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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  August 2010

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE August 2010

Subject:

Re: Regulation must be revolutionized

From:

Stuart Newman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 6 Aug 2010 12:30:21 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (363 lines)

Potrykus's personal motivations in developing "Golden Rice" have little bearing 
on whether it's a good idea.  He seems to be an expert on rice, not on the 
social and economic bases of malnutrition and poverty.  After more than 40 
years of Science for the People and related efforts it shouldn't require pointing 
out to members of this list that such problems are not susceptible to magic 
bullet solutions.  Probably a lot of scientists, like the general public, think that 
the reduction of TB, dyssentary and cholera in the 20th century was due to 
the introduction of antibiotics, but it was much more the result of public 
health measures.  

My article made no allegations concerning Potrykus and others with similar 
motiviations being "stooges for corporate bioagriculture."  In fact the 
concluding paragraph specifically disavowed this position.  

On Fri, 6 Aug 2010 06:30:44 +0200, Michael Balter 
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>I think it's very clear from Ingo Potrykus's own opinion piece in Nature, as
>well as the profile of him by Martin Enserink in Science, that--rightly or
>wrongly--he is motivated by a desire to do good in the world and not just
>some sort of stooge for corporate bioagriculture. Indeed, his relationship
>with industry, which under capitalism he must have to make his project work,
>is obviously ambivalent. By pigeon-holing someone like him into the usual
>big agriculture conspiracy and by failing to address these issues on a case
>by case basis but rather with sweeping statements, those responding here
>demonstrate why the anti-GM movement has not had more influence than it
>has--and why over time it is increasingly losing the argument. Even Stuart's
>piece, which is the most interesting and thoughtful, seems somewhat
>oblivious to this reality.
>
>MB
>
>On Fri, Aug 6, 2010 at 3:08 AM, Stuart Newman <[log in to unmask]> 
wrote:
>
>> A less corporate-friendly take on the history of of GM foods than the
>> coverage in Science, which includes an example of enablement of outright
>> deception by Science's editors, can be found in my recent essay on the
>> subject, attached.
>>
>> On Thu, 5 Aug 2010 19:09:11 +0200, Michael Balter <
>> [log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>>
>> >It seems a little late to ban it completely, unless Phil and his political
>> >organization have a plan to make that happen. The writer of the piece I
>> >posted makes a very specific argument about the golden rice he is 
involved
>> >in, and its potential to supply vitamin A, deficiency of which apparently
>> >kills a lot of people. His specific argument needs to be met with an
>> >effective counter-argument if such can be made, and not a lot of
>> rhetorical
>> >handwaving. Otherwise the anti-GMO movement is bound to lose both the
>> >argument and the battle. I've made similar comments about the anti-nuke
>> >movement. It's all fine and good to regale this list with smug rhetoric,
>> >it's another thing entirely to have an influence in the real world.
>> >
>> >MB
>> >
>> >On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 6:31 PM, Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>> >
>> >> Yeah, we should simplify matters by banning it completely. The idea 
that
>> GE
>> >> crops will save millions from starvation is straight out of the
>> agribusiness
>> >> propaganda handbook. What we need is to stop financial speculation in
>> >> agriculture (http://harpers.org/archive/2010/07/0083022), 
but�oops�that
>> >> will require more regulation. --PG
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 11:10 AM, Michael Balter
>> <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>> >>
>> >>> The writer argues that genetic engineering is subject to too much
>> >>> regulation, with examples. Could he be right in some cases?
>> >>>
>> >>> MB
>> >>>
>> >>> http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html
>> >>>
>> >>> 
<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html>
>> >>>
>> >>> NATURE | OPINION
>> >>>  Regulation must be revolutionized
>> >>>
>> >>>    -  Ingo
>> 
Potrykus<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html
>> >
>> >>>
>> >>> Nature  466, 561  (29 July 2010)  doi:10.1038/466561a Published 
online
>> 28
>> >>> July 2010
>> >>>
>> >>> Unjustified and impractical legal requirements are stopping genetically
>> >>> engineered crops from saving millions from starvation and malnutrition,
>> says
>> >>> Ingo Potrykus.
>> >>>  Article tools
