News in September 2004
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Europe

The International Consortium of Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR) is encouraging scientists to sign an open letter to the General Director of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) supporting its recent report on biotech foods' potential role in developing countries. Over 300 scientists have signed the letter. Those who wish to be included in the letter of support can do so online at http://www.economia.uniroma2.it/conferenze/icabr.

NEW BOOKS, JOURNALS AND IMPORTANT PAPERS

Mendel's 1865 paper explaining how dominant and recessive alleles could produce the traits we see and could be passed to offspring was the first major insight into the science behind the art. The paper was largely ignored until 1900, when three scientists working on breeding problems rediscovered it and publicized Mendel's findings. Now it can be downloaded at http://www.MendelWeb.org/Mendel.html.

Information on the history of corn breeding is available in an article written by L.W. Kannenberg for the Ontario Corn Producers Association http://www.ontariocorn.org/ocpmag/dec99feat.html

transgenic history at http://www.colostate.edu/programs/lifesciences/TransgenicCrops/history.html.

Biological Resource Management in Agriculture
Challenges and Risks of Genetically Engineered Organisms

What are the risks and opportunities associated with genetically engineered organisms in terms of the environment, food safety, and economic and trade issues? The various and often diverging answers to this question were discussed at the workshop on ...

bullet Now available in paperback and/or PDF E-Book from the Online Bookshop
bullet Now available online (PDF) from SourceOECD Agriculture & Food, SourceOECD Industry, Services & Trade and SourceOECD Science & Information Technology (for subscribing institutions)

The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution by Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko with a foreword by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug) ISBN: 0-275-97879-6, Available in bookstores beginning September 2004, and online at http://www.greenwood.com.

GMOs in Integrated Production. Ecological Impact of Genetically Modified Organisms at Prague 26-29 November 2003. IOBC wprs Bulletin, Bulletin OILB srop Vol 27(3)2004-09-15 Editors: Jörg Romeis & Franz Bigler. ISBN 92-9067-164-3

Mendel in the Kitchen: Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food
Nina V. Federoff and Nancy Marie Brown; 352 pages, Joseph Henry Press (JHP),, ISBN; Web:$25.16;  Available in October 2004; Order at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11000.html

Nina Fedoroff is a leading geneticist and molecular biologist. At the Pennsylvania State University she studies genes that protect plants from biological and non-biological stresses. Fedoroff is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is currently serving on the National Science Board. Nancy Brown was trained as a medievalist but has worked since 1981 as a science writer.

Jeffrey L. Fox, Nature Biotechnology, v. 22, 1062; (September, 2004). www.nature.com
A National Academy of Science report "Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects," was commissioned jointly by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Depart-ment of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all of which share responsibilities for regulating GM organisms and foods derived from them. This commission is part of the response by the agencies to a NAS report published four years ago that called on them "to better coordinate their work and to expand public access to the regulatory process" in this arena (Nat. Biotechnol. 18, 486, 2000). Adverse health effects from consuming GM foods "have not been documented in the human population, but the technique is new and concerns about its safety remain," according to the report, which also notes that "even traditional methods such as cross-breeding can cause unexpected changes." Thus, the NAS committee recommends extending voluntary testing from new types of GM foods to testing foods that are developed by traditional breeding such as hybridization. Although encouraging on the narrow, genetically modified (GM) food front, the report reveals a shift of attitude that could yet prove expensive for agbiotech companies, particularly if the report's recommended expansive regulatory and data-gathering practices were made mandatory.

A version of the Chinese Journal of Agricultural Biotechnology is now being published in English by CAB Publishing. On ingenta, the home page is: http://www.ingenta.com/journals/browse/cabi/cjb A table of contents can be reached at: http://www.ingenta.com/isis/browsing/TOC/ingenta?issue=pubinfobike://cabi/cjb/2004/00000001/00000001

Chinese Journal of Agricultural Biotechnology brings cutting-edge Chinese research to an international audience. This journal takes the very best papers published in Chinese in the Journal of Agricultural Biotechnology, translates them and makes them available to the international scientific community.

