News in October 2005
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In our August News we reported the white paper of the ITSSD (Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development) on Precautionary principle. We should add to the view of Mark Cantley his letter to Lawrence A. Kogan, Esq. the author of the white paper: "Many thanks, Lawrence, for your considered reply. Let me just say that I agree with so much of what you have written, that I might have difficulty arguing against it. We in the Research Directorate-General have in general fought for science-based regulation - or indeed no regulation, where the cost-benefit balance does not seem to warrant it - but we have lost many battles over the years, particularly in the area of biotechnology, which I've been following since late 1979.  Your efforts are much appreciated; keep fighting."

Books and publications

Multinational Firms in the World Economy By Giorgio Barba Navaretti, Anthony J. Venables et al Princeton University Press, 325pp, Pounds 29.95. ISBN 0 691 11920 1"

Reference: by John Driffill is professor of economics, Birkbeck, University of London.A Global Good, Not An Enemy Within? in John Driffill Times Higher Education Supplement Oct14, 2005; see Vivian Moses ++ http://www.thes.co.uk

BioIndustry Ethics - David L. Finegold, Cecile M Bensimon, Abdallah S. Daar, Margaret L. Eaton, Beatrice Godard, Bartha Maria Knoppers, Jocelyn Mackie, Peter A. Singer; Amazon.com $34.95; Paperback; 384 pages, Academic Press. (June 10, 2005) ISBN: 0123693705

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond, New York: Viking, 592 pages, $29.9. Reference see: Ronald Bailey, Reason, August/September 2005. Full article at http://www.reason.com/0508/cr.rb.under.shtml

Globalisation Driving Increase in Offshoring of R&D Centres, according to the OECD STI Scoreboard, which includes StatLinks:

OECD Urges Freer Trade Combined with Structural Adjustment to Reap Benefits from Globalisation in Trade and Structural Adjustment: Announcement | Book on Online Bookshop | Book on SourceOECD

Race to the Finish: Identity and governance in an age of genomics
Author: Jenny Reardon, Publisher: Princeton University Press, Publication Date: 2005 Reviewer: Diane Paul

The War of the Soups and the Sparks: The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute over How Nerves Communicate by Elliot S. Valenstein
Columbia University Press: 2005. 256 pp. $31, Review Nature Vol 437|29 September 2005

PG Economics (Limited advisory and consultancy services to agriculture and other natural resource-based industries. Specific areas of: plant biotechnology, agricultural production systems, agricultural markets and policy) issued in October 2005:

bulletBiotech Crops Reduce Pesticide Use, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Planting of these crops generates additional US$27.5 billion in global farm income
bulletGM crops: the global socio-economic and environmental impact - the first nine years 1996-2004 (Full Report  pdf 762 kb)
bulletGM Crops: The Global Economic and Environmental Impact - The First Nine Years 1996 - 2004.
bulletAgBioForum 8 (2&3): 187-196 (2005) ( pdf 242 kb) http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk .

'From Mendel to Markers': Impact of Molecular Technologies on Animal, Plant, and Human. Genetics- Curriculum for Grades 9-12; Office of Biotechnology & ISU Extension, Iowa State University http://www.biotech.iastate.edu/publications/mendel/

This three-module curriculum was prepared by the Office of Biotechnology at Iowa State University and published by ISU Extension for high school teachers or extension educators to use with grades 9-12 or adult audiences.

To order a CD or printed copy of the curriculum, contact Iowa State's at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/pubs/Order.html

The publication number is 4H-948LDR. Download at http://www.biotech.iastate.edu/publications/mendel/default.html

Conferences

Molecular Biology Applied to Global Food/Feed and Seed Safety Management Systems - February 16-17, 2006;  Paris, France; Eurofins International Seminar
http://www.formation-conseil.com/seminaires_clubs/agrogene_2004/index.asp

GMA Conference on the Future of Food
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - Thursday, December 01, 2005
Ronald Regan Buildin, International Trade Centr, Wasington DC.

