News in October 2007
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2007-11-05

Books & Articles

Effective Targeting of Agricultural Policies: Best Practices for Policy Design and Implementation OECD Books / CDs

Agricultural policies are dominated by broad measures such as market price support and general payments to all land, animals or farmers. As a result, it is often difficult to associate a particular policy with any specific objective and yet ...

Now available in paperback and/or PDF E-Book from the Online Bookshop

Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries: Monitoring and Evaluation 2007

Support to farmers in OECD countries accounted for 27% of farm receipts in 2006, a drop of 2 percentage points from 2005. However, for the OECD as a whole, there has been little change in the level of producer support since the late 1990s. In the ...

Now available in paperback and/or PDF E-Book from the Online Bookshop

The gains of GM crops won't be felt with over-regulation
Julian Little, The Guardian, Oct. 24, 2007
(Julian Little is chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/oct/24/gmcrops.comment

There are more than 6.5 billion people in the world - a number set to increase dramatically in the next 25 years - and the amount of agricultural land available to feed each person recently dipped below 0.3 of a hectare for the first time. So how can we produce enough food for a growing population, while reducing carbon emissions?

There is no silver bullet. Among the steps that should be taken are reducing energy use and increasing the amount of food, feed, fibre and fuel we get out of arable land. We have to look at a variety of tools for farmers - including the safe and responsible use of GMO technology. Countries worldwide, including the UK, can't ignore innovations that could help us achieve sustainable food production.

Chris Pollock, chairman of the government's independent advisory committee on releases to the environment, said recently: "The future sustainability of British farming would be in grave jeopardy if farmers were not permitted to adopt new technologies that were proven to increase yields or have other benefits." He added that "if we are serious about sustainable agriculture, we have to be open to new technologies".

The truth is that GM crops are the most rigorously tested of all crops and have been successfully grown by farmers across the globe for more than 10 years. More than 200bn meals containing GM ingredients have been consumed in the last decade, without a single, substantiated health incident. Today, GM crops are used by 10 million farmers in 22 countries across the world, including six EU member states. The benefits include increased yields, reduced costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and a reduced environmental footprint.

Against the grain: 'GM crops do not harm health'
Nick Jackson, The Independent (UK), Oct. 11, 2007 http://news.independent.co.uk/education/higher/article3045373.ece

Chris Leaver is Sibthorpian Professor of Plant Science at Oxford University. He argues that genetically modified food is safe and necessary.

Any negative effects that slipped through decades of testing would have shown themselves by now. GM crop regulation is gold-plated. Instead of making tens of thousands of genetic changes in plant breeding, with GM you insert a gene with a known single beneficial trait into the plant, so it is far less invasive. You have complete genetic information; you know what the protein specified by the gene does; and it is extensively tested in the laboratory and in feeding trials.

The rest of the world is moving ahead with biotech. UK laboratories have closed down because our knowledge base has moved to India, China and the Americas. Meanwhile, the organic lobby sells food by spreading scare stories and untruths. None of its claims of catastrophe have come about. The World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and other international and regulatory bodies have reported no evidence of health or environmental harm from GMO.

Feeding a Hungry World
Norman Borlaug, Science, Oct. 19, 2007 (Vol. 318. no. 5849, p. 359)
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/318/5849/359

Next week, more than 200 science journals throughout the world will simultaneously publish papers on global poverty and human development--a collaborative effort to increase awareness, interest, and research about these important issues of our time. Some 800 million people still experience chronic and transitory hunger each year. Over the next 50 years, we face the daunting job of feeding 3.5 billion additional people, most of whom will begin life in poverty. The battle to alleviate poverty and improve human health and productivity will require dynamic agricultural development.

Can science and technology feed the world in 2025?
M.S. Swaminathana,swami@mssrf.res.in, msswami@vsnl.net
a M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Taramani Institutional Area, Chennai 600113, Tamil Nadu, India
doi:10.1016/j.fcr.2007.02.004  Copyright © 2007 Published by Elsevier B.V.

Abstract

By 2025 the global population will exceed 7 billion. In the interim per capita availability of arable land and irrigation water will go down from year to year while biotic and abiotic stresses expand. Food security, best defined as economic, physical and social access to a balanced diet and safe drinking water will be threatened, with a holistic approach to nutritional and non-nutritional factors needed to achieve success in the eradication of hunger. Science and technology can play a very important role in stimulating and sustaining an Evergreen Revolution leading to long-term increases in productivity without associated ecological harm.

