News in January 2008
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2008-02-18

General

IFPRI's Biannual Overview of the World Food Situation presented to the CGIAR Annual General Meeting, Beijing, December 4, 2007. Available at
http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/agm07/jvbagm2007.asp
Genetically Modified Food and International Trade: The Case of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Guillaume Gruere, Antoine Bouët, and Simon Mevel,
International Food Policy Research Institute, Discussion Paper No. 740, December 2007
http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/dp/IFPRIDP00740.pdf

Abstract: Genetically modified (GM) food crops have the potential to raise agricultural productivity in Asian countries, but they are also associated with the risk of market access losses in sensitive importing countries. We study the potential effects of introducing GM food crops in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines in the presence of trade-related regulations of GM food in major importers. We focus on GM field crops (rice, wheat, maize, soybeans, and cotton) resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses, such as drought-resistant rice, and use a multi-country, multi-sector computable general equilibrium model. We build on previous international simulation models by improving the representation of the productivity shocks associated with GM crops, and by using an improved representation of the world market, accounting for the effects of GM food labeling policies in major importers and the possibility of segregation for non-GM products going toward sensitive importing countries.

The results of our simulations first show that the gains associated with the adoption of GM food crops largely exceed any type of potential trade losses these countries may incur. Adopting GM crops also allows net importing countries to greatly reduce their imports. Overall, we find that GM rice is bound to be the most advantageous crop for the four countries. Second, we find that segregation of non-GM crops can help reduce any potential trade loss for GM adopters, such as India, that want to keep export opportunities in sensitive countries, even with a 5 percent segregation cost. Lastly, we find that the opportunity cost of segregation is much larger for sensitive importing countries than for countries adopting new GM crops, which suggests that sensitive importers will have the incentive to invest in separate non-GM marketing channels if exporting countries like India decide to adopt GM food crops.

Books & Articles

IPR: brochure "why researchers should care about patent" at http://ec.europa.eu/invest-in-research/pdf/download_en/patents_for_researchers.pdf
Eurobarometer: Social values, science and technology at http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/public_understanding/eurobarometer_en.htm

The Research Directorate-General wished to commission a poll on the views of Europeans on ethics in science and technology. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in people’s homes in their national language in early 2005. The countries surveyed included the 25 Member States, the candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey), as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass
M. R. Schmer, K. P. Vogel, R. B. Mitchell, and R. K. Perrin
U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service, University of Nebraska, and Agricultural Economics Department, University of Nebraska,
Published online on January 7, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0704767105
http://www.pnas.org:80/cgi/content/abstract/0704767105v1

Abstract:

Perennial herbaceous plants such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) are being evaluated as cellulosic bioenergy crops. Two major concerns have been the net energy efficiency and economic feasibility of switchgrass and similar crops. All previous energy analyses have been based on data from research plots (<5 m2) and estimated inputs. We managed switchgrass as a biomass energy crop in field trials of 3–9 ha (1 ha = 10,000 m2) on marginal cropland on 10 farms across a wide precipitation and temperature gradient in the midcontinental U.S. to determine net energy and economic costs based on known farm inputs and harvested yields. In this report, we summarize the agricultural energy input costs, biomass yield, estimated ethanol output, greenhouse gas emissions, and net energy results. Annual biomass yields of established fields averaged 5.2 - 11.1 Mg·ha–1 with a resulting average estimated net energy yield (NEY) of 60 GJ·ha–1·y–1. Switchgrass produced 540% more renewable than nonrenewable energy consumed. Switchgrass monocultures managed for high yield produced 93% more biomass yield and an equivalent estimated NEY than previous estimates from human-made prairies that received low agricultural inputs. Estimated average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cellulosic ethanol derived from switchgrass were 94% lower than estimated GHG from gasoline. This is a baseline study that represents the genetic material and agronomic technology available for switchgrass production in 2000 and 2001, when the fields were planted. Improved genetics and agronomics may further enhance energy sustainability and biofuel yield of switchgrass.
Patterns of Political Response to Biofortified Varieties of Crops Produced with Different Breeding Techniques and Agronomic Traits
Carl Pray et. al., AgBioForum, Vol, 10, No. 3, web posted Jan. 11, 2008
http://www.agbioforum.org/v10n3/v10n3a02-pray.htm

This article first examines the political response to two crops that were nutritionally enhanced through conventional breeding - Quality Protein Maize (QPM) and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. In the next section, the political response to food crops - maize, potato, and papaya - which have improved agronomic traits through genetic engineering is described. Finally, we mention briefly the initial political responses to biofortified GMO rice, potatoes, cassava, and sorghum. To gain political support as well as extensive adoption by farmers, biofortification needs to be combined with attractive agronomic traits. These case studies also show that only GMOs have elicited a strong negative political response and that the consumer trait, biofortification, is not likely to make GMOs more appealing to activists and politicians. However, political opposition to GMOs can be outweighed by well-organized, politically powerful interest groups.

