The proceedings of the latest National Agricultural Research Organization
(NARO) conference on Integrated Agricultural Research for Development –
Achievements, Lessons Learnt and Best Practice, held Sept 1–4, 2004 in Entebbe,
Uganda, have been released online. Download the proceedings at
Genetically Modified Language: The Discourse of Arguments for
GM Crops and Food
New book by Guy Cook, Routledge Press, UK. Hb: 0-415-31467-4; Pb: 0-415-31468-2
The author of the acclaimed Discourse of Advertising, Guy Cook is a leading
expert on the communication of controversial technologies - on how companies
(and governments) use language to persuade us that 'everything's alright,
really, it is.
The Compendium of The Social Doctrine of the Church
Card. Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Gian Paolo Crepaldi, Pontifcal
Council For Justice & Peace, Vatican City (Forwarded by Professor Vivian
This document represents the official catechism on the social doctrine
approved by the Hole See and the Secretary of State. It was issued last
week by Card. Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Gian Paolo Crepaldi
(Pontifcal Council For Justice & Peace) and represents the official catechism
on the social doctrine approved by the Hole See and the Secretary of State.
The following are extracts from Chapter 10 ("Safeguarding The Environment".
Section 4 (A Common Responsibility, para. b is dedicate to the use of biotechnology
- pp. 267-270):
- The Christian vision of creation makes a positive judgment on the
acceptability of human intervention in nature.... nature is not a sacred
or divine reality that man must leave alone..... the human person does
not commit an illicit act when ... he intervenes by modifying some of
their characteristics or properties.
- Modern biotechnologies have powerful social, economic and political
impact locally, nationally and internationally.... above all the criteria
of justice and solidarity must be taken into account
- Equitable commercial exchange, without the burden of unjust stipulations
is to be facilitated...It is indispensable to foster the development
of a necessary scientific and technological autonomy of the part of
these same peoples, promoting the exchange of scientific and technological
knowledge and the transfer of the technologies to developing countries
- Solidarity also means.... promoting trade policies that are favourable
to their peoples and the exchange of technology that can improve the
conditions of their food supply and health
- Entrepreneurs ... involved in the research, production and selling
of products derived from new biotechnologies must take into account
not only legitimate profit but also common good.... by their decisions...
they can guide developments in the area of biotechnologies towards very
promising ends, as far as concerns the fight against hunger, especially
in poorer countries, the fight against disease ad the fight to safeguard
- Public authorities must also encourage a correctly informed public
opinion and make decisions that are best-suited to the common good
- Leaders in the information sector also have an important task, which
must be undertaken with prudence and objectivity... The temptation to
fall into superficial information, fuelled by over enthusiasm or unjustified
alarmism, must be avoided
ANNOUNCEMENT: CONFERENCE ON PLANT MADE PHARMACEUTICALS SLATED FOR 2005
The city of Montréal, Québec, Canada will host to a Conference on Plant
Made Pharmaceuticals, from January 30 to February 2, 2005. Organized by
the Society for Moleculture (formerly known as the international Association
of Molecular Farming), the conference is funded by organizations using plant-factories
to produce biopharmaceuticals, and promises to be a specialized event for
experts in plant-factories and biopharmaceutical developments. For more
Media Invitation: European Initiative for Communicators of Science
EICOS 2005: Journalism meets science: Join a lab and experience science
as it happens!
At the heart of the programme is the "Hands-on Laboratory", conducted
at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany.
Journalists spend eight days working with scientists on actual projects,
using state-of-the-art molecular biology methods.
The next "Hands-on Laboratory" will take place from May 28th to June
Deadline for application: March 1st 2005.
Application form: Dr. Ulrich Kuhnt e-mail:
For further information, please contact: Andreas Trepte Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
FAO Workshop on Biotech
The Food and Agriculture Organization will hold a workshop
on "The role of biotechnology for the characterization and conservation
of crop, forestry, animal and fishery genetic resources" in Turin,
Italy on 5-7 March 2005. Co-organized with the Fondazione per le Biotecnologie,
the ECONOGENE project and the Societ? Italiana di Genetica Agraria, the
workshop includes three sessions on the status of the world's agro-biodiversity;
the use of biotechnology for conservation of genetic resources;
and genetic characterisation of populations and its use in conservation
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
Biotech Challenges to be Explored In 2005 Forum:
harnessing the benefits of biotechnology, as well as producing results,
present a challenge to the Asian Scientific community. These challenges,
as well as the political, economic, social, technological, environmental,
and legal aspects of the biotechnology industry will be discussed in the
Asia Biotech Forum, to be held on the 3rd & 4th of February, 2005,
at the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Biotech professionals and those associated with the industry are
invited to attend. For more information, contact
Food Research Projects Catalogue - New website available
Within the four calls of the Programme "Quality of Life and Management
of Living Resources Programme" from 1999 to 2001, six deadlines for submission
have been open for proposals for Key Action 1. This catalogue contains synopses
of all of the projects that are funded following these deadlines. The projects
have been sorted per area and listed by contract number within an area.