CORDIA Convention London - 11th - 13th October just after BioPartnering Europe
An interactive workshop co-hosted by the EMEA and EuropaBio ; The leading speakers in the World in Biotechnology sharing the latest technical, regulatory and financial positions;
Workshops on accessing funding, licensing, managing IP and flotation - with the leading experts in the World ready to case-by-case advice; A massive number of Venture Capitalists and business development personnel from Pharma Companies looking to invest in your company; Biopartnering.com software to add your profile and arrange one to one meetings throughout

Europe – EU

EU regions band together for biotech – call for proposal Partners in the EUROTRANS-BIO project will pool resources in a call for proposals aimed at fostering competitiveness in Europe’s biotechnology industry. Research-intensive SMEs in this sector are the primary audience of the call.

Sixth Framework Programme: Guidelines on the use of logos and links to the Europa web site

A balanced diet of food-related research Food and food-related health and safety issues have taken centre stage in the past decade, as people become more conscious of what they eat, how it reaches their table – from the farm to the fork – and what impact it has on their bodies. Obesity is high on the research agenda, but so is the lesser-understood food allergy problem. The EU-supported EuroPrevall project hopes to provide some answers to this problem.

EU recipe for future food research - Five new EU-funded food research projects
On 11 October in London, five new EU-funded research projects in the food area will be launched in London. These European projects, all led by UK institutions, will address above issues by generating new science and new collaborations. The presentations will be introduced by Christian Patermann, Director of Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food of the Research DG of the European Commission.

Nanotech panel urges cautious use, but no ban
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2382&language=1
A panel of British citizens has advised caution and openness, but no ban, for research into nanotechnology.

Media Should Campaign on the Basis of Facts - Robert May, Nature, v.437, p814; October 6, 2005; nature.com Sir: Your Editorial on how the scientific community should respond to public controversies ("Responding to uncertainty" Nature 437, 1; 2005) suggested that researchers should attack, on a "scientific basis", misleading reports that appear in sections of the media. Media should be free to report the opinions of maverick researchers. But it is not in the public interest for the media to present these views in a way that creates a misleading impression about the amount of support they have among other scientists. Journalists often strive to achieve a balance by reporting one view and then presenting a diametrically opposed counter-view. When presented in the same way time after time, this can make the research community seem to be evenly divided, even if there are a thousand on one side and one on the other.

European Court of Justice (ECJ) rejected a proposed moratorium on genetically modified organisms.
(Simon Thönen, Swissinfo, October 5, 2005 http://www.swissinfo.org)

On Wednesday the ECJ threw out an application from the Austrian province of Upper Austria for a moratorium. The Austrian province was hoping to achieve exactly the same goals as the Swiss campaign. They wanted a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture for several years.

"The movement against genetically modified seeds will not be stopped by one ruling," the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth said in Brussels. In Austria, other provinces have already introduced strict precautionary regulations that make genetic farming almost impossible in practice.

Moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung AG, October 4, 2005 http://www.nzz.ch

Swiss voters are being asked on November 27 whether to accept a five-year moratorium on GMOs. A group of Swiss scientists has warned that if voters accept the moratorium, research could suffer.  The Gen Suisse Foundation said that delaying the use of GM plants would also undermine teaching in Switzerland's universities.  "Switzerland cannot afford to stick its head in the sand," said Ernst Hafen, who will take over as the president of Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology in December. "Ten of Europe's best 50 biotechnology researchers are Swiss," he added. "We should not hinder their projects or they will start heading abroad."  Hafen also believes that careers could be nipped in the bud. "Uncertainty or a poisonous working environment will make some people hesitate to pursue a career in this field." The genetics specialist pointed out that even safe tests of GM plants in a controlled environment are difficult to carry out because of protests from associations opposed to the use of modified organisms. For Hafen, current legislation restricting the use of GM plants is sufficient and there is no need for a further moratorium.

Sparks fly over UNESCO bioethics pact
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2433&language=1
UNESCO's bioethics guidelines have become a minefield of controversy, championed by religious groups but questioned by the bioethics community itself.

HIV virus 'may be weakening'
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2387&language=1
The virus responsible for AIDS may be getting weaker, but we should not be lulled into a false sense of security, say researchers.

'No risk to human health' from GM crop drug resistance
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2381&language=1
Fears that GM crops could spread their drug resistance to bacteria that threaten human health seem unfounded, say scientists.

