For listings of free summer concerts in Orange and L.A. Counties, click "Free Concerts" below.

Home  Poetry and Photos  Essays  Writing Excerpts  Free Concerts  Links


Essays

"SEEDS, INDUSTRY GERMINATION AND CALIFORNIA ROOTS: A TASTE OF THE GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS DEBATE, PART III"

    *This essay series began in June with a feature on the basics of genetically modified (GM) food, or "frankenfood" as it is sometimes called by its critics. [Click here to read Part I, "Genes, Beans and Greens: A Taste of the Genetically Modified Foods Debate."] It continued in Part II with a discussion of some of the products of genetic modification - some successful and some not - such as tomatoes, papaya, rice and wheat. That issue concluded with a look at the promise of and hopes for agricultural biotechnology in solving problems of hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. [Click here to read Part II, "The Products and the Promise."] The third and final essay of this series will begin by examining some of the foundations of the biotechnology industry and finish close to home with a focus on California.*

    *As with Parts I and II, Part III will be interactive in the sense that the reader can go back and forth between the essay text and the links embedded within it. By clicking a link you can read more about the particular topic being discussed, then return to the essay by clicking your browser's "back" arrow. (The links are included for information purposes only. No guarantees are made as to the accuracy of the materials presented on the sites, although every effort has been made to search out reliable and respected sources of information.) Footnotes and a bibliography are also included at the end for anyone wishing to learn more about the subject. The materials represented here are only a small fraction of what is available on this very complicated issue. The glossary link below has been provided as a reference for use as needed. If your browser does not allow you to see text in the box, click here to reach the glossary.*

    Have you ever seen a purple carnation? How about a lavender one? Think hard - and flowers that have had the color sprayed on don't count. A decade or two ago the colors would have been impossible, since carnations (and many other flowers) don't carry the gene coding for blue hues. However, an Australian company has now created carnations in that color range and made them available commercially -- another of the "firsts" in agricultural biotechnology. [Click here, then on "products" to view photos of the flowers.]

    When the initial segment of this essay series debuted in June, it began with a look at the current status of agricultural biotechnology as applied to food products - genetically modified (GM) or transgenic food. In less than ten years, about 80% of the soybeans and 40% of the corn grown in the U.S. have come to be grown from transgenic seeds.(n1), and by some estimates as much as "70% of the human food products in the marketplace"(n2) today contain some ingredients made from these crops.

    Although this may seem like a short time span for such rapid emergence of GM crops, the initial seeds were the products of decades of research. The first transgenic plant was produced in 1982 (n3), and the first field trials of transgenic plants began in 1987 (n4), well before the wide-scale plantings of the crops which began in 1996 (n5). In order to understand how the debate over GM food has reached its current status, this series will finish by taking a step back and looking at foundations of the biotechnology industry itself. Finally, since the first GM food product available commercially, the Flavr Savr tomato (see Part II), was developed by a (then) California company, the series will conclude close to home with a brief look at California agriculture and the state of the industry here.

The Creation of an Evolving Industry

    "A number of applications for patents on recombinant DNA techniques are accumulating. None has yet been granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for organisms. The Patent Office apparently believes that it does not have the mandate under present law to allow patents on living bacteria created for these techniques . . . This position has put the Patent Office in conflict with the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, which had twice held that forms of life are patentable under present law. The dispute is at present before the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced in October 1979 that it would accept the issue for review in the current session."

U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology, 1980 (n6)

    The discovery of the double helix structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953 set in motion an era in science which has led to today's modern biotechnology industry. The first biotechnology company ever formed was the California firm Genentech (1976). One of its founders, Herbert Boyer of the University of California San Francisco, was one of the original inventors of the recombinant DNA technique along with Stanley Cohen of Stanford. In this same mid- to late-1970s period, several "small entrepreneurial firms [began forming] in the U.S. specifically to build on the growing body of fundamental knowledge in molecular biology." (n7)

    A seminal year for the industry, however, was 1980. In that year the landmark Supreme Court decision (alluded to in the quote above) was issued, and two key pieces of legislation were passed by the U.S. Congress. In Diamond v. Chakrabarty (447 US 303) the Supreme Court allowed for the patenting of a genetically modified bacteria stating that "anything under the sun that is made by man" is patentable. In addition, both the Bayh-Dole Act (Public Law 96-517, 94 STAT 3019) and the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-480, 94 STAT 2311) were enacted into law.

    The Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act, more commonly referred to as the Bayh-Dole Act, allowed for universities and small businesses to patent and license inventions made using federal funds. Prior to the passage of the Act, "discoveries made by way of federally-funded research, if not simply dedicated to the public, were owned by the government with only a non-exclusive license available to private industry. As a result, companies lacked the incentive to undertake the financial risk to develop a product based on such research. . . The Bayh-Dole Act and [later] amendments thereto have provided the basis for current university technology transfer practices, which often involve co-development and commercialization by academic institutions and private industry." (n8). The Stevenson-Wydler Act, among other things, also facilitated the transfer of federally owned and originated technologies to the states and the private sector.

    In that same year, the initial public offering of Genentech stock (based presumably on the value of the patents it was able to hold) set a record for the fastest price per share increase (in the pre-dotcom era), from $35 to $89 in 20 minutes. (n9) By the end of 1981, between 70 (n10) and 80 (n11) new biotech firms had formed, including Amgen (1980), Calgene (1980) Chiron (1981) and Genzyme (1981). (n12) By 1983, more than $500 million had been raised in the U.S. public capital markets by these new biotechnology firms. (n13)

    In the following years, several other pieces of legislation, though not directly targeted to biotechnology, furthered the growth of the industry. These included:

  • The Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-502, 100 STAT 1785) - This authorized government labs to enter into Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) for publicly-funded technologies

  • The National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act of 1989 (Public Law 101-189, 103 STAT 1674), part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1990 - 1991, Division C, Part C

  • The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-113, 110 STAT 775) - This amended the Stevenson-Wydler Act with respect to inventions made under CRADAs

  • The 2000 Technology Transfer and Commercialization Act (Public Law 106-404, 114 STAT 1741)

    The numbers of scientific discoveries and advancements also continued swiftly during this same period, shaping and defining the direction of growth in the biotechnology industry. Foremost among these was the 1990 initiation and recent completion of the Human Genome Project for mapping all the genes in the human body. Since many of these advancements fall in the realm of medical biotechnology they will not be covered in the context of this essay. Suffice it to say that the pace of overall advancement has been so rapid that a popular principle know as "Monsanto's Law" was coined. This "law" states that "the ability to identify and use genetic information doubles every 12 to 24 months." (n14) However, as the number of gene patents have proliferated and the number of university-industry/public-private partnerships and collaborations have grown, distinct views and criticisms of the system have emerged.

Photograph "Lower Plitvice Lakes, Croatia" 1984 Dorothy A. Birsic

Of Patents and Partnerships

    Despite refinements of the patent laws which have taken place since the Diamond v. Chakrabarty decision was issued, among some groups "the patenting of genetic inventions still raises questions of an ethical, legal and commercial nature. . . The most influential critics . . . are not against intellectual property rights, technological change and scientific advances in principle, but they feel a certain reticence about genetic inventions. For some, the issue is mostly ethical, a dislike of associating property rights with biological materials, especially if they are human. To others, genes are part of the 'common heritage of humanity' and should only be public property. . . Other argue that DNA sequences are not simply chemical compounds but also strings of information and that the genome should be viewed as a huge database whose information should be available to all." (n15)

    In addition to the more philosophical concerns regarding patents on genetic material, practical concerns continue to be expressed on many levels that "by allowing genetic information to be patented, researchers will no longer have free access to the information and materials necessary to perform biological research." (n16). These "access" concerns generally fall under one of "three headings: 'research issues,' where access to information or material by third-party researchers [may be] impeded as a consequence of protection; 'commercialization issues,' where access by those who would develop other commercial products [may be] impeded; and 'clinical use issues,' where protection [may have] impeded access to information or materials in a clinical setting." (n17). The discussion of Golden Rice in Part II of the series provided an example of issues falling within the first two of the categories listed above.

    Few would disagree that the ability to patent genetic material has formed the basis of and is a necessity for the attraction of investment capital to private biotechnology firms. These companies, especially if small (entrepreneurial) start-ups, would be hard-pressed to attract the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to bring a product to market without the ability to profit from the investment(s). As a result of this and the rapid pace of new genetic invention, "the number of patents granted has risen dramatically in the last decade. In 2001, over 5000 DNA patents were granted by the USPTO, more than the total for 1991 - 1995 combined." (n18)

    Unlike many other industries, "biotechnology owes much of its growth to academic science." (n19) Even from the early 1980s, "states hoped to attract and retain dedicated biotechnology companies as well as major pharmaceutical, chemical and agricultural corporations" by creating biotechnology expertise in the university systems. (n20) One 1988 document said of California that "the strength of the University of California (UC) system has been the instrumental force in establishing a healthy biotechnology industry in California. The climate, the large venture capital pool and expanding markets are additional inducements to industry." (n21)

    There are few better illustrations of how the laws, patent protection and business realities have interacted in the growth of the biotechnology industry than in California. The state is home to more biotechnology companies than any other state in the nation. Although there are companies scattered from north to south, the two primary clusters of companies are in the San Francisco Bay area and around the University of California San Diego in the La Jolla/San Diego area. One biotechnology-oriented website, www.biospace.com, has designated these as two "hotbed" areas and provides stylized maps with links to biotechnology company profiles and product information. To view the "Biotech Bay" (San Francisco area) map, click here. To view the "Biotech Beach" (Southern California/San Diego) map, click here.