Scientists learning to deal with the press
Significant emphasis in current EU research programmes has been put on
the importance of communicating scientific findings to the broader public,
the aim being to bridge what studies highlighted as a widening gap between
science and society. The Commission developed an action plan to tackle this
problem and published a special guide to help scientists cope with public
relations and curious journalists.
Consumer Trust in Food: Final Report Conference
On 22 November, the research team behind the "Consumer Trust in Food"
project will present their final report to the press and key stakeholders
in Brussels. This project has been funded under the Research Framework Programme
of the European Union and has concentrated on the social and institutional
conditions for trust and distrust in food in six European countries: Denmark,
Germany, Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Norway.
Seminar: Second seminar on Organic Food and Farming research in Europe
Brussels, Belgium, 26 November 2004
Promoting European Research into Structural Genomics
The European Commission's Directorate General for Research will be organising
a major conference on Structural Genomics and Proteomics in Barcelona, Spain
from 1-4 December, 2004. The conference will, for the first time, bring
together 10 research projects in this area that are being funded by the
EU?s Sixth Research Framework Programme (2002-2006) and it is expected to
attract several hundred researchers, experts and policy-makers from the
EU member states and beyond to discuss the achievements and to highlight
Making the most of Europe's research potential
Janez Potocnik, newly appointed Commissioner for Science and Research
under the new Barroso Commission, wants to "make the most of the huge research
potential in Europe" and to help build bridges between the Union and its
citizens through science and technology. Yesterday's thumbs up from the
European Parliament marks the start of an important journey for this Slovenian
New Website: European Commissioner for Science and Research - Janez Potocnik
Research Ethics Committees in Europe: facing the future together
Brussels, Belgium - 27-28 January 2005
The European Commission invites representatives of local or regional
ethics committees in Europe to attend the conference "Research Ethics Committees
in Europe: facing the future together" to open such a debate and will thus
aim at gathering together as many RECs as possible in order to identify
the state of the art. Good practices, obstacles and pitfalls will be considered,
thus leading to the identification of future initiatives, actions and activities.
Structural Genomics & Proteomics Joint Meeting
Barcelona, 1-4 December 2004.
The main objective os this conference is to discover what makes the "European"
label on this basic scientific field, which is starting to be competitive
with the US and Japan big initiatives thanks to the FP6 collaborative projects
effort. Another objective is to establish gateways with proteomics, a sister
discipline with big potential in human health. A draft programme is available
EMBO reports, vol. 4, no. 3, pp 229-232, 2003;
Susan R. Owens,
'Reluctance within the European Union to accept genetically modified crops
may hinder the benefits of this technology reaching the developing world'.
The words "impractical and unenforceable" were used by the European food
and drink association, the CIAA, to greet the European Union (EU) legislation
on the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food that is likely to become
law later this month. The new ruling requires that all foods containing
more than 0.5% GM products are labelled as such. Controversially, the ruling
extends this to all highly processed products derived from GM crops that
no longer contain any traces of the dubious GM DNA or protein, such as oils.
CO-EXISTENCE POSSIBLE, GERMAN STUDY REPORTS
A 2004 study on genetically modified (GM) corn planted alongside conventional
varieties in Germany showed that either variety can "co-exist" with the
other, and as long as the crops are planted at least 20 meters apart. The
announcement was made at a press conference in Berlin, just days before
Germany’s lower house of Parliament is expected to give final approval to
a new law that would strictly regulate GM crops. The test crop was performed
at 30 locations in seven Federal States using GM corn line MON810, engineered
to protect the crop against the European Corn Borer. With manpower from
InnoPlanta in Gatersleben and the Federal Association of German Plant Breeders,
as well as private farmers and state agricultural institutes in Bavaria
and Saxony-Anhalt, the project studied the extent of cross-hybridization
between GM and conventional corn planted at varying distances from each
other, taking into consideration all operational, regional, and climatic
factors, and even the presence of pollen samples in beehives placed close
to the experimental fields. For further information go to
http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20041124/04/ , or download the press
release at http://www.isaaa.org/kc.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; Translation: Robert Derham,
Checkbiotech.org, October 29, 2004BERLIN –
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for more open-mindedness
towards the use of genetic engineering. "There is no ill-will towards
the technology in Germany, rather an extreme reluctance to implement genetic
engineering." Schroeder complained before the German Federal Council that
there is a too restrictive stance that stems from the mindset of environmental
movements, traditional technology skepticism and Christian motivations.
