers to plant their farms in experimental plots using two kinds of rice: a standard rice that does not usually succumb to rice blast disease and a much more valuable sticky rice known to be highly susceptible.
Farmers also planted control plots of monocultures, allowing scientists to rigorously test the importance of the mixtures in the health and productivity on these farms.
What scientists found was that farmers garnered even more benefit from the mixtures than expected. Resistant plants did block the airborne spores in a field, but as more and more farmers became involved in the study, these positive effects began to multiply across the region. Not only were disease spores not blowing in from the next row, they were no longer coming from the next farmer's field either or the next or the next, rapidly damping the spread of the disease on a grand scale.
In addition, scientists found that the sticky rice plants, which poked up above the shorter, standard rice plants with which they were grown enjoyed sunnier, warmer and drier conditions than they would have in a stand of tall, sticky rice plants. These conditions appeared to discourage the growth of the fungal rice blast in the sticky rice plants.
The fact that rice blast is the most devastating disease of rice, the staple crop of most people worldwide, would alone make the study important.
Scientists interviewed said there was no reason, however, why mixtures could not decrease disease spread in other crops as well, though how powerful and useful a remedy it will be is likely to vary.
"There's already a lot of work with barley in Europe and coffee in Colombia," said Dr. Mundt. "I've seen beautiful disease reduction in mixtures of willows grown in England."
The study is of particular interest for organic farming as it involves the application of no chemicals.
"Biodiversity is an absolutely essential tool for organic production," said Dr. Martin Wolfe, director of research at Elm Farm Research Centre, an agricultural research institute. "It's an essential part of the armory."
Yet, Dr. Wolfe said, even organic farmers underuse diversity, as they also have been indoctrinated in the simplicity of and seduced by the universality of monocultures.
Some of the obstacles to using different varieties include the extra work of keeping track of and maintaining a diversity of plants that can require different kinds of tending and harvesting. If kinds of crops require different harvesting methods or are harvested at different times, it can increase the effort a farmer must expend in a given field. In Yunnan province, farmers harvested rice grains by hand, making it simple to gather and sell the two rice varieties separately. Some scientists argue such problems can also be overcome with mechanized harvesting. In the Pacific Northwest where an increasing number of farmers are using mixtures of wheat to increase yields and cut down disease, growers may choose varieties that differ in useful qualities, such as resistance to disease, but that can still be harvested and sold together.
Researchers say the study's implications extend to prairies, rainforests and other natural ecosystems. Just as the new study examines the role of a diversity of crops in fighting disease and in productivity of a rice paddy, biodiversity studies have been examining whether increased species number can affect such things as the health of plants in natural settings.
So far the two kinds of studies appear to support one another well. For example, Dr. Tilman and Charles Mitchell, an ecologist at University of Minnesota, have found evidence in prairie ecosystems that an increased diversity of plant species decreases the incidence of disease. As in the rice paddies, in natural ecosystems, when there is a greater diversity of plants, it is simply more difficult for the disease to spread.
"There's been quite a push by the agrotech industry to market genetically engineered crops and genetically homogeneous crops that perform really well," said Dr. Shahid Naeem, ecologist at the University of Washington. "But what's really neat about this paper is that it shows how we've lost sight of the fact that there are some really simple things we can do in the field to manage crops."
"The time has come to reclaim the stolen harvest and celebrate the
growing and giving of good food as the highest gift and the most
- Vandana Shiva
- Vandana Shiva
By George Monbiot , email@example.com , THE GUARDIAN, Thursday August 24, 2000
The advice could scarcely have come from a more surprising source. "If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the world," Steve Smith, a director of the world's biggest biotechnology company, Novartis, insisted, "tell them that it is not... To feed the world takes political and financial will - it's not about production and distribution."
Mr Smith was voicing a truth which most of his colleagues in biotechnology companies have gone to great lengths to deny. On a planet wallowing in surfeit, people starve because they have neither the land on which to grow food for themselves nor the money with which to buy it. There is no question that, as the population increases, the world will have to grow more, but if this task is left to the rich and powerful - big farmers and big business - then, irrespective of how much is grown, people will become progressively hungrier. Only a redistribution of land and wealth can save the world from mass starvation.
But in one respect Mr Smith is wrong. It is, in part, about production. A series of remarkable experiments has shown that the growing techniques which his company and many others have sought to impose upon the world are, in contradiction to everything we have been brought up to believe, actually less productive than some of the methods developed by traditional farmers over the past 10,000 years. Last week, Nature magazine reported the results of one of the biggest agricultural experiments ever conducted. A team of Chinese scientists had tested the key principle of modern rice-growing (planting a single, hi-tech variety across hundreds of hectares) against a much older technique (planting several breeds in one field). They found, to the astonishment of the farmers who had been drilled for years in the benefits of "monoculture", that reverting to the old method resulted in spectacular increases in yield. Rice blast - a devastating fungus which normally requires repeated applications of poison to control - decreased by 94%. The farmers planting a mixture of strains were able to stop applying their poisons altogether, while producing 18% more rice per acre than they were growing before.
