20 January 2001

Table of Contents

Low-tech beats GM, says Prince Charles
Scientists Perverting Science
Stem cell discovery reverses time
Kenya: Minister warns on GM crops
The Guardian: Against the grain (feed the world)
the "mouse vaccine" experiments
Bayer Takes a Dose of Genomics
GM-contaminated seed to be allowed under UK Government and EU proposal
Gene Therapy Risks To Be Revealed
Science Article Showing How Science Politics Obfuscates Issues
Science Editorial: Antibiotics in Animal Farming
new resource: The Canadian Biotech Action Network
DNA: Farm Animals may be What They Eat

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Date: 16 Jan 2001 06:30:44 -0600

Low-tech beats GM, says Prince Charles

By John Vidal, THE GUARDIAN (UK), Tuesday January 16, 2001

Charles backs revolutionary system to aid starving

Prince Charles yesterday reignited the GM debate by endorsing a revolutionary agricultural system that claims to prove that the 800m facing hunger in developing countries can grow far more food by adopting simple farming techniques than by going down the hi-tech GM route favoured by Tony Blair and US corporations.

Addressing a conference at St James's Palace on the benefits of "sustainable" agriculture, the prince said: "Arguments for hi-tech agriculture are increasingly accepted without question, and their possible long term consequences on the environment and economies are not being given sufficient attention.

"One of the most commonly raised arguments raised by those in favour of GMs is that they are necessary to 'feed the world'. But where people are starving, lack of food is rarely the underlying cause. There is a need to create sustainable livelihoods. I would argue for a more balanced approach. Sustainable agriculture provides a pointer to what can be achieved."

The prince, representatives of large corporations, charities and academies around the world heard that almost 9m poor farmers in more than 50 developing countries were witnessing 50 to 150% yield increases with huge environmental and social benefits.

"Sustainable agriculture" has been developed largely over the past decade and aims to save water, regenerate soils by using manures, forgo deep ploughing to prevent erosion, reclaim unproductive land, and minimisethe use of pesticides and fertilisers. It is close to organic agriculture which the prince has long favoured.

The usual claim for GM foods is that they increase yields between 5 to 10%, but, say critics, hi-tech farming may undermine small farmers who mostly save their own seeds and cannot afford the new technology.

Leading GM companies and governments have highlighted the growing global food crisis and tried to promote the controversial technology by claiming it could "feed the world". Last year, Mr Blair said that GM foods could "bring benefits for mankind".

The research by Essex University, funded by the Department for International Development, Greenpeace and Bread For the World, collated data from more than 200 projects growing food on more than 29.8m hectares (75m acres), and found "astonishing" results.

"We set out to see if farmers can improve food production with cheap, low-cost, locally available technologies and inputs, and whether they can do this without causing further environmental damage," said Jules Pretty, director of the University of Essex centre for environment and society.

"We found that for 4.42m small farmers practising sustainable agriculture on 3.58m hectares average food production per household increased 73%. For the 146,000 farmers on 542,000 hectares cultivating crops like potato and cassava the increase was 150%; and on larger farms total production increased by 46%."

The research showed that almost all the projects made better use of local natural resources and involved people working together as groups. "It seems to work best in the poorest areas," said Prof Pretty. "We can start to see real improvements."

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Date: 16 Jan 2001 10:08:40 -0600

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin)

Scientists Perverting Science

Thanks to Stokely Webster for this Quote of the Day:

"Scientists are perverting science, and society is simply sitting back and allowing them to do as they please."

... The Independent (London)
January 15, 2001, Monday LETTER:

Perversion Of Science

Dr Andre Menache


The creation of the first genetically modified monkey (report, 12 January) is a sad day for the animal kingdom, and a sad day for the human race. Instead of extending our knowledge in the field of clinical medicine in order to find cures for human disease, scientists are bending over backwards to try to produce animal models of human disease, which simply don't work. Scientists are perverting science, and society is simply sitting back and allowing them to do as they please.

President, Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine London N8

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Date: 16 Jan 2001 10:08:40 -0600

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin)

Stem cell discovery reverses time

The EU ethics committee advised exploring all other possibilities (such as the use of adult stem cells) thoroughly before embarking on a route that would lead to so-called "therapeutic" cloning of embryos. Within weeks comes news of a possible breakthrough involving adult stem cells. ... Stem cell discovery reverses time The Times, 15 Jan 2001,,2-68170,00.html

A RESEARCHER based in Britain claims to have achieved the biological equivalent of reversing time. She says that she has perfected a method of creating stem cells from adult cells, bypassing the ethical dilemma of 'therapeutic cloning' which recently divided the House of Commons.

Although Parliament voted in favour of research into therapeutic cloning, many people remain uneasy about creating embryos solely for use as a source of spare parts.

If Ilham Abuljadayel's claims are verified, treatments for a wide variety of diseases such as leukaemia, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease may be transformed. Not only does her method produce a supply of healthy cells from the patient's own blood, but it generates far more cells, more quickly, than alternative methods, and without raising ethical dilemmas.

