News in August 2004
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Europe

CONFERENCES

Conference for members of Research Ethics committees to take place in, Brussels, 27 & 28 January 2005

The Europe of Knowledge 2020 Parallel seminars: Two seminars took place on: Sciences dissemination and Science shops and universities. (address see EU).

The Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) 2004 will be held in Cologne, Germany on September 12 to 15, 2004 with the theme “AgBiotech goes Europe”.http://www.abic2004.org/registration.

Participants of the 5th Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on Agricultural Biotechnology (REDBIO 2004) declared their support for the responsible and rational use of biotechnology to improve the quality of human life. http://www.redbio.org/rdominicana/redbio2004rd/Memoria_REDBIO_2004/index.htm

International Conference on Agricultural Biotechnology Ushering in the Second Green Revolution, New Delhi, India, August 10-13, 2004 (see India).

U.S.-Africa Agribusiness Conference - Nov. 7-10 2004 Monterey, CA, USA
More information and brochure at http://www.africacncl.org

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NEW BOOKS

Paul Christou, Harry Klee (eds.), Handbook of Plant Biotechnology Part 9. Risk Assessment of Transgenic Crops Copyright 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Chapter 53: Klaus Ammann: Factors Influencing Public Policy Development in Agricultural Biotechnology.

Klaus Ammann, (Botanic Garden, University of Bern Switzerland)
Biljana Papazova Ammann, (Botanic Garden, University of Bern Switzerland): Handbook of Plant Biotechnology (Wiley).

Introgression from Genetically Modified Plants into Wild Relatives Edited by H C M den Nijs, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, D Bartsch, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany, and J Sweet, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), Cambridge, UK
http://www.iospress.nl/html/boek1087383333.html

Bt Corn Videos - Asia's First: The Bt Corn Story in the Philippines (18.5 minutes); More Choices: The Lagao Farmers' Story (5.5 minutes). The cost from ISAAA is $10.

Precautionary Principle and the WTO Law By- Lawrence A. Kogan can be found at
http://diplomacy.shu.edu/journal/KOGAN - Precautionary Principle & WTO Law.pdf

The Future of Genetically Modified Crops: Lessons from the Green Revolution - Felicia Wu and William Butz, Rand Corporation, $20.00 (paperback, 114 pp.); ISBN: 0-8330-3646-7, MG-161-RC, © 2004
Free, downloadable at http://www.rand.org/publications/MG/MG161/
Chapter One: Introduction Chapter Two: The Green Revolution Chapter Three: The Gene Revolution: Genetically Modified Crops Chapter Four: Lessons for the Gene Revolution from the Green Revolution

The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution - by Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko, Praeger Publishers, Hardcover ISBN: 0-275-97879-6; 296 pages $39.95 http://www.greenwood.com/books/BookDetail.asp?dept_id=1&sku=C7879 Foreword by Norman E. Borlaug; Prologue by John H. Moore;(UK Sterling Price: ?22.99) Availability: Not yet published. (Estimated publication date, 8/30/2004)

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EU a EUROPE

EU (available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/index_en.cfm)

Open consultation: The Commission would welcome views and comments from all regarding the future European research policy. Contributions would be particularly welcome from the research community and users of research, including public institutes, universities, large companies, SMEs, research organisations, international organisations and associations. An online questionnaire is available.

13.8.
Ratified by 55 countries, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has entered into force. The groundbreaking treaty contains legally binding provisions for the protection of agricultural genetic diversity, as well as the rights of farmers (see GENERAL).

Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) Food Quality and Satefy
The folder "Food quality and safety in Europe" containing 39 leaflets presenting EU-funded research projects focusing on food is now available for download.

30.8.
Bioethics Documents - Survey on opinions from National Ethics Committees or similar bodies, public debate and national legislation in relation to human embryonic stem cell research and use ? July 2004 Volume I ? EU Member States (PDF 793 Kb) Volume II ? Non-EU countries (PDF 392Kb).

Science and Society - Euroscience Open Forum 2004 (ESOF 2004) The Euroscience Open Forum 2004 is the first pan-European scientific meeting ever staged to provide an interdisciplinary forum for open dialogue, debate and discussion on science and technology in society.