Another paper, published in Nature two years ago, showed that yields of organic maize are identical to yields of maize grown with fertilisers and pesticides, while soil quality in the organic fields dramatically improves. In trials in Hertfordshire, wheat grown with manure has produced higher yields for the past 150 years than wheat grown with artificial nutrients.
Professor Jules Pretty of Essex University has shown how farmers in India, Kenya, Brazil, Guatemala and Honduras have doubled or tripled their yields by switching to organic or semi-organic techniques. A study in the US reveals that small farms growing a wide range of plants can produce 10 times as much money per acre as big farms growing single crops. Cuba, forced into organic farming by the economic blockade, has now adopted this as policy, having discovered that it improves both the productivity and the quality of its crops.
Hi-tech farming, by contrast, is sowing ever graver problems. This year, food production in Punjab and Haryana, the Indian states long celebrated as the great success stories of modern, intensive cultivation, has all but collapsed. The new crops the farmers there have been encouraged to grow demand far more water and nutrients than the old ones, with the result that, in many places, both the ground water and the soil have been exhausted.
We have, in other words, been deceived. Traditional farming has been stamped out all over the world not because it is less productive than monoculture, but because it is, in some respects, more productive. Organic cultivation has been characterised as an enemy of progress for the simple reason that it cannot be monopolised: it can be adopted by any farmer anywhere, without the help of multinational companies. Though it is more productive to grow several species or several varieties of crops in one field, the biotech companies must reduce diversity in order to make money, leaving farmers with no choice but to purchase their most profitable seeds. This is why they have spent the last 10 years buying up seed breeding institutes and lobbying governments to do what ours has done: banning the sale of any seed which has not been officially - and expensively - registered and approved.
All this requires an unrelenting propaganda war against the tried and tested techniques of traditional farming, as the big companies and their scientists dismiss them as unproductive, unsophisticated and unsafe. The truth, so effectively suppressed that it is now almost impossible to believe, is that organic farming is the key to feeding the world.
The following 14 page document has been prepared by Mark Griffiths and Steve Drucker, both outstanding experts in the field of Anti-GE. Please read the full story at
"Tragedy and Hype" Concentrate summary from the 3rd international Soy Symposium.
Far from being the perfect food, modern soy products contain anti-nutrients and toxins and they interfere with the absorbtion of vitamins and minterals.
( .. and this on top of having Genetically Manipulated varieties)
Read the full story at http://www.nexusmagazine.com/soydangers.html
Most excellent summary extracted from the classic book "Sugar Blues" (first published in 1975) by William Dufty. Read this 12 page eye-opener at http://www.nexusmagazine.com/SugarBlues.html -- it has changed many people's life for the better!
The author, Betty Martini, owned 5 medical clinics and had 200 doctors working for her. She can be reached in Atlanta at 770-242-2599.
By Betty Martini, 8/17/00
I have spent several days lecturing at the WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL CONFERENCE on ASPARTAME, marketed as 'NutraSweet,' 'Equal,' and 'Spoonful.'
In the EPA's keynote address, they announced that there was an epidemic of multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus, and they did not understand what toxin was causing this to be rampant across the United States. I explained I was there to lecture on exactly that subject.
When the temperature of Aspartame exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood alcohol in ASPARTAME coverts to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, which in turn causes metabolic acidosis. (Formic acid is the poison found in the sting of fire ants.) The methanol toxicity mimics multiple sclerosis; thus, people were being diagnosed with having multiple sclerosis in error. The multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence, where methanol toxicity is.
In the case of systemic lupus, we are finding it has become almost as rampant as multiple sclerosis, especially Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi drinkers. Also, with methanol toxicity, the victims usually drink three to four 12 oz. cans of them per day, some even more. In the cases of systemic lupus, which is triggered by ASPARTAME, the victim usually does not know that the aspartame is the culprit. The victim continues its use aggravating the lupus to such a degree, that sometimes it becomes life-threatening.
When we get people off the aspartame, those with systemic lupus usually become asymptotic. Unfortunately, we cannot reverse this disease. On the other hand, in the case of those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, (when in reality, the disease is methanol toxicity), most of the symptoms disappear. We have seen cases where their vision has returned and even their hearing has returned.
This also applies to cases of tinnitus. During a lecture I said "If you are using ASPARTAME [NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc.] and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, or memory loss, you probably have ASPARTAME DISEASE!" People were jumping up during the lecture saying, "I've got this. Is it reversible?" It is rampant.
Some of the speakers at my lecture even were suffering from these symptoms. In one lecture attended by the Ambassador of Uganda, he told us that their sugar industry is adding aspartame! He continued by saying that one of the industry leader's son could no longer walk due in part to product usage! We have a very serious problem. Even a stranger came up to Dr. Espisto, (one of my speakers) and myself and said, "Could you tell me why so many people seem to be coming down with MS?"
During a visit to a hospice, a nurse said that six of her friends, who were heavy Diet Coke drinkers, had all been diagnosed with MS. This is beyond coincidence. Here is the problem.