    If anything, the ties between industry and the campuses of the UC system have only grown closer in the last two decades. On one page of a UC website, it is stated that:

  • 1 in 4 biotech companies is within 35 miles of a UC campus

  • 1 in 3 California biotech companies was founded by UC scientists

  • 85% of CA biotech companies employ UC alumni with graduate degrees (n22)

    In general, Bayh-Dole has "revolutionized"(n23) university-industry relations. However, one criticism that has emerged over the years is that the legislation and ensuing practices have also blurred the traditional lines between the public sector's goal of "expanding knowledge for the benefit of science and humanity" (n24) through basic (not profit-motivated) research, and the private sector's role in applying and commercializing the research for profit and to "maximize returns." (n25)

    Even in the early days following the passage of the 1980 legislation there was debate about what effect the laws would have on science and industry. Some viewed Bayh-Dole as "essential to provide an effective exploitation of the research base, . . . [and] critical to our national well-being in an increasingly competitive world marketplace." (n26) Others said, "To the long familiar military-industrial complex a fraternal twin has been added: an academic-industrial complex through which American and multinational corporations siphon the publicly created resources of our Universities and thereby convert publicly financed research into private gain."(n27)

    These issues came to the forefront in California in the year 2000. In May of that year hearings were held in the California legislature on "The Impact of Genetic Engineering on California's Environment: Examining the Role of Research at Public Universities."(n28) One particular segment of the hearings concerned a $25 million agreement between UC Berkeley and the Swiss multinational Novartis, a producer of pharmaceuticals and genetically modified crops. The agreement had gained a certain amount of notoriety as it was spotlighted in March of the same year in a cover article in Atlantic Monthly magazine entitled "The Kept University."(n29) At that time, the fact "that the University had the backing of a private company was hardly unusual. That a single corporation would be providing one third of the research budget of an entire department at a public university [was what] had sparked an uproar."(n30)

    Proponents of the Berkeley and similar agreements argue that such funding is a necessity due to the "changing economic realities of [the] educational system." (n31) Part of this "changing reality" is the fact that while "the rate of growth in federal support [for academic research] has fallen steadily over the past twelve years, . . . the cost of research, particularly in the cutting edge fields of computer engineering and molecular biology, has risen sharply. State spending has also declined." (n32) In that same twelve-year period, the percent of UC Berkeley's overall budget supplied by the State of California decreased from 50 to 34 percent. (n33) Corporate giving grew "from $850 million in 1985 to $4.25 billion less than a decade later, . . . [spurred in part by] generous tax breaks for corporations willing to invest in academic research."(n34) Statistics supplied by UC for the hearings show, however, that "excluding the UC-managed national laboratories, in fiscal year 1999 the federal government supplied 71 percent of all UC's external research funding as opposed to 9 percent for industry. Federal-funded basic research comprised almost two-thirds of all research conducted at UC [campuses]."(n35)

Photograph "Peloponnesus II" 1984 Dorothy A. Birsic

Seeds of Change

    The discussion so far has primarily concerned the growth of the biotechnology industry via the new companies which have formed its base. Equally important, especially in agricultural biotechnology, is the consolidation which has taken place in the seed industry specifically, and more generally in the structure of world agriculture at every stage of the food chain. (n36) The Swiss company Novartis, discussed in the previous section, is a pertinent example of this.

    Novartis was formed in 1996 by the merger of two Swiss life science giants, Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. Sandoz brought to the merger Northrup-King, a brand name company acquired in 1976 that was well-established in field crops, especially hybrid corn and sorghum. Northrup-King's own position in the market was the result of its past acquisitions of field seed companies, including Pride Seed Company, Stauffer Seeds, and Coker Pedigreed Seed. Ciba-Geigy also contributed to the merger with a long list of previously acquired seed companies. . . The merger gave rise to a new . . .division called Novartis Seeds, which controlled 7 percent of the seed market for major crops in 1997. In 1999, after operating as a complete life sciences company for only 3. 5 years, Novartis announced plans to merge its agricultural business with the Swedish/English pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca which had been formed only 6 months earlier. The agricultural spinoff, Syngenta, became a global leader in both seed and pesticide sales. According to the most recent sales figures from Merrill Lynch, Syngenta is only second to Pioneer with $1.2 billion in annual seed sales, and first in pesticide sales with more than $7.0 billion in annual sales. (n37) Novartis also currently owns the Gerber baby food company.

    Similar activity took place in the United States with the Dupont Company's acquisition of Pioneer Hi-Bred (the largest player in the corn seed market) (n38), and Monsanto's transition from a chemical, then pharmaceutical, company to a company "based on seeds and traits that deliver[s] solutions to farmers."(n39)

    These consolidation trends also had their roots in the 1980s. First, there was a period of stagnation in the chemical industry during which "the sale of chemical units. . . freed up capital for diversification into new industries."(n40) Second, the processes involved in the emerging biotechnology industries "required understanding of both chemical and biological processes. . . For chemical companies already involved in agriculture, seed companies were logical acquisitions because of complementarities between their chemical inputs and new genetically engineered traits."(n41) This activity prompted talk of an emerging "life sciences" industry "organized around the development of such products as agricultural chemicals, seeds, food and food ingredients and pharmaceuticals based on related research in biotechnology and genetics." (n42) The industry in still in the process of transition, however. Given the rapid pace of change it is impossible to say what it may look like even 5 or 10 years from now.

    An understanding of the concerns surrounding the consolidation of the seed industry would be incomplete without a brief look at the overall changes which have taken place since the early 1900s. At that time, "most U.S. farmers depended on seed saved from the previous [year's] crop and did not purchase significant quantities of seed from commercial sources." (n43) This is a practice which still continues in some parts of the developing world. In the early 1900s, better-yielding hybrid varieties (especially of corn) began to be developed. One characteristic of hybrid seeds is that they do not breed true in subsequent generations, so seeds need to be purchased regularly in order to maintain uniform production characteristics. Following the passage of the Plant Patent Act of 1930 (which gave protection to asexually or vegetatively reproduced plant varieties as well as hybrids), "approximately 150 companies formed to produce hybrid corn seed," (n44) By 1965, "over 95% of American corn acreage was planted with hybrid seed."(n45)

    The Green Revolution, ushered in at about this time (see Part II), brought with it dramatic improvements in agricultural productivity based not only on superior seeds, but also on "modern plant breeding, improved agronomy and the development of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides." (n46) In the developing world, many of the improved strains of crops came as the products of research and development in international and public organizations. After new strains of crops were developed, "adapted local varieties were . . . replicated by national seed companies and given away to farmers. Intellectual property rights were not an issue, since government agencies wanted the seeds to spread as fast as possible. (n47)

    In the United States during this time period, two other intellectual property measures came into force. First, the Patent Act of 1952 "extended patent rights to agricultural innovations under a much more general category, . . . the. . . broad definition of [which] leaves an important opening for covering innovations in biotechnology and genetic engineering." (n48) Second, the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) of 1970 gave breeders exclusive rights to market new plant varieties. The stated purpose of the act was "to encourage the development of novel varieties of sexually produced plants and to make them available to the public, providing protection to those individuals who breed, develop, or discover them, and thereby promoting progress in agriculture in the public interest." (n49) This was partly accomplished by researchers' and farmers' exemptions incorporated into the Act.

    After the passage of the PVPA, "more than 50 seed companies were acquired by pharmaceutical, petrochemical and food firms. . . Many chemical firms entered the U.S. seed market because the agricultural chemicals market had reached maturity and profits in the sector were declining." (n50) The series of mergers and consolidation continued in the 1980s as "companies sought to offset the high costs of biotechnology R & D." (n51) The net result of this activity was that many of the "key technologies in the [agricultural] biotechnology field became protected as intellectual property and concentrated in the hands of a small number of large multinational corporations based in North American and Western Europe." (n52) "During the 1996 - 2000 period, 75% of over 4,200 new ag biotech patents went to private industry." (n53)

Agricultural Biotechnology in California

    California is the top agricultural producer and exporter in the United States. The state's cash income from agricultural production in 2001 was $27.6 billion, almost double that of the number two state, Texas. (n54) The state is also the nation's sole producer (99% or more) of a large number of specialty crops including: almonds, artichokes, clingstone peaches, dates, figs, kiwifruit, nectarines, olives, persimmons, pistachios, dried plums (prunes), raisins and walnuts. (n55). Despite California's status as a "leader in agricultural innovation, . . . only cotton, among [the genetically modified] crops, has seen significant production" here. (n56) According to USDA statistics for 2004, about 52% of the cotton grown in the state was from genetically engineered upland cotton varieties. (n57).

    As was outlined in previous issues of the essay, the vast majority of the major GM food crops (i.e. corn, soybeans and canola) are grown in the midwest farm-belt states. In comparison, only about 75,000 acres of transgenic corn were planted in California in 2001, and most of it was likely used as animal feed. (n58). The only other food crop to receive regulatory approval was a squash engineered to resist viruses. Only about 10 acres of the commercial production of the squash was in California. (n59)

    Despite the minor presence of commercially available transgenic crops in the state, there are a number of field trials of potential future crops taking place here. A searchable public database of genetically modified crop information called Information Systems for Biotechnology can be found at www.nbiap.vt.edu. [Click here to view the information on field tests and releases of GMOs.] And why is there such a minor presence of transgenic crops in California? "Costs are probably one reason the [overall] market has so far favored biotech crops that are grown on a very large scale (soybeans, corn, cotton). The economics are less favorable for California, which grows a great number of small, high-value crops rather than a few large-acreage crops." (n60) Other factors have to do with the diversity of species and varieties of the state's crops, small niche markets for some products, processor and distribution requirements, and a lack of consumer benefits to develop demand for the products. (n61)

    In contrast to the acceptance transgenic crops have found in many of the farm-belt states, anti-GM food activism also has been on an upswing here. As mentioned in part one, Mendocino County recently became the first in the nation to pass a measure specifically prohibiting the cultivation of GM crops within the county limits. [Click here to see the text of the measure.] A few other counties have followed suit with their own ballot initiatives for the November elections. [To view the website for the Butte County proposition, click here.]

    These county efforts to ban GM products within their borders may raise the question of what role the state government plays in the oversight of biotechnology in California. The answer is that "the State of California, like most states, has deferred to the federal government for regulation of biotech products." (n62) Last near in a study prepared for the states's Food Biotechnology Task Force, it was reported that California "follows federal oversight of biotechnology in lieu of specific state regulations on the issue. Food derived from GE sources is regulated under the same rules that govern conventional food. The state requires no special labelling, special permits, technical review of genetic engineering production methods, or any special tracking of movement, sale or planted acreage. (n63) Is this adequate? The conclusion, arrived at in a Senate Office of Research report of June 2003, stated that "the appropriate role of the state in the monitoring and oversight of biotechnology has yet to be clearly defined or determined." (n64) But when?

*          *          *

    The biotechnology industry as a whole is one of the world's newest, and it is in a continuous state of flux and evolution. Although the pace of change in the medical biotechnology industry continues unabated, as noted in Part II the rate of commercial introduction of new products (beyond the transgenic soy, corn, cotton and canola already on the market) in agricultural biotechnology has slowed. The next generation of products, including the plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMPs) discussed in the previous essay, have the possibility of blurring the boundaries between the agricultural and medical biotechnology fields. Whether the public will resist or accept these products remains to be seen.

    This essay series continued the tradition started last summer of an in-depth exploration of a topic of current interest for visitors to the site. Hopefully you've found the series informative and can end the summer with a better understanding of what biotechnology is and what the genetic modification of food products means for you. If you have any questions about the series, or if you'd like to suggest a future topic, please send an email to 4dorothyb@dorothyswebsite.org. Thanks and hope to see you next summer!

To return to the top of the page, click here.


