New study finds genetically engineered crops could play a role in sustainable agriculture
Possible benefits include reduced use of chemicals in crops modified
with insecticidal gene - National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis/UCSB,
June 7, 2007
(Santa Barbara, California) - Genetically modified (GM) crops may contribute to increased productivity in sustainable agriculture, according to a groundbreaking study published in the June 8 issue of the journal Science. The study analyzes, for the first time, environmental impact data from field experiments all over the world, involving corn and cotton plants with a Bt gene inserted for its insecticidal properties. The research was conducted by scientists at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, The Nature Conservancy, and Santa Clara University. The study is accompanied by a searchable global database for agricultural and environmental scientists studying the effects of genetically engineered crops.
Banning GM food 'a step towards totalitarian state'
Often I hear the comment from organic producers that no-one wants GM food. If that is the case, why then have farmers in eight EU countries this year cultivated a quarter of a million acres of biotech food for the European market? There have been endless scientific studies from all over the globe for many years that show the benefits of this new technology. If people do not wish to buy it, then that is fine, but banning such food across the EU is a step towards a totalitarian state.
A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Cotton and Maize
on Nontarget Invertebrates
[Abstract:] Although scores of experiments have examined the ecological consequences of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops, debates continue regarding the nontarget impacts of this technology. Quantitative reviews of existing studies are crucial for better gauging risks and improving future risk assessments. To encourage evidence-based risk analyses, we constructed a searchable database for nontarget effects of Bt crops. A meta-analysis of 42 field experiments indicates that nontarget invertebrates are generally more abundant in Bt cotton and Bt maize fields than in nontransgenic fields managed with insecticides. However, in comparison with insecticide-free control fields, certain nontarget taxa are less abundant in Bt fields.
Transgenic crops relatively kind to insects
Crops modified to produce insecticides against pests are relatively kind to other insects, an analysis of 42 field experiments suggests. Fields of transgenic cotton and corn contain more non-target insects than those of traditional crops sprayed with insecticides, the study shows. But both have fewer such insects than traditional fields that aren't sprayed at all. The finding eases worries that crops engineered to produce an insecticidal toxin made by the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium might kill more insects than intended, thus harming wildlife. The toxin is intended to target specific groups of plant pests, such as corn borers and cotton bollworms.
Crop Biotech Update
Asia and the Pacific
Hyperion has just published a Handbook on Framework 7 entitled How to Write a Competitive Proposal for Framework 7 which will be of interest to many EFB members. The Cost to EFB members is 80 euro (including postage) This represents a 20% discount. Please mention EFB Member in the order form. The Order form and details of the Handbook can be found on www.hyperion.ie/fp7handbook.htm
The following new publication(s) is/are now available from OECD:
Books / CDs
Agricultural Policies in Non-OECD Countries: Monitoring and Evaluation
Instrument Mixes for Environmental Policy
In the wake of the Double Helix: from the Green
Revolution to the Gene Revolution
The African Union's Freedom to Innovate plan has sparked debate among African scientists and policymakers.
Two leading experts in Africa share their opposing views on the plan and the future for genetically modified (GM) crop production on the continent. Jennifer Thomson supports the plan, arguing for less criticism from European skeptics. But David Fig sees it as a mechanism for institutionalising the pro-GM movement across Africa.
**TAKING ON BIOTECHNOLOGY THE AFRICAN WAY**
Africa must be free to explore the potential of agricultural biotechnology,
without undue European influence, says Jennifer Thomson.
**IS AFRICA BEING BULLIED INTO GROWING GM CROPS?**
Africa must not let multinational corporations and international donors
dictate its biotechnology agenda, says David Fig.
These articles form part of our new resource on:
The collection includes a review of the changing attitudes to biotechnology in the region, facts and figures outlining existing initiatives, further debate on controversial issues from key stakeholders and a selection of the Internet's most relevant and useful documents and websites.
For more information on GM and non-GM advances in agricultural biotechnology
Please pass this information to friends and colleagues who will find it valuable. All our material is free to reproduce provided the organisation and author are credited.
Taking Action for the World's Poor and Hungry People
A "2020 Conference" on Taking Action for the World's Poor and Hungry People will take place October 17-19, 2007 in Beijing, China. The conference is being organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Chinese State Council Leading Group Office on Poverty Alleviation and Development. The conference will look at what steps are needed to improve the welfare of the world's poorest and hungry people, based on the best available research and experience.
BIO Issues Call for Session Proposals for 2008 BIO
International Convention –
WASHINGTON--The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) invites leaders in science, finance, business, law, and government policy to submit proposals for breakout sessions at the 2008 BIO International Convention to be held June 17-20 at the San Diego Convention Center. The day pattern will change from previous years to Tuesday-Friday.
The BIO International Convention continues to be the number one resource for the latest information and the newest opportunities for executives, investors, scientists, policy leaders, and journalists from around the world. Speakers at the sessions will share breakthroughs in medicine, diagnostics, the environment, energy production, food and agriculture, and more with a global audience of an estimated 24,000 attendees.
The convention will feature more than 200 breakout sessions in 21 educational session tracks, including biodefense; bioethics; clinical research/clinical trials; devices and diagnostics; drug discovery and development; emerging company issues; finance; food and agriculture; industrial and environmental; intellectual property/legal; manufacturing; nanotechnology; technology transfer/licensing and other key business areas for doing biotech business globally.
The most popular educational tracks from the 2007 BIO International Convention
included business development, clinical research, devices and predictive
diagnostics and technology transfer. Super Sessions, Biotech Entrepreneurship
Boot Camp and the Translational Research Forum all drew significant attendance.
