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Power to the people labelling GMO foods

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					                          Agbiotech Bulletin
  Volume 98, Issue 21                                              MarchDecember,
                                         20010

                         Published by Ag-West Biotech Inc.



 Power to the people: labelling GMO foods

 From a scientific perspective, there is little reason to label foods produced using genetic
engineering technology.
 Indeed, as any researcher who has gotten approval for a new genetically modified crop
can attest, the regulatory hoops necessary for approval are much more onerous for crops
developed using these technologies than for conventionally produced varieties. Aside
from this, GM food products have been consumed by millions of people over the past
several decades with no evidence of ill effects.
 So why label?
 The recently released report from the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on
Biotechnology suggests the reasons for labelling lie more in the realm of social science
than biology.
 “Given our current knowledge about the risks associated with GM foods compared with
similar non-GM food products, we see little scientific reason for treating the two
differently with respect to labelling requirements,” the report states.
 “To mandate labelling for potential health risks in GM products alone would promote an
inconsistency with no firm scientific justification.”
 However, the expert panel cautions policy makers that public demand for the labelling
of GM foods is not based solely on health considerations.
 “In the end, the panel concluded that there was not at this time sufficient scientific
justification for a general mandatory labelling requirement. However, the panel
concluded that many of the concerns … do call for a strongly supported voluntary
labelling system for GM foods.”
 From the social science perspective, labelling makes a great deal of sense, according to
Dr. Michael Mehta, associate professor of Sociology with the University of
Saskatchewan.
 For Mehta, the labelling issue is less a matter of polar opposites, and more a matter of
consumer empowerment. He explains that while surveys show 80 to 85 per cent of
respondents want labelling, the majority of these same people say they would still buy
and eat genetically modified food.
 “It’s an issue of consumer sovereignty, trust, and fairness,” he says.
 In fact, he explains, labelling could be just the tool to foster widespread acceptance of
GM technology. With the advent of any new technology, there is a period where people
want labelling, but as it becomes accepted, the demand for labels diminishes and it may
even become a non-issue.
 Mehta acknowledges that labelling may be a hard pill to swallow for those who embrace
the rigorous scientific model. For them, “Science has declared GM products safe, and
there is nothing left to discuss. Anyone who asks for labelling must be against science-
based evaluation.”
 “It’s technocratic, elitist decision making,” Mehta says. “It’s good science, bad politics.”
  Mehta says there are examples of benefits that GM products deliver that could have
marketing advantages. Herbicide and insect-resistant crops such as cotton and corn, for
example, have been shown by research to reduce the amount of pesticides needed to
produce a crop.
 Mehta also discounts the fear that labelling would incur prohibitive costs, arguing that if
there were good, marketable attributes to a product, such as nutritional enhancement,
industry would find a way to let consumers know.
 “When the industry wants to market by value of modification, industry will find out not
only that they are able [to label], but [also that] it is desirable to label,” Mehta says,
adding that the public is very sensitive to this inconsistency in labelling policy.
 That said, there are limits to what the public demands. Even in the biotech-hostile
European Union, a food must contain one per cent or more GM content before labelling
is required. Recently enacted rules for organic foods in the United States allow for up to
five per cent non-organic content, without losing their USDA certified organic label.
  “It can’t be all or nothing,” Mehta says. “It should be based on what the consumer
accepts as a reasonable threshold. The arbitrary nature of threshold is simply a social or
liability exercise.”
 According to Mehta, labelling can be achieved. Mehta thinks that foods with no trace of
GM DNA, such as processed oils, or animal products from livestock fed with GM feeds,
would not be labelled. All products that were over the threshold level would be labelled
as containing GM ingredients.
 But how to convey the information? Between advertising, nutrition, and health warning
labels (as in the case of products containing nuts), there is little room to add complex
information on how much GM ingredient is in a given food item.
 Mehta advocates bar code labels and in-store readers for GM products. The bar code
would bring up on-screen information about the product, and could even be linked to a
Web site to display additional details. This solution would solve several problems at
once: there would be little or no stigma attached, it would allow for in-depth information,
and it would minimize costs. Such bar code reader systems are already in common use
for price checking in department stores.
 “Consumers are sophisticated enough to use a bar code,” Mehta says. “Interested
individuals can look for it. It would minimize costs, and maximize consumer
sovereignty.”
 Even if a consensus to label GM foods is reached in Canada, it will take some time to
nail down the parameters. A committee of the Canadian General Standards Board has
been wrestling with the labelling issue for more than a year and still has much work to do
before issuing a report. Part of the problem is that Canadian regulations define genetically
modified organisms more broadly than in other jurisdictions, such as Europe. GM foods
there are defined as products of recombinant DNA technology. In Canada, the definition
includes the use of such techniques as mutagenesis, which involve damaging the genetic
material of a crop plant with radiation or powerful chemicals to produce useful traits.
 Resources: Dr. Michael Mehta can be reached through his web site at:
http://www.policynut.com



