WORKSHOP ON ROLE OF BIOTECH IN 2005
A workshop on The Role of Biotechnology for the Characterization and
Conservation of Crop, Forestry, Animal, and Fishery Genetic Resources is
slated for the 5th-7th of March, 2005, in Villa Gualino, Turin, Italy.
Organized by the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology, the Fondazione per
le Biotechnologie, the ECONOGENE project, and the Societ? Italiana di Genetica
Agraria, the workshop includes sessions on the status of the world's agro-biodiversity;
the use of biotechnology for conservation of genetic resources; and genetic
characterization of populations and its use in conservation decision-making.
For more information, visit
Europe and India enter into strategic partnership. The EU and India recently
concluded a ‘historic’ partnership agreement that will boost economic, political
and scientific ties between the 25-member bloc and the world’s largest democracy.
EU request Memeber States to lift their GMO ban
In July 2004, the European Food Safety Authority reinforced earlier opinions
by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee and confirmed that these
various national bans were not scientifically justified. Hence, the Commission
is upholding EU law by requesting these countries to withdraw their bans.
For a complete list of countries and products concerned, see:
Media Invitation: Conference - Funding basic research in life sciences:
Creating European synergies
This high-level conference is organised by the Research DG of the European
Commission and for the first time will bring together policy makers, directors
of national and international research councils, scientists of leading European
academic institutes, representatives of the European Parliament and industry
and enterprise organisations. They will discuss the issue of funding basic
research in life sciences and explore opportunities for European synergies
to contribute to the creation of a European research area in the life sciences.
The Science and Society Forum 2005 (Brussels, 9-11 March 2005)
will review the success of these efforts and plot a new course forward in
the form of a Charter on the Future of Science in Society.
The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and
Central Africa (ASARECA) has received 8 million euros from the European
Union, with the aim of funding agricultural research to be conducted
over the next three years. Sigurg Illing, the head of the European
Commission delegation to Uganda, and Seyfu Ketema, ASARECA's executive
secretary, recently signed the agreement in Kampala, Uganda.
Green fundamentalism of Europe will kill children in Uganda?
Ugandan farmers are being told that they could lose millions of dollars
in fruits and vegetable exports into the European Union (EU) market when
the Ugandan government imports DDT for the prevention of malaria. European
protectionism is odious at the best of times, but this alleged EU threat
borders is particularly egregious, and should be pre-emptively challenged
by Ugandans through the WTO. There is no evidence that any of the DDT, which
could be used to save thousands of babies from malaria, would ever reach
any agricultural products; and even if it did, there is no evidence of any
harm from DDT in produce, even at relatively high doses. Robert Karyeija,
the principal health inspector in the Ugandan agriculture ministry, said
the EU -- the largest importer of Uganda's agricultural products -- was
considering suspending buying its produce for fear of DDT intoxication.
In an interview with the New Vision newspaper last Thursday in Kampala,
the capital of Uganda, he said: For the thousands of Ugandan children whose
lives could be saved, but who have no voice in this debate, it will be a
tragedy. But just another tragedy on top of so many others perpetuated by
European greens and the farm lobby.
Update on co-existence between GM and Non-GM crops,
Klas Ammann's report from Germany December 1, 2004.
The latest report from Germany published today is another example on
how facts on gene flow have been often overblown. If measured properly and
in a realistic context, the case can obviously be solved pragmatically.
This is the outcome of the German study published today
See also more comments in:
In For A Competitive European Biotechnology Industry, Christian
Patermann recounts the proposals set forth by the European Union (EU)
Comprehensive Strategy on Life Sciences & Biotechnology, and recommends
strategies by which Europe may be able to strengthen its biotechnology industry.
The paper is part of the compilation Biotechnology In Europe Today, available
Countries in Europe must join forces, sources, and knowledge to develop
a strong biotechnology sector.
This was proposed in a recent compilation of country reports on the state
of local biotechnology, as well as on emerging biotechnology products and
techniques in the continent, entitled Biotechnology in Europe Today. Country
reports are available for download at
"Germany: New Law on Gene Crops a 'De-Facto Ban'
- Kristina Merkner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Dec.
'Opposition and farmers say green biotechnology regulations make agricultural
genetic engineering impossible'
Syngenta Halts Genetic Engineering Projects in Europe
- Hannelore Crolly, Die Welt, November 29, 2004; via
'The world's biggest agro-chemicals group transfers all its biotechnology
research activities to the USA'. The group had placed all its projects on
ice in Europe because of public resistance, high authorization hurdles and
the lack of market opportunities. The entire biotech research function is
being transferred to the USA. Lawrence warned that Europe was causing itself
lasting harm by its sceptical attitude to new technologies. There was a
risk that it would miss the green genetic engineering boat and leave other
forces, especially in Asia and the USA, with the task of shaping the rules
of the game.
