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8 February 2001

Table of Contents

Corporate power and People power; The sociology of globalisation
People power– culture gets creative
Italy Urges U.S. Farmers, Processors to Segregate, Label Biotech Feed
Tumor-Causing Plant Bacteria May Infect Human Cells
Nebraska farmers file StarLink corn lawsuit
Iowa Farmers Sue Over Biotech Corn
GM Food Report: Ottawa Rapped, Expert Study Considered Major Setback for Biotech Industry
Weeds: An ordinary miracle
Food, drug act 'needs overhaul'
Canadians are Guinea Pigs: Biologist
Canola: 'Superweeds'
plant-killing GM bacteria

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Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 13:51:54 +0200
From: ekogaia ekogaia@iafrica.com

Greetings all; two longish but very interesting articles that I felt dovetail rather well. For a change, some hopeful stuff for you all. Please circulate and share this information

Noreena Hertz is one of the world's leading young thinkers, whose agenda-setting new book on corporate power is already sparking intense debate on both sides of the Atlantic. In this remarkable special essay for The Observer she argues that governments' surrender to big business is the deadliest threat facing democracy today

Corporate power and People power; The sociology of globalisation

Why we Must Stay Silent No Longer

By Noreena Hertz The Observer, Sunday April 8, 2001,

In the hullaballoo following the American presidential election, with hanging and pregnant chads, and ballot forms that needed a PhD to decipher, it was easy to forget something that was in many ways even more alarming than confusion over who won. More than 90 million Americans had not bothered to vote – that is, more than the combined population of England, Ireland and Scandinavia.

Low turnout is not just a US phenomenon. In the UK, the landslide victory for Labour in the election of 1997 was achieved on a turnout of 69 per cent – the lowest since the war. During the European elections in 1999, less than half of the electorate voted, and less than a quarter came out in the UK. In the Leeds Central by-election last year only 19 per cent of those eligible to vote did so. Predictions for the forthcoming general election are that turnout will fall to the lowest level yet.

People have lost faith in politics, because they no longer know what governments are good for. Thanks to the steady withdrawal of the state over the past 20 years from the public sphere, it is corporations, not governments, that increasingly define the public realm.

Unregulated or under-regulated by governments, corporations set the terms of engagement themselves. In the Third World we see a race to the bottom: multinationals pitting developing countries against each other to provide the most advantageous conditions for investment, with no regulation, no red tape, no unions, a blind eye turned to environmental degradation. It's good for profit, but bad for workers and local communities. As corporations go bottom fishing, host governments are left with little alternative but to accept the pickings. Globalisation may deliver liberty, but not fraternity or equality.

At the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation on the banks of Lake Geneva we see rulings being made in the names of the free market that limit states' abilities to safeguard their people's interests. When the European Union tried to ban synthetic hormones from beef on the basis of strong evidence that they could cause cancer, reduce male fertility and in some cases result in the premature onset of puberty in young children, it found itself unable to do so thanks to a WTO ruling which put the interests of Monsanto, the US National Cattlemen's Association, the US Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation first.

Time and time again the WTO has intervened to prevent governments from using boycotts or tariffs against companies that they find to be acting in ethically or environmentally unacceptable ways.

In Germany, where revenue from corporate taxes has fallen by 50 per cent over the past 20 years, despite a rise in corporate profits of 90 per cent, a group of companies, including Deutsche Bank, BMW, Daimler-Benz and RWE, the German energy and industrial group, thwarted in 1999 Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine's attempt to raise the tax burden on German firms, threatening to move investment or factories to other countries if government policy did not suit them. 'It's a question of at least 14,000 jobs,' threatened Dieter Schweer, a spokesman for RWE. 'If the investment position is no longer attractive, we will examine every possibility of switching our investments abroad.' Daimler-Benz proposed relocating to the US; other companies threatened to stop buying government bonds and investing in the German economy.

In view of the power these corporations wield their threats were taken seriously. Within a few months Germany was planning corporate tax cuts which would reduce tax on German companies below US rates. As one of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's senior advisers in Washington commented at the time, 'Deutsche Bank and industrial giants like Mercedes are too strong for the elected government in Berlin.'

In the US, the quid pro quo being exacted by George W's corporate backers is becoming all too clear. Since being elected, the President has opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drillers, retreated from his promises of protecting forests, made moves to weaken the requirement on mining companies to clean after themselves and in recent weeks both reversed a campaign pledge to regulate CO 2 emissions from power plants and trashed the Kyoto treaty on global warming. The interests of the US people suborned to those of the major US energy giants that bank-rolled him: $47 million was all it cost.

Here in the UK public services are increasingly being handed over to private corporations to manage and fund. The Government has already withdrawn from running the railways, soon it'll be withdrawing from air traffic control. Private health insurance is being pushed by the Conservatives as a way of staving off the collapse of our National Health Service. Even the education of our children, once the most sacred preserve of the state, is increasingly delegated to the private sector.

Although it remains too early to see the consequences of the privatisation of public services played out in full, initial indications are troubling. The rail crashes, for which Gerald Corbett, when chief executive of Railtrack, put the blame on the way the railway 'was ripped apart at privatisation'; Angel School in Islington, a primary school now being run by the private company Cambridge Education Authorities, under threat of closure despite the fact that it has constantly improved its educational results, with the parents and staff left with no real means of redress or recourse; Nottingham University's acceptance of £3.8m from British American Tobacco to set up, of all things, a school of corporate social responsibility; and the US model of healthcare proposed as a blueprint for our health reforms, despite the fact that 45 million Americans currently do not have health insurance and 25 per cent of the chronically ill there do not have adequate coverage.

This is the world of the Silent Takeover, a world in which governments can no longer be relied on to protect the people's interests. Blinded by the allure of the market, they now put corporate interests first.

So it is left to us, through individual action, to take the lead. In a world in which power increasingly lies in the hands of corporations rather than governments, the most effective way to be political is not to cast one's vote at the ballot box but to do so at the supermarket or at a shareholders' meeting.

Because, when provoked, corporations respond. While governments dithered about the health value of GM foods, supermarkets faced with consumer unrest pulled the products off their shelves overnight. While nations spoke about ethical foreign policy, corporations pulled out of Burma rather than risk censure by customers. George W may have backed down on his campaign pledges to limit CO 2 emissions, but BP, a corporation, continues to spearhead their reduction. And when stories broke over the world of children sewing footballs for Reebok for a pittance, what did governments do? Nothing. But the corporation, fearing a consumer boycott, stepped in with innovative plans for dealing with the child labour problem.