Events

Europe - EU

Europe stalls again on ending GM restrictions.
Laura Crowley, Food Production Daily, Jan. 14, 2007
http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/ng.asp?n=82519-wto-gm-crops-france-austria

The European Commission has been given yet more time to bring member states in compliance with trade obligations on GM crops after failing to meet Friday's deadline, the same day France extended its GM ban. Officials at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) received a joint letter from Canadian and EU trade representatives in Geneva agreeing to extend the deadline for Brussels to make its member states conform to regulations.

The new deadline suggested by Canada is February 11. Meanwhile, Argentina will further extend the deadline to June 11 before considering action against Europe.

US officials have not yet said if it will also accept an extended deadline, or push for immediate sanctions. Peter Power, Commission spokesperson for Trade, told www.FoodNavigator.com: "We are making progress as we continue to illustrate how our EU Regulatory Framework is working. However, it is clear that some difficulties remain."
New notification to JRC
http://gmoinfo.jrc.it:80/gmp_browse.aspx
  1. Notification according to Directive 2001/18/EC, Part B, for the deliberate release of MON 89034, MON 88017 and MON 89034 × MON 88017 maize, for the use in field trials in Slovakia - Slovak Center of Agricultural Research.
  2. Quality evaluation of some chosen cucumber transgenic lines with taumatin gene - Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW).
  3. Application for the deliberate release of genetically modified DP-?9814?-6 maize into the environment - Pioneer Hi-Bred Northern Europe Sales Division GmbH, Netherlands.
  4. Notification according to Directive 2001/18/EC, Part B, for the deliberate release of glyphosate-tolerant sugar beet (H7-1) for field trials in Germany - Planta GmbH, Germany.
  5. Field evaluation of poplars with an altered wood composition for the production of bio-ethanol - VIB (Vlaams Interuniversitair Instituut voor Biotechnologie), Belgium.
  6. Control of potato cyst-nematodes with minimised environmental impact - University of Leeds, United Kingdom.
  7. Potato plant AV43-6-G7 with reduced amylose content Potato plant AV43-6-G7 with reduced amylose content – AVEBE, Netherlands.
  8. Investigation of the influence of genetically modified maize resistant to glyphosate (NK603) on weed population in crop rotation compared with conventional weed control system in maize - Plant Protection Institute (Instytut Ochrony Roslin), Poland.
  9. Sugar beet tolerant to glyphosate and resistant to virus disease Rhizomania, Sweden, 2008-2012 - Syngenta Seeds AB, Sweden.
  10. Application for the deliberate release of genetically modified DP-?9814?-6 maize (4-year program). - Pioneer Hi-Bred Northern Europe Sales Division GmbH, Germany.
European Commission promotes exchanges between industry and academia

Researchers gathered in Brussels today to learn more about an FP7 Marie Curie scheme providing €400 million between now and 2013 for staff exchanges between businesses and universities. The "Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways" scheme is particularly designed to involve small businesses, which make up the bulk of European companies, as it opens doors to using research results that can help them develop.

Europe

European restrictions on genetically modified (GM) crops have driven BASF Plant Science to intensify biotech cooperation activities in Asia Pacific with an agreement with China's National Institute of Biological Sciences (NIBS). (Laura Crowley, 24/1/2008)
http://www.nutraingredients.com/news/ng.asp?n=82758-basf-nibs-gm-crops-competitiveness

"Asia is emerging as a key player in plant biotechnology both in research and cultivation and we are striving to intensify partnerships in this dynamic region. Europe, on the contrary, is losing its competitiveness due to slow and contradictory political decisions," said Hans Kast, President and CEO of BASF Plant Science. NIBS has identified a family of genes that have been found to increase crop yield for corn, soybeans and rice. However, according to Mette Johansson, BASF manager of communications, it is likely the genes can be transferred into a range of crops. "We are disappointed by political developments in Europe," Johansson told www.FoodNavigator.com.

Also, this week, there will be a vote in Germany on laws surrounding the cultivation of GM crops, Johansson said. She continued: "Politicians are making is more and more difficult for farmers to grow these products. Furthermore, Europe has a very high quality of researchers and we are concerned about how these political decisions will affect this standard, as research will only continue if the new products will be used.”
Germany lifts suspension on MON810 maize

The German Government has allowed the commercialisation of Monsanto maize seed MON810 again confirming that Monsanto has fulfilled the requirements with providing a monitoring plan that meets the expectation of the CA.

