News in August 2007
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2007-09-30

General

VERY IMPORTANT FOR JOURNALIST – GLOBAL:
Maddening Media Misinformation on Biotech

Thomas R. DeGregorI: http://www.uh.edu/~trdegreg,
American Council on Science and Health, August 14, 2007 http://www.acsh.org/factsfears/newsID.1024/news_detail.asp

The media mania for "both sides" of an argument means that one has to balance informed opinion with misinformed opinion. This frequently allows the public to believe that there is a controversy among scientists on an issue when there is not. And if scientists appear (at least in the media) not to agree on the safety of genetically-modified (GM) food, why should I as a consumer "take a chance"? In fact, though, there is no more controversy among knowledgeable scientists on the basic issues of transgenics in agriculture and medicine than there is among biologists and physical anthropologists about the basic fact of evolution. Nor is there controversy as to whether HIV is responsible for AIDS.

A standard rhetorical ploy in a debate on transgenic food production is to ask whether the persons defending the technology can guarantee that no harm will ever come from the production and consumption of genetically-modified food. To many, this sounds like a straightforward honest question from someone seeking to protect the public from harm. However, the fact is that there is no human endeavor, food production or otherwise, for which there is zero risk.

Much of what the activists do is defined by them as theater. A butterfly costume makes a great visual and has a lasting effect, illustrating the alleged danger to the monarch butterfly from GM corn. The fact that the monarch butterfly was recorded in the United States in record numbers or that there were at least six research articles showing no harm to the monarch from GM corn was no match for the visual imagery of the costume. In spite of a couple of bad years for the monarch as a result of cold, wet weather in the forests in Mexico where they reside for the winter, the species is once again at record levels -- as is the planting of GM corn, a dozen years after it was first planted.

This does not mean that there is not a real long-term threat to the monarch butterfly. The forest in Mexico where they reside in winter is being slowly cut down by farmers needing land to grow crops. If our activists had the slightest scintilla of concern about the monarch or poor farmers, they would put on their butterfly costumes in support of  the scientists in Mexico who want to use the latest and best in plant breeding (including transgenics) to increase crop yields, reducing the pressure on the forests lands.

Precautionary principle left out by Codex
Alex McNally, Food Production Daily, July 30, 2007
http://foodproductiondaily.com/news/ng.asp?id=78594

Codex has agreed to exclude the controversial precautionary principle in its risk analysis standards, marking the end of a long battle between the EU and trade groups.

The final decision was made at the Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Rome this month when the 'Working Principles for Risk Analysis for Food Safety for Application by Governments' was finally adopted, excluding the precautionary principle. The controversial plan would have allowed governments to take certain preventative measures for foods in cases where scientific evidence on the safety of the food is uncertain, but were seen by many governments and organisations as a tool to create unjustified trade barriers.

The principle, which has already been formally established by the European Commission (EC/178/2002), granted food risk managers the ability to take measures to protect health if they feared an unacceptable level of health risk exists. These measures ranged from a total ban on the substance, to food manufacturer's being ordered to carry out further safety tests.

The International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) and the US Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN USA) both feared the precautionary principle would create unfair trading opportunities around the globe if it was adopted. It was omitted from the set of principles for risk analysis adopted by Codex in 2003. However, since then a number of countries have tried to introduce it into Codex texts, to no avail.
David Pineda, IADSA's manager of regulatory affairs, said: "Despite the numerous attempts to introduce this principle into the text, there has again been sufficient resistance from both governmental and non-governmental organisations to prevent it from happening."

Pineda added that consumers were not being put at risk by the exclusion of the precautionary principle. He told NutraIngredients.com this morning: "Scientific evaluations are carried out when there are justified doubts about the safety of a food product and therefore there are systems in place to protect the health of the consumers. However, the use of the precautionary principle is often abusive in cases where there is no scientific proof of the unsafety of a food product.

"It is encouraging for the dietary/food supplement associations that this principle is not adopted by Codex and therefore not being applied worldwide."

There have been three unsuccessful attempts by the EU and other countries to include the principle in key Codex documents. In April, the full Codex Committee of General Principles (CCGP) debated the new draft and, after rallying of both government and non-governmental organisations - notably the CRN USA - agreed to omit the precautionary principle.

Books and Articles

The Public Research & Regulation Initiative (PRRI) website has been completely reconstructed over the last couple of months, to offer better structured, clearer, more straightforward and more user-friendly web site. We have also the opportunity to introduce a new template and new style sheets. See: www.pubresreg.org.

Pesticides and Humanity: The Benefits of Using Pesticides.
Cooper, J., Dobson, H. 2007. Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich. Pages 1-75. August 1, 2007.

The source information assembled during the preparation of this report can be consulted through the dedicated CropLife Benefits Database, which can be found at (http://www.croplifefoundation.org/international_benefits_db.asp). This database allows the user to search on a range of criteria for published evidence of various types of benefit arising from pesticide use. A short abstract and the bibliographic reference for each publication can be accessed from the web pages and for in-house users, the full text document can be downloaded. The finding from the study is that the list of beneficial outcomes from sensible use of pesticides is long and provides compelling evidence that pesticides will continue to be a vital tool in the diverse range of technologies that can maintain and improve living standards for the people of the world.

