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2-Plants: Recycling of Monsanto's failed slogan "Food, Health, Hope"



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                                  PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  LET AFRICA GROW 'GOLDEN' RICE
SOURCE: The New York Post, USA, by Francis Nang'ayo
        http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/37982.htm
DATE:   Jul 19, 2003

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  "Seventy percent of Africans are farmers who eke out a living from
   small plots of family gardens with soils depleted from overuse in
   regions prone to drought, soil erosion and floods. The little that
   is cultivated must contend with epidemics of pests and diseases.
   Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are prohibitively expensive and,
   where used, are not without public and environmental health concerns."

   But Francis Nang'ayo does not tell us how his examples of GE plants
   with "herbicide resistance gene " or "Golden Rice" can overcome these
   problems. And he does not tell us that non-GE research at the African
   IITA has led to Striga-resistant maize varieties and a joint research
   project developed non-GE b-carotene rich sweet potato varieties,
   adapted to local African conditions, while the respective GE
   solutions are still wishful thinking. HM/GENET
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LET AFRICA GROW 'GOLDEN' RICE

July 19, 2003 -- THE focus of Americans in the aftermath of President
Bush's trip to Africa naturally is the prospect of U.S. troops being sent
to Liberia. But for most people on my continent, the primary question is
whether his visit ultimately will help advance the debate over
biotechnology and genetically modified foods, which have been stymied in
Africa by Europe's objections to them.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen of the International Food Policy Institute said
recently at a Congressional Hunger Center: "We need to talk about the
low-income farmer in Africa who, on. . . maybe an . . . acre of land, is
trying to feed her five children in the face of recurrent droughts,
recurrent insect attacks, recurrent diseases. For her, losing a crop may
mean losing a child. Now, how can we sit here debating whether she should
have access to a drought-tolerant crop variety?"

Africa's population stood at 200 million 30 years ago. It is now 620
million. At the current growth rate, it is projected to increase to 1.3
billion over the next 25 years. Africa adds the equivalent of five
Sacramentos every month!

Seventy percent of Africans are farmers who eke out a living from small
plots of family gardens with soils depleted from overuse in regions prone
to drought, soil erosion and floods. The little that is cultivated must
contend with epidemics of pests and diseases. Chemical fertilizers and
pesticides are prohibitively expensive and, where used, are not without
public and environmental health concerns.

No wonder the African people lack adequate food to eat and surpluses to
sell for income. No wonder they suffer from malnutrition. No wonder
numerous African children go blind due to vitamin A deficiency.

Europe and America have large food surpluses and enjoy the freedom and
luxury of choice never known in Africa. Their genetically modified food
fight doesn't mean hunger to their people. But if nothing is done to end
their squabble, the number of the poor and hungry in Africa will grow.
What is the likelihood that they will be fed?

Molecular biology-based research has developed genetically modified crops
with built-in protection against pests and diseases without the need of
vast amounts of costly pesticides. One class incorporates an herbicide
resistance gene. It allows farmers to spray herbicide on their fields to
kill weeds, such as Striga, or purple witchweed, that infests the root
systems of cereal crops, stunting their growth and leading to crops being
lost.

In addition to creating pest and herbicide-resistant plants, genetically-
modified technology can also produce plants with improved nutritional
qualities.

One of the most exciting developments so far has been the introduction of
genes into rice that result in enhanced supply of Vitamin A and iron.
This "golden" rice would thus fight both childhood blindness and anemia
and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.

No technology is absolutely risk free. But Europe's threat to close its
markets to African produce if genetically modified crops are introduced
won't promote safety. Only an exploration of relative benefits and risks
can protect consumers and ensure the needs of the world's poor are met.

As a scientist, I have yet to find any shred of evidence suggesting that
foods on the market today are unsafe to eat as a result of genetic
engineering. As University of California biologist Martina McGlooughlin
rightly observed, "Biotech products go through a more thorough testing
than conventional food ever has been subjected to . . . and no product of
conventional breeding could meet the data requirements imposed on biotech
products by regulatory agencies prior to approval."

The impact of biotechnology on food production, post-harvest losses and
nutritional value of food could improve the lives and livelihoods of
millions of poor people. It would be unethical to condemn millions to
hunger by denying them access to development and technology simply
because some activists imagine it is risky. Now that his trip is over, we
can only hope President Bush continues to press for acceptance of a
technology with the potential to save countless African lives.

Dr. Francis Nang'ayo, a principal research scientist in the Biotechnology
Research Programme at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, is a
contributing writer to TechCentralStation.com.



                                  PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Africa dare not cave in to agricultural Luddites
        Irrational fears must not be allowed to stop case by case
        research on modified crops which offer hope
SOURCE: The Business Day, South Africa, by Tamar Kahn
        http://www.bday.co.za/bday/content/direct/
        1,3523,1391922-6096-0,00.html
DATE:   Jul 21, 2003

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Africa dare not cave in to agricultural Luddites
Irrational fears must not be allowed to stop case by case research on
modified crops which offer hope

IT IS too late for people in SA to be asking themselves whether or not to
embrace genetically engineered crops. They are already here.