Swedes Develop Anti-allergy Apple
Food Business Review, October 6, 2005, http://www.food-business-review.com
Swedish scientists have developed an apple with a reduced amount of the protein Ma1 d 1, which is known to cause allergic reactions.

No Allergy Problems From GM Corn Or Soy: Study Reuters - 8/31/2005
NEW YORK -- Despite concerns from some critics of genetically modified crops that the foods may raise consumers' risk of allergic reactions, a new study finds no evidence that this is the case.

The study, by researchers in Portugal, adds to evidence that several widely used strains of GM corn and soybeans do not promote food allergies.

All of the products -- three corn strains engineered to resist certain crop-ravaging insects and a soybean variety that tolerates a common weed killer --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.

Denmark needs to take the offensive on the GMO area and focus on turning the development towards a more socially responsible use of the GMO technique - not least towards the agricultural communities in the third world. This is today's statement following the government's mandate from the Danish Folketinget to vote yes to an application from Pioneer Hi-Bred international Inc. and Mycogen Seeds for permission to import a genetically modified corn.

"This marks the end to Denmark saying no to all GMOs. We are now going to view each case with a varied and objective attitude. I am very satisfied with this development,"states Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister of the environment.

"When used in the right way the GMO technology has great potential. There are crops on the way with the ability to grow under very difficult terms, and they only need a minimum of preparation. These crops may play an important role when it comes to fighting poverty in developing countries. We cannot allow ourselves to throw away technology simply because it is new and impossible to understand for those of us who are not professionals. Naturally we still have to work for high levels of both environmental and health protection. But we also need to relate offensively and without prejudice to the possibilities of the development. Denmark needs to give greater priority to the fact that technology contributes to a sustainable development, and I am going to work for this both nationally and in our contribution to international research," Connie Hedegaard states.

French Officials Condemns The Destruction Of Genetically Modified Plants
Reuters - 8/30/2005
PARIS: Four French ministers condemned the recent destruction of fields used for experiments with genetically modified plants in Tarn and Puy-de-Dôme "with the greatest determination". "These vandalistic actions that go against the law and public interest impair years of research in the biomedical field for the possible treatment of mucoviscidosis and certain cancers," according to a joint release from the ministers of agriculture, health, ecology and research.

"Experiments in open fields is the only way to produce sufficient amounts of active substance for the preliminary research of new medical treatments," the French ministers added. Dominique Busserau, Xavier Bertrand, Nelly Olin and François Goulard also reaffirmed their support for the researchers and farmers who have incurred substantial losses from this vandalism.

Bt Corn Still Raises Concerns Two Years After Gov't OK
BUSINESSWORLD (PHILIPPINES) - 01-Sep-2005 - Romer S Sarmiento Koronadal City - More than two years after the controversial Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn was approved for commercial propagation, opposition to it has not ebbed. It will likely stay that way, particularly in South Cotabato, perhaps the hotbed of anti-Bt corn movement, more so because at the forefront of the opposition is still the local Catholic Church.

Scientists Study Bee GM Risk
ABC News (Australia) - 9/20/2005

With canola flowering across much of the nation's grain belt, researchers are watching the activity of honeybees. They are trying to determine whether bees could carry herbicide-resistant pollen, or genetically modified material to other canola crops. Dr Janine Baker from the Cooperative Research Centre for Weed Management says the research project stems from the global move towards GM crops. She says results so far show it is a problem than can be managed, because bees do not move large distances and tend to work single varieties of canola. "It's not a huge issue and it looks as though it's one that we can manage quite easily, because, as I said, they don't like to travel far," she said. "So if there are concerns about what's happening with bees, we can look at what sort of buffer zones we have to have in place and those sort of issues. "So, in terms of management, it's a risk assessment and it's one we think we can manage quite easily.

Bt Corn and Health
http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2005/8221/8221.pdf

New paper in Environmental Health Perspectives described in detail how fumonisins caused an outbreak of neural tube birth defects (NTDs) along the Texas-Mexico border. Fumonisins also cause a fatal horse brain-wasting disease (equine leukoencephalomalacia, ELEM). Bt corn radically cuts fumonisin levels, protecting against NTDs in people and ELEM in horses.

