Published on October 4, 2007
Biotechnology and the Transatlantic Relationship: Biotechnology and the Transatlantic Relationship Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider Dickinson College Nov. 11, 2003 Context: U.S. European Relationship*: Context: U.S. European Relationship* United States and Europe are “essential allies” Share common values -- belief in individual rights, government responsible to people, equal opportunity, equal justice, free markets BUT….. * * Information from Transatlantic Trends 2003, German Marshall fund and Compagnia di San Paolo Transatlantic relationship at a non-wartime low Deteriorated dramatically since 9/11 9/12 “Nous sommes tous des Americains” Two years later -- a different story Slide3: Favorable View of US. 1999 2003 Germany 78 25 Italy 76 34 Spain 50 14 France 62 31 British 83 48 Slide4: % Opposition to Iraq war* Italy 81 Spain 81 France 75 Germany 69 Russia 87 Turkey 86 Brits 51 * Information from Transatlantic Trends 2003, German Marshall fund and Compagnia di San Paolo Unilateralism vs. Multilateralism: Unilateralism vs. Multilateralism “You are with us or you are against us.” Pre-emptive strike The U.S. does not belong to: Kyoto Protocol International Criminal Court Biological Weapons Convention International Land Mines Treaty (Clinton Decision) Policies vs. Populace: Policies vs. Populace September 2003 Zogby poll indicated that a majority of Americans favor: Multilateralism over unilateralism For securing peace in Iraq and eliminating threat of nuclear weapons from North Korea, 3 to 1 Americans prefer using United Nations 2 to 1 Americans think the U.S. should have joined the International Criminal Court Biotechnology: Biotechnology Agriculture: genetic modification refers to the transfer of genes from one organism to another Occurs in nature across related species Man made GMOs insert desirable traits into plant seeds: Salt tolerant tomato Bt cotton “golden rice” -- vitamin A enriched Protein enhanced maize Pros and Cons: Pros and Cons No till farming –saves land Greater productivity – saves land Reduce pesticide and herbicide use, reduction by 163 million pounds annually Protein and vitamin enriched can alleviate hunger, malnutrition and disease Fears that biotech seeds could cause damage by spreading and finding new hosts Fears that consumption might be damaging Threat to traditional and organic farming because more efficient and more productive Benefits to farmer and seed manufacturer, not consumer Genomics and Pharmaceuticals: Genomics and Pharmaceuticals Sequencing of human genome jointly announced by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair in June 2001 No resistance to biotech pharmaceuticals (necessary for health vs. optional for consumption) U.S. government opposition to embryonic stem cell research vs. more open policies in Europe Context for Biotechnology: Context for Biotechnology U.S. Belief in progress, science and technology. Optimism about the future Belief in biotechnology as a tool to aid the developing world Europe “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Glass half empty Precautionary principle No tangible benefit to consumer Food as culture Fear factor from food scandals Red, White and Green: Red, White and Green Europe divides biotechnology into red, white and green “Red” biotechnology is pharmaceutical. No acceptance problems anywhere (but watch out for nutraceuticals) . “White “ biotechnology refers to biotechnological processes for industrial uses, such as for remediation or for purifying exhaust fumes. “Green” biotechnology refers to agricultural biotechnology. Strong objections in Europe, some concerns from U.S. farmers who fear loss of European market. Hot Buttons: Hot Buttons In Europe, agricultural biotechnology. In the U.S., cloning and embryonic stem cell research OTHER FACTORS: Free trade/protectionism History (eugenics in Germany) Food and Health Safety History - mad cow disease, tainted soft drink cans, tainted blood supply (France) Global Industry : Global Industry Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz begat Novartis, which is based in Switzerland but is establishing its primary research base in Cambridge Mass. (because of Harvard and MIT) Syngenta formed from Novartis and Zeneca Monsanto bought Agracetus and Calgene and was sold by Pharmacia Pharmacia was bought by Pfizer U.S./EU Stalemate: U.S./EU Stalemate EU has had 5 year moratorium on importation of GMO seeds Vote on lifting ban scheduled for early December (Syngenta’s Bt-11 maize, then Monsanto’s GA21 field corn) U.S., Argentina, Canada have filed dispute proceedings in WTO against EU Role of Science and Regulation: Role of Science and Regulation USA -- FDA, science –based decision-making (but headed by a political appointee) Federal jurisdiction Europe -- newly formed Food Safety organization Individual countries regulate selves Scientists advise; government officials decide in EU and individual countries Traceability/Labeling: Traceability/Labeling EU Threshold %.9 to qualify as GMO Traceability and Identity preservation requirements Cost to farmers-???? EU favors