There were Congressional Hearings when Aspartame was originally included as a sweetener in 100 different products. Since this initial hearing, there have been two subsequent hearings, but to no avail. Nothing has been done.
The drug and chemical lobbies have very deep pockets. Now there are over 5,000 products containing this chemical, and the PATENT HAS EXPIRED!!!!
At the time of this first hearing, people were going blind. The methanol in the Aspartame converts to formaldehyde in the retina of the eye. Formaldehyde is grouped in the same class of drugs as cyanide and arsenic - DEADLY POISONS!!! Unfortunately, it just takes longer to quietly kill, but it is killing people and causing all kinds of neurological problems.
Aspartame changes the brain's chemistry. It is the reason for severe seizures. This drug changes the dopamine level in the brain. Imagine what this drug does to patients suffering from Parkinson's Disease. This drug also causes birth defects. There is absolutely no reason to take this product. It is NOT A DIET PRODUCT! The Congressional Record said, "It makes you crave Carbohydrates and will make you FAT." Dr. Roberts stated that when he got patients off aspartame, their average weight loss was 19 pounds per person.
The formaldehyde stores in the fat cells, particularly in the hips and thighs. Aspartame is especially deadly for diabetics. All physicians know what wood alcohol will do to a diabetic. We find that physicians believe that they have patients with retinopathy, when in fact, it is caused by the aspartame. The aspartame keeps the blood sugar level out of control, causing many patients to go into a coma. Unfortunately, many have died.
People were telling us at the conference of the American College of Physicians, that they had relatives who switched from saccharin to an aspartame product and how the relative had eventually gone into a coma. Their physicians could not get the blood sugar levels under control. Thus, the patients suffered acute memory loss and eventually coma and death. Memory loss is due the fact that aspartic acid and phenylalanine are neurotoxic without the other amino acids found protein. Thus it goes past the blood brain barrier and deteriorates the neurons of the brain.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, neurosurgeon, said, "The ingredients stimulate the neurons of the brain to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees." Dr. Blaylock has written a book entitled "EXCITOTOXINS: THE TASTE THAT KILLS" (Health Press 1-800- 643-2665). Dr. H. J. Roberts, diabetic specialist and world expert on aspartame poisoning, has also written a book entitled "DEFENSE AGAINST ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE" (1-800-814- 9800). Dr. Roberts tells how aspartame poisoning is escalating Alzheimer's Disease, and indeed it is. As the hospice nurse told me, women are being admitted at 30 years of age with Alzheimer's Disease. Dr. Blaylock and Dr. Roberts will be writing a position paper with some case histories and will post it on the Internet.
According to the Conference of the American College of Physicians, "We are talking about a plague of neurological diseases caused by this deadly poison." Dr. Roberts realized what was happening when aspartame was first marketed. He said, "His diabetic patients presented memory loss, confusion, and severe vision loss." At the Conference of the American College of Physicians, doctors admitted that they did not know.
They had wondered why seizures were rampant (the phenylalanine in aspartame breaks down the seizure threshold and depletes serotonin, which causes manic depression, panic attacks, rage and violence). Just before the Conference, I received a fax from Norway, asking for a possible antidote for this poison because they are experiencing so many problems in their country. This "poison" is now available in 90 PLUS countries worldwide.
Fortunately, we had speakers and ambassadors at the Conference from different nations who have pledged their help. We ask that you help too. Print this article out and warn everyone you know. Take anything that contains aspartame back to the store. Take the "NO ASPARTAME TEST" and send us your case history.
I assure you that MONSANTO, the creator of Aspartame, knows how deadly it is. They fund the American Association, American Dietetic Association
Congress, and the Conference of the American College of Physicians. The New York Times, November 15, 1996, ran an article on how the American Dietetic Association takes money from the food industry to endorse their products. Therefore, they cannot criticize any additives or tell about their link to MONSANTO.
How bad is this? We told a mother who had a child on NutraSweet to get off the product. The child was having grand mal seizures every day. The mother called her physician, who called the ADA, who told the doctor not to take the child off the NutraSweet. We are still trying to convince the mother that the Aspartame is causing the seizures. Every time we get someone off of aspartame, the seizures stop. If the baby dies, you know whose fault it is, and what we are up against.
There are 92 documented symptoms of aspartame, from coma to death. The majority of them are all neurological, because the aspartame destroys the nervous system. Aspartame Disease is partially the cause to what is behind some of the mystery of the Desert Storm health problems. The burning tongue and other problems discussed in over 60 cases can be directly related to the consumption of Aspartame product. Several thousand pallets of diet drinks were shipped to the Desert Storm troops. (Remember heat can liberate the methanol from the aspartame at 86 degrees F.) Diet drinks sat in the 120 degree F Arabian sun for weeks at a time on pallets The servicemen and women drank them all day long. All of their symptoms are identical to aspartame poisoning.
