Soviet Rebuke of US Claim Deepens Security Council Rift over Iraq 
Agence France-Presse 

Thursday 26 December 2002 

Russia deepened a rift on the UN Security Council over Iraq when it insisted no evidence had yet been
produced to support a US contention that Iraq is a terrorist threat. 

"No one can provide the slightest evidence" that Iraq represented such a threat, Russia's Deputy
Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov was quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency as saying. 

That was a direct challenge to claims by the United States and Britain of proof that Iraq possesses
weapons of mass destruction, a claim Baghdad vehemently denies. 

Russia, one of the five permanent security council members with veto power, opposes unilateral US
military intervention against Iraq. 

Washington, also a permanent council member, has threatened such action if Baghdad should prove to
be in material breach of UN Security Council resolution 1441 mandating its complete renunciation of
weapons of mass destruction, a claim it has already made. 

The other three permanent council members are France and China, and Washington's closest ally
against Iraq, Britain. 

Meanwhile Syria, the only Arab state on the 15-member council, dismissed as "ridiculous" and
"unfounded" accusations by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Iraq had transferred weapons of mass
destruction to Syrian soil. 

Sharon said UN inspectors in Iraq were less likely to find anything than they might have previously
because the weapons were being hidden in Syria. 

"There is information we are verifying," said Sharon. "But we are certain that Iraq has recently moved
chemical or biological weapons into Syria." 

"Saddam Hussein wanted to hide his weapons, and I think that the Americans know that," he said.
Sharon strongly backs US threats to topple the Iraqi leader's regime over its alleged weapons off mass
destruction programs. 

"Sharon's allegations are unfounded and aim to divert attention from the chemical, nuclear and biological
arsenal that Israel possesses," a foreign ministry spokesman said in Damascus. 

"The accusations are ridiculous, especially since Syria has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty
and called along with the other Arab countries for the Middle East to be freed from all weapons of mass
destruction," he was quoted by the official news agency SANA as saying. 

"The only party that has opposed this call and continues to do so is Israel," he said. 

Israel agreed with the United States in 1969 not to declare its nuclear weapons programs nor to test the

In return, Washington pledged not to pressure Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Experts say Israel possesses at least 200 nuclear warheads and the means to use them in an attack. 

In Iraq on Christmas Day it was business as usual for UN inspectors, with five teams from the UN
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), scouring Iraqi territory. 

In Baghdad, President Saddam Hussein told his people in a broadcast he was confident Iraq would be
cleared by the inspectors. 

The outcome of the UN operations "will be a big shock to the United States and will expose all
American lies, if things remain on a technical and professional course with no hidden agendas. 

Saddam repeated the allegation that Washington was really after Iraq's oil. 

"It is in this context the American-Zionist campaign against Iraq is being launched, while the tone of a
threatened, large-scale military aggression against our peace-loving people is growing louder," he said. 

The mouthpiece of the ruling Baath party, Ath-Thawra, denied claims by US Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld that Baghdad's downing of a US an unmanned US Predator spy drone violated Resolution 1441. 

"The destruction of this aircraft is the legitimate right of Iraq within the framework of legitimate defense
and of resistance against violation of our airspace by American and British warplanes," it said. 

The Turkish parliament meanwhile decided Wednesday to extend the mandate of a joint US-British
force tasked with supervising a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, the Anatolia news agency reported. 

The decision came as NATO-member Turkey debated whether to back its key ally the United States in
possible military strikes against Iraq and the extent of its support. 

With Wednesday's parliamentary approval, the mandate of the force, called Operation Northern Watch
(ONW), has been extended for six months, effective of December 31. 

Northern Watch is charged with enforcing a no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in order to protect the
region's Kurdish population. 

Baghdad does not recognise the northern no-fly zone nor a twin zone in the south of Iraq aimed at
protecting the Shiite Muslim population. Neither zone is authorised by any specific UN resolution. 

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who
have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational

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Fish Farms Become Feedlots of the Sea 

By Kenneth R. Weiss

Like cattle pens, the salmon operations bring product to market cheaply. But harm to ocean life and
possibly human health has experts worried.

If you bought a salmon filet in the supermarket recently or ordered one in a restaurant, chances are it
was born in a plastic tray here, or in a place just like it.

Instead of streaking through the ocean or leaping up rocky streams, it spent three years like a marine
couch potato, circling lazily in pens, fattening up on pellets of salmon chow.

It was vaccinated as a small fry to survive the diseases that race through these oceanic feedlots,
acres of net-covered pens tethered offshore. It was likely dosed with antibiotics to ward off infection or
fed pesticides to shed a beard of bloodsucking sea lice.

For that rich, pink hue, the fish was given a steady diet of synthetic pigment. Without it, the
flesh of these caged salmon would be an unappetizing, pale gray.

While many chefs and seafood lovers snub the feedlot variety as inferior to wild salmon, fish farming
is booming. What was once a seasonal delicacy now is sometimes as cheap as chicken and
available year-round. Now, the hidden costs of mass-producing these once wild fish are coming into

Begun in Norway in the late 1960s, salmon farming has spread rapidly to cold-water inlets around the
globe. Ninety-one salmon farms now operate in British Columbian waters. The number is expected to
reach 200 or more in the next decade.

Industrial fish farming raises many of the same concerns about chemicals and pollutants that
are associated with feedlot cattle and factory chicken farms. So far, however, government
scientists worry less about the effects of antibiotics, pesticides and artificial dyes on human health
than they do about damage to the marine environment.

"They're like floating pig farms," said Daniel Pauly, professor of fisheries at the University of British
Columbia in Vancouver. "They consume a tremendous amount of highly concentrated protein pellets
and they make a terrific mess."

Fish wastes and uneaten feed smother the sea floor beneath these farms, generating bacteria that
consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures.

Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the
oceans, can run rampant in densely packed fish farms.

Pesticides fed to the fish and toxic copper sulfate used to keep nets free of algae are building up in
sea-floor sediments. Antibiotics have created resistant strains of disease that infect both wild and
domesticated fish.

Clouds of sea lice, incubated by captive fish on farms, swarm wild salmon as they swim past on their
migration to the ocean.

Of all the concerns, the biggest turns out to be a problem fish farms were supposed to help alleviate:
the depletion of marine life from over-fishing.

These fish farms contribute to the problem because the captive salmon must be fed. Salmon are
carnivores and, unlike vegetarian catfish that are fed grain on farms, they need to eat fish to bulk up
fast and remain healthy.

It takes about 2.4 pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of farmed salmon, according to
Rosamond L. Naylor, an agricultural economist at Stanford's Center for Environmental Science and

That means grinding up a lot of sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring and other fish to produce the
oil and meal compressed into pellets of salmon chow.

"We are not taking strain off wild fisheries. We are adding to it," Naylor said. "This cannot be
sustained forever."

In British Columbia, the industry, under pressure from environmentalists, marine scientists and local
newspapers, is taking steps to mitigate some of the ecological problems.

"We have made some mistakes in the past and we acknowledge them," said Mary Ellen Walling,
executive director of the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Assn. "We feel the industry is sustainable,
if well-managed, and we have a code of practices that is followed by all of our member companies."

Nearly 30 farms are preparing to move to less ecologically fragile areas, under orders from Canadian

Some farms have installed underwater video cameras to detect when fish quit feeding, so workers
can stop scattering food pellets. Many farms are switching to sturdier nets to stop fish from escaping
and keep out marauding sea lions, which are shot if they penetrate the perimeter.

The industry now recognizes that it will soon be pushing the limits of the ocean.

"There will come a time when our industry will use more of the fish oil and fish meal than is available,"
said Odd Grydeland, an executive at Heritage Salmon in British Columbia. "Our biggest challenge is
to find substitute grains for fish meal and fish oil."

Farm-raised salmon now dominates West Coast markets, arriving daily from Canada and Chile.
About 80 percent of the salmon grown in British Columbia goes to markets from Seattle to Los

The salmon industry took off so fast in British Columbia in the 1980s that the provincial government,
worried about the environmental toll, imposed a ban in 1995 on any new farms.

The industry responded by stuffing, on average, twice as many fish into each farm. Today, farms
typically put 50,000 to 90,000 fish in a pen 100 feet by 100 feet. A single farm can grow 400,000
fish. Others raise a million or more.

The moratorium on new farms was lifted in September by the provincial government after voters
elected a pro-business slate of lawmakers and administrators. As a result, 10 to 15 farms are
expected to open each year over the next decade.

Five international companies -- three of them based in Norway -- control most of the existing farms.
Nearly all are situated around Vancouver Island, which begins outside Seattle's Puget Sound and
extends up the coast for 300 miles.

It's a lightly populated place of stunning beauty. Cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir grow right down to
the high-water mark.

Massive tides flush rich blue-green waters through the archipelago of islands, straits, bays and inlets,
nurturing five types of wild salmon. These, in turn, attract seals, sea lions, white-sided dolphins and
the world's best-known pods of killer whales.

Residents rely on boats and seaplanes to reach surrounding islands that host many of the farms.
Each farm is a cluster of pens, often interconnected by metal walkways and tethered offshore by a
lattice of steel cables, floats and weights.

In the midst of this idyllic setting, signs of strain on the marine environment are bubbling to the
surface much the way diseases and parasites, incubated in European salmon farms, fouled the
fiords of Norway and the lochs of Scotland.

In Norway, parasites have so devastated wild fish that the government poisoned all aquatic life in
dozens of rivers and streams in an effort to re-boot the ecological system.

"The Norwegian companies are transferring the same operations here that have been used in
Europe," said Pauly, the fisheries professor. "So we can infer that every mistake that has been done
in Norway and Scotland will be replicated here."

Dale Blackburn, vice president of West Coast operations for Norwegian-based Stolt Sea Farm, said
his staff works very closely with its counterparts in Norway. But, he said, "It's ridiculous to think we
don't learn from our mistakes and transfer technology blindly."

Still, more than a dozen farms in British Columbia have been stricken by infectious hematopoietic
necrosis, a virus that attacks the kidneys and spleen of fish.

Jeanine Siemens, manager of a Stolt farm, said, "It was really hard for me and the crew" to oversee
the killing of 900,000 young salmon last August because of a viral outbreak.

"We had a boat pumping dead fish every day," she said. "It took a couple of weeks. But it was the
best decision. You are at risk of infecting other farms."

Farms are typically required to bury the dead in landfills to protect wild marine life and the
environment. But Grieg Seafood recently got an emergency permit from the Canadian government to
dump in the Pacific 900 tons of salmon killed by a toxic algae bloom. The emergency? The weight of
the dead fish threatened to sink the entire farm.

About 1 million live Atlantic salmon -- favored by farmers because they grow fast and can be packed
in tight quarters -- have escaped through holes in nets and storm-wrecked farms in the Pacific

Biologists fear these invaders will out-compete Pacific salmon and trout for food and territory,
hastening the demise of the native fish. An Atlantic salmon takeover could knock nature's balance out
of whack and turn a healthy, diverse marine habitat into one dominated by a single invasive species.

Preserving diversity is essential, biologists say, because multiple species of salmon have a better
chance of surviving than just one.

John Volpe, a fisheries ecologist at the University of Alberta, has been swimming rivers with snorkel
and mask to document the spread of Atlantic salmon and their offspring.

"In the majority of rivers, I find Atlantic salmon," Volpe said. "We know they are out there; we just don't
know how many, or what to do about them."

His research focuses on how Atlantic salmon can colonize, if given a chance. It has terrified the U.S.
neighbors to the north. Alaskan officials banned fish farms in 1990 to protect their wild fishery. So they
don't take kindly to British Columbian farms creeping toward their southern border.

Although native Pacific salmon are rare and endangered in the Lower 48, Alaska's salmon fisheries
are so healthy they have earned the Marine Stewardship Council's eco-label as "sustainable." The
council's labels are designed to guide consumers to species that are not being over-harvested.

Recently, the prospect of genetically modified salmon that can grow six times faster than normal fish
has heightened anxiety. Aqua Bounty Farms Inc., of Waltham, Mass., is seeking U.S. and Canadian
approval to alter genes to produce a growth hormone that could shave a year off the usual 2.5 to
three years it takes to raise a market-size fish.

Commercial fishermen and other critics fear that these "frankenfish" will escape and pose an even
greater danger to native species than do the Atlantic salmon.

"Nobody can predict just what that means for our wild salmon," Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles said. "We
do see it as a threat."

Canadian commercial fishermen, initially supportive of salmon farms, have grown increasingly
hostile. They were stunned in August when their nets came up nearly empty during the first day of the
wild pink salmon season in the Broughton Archipelago at the northeast end of Vancouver Island.

"There should have been millions of pinks, but there were fewer than anyone can remember," said
Calvin Siider, a salmon gill-netter. "We can't prove that sea lice caused it. But common sense tells
you something, if they are covered by sea lice as babies, and they don't come back as adults."

