News in April 2005
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Meetings

Meeting on Ecological Impact of Genetically Modified Organisms June 1-3, 2005, Lleida, Catalonia, Spain The programme, abstracts and an updated list of participants are now available on the meeting's website at http://www.eigmo.udl.es/

International nanotechnology and application exhibition and symposium, Shanghai, China Date: 13 - 15 June 2005
http://www.scidev.net/events/index.cfm?fuseaction=readevents&itemid=627&language=1

Conference: Safeguarding Sustainable European Agriculture: Coexistence, GMO-Free Zones and the Promotion of Quality Food Produce in Europe.
Tuesday, 17 May 2005; European Parliament, Altiero Spinelli Building, 1st Floor, Room A1G3, rue Wiertz, B-1047 Brussels http://www.gmofree-conference.org/

The conference will focus on a new EU regulatory framework for the growing of GMO crops that that has recently been indicated by the EU agricultural Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boell. Coexistence is the term used to describe rules that tell farmers how they should separate traditional, organic and genetically modified (GM) crops to avoid contamination. Currently such coexistence rules only exist in some of the EU's member states, resulting in less protection for farmers, consumers and the environment in most of the EU.

Joint Organic Congress 2006 - Odense, Denmark, 30th-31st of May 2006 In May 2006, researchers representing all aspects of European research in organic food and farming will present their work at a joint congress to be held in Denmark.

Books

Crop Ferality and Volunteerism. Jonathan Gressel, ed. CRC Press April, 2005

"Biosafety of Transgenic Rice" containing the proceedings of an International workshop on Biosafety of Transgenic Rice held at Chennai, India from October 27-30, 2002 was released earlier this month. The book is a publication of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi India which was also the organizer of the workshop. The workshop was sponsored by Syngenta International with support from Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The editors of the book are V. L. Chopra, S. Shantharam and R.P. Sharma.

Europe - EU

at http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/whatsnew.cfm

bulletConferences e-winners, how to submit a proposal etc. Communicating European Research 2005 Brussels, 14-15 November 2005 Registration information available.
bulletEuropean Basic Research Policy Website New documents from the Working Groups on European Research Council - Frontier Research: The European Challenge", HLEG report, April 2005 - Full Report, Executive Summary)

New Website: Descartes Prizes Named in honour of one of Europe's greatest figures of learning, the EU's two annual Descartes Prizes are for Excellence in Scientific Research (€1 million) and Excellence in Science Communication (€250.000). This new site gives details of past and current prize.

Information on FP 7 see http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/future/index_en.cfm

EU research — Building Knowledge Europe: The EU’s new Research Framework Programme 2007–2013 On 6 April the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new EU programme for Research. The proposal provides new impetus to increase Europe’s growth and competitiveness, recognising that knowledge is Europe’s greatest resource. The programme places greater emphasis than in the past on research that is relevant to the needs of European industry, to help it compete internationally, and develop its role as a world leader in certain sectors.

Register of existing GM food and feed products published by European Commission on 18 April 2005 see:
http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/05/439&type=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

EU Register:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/food/biotechnology/authorisation/register-notification/index.htm

The Commission has published a list of 26 genetically modified (GM) products which have been legally on the EU market since before the new legislative framework for authorising GM food and feed had entered into effect. These so-called "existing products" were either approved under former EU legislation, or did not require approval at the time that they were put on the market. They have been added to a specific section of the Community register of genetically modified (GM) food and feed in order to clarify exactly which GM products are legally permitted to be sold in the EU and to have full information on these products.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said: "This register is an important tool to clarify the legal status of GMOs allowed for sale in the EU before the current legislation entered into force in April 2004. The register makes it clear which products can legally be sold in the EU, although in reality many of these products may not currently be on the EU market."

"Mobilising the brainpower of Europe: enabling universities to make their full contribution to the Lisbon Strategy" is a new Communication adopted by The European Commission.Accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Paper on "European Higher Education in a Worldwide Perspective", this text is a follow-up to the Communication on "The role of universities in the Europe of Knowledge" and to the subsequent consultation of stakeholders. It underlines the fact that European universities are faced with many challenges and that, if nothing is done, the gap with the EU's main competitors in the field will continue to widen. http://europa.eu.int/geninfo/query/search_en.html

8th Conference of the National Ethics Committees of the Council of Europe will answer the challenge created by changing society in Dubrovnik on 25th and 26th April. The conference will be opened by the Croatian Health and Social Affairs Minister, Neven Ljubicic, and will start with a discussion on the eight years of Convention relative to biomedicine.