TRIPS: Members Still Divided on Biodiversity, GIs,
WTO Members continue to broadly disagree on how best to achieve the objectives of biodiversity conservation and intellectual property protection. The issue, along with the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs), featured prominently in discussions during a 5 June meeting of the TRIPS Council. The misappropriation of genetic resources and traditional knowledge (TK) through patents ("bio-piracy") has been a source of major concern to a large number of Members, particularly several developing countries. For this reason, a group of developing countries (Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, India, Pakistan, Peru, Thailand, Tanzania, Ecuador, and South Africa) last summer proposed amending the TRIPS Agreement to require patent applications to include disclosure of the origin of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge as well as evidence of prior informed consent and benefit sharing (IP/C/W/474; see BRIDGES Trade BioRes, 16 June 2006, http://www.ictsd.org/biores/06-06-16/story3.htm). They argue that such requirements are necessary to support patent-related obligations that arise from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Finally, the EU reiterated its call for disclosure requirements to be negotiated outside the WTO, at the World Intellectual Property Organization. The new chair of the TRIPS Council, Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah (Nigeria) will consult with Members on whether to grant the CBD Secretariat observer status at the WTO, after Brazil expressed support for doing so but the US indicated its opposition.
EU-Malaysia Biotechnology Business Partnership (EUM-BIO)
EUROPABIO, in collaboration with the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MiGHT) and Association for the BioPharmaceutical Industry (BioFarmind), The Netherlands will host the first EU-Malaysia Biotechnology Business Partnership (EUM-BIO), a Business Match Making project co-funded by the Asia Invest II Programme of the European Commission (EC) on 24th - 26th October 2007 at Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre (MECC), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
To register for EUM-BIO 2007, see the website: http://www.eumbio.org/
Europabio plans to organise a delegation of EU biotech companies to attend this EU-funded business partnering event. The registration is open to everyone - members and non-members.
For further information, please contact: Dr. Johan Vanhemelrijck Secretary General Europabio Email: email@example.com
Speech by Peter Mandelson, at the European Biotechnology
In this speech to the European Biotechnology Open day in Brussels EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson strongly defends an open European approach to biotechnology and GM food; one that prioritises strict science-based health and safety testing but which recognises that safe biotechnology has a crucial role to play in agriculture and agricultural trade both in Europe and the developing world. Calling biotechnology "The coal face of applied science in the twenty first century" he concludes: "we must be under no illusion that Europe's interests are served by being outside a global market that is steadily working its way through the issues raised by GM food. They are not".
Mandelson warns that as a global market for GM products grows, EU application of its rules will come under greater international scrutiny. He warns: "If we fail to implement our own rules, or implement them inconsistently, we can - and probably will - be challenged.
Mandelson argues that any blanket rejection of GMOs ignores the fact that genetically modified foods have played a key part in past revolutions in agricultural productivity and will be central to providing sufficient food and feed stocks for a growing population in the developing world. They are also likely to have a central role in shaping agricultures response to climate change through adapted bio-fuel crops.
Mandelson argues that there is an economic risk in Europe if we fall behind the global economy in approving safe biotechnology. He cites recent European Commission research that suggests that Europe may find it increasingly hard to source animal feed that is approved under EU rules - putting a heavy strain on the EU livestock sector. He says: "Isolation from international trade in agricultural biotech products that have passed credible safety standards simply may not be a viable option for the EU".
He identifies negotiations on the Codex Alimentarius, bringing the Biosafety Clearing House of the Cartagena Protocol to full operational status and the reinforcement of the WTO SPS Agreement as key priorities.
Will European livestock be hungry?
New RR-soybean 2 will come to USA, Argentina and Brazil about 2009-2010. If EU will proceed with approval of new GM products in a way as usually – the livestock will pass away from hunger.
The news article is available at http://www.gmo-compass.org
Syngenta and Institute of Genetics and Development Bioogy in Beijing have agreed on five years research collaboration.
GMO potato takes shape in EU, no French fries yet
European regulators are pushing ahead with plans to allow farmers to
grow a genetically modified (GMO) potato but focusing first on its use in
feed and non-food industries due to opposition from several GMO-wary countries.
Normally, the application should have been escalated to EU environment ministers for debate within three months. If this had happened, and the ministers agreed, it would have been the first EU approval of a GMO crop for growing since 1998.
Shortly after that date, the bloc started its de facto moratorium on new biotech authorizations that ended in 2004.
But that process has been stalled, partly due to requests made to BASF for more data on its product -- and partly, officials say, due to reluctance inside the European Commission's environment department to push the dossier forward.
Some countries, like Britain, Finland and the Netherlands, almost always vote in favor of approving new GMOs. They are offset by a group of GMO-skeptic states like Austria, Greece and Luxembourg, that vote against and force a voting stalemate.
EU-27 Biotechnology Annual Agricultural Biotechnology
Now the EU and the Member States are deadlocked over a number of issues that are based on economic considerations, and not safety: 1) the on-going search for seed labeling legislation for biotech events approved by EFSA and 2) the development of coexistence measures for biotech, conventional and organic agriculture that equally protect the interests of all farmers. Similarly, the EU Commission has stated that Member State marketing bans have not been based on legitimate safety concerns. On August 18, 2006, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration had been notified by Bayer Crop Science that the company had detected trace amounts of a biotech rice known as Liberty Link 601 in samples taken from commercial long grain rice. At the time of the announcement, LL601 was not approved for marketing in the United States nor the EU. The EU is a major export destination for U.S. long grain rice. In CY2005, U.S. exports of rice to the EU-25 equaled $86.5 million, the bulk of whic h was long grain. Since LL601 had not been authorized for marketing in the EU, the Commission introduced emergency measures on August 23 to identify the presence of LL601 in exports of U.S. long grain rice. The measures required that all exports of long grain rice be accompanied with an analytical report stating that the product doesn't contain LL601. Coincident with the U.S. government's notification to the EU of the presence of LL601 in long grain rice, Greenpeace and the Friends of the Earth reported the week of September 4, 2006 that they had found evidence of a biotech rice in products imported from China. Since that time, Member States have notified the Commission on 12 separate occasions concerning the positive detection of unauthorized GM rice and processed rice products from China. The most recent notification occurred on May 10, 2007. To date, the Commission has not imposed emergency measures mandating the inspection of Chinese rice products at origin in China nor at destination in the EU. All sampling and analysis that has been conducted by Member State authorities has been at their discretion.