The following publication(s) is/are now available from OECD:
Books / CDs

bulletOECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2007-2016
Provides an assessment of agricultural market prospects based on projections that extend to 2016 for production, consumption, trade, stocks and prices of mainly temperate zone agricultural commodities.
Available in paperback and/or PDF E-Book from the Online Bookshop
bulletOECD Environmental Performance Reviews China
OECD's first review of China's environmental situation and policies systematically reviews issues including air, water, waste, and biodiversity; examines the environment-economic and environmental-social policy interfaces; and makes a series of recommenda
Available in paperback and/or PDF E-Book from the Online Bookshop

Coexistence or Contradiction - GM Crops versus Alternative Agricultures in Europe.
Levidow, L., Boschert, K. 2007. Geoforum: 26 pages.

This alternative has been counterpoised to the agri-industrial production of global commodities - symbolised by the European Union, especially its product authorisation procedure for the internal market. 'Coexistence' policy was intended to mediate policy conflicts over GM crops, yet it has become another arena for contending agricultural systems, which may not so readily co-exist in practice. Wherever an agrarian-based rural development paradigm gains local support, its alternative agricultures are in contradiction rather than coexistence with GM crops.

Risk Assessment of GM Stacked Events Obtained from Crosses Between GM Events.
de Schrijver, A., Devos, Y., Van den Bulcke, M., Cadot, P., de Loose, M., Reheul, D., Sneyers, M. 2007. Food Science and Technology 18: 101-109.

The risk assessment of GM stacked events, which are considered as a new GMO in the EU, could be less extensive than the assessment of the parental GM events. This will be the case when the latter have been proven to be safe for the human health and the environment for the same uses as the GM stacked event. Criteria for the risk assessment of GM stacked events combining positively assessed GM parental lines are proposed. Molecular and comparative analysis data are put forward as minimum requirements. Additional food/ feed safety testing and environmental studies are considered relevant on a case-by-case basis.

Biosafety and risk assessment framework for selectable marker genes in transgenic crop plants: a case of the science not supporting the politics
Koreen Ramessar, Ariadna Peremarti, et. al., Transgenic Research (Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 261- 280), June 2007
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11248-007-9083-1

The aim of this review is to discuss in some detail the currently available scientific evidence that overwhelmingly argues for the safety of these marker gene systems. Our conclusion, supported by numerous studies, most of which are commissioned by some of the very parties that have taken a position against the use of antibiotic selectable marker gene systems, is that there is no scientific basis to argue against the use and presence of selectable marker genes as a class in transgenic plants.

Biotech Crops Safe and Pro-Poor Say FAO Economists
Ronald Bailey, Reason on Line, August 21, 2007
http://www.reason.com/news/show/121979.html

Two U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization economists, Terri Raney and Prabhu Pingali write a sharp article in the September issue of Scientific American (sub required) on how genetically enhanced crops can and do help poor farmers in developing countries. I can't quote everything, but one particularly good point the FAO economists make is that scientific evidence shows that currently available biotech crops are not harming either people or the natural environment.

The governance of corporations, technological change, and risk: examining industrial perspectives on the development of genetically modified crops.
Joyce Tait and Joanna Chataway, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 2007 (vol. 25, pp. 21 - 37, DOI:10.1068/c0615j)
http://www.botanischergarten.ch/Discourse/Tait-Chataway-envplanning-2007.pdf

Can intellectual property be the logical and ethical choice for creating access and utilization of bioscience research? Bo Heiden and Caroline Pamp (EFB Executive Board members)

Can creating IP for commercialization be more ethical than only publishing? Can patenting be the key to creating open access? These are difficult but important issues. For the majority of people today, including bioscience researchers, the mention of intellectual property (IP) evokes a negative response. This is of course understandable as much of the rhetoric describing technology-based IP historically has been focused on defining patents as a negative rights meant to block and deny others access to inventions. While this definition may be technically correct, the role of IP is dramatically changing, even in the pharmaceutical industry, which has been particularly traditional in their use of IP as a means to block others.

 