FOOTNOTES - The following are the footnotes indicated in the text in parentheses with the letter "n" and a number. If you click the asterisk at the end of the footnote, it will take you back to the paragraph where you left off.

n1 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Acreage Report, Washington D.C., June 2003, pp. 24-25(*)

n2 - California Council on Science and Technology, Benefits and Risks of Food Biotechnology, Sacramento, 2002, p. 5 (*)

n3 - USDA, Economic Research Service, Economic Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology, AIB-762, Washington D.C., February 2001, p. 4 (*)

n4 - Ibid. (*)

n5 - Ibid. (*)

n6 - U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology, "Genetic Engineering, Human Genetics and Cell Biology: Evolution of Technological Issues in Biotechnology (Supplemental Report III), 96th Congress, 2nd Session, Serial DDD, August 1980, pp. 32 - 33 (*)

n7 - U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Commercial Biotechnology: An International Analysis. Washington D.C.: U.S. Congress/OTA, OTA-BA-218, January 1984, p. 3 (*)

n8 - Judge, Linda R. "Biotechnology: Highlights of the Science and Law Shaping the Industry," Santa Clara University Computer and High Technology Law Journal, Vol.20, November 2003, p. 4 0f 15 in online version or article from infotrac.galegroup.com. (*)

n9 - OTA, Commercial Biotechnology, p. 4 (*)

n10 - U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), New Developments in Biotechnology: U.S. Investment in Biotechnology Special Report, OTA-BA-360, Washington D.C.: U.S. GPO, July 1988, p. 78 (*)

n11 - OTA, Commercial Biotechnology, p. 4 (*)

n12 - Ibid., pp. 67 - 70 (*)

n13 - Ibid., p. 4 (*)

n14 - Brand, Stewart, The Clock of Long Now, as quoted in Bell, James John, "Exploring the Singularity," Futurist, Vol. 37, No. 3, May/June 2003, p. 20 (*)

n15 - OECD, Genetic Inventions, Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Practices: Evidence and Policies, Paris: OECD, 2002, p. 11 (*)

n16 - Ibid., p. 12 (*)

n17 - Ibid. (*)

n18 - Ibid., p. 8 (*)

n19 - OTA, New Developments in Biotechnology, p. 61 (*)

n20 - Ibid. and Benefits," Environmental Conservation, 28 (3) p. 251. (*)

n21 - Ibid. (*)

n22 - University of California Discovery Grant website, Biotechnology Field, accessible at http://ucdiscoverygrant.org/fields/biotech.htm, viewed 8/28/04 (*)

n23 - Press, Eyal and Washburn, Jennifer, "The Kept University," Atlantic Monthly, March 2000, p. 41 (*)

n24 - Summers, Teresa M., "The Scope of Utility in the Twenty-First Century: New Guidance for Gene-Related Patents," 91 Georgetown Law Journal 475, January 2003, p. 4 of 23 in Lexis-Nexis Academic online document. (*)

n25 - Ibid. (*)

n26 - White House Science Council, A Renewed Partnership, 1986, as quoted in OTA, New Developments in Biotechnology, p. 111 (*)

n27 - Minsky, Leonard, "Greed in the Groves, Part II," The NEA Higher Education Journal, 1984, as quoted in OTA, New Developments in Biotechnology, p. 111 (*)

n28 - California Legislature, Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildlife/Senate Select Committee on Higher Education, "Impacts of Genetic Engineering on California's Environment: Examining the Role of Research at Public Universities", Senate Publication 1054-S, Sacramento, May 15, 2000 (*)

n29 - Eyal and Washburn, pp. 39 - 54 (*)

n30 - Ibid., p. 40 (*)

n31 - California Legislature, "Impacts of Genetic Engineering . . .", p. 15 (*)

n32 - Eyal and Washburn, p. 40 (*)

n33 - California Legislature, "Impacts of Genetic Engineering . . .", p. 15 (*)

n34 - Eyal and Washburn, p. 41 (*)

n35 - California Legislature, "Impacts of Genetic Engineering . . .", p. 15, Correspondence section, March 10, 2000 U.C. Office of the President letter, p. 2 (*)

n36 - Pretty, Jules, "The Rapid Emergence of Genetic Modification in World Agriculture: Contested Risks and Benefits," Environmental Conservation 28 (3), p. 257 (*)

n37 - Fernandez-Cornejo, The Seed Industry in U.S. Agriculture: An Exploration of Data and Information on Crop Seed Markets, Regulation, Industry Structure and Research and Development, AIB-786, Washington D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2004, p. 32 (*)

n38 - Ibid. (*)

n39 - Monsanto Company, A Clear Focus: 2003 Annual Report. St. Louis: Monsanto Company, November 2003, inside cover (*)

n40 - King, John L., Concentration and Technology in Agricultural Input Industries, Electronic Report/AIB 763. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, March 2001, p. 6 (*)

n41 - Ibid. (*)

n42 - Fernandez-Cornejo, p. 27 (*)

n43 - Ibid., p. 25 (*)

n44 - Ibid. (*)

n45 - Ibid. (*)

n46 - International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Green Revolution: Curse or Blessing?. Washington, D.C.: IFPRI, 2002, p. 1 (*)

n47 - Paarlberg, Robert, "The Global Food Fight," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 3, May/June 2000, p. 35 (*)

n48 - Fernandez-Cornejo, p. 19 (*)

n49 - Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge and Schimmelpfennig, David, "Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort?", Amber Waves, USDA, Economic Research Service, February 2004, p. 2 of 5 (online document available at www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/February04/Features/HaveSeed.htm) (*)

n50 - Fernandez-Cornejo, p. 26 (*)

n51 - Ibid. (*)

n52 - Pardey, Philip and Beintema, Neinke M., Slow Magic: Agricultural R&D A Century After Mendel. Washington D.C.: IFPRI, 2001, p. 1 (*)

n53 - Fernandez-Cornejo and Schimmelpfennig, p. 3 of 5 (*)

n54 - State of California, Department of Food and Agriculture, Resource Directory 2002 - California Agriculture: A Tradition of Innovation, Sacramento, CA: CA Department of Food and Agriculture, 2002, pp. 28 - 29 (*)

n55 - State of California, Department of Food and Agriculture, California Agricultural Highlights (brochure), Sacramento, CA: CA Department of Food and Agriculture, 2002 (*)

n56 - Bruening, George, "Chapter 4: Spliced-DNA Crops in California," in California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), Benefits and Risks of Food Biotechnology, Sacramento, CA: CCST, 2002, p. 85 (*)

n57 - United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Briefing Room: Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., Genetically Engineered Upland Cotton Varieties by State and United States, 2000 - 2004. Washington, D.C.: USDA, ERS, 2004. Online data available at www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/ExtentofAdoptionTable2.htm (*)

n58 - Bruening/CCST, p. 91 (*)

n59 - Ibid. (*)

n60 - Pollack, Daniel, California's Bioscience Industries: Overview and Policy Issues. Sacramento, CA: California Research Bureau, October 2002, p. 45 (*)

n61 - Bradford, Kent J. and Alston, Julian M., "Diversity of Horticultural Biotech Crops Contributes to Market Hurdles," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April/June 2004, pp. 84 - 85 (*)

n62 - Luscher, David and Steggall, John, "Chapter 6: State Regulations," in California Council on Science and Technology, Benefits and Risks of Food Biotechnology, Sacramento, CA: CCST, 2002, p. 123 (*)

n63 - Vucinich, Nick, "Should California Take a More Active Role in the Assessment, Monitoring and Oversight of Biotechnology?" Sacramento, CA: (State) Senate Office of Research, 2003, p. 7 (*)

n64 - Ibid. (*)


The links included in Part III of the essay series are as follows:

  • Carnations/Florigene Corp. - www.florigene.com
  • Biotech Bay map - www.biospace.com/hotbed/11/biotechbay_map.cfm
  • Mendocino GMO - internal website document reference
  • Butte County - www.gefreebutte.org
  • Information Systems for Biotechnology database - www.nbiap.vt.edu

To return to the top of the page, click here.


"THE PRODUCTS AND THE PROMISE: A TASTE OF THE GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS DEBATE, PART II"

    *This essay series debuted in June with a brief look at the basic products of modern agricultural biotechnology and the debate concerning genetically modified (GM) food. [Click here to read "Genes, Beans and Greens: A Taste of the Genetically Modified Foods Debate, Part I" now.] The first essay concluded with a look toward the future. The number of potential uses for transgenic plants are virtually limitless. However, creating something in a laboratory or growing it in a test field is far different from actually bringing a viable product to market. For every river of hope for the possibilities and promises of biotech have sprung streams of caution; for every note of praise from the companies and organizations promoting the technologies have come cacophonies of criticism from groups such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth.  And so the debate continues.

    Part II will focus on the products of modern agricultural biotechnology beyond the transgenic soy, corn, cotton and canola discussed in Part I. It will also include a look at what many consider to be the promise of the technologies. As before, it will be interactive in the sense that the reader can go back and forth between the essay text and the links embedded within it. By clicking the link you can read more about the particular topic being discussed, then return to the essay by clicking your browser's "back" arrow. (The links are included for informations purposes only. No guarantees are made as to the accuracy of the materials presented on the sites, although every effort has been made to search out reliable and respected sources of information.) Footnotes and a bibliography are also included at the end for anyone wishing to learn more about the subject. The materials represented here are only a small fraction of what is available on this very complicated issue. The glossary link below has been provided as a reference for use as needed. If your browser does not allow you to see text in the box, click here to reach the glossary.*

    Although the first transgenic plant was produced in 1982 (n1), it wasn't until 1994 (n2) that the first genetically modified (GM) food product marketed directly to consumers, the Flavr Savr tomato, became commercially available. Within a few years it was gone from store shelves, as were the cans of tomato paste in the United Kingdom which had been made with the tomatoes. In comparison, GM soy, corn, cotton and canola crops, which had their first wide-scale plantings in 1996, are flourishing. Last year about 80% of the soybeans and 40% of the corn grown in the U.S. were grown from transgenic seeds. (n3) Also, by some estimates as much as 70% of the human food products in the marketplace contain some ingredients from these crops. (n4)

    Since labeling of products containing GM ingredients is voluntary in the U.S. (the products have been determined to be "safe" and "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM counterparts through a regulatory process involving the EPA, USDA and FDA), little mention is found on supermarket shelves of any genetic origin of food items. Indeed, when mention is found, it is more likely to be from a company stating its products do not contain GM ingredients than from a company explaining what they are. This is in direct contrast to the European Union. A law took effect there in April of this year requiring labels for any product containing more than 0.9% genetically modified ingredients. (n5)

    But here again the talk is only of ingredients from primarily herbicide-tolerant or insect-repellant crops, not consumer end-products. One recent book lists work currently being conducted on the modification of fruits, vegetables and grains/seeds. It describes in detail applicable research on the genetic modification of all of the following:

  • Fruits: Apples, avocados, banana, melon, cranberry, grapevine, kiwi, mango, papaya, strawberries and raspberries

  • Vegetables: Asparagus, beans, beets, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, cowpea/lentil, chickpea, lettuce, maize, onions and sweet potato

  • Grains/Seeds: Barley, coffee, linseed flax, macadamia nuts, brassicas, rice, sorghum, sunflower and wheat (n6)

    With a "pipeline" full of products and potential products that could fill store shelves, why have so few reached the public? The answers are complex and involve issues far beyond basic science. Perhaps it is easiest to understand where the future of agricultural biotechnology may be heading by looking where it's been, at least as far as the products of the technology are concerned. The stories of four GM food products, only two of which have reached consumers, illustrate some of the difficulties and obstacles, as well as successes, faced by those who would attempt to bring GM products to the market.