EU Split Over Approvals Of Two GMO Maize Types –
Brussels - EU biotech experts failed on Friday to agree on approving two genetically modified (GMO) maize varieties, sending the applications to national ministers for further consideration, the European Commission said. The applications, both of which are for modified maize hybrids, do not relate to cultivation. The two maize types are designed to resist certain field pests -- such as the European corn borer and corn rootworm -- and also certain herbicides. The first maize hybrid, submitted for EU approval by U.S. biotech company Monsanto, is known as MON810/NK603. The second GMO maize, a hybrid known as 1507/NK603, is made jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont Co., and Dow AgroSciences unit Mycogen Seeds. Pioneer and Mycogen also submitted an application for a third GMO, a maize known commercially as Herculex RW and also by the code number 59122. There was no vote on Herculex RW.
Europeans have set their sights on providing some of the best research in the world. In particular, the European Science Foundation (ESF) aims to offer scientific leadership via its networking expertise.
Towards Future Challenges of Agricultural Research in Europe
From 26-27 June 2007, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research organised a major Conference in Brussels (Belgium) on the future of European agriculture and its consequences for research.
These are some of the important questions that were addressed during this conference, which aimed at debating research needs and developing a coherent European research agenda in order to enable agriculture to cope with a range of complex and interlinked challenges, such as rapidly increasing globalisation, energy shortages, climate change and unsustainable consumption of natural resources.
The discussions held were based on the results of a wide foresight process, initiated by the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR), aimed at identifying possible scenarios for European agriculture with a 20-year perspective and appropriate research responses.
The conference brought together major European and worldwide actors/stakeholders from the fields of agriculture, food, forestry, aquaculture, rural development, consumer science/behaviour, economics, etc.
Programme and contributions can be obtained at http://ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2007/scar/programme_en.htm
On 28 and 29 June 2007 in Brussels, the ERA-ARD network is organising an international conference on “Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) in Europe: Towards a shared vision” aiming at exchanging views and debate ...
Web site: www.era-ard.org
This working document prepared for the services of the European Commission discusses the principle shortcomings of contemporary ethical theory with regard to the challenges of scientific and technological development. A case is made for the need of an ethics of collective co-responsibility.
The Research site keyword index has been updated. It now contains over 9200 English keywords to help you find what you are looking for. It also contains 2400 keywords in German, over 2700 in French, 2350 in Spanish, and about 300 in Italian and Dutch.
Biotechnology constitutes a driving force for the European economy and has increased the labor productivity reported recent studies on the biotech impacts and future prospects. Indeed, the progresses made by the EU companies offering novel products and boosting the production efficiency has permitted today an improvement in quality of jobs and a bigger number of products associated to biotechnology. Germany has asked for a biotechnology study recently and find that biotech by 2020 could create between 369,000 and 596,000 jobs.
What is Transcontainer?
Plant Research International B.V., Swedish University of Agricultural
Sciences, Research Institute for Vegetable Crops (Istituto Sperimentale
per l'Orticoltura - ISO - RIVC), Vienna University, University of Milan,
National University of Ireland, Wageningen University, Institute of Plant
Genetics-Research (CNR-IGV), [German] Federal Office of Consumer Protection
and Food Safety, University of Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Schenkelaars Biotechnology
Consultancy, SweTree Technologies AB, DLF-Trifolium A/S
Transcontainer is a three-year European research project, which comprises 13 partners from universities, research and government institutes, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and an industrial partner. Transcontainer is partly funded from the European Commission Directorate-General Research Sixth Framework Programme. The project proposal was based on the specific objectives stated in the work program for priority 5 ("Food Quality and Safety", area T22.214.171.124 on page 17), published by the European Commission.
The overall goal of Transcontainer is to develop genetically modified (GM) crop plants that are 'biologically contained', in order to reduce significantly the potential spread of transgenes of such GM crop plants to conventional and organic crop plants and to wild or weedy relatives, when such exist. Co-existence of GM crops and non-GM crops can be promoted through implementation of biological transgene containment strategies, while at the same time the potential flow of transgenes from GM crops to wild relatives can be reduced significantly. Both in Europe and the United States the issue of transgene containment is becoming increasingly important. Also the World Resource Institute (WRI) has recently stated that designing strategies for preventing (trans)genes from moving into genomes of related species should be of highest priority. Parallel to the development of these strategies, Transcontainer will also study the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of the use of such strategies in Europe.
Which biological containment strategies will be investigated and developed by Transcontainer?
Transcontainer will investigate and develop the following biological containment technologies: 1) Plastid transformation; 2) Prevention of flowering, and 3) Controlling transgene transmission through pollen and seed. Notably, these biological containment technologies will be complemented with tightly controllable switches to restore fertility. In the case of plastid transformation, there is no need to apply such switches, because the fertility of the crop will not be impaired. The crops to be used are representative for crops grown for their seeds (oilseed rape), for their fruits (tomato and eggplant), or for their vegetative parts (sugar beet, rye grass, red fescue, poplar and birch), and because of their relevance to European agriculture. For some of these crops, several biological containment strategies will be compared.
Warning over organic chicken –
More organic chickens sold by the "big four" supermarkets contain a food poisoning bug then factory farmed poultry, according to a television investigation. When scientists tested 46 organic birds from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons they found 41 (89 per cent) contained the most common bacteria that causes food poisoning, campylobacter. This compares to the 70 per cent of factory farmed chickens that Government tests showed to carry the bug, found the programme Tonight With Trevor McDonald.
The series also analysed the birds for the antibiotic-resistant 'superbug' form of campylobacter and found 26 per cent tested positive. Professor Martin Blaser, head of medicine at New York Medical school and an expert on the bacteria, told the programme: "I think it's important to educate the public that organic chicken is not free of bacteria and it's not free of campylobacter and it has to be prepared in exactly the same safe ways that non organic chicken is."
The programme will also broadcast covert footage filmed by an animal welfare organisation at a farm that supplies organic chickens to Asda. The images are said to show two week old birds that are attacked and eaten alive by vermin and others with "hock burns" on their legs caused by ammonia from chicken waste. Asda, in a statement sent to the programme makers, said: "We insist that all of our suppliers adhere to the strictest health, safety and food hygiene standards, and that is why we take allegations made against any of our suppliers extremely seriously."