Alexandra Morton, an independent biologist and critic of salmon farms, began examining sea lice in
2001 when a fishermen brought her two baby pink salmon covered with them.

Collecting more than 700 baby pink salmon around farms, she found that 78 percent were covered
with a fatal load of sea lice, which burrow into fish and feed on skin, mucous and blood. Juvenile
salmon she netted farther from the farms were largely lice-free.

Bud Graham, British Columbia's assistant deputy minister of agriculture, food and fisheries, called
this a "unique phenomenon."

"We have not seen that before. We really don't understand it," he said. "We've not had sea lice
problems in our waters, compared to Scotland and Ireland."

Salmon farmers point out that the sea louse exists in the wild. Their captive fish are unlikely hosts, the
farmers say, because at the first sign of an outbreak, they add the pesticide emamectin benzoate to
the feed.

Under Canadian rules, farmers must halt the use of pesticides 25 days before harvest to make sure
all residues are flushed from the fish. If that's done, officials said, pesticides should pose no danger to

European health officials have debated whether there is any human health risk from synthetic
pigment added to the feed to give farmed salmon their pink hue.

In the wild, salmon absorb carotenoid from eating pink krill. On the farm, they get canthaxanthin
manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche. The pharmaceutical company distributes its trademarked
SalmoFan, similar to paint store swatches, so fish farmers can choose among various shades.

Europeans are suspicious of canthaxanthin, which was linked to retinal damage in people when taken
as a sunless tanning pill. The British banned its use as a tanning agent, but it's still available in the
United States.

As for its use in animal feed, the European Commission scientific committee on animal nutrition
issued a warning about the pigment and urged the industry to find an alternative. But in response, the
British Food Standards Agency took the position that normal consumption of salmon poses no health
risk. No government has banned the pigment from animal feed.

Scientists in the United States are far more concerned about a pair of preliminary studies -- one in
British Columbia and one in Great Britain -- that showed farmed salmon accumulate more
cancer-causing PCBs and toxic dioxins than wild salmon.

Scientists in the U.S. are trying to determine the extent of the contamination in salmon and what
levels are safe for human consumption.

The culprit appears to be the salmon feed, which contains higher concentrations of fish oil --
extracted from sardines, anchovies and other ground-up fish -- than wild salmon normally consume.
Man-made contaminants, PCBs and dioxins make their way into the ocean and are absorbed by
marine life.

The pollutants accumulate in fat that is distilled into the concentrated fish oil, which, in turn, is a prime
ingredient of the salmon feed.

Farmed salmon are far fattier than their wild cousins, although they do not contain as much of
the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

The industry complains that environmental activists have misinterpreted the contaminant studies,
needlessly frightening consumers.

"The concern is that people will stop eating fish," said Walling, of the British Columbia Salmon
Farmers Assn. "Salmon is a healthy food choice. Our Canadian government says this is a safe food."

Environmentalists in British Columbia and Scotland recently launched campaigns urging consumers
to boycott farmed salmon until the industry changes many of its practices.

At the least, they want the farms to switch to solid-walled pens with catch basins to isolate farmed
fish -- and their diseases, pests and waste -- from the environment. The ideal solution, they say, is to
have the farmed stock raised in landlocked tanks.

Protests notwithstanding, the industry is expected to get a lot bigger. Demand for seafood is rising
and will double by 2040, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization. Nearly half the
world's wild fisheries are exhausted from over-fishing, thus much of the supply will likely come from
farmed seafood.

"Aquaculture is here to stay," said Rebecca Goldburg, a biologist who co-authored a report on the
industry for the Pew Oceans Commission. "The challenge is to ensure that this young industry grows
in a sustainable manner and does not cause serious ecological damage."

L.A. Times Dec. 9, 2002

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San Francisco Examiner

Vets Abandoned
By Conn Hallinan

As the U.S. ramps up for invading Iraq, we should know
that we are sending our soldiers into the most toxic
battlefield on earth. And should they suffer the huge
number of disabilities that Gulf War I vets do-118,000
out of 700,000 who served--they can expect their
government, in the words of U.S. Rep. Christopher Shey
(R-CN), to have "a tin ear, a cold heart, and a closed

For 11 years, more than 100,000 Gulf War vets have
complained of a "syndrome" characterized by chronic
fatigue, headaches, joint pains, memory loss, cancer,
and birth defects. For 11 years the Department of
Defense (DOD) has known the cause but systematically
denied that the disabilities were anything but
psychosomatic. In short, the vets are whining nuts who
are faking it.

But, layer by layer, the lies have come undone. A recent 
study in the British Gulf vets were three times as likely 
to be disabled as all other vets.

The study is hardly a bolt from the blue. The enter for 
Disease Control concluded back in 1995 that Gulf War 
vets suffered illnesses at 12 times the rate as non-Gulf 
vets. The only reason there is any "mystery" about the 
cause of Gulf War Syndrome is because the Pentagon
has systematically lied about what it knew and when it 
knew it.

The stonewalling began before the troops even arrived
in the Gulf. It started when young soldiers were
adminstered an experimental anthrax vaccine that
included squalene, an additive that makes the vaccine
more effective, but has dangerous side effects. The
vaccine itself was probably useless, because it had
never been tested with air-borne anthrax, the kind used
in weapons.

The DOD denies the vaccine included squalene, but a 
University of Tulane Medical School study found squalene 
antibodies in 36 out of 38 Gulf vets suffering from 
the syndrome and a high incidence of disorders in 
vaccinated vets who never served in the Gulf. The DOD 
refuses to release any information on the vaccine on 
the grounds it is "classified."

The Pentagon also pumped an unlicensed vaccine or botulism 
into soldiers, in spite of a 1990 ruling by an Army 
review board that use of the vaccine would be "unethical" 
without informing solders of its side effects. Needless 
to say, the soldiers were never warned, and the Army 
overruled its own oversight board on the grounds of 
"national security."

For five years after the Gulf War was over, the Pentagon 
maintained that none of our troops had been exposed to 
chemical weapons, in spite of the fact that Army logs 
indicated the presence of chemical weapons on Jan. 20, 
1991. When Sen. Donald Riegle (D-MI) requested those 
logs, he was told they didn't exist. Eight months later 
the logs were finally released-with most of the
pages missing. 

It was not until 1998 that the DOD was forced to admit 
that as many as 130,000 troops ( vets say the figure 
is much higher) were exposed to chemical weapons 
following the destruction of the Iraqi arms depot at 

The DOD says it never bothered to say anything about 
the exposure, because "scientific research and medical 
research do not indicate that this type of exposure is 
harmful," according to Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col.
Dian Lawhon. The Pentagon's website still maintains that 
"current medical evidence indicates that longterm health 
problems are not likely" from such exposure.

But the Army never researched the matter, ignoring
both a 1974 Swedish study and captured Iraqi documents
which showed that small doses of chemical weapons do
produce long-term effects.

The tragedy here is that because the Pentagon lied, the
vets' complaints were dismissed. "Because doctors were
told that chemicals had not been used, many veterans
were sent straight to the psychiatric department," said
Paul Sullivan of the Gulf War Veterans of Georgia. By
July 1995, some 95 percent of vets seeking disability
had been turned away because doctors thought they were
faking it.

The stonewalling, according to the Government
Accounting Office (GAO), meant that there were no
monies for research. Researchers told the GAO that, as
a result of the DOD's position, "they believed it would
be fruitless to request funding for such research."

And when research was done, it was ignored. A 1997
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center study
demonstrated that the interaction of nerve gas pills
(another experimental and dangerous drug given the
troops), insecticides, and chemical nerve gas produced
a rare disorder called "organophosphate induced delayed
polyneuropathy", which is essentially Gulf War

One of the ironies here is that the nerve gas pill,
pyridostigmine bromide, is only effective against the
chemical somin. The Iraqis never had somin in their

With the U.S. contemplating an invasion of Iraq, this
is hardly an academic issue. As Shaun Rusling, chair of
the British National Gulf War Veterans and Families
Assn. pointed out, "Our troops, who will be exposed to
the same as we were 11 years ago, need to know that
should they be ill or injured that they will get the
best medical care and proper pensions."

The track record on this side of the Atlantic suggests
quite the opposite.

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12 Scientists Dead

On December 9, a Nigerian doctor specializing in HIV/AIDS committed 
suicide. Dr. Hamza Brimah had just received a million dollar grant from 
the US government to provide primary healthcare to poor AIDS patients at 
his Greenwood, Mississippi clinic. Those who knew him and his work are 

Dr. Brimah joins eleven other scientists that have mysteriously died in the 
past year. According to (Scientists' deaths 
are under the microscope), the dead scientists were some of the world's 
leading authorities on the development of weapons-grade biological plagues, 
cures and theories of bio-terrorism. The article documents the suspicious 
deaths of eleven of the world's leading microbiologists.

The deaths began shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. On November 12, 
2001 , Benito Que, an expert in infectious diseases and cellular biology at 
the Miami Medical School was reportedly beaten in a parking lot and died 
later. His body showed no signs of a beating.

Four days later, Don C. Wiley, an expert on how the immune system responds 
to viral attacks, such as the classic doomsday plagues of HIV, ebola and 
influenza, went missing. One of the foremost microbiologists in the United 
States, Wiley worked at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard 
University. His body was found December 20. Investigators said he got 
dizzy on a Memphis bridge and fell to his death in the river.

From November 21, 2001 to March 25, 2002, Vladimir Pasechnik, Robert M. 
Schwartz, Nguyen Van Set, Victor Korshunov, Ian Langford, Tanya Holzmayer, 
Guyang Huang, David Wynn-Williams and Steven Mostow died under mysterious 

Disgruntled feels: Unconvinced! Orchestrated to make the gullible think 
they responded appropriately outraged over Trent Lott's insensitive 
comments on behalf of black people, the Bush machine stands poised to take 
credit for removing race as a pressing issue. It was just for show; those 
in the know are not convinced!

Disgruntled wants to know: Since 9-11, US citizens have been ruled by 
irrational fear. Easy prey, some eagerly await their cowpox inoculation. 
Yet, if some rogue nation or insane terrorists weaponized smallpox, 
wouldn't they take into account an old vaccine?

Disgruntled says: Permanently extending provisions of the 1965 Voting 
Rights Act, as suggested by former US Rep. Cynthia McKinney, will not 
prevent another debacle like the one that occurred in Florida. To make 
every vote count in the election of the US president, the Constitution must 
be amended to abolish the Electoral College, i.e., repeal Article 1 Section 
2 Clause 3.

Cross from Dot's Dish

May you walk in love and light, always and in all ways! 


"Rather than physical gain, my fortune increases through understanding"

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False dawns in the brave world of New Genetics
Gene science has the potential to transform the course
of our lives, from 'designer babies' to slowing the
ageing process. But how far advanced is it - and
exactly where is it going? Mike Bygrave asked the
scientists at its cutting edge to separate the hype
from the reality

Sunday December 22, 2002
The Observer

It has been the Year of the Gene. Fresh from their
triumph of 'sequencing' (spelling out) the three
billion letters of the human genome, molecular biology
and the New Genetics left the science pages and hit the
front pages.

Genetic discoveries alternated with genetic threats in
the headlines almost daily. One day scientists found
genes 'for' asthma or skin cancer. The next day came
warnings over GM foods or mix-ups at IVF clinics like
the one that resulted in a white mother giving birth to
two black babies. Last week, a High Court ruling dashed
the hopes of parents who wanted to create a 'tissue-
typed' baby to help a sick sibling.

Worries over the health of Dolly the sheep, the world's
first clone, were set against regular rumours of human
cloning (as yet unsubstantiated). While DNA testing
became standard police procedure, no one was sure how
they felt about its forthcoming use as a routine
medical tool, available at your local GP's surgery - a
fear symbolised by the spat over stolen DNA being used
to prove Steve Bing's paternity of Liz Hurley's baby.

In the US, the Bush administration restricted stem-cell
research and is on the verge of banning all human
cloning, causing an angry reaction from patients who
might benefit, led by the quadriplegic actor
Christopher Reeve. In Britain, the Nobel Prize for
Medicine was shared by Sir John Sulston of Cambridge's
Laboratory of Molecular Biology - who promptly used his
new fame to warn about the dangers in the New Genetics.

In the realm of ideas, too, everything seemed to be
about biology. The nature versus nurture debate revived
from the Sixties, when it had revolved around IQ and
had bitter, racial overtones. This time around, it was
less to do with race but no less bitter, with genetic
fundamentalists such as Steven Pinker and Richard
Dawkins arguing that 'the answer lies in our genes'.
Opponents, such as media psychologist Oliver James,
defended more flexible accounts of human behaviour.