Bt corn and impact on mycotoxins
F.Wu, CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, September 2007
http://www.cababstractsplus.org/cabreviews/Reviews.asp?action=display&openMenu=relatedItems&ReviewID=33449&Year=2007

This review summarizes the literature linking Bt corn and the reduction of the mycotoxins fumonisin, aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone.

CBC News GMO Debate OECD Summit Edinburgh 2000
amchughen, YouTube, Sept. 28, 2007
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwE0cqdZWlY

CBC News clip of OECD Summit on GMO safety in Edinburgh March 1, 2000, featuring a debate in which Patrick Holden of the Soil Association predicts the demise of GM crops within five years.

Convergence of Agriculture and Energy: II. Producing Cellulosic Biomass for Biofuels CAST Commentary QTA2007-2 November 2007

Events

9-11 October: Biotechnica, 15th International Trade Fair, Hanover
The event will provide 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.

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

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

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.

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.

PCST-10: Bridges to the future
http://www.scidev.net/events/index.cfm?fuseaction=readevents&itemid=1211&language=1
Location: Malmö, Lund and Copenhagen Date: 25 - 27 June 2008

First International Symposium on Biotechnology of Fruit Species ISHS Commission Biotechnology and Molecular Biology : biotechfruit2008 will be held September 1-5, 2008 in Dresden, Germany, under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS).

IMI Consultation meeting - 4th October
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is one of the technology platforms that have been created on a European Level since 2002. The overall objective of IMI is to remove bottlenecks hampering the efficiency of the development of new medicines.

Global

OECD inventory aims to provide an accurate assessment of the current state of  biotechnology statistics in OECD member and observer countries. http://www.oecd.org/countrylist/0,3349,en_2649_37437_36428358_1_1_1_37437,00.html

European biotechnology companies are being outpaced by their US competitors both in terms of R&D investment and the scale of their operations, it has been revealed in a new set of figures published by the European Commission. The figures are based on an analysis of the 1,000 highest-spending EU companies in terms of R&D investment. Of these, 57 have been identified by the Commission as being active in the biotechnology sector. Each of these companies spent, on average, €21 million on biotechnology R&D in 2005.

UN agencies have own interests at heart
http://www.scidev.net/Opinions/index.cfm?fuseaction=readOpinions&itemid=669&language=1

The UN agencies UNICEF and the WHO have broken with protocol and recklessly used data for their own ends, says an editorial in The Lancet. [Source: The Lancet]

UN body wants data sharing on GMO crops
The Financial Express (India), Sept. 28, 2007
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/UN-body-wants-data-sharing-on-GMO-crops/222348/

Countries that have approved the use of genetically modified (GMO) crops should share information about them to reduce risks of disruption to the global food trade, a UN body said on Friday.

Making such information available would help when cargoes of food containing low levels of GMO arrive in countries where the safety of the relevant material has not been determined, a task force of the United Nations food safety body Codex agreed. "In the previous meeting, we only agreed on a list of requisite data and information to share," Chieko Ikeda, a Japanese representative and a director at the health ministry, told a news conference.

"This time we agreed that member countries and product applicants should make available data and information on a FAO portal site and that the FAO site is in principle open to public," she said, referring to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The draft guideline agreed after a five-day meeting at this suburban city east of Tokyo is to be reviewed in June by the Codex commission established by the FAO and the World Health Organisation with responsibility for compiling safety rules to constitute the food code 'Codex Alimentarius'. Unless the commission returns the draft to the task force for further discussion, it would become a formal one for assessment of low level presence of GMO plant material, Ikeda said. Codex rules are recognised by the World Trade Organization as an international reference point for the resolution of disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection. The European Community, in the previous meeting, had proposed sharing data and information on authorised GMO crops to help promote fair practices in the food trade.

Why organic food can't feed the world
Craig Meisner, Cosmos Online, Sept. 24, 2007
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1601

Green Revolution

Bangladesh is the size of England and Wales together, but with a larger population of about 140 million people. It has achieved remarkable progress in its food productivity, even achieving self-sufficiency in flood-free years (currently we are experiencing a particularly devastating flood). The basis of the Green Revolution that saved South Asia was not organics, but the use of a dwarfing gene to stop rice and wheat collapsing when they flourished, coupled with chemical fertilisers and irrigation systems.

Despite the burgeoning population, the Green Revolution of the 1960s is continuing today in South Asia with an increase in the use of hybrid rice and maize, conservation agriculture, deep placement of nitrogen in rice paddies, and many other exciting technologies.