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EUROPE

4. August. From: Denis Murphy, University of Glamorgan, Wales, UK…
Since April 18 2004, the GM Food and Feed traceability regulations ((EC) no. 1829/2003 and (EC) no. 1830/2003) state that it is a legal requirement for all food and feed containing >0.9% fully approved GM material to be labelled as so. Grain passports now contain a declaration stating that the load is not subject to the GM labelling requirements - i.e. does not contain any GM material. It is the grower's responsibility to ensure that they are using up to date copies of the passport to avoid creating problems further down the line, warned Paul Ibbott, Chief Arable Advisor to the NFU.

From now on rapeseed (canola) growers may have to test each truckload of their seed for GM-free status - otherwise they could be labelled as GM & may be rejected by crushers.

"Fuel-farming" comes in.
Z Of the options available to UK agriculture, oil-seed rape (OSR) currently seems the best. Syngenta Royal is the highest seed yield hybrid on the market. It allows farmers to produce about 1800 litres of oil per hectare. 400 hectares can help generate enough electricity for 1000 homes.

Syngenta NK Seeds is now providing Royal to farmers with an OSR selling contract from the partnering electricity plant. Syngenta Crop Protection will support both parties with the best agronomic advice. By June 2005, the electricity plant should be ready to receive the first test deliveries. The second partner company will then buy the OSR power for its "green energy " customers. http://www.syngenta.com/en/day_in_life/bioelectricity.aspx

If the trial goes well, several former UK collieries intend to buy OSR for their electricity-producing turbines. And thereafter? If the UK devoted all its 'set aside' and half the existing OSR area to bioelectricity, the country would rapidly reach one of its major Kyoto targets.

Basic document for non-food crops see http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/nonfoodcrops/index.htm

August 5
FAS Online,
The French Food Safety Agency (equivalent to the FDA in the United States), has come up with definite conclusions indicating that, under certain circumstances, biotech crops can be beneficial to human health. The reports explicitly says that the production of new crops that are resistant to insects would have a doubly positive impact on both farmers and consumers' health by lowering their exposure to pesticides and to mycotoxins. http://www.afssa.fr/ftp/afssa/2004-SA-0246-Benefices-OGM.pdf

ABIC (Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference) Manifesto is now established after an editorial phase within the steering committee of the ABIC conference in Cologne: http://www.abic2004.org/manifesto/. The newsletter No. 4 contains comments by Klaus Ammann about the biotech debate in Europe and the Manifesto http://www.abic2004.org/download/ABIC2004_newsletter_no4.pdf

August 6 Food Week (ABIX Abstracts)
A UK food institute is supportive of the next generation of genetically modified (GM) foods. According to Ralph Blanchfield, of the Institute of Food Science & Technology, "food problems of the future will not be solved without GM", in light of the 30,000 deaths per day globally from diet deficiency illnesses. Blanchfield says that the first generation of GM foods was mainly for the benefit of food producers. He believes that the advancement has been marred by the negative portrayal in the media. Blanchfield adds that for the next generation of GM foods to succeed, it had to address consumer needs

Rudolf Valenta of Austria's Medical University of Vienna and colleagues used genetic engineering to create a hypoallergenic vaccine from birch pollen. They then successfully tested it in human subjects. An allergy vaccine derived from genetically engineered birch pollen has proven effective in human subjects, showing that genetic engineering can be used to produce hypoallergenic therapies for treating many common allergies. The research is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

August 14 MARSAT, France
Several hundred protesters trashed a field of genetically engineered corn Saturday, despite the presence of about 100 pro-biotech militants and almost as many police. The protests pushed down a fence and trampled a 1.5-hectare where the genetically modified corn was growing. The protesters included Gilles Lemaire, national secretary of the Green party, and Gerard Leras, the party's regional chief.

August 16, Edinbourgh News, Nicola Stow
http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=948042004
The head of the science lab which created Dolly the sheep has been found hanging in his holiday home.  Professor John Clark, who was believed to have been suffering from depression was found in his remote cottage in the village of Cove, north of Eyemouth, on the Berwickshire coast.

August 18, Swissinfo http://www.swissinfo.org/
The government has come out against a proposal calling for a five-year moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops in Switzerland. It said such a move would damage Switzerland's standing in the field of agricultural research as well as its trade relations with other countries.