Delivering a quality product at a reasonable cost is not all that is now demanded of corporations. The key to consumer satisfaction is not only how well a company treats its customers, but increasingly whether it is perceived as taking its responsibilities to society seriously. People are demanding that corporations deliver in a way that governments can't or won't.

It is not just the brown-rice-eating, sandal-wearing brigade who are making demands: 60 per cent of UK consumers are prepared to boycott stores or products because they are concerned about their ethical standards. Three-quarters of British consumers would choose a product on green or ethical issues. More than 75 per cent of Americans would boycott stores selling goods produced in sweatshops. Monsanto was brought to its knees by a coalition of eco-warriors and Britain's Women's Institute members. In America, the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility, with $110 billion at its disposal, is among the ethical investors now using shareholder power to 'regulate' corporate manoeuvres and get corporations to do good.

Can we entrust the public interest to consumer and shareholder activists? Can shopping adequately replace voting? No, it cannot. The world cannot be simplified to the extent that consumer politics tends to demand. Is GM food necessarily always bad for consumers or the environment? Or could this technology be harnessed for good? Child labour may be distasteful to Western expectations, but does boycotting goods made with child labour improve or exacerbate the lot of Third World children?

Trusting the market to regulate may not ultimately be in our interest. Moreover, populist politics can easily result in tyranny, not necessarily of the majority, but by those who can protest most effectively. Rather than empowering all, consumer and shareholder activism give greatest voice to those with the most money in their pockets, those with the greatest purchasing power, those who can switch from seller to seller with relative ease. Consumer and shareholder activism is a form of protest that favours the middle classes and the outpouring of dissatisfaction of the bourgeoisie.

Nor should the takeover by corporations of governments' responsibilities be viewed as a reason for governments to withdraw. Despite the roles corporations are beginning to play in the social sphere, despite the fact that they may be able to play some role in alleviating poverty and inequity and protecting the environment, social investment and social justice will never become their core activity. Their contribution to society's needs will always remain at the margins. Corporate social responsibility cannot be thought of as a reasonable proxy for state responsibility.

In Japan's Mitsubishi Villages, Nissan Towns, and Toyota Cities the Japanese keiratsus – trading companies – used to provide school vouchers, housing, and health care. In the wake of the Asian financial crisis, the firms are withdrawing support from the community. The head of Toshiba says that they are no longer 'a charity': entire communities are suffering. The suicide rate in Japan rose by a third between 1997 and 1999, a testament to the social strain.

As more and more of the public realm is handed over to the private sector to manage, we need to see the Japanese case as a cautionary tale. If this move by Western corporations towards greater responsibility and care is predicated solely on the continuing strength of the global economy, on the fact that philanthropic acts are essentially tax write-offs against balance sheets firmly in the black, is it not likely to be reversed when times once again become difficult? Companies will simply not be able to justify staying involved to their shareholders, unless they calculate that withdrawal from their social commitments will be so damaging to their reputation as to be more costly than maintaining them. The corporate provision of welfare risks dependence on the continued generation of profits.

We must also ask ourselves whether a price will be exacted for acts of corporate benevolence. Today Microsoft puts computers in our schools; will it tomorrow determine what our children learn? When Mike Cameron, a 19-year-old student, turned up at Greenbriar High School in Evans Georgia on official 'Coke Day' wearing a T-shirt with a Pepsi logo he was suspended. Channel One Network is now notorious for having provided 12,000 American schools with money and goods in exchange for beaming their commercials directly into the classroom. But do we want to live in a world in which commercialisation takes advantage of shortages in funding and rides on the back of children's' learning? This is not about ethics, this is about business. Sometimes the two will coincide, but clearly not always.

Corporations are not society's custodians: they are commercial entities that act in the pursuit of profit, not ethical considerations. They are morally ambivalent. Often their business interests happen to coincide with society's, but this is by no means always the case. Governments on the other hand are supposed to respond to citizens. Downgrading the role of the state in favour of corporate activism threatens to make societal improvements dependent on the creation of profit. And governments that stand back while corporations take over, without being willing to set the terms of engagement or retain the upper hand, are in danger of losing the support of the people, whose feeling of lack of recourse or representation is showing itself in a wave of protest that goes beyond individual acts of consumer and shareholder dissent.

Take the 40,000 Frenchmen who gathered outside the trial of French farmer Josè Bovè or Granny D, the 91-year-old American great-grandmother who walked across America to protest against the relationship between big business and politics and was greeted by thousands upon her arrival at Washington DC or the Seattle Prague and May Day rioters that we saw on our television screens last year – all are examples of a global uprising of people who now see themselves as politically disposed.

All over the world, people are beginning to lash out against corporations, governments and international organisations alike. In a world in which politicians now all sing from the same hymn sheet, people who want to change the hymn have to go outside the church.

But like consumer and shareholder activism, other forms of protest should not be idealised. Their limitations are clear. The commonality of interests often centres on a shared general disillusionment, rather than specific concerns or proffered solutions. In some cases protesters are motivated by a sense of common good, but in others they are concerned only with safeguarding their own interests, or those of a limited group as in the British fuel protests of autumn 2000.

Pressure groups need to play to the media, which encourages posturing, the demonisation of 'enemies', a massive oversimplification of issues and the choosing of fashionable rather than difficult causes to champion. Issues such as forest biodiversity, nitrate leaching or soil erosion in Africa hardly ever get a look in. And, as one of London's May Day protesters told me: 'There has to be trouble, otherwise the papers won't report it.'

But despite the limitations of protest, despite its failure to balance effective means with democratic ends, despite the fact that it can never by itself be a long-term solution, the crucial question is whether protest can change politics in the same way as it is beginning to change the corporate agenda. Can protest put the people back into the forefront of politics?

There are signs that perhaps it can, and that perhaps the political corpse is beginning to twitch. In June of 1999 in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city, the water authority was privatised, following recommendations from the World Bank. At once the price of water tripled, which meant that a typical worker was spending almost a quarter of his or her monthly wage on water charges. People gathered on the streets and protested, there was a four-day general strike, bill payment was boycotted, and 30,000 people marched through the city centre in anger. Finally, in April 2000, the privatisation of the water supply was revoked. Back in 1985, government leaders had asked the Bolivian people for patience and sacrifice as it implemented neo-liberal reforms. Fifteen years later, it seemed that their patience had run out.