Most supporters of the idea that organic farming can feed the world, assume that organic manures are cheap and available to all - even the poor. But this isn't often the case. I see cow dung in Bangladesh and all of South Asia as a valuable commodity. During my walks in the villages I see it collected largely by women and children and used as fuel. It's found in nearly every house, dried and formed into patties, to be sold or burned for cooking.

Straw is another organic source of nutrients, but that's not always available either. Rice and wheat straw is collected from the fields, and used for cattle feed or thatching for roofs. Even the stubble is used, which the poorest come and cut for fuel.

For example, to raise a six-tonne rice crop in the peak season requires 100 kg of nitrogen. Because of monsoons and the fact that several metres of rainfall drains through the soil every three months, the amount of nitrogen it carries is low. Assuming we used good quality manure, there would be about 0.6 per cent nitrogen in the material; thus, requiring 17 tonnes per hectare to produce a six-tonne rice yield.

Can you imagine carrying 17 tonnes of manure, in repeated 50 kilogram loads, in a basket on your head? The lack of machinery to carry that material and the labour required to apply it, compounds the challenge.

Plus, there just simply isn't enough manure, or even plant biomass, available to apply 17 tonnes per hectare, for even a single annual rice crop across the whole of Bangladesh. That's enough of a problem, but when you consider there are actually two rice crops a year, the full scale of the problem becomes apparent!

Green manure

In answer to some of these problems, the new study proposes the use of a leguminous 'green manure' crop. However for such a crop to be used in Bangladesh, it would have to take the place of a food crop, effectively halving the amount of food the land can provide. Besides substituting for a food crop, green manure crops would also require cutting and ploughing under the soil. While ploughing technology has increased dramatically in the last decade in many developed countries, it is mostly the two-wheel tractors or roto-tiller types; thus making it a significant challenge to plough down any high-biomass green manure or crop residues into the soil. Some propose a greater use of leguminous food crops to supply nitrogen for the proceeding cereal crop and where possible, growers would love to expand pulses. However, in South Asia, while the national pulse yields appear stable, switching to more of these crops is quite risky for individual farmers due to unseasonable rainfall, diseases, and poor growing environments.

Faced with a choice

So, to make compost effectively, one has to have surplus plant biomass and cow dung. For the poor who have limited land and animals, this is quite difficult. The poor have to rely on purchased fertilisers, whether organic or chemical. When faced with a choice based on labour and expense, the poor choose the non-organic fertilisers.

Another recent study, published in Nature, revealed clearly what plant scientists have known for years  -  that plants take up some 20+ elements from the soil  -  whether it is from decomposing organics or chemical fertilisers. That study showed there was absolutely no difference in the biochemical make up of the plants grown in pure organics compared to fertilisers.

Can organic agriculture feed the world? No, but most growers understand that it benefits the soil, and as such its use is is advocated as much as is possible. Unfortunately, for Bangladesh, and many developing countries, those possibilities are diminishing yearly as organics become less and less available and affordable.

Syngenta starts research partnership in Australia for sugarcane biomass
conversion to biofuels

Basel, Switzerland/ Brisbane, Australia, October 22, 2007

Syngenta announced today that it has agreed a research partnership in Australia that focuses

on the development of cost effective conversion of sugarcane bagasse to biofuels, including the delivery of plant-expressed enzymes. The research partners are the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), its technology transfer and commercialization company qutbluebox and the Australian agbiotech company Farmacule BioIndustries. A new Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuel Development will be established at QUT’s campus in Brisbane, Australia.

Europe - EU

Increased biodiversity leads to higher yields for farmers

Farmers across Europe could benefit from higher yields and fewer weeds in their grasslands if they planted a greater number of species. According to a new European study, this basic ecological principle holds true for planted pastures.

Conferences
Future of Science and Technology in Europe
New material available
Presentations
Photo gallery

Perspectives for Food 2030
Conference report

Cattle contribute to greenhouse gas production in soil

As harmless as cattle may seem, they are regarded as a threat to the climate. Through their digestion they produce the green house gas methane, which they expel continuously. Scientists from the Institute of Soil Ecology of the GSF – National Research Centre for Environment and Health in Neuherberg, Germany and Czech colleagues at the Budwies Academy of Sciences have shown that cattle can boost the production of methane gas in soil, particularly during the winter.