Biotechnology accounted for a significantly higher proportion of research.
Of Syngenta's total research and development expenditure amounting to 727
million dollars, 454 million are spent on plant protection, 127 million
on the development of traditional seed materials and 146 million on biotech
research. The group employs 19,000 persons worldwide, including nearly 5000
working in research, development and technology, largely in the three main
research centres located in Switzerland, Great Britain and North Carolina
in the United States.
UK report on coexistence:
The report entitled “Genetically Modified Maize – Pollen Movement and
Crop Co-existence” presented the following key findings:
by applying good farming practices and normal harvesting practices alone
(i.e. without the formal application of co-existence measures) the 99.1%
purity threshold set by the 2004 EU labelling legislation can be achieved.
Experience from Spain shows that the application of four buffer rows
of non GM maize between a GM crop (on the GM growing farm) and a non GM
crop (on an adjacent farm in plots of under 1 hectare) as a single measure
has delivered effective co-existence.
A separation distance of 6 meters is also effective. Application of
a greater separation distance (e.g. 10-12 meters identified in the French
co-existence research) offers additional provision for worst case scenarios
and reduces further the probability of GM adventitious presence occurring
to minute levels.
See the full report online at
GM-crops and biodiversity – UK study
A new study recently released in Britain showed that GM crops do not
pose harm to the environment. Known as the Bright study, the four-year experiment
conducted by the National Institute for Agricultural Botany, focused on
herbicide tolerant sugar beet and winter oilseed rape. Bright stands for
Botanical and Rotational Implications of Genetically Modified Herbicide
The research was sponsored by the Scottish Executive Environment and
Rural Affairs Department, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs and industry partners, and coordinated by Dr. Jeremy Sweet of the
National Institute for Agricultural Botany.
“Our research indicated there was no long-term difference in weed population
in fields using GM and non-GM crops. Growing herbicide-tolerant crops could
provide farmers with the flexibility to improve plant diversity by only
controlling weeds when they are competing with the crop”, says Dr. Sweet.
For full article about the news, visit
Further findings from the 21st annual British social attitudes report:
Jenny Rees, Western Mail (UK), Dec 8 2004
Opposition to genetically modified (GM) foods has plummeted since 1999.
Then 52% thought that GM foods should be banned, even if prices suffered
as a result; now less than a third (29%) agree. But there has not been a
surge in support for GM foods; people are simply now more ambivalent than
they once were. Indeed around a third of the population is neither for nor
against GM foods.
ENTRANSFOOD, the European Commission-sponsored research consortium,
brought together representatives from academia, regulatory agencies, food
manufacturers, retailers and consumer groups from across Europe. For the
consortium's main conclusions visit
http://www.eufic.org/gb/food/pag/food45/food454.htm. See also Medical
News Today, 27 Dec 2004
Russia hauls food regulations into line with EU
Maria Koval, general director of CVS Consulting which organised
November's GOST conference: "The new GOST P 51074-2003 has certainly been
developed with the requirements of international standards in mind. Indeed,
Russia hopes that the standard will remove a number of technical barriers
within international trade, and provide for an objective evaluation of product
quality and safety.
Can GM and Non-GM Crops Coexist? Setting a Precedent in Boulder
County, Colorado, USA. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, 1, pp
Herbicide costs in Brazil are around 69% lower per hectare for farmers
growing genetically modified soybeans than for conventional crop growers,
according to the federation of co-operatives in Parana, Fecoagro, in Globo
Rural. Conventional soybean farmers spend R$ 135.15 ($49), whilst GM soybean
farmers spend around R$ 42.22 on herbicides per hectare, FecoAgro says.
Full title: AGROW - World Crop Protection News -
Brazil's Senate votes to allow GMO-growing-
Brownfield News, December 23, 2004, by Bob Meyer
Brazil's Senate has approved a decree to allow the planting of biotech
seed and sale of genetically modified crops in the current crop year. Brazil
deals with GMOs on an annual basis, permanent legislation is hung up in
the Brazilian Congress. Brazil remains the only major ag exporting country
in the world without permanent legislation regulating biotechnology. One
provision says farmers can only plant biotech seeds that have been saved
from previous plantings on their own farm. The rule, in effect, prevents
companies from collecting tech fees and actually rewards growers who planted
black-market GMOs in previous years. Biotech soybeans have been grown illegally
in southern Brazil for years.
