Editor:

I commend you for the super piece: “The face of the anti-biotech movement” and especially admire your honesty and forthrightness. Keep up the good work!
C. S. Prakash, Ph.D.
Professor, Plant Molecular Genetics
Director, Center for Plant Biotechnology Research
College of Agriculture, Milbank Hall, Tuskegee University

Editor:

“Biotechnology is accepted by agriculture worldwide”

This is patently false.

You really are not a journalist are you?

You are an industry hack and your publication is bought and paid for by your advertisers so really, you are not a player rather a pawn, used by industry.
David Kupfer
North San Juan Ridge, Calif.

Hello Mr. Cline.

My name is Robert Wager. I teach at Malaspina University College in Nanaimo BC, Canada.

My area of research is food biotechnology and public education. I have written a series of articles on different aspects of these technologies. They can all be read on my Web page.

I too am very familiar with the “complete lack of respect for science and logic” in the anti- biotechnology camps. The science is very clearly in favour of continued development of these technologies. Yes there are risks as there is no such thing as risk-free anything. Yet critics continually demand risk-free agriculture. Funny how the alternatives they often put forward have well established significant risks that are always completely ignored for ever increasing rhetoric of the (hypothetical) dangers of food biotechnology.

I agree the powdery mildew and Pierce's disease are two very real threats to the California grape industry and since the use of copper compounds (the method used in Europe to control fungal pathogens) is very detrimental to the environment it is clear the advances in biotechnology are the best hope for the grape industry in California.

It is definitely time to hold critics to account. Their misinformation campaigns have had devastating effects in other less developed parts of the world and so far the media has pretty much given these groups a free ride. Again, I liked your article exposing the true nature of these so called “natural agriculture” groups. They seem to have lost the fact there is nothing natural about agriculture.

Best of luck and please contact me if there is anything I can do to help you.
Robert Wager
Malaspina University College
Nanaimo BC, Canada

wagerr@mala.bc.ca
http://web.mala.bc.ca/wager

Harry Cline:

Two points about Jack Hayward II: 1) he does not represent the folks who put Measure H on the ballot and campaigned for it - he is a citizen expressing his views. Doug Mosel does represent the people who passed it, and he says Jack doesn't, so your leveraging that e-mail exchange into an attack on the anti-GMO people is inappropriate. For all that you admit that Jack is not a representative of Measure H, you still make the argument that “Nevertheless, he is part of the movement and that is troubling.” (Towards the beginning of the article, you also claim he “represents a segment of a so-called environmental activist group attempting to ban biotechnology from California agriculture.”)

During the campaign, I worked to get the word out, put up signs, etc., with a group of neighbors in our part of the county. (Jack lives in the same area, and was not a participant in any of the meetings or events I attended.) I wouldn't call myself a representative of the group, nor even a member, and Jack was less evident than I. In fact, while not surprising, it was news to me that Jack was involved at all! He's a person who supports some of the same ideals as the anti-GMO people. You cannot leverage the sharing of that ideal into an argument against the anti-GMO folks. I mean, you can, but it's pretty sloppy argumentation.

Before I go on, I should go back to point 2) about Jack, before it gets lost in the shuffle. His e-mails aren't even that bad, for an angry citizen letter. (It's a little rude, but so what?) The contextual frame you put around them would make it seem that he was a violent man making threats. He's obviously not, but in the context of the untrue things you said at the beginning of the article about the campaign, using words like “bitter, hateful, vile, vicious, his staff was fearful for their safety, have been linked to the destruction of student crops,” I'm not surprised he let fly at you.

The folks who mounted the campaign for Measure H did an absolutely sterling job of grassroots politics against big-spending outside industry opponents. They acted well and relied on logical argumentation to convince the electorate, organizing events in various neighborhoods where speakers from both sides were invited to address the attendees. The only untoward thing I saw in any of the papers during the campaign was that some the signs in support of Measure H were stolen.

In your article I don't see any attempt to convince people that GMOs are good, or that restricting them is bad. You seem to rely on smear tactics, which is exactly how the industry people who tried to stop Measure H acted. The electorate in Mendocino saw through all that rubbish, and should be praised for their intelligence. Hopefully the people in the counties that have anti-GMO initiatives will do the same.
Steve Hall
Mendocino County

Editor:

I read your article with interest.

I work for a Soil and Water Conservation District. I have been involved in agriculture most of my life. I co-own and manage a small herd of Registered Angus.

Unfortunately I run across all too many who are fond of spouting the same uninformed, unfounded, ungrounded, flame thrower rhetoric.

The tactics de jour from the left in all arenas seems to be making outrageous charges loudly and repeat them often. Never mind the facts. Make the charges and do what it takes to get them widely circulated. Always put the adversary in the position of accused child molester and make him prove innocence. We all know it is difficult at best to prove a negative. A portion of the populace will believe and support.