France suspends MON810 maize seed sales until 9 February 2008

Seed sales of the only GMO cultivated in Europe, MON 810 maize, have been suspended in France by decree in December. The decree states that the suspension will end once the law implementing EU Directive 2001/18 is published and no later than February 9th, 2008.

Spain rejects the "safety clause" by France to GM maize
Translation by our London correspondent of "Espa?a recha
za cláusula de salvaguarda de Francia a maíz transgénico," Jan. 16, 2008
http://www.portalbesana.es

Madrid - General Secretary of Agriculture, Josep Puxeu, criticized today, the "safeguard clause" applied for France in a unilateral way to the cultivation of GM maize MON810 developed by Monsanto.

After the inauguration of the "First National Shepherds Congress" held today in Madrid, Puxeu declared that Spanish position about GMOs always follows the one adopted within the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Puxeu rejected "unilateral decisions" which end up distorting the international markets of grains, affecting countries like Spain, which are short of grain and need to import it from third countries. He declared that the food safety of GMOs approved by EFSA is not questioned, and reminded that France is one of the most important corn growing and exporting countries.
United States scores big sale of corn to Spain
Elton Robinson, Delta Farm Press, Jan. 23, 2008
http://deltafarmpress.com/news/sale-spain-0108/

According to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, the United States sold 2.5 million bushels of corn to Spain in January, the first sale of this magnitude to Spain since 1998-99.

EU lawyers say no to Poland's biotech ban
Jeremy Smith and Barbara Sladkowska, Reuters, Jan. 21, 2008
http://uk.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUKL2151842320080121

BRUSSELS - European Commission lawyers have stopped Poland's move to ban trade and plantings of genetically modified (GMO) seeds, saying it had no scientific justification, the EU's Official Journal said on Monday.

Poland's plans for what amounted to a national GMO ban, announced last year, quickly drew criticism from experts at the EU executive who routinely scrutinize any such proposals to check that they comply fully with EU law.
Poplars with an altered wood composition will be tested in The University of Ghent

Science and Industry park in Zwijnaarde, (Belgium). An altered wood composition is aimed for the production of bio-ethanol. The genetically modified poplars are modified for the content and/or quality of lignin. Lignin is very important for both tree growth and development, particularly for water conduction and mechanical support. These different transgenic lines of poplars have been already evaluated in a previous field trial in France, for agricultural performances and for evaluation of the technological properties of wood for pulp and paper making. This release has the purpose to produce enough wood from lignin modified poplars in order to evaluate its properties for bio-energy production, in particular bio-ethanol. Both lignin/cellulose ratio and the accessibility to cellulose are critical for the production of bioethanol from ligno-cellulosic feedstock. The poplar trees will be grown as a short rotation intensive culture on a low-grade soil (marginal land) using sustainable low-input conditions. The release can also be seen as a partial repetition of the trial B/FR/07/06/01 (the current release only involves 4 lines, where the FR trial includes more lines) at INRA-Orleans in France, providing additional scientific value to the outcomes of this trial and vice-versa.

No nano in organic foods, says UK certifier
Dominique Patton, Food Production Daily, Jan. 16, 2007
http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/ng.asp?n=82578-soil-association-nanotechnology-organic

The use of nanomaterials has been banned from organic foods by the UK's Soil Association, the leading certifier of organic products in the country.

Ukraina adopts new biotech law
http://www.bsbanet.org/doc/kucha/law_ukr_eng.pdf

Africa

GMO Cotton Trials Approved
Ronald Kalyango, New Vision (Kampala) via AllAfrica.com, Jan. 22, 2008
http://allafrica.com/stories/200801230044.html

CONFINED field trials of genetically modified (GM) cotton has been approved in Uganda. Cotton becomes the second GM crop, after bananas to be approved by the the National Biosafety Committee (NBC). Confined field trials are studies that are made by scientists to collect information on any new varieties developed at research stations within the country or outside.

America

Latin America and EU to collaborate on biotechnology
Laura García, SciDev.Net, Dec. 27, 2007 
http://www.scidev.net/content/news/eng/latin-america-and-eu-to-collaborate-on-biotechnology.cfm

The Latin American trade pact Mercosur and the European Union have agreed to develop a programme to fund agricultural biotechnology projects in Latin America.

BIOTECSUR was unveiled last week (19 December) at Argentina's Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation. The European Union (EU) has pledged US$10.4 million to the programme, with Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay investing US$1.4 million. Argentina will coordinate the programme.

The initiative will fund four regional projects in four areas of interest: forestry, oilseeds, ovine (sheep) and avian (bird).