The German government approved several new types of genetically modified corn to be planted in six of the nation's 16 states, saying tests had shown the crops pose no danger to humans or livestock. The ministry ordered a 200-meter (650-foot) border of fallow land surrounding each field, in an effort to prevent cross-pollination with other, nearby crops. AP, June 2, 2007.
Farmers Demand Payment For Trampled Fields, Activists
Won't Cough Up
Farmers want compensation for their damaged crops, but activists don't want to pay. Meanwhile police have brought down a Greenpeace balloon that was attempting to fly over the G-8 summit venue at Heiligendamm.
Many German farmers are sympathetic to the goals of the anti-globalization activists protesting against the G-8 in Heiligendamm. However their sympathy abruptly disappears when their livelihood is threatened. Now farmers in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are demanding to know who is going to pay for the damage caused to their crops when activists trampled through their fields earlier this week.
GM crops: 'Point of no return in ten years'
EUROPE will increase its genetically modified (GMO) crop area by 50,000-100,000 hectares a year over the next decade, US biotech giant Monsanto has said. "It will be slow but within ten years GMOs will have reached the point of no return," said Jean-Michel Duhamel, Monsanto's director for southern Europe.
"The technology will not impose itself on consumers but consumers will better understand the usefulness of GMO technology as farmers increasingly adopt it," he added. In France, the world's largest seed maker, GMO maize - the only biotech crop allowed in the country - was expected to be grown on 600,000 hectares in ten years, against 25,000 in 2007, despite fierce opposition to GMOs in the country.
New biotech patent law gets green light
Biotechnology discoveries, such as genetic sequences, will enjoy more protection in Switzerland after parliament voted in favour of a revised patent law.
Monday's decision in the Senate was in line with that taken by the House of Representatives last year, leading critics to say that the new legislation was a victory for the pharmaceutical industry.
The government had proposed that a patent of a genetic sequence should not be restricted to one particular purpose. This was accepted despite arguments that this would lead to a monopolistic research situation created by patent-holders.
Responding to criticism that the revised legislation weighed too heavily in the pharmaceutical industry's favour, Blocher said that a patent law, which had the opposite effect, was unworkable. A minority of senators had tried to press the issue of biopiracy or the patenting of natural resources found in developing countries. However, Blocher put short shrift to their concerns, saying that the revised law would introduce "an obligation to be transparent" about the origins of an organism for which a patent application is made. Patenting plant varieties and animal species is also not permitted.
Coexistence in Swiss – GM corn
To determine the isolation distances, the group of Olivier Sanvido at the Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station reviewed studies conducted under seed production conditions, and also those performed with open-pollinated maize. They also looked at past research dealing with the dynamics and mechanisms of maize pollen dispersal.
France says will not suspend Monsanto's GMO maize
France will not ban growing the only genetically modified crop allowed in the country, U.S. biotech giant Monsanto's MON 810 maize, because there is no new element to question it, the Environment Ministry said on Thursday.
Hungary, one of the EU-27's biggest grain producers, outlawed the planting of MON 810 seed in January 2005.
Germany last month decided that maize produced from MON 810 seed could only be sold if there was an accompanying monitoring plan to research its effects on the environment.
Soon afterwards, French government number two Alain Juppe, in charge of his country's environment, transport and energy policy, said in a newspaper interview that he would not exclude being "inspired" by Germany's proposed GMO ban. He and Farm Minister Christine Lagarde then asked the French biotech commission to provide them with a new evaluation of the product, as the last one dated from 1996. "The commission's opinion shows that there are no elements at this stage to question the environmental evaluation of this maize," the ministry said in a statement.
France is expected to harvest this year between 25,000 and 30,000 hectares of land sown with MON 810 maize.
Cyprus' parliament votes to put biotech products
on separate shelves
Cyprus' parliament has passed legislation requiring supermarkets to put genetically modified products on separate shelves from other food.
The Green Party, which tabled the bill, said Friday that the legislation will make it easier for the public to "distinguish these products" and help them make more informed purchases.
Irish Greens serve up fudge on GM food
After ten years of gnawing and spitting regarding GM food/crops the Irish Green Party gave up on their main GMO policies to enter Government in Ireland (the Greens won six seats in the 166 seat Irish Parliament in the recent general election).The Green's pre-election policy had nine clear points (see below) that led with a promise to "immediately declare Ireland to be a GM-Free zone and prohibit the use of GM ingredients in animal feed and any testing or growing of GM crops and ban transgenic farm animals". This promise, along with others, including a GM-Free regulatory authority to ensure that rigorous testing is put in place to verify that animal feed is free of GM inputs, have now been set aside. Now left is only a watered down vague one line sentence within a 52 page agreement for a Government program. The Greens now just commit to "Seek to negotiate the establishment of an All-Ireland GM-Free Zone". This wording was agreed upon as part of a deal to enter into coalition with Fianna Fail, who while in Government have previously allowed GM fields trials and who a Green party elected official has described as "the devil".
Bayer CropScience and Monsanto enter long-term business and licence agreements. Bayer CropScience AG and Monsanto Company, two of the leading agro-companies worldwide, have entered into a series of long-term business and licensing agreements. Among these, Bayer CropScience will grant Monsanto a royalty bearing, non-exclusive license for its LibertyLink® herbicide tolerance technology for use in corn and soybeans, the two largest field crops in terms of acreage in the United States.
Swedes can benefit on GM crops
An English abstract and the full version in Swedish are available at http://www.sli.lu.se/eng_item_detail.asp?activity_id=112
Toxicity tests are tricky for tyro toxicologists
GMO Pundit's comment If he were a rat, he'd prefer to live in Tokyo rather than Moscow. He'd also eat Japanese chow, - GM or non-GM - rather than the stuff they sell at Moscow markets.