In New Zealand, a country that embraced free market fundamentalism with enthusiasm in the early 1980s, the new Labour administration is implementing changes that for the past 20 years would have been considered heretical. Workplace accident insurance has been renationalised, a state-run People's Bank will open soon in which personal banking fees will be 20 to 30 per cent lower than those charged by private banks, tax cuts for high earners have been reversed and trade union rights boosted. As Prime Minister Helen Clark has said, New Zealand's experiment in market fundamentalism has failed.

In the US we are also seeing the beginnings of a turnaround. Prompted by the complete failure of California's privately owned power distributors to deliver electricity at a fair price to citizens, or often to deliver it at all, and experiencing their first state-wide blackouts since the Second World War, Californian politicians are contemplating a once unthinkable change of course: to regain control of the very transmission system that the state privatised five years ago. Even Ronald Reaganland is breaking with its past.

Small signs, it is true, and for now focused on renationalisation rather than issues of global concern, but they represent cracks in an ideology that had become hegemonic over the past 20 years, the beginnings of a recognition that there has to be new thinking.

But while in faraway lands the unthinkable is being thought, here at home do we have any signs that politicians are questioning their certainty that the private sector will be our salvation? Any willingness to admit the dangers of this silent takeover, this world in which corporations not governments are increasingly making the rules? No.

Looking at the choices on offer at the forthcoming election, we see all too clearly the extent of the political consensus. A reduced state, with an ever greater dependence on corporations for solutions, has become the standard line touted by all parties.

As far back as 1968, Margaret Thatcher said in a famous speech: 'There are dangers in consensus: it could be an attempt to satisfy people holding no particular views about anything. No great party can survive except on the basis of firm beliefs about what it wants to do.' The irony is that by buying so wholeheartedly into the form of capitalism initiated by Thatcher and Reagan, British politics has fallen into this very trap, leaving us the electorate increasingly alienated from and distrustful of politics, and providing us with little alternative but to protest rather than vote. Until the Government regains the trust of the electorate, the people will continue to scorn democracy. Until the state reclaims the people, the people will not reclaim the state.


Noreena Hertz is the Associate Director of the Centre for International Business and Management at the Judge Institute of Management Studies, University of Cambridge. Now aged 33, she graduated from University College, London, with a degree in philosophy and economics in 1987, when she was 19, before taking an MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr Hertz then moved to St Petersburg to help set up the city's stock exchange and help tutor Boris Yeltsin's advisers in market economics following the overthrow of communism. Returning to Britain, she completed her PhD at Cambridge and, in 1996, then went to the Middle East to head a team of 40 researchers developing the role that the private sector might play in the peace process.

Dr Hertz's book The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy , is published by Heinemann at £12.99. The accompanying Channel 4 film, The End of Politics will be broadcast as the curtain raiser to Channel 4's general election coverage.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 13:51:54 +0200
From: ekogaia ekogaia@iafrica.com

Paul H. Ray, PhD, and Sherry Ruth Anderson, PhD, are authors of The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, published this year by Harmony Books.

People power– culture gets creative

an interview with Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson
by Sarah Ruth van Gelder

Sarah van Gelder:
Maybe you can start by telling me something about what drew you into researching shifts in values and world views, and how your findings changed you.

Paul Ray:
I initially started doing market research and opinion polling because I wanted to learn about how values relate to culture. As I got further into my research, I was shocked to see that I was getting information not just about why people give money to good causes, or buy things, or vote a certain way. I was compiling evidence that pointed to something more fundamental – a deep shift in the culture.

I was seeing the emergence of a group of people whom we+IBk-re calling Cultural Creatives. This is something new. It doesn't fit the standard categories of activist, or right-thinking church people, or political liberals. These Cultural Creatives are already creating lots of social inventions that are going to make a new world, not just reshuffle old political programs. For me personally, the biggest thing that changed as a result of this research is that I shifted from being pessimistic – especially in reaction to the Reagan era – to being very optimistic about what's possible for our future.

Sherry Anderson:
When I was 35, which is 23 years ago, I was the head of a research department in the largest psychiatric teaching hospital in Canada and an associate professor of psychiatry at the medical school at the University of Toronto. At the same time, I was heading a rape crisis center, helping to create a women's counseling and referral service, and heading what became known as the Ontario Zen Center. But I didn't talk about all these projects except when I was with close friends or colleagues.

I remember that we deeply cared about what was happening to the world, but we thought in such small pockets. We thought that when we were protesting the war in Vietnam or when we were meeting in women's consciousness-raising groups, we were doing something that might somehow, in some vague way, affect our society and affect the world. But I never dreamed that we were part of an immense group of people who are changing their minds in their own particular ways, and that we would actually arrive at a powerful common set of values.

I used to think of culture as being about art, literature, and music. I didn 't understand that my most personal values and those of my clients and friends could be so profoundly part of a vast cultural movement.

We got a call yesterday from a journalist doing an article on straw bale houses for The New York Times Magazine. She said "Each time I interview someone who is building a straw bale house, I wonder what's at the core of this? What is going on? And I have finally found the common thread. I realize that they're all Cultural Creatives, and there's this enormous energy behind what they are doing."

And she said "It's not what I thought. There is nothing flaky about this. There is nothing New Age about this. These people are practical. They love the Earth, and they want to live their values." And this is the way I feel – I never knew that there were so many people like me, who believe this.

Sarah:
Where did all these Cultural Creatives come from? You say that prior to World War II there were few, if any, Cultural Creatives. Instead, almost all Americans belonged to one of two other subcultures. Could you describe what those two were?

Paul:
The two subcultures are what we call the Traditionals and the Moderns. The Modern culture is the dominant, parent culture of this civilization, and it goes back 500 years to the Renaissance. Then around 1750 to 1800, we started getting a major backlash against the materialistic, urban, industrial, bureaucratic, culture of Modernism from the people who were losing – the Traditionalists. These people were reacting against the tendencies of the Modern world to undercut the legitimacy of churches, the Bible, the patri-archal family, and so on.

Sarah:
So beginning after World War II, this third subculture emerges?

Paul:
First of all, we're talking today about a quarter of the adults in the United States, 50 million adults, and probably 80 to 90 million adults in Western Europe. These people take the ideas of ecology very seriously, and they support slowing business growth in order to save the planet. They also take very seriously women's issues and issues of personal growth and relationships.