Bollworm Pest Remains Beaten - Tom Simonite, Nature Online,  October 10, 2005
http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051010/full/051010-5.html

'Genetic study confirms insects are still not resistant to Bt toxin.'
Cotton that has been genetically engineered to be toxic to pests remains effective after nearly a decade in the field, scientists have announced, defying predictions that insects would evolve to tolerate them. Widespread planting of genetically modified (GM) cotton across the southern United States has not increased the incidence of resistance in the major insect pest, pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiela). References

Chloroplast transformation technology
Dow AgroSciences LLC has hired local startup Chlorogen Inc. to teach it a new way of creating genetically modified crops. The Indianapolis-based subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co. is developing plants that can grow proteins for animal health products, such as vaccines for livestock. It also is adding desirable genetic traits - for example, the ability to resist harmful pests - to row crops, such as corn and cotton, in competition with Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co. Chlorogen, which is housed in the Nidus Center for Scientific Enterprise incubator on Monsanto's property, says its technology is superior to the methods now in broad use. It patented a way of adding genes that carry desirable traits to the chloroplasts of plants, rather than into a cell's nucleus.

Chloroplast transformation technology, trademarked by Chlorogen as CTT, so far has shown several benefits over nuclear modification, the company said: Plants grow with a higher level of the transferred trait or material, meaning more of a desirable protein can be produced on less land, or plants can carry more concentrated amounts of a desirable trait, such as added nutrients. The gene transfer is more precise. It is possible to transfer larger genes. Chloroplasts are inherited through seeds, rather than pollen, so the modified plants can more easily be contained.

Science and society: still uncomfortable bedfellows
http://www.scidev.net/Editorials/index.cfm?fuseaction=readEditorials&itemid=174&language=1

A new report from the International Council for Science (ICSU) highlights the need for scientists to come to terms with the increasing complexity of relations between science, technology and society in an era of globalisation.

Rice fungi have a 'partner in crime
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2399&language=1

A major disease of rice thought to be caused by soil fungi is actually caused by bacteria that live inside the fungi, say researchers.

The risks of using fungi against mosquitoes
http://www.scidev.net/editorletters/index.cfm?fuseaction=readeditorletter&itemid=79&language=1

Researchers warn that a proposed method of controlling malaria — using fungi to kill mosquitoes — could have undesirable side effects.

Chinese team says GM plants can clean up heavy metals
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2444&language=1

A team of Chinese scientists has genetically engineered tobacco plants and algae to remove toxic heavy metals from soil and water.

Gene catalogue could guide tailored healthcare
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2443&language=1

Geneticists have published a catalogue of variations between human genes, that has been called an "unprecedented gift" to the field of personalised medicine.

Mosquito gene could protect people from malaria
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2441&language=1

A mosquito gene that shields the insect from malaria could be used to

Global forum for free sharing of research data planned
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2435&language=1

lanning has begun on a worldwide forum to help scientists freely share their research data.

Impactof genetic modification of potatoes

In the past 4 months there have been two major studies were published.  The first was published in Plant Physiology in July 2005 - Comparison of Tuber Proteomes of Potato Varieties, Landraces, and Genetically Modified Lines" by Lehesranta et al. (Plant Physiology 138, 1690-1699).

The second was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA in October - "Hierarchical metabolomics demonstrates substantial compositional similarity between genetically modified and conventional potato crops" by Catchpole et al. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 102, 14458-14462).

Lehesranta et al. compared more than 1,111 proteins in 32 non-GM potato varieties (including 8 landraces) and found significant differences between varieties for 1,077 proteins.  That is more than 96% of all proteins were significantly different in expression across the 32 non-GM potato varieties.  They then compared 10 GM potato lines with their parent cultivar.  These lines were transformed with 3 different types of constructs, with some containing empty vector constructs.  Across the 10 lines and the parent cultivar, 730 proteins were compared and only 9 showed significant differences across the lines.  That is genetic modification caused changes in the expression of less than 1.3% of all proteins.  The conclusion that was reached was that genetic modification was specifically changing the expression profile of a small number of proteins, and there was considerably less difference between GM and non-GM plants than between different cultivars.