The European Research Council would provide the best means to correct the present European weaknesses in high quality research - believes a group of experts brought together by the European Commission to study the possible role of a European Research Council. It also believes that a pan-European finance tool for exploratory research would have significant impact on the level of excellence of research in Europe.

Verheugen Backs Biotech As An EU Economic Backbone. (Europe Information - 16-Apr-2005). The biotechnology sector "can become the backbone of a knowledge-based economy and a significant driver of Europe's economic recovery", Enterprise Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said on April 14 at a biotechnology conference in Lyon. The Commissioner said he wants to "send a very clear and strong message that biotech is at the heart the EU's growth and employment strategy". Verheugen "very concerned" with biotech brain-drain to USA Mr Verheugen declared himself "very concerned" with the "disquieting" trend towards a move of biotech research and production to the United States - suggesting the problem lay outside the EU: "We cannot accept the fact that the USA are pursuing a brain-drain policy", he said. The Commissioner vowed to "put biotech back on top of the EU's investment agenda", arguing that biotech has the strongest growth potential of all industrial sectors in years to come

EU Bans Suspect U.S. Corn Gluten Shipment, (Associated Press Online).
The ban will effectively shut out all imports of U.S. corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10, which has not been approved by American or European regulators. Tod has said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use.

U.S. shipments of corn gluten feed to the EU totaled 347 million euros ($450 million) last year. The United States has said the ban is exaggerated.

Brussels Acknowledges Failings In Biotech Approval System; (Biotechnology, Food Chemical News)

European Union member-states are failing to implement the bloc's agricultural biotechnology approvals system by not clearing decisions on individual products, according to a paper reviewing the regulatory regime released in Brussels last week.

"In spite of the application of the new regulatory framework, so far it has proven impossible to obtain support of a majority of member-states when it comes to its implementation, namely the adoption of decisions on specific products," said the paper, which was issued by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and commissioners responsible for biotech and trade issues.

Barroso and Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel (agriculture), Stavros Dimas (environment), Markos Kyprianou (health and consumer protection), Peter Mandelson (trade), Gunter Verhaegen (industry) and Janez Potocnik (research) added in the note to the rest of the commission that "the legislation itself is not contested."

EUROPE

German State To Sue Government Over GM Laws As Industry Meets (Bloomberg News - 10-Apr-2005). Sachsen-Anhalt, one of Germany's poorest states, plans to sue Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government, alleging that new laws stop companies such as Syngenta AG from doing local research into genetically-modified crops. The federal government last year passed legislation letting farmers claim damages if their non-GM crop is cross-pollinated by GM crops grown nearby. Opponents say the law is vague, making the risk of liability so high that companies can't carry out trials.

European Patent Office Confirms Monsanto GMO Patent (OsterDowJones Commodity Wire - 04/08/2005). FRANKFURT, Apr 08, 2005. The European Patent Office has ruled that U.S.-based agribusiness company Monsanto Co (MON) has a right to patent herbicide-resistant seeds in Europe, office spokesman Rainer Osterwalder said Friday.

U.S. Fines Swiss Company Over Sale Of Altered Seed (The New York Times - 04/09/2005, LAUSANNE, Switzerland, April 8) -- Syngenta, the Swiss agrochemicals company, was fined $375,000 by the United States Department of Agriculture for inadvertently selling unapproved genetically altered corn seed.

Syngenta Settles Bt10 Corn Case With US Agric Dept (OsterDowJones Commodity Wire - 08-Apr-2005, Apr 08, 2005). Syngenta's Bt10 corn is genetically-modified seed that was mistakenly supplied in "very small amounts as Bt11 corn between 2001 and 2004", the company said. Syngenta has been under pressure in the last few weeks after news about the labeling mistake broke. Since 2001, an estimated 150 square kilometers of the crop have been cultivated in the U.S., 1,000 metric tons of which has entered the E.U. food chain, recent media reports said. Though Syngenta has settled with U.S. regulators, the company still faces more scrutiny in Europe. The European Commission recently ordered Syngenta to supply it with information on the structure of BT10 so its presence can be detected by national governments.

