Debunking the Myths of Genetic Engineering in Field Crops

E. Ann Clark, Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON (

Presented to Alternatives, Kitchener, ON 2 March 99

Genetic engineering (GE) is the splicing of genes from one organism to another, unrelated organism, to combine traits that would otherwise be very unlikely to occur together. Commercial examples often involve genes taken from soil microorganisms and spliced into plant DNA, with about two-thirds of all current commercial applications involving herbicide tolerance. Plants with microbial genes conferring tolerance to herbicides such as Roundup (glyphosate) or Liberty (glufosinate-ammonium) or broxomynil can then be sprayed with these products to control weeds without unduly harming the crops.

How genes are spliced into foreign genomes is a complex and technical matter, and as such, can put off people like you and me who are not specialists in the field. But as private citizens, you don't need to concern yourself with the "how" so much as the "why", and I will argue, you who are going to have to live with the ramifications of GE must become more involved and participatory in the current "debate", which is really a non-debate because apart from citizen activists, and consumer and environmental groups, all of the main players - industry, government, and university - are active proponents.

Proponents of genetic engineering have made many claims about the benefits of GE. How well do these claims stand up to independent scrutiny? Who is looking at the risk side of the equation? What are they finding, and why have consumers, producers, and policymakers heard so little about the downside of this modern miracle?

Claims of Benefit.

Proponents of GE, including but not limited to the actual proprietors of the GE technology (CFIA, 1997), see genetic engineering as the way of the future, an unstoppable force that will feed the mounting millions of the Third World, increase yields, reduce reliance on biocides, and yield virtually endless benefits to the consumers fortunate enough to have been born in the modern era. So, why don't I feel lucky?

And if this technology is such a boon to the world, why did 130 nations vainly attempt, through the doomed Biosafety Protocol negotiations(1), to prevent the US, Canada, Australia, and three other grain-exporting nations from winning the right to ship unlabelled GE seed and foods across their borders (NY Times, 25 February 1999)?

1. Feeding the World? Aw, shucks guys, how dumb do you think we are? Fair enough, high-yield agriculture, to which genetic engineering is just the latest contributor, should be duly credited with feeding - indeed overfeeding - the 17% of the world's population that are fortunate enough to live in the Developed Market Economy Countries (DMEC's) - US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and NZ/OZ. But what about the 83% who live in the Third World? How well is high-yield agriculture serving them, and is there any reason to think that ratcheting up to GE crops will do any better?

Consider Colombia, home to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, known by its Spanish acronym "CIAT", which is one of the International Agricultural Research Centers (IARC) including CIMMYT in Mexico, IRRI in the Philippines, and ICRISAT in India. I've chosen Colombia because I did my own dissertation research at CIAT in the late 70's, and can testify to the excellent facilities and dedicated researchers present at the center. Like each of the IARC's, CIAT has the mandate for several crops important in its region, namely cassava, common beans, and pastures. So, how have Colombian crop yields responded to the presence of CIAT?

Since 1984, cassava yields increased at a rate of 134 kg/ha/year or a respectable 1.5% per year to nearly 10,000 kg/ha by 1995 (FAOa, various; Fig. 1). Similarly, yields of pulse crops (e.g. legumes, including common beans and soybeans) increased at an impressive 2.4% or 18 kg/ha/year to about 800 kg/ha by 1995. Clearly, then, the conventional plant breeding (not GE) and management research conducted at CIAT has translated into healthy and sustained national yield increases. We don't grow cassava in Ontario, but considering pulse crops where are comparable, even with a history of healthy yield increases, yield of pulse crops in 1995 was still only 33-50% that of the same crops grown in Ontario. Why? Infrastructural, environmental, and/or managerial factors which have been overcome in Ontario continue to constrain yield in Colombia (Table 1). Meanwhile, cereal (total) yield stagnated around 2500 kg/ha in Colombia, losing 7 kg/ha or 0.2% yield per year between 1984 and 1995. The low cereal yields achieved commercially in Colombia - 33-50% those in Ontario - likely reflect low levels of N and population density, as well as other adverse growing conditions.
Because the hectarage sown to cereals exceeds by a factor of 3 that sown to cassava and pulses combined (Fig 2), the lack of improvement in cereal yields has retarded production of staple food crops in Colombia (Fig 3). The aggregate increase in national production of these three crops - 19% between 1984 and 1995 - exactly matched the increase in population over that same interval - also 19% (Fig 4).