Catchpole et al. compared the metabolite profiles of 5 non-GM potato varieties and 6 GM lines transformed to express high molecular weight inulin through the addition of one or two genes from globe artichoke. The metabolite analysis compared 252 compounds.  Of these, 6 metabolites associated with the fructan pathway were increased in the GM lines.  These were targeted changes of the genetic modification. When these compounds were removed from the analysis, the GM lines were indistinguishable from their parent line, but other cultivars could be clearly distinguished on the basis of their metabolite profiles.  That is, other than the intentional changes, there was significantly more variation in metabolite profiles among potato cultivars than there was between the GM lines and the parent cultivar.

Edible Rice-Based Vaccine May Combat Hay Fever - Amy Norton, Reuters, Oct 31, 2005

People who endure the seasonal misery of pollen allergies may one day find relief in a bowl of rice, researchers reported Monday. In experiments with mice, Japanese scientists found that an edible vaccine produced in genetically modified rice was able to prevent the immune response that triggers allergies. Mice that were fed the vaccine showed a dampened immune reaction to pollen, and they sneezed far less often than their non-vaccinated brethren.

The findings are published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A Generational Study of Glyphosate-Tolerant Soybeans on Mouse Fetal, Postnatal, Pubertal and Adult Testicular Development - Brake, D.G., and D.P. Evenson. 2004. Food Chemistry and Toxicology 42:29-36 

Abstract. The health safety of transgenic soybeans (glyphosate-tolerant or Roundup Ready) was studied using the mammalian testis (mouse model) as a sensitive biomonitor of potential toxic effects. Pregnant mice were fed a transgenic soybean or a non-transgenic (conventional) diet through gestation and lactation. After weaning, the young male mice were maintained on the respective diets. At 8, 16, 26, 32, 63 and 87 days after birth, three male mice and an adult reference mouse were killed, the testes surgically removed, and the cell populations measured by flow cytometry. Multi-generational studies were conducted in the same manner. The results showed that the transgenic foodstuffs had no effect on macromolecular synthesis or cell growth and differentiation as evidenced by no differences in the percentages of testicular cell populations (haploid, diploid, and tetraploid) between the transgenic soybean-fed mice and those fed the conventional diet. Additionally, there were no differences in litter sizes and body weights of the two groups. It was concluded that the transgenic soybean diet had no negative effect on fetal, postnatal, pubertal or adult testicular development.

The impact of Bt crops on non-target organisms.
Environmental Entomology, Oct. 2005, 34, (5); http://www.entsoc.org/pubs/periodicals/ee

11 field studies published in 13 research papers in the October issue of the journal, represent the most comprehensive, long-term scientific assessment of this issue to date.

The field studies, conducted in the United States and Australia, focused on the longer-term assessment of potential non-target effects of transgenic Bt cotton and corn. The research encompassed two varieties of crops (upland cotton and hybrid corn), which collectively produce five insecticidal proteins, and involved the evaluation of a wide breadth of non-target arthropods. With one exception, studies were conducted over a minimum of three site-years in either controlled, moderate-sized research plots or in commercial fields subject to typical grower production practices. The majority of studies were conducted for three years or more.

The results of the new studies provide extensive data to support the conclusion that Bt cotton and Bt corn pose little, if any, threat to organisms not targeted by the Bt proteins. These studies also bear out one of the environmental benefits of Bt crops--the reduction in the use of insecticides with broad-spectrum activity. These commonly used insecticides not only affect a wide range of pests but also have been shown to be more damaging to non-target organisms.

Publication of these papers inaugurates a new subject area in Environmental Entomology entitled "Transgenic Plants and Insects." "This new subject area allows us to explore issues in agricultural biotechnology," said Dr. E. Alan Cameron, the journal's editor-in-chief. "In this inaugural section, we present a unique body of research that shows that Bt crops have little effect on non-target organisms, especially compared to the alternative use of insecticides with broad-spectrum activity, which can be many times more damaging to the non-target arthropod community." Future topics in this subject area will include all aspects of the development, application, and assessment of transgenic technology in pest management and its environmental impact, "Cameron added.

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