News in December 2004
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EU
Europe

Documented Benefits of GM Crops – a new document of ISAAA see ( http://www.isaaa.org/kc).

Biotechnology and Developing Countries: The Potential and the Challenge

Lisa Jategaonkar, Editor; New Issue of PBI Bulletin Now on line at http://www.pbi-ibp.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/en/bulletin/2004issue2/

National Foreign Trade Council

present detail analysis of European protectionism in foreign trade and its deteriorating effect on developing countries:

bullet ‘Enlightened’ Environmentalism or Disguised Protectionism? Assessing the Impact of EU Precaution-Based Standards on Developing Countries
bullet Looking Behind the Curtain: The Growth of Trade Barriers that Ignore Sound Science
bullet EU Regulation, Standardization and the Precautionary Principle: The Art of Crafting a Three- Dimensional Trade Strategy That Ignores Sound Science

Full documents at http://www.nftc.org/default.asp?Mode=DirectoryDisplay&id=190

Conclusions: This study has revealed how certain health and safety and environmental standards and regulations implemented unilaterally by the EU impede economic growth, social welfare and public health maintenance in developing countries.

This study, in particular, shows how the Precautionary Principle, an inherently nonscientific touchstone without foundation in WTO law, has been employed within the Stockholm Convention and the EU's more stringent POPs implementing regulation to ban the shipment of DDT to and among African countries for purposes of indoor spraying. It also identifies how U.N. and EU sponsored donor programs ban funding for DDT malaria vector control, and how U.S. donor programs fail to promote DDT as one of several viable alternatives for malaria prevention, thereby contributing to an ongoing African health crisis.  These prohibitions have been imposed on African nations without presentation of conclusive scientific proof that the possible environmental risks accompanying DDT indoor residual spraying outweigh the risks posed to public health, social welfare and economic productivity by failure to use DDT at all. In other words, these measures are justified by neither a science-based risk assessment (i.e., sound science) nor an economic cost/benefit analysis (i.e., equitable balancing).

FAO e-mail conference on public participation in GM decisions

The e-mail conference runs from 17 January to 13 February 2005 and is hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum. To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering only the following text on two separate lines: subscribe BIOTECH-L subscribe biotech-room4.

A copy of the document is available at:http://www.fao.org/biotech/C12doc.htm

The complete study by the national Center for Food and Agricultural Policy in Washington, D.C. is online at www.ncfp.org. The study documents the widespread adoption of biotech crops last year, increased farmer income, boosted yields, reduction of the pesticides use and spurred greater reliance of environmentally friendly no-till farming.

Health Biotechnology Innovation in Developing Countries

Andrew Marshall, Editor, Nature Biotechnology, Supplement to Dec 2004; Full editorial at http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nbt/journal/v22/n12s/full/nbt1204supp-DC1.html. Free registration is required to view these articles. Link at http://www.scidev.net/ms/naturebiotech/

ISB News Report - Dec 2004 Issue

http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2004/news04.Dec.html

bulletCan Transgenic Crop Technology Benefit Biocontrol?
bulletImpact of Bt cotton on Bollworm Populations and Egg Parasitism
bulletEnhancing Stress Tolerance by Regulon Engineering of ABA-Responsive Genes All-Native Plant DNA Transformation
bulletSilk Purse from a Sow's Ear? Spider Silk Production in Tobacco
bulletConference on Plant-made Pharmaceuticals
bulletThe Role of Biotechnology for the Characterisation and Conservation of Crop, Forestry, Animal and Fishery Genetic Resources

Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: December 21, 2004

bulletGM boom 'could spell economic growth for poor nations'
bulletBiotechnology to end use of costly pesticides – experts
bulletEU gets approval to import Monsanto altered rapeseed
bulletEU Split Over GMO Rapeseed, Awaits Default Approval

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 http://www.fobiotech.org/FAO_2005.htm

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EUROPE

EU

09.12.04

Research Headlines

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: http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do

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.

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Europe

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. http://www.techcentralstation.com/121404E.html

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 http://www.botanischergarten.ch/Coexistence/Innoplanta-Coexistence-2004.pdf. See also more comments in: http://www.checkbiotech.org/Research&Development/ResearchPrograms/documents

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 online.

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 http://www.teknoscienze.com/supplements/biotech_in_europe/Biotech_in_europe.htm

"Germany: New Law on Gene Crops a 'De-Facto Ban'

- Kristina Merkner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,  Dec. 3, 2004 http://www.faz.net/
'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 http://www.checkbiotech.org
'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 http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/co-existence_not_problem.htm

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 Tolerance.

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 http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1373122004

Further findings from the 21st annual British social attitudes report: GM foods

Jenny Rees, Western Mail (UK), Dec 8 2004
http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/

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 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=18342

More information http://www.entransfood.com  http://www.safefoods.nl http://www.eufic.org/gb/food/pag/food45/food454.htm

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Russia

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.

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USA

Can GM and Non-GM Crops Coexist? Setting a Precedent in Boulder County, Colorado, USA. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, 1, pp 258-261 http://www.botanischergarten.ch/Coexistence/Byrne-Fromherz-2003.pdf

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Brazil

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 - www.agrow.co.uk and www.world-food.net

Brazil's Senate votes to allow GMO-growing-

Brownfield News, December 23, 2004, by Bob Meyer
http://www.brownfieldnetwork.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=001393A5-E5EB-CD95-83F11715444A589E

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.

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Colombia

Drug Barons Grow New Line In Cocaine

Andy Webb-Vidal, Financial Times Dec. 7, 2004 http://news.ft.com/

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.

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Korea

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 http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200411/kt2004112918012411960.htm

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Indonesia

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.

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Iran

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.

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China

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, http://deltafarmpress.com/news/122204yuan-longping/

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GENERAL

GM-Trees?

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?

A 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 CSIRO.

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 at http://www.csiro.au/page.asp?type=mediaRelease&id=GMsubclover

Malaria treatment

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.

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