Yet whether due to recent changes in export obligations, to improvements in standard of living and dietary expectations, or to other unknown factors, the value of Colombian food imports increased by a factor of 4 between 1991 and 1995 (FAOb, various; Fig 5), suggesting an inability to keep pace with national demand.

Table 1. Comparison of yield (kg/ha) in staple crops in Ontario and in Colombia, in 1995 (adapted from FAOa, various and OMAFRA, 1996)
CROP TYPE Ontario Colombia
Cereals Winter Wheat 
Spring Wheat
Cereals (total) 2,500

(including sorghum)

Pulses Soybean
White Beans 
Pulses (total) 800

Thus, despite being home to the impressive CIAT facility, with an enviable record of translating breeding and managerial research into improved national yields, productivity was unable to keep pace with national demand for food, resulting in a sharp increase in dollars spent on imported food (all types) after 1991.

How will genetic engineering improve this picture? It won't. Despite decades of targeted and effective internationally funded research, yield levels remain low in Colombia, and arguably, in much of the same Third World which is currently targeted by the life sciences for commercialization of GE technology. Adverse growing conditions, greater risks of pest, pathogen, and weed infestation, and in particular, limited access to purchased inputs all challenge the logic of extrapolating expectations of GE performance from the DMECs to the Third World. For example, herbicide-tolerance (Table 2), which accounts for such a large share of commercial field crop GE, is an irrelevancy to farmers who cannot afford to buy the herbicides in the first place. The utility of the remainder of currently available GE products, relating largely to insect resistance (e.g. Bt-cotton, Bt-corn, and Bt-potato) remains to be seen. It seems likely that the diversity and dizzying rate of resistance development to biocides in the tropics will quickly confound and nullify Bt-transgenes.

Indeed, it is at least arguable that GE will actually worsen the plight of Third World farmers.

1. Favor the Rich. Only comparatively wealthy producers, possibly serving an export market, are likely to have the resources to purchase the inputs necessary to employ GE cultivars and hybrids. As such, GE will further concentrate land and power, forcing the weak and powerless into the fragile jungles and mountainsides, posing ever greater risks not just to their own economic survival, but to biodiversity and environmental sustainability. As noted by Mack (1998), Monsanto recently announced it would spend $550 million in Brazil to build a factory to produce Roundup for use on Roundup Ready-soybeans. But most rural Brazilians are subsistence farmers who do not grow soybeans. "No help will trickle down from Monsanto's beans to the starving

Table 2. Uses of GE and natural selection to promote, extend, expand reliance on chemicals as herbicides (adapted from Lappe and Bailey, 1998).
Proprietor Trade Name Active Ingredient Mode of Action
Biocide Dependence-Enhancing Products Created Through Genetic Engineering
AgrEvo (1994 union of Hoechst-Roussel Agri-Vet and NOR-AM; now 4th largest ag chemical company in the world) Liberty-Link glufosinate-ammonium (nonselective herbicide affecting all actively growing green plants; reported to be teratogenic) gene derived from a bacterium overcomes the effect of the herbicide, which acts by preventing the normal detoxification of ammonia, allowing buildup of ammonia and ultimately death
Calgene (now owned by Monsanto) and Rhone-Poulenc BXN Cotton bromoxynil octonoate (herbicide; recognized by the EPA as a known teratogen (causing birth defects) and a possible carcinogen) for use on cotton; breakdown product is DBHA, which is just as toxic as bromoxynil gene derived from bacterium permits the detoxification of bromoxynil, rendering it ineffective
Monsanto Roundup glyphosate (41% by weight; rest is "inerts" as POEA, a surfactant which is itself toxic)(systemic nonselective herbicide) gene derived from bacterium which acts by overproducing key PS enzymes, dampening toxic effect of herbicide
Biocide Dependence-Enhancing Genetic Products Created Through Natural Selection (not GE)
American Cyanamid IMI-Corn

(e.g. Contour, Resolve, Lightning)

imidazolinone family of systemic herbicides, for corn
DuPont STS

(e.g. Synchrony, Reliance)

sulfonylurea family of herbicides

millions" (Mack, 1998). The industry position on this conundrum is straightforward. As noted by Pol Barnelis of Bayer, who chairs the German and European biotechnology associations, we "cannot help the fact that there are rich and poor in the world" (Mack, 1998). Valid point, but rather hard to reconcile with the self-righteous "Let the Harvest Begin" campaign of the life science companies themselves.