A seminar given by visiting toxicologist Dr Hiroaki AOYAMA in Melbourne June 26th 2007 (see also a previous GMO Pundit post) revealed why it is so very difficult to find out whether foods are unsafe by using rat feeding experiments to reveal lack of safety.
Rat feeding trials are in fact fundamentally ill suited to testing foods for safety. The reason for his presentation was to provide better understanding of recent controversial claims that Russian investigator Dr. Irina Ermakova has made at a conference on transgenic crops.
He also discussed the features of Ermakovas experiments which mean that they are badly designed. Aoyama uses a recommended 20 rats in any one test group to test an experimental diet for toxicity. Ermakova's study used only 3 or 4 rats, making it of weak statistical value. Importantly, Aoyama points out that Ermakova's control or "non-GM feed" groups of rats show great variability themselves (that is, even when rats are not exposed to GM soy in their diets) and this variability provides an obvious indication of inappropriate handling conditions in her Russian laboratory. Thus even in the control groups of rats (not fed GM soy) the range of pup weights seen by Ermkova was extremely variable. This extreme variability contrasts with the narrow range of pup weight in rat litters he sees in comparable litters (that is pup weight averadge 38.8 g, SD 2.6 for males, Average 37.2g SD 2.5 for females at 2 weeks) in his Japanese research institute investigations. Ermakova's questionable handling of experimental variability was also a subject of critical comment. According to Aoyama, there is a need to consider at growth of male and female rats separately. Because of significant natural variability in pup weight, the average weight of a litter, rather than individual pup weight should be used as a measure of toxic effects. Ermokova pooled data of males and females, and does not use litter averages as a measure of toxic effects.
Kofi Annan named as head of new body to boost agriculture
Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan aims to lead a «green revolution» in Africa by boosting food production on the only continent in the world blighted by falling yields and rising hunger.
Taking on biotechnology the African way
Africa must be free to explore the potential of agricultural biotechnology without undue European influence, says Jennifer Thomson.
Many Africans - scientists, politicians and farmers alike - recognise the need to support any technology that will help feed the continent's poor. But in Europe people often throw their hands up in horror at the idea of growing or consuming GM crops. Europe should not pontificate on what is good or bad for Africans - we can do this for ourselves.
Still, many African leaders unfortunately look to Europe for advice, as this is where our greatest export markets lie. When they see Europe turning its back on GM crops they can assume there must be something seriously wrong with them. What Europeans say matters on our continent - they should think carefully before speaking out against GM crops.
Maize is one of the most important sources of calories for Africa's poor, as well as being a key crop for cattle feed. But it is susceptible to damage from parasitic weeds like Striga, viruses such as the maize streak virus (MSV) and pests - stem-boring insects cause significant yield losses of 15-40 per cent in Africa and can even result in total crop failure if conditions favour infestation. Biotechnology can help insure against such losses. In South Africa, ongoing glasshouse trials for maize engineered to resist MSV have provided encouraging results for creating commercial varieties.
Similarly, field trials in Kenya using a non-GM variety of maize resistant to the herbicide imazapyr - effective against Striga - have proven very successful. Striga infests as much as 40 million hectares of smallholder farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting the livelihoods of over 100 million people and causing annual crop losses estimated to be worth US$1 billion. The weed attacks crop roots and is almost impossible to remove through conventional weeding techniques. Coating maize seeds in imazapyr, though, is an effective way of killing the weed without impacting the crop's health. The Kenyan field trials have reported yield increases of 38-82 per cent compared with traditional varieties.
Commercial farmers planting insect-resistant GM maize in South Africa have also seen an increase in their yields. This has led to rising incomes - with net gains ranging from US$24 per hectare in dryland areas to US$143 in irrigated regions - despite the higher costs associated with using GM seeds.
Could small-scale farmers also benefit from planting GM maize for home consumption? In theory, GM maize could help small-scale farmers ensure a steady food supply for themselves while simultaneously increasing yields and providing their families with a previously unavailable source of income. But with such a large difference in price - GM seeds cost $83 per kilogram compared with $52 per kilogram for conventional seeds - the answer is probably no, unless the farmers already buy non-GM hybrid seeds from seed companies each year. Still, only ten per cent of small-scale farmers currently use hybrid seeds across Africa as a whole, although the figure is much higher for some individual countries - 85 per cent in Kenya, 65 per cent in Zambia and 91 per cent in Zimbabwe. Only time will tell if the benefits associated with higher yields overcome the higher cost of GM seeds for small-scale as well as commercial farmers.
UK scientists from the University of Reading have been weighing the economic costs and benefits of insect-resistant Bt cotton in South Africa for a number of years. Seeds for this crop were commercially released in 1997 and have since been extensively used in KwaZulu-Natal province where, by 2001, 90 per cent of all farmers were growing GM cotton. Many of the traditional insecticides used here are highly toxic. By switching to GM cotton, small-scale farmers in the region have lowered risks to their own health and decreased the levels of chemical insecticides entering the local environment. Smallholder farmers in this region have also received a 77 per cent higher return on GM cotton.
The UK scientists found that, in general, the smaller the farm, the greater the benefits in terms of higher income received.
Man sentenced to seven years for ecoterrorism fires
EUGENE, Ore. - Declaring that a fire set at a tree farm was terrorism because it was intended to influence legislation, a federal judge sentenced a New York man Monday to seven years in prison for his part in arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front.
Daniel McGowan was the ninth of 10 people to be sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy and arson for their parts in a string of 20 arsons from 1996 through 2001.
Primarily interested in stopping genetic engineering, McGowan helped a Midwest cell of the Earth Liberation Front attack a U.S. Forest Service laboratory in Wisconsin in 2000, but has not been charged in that case, Peifer said. He said McGowan also spiked trees on a timber sale in Oregon, but was not charged.
USA's use of GM yeast prompts wine debate
The first genetically modified wine yeast is now available to winemakers in North America, creating consequent implications for the industry in Australia, including public and political debate on the issue of GM food and beverages. The first GM wine yeast, known as ML01, has been produced by Springer Oenologie, a division of Lesaffre Yeast Corporation, with the claim that it can complete alcoholic and malolactic fermentations in just five days.