The African Scientist magazine http://www.africagenome.co.za/publications/scientist.html The first issue of The African Scientist is now available. Covering the world of genomics, the magazine is aimed at students, teachers and scientists. In the January 2004 issue. Editor: Adrian Hadland. Production editor: Lynne Wilson.

Published by the Africa Genome Initiative, a project of the Social Cohesion and Integration Research Programme of the Human Sciences Research Council.

Trade, Standards, and the Political Economy of Genetically Modified Food
Kym Anderson, Richard Damania, and Lee Ann Jackson, World Bank; Working Paper No. 3395; September 1, 2004
Anderson, Damania, and Jackson develop a common-agency lobbying model to help understand why North America and the European Union have adopted such different policies toward genetically modified (GM) food. See http://econ.worldbank.org/view.php?type=5&id=38347

Recent work on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) endotoxins has revealed that modifications in a few key protein domains may increase toxin activity, Nachimuthu Saraswathy and Polumetla Ananda Kumar report in the current issue of the Electronic Journal of Biotechnology.
Download the full paper at http://www.ejbiotechnology.info/content/vol7/issue2/full/3/3.pdf

Weed Science: Vol. 52, No. 5, pp. 834-844. A comparative ecological risk assessment for herbicides used on spring wheat: the effect of glyphosate when used within a glyphosate-tolerant wheat system Robert K. D. Peterson and Andrew G. Hulting

ABSTRACT Glyphosate-tolerant spring wheat currently is being developed and most likely will be the first major genetically engineered crop to be marketed and grown in several areas of the northern Great Plains of the United States. The public has expressed concerns about environmental risks from glyphosate-tolerant wheat. Replacement of traditional herbicide active ingredients with glyphosate in a glyphosate-tolerant spring wheat system may alter ecological risks associated with weed management. The objective of this study was to use a Tier 1 quantitative risk assessment methodology to compare ecological risks for 16 herbicide active ingredients used in spring wheat. The herbicide active ingredients included 2,4-D, bromoxynil, clodinafop, clopyralid, dicamba, fenoxaprop, flucarbazone, glyphosate, MCPA, metsulfuron, thifensulfuron, tralkoxydim, triallate, triasulfuron, tribenuron, and trifluralin. We compared the relative risks of these herbicides to glyphosate to provide an indication of the effect of glyphosate when it is used in a glyphosate-tolerant spring wheat system. Ecological receptors and effects evaluated were avian (acute dietary risk), wild mammal (acute dietary risk), aquatic vertebrates (acute risk), aquatic invertebrates (acute risk), aquatic plants (acute risk), nontarget terrestrial plants (seedling emergence and vegetative vigour), and groundwater exposure. Ecological risks were assessed by integrating toxicity and exposure, primarily using the risk quotient method. Ecological risks for the 15 herbicides relative to glyphosate were highly variable. For risks to duckweed, green algae, groundwater, and nontarget plant seedling emergence, glyphosate had less relative risk than most other active ingredients. The differences in relative risks were most pronounced when glyphosate was compared with herbicides currently widely used on spring wheat.

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 CONFERENCES

Conference "Integrating Safety and Nutrition Research", is scheduled on 27.-29.October. 2004 in Lille /France). see http://www.ssha.asso.fr/, http://www.lille.inra.fr/.

REGISTRATION IS FREE (no charge for the conference), BUT COMPULSORY : Lille International Travel Web site : http://www.lilletravel.com, e-mail: convention@lilletravel.com.

"Feeding a Hungry World: The Moral Imperative of Biotechnology "
Friday, September 24, 2004
Venue: The Pontifical Gregorian University, Piazza della Pilotta, 4, Rome, Italy
http://vatican.usembassy.it/Policy/Events/biotech.asp
Sessions will examine: The Current State of the Global Food Crisis; The Theological and Moral Case for Biotech Food; Scientific Advances in Biotech Crops; How Developing-World Farmers Have Used Biotech Crops; and Debunking the Myths of Biotechnology.
Speakers will include:

bullet Rev. Gonzalo Miranda, L.C., Dean of the School of Bioethics, Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, Rome,
bullet Dr. Piero Morandini, Professor of Genetic Biotechnology, Department of Biology, University of Milan
bullet Dr. Prabhu Pingali, Director of the Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome
bullet Dr. C.S. Prakash, Professor, Tuskegee University, Alabama, U.S.A.. Founder and President of AgBio World Foundation.
bullet Dr. Carl Pray, Professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, U.S.A. Director of the Department of Agricultural Food and Resource Economics, Graduate Program.
bullet Dr. Peter Raven, Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and Engelmann Professor of Botany at Washington University in St. Louis, U.S.A.