So unlikely does the claim seem to many biologists that she has found it impossible to have it published in leading journals. But now, she says, it has been replicated by one of the world's leading contract research companies, Covance, and a company has been set up to market the idea.

Stem cells are the forerunners of the mature cells that make up the organs of the body. They are 'pluripotent', that is, they have within them the capacity to develop into many different types of cell o brain, muscle or blood, for example. The simplest source of a stem cell is a developing embryo, but until now it has been thought impossible to re-programme a fully developed adult cell and create a stem cell. That is what Dr Abuljadayel says that she can do.

Born in Saudi Arabia and educated at King's College London, she went back to her native country to work as an immunologist. She made her discovery by accident. She was trying to kill white blood cells by using a particular antibody when she forgot to add one ingredient to the mixture.

The result was not dead cells, but cells that had been transformed into stem cells. She calls the process retrodifferentiation: a reversal of the normal process by which immature stem cells differentiate to become mature adult cells.

Since the discovery she has worked to convince others that it is real. She has used a laboratory in the department of physiology in Cambridge and presented a seminar there before Christmas.

One leading scientist familiar with her work, Professor Adrian Newland of the Royal London Hospital Medical School, said that he had repeated her experiments with the same results.

'It's fascinating, but there could be other explanations for what is going on,' he said. 'My own work suggests that it isn't possible to reverse the process of differentiation, but I have repeated her work and got similar results. I think more research needs to be done to eliminate other possible explanations. As it stands, it could be amazing, or it could be inconsequential.'

The first clinical application of the technique could be in treating leukaemia.

Dr Abuljadayel says that blood would be taken from the patient and treated to create a population of new stem cells, a process that takes only a few hours.

The patient would then be treated with drugs or radiation to destroy the bone marrow cells and kill the cancer, before repopulating the bone marrow with cells generated from the stem cells.

Dr Abuljadayel's husband, Ghazi Dhout, who is president of Tristem, the Dublin-based company set up to exploit the discovery, says that a big advantage is that a huge volume of cells can be generated.

He says that the first trials, on individual patients, might start in the next six months.The company plans to seek partners among the big drug and biotech companies to develop the business. The invention is patented.

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Date: 17 Jan 2001 02:43:41 -0600

Kenya: Minister warns on GM crops

By CATHERINE MGENDI News Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Farmers have been advised to be wary of genetically-modified crops.

They should not be carried away by promised high yields from such crops, Agriculture Minister Chris Obure said yesterday.

"Although modern biotechnological food production systems are superior in many respects to the old ones, they are by no means perfect," Mr Obure said.

"We should use recent scientific techniques in farming wisely and cautiously to ensure sustainability," he told participants of a workshop at the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.

The two-day workshop, organised by the Museums and Stockholm University, Sweden, is deliberating on the history and development of food production systems in eastern Africa.

Mr Obure said modern food production techniques, including the controversy-ridden biotechnology, focused on profit maximisation.

He said some multinational corporations had pushed this objective too far and are now producing seeds, dubbed terminator seeds, which cannot be replanted.

The minister said the seeds pose huge cost implications for cash-strapped farmers in developing countries because they have to buy new seeds each season.

"Genetically modified seeds, which cannot be used for planting, are now being sold to farmers in the developed world who, impressed by high yields and improved incomes, have adopted them," Mr Obure said.

He said these crops could also push to extinction traditional and better-adapted crop varieties that may hold the key to food security.

History had shown that technology-based agricultural production systems from the West are never successful in the developing countries, he observed.

He told farmers to evaluate traditional agricultural systems which have proved sustainable.

"We have many things to learn from traditional farming systems, which are more attuned to the ecosystem, if we have to achieve sustainability in food production," the minister said.

The director-general of the Museums, Dr George Abungu, said indigenous food crops like millet and sorghum could end Kenya's recurrent food shortages because they can grow virtually anywhere in the country.

"These crops are more nutritious and resistant to diseases. They do well in poor soils and with low rainfall, giving bumper harvests," the Museums' boss said.

Dr Abungu said the government should promote and popularise indigenous food crops to change negative attitudes towards them.

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Date: 17 Jan 2001 10:02:53 -0600

Professor Jules Pretty is director of the University of Essex centre for environment and society. This is an edited extract of his speech at St James's Palace on Monday to the sustainable farming conference.

The Guardian: Against the grain (feed the world)

Professor Jules Pretty, The Guardian, Wednesday January 17, 2001,7843,422955,....

Could we feed the world without causing further environmental damage? Jules Pretty puts the case for agriculture's zero option

This is the problem: over the past 40 years, per capita world food production has grown by 25%, and food prices in real terms have fallen by 40%. Yet the world still faces a fundamental challenge. Despite steadily falling fertility rates and family sizes, the global population is expected to grow to 8.9bn by 2050, from 6bn today. By then, 84% of people will be in what we call the "developing" world.