Expert Group "Knowledge for growth"
New documents available
- Smart specialisation in a truly integrated research area is the key to attracting more R&D to Europe
- What policies are needed to overcome the EU's R&D deficit?
- Universities need to find their place in Europe's innovation system

Biosociety

The vision of Europe's food industry

A cornerstone of Europe's research policy is ensuring that the EU becomes a world leader in key technology areas, and several initiatives have been developed to make that goal a reality. European Technology Platforms (ETP), one such initiative, are industry led platforms aimed at aligning EU research priorities with the needs of industry. The importance of Europe's agro-food industry, both in terms of size and stature, easily lent itself to the establishment of an ETP, resulting in the launch of the Food for Life ETP in 2005. Food for Life recently released its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) meant to guide technology development in Europe's agro-industries.

Commission: prevention, not cure, key to animal health

Stung by recent episodes of devastating outbreaks among Europe's livestock, public officials have drafted a comprehensive policy aimed at avoiding disease before it starts. The recently signed Community Animal Health Policy places citizen safety first whilst ensuring that the market remains strong. One important aspect of the policy is an emphasis on biosecurity measures for early detection.

Biofuel targets not possible without biotech, says EuropaBio

EuropaBio, the EU association for bioindustries, which represents 25 national biotechnology associations and some 1800 small and medium sized biotech companies in Europe, has published a position paper on the EU's energy and climate change proposal saying that the biofuel targets contained in the package are indeed attainable, though not without the help of its members. EuropaBio's Biofuels Task Force states that biotechnology will be needed to wring a higher yield out of each year's harvest in order to reach the 10% biofuel target by 2020.

Facilitating international collaboration

The launch of the EUR 15.3 million research fund between Norway and Poland in September signals the advent of funding support for projects focused primarily on environmental and health issues, and a strengthening of research ties between the two countries

Public consultation raises ambition for the European Research Area

Universities and research institutions, companies, non-governmental organisations and individuals from across Europe and beyond have sent in more than 800 contributions to a public consultation on the future of the European Research Area.

News: The call FP7-INCO-2007-3 for Activities of International Cooperation-ERA-NET and ERA-NET PLUS has been published on CORDIS.

EU looking to harmonize legislation on food enzymes, additives and flavourings. The aim is to ensure that the authorisation of additives is based on sound scientific advice and that consumers are afforded the same level of safety wherever they are in the EU. The "enzymes, additives and flavouring" regulation is going through the Council at present.

EU Commission says total ban on GM crops not possible under EU rules

A total freeze on commercial genetically modified crops, that countries such as France may be considering, is not allowed under EU rules, the European Commission said Friday. "A general ban is not possible" for an EU state or region, said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. Without being drawn on the plans being drawn up in Paris, she said "we would have to look at the exact details of the proposition..."

Commissioner Potocnik questioned on agri-food biotech
Commissioner answered GMO-related questions asked by MEP Mairead McGuinness during the September parliamentary session.

Subject: Role of EU research in relation to European food policy

Given the conflicting views in the EU with regard to genetically modified (GM) foods, could the Commission outline its view in relation to the role that research has to play in this particular area

Could the Commission state whether, from a scientific point of view, it is possible for any EU Member State to declare itself a 'GM-free zone'? If so, would such a designation be consistent with the relevant EU legislation in this area and how would it be possible to authenticate such a designation in relation to livestock products?

Does the Commission's research suggest that it would be beneficial for the EU to adopt 'GM-free' status, and if so what would be the potential consequences?

Potočnik stressed that from his point of view the Commisison takes great care to take all possible steps to understand the GM or non-GM situation as much as possible. "Decisions made in the Commission are always based on existing knowledge", he said. "We never ignore this and try to stick to this approach. Policy implications have never been the subject of our attention".

Opinion of the Scientific Panel on the placing on the market of glyphosate-tolerant genetically modified maize GA21 from Syngenta Seeds, for food and feed uses, import and
processing. The EFSA Journal (2007) 541, 1-25.
http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/Scientific_Opinion/gmo_op_ej541_GA21Maize_en,0.pdf

The GMO Panel is of the opinion that the molecular characterisation of the DNA insert and flanking regions of maize GA21 does not raise safety concerns, and that sufficient evidence for the stability of the insert structure was provided.

In conclusion, the GMO Panel considers that the information available for maize GA21 addresses the scientific comments raised by the Member States and that maize GA21 is as safe as its non genetically modified counterparts with respect to potential effects on human and animal health or the environment.

Therefore the GMO Panel concludes that maize GA21 is unlikely to have any adverse effect on human and animal health or on the environment in the context of its intended uses.

European biotech industry delegation hosts EU Commissioners
15 October 2007- a delegation from EuropaBio, the European Biotechnology
Industry Association, hosted Vice-President Günter Verheugen and Commissioner
Janez Potočnik.
http://www.europabio.org/articles/PressStatement_EuropaBioPolicyDay_151007.pdf

The meeting was mainly focused on the implementation of the Mid Term Review of the European Strategy for Life Sciences and Biotechnology and the need to achieve coherent policy across Europe.