Meetings of the Catagena Protocol on Biosafety - Paul Christensen < ntlcorn@iastate.edu >
The next meetings of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety are:

bullet 4 - 6 October 2004 - Geneva, Switzerland: Coordination meeting for representatives of academic institutions actively involved in education and training programmes in biosafety, http://www.biodiv.org/meetings/default.aspx?thm=CPB&yr=%
bullet 18 - 20 October 2004 - Montreal, Canada: Technical Group of Experts on Liability and Redress: http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=BSTELR-01

Willy De Greef has pointed out the imbalance between representatives of the scientific community and those of NGO opposing biotechnology at these meetings (see article that was highlighted earlier in AgBioView at: http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/Dynapage.taf?file=/nbt/journal/v22/n7/full/nbt0704-811.html.

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 GENERAL

A database of tree genes
Associated Press, Sep 13, 2004
http://www.globetechnology.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20040913.gttreesep13/BNStory/Technology/
CORVALLIS, Ore. - A database of tree genes has been released by Oregon and Swedish researchers in an effort to speed up basic and commercial research. The database describes about 102,000 sequences of the most commonly expressed genes in the type of trees that includes poplars, cottonwoods and aspens.

Terminologies used in agricultural biotechnology
Following websites carry glossaries including searchable terms that would make it easier for look up terminology:
http://www.biotechterms.org/ http://www.fao.org/biotech/index_glossary.asp  http://www.cybersciences.com/Cyber/1.0/1_685_752.asp http://www.scidev.net/dossiers/index.cfm?fuseaction=definitions&dossier=6 http://www.ucbiotech.org

Bibliography with abstracts for environmental/ecological impacts of transgenic organisms has been compiled an annotated to increase awareness and accessibility of peer-reviewed journal articles with data addressing environmental and ecological impacts of transgenic organisms, Information Systems for Biotechnology ( http://www.isb.vt.edu/ ) The PDFs are also available for download on the ISAAA website at http://www.isaaa.org/kc/bin/publications/docabinets/index.htm

bullet Annotated Bibliography on Environmental and Ecological Impacts from Transgenic Plants I: Transgene Persistence and Gene Flow (PDF)
bullet Annotated Bibliography on Environmental and Ecological Impacts from Transgenic Plants II: Unintended Effects (PDF)
bullet Annotated Bibliography on Environmental and Ecological Impacts from Transgenic Plants III: Insect Resistant Plants (PDF)
bullet Annotated Bibliography on Environmental and Ecological Impacts of Transgenic Animals (PDF)
bullet Annotated Bibliography on Environmental and Ecological Impacts of Transgenic Microorganisms (PDF)

Genes From Engineered Grass Spread for Miles. Finds study by Andrew Pollack, New York Times, September 21, 2004. Full story at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/21/business/21grass.html
The two companies, Monsanto and Scotts, have developed a strain of creeping bent grass for use on golf courses that is resistant to the widely used herbicide Roundup. Some scientists said the new results, to be published online this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did not necessarily raise alarms about existing genetically modified crops like soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. There are special circumstances, they say, that make the creeping bent grass more environmentally worrisome, like its extraordinarily light pollen.

Comment by Klaus Ammann: this is what has to be expected anyway. See, e.g. http://www.botanischergarten.ch/debate/techdef5a.pdf and paper Watrud, L.S., Lee, E.H., Fairbrother, A., Burdick, C., Reichman, J.R., Bollman, M., Storm, M., King, G., & Van de Water, P.K. (2004) Evidence for landscape-level, pollen-mediated gene flow from genetically modified creeping bent grass with CP4 EPSPS as a marker. PNAS, pp 0405154101 http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0405154101v1 and http://www.botanischergarten.ch/Geneflow/Watrud-PNAS-preprint05154.pdf

“Herbicide Tolerance Technology: Glyphosate and Glufosinate” A revised version of Pocket K No. 10 is now available online at http://www.isaaa.org/kc. It discusses weed control practices, development of glyphosate and glufosinate herbicide tolerant plants, advantages of herbicide tolerance crops, safety aspects of the technology, and the current status of herbicide tolerance.