USA

US Gives O.K. to Food from Cloned Animals
Missy Ryan, Reuters via Planet Ark, Jan. 16, 2008 http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/46427/story.htm

WASHINGTON - The US government ruled on Tuesday that meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring is as safe as other food, but pressed firms that produce clones to hold off on bringing them into the food supply.

"Extensive evaluation of the available data has not identified any subtle hazards that might indicate food consumption risks in healthy clones of cattle, swine or goats," the Food and Drug Administration said in a final risk assessment that confirmed preliminary findings from 2006.

There are currently about 570 cloned animals in the United States, but the livestock industry has so far followed a voluntary ban on marketing food from the animals. Some dairy firms oppose cloning, betting that consumers will shun goods they see linked to cloning technology.

Greg Jaffe, director of biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest expects Congress or some states may try to impose additional restrictions on marketing or labelling.

The Senate has passed a measure that would delay FDA approval until the completion of more studies. Several major food companies quickly stated that they are not signing up, at least right away. Tyson Foods Inc, the largest US meat producer, said on Tuesday it has no immediate plans to buy cloned livestock.
Food Safety Concerns Do Not Include Biotechnology: Public Less Wary of Animal Biotechnology.
International Food Information Council, Food Insight, November/December 2007
http://www.ific.org/

The survey of 1,000 American adults took place in July 2007, and data were weighted by age and education to be nationally representative. Overall confidence in the food supply remained at a high level with 69 percent of Americans indicating they were "very" or "somewhat" confident in the food supply compared to 72 percent last year. However, the number of Americans selecting "very confident" decreased from 21 percent in 2006 to 15 percent this year.

Of the three-quarters of respondents who listed a specific food safety concern, disease and contamination topped the list at 38 percent; however, the biggest increase was in the "source" category. Less than one percent mentioned food biotechnology as a specific concern.
Beet growers bet on Roundup
Dave Wilkins, Capital Press, Jan. 18, 2008
http://www.capitalpress.info/main.asp?SectionID=67&SubSectionID=617&ArticleID=38497&TM=1308.479

TWIN FALLS, Idaho - If Roundup were a poker game, Idaho sugar beet growers would be going all in. Roundup Ready sugar beet seed will be commercially available this year for the first time, and it's expected to account for at least 95 percent of Idaho's sugar beet acreage, according to the Amalgamated Sugar Co.

Biotech critics challenging Monsanto GMO sugar beet
Carey Gillam, Reuters, Jan. 23, 2008
http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSN2359954920080123?feedType=RSS&feedName=scienceNews

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Opponents of biotech crops said on Wednesday they were filing a lawsuit to challenge the USDA's deregulation of Monsanto Co's genetically engineered sugar beet because of fears of "biological contamination" and other harm to the environment.

The Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club and two organic seed groups said the lawsuit involved the United States Department of Agriculture's approval of Monsanto's glyphosate-resistant sugar beet, which is engineered to withstand treatment of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The groups said the wind-pollinated biotech sugar beets will cross-pollinate and contaminate conventional sugar beets, organic chard and table beet crops. "The law requires the government to take a hard look at the impact that deregulating Roundup Ready sugar beets will have on human health, agriculture and the environment," said Greg Loarie, an attorney at the Earthjustice law firm, which is helping represent the plaintiffs. "The government cannot simply ignore the fact that deregulation will harm organic farmers and consumers, and exacerbate the growing epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds."
USDA order outlines RR alfalfa rules
Department clarifies hay selling, shipping regs
Elizabeth Larson, Capital Press, Jan. 7, 2008
http://www.capitalpress.info/main.asp?SectionID=67&SubSectionID=616&ArticleID=38109&TM=45660.58

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated requirements for handling genetically modified alfalfa in the wake of a ruling earlier this year that required the government to re-regulate the hay. On Dec. 18 the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a supplemental administrative order which it says "clarifies and replaces" a July 12 order that outlines mandatory practices for Roundup Ready alfalfa producers.

The updated seven-page administrative order adds considerable detail to identifying Roundup Ready alfalfa hay, which is reportedly meant to offer growers more flexibility. The new rule would allow hay producers the option of identifying the hay by lot, including placing a sign measuring 8.5 inches by 11 inches in size - or larger - marked "Roundup Ready Alfalfa" on loads of the hay. Hay sellers must keep labeled Roundup Ready alfalfa segregated from non-genetically modified hay while storing it, the order states.

The ruling rolled back the USDA's June 2005 deregulation of the genetically modified alfalfa while a full environmental study is done, which the USDA said could take about two years to complete. However, producers who already had seed planted by March 30 were allowed to continue with production.

China

China amends S&T law to boost research
http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=4166&language=1

China's Science and Technology (S&T) Progress Law has been amended to boost innovation in research and clarify patent ownership.