>> >>>
>> >>>    -
>> 
print<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html>
>> >>>    -
>> email<
>> http://www.nature.com/nature/foxtrot/svc/mailform?
doi=10.1038/466561a&file=/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html
>> >
>> >>>    - download
>> pdf<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/pdf/466561a.pdf>
>> >>>    - download
>> 
citation<http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/ris/466561a.ris>
>> >>>    - order
>> reprints<
>> https://s100.copyright.com/AppDispatchServlet?
author=Ingo+Potrykus&orderBeanReset=true&title=Regulation+must+be+revolut
ionized&pageNumbers=pp561&publisherName=NPGR&volumeNum=466&amp;issue
Num=7306&numPages=1&contentID=10.1038%
2F466561a&amp;publicationDate=2010-07-28&publication=Nature
>> >
>> >>>    - rights and
>> permissions<
>> https://s100.copyright.com/AppDispatchServlet?
author=Ingo+Potrykus&title=Regulation+must+be+revolutionized&pageNumbers
=pp561&publisherName=NPG&volumeNum=466&issueNum=7306&amp;numPages=1&c
ontentID=10.1038%2F466561a&publicationDate=2010-07-
28&publication=Nature
>> >
>> >>>    -
>> share/bookmark<
>> http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html>
>> >>>
>> >>>  See online collection.<
>> http://www.nature.com/news/specials/food/index.html>
>> >>>
>> >>> Genetically engineered crops could save many millions from starvation
>> and
>> >>> malnutrition � if they can be freed from excessive regulation. That is
>> the
>> >>> conclusion I've reached from my experience over the past 11 years
>> chairing
>> >>> the Golden Rice Humanitarian project (http://www.goldenrice.org), and
>> >>> after a meeting at the Vatican last year on transgenic plants for food
>> >>> security in the context of
>> development1<
>> http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html#ref1>
>> >>> .
>> >>>
>> >>> Golden rice will probably reach the market in 2012. It was ready in the
>> >>> lab by 1999. This lag is because of the regulatory differentiation of
>> >>> genetic engineering from other, traditional methods of crop
>> improvement. The
>> >>> discrimination is scientifically unjustified. It is wasting resources
>> and
>> >>> stopping many potentially transformative crops such as golden rice
>> making
>> >>> the leap from lab to plate.
>> >>>
>> >>> More defensible � on scientific and humanitarian grounds � and more
>> >>> practical would be for new genetically modified crops to be regulated,
>> not
>> >>> according to how they are bred, but according to their novelty, as are
>> new
>> >>> drugs. All traits, however introduced, should be classified by their
>> >>> putative risk or benefit to the consumer and to the environment.
>> Researchers
>> >>> and regulators could then focus on cases in which risks are real and
>> >>> fast-track crops urgently needed in the developing world.
>> >>>
>> >>> Golden rice is a series of varieties modified with two genes (phytoene
>> >>> synthase and phytoene double-desaturase) to produce up to 35 
micrograms
>> of
>> >>> vitamin A precursor per gram of edible rice. Within the normal diet of
>> >>> rice-dependent poor populations, it could provide sufficient vitamin A
>> to
>> >>> reduce substantially the 6,000 deaths a day due to vitamin A
>> deficiency, and
>> >>> to save the sight of several hundred thousand people per
>> year1<
>> 
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html#ref1>.
>> >>> None of the existing varieties of rice has even low levels of the
>> vitamin A
>> >>> precursor in the part that is eaten, so conventional breeding cannot
>> >>> increase it. Golden rice was possible only with genetic engineering.
>> >>>
>> >>> The crop was stalled for more than ten years by the working 
conditions
>> and
>> >>> requirements demanded by regulations (see 'From bench to belly'). For
>> >>> example, we lost more than two years for the permission to test 
golden
>> rice
>> >>> in the field and more than four years in collecting data for a
>> regulatory
>> >>> dossier that would satisfy any national biosafety authority. I
>> therefore
>> >>> hold the regulation of genetic engineering responsible for the death
>> and
>> >>> blindness of thousands of children and young mothers.
>> >>>
>> >>> Our experience is far from unique. It generally takes about ten times
>> more
>> >>> money and ten years longer to bring a genetically modified crop to
>> market
>> >>> than a non-genetically modified one. This keeps public research
>> institutions
>> >>> out of the game and has given a handful of companies a de facto
>> monopoly on
>> >>> the technology. Private ventures justifiably focus on the most
>> profitable
>> >>> opportunities � industrial crops such as corn, cotton and soya beans.
>> >>> Genetic engineering, however, has massive potential to also address
>> >>> food-security problems � to increase yield by protecting subsistence