Dr. Roberts says consuming Aspartame at the time of conception can cause birth defects. According to Dr. Louis Elsas, Pediatrician and Professor of Genetics at Emory University, in his testimony before Congress: The phenylalanine concentrates in the placenta, causing mental retardation. In the original lab tests, animals developed brain tumors, phenylalanine breaks down into DXP, a brain tumor agent. When Dr. Espisto was lecturing on aspartame, one physician in the audience, a neurosurgeon, said, "When they remove brain tumors, they have found high levels of aspartame in them."
Stevia, a sweet food, NOT AN ADDITIVE, which helps in the metabolism of sugar, which would be ideal for diabetics, has now been approved as a dietary supplement by the FDA for years, the FDA has outlawed this sweet food because of their loyalty to MONSANTO. If it says "SUGAR FREE" on the label - DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.
Senator Howard Metzenbaum wrote a bill that would have warned all infants, pregnant mothers and children of the dangers of aspartame. The bill would have also instituted independent studies on the problems existing in the population (seizures, changes in brain chemistry, changes in neurological and behavioral symptoms). It was killed by the powerful drug and chemical lobbies, letting loose the hounds of disease and death on an unsuspecting public. Since the Conference of the American College of Physicians, we hope to have the help of several world leaders.
Again, please help us, too. There are a lot of people out there who must be warned, please let them know this information.
Internet websites offering further research and related links include: http://www.dorway.com
Here is an interesting and well researched article about New Zealand's privatisation and adherence to World Bank parameters of restructuring that shows explicitly that such a programme can cause more problems than it solves. Quo Vadis South Africa and other nations targeted by the World Bank?
COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Downfall of an economic experiment: New Zealand's textbook programme of liberalisation has left it poorer than before, argues John Kay:
By John Kay, NZ Financial Times, Aug 30, 2000, 851 words
If ever a country has been run by economists, it is New Zealand. In 1984, the colourful Roger Douglas became finance minister. He began the most comprehensive programme of economic reform ever seen in a developed country.
According to current orthodoxy, New Zealand has done everything right. The central bank is independent and its governor's pay is linked to the inflation rate. State industries have been comprehensively restructured and privatised, with none of the regulatory supervision found elsewhere.
What was one of the world's most comprehensive welfare states has been dismantled. The Employment Contracts Act insists that conditions of work are a private matter between employer and employee. In surveys of economic freedom, New Zealand ranks with Hong Kong and Singapore, ahead of Britain and the US, and well ahead of continental Europe.
After 15 years, the electorate delivered its own verdict on the reforms by returning an old Labour-style government, led by Helen Clark. If we look coldly at New Zealand economic data, the voters are right. Since the experiment began, economic growth has been much slower than in the rest of the developed world. Productivity and living standards have barely risen, while almost all other rich countries have enjoyed sustained expansion.
The last 15 years have completed New Zealand's transition into a very select group of states: those that were once rich but are rich no longer. The standard of living has fallen from 1.25 times the average standard of living in high-income countries in 1965 to 0.62 last year. New Zealand is the Argentina of the second half of the 20th century. What went wrong?
The world has certainly treated New Zealand badly. Its economy was oriented towards Australia and Europe, especially Britain. It was, and is, the most efficient producer anywhere of lamb, wool and milk. The rise of agricultural protection, and the UK's accession to the European Union, was deeply damaging.
But this happened some time ago. Between 1965 and 1976 the price New Zealand received for its exports, relative to what it paid for imports, fell by more than one third. Since then, the country's terms of trade with the rest of the world have improved slightly. Economic performance since 1976 is the responsibility of New Zealanders themselves.
Between 1976 and 1984, Premier Robert Muldoon urged his compatriots to think big, and gave them aluminium smelters and petrochemical plants. Most of these schemes failed, at large cost to the taxpayer. The liberalisation that followed was an understandable reaction but it was no more successful.
The programme is still widely admired outside New Zealand. As was true of Margaret Thatcher's Britain, the success of reform is often measured by the extent to which it has occurred, rather than the benefits that flowed from it. The US Central Intelligence Agency claims in its 1999 factbook that the reforms have boosted growth and moved incomes towards the levels of the big West European economies but its statistics show the opposite.
The more serious challenge is to those international economic agencies - the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - that have advocated elsewhere the reform programme that New Zealand adopted so enthusiastically. Unable to ignore the evidence, the OECD waffles.
"It is difficult to reach definite conclusions about why economic performance has not improved to a greater extent in the light of the substantial policy changes that have taken place, not least because it is hard to be precise about the counterfactual to be used for comparison," (OECD Economic Survey, New Zealand, 1999). That means things have been bad but they might have been worse. "The reforms are, on balance, commendable for the application of a broad set of consistent principles and the extent to which announced measures were actually implemented." You might equally congratulate a man jumping off a cliff for his firmness of purpose.
Still, like all peddlers of panaceas, the OECD's conclusion is that the patient has not believed strongly enough. "Despite the enormous strides made to date, there is unfinished business as to structural policies," it says. After 15 years, it cannot seriously be argued that more time, or more reform, is needed before benefits emerge. The New Zealand experiment was a test of the claim that government is the source of most economic ills and the withdrawal of government is a solution to them. The New Zealand Treasury adopted that argument with almost obsessive zeal. And it is clear that the experiment failed.