2. Tailor the Environment or Tailor the Crop? Genetic diversity within a crop plays quite a different role in the DMEC's and in the Third World. DMEC cropping strategies rely intrinsically on access to exogenous resources (fertilizer, biocides, drainage, irrigation, and artificial drying) to tailor the growing environment to support a few superior cultivars that are grown throughout very large geographic regions. This paradigm, where constraints to crop production are moderated or eliminated by purchased inputs, textured the evolution of GE cultivars and reflects the growing conditions within which they would be expected to perform.

Conversely, many traditional cultures do not have access to resources to homogenize adverse growing conditions, and rather, employ genetic diversity within a species a means of coping with environmental heterogeneity (e.g. north vs. south facing slopes; well-drained vs. soggy land; patchiness of soil pathogens; "hunger-breaker" crops vs. cash crops). For example, farmers in a 6-village region of Peru were found to grow 62 biologically distinct varieties of potatoes. Each variety had a local name and was classified for specific attributes within a systematic folk taxonomy known to the local people. As recently as 1980, Don Duvick of Pioneer (1984; cited in Soule et al. (1990) reported that 42, 43, and 38% of the hectarage sown to soybean, corn, and wheat in the entire US was planted to just 6 cultivars of each crop!

Instead of homogenizing the environment to fit a few, carefully bred super genotypes, traditional agriculturalists tailor crop diversity to cope with environmental heterogeneity. Thus, the presumption that the DMEC paradigm can be transferred intact to the Third World carries with it a suite of unlikely, or at best, disenfranchising assumptions. As noted by David Cooper, a specialist in plant genetic resources of the U.N.FAO, "in these difficult environments, the environment is so varied and so specific you need solutions that are tailored to those particular areas. A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be the optimum approach...." (Parsons, 1998).

3. Human Exposure to Biocides. Most GE crops are designed to be fully dependent on biocides, as Roundup or Liberty. Yet, many Third World farmers are not fully literate and will be unable to comprehend or to respond to risks and precautions, particularly if presented in a foreign language. Specific biocides may be toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, and/or teratogenic (causing toxification, cancer, genetic mutations, or birth defects, respectively; Garry et al., 1996), as well as exhibiting endocrine disruptor properties (Colborn et al., 1996; Clark, 1997a).

The Danish Agency for International Development (DANIDA) reported that annual acute illness rate due to pesticides ranged from 11,000 to 30,000 in Guatemala, a country of 10 million people, and 10,000 in Nicaragua, a country of 4 million people (Development and Equity, 1998).
Good-bye IPM. Hans Herren is the director of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, and the author of biocontrol research 10 years ago which literally saved 200 million Africans from famine (Pearce, 1998). He identified and released a Paraguayan parasitic wasp that killed the South American mealy bug which was destroying the cassava crop. 

He is highly critical of the unsubstantiated claims of life science companies that biotechnology is essential to "feed the world". Indeed, he contests the wisdom of researchers at the UN and World Bank who have abandoned longstanding botanical and biological control research for genetic engineering. When visiting the research labs of the 16 IARC's, Herron said "I find the biological control lab half empty with broken windows...but the biotechnology lab will be brand new with all the latest equipment and teeming with staff....Half of Rockefeller's agricultural money now goes to biotechnology" (Pearce, 1998).

4. Diversion of Scarce Research Resources. As discussed by Francis and Allen (1999), the allure of GE is shifting scarce resources away from systematic approaches directly beneficial to producers (e.g. IPM and organic farming) and vesting them in GE, a technology which seems likely to benefit only the proprietor (see sidebar).