Transgenic rice seeds still await go-ahead
Wu Jiao, China Daily, Jan. 28, 2008
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-01/26/content_6422539.htm

China strictly supervises its transgenic rice research and production, and no such seed has been approved for the market, according to agriculture officials. "Scientists are still conducting research on transgenic rice," Yang Xiongnian, deputy director of the science, technology and education division under the Ministry of Agriculture, said on Friday.

Figures from the management office of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Biosafety under the ministry show that - between 2002 and 2007 - it approved experiments of 2,361 transgenic seeds of a variety of agriculture plants, with 1,109 receiving safety certificates. But no transgenic rice seeds have been approved for the market, said the office director.

Asia

Pakistan to introduce genetically modified cottonseed in 2009
Bt cottonseed has an inbuilt capacity to destroy pests
Atif Khan, Daily Times (Pakistan), Jan. 9, 2007
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\01\09\story_9-1-2008_pg5_11

ISLAMABAD: A genetically modified cottonseed, with inbuilt resistance against pests that is significantly expected to increase production of the crop will be introduced next year, a top official said here on Tuesday.

Deputy Director of National Biosafety Centre (NBC), Afzaal Ahmed, told Daily Times that Bt cottonseed would be available in the market from 2009, which would tremendously increase per acre production of the cotton, accounting 10 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 55 percent to the foreign exchange earnings of the country.
'India may turn big producer of GM rice, vegetables by 2010'
M.R. Subramani, The Hindu, Jan. 24, 2008 http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2008/01/24/stories/2008012450911300.htm

Rabo India: Country is leading biotech investment destination

Intellectual property is one of the deterrents to growth of the biotech industry as foreign players feel there is no sufficient patent protection and access to patent litigation in the country. Chennai - India has the potential to become a major producer of transgenic rice and several genetically modified (GM) or engineered vegetables by 2010, according to a research report by Rabo India Finance Ltd on the Indian agri-biotech sector. It has emerged as one of the leading destinations for investment in biotechnology in the recent years.

Research work is being carried in 19 crops. They are rice, wheat, cotton, potato, banana, tomato, rapeseed, mustard, coffee, tobacco, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, melon, citrus fruit, black gram, groundnut, chickpea and pigeon pea. "Four kinds of tracts are being tackled: Resistance to attacks by insect pests, viral and fungal diseases (biotic stress); drought tolerance, water logging and salinity; and delayed ripening and increasing shelf life," the report said.

Referring to Bt cotton, it said over 60 per cent of the 62 lakh hectares under hybrid seeds were GM strains, and a study had revealed gain to the tune of Rs 11,000 a hectare.

While transgenic tomato is aimed at curbing damage from leaf curl virus and other infections such as buck eye rot of fruits, septoria and early blight, transgenic potato, being developed by public institutions, was yet to attract the private sector's attention. "On the regulatory front, it is in the final stages of approval (by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee)," the report said. GM strains

Stating that much attention was being paid to research on GM rice, Rabo India said the aim was to develop saline and drought tolerant varieties, but no GM strain had been commercially released. However, developments relating to the "Golden" rice will have a significant impact on India, it said.

GM wheat was under development at the South Campus of the Delhi University, while a host of other crops were being developed by public and private sector.

Eggplants are also being developed to resist shoot and fruit borer, it said, adding that two private firms have developed strains to control fruit and shoot borer.
DRDO develops transgenic tomato
Ashok B. Sharma, Financial Express (India), Jan. 8, 2008
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/DRDO-develops-transgenic-tomato/258682/

Visakhapatnam: The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a transgenic tomato for growing in the cold desert regions of Ladhak.

"This transgenic tomato is in the fourth generation and after its fifth generation, it would be subjected to controlled trials under the supervision of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM)," said the chief controller of R&D in life sciences in DRDO, W Selvamurthy at a plenary session in the 95 th Indian Science Congress here on Monday.

He said that care has been taken to make the transgenic tomato resistant to cold temperatures below 20 degree Celsius and water stress conditions of the region.

According to Selvamurthy, the Pusa Ruby tomato has been introgressed with Osmotin gene through agro-bacterium mediated genetic transformation to enhance inbuilt cold stress tolerance.

Other

GE protesters chop down trees at research institute
Juliet Rowan, New Zealand Herald, Jan. 17, 2008
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=220&objectid=10487207

Nineteen trees, some genetically modified, have been cut down in an apparent protest against Crown forestry research institute Scion.

Those responsible for the attack dug under the Rotorua institute's perimeter fence and left behind a spade with a sticker saying "GE Free New Zealand".
Vandalism destroys knowledge and opportunity
Thursday, 17 January 2008, 9:23 am Press Release: Life Sciences Network
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0801/S00027.htm

The break-in at the research facility is an attempt by anti-GM fundamentalists to destroy years of hard work and the knowledge gained. Knowledge which is aimed at producing positive environmental, social or economic outcomes for New Zealand. Life Sciences Network Press Release, 16 January 2008.

