News in September 2005
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Books and publications

2005 Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries, released in electronic form in June, is now available in book form: Book on Online Bookshop | Book on SourceOECD

Environmentally Harmful Subsidies: Challenges for Reform: Announcement | Book on the Online Bookshop | Book on SourceOECD

Evaluating Agri-Environmental Policies: Book on Online Bookshop | Book on SourceOECD
Publication: Science for society, science with society (Summary of EURAGRI conference, Brussels, 3-4 February 2005); Organic Food and Farming Research in Europe

Meetings

Communicating European Research 2005 - International Conference
Brussels Exhibition Center (Heysel)
14-15 November 2005
Programme: The preliminary programme has been updated.

Top bioethicists discuss cloning at United Nations
http://www.scidev.net/events/index.cfm?fuseaction=readevents&itemid=732&language=1
Location: New York, United States
Date: 26 September 2005

Forthcoming Events
Renewable Energy for Europe – Research in Action

21-22 November 2005 – Brussels, Belgium
- Draft programme added

Human Genetic and Reproductive Technologies: Comparing Religious and Secular Perspectives
http://www.scidev.net/events/index.cfm?fuseaction=readevents&itemid=734&language=1
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Date: 6 - 9 February 2006

“Environmental Risk Assessment of GM plants: discussion for consensus
Date of workshop: 6-9 June 2006
Venue of workshop:. All the meeting sessions of the workshop will be held at ENEA Research Centre Trisaia. S.S. 106 Ionica, km 419+500. Rotondella (MT), Southern Italy

Europe – EU

Biotechnology Debate Must Remain Science-Based, says Verheugen - Cordis News, September 29, 2005  via http://www.checkbiotech.org/

The EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, Günter Verheugen, has reiterated the need for an open debate on the benefits of biotechnology and the ethical questions surrounding it, but insisted that such a dialogue must remain science-based. Mr Verheugen was outlining the Commission's biotech policy at a high level roundtable organised by the European association for bioindustries, EuropaBio.

He said that if Europe is to compete with the US and other emerging challengers, then knowledge-based sectors, including biotechnology, would have to be at the forefront of the Commission's policies. The worrying trend of pharmaceuticals actors relocating their research and development (R&D) activities outside Europe was also highlighted by Mr Verheugen as an area for action. 'We must not underestimate this widening gap. Losing R&D in life sciences is going to have major social and economic consequences for Europe,' he said. Mr Verheugen acknowledged the need to address societal concerns concerning biotechnology, however, and said that the Commission would launch a debate as part of the mid-term review of the strategy in 2006.

'The debate must, however, remain science based, and we must take a balanced view on matters of concern, such as GMOs, and avoid taking extreme positions. Clarity and knowledge will help to lower emotional prejudices,' he said, before highlighting the potential of genetically modified organisms to provide better crop yields, increased sustainability and better food and feed quality. Let's be clear: it will not be an easy task to achieve this [but] I am convinced we are able to face the challenge and come out successful,' Mr. Verheugen concluded.

The Commission launched, last month, a consultation process to determine the grounds for creating a European Institute of Technology (EIT), an idea coming out of the mid-term review of the EU’s Lisbon Strategy to become the world’s ‘know-how powerhouse’. Looking into the EIT

Invitation to register profiles for experts involved in agricultural policy analysis in the Central Eastern European Countries and in the Western Balkan EU-AgriNet

For the first time, the European Union will directly fund television and radio co-productions in science and research. In an effort to boost science communication and bridge a well-documented awareness gap between science and society, the Commission has issued a call for audiovisual projects which it will consider co-financing. This move comes at an important time for the EU’s executive body, as it builds up to CER 2005, a major science communication event, and the AthenaWeb portal it supports grows in stature.
EU to fund co-productions for science TV and radio

New projects reports available
FP5 : Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources Programme: Key Action 4 - Environment & Health

Global aspects of technology transfer: biotechnology
Location: Oxford, UK Date: 4 - 9 September 2005 http://www.grc.uri.edu/programs/2005/global.htm

Jose Bove – another trial.
Associated Press, Sept 21, 2005, Toulouse (AP):
Frances best-known farmer, Jose Bove, a Greens Party lawmaker and seven others went to trial Tuesday for ripping up a field of genetically modified corn, telling the court they ravaged the fledgling crop in the name of caution.

Global

UNESCO guidance on ethics and human rights slammed
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2337&language=1
Bioethics experts say a recent UNESCO declaration on ethical and human rights aspects of research is riddled with conceptual problems.