“Biosynthesis of Very-Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Transgenic Oilseeds: Constraints on Their Accumulation” Ernst Heinz et al. (the University of Hamburg Download the full text of the article, at http://www.plantcell.org

An electronic device that uses spinach to convert light into electrical charge. Shuguang Zhang, Laboratory of Molecular Self-Assembly, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Visit Shuguang Zhang’s laboratory online at http://web.mit.edu/lms/www/

Genetically engineered plants that contain only native DNA. Crop Improvement Through the Modification of the Plant's Own Genome. Rommens, C., et al. (May 2004 issue of Plant Physiology) produced hundreds of marker-free and backbone-free potato (Solanum tuberosum) plants displaying reduced expression of polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme responsible for the brown discoloration of potato tubers.
http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/reprint/135/1/421.pdf
A new low-linolenic acid soybean that will reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids (trans fats) in processed soybean oil, while maintaining performance parity with leading soybean varieties, has been developed by traditional breedingand is now ready for commercialization. The Monsanto variety carrying the VISTIVE brand will be available for the 2005 crop season. For more details of the new soybean, visit http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/layout/media/04/09-01-04.asp

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 EUROPE

EU

13 September 2004, Brussels/Rome
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/50248/index.html
The European Commission and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today signed a strategic partnership agreement designed to reinforce their joint efforts to reduce poverty, promote agricultural development and fight hunger in developing countries. Specific areas of collaboration will be food security, sustainable rural development and agricultural policies, food safety and quality, natural resources management, statistics and information exchange.

September 14, 2004 BRUSSELS,
For the first time ever, the European Union has approved the planting and sale of genetically-modified (GMO) or biotech seeds throughout its 25-member states. The move authorizes the cultivation of 17 different strains of Monsanto's (MON.N) 810 maize into what is called the Common Catalogue - the EU's overall seed directory that includes all national seed catalogues. The GM seeds in question had already been authorised in Spain and France and the Commission was thus obliged to extend the approval to EU level. The maize varieties can now be marketed in the entire EU.

In a separate development, Commission President Romano Prodi decided to withdrew from its agenda the proposal to establish labelling thresholds for trace amounts of EC approved genetically modified (GM) seed in conventional seed and thus to take the controversial new proposal on coexistence off the Commission's agenda on 8 September. The Commission is known to be divided over the draft text, which allegedly foresees a threshold of 0.3 per cent for the presence of GMOs in conventional seeds. "The GMO discussion was postponed as the information available on the economic impact of such legislation was deemed insufficient. The Commission is not likely to return to this issue in the remaining months of its term," a Commission spokesperson said.

September 16 Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
New and Emerging Science and Technology (NEST) Available for download: NEST Project Fact Sheets - NEST-2003-A (PDF 1.2 MB) Containing 13 NEST project fact sheets

Marie Curie Actions: - New calls have been published for Marie Curie Research Training Networks and Early Stage Training - A Specific Support Action has been launched with the publication of a call for proposals for the "2005 Researchers in Europe" Inititiative.

September 20, Committee on the Deliberate Release of GMOs into the Environment under Directive 2001/18/EC discussed the draft of Commission Decision concerning the placing on the market, in accordance with Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of a maize product (Zea mays L., line MON 863) genetically modified for resistance to corn rootworm. German delegation distributed the review by the well known opponent of GMO Dr. Pusztai. Commission postponed the decision.

The Advisory Group on the Food Chain and Animal and Plant Health has been created to facilitate consultation and dialogue between the European Commission and European organizations on food safety policy. The group will be composed of about 45 members from EU-level associations representing consumers, the food industry, retailers and farmers.