Soil and Health association spokesman Steffan Browning said today Biosecurity NZ had indicated it would investigate the breach, which the association hoped would lead to far more rigorous controls and compliance checks of the trial. Dr Rolleston hopes it will lead to arrests. "All New Zealanders should be concerned that a small fundamentalist minority stoops to break the law in an attempt to further its cause and send New Zealand back to the scientific dark ages. The perpetrators should be brought to justice with the full force of the law."

News in Science

Plant based biopharmaceutical for Gaucher's disease
Tanuja Rohatgi, Checkbiotech, Jan. 21, 2008
http://www.checkbiotech.org/green_News_Genetics.aspx?infoId=16727

Gaucher's disease is one of the most common lysosomal storage disorder, which occurs as a result of mutations in the gene coding for an enzyme responsible for fat metabolism in lysosomes called glucocerebrosidase (GCD).

Cerezyme, a recombinant GCD produced in mammalian cells is used to treat Gaucher's disease. However, production of Cerezyme in mammalian cells is difficult and thus expensive. The recombinant enzyme produced by mammalian cells is normally inactive and it requires an additional processing step to make the recombinant enzyme effective and functional.

Protalix Biotherapeutics in Carmiel, Israel was successful in establishing a novel plant-based method for the large-scale production of recombinant GCD. The recombinant GCD expressed by the transgenic carrot cell suspension culture is active and functional and does not require the additional processing step that mammalian cells production requires.

Protalix made several modifications to the human GCD gene sequence in order to express an active and functional recombinant enzyme in carrot cell culture. Transgenic carrot cells were checked for the expression of the recombinant enzyme (prGCD) by various biochemical methods. Structural and enzymatic analysis of prGCD revealed the presence of an active enzyme, thereby bypassing the additional processing step necessary in the case of Cerezyme.

Transgenic poplar for remediation
Purdue University Press release, January 10, 2008 http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2008a/080110MeilanChrysler.html

Researchers are collaborating with Chrysler LLC in a project to use poplar trees to eliminate pollutants from a contaminated site in north-central Indiana. The researchers plan to plant transgenic poplars at the site, a former oil storage facility near Kokomo, Ind., this summer. In a laboratory setting, the transgenic trees have been shown to be capable of absorbing trichloroethylene, or TCE, and other pollutants before processing them into harmless byproducts
Origin of Meat Traced Using Biotechnology
http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/news_events/news_origin-of-meat-traced-using-biotechnology_en.htm

Professor Armand Sánchez and his colleagues from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Universitat Aut?noma de Barcelona, and scientists from the company Applied Biosystems have developed a panel of 46 genetic markers. The markers are all single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are single sites of variation in the animal's DNA sequence. Regions of DNA variation are commonly used for identification purposes, for instance in human paternity tests and genetic fingerprinting.

The study validated 46 SNPs, chosen from a set of 120, for identifying pigs from 5 different purebred lines that are of major commercial importance. The 46 SNPs were investigated in each DNA sample taken from hundreds of pigs, using the SNPlex™ Genotyping System and two 3730 DNA Analysers from Applied Biosystems. The pattern of SNPs in each pig's sample allowed the scientists to identify individual pigs and their parentage for each of the five breeds examined. The tests could also prove useful for animal breeders and farmers who wish to identify genetic markers associated with particularly desirable traits. These may include meat quality and flavour, and could be adapted for identification and traceability in other animal species, such as sheep, cows and poultry. The use of genetic markers for improving the traceability of meat will benefit not only consumers, but also the European economy by helping to boost exports.

Source: www.Bionity.COM
Building disease-beating wheat
CSIRO (press release), Dec. 12, 2007
http://www.csiro.au/news/DiseaseBeatingWheat.html

Disease resistance genes from three different grass species have been combined in the world's first 'trigenomic' chromosome, which can now be used to breed disease resistant wheat varieties.

Pioneered by CSIRO researchers, in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Sydney University, the research illustrates the major genetic improvements possible without genetic modification (GM) technology.

"Wheat breeders often use wild relatives of wheat as sources of novel genes in breeding new disease-resistant wheats," research team leader Dr Phil Larkin says. "The exciting part of the new research is that we have been able to retain the useful genes but leave behind the associated undesirable genes - most notably in this case those for yellow flour colour, an important quality characteristic in wheat," Dr Larkin says.

"Unfortunately genes from wild relatives usually come in large blocks of hundreds of genes, and often include undesirable genes. Furthermore, these blocks of genes tend to stay together, even after many generations of breeding.