Last year, 790m people went hungry and, even though increased production and more imports will lessen the problem in future, food insecurity and malnutrition will undoubtedly persist. Food demand, moreover, is expected to grow.

The conventional wisdom is that to double food supply, we need to redouble efforts to modernise agriculture. After all, it has been successful in the past. But there are real doubts about the capacity of such systems to reduce food poverty. The poor and hungry need low-cost, readily available technologies and practices to increase local food production.

There are three possible choices for future agriculture: expand the area of farmland by converting new lands, but with the result that forests, grasslands and other areas of important biodiversity are lost; intensify production in agricultural exporting countries, so that food can be sold to those who need it; or increase total farm productivity in the countries which most need the food.

The success of modern agriculture in recent decades has often masked significant "externalities", affecting both natural capital and human health, as well as agriculture itself. Environmental and health problems associated with agriculture have been well-documented, but it is only recently that the scale of the costs has come to be appreciated.

With the help of funding from the Department for International Development, Bread for the World and Greenpeace, the University of Essex's centre for environment and society set out to see if farmers can improve food production with cheap, low-cost, locally-available technologies and inputs, and whether they can do this without causing further environmental damage.

The model, which is increasingly being used in developing countries from Cuba to India and from Malawi to Peru, is "sustainable agriculture". This seeks to make the best use of nature's goods and services by integrating natural and regenerative processes, like nutrient cycling, nitrogen fixation and soil regeneration.

It minimises the use of pesticides and fertilizers that damage the environment or harm the health of farmers and consumers, makes better use of the knowledge and skills of farmers, so improving their self reliance and seeks to make productive use of "social capital" – people's capacities to work together to solve common problems, such as pests, watershed, irrigation, forest and credit management. It also contributes to a range of public goods, such as clean water, wildlife, carbon sequestration in soils, flood protection and landscape quality.

But could it feed the world in the coming decades? We tried to audit, via the Safe-World research project, recent worldwide progress towards sustainable agriculture and assess the extent to which these projects, if spread on a much larger scale, could feed a growing world population.

Our database now contains information on 208 projects from 52 countries. This is the largest known survey of worldwide sustainable agriculture. Some 8.98m farmers have now adopted sustainable agriculture practices and technologies on 28.92m hectares. There are 960m hectares of arable and permanent crops in Africa, Asia and Latin America, so sustainable agriculture is present on at least 3% of this land.

We found that sustainable agriculture can lead to substantial increases in food production per hectare. The proportional yield increases were remarkable: generally between 50-100% for rainfed crops, though considerably greater in a few cases, and 5-10% for irrigated crops. It shows the extraordinary productive potential of small patches on farms, and the degree to which they can improve domestic food security.

Splitting the data into small farmers growing cereals or roots, and larger farmers, we found that for 4.42m small farmers practising sustainable agriculture on 3.58m hectares, average food production per household increased by 1.71 tonnes per year (up 73%). For the 146,000 farmers on 542,000 hectares cultivating roots (potato, sweet potato and cassava), the increase in food production was 17 tonnes per year (an increase of 150%); and for the larger farms in Latin America (average size about 90 hectares), total production increased by 150 tonnes per household (an increase of 46%).

Few projects, however, reported surpluses of food being sold to local markets. This could have been because as production increases, so domestic consumption also increases, with direct benefit for health, particularly of women and children. Despite this, several projects reported surpluses and regional improvements to food production.

But besides food increases, we found that 88% of the projects made better use of locally-available natural resources, 92% said they have improved human capital building through learning programmes. In more than half the projects, people were working together as groups.

The environmental benefits were also great. The most important part of any agricultural system is the soil. When it is in poor health, it cannot sustain a productive agriculture. Many agricultural systems are under threat because soils have been damaged, eroded or simply ignored by intensive farming.

Most sustainable agriculture projects, we found, seek both to reduce soil erosion and to make improvements to soil physical structure, organic matter content, water holding capacity and nutrient balances.

We found one sustainable agriculture technology spreading at extraordinary speed. This is zero or minimal tillage. In Brazil, there were 1m hectares under "plantio direto", or zero tillage (ZT) in 1991, but by 1999, this had grown to about 11m hectares. ZT has resulted in better use of inputs, water retention, management by farmers, diverse rotations and break crops for weed control. It also cuts erosion and water run-off, so reducing water pollution.

Many sustainable agriculture projects have also reported large reductions in pesticide use following the adoption of IPM through field schools in rice agroecosystems. In Vietnam, farmers cut the number of sprays from 3.4 to one per season, and in Sri Lanka from 2.9 to 0.5 per season.

Clearly, sustainable agricultural systems can be economically, environmentally and socially viable, and contribute positively to local livelihoods. But without appropriate policy support, they are likely to remain at best localised in extent, and at worst simply wither away.