I fear the age of civil discourse and debate is but a memory.
Jim Tate
Conservation Specialist, Hanover-Caroline SWCD

Jim-Tate@va.nacdnet.org
www.h-cswcd.org
Hanover County, Va.

Editor:

There are all sorts of idiots out there not only the biotech advocates but many who oppose it. There may be many benefits from it but you had better know what the misuse of it will create just like nuclear energy: great but when your great grandchildren have a cancer causing environment left to them by you I hope the biotech will have advanced far enough to cure them, now would it not be better not to tamper quite so much?

Government and university studies bought and paid for by the biotech companies come on fellow let you get real!
No Signature: e-mail address only: victor [bul@buffnet.net

Hi Harry:

So Biotech is bad; and science is good (as long as it is not corporate science); and pesticides are bad; and antibiotics are good (as long as they were discovered by an “Alexander Fleming in his kitchen” — penicillin); and writing commercial copy is bad but writing can be good too if you do not bother with truths just to make your point.

I think that we get ourselves into very difficult discussions when we allow each other to polarize the audience — your trail of e-mails is good because it points out how little interest Hayward has in engaging in a dialog about the facts. Concerns — legitimate concerns about the science and safety of research — should be heard and addressed with good information. Peer reviewed science has always served the public well because the scientists want to preserve their integrity. There is so much good science that has been peer reviewed that we should be comfortable with the process of gene modification. There is also a lot of science by “corporate” labs (that are even more motivated to get it right — they have to develop products that will withstand the scrutiny of legal liability issues in our court system.)

I would feel sorry for the uninformed Hayward if only he suffered from his lack of investigation. Unfortunately, his ilk spread fear and mistrust and they generate a lot of barriers for good science to overcome. Those barriers slow the process of developing new knowledge.
Rich Smith
Monterey County, Calif., grape grower

Harry:

I was dismayed to see your commentary on the GMO ban issue today.

Please provide your readers with substantiation of your claims or inferences that:

  1. GMO crops have found worldwide acceptance. There are close to 1,000 similar bans in effect.

    (Editor: In 2003, the global area of transgenic crops continued to grow for the seventh consecutive year at a sustained double digit growth rate of 15 percent, according to the International Service3 for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. Estimated global area of GM crops is 67.7 million hectares by 7 million farmers in 18 countries. That sure sounds like acceptance.)

  2. GMO's have been subjected to a high level of scientific scrutiny- “exhaustive testing and evaluation by several government agencies.” The is a deliberate false statement.

    (Editor: The U.S. Government agencies responsible for oversight of the products of agricultural modern biotechnology are the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration.)

  3. GMO crops pose no risk of cross pollination to California agriculture — organic farmers who continually face the threat of contamination of their crops and resulting losses.

    (Editor: Due to claims by anti-GMO activists, many public university scientists have evaluated pollen transport between convention and biotech corn. Generally, the cross pollination effect has been less than 2 percent and that was only when GMO and conventional crops of the same species were within less than 200 feet. Bottom line: the cross pollination issue is an insignificant issue.)

  4. Technology is bringing cheaper and safer food than ever before. Show me the numbers.

    (Editor: One example: Arizona cotton growers now spray their cotton to controls damaging pests an average of once per year. Before advent of Bt cotton, and other new pest management technology and products, it was not uncommon for growers to treat 7 and 8 times per year with pesticides to control pink bollworm and other pests. Scientific research has repeatedly proven that growing herbicide-resistant and pest-resistant crops dramatically reduces the cost of farm and the use of pesticides. If you do not believe that, call the major chemical companies — as you call them “biotech bullies” and ask them how their pesticide sales have been impacted by biotech crops.)

  5. The campaign in Mendocino County was unusually vicious, wineries opposed to the ban were threatened with violence, intimidation, etc.

(Editor: My sources tell me there were organic producers opposed the Mendocino GMO ban, yet, they were coerced into not voicing that opposition. Many mainstream organic producers are embarrassed by this radical anti-GMO movement. I know for a fact the staff of one organization opposed to the Mendocino GMO ban initiative was so fearful for their safety by the hate mail received in its office that the president of the organization cut short a business trip to return to the office because of the fear for his staff.)

The bottom line, Harry, is that agriculture cannot continue indefinitely externalizing the cost of all the genetic pollution and environmental damage brought about by high technology. That is why organic food is the fastest growing sector in our economy - in spite of having a bare minimum of ‘scientific’ research funded and less than 1 percent of land grant college research acreage.

(Editor: Organic food is the one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy because traditional agriculture is producing healthy affordable, organic products on vast acreages in California and elsewhere. It is the very same agriculture you say is “externalizing the cost of all the genetic pollution and environmental damage.”)