Put forward by a coalition of environmental groups, consumers and farmers, the people's initiative calls for a ban on the farming of GM crops for use in food, and the importing of GM seeds and fodder. Supporters collected almost 121,000 signatures - 100,000 are needed for a people's initiative - in just seven months last year, after parliament voted to reject a moratorium on GM crops.

But on Wednesday [August 18], the cabinet said that a law on genetics that came into effect in January this year adequately protected humans, animals and the environment against abuses. It said that the law had already set out a procedure authorizing the import and distribution of Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs. It added that the legislation was precautionary and aimed at protecting non-GM agriculture.
Added to this, said the government, was the fact that the procedure for allowing genetically modified plants in the country was likely to take several years.

Ministers also said that the initiative went too far and could damage Switzerland as a place of scientific development, even if research was not directly targeted by the moratorium. In a statement, they said that scientists could be tempted to conduct their work elsewhere if the future of GM crops remained uncertain in Switzerland. Another point for the government was that if the country accepted a moratorium on imports, this could have a damaging effect on its trade relations and Switzerland could stand accused of violating international treaties.

August 20, Cordis
http://dbs.cordis.lu/cgi-bin/srchidadb?CALLER=NHP_EN_NEWS&ACTION=D&SESSION=&RCN=EN_RCN_ID:22495 Following the destruction on August 14, of two fields of genetically engineered corn by several hundred protesters calling themselves the 'volunteer reapers' and headed by the anti-globalisation campaigner, José Bové, there are indications that both the French government and the general public are wavering in their opposition to open-field tests of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops.

Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) Unit 3, Canonbury Yard, 190a New North Road, London N1 7BJ. (In some countries CIIR is known as International Cooperation for Development (ICD)) issued a leaflet on GMO with statement (introduced "we believe that....") identical with Greenpeace. The leaflet was "Produced with the financial assistance of the European Commission. Note: "The views expressed herein are those of CIIR and can therefore in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Commission." http://www.ciir.org/content/news/documents/GM_leaflet.pdf

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AFRICA

While opening a bio-safety greenhouse complex at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's National Agricultural Research Laboratories Centre at Kabete in June, President Mwai Kibaki affirmed that the government strongly supports the use of GM crops and other modern scientific technologies to boost agriculture.

While registering his support for GMOs, Kibaki said that he was fully aware of the ongoing debate on the application of GMOs. He said that Kenya would apply biotechnology within the existing bio-safety structure, national statutes and international obligations.

He announced that the Government and other players had introduced comprehensive guidelines for the use of biotechnology research. "The development of a biotechnology policy is at an advanced stage. Bills to support this policy are being prepared for consideration in Parliament," he said.

August 6, CropBiotech Update - Uganda
Uganda's outgoing minister for agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, Dr. Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa, has challenged the country's parliament to pass the national biosafety law to facilitate the use of biotechnology to ease problems faced by the country's agriculture sector.

Dr. Kisamba Mugerwa, Uganda's Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, has been appointed director of the International Service for Agricultural Research, a new division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

August 25, Pretoria News
http://www.pretorianews.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=667&fArticleId=2199185
In reply to the article by Melanie Gosling entitled "Secret tests on GM potatoes to go ahead", we wish to point out that Potatoes South Africa, the representative organisation of South Africa's potato producers, supports the use of modern biotechnology to improve the production of potatoes in South Africa provided it is done in a safe, responsible and ethical manner.

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JAPAN

August 6, Tokyo (Nikkei Report)
Oji Paper Co. s(3861) has successfully grafted natural eucalyptus onto genetically modified eucalyptus to create trees that grow well in acidic soils without worry that genetically altered seeds will spread in the environment.

The graft has the root system of a eucalyptus tree genetically modified to absorb nutrients in acidic soils, where eucalyptus normally does not thrive. The rest of the graft from the trunk up is derived from a natural eucalyptus tree.

Using a greenhouse isolated from the environment, the company has verified that these trees mature and produce seeds that do not contain any genetic material from the bottom half of the graft.

Oji Paper plans to repeat the experiments in a normal greenhouse this year to verify a second time that the grafts pose no danger of release of modified genes into the environment.