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Date: 17 Jan 2001 13:27:56 -0600
From: Robert Mann

I endorse the letter copied below.


the "mouse vaccine" experiments

17 January 2001

Drs Bob Seamack and Annabelle Duncan
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Barton Highway, Crace ACT 2911

Dear Drs Seamack and Duncan,

As a fellow scientist I am extremely angry about what you have done. In my view you have been irresponsible on three counts:

1. The conduct of the "mouse vaccine" experiments in the first place.

You clearly had no idea of the potential outcomes, but you cloned a transgene with multiple functions into an active, pathological vector. You hide behind the charade of official regulation as if it gives some reasonable means of protecting the world from the consequences of your bringing to reality our pathetically inadequate vision of how biological cells operate. We do not need your "products". Have the courage now to bring all such projects under your control to a halt.

2. The unnecessary dissemination of dangerous information.

What you should have ensured was that the particular possibility that you had discovered be given as little attention as possible. The fact that you did not makes your purported concern about the whole class of possibilities look disingenuous. You have put what you regard as "good science" ahead of your moral obligation to protect others from the consequences of your actions. Have the courage now to withdraw your paper from publication, even if you can only do so as a symbolic act of remorse.

3. The use of publicity to enhance your stature.

Your website has been regeared to capitalize on the media frenzy that you have created around your announcement. What your PR actually does, in spite of its securing you better access to research funds, is destroy the worth which science can have in contributing to humanity's perception of the world and our moral actions in it. Have the courage now to withdraw from the limelight and seek out sources of true value and wisdom concerning science.

I recommend to you the endorsement against any military application of science, especially knowledge of molecular biology, which I first placed at the end of my 1986 paper 'Scrapie, ribosomal proteins and biological information' (J. Theor. Biol. 122, 157-178): "It is the wish of the author(s) that no agency should ever derive military benefit from the publication of this paper. Authors who cite this work in support of their own are requested to qualify similarly the availability of their results". Since then I have sought to delegitimize any discussion connecting prions with military goals except to have them classed as "organisms" in terms of the BWC (which was promoted by the New Zealand government at my instigation in 1991). That is what I would wish you to have done in respect of the pox virus.

In hope some good can come out of this communication of my anger concerning your actions.

Yours sincerely,

Peter R Wills
Associate-Professor of Physics, University of Auckland
New Zealand

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

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Date: 17 Jan 2001 20:27:05 -0600
From: Robert Mann

Bayer Takes a Dose of Genomics

Technology Tuesday,1282,41225,00.html?tw=wn200101.... Bayer AG and genomics company CuraGen will spend more than a billion dollars on a 15-year project to develop drugs for diabetes and obesity.

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

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Date: 18 Jan 2001 06:12:09 -0600


GM-contaminated seed to be allowed under UK Government and EU proposal

Press Release from 18 January 2001, London, UK

Proposals released on 17 January 2001 by the UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods (MAFF) indicate that the UK Government is intending to allow up to 0.50% contamination of seeds by Genetically Modified (GM) varieties.

Marcus Williamson of comments :

"Consumers will not tolerate 0.50% contamination by, for example, glass or benzene, in their food. Why should we tolerate any contamination of our food crops by the presence of GM seeds?"

Also proposed is new labelling for seeds, so that they carry the wording :

"EU-unauthorised genetically modified organisms not present"


"Genetically modified variety"

Marcus Williamson adds :

"This is a further step towards preparing the way for the introduction of GM foods which are not wanted by the consumer, are untested and are damaging to the environment.

These crops are only of benefit to the agrochemical companies which produce them and have no advantages at all for the consumer or for the environment.

The consumer demands 0.00% (ZERO) presence of genetically modified varieties in seeds, food ingredients and derivatives."

The MAFF (UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods) seed purity proposals news release can be found at :

Anyone who wishes to comment on the seed purity proposals may do so before 10 April 2001, by writing to :

George Saunders
Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food PVRO and Seeds Division
Room 21, White House Lane, Huntingdon Road
Cambridge, CB3 OLF, UK

Fax : 01223 342386    E-mail :

For further information about the dangers of GM foods contact :

Marcus Williamson

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Date: 18 Jan 2001 10:39:27 -0600

Gene Therapy Risks To Be Revealed

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer, January 18, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -
Americans considering participating in studies of gene therapy may soon get better information about the risks as the government announced plans Wednesday for the first public disclosure of side effects almost as soon as they happen.

The Food and Drug Administration's major policy shift was sparked by uproar last year when an Arizona teen-ager died in a gene therapy experiment.

Under the proposed change, scientists would have to post on the FDA's Web site most of the safety information about an experiment when it begins. Until now, that information largely was kept secret.

The proposal affects mostly the hot new field of gene therapy, but also controversial xenotransplantation, implanting animal tissue into people. oth of these technologies hold great promise, but they may also pose a remote but unique risk to the individuals who have volunteered to participate in these types of FDA Commissioner Jane Henney said.

Consumer advocates praised the change as a long overdue way to help sick Americans make better decisions about joining certain medical experiments. But the biotechnology industry promised to fight the proposed rules, arguing that disclosing such information could confuse the public about whether a study was truly unsafe or whether a participant's side effect really was due to the underlying disease.