The electricity supply disruptions that blacked out much of central Auckland for five weeks in 1998 resulted from a sequence of managerial and technical failures that might have happened elsewhere. But the place it did happen is the only advanced country where electricity distribution is neither owned nor regulated by government.
Before economic reform, New Zealand had virtually no unemployment. The price was that many people were employed in not very productive jobs. But perhaps that was a better answer, economically as well as socially, than putting them out of work.
As Tim Hazledine* has shown, New Zealand's reforms have not been cheap. There has been a substantial increase in the numbers and earnings of managers, and in financial and business services. This is not wrong in itself but it has to be justified by a corresponding rise in the productivity of those they manage, advise, and finance. And this has simply not happened.
If socialism was to be tested, it should not have been in Russia. And New Zealand - an isolated, easy-going country with impressive social cohesion - was the wrong place to try out economic libertarianism. Economists must be grateful for such experiments. But it is usually better not to live in the countries where they take place.
Taking New Zealand Seriously by Tim Hazledine; Harper Collins New Zealand
Further analysis can be found at http://www.johnkay.com
Copyright © The Financial Times Limited
"All policymakers must be vigilant to the possibility of research data being
manipulated by corporate bodies and of scientific colleagues being seduced
by the material charms of industry. Trust is no defence against an
aggressively deceptive corporate sector,"
THE LANCET, April 2000
"When a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, it can cause a hurricane in New
"When a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, it can cause a hurricane in New York."
New research from the University of East Anglia on the potentially negative effect of GM crops on bird populations is published in Science magazine tomorrow (Friday). Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth comments:
"We have argued since the beginning of the GM debate that introducing pesticide and herbicide resistant crops into the UK countryside may have disastrous environmental effects. This new research provides shocking evidence of what could happen to our farmland bird populations, already in sharp decline because of chemical-heavy intensive farming. By contrast recent research on organic farms showed an increase in skylark numbers.
The UEA research also reveals once again the farcical nature of the Government's so called GM "trials programme". The research suggests that the trials will fail to pick up any of the environmental effects identified in this study. Since these are fundamental to the environmental case against GM crops, what on earth is the point of the trials?
The time has come for the Government to finally call a freeze on GM crops until their safety can be guaranteed. And instead of wasting tax-payers money on dead-end GM research the Government should be investing in farm systems that grow sufficient high-quality food on wildlife-friendly land."
Friends of the Earth E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
26-28 Underwood Street , London , N1 7JQ
Tel: 0171 490 1555 Fax: 0171 490 0881 URL: http://www.foe.co.uk
ISIS Sustainable Science Audit #2
by Dr Mae-Wan Ho and Dr Joe Cummins
Xenotransplantation - the transplant of animal organs into human beings - is a multi-billion dollar business venture built on the anticipated sale of patented techniques and organs, as well as drugs to overcome organ-rejection (1). It has received strong criticism and opposition from scientists warning of the risks of new viruses crossing from animal organs to human subjects and from there to infect the population at large. But regulators are adopting a permissive attitude for clinical trials to go ahead. Scientific reports of virus crossing from pig to human cells (2) and of viral infections in humans subjects transplanted with baboon livers (3) are being ignored or dismissed, while inconclusive, widely faulted papers are taken as evidence that no viruses are found in xenotransplant patients (4).
This audit exposes the shoddy science that puts the world at risk of viral pandemics for the sake of corporate profit, and concludes that xenotranplantation should not be allowed to continue in any form. Instead, effort should be devoted to developing safer, more sustainable and affordable alternatives that are already showing promise and will be more likely to benefit society as a whole in the industrialized west as well as in the Third World.
Full paper on ISIS website: http://www.i-sis.org
29 August 2000
Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Submitted to State of the World Forum, September 4-10, 2000 The scientists are extremely concerned about the hazards of GMOs to biodiversity, food safety, human and animal health, and demand a moratorium on environmental releases in accordance with the precautionary principle.
They are opposed to GM crops that will intensify corporate monopoly, exacerbate inequality and prevent the essential shift to sustainable agriculture that can provide food security and health around the world. They call for a ban on patents of life-forms and living processes which threaten food security, sanction biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources and violate basic human rights and dignity. They want more support on research and development of non-corporate, sustainable agriculture that can benefit family farmers and consumers.
Previous versions of this letter were submitted to: World Trade Organization Conference in Seattle (November 30 - Dec. 2, 1999), UN Biosafety Protocol Meeting in Montreal (24 - 28, Jan. 2000), UN Commission on Sustainable Development Conference on Sustainable Agriculture in New York (April 24-May 5, 2000), UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference in Nairobi (May 16-24, 2000) and United States Congress (29 June, 2000).