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INDIA

August 1, Financial Express
The US based International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) is slated launch its 'knowledge centre' in India in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). In this way ISAAA has added India to its network of Biotechnology Information Centres (BICs) located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. knowledge.center@isaaa.org. The launch of this 'knowledge centre' will be on the occasion of the three-day International conference on 'Agricultural Biotechnology : Ushering in the Second Green Revolution' beginning on August 10.

August 5, New Delhi, Asia pulse.
In what could provide major relief to farmers reeling under drought, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is set to launch field trials of genetically-modified short-term and high yielding groundnuts from next season and pigeon pea in 2006. "The groundnut variety is ready for field trials from next seasons (2004) and we are in talks with partners including Indian Council of Agricultural Research in India," ICRISAT Director General William Dar told reporters here. He said the field trials for the GM pigeon pea variety will start in 2006. "We have also developed a variety of sweet sorghum which is better than sugarcane in manufacturing ethanol, helping the country's energy needs and helping the environment," he said.

Swarna Bharat Biotechnics Private Ltd (SBBPL), in Hyderabad, India, a consortium of seven Indian seed companies, has received licenses for two genes derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which protect cotton against bollworm and tobacco caterpillar. http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2004/news04.aug.html#aug0405

The Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India is now collaborating with private sector clients.

Bioseed Research India Pvt. Ltd., a part of the DCM Shriram Group, is working on research projects related to the application of agricultural biotechnology for the development of superior cotton hybrids. http://www.icrisat.cgiar.org.

August 10.  Uttara Choundhury AFP
Biotechnology is needed to combat pests and other challenges facing India's farmers, and could spur another "green revolution," the country's science and technology minister said Tuesday. "It's a new age weapon to fight the odds in agriculture," Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told an agricultural biotechnology conference.
He pledged the government would ease red tape surrounding clearance of biotechnologies. "We're evolving a simple, transparent regulatory system to rapidly speed up by January 2005 the approval or rejection of technologies to give our farmers additional choices," he told the two-day global meeting.

August 26. Financial Express (India)
In a bid to boost research in the biotechnology sector, the government has decided to provide funding and infrastructure support for public-private partnership programmes in specific areas. The identified areas include crops, biofertilisers, medicinal and aromatic plants, animal and plant biotechnology, aquaculture and marine biotechnology.

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ASIA

Brunei
Dato Haji Idris bin Haji Belaman, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, at the opening address of the Awareness Seminar of Bio-safety Aspects of Genetically Modified Organisms and the launching of the book on 'Frequently Asked Questions on Genetically Modified Organisms' yesterday said that conventional ways of producing food will not be able to keep pace with the rapid rates of population growth.

He added that considering the fact that a significant number of the world population are Muslims and the majority of those who live in Brunei are also Muslims, it should become our concern that emphasis should also be applied in developing our capabilities to regulate the non-halal components in the genetically modified organisms.
The two-day seminar will give participants the opportunity to share experiences through the presentation of technical papers and exchanges of ideas on matters relating to GMO's Biosafety.

A total of 12 papers will be presented by experts from Brunei, Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.

August 21. Bangkok Post, Kultida Samabuddhi
http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/21Aug2004_News06.php
Thailand has fully embraced the technology of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gave the green light yesterday to an open-field trial that would lead to commercial plantations and imports of GM products

August 24.  Manila Standard
Thailand has lifted a three-year ban on planting genetically modified organisms by allowing the crops to grow in open-field trials with non-GMO plants, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Saturday. Thailand is set to join other Asian leaders in the modern agricultural biotechnology following the lifting of a three-year ban on the planting of GMOs in that country, a move which may place the Philippines in the "laggard" category.