Prompting the change was Jesse Gelsinger's death last year from a botched University of Pennsylvania gene therapy study; it was the first known death from gene therapy.

Among other problems, federal investigators discovered scientists never had warned study participants that two monkeys died from the experiment, and failed to stop the trial after some patients developed worrisome liver abnormalities. Gelsinger died of a liver disorder four days after his own treatment.

The FDA decides whether scientists can try experimental therapies in people based on safety studies in animals. Patients volunteering for such experiments are supposed to receive consent forms detailing all the potential risks. But the FDA largely depends on local oversight boards to ensure that happens, and it too often does not.

Once the experiment begins, scientists must report all side effects to the FDA – but until now the agency has almost always kept that information secret, bowing to industry's insistence that what happens in a clinical trial is a commercially important trade secret.

Even when the FDA stops an experiment because people have died, it seldom tells the public. Study participants often are left to learn about safety problems from scientists with a vested interest in the experimental therapy.

The proposed change would require scientists to reveal large amounts of nonproprietary information about new studies, including what patients qualify, exactly what is being tested, and results of animal safety studies or any previous human studies. As the study continues, any serious side effects would be revealed, too. said Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen, predicting thousands could comb the Web site with their personal physicians for less biased information in choosing a clinical trial.

But, noting that many more people have been injured in studies of regular medications than by gene therapy experiments, Wolfe said the change should be expanded to cover all FDA-approved experiments.

That is just what the Biotechnology Industry Organization fears. t's a dramatic deviation from over 30 years of FDA said Michael Werner, the trade group's government relations chief.

He said the public will not understand that many reactions suffered in clinical trials are due to participants underlying disease, not the therapy. If a study really is risky, the FDA should shut it down – and if not, participants should get safety information from researchers who know the study best, he contended.

But FDA biotechnology chief Dr. Kathryn Zoon said the new openness could boost gene therapy by helping a now-suspicious public better understand the complex he more transparent the process is, we there will be.

The FDA will begin finalizing the rules, a process that could take months, after a 90-day public comment period.

On the Net:

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Date: 18 Jan 2001 19:01:31 -0600
From: joe

The article below deals with the geneticist and anthropologist who have been accused of hurting native people in Brazil.There have been several reports on this server about the matter. The example below shows how the academic "family" copes with those who criticize it. We have had examples with the Rowett but this shows how the forces of academic authority mobilize to obfuscate the truth.

Science Article Showing How Science Politics Obfuscates Issues

Preemptive Strike Sought to Discredit Book Before It Was Published

Charles C. Mann, Science Jan 19 2001: 417-418.

For anthropologists, it was the e-mail heard 'round the world.
"Lives are at stake."
Political science

For anthropologists, it was the e-mail heard 'round the world.

At the end of August, anthropologists Terence Turner of Cornell University and Leslie Sponsel of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, e-mailed the president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) with a startling announcement about an "impending scandal" that would rock the discipline.

A forthcoming book, Darkness in El Dorado by journalist Patrick Tierney, was charging several prominent researchers with mistreating the Yanomamo Indians in Venezuela – and worse. In "scale, ramifications, and sheer criminality and corruption," Turner and Sponsel wrote, the revelations in Darkness were "unparalleled in the history of Anthropology," and they urged that the charges be investigated.

Within 2 weeks the e-mail had spread from AAA headquarters to what seemed to be the e-mail box of every anthropologist in the United States. "For a while there I was receiving it two or three times a day," says William Irons, an anthropologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. "It was incredible – I must have got several dozen copies."

Irons had reason to be concerned. Tierney's chief target was a longtime friend, Napoleon A. Chagnon of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Chagnon is celebrated for his ethnographic studies of the Yanomamo, which began in 1964. But he contributed to another discipline, known variously as evolutionary psychology, Darwinian anthropology, or sociobiology. And it was this group of researchers – along with colleagues of the late James V. Neel, a renowned University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, geneticist also attacked by Tierney – that has most forcefully challenged Darkness in El Dorado.

Leading the charge was John Tooby, a Chagnon colleague at UCSB who is president of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES). Known for his fierce advocacy of evolutionary psychology, Tooby quickly concluded that Darkness in El Dorado was "full of lies" and decided to blunt its "potentially dangerous" impact. "I couldn't sit by and let this book go unchallenged," he says.

Working almost full-time, Tooby, Irons, and other Chagnon friends, and the Michigan researchers assembled an anti- Darkness campaign so swift and forceful that it produced lengthy rebuttals of Tierney's work before he had published a single word. Like the original, vitriolic e-mail from Turner and Sponsel, the counterattack was based on early galleys of the book, some key details of which were changed in the published version.

Many who joined the debate hadn't even seen the galleys, and Tierney – at the insistence of his publisher, W. W. Norton – declined to comment before publication. But if nothing else, the vehement anti- and pro-Darkness efforts illustrate how, for better or worse, the tactics of modern political campaigns, complete with opposition research, "war rooms," and over-the-top rhetoric, are infiltrating scientific research.