"The problem can be so difficult to overcome that plant breeders sometimes give up on very valuable genes because they cannot separate them from the problematic genes."

A paper published this month in the respected international journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics details how the team 'recombined' two wild blocks of genes from two different Thinopyrum grass species - a wild relative of wheat - bringing together resistance genes for leaf rust and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV), two of the world's most damaging wheat diseases. The recombined gene 'package' may also carry a resistance gene against a new stem rust strain which is causing concern worldwide.

"The exciting part of the new research is that we have been able to retain the useful genes but leave behind the associated undesirable genes - most notably in this case those for yellow flour colour, an important quality characteristic in wheat," Dr Larkin says.

By developing new 'DNA markers' and by careful testing the team has produced a number of the disease resistance 'packages' for wheat breeders, making it faster and easier to include these important disease resistance traits in future wheat varieties. A paper published this month in the respected international journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics details how the team 'recombined' two wild blocks of genes from two different Thinopyrum grass species - a wild relative of wheat - bringing together resistance genes for leaf rust and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV), two of the world's most damaging wheat diseases. The recombined gene 'package' may also carry a resistance gene against a new stem rust strain which is causing concern worldwide.
Higher alcohol to biofuels

Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a new method for producing several higher-chain alcohols from glucose, a renewable carbon source, including isobutanol, 1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol.

http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu:80/portal/ucla/ucla-engineering-researchers-develop-42502.aspx
Seabed microbe study leads to low-cost power, light for the poor
http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/12.06/11-light.html

Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Peter Girguis has developed a fuel cell run by the natural activity of anaerobic microbes. Low-cost power system consuming garbage, compost, and other waste that could provide light for the developing world.

Monsanto is developing new varieties

SmartStax corn, soybean disease, second-generation high-oil soybeans, high-stearate soybeans, and high-oil corn.

-- Two of three High Impact Technologies (HITs) advanced phases: Vistive III and drought tolerant corn. The movement, which was based on results from 2007 trials, advanced the technologies one step closer to commercial launch.

As part of today's overview, Fraley also noted the tremendous progress the company has made in its soybean trait portfolio. Roundup RReady2Yield, which is targeted to be introduced in 2009 and provides a 7-to-11 percent increase in soybean yield, will serve as the platform for future soybean traits.
http://monsanto.mediaroom.com:80/index.php?s=43&item=563
Transgenic maize endosperm containing a milk protein has improved amino acid balance
Earl H. Bicar, Wendy Woodman-Clikeman et. al., Transgenic Research (Springer Netherlands), Vol. 17 No. 1, Feb. 2008
http://www.springerlink.com/content/hk254761t3513836/

To improve the amino acid balance of maize, we developed transgenic maize lines that produce the milk protein α-lactalbumin in the endosperm. Lines in which the transgene was inherited as a single dominant genetic locus were identified.

Total protein content in endosperm from transgene positive kernels was not significantly different from total protein content in endosperm from transgene negative kernels in three out of four comparisons, whereas the lysine content of the lines examined was 29-47% greater in endosperm from transgene positive kernels.
Plant peptides and peptidomics
Naser Farrokhi, Julian P. Whitelegge and Judy A. Brusslan
Plant Biotechnology Journal (2008) 6, pp. 105–134

Extracellular plant peptides perform a large variety of functions, including signalling and defence. Intracellular peptides often have physiological functions or may merely be the products of general proteolysis. Plant peptides have been identified and, in part, functionally characterized through biochemical and genetic studies, which are lengthy and in some cases impractical. Peptidomics is a branch of proteomics that has been developed over the last 5 years, and has been used mainly to study neuropeptides in animals and the degradome of proteases. Peptidomics is a fast, efficient methodology that can detect minute and transient amounts of peptides and identify their post-translational modifications. This review describes known plant peptides and introduces the use of peptidomics for the detection of novel plant peptides.

Arabidopsis MicroRNAs
Aleel K. Grennan, University of Illinois
Plant Physiology 146:3-4 (2008)
http://www.plantphysiol.org:80/cgi/content/full/146/1/3

Many studies are ongoing to validate the miRNAs that have been identified, as well as the identification of other new candidate miRNAs and the determination of how conserved miRNAs are between plants. That many miRNAs are found across plant species (Willmann and Poethig, 2007) suggests an ancient origin of these important regulatory units.

Sequencing analysis cDNA clones from cassava
BMC Plant Biology 2007, 7:66doi:10.1186/1471-2229-7-66
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2229/7/66

The cassava full-length cDNA library here presented contains transcripts of genes involved in stress response as well as genes important for different areas of cassava research. This library will be an important resource for gene discovery, characterization and cloning; in the near future it will aid the annotation of the cassava genome.