labeling U.S. opposed -- labeling process vs. content (75% processed foods contain biotech ingredients) GM Wheat: Test Case: GM Wheat: Test Case Monsanto has developed hard red spring wheat that is herbicide resistant, Roundup Ready wheat. Like Roundup Ready soybeans, wheat will reduce herbicide use and will grow efficiently and productively Uncertain market conditions and risk of co-mingling with non GMO wheat make farmers reluctant to use it Farmers and consumer groups petitioned government to suspend production of GM wheat until its potential impact on exports could be determined. Developing World: Unintended Consequences: Developing World: Unintended Consequences US/EU conflict - Zambian crisis Norman Borlaug, “Responsible biotechnology is not the problem; starvation is.” 800 million go hungry every day; 38 million Africans face death because of famine; 90% of Africans suffer from hunger or related diseases. 70% of the African population works in agriculture. IP issues Africa only continent that does not use high yield seeds Protein enriched maize Vitamin enriched cassava Potential to deliver vaccines through everyday food Consequences: Continent: Consequences: Continent Hostile climate for EU plant biologists may lead to exodus Field trials sabotaged 2000 French scientists signed petition to government protesting destruction of 25 field trials ( ½ of total) Consequences: Great Britain: Consequences: Great Britain 10/31 London Times headline “More than 100 leading scientists have made a once-in-a-generation appeal to Tony Blair to save British science from a tide of neglect and abuse that is driving the brightest young brains abroad” Consequences: Consequences More than 100 British scientists protested to Tony Blair the lack of support for plant biotechnology Public process “GM nation?” – more than 600 debates Scientific panel did not object to GM agriculture, but public opposed and government remained silent Factors Contributing to Opposition to Biotech Agriculture in Great Britain: Factors Contributing to Opposition to Biotech Agriculture in Great Britain Fears about safety of food as a result of mad cow disease Distrust of government as a result of mad cow disease Trusted authorities -- environmental groups and NGOs Precautionary principle and lack of tangible benefit to consumer Cultural and emotional as opposed to scientific Stem Cell Research : Stem Cell Research President Bush’s first speech to nation in August 2001 was on stem cell research Bush policy - no federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. Funds only for research involving existing stem cell “lines” Disputes over how many lines exist, how viable they are, and whether adult and embryonic stem cells function equally well Basis of the controversy: when does life begin? What is the “pro life” position? The Flight of the Scientists: The Flight of the Scientists U.S. scientists hindered in ability to do stem cell research Some states allow funding but shortage of funds Caught up in “right to life debate” Scientists beginning to move to more hospitable environments – England, Sweden, Singapore Fewer and fewer students trained in this highly promising area of research U.S. loses leading position in this promising area of research Patients lose opportunity for cures British scientists discouraged from doing plant biotechnology research Made to feel like pariahs by public Not supported by government Field trials vandalized and destroyed Scientists predict they will leave Great Britain for U.S., Canada, Australia End of plant biotechnology, and, ultimately, modern agriculture in Great Britain Science vs. Culture: Science vs. Culture No evidence that consumption of GMO food is harmful Proven that GMO seeds allow efficient, productive farming that reduces land and pesticide use Unknown if GMO seeds might contaminate neighboring plants and animals, but trials to date have shown they do not. Enormous consequences for land use, sustainable development Embryonic stem cell research offers hope to millions who have no other hope (Christopher Reeve) Research at early stages; enormous potential Fundamental debate over when life begins and which life matters most Philosophical, religious, cultural, political – no clear scientific answer Enormous consequences for patients and future research On the Horizon: On the Horizon Consumption of cloned animals – just received OK of FDA Nutraceuticals -- vitamin and nutrient enhanced foods. For regulatory purposes, are they food or pharmaceuticals? Trade Wars between U.S. And Europe -- steel today, GMO food tomorrow Individualized medicine – affordable genomic sequencing New inventions – biotech solution to global warming (Craig Venter) Conclusion: Who Will Have the Last Word?: Conclusion: Who Will Have the Last Word? Louis Pasteur urged scientists to “worship the spirit of criticism. If reduced to itself, it is not an awakening of ideas or a stimulant to great things, but, without it, everything is fallible; it always has the last word.” No shortage of criticism in the transatlantic dialogue over biotechnology; it is unclear who will have the last word.