Meanwhile, a separate, equally hard-fought controversy
erupted over the future of molecular biology itself and
its promise - or threat - to transform what it means to
be human. Is the New Genetics a Frankenstein science,
leading to a post-human future full of designer babies
for those who can afford them ruling over a genetically
deprived underclass? Do we need to regulate research
now if we are to preserve our essential humanity, as
the American intellectual Francis Fukuyama argued in
his new book, Our Posthuman Future ?

Last summer, Fukuyama visited Britain to debate with
Los Angeles science writer Gregory Stock whose book,
Redesigning Humans, takes a gung-ho view of the New
Genetics. Their debate stayed on the 'designer babies
versus Frankenstein's monster' level. To critics such
as Steve Jones - professor of genetics at the Galton
Laboratory, University College, London, and a top
popular science writer himself - that is a missed
opportunity, a fake issue arising from the 'huge
overselling of genetics that has been going on almost
since the science began. The problem is that people who
are not scientists - and some who are - are using
science to explore questions which are not scientific
but have to do with ethics or identity or social

Robin Lovell-Badge, a scientist with the Medical
Research Council who was on the panel for the Stock-
Fukuyama debate, agrees that 'such debates are missed
opportunities because they are more about science
fiction than science fact. We need to concentrate on
what is possible and not on fantasy. There should be a
debate and the public clearly wants one, but they need
proper information in order to take part.'

So what is possible? What constitutes 'proper
information'? And how come the past 100 years turned
out to be, in science historian Evelyn Fox-Keller's
phrase, 'the century of the gene' in the first place?

The double helix

In 1953, Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James
Watson announced the double helix structure of the DNA
molecule. It was one of the most celebrated scientific
discoveries of the twentieth century. A gene is a
strand of DNA. And DNA, with its four-letter genetic
code (A,G,C,T), is us. The four letters, which are
arranged in sequences of three to make up the six
billion letters in the human genome, are the initial
letters of the names of four amino acids which are
DNA's bases. Those acids join to make proteins which in
turn become cells which become bodies (and brains).
Hence the Central Dogma formulated by Crick in 1957:
'DNA makes RNA [another acid, a kind of copy of
itself], RNA makes protein and proteins make us.'

According to Steve Rose, author and professor of
biology at the Open University, 'that's where you start
to get those metaphors of DNA as the Master Molecule
and genes as the key to the Book of Life and all that
stuff. Like all great simplifications in science,
[Crick's Central Dogma] was brilliant - and not true.'

Rose means that we now have a much more complicated
picture of how genes work than Crick's original scheme.
Instead of a repetitive one-note, it's more like a
'cellular jazz orchestra' in Rose's view. But even as
that picture began to change, there were two more major
landmarks in the New Genetics. They were the
development of recombinant DNA technology in the
Seventies and the sequencing of the entire human
genome, which was completed with chronological
symbolism just as the century ended.

Recombinant DNA technology is the technology behind
those catchphrases like 'genetic engineering' and 'gene
therapy'. Thanks to its procedures, scientists can
manipulate genes, take genes from one form of life and
transplant them into another, translate and even
rewrite that Book of Life, if you like - and the Book
is now being rewritten or retranslated daily, though as
yet only among plants (GM foods) and certain animals,
and even there much of the work is experimental. Some
people believe the radical difference in complexity
between plants and animals on the one hand and human
beings on the other - along with the high wastage rate
involved in these technologies - means the gap can
never be bridged, except in limited ways.

Once we thought that the biological world existed in
rigid, fixed compartments. Each species kept to itself;
plants kept to themselves. About the only interaction
between them happened when some of them ate others. Now
we find the life-world is a much more fluid, plastic
and unified place than we imagined. This change of view
is the sum of three broad discoveries of the New

First, we now know the DNA profiles of some organisms
are very similar: for instance, humans share 98 per
cent of genetic material with chimpanzees. Second, we
know that genes are interchangeable between species.
And third, we know that individual genes can be
persuaded to behave in plastic ways within an organism,
for example in cloning and stem-cell research. Put
these three pieces of the puzzle together and
optimistic scientists believe they will one day be able
to intervene to alter humans by manipulating our genes.

Why should we want them to? Well, for a start you will
probably die of a genetic disease. Now that the
infectious diseases which killed our ancestors at early
ages have largely been conquered in the rich West (with
the exception of Aids), most people die of the diseases
of ageing, which are genetic. And geneticists have an
increasing amount to say about ageing. Then there are
all the other, rarer conditions which still cripple and
kill millions, from Parkinson's to diabetes, cystic
fibrosis to Down's syndrome.

Christopher Reeve is the most famous person paralysed
by a spinal cord injury which stem-cell research may
one day help. There is now a tremendous amount of
research going on into Alzheimer's - a famous sufferer
was the late Iris Murdoch.

After talking to a range of working scientists and
researchers, it is relatively easy to come up with a
short list of the hot button topics in genetics and
their likely progress over, say, the next 10 years. The
consensus about what can and cannot (and may never be)
done is not complete, but it is impressive. There is
more than enough on the agenda to keep everyone busy
without worrying about designer babies - or
Frankenstein's monsters either.

Science fact v science fiction

The list goes like this: pre-implantation genetic
diagnosis; germ-line therapy and gene therapy, which
together comprise what most people think of as 'genetic
engineering'; cloning; stem-cell research; ageing; and
the impenetrably named pharmacogenetics, which could
turn out to be the most useful of all.

Extend the list outside of human beings and it gets
both longer and more commercial, including things like
GM crops, genetic enhancements of animals bred for
food, genetically modified animals used as living 'drug
factories' (called 'pharming'), and more. Many of the
things the Fukuyamas and Stocks fear (or welcome) for
humans are being tried with animals and plants. But
they work only where the safety of the subjects is not
considered a major issue (as opposed to the safety of
consumers, an issue with GM foods) and very high
failure rates are socially acceptable. In other words,
these technologies cannot simply be transferred from
plants and animals to humans - and perhaps never will

Apart from cloning - the most famous of all genetic
buzzwords. Dolly the cloned sheep is the poster girl
for the New Genetics. Dolly's birth in 1997 caused a
sensation in part because people were so certain it
could not be done. Well, it can, but it is messy: 276
failed attempts to make a sheep before Dolly; about
9,000 cloned embryos needed to produce around 70 cloned
calves, a third of which died young. Some scientists
believe even healthy-looking clones conceal genetic
abnormalities. And there has been total failure in
cloning horses and chickens, though no one knows why.
Will there be a human clone one day? Almost certainly,
though nowhere near as soon as scientific self-
promoters such as Italy's Severino Antinori keep
announcing (but not delivering).

Cloning makes us both excited and uneasy because of its
sci-fi implications. Perhaps we should not worry so
much. Even if (when) cloning becomes safe enough to use
with humans, it is hard to think of any real demand for
it beyond a handful of eccentrics.

Gregory Stock, who spends his life travelling and
lecturing on these issues, has met most of the obvious
candidates - the terminally infertile; people who have
taken terrible tragic losses of a beloved son or only
daughter or young wife. Most say yes, they have heard
about cloning, they thought about it, but no, even if
it was available, they know a clone would not be the
same as their lost loved one (a person is not just his
or her genes) or as the child they crave (a clone is a
clone of one person only). They understand that what
they want is different from anything science could ever
provide. One or two would want it anyway. But then, as
Lovell-Badge says: 'Does it really matter if there are
a few clones walking about?'

Sex and death

The controversy over human cloning underlines the New
Genetics' link to fertility and existing sexual
technologies. The New Genetics has to do with birth as
much as it does with ageing. It plugs into the strong
emotions aroused by sex and death - hence the
histrionic tone of debates over genetic issues.

Having healthy children - or having children at all -
is the second reason we want scientists to intervene in
our biology. Unlike the science of ageing, which
remains mostly in the research lab, fertility is
already a huge business involving big money and a half-
hidden ocean of human misery. About one married couple
in six has some problem with fertility. More than one
million people have now been born via artificial
insemination. Estimates are that, within two or three
years, about the same number will have begun their
lives in a test tube (or these days, a Petri dish). And
there are all the scare stories about surrogate mothers
and mix-ups at fertility clinics.

Meanwhile IVF, the leading-edge technology, which
consists of harvesting the eggs from a woman's womb,
fertilising them and replacing some of the embryos,
remains a clunky, unpleasant, emotionally draining
procedure with a significant failure rate. As one
expert told a recent London conference on IVF: 'I do
feel, often, IVF patients are the experiment.'

Genetics slips in alongside IVF at present, in the form
of 'pre-implantation genetic diagnosis', PGD for short.
PGD is a proven medical technology (although it remains
expensive and difficult to do). Given the 'therapeutic
gap' between basic science and its translation into
clinical treatments - the most obvious example is
cancer where there has not really been a new treatment
in 50 years, during which time billions have been
poured into cancer research - PGD may be the New
Genetics' main contribution to human welfare for some
years to come.

In an IVF clinic, a number of eggs are fertilised and
developed into embryos outside the womb. With certain
mothers, usually those who have already borne a child
with a genetic mutation like cystic fibrosis, their
embryos can now be screened for the several thousand
known conditions caused by a 'single-gene disease'.
Then only the healthy embryos are implanted.

Then there is sex selection. The traditional methods
were infanticide and abortion and they were widespread.
The New Genetics offers new, improved ways of testing
for sex and, for those who can afford the procedures,
ways of trying to choose their baby's sex in advance
(the main method, called sperm-sorting, is, like IVF,
clunky and far from foolproof).

What is a controversial consumer item (cost: £8,000) in
the First World can be a harsher matter elsewhere. In
parts of the Third World, a foetus of the wrong sex (ie
female) can be an instant trigger for abortion and
there are reportedly major, semi-illicit trades in
testing and aborting for gender. As science advances,
there will be other, medical - as opposed to cultural
and economic - versions of this dilemma. For example,
more pregnant women will be told they are carrying a
child with a disease that will kill him (or her) in his
thirties or forties and for which there is no current
cure. What should they do? In 30 or 40 years, science
may have found a cure. Anyway, are 30 or 40 years not a
life - or worth a life?

There will be more adults, too, whose GPs will be able
to tell them, via DNA diagnosis, what disease will kill
them and maybe roughly when - and for them there will
be no 30 or 40 years to wait and no cure. Will they
want to know their fate? Will their life insurers and
their medical insurers and their employers want to
know? And whose right to know will win?

At present, one child in 30 in Britain is born with a
genetic disorder. Across the world, there are large
areas with even worse incidences. Whatever your
feelings about sex selection and other refinements,
most people endorse the use of PGD to screen for such

Scientists hope to improve the technology to the point
where it can screen for one, maybe even two, positive
'traits' - for example blue eyes and height. That would
still rule out the ideas of the genetic visionaries
like Stock, who think PGD could be the first step to
'designer babies' and the re-engineering of mankind, by
allowing parents to select among their embryos for all
sorts of desirable (to the parents) qualities. The
reasons this cannot work are not technical so much as
statistical, to do with the way genes are passed on
through sex. To screen for two traits you need at least
16 embryos, for three, 64 embryos and so on. Since the
maximum number of embryos an IVF procedure produces are
typically between 16 and 20, you can do the sums.

Gene therapy applies to adults; germ-line therapy is
gene therapy on embryos. The one on adults has not
worked out so far. Undaunted, the visionaries argue
that germ-line therapy will actually be an easier
proposition for the obvious reason that everything is
more fluid then, less fixed or developed. As Stock
writes, 'the need to ferry a therapeutic gene into
particular tissue [in adult gene therapy] disappears
because [in embryos] the gene is already in every cell.
The challenge is to regulate the gene so that it is
active at the right level and at the right time and

Attempting to alter genes in human embryos is
controversial because it means manipulating the genetic
inheritance of someone who cannot consent. No one is
attempting it right now. Moreover, to work as a
therapy, it would need to alter that person's
descendants too, on through generations. So why not use
PGD and eliminate that embryo in the first place?

Genetics and ageing

The biggest surprise to me talking to biologists was
the progress they are making at the other end of the
human story - namely, old age and death. Ageing
research is a new branch of science. Until very
recently, the Big Money and the Big Science went into
studying the diseases of ageing, like cancer: any
knowledge of the ageing process itself was a by-
product. Now, if people like Professor Tom Kirkwood of
the University of Newcastle have their way, the
position is about to be reversed. 'Much more has been
done in ageing research than is yet widely recognised,'
he says. 'We now understand much more clearly the
nature of the beast - the broad structure of the
mechanisms that leads to ageing and age-related

According to Kirkwood, at the root of this structure is
rubbish. Most of our cells divide and copy throughout
our lives. Red blood cells renew themselves every four
months or so, for instance. At the genetic level, each
of us makes thousands of miles of new DNA every minute.
Numerous mutations - errors - creep in and, though the
body includes intricate repair and maintenance tools,
they do not catch or fix them all. Gradually, the
errors - the rubbish - pile up and swamp the system
until they create 'the biological identity crisis' (in
Steve Jones's phrase) which is ageing and death.