"Lives are at stake."

Chagnon is no stranger to controversy. His belief that Yanomamo culture is dominated by waiteri (ferocity) has long been a subject of dispute (see main text ). But Tierney's detailed indictment was "something completely different," he says. "I've always had my critics, and some of them got kind of personal, but this kind of thorough attack is unheard of – he goes after my 'beer belly,' my dogs, and even the fact that I was raised in a small town in Michigan, which supposedly makes me a McCarthyite." Chagnon promises to respond in The Noble Savage, a book to appear next summer.

Tooby, for his part, did not want to wait that long. He thought the Turner-Sponsel warning was "scientifically illiterate," according to a manuscript he posted on his Web site. (A version was later published in the online magazine Slate .) Tooby wrote that he worried that people could misuse Tierney's claims to stop immunization programs in underdeveloped nations: "People, especially in poorer countries, would die as a result." After alerting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the imminent publication of what he depicted as an antivaccination book that could kill "certainly in the thousands, possibly in the millions," Tooby urged CDC scientists "to get in touch with the journalists who I knew were working on the story."

Knowing that the Turner-Sponsel note was landing in reporters' laps, Tooby also spent "the next several days" in "a frenzy of calling, faxing, and e-mailing" the media. He put the case starkly to reporters. "Lives are at stake," he wrote. "Once a reputable first-world source such as [the journalist's organization] puts its prestige behind such a claim (even if it is hedged), no subsequent retraction will ever catch up with it or undo the damage."

Others went to work, too. With the support of Neel's family, the University of Michigan assembled what Michigan archaeologist Kent V. Flannery called "a fact-finding committee" of "physicians, epidemiologists, geneticists, biological anthropologists, ethnologists, ethnohistorians, archaeologists, documentary film specialists, and eyewitnesses to James Neel's and Napoleon Chagnon's fieldwork ... working together to figure out why such hideous allegations would be made about them in the media." They were supported by Neel's genetics colleagues, including L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford University, who predicted in an e-mail to Science that Tierney's "pretentious and largely defamatory contribution" would soon be discredited.

At UCSB, Tooby, anthropology instructor Edward Hagen, and graduate student Michael Price set up what Hagen jokingly called a "war room" – "it's just filled with paper, and we've practically been living in it." By barraging journalists with e-mail, the researchers managed to hold off some press coverage; Tooby thought that he had helped kill a story at The Washington Post . "I couldn't believe the pressure they put on me," says a science journalist at another paper. "They were saying, 'Even if you just truthfully report what people are saying, it will be misused and people will die because of what you wrote.' I felt like saying, 'Where was this concern when you were telling me that it wasn't Chagnon's fault if the gold miners or whatever misused his words?' "

Despite the pressure, the Chronicle of Higher Education, which had previously covered disputes over Chagnon, ran a story on 20 September. The AAA was forced to issue a statement promising a full investigation. From that point on, media coverage was intense. "Scientist killed Amazon indians to test race theory," blared the headline in the Guardian of London on 23 September. Darkness in El Dorado was featured in Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times, USA Today, the BBC, and South American newspapers.

Meanwhile, Neel biographer and historian Susan Lindee of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia was reexamining Neel's field notes, writing on 21 September that the true events "were at some variance" with the version in the Turner-Sponsel e-mail. (Subsequently she retracted her statement that the notes proved "Neel had Venezuelan governmental permission to carry out the vaccine program.") Six days later, the University of Michigan "fact-finding team" issued a full refutation of the charges against Neel. Although he admitted he had not seen the galleys of Tierney's still-unpublished book, Michigan medical-school dean Allen Lichter told reporters that "we have complete confidence that [Neel's] actions were above reproach."

By 9 October, UCSB's Price had unofficially posted a long, harsh critique on a university Web site of Tierney's "numerous examples of error and deception." That same day The New Yorker published an excerpt of the book – the first chance for readers to see anything by Tierney himself. Darkness in El Dorado was nominated for the National Book Award 2 days later.

Political science

Meanwhile, Chagnon, faced with the upcoming publication of the book, lined up famous names in his defense, including Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, who wrote the foreword to the most recent revision of Chagnon's major Yanomamo book; evolutionist Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, author of The Selfish Gene ; Massachusetts Institute of Technology cognitive scientist Steven Pinker; Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett; Harvard neuropsychologist Marc Hauser; and British science journalist Matt Ridley. Chagnon says he also began consulting libel lawyers "very seriously."

"It is clear to me that academics from all disciplines are going to make a stand on this ...," Chagnon wrote to supporters on 27 September. "It is not simply an attack on me, Jim Neel, and a few others, it is an attack on the integrity of all responsible scholars."

Arguing that releasing Darkness "after so much evidence has come to light showing Tierney's accusation to be false is ... unethical," Northwestern's Irons sent the 700 members of HBES on 4 November a proposal for boycotting W. W. Norton, Tierney's publisher. (Irons is the incoming president of HBES.) Unexpectedly, Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), leapt into the fray, issuing on 9 November a highly unusual statement deploring the "misleading or demonstrably false" statements in Darkness in El Dorado .