EU's Anti-GM Stance is Unsustainable, Says Study - Chris Mercer, 29/09/2005 http://www.foodnavigator.com/
Europe's opposition to genetically modified ingredients will significantly increase producers' costs over the next three years as it becomes ever harder to secure GM-free supplies, says a new report.

FAO Biotech Newsletter, http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) was running a web-based discussion forum on "Biotechnology; technical and policy implications in the Near East and North Africa Region" from 1-30 September 2005. The four main themes for discussion are biotechnology and food security; policy focus and priority issues; biosafety - recent trends and future prospects and, finally, capacity building in biotechnology. See http://www.escwa.org.lb/information/meetings/events/bio/main.html or contact bizri@un.org for more information.

Brazil announces US$5 million for stem cell research
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2333&language=1
Brazil's ministries of health and science will spend nearly US$5 million funding stem cell research in 2005 and 2006.

Chinese GM cotton 'boosts yields by up to 25 per cent'
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2373&language=1
A new type of genetically modified cotton developed in China gives significantly higher yields than existing varieties, say researchers.

Ghana had not taken any strong stand against the importation and cultivation of Genetically Modified Crops, said Mr. Ernest Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture, but was rather strongly in favour of it. (Accra, Aug. 18, GNA)

He said with he National Bio-Safety Framework and its other nine accompanying instruments, which had just been launched, "we have now met the accessions of the Cartagena Protocol, which was signed in May 2003 affirming our position for the safe use, handling and transportation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that might find their way to Ghana."

Ghana, the first in Africa and the 10th in the world to accomplish the task of developing a National Bio-safety Framework under the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) had proved its ability to ensure sustained use of modern biotechnology products and processes, the Agriculture Minister said.

Kenya halts first field trials of GM maize
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2326&language=1
Kenyan authorities have suspended the country's first field trials of GM maize and ordered the crops to be destroyed.

Science

Little Difference in Gene-Altered Potatoes - UPI,  Monster and Critics, Sep 27, 2005, http://science.monstersandcritics.com/ POTSDAM, Germany –

Scientists in Potsdam, Germany, and Cardiff, England, say there`s little difference between genetically produced potatoes and conventional varieties. Researchers say the two types of potatoes only differ in substances intentionally incorporated with gene technology. The conclusion was reached by scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany, and colleagues from the University of Wales in England.

Several widely used strains of GM corn and soybeans do not promote food allergies.

The researchers, led by Rita Batista of Portugal's National Health Institute in Lisbon, gave 77 study participants allergy tests to see whether they reacted differently to the GM corn and soy than they did to conventional varieties. All of the products -- three Bt corn strains and a RR-soybean variety have been on the market since the 1990s. The new study looked at a group of allergy-prone adults and children who had consumed products containing the biotech foods at some point since their approval in Europe.

None of them did, according to findings published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

Mexico maize study
Crop Biotech Update, September 2, 2005

Sometime in 2000, scientists released research findings that stated that they had found evidence of genetically modified corn in maize landraces grown in Oaxaca, Mexico. This was significant, because transgenic maize has never been approved for cultivation in the country.

Five years later, S. S. Ortiz-García and colleagues publish their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their article, "Absence of detectable transgenes in local landraces of maize in Oaxaca, Mexico (2003-2004)," is published in the journal's latest electronic edition. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/102/35/12338

PCR could not detect any transgenic sequences in the seeds sampled, and authors conclude that transgenic maize seeds were absent or extremely rare in the sampled fields. They, however, caution readers about the limitations of their research. For instance, their seed sampling may not have been thorough, and the samples could be less than representative of the local maize crop. They also caution readers from extrapolating the findings to other regions of Mexico, or from considering the current situation likely to remain unchanged.

"Overexpression of 1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase increases proline production and confers salt tolerance in transgenic potato plants." Aida Hmida-Sayari and colleagues reported. Their research appears in the October issue of the Journal of Plant Science.

Fungus is 'new tool for sustainable agriculture'
Researchers say that infecting barley with a fungus can make it tolerate salty soil and resist two major fungal diseases. http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2374&language=1

Turning one hepatitis virus against the other
Chinese scientists have adapted one hepatitis virus to interrupt the replication of another, and say this could lead to new treatment for hepatitis B. http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2290&language=1

Living anti-HIV gel shows early promise
A topically applied 'living gel' of genetically modified bacteria offers new hope in HIV prevention. http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2324&language=1

Brazilians sequence genes of pig and poultry killers
Researchers in Brazil have published the full genetic sequences of two bacteria that cause major economic losses to pig and poultry farming. http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2320&language=1

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