Events

October 2007
2 October: European Seminar - Over the counter genetic tests and pharmacogenics: Which are the individual and collective challenges in Europe, Paris
This seminar will bring together leading French and European experts to discuss individual and collective challenges of genetic tests and pharmacogenetics.
For more information, click here
8-11 October: Open Days 2007, European Week of Regions and Cities, Brussels
This year’s theme is ‘Making it happen: regions and cities deliver growth and jobs’.
For more information, please click here
9-11 October: Biotechnica, 15th International Trade Fair, Hanover
The event will provides an opportunity to make personal business contacts and offers visitors an overview of the life sciences and biotechnology.
For more information, click here.
16 October: BIA Members Day, London
-BioFinance Forum - click here to register
-Intellectual Property Advisory Committee Seminar – Hot Topics click here to register
-Whistlestop Tour of Biotechnology - click here to register
-BIA Autumn Reception - click here to register
17-18 October: Renewable Raw Materials for Industry: Contribution to Sustainable Chemistry, Brussels
The symposium will explore the ways in which materials agricultural crops are increasingly driving the development of industrial biotechnology, bio-based products and sustainable chemistry.
For more information, click here
18-19 October: 8th workshop on partnering for rare  disease therapy development “The Reality of Orphan Medicines", Copenhagen, Danmark
The workshop will be held by European Platform for Patients' Organization.
For more information, please click here
24-26 October: EU-Malaysia Biotechnology Business Partnership (EUM-BIO) 2007,  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The event aims to establish business and technology co-operation by arranging contacts between biotech companies as well as research institutions (including universities) from the European Union The participation package is substantially subsidised with an earlybird charge of Euro 100. Additionally, a selected 50 registered European organisation are entitled for 50% air-ticket subsidy or EUR 500 travelling incentive (whichever is lower) for participating at the EUM-BIO Business Partnering Event.
For more information, click here or contact EuropaBio.
November 2007
12-14 November: BIO-Europe 2007, Hamburg
This conference offers investment and collaboration opportunities.
For more information, click here
20-21 November: 2007 Coexistence between Genetically Modified and non-GM based Agricultural Supply Chains, Seville
Agricultural supply chains ability to adapt to novel regulatory and market-driven co-existence requirements world-wide will be addressed.
For more information, click here
22-23 November: The 4th International Business Convention on Agro Resources, Lyon France
This convention will bring together scientific, technical and economic decision-makers in the key sectors around the bio-refineries concept.  For more information, click here.
29-30 November: COPA COGECA seminar on biomass
This seminar is to discuss the EU Biomass Action Plan and the EU Strategy on biofuels and to communicate how the reformed CAP and the rural development policy 2007-2013 contributes to sustainable development in the field of renewable energy.
For more information, click here
December 2007
4 December: BioEthics conference, Brussels
For more information, please contact EuropaBio's Adeline Farrelly.
4 December: EPPOSI workshop on patients safety, Luxembourg
This workshop concerns “Best Practices on Communicating risks and the Value of Safety to Patients with Chronic Diseases”.To learn more about, contact giovanni.asta@epposi.org.
September 2008
17-19 September BIOSPAIN 2008, Granada, Spain
Organization of BioSpain is led by ASEBIO. The event will be divided to five workshops: Scientific Seasons, International Conferences, Investment Forum, Partnering Activities and Trade Fair. Granada has been selected as a new core of Biotech Development in Spain.

The international Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) is organising workshops on biosafety of releasing GM crops. More on courses@icgeb.org.

Europe - EU

EU Commission pays group to lobby Brussels
Martin Banks, The Telegraph (UK), August 17, 2007
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/17/weu217.xml

The European Commission was accused yesterday of a "grotesque" waste of taxpayers' money after it allocated funding for an organisation that exists to lobby Brussels.

The lobby group, Friends of the Earth Europe, received 562,000 pounds funding from the EU Commission last year.

Its commission funding rose this year by 200,000 in order to meet "increased running costs." The group, which has a 25-strong staff in Brussels, is pre-eminent in lobbying the EU for tighter controls to combat global warming. The commission argues that giving the organisation nearly half of its annual budget does not stop it from criticising the institution. But Roger Helmer, a British Conservative MEP, says such funding is "anti-democratic". "In funding such NGOs the commission can be seen to be responding to apparently independent, voluntary groups while, in fact, it is actually paying to have itself lobbied to take actions which, in the main, it would wish to take anyway.

"There is something grotesque about millions of pounds being spent every year by the commission merely to fund groups lobby it." He adds: "This is not a one-off. The commission has invited numerous pro-EU lobby groups and NGOs to a debate in October on the EU constitution.

"I wrote some time back asking for the invitation to be extended to UK eurosceptic groups to enable a balanced debate to take place. I am still waiting for a reply." Anja Leetz, head of fundraising for Friends of the Earth Europe, rejected the criticism, saying: "There has to be some EU funding for groups like ours otherwise industry and big business would just have their own way.

"Being part funded by the commission doesn't stop us from being critical if we disagree with its laws." A commission spokesman said such funding helps "facilitate a full and frank" debate.

Deadline for EU in GMO approval.

After a World Trade Organization ruling last year found "undue delays" in Europe's approval of biotech products, the EC has until November 21 to bring its system up to speed. Canice Nolan, who heads food safety affairs for the European Commission's delegation in Washington, said the EC is studying how to tighten up its internal processes and assessing other steps to streamline its approval system."We plan to have this done before the time limit runs out," Nolan said. EU-U.S. discussions are continuing on the issue, with the next meeting scheduled for October, according to Sharon Bomer, vice president of industry group BIO, which includes major biotech players such as BASF Plant Sciences, a unit of Germany's BASF, and Bayer Cropscience. http://www.allaboutfeed.net

EFSA: GM feed does not affect eggs
World Poultry, August 10, 2007
http://www.worldpoultry.net

A new report from the European Food Safety Authority shows that there is no evidence the genetically modified (GM) animal feed can have a harmful effect on meat and eggs.

The EFSA research followed a call from the European Commission after a petition had been lodged to have meat, milk, and eggs from animals that have been fed genetically modified feed labelled. The commission wanted to know if transgenes or their products could be incorporated into animal tissues.

Effect on humans

The study also looked at whether the DNA from GM foods could also be absorbed by humans. The study said that for humans the "recombinant DNA did not survive passage through the intact gastrointestinal tract of healthy human subjects fed GM soya". The study adds that the rapid breakdown of DNA and proteins during digestion reduces the chance of them being absorbed intact into the muscle, milk, or eggs of animals. “After ingestion, a rapid degradation into short DNA or peptide fragments is observed in the gastrointestinal tract or animals and humans," the report states. "To date, a large number of experimental studies with livestock have shown that recombinant DNA fragments or proteins derived from GM plants have not been detected in tissues, fluids or edible products of farm animals like broilers, cattle, pigs or quails."

EU concerns over EFSA costs
Ahmed ElAmin, Food Production Daily, August 10, 2007
http://www.foodproductiondaily.com

10/08/2007 - EU member countries are concerned about the feasibility of companies paying fees to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for vetting ingredients, packaging and food contact materials for use in the bloc.