We found that the typical Cultural Creative cares intensely about the issues raised by post-World War II social movements. These movements include those focused on civil rights, the environment, women's rights, peace, jobs and social justice, gay and lesbian rights, alternative health care, spirituality, personal growth, and now, of course, stopping corporate globalization.

All of those concerns are now converging into a strong concern for the whole planet.

Sherry:
I used to think of the social movement as the people who were on the rampage – the people who were demonstrating, writing the newsletters, or carrying the cases forward in court.

Paul:
The politicos, in other words.

Sherry:
In fact, that's way too narrow. We started thinking instead of a great cloud of sympathetic people who are learning from and listening to the arguments of the various movements. You could think of it as a bull's-eye, with the most active and most visible people at the center, and then whole circles of people surrounding them who are discussing the arguments, donating money, learning, and changing their minds. If you include the people in those larger circles, there are millions and millions of people involved. When you see the ways those circles overlap, you start to be see where the Cultural Creatives come from.

Sarah:
What makes these movements different from earlier movements?

Paul:
Unlike the social movements of 1880 to 1930 – the Wobblies, the fascists, the communists, the socialists, and so on – those involved in the post-1960s movements are not trying to take over the government. Nor are they primarily concerned with "more for us" issues, like wages and benefits, for example. Rather these movements are reframing issues in a way that changes how people understand the world.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, didn't say, "It's time the Blacks got theirs." He said, "This is about freedom, and justice, and dignity, and the Constitution, and who we are as an American people." Rachel Carson didn't advocate NIMBYism – keep pollution out of my back yard." She said, "This is about the death of nature." Betty Friedan didn't just say, "It's time that women got through the glass ceiling." She asked, "Who are we as human beings?" The alternative health care movement isn't about getting insurance coverage for chiropractic care. It's about the real meaning of health.

What happens when somebody gets involved in a half dozen of these issues and has their world reframed six times? Their entire worldview changes.

Sarah:
Of course, many of these movements actually grew out of earlier struggles. What were some of the early influences on these post-war movements?

Paul:
Well, you could argue that the Quakers started the whole thing 300 to 500 years ago, along with the early anti-slavery movement, the feminists, and the Mennonites. Those people did the first versions of reframing – it's just that the rest of the culture didn't pick up on it at the time.

One of the earliest movements was the conservation movement, which has since morphed into the environmental movement, which then morphed again into the ecology movement. In all cases, those involved were asserting the importance of nature over the right to ransack nature's storehouse for wealth. Those involved took the idea of "nature," which at the time was thought of as untamed, chaotic wilderness, and reframed it as beautiful and worthy in its own right.

Today, more people regard a redwood grove as sacred than regard churches as sacred. Surveys everywhere in the world show that 70 to 90 percent of the people regard nature and the environment as having sacred qualities and as under threat. For all practical purposes that's unanimity. It's quite stunning.

Sherry:
Another value from the movements that was first articulated in the Black freedom movement is "walking your talk." Authenticity. Reverend C.T. Vivian, who was a firebrand from the early freedom movement, talks about his days as a minister. He would tell people that they needed to hold on and come to church and that they were fighting the good fight. At what point, he asked himself, do you see their suffering, see people putting their lives on the line, and see that all you're doing is talking? At some point, he decided he had to go out of the church and join the people. The importance of authenticity carried over into all of the movements, especially the women's movement.

Each of the social movements had in effect two arms: one was the political action arm, and the other was a submerged cultural network. People would meet in consciousness-raising groups in each other's homes and in church basements, discovering together what they really cared about, trying to understand what was true. And the evidence that they drew on was their own direct experience, because they couldn't trust what was written in the books or the media.

When I was in such a group I remember wondering, "Isn't there some book where I can look this up?" But there were no books. We had to go into the truth of our own lives. One person would put forward an observation, then somebody else would add a new perspective, and slowly we pieced together a new understanding of what was going on in the world.

We were looking for evidence– we were looking for what was real, what was beyond the rhetoric. And that, of course, is the source of the idea that the personal is political. Just as scientific evidence is part of what Cultural Creatives draw from, so too is direct personal experience.

Paul:
This seeking for authenticity is part of what links each person's own personal and spiritual growth with a concern for the big picture, including a concern for social justice. What Christopher Lasch says about a culture of narcissism – that the people who are concerned about personal growth don't care about social justice and vice versa – is flat out not true. Our research shows that the more a person is engaged in social activism, ecology, and social justice, the more likely they are to be engaged also in developing their spiritual lives and in personal growth.

Sherry:
Why is the capacity to examine your conscience, to sit in silence, to listen deeply important in a social movement? In the gay and lesbian liberation movement, people had to learn to speak from the pain and the truth of their own lives in the most genuine way. If they didn't, they didn't have anything!

In the early days of the women's health movement, we didn't know what we wanted– we didn't know what was possible. We had to sit down and talk about what wasn't working for us first. We had to learn to sit with that void, in that place where you don't have the answers, and to start asking questions that no one had asked before.

Out of that honesty, out of that naming of what hadn't been named before, comes something new. The real seeds that can change society come from being present to what's most deeply human in us.

Sarah:
So this authenticity and openness allows people to question the assumptions that they have been living with all their lives – to explore a different worldview with trusted friends.

Sherry:
Right. It also allows you to get beyond outer authority to what's most true in yourself and so be open to listening to what's most true in other people. And then you begin to see what isn't working – what has to be uprooted to allow for the maturing of the human being.

Paul:
A process of social learning has been happening in our society since the 1960s as people question the assumptions of the dominant social order that don't fit their actual experience. That questioning is reinforced by each successive movement. Even those who weren't active in a particular movement were exposed to the arguments, and the perspectives influenced an enormous number of people.

We're talking about the creation of a new culture – about living in a different world. What's in your house is different. Your daily concerns are different. The words you use to describe your own experiences are different. Your life priorities are different.

And in addition to all those up-close and personal changes, you're looking at changes in the role of corporations and government in American life, changes in the relations of humans to nature, changes in our relationship to people in other parts of the world, changes in how women and minorities are treated.

We're going through a process of changing our minds at every single level. Today we regard as totally unacceptable many assumptions that were part of how your average, middle-class, moral person would have thought in the +IBg-50s. Then, violence and discrimination against Native Americans, African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics were accepted as normal. Nasty ethnic jokes were the norm. Discrimination against women in the workplace was legal, and violence against women and children at home was perfectly normal. Today, these attitudes persist in some circles, but they're widely seen as quite unacceptable.