Signed by 345 scientists from 39 countries, including:
"Future Visions" State of the World Forum, September 4-10, New York
By Prof. Mae-Wan Ho
Institute of Science in Society http://www.i-sis.org and Dept. of Biological Sciences, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
It gives new insights into physiological regulation, bioenergetics and cell biology, many of which were predicted by the pioneers. Also consistent with their vision, the new science of the organism promises to restore all the qualities that have been exorcised from life and nature, to reaffirm and extend our intuitive, poetic, and even romantic notions of nature's unity.
It can change key, change tempo, change tune perfectly, as it feels like, or as the situation demands, spontaneously and without hesitation. What this super-orchestra plays is the most exquisite jazz, jazz being to classical music what quantum is to classical physics. One might call it quantum jazz. There is a certain structure, but the real art is in the endless improvisations, where each and every player, however small, enjoys maximum freedom of expression, while maintaining perfectly in step and in tune with the whole. There is no leader or conductor, and the music is written as it is played.
Mrs Y. Royals
Tel: +44 1908 653318 Fax: +44 1908 654167 e-mail: email@example.com
Mae-Wan Ho reports on an extraordinarily invigorating and informative gathering of farmers, activists, government officials, academics and rice research scientists (with many thanks to tireless interpreter, Chalotorn Kansuntisukmongkol, back home on holiday from University of California, Davies).
Farmers from all over Thailand flocked to the day-long Rice Forum held in the Museum Hall for Culture and Agriculture in Kasetsart University near the outskirts of Bangkok on August 15. There, they met with activists, government officials, academic scientists, students and indigenous peoples to hear speakers which included distinguished Professors from the Universities and Ministry of Agriculture, the leader of the Karen tribes as well as invited foreign guests. This was in preparation for the long march to take place in September, in protest of the introduction of GMOs to Thailand. Monsanto from next door sent their representative to listen in.
Professor Rapee Sakrik, twice Rector of the University and orchid breeder, opened the morning session with an elegant reminder of the importance of orchids to Thai culture in developing an inner appreciation of the fine things of life. It is the good intention from the heart that would really change people's perception and action, he said.
Dr. Ampon Kittiampon, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, regrets that modern knowledge does not include traditional wisdom, and that the emphasis on cost-effectiveness has sidelined societal values. The recent economic crisis gave the opportunity to reassess the balance between cultural conservation and external demands. "Rice is what supports our society" he said, "Export is important but cannot be the only focus." External influence and the Intellectual Property Rights both undermine traditional knowledge. Furthermore, if farmers have to buy seeds, it would compromise food security.
Joni, leader of the Karen, told his audience that "rice is life for the Karen" and that losing the seed is to lose life itself. Their whole culture revolves around rice. The spirit of rice rises to heaven every year and a rice ceremony takes place before planting. The Karen used to plant 100 varieties of which only 5 are now left. He blamed the academics and the authorities for not understanding swidden (shifting) agriculture which works on a four year cycle. Planting rice in the same place for 4 years led to the loss of both the rice crops and the forest.
Prof. Prapas, rice breeder from the Ministry of Agriculture and Day-ene Siripetra from the Khoaw Kwan (or Rice Spirit ) Foundation gave differing versions of the history of rice breeding in Thailand. In the olden days, Prof. Prapas told us, there were four ministries, one of which was the Ministry for rice affairs. The Department of Rice, which became the Rice Research Institute, used to research social and cultural aspects of rice and not just genetic modification. During the reign of King Rama V, Thailand was exporting rice, but the price was very low. So the King organized a competition on rice varieties. This led to many varieties being developed, and for years, the top ten in the Canadian rice competition went to Thailand. Now, only jasmine rice is left. In those days (45-50 years ago) the main focus of farmers was to plant for their own use. Now the focus is on export and high yield. Prof. Prapas suggested that genetic engineering may be used on traditional varieties to create high yield and good taste, or to resist pests.
Day-ene Siripatra told his audience that the practice of rice planting did not change until the British forced Thailand to open her market. After that,Thailand developed irrigation systems, rice research stations and organized rice competition. The Rice Research Institute was established to get varieties that were good for export (those that won prices in Canada). Of the ten that won prizes, nine were no longer used, but kept in the seed bank. After World War II, Thailand had a contract with the US. Dr. Love, a rice specialist from the US, came to Thailand to train Government officials to collect rice varieties. A total of 120 000 varieties were collected, which Dr. Love took to the US. (So, biopiracy is nothing new!) The present day Jasmine rice was also developed by the farmers themselves.
In the 1960s, the Green Revolution was introduced to Thailand by the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation, and caused drastic loss of traditional varieties through emphasis on high yield with high input. Farmers were told to exchange their traditional varieties for the new ones which turned out to be very susceptible to disease. Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution, came to Thailand two weeks earlier to promote GMOs. From past experience, Day-ene is not at all convinced GMOs are the way ahead.
Farmer after farmer made passionate and at times angry contributions from the floor. "Jasmine rice is losing fragrance because the Ministry of Agriculture is promoting new varieties. The new varieties cross with the old and make them lose fragrance. Farmers are in debt because merchants reduce the price for the loss of fragrance." "We must revive traditional varieties and the Government must raise the price of traditional varieties." "Lots of fragrant rice used to be planted but the Government developed varieties for export and emphasized yield, so farmers stopped planting fragrant rice varieties.To conserve rice varieties, the Government must buy different varieties."