Europe

GMO crops gaining ground, but not without opposition
Marcel Bodnár, Czech Business Weekly, August 13, 2007
http://www.cbw.cz/phprs/2007081329.html

GM corn production in Czech Republic

According to Vítezslav Navrátil, CEO of Rostsnice, one of the biggest growers of GM corn in Moravia, the advantage of this variety is that it is unnecessary to use a chemical pesticide against ECB, and therefore it's more ecologically friendly. In addition, production levels are higher. However, using GM seeds has a downside for farmers. "Increased administration and the need to follow specific measurements for example, rules of co-existence especially with organic farmers higher GM seed costs and problems with sales [are drawbacks]," Čeřovská said. But despite these negatives, corn farmers agree that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. This year, some 5,000 hectares of GM corn were planted, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. And the production is likely to increase. "GM corn seed has an 18 percent share in our production, and we're planning on expansion of this share," Navrátil said. GM corn has been grown in the Czech Republic since 1996.

However, because public disagreement over GM crops could impact sales, some member states are still reluctant to allow farmers to grow GM plants. "On the European market, it's still lucrative to behave as a country opposed to GMOs," said Jaroslav Drobník, a professor in the microbiology and genetics department at Charles University in Prague. In Austria and Hungary it is forbidden to sow these types of crops, while other countries such as Germany and Slovakia are slowly conducting field trials.

While being GMO-free may offer a market advantage, some people in the field maintain the opposition has no solid basis. "Arguments made by those [countries with] national prohibitions are not in line with scientific knowledge concerning risks of GM corn," Čeřovská said.

"[GMO] plants are the most thoroughly tested raw materials used in the food-processing industry. New [nongenetically modified] varieties are practically untested for risks, although they may be more risky from an ecological or health perspective," Drobník said. "The toxin included in the GM corn genes [of Bt corn MON810] doesn't destroy all types of insects. It affects only butterflies and moths. It isn't harmful to other animals or human beings," Drobnik said.

In addition, the possible risks of GMOs are examined in detail by many institutions, and permitted GMOs on the European market "do not represent a bigger risk for the environment" than any unmodified plants, said Jarmila Krebsová, spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment (MZP). "GMOs have been grown and consumed for more than 10 years in the U.S., and during this period there haven't been any registered cases of negative effects on human health," she said.

Police tear-gas farmers in clash over French GM crops
Monday, August 27, 2007
By John Lichfield in Paris
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/article2898542.ece

Growing tensions in France between opponents and supporters of genetically modified crops have led to violent confrontations.

Gendarmes used tear gas and batons to prevent pro-GM farmers from invading a picnic for militant opponents of genetically modified maize at the town of Verdun-sur-Garonne in south-west France over the weekend.
Hardly a day has gone by this summer without opponents of GM maize - both environmental campaigners and small farmers - invading fields and trampling or cutting down crops. The protesters, led by the small- farmers' leader, José Bové, claim a citizens' right to destroy crops which, they say, threaten ecological calamity and the subjection of farmers to the whims of agro-industrial, multinational companies.

France to establish reference authority for GMOs
People's Daily, August 29, 2007
http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/6250758.html

French minister for ecology and sustainable development Jean-Louis Borloo has announced plans to establish an authority to take charge of matters related to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), the local press reported Wednesday.

Among other things, the minister, who was speaking Tuesday, called for total transparency and responsibility with regard to the cultivation of GMO crops.

In France, the expert body in charge of evaluating risks related to the GMO is the Commission on Biomolecular Engineering (Commission du Genie biomoleculaire), a consultative body constituted by the agriculture and environment ministries.

Western corn rootworm in Germany
This very dangerous pest was detected in Ortenau region of Baden and Alsace. see http://www.bayercropscience.com

Uniliver (UK) asks for approval of a Ice Structuring Proteins (ISP) in ice creams.

These proteins are produced by yeasts after the introduction of a gene from fish living in could waters. The ISP prevents the formation of large ice crystals thus increasing the need of fat and sugars addition in the ice cream.

GM crops vandalised in Silves
Eloise Walton, The Resident (Portugal), August 23, 2007
http://www.portugalresident.com/portugalresident/showstory.asp?ID=20827

AROUND 100 anti-GM protesters destroyed more than a hectare of genetically modified corn at the Herdade da Lameira farm in Silves while the owner tried desperately to stop them before the GNR arrived. The President of Portugal and the Minister of Agriculture have condemned the acts of vandalism.

Genetically modified feed to be introduced to Finnish pig farms
Farmers' union leader says he would not use GM feed on his farm
Helsingin Sanomat, August 8, 2007
http://www.hs.fi

Consumers in Finland will be introduced to pork grown with feed containing genetically modified soybeans. Shoppers will not necessarily notice any difference, because the packaging will not include any mention of what the animal ate. LSO Foods, which supplies meat to the meat wholesalers HK Ruokatalo and Järvi Suomen Portti, announced in July that it will start delivering imported GM soybean feed to its pork farmers later in the year. Another company planning to introduce genetically modified feed is HK's competitor Atria; CEO Matti Tikkakoski says that financial pressures are forcing it to make the move. Tikkakoski does not believe that it will be possible to deliver separate kinds of pork products to food stores - those raised on GM soybeans, and those from pigs that were fed unaltered types. He says that when they are imported from around the world, the different types of beans are bound to get mixed up at some point. Tikkakoski says that nine out of ten pig farmers under contract for Atria welcome the arrival of the new feed. "EU legislation is straightforward. The genetic modifications in a plant are not passed on to an animal's tissue through the digestion, or from there into meat or milk. Consequently there is no need to mark it down".