The Products: A Miss, A Hit, and Hope and a Delay

The Miss: The FLAVR SAVR Tomato

    As stated earlier, the FLAVR SAVR tomato was the first GM food product ever to be commercialized. Anyone who has ever grown tomatoes in the backyard knows there is nothing quite like the flavor and aroma of a vine-ripened and fresh-picked tomato. Most sold in stores today are picked while green and then ripened in produce containers by being treated with ethylene gas, a ripening agent which turns the tomatoes red. (n7)

    Researchers at a company called Calgene sought to capitalize on evidence available at the time which suggested that an enzyme "because of its ability to dissolve cell-wall pectin, was key to fruit softening. [By] prevent[ing] or drastically reduc[ing] the formation of [the enzyme] . . . their expectation was that the ripe fruit would remain ripe longer, perhaps even allowing it to be transported to market after vine-ripening." (n8) [Click here to read more about the creation of the FLAVR SAVR tomato.] The company believed that their product, which would have a longer shelf life and (presumably) taste better, could be sold at a premium price.

    After the appropriate approvals for the tomato were procured, it was introduced to the market under the brand name "McGregor" in May of 1994. Although the product itself was viable and a scientific success, problems arose. The following narrative from a 2001 book entitled Lords of the Harvest vividly depicts some of the difficulties encountered:

    Tomato growers generally collected two thousand boxes of tomatoes per acre from a typical field. Calgene, in its financial projections, assumed yields of fifteen hundred to eighteen hundred boxes per acre and expected that 40 percent of those tomatoes would be big and beautiful enough to be sold in stores for high prices under the brand name "McGregor." As it turned out, Calgene's fields produced, at most, eight hundred boxes per acre; more often it was four hundred. Equally catastrophic, only 20 percent of those were of McGregor quality. . . The harvest was poor in California, worse in Mexico, and horrible in Florida. In California the plants weren't leafy enough to protect the fruit from the hot sun, [and] in Florida they were decimated by diseases. (n9)

    Growing operations were curtailed while new varieties were developed with better growth characteristics. (n10) [But] things got worse. Calgene tried to pick, sort and ship tomatoes when they were red and ripe, which also meant that they were soft - FLAVR SAVR gene or no FLAVR SAVR gene. Tomatoes ended up split, crushed and thrown into dumpsters. The company bought special padded processing lines, originally built for peaches, to handle the vine-ripened fruit. The equipment helped but cost a truckload of money. (n11)

    The McGregors were also good for paste, and "more than 1.8 million cans, clearly labeled as derived from genetically engineered tomatoes, were sold from 1996 through 1999 in the U.K." (n12) However, two factors intervened to decimate sales. First, in an interview televised in Britain, a Dr. Arpad Pusztai reported on research he had conducted showing that "feeding rats genetically modified potatoes resulted in biological effects that could be attributed to the process of genetic engineering." (n13) His research was published in 1999 in the North American edition of the journal The Lancet (n14), and it subsequently generated a substantial amount of controversy. (n15) An independent review of the data caused Dr. Pusztai to later recant what he had stated in the interview. (n16) During this period, however, consumers' safety concerns had been heightened, and sales of the tomato eventually ceased.

Photograph "New Zealand Lakefront, South Island" 1985 Dorothy A. Birsic

The Hit: Virus-Resistant Papaya

    Papaya (carica papaya) is a perennial fruit crop originating in Central and South America but now widely grown throughout the tropical and subtropical regions. The fresh fruit is an important part of the diet in many developing countries, while the enzyme papain obtained from the green fruit is used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. (n17) In the U.S., much of the papaya crop is grown in Hawaii. In the 1950s the trees were devastated by a virus known as papaya ringspot virus (PRSV). The industry recovered and was fine again until the early 1990s when the virus re-emerged.

    When PRSV invades the growing papaya trees, it causes "mosaic, chlorosis and distortion of the leaves, water-soaked oily streaks . . . and the presence of characteristic ringspots on the fruit. Infected plants become stunted, debilatated and commercially worthless." (n18) Infected trees must be removed and destroyed.

    Scientists from Cornell University and the University of Hawaii bred a successful transgenic papaya line which was resistant to PRSV. The two cultivars from that line are called "Rainbow, a yellow-fleshed hybrid between a conventional papaya and a genetically enhanced one; and SunUp, a red-fleshed transgenic papaya." (n19) With the successful cultivation of the virus-resistant line of papaya, production of the crop, which had dropped from 53 million pounds in 1992 to 26 million pounds in 1998, had risen back up to 40 million pounds in 2001. (n20) Today about 53% of the papaya grown is planted with GM varieties of the fruit (n21) and sold throughout the U.S. and abroad (where permitted). [To view a fact sheet of FAQs concerning GM papaya, click here.]

To return to the top of the page, click here.

The Hope: Golden Rice

    "Rice is one of the world's oldest cereal crops, and together with wheat and corn, it is one of the core staple cereals worldwide today." (n22) Estimates are that anywhere from 88% (n23) to 94% (n24) of global rice production and consumption are currently found in Asia. Like the soy, cotton and corn discussed earlier, traits such as herbicide tolerance, disease and insect resistance, and salt and drought tolerance are being modified in rice for possible release between now and 2012. (n25) However, the transgenic rice which has been receiving the most attention is one not yet commercially available, pro-Vitamin A, or "golden" rice.

    Golden Rice is a new variety which has been genetically engineered to contain beta-carotene, a precursor which the human body converts to Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a problem in much of the developing world. "Worldwide nearly 134 million children are at risk for diseases related to VAD. Some 3.1 million preschool age children suffer from eye damage and nearly 2 million children under five years of age die each year from diseases linked to persistent VAD." (n26) "For adults the implications can be serious, too. . . Nearly 600,000 women die in childbirth-related causes each year, many of them from complications which could be reduced through better provision of Vitamin A." (n27) The poor, especially those with a lack of diversity in rice-dependent diets, are particularly susceptible to VAD as rice in its original state contains no beta-carotene. (n28) Since Golden Rice at present "would deliver amounts of Vitamin A that are modest," (n29) it would be considered more of a complement to measures such as food fortification and supplementation than the sole means of introducing beta-carotene into existing diets. "Optimists praise it as the solution to overcome malnutrition and VAD. [However], others denounce it as a mere child of the biotechnology lobby and consider it a useless and rather harmful innovation for the poor." (n30)

Intellectual Property and Golden Rice

    In a landmark 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Diamond vs. Chakrabarty, the patenting of a genetically modified bacterium was allowed. Since that time, the U.S. and other countries "have had to decide on the patentability of other biotechnological inventions, and some of the most contentious debates have been about the granting of patents on genetic material" (n31) (which to some is part of the common heritage of man, not an ownable property). Such patents often have claims "that cover nucleotide sequences that encode genes or fragments of genes (which allows them to be claimed as "property" of the patent holder). [To review the link concerning genes and DNA from Part I, click here.] The number of gene patents granted has risen dramatically since the second half of the 1990s. In 2001, over 5000 DNA patents were granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), more than the total for 1991 - 1995 combined." (n32) In addition, to the protection granted for genetic materials, other gene products and the tools used to create transgenic seeds and plants have also been granted patent protection.

    While on one hand this has allowed for the rapid growth of the biotechnology industry, there is concern that in many ways the proliferation of patents and the complexity of intellectual property law and obligations may stifle future research and product development. Permission for use of intellectual property may be granted on a research only basis to scientists seeking to develop new transgenic products. Once the product becomes commercially viable, though, it often can entail the payment of substantial licensing or royalty fees to the patent holder. Such was the case for Golden Rice.

    A 2000 study identified "a total of approximately 70 patents applying across different countries" (n33) for the components/intellectual property used in creating the rice. Subsequently, this required "either compensation for the owners (of the IP) or an action on their part to 'contribute' the technology for the public good." (n34) A compromise position was reached, however, in the case of Golden Rice. The "ground-breaking arrangement between AstraZeneca (now Syngenta) and the inventors of Vitamin-A rice (Potrykus, 1999) . . . permits farmers in the developing countries to earn up to $10,000 without paying royalties. The deal permits the company to commercialize the rice, whil[e] effectively providing it free to small farmers." (n35) While this is one example of the vision of many for using biotech as a means of solving problems of hunger and malnutrition in the lesser developed countries, the notion of providing the products for free also has its critics.

    One author writes, in regards to Golden Rice:

. . . Stop for a moment and think about what the intellectual property attorneys representing the biotechnology companies must think of this precedent. Once they develop a product of commercial value, the argument will be it is too important to sell for a profit but it must be released free of charge to countries in the developing world! Of course, the reality will be for technology owners to segment the world's market, that is to sell seeds to those who can afford them and give them to others. But this effort will be complicated by the fact seeds can replicate and they do not know who owns them. . . The economic problem with golden rice also illustrates another problem with the promise that biotechnology will answer the hunger problems in the third world. Assume for a moment golden rice works and is available commercially. If the technology is marketed like other GMO products, it will be priced at a premium above the market so the companies developing it can recoup their substantial investments and make a profit . . . Most biotechnology is being developed as private commodities. The question arises: is it reasonable to expect the research agenda of private biotechnology firms to focus on the needs of customers who cannot afford to pay for their products?" (n36)

[To view a picture of golden rice and read about it from an Indian perspective, click here.]

     

Photographs "Bryce Canyon, View 3" and "Utah Scenery" 1991 Dorothy A. Birsic

The Delay: Transgenic Wheat and Monsanto

    In Monsanto's 2003 annual report, entitled "A Clear Focus," a section is devoted to a discussion of products in their research and development pipeline. The report lists Roundup Ready wheat (a GM wheat tolerant of the Roundup herbicide) as being in the advanced development phase. Products in this phase are described as having an average probability of success (that the trait will ultimately become a commercial product) at 75%. (n37) In May of this year, however, the company announced it would halt "its efforts to introduce the world's first genetically engineered wheat, bowing to the concerns of American farmers that the crop would endanger billions of dollars of exports." (n38) Although the company didn't abandon the wheat project, Monsanto said "it might introduce the wheat perhaps in four to eight years, when other genetically engineered wheat might be ready for market." (n39)

    Why has development of GM wheat lagged behind that of crops like corn and soy? There are a number of reasons. "Wheat genetics are more complex; wheat is a smaller volume crop; exports are of greater relative importance; import country regulations are less defined; and competition among exporting countries is more intense."(n40) In addition, whereas some of the other GM crops like soy have uses in "animal feed . . . and food oils," wheat is more likely to be used directly in food." (n41) With resistance to most GM products still strong in the European Union and questionable in other parts of the world, American farmers did not appear ready to risk ceding any portion of overseas sales which "account for half the nation's crop." (n42)

    In general, trade in GM products can be a complicated matter, and some think the situation may become more complex due to an international agreement called the Cartagena Protocal for Biosafety. [Click here to view the text of the protocol. It is available in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic.] The treaty "helps member countries regulate the movement of GM organisms across national borders, . . . allows member nations to ban GM products that lack safety information, and requires labeling for international shipments." (n43) Not all countries have ratified the treaty. Although "the European Community, India and the United Kingdom [have], . . . the United States, China and the Russian Federation [have not]. Countries that are not members must still adhere to the protocol's provisions when shipping GM products to participating nations." (n44)


    These four cases illustrate fairly well the realities of modern agricultural biotechnology as applied to food products. The first generation of GM technologies, conveying input traits that primarily benefit farmers, have met with success in four major crops: soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. Second generation products, with output traits geared to benefit consumers, have been virtually nonexistent in the market. This has been due in part to consumer resistance to GM products. Other complications have arisen from extensive regulations and testing requirements, costly development processes and procedures, intellectual property restrictions or limitations, and the business realities encountered in bringing any product to market.