"This is leading to a situation that weakens our market position and does
not promote German innovation," said the German Chancellor.
Biotech Flax With Increased Omega-3 Levels Could Improve Human
Full story and references at
Enhanced flax seeds could bring the benefits of fish oil to vegetable-based
A team of researchers led by Ernst Heinz from the University of Hamburg
in Germany has successfully developed a genetically enhanced flax (or linseed)
plant that has boosted levels of healthful long chain polyunsaturated omega-3
and omega-6 fatty acids that are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease,
chance, Alzheimer's and many other diseases.
As reported in the October issue of The Plant Cell, Heinz and his team
inserted genes from algae and moss into flax plants to produce nutritionally
significant amounts (about 5 percent) of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
A new, 10-year strategy on food biotechnology has just been passed
to the Parliament of Denmark, in an effort to free up funding to investigate
the key role biotechnology could play in designing better tasting, safer
foods, and ultimately the opportunity for higher quality, cheaper foods.
For the full article, visit
BLACK SEA COUNTRIES ESTABLISH LAB NETWORK FOR GM FOOD
The newly established Black Sea Biotechnology (BSB) Association - made
up of Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine - has recently established
a laboratory network for the analysis and control of foods containing genetically
modified organisms (GMOs).
The laboratories will be part of the current network of GMO laboratories
in the European Union (EU). In the BSB Association network, products made
up of greater than 0.9% GMO should be specially labelled.
Italy accepts biotech crops but allows regions to ban them
AFP, Nov 11, 2004
The first ever consensus document on “Food Safety and GMOs,” signed by
18 respected Italian associations, and representing over 10,000 researchers,
was launched in Milan, Italy on November 3, 2004 on the initiative of the
Societa Italiana di Tossicologia (SITOX). Download the document from
ROME (AFP) - The Italian government gave the green light for genetically
modified (GMO) crops but said regions were free to ban them if their citizens
wished. Already 13 of the country's 20 regions, 27 provinces and nearly
1,500 towns and communities have proclaimed themselves "GMO-free zones"
and they will be able to continue doing so. But Agriculture Minister Gianni
Alemanno said decree adopted by the cabinet would allow for "coexistence"
between opponents and supporters of biotech crops. The government has stressed
the need to defend traditional farming methods as well as the right of consumers
and producers to choose.
FRENCH GM LAW STILL STALEMATE
The Scientist, an online site of Biomed Central, quotes Stephane Vaxelaire
of the French Ministry of Agriculture, as saying that the draft legislation
to transpose EU Directive 2001/18/EC, which covers the deliberate release
into the environment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), could not
be expected until 2005. See the full article in
FAO COUNCIL ADOPTS FOOD GUIDELINES
The Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization has adopted the
Right to Food Guidelines that would "support the progressive realization
of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security."
The Council is FAO’s executive governing body.
According to FAO, the Guidelines were conceived "to provide practical
guidance" to help countries implement their obligations relating to the
right to adequate food. It considers several human rights principles, “including
equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, accountability
and the rule of law, as well as the principle that all human rights are
universal, indivisible, inter-related and interdependent.”
Various non-governmental groups and intergovernmental organizations contributed
significantly in the preparation of the Guidelines. These included the Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Reporter on the
Right to Food and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
and the North-South Alliance, which is a coalition of a large number of
The guidelines, according to FAO, must be implemented to reduce by half
the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. See the full article by
John Riddle of FAO at
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
IFPRI Newsletter 'Forum', Oct. 2004
Masaru Iwanaga, director general of CIMMYT talked about the role of maize
and wheat in world agriculture. At CIMMYT, for example, activities related
to genetic engineering represent about 20 percent of the biotechnology effort
and a small fraction of the Center's total budget. Most of our resources
are allocated to the discovery of suitable DNA markers to incorporate numerous
genes for target traits or environments into improved crop varieties.
Iwanaga: Obviously, improved maize and wheat varieties will continue
to be developed via conventional (non-transgenic) means. There are a few
transgenic products, such as maize with insect resistance based on gene
constructs from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that could be
delivered to small-scale farmers in developing countries, but delivery is
hindered by the current debate and regulatory requirements. Thus, the prospect
of such products reaching farmers in developing countries in the next five
years are slim. Many farmers want such solutions, but will have to wait.
