Science in Society Archive

Science in Society #43 - Letters to the Editor

Science in Society 43

Fight back against the ownership of life

Mr Percy should be called or addressed as Brave Heart (Who Owns Life, Not Monsanto? SiS 42). I have been a party to the first launch of Monsanto cotton in the year 2000.My question to them was “How would your cotton behave in 48/49 degrees centigrade and without water, because cotton is sown in water deficient areas?” This remains unanswered to date. We at our organic farms control insects and pests up to 80 percent with light traps only. We are ready to share our experience for free to the non commercial organizations, farmers or those scientists who promise to share the knowledge with the needy farmers for free.

Harpal Singh Grewal, India

(one of 17 comments on this article,

I read with great interest the litigation between the Schmeiser family in Canada and Monsanto in Who Owns Life, Not Monsanto? (SiS 42). As a personal injury trial lawyer practicing in Dallas, I regularly represent injured personsin lawsuits against big corporations. I am wondering if there is any need byany of your membersinthe United Stateswho are being harmed or threatened by Monsanto. If there is a support group or forum wheremembers communicate, I would like to have an opportunity to talk with them. Though your article does not really discuss the point, these farmers who have experienced GMO contamination have been effectively put out of business, and, consequently, have lost their future earnings. This is a legally cognizable element of damage. I envision a common law action by a landowner against Monsanto for trespass and tortuous interference with an ongoing business. In such actions, lost damages are normally recoverable, along with other compensatory damages.

I would be very interested in helping anyone who has been harmed by Monsanto.All of our work is done on a contingency fee basis, and the farmers pay no money up front. I am networked with environmental groups and other personal injury attorneys. That is why if legal precedents were to be set against Monsanto, the U.S. legal system would be a good place to sue.

David Line, Attorney, Dallas, Texas USA,

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho replies

I hope farmers reading this will contact you. You may be interested to know that California passed the first bill (AB541) to protect farmers against Monsanto lawsuit on 31 August 2008.

Epigenetic inheritance responsible for October born diabetic boys

I am very pleased with your Epigenetic Inheritance - What Genes Remember (SiS 41). We stated this possibilty with regard to “the October born diabetic boys” in Iceland published in Lancet (Oct 3, 1981).Helgason followed up with a review in Lancet 1982 (ii) 1017-22. The phenomenon was laughed off as a “local” problem and irrelevent! The truly amazing feature of the original observation was that type 1 diabetes was often a male disease and the affected males were born in October. Christmas season lasts from 24 December until 6 January, and during this time of total darkness in Iceland numerous parties are held - the main delicacy being smoked mutton rich in nitrosamines.Individual producers vied with each other to make the tastiest product and nitrosamine levels were extremely variable (note - streptozotocin is used in the lab to produce diabetes and it is a nitrosamide).The best explanation was that this was a sperm effect with the male progeny being born 273 days later in October.

Dr, Stanley Ewen, Aberdeen, UK

Old growth forests threatened by soybean plantations

Regarding Old Growth Forests Are Carbon Sinks and Must Be Protected (SiS 40) I represent AOCIANA, a small NGO working with indigenous communities in the semi arid Chaco region of northern Argentina, where we are experiencing some of the world’s highest deforestation rates, primarily for soybean cultivation.
I need urgent help in responding to local government arguments that soybean and other monocultures are more effective carbon sinks than are the forests that are being cleared.

Dr. Andrew Leake, Chaco, Argentina

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho replies

Soybean cultivation under the best circumstance of no till agriculture will still be a carbon source; and even in rotation with maize, will at best achieve C neutrality (see Dobermann et al, Agriculture and Forest Meteorology 2006, 136, 83-84). But those figures are completely dwarfedby the enormous carbon source created by deforestation. Converting tropical forests to croplands releases some 200 tonnes C per ha per year to the atmosphere (Saving and Restoring Forests Saves Far More Carbon Emissions than Biofuels (SiS 37).

Stunning implications for human development and evolution

Your paper Development and Evolution Revisited is stunning, a Tour de Force.
I am still reeling from its immense implications as a working premise for restoring balance and understanding of how our mutual interrelationship with the environment and survivalis a complex network of feedback loops which drives evolution at all levels - genetic, epigenetic, psychological and social. The implications are profound towards building any sustainable solutions - or dare I say it - the capacity to regulate and direct our own evolution. It seems the tools are now within grasp, but the wisdom is lacking. The hope is that works such as yours and Dr. Saunders will contribute to a deeper understanding and help build the wisdom that is required.

Dr Barry T Rubin, Towcester, United Kingdom


Your article Darwin’s Pangenesis, the Hidden History of Genetics, & the Dangers of GMOs (SiS 42) raises some interesting questions on science and its practices. Scientists have been elevated to exalted heights by the Western society which dominates the world. The West also has many aspects of its civilisation heavily influenced by Christian religion, and Western science is no exception. The concept of ‘peer review’, for instance, probably arose out of a practice of referring religious text to an inner cabal that could censor anything it consideredagainst the interests of religion. There is really no spiritual basis for this censorship, which only serves to protect the material interests of the priests controlling the wealth amassed in the name of God.

We have somewhat different traditions in the East. But in modern times, India for one has come under heavy Western domination. Many good scientific practices in agriculture, for example, were abandoned in the name of progress. We have a painful journey to retrace and unlearn many things. Of course, we don’t abandon the good aspects, but should use our discretion to take what is good from the West and leave out the rest.

Although we have extreme right wing and conservative politicians, we have done little to dig out the best from our own texts on science and technologies that were developed in various times over our long history. This is a task we should begin right now.

Santhanam R., Delhi, India

Exposing the Golden Rice scandal

I forwarded The Golden Rice Scandal Unfolds (SiS 42) to the General Secretary of Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) International, Dr Flavio Valente. He shared the information with other organisations and experts so that the issue should be taken up at the next meeting of Codex Alimentarius.

Gertrude Klaffenböck, section coordinator FIAN Austria

Nerica rice for the people

My family and I own a rice farm in the the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, in the area of Chosi, Chimala. Our rice farm is 132 acres with 50 acres planted. We are not having much success with the rice currently planted; it requires a lot of water, fertilizer and has a very low yield. I read your article New Rice for Africa (SiS 23) about Nerica rice and was wondering if it would work on our farm and improve our crop yield. Can you provide more information on this type of rice?

Hamidah Lalji, Chosi, Chimala, Tanzania

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho replies

I forwarded your message to the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) which developed the Nerica rice varieties. Eventually, they said that each country is responsible for distributing the Nerica rice, so you should contact (possibly) your ministry of agriculture.

Article first published 27/05/09

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sekhar Comment left 2nd June 2009 22:10:55
hamidah lalji ,chosi,tanzania can go for sri system of rice farming. Sri syatem is a methodology, can use any seeds. Produces even 15 tons of paddy per hectare. Uses less water. Cifad website has enough detais. sekhar