    Still, there are many novel and innovative second generation products which have been mentioned as being in the research or testing phases. These include:

  • Fruit and vegetables with longer shelf life

  • Pre-colored cotton (blue)

  • Iron-rich rice

  • Viral resistant pepper, tomato, cassava and sweet potato

  • Salt- and drought- tolerant plants (n45)

  • Canola and soybeans producing oils high in stearate and low in saturated fat

  • Canola with high beta-carotene content

  • Naturally decaf coffee (n46)

  • Potato, cassava and plantain with increased protein content (n47)

    The New York Times reports, however, that "the pace of new product introductions has fallen sharply. In the last three years only two crops a year have been the subject of consultations with the FDA before marketing. In the late 1990s it was not unusual for a dozen crops to go through this process each year." (n48) While the introduction of new GM food products appears to have slowed, applications for what are considered to be third generation products, plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMPs) appear to be on an upswing.

Plant-Made Pharmaceuticals

    In addition to the continued modification of plants for food uses, the third generation of agricultural biotechnology is expected to also bring "non-food products [in plants] creat[ing] new markets for agriculture." (n49) Among the types of products anticipated are crops producing industrial oils/plastics, (n50) and crops altered to create proteins that can be used to produce edible vaccines and antibiotics, (n51) food and feed additives, . . . human pharmaceuticals and industrial enzymes. (n52) [To view a chart of the industrial uses of soybeans, click here.] The process of producing pharmaceuticals in plants has come to be known as "biopharming." It is expected in the future that once the proteins produced in plants are extracted, "purified and subjected to FDA approval and appropriate clinical trials, they will provide the building blocks for drugs targeting cancer, heart disease, HIV, diabetes, Alzheimers and other debilatating illnesses." (n53)

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that in 2002, approximately 130 acres of pharmaceutical-producing plants were produced in experimental field tests at 34 sites, most being less than five acres. (n54) The department anticipates that the number of requests for permits and the scale of production of biopharmaceuticals will increase significantly in the next few years, and that appears to be happening. In June of this year the Center for Science in the Public Interest released information showing that in the last 12 months, 16 applications had been received by the USDA for biopharmaceuticals, two thirds of which involved pharmaceuticals grown in food crops. (n55) [To view a copy of the news release and link to a related report entitled "Sowing Secrecy," click here.]

    A problem with biopharming, as seen by both those opposed to genetic modification as well as some supporters, is the production of drugs in food crops. "The production of drugs or drug intermediates in food or feed crop species bears the potential danger that pharmaceutical substances could find their way into the food chain through grain admixture, or pollen-borne gene flow (in maize, at least) or some other accidental mixup because of the excusably human inability to distinguish between crops for food and crops for drugs." (n56) Recently, "approximately 75% of the pharm field test applications filed in the U.S. were for a single crop, corn, a major source of both food and feed in the U.S. and worldwide." (n57) Corn is considered valuable because it can be used as an edible vaccine and is stable at room temperature (making it easier to deliver to locations like Africa or Asia where refrigerated transport and storage of vaccines are often difficult). (n58) Other crops considered for use as edible vaccines are bananas and potatoes. (n59)

    Two incidents in the last few years have fueled concerns about GM crops in general, but have also heightened awareness of potential problems in biopharming. The first involved a type of bt (insect resistant, see Part I) corn called StarLink. Because of the insertion of a gene in the corn which coded for a "protein that share[d] several unusual molecular properties with known [human] food allergies," (n60) it was approved only for use in animal feed, not for human consumption. However, the corn inadvertently became mixed with other corn destined for human food products. In September 2000, DNA fragments from StarLink were found in taco shells sold in many major grocery stores. This started a "frenzy of recalls as other manufacturers discovered StarLink corn in their products. By November of 2000, the FDA exercised its enforcement authority to recall nearly three hundred types of adulterated snack chips, corn flour and other corn foods. The cost of these recalls ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars." (n61)

    In the second incident, a biotechnology company specializing in PMPs:

    . . . failed to follow government regulations for growing GM corn engineered to produce . . . a pig vaccine, . . . leading to a government order of the incineration of 63 ha of corn growing near the experimental site [in Iowa]. In Nebraska, engineered seed from the previous year's experiment grew as 'volunteer corn' in a field of soybeans [which were] subsequently harvested and transported to storage. Despite an APHIS inspector's request to collect/destroy the corn before the harvest of soybeans, some of those corn plants were harvested and ended up mixed with more than 17.5 million L (a half-million bushels) of stored soybeans. [The company] received a fine of $250,000. In addition, the USDA required it to buy and destroy the soybeans containing the GM corn at an approximate cost of $3.5 million.(n62)

    The USDA has acknowledged the special concerns involving the use of GM plants for making pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals, and in 2003 issued new guidelines for their production. Some of the changes in the guidelines are related to scientific measures to achieve confinement [prevention of co-mingling with other food or feed plants or materials], whereas others are related to the ways the USDA administers the program. (n63) An example of a complete permit with all conditions for plant species engineered to produce the substances mentioned above, can be viewed at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/biotech/pdf/sample_permit.pdf. In addition, the National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Sciences, has released a report on bioconfinement measures. Click here to read that report. For further information on PMPs and future uses of agricultural biotechnology, including the genetic modification of trees, flowers, industrial and pharmaceutical products, animals, aquatic organisms and insects, click on either of the highlighted links in this sentence.

Photograph "Pyramids at Giza #2" 1985 Dorothy A. Birsic

The Promise: Agricultural Biotechnology and the World

    In general, "the vision and hopes associated with future biotechnologies are occasionally framed in terms of slogans proclaiming 'the promise of biotechnology.'" (n64) This notion can include the prospect of better and presumably healthier foods reaching greater numbers of people. The phrase has also come to be identified with hopes for the technologies in providing solutions to hunger and malnourishment in the developing world, particularly Africa. In the last few years the debate has taken on global dimensions, so much so that one author has referred to it as "The Global Food Fight." (n65)

From "Green Revolution" to "Gene Revolution"

    The term Green Revolution generally refers to the dramatic improvements in agricultural productivity over the last forty years or so which have allowed today's farmers to "feed almost twice as many people from virtually the same cropland base." (n66) The advances made during this time came primarily from "modern plant breeding, improved agronomy and the development of inorganic fertilizers and modern pesticides." (n67) Although the advances were widespread, they did not reach everywhere. Europe, North America, and parts of Asia and Latin America experienced significant gains in agricultural production, but not sub-Saharan Africa. "Poor infrastructure, high transport costs, limited investment in irrigation, and pricing and marketing policies that penalized farmers made the Green Revolution technologies too expensive or inappropriate for much of Africa." (n68)

    During this period many of the benefits experienced in the developing world came not from the private sector or multinationals, but from "governments, international financial instutitions and private philanthropies (especially the Ford and Rockefeller foundations)." (n69) Development of new strains of rice and wheat came from organizations such as the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the Center for Maize and Wheat Improvment (CIMMYT) in Mexico. In addition, "a full-fledged system of international agricultural research centers [which] now work on many aspects of developing country agriculture (the Future Harvest Centers that make up the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research [CGIAR])" (n70) was put into place. After new strains of crops were developed, "adapted local varieties were . . . replicated by national seed companies and given away to farmers. Intellectual property rights were not an issue, since government agencies wanted the seeds to spread as fast as possible."(n71)

    In the last decade or so, however, much changed.

  • Public investment in agricultural research slowed dramatically (n72)

  • Annual foreign aid to poor countries fell by 57% (1988-96) and World Bank lending for agriculture and rural development fell by 47% (1986-98) (n73)

  • Funding increases at the international agricultural research centers slowed (n74)

  • Private sector research in agricultural technologies such as biotechnology grew (with little of it taking place in developing countries) (n75)

  • Private firms took the lead in applying the tools of genetic engineering in agriculture (n76)

  • Key technologies in the biotech field became protected as intellectual property and concentrated in the hands of a small number of large multinational corporations based in North America and Western Europe (n77)

  • The structure of world agriculture changed rapidly, especially the vertical integration of corporations, with growing concentration at every stage of the food chain (n78)

    In addition to all of the above, "most investments in agricultural biotechnology have centered on widely-consumed crops that are traded internationally such as maize, rice, wheat, cotton, soybeans and canola. Neither the public nor private sector has invested significantly in genetic technologies in the more diverse or 'orphan' crops that are often critical in the world's most disadvantaged regions." (n79) These situations are at the center of the debate about not only what role agricultural biotechnology will play in poorer parts of the world such as Africa, but also about who will own and control access to the technologies and products of the technologies.

Photograph "Plitvice Lakes, Croatia" 1983 Dorothy A. Birsic

A Debate of Global Dimension

    The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations was founded in 1943 and has at its core a mandate "to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy." (n80) The organization cites food security for all as being at the heart of its efforts - making sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. (n81) Every year the FAO puts out a report on the "State of Food and Agriculture." The 2003 - 2004 report was also titled, "Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor?" It was released in May of this year and can be viewed by clicking here.

    The report is fairly detailed, and in its conclusion, some of the points made concerning agricultural biotechnology include:

  • Agricultural production systems in developing countries are complex and diverse. Many producers are small-scale and resource-poor, and for such producers some biotech innovations may be inappropriate.

  • Some transgenic crops, especially insect-resistant cotton, are yielding significant economic gains to small farmers as well as important social and environmental benefits.

  • The changing locus of agricultural research from the public sector to the private transnational sector has important implications for the kinds of products that are being developed, how those products are commercialized, and who receives the benefits.

  • Biotechnology is not a panacea but a resource that can be useful when combined with adaptive research capacity.

  • Environmental effects in terms of pesticide reduction can be positive.(n82)

The report also goes on to state that "the problem is that biotechnology cannot overcome gaps in infrastructure, regulation, markets, seed systems, and extension services that hinder the delivery of agricultural technologies to poor farmers in remote areas. Neither can it overcome the institutional failures, market failures and policy failures that hinder all efforts to promote agricultural and rural development in many countries." (n83)

    Within a month of the report's release, an open letter was sent to Jacques Diouf, Director General of the FAO. It criticized both the report and its conclusions, calling it a "politically-motivated public relations exercise to support the biotechnology industry [which] promotes the genetic engineering of seeds and further skewing of research funding towards this technology and away from ecologically sound methods developed by farmers." (n84)

    The letter continues alleging that the new gene revolution only exacerbates the problems of the Green Revolution and stating that "the more farmers are dependent on the biotech industry, the fewer options they will have to support and further develop their own farming and livelihood systems. It is unacceptable that FAO endorses the need for intellectual property for corporations. This amounts to FAO support for corporate biopiracy since the genetic resources that corporations seek to patent result from the collective breeding work of farmers over thousands of years." (n85) On the website of the organization coordinating the letter (http://www.grain.org/), it is claimed that 650 civil society organizations and 800 individuals from over 80 countries have signed the document.(n86) [Links to the FAO report, the open letter to Mr. Diouf and his reponse can be reached by clicking here.] Many of the elements of the arguments in the letter mirror those discussed in Part I in the debate over organic farming as opposed to genetic modification.