The new Advisory Group replaces five existing consultative bodies - the Advisory Committee on Foodstuffs, plus the standing groups on veterinary matters, plant health, animal welfare and feeding stuffs previously attached to the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Product Health and Safety. The new Advisory Group will focus on strategies on food safety policies.

For further information see
http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/committees/advisory/index_en.htm or visit http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/04/1051&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN

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EUROPE

September 23, 2004,

Germany BioMed Central, By Grit Kienzlen,

Germany's two national legislative bodies were at loggerheads over genetically modified (GM) plant legislation yesterday (September 22) after an arbitration panel that is supposed to conciliate between the Parliament and Bundesrat failed to reach a consensus.

On July 9, the representatives of Germany's 16 provinces in the Bundesrat-dominated by the Christian Democrat party-defeated a bill that had been approved by the Parliament (Bundestag), where Social Democrat (SPD) and Green parties hold the majority.

The arbitration panel is supposed to mediate between Bundestag and Bundesrat, but "the talks there are still extremely emotionally charged," Wolf-Dieter Glatzel, who represents the SPD faction in the panel, told The Scientist. Each party accuses the other of irrationality, as they struggle to draft a law that will allow commercial use of plant biotechnology while being acceptable to opponents of the technology.

Originally, the federal government was supposed to implement EU guidelines for releasing GM plants by 2002, but the law proposed by the minister of consumer protection, Renate Künast, a member of the Green party, was fiercely criticized by all major research organizations, who called it a "law of gene technology prevention."

There are two major points at issue, both concerning liability in case crops sown by conventional or organic farmers and contaminated by the neighbouring fields of GM farmers.

While the EU guidelines recognize a contamination only when it exceeds a threshold level of 0.9%, the draft of the German law also acknowledges economic damage to an organic farmer if the contamination exceeds a threshold that he or she has arranged individually with his customers.

Secondly, the law currently allows for all neighbouring GM farmers to be held liable for the damage collectively, even if they have personally followed all rules of good agricultural practice. The German Farmers Association therefore discourages its members from planting GM crops because of incalculable economic risks.

An alliance of German research organizations, including the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Society, the German Research Foundation, and the Conference of University Rectors, sent an open letter to the arbitration panel last week. The letter said that the bill would prevent experiments with GM plants, making internationally competitive research impossible.

In addition to criticizing the liability rules, the research bodies were unhappy that cultivation areas for GM plants would have to be disclosed in a public registry, as experimental fields have been destroyed regularly by environmental activists in the past. The bill, the alliance writes, therefore "jeopardizes the future of the major branches of innovation in Germany."

The European Commission has also criticized the German bill in a detailed statement from July 26 for undermining EU regulations. If the bill is enacted without major changes, a legal procedure at the European Court may be foreseeable.

The arbitration panel will meet again for further consultation by the end of October, but members of the political opposition, such as Christel Happach-Kasan from the Liberal party (FDP), don't believe that the governing parties will try to find a compromise. "Fundamental opposition to green biotechnology is popular, but not enforceable in the EU any more," she said. The likely outcome will be that decisions will be left to the courts, she said.

Links for this article: N. Stafford, "Law may stifle German science," The Scientist, June 28, 2004. http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040628/02/
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040923/02/

United Kingdom (UK).

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) of the called for the Consumer's Association to reconsider its current policy regarding genetically modified (GM) crops. The current stance of the Association favours “denying choice to farmers and consumers who wish to experience the benefits of GM technology, which have been appreciated by millions around the world for almost a decade,” ABC said in its press release http://www.abcinformation.org/press_release.php?press_id=41.

Italy

has been field-testing genetically modified (GM) grapes, raspberries, and strawberries since 2001. GM strawberry and raspberry plants, transformed with the DefH9-iaaM gene, tend to grow more fruits, which are also larger and heavier than those of their non-GM counterparts. Similar experiments are also being carried out on grapes, and more projects are underway. Read about Dr. Mezzetti’s projects at http://www.bioinformatica.unito.it/bioinformatics/Spena/index.html.