It is true that there is substantial disunity in agriculture, including the Farm Bureau. That is largely due to the heavy handed (‘bullying’ is an accurate term) promotion of biotechnology. But it is also a product of the lack of concern for the loss of income, jobs, and declining quality of agricultural life implicit in publications such as yours. Can you rise above the blame game and address those concerns in an accurate and objective manner exemplary of your journalistic skill?

(Editor: Skillful journalist? Your fellow anti-GMO advocate David Kupfer says I am not a journalist — only “an industry hack and a pawn” bought and paid for by Western Farm Press advertisers. You guys need to get your story straight as to what I am.)
George Stevens

Harry:

I'm proud of you…great responses! These guys can be likened to the terrorists in their attitudes.

Unbelievable!
Gene Lundquist
Bakersfield, Calif.

Editor:

Seems to me that the anti-biotech attitude is due mostly to stupidity and hatred of large corporations. I have a brother who follows the same logic. I remind him that he gets to eat daily due to biotechnology and some large corporations as well as large and small farmers. Maybe my brother and Mr. Hayward would like to starve and eat poor quality foods.
Tom Gaschler
Imperial, Neb.

Editor:

Perhaps this man (Jack Hayward II) was more strongly opposed to industry/big business than he was to biotechnology. What I would say is that some of the people who are against biotechnology are very knowledgeable and make some strong arguments. This person made no arguments and this seems to be by design.

This person may just be someone who wants to create havoc. At least that would be my take on it. Corporate America, especially biotechnology, just happens to be the avenue he is using. Perhaps because it is one of the few arenas where he can scare people, without “decency,” and some people will see it as legitimate.
Hal Hoelzer
(No address)

Editor:

I just finished reading your column in the ag news weekly e-mail I received.

This is a very disturbing issue the needs to be addressed now. I grow bio-crops. Roundup Ready soybeans and Bt Corn are the best thing that could happen to crop production this century.

These radicals like Hayward need to be stopped in their tracks.

I hope people like you can help do that. I would like to see you send your article with Hayward's e-mails to every paper and magazine.

Bio-crops are a wonderful thing from powdery mildew resistant grapes to whatever else they try to genetically modify. But these crops need to be used as a tool.

Thank you for your time.
Stan Dunk
Crop and Livestock farmer
Lewistown, Penn.

(And finally, Mr. Hayward — once again)

You don't even believe this yourself. You are much too smart for that. Totally trivializing the issues raised by those who oppose corporate biotech all the while avoiding the actual issues like the plague, this is what success has brought you to?

Pure cynicism? I don't think so. Can you imagine the future dominated ever more so by such as Monsanto? And Dow and DuPont and GE and McGee Kerr and GM and Lockheed Douglas and Halliburton and Brown and Root and Enron (scratch that) and Arthur Anderson and Rupert Murdock? Your kind of folks, right, Harry?

You know that my correspondence with you had nothing to do with the highly successful Measure H campaign but it was predictable that you would try to create blowback out a bogus issue, how totally Carl Rove (sp.) of you, how Robert Novak.

Have we deleted yet?

“While leaders of the anti-biotech forces in Mendocino County can be identified, activists do not insist on a ‘designated spokesmen’ as being primary or sole sources of information. As a result, there are numerous anti-biotech to be heard and quoted in the media…

“Not only are there more spokesmen, they are autonomous and independent. They don't have to funnel questions through a centralized, designated spokesman.

“As a result, they can respond more quickly and more efficiently to media and other inquiries. This has made it easier to spread the anti-biotech message.”

The above was written by Ross Irvine, a major flack in the corporate PR constellations. He advises GMO types like Monsanto, Dow and DuPont as well as Wise Use, the nukes, mining, logging and other major rapacious industries.

He goes on to say, “The challenge to the biotech industries is to find ways to handle hundreds of Mendocino Counties in hamlets, villages, cities, states and provinces around the globe simultaneously. Perhaps industry could adapt activist strategies and tactics. That, however, would take a fresh willingness to take a fresh look at all aspects.”

He sounds doubtful that that will occur. Why would the Goliaths of industry and the corporate world ever change anything about the way they do anything when they already rule the world?

Never underestimate the power of the Davids, however, Harry. It is they who institute the only challenge to power, ever. Let's see you print this, Harry, and without distortions. Nah.

You see, Harry, what the opponents of biotech have on their side is that they are telling the truth. Even all the money in the world is often not enough to combat that in the end, as I am sure you have to suspect, even for someone so totally enthralled by you own contradictions. They are all gorillas, Harry, great, big, heavy, gross, fat ones.

A final thought from Ross — “Environmentals win victory of unprecedented importance and magnitude: PR changed globally and forever.”

What do you think, Harry? Care to carry on a public debate? Lemme know.
Jack Hayward II
Mendocino County, Calif.