We are starting to get a fair picture of how that
crisis develops, and to draw some conclusions. The
strangest one is that eating less might prolong life.
This is not a question of that old schoolyard game, the
thinnies versus the fatties. We are talking about
extreme low-calorie diets. Placed on such diets, mice
and rats live longer. Why should that be?

'Organisms evolve under the pressure of natural
selection, which tries to maximise an organism's
individual fitness, its capacity to perpetuate its
genes,' Kirkwood says. 'There are two aspects to
fitness: one is how long the individual lives and the
second is fertility. For both of these you need
resources - food. What seems to happen is that in bad
times, when food is scarce, mice and rats shut down
their fertility and use their resources for survival -
longevity - by shifting them into bolstering their
repair and maintenance mechanisms.'

The theory is that humans, because they died young for
most of our species' history, have evolved putting more
of their resources into fertility and less into repair
and maintenance. Low-calorie diets are an amusing sub-
plot for ageing researchers, who have a range of
targets and techniques to bring to bear on the ageing
process - and, in the end, to prolong life itself.

Kirkwood says: 'In ageing, in cancer research, in stem-
cell research, in several of these fields, we actually
know quite well in principle what we need to do to
intervene. But the devil is always in the details. What
we have to do is understand the mechanisms in
sufficiently close details that we can develop
effective treatments and, as cancer research has shown,
that can be a frustratingly difficult problem.'

Stem cells

Kirkwood describes ageing research as a 'marathon',
where we are on the starting line. That leaves stem
cells as the hottest candidate for the next 'medical

Remember all those embryos the IVF clinic did not use
but threw out instead? That's where stem cells come
from. Stem cells are a different kind of 'rubbish' from
ageing debris. Stem cells are the kind that can be
recycled. But their origin makes them controversial,
especially in America, where the religious Right has
included them in its crusade against abortion. Their
manipulation by scientists, who then have to grow them
via so-called 'therapeutic cloning', also makes them
controversial among some bio-ethicists who consider
this the 'slippery slope' to full human cloning, which
they oppose.

The US Right has seized on stem cells to symbolise
everything about the New Genetics that frightens people
- its supposed 'Frankenstein' implications, tampering
with human identity, cloning, the connection with
abortion, 'playing God'. The Bush administration has
limited federally funded researchers to using 64 'cell
lines' already in existence.

Although the Bush restrictions at present apply only to
federal research money, they have been enough to
trigger an angry response from patients who look to
stem-cell research as their great hope. In a recent
Guardian interview, Christopher Reeve - who has been
paralysed since his 1995 horse-riding accident - argued
'if we'd had full government support, full government
funding for aggressive research using embryonic stem
cells from the moment they were first isolated at the
University of Wisconsin in 1998, I don't think it's
unreasonable to speculate that we might be in human
trials by now ... I'm angry and disappointed ... I
think we could have been much further along with
scientific research than we actually are, and I think I
would have been in quite a different situation than I
am today.'

With Bush's recent mid-term victories, there is the
threat of even more US regulation and religious
controversy. It has been enough to make scientists look
for an alternative to embryonic stem cells, such as
adult stem cells. Hence the recent headlines when US
scientists proposed injecting human embryonic stem
cells into a mouse. The trial, if it happens, might
show whether embryonic cells work in a living animal.
But the resulting man-mouse chimera is unpredictable.

The diseases stem-cell researchers have in their sights
are Parkinson's, diabetes and spinal cord injuries like
Reeve's. The reasons are to do with the nature of the
diseases (or the injury). With Parkinson's and
diabetes, we already know we can get 'a significant
cure of the symptoms', as Lovell-Badge puts it, by
'delivering cells to the right sort of region'.
Likewise, with spinal cord injuries, 'there are a whole
lot of different approaches each of which suggests you
can get some sort of repair with these injuries'.

Lovell-Badge, whose own research is on mouse and not
human cells, sees clinical experiments using stem cells
with Parkinson's and perhaps diabetes too within five
years, clinical trials within 10 and general medical
use in around 15 years. Spinal cord injuries will take


Another way of using genetics in medicine has to do
with drugs - pharmacogenetics as it is called. If
ageing is a new branch of science, pharmacogenetics is
only just out of the womb. David Goldstein, an American
expat professor at University College, London, is one
of its leaders. 'In the future medicines will be
tailored to people's genetic make-up,' Goldstein
believes. 'We don't know much about genetic responses
to drugs yet. What we do know is that variable response
to drugs is an important medical problem. Adverse drug
reactions are actually a leading cause of death in the
developed world - fourth or fifth in America. Some of
that is environmental - drug interactions, diet and so
on - but some is genetic. When you add in that all the
drugs in use today work on fewer than half the patients
for whom they're prescribed, you see the potential.'

Two things are needed to realise that potential. One is
collecting 'sample sets' of information about how
patients react to various drugs. That is the hardest
because hospitals and doctors do not operate that way.
They try one drug, then another, until they find one
that works but which drug or what combination does not
matter. No one collects the information.

The other thing is powerful computer programs that
could hunt for the variables once the raw data was
collected. Those did not exist until recently, but they
are starting to be developed now. Put the two together
and 'medicine will become quite a bit more effective,'
Goldstein says.

The gene wars

By the end of the Nineties, the century of the gene had
become the century of genetic determinism. So far, the
new century looks like being even more of the same.
Popularised by Richard Dawkins, the notion of 'selfish
genery' is a particular take on Darwin's theory of
evolution. According to this twist, bodies are just
'lumbering robots' for the transmission of the all-
important genes. Conversely, then, genes must be the
essence of a person. Maybe there are genes for
intelligence and beauty, genes for alcoholism and
criminality: if it is not in your genes, you do not
have it, and if it is, you have and always will.

The trouble with this view is that its meaning is as
much political as scientific - and the science is
increasingly under attack.

Steve Rose says: 'Part of the reason [genetic
determinism] has been so popular is people have
despaired of social solutions to problems. In the
Sixties, people thought that through revolution -
social engineering - you could achieve almost anything.
Now people are fatalistic, there is no way to change
things, which fits with genetic determinism. Then along
comes this Promethean-looking technology called
"genetics", which promises to change humans
scientifically. It all fits very well with a laisser-
faire liberal political ideology.'

It is also a paradox, as Rose points out. On the one
hand, genes are destiny that no one can escape. On the
other hand, there are new technologies we are
developing which will enable us to do exactly that.

Besides, Rose says, our picture of how genes work is
much more complex, interactive and open than it used to
be. It no longer makes much sense to say there is a
gene or even multiple genes 'for' a trait like

On the broader scale as well, scientists like the late
Stephen Jay Gould have challenged the exclusive role of
natural selection in the process, arguing that other
factors are involved. Genetic fundamentalists such as
Dawkins and Pinker get the publicity, but many other
scientists feel they are dealing with a biological
world where a reductionist view may be essential in
order to take apart and understand how small pieces of
the mechanism work; but those small pieces make sense
only when fitted back into an enormously complex,
interactive whole.

Most scientists accept there will be regulation of this
new field but they want to see it kept to a minimum.
'There weren't any motoring offences before there were
cars,' one said, meaning no one felt the need to
announce sweeping moral principles about driving before
cars were on the roads.

At the same time, scientists are equally wary of
shunning such debates altogether. Everyone remembers
Lord Rutherford, the greatest expert on the atom,
saying an atomic bomb was unthinkable - ridiculous -
like landing people on the moon. No one dares to rule
out a Big Bang in genetics (even though they cannot see
how it could happen) which would make current fantasies
of designer babies and Frankenstein's monsters come
true too.

Then there is Rose's wryly radical assessment: 'There
have been huge advances in genetics knowledge over the
past three decades. But in that same time the claims
made by the geneticists have far outrun their actual
achievements. There's also now a big industry built on
all this. The whole biotech industry is based on hope
and promise, and those are very powerful driving
forces. Everybody's hoping their investment - be it
financial, political, scientific or even philosophical
- in genetics will pay off.

'It's rather like what happened at the end of the
[Second World] War when physicists persuaded
governments that a vast investment in nuclear power
would pay off in infinitely cheap energy. What
happened? We got Chernobyl.',1596,864360,00.html

Back to Main News Page


Inquiry on the Diplomatic Offensive of John Paul II's Vatican 
By Henri Tincq 
Paris le Monde 25 December 2002 12:16 

In his message to the world on December 25, the Pope, John Paul II repeated his warnings to the
United States and Great Britain and pronounced himself against any "preventative war." Even if it plays no
direct role in international affairs, the Vatican wishes to make its voice heard and to weigh in on the most
important issues. 

The Christian celebration of Christmas was marred by the situation in Bethlehem and the perspective of
a war in Iraq, The "Urbus et Orbus" message the Pope pronounced Wednesday December 25 in Rome was
marked by this double preoccupation. 

John Paul II addressed himself during Midnight Mass in a prayer read in Arab "to those responsible for
nations and for international organizations", asking that they doing everything within their power to promote
peace in the Middle East. 

In his message on December 25th, he repeated this theme and his warnings to the United States and
Great Britain: No "preventative action" in Iraq. For weeks, the Pope has expressed his opposition to any
"preventative war", which would not be a "just war" when he has spoken of the American and British
preparations for a military operation in Iraq. 

It's been a long time since the Vatican has played a direct role in international politics; however, and
now more than ever, the Catholic hierarchy has sought only to make its voice heard. The Church owes this
to John Paul II, whose reign- a quarter of a century on October 16, 2003- has been the longest since Leo
XIII (1878-1903). Through his trips, the role he played in the fall of Communism and the opening of dialogues
with other religions, this Pope has inaugurated a new form of presence for the Church. 

It's a matter, not of recovering now inaccessible political power, but rather of contributing to the solution
of armed conflicts and creating a " new moral and constitutional world order" which he wished for again in
his message, published 17 December, for the Church's annual day for World Peace. celebrated every
January 1. 

The reestablishment of Peace in the Middle east, the struggle against terrorism, the prohibition of all
bioethical derivatives (against reproductive and therapeutic cloning), the recognition in the founding
documents of the "Christian heritage" of the European Union are the axes around which the Holy See
mobilizes its diverse diplomatic initiatives 

Since the signing on December 1 of an accord with Qatar, the Catholic Church maintains diplomatic
relations with 176 countries, twice as many as in 1978, the year of John Paul II's election. The tradition of
the Holy See is to neither solicit nor break off relations with any country. Before his trip to Cuba (January
1998) the Pope resisted pressure from the United States to break off relations with the regime of Fidel

Only three important countries still sulk: China, with which relations were broken off by Beijing in 1957;
Saudi Arabia; and Vietnam, a country where a Bilateral Commission nevertheless meets once a year to
regulate any issues of contention related to the exercise of the Catholic religion. 

In a recent interview in Corriera Della Sera, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, both Prime
Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, declared that the Holy See, represented at the United Nations by a
permanent Observer, could become a full member. At the same time, the Vatican celebrated on December
10 in Paris, its 50 years of UNESCO presence. 

On October 31, the Pope received Valery Giscard d'Estaing, president of the European Convention, to
ask him for inclusion of a clear reference to Christianity in the Constitution of the Union. A similar speech
was given when the Pope accepted new ambassadors from Germany, Slovenia, Greece, and France. The
14th of November, John Paul II repeated the same theme for the Italian Parliament, which was specially
convened to hear him at the Montecitorio Palace. 

Does this diplomatic drive of the Church irritate a part of the international community? "One may
assume so," responds Jean Geuguinou, new ambassador to France at UNESCO and former ambassador
to the Holy See, "but more and more countries seek at any price to maintain relations with the Vatican and
receive the Pope." The greatest success of Pontifical diplomacy was undoubtably harvested during the 70s
during the Helsinki Process and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Cardinal
Casaroli notably obtained recognitiion from the Communist Bloc of the principle of religious freedom. 

Since then, everywhere it is active, Vatican diplomacy maintains a double objective: First, to make
international law succeed: in the Middle East, for example, the Church has consistently demanded respect
for the UN resolutions. The second objective is to be present in all organizations concerned with peace in
the world and human rights. From this objective emanate the Holy See's campaigns for international debt
reduction, the initiative of the Commission of Justice and Peace, inter-religious encounters, and mediation
initiatives as an instrument of parallel diplomacy such as the Community of San'Egidio. 

The diplomats of the vatican have also shown themselves active as the allies of certain Islamic countries
during UN conferences on population in Cairo (1994) and the following year in Peking on the rights of
women. One remembers the opposition against the efforts of the Vatican to defeat the resolutions
recognizing a universal right of abortion. 