5. Incompatibility with IPM. Bt crops directly compromise those IPM practices which rely on broadcast Bt and natural biocontrol agents (e.g. ladybugs to control aphids). The resistance that is already being generated in target organisms will directly nullify the utility of a valued component of IPM, as well as initiating potentially deleterious ramifications in the wider ecosystem.

6. Terminator Technology. "Terminator" is arguably the most compelling refutation of the "feeding the world" claim, and the most irrefutable proof that "feeding the world" is nothing more or less than a marketing tool. Insertion of Terminator - a clever, 3-gene package which forces the plant to produce a toxin that kills its own seed - seems rather likely to produce the opposite result - deprivation and famine.

How can this be? Terminator, which was created by Mel Oliver of the USDA (Patent #5,723,765) under contract to a company soon to be acquired by Monsanto (for a reported $1.9 billion), is intended to let the owner of the seed retain all rights over the seed, specifically to prevent farmers from keeping their own seed. Parallel technologies to control ownership of GE seed are under development not just by Monsanto but by several other life science companies as well.

However, as discussed by Weiss (1999), the well respected CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which oversees the IARC system and has itself invested heavily in biotechnology) has announced a boycott of Terminator technology. They perceive it as a direct threat to the more than 1.4 billion subsistence farmers who routinely save their own seed (Mack, 1998). Pollen from Terminator plants can move substantial distances way from a GE field (e.g. 8 km for canola), inadvertantly fertilizing plants in neighboring fields and rendering the seed sterile. With 80% of crops in the developing world sown from farmer-saved seed, genetic pollution from Terminator-enhanced fields could exacerbate, rather than reduce, world food deficits.

Monsanto has now applied for Terminator patents in 78 countries, and expects to have Terminator-enhanced crops for sale after 2000.

7. Loss of Access. The CGIAR system (CIMMYT, IRRI, etc.) holds the world's largest collection of plant germplasm, with anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of accessions for each of the major world food crops. Breeders worldwide have always had free access to the germplasm banks maintained at the ICAR's around the world, for use in crop improvement.

However, starting in 1980, the US Supreme Court granted the first patent on a lifeform, arguing (with a majority of 1) that what mattered was not whether the invention was living or inanimate, but rather, if it was truly a man-made lifeform. Since then, patents have been granted on plant and animal strains, as well as on individual genes, a development with serious implications for public plant breeding. In response, agreements were signed in 1994 by the CGIAR and the UNFAO, guaranteeing that neither the CGIAR nor recipients of designated germplasm(2), would seek intellectual property rights (patents) over designated germplasm.

The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) of Canada has now shown that this promise has been violated at least 47 times by Australian researchers claiming Plant Breeders' Rights for varieties acquired through the CGIAR system - some of which had actually been bred by Third World farmers. Appropriating the products of generations of Third World farmers and then patenting them for sale back to farmers is called biopiracy, and is expected to be an increasingly contentious outcome of the movement toward Intellectual Property Rights.

2. Reduced Dependence on Biocides? All of the crops represented in the first wave of large-scale commercialized GE - corn, soybean, cotton, and potato - are heavily dependent upon biocides to control weeds and/or pests. Not surprisingly, the proprietors of the transgenes conferring resistance to specific herbicides (e.g. Roundup) are also the proprietors of those same herbicides (Table 2).

The new genetic construct - an herbicide tolerant plant - actually increases dependence on specific proprietary herbicides, and also increases risk of residues from that herbicide on the harvested crop. A broadspectrum, nonselective herbicide like Roundup which might previously have been applied once as a preplant to avoid harm to the emerging crop, can now be applied a second or third time, after the crop is up. Indeed, as dependence upon any single mode of weed control increases, weed populations tolerant to that pressure will proliferate, making it a certainty that more and more of that single mode - in this case, applying Roundup - will be required to achieve the same level of weed control.

Thus, the proprietor sells more - not less - of their herbicide. This is, of course, the point of the exercise. And not just any herbicide - their herbicide.