Drug Barons Grow New Line In Cocaine
Andy Webb-Vidal, Financial Times Dec. 7, 2004
Colombian police have identified a herbicide-resistant tree that yields
eight times more cocaine than normal shrubs. With the help of foreign agronomists,
the police say, traffickers have developed a leafier strain of plant that
grows to 9ft, at least twice the height of the traditional shrub. The size
and strength of the plant makes it resistant to herbicides. More important,
the modified coca contains about four times more cocaine alkaloid. But a
toxicologist who studied the plants for the police said he knew of no evidence
that showed whether the plants were genetically modified or merely grew
big because they received an unusually large amount of fertilizer.
The Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) will establish a standardized
test system for genetically modified (GM) products. This system will complete
the management and tracing system in the country to ensure more reliable
and safe GM product testing. See the article at
Regional Network (ASFARNET) workshop “Technology Promotion and Exchange
on Agricultural Biotechnology” held at Hotel Salak, Bogor, Indonesia
from November 28 to December 1, 2004. Farmers in Indonesia voiced out the
need for freedom of choice in deciding what crops to plant. Specifically,
they asked government to allow the use of seeds derived from biotechnology.
They also agreed to form farmer networks in the various regions and encourage
greater participation with various public and private sectors. Asian Farmers
A total of 50 farmers, led by Agusdin Pulungan, ASFARNET’s Coordinator
in Indonesia, attended the workshop and framed the resolution calling for
greater use of agri-biotechnology applications. They came from six provinces
of Indonesia – Lampung, Central Java, East Java, West Java, South Sulawesi,
and West Sumatera.
Mehr News, December 22, 2004 (Via Agnet)
TEHRAN (MNA) - A letter signed by 144 Iranian biotechnology experts,
which was recently submitted to President Khatami, has, according to this
story, emphasized the significance of a broader use of genetically modified
plants. The signatories, most of whom are employees at Department of the
Environment, have pointed out that, recently, there have been remarkable
improvements in biotechnological studies so that the case of transgenic
foodstuff has turned into a globally admitted phenomenon. The cabinet had
earlier approved the national biotechnological strategy. The plan included
that the land covered by modified plants in Iran will soon attain 5% of
the total world record.
China's developer of super hybrid rice receives World Food Prize Yuan
Longping wants to share technology with other countries - Delta Farm Press,
Dec 22, 2004,
In an article published in the Charlotte (N.C.) News & Observer on November
30, 2004, Professor Claire G. Williams (Environment & Earth Sciences,
Duke University) posed questions and provided answers about genetically
modified pine forests. In her article, she called for open dialogue on the
issues she raised. One question in particular addressed legal issues - legal
liability for pollen flow and intellectual property rights: "Who will actually
own the genes in genetically modified pines?" "If genetically modified pine
pollen or seed moves from another's land onto my land and produces a forest,
am I going to be penalized for stealing the intellectual property of another?
On the other hand, who is liable for these escaped genetically modified
pine seeds or pollen anyway?"
Subterranean clover – weed?
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)
Plant Industry study shows that genetically modified (GM) subterranean clover
is no more a weed threat than its conventional counterpart. "Our field and
glasshouse trials provided no evidence that the invasiveness and competitiveness
of GM sub-clover was any greater than conventional sub-clover, indeed at
higher densities GM sub-clover performs less well," says Bob Godfree of
GM sub-clover seed tended to be less dormant so that more seeds were
released from the seed bank and could germinate every year. Overall, however,
“GM sub-clover populations would decline over times and in pastures both
GM and non-GM sub-clover might persist,” added Godfree. See the CSIRO release
Associated Press, By PAUL ELIAS, Dec. 13, 2004 SAN FRANCISCO - The Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation is expected on Monday to donate $42.6 million
to a novel, non-profit drug company that hopes to make a cheaper malaria
treatment by applying a new biotechnology recipe to an ancient Chinese remedy.
The San Francisco-based Institute of OneWorld Health will work with the
University of California, Berkeley and a small Albany-based biotechnology
company to turn the genetic engineering work of Berkeley's Jay Keasling
into an inexpensive and effective drug to fight malaria in the Third World.
Keasling is developing a new way to manufacture artemisinin, a malaria fighter
made from finely ground wormwood plants. Chinese first extracted artemisinin
from the sweet wormwood plant for medicinal use more than 2,000 years ago,
and since then it's been applied to a variety of ailments including hemorrhoids,
coughs and fevers. But the method is expensive, time consuming and limited
by access to wormwood. "The plant can't supply a whole continent," said
Victoria Hale, OneWorld's chief executive. So Keasling and his colleagues
are working on a way to eliminate the need for the plant by splicing its
chemical-producing genes and yeast genes into E. coli and ultimately coaxing
artemisinin from this creation. It costs about $2.40 per patient to treat
malaria with a three-day drug regimen that includes the artemisinin. Many
Third World malaria sufferers can't afford the treatment, and Hale said
the Gates money will be used to develop a malaria treatment that costs under
$1 each within five years.