As if to confirm the will to be present on the international scene, the Pope has recently ordered some
changes in appointments, a rare event at the Vatican. He has kept the couple created in 1990 after the fall
of the Berlin Wall: Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State even though he has reached the age limit of
75, and Monseigneur Jean-Louis Tauran, Secretary of Relations with the States. However, he has just sent
one of his best diplomats, Mgr. Celestino Migliore, who has experience wioth the Council of Europe, to the
United Nations. 

In Brussels, the Holy See has doubled its representation and maitains a nuncio just for the European
Union. The Irishman, Mgr. Diarmuid Martin, has just been promoted to nuncio at the International
organizations in Geneva, as has Mgr. Franco Follo, come to Paris to represent the vatican at UNESCO. As
the French expert, Joel-Benoit d'Onorio, remembers, Church diplomats, formed in the mould of The
Ecclesiastic Pontifical Academy, want to be "with the others", but are not "like the others". 

Back to Main News Page


[Col. Writ. 12/17/02] Copyright 2002 Mumia Abu-Jamal

They saw themselves as others had seen them. They had been formed
by the images made of them by those who had had the deepest necessity
to despise them. -- James Baldwin

In a sports field known for the flamboyant and for sheer spectacle,
the basketball star who wears jersey #3 stands out among his peers.
In a sport where tall and big men dominate, he is neither. Of modest
height, and slender girth, he plays as if he is the biggest,
strongest and baddest man of the bunch. His name, of course, is
Allen Iverson, the Captain and shooting guard of the Philadelphia
76ers, who recently sent the city into a tizzy when he spoke candidly
about his fears while dwelling in the City of Brotherly Love:

At a recent interview, the NBA star explained:

"I want to be in Philadelphia, but I'm scared now to be
in Philadelphia. I've heard about police officers toasting
to Allen Iverson's next felony conviction... It scares me
because I know if there's any crooked cops out there,
they can do anything... Allen Iverson can end up dead
tomorrow if a crooked cop wants him dead. It's as simple
as that... It really scares me, man." [fr. (11/29/02)].

The 'now' to which he referred was a recent arrest on unfounded
spousal abuse charges, which the local and national media blew up all
out of reasonable proportion. Although these charges were later
thrown out, local authorities provided the rapacious media with the
ritual and obligatory 'perp walk', where the accused is paraded
before the flashes and pops of TV and print media cameras. Iverson
had to spend hours in the city's grimy and repressive detention

Doubtless the talented NBA star learned something about the nature
of the police-media system in Philadelphia. He learned that neither
of them cared about him, no matter how many points he scored, nor how
many dollars he earned. He might be a millionaire, but to those in
power in the city; to those who wield the powers of force and
prosecution, he was just another nigger; just more human fuel for the
machine to consume.

And it scared him.

There are those in white civil authority who resent the fact that a
young Black man like Iverson can make the money he does; they are
also no doubt resentful that he wears his hair in braids, and opts to
dress in the hip-hop style of his contemporaries. He does not wear
$500 Italian suits, or look down upon the class from which he came.

They want to bring him to heel; to humble him, for daring to be so
proudly reflective of ghetto style.

He senses this, and like any thinking man, it scares him.

And when he speaks this truth, this powerful truth, the white,
corporate media seems somehow offended that he speaks such a truth,
and uses its terrible power of persuasion to somehow,
any-which-a-way, get him to say that isn't really what he meant to
say. But, he knows. For he has lived too long in American ghettoes,
and has seen countless homies get caught up in the relentless jaws of
the State. He's seen it. He KNOWS it. If you are a Black man of
means, especially a sports star, you are expected to take the money,
smile, and shut your mouth (or smile and sell something, like a
grille). Iverson is one of those sports stars that smiles when
something is genuinely funny, and seems unwilling to 'jeff', to jaw,
or hambone his way through his career.

He is, by any measure, a phenomenal player, who often scores a third
of the team's total points any given night. He has played despite
aching joints, sprains, and an occasional broken bone.

He plays like a Zulu warrior wages war -- all or nothing!

To some, apparently, that is not enough.

They want his Black soul. And Iverson, a smart man, a brilliant
athlete, who can peep a move being made on the other side of the
court and counter it in the blink of an eye, is scared of what he
sees. Who can dare blame the seer?

A century ago, Jack Johnson was targeted for his choice of women
(white ones); Ali was condemned for his choice of faith (Islamic
pacifism), and today Iverson is rebuked for speaking the truth.

He is in damn good company.

Copyright 2002 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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North Korea Warns the U.S. to Negotiate or Risk 'Catastrophe' 
By Howard W. French 
New York Times 

Tuesday, 24 December, 2002 

SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 24 -- North Korea warned today of an "uncontrollable catastrophe" unless
the United States agrees to a negotiated solution to a standoff over its nuclear energy and weapons

The statement came as a stiff preemptive rebuff to a conciliation-minded, newly-elected president in
South Korea, and a warning to other countries that their efforts to mediate the crisis will be futile. 

"There is no need for any third party to meddle in the nuclear issue on the peninsula," said North
Korea's ruling-party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun. 

Using the initials for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name, the
newspaper continued: "The issue should be settled between the D.P.R.K. and the U.S., the parties
responsible for it. If the U.S. persistently tries to internationalize the pending issue between the D.P.R.K.
and the U.S. in a bid to flee from its responsibility, it will push the situation to an uncontrollable

Going even further, the North Korean defense minister, Kim Il Chol, warned of "merciless punishment" to
the United States if it pursues a confrontational approach. "The U.S. hawks are arrogant enough to
groundlessly claim that North Korea has pushed ahead with a `nuclear program,' bringing its hostile policy
toward the D.P.R.K. to an extremely dangerous phase," the state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted
Mr. Kim as saying. 

Some analysts here saw the defense minister's statement as a defiant response to comments by his
American counterpart, Donald H. Rumsfeld, who said on Monday that the United States had enough
military power in reserve to prevail over North Korea in the event a conflict with the country should occur in
the midst of a war with Iraq. 

"We're capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other, and let there
be no doubt about it," Mr. Rumsfeld said. 

The North's comments come as Pyongyang accelerates its takeover of nuclear fuel and reactors that
were placed under international surveillance under a 1994 agreement with the United States following a
crisis remarkably similar to the current one. 

Today, South Korean officials said that North Korea had begun taking steps to reactivate a 5-megawat
nuclear reactor that had been mothballed under the eight-year-old agreement, the so-called Agreed
Framework. North Korea completed the removal of the last International Atomic Energy Agency seals and
disabling surveillance cameras at a fuel fabrication plant in Yongbyon, South Korean officials said Tuesday.

The facility is technically known as a research reactor, but all along, Western arms control experts have
said that its true purpose of the plant is to produce plutonium for the country's nuclear weapons program. 

"There are varying estimates on how long it would take them to reprocess the spent fuel, but they
probably have plans to do it a lot faster than outsiders imagine -- and will do so if their equipment works,"
said an American official who has studied North Korea's nuclear programs for years. "Here are a few of the
ugly signposts we might whiz pass: asking the inspectors to leave, starting up the reprocessing line,
finalizing their withdrawal from the Nonproliferation Treaty, and declaring themselves a nuclear power -- with
a "Korean bomb" intended to protect the whole of the Korean people by keeping the Americans from
starting a war." 

Reflecting the sharp increase in distrust between the United States and South Korea amid a series of
major demonstrations against the presence of 37,000 American troops in the country, the official added,
"this will cause some secret shivers of pride amongst some in the South." 

Both South Korea's outgoing president, Kim Dae Jung, and the man who will succeed him in February,
Roh Moo Hyun, spent most of the day struggling to contain the crisis with North Korea, which threatens to
nullify the engagement policies embraced by both men. 

"South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, Russia and the European Union are all strongly calling
on North Korea to abandon the nuclear program, but the North is not listening now," Mr. Kim said during a
cabinet meeting. Amid concerns over tensions between Washington and Seoul, Mr. Kim appeared to draw
closer to the American position on North, saying there could be no major cooperation between the two
countries unless Pyongyang agreed to international controls on its weapons of mass destruction. "We can
never join hands in the development of nuclear weapons, missiles and other weapons," Mr. Kim said. 

The incoming president, Mr. Roh, meanwhile, spent much of the day meeting with ambassadors of
countries that have been involved in the region's crisis. "The president-elect requested cooperation from
those concerned countries to help resolve the North's nuclear issue peacefully," said Mr. Roh's
spokesman, Lee Nak-hyun. 

Mr. Roh also spoke by telephone to the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi. The two leaders
"agreed to continue close cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea to bring about a
peaceful solution to nuclear and other security issues regarding North Korea," the ministry said in a

Recently, China, which has been North Korea's closest allies since the two countries fought the United
States during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, has also expressed concern over the country's reported
pursuit of nuclear weapons, and today urged Washington and Pyongyang to negotiate a solution of the
crisis that would leave the Korean peninsula free from nuclear weapons. 

"We hope relevant sides can proceed in the overall interest of safeguarding peace and stability on the
peninsula and reach a resolution to the issue through dialogue," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who
have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational

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Suspected 9/11 mastermind graduated from U.S.
Classmate at N.C. college says he recalls no bias
against U.S.
From Susan Candiotti, Maria Ressa, Justine Redman and
Henry Schuster
Thursday, December 19, 2002 Posted: 6:22 PM EST (2322

CNN's Susan Candiotti visits North Carolina
Agricultural and Technical State University where top
al Qaeda commander Khalid Shaikh Mohammed attended 

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (CNN) -- Those familiar
with an accused mastermind of the attacks of September
11, 2001 spoke Thursday about the two years he spent
earning a mechanical engineering degree at North
Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
in Greensboro. 

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed graduated in 1986, one of about
30 Muslim students that year. 

Sources said he is one of the most-sought al Qaeda
leaders, after Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. 

"He was very helpful. The guy wouldn't mind helping
... When he talks to you, he'll be smiling," former
classmate Sammy Zitawi told CNN. 

One of Mohammed's professors is rattled by the
revelation that he taught one of bin Laden's top

"I may have helped give him some background that would
help him accomplish the World Trade Center
catastrophe," professor David Klett said. 

Records show Klett taught Mohammed thermodynamics, and
Klett said he often asks himself about the course. 

"We cover ... the fundamentals of jet engines and
propulsion and chemical reactions, combustion reaction
... and those things would have been necessary for
them to at least consider when they planned the World
Trade Center attack with the airplanes," Klett told

Mohammed arrived at NCA&T in the summer of 1984. He
had transferred there from Chowan College, in
Murfreesboro, North Carolina. 

Muslim students pro-American in mid-1980s
Zitawi said he had no inkling Mohammed held
anti-American views. He said his former classmate was
very religious and, if anything, he and other Muslim
students were pro-American in the mid-1980s because
the U.S. aided mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in

"I mean, everybody was praising the U.S. for helping
out the Muslims in Afghanistan, so why would anybody
have anything to do against the U.S. back then?"
Zitawi said. 

But less than 10 years later, in 1995, Mohammed was
indicted on charges of plotting to blow up commercial
U.S. airliners flying to the United States from
Southeast Asia. The indictment, filed in New York,
remains sealed. 

Investigators and other sources say Mohammed has been
connected to the first World Trade Center attack, in
1993, and the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania in 1998. He reportedly attended an al Qaeda
meeting in Malaysia in 2000, where planning was done
for the September 11 attacks and the bombing of the
USS Cole in 2000. 

Sources said he also tried but failed to use an alias
to apply for a U.S. visa extension on a Saudi Arabian
passport to enter the United States in summer 2001. 

According to sources, he was one of three people who
knew the details of the September 11 attacks and was
with bin Laden when the al Qaeda leader was informed
of the attacks' success. 

As recently as April, German investigators linked
Mohammed to the truck bombing of a synagogue in
Tunisia. They said that three hours before the deadly
bombing, the suspected suicide bomber telephoned

Authorities had hoped to find Mohammed during a raid
in Pakistan on September 11 of this year, when another
key al Qaeda suspect, Ramzi Binalshibh, was arrested. 

Mohammed is believed to be at large in Pakistan. 

The 'Forrest Gump' of al Qaeda
One U.S. official has called Mohammed the Forrest Gump
of al Qaeda because of all the attacks to which he's
connected. Gump was a movie character who found
himself at the center of many key moments in modern
U.S. history. 

Klett says he can't help but wonder what was going on
in Mohammed's mind during his two years at the
Greensboro university. 

"You wonder if at the time he was here, whether or not
he was already formulating these ideas, a hatred for
our country," Klett told CNN. 

Mohammed's former classmate says he's astounded when
he hears about all the terrorist acts attributed to
the man. 