Finnish retailers' lobby slams voluntary GMO labelling
NewsRoom Finland, August 16, 2007
http://newsroom.finland.fi/stt/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=16481&group=General

Finland's Grocery Trade Association (FGTA) on Wednesday rejected the initiative by the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) to introduce a voluntary system of labels on food derived from animals fed genetically modified organisms. The food retailers' lobby added that if consumers wanted a wider GMO labelling system on grounds other than food safety, the initiative to that end must come from the legislator.

"The retailers trust the European Food Safety Authority's view saying that modified genes in feed are not transferred to the animal," the FGTA said in a statement. Martti Korhonen, the chairman of the opposition Left Alliance, had said earlier on Wednesday that the MTK position on the use of GM feed was commendable and that the consumer had a right to know the origin of foods when making purchase decisions. The latest round in the Finnish GMO debate erupted earlier this month when two major meat companies announced they would start importing genetically modified soy pig feed.

America

Brazil develops its first genetically modified plant
- Xinhua, August 8, 2007
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-08/08/content_6493023.htm

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Brazilian Enterprise of Agropecuary Research (Embrapa) said Tuesday that it had developed Brazil's first genetically modified soybean for commercial purposes with the world's largest chemical company BASF. The transgenic soybean contains a gene of the plant Thale Cress, scientifically known as Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the watercress and mustard family that is commonly grown in the lab. The gene provides the soybean with resistance to imidazolinone herbicide. Imidazolinone competes in the international herbicide market with glyphosate which is the main ingredient of herbicide Roundup developed by the U.S. Monsanto Company, Germany-based BASF's main competitor. The partnership between the two companies started in 1997, with BASF providing the gene patent and Embrapa developing the genetic modification technology.

According to Embrapa, several bio-security tests are being carried out to check the plant's impact on the environment and human feeding. The results will be sent to the National Bio-security Technical Committee in charge of authorizing the project.

BASF's Biotechnology Manager in Brazil Luiz Carlos Louzano expects the new soybean to take over up to 20 percent of the Brazilian market and will enhance its competition with Monsanto.

Eucalypts with increased tolerance to drought.

Chile's Institute for Agricultural Research (INIA) and Chile's Forest Research Institute (INFOR) have announced a joint program to develop varieties of eucalypts, Eucalytus globulus

Colombia approved GM crops

The Ministry of Agriculture of Colombia approved Bt cotton, Roundup-Ready flex and RR maize.

Bolivia faces controversy over biofuel
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=3809&language=2

Sectors of industry are calling for the Bolivian government to support biofuel, while the president, Evo Morales, considers them a food security risk. [Spanish Full Text]

USA and Canada

Greenpeace ignores weight of scientific evidence on GM food safety
CropLife Canada (press release), August 8, 2007
http://www.cnw.ca/fr/releases/archive/August2007/08/c5191.html

(The release was issued in response to Greenpeace carving a 61-metre-long question mark in an Abbotsford, B.C., field of GM corn. The activist group claimed the action was justified by claims that GM corn is bad for rats.)

TORONTO - Opinions surrounding the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods must be based on conclusive scientific facts, not the results of one study, the trade association representing Canada's plant science industry said today.

"Genetically modified foods and the crops from which they are derived are some of the most extensively studied food products in the world," says Denise Dewar, Executive Director of Plant Biotechnology for CropLife Canada. "GM foods have been safely consumed for over a decade."

Countless studies by international organizations have concluded that genetically modified crops pose no risk to human health and the environment. A report from the European Union concludes "the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods."

The World Health Organization states "no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved."

"The call for mandatory labelling of GM food would ultimately impose greater costs to growers, manufacturers and consumers and it is difficult and expensive to enforce," said Dewar. "In many countries that have adopted the system, it has failed to provide consumers with choice."

New generation of soybeans Rready2Yield are approved in USA and Canada.

The yield should reach 7 – 11% over the first generation. The new beans are slated to go on sale in limited U.S. markets in 2009 and begin nationwide distribution in 2010, said Monsanto spokeswoman Sara Duncan.
http://www.courierpostonline.com

Africa

First all-African GM crop is resistant to maize streak virus
HULIQ, August 16, 2007
http://www.huliq.com

The first all-African genetically modified crop plant with resistance to the severe maize streak virus (MSV), which seriously reduces the continent's maize yield, has been developed by scientists from the University of Cape Town and PANNAR PTY Ltd, a South African seed company.

The research, published in Plant Biotechnology Journal represents a significant advance in African agricultural biotechnology, and will play an important role in alleviating Africa's food shortages and famine.

Kenya publishes Biosafety Bill.

It will open access to biotechnology for local farmers.

'GM labels bad for food prices'.

Cape Town - South Africa is resisting labelling its genetically modified foods because of fears it could raise prices and make food less available for consumers, a senior health official told parliament on Tuesday. The country, Africa's economic powerhouse and one of the few on the continent to accept genetically modified organisms, or GMOs as they are popularly known, does not currently require that the modified foods be labelled. http://www.fin24.co.za

Zambia adamant: no GM
http://www.scidev.net

Zambia has rejected new calls to allow GM technology and products into the country. The group -- consisting of AfricaBio, the Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, Biotechnology-Ecology Research and Outreach Consortium (BioEROC) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (ISAAA) -- released a joint press statement endorsing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which was published in the Times of Zambia on 30 July.