Farmers confirmed that the use of pesticides and fertilizers resulted in many diseases, while traditional varieties never gave so many problems. They also pointed out the benefit of rice planting is that it provided food and feed for animals as well as a surplus for selling on the market. "Without rice planting, we become poorer." They called for more integrated farming.
In concluding the session, Joni deplored the fact that people are losing their natural cooperative tendencies on account of the money culture. Siripatra called for a change of paradigm, not just an attempt to patch the old one up. The really holistic way is to integrate agriculture with culture: rice as life and not rice as commodity.
The first session in the afternoon dealt with the technical aspects of GM rice, which confirmed what had been said in the morning already. I gave an overview of the state of resistance to GM crops all over the world, explained what genetic engineering was and how it is really a whole way of life that threatens not just food security but our most deeply held social values. The resistance to GM is a struggle to reclaim the good life for all in every sense.
Devlin Kujek from the Barcelona based ngo, GRAIN Lene Santos, also from GRAIN, exploded the myth of the 'golden rice' -
engineered to produce
pro-vitamin A in the polished grain - that is supposed to cure widespread
vitamin A deficiency
in the Third World. She pointed out that the poor and malnourished are
actually deficient in multiple
vitamins and nutrients, and that the problem cannot be addressed by
pro-vitamin A alone.
There are already some 70 patents on the golden rice, owned by 32 companies.
The rice variety
modified is a temperate rice unsuitable for growing in the tropics. (See
also ISIS Sustainable Audit #1,
The Golden Rice, an Exercise in How Not To Do Science www.i-sis.org).
The Monsanto representative finally spoke up and said that the company is
only trying to improve
the quality of life for people in the Third World, and villagers can choose
not to use GM crops.
China and Singapore, she said, are promoting and embracing the technology
so they won't be dominated by foreign countries.
According to Devlin, a Chinese contact told him that they had the same
problems with Monsanto's
GM cotton that was known in the US, with cotton balls dropping off when the
crop was sprayed with
Roundup. But the farmers were under contract to Monsanto to say nothing!
Monsanto was rebutted by a Professor from Prince Songkla University who
dwelt on the importance
of protecting Thailand as a centre of rice biodiversity, and that it would
be very dangerous to release
rice GMOs. (Thailand already has a huge variety of rice, all differing in
both fragrance and colour
- shades of yellows, reds and black - rich in all kinds of vitamins and
Another passionate speaker from the floor said, "Monsanto, don't try to push
us! Academics and
Government officials ought to try to find a clear understanding of how to
protect the natural world.
Instead Thailand is being dominated by a group of corporate scientists
reaping benefits from the
developing to the developed world. Small farmers are being forced into
contractual arrangements, or
bribery, and have no choice. The Philippines are taking an aggressive stand
before GM crops come in."
The last session was on intellectual property rights and the speakers were
Professor Chakkrit ,
an academic from the Department of Law, and Mr. Bantoong of the Biodiversity
Institute. Thailand already
has comprehensive draft legislations to protect her genetic resources, the
forests and especially her rich
tradition of herbal medicines, which is being recovered for use in public
health in an effort to substitute for
the high costs of imported medicine and to promote the exchange of knowledge
and resources in the
form of medical herbs, health foods and other healthcare items. Western
scientific knowledge is
combined with indigenous scientific knowledge, and government agencies, NGOs
and academics are
all involved in the important task of recovering traditional medicines.
Provisions are being made to
register inventions under the ownership of communities, NGOs, traditional
healers, monks and private
individuals. This model should be taken seriously by countries all over the
world, as it will do much to
counteract corporate biopiracy as well as unsustainable corporate monopoly
on food and health.
A spokesperson from the Agricultural Research Department said, "Our
biodiversity is our national treasure.
The problem is how to protect our treasure which include tropical fruits and
He stressed the need to conserve living organisms in nature and not only in
In the Rice Research Institute in Central Thailand, 30 000 varieties of rice
have already been collected,
and it is not at all clear that they can keep. "About GMOs: we don't allow
the use of GMO commercially,
only for research."
This brought a torrent of condemnation from the farmers. "The Government
has led us in the wrong
direction. Up to now we did not know anything about GMOs, but thanks to this
seminar, things have
changed. Research Institutes have concentrated in creating varieties that
are sensitive to fertilizers
and dependent on pesticides, and now GMOs are much worse. We are losing our
"The lies we have been told! The patents that have been obtained based on mo
difying our varieties.
And adding vitamin A to our varieties for higher profit." "Anyone pushing
GMOs is wicked.
We have to stop them. We cannot allow GMOs in Thailand." "We have to
collect names of villagers in
Thailand who do not want GMOs and tell the Department of Agriculture and
Development to stop."
