Prejudice and business interests hold back benefit from science.
Since the 1960's the standard of care for childhood diarrhea in the developing world has been the World Health Organization's formulation of rehydration solution, a glucose-based, high-sodium liquid that is administered orally. This low-tech product was revolutionary. It saved countless lives and reduced the need for costly (and often unavailable) hospital stays and intravenous rehydration. However, this product did nothing to lessen the severity or duration of the condition, which over time leads to malnutrition, anemia and other chronic health risks. Other approaches to treatments and preventive measures -- including changes in public policy, improvement of water treatment and the development of vaccines -- have not yielded significant, cost-effective results.
The researchers found that when lactoferrin and lysozyme are added to rice-based oral rehydration solution, the duration of children's illness is cut from more than five days to three and two-thirds. This improvement is thought to be caused by the antimicrobial effect of lysozyme, which has long been known to be one of the primary protective proteins in breast milk. Moreover, over the twelve-month follow-up period, the children who had received the lactoferrin and lysozyme had less than half the recurrence rate of diarrhea (eight percent versus eighteen percent in the controls). This effect is probably caused by lactoferrin, which promotes repair of the cells of the intestinal mucosa damaged by diarrhea.
It would not be realistic to apply this method generally in developing countries because it is rather expensive. But an introduction of transgenic rice that produces human lactoferrin and lysozyme would make it feasible. Such variety was developed by a small company Ventria but met violent opposition of some sections of industry. This is because the transgenes are of human origin and certain fundamentalists feel it “unethical” to transfer human genes into a plant. Large industry – like brewery Anhauser-Bush - is afraid people would suspect “contamination” of standard rice they are using. This led to the comment of Bob Papanos of the U.S. Rice Producers Association: "We just want Ventria to go away." There were also completely baseless and malicious objections to the clinical trials themselves from left-wing activists in Peru, who claimed that the rights of the pediatric subjects were violated. Typically, the activists grossly misrepresented the facts surrounding the product and the conduct of the trial.
(Reported by Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution, headed the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993. Barron's selected his most recent book, "The Frankenfood Myth..." one of the 25 Best Books of 2004.) Dr. Henry I. Miller, TCS, 26 Jun 2006.
Brussels' leading training centre in EU Public Affairs & Lobbying (www.e-t-i.be)
invites to EU Media Training September 26-27
| December 14-15
GMO-Compass Launches Online Discourse.
What will be the fate of genetically modified crops in Europe? What will it take to transform the idea of coexistence between genetically modified plants and conventional crops into a reality?
GMO-Compass, the online guide to the world of genetically modified plants and food, is hosting an online discourse to get to the heart of these critical questions. The online discourse, hosted at www.gmo-compass.org, will open its forum to the public on September 11th and will remain open until October 8th.
Those wishing to take an active role in the online discourse can register for participation as early as August 8th by filling out a form, which will be available at www.gmo-compass.org.
Biofuel Research Reaches Fever Pitch - Toronto Star, July 17, 2006
Researchers gathered at a global biotechnology conference in Toronto yesterday to explore better methods of making biofuels out of everything from corn stalks to orange peels.
ISAAA's CropBiotech Update, June 30, 2006
CropBiotech Weekly Update, July 28, Issue
Functional Foods: World Bank Report
As part of its Agriculture and Rural Development Discussion Paper series, the World Bank has just published "Health enhancing foods: Opportunities for strengthening the sector in developing countries", by L. Kotilainen and co-authors. The 82-page report includes a general literature review of the potential generated by functional foods and an assessment of the sector in five countries (Brazil, China, India, Peru and Russia). ¨the potential of biotechnology for the functional foods sector is also covered briefly. See http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTARD/Resources/Health_Enhacing_Foods_ARD_DP_30_final.pdf (848 KB) or contact email@example.com for more information.(Via FAO, Biotech http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp)
Forces Reshaping World Agriculture - Jeremy Mattson and Won Koo, Center for Ag Policy and Trade Studies, Agribusiness & Applied Economics Report No. 582; North Dakota State University. Complete document at http://agecon.lib.umn.edu/cgi-bin/pdf_view.pl?paperid=21789&ftype=.pdf
Other articles in July 2006 ISB News Report at http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2006/news06.jul.htm
EuropaBio celebrated this year on the 30th May 2006 in Brussels its 10-year anniversary.
In view of this event and in order to give you an idea of EuropaBio’s annual activities and achievements, the following documents and short film are on display, for online consultation or hard copies can be ordered free of charge from the following address: http://www.europabio.org/form-2006.htm
Mycotoxin reduction in Bt corn: potential economic,
health, and regulatory impacts
FP6 Model Contracts
New mandate for transatlantic biotech dialogue Europe and the United States have agreed, for the fourth time, to renew the mandate of the EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research which seeks to peer into the future of this exciting field.
EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research
Update to the list of taskforce contributors
Biotechnology, study: European biotech – innovative but strapped for cash. Europe is an explosive incubator of new biotechnological ideas, but growth is hampered by a severe lack of venture capita, an industry study comparing the biotechnology sector on both sides of the Atlantic has found.
DNA ‘immortality’ caught on video. EuroStemCell researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris used sophisticated techniques, including video imaging, to record how stem cells could avoid mutations during cell division. This is the best visual evidence for a hypothesis that ‘immortal’ DNA would remain unchanged while all around mutate.
International Scientific Cooperation Policy Publications
Forum of National Ethics Councils (NEC Forum)
Commission publishes crop yield forecast: drought hits again but European cereal production remains stable. Detailed scientific analysis by the European Commission, through its advanced crop yield forecasting system, shows that, despite the drought-affected areas around the Mediterranean, this year’s total EU cereal harvest remains in line with the average of the last five years (-0.5%). Once again, a drought is keeping crop yields at low levels in southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece). The forecast published today by the Commission provides yield estimates for the main crops throughout the European Union, comparing these with last year’s production and the average harvests over the last five years. It also identifies the areas most affected by drought this year and compares the situation with past extreme drought events.
Trust in biotech on the rise, survey shows. As knowledge of the field improves, Europeans are warming to biotechnology and one in two express confidence that it will improve their quality of life. But according to the latest Eurobarometer survey, trust in 'emerging' areas, such as genetically modified food, remains on the low side.
SCAR net: Web site on Agricultural research Standing Committee on Agricultural Research: Sweden
Open Stakeholder Consultation: Priorities for Environment & Health Research in FP7
The aim of this meeting was to present and discuss the future priorities of environment and health research in view of launching the first calls for proposals at the end of 2006/ beginning of 2007 by Directorate I (Environment) of the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, area ‘Environment and Health’. Presentations available
The Research site keyword index now contains over 7100 English keywords to help you find what you are looking for. It also contains around 2500 keywords in German, French and Spanish, and a smaller list in Italian and Dutch.
UK aid agency doubles funding for scientific research
New research funding by the UK’s overseas aid agency will target key health, agricultural and environmental issues in poor countries.
UK - Proposals for GM crops Launched
Genetically modified crops grown in the UK would have to be separated from non-GM fields by at least 35m (114ft), under proposals announced by ministers. The measure is designed to minimise crop mixing should the European Union approve cultivation of GM crops.
Other proposals that appear in the UK government consultation paper include a public biotech crop register.Pressure groups say the measures will not give consumers the choice of eating GM-free food. Sue Mayer of Genewatch UK said the proposals were designed to limit "contamination" of non-GM crops to 0.9%.
Do Cisgenic Plants Warrant Less Stringent Oversight?
To the editor: While the debate continues on the appropriate level of regulatory oversight for transgenic plants, we believe there are strong reasons for legislators to differentiate cisgenic from transgenic plants. A cisgenic plant is a crop plant that has been genetically modified with one or more genes (containing introns and flanking regions such as native promoter and terminator regions in a sense orientation) isolated from a crossable donor plant. In contrast, transgenic plants contain genes from noncrossable organisms (e.g., a selection marker gene originating from a microorganism), synthetic genes or artificial combinations of a coding gene with regulatory sequences, such as a promoter, from another gene. Considering the equivalence of products resulting from cisgenesis and traditional breeding including mutation breeding, we propose that cisgenic plants should be excluded from GMO regulations. Cisgenic plants should in our view be handled at the regulatory level like traditionally bred plants (that is, those created via long-standing cross breeding, in vitro fertilization, polyploidy induction, protoplast fusion between crossable species and mutagenesis with chemicals or irradiation). Given that an increasing number of functional genes from crops and their crossable wild relatives are being isolated and can readily be used to create cisgenic plants, the time to act is now.
- Henk J. Schouten1, Frans A. Krens1 & Evert Jacobsen1,2 - -
Health and Food Safety: The Benefits of Bt-Corn
Mexican-American women in the Rio Grande valley experienced pregnancies affected by neural tube defects (NTDs) at a surprisingly high rate. Investigators learned that NTD pregnancies are endemic to the region. Mexican-American women on the Rio Grande border are poor women who consume a diet heavy in corn tortillas. The corn is contaminated with a mycotoxin called fumonisin. Similar patterns of NTD-afflicted pregnancies have been found in China, Guatemala, and South Africa. Bt corn is the safe way how to produce mycotoxin free corn in area under the Ostrinia nubilalis pressure. http://jay.law.ou.edu/faculty/kershen/rs_ablp.cfm
Farm Scale Evaluation of Transgenic Cotton positive
Farm-scale evaluation of the impacts of transgenic cotton on biodiversity, pesticide use, and yield. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103, 20, pp 7571-7576 http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/103/20/7571 and the supporting tables http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/0508312103/DC1 and figures only http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/figsonly/103/20/7571. Summing up this China Bt cotton debate with Greenpeace in short words: There Are Insect Resistant Crops Performing Well And Fact-Resistant Activists Who Need To Change Their Cheap Propaganda Stunts.