So in a span of 40 to 50 years we have reinterpreted the world in fundamental ways, and every last one of those fundamental reinterpretations comes out of the new social movements.

Sarah:
Since I discovered your work some years ago, Paul, I've had a chance to talk to a number of people about the concept of the culture shift and the Cultural Creative label. Some are pleased to discover that they are not alone and encouraged to learn that this research indicates real possibilities for change. Some are annoyed at the thought of being pigeonholed. Others, perhaps, are afraid that they're not one of the Cultural Creatives and are excluded from some kind of elite group. Are you finding that there are people who feel either left out or put down by this kind of grouping?

Paul:
This term for an emerging subculture is not a stick-on label that goes on somebody's forehead, or a new campaign button that says, "I'm a Cultural Creative. Are You?" We've seen a lot of attempts to create stick-on labels, like Yuppies and Generation-X, that are fictions invented by ad agencies. There are no clearcut boundaries for the phenomenon of Cultural Creatives. Here's how I see it: There is a core group of Cultural Creatives who are active in living their values and are socially engaged. Simultaneously, members of this group are concerned about consciousness issues and personal growth, and they are very strong on ecology issues and very strong on women' s issues. That group is two-to-one women, about 12 percent of the population, roughly 25 million adults.

That group shades imperceptibly into a circle you might call the Greens, who don't have as many personal growth concerns. And around the outer periphery is a set of people who are showing signs of being ready to move toward being a Cultural Creative, if only they thought it would be rewarded socially, or if only it were safe.

I would guess that if we included all of these people, we would have perhaps 40 percent of the American population who are Cultural Creatives or potential Cultural Creatives.

One of the key things that makes a fuzzy boundary is this: It seems to take about a decade for people to bring their values and beliefs into alignment with the way they live. So there's a huge number of people who are in some kind of life transition, and it's not clear where they're going to wind up in these statistical estimates.

Sarah:
If there are so many Cultural Creatives, and if they are having such a big impact, why is that such a well-kept secret? Why aren't they having more of an impact as a political force?

Paul:
Oh, because right now they're saying politics is bought. In focus groups we did for the Environmental Protection Agency at the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999, Cultural Creatives were saying, "We're activists at the local community level. We're engaged. We're volunteering. But national politics has been bought. We don't feel that it is worth it. It's dirty. To hell with it, I'm going to make some real differences where I can have some say."

When we talk to audiences of Cultural Creatives, invariably some bright person will say, "Oh my God, 50 million. There's more of us than voted for Clinton. We could win." It's a new thought to the people in the room, because they're convinced that at least when it comes to national politics, they're going to lose.

Sherry:
How is it possible that 50 million people who share the same values and the same worldview, imagine that they're almost alone? The answer is that we don't have mirrors in the media that have been able to show us our own face and our own promise, and so we imagine that we're almost alone. And that's why magazines like YES! are so important to Cultural Creatives. We have to have places where we can have discussions, do this kind of exploring, see what we value, put it all on the table, and see what's possible.

Sarah:
Given the protests at the WTO in Seattle, and in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Prague, do you feel Cultural Creatives now have a greater sense of themselves as a political force? The media keeps talking about the many different causes represented at these protests. They dismiss it as sort of a circus – pick a cause and any malcontent will show up.

Paul:
How else are you going to explain away what you're seeing in front of your face? You try to find a derogatory term that doesn't look at the implications or connections. The media lives on fragmentation, when in fact all these causes are coming out of the same worldview. Few reporters will acknowledge that somebody else has a different set of eyeglasses than theirs. They've got a sense that they know the truth. When you talk to the Asians and Europeans, they instantly get the idea of different cultures and different worldviews. But Americans and the British kind of scratch their heads and have trouble taking it in.

Sarah:
Because their worldview is the dominant world view, perhaps?

Paul:
Yes, and because part of the defense of one's own worldview is to say: "We see things exactly as they are through a clear pane of glass. No eyeglasses here."

Sarah:
What do you think are the implications of all that we've been discussing for our possibilities as a human species?

Sherry:
The word that comes up for me is "muting." The Cultural Creative's voices have been muted because they believe that few others want to hear what they have to say or would be willing to act on their ideas. So the promise that I see is that the mute will be removed and those in this new, creative subculture will find ways to express what's really important to them.

The effects will spread out into literature, theater, music, art – into new ways of meeting together, into an insistence on the right to question the assumptions of the dominant culture. It means people will inspire each other to speak out and, like the women's movement said, "We will hear each other into speech." We will bring the deeper possibilities of our humanity into the social sphere and begin to find ways to bring that shift about.

Paul:
What would happen if Cultural Creatives knew that they had lots of company? What if they were aware of themselves? What if they asked themselves what kind of future we want to live in?"

The way we'll invent the future is with each other, in conversations about what's possible and what kind of world we want. And we won't just hear each other into speech. We will actually learn to see through the eyes of the other person. We won't get there any other way than by having huge numbers of people engage with each other in creative possibilities.

The hallmark of this profound culture shift is going to be reinventing practically every institution of society from the ground up. And that is not only possible, it is rather likely.


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Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 14:42:22 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-7

Subscribing to GE News for 2001

Because of encouragement from many subscribers, I will be continuing to send out GE News by email to those who subscribe for 2001. For those who wish to subscribe, the fee is $40 for the year. For Canadians, please make out the $40 cheque in Cdn dollars to "Richard Wolfson"

For Americans, please make out the check for $40 USD to "MSCA" . You will later get a tax deductible receipt. Internationals can also send a mail order in US dollars $40 made out to "MSCA". If this is too much for internationals, they can send $25 USD.

Please mail subscription fees to Richard Wolfson, Suite #103, 639 Whispering Hills Rd, Boone, NC USA 28607 (This is where I am located right now.) If you can mail the checks so they get here before Feb 23, that would be most convenient.

I will be sending out the news every 7-10 days. As this is less often than before, the emails may be a little greater in length than previously. The a recent GE News follows. Past GE news is posted at http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/GENewsIndex.html

Thank you.
Richard

Italy Urges U.S. Farmers, Processors to Segregate, Label Biotech Feed

Cropchoice, January 30, 2001

With European concern over Mad Cow disease and genetically engineered foods running high, the Italian agriculture minister last week encouraged U.S. farmers and processors to segregate and label all genetically modified animal feed or else face the high probability that Europe won't buy it.