Philippines Results of Local Bt Corn Studies Published http://www.searca.org/~bic/press_releases/2004/august_18.html The SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center (BIC) recently published two brochures that highlighted the results of studies conducted on Bt corn in the Philippines. In the "Philippines Bt corn and feed safety," Prof. Lydia J. Querubin, university researcher, Institute of Animal Science, University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) investigated the feed safety and feeding value of Bt corn to broilers and its effects on meat quality. Results showed that growth performance and meat quality of broilers fed with Bt corn and non-Bt corn diets are comparable suggesting the safety of Bt corn as feeds. Download the brochure at  http://www.searca.org/~bic/info_kits/btcorn_feed.pdf
On the other hand, the brochure on "Philippines Bt corn and insect diversity"  http://www.searca.org/~bic/info_kits/btcorn_insectdiv.pdf  presented the results of insect diversity studies on Bt corn fields conducted in Villaluna, Cauayan, Isabela, and Panagan, Tigaon, Camarines Sur. Using the Shannon Index to measure species diversity, Dr. Stephen G. Reyes, assistant professor, Department of Entomology, UPLB, showed that in Bt- & non Bt-corn fields, insect diversity was generally the same. He and co-workers found more beneficial insects in Bt corn fields than in non-Bt corn fields sprayed with chemical insecticides.

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LATIN AMERICA

August 11, Reuters
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200408/s1174282.htm
Brazil says it has created the first complete map of the genetic structure of the coffee plant and its Agriculture Minister says the country will now work to develop a "super coffee". Brazil has mapped coffee's DNA in a bid to cut production costs and create beans that cater to the rich tastes of US and European consumers.

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AUSTRALIA

August 4.
ABC.net http://www.abc.net.au/widebay/news/200408/s1168391.htm
BSES (Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations) Bundaberg, in south-east Queensland, says genetically modified (GM) sugarcane is safe because it cannot contaminate other farms.

The University of Queensland has lodged an application for a field trial of GM sugar, and the Australian Democrats has raised concern that may affect the industry's clean and green image.

Palmina Bonaventura from BSES Bundaberg says sugarcane does not seed.

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NEW GROUPS AND WEB PAGES

August 9.
Drawing upon the expertise of their community of more than 120 academics, researchers, and other life sciences professionals, an online coalition of academics (http://www.PlantPharma.org) have refuted a report that claims biotechnology-improved rice being grown to help produce new life-saving therapeutic drugs may pose a risk to human or environmental health.

For full press release, please visit: http://www.plantpharma.org/ials/index.php?id=148 or write to us at info@plantpharma.org.

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GENERAL

August 17.  Via Agnet; Norman Ellstrand, principal investigator, RIVERSIDE, California.
http://www.newsroom.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/display.cgi?id=869
The National Science Foundation has awarded UC Riverside a $1.5 million grant to research the unintended spread of engineered plant genes, an issue at the heart of the controversy over genetically modified foods.

August 25. Dave Wood AgBioView, www.agbioworld.org a jillian.lenne@BTopenworld.com, (Resource Policy Analyst)
UN Seed Tax a Threat to US Farms
On June 29th this year, the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources entered into force under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. This Treaty is a threat to US agriculture and will reduce the international competitiveness of US farming.

The Treaty sets up rules for access and benefit sharing for millions of crop samples conserved in national and international genebanks. These seeds, mainly of farmers' varieties, have been and will be essential raw materials for plant breeders. Global food security and a vast international trade depend on advances in plant breeding of crops such as wheat, rice, corn and sorghum, which are covered by the treaty.

August 23. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Rutgers food scientist Joseph D. Rosen asks, "Is organic food healthier than conventional food?" - the title of a day-long symposium targeting consumer health and economics he has organized for the 228th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in Philadelphia on Monday, Aug. 23.

"The truth is out there," says Rosen, a professor of food science at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, borrowing from "The X-Files." While many Americans believe that organic food is healthier than conventional fare, the scientific evidence does not necessarily support that belief, Rosen contends. Detailed symposium agendas with links to individual abstracts can be found at: http://oasys2.confex.com/acs/228nm/techprogram/S14433.HTM and http://oasys2.confex.com/acs/228nm/techprogram/S15653.HTM.

August 26,  Reuters, Richard Waddington
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has put off until March a decision on whether the European Union broke trade rules by not allowing imports of genetically modified foods (GMO), officials said on Thursday.  But environmentalists said a verdict in the politically charged case, brought against the European Union by the United States, Argentina and Canada, could take even longer after trade judges agreed to hear scientific opinion.

WTO judges had initially been expected to issue a ruling in September or October, but officials said that it had been put back until the end of March to give both sides more time to make their case and to let the judges question scientists.  The judges' decision to take evidence from scientists was seen as a victory for the EU, which had pressed for their views to be heard, while the United States and its allies had argued that this was unnecessary.

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