"You don't know what to believe," Zitawi said, "but I
think that anything is possible in this life. Years go
by. People change." 

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Sanitation Vs Vaccination - 
The Origin Of Smallpox
From Danny Chaplin

Dear Jeff, 

After listening to your interview with Dr. Tim O'Shea (12-3-02) concerning
Edward Jenner and the origins of smallpox vaccination, I did some research and
turned up this article by Walter Hadwen, one of Jenner's harshest 19th Century
critics. I thought the arguments of the late Dr. Hadwen concerning sanitation to
be highly relevant to the modern debate on the urgent need for mass
vaccincation to counter pie-in-the-sky bio-terrorist threats. 

The article may be found at 

Regards Danny Chaplin 

Sanitation Vs. Vaccination - The Origin of Smallpox 

By Walter S. Hadwen M.D. 

Since Edward Jenner demonstrated the use of cowpox vaccine against smallpox
in 1796, vaccinations against smallpox were started. Despite this, a smallpox
epidemic swept England in 1839 and killed 22,081 people. 

In 1853 the Government made smallpox vaccinations compulsory, but the
incidence of the disease kept increasing, and in 1872 another epidemic killed
44,840 people, most of whom were vaccinated. 

The compulsory vaccination law was abolished in 1948. Similar disasters
occurred in Germany and Japan, but possibly the worst was in the Philippines
in 1918 when the US Government forced over three million natives to be
vaccinated. Of these, 47,369 came down with smallpox and 16,477 died. In
1919 the program was doubled, and over seven million were vaccinated, of
whom 65,180 came down with the disease and 44,408 died. The epidemic was
a direct result of the vaccination program. These facts are described by Dr
William F. Koch in his book The Survival Factor in Neoplastic and Viral
Disease (1961). 

By following the superstitious impulses of Edward Jenner and the ancient
tradition of time Gloucestershire dairymaids, the medical profession has lost
sight of the vital question, what is the origin of smallpox? 

The faculty of reasoning upon time subject appears to have become almost
extinct; in its place there has arisen a demand for obedience to authority.
Fashion has usurped the place of scientific thought, and arbitrary Acts of
Parliament and the policeman's truncheon have supplanted logical consistency. 

When the question is asked, "Why does smallpox break out at all?" the
twentieth century scientist answers, "Because time populace have not been
'protected' against it by vaccination." 

This reply only begs the question. It presupposes that smallpox is a natural
visitation of Providence which may strike anybody at any moment, and that the
only way by which this presumed inevitable evil can be met, is to compel every
human being in this world to undergo a process of "protection," which is to
render the system "immune" to attack. This is a negative form of reasoning. It
leaves unanswered the crucial question, what is the origin of smallpox? 

Why are we to suppose, as was believed in the eighteenth century, that a
smallpox attack is the probable lot of every member of the race? Why must
everybody be diseased to protect him against disease, especially if that disease
is one from which, owing to altered conditions, he is never likely to suffer?
Surely, if a disease breaks out there must be a cause for it. 

The Source Of All "Outbreaks" 

Now one fact stands out pre-eminently in every part of time world where
smallpox has appeared--namely, it has been invariably associated with
unsanitary and unhygienic conditions. From time immemorial it has been called
in Austria "The Beggar's Disease." It has followed in the wake of filth, poverty,
wars, pestilences, famines, and general insanitation, in all ages. 

It accompanied the clash of arms of the American armies in their struggle for
independence, and in their Civil and Spanish wars; it claimed more victims than
the battlefield in the ravages of the Crimea; it formed the dark background to
the triumphant marches of the German army in 1870; it increased tenfold the
horrors of the siege of Paris; and plagued our warriors at Tel-el-Kebir. 

Even during the late Great War no inconsiderable amount of smallpox occurred
amongst all the armies involved wherever conditions of insanitation triumphed
over the scrupulous efforts made to circumvent them. 

Smallpox outbreaks and epidemics have invariably been the call of Nature to
responsible authorities at home: "Put your house in order"; personal municipal,
and civic cleanliness has been her unvarying demand, a demand which was
couched in one striking injunction by the prophet of old: "Wash and be clean." 


I remember 26 years ago there was an outbreak of smallpox at Redruth, in
Cornwall. The Press in all parts of the United Kingdom was immediately
supplied with exaggerated reports, and scares were created by public
vaccinators hundreds of miles away. I went down to investigate the affair on
my own account. There were altogether 44 cases; 84 per cent occurred in
vaccinated persons. 

One-fourth of the cases was located in "Trestrails Row," consisting of seven
houses, each containing only two small low-roofed rooms, and with no water
connections. One midden privy, in the most disgusting condition,
accommodated the seven houses. One of these hovels was occupied by no
fewer than seven persons, all of whom contracted smallpox, and out of the total
of seven deaths three occurred in this house. 

Nearly another fourth of the cases was confined to Adelaide Road and
Raymond Road, where smallpox first appeared, the houses of which were
supplied with uncovered cesspits. Three cases occurred in Falmouth Road, with
one death which took place in a house closely hedged in by foul middens, a
manure heap, and a piggery. 

Three more cases and one death occurred in the midst of similar unsanitary
conditions at Hockin's Court. Midden privies were the order of the day, and the
ultimate disposal of the sewage was primitive to a degree. The smallpox rapidly
played itself out, and then the municipality corrected the conditions that had
been the cause of time outbreak. 


I remember, too, the epidemic in Gloucester in 1895-6. I was in and out of the
smallpox houses throughout that visitation of nearly 2,000 cases. The echo of it
is still heard among time ranks of Jennerian followers, and always with time
tragic whisper, "Gloucester was an unvaccinated city!" 

Never in all time history of professional scaremongering was such a determined
effort made to boost vaccination, and never a word was uttered as to the
shocking insanitary conditions which produced the tragedy. In fact, those
conditions were persistently denied by time officials who were responsible for

The smallpox was practically confined to the southern half of the city, where
there was no fall for the sewage. The pipes had been hurriedly laid in this new
district without concrete base or cemented joints. There was a drought that
lasted months; time water supply ran short; flushing of the sewers had to be
discontinued, and time sewerage pipes became choked. When, after time
epidemic was over, investigation was made, the pipes were found to be broken
in all directions; in fact, the whole district of--for the most part--crowded
houses, many of them back-to-back with no through ventilation, lay over what
was nothing more nor less than a huge cesspit. The outlets for the sewer-gas
consisted of street manholes, which belched their poison into time atmosphere. 

I traced the first case of smallpox in every street to the house nearest to a
manhole. Wooden stoppers were made to close them down, but they had to be
used sparingly lest the sewer-gas should be driven into the houses. Hundreds of
the houses were drawing their water supply from shallow wells, liable to
contamination by constant leakage into them from house drains; and the
sewage-pipes in numerous instances ran under the floors of the houses from the
closets at the back to the street in front. 

Some of the houses had their toilets in the back kitchen. In one street of 114
houses the latter were supplied with water declared by the city surveyor to be
contaminated with sewage from its source to its delivery, and as it had not force
enough to fill the flushing tanks, the toilets were never flushed and always
choked, the contents being emptied periodically on to the small garden ground
attached. In some of these tiny houses there were seven, nine, and even twelve
cases of smallpox. 

A sixth part of the whole epidemic occurred in three streets. In one street the
sewage entered the cellars of the houses, and the choked-up street sewer had to
be opened up in the midst of the epidemic. Nearly half the houses in this street
had smallpox cases. 

Then the epidemic caught on in two disgracefully unsanitary and overcrowded,
ill-ventilated elementary schools. Forty-five children were struck down suddenly
in one of them and 31 in the other. The patients were removed to what was
called an isolation hospital. It was congregation, not isolation. A woman
employed in the early part of the epidemic as solitary night nurse told me that
time sight and screaming of these poor children at night as they ran about the
wards in delirium so completely unnerved her that she was obliged to leave. 

They were allowed no water for their fevered skins, time baths were choked
with dirty linen, and never used. The little ones were packed three, four, and
even five in a bed; vermin was crawling everywhere; no oil was used for the
faces, and the poor children scratched themselves till they bled. 

Of every two taken in to the Stroud Road Hospital one was carried out a
corpse; when the mortuary became choked with dead bodies, the bathroom was
utilized for this purpose. 

One child lay for two weeks and two days with her eyes scabbed and not a
single drop of water was given to relieve her. When one hospital became full,
another one was opened which had been used as a cholera hospital many years

It was built on stakes in a rough, boggy field; it had no sewerage connections,
nor any drainage whatever, and water had to be carried in water-carts over a
quarter of a mile of bog to reach it. 

The panic became fearful, and a wild, despairing cry went up from the
plague-stricken city as the destroying angel sped from house to house in these
awful slums. 

And what was the answer the terror-stricken inhabitants received from the
Guardians of Public Health? Still the same mad reply: "These be thy gods, O
Israel!" as they pointed to the vaccine lancets, dripping with their filthy venom;
in helplessness and fear they implored the people, in a unanimously signed
medical manifesto, to bow down and worship at the shrine. 

At last the rain came. It washed the atmosphere, it flushed the sewers and
drains; it filled the vacuoles of sewer gas in the sandy soil, and the epidemic
died down. 

The councilors who put up at the next municipal contest were one and all
indignantly swept away at the polls by the enraged voters, and
anti-vaccinationists took their place; a new sewerage system was laid
throughout the whole smallpox district at a cost of some £30,000; 20,000
sanitary defects in the houses were rectified, and no smallpox has occurred
since, although nearly 90 per cent, of the population is unvaccinated. But even
in that awful epidemic, smallpox picked out the vaccinated for attack;
two-thirds of the sufferers had been "protected" by time filthy superstitious rite. 

Sheffield And Other Cases 

I remember Sheffield and its epidemic in 1887-8. No less than 98 per cent of
the population had been vaccinated; it was the best vaccinated town in the
kingdom the public vaccinators had reaped a richer harvest of bonuses for
"successful vaccination" than those of any other town, and yet they had 7,000
cases of smallpox. 

It originated and clung to an unsanitary area of 175 acres covered with
cesspits--which was called The Croft. The medical profession helplessly cried
"vaccinate" and "re-vaccinate"--as if the pubic had not already had enough of it.
At last the floodgates of heaven were mercifully opened, and the bountiful rains
suddenly accomplished what 56,000 vaccinations had failed to effect. 

I went to Middlesbrough in the great epidemic of 1898. I visited every smallpox
hospital ward, and investigated the conditions of the houses, and their
environment, from whence the smallpox came. As everybody knows, the
houses at that time had been run up at an enormous rate, much too fast for the
sanitary officials to keep pace with them. 

The part where the smallpox raged was situated chiefly over a swamp where it
was difficult to find foundations for the houses; many of them were raised on
piles driven through the soil. 

The only method of house sanitation in all that district was that of pails in the
backyards. But whatever else had been neglected, vaccination had been
sedulously attended to--the inhabitants were vaccinated up to 98.4 per cent, of
the population. 

Nevertheless the vaccinated and re-vaccinated hospital officials fell before the
disease side by side with the vaccinated and re-vaccinated inhabitants. Nine
hospital ward-maids, one trained nurse, one medical man and three policemen
fell victims to the disease. 

Outraged Nature laughed outright at the Jennerian fetish and declared in plain
and unmistaken language that if smallpox was to be prevented the conditions
which caused it must be remedied. Poisoning human bodies with the products
of a foul eruption on a cow's udder could only add fuel to the fire by reducing
the vital resisting powers of the sufferers. 

I call to mind the case of one adult male I interviewed in one of the smallpox
hospital wards at that time. He was vaccinated in infancy, had smallpox when
eight years old, and was subsequently re-vaccinated three times. That man died
of smallpox. I took a particular interest in that case, and was staggered to find
when the official report was published that, owing to his having had the
eruption so badly as to cover his vaccination marks, he was actually declared to
be "unvaccinated"! 

I have visited Glasgow in two of its smallpox epidemics. The slums in which
they occurred; the overcrowded and unsanitary condition of the tenements told,
the same tale as elsewhere. Nothing but sweeping away, the rookeries, where
smallpox invariably, takes hold, can ever save those parts of the city from
periodical visitations. Space forbids further reminiscences but it is the same
story everywhere. Go back to the records of Old London and we find
insanitation and smallpox keeping company throughout. 

The Lesson Of The Public Health Act 

Before the passing of the Public Health Act of l875 in this country, every
succeeding epidemic of smallpox was worse than its predecessor in spite of
more and more compulsory vaccination; but with less and less vaccination and
more and more sanitation smallpox has become a comparative curiosity. It is
only in unsanitary quarters it can gain a hold. 