 People Watch

 Paul Stinson, new Executive Director of BCBA
 The Board of Directors of the BC Biotechnology Alliance appointed Paul Stinson as
Executive Director. Mr. Stinson has extensive management and consulting experience in
both public and private sectors. He brings to the organization over ten years of
management experience in international pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies.
Source: BCBA news release Jan 22, 2001
 http://www.biotech.bc.ca/cfm/index.cfm?It=106&Id=84&Se=0&Lo=2


 Table of Contents
 Power to the people: labelling GMO foods                                                      1
 People Watch                                                                                  2
 Paul Stinson, new Executive Director of BCBA                                                  2
 Entrepreneur to CEO course                                                                    3
 President’s Column                                                                            4
 European Commission welcomes new rules for GMOs                                               4
 The Month in Review                                                                           5
 Golden Rice update: a golden controversy                                                      5
 Another breakthrough from the makers of “Dolly”                                               5
 Saskatchewan Agbiotech Update                                                                 6
 University of Saskatchewan synchrotron two steps closer to completion                         6
 Local scientist honoured                                                                      6
 Regulatory Column                                                                             7
 Can the Canadian regulatory system be bought?                                                 7
 Web Watch                                                                                     8
 agricultural biotechnology initiative, abi course offerings                                   8
 SABIC Column                                                                                  9
 Showcasing SABIC                                                                              9
 Events                                                                                       10
 Our Readers React                                                                            11
 New column for the AgBiotech Bulletin                                                        11
 Ag-West Biotech Board of Directors                                                           12
 Ag-West Biotech Publications                                                                 12




 “Entrepreneur to CEO” a workshop for emerging
business executives
    April 4–7, 2001 Jackfish Lodge Golf & Convention Centre, Cochin, Saskatchewan
                                sponsored by CETAC–West
 Participants will learn from the experiences of entrepreneurs who have built successful
businesses. The Workshop uses a practical, hands-on approach which focuses on the
management tools and knowledge that will help lead participants to their own success.
For more information, contact: mailto:cetac@cetac-west.ca or muriel.adams@agwest.sk.ca