Like other elements in the anti-Tierney campaign and the Turner-Sponsel e-mail, the statement attacked some claims that Tierney didn't actually make. For example, Alberts criticized Tierney for writing that Neel had "selected this vaccine mindful of its harmful results ... in order to record the response of the Yanomami to this 'virulent' virus vaccine in hopes of confirming eugenic theories that Neel purportedly espoused." But this charge – and the description of the vaccine as virulent – were not in the published book.

One day after Alberts released the NAS statement, Tooby and his UCSB colleagues posted a 60-page rebuttal of Tierney's book on their pro-Chagnon Web site ( ). Their statement made the extraordinary claim that "The major allegations [in Tierney's book] appear to be deliberately fraudulent." Three days after that, the University of Michigan released an expanded version of its statement. By 16 November – Darkness in El Dorado's official publication date and the day before an AAA panel on the book at the association's annual meeting in San Francisco – lengthy counterarguments were available from half a dozen sources. In turn, Tierney's responses were available at And the press began weighing in with reviews, many of them favorable ("will become a classic of anthropological literature" – The New York Times).

The AAA open-mike session on 17 November was a confusing barrage of speakers, with pro- and anti-Tierney voices trading accusations of "racism" and "political correctness" in a welter of rapid citations. UCSB researchers handed out anti-Tierney flyers and copies of their "preliminary report." The Brazilian Anthropological Association noted that it had complained to AAA about the "harmful effects" of Chagnon's research 11 years before. "As far as we know, nothing was done then," the Brazilians said. The AAA, for its part, announced that a special ad hoc task force would "examine assertions and allegations contained in Darkness in El Dorado" and decide by February "which specific issues, if any, are deserving of an in-depth investigation."

"The whole business was very odd," says William Denevan, an archaeologist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has worked extensively in Amazonia. "There's a lot of defensiveness on the part of the whole discipline of anthropology without really having the facts or details." He adds, "Very few of the people who spoke had actually done any research on the Yanomamo, yet they almost all had extremely strong opinions. And 95% of the audience hadn't read the book, but there they were clapping and cheering one side or the other."

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Date: 18 Jan 2001 19:11:31 -0600
From: joe

The article below shows how slow and irrational decisions are in politics and science. It is not surprising that there has been little action on the antibiotic resistance genes in GM crops. It seems clear that the US regulators cannot make judgments that displease companies. For that reason the world must find a true independent body to prevent injury to people and the environment.

Science Editorial: Antibiotics in Animal Farming

By Stanley Falkow and Donald Kennedy, Editorial, Science Jan 19 2001: 397.

Nearly 25 years ago, we were both involved in a proposal to terminate the use of certain antibiotics then being added to animal feeds in the United States to promote the growth of livestock (the United Kingdom had wisely restricted the most prevalent uses years earlier). One of us (Don Kennedy) was commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the other (Stanley Falkow) was a member of an expert panel commissioned by the FDA to assess the associated risks.

At that time, evidence linking antibiotic resistance in bacteria inhabiting livestock to resistance in human pathogens was indirect, though it was plain to us and to most microbiologists that using the same antibiotics in people and animals was a bad idea. The FDA proposed eliminating the subtherapeutic growth-promotant uses of penicillin and two other antibiotics, but livestock production interests persuaded Congress to put the regulation on the shelf.

Science lost that time, but of course science didn't stand still. Molecular epidemiology was unheard of in 1977, and studies on the transfer of resistance plasmids among different kinds of bacteria were in their infancy. Now there are unmistakable links between the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics and the prevalence of resistant bacteria. Two studies by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, while recognizing that link, found that there was insufficient evidence for a direct influence on human health, thereby shifting the debate from molecular genetics to risk assessment. Denmark, Finland, and Sweden have all eliminated the use of antibiotics for growth promotion, and the World Health Organization has advised against the practice of dosing animals with some of the same antibiotics we rely on in human medicine. Yet the practice continues in the United States and many other nations.

An additional and potentially more serious problem has now emerged. In 1996, the FDA approved the use of fluoroquinolines in chickens and turkeys, primarily to prevent mortality associated with Escherichia coli infection. This inexplicable decision was reached despite strong opposition from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which cited the extraordinary value of these compounds in treating community- or hospital-acquired enteric infections in humans.

Subsequent events showed that the CDC's concerns were prescient: Fluoroquinoline resistance quickly appeared in Campylobacter isolated from chickens, and by 1999 17.6% of C. jejuni and 30% of C. coli isolated from human patients showed fluoroquinoline resistance. Campylobacter infections are the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States. Adding to the human and economic costs are chronic sequelae associated with C. jejuni infection: Guillain-Barre syndrome and reactive arthritis. Armed with such evidence, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine proposed on 31 October 2000 to withdraw the approval of fluoroquinolines for animal use.