Sir Edwin-Chadwick, the veteran sanitarian, has well said: Smallpox, typhus,
and other fevers occur in common conditions of foul air, stagnant putrefaction,
bad house drainage, sewers of deposit, excrement sodden sites, filthy street
surfaces, impure water, and overcrowding, and the entire removal of such
conditions is the effectual preventive of diseases of those species, whether in
ordinary or extraordinary visitations. 

When will the medical profession arouse itself to ask the question: "What is the
origin of smallpox?" 

When will a Ministry of Health cease to bring discredit upon itself by the
advocacy of a disgusting fetish that has proved, itself a failure as a preventive of
the disease in every part of the world in which it has been adopted for the last
century and a quarter? When will a British Government that boasts of its
progress and civilisation cease to ally itself with a filthy, uncivilised, unscientific
practice that has done nothing but spread disease and death amongst the
populace for generation and which is opposed to the common-sense views of
the majority of thinking men and women in the realm? 

From "Truth," January 17, 1923

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Court orders Hospital to turn over privileged information to Dr. John D. Marshall 

Americus-Sumter Observer

December, 2002

Staff Writer

Dr. John D. Marshall has won a key decision in his $25 million lawsuit against Sumter Regional Hospital (SRH), Physcian Hospital Organization (PHO) and doctors. Recently, the United States Disctrict Court in Albany ordered the hospital and its entities to turn over documents the hospital considers privileged, but which Marshall claims are necessary to prove that his privileges at the hospital were suspended because of his race.

Attorneys for Marshall filed motions to compel SRH and its entities to surrender documents and answer questions regarding information about confidential medical peer review, the process by which physicians and hospitals evaluate and discipline staff doctors. Marshall alleges that he was singled out for suspension while other doctors with similar complaints as those alleged against him, kept their privileges at the hospital. To back his claim, Marshall and his attorneys requested the hospital to turn over peer review reports on the other doctors and answer questions seeking information on other confidential medical peer review investigations.

SRH denied Marshall’s request, arguing that disclosure of confidential peer review information was barred under the Georgia statute. The court, however cited that the statute dealt primarily with medical malpractice which attacks the performance of a doctor’s treatment of a given patient.

Ruling in favor of Marshall, Chief Judge W. Louis Sands said the doctor’s lawsuit was an employment discrimination suit, which attacks the process used to revoke Marshall’s hospital privileges. "Marshall alleges in his complaint that the doctors on the peer review committee used their concern about Marshall’s patient care as a pretext to racially discriminate against him," Judge Sands wrote. "The only way Marshall can prove pretext is to see how similarly situated doctors were treated by the peer review committee."

Marshall’s lead attorney, George W. McGriff, of McGriff, Cuthpert, Wyatt and Associates of Atlanta, said the ruling "greatly helped" Marshall’s case. "This order says to the hospital that information regarding the peer review process must be disclosed," McGriff said. "The ruling gives us access to crucial information, and that it is important for this case."

McGriff disclosed that SRH may try to appeal the judge’s decision maintaining that information on peer review is privileged. Several calls to SRH Attorney Michael A. Fennessy were not returned.

In April 2001, Marshall, president of the local NAACP, filed a $25 million suit against SRH, a host of doctors and entities, claiming that his privileges at the hospital were suspended because he is black, and because of his work with the NAACP. Marshall’s lawsuit asked for declaratory and injunctive relief, and damages for alleged violation of his constitutional rights.

SRH denied Marshall’s allegation, saying they were untrue. In February 2001, SRH and its affiliates suspended Marshall’s hospital privileges in order "to reduce imminent injury or danger to the health or safety of any individual."

Marshall said, "I am thankful that the peer review was granted by the court. This decision has a devastating impact on their case. My attorney and I will maintain confidentiality of the peer review information."

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Israeli Company Workers Were Warned Of 911 Attack

By Yuval Dror Ha'aretz Daily 12-20-2

Odigo, the instant messaging service, says that two of its workers
received messages two hours before the Twin Towers attack on September 11
predicting the attack would happen, and the company has been cooperating
Israeli and American law enforcement, including the FBI, in trying to find
the original sender of the message predicting the attack.

Micha Macover, CEO of the company, said the two workers received the
and immediately after the terror attack informed the company's management,
which immediately contacted the Israeli security services, which brought in
the FBI.

"I have no idea why the message was sent to these two workers, who don't
the sender. It may just have been someone who was joking and turned out they
accidentally got it right. And I don't know if our information was useful in
any of the arrests the FBI has made," said Macover. Odigo is a U.S.-based
company whose headquarters are in New York, with offices in Israel.

As an instant messaging service, Odigo users are not limited to sending
messages only to people on their "buddy" list, as is the case with ICQ, the
other well-known Israeli instant messaging application.

Odigo usually zealously protects the privacy of its registered users, said
Macover, but in this case the company took the initiative to provide the law
enforcement services with the originating Internet Presence address of the
message, so the FBI could track down the Internet Service Provider, and the
actual sender of the original message.

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Leaked Report Says German and US Firms Supplied Arms to Saddam 
By Tony Paterson 
The Independent (UK)

Baghdad's uncensored report to UN names Western companies alleged to
have developed its weapons of mass destruction.

Wednesday, 18 December, 2002

Iraq's 11,000-page report to the UN Security Council lists 150 foreign
companies, including some from America, Britain, Germany and France,
that supported Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme, a
German newspaper said yesterday.

Berlin's left-wing Die Tageszeitung newspaper said it had seen a copy of
the original Iraqi dossier which was vetted for sensitive information by
US officials before being handed to the five permanent Security Council
members two weeks ago. An edited version was passed to the remaining 10
members of the Security Council last night.

British officials said the list of companies appeared to be accurate.
Eighty German firms and 24 US companies are reported to have supplied
Iraq with equipment and know-how for its weapons programmes from 1975
onwards and in some cases support for Baghdad's conventional arms
programme had continued until last year.

It is not known who leaked the report, but it could have come from Iraq.
Baghdad is keen to embarrass the US and its allies by showing the close
involvement of US, German, British and French firms in helping Iraq
develop its weapons of mass destruction when the country was a bulwark
against the much feared spread of Iranian revolutionary fervour to the
Arab world.

The list contained the names of long-established German firms such as
Siemens as well as US multi-nationals. With government approval, Siemens
exported machines used to eliminate kidney stones which have a "dual
use" high precision switch used to detonate nuclear bombs. Ten French
companies were also named along with a number of Swiss and Chinese
firms. The newspaper said a number of British companies were cited, but
did not name them.

"From about 1975 onwards, these companies are shown to have supplied
entire complexes, building elements, basic materials and technical
know-how for Saddam Hussein's programme to develop nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons of mass destruction," the newspaper said. "They also
supplied rockets and complete conventional weapons systems," it added.

The five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States,
Britain, Russia, France and China -- have repeatedly opposed revealing
the extent of foreign companies' involvement, although a mass of
relevant information was collected by UN weapons inspectors who visited
the country between 1991 and 1998. The UN claims that publishing the
extent of the companies' involvement in Iraq would jeopardise necessary
co-operation with such firms.

German involvement outstripped that of all the other countries put
together, the paper said. During the period to 1991, the German
authoritiespermitted weapons co-operation with Iraq and in some cases
"actively encouraged" it, according to the newspaper which cited German
assistance allegedly given to Iraq for the development of poison gas
used in the 1988 massacre of Kurds in northern Iraq. It said that after
the massacre America reduced its military co-operation with Iraq but
German firms continued their activities until the Gulf War.

Die Tageszeitung quoted sources close to the US Vice President, Dick
Cheney, as saying the Bush administration was hoping to prove a German
company was continuing to co-operate with the Iraqi regime over the
supply of equipment allegedly useful in the construction of weapons of
mass destruction.

American weapons experts have recently voiced concern that the German
Government has permitted Siemens to sell Baghdad at least eight
sophisticated medical machines which contain devices that are vital for
nuclear weapons. The machines, known as "lithotripters", use ultrasound
to destroy kidney stones in patients. However, each machine contains an
electronic switch that can be used as a detonator in an atomic bomb,
according to US experts. Iraq was reported to have requested an extra
120 switches as "spare parts" during the initial transaction.

The delivery of the machines was approved by the European Commission and
the UN because sanctions against Iraq do not apply to medical equipment.
Siemens and the German Government have insisted that the machines, which
are being used in northern Iraq under a World Health Organisation
programme, cannot be used to make nuclear weapons.

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The Nation
December 30, 2002

The Three Mile Island of Biotech? 


Hamilton County, Nebraska, is where food comes from.
You can visit the Plainsman Museum on Highway 14 to
learn about "farm life from the 1880s to the 1950s," or
you can just drive on up the highway and learn about
farm life in 2002 at any of the dozens of family farms
that still grow corn and soybeans on fields that some
families have worked since their ancestors homesteaded
here just after the Civil War. For more than a century,
farmers in this fertile stretch of a state where folks
still refer to themselves as "cornhuskers" have planted
food crops each spring and trucked the harvest in the
fall to towering grain elevators on the edge of the
bustling Great Plains town of Aurora. Those grains
become the cereals, the breads, the cake mixes and the
soy patties that feed America and the world.

This fall, however, the predictable patterns of
Hamilton County and American food production took on
the characteristics of a dystopian science-fiction
story. An area farmer, who a year earlier had
supplemented his income by quietly planting a test plot
with seed corn genetically modified to produce proteins
containing powerful drugs for treatment of diarrhea in
pigs, this year harvested soybeans for human
consumption from the same field. He trucked them off to
the Aurora Co-op, where they were mixed with soybeans
from other fields throughout the county in preparation
for production as food. Just as the soybeans were about
to begin their journey to the nation's dinner plates, a
routine inspection of the test field by US Department
of Agriculture inspectors revealed that corn plants
that should have been completely removed were still
growing in the field from which the soybeans had been
harvested--raising the prospect that the pharmaceutical
crop had mingled with the food crop.

Suddenly, as they say in Aurora, all kinds of hell
broke loose. In November, USDA investigators swooped
into town to order the lockdown of a warehouse filled
with 500,000 bushels of food-grade soybeans that had
been contaminated by contact with the beans containing
remnants of the pharmaceutical corn. Aurora Co-op
managers quietly secured the soybeans. But when word of
the incident leaked out, Greenpeace campaigners climbed
a tall white elevator to unfurl a banner that read:
"This Is Your Food on Drugs!" Agitated officials of the
Grocery Manufacturers of America expressed "concerns
about the possible adulteration of the US food supply."
Consumer groups made unfavorable comparisons between
the incident in Hamilton County and the last great
genetically engineered food debacle, which occurred two
years ago when GE StarLink corn that had been approved
solely for animal feed turned up in taco shells, chips
and other food products.

Biotech industry groups and the government agencies
with which they have worked closely to promote the
increased use of genetically modified organisms in food
crops rushed to assure consumers that all was well.
Anthony Laos, CEO of ProdiGene, the Texas biotech
company that has made Aurora ground zero for
experiments in putting drugs into food, and that faced
a possible $500,000 fine and the loss of its testing
permit, promised to cover the $2.8 million cost of the
contaminated crops. Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service--
which has been criticized for lax oversight of
pharmaceutical crop experiments, commonly known as
"biopharming"--said, "It's isolated, it's in one
location, it's not being moved." That same week,
however, it was revealed that ProdiGene had been
ordered, just two months earlier, to burn 155 acres of
corn from an Iowa field where stray biotech plants had
"jumped the fence" and contaminated conventional corn

But there is no two-strikes-and-you're-out rule at the
USDA. ProdiGene got off with a $250,000 fine and a
promise to follow regulations better. The company kept
its permit to plant experimental crops, and biotech
promoters continue to push for policies that could
allow as much as 10 percent of US corn production to be
devoted to pharmaceutical crops by 2010. "The future of
biopharmaceuticals has simply never been brighter,"
said Laos. Farm and food activists worry that the
events of fall 2002 will be little more than a bump in
the road to the brave new world of biopharming.

"This is the Three Mile Island of biotech," says Mark
Ritchie, president of the Institute for Agriculture and
Trade Policy, comparing this fall's incidents to the
near-meltdown of the Pennsylvania nuclear power plant,
which led to a dramatic shift in public attitudes about
expansion of that industry. "The biotech industry says
that because some soybeans were quarantined at the last
minute, no one should worry. Well, at Three Mile
Island, they contained things. But that didn't mean it
wasn't a crisis, and it certainly didn't mean that
people should have said, 'Oh, everything's fine now.
Let's just let these guys get back to business as

Richie says it's crucial to seize the moment--this is
possibly the last chance to prevent the disasters that
are all but certain to occur if biotech corporations
are allowed to continue on their current course. "This
is not the point to back off; this is the point to move
very aggressively to get a handle on what is happening,
and to control it," he says. "We're at the earliest
stage of the attempt to genetically engineer corn
plants to make them factories for producing powerful
and potentially dangerous drugs, and already we have
examples of contamination of food crops. This is scary
stuff." [See Mark Schapiro, "Sowing Disaster?" October

How scary? Britain's Royal Society has expressed
concerns about allergic reactions that could result
from ingesting, inhaling or even touching biotech
crops, while a new study by GE Food Alert, a coalition
of health, consumer and environmental groups, details
scientists' concerns about the prospect that eating
crops containing biopharmaceuticals could weaken the
immune system.