"Stop talking of benefits of GMOs!" "Patenting of rice is robbing us of our
"We still have lots of varieties but we may lose them because of Government
policies. The Government
does not care about the traditional way of life in the highlands. Government
says people don't have
knowledge and destroy natural resources under swidden agriculture, and
It is the Government that is destroying our rice varieties, first through
the green revolution, and now
through trying to fix it with GMOs"
In a television debate two days later, Dr. Suthep Limtongkul, Director of
Rice Research Institute,
announced that they have put all GM rice in the gene bank, and will not
carry out any more research
on them. But still, farmers want the GM rice destroyed.
Mrs Y. Royals
Tel: +44 1908 653318
Fax: +44 1908 654167
Lene Santos, also from GRAIN, exploded the myth of the 'golden rice' - engineered to produce pro-vitamin A in the polished grain - that is supposed to cure widespread vitamin A deficiency in the Third World. She pointed out that the poor and malnourished are actually deficient in multiple vitamins and nutrients, and that the problem cannot be addressed by pro-vitamin A alone. There are already some 70 patents on the golden rice, owned by 32 companies. The rice variety modified is a temperate rice unsuitable for growing in the tropics. (See also ISIS Sustainable Audit #1, The Golden Rice, an Exercise in How Not To Do Science www.i-sis.org).
The Monsanto representative finally spoke up and said that the company is only trying to improve the quality of life for people in the Third World, and villagers can choose not to use GM crops. China and Singapore, she said, are promoting and embracing the technology enthusiastically just so they won't be dominated by foreign countries.
According to Devlin, a Chinese contact told him that they had the same problems with Monsanto's GM cotton that was known in the US, with cotton balls dropping off when the crop was sprayed with Roundup. But the farmers were under contract to Monsanto to say nothing!
Monsanto was rebutted by a Professor from Prince Songkla University who dwelt on the importance of protecting Thailand as a centre of rice biodiversity, and that it would be very dangerous to release rice GMOs. (Thailand already has a huge variety of rice, all differing in both fragrance and colour - shades of yellows, reds and black - rich in all kinds of vitamins and minerals.) Another passionate speaker from the floor said, "Monsanto, don't try to push us! Academics and Government officials ought to try to find a clear understanding of how to protect the natural world. Instead Thailand is being dominated by a group of corporate scientists reaping benefits from the developing to the developed world. Small farmers are being forced into contractual arrangements, or bribery, and have no choice. The Philippines are taking an aggressive stand before GM crops come in."
The last session was on intellectual property rights and the speakers were Professor Chakkrit , an academic from the Department of Law, and Mr. Bantoong of the Biodiversity Institute. Thailand already has comprehensive draft legislations to protect her genetic resources, the forests and especially her rich tradition of herbal medicines, which is being recovered for use in public health in an effort to substitute for the high costs of imported medicine and to promote the exchange of knowledge and resources in the form of medical herbs, health foods and other healthcare items. Western scientific knowledge is combined with indigenous scientific knowledge, and government agencies, NGOs and academics are all involved in the important task of recovering traditional medicines. Provisions are being made to register inventions under the ownership of communities, NGOs, traditional healers, monks and private individuals. This model should be taken seriously by countries all over the world, as it will do much to counteract corporate biopiracy as well as unsustainable corporate monopoly on food and health.
A spokesperson from the Agricultural Research Department said, "Our biodiversity is our national treasure. The problem is how to protect our treasure which include tropical fruits and microorganisms." He stressed the need to conserve living organisms in nature and not only in gene banks. In the Rice Research Institute in Central Thailand, 30 000 varieties of rice have already been collected, and it is not at all clear that they can keep. "About GMOs: we don't allow the use of GMO commercially, only for research."
This brought a torrent of condemnation from the farmers. "The Government has led us in the wrong direction. Up to now we did not know anything about GMOs, but thanks to this seminar, things have changed. Research Institutes have concentrated in creating varieties that are sensitive to fertilizers and dependent on pesticides, and now GMOs are much worse. We are losing our life!" "The lies we have been told! The patents that have been obtained based on mo difying our varieties. And adding vitamin A to our varieties for higher profit." "Anyone pushing GMOs is wicked. We have to stop them. We cannot allow GMOs in Thailand." "We have to collect names of villagers in Thailand who do not want GMOs and tell the Department of Agriculture and Development to stop." "Stop talking of benefits of GMOs!" "Patenting of rice is robbing us of our liveihood." "We still have lots of varieties but we may lose them because of Government policies. The Government does not care about the traditional way of life in the highlands. Government says people don't have knowledge and destroy natural resources under swidden agriculture, and arrest them. It is the Government that is destroying our rice varieties, first through the green revolution, and now through trying to fix it with GMOs"
In a television debate two days later, Dr. Suthep Limtongkul, Director of Rice Research Institute, announced that they have put all GM rice in the gene bank, and will not carry out any more research on them. But still, farmers want the GM rice destroyed.
Mrs Y. Royals (ISIS Co-ordinator) c/o Biology Dept Open University Milton keynes MK2 2PE U.K. Tel: +44 1908 653318 Fax: +44 1908 654167 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org