Will Agbiotech Applications Reach Marginalized Farmers?
Findings from two studies on agricultural research indicate that although developing countries invest in agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified crop research, their policy and investment environments inhibit the contribution of such research to agricultural development and poverty reduction.
Findings suggest that valuable private-sector resources are not being brought to bear on the development challenge, thus slowing the pace of innovation. For such research to benefit developing countries, greater effort is needed to enhance the international exchange of safety and efficacy information, remove the isolation of public research institutions, and overcome barriers to public-private research collaboration
Cellulosic Ethanol a Practical Alternative to Gasoline
WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released an ambitious new research agenda for the development of cellulosic ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. The 200-page scientific "roadmap" cites recent advances in biotechnology that have made cost-effective production of ethanol from cellulose, or inedible plant fiber, an attainable goal. The report outlines a detailed research plan for developing new technologies to transform cellulosic ethanol-a renewable, cleaner-burning, and carbon-neutral alternative to gasoline-into an economically viable transportation fuel. The report, "Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol: A Joint Research Agenda," and a fact sheet on the report may be viewed at http://www.doegenomestolife.org/biofuels
The U.S. government recently set a goal of displacing 30 per cent of its transportation fuel consumption with biofuels by 2030. Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy followed up with a research road map aimed at reaching that target through advances in biotechnology. It also wants to see biofuel production cost competitive with oil by 2012. Ottawa, meanwhile, may soon require that all gasoline and diesel fuel contain a minimum of 5 per cent of ethanol or biodiesel by 2010, following in the footsteps of more aggressive targets in Ontario.
New centre to advise Muslim world on science policy
A research centre set to open in Pakistan will help Muslim countries create effective science policies and systems of innovation.
Nigerian science fund 'should inspire Muslim world
Nigeria's plans for a US$5 billion science and technology fund were applauded last week by Pakistan's higher education minister.
Harmonising science and Islam in Iran
John Bohannon reports on efforts to bridge the divide between science and religion in Iran. [Source: Science]
Brazilian centre aims to attract foreign researchers
A leading biomedical research centre in Brazil is offering fellowships to foreign scientists for the first time.
US$3 billion bid to boost biotech in Brazil
Brazil creates fund to fuel technology innovation
The Technology Fund launched last week (21 June) will sponsor projects that relate to economic and social development in specific subject areas, including agricultural biotechnology, drugs for neglected diseases, software and semiconductors.
Research into generating energy from biomass — such as developing fuel based on alcohol derived from fermented sugar cane — will also be eligible. http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=2939&language=1
To make Brazil a top player in biotechnology. A Brazilian forum spanning government, industry and academia has announced a multi-billion-dollar plan.
Reuters News Service July 6, 2006 http://today.reuters.co.uk Singapore - Royal Dutch Shell, the world's top marketer of biofuels, considers using food crops to make biofuels "morally inappropriate" as long as there are people in the world who are starving, an executive said.
Indian Company Develops Home-grown Bt-Cotton - GMO Compass, June 26, 2006
Field tests are now underway with India's first home-grown Bt-cotton varieties. The Bangalore based biotech company Metahelix is set to release its own Bt-cotton lines resistant to a spectrum of insect pests and adapted to India's local growing conditions. http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/messages/200606.docu.html#31
China plans massive data sharing project
The Chinese Academy of Sciences is setting up an online system to allow researchers to share data.
China's GM cotton profits are short-lived, says
A contested study by US-based researchers says that genetically modified cotton has increased pesticide use and decreased profits in China.
Toxic rice harvested in southwestern Bangladesh
A typical daily intake of rice in parts of Bangladesh contains more toxic arsenic than the maximum recommended by the WHO for water intake.
Peru approves biotechnology law
The Peruvian parliament has approved a law that identifies biotechnology as a national priority that is key to sustainable development. [Spanish Full Text]
Argentina to train science journalists
The Argentinean government has launched a programme for training science journalists and created a national prize to reward excellence in the field. [Spanish Full Text]
Panel meets to discuss biotech for African development
Researchers and policymakers met in Kenya this week to discuss a draft report on how biotechnology could contribute to Africa's development.