Key topics to be addressed are:

bulletValue of innovation and the development of a patient centred public healthcare
system
bulletMarket access and approval system for biotech products
bulletAccess to renewable resources at world market prices for the bio-based economy
bulletAdventitious Presence of GM materials in seeds and commodities
bulletPossible solutions for the “funding crisis” in Europe
bulletThe review of Clinical Trials Directive
bulletHow to develop a European Sustainability Certification System for biofuels
bulletImproving communication on green biotechnology
bulletAdvanced Therapies: making the Regulation effective
bulletThe need for “pull measures” for biobased products in Europe

Europe

French farmers say GMO ban harmful
Sybille de La Hamaide, Reuters, Oct. 3, 2007
http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSL0314440620071003?sp=true

PARIS - France risks losing its seat among top food producers if it rejects genetically modified (GMO) crops altogether in an upcoming law on biotech organisms, French farmers and producers said on Wednesday.

Orama, the lobby gathering French grain and oilseed growers, joined by seedmakers and several politicians, warned against "peddlers of fear" which fight against the use of GMO at a time when most other big producers adopt the technology. The call is part of a wide government-led debate on the future of France's environment policy during which the fate of GMOs in the country has been a subject of heated discussions.

French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said last month that the government wanted to continue allowing laboratory research on GMOs but envisaged to ban both the sale and cultivation of GMO crops.

Under pressure from skepticism among ordinary consumers towards biotech foods -- polls show that between 75 and 80 percent are opposed to GMOs -- France has only granted approval for one type of GMO crop, produced by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, to be cultivated for commercial purposes.

France suspends planting of GMO crops
Sybille de La Hamaide, Reuters, Oct. 26, 2007
http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-30164820071025

PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday he would suspend the planting of genetically modified (GMO) pest-resistant crops until the results of an appraisal of the issue later this year or early in 2008.
Unveiling the country's new environment policy, Sarkozy said no GMO crops would be planted in France until the government had received the results of an evaluation by a new authority on GMOs set to be launched later this year.

"This suspension of commercial cultivation of pesticide GMOs does not mean -- I want to be clear on this -- that we must condemn all GMOs, notably future GMOs," he said.

Romanian Senate approves GMO growth
HotNews.ro, Oct. 24, 2007
http://english.hotnews.ro/Senate-approves-GMO-growth-articol_46255.htm

Romanian Senate approved on Wednesday a governmental Emergency Ordinance allowing the growth of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as food. The ordinance was approved almost unanimously, although information on GMOs and their effect on the health is lacking in all Romania. On an European level, the opposition towards GMOs is growing steadily, while the American lobby continues to support it.

In Romanian, the Environment Ministry is the main opponent of GMOs, while the Agriculture Ministry proved to be a "supporter". According to the ordinance, companies that will cultivate or sell GMOs have to notify the Biological Security Commission.

UK - Potato protester hit with fine
Tim Hobden, Oxford Mail, Oct. 17, 2007
http://www.oxfordmail.net/news/headlines/display.var.1768442.0.potato_protester_hit_with_fine.php

A GM foods protester was fined more than ?400 yesterday for damaging a metal fence that collapsed under his weight as he tried to destroy a field full of genetically modified potatoes. Activist Martin Shaw, from Campbell Road, Oxford, failed in his bid to rip up the crop of spuds and was instead found guilty of criminal damage to the 6ft mesh fence which buckled under his weight as he tried to scale it.

The field of potatoes, which is being developed to be blight resistant by German-based company BASF in Cambridgeshire, was destroyed just days later by other activists. BASF had stepped up security at the site following threats to the trial and obtained a High Court injunction banning people from entering the field.

EU criticises Sweden over transparency move
Helena Spongenberg, EUObserver, Oct. 10, 2007
http://euobserver.com/9/24942

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has taken the first step of legal action against Sweden for having given public access to a confidential document - a move that could ultimately see Stockholm defending its traditional policy of transparency in EU courts. Late last month the commission sent a formal letter to the Swedish authorities asking for explanation as to why environment group Greenpeace in 2005 got access to a document about a new type of genetically modified corn feed to be launched by Monsanto - the world's leading producer of biotech seeds. Greenpeace had been refused access to the report in the Netherlands and therefore turned to Sweden where - after taking the issue to the highest court - the NGO finally got the report from the Swedish Board of Agriculture - the government's expert authority in the field of agricultural and food policy.