There is good reason to field test transgenic crops, but such testing
should only come after developing countries implement regulatory systems
for biotechnology. No field testing of transgenic crops can or should take
place until authorities fully establish such systems. The global nature
of agriculture today also slows testing and deployment. Given the global
nature of the controversy, policymakers are unsure about the impact their
decision on genetically modified organisms will have on trade, even for
non-transgenic commodities, or on external aid for development projects.
In terms of what to regulate, more attention to the nature of the product
as opposed to the method of production would help distinguish when a transgenic
product is substantially different from conventional products. Today, all
transgenics fall in the same category regardless of the trait or gene source,
just to name two factors. In the not-so-distant future, transgenics using
genes from the same species will be available. Appropriate regulatory systems
to allow these to reach farmers should be considered now before the products
are further developed. .Full interview at
BIG BREAK FOR BANANAS
Priver Namanya of the Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute
(KARI), Uganda recently reported that her team has developed a cell suspension
system that is considered to be a critical step in the genetic improvement
of the East African highland banana.
A number of diseases afflict Uganda’s banana crop, which is planted over
1.5 million hectares of arable land, and which serves the country’s population
with 500 pounds of the crop per capita annually, one of the highest in the
world. These include banana bacterial wilt disease, black sigatoka, fusarium
wilt, and banana streak.
The method has also been adopted into an ongoing banana biotechnology project
run in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Organisation
(NARO), the International Network of Banana and Plantains, and Makerere
University, among others.
For more information, visit KARI at
BIOTECH TO TRIGGER ‘GREEN REVOLUTION’ – INDIA’S AGRIC MINISTER
Biotechnology will spur the second ‘Green Revolution,’ Union Agriculture
Minister Sharad Pawar said as he spoke at the inaugural function of the
second annual national conference of the Federation of Jain Educational
Institutes (FJEI) in Jakkasandra, India.
There has been a 20% increase in yield in cotton production this year,
thanks to the use of innovative biotechnology solutions and a good monsoon,
Pawar said. He also emphasized the need for greater awareness of biotechnology,
and urged educational institutions to train students in emerging areas of
biotechnology and information technology, particularly in rural areas.
“Biotechnology has shown the world that quality is possible even without
spraying chemicals. India has huge genetic wealth and can increase food
production by using GM crops, thereby strengthening food security and delivering
quality food products,” Pawar added.
The two-day conference is scheduled to deliberate on issues such as training,
computerized administration, and maximizing infrastructure utilization.
Read the complete articles at
Bharat Textile, November 8, 2004
Bt cotton boost India's cotton production Agriculture Minister Sharad
Pawar said recently, Monsanto's Bt cotton has been a significant contributor
to India's record cotton production this season.
"The Bt cotton yield was definitely better in quality and quantity, boosting
production by 30-35% in areas it was sown. Gujarat has benefited the most
from higher production," Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of the annual
Social Editors' Conference here.
The higher yield and better cotton quality derived from Bt cotton could
well be an incentive to look at other genetically modified agriculture crops
being developed, the minister stated.
China allocated a total budget of US$112 million (4.6 billion baht) for
research and development on plant biotechnology in the year 2002. This programme
involved at least 2,000 researchers working full time to try to the come
up with new traits to benefit the agricultural systems of the country.
Land planted to genetically modified (GM) crops in China has increased
since 1998, to nearly 3 million hectares at the end of 2003.
According to Luo Yunbo, president of the Food College of the Chinese
University of Agricultural Sciences, the main transgenic crops in China
are cotton, sweet pepper, and tomato. Approximately 90% of China’s cotton
crop is derived from GM plants.
At present, China has approved 25 transgenic crop test and safety evaluation
standards, and is about to formulate 15 more. Also in the offing are 42
transgenic crop test institutions.
For the complete article, visit
USA - Stem cell research
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Proposition 71 provides $3 billion in state funding over next decade.
Californians came down on the side of stem-cell research Tuesday by passing
a controversial bond measure that devotes $3 billion to human embryonic
stem-cell experiments and comprises the biggest-ever state-supported scientific
research program in the country. Proposition 71 was approved by a significant
margin, NBC News projected.