 President’s Column
 EUROPEAN COMMISSION WELCOMES NEW RULES FOR GMOS
 Peter McCann, President
 Ag-West Biotech Inc.
 The tides are beginning to turn within the European Union regarding biotechnology. EU
Commission public health spokeswoman Beate Gminder was quoted as saying, “We
don’t think it is a solution just to remain at a standstill ... The commission thinks the
moratorium should be tackled and overcome.”
 Margot Wallstrvm, Environment Commissioner shares the same viewpoint – she added:
“The adoption of this Directive represents an important first milestone towards the
restoration of public and market confidence. The public is concerned about the use of
these new technologies in the sector of Health and Environment. It is our responsibility as
policy makers to take up those concerns and address them in a coherent and transparent
way. We must show strong political leadership and explain that we have a strict efficient
and transparent system in place to deal with production and processing of GMOs. But I
believe also that it will be necessary for all stakeholders, including the European
institutions, Member States, industry and research as well as NGOs and the media to
reflect upon their responsibilities and provide a strong and balanced response to the
questions and concerns raised by the general public.”
 The Directive referred to by Wallstrvm is the new revised Directive 90/220/EEC on the
deliberate release of genetically modified organisms adopted by the European Parliament
and Council of Ministers on February 16, 2001. David Byrne, Commissioner for
Consumer Protection and Health added: “The regulatory framework must provide for a
high level of protection for human health and the environment based on sound science
and at the same time should also allow society to profit from the benefits of these new
technologies. The adoption of the new legislation today is an important point of departure
for further legislation on the use of GMOs in food, feed and seed. I am particularly
committed to provide consumers with clear and precise information through labelling. I
believe informed consumers should be able to make an informed choice and will ensure
this rationale to the proposals in each sector.”
 This major swing of political wit within the European Commission, albeit positive,
remains under the umbrella of the precautionary principle. The main issues surrounding
this revised Directive include:
 1. elimination of antibiotic resistance markers in GMOs destined for market by 2004,
and by 2008 for research purposes
 2. environmental risk assessment and liability for the potential damage and/or potential
long-term effects
 3. public consultations for comprehensive and transparent legislative framework
 4. a time-limited consent of 10 years for first-time release of a GMO
 5. mandatory labels for products that contain GMOs must bear the words “This product
contains genetically modified organisms” on the label or accompanying document
 6. mandatory traceability and monitoring
 The European Commission remains firm on regulating the process of genetic
modification of an organism versus the product obtained. For example, the Directive does
not apply to techniques such as in vitro fertilization, the induction of polyploidy, or
mutagenesis.
 Finally, the content of this Directive also takes into account international trade
commitments and the requirements of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the
Convention on Biological Diversity. The Commission intends to submit the appropriate
proposals for the ratification and implementation of the Protocol before July 2001. The
adoption of this revised Directive by the European Commission is the first step towards
negating a politically driven regulatory system and moves the EU closer to ending their
3-year-old moratorium on the licensing of new products derived from biotechnology.
Peter McCann can be reached at: peter.mccann@agwest.sk.ca
 The Month in Review
 Golden Rice update: a golden controversy
 The February 2001 issue of AgBiotech Bulletin covered news of the momentous first
release of seed of Golden Rice to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los
Baños, Philippines for research purposes. However, in the last month, a golden
controversy has erupted regarding the vitamin A content in Golden Rice.
 Greenpeace released a statement on Feb. 9, 2001 entitled “Genetically Engineered
‘Golden Rice’ is Fool’s Gold,” noting that, in what “can only be characterized as
intentional deception,” the biotechnology industry and the developers of Golden Rice
have made false promises about the ability of Golden Rice to defeat vitamin A deficiency
(VAD). Greenpeace calculates that the normal daily intake of rice (300 g) would only
provide 8% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A.
 Dr. Ingo Potrykus, the co-developer of Golden Rice, responded on February 10 with his
own statement. He notes that there is consent among leading nutritionists that RDA
values are luxurious recommendations, representing a “nice-to-have” supply and that the
amounts of vitamin A required to prevent severe symptoms of VAD are significantly
lower than accepted RDA values. “We want to provide rice which has enough provitamin
A that it has a clear beneficial effect on vitamin A-deficient people – not 100% of the
“daily allowance.” Experienced nutritionists tell us that this is a realistic goal ... as we
are, possibly, already in the 20-40% range of the daily allowance …We have good
reasons to believe that the approach has a fair chance to be successful.”
Sources: http://www.whybiotech.com/en/mediaupd/con679.asp?MID=19



 Another breakthrough from the makers of “Dolly”
 Researchers from PPL Therapeutics, Scotland, who shook up the GM debate with their
announcement of successful cloning of “Dolly” the sheep in February 1997, have
succeeded in turning a cow’s skin cell into a heart cell. This breakthrough has significant
implications ultimately in terms of replacing damaged tissues and organs, but it also
allows researchers to move away from the controversial use of human embryo cells.
Sources: Media release February 23, 2001 http://www.msnbc.com/news/535136.asp



 Saskatchewan Agbiotech Update
 University of Saskatchewan synchrotron facility two
steps closer to completion
 University of Saskatchewan President Peter MacKinnon hosted more than 250 top
government officials, business leaders and researchers from across Canada on February
26 to celebrate two major feats. First, the construction of the structure that will house the
synchrotron has been completed, and second, full funding for the $140.9 million in new
construction costs has been secured.
 The synchrotron, which is owned by the University of Saskatchewan, represents
Canada’s biggest scientific project in more than 30 years. The first light beams, to be
functional by January 2004, will allow researchers in many disciplines from medicine
and pharmacy to engineering and computer technology to probe the structure of matter
with unprecedented accuracy and precision. Federal, provincial and municipal
governments as well as 19 universities and industrial partners have supported this project
financially.
 During the ceremony, MacKinnon was presented with two industrial contributions
totaling one million dollars. Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. will contribute
$500,000 over the next five years. These funds will support the development of a
beamline for use in protein crystallography. This state-of-the-art facility will contribute to
more rapid characterization of new drugs, for example. As well, GlaxoSmithKline has
contributed $500,000 to help create the first designated research chair in synchrotron
science. This contribution confirms GlaxoSmithKline’s commitment to helping Canada
become a global leader in research and development by providing opportunities for
Canada’s talented scientists and researchers. The Saskatchewan government’s
Department of Economic and Co-operative Development will match both of these
amounts.
Sources: Media releases, February 26, at: http://www.usask.ca/research/whatsnew.shtml