Article 25

The EU executive referred to an article laid out in an EU directive for genetically modified organisms, which says that if an application with a request to market a biotech product has been classified by one member states, then this confidentiality must also count when other member state authorities take part in the application.

It is on these grounds that Brussels has asked Sweden to explain how it implemented the directive into national law; whether Sweden recognises decisions made by other member states concerning the directive and how they justify their own decision.

Food for thought at opening of International Plant Protection Congress in Glasgow.

“We must defend our ability to protect our crops against pests, diseases and weeds by the appropriate use of modern technology. “If we do not, we shall legalise modern starvation.” These were the sobering words of Hugh Oliver-Bellasis, President of the British Crop Production Council, during his speech in Glasgow.

Africa

Corn resistant to large grain borer.

Scientists from CIMMYT, working with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), have developed maize with significantly increased resistance to attack in storage bins from a pest called the larger grain borer. In just six months this small beetle can destroy more than a third of the maize farmers have stored. The new maize varieties, which dramatically decrease the damage and increase the storability of the grain, will be nominated by KARI maize breeders to the Kenya national maize performance trials run by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS). The same varieties will also be distributed for evaluation by interested parties in other countries through the CIMMYT international maize testing program in 2008.

Cassava breeders call for new varieties' quick release
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=4003&language=1

Africa must speed up distribution of disease resistant cassava breeds if it is to overcome disease and increase yields, say scientists.

America

Peruvians 'uninformed' about GM
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=3987&language=1

Biotechnology and transgenic foods are little known issues for a high percentage of Peruvians, according to a survey carried out in Lima.

USA

EPA Seeks Comment on StarLink White Paper
US Environmental Protection Agency (press release), Oct. 17, 2007
http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/68B59C764C52C2D2852573770060CC3C

EPA is seeking public comment on a draft white paper that recommends withdrawal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidance to test for the StarLink protein Cry9C in corn grain. StarLink is a biotechnology-derived variety of insect-resistant corn. It was approved by EPA for animal feed and industrial uses, but not for human consumption, because of unanswered questions relating to Cry9C being a possible allergen. However, there has been no scientific evidence linking StarLink to any allergic reactions.

The registrant voluntarily cancelled its registration in 2000 when StarLink corn was detected in human food, since its presence rendered the food adulterated. At that time, as part of a broad effort to remove any remaining StarLink from the human food supply, FDA recommended that the milling industry establish a comprehensive program to test all yellow corn. EPA's white paper analyzes seven years of testing data and concludes that continued testing of corn for StarLink provides no added protection for human health.

In 2006, 99.99 percent of more than 412 million bushels of corn tested negative. The analysis shows that, after seven years, StarLink has been virtually eliminated from the U.S. food supply.

Pioneer Hi-Bred offers 23 New Soybean Varieties for 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 17, 2007 - Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, is adding 23 new soybean varieties to its lineup for 2008. These new Pioneer® brand soybean varieties offer growers protection against yield-robbing pests such as soybean cyst nematode (SCN), sudden death syndrome (SDS), Phytophthora root rot and brown stem rot (BSR).

Growers Anticipate Roundup Ready Sugar Beets
Sean Ellis, AG Weekly, Oct. 15, 2007
http://www.agweekly.com/articles/2007/10/15/commodities/crop/crop09.txt

Industry officials expect a majority of sugar beet growers in Idaho will plant Roundup Ready sugar beets next year when the seed becomes available commercially. Roundup Ready sugar beet seed is genetically modified to have a built-in resistance to Monsanto's popular herbicide Roundup.

Asia

Phillipine: Biotech expert douses cold water on fears about safety of GMO products, reports DA Phillipine Information Agency (press release), Sept. 30, 2007
http://www.pia.gov.ph/?m=12&fi=p070930.htm&no=11

Quezon City -- The top biotechnology expert of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has reassured consumers that all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) approved for commercial release, whether for food, feed or processing, are safe and pose no health risks to consumers.

According to Dr. Saturnina Halos, chief of the DA-Biotech Advisory Team (DA-BAT), these GMOs have been proven scientifically to have no danger to the environment, contrary to fears raised by environmentalists.

In buttressing her claim, Halos said none of the 44 GMO products approved by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) since December 2002 has caused any ailment among the farmers who planted them and the people who consumed them.

The first GMO to be approved for commercial release in the Philippines in December 2002 was the pest-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, which is now cultivated all over the country.

People in Korea support biotechnology. Apprehension over biotech fell from 81% in 1999 to 50% and support raised up to 45% from 24%.