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Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 14:42:22 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-7

Tumor-Causing Plant Bacteria May Infect Human Cells

By Emma Patten-Hitt, REUTERS Health News, Wednesday, 31 January 2001.

NEW YORK – A soil bacterium that causes lumpy tumors on plants may be able to 'jump kingdoms' and insert its tumor-causing DNA into human cells, new research findings suggest. The bacterium, called Agrobacterium tumefaciens, contains a small piece of DNA that can insert itself into the DNA of a host cell and initiate a tumor. Agrobacterium is already known to cause plant tumors, but researchers wanted to test whether the bacterium could similarly insert its DNA into human cells.

Dr. Vitaly Citovsky from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and colleagues found that the plant bacterium was able to attach to human cells and insert its DNA into human cells just as it does with plant cells. Whether Agrobacterium is dangerous to humans is unclear, however. "Here (insertion of DNA into) human cells has been observed in laboratory conditions; whether it may be relevant biologically in nature remains the researchers note in the current early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 14:42:22 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-7

Nebraska farmers file StarLink corn lawsuit

CHICAGO, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Farmers in Nebraska have filed a class-action lawsuit against life sciences company Aventis CropScience (NYSE:AVE - news), the maker of an unapproved gene-altered corn that caused turmoil by entering the food chain.

New York attorney Daniel Krasner said Friday his clients' crops were contaminated by StarLink corn, which is not approved for human consumption because of concerns it might trigger allergic reactions, but was detected in food products. t is part of a lawsuit brought by a group of farmers against Aventis, growing out of the StarLink problem. The value of their corn crop he said, adding that the lawsuit was filed Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Aventis declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Farmers in Iowa and Illinois have filed similar lawsuits, claiming they suffered financially from the cross pollination and commingling of StarLink corn with regular varieties.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Iowa Farmers Sue Over Biotech Corn

Tuesday February 6 12:11 PM ET

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Polk County District Court on behalf of Iowa farmers who believe they lost money because of consumer fears caused when an unapproved biotech corn wound up in the nation's food supply.

The lawsuit filed Monday seeks compensation for farmers who grew other approved varieties of corn, but believe concern over the StarLink mix-up led to lower corn exports and prices last year.


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Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 14:42:22 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-7

GM Food Report: Ottawa Rapped, Expert Study Considered Major Setback for Biotech Industry

By Peter Calamai, Toronto Star, February 5, 2001

Canadians aren't being adequately protected by government from the risks of genetically modified foods and other biotech products, says a highly critical scientific report commissioned by the federal government.

The expert report, formally released here today by the Royal Society of Canada, condemned the basic approach of federal regulation of biotech agricultural products as "scientifically unjustifiable."

The experts say this approach contradicts the government's promise to err on the side of caution in adopting new technologies.

Also under attack in the 264-page report is excessive government secrecy about biotech safety and the cozy relationship between government regulators and the biotech industry.

Federal regulators barred even the Royal Society panel from seeing evidence that safety tests had actually been done on genetically modified foods.

"The public interest in a regulatory system that is science-based is significantly compromised when that openness is negotiated away by regulators in exchange for cordial and supportive relationships with the industries being regulated," says the report.

"The report is definitely a caution. They're saying this is a powerful technology; let's make sure we get it right," commented Doug Powell, a University of Guelph professor [& GM zealot! – NGIN] who specializes in food safety.

The scientific experts also said the government had no proven way to determine whether genetically modified foods were safe in their entirety, rather than just looking at individual components. They urged a crash research program to fill this gap. ...

The 50-plus recommendations from the scientific experts add up to an overhaul of the current system of regulating biotech products, including:

Independent, outside science auditors to double-check every step of federal regulation.

More openness throughout the process, with companies no longer allowed to hide documents behind claims of commercial confidentiality.

Compulsory registration for all transgenic animals, such as pigs with human genes already being tested in Toronto hospitals for possible transplant use.

A moratorium on the raising of genetically modified fish in pens in lakes and oceans from which they escape to interbreed with wild fish.

A ban on the common practice of using antibiotic resistant genes as markers in transgenic plants because this resistance might be transferred to microbes.


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Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 14:42:22 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-7

Weeds: An ordinary miracle

By Fred Pearce, New Scientist February 3, 2001, This Week -Focus, Pg. 16

Bigger harvests, without pesticides or genetically modified crops ? Farmers can make it happen by letting weeds do the work

ACROSS east Africa, thousands of farmers are planting weeds in their maize fields. Bizarre as it sounds their technique is actually raising yields by giving the insect pests something else to chew on besides maize. "It's better than pesticides, and a lot cheaper," said Ziadin Khan, whose idea it is, as he showed me round his demonstrations plots at the Mbita Point research station on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya.

"And it has raised farm yields round here by 60 to 70 per cent."

His novel method of fighting pests is one of a host of low-tech innovations boosting production by 100 per cent or more on millions of poor Third World farms in the past decade.

This "sustainable agriculture" just happens to be the biggest movement in Third World farming today, dwarfing the tentative forays in genetic manipulation. It seems peasant farmers have a long way to go before they exhaust the possibilities of traditional agriculture and have to place their futures in the hands of genetic engineers.

In east Africa, maize fields face two major pests, and Khan has a solution to both. The first is an insect called the stem borer. True to its name, its larvae eat their way through a third of the region's maize most years.

But Khan discovered that the borer is even fonder of a local weed, napier grass. By planting napier grass in their fields, farmers can lure the stem borers away from the maize – and into a honey-trap. For the grass produces a sticky substance that traps and kills stem borer larvae.

The second major pest is "Striga", a parasitic plant that wrecks dollar 10 billion worth of maize crops every year, threatening the livelihoods of 100 million Africans.

Weeding "Striga" is one of the most time-consuming activities for millions of African women farmers, says Khan. But he has an antidote: another weed, called "Desmodium". "It seems to release some sort of chemical that "Striga" doesn't like. At any rate, where farmers plant "Desmodium" between rows of maize, "Striga" won't grow."

Khan's cheap fixes for "Striga" and stem borer are spreading like wildfire through the fields of east Africa. ...

His miracle is one of dozens of different strategies transforming the lives of millions of poor farmers on small farms across the planet. They replace pesticides with natural predators, and fertilisers with animal dung, crop wastes and plants that fix nitrogen from the air. They choose artful combinations of crops that maximise nature's bounty. In January this year the world's largest study into sustainable agriculture was published. Jules Pretty of the University of Essex analysed more than 200 projects in 52 countries.