Responding to the statement, Zambian minister of agriculture and cooperatives, Ben Kapita, told SciDev.Net, "We have always said that Zambia will not be used as a dumping place for GMO products." Earlier this year (3 April), the Zambian parliament adopted a biosafety bill aimed at preventing the entry of GMOs in to the country.

Asia

Syngenta's Agrisure RW Corn Rootworm Biotech Trait Obtains Full Regulatory Approval in Japan
Grain Journal, August 23, 2007
http://www.grainnet.com

Golden Valley, MN--Syngenta announced on Aug 23 that it has obtained full regulatory approval in Japan for Agrisure® RW, its corn rootworm insect control corn seed.

Agrisure RW now has full approval in the United States, Canada, and Japan, and import approval in Australia and New Zealand. Syngenta's innovation in genetics and traits such as Agrisure RW is helping growers meet the rapidly expanding demand for corn. The Agrisure brand spans a wide range of products bringing new choices to growers including Agrisure CB/LL, Agrisure GT, Agrisure RW, Agrisure GT/RW, Agrisure GT/CB/LL, Agrisure CB/LL/RW and Agrisure 3000GT.

China

Chinese scientist appointed CGIAR head
http://www.scidev.net

A leading Chinese scientist has been appointed as the director of an international agricultural research body.

News in Science

Insulin from lettuce.

University of central Florida prepared a transgenic lettuce with the gene for human insulin. The complete news article is available at http://news.ucf.edu

Discovery in plant virus may help prevent HIV and similar viruses.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - In a study that could lead to new ways to prevent infection by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and similar organisms, Purdue University researchers have been able to genetically modify a plant to halt reproduction of a related virus. Chen and his colleagues published a report on their study in the most recent issue of the journal The Plant Cell. The retrovirus HIV and the pararetrovirus CaMV both use reverse transcription to recruit the host's proteins in order to reproduce and spread infection. Transcription in cells is the process in which a gene's DNA code is copied into RNA, which, in turn, carries the information to another part of the cell or to another cell. In reverse transcription, used by viruses such as HIV and CaMV, the virus' RNA is copied into DNA after it latches on to a victim's cell. This allows the virus to easily integrate into the host's genome and then reproduce in other cells.

The key question for researchers is how blocking the function of one protein inhibits transcription and replication of the viruses. Discovering the answer could mean major advances for prevention of retroviruses and treatment of the diseases they cause in plants and animals. http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2007b/070730ChenMosaicvirus.html

Scientists Identify and Silence Plant Gene That Controls Phytic Acid
DuPont (press release), August 6, 2007
http://www.prnewswire.com

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A team of DuPont (NYSE: DD) scientists has identified a gene that, when silenced, can help increase the feed value of grain, improve breeding programs for corn and other crops and reduce phosphorous in animal waste. Results of this research were published online in Nature Biotechnology on August 5.

The gene controls production of phytic acid, a compound in grain and oilseeds that is not digestible by monogastric animals, such as swine and poultry, and reduces the availability of essential minerals. Through genetic manipulation, researchers at DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred were able to silence the gene in corn, greatly reducing the amount of phytic acid in the seed. Low-phytic acid seed is beneficial because it increases the amount of nutritionally available phosphorus and the bioavailability of essential minerals, which reduces the need for producers to add more costly feed supplements. In addition, lowering the amount of phosphorus from undigested phytic acid in manure can help reduce the environmental impacts of livestock production.

Scientists discover dynamics of transcription in living mammalian cells
- PhysOrg.com, August 6, 2007
http://www.physorg.com/news105629810.html

researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have measured the stages of transcription in real time. Their unexpected and surprising findings have fundamentally changed the way transcription is understood. The researchers used pioneering microscopy techniques developed by Dr. Robert Singer, co-chair of anatomy & structural biology at Einstein and senior author of the study, which appears in the August issue of Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

The study focused on RNA polymerase II--the enzyme responsible for transcription. During transcription, growing numbers of RNA polymerase II molecules assemble on DNA and then synthesize RNA by sequentially recruiting complementary RNA nucleotides. "One surprising finding was how inefficient the transcription process really is, particularly during its first two stages," says Dr. Singer. "It turns out that only one percent of polymerases that bind to the gene actually remain on to help in synthesizing an RNA molecule. Transcription is probably inefficient for a reason. We're not sure why, but it may be because all the factors needed for transcription have to come together at the right time and the right place, so there's a lot of falling off and adding on of polymerases until everything is precisely coordinated."

The researchers observed that the binding phase of transcription lasted six seconds and initiation lasted 54 seconds. By contrast, the final stage of transcription  -  elongation of the RNA molecule  -  took a lengthy 517 seconds (about eight minutes). The possible reason: The "lead" polymerase on the growing polymerase II enzyme sometimes "paused" for long periods, retarding transcription in the same way that a Sunday driver on a narrow road slows down all traffic behind him. But in the absence of pausing, elongation proceeded much faster  -  about 70 nucleotides synthesized per second  -  than has previously been reported.

These two phenomena  -  pausing and rapid RNA synthesis during elongation  -  may be crucial for regulating gene expression. "With this sort of mechanism, you could have everything at the ready in case you suddenly needed to rev up transcription," says Dr. Singer. "Once the 'paused' polymerase starts up again, in a very short time you could synthesize a new batch of messenger RNA molecules that might suddenly be needed for making large amounts of a particular protein."