DNA 'fabricator' constructs walking DNA
Robert Adler, New Scientist, Jan. 16, 2008
http://technology.newscientist.com/article/dn13192-dna-fabricator-constructs-walking-dna.html

A group at the California Institute of Technology, led by biomolecular engineer Niles Pierce, has created a DNA-based fabricator. This is a system that allows the team to specify a piece of DNA with a desired shape and function, and then execute a molecular program to assemble it in a test tube. As an example, they used their system to construct a piece of DNA that walks along another strip of DNA. At the heart of the group's system are hairpin-shaped strands of DNA each about 10 nanometers long with three specific binding sites called "toeholds". The group has also developed a graphical way to represent the state of these molecular building blocks and the step-by-step interactions between them. Journal Reference: Nature (vol 451, p 320)

DNA transcription
Intranuclear Distribution and Local Dynamics of RNA Polymerase II during Transcription Activation, Jie Yao, M. Behfar Ardehali, Christopher J. Fecko, Watt W. Webb, and John T. Lis
Molecular Cell, Vol 28, 978-990, 28 December 2007
http://www.molecule.org/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS1097276507006995

Transcription activation causes dramatic changes in a gene's compaction and macromolecular associations and, in some cases, triggers the translocation of the gene to a nuclear substructure. Here, we evaluate the location, movement, and transcriptional dynamics of Drosophila heat shock (HS) genes both by two-photon microscopy in live polytene nuclei and by FISH in diploid nuclei. The different HS loci occupy separate nuclear positions. Although these loci decondense upon HS, they do not undergo a detectable net translocation nor are they preferentially localized to the nuclear periphery or interior. Additionally, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching reveals that, shortly after HS, newly recruited RNA polymerase II (Pol II) enters elongation via an “efficient entry” mode, which is followed by the progressive establishment of transcription “compartments” at Hsp70 loci where concentrated Pol II is used in a “local recycling” mode. Pol II at highly transcribed developmental loci exhibits dynamics resembling combinations of these Hsp70 transcription modes.

In diatom, scientists find genes that may level engineering hurdle
University of Wisconsin-Madison (press release) via EurekAlert, Jan. 21, 2008
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-01/uow-ids011808.php

Diatoms build their hard cell walls by laying down submicron-sized lines of silica, a compound related to the key material of the semiconductor industry - silicon. "If we can genetically control that process, we would have a whole new way of performing the nanofabrication used to make computer chips," says Michael Sussman, a University of Wisconsin-Madison biochemistry professor and director of the UW-Madison's Biotechnology Center. The new data will enable Sussman to start manipulating the genes responsible for silica production and potentially harness them to produce lines on computer chips. This could vastly increase chip speed, Sussman says, because diatoms are capable of producing lines much smaller than current technology allows.

HIV vaccine from tomatoes, a long awaited gift for millions
Tanuja Rohatgi, Checkbiotech, Jan. 23, 2008
http://www.checkbiotech.org/green_News_Genetics.aspx?infoId=16740

Treatments for HIV at costs that even the developing world can afford. One such solution involves using plants to produce a vaccine as presented by Dr. Miguel Angel Gomez Lim and his group at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados) Irapuato, Mexico. In their recent publication they showed how they were successful in generating transgenic tomato plants that produced a key HIV protein called Tat.

Crop yields flourish with moss Physcomitrella patens
http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_08_01_08_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=5993

Scientists from the University of Leeds, with colleagues from Germany, Japan and the US, have unravelled the genome for Physcomitrella, the first non-flowering or 'lower' plant to be sequenced. The group have published their findings in the journal Science. Researchers will now be able to study the moss’s DNA to identify which genes enable the plant to survive environmental stress. They then intend to help food crops to do the same.

The study of Physcomitrella began at the University of Leeds over 20 years ago with work by Prof. David Cove. Dr Andy Cuming has continued Prof. Cove’s work, and is part of the international team working on the genome.

Physcomitrella possesses a single 'haploid' genome. The plant can also integrate new DNA into a defined target in the genome, compared with most other plants, which integrate the new DNA randomly. The result is that any modification to the moss genome is far more controlled than with other plants. This enables it to be adapted as a ''green factory'' for producing pharmaceutical products.

Dr Cuming said: 'If we can discover what mechanisms cause the Physcomitrella genome to integrate DNA in this way, we may be able to transfer those to other plants, to allow more controlled modification of their genomes. However, we also believe many of the useful genes in Physcomitrella are probably still present in ''higher'' crop plants, but are no longer active in the same way. So rather than adding new DNA, we’ll just be activating what’s already there to create the properties we want.'
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