    In addition, the events playing out on the African continent mirror much of the U.S./European divide on GM foods already discussed. "In 2002, several African countries debated whether to accept food aid - including corn developed with biotechnology - from the United States. Fanned by biotech critics in Europe, opponents of that aid raised concerns that the food . . . could be unsafe for the hungry in Africa and could jeopardize future agricultural exports to the European Union." (n87) Only Zambia ended up refusing the aid. However, many of the same groups lobbying to keep GM products out of Europe are doing the same in Africa. "Over the past few years, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in development, such as Oxfam, Christian Aid, and Action Aid have joined with their environmentalist cousins from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth" (n88) in those actions. The other side of the argument does not go unrepresented on the continent either. "The United States and its private-sector allies would like the laws in African countries to reflect their own views - that GM technology is inherently safe unless proven otherwise, and that countries should not be allowed to refuse GM imports just because they don't particularly want to eat GM food." (n89)

    The issues and concerns have not gone unrecognized, though. In 2003, a new initiative led by the Rockefeller Foundation, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), was announced. It was formed in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdom Department of International Development, and the companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow and DuPont. "One of the goals of the AATF is to find solutions to the complex intellectual property arrangements that often hamper plant biotech research and development in Africa. In addition to certain patent rights, the companies will donate seed varieties, laboratory expertise, and other aid to African scientists." (n90) The foundation will be led by Eugene Terry, the former director-general of the West Africa Rice Development Association who "says its priorities will be driven by the demands of African farmers." (n91) Regardless of whether it is in Africa or other parts of the developing world, experts seem to agree that "policymakers in developing countries . . . need to carve out a greater measure of independence from the GM food debate in Europe and the United States. Much larger investments of their own in basic and applied agricultural research will be necessary to achieve this autonomy. New investments in locally generated technology represent not just a path to sustainable food security for the rural poor in these countries; in today's knowledge-driven world, such investments are increasingly the key to independence itself." (n92)

*    *    *

    "Whether we support or oppose them, GMOs are already with us and will only increase in both number and impact. Our best course of action is to learn the facts behind GM technology and each GM product, as well as their conventional alternatives. Then we can ignore both the scaremongers and the soothsayers, and consider the risks and benefits of genetic technology from different perspectives and in proper context. The only way to keep from being overwhelmed is by using your tools to learn the facts and decide for yourself." Alan McHughen, from Pandora's Picnic Basket (n93)


Photograph "(Dried) Ducks in a Row" 1985 Dorothy A. Birsic

FOOTNOTES - The following are the footnotes indicated in the text in parentheses with the letter "n" and a number. If you click the asterisk at the end of the footnote, it will take you back to the paragraph where you left off.

n1 - USDA, Economic Research Service, Economic Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology, AIB-762, Washington D.C., February 2001, p. 9(*)

n2 - Ibid.(*)

n3 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Acreage Report, Washington D.C., June 2003, pp. 24-25(*)

n4 - California Council on Science and Technology, Benefits and Risks of Food Biotechnology, Sacramento, 2002, p. 5(*)

n5 - Craddock, Neville. "Flies in the Soup: European GM Labelling Legislation," Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 22, No. 4, April 2004, p. 384(*)

n6 - Khachatourians, George G., McHughen, Alan, Scorza, Ralph, Nip, Wai-kit and Hui, Y.H., eds. Transgenic Plants and Crops. New York/Basel: Marcel Dekker, Inc. 2000, pp. x - xiii.(*)

n7 - Campbell, Neil A. Biology, 3rd Edition Redwood City, CA: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, 1993, p. 765(*)

n8 - Bruening, G. and Lyon, J.M. "The Case of the Flavr Savr Tomato," California Agriculture, Vol. 54, No. 4, July/August 2000, p. 6(*)

n9 - Charles, Daniel. Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money and the Future of Food Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2001, p. 143(*)

n10 - Nottingham, Stephen. Eat Your Genes, 2nd Edition. New York: Zed Books, 2003, p. 65(*)

n11 - Charles, p. 144(*)

n12 - Bruening and Lyon, p. 7(*)

n13 - Ibid.(*)

n14 - Ewen, Stanley W.B. and Pusztai, Arpad. "Effects of Diets Containing Genetically Modified Potatoes Expressing Galanthus Nivalis Lectin on Rat Small Intestines," The Lancet (North American Edition), Vol. 354, October 16, 1999, p. 1353(*)

n15 - Correspondence, The Lancet (North American Edition), Vol. 354, November 13, 1999, pp. 1725-1729(*)

n16 - Bruening and Lyon, p. 7(*)

n17 - Lines, Rosemarie E., Persley, Denis, Dale, James, Drew, Roderick, and Bateson, Marion F. "Genetically Engineered Immunity to Papaya Ringspot Virus in Australian Papaya Cultivars," Molecular Breeding 10:119-129, 2002, Klewer Academic Publishers, on-line full-text journal, p. 19(*)

n18 - Ibid.(*)

n19 - Biotechnology Industry Organization website, www.bio.org, page: Agricultural Biotech Products on the Market, (viewed 5/7/2004) (*)

n20 - Gonsalves, Dennis, "Virus-Resistant Transgenic Papaya Helps Save Hawaiian Industry," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April - June 2004, p. 92(*)

n21 - Alstron, Julian M. "Horticultural Biotechnology Faces Significant Economic and Market Barriers," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April - June 2004, p. 86(*)

n22 - Kryder, R. David, Kowalski, Stanley P. and Krattiger, Anatole F. "The Intellectual and Technical Property Components of pro-Vitamin A Rice (Golden Rice): A Preliminary Freedom-to-Operate Review. ISAAA Brief #20-2000, p. 1(*)

n23 - Brooks, Graham, and Barfoot, Peter. "GM Rice: Will This Lead the Way for Global Acceptance of GM Crop Technology?" ISAAA Brief No. 28, Ithaca, NY, 2003, p. 44(*)

n24 - Kryder, et al., p. 1(*)

n25 - Brooks and Barfoot, p. 16(*)

Photograph "Dubrovnik Bells"  1984 Dorothy A. Birsic

n26 - Kryder, et al., p. 1(*)

n27 - Somer, A. and West, K.P. Jr., "Vitamin A Deficiency: Health, Survival and Vision," NY: Oxford University Press, 1996 in Zimmermann, Roukayatou and Qaim, Matin, "Potential Health Benefits of Golden Rice: A Philippine Case Study," Food Policy 29(2004), p. 148(*)

n28 - Dawe, D., Robertson R. and Unnevehr, L., "Golden Rice: What Role Could it Play in Alleviation of Vitamin A Deficiency?" Food Policy, on-line full-text version, Vol. 27, Issues 5-6, October/December 2002, p. 3 of 19 (p. 543?)(*)

n29 - Ibid., p. 541(*)

n30 - Zimmermann, Roukayatou and Qaim, Matin, "Potential Health Benefits of Golden Rice: A Philippine Case Study," Food Policy 29(2004), p. 148(*)

n31 - OECD, "Genetic Inventions, Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Practices: Evidence and Policies," Paris: OECD, 2002. Online at oecd.org/dataoced/42/21/2491084.pdf, p. 7(*)

n32 - Ibid., p. 8(*)

n33 - Graff, Gregory D., Wright, Brian D., Bennett, Alan B., and Zilberman, David, "Access to Intellectual Property is a Major Obstacle to Developing Transgenic Horticultural Crops," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April - June 2004, p. 124.(*)

n34 - Hamilton, Neil D. "Legal Issues Shaping Society's Acceptance of Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms," 6 Drake Agricultural Law Journal, No. 1, Spring 2001, p. 116.(*)

n35 - Pretty, Jules. "The Rapid Emergence of Genetic Modification in World Agriculture: Contested Risks and Benefits," Environmental Conservation 28 Vol. 3, 2001, p. 257(*)

n36 - Hamilton, pp. 116-117(*)

n37 - Monsanto Company, 2003 Annual Report: A Clear Focus. St. Louis: Monsanto, November 2003, p. 13(*)

n38 - Pollack, Andrew. "Monsanto Shelves Plans for Modified Wheat," New York Times, May 11, 2004, p. C1(*)

n39 - Ibid., p. C8(*)

n40 - Wilson, William W., Janzen, Edward L., and Dahl, Bruce L. "Issues in the Development and Adoption of Genetically Modified (GM) Wheats," AgBioForum 6 (3), p. 101(*)

n41 - Pollack, p. C1(*)

n42 - Ibid., p. C8(*)

n43 - "Introduction: Transgenic Acreage Grows Amid Changing Regulation," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April - June 2004, p. 73(*)

n44 - Ibid.(*)

n45 - Pretty, p. 251(*)

n46 - Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), "Economic Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology," AIB-762, February 2001, p. 19(*)

n47 - Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, "Harvest on the Horizon: Future Uses of Agricultural Biotechnology," September 2001, p. 43(*)

n48 - Pollack, Andrew, "Narrow Path for New Biotech Food Crops," New York Times, May 20, 2004, p. C1(*)

n49 - Shoemaker, Robbin, Johnson, D. Demcey and Golan, Elise. "Consumers and the Future of Biotech Foods in the United States," Amber Waves, Economic Research Service, USDA, November 2003. Online article available at www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/November03/Features/futureofbiotech.htm, p. 3 of 6 (in online document)(*)

n50 - Pretty, p. 251(*)

n51 - Shoemaker, et al., p. 3 of 6 (in online document)(*)

n52 - Hood, Elizabeth E., Horn, Michael E., and Howard, John A. "Production and Application of Proteins from Transgenic Plants," in Vasil, I. K., ed. Plant Biotechnology 2002 and Beyond. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003, p. 377(*)

n53 - Redick, Thomas P. "Biopharming, Biosafety and Billion Dollar Debacles: Preventing Liability for Biotech Crops," 8 Drake Journal of Agricultural Law 115, Spring 2003, Lexis/Nexis online full-text document, p. 2(*)

n54 - Federal Register, "Field Testing of Plants Engineered to Produce Pharmaceutical and Industrial Compounds," Vol. 68, No. 46, March 10, 2003, p. 11338(*)

n55 - Center for Science in the Public Interest, "Genetic Engineers Back Growing Drugs in Food Crops," online news release availabel at: http://cspinet.org/new/200406021.html(*)

n56 - "Drugs in Crops - The Unpalatable Truth," Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 22, No. 2, February 2004, p. 133(*)