>> food
>> >>> crops from pests and diseases, to strengthen crops' competition with
>> weeds
>> >>> and to improve plants' nutritional value.
>> >>>  Running the gauntlet
>> >>>
>> >>> Existing regulation demands many years' worth of molecular and
>> biochemical
>> >>> safety tests. Yet multiple international agencies have found
>> >>> genetic-engineering crop technology to be benign. There have not 
been
>> any
>> >>> substantiated cases of harm to the environment or to humans, even in
>> the
>> >>> litigious United States where the adoption of genetic engineering is
>> >>> widespread.
>> >>>
>> >>> Meanwhile, a new plant created by traditional breeding methods � 
which
>> >>> also modify the genome � requires no safety data, only the
>> demonstration
>> >>> that it performs at least as well as others. It is a quick and cheap
>> >>> process. This imbalance allows non-scientific opponents of genetic
>> >>> engineering to raise unfounded concerns, which a nervous public 
cannot
>> >>> properly evaluate, especially in Europe.
>> >>>
>> >>> All of this means that engineering varieties for the public good
>> depends �
>> >>> ironically � on the private sector.
>> >>>
>> >>> Golden rice is a prime
>> example1<
>> 
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html#ref1>.
>> >>> Only within the framework of a public�private partnership with 
Syngenta
>> was
>> >>> our team able to navigate the product-development morass. Without
>> Syngenta
>> >>> we could not, for example, have reduced the number of patents 
involved,
>> >>> secured free licences, established managerial and marketing structures
>> or
>> >>> developed plants that are optimized to meet regulatory requirements 
and
>> to
>> >>> express high levels of desired
>> traits1<
>> http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466561a.html#ref1>
>> >>> .
>> >>>
>> >>> Yet it is the responsibility of the public sector to address the crop
>> >>> needs of poor people. And it is wiser to spend public funds on feeding
>> the
>> >>> world's growing population than on jumping through regulatory hoops, 
or
>> >>> worse on spurious, politically expedient research into hypothetical
>> risks
>> >>> for the environment or the consumer, which have already been studied
>> >>> carefully over the past 25 years.
>> >>>
>> >>> A good next step would be for a country with political and economic
>> >>> independence to recognize the arguments in favour of reducing the
>> current
>> >>> regulatory burden for genetically engineered crops. Such a country
>> would
>> >>> gain enormously by freeing funds, time and energy for research,
>> development
>> >>> and deployment of many more genetically engineered crops for poor
>> people;
>> >>> its public sector and small enterprises would be able to compete with
>> the
>> >>> larger industries. Without compromising safety, that nation would
>> easily
>> >>> progress faster than those continuing to focus on hypothetical risks,
>> and it
>> >>> would provide some much needed leadership. Perhaps then, lab-ready
>> varieties
>> >>> from the public domain such as golden cassava, golden banana, iron-,
>> zinc-
>> >>> and protein-rich rice might get from bench to belly in 5 years, rather
>> than
>> >>> 15, if at all.
>> >>>
>> >>> --
>> >>> ******************************************
>> >>> Michael Balter
>> >>> Contributing Correspondent, Science
>> >>> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>> >>> New York University
>> >>>
>> >>> Email:  [log in to unmask]
>> >>> Web:    michaelbalter.com
>> >>> NYU:    journalism.nyu.edu/faculty/balter.html
>> >>> ******************************************
>> >>>
>> >>> "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why 
the
>> >>> poor have no food, they call me a Communist." -- H�lder Pessoa 
C�mara
>> >>>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >
>> >
>> >--
>> >******************************************
>> >Michael Balter
>> >Contributing Correspondent, Science
>> >Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>> >New York University
>> >
>> >Email:  [log in to unmask]
>> >Web:    michaelbalter.com
>> >NYU:    journalism.nyu.edu/faculty/balter.html
>> >******************************************
>> >
>> >"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the
>> poor
>> >have no food, they call me a Communist." -- H�lder Pessoa C�mara
>> >
>>
>>
>
>
>-- 
>******************************************
>Michael Balter
>Contributing Correspondent, Science
>Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>New York University
>
>Email:  [log in to unmask]
>Web:    michaelbalter.com
>NYU:    journalism.nyu.edu/faculty/balter.html
>******************************************
>
>"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor
>have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara
>

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