High-lysine corn generated by endosperm-specific suppression of lysine catabolism using RNAi
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com
Nancy M. Houmard, et. al., Plant Biotechnology Journal (Vol. 5, Iss. 5, pp. 605-614), September 2007

Summary: Because of the limited lysine content in corn grain, synthetic lysine supplements are added to corn meal-based rations for animal feed. The development of biotechnology, combined with the understanding of plant lysine metabolism, provides an alternative solution for increasing corn lysine content through genetic engineering. Here, we report that by suppressing lysine catabolism, transgenic maize kernels accumulated a significant amount of lysine. This was achieved by RNA interference (RNAi) through the endosperm-specific expression of an inverted-repeat (IR) sequence targeting the maize bifunctional lysine degradation enzyme, lysine-ketoglutarate reductase/saccharopine dehydrogenase (ZLKR/SDH). Although plant-short interfering RNA (siRNA) were reported to lack tissue specificity due to systemic spreading, we confirmed that the suppression of ZLKR/SDH in developing transgenic kernels was restricted to endosperm tissue. Furthermore, results from our cloning and sequencing of siRNA suggested the absence of transitive RNAi. These results support the practical use of RNAi for plant genetic engineering to specifically target gene suppression in desired tissues without eliciting systemic spreading and the transitive nature of plant RNAi silencing.

Fourth-Generation Pig Cloned in Japan
Carl Freire, Associated Press via PhysOrg.com, August 8, 2007
http://www.physorg.com/news105770409.html

A Japanese geneticist said Wednesday his research team created the world's first fourth-generation cloned pig, an achievement that could help scientists in medical and other research.

Wheat relatives harbour supply of resistance genes
Reference:  Plant Disease 91, 942  (2007)

Researchers have shown that wild relatives of cultivated wheat exhibit resistance to a number of fungal diseases, and could provide a source of resistance genes to introduce into cultivated wheat.

They published their findings in August issue of the journal Plant Disease.

Lead researcher Brian Steffenson, plant pathologist at the US-based University of Minnesota, and colleagues have shown that there is a high level of disease resistance in samples of Sharon goatgrass (Aegilops sharonensis) collected from southern Lebanon and the Israeli Coastal Plain.

Today's White Rice Is Mutation Spread by Early Farmers
Some 10,000 years ago white rice evolved from wild red rice and began spreading around the globe.
Cornell University (press release) via Newswise, August 17, 2007
http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/532574/

Researchers at Cornell and elsewhere have determined that 97.9 percent of all white rice is derived from a mutation (a deletion of DNA) in a single gene originating in the Japonica subspecies of rice. Their report, published online in the journal PloS (Public Library of Science) Genetics, suggests that early farmers favoured, bred and spread white rice around the world.

Polynucleotide Encoding a Gene Conferring Resistance to Bacillus Thuringiensis Toxin and Method of Use
Clemson University, Case #188 (web accessed August 19, 2007)
http://www.clemson.edu/research/ottSite/techs/nopatent/188.htm

Inventors: David Heckel and Linda Gahan

Summary: Insecticidal protein toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are safe, effective and specific means for controlling insect pests of agriculture. Crops such as cotton and corn have been transformed with modified Bt genes that encode the toxin. These transgenic plants protect themselves from insect damage by expressing the toxin in their cells, which kills insects that are feeding on them. This insect control method has been very successful, with more than 20% of cotton and corn acreage in the US consisting of transgenic Bt-expressing varieties in 2000. However, insects can develop resistance to Bt-toxins, just as they have to chemical insecticides. Although Bt-resistant strains of insects have been studied for several years, until now the molecular identity of the genes that make the insect resistant to the toxin has been unknown. We have successfully identified and cloned a gene that confers high levels of Bt resistance in the key cotton pest Heliothis virescens (tobacco budworm). This is the first molecular identification of a Bt-resistance gene in any species. It will enable for the first time DNA-based diagnostic techniques for the detection of resistance in field populations of this pest and related species.

Applications: Specific applications include the development of a diagnostic kit for detection of Bt-resistance in field populations of Heliothis virescens.

Biorefining of corn brings gelatin production into the 21st century
American Chemical Society (press release), August 22, 2007
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-08/acs-boc081007.php

BOSTON  -  Scientists are reporting an advance toward turning corn plants into natural factories for producing gelatin to replace animal-sourced gelatin widely used by the pharmaceutical industry for manufacturing capsules and tablets. The advance, described today at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, may lead to a safe, inexpensive source of this protein for manufacturers who now rely on material obtained as a by-product of meat production.

Plant-derived recombinant gelatin would address concerns about the possible presence of infectious agents in animal by-products and the lack of traceability of the source of the raw materials currently used to make gelatin. However, finding ways to recover and purify recombinant gelatin from plants has remained a challenge because only very low levels accumulate at the early stages of the development process.

Now, scientists at Iowa State University in Ames and FibroGen, Inc., in South San Francisco say they have developed a purification process to recover these small quantities of recombinant gelatin present in the early generations of transgenic corn. The method uses a four-step recovery system to separate the recombinant protein from other corn proteins with sufficient purity that its structure and composition can be verified, says Charles Glatz, Ph.D., a chemical engineer at Iowa State University who directed the work. Glatz says ultrafiltration allowed the group to take advantage of the size difference between the recombinant protein and other corn proteins. Overall costs could be further reduced by combining the production of gelatin in corn with the extraction of non-protein parts of the grain  -  such as oils and starches  -  that are now grown and harvested for biodiesel and ethanol production, he adds.