Genetically engineered maize and soybeans have already found their way
into the products on our supermarket shelves, and field trials are on the
go for genetically engineered potatoes, canola and new varieties of
maize, soybeans and cotton.

Proponents of genetic engineering say it will increase crop yields,
reduce labour costs, and cut down on the use of dangerous chemicals. The
naysayers warn that the new technology may result in unforeseen harm to
humans and the environment.

As a furious barrage of half-truths spews forth from spin doctors on both
sides of the Atlantic over the future of genetically engineered crops,
the US and Europe are taking a keen interest in what happens on African soil.

The political furore over genetically engineered food aid offered to
southern Africa by the World Food Programme last year highlighted the
schism between the Bush administration and the European Union (EU).

Washington says genetically engineered crops are the solution to Africa's
hunger woes, while the EU says Bush is using starving Africans as an
emotive ploy to put pressure on it to lift its de facto ban on approving
new genetically engineered organisms.

The EU moratorium on approving new genetically engineered foods came into
effect in 1998, and stops the US exporting any genetically engineered
crops to Europe, except for those approved by regulatory authorities
before the ban came into effect.

This is why the US soybean association can export genetically engineered
soybeans approved in 1996 to Europe, and is now vehemently opposed to the
introduction of a second generation genetically engineered soybean
variety into the US.

Without segregation facilities, even a small volume of second generation
product would render the entire US soybean crop unfit for European export.

Although the European parliament has now moved to end the moratorium by
approving laws that impose stringent labelling and traceability
requirements on food and animal feed containing genetically engineered
ingredients the US view is this still amounts to a trade barrier.

The transatlantic trade war leaves South Africans and their neighbours in
an invidious position. If they adopt the new technology, they face the
daunting task of safeguarding human and environmental wellbeing with only
the sketchiest collection of local scientific expertise to advise and
assist in implementing biosafety laws, which in many countries have yet
to be developed.

Even if this hurdle is overcome, African states still face the alarming
pro spect of losing hard-won export markets for crops and processed goods.

As Namibia's resistance to SA's genetically engineered maize shows, there
is little point producing a product for regional markets if neighbouring
countries are afraid to feed it to their cows because European consumers
don't want beef raised on genetically engineered grain.

Consumer fears wield tremendous power in the battle for plates McDonald's
recently crushed Monsanto's US plans to introduce genetically engineered
potatoes with built in resistance to viruses, saying it feared consumer
aversion to French fries made from the new varieties.

Monsanto is now running field trials for the potatoes in SA. Seeking an
alternative market is a fairly obvious business strategy for Monsanto,
but in a country like SA, where there are no sophisticated crop
segregation facilities, introducing a genetically engineered crop with an
uncertain market destination may turn out to be extraordinarily short-sighted.

The risks and pitfalls of introducing genetically engineered foodstuffs
are immense, as US experience has shown their soybean growers may have
wholeheartedly embraced the technology, but today their wheat growers are
far less enthusiastic about the prospect of a genetically engineered
variety of their crop.

The French Academy of Sciences, and the UK-based Royal Society, found no
scientific evidence that genetically engineered foods harm people partly
because, as proponents of the technology often point out, genetically
engineered foods have been more thoroughly tested than any other food
product in history.

However, consumers are all too aware that since the first genetically
engineered food was only commercialised in the mid-1990s, no long- term
human feeding studies have ever been done. The uncomfortable truth is
that no one can predict with absolute certainty what the long-term
consequences will be to human health.

The environmental effect of rapidly introducing new crop varieties is
also uncertain. Recent history is littered with the bitter realisation
that what scientists initially herald as the next best thing, all too
often has unforeseen and catastrophic consequences.

Organophosphate pesticides, for example, may indeed kill the bugs that
destroy valuable crops, but once in the water supply, they wreak untold
damage on fragile ecosystems and sceptics are right to preach caution.

However, if Africa does not explore the potential of the technology, it
may be turning its back on a science that offers hope of addressing at
least some of the myriad problems that beset African agriculture.

Genetic engineering is not going to solve the food distribution problems
such as inadequate roads and storage facilities that underpin Africa's
inability to feed its population, but it might one day play a role in
breeding plants more resistant to drought or storage pests, and cut down
the use of harmful pesticides.

It may also be foolhardy to ignore technology that even the Europeans,
with their well-honed scepticism, are nevertheless investing in. SA would
surely regret waking up one morning to discover the world's sugar
producers had all adopted a fantastic new breed of genetically engineered
sugar cane which it could have explored but chose not to.

The biggest mistake that SA could make would be to generalise about the
risks associated with genetically engineered crops. Scientific rigour
dictates that a case by case analysis is required, where the risks of
each and every new entity are carefully scrutinised from a domestic
perspective.

The point is to tread carefully, and not cave in to the Luddites who want
to stop the technological clock.




--


GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

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