Read also Nature, November 04, 2004 Vol. 432 No 7013:
Early embryos fuel hopes for shortcut to stem-cell creation
FDA Proposes Draft Guidance for Industry for New Plant Varieties
Intended for Food Use - FDA Talk Paper, T04-52, November 19, 2004; Media
Inquiries: 301-827-6242, Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA
To address the possibility that material from a new plant variety intended
for food use might inadvertently enter the food supply before its sponsor
has fully consulted with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FDA is
announcing the availability of a draft guidance document entitled "Guidance
for Industry: Recommendations for the Early Food Safety Evaluation of New
Non-Pesticidal Proteins Produced by New Plant Varieties Intended for Food
The Potato Story
Wojciech K. Kaniewski and Peter E. Thomas of the Thomas
Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the United States
Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, in Prosser, Washington,
tell about new potato in the latest issue of Agbioforum.
Their article follows the development of transgenic potatoes in the United
States, geared to be resistant to insects, such as the Colorado Potato Beetle;
and viruses, such as the Potato Leafroll virus, both of which are the most
economically important pests of potato in the world. Three lines have already
been commercialized, the writers report, leading growers to save as much
as US$ 78 per acre on insecticides, and export of lines to Bulgaria, Romania,
and Russia. Read the complete article at
http://www.agbioforum.org/v7n12/v7n12a08-kaniewski.htm. For more articles,
Access the full issue at
Researchers at the University of Illinois have recently identified a
single-gene source of aphid resistance in soybean. The gene, tentatively
designated Rag1, is dominant, making it easy to introduce into commercial
varieties by backcrossing using marker-assisted selection. For more information,
visit the National Soybean Research Laboratory at
http://www.otm.uiuc.edu/techs/techdetail.asp?id=267. Read the complete
A study by a team from the College of Agricultural Sciences of the Southern
Illinois University in Carbondale (SIUC) have recently found that no traces
of a "foreign" gene wound up in the flesh or blood of 56 piglets fed
genetically modified (GM) corn. Read the complete story at
Report on the Effects of Genetically Modified Maize in Mexico
The full report can be downloaded at:
The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an international
organization established by Canada, Mexico and the United States in a side
accord to NAFTA, today released a landmark report on the effects of genetically
modified maize in Mexico. The report was initiated in 2002 following a claim
that genetically modified material ad been found amongst traditional Mexican
varieties of maize despite a moratorium on its planting. The Mexican government
confirmed earlier this year that that 7.6 percent of plants tested in 2001
had traces of GM material.
The report also says that "Regulatory agencies of the three countries
should develop and implement better methods for detecting and monitoring
the spread of specific transgenes. [...and that] the modification of maize
to produce pharmaceuticals and certain industrial compounds that are incompatible
with food and feed should be prohibited in accordance with Mexican Government
intentions, and serious consideration should be given to banning such use
for maize in other countries."
Honolulu Advertiser, 10 November 2004
The Hawai'i Papaya Association is writing to respond to letters criticizing
the genetically modified (GMO) Rainbow papaya, which is resistant to papaya
ringspot virus. Rainbow papaya is the reason we're still in business. Without
it, we wouldn't have trees to grow or fruit to sell. Instead of 350 to 400
papaya farmers in the state, there might be 50. Kenneth Y. Kamiya, Hawai'i
Papaya Industry Association
In Transgenic Papaya in Hawaii and Beyond, Dennis Gonsalves of the United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) looks at the progress made by Papaya
Ringspot Virus (PRSV) resistant papaya, from the laboratory, to the field,
and into markets worldwide. The paper is published in the latest issue of
Agbioforum. Read the complete article at
http://www.agbioforum.org/v7n12/v7n12a07-gonsalves.htm. For more articles,
Access the full issue at
Sterile male potatoes 'make GM field trials safe' - SciDev.Net,
By Mike Shanahan, 12 November 2004
A genetically modified (GM) variety of potato able to resist a major
crop pest does not threaten other organisms, and - because the plants produce
no viable pollen - is unlikely to pass genes to related varieties, according
to research published yesterday (11 November) in Nature.
ENVIRONMENTAL BIOSAFETY AND GM POTATO
There is no basis for invoking the precautionary principle to bar genetically
modified nematode-resistant (GMNR)-cystin potato trials for their impact
on non-target soil microbes and fauna or associates of the crop’s foliage.
This was the view forwarded by Carolina Celis of Wageningen University in
the Netherlands and colleagues in a November 11, 2004 article in Nature.
Celis and colleagues suggest that “transgenic planting should be limited
to male sterile cultivars while concerns over possible introgression of
any given trait are evaluated over several generations of random mating
among individuals of a wild species by defined methods.”
LOWER ENZYME LEVEL FOUND TO INCREASE CORN’S DROUGHT TOLERANCE
In a paper in the December Issue of The Plant Journal, Dr. Daniel R.
Gallie and his research team at the University of California, Riverside
ACC synthase Expression Regulates Leaf Performance and Drought Tolerance
in Maize. For more information, visit