n57 - Ellstrand, Norman, "Going to 'Great Lengths' to Prevent the Escape of Genes that Produce Specialty Chemicals," Plant Physiology, Vol. 132, 2003, p. 1771(*)

n58 - Hood, et al., p. 378(*)

n59 - Pretty, p. 251(*)

n60 - Bratspies, Rebecca M. "Myths of Voluntary Compliance: Lessons From the StarLink Corn Fiasco," 27 William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review 593, Spring 2003, Lexis/Nexis online full-text article, p. 3 (of online document)(*)

n61 - Ibid., p. 1 (of online document)(*)

n62 - Ellstrand, p. 1770(*)

n63 - Federal Register, p. 11337 - 11340(*)

n64 - Burkhardt, Jeffrey, "Biotechnology's Future Benefits: Prediction or Promise?" AgBioForum, 5(2) 2002, p. 21(*)

n65 - Paarlberg, Robert, "The Global Food Fight," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 3, May/June 2000, pp. 24 - 38(*)

n66 - Pardey, Philip and Beintema, Nienke M. Slow Magic: Agricultural R&D A Century After Mendel, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2001, p. 1(*)

n67 - IFPRI, Green Revolution: Curse or Blessing?, Washington D.C., IFPRI, 2002, p. 1(*)

n68 - Ibid., p. 3(*)

n69 - Paarlberg, pp. 34 - 35(*)

n70 - IFPRI, Green Revolution, p. 2(*)

n71 - Paarlberg, p. 35(*)

n72 - Pardley and Beintema, p. 3(*)

n73 - Paarlberg, pp. 35 - 36(*)

n74 - Pardley and Beintema, p. 8(*)

n75 - Ibid., p. 10(*)

n76 - IFPRI, IFPRI Annual Report, 2000 - 2001, Washington, D.C.: IFPRI, p. 13(*)

n77 - Pardley and Beintema, pp. 20 - 21(*)

n78 - Pretty, p. 256(*)

n79 - Naylor, Rosamond L., Falcon, Walter P., Goodman, Robert M., Jahn, Molly M., Sengooba, Theresa, Tefera, Hailu, and Nelson, Rebecca. "Biotechnology In The Developing World: A Case for Increased Investments in Orphan Crops," Food Policy 29 (2004), p. 16(*)

n80 - www.fao.org/UNFAO/about/mandate_en.html(*)

n81 - Ibid.(*)

n82 - United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), The State of Food and Agriculture 2003 - 2004; Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor?, Online document available at www.fao.org/docrep/006/Y5160E/y5160e00.htm, Section C, Part 9, Conclusions: Meeting the Needs of the Poor(*)

n83 - Ibid.(*)

n84 - "FAO Declares War on Farmers Not on Hunger," www.grain.org, online document available at www.grain.org/front/front_files/fao-open-letter-june-2004-final-en.pdf, p. 1(*)

n85 - Ibid., p. 2(*)

n86 - www.grain.org, online indication on website home page(*)

n87 - Thrane, Linda, "Editor's Note," Council for Biotechnology Information, In Focus, Vol. 2, No. 1, February 2003, p. 1(*)

n88 - Masood, Ehsan. "A Continent Divided," Nature, Vol. 426, No. 6964, 20 November 2003, p. 225(*)

n89 - Ibid.(*)

n90 - United States House of Representative, Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Research, #108-16, "Plant Biotechnology Research and Development in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities," June 12, 2003, p. 7(*)

n91 - Hoag, Hannah, "Biotech Firms Join Charities in Drive to Help Africa's Farms," Nature, Vol. 422, No. 6929, 20 March 2003, p. 246(*)

n92 - Paarlberg, p. 38(*)

n93 - McHughen, Alan. Pandora's Picnic Basket, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 263(*)

Photograph "Cape Cod, View 2  1987 Dorothy A. Birsic

To return to the top of the page, click here.


The list of links included in Part II of the essay is as follows:

  • FLAVR SAVR - www.agbios.com/dbase.php?action=ShowProd&data=FLAVR+SAVR

  • Papaya FAQs- www.whybiotech.com/index.asp?id=1646

  • DNA/Genes - www.dnafromthebeginning.org

  • Golden Rice - www.fbae.org/Channels/agri_biotech/rice/golden_rice.htm

  • Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety - www.biodiv.org/biosafety/protocol.asp

  • Industrial Uses of Soy - www.soystats.com/2004/industrialuses.htm

  • "Genetic Engineers Back Growing Drugs in Food Crops" and "Sowing Secrecy", Center for Science in the Public Interest - http://cspinet.org/new/200406021.html

  • National Research Council Bioconfinement Report - www.nap.edu/books/0309090857/html

  • Pew Initiative on Food And Biotechnolgy, "Pharming in the Field" workshop proceedings - http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0717

  • Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnolgy, "Harvest on the Horizon: Future Uses of Agricultural Biotechnology" (2001) - http://pewagbiotech.org/research/harvest

  • U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "State of Food and Agriculture 2003-2004: Agricultural Biotechnology - Meeting the Nees of the Poor?" - http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/Y5160E/y5160e00.htm

  • Respose from head of FAO; links to open letter from NGOs and Food and Agriculture report - www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/46429/index.html

  • *** If for some reason you are unable to access the last two links, they can also be reached by going to the fao.org home page and clicking on the word "biotechnology" on the left side of the page ***


BIBLIOGRAPHY - The following is a combined bibliography for all parts of the essay.

Alstron, Julian M., "Horticultural Biotechnology Faces Significant Economic and Market Barriers," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, NO. 2, April/June 2004, pp. 80 - 88

Beckie, Hugh J., Warwick, Suzanne, Kumar, Hari and Seguin-Swartz, Ginette, "Gene Flow in Herbicide-Resistant Canola," Ecological Applications, Vol. 13, No. 5, 2003, pp. 1276 - 1294

Bell, James John, "Exploring the Singularity," Futurist, Vol. 37, No. 3, May/June 2003, pp. 18 - 24

Biotechnology Industry Organization, Food Biotechnology. Online document: www.bio.org/speeches/pubs/er/food.asp

Bradford, Kent J. and Alston, Julian M., "Diversity of Horticultural Biotech Crops Contributes to Market Hurdles," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April/June 2004, pp. 84 - 85

Bratspies, Rebecca M., "Myths of Voluntary Compliance: Lessons from the StarLink Corn Fiasco," 27 William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review 593, Spring 2003, online Lexis-Nexis full-text article

Brooks, Graham and Barfoot, Peter. GM Rice: Will This Lead the Way for Global Acceptance of GM Crop Technology?", ISAAA Brief No. 28, Ithaca, NY: ISAAA, 2003

Bruening, G. and Lyon, J.M., "The Case of the Flavr Savr Tomato," California Agriculture, Vol. 54, No. 4, July/August 2000, pp. 6-7.

Bruening, George, "Transgenes are Revolutionizing Crop Production," California Agriculture, Vol. 54, No. 4, July/August 2000

Burkhard, Jeffrey, "Biotechnology's Future Benefits: Prediction or Promise?" AgBioForum 5 (2) 2002, pp. 20 - 24

Burkhardt, Jeffrey, Thompson, Paul B., and Peterson, Tana Rae, "The First European Congress on Agricultural and Food Ethics and Follow-Up Workshop on Ethics and Food Biotechnology: A U.S. Perspective," Agriculture and Human Values, Vol. 17, No. 4, December 2000, pp. 327-332

California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), Benefits and Risks of Food Biotechnology. CCST: Sacramento, CA, 2002

California State Legislature, Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildlife and Senate Select Committee on Higher Education, "Impacts of Genetic Engineering on California's Environment: Examining the Role of Research at Public Universities," Senate Publication 1054-S, Sacramento, CA: California Senate, May 15, 2000

Campbell, Neil A. Biology, 3rd Edition. Redwood City, CA: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, 1993

Center for Science in the Public Interest, "Genetic Engineers Back Growing Drugs in Food Crops," online news release available at http://cspinet.org/new/200406021.htm

Charles, Daniel. Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money and the Future of Food. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2001

Correspondence, The Lancet (North American Edition), Vol. 354, November 13, 1999, pp. 1725 - 1729

Council for Biotechnology Information, Good Ideas are Growing: Plant Biotechnology. Washington, D.C., June 2003

Council for Biotechnology Information, Realizing the Promise of Innovation, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Washington D.C., no date listed

Craddock, Neville, "Flies in the Soup - European GM Labeling," Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 22, No. 4, April 2004, pp. 383-384

Cranor, Carl, Telephone interview, May 2004

Dandekar, Abhaya and Gutterson, Neal, "Genetic Engineering to Improve Quality, Productivity and Value of Crops," California Agriculture, Vol. 54, No. 4, July/August 2000, pp. 49 - 56

Dawe, D., Robertson, R. and Unnevehr, L., "Golden Rice: What Role Could it Play in Alleviation of Vitamin A Deficiency?" Food Policy, on-line full-text version, Vol. 27, Issues 5 - 6, October/December 2002, pp. 541 - 560

Photograph "Cape Cod View 3" 1987 Dorothy A. Birsic

Degregori, Thomas R., Agriculture and Modern Technology: A Defense.  Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 2001

"Drugs in Crops: The Unpalatable Truth," Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 22, No. 2, February 2004, p. 133

Ellstrand, Norman, Telephone interview, May 2004

Ellstrand, Norman, "Going to 'Great Lengths' to Prevent the Escape of Genes that Produce Specialty Chemicals," Plant Physiology, Vol. 132, August 2003, pp. 1770 - 1774

Ewen Stanley W.B. and Pusztai, Arpad, "Effects of Diets Containing Genetically Modified Potatoes Expressing Galanthus Nivalis Lectin on Rat Small Intestines," The Lancet (North American Edition), Vol. 354, October 16, 1999, pp. 1353-1354

"FAO Declares War on Farmers, Not Hunger," www.grain.org, online document available with pdf reader at www.grain.org/front/?id=24

Federal Register, "Field Testing of Plants Engineered to Produce Pharmaceutical or Industrial Compounds," Vol. 68, No. 46, March 10, 2003, pp. 11337 - 11340

Federal Register, National Organic Program; Amendments fo the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, Vol. 68, No. 211, October 31, 2003

Federal Register, Statement of Policy: Foods Derived From New Plant Varieties, Vol. 57, No. 104, May 29, 1992

Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge, The Seed Industry in U.S. Agriculture: An Exploration of Data and Information on Crop Seed Markets, Regulation, Industry Structure and Research and Development, AIB - 786, Washington D.C.: United States Deparment of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2004

Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge and McBride, William D., Adoption of Bioengineerd Crops. Washington D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, AER-810, May 2002

Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge and Schimmelpfennig, David, "Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Efforts?" Amber Waves. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2004. Online document available at: www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/February04/Features/HaveSeed.htm

Fox, Jeffrey, "USDA Scrutinizes GM Organism Regulations," Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 22, No. 3, March 2004, pp. 255-256

Gewin, Virginia, "Organic FAQs," Nature 428, 22 April 2004, pp. 796-798

Giles, Jim, "Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don't," Nature 425, 16 October 2003, pp. 656-657