A corollary is that proprietors applied for, and received, permission to increase the tolerance level for glyphosate residues of foodstuffs from 6 ppm (that set in 1987) to 20 ppm just as the first Roundup Ready crops were commercialized in the 90's (Lappe and Bailey, 1998, p.76). The increased tolerance levels on GE crops are higher still in Australia, one of the 6 countries that recently stalemated the fervent efforts of 130 other countries to regulate movement of GE foods into their own countries. Thus, as a direct result of GE technologies, human foodstuffs are entering the marketplace with higher levels of allowable biocide residues, let alone seed of Bt crops that are themselves defined by the EPA to be "plant pesticides".

Biocide dependence is further promoted by the entirely predictable phenomenon of resistance in the target organisms (see Clark, 1998c). Any single control agent, whether cultivation or a single biocide, will screen for and create a population of resistant organisms (e.g. DDT and malarial mosquitos). After just 2 years of commercial production of Bt crops, resistance is already building to Bt, and has also been reported - after years of complete denial by the proprietors of the product - for Roundup. The only exception to this phenomenon is when genes for resistance are not present in the target population, as is the case for 2,4-D, a popular broadleaf herbicide known to have endocrine disrupter activity (Benbrook, 1996; p.74).

Both Roundup and Bt are widely regarded as at the benign end of the spectrum of toxicity or risk to human health. It is therefore all the more regretable that these two widely used products will soon (within 3-5 years for Bt) be rendered useless by the wholesale use of this GE technology. And what then? What will producers do when Bt or Roundup don't work? Another magic GE bullet, or a reversion to other, much more toxic and problematic biocides?

3. Does GE actually increase yield, or even have the potential to increase yield?

US Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, reportedly stated in a 1996 talk to the World Food Summit in Rome, that "Biotechnology can give us a quantum leap forward in food security by improving disease and pest resistance, increasing tolerance to environmental stress, raising crop yields, and preserving plant and aimal diversity" If you listen to radio advertisements aired in Ontario just last week, increasing yield is one of the key selling features of GE crops. But are these claims scientifically defensible?

Although "increasing yield" is one of the most common benefits attributed to GE, evidence to substantiate this (or any of the other oft-repeated claims) is hard to find. Lappe and Bailey (1998; p.82) analyzed data from soybean yield trials reported by Ashlock (1996). Yields from the 1995 and 1996 years were reviewed, with yield of Roundup Ready (RR) soybean varieties contrasted with that of their nearest conventional counterpart. In 30 of 38 comparisons, the conventional variety outyielded the RR variety. Mean reduction in yield of the RR varieties was 4.3 bu/ac or almost 10%, a loss which was statistically significant.

A more recent review of 40 soybean varietal trials in the north central region of the US by Oplinger et al. (1999) found a mean 4% yield drag in RR soybeans. Even comparing the top 5 varieties from each, RR still yielded 5% less than conventional soybeans. Thus, there is a cost to the crop from expressing the genes for Roundup resistance, and it manifests itself in lower yields.

Brown (1998) cites evidence of a marked plateauing of yield in most major world food crops. He contends that the really major gains in wheat, rice, and corn yield occurred between 1950 and 1990, due to improvements in harvest index, coupled with intensification of resource use. Gains since 1990 have slowed markedly, as the potential for additional gains is rapidly used up. It is difficult to see how genetic engineering, particularly with the simply inherited traits prominent in current GE crops, can fundamentally lower the "wall" inhibiting further gains in yield.

Risks? What Risks?

Issues relating to risk are numerous, and have been discussed more fully in earlier talks which you can access on my homepage (

3. inadequate methods of assessing risk: technologies evolving from the biocide and pharmaceutical industries have been inappropriately applied to GE organisms which differ specifically because they are alive - and can mutate and evolve or transfer genes into other organisms, creating something wholly unpredictable - on a scale of millions of hectares (Ingham and Holmes, 1995; various in Clark, 1997c and 1998a).

4. unlabelled GE foodstuffs: proponents have argued, successfully, that GE crops are not substantively different from conventional food, and hence, should neither be subject to any long-term health studies nor labelled as such in the supermarket (various in Clark, 1997b). Many of the arguments used to challenge arguments for labelling have been called into question by recent research. Be quite clear that this means that the GE foodstuffs you are already (inadvertantly) purchasing routinely in Canadian stores have never been subject to longterm studies of human health impact.