Illegal Bt cotton will represent about 40% of cotton in Pakistan. This is the estimate by Global Agriculture Information Network.

China

Chinese company to produce cheap rotavirus vaccine
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=3921&language=1

A Chinese biotechnology company and a health charity have agreed to develop a low-cost rotavirus vaccine for the developing world.

The China challenge—how to feed one-fifth of humanity?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Rice Today Vol. 6 No. 4, October –December 2007

The China challenge—how to feed one-fifth of humanity?

The latest from Rice Today, the magazine of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Los Bańos, Philippines – China is home to more people than any other country on the planet. Feeding 1.3 billion people—a fifth of humanity—is an enormous challenge. One of the keys to China’s food security in recent decades is the country’s development of high-yielding hybrid rice varieties, which helped pull millions out of the hunger of the 1960s. The new issue of Rice Today looks at the fascinating history of hybrid rice, documenting how China, with help from IRRI, has become the hybrid world leader.

Other

Crop to chop nitrogen use
Peter Hemphill, The Weekly Times via CheckBiotech, Oct. 17, 2007
http://www.checkbiotech.org/green_News_Genetics.aspx?infoId=15907

Australian scientists have joined forces with a US company to produce wheat and barley varieties that use half as much nitrogen as normal. The CSIRO and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics will use Arcadia Biosciences Inc's innovative nitrogen-use-efficiency technology to develop the new cereal varieties. The research has the potential to halve fertiliser costs and cut nitrogen run-off. But Australian farmers may have to wait eight or nine years before the first new wheat and barley varieties become available.

Frost-wary farmers draw on Antarctic genes
Philip Hopkins, The Age, Oct. 19, 2007
http://www.theage.com.au/news/business/frostwary-farmers-draw-on-antarctic-genes/2007/10/18/1192300954225.html

A GROUP of farmers is seeking to develop frost-resistant, genetically modified wheat using a gene from Antarctica.

The Molecular Plant Breeding Co-operative Research Centre will conduct the research for the farmers, who have formed a company, Green Blueprint International. GBI has lodged a prospectus to raise $2 million to fund the research.

The partners aim to develop frost-resistant wheat varieties using a gene from Antarctic hairgrass. The frost-tolerant gene creates a protein that inhibits icy crystal growth in the plant. West Australian farmer John Stone said 75 farmers were already part of the scheme, which aimed to have 100 investors contribute about $20,000 each. Frosts could devastate some grain crops, cutting yield by at least half, he said.

GBI's initial investment will finance research to prove the concept. A similar level of investment will be required to take the technology to the next level. The centre has planted Australia's first drought-tolerant GM wheat trial.

Russian Scientists Stand For GMO
Russia InfoCentre, Oct. 16, 2007
http://www.russia-ic.com/news/show/4959/

Several respected scientists have spoken in behalf of genetically modified products during last week's press conference. Among them mass media spotted the director of Research Institute for Nutrition, the dean of Moscow State University's biology faculty, the head of virology department of Moscow State University and the director of the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology.

Scientists said Russian population was intimidated by tales about transgenic soya beans thus forcing domestic producers to abandon adding soya protein to their products. However, currently we lack serious and reasoned facts about possible adverse effects of transgenic soya. Instead of soya protein food for necessary food quality producers add minced pigskin, synthetic polymers and collagen, only 15-20% of which are assimilated by human organism.

GMO Products as a Condition for Ukraine to Enter WTO?
Ukrayinska Pravda, Oct. 24, 2007 (translated by Anna Ivanchenko)
http://www2.pravda.com.ua/en/news/2007/10/24/9250.htm

On October 25 in Geneva final round of negotiations on Ukraine joining World Trade Organization will take place; however, the issue of obligatory marking of products containing genetically modified organisms remains unsolved.
Liga website published an article "Gene Engineering May Obstruct Ukraine's Way to WTO" drawing the readers' attention to this problem. The author of the article reminds that the Cabinet of Ministers decided to introduce an obligation of marking genetically modified foodstuffs starting from November 1, 2007.

News in Science

Folate fortification of rice by metabolic engineering (Univ. of Ghent)
http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nbt1351.html

Rice, the world's major staple crop, is a poor source of essential micronutrients, including folates (vitamin B9). We report folate biofortification of rice seeds achieved by overexpressing two Arabidopsis thaliana genes of the pterin and para-aminobenzoate branches of the folate biosynthetic pathway from a single locus. We obtained a maximal enhancement as high as 100 times above wild type, with 100 g of polished raw grains containing up to four times the adult daily folate requirement.