He found that more than four million farms were involved, covering an area the size of Italy – 3 per cent of fields in the Third World. And, most remarkably, average increases in crop yields were 73 per cent. Sustainable agriculture, Pretty concludes, has most to offer to small farms that cannot afford chemical solutions to their problems. Its methods are "cheap, use locally available technology and often improve the environment. Above all they most help the people who need help the most – poor farmers and their families, who make up the majority of the world's hungry people."

And, hardly surprisingly, many of the successful techniques are now being adopted by agribusiness. Raising fish in rice paddies, for instance, began in Bangladesh but is now developing into a global industry. Khan's alternative pesticides are likewise finding a potential market on large farms anxious to cut the cost of conventional pesticides.

The success of sustainable agriculture is dispelling the myth that modern techno-farming is the most productive method, says Miguel Altieri of the University of California, Berkeley. "In Mexico, it takes 1.73 hectares of land planted with maize to produce as much food as one hectare planted with a mixture of maize, squash and beans."

The difference, he says, comes from "the reduction of losses due to weeds, insects and diseases and a more efficient use of the available resources of water, light and nutrients". Monocultures breed pests and waste resources, he says. And some experts think GM crops will pale by comparison with sustainable agriculture, at least for the time being. "I don't see GMs making an impact on food production in Africa within the next 10 or 15 years," says Herren. "What Africa most needs is investment in 'soft' biotechnologies such as alternative natural pesticides."


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 14:42:22 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson GEN2-7

Food, drug act 'needs overhaul'

By Mark Kennedy, The Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 6, 2001

'External forces' gut safety system, document reveals

The federal law that governs Canada's drug and food regulatory system is outdated and has a "narrow focus" on safety that ignores other factors such as the "need" to bolster the economy and promote competitiveness, says a Health Canada document.

Critics say the document, obtained by a public health interest group through the Access to Information Act, lends credence to their longstanding allegations that the Chretien government has bowed to private industry pressure and is quietly gutting the country's drug and food safety system.


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 6 Feb 2001 16:54:16 -0600
From: "Diane V. McLoughlin" dianevmc@attcanada.ca

Sidebar from me: Terence Corcoran, editor of the Financial Post section of the National Post, today in an editorial accused the Royal Society panel of experts of being 'irresponsible'.

Canadians are Guinea Pigs: Biologist

By journalist Tom Spears; 06/02/01 The Ottawa Citizen

Canadians have been human guinea pigs testing genetically modified foods for safety, because the agencies that approve them in Canada have kept secret the experimental data on them, says an expert panel on biotech foods.

"We have run the experiment for five years" by letting the public eat these foods, says the panel's co-chair, molecular biologist Brian Ellis of the University of British Columbia.

The fact that these 48 genetically engineered grains, soybeans and other crops haven't hurt us may be due to careful scrutiny, but may also be plain luck, he said.

Without public data for independent scientists to check, says Mr. Ellis, no one can tell what's good luck and what's good science.

"You will have no credibility in a scientific process if you do not have peer review (by outside scientists) and independent assessment of results."

And yesterday, as he and other members of the Royal Society of Canada's panel on biotech foods released their final report, he said Canada's biotech regulators are too close to the industry they regulate. Regulating it and promoting it at the same time is a conflict of interest, he said, giving the appearance of being "more closely allied with the industry interest than with the public good."

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which regulate biotech foods, spent most of yesterday assuring reporters the foods are safe – and thoroughly tested.

Government scientists look at what DNA is in a genetically modified plant, said Karen Dodds, director general of Health Canada's biotech office.

They look at RNA, and the proteins a gene produces, at any chemicals that might be toxic or allergenic. They look at whether there might be side effects no one had predicted.

"Our system does not make any assumptions. The companies must submit to us very detailed information," she said.

So why, reporters asked, didn't the federal government tell the expert panel all this information?

"To the best of my knowledge, they did not ask," Ms. Dodds said. "They did not come and ask us for a complete, detail explanation" of how foods are approved.

At the same time, Health Canada and CFIA officials do not release publicly all the data supplied by biotech companies, because some of this is considered a trade secret. There may have been "a miscommunication," Mr. Ellis allowed later, but he still felt it was up to regulators to make more information public. "They operate in an environment that is quite deeply embedded in secrecy," he said.

The Royal Society panel held its news conference downtown in the National Press Building. Health Canada and CFIA held theirs an hour later at Tunney's Pasture. Each side accused the other of failing to make clear, during their discussions over the past year, exactly what it wanted from the other side. And reporters spent the day travelling and phoning back and forth to check claims and counter-claims this way and that.

Two ends of town, two news conferences. By the end of the day the two sides had talked to a lot of reporters, but still weren't speaking to each other.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: 6 Feb 2001 17:53:45 -0600
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz
Subject: re: Canadians are guinea pigs

Journalist Tom Spears of The Ottawa Citizen, in his article 'Canadians are guinea pigs: biologist', refers to what he smoothly calls:

the fact that these 48 genetically engineered grains, soybeans and other crops haven't hurt us . . .

This is NOT a proven fact !!

It is admittedly possible that these GEFs have done no harm; but it is also possible that they have been doing considerable harm which has gone unnoticed because no-one has been looking. The Showa Denko tryptophan, and especially the Pusztai-Ewen GM potato tests, make this fully clear.

This is one reason why I don't like to dignify by the tag 'experiment' this colossal unmonitored marketing thrust. Science does not feed guinea-pigs a novel food and then fail to monitor the results.

R

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


Top PreviousNextFront Page

Date: 6 Feb 2001 16:55:49 -0600
From: "Diane V. McLoughlin" dianevmc@attcanada.ca

Canola: 'Superweeds'

By Tom Spears; 06/02/01. From: The Ottawa Citizen,

Genetically modified "superweeds" have invaded Canadian farms – canola plants engineered to help farmers that instead escaped and cross-bred with each other to form plants stronger than their parents.

Most pesticides can't kill these canola superweeds, which are sprouting up in wheat fields and other areas where farmers don't want them, Canada's expert panel on biotechnology says.

Three types of canola, each engineered with genes to resist one type of weedkiller, have merged into new varieties resistant to many pesticides. Instead of helping farmers avoid weeds, the canola itself has become the weed.

The superweed-canola is especially bad in the Prairies, where canola is a multibillion-dollar crop, says a report released yesterday from the Royal Society of Canada's biotech experts.

