GENTECH archive


Re: reply to archive 1129

Dear Rick and Jennings,

Sorry for intruding into this debate. But I thought I must make a couple
of points to put the record straight.

While I respect Rick's "views and his right to hold them, I also object
to his aim (and that of those who share similar views) to force the rest
of us to live by your views". I think Rick has to rise above his blind
faith in an unproven technology to understand that what the world needs
today is a technology that helps eradicate hunger and leads to
sustainable development. Any technology, which has a shelf-life of not
more than four years (and even Rick admits that in case of Bt-resistant
crops), should be confined to the dustbin of science history.

Even in case of the controversial issue of "superweeds", Rick has
accepted that his own outcrossing trials were for Australian conditions
and he is of the opinion that no outcrossing will take in the US,
Canada, Europe and Australia.  Since no such trials have been held in
the developing countries, why is the technology being forced on us?  Why
do we become a giant field testing laboratory for an unproven technology
? It has happened in the past and it is also happening in case of GE

Take the case of bovine growth hormone, rBGH. All over the world, the
drug is being pushed for cows. Rick will be surprised to learn that in
India its approval is pending for buffaloes. Even the Monsanto company
officials have unofficially been telling us how surprised they are at
the decision. But they are not objecting for the simple reason that this
at least allows them a foothold in one of the world's biggest markets
where it can be sold illegally. Agreed that the Indian scientists had
made a wrong recommendation (and we all know what could be the reasons
for it), but the company could have also objected !

What surprises me is that Rick is wasting so much of his energy in
defence of a technology that may sound good for commercial cultivation
of soybean, canola and corn. And promotes the herbicides and pesticides
of one or the other companies. I fail to understand how will a precision
technology for soy bean or canola help solve the global food crisis ? If
Rick still believes that it can, I invite him to come and spend some
time in an Indian village and that probably may open up his eyes and
understanding of the existing ground realities and pave the way for his
scientific nirvana !

Let me also bring it to your notice that canola is now being "promoted"
in India. Obviously not for providing food and nutrition to the 200
million people who go to bed hungry every night. And again, the
priorities are wrong. What we need instead is to produce more staple
foods and find out ways to reach them to the people. The challenge is
much bigger than what Rick can perceive from Australia. Every day, some
five thousand children die in India from diseases related to
malnutrition. Why is the biotechnology industry refusing to focus on
such an appalling human tragedy ? The answer is simple, because there
are no herbicides and pesticides to be promoted and so there is no
profit or incentive for the industry.

Devinder Sharma


Rick Roush wrote:

> Dear Mr Jennings:
> I am afraid that I don't share your religious views about the nature of the creator. While I respect your right to hold them, I object to your aim (and that of those who share similar views) to force the rest of us to live by your views, just as I reject the equally extremist and stridently held views of Creationists and religious conservatives who would restrict a woman's right to control her own reproduction.
> With respect to "superweeds", I don't know what Barton of Monsanto actually said, only what has been forwarded to this server. However, the comments attributed to Barton confuse insect and herbicide resistance. I presume that what Barton actually said was something like that "some GM crops can cross-breed with native plants, creating hybrids resistant to some weedkillers", but "superweeds" (hybrid plants resistant to HERBicide) were not an issue since they could always be sprayed with other weedkillers to which they were not resistant", and that "insects are capable of developing a resistance to plants genetically engineered to kill them".
> I know of only one crop that can outcross to weeds in any of the areas in which it is currently grown, and that is canola. I have invested more than $100,000 of grant funds into testing for this in Australia (tests have now been conducted on more than 50 million seeds) and we cannot find ANY cases of outcrossing under Australian conditions, so not even canola is a universal threat for superweeds. Where outcrossing occurs, the theat must be considered in any plan to release the crop, and I would support the rejection of release of crops for which this risk is significant.
> However, outcrossing does not occur for soybeans, cotton, potatoes, or corn (the only crops that I have defended) in the US, Australia, Canada, or Europe. Corn must be used carefully or not at all in some areas of Mexico, potatoes in some areas of the Andean region, etc. Thus I have not recommended "unsafe sex".
> With respect to canola, the crop is being sprayed with herbicide anyway, so Barton was correct. If the weeds became resistant to his herbicide Round-up, you could always spray with whatever is being used now. In Australia, canola is grown on 1 million hectares where it is sprayed with 1-2 kg of atrazine per hectare. Atrazine is a noted water contaminant. My vision of the world would be to use something less polluting for control of weeds in canola, even if it only buys a few years toward more durable solutions. I am not so blinded by religious or philosophical views that I will not consider a GE crop to do that. Further, since there is no GE protein or DNA in canola oil (as for cotton), I don't see any possibility of a health threat.
> With respect to insect resistance, as I said here last week, insects evolve resistance in short periods even to Bt sprays. In the case of diamondback moth, my experimental work has shown that Bt transgenic crops can actually make Bt last longer than if Bt used as sprays (see citation below). Would you force everyone to use Bt sprays even if it causes Bt to fail sooner?
> Rick
> Roush, R. T. 1997. Managing Risk of Resistance in Pests to Insect-Tolerant Transgenic Crops pp. 259-271 in G. D. McLean, P. M. Waterhouse, G. Evans, and M. J. Gibbs (eds) Commercialisation of Transgenic Crops: Risk, Benefit and Trade Considerations. Proceedings of a workshop, Canberra, 11-13 March 1997. Cooperative Research Centre for Plant Science and Bureau of Statistics, Canberra