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Bitter harvest. Pt. 1, Out of Eden.

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About this work


A 3-part documentary series on the history of genetic modification in agriculture. It started in 1972 at Stanford University with the transfer of genes between bacteria. Fears were immediately aroused over the potential dangers of this technique and the US Academy of Science organised a voluntary moratorium. Some scientists, including Professor James Watson, saw this as a challenge to scientific freedom. Prof. Paul Berg convened a meeting of scientists in 1975 and from this emerged the consensus that became the basis of the guidelines used by the National Institutes of Health. This new field attracted many students but Harvard University's preparations to accommodate the new research provoked fierce oppostition from the local community and out of this protest the Biohazards Committee was formed. It ruled that research could proceed with certain provisions and was the model for citizen participation in scientific decisions. At Stanford University Prof. Stanley Cohen perceived the commercial potential of this new branch of science but scientific openness was a casualty of opportunism, with researchers beginning to hide their work from each other. The US government hoped that biotechnology would rejuvenate the economy and held back from imposing extra regulations that would hamper research. Jeremy Rifkin emerged as a fierce opponent of this and demanded that the dangers of the new science be examined. However, those who were impatient to see the benefits of crop biotechnology were frustrated at the slowness and setbacks that occurred. Advanced Genetic Science's Frostban, a means of making crops impervious to frost, never entered commercial production and despite the early promise of Calgene's super tomato, with improved flavour and shelf-life, the firm ended up in liquidation, ruined by the costs of production and marketing. BST, the growth hormone treatment to increase cows' milk yield, aroused fury among veterinarians and the public, and came to nothing. But when Monsanto produced plants designed to work with its own weedkiller, Roundup, agricultural biotechnology made a stronger appeal. Cotton farmers were delighted with the resulting success of their crops and even though protestors continued to attack what they saw as commercial re-population of the earth, the biotechnology companies has more or less conquered America. However, it was to be a different story elsewhere in the world.


London : BBC 2, 2002.

Physical description

1 video cassette (VHS) (50 min.) : sound, color, PAL


Broadcast on 16th June, 2002 at 20.00

Copyright note

BBC News for BBC 2.



  • English

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