The biotech industry has been "naive" in thinking that good farming methods alone will hold superweeds at bay, the report says.

And the panel warns that as the next generation of genetically engineered crops becomes more complex, it will be tougher to head off the superweeds of the future.

Canola "is the classic example" of a superweed, said Brian Ellis, a co-chair of the panel and molecular biologist from the University of British Columbia.

Canola varieties such as Liberty Link and Roundup Ready were engineered to use with a pesticide [sic] (such as Roundup). The idea was that a farmer would plant canola resistant to Roundup, then spray the field with Roundup.

Everything except the canola would die.

Where canola is nearly pesticide-proof, it can crowd out other plants – crops and weeds – in farm fields.

But its resistance to pesticides doesn't help its survival in the wild, where there are no pesticides.

"The next generation ... is crops that come along carrying genes thatmake them more frost-tolerant or drought-tolerant. They have an advantage over their wild cousins," Mr. Ellis said.

That means they will have a bioengineered advantage in taking over farm fields and in moving through wild areas.

"Herbicide-resistant volunteer canola planta aare beginning to develop into a major problem" in the Prairies, the panel's report says. (Volunteer plants are those that seed themselves.)

Canola has been farmed for only a few generations and so it still has some wild tendencies – such as dropping its seeds before a farmer can harvest them. This plants seeds for next year.

And plants, the report says, "can be quite promiscuous." Canola plants will breed with any other canola they meet, creating the phenomenon of "gene stacking," or accumulating all the genes originally built into different strains by different laboratories.

This forces farmers to retreat to "broad-spectrum" pesticides – chemicals that kill just about anything, such as 2,4-D. These are chemicals that farmers were trying to get away from in the first place.

"The point is, technology is still driving agricultural production along a chemical-dependence route. And I think that's something the government has to take a very serious look at," Mr. Ellis said.

Biotech industry reps told the expert panel that good farming will stop superweeds from evolving.

"This perspective may be unduly naive," the report says. "In the real world, human error and expediency may often compromise guidelines for the growing of such crops."


Top PreviousFront Page

Date: 7 Feb 2001 23:14:05 -0600
From: Robert Mann robt_m@talk.co.nz

plant-killing GM bacteria

Sections:
Article: GM Bug 'could End All Life'
Klebsiella planticola, a common soil bacterium
The references are:

Article: GM Bug 'could End All Life'

The New Zealand Herald, 03.02.2001
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=170916&thesection=....

All life on Earth could be destroyed by genetically modified bacteria, a scientist has told the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

Four scientists gave evidence for the Green Party at the hearing this week via video link from the United States.

Soil ecologist Elaine Ingham spoke about a plant-killing GM bacteria that her Oregon State University research team prevented from being released into the environment.

Dr Ingham said the alcohol-producing bacteria had been approved for field trials when her team discovered its lethal effects.

She believed the widespread plant deaths caused by the bacteria would in turn affect all life on Earth.

The GM klebsiella planticola produced alcohol from post-harvest crop residue. The leftover organic sludge, containing the bacteria, would be returned to fields as fertiliser.

Dr Ingham said she had independently tested the bacteria on plants, which the regulatory authority had failed to do.

"After seven days, all wheat plants turned into slime."

This example showed the need for better risk assessment of ecological impact.

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the risks of GM organisms to the environment were currently unknown. Outdoor field trials of GM crops should never be allowed under these circumstances.


Klebsiella planticola, a common soil bacterium

I compiled the following piece on the Klebsiella expt in full consultation with Dr Ingham, to give to our Royal Commission. I am not aware of any disputes about this account.

I disbelieve that Dr Ingham said "all life on earth"; this Herald rag has an evil reputation and would be quite capable of misrepresenting her.

Klebsiella planticola, a common soil bacterium, was genetically engineered by a German research institute to make ethanol for industrial purposes. The inventors had planned a recycling system: farmers would give them agricultural slash, which would be used for the bacterial fermentation; the resulting ethanol would be separated out, and the sludge could be given back to the farmers to spread on their fields as fertilizer. It all sounded very good for the environment, but how much soil ecology impinged on the planning is unclear.

Dr Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University and her graduate student M.T. Holmes discovered to their alarm that soils containing the engineered organism killed wheat seedlings, most likely through alcohol production in the root system, which kills roots at very low concentrations. Mycorrhizal fungi were also killed.

Had the engineered sludges been returned to farmers, it would have drastically degraded their soil, rendering them unable to grow many or all plants. Since K. planticola is a ubiquitous organism, found in the root systems of plants all over the world, the GM mutant could have spread and made ALL soil unable to support crops! Microorganisms are easily spread on surfaces of insects, on the feet of birds, on people's feet, etc; this engineered bacterium could have spread world-wide quite rapidly.

Luckily Dr. Ingham and her student did the work before commercialization and were able to warn the company, who didn't commercialize it.

The references are:

Holmes T M. and E.R. Ingham (1999) Ecological effects of genetically engineered Klebsiella planticola released into agricultural soil with varying clay content. Appl. Soil Ecol. 3 394-399;

Holmes T.M. and Ingham E.R. The effects of genetically engineered microorganisms on soil foodwebs. in: Supplement to Bulletin of Ecological Soc. Of America 75/2, Abs of the 79th Annual ESA Meeting: Science and Public Policy?, Knoxville, TN, 7-11 August, 1994.

Dr. Ingham can be reached at: inghame@bcc.orst.edu.

The story really shows the awesome power of genetic engineering, the multidisciplinary nature of the review it requires, and the folly of releasing GM microbes before very extensive contained studies.

This is a very good example of how slight changes in a highly evolved bacterium can greatly change its ecological significance. Klebsiella spp have adapted to many different niches; some are also not-too-virulent human pathogens. Klebsiella pneumoniae rarely causes human disease but is a common cause of aspiration pneumonia in alcoholics (i.e. a leading cause of a somewhat rare condition).

We know that small changes in bacteria or viruses often tip the delicate balance between a pathogen and host and result in large-scale outbreaks of disease. Many "new" diseases have occurred, like syphilis in the 15th century, when slightly changed microbes suddenly cause epidemics. The 1919-20 influenza pandemic, which killed about 20 million – more than the Great War it closely followed – was caused by a simple mutation in a virus.

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


Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: rwolfson@concentric.net

Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html contains more information on genetic engineering as well as previous genetic engineering news items. Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 (USD for those outside Canada) for 12 months, payable to "BanGEF" and mailed to the above address. Or see website for details.