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OTHER COUNTRIES

BRAZIL

September 10:
Brazil's biotech regulator was cited as saying that it could clear new varieties of genetically modified (GM) soy, corn, cotton and rice for commercial use by December. A federal tribunal said majority of its judges recognized the power of the government's Technical Commission on Biotechnology (CTNBio) to determine what GMO products can be sold in Brazil. View CTNBio's other institutional acts regarding genetically modified organisms at http://www.ctnbio.gov.br/ctnbio/legis/inormativas/Default_EN.htm.

Sept. 15, 2004, Bloomberg,
Brazil Senate Set to Vote on Gene-Modified Soybean Bill http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000086&sid=adRadqVhOkk8&refer=latin_america

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is pushing lawmakers to approve a bill this week to make legal production of genetically modified crops before farmers start planting in October.

Three Senate committees are scheduled to vote on the legislation today and a vote by the full upper house may come as early as tomorrow, said Senator Ney Suassuna, the sponsor of the bill, in an interview in Brasilia. Senator Jose Agripino Maia, leader of the opposition Liberal Front Party, said senators may vote on the bill tomorrow.

"Brazil needs this legislation to be more competitive and export more,'' Carlos Sperotto, vice president of the National Agricultural Confederation in Porto Alegre, in Rio Grande do Sul state, said in an interview.

By planting transgenic beans, farmers may boost production by 15 percent and reduce production costs by 30 percent, as less herbicide is needed, Sperotto said. Brazil expects to produce a record soybean crop of 60 million tons next year, up from 49.8 million tons this year.

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SOUTH AFRIC

September 23, 2004
Business Report , By Stewart Bailey, http://www.businessreport.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=561&fArticleId=2235136

Johannesburg - Syngenta, which competes with Monsanto in the market for genetically modified (GM) seeds, has resumed selling to South African farmers after a voluntary halt of a month. Syngenta stopped selling mealie seeds to farmers on August 23 after Biowatch, an organisation opposed to gene-altered crops, appealed a government decision to allow Syngenta to sell seeds. But a board of legal and agricultural experts convened by the high court dismissed Biowatch's appeal on Monday, said Ken Flower, the managing director of Syngenta's South African unit.

Syngenta sells GM seed for yellow mealies, which account for 39 percent of the 8.7 million tons the SA Crop Estimate Committee has forecast commercial farmers would reap this year. The committee expects yellow mealie plantings to rise this season by 14 percent to 1.04 million hectares.

South African Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena has announced the launch of a new South African biotechnology policy describing biotechnology development needs and opportunities in areas such as human health, plant improvement, animal health, and industrial processes.

The South African government has already invested US$ 67.6 million in infrastructure to support biotechnology development, including setting up Biotechnology Regional Investment Centres (BRICs) to support and incubate research in the field. The three BRICs are the Western Cape Biotech Institute, the Lifelab in Durban, and Biopad, which covers research initiatives in the central and northern areas of the country. Included in the total budget of R450 million is R40 million that has been earmarked for funding the National Bio-Informatics Network – a Cray supercomputer based at the University of the Western Cape. The article can be viewed online at http://allafrica.com/stories/200409090302.html

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 NAMIBIA

September 15, 2004 The Namibian (Windhoek),
http://allafrica.com/stories/200409150043.html

A Genetically Modified Organism Testing, Training and Research Laboratory was officially launched at the University of Namibia on Monday.

Unam's Dr Kandawa Schulz said the idea of setting up a biochemistry and biotechnology laboratory for research was initiated - way back in 1998 already - as there was no institution dealing with the application of modern biotechnology techniques. She said the Laboratory had an important role to play in assisting Government and interested institutions in reinforcing and implementing the National Biosafety Framework by testing and monitoring the movement of grain, seeds and other items that might be genetically modified.

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 AUSTRALIA

Is set to reduce pesticide use by as much as 75 per cent by growing genetically modified (GM) cotton. According to Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), this means improving the environmental sustainability and profitability of an industry that earns $1.7 billion annually. Cotton is one of Australia's most significant agricultural industries, exporting nearly 90 per cent of cotton fibre.

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 NEW ZEALAND

16 September 2004, Press Release,
New Zealand Government to ratify Cartagena Biosafety Protocol -
The government will ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Environment and Associate Foreign Minister Marian Hobbs announced today. Public consultation on ratification attracted more than 1200 responses, mostly in favour. "We are ratifying the protocol because New Zealand is a good international citizen and we are committed to comprehensive bio security," Marian Hobbs said.