Gonsalves, Dennis, "Virus-Resistant Transgenic Papaya Helps Save Hawaiian Industry," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April/June 2004, pp. 92-93

Graff, Gregory D., Wright, Brian D., Bennett, Alan B., and Zilberman, David, "Access to Intellectual Property is a Major Obstacle to Developing Transgenic Horticultural Crops," California Agriculture, Vol. 58, No. 2, April/June 2004, pp. 120 - 126

Griffiths, Anthony, Miller, Jeffrey H., Suzuki, David T., Lewonton, Richard C., and Gelbart, William M., An Introduction to Genetic Analysis, 5th Edition. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1993

Hamilton, Neil D., "Legal Issues Shaping Society's Acceptance of Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Organisms," 6 Drake Agricultural Law Journal, No. 1, Spring 2001, pp. 81 - 117

Hoag, Hannah, "Biotech Firms Join Charities in Drive to Help Africa's Farms," Nature, Vol. 422, No. 6929, 20 March 2003, p. 246

Hood, Elizabeth E., Horn, Michael E. and Howard, John A., "Production and Application of Proteins From Transgenic Plants," in Vasil, I. K., ed. Plant Biotechnology 2002 and Beyond, pp. 377 - 382, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003

Huang, Jikun, Pray, Carl, and Rozelle, Scott. "Enhancing the Crops to Feed the Poor," Nature 418, 8 August 2002, pp. 678-684

Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History, Revised Edition. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2002

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), IFPRI Annual Report 2000 - 2001, Washington D.C.: IFPRI

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Green Revolution: Curse or Blessing," Washington D.C.: IFPRI, 2002

"Introduction: Transgenic Acreage Grows Amid Changing Regulation," California Agriculture, Vol. 59, No. 2, April/June 2004, p. 73

Judge, Linda R. "Biotechnology: Highlights of the Science and Law Shaping the Industry." Santa Clara University Computer and High Technology Journal, Vol. 20, November 2003, 15 pp. document at infotrac.galegroup.com

Khachatourians, George G., McHughen, Alan, Scorza, Ralph, Nip, Wai-kit and Hui, Y.H., eds. Transgenic Plants and Crops. New York/Basel: Marcel Dekker, Inc. 2000

King, John L., "Concentration and Technology in Agricultural Input Industries," Electronic Report/AIB - 763. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, March 2001

King, Nicelma, "Low Income Consumers, Though Less Aware of GMOs, Are Concerned and Want Labels," California Agriculture, Vol. 57, No. 3, July/September 2003

Kirby, Sarah L., "Genetically Modified Foods: More Reason to Label Than Not," 6 Drake Journal of Agricultural Law 351, Fall 2000

Klonsky, Karen, "Forces Impacting the Production of Organic Foods," Agriculture and Human Values, Vol. 17, No. 3, September 2000

Kneen, Brewster. Invisible Giant: Cargill and its Transnational Strategies, 2nd Edition. London and Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press, 2002

Krebs, John, "Chairman's Report: The OECD Edinburgh Conference on the Scientific and Health Aspects of GM Foods," March 2000. Internet document: www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/30/2097312.pdf

Kryder, R. David, Kowalski, Stanley P., and Krattiger, Anatole F., "The Intellectual and Technical Property Components of pro-Vitamin A Rice (Golden Rice): A Preliminary Freedom-to-Operate Review," ISAAA Brief 20 - 2000, Manila, Philippines: ISAAA, 2000

Lines, Rosemarie E., Persley, Denis, Dales, James, Drew, Roderick, and Bateson, Marion F., "Genetically Engineered Immunity to Papaya Ringspot Virus in Australian Papaya Cultivars," Molecular Breeding 10: 119 - 129, 2002; Klewer Academic Publishers, on-line full-text journal

Lumpkin, N.H. and Padel, S., The Economics of Organic Farming. Wallingford: CAB International, 1994

Lurquin, Paul F., High Tech Harvest: Understanding Genetically Modified Food Plants. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002

MacIlwain, Colin, "Organic: Is It The Future of Farming?" Nature 428, 22 April 2004, pp. 792-793

McHughen, Alan, Pandora's Picnic Basket. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000

McHughen, Alan, Telephone interview, May 2004

Photograph "Tokyo in Full Bloom" 1991 Dorothy A. Birsic

Monsanto Company, A Clear Focus: 2003 Annual Report. St. Louis: Monsanto Company, 2004

Monsanto Company, Biotechnology: Solutions for Tomorrow's World, June 2000. Company Brochure #00400089.

Monsanto Company, Key Facts About Food and Feed Safety: The Products of Plant Biotechnology. Company Brochure #00499185.

Monsanto Company, The Promise of Plant Biotechnology. Company Brochure #00499184.

Mason, Hugh S., "Vaccines Produced in Transgenic Plants," in Goodman, Robert M., ed., Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science, pp. 1265 - 1267, New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 2004

Masood, Ehsan, "A Continent Divided," Nature, Vol. 426, No. 6964, 20 November 2003, pp. 224 - 226

Naylor, Rosamond L., Falcon, Walter P., Goodman, Robert M., Jahn, Molly M., Sengoobi, Theresa, Tefera, Haily, and Nelson, Rebecca J., "Biotechnology in the Developing World: A Case for Increased Investments in Orphan Crops," Food Policy 29 (2004), pp. 15 - 44

Nottingham, Stephen. Eat Your Genes, 2nd Edition. New York: Zed Books, 2003

OECD, "Genetic Inventions, Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Practices: Evidence and Policies. Paris: OECD, 2002. Available online at oecd.org/dataoecd/42/21/2491084.pdf

Paarlberg, Robert, "The Global Food Fight," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 3, May/June 2000, pp. 24 - 38

Pardey, Philip and Beintema, Nienke M., Slow Magic: Agricultural R&D a Century After Mendel, Washington D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2002

Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, Harvest on the Horizon: Future Uses of Agricultural Biotechnology, September 2001

Pistorius, Robin, and Van Wijk, Jeroen. The Exploitation of Plant Genetic Information: Political Strategies in Crop Development. New York: CAB International Publishing, 1999

Pollack, Andrew. "Monsanto Shelves Plans for Modified Wheat," New York Times, May 11, 2004, p. C1 and C8

Pollack, Andrew, "Narrow Path for New Biotech Food Crops," New York Times, May 20, 2004, pp. C1 and C6

Pollack, Daniel, California's Bioscience Industries: Overview and Policy Issues. Sacramento, CA: California Research Bureau, October 2002

Press, Eyal and Washburn, Jennifer, "The Kept University," Atlantic Monthly, March 2000, pp. 39 - 54

Pretty, Jules, "The Rapid Emergence of Genetic Modification in World Agriculture: Contested Risks and Benefits," Environmental Conservation 28 (3), pp. 248-262

Quality Assurance International, FAQ Brochure

Redick, Thomas P., "Biopharming, Biosafety and Billion Dollar Debacles: Preventing Liability for Biotech Crops," 8 Drake Agricultural Law Review 115, online Lexis-Nexis full-text document

Ruse, Michael and Castle, David, eds., Genetically Modified Foods. New York: Prometheus Books, 2002

Schapsmeier, Edward L., and Schapsmeier, Frederick H. Encyclopedia of American Agricultural History. Westport, Connecticut, and London: Greenwood Press, 1975

Shoemaker, Robbin, Johnson, D. Demcey and Golan, Elise, "Consumers and the Future of Biotech Foods in the United States," USDA/Economic Research Service, Amber Waves, November 2003, 6 pp. Available at www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/November03/Features/futureofbiotech.htm

Somer, A. and West, K. P. Jr., "Vitamin A Deficiency: Health, Survival and Vision," New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, in Zimmerman, Roukayatou and Qaim, Matin, "Potential Health Benefits of Golden Rice: A Philippine Case Study," Food Policy 29 (2004), pp. 147 - 168

State of California, Department of Food and Agriculture, California Agricultural Highlights (brochure), Sacramento, CA: CA Department of Food and Agriculture, 2002

State of California, Department of Food and Agriculture, Resources Directory 2002 - California Agriculture: A Tradition of Innovation. Sacramento, CA: CA Department of Food and Agriculture, 2002

Streatfield, Stephen J. and Howard, John A., "Plant Production Systems for Vaccines," Expert Review of Vaccines, 2 (6), 2003, pp. 763 - 775

Summers, Teresa M., "The Scope of Utility in the Twenty-First Century: New Guidance for Gene-Related Patents," Georgetown Law Journal 475, January 2003, 23 pp. on-line article from Lexis-Nexis Academic

Thrane, Linda, "Editor's Note," Council for Biotechnology Information, In Focus, Vol. 12, No. 1, February 2003

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), The State of Food and Agriculture 2003 - 2004; Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor?" On-line document available at www.fao.org/docrep/006/Y5160e/y5160e.htm, Section C, Part 9, Conclusions: Meeting the Needs of the Poor, Rome: FA0, 2004

United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Commercial Biotechnology: An International Analysis, OTA-BA-218. Washington, D.C.: United States Congress/OTA, January 1984

United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), New Developments in Biotechnology: U.S. Investment in Biotechnology Special Report, OTA-BA-360. Washington, D.C.: United States General Printing Office, July 1988

United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Statistics Service, Acreage Report. Washington D.C., June 2003

United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service Briefing Room, "Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., Genetically Engineered Upland Cotton Varieties by State and United States, 2002 - 2004." Washington, D.C.: USDA-ERS, 2004. Online data available at www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/ExtentofAdoptionTable2.htm

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service. "Economic Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology," AIB-762, Washington, D.C.: USDA, February 2001

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service (ERS), "Value-Enhanced Crops: Biotechnology's Next Stage," Agricultural Outlook, March 1999, pp. 444 - 449

United States House of Representatives, Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Basic Research, From the Lab to the Field to the Market, Parts I - III, August 3, October 5 and October 19, 1999

United States, House of Representative, Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Research, "Plant Biotechnology Research and Development in Africa, Challenges and Opportunities," June 12, 2003

United States House of Representatives, Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology, "Genetic Engineering, Human Genetics and Cell Biology: Evolution of Technological Issues in Biotechnology," (Supplemental Report III), 96th Congress, 2nd Session, Serial DDD, August 1980

University of California Discovery Grant website, Biotechnology field, accessible at www.ucdiscoverygrant.org/fields/biotech.htm, viewed 8/28/04

Vucinich, Nick, Should California Take a More Active Role in the Assessment, Monitoring and Oversight of Biotechnology?. Sacramento, CA: (State) Senate Office of Research, 2003

Wilson, William, Janzen, Edward L. and Dahl, Bruce L. "Issues in Development and Adoption of Genetically Modified (GM) Wheats," AgBioForum 6 (3) 2003, pp. 101 - 112

Xia, Yin, "Financing Agricultural Research in the New Biotechnology Era," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 85, No. 5, 2003, pp. 1259 - 1265

Zimmerman, Roukayatou and Qaim, Matin, "Potential Health Benefits of Golden Rice: A Philippine Case Study," Food Policy 29 (2004), pp. 147 - 168

To return to the top of the page, click here.