Can biological nitrification inhibition (BNI) genes from perennial Leymus racemosus ( Triticeae ) combat nitrification in wheat farming?
http://www.springerlink.com/content/751756757j41r877/?p=21cf908d69fa4a6ca663ed5869609b3f&pi=6

We found that a wild relative of wheat (Leymus racemosus (Lam.) Tzvelev) had a high BNI capacity and releases about 20 times more BNI compounds (about 30 ATU g?1 root dry weight 24 h-1) than Triticum aestivum L. (cultivated wheat). Given the level of BNI (biological nitrification inhibitor) production expressed in DALr#n and assuming normal plant growth, we estimated that nearly 87,500,000 ATU of BNI activity ha?1 day?1 could be released in a field of vigorously growing wheat; this amounts to the equivalent of the inhibitory effect from the application of 52.5 g of the synthetic nitrification inhibitor nitrapyrin.

Here we report the first finding of high production of BNI in a wild relative of any cereal and its successful introduction and expression in cultivated wheat. These results demonstrate the potential for empowering the new generation of wheat cultivars with high-BNI capacity to control nitrification in wheat-production systems.

Parasite genome yields potential drug targets
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=3922&language=1

The genome of a parasitic worm that causes elephantiasis has been sequenced, highlighting specific genes that could become drug targets.

GM poplar used for phytoremediation of contaminated waters. Introduced mammalian gene for cytochrome P450 2E1 enhances removal and degradation of chlorinated hyfrocarbons. genetically engineered poplar plants being grown in a laboratory were able to take as much as 91 percent of trichloroethylene, the most common groundwater contaminant at U.S. Superfund sites, out of a liquid solution. Unaltered plants removed 3 percent. The poplar plants -- all cuttings just several inches tall growing in vials -- also were able to break down, or metabolize, the pollutant into harmless byproducts at rates 100 times that of the control plants.

"Commercial use of these trees requires federal regulatory approval and monitoring, and regulations are becoming increasingly strict for transgenic plants intended for biopharmaceutical or industrial purposes, including phytoremediation," the co-authors write in their paper.

bulletUniversity of Washington (press release) via Science Daily, Oct. 16, 2007
bullethttp://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0703276104v1
bullet http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071015193434.htm

Maize mini-chromosomes can add stacks of functional genes to plants
University of Chicago Medical Center (press release), Oct. 19, 2007
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-10/uocm-tt101107.php

In the October 19, 2007, issue of PLoS-Genetics, a team of academic and commercial researchers show that their "maize mini-chromosomes" (MMC) can introduce an entire "cassette" of novel genes into a plant in a way that is structurally stable and functional. Early results, the study authors say, "suggest that the MMC could be maintained indefinitely."

Medicago announces technological milestone with production of self-assembled Influenza Virus-Like Particles in plants
Medicago, Inc. (press release), Oct. 18, 2007
http://www.canadianbusiness.com/markets/cnw/article.jsp?content=20071018_070512_8_cnw_cnw

QUEBEC CITY  - Medicago Inc. (TSX-V: MDG), today announced it has made a significant breakthrough by using its proprietary expression system to produce a vaccine candidate for H5N1 Avian Influenza in highly immunogenic particles called Virus-Like Particles ("VLPs"). VLPs have significant advantages over conventional vaccines as they are known to enhance immunity and therefore increase protection against disease. These particles are similar to the virus from which they were derived from; however they lack viral nucleic acid, which results in the best compromise between safety (not infectious) and efficacy (highly immunogenic).

Apples stay firm for three to six month later. It is well known that ethylene is a plant hormone stimulating ripening. An antagonist is 1-methylcyclopropene. In the atmosphere containing traces of it the softening and discolouring is prevented.
www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/071017.htm

Biodiesel source? Jatropha curcas is a poisonous shrub in India. It grows even on dry climate, salt-containing soil and produces nuts rich in oil. Many Asian countries suggest it as a convenient source of oil for biofuel, but little is known about how to make it a successful crop. Its English names express its risks: vomit nut or purge nut, or of its oil (hell oil or oleum infernale). It has surface irritants, yet must be hand picked and dried and the nuts removed by hand from the outer coating. Its pollen is allergenic, it contains a protein curcin (similar to ricin- and as with castor beans, eating not too many seeds is lethal), and its oil has some pretty awful components. Most of the problems could be rectified transgenically. While there is no regulatory scrutiny of the dangerous wild type being cultivated, the regulatory costs to render it safer and easier to cultivate would be prohibitive. The rural poor will not be richer from growing an unmodified, undomesticated crop such as this, they will just be less healthy.
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