Cheng Zhang, a doctoral student at Iowa State University, presented details of the new purification process at the American Chemical Society meeting.

Latest transgenic rabbit-milk drug results 'positive'
Kirsty Barnes, BioPharmaReporter, August 22, 2007
http://us-pharmatechnologist.com

Positive interim Phase III trial results for an experimental new transgenic rabbit-milk anti-inflammatory drug has prompted its developers to halt the placebo arm and treat all patients with this promising new therapy.

The drug, Rhucin (recombinant human C1 esterase inhibitor), is a human protein being to treat acute attacks of hereditary angioedema (HAE), a rare disease characterised by painful swelling of soft tissue. Rhucin is fairly unique in that it is developed from a therapeutic protein produced in the milk of rabbits which have been engineered to carry and express the gene of interest in the mammary glands. The protein is collected using the proprietary technology of its developers, Dutch biotech company Pharming.

Only one such transgenic animal-derived drug is currently available on the market, GTC Biotherapeutics' goat-derived ATryn - which was approved last year as an anticoagulant to treat a rare congenital disease - and these latest trial results will bolster Pharming's bid to make its drug the second on the market. Pharming announced this week that early results in a European placebo-controlled study designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Rhucin, showed that none of the patients taking the drug suffered a relapse of their HAE attack, nor any treatment-related adverse events.

These results reflect those from earlier studies, said the firm, who will be presenting the data in detail on August 30th at an analyst meeting in London.

Physical Map Of The Bovine Genome Revealed
Medical News Today, August 22, 2007
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/80257.php

The recent publication of a paper in Genome Biology describing a physical map of the bovine genome provides cattle researchers with a tool to aid their search to improve cattle production and health and decrease the environmental footprint of the industry. The physical map is like a framework of a house in that it allows all the fine details to be positioned and placed in order. This framework underpins most current and future cattle research, including the genome sequencing project currently underway and new DNA based methods to improve cattle genetics.

Crop Engineered To Grow In Poisonous Soil
- Science Daily, August 30, 2007-09-27
- http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070827163025.htm

Science Daily - When soils are too acidic, aluminium that is locked up in clay minerals dissolves into the soil as toxic, electrically charged particles called ions, making it hard for most plants to grow. In fact, aluminium toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in as much as half the world's arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

Aluminium toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in as much as half the world's arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

Now, Cornell researchers have cloned a novel aluminium-tolerant gene in sorghum and expect to have new genetically-engineered aluminium-tolerant sorghum lines by next year.

The research, to be published in the September issue of Nature Genetics, provides insights into how specialized proteins in the root tips of some cultivars of sorghum and such related species as wheat and maize can boost aluminium tolerance in crops.

Wine grape genome decoded, flavour genes found
Expatica
http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=25&story_id=43242

PARIS, Aug 26, 2007 (AFP) - Scientists in France and Italy have deciphered the complete genetic code for the plant producing wine grapes, according to a study published Sunday.

Kiwi scientists unpeel secrets of Vitamin C
NZPA | Monday, 27 August 2007
http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4179024a3600.html

Agricultural scientists say they have uncovered the last big secret of vitamin C in plants, and it will create the chance to naturally breed healthier fruits.

Hortresearch's science general manager, Dr Bruce Campbell said the team had isolated the last undiscovered enzyme and proved it controlled vitamin C in plants.

The enzyme was the last step in a chain of research begun overseas nearly 80 years ago by scientist seeking to understand how plants produce vitamin C.

NZ scientists studied kiwifruit, a plant naturally high in vitamin C, with typical green kiwifruit - bred from Actinidia deliciosa - containing about 100mg in each 100g of fruit.

The scientists worked on an inedible wild kiwifruit variety called Actinidia eriantha - with a white, hairy skin which is easy to peel - because it contains a massive 800mg of vitamin C per 100g.

A paper outlining Hortresearch's enzyme discovery was recently published in the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and it will be presented by one of the researchers, Sean Bulley, at this week's 17th annual Queenstown conference on molecular biology.

Alternative sweetener, in transgenic tomato plants
Plant Biotechnology Journal
OnlineEarly Articles
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00283.x
To cite this article: Hyeon-Jin Sun, Hiroshi Kataoka, Megumu Yano, Hiroshi Ezura

Genetically stable expression of functional miraculin, a new type of alternative sweetener, in transgenic tomato plants.

Plant Biotechnology Journal (OnlineEarly Articles),doi:10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00283.x

Summary: Miraculin is a taste-modifying protein isolated from the red berries of Richadella dulcifica, a shrub native to West Africa. Miraculin by itself is not sweet, but it is able to turn a sour taste into a sweet taste. This unique property has led to increasing interest in this protein. In this article, we report the high-yield production of miraculin in transgenic tomato plants. High and genetically stable expression of miraculin was confirmed by Western blot analysis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Recombinant miraculin accumulated to high levels in leaves and fruits, up to 102.5 and 90.7 µg/g fresh weight, respectively. Purified recombinant miraculin expressed in transgenic tomato plants showed strong sweetness-inducing activity, similar to that of native miraculin. These results demonstrate that recombinant miraculin was correctly processed in transgenic tomato plants, and that this production system could be a good alternative to production from the native plant.

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