Biotech Sector in India
Lack of funds, regulation affect development of
CHENNAI: Perceived risks, extreme precautionary regulations and hypothetical risks from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and poor public sector funding are delaying the development of the "Golden rice" into a commercial reality, according to one of its creators, Ingo Potrykus, Emeritus Professor of Plant Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.
Though he, along with his co-founder, Peter Beyer, had donated the Golden Rice for development and cultivation in the developing countries, no significant progress has been made in its adoption or commercial cultivation, because of these factors, Portykus says in an article to be published in a World Bank report.
Since the golden rice prototype was developed in 1999, new lines with higher beta carotene content has been generated. The goal is to be capable of providing the recommended daily allowance of vitamin-A in the form of beta-carotene in 100-200 gm of rice, the amount of daily rice consumption of children in rice consuming counties like India, Vietnam, Bangladesh. According to WHO dietary, vitamin-A deficiency causes some 2.5 lakh to 5 lakh children to go blind every year.
According to Professor Portrykus, though there are no scientific justification, "perceived risks" are a major barrier. He says that "after 25 years of biosafety research and regulation there is a wealth of clear scientific evidence as well as a scientific consensus that there is no inherent and specific risk associated with the technology. If someone claims the contrary, either he/she does not know the scientific literature or is lying. But I agree that there is the perception of risk which has to be accepted as a psychological fact. It should be up to governments to inform their people about what is right and what is wrong." However, the cause for the "slow progress" , the professor says, "is the system of "extreme precautionary regulation" established around the world.
Gov't to tighten regulations on genetically modified
organisms in 2008
SEOUL -- South Korea plans to tighten its regulatory oversight of all genetically modified living organisms sold in the country starting in 2008, the government said Tuesday. The rules call for more stringent evaluations of living modified organism (LMO) products, labelling requirements and handling, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said.
China, Peoples Republic of - Agricultural GMO Implementation
Report Highlights: This is an UNOFFICIAL translation of China's Ag GMO implementation measures as issued by the Ministry of Agriculture in Decrees 8, 9 and 10. These measures were modified slightly in 2004 and this report is an updated version of the previous report (CH2002) that reflects the modifications.
The following three documents are the implementation measures to the People's Republic of China Agricultural GMO Regulation (CH1056): Measures on the Safety Evaluation Administration of Agricultural GMOs, Measures on Agricultural GMO Import Administration, and Measures on the Administration of Agricultural GMO Labeling. These measures were published on January 5, 2002 in Decrees 8, 9 and 10 by the Ministry of Agriculture and were slightly modified in 2004. This report overrides CH2002 with the modifications that mainly include: a) timeline to respond to an application for safety evaluation (Article 16 of Decree 8), b) imported agricultural GMOs for direct consumption to follow the review procedures of import agricultural GMOs for use as processing materials (Article 17 of Decree 9), and c) timeline to process a labeling request for agricultural GMOs.
Green light for first field trials of GM wheat
The trial of the new GM wheat lines, which have been modified for drought tolerance, will take place at two sites in the shires of Horsham and Mildura in Victoria.
The trials, to be funded by the Molecular Plant Breeding Co-operative Research Centre and due to be planted this month, will cover a maximum total area of 0.225 hectares.
Up to 30 GM wheat lines will be trialled with each containing one of six different genes for drought tolerance derived from maize, thale cress, moss and yeast.
Iron-fortified maize cuts anaemia rates in children
Researchers have identified an iron supplement that can reduce rates of anaemia in children in developing countries.
Chicken immune to the killer bird flu.
CSIRO scientists are aiming to be the first in the world to develop a genetically modified chicken immune to the killer bird flu. CSIRO's Geelong compound has begun the research, racing for time against British scientists at Cambridge University who are hungry for a breakthrough, News Ltd reported.
But agricultural experts worry that herbicide-resistant weeds are poised for their own takeover. "There is going to be an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds," Powles says. "In 3 to 4 years, it will be a major problem." Nearly 20 herbicides with different mechanisms of killing plants were sprayed on soybeans a decade ago; now, farmers are increasingly relying on glyphosate for most or all of their herbicide needs. For now, however, resistant weeds are still the minority. According to the Syngenta survey, 24% of farmers in the northern portion of the Midwestern United States and 29% in the south say they have GR weeds. But only 8% say it's a problem across all of their acreage. Other companies, meanwhile, are pushing crops resistant to herbicides other than glyphosate. Bayer Crop Sciences, for example, has already commercialized soybean and corn seeds resistant to glufosinate Dicamba, another cheap herbicide that has been on the market for 4 decades, could also emerge as a successor. Researchers in Texas created dicamba-resistant plants in 2003 by adding the gene for an enzyme that deactivates the herbicide. Monsanto has licensed the technology and that it could be commercially available within 3 to 4 years. If so, he says, it could allow growers to rotate their crops between varieties resistant to two different herbicides. Another approach being pursued at Monsanto and elsewhere is to combine, or "stack," genes for resistance to multiple herbicides in the same plants. Researchers at Pioneer HiBred, a division of DuPont, for example, are working to create crops that are resistant to both glyphosate and herbicides that target a plant enzyme called acetolactate synthase.
Robert F. Service, Science, May 25 200, v.316, no. 5828,
Weeds resistant to the powerhouse herbicide glyphosate not only threaten the livelihoods of farmers worldwide, but they could have environmental downsides as well. Among the worst, glyphosate's disappearance could increase the loss of topsoil, require farmers to switch to more harmful herbicides, and force them to use more fuel to rid their fields of weeds. One of the biggest benefits of GR crops is their indirect impact on topsoil. Modern farming encourages heavy topsoil losses because farmers traditionally plow fields before planting seeds. Turning over the topsoil buries many weed seeds that were present under 4 to 6 inches of dirt. Although that reduces the likelihood that weeds will compete with emerging crop plants, it also dramatically increases the amount of topsoil that washes away with rain and irrigation.