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 INDIA

September 1, 2004 Reuters
http://www.financialexpress.com/latest_full_story.php?content_id=67557
New Delhi:  The (Indian) govt is planning a new policy promoting speedy approval of GMO crops to boost yields and feed its growing population, Kapil Sibal, Science and Technology Minister said on Wednesday. The policy, which should be in place within eight to nine months, would also promote foreign and private sector investment in the biotechnology sector.

September 15, 2004, Business Standard
GM foods must be brought under PFA Act
http://www.business-standard.com/search/storypage_new.php?leftnm=lmnu2&leftindx=2&lselect=1&autono=167151

The Government must bring the genetically modified (GM) foods under the purview of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA Act), felt speakers at a two-day national symposium on biotechnology, which concluded in Ahmedabad on Saturday.

Speaking on the issue of 'Safety Evaluation on Genetically Modified Foods: Indian Regulatory Review', P K Ghosh, senior vice-president, BioCare SBU, Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd, said that while no genetically modified foods are being produced in India as of now, the situation will not remain so for too long. Ghosh added that the government must publish a list of 'safe genes', which means that once a gene is notified as safe, companies will not be required to seek approval from the authorities every time they want to introduce it into the market. "There is also a need to put in place a mechanism to monitor GM foods for implicated long term risks," felt Ghosh.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Asian Media Information and Communication Centre, and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications will hold a seminar-workshop on “Covering Biotech: Issues and Opportunities for the News Media” from October 11-13, 2004 in ICRISAT, Andhra Pradesh, India. The workshop will help improve public perceptions and acceptance of biotechnology and its products by enhancing the capacities of science and business journalists towards quality reporting and better coverage about biotechnology. For more information about this workshop email Gopikrishna Warrier of ICRISAT at g.warrier@cgiar.org.

The Indian government is formulating new policies to boost investment and research in the local biotechnology sector.
The full story is available at Financial Express online at http://www.financialexpress.com/latest_full_story.php?content_id=67557.

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 USA

USDA-ERS Releases Database on U.S. Biotech Patents and Inventions http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/AgBiotechIP This database identifies and describes U.S. patents on inventions in biotechnology and other biological processes with issue dates between 1976 and 2000 that are used in food and agriculture. The database also provides information about the ownership of these patents, whether patents are held in the public or private sector, and changes in patent ownership due to mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs.

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 HAWAII

'The Hawaiian 'Rainbow' was Rapidly Adopted by Farmers and is of Major Importance in Hawaii Today'

- Carol Gonsalves, David R. Lee, Dennis Gonsalves; Full paper at http://www.apsnet.org/

Rainbow is the premier example of a genetically engineered horticultural crop that made it to market. It is a dream come true for scientists who wished to provide a virus-resistant papaya cultivar for the people of Hawaii. But it is also a dream come true for farmers who had lost so much papaya production to Papaya ring spot virus (PRSV) that they were "almost broke already!".

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 THAILAND

The Thai Cabinet has reversed an earlier decision to allow field trials and commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops. Instead, an academic committee composed of biotechnology experts. The committee will consider three alternatives: completely promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Thailand; allow the co-existence of GMOs and non-GMO crops; or to totally ban GMOs in the country.

A papaya plantation in Thailand was destroyed when Department of Agriculture staff discovered one fruit among 239 plants to be genetically modified. The action was taken as the Thai government does not allow commercial farming of GM crops, although three research facilities in the country grow papaya on experimental basis.

Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said that although it only involved one plant he had ordered an inquiry to determine the source of the GM seed. The papaya seedlings that were planted were purchased from a research station in Khon Kaen.

More details of the papaya story at http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/latest/story/0,4390,272789,00.html

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TAIWAN

Premier Yu Shyi-kun of Taiwan pledged his commitment to establish a Biotech Industry Strategy Consulting Committee, which would consolidate and integrate the country's biotech-based promotion organizations and research institutes.

The full story is available at http://www.biotecheast.com/twbiotechnews_30Aug04.html.

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