Poland Banned Monsanto's MON810 Corn Variety Last Week Despite A European Union Determination That The Product Is Safe; (Food Chemical News)

Poland banned Monsanto's MON810 corn variety last week despite a European Union determination that the product is safe; International Briefs; Brief Article

"As there have not been any tests conducted in Poland with this kind of modified corn, there is a risk related to threatening of ecological farmers' business," the government explained in a statement. The ban will last for two years until Polish scientists complete their own safety tests of the corn variety. Welcoming the decision, Greenpeace declared, "Other European countries should follow Poland's example."

French Farmers' Leader Bove Condemns E.U. And WTO,( Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

Farmers' leader and militant anti-globalization campaigner Jose Bove condemned the agriculture policies of the E.U. and World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday.
Policy in Brussels was "simply a catastrophe", said Bove, who has an international reputation from spectacular protest actions. He was speaking on a visit to Austria, during which he will attend a protest rally against cuts in the milk price on Wednesday.

GLOBAL

Philippines at forefront of using biotechnology in agriculture (BUSINESSWORLD, 1 April 2005).The Philippines is at the forefront of using biotechnology as an alternative means to ensure food security and alleviate poverty, and women are playing a bigger role in its propagation.
http://www.scidev.net/Features/index.cfm?fuseaction=readFeatures&itemid=395&language=1

Philippines Expects To OK Commercial Use Of Syngenta Corn
(Dow Jones International News - 04/20/2005 MANILA)

The Philippine Department of Agriculture could approve the commercial use a Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, corn variety developed by Syngenta AG (SYT) as early as next month, a senior official said Wednesday.

Vivencio Mamaril, chief of the biotechnology section of the Bureau of Plant Industry, said the agency is awaiting data from field trials of the genetically modified corn variety. "We have found Syngenta's Bt 11 to be an efficient agent against corn borer. If Syngenta provides us the data that we need within April, then we can issue the approval as early as May," Mamaril told reporters.

Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry Has Approved Imports Of Bioengineered Crops For Human And Animal Consumption; (Food Chemical News - 04/19/2005).

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF NOXIOUS ANIMALS AND PLANTS (IOBC) presents the view on GMO see .PDF

China offers research grants to overseas Chinese. China's main research funding body has created long-term grants to attract 'overseas Chinese' scientists.
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2054&language=1

As drought takes hold, Zambia's door stays shut to GM. Gripped by severe drought for the third time in recent years, Zambia has reaffirmed its resistance to imports of genetically modified crops, reports Brenda Zulu. As drought takes hold, Zambia's door stays shut to GM. http://www.sabcnews.com/sci_tech/science/0,2172,101067,00.html.

Tanzania will soon begin its first field trials of genetically modified crops making it the seventh African country to go the controversial GM route, according to reports on the Science and Development Network website. The first plants to be tested will be Bt cotton. "Tanzania cannot afford to be left behind by technologies that increase crop yields, reduce farm costs and increase profits," said Wilfred Ngirwa, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
http://www.bworld.com.ph/weekender/agribusiness/agribusiness3.html

Biotechnology in developing countries. Nature Biotechnology in an article highlights the results of a new study from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on the development of genetically modified crops by research institutes in 15 developing countries. The first of its kind, this study assesses the state of biotech crop research, the types of genes being used, and the biosafety and regulatory challenges poor countries face. "Our study debunks many misconceptions about biotech crop research," said Joel Cohen, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow and author of the article. "Many people assume that large multinational corporations control the global development of genetically modified foods, but the reality is that poor countries have vibrant programs of public biotech research. Often this research draws upon indigenous plant varieties to cultivate improved crops for local use by small-scale farmers."

IN SCIENCE

Genetic secrets of rice's worst fungal pest unveiled. Each year the 'rice blast' fungus, Magnaporthe grisea, destroys enough rice to feed 60 million people. Its genetic code was mapped in 2002 by a team led by Ralph Dean, director of the Fungal Genomics Laboratory at North Carolina State University, United States
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2055&language=1

Cell suicide 'is key to malaria vaccine'. After being injected into the human bloodstream, the parasites enter the liver in as sporozoites. When previously irradiated, they induced immunity. But now a team of researchers led by Ana Rodriguez at the New York University School of Medicine, United States, has added to this explanation.

According to research they published this month (4 April) in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, liver cells infected with the weakened malaria parasites commit apoptosis soon after infection releasing malaria antigenes. Thus, a promising malaria vaccine works by causing infected cells to die soon after infection, say researchers.

Attacking malaria while it is still in the liver is therefore seen as the most effective way to prevent infection and stop the parasite from being transmitted to other people.
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2052&language=1

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