 Local scientist honoured
 Congratulations to Dr. David Taylor, who won an Outstanding Achievement Award
from the National Research Council. Taylor was honoured for the exceptional
contributions he has made to research as an employee of the NRC over the last 11 years.
His outstanding achievements have resulted in international recognition for him
personally, for his team, and for NRC’s Plant Biotechnology Institute (PBI). He has
established himself as a world authority in the field of plant seed oil metabolism and
biotechnology.
Source: NRC Media Release
 Convergence of Global Regulatory Affairs - Its
Potential Impact on International Trade and Public
Perception
                               March 19 - 20, 2001 Saskatoon
                           will feature a keynote presentation by
           Dr. Brian Ellis, co-author of the Royal Society of Canada’s report on
                           “The Future of Food Biotechnology”
           Contact Darlene Gowans at: mailto:darlene.gowans@agwest.sk.ca



 Regulatory Column
 CAN THE CANADIAN REGULATORY SYSTEM BE BOUGHT?
 Brian K. Treacy, Ph.D.
 Regulatory Affairs Manager Ag-West Biotech Inc.
 Some think that the regulatory system in Canada, or elsewhere for that matter, may
overlook a few safety measures in favor of large sums of money put forward by
multinationals.
 I recently tested that theory by asking the Pest Management Regulatory Agency
(PMRA) about the requirements for a Genetically Modified Biopesticide. An Act of
Parliament created the PMRA in 1995. As part of Health Canada, the PMRA administers
and enforces the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). The PCPA encompasses the
regulation of all pest control products that are used in, sold in, or imported into Canada
through requirements for registration, and assessment of safety, efficacy and labelling.
Therefore, the goal of the PMRA is to protect human health and the environment while
supporting the competitiveness of the agriculture, forestry and other resource sectors and
manufacturing.
  Pesticides broadly fall into five categories (A to E) depending on whether they are new
products, new uses or new formulations, for example. I phoned to seek approval for a
“new active and major use product” – a Category A pesticide. The first section of a
Category A submission includes a cover letter outlining the purpose and content;
completed applications for registration and research permit as well as fees for each. The
second part must include draft labels following Canadian format, scientific data and
studies - known as Data Codes (DACOs), along with foreign regulatory agency reviews,
if any. The DACOs must include:
 1. Product characterization
 2. Human toxicology studies
 3. Exposure studies (Occupational/ Bystander)
 4. Food, feed and residue levels
 5. Environmental chemistry and fate
 6. Environmental toxicology results
 7. Value/efficacy data
 Briefly, below, I outline the details of three of the above parameters required.
 Product characterization Origin, derivation and taxonomic identification,
phenotypic/genotypic comparison with wild-type, mutation rate, gene transfer frequency,
genetic stability over generations, natural occurrence, current geographical distribution,
hosts, ecological niches, target organisms, pathogenicity, optimal growth parameters,
tolerance to antimicrobial agents, antibiotic resistance markers used (if any).
 Human toxicology Acute oral, pulmonary, intraperitoneal and dermal infectivity and
toxicity; irritation and hypersensitivity tests; genotoxins measures.
 Environmental fate Physical and chemical properties data via culture testing.
Microcosm testing for biotic and abiotic stresses, greenhouse studies, field studies for
host range, effects on target and non-target organisms, etc.
 Although it may take 5-7 years to obtain all this data, the PMRA advised me to start
seeking regulatory advice immediately to ensure I follow the proper path. The reason is
because they require a minimum of two years to simply review all of the data by the five
reviewing divisions within the PMRA.
 I asked if I could speed up the procedure because money was not an issue. They told me
they review each submission on a case-by-case basis. A submission without deficiencies
would shorten the time to process. As for the money, multinationals or family-owned
ventures would be expected to pay between $120-200 thousand dollars to simply review
and approve (or not) a novel biocontrol agent.
 So to answer the question – “Can the Canadian Regulatory System be bought?” – the
answer is – definitely not!
For further information about the PMRA, please refer to their web site at: http://www.hc-
sc.gc.ca/pmra-arla/english/MenuPages/MainMenu_IE.html