Efforts on for production of golden rice: experts
Intense efforts are underway for commercial production of golden rice, a genetically modified rice rich in Vitamin-A, to meet nutrition needs of the people in the country. Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) is conducting the research that is now in "advance level" to develop the variety of golden rice through transferring gene of beta-carotene from daffodil flowers into BRRI Dhan-29, the highest yielding rice variety, said Dr. Mosharraf Hossain, chief scientific officer of BRRI. http://www.bangladesh-web.com/news/view.php?hidDate=2006-07-30&hidType=NAT&hidRecord=0000000000000000120164
Plan to boost rice photosynthesis with inserted
Scientists have ambitious plans to greatly increase rice yields by inserting genes from the crop's wild relatives or species such as maize.
Danforth Center Spearheads Effort to Sequence Cassava
at National Research Center
"Sequencing the cassava genome will help bring this important crop to the forefront of modern science and generate new possibilities for agronomic and nutritional improvement," said Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel laureate, father of the "Green Revolution," and Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture, Texas A&M University. "It is a most welcome development, especially for millions of the world's poor who depend upon cassava for their sustenance."
Calgary Firm Turns Safflower Into Insulin
In a breakthrough that could rival the discovery of insulin by Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best in 1921, a Calgary biotech company claims to have produced commercial quantities of human insulin from genetically modified safflower plants, a move that could change the economics of the diabetes market.
"We believe that when we're successful, people in the developing world, who otherwise wouldn't get insulin because there isn't enough supply or they can't afford it, will get it," said Andrew Baum, president and chief executive officer of SemBioSys Genetics Inc. SemBioSys says it can make more than one kilogram of human insulin per acre of safflower production. That amount could treat 2,500 diabetic patients for one year and, in turn, meet the world's total projected insulin demand in 2010 with less than 16,000 acres of safflower production. Worldwide demand for insulin is forecast to soar to 16,000 kg by 2010, from an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 kg last year, because more people are developing the disease and are being diagnosed earlier in their lives, and because of the development of new products such has inhaled insulin, which requires five to 10 times the amount of injected insulin, Mr. Baum said.
A highly specialized molecule that responds to light, called a photoreceptor, provides new plant architecture and increases grain yield. Recently, researchers of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University published their work in the Journal Planta. They reported on how they were able to increase the production of Arabidopsis thaliana PHYTOCHROME A (PHYA), which led to an increase in grain yield in a rice variety called Pusa Basmati-1 rice.
The PHYA gene that they studied encodes a photoreceptor belonging to the phytochromes, a family of molecules absorbing light in the range of red to far-red. When light hits the PHYA photoreceptor, it induces a structural change in PHYA, which triggers an intercellular signal called a signal-transduction.
The team generated transgenic Pusa Basmati-1 rice seedlings containing the Phytochrome A gene - the photoreceptor - of Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant common in research. The main effect of increase the production PHYA has been observed by the research group in several experiments. For example, in experiments with tomatoes, a phenomenon called dwarfing occurred, where the overall stature of the tomato plant was reduced. In addition, by increasing the production of PHYA, the adult tomato plants grew bushier and increased their branching. Contact: A. K. Garg & R. J. Wu, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Iowa State Researchers Developing Corn without pollen
Researchers at Iowa State University say they are developing biopharmaceutical corn that doesn't produce pollen, preventing the plants from contaminating other crops. The team of researchers is using traditional breeding techniques to cross a male-fertile corn line with a biopharmaceutical line to produce a hybrid containing a therapeutic protein. That protein is then crossed with a sterile corn that hampers pollination, preventing nearby traditional corn and other crops from being contaminated by the genetically modified corn. "Pollen is one of the controllable aspects of the system, and we can do it, and do it very well," said Kendall Lamkey, interim chairman of the Agronomy Department.
The Australian-led research has provided the first evidence of gene transfers between fungal diseases, finding a gene carrying a critical virulence factor moved from one disease to another. Published in the journal Nature Genetics, the study suggests the gene transfer happened in the early 1940s and created a new, damaging wheat disease. "Professor Richard Oliver, who heads Murdoch University's Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens. "It's the first time that a fungal gene has been shown to move between different fungal species." "In a broader context, it probably means that genes are transferring all the time, that they're very rarely fixed in the new host. http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Gene-swap-find-adds-support-for-GM-food/2006/07/10/1152383666333.html
Crops Could Make Their Own Fertilizer
Two research groups have now made legumes that produce nodules in the absence of rhizobia, potentially paving the way for crops that would not need to be treated with nitrogen fertilizer, but instead would rely on nitrogen-processing bacteria that are omnipresent in the soil to colonize their nodules. Nodule production is normally initiated when nitrogen-processing bacteria enter a plant's root cells. The plant senses the bacteria and its root cells grow to form a nodule. But the two research groups, Oldroyd's team and a group led by Jens Stougaard of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, found that by mutating a gene that produces a cellular messenger called CCaMK, root cells can be converted into nodule-forming cells, even without the bacteria. They report their discovery in this week's Nature1,2.