Of the two manufacturers, Abbott Laboratories agreed voluntarily to cease manufacture of its product; Bayer Corporation did not, and is submitting its case for continued marketing along with its request for a hearing. We think the FDA should pursue its case aggressively to stop Bayer from marketing.

In the end, the FDA has taken the right stand, and we may dodge this bullet. The CDC played a strong role in developing the epidemiological context for the action and deserves to be congratulated. But we will be wise to reflect on the problems that remain. It is hardly surprising that compounds useful in human health also help animals. Both humans and animals are heir to related bacterial pathogens; indeed, most human bacterial pathogens can be traced in evolution to microbes that infect animals.

Nearly half of the total volume of antibiotics used in the United States is fed to animals, and this practice continues despite a strong scientific consensus that it is a bad idea. The resulting struggle between good science and strong politics has simmered fruitlessly for a quarter of a century; it's time to end it, and some entrepreneurial energy might do the trick.

In human medicine, the goal has been to develop broad-spectrum compounds effective against a range of pathogens, and it is natural for veterinary medicine to deploy these rather than develop new ones. However, we now know enough about bacterial genomics and bacterial pathogenesis, and we have enough new biochemical technologies, to begin developing novel antimicrobials that work specifically against animal pathogens yet do not create resistance in human ones. It looks to us like an economic opportunity as well as a scientific challenge. Anyone out there care to try?

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Date: 19 Jan 2001 11:42:09 -0600

Please post and distribute the following:

new resource: The Canadian Biotech Action Network

On 19 Jan 2001, at 9:25, Cathleen Kneen wrote:

New Resource on Genetic Engineering

The Canadian Biotech Action Network has just published a booklet with the self-explanatory title: A Canadian Consumeris Guide to ingredients which may have been genetically engineered: How to become a detective in your own food system.

Written by Abra Brynne, the 16-page booklet is crammed with useful and accurate information about the hidden food elements such as derivatives and enzymes, as well as helpful resources for people seeking alternatives to GE foods. Although it is aimed at Canadians, all the information (except for rBGH, which is banned in Canada) is relevant to US readers as well.

Suggested price is $2.50 each which includes postage o check for bulk prices o from the BC Biotech Circle, c/o Box 578, Salmo, BC, V0G 1Z0; email

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Date: 19 Jan 2001 18:44:45 -0600
From: ThePiedPiper

DNA: Farm Animals may be What They Eat

It is said that birds are closer to amphibians, fish and reptiles than mammals are. There have been documented problems with amphibians, fish, and reptiles – this seems to show that birds have been hit so the next one to go should be mammals.

Plants get some of their food from light and as long as there is some kind of light, I guess plants will have food.

joe wrote:

The article below finally appeared. It has surprising findings of food DNA in the cells among the genes in farm animals. Chickens seem to be promiscuous in the genetic sense in that they take up DNA fragments from outside sources. The finding must make us rethink assumptions about cell DNA and the process of genetic modification.

European Food Research and Technology

Abstract Volume 212 Issue 2 (2001) pp 129-134

The fate of forage plant DNA in farm animals: a collaborative case-study investigating cattle and chicken fed recombinant plant material

R. Einspanier (1), Andreas Klotz (1), Jana Kraft (2), Karen Aulrich (3), Rita Poser (4), Fredi Schwagele (4), Gerhard Jahreis (2), Gerhard Flachowsky (3)

  1. Institut für Physiologie, FML, Weihenstephaner Berg 3, Technische Universität München, 85350 Freising, Germany e-mail: Tel.: +49-8161-713510 Fax: +49-8161-714204
  2. Institut für Ernährung und Umwelt, Friedrich Schiller Universität, Dornburger Str. 24, 07743 Jena, Germany
  3. Institut für Tierernährung, Bundesforschungsanstalt für Landwirtschaft, Bundesallee 50, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
  4. Institut fur Chemie und Physik, Bundesanstalt für Fleischforschung, Baumann Str. 20, 95326 Kulmbach, Germany

Received: 23 February 2000 / Revised version: 20 March 2000


The fate of ingested recombinant plant DNA in farm animals (cattle and chicken) being fed a diet containing conventional maize or recombinant Bacillus thuringiensis toxin-maize (Bt-maize) is described. The probability of the detection by polymerase chain reaction of chloroplast-specific gene fragments of different lengths (199 bp and 532 bp) and a Bt-maize-specific fragment [truncated version of CryIA(b)] is shown.

First data indicated that only short DNA fragments (<200 bp) derived from plant chloroplasts could be detected in the blood lymphocytes of cows. In all other cattle organs investigated (muscle, liver, spleen, kidney) plant DNAs were not found, except for faint signals in milk. Furthermore, Bt-gene fragments possibly recording the uptake of recombinant maize, were not detected in any sample from cattle. However, in all chicken tissues (muscle, liver, spleen, kidney) the short maize chloroplast gene fragment was amplified. In contrast to this, no foreign plant DNA fragments were found in eggs. Bt-gene specific constructs originating from recombinant Bt-maize were not detectable in any of these poultry samples either.