Imagine, then, the professional ramifications to Dr. Arpad Pusztai, an internationally respected senior scientist at the Rowett Institute in Scotland, when he went public with his findings on adverse health effects of GE potatoes on rats. He reported that feeding transgenic potatoes modified to express snowdrop lectin affected the immune response and reduced the size of the liver, heart, and brain of rats. For this, he was forced to resign in disgrace, 2 days later, only to be exonerated when an international group of 22 scientists from 13 countries attacked the behavior of the institute and reaffirmed the scientific soundness of Pusztai's conclusions (Gillard et al., 1999).

But what may well be the most significant finding of all came from controlled studies which reportedly suggested that the adverse effect appeared to come not from the lectin, which was already known to be toxic, but from the promoter genes (derived from cauliflower mosaic virus (CMV)) which were used to insert the lectin transgenes into the potato genome. The CMV promoter has been widely used to making GE tomatoes, corn, and soybean cultivars, the products of which are already in the marketplace in hundreds of commercial products (Gillard et al., 1999).

So, Who is Minding the Shop?

You may wonder why you have heard so little about these kinds of concerns in the popular press, or in reading government pronouncements on the subject. Some of the conflict of interest issues pertaining to GE have been well documented in the case of BST, courtesy of six courageous scientists who were willing to risk their careers to bring their story to light. See a related discussion in Clark (1997b).

It might be informative to ask your elected representatives and media organizations why this kind of information is not being presented for public debate and consultation.

One way or the other, however, I think it is fair to say that citizen groups, ranging from Physicians and Scientists .... to Friends of the Greenpeace have been carrying the ball on this one. And that is where you come in. To paraphrase a famous quote, technology makes an excellent servant but an appalling master. With objective oversight from either government or university researchers in relatively short supply, it is up to private citizens, consumers, producers and all those who will be affected by GE technology to inform themselves and make their feelings known. Don't let them tell you that your concerns about GE crops are unfounded or the result of hysterical greenies. The issues are real. Sufficient evidence is accumulating in the scientific literature to raise serious doubts about the ability of GE technology to make good on its oft-stated promises without incurring significant risks to both human health and that of the broader ecosystem.

I have provided you with some useful websites and books, and would encourage you to start by informing yourself about the issues. Credibility is quickly lost if one starts denouncing something without understanding it. After that, take whatever action seems appropriate to you. But don't delay. Start now. There is no time like the present.


Ashlock, L.O. et al. 1997. Soybean Update. Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas (cited in Lappe and Bailey, 1998).

Benbrook, C.M. 1996. Pest Management at the Crossroads. Consumers Union, Yonkers, NY.

Brown, L.R. 1998. Ch. 5. Struggling to raise cropland productivity. p. 79-95, In: L.R. Brown, C. Flavin, and H. French (ed) State of the World 1998. Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Soceity. W.W. Norton & Co., N.Y. 251 pp.

CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Branch). 1997. Biotechnology in Agriculture. Food for Thought. Biotechnology Strategies and Coordination Office, CFIA, Nepean, ON.

Clark, E. Ann. 1997a. Farming at the agriculture-environment interface. Presented to the Agroecosystem Management workshop at OARDC, Wooster, Ohio (

Clark, E. Ann. 1997b. A Luddite's view of biotechnology. Presented to the Select Seed Growers Annual Meeting (

Clark, E. Ann. 1997c. Risks of genetic engineering in agriculture. Presented to the Annual Meetings of the National Farmers Union. Saskatoon. (

Clark, E. Ann. 1998a. Environmental risks of genetic engineering in field crops. Presented to Factoring in the Environment for Decisions on Biotechnology in Agricultural Production. A workshop sponsored by the National Agricultural Environment Committee, August 98 Ottawa. (

Clark, E. Ann. 1998b. Genetic engineering: risks and opportunities for organic farmers. Presented to the AGM of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Formosa, ON 28 Nov 98 (

Clark, E. Ann. 1998c. Genetic engineering - wrong answers to the wrong questions. Presented to the annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, March 1998. (

Colborn, Theo, Diane Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. 1996. Our Stolon Future. Plume/Penguin Books, New York.