Brian Treacy can be reached at mailto:brian.treacy@agwest.sk.ca



 Web Watch
http://www.agbioforum.org/
 AgBioForum is a quarterly electronic magazine published free of charge on the Internet.
The magazine publishes short, non-technical articles reporting on current research that
provide unbiased, timely information and new ideas leading to socially responsible and
economically efficient decisions in science, public policy, and private strategies
pertaining to agricultural biotechnology.
 http://www.agcare.org/
 AgCare provides information to consumers, farmers, and researchers on the impact and
benefits of biotechnology on the agri-food system in Canada, including agricultural
pesticide use, crop biotechnology developments, and other related environmental issues.
 http://www.cropgen.org/
 A consumer and media information initiative that uses documented evidence to make
the case for GM crops and to achieve a greater measure of realism and balance in the UK
public debate about crop biotechnology. Their purpose is not to insist that GM crops are
safe but to highlight their potential benefits and to set any risks they present in context.
At the heart of CropGen is a panel of scientists and others who recognizes that crop
biotechnology offers many potential benefits. The members of the panel, all experts in
their fields, will address the key issues relating to GM crops.


 agricultural biotechnology initiative, abi course
offerings
 abi, the Centre for Human Resource Development in Molecular Agriculture and Applied
Biotechnology, offers courses to professionals working in various capacities related to
agricultural biotechnology.
 Managing Communications Under Crisis Situations March 29 & 30, Saskatoon
will prepare you and your organization for your worst public relations nightmare.
 Linking to International Markets April 26 & 27, Saskatoon is one course of the
International Business Series: Are you to the point that you need to expand past the
domestic market to continue your growth? Your future growth and stability may very
well be dependent on how well you manage to access the Global marketplace. This series
will help you to better understand the mechanics of those markets, so that you can enter
them prepared, rather than overwhelmed by the differences in how they operate. Each
course highlights a different aspect of business in the International arena. If your
organization is considering expanding internationally then your participation in all three
courses will assist you in capturing the opportunities and facing the challenges that may
await you.
For more information, contact Michael Bechtel, Manager by e-mail at: abi@sask.usask.ca



 SABIC Column
 SHOWCASING SABIC
 Alix Hitchings, Coordinator
 Saskatchewan Agricultural Biotechnology Information Centre
 Ag-West Biotech Inc.
 During the week of February 19th to 23rd Showcase 2001 was held in Saskatoon. The
largest educational gathering ever held in Saskatchewan, Showcase brought together
more than 12,000 teachers and administrators from across the province. A two-day
conference in either Saskatoon or Regina replaced each school division’s own training
session during the spring break. Associated with the conference was a tradeshow
featuring educational services from both retail and not-for-profit providers.
 More than 6,000 delegates from across North/Central Saskatchewan attended the
Saskatoon show in two-day blocks during Monday and Tuesday, or Thursday and Friday.
On Wednesday the Showcase Tradeshow was open to the public. SABIC was present at
the tradeshow with information and hands-on experiments to give teachers a taste of what
they could expect from a tour at the SABIC lab. We gave away ten teacher resource bags
as draw prizes over the course of the week. Each bag represented the biotech community
in Saskatoon through inclusion of information and prizes such as pens, refrigerator
magnets, T-shirts, an integrated multimedia study package on food biotechnology entitled
“A Quick Dip in the Gene Pool” (developed by Agriculture in the Classroom), and a
BIOMARS CD-ROM career game (developed by Biotechnology Human Resources
Council). The SABIC resource bags were a hot item, bringing draw entrants to the booth
in anticipation of taking one home. Many teachers commented that the bag’s contents
would be very useful in their own classroom, or in their school library or science lab.
 SABIC also took advantage of this opportunity to gather input from teachers on
proposed upgrades to the SABIC demonstration lab. We presented teachers with a survey
including nine possible choices for demonstration stations on a hypothetical visit to the
lab. Teachers were asked to choose three that they would request for their class. Watch
for your chance to provide input on new modules at the SABIC lab!
 SABIC thanks the following organizations for their generous support in providing items
for the teacher resource bags: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Saskatoon Research
Centre, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, National Research Council – Plant
Biotechnology Institute, Innovators in the Schools, POS Pilot Plant Corporation,
Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Saskatchewan Nutraceutical Network, College of
Agriculture – University of Saskatchewan, Virtual College of Biotechnology – University
of Saskatchewan, SIAST, Aventis CropScience Canada, Ag-West Biotech.