In March, at a symposium on glyphosate at the American Chemical Society meeting in Chicago, Illinois, Pedro Christoffoleti of the University of So Paolo in Brazil reported a recent study in South America that found that growing soybeans with conventional tillage produced topsoil losses of 1.2 tons per hectare. With GR crops planted with no-till practices, those losses shrank to 0.2 tons per hectare, a reduction of more than 80%. No-till agriculture saves farmers time and money, and for that reason the practice has grown dramatically with the rise of GR crops.
New Genetically Modified Crops: Q&A (with
Don Weeks on Dicamba Resistant GM crop)
Researchers led by Donald Weeks, director of the Center for Biological Chemistry at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, gave crop plants a gene from a naturally occurring soil bacterium that breaks down the herbicide dicamba. Because dicamba kills broadleaved plants but not grassy ones, its use has been limited to grassy crops like corn and wheat, but not broadleaved crops like soybeans.
Discovery in orange cauliflower may lead to more
While orange cauliflower may seem unappealing to some, it has distinct nutritional advantages. Now, Cornell researchers have identified the genetic mutation behind the unusual hue. The finding may lead to more nutritious staple crops, including maize, potato, rice, sorghum and wheat.
The genetic mutation recently isolated by Cornell plant geneticist Li Li and colleagues -- and described in the December issue of The Plant Cell -- allows the vegetable to hold more beta-carotene, which causes the orange color and is a precursor to the essential nutrient vitamin A. While cauliflower and many staple crops have the ability to synthesize beta-carotene, they are limited partially because they lack a "metabolic sink," or a place to store the compound. Li, in collaboration with Joyce Van Eck from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell, is currently working on transgenic potatoes, altering genes to increase both the metabolic sink and beta-carotene synthesis.
Orange cauliflower was first discovered in a farmer's white cauliflower field in Canada about 30 years ago and is now available at supermarkets.
New Brunswick, N.J. - Plant geneticists at Rutgers, The State University of New Jerseydescribed the gene transfer intoplasids. In a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Rutgers Professor Pal Maliga and research associate Zora Svab sugest this method as prevention of horizontal gene transfer through pollen. Skeptics had claimed that the approach was ineffective, based on 20-year-old genetic data showing that 2 percent of the pollen carried plastids. In the new study, Svab and Maliga found plastids in pollen 100- to 1000-times less frequently. This is well below the threshold generally accepted for additional containment measures. "We expect that there are nuclear genes which control the probability of plastids finding their way into pollen, but we have the tools that can be used to identify those genetic lines in every crop that will transmit plastids only at a low frequency," Maliga said.
Sowing seed on salty ground
Julian Schroeder and coworkers investigated a sodium transporter called OsHKT2;1 in the roots of rice plants. Their results provide evidence that this transporter has capabilities previously thought to exist but not genetically validated in plants before. Under salt stress, when sodium levels are too high, OsHKT2;1 transport is quickly shut off, protecting the plant from accumulating too much sodium before it can become toxic.
Excessive accumulation of sodium in plants causes toxicity. No mutation that greatly diminishes sodium (Na+) influx into plant roots has been isolated. The OsHKT2;1 (previously named OsHKT1) transporter from rice functions as a relatively Na+-selective transporter in heterologous expression systems, but the in vivo function of OsHKT2;1 remains unknown. Here, we analyzed transposon-insertion rice lines disrupted in OsHKT2;1. Interestingly, three independent oshkt2;1-null alleles exhibited significantly reduced growth compared with wild-type plants under low Na+ and K+ starvation conditions. The mutant alleles accumulated less Na+, but not less K+, in roots and shoots. OsHKT2;1 was mainly expressed in the cortex and endodermis of roots. 22Na+ tracer influx experiments revealed that Na+ influx into oshkt2;1-null roots was dramatically reduced compared with wild-type plants. A rapid repression of OsHKT2;1-mediated Na+ influx and mRNA reduction were found when wild-type plants were exposed to 30 mM NaCl. These analyses demonstrate that Na+ can enhance growth of rice under K+ starvation conditions, and that OsHKT2;1 is the central transporter for nutritional Na+ uptake into K+-starved rice roots.
Hebrew University researchers succeed in improving
plants' abilities to cope with saline conditions
A method for increasing plants' tolerance to salt stress and thus preventing stunted growth and even plant death has been developed by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The method has significant consequences for dealing with soil salinization, which is an acute problem for a wide range of crops in different regions of the world, including Israel. Through detailed laboratory studies, Prof. Alex Levine and his Ph.D. student Yehoram Leshem, of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University, were able to achieve a new understanding of the specific mechanisms by which plants deal with salt stress conditions.
Based on this knowledge, and through implementation of genetic manipulation techniques, Levine and Leshem were successful in significantly reducing the self-induced membrane damage that takes place under the plants' stressful conditions. The altered plants were also shown to have greater salt tolerance.
The work by Levine and Leshem - published in a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the U.S. -- not only has opened new insights into a basic understanding of plant responses to salt stress, but also points the way to new applicative pathways for plant breeders to improve salt tolerance in a broad spectrum of agricultural crops. It thus represents a significant step forward that can bring great economic and social benefit to many nations of the world.
Bio-factory producing corn-based polymer
Duncan Mansfield, Associated Press via The News-Times (Danbury, Conn.), June 8, 2007. LOUDON, Tenn. -- Railcars filled with a new bioengineered corn-based polymer are already pulling out of chemical giant DuPont Co.'s $100 million joint-venture factory with multinational agri-processor Tate & Lyle PLC. Next stop could be the carpet in your living room. Genetically modified E. coli is producung butandiol from corn.
Scientists propose better profiling for GM crops
The invention, published in the American Chemical Society's journal Analytical Chemistry, analyses the potential changes in the composition of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in transgenic crops. Focusing on the chemical structure of the amino acids, lead author Miguel Herrero and co-workers from Spain's Institute of Industrial Fermentations (CSIC) in Madrid used the technique to measure the presence of "L" or "D" forms of the amino acid, which may affect nutritional quality and digestibility. "The analysis of chiral amino acids in transgenic foods demonstrated for the first time in the present work, apart from having interesting nutritional and safety implications, can be used as an additional indicator for assessing the existence (or not) of unexpected modifications in other metabolic pathways linked to the amino acids profile within a GMO," wrote the researchers.