No one, not even the top scientists with the USDA, the
Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental
Protection Agency, can say with absolute certainty that
the Iowa and Nebraska incidents are the only cases in
which experimental pharmaceutical crops have jumped the
fence from test plots and mixed with food crops. An
expert committee of the National Academy of Sciences
this year came to the conclusion that just as residue
from more traditional GE cornfields has contaminated
neighboring organic fields, so "it is possible that
crops transformed to produce pharmaceutical or other
industrial compounds might mate with plantations grown
for human consumption, with the unanticipated result of
novel chemicals in the human food supply."

The potential public health threat creates another
threat--the health of American agriculture. Says Iowa
State University agriculture professor Neil Harl, "If
consumers take on the belief that corn products are
being contaminated with products designed for vastly
different uses--like HIV vaccines or hepatitis B
vaccines or any of a variety of other things that are
being discussed--and if they think this contamination
poses a threat to them, that's going to create the risk
of a negative reaction to corn grown in the United
States. And consumers are kings. If consumers start to
have doubts about US corn, farm-state economies are
going to be in very serious trouble."

That prospect frightens Keith Dittrich, a corn farmer
from north of Aurora who has shied away from offers to
plant biopharm test plots. "This is being sold to
farmers as a new specialty crop that could make them a
lot of money," says Dittrich, the president of the
American Corn Growers Association. "But if these
experiments end up costing farmers markets in Europe or
the United States, we could be looking at a short-term
profit that turns into a long-term disaster." According
to research by the ACGA, US corn farmers have already
lost more than $814 million in foreign sales over the
past five years as a result of restrictions on
genetically modified food imports imposed by Europe,
Japan and other countries.

"When it comes to what is being proposed, and what is
actually happening with regard to genetic modification
of food crops, we're absolutely navigating uncharted
waters at a high rate of speed. And we're being pushed
to speed up by people with dollar signs in their eyes
and no concern whatsoever for farmers or consumers,"
says Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen.
"There may be a television program here or an article
there about what's happening, but I don't think most
Americans have any idea of the extent to which things
have been pushed forward without the kind of research
and precautions that ordinary common sense would

Biopharming represents the new frontier of
biotechnology, where agribusiness meets the
pharmaceutical industry to explore a once unimaginable
prospect: manipulating the genetic code of plants to
induce them to generate AIDS vaccines, blood-clotting
agents, digestive enzymes and industrial adhesives. If
their initiative works, the corporate promoters of
biopharming predict, expensive laboratories and
factories will by the end of this decade be replaced by
hundreds of thousands of acres growing pharmaceutical
corn and soybeans that will allow consumers to realize
ProdiGene's promise that you can "Have Your Vaccine and
Eat It, Too!" And those corporations will yield huge
returns--ProdiGene predicts billion-dollar markets for
products it has patented.

The dream of a biopharmed future is still presented as
the noble cousin of GE cash-crop schemes. To the extent
that Americans discuss genetic engineering, they
usually refer to the process by which genes and
segments of DNA that do not naturally occur in a
particular food crop are added to it in order to make
it easier, cheaper and more profitable to raise--such
as the splicing of an antifreeze gene from flounder to
produce a cold-resistant tomato. Biopharming pushes the
limits of genetic engineering to a new plateau, where
scientists re-engineer crops to produce drugs that can
be extracted from kernels and beans far more cheaply
than they can be produced in factories.

In their race to patent and market pharmaceutical
crops, ProdiGene, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and various
universities have quietly obtained permission from the
USDA to have farmers plant open-air test plots across
the United States; on these plots, the corporations are
attempting--with some success--to turn corn, soybeans,
rice and even tobacco into "plant pharmacies" that can
provide edible vaccines for everything from hepatitis B
to diabetes. Though biopharming is still in the
experimental stage, the experiment has already seen
twenty corporations and universities conduct more than
315 open-air field trials in undisclosed locations.
These plots have brought thousands of acres--virtually
all of them in the vicinity of fields growing
traditional food crops--into biopharm production.

The race to the fields has sped up in recent years, in
part because the biotech industry has many allies in
the Bush Administration and a Republican Congress that
prefers "voluntary regulation" by industry to real
regulation by the government. And these firms are
actively recruited by state officials and university
chancellors who believe that a biotech boom could turn
Wisconsin or Iowa into a version of Silicon Valley.
(ProdiGene was recruited to Texas during George W.
Bush's governorship.) As a result, calls for limits on
biopharming are often met with cries of "no way" from
farm-state politicians.

"Nature is not a pharmaceutical factory. It was never
meant to be. But we have reached the point where it may
be possible to make it that, and that prospect excites
politicians and corporate executives who see this as a
new way to make money," says Bill Freese, a policy
analyst with Friends of the Earth who wrote GE Food
Alert's groundbreaking report on the dangers of
manufacturing drugs and chemicals in traditional food
crops. "They talk a great deal about the benefits for
society. But it's really the economics that attract
them. They think they can grow drugs more cheaply and
have lower production costs than if they were produced
in factories. Also, if a drug goes well, they can just
scale up the acres involved in production. If the drug
is a bust, they can just fire the farmers."

ProdiGene press releases describe the firm as being
"well positioned to capitalize on the opportunities in
the large and expanding recombinant protein markets."
ProdiGene promotes itself as "the to
produce and market a recombinant protein product from
transgenic plants," and it maintains a portfolio of
ninety current and pending patents--including one to
use plants to develop vaccines that can be eaten rather
than injected. As a seed company and pharmaceutical
industry executive, ProdiGene CEO Laos has for decades
preached the bio-utopian "future of farming" gospel. To
a greater extent than other biopharmers, he is
determined to continue using corn as his company's
preferred pharmaceutical plant. "We have looked at many
different alternatives, and the best system available
today for this technology is corn," he says.

And ProdiGene is getting lots of help. Its research on
an edible AIDS drug is funded by the National
Institutes of Health, and it recently developed a
partnership with Eli Lilly. ProdiGene has collected
more permits to initiate biopharm field trials than any
other corporation in the United States--eighty-five,
while the next most active experimenter, Monsanto, has
just forty-four. Half of ProdiGene's permits are for
fields in Iowa and Nebraska--the state that, according
to the USDA, has been the site of the largest number of
open-air field trials. And many of those fields are in
Hamilton County, where Laos lived before taking charge
of ProdiGene.

Laos has allies in the Corn Belt. In December, after
the Nebraska and Iowa incidents, the Biotechnology
Industry Organization (BIO) backed off a proposal to
temporarily stop growing GE drug- and chemical-
producing crops in major corn-growing states after the
plan encountered noisy opposition from Iowa's
Democratic Governor, Tom Vilsack, and other farm-state
politicians, who still see biopharming as a boon. Many
farmers in Hamilton County have planted test fields at
the behest of seed salesmen associated with Laos and
ProdiGene. The salesmen offer small premiums--$600 for
planting an acre of experimental corn and another $300
for managing it in the year after the experiment is
done--along with the promise of bigger bonuses when the
biotech train leaves the station. "They tell you: 'Once
this gets going, the farmers who are in on it are going
to make a lot of money growing these crops,'" says Mike
Alberts, an Aurora-area farmer who this year turned
down an opportunity to grow a ProdiGene test plot.
"Farmers around here have had it hard for a long time,
and a lot of them don't want to miss out on something
they're calling the future of farming."

Critics of the biotech industry say that the federal
agencies that should be strictly regulating burgeoning
biopharm experimentation--the USDA, the Food and Drug
Administration and the Environmental Protection
Agency--are still too busy promoting GE crops as the
cure for what ails American agriculture to recognize
that they could turn into a curse. The USDA continues
to hail GE crops as a boon for farmers, gleefully
promoting biopharming with a website that features such
headers as: "Animal Urine--A New Source of 'Pharmed'
Medicine?" Even now, the agency allows agribusiness
firms to withhold details about the nature of their
experimental crops and the locations of test plots from
the public--including neighboring food farmers--by
declaring the data "Confidential Business Information."

QUOT-The regulatory system isn't working. It looks like
we've got pharmaceutical chaos in the fields," says
former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah
Vogel. "I'm not sure that some of these people in
Washington or the corporate boardrooms quite understand
the threat these incidents tell us are being created
for food safety and the future of American
agriculture." Part of the problem, according to Jean
Halloran, who directs Consumers Union's Consumer Policy
Institute, is that technological advances have outpaced
not just regulations but basic questions of whether
biopharming should be allowed at all. "What's
infuriating is that there has been no public debate on
whether we should be proceeding to this technology.
They just went ahead and did it," Halloran says of an
industry that, for the most part, is policed only with
vague guidelines and threats of action if, as in the
case of ProdiGene's plots, something goes really wrong.
"We're in the middle of an official comment period on a
set of guidelines--not regulations, just guidelines--at
the same time that we are learning that we've got these
problems with the testing. Doesn't that sound like
we've missed a step?"

After the near-disaster in Hamilton County, there may
be some scaling back of the explosive growth in the
number of biopharm test plots in corn-growing states.
ProdiGene and USDA officials talk of "isolating" the
firm's open-air test fields, just beyond the edge of
the cornbelt in Nebraska's Sand Hills or perhaps in the
Southwest. But independent observers who know about
farming and food safety are skeptical about this kind
of self-regulation. They note that roughly 20 percent
of the nation's corn production--including that of much
of Nebraska--occurs outside the "drug-free zone" that
BIO advanced and then abandoned. More significant, they
argue that open-air test plots are not necessarily
"isolated" by distance from traditional food crops.

Iowa State's Harl explains that even an isolated field
can be hit with a tornado or heavy winds that will drop
a kernel of corn far from the test plot. "Birds, deer,
runoff from fields into rivers--it's hard to list all
the ways that seeds and kernels can be carried
substantial distances," says Harl, who adds that
because of consumer confidence and liability concerns,
"ultimately, I think we are going to conclude that we
have to produce a zero-contamination rule. That
requires us to control the total environment--and that
means in a greenhouse."

Federal regulators have begun to feel pressure to
tighten regulation of biopharm experiments and
production, and not just from environmental, consumer
and grocery industry groups, which have long been
troubled by the prospect of drug crops contaminating
food crops. In November Senate majority leader Tom
Daschle and Agriculture Committee chair Tom Harkin
wrote Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to ask "whether
existing procedures and safeguards are sufficient to
ensure that similar incidents do not occur in the
future." A more energetic push came from the National
Food Processors Association, whose president, John
Cady, said the USDA and the FDA "should impose a
stringent and mandatory regulatory framework to ensure
protection of the US food supply and US food exports
from any inadvertent or even intentional contamination
by plant-made materials that have not been approved for
human food and animal feed purposes." At the same time,
however, farm groups allied with agribusiness--chief
among them the American Farm Bureau Federation--issued
a statement reaffirming their faith in biotech crops
and essentially asking federal officials to continue
encouraging biopharming.

Harl, who has served on the USDA's Advisory Committee
on Agricultural Biotechnology, says federal agencies
are going to have to fundamentally alter their approach
to biopharming. "This is part of a broader regulatory
phenomenon that has not been faced yet. If we are going
to allow this type of production, then we have to ramp
up the regulatory regimen," he says. The USDA, the FDA
and the EPA must resolve turf wars over which agency is
in charge of regulating not just test plots but,
potentially, wide-scale production of pharmaceutical
crops. That will require development of a regulatory
regimen that makes public the details about where
biopharm fields are planted and where biopharm products
are being processed, and that insures regular testing
through all the steps of food processing to assure that
pharmaceutical crops are not being mixed with food
crops. "We won't have discipline until we have testing
at every point of commingling," Harl says. "We have
some tests, but they are not what they must be: fast,
easy and cheap."

Before any of these steps occur, however, Jean Halloran
of Consumers Union suggests a more fundamental move.
"We should ask whether pharmaceutical products should
be engineered into food plants in the first place," she
says. "Our view is that the answer to the question
should be no." She notes that the drugs that
biopharming promises to deliver can be gotten through
other means. "The practical aspects of trying to keep
these pharmaceutical plants separate from the regular
food plants is an insurmountable problem," she says.
"It just can't be done. It can't be done because of the
fallibility of human beings. It can't be done because
you can't control pollen flow. It can't be done because
you can't control mother nature that way. And if you
can't control mother nature and fallible human beings,
we've come to the conclusion that you shouldn't try."

This article can be found on the web at

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