Alix Hitchings can be reached at: sabic@agwest.sk.ca




 Events
Feb. 28-Mar. 2         AceTech 2001 Symposium, Whistler, BC
                       http://www.acetech.org/
Mar. 19-20       Regulatory Affairs and International Trade Conference,
                 Saskatoon, Canada Contact Darlene Gowans at:
                 mailto:darlene.gowans@agwest.sk.ca
Mar. 26-29       Engineering Tissue Growth, Pittsburgh, PA
                 http://www.riverpoint-tradeshows.com/
Mar. 29-Apr. 1   Bioinformatics 2001, Skovde, Sweden. Contact Conference
                 Coordinator mailto:bioinformatics2001@ida.his.se
Apr. 18-19       1st Annual BIO Asia Pacific Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii
                 http://www.investinbio.com/
Apr. 18-20       Global Agriculture 2020: Which Way Forward? Norwich, U.K.
                 http://www.jic.bbsrc.ac.uk/events/agric2020
April 21-24      5th Annual International Conference on Computational
                 Molecular Biology, Montreal, QC Contact Conference
                 Coordinator mailto:recomb2001@gmd.de
Apr. 23-25       Fourth Annual Conference on Vaccine Research, National
                 Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Arlington, Virginia
                 http://www.nfid.org/conferences/vaccine01
May 12-15        The 5th Canadian Plant Tissue Culture and Genetic
                 Engineering Workshop, Saskatoon, Canada
                 http://www.pbi.nrc.ca/ptcgew
May 16-18        International Food Ingredients and Additives Exhibition, Tokyo
                 Contact Mike Price at: mailto:pricem@em.agr.ca
May 22-24        NABC 2001 High Anxiety and Biotechnology: Who’s Buying,
                 Who’s Not and Why, Chicago, Illinois
                 http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/research/nabc2001/program.html
June 4-7         In situ and On-site Bioremediation – 6th International
                 Symposium, San Diego, California
                 http://www.battelle.org/conferences
June 10-14       ESACT 2001 European Society for Animal Cell Technology
                 annual conference, Tylosand, Sweden
                 http://www.esact.org/esact2001
June 15-18       ICABR Biotechnology, Science and Modern Agriculture: a New
                 Industry at the Dawn of the Century,” Ravello, Italy
                 http://www.economia.uniroma2.it/conferenze/icabr/Program.htm
June 24-27       BIO 2001 International Convention and Exhibition, San Diego,
                 California http://www.bio.org/events/2001/event2001home.html
July 8-12        10th European Congress on Biotechnology: Biotechnological
                 Challenges in the New Millenium, Madrid, Spain
                 mailto:sebiot@orgc.csic.es
 Our Readers React
 New column for the AgBiotech Bulletin
 Last month, the AgBiotech Bulletin prompted one reader to react by sending a carefully
drafted letter noting concerns about the content and style of the Bulletin. Ag-West
Biotech has decided to incorporate this type of feedback as a regular column to encourage
open public debate about biotechnology. Readers wishing to have their comments
considered for inclusion are encouraged to send less than 500 words via e-mail to:
bulletin@agwest.sk.ca Include your name and contact information. We reserve the right
to edit for length.
Judy Hume, Editor AgBiotech Bulletin