Development and Equity. 1998. Pesticide Problems in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and Opportunities for their Reduction. Report written under contract for DANIDA.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)a. (various). Production Yearbook FAO of the United Nations, Rome.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)b. (various) Trade Yearbook FAO of the United Nations, Rome.

Francis, C.A. and J. Allen. 1999. University role in biotechnology: how do we set research priorities? Jan-Feb 1999 Newsletter of the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Garry, V.F., D. Schreinemachers, M.E. Harkins, and J. Griffith. 1996. Pesticide appliers, biocides, and birth defects in rural Minnesota. Environmental Health Perspectives 104(4).

Gillard, M.S., L. Flyn, and A. Rowell. Food scandal. evidence of changes in the organis of rats fed GM potatoes suggests minister's safety assurances may be immature. The Guardian, 13 February 99.

Ho, Mae-Wan. 1998. Genetic Engineering - Dream or Nightmare. Gateway Books, Bath, UK 277 pp

Ingham, E. and M. Holmes, 1995. Biosafety Regulations: a critique of existing documents. An Occasional Paper of the Edmonds Institute, Edmonds, WA 27 pp.

Lappe, M. and B. Bailey. 1998. Against the Grain. Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME. 163 pp.

Mack, D. 1998. Food for all. New Scientist (31 October 98)

MacKenzie, D. 1999. Can we really ttomach GM foods? New Scientist (30 January 99)

OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs). 1996. Agricultural Statistics for Ontario 1995. Queen's Printer, Toronto.

Oplinger, E.S., M.J. Martinka, and K.A. Schmitz. 1999. Performance of transgenetic soybeans - Northern US. Presented to the ASTA Meetings, Chicago.

Parsons, C. 1998. Aid agencies say biotechnology won't end hunger. Reuters; 09/25/98.

Pearce, F. 1998. Cashing in on hunger. New Scientist (10 October 98).

Soule, J., D. Carre, and W. Jackson. 1990. Ch. 6 Ecological impact of modern agriculture. In: C.R. Carroll, J.H. Vandermeer, and P. Rosset (ed) Agroecology. McGraw Hill, N.Y.

U.K. Department of the Environment. 1999. The Commercial use of genetically modified crops in the United Kingdom: the potential wider impact on farmland wildlife (

Weiss, R. 1999. Sowing dependency or uprooting hunger. Washington Post 8 Feb 99, p.A09.


Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly

Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST)

Benbrook Consulting Services

Consumer Right to Know Campaign for Mandatory Labelling and Long-Term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods.

Proc. National Academy of Sciences

Pesticide Action Network Updates Service

Environmental Working Group
(REALLY powerful and interactive)


Union of Concerned Scientists.

Friends of the Earth UK

New Scientist

The Biotechnology and Development Monitor from the Netherlands

Pure Food Campaign

GRAIN - Genetic Resources Action International

Convention on Biological Diversity

Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)


Benbrook, C.M. 1996. Pest Management at the Crossroads. Consumers Union, Yonkers, NY. (valuable and well written background on biocides, IPM, and risk assessment)

Colborn, Theo, Diane Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. 1996. Our Stolon Future. Plume/Penguin Books, New York. (the next Silent Spring - an exceedingly important text introducing readers to the world of endocrine disruptors)

Ho, Mae-Wan. 1998. Genetic Engineering - Dream or Nightmare. Gateway Books, Bath, UK 277 pp. ( a rigorous and shocking critique of GE from a specialist in the field)

Lappe, M. and B. Bailey. 1998. Against the Grain. Biotechnology and the corporate takeover of your food. Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME 163 pp. (good introduction into recent developments in corporate GE)

Steingraber, S. 1997. Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment. Addison-Wesley, N.Y. (magnificent, well-written text documenting the lunacy of treating symptoms while ignoring causes)

Footnotes -

1. The Biosafety Protocol (officially called The Extraordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Cartagena, Colombia, February 1999) followed from the Convention on Biological Diversity, which was signed by Canada and more than 160 other nations (but not initially by Bush, then President of the U.S.) at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero in 1992. The Convention on Biological Biodiversity has since been signed by Clinton, but is not yet ratified by the US Congress.

2. farmers' varieties and landraces, obsolete and modern varieties, breeding lines, seedstocks, and wild accessions