The researchers combined micellar electrokinetic chromatography (MEKC) with a chiral selector and laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) to investigate the prevalence of L- and D-amino acids in conventional and transgenic (Bt) maize varieties. Herrero and co-workers report that the technique was able to separate the amino acids in less than 25 min, and found that the conventional maize varieties showed different profiles for the L- and D-amino acids, said to reflect the variability expected from nature.
Comparison with the corresponding transgenic varieties and found no significant difference in the amino-acid profiles.
"This result seems to indicate that, in these maize samples, the new inserted Cry1Ab transgene has not modified any metabolic pathway linked to the detected amino acids, which seems to add a further proof about the safety equivalence of these samples," said the researchers. Source: Analytical Chemistry Published on-line ahead of print, ASAP Article 10.1021/ac070454f S0003-2700(07)00454-4 "Analysis of Chiral Amino Acids in Conventional and Transgenic Maize" Authors: M. Herrero, E. Ibanez, P.J. Martin-lvarez, and A. Cifuentes
Cholera vaccine delivered in GM rice –
A new rice-based vaccine could give developing nations a cheap and effective treatment against the killer disease cholera, Japanese researchers say. Dr Tomonori Nochi at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Medical Science and colleagues publish their research online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers inserted a gene from cholera bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, into the genome of the Kitaake rice plant. The gene expressed a subunit of the disease-causing cholera toxin B, about 30 micrograms of which accumulated in each rice seed.
Mice then ate the transgenic rice in the form of powder, absorbing the cholera toxin B antigen. The rice-based vaccine was also resistant to digestion by gastric juices in the stomach and remained active even after long-term storage at room temperature. "Rice-based mucosal vaccines offer a highly practical and cost-effective strategy for orally vaccinating large populations against mucosal infections, including those that may result from an act of bioterrorism," the authors conclude.
A Six-Inch Tall Tree: Researchers Demonstrate Way
to Control Height
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Forest scientists at Oregon State University have used genetic modification to successfully manipulate the growth in height of trees, showing that it's possible to create miniature trees that look similar to normal trees - but after several years of growth may range anywhere from 50 feet tall to a few inches. The findings were recently published in the journal Landscape Plant News.
Scientists engineering mosquito to fight malaria
A new study shows that genetically modified insects have a higher survival rate and lay more eggs and as such scientists have created a mosquito that is resistant to malaria parasites, renewing hopes of conquering the world?s leading killer disease.
The study on the genes appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
It will activate efforts by scientists and governments to control the tropical ailment, which accounts for 60 per cent of deaths among children below the age of five years. During the reproductive stage more of the GM or transgenic mosquitoes (created as a result of gene manipulations) survived, as compared to the disease-carrying strains. ``After nine generations, 70 per cent of the insects belonged to the malaria-resistant strains,``the journal said. The study showed that modified mosquitoes had a higher survival rate and laid more eggs.
Plastics from Sugar
Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have come up with an easy, inexpensive method to directly convert glucose into a chemical that can be used to make polyester and other plastics, industrial chemicals, and even fuels.
Zhang and his colleagues have developed a catalysis process to transform the sugars into an organic compound called hydroxymethylfurfural, or HMF, which can be converted into polyester and a diesel-like fuel. The technique, which the researchers describe in last week's Science, yields almost 90 percent of HMF from fructose and 70 percent from glucose.
Food poisoning by Salmonella in lettuce plants can
Michel Klerks, scientist at Plant Research International, part of Wageningen UR, discovered that Salmonella bacteria spread on the plant as well as within the plant. Klerks investigated the physiological and molecular interactions between Salmonella bacteria and lettuce varieties. He discovered that Salmonella can actively move to the roots of the lettuce plant. The bacterium then reproduces and spreads itself on the plant. Spreading of the bacterium does not lead to visible differences between healthy and infected soil-grown plants. The natural defence mechanism of lettuce, however, is activated during this process. Interesting fact is that Salmonella was not only found on the plant but also within the plant itself.
Modified Mushrooms May Yield Human Drugs
Mushrooms might serve as biofactories for the production of various beneficial human drugs, according to plant pathologists who have inserted new genes into mushrooms.
Dr. Romaine and his colleague, Xi Chen, then a post-doctoral scholar at Penn State and now a Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. research scientist, have developed a technique to genetically modify Agaricus bisporus -- the button variety of mushroom, which is the predominant edible species worldwide. One application of their technology is the use of transgenic mushrooms as factories for producing therapeutic proteins, such as vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and hormones like insulin, or commercial enzymes, such as cellulase for biofuels.
Giant strides in crop biotechnology
DR Tomonori Nochi and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Medical Science has made an astounding breakthrough in tackling the scourge of cholera that afflicts a vast majority of Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia. A new rice-based vaccine has been developed to deliver effective and inexpensive treatment against this killer disease.
Preventing The Brown Potato Chip In The Bag
Food scientist Rickey Yada has discovered an enzyme in a particular potato variety that prevents chips made from cold-stored Ontario potatoes from browning.
The enzyme he and his team discovered helps convert the broken-down sugars into other molecules, reducing the browning effect. Called pyruvate decarboxylase, the enzyme was found in a potato from North Dakota.
Yada said introducing the gene for the enzyme into local potato varieties will enable producers to store them at a lower temperature, allowing for a year-round supply for chip production without the high percentage of browning. This would be a big plus not only for the avid chip eater but also for the $26.8-million chip industry in Ontario. Currently, about 10 to 15 per cent of the potatoes stored for chip production turn brown, according to the Ontario Potato Board.
Ethanol from glycerol
HOUSTON, June 26, 2007 -- With U.S. biodiesel production at an all-time high and a record number of new biodiesel plants under construction, the industry is facing an impending crisis over waste glycerin, the major byproduct of biodiesel production. New findings from Rice University suggest a possible answer in the form of a bacterium that ferments glycerin and produces ethanol,