 Re: AgBiotech Bulletin, February 2001

 It is with both dismay and amusement that I read the AgBiotech Bulletin opinion
columns on the issue of genetically modified food. A conflict is portrayed between “anti-
biotech,” hysterical, “activists with a shaky premise,” using their “rhetoric of fear” versus
the “scientist with ... a compelling body of evidence,” who is presumed to be
uninfluenced by greed or other human foibles. Besides being disrespectful, the tone of
this simplistic writing confirms what “anti-biotech” people are concerned about: the
tunnel vision, arrogance, and irrationality displayed by promotors of GM food. It also
polarizes the issue into those who totally oppose GM food and those that don’t. I think
the issue and the people involved are more complex than this.
 My family and I benefit from biotechnology, eat GM food everyday, and its effects on
our health are the least of my worries. I have a science education, work in a science lab,
and consider myself rational and informed, yet, like many people, I have serious concerns
about this technology.
 Your newsletter states: “the public allows its opinions to be influenced by unscientific,
sometimes unfounded views widely carried by the international media.” In the same
issue, Dr. Jennifer MacLennan is quoted, contradicting the above statement: “She warns
that while the public may be unsophisticated in their knowledge, they are extremely
sensitive to attempts to manipulate their opinion.” Which one is correct? I would
characterize the writing style of the opinion columns in the Ag-West newsletter as
manipulative.
 Consider a recent article about “golden rice” (The Guardian Weekly, February 15)
which reports that the claims for the rice in preventing blindness have been exaggerated
by the biotech industry and some politicians. A spokesperson from the Rockefeller
Foundation (which funds the development of golden rice) is quoted: “We do not consider
golden rice to be the solution to the vitamin A deficiency problem.” According to
independent scientists, the average daily intake of golden rice by an Asian would only
provide 8% of that person’s daily vitamin A requirement. Is this article a ruse by “anti-
biotech activists” to influence opinion using “unscientific” and “unfounded” fear
mongering? Or is it objective and factual reporting?
 Even as your newsletter quotes Dr. MacLennan: “ethical questions aren’t being dealt
with, or even taken seriously,” her point appears to be completely missed by your opinion
writer. Using “golden rice” as an example, these ethical questions are: why are so many
people’s diets deficient in vitamin A causing blindness? why do these people not have
access to enough fruits and vegetables that provide vitamin A? what other nutrients are
their diets lacking if their vitamin A intake is so low? why are millions of research dollars
being spent on a bandaid solution (i.e. “golden rice”)?
 Perhaps some people turn to vandalism, protests, and the scorned photo op’s of
“children in Monarch butterfly costumes” because their questions are not heard or taken
seriously.
 Yvonne Leduc, Saskatoon, SK


 Ag-West Biotech Board of Directors

Chair: Dr. Pete Desai, President, Desai & Desai Inc.
 Secretary-Treasurer: Ms. Shelley Brown, Office Managing Partner,
                        Ernst & Young
 Dr. Ernie Barber, Dean, College of Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan
 Mr. Doug Billett, Manager, Production Technology, Director, Sustainable
                      Production Branch, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
 Dr. Kutty Kartha, Director General, NRC-Plant Biotechnology Institute
 Dr. Ashley O’Sullivan, Director, AAFC Saskatoon Research Centre
 Dr. John Patience, President, Prairie Swine Centre Inc.
 Dr. Carolyn Weeks-Levy, Vice-President, Research and Development, Alviva
                     BioPharmaceuticals
 Mr. Ian McPhadden, Producer, Milden SK
 Dr. Jim Russell, Partner, McDougall Gauley
 Mr. Murray Trapp, President, MBR Inc.
 Dr. Malcolm Devine, Manager, Biotech Research, Aventis CropScience



 Ag-West Biotech Publications
 Ag-West Biotech offers other publications at no cost.
 Please e-mail: mailto:subscriptions@agwest.sk.ca or fax your selections to: 306-975-
1966.
       AgBiotech Infosource - an informative newsletter for schools.
    Available electronically at: http://www.agwest.sk.ca/index1.html
     Newtrition (formerly Food Biotechnology Resource News) - a printed quarterly
   newsletter oriented to the food industry
       Current Research and Development - a booklet outlining current R&D in
   Saskatchewan



 Ag-West Biotech Inc.
 The AgBiotech Bulletin is produced by Ag-West Biotech Inc.
 Editor: Judy Hume, Manager of Communications, Ag-West Biotech Inc.
 Articles, comments, announcements and subscription requests are welcome. Please send
your enquiries to:
 mailto:bulletin@agwest.sk.ca
 or fax: 306-975-1966
 Peter McCann, President
 Ag-West Biotech Inc.
 101-111 Research Dr.
 Saskatoon, SK
 Canada S7N 3R2
 Phone: 306-975-1939
 Fax: 306-975-1966
 Web site:
 http://www.agwest.sk.ca/


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